Netstorms

Conscious Creative Community

Category: Free Speech

Anti-Jazz

Attacks by people claiming to be ‘on the Left’ on Gilad Atzmon are attacks on freedom of expression. They are part of an irrationalism within the party and the so called ‘Left’ but they do not represent the Labour Party or any true Left any more than the CAA represents Jewish people. This is my response on YouTube to Atzmon’s understandable counter attack.

This is a completely unnecessary battle that is damaging for all concerned. I disagree with your view concerning JVL. While I do not like the notion of identity based political groups I understand that they may be necessary in particular circumstances. And when the Board of Deputies, JLM, CAA and LFI are powerful voices claiming to speak on behalf of the ‘Jewish community’ there is surely a need for a JVL to counter that claim. If I were Jewish and groups like JLM and CAA were claiming to speak for me I would take it personally and would wish to have my voice heard as a Jew.

You are of course entitled to your view. I have read your writings and have found nothing hateful, racist or antisemitic in them though not everyone may understand your use of irony and humour and you do not seem to make concessions to people’s sensitivities. It is not surprising that some people like Owen Jones and the leadership of Momentum jump on the Jewdas bandwagon in condemning you for being you but I have not heard of any attacks on you from either Corbyn or JVL.

It seems clear that the Labour party has been a pro-Zionist and latterly neoliberal party and that those elements are powerful within it. What we are experiencing is a kickback against Corbyn’s challenge to their power. With the excrable Tom Watson organising a ‘counter revolution’ within Labour and with a MSM almost wholly ranged against him, Corbyn’s strategy of keeping his eyes on the prize of a democratic socialist government is highly intelligent. It is right to resist and expose the empty irrationalism of those who are attacking you and freedom of expression but we should also understand the fight that Corbyn and his allies like Chris Williamson are engaged in. Very few of us could stay the course under that sort of pressure. Corbyn continues to do so and Corbyn continues to deserve our support.

Syrian Girl on Ilhan Omar

Syrian Girl is a vlogger whom I’ve followed for some years. She’s part of a network of news dissidents. Here she talks about AIPAC – The American Israel Public Affairs Committee, self described as “a bipartisan organization of U.S. citizens committed solely to strengthening, protecting and promoting the U.S.-Israel relationship. “, and about Ilhan Omar a young congresswoman

Ilhan on 10 February responded to a tweet by journalist Glenn Greenwald that reads, “GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy threatens punishment for @IlhanMN and @RashidaTlaib over their criticisms of Israel. It’s stunning how much time US political leaders spend defending a foreign nation even if it means attacking free speech rights of Americans.”She replied, “It’s all about the Benjamins baby,”

‘Benjamins’ is American slang for money but it was characterised as being an antisemitic reference, a ‘trope’ as some like to say, indicating the control of the American political system by ‘Jewish’ money. Ilhan apologised for the unintended ‘trope’ but reaffirmed her concerns about the role of lobbyists in American politics.

Listening and learning, but standing strong 💪🏽 pic.twitter.com/7TSroSf8h1— Ilhan Omar (@IlhanMN) February 11, 2019

The controversy continues.

Racism, Antisemitism and Goebellian Liars

Racism of any kind is wrong and utterly stupid. As a form of racism, antisemitism is wrong and stupid. Any notion that any ethnic group can be characterised on the basis of the behaviour some of its members is logically flawed and the notion that individual members of that group should then be judged on the basis of that logically flawed characterisation is doubly absurd.

I believe that we are socially conditioned to accept the absurdities of racism and may other absurdities and that this often distorts our ability to think in a way that is logically coherent.

Antisemitism exists to a greater or lesser degree in all populations and it will exist to some degree in the population of Labour Party members. I do not know if it exists to a greater or lesser degree than anti black, anti Muslim, anti Asian or indeed anti white sentiment but since we are talking about a group of people it would be absurd to maintain that it, and all of those other sentiments do not exist to any degree. What I will say however is that because of its socialist, humanitarian and compassionate underpinnings I would expect all of these sentiments to exist in the Labour Party membership to a far lesser degree than in the general population. My experience as a Black member of the Labour party has not disabused me of this notion.

