Above: the reptile and its master
The very idea of Peter Mandelson complaining about “cabals” within Labour “trying to exert influence” is simply laughable. The reptilian Mandelson was central to New Labour’s 1990′s takeover of the Labour Party, when he and his Blairite cronies systematically undermined Party democracy, imposing ex-Tories and SDP’ers as parliamentary candidates while excluding long-standing, loyal members.
So Mandelson’s extraordinary bleating about the efforts of Unite in supporting working class people as parliamentary candidates, and in particular, the nomination of Unite member Katie Murphy for Falkirk, deserves to be treated with one bloody great horse-laugh. Unite’s alleged “manipulation” involves encouraging its members to join the Party and subsidising their first year’s membership. This is done quite openly and is entirely within Party rules. The support given to Blairite would-be candidates by Mandelson’s ‘Progress’ group, funded by multi-millionaire Lord Sainsbury, is much more secretive and conspiratorial. Yet Mandelson has the audacity to accuse Unite of “manipulation”!
Len McCluskey puts Mandelson in his place in an article in today’s Graun. Lenny’s a bit more polite than I would be, mind:
Peter Mandelson’s selection argument is about politics not procedure
Opposition to union-backed MPs is driven by a desire to keep New Labour the preserve of a socially restricted elite
You report that Peter Mandelson is accusing my union, Unite, of “manipulating selection procedures” in the Labour party, which “stores up danger for a future Labour government” (Labour warned on selection panel procedures, 13 May).
This does no service to Labour democracy or the facts. I have no axe to grind with Lord Mandelson. His second stint at the business department under the Labour government was marked by fresh thinking about industrial policy, which I wish he had had the opportunity to develop; and he seems more willing than some to acknowledge that the pre-2008 economic model was flawed.
But now he appears rattled that Blairite true believers are not winning every Labour nomination. Your report does not have him alleging any breach of party rules or procedural abuses, perhaps because there are none. Unite’s aim is simple – to recruit members to the party (welcome, I would have thought) and then encourage them to endorse union-supported candidates in one member-one vote selections. A sinister construction is put on this – “selections are being run by a cabal of union members”, according to your report. This is, to say the least, an irony. Many serving Labour MPs were parachuted into constituencies at the request of leading members of the last Labour cabinet, including Mandelson himself.
Dishing out seats on the basis of personal connections bears a closer resemblance to the rotten borough system before 1832 than it does to modern democratic procedures, and it also helps keep politics as the preserve of a socially restricted elite. Mandelson also appears untroubled that Lord Sainsbury’s vast wealth, channelled through the Progress organisation, has been used to give particular candidates, invariably on the right, an advantage in Labour selections.
Mandelson argues, correctly, that it is “wrong to conflate trade unionists and the working classes”, although the overlap is hard to miss. I don’t conceal that I want to see more Labour MPs supporting the sort of policies developed by Unite and other trade unions, regardless of their personal backgrounds. But Labour MPs look less and less like the people they seek to represent. The big strides made in securing more women Labour MPs have also, unfortunately, been paralleled by a decline in those from working-class backgrounds. Mandelson has no proposals to address this.
This is really an argument about politics, not procedure. Mandelson is probably intensely relaxed about cutting democratic corners if it means more “New Labour” special advisers and the like on the green benches, but utterly opposed to the normal workings of Labour democracy if it means leftwing or trade union candidates being chosen.
Let’s have the political debate instead. I am confident that most potential Labour voters want to see both a more diverse Labour party in parliament, and also a Labour government radically different from the last one.
Finally, I object strongly to his insinuation that union-backed MPs might be loyal not “to the party as a whole”, but “a section of it”. Trade unionists have always been Labour loyalists. Rightwing MPs, not unions, split Labour in 1931 and 1981, just as it was New Labour parliamentarians who fuelled the debilitating Blair-Brown factionalism that so weakened the most recent Labour government, as Mandelson surely knows.
I keep promising myself (and readers) that I’ll never write another word about that posturing charlatan Galloway. But for a blogger, he’s the gift that just keeps on giving:
George Galloway: “But there have been achievements in North Korea. They do have a satellite circling the earth. They have built a nuclear power industry even though they suspended it on false promises from President Clinton and other U.S. statesmen. They do have a cohesive, pristine actually, innocent culture. A culture that has not been penetrated by globalization and by Western mores and is very interesting to see. But I wouldn’t like to live there. And I’m not advocating their system. Not least because they certainly don’t believe in God in North Korea…”
H/t: Pete Cookson
Above: this man has been personally inconvenienced
The organisers of a Marxist Conference (‘Historical Materialism’) in India have withdrawn their invitation to Professor Callinicos. He seems to be quite upset, and has tweeted (https://twitter.com/alex_callinicos/status/316678538310864897) as follows:
Dear Organizing Committee,
I was very surprised to receive your communication. You ask me ‘to withdraw [my] decision to attend’. But I only made that decision in response to an invitation to participate in your conference. So what you are in fact doing is withdrawing your invitation, as is indicated by the fact that you have already deleted me from the conference programme. I think you should take full responsibility for the decision you are actually taking.
I understand of course how important the issue of rape and sexual violence is in India, especially after last December’s gang rape and murder in Delhi. It is also a very important question in Britain, and for me personally, as it is for the Socialist Workers Party. We are strongly committed to women’s liberation. We took the rape allegations against a leading member extremely seriously; the controversy over how the party handled these allegations is indicative of that seriousness. The special conference that we recently held to resolve this controversy has set up a committee to review our procedures, and we intend to use this to reinforce our efforts to combat the oppression of women.
