Kate Hudson and Andrew Burgin: “On leaving Respect”

October 9, 2012 at 8:10 am (blogosphere, Galloway, misogyny, political groups, populism, reblogged, religious right, Respect, stalinism, strange situations)

Above: readers are invited to suggest captions

The following statement is reblogged without permission, from that increasingly bizarre and unpleasant “cesspit of the left,” the Socialist Unity blog. The comments that followed (not published here) are good for a laugh as well, with ‘moderator’ Collins threatening to delete anyone who criticises Galloway.  It should go without saying that we publish this statement for the information of readers, not because we agree with much (or any) of it. No link because SU prevent us linking:

ON LEAVING RESPECT  8 October 2012

This is a guest post from Andrew Burgin and Kate Hudson. Having joined and become active in Respect as a result of George Galloway’s recent election win, they’ve found themselves being in the position of being forced to leave the organisation without any explanation why.

Joining Respect

We joined Respect two days after George Galloway’s outstanding victory in Bradford, in March 2012. In our estimate, this by-election victory indicated both the support for a clear anti-cuts politics to the left of Labour, and the viability of Respect as a political party which could inhabit that political space. Respect’s election result, across all wards in Bradford, indicated the resonance of the party’s politics across the city’s diverse communities, transcending the wrongly perceived limits of Respect’s political appeal and re-establishing the party on the political map.

Having recently returned from a solidarity delegation to Greece, where Syriza was gaining political ground with a similar politics, we were convinced of the need to advance a left political and economic alternative at a time when social democratic parties have abandoned their redistributive credentials and continue to opt for the failed policies of neo-liberalism. We remain convinced of that need but find that we are no longer able to fight for that alternative through the Respect party.

The Manchester candidacy

In July, Kate accepted nomination as Respect Party parliamentary candidate for the Manchester Central by-election in November 2012. Campaigning in Manchester over the subsequent weeks, it became clear that there was strong local support for a Respect candidacy based on opposing austerity, backing investment, fighting racism and working to end poverty in some of the most deprived wards in Britain. As a safe Labour seat, but with the lowest turnout of any constituency in the country, Manchester Central was a very clear example of how Labour no longer stands for the interests of the working class. Most people saw no point in voting at all. But the support on the doorstep for the Respect campaign demonstrated more clearly than any amount of theorising, that ordinary people want an alternative, that Respect’s political and economic platform provided a popular basis from which to build an electoral alternative. The campaign also demonstrated how political support from outside Respect could also be built for an anti-cuts candidacy and support for Kate’s campaign came from across a range of parties and political organisations which shared the values fought for within the campaign.

Standing down

The decision to stand down as candidate was not one taken lightly. But it was one which became impossible to avoid, after the deeply regrettable comments by George Galloway about the nature of rape, in the context of the attempts to extradite Assange. There is no doubt in our minds that there are attempts to extradite Assange to Sweden, outside of that country’s normal legal procedures, to facilitate his extradition to the US to face charges over Wikileaks. But opposing such practices does not require extemporisation by Respect’s MP on the nature of rape which at the very least exposed his lack of understanding with regard to the legal definition of that crime.

The condemnation of George Galloway’s comments by party leader Salma Yaqoob are well-known and went some way to redeeming the honour of Respect and we wholeheartedly supported them and welcomed Salma’s principled stance. However, the failure of George Galloway to retract his remarks on rape and apologise for them ultimately made it impossible for Kate to continue to stand for Respect in Manchester Central. As she stated at the time, “To continue as Respect Party candidate in this situation, no matter how much I object to and oppose his statements personally, would be in effect to condone what he has said. That is something I am not prepared to do.”

The identification of George Galloway with the Respect party is such that many perceive them to be synonymous. This meant that unless the party itself was prepared to state that it did not support George’s position on rape, and to ask him to retract his statements, it could reasonably be assumed by non-members that the party tolerated George’s position. Apart from Salma’s statement, and Kate’s public support for that, we are not aware of any condemnation by the party of George’s position. Indeed, Salma’s statement was not published on the party website, in spite of the fact that she was leader of the party, and Kate was initially asked by the National Secretary to remove Salma’s statement from her Manchester campaign Facebook page, which she refused to do.

Staying in Respect

Nevertheless, taking into account that we consider the politics of Respect to be essential in the struggle for a left alternative, and that we were aware of strong opposition to George’s position within Respect – even though it was not given expression by the party apparatus and media – we decided not to leave Respect. As Kate put it in her statement on standing down, “I will continue to work within the Respect Party to ensure that our values and principles with regard to women’s rights match up to the Party’s – and George Galloway’s – outstanding record in these other areas.”

Resignations from Respect

In the wake of the Galloway comments and his refusal to apologise, Salma Yaqoob decided to stand down as party leader and resigned from Respect. At the National Council in September, it was announced that a number of long-standing senior party figures had also resigned, including a majority of its national officers. However, we decided to stay in the party and its leadership to work for a party with a life of its own, properly expressing the policies so urgently needed.

Constitutional excuses

Unfortunately, to continue to work politically within Respect is no longer possible. Last week we discovered that we have both been removed from Respect’s National Council. We received no official notification of this, rather, we discovered this when Andrew attempted to post a request for a Respect delegate to the Coalition of Resistance Europe against Austerity Conference on the NC google group. The message bounced back. On enquiring of the Respect National Secretary, Andrew was informed that he had been removed from the NC because he had missed two consecutive meetings of the NC and under the constitution this meant that he would be removed and replaced by a co-opted member. In fact, no such provision exists in the copy of the constitution that we received at this year’s Respect party conference. We have not been supplied, despite Andrew’s repeated requests, with a copy that includes that provision. Subsequently Kate attempted to post on the NC google group and again it bounced back. Her enquiry to the National Secretary about her NC status has received no reply, and she has had to assume that she has also been removed from that body.

