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Rebecca Long-Bailey Promises to Retain All Labour’s Manifesto Policies

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 19/02/2020 - 12:15am in

Here’s some really good news from today’s I for Tuesday, 18th February 2020. According to the article, ‘Long-Bailey sticks to manifesto’ by Richard Vaughan, the Labour leadership contender Rebecca Long-Bailey has promised to retain all of Labour’s manifesto promises. The article runs

The Labour leadership hopeful Rebecca Long-Bailey said she would not drop a single policy from the party’s general election manifesto, but admitted it “confused” voters. 

The shadow Business Secretary said there were policies in Jeremy Corbyn’s manifesto that were “undeliverable in five years”, but were long-term aims. Ms Long-Bailey highlighted promises, such as the four-day week, which the party “would never have achieved in five years”.

“It was a long-term aspiration,” she said, “But putting it in a manifesto a packaging it in a way that we could deliver it under a next Labour government confused people.”

Ms Long-Bailey made the comments during a live Channel 4 debate in Dudley.

This is optimistic, as those manifesto policies, with the possible exception of G4 broadband coverage or whatever it was, are exactly what this country needs. They were actually very well received by the public despite the Tories’ and their media lackeys’ successful vilification of Corbyn. Their success is also shown by the fact that Boris has been forced to copy them. He had to announce he was pouring more money into the NHS, and build 40 more hospitals, as well as engage on a massive renovation of the public infrastructure, particularly the railways. Of course, he’s not going to do any of that. He’ll continue to cut funding to the NHS ready for privisation, and those hospitals aren’t going to be built. As for the money he’s going to spend on the railways, they are far below the vast sums required. He’s likely to go ahead with HS2, but that’ll be it.

And Boris has also had to renationalise Northern Rail, which clearly shows that rail privatisation hasn’t and isn’t working. Although I accept that some of the problems weren’t the fault of the rail operators, but the government’s and that of the state-owned company holding their railways lines, Railtrack.

The fact that BoJob has had to make these promises means that Labour can hold him to them. It means there’s pressure on the Tories to move in a left-ward direction, especially if they wish to retain and reward the former Labour voters in the north and midlands. It means that hopefully politics may no longer be a race for privatisation and welfare cuts between the Tories and the Labour party, as it was under Blair.

She’s also right in that there was a problem with communication. I was at a local Labour party meeting a few weeks ago, and the consensus there was that Labour left the public confused. There was too much for people to take in, and policies seemed to be announced by the day. It was also considered that Boris won by stressing an optimistic message looking forward, while Labour concentrated too much on the achievements of the past.

It’s a good point, but as a Labour supporter I was really enthusiastic about the election broadcast and its hark back to that awesome government of Clement Attlee and Nye Bevan. But I agree with them and Long-Bailey that Labour must communicate its excellent policies better, and look forward. We have to stress that under the Labour Party, the future will be better, and we will have better services, better healthcare and better welfare support, and the country will be altogether more prosperous, than it will under the Tories, Because all they off is broken promises and illusions based on fading memories of imperial greatness.

I take Long-Bailey’s point that many of the policies in the manifesto will probably take more than a single term to implement. But they have to be long-term aims. And in the meantime Labour should concentrate on absolutely defending the NHS and seek to restore and expand the welfare state as well as employment rights and trade unions.

Because the NHS and welfare benefits are matters of life and death.

This announcement by Long-Bailey suggests she means to keep those promises, and is the woman to lead Labour to victory in the next election.

Tony Benn’s Suggestions for Media Reform

One of the other books I picked up going through the secondhand bookshops in Cheltenham last Friday was Tony Benn: Arguments for Democracy, edited by Chris Mullins and published in 1981. Based on Benn’s speeches, articles and lectures over the previous two years, the book was Benn’s observation on the profoundly undemocratic nature of British society, and his suggestions for reform. He wanted to create a more democratic society that would empower ordinary people and move towards the establishment of socialism.

Although it was written forty years ago, the book and its arguments are still tremendously relevant. One of the chapters is on media bias against the working class and the Labour party. As we’ve seen over the past five years and particularly during the last election in December, this is very much a live issue because of the unrelenting hostility by nearly all of the media, including and especially the Beeb, against Jeremy Corbyn, his supporters and the Labour party as a whole. Benn discusses right-wing media bias in the chapter, ‘The Case for a Free Press’, and on pages 118 to 120 he makes his suggestions for its reform.  Benn wrote

‘Some Proposals for Reform

Reform of the media has only recently come to be taken seriously. The Glasgow University Media Group, the Campaign for Press Freedom, the Minority Press Group and academics such as James Curran at the Polytechnic of Central London have produced a wealth of carefully researched analysis and proposals for reform which would reward seriously study. At the time of writing the Labour Party National Executive Committee has a working party considering what must be done to obtain a media responsive to the needs of a twentieth-century democracy rather than an arm of the British establishment. I do not wish to anticipate the proposals of the working party, but in the interests of stimulating debate on this important subject I set out below some of the possibilities for reform which are now being discussed in the Labour Party and elsewhere.

  1. An Open Press Authority

This has been suggested by James Curran and Jean Seaton in their book Power Without Responsibility. This would be a public agency accountable to Parliament and it would aim to extend the freedom to publish. The OPA objectives would include the following:

i Provision off a launch fund, raised partly from a tax on media advertising expenditure, to assist new publications.

ii Grants to assist publications that have failed to attract significant advertising.

iii A National Print Corporation to extend modern printing facilities to a wide range of publications.

iv A guarantee of distribution for minority publications through a new wholesale organisation.

2. Anti-Monopoly Legislation

Considerations will have to be given to legislation to break up the huge newspaper monopolies; existing monopoly legislation has proved wholly ineffective for this purpose. Such legislation should also prohibit or severely limit investment by newspaper chains in television and commercial radio.

