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On Governmental Honors for Academics

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 07/01/2021 - 3:50am in

I’ve largely avoided the academic open letter trend (& not gonna make a habit of this!) so a thread to explain why I signed… Substantial intellectual disputes should be settled by means of argumentation. So, e.g., with the open letter calling for the Case for Colonialism piece to be retracted, I encouraged people *not* to sign and wrote a critique of the substance… [T]he case of Stock and the OBE is not that.

This is purely a matter of what in my field receives public honours and lauding. That is to say, it is a matter of sending out a signal on what we value, what we consider especially noteworthy and positive contributions…

[G]iven what’s morally and politically at stake here, it’s worth sending out a strong counter-signal to the suggestion that Dr. Stock’s recent concerted public campaign is an exceptional philosophical contribution to higher education. If you agree, please sign!

Stock’s career and public philosophising will go on quite unperturbed by this letter. In fact, she’s thriving. Besides the OBE, keynoting the Aristotelian Society, getting a book deal, and regular media appearances, 2020 seems to have been her most cited year. So it goes…. I say that to reassure: if you’re inclined to worry about Stock being silenced you needn’t.

Open letters don’t persuade, no one who didn’t already agree will be swayed. The value of the exercise is making clear to onlookers, especially trans people considering philosophy, that many of us don’t in fact agree that what she has contributed through our field and its public role in UK life should be lauded with the highest civilian honour. Again, if you think that’s something which trans people looking at philosophy might like to know, please sign.--Liam Kofi Bright quoted at Dailynous. [The original twitter thread is here.]

My original, instinctive response to the predictable controversy over Dr. Stock's OBE was to use it as evidence for the impropriety of liberal-democratic governments to offer/convey honors at all. For, first, it is, in fact, quite natural to see them as a atavistic left-over from the hierarchy-celebrating, feudal and imperial eras. An OBE is literally an order of the British Empire award. And, second, the pattern of such honors violates all kinds of neutrality or impartiality requirements that we have come reasonably expect from liberal democracies. Third, such honors can easily become a cover for cronyism or rents and the pay-off for political services rendered (see President Trump's pattern of Medal of Freedom Medals.

To be sure, the conferring of honors or recognition is compatible with egalitarian versions of liberalism. But I think the more natural, liberal position is to leave such honorifics to civil society and the variety of voluntary associations (and keep the state out of this business). So, I have no problem with universities conferring academic distinctions, awards/honorifics (although as regular readers know, I think these generate complex issues [recall this post on the letter against Derrida; this post on its relationship to no-platforming; this post on the Kalven report; and many more under the influence of Jacob Levy's essay).

Interestingly, neither the open letter/petition, which I like for the comments/distinctions it makes about the character of academic freedom, nor Bright's argument quoted at Dailynous (and above) make any mention of the tension between honorifics and democratic life. I return to this below.

One reason why it is worth looking at Bright's argument is that despite his entertaining twitter persona, he is, in fact one of the world's experts on the nature and complexities of the credit economy of science/intellectual communities. And it is quite clear that he conceives of the letter as a kind of counter-signal toward those outside the profession ("onlookers," which may call 'public opinion') and, in particular, those that might become insiders one day ("considering philosophy, ") in particular "trans people." So, we can see his position as a signal about how he and his fellow-signers wish to see the future of professional philosophy.

Here professional philosophy is conceived, in part, as a relatively autonomous professional discipline. It is not treated as wholly autonomous because part of the underlying issue being debated is about how universities (which employ many professional philosophers) should associate with Stonewall a prominent LGBTQ+ rights charity and its trans-inclusive stance in particular. 

This can't be the whole story. Such an open letter is, of course, also, and perhaps, primarily, a signal to fellow insiders within the profession. As the open letter puts it, "We are professional academic philosophers committed to the inclusion and acceptance of trans and gender non-conforming people, both in the public at large, and within philosophy in particular. We write to affirm our commitment to developing a more inclusive environment, disavowing the use of professional and cultural authority to further gendered oppression." While one need not deny the earnestness of such a letter's aims to reform/improve the "public at large," and public opinion, its practical impact is mostly felt within the profession as an act of solidarity and the attempt to create inclusive norms/practices/institutions of conduct, and, as Bright emphasizes, a signal toward would be professionals who wish to join. I do not mean to suggest this exhausts it significance; it's also a mechanism to reveal support for certain norms.* But underlying Bright's argument and the one of the open letter is the idea that the professional community is also in certain respects a moral ("inclusive") community. It is no surprise, given the pluralist society we live in, that this generates debate and disagreement.

As it happens, and now I return to the opening themes of this post, as the controversy broke I was reading Michael Sonenscher's (2007) fascinating Before the Deluge: Public Debt, Inequality, and the Intellectual Origins of the French Revolution. And one of the sub-themes in this dense and complex work is that the French Legion of Honor, which was instituted by Napoleon in 1802, can, in fact, be traced to the French Revolution itself! And, in particular, that this honor system was really the brainchild of the vision of Emmanuel-Joseph Sieyès, at the point where Sieyès helped shape some of the most egalitarian and democratic moments of the French revolution. In fact, Sonensher argues that the very idea for such a system of honors is lodged, or "first adumbrated" (78) in 1789, in What is the Third Estate?!

In Sonensher's presentation Sieyès argues, to simplify greatly, for a system of honors as a countervailing meritocratic, social hierarchy in an unequal society, where inequality of property and inequality of political power have a tendency to undermine political equality. And, interestingly, the meritocratic social hierarchy is supposed to shape and be shaped by civil service. In particular, it is also supposed to be a countervailing power to political centralization, and so ensure status and recognition (and influence) in the provinces. (It is not clear whether Sieyès would argue for a system of honors absent structural inequalities. But since he defends the right to inheritance, it is clear he does not expect equality in property/wealth.) 

Before I get to the upshot of this. Sonenscher's argument had me excited and I went back to Sieyès's seminal What is Third Estate. (which I read in an updated version of Blondel's 1963 translation).+ In one sense this was disappointing. Because I could not really find the argument I sketched in the previous paragraph (and derived from Sonenscher). What is abundantly clear is that indeed Sieyès does not call for the abolition of honors (which under feudalism generated all kind of privileges, including as Sieyès' notes different forms of public punishment).

But rather that Sieyès calls for a change in the character of honor.  In particular, he forcefully rejects the (aristocratic) idea that labor cannot be a source of honor (familiar from Greek philosophy), so he argued for widening of who may be considered for honors (nobility of birth should not be the source at all) and also the content of what should be honored. He thinks advocates for "principles of universal justice" definitely deserve public honor, once the system permits it. What this last point makes clear is that in addition to being a kind of countervailing power (in the spirit of Montesquieu as Sonenscher emphasizes), the function of public honor is as Sieyès argues "to serve the rights of citizenship." 

So, I think we now have the contours of a plausible argument why imperfect democracies may wish to promote public honors on individuals. And one can make a non-cynical, good faith argument that "services to higher education" may, in certain respects, at least indirectly, serve the rights of citizenship or principles of universal justice. (I am myself not tempted to do so.) This has to be judged on a case by honorific/honoree case basis.

Regular readers know I think scholarly activism is legitimate form of public philosophy (recall here; and here). I myself continue to think governments should not be in the business of dispensing honorifics. But given that such honorifics are compatible with a realistic interpretation of democratic life, I suspect my first two paragraphs above, even if properly spelled out and defended will convince few.