Being purged

There are numerous other National Council members who have missed two meetings and have not been removed from the NC. It is clear that we have been purged from the party leadership for political reasons: because we publicly condemned George’s rape comments and backed the position of our party leader, and because we refused to be silenced over the fall-out from the issue within the party. This is in spite of the fact that we have been amongst the party’s most active members over the last six months: we participated in the party’s annual conference in Bradford where we were elected as NC members, we organized a successful London Respect meeting in July involving representatives from Syriza and Front de Gauche, we revived the North London branch and helped to convene a meeting of the London Respect Committee – as well as committing to the Manchester Central candidacy.

Speaking out in Respect

As we have been excluded from the NC by the National Secretary, we have no way of knowing if other comrades are raising these issues too, or share our concerns about the lack of an independent political life on the part of the Respect party, as distinct from that of its MP. We have informed others of our concerns where we have contact details. The silence in the face of our struggle has been disconcerting. We hope that other comrades recognize that speaking out on matters of political principle must be a basic democratic right within any political party.

Looking ahead

At the moment there is no place for us in the Respect party. Those that control the party and its apparatus have seen fit to remove us from any possibility of active work because our political principles led us to speak out against a wrong position and wrong practice. We continue to support the political and economic alternative which the Respect party espouses but we will look for a framework within which to fight for it elsewhere.

The peoples of Europe – and beyond – are facing an unprecedented social, political and economic crisis. Here in Britain, our government is implementing the most savage spending cuts designed to destroy all the social gains of the postwar period. They are damaging the lives of millions.

Throughout Europe people are fighting back. Every day we hear of strikes, mass mobilizations and protest as people fight to defend their societies and reject the barbarism of austerity. The urgent need is for unity of the left, within Britain, and across Europe, to meet these challenges together, to maximize our forces and build a common solidarity that will enable the victory of ordinary people over the brutality of a failed economic system.

That is what we are committed to.

Andrew Burgin and Kate Hudson 8 October 2012

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Socialist Unity: Cesspit of the Left

September 9, 2012 at 5:36 pm (blogosphere, Feminism, Galloway, left, misogyny, reblogged, stalinism, thuggery, women)

Many readers will be aware that the so-called Socialist Unity blog (which we are prevented from linking to) has recently published two posts and discussion threads defending George Galloway’s views on rape, in the light of the Assange case. The contents of these posts, and also the comments that followed, have horrified even previous contributors to Socialist Unity, one of whom described it as “one of the most appalling things I’ve read.” One of the people who commented, objecting to the rape-denial/apologism, misogyny and extreme sexism on display was Mhairi McAlpine, who has since commented at her own blog, Second Council House of Virgo. We don’t necessarily agree with all that Mhairi has to say there, and in particular we don’t agree with her bald statement that “Assange is a rapist“: we believe Assange has the right to a presumption of innocence and to due process. Nevertheless, this is a powerful indictment of the depths of misogyny to which people like Galloway and his apologists at the singularly ill-named Socialist Unity blog have sunk:

Socialist Unity: Cesspit of the Left

Those familiar with the state of the UK left will be familiar with the Socialist Unity blog, the cesspit which has taken over from the UKLN email list as the place for old white men to put the world to rights.  It must be the most misnamed blog in the blogsphere.  There has never been any unity, and the socialism proposed is paperthin.  Their defence of George Galloway and his creepy, creepy remarks on rape, together with a tonne of commentators piling in to defend the right of men to penetrate sleeping women make me despair of the English Left.

In Scotland, we had Sheridan.  Left wing politics cannot ever be the same again.  The English Left never really groked the Sheridan situation.  There were pockets of support, but they were isolated.  Mixed in with the vitriol that accompanied our decision to prioritise women over the left wing saviour and master of charisma was a seeming confusion that we could ever have considered doing anything else.   The witches backed by the prudes had enabled the sluts to bring the Anti-Poll Tax hero down.  And down Tommy fell, from winning an award from the Scottish Politican of the Year in 2001, to being lambasted at the Edinburgh Festival for the comedic figure from a sea-side postcard in 2012.  And in that decade, Scottish radical politics changed.  Where there are no gods, no masters and precious few heroes, a new type of organising must be found, one which respects the voices of all.

Which brings me back nicely to Socialist Unity.

I was warned not to venture in there.  I was warned.  But that warning only served as lefty feminist equivalent of “don’t go into the cellar” in horror movies.  You know it is a really bad idea, but some evil force out there compels you to do it anyway.  That big sign saying “here be monsters” gets ignored and on you charge into the deep dark ugliness.

It started off with this thread: In Defence of George Galloway, by John Wight – the one who usually trundles out to defend the indefensible.  So far, so on form.  But then there were the comments.  Oh the comments!  We had Galloway sychophants, rape apologism, rape minimisation, “genuine rape” arguments, “conviction or it didn’t happen” arguments in spades.  And then one poor innocent poster piped up with “Are some of us blokes missing something”?

Erm….yeah.   There are some pretty big elephants in the room here.  Namely that Assange is a rapist, and Galloway thinks that he is not a rapist because Galloway thinks that rape is acceptable behaviour, if a little bad mannered.  But it is easier for an elephant to pass under the eyes of socialist unity commentators than it is for old, straight, cissexual, white Western men to contemplate that other old straight cissexual white Western men might be slightly off on their gender politics.  And so the enquirant was put straight.

A very large proportion of women have at one time or another found themselves in situations where they were having sex that they preferred not to have.  It is something that lots of women, not surprisingly feel very strongly about.  It is a very sensitive question that a male politician in the public eye needs to handle with the utmost delicacy.

And so on we go…now into the territory of accusations of imperialism and islamophobia attracting such “black propaganda” for Galloway.  One poster went so far as to say that like Galloway, he did not see rape in what Assange was accused of.  When pointed out that this was a creepy statement implying that it was behaviour in which he himself might indulge, responded with the classic rapist/bush/knife scenario, but described the rape of “brazen groupies” as less serious than fishing without a permit.  When pointed out that this statement marked him out as a potential rapist – someone who thought that raping someone was acceptable behaviour, he responded with an even creepier statement of

You couldn’t possibly know this, and if you think that you can know that then you are dangerous.

