Category Archives: Society & culture

Tory MP, Paul Beresford: ‘Travellers Are A Disease’

When it comes to racism, some forms of racism are clearly more equal than others. In our currently febrile social climate this has never been more true a statement. Our present public discourse has become polluted by notions of free speech absolutism, put forward by zealots like the right-wing libertarian outfit, Spiked and their associates on one hand, and the self-appointed anti-Semitism language police in the Labour Party and their media allies on the other. Anyone with a brain in their head could see where the weaponization and cheapening of anti-Semitism for political ends would lead to: a sharp increase in attacks on minorities – especially people of colour. Indeed, those who spend much of their time complaining about anti-Semitism in the Labour Party tend to be, for the most part, white and they’re not too concerned about other forms of racism within and outwith the party.

Anti-Semitism witch hunters will scoff at any suggestion that, through their words and deeds, a hierarchy of racism now exists in which weak claims anti-Semitism are prioritised over genuine cases of anti-Semitism and other forms of racism. What passes for anti-Semitism these days is more often than not, a conflation with anti-Zionism or criticism of Israel’s treatment of the Palestinian people. Other claims are the product of lazy thinking. One such incident involved the right-wing Labour MP, Siobhan McDonagh, who in an interview with John Humphrys on Radio 4 deliberately conflated anti-capitalism with anti-Semitism. This anti-Semitic trope, which is heavily reliant on the knowledge of the Other, was allowed to pass unchallenged by Humphrys. Worse, the usual witch hunters kept schtum. Meanwhile, stories of anti-Semitic attacks like the one in Islington in February of this year, are rarely, if ever, afforded national airtime nor are they mentioned by our supposedly objective broadcast journalists. Furthermore, the media focus on anti-Semitism gives the impression to other ethnic minorities that the racism they experience is either imagined or of no importance (this has happened to me quite recently when I complained about racism directed towards me). Other forms of racism simply aren’t sexy or cool enough, and don’t possess the same emotional value as anti-Semitism.

So it is with the racism experienced by Gypsies, Roma and Travellers (GRT), one of the country’s most marginalised and persecuted socio-ethnic groups, not just in the United Kingdom but across Europe in countries like Hungary, Italy, Romania and Slovakia among others. So normalised has anti-GRT racism become that even our elected representatives are given a free pass to air their obnoxious racist views on the floor of the House of Commons. In April, the Conservative MP and former leader of Wandsworth Council, Paul Beresford, said in an adjournment debate to the House of Commons.

“We’re now in what we call the summer traveller season, it’s like a disease.”

That something like this can be said in the Commons without fear of censure, either from the Speaker, his party leader, the usual Labour MPs or the national media, speaks volumes. The fact that Beresford used the word ‘disease’, a word associated with the Nazi and BritFash discourses to refer to people not deemed as “Aryan” reveals to us the extent to which racism has become normalized in everyday political discourse. The Surrey Live website was one of several sources to carry the Beresford story, the other was Show Racism The Red Card. There is nothing on the BBC News site or any of the other national carriers, nor did the national press mention it. Beresford has been pressed to make an apology, but has, thus far, not done so. Moreover, the most vociferous anti-Semitism witch hunters in the Labour and Conservative Parties have said nothing.

Beresford is by no means the only Tory MP to openly express hatred towards GRT people. In 2017, when asked what he want to see more than anything else, Tory MP for Moray, Douglas Ross told reporters:

“Tougher enforcement against gypsies and travellers”.

In 2017, Tory MP, Julian Knight also attacked GRT people.

The Tories aren’t alone when it comes to anti-GRT bigotry, Labour MP, John Mann, himself a self-appointed anti-Semitism witch hunter, sent an anti-GRT booklet to his Bassetlaw constituents and yet, national news broadcasters said nothing and his fellow MPs said nothing. Instead, broadcasters like the BBC eagerly provide him with plenty of airtime to denounce someone, usually a left-wing figure, for anti-Semitism, or pronounce them a “Nazi sympathiser”. The interviewers, for their part, will always entertain his rants and his poorly-reasoned judgements without a semblance of criticism. Why? Because he makes “good telly”.

