Urban75 was the first political website I got into and from the looks of this piece the site is still worth reading. Here Donna Ferentes offers ten basic characteristics of comment box crazies.
Arrogance. They are always fact-seekers, questioners, people who are trying to discover the truth: sceptics are always ‘sheep’, patsies for Messrs Bush and Blair etc.
Inability to answer questions. For people who loudly advertise their determination to the principle of questioning everything, they’re pretty poor at answering direct questions from sceptics about the claims that they make.
Inability to employ or understand Occam’s Razor. [C]onspiracy theorists never notice that the small inconsistencies in the accounts which they reject are dwarfed by the enormous, gaping holes in logic, likelihood and evidence in any alternative account.
Inability to tell good evidence from bad. Conspiracy theorists have no place for peer-review, for scientific knowledge, for the respectability of sources. The fact that a claim has been made by anybody, anywhere, is enough for them to reproduce it and demand that the questions it raises be answered, as if intellectual enquiry were a matter of responding to every rumour. While they do this, of course, they will claim to have ‘open minds’ and abuse the sceptics for apparently lacking same.
Using previous conspiracies as evidence to support their claims. This argument invokes scandals like the Birmingham Six, the Bologna station bombings, the Zinoviev letter and so on in order to try and demonstrate that their conspiracy theory should be accorded some weight (because it’s ‘happened before’.) They do not pause to reflect that the conspiracies they are touting are almost always far more unlikely and complicated than the real-life conspiracies with which they make comparison, or that the fact that something might potentially happen does not, in and of itself, make it anything other than extremely unlikely.
And this one is the key:
Fondness for certain stock phrases. These include Cicero’s ‘cui bono?’ (of which it can be said that Cicero understood the importance of having evidence to back it up) and Conan Doyle’s ‘once we have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however unlikely, must be the truth’. What these phrases have in common is that they are attempts to absolve themselves from any responsibility to produce positive, hard evidence themselves: you simply ‘eliminate the impossible’ (i.e. say the official account can’t stand scrutiny) which means that the wild allegation of your choice, based on ‘cui bono?’ (which is always the government) is therefore the truth.
The stock phrase is always the giveaway. You can while away a whole lunch break on a CiF thread playing bullshit bingo. Look for perjorative repetition of ‘Zionism’ or ‘Zionist’; exhortations to ‘Open your mind’ to anyone who disagrees; and of course the ultimate: ‘They were war-gaming it, you fool!’
Date: Tue, 28 Apr 2009 17:39:05 +0100
Subject: Fwd: STOP PRESS: Key union activist sacked
Please see below message from Dave Nellist re. the sacking of Rob Williams at Linamar, Swansea.
>>> “Dave Nellist” <email@example.com> 28/04/09 17:13:13 >>>
Could you circulate this throughout the broad left lists:
Rob Williams, the Unite convenor of the Linamar car parts factory in
Swansea, was called into the directors’ office of the plant on Tuesday 28
April and told that he was being sacked for “irretrievable breakdown of
trust”. This blatant victimisation of one of the leading left-wing shop
steward activists in the car industry was met by an immediate production
line walk-off by the day shift. They surrounded Rob’s union office after
management called in police to forcibly remove Rob from the building. The
night shift have been called in early to reinforce the defence of their
Rob has been very active in the campaign of the sacked Visteon car parts
workers and has recently visited all three of their plants. His sacking is
likely to be linked to his role in this struggle. The Visteon Unite
convenors are demanding that Rob be reinstated and they, alongside many
others, are calling on Unite joint general secretary Tony Woodley to also
back the immediate reinstatement of Rob.
Linamar is feeling the economic pinch and has recently announced 140
Messages of support should be rushed to
Rob Williams: firstname.lastname@example.org
Also send messages to Unite the Union Wales urging support for Rob to
We cannot allow a leading trade union fighter to be dismissed without a
struggle for his reinstatement.
There is understandable cynicism about the wisdom of continuing to pay your Labour party subs in this day and age but I looked at the budget last week and thought, hey, erm… isn’t this sort of good? 50% top rate, massive public spending? It would have been so easy and acceptable for the government to do an austerity budget like everyone predicted. Cut public spending, cut taxes for the rich to bribe the non-doms to stay in the country, the basic continuation of doctrinaire capitalist policies and, oh, here’s another trillion or so for the banks. Credit would have been given, talk of a Labour recovery in the Street of Shame, approving noises about ‘hard decisions’ mumbled in the cities and shires.
