Orwell, Fake News, Alt-Right, Alt-Left and … Skwawkbox

July 24, 2017 at 7:59 am (Andrew Coates, blogging, conspiracy theories, intellectuals, literature, media, men, Orwell, politics, populism, publications, socialism)

Comrade Coatesy has an important piece over at his blog (posted 22 July) and I know he doesn’t mind his stuff being republished here at Shiraz. We should also acknowledge the fact that we’ve used material from Skwawkbox in the past (having checked its accuracy), but like Coatesy and others, have become increasingly disturbed by its apparent preference for sensationalism over fact-checking.

Image result for Orwell essays everyman

Orwell and Fake News, Alt-Right, Alt-Right.

George Orwell never ceases being cited. These days he more often appears for good reasons than for bad ones.

Recently people have had recourse to Benefit of Clergy: Some Notes in Salvador Dali (1944) in order to defend his ability as a “ good draftsman” while being, “a disgusting human being”. That qualified support highlighted, few share the judgement that the Surrealist’s “Mannequin rooting in a taxicab’ as “diseased and disgusting”. The important idea, one, which Orwell repeats about Dickens as Bechhofer Roberts published an early version of what much later developed in the account of the Other Woman, Ellen Ternan, is the distinction between public work and “private life”. In this instance Dali’s alleged infidelity, and the search for his DNA to prove paternity, is irrelevant to the merits or otherwise of his products.

A more weighty issue is taken up in yesterday’s le Monde (Relire « 1984 » à l’ère de la post-vérité). Stéphane Foucart discusses Orwell as a reference in the era of “post-truth” (post-verité). He quotes Looking Back on the Spanish War (1942), “..for the first, I saw newspaper reports which did not bear any relation to the facts, not even the relationship which is implied in an ordinary life.” Life in Republican Spain was portrayed as “one long massacre” by the pro-Franco British press. Orwell went on to imagine a future in which “the Leader, or some ruling clique, controls not only he future but the past. If the Leader says of such and such an event “it never happened” – well it never happened. If he says that two and two are five – well, two and two are five.”

English speaking readers are more familiar with this passage, a premonition of the theme of 1984, than French, who, to Foucart, only began to register that dystopia in the 1980s, with intellectuals such as Michael Gauchet dismissing it. More recently there are those who have taken Orwell to their hearts, for his “common decency”. The idea that the over boiled cabbage and Thought Police of Ingsoc, and a planet divided into three rival Party-Oligarchies, has relevance today may seem to stretch a point.

That we know that the past is both so obviously not there, yet is worthy of objective inquiry in ways that other ‘not theres’ are not, is an old metaphysical difficulty. That the standard of objectivity was weakened by what used to be fashionable in the old days of ‘post-modernism’ is well known. But that there are different ‘truths’, a liberal, in the American sense, rather than a conservative principle has become less about controlling history than the present. Was the telly screen a rudimentary form of the Internet asks Foucart? Are Trump’s efforts to purge the Presidential archives of documents challenging his view on climate change? ‘Alternative facts’, reports that bear no relation to truth, have, with the sacking of the White House’s Sean Spicer is now a topic which has made the news.

The Media and State Power.

Orwell was concerned not just with Red Atrocity reports in the Daily Mail. He also wrote of the potential totalitarian effects of government control of the media, in his time the Radio. He defended freedom of expression against all forms of censorship, including the suppression of critical reports about the USSR which he believed was taking place post-war in favour of “uncritical admiration of the Soviet Union” (The freedom of the press – Animal Farm. 1945). As Orwell later wrote, “If you do not like the Communism you are a red-baiter, a believer in Bolshevik atrocities, the nationalism of women, Moscow Gold and so on.” (In Defence of Comrade Zilliacus. 1947. Intended for Tribune, not published…)

The Trump administration has power. But there is nothing resembling an effective state broadcasting monopoly outside of North Korea, despite accusations against the People’s Republic. Trump supporters have their networks, their web sites, the loud media outlets. The British right has the dailies, the internationally influential Mail, the declining Sun, the poor old Telegraph, the ageing Express and the Star, which few get beyond the front page to read. Its media imitations of the American alt-right, languish in obscurity. In Britain if these forces are capable of manufacturing truths, from the endless drip drip against migrant workers and Europe to scare-stories about left-wingers, and have an effect on opinion, they took a jolt at the last election. As the laughable Election Day front page of the Sun demonstrated so well.