So where’s the outrage? The media’s silence appears to indicate an often casual complicity in the perpetuation of anti-GRT racism,which is both structural and institutional. GRT people are discriminated against in terms of access to education, medical treatment and even the law as this research paper from the London School of Economics makes clear.

On Twitter, recently, I had someone purporting to be a Corbyn supporter tell me that he “didn’t like Travellers but the old-fashioned Romanis were okay”. I blocked them. These kinds of views aren’t unique nor are they limited to one political party or another. They are informed by a knowledge of the Other, and further serve to illustrate the role in which myths and stereotypes play in shaping many people’s views of, not just GRT people, but people from other ethnic backgrounds. Moreover, it also reveals a fundamental ignorance of GRT history and, in particular, the Porajmos, the Romani Holocaust.

When it comes to anti-GRT racism, some of the worst offenders are the self-declared, hair-shirt wearing, anti-racist politicians, especially right-wing Labour politicians, who ignore anti-GRT racism while pursuing phantom claims of anti-Semitism. Their anti-racism is selective and no one, whether they are a member of a minority group or not, should be fooled by the calculatedly cynical flaunting of their flimsy credentials. If your anti-racism is selective, then you’re not an anti-racist but a person with an agenda: in other words, you’re someone who uses a selectivized form of anti-racism for political motives. That means you’re no better than the people of whom you’re accusing of anti-Semitism. In short, you’re a racist and you’re no good to those of us who are involved in the daily struggle against racism.

Anti-racism, therefore, must be intersectional. Since the EU referendum and the ensuing political turmoil, much of it the making of the professional politicians themselves, few MPs are capable of fathoming, not just the complex political situation they’ve found themselves in, but are reluctant or just too stupid to understand the powerful and dark forces that they have unleashed; forces for which they clearly lack the intellects and philosophical nous to defeat. Instead, they would rather blame anyone but themselves. Not only that, they show no concern that the fallout from their baseless accusations will hit other minorities, namely people of colour and GRT people.

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What’s Wrong With The Word ‘Coloured’?

Since Amber Rudd, the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions uttered the word ‘coloured’, many White people up and down the country have been losing their minds over the outrage it’s caused among Black and Brown people. “What’s wrong with it?”, they’ll demand, while others will say “but it’s okay to say ‘people of colour’, so why isn’t it okay to say ‘coloured'”? Well, it’s really quite simple: the word ‘coloured’ is an old-fashioned term, much like ‘half-caste’ and ‘Negro’. It’s offensive to many Black people. ‘People of colour’ is a relative new construction, and refers to anyone with dark skin. It is not the same as ‘coloured’, which also has connotations with South African apartheid, and which was used to classify anyone who was neither White nor Black.

Sadly, too many white people, Brendan O’Neill, for example, are incapable of seeing this and will claim, without a shred of self-reflexivity, that Black people “see racism everywhere” as he has done in the tweet below.

If anyone is being ‘divisive’, it’s O’Neill, who couches his racism in pseudo-libertarian language of opposition to identity politics.

Look, if you’re born with Black or Brown skin, you’re reminded of your ethnicity and social status every time you look in the mirror. That doesn’t happen for White folk. Moreover, those White people who claim to see nothing offensive in the word ‘coloured’ do so from a position of privilege and view the world through the lens of that privilege. O’Neill rails against ‘identity politics’, which provides convenient camouflage for his evident racism. It’s not the first time he’s done this either.

In their defence, some white people may claim that “John Barnes sees nothing wrong with it”. Well, Barnes is only one man and he doesn’t speak for all Black people, and neither does Trevor Phillips. But just because some Black people have no problem with the word, that doesn’t give White people the license to use it themselves. Furthermore, it reveals a great deal of insensitivity on the part of those White people who believe there’s nothing wrong with the word ‘coloured’.

Those people who share Brendan O’Neill’s weltanschauung will often be heard complaining that they can’t say the word ‘nigger’ and will often offer the feeble excuse, “but Black people use it”. First, not all Black people use it and second, why do you want to use it? Many of the most common racial slurs were coined by White people. These words have power behind them; the power of the dominant cultural ideology. It is the same ideology that produced the pseudo-science of racial classification. Racial slurs coined by minorities to refer to Whites, however, lack the same power. So, honky, for example, doesn’t have the same power as, say, ‘paki’ or ‘gypo’.

