Category Archives: Language

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.

5 Comments

Filed under Language, Media, propaganda, Society & culture

Free Speech Warriors And The Free Speech Illusion

I call them ‘free speech warriors’ but you may know them as the ‘alt-right’ and/or as neo-Nazis and neo-fascists. Whenever they’re challenged on their racist and sexist views, free speech warriors will complain long and hard that their right to free speech is being limited. They may even whine about ‘political correctness gone mad’. What they refuse to understand is that if they should utter ill-informed opinions or hate speech, then people have a right to challenge them. That’s not closing down free speech, that is free speech. It’s the right to reply. For the free speech warriors, freedom of speech means “I say what I like and you shut up” and if you challenge them, they may even utter the juvenile “you hate free speech”. The free speech warrior’s concept of ‘free speech’ is nothing more a form of bullying, and by being over-sensitive to criticism, they are little better than the authoritarians they claim to hate.

What British free speech warriors have consistently failed to understand is that free speech is an illusion. Why? Because there is nothing on the statute books that enshrines the right to free speech. Even a first year ‘A’ Level Media Studies student knows that. Let’s just take a look at three ways in which free speech is limited in Britain.

  1. The Official Secrets Act: Everything the state does is subject to the OSA and when I say ‘everything’, I mean everything. Even the brand of toilet paper that’s used in government departments is covered by the act. Breaching the OSA can land you with a massive fine, a prison sentence or both.

This section provides the penalties and mode of trial for offences under the Act.

Section 10(2) provides that a person guilty of an offence under section 8(1) or 8(4) or 8(5) is liable on summary conviction to imprisonment for a term not exceeding three months, or to a fine not exceeding level 5 on the standard scale, or to both.

Section 10(1) provides that a person guilty of any other offence under the Act is liable, on conviction on indictment to imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years, or to a fine, or to both, or, on summary conviction, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months, or to a fine not exceeding the statutory maximum, or to both.

The words “51 weeks” are prospectively substituted for the words “three months” in section 10(2) by paragraph 39 of Schedule 26 to the Criminal Justice Act 2003.

  1. DSMA-Notices (Defence and Security Media Advisory Notices), formerly called D-Notices are official requests from the Ministry of Defence to media editors advising them to not to publish or broadcast certain items for reasons of national security. The committee that oversees the DSMA Notices is always chaired by a retired senior military officer (a general, admiral or air marshal).
  2. Defamation Laws are used by the rich and powerful to silence dissent. Private Eye magazine has been subject to more libel suits than any other British publication, because it dares to ask serious questions about the powerful people that govern this country. Yet, defamation laws, when properly used, protect people whose reputations have been traduced in the public domain. Sadly, for the ordinary person on an average income, they don’t have the financial means to make use of the High Court to challenge the defamatory allegations printed about them in the tabloid press, which routinely makes up its ‘news’ from lies and smears. The LM network, being the contrarians they are, want to abolish defamation laws altogether. That’s not a surprise, given the fact that ITN successfully sued LM Magazine for libel in 2000.

If you go around thinking that free speech means having the freedom to racially or sexually harass people online, or saying the first thing that comes into your head, then you have a lot of growing up to do. But do these people actually go out of their way to insult their friends, family and work colleagues? Probably. They would claim that they don’t want to be censored and yet, we censor ourselves all the time. How many people tell white lies in order to spare the feelings of a partner, spouse, child or parent? Plenty. Do free speech warriors tell their boss how much they hate them? If they want to keep their job, then they’ll keep schtum until they’ve found another job. However, it is unlikely that the likes of Brendan O’Neill would ever find himself in that position but would he tell his paymaster, Rupert Murdoch, to fuck off? Unlikely. He loves the money he pays him to recycle the same old articles he’s been writing for the last 10 years.

In Excitable Speech (1997), Judith Butler argues:

Language is thought of “mostly as agency-an act with consequences;’ an extended doing, a performance with effects.

Free speech warriors aren’t cognizant of causality; they think they can say what they like, when they like and without consequences, but actions – including verbal actions –  always have consequences. Those who believe that certain kinds of speech don’t hurt people should be locked in a room and subjected to hours of insults and taunts. Let’s see how they deal with it. The chances are they will suffer same kind of psychological trauma they’ve inflicted on their victims on social media and elsewhere.

The free speech warrior is a person that has refused to grow up and accept the fact that they have responsibilities. Free speech has, therefore, become the last refuge of the bully, the racist and the misogynist. Personally, I blame the parents.

References/further reading

Bourdieu, P. (2011). Language and Symbolic Power. Cambridge: Polity Press

Butler, J. (1997). Excitable speech: A politics of the performative. Psychology Press.