But I also think there is another (second-best) echt liberal response in the vicinity here. Rather than viewing the granting of honorifics as settling a social question. We can see it as an imperfect way of inviting debate over what society ought to honor in the name of universal justice and, more important, what the content of universal justice is.++ Even if one disagrees with Prof. Stock (as I do), her activism does speak to nature and rights of citizenship (and much more so than many other honorees). After all, in a liberal society the government's positions on a whole range of morally and ethically salient issues are contestable and (thankfully) contested. Disagreement over moral and political issues, including public recognition/honors, is the lifeblood of a free society, including philosophy. It is, in fact, a possible discovery mechanism of what we value all things considered, if there is a 'we' left after the dust has cleared.


*Regular readers know where I stand on the underlying issues (recall here) so should not be surprised that I signed the letter; but also that I publicly condemned without reserve the harassment directed Prof. Stock's way. 

+I thank David Gordon and Daniel Moerner for tracking down a copy.

++And this is also true of honors one finds unworthy of a democratic society.

David Hume's unusual (Lockean) argument for free trade

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 09/12/2020 - 7:22am in

Nothing is more usual, among states which have made some advances in commerce, than to look on the progress of their neighbours with a suspicious eye, to consider all trading states as their rivals, and to suppose that it is impossible for any of them to flourish, but at their expence. In opposition to this narrow and malignant opinion, I will venture to assert, that the encrease of riches and commerce in any one nation, instead of hurting, commonly promotes the riches and commerce of all its neighbours; and that a state can scarcely carry its trade and industry very far, where all the surrounding states are buried in ignorance, sloth, and barbarism.

It is obvious, that the domestic industry of a people cannot be hurt by the greatest prosperity of their neighbours; and as this branch of commerce is undoubtedly the most important in any extensive kingdom, we are so far removed from all reason of jealousy. But I go farther, and observe, that where an open communication is preserved among nations, it is impossible but the domestic industry of every one must receive an encrease from the improvements of the others. Compare the situation of Great Britain at present, with what it was two centuries ago. All the arts both of agriculture and manufactures were then extremely rude and imperfect. Every improvement, which we have since made, has arisen from our imitation of foreigners; and we ought so far to esteem it happy, that they had previously made advances in arts and ingenuity. But this intercourse is still upheld to our great advantage: Notwithstanding the advanced state of our manufactures, we daily adopt, in every art, the inventions and improvements of our neighbours.--David Hume "Of the Jealousy of Trade"

Of the Jealousy of Trade presents itself as a companion piece to "Of the Balance of Trade," and is easily overshadowed by it. That's a shame because Hume's particular argument is still timely, as I look at the news reporting on Brexit talks. Unlike the more familiar Smithian ('absolute advantage') and Ricardian ('comparative advantage') arguments,* Hume's here is focused on what we may call the epistemic effects (or positive externalities) of trade. I assume this is familiar in the literature, but I had not noticed it before.

For Hume trade exposes us to innovations of others and induces imitation, learning, and what he calls "emulation" from them. And the effect of this is enhanced technology and productivity ("we daily adopt, in every art, the inventions and improvements"). I don't want to overstate the originality of Hume's argument not just because I may be unfamiliar with relevant contemporary authors, but also because it is pretty clear that Hume is extending an important argument by Locke.

Recall that in Locke's art of government (in sections 41-42 of the chapter 5 of "Two Treatises") and in his (1695) "Further Considerations Concerning Raising the Value of Money," Locke advocates for policies that would grow the population and simultaneously grow their skill/productivity. This argument was noticed and emphasized by Toland in his argument for Jewish emancipation (recall). And, in fact, Hume' echoes one of Locke's key arguments. Hume writes, shortly after the passage quoted above, "But if our neighbours have no art or cultivation, they cannot take them; because they will have nothing to give in exchange. In this respect, states are in the same condition as individuals."

In section 43, of Chapter of the Two Treatises, Locke had made the same conceptual point in terms of the American Indian being unable to benefit from the same amount of labor in land as the European because he lacked wealthy neighbors. Locke's point here is often missed because scholars and critics are more focused on debates about his labor theory of value and to what degree these passages support colonialism. But it would be very surprising if Hume had not noticed the point. After all, this is treated as axiomatic by Hume in this essay ("it is obvious, that the domestic industry of a people cannot be hurt by the greatest prosperity of their neighbours;").

I do not mean to ignore the significance of pro-European free trade argument ("a British subject, I pray for the flourishing commerce of Germany, Spain, Italy, and even France itself") lodged at the end of  the little essay. But I have already discussed it in the context of Foucault's arguments of 24 January 1979, lecture 3, The Birth of Biopolitics. 54-6.


*To be sure later in the essay Hume articulates a version of the absolute advantage argument; and an argument from portfolio-management/risk spreading due to trade diversification.

John Locke on Money, National Greatness and the Liberal Art of Liberal Government,

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 20/10/2020 - 9:25pm in

Silver is the instrument and measure of commerce in all the civilized and trading parts of the world.

It is the instrument of commerce by its intrinsic value.

The intrinsic value of silver, considered as money, is that estimate which common consent has placed on it, whereby it is made equivalent to all other things, and consequently is the universal barter, or exchange, which men give and receive for other things they would purchase or part with, for a valuable consideration; and thus, as the wise man tells us, money answers all things.--John Locke (1695) "Further Considerations Concerning Raising the Value of Money"

It is no doubt a bit odd to read that X is intrinsic of Y and that X is (a) an estimate of Y (b) and it (the estimate) is product of common consent. But it is less odd when we remind ourselves that X is not the intrinsic value of silver as such, but the intrinsic value of "silver, considered as money." And money here is a mechanism for the (possible) buying and selling of infinite diversity of (possible) goods.

In commenting on this passage, and Further Considerations more generally, Christine Desane writes, in her fascinating (2014) book Making Money: Coin, Currency, and the Coming of Capitalism, Locke's "argument put sovereigns in a place peripheral to international trade." (346) This matters to Desan's more general argument because Locke is the main source of what early in her book she describes as "the conventional creation story"* which she attributes to Marx and Menger alike (27-28).    

My interest here is not in the metaphysics of value,+ or the details of the implied mechanism, although both are important topics. Rather, I want to reflect a bit on Locke's underlying political vision. It is easy to imagine why Desan thinks that for Locke the origin of money is a convention  (350), and, with a nod to the Two Treatises, "an act of agreement prior even to the political consent that created society" (351; emphasis in Desan; for my analysis of the material in the Two Treatise see here). That is to say, on Desan's interpretation, "money's foundation" is "not political, not legal, but social." (353) By "locating agency over money in the consensus of strangers or people without politics, Locke offered the image of a medium that needed no collective engineering. (353) Since this fits with a certain kind of libertarian interpretation of Locke, one may well assume that Desan gets Locke right even though the argument of her book is that money is the product of collective engineering.

Now, before I criticize this account of Locke, it is important to note that Desan recognizes that Locke's account of the origin of money is not identical to his account of the maintenance of money. In particular, on her treatment of Locke, the sovereign does have one "certifying" (346) role in facilitating the use of money in commerce: "the ascertaining of its quantity by a public mark, the better to fit it for commerce," (quoted on p. 346 of Desan). As Locke puts it, the mark is a kind of "a public voucher, that a piece of such denomination is of such a weight, and of such a fineness, i. e. has so much silver in it." That is to say, for Locke the sovereign's role is to provide a collective good, by guarding over the quality of money and providing a public signal of it. 

