The failure of dialogue and the rise of political polarisation.

Question, how long does it take for a discussion on Facebook to turn into a childish name calling competition? Minutes, seconds, instantaneously? If you are on the left of Genghis Khan you are labelled a far left, snowflake, commie bastard and if you are considered to be on the right of Leon Trotsky you are considered an alt right, fascist, Nazi pig. There are absolutely no shades of grey in this equation. The overriding mentality suggests you are either with us or against us and if you are the latter, you don’t deserve an opinion because you are a worthless piece shit. At which point ends any faint hope of an adult conversation.

This is played out everyday on social media, in parliament, college campuses and the workplace. You have to devour the entire menu from either the rabid fascists or the commie bastards, otherwise you must be a troll and therefore, should be hung in the main square at noon. Only the team you favour is entitled to free speech and not everyone is allowed a platform or even a viewpoint. Looking at the state of political discourse, this polarisation is intensifying and doing democracy (what’s left of it) no good whatsoever. Below is a protest against Warren Farrell’s appearance at the University of Toronto in 2012, the event was discussing men’s issues, such as suicide. Apparently this wasn’t acceptable to the intersectional puritans.

Most people don’t agree with everything a political party serves up, but often we choose one which aligns with our beliefs, ideals and morals the best we can. This is quickly becoming “out of fashion” as a puritanical political ideology is starting to take over throughout the west. If for example, you show reservations regarding the effectiveness of modern day capitalism in certain quarters, you are suddenly lectured about how the Soviet Union and China was a failed experiment, killing millions of people, while probably being accused of supporting gulags and mass murder. In contrast, if one displays any mild dissent for example, on college campuses towards identity politics, you are immediately branded a misogynistic, racist, knuckle-dragging Neanderthal, who probably voted Brexit and is Nigel Farage’s favourite real ale drinking buddy.

My examples hopefully sound absurd, but this absurdity is only matched by the lack of sane dialogue and nuance as witnessed in most political arenas. This ideological segregation leaps out at me, primarily because I don’t tick all the boxes of the self-ascribed modern day lefty. I am unashamedly an economic lefty, I believe economic inequality and poverty caused by runaway capitalism is primarily our biggest issue. It affects crime, social cohesion, health provision, education, the environment and foreign policy (aka constant war). Conversely, I view the identarian ‘left’ with it’s rigid all or nothing doctrine and it’s attempt to regulate societal acceptability as deeply disturbing.

Both sides of the political aisle, predictably, doggedly stick to their assigned media echo chambers. In the US, Fox News is the word of God (or indeed Rupert Murdoch), while on the left MSNBC is often the liberals choice of propaganda, ceaselessly proclaiming yet another rehashed Russian/Trump accusation. In the UK political allegiance is chiefly grounded in Newspaper outlets; the Daily Mail, the Telegraph and the Sun tend to cover the varying classes of Brexit voting, apartheid supporting, right wing, sabre rattlers. While the Independent and the Guardian cater for the permanently outraged, woke middle class, remain voting, snowflakes, who are convinced they are the most enlightened human beings ever to have walked the earth. Negligent posting of any form of media outside of your scope of bigotry is punishable by death, or at the very least an accusation of being a despicable troll, rather than an independent thinker.

Newsflash, just because you may read articles outside of your political realm at times, does not mean you are going to wake up one day the very antithesis of the person who went to bed that night. It is perfectly OK to challenge yourself with speakers and commentators you may not ordinarily agree with (in my case someone like Jordan Peterson). It is good to test what we believe, weighing up the information at hand, refining our ideas and sometimes, lo and behold changing them. This is indeed how we grow, develop or even strengthen our long held ideals. Picking a side and blindly sticking with it regardless of any changes that may have radically taken place within that group, such as Blair’s Labour years, is ludicrous.

As a society we seem to know less and less about our political opposites, yet we have ever stronger opinions about them. We often call for resignations, impeachments and no platforming, not necessarily in relation to what they stand for, but a caricature of what they represent. In the US the Democrats have spent over two years trying to build a case against Donald Trump regarding Russian interference in the 2016 elections. The allegations are baseless, but it appears easier than trying to work out why millions of working class white folk voted for him, without referring to them as racist and xenophobic.

MSNBC - Election Coverage - Season 2016
Rachel Maddow, MSNBC host and fulltime Russiagate conspiracy theorist.

The same can be said for Brexit, rather than acknowledging that millions of people particularly outside of the South East, have not benefitted from a system that has been at one with Europe for decades. It’s clearly more satisfying and simplistic to vomit ad hominem’s from a great moral height on the minions down below. Otherwise Remainer’s will have to recognise that neoliberalism either in or out of Europe will not help the working class and no amount of name calling or shaming is going to change that. Unfortunately this working class disenfranchisement has resulted in support for Semi-Gods (yes that’s what I said) such as Donald Trump and Nigel Farage. When society refuses to listen to its largely ignored, powerless members of the community, they may not protest like bourgeois, middle class know it all’s complete with face paint, but they will try to force change through the ballot box.

I would like to leave this piece with a message of hope, but I desperately fail to see one. Social media will make it increasingly easier for people to display more antagonism towards each other, typing the next line frantically before they have even read the previous reply. Papers sell more and people will watch more if we are perpetually at odds with each other. There will certainly be no solace found within these purveyors of propaganda, who stoke the daily fires of hate, purposefully spewing vitriolic hyperbole and division.

Finally political parties will do whatever is necessary to win and if it benefits society, it will be more luck than judgement. Billionaires will continue to influence big business, economic decisions, as well as national and international policy. In the other class hemisphere, the identarian left will endeavour to redefine societal norms, deciding what we can say, write and think. So as along as the two factions never meet in the middle, government will be delighted and the populous ever more divided.

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We were lefties once and proud; the identarian hijacking of the left.

As the days go by, I’m finding it increasingly difficult to declare myself as someone from the left. Although deep down I know this is where my politics and morals lie. This is a not a change of heart on my part, but a concerted effort by the mainstream media and right wing politics to redefine what being on the left actually means. I am one of those ever increasing number of people who are bewildered, confused and lost politically. The left has moved from trying to reduce socio-economic factors, towards a type of politics deeply focused on race, gender and sexuality. This can be witnessed all over the anglosphere; Australia, Canada, US, UK and New Zealand.

It is important to note that within these listed countries, radical changes to the political/economic status quo is completely off the table and has been replaced with politics of the self. This appears to enthuse millenials for the most part, who according to Dr Jean Twenge show traits of elevated narcissism. These concerns which are also studied at many universities, are largely known as “grievance studies” and sit within the realm of identity politics. Does that mean people from shall we say, the economic left are opposed to combatting issues of discrimination? Of course not. But, I and many like me would prefer all people do well, regardless of genitalia configuration or melanin levels. Currently, if we do not subscribe to identarian extremism we are lazily considered racist, sexist and anything else with ‘ist’ on the end.

Economic lefties generally suggest that most of society’s issues have their roots in embedded neoliberalism. This hypothesis can be measured, it’s objective and largely based on logic. It is this preference to objectivity over subjectivity that gives this point of view legitimacy. Using economic inequality as a major cause of concern will bind large groups of people together, with a common goal. To affirm this, many studies have been performed linking this specific problem to poorer health outcomes, decreased educational standards, an increase in crime rates and a decline of social mobility. Plus, neoliberalism with it’s dedication to eternal growth is systematically destroying the planet, as a miniscule cabal become ever richer.

BG

In contrast, rarely do you see placards held by the identarian left protesting climate change, economic inequality, absolute poverty or permanent wars around the world. In days gone by, the left was often thought of as one big umbrella, fighting for a better life, unifying as many people as possible. The bulk of its supporters were from the working class, who generally did much of the hard graft for little pay. Along with the unions it was the aim of the left to increase living standards across the board. It was irrelevant what your background was, all were welcome in the fight against the ruling elite. It was a message that was inclusive and appealed to many people, pulling people together. In contrast, identity politics seeks to prise society apart, ranking groups on perceived oppression, based on a criteria we can do very little about. This proportioning of the blame is clearly not a strategy that is going to galvanise people to foster positive societal change.

The left regularly placed extra emphasis on minority groups, mainly because they were at an increased risk of being disenfranchised. But this isn’t nearly enough in this new political dawn. As decades of people attending “grievance studies” classes have been told, they are oppressed and the white, cis, man is unreconcilably privileged. This treatment of so called oppressors bears a striking resemblance to original sin, albeit without any chance of redemption. This perceived dynamic, disregards any influences from economic status, education, actual direct acts of oppression or other periods of individual agency. On the contrary the group that you are identified with reflects all that there is to know about you. All this seems to lead towards a path of internalised hatred and a lifetime of guilt for the alleged oppressor.

There are many reasons why the left are almost universally linked with identity politics and the thousands of SJW crazies seen on YouTube. Firstly in the US where much of this occurs, there is no economic alternative plan. The politics of both parties are generally neoliberal, the only differences are chiefly tax levels and the Democratic Party embrace of identity politics, plus false narratives such as the gender pay gap. These alleged systemic issues are often based on shaky studies and poor stats, but are conveniently used to push a divisive acceptable discourse, thus serving the purpose of government.

