universities

Education…education…education

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 03/12/2018 - 2:24am in

Aerial view of students wearing mortar boards at a graduation ceremonyAnd in the news this week…

 

Education…education…education.

 

Last week the Public Accounts Committee published its findings on the sale of the student loan book.  The government was criticised for having sold yet another public asset for half its face value, but it explained that net government debt would fall as a result, enabling it to borrow more. The PAC, in its turn, said in its report that it had expected the Treasury to get the best possible deal on behalf of the taxpayer and achieve its aim of reducing the public sector net debt.  And then according to the Office for Budget Responsibility, in its Student Loans and Fiscal Illusions working paper published earlier this year, the sale was also a ‘perverse incentive’ to make it appear that the public finances had improved. It then went on to estimate that the government’s plans would, in addition, deprive the Treasury of billions in repayments over the lifetime of the loans thus making the country poorer in the long term.

The fiscal language of government and its institutions cited above is instructive, and demonstrates how government’s success or failure is being measured in household accounting terms rather than the effects of its spending policies on environmental, economic and social well-being of the nation.  A good deal for taxpayers, reducing public deficit and debt, depriving government of revenue, borrowing from the future and debt burden are all examples of recurrent tropes which are fed into the public arena daily by politicians, journalists and institutions. So, it is no surprise that people are led to believe that the state finances resemble their own household budgets and they judge a government by how much it reduces or increases the deficit or debt. The vocabulary of income, spending, borrowing and debt however does not apply to a government which issues its own currency and the term fiscal responsibility should be confined to measuring how such a government balances the economy by ensuring that money creation does not exceed the productive capacity of the nation.

 

And in more news on education

 

“Privatisation, marketisation, neo-liberalism and austerity are beams of the same sun.”

Steve Watson, Faculty of Education (Cambridge University).

 

While the government focuses on accounting gymnastics to balance its accounts, the dire state of higher education has been in the public spotlight this month as it was revealed that the universities watchdog was forced to give a struggling institution an injection of cash so that it could remain afloat. This followed news earlier this month that three universities were on the verge of bankruptcy and having to rely on bridging loans to keep going.  The financial uncertainty was said to be linked to falling numbers of 18 year olds applying to go to university, increased competition for students and more stringent immigration controls on foreign students who, in the absence of adequate government funding, bring much needed revenue to university coffers.  The University funding policy and funding report published in 2016 noted that given limited government funding and the fact that not all universities can borrow more over the long term, they will need to maintain and grow their student numbers, including those from outside the EU, to fund increased investment.  As governments fights over allowing foreign students to access higher education and adequate funding streams from government a train crash would seem inevitable.

How have we come to this pass? The process started in the 1990s with the first steps towards the marketisation of higher education.  New Labour followed the Tories lead and gave universities the right to charge tuition fees, thus changing the very basis upon which universities were funded. Private debt instead of government spending became a primary mechanism to finance higher education. As Steven Watson who lectures in the Faculty of Education at Cambridge University notes:

“The introduction of student loans, tuition fees and subsequent increases are all part of the commodification and privatisation of higher education. The Higher Education and Research Bill that was hurried through before the general election in 2017 further embeds the consumerization of higher education, with the creation of the Office for Students and providing opportunities to establish challenger institutions to increase competition in the sector.”

Universities have become businesses with a product to sell and students have become customers with choices. University management elites command huge salaries whilst lecturers increasingly face the prospect of insecure contracts and low pay. According to an analysis by UCU published in 2016 university teaching is now dominated by zero-hours contracts, temp agencies and other precarious work.  It also noted that the richest Russell Group institutions rely heavily on insecure academic workers.

Instead of higher education being about learning, exploration and creativity, it is increasingly becoming commodified; serving the interests of capital rather than the development of the individual for life and the benefit of society. Already, as Steve Watson notes, there is the potential for subjects that do not have a direct link to the world of work to disappear or be reconfigured for employability.  And while universities struggle for funding and try to cut costs, students face the prospect of a lifetime of education debt without even the certainty of finding a good, well paying job at the end of it.

The public is fed a daily diet of the benefits of choice, competition and private-sector efficiency and innovation, whether we are talking about education, the NHS, or the energy, rail and water sectors, when the reality is that it has more to do with accruing capital, than providing high quality public services. We are also fed the daily lie that the government has no other alternative as it has no money of its own and must seek to balance its accounts to prove its financial competence.

BUT the national economy is not one great big household, and a government which issues its own currency could, by making a political choice, spend on our public services tomorrow. Why would it not do so?  Education is an investment which is not just about economics. It gives people the skills they need for life, enables them to ask questions and seek solutions as well as confront the challenges of our times from social issues to environmental ones. Getting with monetary realities is a first step in challenging the neoliberal, market driven status quo.

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The post Education…education…education appeared first on The Gower Initiative for Modern Money Studies.

Fresh audio product

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 12/11/2018 - 5:32am in

Just added to my radio archive (click on date for link):

November 8, 2018 Natasha Lennard, author of this article, on cops & white supremacists • Forrest Hylton on Colombian university protests and a potential alliance with Brazil to topple Maduro

Teaching to the SET, by Grazyna Zajdow

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 09/11/2018 - 9:44pm in

An article in the 26 July issue of Times Higher Education holds some interest for academics, educationalists and others concerned with the increased managerialism of the contemporary university. A long-running dispute between the Canadian academics’ union and Ryerson University went into arbitration, with the arbitrator finding that student evaluations of teaching (SETs) could no longer be used for promotion and tenure because SETs are imperfect, unreliable and ‘downright biased’.

While many academics have long held that student evaluations are being used to monitor, direct and punish staff rather than improve education, evidence of their effectiveness as a marker of teaching and learning has largely gone unexamined. But the closer one gets the more it becomes evident that the emperor has no clothes. The evidence shows that SETs are tests of teacher popularity, and that unreconstructed and subconscious racial and gender bias are involved. SETs, it seems, are generally useless for finding out anything about teaching practices or learning, although they seem to be effective in cowering staff. In comic form of ‘teaching to the test’, Australia and most other Anglophone countries have gone down the SET cul-de-sac. Instead of teaching to the test, we are teaching to the SET! Effectively, staff popularity with students has been equated with teaching ability.

Each university has a different way of collecting this information, but mostly it is gathered online by asking questions about a lecturer or tutor’s performance. Every year I look forward with trepidation or glee—depending on my desire to retire in the near future, or not—to my student evaluations. One year I received a letter from my supervisor asking me to explain my poor scores, while the following year’s letter congratulated me on my performance. The difference was totally unrelated to any change in teaching methods on my part; maybe it was due to my haircut. In any case, I am sure these letters and my scores are on my human-resources file.