As an aside, we see here Locke recognizing that the state (bureaucracy/institutions) needs itself to possess high quality skills. And the state's role is to secure common measures (by "public authority warranted") and accurate information about them. 

More important, one of the explicit goals of the state is to promote commerce. So, it is a bit odd to treat Locke as depoliticizing money when he articulates his account of money in terms of quite specific political aims (namely the promotion of commerce).  But so far, I have said nothing that Desan might disagree with.

More subtly, Desan treats money (and she is here echoing in part Locke's opponent Lowndes) as an "emphatically domestic"  affair. (348) It would, thus, be tempting to see in Locke's politics a cosmopolitan project because (and now again quoting Desan about Locke) "exchange was an international matter, and he evidently assumed that money was as well," (349).

And, indeed, in one sense Locke's ideal is cosmopolitan: "perhaps it would have been better for commerce in general, and more convenient for all their subjects, if the princes every-where, or at least in this part of the world, would at first have agreed on the fineness of the standard to have been just one-twelfth alloy, in round numbers; without those minuter fractions which are to be found in the alloy of most of the coin of the several distinct dominions of this part of the world." (partially quoted on p. 346 and p. 348 by Desan) It is not silly to see in Locke as the hypothetical forefather of the Euro (or, at least, the EMU/EMS). But notice that here Locke ascribes to princes/sovereigns political agency. And this is Locke's (counterfactual) ideal. 

Of course, in practice this did not happen. But it alerts us that Locke's argument may be more political than Desan (and certain libertarians) let on.** And, in fact, Locke's argument about the role of money in commerce is itself intrinsically political: 

Money also is necessary to us, in a certain proportion to the plenty of it amongst our neighbours. For, if any of our neighbours have it in a much greater abundance than we, we are many ways obnoxious to them. 1. They can maintain a greater force. 2. They can tempt away our people, by greater wages, to serve them, by land, or sea, or in any labour. 3. They can command the markets, and thereby break our trade, and make us poor. 4. They can on any occasion ingross naval and warlike stores, and thereby endanger us.

In countries where domestic mines do not supply it, nothing can bring in silver but tribute, or trade. Tribute is the effect of conquest: trade, of skill and industry.

By commerce silver is brought in, only by an overbalance of trade.

An overbalance of trade, is when the quantity of commodities, which we send to any country do more than pay for those we bring from thence: for then the overplus is brought home in bullion.

For, Locke's argument is that a strong currency is connected to a high wage ("greater wages"), productive labor force ("skill and industry"), export driven ("overbalance of trade") political economy, which allows for a growing population and, thereby,  a greater military (and more powerful economy).++ What's really new here -- judging by Desan's larger narrative -- is not the strong currency part. (It seems the UK elites were all in on a strong currency for close to half a millenium prior to Locke.) But rather that in virtue of a strong currency one can pay high wages and support a growing population. 

This not ad hoc in Locke. It echoes Locke's more instrumental defense of property rights as conducive to consumption and rising standards of living. In particular, it fits quite nicely with the details of Locke's 'Art of government' (recall my treatment of sections 41-42 of Second Treatise, chapter 5): (i) open borders that facilitate immigration, abundance in food, fertility/family friendly policies. (ii) And we can take him to be committed to policies that improve the skill-set of the workforce that is the stimulation of public or private provision of education. In arguing for Jewish emancipation (and immigration), Toland (recall) explicitly picks up on Locke's argument, but rather than focusing on high wages he focuses on falling prices for mass produced goods. 

So, let me wrap up. I have not here evaluated Locke's economics. And I also grant that it's possible that Locke was a bourgeois ideologue supporting mercantile Whig elites at the expense of everybody else (Desan relies heavily on Macpherson) with any argument available. But it strikes me that the more natural and consistent reading is that Locke thought that state policy should enrich the population. If done right (by focusing on a hard currency, educating for the right skills, and yes defending property rights) this would lock Britain into a virtuous cycle of growing trade, growing wages, growing populations, and growing political might. This is not a cosmopolitan argument in favor of trade (of the sort Kant or Smith might try out); rather it is a second-best argument for national greatness because the international sphere is characterized by power politics. Since Locke's approach puts Britain on the path of zero-sum, great power politics, it is an open question whether this can be called 'liberal' (cf.  411 in Desan; but that's for another occasion).


*Desan also suggests the "basic story" is "articulated by Adam Smith (24), but she immediately hedges her bets by suggesting "or attributed to him in some version (24). For when she discusses Smith, briefly, later in the book he is treated as a pragmatic proponent of fiat money.

+So, I  think Desan misrepresents Locke when she claims that "money became a commodity with intrinsic (metallic) value, engendered as a medium by the consensus of traders." (346) It's true that for Locke money is engendered as a medium by the consensus of traders, but so is the intrinsic value.

**In what follows, I ignore here Locke's arguments against nominalist or projects of devaluation. Because these do not undermine Desan's argument.

++I have to admit I thou

Scumbag Starmer Sacks Nadia Whittome Behind Back But Tells Fascist Guido Fawkes

This is another incident which shows the real, intolerant, treacherous face of Starmer’s administration. And it could have come straight out of the Blair playbook. Yesterday Starmer sacked three MPs from their posts as Parliamentary Private Secretaries – Nadia Whittome, Beth Winter and Olivia Blake because they had the conscience and the guts to vote against the government’s Overseas Operations (Service Personnel and Veterans) Bill 2019-21. The ladies objected to the bill’s provisions that would have exempted British service personnel for prosecutions for torture committed overseas. Starmer, however, had set up a one-line whip demanding that the Labout MPs abstain.

Other MPs from the ‘Corbynite’ wing of the party also had the courage to vote against the bill. They were: Diane Abbott, Apsana Begum, Richard Burgon, Ian Byrne, Jeremy Corbyn, Ian Lavery, Rebecca Long-Bailey, John McDonnell, Kate Osamor, Kate Osborne, Bell Ribeiro-Addy, Lloyd Russell-Moyle, Zarah Sultana, Jon Trickett, and Claudia Webbe. Kudos and respect to all of them.

Lobster has put up a number of articles about the involvement of British armed forces in war crimes and supporting brutal dictatorships. At the moment the British military is giving training to 17 regimes, including the Chinese, that are on a list of thirty which are of concern because of their history of human rights abuses. The SAS was also involved in training the Sri Lankan army in its brutal war against the Tamil Tigers, which included reprisals and atrocities against the civilian Tamil population. A recent book on war crimes by the ‘Keenie Meenies’, a British mercenary company, also notes that, although they’re not formally part of the British army, they too have been used by the British state to give military support to some very unpleasant movements and regimes at arm’s length. Like the Mujahiddin fighting against the Soviets in Afghanistan and the Fascist regimes in Central America in the 1980s. Going further back, British armed forces were also responsible for brutal reprisals against Black Kenyans during the Mao Mao rebellion, including torture and mutilation. The victims of the atrocities were only granted compensation after a long legal campaign a few years ago. For details of the atrocities themselves, see the book, Africa’s Secret Gulags.