3. Reform of the Wholesale Trade

Wholesale and retail distribution of British newspapers and magazines in dominated by just three companies: W.H. Smith, John Menzies and Surridge Dawson. In many areas one or other of these companies has a complete monopoly. The result is that non-consensus publications have great difficulty in reaching the news stands. The French have solved this problem by imposing a legal obligation on wholesalers and retailers to carry, on request, all lawful publications excluding pornography. Publishers have to pay a handling charge on all returns. As a result the French public have access to a far more diverse range of political views than we do in Britain. The French example should be studied.

4 The Right of Reply

Where a newspaper or magazine has published a report about an individual or group which seriously distorts the truth, the person or organisation offended should have the right to set the record straight in the columns of that newspaper. The reply should be allotted adequate space and prominence and it should appear as soon as possible after the original story. It should be made legally enforceable. The Campaign for Press Freedom has set out the case for a right of reply in an excellent pamphlet.

5 Broadcasting

i Instead of being composed of the ‘great and the good’, worthy citizens chosen for their alleged impartiality, the boards of the BBC and the Independent Broadcasting Authority should contain representatives of a wide spectrum of opinion and interest groups.

ii The proceedings of the two boards of governors and all internal directives on policy should be publicly available.

iii The IBA should be given a legal obligation when awarding franchises, to give preference to non-profit-making applications such as cooperatives; at present most franchises got to companies more concerned with profits than quality.

iv The BBC is too big. It should be broken up into separate independent units for television, radio and the overseas service.

v The BBC licence fee, which places the Corporation at the mercy of the government, should be abolished and replaced by a grant awarded by Parliament five years in advance.

vi The Fourth Channel, as presently constituted, is controlled by the IBA and will buy in programmes from commercial companies. It should be reconstituted as a separate, publicly financed cooperative which would act as a ‘publisher’ of programmes made by freelance and independent production groups.

6 Satellite Broadcasting

By the mid-1980s satellite communication systems will make it feasible for American or European commercial television to be relayed into Britain. The result could be a diversion of advertising revenue away from existing publicly regulated services and an end of any chance of creating and maintaining public service broadcasting. As a matter of urgency Britain must contact other European governments with a view to placing under international control all companies using satellites for this purpose.’

He concludes the chapter with this:

These are some of the ways in which the British media could be developed to serve democracy rather than a consensus which has long been overtaken by events. I list these suggestions simply as a basis for consideration in an area where, until recently, there has been very little positive discussion. The free flow of information is the life blood of democracy and the present ownership structure and organisation of our media is incompatible with democracy. At a time of crisis, such as we now face, itis important that people should be able to choose freely between the various alternatives that political parties are seeking to put before them. To do that they need to be properly informed. That should be the role of the media in a democracy.

I’m not sure how many of these suggestions are relevant today, given the expansion of satellite and cable broadcasting,  the establishment of Channel 5 and the rise of the Net. My guess is that much of it is still acutely relevant, and the situation regarding the press monopolies has got worse since Benn wrote this. Murdoch now has an even firmer grip on the press and his own satellite channel, Sky, which he’d like to replace the Beeb. The Beeb has shown itself craven and massively biased towards the Tories, but they’re going to break it up and sell it off if they can in order to please Murdoch and the other commercial broadcasters. I think most of these reforms are still very much needed, but can’t see them ever being put in place given the massive opposition they provoke among the press and media barons, who control public opinion.

Corbyn’s supporters found a way round that with the internet, and Richard Burgon at the recent Labour deputy leadership hustings in Bristol suggested that Labour supporters should look to this and other alternative media rather than the old media. There are problems with this too, as the right have also latched on to the power of the Net. But it might just be the best, or only, way to move forward.

 

The Beeb’s Biased Reporting of NHS Privatisation

The Corporation’s General Right-wing Bias

The BBC is infamous for its flagrant right-wing bias. Writers and experts like Barry and Savile Kushner in their Who Needs the Cuts, academics at the media research centres of Glasgow, Edinburgh and Cardiff Universities, and ordinary left-wing bloggers like Mike and Zelo Street have pointed out time and again that the corporation massively prefers to have as commenters and guests on its show Conservative MPs and spokespeople for the financial sector on its news and political comment programmes, rather than Labour MPs and activists and trade unionists. The Corporation relentless pushed the anti-Semitism smears against Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour party. But it has also promoted the privatisation of the NHS too through its biased reporting.

Biased Towards NHS Privatisation

Jacky Davis and Raymond Tallis’ book on the privatisation of the NHS, NHS – SOS, has a chapter by Oliver Huitson, ‘Hidden in Plain Sight’, discussing the biased reporting of the NHS’s privatisation by the media in general. Here, however, I will just confine myself to describing the Corporation’s role. The Beeb was frequently silent and did not report vital pieces of information about successive privatisations, such as the involvement of private healthcare companies in demanding them and conflicts of interest. On occasion, this bias was actually worse than right-wing rags like the Daily Mail. Although these ardently supported the NHS’ privatisation, they frequently reported these cases while the Beeb did not. When the moves towards privatisation were reported, they were often given a positive spin. For example, the establishment of the Community Care Groups, groups of doctors who are supposed to commission medical services from the private sector as well as from within the NHS, and which are legally allowed to raise money from the private sector, were positively described by the Corporation as ‘giving doctors more control’.

Lack of Coverage of Private Healthcare Companies Role in Privatisation

David Cameron and Andrew Lansley did not include Lansley’s Health and Social Care Bill in the Tories’ 2010 manifesto, because they didn’t believe they’d win the election if they did. But in all the two years of debate about the bill, the Beeb only twice reported doubts about the bill’s democratic mandate. (p.152). In October 2010, Mark Britnell was invited to join Cameron’s ‘kitchen cabinet’. Britnell had worked with the Labour government and was a former head of commissioning for the NHS. But he was also former head of health for the accountancy firm, KPMG, which profits greatly from government privatisation and outsourcing. He declared that the NHS would be shown ‘no mercy’ and would become a ‘state insurance provider, not a state deliverer’. But the BBC decided not to report all this until four days after others had broken the story. And when they did, it was only to explain a comment by Nick Clegg about how people are confused when they hear politicians stating how much they love the NHS while at the same time demanding its privatisation. (pp.153-4).