The article piqued my interest as to what the available evidence says, and I have almost gone blind reading sophisticated statistical analyses of quantitative studies of student evaluations. I feel that I deserve a promotion just for working my way through them! In the end, they say exactly what most university teachers have been saying for years: SET scores are unrelated to student learning or academic teaching. However, they are related to the racial, sexual and gender bias of the young people who take part in them. If you are an academic who is young, male, good looking and white, you are likely to be liked at greater levels than a middle-aged woman who might be a lesbian. In a national survey of British students, investigators from the University of Reading found that students were most satisfied when they had been taught by academics who were male, white, had a PhD and were on fixed-term contracts. In the United States, African American academic teaching staff were considered substantially less intelligent and competent than white staff—by both white and non-white students.

Other problems with using SET scores are more technical but perhaps more pernicious. Most universities use averages from SET outcomes to rate individual staff via-à-vis faculty and course outcomes. The size of the group that fills in the class survey is crucial here. Academics with small groups of students are much more at the mercy of outlier responses, luck and error than academics teaching larger groups. For example, academics with small response rates are often compared to those with large numbers of students and large response rates. Averages also do not give a good indication of the peaks and troughs of responses. The scores are ordinal categorical variables, which means that they are what statisticians call ‘labels’, not ‘values’. Most importantly to any statistician worth their salt, they are descriptions given a number, but they have no real numerical meaning. On a 7-point measure, the difference between 7 (outstanding) and 6 (very good) may not mean the same thing as the difference between 1 (terrible) and 2 (tolerable), but they are used as if they are—they are used as though there is a continuous numerical relationship between them.

Some studies have looked at the relationship between SET scores and future results. For example, some have looked at the SET score given to a level 1 academic teacher and then the outcome for students at the next level. Researchers have found that student performance at the second-level subject is negatively related to their satisfaction with the lower-level one. The researchers posited that students may have liked the harder (initial) subject less, but they actually learned more because it was harder. Indeed, other research has found that lenient teachers are more liked by their students, but this is not related in any way to how much the students have learned. A meta-analysis of almost 100 studies of SET scores and higher-education results found that students did not learn more from professors with higher SET scores. However, the problem for many academics is that students with less ability are likely to overestimate their capabilities and become angry when their teachers do not recognise their (overestimated) skills; thus the likelihood of a poor student evaluation increases.

In one very large study, students at a French university in a variety of disciplines, who were assigned to different classes taught by male and female teachers but who all sat the same end-of-year exams, rated their satisfaction with male teachers at higher levels than their satisfaction with female teachers. These ratings were negatively associated with their final results. In a US study, students taking an online course were randomly allocated to teaching assistants whom they did not see. The teaching assistants were identified as male or female, regardless of their actual gender. Again, those students who thought their teacher was male considered their teachers to be more competent and effective. Again, these assessments bore no relation to their final results.

SETs have contributed to what some academics claim is a lowering of standards and a less rigorous education overall. There has been significant grade inflation (giving students higher marks than in the past), which is likely to be the result of more lenient marking. This has been clearly related to SET scores rating lenient teachers higher than more demanding ones. Assessments have become smaller, shorter and less critical or analytical (at least in the social sciences and humanities). Institutions like mine have forced on us a system of rubrics, which means that every assessment must have an outline of all possible factors that will be marked, what each category looks like and what each is worth in the final outcome. No need to learn from experience when you just tick boxes! There is no doubt that dumbing down is inherent in such a system.

So, knowing all of this, the question has to be why there is such reliance on SETs in academic settings. If we are going to measure teacher effectiveness at all in quantitative terms, the answer is that large-scale SETs are easy to administer and cheap to run. But effective teaching is a complex issue and to meaningfully understand and improve it would take more time and financial resources than most universities are willing to expend. Good evaluation of teaching and learning would involve peer assessment, ethnographic studies into classroom behaviours, and staff willingness to be open to such intrusions without compromising their position at the university. Certainly, a staff member’s tenure or performance review should not rely on student evaluations as they currently exist.

SETs look objective because they rely on numbers, even if those numbers are meaningless. Metrics are used in all sectors of our late-modern/technologically obsessed society and it would be surprising if we didn’t see them in the university sector, too. But metrics are meaningless when the relationship between what is being studied, how it is being studied and what it is being studied for becomes so skewed. I refer to Robert DiNapoli’s ‘A Supplement to Ambrose Bierce’s The Devil’s Dictionary’ (Arena Magazine no. 155) and his definition of ‘metric’: ‘the science of reducing the organic texture of reality to sequences of numbers for the purpose of evaluating performance’. There seems to me no more apt description of a SET. Bruce Buchan’s article in the same issue, ‘Look on My Works, Ye Mighty, and Despair’, eloquently illustrates the damage to the humanities and social sciences due to the relentless obsession with online teaching and learning. Students are considered consumers of education now, and it would appear that consumer satisfaction counts for more than skill or knowledge.

More importantly, reliance on SETs allows for a form of managerial control of academic staff that has undermined the professional and democratic platform on which higher education was ostensibly based for 500 years or more. It is hard to believe that the Australian system will change the direction it seems to have taken, but this is not a lost cause. The University of Southern California has voluntarily undertaken a review of SETs and how they are used, and other universities in the United States are also going down this path. SETs do give an indication of students’ experience and teachers’ performance (charm, lucidity, hairstyle), but not of academic knowledge or teaching effectiveness. Don’t get me started on rubrics.

Book on How to Resist and Campaign for Change

Matthew Bolton, How To Resist: Turn Protest to Power (London: Bloomsbury 2017)

About this time last week, hundreds of thousands of people were out on the streets marching to demand a second referendum on Brexit. It was the biggest demonstration since 2 million or so people marched against Blair’s invasion of Iraq. And as Mike commented in his blog post about it, as likely to do as much good. Blair and his corrupt gang ignored the manifest will of the people, and went ahead anyway, determined to prosecute a war whose real reasons were western imperialism and multinational corporate greed. The march failed to stop the war and the chaos it caused is still ongoing. Just as last week’s march will also fail to prevent the Tories doing whatever they want.

It’s a disgusting situation, and this book is addressed to everyone who’s fed up with it. The author, Matthew Bolton, is an organizer with the campaigning group Citizens UK and their Living Wage campaign. And the book is addressed to people, who have been on the march, and are sick and tired of being ignored. Right at the very beginning of the book, he writes

This book is for people who are angry with the way things are and want to do something about it; for people who are frustrated with the system, or worried about the direction the country is going in. For people who are upset about a particular issue, or want a greater say in the changes happening in their neighbourhood. They’ve posted their opinions on social media and they’ve shouted at something they’ve seen on the news. They’ve been on the big march and they’ve been to the ballot box, but what more can be done? This is for people who want to make a change, but they’re not sure how. (p.1)

A few pages later he describes the dangers to democracy and the increasing sense of powerlessness people now feel when decisions are taken out of their hands by politicians.

