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There's a new dating service for those who find Guardian Soulmates too right-wing: OKComrade aims to pair up Communists, anarchists, socialists, syndicalists, People's Front of Judaea and others on the radical left seeking a partner to share the struggle with:
It's high time for lefties to have a dating site of our own. Christians, Muslims, Jews, and atheists have long had their own matchmaking sites, but those searching for a politically suited partner have had less luck. Mainstream dating sites take ideology into account, but taboos against talking politics mean that major differences can be hidden for months or even years.Given the history of vehement internecine conflict on the radical left (didn't the Stalinists and Trotskyists in the Spanish Civil War expend more energy on killing each other than on fighting the Fascists?), it'll be interesting how stable the relationships OKComrade produces are compared to more bourgeois, liberal-reformist dating sites.
The Cold War isn't over everywhere: An article in Foreign Policy accuses the authors of travel guides of fashionable leftist sympathies, falling over themselves to praise anti-US dictators like Castro, Chavez and Ahmadinejad and enthusing about how gloriously free (of Coca-Cola and McDonalds, that is) Pyongyang is whilst trotting out the same old obesity/religion/guns/geographical ignorance stereotypes whenever America is mentioned.
There's a formula to them: a pro forma acknowledgment of a lack of democracy and freedom followed by exercises in moral equivalence, various contorted attempts to contextualize authoritarianism or atrocities, and scorching attacks on the U.S. foreign policy that precipitated these defensive and desperate actions. Throughout, there is the consistent refrain that economic backwardness should be viewed as cultural authenticity, not to mention an admirable rejection of globalization and American hegemony. The hotel recommendations might be useful, but the guidebooks are clotted with historical revisionism, factual errors, and a toxic combination of Orientalism and pathological self-loathing.
THERE IS AN almost Orientalist presumption that the citizens of places like Cuba or Afghanistan have made a choice in rejecting globalization and consumerism. From the perspective of the disaffected Westerner, poverty is seen as enviable, a pure existence unsullied by capitalism. Sainsbury refers to Cuban food as "organic" and praises the Castro brothers' "intellectual foresight [that] has prompted such eco-friendly practices as nutrient recycling, soil and water management and land-use planning." Meager food rations and the 1950s cars that plod through Havana's streets, however, don't represent authenticity or some tropical version of the Western mania for "artisanal" products, but, rather, failed economic policy. It's as much of a lifestyle choice as female circumcision is in Sudan.It may well be that the authors of the guidebooks are a cabal of Cultural Marxists, and that the Communists who (according to Margaret Thatcher) run the BBC, and thus Lonely Planet, are pushing the doctrinaire anti-US line. (I don't doubt that, among travel writers, there are some who subscribe to a romanticised, orientalist leftism, to the point of making apologies for the other side; I once read a somewhat myopic travelogue set in the two halves of Berlin in the 1980s, by an English author who delighted in contrasting the refreshing joy of the East (and dismissing as embittered hacks the dissidents who lost their jobs for criticising it) with the abject, junky-squat nihilism of the West.) On the other hand, a more economical explanation is in the nature of guidebooks and their function.
Guidebooks, by definition, are intended to be taken to the countries they describe as guides. If those countries lean towards totalitarianism, books which criticise their regimes, or reflect too strongly the point of view of the hostile state in which they were published, might not make it in through the border, or may cause trouble for the hapless tourist who buys them. As such, it makes sense that guidebooks to authoritarian states have, by definition, to be somewhat fawning, at the very least refraining from any criticism more than strictly necessary to be credible to a Western tourist and to leaven that with some praise of the President-for-life, explanations for why his secret police are not at all menacing and aspersions on the sorts who would criticise his beneficent rule. (I would venture that this wouldn't apply merely to fashionably anti-American states with iconically stylish martyred leaders: I'm guessing a tourist guidebook to Pinochet's Chile (which was, after all, a US-backed libertarian/authoritarian dictatorship) wouldn't have gone on about the death squads, human rights abuses and the optimism of the Allende years. Similarly, were the US to somehow roll back the First Amendment and criminalise hostile speech, I suspect that even the hippies in the Lonely Planet boardroom and the Communists in the BBC who control the purse strings would, from within their haze of funny-smelling cigarette smoke, decide to drop all superfluous references to guns, televangelists and junk food and stick to praising the beauty of the Grand Canyon and the prodigious variety of taco trucks.