On 21 November 2011 Channel 4 News reported that they had obtained a document which showed clearly that GP commissioning was intended to create a market for private corporations to come in and take over NHS services. But This was only reported by the Groaniad and the Torygraph. The rest of the media, including the Beeb, ignored it. (pp. 156-7).

Lansley was also revealed to have received donations from Andrew Nash, chairman of Care UK, another private healthcare firm hoping to profit from NHS privatisation. But this also was not reported by the Corporation. (pp. 157-8).

In January 2011 the Mirror reported that the Tories had been given over £750,000 from donors with major connections to private healthcare  interests since David Cameron had become their chief in 2005. But this was also not mentioned by the Beeb. (pp. 158).

The Mirror also found that 40 members of the House of Lords had interests in NHS privatisation, while the Social Investigations blog suggested that it might be as high as 142. The BBC, along with several papers, did not mention this. (pp. 158-9).

Sonia Poulton, a writer for the Heil, stated on her blog that 31 Lords and 18 MPs have very lucrative interests in the health industry. But this was also ignored by the Beeb, along with the rest of the media with the exception of the Guardian. (p. 159).

The Tory MP, Nick de Bois, was a fervent support of the Tories’ NHS privatisation. He is a majority shareholder in Rapier Design Group, which purchased Hampton Medical Conferences, a number of whose clients were ‘partners’ in the National Association of Primary Care, another group lobbying the Tories for NHS privatisation. This was also not reported by the Beeb. (pp. 159-60).

The Beeb also chose not to report how Lord Carter of Coles, the chair of the Co-operation and Competition Panel charged with ensuring fair access to the NHS for private healthcare companies, was also receiving £799,000 per year as chairman of McKesson Information Solutions, part of the massive American McKesson healthcare company. (p. 160).

There were other links between politicos, think tanks, lobby groups and private healthcare companies. The health regulator, Monitor, is dominated by staff from McKinsey and KPMG. But this also isn’t mentioned by the press. (pp. 160-1).

Beeb Falsely Presents Pro-Privatisation Think Tanks as ‘Independent‘

The BBC, along with much of the rest of the media, have also been responsible for misrepresenting spokespeople for pro-privatisation lobby groups as disinterested experts, and the organisations for which they speak as just independent think tanks. This was how the Beeb described 2020health.org, whose chief executive, Julia Manning, was twice invited onto the air to discuss the NHS, and an entire article was given over to one of her wretched organisation’s reports. However, SpinWatch reported that its chairman, former Tory minister Tom Sackville, was also CEO of the International Federation of Health Plans, representing of 100 private health insurance companies. Its advisory council includes representatives of AstraZeneca, NM Rothschild, the National Pharmaceutical Association, Nuffield private hospital group, and the Independent Healthcare Advisory Services. (p. 162).

Another lobby group whose deputy director, Nick Seddon, and other employees were invited onto the Beeb to discuss the proposals was Reform. Seddon was head of communications at Circle, the first private healthcare company to take over an NHS hospital. Seddon’s replacement at Circle was Christina Lineen, a former aide to Andrew Lansley. None of this was reported by the Beeb. Their corporate partners included companies like Citigroup, KPMG, GlaxoSmithKline and Serco. Huitson states ‘Through Seddon’s and other Reform Staffs’ appearances, the BBC may have facilitated private sector lobbying on a publicly funded platform without making relevant interests known’. (163).

Beeb Did Not Cover Protests and Opposition to Bill

Pages 164-5 also discusses the Beeb’s refusal, with few exceptions, to interview critics of Lansley’s Health and Social Care Bill, the rightwing bias of panels discussing it and how the Beeb did not cover protests against it or its discussion in parliament. Huitson writes

At the BBC opportunities were frequently missed to provide expert opposition to the bill on a consistent basis. the RCGP’s Clare Gerada was largely the exception to this rule. Many of the most well-known and authoritative critics of the bill – the likes of professors Allyson Pollock or Colin Leys, doctors Jacky Davis and Wendy Savage from Keep Our NHS Public – never appeared on the BBC to discuss the plans. Davis recalls being invited to appear on the BBC a number of times but the item was cancelled on every occasion. ‘Balance’ is supposedly one of the BBC’s primary objectives yet appearing on the Today programme of 1 February 2012 to discuss the bill, for instance, were Shirley Williams (who voted in favour of the bill, however reluctantly), Nick Seddon of ‘independent’ Reform (pro-Bill), Steve Field (pro-Bill) and Chris Ham (pro-Bill). It’s difficult to see how that is not a breach of BBC guidelines and a disservice to the public. One of the fundamental duties of an open media is to ensure that coverage is not skewed towards those with the deepest pockets. And on that issue the media often performed poorly.

Further criticism of the BBC stems from its curious lack of NHS coverage during the climactic final month before the bill was passed in the House of Lords on 19 March. One such complaint came from blogger and Oxford Professor of Developmental Neuropsychology Dorothy Bishop, who wrote to the BBC to ask why it had failed to cover a number of NHS stories in March, including an anti-bill petition that had been brought to the House by Lord Owen, carrying 486,000 signatures of support. In reply, the BBC confirmed that the bill had been mentioned on the Today programme in March prior to the bill’s passing, though just once. Bishop replied:’So, if I have understood this right, during March, the Today programme covered the story once, in an early two-minute slot, before the bill was passed. Other items that morning included four minutes on a French theme park based on Napoleon, six minutes on international bagpipe day and eight minutes on Jubilee celebrations.’