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Nancy Pelosi leading virtue signallers anonymous

We have to consider that the people pushing for this identarian mandate are on the whole empowered, middle class ‘educated’, relatively economically comfortable women, who have reasonable connections and a developed network to have their voices heard. The poor and the homeless have none of the above and are reliant on advocates to have their voices heard. It therefore, is of no surprise who obtains more airplay and what agenda is purported as the most pressing issue. After all, over 70% of the homeless are men, but their sex alone is enough to have them labelled as privileged. This is a ludicrous state of affairs, when you consider Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, the homeless fail to have their very basic concerns met, yet overblown issues about gender pay equality and the push for more female CEO’s appears to be more important.

Marginalised segments of society such as ex-forces personal who find themselves on the streets have very little in the way of support. It’s a group that find no compassion from many, in particular identarians, who view these men as the epitome of ‘toxic masculinity’, the scourge of humanity and a source of the world’s problems. Many of these men suffer from PTSD, die prematurely or have severe psychosocial issues, but absurdly defining all 700,000 gender identities is considered more essential. The majority of this silent population come from working class backgrounds with very little opportunities, hence why they joined the military, often at a young age. Any claims of SJW’s being wholly compassionate is a sick joke, similarly to the right who only support the rich, identarians only advocate for people who are a reflection of themselves.

Ex army

For the right wing, linking identarians with the left is a stroke of genius. It rolls all of their enemies into one big bolus, making it easier to digest. Identarians, Marxists, Democratic Socialists, Libertarian Socialists and the like are lumped into one big mass and labelled ‘Cultural Marxists‘ by people such as Jordan Peterson. This is all done without any in depth of knowledge about Marx, but it allows the right to direct their vitriol in one direction, rather than having to deal with trivialities such as nuance. Countless websites, blogposts, YouTube videos have all helped to demonise anyone to the left of Mussolini. Interestingly with the left identarians penchant for narrow, puritanical rule making and their obvious opposition to free speech, I’m not sure if Benito would more likely find a soul mate within this group, rather than an adversary.

The mainstream media certainly gains from a brand of politics that is split along identity lines rather than economic issues. Just six corporations own the vast majority of media outlets in the US, while the UK and NZ witness similar monopolies. It is certain that the global corporate behemoths complete with power hungry billionaires do not want the ‘great unwashed’ to critically think about any alternative economic and political systems that may lead to their demise. It is in their interests to perpetuate an acceptable narrative, thus quelling any dissent the populous may have regarding the current system. This fragmentation of a coherent opposition to neoliberalism allows this political and economic zombie to continue down the road of self destruction.

Turning against unbridled capitalism should be our most immediate common goal. The current system is one that only benefits a minority. While those who have not gained but still support it clearly lack the imagination to realise something better for themselves. Now that identarians have accepted the moniker of the ‘left’ or even ‘far left’, provided by their foes on the right, maybe the word ‘left’ is devoid of any meaning. In contrast, our unifying ideas need to be clear and full of substance. A dramatic change in our political and economic ethos is the only way to enrich the most people, allowing them to flourish and contribute to society in a meaningful and sustainable way. What we name ourselves is largely irrelevant, but as always it’s open to discussion.

 

 

 

May I present Jeremy Corbyn: The best Prime Minister the UK will never have.

There is no doubt that there are enough dark forces conspiring together, purely with the sole purpose of ensuring Jeremy Corbyn never sets foot in number 10 Downing Street. On a seemingly daily basis mainstream media, opposition MP’s, members of his own party, the middle class ‘remain brigade’ and of course many billionaires are all queuing up for a pop at Mr Corbyn. There is no way in hell that the pompous British establishment will allow a socialist, albeit a very mild democratic one to take the reins of a nation that is a mainstay of neoliberal ideology.

Just a brief glance at Corbyn’s vision for the country prior to the last election, it is clear that these proposals are less guided by GDP and more focused on the growth for all people. This is a hugely refreshing approach, but one that generally does not sit well within the ruling elite. Nor to the many indoctrinated by Thatcher and later Blair, this is tantamount to sacrilege and worthy of a prolonged stay in the Tower of London, without an en suite bathroom.

Corbyn has dared to challenge the deeply imbedded neoliberal mafia, who stash their cash in far flung corners of the globe. Offering very little in the way of tax, but plenty in the way of advice on how the country should be managed and indeed who should do it (Richard Branson for example). Jeremy has even had the audacity to suggest that people making billions by exploiting workers from the UK (Jeff Bezos) should pay tax (how dare he).

It has been made clear that Labour under Corbyn would have a fairer tax system, while endeavouring to close loopholes for evaders and avoiders. Critics often question whether this is even possible, but I can virtually guarantee you that this is not a critique on the practical applications of such a proposal. More likely, this is an effort to put doubt in peoples minds, as they continue to protect a system that works for the 1%. Unbridled, runaway capitalism in many quarters is being held up for scrutiny and it has been found wanting.

There’s is nothing that mainstream media love more than an anti-Corbyn story. If there isn’t one around do not fear, a so called journalist will always be on hand to make one up. Going as far back as 2016, it was found that over half the news articles written about Mr Corbyn have been critical or antagonistic in tone, this compares to two thirds of editorial and opinion pieces. Meanwhile, he has been linked to Hamas, the IRA, Iran, Hezbollah and Arsenal Football Club, with no evidence at all to back up these lofty claims (maybe a little on the last one).

Over the last few years varying publications have called him a traitor for such treasonous acts as; not bowing deeply enough at a remembrance service, claims of being associated to a Czech spy and of course inciting terrorism. There is also the matter of repeated and baseless allegations that Corbyn is anti-Semitic. Ultimately the Daily Telegraph of all rags accused the Labour Party of being racist.

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Mainstream media’s campaign of lies

It is common knowledge that the Labour party is deeply divided between Corbyn’s anti-austerity driven supporters and the remnants of New Labour, who nowadays appear old, crusty and frankly bitter. This group on the centre/right of the Labour Party are desperate to regain control, which is highlighted by the constant manufactured crises, generally followed by a leadership bid. It can be argued that by incessantly sabotaging Corbyn, they clearly have much more in common with the Tories than the current Labour leadership.

Their method of choice to dislodge Corbyn has centred around numerous, tedious anti-Semitic assertions, manufactured purely to force a change at the top. Any actions or words spoken by Corbyn and his close allies are manipulated, repackaged and used against them with relative success. An example of this was Jackie Walker who is of black, Jewish heritage, being hounded out of Momentum on trumped up charges of anti-Semitism, to the delight of the Blairite faction.

The truth of the matter is, there is no evidence to suggest Labour harbours any more anti-Semitic views than any other party, or even society as a whole. The question routinely posed by ‘moderates’ on the centre/right of the party goes like this; “don’t you think Labour has a problem with ant-Semitism”? Firstly, don’t be fooled by this seemingly benign line of enquiry. This is a rhetorical trap, a game that ‘moderates’ seem to revel in. If your reply is no, you will be savaged for suggesting that the Labour Party is entirely free of anti-Semitic bigots. If you reply in the affirmative, this will be taken as an admission of guilt and that their narrative is indeed correct. The whole point of this is to tarnish Jeremy Corbyn’s image and reputation, therefore, hastening the Blairite faction to call for yet another leadership election, on the basis that he is unfit to stand in opposition. This is not some form of elevated morality the centre/right faction of the party possess, more it’s an opportunity to retake control of the party.

We shouldn’t be surprised that this group is exceptionally adept at playing politics. After all, Blair’s hollow revolution was entirely based on spin, false data, lies and an affinity for using identity politics as a tool of control. Corbyn’s opposition found within his own parliamentary members are not the only centrist/ moderate group he is up against. The largely middle class, bourgeois ‘Remainers’ are also baying for his blood. This particular sect has huge support in the South East particularly in London, who are seemingly more concerned with cheap goods and holidays, than the growing economic inequality. ‘Remainers’ often chime in that many jobs are dependent on the EU and although this may contain an element of truth, in the North of England where I’m originally from, it is home to 10 out of 12 English cities most in decline.

This much maligned geographic group have also witnessed a drop in real wages, which are still less than they were 10 years ago. It is completely understandable why many folk in the north don’t have the same warm and fuzzy feelings towards the EU that many individuals in the capital have. Regardless of these valid grievances voiced by people north of the ‘Watford Gap’, ‘Remainers’ appear to have developed a certain piousness, which manifests in feelings of moral superiority.

Numerous areas in the north, the midlands and South Wales in particular, have witnessed whole industries decimated and communities carved up like a Sunday roast, all occurring during this now celebrated time in the EU. Surely people in these regions can at least be forgiven for voicing concerns, that the current state of affairs hasn’t worked out all that well for them. Therefore, when you have nothing to lose, voting for something like Brexit carries little risk and any kind of change can appear better than nothing.

Dyson ceramic
Dyson ceramics factory, Sheffield.

The stark differences between both groups as displayed during the Brexit vote, are never more obvious than when examining class. In social categories  AB and C1 (high, middle management to professionals) both men and women voted in favour of remaining in the EU, conclusively so for women. In categories DE and C2 (skilled/ semi-skilled and manual occupations, plus the unemployed) the vote was in favour of Brexit, particularly among men. Despite all this, rather than trying to understand the plight of the working class, they have simply been dismissed as; stupid, poorly informed, gullible and racist.