5 Comments

Filed under Bullying, Language, Society & culture

The World Is A More Dangerous Place…

We’re always being told that “the world is a more dangerous place”, but is it more dangerous today than it was yesterday? Or was yesterday more dangerous than today? How about last year or the year before that? What about the decade before that? The Cold War made the world a dangerous place. But maybe the War of Jenkins’ Ear was more dangerous? How would I know? It was before my time.

Politicians, especially those who have an interest of keeping us in a state of fear, want us to believe that the time we are currently living through is the most dangerous in history. But is it? Wasn’t life in the Middle Ages nasty, brutish and short? Didn’t England and France go to war with each other for over 100 years? I wasn’t around then, but it sounded like a very dangerous time.

The world has always been a dangerous place. There’s nothing particularly unique about contemporary dangers apart from our technologically advanced means of killing people, but that doesn’t make the present day any more dangerous than, say, 1848.

I could go out tomorrow and get hit by a bus. Urban life is full of dangers. Even if I elect to stay in bed to avoid any potential dangers, I’m in danger of getting bed sores and possibly starving to death. Worse still, a plane could fall from the sky and hit my bedroom.

So, political leaders and media journalists (you know who you are), stop telling us the world is more dangerous now than it has ever been. It just isn’t true.

 

3 Comments

Filed under Language, Media, propaganda, Society & culture

Right-wing political correctness. Are Tories too sensitive?

Cllr. Peter Graham is deeply offended. Poor wee thing

The right loves to accuse the left of having no sense of humour and being “politically correct”. Yet, while they would deny it, political correctness exists on their side too.  Nationalism, ‘traditional’ family values, law and order, corporate greed, Winston Churchill’s appalling racism, William Hague’s head… make a joke about those things and the right will call for you to be hanged! Right-wing windbags routinely offend people at the drop of a hat but when the shoe is on the other foot, they squeal and squeal and squeal.

It’s pretty easy to offend right-wing sensibilities. I left the following comment  on the Shepherds Bush blog yesterday.

I couldn’t make it to the meeting but once again, I see that H&F Tories have ridden roughshod over the wishes of the residents. I wonder how much money in brown envelopes has changed hands in advance of this decision?

It’s a joke and I cite the Jeremy Clarkson ‘defence’.

A council planning committee meeting was held on Wednesday over the proposed disruption of  Hammersmith’s skyline.  The meeting was a lively one. One plan is to build a footbridge over the insanely busy A4. Fair enough, you may say. But the bridge that is being proposed will effectively wipe out a quarter of Furnival Gardens. Green spaces are in short supply in Hammersmith and the building of this bridge would be nothing short of environmental vandalism. On this particular issue, someone heckled the Tories with,

“You get an extra bung for that, do you?”

But politically correct Tory councillor and planning committee member, Peter Graham, took offence to the above heckle and my comment. Yesterday, upset and close to tears, he tweeted the following to Chris Underwood

peter_graham

@chris_underwood – of course people will disagree with vote, but blog comments about “bungs” and “brown envelopes” are absurd and offensive.

I find Harry Phibbs’ views on social housing offensive but I don’t think Cllr Graham would understand exactly how offensive his colleague really is.  I mean, after all, they sing from the same hymn sheet. BorisWatch raised exactly this point with him with this comment on Graham’s Twitter page,

BorisWatch Boris Watch

@
@peter_graham I find Harry Phibbs ‘absurd and offensive’, but that’s no reason to be all beastly, old chap @chris_underwood

Here’s what Underwood said in reply to Graham,

chris_underwood

@peter_graham yes, it is close to the line I will say something in the comments when I get in front of a computer.

Graham was still fuming,

peter_graham Peter Graham

@
@chris_underwood – the comments left go beyond suggesting a conflict of interest (legally, not the case). And we DON’T all live in Fulham!

Well where do you live Cllr. Graham? Chelsea? So this morning,

Chris Underwood said…

People – I share the view that the Council has ignored local people and should be criticised for that – but that does not excuse references to Hitler or allegations of brown envelopes – please refrain or I will need to moderate comments – and that just kills discussion.

Lets keep it above board.

The truth of the matter is that the Tories want to control discourse. If they make ‘jokes’ about minority groups as Emperor Boris has done with his “piccaninnies with watermelon smiles” comment a few years back, it’s called “having a sense of humour” and you should “lighten up” and “get a life” and stop being so “politically correct”.  I remember the 1970’s, when it was perfectly acceptable for many white people to use words like “coon”, “darkie”, “paki” and “wog” in polite discourse. I remember how women were objectified but not listened to… what am I saying? That still happens.  I thought we would have become more enlightened by now. It’s clear that we still have a long way to go when it comes to understanding the nature of power relations and how narratives are produced to keep certain groups of people in their place.  The Enlightenment was a bourgeois intellectual movement, whose ideals of liberty did not extend beyond the boundaries of their own social class.  It is these Enlightenment ideals of free speech that are always invoked in response to a complaint that is expressed by an injured minority.

