,. . .it’s shocking to many cinephiles and to the French in particular that the 76-year-old Polanski should be arrested. Since yesterday, reactions in favour of the film director have poured forth from across the political and cultural spectrum, including of course that of the culture minister Frédéric Mitterrand, who did not mince his words. He labelled the arrest “senseless” and “outrageous” nature of such arrest which comes from the “darker side of America, the one that scares us all.” The Cannes film festival is spearheading a campaign to free Polanski and the French foreign minister Bernard Kouchner has contacted US secretary of state Hilary Clinton to ask for a presidential pardon. “We’re calling on every film-maker we can to help fix this terrible situation,” the American producer Harvey Weinstein said. Sources close to Weinstein said the mogul would reach out to Hollywood to lobby against any move to bring Polanski to the US, where he could face up to 50 years in jail.
There is a feeling in France that the US justice department is acting out some kind of prudish revenge against a great talent who never abided by American rules even when he was the most celebrated director in Hollywood.
Oh get off your high horse, demontez votre grand cheval, Madame. You, the cinephiles, the culture minister are, of course, asking that Polanski receive special treatment because he’s a famous and successful artist. You are the voice of the privileged speaking for the privileged.
Of course, nothing so vulgar as his fame or success is prejudicing you, but his talent – ah yes.
In fact in an irregular verb:-
I the bien pensant, admire the talent
You, officials of the American justice system are crassly influenced by fame
They, the envious, moralising, tabloid readers are howling at the celebs
Polanski’s fame got him access to the girl in the case; it influenced the judge to renege on one of those plea-bargaining deals in the American justice system; maybe it’s why the US justice department has pounced on him 31 years after he skipped bail. However, he is still being recalled to some kind of justice. But the cinephiles, Woody Allen, David, Lynch, Martin Scorcese et al are outraged that this is happening to one of the elect. So would the Marquise of this and the Comte de that and their lackeys be indignant if the Duc de something else was arraigned for a crime in pre-revolutionary France. Being taken off for a trial and incarceration is for the peasants – or for the “civilians” as the Hollywood high ups call the schlubs who buy the tickets and gawp at them swanning down the red carpet.
If a CEO, a member of parliament or a bishop had skipped bail and dodged their trial for such a crime they would not be allowed to get away with it, nor would herds of their fellow CEO’s, MPs or bishops be speaking up on their behalf, even if it was thirty years after the event. Famous and successful artists however seem to cast the same glamour as aristocrats once did, and regard themselves and their kind as being outside of the lumpen law-abiding.
Being “creative” is as grand as high birth used to be. People boast of their creative leanings as they used to boast of being third cousin to a baronet. A successful artist already has many privileges – wealth, people wanting to be his friend and/or lover; glory; and, most importantly to him, the chance to work at his art, even an expensive art like film-making. And one thing you can say about the privileged, is that they never think their privileges are unreasonable even if they include getting away with breaking a serious law.
Orwell called this kind of attitude the Benefit of Clergy:-
In an age like our own, when the artist is an altogether exceptional person, he must be allowed a certain amount of irresponsibility, just as a pregnant woman is. Still, no one would say that a pregnant woman should be allowed to commit murder, nor would anyone make such a claim for the artist, however gifted. If Shakespeare returned to the earth to-morrow, and if it were found that his favourite recreation was raping little girls in railway carriages, we should not tell him to go ahead with it on the grounds that he might write another King Lear.
Shakespeare might get away with it if the girls weren’t that little and he had assaulted them a few decades ago, as long as he had been feted in Cannes and was a winner of the Palme d’Or, or at least Ben Jonson, and all the Jacobean dramatists would be lobbying on his behalf. However, in those days no-one thought the artist as a being outside the usual laws, and the privileged ones of the time, the nobles, treated them like upper servants.
It’s the arrogance and pomposity of Trevor Kavanagh and his sidekick George Pascoe -Watson, that enrages me: trying to make out that their scummy, smutty tabloid’s switch from Blairism to Cameronsim is something principled, and something that political people should take seriously.
Kavanagh, in particular, is a pompous, self-important twat who has just confirmed this commentator’s determination to vote Labour at the next general election.
