Mickey Rooney – as Puck – bows out

April 8, 2014 at 1:50 pm (Champagne Charlie, cinema, film, Guardian, Marxism, RIP)

Thanks to the Guardian (and how often do we say that here?) for reminding us of this remarkable Mickey Rooney performance from 1935:

The Graun even manages to find a Karl Marx connection;

In 1935 the late Mickey Rooney played Puck in Max Reinhardt’s movie of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Critical opinion was mixed – as it was for the audacious casting of James Cagney as Bottom. But, in his indomitable way, Rooney captured the manic mischief of a character who has one of the Bard’s great lines – “Lord, what fools these mortals be” – and who should be taken more seriously than he sometimes is. Shakespeare’s is only the most famous incarnation of one of English folklore’s great creations, “the oldest Old Thing in England” as Kipling’s Puck describes himself. As Puck, the Hobgoblin or Robin Goodfellow, the laughing sprite is a great subversive, as Karl Marx recognised when he wrote about “our brave friend, Robin Goodfellow, the old mole that can work in the earth so fast, that worthy pioneer – the Revolution”. It’s not often you get Mickey Rooney and Karl Marx in the same sentence, but Puck makes all things possible.

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The Graun on Britten: political idiots hail a political idiot

November 22, 2013 at 2:15 pm (apologists and collaborators, Beyond parody, Champagne Charlie, crap, grovelling, Guardian, history, jerk, middle class, music, relativism, stalinism, truth, USSR)

Today’s Graun carries an editorial about a man who wrote some fine music but who was (to be charitable) an idiot when it came to politics. Maybe because his execrable political opinions quite resemble those of many Graun journalists and (no doubt) readers, it’s an almost laughable piece of hagiography:

Benjamin Britten at 100: voice of the century

Above all, he was the writer of music that still thrills because of its toughness, beauty, originality and quality 

Imagine an English classical music composer who is so famous in his own lifetime that his name is known throughout the country, who is the first British composer to end his life as a peer of the realm, a composer from whom the BBC uniquely commissions a prime-time new opera for television, and whose every important new premiere is a national event, a recording of one of which – though it is 90 minutes long – sells 200,000 copies almost as soon as it is released, and a musician whose death leads the news bulletins and the front pages.

Next, imagine an English classical composer who is a gay man when homosexuality is still illegal, who lives and writes at an angle to the world, who can compose strikingly subversive music, who is passionately anti-war, so much so that he escapes to America as the second world war threatens, who is in many ways a man of the left, certainly an anti-fascist, certainly a believer in the dignity of labour, as well as a visitor to the Soviet Union and a lifelong supporter of civil liberties causes.

Now, imagine an English composer who in many estimations is simply the most prodigiously talented musician ever born in this country, who wrote some of the deepest and most rewarding scores of the 20th century, who set the English language to music more beautifully than anyone before or since, who almost single-handedly created an English operatic tradition and who, all his life, saw it as his responsibility to write music, not just for the academic priesthood or for the music professionals but for the common people, young and old, of his country.

Benjamin Britten, who was born in Lowestoft 100 years ago, was not just some of those multifarious things. He was all of them. And he was much more besides – including a wonderful pianist, the founder of the Aldeburgh Festival, and arguably the 20th century composer who is best served by his own extensive legacy in the recording studio. He was also, as many have written, a difficult and troubled man – even at times a troubling one.

Above all, he was the writer of music that still thrills because of its toughness, beauty, originality and quality. In his 1964 Aspen lecture, Britten said: “I do not write for posterity.” In fact, he did. In his lecture he said he wanted his music to be useful – a noble aim for an artist. He said he did not write for pressure groups, snobs or critics. He wrote, he said, as a member of society. His job was to write music that would inspire, comfort, touch, entertain and “even educate” his fellows. Britten spoke – and composed – as a serious man of his serious time. Impressively, much of that endures. If we seem today to have let some of Britten’s ideals slip, that may say more about our shortcomings as a culture than about Britten’s greatness and achievement, then and now.


