The Problem With Matthew Goodwin

Politics expert Matthew Goodwin eats his book live on Sky News ...

You may have seen Professor Matthew Goodwin (above eating pages from his book) on television or heard him speak on the radio. Perhaps you may have read his tweets or articles on the internet. Goodwin, professor of Politics at the University of Kent, is one of the media’s go-to experts on all issues political, including citizenship, nationality and identity, and the discourses which stem from those issues.

That Prof. Goodwin is an expert in his field isn’t in doubt. He’s a visiting fellow at Chatham House, after all. According to their website, his…

…work focuses on British and European politics, extremism, immigration and Euroscepticism.

So far, so good.

He’s a pretty telegenic fellow, who always appears so plausible, even on controversial issues like race and racism. It is on these issues that the Cat takes issue with the Prof.

Since the brutal killing of George Floyd, captured on camera and sent around the world in a split second, the United States and the rest of the world has been outraged by what they see as, not just a simple clear-cut case of police brutality on an unarmed civilian, but yet another example of the systemic racism that’s stained civil society in the USA for centuries. Such matters don’t appear to have concerned the Prof, who believes that, even in the UK, racism is, apparently, on a downward spiral to its imminent demise. What’s more, he says he has the statistics to support his claim, but all is not what it seems.

A few days ago, I found this tweet, which asserts:

The first sentence of his tweet uses the terrible construction “woke-ism”, which is utilised as a linguistic weapon to diminish the demands for justice following the killing of George Floyd. The tone has been set and the tweet follows the, by now, familiar pattern of Goodwin’s “racial” tweets. The discourse behind this tweet is unequivocal: he neither approves of Black Lives Matters, nor does he approve the removal of controversial memorials to slavers. However, he patently lacks the courage to say so directly, and instead, conceals himself beneath a carpet of numbers.

Given his Goodwin’s fondness for surveys, I thought that I’d have a look and see for myself the reasons for his jubilation. I found that the YouGov survey that he links to doesn’t provide a breakdown of which social groups – that is to say, ethnicities, rather than the usual demographics (age, gender, region and so on) – were surveyed. For all we know, YouGov could have polled an entirely white cohort of respondents. The questions themselves are also problematic, because they appear to steer the respondent towards the “correct” reply. The relevant questions appear as part of what’s called an omnibus survey in the polling business. I previously discussed the problems with polling companies in this 2016 article.

That Goodwin seizes on this survey, which was commissioned by The S*n on Sunday, a Murdoch paper with a poor reputation on matters of race and equality, with such unabashed glee, reveals more about him and his motives than he actually realises.

Goodwin always seems at pains to dismiss the level of racism in Britain. The question is why does he seem so eager to diminish the actual experience of, not just people of colour, but the experiences of other minority groups, like Gypsies, Roma and Travellers, whom Goodwin appears to have ignored in his analysis.

Last August, Goodwin tweeted the following with an accompanying graph, which is itself flaunted like a magic amulet to ward off awkward questions about the integrity of his claims.

In January, he was questioned about his use of statistics by Dr Christine Cheng. Goodwin was pretty dismissive.

For a man with probably no direct experience of racism, Goodwin tells Dr Cheng, a woman who has probably experienced racism firsthand, that he would be happy to ‘debate racism’ with her. I find that, not just insulting, but patronising as well. His reply is unbelievably smug and condescending, but it’s mixed with a cold and clinical detachment of the subject of racism, which is in his claim that “evidence” points to a ‘long-term decline in racial prejudice’. Perhaps, he’d like to present his “evidence” to the victims of racially-aggravated assaults, like K, in Bristol, who was hit by a car carrying three white youths, who shouted racist epithets as they fled the scene.

Then, there’s the story of a black family who came home to find a swastika daubed on their front door. There are plenty more examples, here, here and here. Today, a Black senior civil servant was accused by police of car theft while out jogging. She was clearly profiled. Yet, Goodwin ignores the real life experiences, like these, of everyday racism to advance a pretty shaky thesis of racism-in-retreat. He’s not interested in people’s stories; he only wants spreadsheets and statistics. He’s a political scientist, and perhaps he sees himself as a “real” scientist in relation to those effete social scientists. Yet, as any social science and humanities researcher will tell you, numbers don’t tell the whole story, but Goodwin thinks otherwise. Political Science and its allied fields are just as much as social science as Sociology or Anthropology. It is therefore not as pure (sic) a science as some of its adherents may claim.

Unsurprisingly, Goodwin has also written for the contrarian website, Spiked. In this article, he plugs his book, co-authored with Roger Eatwell, which seeks to explain the rise of so-called “populism” (read neo-fascism). Daniel Trilling does an excellent job at taking apart their claims in this article for the London Review of Books, as does Martin Shaw in this article for Politics.co.uk.

One of Eatwell and Goodwin’s key moves is to define ‘racism’ so narrowly that the populists mostly escape. It should be confined, they say, “to the erroneous and dangerous belief that the world is divided into hierarchically ordered races, to anti-Semitism which plays more on conspiracy theory, and to violence and aggressive attitudes towards others based on their ethnicity”. But that’s it. “Where the disparagement and fear of different cultural groups is not linked to this form of systematic thinking” they prefer the term ‘xenophobia’.

Goodwin, in common with his associates in the Continuity Revolutionary Communist Party (CRCP), refuses to acknowledge the existence of structural and institutional forms of racism. Unsurprisingly, he’s pleased at Boris Johnson’s appointment of CRCP alumna, Munira Mirza, to head the government’s racial inequality commission.

The smugness, the arrogance, the boastful claims, the dismissal of critical race theory as a purely emotional pursuit. This kind of discourse is as deeply unpleasant as it is worrying.

In this tweet, he claims to be above ideology, and appears to suggest that research can be conducted in an ideological vacuum and yet, if you look at his tweets and articles, there is a discourse there. I saw this kind of thing nearly 20 years ago on US internet forums, like Delphi Forums, which are populated by right-wing zealots, many of whom claimed to be “above ideology”.

