Tag Archives: LM Network

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

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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Filed under Child sex abuse, Society & culture

More on the Liberty League

No sooner than I’d published this blog than I found myself dealing with three trolls, all of whom claimed to be dedicated to the cause of freedom. I also had three of them respond to me on Twitter, two of whom abused me (typical) and the other, Anton Howes, the League’s head honcho tried to tell me that they “appealed to left-libertarians”, and asked me if

@buddy_hell spiked +IOI not count as “leftwing” anymore? Besides, orgs not same as ppl who attend our conferences. Many left-anarchists, etc

Spiked? IoI? Left-wing? Same sentence? “Good Lord, no”,  I said but just because they call themselves “left-wing”, it doesn’t necessarily follow that they are. I have already written about the LM network, their origins and their constituent parts in a blog that was cited on Powerbase. Anyone who takes LM’s left-wing credentials at face value is in for a major disappointment.  In fact, the Revolutionary Communist Tendency (the forerunner of the RCP/LM) was expelled from the SWP for being too “right-wing” (sic).

But what is a “left-anarchist”? Is that an anarchist who is not an anarcho-capitalist? Anarcho-capitalism is an oxymoron. Anarchists despise the capitalist system and no anarchist in their right mind would knowingly associate themselves with a network that includes the likes of The Freedom Association or the Institute for Economic Affairs. I told Howes this but I have yet to receive a reply.

Howes also told me that he was a PhD student but it turns out, according to Spiked’s Patrick West (brother of Ed) that he is, in fact, an undergraduate student at Kings College, London. The article was written in March of this year, so it is entirely possible that Howes skipped the Masters degree and went straight for the doctorate. It has been known to happen. He told me,

@buddy_hell and yes, I’d noticed. Although I’m not ‘rightwing’ at all, it won’t stop me using the terms.

He works for the Adam Smith Institute, you can’t get more right-wing than that. But like so many right libertarians, he presumed me to be stupid. They’re an arrogant bunch.

While not being a fan of Spiked, I found some of West’s article interesting because it shed a little more light onto the Liberty League. West opens in strident fashion.

For decades, university students in Britain who wanted to change the world often had little more than a handful of left-wing groups to sign up to. And, as time has gone on, these radical groups have become more and more outdated and divorced from political reality. Left-wing student associations are now more likely to call for state intervention into people’s lives, embrace the welfare state and demand fewer cuts, rather than fundamentally challenging the state’s role.

Ah, yes, the “left” is “outdated”. So presumptuous and so wrong. if Spiked is left-wing, then this West article puts paid to that notion. The left is marginalized. Yes. The left is divided. That’s true. But these libertarians will not change the world in a way that benefits all of society, they want the same world but with bells, whistles and a fringe on the top. Let’s continue,

Howes recognises this phenomenon. ‘People are sick of seeing tonnes and tonnes of Socialist Workers Party or Marxist groups hounding them on tables outside campus all the time, posting fliers and posters everywhere. They think “well, I don’t agree with this”. Students want to see an alternative group on campus that has pro-liberty ideas.’

“People are sick”, he says, “of seeing tonnes and tonnes of Socialist Workers Party or Marxist groups hounding them on tables outside campus all the time”. Does he ever think students may be genuinely interested in left-wing groups? I mean, it isn’t as if the right doesn’t organize on campuses. It does. They just don’t happen to be popular with a good many students and for very good reasons.  The other thing that is evident in the passage is Howes’ insistence that only his network understands the true nature of “liberty”.

The demand for such a group is coming from a mix of students, says Howes, who place themselves all over the traditional political spectrum, from left-wing anarchists to young conservatives. Liberty League now has 30 active student societies on campuses across the UK and it is rising all the time.

I would be interested in seeing exactly how much “demand” there is for “libertarianism” at, say, a post-1992 university like London South Bank for example. These libertarians are top-down, hierarchical types and if you scratch the surface you’ll find an authoritarian underneath. “Left-wing anarchists” that is to say, real anarchists  would have no truck with this kind of “libertarianism”. Further down the article, I found this,

One enthusiastic Liberty League supporter is Gabrielle Shiner, a young American studying at Queen Mary, University of London. Shiner recounts: ‘When I got to the UK I couldn’t really find any student group to join. It was really disheartening for libertarian students. And then Anton, who I’d never heard of, started tweeting asking me if I was looking to get involved in something and I was really excited about that.’

Later we learn that Shiner is involved in Students for Freedom, a US  student libertarian organization that is part of Cato’s “limited government movement”.  We all know what The Cato Institute does but it seems Howes and his buddies don’t or are lying. I think it’s the latter.