It is not for me to judge how grave the danger of disruption to your conference is. But an appeal circulated by an academic at JNU does not reflect well intellectually or morally on those agitating against my presence at the conference. This document is a farrago of nonsense that treats allegations as proven fact, cites tendentious opinion pieces as ‘reports’, and includes the laughable assertion that ‘the journal Historical Materialism is allied, and … is known to be principally operated by Socialist Workers Party members and supporters’.
Since this is a conference sponsored by Historical Materialism, let me remind you that I am a longstanding supporter of the journal and, along with Marxist intellectuals of many political tendencies, a member of its International Advisory Board. I have tried to support HM’s development both in Britain and internationally. Your decision damages HM’s commitment to promote Marxist theoretical development independently of organized political alignments.
So I regret your decision – not just for this reason, but also because I value my long-standing connections with the Marxist intellectual left in India. In taking this decision, based directly or indirectly on interested misrepresentations of debates inside the SWP, you run the risk of compromising your own intellectual and political integrity.
This is to say nothing of the personal inconvenience and expense you are exposing me to by withdrawing your invitation a week after you had circulated a programme that included me as chairing one session and speaking at another, and barely a week before I was due to fly to India. This is quite unacceptable in what is meant to be an academic conference, and it is also not how socialists should behave towards one another.
[NB: Statement from the organising group of the Delhi HM Conference, here]
I thought this was a nasty, racist spoof created by Galloway’s enemies to make him and ‘Honeyglaze’ Jasper look and sound like a pair of total jerks (not that it’s difficult to do that). But apparently it’s genuine. If you haven’t already seen it, brace yourself and prepare to cringe:
Hopefully, the humiliations at Croydon North and Rotherham, coming hard on the heels of the resignation of Salma Yaqoob, will finally kill off the reactionary, communalist vanity project that is/was ‘Respect.’
(or: The Strange Case Of The Sleeping Policeman)
Pure comedy gold from Georgie Galloway and his Respect posse:
- The Guardian, Thursday 18 October 2012 22.10 BST
From today’s Graun:
By Helen Pidd
Even given his own talent for hyperbole, the claim George Galloway made on Sunday night was extraordinary: that he had discovered his secretary was working as an “agent” for a Metropolitan police counterterrorism officer who was running a “dirty tricks” campaign against him.
It was a serious allegation. “A direct attack on not just me but on democracy,” the MP said. He complained to the police, who promised an investigation, voluntarily referring the matter to the Independent Police Complaints Commission. And he wrote to Theresa May, the home secretary, demanding an inquiry, saying he had “incontrovertible evidence” that the duo had set up fake email addresses to spread “rumour, disinformation and downright lies”.
But Galloway’s now former secretary, Aisha Ali-Khan, is fighting back. She says she is married to Afiz Khan, whom Galloway correctly identified as a detective inspector in the Met’s counter-terrorism unit, SO15.
She says the two wed in a Muslim ceremony in 2009 and have had an on-off, hush-hush relationship ever since. She is furious that their relationship is being presented as somehow illicit.
“Not only have I lost my job and my credibility but I’ve been branded this tart sleeping with random police officers.”
Suspended on full pay but not expecting her job back, Ali-Khan has filed a complaint with the Met, accusing Galloway of either hacking into her private emails or ordering someone else to do so. She believes there can be no other explanation for how he was able to quote verbatim, in his letter to May, from emails she and her husband had written to each other. Galloway says he was given the emails by his lawyer.
Ali-Khan believes she has been “thrown to the wolves” because she was disliked by certain male figures in Bradford’s Respect party who wanted her out, and because Galloway wanted to deflect attention from a story about his personal life which he believed was about to hit the papers…
Read the rest of this wonderful story, here
Atzmon, the “liberal” establishment’s favourite self-hating Jew and anti-semite, raises his foul head again
I see that the anti-semite Gilad Atzmon, a moderately talented jazz musician, is once again receiving the plaudits of the “liberal” establishment. This foul creature is a holocaust-denier, a conspiracy theorist and an anti-semite. The fact that he was born an Israeli Jew seems to convince some stupid people that he can’t be an anti-semite. He clearly is. I always hesitate to use the term “self-hater” about Jewish people who oppose the policies (or even the very existence) of Israel. But in the case of Atzmon, the the term is one hundred per cent true and accurate. He is a now a Christian, which in itself is fair enough I suppose. But his foul propaganda (endorsed by, amongst other ultra-right wingers and neo-Nazis, David Duke of the KKK), repeats all the old Christian (and Nazi) anti-semitic conspiracy theories.
The only excuse that can be made for this sax-playing racist is that he is almost certainly mentally ill. That’s certainly the opinion of several people I’ve spoken to who know him personally.
Happily, more amd more pro-Palestinian campaigners are seeing through Atzmon and denouncing him.
Woricker simply takes at face value, Atzmon’s lying description of himself as an honest “anti-Zionist,” persecuted by his reactionary enemies. The programme even features the pro-Atzmon film’s director, Golriz Kolahi, invoking jazz’s role in the civil rights movement as though that noble cause was pretty much the same thing as Atzmon’s anti-semitic agenda.
The most laughable part of all is when Woricker suggests that Atzmon’s politics may have put at risk his musical success – as though a minor league sub-Parker jazz saxophonist would be being interviewd on the World Service if he hadn’t come out with his “controversial” views.