So where does Goodwin really stand politically? He’s never one to declare, upfront, his political biases. Perhaps, he believes he’s above such things or that he’s truly objective and unbiased. But no one is free of bias or discourse. Maybe this article on the right-wing site UnHerd can shed some light. Goodwin reports on a recent Policy Studies (there are significant links between them and the Continuity RCP) report that claims universities “shut out” conservative academics. Here’s an excerpt from Goodwin’s article.

Fast forward to today, however, and you do not need to look hard to find a growing sense of public alarm about how these ancient and much-cherished freedoms are under serious threat. This concern over the surveillance of speech, the dismissal of controversial or problematic speakers and anxieties over a new “cancel culture” perhaps explain why, only last week, one of Britain’s leading pollsters found that nearly one in every two of us believe that “people these days are less free to say what they think”.

But most worrying of all is how these freedoms seem to be under attack in the one place where people are supposed to feel completely free to say what they think: higher education. Universities, in theory at least, are meant to be the purest example of the marketplace of ideas — institutions where we debate and discuss the pursuit of truth from different perspectives and where, along the way, we develop well-rounded, critical thinkers who go on to become the leaders of tomorrow.

But something, somewhere has gone fundamentally wrong. At least that’s the conclusion one draws after reading an important new Policy Exchange report, Academic Freedom in the UK: Protecting Viewpoint Diversity, co-authored by Remi Adekoya, Eric Kaufmann and Thomas Simpson. It paints a depressing picture of what is unfolding in our universities. Based on the largest survey of academics that has been carried out in years, it suggests that many of our higher education institutions are failing to protect and promote the “viewpoint diversity” that has long been one of their core strengths.

In recent years British universities have drifted way to the Left. Three-quarters of academics who were surveyed support Left-wing parties; fewer than one in five support parties of the Right. Just 9% of academics in the social sciences and humanities voted to Leave the European Union and just 7% identify as “right of centre”. It also points to how those who do deviate from the orthodoxy experience a tough time. Only 54%of academics would feel comfortable sitting next to a Leave supporter over lunch, and just 37% would feel comfortable sitting next to somebody who holds gender-critical views.

If British universities have “drifted way to the Left”, then I haven’t noticed it. What I’ve actually witnessed is the way in which universities have been corporatized and subjected to market logic, and have come under increased attack from the Right, which sees them as hotbeds of leftist plots to overthrow “civilization”. Jonathan Portes of the LSE has written an excellent riposte to Goodwin’s screed here.

This notion that universities subject students to “left-wing indoctrination” is a charge which has been levelled at them for decades, and has recently gained more traction in the right-wing media. More recently, campus “free speech” has been taken up as a cause by the likes of Spiked, who claim, inter alia, that “free speech” is being “no platformed” at universities. Indeed, it is easy to dismiss such claims by simply stating that universities are places of discussion, argumentation, analysis and debate; they are not schools, nor should they be regarded as such.

Let’s return to Goodwin’s fondness for cold statistics. It’s fairly obvious to anyone who’s conducted academic research that there are significant drawbacks to relying solely on quantitative methodologies to make determinations of how society sees itself. Perhaps this is the reason why Goodwin cleaves so tightly to numbers: because he believes they’re impersonal and sees them as inherently “unbiased” or “scientific” and are thus beyond criticism. Not true. Although, the collection and analysis of data is much quicker than with qualitative methods, the drawbacks of quantitative methods are straightforward.

  • Numbers alone cannot provide a complete picture.
  • Superficiality
  • It’s difficult to set up a workable research model
  • Can be misleading

By contrast, qualitative research often takes more time and effort to set up. There are question frames to produce, potential interviewees to be identified, interviews to be transcribed and the data has to be analyzed and interpreted. Thus, the data produced is richer than by utilising pure quantitative methodologies. Quantitative research may ask questions, but its aim is to produce raw data in the form of statistics, which are then analyzed and their meaning extrapolated. The only way in which views of whether Britain is racist can be more accurately measured is through the use of a mixed methodology. Surveys, like those produced by polling companies such as YouGov tell us nothing. They are at best a distorted snapshot riven with bias and the commissioner’s ideological intent. Hence their enduring appeal with mental onanists and petty point-scorers alike.

The BBC Radio 4 programme, More or Less, debunks the way in which statistics and numbers are used and misused in politics and in everyday life. It opens with the phrase “numbers aren’t neutral”. Goodwin et al would be wise to tune in.

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Conduct Unbecoming: The Guardian And The State Of The British Press

Print media has been in a parlous state for decades and the coronavirus pandemic, which has affected sales, has seen journalists from newspapers like The S*n beg people to buy their papers. I must confess that I stopped buying newspapers over 20 years ago. Not because I felt that they were gaslighting me, but because I saw them as a waste of money. I’d buy the weekend Guardian and would never read all of it. I simply didn’t have the time. Something had to give and it was the Guardian that went.

Since The Guardian (and The Observer) announced that it was to shed 180 jobs, the cry from the country’s journalists – especially those working for The Guardian – has been, predictably, one of dismay. Job losses are always regrettable. However, the way these journalists have reacted to supporters of former Labour Party leader, Jeremy Corbyn, who are ridiculed by the same journalists as “Corbynistas”, a word coined to situate Democratic Socialism as something foreign, maybe “unBritish” and perhaps, Latin American, has been unseemly. Yes, many on the left have delighted over the paper’s misfortunes and not without good reason. However, the response from Britain’s journalists has been to gaslight and bully those who’ve taken the view that the paper deserves its karmic fate.

The Guardian’s left-wing readers, who assumed that the paper shared their views, have felt a sense of schadenfreude over the possibility of the paper actually folding. This has raised the hackles of Britain’s press corps, most of whom probably aren’t actually journalists or reporters, but purveyors of opinions. Indeed, this is where the paper has gone wrong: it blurred the line between factual reporting and opinion-forming, and over the course of the last five years, it has offered up opinions as fact, and has pursued an anti-Corbyn smear campaign.

