Donald Trump

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Book on the Global Environmental Crisis

Yesterday I got through the post this month’s Postscript catalogue. Postscript are a mail-order booksellers. Flicking through it, one of the items I found on sale was The Climate Emergency Atlas, by Dan Hooke, published by Dorling Kindersley. The catalogue’s brief description of the book runs

Dan Hooke offers a clear explanation of the science behind climate change, with concise text supported by numerous diagrams. World maps show the environmental impact of different countries, detailing issues such as their population growth, consumption and deforestation, as well as how they have been affected by the rise in global temperatures. A final section describes the actions being taken in response to the crisis, and the part individuals can play. Age 10+.

The normal retail price is £12.99, but Postscript are offering it for £6.99.

I can’t say I want to buy the book, but I think it is needed. The Republicans in America, backed by generous donations from big oil magnates like the Koch brothers, deny that climate change exists. Trump when he got into the White House passed orders and legislation effectively silencing the Environmental Protection Agency, forbidding them from publishing anything showing the existence of climate change or environmental damage. There are also videos from the American right by people like Alex Jones ranting about how climate change is really some kind of ruse or hoax by ‘leftists’ to end free enterprise and create a socialised economy and society. Which is pretty much the kind of paranoid nonsense you’d expect from a conspiracy theorist like Jones. When Barack Obama was in power, Jones was telling the world and his uncle that Obama was going to declare a climate state of emergency in order to force Americans into refugee camps and so enslave them. Well, Obama’s been and gone, as has Trump and we’ve now got Joe Biden. And there has been no declaration of a state of emergency with Obama now seizing power as Maoist dictator. One could almost think that Jones spouted fear-mongering nonsense.

The Tories over here share a similar scepticism towards climate change. The Heil has run repeated articles against it. This is when they aren’t simply playing lip-service to it. Cameron declared that his would be the ‘greenest government ever’ and stuck a windmill on his house to show how serious he was. That was before he got elected PM. After he put his foot across the threshold of No. 10, it was a different story. He took the windmill down and set about supporting and promoting all the environmental harmful policies he could, such as fracking. While this isn’t a book I intend to buy, I do think it’s needed considering the attacks on environmentalism from the Tories and their media, such as Spiked and the mad right-winger, Alex Belfield.

‘There Was Nothing There’

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 29/06/2021 - 7:26am in

Photo credit: Naresh777 / Shutterstock.com _____ The big news this week was a series of interviews that former attorney general...

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Lobster Book Review on Corporate and Governmental Corruption in America

One of the fascinating book reviews Lobster has published recently is John Newsinger’s review of Sarah Chayes’ Everybody Knows: Corruption in America (London: Hurst 2020). Chayes worked for the western army of occupation in Afghanistan, during which time she came to realise that the American forces weren’t their to free the Afghans, secure democracy and defend women from a vicious and repressive theocracy. No, they were there to prop up Hamid Karzai’s massively corrupt government, whose members and clients were doing everything they could to screw whatever they could get out of Agha and Khanum Ordinary Afghan. This formed the subject of his first book, Thieves of State. In Everybody Knows, she turns to the subject of the massive corruption in America, most especially in Donald Trump’s administration.

The companies participating in this corporate looting of America and the rest of the world include the Koch companies, Goldman Sachs, one of whose former inmates is our own Rishi Sunak, the connections between Trump and Jeffrey Epstein, and the connections between the mercenary outfit Frontier Services Group and Cambridge Analytica. The politicos involved include Mitch McConnell and Steve Mnuchin. McConnell was active trying to hold up increased funding for health-care and pension funds for retired miners, many of whom were his own constituents. He also managed to redirect $4 million of a grant intended to pay for the clean-up of a heavily polluted industrial so that instead it helped to pay for a new, $200 million steel plant ready for its Russian owners, whom McConnell also helped get sanctions lifted on the Russian company, Rusal.

These networks don’t just infect the Republicans, as you’d expect. They’re also heavily interlinked with Democrat politicos and Clinton’s and Obama’s governments. One passage of the review which I found particularly interesting described Madeleine Albright’s corporate looting of Africa. She owns a company that specialises in buying up Third World debt and then forcing those nations to pay it. Of course it comes out their hard-pressed budgets for healthcare, clean drinking water and education. Her hedge fund, Albright Capital Management, bought out a company specialising in pop-up electricity plants in developing African nations. These benefit the countries’ kleptocratic leaders at the expense of local people, who remain ‘mired in pollution and conflict’. It was Madeleine Albright, if I remember correctly, who told American women that there was a special place in hell for them if they didn’t vote for Killary. I’d say there was a special place in hell reserved for someone who enriches herself and her already overprivileged friends and partners stealing badly needed money from the world’s very poorest.