As a jazz loiver, I hate Atzmon mainly because in my opinion he’s betrayed the very essence of jazz with his foul racism. I wrote this following some time ago, but I think it bears republishing once again:
Atzmon, why is that you make me so angry? Maybe it’s because I love jazz. I love jazz in all its forms, including post-bop, which I don’t really understand. But even when I don’t understand or like a particular form of jazz (latter-day Miles Davis, or John Coltrane, for instance; also Jelly Roll Morton’s Red Hot Peppers) , I always respect the integrity of the musician(s), trying to do something new — which is what jazz is all about.
Actually, jazz is about something else as well: from its earliest days in and around New Orleans, it was about what would now be called “social inclusion”: at a time when blacks and whites could not mix socially, jazz began to break down the barriers.
On 17 July 1923 the (white) New Orleans Rhythm Kings recorded with the black pianist/composer Ferd “Jelly Roll” Morton. It was the very first “integrated” recording session. A few years later (1929) Eddie Condon organised a band of his favourite musicians for a recording session (‘That’s A Serious Thing’ and ‘I’m Gonna Stomp Mr Henry Lee’) that happened to include both white and black musicians. Condon thought nothing of it at the time:
“Five nights a week I went to Harlem, early or late, whether I was working or loafing. At Small’s Paradise on 135th Street I heard Charlie Johnson’s band, with Leonard Davis on trumpet, Happy Cauldwell on tenor saxophone, and George Stafford on drums. Someone, I thought, ought to put this music on records; it’s too good to miss. I went to Ralph Peer, of the Southern Music Company, a subsidiary of Victor. He looked dubious when I outlined my idea. ‘I want to use Davis, Cauldwell, and Stafford,’ I said, ‘with some friends of mine — Jack Teagarden, Joe Sullivan, and Mezzrow.’ After listening to me talk for twenty minutes about the music which would come out of such a combination, Peer gave in and set a date. ‘This will be for Victor,’ he said. ‘I hope it’s good’.
“It was, though Mezzrow and I played too. We made ‘I’m Gonna Stomp Mr Henry Lee’ and ‘That’s A Serious Thing’. The negro Joe Sullivan [NB: the pianist on the records was the white Irish-American stride and blues master, Joe Sullivan — JD] supplied us with some special introductory chords for ‘That’s A Serious Thing’. When the masters were cut Mr Peer congratulated me. ‘You were right about the music’, he said. ‘It is excellent. All in all I should say this has been an interesting experiment.’ It wasn’t untill I got out in the street that I realised what he meant. I made some inquiries: so far as I could discover we had made the first mixed recording date on any national label, using both white and negro musicians. I thought it had been done long before.”
Condon was not a political person, but he was a decent human being who loved jazz music, and so understood that catagorising people on the basis of race is simply wrong. A member of the audience once asked Condon, “Is your clarinet-player a negro?” (a reference to the light-skinned Afro-American Edmund Hall); Condon replied. “I dunno: I never asked him.”
It is that spirit that should inform jazz. It is the music of democracy, anti-racism and equality. Of course, many of the great pioneers were black Americans: Louis Armstrong, Sidney Bechet, Duke Ellington, Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker, Theloneous Monk, John Coltrane, etc, etc. But plenty, too, were white — and quite a few Jewish (at a time when Jews were experiencing a milder form of the racism meted out to blacks in America): Benny Goodman, Artie Shaw, Max Kaminsky, Red Rodney, Zoot Sims, etc, etc. The fact that none of these ever made a big deal about being Jewish, is rather the point. They regarded jazz as simply music, and music that was the property of everyone — regardless of race, country of origin or skin pigmentation
Do you agree with that premise, or not, Gilad?
There is an interesting alternative story: that of Charlie and his Orchestra. Have you heard of this outfit, Gilad? It was formed during World War Two by the Nazis, when they realised that jazz and swing were a powerful propaganda tool for the Allies. So the Nazis formed their own broadcasting “swing” band — Charlie and his Orchestra — to play the hits of the day, with lyrics modified to convey Nazi propaganda. It was not a very good swing band, but its Nazi message was effective.
A few years ago I was discussing these matters on a jazz e-mail list, when someone brought up Charlie and his Orchestra, and I immediately denounced ‘Charlie’ and stated that I would never listen to it. Someone pointed out to me that quite a few of the musicians in the Charlie Orchestra were Jewish: they were playing for the Nazis in order to save their lives, and the lives of their families.
So, Gilad, when you make mock (as you do with your “Artie Fishal and the Promised Band”) of Israeli Jews simply for being Israeli Jews, and when you make statements to the effect that the “Protocols of the Elders of Zion” may be accurate in describing Jews, and that “American Jewry makes any debate on whether the ‘Protocols of the elder [sic] of Zion’ are an authentic document or rather a forgery irrelevant. American Jews do try to control the world, by proxy” (www.workersliberty.org/node/4325), what is it you think you’re saying?
And you go on to say (this is all on your website, by the way, so I presume you won’t be denying any of it): “The Jews are the ultimate Chamelions, they can be whatever they like so long as it serves some expedient…not only can’t they win…they can’t lose either, they can never be defeated…They move forwards and backwards, from left to right, from right to left, from spirituality into materialism, from orthodox Marxism into hard capitalism…”
You may not realise it, Gilad, but this kind of stuff is classic European and Russian anti-semitism: the Jews as both Bolsheviks and Rothschild capitalists: the ultimate conspirators. Your stupid, ignorant “Artie Fishal” routine is worse than Charlie and his Orchestra: at least the Jews in that band played anti-semitic material because they had no choice; you do it because you want to. Because you revel in baiting your homeland, which you wish to see destroyed.