What’s at stake here is more important than simply helping people who care about particular issues to run effective campaigns. It’s about democracy. In the past, people who wanted to make a difference, and believed in change fought for democracy with sweat, blood and courage. The Chartists, the Suffragettes and other endured prison and faced death in their struggle for the chance to have a say in the governance of the country. They organized and campaigned to force the ruling elites to open up our political system to influence by the majority of the people. It is a great misunderstanding to think that they were fighting for the chance to put a cross in a box once every few years. They were fighting – week in, week out – for power. Fighting for more people to have more influence.

Over time, we have become confused. Now we have the vote, we have mistaken politics for Parliament and have come to see democracy as something to watch on television or follow on Twitter, like spectators at a football game – or worse, to switch off from it completely, losing trust in politicians, losing trust in the media, losing trust in the system. Democracy doesn’t just mean ‘to vote’, it means people power. It means embedding political action into our day-to-day lives, in our communities and workplaces. It is a vision of a society where power is distributed amongst the people, not concentrated in the hands of the few. It’s not an end state, but a constant struggle for people to fight for a seat around the decision-making table.

But it doesn’t feel like we are at the table. It feels like we are on the menu. Power is being concentrated in the hands of an increasingly small circle of people. We have a revolving door of Cabinet ministers becoming bankers, becoming newspaper editors, becoming chief executives. We have been lulled into a false sense of security, thinking that our democratic system would create a better future for us all. But it doesn’t look that way. By lunchtime on the first Wednesday in January, after just two-and-a-half days’ work, FTSE 100 bosses will have earned more than the average person will earn that entire year. The generation now in their twenties will be the first in modern times to be worse off than their parents. What we want for ourselves and our children – a decent job, a home, a health service, a community – is under threat. (pp. 4-5).

He then discusses how the political terrain has shifted immensely recently, with people demanding change, giving as examples the vote to Leave in the Brexit referendum and the election of Jeremy Corbyn. But he also makes the point that you need a strategy and that winning campaigns are very well planned and organized. And he gives two examples: Rosa Parks and Abdul Durrant. While the action that sparked off the bus boycott that began the Civil Rights movement in earnest was presented as spontaneous in Dr. Who, in reality it was very carefully planned. The Montgomery chapter of the NAACP had been planning a boycott for a year before she refused to give up her seat. They had already tried this with three other Black passengers, but had failed to light the fuse of public indignation. This time, they found the right person with Rosa. Durrant was a leader in the East London Communities Organisation, part of Citizens UK, who worked nights as a cleaner in HSBC in Canary Wharf. He led a campaign to get better pay for workers like him, and then organized a media and mass protest to get it.

As for Bolton himself, he comes from a working/ middle class family. His father’s family were working class, his mother’s solidly middle class. He attended Cambridge university, but went to the state primary in his part of London. The local area was very rough, and his mother wanted him privately educated, and he was lucky enough to get a scholarship to a private school in Dulwich. He says that it was at this time that the stark difference between conditions in south London and the bubble of privilege in Dulwich began to grate on him. He was mugged twice in his neighbourhood, once at the point of a knife, punched several times in the face, and violently carjacked. After private secondary school, he went to sixth form at a state school that also had its fair share of problems. He describes how some of his friends from private school went on to work with a family friend in the City, which he describes as a conveyor belt to a decent university and a great career. Others had to avoid gang trouble on their way home, looked after their young siblings in the evening because their mother was working nights, scrimped and saved to pay the gas meter, and then tried to do their homework. He continues

It wasn’t just the unfairness that made me angry: it was the fact that as a society we say success is determined by how clever you are and how hard you work. If you fail, it’s your fault. That convenient lie made me angry then and it makes me angry now. (p. 21).

The book describes the strategy he has devised over years of campaigning to affect change. It starts off by identifying the issue you are particularly angry about – it could be anything – and identifying the people in authority who may be able to do something about it. He rejects the idea that powerlessness is somehow noble, and recommends instead that protestors concentrate on developing their power, as well as appealing to those that already have it to help them through their self-interest. The book also talks about the correct strategy to adopt in meetings and talks with those in authority and so on. It is all about mobilizing popular protest for peaceful change. After the introduction, pieces of which I’ve quoted above, it has the following chapters:

1. If You Want Change, You Need Power

2. Appreciating Self-Interest

3. Practical Tools to Build Power

4. Turning Problems Into Issues

5. The Action is in the Reaction

6. Practical Tools to Build a Campaign

7. Unusual Allies and Creative Tactics

8. Finding the Time.

9. The Iron Rule.

I’m afraid I didn’t finish reading the book, and have no experience of campaigning myself, so I can’t really judge how useful and applicable it is. But just reading it, it seems to be a very useful guide with sensible, badly needed advice for people wanting to mount effective campaigns on the issues that matter to them. And Bolton is absolutely right about the rising, obscene inequalities in our society and the crisis of democracy that has developed through the emergence of a corrupt, self-interest and interlinked media-political-banking complex.

Video of Three Military Robots

This is another video I round on robots that are currently under development on YouTube, put up by the channel Inventions World. Of the three, one is Russian and the other two are American.

The first robot is shown is the Russian, Fyodor, now being developed by Rogozin. It’s anthropomorphic, and is shown firing two guns simultaneously from its hands on a shooting range, driving a car and performing a variety of very human-style exercises, like press-ups. The company says that it was taught to fire guns to give it instant decision-making skills. And how to drive a car to make it autonomous. Although it can move and act on its own, it can also mirror the movements of a human operator wearing a mechanical suit. The company states that people shouldn’t be alarmed, as they are building AI, not the Terminator.

The next is CART, a tracked robot which looks like nothing so much as a gun and other equipment, possibly sensors, on top of a tank’s chassis and caterpillar tracks. It seems to be one of a series of such robots, designed for the American Marine corps. The explanatory text on the screen is flashed up a little too quickly to read everything, but it seems intended to provide support for the human troopers by providing extra power and also carrying their equipment for them. Among the other, similar robots which appear is a much smaller unit about the size of a human foot, seen trundling about.

The final robot is another designed by Boston Dynamics, which has already built a man-like robot and a series of very dog-like, four-legged robots, if I remember correctly. This machine is roughly humanoid. Very roughly. It has four limbs, roughly corresponding to arms and legs. Except the legs end in wheels and the arms in rubber grips, or end effectors. Instead of a head, it has a square box and the limbs look like they’ve been put on backwards. It’s shown picking up a crate in a say which reminds me of a human doing it backward, bending over to pick it up behind him. But if his legs were also put on back to front. It’s also shown spinning around, leaping into the area and scooting across the test area with one wheel on the ground and another going up a ramp.