When Amber Rudd used the word ‘coloured’ to refer to Diane Abbott, she unconsciously revealed her inner racist in all its classificatory glory. She may deny she was being racist (so what if she’s had an on/off affair with Kwasi Kwarteng?), but when was the last time you heard the word ‘coloured’ being used to describe anyone? The 1960s? The 1970s?

I’ll leave you with the words of Prof. Stuart Hall.

It is much harder for black people, wherever they were born, to be accepted as British”.


Hall (2003:230)

Further reading

Hall, S. (ed.) (1997) Representation: Cultural Representations and Signifying Practices, London: Sage.

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Corbyn’s Critics?

Image result for jk rowling

JK Rowling should stick to writing derivative children’s fiction.

The likes of JK Rowling, Eddie Marsan and Frances Barber are often referred to by media pundits as ‘Corbyn’s critics’ but how many of them actually criticize his policies? None of them that I can see. Let’s be honest: an ad hominem or a smear isn’t a criticism, it’s a calumny and for me, at least, it reveals a fundamental intellectual dishonesty and selfishness at the heart of their reactionary and slipshod thinking.

Take this Twitter thread from Rowling, not only does it repeat the same smears we’ve heard for the last three years, it offers up plausible sounding anachronisms as clever metaphors. Clue: there were no saints in the early Christian period, but Rowling’s many followers aren’t smart enough to know that.

I won’t bother posting any more from this thread, but needless to say, it relies on the same tropes that have been used by Corbyn’s detractors for three years. Words like “messiah” make an appearance. The use of this word signifies a wilful misreading of Corbyn’s supporters, who are often referred to in similarly religiose terms or dismissed and trivialized as ‘utopians’, ‘fantasists’ or ‘fans’. The intent, here, is to suggest that Corbyn is a cult leader and his supporters are cultists; blind followers and willing dupes led by a charmingly deceptive evil man whose anti-racism credentials were a carefully choreographed 40 year act. The fact is that Corbyn is a bigger opponent of racism than Rowling or Barber will ever be. Barber herself has drifted into anti-Black racism.

The irony of her use of religious language is that Tony Blair, whom Rowling and her band of intellectually-challenged associates greatly admire, inspires the kind of cult-like devotion of which she accuses Corbyn supporters. Self-awareness? No, not from Joanne.

When they’re not referring to Corbyn and his followers as cult leader and cult members, the usual specious anti-Semitism smears are deployed. Again, these are not criticisms, they are ad hominems. What this tells us about Corbyn’s so-called critics is that they are selective in their anti-racism, which they see as an emotionally-charged weapon to use against a man, who has more anti-racism in his little finger than they have in their entire bodies.

JK Rowling and her band of halfwits may complain about anti-Semitism, but they’ve said nothing about the racism affecting other ethnic minorities. There has been a rise in hate crimes against BAME people and Muslims, but Joanne, Eddie and Frances have been noticeably silent. It is entirely possible that they see Jews (Ashkenazim) as fellow whites, and have a blind spot when it comes to Romanis and Irish Travellers, for example, who were singled out in a pamphlet sent out by John Mann, the MP for Bassetlaw, to his constituents. Mann likes to present himself as an opponent of anti-Semitism, but that’s quite literally the limit of his anti-racism, and even then, it looks cynical and dishonest. None of them have called him out on his hypocritical position and prefer, instead, to repeat the smears they’ve been provided without much thought.

Rowling et al did well under Blair and continue to thrive under the Tories. Those who aren’t doing so well, don’t figure in their thinking. Poor people, the low waged, the disabled and the homeless are treated as abstracts. These are, ultimately, very selfish people who lack any kind of political hinterland. For them, ideology is what other people have.  The world has moved on, but they haven’t. Blairism is dead and so is centrism – whatever that is.

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Farewell, Hip Priest

By all accounts the leader and most consistent member of The Fall, Mark E Smith, was an irascible and puzzling figure; a contrarian and working class autodidact, whose lyrics were a mix of the absurd and the inscrutable. Smith died last week, aged 60 and given his intake of speed and alcohol, it’s a surprise he lasted this long. He was only outdone by Lemmy, whose own consumption for the same substances led many to believe his demise was imminent. Unlike MES, Lemmy managed to hold out longer till he died in 2015, aged 70.

