Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Your daily dose of Bobism

I am aware that I have been blogging very lightly these past months, which may be a relief for some of you. However, feeling my readership slipping away, and imagining maybe one of you might be suffering from withdrawal, I thought I'd make you aware that you can actually get a daily dose of Bobishness from The Bob From Brockley Daily. This "newspaper" is composed mechanically, by little aggregating robots somewhere, using a smart algorithm based mainly on my Twitter activity. It appears mid-morning every day Brockley time, and if I get five minutes over lunch I edit it to make sure there's nothing too offensive headlining. Here is a taste. I hope to blog about some of these topics in days/weeks to come.

Today's headlines

Last Presidential Debate 2012 - I didn’t watch the whole debate, but Obama looked tired in this BBC clip. There are some videos at the Beeb which give a greater flavour of the debate. I thought the Presidential debate: Obama’s... 

After the big march: what next? 

Shared by leftlinks - Workers Liberty reports (below); but how was it for you? There were many flashes and flurries of militancy on the London...

Beneath the law: When the system inherently favors the rapist

Shared by EdinburghEye - Back in April, I wrote for WMC’s Women Under Siege about the legal gender imbalance female victims of sexualized violence face around the world. But a disturbing recent investigation by the independent...

A lower standard for them

Shared by Ray Cook Is it worth engaging with the arguments of someone of whom you do not have an especially high opinion? That depends. If it's just about influencing her (the person in question), maybe not. But if it's about the argument itself and the influence it might have with others, then it could be worth doing. In a letter in today's Guardian Jenny Tonge responds to a column by Jonathan Freedland in which he wondered at the lack of protest about the Assad regime's brutality and its tens of thousands of victims, particularly from political quarters always quick to condemn Israel when it kills Palestinians.Tonge's response (scroll down) is of the we-expect-more-of-Israel variety

Equality law: the Scouts’ exception

Shared by Kellie Strøm - Equality law: the Scouts’ exception From the Telegraph: Schoolboy ‘banned from Scouts for being an atheist’ Schoolboy George Pratt had attended his local Scout group for ten months, and was expecting...

Yesterday's headlines

The Israeli-Palestinian Enthymeme - This commentary first appeared in the Algemeiner on on October 18, 2012. In rhetoric, an enthymeme is an argument that contains an unarticulated premise. Commonly this is because the conversation in...

O Canada, how much will it cost us for you to keep him? - Conrad Moffat Black, (for now) Baron Black of Crossharbour, PC, OC, KCSG, denounces the venality and corruption of the fascistic US justice system, says that he has been “persecuted half to death”,... - Word of the day: "tumult" Surprise of the evening: Mali? This was supposed to be a debate about foreign policy - so why no discussion of Europe (although Greece got a shout out)? Of India? Of any s...

The BBC And The NHS 

Shared by Soupy One - I think Martin Shovel doesn’t get the recognition that his wit and drawing skills deserve. In this case he details with the BBC’s attitude to the NHS: Those readers unfamiliar with the issues would...

Monday's headlines

Hillsborough investigation should be extended to Orgreave, says NUM leader |

Shared by Paul Gilroy - The police complaints watchdog is under pressure to widen its investigation into alleged fabrication of evidence by South Yorkshire officers in the 1980s as new allegations emerge of attempts to fr...

RIP George McGovern – a war hero who fought to end a war 

Shared by andrewmilton - It is with deep regret that I report that George McGovern has died. A Democratic Senator from South Dakota, McGovern was his party’s nominee for president in 1972. His campaign was called The Child...

Obliged to Offend: The dark side of Hugo Chavez's Venezuela

Shared by Bob Gordon -  When things are grim at home it can be easier to seek comfort in developments abroad. And boy, are things grim at home right now. Stagnant levels of pay, an economically incompetent government det... - Even given his own talent for hyperbole, the claim George Galloway made on Sunday night was extraordinary: that he had discovered his secretary was working as an "agent" for a Metropolitan police counter-terror...

What Next for Respect in Bradford?

Shared by Angry of Bradford - The past week has been bizarre, even for George Galloway. He has written to the Home Secretary and Speaker of the House to ask why, he alleges, SO15 (the Metropolitan Police’s Counter Terrorism Uni...

Anti-Repression, Anti-Fascist Strategizing Suggestions - With the rise of the Golden Dawn fascist group in Greece, and their attempts to build a base here in the U.S. (link) , anti-fascist strategies are becoming more and more crucial.   Also, I wouldn’t...