Mike also points that Starmer’s order that Labour should abstain on the bill, but not vote against it, is similar to Harriet Harman’s order a few years ago that Labour should also abstain on a Tory welfare bill that would further cut benefits and impoverish claimants. It’s all part of the Blairite strategy of trying to appeal to Tory voters at the expense of the people they should really be standing up to protect. But they try to make it seems that they’re also paying attention to their working class and socialist base by abstaining. It’s unconvincing. To me, it recalls Pilate in the Gospels washing his hands and walking off when the Sanhedrin brought Christ before him to be crucified.

What makes Starmer’s decision particularly noxious, however, what adds insult to injury, is the way it was done. Whittome was not told she was sacked but a Labour ‘representative’ – some of us can think of other epithets for this unnamed person – instead went of an briefed Guido Fawkes. That’s the far-right gossip and smear site run by Paul Staines. Staines is an extreme right-wing Tory and libertarian, who’d like to ban the trade unions and other working class organisations, privatise everything, including the NHS, and get rid of the welfare state. When he was a member of the Freedom Association back in the 1980s, the organisation invited the leader of a Fascist death squad from El Salvador as their guest of honour at their annual dinner. Other guests, I think, included members of the South African Conservative party, who were staunch supporters of apartheid. He was also mad keen on the various psychedelics that were coming into the rave scene in the 1990s, including and especially ‘E’. It’s disgusting that anyone in the news should have been told before Whittome herself, but especially a Fascist like Staines and his squalid crew.

And Mike has pointed out on his blog that this is exactly the same tactic the Blairites in the Labour party used to stab him in the back. Mike was suspended for anti-Semitism the evening before he was due to stand as a Labour councillor in the mid-Wales elections. But he only found about it when a reporter from one of the local Welsh papers rang him up to ask him about it. And then some other weasel at the NEC went off and leaked Mike’s details to the Sunset Times, which then ran a feature smearing and libeling him as an anti-Semite and Holocaust denier. Which Mike has never been, and very strongly and utterly condemns, as he has all racism.

But this also brings to mind the negative briefing Blair himself conducted against those MPs, who dared to go ‘off-message’ during his regime. Notable victims included Clare Short, who I think also clashed with him over his definitely unethical foreign policy. If a Labour MP or senior figure dared to contradict one of the Dear Leader’s policies or announcements, Blair and Campbell called the media hacks in for an anonymous briefing in which they or a representative then attacked the dissenting MP.

And now it seems that these old tactics have returned under ‘centrist’ Keir Starmer.

The Labour party is haemorrhaging members because of the way Starmer has turned his back on the great, socialist, genuinely Labour policies that Corbyn and his team were determined to return to. Mike’s pointed out that so far Starmer has broken 9 of his pledges to uphold them. Including his commitment to add 5 per cent tax to the upper right for big earners. That’s the multi-millionaires who have benefited from massive tax breaks, funded by savage benefit cuts to the poor and starving at the bottom of society, and who have squirreled their money away in offshore bank accounts. Including companies like that well-known patriotic group of papers and media, News International. Black members are particularly bitter and disappointed because of Starmer’s scant regard for the Black Lives Matter movement, which he dismissed as a ‘moment’.

Starmer has done nothing against the intriguers, who cost Labour the 2017 and 2019 elections, and who were responsible for the racist bullying of three senior and respected Black Labour MPs. Instead, the intriguers are arming themselves with lawyers and claiming that they have been smeared. And it shows how low Private Eye has fallen that the satirical magazine is uncritically pushing these claims, just as it was an enthusiastic supporter of the anti-Semitism smears against Corbyn and his supporters.

Mike yesterday put up a piece commenting on this grossly shabby action by Starmer, including citing some very excellent tweets from the public. They include people like Tory Fibs, Kelly-Ann Mendoza and Rachel Swindon. But my favourite comment is this from Mark Hebden

Nadia Whittome has essentially been sacked for voting against war crimes.

The Labour Party is the Party of War criminality again then

Yes, just as they were when Blair ordered the invasion of Iraq.

Mike has pointed out that Labour is behind the Tories in the polls, although Starmer himself is actually more popular than Boris. He asks, quite credibly, if this is because the Labour party acts like this to betray its own members.

What comes out of this is that Starmer himself is another intriguing Blairite and that he and his scuzzy advisors really haven’t learnt that not only are such tactics against one’s own unacceptable in themselves, they will also make you unpopular with the public. The press didn’t hold back on using these negative briefings against Blair and Brown when they did it, in order to make them look personally unpleasant and untrustworthy. Which they were.

Starmer is damaging the Labour party. I wish the poll result were the reverse. I wish Labour was surging ahead of the Tories, and it was Starmer behind Boris. It is no more than he deserves.


Sargon of Gasbag on Black Lives Matter’s Material for Schools’ Day of Action

I’m no doubt going too far in some people’s eyes by reblogging this. After all, this is Carl Benjamin, aka Sargon of Akkad, the Sage of Swindon and the man who broke UKIP. Sargon’s a true-blue Libertarian Tory. He supports Boris Johnson’s Tories, Donald Trump and was formerly a member of UKIP. He passionately supports Brexit, capitalism and doesn’t believe that the Tories are privatising the NHS on the grounds that he thinks no-one would buy it. Although he is anti-racist and has debate the Alt Right, his own nationalist views are so extreme that he himself has been accused of racism. He has very conservative views on women and gender. When he was adopted by the Kippers as one of their candidates in a Euro election a few years ago, it became a national scandal. There were protests against him when he tried speaking in Bristol and Cornwall. People threw milkshakes and buckets of fish over him, and he was banned from a local restaurant here in Bristol. There were letters of protest against his candidacy from the other Kippers. The Gloucestershire branch dissolved itself in disgust, and a very large proportion of the party’s membership resigned.

I don’t share his political views and strongly disagree with him about Brexit. It’s destroying Britain. As is Johnson’s free trade Thatcherism. And the NHS is most definitely being privatised.

But I’m reblogging his post about the materials Black Lives Matter had put together for a proposed day of action in schools this summer because I believe that while he misses the point and is wrong about many of the issues BLM raise with their teaching materials, there are others that he is right to tackle and criticise.

Someone leaked the school syllabus Black Lives Matter had put together onto the web, and Sargon makes it clear that it’s a full-one attempt to indoctrinate children. He then goes on to critique some of BLM’s proposals one by one.

He begins with BLM’s call for a week of action in schools. This declares itself to be a national uprising that affirms the lives of Black students, teaches and families. This week centres classroom lessons on structural racism, intersectional Black identities, Black history and anti-racism through the thirteen guiding principles of the Black Lives Matter movement.

Sargon declares that this is an attempt to indoctrinate children with a one-sided view of history, politics and moral philosophy without their parents’ presence or even knowledge, in order to turn them into activists. Sargon naturally states that this not something he would like them to do to his children.

He then goes through Black Lives Matters’ Guiding Principles. They are

Restorative Justice: We intentionally build and nurture a beloved community that is bonded together through a peaceful struggle that is restorative, not depleting. This strikes Sargon as like a cult, like some of those he read about a while ago, where they interrogated each other in order to form a tightly-knit community in which they were emotionally connected in a weird and unfriendly way.

Diversity: We respect and acknowledge differences and commonality. Sargon doesn’t comment on this, but this seems to be the standard attitude now being taught in schools and promoted as the norm throughout society.