The truth of the matter is only 34% of leave voters cited immigration as their primary concern for choosing Brexit. Many people who voted to leave are more concerned about low wages, a lack of decent jobs, education and affordable housing. This is just another example of the working class being marginalised, ignored and told to get back in their place. To make things worse these genuine worries are exploited by cretins such as Nigel Farage, in an effort to bolster his self serving populist crusade.

I have no doubt that Jeremy Corbyn is acutely aware that he has to connect with the working class, who have been neglected during four decades of neoliberalism to achieve electoral victory. However, as we’ve observed in the US, populism is seductive and a hard spell to break. Further to this, Corbyn is swimming against a tide of media hostility, whose billionaire bosses would stand to be on the losing end following a Corbyn victory.

To compound all this, he still has to continuously grapple with a section of the party who have very little in common with his principles and consciously make life substantially difficult at every given opportunity. As mentioned earlier this segment of the Parliamentary Labour Party have more of a shared worldview with middle class ‘Remainers’, who on the whole prefer their politics to be of the neoliberal variety, with a large helping of identity politics on the side.

Corbyn is merely trying to challenge the status quo, in doing so, he has unearthed a multitude of enemies.  As a collective, these groups will be exceptionally difficult to defeat, hence my pessimistic title. Jeremy Corbyn should be a unitary figure, but after 40 years of unbridled capitalism and self-interest, Corbyn on the contrary polarises public opinion more than ever. Aside from the US, the UK is one of greatest examples of ingrained neoliberalism.

People have grown accustomed to being a consumer first and a member of the community a distant second. Society is ranked by what material goods are acquired and even the most civic minded citizen can be easily caught up in this mindless, self destructive drive to buy more and more shit to fill our relatively meaningless lives. These my friends, are the issues that constitute the miles of crap Jeremy Corbyn has to wade through in order to affect change for the better and sadly I don’t fancy his chances. Of course, I’m more than willing to be proved wrong.

 

 

 

 

Why neoliberalism condemns us to class warfare and why nobody cares.

For about 35 to 40 years depending on where you live we have been ruled by a pervasive political and economic system. This system is called neoliberalism, but to many this is considered the only viable economic option. So lets get a working definition from one of the foremost academics on this topic. David Harvey suggests; “neoliberalism is a political project carried out by the corporate capitalist class, as they felt intensely threatened both politically and economically towards the end of the 1960’s into the 1970’s. They desperately wanted to launch a political project that would curb the power of labour’. 

Much of the general public are totally unaware of, or unable to explain what neoliberalism is, it can appear as some kind of natural order, rather like the theory of evolution or gravity. Alternatively for others it seems the more you try to make sense of it, the more you realise you start sounding eerily similar to an unhinged Neo in the film ‘The Matrix’. There is no doubt that the neoliberal project has been a conscious effort to snatch more power away from the majority, thus returning it to the already rich and powerful. Neoliberal supporters and their beneficiaries clearly have one primary goal, which is to convince society to continue consuming and producing at a ravenous pace. This destructive ideology offers no positive connection to humanity or has anything favourable to offer the masses, but it does make a few psychopaths very rich.                      

Furthermore, it fails to provide any utility beneficial to the wider society and yet we continue to feed this monster through our obsession with external gratification. We have been told, particularly in the western world that we are selfish creatures, constantly inventing ways to maximise self-interest. This opinion of human nature being entirely self-serving is supported by questionable theories, one such popular tale is of ‘homo economicus‘. Although this narrative has constantly been refuted by many, such as renowned behavioural economist Daniel Kahneman, this tall story among others still persists today.

Despite reams of evidence to suggest our current system is truly beneficial only for the richest and the most socially connected in society; for example, 26 of the world’s richest people have more wealth than the poorest 50% of society (3.8 billion people), alas the juggernaut continues. We are told that there is no other way, that capitalism and free trade has lifted more people out poverty than any other system. When we look closely at this bold claim, it is found to be disingenuous at best. Granted some nations have done well from free trade, but others have suffered. In fact, research offers that most nations tend to do better for all with some form of a mixed economy. Freer trade certainly has not contributed to lifting millions of people out of poverty.

Take China for example, millions have been lifted out of poverty, but this has been achieved by embracing free trade with other nations, while adopting mercantilism. This is the deliberate manipulation of the system utilising protectionism and state capitalism. This form of economic policy can be seen in South Korea, Japan and even Germany. To support this point, as recently as 1987, China had the same per capita GDP as India, now it has three times that of India.

To continue with the status quo, the rich (who are also the most powerful) need a believable story to keep the pitchforks off their manicured lawns. One of these regularly repeated tales is known as ‘trickle down economics’, the premise being that the wealth of the richest will trickle down to the minions. I like to refer to this as ‘golden shower economics’, as we are being regularly pissed on by the ‘obnoxious classes’. Contrary to this capitalist myth, the stats suggest that the gap between the rich and poor is the widest for over 50 years, which makes a mockery of the ‘theory’, however, despite this, capitalism continues to thrive unabated.

To maintain this extreme form of capitalism, despite evidence suggesting it undoubtedly fails the majority of us, there is a need for distraction. This is something that arises in many forms, rendering much of society into a intellectual slumber. Rarely do people sitting on their sofas while watching ‘Gogglebox‘ contemplate such questions as; is this system honestly the best we can do in the 21st century? Conservative and right wing adherents instinctively will proclaim that this is indeed the best system available. Of course, this belief was strengthened following the collapse of the Berlin Wall, which was of sorts, a political ideological coronation. Other people on the other hand are just apathetic to politics, assuming all politicians are the same and that nothing will ever change. While many are happy to be ignorant consumers, so long as they can purchase the newest iPhone, a pair of Louboutin’s or whatever other item fills the gaping hole in their soul.

Outside of any internal ambivalence to politics, there are a multitude of external distractions, just in case the rigours of daily life become unbearable or just mind numbingly tedious. There are a plethora of choices to divert your attention, from; vacuous TV programmes, all consuming video games, countless sporting events, staring blankly at your phone or even the hero worshiping of celebrities. Television channels are now packed with empty headed, inane wannabees, who adorn ‘reality’ TV shows from Love Island in the UK to New Zealand’s nauseating ‘Married at First Sight’.  

britains-got-talent-2016 Meanwhile, glorified caravan park talent show supremo Simon Cowell presides over his many creations. Regularly using his shows to catapult one of his hopefuls to #1 for Christmas, thereafter, to be forgotten (hopefully) forever. It’s a fair assumption to conclude that trashy TV is more popular with the female population, however, men are also supplied with ample distractions, often in the form of sport.

I know plenty of women who enjoy sports, but essentially it’s men who become totally immersed in the live drama and frequently take leave of their senses. Am I suggesting we shouldn’t have interests outside of the important issues of the world? Of course not. It is, however, a problem when we perceive the final of ‘X’ Factor, the Champions League Final or the winner of MasterChef as premier events within the calendar year. Marx suggested religion was the “opiate of the masses”. I would offer that our current opiate is more likely to be our endless array of weapons of mass distraction that transports us to a place where life is simple and our innermost thoughts can remain buried deep within.

Of course, any acknowledgement of distraction mechanisms wouldn’t be complete without the mention of the media. Professor of linguistics at MIT Noam Chomsky discussed the role of the media in his book with Edward S Herman ‘Manufacturing Consent‘. In this, they suggested that the media was built on levels, with each outlet aiming at a particular segment of the populace. For example, there are mainstream papers such as ‘The Sun’ (UK) all the way through to the New York Times (US), which Chomsky often describes as ‘elite media’. Online outlets such as Buzzfeed, Huffington Post and the Mail Online are considered mainstream on both the left and right. Meanwhile, radio provides general channels all the way through to outlets such as RNZ National (New Zealand) and BBC radio 4 (UK). Incidentally, Chomsky would declare that these last two stations would be apart of the ‘elite media’ which is also referred to as the ‘agenda setting media’, aimed primarily at the wealthy or professional people.

Propaganda does not work haphazardly, a huge amount of thought goes into it and many techniques are employed for a specific effect. Here are four basic techniques that are regularly used to elicit a particular response.

  • Activating strong emotions.
  • Responding to audience needs and values.
  • Simplifying information and ideas.
  • Attacking opponents.

Activating strong emotions – Propaganda exponents play on human emotions in an effort to direct audiences towards the required reaction. These are simply mind games designed to exploit people’s fears and prejudices. Messages can be specifically created in order to propagate a level of excitement and arousal, bypassing critical thinking. Emotions that are generally manipulated are; fear, hope, anger, frustration and sympathy.

Responding to audience needs and values – Effective propaganda supplies a narrative, language and themes that appeal directly, sometimes exclusively to certain groups. These could be as diverse as ethnic identity, hobbies, personal aspirations and beliefs. A propaganda campaign at times can also be universal to create a sense of unity and belonging. The more personally relevant the message is, the greater the effect is likely to be, as people will tend to pay attention and absorb key ideas.

Simplifying information and ideas – Truths, half truths, opinions, lies and falsehoods are all used in propaganda. Successful propaganda generally utilises simple stories that are familiar and trusted. There is a repeated usage of metaphors and imagery, this is designed to make the narrative to appear natural or “true”. Oversimplification can invariably be adopted as an effective means of replacing critical thinking. It is also something in which the audience seeks in order to reduce complexity.