Bearing in mind that “visitor to the Soviet Union” is  Grauniad-speak for “willfully blind apologist for mass-murder”, just how many non-sequiturs can you spot in the following:

“…passionately anti-war, so much so that he escapes to America as the second world war threatens, who is in many ways a man of the left, certainly an anti-fascist, certainly a believer in the dignity of labour, as well as a visitor to the Soviet Union and a lifelong supporter of civil liberties causes”

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Housemartin shits on Cameron

November 21, 2013 at 7:11 pm (Champagne Charlie, comedy, culture, David Cameron, populism, song, Tory scum, trivia)

Politicians trying to sound like hep cats are always amusing. And as Anthony Blair Esq eventually found out, they usually end up looking like pillocks.

This is from today’s Times report on Hull winning City of Culture status for 2017:

“Yesterday’s announcement drew attention to the city’s long list of high achievers, although one of them reacted badly when named by David Cameron during Prime Minister’s Questions. Mr Cameron cited Hull’s ‘fantastic record’ in popular music. ‘I remember some years ago that great Hull Housemartins album London 0, Hull 4,’ he said.

“Paul Heaton, lead singer of the band, responded on Twitter: ‘When I took over my pub in Salford, the first people I banned were Cameron and Osborne. That ban still stands.’ He said that the Prime Minister ‘ruined my day’ and rebutted criticism that he had passed judgement without meeting Mr Cameron or the Chancellor. ‘You don’t need to smell s*** to know it stinks,’ he wrote

“Lord Prescott, the former Deputy Prime Minister who served as MP for Hull East for 30 years, responded jubilantly by referring to one of Mr Heaton’s songs. ‘It’s happy hour again!’ he said.”

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Hicks joins anti-Unite witch-hunt

November 10, 2013 at 9:19 am (Champagne Charlie, mccarthyism, Murdoch, strange situations, SWP, Tory scum, unions, Unite the union)

According to the front page of today’s Sunday Times

THE boss of Britain’s biggest union, involved in a vote-rigging inquiry in Falkirk, faces investigation over alleged irregularities in his own election.

“The allegations over the election of Len McCluskey as general secretary of the Unite union centre on claims that almost 160,000 of those balloted were not members.

“His rival for the job, Jerry Hicks, has complained that the election was unlawful because people who had left the union were included in the ballot. Hicks said dead former members were among those who were sent voting papers.

“The Certification Office — the union regulator, which has the power to order McCluskey’s election to be rerun — confirmed this weekend that it has launched an investigation. An official complaint is expected to be submitted to Unite in the next few weeks.

“Hicks said this weekend: ‘Was Falkirk an aberration or a modus operandi?’ There are serious questions that need to be answered about these tens of thousands of non-members of the union who were sent ballot papers.”

So it appears that the SWP-supported Hicks (who lost the last general secretary election to McCluskey by 80,000 votes earlier this year) has not only reported the union to the Certification Officer, but is now co-operating with the Murdoch press (and so, with the Tories and Blairites) in the witch-hunt against Unite in the wake of Falkirk and Grangemouth.

By the way, I’d put money on the fact that if there were any significant membership irregularities at the time of the general secretary election, they came from the old Amicus side of the merged union – precisely the constituency Hicks was appealing to in his campaign.

But for now, Mr Hicks has some ‘serious questions that need answering’ – like what the hell does he think he’s doing going to the Certification Officer and the Murdoch press instead of raising any legitimate concerns he might have within the union itself? Unite under McCluskey has many faults, but it is a relatively open and democratic organisation, where any such concerns would be taken seriously and investigated. But it would appear that Mr Hicks is more interested in attacking McCluskey, even by means of joining in the right-wing witch-hunt against the union itself.

There’s a name for people who do that. It’s “scab.”

P.S: As Anne Field and Andrew Coates note in BTL comments below, Hicks seems very proud of his coverage in the Murdoch press: http://www.jerryhicks4gs.org/

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Robinson quits EDL: Hope Not Hate’s verdict

October 8, 2013 at 12:32 pm (anti-fascism, Anti-Racism, Champagne Charlie, islamism, reblogged, secularism, strange situations, thuggery)

This, from Hope not hate, seems like a sensible initial response to this remarkable development:

Reaction to EDL leaders ‘defecting’

posted by: Nick Lowles | on: Tuesday, 8 October 2013, 11:18

Embedded image permalink 

Above: Robinson with Quilliam’s Maajid Nawaz, today

We are reacting with cautious optimism to news from the Quilliam Foundation that English Defence League (EDL) leaders ‘Tommy Robinson’ (Stephen Lennon) and his cousin Kevin Carroll are leaving the EDL.

