Friday, 23 February 2018

A simple matter of politeness...

If you are fortunate enough to live in a democracy in 2017 and have access to a phone and the Internet, you have unprecedented and an almost unfettered ability to express yourself. You can self-publish a book, create a blog or Tumblr, post on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter, shoot a video for YouTube, record a podcast, create a newsletter, email a politician or a journalist, or go online and order a baseball hat with your political beliefs emblazoned on it. You are pretty much free to say whatever you want, no matter how smart or idiotic, temperate or heated, honest, false, or completely bonkers.

And yet, never have so many people despaired over the presumed death of free speech. A couple recent examples: Last fall, Jordan Peterson, a professor at the University of Toronto released a series of videosin which he declared war on “political correctness.” Peterson doesn’t believe transgender people have the right to ask him to use “she” and “her” if Peterson has decided the person is male (and vice versa). “I don’t recognize another person’s right to determine what pronouns I use to address them,” he’s said. To respect someone else’s self-definition, he argues, would infringe on his right to free speech.

Meanwhile, Motion 103 has Conservative leadership candidates equally agitated that they, too, are in imminent danger of being gagged. Kellie Leitch, never one for subtlety, has gone all in on the metaphor, with a petition featuring a picture of woman with a sticker over her mouth that reads “Stop Motion 103.”

The motion, which was introduced by Liberal backbencher Iqra Khalid, carries no legal weight, has no legislative authority and changes not a single one of our laws. It simply asks the House of Commons to acknowledge “the increasing public climate of hate and fear” and to condemn “Islamophobia and all forms of systemic racism and religious discrimination.” Somehow this has been interpreted by Pierre Lemieux as “an attack on free speech,” by Maxime Bernier as “the first step” to restricting the right to criticize religions, and by Interim Conservative Leader Rona Ambrose as a motion that will “intimidate rather than inform.”

Then there’s Milo Yiannopoulos. Up until this week, when his flippant comments about pedophilia jettisoned his career, the former Breitbart News editor acted as the millennial majorette for the alt-right, lobbing malicious attacks at Jews, immigrants, African-Americans, Muslims, women, transgender people and anyone he found unattractive. Last year, he incited a vile racist and sexist crusade against Saturday Night Live comedian Leslie Jones. When he was banned from Twitter for it, he cried free speech. He also proclaimed himself a martyr to the cause of free expression when rowdy protests shut down his recent speaking engagement at Berkeley College in San Francisco.

For many conservatives, especially on the far right of the spectrum, free speech has become a kind of fetish. They invoke it like a magic defence against allegations of bias and bigotry. And yet, some of the staunchest free speech advocates see no conflict in using that right to call for limits on the liberty of others, like those who want to marry someone of the same sex, to use the washroom that reflects their gender as they define it, to cover their hair as religious observance, or to determine what goes on in their own uterus. At issue is not an open, civil and respectful exchange of ideas. Rather, what the conservative free speech posse wishes to protect is the power to gin up hysteria and insult others, particularly people in minority groups, without consequence or criticism.

But, of course, that’s not what free speech laws were created to do. Protections of free expression ensure that citizens aren’t punished by the state, thrown in jail or sent into exile for championing dissident views. That doesn’t mean everyone with an axe to grind is entitled to an audience. That doesn’t mean that a comedian won’t be criticized for a rape joke, or a homophobic business won’t be boycotted. That doesn’t mean a crowd is allowed to hurl slurs at a woman in a hijab. Even in the US, where there’s enormous latitude when it comes to free speech, the right is not absolute. Libel and slander are illegal, as is threatening violence against the president.

And, as a matter of etiquette, cultural norms or old-fashioned common sense, we routinely accept limits to self expression. Corporate employees abide by office dress codes and don’t show up to work in cut-off shorts and Crocs. TV and radio broadcast regulations forbid the airing of adult content during certain hours. Many of us don’t use curse words in front of our kids or our grandparents. Few of us feel silenced by these concessions.