The Alt-Left and Alternative Facts. 

Come the arrival of the ‘alt-left’. In Britain this means enthusiastic pro-Jeremy Corbyn people. Sites such as The Canary may not be to everyone’s taste but have a readership. But the debate over alternative facts has spread inside the left. Is it justified for Skwawkbox to engage in its own war of attrition with the arms of sensational, scaremongering, stories. The best known at the moment is their recent ‘scoop’ that claimed that everybody on disability benefit transferred to Universal Credit , who did not find a job in two years would be subject to sanctions? That is that they risk losing a large part (if not all) of their income?

This story has been demolished by Disabled People Against Cuts. (1)

Is their mealy-mouthed justification for running the tale acceptable?

They continue to publish wild stories.

That the Daily Mail has attacked the site with its own falsehoods does not give the author a free-pass when it comes to truth and accuracy. 

The writer of 1984 did not live in the age of click-bait. Nor of self-publishing on an industrial scale. But some things have not changed. It would not be to misuse Orwell to cite this, “the controversy over freedom of speech and of the Press is at bottom the desirability, or otherwise, of telling lies. What is really at issue is the right to report contemporary events truthfully. Or as truthfully as is consistent with the ignorance, bias and self-deception from which every observer necessarily suffers.” (The Prevention of Literature. 1947)

(1) The 2 year job rule for disabled people on Universal Credit is not true!

Disabled People Against Cuts.

Thank you to Gail Ward who put this together.

In the last few days it has been widely reported by various bloggers that those disabled claimants claiming Universal Credit are subjected to finding a job within two years or face a 1 year sanction. This is utter fabrication and feeding many claimants fears which could potentially cause harm. So today I called Welfare Rights, who called DWP while I remained on the phone, they denied that this information was correct and was downright alarmist and dangerous. That doesn’t mean I trust DWP and have submitted a FOI too given 7 years of shenanigans. So you see folks, you can take the fear project and destroy it with Facts!

All Orwell references in Essays. George Orwell. Everyman’s Library. 2002.

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Asian Network’s Nihal on grooming

June 29, 2013 at 1:18 am (BBC, child abuse, conspiracy theories, drugs, Human rights, Islam, Jim D, men, misogyny, Pakistan, Racism, religion, sexism, thuggery)

Don’t even think about commenting on this issue without having listened to this!

Starts at 11.57

The BBC Asian Network bills the programme as follows:

Debate about grooming cases, live from Oxford

Nihal’s phone-in [in fact the phone-in is preceded by an hour’s debate from Oxford, which is the crucial part of the programme -JD] is coming live from the Cowley Road in Oxford where seven men groomed and sexually abused girls as young as eleven over a period of eight years. He will be getting reaction to the sentences given to the men and asking what lessons can be learnt from what has happened.

The issues up for debate are extremely sensitive – so much so that a lot of people from the area did not want to talk to us. Five of the seven men found guilty were of Pakistani origin and most of the people who BBC Asian Network has spoken to in the area either knew them – or knew someone who knew them.

Nihal asks – who is to blame for this terrible abuse, apart from the men themselves? Why were they able to get away with the abuse over an eight year period?

If the men were so well known in the community, why were their crimes not reported sooner? Is the fact that many of them came from the Pakistani community a relevant one? 

The main debate lasts for one hour and forty minutes, but it’s well worth putting the time aside for.  If you can’t do that, at least listen to the wise words of Julie Siddiqui of the Islamic Society of Britain, at about 30.20. This is only available for the next four days:


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Sir Jimmy Savile’s crime

October 8, 2012 at 2:59 pm (BBC, celebrity, child abuse, children, crime, Human rights, Jackie Mcdonough, media, men, sexism, thuggery)

Jimmy Savile was clearly a disgusting and degenerate excuse for a human being. Claims from the BBC (notably former DG Mark Thompson) to the effect that no-one there had the slightest idea about Savile’s child abuse, are, quite literally, incredible. Almost as unlikely are the denials from Thompson and Newsnight editor Peter Rippon, that last year’s Newsnight  exposé of Saville was pulled because it would have made a sick joke of the three tribute programmes honouring Savile that the BBC had ready to air over Christmas.

