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‘There is a Connection Between their Roots in Fascism and their Embrace of these Ideas’: Italy’s Drift to the Far-Right

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 28/09/2022 - 10:22pm in

Adrian Goldberg spoke to David Broder – author of Mussolini’s Grandchildren: Fascism In Contemporary Italy – for the Byline Times Podcast about the historical roots of the country's new far-right leadership

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AG: Giorgia Meloni looks set to become Italy’s first female Prime Minister and leader of its most right-wing Government since the days of Mussolini. Her Fratelli D’Italia (Brothers of Italy) Party secured 26% of the vote in the recent General Election, making it the likely leader of a new coalition. What can you tell us about Meloni?

DB: She has been a political activist since a very young age. She's from a working-class district of Rome and joined the Italian Social Movement (MSI) in 1992. The MSI was a neo-fascist party founded by members of the defeated fascist regime in 1946... it has a long and often violent history.

In the post-war decades, it was always quite a small party, but Meloni joined at a time of great upheaval in Italian politics and she made her career in the MSI.

She was a councillor in Rome, then an MP, and became the youngest ever Deputy Speaker of the Chamber of Deputies when she was only 29. She was Youth Minister in the last of Silvio Berlusconi's Governments at a time when her post-fascist party was welcomed into a broad right-wing coalition. 

So, already in the 1990s, former fascists were in government as a junior partner to Berlusconi. But what we've seen in more recent decades is that the most right-wing parts of that coalition, including former fascists, have become the dominant force. This election result is really the culmination of that process.

Is Meloni’s party the same as the MSI which she originally joined?

Yes and no. In the 1990s, the MSI renamed itself the Alleanza Nazionale (National Alliance) and then it directly merged with Berlusconi's party (Forza Italia). In those years, its leader Gianfranco Fini made some efforts to distance it from fascism, with a commitment to taking part in electoral politics and rejecting violence and authoritarianism.  

After Fini took the party into a merger with Berlusconi's party, Fratelli D'Italia was created in 2012 by people who rejected that process and who reasserted the claim to the party tradition. They adopted the MSI’s logo, which is a tricolour flame, and Fratelli D’Italia’s flag even now has the flame of the MSI in it. 

In the early years of the party, Meloni leant into a very severe denunciation of those who had earlier dissolved the neo-fascist tradition.  

So Fratelli D’Italia wanted to reclaim the fascist tradition from which the MSI had grown?

Yes. Giorgia Meloni often cites as her political forefather Giorgio Almirante, who was the founding leader of the MSI and led it through most of its history until his death in 1988. Almirante had taken part in the [wartime fascist] regime; he had written for a journal called La Difesa della Razza (The Defence Of The Race) in which he advocated explicitly biological racist ideas. 

At the time Meloni joined in 1992, many of the main leaders were still people who had directly participated in the Nazi collaborationist Social Republic [led by Mussolini].

Of course, over the decades, the way that they organised changed and it isn't just the same as historical fascism. For instance, they showed commitment to the constitutional process, taking part in elections and have generally, over time, rejected terrorist groups who were within the orbit of the party.

But there is a genuine historical link between Mussolini and the party of the woman who is now set to be the leader of Italy?

Yes, absolutely. And often, we hear the kind of story which goes, ‘oh well, the party has broken with the past, that no longer applies and so on’. But when you look specifically at what her party is saying, it's actually very indulgent and [only a] partial criticism of fascism.

For instance, Giorgia Meloni about a month ago issued a video where she sought to dismiss claims that her party is steeped in fascism. What was really interesting was the pedantic phrasing she used it in order to not condemn fascism in general. A typical way of doing this is to condemn Italy’s 1938 racial laws, which involved the segregation of Jews and other ethnic minorities from taking part in public life... and to say that participation in the Holocaust is to be condemned – but not to condemn the fascist experience in general. What this aims to do is suggest that Mussolini went astray when he was led along by Hitler. 

So this party has a much more distinctly fascist tradition than other far-right parties, such as [Marine Le Pen’s National Rally] in France.

Has Meloni tried to make her appeal mainstream like Le Pen?

Yes, in part, but it's also a very contradictory process. 

Meloni insists that she won't disturb Italy's international position, emphasising that she supports Ukraine not Russia, that she's committed to NATO, and that she wants to change the European Union rather than consider an exit. 

At the same time, we have this very intense hostility directed against the 'conspiracies of globalists' like [billionaire US philanthropist] George Soros and the left, who are who are basically accused of a plot to destroy Italian society. Meloni has often resorted to the language of the ‘Great Replacement’ theory, which presents the idea of a shadowy plot to replace white Europeans with immigrants and Muslims. 

So if you are from a minority background in Italy you might be feeling very uncomfortable? 

Meloni has policies which are extremely hostile to immigrants and proposes very outlandish and harsh means of repression, including the call for a naval blockade in the Mediterranean to stop migrant boats. One of the key focuses of far-right agitation – including by Meloni – is that they're opposed to the idea that the children of migrants should have the right to citizenship, even if they’re born in Italy. In some cases, in local councils run by the far-right parties, we've seen them denying free school meals to non-EU citizens, even though the children in question were born in the country and have no choice but to live there.  