The truth is that the Sun never did support Labour: it supported Blair, who grovelled to it by emphasising his hostility to unions, his anti-europeanism and anti-immigration credentials. Blair, of course, also tasked his ex-tabloid lackey and paid-for professional liar Alistair Campbell with sucking up to the Murdoch (and Rothermere) press in the 1990′s, culminating in his (Blair’s) demeaning visit to the Hayman Islands in 1995, to grovel before Murdoch.
There is, in fact next to no evidence that the press (and, in particular the tabloid press) influences election results: what does happen (despite Kavanagh’s delusions) is that Murdoch orders his craven editors to follow public opinion. Murdoch’s reputation as an “uncanny” predictor of election results rests simply upon his ability to read poll results and to instruct his editors accordingly.
The Labour leadership’s concern at the Scum‘s defection is truly pathetic, and a sign of a party in a state of desperation. Much better, the class-based distain and contempt of Tony Woodley, whose genuine hatred stems from his Liverpudlian background and the Scum‘s filthy history of libelling the dead of Hillborough. Brown would do well to take a leaf out of Woodley’s book.
The only down-side of Woodley’s otherwise excellent speech, was his reference to Murdoch not being British: “an Australian – American”, as though that matters. But, in fairness, Woodley is a product of the British nationalist trade union tradition. Opposition to the EU is another example of this. It doesn’t, however, detract from the truth of what Woodley has to say about the Scum.
The Vatican has responded to the Ryan report. Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, its observer to the UN, issued a statement yesterday. This would have been a good time for the head of the Catholic church to declare its crimes and ask what it could do to make amends.
Instead, it has chosen to defend the indefensible.
This, according to the Guardian, is the thrust of its statement:
1) Only 1.5% to 5% of Catholic clergy were involved in child abuse. So that’s only around x million child abusers.
2) Child abuse goes on in other religions too, which makes it okay.
3) And, in fact, there are loads of paedophiles who are not ministers of any religion.
4) Anyway, the Catholic priests who abused children aren’t paedos, they just have a thing for teenage boys: ‘Of all priests involved in the abuses, 80 to 90% belong to this sexual orientation minority which is sexually engaged with adolescent boys between the ages of 11 and 17.’
This is the conclusion:
As the Catholic church has been busy cleaning its own house, it would be good if other institutions and authorities, where the major part of abuses are reported, could do the same and inform the media about it.
Other institutions and authorities? Can you imagine the head of a business responding to proven allegations about his employees in this way? Would Gordon Brown excuse the crimes of a Labour Party paedo ring by saying: ‘Well, most of them are just gays so it’s okay?’
It really is beyond me how anyone can remain a member of an organisation whose leaders say such stupid, ugly, callous things.
All the Vatican could do was apologise and promise to make amends. And it couldn’t even do that. What disgusting, irredeemable, subhuman scum.
The English Defence League tried to push an “anti-Islamic extremist” schtick which soon enough revealed itself to be old-fashioned xenophobia. Salma Yaqoob was interviewed and said that she would rather Muslims did not rise to the provocation, since street punch ups are, in fact, what the EDL are looking for. This debate on confrontation v ignore it and hope it will go away will no doubt continue.
What I found interesting was the role of the internet in right wing fringe, and by extension, any fringe politics.
For the authorities it means flash demonstrations, which are difficult to police:-
“The whole new dynamic here is the internet. All the communication and discussion goes on across the internet. At the last minute people can come together and form up and do whatever they choose really anywhere.”
That from the West Midlands Assistant Chief Constable Sharon Rowe who argued that the laws on public order need updating. She’s looking for more powers of course, to ban the EDL from protesting and also to ban the counter protesters.
(According to today’s Sunday Herald the Strathclyde Police are going to ban the newly formed Scottish Defence League from demonstrating in Glasgow.)
For the far right the internet brings together and politicises the disaffected who would once have moaned quietly in twos or threes in pubs.
Allan Urry (the presenter):- “The web is a big factor in how those on the right organise and speak with each other, validating their viewpoint. And it’s not just the EDL.”