As the world celebrated Talk Like A Pirate Day (with the true hardcore eschewing the "yarrr"s and brushing up on their Somali), the good burghers of Berlin have done one better; there, the Pirate Party has won some 14 or 15 seats in the city-state's 149-seat parliament; about half as many as the Greens and slightly fewer than the neo-Communist Left Party.
Indeed, the support for the party -- founded in 2006 on a civil liberties platform that focused on Internet freedoms -- was sensational. Not only will the Pirate Party enter a regional government for the first time, but its results far surpassed the five percent hurdle needed for parliamentary representation. The success was so unexpected that the party had only put 15 candidates on its list of nominations. Had their support been just a little higher, some of their seats would have remained empty because post-election nominations of candidates isn't allowed.Many of the seats came at the expense of the neoliberal Free Democrats, who were wiped out in Berlin. The Pirate Party (which started campaigning on a copyright-reform and online privacy platform, and expanded this to include the decriminalisation of drugs, the abolition of Germany's church tax system and a basic living wage for all), in fact, seems to be taking over the mantle of forward-looking progressive party from the Greens, who were once considered dangerous radicals (in the Reagan-era action film Red Dawn, the Greens winning West German elections was the catalyst that led to a Soviet invasion of the USA) but now have become all but part of the establishment.
The Pirates also have something other parties have long since lost -- credibility, authenticity and freshness. The erstwhile alternative Greens, whose share of the vote in the Berlin election fell well behind their expectations, were also once the young party with funny mottos and unconventional campaign methods. When they entered the Berlin parliament in 1981, other parties were skeptical. At the time, the now imploding Free Democrats described the Greens as "domestic policy anarchists and foreign policy gamblers", while lead CDU candidate Richard von Weizsäcker, who would later be appointed German President, said they were "impossible to describe."It used to be that the concept of "Green" (i.e., ecological consciousness and sustainability) was the hook to hang progressive ideals from; now, it seems, that the idea of the Pirate (as defined in opposition to the propaganda of Big Copyright, the steady privatisation of the public sphere and an encroaching authoritarian surveillance state) may be replacing the idea of Greenness as the banner that draws in progressives.
Twitter has denied rumours that it suppressed traffic promoting student demonstrations in the UK at the request of the police. The allegations claim that the #demo2010 hashtag had been suppressed from trending topics, and that the Twitter account "UCLOccupation", used by protest coordinators, had been disabled during the protests; Twitter claims that there was no censorship of trending hashtags and no disabling of accounts.
It's not clear why the organisers were unable to use the UCLOccupation account during the protest; perhaps it coincided with part of Twitter's network being down. The other alternative is that the internet surveillance powers Britain's authorities have allow them to use deep-packet inspection to selectively suppress the traffic of troublemakers as to maintain order, and that the surveillance boxes installed on all internet trunks have facilities to take out Twitter posts in this fashion. That wouldn't explain the non-appearance of the #demo2010 hashtag, though, unless the government's black boxes were designed to suppress posts for everyone but the original poster.