Now Cllr Graham won’t admit to this, but Hammersmith & Fulham Tories look after their own narrow class interests. They do not work for all the residents of this borough and this was demonstrated by the Dear Leader’s thoughts on social housing.

King Street Developments, who are to be handed the contract to build these postmodern, anti-human monstrosities, is a partnership between Grainger and Helical Bar.  Both companies are members of the Conservative Property Forum.

By the way, Graham works for Greg Hands, the Thatcherite MP for Chelsea and Fulham.

Graham also grinned and cheered when the Irish Cultural Centre and other buildings were sold off in January.

Hands was the first Tory to defend the disgraced former Defence Secretary and fellow Thatcherite, Liam Fox.

Here’s Hands complaining about a T-shirt that he saw someone wearing at an event that Ed Miniband attended,

May we have a debate about the decorum of senior Members of the House participating in other elections? Did my right hon. Friend notice the extraordinary sight of the Leader of the Opposition appearing at a campaign rally with a Labour council candidate sporting a T-shirt in appallingly bad taste, which said:

“A generation of trade unionists will dance on Thatcher’s grave”?

I’ll be dancing on her grave too. In fact, I’m taking a week off to go on a bender when Thatcher dies. That isn’t a joke. That’s a plan.

If you’re reading this, Cllr Graham, you might consider changing your photo. It makes you look like a self-parody of a young Tory toff. That isn’t a joke. That’s an observation.

2 Comments

Filed under Hammersmith & Fulham Tories, humour, Internet, Language, Media, Society & culture

Why right libertarians take semantic refuge in classical liberalism

Classical liberalism in action – Victorian workhouses were prisons for the poor

Recently, I’ve noticed the numbers of right libertarians who have suddenly started claiming that they’re really “classical liberals”. Like cockroaches when they’re exposed to the light, vigorous scrutiny of their soi-disant libertarianism sends them scurrying into the gap between the skirting board and the floor of discourse. There, in the darkness, they feel safe. There they can claim that they are “classical liberals”. But their new-found old position relies entirely on the mass ignorance of the term “classical liberalism” and the historical materialism of the 19th century when classical liberalism (then called liberalism) was first applied as an economic doctrine.

These born-again classical liberals will apply the same narratives that exponents of neoliberalism will use as a defence of their doctrine: that wealth can only be created for all  if the state is “smaller” and business is freed from “bureaucracy” and “red tape” and that wealth will consequently trickle down to those below. This, they argue, will bring forth ‘freedom’ but the freedom that they speak of only applies to a small section of the population: the factory owners and the rentier capitalists. Trickle down doesn’t work, yet these born again classical liberals will claim that it does – though none of them can point to examples of where trickle down has succeeded.

So what are the key defining features of classical liberalism and how does it differ, if at all, from right libertarianism?

Classical liberalism’s key features are

  • Individual liberty
  • smaller state/limited government
  • Laissez faire capitalism/free markets
  • Freedom of speech, religion, press and assembly
  • Disregard for the poor and the needy
  • Social Darwinism
  • Utilitarianism

Right libertarians

  • Individual liberty
  • Laissez faire capitalism/free markets
  • Smaller state/limited or no government
  • Freedom of speech. religion, press and assembly
  • Disregard for the poor and needy
  • Social Darwinism

As you can see, there isn’t much difference between either of them and when right libertarians suddenly proclaim that they are “classical liberals”, they are dishonest in making this largely artificial distinction. The real reason for declaring themselves as classical liberals has more to do with romanticism, nostalgia and outright dishonesty than anything else. They want to go back to a time when people knew their place and stayed there. Social mobility did not exist; the working class stayed in their place. They were denied access to higher education and were tied to their places of work. Knowledge was reserved for the privileged and the powerful. In the eyes of the dominant political hegemony, knowledge in the hands of the subaltern classes was considered dangerous (think of William Tyndale’s struggle to publish the Bible in English). Because with knowledge and ideas came the possibility that authority could be questioned, which could lead, in turn, to civil disobedience and insurrection…even though this happened anyway and was met with considerable force.

The neoliberals and those right libertarians who subscribe to the small state notion are actually the  descendants of classical liberals. They can no more return to the past, then I can become the King of Tonga. They have selectivized the past by appropriating certain memories of the classical liberal period, which always seem to orbit the sun-like narrative of the British Empire. When one puts the point to them that Adam Smith’s assertion that “free markets will lead to world peace” is fallacious proposition, they will respond by asking, “did free market states go to war against each other”? It’s a red herring. There were plenty of wars, many of them waged by free market states against other nations. Free trade relied on wars and the colonization of other countries. It also meant outdoing the competition from other free market nations. Presumably, for our apologists, the Opium Wars were not waged in the name of free trade but were waged to punish the Chinese for not accepting opium rather than silver as payment for silk? It’s a fatuous argument but it’s the sort of defence right libertarians would use.  In the 19th century, the British Empire was the biggest drug pusher on the planet- there is no getting away from it.  It was because of this idea of  “free trade” that countries like China were forced to “open” their markets and thus open themselves to decades of foreign domination.