I became a fan of the Fall (some might say I was obsessed) in 1979, when I was introduced to them by a friend, who also introduced me to Gang of Four. In fact, for the first part of the 1980s, I probably listened to The Fall more than any other band. I’m not going to offer a retread of the obituaries that you’ve no doubt read in the pages of the popular press. My tribute is to the music of The Fall, who are unlikely to continue as a band now that MES is dead. I mean, what would be the point? The Fall was MES.

This is ‘No Xmas For John Quays’ from the album Live At The Witch Trials. The title is a play on words, the John Quays being the junkies who still have to find a fix on Xmas Day.  There are a few things happening in this song. First, in the song’s introduction, MES explains “The ‘x’ in Xmas is a substitute crucifix for Christ”. Christian fundamentalists and hilarious right-wingers will often claim that the use of the abbreviation ‘Xmas’ is blasphemous. If only they did as much reading as MES, eh? Second, is the way he namechecks the tragic Frankie Lymon, who died of a heroin overdose in 1968 at the age of 25. He was shooting up in his teens. It’s the way MES sings/screams “Talking about Frankie Lymon. Tell me why is it so”? Then there’s the humour “Good King Wenceslas looked out. Silly bugger, he fell out”.

This is the first Fall single that I bought, which I played repeatedly on Hot Valves, my show on Radio Fiona, a land-based pirate station that broadcasted to North Hertfordshire and East Bedfordshire. It sort of reflected my foolish taste for speed, which I gave up for the last time in the Summer of 1983.

In 1981, The Fall only released one single, ‘The Lie Dream of a Casino Soul’. I like the single both for the music (obviously) and the typewritten sleeve notes on the back, which are as inscrutable as the lyrics. Is “Dyckoff = Deutsche Kendals” related to the lines “No nerves left Monday morning and I think I’ll cut my dick off. The trouble it got me in”? Maybe it is. It’s hard to tell.

Although only one single was released in 1981, the same year saw the release of the Slates EP, which was on 10 inch vinyl, meaning that it was too long to be a single and too short to be an album. For some unexplained reason, Slates reminds me a lot of the first and only time I went to the Stonehenge Free Festival.  This is ‘Fit and Working Again’, which is the first track on the second side.

This is the B-side to the 1982 single Look, Know, which contains the memorable lines “Do you know what you look like, before you go out” and “Happy memories leave a bitter taste”. Classic MES. It’s difficult to believe it now, but there was actually a CB (Citizens’ Band) craze in Britain that had been inspired by the 1978 Hollywood film, Convoy. I often found it weird to hear Brits going around saying things like “10-4, good buddy” and “Eyeball, eyeball”. My next door neighbour in Letchworth would spend all night on her CB radio and you could hear her talking to her insomniac pals through the thin walls.

Until Brix Smith joined The Fall after marrying MES in 1983, The Fall didn’t do cover versions of songs. That changed with the release of ‘Couldn’t Get Ahead’  in 1985, whose B-Side was ‘Rollin’ Dany’. This was followed by Bend Sinister in 1986, which included the single ‘Mr. Pharmacist’. I rather liked the B-side, ‘Lucifer Over Lancashire’.

In 1988, the band released the album I Am Kurious Oranj, whose title was a play on title of the 1967 Swedish film Jag är nyfiken – en film i gult  (I Am Curious (Yellow)). The film caused controversy for its use of simulated sexual intercourse and was banned in some American states.  I Am Kurious Oranj saw the band join forces with Michael Clarke’s contemporary dance company. MES was known to be a fan of reggae as well as Krautrock and 60s garage punk, and this track has an identifiable reggae backbeat to it.

Shortly after the release of I Am Kurious Oranj, I began to lose touch with The Fall, but every now and again, I’d hear a new song like this one, which I played before a gig to get me into the rhythm. This is the official video for the song ‘Free Range’.