But the free speech doomsayers believe we are living in the end days of democracy, and they are the ones who are suffering. Think I’m exaggerating? A week after a white nationalist gunned down six men peacefully praying in Quebec City mosque, when the traumatized congregants had barely finished washing away the blood, conservative columnist Barbara Kay tweeted, “How long until my honest criticism of Islamism constitutes a speech crime in Canada?” It says a great deal about Kay’s self-regard and her priorities that she painted herself as a victim of the tragedy.

In Peterson’s case, he fancies himself a hero for refusing to do what most of us would do as a simple matter of politeness: that is, call someone what they’d like be called. By Peterson’s logic, I have the right to address him as “Dame Judi Dench” or “Chuckles the Clown.” But would that make me a fearless warrior for free speech? Or just self-aggrandizing and sort of pathetic?

But why be courteous and decent, when you can be famous and rich? Peterson’s free speech rants have helped him rack up over 80,000 Twitter followers, 8,000 Facebook likes and 3,000,000 views on YouTube. That’s a sizeable audience for who someone who claims he’s being censored. He’s also got a blog, a new book and an online self-help course. He’s even launched a Patreon account where his fans give him US$12,000 per month — a very nice top up on his $160,000 annual prof’s salary — to support his lectures on political correctness.

And that’s what’s actually at stake — profile and profit, not free expression. Until the pedophilia comments came out, Yiannopoulos’s free-speech-victim routine landed him a US$250,000 advance from Simon & Schuster for a book, which was at the top of the pre-order list on Amazon (the offer has since been withdrawn). Turns out there’s some speech his fans won’t support after all, the courage of their convictions be damned.

For Conservative leadership contenders, harping on about the dangers of Islam isn’t about a willingness to take an unpopular stand. It’s about rallying the base. Kellie Leitch may be an accomplished doctor with anywhere between 18 and 22 letters after her name, but as an MP her performance has been at best mediocre. As a leadership candidate, the only thing that’s distinguished her has been her willingness to target immigrants. And so, she’s leaning in.

As for the evidence of widespread censorship, where exactly is it? Conservative viewpoints abound on Fox News, Rebel Media, Breitbart News Network and the Sun newspaper chain. You can get your fill and then some of misogyny, racism and gay bashing on Reddit, 4chan and Twitter. The anonymous citizens who deluged Iqra Khalid with rape and death threats didn’t seem the slightest bit inhibited in their attacks.

No doubt all of us would benefit from better, smarter and more open debates, and from listening more to those we don’t agree with. But it’s hard to swallow the argument that free speech is under attack when it’s coming from the loudest voices in the room and from the protected perches of a tenured academic post, a column in a national newspaper, and the bully pulpit of a seat in the House of Commons. If those people have been silenced, why are they still shouting?

The Death of Free Speech (cough!)

Hamas: Israel's Frankenstein (an old story)

WHAT DO YOU know about Hamas?

That it’s sworn to destroy Israel? That it’s a terrorist group, proscribed both by the United States and the European Union? That it rules Gaza with an iron fist? That it’s killed hundreds of innocent Israelis with rocket, mortar, and suicide attacks?

But did you also know that Hamas — which is an Arabic acronym for “Islamic Resistance Movement” — would probably not exist today were it not for the Jewish state? That the Israelis helped turn a bunch of fringe Palestinian Islamists in the late 1970s into one of the world’s most notorious militant groups? That Hamas is blowback?

This isn’t a conspiracy theory. Listen to former Israeli officials such as Brig. Gen. Yitzhak Segev, who was the Israeli military governor in Gaza in the early 1980s. Segev later told a New York Times reporter that he had helped finance the Palestinian Islamist movement as a “counterweight” to the secularists and leftists of the Palestine Liberation Organization and the Fatah party, led by Yasser Arafat (who himself referred to Hamas as “a creature of Israel.”)

Mehdi Hasan

Wednesday, 29 November 2017

President Drumpf, you are welcome in the UK!

Because we want to pelt you with rotten eggs and mouldy tomatoes. But mainly rotten eggs, because they stink... just like you! Please come. Toodeloo! (No pun intended)

Tuesday, 21 November 2017

Dump The Guardian!