Actually, what the Fyodor robot brings to my mind isn’t so much Schwarzenegger and the Terminator movies, but Hammerstein and his military robots from 2000AD’s ‘ABC Warriors’ strip. The operation of the machine by a human wearing a special suite also reminds me of a story in the ‘Hulk’ comic strip waaaay back in the 1970s. In this story, the Hulk’s alter ego, Banner, found himself inside a secret military base in which robots very similar to Fyodor were being developed. They were also controlled by human operators. Masquerading as the base’s psychiatrist, Banner meets one squaddie, who comes in for a session. The man is a robot operator, and tells Banner how he feels dehumanized through operating the robot. Banner’s appalled and decides to sabotage the robots to prevent further psychological damage. He’s discovered, of course, threatened or attacked, made angry, and the Hulk and mayhem inevitably follow.

That story is very definitely a product of the ’70s and the period of liberal self-doubt and criticism following the Vietnam War, Nixon and possibly the CIA’s murky actions around the world, like the coup against Salvador Allende in Chile. The Hulk always was something of a countercultural hero. He was born when Banner, a nuclear scientist, got caught with the full force of the gamma radiation coming off a nuclear test saving Rick, a teenager, who had strayed into the test zone. Rick was an alienated, nihilistic youth, who seems to have been modelled on James Dean in Rebel Without A Cause. Banner pulls him out of his car, and throws him into the safety trench, but gets caught by the explosion before he himself could get in. Banner himself was very much a square. He was one of the scientists running the nuclear tests, and his girlfriend was the daughter of the army commander in charge of them. But the Hulk was very firmly in the sights of the commander, and the strip was based around Banner trying to run away from him while finding a cure for his new condition. Thus the Hulk would find himself fighting a series of running battles against the army, complete with tanks. The Ang Lee film of the Hulk that came out in the 1990s was a flop, and it did take liberties with the Hulk’s origin, as big screen adaptations often do with their source material. But it did get right the antagonism between the great green one and the army. The battles between the two reminded me very much of their depictions in the strip. The battle between the Hulk and his father, who now had the power to take on the properties of whatever he was in contact with was also staged and shot very much like similar fights also appeared in the comic, so that watching the film I felt once again a bit like I had when I was a boy reading it.

As for the CART and related robots, they remind me of the tracked robot the army sends in to defuse bombs. And research on autonomous killing vehicles like them were begun a very long time ago. The Germans in the Second World War developed small robots, remotely operated which also moved on caterpillar tracks. These carried bombs, and the operators were supposed to send them against Allied troops, who would then be killed when they exploded. Also, according to the robotics scientist Kevin Warwick of Reading University, the Americans developed an automatic killer robot consisting of a jeep with a machine gun in the 1950s. See his book, March of the Machines.

Despite the Russians’ assurances that they aren’t building the Terminator, Warwick is genuinely afraid that the robots will eventually take over and subjugate humanity. And he’s not alone. When one company a few years ago somewhere said that they were considering making war robots, there was an outcry from scientists around the world very much concerned about the immense dangers of such machines.

Hammerstein and his metallic mates in ‘ABC Warriors’ have personalities and a conscience, with the exception of two: Blackblood and Mekquake. These robots have none of the intelligence and humanity of their fictional counterparts. And without them, the fears of the opponents of such machines are entirely justified. Critics have made the point that humans are needed on the battle to make ethical decisions that robots can’t or find difficult. Like not killing civilians, although you wouldn’t guess that from the horrific atrocities committed by real, biological flesh and blood troopers.

The robots shown here are very impressive technologically, but I’d rather have their fictional counterparts created by Mills and O’Neill. They were fighting machines, but they had a higher purpose behind their violence and havoc:

Increase the peace!

The Sky At Night Looks at Britain in Space

I just managed to catch the weekday repeat a day or so ago of this month’s Sky at Night, in which presenters Maggie Aderin-Pocock and British astronaut Tim Peake looked at the history of Britain in space, and forward to the country’s future in the deep black. The programme’s changed a bit over the past few years in the case of its presenters. It was famously presented by Sir Patrick Moore from its beginning in the 1950s until he passed away a few years ago. This made the programme the longest-running show presented by the same person. Aderin-Pocock joined it before Moore’s departure. She’s a black woman scientist, with a background in programming missile trajectories. She’s obviously very intelligent, enthusiastic and very definitely deserves her place on the show. But I wish she’d done a job that didn’t involve the military use of rocket technology, however much this is needed as part of national defence.

Aderin-Pocock was speaking to one of the management officials from Orbex, a new, British company, which has developed a rocket launcher and intends to open a spaceport in one of the more deserted areas of Scotland. The rocket will stand about 17 meters tall, using propane and High Test Peroxide as fuel. High Test Peroxide is a highly concentrated version of the hydrogen peroxide used by hairdressers to bleach peoples’ hair. The use of propane is particularly important, as it’s lighter than conventional rocket fuels, meaning that the rocket doesn’t have to carry as much fuel to lift off into space. Advances in satellite design have also allowed the rocket to be smaller than other spacecraft used elsewhere. British universities have succeeded in developing microsatellites – satellites that are much, much smaller than some of the satellites put into orbit, but which can perform the same functions. As these satellites are smaller and lighter, they only need a relatively smaller, lighter rocket to launch them.

The Scottish launch complex also wasn’t going to be as big as other, larger, major launch complexes, such as those of NASA, for example. I think it would still contain a launch tower and control buildings. As well as the official from Orbex, the show also talked to a woman representing the rural community in the part of Scotland, where they were planning to build it. She admitted that there would be problems with building it in this part of the Scots countryside. However, the community was only going to lease the land, not sell it to Orbex, and care would be taken to protect the farms of the local crofters and the environment and wildlife. Like much of rural Britain, this was an area of few jobs, and the population was aging as the young people moved away in search of work. She looked forward to Orbex and its spaceport bringing work to the area, and creating apprenticeships for the local young people.

The programme went on to explain that this would be the first time for decades that a British company was going to build a British rocket to launch a British satellite. From what looked the British space museum in Manchester, Time Peake stood under the display of Britain’s Black Knight rocket and the Prospero satellite. He explained how the rocket launched the satellite into space from Australia in 1975. However, the project was then cancelled, which meant that Britain is the only country so far which has developed, and then discarded rocket technology.

But Black Knight wasn’t the only space rocket Britain developed. Peake then moved on to talk about Skylark, a massively successful sounding rocket. Developed for high altitude research, the rocket reached a maximum of altitude of 400 km in the few minutes it was in flight. At its apogee – its maximum distance from Earth – the vehicle briefly experienced a few minutes of zero gravity, during which experiments could be performed exploring this environment. The Skylark rocket was used for decades before it was finally cancelled.

