‘Truth’, immigration and the BBC

Image © Felix-felix

Robin Richardson

The Truth about Immigration was broadcast by the BBC on Tuesday 7 January, having been trailed in advance both widely and deeply. Viewers were promised it would be full of new clarity and insight, based on new and powerful facts and figures. Further, it would be imbued with unusual honesty from politicians and senior civil servants, and – even – from the BBC itself. In the event the programme was a shoddy and shameful shambles. Visually, technically, conceptually, ethically, politically and emotionally, it was the very worst kind of tabloid TV, an hour of bias against understanding, totally unworthy to be described as public service broadcasting. Read more of this post

How many neo-liberals does it take to change a light bulb?

Nora Connolly 

Image © CharlesJshapr

We are all neo-liberals now. You might not like it but an insidious political metamorphosis has taken place, those in denial akin to the misfortunate frog unaware that it’s getting boiled out of existence. We are shedding our social democrat identity for an ugly neo-liberal form and the political implications for this are profound. Recently, I wondered why the economic meltdown of 2008 hadn’t undermined the neo-liberal project, a prescient query. Answers now provided by Professor Philip Mirowski in his recently published `Never Let a Serious Crisis Go to Waste: How Neoliberalism Survived the Financial Meltdown (Verso 2013)`. His thesis a pessimistic one, although it provides the Left with a much needed counter narrative to reconceptualise their collective notion of markets.   Read more of this post

The corporate campaign to produce a stupid nation

Nora Connolly

Image © Andrew Rusk

In 1925 the state of Tennessee passed an Act forbidding the teaching of evolutionary theory, the law was tested when John Scopes from Dayton was put on trial. Clarence Darrow defended Scopes against a prosecution team led by William Jennings Bryan. The trial put religion and first amendment rights under the legal microscope but there was also an economic subtext to this cause celebre, Bryan was after all, the man who made the remarkable Cross of Gold speech in 1896. Regarding the Scopes trial, Bryan got it wrong, though his position was not without merit. Darwinism had been misappropriated and incorrectly applied at the turn of the twentieth century and used to undermine the position of US workers. Social conservatives at the time justified economic inequality on the grounds that it was a natural consequence of the `survival of the fittest`. This clashed with Bryan`s democratic outlook, while wrong he challenged science for the noblest of humanitarian/economic reasons, he remembered the poor and the downtrodden whose grievances he powerfully articulated in 1896. Read more of this post

Miliband, the Mail and antisemitism, some points arising

Robin Richardson

Image © CC-BY

Antisemitism, it has often been said, is a light sleeper. Sometimes, though, and in certain places and circumstances, it slumbers for quite a long time, and is not immediately or widely recognisable when it wakes up. For whilst dormant it was taking on new tones and colourings, was acquiring a new repertoire of signals and cues, new nods and winks, it was fashioning new dog whistles. Those who give voice to it when it wakes after a longish sleep may not be consciously aware of what they are doing, or of the effect their words, references and imagery have on others. Read more of this post

Pointing The Finger – by Julian Petley and Robin Richardson

LeftCentral Book Review 

Image©Nevit Dilmen

 

…It takes the form of an attack on multiculturalism for which Muslims are held responsible and which is a coded word for them. It cuts across political and ideological divides, and is shared alike, albeit in different degrees by conservatives, fascists, liberals, socialists and communists` (Bhikhu Parekh quoted in Pointing The Finger…)

In April 1964 Malik el-Shabazz (Malcolm X) left Detroit for Mecca, in the midst of an acrimonious split with the `Nation Of Islam`. Malcolm at this time was the USA`s foremost bogey-man, the unacceptable face of the civil rights movement. His position caricatured in the 1950s as `the hate that hate produced` – a view fitting the `orientalism` framework described by Edward Said. Whatever the merits of this documentary about the NOI, it does appear clear that Malcolm`s visit to Mecca changed him, his pilgrimage making him aware of the ethnic diversity of Islam. Recording in his diary, `it seems every nation and form of culture on earth is represented here…`. This revelation, as Manning Marble outlines encouraged Malcolm to alter his view on race. Malcolm reflecting at the time that, ‘I began to perceive that `white man`, as commonly used, means complexion only secondarily, primarily it describes attributes and actions`. Thus a metamorphosis resulted from advances in Malcolm`s `religious literacy` combined with his genius `critical literacy` (concepts outlined and explained in Pointing The Finger). Read more of this post

Stories, schools and statues – the Tory view of history

Robin Richardson

copyright Simon Harriyott`s photostream

First, tweeted Michael Rosen recently, they came for Mary Seacole. He was echoing a famous poem about resistance to totalitarian rule. And, he continued, because I’m not a woman and I’m not black, I didn’t speak out.