Classical liberals denied the right of workers to organize. It was only when the last of the Combination Acts was repealed that workers were able to organize in any meaningful way.  Socially, classical liberals were very much against the idea of the relief of poverty and sought to contain it within the Poor Laws. The workhouse, which had been around since the 14th century, saw an expansion in the 19th century after the passing of the Poor Law of 1834. Today’s born again classical liberals have similar ideas with regards to the poor and the unemployed, for whom they have resurrected the artificial distinctions of “deserving” and “undeserving”. Any money spent on the relief of poverty was seen as another impediment to the freedoms of the rich and powerful. One ‘argument’ that I encountered was “The working class were richer (sic) in 1899 than they were in 1801”. But this is another red herring: the working class were never “rich” and lived in overcrowded rented accommodation. Few of them moved up the social ladder. Those that did became the petite bourgeoisie: the shopkeepers, market traders or were otherwise recruited as instruments of oppression, nor did they buy their own properties in leafy districts of the industrial cities nor did any of them become industrialists. There was a glass ceiling preventing those at the bottom from becoming say, MPs, because of the property qualification.

The right libertarian is a dishonest creature that substitutes myths and tropes for facts. They extrapolate their arguments from sets of numbers in the hope that no one will spot the flaws in their thesis – which always overlooks society in favour of cold economic statistics. This decontextualization of numbers from the societal whole is their only defence and it’s a weak one. But the worst offence is to claim that they are “classical liberals” when they are really right libertarians looking for a way to divert attention away from their very postmodern interpretations of  selfishness and greed by hiding in the darkness of the past.

The use of the phrase “classical liberalism” by right libertarians is therefore an exercise in semantic subterfuge and should be laughed off as such.

UPDATE 11/5/11 @ 1213

I found this interesting blog written by an anarchist. Right libertarians don’t live in the real world.

3 Comments

Filed under 19th century, Economics, History, History & Memory, Ideologies, Labour history, Language, Society & culture, Trade Unions, workers rights

Sex, gender and confusion

Yesterday the European Court of Justice ruled that the UK can no longer charge men and women different rates  for car insurance on the grounds that it could lead to sex discrimination. I’m not bothered by car insurance premiums. I don’t drive nor do I have any intention of learning to do so. I live in a city. I prefer to cycle or use public transport.

What amuses me about this is the tangle that people get into when referring to sex. I was watching the BBC 10 o’clock news last night when I heard Huw Edwards say “Insurance companies can no longer offer different contracts to men and women on the basis of gender because it amounts to sex discrimination”.

Did you spot the problem with that statement? No?

Sex is biological. Gender is socially constructed. The main problem of defining this as a ‘gender’ issue is the fact that the ruling is, in fact, about sex discrimination as opposed to gender discrimination. Anyone can play with gender; it was popular in the 1980’s. The New Romantics and glamsters of the 1970’s knew all about gender and particularly androgyny: which is an genderless space between male and female social constructions.

We can do little about the sex we are, unless we opt for something called reassignment surgery; in which case, we become transsexual: a third sex, itself an entirely different space that is mediated by medical science and exists between the heterogeneous biological zones of male and female and is completely distinct from hermaphroditism, which is a naturally occurring biological phenomenon. Celtic society, for instance, was well aware of  the third sex and accommodated it. The same cannot be said for the post-Roman societies in which we live. We know little of the role of women in Roman society, but the absence of any female names in Roman history speaks volumes. There were no women senators and women were not permitted to hold high office.  Therefore it is reasonable to conclude that the third sex was dismissed or ignored in the Roman world.  In this country, women were only granted the right to vote in 1918, provided they were over the age of 30. Universal suffrage was only achieved in 1928.

There seems to be a problem for some people when it comes to using the word “sex”. I’ve noticed that this has only been the case in the last 10 years or so and it appears to stem from two things: the fact that people would often write the words “yes please” in the box that asked for “sex” on application forms  and the  way in which the word “sex” is seen as dirty by some. Yet without sex, none of us would be here. Some people, and the media, especially,who have been most guilty of this, see the word “sex” as inconvenient and sought to use the safer word “gender” as a substitute. The problem with that line of thinking is that it is plain wrong. So what happens when these people want to refer to “gender” rather than sex? It is likely that these people really don’t know the difference or don’t really care and will continue to use the word “gender”, when they really mean “sex”. Masculinity and femininity are words that relate to gender. Male and female are words that relate to sex. Caster Semenya, the South African runner was allegedly going to have a gender test rather than a sex test. Nothing can be proven by having a gender test.