Attacking opponents – Propaganda can be practiced as a form of political and social warfare, used to vilify and identify opponents. It often questions the legitimacy, credibility and character of ones opponents and ideas. This approach produces an ‘us or them’ effect, which stifles any opinion outside of this binary framework. It serves to targets individuals, destroy reputations, incite hatred, cultivate indifference and exclude specific groups of people.

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As well as these techniques routinely being exploited by the media, it’s worth recognising that despite the illusion of choice regarding TV programmes or more importantly news outlets, our real choice does not match our perceptions. Take the US, despite the many channels that are on offer, just 6 corporations own 90% of media. These six are; Comcast, TimeWarner, News Corp, Disney, Viacom and CBS. Although technically CBS and Viacom are owned by the same company that being National Amusements.

Here in New Zealand, one could argue considering the population (under 5 million), we have a comparative abundance of choice. There are currently 4 main media corporations and one crown entity, which comprises of Māori TV, Television New Zealand and Radio New Zealand. Despite this, oftentimes there is a feeling that each outlet is providing a similar narrative. Rarely in the mainstream world do you witness any criticism or questioning of the economic/political system we reside under.

This is unsurprising as these corporations presenting their interpretations of events are ingrained in the neoliberal machinery. It takes a long metaphorical journey to the outer margins of journalism to find any media outlet offering an opposing view regarding capitalism. One of the few such outlets can be traced in the UK, that being the long running Morning Star (now primarily online), unsurprisingly derided by the mainstream media. Despite the obvious failures of neoliberalism, there is still a relative paucity of criticism or more importantly coherent ideas as a response to capitalism. This is severely disappointing, especially considering Karl Marx began critiquing capitalism over a hundred years ago.

Neoliberalism has been allowed to stumble along, as many of the young and politically active, have shifted the focus of their attention away from global concerns towards the self. This postmodern inspired form of activism targets perceived inequality regarding; race, gender and sexual identity. It is wholly introspective, with the participants generally being associated with the group they support. In this sense society as a whole is viewed entirely through a group oppressor-oppressed dynamic, creating fertile ground for the oppression Olympics. On this occasion there are no participation prizes, as is the norm nowadays, this time the group enjoys the hugely sort after title of ‘victim’.

It’s important to note that the status of each group, therefore, by association the fate of the individuals contained within these groups, are decided purely on the basis of melanin levels, sexuality and the configuration of genitalia. This is evident regarding feminist slogans such as ‘toxic masculinity’, ‘patriarchy’ and ‘rape culture’. Individual or changeable considerations, such as class, economic status and educational attainment are conveniently dismissed. I strongly suggest that if we were to use the ‘individual’ parameters as above, most ‘identarians’ would be considered privileged and therefore requested to relinquish their ‘hard’ earned victim status badges.

It’s this sort of postmodern doublethink, now masquerading as ideologies such as ‘intersectional feminism’ that promotes politics for narcissists. Embraced primarily by Millenials and now Gen Z, it is used to quelle any opposition, stifle freedom of speech in the name of diversity and ultimately change societal rules for their benefit. This movement possesses a distinctly puritanical quality, that seeks to control what we think, say, feel and do. Generally speaking this brand of activism produces absolutely zero benefits for the majority of society. Despite these misgivings, unsurprisingly identity politics has been embraced by many mainstream political parties, generally in the west.

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Trudeau virtue signalling

In recent times a penchant for identity politics is now considered one of the hallmarks of the left. Tony Blair, Bill Clinton, Justin Trudeau and Barak Obama, are all big supporters of Social Justice. We really need to ask the question, why do some of the most powerful people in the world appear to take an interest in identity politics. One suggestion could be that identity politics is just another method of keeping people occupied, while the ‘grown ups’ continue to preside over increasing inequality and the bombing of more sovereign nations. Meanwhile, Social Justice Activists seem to be more engaged with tackling ‘mansplaining‘ or the merits of ‘Halloween costumes‘, rather than fighting poverty, economic inequality, climate change or the many illegal wars scattered around the world.

At the risk of stating the obvious, neoliberalism is not compatible with the wellbeing of most people, because profits and wealth become purposefully concentrated at the top. It cannot work in harmony with reducing the rate at which we use our natural resources or care about the damage intensive production causes our planet. Capitalism demands infinite growth on a planet that has finite resources. Many of the processes that drive constant production demanded by this system are leading to irreparable damage to our only home. Despite the warning signs, there is still ambivalence towards any suggestions that maybe, we need a change of system.

Unfortunately, the majority of people in the ‘anglosphere’ appear to be completely obsessed with themselves. This could be displayed through endless selfies plastered on the internet to prop up their flagging self-esteem or a shopping trip, hoping a new bag will help acquire that extra hit of dopamine required to survive the day. As a society, since Thatcher and Reagan we have been groomed to consume tirelessly. We now conveniently fit with the ruling elites idea of a utopic society, made up of consumers and producers. This giant sociological pyramid scheme is cunningly designed so individuals have just enough money to buy the products the oligarchs push, even if governments are often required to top up low wages.

2000px-Maslow's_Hierarchy_of_Needs.svg

In the west we are told we have freedom and liberty, but this is often confined to the choice of products we would like to purchase, not the quality of life. But, even this idea is a flawed premise. If freedom is on a sliding scale, rich people have greater access to money, thereby, infinitely more freedom than the poor, due to the greater range of products they can buy. But surely, freedom and liberty goes a little deeper than just stuff? Just a quick glance at Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, confirms this suspicion. If you’re on the lowest level, as we know many people are all over the world are, you clearly have no access to either freedom or liberty. In contrast, there are people chiefly due to cold hard cash who can access the top level of the pyramid. All of this glaring inequality can take place in the same city on a daily basis and yet we don’t bat an eyelid.

The world is primarily a capitalist planet. All you have to do is peruse the countless business treaties linking many nations together. These deals have no perks for the average person, but are wholly designed to protect corporate interests against sovereign nations and their people. With all this in mind I’m quite confident in proposing that capitalism, more specifically neoliberalism is behind most of our problems. As a utilitarian, I would argue that our major issues are the ones that effect the most people with greatest impact, such as death. Unnecessary deaths surely must rank number 1, while the causes of these are varied, many have links to neoliberalism such as; wars, poverty, disease and suicide.

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Frustratingly, many people casually watch disaster after disaster shown on the news, on TV or maybe online and mutter, “well there is nothing we can really do”. It appears we have resigned ourselves to this deeply unfair, unsustainable, catastrophic ideology and in many ways this assessment appears true. The rich are the ones who can afford to lobby the government, effectively bribing elected representatives, while us mere mortals have a comparatively tiny voice, with no agency. We’ve watched TV, drunk and shopped ourselves into a hedonistic stupor. Now, we have either no interest or little idea as to what is truly going on in the world or what to do about it. This is exactly what the propagandists want, for the world to remain powerless, zombified and blind to mass injustice. Historically speaking, large-scale issues such as these are often resolved through some form of a conflict, often revolution. Just saying.

 

 

 

The information war: Venezuelan edition.

I’ve pondered a great deal about the current flow of information, either fact or fiction for quite some time. Recently, this stream of consciousness was reawakened whilst replying to comments from an old friend. The subject matter was Venezuela and the continued trouble that is occurring over there. This recent issue is principally between the current leader President Maduro and the US who are desperate to supplant their own presidential pick. My friend lives in Venezuela and has clearly different opinions to me, which in a nutshell suggests; “Maduro is a butcher and should be removed”.

Am I supposed to except this opinion on face value, because, after all he is living in the country we are discussing? My sentiments on Venezuela, for clarity are this; the oligarchs in Venezuela with the help of the US have made life difficult for the government and ordinary people. The goal is to manufacture consent for an eventual leadership change. To help with this, there has been an extensive use of sanctions and an intricate promotion of propaganda from the mainly opposition owned media to encourage support. In Venezuela 70% of the TV and radio stations are privately owned, 5% are state owned and the rest are community owned and often pro-government. It’s also important to recognise that the main newspapers although currently with small readerships are private companies and are often critical of the government.

Is it right that because as I don’t live in Venezuela and my friend does, I should forgo all my previous research in favour of someone’s opinion who happens to be geographically closer? I guess the question is; does a person’s position have more validity and objectivity, purely because they have some direct involvement in a particular event? My short answer is no. I would argue that on the contrary, an individual is increasingly likely to be more partisan than someone looking in from the outside, with barely any other motivation other than to unearth the truth.

In contrast, my friend’s opinions will be based, on his social status, his family’s social standing, political allegiances and any historical factors. Furthermore, they will be shaped by the environment he lives in, his work, any direct impact from the current government, what media he consumes and importantly how any potential changes may benefit him in the future, to name just a few factors. Incidentally, would I pick a friend in the UK and decide their views are representative of Brexit solely because they lived there? Probably not.

This highlights a huge problem in the age of constant but inconsistent information. How do you uncover the truth? How do we know that what we hear from allegedly morally upstanding sources is the truth? Finally, what is the truth? We are bombarded with information, much of it purporting to be truth, when in essence, a lot of it consists of masses of opinion wrapped around a slither of fact based evidence. This deluge of ‘alternative facts’ isn’t just confined to the internet either; mainstream or so called ‘old media’ is just as guilty.