This blog post could go on forever and there a loads of Fall songs that I could easily include, like ‘The Man Whose Head Expanded’, which uses a Casio PT-1 or ‘Couldn’t Get Ahead’, so I’ll just finish with this one.

Farewell, Hip Priest.

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Smears, Lies, Social Media And Brandon Lewis

Brandon Lewis. He don’t ‘alf like a good old smear.

Social media may have its problems but there’s one thing about it that cannot be denied: it has effectively democratized the production and dissemination of information. Until fairly recently, the production of information was tightly controlled by what is often laughingly referred to as the ‘free press’ or ‘free media’, which is mostly controlled and owned by Conservative-supporting proprietors. Cast your minds back to the General Election of 1992 and The S*n’s disgraceful front pages. Cast your minds back to 1996 when Tony Blair, then merely the leader of the Labour Party, had to get on his hands and knees and beg for Rupert Murdoch’s support. I don’t want a return to those days, but the Tories clearly do, and there’s a reason why they complain so bitterly about social media and whine about non-existent online abuse: they resent the fact that people can make their own judgements based on information that wouldn’t have been available to them 10 or 20 years ago. The Tories are also incapable of matching the social media campaigns of groups like Momentum and, by way of reply, end up producing the most laughable efforts, like Activate.

Smear at will, chaps! That ought to convince the voters that we’re the natural party of government!

Last week, Theresa May reshuffled her cabinet and brought in Brandon Lewis, the MP for Great Yarmouth, as chairman of the Conservative Party. His deputy is James (Not So) Cleverly, the MP for Braintree (there’s a joke in there), whose Twitter feed is full to bursting with smears and lies. When I heard about Lewis’s appointment, this is what I tweeted.

The role of the Tory Party chairman, as far as I can see it, is to co-ordinate smear attacks on their enemies. This is how it’s been since the 1920s, when national newspapers like the Daily Mail,  a ‘newspaper’ friendly to the interests of the Tories, could publish forgeries like the Zinoviev Letter to affect the outcome of a general election and, at the same time, undermine the democratic process safe in the knowledge that it enjoyed high level protection.

When Lewis  appeared on today’s Andrew Marr Show, he didn’t disappoint. Immediately afterwards, he tweeted:

My response was brief and to the point.

Later, this was tweeted from the Tories’s official Twitter account:

When Angela Rayner told her Twitter followers how she dealt with online abuse, Lewis saw this as an opportunity to make  dishonest political capital and smear the Labour frontbench at the same time.

Tim Ireland of Bloggerheads was having none of it and reminded Lewis that his “Respect Pledge” was little more than a gimmick.

That reminds me, what happened to the 40 or so Tory MPs that were recently outed as sex pests and worse? It’s all gone rather quiet.

CCHQ quoted Cleverly in the Sunday Express:

Here it is from the horse’s mouth so to speak.

Cleverly has very little room to complain about abuse, yet here he is assuming the moral high ground. When all else fails, pretend your shit doesn’t stink and smear it all over your opponents.

The Tories have been very fond of claiming that Labour and by extension, the Left, has been singularly responsible for online abuse. But this is a topsy-turvy version of reality, because it’s been demonstrated that the abuse comes mainly from the Right and is directed at Labour MPs like Emma Dent Coad, Laura Pidcock and Diane Abbott. The New Statesman tracked 25, 688 abusive tweets and noted that most of them were directed at Diane Abbott.  Tory MPs, by contrast, have been challenged on their lies, which they then wilfully misinterpret as “online abuse”. There’s a reason for this: social media has, for the first time, allowed many people to not only engage with their MPs, but to openly challenge the lies and misinformation produced by Tory MPs and the propagandists at CCHQ. This is anathema to Tories, who may talk a good talk about freedom and democracy, but work tirelessly to stifle those things.

I didn’t see Brandon Lewis on the Andrew Marr Show yesterday morning but I suspect that Marr didn’t once challenge or refute any of his accusations or smears. However, the Marr Show helpfully tweeted this, and what I’ve noticed from this clip is how Lewis, rather than face up to the fact that his party is now, most likely, the third largest party in Britain, smears his way out of an uncomfortable moment. But that’s not all: watch how he squirms when it’s revealed to viewers that the abolition of credit card charges, announced on Saturday, was a European Union directive, and not down to the government, as their Twitter meme mendaciously suggests.