Yes, you only had to look at the grotesque figure of Savile and listen to his droning, witless voice, to guess that he was a total creep and sleeze-ball. But Savile’s crimes (now surely proven beyond reasonable doubt or cries of “he’s not here to defend himself”) would appear to be just the tip of the iceberg. Every day seems to bring new revelations that make it clear that Savile’s paedophilia was just one manifestation (albeit an extreme one) of a culture of gross sexism and tolerance of sexual abuse that existed  in the BBC Light Entertainment department from the late 1960’s (ie the creation on Radio 1) up until at least the mid-1990’s and the end of the  ‘Smashie and Nicey‘ era. And there are those who are suggesting it may not have completely ended then, either.

Janet Street-Porter, for instance describes in today’s Mail (see previous link) how Jim Moir, Head of  (BBC) Light Entertainment in the 1980’s once addressed a committee meeing at which Street-Porter was the only woman present, by announcing “Well chaps, I’m going to put my dick on the table.” It was, of course, merely a figure of speech. But a telling one. Other female broadcasters (notably Liz Kershaw and Sandi Toksvig) who were at the Corporation in the in the 1970’s and 80’s have now come forward with accounts of sexual harassment, while a Sunday Times reporter, Camilla Long, claims she was groped by Dave Lee (“Hairy Cornflake”) Travis after interviewing him in June of this year. The recurring theme of all these stories is that such behaviour was considered normal and acceptable and anyone who complained would be regarded as strange (or worse, a lesbian).

But, of course, there is a qualitative difference between the sexual harassment of adult women (reprehensible as that is) and the crime of paedophilia, isn’t there? Maybe so. Or maybe they’re just different points on a continuum. Either way, there is every reason to assume that paedophilia at the BBC and, indeed, throughout the world of pop music and light entertainment in the 1970’s and 80’s, went well beyond the loathsome working class oik Saville. After all, even that doyen of twee, middle-class naughty-but-nice smugness, John Peel, boasted in newspaper interviews and his Sounds magazine column, of his penchant for under-aged girls. I would submit that the picture below, in its way, is almost as disturbing as what we’re hearing about Savile.*

*Naturally, this has upset Peel’s adoring fans, who rally to his defence here.

NB: it is clearly the case that a lot of the current attacks on the BBC in the wake of the Savile revelations, are coming from sources like the Murdoch press (the Sunday Times, especially) and the Mail, that have their own commercial and ideological reasons for wanting to knock the Beeb. But that doesn’t mean that what they’ve published is untrue, or should be down-played. I’ve made extensive use of material from both these sources in what I’ve written above – JM

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NUS to ‘no-platform’ Benn and Galloway?

September 26, 2012 at 8:34 pm (AWL, Feminism, Free Speech, Galloway, Jackie Mcdonough, men, misogyny, strange situations, students, SWP)

The Last WikiLeaks Supper

Above: the Messiah Julian and his rape-denying disciples, including Benn and Galloway

The expression “hoist with one’s own petard” springs to mind:

(from the Counterfire‘ website):

Leading anti-war campaigner and socialist Tony Benn will be ‘no platformed’ like Tommy Robinson of the racist EDL and Nick Griffin of the fascist BNP if a motion to the National Union of Students gets passed this week. If local student unions follow the national union then Tony Benn may be refused a platform in any student union in the country.

Refusing to allow fascists a platform has long been the policy of the left and the student movement. But in a remarkably ill-thought out move the National Executive of NUS is about to apply the same policy to Tony Benn and Respect MP George Galloway.

The reasons given for this unusual step are comments they made about the charge that Wikileaks whistleblower Julian Assange raped two women in Sweden. The motion states that Galloway ‘referred to a man inserting his penis into a sleeping woman as, “bad sexual etiquette’ and that Tony Benn said of the Assange case, “the charges are that it was a non-consensual relationship. Well that’s very different from rape”.’

Tony Benn has since, at the request of Goldsmith Students Union, of which he is the honoury president, retracted his remarks, apologised and restated his life-long commitment to women’s liberation. But still the NUS is persisting with its resolution.