At the same time, because the Labour Party is a party of social justice, I would expect, and hope, that there is greater willingness among party members to condemn injustice wherever they find it, at home or abroad, without fear or favour and with a greater willingness to stand shoulder to shoulder with the oppressed. It is right that the regime in Israel should be condemned for its racist behaviour and apalling treatment of the Palestinians. Israel is by no means a unique locus of evil. We should have no hesitation in condemning the behaviour of other states such as Saudi Arabia for their disgusting treatment of women, religious minorities and sexual minorities, or certain African states for wars and oppressions based on tribalism, or India for the perpetuation of caste based prejudice or the US for the slavery that still exists in its prison system. Israel is not uniquely evil but it should be called out for its unique or commonplace evils.

The Labour party has a history of being a pro Israel party, but growing awareness and dissatisfaction with Israeli oppression is leading to strong opposition towards Israeli policies and actions. Jeremy Corbyn and his supporters are seen as being at the forefront of this shift. It is hardly surprising that they should be attacked by the Israeli government and its supporters inside and outside the Labour Party. To exaggerate the issue of antisemitism and to extend its definitions to cover any criticism of Israel and its supporters is clearly a strategem that is being used with the utmost cynicism and dishonesty. I do not believe that Israel is the sole source of these attacks I believe that Corbyn is also seen as a threat to neoliberal interests and to the interests of Western imperialism and that theses interests too are supporting the wholly unsubstantiated myth of widespread antisemitism in the Labour Party.

It is right that we all recognise what it going on and that antisemitism is being used as a deliberate tool by those who wish to maintain power. We should be angry but never in our anger be unfair or irrational. We should never when charged with antisemitism respond by becoming in any way genuinely antisemitic. The struggle is not against Jewish people and there should be no presentation or expression that is or can reasonably be taken to be antisemitic. I say this because for the first time in an online forum, today, I saw a cartoon which represented a Jewish caricature figure as being behind the antisemitism slurs. This pained me because over the past few years it has becen obvious that Jewish people of all stations have been among the bravest and most active in opposing these slurs and they have been among those paying the highest price for their courage and honesty. It is essential that we do not allow the ‘Goebellian liars’ (to borrow Galloway’s apt phrase) to make us irrationally fearful or irrationally angry or push us towards the ranks of the haters. We should speak the truth without fear and without resentment. We should never be afraid to debate or to be wrong and to be corrected if we are wrong. It is liars who personalise the battle and run away from examination and fearing the light of open debate seek to close it down. It is the liars and the haters who are careless with accusations and resort to invective and force rather than reason. We are not that, we are not haters and anyone who becomes a hater excludes themselves from what we are.

Opposite Assertions


“opposite assertions cannot be true at the same time”
(Aristotle)

Is the Labour Party now the party of Witchfinders and Inquisitions? I think that the last three years make this a reasonable question.

Jon Lansman says:

“I do think we have a major problem and it always seems to me that we underestimate the scale of it.

“I think it is a widespread problem. It’s now obvious we have a much larger number of people with hardcore antisemitic opinions which, unfortunately, is polluting the atmosphere in a lot of constituency parties and, in particular, online.

“We have to deal with those people and I think it’s a responsibility of everyone in the Labour Party, from the top to the bottom, to report cases.”

REF: Sky News Article

But Jennie Fornby’s Statistics (as reported in the Morning Star) show that:

453 members (out of approximately 550,000 — so around 0.08 per cent) who had expressed views concerning Jews that were judged as requiring further investigation and disciplinary action.

Some received suspensions, others formal/written warnings about their behaviour, while just 12 were expelled.