First, we need to be clear about something: the Guardian is not and never has been a left-wing paper. It has always been a Liberal paper and was founded to reflect the views of Northern Liberals in the 19th century. It had a brief moment in the 1930s when it won praise from left-wingers for its coverage of the Spanish Civil War. Since that time, the editorial line of the paper has intersected with the views of large sections of the British Left. That is no more. About 10 years ago, the paper decided to take a more right-wing line, perhaps because of its reporting of Operation Cast Lead and pressure from sites like, CiFWatch (now called CAMERA UK).

The Guardian has some left-leaning writers who offered qualifed support for Corbyn like Owen Jones, Aditya Chakrabortty, Nesrine Malik and a few more. However, the paper is dominated by white Liberal and right-wing writers like Jonathan Freedland, Marina Hyde, Gaby Hinsliff, Hadley Freeman (who?), Nick Cohen, John Harris, Jessica Elgot, Rafael Behr and Matthew D’Ancona (chair of moderate Tory think-tank, Bright Blue) who were opposed to Corbyn. Harris, a former music journalist, spent a great deal of time telling readers he was some kind of spokesperson for the working class, but was quite prepared leave them to the clutches of the Tories and worse, the Brexit Party. Thus, it would be fair to argue that on the balance of the political views among its columnists and reporters, the Guardian is not a left-wing paper. Its leftism is an illusion. However, its writers and supporters don’t seem too clear on how businesses work to attract or retain customers or, in its case, readers.

If the Graun really doesn’t want to lose readers, then maybe it needs to ask itself why and where it all went wrong. Instead, rather than do that, its hacks and supporters have resorted to abusing the paper’s former readers for turning their backs on it. Is this really the way a business should behave if it wants to win back customers? Why have they responded in this way? Maybe this quote from Karl Marx in The German Ideology can shed some light.

The ideas of the ruling class are in every epoch the ruling ideas, i.e. the class which is the ruling material force of society, is at the same time its ruling intellectual force. The class which has the means of material production at its disposal, has control at the same time over the means of mental production, so that thereby, generally speaking, the ideas of those who lack the means of mental production are subject to it. The ruling ideas are nothing more than the ideal expression of the dominant material relationships, the dominant material relationships grasped as ideas. The individuals composing the ruling class possess among other things consciousness, and therefore think. Insofar, therefore, as they rule as a class and determine the extent and compass of an epoch, it is self-evident that they do this in its whole range, hence among other things rule also as thinkers, as producers of ideas, and regulate the production and distribution of the ideas of their age: thus their ideas are the ruling ideas of the epoch. For instance, in an age and in a country where royal power, aristocracy, and bourgeoisie are contending for mastery and where, therefore, mastery is shared, the doctrine of the separation of powers proves to be the dominant idea and is expressed as an “eternal law.

Karl Marx, The German Ideology, Part I: Feuerbach.
Opposition of the Materialist and Idealist Outlook, The Ruling Class and the Ruling Ideas

The ruling class’s ideas must never be challenged, and those who propagate (if that’s the right word) them believe they have an automatic right to your money and your mind. It is simply not enough for them to control the means of material production, they must also control intellectual production. Being the descendants of the those who governed the British Empire, they have quite literally colonized people’s minds.

We can, therefore, read the Guardian’s writers and supporters’ outpourings of rage as a predictable reaction from the country’s bourgeoisie; it is a manifestation of their class entitlement, and it’s underpinned by a kind of confidence that comes with having had an exclusive and expensive education followed by a degree from Oxbridge. It is because of these social factors that they feel a sense of haughty superiority towards those whom they believe be inferior (is it any wonder that eugenics is enthusiastically embraced by the bourgeoisie and not, say, the working-class?). They knew that they were born to rule from an early age. Thus, it is their views which dominate and which are endlessly circulated in the public domain, despite being as stale as airline cabin air.

Marina Hyde thought that bullying one of the paper’s erstwhile readers-turned-critics was a smart move.

There are many reasons why many Twitter users adopt other names and hide their identities, one of which is that they may be whistleblowers, autistic or it, or in my case, it’s my stage name. This doesn’t mean that I’m “anonymous”, which is a charge that so-called “blue tick” users will often throw at Twitter users to counter robust criticism. In fact, it would be fair to say that many “blue tick” users have at least one sockpuppet account. I know this from personal experience and when I called them out, they vanished.

Hadley Freeman also thought she’d gaslight former readers.

Freeman participated in the so-called Never Again stunt organized by supporters of Luciana Berger, but which looked and felt like a gathering of right-wing white politicians and their media supporters who were pursuing a vendetta against, not just Corbyn, but anyone on the left on the basis of flimsy evidence. Worse, perhaps, was the view held by the protesters, who had never protested anything in their lives, and who spent a great deal of effort deriding protests as a form of “student politics”, that the Labour Party was the single largest reservoir of anti-Semitism in Britain. Ironically, all of these people were content to stand side-by-side by some of Parliament’s biggest bigots, like Ian Paisley Jr. The event was also attended by Conservatives, a party whose racism is routinely ignored by writers like Freeman. When it comes to other forms of racism, these people can be seen wringing their hands and muttering to themselves. This is not just a bourgeois reaction, it’s the reaction of white Liberals, who enjoy a great deal of white privilege. Like the rest of Fleet Street, the Guardian is mostly staffed by the same kind of white middle-class people, who control print and broadcast media.

Guardian-supporting actor and comedian, David Schneider tried emotional blackmail.

“The joy in Tory HQ”? Seriously? They honestly couldn’t care less. Schneider followed up with this tweet:

That he believes The Guardian to be some kind of bulwark against the Right and the Tory-supporting media is laughable. Schneider was less than enthusiastic about Corbyn and he appears to be more content with Keir Starmer as Labour leader. Whatever the case, to The Cat, his affected leftism looks more like Liberalism. Indeed, together with its supporters, the Guardian, overall, has shown that it has nothing but contempt for the Left.

Even The Daily Mail’s Dan Hodges, a man who is wrong about nearly everything, believed it was the fault of the beastly “Corbynites” that the Guardian was shedding jobs.

This has been the style of the right-wing press since the 1980s: if you’re not ridiculing and mocking the left, then blame them for “cancelling” the Guardian or worse. Hodges then followed up with this:

To say Hodges reasoning is poor is an understatement: it’s melodramatic tosh. Remember, this is a man who regards mild democratic socialist reformism as “hard left”.