Charlie Stross posted to his blog the synopsis of an alternate history novel he almost started writing in 2002, set in an interesting timeline:
The year is 1950 -- but it's not our 1950. Things began to go off the rails, history-wise, in 1917-1918. Lawrence of Arabia was shot dead at the gates of Damascus, for example: the whole face of the middle east is utterly different. Trotsky had flu in October 1917 — the Bolshevik revolution happened in early 1918, and Stalin got himself killed in the process. Because of the late Russian collapse, World War One ended differently in this universe: the Kaisershlacht started in June (not April), the German high command collapsed in January 1919, and Germany was actually occupied by Allied forces (including the first large-scale deployment of what would later be called Blitzkrieg warfare — this was actually planned, but never used because of the German capitulation in November 1918). Germany was invaded, subjugated — no support for the "stab in the back" theory that Hitler used so effectively.In this world, Hitler never becomes dictator, and nor does Mussolini; fascism, however, is invented in Britain (with an Eric Blair becoming dictator of the Empire), and a standoff in Europe between the fascist republic of Britain and the Soviet Communists, with an isolationist America gradually taking an interest in the state of affairs, sending over two agents to investigate a curious trade of computers for heroin, and various real-world historical figures' alternate selves making appearances:
(This is all rooted in a vision I had, of William S. Burroughs as a CIA agent, and Philip K. Dick as his young henchman, going head-to-head with notorious gangster and pervert Adolf Hitler somewhere in Hamburg to find out where Hitler is shipping all the computers he can get his hands on.)It's a pity that this book will never get written. But one can console oneself with the outline posted in Charlie's blog:
And linked from the comments (on a tangent from Charlie's dislike of traditional high fantasy and its somewhat reactionary politics): Howard Zinn and Noam Chomsky's (unused) audio commentary for Peter Jackson's Return of the King film, which exposes the colonialist-imperialist nature of the Elves and their lackeys:
ZINN: Self-hating, Elf-emulating Men invest so much in symbolic one-upmanship characteristic of capitalistic societies: Who has the nicer tunic? Whose dagger has more shiny gems on it? Who has the strongest pipe-weed? But the Orcish alliance seems to be a truly mutual, multicultural cooperative enterprise.
ZINN: You see the walls of Minas Tirith up close here. Albert Speer would have been proud. Notice the grand scale, the "great works" emphasis of Gondorian architecture. The fascist uniformity of their battle dress. Compare it to the folk artwork of Orcish armor—their improvisatory use of shrunken heads and Mannish skulls, for instance. There's something very beautiful about it to me.
CHOMSKY: A perfect example of what Ruskin valorizes as the Gothic aesthetic.
ZINN: It's nonstandardized, individual, homespun, bespoke. It's also imbued with a kind of nature worship that Elves merely play at.
In Paris, fare evaders on the Métro have organised into outlaw insurance societies. The mutuelles des fraudeurs take a monthly fee of somewhere around 7 euros, and in turn offer to pay the fraudsters' fines, should they get caught. They also compile databases of fare-evading tips and encourage those who would otherwise be too timid.
Back in 2001 or so, he and a group of fellow travelers, in both the literal and metaphorical senses, formed the Network for the Abolition of Paid Transport, "the beginning of our struggle," Gildas calls it. The group's initials in French mimic those of the agency that runs the Metro and buses, and to the agency's logo, which looks like the outline of a face, abolitionists added a raised fist.The mutuelles claim justification, oddly enough, from left-wing ideology. Defrauding the Métro of ticket revenue is not an act of individual greed, you see, but a collective blow against capitalism. It's true that the Paris Métro may not be run for profit as public transport systems in the Anglosphere tend to be, but such trivialities are of no matter when issues of sweeping ideology are at stake. The Métro, they contend, should be free to ride, with the €8bn or so it costs to run each year being paid for by expropriating the rich. (What they'll do when the rich have all been expropriated, or have fled to Russia or Dubai or a floating Galtian utopia on the high seas, they do not explain; nor do they explain how they'll prevent a free, ungated public transport system turning into an expensive homeless shelter, driving away those passengers who have a choice of where to go.) No, they're striking a blow against the fascist regime that is the RATP, and helping to bring forward the advent of the Another World that Is Possible. And, quite probably, breaking the law; insurance against penalties for unlawful acts is generally frowned upon.