Instead the Tory press has been sent into a stampeding frenzy because they believe that the rich will bail out if asked to contribute a fair proportion of their income. The wealthy are supposed to be able to keep all the money they make on the off chance that, just maybe, and by some unknown alchemy, the rest of us will somehow benefit. Well, we tried that for thirty years and look what happened. For its multitude of faults Labour does seem to recognise that the era of ideologically pure monetarism is over. So what if the billionaires leave? Let them go. Door’s there. Give the rest of us a chance at wealth creation.
I think history will credit this budget. I’m not sure that the election is a foregone conclusion. Cameron’s party is seen as too nebulous and liberal in its politics, its leader too much of a part of the old political class, to offer a real alternative for the raging grassroots. I think more and more opposition votes will go to the far right. Still, my predictions are generally wrong.
The crash was not just the end of the great game. It was also the end of innocence. In Alan Warner’s Morvern Callar, the protagonist’s father, a train driver and trade unionist, explains the true facts of life, work and money:
The hidden fact of our world is that theres no point having desire unless youve money. Every desire is transformed into sour dreams. You get told if you work hard you get money but most work hard and end up with nothing. I wouldnt mind if it was shown as the lottery it is but oh no. The law as brute force has to be worshipped as virtue. Theres no freedom, no liberty; theres just money.
This is the thing. For the market to work, for ‘confidence’ to remain at acceptable levels, people have to deny these essential facts, every time they get up in the morning. The lover of life can work hard all week for his weekend but in the long term the dream must be bought into. And it has never been harder to sustain this fragile delusion. Why pay for a house for twenty years when the bubble is going to burst and leave your time and money worthless? Why have children when they will likely have to stay at home until well into their twenties? Why work for half a century when your pension fund is going to get pissed away on the stock exchange? It doesn’t help when people protesting this state of affairs are clubbed down in the street.
Awakening from this broken dream will be the first tentative steps towards a better world.
I often seem to get myself into trouble for stating a point which is obvious to people in the normal world, namely mentioning the absurdity of hysterical left-wing “debate” about the Middle East and surrounding countries. Never in the field of human discourse has so much hot air been exchanged by so many people who know so little. But then every once in a while the real world becomes even more comical than the left-wing zoo, and this example really is a peach.
A couple of days back the BBC ran a story about a scandal in Iran over a capitulation to the Zionist Entity, the Great Satan’s Gendarme, Israel: yes, despite the authorities’ best efforts to be vigilant, Jaffa oranges were going on sale in Tehran, courtesy of clandestine imports! Iranian customs officials were swift to disavow any incompetence over this highly important breach of trade barriers, making it clear that if contrabrand fruit was going on sale then there must have been foul play involved. Mohammed Reza Naderi, deputy head of Iranian customs, said:
“In addition to the inspections, importers are informed about the laws and they will never take such risks for importing just a few tonnes of goods… Even if it is said that the oranges were imported to the country from Israel, the import was not done through official channels.”
A storm of protest ensued as Zionist Oranges threatened to over-run the country. Haaretz reported that there may not have been a real “citrus fruit conspiracy” but that in fact the name “Jaffa” was a brand that had been sold on to several countries. A pithy riposte for sure, but not one which satisfied those determined to remove the stamp of Zionism from their fruit drinks.
Then the truth came to light. The labels were faked, and the oranges had in fact come from China. The world’s lefties breathed a collective sigh of relief, walked away from the placard kits and returned to their Ethiopian Fair Trade Coffee and Farmer’s Market Toast. And so another day began, though the seed of controversy is never far away, so be vigilant my friends – your breakfast plate is more laden with political risk than you might think.
One of the first things you realise when studying approaches to sociology and other social sciences is that you can find a paper to support almost any argument in the world. And that’s exactly what our good friend and old sparring partner Red Maria has found with the research which she’s used as the basis for this post about how “religion brings peace”.
Reporting as it does the “less well documented” instances in which religious groups have worked for progressive anti-war causes and for human rights worldwide, the researchers claim that amongst other things their thesis is supported by the record of Catholics in in El Salvador, Guatemala and Nicaragua.
They then qualify the point by specifying precisely to whom in these countries they are referring:
One example is in Nicaragua, where local Catholic churches were more sympathetic to revolutionary parties than was the Catholic hierarchy.
And we all know what the hierarchy thinks of Latin lefties, don’t we?
The point here is quite clear. There are people in the world who do have progressive politics and who do so from a religious perspective. There have indeed been religious figures who have worked bravely for peace in the most extraordinary circumstances. This has been common knowledge throughout the modern political era. But when creed overtakes wisdom, when doctrine overtakes a will to understand, and when adherence to a particular rule overtakes the drive to compassion for our fellow human beings, then such progressivism becomes impossible. That is the great contradiction of religion in politics: it’s not the particular belief system which makes the difference to someone’s actions, so much as the individual believer and their ideas of what makes the divine real to them.
