Tag Archives: myths

Politics Is Broken? Okay, But Who Broke Politics?

How many times have you heard the phrase “politics is broken” ? Probably too many to count. Many politicians will utter the phrase without asking the necessary ontological questions, like “who broke politics” or “why is politics broken”? Instead, the phrase is spoken as if things just occur without any cause or reason.

When Chuka Umunna and the rest of his fellow Labour splitters left the party and formed the Independent Group (independent from what, you might ask), what we got from them, aside from the usual guff about bullying, intimidation and anti-Semitism was that politics was “broken”. Of course, Umunna doesn’t supply any details, for to do so would mean that he’d have to use his brain for once in his charmed life. However, one may suggest that Umunna believes that our “broken” politics stem from one of three things: Jeremy Corbyn, Brexit and social media. He would be wrong on all three counts.

Intellectual lightweights

Here’s Umunna talking about broken politics in a press conference to announce the formation of The ‘Independent’ Group.

Umunna and his empty rhetoric aside, I have my own thoughts as to why politics, and British politics, in particular, are “broken”, but broken is not a word that I would use, and I would suggest that, rather than politics being “broken”, they are dysfunctional and for many reasons for this, a few of which I intend to outline below.

Let’s look back at the 2016 EU referendum (erroneously labelled ‘Brexit’), whose result, rather than produce the government’s desired outcome,  went in favour of leaving the EU by a slender margin.  For the Brexiteers, who continue to sell the result as the “will of the people”, it was a vindication of their beliefs that the EU was a faceless, dictatorial bureaucracy, which stifled our ‘freedoms’. They’ve reinforced their beliefs by evoking World War 2 myths of “standing alone”. Here’s Mark Francois being interviewed on the BBC News evoking another WW2 image, in which he tells the interviewer “My father was a D-Day veteran”.

That’s but one example of the tendency of British politicians to look backwards, evoking myths and legends as they go along. In fact, few can have failed to notice how right-wingers will often lazily compare the EU to Nazi Germany, a gross insult to any European country that was invaded and occupied by the Nazis. The EU referendum shone a spotlight on, not only our politicians tendency to to wallow in imperial self-congratulation, but the rottenness of our political systems and institutions and the crumbling archaic nature of Parliament itself, which exists only to further enrich those who are already rich.  The idea that ordinary voters should have a say in their political institutions are run is seen as anathema.

J’accuse

J’accuse career politicians and their stale ideas, empty promises and vague phrases like “our values”. Politicians like Umunna, Leslie et al, would have us believe that social media is responsible for the current state of political discourse. However, they would be wrong. Their objections to social media are predicated upon the notion that the production and dissemination of information should remain in the hands of the official media; a media which is sympathetic to them and their clapped out politics. These politicians don’t mind using racism to achieve their political objectives and the recent weaponization of anti-Semitism is but one example. If people get hurt, their attitude is to shrug their shoulders and repeat the same baseless accusations. This is where the weaponization of racism and anti-Semitism leads to: death threats sent to prominent people of colour in the media and entertainment industries  and physical attacks on our streets.  Then there are politicians like James Cleverly and Wes Streeting who both use Twitter to troll and smear their political opponents and members of the public.

J’accuse the Westminster Parliament, which is no longer fit for purpose: it exists almost entirely to consolidate and extend the power of many of those who use it for their own ends. Its voting systems are antiquated and many of its procedures are slow, cumbersome and arcane. It is a major obstacle to real change.

J’accuse the glaring imbalance of political power in the country; a political power that is concentrated almost entirely in Westminster. For all their talk of devolution, what we get from our political leaders instead are empty phrases like the ‘Northern Powerhouse™. The fact remains that economically, socially and politically, the north and other regions of the United Kingdom have been left behind, and when voters used the referendum to make this point, it showed exactly how decayed the organs of the British body politic have become. The First Past the Post (FPTP) voting system forces us to either choose between two political monoliths or abstain from voting entirely because of its alienating effects (what’s the point?). FPTP is a gift to cynical politicians and we saw this being exploited in the Conservatives’ 2015 General Election campaign, which played precisely on these feelings of alienation (“they’re all the same, so you may as well continue voting Tory or better still, don’t vote at all”).

J’accuse a sycophantic mass media which is overly sympathetic to not only government, but the same useless politicians who are in politics for prestige rather than making any real difference to the lives of their constituents.  The media lies and covers for these politicians rather than hold them to account. Instead, we see the same media harangue, bully, interrupt and smear politicians of the Left as ‘anti-Semites’ and ‘Kremlin stooges’. Lobby journalists aren’t called that for no reason: they hang around the lobbies of Parliament like flies circling a bare light bulb in a filthy pub toilet. The same media also promotes, legitimizes and normalizes the discourses of the far-right and never misses an opportunity to put far-right figures in the television studios, where it flatters and humours them rather than scrutinize their words and actions. If one accuses the media of bias, they lie and try to gaslight rather than accept the fact that they’re wrong.