Without even taking into consideration the fact that some of the expressions ‘requiring further investigation’ must have been found to not require disiplinary action it does not seem to me that the ‘expressed views’ of 0.08% of the membership of the party can be taken to constitute the general culture of the party or can be considered a ‘major problem’.

Perhaps Landsman is cognisant of the contradiction between his assertion that there is a ‘major problem’ and the statistics that suggest otherwise. Perhaps that is why he has ‘called on Labour to be more “proactive in going out and seeking cases” of antisemitism within the party’.

We know what Landsman does think: “I do think we have a major problem” and “I think it is a widespread problem” but we have no idea why he and Luciana Berger and Chuka Umunna and Jess Phillips and Uncle Tom Watson and all think these things. Landsman’s call for ‘Labour’ to be “proactive in going out and seeking cases” chilled me and then filled me with revulsion. Two words came to mind and I looked up the Wikipedia articles on them:

The first word is ‘Witchfinder General’.

Matthew Hopkins (c. 1620 – 12 August 1647) was an English witch-hunter whose career flourished during the English Civil War. He claimed to hold the office of Witchfinder General, although that title was never bestowed by Parliament. His witch-hunts mainly took place in East Anglia.

Hopkins’ witch-finding career began in March 1644 and lasted until his retirement in 1647. He and his associates were responsible for more people being hanged for witchcraft than in the previous 100 years, and were solely responsible for the increase in witch trials during those years. He is believed to have been responsible for the executions of 300 alleged witches between the years 1644 and 1646.

The second word is ‘Inquisition’.

The Wikipedia article notes that:

The Inquisition was a group of institutions within the government system of the Catholic Church whose aim was to combat heresy. It started in 12th-century France to combat religious dissent

But the passage I found most interesting was this:

The 1578 edition of the Directorium Inquisitorum (a standard Inquisitorial manual) spelled out the purpose of inquisitorial penalties: … quoniam punitio non refertur primo & per se in correctionem & bonum eius qui punitur, sed in bonum publicum ut alij terreantur, & a malis committendis avocentur (translation: “… for punishment does not take place primarily and per se for the correction and good of the person punished, but for the public good in order that others may become terrified and weaned away from the evils they would commit”).

Is the Labour Party now the party of Witchfinders and Inquisitions? I think that the last three years make this a reasonable question. I very much like Jeremy Corbyn and his project but I understand that that project is considered heretical and dangerous among sections of his party. I understand that they are determined to end that heresy even at the cost of gravely damaging their own party and the future of their country. Chuka Umanna talks of wanting to establish an ‘evidence based’ party as an alternative to Labour but his assertions regarding antisemitism and those of his fellow travellers have been remarkable in having no evidential basis. I very much want Labour to be the party of evidence and reason as well as compassion. The Conservatives are not, Umanna’s party is not, nor are the LibDems. But to be a party of reason and evidence Labour it must give far less weight to its grand panjandrums and doctrinal orthodoxies and much more to evidence, reason and open conversation with and between ordinary members.

A Strange Meeting

Just over two weeks ago. I was elected Secretary for the Wall End Ward of the East Ham CLP (Constituency Labour Party). Last Thursday, I attended my first CLP AGM. I was shocked by the blatant disregard for courtesy, democracy and fairness throughout the proceedings. I wrote the following on Facebook:

I’m not feeling good today, about myself or my part of the world. Last night I attended the AGM of the East Ham CLP (Constituency Labour Party). My first, as I was elected secretary of my ward just two weeks ago. We were presented with a short agenda and a list of nominees to be officers and delegates. Apparently there had been nominations from the 10 constituency wards that had been presented but were considered invalid so, with 5 exceptions, the list consisted of nominations from branches the GMB union affiliated to the CLP.