Aderin-Pocock asked the official from Orbex how long it would be before the spaceport would be up and running. The manager replied that this was always an awkward question to answer, as there was always something that meant operations and flights would start later than expected. He said, however, that they were aiming at around the end of 2020 and perhaps the beginning of 2021.

Orbex are not, however, the only space company planning to open a spaceport in Britain. Virgin Galactic have their own plans to launch rockets in to space from Cornwall. Their vehicle will not, however, be launched from the ground like a conventional rocket, but will first be carried to a sufficiently high altitude by an airplane, which would then launch it. I’m not a betting man, but my guess is that of the two, Orbex is the far more likely to get off the ground, as it were, and begin launching its rocket on schedule. As I’ve blogged about previously, Branson has been telling everyone since the late 1990s at least, that Virgin Galactic are going to be flying tourists into space in just a few months from now. This fortnight’s Private Eye published a brief list of the number of times Branson had said that, with dates. It might be that Branson will at last send the first of his aspiring astronauts up in the next few months, as he claimed last week. But from his previous form, it seems far more likely that Orbex will start launches before him, as will Branson’s competitors over the pond, Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos.

When asked about the company’s capability of perfecting their technology, Orbex’s manager not stressed the skill and competence of the scientists, technicians and engineers working on the project. This included not just conventional space scientists, but also people, who had personally tried and failed to build their own spacecraft. He said that it was extremely important to fail to build rockets. He’s obviously referring to the many non-professional, hobby rocketeers out there trying to build their own spacecraft. He didn’t mention them, but one example would be the people at Starchaser, who started out as a small group of enthusiasts in Yorkshire but have gone on to create their own space company, now based across the pond in America. I think it’s brilliant that amateurs and semi-professionals have developed skills that the professionals in the industry find valuable. And the failures are important, as they show what can go wrong, and give the experience and necessary information on how to avoid it. I don’t think the rocket will be wholly built in this country. The manager said that some of it was being constructed in Copenhagen. This sounds like Copenhagen Suborbitals, a Danish team of rocket scientists, who are trying to put a person into space. They’re ex-NASA, I believe, but it’s a small, private venture. They have a webpage and have posted videos on YouTube, some of which I’ve reblogged. They’ve also said they’re keen for people to join them, or start their own rocket projects.

I’d been looking forward to that edition of the Sky at Night for the past week, but when the time came, it slipped my mind that it was on. I’m very glad I was able to catch it. If Orbex are successful, it will be the first time that a British satellite will launch a British satellite from here in Britain. And it sounds really optimistic. Not only will Britain be returning to space rocket development, but the Scots spaceport sounds like it will, hopefully, bring work to a depressed area. I’m also confident that the local environment there will also be preserved. The launch complex around NASA is necessarily so remote from other buildings, that it’s actually become a wildlife haven. So much so that it’s now a location for birdwatching.

When it was announced that they were planning to build a new spaceport in Scotland, I assumed it would be for Skylon, the British spaceplane. There had been articles in the paper about the spacecraft, which stated that it would be launched either from Scotland or Cornwall. It seems I was wrong, and that it’s Orbex’s rocket which will be launched there instead. But nevertheless, I wish Orbex every success in their venture, and hope that sometime soon Skylon will also join them in flight out on the High Frontier.

Liberals’ ‘free speech’ crusade is an attack on right to protest

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 14/10/2018 - 7:15pm in

Liberal Education Minister Dan Tehan has launched an anti-protest crusade in the name of “free speech” on campuses.

In late September, he called on University Vice Chancellors from the elite Group of Eight universities to charge students for security costs if they wanted to protest on campus.

The proposal came after students at Sydney Uni protested a Liberal Club “Fake Rape Crisis Tour” event featuring Bettina Arndt. Arndt is an appalling right-wing ideologue who promotes the idea that there is no rape crisis on campus.

This is despite the Human Rights Commission report last August that revealed the alarming extent of sexual harassment and assault at universities.

Tehan postured as a defender of free speech to justify his attack on protesters, saying:

“We’ve seen some examples where groups have tried to prevent forums taking place, and I think what we have to ensure is that where that is happening, there is an ability—especially on our university campuses—for those events to go ahead”.

Right-wing Herald Sun columnist Andrew Bolt also joined the chorus, railing against “thuggery from the Left“, despite Arndt’s Sydney Uni event going ahead as planned.

Donald Trump’s Presidency in the US has given confidence to racists, sexists and homophobes the world over. Women face very real consequences if the kind of sexism Trump champions is further entrenched.

Liberal PM Scott Morrison was eager to give Trump’s politics legitimacy, inviting him to visit Australia in November. And his government has backed Bettina Arndt’s disgraceful “free speech” to the hilt. This only serves to underline why the likes of Arndt should be met with disruptive mass protests wherever they rear their heads. Their brand of viciously sexist politics shouldn’t go unchallenged on campus or anywhere else.

Whose free speech?

The free speech of bigots and right-wingers isn’t under threat.

Bettina Ardnt is a columnist for Murdoch’s The Australian, the only national daily paper in the country. Andrew Bolt gets to use the Herald Sun as a megaphone for his views—one of Australia’s most highly circulated tabloids. Not only that, but he also has a Fox News style TV show on Sky and a radio program.

The likes of Arndt and Bolt get a huge platform because they spout the kind of right-wing views that corporate media bosses approve of. Australia has one of the most concentrated media markets in the world. Murdoch’s News Limited controls 70 per cent of newspaper circulation alone. There are only three commercial TV stations in each city.

All the big media outlets are owned by the rich and promote views that defend their basic interests. Even the ABC is desperate to show it is “balanced” by only permitting a narrow range of political opinions and excluding overly left-wing views.

The grossly unequal system of media ownership in capitalist society means there is no real freedom of speech.

The Liberals also have zero reservations about squashing freedom of speech when it suits them.

Espionage laws passed this year give the government the power to prosecute and imprison whistle-blowers who “prejudice national security” with harsher penalties than before. Anti-terror laws passed in 2015 threaten journalists who report on “special intelligence operations” with up to ten years’ jail.

Workers who take stopwork action to rally over political issues are breaking the laws that ban strikes.

It is the freedom of speech of the working class and ordinary people that needs to be defended, not the freedom of speech for bosses, corporations and right-wing ideologues.

No free speech for fascists

The hypocrisy of the Liberals’ cry for free speech, and the massively unequal access to media platforms, doesn’t mean we are for denying free speech to all right-wing speakers on principle.

We are for empowering workers and the oppressed to protest and disrupt appearances by the rich and powerful.

But the “no platform” approach—refusing to let groups speak or gather publicly- is non-negotiable only in the case of fascists. Fascists aim to build a street movement that can use physical violence to attack minorities, trade unionists and the left with the ultimate goal of installing a dictatorship. The far right is a growing threat, particularly in Europe. Many of these groups have fascist organisations at their core.