What Lewis is really saying is “We’re are crap at social media and it’s not fair that Labour is better than us”. The logic behind this is that the Tories think that being good at social media means being abusive and making baseless allegations, but this is an obvious psychological projection.

One smear that’s been doing the tours of the radio and television studios is the claim that Labour’s shadow chancellor, John McDonnell, told an audience that he wanted to “lynch” Esther McVey. McDonnell actually quoted what someone else had said and yet, the Tories, being Tories, attributed the words to him directly. Worse perhaps, the BBC always fails to challenge Tory MPs who reproduce these lies live on air, as Sarah Smith did when the lie was repeated to her by Immigration Minister, Caroline Noakes, on The Sunday Politics. She apologized towards the end of the show.

The Tories are comfortable with racists. That’s not a smear; that’s the truth. For when Boris Johnson makes another racist joke or calls black children “piccaninnies”, nothing happens.  It’s waved away. For example, when Scottish Tory councillors spouted sectarian and racist remarks, Ruth Davidson gave them a quick slap on the wrists and welcomed them back a few weeks later. The official media, for its part, said little if anything at all. Yet, the Tories and their pals on Fleet Street and elsewhere will seize on any opportunity to paint Labour as a uniquely anti-Semitic party, and when their own members are guilty of real anti-Semitism, what happens? Absolutely nothing. Not even the official media are interested.

When Toby Young was appointed to the board of the Office for Students, a quango set up by Bozza’s half-witted and less charismatic sibling, Jo Johnson, people took to social media in their droves to point out Young’s lack of suitability. Central to these claims were Young’s 40,000 or so tweets, many of which expressed crude sexism and homophobia, one even suggested anal rape. But that wasn’t the least of it, his advocacy for what he calls “progressive eugenics” (a bizarre and contradictory construction if ever there was one) was also cited as grounds for his unsuitability. Young was forced to stand down. Predictably, the Tories started complaining about “online lynching” and “trial by Twitter”. Not one of them mentioned eugenics or the important fact that it’s a long discredited pseudo-science, which was central to Hitler’s Final Solution. In their silence, they’ve clearly revealed themselves, not only to be Social Darwinists, but tacit supporters of eugenics.

Thanks to social media many of us are better informed than we once were.  Yes, there is online abuse but most of it comes from the Right and not the Left.  But ordinary citizens are now able to call out politicians on their lies and distortions, so when the Tories claimed they had abolished credit card charges all by themselves, they were immediately met by a barrage of corrections. The Tories hate that. For them, it’s tantamount to abuse and for people that declare themselves tough and in control, they betray themselves as rather thin-skinned and lacking in control. Worse still, the Tories are a party bereft of ideas and haemorrhaging members, and they see smears, lies and abuse as substitutes.

To borrow from the villain’s stock line at the end of an episode of Scooby Doo, Where Are You? “We would have gotten away with it, if it hadn’t been for you pesky kids and your social media”.

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Stella Creasy, An Indie Band And A Lazy Hack

I don’t often mention Stella Creasy, because I usually have no reason to do so. I’m aware, however, that she used to work in public relations, an industry that tells lies for money – and she’s lost none of the talents she employed in her previous occupation. Creasy has recently been the focus of the Twitter furore for attending a gig with Tory MP, Thérèse Coffey. Her complaint? She’s the victim of “sinister bullying”. By implication, she means the so-called “hard left” are the bullies in question.

Earlier today, I took a swipe at Creasy, whom I call ‘Greasy’ for fairly obvious reasons.

It is most revealing that many current MPs on both sides of the House of Commons have either worked for the PR industry or as lobbyists before entering Parliament. Worryingly, the fields of politics and PR have overlapped to such an extent that it is scarcely possible to separate the two. Perhaps this was always inevitable.

Edward Bernays is considered by many to be the ‘father’ of the PR industry, and this quote illuminates the close relationship between political power and the mass media.