Empathy: We practice empathy. We engage comrades with intent to learn about and connect with their contexts.

Loving Engagement: We embody and practice justice, liberation and peace in our engagements with one another.

Queer Affirming: We foster a queer-affirming network. When we gather, we do so with the intention of freeing ourselves from the tight grip of heteronormative thinking or rather, the belief that all in the world are heterosexual unless s/he or they express otherwise. Sargon doesn’t comment on this either, but at one level it’s also unremarkable. Schools have also come under pressure to tackle homophobia and promote gay tolerance and equality. There are problems with this when it comes to what is age appropriate. Homophobia is certainly not confined to the Black community, but it does seem to be particularly strong there. A few years ago back in the 1990s BBC Radio 4 broadcast a documentary, The Roots of Intolerance, in which the Black British gay presenter went across Britain and the Caribbean seeking to understand where the deep hatred of gays in Black society came from. This was a particular issue at the time, as there was a spate of extremely homophobic songs emerging from Black artists. That controversy has now died down somewhat, but I don’t believe the situation has altered in the past 25+ years. I disagree with this part of BLM’s manifesto because the attack on heteronormativity is too extreme and should not be taught and encouraged.

Transgender Affirming: We are self-reflexive and do the work required to dismantle cisgender privilege and uplift Black trans folk, especially Black trans women, who continue to be disproportionately impacted by trans-antagonistic violence. We particularly make space for transgender brothers and sisters to participate and lead. Sargon states that if he caught a school teaching his children this, he would take them out. He even says he’d send them to a Catholic school – and he was a militant atheist. This radical stance is aimed particularly at the Black community, but seems to be part of the general trend throughout American and British society. Trans activists are campaigning for this to be taught in schools. Again there are problems with what is age appropriate, and also the indoctrination of the vulnerable. Some children are being taught by the medically unqualified that they are transgender, while in fact they may simply be mentally ill. There is particular concern that those convinced that they are transgender may be simply autistic. Girls are being particularly affected, and so some opponents of the radical trans movement feel that it is an anti-feminist ideology.

Unapologetically Black: We are unapologetically Black in our positioning. In affirming that Black Lives Matter we do not need to qualify our position to love and desire freedom and justice for ourselves is a prerequisite for wanting the same for others. Sargon makes the point that this also validates the idea that White lives matter as well. In fairness, Black Lives Matter has never said that they didn’t, although some of their members, like Sasha Johnson, almost certainly don’t believe they do. But Sargon also argues that their statement about being unapologetically Black means that their opponents can also argue that they are unapologetically White. Their stance legitimates White nationalism. The only way they can combat this is by adopting Robin Di Angelo’s tactic of stating ‘it’s rules for me but not for thee’.

Black Women: We build a space that affirms Black women and is free of sexism, misogyny and environments in which men are centred. Sargon doesn’t mention it, but this seems to be just another approach Black Lives Matter shares with other radical groups and which reflects the anti-sexism campaigns in general society.

Black Families: We make our spaces family-friendly and enable parents to fully participate with their children. We dismantle the patriarchal practice that requires mothers to work double shifts so they can mother in private even as they participate in public justice work. This confuses Sargon as he says that he thought patriarchy wanted women in the home, barefoot and pregnant. But I think he’s failed to reaslise that this section appears to written for those poorer families, where the absence of a father means that the children aren’t supported by the second income that is now required to support a family. This situation is particularly acute among the Black community, but certainly isn’t unique to it. It is also found among the White poor.

Black Villages: We disrupt the western prescribed nuclear family structure requirement by supporting each other as extended families and villages that collectively care for one another, especially our children to the degree that mothers, parents and children are comfortable. Sargon states that this is a fantasy world.

He has a point in that it appears to be a racialised view, that idealises the African model of communal childcare. For example, in many traditional African cultures the women of the village also breastfeed each other’s children. And then there’s that supposed African proverb about it taking a village to raise a child. But no-one has ever been able to find such a saying in traditional African lore.

However, there is a general principle here that is perfectly acceptable. When my parents were settling down to raise us, they had the support of relatives and neighbours. People at that time did look out for each other, giving poorer friends items they had no longer use for, doing each others’ shopping and looking after each other’s children in sickness and emergencies. That hasn’t completely vanished, but it was done much more than is now common. That sense of community has been damaged by the extreme individualism that is atomising society.

Globalism: We see ourselves as part of a global Black family and we are aware of the different ways we are impacted or privileged as Black people who exist in different parts of the world. This seems to follow the pattern of much Black activism. Black civil rights campaigners have seen the struggle of western Blacks as part of a general, global struggle of Black nations for independence from White domination since at least W.E.B. DuBois, who moved to Ghana after it gained independence.

Intergenerational: We cultivate an intergenerational and communal network free from ageism. We believe that all people, regardless of age, show up with the capacity to lead and learn. Sargon believes that this erases children, but thinks this is good for the kind of people this would attract. This is wrong. The statement simply means they value older people. Again, it’s in line with the general, mainstream attack on ageism.

Collective Value: We are guided by the fact that all Black Lives Matter regardless of actual or perceived sexual identity, gender identity, gender expression, economic status, ability, disability religious beliefs or disbeliefs, immigration status or location. This, Sargon declares, is the endpoint of the radical left’s thinking in race. Or it could be an attempt to create a united Black community with its own sense of pride in order to combat some of the real issues plaguing the Black community, like drugs and Black on Black violence.

Sargon on BLM’s ‘Talking to Young Children

Sargon then moves on to the section about Talking to Young Children about the Guiding Principles of the Black Lives Matter Movement. Sargon states that this section uses phraseology, that could only be by people who don’t have children. He then singles out the sections on ‘diversity’, ‘globalism’ and ‘transgender-affirming’. The last says that ‘everyone get to choose their own gender through listening to their heart and mind. Everyone gets to choose whether they are a girl or a boy or both or neither or something else, and no-one gets to choose for them’. Which Sargon sarcastically warns will leave children rather confused. And I believe that is one of the dangers of adopting such a radical stance when it comes to gender identity. I don’t doubt that some people do feel that they are in the wrong body, and that after very careful thought and medical advice they should be able to transition. But this is something rather more complicated than saying people choose their own gender identity.

‘Collective value’ – Sargon thinks this is the same as individual value.

‘Unapologetically Black’. This section states that there are lots of different kinds of people and one way that we are different is through the colour of our skin.’ Sargon believes that this highlights the issue of race, and will turn children into a generation of racists. The section goes on ‘It’s important to makes sure that all people are treated fairly, and that’s why we, and lots of other people all over the country and the world, are part of the Black Lives Matter movement.’ This tells children that they are going to be a race warrior for the Black Lives Matter movement. But this section also connects with what the movement was saying in their thirteen principles about also valuing people from other races, but that it had to start with Black people’s own first. It therefore does not mean that they necessary disparage other races.

Plans for Week of Action

He then goes on to critique their plans for a week of action, which is a week of activism. This is simply to train children how to be activists. The programme includes sections like ‘Show Solidarity’, ‘Post on Social Media’, ‘Teach a Lesson’, ‘Attend an Event’, create things. He believes this document is real, because it has too many graphics to be otherwise. He points out the contradiction between their statement that they embody and practice justice, liberation and peace in their engagements with each other with a raised fist, a representation of violence.