Edmund Standing, the author of The BNP and the Online Fascist Network, was interviewed:-
“The internet has opened this stuff up to a wider audience. Anyone can get hold of this stuff and you don’t even have to join a wider group. You don’t have to know a single person. All you have to do is go on there and the ideological and intellectual justification for carrying out attacks, terrorist attacks, racist violence. . We don’t live in a society where people would tolerate people openly walking round the streets and tolerating Nazi ideas, race war and that kind of thing, so the Internet is re-invigorating it cos it’s easier getting it out to a wider audience, making it easier to connect to each other in a way that you couldn’t do in the past. . . ”
Edmund Standing went on to talk about how websites with recommendations for violence create an atmosphere encouraging the lone wolf would-be terrorist, which he thinks more dangerous than organised groups as they are harder to trace. Neil Lewington (possession of explosives) and Martin Gilleard (four home-made nail bombs) were both caught by chance.
The beauty of the internet is that it puts the like-minded in touch with each other, even though they may live in different cities or different countries. But the like-minded includes racist nutters, and racist nutters united are stronger than racist nutters alone. Racist nutter speaks unto racist nutter in cyberspace, then meet in the real world for a little aggro, or a solitary racist nutter has fantasies of himself as a hero cheered by websiters if he leaves a home-made explosive by a mosque.
Another feature of the internet is that as in places of recreation for wearers of gimp masks with safe words you can disguise your identity and get up to things you would rather other people didn’t know about. There is a fair amount of social stigma for Kevin Smith being seen to leave a Fascist meeting. On the web you can call yourself Akitsaws or Battle88 if you like, and bang slogans and diatribes from your keyboard. You can even get something of the excitement of being in a whipped up crowd as you hammer your keys, as is evident on many blog threads. In the 1930s the far right were famed for their quasi-military style marching and mass meetings where hecklers were chucked out with kickings and beatings. That sort of mass meeting has been replaced by the vituperative comments thread with abuse and counter-abuse, shared bigotry and violent fantasies.
Disseminating propaganda (yours) and information (mine) has become much cheaper. Statements like this one from the introduction of Steve Cohen’s book (1984) That’s Funny You Don’t Look Anti-Semitic will soon sound archaic:-
Even in draft form, the book has been attacked by individuals on the Left and the Right. However, what has made it possible and worthwhile has been the tremendous encouragement from so many different people (many of whom I have never met). Not least are those who have donated the entire cost of the production. . . .
That’s Funny is pamphlet size and prints out comfortably as a PDF. It was as a PDF that I read Edmund Standing’s The BNP and the Online Fascist Network. Costs of production and distribution hardly come into it now every person is their own publisher. (I would recommend Standing’s report if only to read the selected ravings of Lee John Barnes, who is given to obscene violent fantasies, sub-sub-sub Neitzschean abuse of Christianity and soft humankind in general mixed up with an Odin-worshipping paganism. Barnes is also a legal adviser to and occasional spokesman for the BNP. Having such an embarrassing loon in a position of power would be destructive to any mainstream party, but this all seems to be water off a duck’s back as far as the BNP crowd are concerned.)
So the internet has opened up debate to a far-flung audience and made disseminating information easier. But its anonymous nature presents difficulties, eg gauging how much of what is expressed on blogs is fantasy, wind up merchants, mischief makers, trolls, or infiltrators. In Canada the Human Rights Commission used to send out pseudo-Nazi provocateurs to see what they could elicit on Nazi hate sites by being more Nazi in their comments than the Nazis. Counter far right activity could include infiltrating their sites and spreading a few scurrilous rumours around, with some misdirection thrown in. If nothing else, it would piss them off.
Another aspect of anonymity is how to turn diatribes on threads in cyberspace to action in the real world, which includes keeping pressure on backsliders. BootFoot and HeadSkin swear to smite the foreigners then are no shows. An EDLeaguer who was one of the few who turned up to the 11th September Harrow protest complained (comment 155):-
“we had an almost non-existant turn out on sunday from the EDL, many of us were left with our dicks swinging in the breeze. Thanks to everybody who couldn’t be bothered to get out their pits and shout for the cause. i’m begining to think this is just an armchair warrior organisation. If you can’t be bothered to turn out to help us, go and join Granny Murrys kniting forum. With so few of us on sunday it was dangerous. Once again, Thanks.”