But what would a gender test involve? Would it ask questions like “Do you wear make up”? “Do you like wearing mens/womens clothing”? “Do you prefer needlepoint to car maintenance”?

I’m now going to play with my gender by putting on some eye-liner. Though I won’t be changing my sex as I do it.

Leave a comment

Filed under Language, Society & culture

Smears, lies, hatred and war fetishes

War and mechanized death. The futurists couldn’t get enough of it. 

Over the last few of months I have noticed a couple of Torygraph journalists making some very odd assertions. The claim being made is that “Lefties” apparently use the word “hate” when they mean” to disagree with” or so says Desperate Dan. He has used some of his blogs to wag his finger at what he sees as ‘hateful’ lefties. This one from October 26 is titled “Memo to my Leftie friends: you’d feel better if you didn’t hate so much”.   Then there’s this one from Oct 3 titled “Where would lefties be without hatred”? The factually-challenged James Delingpole also gets in on the act with this recent echo of Hannan’s twisted logic here. Like the kid who hangs around with the playground bully, Delingtroll is only there to sneer and to egg his pal on. He doesn’t claim to have influenced government policy…yet.

About these blogs. First, I seriously doubt that Hannan knows any real left-wingers, though it is entirely possible that he’s being sarcastic. Although recently he told his fans that Irish Socialist Party MEP and leader, Joe Higgins,  is “his favourite MEP”,  but he bemoans the fact that Higgins refused to shake his hand because in Hannan’s words, he (Hannan) is “a neoliberal”.  Stunning!  Second, the title presupposes that right-wingers don’t hate anything at all. We know that this isn’t true: they hate trade unions going on strike and they hate public bodies (quangos) like the Equality and Human Rights Commission. It’s that word “equality”, it sort of irritates them; gets them in a lather…they get in a right strop over it. And the spittle! They’ll shower you with it.

What Hannan and his wingman seek to do is to position themselves as morally superior to anyone that does not share their ideology. Their use of the word “hateful” is designed to cheaply smear their opponents and, at the same time, control discourse.  But in adopting this position of moral superiority, they are inadvertently claiming to have no emotions at all.  Presumably if they never hate anything, they are also incapable of love, empathy and compassion. But, as we already know, Randists are only concerned in themselves. Empathy sucks and as for altruism,  just don’t go there.

I first encountered this ideologically colonized form of the word “hate” eight years ago on American political fora like The Bully Pulpit on Delphi Forums where posters would routinely accuse anyone who criticized or mocked Bush of being “hateful”. This is really a form of political correctness, though your average right winger wouldn’t admit to it. The truth of the matter is that the Right have their own forms of political correctness: consider the reaction of the Right  to the defacement of Winston “Lively Terror” Churchill’s statue. The outrage was visceral: it was almost as if they felt their own bodies had been violated; the nation raped before their eyes.  Nationalist sensibilities are always politically correct.

To be honest, I think these two wannabe shock-jocks spend too much time hanging  around American right-wingers. Delingpole has appeared on the notorious Alex Jones’s radio show. For those of you who are unfamiliar with his work, Jones is a loud-mouthed conspiracy theorist and all-round paranoiac who has set himself up as a “9/11 Truther”. Here he is talking about his favourite subject: those horrid environmentalists.

I normally ignore Delingpole. He’s like the long-lost love child of Ann Coulter and Rush Limbaugh.  He’s a well-paid professional gobshite.  His use of the word “liberal” as a pejorative comes from directly from American right-wing commentators. The problem for Delingtroll is that this use of the word liberal is unlikely to catch on here in Britain – no matter how much he repeats it.

Delingpole apparently describes himself as a “Conservative libertarian”. He is apparently rather fond of wars too. Historically, there have been plenty of historical figures who have relished the whole meat-mincing madness of mechanized death.  They get moist just thinking about it. The last self-described libertarians to glorify and worship war were the Italian futurists…most of whom were killed or badly maimed by the very war they fetishized.  Here’s an snippet from their manifesto,

9. We want to glorify war — the only cure for the world — militarism, patriotism, the destructive gesture of the anarchists, the beautiful ideas which kill, and contempt for woman.

They were nutters;  dangerous nutters who allied themselves with Mussolini’s fascists (Hayek didn’t see that one). You can read the rest of their manifesto here.

I think Delingtroll should lend a hand to the troops in Helmand  – we’d make sure he has a gun and some rations, of course. Fuck the tent and sleeping bag, if he’s that hard  he can sleep out under the stars. But he’d probably shit himself.

As they say in this part of the world, he’s all teeth and trousers.

