Tag Archives: daniel hannan

The Undignifed Response To The Grenfell Tower Fire From Britain’s Right

The terrible fire at Grenfell Tower in Notting Dale last week in which scores, possibly hundreds, of people died, has prompted rather peculiar knee jerk reactions from Britain’s right-wing commentators and their followers. The most popular complaint among them is “the left has politicized this tragedy”. This is an interesting accusation, given the fact housing is a political issue, and for the fact the claim reveals a general ignorance of the word ‘politic(s)’. But the accusation is also indicative of a state of mind that blinds a person to empathy, compassion, sympathy and all the things that make us human; the very things that separate us from the machines. We do not ‘process’ feelings; we reflect, we meditate and we think about them; perhaps we act on them individually and collectively. That’s politics. Individual organs within our bodies (it’s not a ‘wonderful’ machine) may process nutrients but as organisms, we are more than the sum total of our physical processes. A point missed by those, like the Ayn Rand cultists, who would convince us that we are nothing more than robots made of flesh.

Catherine Itzin (1980), in her excellent book about British political theatre, Stages In The Revolution, argued “Everything is political; all life is political”. Second wave feminists always said “The personal is political”. We should also remind ourselves that word ‘politics’ is derived from ‘polis’ the Ancient Greek word for city; a place with a high concentration of citizens . In his Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle used the word politikos to describe the ‘affairs of the citizens’. In this form it can mean anything from an individual’s preferences and judgements, or the discourses that groups of people create or circulate among themselves.  Politics is not limited to the practices of professional politicians and their associates in the press.

Merriam Webster offers these definitions of the word ‘politics’.

  1. 1a :  the art or science of government b :  the art or science concerned with guiding or influencing governmental policy c :  the art or science concerned with winning and holding control over a government

  2. 2:  political actions, practices, or policies

  3. 3a :  political affairs or business; especially :  competition between competing interest groups or individuals for power and leadership (as in a government)b :  political life especially as a principal activity or profession c :  political activities characterized by artful and often dishonest practices

  4. 4:  the political opinions or sympathies of a person

  5. 5a :  the total complex of relations between people living in society b :  relations or conduct in a particular area of experience especially as seen or dealt with from a political point of view office politics ethnic politics

Like it or not, housing is a political issue and to accuse a group or a person of “politicizing the tragedy” misses this point – especially when the local authority’s response to the Grenfell blaze was so woeful. This was a preventable tragedy and to voice that fact is political and rightly so.

When Jeremy Corbyn told the media that empty homes in the borough should be requisitioned to temporarily house Glenfell survivors, the howls of outrage were as predictable as they were hysterical.  These self-appointed moral guardians would tell us they are educated, but their comprehension of written and spoken English was noticeably lacking in their discourses.  According to the Oxford English Dictionary, a requisition is a:

NOUN

  • An official order laying claim to the use of property or materials.

    ‘I had to make various requisitions for staff and accommodation’
    1. 1.1 A formal written demand that something should be performed or put into operation.
      ‘requisitions for an Extraordinary General Meeting must state the business to be transacted’
    2. 1.2 Law A demand to the vendor of a property for the official search relating to the title.
    3. 1.3 mass noun The appropriation of goods for military or public use.
      ‘requisition of grain at the point of a gun proved a novel experience for the peasantr

The word that many right-wingers reached for instead of requisition was confiscation: a completely different word, which is defined as:

NOUN

mass noun

  • The action of taking or seizing someone’s property with authority; seizure.

    ‘a court ordered the confiscation of her property’

There it is. It isn’t that they misheard the word. Oh no. They heard what they wanted to hear: “millionaires’ properties should be confiscated to house displaced [but filthy] working class people from our neighbourhood[that we’d rather not see]”.

According to Helmet Head, the oligarchs who have bought properties in Kensington and Chelsea and left them empty, are entitled to special privileges by dint of their bloated bank accounts and their greed (here, the billionaire is revered as a living god). Property ownership is apparently an inalienable ‘human right’ that trumps the right to life, freedom of expression and so on.

Hysteria and hyperbole. First, legislation would have to be introduced for this to occur and second, homes were requisitioned by the government order during the First and Second World Wars. Requisitioning properties in times of emergency is nothing new and the properties are always returned to their owners. This is an emergency.

The Lyin’ King, in his column for CapX, effectively dodges the question of possible corporate manslaughter or managerial incompetence by adopting a morally high, but ultimately questionable, position of disinterest. He opens in his typically dishonest fashion by linking Grenfell Tower to a hoax call. It’s pretty despicable.

Do you remember the tragic story of Jacintha Saldanha? You don’t? It was huge at the time. Jacintha was a nurse at the hospital where the Duchess of Cambridge gave birth to her first child. She got a hoax call from two Australian radio presenters pretending to be the Queen and the Prince of Wales, and put it through to the relevant ward nurse. When the news broke, Jacintha, who had had a history of depression, committed suicide by hanging, leaving two teenage children.

He then links the genuine concerns of the residents and neighbours and the glacially sluggish response from RB Kensington and Chelsea’s leadership to scapegoating  innocent parties. I draw your attention to the final sentence, because it is most revealing.