At which point a mod stepped in.  Good you might think.  Probably about time, given that someone on their site is basically stating that rape is acceptable behaviour, and that when someone has called someone out on stating that rape is acceptable behaviour they are considered “dangerous”.  Presumably the same kind of “dangerous” as the “brazen groupies” that got raped by Assange and didnt keep their mouths shut about it.  But no – the mod’s primary concern was that readers might not have confidence in the poster who noted that someone’s views made them very vulnerable to being a rapist.  Laying down the law

Right, listen…please tone it down.  I don’t want this thread turned into a hunt for potential rapists. Please end that line of argument, thank you.

And on the discussion went, on and on.  About Islamophobes, zionists and pro-imperialists, about the ins and outs of international law, about possible motivations for Yaquoob and Hutson withdrawing support from Galloway, cleverly dodging the rapidly growing elephant of his creepy rape apologism.

Over on the other channel, the hilariously titled Time for the Left to Stand Up for Galloway, things were no better.  As rape apologism piled on rape apologism, with comments aimed at those challenging becoming more and more offensive.  But eventually an elephant this big, and this well fed couldn’t just be ignored, it really couldn’t.

Eventually Andy Newman cracked, speaking publically about some dirty open secrets of the left.  The editor of Socialist Worker who couldn’t be trusted around young female comrades, the forceful silencing of women sexually assaulted by senior comrades, and the unconsensual incest that a leading industrial militant indulged in.  Stories told in small gatherings, or shared personally but publically swept under the carpet, just like the rapes committed by full timers in the Workers Revolutionary Party and the Socialist Workers Party.

So when I pointed out that the reasons that these things happened over, and over AND OVER again – because women who raised sexual assaults, and the narratives that sustained them were silenced, I was banned from the site.  I was banned from the site because I stated that someone who thought that rape was acceptable behaviour was a potential rapist.  I was shut off from the site because it “shut him down”.  I wasn’t allowed to contribute because it made a potential rapist feel like he “couldn’t contribute”.

I don’t know how I feel about getting banned from the cesspit of the left.  There is a bit of me that is quite happy to let them roll around in their own stinking shite, but on the other hand, I’m well aware of the pollution that it generates well beyond its boundaries.  Pollution that generally ends up infecting the bodies of female comrades.

Just one last thing.

Marko, if you read this blogpost, please read this one too.  Although 98.8% of rapists get away with it, you might one day find yourself in the unlucky 1.2% who don’t.  Because with the crap that you spouted on that thread, if you are not already a rapist, there is a really high probability of you becoming one.  You need to learn what is and what is not rape now and definately before you have any more sexual encounters.  And that goes for quite a number of commentators on those posts.  Galloway could do with reading this too.

For just like another commentator, one of the very few women who contributed stated.

I realise the reason you lot want to believe George Galloway isn’t a rape apologist is that you all believe the same ignorant shitty rape apology beliefs.  I can’t help wonder how close many of you have come to that line and who has crossed over it because you think it isn’t there.


Second Council House of Virgo (http://s.tt/1mHDl)

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Norm’s Hitchcock poll: the result!

July 18, 2012 at 12:03 am (blogging, blogosphere, Champagne Charlie, cinema, trivia)

As we publicised Prof Norm‘s poll on the greatest Hitchcock films, I thought you might like to know the results. The Prof reports:

It seems that the normblog poll has some life in it yet. There has been a more than respectable entry this time, for my poll to discover which of Alfred Hitchcock’s films are most favoured by his fans. There were 93 entries in all, and the votes were distributed across 31 of Hitch’s movies. Where people ranked their choices, I assigned 5 points for a first-place vote, 4 for a second-place vote, and so on down to 1. Unranked choices earned the same total of 15 points, but shared evenly 3 points per film. A clear top 12 emerges as follows (the number in brackets indicating points gained).

1: (244)North By Northwest;  2: (230)Vertigo3: (168)Rear Window;  4: (120)Psycho;  5: (79)The Birds;  6: (70)Strangers on a Train;   7: (65)The 39 Steps;  8: (64)Shadow of a Doubt;  9: (57)Notorious ;  10: (53)The Lady Vanishes11: (36)Rebecca;  12: (31)Dial M for Murder

No other Hitchcock film scored 20 points or more. Here are the others that won some support: To Catch A Thief (18), Frenzy (17), Rope (17), Suspicion (16), Marnie (13), Lifeboat (12), The Trouble with Harry (12), Spellbound (9), Foreign Correspondent (8), The Lodger (7), The Wrong Man (6), The Man Who Knew Too Much [1956] (5), I Confess (2), Jamaica Inn (2), The Man Who Knew Too Much [1934] (2), Torn Curtain (2), Family Plot (1), Sabotage (1), Saboteur (1).

What would Hitchcock have made of these results?


Thanks again to everyone who sent in an entry –  Norm

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Jew-baiting in football

June 19, 2012 at 5:08 pm (anti-semitism, blogosphere, Europe, gloating, Jim D, Racism, scotland, sport, thuggery)

Example #1 (lovingly reported on 18 June at Socialist Unity, who prevent us linking):

According to the Sunday Herald:

“It wasn’t much fun being an Israeli footballer at Tynecastle yesterday. Lashed by the rain, barracked by pro-Palestinian demonstrators – and seven goals down at half-time…against a noisy backdrop of protests about the imprisonment of Palestinian footballers. The Israeli national anthem was jeered, and the players booed…the demonstrators’ chants for Scotland to score 10″

2 responses


  1. Link only goes to homepage.

    Link to story: Signeul’s side inflict rout on suffering visitors

    Posted by skidmarx 18 June, 2012 at 10:34 am
  2. absolutely brilliant protest.reminded me of similar protest some years back at a men,s U21 game between the two in Livingstone(or was it Hamilton?). on that occasion we were frisked and scanned and all palestinian flags/posters were confiscated by the police.inside we were constantly filmed and photographed by special branch goons. however we managed to get a few flags in thanks to female protesters who had secreted them in their undergarments.best of all, scores of balloons were blown up inside and formed to make Palestinian symbols. throughout,there was non stop chanting,so important as the game was being broadcast live in Israel. well done everyone. couldn,t make it myself due to going to the well attended and important REFUGEES ARE WELCOME/STOP THE EVICTIONS demo in Glasgow.