In its statement, Quilliam announces that Robinson and Carroll can “no longer keep extremist elements at bay” from the group they founded in Luton in 2009.

However, what is less clear at this stage is whether Robinson and Carroll are renouncing the racism, Islamophobia and violence that they promoted, or for the anti-Muslim hatred that followed in their wake.

Since Robinson/Lennon descended with 100 supporters in a drunken riot on the night Drummer Lee Rigby was murdered in Woolwich, there has been a large spike in anti-Muslim incidents – including mosque arsons, bombings (with the alleged perpetrator also accused of murdering a Muslim grandfather), desecration of Muslim graves and the Metropolitan Police recording a sharp rise in Islamophobic crimes in the capital.

There are still many questions over the future of the EDL post-Robinson/Carroll, and what happens to all the thugs they have so gleefully whipped up.

Said HOPE not hate director, Nick Lowles: “We celebrate Quilliam’s efforts here, but only a complete renunciation of the violence and hatred the EDL leaders have promoted, and a turning away from the anti-Muslim rhetoric they have championed, will be enough for the many thousands who have suffered from the EDL’s ugly actions over the past three years.

“EDL supporters have called for mosques to be burned, holy books to be destroyed, Muslims to be deported, they have cost us £10m in policing bills, brought disorder to our streets, and many, many more have been sentenced for acts of violence, gun possession, paedophilia and other crimes.

“To claim they represented working class Britons was laughable: HOPE not hate and others have worked closely with unions, faith groups and the real working class of Britain to oppose the blind hatred and violence promoted via the EDL and its counter-jihadist backers. What happens now to those wealthy individuals who have backed the EDL leaders to the hilt? We doubt they, or Lennon/Carroll, will disappear so quickly from the scene.

“Merely setting up a new party or anti-Muslim organisation will not be enough to convince anti-hate campaigners, and those interested in democratic government, that Lennon and Carroll have truly renounced their ways. We hope they have. Well done to Quilliam but many questions still remain.”

For more information, please contact 07951237721 or 020 7681 8660



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Learn to live with terrorism – the Simon Jenkins way!

September 24, 2013 at 4:25 pm (apologists and collaborators, Beyond parody, Champagne Charlie, Guardian, intellectuals, jerk, libertarianism, relativism, terror)

1/ Whatever you do, don’t “over-react”: that’s the cause of terrorism in the first place.

2/ Don’t gather together in crowds.

3/ Don’t hold marathons.

4/ Do not build shopping malls, hotels or churches.

5/ Don’t overdo surveillance.

6/ Keep a “sense of proportion”: defending yourself only invites retaliation.

You think this is a joke? It’s not.

Update Rosie:-

7/ Keep calm and carry on.

8/ Run about waving your arms and screaming.

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Gordon Brown responds to McBride revelations…

September 24, 2013 at 6:06 am (Champagne Charlie, Gordon Brown, labour party, reformism)

…you can’t really blame him, can you?
From the Telegraph

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Islamism is fascist

September 23, 2013 at 8:09 pm (AWL, Champagne Charlie, fascism, Guardian, Human rights, islamism, Marxism, Middle East, reactionay "anti-imperialism", religion, stalinism, Stop The War, SWP)

Sunday, Sept. 22, 2013: Peshawar, Pakistan_Pakistani women grieve over the coffins of their relatives, who were killed in a suicide attack on a church. Christian mourners outside the church in Peshawar protest against the Islamist attack

In the light of the Nairobi terror attack and the massacre of Christians in Pashawar, Pakistan, it’s high time the so-called “left” faced up to an elementary truth: Islamism (as distinct from the religion of Islam) is a form of fascism, and must be fought as such. It’s to the eternal  shame of “left” groups like the SWP (not to mention liberal “mainstream” publications like the Guardian) that they’ve repeated the mistakes of 1930′s Stalinism (Third Period and Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact) in promoting and prettifying fascists as somehow “progressive”.

