Tag Archives: Brendan O’Neill

Let’s Talk About: The Marketplace Of Ideas

First, let’s get something straight: there is no such thing as a “marketplace of ideas”. It is a fantasy of reactionaries, racists and their apologists. Ideas cannot be bought, sold or exchanged because they have no physical form. They are what they are: ideas and nothing more. They are, to adapt Engels, false consciousness (remember that the word ‘ideology’ was originally coined to refer to a ‘science of ideas’ before it was laden with considerable baggage). The notion of the marketplace of ideas is one that has been popularized by LM and its various outlets as well as the free speech fundamentalists that gather around the feet of its self-appointed sages.

To claim that all ideas deserve equal time, consideration and space is also a fantasy; a figment of the SpikedOnline imagination. The inhabitants of Spiked World and their related LM spheres believe that “dangerous ideas” should be aired for the sake of ‘free speech’, but some ideas, or discourses, are hidden for a very good reason: they are dangerous, and the fact that they are dangerous also means they’re harmful and likely to cause problems for minority groups or society as a whole.

Free speech is not absolute and anyone who says it is, is not only hopelessly naïve but quite probably working to normalise and legitimise reactionary discourses, in order to further a particular ideological agenda. So it is with Spiked and LM, whose tiresome mantra is “free speech at any price”. If people come to harm because of their airing of bad or dangerous ideas, then, in LM’s eyes, that’s simply the price that one pays for free speech. It’s intellectually dishonest and immature.

All ideas, like ideology, are a product of discourse. The recent revival of interest in eugenics, for example, is a product of historical revisionist discourses, which also come bundled with other reactionary discourses: racism for example. Eugenics, once popular among self-styled intellectuals of the Right and the Fabian Left, was banished to the wilderness of discourse after it was popularized by the Nazis. Toby Young, whose ability to think and construct coherent and logical arguments is poor and, like the fools at Spiked, is obsessed with the notion of free speech at any price. His recent dalliance with education was used a trojan horse to smuggle in his retooled notion of eugenics, which he oxymoronically describes as ‘progressive eugenics’.

Young’s fascination with eugenics comes from his uncritical acceptance of Richard Hernstein and Charles Murray’s The Bell Curve, which posits, among other things, that intelligence, itself a contested term, is inherent to certain ‘races and social classes’, while other ‘races’, those of African origin particularly, score low on IQ tests and are thus deemed, in the eyes of eugenicists, as subnormal. This is to ignore the ethno-cultural bias in IQ testing in the first place.

Young has defended his notion of ‘progressive eugenics’ in this statement:

My proposal is this: once this technology [genetically engineered intelligence] becomes available, why not offer it free of charge to parents on low incomes with below-average IQs? Provided there is sufficient take-up, it could help to address the problem of flat-lining inter-generational social mobility and serve as a counterweight to the tendency for the meritocratic elite to become a hereditary elite. It might make all the difference when it comes to the long-term sustainability of advanced meritocratic societies.

What Young fails to grasp, and to which I alluded earlier, is that intelligence is in the eye of the beholder. Moreover, Young takes Murray’s position and claims, without a shred of evidence, that intelligence is class, as well as, racially based. We should note that Murray isn’t a geneticist or a medical scientist, he’s a political scientist. Hernstein wasn’t a geneticist either, he was a psychologist and sociologist. Many have critiqued The Bell Curve for its research and lack of academic rigour and rightly so, and yet it still cited by right-wing politicians and commentators for daring to speak the truth about ‘genetically based intelligence’.

Young’s ‘progressive eugenics’ is underpinned by racist and classist discourses, which have been around since the 19th century. Indeed, IQ tests, which form the basis for Young et al’s concept of ‘progressive eugenics’ is little more than a justification for scientific racism, which in turn serves as a means to justify social exclusion and the marginalization of already oppressed groups of people.

As this blog points out, LM regards hate speech as free speech. What is revealing about this claim is that its proponents are mostly white people. In a Spiked article titled Hate speech is free speech, Frank Furedi, the leader of the LM cult lazily conflates hate speech with blasphemy:

Hate speech is the secular equivalent of blasphemy. Blasphemy targeted ‘evil speaking’, but in a non-religious world, censors don’t do morality. So hate speech is defined as prejudice directed at individuals or groups on the basis of their identity — be it racial, cultural or lifestyle. In our era of identity politics, criticism of a cultural practice can now be interpreted as an instance of ‘hatred’ towards a group.

LM’s basis for ‘free speech’ hinges on what it sees as ‘identity politics’, which has become something of an Aunt Sally for the libertarian right. You will notice that there is no criticism of identity politics when it is deployed by the Conservative Party as a means to wriggle out of its racist Hostile Environment policy or its defence of Shaun Bailey’s recent bigoted comments, when they were criticized by many on the Left. LM’s other claim is that we now live in a post-racial world, but this is nothing less than wishful thinking and intellectual dishonesty – especially because structural (which the Right denies exists) and institutionalized forms of racism persist and show no immediate signs of abating.