We are still at that stage in the aftermath of the Grenfell horror. Obviously, we need to find out what went wrong, and assess whether other places are at risk. If there is evidence of criminal negligence, of course that negligence should be punished. But the discussion over the past two days has gone well beyond these things. The country is bellowing for a scapegoat big enough and monstrous enough to bear responsibility for such an outrage. The idea of a tragic accident simply won’t do.

Yes, this is tragic. That’s stating the bleedin’ obvious but an accident? How does Dan, for all his moralizing and expensive education, know this was an “accident”? Moreover, by referring to Grenfell as a “tragic accident”, he is making his own political judgement of the disaster.

But what about the contributing factors?  Has Dan not read the Grenfell Action Group blog?  Does he think that residents shouldn’t have voiced their concerns at the  substandard quality of the £10 million refurbishment, or the mysterious power surges? Does he think that, given their circumstances as renters, they have no right to complain? Those who rent their homes as opposed to those who buy their, are often seen by the property-owning classes, as second class citizens. 

Like our pre-modern ancestors, we have an innate sense that, for such a horrifying event to have happened, there must have been great wickedness at work. Like them, we disagree as to who was responsible for the wickedness. Usually, though, just as they did, we blame whomever we already happened not to like. Glancing at this morning’s newspapers, I see that the Guardian blames inequality, the Mail blames eco-regulations, the Express blames EU rules and the Mirror blames the Tories. Simon Jenkins, that champion of harmonious and well-proportioned architecture, blames tower-blocks. Owen Jones, my favourite radical, blames racketeering landlords. For all I know, one or more of these villains may indeed be at fault; but, for now, it is mainly guesswork.

 A massive point has been missed.

Here, Hannan tells his readers to give money and to sympathize with the victims, while at the same he presumes to speak for the residents and their suffering. Just wow.

The media always follow the same course on these occasions. Having initially blamed their favourite bêtes noires, they will move on to the victims and survivors, asking them what should be done. Which brings me to a very hard thing that needs saying. The victims deserve our utmost sympathy as well as our practical help. Please do give, if you haven’t already, to one of the appeals. But bereaved relatives have no particular authority when it comes to finding the correct prescriptions. We should not expect policy ideas from people in shock, and demanding them is not just a form of journalistic grandstanding; it is also deeply unfair to the victims it purports to elevate.

Emotions are human, and grief and suffering are expressed in individual ways. Money is not the only answer; it is only a sticking plaster. Long term needs must be considered, namely the residents’ right to live in their neighbourhood in safety.

Hannan et al will always deny the central issue of housing provision and potential avoidability of this disaster is political issue, but this view is as absurd as it is dangerous. It smacks of  a wilful disinterest that is wholly based upon class privilege. Their underlying disgust for, not only council tenants, but the working class as a social formation, bobs up from behind the cover of their tiresome and empty platitudes, and is thus visible for all to see. Charity, for them is the answer, not a proposal to deal with the structural inequalities that have blighted this country for generations, but philanthropy and the guiding hand of paternalism is offered to head off any real demands for meaningful social, political, cultural and economic settlement. This is disgust in action.

Disgust figures prominently in the tweets of CapX’s  Iain Martin, who subjects last week’s protests outside Kensington Town Hall, to a volley of sneers, paranoia and misinterpretations. In this tweet, he slyly insinuates the residents – who should be meek; content in their social condition – are being led astray by members of the much depleted Socialist Workers’ Party.

But even if left-wing parties are marching in solidarity with the residents and a few SWP placards (which are on every fucking march and demo, by the way.  It doesn’t mean that everyone is a fucking member) are seen, does this necessarily prove anything? Is this necessarily the SWP in another bandwagon-jumping exercise? Not really.  Any human would have been appalled at what happened to those poor unfortunate people. Would this country’s right-wing have taken up the cause of those who lost their homes at Grenfell Tower by marching in solidarity with them? It’s highly unlikely.  Well, no, actually.  They only protest when their idea of freedom is challenged or when it’s otherwise not being met on their terms. Even then, such events are poorly-attended.

In this tweet to Owen Jones, Martin insists that the residents, whom he describes as a “mob”, aren’t capable of spontaneous collective agency but are being led astray by the darkest of forces. Yes, it’s the SWP again, cast here as “tin pot revolutionaries”.

Beneath Martin’s sneers burns a fierce class hatred that is bolstered by his sense of class entitlement, which is common to all free market cultists.  Indeed, it speaks volumes when I say that I have yet to meet a working class right-wing libertarian. I don’t think they exist. Anarchists, yes. Libertarians, no.