Other BBC omissions include Andrew Lansley being heckled by angry medical staff at a hospital in Hampstead, as reported by both the Mail and Sky News. On 17 March a peaceful anti-bill march took place in central London. Those out protesting for their national health service found themselves kettled by riot police despite being one of the most harmless-looking crowds you’re ever likely to see. The protest and the shameful police response were completely ignored by the media, except for a brief mention on a Guardian blog. On social media numerous examples have been reported of protests and actions opposing the bill that were entirely absent from national coverage.

Then, on 19 March, the day of the final vote on the bill, the BBC ran not a single article on the event, despite this being one of the most bitterly opposed pieces of legislation in recent history – it was as if the vote was not taking place. The next day, with the bill passed, they ran a full seven articles on the story. Three days after the bill passed, Radio 4 broadcast The Report: ‘Simon Cox asks: why is NHS reform mired in controversy?’ Why this was not broadcast before the Lords’ vote is a mystery. 

When the Bill was passed, the bill scrolling across the BBC News’ screen ran ‘Bill which gives power to GPs passes’. (166). Huitson remarks that when the Beeb and the other news networks reported that the Bill gave power to GPs and allowed a greater role for the private sector, it was little more than regurgitating government press releases. (p. 168).

Beeb Bias Problem Due to Corporation’s Importance and Domination of Broadcast News

Huitson also comments on the specific failure of the Beeb to provide adequate coverage of NHS privatisation in its role as one of the great British public institutions, the dominant role it has in British news reporting. On pages 169-70 he writes

Campaigners may not expect more from the Sun but they certainly do from the BBC, given its status as an impartial public service broadcaster whose news gathering is supported directly by licence fee payers. The BBC accounts for 70 per cent of news consumption on television. Further, the BBC accounts for 40 per cent of online news read by the public, three times that of its closes competitor, the Mail. Quite simply, the BBC dominates UK news. The weight given to the BBC here is not purely down to its dominance, however, but also because, along with the NHS, the BBC remains one of our great public institutions, an entity that is supposedly above commercial pressures. Many of the stories ignored by the BBC were covered by the for-profit, right-wing press, as well as the Guardian and Channel 4, so the concern is not that the organisation failed to ‘campaign’ for the NHS, but that it failed to report facts that other outlets found newsworthy.

The BBC’#s archive of TV and radio coverage is neither available for the public to research nor technically practical to research, but there are a number of reasons for confidence that their online content is highly indicative of their broader output. First, BBC online is a fully integrated part of the main newsroom rather than a separate operation. Consequently, TV and radio coverage that can be examined is largely indistinguishable from the related online content, as demonstrated in the examples given above. During the debate of Lansley’s bill, the BBC TV and radio were both subject to multiple complaints, the figures for which the BBC has declined to release.

Beeb’s Reporting of NHS Privatisation as Biased as Coverage of Miners’ Strike

He also compares the Beeb’s coverage of the bill, along with that of the rest of the media, to its similarly biased reporting of the miners’ strike.

The overall media coverage of the health bill brings to mind a quote from BBC radio correspondent Nicholas Jones, on the BBC’s coverage of the miners’ strike: ‘stories that gave prominence to the position of the National Union of Miners could simply be omitted, shortened or submerged into another report.’ (pp. 172-3).

Conclusion

The Beeb does produce some excellent programmes. I really enjoyed last night’s Dr. Who, for example. But the right-wing bias of its news reporting is now so extreme that in many cases it is fair to say that it is now a propaganda outlet for the Tory party and big business. It’s utterly indefensible, and in my view it will only be reformed if and when the newsroom and its managers are sacked in its entirety. In the meantime, Boris and the rest of the Tories are clamouring for its privatisation. Godfrey Bloom, one of the more prominent Kippers, has also put up a post or two in the past couple of days demanding precisely that.

If the Beeb was genuinely impartial, it would have defenders on the Left. But it is rapidly losing them thanks to its bias. And to the Tories, that’s also going to be a plus.

Thanks to the Beeb’s own Tory bias, it’s going to find it very hard to combat their privatisation.

And in the meantime they will have helped destroy the most valued of British institutions, the NHS, and free, universal healthcare to Britain’s citizens.

Fan of Rachel Riley Starts Troll Campaign against Owen Jones

More trolling from the darker parts of the internet. Mike reported on Saturday that a hashtag campaign had been started against left-wing journalist and author Owen Jones. The hashtag declared in crude language that Jones practiced the kind of solitary behaviour that tradition has it makes you grow hair on the palms of your hands and ruins your eyesight. It started after a group of Alt Right thugs shouted ‘Oi, you w*nker’ at him live on British TV. Jones himself said of the incident that if he could survive fascists chasing him on the street, then he could survive a hashtag campaign set up by people who need their hard drives checking.

Laura Murray told him that the person – and I use that term loosely – responsible for the troll campaign against him is the same individual, who posts pictures of her in a bikini in various positions in order to degrade and humiliate her. This person is one ‘Basil Brush/Bruscetta’, who is a massive fan of Rachel Riley. He endorsed a thread from Riley in which she attacked a certain 16 year old girl as an anti-Semite. Bruscetta’s website didn’t last, and was taken down. So his supporters linked it to one attacking their idol. Which apparently was done by members of the GnasherJew troll farm, David Collier and another odious jerk, Jack Silver. Collier was moaning that Twitter’s removal of the hashtag against Jones showed it to be a fake news site, as Jones is an anti-Semite and therefore akin to a Nazi!

Saaaaaay whaaaaat!

In what parallel world are this idiots living? Jones is no kind of Nazi. Indeed, he’s been criticised by Tony Greenstein – also definitely not a Nazi – for being too accommodating to the anti-Semitism smear campaign of which Riley, Collier and co. are a part against critics of Israel and supporters of Jeremy Corbyn in the Labour party.