(It occurred to me that, were something like the mutuelles des fraudeurs to arise in the English-speaking world, it'd be couched in the language of free-market libertarianism rather than macaronic pseudo-socialism. Rather than attempting to sell a nebulous collective solidarity, it'd speak out to the individual in the language of self-improvement and competition, imploring them to be a winner and not a loser (like the chumps who pay full fare), and would defend itself as the invisible hand of the free market providing a service and/or striking a blow against socialism.)
The Times has re-stoked Thatcher-era allegations about "Communists in the BBC", with claims that left-wing scriptwriters wrote anti-Thatcherite propaganda into Doctor Who episodes during the 1980s. (Of course, being a Murdoch paper, they say that like it's a terrible thing...)
“We were a group of politically motivated people and it seemed the right thing to do. At the time Doctor Who used satire to put political messages out there in the way they used to do in places like Czechoslovakia. Our feeling was that Margaret Thatcher was far more terrifying than any monster the Doctor had encountered. Those who wanted to see the messages saw them; others, including one producer, didn’t.”
Under Cartmel’s direction, Thatcher was caricatured as Helen A, the wide-eyed tyrannical ruler of a human colony on the planet Terra Alpha. The extra-terrestrial character, played by Sheila Hancock, outlawed unhappiness and remarked “I like your initiative, your enterprise” as her secret police rounded up dissidents.The leftist scriptwriters also included, in another episode, a speech against nuclear weapons heavily influenced by material from those known comsymps, the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament. Unfortunately for them, Doctor Who failed to bring down Thatcher, the show being canned before she was ousted in 1990.
The International Herald Tribune has an interesting summary of the impact of 1968's upheaval on France, its society and politics:
May 1968 was a watershed in French life, a holy moment of liberation for many, when youth coalesced, the workers listened and the semi-royal French government of President Charles de Gaulle took fright. But for others, like the current president, Nicolas Sarkozy, only 13 years old at the time, May '68 represents anarchy and moral relativism, a destruction of social and patriotic values that, he has said in harsh terms, "must be liquidated."
French society in May 1968 "was completely blocked," Geismar said. A conservative recreation of pre-World War II society, it had been shaken by the Algerian war and the baby boom, its schools badly overcrowded.
"As a divorced man, Sarkozy couldn't have been invited to dinner at the Élysée Palace, let alone be elected president of France," Geismar said. Both the vivid personal life and political success of Sarkozy, who has foreign and Jewish roots, "are unimaginable without 1968," he said. "The neo-conservatives are unimaginable without '68."
André Glucksmann (former Maoist student), who still supports Sarkozy as the best chance to modernize "the gilded museum of France" and reduce the power of "the sacralized state," is amused by Sarkozy's fierce campaign attack on May 1968. "Sarkozy is the first post-'68 president," Glucksmann said. "To liquidate '68 is to liquidate himself."
John Birmingham puts forward the case that the political right pretty much has a monopoly on humour, with the left having become too puritanical and politically correct to laugh, with the voices that dare to be outrageous being predominantly right-wing, from shock-jocks and reactionary bloggers to institutions like VICE Magazine (infamously offending the uptight by pejoratively calling things "gay") and the creators of South Park and Team America (who skewered Hollywood liberals and left-wing sanctimony alike).
Of course, this relies on a rather broad definition of "right-wing", as anything that goes against a doctrinaire liberal/progressive view of propriety and "political correctness". By this token, one would classify Coco Rosie as a right-wing band, placing them in the same ideological milieu as Pat Robertson and Little Green Footballs, because one of their number attended "Kill Whitey" parties. And while VICE's Gavin McInnes claimed in American Conservative to represent a hip new conservatism (a view he later retracted, claiming he was joking/being ironic), the cocaine-snorting, nihilistic libertinism epitomised in the magazine, as much as it may offend "liberals" (or straw-man caricatures thereof), hardly fits well with the canon of conservatism and its emphasis on values, tradition and authority. However, it does fit in with the recently noted shift towards Hobbesian nihilism and radical individualism.