The only far left group in Britain to openly describe Islamism as clerical fascist in recent years has been the AWL. Here’s their Martin Thomas in 2008, on the subject:

Political Islam as clerical fascism

Examining Gilles Kepel’s comprehensive history, Jihad: The Trail of Political Islam (Harvard University Press).

“Left-leaning Arab intellectuals have traditionally regarded the [Muslim] Brothers as a populist movement… [with] similarities to the workings of European fascism during… the 1930s…
“In the eyes of leftist intellectuals, both among Muslims and in the West, Islamist groups represented a religious variety of fascism…

“But gradually, as Islamist numbers increased… the left discovered that Islamism had a popular base; consequently Marxist thinkers of every stripe, casting around for the mass support so critical to their ideology, began to credit Islamist activists with socialist virtues…”

Kepel reports this shift of attitudes in a dispassionate way. But the facts assembled in his book give a verdict. The recent granting of political credit to political Islam by would-be Marxists reflects those leftists’ loss of self-confidence, in an era of bourgeois triumphalism, rather than any shift to the left by the Islamists.

Political Islam, or “Islamism”, as a political movement or congeries of movements, is distinct from Islam as a religion. Before the late 70s, in modern times, if a government called itself “Islamic” or “Muslim”, that was a vague gesture rather than a ferocious commitment. The only large exception was Saudi Arabia, a peculiarly archaic state.

Modern political movements, using modern political mechanics to convert society to an Islamic state, absolutely governed and permeated by revivalistically-rigorous Islamic doctrine, were levered into life and prominence in a sequence of three big turning points, 1967, 1973, and 1979.

The theory had been prepared before then. Hassan al-Banna and Mawlana Mawdudi, the founders of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and Jamaat e-Islami in India (later Pakistan) began activity in the late 1920s. Sayyid Qutb, a Muslim Brotherhood ideologist who has become the main literary inspiration for “harder” Sunni political Islam, wrote his books in the 1960s and was hanged by Egypt’s secular government in 1966. Ruhollah Khomeiny formulated his thesis of direct political rule by senior clergy in 1970.

But the movements were weak. In Iraq, for example, the Shia-Islamist movements which now dominate politics there had originated in 1958-63, but until the 1970s were small circles of clerics and theological students, concerned mostly with pious discussion among themselves. They kept a low profile as much because they knew their ideas would seem uncongenial to the wider population as for fear of repression.

“The first Islamist onslaught”, writes Kepel, “was against nationalism. The 1967 defeat [of the Arab states by Israel, in the war of that year] seriously undermined the ideological edifice of nationalism and created a vacuum to be filled… by Qutb’s Islamist philosophy”.

The rise of political Islam was also (so it seems to me, though Kepel does not spell this out) based in part, paradoxically, on the relative successes of Arab nationalism. Over the two decades before 1967 the Arab states had won political independence, and legislated land reforms and nationalisation.

Many of the cadres of political Islam would be young men from rural backgrounds who – thanks to the “successes” of nationalism – had become the first generation from their families to go to university, to live in big cities, and, often, to travel the world as migrant workers, especially in the Gulf.

Paradoxically, the cadres of consciously backward-looking political Islam would come from among the most “modernised” or “Westernised” people in their countries. They had been roused up and tantalised by nationalism and its promises – but also dashed down by them. “Qutb spoke to the young, born after independence, who had come along too late to benefit from the vast redistribution of spoils that followed the departure of the colonial occupiers”.

Bourgeois nationalism must always create disappointments. What led to special tumult in the Arab world, rather than a “moderate” disillusion and “settling-down”, was the peculiar attachment of Arab nationalism to an unrealistic (indeed, reactionary) objective, the destruction of “Zionism” (the Israeli Jews), and the peculiarly extreme conjunction, created by the oil economies, of seething poverty with vast wealth controlled by various species of bureaucratic “crony capitalism”.

In 1973 the Arab states warred with Israel again, coming out of it a bit better, but not well enough to rehabilitate the nationalists. Oil prices and oil revenues increased hugely. The Saudi regime started pouring funds into promoting Islamic rigorism internationally.

“Prior to 1973, Islam was everywhere dominated by national or local traditions rooted in the piety of the common people”, with a “motley establishment” of clerics who “held Saudi-inspired puritanism in great suspicion”.

