Friday, February 25, 2011

From Congress House to Green Square

I wrote most of this post late on Tuesday night and was about to publish on Wednesday morning when I decided it was more important to read Toby Green’s guest post on institutional antisemitism in the Green Party, which is far more important (please read it), so I delayed this, risking that events in Libya would overtake it.

“Progressive” politics and North African fascists

I posted at the weekend on Ken Livingstone’s misnamed “Progressive London” shindig. I’ve since noted a number of items related to what I wrote in that post.

First, Johnny Guitar was on a similar wavelength to me. His post, entitled “How bizarre”, begins: “it is a bit hard to see how a motley crew of SWPers (Weyman Bennett), Stalinists (Kate Hudson and Andrew Murray) and Islamists (Ismail Patel and Dilwar H Khan) can, with some help from Ken Livingstone and Jeremy Corbyn, construct an alliance capable of giving Cameron and Osbrone sleepless nights. I could be proved completely wrong, though I seriously doubt it.” However, he focuses on one Mitchel McLaughlin, a Sinn Fein veteran who spoke for it when the IRA was slaughtering civilians and now knows a thing or two about implementing harsh spending cuts in a right-wing coalition government. (By the way, “Progressive” Nasserite Andy Newman is calling for the Irish to vote for Sinn Fein...)

Meanwhile, HP provides a little more information about another of the speakers, Intissar Kherigi, who I simply noted was a representative of the British Muslim Initiative, a Muslim Brotherhood front. Turns out she is also the daughter of Rachid Ghannouchi, the leader of Tunisia’s En-Nahda party. HP give a taste of his politics: “declaring other Muslims to be “kuffar“, trying to get secularists sackedsupporting suicide bombing, and accusing intellectuals (falsely) of defaming Mohammed.”

Shiraz Socialist publish a couple of shameful articles from the vaults of News Line, the paper of Gerry Healey’s Trotskyist cult the Workers Revolutionary Party. The articles, from 1983, exhibit a particularly disgusting brand of anti-Zionist antisemitism, portraying a reactionary Zionist web that stretches from the “rich Jews” who colluded with Hitler right through to rival Trot group Socialist Organiser, a conspiracy that silences opposition by playing its “anti-Semitic trump card” – phrases that have become all too common on the left. Anyway, the articles are relevant now because they contain a defence of the tyrant Muammar Gaddafi as anti-imperialist: try and swallow the words “in support of the Libyan masses under their leader Muammar Gaddafi.” And it is relevant to the “Progressive London” post because it generously quotes Ken Livingstone defending the WRP. Ken claims News Line “gives you an objective presentation of the news and political developments and supports the base struggles of the working class in industry and the community” and describes his enemies in the Labour Party as “agents of the Begin government”. I had forgotten how far back Ken goes with this “anti-imperialist” swamp. More on this sort of thing from Andrew Coates, David Osler and Michael Ezra and (from the archive) Sean Matgamna and Paul Anderson.

Regime change from below?

I have been totally unable to keep up with the overload of exciting news coming out of the Middle East. Here are some of the things I’ve managed to catch. Some splendid and very to the point vitriol on Libya from Terry Glavin. Francis Sedgemore focuses on the relationship between the realpolitik and the reality. Terry and Francis both highlight the disgrace of the West’s recent toadying up to Gaddafi, a relationship (pictured in full glory by Doug Saunders and Darren Red Star, and further unearthed by Francis) which can be summed up well in three words: blood for oil. Francis says: “it makes me want to vomit, in much the same way as the fact of Henry Kissinger’s continued existence.” The Kissinger reference is apposite, as Kissinger’s “realism” is the intellectual justification for this type of un-ethical foreign policy. The hypocrisy of Blair and Bush using the idealist pro-democracy rhetoric of the neo-conservatives in Iraq while boosting the regime of someone not so dissimilar to Saddam in Libya. Time for a more thorough break with the “reality-based community”.

David Cameron, speaking in the Middle East, is (a bit like New Labour in 1997) making some encouraging noises on the need to break with the old realism, and refuse the choice between repression and extremism. But how does he show it? By taking a bunch of UK arms mongers to Kuwait with him to flog Made in Britain weaponry to a bunch of repressive oil monarchies.

One of the facets of the Western love-in with Gaddafi that seems to be less reported is on immigration. In one of the most obscene manifestations of the corruption of European human rights culture, the EU, while not maintaining formal diplomatic ties with Libya, outsourced much of its immigration policing to Gaddafi’s brutal security forces. He violently contained the flows of black Africans seeking a liveable life north of the Mediterranean so that Europe would not have to bloody its lily-white hands. (The lobbying company Nick Clegg’s wife works for, DLA Piper, is helping Gaddafi try to get millions of Euros in trading concessions from the EU for this service.) Arguably, this is on a par with the disgraceful freeing of al-Megrahi the Lockerbie murderer at the behest of the oil lobby.