The Guardian has never supported socialism or the Left. It is and always has been a Liberal paper that has had a left-wing readership, which has, over the course of 5 years, been bullied, ridiculed, mocked, smeared and gaslighted. This is a paper that many on the left saw as an ally before Corbyn became Labour leader and which turned on them in short order. No wonder these people feel some sense of schadenfreude.

The establishment, represented by papers like the Guardian, used any means at its disposal to marginalize the left, and realized that its best line of attack lay with accusations of anti-Semitism. Let’s be clear about something, accusing the Left of any other form of racism would have lacked the same emotional and social value, in their eyes, as a hatred of Jews. Racism against Black people or Gypsies simply wouldn’t appeal to the racist base instincts of the bourgeoisie and reactionary subalterns who accept whatever newspapers tell them without criticism. However, the way in which anti-Semitism was trivialized and transformed into a political weapon was always a dangerous and irresponsible strategy, because in the process, left-wing Jews were smeared as “self-hating” and “anti-Semitic”, and the fall-out from this episode has affected all minorities, not just Jews. Alternatively, according to the likes of Dan Hodges, who himself isn’t Jewish, they were the “wrong kind of Jews” on account of their politics. If there was any justice in this world, Hodges would have lost his job over this.

One really can’t blame “Corbyn supporters” for reacting the way they did at the Graun’s misfortunes. In the cutthroat world of print media, as in any business, if customers are going elsewhere or no longer buying your product(s), you don’t abuse them: you try to, somehow, win them back. The Guardian has lost these people forever.

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Stop “Playing Politics”?

I think many of us will agree that many of Britain’s cohort of journalists are, to a man and woman, sycophants, who are more interested in their careers and their social standing than reporting the news accurately and faithfully. The same cohort, many of whom hide behind paywalls, have used the Covid-19 crisis as an excuse to continue smearing Jeremy Corbyn, but stopping short of blaming him for the virus, while others, like the Telegraph’s Camilla Tominey, see it as an opportunity to accuse people on the amorphous Left of “playing politics” with the crisis. All bullies are cowards and Fleet Street’s bullies are no exception. They hide behind paywalls and are protected by the rich proprietors, who pay them lots of money to write the same articles over and over again. Who holds these small-minded hacks to account? Only we can. IPSO certainly won’t.

Meghan Markle news Camilla Tominey said Meghans speech was ...
Camilla Tominey: just another paywall bully

Tominey’s paywalled article is no different to the tweets that I’ve seen from Tory MPs and their hangers-on.

Tominey complains:

London mayor Sadiq Khan was the first to start fighting dirty, seeking to deflect attention from crowded Tube trains under his watch

Tominey’s point is weak for it fails to accept that Tube train drivers have also had to take time off work sick, while the numbers of trains have been reduced by Transport for London (TfL). I’m not Sadiq Khan’s biggest fan (his tendency to hobnob with property developers is particularly sickening), but didn’t TfL merely act on the government’s advice? I believe it did. Never let the truth get in the way of a good smear, eh Cammie?

What Tominey and her fellow hacks continue to ignore is the government’s sluggish response to the Covid-19 pandemic and its insistence that its “herd immunity” was the best line of attack. Tominey ignores the evident social Darwinism that underpinned it. Why? Because it doesn’t conform to the finger-pointing narratives constructed by the government in its attempt to deflect from its piss-poor performance and its casual disregard for human life.

According to Dan Hodges (a man who is wrong about nearly everything), the world outside Twitter is pleased with the government’s handling of the epidemic.

Of course, Dan doesn’t believe he needs to support his claim with evidence. Him being a Daily Mail hack is qualification enough.

Tominey, Hodges and the rest of them refuse to ask the right questions about the government’s handling of the crisis. Instead, they demand complete and total obeisance from the public, because, in their view, offering constructive criticism is tantamount to treason, and they will even brandish World War 2 and Churchill as amulets to ward off criticism. In this tweet, Iain Martin uses the war to make a feeble jab.

Former S*n editor and tabloid thug, Stig Abell, tweeted this in response to a BBC interview with Jeremy Corbyn.

What Abell knows about economics could barely cover one side of a postage stamp; he’s been inured in the Thatcherite economic model, which has been presented to us as holy writ, and the mantra of TINA continues to dominate socio-economic discourse in the public domain, and is manifested in the hack’s question: “but can we afford it?/how will we pay for it?”.

Even when the facts are laid bare before him, Abell, like the rest of his colleagues, refuse to accept the truth or ask questions that are critical of the government or the economic model to which he and they cleave so tightly. For to do so, is tantamount to questioning the existence of God. Instead, these high priests of laissez-faire economics, who masquerade as objective interpreters of current affairs, believe that the current model of capitalism has an adequate response to the crisis, when, in fact, the opposite has been demonstrated.

Tory MPs have lost no time in using the “playing politics” line either. A couple of days ago, Nadine Dorries, who supposedly tested positive for Covid-19, and who went into self-isolation and made an “Ernest Saunders” style recovery a week later, used the opportunity to accuse Emily Thornberry of “political point scoring”. Ironic, when you think that’s exactly what Dorries has done with this tweet.

You can’t bet any money you like that if the situation was reversed, and a Labour government was handling the crisis badly, the Tories would criticize the response and rightly so. But Tories like Dorries believe they’re above criticism, and have adopted the haughty and condescending attitudes of absolute monarchs rather than public servants. Someone needs to remind them that they’re elected officials, who rely on our votes to put them where they are. As for Fleet Street, most of its denizens will remain steadfastly loyal to the current government and will continue to tell us up is down and black is white. The tragedy is that too many people continue to swallow their nonsense uncritically.

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Covid-19: The Conspiracy Theory Files

It was inevitable that various conspiracy theories would emerge during the Covid-19 pandemic, and it’s no surprise that many, if not the majority, of these conspiracy theories come from the far-right and Right libertarians. For self-styled libertarians like Spiked’s Brendan O’Neill, who also takes the Murdoch shilling, the crisis is really all about liberal-left spoilsports wanting to curtail his right to infect others in confined spaces.