How the blog and the password-for-initiants forum will affect politics is still in the early stages, but as a start authoritarian governments try to control the internet and arrest bloggers as they have always seized printing presses and arrested writers. Advances in communications technology affect the dynamics of politics as advances in weapons technology affect the dynamics of war. The invention of printing, the growth in literacy, cheap pamphlets, photographs from the frontline of the American Civil War, the radio, the televised beatings of Civil Rights protesters and the napalm in Vietnam – all of them affected the politics of their times.
From Socialist Worker, 18 March 2006:
“The US and Britain are nuclear hypocrites
“Iran is being accused of breaking the nuclear non-proliferation treaty (NPT) by the West. The NPT is designed to stop the spread of nuclear weapons. It was originally signed by the US, the Soviet Union and Britain in 1968, and since by over 180 states.
“All of the states that signed the NPT have a number of obligations. There are three parts to the treaty.
“Firstly, the countries that already had nuclear weaponry when the treaty was signed, such as Britain and the US, pledged to disarm.
“Secondly, countries that signed up to the treaty and did not already have nuclear weapons pledged not to build them. The stated aim was to end the age of nuclear weaponry.
“The third part of the treaty is that states complying can develop nuclear power, and will be helped by the other states that have the technology and resources.
“Inspection systems, set up by the International Atomic Energy Authority, are designed to make sure no one cheats. As a signatory of the NPT, Iran is entitled to develop nuclear power.
“It has had a nuclear power programme since the 1970s. It has been helped at times by both the US and Britain.
“Iran maintains that it is pursuing a programme of civilian nuclear power, while the US says it is developing nuclear weapons.
“There is no evidence that Iran is doing anything other than pursuing a programme to develop nuclear power. So why is it being condemned?
“Iran has signed up to a part of the NPT which means that it is subjected to more frequent and more intrusive inspections.
“This an indignity that neither the US or Britain put themselves through.
“These rigorous inspections have found nothing to suggest that Iran is attempting to build nuclear weapons.
“The one area where Iran can be called into question is that prior to 2003 it did not acknowledge the full scale of its nuclear development.
“But that was resolved three years ago. The stories coming out now are pure spin.
“There is a very great danger that this spin over Iran’s nuclear power programme will be used in the same way as the claims about Weapons of Mass Destruction was used over Iraq in 2003.
“Governments are playing on people’s concerns about the regime in Iran.
“But the issue is not really about nuclear weapons. It is about who controls Iran’s oil and gas.
“The spin is part of the US plan for regional dominance.
“I don’t think that the US and Britain are going to invade Iran. It seems more likely that they will use air strikes. Iran is a much stronger country than Iraq was three years ago.
“The external rhetoric has united groups in the country who might previously been divided, and Iran has not suffered years of sanctions.
“It is also possible that the US will use tactical nuclear weapons or that Israel – the only nuclear power in the Middle East – will act.
“Israel is supported by the US. Despite many resolutions being passed by the United Nations calling for an end to nuclear weapons in the region no action has been taken to force Israel to get rid of its nuclear weapons.
“Everything about the current situation is hypocritical. Both the US and Britain have built new nuclear weapons since signing the NPT.
“Tony Blair is currently in the process of deciding whether to replace the Trident nuclear misille system.
“North Korea is now in a position where its government feels that nuclear weapons are necessary.
“We need to pursue a path internationally that will bring an end to the dependance on nuclear weapons.
“The current path that the US and Britain are pursuing could have disastrous consequences for us all.”
For no particular reason (a very short film):
What the hell were three middle class white gals doing in 1932, scatting on a Louis Armstrong number? Well, they were from New Orleans…
No, I don’t actually mean this:
… horrible and ghoulish though it is.
No, what I had in mind was a poll presently being trumpeted by various anti-EU fanatics and fantasists (including the Morning Star), purporting to show “a massive surge in support for the no side” in next week’s referendum on the Lisbon Treaty. According to the poll, 59 per cent of Irish voters now intend to vote “no” – a dramatic reversal of the results of all other polls to date.