Brendan O’Neill claims to be a man of the left, a Marxist even, but this claim has always been empty. He’s a right-wing libertarian-contrarian, who spends his days shouting about the ‘middle class left’ and views the working class as a homogeneous mass that is ignorant, easily led and certainly not left-wing. In his article for Spiked Online, he demands that Labour, the left or whoever, stop “exploiting the dead of Grenfell Tower”. His article ploughs roughly the same furrow as the Lyin’ King’s effort but is no less wilfully ignorant in its tone and manner. We get to his ideological spin at the bottom of the piece:

‘But the Grenfell disaster is political’, the people exploiting it cry, somewhat defensively. And they’re right. It is. Social housing and gentrification and the eco-approved application of cladding to tower blocks are political issues, or at least public issues, and we should talk about them. But these people aren’t treating Grenfell as political; they’re treating it as party political. They’re using it to demean Toryism as evil, and big up Corbyn as the leader Britain needs right now. He cares, you see, unlike them. He is Good, they are Bad. This isn’t politics – this is a culture war, where the horrors experienced by the working classes of North Kensington are used to underpin the binary moralism of a Corbynista worldview of the right as wicked and the left as decent. They are building their political movement on the corpses of the poor, and no amount of radical-sounding lingo can cover up just how cynical, opportunistic and depraved that is.

O’Neill uses the Grenfell Disaster to attack Corbyn. It’s intellectually dishonest and it’s shabby. His screed reveals his rather slippery view of his politics: the right is “wicked” and the left is “decent” he moans. But this is no more than a warped perception of Corbyn’s very human response to the disaster. I don’t recall Bruvver Bren making any demands on behalf of the residents or, indeed, meeting them face-to-face. Can you? O’Neill takes Murdoch’s shilling, so his job is to produce unimaginative crap like this.

Hypocrisy, thy name is Brendan O’Neill.

For the likes of Toby Young, Dan Hannan, and Iain Martin, the working class should simply put up with their condition because, so the neoliberal argument goes, they made ‘poor life choices’. If they burn to death in a ‘tragic accident’ then one must remain calm and accept the fact that politics is something that is practised by, and reserved for, professionals like Hannan, a man who takes a salary from the European Union, but who has worked to destroy the very institution from which he has benefited enormously.

Since the days of Thatcher, right-leaning middle class types have always believed in the notion that the working class can simply ‘pull themselves up by their bootstraps’ and be like them. The trouble is, the working class cannot be like them because, unlike them, they weren’t born into privilege. They literally cannot afford to be right-wing libertarians or Tories.

Reference/further reading

Bourdieu, P. (2003). Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste, London: Routledge.

De Certeau, M (1988). The Practice of Everyday Life. London: University of California Press.

Fanon, F. (1986). Black Skin, White Masks. London: Pluto Press.

Harvey, D. (2007). “Neoliberalism as creative destruction”. The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 610(1), pp 21-44.

Itzin, C. (1980). Stages in the revolution: political theatre in Britain since 1968. London: Eyre Metheun.

Rowe, C. J., & Broadie, S. (2002). Nicomachean ethics. Oxford University Press.

 

 

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Tories, Ayn Rand and Other Things

The current Tory regime – known at Nowhere Towers as the Simulated Thatcher Government (STG) – is fixated with shrinking the state. They don’t even try to deny it. If Thatcher herself “believed” in Hayek’s Constitution of Liberty, then today’s Tory government is inspired by Ayn Rand’s terrible prose. By the way, it’s widely believed that Thatcher hadn’t actually read any Hayek and her knowledge of his ideas were mediated to her by the child abuser, Sir Keith Joseph and former communist, Sir Alfred Sherman.

Four years ago, I spotted, what I’d considered to be, traces of Rand’s ‘philosophy’, “Objectivism”, contained in the 2010 Conservative election manifesto.  Daniel Hannan and Douglas Carswell (now a UKIP MP) wrote a book called The Plan: Twelve Months To Renew Britain. According to the pair, their book was inspired by Objectivism. They gleefully told their readers that some of their ideas had been adopted by Cameron and co. The book itself offers unsourced graphs and a lot of badly thought out remedies for a series of problems that the authors claim are caused by the state. One stand out line from the book is “the state is running at capacity” (Carswell and Hannan, 2008: 18). Does the state have a capacity? Is there a stated “capacity” for the state or is that just an empty rhetorical device? It’s a curious line to be sure. The Plan is essentially a manifesto for a nightwatchman state. Think of a land with no infrastructure, rampant crime and endemic corruption and you’re halfway there.

Rand’s influence can be heard in the language of government ministers: the insistence on “hard work” and the frequent mention of the somewhat vague concept of the “wealth creator” versus the scroungers and layabouts, resonates with the language in any one of Rand’s turgid novels, which cast the rich as downtrodden heroes and pits them against their nemesis: the moochers and looters – the latter being a shorthand for the enemies of unbridled cupidity. A couple of years ago, Bozza wrote an article for The Torygraph which claimed the rich were an “oppressed minority”.

But there is one minority that I still behold with a benign bewilderment, and that is the very, very rich. I mean people who have so much money they can fly by private jet, and who have gin palaces moored in Puerto Banus, and who give their kids McLaren supercars for their 18th birthdays and scour the pages of the FT’s “How to Spend It” magazine for jewel-encrusted Cartier collars for their dogs.