Take the US for example; if you regularly watched the conservative Fox News channel, you would in all likelihood possess a completely different outlook than if you tuned in to the MSNBC with Rachel Maddow. The same could be said if we compare a Telegraph (right wing) reader with a Guardian (left wing) reader in the UK. You could argue that these people have probably already chosen their political allegiances and this would be largely true. But these media choices reinforce our partisan behaviour and this does not end with TV and newspapers.

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MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow

The internet is a minefield if you are trying to obtain facts and it’s all too easy to fall in to the trap of reinforcing what we already believe. This is made considerably worse by algorithms used on many sites. All these mechanisms manage to achieve, is to strengthen any preconceived ideas, which is terrible if you are searching for objectivity. Many of us spend the majority of our time reading what we want to see, watching what we expect and only going on websites that align with our views. I regularly witness individuals dismissing a news piece regardless of the quality of the journalism and the content, purely because it is not a media outlet that they use or indeed trust. By doing this, all we are achieving is further entrenching ourselves within our moral tribes.

So what do we do now? Firstly, it’s OK to acknowledge our biases, we all have them. I am happy to admit I am unashamedly on the left, however, there are some issues that are considered on the left that I don’t subscribe to. Next, read and watch stuff from a range of different perspectives, even if all this does is help you understand your enemy better, it still temporarily transports you out of your echo chamber, while offering an alternative viewpoint. When searching for the truth, it’s helpful to look at an article or website as if you were doing a scientific literature review, check; who wrote it, what’s the motivation, when was it written, is it still relevant, is it an opinion, news or research piece and is there any useful references going back to the original source.

Admittedly, this can be time consuming and a part of me feels we shouldn’t have to do this, but in the age of fake news everything requires scrutiny on both sides of the political aisle. From Breitbart and the National Review to Buzzfeed and the Huffington Post, plus anything in between, all of it requires careful consideration. Mainstream news tends to be slightly more subtle with their biases, such as the BBC in UK. Even so, at this point, many I’m sure will be screaming that the BBC is aligned to the right, while conservatives will contest there is a definite left tilt to the national broadcaster.

Meanwhile, in New Zealand particularly with the national newspaper the Herald, the bias is primarily down to the individual journalist. One area that most mainstream media providers are relatively agreed upon is the support of a capitalist, or more accurately neoliberal political system. You would have to travel to the margins of journalism to find a media outlet outside of the capitalist scope, such as the Morning Star in the UK.

So this brings me full circle, back to my discussion regarding Venezuela. Am I misguided about Maduro? Well, I propose it would be much easier for me to be indoctrinated by the ‘opposition’ than Maduro, purely by listening to the constant mainstream media. After all, most western media outlets promote a poor picture of Maduro and this includes New Zealand. Furthermore, the UK, Canada, Australia and Israel are all backing the US in their attempt to oust the democratically elected President.

In contrast, it is a reasonably arduous task to find a media outlet who is willing to even be neutral on this matter, let alone have any sympathies towards Maduro. Pleasingly the previously mentioned Morning Star appears prepared to report the news as they see it. Plus there are specialist sites such as venezuelanalysis.com which states that they are a left leaning and independent site. It’s worth noting that this is a counter narrative site, openly endorsed by academics such as Noam Chomsky and journalists including BAFTA award winning John Pilger.

A combination of reading non mainstream sites, as well as knowing a reasonable amount about the US in a historical sense and their quest for world dominance, provides me with something to offset the endless anti-Maduro rhetoric. A quick glance at the history between the two countries will tell you that this isn’t something that has occurred overnight. Interference in Venezuelan affairs began in the 19th century, however, in the 20th century most of the meddling was unsurprisingly due to oil. In 1958 while other nations in the region were succumbing to US backed dictatorships, Venezuela escaped.

These military and security personal of the US backed regimes, were often trained by the US Army School of the Americas. This department specialised in training kidnapping, torture, assassination and democracy suppression. US backed death squads authored torture manuals, while they murdered, tortured and terrorised innocent people from Central America to Argentina. In contrast Venezuela were left relatively in peace for decades. Throughout these times, however, the US never gave up on the idea of Venezuelan interference, which would increase in intensity following the election of Hugo Chavez in 1998.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez salutes

During the Chavez period, the Bolivarian revolution reduced poverty and illiteracy, while increasing the health of millions of Venezuelan’s. Despite this, George W Bush backed a failed coup against Chavez in 2002, famously calling him “the devil”. In 2015 Obama declared Venezuela as an “extraordinary threat to national security”. Although, considering the nation had never started a war in it’s history, this assertion was nothing short of ludicrous. It’s worth pointing out that the US has; intervened, attacked, invaded or occupied Latin American or Caribbean countries more than 50 times. To add to the absurdity, while Obama spoke, the US military were regularly bombing seven countries.

In 2017, Donald Trump announced sanctions against Nicolás Maduro, while labelling him a dictator. Despite this, Trump continued to support the brutal Saudi Arabian regime, plus backing dictators in Bahrain, Ethiopia, Equatorial Guinea, South Sudan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan to name a few. Now, President Trump is under the guidance of neoconservative John Bolton (who has never seen a war he didn’t like), he has thus declared his support for the puppet president Juan Guaido. This is just one of the most recent examples of the US crushing any nation that has the audacity to steer away from the corporate/Washington power base. Nobody is suggesting Maduro’s leadership is perfect. But to call him a dictator, therefore, worthy of regime change, while openly supporting US friendly tyrants, is the type of hypocrisy and baseless rhetoric we have all become accustomed to.

It may well be difficult to obtain good information in the ironically named ‘age of information’. But one thing we can draw upon as guidance is history. When we trace the history US foreign policy it shows us that since WWII the US has intervened in the leaderships of more countries than any other nation by far. It generally has two reasons to enact change; one is ideological, what Noam Chomsky in his book “What Uncle Sam Really Wants”, calls “the threat of a good example“. The second motivation is for resources (in this case oil), sadly for Venezuela, they tick both boxes.

I have no reason to believe that this modus operandi of the US government has suddenly deviated from the last 70 years of foreign policy. So although it is reasonable to be questioning of Maduro and his leadership, I cannot see how a coup will benefit the vast majority of Venezuelan’s. Maduro’s led PSUV party, supports much of the poorer people in the country and not the oligarch led opposition. That is primarily why he is in this current dilemma. I’ll let John Pilger explain my grounds for scepticism towards the sincerity of the US and hope for the sake of the people a coup is avoided.

 

A false ideology: Why identity politics doesn’t add up.

We now inhabit a world where influential people in academia and increasingly the government decide who is privileged and who is not, purely by which group we belong to. These are not organised by who’s rich or poor, educational attainment, health levels, class status or even the environment we may live in, sadly nothing quite so objective. Individuals are crudely grouped by what cannot be changed (generally), this being genitalia and melanin levels. This grossly unscientific method, purposely ignores many parameters as outlined above and boils what is termed “oppression” down to race and sex.

To get to grips with how this occurred, our journey starts in France, with some very smart but terribly misguided philosophers. This bunch were largely responsible for a type of philosophy called postmodernism. Postmodernism is at the root of identity politics and underpins social justice activism. The movement, primarily artistic and philosophical began in 1960’s France. It claimed that life was viewed through a male, middle class perspective and sought to rally against this. Additionally, postmodernism outright rejected philosophy that valued ethics, reason and clarity.

This brand of philosophy dismissed overarching movements such as structuralism, which was an attempt to analyse human culture and psychology. While Marxism, endeavouring to make sense of society through class and economic structures was considered simplistic. Furthermore, the movement deeply criticised science, in particular, the idea of objective information. Postmodernists postulated that knowledge without human perception was just another example of arrogant western assumptions. Historically, the term “postmodern” was first used by Jean-Francois Lyotard in 1979, in his book The Postmodern Condition. Above all this was a rejection of meta-narratives, used to explain large phenomena such as religion and science.

In their place Lyotard offered that mini-narratives should be used, with the aim of getting smaller, more personal truths. This thought process led to epistemic relativism, or a belief in personal or culturally specific ‘truths or facts’ and also towards the advocacy of privileging. In summary Lyotard simply ranked “lived experience” above empirical evidence. In addition, postmodernism regularly promotes a type of pluralism, privileging the opinions of minority groups over views of a consensus, such as science or even a liberal democracy.

Another one of the French postmodernists was Michel Foucault. Foucault suggested that people were culturally constructed and a “product of the relation of power exercised over bodies, multiplicities, movements, desires, forces”. In Foucault’s world, cultural relativity is expressed through structures of power, while shared humanity and individualism are practically ignored. Using this theory, people are constructed entirely by their position in relation to the dominant culture and labelled as oppressed or oppressor.

The third musketeer, in our postmodern yarn is Jacques Derrida. Derrida focused heavily on language, rejecting that words referred to anything in a straight forward way, suggesting that there were only contexts without any absolute anchoring. He implied that the author of a text is not the sole authority and that the listener provides their own equally valid meaning. Derrida’s main contribution to postmodernism was a literary critical method called ‘deconstruction’. This was utilised in an attempt to overturn what he perceived as biases in language.