Abortion: Mehdi Hasan has highlighted a dilemma that liberals fear to face 

Greater Serbiton - In the UK in recent weeks, the abortion issue has flared up again, thanks to the call by Women’s Minister Maria Miller to lower the legal time-limit for abortions from 24 to 20 weeks after the start of pregnancy; the statement of the Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, that he favours a limit of 12 weeks; and the surprise article in the Huffington Post by Mehdi Hasan, former political editor of the flagship left-wing periodical New Statesman, arguing that being ‘pro-life’ does not prevent him from being left-wing.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Revolutionaries are easily distracted

In a recentish post, I attacked the contemporary left, which I argued had abandoned class politics on the home front to wage a kulturkampf against cultural conservatism. This post attacks the opposite problem in the left, that part which sees things only through the lens of "imperialism" and "injustice" and therefore blinds itself to many instances of profound injustice across the globe. 

Suzanne Moore, commenting on the much-married George Galloway and his recent claim that "we should unrelentingly struggle to persuade women [that abortion] is.. morally repugnant", said that "what with Jimmy Savile too, this week it feels as if we are seeing the face of patriarchy." She adds this: "The continuing support of the hard but impotent left for Julian Assange and their dismissal of the women concerned is not new. Women's rights have rarely been a priority for 'revolutionaries'." Her conclusion:
The reduction of feminism to a "chattering class" issue is absolutely part of the rightwing agenda. Only certain women can "afford" to be concerned and this is exactly the dead end of Tory feminism, which is strong on the right to have it all and totally blind to women who have very little. But open your eyes to see that the fight for women's rights remains real and globalised. Working-class boys have died in Afghanistan on the pretext of improving the rights of women, remember? A 14-year-old in Pakistan, Malala Yousafzai, has been shot in the head at close range because she wants an education. We admire this fight for basic rights as we talk to the Taliban. 
We are not in the same situation but the rights that women assume here – not to be abused or raped, to "aspire" to equal representation in public life and at work – are being chivvied way. We have a judicial and political system that is allowing this to happen and we cannot challenge it if we cannot name it. These words – patriarchy, feminism, misogyny – are indeed old. Retro, even. But they are vintage concepts, pre-loved because they are the real thing. Use when necessary.
When I first mentioned the welcome trend of left-wing feminists disassociating themselves from the misogyny of the Assange/Galloway camp, Kellie wisely commented:
The anti-war movement has been misogynist "in effect" for over a decade. It's interesting that some who have been so vocal about Western imperialism are now more able to recognise misogyny in the movement when it concerns events in Sweden and Britain than they were when it was about events in Afghanistan.
With the Malala affair, finally the commentariat seems to be lifting its head a little away from what's going on here, to the really brutal faces of patriarchy that the "anti-imperialist" left enables.

The "anti-imperialist" left is much invested in el Presidente Hugo Chavez: George Galloway was over in Venezuela campaigning for his re-election. Sarah sums up some of the responses to Chavez, including Carl's and Rob's. But I was very struck by this:

It’s interesting to note the response of the Guardian’s Jonathan Glennie to these concerns.  In response both to this post, and to Carl Packman’s observation that abortion is still illegal in Venezuela, Glennie brushes aside such silly shibboleths: 
@CarlRaincoat abortion, antisemitism – these are distractions – overturning hundreds of years of exploitation, that is the issue 
You can learn a surprising amount about someone from 140 characters.
Glennie, incidentally, argued that a little less freedom in Venezuela might be a good thing in eradicating poverty and inequality.

I have some sympathy for the notion that overturning exploitation and injustice should be our core, primary goals, and we must never lose sight of this. But to brush away racism and women's rights as a "distraction" is even worse than calling gay rights a "shibboleth". This sort of leftism makes me sick.

UPDATE: I may have been overly harsh in my judgement of Jonathan Glennie. In particular, I missed his earlier tweet "“@CarlRaincoat Having said that, raising the flag against anti-semitism in the left in Latin America is worth doing, i see it a lot…” However, I think the core point I was making remains valid. I will return to this topic in another post soon, and try to provide a more nuanced response to Glennie's Guardian blogging, some of which is persuasive but some of which remains problematic to me. See this conversation for a glimpse.

Friday, October 05, 2012

Some reflection on events of recent weeks

There is something about blogging which requires instant response, and when just a week or two has passed since an event, it seems untimely to blog about it. This post is untimely in that sense, as it contains some of the things I have thought in response to some events which now seem not so recent.