I am thinking of the type of people who never wear the same shirt twice, even though they shop in Jermyn Street, and who have other people almost everywhere to do their bidding: people to drive their cars and people to pick up their socks and people to rub their temples with eau de cologne and people to bid for the Munch etching at Christie’s.

From this rambling mess it’s possible to deduce that Bozza has at least been exposed to Rand’s trashy philosophy and has internalised its central premise that anyone who doesn’t create “wealth” is a leech. We must slap the rich on the backs, admire the size of their enormous wads and tell them how marvellous they are! What! According to this 2014 Guardian article by Martin Kettle, Sajid Javid (aka Uncle Fester) is also a Rand admirer. Well, blow me down! Peter Hoskin on Conservative Home writes:

Javid explained that this isn’t his favourite movie, but it is the most important to him. He first watched it on television in 1981, aged 12, and even then it struck him as “a film that was articulating what I felt”. From there, he soon read the book, wore out a VHS copy of the film, and brought his enthusiasm for all things Fountainhead with him to university. He even admitted, with a self-deprecating grin, that “I read the courtroom scene to my future wife!”

Uncle Fester’s lack of humanity certainly comes across very strongly in his media appearances, so it comes as no surprise that he would read Rand’s dull prose to his future wife. If I were his other half, I’d be thinking “Why are you reading me this shit? Do you hate me that much”?

The continued destruction of the welfare state; the attacks on the poor and disabled and the emphasis on the slippery concept of “aspiration” are clear examples of Rand’s influence on the STG’s social and economic policies. We can add to this, the compulsion to control all forms of discourse, and their tendency to render all facets of everyday life into neoliberal economisms. This can be seen in the way in which the STG and its allies in the press insist that the main opposition party adheres to the government’s doctrine of presumed fiscal rectitude, thus serving to illustrate not just their desire to shrink the state but to create an authoritarian one-party state as well. Why? Because the Tories despise opposition even if they claim otherwise. If they must deal with an opposition, it is better to deal with one that goes on the defensive every time false accusations are levelled at them.

If the Labour leadership’s rhetoric and policy positions look little different to those of the government, then you’re not really being offered a proper choice at the ballot box. You’re being offered a choice between Coke and Pepsi. Life’s a bitch. Now shut up and eat your shit sandwich.

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Let’s Talk About: Economic Growth

Images like this mean nothing to Dan Hannan. who prefers to deal with fictional characters than real people and their complicated lives.

Economic growth or just ‘growth’ is the holy grail of career politicians, neoliberal economists and their hangers on in the media. We’re often told how important it is to have ‘growth’ in our economy and it is only then that everyone will see the benefit. The trouble with this notion is that those who continually spout this rubbish aren’t the ones who need to worry. They’re already comfortable. The ones for whom these pronouncements mean little, if nothing at all, are the poor and the low waged. They continue to see their income squeezed, while the cost of living continues to rise. But the media and the government will have none of it.

A few weeks ago, the BBC’s economic editor, Robert Peston, was crowing over low oil prices. He told the nation’s viewers that “everyone” would now feel “richer” because of the continued fall in petrol prices. This is not only misleading; it’s also dishonest. The only people who can feel “richer”, by definition, are the rich themselves. If you are poor, you cannot be “rich”, it’s an absurdity. Yet this does not stop the likes of Daniel Hannan repeating this meaningless tosh. In Thursday’s blog for CapX, he repeated Peston’s bogus claim that “The rich are getting richer and the poor are… getting richer”. This is a measure of how out-of-touch our media and politicians are in relation to the people they purport to serve. We can also draw the conclusion that the mainstream media, the Westminster politicians and economic cults like the Adam Smith Institute and the Institute for Economic Affairs are in a cosy conspiratorial relationship with one another. The relationship between these institutions and ordinary people themselves is one of power. They consider themselves to be the voices of authority and we must listen and obey… or so they think. So when they tell us that “things are getting better” we are expected to believe them. But I no more believe them than I believe in the existence of God, the tooth fairy or Father Christmas. I see no improvement and neither do millions of other people.

The problem with those who constantly talk about ‘growth’ is that they can only speak the language of statistics and mathematics, and can only view the world through the lens of their social status. They are incapable of relating their nutty ideas about economics to the average person because what they’re saying bears no relation to everyday life. Trickle down, for example, is one economic fallacy that is repeated ad infinitum by economic cultists and held up as a model for ‘growth’ and economic well-being. But not even right-wingers like George HW Bush believed it and derided trickle down as “voodoo economics”. Yet the Hannans and Osbornes of this world cleave so tightly to it like men at sea clinging to any bit of flotsam that comes their way.

A couple of months ago, the Labour leadership claimed that if the Tories were re-elected, they would take public spending back to the levels of the 1930s. This was enough to get all manner of right-wing economic cultists into a lather. Hannan was one of those. In this blog, he does his best to claim how the 1930s was a “time of growth”. It’s a risible misrepresentation of a decade that’s become synonymous with economic hardship.

Well, here’s a fact that may surprise you. The 1930s saw more economic growth than any other decade in British history. It’s true that there were patches of deprivation. As in all times of economic transition, some industries declined while others rose. The poverty of the Jarrow Marchers was genuine: theirs had been a ship-building town, devastated by the collapse of international orders.