The Football Lads Alliance in the UK is one such organisation. It has organised thousands to take to the streets on anti-Muslim marches. They have done Nazi salutes and physically attacked trade unionists and minorities. Strong counter mobilisations that block their marches and deny them the “freedom” to go on racist rampages have been an absolute necessity. It is extremely dangerous to accept the idea of universal freedom of speech in the face of such a threat.

By Adam Adelpour

The post Liberals’ ‘free speech’ crusade is an attack on right to protest appeared first on Solidarity Online.

Three Arrows Attacks the Right-Wing Myth of ‘Cultural Marxism’

Three Arrows is a German vlogger, who makes videos attacking and refuting the lies and assertions of the internet far right. These are reactionary, anti-feminist and anti-immigrant – some would also say racist – personalities like Stefan Molyneaux, Jordan Peterson, Carl Benjamin AKA ‘Sargon of Akkad’ and Paul Joseph Watson, who was formerly Alex Jones’ little Brit buddy on Infowars. In the video below, he tackles the myth of ‘cultural Marxism’. This is the belief amongst the transatlantic extreme right that a group of Marxist intellectuals are trying to destroy western culture from within through feminism, immigration, postmodernism, gay and trans rights and other radical movements. They trace this movement back to the German Frankfurt School of radical Marxist thinkers, which included Horkheimer, Jurgen Habermas and Theodor Adorno.

I’m putting up this video as it is directly relevant to the issue of some of the extremist literature that was found at the Tory conference this week. Mike over at Vox Political reported a piece by Vice that an extremist pamphlet, Moralitis: A Cultural Virus, had been found at a meeting of the Thatcherite, right-wing organization, the Bruges group, at the conference. This used the metaphor of a virus to describe the spread of left-wing ideas, particularly a positive attitude to immigration and Islam. These were attacking western culture, and were being promoted and orchestrated by ‘Cultural Marxists’.

Three Arrows shows how similar the modern Right’s ideas of Cultural Marxism to the Nazi idea of Cultural Bolshevism. The Nazis also believed that the Bolsheviks were spreading radical cultural and intellectual movements to bring down traditional western, and especially German culture, with the Jews at the centre of this Marxist conspiracy.

The modern right-wing myth of cultural Marxism started with two Americans, Pat Buchanan and William S. Lint. Buchanan wrote two books, The Death of the West: How Dying Populations and Immigrant Invasions Imperil Our Country and Civilisation and Churchill, Hitler and the Unnecessary War: How Britain Lost its Empire and the West Lost the World. Three Arrows states that Buchanan is a palaeoconservative who has complained that there are too many Jews on the American supreme court. In the first book, he argued that the cultural Marxists, referring to the Frankfurt School, were trying to de-Christianise and subvert the country. This meant making America more open to issues like homosexuality. The second book argued that Britain should never have declared war on Nazi Germany, and the Holocaust was the consequence of its doing so.

Lint is more overtly right-wing and racist. He calls for hanging as the punishment for crime, but only in ‘urban areas’. Which is a dog-whistle reference to Black ghettos. In 1989 he told a conference that political correctness and cultural Marxism had turned American universities in little ‘North Koreas’, in which dissenters would be persecuted and punished by ‘gender feminists’ and homosexual activists. In 2002 Lint spoke at a conference organized by the Barnes Review, a Holocaust revisionist rag, in front self-described Holocaust revisionists, anti-Semites and neo-Nazis. The character of the rag is shown by the cover of the issue Three Arrows puts up, which shows Adolf Hitler at a rally, with the caption, ‘In Defence of Adolf Hitler’. Lint is not, however, a Holocaust denier. He again talked about how the Frankfurt school were responsible for the ideas destroying America, and said that they were all Jewish. For which he was greeted with rapturous applause from the stormtroopers.

Three Arrows then goes on to discuss how, contrary to what Buchanan, Lint and their successors believe, the Frankfurt school were very definitely not supporters of postmodernism, and wished to preserve western culture. Indeed, Jurgen Habermas was one of postmodernism’s fiercest critics. He attacked the founders and major figures in postmodernism – Jacques Derrida, Foucault and Nietzsche contradicted themselves by using the methods of western rationalism to attack western rationalism. He also criticized Nietzsche for destroying the unity religion had given wester culture. The Frankfurt School were also appalled at the uniformity and coarseness of modern culture and expressed this in terms that resemble some of the comments of right-wing mouthpieces like Paul Joseph Watson. The difference, however, was that Theodor Adorno, who voiced these criticisms of the modern culture industry, placed the blame for western cultural decline on capitalism. Horkheimer, Adorno, Lowenthal and the other members of the School wished to preserve and promote western values like rationality and personal freedom. They believed that capitalism itself threatened Enlightenment values, and some of them attacked postmodernism, pop culture and ‘political correctness’. Three Arrows also makes the point that they wouldn’t have supported changing the culture to bring about Communism, because this contradicted the Marxist doctrine that this could only be done through changing society’s economic base.

Three Arrows also makes the point that there is absolutely no evidence for this ‘cultural Marxist’ conspiracy. Wikipedia had to move its entry for it to that of the Frankfurt School, because none of its readers could provide any. There are no Marxist countries in the West. And in Three Arrows’ homeland, Germany, in which Marx was born, the two biggest Marxist parties – the German Communist Party and the Marxist-Leninist Party together got less than 0.1 per cent of the vote combined. He suggests that instead of a secret Marxist conspiracy, these changes in western society owe more instead to politicians and businesses adopting ‘political correctness’ to appeal to a wider audience. As for left-wing students, they have always been around, and some of them do stupid things. Like the two young women in the late ’60s who took off their clothes and started kissing Adorno as a protest against ‘patriarchal structures’. For which Adorno called the cops and had them removed.

Three Arrows then argues that the similarity between the Nazis’ Cultural Bolshevism and the ‘Cultural Marxism’ of modern right-wing internet pundits like Stefan Molyneaux, Sargon of Akkad and Paul Joseph Watson isn’t coincidental. They both require their audience to accept the existence of this conspiracy on their word alone, without any supporting proof. The only difference is that Molyneaux, Sargon, Watson and the others aren’t anti-Semites. For them, the group responsible for this conspiracy aren’t the Jews, but the globalists. But their opinions do validate the Nazis’ own conspiratorial beliefs about Marxism, even while they decry the Nazis’ actions and murder of the Jews.

Three Arrows also makes the point that Molyneaux et al are massively wrong about the ‘Decline of the West’. According to them, Germany should have collapsed several times over by now. But Three Arrows declares with biting irony that he has no doubt that the Caliphate will be declared soon.