As Mike explains, the clip used to troll Jones was of the abuse screamed at him from right-wing pro-Brexit campaigners when he was being interviewed outside parliament in January. Riley also tried to attack Jones with smears and shockingly inaccurate comments about his coverage of Holocaust Memorial Day.

Mike concludes his article about this

She protested at the time that she is not a supporter of the far right. Maybe that’s true; I don’t propose to comment on it, one way or the other.

But questions need to be asked about why supporters of the far right seem so keen to link themselves with her.

See: https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2019/12/21/was-twitter-campaign-against-owen-jones-organised-by-supporters-of-rachel-riley-or-of-something-more-sinister/

There’s more that could be said about this. Much more. Alongside the comments about Jones’ supposed solitary practices was another line calling him a ‘Stalinist’. This obviously comes from the far right. In some ways it’s ironic. Stalin was a brutal dictator with a venomous hatred of the Jews. After the Nazis broke the pact they’d made for the occupation of eastern Europe with the former Soviet Union, Stalin lamented what the Soviet and Nazis could have achieved together. And one of the major figures in post-War American Nazism, Francis Parker Yockey – a bizarre figure who was very much like the Nazi playwright in Mel Brookes’ The Producers – was a supporter of the Soviet Union because he saw it as a bulwark of civilisation against the decadence caused by democracy. The real Alt Right have more in common with Stalin than they’d like to admit.

The hashtag campaign against Jones was also supported by Carl ‘Sargon of Akkad’ Benjamin, the man who broke UKIP. I think Sargon’s Jewish, and he has argued online with the Alt Right. But despite describing himself as a ‘classical Liberal’ – for which read ‘Libertarian’ – Sargon’s own politics are so close to that of the Alt Right that some have commented that he is a gateway to them. A soft introduction leading to the harder, more racist stuff further away from the mainstream.

Despite Collier and co.’s claim that they’re fighting anti-Semitism, they’re doing no such thing. Like the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism, they’re almost completely uninterested in real, right-wing anti-Semitism. They’re against anti-Zionism or simply criticism of Israel, which they deliberately conflate with anti-Semitism. And they attack it on the left for two reasons.

At the most superficial level, they do it because they’re bullies.

The people they attack, people like Mike, Tony Greenstein, Jackie Walker, Ken Livingstone, Chris Williamson, Sally Eason and so on are decent people. They aren’t trolls, and so don’t response with the high level of abuse the real anti-Semites would. GnasherJew and Riley’s fan are not going to attack the trolls that post real anti-Semitic material, like those who consider the Holocaust a great joke, because their campaign of hate wouldn’t touch them. The trolls would just start making coarse comments on their sexuality, which would probably be homophobic and accuse them of being paedophiles. Further attacks on them by Riley’s fans and Collier and his fellow scumbags would just be treated with amusement, and provide them with further ammunition for trolling them. But the people on the Labour left GnasherJew and Riley attack instead aren’t like that. They can be bullied and cowed. And so they do.

And there’s no great mystery why racists like the Alt Right support Riley.

Tony Greenstein has observed that historically, Zionism’s allies have always been the Far Right. The Islamophobic right in Britain – Britain First and the English Defence League strongly support Israel because they hate Muslims. Tommy Robinson even boasted that if there was a war with the Palestinians, he’d fight for Israel. They also admire Israel because it’s the kind of ‘ethnostate’ they’d like to create in the West. Richard Spencer, the founder of the Alt Right, appeared on Israeli TV, where he declared himself to be a White Zionist. Just as Israel is a racial state in which the only true citizens are Jews, so Spencer and co. wish to create a White ethnostate in America, where only Whites will enjoy full civil rights and Blacks, Asians and Hispanics will have been ‘peacefully’ cleansed.

And the Alt Right also have an enemy in common with Israel’s supporters, at least on the Right.

They hate and fear genuine left-wingers. Which is why they were both determined to bring down Jeremy Corbyn. He was both a critic of Israel and determined to bring back the welfare state, strong trade unions and a mixed economy. All of which are abhorrent to those on the Far Right, like Spencer and Sargon, and the Blairites in the Labour party. Which is why you had the Blairites in the Labour party, like Joan Ryan of Labour Friends of Israel, sneering at Corbyn’s supporters in Labour as ‘Stalinists’, ‘Trotskyites’ and Communists.

I am not accusing Riley of being a Fascist or a member of the Alt Right. But she needs to think very clearly about the way she is supported by them, and do what she can to discourage it.

Otherwise some would be justified in calling her a hypocrite. If not worse.

The Abuse No-One’s Talking about: Ultra-Zionist Smears, Intimidation and Threats

The media’s been full of stories about how politicians are being sent abuse and death threats, with many of these stories focusing on the internet. It’s been going on for some time, and the Labour right tried to weaponise the issue against Corbyn. Following Hillary Clinton’s lie that Bernie Sanders’ supporters were all misogynist ‘Bernie Bros’, various right-wing female MPs tried the same smear against Corbyn’s supporters. They claimed that they were receiving sexist and misogynist abuse from them. Many of these stories fell apart on inspection, and by and large I don’t think the Blairite women were getting more abuse than anyone else. Half of the abuse directed at female MPs in the Labour party goes to Diane Abbott. Some of the tales of abuse couldn’t be supported, as it seems that the messages sent could not be found or shown. And other messages weren’t sent by members of the Labour party, and so Corbyn couldn’t be responsible.

The same smears of abuse were also used by the Israel lobby – Labour Friends of Israel and the Jewish Labour Movement. And the same criticisms apply here. The existence of some of these abusive texts couldn’t be corroborated, some weren’t sent by members of the party and the actual numbers of real anti-Semites in the party is actually minuscule. But nevertheless the press was full of smear stories by Blairites like Ruth Smeeth and others that the Labour Party was not a safe space for Jews, not since Jeremy Corbyn became leader.