Is there an underlying dog whistle of antisemitism too?

Yes, and we see this in the prominence of George Soros in the party's propaganda. There’s the claim that Soros is the figure behind ‘ethnic substitution’ and, in one of her posts, Meloni refers to him as a ‘usurer’ – a word with strong [antisemitic] connotations.

What about the LGBT community and women’s rights?

Meloni says she doesn't want to get rid of the existing right to abortion. Yet, already in the regions control controlled by her party, we've seen that they actually act to make access harder, including imposing unrealistic limits. For instance, a seven-week limit on abortion with a compulsory one-week cooling-off period. 

One of the typical themes of Fratelli D'Italia is the destruction of our identity by speculators, by online social networks, by the ‘International Republic Of Money’ as they call it, to create a formless mass of atomised citizens who have no loyalty or roots.

Against this, they pose the traditional, heterosexual family. Within that, there’s a very harsh idea of LGBT people who are portrayed as unnatural and rootless and not really belonging.

Victory for this party will be a boost to all manner of homophobes and reactionaries.

So is this the return of Italian fascism?

I’m not someone who has called every new right-wing phenomenon ‘the return of fascism’ but I think you'd have to be very blind to not see that there is a connection between their roots in fascism and their embrace of these ideas. 

Beyond the actual policies pursued by the Italian Government, the example that Meloni sets and the fact that the state is controlled by people who hold these ideas, will unleash a very hostile climate in Italian society. 

We're not going to see the imposition of a fascist regime – but that’s a very low bar. I think what we can expect is the pursuit harsh identity politics and culture wars, and that will have a very negative effect on a lot of people's lives.

Adrian Goldberg is the Editor and Producer of the ‘Byline Times Podcast’ and ‘Byline Radio’ 

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Part 4: Moments of Moral Reckoning after Wars End

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 26/09/2022 - 10:00pm in

Efforts to immediately erect guardrails around nuclear weapons, given the sorry history that followed upon their falling short, deserve to be lifted up and celebrated as examples of what can follow in the chastened aftermath of a disastrous war....

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Ukraine: Western missteps lead to something much worse

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 23/09/2022 - 4:53am in

When even our media of conscience lose interest in the details of emerging East West crises the results can be tragic. We see it today over Ukraine. An early media move demanding implementation of the 2015 Minsk Accords would have prevented the bloodshed we now see. But the media were not very interested. We are Continue reading »

British Identity: The Empire’s Spectacle

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 22/09/2022 - 6:00pm in

The mourning of the Queen’s death has been, largely unconsciously, a nation in a state of 'appearing', writes Joe Haward

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The Queen’s coffin arrived at the west gate of Westminster Abbey on the state gun carriage. The carriage itself was drawn by 142 Royal Navy sailors, followed by a military procession, the King, and other members of the Royal Family. For the millions watching, there was a sense that more than a monarch had died.

As the Procession of the Coffin moved through the Abbey, the Choir of Westminster Abbey sang The Funeral Sentences: “I am the resurrection and the life, saith the Lord.” Ancient words reverberating off ancient walls; the remnants of the British Empire clinging on for one final moment in the spotlight. Yet there will be no resurrection here.

Tributes in prayer were made to the Queen, speaking of service and duty. The Archbishop of Canterbury made an evangelistic plea, imploring those watching and listening to claim for themselves the faith of Elizabeth II. These predatory habits of British Christianity, a sureness that something is being given that will better the world of savages and subjects, effortlessly glided from lips and hung there in the air of that space of privilege. 

The ceremony was quintessentially British – a display of pomp, pageantry and poignancy. It remembered the life of one who represented, to many, what it meant to be British. Yet, paradoxically, such a display of tradition could only highlight all that has been lost, as the long gone Empire leaves us with the spectacle of what once existed.

The long-lived confidence in a culture of advancement and civility, with a God-ordained right to rule over others, faded with every decade of the Queen Elizabeth II's reign. 

The French philosopher Guy Debord once said that "just as early industrial capitalism moved the focus of existence from being to having, post-industrial culture has moved that focus from having to appearing".

The mourning spectacle since the Queen’s death has been, albeit largely unconsciously, a nation in a state of appearing – grieving the loss of its own place in the world, the death of an empire that is held up like a puppet, putting on a lifeless show.

Empire and Being

The Romans left Britannia in the early 5th Century. By 927, the Kingdom of England was formed under Alfred the Great’s grandson, King Æthelstan. A long, complex and bloody history of conflict, invasion, power, and betrayal then unfolded. This was the beginning of being – of what would become British identity, formed and forming, expanding across the centuries over geographic Britain.

That identity of ‘being’ would be shaped into an existence of ‘having’. Five years before the birth of Queen Elizabeth II, the British Empire covered 24% of the Earth’s total land area; a population of more than 413 million people.  

By 1945, everything had changed. Even with its victorious stand in 1940, and the moral prestige this gave, Britain could not escape the shattering impact the war had on Europe’s political structure. The American insistence of the sale of oversea British assets to meet its debts highlighted the transfer of power from one empire to another. Yet this power shift also brought with it an identity change, from having to appearing, exemplified by King George VI. 