The materials also include abstracted posters that can be used. Sargon believes that the consistency of the messages shows that this was planned in a central committee. He then goes on to discuss their suggestions for what should be taught at elementary school. Which includes youth activism. The plans for their week of action include ‘Day 1 kick-off: using your voice for a cause; Day 2: past and present youth activism’; guiding questions like ‘what is a cause?’, ‘what does it mean to use your voice for a cause? ‘, ‘why is it important to stand up for what you believe in?’, ‘what are the different ways we can create change?’, ‘home issues and the home community’, a project day. Sargon criticises this on the grounds that they are training children who are unable to think critically about what they are being taught, nor do they know any of the facts of the matter behind it. Sargon does not assume that they will give them a fully informed picture either. He calls it indoctrination.

Postmodernism and Afro Futurism in High School

Moving on to the material for high school, he says that this is where it gets really good. Like ‘Afrofuturism’ and ‘Postmodern Principles’. Sargon asks rhetorically whether he wants a group of radical race warriors, who consider everything about our society racist, to indoctrinate his children into a postmodern education? He says ‘No’, and adds that it’s only because he doesn’t want his child to come out of school believing that the world around him into which he’s been born and raised is evil and that he has to do everything in his power to tear it down. And that he himself, as a White person, is going to be part of the problem. And that every Black person he meets is some kind of inferior species, that needs his help and guidance to be saved. He doesn’t agree with that kind of worldview at all, nor with postmodernism as the kind of lens to view things with.

Sargon is absolutely right about Postmodernism. I extensively criticised it earlier when this blog was centred on Christian Apologetics. Postmodernism and cultural relativism are entirely inadequate as the basis for morality because of their rejection of the idea that it is objective. This was also the attitude of the Italian Fascists and Nazis. Mussolini took over Nietzsche’s idea that there was no objective morality, and the Nazis believed that morality and philosophical values differed from nation to nation according to race and ethnicity. Hence the Nazis’ insistence on Aryan science, maths and other racist nonsense. But the idea of racial and gender equality, for example, demands an objective morality that applies to all humans and is universally valid. Postmodernism, despite its pretensions to do this, actually doesn’t support such universal and objective values.

He believes this comes out in the section on Afro Futurism. This begins with a section on ‘Utopia’, which defines it as ‘an imagined place where everything is perfect, and asks the reader to define their utopia.’ It asks people to dream about their perfect place, a consistent theme throughout the documents. It asks the students what problems they could solve with their superpowers and what they would look like in this imaginary world. Sargon responds with ‘Who cares? You live in the real world’ and points out that they have limited resources at hand and limited options. So they should stop talking about an imaginary freedom of the will, as if the will is something separate to the physical world and gets to decide everything for it. He doesn’t want them thinking about superpowers, but asking how they can get good grades, how can they get a good job, how can they be healthy and stable, how can they raise children of their own, how can they form a family and be a healthy person.

This is a fair criticism. From what I can see, Afro Futurism simply means Black science fiction and particularly the imagining of Black advanced technological societies, like Wakanda in the film Black Panther, based on the Marvel comic books. There’s nothing wrong with such dreams, but schools should be teaching more immediate and achievable goals and aspirations to their students.

High School Materials

From this he moves on to the high school section, where there is more interesting stuff. Like ‘the BLM High School: the Black Panther Party’; ‘Social Justice Mathematics Materials’; ‘Black Lives Matter Haiti’, ‘Chicago Race Riots’, all of which Sargon describes as full-on Black Lives Matter propaganda. Sargon states that this doesn’t mean that they’ll get the opportunity to pump this out, but the fact that they’ve prepared it shows that there is time, money and materials behind it and it will get somewhere.

Then on to their reading materials. These include the Black Panther’s Apologia. This is the Panther’s 10 point programme, which were:

  1. We want freedom. We want the power to determine the destiny of our Black and oppressed communities.
  2. We want full employment for our people. They believed that the federal government had the responsibility and obligation to give everyone either a job or a guaranteed income. Sargon shows his libertarianism here by saying that it shows that they believed that they were the serfs of the state. This part of their manifesto is certainly radical. If you read it, it says that if businessmen are not willing to provide employment, the technology and means of production should be taken away from them and placed in the hands of the people, so that they can do so. It’s certainly a communist demand. But at the time this was written, in Britain the social democratic post-war consensus was still governing British politics. This meant that the government believed it had the responsibility to create full employment. This was through a mixed economy and state economic planning. Attlee only nationalised a very small number of industries, and so it did not necessarily mean that the state would employ everyone, only that it would help create the economic framework for everyone to be able to get a job. As for a guaranteed income, this could just mean proper unemployment benefit. This was part of the minimum welfare provision set up by Roosevelt’s New Deal, but I don’t know how far it extended. Like the British unemployment benefit before the creation of the welfare state, it may have only reached certain sections of the working class. In which case the Panther’s demands are entirely reasonable.
  3. We want an end to the robbery by the capitalists of our Black and oppressed communities. Sargon questions this by stating that if they believe the state is robbing them, why do they want it to provide them with a job, as they wouldn’t be free. This section goes back to the old promise of 40 acres and two mules. Sargon asks what they would do with this if they were dumped in the middle of the Midwest. They wouldn’t be able to take care of two mules. He knows he wouldn’t know what to do with them, and that they wouldn’t know either. Again, if you actually look at what they’re proposing, they also say they would accept the monetary equivalent. They’re talking about reparations for slavery, and for the slaughter of 50 million Black people they believe America has committed worldwide.
  4. We want decent housing, fit for human beings.
  5. We want decent education for our people. This also includes the statement that it should expose the true nature of decadent American society. They want to be taught the true history of their people and role in present-day society. Which looks like the origin of Black History Month.
  6. We want completely free healthcare. Sargon reads this out, but makes no comment. But it’s a reasonable request, and is behind the NHS in Britain, now under attack from the same forces of capitalism that the Panthers saw as oppressing Black Americans.
  7. We want an end to police brutality and murder of Black people, and all other people of colour, all oppressed people inside the United States. From what little I know of the Black Panthers, it was the casual police killing of Blacks that provoked the rise of the Panthers in the first place. They believed the only way they could protect Black people was to take up guns and shoot back. Hence Sasha Johnson’s bizarre fantasy of setting up a Black militia here in the UK, despite this country’s rather different history.
  8. We want an immediate end to all wars of aggression. This was obviously written during the Vietnam War, but it’s still applicable now.
  9. We want freedom for all Black and oppressed people. Sargon skips over this, omitting that it’s about freeing people in jail, and that they also want trial by a jury of peers for everyone charged with so-called crimes under the country’s laws. This is a central cornerstone of western justice.
  10. We want bread, housing, education, justice, peace. Sargon declares that these are flights of fantasy that sound like radical communist agitation, and for the Black Panthers, a militant, murderous party. Certainly the Panthers do seem from this to have been very radical left, and influenced by communism. But the demand for decent housing, full employment and free healthcare could be solved simply through a social democratic mixed economy welfare state. Horrifyingly radical to Americans, but the norm in Britain at the time.

Social Justice Maths

Sargon goes on to other topics, which he thinks are very weird. Like materials for social justice mathematics, a copy of Oakland police statistics for 1st July 2013, and Stanford university’s big study of racial disparites, and the stats for New York police’s stop and frisk.