It is baffling that people like O’Neill and Young are given so much airtime when their ideas lack as much as a scintilla of academic rigour or, indeed, erudition. The ideas that they proffer in the media are never challenged but are accepted as axiomatic by broadcasters. Yet, any attempt to challenge their bad ideas is met with defensiveness and claims that those who oppose them are “shutting down free speech”. However, this is to assume that free speech means that the other person is compelled to listen to badly thought-out arguments without having a right to reply. On the contrary, free speech means being able to challenge bad and dangerous ideas and discourses. O’Neill, Furedi and the rest of LM need to learn that.

Further reading

Butler, J. (2013). Excitable speech: A politics of the performative. Routledge.

Here’s the Manic Street Preachers.

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Filed under Bad philosophy, Ideologies, Media

Life on Hannan World (Part 12)

Self-styled Whig (how’s that for nostalgia?) and Tory MEP for the South-east, Daniel Hannan is no stranger to this blog. His obsession with the European Union, his slack thinking and his inclination to smear the Left have all been documented here. Yesterday with the Israeli attack on Gaza in its 20th day, Hannan decided the time was right to have another go at smearing the Left.  The massive demonstrations against the brutal Israeli siege of Gaza provided him with, what he believes to be, more ammunition. We know that Hannan produces at least two blogs a year that allege the Nazis were ‘left-wing’ and ‘socialist’. We know the people who follow him and leave comments on his blog aren’t capable of critical thinking. We also know that Hannan isn’t as smart as he thinks he is, and his plummy voice and frequent classical references conceal a desperate lack of critical thinking. Yesterday he told us:

Left-wing anti-Semitism is anything but a new phenomenon

While there may well be anti-Semites on the Left (I’ve yet to encounter them), the Right has a terrible history of anti-Semitism. Many anti-Semites in the Conservative Party are, or were, Christian Zionists. These Christian Zionists believed that by convincing Jews to leave for Israel, they would somehow, not only rid themselves of what they saw as ‘the Jewish problem’ but they would also be hastening the ‘second coming’. The Tory Party was riddled with anti-Semites for years. Hannan opens his blog in characteristic fashion:

“How, as a socialist, can you not be an anti-Semite?” Adolf Hitler asked his party members in 1920. No one thought it an odd question. Anti-Semitism was at that time widely understood to be part of the broader revolutionary movement against markets, property and capital.

I’m tired of repeating myself, but Hitler was no socialist. Like Hannan’s Tory Party, Hitler denied the existence of the class struggle and loathed trade unions. This is one thing that Hannan cannot come to terms with and, instead, promotes a fallacious argument based on nothing more than his own ideological ignorance. He also forgets that many members of his own party have Nazi fetishes. Remember Aidan Burley? Hannan doesn’t. It’s already slipped his mind.

The man who popularised the term “anti-Semitism” had taken a similar line. Wilhelm Marr, a radical nineteenth-century German Leftist, may not have been the first person to use the word, but he certainly – and approvingly – brought it to a wide audience: “Anti-Semitism is a Socialist movement,” he pronounced, “only nobler and purer in form than Social Democracy”.

Another smear. Marr was not a “leftist” and nor was he a ‘socialist’. He was an ethno-nationalist and about as far away from real socialism as it is possible to be.

This paragraph shows us just how loopy he is.

It’s a measure of the modern Left’s cultural dominance that simply to recite these quotations is jarring. On the centenary of the Dreyfus Affair in 1998, the then French prime minister, Lionel Jospin, casually asserted that “the Left was for Dreyfus and the Right was against him” – an extraordinary distortion.

First, there is his McCarthyite paranoia that all cultural activity in Britain is controlled by the Left. If only. Second, it was the French Left, through the likes of  Émile Zola who supported Dreyfus. Indeed, it was Zola’s polemic J’accuse that brought the case to the attention of the wider public and attracted the support of French Radicals and Socialists. Hannan deliberately leaves the far-right Action Française out of his ‘analysis’ and fails to mention Zola (or, for that matter, Charles Maurras). Why? I think we know the answer to that question. Here Hannan repeats the line that he’s used in other blogs in which he’s smeared the Left. This is from the very paper that he writes for:

On January 13, 1898, France’s leading novelist, Émile Zola, entered the fray with a polemic, J’Accuse, naming the officers responsible for the conspiracy against Dreyfus. It was hailed as heroic by the Left, outrageous by the Right, and provoked anti-Semitic riots throughout France. Opinion abroad was incredulous. How could France, the most civilised country in Europe, experience this eruption of medieval barbarism? Why had the case of one Jewish officer led to this rage against all Jews?

Oops! I won’t bother to demand an apology from Hannan, because I know it won’t be forthcoming. Such is his arrogance.

He persists:

That we have largely edited such facts from our collective memory says a great deal about the assumptions of modern politics. In the puerile formula that seems to dictate our definitions, Left-wing means compassionate and Right-wing means nasty so, since anti-Semitism is nasty, it must be of the Right. Such reasoning is not confined to self-righteous seventeen-year-olds; it has, bizarrely, taken over a large chunk of our public discourse.