So as we can see, part of the League’s job is to undermine what’s left of the rather ineffective Student Unions. There are some universities that have strong SU’s – University of London Union, for example – the rest are little more than providers of student freebies. The process of destroying the SU’s began under Thatcher, who was concerned that the NUS was a hotbed of student radicalism. Instead, we now have a situation where the Right, led by the Liberty League, are attempting to dominate political discourse on campuses around the country.

The Right – the Conservative Party, especially – is against political activity on campus unless it is either right-wing or “libertarian”. This is the reason why the Thatcher government wanted SU’s to disaffiliate; it hated the very idea that students chose left-wing politics over the right. It felt that by eliminating left-wing political discourse on most campuses and confining it only to Oxbridge and other Russell Group universities, it would destroy left-wing politics in Britain for good. It nearly worked.

Pretty disgraceful that @libleague society being discriminated against by Manchester SU in terms of funding, for not backing Demo12

This is pretty typical of the Right. I know how hard it is to set up and run a society but in terms of funding, the SU will only match the membership money and any other monies that the society has raised in its coffers. I get the feeling that the League wanted more than its fair share. But this tells us something else about the Lib League: they support cuts to higher education and regarded Demo12 as something that  only “lefties do”. They are above protest unless it’s to demand more cuts to public services. I wonder how many of them attended the disastrous Rally Against Debt last year?

The one thing that I left out of the original article about the Liberty League was its campus network. If you look at the list, you’ll see one called the LSE Hayek Network. There’s nothing “non-partisan” about Hayek, the great guru of neoliberalism, he is most certainly right-wing and was a supporter of Pinochet’s economic liberalization. You see, economic liberalization can only be forced onto people. If given the choice people would reject it without a second thought.

Right libertarians seek to perpetuate the notion of the importance of the sovereign self over society. Please the self, pamper the self, flatter the self, the self is king. This is the atomized society that Thatcher spoke of; one that is bereft of communities. Our society is in tatters, wrenched apart by the spoilt brat of the sovereign self.

If you inculcate the notion that the individual is more important that the rest of society, before you know it, people will begin to see themselves less members of society but more as consumers at the end of a long supply chain. Individualist anarchists fit in well with Objectivists or Randists, because they place the self at the centre of the universe.

Right libertarians speak movingly about freedom but, as history has shown us, they are more than happy to collaborate with fascists or military strongmen (the  Italian Futurists, for example, described themselves as “anarchists” and joined Mussolini’s fascist government). Anarchists, on the other hand, fight fascism and all forms of authoritarianism. The right libertarian would happily watch as the cops beat the shit out of you for protesting against an authoritarian state.

Cato supported the Pinochet dictatorship. Jose Piñera, the architect of Chile’s private pension system and former Chicago Boy is a “senior fellow” at the Cato Institute. That’s right libertarianism for you.

POSTSCRIPT

Not “right-wing”? The Tories don’t think so.  Last year, Conservative Home heaped praise on the Liberty League.

Here’s a revealing paragraph (I’ve bolded a bit for emphasis),

This work was started by Simon Richards, Director of The Freedom Association, with his vision for ‘Freedom Socs’. There are now five such societies, the first of which launched at York three years ago. In addition to this, there are a large number of libertarian societies, which spontaneously popped up around the country. The Liberty League enables these individual groups to be part of a cohesive network and acts as a gateway for young freedom lovers in the UK.

Bingo!

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Filed under economic illiteracy, Economics, laissez faire capitalism, neoliberalism, Political parties, Spiv capitalism, Think Tanks

Defending the indefensible: LM’s position on paedophilia – it’s hysteria

The Revolutionary Communist Party (RCP) had some funny views about child sexual abuse in the 1980s and 1990s. They saw nothing to get worked up about.  It was all hysteria on the part of those who had recently alleged there was a high-level paedophile ring operating in Britain. So it comes as no surprise that Brendan O’Neill, the Telegraph’s chief contrarian writes another blog in which he paints those concerned about child sex abuse as hysterical.