The likes of Bill Cash, Ukip, the Morning Star and Sinn Fein have all hailed the poll, conducted by an outfit named Gael Poll. Today’s Guardian quotes Roger Jupp, the reputable Dublin pollster and chairman of the Association of Irish Market Research Organisations, thus: “This is a voodoo poll…It is quite extraordinary. My colleagues and I have been looking into this. I’ve never heard of these people (ie: Gael Poll).” According to the Graun, Jupp says the methodology is flawed and another analyist said that at best the survay might be regarded as a “straw poll.”
But more interesting is the nature of the organisation behind the “voodoo poll”, Gael Poll. The Graun says they call themselves “strong Catholic nationalists” and “Catholic researchers” who worked until last year at the Hibernian magazine, now closed.
Their leader, Gerry McGeough was once a convicted Provo IRA gunrunner, but has since broken with the Provos, to concentrate upon vigorous anti-EU campaigning, as well as (in the words of the Graun) his “far- right Irish nationalist, ultra-Catholic, anti-gay, and anti-immigrant” views… in other words, the man’s as near as dammit a fascist.
And that’s the logic of the anti-EU campaign in a nutshell (or nutcase), folks. Let’s hope they’re well and truly clobbered next week.
Assemble 12.00 noon, Madeira Drive, Brighton on Sunday 27 September, the first day of Labour Party conference…
It started as a rather tame lobby called by the UCU against cuts in public spending. Now it’s rebranded by the SWP as…
RAGE AGAINST NEW LABOUR
…with no specific demands at all!
“Social Democracy does not and cannot advance a single ‘negative’ slogan that would merely serve to ‘sharpen the consciousness of the proletariat against imperialism’ (a phrase of Pyatakov’s) without at the same time giving a positive answer to the question as to how Social Democracy would solve the same problem if it were in power. A ‘negative’ slogan that is not connected with a definite positive position does not “sharpen” the mind but blunts it …’’
VI Lenin: A Caricature of Marxism (1916)
Comrade Denham’s post got me thinking. A few months ago I wrote about Blinded by the Right, David Brock’s memoir about his time on the conservative attack machine in the 1990s. He wrote for a variety of conservative publications and worked with senior Republicans towards the goal of bringing Clinton down. He portrays an American right that was corrupt, conspiratorial and deranged.
Here are the examples I quoted; the second one refers to Clinton’s friend and associate Vince Foster, who committed suicide in 1993.
Of all the ‘Clinton crazies’ I would meet – the term was one that Ambrose [Evans-Pritchard, Telegraph correspondent] and many others openly embraced – Ambrose was the least cynical of the bunch, and perhaps the craziest… I visited Ambrose at his home in the Maryland suburbs to hear about his latest scoop. This one involved Clinton’s alleged abuse of the penal system in Arkansas, where Ambrose said that he compelled prison warders to make inmates available to him for his sexual gratification…. Ambrose drew the shades and asked if we had been followed. The CIA, he was sure, had tapped his phones, and he believed his house was under surveillance by the Clintons’ ‘death squads’. A few minutes into the conversation, it was apparent to me that poor Ambrose had lost his grip on reality.
As a mark of how effective disinformers like Ambrose were in drawing the leadership of the Republican Party into their conspiracy-mongering, the leader of the House inquiry, Dan Burton, became preoccupied with the notion that the position of [Foster's] wounds showed that they could not have been self-inflicted. To test the theory, Burton, who publicly referred to Clinton as a ’scumbag’, reenacted the Foster death [at an official dinner] by firing a .38 caliber revolver into a watermelon.
Reading what I’ve already written, it’s clear I went wrong in describing Blinded by the Right as a period piece. It appears that whenever the American right is in opposition it descends into a state of paranoid frenzy. Brock is now the head of a watchdog, Media Matters for America, and he must be feeling like history’s repeating itself. The birth certificate thing is pure Evans-Pritchard. The frenzy is more intense because the crazies have more and better media outlets and organisational techniques. Plus, they have lost: and to a black man!