His insistence on remaining in London during the Second World War had a profound impact upon British morale. It in many ways defined the role of the modern monarch and how significant the Royal Family could be within society in an ever-changing world. His daughter would go on to symbolise the appearance of stability for the next seven decades of shifting times.

The spectacle of British life continues, with the population distracted by faux 'culture wars' and vapid political announcements that serve only to maintain the illusion of a functioning democracy; stoking the fires of division through the language of a dead empire. But everyone knows it is over.

The queue to see the lying in state of the Queen perfectly encapsulated the unconscious recognition that Britain as we know it has died, and such is our loss, we do not know what to do with ourselves, so we grasp hold of what we know. The past becomes increasingly attractive as the future becomes increasingly uncertain.

Where do we go when our happiest days are behind us? We wait in a queue in the hope those days will not be forever lost. 

Reverend Joe Haward is a community and business chaplain

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Queen Elizabeth II: The palace is winning the propaganda war

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 20/09/2022 - 4:55am in

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Queen Elizabeth II is dead and ‘the Palace’ is working assiduously to shore up her legacy and the institution of Monarchy. Polls show they are winning the hearts and minds in a propaganda war, with the mass media complicit in its hyperbolic, adulatory, blanket coverage. Debates about the Monarchy are cancelled, demonstrators in the UK Continue reading »

Cutting and Pasting the Past

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 16/09/2022 - 11:49pm in

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Drawing on her book, Cut/Copy/Paste, Whitney Trettien reflects on the history of radical bookwork and what it can teach us about digital publishing today.

Cutting and Pasting the Past

John Mansir Wing (1844-1917) was something of a character. A printer, typesetter, publisher and newspaper reporter, he retired early in Chicago at 44 and dedicated the rest of his life to collecting and – more unusually – extra-illustrating books: that is, inserting images to create bespoke copies.

New title page that John Wing had printed and bound in a copy of William Lowndes’ The Bibliographer’s Manual of English Literature, naming himself as the book’s extra-illustrator.

Wing was charmingly serious about this pastime. At home, he dedicated a room that he called ‘The Old Corner Library’ to his books. Later, he moved to an office at the Newberry Library that he dubbed ‘the cloister’. In these book laboratories, surrounded by pots of glue, sharpened knives, scissors, loose sheets and huge piles of prints – so many that he bought them by the pound – he cut up the bindings of his favourite books and stuffed them with illustrations. Some of the engravings and woodcuts he used were old and rare; others were ephemera like menus, letters, or advertisements cut from popular magazines. Jill Gage, curator at the Newberry and the scholar who has done the most research on Wing’s remarkable collections, even found one book padded with an entire 1910 Marshall Field’s hosiery catalogue – essentially, junk mail. As if to emphasise the seriousness of his project, Wing had new title pages and sometimes new prefaces written and printed for the books he extra-illustrated, adding his name in the same typeface and size as the author’s: ‘prints collected, arranged, inlaid and mounted at the Old Corner Library by John M. Wing.’

In the long history of publishing, what are books like these, assembled entirely from found materials? Have the original copies simply been modified by Wing? When do these modifications become so extreme as to constitute an entirely new publication, a handmade edition of one? And what do we call someone who does not write books like an author but instead cuts, pastes and compiles them? These are the questions I explore in Cut/Copy/Paste, a book about the history of radical bookwork, as I call these types of practices, and what it can teach us about digital publishing today.

While Wing was working in the modern era, in Cut/Copy/Paste I spotlight the seventeenth century, a moment ripe with experimentation in the history of the book. By this time, England had become accustomed to movable type as a technology: presses and a guild had been established, literacy rates were increasing and readers had developed durable practices for managing information overload, like commonplacing. As print became a more accessible and standard feature of the media environment, readers began exploring new ways of assembling texts and images that reflected their changing attitudes across a century of social upheaval.

I look at three communities in particular where readers compiled bespoke books from found fragments: a religious household where the women of the family cut and paste together illustrated bibles; a queer partnership that published multimedia books of poetry; and a shoemaker-turned-book agent who assembled albums that narrate the history of the book from what was essentially trash. In each case study, we find dedicated booklovers like Wing making their own inventive contribution to the history of publishing.

A page opening from the King’s Harmony, a new bible that the members of the religious household of Little Gidding made circa 1635 for King Charles by cutting and pasting together printed bibles and religious engravings.

While the stories I tell in the book originate in the seventeenth century, their lessons are not confined to the early modern period. As Wing’s collection of extra-illustrated books shows us, experimental publishing can be found wherever there are readers with scissors, paste and access to printed materials. This, of course, includes today. As our reading and writing move from printed paper to tiny simulation keyboards, ‘cutting’ and ‘pasting’ have become taps and commands, often on platforms that bake these actions into their features. After all, what is a retweet but someone else’s text that we have copied and pasted onto our own timeline?

Throughout Cut/Copy/Paste, I keep an eye to our digital practices, especially emerging forms of publishing on the web, and point to the many ways this deep history of experimental bookmaking might inform our changing understanding of creativity, authorship and publishing today. This presentism is not anachronistic so much as necessary in an era where the hype of technological novelty often overshadows the lessons of the past.