Well actually, Rosen himself has spoken out with characteristic eloquence about Mary Seacole and her place in the national curriculum in England. And well over thirty thousand people, so far, have signed a petition urging that she should continue to feature explicitly in the teaching of history in schools. There was recently a letter from Jesse Jackson and 50 others about this in The Times, the Archbishop of York has weighed in with an article in the Sun, an early day motion is currently open for signature in parliament, and the issue appears to have split the coalition government wide open, with Nick Clegg pledging he will oppose the new plans for the history curriculum which, according to leaks, Michael Gove is shortly going to announce.

Adding to a widespread sense of outrage, there are rumours that Gove’s private office has blocked access by civil servants at the Department for Education to the website of a distinguished professor of education who has dared to criticise the plans. Next, Rosen’s pastiche might continue, they came for the academics. Read more of this post

Robert Kee: A Tribute

Nora Connolly 

Copyright Ireland

Copyright NASA Goddard photostream

Robert Kee the brilliant journalist, historian and campaigner for justice has sadly died aged 93. Kee the quintessential British liberal was also an establishment figure who along with others became involved in the setting up of TV–am in the early 1980s. Robert Kee was friends with the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire’s and the Dowager wrote a glowing testimony of Kee in her memories. Which highlighted Kee`s outstanding intelligence and communication skills. She mentioned Kee`s work with Panorama pointing out that the BBC was lucky to find someone of his calibre. Those viewing any broadcasts by Kee would have to agree with this assessment. Robert Kee spent a long time in Ireland and was a regular visitor to the Devonshire`s Irish estate, Lismore Castle. He rubbed shoulders with the aristocracy but he was no establishment toady and did not allow his grand association`s to debase an overwhelming desire to strive for truth and justice, as his publication `Trial and Error` illustrates. A book which helped bring the disgraceful miscarriage of justice concerning the `Guilford Four` and `Maguire Seven` to public prominence. The book also unddoubtly helped to right judicial wrongs and for this reason alone Robert Kee should be warmly remembered today by all striving for fairness and justice.

Robert Kee also wrote an important biography of Charles Stewart Parnell the `Laurel and the Ivy` but Kee had a vast hinterland to draw upon, he was a war hero a bomber pilot for the RAF, who was shot down over occupied Europe. He become a prisoner of war a role he occupied stoically writing about his experience in his critically acclaimed `A Crowd is not Company`Read more of this post

Draft Data Communications Bill: Interview with Jim Killock

Left Central’s John Curran 

Image © utnapistimC

The following interview was conducted with Jim Killock Executive Director of Open Rights Group in which he outlines the approach his pressure group are taking in resisting Home Office proposals to introduce a draft data communications bill aka snooper’s charter.

  • If you could highlight the most important features of your campaign what would they be?

Open Rights Group’s campaign is primarily about public engagement – in order to show that the draft Data Communications Bill is an unpopular and highly intrusive breach of UK citizen’s human rights. What we have learnt by talking to Parliamentarians is that many people across the political spectrum share our views and object to these proposals and are concerned about this intrusion into our civil liberties. The big push for this legislation is coming from the narrow confines of the Home Office. We have to counter the information coming from this direction and educate both the politicians and public that the Home Office is wrong.

  • So the Home Office are exclusively responsible for this draft proposal?

The Home Office claims their ability to get hold of data is declining and that they are struggling to keep up. That is how the issue is portrayed, although such a view is in reality difficult to sustain. The trouble is, certain sections of government want to find more out more and more about its citizens. This can cascade into a very significant intrusion and breach UK citizens civil liberties.

Online data is a honey pot for the Home Office and for the Police. They see the draft measure as an opportunity to get hold of more information and the criminal justice angle is a convenient prop for government to hang on to. It is easy to claim that crime can only be solved in this way when they want to sell this type of legislation to the public.

  • The draft Communications Data Bill seems unstoppable what can be done to halt this legislation?

Well I don’t necessarily agree with the premise of your question. Yes, there is a very strong push for this legislation but as I have said it is coming from one government department, the Home Office. There is no overall political consensus operating behind the scenes. One government department has made its case but that is all.