J’accuse the lack of genuine democracy, and what there is of it is systematically undermined by the mass media and their friends in Parliament. The fact that many working class people in the North of England used the EU referendum to send a message to Parliament and its MPs reveals the decay of Britain’s political systems, the lack of real democracy and its unfair voting system of First Past The Post. Well guess what? The politicians have simply swerved around the issue rather than deal with it.

So, politics isn’t “broken”: it’s dysfunctional, ossified and in an advanced state of decay, and the politicians themselves, rather than accept responsibility for its unhealthy condition, would rather deflect the blame elsewhere. Instead of looking forward, they would rather wallow in nostalgia. But they’re not the only ones: the opinion-formers in the media will always summon up false memories of the 1980s rather than deal with the here and now.  We’re being poorly served by unimaginative politicians and a supine media. We can do much better than these deadbeats.

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Free Speech Warriors And The Free Speech Illusion

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In Excitable Speech (1997), Judith Butler argues:

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

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

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

References/further reading

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

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

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Filed under Bullying, Language, Society & culture

1974 -“Who Governs Britain”?

Yesterday, when I heard Theresa May was going to announce a General Election, I immediately thought of Ted Heath’s massive gamble in 1974.  Is this her “Who Governs Britain” moment?

In February 1974, a petulant Ted Heath called a general election on the premise that he was the best person to lead the country.  Weeks later, he got his answer in no uncertain terms. “Not you, Ted”.

Here’s the Tory Party Election Broadcast from February, 1974. You’ll notice how little has changed since then.

That General Election resulted in a hung parliament.  Heath tried to convince the Liberal Party, led by Jeremy Thorpe, to support him in coalition. But the Liberals demanded some movement on proportional representation before entering into such an agreement.  Heath refused to budge, so the Queen asked Harold Wilson to form a minority government.

Wilson went to the country in October to consolidate his government’s position and won 18 more seats.  Heath had clearly bitten off more than he could chew.  His outgoing administration left a massive balance of trade deficit, which precipitated the Sterling Crisis of 1976, and led to the Labour government applying for a short-term IMF loan, which was paid off in 1979.

Throughout the 1980s, Thatcher’s Tories used the same language of crisis that May and Cameron have used since 2010.  Namely, that Labour “bankrupted” the country and they were “cleaning up the mess” (sic) left by them. Yet, if they’d been faced with the same decision, the Tories would have also applied for an IMF loan. The same is true of the 2008 sovereign debt crisis. They’d have borrowed money to bail out the banks.  When most of the media is on your side, you can tell as many lies as you like and get away with it.

The myths and lies of the 1970s have been woven into the political fabric of this country by the corporate media, and have been accepted uncritically by Tories, Liberals, voters and right-wing Labour MPs, who are too cowardly to fight back.  It’s time to put an end to this madness. Voting the Tories out on 8 June is the start of that process.

 

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Filed under 20th century, General Election 2017, History, History & Memory

Life on Hannan World (Part 7)

This morning as I was looking at my Twitter timeline, I saw a retweet that contained the following words, “Nazis, socialism, left, Dan Hannan” and I thought to myself, “The Lyin’ King is at it again”. To be honest, Hannan does this sort of thing at least once or twice a year to bait the Left. Yet, it is his fellow Tories that have often enjoyed fraternal relations with members of extreme right-wing parties. Some members of the National Front even drank at Conservative Clubs. Don’t tell Hannan or his simpleton friends that, because he’s the sort of person who would threaten to sue you for telling the truth.

Today’s blog is the usual drivel about how the Nazis were socialists because their name contained the word “socialist”. The blog title is “So total is the Left’s cultural ascendancy that no one likes to mention the socialist roots of fascism” and reveals in the author a desire for total right-wing hegemony that will displace what he sees as “Leftist control of culture and the media”.

The third paragraph contains the by now usual tropes presented as substitutes for solid evidence. The headline is also revealing for it indicates a desire on Hannan’s part to control discourse as well a culture. But cultural production in Britain is hegemonic. There is no getting away from it. Mainstream cultural output is controlled by an elite of Oxbridge graduates and former public schoolboys…like him.

Almost everyone in those days accepted that fascism had emerged from the revolutionary Left. Its militants marched on May Day under red flags. Its leaders stood for collectivism, state control of industry, high tariffs, workers’ councils. Around Europe, fascists were convinced that, as Hitler told an enthusiastic Mussolini in 1934, ‘capitalism has run its course’.