The comments in both Galloway’s and Benn’s cases are of course wrong. It is wrong to state that non-consensual sex is not rape, and it was wrong to try to defend Assange from extradition by dismissing the claims of the women involved.

But beyond this, there is a fundamental problem by responding to these comments by trying to no platform Benn and Galloway. ‘No platform’ is an exceptional position that the Left has typically campaigned for Unions and other organisations to adopt in the fight against Fascism.

It is an unprecedented departure from the left’s defence of freedom of speech on the grounds that there can be no free speech for those who would deny such freedoms to others. There can be no democracy for those who would use genocide and extermination to end democracy.

These conditions clearly do not apply in this case. It is the exceptional danger posed by Fascism that prompted the tactic of no platform to be applied exclusively to fascists. To apply it indiscriminately to other political views we oppose means fascists cannot be isolated by the no platform policy as an exceptional threat.

Backward ideas about rape are profoundly upsetting and damaging to the fight against women’s oppression. However, the prevalence of these ideas (which the motion acknowledges) points to the fact that they stem from the sexist society in which we live. Therefore it is within society that we have to fight these ideas.

Surely it is much better to have Tony Benn, a figure that many people look up to as an inspiration, apologise and restate his commitment to women’s liberation as he has done, than to let damaging remarks remain unretracted where they can continue to damage and distract our movement. This is a fight we can win – we can change people’s minds, we can challenge sexism in our movement.

Astoundingly, if the writers of the motion genuinely believe these remarks have put Benn and Galloway beyond the pale, then there are a lot of people missing who should be named in this motion.

While the motion makes brief reference to Roger Helmer (UKIP MEP) and Andrew Brons (an MEP for the fascist BNP and a former leader of the fascist National Front), why are the members of the Coalition government who are overseeing massive cuts to rape crisis and domestic violence services not in this motion?

Why not the whole of the Cambridge Union Society who invited Dominique Strauss-Kahn to speak there earlier this year? Why not those government ministers whose refusal to demand that Assange will not be extradited from Sweden to the US is effectively prolonging the injustice to the women involved? All these people have gone far further than to make an offensive remark.

What’s more, the NUS would not dream of no platforming war criminal Tony Blair. And the NUS quite regularly opens its platforms to Zionists. In this context the attempt to no platform Tony Benn and Galloway looks absurd.

And why is the NUS, which has let its members down so badly over the fight against fees and cuts, not organising against the closure of rape crisis centres? Where are the leaflets, the posters, the protests, the pickets and the demos?

Tony Benn was a wholehearted supporter of the student movement of 2010. Which is more than the NUS executive can claim. It would be better if the NUS spent less time either censuring or no platforming Tony Benn and George Galloway and more time actually defending its members.


A response from AWL students, here.

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Pilger (and similar sexists) taken apart on Assange

December 20, 2010 at 12:02 am (Human rights, Jackie Mcdonough, men, misogyny, women)

Jack of Kent surgically dissects Pilger  on Assange:

Journalist John Pilger, a supporter of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, center, speaks to journalists outside the High Court, London, Thursday, Dec. 16, 2010. Julian Assange will be freed on bail and sent to stay at a British country mansion, a U.K.....Julian Assange  //

  •  Wednesday, 15 December 2010
    Pilger on Assange: a legal commentary
  • I thought it would be helpful to provide a commentary on today’s New Statesman article by John Pilger on Julian Assange.

    JP: “Guardians of women’s rights” in the British liberal press have rushed to condemn the WikiLeaks founder.

    Reply: In fact, they have not. Feminist and non-feminist writers have instead condemned the downplaying and denials of the sex crime allegations by supporters of Assange.

    JP: In fact, at every turn in his dealings with our justice system, his basic human rights have been breached.

    Reply: Julian Assange has now had two bail hearings in open court, at both of which he was represented by leading solicitors and barristers of his choice. At the second bail hearing he was granted – not denied – bail, although with conditions. This decision to give bail is now being appealed and so there will be a further hearing tomorrow.