Challenges were made and questions asked, through points of order, concerning the legitimacy of the proceedings including the status of the Chair and other officers as delegates. These questions were brushed aside in a meeting that became increasingly tense as the challengers persisted. An explosive moment came when one challenger was asked by the chair if he wanted the CLP to become like than of Tower Hamlets. The challenger asked if he was being asked that question because he was Asian. He was promptly shouted at by others in the meeting and was asked to withdraw the remark. He did this but tried to continue with his objections. The Chair at the suggestion of the Mayor ruled that the meeting should move immediately to elections. There was a vote on this by show of hands where only those in favour were asked to show their hands. There was no count of hands and looking around the room it was unclear to me whether more than half the room had their hands up but the motion was passed, albeit to loud objections.

The Chair then said that only those nominees on the printed list would be standing for election and that there could be no nominations added from the floor. There were objections to this and the meeting was becoming increasing angry. The Chair went through the list and confirmed nominations unchallenged. I don’t know what happened with the four LCF (Local Campaign Forum) positions where more than one candidate was listed as the meeting was very noisy and my anger was bubbling over. It was at around this point that I walked out of the meeting shouting my objections that this was undemocratic and the people sitting and approving it should be ashamed of themselves.

When I am in the throes of ‘righteous anger’ my voice projects well so what I said will have been heard. I am mostly perceived as calm but outrageously unfair and bullying behaviour sends me up the wall and over the edge. But there is nothing righteous about anger even though my perception and position may be clear and correct. Ends do not justify means and angry old men do not look good. I cannot wholly regret my outburst but I will not repeat it as it does me no good and is bad in principle. If it becomes necessary I will withdraw rather than become enraged.

After leaving the meeting I went to a local pub with other ‘dissidents’. Even those who were much more experienced that me said that it was the worst meeting that they had been to. It was utterly clear that candidates supportive of the standing regime had been railroaded through. It is clear too that the process by which this happened is unsupportable. This should be obvious simply from the list of nominees almost entirely nominated from the (unnamed) branches of a single trade union. That list should be all that is needed to mark the whole proceedings as undemocratic, unfair and illegitimate.

I am grateful to have received very supportive comments from many people on this.

Livingstone and His Accusors

Norman Finkelstein writes an excellent defence of Ken Livingstone and Naz Shah from someone who really understands where they, and their accusers, are coming from.

“I can understand his motivation …. These certifiable creeps who went after Naz Shah got under his skin, and so he wanted to get under their skin.” ~ Finkelson’s Article

Gilad Atzmon Speaking Freely

At a time when the Labour party is, absurdly, being accused of being antisemitic and individual members such as Ken Livingstone are being hounded for objecting to hounding, it’s important to feel that we are able to speak freely; not dishonestly or unkindly but freely on any subject we wish including the subject of Israel.

This talk by Gilad Atzmon is really interesting. Atzmon is commonly condemned as being antisemitic and a ‘self hating Jew’. I think he makes clear here that he is neither of those things but he does make clear that he thinks that there is a problem with what he sees as ‘political Jewishness’ and ‘Jewish identity’ as opposed to Judaism or being a Jew. He associates Jewish identity with the concept of ‘chosenness’ and ‘political Jewishness’ with support for Israel as a Jewish state. Atzmon considers these two identifications as inherently racist and he is opposed to them. He is also opposed to the political correctness that presents this opposition to a particular racism as being in itself racist. Atzmon quips that he is not antisemitic, that he hates everyone equally. Of course this is not true, Atzmon is a deeply empathetic person but I think he may well hate all racial identification equally. At over 90 minutes this is a long watch but I found it worth the time.

The Problem is Obedience

In this video Matt Damon reads from Howard Zinn’s 1970 speech on Civil Obedience. The speech is as relevant today as it was in 1970, perhaps more so. Below is a transcript of Damon’s reading. For transcript of the full speech use this link: The Problem is Civil Obedience.