The headline for his blog sums it up “Is it really true that children are being sexually exploited in every ‘town, village and hamlet’ in England”?  I’ve already written about the laager mentality of those who write for the Tory press but this title is mischief-making on O’Neill’s part. Reaching back into the recent past, O’Neill tell us,

In June, the deputy children’s commissioner Sue Berelowitz got tabloid headline writers hot under the collar when she declared: “There isn’t a town, village or hamlet in which children are not being sexually exploited.”Now, in an effort to back up this Grimm-like claim about the horrors facing British children, Ms Berelowitz has issued a detailed report on the allegedly nationwide scourge of sexual exploitation, which is dramatically titled: ‘I thought I was the only one. The only one in the world’

This blog follows in the wake of ITV’s Exposure update last night and I suppose it was only inevitable that one or more right-wing writers would try to throw the public off the scent or chide them for being “hysterical”. Here’s some more,

The media are lapping it up. Some newspapers are slating Ms Berelowitz for downplaying the specific problem of Asian gangs abusing vulnerable white girls, but for the most part hacks seem pleased that there is yet another shock-horror claim about child sexual abuse for them to write and get angry about. The Daily Mail informs us that “some 16,500 youngsters”, or “the equivalent of 20 medium-sized secondary schools”, are at risk of sexual exploitation by gangs and groups. Which sounds genuinely scary.

What O’Neill seeks to do is shift the emphasis back to the notion that it’s only gangs of Muslim Asian men who groom teenage girls for sexual abuse. In the light of the recent revelations, we know that this isn’t true. O’Neill operates in an unofficial capacity to protect the establishment from possible exposure by penning poisonous pieces like this.

Living Marxism (LM) for which O’Neill and the rest of the RCP once wrote, carried occasional discussion pieces about paedophilia. Take this one from Mick Hume, written in May 1998.

As a father, I do not much care what happens to those individuals who are guilty of violent sex offences against children. Throw away the key, throw them down the stairs, whatever; I won’t lose any sleep over one less Sidney Cooke in the world.

But as a father with libertarian principles, I do care about the implications of the national panic about paedophiles that is now gripping Britain (and, it seems, Belgium, Italy, the USA etc).

So far, so good.

To me, the paedophile panic looks like the latest outburst of one of the most destructive sentiments of our age: ‘stranger danger’, the fear and mistrust of other people that has grown stronger as the old communal ties and collective solidarities weaken.

Stranger danger has helped to create a climate of insecurity where, recent surveys show, British children spend more time than ever before alone with their own TVs, CDs and PCs in the gilded cages of their bedrooms, worrying about what might happen to them to the point where some are already on Prozac. And worse is to come if we continue to fill our children with a fear of life.

The trouble is that while there is hysteria whipped up by the very media for which O’Neill and Hume write, there is a serious case to answer about the child sex abuse and its cover up by the authorities. There is nothing “hysterical” about wanting to get to the truth and wanting to obtain justice for the victims who, I might add, figure very little, if at all, in O’Neill’s articles or those of his fellow LMers.

The Moral Maze’s Claire Fox produced this rather typical piece in the same issue,

Dea Birkett thinks another reason she receives a lot of abuse on this issue is ‘because victims feel as though you are personally attacking them. I think the victims themselves become victims of this hysteria, which is no help to them. When you have Michelle Elliot on television with a victim sitting next to her I think that means being twice victimised – once by the abuse that she has suffered and twice by this parading of her victimisation. I get very cross when I watch those debate shows where the victim of abuse responds “I’ve been abused 135 times”. As if that was an argument. As if I’m going to say “no you weren’t abused” or “that’s good” rather than “that’s bad”. I didn’t say child abuse doesn’t exist; don’t parade a victim in front of me as an argument against me. I’m not talking about that. I am talking about our attitude towards offenders. But when the victim speaks, that’s it; it’s like a statement “There’s no debate now”‘.

But where is the victim in this piece? The victim here is transmogrified into a logical fallacy; the blunt instrument of a discursive hijack. Interestingly enough, Fox appears as a speaker at The Freedom Association’s (TFA) “Freedom Zone” Events.

This is another rationalization of paedophilia.

Paedophilia is not a new problem in Italy; the Roman Emperors were, after all, as famous for their favourite boys as for their harems of women. What has changed is the public reaction to it. In particular, unpopular politicians desperate to make links with their electorate are preying on popular fears about paedophiles in a bid to win new authority.

So because Roman Emperors indulged in under-age sex, this makes it acceptable? Has nothing really changed in two millennia? We no longer have the pater familias as head of the Roman family. So what is this writer trying to say?

Back to O’Neill,

Likewise, the definition of “child sexual exploitation” in Berelowitz’s report is dangerously amorphous. To most of us, sexual exploitation means something like prostitution, the effective selling of a person or persons to perverted or depraved men. Yet Berelowitz’s report defines “child sexual exploitation” as including not only situations where a young person “receives something (eg. food, accommodation, drugs, alcohol, cigarettes, affections, gifts, money) as a result of them performing… sexual activities”, but also things like “being persuaded to post sexual images on the internet/mobile phones” and being involved in “exploitative relationships”. When you read through the report, it seems pretty clear that lots and lots of different experiences have been lumped together to reach this figure of 2,409 children who have been sexually exploited by gangs – not only real and terrible cases in which young people have been abused by gangs, like the one in Rochdale that was exposed a few months ago, but also boyfriends pressuring girlfriends to send them rude pictures, men in their twenties having less-than-admirable relationships with teenage girls, and so on.