    JP: It seems the lesson must be learned all over again as a group of media feminists joins the assault on Julian Assange and WikiLeaks, or the “Wikiblokesphere”, as Libby Brooks abuses it in the Guardian. From the Times to the New Statesman, apparent feminist credence is given to the chaotic, incompetent and contradictory accusations against Assange in Sweden.

    Reply: Mark Stephens, the lawyer for Julian Assange, has complained his client still does not know the evidence on which the prosecution is relying. It is thereby inexplicable how Mr Pilger is any position to regard the accusations as “chaotic, incompetent and contradictory”

    JP: On 9 December, the Guardian published a long, supine interview by Amelia Gentleman with Claes Borgström, the “highly respected Swedish lawyer”. In fact, Borgström is foremost a politician, a powerful member of the Social Democratic Party. He intervened in the Assange case only when the senior prosecutor in Stockholm dismissed the “rape” allegation as based on “no evidence”.

    Reply: This is simply an ad hominem attack on Mr Borgström and carries no weight.

    JP: In Gentleman’s Guardian article, an anonymous source whispers to us that Assange’s “behaviour towards women . . . was going to get him into trouble”. This smear was taken up by Brooks in the paper that same day. Ken Loach and I and others on “the left” are “shoulder to shoulder” with the misogynists and “conspiracy theorists”.

    Reply: This sequence of contentions is at best unpersuasive. For example, Brooks did not take up this smear. Of course, the reference to “misogynists” (plural) can only be taken to mean the supporters of Mr Assange.

    JP: The Australian barrister James Catlin, who acted for Assange in October, says that both women in the case told prosecutors that they consented to have sex with Assange.

    Reply: If this is indeed the case, then this is for the defence to rely on in the event any charges are brought. However, quoting a defence lawyer is of course not determinative of any allegation.

    JP: Following the “crime”, one of the women threw a party in honour of Assange.

    Reply: Placing the word crime in inverted commas is to pre-judge the case, but even Julian Assange and his lawyer say they do not know the prosecution evidence. Mr Pilger is thereby not in a position to dismiss the alleged offence so casually. If such a party took place, and what it proves, then that is for the criminal trial and not an extradition hearing

    JP: When Borgström was asked why he was representing the women, as both denied rape, he said: “Yes, but they are not lawyers.”

    Reply: There is no direct evidence available to Mr Pilger as to whether the complainants have or have not denied rape. If the evidence of the complainants does not support any offence for which he is charged, then this would a matter for the criminal trial.

    JP: Catlin describes the Swedish justice system as “a laughing stock”. For three months, Assange and his lawyers have pleaded with the Swedish authorities to let them see the prosecution case.

    Reply: It would appear that they should perhaps have asked Mr Pilger.

    JP: This was denied until 18 November, when the first official document arrived – in the Swedish language, contrary to European law.

    Reply: Yes, Mr Assange is fully entitled to have the case against him set out in a language he understands. However, as already mentioned, Julian Assange still does not have access to the evidence on which the prosecutor is relying.

    JP: Assange still has not been charged with anything.

    Reply: No, as this is an arrest warrant.

    JP: He has never been a “fugitive”. He sought and got permission to leave Sweden, and the British police have known his whereabouts since his arrival in this country. This did not stop a London magistrate on 7 December ignoring seven sureties and sending him to solitary confinement in Wandsworth Prison.

    Reply: The test for bail is not sureties alone. And it is understood that Mr Assange himself asked to be placed in solitary confinement.

    JP: At every turn, Assange’s basic human rights have been breached.

    Reply: As noted above, there will be a third hearing in respect of bail tomorrow, in open court, where Mr Assange will have full legal representation.

    JP: The cowardly Australian government, which is legally obliged to support its citizen, has made a veiled threat to take away his passport.

    Reply: In fact, the Australian High Commission in London is providing assistance to Mr Assange.

    JP: In her public remarks, the prime minister, Julia Gillard, has shamefully torn up the presumption of innocence that underpins Australian law. The Australian minister for foreign affairs ought to have called in both the Swedish and the US ambassadors to warn them against any abuse of human rights against Assange, such as the crime of incitement to murder.

    Reply: The ease with which Mr Pilger makes these serious accusations of criminal activity against others contrasts with the ease with which accusations of criminal activity are dismissed when they happen to be against Mr Assange.