The pandemic has provided O’Neill with the opportunity to attack his favourite targets: the Greens, left-wingers, anti-racists, socialists, you name them, O’Neill hates them. He’s like one of those pub bores you meet supping in the local Wetherspoons, talking about how the country is “going to hell in a handcart”.

The first paragraph of O’Neill’s article starts predictably, but messily.

People’s refusal to panic has been a great source of frustration for the establishment in recent years. ‘The planet is burning’, they lie, in relation to climate change, and yet we do not weep or wail or even pay very much attention. ‘I want you to panic’, instructs the newest mouthpiece of green apocalypticism, Greta Thunberg, and yet most of us refuse to do so. A No Deal Brexit would unleash economic mayhem, racist pogroms and even a pandemic of super-gonorrhoea, they squealed, incessantly, like millenarian preachers balking at the imminent arrival of the lightning bolt of final judgement, and yet we didn’t flinch. We went to work. We went home. We still supported Brexit.

How any of this is related to the pandemic is a mystery, but O’Neill persists:

Our skittish elites have been so baffled, infuriated in fact, by our calm response to their hysterical warnings that they have invented pathologies to explain our unacceptable behaviour. The therapeutic language of ‘denialism’ is used to explain the masses’ refusal to fret over climate change. Environmentalists write articles on ‘the psychology of climate-change denial’, on ‘the self-deception and mass denial’ coursing through this society that refuses to flatter or engage with the hysteria of the eco-elites. Likewise, the refusal of voters to succumb to the dire, hollow warnings of the ferociously anti-Brexit wing of the establishment was interpreted by self-styled experts as a psychological disorder. ‘[This is] people taking action for essentially psychological reasons, irrespective of the economic cost’, said one professor.

Ah, so this is about the mysterious ‘elites’? Find me an O’Neill article without the word ‘elite’ and I’ll show you a caring Conservative. O’Neill is in complete denial; his brain (if he has one) is in total lockdown. He refuses to accept the fact that Covid-19 is a communicable disease and is highly contagious. The fact that people of all ages have died is of no matter to him. For O’Neill, people ignoring medical advice and mingling in public spaces like parks and the beaches is seen as an act of defiance against the shadowy ‘elites’ who want to you to eat your vegetables.

Of course, the replies beneath Spiked’s article are just as barking, if not worse.

This one looks like a bot.

What analysis? What insight? There’s more. This one talks about “The Cabal”. Cue eerie theremin music.

You should see the rest of his timeline. It’s a catalogue of conspiracy theories and the usual mush about horrible Greens wanting to spoil his freedom. Here’s my reply to one of Matt’s tweets on his timeline. You’ll notice that he hangs on Donald Trump’s every word.

This is one is incomprehensible.

This one uses the opportunity to spout racist and xenophobic nonsense.

O’Neill and his followers are ignorant of science and disdainful of expert advice from clinical practitioners. They think their ignorance trumps years of study, and clinical work, and all that matters is their ‘freedom’. I don’t like wishing illness or death on anyone, but in the case of O’Neill and his deadbeat acolytes, I’m happy to make exceptions. Perhaps a dose of Covid-19 will teach all of them a valuable lesson. Then again, maybe it won’t.

There’s a massive threat to public health, much of it is caused by Covid-19, but some of it will be caused by ignoramuses and anti-intellectual schmucks like O’Neill taking to social media and telling people that there’s nothing to worry about.

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Obeisance Is So 12th Century

Britain is swinging between two extremes. On the one hand, there’s a silly Blitz spirit being invoked in response to the coronavirus pandemic, while on the other, there are demands that cringing deference be paid to a cruel and incompetent government, which has wasted several weeks instead of preparing for the pandemic.

First, the definition of the word ‘obeisance’.

noun

a movement of the body expressing deep respect or deferential courtesy, as before a superior; a bow, curtsy, or other similar gesture.deference or homage:The nobles gave obeisance to the new king.

Last week, I read an interesting article by The Guardian’s Nesrine Malik, who wrote:

There is an odd piousness that infects the public and the media during times of national crisis. Overnight, our leaders are imbued with qualities they previously did not possess; in Boris Johnson’s case, with qualities he is notorious for not possessing. His pandemic management plan, one released with little supporting scientific evidence, is not to be questioned. It is to be followed and, if you like, praised. For those particularly susceptible to fetishising those in power in troubled times, it is to be hailed as not only clever, but a sort of counterintuitive genius. In Britain this is how we like our heroes – boffiny underdog types who retreat to their self-built labs at the bottom of the garden, and emerge with a panacea.

In these conditions, a leader is laundered of historical recklessness and proven incompetence. Any minor adjustments in behaviour become major corrections. There was a point towards the end of the government’s post-Cobra press conference when it became clear to me that Johnson was struggling to get through it all with a straight face, without making a quip. He ummed and aahed, fighting his compulsion by making vague noises. He almost pulled it off, but fell at the very last stretch, saying that the aim of the plan was to flatten the peak of the infection, to “squash that sombrero”. He then left with a hurried afterthought of a message to the stricken: “We will get through this.”

She continues:

Johnson and his team’s hagiography is already being written merely for coming up with a plan, not because it works, but because in times of crisis our exceptionalism becomes embodied in our leadership. We are keeping the country open as the rest of the world does the opposite because we have cracked it.

Things have moved on since that article was written and, last night, it was announced that pubs, bars and restaurants would close. This, however, prompted complaints from the usual quarters about freedoms being lost, some of which have been couched in World War 2 Blitz rhetoric, while others, like this one from Brendan O’Neill was simply idiotic.

Britain without its pubs is not Britain. It just isn’t. It becomes something else. Something worse. Something less free, less convivial, less human.

Yes, we all know that Covid-19 is a serious disease and we all agree that huge amounts of government resources should be devoted to tackling it and treating those infected by it.