An arrangement of title pages in one of John Bagford’s albums of specimens, which he collected at the end of the seventeenth century.

It is difficult to spend so much time researching creative approaches to publishing and not want to put the same ideas into action in your own book – and so Cut/Copy/Paste has a second life as a networked digital text. While one can certainly buy the print version and read it without ever opening an internet browser, it is also possible to access the same text for free on University of Minnesota’s instance of the Manifold platform. Many passages of the digital book have been linked to an array of assets and resources: images and videos of the books I discuss, datasets about historical collections, visualisations, maps, social networks and digital editions. While I expect most scholars still prefer to read print, it was my aim to show that digital publishing not only is very possible today but can also be transformative for the kind of stories we tell, as I argue in the introduction. Like Wing’s extra-illustrated books, the digital version – ‘collected, arranged, inlaid and mounted’ by myself –  offers a richly multimodal variant on the same text: a playground for new experimentation.

Further reading

Jill Gage, ‘With Deft Knife and Paste: The Extra-Illustrated Books of John M. Wing,’ RBM: A Journal of Rare Books, Manuscripts, and Cultural Heritage 9.1 (2008), 118-26.

Lucy Peltz, Facing the Text: Extra-Illustration, Print Culture, and Society in Britain 1769-1840 (Huntington Library, 2017).

Image 1 Credit: New title page that John Wing had printed and bound in a copy of William Lowndes’ The Bibliographer’s Manual of English Literature, naming himself as the book’s extra-illustrator. From the collection of Wing’s extra-illustrated books at the Newberry Library. Photograph by the author.

Image 2 Credit: A page opening from the King’s Harmony, a new bible that the members of the religious household of Little Gidding made circa 1635 for King Charles by cutting and pasting together printed bibles and religious engravings. British Library, C.23.e.4, cols. 37–40.

Image 3 Credit: An arrangement of title pages in one of John Bagford’s albums of specimens, which he collected at the end of the seventeenth century. British Library, MS Harley 5927, for. 7r.

Banner image credit: Image by Lars Nissen from Pixabay 

Note: This feature essay gives the views of the author, and not the position of the LSE Review of Books blog, or of the London School of Economics and Political Science. Thank you to Dr Whitney Trettien for providing the in-text image for this post.

 

Putin’s Real War and His War of Words

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 16/09/2022 - 9:36pm in

Sian Norris considers Martha Gellhorn's classic 1966 examination of propaganda, Real War And War Of Words, and updates it for Putin's invasion of Ukraine

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In 1966, the renowned war reporter Martha Gellhorn travelled to Vietnam, where she bore witness to the long-running conflict in the country, just as she had in the Spanish Civil War and on the battlefields of France, Germany and Italy during the Second World War. The veteran journalist’s reportage explored the human stories behind this “new kind of war”: hospital patients, refugees, nuns, journalists and defectors. 

But the final report Gellhorn filed from the war in south-east Asia looked at a different aspect of the conflict. Real War and War of Words explored how the US employed propaganda to bolster support for its role in the war, which killed 58,220 US soldiers and more than three million Vietnamese people. 

“There are two wars in South Vietnam,” Gellhorn wrote. “The real war and the propaganda war.” The latter, she argued, could be split into two categories – “the fear syndrome" and "the cheer syndrome”. 

Journalist Martha Gellhorn, 1948. Photo: CSU Archives/Everett Collection/Alamy

Such fear and cheer syndrome propaganda have been a feature in Vladimir Putin’s war of words, which has run alongside the real war that Russia has waged against Ukraine. 

In recent weeks, that war has turned against Russia. Ukrainian forces have pushed the Russian Army back towards the border, liberating swathes of the Kharkiv Oblast as they do so. Russian propaganda has, unsurprisingly, doubled-down, offering fear and cheer to Putin believers, in the hope that even as the course of the war turns, the Russian people and his Stalinist cheerleaders in the West won’t turn away from him. 

Fear Syndrome

For Gellhorn, reporting from Vietnam in the heat of war, “the fear syndrome... magnifies the Vietcong’s threat to everyone in Vietnam, civilian and military”. This, she wrote, is “immensely dangerous” as it “misplaces the real pain of the real war”.

Even before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Putin’s regime was employing fear to amplify the threat both of its neighbour and the wider West. 

Central to its fear syndrome propaganda has been the allegation that Ukraine is overrun by Nazis and that, through its invasion, Russia can ‘deNazify’ the country.

This was signalled by the huge surge of media mentions of Nazism in relation to Ukraine in the run-up to the invasion: a Semantic Visions dataset, shared by the New York Times, monitored 8,000 Russian news websites and found a massive uptick in references to Nazism in the weeks leading up to the 24 February invasion, having been fairly flat since 2014. 

Headlines in mainstream Russian newspapers before and after the invasion focused heavily on the supposed Nazi threat in Ukraine. 'Nazis in Ukraine Launch Reprisals' stated one; while another falsely accused Ukrainian Nazis of “slaughtering priests”. One particularly lurid accusation called “Ukrainian Nazism” an “explosive mix of paganism and satanism”, itself a far-right conspiracy theory. State TV juxtaposed footage purportedly of far-right rallies with 1930s German Nazi footage, as did pro-Putin Tik-Tok channels. 