How to tackle this corporate corruption and exploitation? Chayes and Newsinger make it clear that the corporate elites have been able to get away with this because of the massive transfer of wealth and power away from the working class. The book describes how the corruption of the American Gilded Age of the 19th century was successfully fought and broken by a militant and powerful working class. Newsinger’s review concludes

Chayes celebrates struggle through to the great class battles of the 1930s. She clearly recognises that the kleptocracy that is swallowing the world will only be beaten back if there is a shift in the balance of class forces; and will require, needs to be based on, struggle in the
workplace. What is needed, therefore, is the revival of a militant labour movement. And this is absolutely urgent because ‘the Midas disease’ threatens environmental catastrophe on an unprecedented scale. (pp. 283-284) She has come a long way since Afghanistan.

How this can be done with corporatist like Biden in charge of the Democrat party and the country, and the nullity Keir Starmer as head of the Labour party, remains a very good question. But this book review, and the light it sheds on the military-industrial complex in America and its looting of the Third World, is particularly relevant now that we have Biden and the other G7 leaders meeting in Cornwall.

If you want to read it, the reviews at: Everybody Knows (Book Review) (Summer 2021) (lobster-magazine.co.uk)

Taking on the Coors Brewing Company—and the Conservative Family Behind It

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 19/05/2021 - 2:03am in

Photo credit: Jimmy Rooney / Shutterstock.com _____ Well into the 1990s, the energetic, septuagenarian gay organizer Morris Kight vehemently opposed...

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Israeli Police Clash with Palestinian Protesters at al-Aqsa Mosque

Mike put up a piece this morning asking what the Israeli cops were doing shooting rubber bullets at and firing tear gas canisters at Palestinians inside the al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem. This is Islam’s third holiest shrine and occupies part of the site of Solomon’s Temple. According to today’s Independent, the clashes have been provoked by the possible eviction of Palestinians from their homes in the neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah in east Jerusalem and the land and homes given to Israeli settlers. Crowds had gone to the mosque for Friday prayers to celebrate the end of Ramadan, and protests against the possible evictions began after the service ended. Members of the crowd threw rocks at the police, injuring 17, but over 100 Palestinians have been hurt.

More than 200 Palestianians injured after clashes with Israeli police at mosque (msn.com)

Mike begins his article on the violence by asking

Would the Israel apologists – preferably those who scream “anti-Semitism” at every criticism of that country’s appalling government – please explain this shocking act of brutality in one of Islam’s most holy places of worship?

It’s a good question, and no doubt the Board of Deputies of British Jews and the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism and all the other frantically pro-Israel smear merchants are working on their mealy-mouthed apologies, just as they managed to excuse the IDF for the shooting of unarmed civilians, including a young nurse, when they broke through the Gaza fence a year or so ago. That was a disgrace, but the present violence is potentially explosive.

The al-Aqsa mosque is so revered that even secular Muslims will flinch in shock and outrage at the idea of any assault on it. Way back in the 1980s the Israeli government was forced to crack down on a militant Jewish extremist organisation, Gush Emunim, after they caught a group of its members trying to bomb the shrine. They wanted to destroy it so that Solomon’s Temple could be rebuilt. If they’d succeeded, I think it would have resulted in an apocalyptic war as every Muslim nation would have wanted to avenge the attack. I think Gush Emunim were banned, but not before they spawned Kach, another extreme Israeli nationalist organisation which openly wants all Palestinians expelled from eretz Israel. I’ve got a feeling that Kach, or an organisation derived from it, merged with another extreme nationalist party, and that party that resulted from the merger is now a partner in Netanyahu’s governing coalition. And unfortunately, Kach also has sympathisers in Britain. Tony Greenstein has put up photos of various Zionist demonstrators from some of the protests against pro-Palestinian meetings and the mass rallies held against Jeremy Corbyn a few years ago. One of those attending them is seen sporting a Kach T-shirt.

A few years ago one of the liberal papers – I think it was the Independent – carried a piece by a liberal Israeli journo, who was shocked at the growing racial and religious intolerance by Israelis against the Palestinian inhabitants of Jerusalem. He described meeting a group of Jewish schoolgirls, who blithely told him that Jerusalem had to be purged of Palestinians so that the Messiah would arrive. The impression I’ve got from reading Tony’s blog and other materials elsewhere is that the Israeli settlers are extremely right-wing and bitterly intolerant, with a number expressing similar views about the necessity of expelling the Palestinians and/or other non-Jews from Israel.