This is a good, short account of the idea of cultural Marxism, which makes it clear that it is just another extreme right-wing conspiracy theory, advanced and promoted by fringe ideologues with no real understanding of what the Frankfurt School actually was. Buchanan, Lint and the rest of them have mixed it up with the ideas of the Italian Marxist, Antonio Gramsci, who did believe that a change in culture could be use to alter social relations and society’s economic base.

As for Buchanan himself, he’s a Republican politician notorious for his extreme ideas. A pro-gun nut, he and his followers once went through a crowd
holding their guns in the air, crying ‘Lock and Load’ – basically, ‘take aim and fire’. Back in the 1990s he won an election in New Hampshire as part, I think, of the presidential primaries. The edition of the Radio 4’s Postcard from Gotham, a weekly show covering events in America over the previous week, began with a piece of Italian dialogue from the film Il Postino, which was then in cinemas. The show’s presenter, Joe Queenan, instead joked that it was Italian Fascist leader Benito Mussolini congratulating Buchanan on his success. He and his guests discussed the rise of the Right in America and Europe, and one of them, a Jewish woman, stated that despite his denials Buchanan was an anti-Semite. Going back to the subject of New Hampshire, Queenan joked yet again that now Buchanan had won the nomination for that state, all you could hear up there were cries of ‘Duce! Duce!’

Cultural Marxism doesn’t exist. It’s just a malicious conspiracy theory promoted by extreme right-wingers to attack the Left, and provide a spurious explanation for the social changes they fear and dislike – like gay rights, immigration, particularly Muslim communities and the decline of traditional morality. But while Cultural Marxism is a myth, those promoting it are a real threat to today’s culture of tolerance and pluralism.

Vox Political on the Insulting Appointment of Jackie Doyle-Price as ‘Suicide Prevention Minister’

Yesterday, Wednesday 10th October 2018, was World Mental Health Awareness Day. Mental health has become a major issue, with this country in particular seeing increasing rates of depression, particularly amongst school and university students, not to mention the poor, the disabled and the unemployed. According to yesterday’s I newspaper, 4,500 people take their lives every year, and a total of 6,213 people killed themselves last year in the UK and Eire. It’s the leading cause of death in blokes under 45. Guys in the UK are three times more likely to end it all than women, and in Eire the rate is four times.

With this such an issue, Tweezer decided to make a world first by appointing Jackie Doyle-Price as the world’s first Minister for Mental Health, Inequalities and Suicide Prevention. The I yesterday published this pic of Doyle-Price grinning into a camera.

According to the paper, her responsibilities will include ensuring that every local area has a plan to prevent unnecessary deaths. She is also going to be investigating how technology can be used to identify those most at risk.

It also quoted her as saying

“I understand how tragic, devastating and long-lasting the effect of suicide can be on families and communities. In my time as health minister I have met many people who have been bereaved by suicide and their stories of pain and loss will stay with me for a long time.

“It’s these people who need to be at the heart of what we do and I welcome this opportunity to work closely with them as well as experts, to oversee a cross-Government suicide prevention plan, making their sure their views are always heard.” (p.3).

Which are fine words, but from her voting record and previous attitude to the poor and desperate, it’s a pack of lies.

Mike posted an article today pointing out the critical role Tory policies towards the poor, such as cutting benefits, had contributed immensely to rise the suicide. He notes that the inquest into the death of Stephanie Bottrill, who was worried about the bedroom tax, found that the stress caused by the Tory government of the day resulted in her taking her own life.

His article then goes on to quote a piece about it from Nursing Notes, who stated that

“Statistics show that those with long-term physical or mental health issues are significantly more likely to be dependent on the state for assistance with housing and living costs.

“Social isolation, financial and health struggles are thought to be some of the leading risk factors for preventable suicide in the UK.”

It also quoted Vicki Nash, the head of policy and campaigns at the mental health charity, MIND, who said

“MIND found that half of people with mental health problems have thought about or attempted suicide as a result of social issues such as housing issues, finances, benefit support, and employment. We need a benefits system that is supportive – not one that drives people into poverty.”

Which is precisely what the Tory attitude to the welfare state and their wretched reforms don’t do. Thatcher wanted to destroy the welfare state completely, including the NHS. She was prevented from doing so, but she was determined to make getting benefits as hard, cruel and degrading as possible to deter people from going on it. It was one of the wretched ‘Victorian values’ she took over, the principle of ‘less eligibility’ underlying the poverty and degradation of the workhouse. And the Tories have gone on with the same attitude ever since, followed by Blair’s equally revolting New Labour.

Mike has, in his articles, argued strongly that there is a deliberate policy of ‘chequebook euthansia’ behind the Tories’ welfare reforms. It seems as though they’re consciously and deliberately planned to drive the most vulnerable to suicide, so Cameron, Tweezer, IDS, Esther McDeath and the whole sordid lot can save more money, and give more tax cuts to the filthy, pointlessly rich. There’s a nasty strain of Social Darwinism in the Republican Party on the other side of the Atlantic, and it’s in the Tories over here as well. In the survival of the economic fittest, these parties see the rich and business leaders as the biologically superior. And the poor have only themselves to blame – it’s all due to their inferior constitutions. In the Social Darwinism of the 19th century, such people would always be with humanity. The only solution was to stop them breeding by denying them welfare support and sterilizing them. Or simply murdering them, as the Nazis did with their notorious Aktion T4.

And there can be little doubt that Tory policies are driving the poor and vulnerable to take their own lives. Despite repeated whines by the Conservatives that ‘correlation doesn’t indicate causation’, some of those, who have killed themselves left notes, which stated plainly that there were doing so because of the stress of benefit cuts and sanctions. Mike’s article states that 1/2 of all women claiming benefits have thought about killing themselves.

So how does Doyle-Price herself measure up in this? Well, abysmally, as it happens. She voted for raising the bedroom tax, voted against increasing benefits in line with inflation, voted against increasing benefits for the long-term sick and disabled, and voted 46 times in favour of cutting benefits. This was also in Mike’s article from Nursing Notes, who took it from They Work For You.

Worse. She added insult to grievous wounding by laughing about the subject. Yep, she’s also joked about suicide.

I’m not surprised about that either. The Tories have absolutely no sympathy for the suffering of the poor. They really do think it’s a jolly joke. Like when Cameron and Ian Duncan Smith were caught on TV laughing in parliament when one woman’s account of the troubles she’d had claiming benefit were read out. They had a good guffaw, like some Nazi version of the Chuckle Brothers.

Nor is the DWP sympathetic to those with suicidal thoughts. When one claimant said that they were depressed and thinking of suicide, one DWP clerk asked them why they hadn’t done it already.