When it comes down to it, the old Sufi saying encapsulates my stance on this issue more beautifully than I ever could:
A donkey with a load of holy books is still a donkey.
Kammo runs an occasional series called ‘Great Historical Questions to Which the Answer is ‘No’. This week he’s highlighted Ed West’s article, in the Torygraph, which asks: ‘Is Britain the world’s first politically correct totalitarian state?’
This is West:
[T]here are just too many cases of people being arrested for homophobia, racism or other thought crimes for this to be treated as anything other than state policy. Of course Britain isn’t Orwell’s Oceania or Bolshevik Russia yet, but it is a tyranny nonetheless.
Do you know anyone who’s been arrested on such a charge?
There is a strain of British conservatism that is inherently self-pitying and conspiratorial. Ed West is the equivalent of leftists who claim that democracy is no better than fascism. But while such pseudo-radicals are regularly and rightly laughed out of town, anti-PC hysteria is widely accepted in public life. It is unchallenged. It is a major factor in the resurgence of the far right. It will get worse as the recession deepens and the crowd starts looking for people to throw on the bonfire. Political correctness gone mad is the singular mainstream conspiracy theory.
For all their talk about standing up for common sense the rightwing commentariat does seem to be living in an alternate reality. As Kamm noted in another context: ’It’s at times like this that I realise how oddly unmerited is the reputation of British conservatism for social pragmatism and working with the grain of human nature.’
The Torygraph’s champion of free speech slams Evan Harris for his part in getting the UK blasphemy law repealed. ‘If you want to fight for freedom,’ West says, ’fight for the peoples’ right to be racist or sexist or Islamophobic or simply rude.’ Now, it’s vital that people have the liberty to make tedious ‘politically incorrect’ jokes. But what is West saying here? That there is no point in freedom unless you use it to say stupid and ugly things? Seriously? Is that all we’ve got?
This transcends politics. The personal slides into the political so easily. I’ve lost count of the number of people who’ve told me that because they can’t get a housing transfer or find a city centre parking space we are living under a dictatorship. It’s a huge collective human failure of imagination and proportion and empathy.
In the comments, Tom Chivers puts West in his place:
It’s only 45 years since a Tory party candidate campaigned on the slogan ‘if you want a n***er for a neighbour, vote Liberal or Labour’. Political correctness might be clumsy, it might go too far, it might occasionally lead to silly situations, but it is infinitely preferable to what went before.
And what is worse is when people start making stuff up about it. ‘Winterval’, for instance, was never about not offending Muslims, but a PR stunt by Birmingham City Council in 1997-98 to get more people shopping, and yet it is brought forth EVERY YEAR as yet another ‘political correctness gone mad’ story.
And saying that Britain is a ‘politically correct totalitarian state’ would be laughable if it wasn’t so depressing that your comments box will fill up with agreement from blustering Colonel Blimps who miss the good old days of untrammelled racism and homophobia.
On that subject, Tom might want to check out West’s next piece, entitled: ‘South Africa is going down the plughole. What do the anti-apartheid campaigners have to say about that?’
Political correctness: to blame for everything
Sent on behalf of Graham Stevenson, UNITE – T&G National Organiser – Transport Sector
URGENT ACTION NEEDED
The following communication seeks a small act today from every Unite shop steward and officer covering transport membership. We ask that you contact your local member of the European Parliament as a matter of urgency. We consider this act we ask of you to be highly important. Experience suggests that receiving a large number of emails from constituents (not a very normal thing, since most people don’t even know who their MEPs are!), influences them enormously. Whatever the issue, it often does not matter that the MEP does not come from a tradition that has little connection with trade union. Your voice can influence MEPs.
You will find attached a declaration initiated by Stephen Hughes’ MEP. This is intended for the collective signing by other members of the European Parliament. This declaration is clearly against the recent European Court of Justice judgements (Laval, Viking, Rüffert, Luxembourg), which have undermined workers’ legal rights by citing business freedoms to trade as being potentially superior to basic human rights, such as collective action to defend bargaining rights. (I have also attached a short briefing on the four cases for those who are interested in reading more.)
These judgements are of great concern to Unite’s transport sector, especially since all these cases have thus far largely focused on the bargaining power of transport workers but, clearly, the issue extends far wider than that. Also, it is of great value that Stephen Hughes’ declaration expresses serious concern at the way these ECJ decisions have stimulated xenophobia, racist and ultra-nationalist reaction.