In a brief mention of this, the Evening Standard manages quite extraordinary verbal gymnastics: “Human rights law currently prevent European countries from deporting illegal immigrants and bogus asylum seekers back to the Arab country as they are routinely tortured and imprisoned by Gaddafi’s regime.” For starters, the issue is not the migrants who get through but can’t be sent back, but Gaddafi’s own part in not letting them get here. And how you can acknowledge that his government tortures with impunity while still thinking asylum seekers fleeing his regime are “bogus” I don’t know. And the Standard tries to blame human rights law, while it is the flouting of its spirit by the European countries that sign up to it that is reprehensible.

On the other side of the political spectrum, here’s someone else disgusting: journalist and semi-academic Nir Rosen, who tittered on Twitter about the assault in Cairo of CBS’s Lara Logan. As Michael Weiss shows, Rosen is a prime example of the reverse-Orientalism of the Western left, which approves of sexual and other violence against women if it is perpetrated by “unleashed brown natives”. He also thinks, like “Progressive London” speaker Lindsey German, that fascist Hezbollah is  democratic, pro-social justice, anti-imperialist and wonderful. (See also J-P Pagano. Update: Also Terry Glavin, Michael Totten.)

Relevant to that, and to my “Progressive London” post, is Spiked’s Brendan O’Neil with an excellent article in The Australian on Palestine as the obsession of the radical West and not Arabs.

Optimism (“this is not an Islamic revolution”) about Islamism in Egypt and Tunisia from Olivier Roy. Extra cause for optimism from this report which describes a 15,000-strong anti-Islamist demo in Tunis. Pessimism, on the other hand, from Ayaan Hirsi Ali.

On Western responses: insightful thoughts on commentary on Egypt and on “Egyptics” from A Jay Adler. Peter Ryley on the soft bigotry of lowered expectations. Marko Hoare writes about Gaddafi’s son Saif al-Islam and his LSE connection (note: the late, great Fred Halliday emerges as a man of integrity; liberal cosmopolitan David Held as a man of low integrity). Michael Weiss on the human rights whitewashers.

A Jay Adler and  Carl Packman analyse the situation in Tunisia and in Algeria, Egypt and Yemen, both writing in the spirit of Albert Camus. Hardt and Negri hail the multitudes in Tunis, Cairo and Benghazi as a new eruption of democracy, sweeping away the myth of the clash of civilisations.

Commentary on the Libya from David Osler, including the left’s romance with Gaddafi. James Bloodworth on the pathetic admiration of the Latin American left for Gaddafi (some of the money quotes from Rebecca).

Finally, round-ups from Kellie and Modernity. Martin notes that For the latest from Libya, this site seems fairly reliable, and Mona Eltahawy continues to do a great job of pulling together all the news from the democratic awakening in the Arab world. And, to conclude, a big fuck you from Little Richardjohn.

17 comments:

ModernityBlog said...

Bob,

Not to nitpick, but :)

“Progressive” Nasserite Andy Newman shouldn't that be:

“Progressive” Nasserite, damn- the-Tibetan-running-dogs-what-a-cheek-for-asking-for-freedom Andy Newman?

Graeme said...

Nice overview, Bob. It's especially worthwhile to point out how the EU and Italy especially have been outsourcing their immigration policing to Libya.

This broke in the Canadian news yesterday: http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/story/2011/02/24/snc-lavalin-prison022411.html

It's absolutely vile--as if a prison built to "international human rights standards" means anything in a country that doesn't have much regard for those sorts of niceties--but Canadian business involvement in Libya has been going on for years. John Ivison has a good piece in the National Post about it here.

And now Paul Martin, the former PM who lobbied Libya on behalf of Canadian business, is calling for UN intervention: http://www.winnipegfreepress.com/canada/breakingnews/united-nations-must-intervene-in-libya-says-ex-pm-paul-martin-116737314.html

skidmarx said...

Michael Totten shows
Or Michael Weiss shows that if a left wing jounalist says he doesn't support something, and apologises for the remarks he does make, he's still condemned to the Ninth Circle of Hell becuase he dared to suggest that lauding McChrystal was to be a warmonger.

the Western left, which approves of sexual and other violence against women if it is perpetrated by “unleashed brown natives”.
Thta's not what Rosen says, it's not what the Left says, maybe you should watch your language as suggested by a link a couple of posts back.

bob said...

Thanks for the comments and additional links Graeme. Thanks too for the corrections Mod and Skid. I will change Totten to Weiss tomorrow.