    JP: In contrast, vast numbers of decent people all over the world have rallied to Assange’s support: people who are neither misogynists nor “internet attack dogs”, to quote Libby Brooks, and who support a very different set of values from those espoused by Charles Reich. They include many distinguished feminists, such as Naomi Klein, who wrote: “Rape is being used in the Assange prosecution in the same way that women’s freedom was used to invade Afghanistan. Wake up!”

    Reply: As with Mr Pilger, one presumes that Ms Klein has had no access to any evidence against Mr Assange.

    JP: To hell with journalistic inquiry. Ignorance and prejudice rule.

    Reply: Indeed.

    NB: Catherine Bennett, in The Observer, also cuts through the crap coming from misogynistic Assange groupies like Pilger, Loach and Tariq Ali.

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    In codpieces we trust

    December 19, 2010 at 11:26 am (men, Rosie B, Uncategorized, war)

    UK troops will be provided with armoured underwear for pelvic protection to offer protection from pressure-plate improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and bombs in Afghanistan.

    The combat codpiece is made of special ballistic material crafted from silk and synthetics, and is ultra-lightweight as well as capable of stopping or mitigating the effects of a blast.

    Based on the armour technology used by Genghis Khan’s Mongol warriors in the 13th century, the codpiece could also be implemented by the US and other Nato forces.


    About time, if Ghenghis Khan’s squaddies were issued with such items of protection.  It’s not as if British soldiers have only just got round to fearing injury to the male apparatus:-

    From a soldier’s account of marching through Normandy after D-Day:-

    At night there was much air activity.  I mention this only to record an interesting psychological consensus.  Like my colleagues I slept in a small individual canvas tent, near a slit trench in which it was considered bad form to take shelter.  Nor was there more than minimal danger, though my own side did get quite near killing me with an unexploded anti-aircraft shell.  But the noise was immense at times.  I found myself lying on my back in my camp-bed with my tin hat, supposedly proof against shrapnel, on my head.  After a couple of minutes’ thought I would transfer the hat to the area that included my genitals.  A couple of minutes’ more thought, and the hat was back on my head.  Still more thought – back down to the balls.  Yet more thought. . . At some stage I would get fed up with the fandango and fall asleep.  Coyly mentioning it one morning at breakfast in the Mess tent as a possibly amusing quirk, I was greeted with a roar of agreement, sympathy, relief – “Thank God somebody’s said it at last!”  All my brother officers without exception regularly went through the same routine.

    Memoirs by Kingsley Amis

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    Boxing: this disgusting “sport”

    September 10, 2010 at 11:16 pm (James P. Cannon, Jim D, men, sport)

    James Lawton, boxing correspondent of the Independent, didn’t pull his punches yesterday, on the sickening shenanigans surrounding the upcoming Haye -v- Harrison fight and the present state of professional heavyweight boxing in general:

    “So what must we conclude, apart from the fact that it is ludicrous to to compare, as some have, the collision between Haye and Harrison with mis-matches of the past involving such great fighters as Marciano and Ali against men like Don Cockell, Brian London and Richard Dunn?

    “It is that while those old fights at least involved a great champion who was claiming the rights of conquest over serious opposition, Haye, who presents himself as a serious champion, chooses as his third heavyweight opponent someone he is the first to agree lacks the credentials of even his past opposition in the division.

    “In fact, Harrison might have been Haye’s fourth heavyweight opponent if the obscure Pole Tomaz Bonin had not scaled light for the fight that was supposed to mark the champion’s debut in that division.

    “Bonin, Valuev and Ruiz, these are the victims from the dregs of boxing. If you put together all of their best qualities, you would still have a parody of what a world champion should be.

    “Now there is Harrison, who according to Haye will provide a victory as one-sided as a gang rape. It is a disgusting way to sell a fight. But then it is also a disgusting fight, one that will remain so however it is dressed.” 

    David Haye and Audley Harrison at the announcement of their November bout

    All of which is undoubtedly true, especially in the immediate aftermath of Haye’s truly vile use of the term “gang rape” to whip up interest in this travesty of a “world title fight” against a no-hope has-been. But Lawton should have gone further: professional boxing itself is a disgusting so-called “sport”, which even at its best  – in the fists of artists like Marciano and Ali, for instance – still revolves around two men (almost always working class and usually from ethnic minorities) trying to give each other brain injuries for money. The pathetic, shambling wreck that is what remains today of  Muhammad Ali, is merely the best known and most obviously tragic proof of this.