I was struck by the under-reporting of some of the most extreme acts of violence by the Assad regime in Syria in what are hopefully its final weeks. Among the most brutal of its acts have been assaults on Palestinian refugee camps in Syria.

“Camps” is perhaps a misnomer, as these are really towns as old as many American or Australian cities, built of concrete, rather than the transient communities of tents and shacks the name conjures up. Some, like Dera’a, are “official” camps administered by the UNRWA, with kindergartens and health centres. More people live in “unofficial camps”, like Yarmouk, which has born the brint of regime attacks, a densely built-up suburb of Damascus, with multistory houses, hospitals, schools, heavy traffic, satellite dishes, electricity supply. (Read Arun with a View for evocative descriptions of Yarmouk; listen to an interview with a resident; read a 2010 BBC report on life in the camps; or read the account by solidarity tourist Sarah Shourd, who talks of a place of poetry readings, parks and boutiques.)

In July, there were reports of security forces firing on un-armed anti-regime demonstrations in Yarmouk. Here is a distressing video of the aftermath of one of the attacks on Yarmouk in August. The violence peaked early in September with four days of artillery bombardment, followed by ground assault (including the storming of the hospital and mass arrest of injured civilians). Later in September, there were reports of Palestinians killed and burnt by Assad’s forces and their bodies displayed in public, and of “sweeping” operations against Palestinian regime opponents, of snipers firing on children and old men. There have been reports of rape used as an act of war, and of summary executions of civilians, adult and child, male and female. This month, it is Dera’a camp, South of Damascus and closer to the Jordan border, that has been under attack, with heavy shelling around the mosque and many killed.

Hundreds of Palestinians have been killed in these attacks, and thousands injured. Some 269 Palestinians have been killed in the Syrian conflict, most by regime forces (the PLO claims over 400) out of a total death toll of around 30,000 (of whom around two thirds are civilians). The Syrians claim the camps harbour terrorists and pose a danger to the country’s security.

The under-reporting of these horrific events is in contrast to the ways in which Israeli operations (which also claim to be against terrorists and necessary for security) are reported. When Israel has deployed aerial bombardment or ground assault on Palestinian communities, it is front page news across the Western mainstream media, and especially liberal media. In response, and quite legitimately, thousands march through Western streets, demonstrate outside Israeli embassies. Others boycott Israeli products; still others attack synagogues or desecrate Jewish graves. Progressive Jews in the diaspora write letters to editors denouncing Israel’s actions and disassociating themselves, “as Jews”, from the violence. How many demonstrations have their been in Western cities about Assad’s violence? How many letters and boycotts have Western trade unionists and intellectuals organised to protest about the deaths in Syria.

Syria’s operations are comparable in scale and excessive in intensity – so why the quiet response? It seems to me the only plausible explanation is that for the mainstream Western media, and especially liberal media, Palestinian lives are not valuable in themselves, but of value only in relation to the acts of Israel. Palestinians are never the story for the liberal media; it is always Israel that is the story.

(Just to be clear, I am not at all suggesting the Western media is wrong to report, or Western liberals wrong to protest, Palestinian deaths at Israeli hands. For the sake of comparison, in the much shorter Lebanon and Gaza conflicts of 2006 and 2009, there were respectively 1200 Lebanese civilians and 200-900 Palestinian civilians killed. For further reading on Syria, I recommend Pulse Media and Qunfuz.)

I was also struck by the under-reporting of the extraordinary acts of courage and dignity in Libya, when thousands of Libyan civilians, most notably in Benghazi, physically invaded the strongholds of the militias which have made life a misery for Libyan people since the revolution. Specifically, it was Islamist militias which were rejected, and most especially the militias associated with the horrific slaying of the American ambassador in Benghazi, an act which appalled the city. The uprisings against the militias were spontaneous, self-organised mass acts of ordinary people from a wide cross-section of Libyan society, including devout Muslims and in particular Sufis: acts of democratic rage, perhaps, or patriotic rage, or just decent rage.

Here, the quiet response of Western mainstream media, and especially conservative media, was in contrast to the obsessive attention to the horrible spectacle of mob violence “provoked” in the preceding days by the dirty little Innocence of Muslims youtube video.

I am not for one second arguing that the Islamist rage was not worth reporting and condemning and dwelling on at length; its reach and intensity shows its geopolitical significance. What I’m suggesting is that the comparative media neglect of the democratic rage is telling. The conservative mainstream media, at least in 2012, is only interested in Muslims and Arabs if they play the role of fanatical jihadis – just as the liberal media is only interested in Palestinians if they play the role of victims of Israel.

Genocide denial and rape culture