OK, this is what Nir Rosen said, in apology for laughing at a sexual assualt: "A part of me was bothered by how celebrities, especially white ones, get so much attention, and before I realized it was a sexual assault I was sort of anticipating a return to the old theme about unleashed brown natives attacking a white woman. Another part of me was bothered by the knowledge that Arab victims would never get attention, that this would detract from everything else that was happening, and that most victims of sexual assault, whether in Egypt or the US will never get attention." If you can't see what a load of bullshit that is, you have a serious problem.

I have absolutely no complaint about what Nir Rosen says about mcChystal; that is totally beside the point. For a start, Logan didn't exactly laud McChrystal. More obviously, it is what Nir Rosen said about the sexual assault that reveals him as monstrous. The rest of his "anti-imperialist" nonsense (actually fellow travelling for fascism) is also obscene.

Of course the left as a whole does not practise that kind of extreme reverse-orientalism, but there are plenty of examples that condemn the Nir Rosen "anti-imperialist" wing of it, such as the nonsense the Guardian recently saw fit to publish about "human rights imperialism", the pseudo-academic postcolonial crap about "queer imperialism", and, in the hyperlink I already included, the Jews sans Frontieres defence of honour killing. A left that excuses sexual assualt, honour killing and execution of gay men for being gay is not a left that can be defended.

ModernityBlog said...

Let's remind people of the link,

http://brockley.blogspot.com/2009/03/from-bobs-archive-opposing-patriarchal.html

skidmarx said...

what Nir Rosen said, in apology for laughing at a sexual assualt:
That he didn't realise was a sexual assault at the time.I think perhaps I must have a serious problem. Could you explain which of "celebrities get more attention", "there's an oft-repeated trope of native mobs", "Arab victims would never get attention" or "most victims of sexual assault, whether in Egypt or the US will never get attention." is objectionable, because they seem like reasonable statements.
More obviously, it is what Nir Rosen said about the sexual assault that reveals him as monstrous.
Not that obviously, obviously.
The rest of his "anti-imperialist" nonsense (actually fellow travelling for fascism)
I'm having a little problem with the prejudicial language, unsupported assertions.

Reading the JSF link I think the attack on Tatchell might be OTT, but I don't see honour killings or the execution of gay men being defended.

The Contentious Centrist said...

"That he didn't realise was a sexual assault at the time."

Of course he did. When you link to a piece of news and comment on that piece it seems rather odd to claim later that you did not read that very piece of news you linked to.

"Anderson continued to press Rosen on whether he read the CBS statement on Lara, which said she suffered a “brutal and sustained sexual assault.”

The CNN anchor did not understand how Rosen could not have read such the short statement before linking on Twitter.

“Yes, I should have read it,” Rosen said. “I just heard the word assault, not that that’s just — no matter what I say, it doesn’t sound good.”

OK! NEWS: REPORT — LARA LOGAN, CBS REPORTER, SEXUALLY ABUSED & BEATEN IN EGYPT

“You honestly want people to believe that you were linking to a CBS News statement that you yourself had not read?” Anderson fired back."

http://www.okmagazine.com/2011/02/nir-rosen-tells-anderson-cooper-he-didnt-know-all-the-lara-logan-assault-details/

bob said...

The Mark Elf JsF post I linked to does not explicitly say "honour killings are ok". It says that the very term itself is "used by western Orientalists to suggest that there is something worse about this than the two women killed by men every week in the UK". In other words, it disputes the very idea of there being such a thing as honour killings.

In fact, the term is used by both British-based feminists who are active on fighting domestic violence here in the UK, and by feminists in the parts of the world where honour killings take place. It is even used by Jacqueline Rose and Tariq Ali. It takes a very extreme cast of mind to deny it, the extreme cast of mind one finds only with people like Skidmarx, Mark Elf or Yoshie Furuhashi. Yoshie, whose baleful contribution to Bob Pitt's What Next journal is linked to by Elf, people may recall, is the defender of the Iranian theocracy that real leftists, like Louis Proyect, recognise as a cancer on the movement. See Proyect's recent attack on Yoshie's defence of Gaddafi here http://louisproyect.wordpress.com/2011/02/27/qaddafi-and-the-monthly-review/

Anyways, I call this reverse orientalism because it deploys the language of Edward Said's insightful analysis to excuse abuses of women and sexual minorities when they are committed by the victims of Orientalism.

So, when Rosen claims that he "was sort of anticipating a return to the old theme about unleashed brown natives attacking a white woman", as a way of minimising Logan's assault, he is deploying exactly this reverse-orientalism. He cannot see that the reports might be true, because they contain brown men and a white woman. Because brown men are always guilty in the orientalist narrative, they must be actually always innocent.