Once again, O’Neill drags in Rochdale and attempts to racialize the debate and thereby deflect attention from the obvious fact that there has been a high level cover up. Pederasty cuts across ethnic and cultural boundaries but don’t expect O’Neill to acknowledge this. To make things worse, he says,

Who benefits from this conflation of so many different experiences and the inaccurate depiction of Britain as a hotbed of sexual depravity and perversion? No one, I would argue. Certainly not the majority of children, who are encouraged to believe that they aren’t safe in any “town, village or hamlet” in England. In fact, there is one beneficiary of this scaremongering: the Office of the Children’s Commissioner itself, which gets to launch a grand-sounding, self-serving moral mission to rescue the downtrodden and enslaved from the evil scourge of gang culture.

Who’s hysterical now, Brendan? By painting public concern as “scaremongering” is pretty damned dishonest and hysterical.

O’Neill is the editor of the LM network’s journal, Spiked! Here’s Tim Black railing against the child abuse laws,

First came the Sex Offenders Register in 1997. Currently listing around 29,000 people, from children who’ve groped other children, teachers who’ve had liaisons with students, to those who’ve sexually abused young children, it is an unwieldy, indiscriminate testament to the special place the child sex offender occupies in the contemporary imagination (1). Its effect has been profound. The sex offender has now been officially distinguished as a breed of criminal apart, one that requires constant monitoring and house visits. Unlike others who have broken the law, the sex offender is forever stained by his offence, a subject of endless control. For the public the paedophile has become an everyday nightmare; a faceless threat living amongst us, but not like us – the enemy within. Seen in this way, it’s not surprising that since the compilation of the Sex Offenders Register, there have been periodic attempts to have its listed names made publicly available.

One has to treat Spiked and the rest of LM with a great deal of suspicion. These were the people who argued that making a stand against apartheid was a”bourgeois” pastime. We should also remember that TFA supported the apartheid regime in South Africa and was behind the rebel cricket tour of that country.

On 15 October, O’Neill wrote more about “hysteria”. Here he draws some rather weak parallels between Savile and the Salem Witch Trials.

So as in Salem, Savile-obsessed modern Britain has its alleged conspiracy of witches, in the shape of Savile himself, described by the Guardian as ‘the devil who tries, and succeeds, in passing himself off as a saint’, alongside other named or hinted-at individuals. Together, these ‘blood-curdling child catchers’ (Guardian again) apparently ‘stalked children’s homes and hospitals… preying on the most vulnerable victims one could imagine’. They were part of a ‘child sex ring’, say the tabloids, which ‘lurked’ deep within ‘the corporation’ (the BBC). Savile was even worse than JK Rowling’s Voldemort, journalists tell us; he was a beast more wicked than could have been imagined by ‘even the most gifted weavers of children’s nightmares’.

This amounts to a tacit defence of Savile and those who allowed him access to vulnerable children. Elsewhere in the article O’Neill tries desperately to connect the recent child sex scandals with the American Red Scares of the 1950s. It’s intellectually dishonest. He closes his article with this blast,

There it is; this is where we get to the rotten heart of the Savile hysteria. The Savile story is really a vessel for the cultural elite’s perverted obsession with child abuse, and more importantly its belief that everyone is at it – that in every institution, ‘town, village and hamlet’, there are perverts and innocence despoilers, casually warping the next generation. In modern Britain, the figure of The Paedophile has become the means through which the misanthropes who rule over us express their profound fear and suspicion of adults in general, and also of communities and institutions – even of the institutions they hold dear, such is the self-destructive dynamic triggered by the unleashing of the Salem ethos. If Savile had never existed, the chattering classes would have had to invent him, so perfect an encapsulation is he of their degenerate view of the whole of adult society today.

My emphasis. Notice how he paints this as an “obsession” of the “cultural elite”, a phrase he often uses to describe anyone who disagrees with him and his fellow LMers. This is also his euphemism for “the Left”.

James Heartfield had this to say in a 1993 edition of LM,

In the seventies, before it was prohibited, the Paedophile Information Exchange used to argue that children were capable of making their own decisions about who they wanted to have sex with.