The Guardian has spent the last two years relentlessly attacking Jeremy Corbyn. Only recently has it changed its tune, perhaps worried that it has alienated too many readers. Corbyn's success has been despite the Guardian and the rest of the corporate media. The Guardian will now want readers to forget its propaganda war on Corbyn. We've compiled this list so they don't. Dump the Guardian!

Via Tony Greenstein.

Monday, 9 October 2017

A Massive Exposé From Buzzfeed on How Breitbart and Milo Yiannopoulos Pushed White Nationalism Into the Mainstream

From LGF's intro to this important work of internet investigative journalism:

Today, Buzzfeed’s Joseph Bernstein has a mammoth exposé on this vile agenda, and the dominant role played by Milo Yiannopoulos, who was made a right wing star by Steve Bannon specifically to legitimize the white supremacist underworld to which he was already deeply connected.


The Breitbart employee closest to the alt-right was Milo Yiannopoulos, the site’s former tech editor known best for his outrageous public provocations, such as last year’s Dangerous Faggot speaking tour and September’s canceled Free Speech Week in Berkeley. For more than a year, Yiannopoulos led the site in a coy dance around the movement’s nastier edges, writing stories that minimized the role of neo-Nazis and white nationalists while giving its politer voices “a fair hearing.” In March, Breitbart editor Alex Marlow insisted “we’re not a hate site.” Breitbart’s media relations staff repeatedly threatened to sue outlets that described Yiannopoulos as racist. And after the violent white supremacist protest in Charlottesville, Virginia, in August, Breitbart published an article explaining that when Bannon said the site welcomed the alt-right, he was merely referring to “computer gamers and blue-collar voters who hated the GOP brand.”

These new emails and documents, however, clearly show that Breitbart does more than tolerate the most hate-filled, racist voices of the alt-right. It thrives on them, fueling and being fueled by some of the most toxic beliefs on the political spectrum — and clearing the way for them to enter the American mainstream.

It’s a relationship illustrated most starkly by a previously unreleased April 2016 video in which Yiannopoulos sings “America the Beautiful” in a Dallas karaoke bar as admirers, including the white nationalist Richard Spencer, raise their arms in Nazi salutes.

These documents chart the Breitbart alt-right universe. They reveal how the website — and, in particular, Yiannopoulos — links the Mercer family, the billionaires who fund Breitbart, to underpaid trolls who fill it with provocative content, and to extremists striving to create a white ethnostate.

They capture what Bannon calls his “killing machine” in action, as it dredges up the resentments of people around the world, sifts through these grievances for ideas and content, and propels them from the unsavory parts of the internet up to TrumpWorld, collecting advertisers’ checks all along the way.

Read the long, evidence packed exposé, here at the source.

Friday, 1 September 2017

How ‘Antifa’ Mirrors the ‘Alt-Right’

Chris Hedges, so much to the point, as almost always. One of the very few voices truly worth hearing in this whole cacophony of the altright/antifa/altleft blame game:

Behind the rhetoric of the “alt-right” about white nativism and protecting American traditions, history and Christian values is the lust for violence. Behind the rhetoric of antifa, the Black Bloc and the so-called “alt-left” about capitalism, racism, state repression and corporate power is the same lust for violence.

The two opposing groups, largely made up of people who have been cast aside by the cruelty of corporate capitalism, have embraced holy war. Their lives, battered by economic misery and social marginalization, have suddenly been filled with meaning. They hold themselves up as the vanguard of the oppressed. They arrogate to themselves the right to use force to silence those they define as the enemy. They sanctify anger. They are infected with the dark, adrenaline-driven urge for confrontation that arises among the disenfranchised when a democracy ceases to function. They are separated, as Sigmund Freud wrote of those who engage in fratricide, by the “narcissism of minor differences.” They mirror each other, not only ideologically but also physically—armed and dressed in black, the color of fascism and the color of death.