Sophistry, damned sophistry. For the millions of working class people who struggled to survive the decade, this is an insult to their memory. My mum’s family was Liverpool working class and I can remember her telling me what life was like in the Thirties: if you were poor or low-waged, you had no access to affordable or decent healthcare, because there was no National Health Service (the Tories will abolish it if they are re-elected). There was very little work on Merseyside in the 1930s, so people lived a hand-to-mouth existence.

Hannan continues his fantasy tour of his romanticized past:

Yet these were golden years for new industries such as electrical appliances and aviation and cars, the years when Morris, Humber and Austin became household names. The 1930s also saw an unprecedented boom in construction, as the comfortable suburbs of Betjeman’s Metroland spread across England. The Battersea Power Station raised its minarets over the capital, a symbol of self-confidence in architecture.

Here, Hannan waxes floridly about a world that only those with the economic means could take part. The appliances and cars that he talks about were beyond the means of my family and many others. No working class people owned cars, let alone possessed household appliances. My grandmother was still using a boiler and a mangle well into the 1970s. As for Metroland, the houses that were built there were for sale. Only those with nice, middle class incomes could afford a mortgage.

Here, Hannan slaps more gloss onto his fantasy.

 Britain responded to the 1929 crash by cutting spending drastically and, in consequence, soon saw a return to growth. The United States, by contrast, expanded government activity unprecedentedly under the New Deal, and so prolonged the recession by seven years. Yes, seven years. Here is the conclusion of a major study published in 2004 by two economists at the UCLA, Harold L Cole and Lee A Ohanian:

Cole and Ohanian are comprehensively defenestrated in this blog. Hannan isn’t interested in reality and like all right-wingers of his ilk, he exists in the hermetically-sealed space of privilege. The material of history is bent and twisted to shrink-fit a weak narrative. Like many of his fellow Tea Partiers, he makes the same feeble argument for cuts.

Contrasting the American and British experiences, we are left with an inescapable conclusion. Cuts work, and trying to spend your way out of recession doesn’t.

Let’s put it this way, if a company doesn’t borrow or spend money to invest when it is doing badly, it will go under. Cuts only work for the already wealthy. They are also a means by which the powerful punish the poor for being poor. Hannan makes clear his hatred of FDR and the New Deal. This is the same position held by the economic cultists at the Ludwig von Mises Institute as well as his fellow Randists.

This is perhaps the greatest fallacy of all:

Still, if only for the record, let me set down the real lesson of the 1930. The best way to recover from a crash, not least for low earners, is to bring spending back under control. Growth follows, jobs are created, and the people taking those jobs thereby gain the most secure route out of poverty.

It’s easy for those who have never personally experienced poverty to claim that “the most secure route out of  poverty” is work. Low-paid and zero hours contract jobs actually lock people into poverty. Hannan is not only a fool, he’s a dangerous fool. Leaving people to fend for themselves without a safety net will lead to greater social problems. Hannan is unmoved by such concerns. Yet he would be the first to complain that shanty towns are an “eyesore”. This is the man who calls himself a “Whig”.

Talking about economic growth when people are struggling to survive is deeply offensive. Talking about GDP is meaningless because not only is it a poor way of measuring economic performance, it means nothing to ordinary people. For all his claims of how cutting public spending will improve economic performance, Hannan has never had to suffer the privations of working in a low-paid job. Like all of his pals in Westminster and beyond, he is a bully, who talks a good talk but when his words are unpacked, they reveal the true horrors of the current political system.

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Life on Hannan World (Part 16)

Russell Brand: he must be doing something right if Hannan hates him.

I realise there has been little activity on my blog for a number of weeks. This is because I have been very busy with other things. I won’t go into detail but these things have taken a great deal of my time and demanded my utmost attnetion. It’s also likely that my blog output will be patchy over the coming weeks, though I expect to do some blogging closer to the General Election.

I’ve resisted the temptation to comment on Russell Brand because he has been covered from all different angles by all manner of people. Brand’s associations with Laurence Easeman have been the subject of considerable discussion since last October, when his book launch was cancelled after Easeman’s anti-Semitism and fascism were revealed. Under the circumstances, Brand did the right thing by cancelling the launch. At least Brand turns his back on fash and racists. Daniel ‘Anglosphere’ Hannan, on the other hand, airbrushes the latter.

Brand’s appearance on the national political stage has got tongues wagging on the Left and as for the Right? Well, they aren’t taking this at all well. Why? Because they’re in the firing line and they know it. I found this blog from Hannan that attempts to paint Brand as a wannabe dictator.

Russell Brand describes himself as a “comedian and campaigner”. While we might wonder at the first epithet, we can’t argue with the second. The man has built up a huge following among the angry teenage Lefties who dominate Twitter. His theme is that all politics is corrupt, all MPs are plutocrats’ stooges, and all rich people – except him, naturally – are part of a racket.