Notice how the author tells what the Paedophile Information Exchange said but doesn’t bother to challenge their view. It’s taken as axiomatic. Heartfield’s view is that children should never be believed. He wrote,

Children’s rights are not just a misnomer. If that were all they were it would not matter. But in fact the growing interest in children’s rights is positively dangerous. The extension of rights to children is not an increase in liberty, but a degradation of the meaning of individual rights.

My question to O’Neill and his LM buddies is this: why do you defend the indefensible? They would tell us that it’s because they’re “libertarians”. But can we take this to mean that they seek to dismiss allegations of paedophilia as trivial nonsense or is it the case that they’re actually doing the bidding of the elites that O’Neill rails against? It’s both.

It’s worth considering O’Neill’s position on the Leveson Inquiry. In February he wrote a piece titled “Why we’re launching The Counter Leveson Inquiry”. I shall quote a small portion.

This is about to change. spiked has been raising concerns about the likely consequences of the crusade against ‘unethical’ tabloids since before Leveson was set up, and we have continually criticised the Leveson process for creating a censorious climate in the here and now, even before its recommendations have been made. And now we plan to gather together our arguments, and intensify them, in a Counter-Leveson Inquiry which will put the case against Leveson, against judges and police getting to tell the press what its ethics should be, and against any stricture whatsoever on the right of the press, whether highbrow or low-rent, to investigate and publish what it sees fit.

Why? Not because we hold a candle for tabloid newspapers, but because we carry a torch for press freedom, because we believe that Milton’s rallying cry is as fitting today as it was in 1644: ‘Give me the liberty to know, to utter, and to argue freely according to conscience, above all liberties.

O’Neill also writes for The Australian, a Murdoch paper. Go figure.

In the 1980s I suspected that the RCP was a state-sponsored front to discredit the Left. It seems that I was, at least, partly right. LM’s successors work tirelessly on behalf of the state, its institutions and the corporations that benefit from state largesse. Its talk of liberty rings hollow when one realizes exactly how close it is to state and corporate power. Their strange brand of libertarianism blinds them to the damage done to those who have been victims of pederasty. They talk of freedom but what about the right of children to enjoy freedom from harm and exploitation? It seems eerily absent from their discourse.

I found this blog from George Monbiot that was written in 1998. Here’s an extract.

As you wade through back issues of Living Marxism, you can’t help but conclude that the magazine’s title is a poor guide to its contents. LM contains little that would be recognised by other Marxists or, for that matter, by leftists of any description. On one issue after another, there’s a staggering congruence between LM’s agenda and that of the far-right Libertarian Alliance. The two organisations take identical positions, for example, on gun control (it is a misconceived attack on human liberty), child pornography (legal restraint is simply a Trojan horse for the wider censorship of the Internet), alcohol (its dangers have been exaggerated by a new breed of “puritan”), the British National Party (it’s unfair to associate it with the murder of Stephen Lawrence; its activities and publications should not be restricted), the Anti-Nazi League (it is undemocratic and irrelevant), tribal people (celebrating their lives offends humanity’s potential to better itself; the Yanomami Indians are not to be envied but pitied) animal rights (they don’t have any), and global warming (it’s a good thing).

O’Neill often refers to himself as a “Marxist”. Some Marxist.

N.B. O’Neill has closed the comments thread to avoid a cyber pasting.

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Filed under Media, News Corporation, propaganda, Tory press, Yellow journalism

Lies, damned lies and austerity: how consent is being manufactured for cuts and caps

We have been told how there is “massive public support” for benefit caps and on the rare occasion a newsreader interviews someone who is against cuts, whoever he or she may be,  will be hectored and bullied by the interviewer. Anti-austerity commentators will always be asked the same loaded questions about cuts. “You realize that there is a need for cuts” and “The country has no money to pay for x, y and z” are two of the most overused  questions in the mainstream media’s lexicon. The disabled and benefit claimants are in the government’s line of fire,  for it is they who have now been accused of ruining the economy along with the “bloated” public sector.

In 1988, Noam Chomsky and Edward Herman put their heads together and wrote the highly influential Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media.  The right hate it. Not because it was co-written by Chomsky – they hate him too – but because it kicks a massive hole in their thesis that we live in a “free society” that has a “free press”, where all of us enjoy “free speech”.

The basis of Chomsky and Herman’s argument is that there is a propanganda model to which all corporate-owned media adheres. The four identifying features (filters) of the propaganda model are as follows:

  1. Ownership of the medium
  2. Medium’s funding sources
  3. Sourcing
  4. Flak
  5. Anti-communist ideology

With regard to 5, we can replace this with the more useful “ideological” in order to cover all forms of dissent from the government line. If we use the BBC as our exemplar, then the model is fleshed out as follows.