Now, “for the first time in 14 centuries, the same books (as well as cassettes) could be found from one end of the [Muslim world] to another… This mass distribution by the conservative Riyadh regime did not… prevent more radical elements from using the texts… to further their own objectives”.

In the 1970s, and into the 1980s, “conservative governments on the Saudi model [and often with US approval] encouraged Islamism as a counterweight to the Marxists on university campuses whom they feared”. There was “re-Islamisation” from above, even in countries where grass-roots Islamist movements were weak or repressed.

World-wide, far beyond the Arab domain, “all Muslims were offered [and many, not just political Islamists, accepted] a new identity that emphasised their religious commonality while downplaying differences of language, ethnicity, and nationality”. The Organisation of the Islamic Conference (an alliance of states) was set up in 1969; the Islamic Development Bank, in 1975.

In 1979, political Islam took power in non-Arab Iran, and became the banner of a long war, with popular support, in non-Arab Afghanistan, against the USSR’s attempt to subjugate that country militarily.

The Shah’s brutal modernisation “from above” in Iran had created mass discontent. While in most Sunni countries, the religious establishment was diffuse and heavily controlled at its higher levels by the state, in Shia Iran the clerics had an organised hierarchy outside state control.

In Sunni political Islam, the main leaders had been (and would continue to be) laymen. Khomeiny created the first political-Islamist movement using clerics as cadres, and proposing not just an Islamic state, but a state ruled by clerics.

He also introduced social demagogy, otherwise a thinner seam in political Islam than in the European fascism, or even clerical-fascism, of the 1930s. “Neither Mawdudi nor Qutb gave any explicit social content to their theorising”.

The Iraqi ayatollah Baqi as-Sadr, uncle and father-in-law of the current Mahdi Army leader Muqtada al-Sadr, had in 1961 published a book on “Islamic economics”; but the main distinctive upshot has been the rise of “Islamic banking”, now a reputable sideline in the City of London.

All Islamists thought that “the coming reign of the sharia… would be built upon the ashes of socialism and of a Western world completely devoid of moral standards”; but it was Khomeiny who introduced a specific appeal for an “Islam of the people” and to the “disinherited” (mustadefeen).

Still, for Khomeiny, as Kepel notes, “the disinherited” was “so vague a term that it encompassed just about everyone in Iran except the shah and the imperial court… includ[ed] the bazaar merchants opposed to the shah”. The main actual measure for the poor of Khomeiny’s Iran would be distribution of state subsidies to the families of Islamist “martyrs”.

Socially, Kepel sees political Islam as resting on two distinct groups – the “devout middle class”, both traditional-mercantile and modern-professional, who feel mistreated by corrupt secular-nationalist state bureaucracies; and the young urban poor such as the Algerian “hittistes” (from the word hit, meaning wall: young unemployed men leaning against walls).

That small-bourgeois/ lumpenproletarian alliance has also generally been the social base of fascism.

Political Islam, however, has a vast range of variants, from middle-class movements confining themselves to mild pressure-group politics (Kepel cites the Muslim Brotherhood in Jordan, friendly to the monarchy) to plebeian “takfiris” for whom all outside their own ranks, even pious Muslims who deviate slightly, deserve terrorist chastisement.

Kepel sees the search for a middle way and a broad alliance, necessary to any successful political-Islamist movement, as ultimately unviable. He concludes that political Islam reached its high point around 1989 – with the USSR’s retreat from Afghanistan, the temporary triumph of an Islamist regime in Sudan, the rise of Hamas and Islamic Jihad among the Palestinians, and Khomeiny’s death-decree against Salman Rushdie – and has mostly declined since. He cites the defeat of the Islamist-terrorist “ultras” in Algeria and Egypt as evidence.

The trend, he argues, must be for the devout middle class to be co-opted and pulled towards parliamentary democracy, on the lines of the Turkish Islamists, and for the “ultras” to be isolated.

In 2008, eight years after Kepel published the first edition of his book, his conclusion looks implausible. Political Islam has had some defeats, but its success in Iraq shows it still has great vitality.

Kepel’s error, I would guess, is shaped by a certain disdain: he just cannot believe that many people, in the Arabic and Muslim cultures which he loves, can be lastingly seduced by such crudities and brutalities.