On a tangent: some American conservatives are concerned about FOXNews' alarming slide to the radical left; the channel, once the shining beacon of all things Right-thinking, has been compromising its Fair And Balanced™ reputation by running programmes on topics such as global warming. Pundits blame the influx of liberally-inclined ex-CNN reporters, the staffers having spent too long in Godless New York, away from the Biblical certainties of the Red States, or Murdoch not really being "One Of Us", but rather a cynical opportunist.
And finally, a study on the neurology of political belief has showed that True Believers of both stripes are adept at ignoring facts which don't jive with their beliefs, and experience a rush in the reward centres of the brain when they do:
"We did not see any increased activation of the parts of the brain normally engaged during reasoning," said Drew Westen, director of clinical psychology at Emory University. "What we saw instead was a network of emotion circuits lighting up, including circuits hypothesized to be involved in regulating emotion, and circuits known to be involved in resolving conflicts."
The test subjects on both sides of the political aisle reached totally biased conclusions by ignoring information that could not rationally be discounted, Westen and his colleagues say. Then, with their minds made up, brain activity ceased in the areas that deal with negative emotions such as disgust. But activity spiked in the circuits involved in reward, a response similar to what addicts experience when they get a fix, Westen explained.
The latest salvo has been fired in the Australian culture war: Treasurer and cultural conservative Peter Costello has denounced the influence of left-wing schoolteachers in creating a "dangerous" anti-American bias which could leave Australia vulnerable to terrorism.
Perhaps it's time for purges of known or suspected leftists from teaching positions and an ABC-style culture of self-censorship in the schools? They could have anonymous phone lines where students can dob in teachers making left-wing statements. Alternatively, the government could set up a quota system to stack the schools with Assembly Of God/Hillsong fundamentalist types; that would have the additional benefit of making it easier for Brendan Nelson to introduce his proposed Intelligent
Falling Design programmes into science classes.
In other news, Pope
Sidious I Benedict XVI has singled out Australia as a "faithless" country, claiming that mainstream Christianity is dying out there more quickly than anywhere else. I shudder to think how many millions of Australian taxpayers' funds will be redirected to faith-based programmes or even tax incentive schemes to remedy this (and help build up a reliable US-style religious power base for the Tories).
I'm not a huge fan of the This Modern World comic. Perhaps it comes from not living in the U.S., and thus being able to tune out the domestic issues it often covers, or perhaps it's that, more often than not, it tends to smugly preach to the choir and its message can be boiled down to something like "Republicans/neocons/right-wingers are insane, evil doodyheads and they smell, so there". However, the most recent one is a rather keen satire of recent Creationist tactics.
You find the oddest things on LiveJournal, such as a blog reporting on the doings of the British militant left. Nowadays they've got their hands full with "Gorgeous George" Galloway's Islamo-Stalinist Coalition (also known as the Respect Party) and their many attempts to shoehorn militant Islamic fundamentalism into the image of a Marxist liberation movement whilst jettisoning liabilities such as commitments to womens' rights, gay rights and secularism.
Not One Damn Dime Day, a proposed boycott of all consumer spending, was perhaps one of the most poorly thought out and piss-weak ideas for an alleged political protest ever; and Mark Dery tears it a new one, in style:
First, the whole business reeks of bobo sanctimony and cultural elitism. Any member of the Adbusters-reading, Supersize Me-watching leisure class who honestly believes she can Stick It to the Man by keeping her dimes firmly in her hand-knitted Guatemalan rucksack, right beside her manically underlined copy of Chomsky's Hegemony or Survival: America's Quest for Global Dominance, is unlikely to be seen rolling a 55-gallon drum of Miracle Whip out of Wal-Mart or rejoicing in fried offal at the local McDonald's. The NOMDD demographic consists largely, if not entirely, of inconspicuous consumers. It is axiomatic, at this late date, that the higher a certain sort of overeducated, deeply principled American climbs on the socioeconomic ladder, the more likely he is to camouflage his status and laminate his common-man credentials with the appearance (at least) of a virtuous proletarianism. This, after all, is America, where none of the children are above average. Our deep-dyed populism demands that all poll respondents, whether homeless or richer than God or Gates, insist they are "middle class."