It seems to me that propaganda is a sign of fear

Martha Gellhorn, 1966

The phrase “UkraNazi” or “UkroNazi” took off on social media. Telegram channels monitoring “ukranazi” activity shared conspiracist content accusing Ukrainian forces of crimes against humanity – crimes deliberately intended to invoke Nazi atrocities in the Second World War, such as setting fire to people. One Russian state TV programme stated that there were concentration camps in Mariupol. There is no basis for these claims. 

This content often focused on violence against children – a TikTok account using the pro-Putin hashtag “DontAbandonOurOwn” shared fake news that an Ukrainian missile had “for the children'' written on it while a far-right Telegram channel falsely accused Ukrainian soldiers of child sexual abuse. 

The Nazi fear syndrome propaganda is powerful in Russia due to its Second World War history – known in Russia as the 'Great Patriotic War' in which 25 million died in battle or as a result of the sieges. Nazi Germany was seen as the antithesis of Soviet Russia, with the war an existential threat to the Russian nation, rather than linked specifically to the persecution of Jewish people.

Russian media and politicians therefore see no contradiction in claiming that a nation with an elected Jewish leader is a Nazi state.

To Russia, German Nazism was about the threat to the USSR, not the genocide of Jewish people. Now, its fear propaganda falsely claims that the country faces a similar existential danger from 'the West'.

This links to the second line in fear syndrome propaganda that puts Russia in a war for survival against Ukraine’s allies: NATO, the US, and the European Union.

Such a narrative has been enthusiastically picked up by members of the Western left, who are keen to position NATO and the US as the aggressor instead of Putin. ‘Tankie’ and Stalinist leftists have gamely repeated fear syndrome propaganda, referred to the conflict as a “US proxy war”, and accused Ukraine forces of bombing their own civilians. 

Fear syndrome propaganda, according to Gellhorn, “leads to hysteria, to hawk-demands for a bigger war”. This has certainly been the case on Russian state TV, with RT’s editor-in-chief, Margarita Simonyan, asking if there is infrastructure that could be targeted to “incapacitate this enemy nation”, effectively pushing for war crimes. Her fellow panellists said that many of the Ukrainian people are "serving the US" to bring about Russia's destruction.

The use of this fear tactic in its propaganda riles up Russian citizens to back the war and to view it through a prism of a genocidal threat to Russia. In truth, it is Ukraine’s existence that has been constantly under threat and Ukrainian people at risk of genocide. Putin and his followers have happily said that Ukraine should not exist and that it is not a real country. 

This brings us back to Gellhorn’s statement: that fear syndrome “misplaces the real pain of the real war”. Both the manufactured Nazi and existential threat allow for Putin’s supporters to, at best, turn a blind eye to the atrocities of mass rape, civilian killings and torture in places such as Bucha, Kherson and Izyum – and at worst allows them to deny this cruelty and violence altogether. 

Cheer Syndrome

In Gellhorn’s 1966 report, she defines cheer syndrome propaganda as that which “optimistically falsifies the conditions of Vietnamese civil life”. In the case of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, it relates to the false narrative of success and liberation its propaganda serves up to its willing audience – that, as Simonyan said, in a “hot war we will defeat Ukraine in two days”.

Of course, the danger with cheer syndrome propaganda is it’s a lie – and one that is eventually questioned by the mothers grieving their sons who are not supposed to be dead.

Cheer syndrome propaganda has manifested in numerous ways during Russia’s war of words.

The first is symbolised by a grotesque benevolence to the Ukrainian people. This is the ugly mirror of the Nazi fear syndrome: the claim that Russia is 'saving' the Ukrainian people from Nazi leadership; that the war is an “operation of peace”; and that Russia is “a senior partner helping a junior one”.

This tactic did not last long – not least with Simonyan and her colleagues calling for more war crimes against the “enemy state”. 

The second example is one that is rooted in jingoistic and militaristic pride. This too is the ugly mirror to the Nazi fear syndrome – it calls on a nationalist sentiment to revive the armies that crushed Germany in the Great Patriotic War and can hold out against this new ‘threat’ from the West. 

Simonyan directly references the Second World War in her cheer propaganda tweets, writing that “Hitler's main mistake was... in his misjudgment of us. Because the Great Patriotic War was won by our sense of duty. And we see this sense of duty everywhere now. It is our people who sacrifice themselves, shed blood, open monuments, save people. They are restoring not only historical, but human justice in general, because we have such a sense of duty”.

Such propaganda may help to stir up anti-Ukrainian feeling at home, but whitewashes the cruelty and violence of Russian occupiers, who have allegedly beaten and stripped adult men, raped women, and targeted civilian infrastructure

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Cheer syndrome propaganda also focuses on celebrating Russian soldiers “working on the spot, shedding blood, risking their lives,” as Simonyan has tweeted. In a separate tweet, she wrote that “our goal is peace, tranquillity in our home and the inevitable victory over this enemy, with God's help. Whatever it takes, we believe in it”. Whatever it takes, it would seem, includes “finishing off this reptile with a single fist”.