    Posted by iain brown 18 June, 2012 at 11:22 am
Example #2 (less lovingly reported here):
But the report says racism is commonplace. At a Europa League game in September, fans of Legia Warsaw, arguably the most racist and antisemitic of any in Poland, displayed a jihad banner behind the goal in an anti-Jewish demonstration against their Israeli opponents Hapoel Tel Aviv.

A couple of weeks later the same fans chanted “Hamas, Hamas, Jews off to the gas” to fans from Lodz, a city whose population was a third Jewish before the second world war. Lowles says it is not just the supporters who are prone to nationalism. Jan Tomaszewski, a former Polish goalkeeper, said last August he was ashamed of the current Polish team which was made up of players who were not “true Poles”. Tomaszewski, now an MP for the rightwing Law and Justice party, said: “This hotchpotch lacks only a cannibal from Africa, who once ate a Polish missionary. This is not a Polish team. There are Colombian and German stray dogs.”

Someone explain the difference, please.

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Gay marriage and the new bigotry

May 18, 2012 at 10:15 pm (blogosphere, Civil liberties, gay, Guardian, homophobia, Human rights, Pink Prosecco, religion, rights)

Guest post by Pink Prosecco

It is pretty difficult I think to make a rational case against gay marriage, and John Sentamu, writing in the Guardian, does nothing to buck that trend.

He begins by admitting that sometimes the church has been a bit tough on homosexuals: “But that baleful history does not diminish the need to speak the truth in love.”  That gives me the same bad feeling I get when reading a comment which begins ‘with all due respect …’   He goes on:

“I firmly believe that redefining marriage to embrace same-sex relationships would mean diminishing the meaning of marriage for most people, with very little if anything gained for homosexual people.”

 Well, it wouldn’t diminish it for me (and I am married) and in fact would make me feel a bit more cheerful.  He concludes that point:

“If I am right, in the long term we would all be losers”: Well, yes, of course – and if you are wrong, we won’t be.

He then starts to argue that society needs to respond “intelligently to differences” rather than treating everyone the same.  That’s true up to a point – if you have a disability and need some adjustment at work for example.  But Sentamu is using the rhetoric of anti-discrimination to justify – discrimination.  He goes on:

“To change the law and smooth out this difference on grounds of equality would force unjustified change on the rest of the nation.”

Why is it that opponents of gay marriage always end up talking as though someone was trying to force them into one?

He eventually meanders back to his anti-discrimination rhetoric:

The question for me is one of justice, and not equality. Justice is the primary category. It does not mean not treating everyone the same way, but giving everyone what they need or deserve.”

Sorry – I fail to see why I need or deserve marriage more just because I am not gay.

Finally: why did Socialist Unity feel the need to reproduce, without comment, this letter against gay marriage?  And why did it attract only two comments?  I suppose it mustn’t be a shibboleth.

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An ignorant attack on Mehdi Hasan over at ‘Socialist Unity’…

April 5, 2012 at 12:25 am (anti-semitism, apologists and collaborators, Asshole, Beyond parody, bloggocks, blogosphere, Galloway, Guardian, Jim D, MPs, Respect, thuggery)

Over at the misnamed Socialist Unity blog, the foul antisemite John Wight denounces Mehdi Hasan  (a Muslim journalist) for what was, in fact, quite a good and thoughtful article in the Graun.

Illustration by Andrzej Krauze

Illustration by Andrzej Krauze

Here’s Wight’s bollocks:

One of the most interesting aspects of George Galloway’s by-election victory in Bradford last week has been the wholesale gnashing of teeth on the part of the London-based commentariat, who in the process of trying, and failing miserably, to get to grips with the result and its whys and wherefores, have endured paroxysms of agony. From the asinine and embarrassing TV interviews conducted with Galloway in the immediate aftermath by Sky’s Adam Boulton and Channel 4’s Cathy Neuman, to a plethora of newspaper columns and blogs ranging from the absurd ramblings of perennial Blairite stooge, the unearthly John Rentoul writing in the Independent, to the fulminating excretia of Melanie Phillips in the Daily Mail, the subtext implicit in the reaction of the nation’s most prominent TV anchors and newspaper columnists, bag carriers for the right wing consensus that dominates the mainstream media, is that, to paraphrase Bertolt Brecht, the people of Bradford West, in voting for Respect, have lost the confidence of the government and therefore the government should dissolve them and appoint another one.

The virulent dislike of George Galloway by each of the aforementioned, and various others, has dripped from every syllable of every word spoken to and written about him since the election. But no one should be under any illusion. This hatred runs deeper than Galloway the man. It extends to his politics and the constituency he represents – downtrodden working class communities that dare raise their heads to challenge the status quo on its own terms and win. Within this group politicised Muslims come in for special treatment, regarded as no better than unwashed savages intent on despoiling the very air breathed by white, Christian Englishmen and women, the nation’s pure-blooded Anglo-Saxon Volk whose existence is under threat as a result.

But this wholesale fear and hatred of the declassed and downtrodden in society is nothing new. In fact, it is a common thread running back throughout history, wherein elites and their vocal lackeys have met any stirring of society’s ‘lower orders’ with unmitigated vitriol and condemnation. Whether it was Edmund Burke excoriating the French masses for daring to rise up and make a revolution in 1789 with his warning that “the tyranny of a multitude is a multiplied tyranny”; or whether it was the hatred of the elites towards the Petroleuses of the Paris Commune or the Chartists in this country, not to mention the abject horror which greeted the Russian Revolution, the Establishment and its bag carriers in the media have never failed to meet the politicisation and/or rebellion of the poor and alienated in society with anything other than revulsion.

Only last year we had the near universal outpouring of shock and indignation over the riots, mirrored in prison sentences that left no doubt who makes the laws and in whose interests they are made. Now, with Galloway successful in providing a political and democratic conduit through which the same demographic can register its refusal to remain ignored and unrepresented on the margins of society, you would think he’d just committed a heinous crime.