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Jacques Derrida

Deconstruction arose from the belief that all concepts appear in opposing binaries and that language privileges one concept over another. For example “male” and “female” or “good” and “evil”, the first term usually having dominance over the other. Derrida suggested that this showed great inequality in western/modernist thinking. Derrida’s second idea, was to offer that the identity or meaning of words could not be understood except in relation to what they are not. He suggested that the only way to overcome these inequalities was by deconstructing text and thereby the language which was thought as the inherent power within the binary structure.

Derrida achieved this by equalising the opposing “inferior” and “superior” terms, then placing the “superior” term merely as an expression of the “inferior” term. Using this train of thought, we could say “good” is just an expression of “evil”. Derrida suggested at this point that the terms were meaningless and subjectively imposed by violence as the identity of words are overturned by différanceDerrida used this term to point out that the meaning is not final, rather it is constructed by differences specifically by opposites.

By now, if all this postmodern speak has “baked your noodle”, to borrow an expression from the Matrix, well that is kind of the point. Even the brilliant academic Noam Chomsky failed to see the relevance of postmodernism, stating; “Seriously, what are the principles of their theories, on what evidence are they based, what do they explain that wasn’t already obvious, etc? These are fair requests for anyone to make. If they can’t be met, then I’d suggest recourse to Hume’s advice in similar circumstances: to the flames”. The underlying problem now is, conclusions drawn by postmodernists were used as the foundations by future sociologists, gender and race studies academics to build an even more misguided, subjective, divisive and flawed theory.

One of the main theories that underpins social justice activism is intersectional feminism. This was introduced to the world in the late 80’s by UCLA law Professor Kimberleé Crenshaw. Crenshaw rejected “classical liberalism”, which looked past categories such as; race, gender and sexuality, while it focused on levelling the playing field and enabling all people to succeed on their own abilities. Incidentally, this is also known as “Enlightened liberalism” and promoted not only universal human rights, but the freedom of individuals to pursue their own path. Despite this, it was opined by critics such as Crenshaw, that this type of liberalism built structures of power which needed to be addressed. In contrast to liberalism, Crenshaw’s theory suggested that areas of race, gender and sexuality, were essential as it added levels of complexity to the problem.

kimberlee crenshaw
Kimberlee Crenshaw

In general it is postulated that as a society we work primarily on 3 levels:

  1. As a member of the human race with common needs and drives.
  2. As a member of one of the numerous categories, such as; race, nationality, culture or religion.
  3. As a individual, with our own particular interests and abilities.

It could be surmised that while universal liberalism concentrates on 1 & 3, intersectionality gravitates almost exclusively towards the second group. Meaning that this ‘theory’ fundamentally views all issues through the lens of race, gender and sexual identity. Hence the rallying cries of, “listen to women, listen to people of colour”.

But this theory possesses some glaring errors. Firstly, women of colour and LGTB people are to be found all across the political and moral spectrum. Intersectionality, however, is firmly embeded in the leftist identarian camp, complete with a distinct ideology. That said, intersectionality claims to support all of the aforementioned groups, but requires all members of these groups to subscribe to the identarian left. Judging by the stats available, this is just not obtainable. In the US 24% identify as liberals and 38% as conservative. In the UK the left and right are split roughly 50/50. Women are more likely to be left leaning than men. In the US 47% of African Americans identify as liberal and 45% conservative. The Conservative party (UK) claim 33% of Black and Middle Eastern voters, while 52% of Black Britons vote Labour. In Britain LGTB voters are as likely to be on the left as the right, but in the US LGTB voters are likely to be left wing. These nuances go on and on and do not fit the intersectional rallying cry.

As far as ideology is concerned, intersectionality alienates even more people. To be intersectional you are expected to focus on many categories at once, believing that they are all marginalised and worthy of your concern. Therefore, a woman describing herself as wholly a white, feminist would not be considered nearly committed enough to the cause. It would be assumed that the believer should also automatically subscribe to queer theory, critical race theory, trans-equality and anti-ableism discourses. However, as highlighted with politics, all of these varying groups do not have a single way of thinking. For a start in the US, only 20% of woman call themselves a feminist, while in the UK it’s as low as 9%. Using this information alone intersectionalists would have alienated over three quarters of their target population, that being women. Overall, the vast opinions expressed by the varying groups makes this theory totally unworkable.

Effectively what transpires, is the emergence of a small faction, with a minority ideological viewpoint, dominated by people from economically privileged backgrounds. This group generally has a university education, they have studied the social sciences, or have had enough leisure time to have grasped the varying ideas encompassed by intersectional theory. Activists of this cult readily pronounce that the only way is intersectionality, as all other groups are dismissed as fake. Crucially, intersectionality undervalues shared human experiences and universal rights. It ignores personal autonomy, individuality and distinctiveness, concentrating intently on group identity and intersectional ideology. This in turn places the individual in an extremely restrictive “collectivist” position, which was often considered the domain of severe conservative cultures, such as the religious right.

Looking at postmodernism and then intersectionalism, we can see the erroneous foundations being laid for the modern social justice movement. When this is combined with other factors that are peculiar to the millennial generation and now i-gen (generation Z), it starts to makes sense why we are witnessing behaviour punctuated by a lack of tolerance for any differing views. Safe spaces, trigger warnings and microaggressions are all common parlance on university campuses. This development like previous politically correct movements aims to stifle free speech. But according to Jonathan Haidt social psychologist, the motivation this time around, turns out to be more concerned with emotional wellbeing.

Haidt suggests that childhood has changed dramatically over the last couple of generations and that unsupervised play is much rarer than in previous decades. Children, therefore, have less chance to develop skills, such as, how to negotiate in a difficult situation or how to critically think. Meanwhile, a change in perception during the 80’s and 90’s regarding crime, suggested that there was a marked increase of kids being abducted or murdered. One of the main reasons for this view, was that we started to hear more about incidents through a increasingly pervasive media. Following this, a common message millenials received from adults was, life is dangerous but we will protect you from harm. This has contributed to millenials and i-gen being less resilient and more hostile towards political or moral opposition.

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Jonathan Haidt

To add another layer to this, professor of psychology Jean Twenge wrote the book ‘the narcissism epidemic‘, in 2009. In this, the professor looked at the changes in individuals and in culture, discovering that narcissistic traits were rising twice as fast than in previous studies. More disconcerting, was that the severe form, Narcissistic Personality Disorder was experienced 3 times more in people in there 20’s than individuals over 65. Other markers that Twenge used, showed plastic surgery was up by a factor of 6 in a decade. Furthermore, materialistic attitudes had increased, as people were more likely to go into debt to get what they wanted. Meanwhile the reading of gossip magazines increased and the interest in newspapers decreased.

When we start to stitch all this together, it’s not surprising that we have a group largely of millenials, who actively attempt to curtail free speech. They also vigorously take part in historical revisionism, for example trying to get certain statues removed, which are deemed offensive. While the poem ‘If’ by Rudyard Kipling was unceremoniously removed at Manchester University, following allegations of racism, with no historical context, just a veil of ignorance, as proudly worn by SJW’s. These puritans are offended by the slightest utterance that may come into conflict with their pristine, logic free utopia. While they brazenly display no conscience either, as they repeatedly attempt to remove university professors for ‘wrong think‘.

Many followers of the ‘social justice activism’ have been exposed to a postmodern philosophy, that twists language to square with their pre-conceived conclusions. It is proposed that certain groups are oppressed, such as women and people of colour. This is supposedly a fixed position, bound by the illogical ramblings of postmodernism and now intersectional feminism. These adherents are perpetual victims, regardless of any personal factors that may not tie up with this label, such as; being a middle class, privileged student, as witnessed in many cases. Their assigned victim status enables the SJW to be absolved of any personal responsibility. With this cloak of victimhood, they are able to call out all men or white people, purely because they are oppressed and by virtue of this, are unable to be a misandrist or indeed a racist.

It is by no means a revelation that people who are less developed in terms of diplomacy, resilience and people skills gravitate towards such a movement. It carries little risk, you can gang up on a single speaker, shower them with nasty tweets, retreat to your safe space after a trigger warning and declare an incoming microaggression to your dean. If you are narcissistic this is also perfect, you can metaphorically sniper your political opposition, all in the safety of your morally pristine ivory tower, thus not receiving a narcissistic injury in return. Outstanding! All this would be relatively bearable if it was limited to academia, but alas, we are not so lucky.

There are many examples of the cult of identity politics seeping into everyday life. We can start with the former Director of Public Prosecutions of the Crown Prosecution Service, Alison Sanders. It could be argued that Sanders utilised the CPS as a crusading tool, redirecting limited resources to focus on violence against women and hate speech. The former DPP was responsible for many victim-focused reforms, including the definition of a hate crime, which states; “any crime experienced by the complainant as motivated by hate”. Interestingly, during the last couple of years of her tenure, a series of rape cases collapsed. It had transpired that police and prosecutors had failed to pass key information to lawyers defending the men. This lack of ‘due process’ is what can occur when an ideological quest overrides the search for justice.