Not One Damn Dime Day, and its cousins like Buy Nothing Day, are, according to Dery, symptomatic of a deeper malaise in the American left: a popular association of progressive ideals with asceticism, self-denial and a guilty, puritanical joylessness.
Ensuring that you're synonymous, in the public mind, with hair shirt-wearing self-denial and granitic humorlessness (think Kerry, Gore, Dukakis...) is not likely to win the hearts and minds of Middle Americans, most of whom shrink from things like the NOMDD Day because they sound like the political equivalent of the gray, gluten-free, sugar-free, fun-free snack foods drearily gummed by vegans and other humorectomy sufferers. A mass boycott that mandates total self-denial and, by default, sentences the participant to house arrest in order to avoid spending a plugged nickel, let alone a thin dime, is a mass boycott doomed to failure.
Too long have the censorious, humor-impaired wings of the left--the Dworkinite penis-is-a-weapon paleoconservative wing of feminism; the beige, Organization Man policy wonks; the excruciatingly earnest shoot-your-TV neo-Luddites--been the left's public face. We need an Xtreme Makeover. More profoundly, we need to stop embracing the politics of denial and withdrawal. Show me a sharp-tongued left-wing critique, built on notions of social justice and economic democracy that resonate with the common man yet, at the same time, embraces the Coneyesque cheap thrills and vulgarian pleasures of junk culture, and I'll show you a battleplan for handing the right's self-appointed morals czars their heads.
(I'm wondering: could this be a legacy of America's Puritan heritage? Could the fact that the American colonies were founded by zealous, gratification-denying idealists have formed not only the religious streak in the American right but the crusading tendencies and anti-materialism of American progressive movements throughout history?)
In France, Islam is the new Marxism; the disaffected, who once turned to Communism as an ideology of resistance are now embracing Islam. Most of them are immigrants from a Muslim background, but some are converts rejecting traditional European culture. (via FmH)
Like communism, it represents for many of its devoted adherents a transnational ideology tilting toward an eventual utopian vision, in this case of a vast, if not global, caliphate governed according to sharia, the legal code based on the Koran.
A utopian ideal based on the 9th-century Arab Empire (whose day-to-day code of laws shari'a was), and being essentially an enlightened feudal kingdom? I'm skeptical as to how broad its appeal could be in this age. Then again, "dictatorship of the proletariat" didn't exactly sound like a winning proposition either.
Anyway, according to the article, most political Islamists in France are not isolationist radicals, but seek to engage within the existing system, which suggests that political Islam may assimilate into mainstream French politics much as Communism did.
Phil Doré was a member of the Stop the War Coalition, the group which organised huge anti-war protests in the UK; then he left the group and now runs a website on what's wrong with it. In short, the coalition is run almost entirely by hard-line totalitarian leftists like unreconstructed Stalinist George Galloway. Their ideology seems to be that anything goes as long as it's against Western capitalist liberalism; thus they give uncritical support to anti-Western totalitarian dictators like Saddam Hussein, ally themselves with Islamic fundamentalist groups (something any moderate socialist, let alone liberal progressive, would find alarming), and pulled a bait-and-switch on the thousands of moderate Guardian-reader types who came to their rallies, promising opposition to a war but handing them banners praising anti-Israeli suicide bombers. Doré's site (and the abbreviated Butterflies and Wheels article distilled from it) talks about Britain's StWC, but from what I heard, the US and Australian organising groups like ANSWER are similarly riddled with reprehensible ideologues.