But what the press and media do not report is the extensive smearing and bullying by the Israel lobby and ultra-Zionist activists. This is immense and horrific. Anyone – anyone at all – who dares to make the mildest criticism of Israel and its barbarous treatment of the Palestinians is immediately accused of anti-Semitism. And this is particularly true of Jews. I’ve blogged about the way Jackie Walker receives horrific abuse after her smearing as an anti-Semite and expulsion from the Labour party. Jackie, despite being Jewish by faith and blood, is told she isn’t a Jew because she’s a woman of colour. They also call for her to be lynched – an especially serious threat, as her mother was a Black civil rights activist from the American Deep South – and her body to be set on fire and stuffed into bin bags. Tony Greenstein has received emails telling him that he and his family should have been murdered in the Holocaust. He has also been assaulted by an angry Israeli.

And it goes on. Peter Oborne in his programme on the Israel lobby for Channel 4’s Despatches ten years or so ago showed how respective journalists at the Guardian and BBC were subjected to the same smears by the Board of Deputies of British Jews when they reported massacres and atrocities committed by the Israelis or their allies, the Christian Phalange, in Lebanon. These accusations were leveled at Jeremy Bowen and Orla Guerin. When David Attenborough stepped in to deny them, he too was accused of being an anti-Semite. And this abuse has been hurled at people like Mike and other Corbyn supporters in the Labour party. Lobster also cites former Guardian reporter Nick Davies in their review of a book dismantling the anti-Semitism smears, Bad News for Labour. Davies described in Flat Earth News how reporters and journalists were subjected to horrific abuse and allegations from Israel’s supporters. John Booth, the author of Lobster’s review, writes

‘Journalists who write stories which offend the politics of the Israel lobby are subjected to a campaign of formal complaints and pressure on their editors; most of all, they are inundated with letters and emails which can be extravagant in their hostility,’ he writes.
‘Robert Fisk of The Independent has been told that his mother was Adolf Eichmann’s daughter, that he belongs in hell with Osama bin Laden, that he is a “hate peddler”, “a leading anti-semite and protofascist Islamophile propagandist” and a paedophile.’

This abuse has reached the point that according to the Lobster article, Jewish journalists are afraid to publish articles critical of Israel. Evening Standard journo Mira Bar-Hillel, who was born in Jerusalem, says that they fear retribution if they do.

And left-wing supporters of Jeremy Corbyn have also received this horrific abuse in the Labour party. Sally Eason, the founder of Labour Left Voice, was forced to leave the Labour party because of her criticisms of Israel. Eason’s Sephardic Jewish on her mother’s side. And so she was targeted for concerted abuse and trolling by a network of right-wing scumbags, including David Collier and the Gnasherjew troll farm, which was cheerfully reblogged by ‘jobbing actor’ Tracy Ann Oberman. Mike also suffers vicious abuse from people, who continue to believe the smears that he’s an anti-Semite and Holocaust denier despite his success in getting these utterly false allegations retracted from the papers that printed them. And last week I was insulted by someone angry at my support for Corbyn against the anti-Semitism smears. They sent the comment ‘Fuck you. From a Jew’. It was only one such insult, and it’s mild compared to that sent to people like Mike, Tony and Jackie. But it does show the abusive nature of Israel’s most ardent supporters.

But if you believe the media, the abuse is all one way. It’s all those evil anti-Semites in the Labour sending hatred and death threats to women and Jews. The reality is that Corbynites have also been on the receiving end of horrific abuse, much of the abuse the Blairites claim was sent to them seems to be nonexistent. And some of the most vicious, and viciously anti-Semitic abuse is that sent by the Israel lobby and supporters of Britain’s Jewish establishment. And thanks to the abuse sent by people like David Collier and his friends in Gnasherjew, Israel-critical Jews do not feel safe.

That is real, viciously dangerous anti-Semitic abuse. And it is not reported in the Media. Disgusting!

Lobster’s review of the book, Bad News for Labour: Anti-Semitism, the Party and Public Belief, by Greg Philo, Mike Berry, Justin Schlosberg, Antony Lerman and David Miller is at: https://www.lobster-magazine.co.uk/free/lobster78/lob78-bad-news-labour.pdf

Seeing Like a Finite State Machine

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 26/11/2019 - 3:20am in

Reading this tweet by Maciej Ceglowski makes me want to set down a conjecture that I’ve been entertaining for the last couple of years (in part thanks to having read Maciej’s and Kieran’s previous work as well as talking lots to Marion Fourcade).

The conjecture (and it is no more than a plausible conjecture) is simple, but it straightforwardly contradicts the collective wisdom that is emerging in Washington DC, and other places too. This collective wisdom is that China is becoming a kind of all-efficient Technocratic Leviathan thanks to the combination of machine learning and authoritarianism. Authoritarianism has always been plagued with problems of gathering and collating information and of being sufficiently responsive to its citizens’ needs to remain stable. Now, the story goes, a combination of massive data gathering and machine learning will solve the basic authoritarian dilemma. When every transaction that a citizen engages in is recorded by tiny automatons riding on the devices they carry in their hip pockets, when cameras on every corner collect data on who is going where, who is talking to whom, and uses facial recognition technology to distinguish ethnicity and identify enemies of the state, a new and far more powerful form of authoritarianism will emerge. Authoritarianism then, can emerge as a more efficient competitor that can beat democracy at its home game (some fear this; some welcome it).

The theory behind this is one of strength reinforcing strength – the strengths of ubiquitous data gathering and analysis reinforcing the strengths of authoritarian repression to create an unstoppable juggernaut of nearly perfectly efficient oppression. Yet there is another story to be told – of weakness reinforcing weakness. Authoritarian states were always particularly prone to the deficiencies identified in James Scott’s Seeing Like a State – the desire to make citizens and their doings legible to the state, by standardizing and categorizing them, and reorganizing collective life in simplified ways, for example by remaking cities so that they were not organic structures that emerged from the doings of their citizens, but instead grand chessboards with ordered squares and boulevards, reducing all complexities to a square of planed wood. The grand state bureaucracies that were built to carry out these operations were responsible for multitudes of horrors, but also for the crumbling of the Stalinist state into a Brezhnevian desuetude, where everyone pretended to be carrying on as normal because everyone else was carrying on too. The deficiencies of state action, and its need to reduce the world into something simpler that it could comprehend and act upon created a kind of feedback loop, in which imperfections of vision and action repeatedly reinforced each other.