“The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society. Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country. …We are governed, our minds are molded, our tastes formed, our ideas suggested, largely by men we have never heard of. This is a logical result of the way in which our democratic society is organized. Vast numbers of human beings must cooperate in this manner if they are to live together as a smoothly functioning society. …In almost every act of our daily lives, whether in the sphere of politics or business, in our social conduct or our ethical thinking, we are dominated by the relatively small number of persons…who understand the mental processes and social patterns of the masses. It is they who pull the wires which control the public mind.”

So there it is. Manipulation and mass deception are crucial functions of the PR industry, on which their paymasters in the political parties rely so heavily to achieve power for no other purpose than power itself. Therefore, the idealized notion of the “smoothly functioning society” that Bernays articulates is completely undermined by the objectives of PR companies and political leaders. Yet, it is also easy to see that the “small number of persons”; the political leaders, of whom he talks, do not, as he claims, necessarily “understand the mental processes and social patterns of the masses”, for if they did, they would not need to herd them with dog-whistle racism and the production of empty signs in lieu of actual ideas. Such impulses are cynical in the extreme, and narcissistic political careerists, who have worked as PR consultants or lobbyists, know how to manipulate situations. But they don’t act alone: they have contacts within the official media to help them disseminate their lies, half-truths and smears.

Over the course of the last week, I have seen many complaints on my Twitter timeline about Creasy attending a gig of the band Shed Seven with Tory MP, Thérèse Coffey (more about her later) and Michael Dugher, former Labour MP, ex-corporate lobbyist and now Chief Executive of UK Music . The Skwawkbox asked her (Creasy) a perfectly straightforward question about her choice of gig companions. Creasy, being formerly associated with PR, took the opportunity to spin this into a somewhat spiteful tale of ‘hard left bullying’ and ‘misogyny’. Her tale of woe was then picked up by Chris York of the Huffington Post, who chose to side with Creasy and produced a piece of one-sided copy designed to appeal to the confirmation biases of the Labour Right and the Tories. York also used his piece to launch an unwise attack on Skwawkbox.

Skwawkbox Accused Of ‘Deeply Sinister Bullying’ Of Stella Creasy Over Shed Seven Gig

‘What a sad bastard Steve from ‘Skwawkbox’ is.’

“Deeply sinister bullying”? How about hyperbole and guff? Now York may claim that he doesn’t write the headlines, but the opening paragraph tells the same story.

A popular pro-Corbyn blog has been accused of the “deeply sinister bullying” of a female Labour MP after it criticised her for attending a gig with a Conservative counterpart.

Stella Creasy watched indie band Shed Seven at Brixton Academy earlier this month alongside Tory MP, Therese Coffey, and former-Labour MP turned music rep, Michael Dugher, who tweeted his excitement at the prospect.

Aw, isn’t that nice? However, Dugher, as I pointed out, is not a “music rep” but a Chief Executive.  A “rep” or representative is a person who acts on another’s behalf. It’s a totally different kind of job in terms of remuneration and responsibilities. But further down, he says:

Dugher is the Chief Executive of lobbying group UK Music.

Make up your mind, Chris.

York’s piece includes Twitter links to voices sympathetic to Creasy, none of which I will post here.

He then ends his article with the suggestion that Creasy has a majority of decent-thinking folk on her side.

But a small group of vocal Labour supporters and one Labour MP pounced on the story as evidence of something else.

York took exception to my tweet about him and HuffPo “working for the Tories, whether they want to admit it or not”.

Ouch! So I quoted him back.

He later replied:

You”ll notice that he chose to reply to my additional response rather than the quoted tweet. But “no bearing on the thrust of the article”? Au contraire, I’ve nailed it in the article you’re currently reading. So allow me to repeat and rephrase the point I made in my tweet: this article was produced to appeal to the confirmation biases of the Tories and Labour’s self-styled ‘moderates’, and therefore feeds into the continuing anti-Corbyn and, more specifically, anti-Left narrative that dominates the official media’s political reportage. York therefore is, by proxy, working on behalf of the Tories and the Labour Right.

Creasy has some previous form when it comes to manufacturing stories of bullying.  In December 2015, Creasy complained that she was being “intimidated by the hard left”. Creasy was later forced to row back on her claims.