Sargon’s Concluding Criticisms

Then there’s the Teaching Tolerance Guide, subtitled ‘Discussing Race, Racism and other Difficult Topics with Other Students’. There are also videos. Sargon once again describes it as a social justice package – which is quite correct – and states that the same talking points are repeated over and over again throughout it. He states that it is to present a one-sided narrative on all these points in order to construct the belief that American and other societies are uniquely evil, encouraging children to go into flights of fantasy about what might be, instead of being pragmatic, responsible and trying to build a better world one step at a time.

Sargon says that this should be resisted at all costs. If you’re a parent, you should enquire at your local school if they have any Black Lives Matter teaching materials that they will be teaching your children and request a copy of them. And if they don’t, you should kick up a stink, threaten to pull your child out and tell other parents to do so, because this is racial indoctrination. He even says that you could send the other parents this video to show what these materials look like.

He then ends the video by plugging his merchandising, based on Orwell’s statement that in a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act. And with Black Lives Matter we have entered that time of deceit. Our societies are not evil. They are good societies. Black Lives Matter is a malign cult, which he believes has spread through our societies because they are good, decent and people do not want to be racist. This is partly right. Black Lives Matter exists because society does treat Black people unfairly, but it has spread because people do not want to be racist as the mixed race crowds of their protests show. He believes it has spread through a postmodernist education establishment with a deconstructionist agenda which says that if things are looked at in a certain way, White societies are uniquely evil when they aren’t.

Here’s Sargon’s video.

The materials Sargon analyses and critiques in this video seem to show that in many ways Black Lives Matter is unremarkable. It has much in common with other left-wing movements demanding racial and gender equality and promoting gay and now trans rights. It also seems to follow much previous Black activism in connecting the deprivation of Blacks in the west with White western imperialism and colonialism. I don’t dispute either that its view that Blacks are particularly disadvantaged in America is due to institutional racism, as certainly legislation has been used to disqualify Blacks from opportunities, jobs and services, including welfare provision, that has been reserved for Whites.

This is not the whole story, however, and such a view should not be taught in school. What is appropriate as voluntary community activism becomes dangerous indoctrination when taught in the classroom. The idealisation of the Black Panthers is a particular problem. While much of their demands were reasonable and entirely justified, they were a violent paramilitary terrorist organisation. It’s intoxication with the Panthers and their violence that has inspired Sasha Johnson to style herself as a Black Panther and try to set up her own, similar Black paramilitary organisation.

I also share Sargon’s objections to teaching children that western society is uniquely evil and persecutes Blacks, who always require particular assistance. And that Whites are responsible for this, and somehow intrinsically racist unless taught otherwise. This is only part of the story, and the reality can be far more complex.

Despite its careful wording about tolerance and diversity, the materials for BLM’s proposed day of action would only create more racial hostility, division and resentment. They should definitely not be taught in schools.

The Tories Are the Implacable Enemies of Free Speech

Since 75 members of Extinction Rebellion decided to do what so many people have wanted to and blockade Murdoch print works in England and Scotland, Boris Johnson and his rabble have been pontificating about democracy and the need to protect a free press. This is all crass, hypocritical rubbish, and the truth, as with so much of Tory policy, is the exact opposite. In all too many instances, the Tories are the inveterate enemies of free speech and press freedom.

Mike and Vox Political have both shown this in their articles reporting that the Council of Europe has issued a level 2 media alert warning about Johnson’s government. This was because MoD press officers refused to deal with Declassified UK, a website focusing on foreign and defence stories. This was because Declassified’s journos had been critical of the government’s use of our armed forces. The Council issued a statement that they did so because the act would have a chilling effect on media freedom, undermine press freedom and set a worrying precedent for other journalists reporting in the public interest on the British military. They said that tough journalism like Declassified’s, uncomfortable though it was for those in power, was crucial for a transparent and functioning democracy. This puts Boris Johnson’s government with Putin’s Russia and Turkey, who also have a complete disregard for journalistic freedom.


We’ve been this way before, and it’s grim. Way back in the 1980s, Maggie Thatcher withdrew LWT’s broadcasting license over a similar piece of journalism that severely criticised the military. This was the documentary Death on the Rock, about the SAS’ shooting of a squad of IRA terrorists in Gibraltar. The documentary presented clear evidence that the squad had been under surveillance all their way down through Spain, and that the army could have arrested them at any point without bloodshed. This means that the SAS’s shooting of them was effectively an extra-judicial execution. They acted as a death squad.

This wouldn’t have been the first or only instance of such tactics by the British state in Northern Ireland. Lobster has published a number of articles arguing that special SAS units were active under cover in the province with the deliberate task of assassinating IRA terrorists, and that the security forces colluded secretly with Loyalist paramilitaries to do the same.

I heartily condemn terrorism and the murder of innocents regardless of who does it. But if ‘Death on the Rock’ was correct, then the British state acted illegally. The use of the armed forces as death squads clearly sets a dangerous precedent and is a violation of the rule of law. Most Brits probably agreed with Thatcher that the IRA terrorists got what was coming to them, and so would probably have objected to the documentary’s slant. But as the Tories over here and Republicans in the US have argued again and again about freedom of speech, it’s the freedom to offend that needs to be protected. Allowing only speech that is inoffensive or to which you agree is no freedom at all. Thatcher was furious, LWT lost their broadcasting license, which was given to a new broadcaster, Carlton. No doubt named after the notorious Tory club.

Then there was Thatcher’s interference in the transmission of another documentary, this time by the BBC. This was an edition of Panorama, ‘Thatcher’s Militant Tendency’. This argued that, just as Kinnock’s Labour party had been infiltrated by the hard left Militant Tendency, so Fascists from the National Front, BNP and others had burrowed into the Tories. In fact there’s always been concern about the overlap in membership between the Tories and the far right. In the 1970s there was so much concern that the Monday Club, formerly part of the Tory party until David Cameron severed links with it, opened its membership books to the Board of Deputies of British Jews. The Panorama programme was also too much for Thatcher, who had it spiked.

At the moment, the Tories are running a campaign to defund and privatise the Beeb under the specious claims that it’s biased against them. They were moaning about bias back in the ’90s under John Major and then Tony Blair, because Jeremy Paxman, among the Beeb’s other journos, insisted on asking tough questions. This resulted in Michael Heseltine walking off Newsnight, tossing his mane, as Ian Hislop described it on Have I Got News For You. Right-wing internet radio hack Alex Belfield has been ranting about how the BBC is full of Guardian-reading lefties in the same way Jeremy Clarkson used to about ‘yogurt-knitters’, who also read the same paper. Guido Fawke’s former teaboy, Darren Grimes, has also been leading a campaign to defund the Beeb. He should know about dictatorships and a free press. His former master, Paul Staines, was a member of the Freedom Association when that body supported the Fascist dictatorship in El Salvador. They invited to their annual dinner as guest of honour one year the leader of one of its death squads.