Bitchy and bitter. “Twitter” Hannan opines, is dominated by “angry teenage Lefties”. Really? That’s news to me. I’ve found many lefties on Twitter but equally, I’ve encountered plenty of vile right-wingers whose idea of free speech begins and ends at insult. They’re also rather fond of the kind of racist and sexist language that wouldn’t sound out of place coming from John Tyndall (deceased) or the bully boys (and girl) of Britain First.

Think about that for a moment. Russell Brand’s quarrel isn’t with the people who have more courage than him; it’s with parliamentary democracy itself. A chap might be making an honest living as, say, a “comedian and campaigner”; but the very fact of bothering to ask his countrymen for their votes would turn him into a shyster.

I love the way The Lyin’ King opens this paragraph with the word “Think”. Thinking isn’t something that either he or his brethren do very well. They react and they presume. Hannan, a Conservative MEP for the South-east, spends his time attacking the European Union, while taking his not-too-insubstantial salary from it. His position on the EU doesn’t differ that much from the Kippers. He is a very part of the corrupt system that Brand stands against.

OK, Russell, so if you don’t like representative democracy, what’s your alternative? Anarchy? Fascism? Monarchical absolutism? An Islamic Caliphate? Because you can’t have a functioning democracy without politicians; and politicians, in every parliament, tend to group themselves officially or unofficially into parties.

More bitchiness. Let’s get something straight: anarchism is a political philosophy; anarchy is a state in which there is chaos and disorder… which is what would happen if we lived in the kind of Randian world that Dan and his buddy Carswell dream about. Most right-wingers can’t tell the difference between anarchism and anarchy and if you attempt to point out the differences, they put their fingers in their ears. Hannan squeals “you can’t have a functioning democracy without politicians”. Well, that depends on what you mean by “democracy” and it also depends on what you mean by the word “politicians”. I suspect Hannan is only thinking of professional politicians that are drawn, as they currently are, from the ranks of the bourgeoisie and the grand bourgeoisie; the scions of the aristocracy, landed gentry and the so-called captains of industry. The very same people Hannan went to school with: in other words, those who believe it is their right to govern by dint of their circumstances of birth. We also see how the political world is explained to us on television by members of the same class as the politicians themselves, who coincidentally attended the same educational institutions. Nick Robinson? James Landale? Tom Bradby?

You might think that Brand’s contention is so puerile as not to merit serious refutation. The chap is, if nothing else, brilliant at promoting his book by courting controversy. But, listen to the ululations of the studio audience when he speaks; read the ecstasy of his Twitter followers. Russell Brand may be cynically boosting his sales, but there are millions out there who take him seriously, parroting his line about parliamentary government being a scam.

Yawn. Someone’s jealous they’re not getting enough attention. Dan? Is that you? Daft question. Hannan is rather good at promoting his dismal books too (like How We Invented Freedom and Why it Matters). In fact, he’s a well-versed in the art of self-publicity to such an extent that when he farts, Fox News is on hand to cover the event. Let’s have a look at the last phrase about parliamentary government. Hannan clearly believes there is nothing wrong and that it doesn’t need to be fixed. Parliamentary politics, as they are currently constituted, is a political dead end. Neoliberalism dominates the thinking of most of Westminster’s politicians and they countenance nothing else. “The market” we are told, “is moral” and the best we’re ever likely to get. We don’t live in a democracy, we live in a tyranny – albeit an elected one. Welcome to the dystopia, leave your dreams, hopes and desires at the door.

I remember hearing the same remarks in South America during the 1990s. Democracy is a sham, all politicians are crooks, voting only encourages them, blah blah. Such disillusionment was the prelude to the populist authoritarianism than has since spread across the continent, knocking aside parliamentary rule in Bolivia, Ecuador, Venezuela and elsewhere. The new caudillos aren’t exactly dictators: they were more or less fairly elected. But, once in office, they set about destroying every check on their power, from opposition media to independent courts, justifying every power-grab as a way of getting even with the old elites.

There’s only one problem with Hannan’s thesis and it’s the kind of people who were running these South American countries: the oligarchs and bootlickers who were in thrall to Washington. They were displaced through a combination of popular suffrage and education; two of the things that were denied to ordinary people during the rule of the caudillos. No doubt The Lyin’ King would like to see a return to the days of Operation Condor when people knew their place and those who didn’t were crushed under the military’s jackboot. How dare you question capitalism’s evident limits and fallibilities?

Could something similar happen in Europe? Well, look at what has already happened. In 2011, Brussels imposed civilian juntas on Italy and Greece, toppling elected governments in favour of Eurocrats. What was the justification for these Euro-coups? Pretty much the same as Russell Brand’s: that democracy had failed. As the then President of the European Commission, José Manuel Durrão Barroso, had put it a few months earlier: “Governments are not always right. If governments were right, we wouldn’t have the situation we have today. Decisions taken by the most democratic decisions in the world are very often wrong”.

Hannan’s reasoning here is sloppy, confused and relies heavily on two things: his antithesis to the EU and his love of laissez-faire capitalism. If you hate the EU so much, Dan, you could always stop taking a salary from it. Just a thought, eh? The idea that you’re fighting an ‘evil’ entity from the inside just doesn’t ring true.