This is the government British Jewish official organisations like the Board of Deputies have been defending and smeared its critics as anti-Semites, even when they are staunch anti-racists and proud, self-respecting Jews. This is the Israeli government, which was greatly aided in its aims last year when Trump’s government moved the American embassy to Jerusalem. Trump’s Jewish son-in-law, Jared Kushner, dealt in land seized from the Palestinians in the Occupied Territories. There has been international condemnation of the land seizures by the United Nations, but such disapproval is just brushed aside by the Israeli state. That’s why Boycot, Divest and Sanction movement was founded to persuade shoppers not to buy Israeli goods produced in the Occupied Territories. However, they’re under legal attack in America and elsewhere as a supposed anti-Semitic organisation, despite considerable Jewish support.

It’s very ominous indeed that the Israeli police feel they can fire on people in the al-Aqsa mosque. It looks to me that the support for Netanyahu’s fascistic government by Trump and other world leaders has emboldened the Israeli authorities to take such violent action. And it’s action that could very well produce terrible conflict in turn from justifiably outraged Muslims around the world.

Israel’s actions aren’t unprovoked, but they seem massively disproportionate and a real threat to world peace.

Biden’s First 100 Days and the GOP’s First 100 Days Without Trump

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 04/05/2021 - 9:57am in

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Donald Trump

By almost any measure, Joe Biden’s first 100 days have been hugely successful. Getting millions of...

Robin Simcox’s Racist and Anti-Semitic Links

Further respect to Zelo Street for adding a few more details about Robin Simcox and his membership of some very nasty right-wing organisations. Simcox is professional smirking slime-bucket Priti Patel’s choice for head of the Commission for Countering Extremism. I put up a piece about him yesterday, based on a piece about him in the latest issue of Private Eye noting that Simcox has some views himself that many might consider extreme. Like he’s a Neocon member of the Heritage Foundation, who backs sending terrorist suspect to countries where they can be tortured and further infringement on the rule of law. But that’s not all. According to Wikipedia, the Heritage Foundation denies the reality of climate change and is funded by the American oil giant, Exxon Mobil. It also promoted the false claims of voter fraud. This was done through Hans von Spakovsky, the head of the Heritage Foundation’s Electoral Law Reform Initiative, who made such fears mainstream in the Republican Party. Von Spakovsky’s work, you won’t be surprised to hear, has been completely discredited according to Wikipedia.

The Heritage Foundation, according to the Byline Times, have on their board Rebekah Mercer and her father, Robert Mercer, who funded Breitbart News, which in turn supported Cambridge Analytica. And it was Cambridge Analytica that introduced Donald Trump to Steve Bannon, who founded Parler. But it was Simcox’s links to the racist extreme right that was more worrying to that authors of the Byline Times’ article. In 2019 Simcox spoke at a meeting of the Centre for Immigration Studies. The CIS has been identified as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Centre. The CIS has for ten years circulated anti-Semitic and White nationalist materials, included articles written by supporters of eugenics and Holocaust deniers. According to Wikipedia, the CIS’ reports have been criticised as false or misleading and with poor methodology by experts on immigration. The Byline Times stated that in his work for the Heritage Foundation, Simcox promoted the work of several racist and anti-Muslim conspiracy theorists, including a supporter of the ‘Great Replacement’ theory, which has inspired many of the extreme right-wing terror attacks in recent years. He’s also been criticised for falsely equating British Islamic organisations with the Muslim brotherhood.

Simcox therefore has links to people, whose views could be described as genuinely Nazi. But as the Street notes, the self-appointed opponents of anti-Semitism are curiously silent about all this.


So who’s making their feelings known about this appointment? “Lord” Ian Austin? “Lord” John Mann? Wes Streeting? Stephen Pollard? John Woodcock? Margaret Hodge? Daniel Finkelstein? Crickets. If only Simcox had been pals with Jeremy Corbyn.

Zelo Street: Tory Anti-Semitism Link – No Problem! (zelo-street.blogspot.com)

Quite. But the above weren’t opponents of anti-Semitism per se. They were simply determined to destroy the Labour left and protect Israel and its persecution of the Palestinians. And as Tony Greenstein has shown ad nauseam, Israel has no problem collaborating with real Nazis if it will serve its interests.