This conjunction of the SWP and the MAB led to the STWC drawing a clear link between war in Iraq with Israel/Palestine. At protests such as those on February 15 th 2003, middle-of-the-road liberals who had turned up to voice their disquiet at a reckless military adventure in Iraq were bemused to find themselves being handed placards that said not just Don't Attack Iraq or Not in My Name but also Freedom for Palestine. The MAB in particular seemed to be giving out almost as many Freedom for Palestine as Don't Attack Iraq placards. The Socialist Alliance went further, subtitling their Freedom for Palestine placards with the words Victory to the Intifada, at a stroke turning middle-class Guardian readers into standard-bearers for suicide bombers.
A look at the list of names on the Stop the War Coalitions steering committee gives an idea of the scale of the takeover. The chair is a man who thinks that people shouldnt whinge about Stalin's careless slaughter of 20 million people (Andrew Murray). The convenor is a member of the Socialist Workers Party, an organisation that advocates the overthrow of democracy and its replacement with a dictatorship of the proletariat (Lindsey German). Of the Vice-Presidents, one is a man who thinks that the indiscriminate murder of Iraqi civilians can be likened to the French resistance in World War Two (Tariq Ali). Another spent the 1990s condemning Saddam's regime when he was in London and sucking up to it with a nauseating sycophancy when in Baghdad (George Galloway MP).
As another bomb goes off, slaughtering a few more Iraqi policemen or another crowd of Shia pilgrims, theres something very distressing about people like Tariq Ali and John Pilger actually welcoming this. When such figures suggest that these brutal and indiscriminate killings may lead to democracy and social justice, as Tariq Ali has (1), then one is left wondering whether to laugh or cry. You might as well hope that the BNP will take over the Equal Opportunities Commission and set about improving race relations.
Anyway, the site has a wealth of insightful and balanced criticism of the radical left's arguments, from their Intifada-good-Israel-bad take on the Palestinian issue to their support for the Iraqi "people's uprising" (which, surprisingly, isn't as popular with the Iraqi people as one would think after reading the Green Left Weekly). He signs off with a 7-step programme to rehabilitating the protest movement and saving it from the clutches of the paleo-Marxist ideo-zombies.
1. Communism is obsolete. Get over it.
2. Follow universal values. Instead of cheap partisanship and outdated revolutionary ideals, one should follow humanistic principles based on democracy, tolerance, respect for human rights and concern for ones fellow human beings. The key is the principle of democracy. Be wary of anything that smacks of condoning violence. Theres nothing more dangerous than an idealist with a gun.
3. Apply the same rules to everyone. This is important, because its necessary to be consistent in the application of ones values. Opposing the brutalities of the Israeli occupation of the Occupied Territories does not mean ignoring the indiscriminate slaughter of the Palestinian suicide bombers. Likewise, its perfectly possible to condemn racism against Muslims while also criticising the narrow-minded religious bigots of the Muslim Association of Britain and condemning the theocratic fascism of al Qaeda, the Taliban and the Iranian ayatollahs.
(One could add a meta-rule to this: beware of people who think in binary dualisms; that you must either be a Trotskyist or a neo-con, that you're either a hardline likudnik or you're cheering on the suicide bombers, that you're either with the gang of thugs torturing prisoners in Abu Ghraib or the gang of thugs blowing up civilians in the Fedayeen "resistance"; that you're either With Us or Against Us.)
(via Peter, who has his head screwed on the right way.)
Leftist anti-racist groups are calling for a boycott of the Melbourne Underground Film Festival, citing organiser Richard Wolstencroft's statements professing admiration for various dictators, including Hitler and Mussolini (though also Nu Marxist idols Mao Zedong and Fidel Castro). Already, anarchist punk band CRASS have withdrawn permission for their films to screen (assuming that they gave it in the first place, which given Wolstencroft's maverick style of doing business, may not necessarily be the case). (via Rocknerd)
Speaking to The Bulletin, Wolstencroft said: I have controversial ideas about things, and I dont hide them. And sometimes I say stupid things. But I am not a racist, and Im not interested in nationalism. What he is interested in is something he calls transcendental fascism, which he stresses is non-racist and non-violent. Is it hierarchical? It is certainly not hierarchical based on anything like race, he says.