You are free, of course, to bait Israel and to spout your antisemitic filth. The degenerate ex-Marxists of the SWP are free to promote you [*] and your band (though why, exactly, they should allow you to speak on the politics of the Middle East, remains a mystery).
But, as a jazz-lover, I have to say that I hate your racism. Jazz is the music of integration, of humanity and equality. Your racism has no place in our music.
[* Since the Open Letter was written, the SWP have fairly obviously broken with Atzmon, though they have not accounted for their dalliance with him].
“In this way arose feudal Socialism: half lamentation, half lampoon; half echo of the past, half menace of the future; at times, by its bitter, witty and incisive criticism, striking the bourgeoisie to the very heart’s core: but always ludicrous in its effect, through total incapacity to comprehend the march of modern history.
“The artistocracy, in order to rally the people to them, waved the proletarian alms-bag in front for a banner. But the people, so often as it joined them, saw on their hindquarters the old feudal coat of arms, and deserted with loud and irreverant laughter” – Marx and Engels, ‘The Communist Manifesto.’
I’ve written about the Graun‘s tame public school Stalinist, Seumas “Posh Boy” Milne many times before and was inclined, at first, to ignore his latest pack of lies, half-truths, evasion and privileged westerner’s patronisation of, and generalisation about, people of other cultures, published in that paper yesterday. But it really is a loathsome, poisonous piece of writing, even by Milne’s distasteful ‘standards.’
Milne (ex- Winchester School and Balliol, Oxford) is far from the first scion of the upper class to become a radical and, in a sense, a class traitor. In principle, an admirable stance. George Orwell famously described himself as “lower-upper-middle class” and went to Eton. But Orwell’s socialism was libertarian and democratic to its core. Even in the 1930′s, when the full horrors of Stalinism had yet to be generally acnowledged and the Soviet Union was widely admired amongst British intellectuals, Orwell rejected it and dedicated his life to promoting what he saw as democratic socialism and fighting totalitarianism in both its fascist and Stalinist forms.
Milne could scarcely be further from that tradition. All his adult life has been devoted to glorifying Stalinism and dictatorship. He seems to have a psychological need for a strong leader-figure. He certainly holds democracy in any form, in complete disdain. On leaving Balliol he became business manager of Straight Left (the publication of an ultra-Stalinist faction within the British Communist Party), and since joining the Guardian (via a stint at the Economist) has frequently devoted columns to defending/excusing/downplaying the mass murder that took place under his hero.
But Mine has had a major problem since 1989: the masses of Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union rejected totalitarianism, and the working class of the ’West’ (and, indeed, most of the rest of the world) finally discarded whatever residual illusions they may have had in Stalinism as any kind of progressive force. History’s verdict on the Milnes’ of this world was decisive and damning. Since that blow (shared by his friend and co-thinker George Galloway), he’s had no postive vision of socialism to put forward. Like many other Stalinists, he doesn’t even use the word very often. He prefers to talk about “imperialism,” which for him means little more than “bad” and – especially – American and Israeli “bad.”
Apart from hoping that Chinese capitalism (the rise of which even he has described as “problematic”) will soon eclipse the US version, and that populist demagogues like Hugo Chavez will develop some form of home-grown “socialism” in Latin America, poor Seumas doesn’t really know what he’s actually in favour of. But he knows what he’s against. Hence his support for anyone – but anyone – who’s against the US and/or ‘the West’ as a whole and/or Israel. Hence his support for the Iranian clerical fascists, for the antisemites of Hamas and Hezbullah, the so-called “resistance” that murdered trade unionists and democrats in Iraq and for the so-called “resistance” (aka the Taliban) in Afghanistan (if you don’t believe me on this, take a look at the video below). Naturally, he now rejoices at the reactionary anti-American protests recently stirred up by clerical fascists in Libya, Egypt and elsewhere, which he gloatingly celebrates as “blowback” from “US and western attempts to commandeer the Arab uprisings” (he thought the Libyans should have submitted to the tender mercies of Gaddafi, just as he now supports Assad). Clearly, for Milne (as for Galloway, Pilger, Tariq Ali and people like the degenerate ex-SWP’ers of ’Counterfire’) Islamism now plays the “progressive” role in the world that Stalinism and various nationalist movements once did. He conveniently ignores the fact that all the evidence suggests that the overwhelming majority of Libyans (and no doubt Egyptians and others) rejected the latest manufactured Islamist ‘outrage.’ Here’a telling passage from his latest Graun effort:
“The fact that the attack on the US consulate, along with often violent protests that have spread across 20 countries, was apparently triggered by an obscure online video trailer concocted by US-based Christian fundamentalists and émigré Copts – even one portraying the prophet Muhammad as a fraud and paedophile – seems bafflingly disproportionate to outsiders.
“But in the wake of the Rushdie affair and Danish cartoons controversy, it should be clear that insults to Muhammad are widely seen by Muslims as an attack on their collective identity and, as the Berkeley-based anthropologist Saba Mahmoud argues, a particular form of religiosity that elevates him as an ideal exemplar.
“Those feelings can obviously be exploited, as they have been in recent days in a battle for political influence between fundamentalist Salafists, mainstream Islamists and the Shia Hezbollah. But it would be absurd not to recognise that the scale of the response isn’t just about a repulsive video, or even reverence for the prophet. As is obvious from the slogans and targets, what set these protests alight is the fact that the injury to Muslims is seen once again to come from an arrogant hyperpower that has invaded, subjugated and humiliated the Arab and Muslim world for decades.”
Condensed version: “my enemy’s enemy is my friend.”