This is a man in his forties who still trots out sub-Sixth form debating society tosh like this. But let’s face it: there is nothing compassionate about the Right or, indeed, his party. The victims of his party’s social policies are legion. He ignores this because he cannot face the truth. He conveniently ignores the fact that his party opposed the Race Relations Act of 1968 and have openly called for the abolition of the Equality and Human Rights Commission (formerly the Commission for Racial Equality). In fact, Hannan demanded its abolition in this article from 2010.

This blog has proposed several candidates for abolition, including the National Institute for Clinical Excellence, the Health and Safety Executive, the Equality and Human Rights Commission and the Standards Board.

The Lyin’ King may want to take a look at this article from Ha’aretz from which I shall quote a portion.

Four senior members of the Oxford University Conservative Association are reportedly resigning over anti-Semitism, debauchery and snobbery that they say has emerged among members of the club. According to a report by The Daily Telegraph, the four senior members announced their resignation after members attending the club’s alcohol-fuelled meetings allegedly sang a Nazi-themed song and after a group of public school graduates ridiculed members from working-class backgrounds.

This article from the Oxford Student from which the Ha’aretz article is derived says:

Most embarrassing for OUCA is video evidence of one member beginning an anti-Semitic chant, which has featured before in the society’s controversial recent history.

The video, filmed towards the end of Michaelmas 2010 in Corpus Christi’s JCR, shows a member drunkenly singing: “Dashing through the Reich”, at the camera, before being silenced by another member. The song’s full version includes he words: “Dashing through the Reich / in a black Mercedes Benz / killing lots of kike / ra ta ta ta ta ”.

“This is a widespread issue at the moment,” said a former OUCA President, “Lots of people were singing it that night, and indeed on many other nights, and the general attitude is that that was OK. The thing is, lots of members do find that song (and songs like that one) absolutely despicable, though little is done to stop it. I am very worried with the direction the society is going in at present.”

Hannan was president of OUCA in 1992 while he was an undergraduate at Oxford.  Now The Cat isn’t suggesting that Hannan partook in anti-Semitic songs while he was OUCA president, but none of us knows for certain how long racists have operated in the association. Given the party’s historic attitudes towards race in the 1950s, 60s, 70s and 80s, it is likely that there were anti-Semitic and racist members of OUCA during Hannan’s tenure.

While Hannan wrings his hands over what he perceives to be ‘left-wing anti-Semitism’ and, in the process, elides his party’s views on difference. For example, he forgets the Monday Club or the Swinton Circle, which openly called for involuntary repatriation of non-whites.

I could go on, but I’m finding all this as distasteful as (I hope) you are. Suffice it to say that – possibly for the first time in his brilliantly contrarian writing career – Brendan O’Neill is understating his case when he asks“Is the Left anti-Semitic? Sadly it’s heading that way”.

O’Neill’s blog was just as lacking in its analysis as Hannan’s.  Here he contradicts what he’s written earlier in his article.

I have never believed that criticising Israeli policy – or even, for that matter, arguing that the whole territory should be Palestinian – makes you anti-Jewish. You can be anti-Zionist without being in the least anti-Semitic. And – though this is almost never mentioned – the reverse is also true. Hannah Arendt recorded how, at his trial, Adolf Eichmann, who had read several Zionist tracts and learned some Hebrew and Yiddish, argued with evident sincerity that, in seeking to remove Jews from Europe, he had hoped to realise the vision a Jewish state in Palestine. Similarly, when the father of Zionism, the Assyrian-bearded Theodor Herzl, protested to Tsarist officials about pogroms, he was told that they were intended to give “your people” a helpful push in the right direction.

Confused mush. The suggestion in this paragraph is that if the Left criticises Israeli actions in Gaza and the West Bank, they’re anti-Semitic but if his side does it, well, that’s different.  Yet few Tories have criticized Israeli actions. Why? Because 80% of Tory MPs are members of the Conservative Friends of Israel. You fool no one, Dan.

Hannan then moves onto Karl Marx, who came from a Jewish family and who wrote a tract titled “The Jewish Question”. This essay is often cited by the Right as evidence of the Left’s sweeping anti-Semitism but as this article points out, the Right’s claim that Marx was a barking mad anti-Semite is mythological. Here is an excerpt:

There were to be sure, strong anti-Semitic currents on the European left in Marx’s time, but Marx defined himself and his own radicalism in opposition to such currents. In the latter half of the nineteenth century the ‘left’, if we can call it thus, was a battle ground on which anti-Semitic and anti-anti-Semitic currents battled with one another right up until the Dreyfus case in France. The position of Marx was one which clearly and distinctly had no truck with anti-Semitism in any form and his particular supplement was to show that anti-Semitism was a symptom of deep political problems within what might broadly be called the communist or anti-capitalist movement. On the whole, Marx did not see anti-Semitism as a motivating force on the left but rather as a sign of other political and intellectual deficiencies.