There are many more.
It’s a campaign of disbelief, of incredulous fury, and also denial. Johann Hari explains the psychological roots:
The election of Obama – a centre-left black man – as a successor to George W. Bush has scrambled the core American right’s view of their country. In their gut, they saw the US as a white-skinned, right-wing nation forever shaped like Sarah Palin. When this image was repudiated by a majority of Americans in a massive landslide, it simply didn’t compute. How could this have happened? How could the cry of ‘Drill, baby, drill’ have been beaten by a supposedly big government black guy? So a streak that has always been there in the American right’s world-view – to deny reality, and argue against a demonic phantasm of their own creation – has swollen. Now it is all they can see.
It’s been said in the comments that Obama will not highlight the racism. In fact he can’t highlight it. Political incorrectness means that a victim of racist taunts can’t point out the offence for fear of being accused of playing the race card.
Harry’s Place has a guest post from Andrew Murphy who appears to have taken a similar political journey to Brock’s. In his piece, ‘Why I am no longer a Republican’, Murphy explains his disillusionment with the GOP:
Additionally I become alarmed with the blog I was writing for when they started denouncing Obama as a National Socialist and began peddling the birther mythology that Obama was actually not a US citizen. (At first I was intrigued by the birther idea until I investigated it and found it hopelessly silly, in an Oliver Stone film sort of way). The comparisons of Obama to Hitler did not start with the health care debate. I saw it peddled even before Obama won the Democratic nomination. And shamefully, while I privately protested to the editorial staff of the blog, I did not resign nor was I allowed by the editor-in-chief to write an alternative editorial disputing the birther claims. That was the editorial line, love it or leave it.
Like Brock, Murphy came to feel that modern conservatism had betrayed the classic Republican ideals of personal responsibility, the rule of law and individual liberty. Being a conservative was no longer about intellect, reason, pragatism and honesty. It was about being a stupid, self-pitying, immature arsehole.
American patriot Horatio Alger said that: ‘if you ever expect to do anything in the world, you must know something of books’. It’s a sentiment that would be shouted down on Fox News today.
From Murphy’s article:
Can you imagine Alexander Hamilton barking like a seal at a Sarah Palin rally as she explains that the only real Americans are rural and small-town Americans? The same Hamilton who was for an urban, manufacturing America?
Or John Adams, one of the champions of the American Philosophical Society, egging on the conservative movement’s war on science and its hostility toward the educated ‘elites’?
It is hard to imagine that Benjamin Disraeli, the author of Sybil, would be indifferent to the millions of Americans without health insurance.
This is a US phenomenon but you can detect similar aspects of self-pity, immaturity and conspiracism on the British right, particularly when it talks about immigration and multiculturalism.
It’s a pleasure to know that the Fox ghouls are on the losing side and that Obama probably doesn’t let the bastards bring him down.
Jimmy Carter is often an idiot. He talked irresponsible nonsense when he compared Israel with apartheid South Africa, for instance.
But he’s surely correct when he says:
“Those kind of things are not just casual outcomes of a sincere debate on whether we should have a national programme on healthcare. It’s deeper than that. I think an overwhelming portion of the intensely demonstrated animosity toward President Barack Obama is based on the fact that he is a black man … That racism inclination still exists. And I think it’s bubbled up to the surface because of the belief among many white people, not just in the South but around the country, that African-Americans are not qualified to lead this great country.”
And, of course, Obama – a master bourgeois politician and natural-born statesman - was very wise (from his own point of view) to disavow Carter’s analysis.
Watch the extraordinary piece of film at the bottom of this post. It generally confirms Carter’s contention, but also contains some wonderful, unexpected moments – like when the black guy defends Mississippi and denounces the “New York liberal” who’s making the film!
Also: it’s clear that McCain was embarrassed by Sarah Palin’s thinly-disguised racism. He’s a conservative, but not a racist.
Nonetheless: there can be little doubt that the hysteria surrounding Obama’s health care plans, and the heckling he received from the Confererate Good Ol’ Boy Joe Wilson in Congress last week, was classic Deep South racism [Youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xpQ4nWqUGFM&feature=related