Leave a comment

Filed under Language, Media, Society & culture, Tory press

Hannan’s cosy take on the Freedom Association

McWhirter

Norris McWhirter: the world was so much better in black and white

David Baddiel has put Dan Hannan’s nose out of joint by announcing on a programme on BBC Radio 5 that The Freedom Association (Dan is a member of the council, though he doesn’t mention this in his blog) is kind of “sub-BNP”. Our Dan isn’t happy. He says,

If I complained about every instance of BBC Leftism, I’d never blog anything else. Although the Beeb has tried to address the overt partisanship in its news department, many of its drama, comedy and consumer affairs programmes remain as jejune as ever. (All Rightists are evil, every Tory is one step away from Hitler, won’t it be hilarious when Thatcher dies etc.)

Hmmm, he clearly hasn’t paid much attention to the BBC’s news output since the Tory-led government took power. The BBC has practically bent over backwards to please the government. Its coverage of anything that occurs outside the faux left-right axis of Parliamentary politics has been woeful. That aside, Hannan’s take on both The Freedom Association and the McWhirter brothers is informed wholly by his membership of the organisation. You could say, that in a Bourdieusian sense at least, that he’s brought both his political and cultural capital to bear on this blog. Let’s read on,

Norris, whom I got to know as a teenager, was a kind, generous and modest man: a man of real and deep friendships, who had the gift of kindling enthusiasm in others.

Good for you. Presumably this happened while you were at Marlborough or did he pop out to Peru to hang out on your parent’s ranch? He continues,

This shouldn’t need saying, but since Mr Davies is throwing Mosleyite slanders around (they were, incidentally, blackshirts, not brownshirts), it’s worth recording that Norris played his part in the war against Hitler, serving in the Royal Navy. He was, above all, a lover of freedom: he could see that the corporatist Heath-Wilson state was deleterious to personal liberty as well as to economic prosperity. Nowadays, most of us can see that, but in the 1970s his was a brave and lonely voice.

What Dan overlooks from the lofty height of his ivory tower is that The Freedom Association is a very right-wing organisation that supported the apartheid regime in South Africa which it described as a “free country” that was part of the “free world” (sic). TFA also supported the English cricket tour of  South Africa in the early 1980’s. TFA’s reason for doing this had nothing at all to do with freedom, it was an expression of solidarity with a vile right wing regime whose idea of freedom was relative to a person’s skin colour. It can therefore be argued that Hendrik Verwoed loved freedom too.

Dan provides us with a link to Thomas Cranmer’s (not the very dead archbishop) website. Cranmer says,

But during the Radio 5 interview is an appalling misrepresentation by Baddiel of The Freedom Association, which Norris established in 1975 with his twin brother Ross and Viscount De L’Isle. The Association is at the forefront of campaigning in defence of personal and political freedom.

The TFA do what? That’s funny, I thought they actively supported regimes that offered no personal or political freedoms – especially if you’re poor or working class. Countries like Pinochet’s Chile were considered worthy of their support. That’s not just glaringly obvious hypocrisy, it’s a perversion of the English language. TFA does not stand for freedom  –  at least not the kind of freedom that is accessible to all.

Indeed, the TFA make every effort to stifle people’s freedoms. During the Grunwick dispute, TFA was involved in John Gouriet’s strike-breaking efforts (Gouriet was a founding member of TFA). TFA are against people’s right to join a trade union, which means that they are against free association…unless you happen to be a member of TFA or any other right wing group of course.

TFA was involved in the March for Free Expression in 2006. The subject of their ire wasn’t the fact that someone had accused the McWhirter brothers of being fascist (their political views were quite clearly very close to fascism) but the fact that they wanted to “express solidarity with the right-wing Danish paper Jyllands-Posten” over its decision to print racist and anti-Muslim cartoons.

One of the official sponsors of the “March for Free Expression” was the Freedom Association, whose campaign director Mark Wallace was a platform speaker at the Trafalgar Square rally. This organisation gained notoriety in the 1970s for its energetic defence of the “freedom” of Grunwicks to oppress and exploit its employees without interference from the trade unions. Equally energetically, it has defended the right of racists to promote hostility towards minority ethnic communities.

While I am not a fan of David Baddiel, he does have a perfectly valid point about TFA and the McWhirter brothers.  The only defence that Hannan can muster in support of McWhirter is,

…it’s worth recording that Norris played his part in the war against Hitler, serving in the Royal Navy.

That proves nothing. In fact, some of the most rabid fascists in this country “fought against Hitler”. Colin Jordan who founded the National Socialist Movement was in the army with the Royal Army Educational Corps during WWII. He ostensibly ‘fought against Hitler’.