  1. Ownership: owned by the state in what is euphemistically referred to as an “arm’s length relationship”.
  2. Funding: the license payer and to some extent the state.
  3. Sourcing: ‘news’ often comes from government, corporate or City press briefings, press releases and so forth. A great deal of information is taken from pro-free market think tanks. Self-styled economic ‘experts’ like Ruth Lea or David Buik are brought into the studio to attack any dissenting point of view or to give ‘expert’ analysis.
  4. Flak: attacks on any voice that is not consistent with the government line. Viewers emails are aired to give an impression of consent. Example: “Major Payne of Tunbridge Wells emailed us to say, your guest was just as bad as the scroungers. I’d put them into forced labour camps”.
  5. Ideological: opposed to any alternative point of view on the economic crisis by spouting the government line and using government phraseology to rebut those points of view.

Examples of pro-austerity broadcasting includes programmes as Saints and Scroungers.

The BBC explains the show’s ‘mission’,

Dominic Littlewood follows fraud officers as they bust the benefits thieves stealing millions of pounds every year, while charities and councils track down people who actually deserve government help

Dominic Littlewood: the people’s champion.

Saints and Scroungers gives the impression that benefit fraud is widespread. Littlewood’s hard man voiceover adds drama to the footage.

This video gives a taste of the programme

Programmes like Saints and Scroungers  and Panorama insert the notion in the public mind that ‘your’ taxes are being used to support villains and parasites, some of whom own yachts and Bentleys.  The impression is often given by these programmes that every person on benefits is a potential criminal. The numbers of people wrongly claiming benefits is often exaggerated and there are some people who are reluctant to claim any form of benefit for fear of being accused of ‘scrounging’.

But the BBC isn’t alone in this assault on the poor or the disabled. The press, as we know, are guilty of this too.  In Thursday’s Sun, Rod Liddle claimed that “disability” was “fashionable” and told his readers that it was his “New Years resolution” to fake disability, citing ME and fibromyalgia  as those conditions that he’d most like to have.

Here’s an image of the article.

Delingpole defended him on Telegraph blogs with an article titled “The fake disabled are crippling our economy”. This is not only inaccurate; it is a part of an ongoing attempt to scapegoat the disabled.  The suggestion being made by Liddle and Delingpole is that all disabled claimants are cheating the system. They, of course, deny this and their legion of defenders respond by saying, “They’re only attacking the cheats”. The simple truth is that attacks on disabled people have increased sharply over the last few years, helped in no small part by a potent mix of negative news stories of ‘scroungers’ and ‘cheats‘ and government rhetoric.

Using scapegoats to deflect attention away from the real causes of the economic crisis is typical for a government of millionaires who are eager to present themselves as ‘caring’ and in touch. The real causes of the recession are never dealt with and are blamed on a variety of things from the disabled and unemployed to the Euro. Everything and everyone else is accused of “destroying” the economy but the real villain: free-market capitalism. This is a form of sociopathy; the lies, the deception, the bullying, the charm and the desire to dominate others are all characteristics exhibited by this Tory-led regime. However, Labour aren’t entirely blameless. The Blair and Brown governments were committed to reducing the numbers of people claiming Incapacity Benefit and forcing those people into work – whether they were capable of working or not. The press produced story after story of benefit ‘cheats’ who were caught scamming the system. The phrase  “sick note culture” had entered the popular vocabulary.

When this Tory-led government came to power in 2010, George Osborne made the bold claim that benefit fraud was costing the country £5 billion a year and evoked the magic words “costing the hardworking taxpayer”.  Peter Oborne wrote:

However that figure is not true. I have now been onto the Treasury and it is clear that the real figure for fraud in the benefits system is £1.5 billion a year, or less than one third of the sum which Osborne claimed in his spending statement. It is true that there were benefit overpayments of some £5.2 billion in the last financial year (2009/10) but the majority of these according to HMRC figures were error rather than fraud.

Even Citywire admitted that tax evasion cost the Exchequer more than benefit fraud:

At £30 billion per year, fraud in the UK is more than twice as high as thought, with tax evasion costing the public purse over £15 billion per year and benefit fraud just over £1 billion.

Aside from attacks on the disabled and the poor, the government has also insisted that Britain is “running record levels of debt” and that debt, it insists, will be passed on to “future generations”. The question that they and their partners-in-crime repeatedly ask is “Is it fair to saddle our children with this generation’s debt”? But this is a loaded question that is not based on fact rather, it is based on the notion that government finances and domestic finances operate in the same way. This fallacy is repeated by a number of people who accept the government’s position without question. In a recent interview on BBC News on an entirely unrelated issue (High Speed 2), the actor Geoffrey Palmer repeated, almost line for line, the government’s austerity message. “The country’s broke”, he said, adding that “we can’t afford it (HS2)”. If the country is broke, then it is unlikely to be able to raise money on the international bond markets, which it continues to do. Furthermore, it would be unable to continue the costly and disastrous war in Afghanistan, which cost Britain in excess of £20 billion in 2010.