Back to Creasy, Coffey,  Dugher and their pre-Xmas outing. The Cat has no problem with MPs going to see their favourite band, and it’s likely the ticket was complimentary having been provided by Dugher as one of the perks of his job. What the Cat has a problem with are hypocritical Labour MPs that fail to defend their fellow MPs from being monstered by the right-wing press and the Tory Party for refusing to fraternize with their opposite number. So it comes as no surprise that Creasy has refused to defend Laura Pidcock, who famously refuses to ‘hang out’ with Tories. Frankly, I don’t blame her. I wouldn’t either. Indeed, there is no compulsion for Labour MPs to socialize with Tories, even though the right-wing press and les certains in the Labour party deliberately conflate socialization with cross-party work in order to smear Pidcock for her forthright attacks against the socio-economic orthodoxy.

As for Thérèse Coffey, she’s not only a Tory, she’s also a member of the Free Enterprise Group, which was featured on this blog in November. So it’s no surprise that she’s consistently voted to reduce benefits, thereby forcing many people into financial hardship. Coffey’s ignominious voting record can be seen here.

Creasy, for her part, said of David Cameron in 2009, “You can judge Cameron by the company he keeps… and the nature of his party is resolutely right-wing”.  Thus, it is only fair that Creasy be judged by the company she keeps.

The first rule of journalism is to check your sources and then check them again. Just because someone is an MP, it doesn’t necessarily follow that they’re a reliable source of information. In his article, Chris York has failed in his duty to his readers. By leaving out key details and through his use of language, he gave readers the impression that Creasy was being bullied for simply having a good night out with friends… friends who vote against measures intended to ameliorate the dire circumstances of many of the constituents that Creasy represents. York’s article could either be written off as a classic case of journalistic laziness or active bias, maybe both. I’ll let you decide.

Further reading/viewing

Baudrillard, J. (1994). Simulacra and simulation. University of Michigan press.

Bourdieu, P. (1991). Language and symbolic power. Harvard University Press.

Curtis, A. (2002) The Century of the Self. Broadcast 17/3/2002. BBC2

Herman, E. S., & Chomsky, N. (2010). Manufacturing consent: The political economy of the mass media. Random House.

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Filed under Language, Media, propaganda, Society & culture

Migration And Humans

I apologize if I’ve already covered this subject, but I’m always amazed by the numbers of people that seem to think that migration can suddenly be stopped, simply on the basis that the ‘wrong’ people are moving across borders. First, borders are artificial constructs. Sometimes they are defined by geography and other times, they are lines drawn on a map. Second, and this is most important, humans like other animals, are a migratory species. Demanding that people remain in areas where there is conflict or a lack of food and opportunity, is almost like demanding that people stop eating or having sex.

There are many people, who believe that humans aren’t animals or organisms, and believe they’re something else. Quite what they believe themselves to be is a mystery. Do they see themselves as machines? Robots, perhaps?

If you move to take up a job in another town or city, that makes you a migrant. If you move house within a town, city or village, you’re a migrant. You can no more stop human migration than I can dig my way from Britain to China with my bare hands.

I’ve seen people on Twitter retweet Hungary’s semi-fascist President, Victor Orban, who believes that migration can be magically stopped. How can you stop people from migrating? Cut off their limbs?

The self-styled ‘Voice of Europe’ is full of anti-immigration memes and racist and xenophobic propaganda. Much of the content shades outright racism. The timeline is full of retweets from the Daily Express and other far-right sources, including its own blog site in which it claims to be providing “uncensored news”. It is little more than scaremongering and hysteria that’s intended to appeal to the paranoia of gullible fools.

I won’t link to the site, so here’s a broken link that you can copy and paste into your browser. https://voiceofeurope.com/2017/12/life-sentence-for-afghan-refugee-who-raped-and-burned-finnish-girl-alive/#.Wj0fUMN2ykc.twitter

What these small-minded anti-immigration types want is to limit migration to white people only. But there’s a problem with this line of thinking: the anti-immigrationists are selective in what kind of white people they want, though they won’t admit it. The other thing they won’t admit is that, if faced with war or starvation themselves, they would also migrate to find safety, shelter and food.

Migration is one of our survival instincts and to deny these instincts isn’t human at all, but quite the opposite.

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Filed under Human rights, Society & culture, World