Co-founder of Loonar Watch, Shane Lyons, admits there is no proof that Wolstencroft is racist or anti-Semitic. My problem with [Wolstencroft] is that hes taking money in the form of entry fees to the festival, mostly from young film-makers, he says.
All this reminds me of the story recounted in Jon Ronson's THEM where some Canadian radical socialist types tried to cream-pie David Icke on the grounds that they could not imagine "giant lizards" could not be anything but a sneaky codeword for "Jews" (of course...) It's another example of what author Curtis White calls the Middle Mind in action; people who have gotten so used to going with the flow, delegating the thinking to the herd at large (on the subconscious assumption that someone smarter than oneself must have done it) that they have lost the ability to think for themselves, instead replacing thought with a keyword-matching mechanism for seeking out hot buttons to react against. Incidentally, it's not just the left who are guilty of this by any stretch; look at all the "patriots" in the USA who dutifully threw their Dixie Chicks CDs on bonfires because the man on Clear Channel told them to.
Right-wing radio commentator Rush Limbaugh denounces anti-war demonstrators as "Communists" and "anti-American"; radical leftists call for a boycott of his advertisers, demonstrating their commitment to pluralism and diversity of opinion. These are probably the same people who tout Cuba as a model democracy. (via FmH)
Rifts are emerging in the anti-war movement in the US (yes, there is one), with some activists (from moderates to anarchists) claiming that anti-war umbrella group is a Communist front. ANSWER stand accused of being a front for doctrinaire Marxist groups, supporting the governments of Iraq and North Korea, having backed Slobodan Milosevic and having defended the Chinese government's Tienanmen Square crackdown as recently as 2000.
"Basically, ANSWER is dominated by the IAC, which is largely a front for the Workers World Party, a Marxist-Leninist group that has been around since the 1950s," said Stephen Zunes, chair of the Peace and Justice Studies Program at the University of San Francisco. "They are very effective at organizing because they are hierarchical. The main problem that I have with them personally is they have been very reluctant to acknowledge the nature of Saddam Hussein's regime.
Sounds much like the S11/No Logo movement, which became little more than a brand name for the Democratic Socialist Party (the "cops of the protest movement") and Socialist Alliance, and indeed the local Indymedia site (which is apparently controlled by Resistance or someone and censors posts inconsistent with Marxist principles, or so some anarchists have claimed). Then again, who would you expect to organise mass movements: the anarchists?
"They are uncritical of anybody that the United States and NATO oppose, from Milosevic to Saddam Hussein," said David Walls, a sociology professor at Sonoma State University. "That's the weakness of their position. They won't acknowledge that there is something despicable about Saddam's regime and violations of human rights; they think it's too much of a concession to the imperialists. But it leaves them without a lot of credibility themselves."
A timely reminder that no one side has a monopoly on stupidity.
In London, radical leftists picket film criticising Cuba. Opponents say that Before Night Falls, which deals with the persecution of a gay poet in Cuba, is "playing into the hands of the CIA". Wonder whether, when it reaches Australia, the S11/M1 people will be blockading the cinemas in a "Carnival against Disinformation".
In the finest tradition of Labor true-believer yarn-spinning, an alternative history of the Australian war of independence, and the subsequent declaration of a republic: (via VM)
11 November 1975 At 1pm, after discovering his govt has been dismissed by Kerr, Whitlam stands on the steps of Parliament & refuses to go. He announces "Well may we say God save the Queen, because nothing will save the Governor-General!" Whitlam & his fellow members returns to the House & Senate.
14 December 1975 Whitlam arrives in Newcastle to a hero's welcome. He proclaims the Federal Republic of Australia. The Newcastle & Wollongong leaders announce their allegiance.
6 January 1976 Kerr & Fraser leave Perth for London. Neither ever return.
Perhaps someone should have a word with Mel Gibson about doing a movie adaptation, with a sufficiently villainous Kerr and craven Fraser?
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