You’ll notice how he opens this paragraph with “Almost everyone” – it’s so dishonest. It’s funny how he ignores how the Nazis smashed up socialist and communist meetings. For him the fact that Nazis claimed to be anti-capitalist is proof of their ‘socialism’. Naturally he ignores how the Nazis used the Jews as scapegoats and would often employ phrases like “International finance” as a means to link Jews with banking and capitalism. The Nazis were more than happy to support capitalism. IG Farben? Volkswagen?

One of the most stunning achievements of the modern Left is to have created a cultural climate where simply to recite these facts is jarring. History is reinterpreted, and it is taken as axiomatic that fascism must have been Right-wing, the logic seemingly being that Left-wing means compassionate and Right-wing means nasty and fascists were nasty. You expect this level of analysis from Twitter mobs; you shouldn’t expect it from mainstream commentators.

This reads like paranoid nonsense. The point of this blog, as with so many others that he’s written, is to claim that the Nazis were never right-wing because – and he will never admit to this – they are on the same part of the right/left divide as his beloved Tory party and this will not do. It’s a toxic mix of wilful ideological ignorance, political immaturity and historical revisionism.

When did you last hear a reference to the BNP on the BBC without the epithet ‘far Right’? The terminology is deliberately tendentious. It doesn’t make anyone think any less of the BNP; but it does make them think less of the mainstream Right, because it implies that the BNP manifesto is somehow a more intense form of conservatism.

My bold. That’s because the BNP is a far-right party, Danny Boy. I wonder if he realizes how close the National Front and the Monday Club were in the 1970s and 1980s?  In 1973, the NF were moving to take over the Monday Club. Thatcher even stole some of their policies on immigration. Does that sound like socialism to you? No, it doesn’t to me either.

Just to sum up how confused his argument is, here’s the penultimate paragraph of this tour de merde.

Am I saying that the BNP is simply another form of Labour Party? No. That would be to repeat the error of the Twitter mob, only the other way around. There are obviously huge differences between what Nick Griffin stands for and what Ed Miliband stands for. Yes, the BNP has some policies in common with Labour, just as it has some policies in common with the Greens, the Lib Dems and the Conservatives. Coincidence of policy does not establish consanguinity of doctrine.

The Cat gets the feeling that some tool on Twitter called The Lyin’ King and his government’s policies fascist and he got upset by this. To that, I would say: grow up.  But then, I would also ask him what other party has attacked the disabled in the way the Tories have? I can only think of one party: the Nazi Party. This paragraph, much like the rest of the blog is sophistry.

I just hope that Lefties who have read this far will have a sense of how conservatives feel when fascism is declared to be simply a point further along the spectrum from them. Whenever anyone points to the socialist roots of fascism, there are howls of outrage. Yet the people howling the loudest are often the first to claim some ideological link between fascism and conservatism. Perhaps both sides should give it a rest.

Again, Hannan wants to claim that the Nazis and fascists are not further down the political spectrum from the Tories. The left understands only too well that Stalinism is on the same side of the left-right divide as they are. It doesn’t mean that they’re the same, they just happen to be classified as “left-wing” for many reasons. The connections between the Tories and big business is little different to the Nazi’s corporatist policies. Indeed, Nazism is a marriage of state and corporate power. In socialism, there is no corporate power because all the means of production are owned by the workers. Under Nazism, trade unions were banned and socialists and communists were arrested and sent to work camps. I would wager that there are members on the government benches who would quite happily propose work camps for those who oppose them. When Thatcher was in power, she legislated the metropolitan councils out of existence, simply because they opposed her. I don’t recall a Labour government behaving in this way.

Finally, I wonder if The Lyin’ King spoken to his fellow Tory, Aidan Burley? I mean, why would someone on the Right fetishize Nazi iconography if the Nazis were “left-wing”? Over to you or one of your sock puppets, Danny…

Here’s an interesting link to an article about Eric Pickles and his time as Leader of Bradford City Council. It would seem the local branch of the Monday Club was more than happy to invite members of the BNP to one of its meetings.  Here’s a snippet,

That meeting attracted various eccentric far right factionalists, including members of John Tyndall’s neo-nazi British National Party. One particularly bizarre creature had come up from London in order to canvass support for the Monday Club’s governing council elections. He described black people in this country as “leeches, slugs and cockroaches, sucking off the blood of the country without sharing the Teutonic traditions of the British nation”.

The meeting also produced evidence of Murphy’s attempts to build links between the Monday Club and other far right groupings. Leaflets for the “English Solidarity Movement”, led by arch racist Lady Jane Birdwood, were made available to the audience. Birdwood is an ex Monday Clubber with links to the National Front and the British National Party.

Read it and weep, Danny!

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