It was inevitable that we would reach this point. The corporate state has seized and corrupted all democratic institutions, including the two main political parties, to serve the interests of corporate power and maximize global corporate profits. There is no justice in the courts. There is no possibility for reform in the legislative bodies. The executive branch is a dysfunctional mess headed by a narcissistic kleptocrat, con artist and pathological liar. Money has replaced the vote. The consent of the governed is a joke. Our most basic constitutional rights, including the rights to privacy and due process, have been taken from us by judicial fiat. The economically marginalized, now a majority of the country, have been rendered invisible by a corporate media dominated by highly paid courtiers spewing out meaningless political and celebrity gossip and trivia as if it were news. The corporate state, unimpeded, is pillaging and looting the carcass of the country and government, along with the natural world, for the personal gain of the 1 percent. It daily locks away in cages the poor, especially poor people of color, discarding the vulnerable as human refuse.

A government that is paralyzed and unable and unwilling to address the rudimentary needs of its citizens, as I saw in the former Yugoslavia and as history has shown with the Weimar Republic and czarist Russia, eventually empowers violent extremists. Economic and social marginalization is the lifeblood of extremist groups. Without it they wither and die. Extremism, as the social critic Christopher Lasch wrote, is “a refuge from the terrors of inner life.”

Germany’s Nazi stormtroopers had their counterparts in that nation’s communist Alliance of Red Front Fighters. The far-right anti-communist death squad Alliance of Argentina had its counterpart in the guerrilla group the People’s Revolutionary Army during the “Dirty War.” The Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN) rebels during the war I covered in El Salvador had their counterparts in the right-wing death squads, whose eventual demise seriously impeded the FMLN’s ability to recruit. The Serbian nationalists, or Chetniks, in Yugoslavia had their counterparts in the Croatian nationalists, or Ustaše. The killing by one side justifies the killing by the other. And the killing is always sanctified in the name of each side’s martyrs.

The violence by antifa—short for anti-fascist or anti-fascist action—in Charlottesville, Va., saw a surge in interest and support for the movement, especially after the murder of Heather Heyer. The Black Bloc was applauded by some of the counterprotesters in Boston during an alt-right rally there Aug. 19. In Charlottesville, antifa activists filled the vacuum left by a passive police force, holding off neo-Nazi thugs who threatened Cornel West and clergy who were protesting against the white nationalist event. This was a propaganda coup for antifa, which seeks to portray its use of violence as legitimate self-defense. Protecting West and the clergy members from physical assault was admirable. But this single act no more legitimizes antifa violence than the turkeys, Christmas gifts and Fourth of July fireworks that John Gotti gave to his neighbors legitimized the violence of the Gambino crime family. Antifa, like the alt-right, is the product of a diseased society.

The white racists and neo-Nazis may be unsavory, but they too are victims. They too lost jobs and often live in poverty in deindustrialized wastelands. They too often are plagued by debt, foreclosures, bank repossessions and inability to repay student loans. They too often suffer from evictions, opioid addictions, domestic violence and despair. They too sometimes face bankruptcy because of medical bills. They too have seen social services gutted, public education degraded and privatized and the infrastructure around them decay. They too often suffer from police abuse and mass incarceration. They too are often in despair and suffer from hopelessness. And they too have the right to free speech, however repugnant their views.

Read it all, at source (and perhaps weep?)...

Friday, 9 June 2017

Only in Mordor?


South Carolina Lt. Governor Andre Bauer, who hopes to succeed fellow Republican Mark Sanford as his state's governor, drew a comparison between government help for poor people and "feeding stray animals" – who, he noted, "breed."
"My grandmother was not a highly educated woman, but she told me as a small child to quit feeding stray animals," Bauer said during a town hall meeting, as the Greenville News reported over the weekend. "You know why? Because they breed. You're facilitating the problem if you give an animal or a person ample food supply. They will reproduce, especially ones that don't think too much further than that. And so what you've got to do is you've got to curtail that type of behavior. They don't know any better."
As the Greenville News notes, more than half of the students in South Carolina participate in a program that allows them to get their lunch for free, or at a reduced cost.

Read the rest here, if you're that way inclined...