In Nottinghamshire, UK, unwanted sexual advances and unwanted verbal contact with a woman can now be recorded as a hate crime. The problem with the term “hate crime” is, it is purely subjective and, therefore, open to abuse. Across the Atlantic in Canada in 2017, bill C-16 was passed, meaning someone could be prosecuted for not using the correct gender pronoun for a person’s subjectively determined “gender identity”. In Brighton, UK, kids are now being taught that both boys and girls can have periods. The whole area around gender and sex is highly contentious and effectively pits science, based on rigour, peer review, evidence and objectivity against emotion, feelings, subjectivity and the idea ‘I feel, therefore, I am’.

Gender and sex are key areas where the Enlightenment collides with postmodernism and judging by the government orthodoxy in many domains Foucault et al. are winning. The primary concern with regards to basing society on subjectivity, is that it is potentially ever changeable, this makes it exceptionally difficult to create and enforce laws, such as hate crime. For example; An ugly guy walks up to a girl and starts talking to her, she might find him detestable and feels threatened. Under these rules, this conceivably could be called a hate crime and for the bloke no matter how well intentioned, he could find himself in trouble. However, a good looking guy could approach the same woman and say exactly the same words but this time, it could be well received. Neither guy has been offensive or violent, but one of them (lets call him Elephant Man) could end up being questioned by the police. Does that feel like a fair use of the law and resources to you?

It is this uneven handed use of the law, as demonstrated by many college Title IX  proceedings in the US during the Obama presidency, that is a major cause for concern. Another campaign doing the rounds currently is “believe women” following sexual harassment or rape allegations. Their is an obvious danger behind this. It instantly biases any following investigation in favour of the accuser. Surely police departments all over the world can provide an environment that allows the person to share their perception of events without siding with them. For “believe women” to be effective, it must demand that women never lie and furthermore, never commit crimes, otherwise it’s a flawed premise. By promoting this we are asserting that women are morally superior to men at all times. Judging by the likes of Myra Hindley, Rose West or Joanna Dennehy this is patently untrue. Moreover, high profile false rape allegations such as the Duke Lacrosse team or Biurny Peguero also severely question this moral superiority theory. Just like men, women lie too, for a variety of reasons.

joanna dennehy
Joanna Dennehy

It makes absolutely no sense to enforce laws and rules that govern society based on a certain perception of a group as a whole. This is especially true, if the group in question is not 100% consistent. We hear from people on a daily basis, talking about white privilege or male privilege. Just an idea, but how about we look at what is occurring at an individual level, rather than writing off masses of the population via gross stereotyping. Identarians can get quite irate if they feel an individual for instance is stereotyping someone regarding gender identification. Yet, they are quite happy to put people in sociological boxes merely for traits that cannot be altered. Crucially, group stereotyping is what this whole identarian ‘belief’ system is built upon, it is the very core of their ideology, but makes no positive practical sense.

To point out how ludicrous this is; a black, middle class, well educated, relatively rich, woman, who has had no direct oppression, from a happy home, can be viewed as oppressed. In contrast; a white, ex-military, homeless man, with PTSD, with no formal qualifications and no support system, can seen as privileged. If this does not strike you as some sort of a scam, you are either benefitting from this in some way, or you are so blind with identarian doctrine that you have lost the ability to critically think. Which of course is the whole point of postmodernism, to appeal to emotion and subjectivity. It’s this loyalty to ones team, providing the power over government, media and society that allows, individuals like Professor Suzanna Danuta Walters to have an article published in the Washington Post enquiring, “why can’t we hate men”? A couple of weeks ago the American Psychological Association, published guidelines outlining the dangers of masculinity. This was nothing short of an overtly ideological exercise, using one social justice buzzword after another (see the link for original document).

Last week Gillette felt the need to jump on the bandwagon, releasing an advert imploring men and boys to sort their masculinity out. This has generally been lauded by the mainstream media, desperate not to stray from the feminist narrative. It’s worth noting, this is not in isolation, anti-male rhetoric is the social norm and is excepted in so called polite society. For instance, the Melbourne café who charged men 18% more, because of the supposed ‘gender wage gap’. Men are repeatedly told how to behave, when to speak (mansplaining), how to sit (manspreading), when it’s OK to talk to a woman, what to say and so on. The overwhelming percentage of men are not violent, do not rape, do treat people with respect, do act against bullying and the list continues. But if you’re trying to neutralise the very masculine traits that helped to build the physical world, that make up the majority of individuals who keep us safe, who love competition and do many of the dangerous jobs that keeps life ticking along, guess again.

For those who still buy into identity politics and in particular feminism, you need to have a serious chat with yourself. At this moment, the Social Justice movement currently feels emboldened, it has governments, media and much of society eating out it’s hand. Now feeling buoyant after #metoo, there is a huge offensive against masculinity, of course, not the bad men in society who it will never have any affect on, but ordinary men like many reading this. Right now, this is not a gender war, as only one side has turned up. It’s more like a massacre!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jeremy Corbyn; is this Britain’s most dangerous man?

I know looks are deceiving, but judging by the pressure exerted by some Parliamentary Labour Party members, the right wing and any other opportunists it would appear Jeremy Corbyn is enemy number one. Mr Corbyn has made it quite clear that if he became Prime Minister of the UK he would oversee some huge changes, that would have a profound effect on it’s citizens. This is terrifying for the status quo who view their positions at the upper end of society as a right never to challenged. So after a brief respite following the 2017 election the charade to unseat Corbyn continues, this time under the guise of anti-Semitism, again.

The current catalyst for outrage centres around a mural that was painted by an American artist 6 years ago on the wall of a London house. It depicts a group of crusty, white, old presumably businessmen around a monopoly board. The board is held up by seemingly slave like humans, with an illuminati symbol behind. Despite the artists protestations, this has been labelled as anti-Semitic by the establishment, suggesting that this is a anti-Semitic trope. The artist insisted that this was anti-corporatist and has nothing to do with Jewish people, but obviously individuals who had nothing to with the artistic process clearly know best. Enter Corbyn.

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On hearing that the mural was going to be destroyed Corbyn replied to the artist Mear One; “Why?, You are in good company. Rockefeller destroyed Diego Viera’s because it includes a picture of Lenin”. Apparently this exchange confirmed to all and sundry that Jeremy Corbyn knew this was anti-Semitic and secondly he supported it. All I can imagine is, it’s like a Black Sabbath song, if you play it backwards, it suddenly means something completely different.

Even if I stand on my head, while squinting out of one eye, I still can’t detect where the contents of this exchange with Mear One supports either, the supposed anti-Semitic theme or the mural itself. Yet this has been utilised by Blairites, Tories, the propaganda industry and all the other members of the ruling cabal to weaken a pesky lefty in the form of Jeremy Corbyn. What they conveniently and purposefully fail to acknowledge is Jeremy Corbyn has consistently fought against all forms of racism spanning over 40 years. It’s of public record that between 1990 and 2015, Mr Corbyn has stood up for British Jews and against anti-Semitism 10 times.

So what’s the problem? Well, if we look at Jeremy Corbyn’s political stance over his 35 years in parliament we may get an insight into the psyche of his detractors. Corbyn was strongly opposed to apartheid, a supporter of Nelson Mandela and was arrested outside the South African embassy 1984 for protesting. In contrast the PM at the time Thatcher was reluctant to outwardly oppose apartheid, nor was she seen to overtly support it, but she did undoubtedly receive support from the regime during the cold war.

Jeremy was also an opponent of Augusto Pinochet in Chile, who ran a brutal regime while implementing diabolical neoliberal policies. It must be noted that Pinochet was a close friend and ally of Margaret Thatcher. In the 80’s, Jeremy sided with the miners again against Thatcher and his own party line. Furthermore, when it comes to military intervention Jeremy Corbyn has been on the right side of history every time. He campaigned or voted against military action in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya, each one culminating in nothing less than a humanitarian catastrophe.

Corbyn has been equally tenacious fighting the ravages of neoliberalism. He disagreed with the Private Finance Initiative, where the taxpayer will eventually pay £300bn for assets that are worth £54.7bn. He firmly believes in public ownership of the railways. Not only has privatisation failed to reduce ticket costs, but the British public now pay £4bn a year in subsidies. Finally austerity, Corbyn is still vehemently fighting against austerity while reorienting the Labour Party as the anti-austerity alternative. It’s no secret that this disastrous experiment is nothing more than right-wing ideological wet dream and has even been discredited by the IMF, not known as the most socialist of organisations. Debt has increased since the advent of austerity from £1trn to £1.7trn, while real wages have fallen, funding for services have been dramatically reduced, plus over 1 million people are reliant on food banks.

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In our naiveté we may think Jeremy is just the right person for Prime Minister, he seems to be someone who is an individual of principle who get’s it right both home and abroad. A man that even before he entered parliament was apart of a group of marchers who opposed the National Front marchers in 1977. Unlike many who accuse people of racism, Jeremy Corbyn has consistently been a man of action. Unfortunately that is precisely the issue, he actively opposes needless wars, discrimination, corporate greed, while supporting everyday people. He is though, in the eyes of the establishment supporting the ‘wrong’ side and that will just never do.

The West are currently spoiling for a war with Russia. While this posturing has been going on for a while, with NATO putting more and more bases near the Russian border, recently the tempo has increased. The latest nerve agent attack has also been used to pillory Corbyn, even though there is a distinct lack of evidence confirming who the perpetrators were. This hasn’t stopped the Labour ‘moderates’ using this as a way to cause division, while the Tories also have gleefully joined in with their condemnation of the Labour leader. Jeremy Corbyn didn’t jump on the “Russia did it” bandwagon and rightly suggested to exercise caution pending the outcome of the investigation.