Let me put the question again: what is the alternative? Dislike of party politics has been the justification for every autocrat in history: Cromwell, Bonaparte, Lenin, Mussolini, Franco. And it always starts in the same way, with the arguments now being put forward by Russell Brand.

Scaremongering and histrionics. You will notice how Pinochet is absent from his list of autocrats. Presumably, he was the right kind of autocrat. Pinochet, after all, was bolstered by the Chicago Boys, a group of Friedmanite economists who privatized everything in sight and provided the template for Thatcher and Reagan’s assault on the working class. Hannan is an admirer of Thatcher and the notion that markets will provide [for the rich].  For Hannan, all that matters is the idea of growth but it’s the kind of growth that most ordinary folk can’t see in their wage packets. It’s the kind of growth that only benefits the rich and powerful, who continue to increase rents and prices. In fact, Hannan has written a panegyric to the supposed economic growth in the 1930s in another blog. I shall carve that up in due course.

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Telegraph Blogs Is No More

Telegraph blogs has been quiet for the last month or so and the silence has been eerie. For the last few weeks, the only blogs on the site were written by Dan Hannan, Judith Potts and Pete Wedderburn.  According to Hannan, Telegraph blogs will cease to exist. The blog site, which has become something of a magnet for racists, Kippers and assorted ethno-nationalists is moving to the paper’s comments section. The reason for the change isn’t clear. It would be tempting to suggest it’s because the blogs have acquired a reputation for being a toilet bear pit and the paper is embarrassed by the numbers of racists it attracts. However, the Cat thinks the reason is more pragmatic.

The Telegraph has been charging people to view its content for some time now and if you look at more than 20 articles a month, you have to pay for them. The Cat suspects that once the bloggers have moved over to the comments section, you will have to pay to read their drivel. The comments section tells us:

The best comment, analysis and blogs from The Telegraph including Charles Moore, Peter Oborne, Boris Johnson, Dan Hodges, Fraser Nelson and Janet Daley

The “best comment and analysis”? Is that what one expects from Hatchet-job Hodges and Janet Daley? Is this some kind of a joke?

As for Hannan, he’s moving to a site called CapX, which proclaims on its homepage that it stands “for popular capitalism”… whatever that is. He’s also going to be writing for The Washington Examiner, a sister organ to the  Weekly Standard, which is edited by neo-con darling and warmonger, William Kristol. Kristol was the co-founder of the Project for the New American Century. Hannan will be in good company.

For six months, I kept track of comments on Telegraph blogs but gave up after I began to worry about its effect on my mental health.

Here’s the final Telegraph Comment of the Week .

 

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Life on Hannan World (Part 14)

A week or so ago, I was reading a comments thread on Facebook that someone had started in response to a statement that Daniel Hannan had made on a subject on which he knows little (let me tell you, there are many of them). On that thread, someone asked “Why doesn’t he join UKIP”? The answer to that question is simple: he’s comfortable where he is. However, today, he offers a long-winded explanation for his reluctance to join a party with which he clearly has a great deal in common. For example, they both share a love of Enoch Powell. Need I say more? Well, to employ a useful analogy, it’s impossible to separate the art of the Italian Futurists from their evident love of fascism, love of war and hatred of women. Powell poses a similar conundrum. Yet Hannan and the Kippers will gleefully elide Powell’s racism to focus on his free market economic views. But then racism is more than just a simple matter of bigotry, it’s also exercised economically.

The title of today’s blog is:

So why don’t you join Ukip, Hannan?

What follows this title is worth a laugh or two.

The question is put to me, with varying degrees of politeness, 20 times a day – on Twitter, at public meetings and, not least, in the comment threads that follow these blogs. Well, chaps, here’s a collective answer.

Generally, most people who leave comments on his anti-EU blogs are either Kippers or ethno-nationalists of some description. Today, the Kippers are slugging it out with the Tories and it’s quite a spectacle. The phrase “two bald men fighting over a comb” springs to mind. He continues.

I have many friends in Ukip. You won’t find kinder, braver, more generous men in public life than Stuart Wheeler or Malcolm Pearson. Many of the finest Conservative activists from my region have moved to that party. As for Nigel Farage, he is in politics from decent and patriotic motives and, in the 15 years that we’ve represented the same patch, I’ve always found him gentlemanly and pleasant to deal with.

You may recall that when Pearson stepped down as leader of UKIP, the Lyin’ King offered his gushing praise.  Pearson is an “honourable and decent man” he opined. He’s also chummy with Geert Wilders, whose idea of ‘freedom’ is, well, unfreedom. Like Pearson, Stuart Wheeler is an Old Etonian and spread-betting mogul, who once claimed that “women aren’t as good as men” at things like chess. Really? Sexist much? Like Pearson, Wheeler is a former Tory and this is the thing about UKIP: most of the party’s leadership is drawn from a cadre of disgruntled Tories.

I found this passage particularly amusing.