On Capitol Hill

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 15/04/2021 - 3:00am in

Trump might disappear, but Biden’s assumptions promise further eruptions from the base

There is little doubt that most of the 70 or so million Americans who voted for Donald Trump in the recent US election would not have supported the actions of those who invaded and trashed the houses of Congress on 6 January. Nor would they regard themselves as ‘deplorables’. What does group them together, however, is that all those who voted for Trump rejected the core elites and associated institutions that make up the ruling order in the United States, the order that has now concretised in the Democrat ascendency. This and the events on Capitol Hill are the political expression of a deep division that marks the social and institutional life of the United States today.

That the ‘insurgency’ at Capitol Hill was chaotic and unorganised, and went nowhere, is not especially significant. Initially, insurgencies often have a chaotic and disorganised character. Of course this particular event also carried the mark of Donald Trump. One of the things about Trump, for which we should be grateful, is that even though he was destructive, that destruction always emerged from an incapacity that actually limited his power: he led through a loose, self-affirming and self-referential rhetoric, not through any capacity to organise socially and practically at scale. His impact on US political institutions has been significant: there is no doubt that he made real inroads into US legal institutions, for instance. But his media strategy—to rely on social media while fencing off mainstream media—was only partly successful: it always left the powerful mainstream to hound his every move. And despite reported widespread support within the military rank and file and National Guard, he was unable to turn such influence to his ends. He did not even recognise the capacity to organise where it existed among his supporters—such as in Steve Bannon, say—and this put limits on where his ‘revolution’ could go. A chaotic insurgency seems typical of what to expect from Trump politically, and this was a manifestation of his real limit, but that is not to exhaust the meanings or potential flow-on from the events on Capitol Hill.

The Trump account of his failure has been to blame the media. Trump’s struggle with the media was always ugly, of course, but in certain key respects he was right: the mainstream media are a part of the elite and related institutions that have now been re-affirmed in power. It is no surprise, then, that they are at the centre of the conventional narrative that has taken the form of decrying 6 January as an assault on the institutions of democracy. This is a narrative that drives an emotional response, especially so given hopes that Joe Biden will bring America together again. But it is a view that provides no insight whatsoever into what happened at the Capitol—what those events mean socially. To the contrary, this narrative works to ensure a focus on certain individuals—Trump, the ‘deplorables’—that only reaffirms the institutions of social order, without any serious consideration of how those institutions had fallen into disrepute for such a large segment of the US population. In other words, despite expressions of outrage and denunciations of ‘domestic terror’, it minimises the significance of the eruption by, first, constructing it as a challenge to sacred democratic universals and rituals while, second, emphasising the actions of the foolish, even evil, individuals who dared to step upon the political stage. It is an account that points to outrageous political actions that demand a response but then allows, or hopes for, a return of the social order to an unquestioned normality.

Some commentators have made an attempt to go beyond this kind of account to grapple with aspects of the social whole that is the context of these events. The conservative commentator Paul Monk, writing in The Australian, attempts to say something about a larger framework in order to address the seriousness of the insurgency. Referring to Trump as a symptom rather than a ‘cause of underlying maladies in the US body politic’, he draws on Roman history to make his point. Reflecting on the Catiline conspiracy of 63 BCE, which was followed, after a period of twenty years, by the Caesarean takeover, he concludes that the ‘deeper challenges facing the American republic…should be our fundamental focus’: the 2021 Trumpian ‘insurgency’ is only a sign of things to come. However, he makes no attempt to name the fundamental challenges, let alone lay bare their nature. Not only are they left unexplored, Monk treats the ‘body politic’ as an autonomous sphere untouched by the larger social whole. Yet it is here in the social whole and in social life generally where the fundamentals for interpreting this moment are to be located.

Others outside of the mainstream, such as Pankaj Mishra in his Bland Fanatics, are more likely to take the social whole seriously. Written before the events at Capitol Hill, Bland Fanatics captures the Trump setting more appropriately: ‘It is only now, with a white supremacist ensconced in the White House, that those same hard-headed liberals—who did so much to create a climate of opinion and a legal regime in which black and brown bodies could be seized, broken and destroyed outside all norms and laws of war—are coming to grips with America’s Original Sin: Slavery and the Legacy of White Supremacy’. However, if this approach gives some points of entry into the nature of the social order that has propped up the liberal elites and institutions of contemporary America, it also suggests that Trump gained power because he is a white supremacist. But far broader processes are at work here, which, among other things, have allowed supremacists to move into the foreground, and it is these processes that suggest that the assault on Capitol Hill is only the beginning, not the end. Contradictions within the social ground of American (and late modern) society generally are working to fracture old certainties, creating the conditions that allowed a Trump to emerge. Those contradictions will continue to unfold long after Trump himself has gone. Far more than mere political contradictions, we are seeing life transformed by deep-going social contradictions.