Unfortunately this sensible view does not adhere to the narrative Theresa May and her fellow Western warmongers are desperately trying to set. Alas there is still no evidence that a former spy of no consequence was killed by the Russian government. This alleged killing of a former double agent by Russia has caused apparent anger and yet the millions killed by the West in the 21st century barely seems to register on the outrage scale. Regardless of any facts Western governments continue playing their juvenile games expelling varying diplomats and people in the West are dutifully expected to dance to this merry tune. So why this recent push on Corbyn?

The obvious answer is, the longer he is around and the more people get to know him, his popularity appears to increase. A more specific reason also lies in Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell, with their determination to create a fairer Britain all round. This includes going after tax evaders and avoiders while devising a tax system that won’t persecute working people. They are keen on implementing a type of ‘quantitative easing’ that will be used to improve infrastructure, fund ailing public services and return the railways to public control.

All of these ideas will squeeze the private sector of which have made a lot of money while provided often very little in return. It’s not surprising the establishment want him buried under the patio. Plotting against him has been a recurrent theme for the last two years and their methods have been varied. Firstly, generally Jeremy Corbyn receives a massive amount of criticism, often based on very little truth, but this bombardment comes from all across the media spectrum (including the Guardian, which is relatively centrist nowadays).

Apart from countless media smears, we’ve witnessed a couple of anti-Semitism accusations, links with Russia, connections to a Czech spy during the cold war, accusations of being an IRA sympathiser and a supporter of Hamas. The last two accusations could be file under ‘D’ for dialogue. What he was trying to do was promote peace without picking sides or forcing an unsubstantiated narrative, how quaint. Finally Corbyn has received varying assaults on his leadership, including the inept coup attempt in 2016 when Owen Smith became the hapless fall-guy and Corbyn supporters in response joined Labour in their droves.

The question must be asked, despite all this pressure why does he still stand almost Zen like among the chaos. The truth is, these allegations, lies and attacks on his integrity are based on zero evidence. This often repeated tactic usually consists of a small inconsequential moment that the media latches onto, such as engaging with the IRA to foster dialogue between the factions. This is turned 180° and presented in a way to ignite faux outrage with Corbyn’s enemies, while placing doubt in the mind of those still sitting on the fence. This story is consistently supported by Corbyn’s detractors in parliament for example Labour’s right/centre wing and of course the Tories.

Make no mistake Corbyn’s political demise would be a triumph for the ruling elite who inhabit both sides of the house. Currently opposing them are a small group of principled Labour MP’s and a large amount of Corbyn supporters who believe a better life for the many is possible. So in summary, it’s OK to support a moral human being who has been on the correct side of history for 40 years. It makes sense to endorse someone who understands the complexities of the world and is not so quick to pick sides. Finally it’s courageous to back a man who is strong enough to continue fighting the status quo. We need to sustain our loyalty to a man who is somewhat an anomaly in the murky world of politics, a rare gem and a figure of integrity.

 

 

The illusion of democracy.

The western phenomenon of neoliberalism that has been exported globally, whilst exploiting vulnerable people throughout the world, still sits tightly, in a rather smug way throughout the UK and US. Right off the bat, I must reject that either of these countries have a functioning democracy. This is not inherently an Anglo-American issue, but comparisons between these two nations are glaringly obvious.

The word democracy appears in the late 16th century: from French démocratie, via late Latin from Greek dēmokratia, from dēmos ‘the people’ + -kratia ‘power, rule’.

To be fair, I guess at no point was it determined which ‘people’ would possess the ‘power’. So yes, it is technically people power, however, these people are a tiny minority, who hold tightly to the reins of control, whilst deluding the masses into thinking they have any say in the political arena. Forty years of unfettered capitalism and individualism has destroyed any valid social cohesive opposition able to mount a serious attack on the status quo. Capitalberlin-wallism declared an ideological victory following the fall of the Soviet Union and the Berlin Wall, with no valid opposing thoughts to challenge it waiting in the wings. Now any serious debate outside this narrow corridor of an acceptable political narrative is brutally derided before it ever gains traction. Supporters of an alternative to neoliberalism (unfettered capitalism as seen in the UK and US) are pilloried by the mainstream media and laughed at by the establishment who gain exponentially from the current system. Our choices over the last 4 decades have been unbridled capitalism with strong conservative societal morals or unbridled capitalism with an occasional shy nod to social justice. With this lack of choice political despair has increased; leading to voter apathy and poor voter turnouts on both sides of the Atlantic.

On either shore of the ‘pond’ we are offered an illusion of democracy, in the form of political parties. The two main parties in the US and the UK have moved ceaselessly to the right over these 40 years, admittedly the US has veered much further than the UK, but the trends are similar for both. Neoliberalism has now become the only accepted game in town and anything outside of this is considered crazy, at least by the ruling elite.

“The smart way to keep people passive and obedient is to strictly limit the spectrum of acceptable opinion, but allow very lively debate within that spectrum….”
Noam Chomsky, The Common Good

However, this hasn’t always been the case. Following World War II, the UK adopted a Social Democratic model, in an attempt to rebuild the depleted economy and the decimated infrastructure following the war. Primarily Clement Attlee and Nye Bevin were responsible for creating the National Health Service. nye-bevanAttlee also nationalised the railways, coal mining, gas, electricity, canals, the Bank of England and finally the steel in 1951. This particular economic model known as Keynesian was readily accepted until the mid 1970’s. Across the Atlantic the US employed a similar system under Franklyn D Roosevelt. This package was known as the ‘new deal’ this started in 1933 as a response to the great depression. Some of its content included; the social security act, banking reforms (primarily the Glass-Steagall act), maximum work hours and huge public spending on infrastructure creating 8.5 million jobs. However, after economic stagnation this system eventually gave way to neoliberalism in the late 70’s. This ideology went into overdrive following the arrival of Ronald Reagan in the US and Margaret Thatcher in UK. Most of the safeguards regarding job security, in terms of both ‘real wages‘ and workers rights have now been stripped away. Most assets including power, water, airlines and any industry whatsoever has been commodified, with maybe air the exception so far. Neoliberalism ripped the heart out of society and never gave it back.

Since the late 70’s we have had decades of unbridled capitalism, an increasing erosion of our civil liberties due to concocted wars, massive inequality driven by corporate greed, all cemented with government collusion, such as low to non-existent corporate taxes. We have a world that is ailing, our home globally speaking is on the ropes because big businesses coerce governments to abandon the people all to secure increased power. This is not a democracy, we end up succumbing to whatever the ruling elite decide, whether we know this or not. We only have to examine the derailment of the Bernie Sanders campaign and his attempt to launch a serious systemic challenge in the US, to realise the system doesn’t work for the people. In the UK, Jeremy Corbyn is facing massive resistance, not from the grassroots members who he resonates with, but MP’s on the centre-right of the party who still dream of those halcyon, Blairite, neoliberal-lite days. The attacks on Mr Corbyn are numerous, personal and devoid of evidence. All of the mainstream media, including the so-called left media such as the Guardian are persistently running stories on his inability to lead. Although, the recent leadership coup had been planned for months, which was obviously designed to disrupt the efficiency of the shadow cabinet and more importantly undermine Corbyn. All this is designed to distract us from what is really important. Jeremy Corbyn has some logical, straight forward, common sense ideas and the establishment do not want these to gain any traction with the populace. Jeremy Corbyn offers real change from the usual ‘lesser of two evils’ election day dilemma and the ruling elite will endeavour to destroy this credible option at all costs.

A functioning democracy that works for all of society in the US and the UK is currently a myth. The US had their glimmer of hope, but this was quickly extinguished and the majority of Bernie supporters were brought back into line behind Hillary Clinton. For the UK, the dream is not over, but the fight will be long and bloody. images-duckduckgo-comThe establishment have the power, the money, the MP’s on both sides and the media to spread their propaganda. Our power will be found with the people, but in all honesty we don’t have them yet either. People consistently vote against their best interest; economically, health wise and on education to name a few issues. The media have maintained their grip of the people by creating fear. The rich will always vote Tory, as they belong to the 1%, it’s highly unlikely they will ever vote against their own interests. However, the middle classes are coerced to take out their frustrations on the poor, lambasting so called ‘benefit scroungers’. While the poor are convinced via rags such as the Express and the Sun to direct their anger towards the immigrants who are supposedly taking their jobs.

This cunning sleight of hand misplaces our collective angst away from the real culprits; the CEO’s, bankers and the government. As they usher in the next round of tax reductions for the rich and cuts to services that has had catastrophic effects towards the other end of society. Austerity is just another tactic of capitalism that has decimated lives, while making the 0.1% of society obscenely rich. We need to recognise that neoliberalism is the problem. It is protected vehemently by the few and promoted vociferously by the media billionaires. If such a pretense wasn’t guarded so closely the game would have been over long ago and the people would have revolted. It is our job, therefore, to explain to whoever will listen, that there is another way, that this path attempts to look after everybody in society and this is called Socialism.

Here’s the great Noam Chomsky’s with his views on democracy and capitalism.