By the way, the above article was written by Robert Fine, a Jew.

In this paragraph, Hannan offers one of his characteristic generalizations and, at the same time, refuses to address the fundamental issue of ethnic nationalism (Zionism) and its role in the continuing violence.

Our political opinions often reflect our character traits. If you’re a generous and optimistic person, if you take pleasure in the success of others, you’re likely to be cheered by the story of the Jewish people, their success against the odds, their disproportionate intellectual contribution to mankind. Far from decrying commercial and financial accomplishments, you recognise them as a source of happiness for everyone.

Would he feel the same way about the suffering of African-Americans? I doubt it. Remember, Hannan has claimed that the American Civil War was about tariffs and nothing else. This is a position he shares with the historically revisionist Ludwig von Mises Institute, who have already been exposed as racist. Hannan, like the Israeli government he obliquely defends, is incapable of making the distinction between anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism. And while there are some anti-Semitic anti-Zionists, there are plenty of Jews who are also anti-Zionist. Does that make them anti-Semitic Jews, Dan?

He closes with this flourish.

If, on the other hand, you are determined to see every exchange as a form of exploitation, every success as someone else’s defeat, every trade as a swindle, then the same promptings that make you anti-Israel may well make you anti-Semitic. It’s a tragic condition, a form of existential envy, and it goes back, if the Book of Esther is to be believed, at least 2,500 years

Utter garbage.

In 2010 Hannan was accused of using racist language in the past by the Daily Mirror. Hannan complained to the Press Complaints Commission, which backed the Mirror.

Hannan complained to the Press Complaints Commission about a Mirror article on 18 September headlined “Tory accused of ‘excusing racism’ after Barack rant”.

The story said: “David Cameron was dragged into the US race row yesterday after one of his rising stars said that he understood the anti-Barack Obama feelings.”

It reported on a blog Hannan had written for the Daily Telegraph websitein which he wrote, “Barack Obama has an exotic background and it would be odd if some people weren’t unsettled by it.”

It also mentioned that Hannan had “hailed Enoch Powell, infamous for his anti-immigration ‘rivers of blood’ speech, as one of his heroes”.

Hannan’s hero is Enoch Powell, whom he frequently airbrushes. You cannot separate Powell’s economic arguments from his racism. The two intersect.

Distortions, half-truths, smears and outright lies are the currencies that Hannan deals in. I wonder if he realizes that some Jews are black? I bet he doesn’t. He probably prefers the nice white Ashkenazi kind, like Netanyahu and his Revisionist chums.

EDITED TO ADD

I’ve noticed a couple of links, one of which leads back to Hannan’s blog and the other to his EU page.

He tweets:

I’m trying to work out whether this self-contradictory attack on my blog about anti-Semitism is a parody: http://t.co/Be2dPjz4e5

There’s nothing “self-contradictory” or parodical about my blog, Danny. In fact, by tweeting this, it shows that you’re not only vain and arrogant, you’re also rattled.

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Filed under anti-Semitism, Ideologies, Media, racism, Society & culture, Tory press, Yellow journalism

The LM Network and Operation Yewtree (or Won’t Someone Think of the Abusers?)

Since the government’s announcement last week that there was to be an over-arching inquiry into child sex abuse at the highest levels of British politics, it was only inevitable that the LM Network would be out in force to cry foul and muddy the waters a little. In the last few days, Frank Furedi and Claire Fox have been conducting a tour of national television and radio studios to offer their rather suspect take on the matter. Within the space of hours, Furedi and Fox have both attempted to claim that the latest call for inquiry will lead to a “fear of adults” and that parents will be too afraid to let their children play outdoors for fear of being kidnapped and/or molested. This is not the issue and they know it. The majority of the abused children did not come from stable homes, nor were they kidnapped while playing on the swings in the local park. Many were in care homes and others were students at boarding schools. This point has been consistently sidestepped by LM in order to advance the claim that ‘freedoms’ are being compromised or eroded. It’s a classic appeal to emotion.

On Monday, Furedi and Fox’s fellow LMer, Brendan O’Neill, was quick out of the traps with this piece of drivel.

For around 30 years now, Britain has been in the grip of a paedophile panic.

You know where this is going and predictably enough.

There has been no break from the paedophile panic over the past three decades. Even when certain forms of the panic are exposed as baseless, as completely hollow, the underlying urge behind the panic, the moralism that is its fuel, simply moves on to another terrain, adopting a new language and a new focus to keep the concern with evil child abusers alive.

O’Neill continues:

Yewtree has institutionalised the 30-year-long paedophile panic, elevating it from an ever-present but sometimes ill-formed thing into an actual institution, a key part of British political, social and moral life, a constant provider of yet more horror stories, claims and rumours about wicked behaviour. And when (if) Yewtree is wrapped up? It will be replaced by something else. There are already demands for an extensive ‘Hillsborough-style inquiry’ into the rumours of a paedo ring in Westminster, the paedo obsessives clearly already looking for their next outlet, the next moral terrain on which they might keep alive their panic and spread more fear about the demonic dangers surrounding children in every town, village and hamlet in Britain.