There is widespread agreement that the nature of social relations in contemporary society has changed and that these changes are contributing to contemporary unease and disturbance. Yet while change is everywhere, it’s hard to put a finger on just what the scale and significance of this process is. For the person, change is experiential; it is understood according to implicit personal-historical comparisons that are largely subjective. Further, because change is a constant of every generation, it is a concept that by itself does not help us differentiate levels of significance. But it is necessary to come to terms with what change means today because contemporary life is increasingly traumatic in all of its locations and at all of its various stages: while change once meant that reference points for people simply became different over time, what does it mean today that there are so few stable reference points for people in community or as individuals passing through the various stages of life? 

One round of changes that especially stands out relates to the young. Can young people growing up rely on a relatively stable range of employment choices? Can they rely on the relative fixity of a family unit? Can they place themselves by reference to kinship networks and places important in the life of the generations? Can children or adults take the existence of their neighbourhoods for granted? For workers, there are similar questions. Can workers feel confident that their skills and education will give them security? Change of this very general kind can be the consequence of war, of natural catastrophes like an earthquake, or a pandemic—or a profound change in social process. Compared to once familiar generational change, this more encompassing form of change in everyday life and its various institutions takes place at another level. If such change has a source in the nature of the social itself, it indicates the emergence of an unfamiliar social type.

It is not adequate to handle such phenomena by saying, ‘But change always happens’. Lynn Margulis, the well-known researcher in biology, finds that the biological world is widely composed of change—what she calls the gradient in cellular life. But biology is also typified by strong strategies to fight against change, to achieve relative fixity. Similar processes are typical within the social order. No social world is completely fixed, despite the hopes of some conservatives. But the social order today is different: it institutes change as such. 

While existential upheavals and ‘revolutions’ of this social kind have political consequences, they are not political in the first instance. They reach deep into our personal make-up, the effect of general social processes. How is it that social relations that facilitate rapid change are somehow overwhelming relations that have typically been keepers of relative fixity in human life? 

In the world of Homo sapiens relative fixity has usually been associated with generational continuity and stable place-based relations. This is the world of face-to-face relations and in-person communities, those grounded in relations with tangible others and ethics of care born out of shared life and love of place. Even in the grip of an earlier capitalism’s essential engine of change, those ‘residual’ features of communal and intimate life held, more or less, and were the guarantee of a continuation of our species nature as cultural animals.

The change that has taken hold of our lives over the last two generations, which we witness in the global market or in the relations of a thoroughly networked, digital society, is a radical shift of balance away from the face to face to technologically extended social relations. This shift is underpinned by basic scientific-technological revolutions that have transformed social institutions. While the relations of social media are not the only example of this process, they illustrate well the fleeting nature of relations and lack of tangibility in systems that do not require embodied or mutual presence in the connections they make. As we are lifted out of face-to-face settings, increasingly the Other loses all tangibility. We cannot sense, touch or smell them: they are not present to us in this sense. They are an abstracted Other, one that we can only know with the help of technology: writing, print, emails, tweets. This Other is always fleeting because it has less phenomenological force; because it can be filtered or kept at bay; because it is thinner in its history and in its ‘presence’ as text or image rather than as an embodied being. 

Such relations can always be combined with relations formed in more stable settings. But the revolution of our period shifts the balance of social relations towards greater abstraction and less tangibility. As a consequence, physical neighbourhoods and communities are transformed, and stable reference points in work and life are undermined. This is the cultural shift that has now turned into a cultural and political crisis. What processes drive this transformation?

To speak of technological revolution today is to speak of a scientific revolution. In particular, the transformation of science into techno-science, which has occurred in stages throughout the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, gaining momentum in social life with the deregulation of currencies in the 1980s, has reconstructed the gamut of social institutions along more abstract lines. Centrally, the institution of the market itself was reconstructed by the new forces of scientific-technological development, becoming a global market: more abstract, faster moving, and with a broader, deeper reach than the modern market into culture and the self, becoming the central mechanism of economic and cultural globalisation. Local economies were decimated as swaths of local industry and jobs went offshore. Defence industries began to jettison embodied war-making, gravitating towards drones and robots as the up-to-date abstract approach to warfare. Techno-scientific medicine declared its victory over disease and pandemics. Others, including space scientists, seek to move into the colonisation of outer space, transcending Earth. Yet others seek to transcend evolutionary processes they feel are unnecessary constraints on individual and species possibility.