Below this, O’Neill reaches for Orwell in a feeble attempt to justify the continued opening of pubs

But to halt everyday life, even pub life, in response to it? We didn’t do that during the far worse 1918 flu epidemic. Or during the Second World War. Or when the IRA was bombing actual pubs. We carried on. The pub continued. It had to. It’s the space where people meet and debate and fall in love and read their newspaper. As George Orwell said, forget the booze — though that is essential — what a pub really embodies is ‘atmosphere’.

O’Neill simply isn’t much good at thinking, and for all his complaints about ‘freedom’, there isn’t a single word about how public places like pubs, cafes and other places where people gather, are sites of possible infections. Like all anti-intellectuals, O’Neill believes that if you can’t see the threat, then it doesn’t exist. We should simply channel our inner Blitz spirit and carry on selfishly drinking while infecting those around us. O’Neill’s plea could go something like those stupid ‘Keep Calm’ posters which now emblazons tea towels and t-shirts.

Keep Calm

And

Carry On

Infecting Others

Former UKIP MEP and anti-intellectual, Godfrey Bloom also invoked World War 2 nostalgia with this ill-considered tweet.

Bloom was actually born 4 years after the end of the war and, in any case, this is a false equivalence. A virus is not the same as the Luftwaffe’s bombs and is arguably far deadlier because of its relative visibility and its ability to replicate itself inside cells. Perhaps what O’Neill and Bloom are really trying to tell us is that they’re piss heads.

Apart from the World War 2 nostalgia, there’s a hardcore of Tory politicians and their media hangers on, who have been complaining that there isn’t enough deference being shown to Boris Johnson and his hapless ministers. We’re supposed to shut up, stop complaining and pay homage to our glorious leaders. Here’s Dan Hodges complaining about shadow chancellor, John McDonnell, who rightly criticized Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s economic measures as not going far enough.

He was joined by Mrs Gove, who enjoys a few bottles of wine of an evening and then takes to Twitter to embarrass herself. This tweet ploughs roughly the same furrow as Hodges’ tweet. No surprise there, they both write for the same appalling newspaper, the Daily Mail.

Someone called Ash Hirani thought he’d emulate his Tory heroes with this tweet


Some Labour politicians are just as bad. Here’s a tweet from the Leader of Crawley Council.

Poor Wee Lamb is completely oblivious to the fact that Sunak’s measures don’t cover the self-employed and casual workers, and the government wasted several weeks pursuing its Social Darwinian ‘herd immunity’ notion. Perhaps this is the kind of opposition politicians that the likes of Hodges et al on Fleet Street want: unquestioning, uncritical and offering only token opposition. He would do well to read up on the history of the party of which he purports to be a member.

As Nesrine Malik observes, now is not the time for deference. I would add the criticality is vital to ensure that we not only get through this public health emergency, but ensure that workers of all kinds are financially protected, and that the government is properly held to account. Such things have escaped the attention of our selfish idiotic commentators. who would much rather wallow in World War 2 nostalgia, suck up to authority and whine about not being able to knock back oceans of booze under the slippery rubric of ‘freedom’.

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Wait. What? “Herd Immunity”?

Britain is ruled, since those in the current and previous Tory governments over the last ten years believe they rule, rather than govern, by a combination of idiots and monsters. They eschew learning and expertise for bunkum and blind faith. This was perfectly illustrated this morning when Robert Peston posted the following on Twitter:

Peston even repeats the government’s claims in a hastily written piece for The Spectator, a magazine known for its employment of racists, Nazi sympathizers and eugenicists. Peston writes:

The key phrase we all need to understand is ‘herd immunity’ – which is what happens to a group of people or animals when they develop sufficient antibodies to be resistant to a disease.

This claim is made without any support from peer-reviewed sources, and appears to have simply been accepted as fact from the mouth of a “Downing Street source”. Peston continues in much the same vein throughout the article.

The strategy of the British government in minimising the impact of Covid-19 is to allow the virus to pass through the entire population so that we acquire herd immunity, but at a much delayed speed so that those who suffer the most acute symptoms are able to receive the medical support they need, and such that the health service is not overwhelmed and crushed by the sheer number of cases it has to treat at any one time.

That this government should regard its citizens in such cod zoological terms should surprise no one. Eugenics, along with anti-intellectualism, is at the heart of government. Learning. erudition and expertise are held in disdain, while blind faith and pseudo-science are given pride of place. Indeed, Dominic Cummings, the Prime Minister’s Chief Political Adviser, is himself a eugenicist, and recently advertised for “misfits and weirdos” to come and work in Downing Street. One such applicant was Andrew Sabisky, a eugenicist with similar beliefs, who claimed that black people have lower IQs than white people. Cummings was later forced to release Sabisky, a fellow eugencist from his employ.

In a blog posted in 2014, Cummings wrote:

“It is already the case that farmers use genomes to make predictions about cows’ properties and behaviour … It is already the case that rich people could use in vitro fertilisation to select the egg which they think will be most advantageous, because they can sequence genomes of multiple eggs and examine each one to look for problems then pick the one they prefer. Once we identify a substantial number of IQ genes, there is no obvious reason why rich people will not select the egg that has the highest prediction for IQ.

“This clearly raises many big questions. If the poor cannot do the same, then the rich could quickly embed advantages and society could become not only more unequal but also based on biological classes. One response is that if this sort of thing does become possible, then a national health system should fund everybody to do this. (I.e. it would not mandate such a process but it would give everybody a choice of whether to make use of it.) Once the knowledge exists, it is hard to see what will stop some people making use of it and offering services to – at least – the super-rich.”

Cummings, like the rest of the government, has neither a degree in medicine, biology or any other science. He isn’t a clinician, a virologist, an epidemiologist or even a veterinary surgeon and yet, people take him seriously. In fact, he studied Ancient and Modern History at Oxford under Norman Stone. Make of that what you will.

Only the other day, BBC2’s Newsnight invited well-known clinician, Nigel Farage, into the studio to discuss the coronavirus pandemic. Nigel Farage? Really? Where does the media’s idiocy end?

There will be many people in Britain who won’t question the government’s inaction or its eugenicist ‘solutions’, and will believe wholeheartedly that ministers and advisers are to be trusted simply because they are there, wear expensive suits and speak in perfect English. Hence, the alleged popularity of bigots like the languid Jacob Rees Mogg, who retweets neo-Nazis and dines with Nazi sympathizers. It isn’t beyond the realms of possibility than Rees Mogg is also a supporter of eugenics.