Seumas, like many such self-important political illiterates, is highly sensitive to criticism, and at Comment is Free (where readers are supposed to be able to comment on Graun articles) he is protected by vigilant “moderators” who regularly delete critical comments and put those who dare attack, mock or just disagree with Seumas into a limbo called “pre-moderation.” However, one or two critical voices occasionally get through: someone calling themselves ‘sullenandhostile’ (on page 3, 19 Sept, 1.15 pm below the article) takes poor Seumas apart good and proper. I doubt that s/he’ll be allowed to return.
You might just ask, in view of his hatred of America and his support for all who attack the “West” by whatever means, why he doesn’t go the whole hog and express at least some sympathy with Al-Qaeda ; well, he has done. Here. Note the date.
I like this title so much I have to write a post to go with it.
Naomi Wolf’s Vagina: A New Biography has been panned by Zoe Heller, Laurie Penny, Katie Roiphe, Suzanne Moore and Neuroskeptic (a neuro-scientist who questions Wolf’s science bits). (Entertaining quote mine here.) The book outlines Wolf’s quest for the transcendental orgasm that she had mislaid somewhere. Suzanne Moore describes it as a “self-help” book. So I’ve decided not to read it – it sounds very American and earnest, and as for searching for the transcendental orgasm, I have trouble enough locating my keys and spare pair of specs. As for the power of the vagina that she extolls, mine won’t even charge up my moby. Laurie Penny groans, “Has feminism come to this?” Quite.
Putting “Vagina” in a title does make a book sound more exciting and feministy, so I am jazzing up titles of books I’m reading, or have read recently:-
The Curious Incident of the Vagina in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon
In the Shadow of the Vagina by Tom Holland
Vagina’s End by Ford Madox Ford
Letters to Vagina by Philip Larkin
We Need to Talk about My Vagina by Lionel Shriver
The Lonely Planet Guide to the Vagina
A Vagina for Mr Biswas by V S Naipaul
The Vagina of a Provincial Lady by E M Delafield
Changing My Vagina: Occasional Essays by Zadie Smith
The Vagina Stain by Philip Roth
The Odd Vaginas by George Gissing
This heavy solemnity about sex – Wolf, it seems, thinks her vagina is a “goddess” and chaps should cover you with rose petals before you go transcendental on them – does bring out the Vagina Wood in me.
Read John Pilger’s latest piece of polemic about his mate Julian Assange then the comment below by “Phil Howe”.
JP: ‘The British government’s threat to invade the Ecuadorean [sic] embassy in London and seize Julian Assange is of historic significance.’
PH: The British government has never threatened to ‘invade’ the Embassy. What it said was the following: “Under British law we can give them a week’s notice before entering the premises and the embassy will no longer have diplomatic protection”. This is not ‘invading the embassy’, it is an entirely legal and above board process of severing diplomatic relations. The Ecuadorian diplomats would retain their diplomatic immunity and be allowed to leave the country unscathed but their embassy would lose its protected status. Nothing about this is unusual or unprecedented, and has been done hundreds of times before over the few hundred years modern diplomacy has existed. The Ecuadorian government’s claim that Britain has threatened to ‘storm’ the embassy is utterly unfounded and it surprises me that a journalist of your standing accepted at face value these wild and implausible claims and failed to research this further.
‘David Cameron, the former PR man to a television industry huckster and arms salesman to sheikdoms, is well placed to dishonour international conventions that have protected Britons in places of upheaval. Just as Tony Blair’s invasion of Iraq led directly to the acts of terrorism in London on 7 July 2005, so Cameron and Foreign Secretary William Hague have compromised the safety of British representatives across the world.’
This is an ad hominem attack which adds absolutely nothing to your argument. What you say here about Cameron is entirely true but given the UK is not flouting or abusing diplomatic convention, it is entirely irrelevant. If anything, giving credence to blatantly false claims that they are is going to ‘compromise the safety of British representatives across the world’, making this article – by your own definition – irresponsible journalism.
‘Threatening to abuse a law designed to expel murderers from foreign embassies, while defaming an innocent man as an “alleged criminal”, Hague has made a laughing stock of Britain across the world, though this view is mostly suppressed in Britain.’
Assange is an ‘alleged criminal’. He is an ‘alleged rapist’. What arrogance it takes to blithely declare that he is ‘an innocent man’! On what grounds do you make this reckless claim? Has he stood trial and been exonerated? No. Has he presented a shred of evidence in favour of his innocence? No. The only reason you feel comfortable declaring that he is categorically innocent is because you value his word absolutely when weighed against the testimony of the two women who have accused him. This betrays two possible flaws in your character, both highly dangerous. Perhaps you are a misogynist who automatically discounts the testimony of women when weighed against that of men; alternatively perhaps you have developed an attachment to Assange which has reached the level of religious zealotry – I use this phrase deliberately, since only religious zealots claim absolute knowledge in the absence of evidence. Then again there is the third possibility, that both these flaws are in evidence here. I will cease to speculate since to go further would be vulgar.
‘The same brave newspapers and broadcasters that have supported Britain’s part in epic bloody crimes, from the genocide in Indonesia to the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan, now attack the “human rights record” of Ecuador, whose real crime is to stand up to the bullies in London and Washington.’