The MEP declaration calls for a revision of the “Posted Workers Directive”, which covers the rights of workers sent by their employer from one country to another, to re-establish the right of workers from other members states to enjoy the terms and conditions prevailing in that member state. He is seeking support from other MEPs. Please lobby your MEP to add their name to the declaration. This is particularly important that you do so urgently, since the “Written Declaration will lapse on 7th May 2009, and will not be further actioned by the European Parliament if there are insufficient signatures of support. On the other hand, a significant number of signatories will add to the possibilities for building a campaign around these dreadful decisions.
For your information, MEPs have access to email addresses using the following form but they may not necessarily use this address: thus:
A simpler and easier way to communicate is to use the website “WRITETOTHEM”:
This provides a simple way to discover your MEPs and to communicate directly and quickly by email. Once you have found the site, this is how to use it. Enter your post code and the site will produce a list of MPs, councillor and (on the right hand column) your local MEPs. Select this list and the site will display a series of names. Generally, MEPs’ constituencies cover a large region and you can write to all of them at once through this system. The WRITETOTHEM site only requires you to put your name and address and a box for your comment will come up.
Write something along the following lines:
I urge you to support the Written Declaration no. 15/2009, opened for signatures on 18.2.2009, <Titre>on the detrimental impact of the European Court of Justice rulings in the Viking, Laval and other cases which are now being used by racist and xenophobic parties to undermine workers’ rights across the EU.
National Organiser – Transport
On 23 April 1979 the anti-fascist campaigner, socialist and dedicated teacher, Blair Peach, was murdered by the cops at an anti-racist demonstration in Southall.
A witness, local resident Parminder Atwal, described what happened:
“As the police rushed past him, one of them hit him on the head with the stick. I was in my garden and I saw this quite clearly.
“When they all rushed past, he was left sitting against the wall. He tried to get up, but he was shivering and looked very strange. He couldn’t stand. Then the police came back and told him this: ‘Move! Come on, move!’
“They were very rough with him and I was shocked because it was clear he was seriously hurt.
“His tongue seemed stuck to the top of his mouth and his eyes were rolled up to the top of his head. But they started pushing him and told him to move and he managed to get to his feet.
“He staggered across the road and came to where I was in the garden. I tried to sit him down. He was in a very bad state and he couldn’t speak. Then he just dropped down. I got a glass of water for him, but he couldn’t hold it and it dropped out of his hand.”
All the above is from this excellent tribute in today’s Morning Star, by Chris Searle, their best writer.
As Hak Mao points out, the cops are still killers and liars.
From Sasha Ismail (and John G should take note):
I just came across a 1935 article by Trotsky on Marxists’ attitude to
religion. I can’t find it online, but here is a quotation. Highly
relevant to our position for religious freedom, for workers’
mobilisation to defend it and defend religious minorities against
fascist attack – but against cross-class political fronts with those
claiming to represent religious workers (as in Respect).
“Radical” refers to the main party of the French bourgeoisie, which
was in a popular front with the French Socialist and Communist parties.
“Of course, supporting the *church* is out of the question. For us it
can only be a question of whether or not we support the *political
struggle* of Catholics and Protestants to remain Catholics and
Protestants and to act as such. The answer to this question is yes. It
goes without saying that we do not in the process commit ourselves to
supporting religion and the church, but rather emphasise, insofar as
possible, our opposition to religion and the church.
“However it is not clear to me what that has to do with the slogan
‘Down with the Radical ministers’ (not just the ex-ministers). This
slogan is nothing more than the demand to break with
*class-collaborationist front*. Since the reformists and the
Stalinists refuse to carry out this break, they will be compromised in
the eyes of the workers. Hence the slogan ‘Bourgeois Radicals out of
the People’s Front’ is a completely correct Marxist slogan at the
“Let us suppose, and this is not so difficult to imagine, that
tomorrow the [French] fascists begin to storm Freemason temples or
smash Radical newspapers (and this has already occurred episodically).
It goes without saying that the workers will take to the streets to
help defend the Freemason temples. But what is Freemasonry. It too is
a kind of church charged with making the free-thinking petty
bourgeoisie pliant to the interests of high finance. Can we support
Freemasonry? No, never. We can and must, however, defend its right to
exist against the fascist attacks, with gun in hand if necessary. To
be capable of this, the working class must stay revolutionary-minded
and ready to fight. However, the People’s Front makes this impossible.
For this reason it is necessary to drive the Radical bourgeoisie out
of the People’s Front to be able to defend even Freemasonry, should
the occasion arise. There isn’t the slightest contradiction here.”