I start from the supposition that the world is topsy-turvy, that things are all wrong, that the wrong people are in jail and the wrong people are out of jail, that the wrong people are in power and the wrong people are out of power, that the wealth is distributed in this country and the world in such a way as not simply to require small reform but to require a drastic reallocation of wealth. I start from the supposition that we don’t have to say too much about this because all we have to do is think about the state of the world today and realize that things are all upside down…
 
If you don’t think, if you just listen to TV and read scholarly things, you actually begin to think that things are not so bad, or that just little things are wrong. But you have to get a little detached, and then come back and look at the world, and you are horrified. So we have to start from that supposition-that things are really topsy-turvy…
 
And our topic is topsy-turvy: civil disobedience. As soon as you say the topic is civil disobedience, you are saying our problem is civil disobedience. That is not our problem…. Our problem is civil obedience. Our problem is the numbers of people all over the world who have obeyed the dictates of the leaders of their government and have gone to war, and millions have been killed because of this obedience…
 
We recognize this for Nazi Germany. We know that the problem there was obedience, that the people obeyed Hitler. People obeyed; that was wrong. They should have challenged, and they should have resisted; and if we were only there, we would have showed them. Even in Stalin’s Russia we can understand that; people are obedient, all these herdlike people….
 
Remember those bad old days when people were exploited by feudalism? Everything was terrible in the Middle Ages-but now we have Western civilization, the rule of law. The rule of law has regularized and maximized the injustice that existed before the rule of law, that is what the rule of law has done….
 
When in all the nations of the world the rule of law is the darling of the leaders and the plague of the people, we ought to begin to recognize this. We have to transcend these national boundaries in our thinking. Nixon and Brezhnev have much more in common with one another than – we have with Nixon. J. Edgar Hoover has far more in common with the head of the Soviet secret police than he has with us. It’s the international dedication to law and order that binds the leaders of all countries in a comradely bond. That’s why we are always surprised when they get together — they smile, they shake hands, they smoke cigars, they really like one another no matter what they say…..
 
What we are trying to do, I assume, is really to get back to the principles and aims and spirit of the Declaration of Independence. This spirit is resistance to illegitimate authority and to forces that deprive people of their life and liberty and right to pursue happiness, and therefore under these conditions, it urges the right to alter or abolish their current form of government-and the stress had been on abolish. But to establish the principles of the Declaration of Independence, we are going to need to go outside the law, to stop obeying the laws that demand killing or that allocate wealth the way it has been done, or that put people in jail for petty technical offenses and keep other people out of jail for enormous crimes. My hope is that this kind of spirit will take place not just in this country but in other countries because they all need it. People in all countries need the spirit of disobedience to the state, which is not a metaphysical thing but a thing of force and wealth. And we need a kind of declaration of interdependence among people in all countries of the world who are striving for the same thing.

Our problem lies not only in our obedience to government it lies in our obedience to what we see as authority and consensus and our cultural and social conditioning. It is accepting the premise that we are ‘small’ and inadequate and have no business questioning the system and ‘our betters’ who run it. We do not know enough about medicine to challenge what the doctors and the pharmaceutical industry say, we do not know enough about education to challenge the education system, about economics to question the economic system or about international affairs to challenge the government’s foreign policy. The major news and information providers are owned by the rich few and speak in support of a status quo that maintains their position. Our conceptual universe pushes us to obedience so that even our resistance and supposed disobedience is within a certain framework of thought. In order to break free from the framework or matrix of thought we have to be able to look at it, understand it and then start thinking outside of that framework.

Thoughts About the French Attacks and Beyond

charlie-hebdo-mohammed-cartoon-france

The Attacks

For the mainstream media 2015 started with the attack, in Paris, on satirical magazine ‘Charlie Hebdo‘ on Wednesday 7th January. This video shows two attackers leaving the Charlie Hebdo offices after murdering 12 journalists and being confronted by a police car:

The attackers were revealed to be Said and Cherif Kouachi after Said left his identity card in the getaway vehicle:

On Friday 9th January there was another terrorist attack, this time on a Paris kosher grocery store by a lone gunman identified as Amedy Coulibaly:

A second hostage situation was underway in France on Friday as a gunman linked to the killing of a policewoman a day earlier took five hostages at a grocery in eastern Paris.