How many other politicians can you think of whose success at the polls would be met with the avalanche of negative column inches that his has these past few days? Sectarian, demagogue, self-serving, maverick, opportunist, populist, dangerous, divisive, dishonest, suspicious, colourful – these are the adjectives that have been attached to him in the immediate aftermath of one the most emphatic by-election results in electoral history.

This of course won’t come as a surprise to those on the left. But when the vitriol emanates from commentator who is identified as being part of the left, the broad left that is, alarm bells should start ringing.

Mehdi Hasan is political editor of the New Statesman magazine, a publication which consistently succeeds in making left wing politics and progressive ideas sound about as exciting as non league football in January. Regardless, Mehdi, recipient of the Oxbridge education required of the nation’s most prized opinion formers, has been able to establish himself as one of the select few voices of the left deemed acceptable by the mainstream – in other words completely non-threatening and politically benign. But to judge by his analysis of Galloway’s by-election victory, it is hard to resist the conclusion that he’s spent too many editions as a guest on Question Time sitting next to the aforementioned right wing hack, Melanie Phillips.

For example, in a blog piece that appeared on the NS website on March 30, he writes

“I am no fan of Galloway or his sectarian, far-left, self-serving politics…”

But worse is the piece he wrote for the Guardian, which appeared a couple of days later. In it he vents his anger this time not at George Galloway but the Muslims who voted for him.

“…why is it that most British Muslims get so excited and aroused by foreign affairs, yet seem so bored by and uninterested in domestic politics and the economy?

From the march against the Iraq war in 2003 to the demonstrations against the Danish cartoons in 2006 and the protests against Israel’s attack on Gaza in 2009, British Muslims have shown themselves perfectly willing to take to the streets to make their voices heard. But how many times have they, individually or collectively, joined rallies over issues that affect our daily lives: from the reforms of the NHS to the future of local schools; from the lack of social housing to rising energy bills and train fares?”

This essentialising of an entire community in two paragraphs, hectoring them for in his view failing to integrate in a manner satisfactory to his own Oxbridge- polished sensibilities, would not look out of place on the EDL’s website.

Further on in the same piece, he writes

Muslims do not lack for opponents or antagonists; those who want to portray us as foreign, alien, un-British, are growing in number. We should not be handing them a club with which to beat us. In fact, the best way of overcoming Islamophobia and suspicion is for British Muslims to broaden, not narrow, our political horizons, to get involved in our local communities, to show our fellow citizens that we care not just about events in Palestine and Pakistan, but Portsmouth and Paisley too.

How can Muslims complain about our rights, our freedoms, our collective future, if we aren’t engaged in the political process across the board as active British citizens? We have an obligation, as Britons and as Muslims, to fully participate in local and national debates and not to stand idly by.”

Writing here as a Muslim, while blaming the victims of Islamophobia for Islamophobia, Hasan manages to combine moral cowardice with contempt towards his less domesticated co-religionists for their, erm, backward antiwar politics? His inability to understand that Bradford West was a by-election in which austerity stood front and centre alongside Britain’s participation in a dozen years of brutal and ever more costly wars in the Middle East, with Galloway making the all important link between the two, is a withering indictment of his political degeneration.

In time honoured fashion, he leaves the best till last.

We have allowed ourselves to be defined only by foreign policy and, in particular, by events in the Middle East for far too long.”

Yes, Mehdi, how inconvenient that you find yourself spending more and more time between appetizer and dessert at the dinner parties you frequent in north London lamenting the inability of Muslims to just ‘get over it’ and learn to ‘know their place’.

Fortunately the overwhelming majority within the Muslim community of Bradford West, along with the thousands of non-Muslims who voted Respect last week, know better. Indeed, in inverse proportion to the horrified reaction of a reactionary media, whose ranks it has to be said Mehdi Hasan comes close to joining with his own shoddy analysis, the people of Bradford West have succeeded in putting to the sword the idea that there is no alternative.

And before anyone mentions it: yes, I’ve often, in the past, been critical of Mehdi Hasan myself. But on this occasion I will defend him against this stupid, ignorant attack from a foul, racist scumbag and Galloway groupie.

Hasan comments further (on the New Statesman website) here.

Seymour bleats here.

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The Blogfather

April 4, 2012 at 10:00 pm (blogging, bloggocks, blogosphere, corruption, crime, Jim D, terror, thuggery, United States, wild man)

And people think we’re sometimes a tad aggressive, here at Shiraz:

Tommy Shots 300x225 Diabetic mob boss Thomas (Tommy Shots) Gioeli suffers stroke

(from the Independent on Sunday):

They call him the “Blogfather”. Instead of making people sleep with the fishes, or leaving a severed horse’s head on silk bed-sheets, he prefers to settle scores via angry messages on his personal website. Thomas “Tommy Shots” Gioeli, an alleged Mafia boss on trial in Brooklyn for six gruesome murders, not to mention a string of racketeering charges, has hit on a very modern way to manage his reputation.

As the jury considers whether Gioeli, a 59-year-old Italian-American, should spend the rest of his natural life behind bars, he has taken the enterprising step of reinventing himself as the first “made man” to become a blogger.

His website, “Alleged Mob Boss Tommy Gioeli’s Voice“, has taken on subjects as wide-ranging as religion, politics and penal reform. Gioeli certainly has a way with words. The blog bestows members of the prosecution team with such nicknames as “The Liar”, “The Prune” and “The Seducer”. Their key witnesses, who are largely former gangland figures giving evidence as part of plea bargains are “water rats, subway rats, sewer rats” who “have everything to gain and nothing to lose by pointing their dirty, snot-caked fingers at me”.

But its main bugbear is the people, and legal system, responsible for his predicament. “Thomas Gioeli, an unconvicted American man, is being denied basic Constitutional rights and adequate healthcare for his many serious ailments during his incarceration,” reads the blog’s introduction. “The media, instead of reporting the truth, is working with the government to destroy his true character and create a real-life, paper-selling monster.”