The first part of this sentence is shoehorned in apropos absolutely nothing. Stay on topic. As for the second part, it is factually true that Eduador does have a poor human rights record. Freedom House ranks it as only ‘partly free’ and the Ecuadorian government is presently considering extraditing a Belarussian democratic activist who is almost certain to be tortured and executed upon his arrival in his home country. Ecuador’s ‘real crime’ is not to ‘stand up to the bullies in London and Washington’, it is to prevent the nasty bullies from London from extraditing the poor alleged rapist Julian Assange to face trial in the world’s most unimpeachable legal system. As for the ‘bullies in Washington’, they have yet to say anything. They have not demanded the extradition of Assange and in any case it is hard to see what law they would do this under. He is not a US citizen so treason laws do not apply to him. (Oh, and since you mentioned it, Britain never recognised the Indonesian conquest of Timor Leste – you may be confused since Australia did).
‘It is as if the Olympics happy-clappery has been subverted overnight by an illuminating display of colonial thuggery.’
Oh yes, what thuggery! How dare the UK demand Ecuador end their abuse of the asylum system and return a man legitimately accused of rape!
‘Witness the British army officer-cum-BBC reporter Mark Urban “interviewing” a braying Sir Christopher Meyer, Blair’s former apologist in Washington, outside the Ecuadorean embassy, the pair of them erupting with Blimpish indignation…’
‘Braying’. ‘erupting with Blimpish indignation’. Stay classy, Pilger.
‘…that the unclubbable Assange and the uncowed Rafael Correa should expose the western system of rapacious power.’
I’m sorry, but this sentence is so disgusting it is almost beyond belief. In what possible way is the extradition of Assange a demonstration of ‘rapacious power’? Unless of course you believe that criminalising rape is an example of undue government intrusion into citizens’ private lives. Come to think of it, given the tone of the rest of this article, perhaps you do.
‘Similar affront is vivid in the pages of the Guardian, which has counselled Hague to be “patient” and that storming the embassy would be “more trouble than it is worth”.’
For the last time, Britain is not going to ‘storm the embassy’! Hague is considering severing diplomatic relations. This is not even a tiny bit the same thing and conflating the two demonstrates an extraordinary ignorance of international law and diplomatic conventions.
‘Assange was not a political refugee, the Guardian declared, because “neither Sweden nor the UK would in any case deport someone who might face torture or the death penalty”.’
‘The irresponsibility of this statement matches the Guardian’s perfidious role in the whole Assange affair. The paper knows full well that documents released by WikiLeaks indicate that Sweden has consistently submitted to pressure from the United States in matters of civil rights. In December 2001, the Swedish government abruptly revoked the political refugee status of two Egyptians, Ahmed Agiza and Mohammed el-Zari, who were handed to a CIA kidnap squad at Stockholm airport and “rendered” to Egypt, where they were tortured. An investigation by the Swedish ombudsman for justice found that the government had “seriously violated” the two men’s human rights.
In a 2009 US embassy cable obtained by Wiki¬Leaks, entitled “WikiLeaks puts neutrality in the Dustbin of History”, the Swedish elite’s vaunted reputation for neutrality is exposed as a sham. Another US cable reveals that “the extent of [Sweden’s military and intelligence] co-operation [with Nato] is not widely known” and unless kept secret “would open the government to domestic criticism”. The Swedish foreign minister, Carl Bildt, played a notorious leading role in George W Bush’s Committee for the Liberation of Iraq and retains close ties to the Republican Party’s extreme right.’
This is undoubtedly true, although it seems highly unlikely that Sweden’s involvement in the United States and NATO is any greater than that of any of NATO’s actual members, such as the United Kingdom. Which is also the US’s closest ally and has an extremely US-friendly extradition treaty. If Assange genuinely feared the long arm of the States, his stupidity in choosing to flee Sweden for the UK is astounding. Either Assange is a complete moron or his fears of US intervention are a fabrication in order to allow him to escape legitimate rape charges.
‘According to the former Swedish director of public prosecutions Sven-Erik Alhem, Sweden’s decision to seek the extradition of Assange on allegations of sexual misconduct is “unreasonable and unprofessional, as well as unfair and disproportionate”.’
It interests me that you (and presumably Alhem) use the term ‘sexual misconduct’ rather than the more accurate ‘rape’. Perhaps because the following sentence is manifestly absurd: ‘Sweden’s decision to seek the extradition of Assange on allegations of rape is “unreasonable and unprofessional, as well as unfair and disproportionate”.’ If, as I suspect, Alhem is using the Galloway defence (i.e. that what Assange did does not count as rape), I advise you please to look into the legal definition of rape, as well as to read some survivors’ accounts. The vast majority of rape is not by a stranger in a back alley, it is a man who you’ve already had consensual sex with penetrating you again in your sleep. It is your boyfriend deciding that since you’ve agreed to sleep with him before, you have implicitly agreed to do it now. It is your date lying to you about wearing a condom and then penetrating you without one.
‘Having offered himself for questioning, Assange was given permission to leave Sweden for London where, again, he offered to be questioned. In May, in a final appeal judgment on the extradition, Britain’s Supreme Court introduced more farce by referring to non-existent “charges”.’
Once again, this sentence betrays a complete failure to do any research. This is how the Swedish legal system works. You cannot be charged until you have been arrested, and you cannot be arrested until you have been extradited. The filing of a formal indictment takes place relatively late in Swedish legal proceedings. Assange’s offer to be questioned in London is highly disingenuous in that he knows it is not one that can be fulfilled. This is because (once again) Assange is being extradited in order to be arrested so that an indictment may be made. He is not wanted for questioning, as that part of the process is long over.
‘Accompanying this has been a vituperative personal campaign against Assange.’
Heaven forbid anyone would begin a ‘vituperative personal campaign’ against an alleged rapist whose desperate attempts to avoid standing trial cast major doubt on his innocence!