Nowhere in O’Neill’s article is there even a modicum of sympathy for the victims. It’s all about him and his libertarian friends and how the investigation/inquiry will limit their ‘freedom’. That reminds me, the comments thread is particularly vile. Take this comment from which I shall quote a portion.

Yes, Rolf Harris’s conviction and absurd six year sentence today is a travesty of justice: a show trial of man-hating ideology.

This is just a sample of what passes for libertarian-style analysis. Demands for justice for the murdered and the abused children are dismissed as part of some “man-hating ideology”. It’s at times like this that some right-wing libertarians reveal, not only the limits of their thinking, but their real thoughts about women and children, who they believe exist solely for the pleasure of men.

In February, The Grand Furedi contributed this article to Spiked. He complains that Operation Yewtree is “more propaganda than policing”. He rationalizes Yewtree thus:

Operation Yewtree was different: it was not designed to solve reported crimes. Its principal aim, rather, is to construct crimes through soliciting allegations of sexual abuse committed decades and decades ago.

Children were killed and many more have been scarred for life, but all Furedi and his gang can do is complain that any attempt to get justice for the victims (a word he rejects) is an affront to his notion of ‘liberty’.

Here’s The Grand Furedi on Monday’s edition of Newsnight. Count the number of times he refers to children’s homes.

Not once. Cristina Odone, who often makes little sense, actually talks more sense than Furedi!

The LM network has always had questionable ideas on pederasty.

It should come as no surprise, therefore, that the LM Network wants no restrictions on Internet pornography. This includes child pornography.

What LM and their libertarian friends conveniently ignore is the impact that their ‘freedom’ will have on the freedoms of others. Theirs is nothing less than a rationalization of selfishness. The right of children to be free from exploitation and abuse is of little or no interest to them.

 

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Telegraph Comment of the Week (#27)

The severe weather that’s been affecting the British Isles for the last few weeks has provided a stark reminder that climate change is here and it is real. Climate change sceptics or ‘deniers’, as they are sometimes called, respond with the usual mush about how fossil fuels aren’t a contributory factor to the change in climate and how we should all learn to love breathing heavily polluted air. The ‘deniers’ are a scientifically-challenged bunch, who pretend to know more about science than they actually do. Lord Nigel Lawson is one such fellow. Lawson possesses no scientific qualifications… unless you count his degree in PPE, which includes the dismal science of economics but aside from that, he’s no scientist. He is, however, working on behalf of the very industries that are responsible for pollution and he loves to frack.

Climate change sceptics are an odd bunch. Take Brendan ‘Eddie Munster’ O’Neill, a man who takes a contradictory position on almost anything. Today he takes the side of the petrochemical industries over peer-reviewed scientific research. In a blog titled “Are you now or have you ever been a climate change sceptic”?

Eddie takes over from where his erstwhile stablemate, James ‘Norma Desmond’ Delingpole (who left Telegraph blogs this week),by accusing the Green Party’s Natalie Bennett of “McCarthyism” because she said in a BBC interview that “every senior adviser who refuses to accept the scientific consensus on climate change shouldn’t be in their posts”. Fair enough. Would you have a creationist in charge of teaching evolutionary theory? Well, no you wouldn’t. Therefore, it makes perfectly good sense to exclude any adviser whose views are ideologically opposed to climate change.

Eddie can’t see this. He groans:

Perhaps we should ask every aspiring civil servant, “Are you now or have you ever been a climate-change sceptic?” The Green Party’s proposal shows how authoritarian and intolerant environmentalist politics has become, so that everyone who raises awkward questions about the climate-change consensus is branded a “denier” (a term borrowed from the Inquisition) and anyone who fails to conform to the right way of thinking on climate-change issues will swiftly find themselves accused not just of being wrong, but of being immoral and even dangerous – the Green Party says senior government advisers who refute the green consensus are “endanger[ing] our future and our children’s future”.

This is paranoid stuff from Eddie and he knows just what his readers want, so he lays it on some more.

When a party can so casually call for the sacking of political advisers who do not accept a particular outlook, a particular consensus, then it’s pretty clear that party has lost any attachment to the age-old ideals of free thought, free speech and the rights of conscience. The Greens are demanding nothing less than a purge of eco-heathens and political undesirables from public life. And in the process they have revealed their true instincts, which are to demonise their opponents rather than debate them, censor stuff they don’t like rather than challenge it, and, like a secular version of yesteryear’s pointy-hatted enforcers of Biblical correctness, brand as beyond the pale anyone who doesn’t accept the gospel of greenness.