He has now devoted a lengthy update to John “The Dolt” Marzulli, a reporter for the New York newspaper the Daily News, whose coverage of the trial appears to have caused him displeasure. “I would like to challenge The Dolt to [a] competition,” he writes. “When I am acquitted we will have a charity boxing match: One three-minute round, bare knuckles, Marquess of Queensberry rules.”

In another update, Gioeli responded to a suggestion that an ex-nun had been among the accidental victims of one of his Mob hits. “What a disgrace!” he wrote, denying the charge. “My saintly, elderly mother who just buried my father, my poor wife, my precious children, my priest, the rest of my family, friends, people I just know … would think I am an animal.”

Gioeli also complains that the prison officer who gives him pills each morning does not wear gloves. “This may be okay for the mother who is giving meds to her kids, but in an institutional setting it is downright unsanitary, if not illegal,” he writes. “So I refuse my dose until she wears gloves.”

Prosecutors have alleged that Gioeli is using the blog to attempt to influence the jury. He claims that writing it is instead a form of therapy. “I get very, very angry,” he says. “Then I write, and my anger melts away.” His alleged crimes are certainly those of a man with a short fuse. According to the FBI, Gioeli was responsible for a string of killings in his native city of Farmingdale, Long Island, which date back to an internal Mafia war during the early 1990s. He is also accused of profiting from illegal gambling, nightclub extortion and armed robberies.

In a recent phone interview with Newsweek, Gioeli explains that he types his updates and sends them to his daughter, who “does a bit of editing” before placing them on the site.

H-t: Ingrid

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Muamba: from sponging black immigrant to footballing hero

March 19, 2012 at 7:16 pm (africa, Anti-Racism, asylum, blogosphere, Cross-post, Daily Mail, good people, Human rights, Racism, sport)

Dave Stamp posted in ASIRT.
So apparently there *is* such a thing as a...
Dave Stamp 6:02pm Mar 19
So apparently there *is* such a thing as a good asylum seeker. Shame not everyone can be a Premiership footballer, I suppose. (And get well soon, Fabrice).
Fabrice Muamba turns from sponging black immigrant to footballing hero

Muamba is the Bolton Wanderers footballer who stopped breathing on the pitch during his team’s FA Cup match with Spurs yesterday afternoon. Once upon a time he was a black immigrant, the son of an asylum-seeking African……

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Misogynistic abuse of female bloggers

November 9, 2011 at 3:24 am (blogging, bloggocks, blogosphere, Feminism, Human rights, Jackie Mcdonough, misogyny, women)

On Blogging, Threats, and Silence

Cross-posted from Tiger Beatdown

Content note: This post includes excerpts of threats and abusive language.

I got my first rape threat as a blogger when I was on Blogspot, so new that I still had the default theme up and hadn’t even added anything to the sidebar. I can’t even remember the pseudonym I was using then, and I probably had about 10 hits on a good day, seven of which were me compulsively loading the page just to make sure it still existed, and the other two of which were probably my friends. I wrote a post about some local political issue or another, expressing my misgivings, and a reader kindly took time out of his day to email me.

‘You stupid cunt,’ he said, ‘all you need is a good fucking and then you’d be less uptight.’

I stared at it for a couple of minutes, too shocked to move. There it was on my screen, not going away. Someone really had thought it was appropriate not just to write this email to a complete stranger, a totally unknown person, but to send it. I deleted it, and spent another few minutes staring at the blank hole in my inbox where it had been before shaking it off and moving on.

It was harder with the next one, and the next, and the next, but by the time I’d clocked around 20 threats, and was up to around 30 readers, I’d learned the art of triage. The quick skim to find out if there was any actually personal threatening information, like identifying details, or if it was just your garden variety threat with no teeth behind it. I kept them all in a little file in case I needed them later, and forwarded the worst to the police department, not in the belief they would actually do anything, but in the hopes that information would be there, somewhere, in case it was needed someday.

‘I hope you get raped to death with a gorsebush,’ one email memorably began. I gave the letter writer some style points for creativity, but quickly deducted them when I noted he’d sent it from his work email, at a progressive organisation. I helpfully forwarded it to his supervisor, since I thought she might be interested to know what he was doing on company time. ‘Thanks,’ she wrote back, and I didn’t hear anything more about it. Several months later I attended a gala event the organisation was participating in and watched him sitting there on stage, confident and smug.

I thanked my stars that he had no idea who I was, that he didn’t know that the ‘stupid, fat bitch’ he’d emailed was sitting there in the audience, calmly staring back at him. Later, I wondered why I didn’t just turn around and walk out the minute I saw him. I certainly stopped donating and supporting, and I happily told people why.

He’s still there, and people tell me I’m not the only one who has received alarmingly graphic communiques from him for speaking my mind. His was the first of many emails so meticulously detailed that it felt like the uncomfortable realisation of a fantasy, and it only got worse when I changed platforms, to TypePad and then WordPress, accumulating more and more readers along the way, being more and more outspoken, being more and more open about who I was, finally writing under my own name, a calculated decision that exposes me to considerable risk, every day, a decision I cannot come back from. It is not a decision I regret, but it did bring home a new risk for me, that I had made it a lot easier for those electronic threats to become a reality.

I was careful in all the ways they tell you to be, to make it difficult to find my house, for example, and most of the rape threats, and the death threats, the casual verbal abuse from people who disagreed with my stances on subjects like rape being bad and abortion being a personal matter, weren’t really that threatening in that they didn’t pose a personal danger to me, and I was rarely concerned for my safety. That wasn’t the point, though, which is what I told a friend when she got her first rape threat and called me, sobbing. I wished she’d been spared that particular blogging rite of passage, but unfortunately she hadn’t been.

‘They want you to shut up,’ I explained. ‘That’s the point of a rape threat. They want to silence you. They want you to shrink down very small inside a box where you think they can’t find you.’