‘Much of it has emanated from the Guardian, which, like a spurned lover, has turned on its besieged former source, having hugely profited from WikiLeaks disclosures. With not a penny going to Assange or WikiLeaks, a Guardian book has led to a lucrative Hollywood movie deal. The authors, David Leigh and Luke Harding, gratuitously abuse Assange as a “damaged personality” and “callous”.’
NO. NO, NO, NO. This is the most insidious, vicious sort of rape apologia there is. This is the form of rape apologia which means that Roman Polanski still gets invited to Cannes and Mike Tyson gets a cameo in The Hangover. This is the form of rape apologia which says ‘how dare you accuse such a wonderful man of rape – look at his achievements!’ as though Wikileaks, or an Oscar or a world title belt mean that one cannot be guilty of rape, or as though they excuse rape once committed. Assange’s achievements are irrelevant. It would not matter now if he had cured cancer and the common cold, brought on world peace and stopped global warming. If he committed rape, he would still be a rapist. Men of all kinds commit rape – successful and unsuccessful, left-wing and right-wing, rich and poor, good and bad (in all other senses), and their goodness, or their success, or their leftism are irrelevant. The fact is, if a man commits rape, he is a rapist, and to accuse the Guardian of disloyalty for acknowledging this fact is the height of misogyny and rape apologia. You, Mr Pilger, are contributing to rape culture, and you seriously need to check your male privilege.
‘They also reveal the secret password he had given the paper which was designed to protect a digital file containing the US embassy cables.’
This is true, and it is highly negligent of the journalists in question. That said, there is a lot more to the story – for instance, they were told that the password they were given would expire within hours, so ultimately a great deal of the blame must fall on Wikileaks for their own negligence in encrypting these sensitive documents. All this, however, is completely irrelevant to the central issue of Assange’s alleged guilt. It is a complete red herring to go after the Guardian when the issue remains Assange’s Polanski-esque decision to go on the run rather than facing trial.
‘On 20 August, Harding was outside the Ecuadorean embassy, gloating…’
‘gloating’. Stay classy, Pilger.
‘…on his blog that “Scotland Yard may get the last laugh”. It is ironic, if entirely appropriate, that a Guardian editorial putting the paper’s latest boot into Assange bears an uncanny likeness to the Murdoch press’s predictable augmented bigotry on the same subject. How the glory of Leveson, Hackgate and honourable, independent journalism doth fade.’
Ah yes, honourable independent journalists, bravely fighting for the rights of rapists to avoid trial for their alleged crimes. Give me a break. An astonishingly small proportion of rapes ever end in the conviction of the rapist, and part of the reason why this happens is that men like John Pilger make excuses for the rapists. They ask whether she really said no; they declare that it was not rape, merely ‘bad sexual etiquette’; they derail the entire conversation by discussing the rapist’s achievements in the rest of his life, as if that was in any way relevant; they derail it in other ways, such as by turning their ire on the accusers, whether the victim herself or those like the Guardian who have the temerity to take her at her word and demand that the accused hero stand trial like any other human being. It staggers me how someone like John Pilger, who has stood up so strongly against the dehumanisation of Aboriginal Australians, and against the dehumanisation of non-Westerners in general, can participate so enthusiastically in the dehumanisation of women. Misogyny truly is the last acceptable prejudice (along with trans*phobia, but that’s another story entirely). To make an analogy, if Assange was accused of a hate crime against black people, rather than a hate crime against women, I very much doubt that conspiratorial hacks like Pilger would be standing up for the poor oppressed racist, in the way they have been standing up for the poor oppressed rapist. The persistence on the left of unreconstructed misogyny is truly staggering.
‘His tormentors make the point of Assange’s persecution. Charged with no crime, he is not a fugitive from justice.’
My god, did you even think about doing any research when you decided to write this execrable pile of steaming misogyny and misinformation? For the last time, the Swedish legal system does not work that way. The formal indictment does not take place until – I’ve explained this already, you get my drift.
‘Swedish case documents, including the text messages of the women involved, demonstrate to any fair-minded person the absurdity of the sex allegations’
Ah yes, the old ‘she clearly wanted to have sex with him at some point so there’s no way he could have ever raped her’ gambit. I wonder if Mr Pilger supports the legalisation of marital rape? I suspect, in the abstract, that he does not, and yet here he is, blithely declaring that friendly sexual communications between the (alleged) rapist and victim demonstrate the ‘absurdity’ of the charges. If I was not by now thoroughly convinced of Mr Pilger’s arrogance (permit me one moment of ad hominem anger at least – rape apologia surely makes Pilger worthy of this) it would astound me that he has written an article about a rape case while knowing next to nothing about rape as a phenomenon in the real world. I would wager that, like most men (excepting the 10% who are survivors), Pilger’s opinions about rape are gleaned from TV, films and sensationalist headlines. If this is untrue, he is doing a very good job of hiding it.
‘allegations almost entirely promptly dismissed by the senior prosecutor in Stockholm, Eva Finne, before the intervention of a politician, Claes Borgström.’
The disingenuousness of this statement is astounding. In fact, it would not be going too far to declare that in its egregious misrepresentation of the facts of the matter, it reaches the status of an outright lie. The allegations were not dismissed by Finne. Two allegations were made, one of rape and one of molestation. Only the allegation of rape was dismissed. The arrest warrant was rescinded since in Sweden a warrant cannot be issued on the basis of molestation. At this point, Claes Borgström, the lawyer representing Assange’s alleged victims, lodged an appeal which was upheld. Borgström is indeed also a politician, but this is completely irrelevant to his role in the case. There is absolutely nothing about this process that is not legal, normal and above board, and yet you manage to tease out and cherry-pick odd little facts to make it sound like something out of Putin’s Russia. This sentence puts the final nail in the coffin, for me at least, of your journalistic credibility. Either you completely failed to research the case properly or you knowingly twisted and misrepresented the facts in full knowledge that most people would not bother to spend the five minutes on Google necessary to find out what actually occurred.