It’s true that Ukip has its share of eccentrics, as every party has. It’s also true that Ukip has more extremists than the older parties. This is an unavoidable side-effect of being an anti-Establishment movement.

“Eccentrics” is a rather euphemistic way of describing the membership of UKIP, but “anti-establishment” is something the party is not. UKIP is deeply rooted in the establishment as I pointed out in this blog.

Here, Hannan gives the image of UKIP an airbrushing.

Ukip has been pretty good at expelling racists while respecting the presumption of innocence. The presumption of innocence matters, by the way, in a climate where a photograph which is very obviously of a man trying to grab the camera can appear on a tabloid front page as a Ukip candidate “giving a Nazi salute”.

UKIP is so good at “expelling racists” that there are still plenty of them in the party.  Janice Atkinson, the party’s MEP for the South East (the same constituency as Hannan) referred to Thai people as “ting tongs”. What a charmer.

So why won’t he jump ship?

I share Ukip’s view that Britain would be better off outside the EU. As far as its other policies go, I agree with most rather than all of them – which is exactly my position vis-à-vis the Conservative Party.

I’m still none the wiser, but please do continue…

For most of its existence, this was also Ukip’s overriding goal. But now the party has adopted a spread of domestic policies aimed at picking up disillusioned voters. It has every right to campaign on whatever issues it wants, obviously. But it is no longer focused on getting out of the EU and, in consequence, is prepared to subordinate that goal to its wider electoral interests.

Yet, in this paragraph, he doesn’t really offer any real explanation for why he won’t join a party to which he is clearly well suited (and booted). It’s obfuscatory mush.

This represents a shift. The Ukip of ten years ago, or five years ago, would gladly have thrown its weight behind whichever of the main parties offered an In/Out referendum. Its activists used to boast that this is what made them different: unlike all the other politicians, they said, their aim was to get Britain out and then quit politics. Now, though, they would rather maximise their vote than ensure a pro-referendum majority in the Commons. To adopt one of their own favourite phrases, they are “putting party before country”.

UKIP of “ten years ago, or five years ago” was still whining about immigrants and offering more or less the same hysterical drivel about how they “wanted their country back”, a line that came straight from the mouths of John Tyndall and the National Front. So are UKIP’s domestic policies (such as they are) not to his liking? He doesn’t really say. Guts? I’ve seen more guts on a set of violin strings.

So what about the electoral pact Hannan was proposing alongside his stablemate, Tobes? Well, it seems he’s had a change of heart… well, sort of…

I’ve almost given up arguing for a Tory-Ukip pact. Though the electoral logic is irresistible, there are evidently too many objections on both sides.

Crumbs! Why?

It’ll happen eventually – the first-past-the-post system more or less demands it – but it may, as in Canada, take a decade.

He still isn’t clear, but this idea that the two parties will merge at some point in the future reads, not like a fantasy, but something from a dystopian nightmare. Tories are good at dystopias and nightmares.

A decade of Ed Balls and Ed Miliband. A decade of Labour’s wastrel incontinence.

So that’s unlike the “wastrel incontinence”, not to say, the economic illiteracy of the Tory Party in government? Hilarious.

A decade of deeper European integration. And, when it eventually happens, we’ll ask ruefully, as Canadian Conservatives do today, why we let it take so long.

Curiously, there’s no mention of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) in his piece, though one suspects he (and the Kippers) regards it as “socialist”.

By the way, Hannan has a book out at the moment titled How we Invented Freedom and Why it Matters. You can guess who the “we’ is in the title, but let’s just say that no one can invent an abstract noun.

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Daniel Hannan on Norris McWhirter, Supporter of Fascism

Some time ago, I wrote a blog on Daniel Hannan’s defence of Norris McWhirter after he and his beloved Freedom Association got into a lather about David Baddiel’s off the cuff remarks about the former being no better than a brownshirt. Beastrabban’s article is much more in depth about McWhirter’s passions, shall we say, than mine. McWhirter subscribed to the League of Empire Loyalists’ journal “Candour” (sit back and think about that title for a moment). The LEL gave birth to the National Front and similar parties.

Beastrabban\'s Weblog

McWhirter

Norris McWhirter, Founder of the Freedom Association and probable supporter of the anti-Semitic and racist League of Empire Loyalists

The extreme Right-wing Conservative MEP, Daniel Hannan, amongst his other attacks on the Left and the NHS, criticised the comedian David Baddiel for his film criticising Norris McWhirter in his online Telegraph column. Baddiel had made the terrible offence of comparing the Freedom Association, which McWhirter founded, to the BNP. Guy Debord’s Cat has also posted a detailed critique of Hannan’s comments, ‘Hannan: McWhirter is a Decent Man (Because I Say So)’ at https://buddyhell.wordpress.com/2010/12/24/hannan-mcwhirter-was-a-decent-man-because-i-say-so/.

In fact Baddiel’s comment about the Freedom Association being similar to the BNP has more than a little truth in the context of McWhirter’s extreme Right-wing political views. There is evidence that McWhirter was a member of the League of Empire Loyalists, a Fascist, anti-Semitic organisation that formed the National Front along with the BNP, the Greater…

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