Her tweet brings together all aspects of cheer syndrome propaganda: a rallying, jingoistic call, a celebration of Russian soldiers, and a lie that peace is the aim. All of it whitewashes Putin's aggression and the horrific violence committed by Russian forces against the Ukrainian people.

Perhaps closest to Gellhorn’s concerns about cheer syndrome propaganda is the insistence on Russian military success in Ukraine.

Writing in the New Yorker in March, Masha Gessen noted that, on state TV, “remarkably, there was no mention of Russian military casualties, even though on Wednesday the Defence Ministry had acknowledged 498 deaths... The state’s 24-hour news channel, Rossiya 24, drones on about villages and towns that have been ‘liberated,’ but they name small towns that are unfamiliar to most viewers”.

Vladimir Putin’s Western cheerleaders engage in spreading the victorious Russia/hopeless Ukraine narrative too. A hard-left website claimed in July that “the steady advance of the Russian Army into the Donbass makes it clear... that the outcome of the war is now beyond all doubt”. Now, with Ukraine reclaiming territory, how will those parroting Russian propaganda sell its potential defeat? 

Gellhorn concluded her report with the following reflection: “It seems to me that propaganda is a sign of fear.” True of the US in Vietnam in 1966, even truer now in Russia in 2022.

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Book Review: Millicent Garrett Fawcett: Selected Writings edited by Melissa Terras and Elizabeth Crawford

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 16/09/2022 - 9:04pm in

In Millicent Garrett Fawcett available open access from UCL Press – Melissa Terras and Elizabeth Crawford offer a new collection of writings by the seasoned organiser, lobbyist and public speaker who campaigned for women’s suffrage. Contemporary feminists will take inspiration from the book’s evidence of the formidable fortitude, optimism, determination and generous spirit of activists like Fawcett, writes Sharon Crozier-De Rosa.

Millicent Garrett Fawcett: Selected Writings. Melissa Terras and Elizabeth Crawford (eds). UCL Press. 2022.

Millicent Garrett Fawcett coverIn 1918, the Representation of the People Act granted the vote to women over the age of 30 who met a property qualification. This reform was the result of five decades of sustained feminist campaigning. A woman who was active through all of those years was Millicent Garrett Fawcett (1847-1929). From the onset of the women’s suffrage movement, she was a relentless and seemingly tireless organiser, lobbyist and public speaker. In its later years, she spearheaded it through her role as president of the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies (NUWSS, established 1897), an umbrella organisation for regional societies devoted to achieving women’s enfranchisement. It is reported that, by 1914, the NUWSS had over 500 branches and 100,000 members. However, despite evidence of the sheer breadth of her devotion to the cause, Fawcett’s name has been eclipsed in the public memory by her more provocative peer, militant suffragist Emmeline Pankhurst (1858-1928).

This collection of a selection of Fawcett’s writings, edited by Melissa Terras and Elizabeth Crawford, gives voice to an often overlooked seasoned political campaigner. In beautiful detail – captured in wonderful introductions to, and extensive endnotes for, each of the 55 chapters – the editors contextualise the social, political, literary and religious spaces that Fawcett moved through and which informed her worldview. At times, in the introductions for instance, the editors quote an elderly Fawcett looking back on the words of her younger self to great effect.

Image Credit: Crop of ‘Portrait of Millicent Garrett Fawcett, c1910 in Mary Lowndes Album 2ASL/11/02b’, LSE Library. No known copyright restrictions.

It is difficult to communicate a sense of the richness of this contextualisation, but let me try with one random example. In relation to a reference to hairdressing in Fawcett’s 1875 novel, Janet Doncaster, the editors explain that this referred to a speech given by women’s rights activist Emily Faithful (1835-95) in which she revealed that hairdressing had become a new occupation for women given that female hair-cutters now joined male barbers in London’s West End (endnote 6, page 91). (Did you even know that Fawcett wrote a novel, albeit one that renowned early chronicler of British women’s suffrage Ray Strachey (1887-1940) said was ‘not written with the skill of a great novelist’ (85)?) Such a dedication to researching all elements of the suffragist’s writing, even seemingly inconsequential details, renders Fawcett and her world more vivid, intimate and alive.

This is a very good thing because, as you might expect given that Fawcett was promulgating the same arguments for 50 years, many of her texts are repetitive and sometimes heavy-going. Still, such a characterisation does enforce for the reader just how enduring the suffrage campaign was, and it builds up a picture of the stamina required to see it out to the end.

The selection of Fawcett’s writings contained here demonstrate the diversity of her audiences and shows how skilled she was at crafting her addresses to appeal specifically to them. For example, Chapter 19 details a report of an invited speech which Fawcett presented to a Conservative London gentlemen’s club in 1897. At that time, she was only proposing legislative reform that would have seen approximately one million women added to an existing male electorate of about six million. Through adopting a humorous, almost self-deprecating approach to the radical reform that she and her peers were trying to push through, she reportedly diffused what she imagined were her listeners’ fears. You are not going to be out-voted by ‘a horde and rabble of women’, she claimed. ‘There really was nothing so very terrible after all – even to the most timid of the stronger sex – (laughter) – in the thought that for every six men there was one woman who was entitled to vote’ (181). Her subtlety and intelligent discursive manoeuvring may come across as tame or perhaps unexciting and unradical to a post-suffrage audience whose contact with the history of British suffragism has been saturated with the ‘Deeds not Words’ of the militant suffragists.