‘At the pre-trial of Bradley Manning, a US army investigator confirmed that the FBI was secretly targeting the “founders, owners or managers of WikiLeaks” for espionage.’
So what? Of course they were. I’m shocked that you find this shocking. Moreover, there is a hell of a leap from espionage to trumped up rape allegations, and the connection you make between them is utterly dismissive of the fact that there are two very real, flesh and blood women in Sweden whose decision to go to the police (which is a tremendously courageous thing for a survivor to do) is being systematically slandered worldwide on the basis of extremely tenuous evidence.
‘Four years ago, a barely noticed Pentagon document, leaked by WikiLeaks, described how WikiLeaks and Assange would be destroyed with a smear campaign leading to “criminal prosecution”. On 18 August, the Sydney Morning Herald disclosed, in a Freedom of Information release of official files, that the Australian government had repeatedly received confirmation that the US was conducting an “unprecedented” pursuit of Assange and had raised no objections. Among Ecuador’s reasons for granting asylum is Assange’s abandonment “by the state of which he is a citizen”.’
All this may be true, but it seems extremely cobbled together compared to the mountain of evidence indicating that this is nothing more than a normal, albeit high-profile, rape case. Nothing about the prosecution has been anything but above board so far. The Swedish judiciary, to a much greater extent than that of the US or even the UK, is studiously independent. If these charges have indeed been invented by US agents, there is no better group of people in the world to find this out than a group of Swedish lawyers and judges. To respond that they might succumb to corruption is incredibly insulting.
‘In 2010, an investigation by the Australian Federal Police found that Assange and WikiLeaks had committed no crime. His persecution is an assault on us all and on freedom.’
And here, in the final sentence of Mr Pilger’s nauseating article, we find the deep problem lying at the heart of it – the conflation of Assange and Wikileaks. Wikileaks and Julian Assange are not the same thing. By conflating them, Pilger is, once again, engaging in that loathsome form of rape apologia that declares that a man’s accomplishments make him immune to accusations of rape. Whether this takes the form of assuming that a good man (in all other respects) cannot be a rapist, or that his rape must be ‘weighed against’ all his positive achievements, it is an extremely dangerous, brutal and misogynistic argument that all-but declares any woman who is raped by a ‘great’ man to be either a liar (the implicit argument here, of course, is that Assange’s accusers are CIA moles) or irrelevant in the face of his greatness, a sacrifice to be thrown under a bus that the great maverick may live in peace and freedom. Because as everyone knows, Assange’s humanity and freedom are far more important than those of mere women.
What really astounds me, however, is not John Pilger’s misogyny and rape apologia. I have come almost to accept that from privileged, successful men – it no longer shocks me like it once did when someone I admire (like Christopher Hitchens, Richard Dawkins, Penn Jilette, Michael Moore, Bill Maher, Louis CK…) turns out to be a bigot. That is not to say that Pilger’s bigotry is acceptable, or anything but awful, but it is not unexpected. What I did not expect was how poorly researched, poorly structured and disingenuous this article is. Many of its allegations turned out to be based on a poor understanding of the Swedish legal system. Others were pure fabrications, easily dismissed on the basis of a single Google search. And then there was that sentence, wherein Claes Borgstrom’s entirely normal legal appeal against the dismissal of the rape allegation was made to sound like the corrupt machinations of an Orwellian politician in the pocket of the NSA. I refuse to believe, Mr Pilger, that you refused to research that properly. The story the way you tell it is so incredibly implausible (politicians in Rechtsstaaten like Sweden do not ‘intervene’ in the legal system) that you must have been compelled to look up the facts to verify this. However, having done this you misrepresented the true situation so completely that I will find it hard to take seriously anything you say in the future.
This is a breathtaking article – breathtaking in its bigotry, breathtaking in the poverty of the research that went into it, breathtaking in its sheer lie-spinning. This is truly one of the worst pieces of ‘real’ journalism I have ever read.
[The remarks occur 21:40 into the video]
Of course, Galloway is not a rape-apologist…any more than he’s an antisemite
Galloway: “I mean not everybody needs to be asked prior to each insertion. Some people believe that when you go to bed with somebody, take off your clothes, and have sex with them and then fall asleep, you’re already in the sex game with them.
“It might be really bad manners not to have tapped her on the shoulder and said, “do you mind if I do it again?”.
“It might be really sordid and bad sexual etiquette, but whatever else it is, it is not rape or you bankrupt the term rape of all meaning.
“I don’t believe either of those women, I don’t believe either of these stories.”
Galloway later defended his remarks on Twitter, claiming that what constitutes a sexual offence in Sweden would not be considered such a crime in the UK:
Former Monty Python star Terry Jones has also taken to Twitter to defend Assange:
A spokesman for Rape Crisis said: “It is clear from George Galloway’s comments that his legal understanding of rape is factually incorrect.
“Having had consensual sex with someone once does not mean a woman has forever forfeited her right to withdraw or refuse her consent to further sex with that person.
“Sex without consent is rape. Mr. Galloway’s description of sexual violence as ‘really bad manners’, as well as his apparent ignorance of the law, is offensive and deeply concerning.”
Extracted from Huffington Post