And it works. I see it happening all the time; blogs go dark, or disappear entirely, or stop covering certain subjects. People hop pseudonyms and addresses, trusting that regular readers can find and follow them, trying to stay one step ahead. Very few people openly discuss it because they feel like it’s feeding the trolls, giving them the attention they want. Some prominent bloggers and members of the tech community have been bold enough; Kathy Sierra, for example, spoke out about the threats that made her afraid to leave her own home. She’s not the only blogger who’s been presented not just with vicious, hateful verbal abuse, but very real evidence that people want to physically hurt her, a double-edged silencing tactic, a sustained campaign of terrorism that is, often, highly effective.

It took a few years to reach this point, but I finally have, the point where I do have concerns about my physical safety, and have had to reevaluate certain aspects of my life and work. I’ve gotten those emails that send a long chill down my spine and create a surging feeling of rage, mixed with helplessness. People have sent me my social security number, information about my family members, identifying details that make it very clear they know exactly how to find me. They  have politely provided details of exactly what they’d like to do to me and my family, they send me creepy things in the mail.

‘I’m glad your stupid cat died,’ someone wrote me last October. ‘You’re next, bitch,’ and followed up with my street address.

‘I’m in the process of moving,’ I told the officer who responded, ‘but it concerns me and I wanted you to know.’

I spent the remaining week almost entirely at the new house, working on the house during the day and slinking home late at night, leaving the lights off to make it look like I wasn’t home, leaving my distinctive and highly identifiable car parked at a distant location. My neighbours left their porch light on for me, illuminating the backyard in a wash of harsh, white light. I’d spent years seething about how it kept me up at night, but those nights, I was grateful for it, reading my book under the covers in the dim glow of a flashlight.

‘You must be worried about fans finding you,’ my landlords say, and I want to laugh it off, the idea that I have ‘fans’ who would be dedicated enough to come this far to find me.

‘It’s not the fans I worry about,’ I say, darkly.

It’s a good week, these days, if I only get 15-20 emails from people telling me how much they think I should die, or how much they hope I get raped, or how much they hope my cat dies or I lose my job or fall in a hole or get shot by police or any number of things people seem to think it’s urgently important to tell me in their quest to get me to shut up. We are not talking about disagreements, about calls for intersectionality, about differing approaches, about political variance, about lively debate and discussion that sometimes turns acrimonious and damaging. We are talking about sustained campaigns of hate from people who believe that we are inhuman and should be silenced; the misogynists, the ‘men’s rights activists,’ the anti-reproductive rights movement, the extreme conservatives, the fundamentalists. The haters.

Joss Whedon fans in particular seem to be especially creative, although Glee fans are running a close second; Glee fans tend to be more fond of sending me photoshopped pictures of myself covered in what I think is supposed to be cum, although it looks more like mashed potatoes, or possibly whipped cream. Joss fans prefer to say it in text, intimately, lingering over the details. And of course there’s the usual abuse from people who think that people like me are not human beings, and thus feel it’s entirely reasonable, even necessary, to assault us, the people who write about topics like reproductive justice, domestic violence, intersections between race and class and disability and gender and the social structures that contribute to continued oppression.

I don’t talk about it very often because I don’t really know what to say. I get rape and death threats. I get emails calling me cunt, r#tard, all the other epithets you can think of and then some. I get abusive phone calls, and sometimes have to unplug my landline for a few days. So do a lot of other bloggers. It never really stops, unless you stop, which means that every day you need to make a conscious decision. Do I keep doing this? Do I keep going? Or is this the day where I throw in the towel and decide it’s not worth it anymore?

Like a lot of bloggers in the same position, I have tried to balance a desire to not remain silent with the need for increasing caution; not, for example, making information about where I stay when on trips available, making it clear that the only place people will find me is at public events in locations where there’s a security presence, being careful about pictures I post of my house and neighbourhood to make it harder to find, making sure close friends have contact information for me and my neighbours in case of emergencies. Thinking carefully about the kinds of events I want to attend. Things that are second nature to me seem to disturb other people, but I’ve learned the hard way that this is what I need to do to be safe.

But I’m still not going to shut up, and not just because I am bullheaded and don’t take kindly to being told to be silent or die. I don’t shut up for all the people who were forced to shut up, for the ghosts who drift through the Internet, for the people too terrified to leave their homes at all, let alone try to coordinate safety concerns to attend events, for the people who ask friends to open and sort their email because they can’t handle the daily vitriol. I don’t shut up for all the people who have been silenced, who did throw in the towel because they just couldn’t take it anymore. Not because they were weak or not committed to the cause, but because they, and their families, were in danger.

When it became evident that I wasn’t going to shut up, that I wasn’t going to let threats from hateful assholes dictate what I chose to cover and not cover, the campaigns shifted; I still got rape and death threats, but then came the websites dedicated to hate and speculation, the harassing phone calls. Then came the commenters sowing insidious trails at sites that linked me or discussed my work, the emails to friends and colleagues, the attempts to discredit me.

And, of course, the attacks on my readers. One of the reasons I was forced to close comments on my personal site was because people would stalk my readers to their own sites and harass them, and we had similar problems at FWD/Forward, and I see them here at Tiger Beatdown as well. Puzzled and upset readers sometimes forward the email they’re sent after they comment, or talk about something in a post, or attempt to participate in discussions; anti-abortion activists, for example, sending them hate screeds for being open about their abortions in what they thought was a safe space. Hateful people pick on people they assume are small and helpless, simply for voicing their opinions, or being present in a space, or being associated with the target of their hatred.

Then came the hackings, the repeated attempts to silence me in the crudest way possible.

This is something else people don’t talk about, very often; the fact of the matter is that if you run a feminist or social justice site, you will be hacked. Probably on multiple occasions, especially if you start to grow a large audience. Some of these hackings are just your usual cases of vandalism, people testing servers to see if they can do it, not with any specific malice directed at you. Others are more deliberate, more calculated, and they come with taunting and abuse.

Many feminist sites stay on services like Blogspot because of the higher security they may offer; people who host their own sites do so in awareness that if they aren’t very knowledgeable about technology, they need someone who is for when they get hacked, and it’s not if, but when. Readers often don’t notice because it flashes by, or it causes problems with the backend, the site management, not the front end. Sometimes they do, when hackers inject malicious code that changes the appearance of the front page, or attempts to load malware on the computers of visitors, or just takes the site down altogether, sometimes with a message making it clear that it’s personal.