What is true, surely, is that those cultures contain many strands utterly alien to political Islam. The assertion, common on the left, that hostility to political Islam implies de facto hostility to most Muslims, is untrue.

On those strands, a working-class socialist movement can build, answering the social questions which political Islam so obscures, on condition that the socialists acquire the self-confidence to brand the clerical-fascists for what they really are.

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Horror in the Shopping Centre: Bitter fruit of Kenyan policy

September 22, 2013 at 5:04 pm (apologists and collaborators, Champagne Charlie, conspiracy theories, islamism, reactionay "anti-imperialism", relativism, satire, Stop The War, SWP, terror)

Editorial from Stupid Wanker, paper of the Stupid Wankers Party (UK):

Horror in Kenya: Bitter fruit of Kenyan (and US and British and Israeli) policy

The full horror of the attacks in Kenya was breaking as Stupid Wanker went to press. Very many innocent people had been killed or injured.

Nobody knew for sure on Saturday who was responsible. If it was people from Somalia it will be because they believe, wrongly, that it is the only way to respond to the horrors they have suffered from the Kenyan and other governments. The tragic scenes in the Westgate shopping centre are the bitter fruits of policies pursued by the Kenyan state, backed all the way by the US, Britain, Israel and NATO.

Kenyan president Uhuru Kenyatta spoke of terrorist outrages today. Yet the state he heads has been responsible for burying men, women and children under piles of rubble. He sent hundreds of soldiers to attack Somali civilians night after night. They killed hundreds of civilians and innocent members of al-Shabaab -’collateral damage’ in the war against so-called “terror.”

Two years ago Kenya, with US and NATO backing, attacked Somalia. Children, hospital patients, old people—all these and more had as little warning that they were to be attacked as did those who died in Kenya this week. Kenyatta, backed by David Cameron, launched these attacks on the people of Somalia. His father headed a brutal one-party state in Kenya, based upon corruption, brute force and appeals to ethnic loyalty.

In Israel the US supports Benjamin Netenyahu, a war criminal. Israel has murdered thousands of Palestinians. Faced with the might of the US, some people can become so desperate that they try to fight back against this military giant with the limited weapons they have to hand.

They do not have Cruise missiles—so they take to attacking an Israeli-owned Kenyan shopping centre instead. It is not a method that can break US, Israeli or or Kenyan power. Some ruling class Kenyans would have suffered from the attack. But many more innocent civilians were killed. Saturday’s raid was born of desperation at the supreme arrogance and contempt of the rulers of the most powerful capitalist state on Earth.

In 1998 the US responded to a bomb attack on its embassies in Kenya and Tanzania by blowing up the only medicine factory in the desperately poor country of Sudan, and by bombing Afghanistan. It will be looking for similar revenge now. That will drive more people to hate the US.

It is the responsibility of everyone who is revolted at the lethal world order the US and its allies sit at the top of to offer a way forward. It needs to be based on the mass collective power of ordinary people across the world, and targeted precisely at our rulers.
H/t: Socialist Worker  

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Carry on, Assad

August 29, 2013 at 10:48 pm (Champagne Charlie, fascism, hell, Human rights, internationalism, Middle East, Stop The War, Syria)

The vote was probably, on balance, the least-bad outcome on offer, but be in no doubt that it will give encouragement to Assad. And it was an expression of rightist, petty bourgeois isolationism (combined with Labour guilt-assuagement over Iraq), not any kind of “anti-imperialism.”

As far as can be judged, Syrians in Britain tend to take a different view to that of MPs:

Above: counter-demo of Syrians against ‘Stop The War’ isolationists on Wednesday

Thought for the day:

“One in four people in Lebanon are now Syrians. The gassing of hundreds in the outskirts of Damascus has now taken Syria across another of the West’s famous ‘red lines’ — and yet again, only words come from Washington and London. No wonder the Lebanese Druze leader Walid Jumblatt,  quoting Hannah Arendt and holding the Assad regime responsible last week, referred to the ‘banality of evil’. The West’s whittering and twittering — over Cairo just as much as Damascus – is a form of ‘banalising’ violence” Robert Fisk, The Independent, 26 August.

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