This is a world where science in its high-tech or applied mode, which seeks to reconstitute the world rather than understand it, has become the key factor in ‘new’ capitalism—techno-capitalism, in which the consumption of resources expanded vastly after the Second World War, and even more rapidly since the globalisation process was set in place in the 1980s. While this emergent world gestures towards responding to climate change, its challenge to the natural world continues through economic growth and forces of expansion that accept no limits. As a social order it is out of human control, and will continue to be so until the key agents in this interweaving of capital and science, the high-tech scientific intellectuals, begin a process of returning to their longstanding ethical commitments to ‘earthlings’ and grounded communities.

It is no surprise that in such a world we have ‘winners’ (the political and corporate elites) and ‘losers’ (the ‘deplorables’), or those who have no purchase on the reconstructed institutions of the high-tech world. Beyond winners and losers there is also a primary sense in which we are all losers. For Homo sapiens is inseparable from that relatively anchored world of face-to-face relations and embodied being that is fast dissipating. 

In the past intellectuals and scientists, while formed by extended and abstract relations, employed their knowledge to support the mainstream face-to-face world on which they too were dependent. Often they were corrupted by power. Yet standing beyond the face-to-face world gave them the potential of drawing upon a universal ethic unconstrained by the particular. It is this potential that Noam Chomsky invokes when he states that the responsibility of intellectuals is to speak truth to power. Once, such ethical potential supported social movements that erupted both within the universities and within the wider society. 

We now know how this relation of intellectuals with the everyday was utterly corrupted in the period of the Enlightenment, the shaping intellectual force of today’s liberal democracies, with shocking outcomes for Indigenous and colonised peoples around the world. This relation is now taking an even more troubling form: inseparable from new capitalism, scientific intellectuals (and intellectuals generally) have developed means that support processes that displace the supports of the everyday world, taking a portion of citizens with them into a new social order. The rest, facing precarious existence or, more strongly, being on the wrong side of what Silicon Valley calls the ‘80/20 society’, edge towards social redundancy. 

Having no future in this techno-world, they can passively accept their fate or they can seek to resist in various ways. Capitol Hill was only one moment in the life of this reconstructed world.

***

Donald Trump, like Pauline Hanson in Australia, is a symbol of the contradictions of this emergent social order—what the media ignorantly diminish by calling them populists. As the first political manifestations emerging out of this new social order, they are a response to the devastating effects of economic globalisation. But they cannot respond in a rounded way. If Trump seemed to intervene in the globalisation process, he actually merely responded to particulars within it; economic globalisation remained a broadly assumed background. Being a transactional thinker, he had no grasp of the general nature of how globalisation works or why it had devastated the conditions of life for large segments of the population who found their local worlds shut down. While such devastation created an opportunity for Trump, America First was never a general approach resisting the directions of the overarching form of development in high-tech capitalism. We can only expect that those underlying processes destroying the stable reference points of jobs and community in everyday life will continue to unfold. Now firmly controlled once again by the liberal elites, they can be expected to generate further resistance against the social order.

The media and much of the world are now putting their hope in the ‘safe’ hands of Joe Biden. There is an enormous upwelling of feeling, in the hope that he will return US society and politics to normality. Uplifting rhetoric is not actually where he shines, but an emotional coming together around key symbols of modern hope may temporarily help some of the many who are suffering. His assurance of more rationality in the campaign against a rampaging COVID-19 is promising; it is certainly needed. But after what may be success here, he will surely return to the tried policy frameworks of the past. Emotional commitments to the democratic institutions will be renewed, but these are the institutions, combined as they are with open-ended developmental assumptions, that have already failed Americans. Returning to the Paris Accords should be welcomed, but the Accords offer little real hope. Drawn up by those who want to believe that a few adjustments with little economic cost will solve climate change, they ignore the enormous challenges around the development assumptions that are embedded in our way of life and that continue to overwhelm climate and the environment.

Similarly, we should not take too seriously the portrayal of Biden as a leader deeply formed in the experience of grief and the practice of care. No doubt he has experienced much trauma in his personal life and no doubt this has affected him deeply, enhancing his humanity. But he is also a Cold War warrior, with a demonstrable inclination to pursue the Democrats’ hawkish orientation towards war where it encounters resistance. He is certainly stronger in this respect than Donald Trump, whatever the latter’s rhetoric. And now with the Democrat ascendency, with control over all the main sources of political power, what is likely to happen when mounting conflicts arising out of deep contradictions confront him? Biden’s immediate reaction to the events on Capitol Hill is suggestive. He instantly conjured the category of ‘domestic terrorism’. Will he act on this and seek another round of terror legislation? As Branko Marcetic writes in Jacobin, Biden has a long history of involvement in the development of terror legislation, including the Patriot Act after 9/11. That was the Act that unleashed US agents upon the world to engage in illegal killings and the rendition of ‘suspects’ on a scale that will forever mark the history of American liberal democracy. 