In Britain, anti-intellectualism rides tall in the saddle, and is protected and encouraged by the likes of Robert Peston, who, rather than do the job of a journalist, acts as an unofficial Information Minister to this cruel and incompetent regime. We can do better than this.

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The Tories’ Exploitation Of Voter Apathy

How many times have you heard some people say, when referring to political parties, that “they’re all the same” or “there’s no difference”. There may have been some truth to these beliefs once upon a time, but things have changed, and while Blair’s Nu Labour project bore little resemblance to the Labour Party, which was often referred to as “Old Labour”, and more resembled the Tories, there is real difference between the parties. Of course, that isn’t the way that either the Conservative Party or large sections of the media want you to see things.

In the last two General Elections, the Tories cynically played the “they’re all as bad as each other” card to win seats. Sadly, too many people still fall for these PR shenanigans. In 2015, the Cameron-led party won a majority and two years later, the May-led party lost almost all of that majority. In each case, they used the same slogans and tried to exploit the electorate by resorting to the “they’re all just as bad, so vote for us” strategy. In this election, like dogs returning to their vomit, they have gone back to the previous elections and dusted off the same tired messages: “coalition of chaos”, a “Labour/Corbyn-SNP/Sturgeon alliance” and so on.

However, rather than offer a semblance of balance, the media has been all too willing to amplify these messages. For example, last Friday’s terrorist incident at London Bridge has seen the BBC, particularly, claim that “both parties” have “politicized” the tragedy , this is despite being urged not to do so by the father of one of the victims. Only one party has been exploiting the incident for political gain and that’s the Conservative Party.

Today, Neil O’Brien, the Tory candidate for Harborough, Oadby & Wigston and former head of Policy Exchange tweeted this:

Of course, he isn’t the only one, but he’s the only one that I replied to today.

The rationale behind the Tories’ efforts to undermine trust in politics stems from their desire to rule at all costs. They may talk about ‘effective oppositions’ but it’s all hot air. If anything, they’d prefer a token opposition like the one that existed in Francoist Spain if they had to face one at all. Tories, contrary to what they say, despise democracy and would prefer it if people didn’t vote. Please disappoint them by not voting Tory on 12 December, people’s lives are depending on it.

Don’t fall for the Tories’ cynical PR. Vote them out.

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BBC: We Made A ‘Mistake’

If there’s one thing The Cat hates it’s being thought of as stupid. The French have a great saying: tu me prends pour de la merde, meaning ‘you take me for shit’?

Taking us for shit is precisely what the BBC has been doing for a long time. In the space of a mere couple of weeks, the Corporation has doctored video footage of Boris Johnson laying a wreath at the Cenotaph and only a couple of days ago, it edited out the laughter at his response to an audience member’s question on the issue of trust. Instead of admitting it deliberately edited out the laughter and stitched applause into the soundtrack, the Corporation has insisted it was a “mistake”. It’s as if those in positions of authority at the BBC believe everyone outside their world is stupid.

However, those of us who know how digital editing platforms work understand how footage can be manipulated to tell any story you like. Media Studies and Media Production students know this and it is perhaps for this reason that politicians especially dismiss these subjects “useless”. Their claims barely conceal their anti-intellectualism and authoritarian tendencies. These people hate the idea of an educated working class and fear a politically conscious electorate.

The Corporation’s attitude in this and other matters is high-handed and arrogant, and this air of condescension and smug superiority comes from the social and cultural capital of its executives and editors, who are mainly drawn from the social institutions of Britain’s bourgeoisie. That’s the Oxbridge and public/independent schools to you and me.

There may be some decent people at the state broadcaster, but they’re rather thin on the ground these days. There is a culture of bullying at the BBC and many are too scared to step out of line, while others are only to eager to promote the government’s narrative during this General Election campaign.

Ironically, three years ago, the BBC announced that it would “help students to identify false news”. Given their penchant for misleading the viewing public through their use of creative editing, perhaps they could use themselves as an example of how to really generate false news.

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Propaganda, Lies And The BBC

I don’t think anyone can convincingly argue that the current general election is a fair fight. The Tories and their friends in the establishment media will never concede when they’re in the wrong nor will they admit to doctoring photographs or editing video footage to flatter their hero, Boris Johnson, nor will they admit that the words they’ve chosen to use in each political, news or current affair programme have been carefully selected to implant messages in voters’ minds.

The BBC’s so-called Question Time leaders’ debate on Thursday was such an occasion. Few people, apart from those with agendas or whose senses have been so badly compromised that they fail to see what’s in front of them, can say that Boris Johnson performed well, nor can any of those people claim that Jo Swinson did well. Yet, former Blairite SpAd, propagandist and wannabe comedian, Matt Forde tweeted.

He must have been watching a different leaders’ ‘debate’ because I found Swinson to be superficial, lacking in detail and all too quick to fall back on the ‘Jeremy Corbyn is an anti-Semite’ slur to get her out of trouble. Swinson may be quick to use anti-Semitism as a political weapon but when it comes to Hostile Environment and Windrush, she’s nowhere to be seen. Indeed, a hierarchy of racism and suffering has been constructed over the course of the last 5 years, in which non-Jewish minorities come a long way down in the taxonomy of ‘races’, and politicians like Swinson promote and perpetuate it through their words and deeds.

In the aftermath of that ‘debate’, only one poll surfaced, which laughingly claimed that the Conservatives were 17 points ahead of Labour.

Yesterday, Murdoch hack, Tim Shipman tweeted his seat projection based on that fake poll.

But that isn’t the worst of it. In the BBC News bulletins that followed the ‘debate’, newsreaders and reporters kept telling us how each leader faced questions of trust. Be in no doubt, this is the BBC’s way of telling you that, if you don’t trust any of the leaders, then you may as well vote Tory (because they’re the natural party of government). This is the same cynical “they’re all as bad as each other” approach that was used by David Cameron in 2015 and Theresa May in 2017. Only this time, it’s the BBC, the state broadcaster, who are using it.