The collection demonstrates the extent of Fawcett’s interests – ranging from suffrage to child employment to the so-called white slave trade to war and patriotism (where she had much in common with her militant counterparts, the Pankhursts being renowned for their jingoism). Intriguingly, there are also 20 ‘Picturing Fawcett’ inclusions containing photographs and paintings of her, from lecturer to wife to garden party attendee. For those of you who are fans of Pre-Raphaelite art (like me), you may be surprised (like me) to discover that Ford Maddox Brown (1821-93), in his signature style, painted a portrait of Millicent and her husband Henry Fawcett (1872). This was commissioned by their friend, liberal politician Sir Charles Dilke (1843-1911), and such was his affection for the couple, it hung in his home until his death (58-60).

Image Credit: ‘Portrait of Henry and Millicent Fawcett 2ASL/11/02a’, LSE Library. No known copyright restrictions.  

In 1918, shortly after the passing of the Representation of the People Act, Fawcett reflected: ‘I most devoutly believe that the Suffrage movement, all through its fifty years’ existence as practical politics, has made continuous and fairly rapid progress’. Admitting there were some disappointments, like the defeat of the Conciliation Bill that would have seen women enfranchised in 1912, she added: ‘those of us whose disposition and training led us to take long views never doubted for a moment that ultimate success was certain […] Looking back over the last fifty years’ work for women, I can truly say it has been a joyful and exhilarating time: punctuated by victory after victory’ (356).

Today, we variously watch on, mobilise, campaign for and protest as women’s rights are won and lost. The ‘Marea Verde’ (‘Green Wave’) movement has recently resulted in the decriminalisation of abortion in places like Argentina and Colombia. However, in 2022, 50 years after the Roe v. Wade judgment (1973) which ruled that the US Constitution protects a pregnant woman’s liberty to choose to have an abortion without excessive government restriction, the US Supreme Court overturned that historic decision.

In 1918, Fawcett wrote: ‘I can only hope that that those who are beginning their work now may have as joyful a fifty years before them as I and many dearly loved colleagues have to look back upon’ (356). Feminists around the world are still fighting for women’s and gender rights. There is much need among contemporary feminists for inspiration from this book’s evidence of the formidable fortitude, optimism, determination and generous spirit of activists like Millicent Garrett Fawcett. For students and scholars of English social and political life, the broader history of women’s rights globally or even those who simply wish to appreciate the pace of a different time, this book is a must read (and it is accessible as a free open access PDF!).

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 and Political Science. 

 

‘Out of the Picture: After the Queen’s Death, Will Britain Finally Confront Itself?’

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 15/09/2022 - 8:00pm in

Britain has hidden a key part of our story from ourselves. With the Queen’s death marking a decisive shift, it’s time for us all to start building a better picture of our country and its past, writes Hardeep Matharu   

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Few of us stop and think about ‘British identity’ – it’s the water we swim in. But in the wake of the Queen’s death, talk of the monarch being its ultimate symbol has filled airwaves, social media timelines and newspaper columns.

Much has been said of the Queen’s unique role in modern British history. From the Empire to Brexit Britain, Churchill to Liz Truss, she has been a symbolic bridge connecting post-war imperial Britain and the modern UK, embodying the values of a generation now passed; providing continuity during seismic change. 

But what lies beneath the pomp and ceremony; the conventions and the crown? 

The Queen’s death definitively marks the end of one era and the shift to another – and with this, Britain must now consider the deeper questions it refuses to ask itself, about the country it has been and the country it is becoming.

This conversation with itself is more important than ever. In a time when the mythology of Britain’s history has been put to political ends; and a rounded, more honest, appraisal of our past is weaponised in 'culture wars'. As Britain stands isolated, from its old friends in Europe and on the world stage. 

As it turns inwards, it must look out.

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On 1 February 1952, my grandfather, Pritam Singh Matharu, captured the then Princess Elizabeth’s visit to British Kenya. En route from Eastleigh Airport to Government House, the young woman of 25 is seen waving at the crowds of Kenyans and Asians, kept in place by lines of askaris. Five days later, she would be Queen.

My father Swaraj, who makes an appearance in the photos as a young boy of five, remembers it as a “good occasion”, with much of Nairobi decorated with Union Jacks.

“People were aware that we were being ruled by the British and that Kenya was a British colony,” he says, recalling his upbringing in the Empire today. Back then, Kenya was a stratified society with Asians – like my father’s Indian Sikh Punjabi family – considered middle class, ‘below’ their white rulers and ‘above’ the black Kenyan majority. ‘Divide and rule’ is the description most commonly given to such a set-up.