The government and their media allies continues  to demonize and scapegoat the most vulnerable people in society. On last Thursday’s Question Time, Melanie Phillips repeated the topsy-turvy logic of the LM Network that the “bankers are being scapegoated”. This is what passes for morality in the eyes of those who take part in BBC Radio 4’s The Moral Maze, where those who comment on morality have no qualifications in the subject on which they pontificate – none of them are moral philosophers nor would it appear that any of them have as much as an undergraduate degree in philosophy.

The government hates the very thought of opposing points of view and we can see this in the way they will control discourse by accusing those who are anti-austerity of being “deficit deniers”, which is a phrase that is redolent of “Holocaust Denial”.  The Morning Star explains:

But unfortunately the word racist – like nazi or even Holocaust denier – is so emotive, connotes such horrible things and is so insulting that it can intimidate people into silence and shut down reasoned debate, much like deficit denier.

The Labour Party has fallen into the trap of not wanting to be seen as “deficit deniers”, which has brought them closer and closer to the government’s position on cuts. So much for meaningful and effective opposition to this government then. The phrase “deficit denier” is based on a logical fallacy.  It is a connotation fallacy; an appeal to insult – the classic ad hominem.  Unable to fashion a logical and coherent argument for their austerity measures, government ministers concoct insults to silence their critics.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, this government is philosophically bankrupt and must resort to bullying and outright lies to convince the public of the need for austerity, but it wouldn’t be able to do this without the media’s fawning complicity.

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Filed under Bad philosophy, Media, Neoliberalism, propaganda, Television, Tory press

The Telegraph, Ed West and the not-so-hidden discourses of the anti-immigration lobby

I came across this blog from Fred Ed West in yesterday’s Daily Telegraph. West tells us that a petition has been launched against mass immigration.

Without wishing to plumb the depths of Arab Spring hyperbole (as pioneered by the protestors in “Tahrir Square”, central London), the Greek referendum could be heralded as the start of a European spring. (A bit late in the year, of course.)

Britain, too, is cottoning on to this amazing new thing called “democracy”. Following the first petition about Britain’s place in Europe, and the second, MigrationWatch have launched a petition on that related area of post-national universalism – mass immigration.

MigrationWatch, eh? Well, let’s have a look at them. According to Powerbase, MigrationWatchUK, to give them their proper name, claims to be an,

Independent, voluntary, non political body which is concerned about the present scale of immigration into the UK

Where have I heard those words before? Well, I usually encounter words like “independent” and “non-political” when I look at the websites of right-wing think-tanks like Policy Exchange and Localis. It’s a lie. Powerbase tells us that MigrationWatchUK’s co-founder David Coleman has close connections to the UK’s former European Trade Commissioner, Leon Britton and Baroness Caroline Cox who was ejected from the Tory Party for supporting UKIP. Coleman has also,

been described by the BNP as their “friend at the immigration-reform think tank Migration Watch” and “a very distinguished demographer whom we trust” [16]. Being praised by the BNP of course is not in itself an indication of his political objectives

Coleman is also connected to the Galton Society. Yes, the society is named after Charles Darwin’s cousin, Francis Galton, the social Darwinist and eugenicist. The Galton Society is, as one would expect, concerned with the notion of  a pure gene pool- in other words only those ‘superior’  genes of the white British who are of a certain social class should be preserved. Ed West presumably fits into this category.

One of its members wrote the foreword for a book authored by an American Ku Klux Klan leader, David Duke[4] who is the most prominent racist in America today and heads the largest white supremacist organization in the world.

Back to West’s blog. He tells that he has

 enormous respect for MigrationWatch, for the simple reason that as a political campaign opposing the last government’s mass immigration policy carries no social reward whatsoever. No one at a dinner party is going to congratulate you, no one is going to fictionalise your life as a romantic lead in a Richard Curtis-style comedy. In a world where so much political posturing is based on whether one’s views make the holder seem more high-status and more attractive to the opposite sex, few people dare express any opposition to the wonderful, but mysterious and unproven, benefits of diversity.

