How to be a Populist

2 09 2017

Richard Rorty

When Donald Trump was first elected, well-read people with good memories dug out a prediction by the philosopher Richard Rorty from 1998 that seemed shockingly accurate:

“[M]embers of labor unions, and unorganized unskilled workers, will sooner or later realize that their government is not even trying to prevent wages from sinking or to prevent jobs from being exported. Around the same time, they will realize that suburban white-collar workers — themselves desperately afraid of being downsized — are not going to let themselves be taxed to provide social benefits for anyone else.

At that point, something will crack. The nonsuburban electorate will decide that the system has failed and start looking around for a strongman to vote for — someone willing to assure them that, once he is elected, the smug bureaucrats, tricky lawyers, overpaid bond salesmen, and postmodernist professors will no longer be calling the shots.”

Richard Rorty, Achieving Our Country, 1998

‘Wow’, everyone thought after the election and it was quoted and forwarded all over the place. But there was a second part to that quote which was quickly forgotten. After nine months of Trump Presidency we can see that part is also clearly coming true: Read the rest of this entry »





Erdogan on a Plane

10 07 2017

Preisdent Erdoğan of Turkey, on a plane.

Erdogan on a Plane

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And the award for barbarism goes to…

7 06 2017

UKIP

Just time before the polls open for the UK General Election to make the award for the party manifesto policy which most advances the cause of  barbarism. The clear winner is … UKIP for FGM inspections. Here is the winning policy:

“Implement a screening programme for girls identified to be at risk of FGM from birth to age sixteen, consisting of annual non-invasive physical check-ups.” UKIP 2017 Election Manifesto p.35

It’s almost as if they didn’t think about, couldn’t imagine, what that might mean. Like they just got out the notorious dog whistle and that is the sound it produced.

Imagine for them. A little girl going to school and waiting to be dragged off for her annual FGM (Female Genital Mutilation) inspection. ‘From birth to age sixteen’. The shame, the humiliation, exacerbated by the cultural mores of exactly those families most at risk. Families for whom avoiding shame and humiliation are paramount. The result of this annual, date in the diary, sexual assault would be depression, mental disorder, self-harm and honour killing.

Just so you know UKIP, irony is when you seek to defend liberal democracy by utterly undermining its values.

Read the rest of this entry »





Don’t say we weren’t warned

9 11 2016
Douglas Kelley (left) with colleagues

Douglas Kelley (left) with colleagues

The experts are playing catch-up over Donald Trump’s election victory, but there’s really only one person qualified to comment, and since he’s been dead for 60 years I had better do it for him.

Douglas R Kelley knew a thing or two about the need for character in high office because he made it his mission to work out what Americans should look out for when choosing their leaders.

By that I do not mean what to look out for in the next Pericles, he was not that optimistic about American democracy. He meant look out for as in avoid like the plague.

And he had a good idea of what that was, from his job as psychiatrist to the defendants at Nuremberg. Read the rest of this entry »





Bernie and Me…

11 02 2016

 

(This article first appeared in DISCLAIMER Magazine)

It’s been a while since I met Bernie Sanders, decades in fact; I interviewed him in the days when both Clintons were still in Arkansas, Sanders was a recently elected Congressman and I was studying journalism and working for a Vermont TV station while in Washington DC.

Knowing nothing of Vermont’s politics or his track record I focused on the slightly more academic question of the effectiveness of a loner Socialist congressman. Sanders is currently running for the Democrat Presidential nomination, but he was originally elected as an independent socialist. In a political system then absolutely divided between Republican and Democratic faultlines the concept of an independent was utterly alien. And an avowed socialist? It was unthinkable.

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Chutzpah

19 01 2016

 

Paul Flynn

Labour MP Paul Flynn has received plaudits over the way he brought a debate to Parliament on whether to press for Donald Trump’s exclusion from the UK following the presidential candidate’s call to ban Muslims from entering America – see here.
There is an irony in Flynn drawing attention to a man criticised for seeking to discriminate against people based on their heritage.
It is something Flynn himself has done. Read the rest of this entry »





Bristol’s Watershed Moment

24 10 2015

Watershed

Bristol’s Watershed Arts Centre was recently censured by the Charity Commission for failing to observe political balance in its programming.

From recent activity it’s not clear it’s learned the lesson.

Watershed is run as a charity which means it has to follow rules on political neutrality. It also receives substantial public funding from Bristol City Council, the Arts Council and the National Heritage Lottery Fund amongst others. It’s a substantial operation turning over £5 million per year.

The complaint that led to the reprimand focused on their ‘annual’ Palestine Film Festival which is actually more frequent than that; with subsidiary Palestine Film festivals during the year. The tone is monotonous anti-Israel activism.

The Senior Charity Commission Case Officer Mazeda Alam told Watershed that:

the charity has either strayed into political activity, or has enabled this perception to be reached, through events such as the opening night of the 2012 Palestinian Film Festival . We consider that the discussion as recorded on the transcript you provided was not representative of the divergent views on the subject, and that it strayed away from content related to the charity’s objects (film as visual art) into expressions of political views.

Watershed got off lightly; for some reason the charity commission chose not to engage with the following serious allegations:

  • A curator who glamourises terrorists (Annemarie Jacir – see p.10 & p.16 of the dossier to the Charity Commission);
  • A host who vilifies Jews (Bidisha – see p.9);
  • Describing a film which features terrorists as ‘beautiful and intimate (Saken – see p.14);
  • A film funded by a terrorist organisation with the screenplay written by a senior member of that terrorist organisation without any context beyond hailing it as a ‘rarely seen gem (PFLP – see p.15);
  • Complicity in excluding Israeli funding where it suits them; where the film is not anti-Israel (Encounters v Villa Touma – see p.18);
  • Removal of all details of previous festivals to prevent scrutiny. (see p.6)

All contained in a thorough dossier which can be read by clicking here. Read the rest of this entry »