So what might a similar analysis say about the marriage of authoritarianism and machine learning? Something like the following, I think. There are two notable problems with machine learning. One – that while it can do many extraordinary things, it is not nearly as universally effective as the mythology suggests. The other is that it can serve as a magnifier for already existing biases in the data. The patterns that it identifies may be the product of the problematic data that goes in, which is (to the extent that it is accurate) often the product of biased social processes. When this data is then used to make decisions that may plausibly reinforce those processes (by singling e.g. particular groups that are regarded as problematic out for particular police attention, leading them to be more liable to be arrested and so on), the bias may feed upon itself.

This is a substantial problem in democratic societies, but it is a problem where there are at least some counteracting tendencies. The great advantage of democracy is its openness to contrary opinions and divergent perspectives. This opens up democracy to a specific set of destabilizing attacks but it also means that there are countervailing tendencies to self-reinforcing biases. When there are groups that are victimized by such biases, they may mobilize against it (although they will find it harder to mobilize against algorithms than overt discrimination). When there are obvious inefficiencies or social, political or economic problems that result from biases, then there will be ways for people to point out these inefficiencies or problems.

These correction tendencies will be weaker in authoritarian societies; in extreme versions of authoritarianism, they may barely even exist. Groups that are discriminated against will have no obvious recourse. Major mistakes may go uncorrected: they may be nearly invisible to a state whose data is polluted both by the means employed to observe and classify it, and the policies implemented on the basis of this data. A plausible feedback loop would see bias leading to error leading to further bias, and no ready ways to correct it. This of course, will be likely to be reinforced by the ordinary politics of authoritarianism, and the typical reluctance to correct leaders, even when their policies are leading to disaster. The flawed ideology of the leader (We must all study Comrade Xi thought to discover the truth!) and of the algorithm (machine learning is magic!) may reinforce each other in highly unfortunate ways.

In short, there is a very plausible set of mechanisms under which machine learning and related techniques may turn out to be a disaster for authoritarianism, reinforcing its weaknesses rather than its strengths, by increasing its tendency to bad decision making, and reducing further the possibility of negative feedback that could help correct against errors. This disaster would unfold in two ways. The first will involve enormous human costs: self-reinforcing bias will likely increase discrimination against out-groups, of the sort that we are seeing against the Uighur today. The second will involve more ordinary self-ramifying errors, that may lead to widespread planning disasters, which will differ from those described in Scott’s account of High Modernism in that they are not as immediately visible, but that may also be more pernicious, and more damaging to the political health and viability of the regime for just that reason.

So in short, this conjecture would suggest that  the conjunction of AI and authoritarianism (has someone coined the term ‘aithoritarianism’ yet? I’d really prefer not to take the blame), will have more or less the opposite effects of what people expect. It will not be Singapore writ large, and perhaps more brutal. Instead, it will be both more radically monstrous and more radically unstable.

Like all monotheoretic accounts, you should treat this post with some skepticism – political reality is always more complex and muddier than any abstraction. There are surely other effects (another, particularly interesting one for big countries such as China, is to relax the assumption that the state is a monolith, and to think about the intersection between machine learning and warring bureaucratic factions within the center, and between the center and periphery).Yet I think that it is plausible that it at least maps one significant set of causal relationships, that may push (in combination with, or against, other structural forces) towards very different outcomes than the conventional wisdom imagines. Comments, elaborations, qualifications and disagreements welcome.

Mates Jacob Publishes His Dossier of Tory Islamophobia

Last Friday, Zelo Street put up a very informative piece about Mates Jacob’s decision to publish his dossier about the rampant islamophobia in the Tory party. Mates Jacob is the internet personality, who published details of the racism, anti-Semitism and islamophobia he found on Twitter and other internet groups for supporters of Boris Johnson and Jacob Rees-Mogg. And it was a very nasty, seething mass of bigotry and hate he uncovered. They demanded the usual stop to immigration before moving on to deportation and even assault and murder against Blacks and Asians, and particularly against Muslim politicians like Sadiq Khan.

Zelo Street reports that Mates Jacob had refrained from publishing his dossier on islamophobia in the wider Tory party in the hope that chairman James Cleverly would do something about it. Well, Cleverly and they had their chance, and they blew it. This is going to be another inquiry the Tories will hold after the election. So Mates Jacob has published it. And Zelo Street has in its turn blogged about a selection of Tory politicos in the dossier, and their vile views. They are:

Councillor Roger Taylor of Calderdale council,

Councillor Beverley Dunlop of Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole council,

Councillor Christopher Newbury of Wiltshire council,

Councillor Danny Scott of Blackpool council,

Councillor Vera Walters of Walsall council,

Councillor Duane Farr of Bournemouth Council,

Councillor Alistair Redman of Argyle and Brute council,

Councillor Malcolm Griffiths of Redcar and Cleve Council,

Councillor Paul Marks of Kettering council,

Councillor Nick Colbert of South Somerset council.

They have been caught expressing such delightful opinions, like wondering why the anti-racist journalist Yasmin Alibhai-Brown is still in Britain, demanding an inquiry into Muslim rape gangs targeting White girls; worrying about Marseilles becoming Europe’s first Muslim majority city, describing Muslims as ‘barbarians’ and wondering why anyone has a problem with PEGIDA; stating that Muslims have been terrorising and seeking to dominate everyone who isn’t of their faith for over a thousand years through imperialist, colonialist wars; demanding a halt to immigration from Africa and describing famine as a natural method of depopulation; admiring the way the BNP doesn’t shy away from tackling issues others wouldn’t due to political correctness;  promoting a video from Paul Joseph Watson entitled ‘The Islamic State of Sweden’; describing the Afghan boy who attacked and injured four people on a train in Germany as ‘chopping them up’ and remarking sarcastically that it must have something to do with Brexit; and claiming that voter fraud was massive, when it’s so small it’s insignificant, and that it’s all down to women in hijabs handing over ballot papers to imams.