    Haye’s vile words about “rape” are, of course, a cynical bid to hype this particularly miserable bout, but it is also testimony to the brutal, sub-human culture of this ignoble “sport” and the depths to which some fighters and the money-men behind them will sink when ticket sales and media coverage are at stake.

    There may be a case to be made for the efficacy of amateur boxing in keeping poor young men (and, these days, women) out of trouble, off the streets, and in the gym. I’m not convinced, but I’m willing to accept the possibility. But the case against professional boxing is surely beyond serious debate, and has been for a hundred years. The vested interests of the money-men, a craven media and  the cowardice and hypocrisy of bourgeois politicians have effectively conspired to keep this barbarity legal. Once again, our old comrade James P. Cannon nailed it one hundred percent correct many years ago, when commenting in the aftermath of the death of Georgie Flores in the ring at Madison Square Gardens in 1951:

    “It is a commentary on the times and the social environment out of which the boxing business rises like a poisonous flower from a dunghill, that nobody came forward with the simple demand to outlaw prize fighting, as it was outlawed in most of the states of this country up till the turn of the century. Cock-fighting is illegal; it is considered inhumane to put a couple of roosters into a pit and incite them to spur each other until one of them keels over. It is also against the law to put bulldogs into the pit to fight for a side bet. But our civilisation -which is on the march, to be sure – has not yet advanced to the point where the law and public opinion forbid men, who have nothing aginst each other, to fight for money and the amusement of paying spectators…

    …”Blows to the head never did anybody any good. And if anybody ever got any fun out of it, he hasn’t been heard from yet. The ‘sport’ in prize fighting is strictly for the spectators and the managers and promoters.

    “The incomparable Joe Louis himself testified to this in a notable statement at a newsreeled press conference, when he renounced his title to turn promoter. A reporter asked: ‘which do you think you like best, Joe, fighting or promoting?’

    “Joe, a man of few words, answered: ‘I like promotin’.’

    “‘Why is that, can you explain it?’

    “‘Sure,’ said Joe. ‘They can’t hit you when you’re promotin’.’

    “Those words belong in the book of proverbs.”

    (James P. Cannon: ‘A Dead Man’s Decision’, first published in The Militant, Sept 24, 1951; republished in Notebook Of An Agitator)

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    The home of witty banter

    November 22, 2009 at 1:23 pm (blogging, Champagne Charlie, comedy, Feminism, men, wankers, women)

    Ha’way  the lads! Top notch entertainment over at Dave “Mr Politically Correct” Osler’s place.

    It’s that “po faced” Stroppy I feel sorry for, mind.

    Permalink 4 Comments

    Troil and error: bad sex should at least be funny

    November 19, 2009 at 8:36 pm (Champagne Charlie, comedy, lesbian, literature, men, women)

    According to today’s Grauniad, the great Philip Roth has been shortlisted for the Literary Review‘s  bad sex award. This trophy (a plaster foot) was inaugurated by the late Auberon Waugh to “draw attention to the crude, tasteless, often perfunctory use of redundant passages of sexual description in the modern novel, and to discourage it.”

    It’s his most recent work,’ The Humbling’, that earns the great man his nomination. In one scene, an ageing actor and his lesbian friend Pegeen, pick up a girl and persuade her to join in a threesome involving a green dildo:

    This was not soft porn. This was no longer two unclothed women caressing and kissing on a bed. There was something primitive about it now, this woman on woman violence, as though in the room filled with shadows, Pegeen were a magical composite of shaman, acrobat and animal. It was as if she were wearing a mask on her genitals, a weird totem mask, that made her into what she was not and was not supposed to be. There was something dangerous about it. His heart thumped with excitement – the god Pan looking on from a distance with his spying, lascivious gaze.

    Pretty poor stuff, I think you’ll agree. But what really struck me was the lack of any humour to be found in this description – a startling omission from the author of the hilarious sexual comedy ‘Portnoy’s Complaint’.