We have commenced a new chapter, with a leader who shows little capacity to recognise the scale of the developmental crisis or the aspirations that define our social world, and he shows every likelihood of labelling and legislating to contain those who oppose his utterly conventional agenda.


After Trump?: Cancel culture and the new authoritarianism

Simon Cooper, Mar 2021

After the failed insurrection at the US Capitol building, an event irreconcilably both absurd and frightening, Donald Trump, for so long a master of the attention economy, finally got ‘cancelled’. While many of his Republican colleagues made a last-minute decision (motivated by self-interest) to dump him, the real blow for Trump was the response by corporate America. Facebook and Twitter blocked the president’s social-media accounts, Shopify terminated stores affiliated with him, YouTube removed channels questioning…

Graham Linehan’s Trans Day of Visibility: It’s Against a Harmful Ideology, Not People

I’m almost two weeks late writing about this, but I think it needs to be covered. On the last day of March, Graham Linehan and his conversationalists on The Mess We’re In channel held their own Trans Day of Visibility. As well as being the writer behind the awesome Father Ted, Linehan is very much a male feminist. He’s become notorious over the past few years for his opposition to the transgender ideology, along with Kellie-Jay Kean, Abigail Shrier, Benjamin Boyce, and the host of another YouTube channel, You’re Kidding, Right?. This last lady presents the arguments against the ideology from the perspective of a Black American woman, which is very enlightening. Especially when she forcefully tells the trans rights activists not to true to compare their ideology to the Civil Rights movement. One of her critics tried to tell her that she was the equivalent of the Klan. Her antecedents came from Georgia when the Klan were powerful and extremely frightening. She made it very, very clear that she was nothing like the Klan. But I digress.

Linehan is joined on his videos with Welsh feminist Helen Staniland and gay Canadian Arty Morty. Morty is, by his own admission, very much a part of the Canadian gay scene and worked as a bar man in a trans bar. Staniland is concerned about the threat to women and girls from biological men being allowed into female spaces on the grounds that they identify as women. Morty is particularly concerned that gender reassignment is being used as a form of conversion therapy to ‘cure’ gender non-conforming children and teens by parents who are afraid that their children will grow up gay. He’s particularly concerned as he was one of these kids. As a boy, he preferred to play with dolls, and he’s afraid that if he was a child today, he would have been put down as transgender and been put on the path to transition.

It was the ‘trans day of visibility’ a few weeks ago, and so Linehan and his friends have as guests in this video their transgender friends and supporters – Debbie Hayton, Miranda Yardlemort, Scott Newgent, and a transman who appears simply as Aaron. These gents and ladies give their perspective on the dangers of trans movement and ideology as transmen and women, and how they came to oppose it.

They did so for a variety of reasons. In the case of Yardlemort, it was through looking at what the gender critical feminists actually wrote for herself, and being horrified at the grotesquely exaggerated response by the trans activists to entirely reasonable points as well as the way opposing feminists were stalked, abused and maltreated. She was also concerned by the way the pro-trans stance of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Women actually invalidates those rights and endangers women. She was thrown off Twitter for such crimes as saying that there are only two genders, transwomen shouldn’t be allowed into women’s spaces, and that rape and death threat to women aren’t acceptable. Yardlemort has also suffered her share of bullying from trans activists, as when one tried to take her to court for alleged ‘transphobia’.

Debbie Hayton joined the anti-trans movement because she was afraid that their extreme claims would actually damage the trans movement, and make trans people less accepted. She argues that being gender critical does not mean being anti-trans. She and Helen Staniland looked back to a time when transwomen and women were largely in harmony with each other, although there was occasional conflicts over the inclusion of transwomen in female-only events, such as the Michfest women-only music festival.

They also talk about the vexed issues of pronouns. The attitude of Arty Morty is that, while he doesn’t believe that there should be laws demanding transgender people be referred to be their chosen pronouns, he has no problem doing so for decent people. It’s only the misogynists he refuses to call ‘she’.