Meanwhile on TFA’s website, they’re calling for Baddiel to be sued for slander. Seriously! I kid you not. So concerned are TFA with this notion of freedom of speech that they’re trying to silence someone from expressing their views. Over-sensitive to the point of the absurd and demonstrably against anything that doesn’t conform to their notion of freedom, TFA actively seeks to curb the freedoms of others. In their exhortation to their members they say,

TFA is built on core values of promoting individual freedoms and civil liberties for all, which is why we are so shocked that Baddiel chose to compare us to the British National Party (BNP). The views of the BNP are the ideological opposite to those of The Freedom Association.

TFA promotes ‘freedom’ – which is why it works to break strikes and smash unions. TFA are probably closer to the BNP than they realize (the BNP supported apartheid-era South Africa too). In fact, under the Nazis, trade unions were banned.  That’s a historical fact that has passed Hannan by and he’s got a degree from Oxford in…wait for it…history.  I suspect that the phrase “historical materialism” is one that never passes his lips.

While TFA claim to be advocates of freedom, the ultimate expression of their ideas would be an authoritarian state ruled by some caudillo who would look after the interests of capital, while suppressing dissent and enslaving those who literally cannot pay for their freedom.

This sudden jerky movement from TFA should only be seen one way: as an attempt to control discourse.

UPDATE: 22/1/11 @ 1044

This blog has been linked to a TFA blog about an article written by Quentin Letts of the Daily Mail. The article contains one noticeable factual error

He also suggested that his libertarian organisation, The Freedom Foundation, was akin to the BNP.

Letts is supposed to be a professional  journalist and here he is getting the name wrong! The Freedom Foundation is an alcohol and drug dependency charity. Duh.

9 Comments

Filed under Ideologies, Ideologies, Language, Media, Society & culture

Fairness…what’s that?

Fairness is in fashion! Suddenly Tory politicians are all talking about ‘fairness’ as if they had coined the word in the last couple of weeks.  But if we cast our minds back to Nu Labour’s election campaign of 1997, the word ‘fairness’ was deployed ad nauseum by Blair and his cohorts. It was the stick that they poked the Major government with. Indeed the last Labour election campaign bore the slogan “A future fair for all”. A suitably vague slogan that had little, if any real meaning at all. Colourless and odourless, it failed to inspire.  But what is fairness anyway and why are today’s politician so concerned about it? Is it employed like the words freedom, choice and democracy?

Freedom, as we know means different things to different people and like choice it is presented as the defining feature of our so-called democracy which is, itself, only a partial democracy. True democracies are participatory. The formulation of our present democracy is only a little over 160 years old and has never been participatory in any sense of the word. The electorate, whom many modern politicians will claim have ‘the real power’, are only permitted to participate in the ‘democracy’ when the government allows them to vote’. The act of voting is therefore regarded as the alpha and omega of the electorate’s democratic participation. Once the registered citizens have exercised their mandate they are then free to return to their lives and forget about the whole process until the next time.

Choice is a word that is  much loved by the mainstream politician. They will use it to try and convince the public they are getting what they want rather than being forced to accept what is given to them which is, more often than not, the case. But as Dick Hebdige reminds us that “you can only what what is available”. Therefore, like our democracy, it too is an illusion. Supermarkets and other retailers are also fond of telling us they want to give the customer ‘more choice’. However if the range of choices in the supermarket in question is limited and the supermarket is challenged on the unavailability of certain goods that were once on sale, it will reply with “it’s a slow mover” or “no call for it around here”.  The supermarket is a useful analogy: governments are no longer interested in real ideas which will lead to the advancement of humankind, rather, it is their role to manage and offer products for consumption; the range of which is limited because the products themselves are not real. Mainstream parties outsource their thinking to think-tanks which, while pretending to be ‘non-partisan’ enjoy close fraternal links with a political party. Think-tanks will produce intellectual products or ideas (sic) that are based on some form of research which they hope will be transformed into policy, which is a rebranding of the original product (the pretence of a think-tank’s non-partisanship evaporates at this point).  But choice is an empty sign that requires an investment of meaning. “We want patients to have a choice of which hospital they go to”;  “There needs to be greater parental choice, hence the need for free schools”. Through the  invocation of such statements the empty sign is given meaning.

Choice is promoted tirelessly. During the Cold War, we were told that the citizens of the  Soviet Union and its empire had no freedom and this was because they had no choice; they had to accept what was given to them. There was only one political party: the Communist Party (in reality there were more but they formed a bloc with the various communist parties and were small by comparison) which dominated all forms of socio-ideological production. On the other hand, the ‘free’ west had freedom because we had choice: we could buy what we wanted provided we had the income to do so. For those without the income, however, the choices were limited; these are the poor, where the word fairness does not seem to apply. The multiple choices at the ballot box often resulted in the election to office the same party or parties in government. The electoral systems  that are in place in some Western countries offer neither real choice nor fairness to the citizen.