Then your readers start screaming at you because the site isn’t working, and when you wade through your inbox it’s an even split between taunting messages from the hacker and readers demanding to know why the front page looks funny, yelling at you if you were asleep when it happened and didn’t have time to post an update somewhere to let people know what was going on for several hours.

You wake up every day wondering if your server is still up, and how much cleanup you may need to do to keep the site operational. That’s the reality. You wake up wondering what will be in your inbox, your moderation queue, your Twitter stream, and sometimes you lie in bed, staring at the ceiling, wondering if you really want to keep doing this. The reality is that when people recognise you in public spaces and shout your name, you tense; is this person going to harm you? You spend the first five minutes of your interaction fighting the flight instinct, not paying attention to a single word the person is saying. When someone emails to ask to meet you when you’re traveling, your first reaction is not ‘oh, it would be lovely to meet readers, yes, please, let’s hook up at that dark shady bar in a city I don’t know.’

It’s concerted, focused, and deliberate, the effort to silence people, especially women, but not always, as I can attest, and particularly feminists, though again, not always, as I can attest, online. The readers, the consumers, the fans, may not always notice it because people are silent about it. Because this is the strategy that has been adopted, to not feed the trolls, to grin and bear it, to shut up, to put your best foot forward and rise above it.  To open your email, take note of the morning’s contents, and then quickly shuttle them to the appropriate files for future reference or forwarding to the authorities. To check on the server, fix what needs fixing, and move on with your day. To skim the comments to see what needs to be deleted, to know that when you write a post like this one, you will have to delete a lot of heinous and ugly comments, because you want to protect your readers from the sheer, naked, hate that people carry for you. To weigh, carefully, the decision to approve a comment not because there’s a problem with the content, but because you worry that the reader may be stalked by someone who will tell her that she should die for having an opinion. And when it happens to people for the first time, they think they are alone, because they don’t realise how widespread and insidious it is.

All of the bloggers at Tiger Beatdown have received threats, not just in email but in comments, on Twitter, and in other media, and the site itself has been subject to hacking attempts as well. It’s grinding and relentless and we’re told collectively, as a community, to stay silent about it, but I’m not sure that’s the right answer, to remain silent in the face of silencing campaigns designed and calculated to drive us from not just the Internet, but public spaces in general. To compress us into small boxes somewhere and leave us there, to underscore that our kind are not wanted here, there, or anywhere.

*GAG GAG GLUCK* You have discovered the only vocables worth hearing from Sady’s cock-stuffed maw…die tr*nny whore…[slut walk] is a parade for people who suffer from Histrionic Personality Disorder aka Attention Whores…I know where you live, r#tard…why don’t you do the world a favour and jump off a bridge…Feminazi…

A small sampling of the kinds of things that show up in our inboxes, in comment threads, on attack websites, in things sent to our readers.

Rape threats happen. Death threats happen. People threaten friends, families, jobs, household pets. Stalkers go to considerable lengths to collect and exploit information. People who are open about this, who do talk about threats and stalking and danger, and they are out there, are punished for it. They get more abuse, they’re told that they’re making it all up, that it’s all in their heads, that they are exaggerating, entirely new hate sites spring up to speculate about them and talk about their ‘desperate ploys for attention.’ That’s what I have to look forward to for writing this piece, for laying out some of the costs of social participation for you, for openly discussing the thing which dare not speak its name, the brash, open hostility reserved for people who do not shut up.

This is a reality, and it doesn’t go away if we don’t talk about it.

NB:  The New Statesman and the Guardian have also dealt with this issue.

H/t: Butterflies and Wheels

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Newman on Atzmon and antisemitism

September 26, 2011 at 9:09 pm (anti-semitism, blogosphere, fascism, Jim D, Racism, SWP)

Regulars will know that I don’t have a very high opinion of Andy Newman and his bizarre semi-Stalinist blog ‘Socialist Unity.’ Indeed, for a considerable while Mr Newman banned me from even commenting at his site on the grounds that I’m a “racist” (I’d been rude about a contributor who happened to be non- white).

Nevertheless, Newman does have one thing in common with us at ‘Shiraz’: unlike a lot of the so-called “left” he takes antisemitism seriously. He has, for instance, frequently denounced the holocaust-denying conspiracy theorist and neo-nazi Gilad Atzmon, a modestly-talented jazz saxophonist once lionized by the SWP. Unlike a lot of the “left” (especially in the Stalinist circles he now moves in), Newman does recognise that someone calling themselves an ‘anti-Zionist’ and proclaiming solidarity with the Palestinian cause, can still be an antisemite.

Newman has an article in today’s Graun (entitled “Root out this hate speech” in the print version but retitled “Gilad Atzmon, antisemitism and the left” online),  that is quite good, though it tells you nothing you won’t have read many times here at ‘Shiraz.’ He once again calls out Atzmon for the antisemite he is, notes the SWP’s role (until relatively recently) in promoting him and Indymedia’s role in defending him. Newman also notes other examples of “left” antisemitism, like the US magazine Counterpunch defending unsubstantiated claims about Israeli organ-harvesting/smuggling (the old blood libel tricked out in a new garb), and closes by warning that:

“It is incumbent upon the left and the Palestinian solidarity movement to both be aware of the conscious efforts of far-right antisemites to infiltrate the movement, and to vigoruosly oppose and exclude antisemites. We would not hesitate to condemn racists, homophobes or sexists, and must be equally robust in opposing anti-Jewish hate-speech.”

Excellent sentiments and, I’ve no doubt, entirely sincere. But we do need to ask Andy Newman why it is that ‘Socialist Unity’ continues to carry pieces by someone who is quite clearly a “left” antisemite of precisely the kind denounced in the Graun article: one Mr John Wight.

NB: Newman’s Graun article is here; his follow-up posting at ‘Socialist Unity’ is here: both are worth looking at if only for the predictable comments apologising for “left” antisemitism and/or refusing believe it exists and/or if it does exist it isn’t a problem, etc, etc, etc…

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