Notice how he continues the religious theme in this final paragraph.  The Greens are “demanding purges” and they “demonise their opponents”. Not that O’Neill ever demonizes anyone. Oh no. Not our Eddie. Parties call for sackings all the time but in O’Neill’s eyes, the Greens are a special case and his readers agree with him. This week’s comment was provided by someone calling themselves “bluepeter”.

bluedickheadNotice how this one immediately ties the idea of climate change to “wealth re-distribution”. Yeah, wealth redistribution is bad, it’s kind of like communism for “bluepeter”.  What I find curious about this comment is the way the author seems so certain of the merit of his bad arguments. “It’s not a debate the believers wish to have because they know they will lose” (my italics). The climate change sceptics believe that anyone who supports (the correct word for those who accept the scientific position) the idea of climate change are the same as members of a religious cult – as Eddie had done earlier with his Inquisition references. Not that the ‘deniers’ attitudes aren’t cult-like or the their unwavering belief in bankrupt economic theories borders on blind faith. Please, spare me the hysterics.

“Bluepeter” closes by suggesting the Greens, climate change scientists or anyone else who doesn’t agree with him are “fascists” adding  they, “silence the opposition”. Which is kind of funny when you think about it,  because that’s what today’s fascists (who tend to refer to themselves variously as ‘nationalists’ or ‘libertarians’ these days) accuse anti-fascists of doing when they oppose fascists on our streets. I even had someone suggest to me that trade unions who went on strike were ‘fascists’. Fascism and Nazism were both opposed to trade unions. Who says irony is dead?

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Telegraph Comment of the Week (#19)

I found some terrific comments this week but my computer died and I lost the screenshots. No matter. In the week that Nelson Mandela died, one expected to find a wealth of racist comments on Telegraph blogs but all the articles about Madiba have closed comments threads. It’s only Brendan O’Neill, who I suspected would be first out the traps with an article about how apartheid was good (the RCP was against sanctions and was thus aligned with Thatcher) and how Mandela was a ‘terrorist’, who’s allowing comments on his thread. But rather than write about Mandela,  he’s penned this tribute to ‘free speech’ instead.

‘Free speech’ in O’Neill’s world is when people are allowed to say whatever they like, no matter how abhorrent, free in the knowledge that they won’t be challenged. Because, in the mind of Eddie Munster, if someone challenges your vile views, they are guilty of ‘stifling’ free speech. Without any trace of irony, he tells us:

Firstly, because it is always better to have dodgy extremist ideas out in the open, where they can be challenged and ridiculed, rather than festering underground, hidden away, unquestioned. And secondly, because it is only by defending freedom of speech for all – yes, even for whackjobs – that we can guarantee it for ourselves, for everyone, for the decent as well as the daft.

My bold. The views left on Telegraph blogs are rarely challenged by blog authors and those who try to challenge them are shouted down. The Telegraph has become a place for neo-Nazis and Enoch Powell worshippers to congregate and they are often attracted by the blog author’s views (I give you James Delingpole). The Lyin’ King, in another blog disputes this, but he doth protest too much.

O’Neill appears to have realized that all the comments threads on the Mandela articles are closed, so he circumvents this by titling his blog

If we are serious about freedom of speech, then everyone must have it

Eddie slyly ends his blog with a recording of Nelson Mandela ‘saying farewell to South Africa’. This was done to draw in the self-styled ‘patriots’ and give them a space to air their disgusting views.

This week’s comment is particularly vile and appears to have been left by someone who could easily be a member of The World Union of National Socialists.

Vitaly Klitschko

Brendan O’Neill is absolutely correct. Historical facts must be separated from PC re-writing of history. History uses the same scientific method as the natural sciences.

The FACTS about WW2 must always be remembered; for example, that far from being a dictator, Hitler was an extremely popular politician. Hitler was democratically elected as Chancellor and supported by an overwhelming majority of Germans. It is a huge mistake to demonize National Socialism as “extremism”. Such derogatory labels simplify history, hamper rational analysis and can easily be used for censorship. Demonizing National Socialism means that you fail to understand it.

“FACTS”, eh? In spite of what he says, you won’t find Eddie challenging these views.  This reader believes that Hitler was “an extremely popular politician” and that Nazism has been demonized. Really? But it’s the final sentence that’s the most ignorant. “Vitaly” claims that “Demonizing National Socialism means that you fail to understand it”. Really? Tell than to the millions who died in the death camps. It seems to me that those who clam the Nazis were “demonized” have failed to learn their history or have chosen to ignore it for ideological reasons – like our boneheaded friend,”Vitaly” here.

Here’s part of Hannan’s mealy-mouthed protest:

Now there’s a new variant of the phenomenon: judging a blog by its comment thread. Again, the absurdity should be obvious. Bloggers are not responsible for what happens after they have posted.

Here’s a tip, Danny: if you don’t want to attract the comments of nutters, then don’t write blogs that appeal to them. You could, of course, challenge such views but instead, you’d rather blame it on ‘trolls’ than accept responsibility.