Mike in his article quotes the reactions of a number of people to the news that Doyle-Price has been appointed to this post. Keith Ordinary Guy said it was like curing malaria with the plague. Matt Turner said it was a grotesque slap in the face to those struggling on. And Samuel Miller, a friend of Mike’s blog, who’s been campaigning for disabled students since attending McGill University in the 1970s, said that nothing angered him more than the government’s maltreatment of the sick and disabled.

He also posted this tweet:

“Was her appointment merely a sop to counter alarming headlines about the soaring rate of suicides and attempted suicides among sick and disabled claimants, mostly triggered by loss of benefits.”

Mike concludes his article with this:

Was it? I don’t think so.

I think it was a signal; they appointed the least appropriate person for the job because they think the deaths and attempted deaths of hundreds of thousands of people are nothing but a big joke. They really are that repulsive.

I don’t think there’s any contradiction between these two positions. Yes, it is a sop to counter the headlines about the soaring suicide rate. And yes, the Tories do find it all a joke, and so deliberately appointed the least appropriate person.

She’s there not because she has any real sympathy with the mentally ill, the depressed, the disabled and suicidal. She’s there purely to make sure the system carries on, while limiting any damage to the party that appointed her. She’s just a mouthpiece, who’s simply there to spout reassuring platitudes and assure the public that the Tories are taking this issue seriously. And all the while she’s going to laugh about it behind her back.

Get her out, get Tweezer out and the whole wretched lot of them OUT! Before they drive any more people to their deaths.

Vox Political on the Racist, Islamophobic Booklets at the Tory Conference

Mike also raised further questions about the prevalence of racism in the Tory party in an article he put up about a report by Vice that they had discovered far-right literature at a meeting of the Bruges group, a Thatcherite anti-EU group within the Tories. The book in question was Moralitis: A Cultural Virus. This was a long, racist rant against ‘Cultural Marxism’ using the metaphor of bacteriology. It stated that

The body politic has become infected. Like the growth of bacteria in a petri dish, the subversive tenets of cultural Marxism have spread as a pinking of the public discourse.

Mike goes on to explain that ‘Cultural Marxism’

refers to a far-right conspiracy theory with its origins in anti-Semitic beliefs that Jews – as a culture – want to undermine traditional Western values.

In its modern variant it seems to be a product of the Republicans in America. Right-wing organisations like Prager U and Paul Joseph Watson, formerly Alex Jones’ Brit sidekick on Infowars, rant about it. It seems to be based on a confused and garbled understanding of the German Frankfurt School and Antonio Gramsci. Gramsci was a Marxist, who turned Marxism on its head by discussing and analyzing how culture helped perpetuate capitalism. In orthodox Marxism, it’s the other way round: the economic basis of society determines the culture. Scholars from the Marxist Frankfurt School sought refuge in America when the Nazis took power. In the form the Republicans and their followers over here are retailing, there’s no explicit reference to Jews, and I think many of those who have adopted this view may also believe the lie that anti-Semitism is also something unique to the Left.

But critics of the idea have also pointed out that the idea of ‘Cultural Marxism’ actually goes all the way back to the Nazis and their idea of Kulturbolschevismus – Cultural Bolshevism. This was the idea that the supposed Jewish plot to enslave White Aryans, and particularly Germans, included the destruction of German culture. Jews were members of many of the modernist movements in art, music and literature the Nazis despised, such as 12 note Serialism in music and Expressionism. And so the Nazis and anti-Semitic mobs angrily denounced anything dangerously modern as ‘Jewish’.

Mike goes on to quote the Vice article on the contents of this nasty booklet.

The Vice article states: “The booklet blames immigration for “relentless population growth” and suggests that the growth of Britain’s Muslim population was “a deliberate policy to replace one set of voters with another”. It also notes that it is absurd for progressives to favour immigration, “considering the very conservative cultures that they bring” – for instance, “the growth of fundamentalist Islam”.” It goes on to suggest that such “progressives” are like turkeys voting for Christmas.

He explains that

This refers to a far-right conspiracy theory called “The Great Replacement”, that believes Western culture is being systematically “replaced” by the culture of immigrants from third-world continents who are allegedly “pawns for the revolutionary zeal of cultural Marxism”.

This idea is merely a modern version of the old conspiracy theory that the Jews are encouraging racial mixing in order to destroy the White race. You may remember that the Nazis and Klansmen marching through Charlottesville last year chanted ‘You will not replace us!’ and ‘Jews will not replace us!’ It also seems to be partly based on the fact that some parts of the radical American Left in the early part of this century did look forward to immigrants from Latin America and elsewhere revitalizing American radicalism. You also hear regularly on this side of the Atlantic the claim that Blair deliberately allowed in greater numbers of immigrants because he wanted to create a multicultural society that the Tories would be unable to undo or appeal to. This claim was first made by a former civil servant under Blair, who remains its only source. And the positive attitude of the American Left towards immigration, and its alleged deliberate increase by Blair are far from being the racist plot the anti-Semitic conspiracy theory claims.

As for the book’s title, Moralitis is ominously similar to the Nazis’ explicit rejection, common to Fascism generally, of humanitarianism.

As for the claim that Muslim immigration presents a particular danger because of the conservative nature of those societies, there is indeed a problem with the very hardline, intolerant form of Islam promoted by the Saudis. And I can remember one moderate Muslim imam complaining in the Financial Times back in the 1990s that the lack of properly trained Muslim clergy in Britain meant that dangerous fanatics and bigots were able to come here from Pakistan unchecked in order to meet this spiritual need. However, this was before 9/11 and I doubt very much the same type of clergy find it quite so easy to get into this country or others in the EU. Furthermore, many, if not the majority of the Islamic terrorists so far caught are second or third generation Brits, coming from integrated, westernized homes. Anjem Chaudhury, the raving bigot behind a whole host of Islamist organisations in Britain and Europe, like Sharia4UK, is an example of this. Before he converted to hardline Islam and became an ardent, vocal supporter of terrorism, Chaudhury was a law student at Oxbridge. He managed to fail his degree, largely due to drink and drugs. While many people reach out to religion and God during personal crises like that, they don’t all of them by any means decide that the way to the divine is by the destruction of their surrounding society and the murder of its people. It looks to me very much like Chaudhury and those like him turned to nihilistic, destructive Islamism because of their own personal failings and destructive tendencies. They aren’t representative of wider British Islamic culture.

Mike’s article concludes

The meeting of the Bruges Group was said to be well attended this year, with a cabinet whip keeping watch over hard-Brexiteer MPs – that’s right, Conservative members of Parliament have been swallowing this tripe.

The title of his article asks ‘Are these far-right, racist booklets influencing Conservative MPs?’

It’s a good question. Even if they aren’t, they show that people elsewhere in the Tory party are reading them, and are being influenced. Which in turn shows that vehement racism is still a powerful force amongst the ‘Nasty Party’.

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