For the Objectivist or neo-liberal, fairness is anathema. The Objectivist rejects fairness on the basis that it is intrinsically altruistic (altruism is also rejected by the Objectivist for ‘moral’ reasons). If the choices are limited to an individual – who is perversely, a God to the Objectivist – then that is the market making a ‘decision’ as if it were a sentient being rather than a system of production, distribution, exchange and consumption. If the individual is poor, that is merely a representation of the condition of  their karma. Karma is not fair. It isn’t supposed to be.  Objectivists don’t believe in karma: they believe in money.

So why do mainstream politicians believe they can create ‘fairness’ when the word is so subjective? They do not have magic powers; they can no more create fairness than I can create money in seconds. The current way in which society is formed negates fairness; it is acquisition which is important. fairness merely obstructs people from making profits and these people will tell you that “life isn’t fair”. They should know: they have benefited from an institutional lack of fairness; the system that they support has no need for fairness. For them fairness only occurs when they are given the freedom to exploit others for profit. This is also their idea of freedom.

The vague notion of fairness has been largely substituted for the more tangible idea of equality. The mainstream politicians know this and the current government is loath to mention the word ‘equality’ because it rubs against the grain of their basic principles. Fairness sounds like it means something when it doesn’t and therefore it is  well suited to government rhetoric.

Leave a comment

Filed under Ideologies, Language, Philosophy, Society & culture

Where would righties be without lazy thinking?

Another classic from Hannan this morning. His blog’s headline is “Where would lefties be without hatred”? I would ask him the same question but replace the word “leftie” with “rightie”. Mad Dan has taken this idea that people on the left are ‘hateful’ from the US right who will often use the word as a riposte whenever their ideas or their leaders are questioned “You’re so hateful”! It’s puerile stuff and demonstrates an inability to formulate a coherent counter-argument on the part of the person speaking. The blog is articulated around Richard Curtis’s new video (is Curtis really a ‘leftie’ or his position merely relative to the right wing nuttery of Hannan?).

However reading through the blog, it quickly becomes apparent that he’s talking about “animal lovers” whom he alleges are “people loathers”,

I’ve noticed before that a surprising number of animal lovers are really people loathers. Not all, of course, nor even most; but some. In every age and nation, there are people casting about for a valid reason to detest their neighbours.

So what are you saying here? Or do you even know?  But let’s be clear about something, Hannan is no animal lover; he’s an apologist for corrida. He moans about how “vegans” and “little old ladies”  castigated him for his views,

Animals can be a handy cause for people seeking to justify their dislike of humans. There are always men casting around for a way to validate their sociopathic tendencies. A hundred years ago, they claimed to be outraged on behalf of the proletariat. Then, when working people found their own political representatives, the Angry Young Men took to championing colonials who were less likely to speak for themselves.

Pardon?  It looks like he’s having another cheap pop at the ‘left’ again. I wonder if he realizes that the rakish Alan Clark, Tory minister, Europhobe and racist was an animal lover and a vegetarian? Incidentally, Clark once claimed that he was a “Nazi” in response to The Guardian’s allegation that he was a fascist. He wasn’t joking either. Clark wouldn’t have approved of Corrida and would have had something to say to Hannan about the matter.

Funnily enough there is no mention of left wingers save for a brief mention of the Greens. But are they really left wing? I’ve never thought of Jonathon Porritt or Sara Parkin as left wing. Maybe Desperate Dan knows something that we don’t? He says,

I have Green friends

Good for you. I don’t really trust the Greens.

Throughout the blog, he links back to his other blogs where he makes ignorant comments like this one,

One of the things you pick up very early in the world of blogging and Twitter is how fond Lefties are of the word “evil”, as in “evil Tory scum”. Having dismissed the concept of evil as traditionally understood by monotheistic religions, they have transferred the label to a set of beliefs of which they disapprove.

I don’t know how many real ‘lefties’ you know but it sounds like you’ve been spending too much time around Freakrepublic. He finishes with this,

Hatred, like evil, is very important to a certain kind of Leftie. Not, let me stress, all Lefties: plenty of socialists accept that there are other valid points of view. The funny thing is that the ones who hate the hardest tend to be the ones who aspire to the highest of the moral high ground.

So what are you saying? Are you trolling?

This is bizarre,

Capitalism is the most moral economic system yet devised. It lets people become rich to the extent that they provide a service for others. That’s not to say that capitalism is perfect, simply that every alternative system leaves people poorer and less free.

How is capitalism “moral”? There is a great deal of faulty thinking evident in this paragraph. Which “alternative system” is he referring to? In his desire to praise-song late capitalism, Dan’s thinking takes a turn down a familiar cul-de-sac: it is here where he would ordinarily make his Hayekian claim that’ socialism leads to tyranny’ and would normally bring in the Stalinist USSR as his single piece of supporting evidence.

Ah, where would righies be without lazy thinking?

2 Comments

Filed under Ideologies, Language, Society & culture