Aaron made it very clear that he believes transitioning is beneficial for some people. It worked for him, but he didn’t have a mental illness. This is important, as some of those being diagnosed a transgender may simply be mentally ill or have a neurological condition like autism. He turned against the trans ideology three years ago from concerns about the homophobia. He’s afraid that the excesses of the trans activists, such as the attacks on J.K. Rowling, will eventually lead to a ban on transitions, which will harm those who really need them. He is also afraid, like Linehan, Staniland, Morty and the others, that children and vulnerable adults are being misdiagnosed as trans and consequently mutilated. Debbie Orlander also shares this fear, especially when it comes to children as young as four or five.

Scott Newgent makes the point that part of the problem is medical corporations, who stand to make a profit from these drugs and treatments, telling vulnerable people they have the solution. This is compounded by social media, as Twitter and other sites will not allow the opposing side to be heard. He also makes the point that the trans ideology is supported by genuinely good people, who want to do the right thing, and have been falsely persuaded that the trans issue is the same as gay rights and comparable to the struggle over gay marriage. He believes that there is a positive side to trans activism, but this is a problem as its acceptance leads also to the acceptance of the negative aspects as well. He and the others also take down some of the ridiculously inflated and entirely false claims of the trans activists. Over here in the Blighty, the trans activists wanted a ‘trans day of remembrance’ for all the transgender people, who’ve been murdered. Except the numbers of transgender people who’ve been killed over here is vanishingly small. No transpeople have been killed in Scotland, for example. Newgent makes the same point about similar claims in his part of the US. He attended a talk about trans rights, in which the speaker claimed that trans children in his state of South Dakota were in danger of committing suicide. Except they weren’t. No trans children have committed suicide there.

The peeps do, however, express concerns that these threats and prophecies of suicide may be self-fulling. There is the danger that people, who have been misled into transitioning, may kill themselves when they find that it is not the cure they have been promised. Lesbian girls may be particularly affected by this. One of them talks about how they’re horrified by the the people, who’ve been physically harmed by the treatment – people with osteopathy and shrunken hearts due to puberty blockers and the hormones they’ve been prescribed. There’s also the case of the medical doctor, who contacted Linehan in distress at being officially barred from telling upset trans people that J.K. Rowling does not in fact want to kill them.

The team talk about the toxicity and violence of the trans activists. One of them physically attacked a gender critical feminist, Cathy Brennan, at Speaker’s Corner, a situation made all the worse by the actions of Stonewall, the gay advocacy organisation. They also criticise the left for its handling of the debate. They state that the left is undemocratic, intolerant of free speech and has a problem with racism and misogyny. Stonewall by its actions over a number of issues has provoked a backlash, of which the gender critical movement is only one part.

Hayton is optimistic, believing that more people are turning against the trans movement and being aware how it affects women’s rights and children’s safeguarding, as well as the way it harms transpeople themselves. Fionne, another transwoman, is also optimistic, noting the success of the Keira Bell case. Like Aaron, she believes that medical transition should be an option, but only for adults, not children, who need psychotherapy and a more diverse approach. She believes that transpeople have made a mistake in demanding access to women’s spaces, and should instead have demanded their own, third spaces. Yardlemort actually emailed a number of LGBTQ organisations about the need for gay spaces away from transpeople, but none of them replied.

The team also debate whether Donald Trump was the only person, who would have been able to stop the progress of trans ideology. They feel we need more people like J.K. Rowlings, who stand up to the trans lobby simply out of principle without any benefit to themselves. Newgent states that he has sacrificed his own career for his principles. He states that when it comes to the treatment of children,

I am very much aware that this is a very emotive issue and that many of my readers don’t share my views on this topic. However, I strongly believe that Linehan and his guests here are correct, and that vulnerable people, particularly women and children, are being unnecessarily put on life-changing, harmful medical treatment. And there is a problem with biological men being allowed into female-only spaces, such as prisons. There have been a series of rapes of women prisoners by biological men, who have been placed in women’s prisons because they have identified, or claimed to identify, as women.

I don’t hate transgender people, and definitely don’t wish anyone to come to any harm, much less be killed. But there are genuine dangers here, but unfortunately the climate of liberal opinion and many ‘official’ gay organisations, like Stonewall, mean that the gender critical side is silenced and their arguments not heard.

As you can see from this video, Linehan and his friends very definitely don’t hate transpeople, although they do discuss some extremely dangerous and predatory individuals. And they clearly have friends and supporters in the trans community, who share their concerns.

At the very least, they need to be heard and listened to. The topic should not be the monopoly of intolerant trans activists.

March 30, 2021

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