As for the other bits... "Arab victims would never get attention": well, people like Yoshie and Elf wouldn't agree, because they think Arab victims of sexual violence get too much attention, but even Nir Rosen ought to realise that CNN and the other news media are pretty heavily represented in North Africa right now, although I'm not sure if Logan herself is still there.

"this would detract from everything else that was happening". Right, let's tweat about it so as to stop it from detracting attention from other things!!

"most victims of sexual assault, whether in Egypt or the US will never get attention". Right, let's make sure they get more attention by laughing when one of them does get attention!!

I'm sick of this shit.

skidmarx said...

"He cannot see that the reports might be true,"
But he does recognise that the reports are true.
"It takes a very extreme cast of mind to deny it[the existence of honour killings], the extreme cast of mind one finds only with people like Skidmarx,"
Maybe you should wait for me to ever deny the existence of honour killings before making such an accusation.
"Because brown men are always guilty in the orientalist narrative, they must be actually always innocent."
Your imputation, nobody has said that.
" "Arab victims would never get attention": well, people like Yoshie and Elf wouldn't agree, because they think Arab victims of sexual violence get too much attention," "
Closer to the truth here, but still not quite there. They may object to Western liberals disrupting solidarity demonstrations by raising these issues, but I think you are carrying your interpretation too far.
" ""most victims of sexual assault, whether in Egypt or the US will never get attention". Right, let's make sure they get more attention by laughing when one of them does get attention!!"
That's shit. Contentious Centrist, even without going back to his links, shows that Rosen was ignorant, or convincingly claims to be, when he made the offending remarks (he would be the first person to paste a link without properly checking it out).

If you're sick of this shit, stop wallowing in it, and continually claiming that it is what it is not.

bob said...

Rosen was ignorant, or convincingly claims to be, when he made the offending remarks

Rosen, in his first tweet laughing about the assualt, LINKED TO a very short CBS report that said that Logan had been "brutally assaulted" in its first two lines. In the second paragraph, it says she "suffered a brutal and sustained sexual assault". OK, maybe he linked to the article without reading it.

Ten minutes later, after other tweaters admonished him, he tweated "Yes yes its wrong what happened to her. Of course. I don’t support that. But, it would have been funny if it happened to Anderson too". Surely by this time he'd bothered to read the article he linked to? Or he just admitted it was wrong without bothering to read it? And still he makes a joke of it.

skidmarx said...

At least now your complaint approximates the truth.

ModernityBlog said...

"At least now your complaint approximates the truth."

Bob,

Skidmarx is constantly calling you and other liars, in the nicest possible way.

Isn't Skidmarx's gameplan plain enough?

skidmarx said...

kidmarx is constantly calling you and other liars,
Er, no, I'm suggesting that Bob over-eggs his pudding quite a bit. I'm calling you a liar,the suggestion on the last thread that I was a fan of Israel Shamir only the latest in a series.I'm also calling you a hypocrite.

Isn't Skidmarx's gameplan plain enough?
Well here's what I think it is:
1. To agree with what I think is right and disagree with what I think is wrong (probably doing a lot more of the latter)
2. To engage in honest debate with those who respond in like fashion.
3. To try not to get to upset with those with a wholly dishonest approach to web commentary.

skidmarx said...

The link I left to some actual reverse orientalism doesn't seem to have appeared. Maybe like the spam filter on the site linked to, yours doesn't like helpful comments?

bob said...

I have been extremely liberal, if that's the right word, about taking things out of spam, and have not deleted anything yet.

The SU link is priceless and I'm grateful of it: The political questions in the Arab east are now being posed, and discussed to the greatest extent, by easterners. Radicals in the West have an important input - provided they understand that.

Comment by Kevin Ovenden


The first comment on that thread is also sickening:
I’m not as concerned that Gaddafi can hold on to power. He seems finished. What’s important here is that NATO/US/UN not be given a right to intervene.

Yoshie also had a good article: http://mrzine.monthlyreview.org/2011/furuhashi240211.html

Comment by beesat


Beesat doesn't care about the people of Libya, so long as it is only their "own" tyrants who oppress them and not nasty foreign ones. (Yoshie's post isn't as bad as some, apart from where he calls PressTV and Hezbollah part of the "axis of resistance".)

skidmarx said...

From thatn it would seem that he does care whether Garddafi is in power, just that he thinks the question is moot because he's a goner.
And I'd tend to agree with Yoshie on Hezbollah, if not Press TV.

Anonymous said...

More on Libya:

http://louisproyect.wordpress.com/2011/03/08/a-reply-to-jean-bricmont/

http://louisproyect.wordpress.com/2011/03/07/diana-johnstone-qaddafi-and-the-dangers-of-rote-thinking/