Here we find two things: the first is that West clearly supports the aims of the socially exclusive and possibly racist Migration Watch. Second, he reduces his argument to one of sexual attractiveness. Listen, Eddie, the only people who are going to find you or your racist friends attractive are those people who have had their eyes gouged out and even then, it’s quite a stretch to assume that someone who has been blinded would ever find you attractive – unless they were members of the KKK, of course.  If we look at the comments left on his blog, we can see that he’s playing to an all too familiar gallery of racists and eugenicists. This one from “Flatulent Emissions” has 102 likes.

Commenter's avatar
Limiting immigration is one thing, but we absolutely must seek to repatriate those who are a net burden to our economy who are already here.The costs and social difficulties will rocket once the wave of babies we’ve imported reaches adulthood, so something must be done before that time comes.
He isn’t the only one who holds these repellent views. “Emily Enso” says,

EmilyEnso

17 hours ago

Simples we pay them to go.
It would be cheaper to give them a lump payment to relocate than keep them here.
Not only that, we could cancel off our foreign aid payments.
By sending back people to their home nations with money for homes, businesses or whatever we would give those home nations a huge financial boost.
Paid for repatriation is a win win win.
Win for us.
Win for the home nation.
Win for people financially enabled to make a new life in the environment of their own people and culture.
I find it difficult for anyone to fault it.

This was the very same policy put forward first by the National Front in the 1970’s and later by the British National Party.

Ed West would never admit to being a racist and he would probably say that he has “Black friends” in an clichéd attempt to deflect attention away from his rather muddled and reprehensible views. For West, expelling immigrants is equated in his mind with ‘democracy’.

Now perhaps it is time that we might ask, in that shy, English way of ours, whether we might possibly be allowed a say in the running of our country, if it’s not too much to ask.

The phrase “having a say in the running of the [our] country” is code for “the only people who should run this country should be white British (well, English) and middle class”.

Here is Ed West’s profile on Powerbase.

He has connections with the LM network through his brother, Patrick and Brendan O’Neill’s Spiked Online.

You can find Migration WatchUK’s website here. Their “What You Say” page is a means of manufacturing consent and it isn’t entirely clear if those who have written to MigrationWatchUK are genuine or not. My suspicion is that some of them are hardened Little Englanders and lost Empire Loyalists. Some of the letters may well have been written by MigrationWatch staff.

Finally, Ed West is more than happy to entertain the racists who collect on his blog to pat him on the back. He would tell us that it’s ‘free speech’. I would tell him that he’s a dissembler.

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Filed under Ideologies, Journalism, Media, Racism

Brendan O’Neill bangs the drum for nuclear power by smearing the opposition

It’s pretty much as you’d expect from a member of the LM Network. Like his fellow LMers, Brendan O’Neill talks complete rubbish about nuclear power and claims that the “debate over nuclear power is being driven by holocaust-hungry doom-mongers”.

The response to the ongoing problems at the Fukushima nuclear reactor in Japan confirms that catastrophists have colonised the debate about nuclear power.

Ah, but in this blog he hasn’t actually put forward a decent argument in favour of nuclear power. Maybe he should have a look at this blog and accompanying video from Adam Curtis…but I know he won’t. LMers always know better than the rest of us.

But O’Neill doesn’t seem to be taking sides. In fact, he appears to be trolling. He uses compound words like “apocalypse-mongers” and “holocaust-hungry” to describe those who have concerns about the dangers of nuclear power – and these are legitimate concerns too. But that doesn’t bother O’Neill. With words like “doom-mongers” he ought to be writing for The Sun or The Daily Star. He’s actually the editor for LM’s  Spiked Online.

Free speech is LM’s obsession but their idea of free speech is about having the freedom to talk nonsense for the sake of provocation (they would describe it as ‘stimulating’ debate). Besides, they’re adamantly opposed to free speech in their own ranks. Supporters (as opposed to members) must obey the diktats of the leader, the Great Frank Furedi.

Here’s another snippet from his blog

Vastly exaggerating the problems there, by inaccurately comparing the shaken plant to Chernobyl and even shamelessly using the H-word (Hiroshima), they opportunistically argued that we must “call time on the nuclear age”. CND rallied its ageing troops for a protest outside Downing Street, waving placards that said “no nuclear” in both English and Japanese (nice). For some, the potential for a radioactive meltdown – more imagined than real – confirmed that humanity has gotten too big for its boots and must learn to be more eco-meek. “We cannot master nature, nature rules us”, said the leader of the German Green party.

Personally I find it ironic that Japan, the only country to have been subjected to the full horrors of nuclear warfare, has embraced the atom in the way that it has. This is something that O’Neill has omitted in his haste to condemn the detractors of the nuclear power industry. You can’t let a few facts get in the way of a good troll. Now can you?

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