Remember we are talking about a coalition government and many Liberal Democrats do not want this draft bill, and there are significant sections of the Conservative Party that are against it also. It is possible to defeat this government on this issue in a vote. When a government operates with a slim majority individual MPs have significant influence and their views matter. This is not like the days when New Labour had a massive majority and the executive was largely unrestrained. Even a relatively small rebellion could stop this draft proposal, so the Coalition must listen to its backbenchers.  Read more of this post

The World Turned Upside Down

Dominic Turner @dominic_turner

Image © Scorpions and Centaurs

In the week that yet more fraud in the banker’s paradise, called The City of London, was exposed, we find the media establishment closing ranks, bemoaning the destruction of trust between the British people and the corrupt iron triangle of politicians, journalists and the financial sector. Indeed, a recent poll revealed only ten and thirteen percent of the public trusted bankers and journalists respectively (and I’m surprised the figure is that high). I can hear it now, the political class crying into their next bottle of Jacobs Creek about the tragic decline of trust in British public life, before trotting out the same self righteous protestations that most people enter public life for noble causes such as cutting taxes for the super rich or slashing benefits for the disabled

I for one find solace in the fact that ordinary people can see these institutions for what they are. Instruments of entrenched privilege almost always inherited or attained through brutality. Why should one shred of faith be placed in institutions that have only served to swindle and actively lobby for the robbery and deceit of the British people? A political class, provided with cover from a servile and supine media establishment, who sent hundreds of soldiers and hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians to their deaths, bankrolled by their friends in the financial sector, deserve all the contempt they have earned

However, an unrelenting scepticism of the motives of all public institutions can sometimes lead the impressionable down the blind and treacherous trenches of conspiracy theories. I am in no doubt that the centres of power in London and Washington would like nothing better than for the left to be distracted by absurd and illogical lectures that 9/11 and 7/7 were inside jobs, from someone who has become an expert on structural engineering after spending twenty minutes on the internet. Moreover, conspiracy theories perpetuate this very sense of hopelessness, and give a certain amount of comfort to the lazy amidst our ranks who refuse to believe that civil disobedience, striking and occupying can change society. How could they possibly hope to change the international order if they believe the insane proposition that the world is run by the Jews, or the Freemasons or the Reptilian Humanoids? The plots to undermine and crush the lives of ordinary people are not hatched in smoke filled rooms, but across the policy tables of Whitehall and board rooms of Barclays PLC. The truth, hidden in plain sight, is that something can, and must, be done. And we can only tread the march of human progress in trust and solidarity.  Read more of this post

U.S: The Divided Nation

Christian DeFeo 

Image © lumierefl

The town which I come from is like many others in America: it lies just outside a big city, the streets are aligned in near perfect grids, and there is a small downtown area which features a bank and a grocery store.  Churches of varying denominations are in abundance.  The Stars and Stripes flutters over red brick public school buildings, a striking sight on a clear summer’s day.

Looking at the tidy lawns and the carefully painted exteriors of the homes in my town, it is relatively easy to think that this is a prosperous country.  There is an air of quiet affluence that accompanies being house-proud.    On a bright June afternoon, Obama’s America seems a good place to be, particularly in contrast to the depressing images of homelessness, dereliction and unemployment which scar much of Britain and Europe.  Surely, then, Americans should be grateful for their relative good fortune and surely they wish to re-elect the President.

However, go to the next town and the picture changes: in less than a quarter mile along a main thoroughfare, I counted no less than 5 large stores and office buildings that had lost previous occupiers and now were either for sale or rent.  Other stores promise big bargains or state they’re going into liquidation.  The windows of the empty shops are dirty; inside, bills which will never be paid lay scattered along the dusty floors along with brightly coloured junk mail.  This America is bankrupt, broken and clearly dissatisfied.  If this is Obama’s America, then it surely won’t be his for long.

How can the two be reconciled?  When one speaks of either economic despair or boom there is an assumption that its effects are broadly uniform, and exceptions, such as the continuing London property boom are just that, exceptional.  What is striking about America’s economic recovery, however, is how patchy it is: indeed, it is its motif.

As statistics from the Bureau of Economic Analysis show, states which are prospering sit side-by-side with those which are suffering.  For example, Texas’ economy grew 3.3% in 2011 while next door in New Mexico, growth was just 0.2%.  North Dakota’s economy grew a staggering 7.6%; this is largely due to its tapping into natural gas resources.  Its neighbour, South Dakota, grew at a measly 0.8%.  As my former home town and its neighbour illustrate further, this patchiness extends to a micro level: towns which thrive and suffer live in close proximity.  While the overall economy may grow, this strange mosaic prevents an overall impression of well-being from taking root.  Read more of this post

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