Belfield and the rest of the right-wing media have been loudly applauding the announcement that the new Director-General will cancel left-wing comedy programmes like Have I Got News For You and Mock The Week. Because they’re biased against the Tories. Er, no. Have I Got News For You was as enthusiastically anti-Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party as the rest of the media establishment, to the point where I got heartily sick and tired of watching it. And I haven’t watched Mock the Week for years. I don’t even know if it’s still on. Both the programmes are satirical. They mock the government as well as the rest of the parties. And the dominant, governing party over the past few decades has been the Tories, with the exception of New Labour from 1997-2010 or so. Which means that when they’ve been attacking the Tories, it’s because the Tories have been in power. A friend of mine told me that Ian Hislop, one of the regular contests on HIGNFY and the editor of Private Eye, was once asked which party he was against. He replied ‘Whoever’s in power’. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if he was a Conservative, but that is, ostensibly, the stance of his magazine. The Tories have been expelling much hot air about how a free press holds governments to account. But in the case of the BBC, this is exactly why they despise it.

The Tories hate the BBC because it’s the state broadcaster, and so is an obstacle to the expansion of Rupert Murdoch’s squalid empire of filth and lies. They’d like it defunded and privatised so that Murdoch, or someone like him, can move in. Not least because Murdoch has and is giving considerable support to the Tories. And in return, the Tories and then New Labour gave Murdoch what he wanted, and he was allowed to pursue his aim of owning a sizable chunk of the British press and independent broadcasting with Sky. This has alarmed those concerned about the threat posed by such media monopolies. It’s why Extinction Rebellion were right to blockade Murdoch’s papers, as both Mike and Zelo Street have pointed out. We don’t have a free press. We have a captive press controlled by a handful of powerful media magnates, who determine what gets reported. John Major in his last years in office realised the political threat Murdoch posed, but by this time it was too late. The Tories had allowed Murdoch to get his grubby mitts on as much of the British media as he could, and he had abandoned the Tories for Blair. Who was all too ready to do the same and accede to his demands in return for Murdoch’s media support. Just as Keir Starmer is desperate to do the same.

Murdoch’s acquisition of British papers, like the Times, should have been blocked by the Monopolies and Mergers’ Commission long ago. There were moves to, but Thatcher allowed Murdoch to go ahead. And Tony Benn was right: no-one should own more than one paper. If the Beeb is privatised, it will mean yet more of the British media is owned by one of press and broadcasting oligarchy. And that is a threat to democracy and press freedom.

The Tories are defending the freedom of the press and broadcasting. They’re attacking it.

Furious! Tories Include NHS in Secret Trade Deal with Trump

I’m afraid it’s taken me a few days to get round to this story, but it’s partly because this whole, shabby deal has made me so enraged. Mike put up a piece a few days ago reporting that the Tories have lied to us. Despite their fervent denials, they have put the NHS on the table to Donald Trump. This means the privatisation of the NHS as a whole comes that bit closer, and medicines are going to be more expensive. Because what Trump’s donors in big pharma really hate is a big state machine demanding value for money and affordable drugs. Some of us still remember the moan of one of these company heads when he took over the firm making the anti-AIDS drugs. He immediately raised the price to exorbitant amounts as he didn’t want to make them for poor Indians. I think his name was Martin Shkreli, and he was torn to shreds for his disgusting attitude on social media. But the attitude against supplying cheap drugs is still there.

Mike in his article pointed out how the Tories lied to us. Jeremy Corbyn told the public the truth. He presented the evidence, but was shouted down by the paid liars of corporate media, who carried on smearing him and his followers as anti-Semites. As Mike showed, one of those claiming that the NHS was not going to be included in the deal was Laura Kuenssberg. She claimed it would be far too unpopular. Well, it would be if more people knew about it, I suppose. But it’s been kept off the front page so far by the scandal about Russian interference, so I’m guessing that the Tories hope that their grubby deal has been successfully buried.

Mike also pointed out in his article that the Tories have a proprietorial attitude towards the Health Service. It isn’t ours, it’s theirs, and they can, in their view, do what the devil they like with it. There’s so much truth in this. When David Cameron was busy preparing the dismemberment of the NHS eight years ago with his disgusting Health and Social Care bill, there was a meme showing just how many Tory and other MPs were connected to private healthcare companies, or companies supplying the NHS, that would stand to profit from the deal. And there was no shortage of them – over 100. This is all for the profit of Dodgy Dave, Bozo and their friends and donors in private healthcare.

It also shows how little libertarian internet personality Sargon of Gasbag really knows about free market capitalism as it really exists, as opposed to the idealised version he’s taken over from the panting disciples of von Hayek, Mises and Milton Friedman. When the possibility that the Tories would include it in the deal with Trump first broke, the Sage of Swindon put up a piece on YouTube denying that such a deal would be made. This was because no private businessman would want it.

Sargon obviously hasn’t been paying attention for the past couple of decades. Because ever since John Major’s time American companies have been desperate to get their claws into Britain’s NHS. It began with the private healthcare insurance fraudsters Unum, who advised Major’s health secretary, Peter Lilley. And when Major lost the 1997 election to Blair, Unum simply moved in there. Along with other American companies. Blair even decided he wanted to remodel the commissioning system of the NHS on American private healthcare company Kaiserpermanente, because he thought mistakenly they were able to provide better value for money.

The Tories and the media lied to the British public. As Mike states in his article, the Tories are inveterate liars. But they succeeded in getting the British public to believe them, handing them an 80 seat majority. Because Boris was going ‘to get Brexit done’. And Brexit would be absolutely wonderful, we’d be able to have all these wonderful trade deals made on our terms without the interference of the EU. And we wouldn’t have to worry about all the nasty bureaucracy we’d need to travel to or trade with the Continent, because all that was just lies dreamed up by Project Fear.

That was also a lie, as Zelo Street has also shown in his articles about it. No-one is queuing up to trade with us on our terms. The Japanese have made it very clear that any deal they make with us will be very much on theirs. And I have no doubt Donald Trump has made the same point. Outside the great trading block of the EU, we are very weak and vulnerable. The Tories need Trump’s trade deal, and so it was almost inevitable that despite their weasely denials, they’d fold and give into him.

Not that selling off the NHS isn’t something they haven’t wanted to do since Margaret Thatcher planned on doing it in the 1980s. Or when a section of the Tories in 1948 refused to back the NHS as it was too expensive, and then returned in the 1950s to demand its denationalisation.

If this deal goes through, it will bring even closer the Tories’ dream of replacing the NHS with a private healthcare system, funded through private health insurance. Where if you don’t have the cash, you try getting your treatment from medicare or the charity hospital. Something like 20 per cent of Americans can’t afford their health insurance. As Mike says, 3/4 of all bankruptcies in the US come from Americans unable to pay their medical bills.

It will mean a return to the terrible, deeply unequal provision of medical care that existed before Labour’s foundation of the NHS in 1948. When millions of working people couldn’t afford the doctor. And what is also boiling my blood is that Nandy and Starmer are complicit in this privatisation. Blair would also liked to have privatised the NHS, although I think he would still have kept it funded by the state. But Nandy revealed on the Andrew Marr show that she and Starmer would also have kept the NHS’ inclusion in Trump’s trade talks secret as well.

British working men and women are being sold into grinding poverty, debt, despair, starvation, illness and death for the corporate profit of a Thatcherite political and media class. Mike in his piece comments about how generous the Beeb and newspaper hacks, who stand by when deals like this are being made and dutifully keep their keyboards and mouths shut, or hail it as a success in bringing more private investment into the NHS, are rewarded with personal private healthcare cover for themselves.

Because you can bet that they have. Just as Tory bigwigs have connections to the big private healthcare firms slavering to buy up the NHS.

Here’s how the Tories reneged on their promises to protect ‘our’ NHS