Shooting was heard and one person reported wounded at the kosher grocery in the eastern suburb of Porte de Vincennes early on Friday afternoon.

As armed police rushed to the scene, a separate hostage situation involving the Charlie Hebdo magazine attack suspects Cherif and Said Kouachi was still ongoing near to Charles de Gaulle airport, around 30 miles northeast of Paris.

The Vincennes hostage taker, reported to be Amedy Coulibaly, was carrying two Kalashnikovs. Women and children were reportedly among the hostages.

Le Monde newspaper reported that the shooter was thought to be the same man who killed policewoman Clarissa Jean-Philippe in the Montrouge area of southern Paris on Thursday morning.

Source: The Telegraph.

Coulibaly held several people hostage in the grocery surrounded by police while at the same time in an industrial estate outside Paris the Kouachi brothers were reported to be holding a worker hostage at a print supplies firm. Both sieges came to an end with police storming the locations and killing the three gunmen:

The police are currently looking for Coulibaly’s partner, a young woman called Hayat Boumeddiene, who may be implicated in the killing of the policewoman on Thursday. She is reported to have fled to Syria.

And Beyond

Beyond the facts about what happened the attack on Charlie Hebdo has been seen as an attack by Islamic fundamentalism against the principle of free speech with many across the world asserting ‘Je suis Charlie’. Some however have urged caution against seeing this as evidence a ‘clash of civilisations’ There is no ‘clash of civilisations’, rather, as this cartoon suggests, civilisation is endangered by the kind of clash that some politicians (Netanyahu most obviously) seem to want:

clash_of_civilizations-755716

There are six million Muslims in France; this outrage was committed by a handful of terrorists. Also there exists no absolute right to free speech in France or elsewhere as this 2006 article about a rap artist prosecuted for lyrics ‘offending public decency’ proves:

Monsieur R is facing three years in prison or a €75,000 (£51,000) fine after an MP from the ruling UMP party launched legal action against him over his current album ‘Politikment Incorrekt’, reports The Guardian.

In the video for the song ‘FranSSe’, Monsieur R, whose real name is Richard Makela, appears dressed as a gendarme with two naked women rubbing against the French flag as he rapped: “France is a bitch, don’t forget to fuck her till she’s exhausted/You have to treat her like a slut, man.” At another point in the song, he sang: “I piss on Napoleon and on General de Gaulle.”

MP Daniel Mach proposed a law making it a criminal offence to insult the dignity of France and the French state upon hearing the album. He has since taken action against Makela, 30, for making and disseminating “violent and pornographic messages” to which minors could get access.
Read more at http://www.nme.com/news/Monsieur-R/23193#1ezskwHyhbZsRyGH.99

Source: NME

Over the past few days I have made a number of comments on Facebook about the incidents and the response to them. The embed feature allows me to reproduce those posts here.

I commented on the question of freedom of speech in a Facebook post on Saturday:

 

I also responded to Cynthia McKinney’s ‘Je suis Donbass’ post saying: “Donbass is on the front line resisting the Nazis, the Syrian people are resisting the Takfiris, aware Americans are resisting corporatism and the police state, news trickles out about the massacre of thousands of Nigerians by Boko Haram, their local Takfiris, the Palestinians face repeated genocidal campaigns perpetrated by their Israeli oppressors and Netanyahu joins the leaders of Europe in subverting the people’s will to Unity to justify their goals of increasing control. Excuse my French (really) but … je ne suis pas Charlie, je suis Donbass, je suis Syria, je suis Ferguson, je suis Nigeria, je suis Palestine, nous sommes les misérables du monde.”:

 

I was pleased that got a response from Cynthia, whose work I greatly admire. I was pleased too that Cynthia recognised the importance of Donbass and also likes the Saker blog which has some very pertinent comments on the French situation:

 

Maybe there are now enough people across the world who are ceasing to be brainwashed by the spectacle, and are unplugging from the Matrix (which some see as its metaphorical representation).

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