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Telegraph Comment of the Week (#12)

Brendan O'Neill: let them eat donuts

Brendan O’Neill: poverty is a leftist conspiracy

At Nowhere Towers, Brendan O’Neill is known as one of the Telegraph’s worst bloggers (James Delingpole is the other one). A Murdoch lackey and an acolyte of The Great Furedi, O’Neill rails against anything that looks vaguely left-wing and this  is in spite of his repeated insistence that he’s a “man of the Left”. Is he a hypocrite? Yes, he is.

Yesterday, O’Neill penned a blog with the title “What’s fuelling the food bank frenzy? The hunger for publicity for anti-poverty activists”.

O’Neill knows what his readers like and they like anything that puts the poor and the needy in their place. They also like their ideas half-baked and O’Neill knows this and plays them like a fiddle.

Here’s my theory, for what it’s worth. Today’s food banks are not fuelled by the needs of the poor so much as by the needs of charities and campaigners. I think the main beneficiaries of the fashion for opening food banks, and for press-releasing these openings to every media outlet in the land, are the poverty industry rather than the poor. The poverty industry is made up of those campaigners who depend, for their very existence, on the idea that there exist hordes of helpless, hapless poor folk – and so the more these campaigners can fuel that idea, the better. Just consider how loose is their definition of poverty.

“Here’s my theory” he says. The trouble is, Brendan, it isn’t a “theory”; it’s a collection of prejudices strung together like diamante pearls. Furthermore, there is no “poverty industry”. That’s blatant hyperbole. What O’Neill is saying is that those who help others are to be despised. So the food banks, which many people rely on, are just publicity fronts? Did I get that right? Yes, I did.

They define “food poverty” as “the inability to afford, or have access to, food to make up a healthy diet”. But who defines what is a healthy diet? If a family can afford unhealthy foods – like cheap white bread, processed meat, beans – can they still be said to be suffering from “food poverty”? In these campaigners’ eyes, yes. Using various modern and ridiculously stretched definitions of poverty, the Trussell Trust, which runs most of Britain’s food banks, says 13 million people in Britain are living in poverty. They mean relative poverty – effectively “not being as wealthy as others” rather than “having nothing”. For them, the important thing is not having a serious debate about living standards in the 21st century but rather promoting the Dickensian idea that millions of people are poor, desperate and starving.

With the rising cost of fuel, travel and foodstuffs, combined with stagnating wages (stagflation), life for the low-waged and those on benefits is tough, but you’ll get no sympathy from O’Neill who thinks poverty is a leftist conspiracy. He nitpicks over the definition of “food poverty” but he hasn’t actually produced an coherent argument to challenge it. Instead he tells us that poverty is a “Dickensian idea”; old-fashioned and no longer ‘hip’. In the last sentence, he shows us that not only is he spiteful and mean, but he’s in denial.

That is what is driving the food-bank frenzy – not Britons’ desperation for food, but poverty campaigners’ desperation for publicity. The opening of a food bank is ultimately a very fancy press release about the need to keep the charity sector and welfare state flourishing. It’s politics dolled up as emergency aid. It’s poverty porn, providing a kick for those activists and commentators who like nothing more than to feel the thrill of pity for the less fortunate.

O’Neill hasn’t got any evidence to support this provocative assertion. “Politics dolled up as emergency aid” just reinforces his selective misanthropy. Better to let people starve. Eh, Brendan?

Now we come to the comment of the week. This one is from “MHammer47”, whose class hatred oozes from every word of this comment:

MHammer Twat

“MHammer47” channels Marie Antoinette by saying “let them eat donuts (sic)”. They’re only “69p”. Living on doughnuts will lead to serious health issues but for people like this, such things are incidental; mere collateral damage.  For MC Hammer, finding oneself in dire financial circumstances is about making “bad choices”. If only it were that simple.

There’s an old saying that Hammer and O’Neill need to learn and understand: There by the grace of God go I.

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Filed under Ideologies, Journalism, Media, social class, Society & culture, Telegraph Comment of the Week, Tory press, Yellow journalism

What to do with a hack like Brendan O’Neill?

Brendan O’Neill is, as regular readers will know, a contrarian and a devotee of the Cult of the Grand Furedi.  Here at Nowhere Towers, O’Neill is also known as the King of the Strawman Arguments. Does he do this shit to get attention? You betcha. Does he do it to smear the Left? Oh God, yes. That’s what the old RCP was all about back in the 1980s. Nothing’s changed, baby.

Today’s blog is a corker. Remember when O’Neill accused Steve Bell of anti-Semitism? Well, he’s gone one better.  He tells us that “The crusade (sic) against Wonga is in danger of resurrecting the stereotype of the avaricious Jewish moneylender”. No, I AM NOT MAKING THIS UP! Did you see how O’Neill used the word “crusade” too? For someone who’s bitching about a campaign against Wonga being tantamount to a display of anti-Semitism, his  grasp of history is slippery.

Take a look at this:

Something about the moral crusade against Wonga is making me feel uncomfortable. It isn’t the fact that people are criticising a payday loan company; most such outfits are pretty unpleasant and we must be at liberty to ridicule them and take them to task.