    But troilism and voyeurism can be amusing when described by a skilled writer – especially when things do not go according to plan for at least one participant:

    ‘About your idea that we all ought to go to bed, you and I and Joyce.’


    ‘I’ve been thinking about it.’




    ‘Maurice, what would you get out of it exactly? I mean I can see what I’d get out of it, at least I think I can, but where would you come in? No, Maurice, you’re not to be horrid and awful. You know what I mean.’

    ‘I think so, yes. Well, seeing that it’s so much fun to go to bed with one beautiful girl, it ought to be twice as much fun to go to bed with two, if not more. More than twice as much fun. Worth trying, anyhow.’

    ‘Mm. You want to watch us at it, kind of thing, too, don’t you?’

    ‘Yes I do rather. I’ve never been able to see anything wrong with the idea of watching people at it, provided that’s not all you’re doing, and that won’t apply in my case, of course. And provided, as far as I’m concerned, that neither of the people is a chap, and that’s not going to apply either’… ( a few days later)…

    The two girls looked communicatively at each other then at me in the same way they had done in the bar before lunch, preparatory to accusing me of interrupting their chat. I smiled at each of them while I tried to sort out priorities in my mind..

    ‘What do you want us to do?’ asked Diana, with just a hint of impatience in her voice and demeanour.

    ‘Let’s all take everything off for a start’ I said.

    A woman can always beat a man to the state of nudity if she puts her mind to it, and here were two women evidently doing so. Despite earings and necklaces, Joyce and Diana were embracing naked beside the bed while I was still working urgently on my second shoe. By the time I was ready to join them, they had thrown the covers back and were lying side by side in an ever close embrace. I climbed in behind Diana and started kissing her shoulders and available ear and the back of her neck, none of which seemed to make any special difference to anybody. I found it difficult to slide my arm round under her arm, because Joyce’s arm was thereabouts too, and impossible to touch more than the outer side of Diana’s breast, because Joyce’s breast was against the remainer of it. When I tried the same sort of thing at a lower level, I came across the top of of Joyce’s thigh. After that, I tried to alter the girls’ positions with a view to setting up one of the triads of lovemaking Joyce had mentioned the previous evening in her unvarnished way. That meant her thigh would positively have to shift, but it stayed where it was. To get Diana on her back was not even worth attempting, with her inner thigh between both of Joyce’s. It is never easy to move people about bodily unless they co-operate a bit, and neither of these was doing so at all.

    What were they doing? Kissing repeatedly, in fact almost continuously, pressing themselves against each other, breathing deeply, though not particularly fast. What more? I had a totally obstructed view from where I was, but both Joyce’s hands were in sight, one behind Diana’s head, the other at the small of her back, and anyway their embrace had been so tight from the beginning that neither could could have been caressing the other in any way; they would have had to draw a little apart for that, which would have afforded me an opportunity, but I doubted very much whether either of them had bothered to think of such a point. I told myself I was not going to give up, said so aloud, said a lot more things, managing to stay just this side of whining and abuse, moved round the bed to behind Joyce, and got no change there either.

    There it was, then. I stood and looked at them while they went on exactly as before, neither speeding up nor slowing down, like people unable to to foresee ever doing anything else, even of the same general sort. How well I could remember that feeling! Just then Diana’s hazel eye opened, moved across the drawn curtains and me and more of the curtains without the least self-consciousness in paying the same attention to me as to the curtains, and shut again. The thought of two women making love can be an exciting one, but let me tell you that, when they are totally absorbed in each other, the actuality is sedative. Indeed, for the moment I felt calmer than at any time during the past few days. I blew them a kiss, rejecting the idea of kissing each of them on the shoulder or somewhere as more trouble and no more likely to be noticed, picked up my clothes at leisure and carried them to the bathroom.

    Author? Book? No prize this time, I’m afraid.

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    Adult entertainment ‘chez Smith’

    March 29, 2009 at 9:30 pm (Champagne Charlie, comedy, labour party, men, wankers)

    With his wife spending so much time over at her sister’s place, you can’t really blame Mr Jacqui Smith for having a quick J. Arthur (inspired by, say, ‘Swedish Air Hostesses  On The Job’), now and then, can you?


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