Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Big fat Jew in a bikini

I have been writing a follow-up post about class (provisional title: we are the 47%) for a few days now, but keep stalling, for lack of time.

I mainly got sidetracked by work, family and the other demands of the real world. But I also got sidetracked in the unreal world. First by the excellent Sad Red Earth with his first and second posts on the stink of today's politics and the hall of mirrors in which we dwell (taking in Muslim Rage, Maureen Dowd, slithering neoconservatives and Andrew Sullivan, among other things).

I also got sidetracked by the chutzpah of JihadWatch's Robert Spencer, whose Twitter effluent defames dozens of mainstream American liberals by preposterously claiming they want Christians to be imprisoned in the US for insulting Mohammed - but who bullyingly demanded a retraction of my friends Glyn and Peter for "defamatory" things they never even said about him. Spencer, along with Pamela Geller, circulated completely false claims about Nigerian Muslims crucifying cats. When they realised it was a hoax, they pulled their posts. But not before literally thousands of bloggers, tweeters and such had re-circulated the lie. Anyone with any integrity would have corrected their error, rather than brushing it under the carpet, but Spencer and Geller don't care about the truth, only about provoking the clash of civilizations. Here are the key documents.

While I was here, I glanced at my ever-dwindling readership stats. Apart from the obvious "Bob From Brockley", here are the most popular searches that bring my sweet readers here (with hyperlinks to the posts they must be looking for, for added reductio ad absurdum):
If you are missing my more frequent blogging days, I am more prolific at the moment (if of course more concise) on Twitter. And some of my Twitter feed gets aggregated by robots in Lichtenstein here.

Hope 5773 is going well for you so far.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Open tabs

Although I'd much prefer to say something of my own, I need to paste some links into a post, because all the open tabs on my browser are eating too much of my computer's dwindling va-va-voom. So, here's this week's reading list, in the hope I can get back to substantive blogging soon.

I haven't really read many of the 9/11 posts and articles that poured forth yesterday. What else is there left to say eleven years on? But here are a couple: Norm with eleven persistent mythsKenan Malik's New York songs; Carl Packman on bin Ladenism.

Pakistan's Triangle Shirtwaist fire
The news from Karachi of a mounting death toll in the garment factory fire - 246 as I write, as well as  25 in a similar factory in Lahore - is horrific. The windows were barred shut, so the workers had no way of escaping. I have been trying unsuccessfully to identify what the factory produced, and who for. Much of Pakistan's garment manufacturing output is destined for Western the Western wholesale and retail market.
Judith Butler and the Adorno Prize
Kenan Malik: "INTELLECTUAL CHARLATANS & ACADEMIC WITCH-HUNTERS" (and a follow-up here). Ron Radosh: "The Anti-Semitism that Defines Today’s Western Left". Sad Red Earth: "Impenetrable: Butler's Hollow Rhetoric". Tod Gitlin: "The Trouble With Judith Butler—and Her Critics". Petra MB: "Defending Judith Butler in the Ivory Tower". Richard Landes and Benjamin Weinthal: "The Post-Self-Destructivism of Judith Butler". Bella Center "9/11 and How We Grieve".

Penis politics 1: Assange, Galloway, Yaqoob, Anti-imperialism and Respect
A fantastic post by Mhairi McAlipine on Socialist Unity ("the cesspit of the left") and its support for rape. I haven't yet read her follow-up, criticising Harry's Place and its ilk, which she defines (wrongly in my view) as "the imperialist left": "You can't fight misogyny with imperialism".  Also very good are Paul Stott on the obsequious nature of the last century left's support for Salma Yaqoob and HarpyMarx on the corrosive forms of "anti-imperialism"  which licence the misogyny of the Assange/Galloway campists. Not so current, but also on the Assange issue, Willard Foxton demolishes Glenn Greenwald here (as if he needs demolishing): "an embarrassment to the Guardian". And an earlier one I missed: Ellie Cumbo on Brendan O'Neill's Gallowayism about rape. If you are interested in these issues, the best source is the Soupy One, along with Am I Objective. The latter also brings us the fact-checking site WikiWatch. Meanwhile, Support Pussy Riot by all means. But support the Kazakh oil workers too.

Penis politics 2: Circumcision
Kristen Loveland & Yascha Mounk debate the circumcision ban, and Kristen adds a little more. Toby Lichtig: "Time to cut it out".

Antisemitism and conspiracy theories
Chip Berlet interviews David Hirsh on this, and Joel Braunauld blogs about the same topic.

Also (including some older stuff I'm not sure if I ever linked to)
Peter Risdon asks "Are We the Bad Guys?" Gilbert Achcar illuminates the Syria crisis. Rob Marchant says Comment is Free is eating the Guardian. Carl Packman nominates Stella Creasey as the most influential left-wing thinker of the past year.

Monday, September 03, 2012

The left is dead, long live the working class

Jogo recommended to me a well-written article by Michael Ledeen on why the left is dead.

I agree that the left is intellectually dead. He is correct that the left has embraced a politics of personal destruction, that it has no claim to moral superiority any more. Most of all, he is correct that the left has no movement any more.

But not for the reasons Ledeen says. Ledeen says the left is moribund because it lives in a world which no longer exists, a world in which the working class was a major force in the world.

It is true that large-scale survey research suggests that working class self-identification is declining. In Britain, the Independent’s Britain Thinks survey in 2011 found just 24% (which is still a substantial number) describe themselves as “working class”.

However, this was an on-line survey done by a market research company, not a random sample of households across the UK. (Working class people are, almost by definition, less likely to respond to an on-line survey than middle class people.) The poll also gave people five options, of which three were variants of “middle  class (lower-middle, middle and upper-middle), and other surveys that use that approach tend to get higher middle numbers. On the other hand, polls that have multiple “working class” categories (such as YouGov, also an on-line survey from 2011, who included “upper middle”) you get higher working class numbers again (48%, compared to 42% middle class).

More robust polling data in the UK, such as the massive British Social Attitudes survey (BSA) or large surveys by Ipsos MORI, shows declining rates, but still significant: around 60%. In America, a poll for ABC News in 2010 asked if people were middle, working or upper; 48% said working class; the General Social Survey, with the same question but the additional option of “lower”, by the National Opinion Research Center say more or less the same: 47% working to 42% middle, with a further 8% lower class. The GSS, like the BSA, is technically properly representative in its sampling, and is done face-to-face not on-line.  

Interestingly, the Britain Thinks survey found not a single person identifying themselves as “upper class”. But surely there are people who could be described as such. Nobody who reads the Daily Mail would ever describe David Cameron and George Osborne as “middle class”, for example.