Even when the BBC are caught editing video footage, they continue to lie about it. Take this tweet from Peter Oborne, who’d noticed what thousands of other viewers had noticed about the editing out of laughter when Johnson gave his reply to the question of trust.

Instead of putting their hands up and admitting to the doctoring of video footage, they doubled down and added a lie instead.

Tory Fibs tweeted the doctored footage:

Steve Brookstein added.

Ironically, the BBC’s technology editor, Rory Cellan-Jones wrote this piece for the BBC website in October in which he says:

New research shows an alarming surge in the creation of so-called deepfake videos, with the number online almost doubling in the last nine months. There is also evidence that production of these videos is becoming a lucrative business.

And while much of the concern about deepfakes has centred on their use for political purposes, the evidence is that pornography accounts for the overwhelming majority of the clips.

As Orgreave and ‘Wreathgate’ show us, the BBC isn’t above producing deepfake videos of its own.

The BBC has a fact-checking service that it’s named ‘Reality Check’. It may want to reconsider that name in the near future.

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The Jo Swinson File

Jo Swinson often accuses Jeremy Corbyn of anti-Semitism without any proof. She lies, then she lies some more and few media commentators challenge her lies or questions her tactics. Jo Swinson likes to pretend she’s some kind of opponent of racism, but there are qualifiers.

Swinson has said nothing about Hostile Environment, which disproportionately affects people of colour, and she’s said very little about the Windrush Scandal. She’s said absolutely nothing about the government’s policy of persecuting Britain’s Romani Gypsy and Traveller communities. She’s less than vocal about the rise in hate crimes against people of colour and has nothing to say about Islamophobia, but she can smear Corbyn as an anti-Semite all day long.

Over the course of this year, Swinson was silent as Sir Paul Beresford stood up in the Commons and called Travellers a ‘disease’. She welcomed former Tory Philip Lee into the Lib Dem ranks. Lee has often resorted to dog-whistle racism when speaking about immigration. Lee also has some rather unpleasant views about LGBT, a fact that has upset many of her supporters. Former Labour and Change UK MP, Angela Smith was also welcomed, despite her off the cuff ‘funny tinge’ comment about people of colour. In Swinson’s mind, evidently, that kind of racism is permissible.

In 2018, Swinson told her party conference that her party needed to ‘own the failures of the coalition’. These are just empty words. There’s no sincerity behind them. Hindsight is great but it’s only valuable when the person in question is acting self-reflexively and given her propensity for lies, it’s likely that Swinson uttered those words simply to placate her following. She’s learnt nothing at all.

There are signs that not all Lib Dem members are happy with their leader. Points of irritation include her fantasies about becoming Prime Minister and her refusal to adopt a more conciliatory tone. Swinson will lie about almost anything. The Cat is surprised she hasn’t told porkies about being the first woman in space and having discovered a cure for cancer in her kitchen.

Here’s Swinson appearing on Sky News’s Sophy Ridge programme. Ridge catches her out, but watch how Swinson doubles down on the lie.

Recently, Labour’s Equality Spokesperson, Dawn Butler, accused Swinson of ‘failings’ over a Commons racism row. The Guardian’s Kate Proctor writes:

The Liberal Democrats’ leader, Jo Swinson, has been accused by Labour of not properly investigating an activist who claimed one of their MPs had made up her experience of racism.

Swinson said it was right that Steve Wilson, the husband of parliamentary candidate Angela Smith, had apologised to the shadow equalities minister, Dawn Butler, for writing on social media that she had lied about her experience of racism in the House of Commons.

In a letter seen by the Guardian, Swinson said she believed Butler encountered racial discrimination and that Wilson’s apology had been “essential”. However, she was criticised for not suspending him or revealing whether he faced any kind of disciplinary process. Butler is also demanding Wilson and Smith undergo diversity training.

Butler herself is reported to have said:

“By protecting a white man who denied a black woman’s experience, the Lib Dems are actively condoning racism in their party and promoting it in wider society. Steve Wilson should be suspended from their party immediately.”

Before 2019, there were no people of colour among the Lib Dem MPs. They’ve relied entirely on defectors to give them a couple of Black MPs: Chuka Umunna and Sam Gyimah. The latter stands accused of lying about Emma Dent Coad, the Labour candidate for Kensington, who is also a local councillor, of being involved in the decision to clad Grenfell Tower in flammable materials. She has reported Gyimah to the police.

It seems that Swinson’s constant lying has spread like a contagion throughout her party, because Gyiamah isn’t the only one to have been telling lies and defaming a fellow candidate. Dr Geoffrey Seeff has been resorted to dog-whistling and lying about Faiza Shaheen, the Labour candidate for Chingford and Woodford Green.

The Lib Dem candidate for Chingford and Woodford Green in east London wrote that the IHRC had “been quoted saying some very unpleasant things” and criticised its support for the Iran government.

Seeff, who said he had sent a copy of the letter to the local paper, wrote that it “seems clear that the IHRC is nothing but a front for the mullahs of Tehran” and highlighted Jeremy Corbyn’s previous support for the London-based organisation, which was formed in 1997.

He wrote: “What I and the electorate want to know is how you stand on this. Can you respect and work under a person who shares the views of this unsavoury organisation or is so gullible that he has been duped by them?”

Shaheen tweeted:

This isn’t the first time the Lib Dems have run dog-whistling campaigns: there was Langbaurgh in 1991 in which the local party produced leaflets which urged voters to cast their vote for a ‘local candidate’. In 2009, the Lib Dems in Islington were accused of dog-whistle politics over Gypsies and Travellers. When they were running Tower Hamlets Council in the 1990s, they used similar tactics to pander to BNP voters.

If Swinson isn’t lying, she’s fantasising about becoming Prime Minister. If she isn’t doing that, she’s claiming that her spokespeople are a ‘shadow cabinet‘. In September, Swinson was heckled by her own party members who were unhappy that she’d admitted Tory defectors into the party. Come 13 December, I’m hoping the voters of East Dunbartonshire do the right thing and vote Swinson out.

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