“There was that awareness that whites were different, Asians were different, blacks were different,” he says. “There were the areas where only the whites could own their houses – Asians weren’t allowed to buy any houses there or the Africans. Everyone was aware that the whites lived in those areas, the posh areas of Nairobi, with their big houses. Rarely did we go into these areas – the whites just used to be on their own.”

But at the same time as my grandfather was taking his photos, a darker side of Britain’s colonial rule was unfolding.

Those belonging predominantly to Kenya’s Kikuyu tribe were fighting against the confiscation of their land by white colonial settlers in what was known as the Mau Mau uprising. While the Mau Mau used violence to further its aims, the British response was severe.

Even though he was a child, my father remembers events from that time. Eight months after Elizabeth’s visit, the British declared a state of emergency in the colony and moved army reinforcements into Kenya.

Askaris lined up before the crowds during the visit of Princess Elizabeth on 1 February 1952 in Nairobi, British Kenya. Photo: Pritam Singh Matharu

“At nights there was this home guard, a few Asian men would get together and patrol the streets, they used to carry whistles and big sticks with them,” my father recalls. “Other areas used to have their own home guards. There was a lot of police presence as well and sometimes a lot of askaris would come and search our houses for any Mau Mau hidden, to arrest them. 

“Asian men were killed, hacked to death by the Mau Mau. Nobody went out after dark, it was very dangerous. 

“All Africans were made to carry ID cards, kipande, and, if any Africans didn’t have it on them, they would be arrested – if they were Kikuyu or from any other tribe. They would be put into police yards. There was a police station where we used to live and, at the back, there was a big compound with barbed wires. Often we would see a lot of Africans sitting there with their arms on their heads.

“It was mostly the Kikuyu tribe that was rounded up. The British thought all of them belonged to the Mau Mau movement – and not all of them did.  It was bad the way they were treated. They were arrested, taken away, shot.”

He remembers a young Kenyan boy who worked for the family who never returned after a visit to see his relatives in a village. “The next thing we knew, one of his cousins came to us and said he won’t be returning because the police shot him dead – perhaps he wasn’t carrying his kipande and he tried to make a run for it… but he didn’t belong to the Mau Mau movement,” my father says.

While many sympathised with the Kenyans, some Asians did treat them badly, according to his experience. But others, like the trade unionist and Sikh Makhan Singh, actively supported the Mau Mau movement.

Kenya was the country where my father was born, and he did feel it was his country; but he still refers to the fight for independence in the British colony as belonging to the Kenyans. “They wanted their independence,” he says. “It was their country. I used to live there, born and brought up there, we [Asians] were also happy that we were going to get independence. But it was their country, everybody used to say that.”

A decade after my grandfather photographed the young Princess Elizabeth, Kenya became independent – on 12 December 1963.

Looking at the photographs now, my father observes that “it was two things happening at the same time”. While Elizabeth swept by in her car and the crowds cheered, the Mau Mau uprising was at its height. 

Thousands of Kenyans were being put into camps, subjected to extreme violence, sexual assaults and, according to the Kenya Human Rights Commission, torture at the hands of the British.

People waiting to see Princess Elizabeth on 1 February 1952 in Nairobi, British Kenya. Hardeep's father Swaraj Singh Matharu is pictured in the centre foreground. Photo: Pritam Singh Matharu

In 2013, the Government agreed to pay £19.9 million in compensation to more than 5,000 people who had suffered abuse during the Mau Mau uprising. The court case brought by them also laid bare ‘Operation Legacy’, when the Foreign Office was forced to disclose some of the documents hidden from that time that had been kept in a secret archive. It turns out, many more were destroyed in the Empire’s dying days.

For the acclaimed historian Caroline Elkins, author of a comprehensive account of Britain’s crushing of the Mau Mau, the British Empire was able to survive for as long as it did because its violence was wrapped in a “velvet glove” of liberal reform.

I would encourage everyone to read about this time and decide for themselves what can be said of it. But Elkins’ identification of Britain’s two imperial faces seems a valid one.

If Britain is ever to truly move forward, as a confident, self-aware nation, we must look honestly at our past – not cling to it like a refuge; the only thing we have left. 

History is complicated and – as the adage goes – written by winners. To examine its contradictions and complexity, the bad and what might be perceived as some good, is not an attack. It just is.

Without doing so, we cannot properly praise or question the things we think about ourselves and where that leaves Britain now. 

King Charles may be able to contribute to the start of this, if he feels able to open up discussions about the Commonwealth or structural racism in Britain today. But he sits at the head of an institution that perpetuates Britain’s half-story about itself. The ceremony and splendour we have seen following the Queen’s death makes any excavation of what lies underneath it all from such quarters very unlikely.

With a Government committed to a ‘war on woke’ and an Opposition offering no new vision for the country going forward, from where will this conversation emerge? 

Well, we can all start today. We can take it into our own hands. I sat down for a cup of tea with my dad (who has now lived in Britain for more than 50 years) – and we can all watch, read, listen and talk about it. It’s our history. And it’s there for the taking – and reclaiming.

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Different People

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 13/09/2022 - 4:00am in

The displaced can be recognized by their backpacks and the plastic bags they’re carrying, filled with humanitarian aid. Also, by their rapid pace. The displaced move fast: from explosion to explosion. ...

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