Now it’s true that Islam has expanded through imperialist wars, as has Christianity. But this is only part of the religion’s history, just as it is only part of Christianity’s.  And it doesn’t reflect the attitudes of all Muslims, many of whom are the victims of horrendous persecution, like the Rohingya in Burma and the Uyghurs in China.

The sage of Crewe concludes his piece by pointing out that these are only ten of many more in the Tory party, who hold similar views, and that Cleverly hasn’t done anything about them. He states

‘There is only one major political party that is institutionally racist. And it is the Conservative Party.’

See: https://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2019/11/tory-islamophobia-laid-bare.html

Well, there’s also the Brexit party and the remnants of what used to be UKIP, but it’s a fair point. The Tories have no business smearing Corbyn and Labour as anti-Semites, when there is so much more hatred and bigotry in their ranks. And they aren’t going to do anything about it, because as we’ve seen from the Hostile Environment policy and the Windrush deportations, and indeed from the contents of papers like the Mail and Depress, they use racism to promote themselves.

 

Excellent News! Labour Plans to Abolish Fees for Dental Check-Ups

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 18/11/2019 - 4:53am in

This is another really great policy from the Labour Party. They’ve announced that they plan to abolish the £22.70 fee for dental check-ups, and Corbyn has said that the ultimate aim is to abolish all fees for dentistry.

According to a piece Mike has reblogged from elsewhere, the fees were first introduced in 1951 to pay for the Korean War. It notes that one in five adults puts off going to the dentist because of the cost, and that ‘worrying numbers’ are turning to the internet for kits for scaling and makeshift fillings, which can cause serious problems.

515,000 patients a year go to A&E or their GPs for treatment for toothache, which costs the Health Service £38 million a year. Over a hundred children have rotten teeth removed in hospital every day, and decay is the leading cause of hospital admissions for children aged from five to nine. Ninety per cent of those cases can be prevented by early treatment.

In addition to abolishing the fees for ordinary check-ups, Labour also wish to remove them for oral cancer examinations, X-rays, clinical scaling and polishing and emergency treatment.

Mike adds that it would also be great if Labour could also ensure that everyone has access to an NHS dentist. He hasn’t seen one since June last year, 2018, because the dental service in mid-Wales was handed over to a private company. He concludes

Health service privatisation – it will always leave us short-changed. 

See: https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2019/11/16/great-labour-election-promises-theyll-scrap-fees-for-dental-check-ups/

Mike’s right again, and this is an issue that goes back years. I’ve read a number of newspaper reports about people missing out on dental treatment because they can’t afford it. And there is a crushing shortage of NHS dentists. We’ve had problems finding suitable dentists in my part of south Bristol, as a number of them went private and immediately put their prices up. Some of this problem comes down to the profit motive at the heart of any system of private healthcare. Where it exists, there will always be the motive to charge inflated fees and concentrate on those, who are better health, rather than those who need much more treatment, because the latter aren’t as profitable.

And like the other issues with healthcare in this care, it was caused by Maggie Thatcher. I can remember how there was a massive dispute between her government and the dentists over funding, with the result that many split off from the NHS and went private. They claimed that they simply couldn’t survive with what the government was prepared to pay them. Thatcher, I remember, put the blame on them for demanding too much. I don’t know which side was right, but instinct tells me it wasn’t the Tories. Thatcher was determined to privatise the NHS in toto, but was prevented by a cabinet revolt. She carried on, however, with a campaign to encourage 10 per cent of the British population to take out private health insurance, and a programme of limited privatisation. Some of the auxiliary services for the NHS were opened up to private contractors. The department specialising in in vitro fertilisation – test tube children – was privatised. She also introduced fees for eye tests at the opticians.

The Tories are past masters at creating an industrial dispute, which will allow them to attack a particular industry and the trade unions or professional associations for its workers. We’ve seen how she did it to the miners, in order to break the NUM and close down most of the mining industry. I think she did something similar with the dentists. She manufactured a dispute with them, so that she could force some at least out of the NHS and created a private dental service.

And thanks to her, people are missing the dentist and their health is suffering.

Labour’s plan to abolish dental fees are needed. People really do need proper dental examinations. A few years ago I was diagnosed with a mouth condition that could have become serious and which needed monitoring, and I’m very sure I wasn’t alone. People are damaging their health, possibly seriously, by not going to the dentist and having the examinations and work they need done.

And it is the fault of the Tories.

Thatcher and her legacy have been catastrophic for this country, its industries and working people. But she’s still a molten idol to the Tories, Lib Dems and the Blairites. They have to be defeated, and Thatcher’s vile legacy consigned to the dustbin it deserves.

Our health, and our Health Service, cannot afford not to.

 

The Ministry of Wiki-Truth

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 07/11/2019 - 2:00am in

CJ Hopkins OK, here’s a silly one for you. Have you ever wondered how all those Wikipedia articles get produced … you know, the ones you pull up on your phone to look up an actor, an author, or a recipe, or a historical or scientific fact? Unfortunately, one of the Consent Factory staff had …

Libra and Calibra: Mark Zuckerberg appears before Congress

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 26/10/2019 - 3:00am in

Binoy Kampmark It was never going to be pretty. The Facebook CEO knew in appearing before the House Financial Services Committee to answer questions on the company’s proposed cryptocurrency that a few sizeable bumps would appear.  As it turned out, much of the questioning had little to do with the Libra currency, along with its …

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