Come again?

No, it’s the fact that Wonga is being singled out above all other modern loan sharks, and that the Wonga-bashing sections of the media are rather salaciously obsessing over the lavish lifestyles allegedly led by its “greedy” bosses. Wonga, you see, is owned by two Jewish immigrants, Errol Damelin and Jonty Hurwitz, and their venture capital backers. And I think we are in serious danger of resurrecting the old racial stereotype of the avaricious Jewish moneylender.

So because the owners of Wonga are Jewish, this is why people are protesting against it? This is a pretty big stretch, Bren, me auld fruit. Besides, doesn’t the venture vulture capitalist, Adrian Beecroft, hold shares in the company? Oh, I think he does.  Beecroft isn’t Jewish by the way. He’s the man whose ‘report’ – and I use that word in the loosest possible sense – formed the basis for removing the right of workers to take their employers to court for unfair dismissal. In other words, if your boss gropes you behind the photocopier, just take it for Hinglan. Ok? The Mirror says:

Mr Beecroft is chairman of Dawn Capital, which has a large stock in Wonga Group. Latest accounts show the company, which is now worth £384m, was worth a mere £17m in December 2010.

That’s large stock. In the Wonga Group. It’s big money.  £384m, in fact.

Back to O’Neill:

Just look into the underbelly of the internet, if you dare. There you will find neo-fascists and anti-Semites leaping with naked glee on to the anti-Wonga bandwagon. On the far-right white nationalist Stormfront website (I’m not providing hyperlinks), Wonga’s owners are referred to as “modern-day hook-nosed pawnbrokers… usurious swine in the most extreme form”. A self-styled Aryan campaign group says Wonga is an “insidious parasitic company of usury” and says no one will be surprised to discover that it is “the brainchild of two Jews”. It refers to Wonga’s “Dracula-esque” sucking-up of non-Jewish people’s money. Elsewhere in the Hitler-worshipping parts of the web, Wonga is said to be made up of “Jewish shysters” and its behaviour is said to be typical of the Jews, who can only “steal, cheat and sue people”.

O’Neill is drawing some lazy lines between the extreme-right and those on the Left who oppose vulture capitalists like Wonga. In other words, people like you and me are allegedly no better than the boneheads on St*rmfr*nt.

Following Archbishop Justin Welby’s intervention into the Wonga debate, the Sun depicted Welby as a Christlike figure in a temple yelling “Out, moneylenders!” at a fat, ugly man in a Wonga jacket. Jesus’s driving of moneylenders from the Jewish temple has for centuries been used as evidence that Jews are shysters who will even try to make a buck on holy ground.

Let me get this straight… the Sun did this?

Of course, the Sun is not remotely anti-Semitic, and neither are the other mainstream campaigners against Wonga.

The Sun? Anti-Semitic? Never. It’s racist, sexist and anti-working class. But who are these “mainstream campaigners”? Besides, didn’t you just say that the “crusade” risked some sort of anti-Semitic backlash? What makes these “mainstream campaigners” so different? He does not say. Instead, he vomits:

Nonetheless, the media and campaigners’ myopic focus on Wonga above all other payday loan companies, alongside their depiction of Wonga’s bosses as predatory and utterly devoid of feeling as they build their comfy piles on the backs of other people’s suffering, does have uncomfortable echoes of the age-old stereotype of the predatory Jewish moneylender.

You’ve lost me now, Bren. Is this how The Grand Furedi taught you how to construct an argument?

The last paragraph is just as bad:

In the early twentieth century, August Bebel, the German Marxist, referred to certain Lefties’ obsession with so-called “Jewish capitalism” as “the socialism of fools”. To wring one’s hands over moneylenders, many of whom happened to be Jewish, represented a twisted and vulgar critique of capitalism, said Bebel, with some sad Leftists preferring to launch moralistic assaults on the stranger practices of capitalist society over offering up a serious critique of capitalism’s structural failings. Well, this Saturday, the People’s Assembly, the new anti-austerity left-wing outfit founded by journalists and trade unionists, is encouraging its supporters to occupy Wonga premises and other payday loan companies that are “targeting the poorest in society”. Has the left learnt nothing in the past hundred years? The open anti-Semitism has gone, but nonetheless, a socialism which obsesses over a symptom of the economic downturn rather than putting forward ideas for how to create a new and wealthy society is still pretty foolish.

Here, O’Neill, in desperation, summons up the ghost of August Bebel like some seaside mystic. “It’s a warning from history”, he shrieks. Notice how he also takes a cheap shot at the People’s Assembly too. He’s not their biggest fan. Neither am I come to think of it. But that’s beside the point. O’Neill loves telling his readers, without an apparent trace of irony, that he’s a Marxist. His readers believe this because they have no idea what Marxism is, all they know is that they don’t like it. Tories are like that: they’re clueless when it comes to ideologies. So is Brendan O’Neill.

O’Neill has closed the comments thread. A wise move, I think.

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