Monday, August 26, 2013

William Hague and the questions he doesn't want you to ask

The Foreign Secretary William Hague want to drag the United Kingdom into direct involvement in the Syrian conflict. This assertion is now absolutely beyond doubt. The Tory party has been persistently arguing the case for arming the Al Qaida backed Syrian opposition with British weapons for well over a year, and now Hague has taken to openly propagandising for war.

Following the report of a large chemical weapons attack in Damascus, Hague was quick to pin the blame on the Syrian government. Here's what he said:

"I know that some people ... say that this is some kind of conspiracy brought about by the opposition in Syria. I think the chances of that are vanishingly small and so we do believe that this is a chemical attack by the Assad regime." [source]
This is a classic example of a propaganda statement. Firstly he uses the word "conspiracy" to imply that any alternative to his own favoured explanation must be a "conspiracy theory", then he goes on to make a belief based assertion with no supporting evidence. Willaim Hague believes something, therefore it must be true, perhaps he has been taking "logic" lessons from Iain Duncan Smith?

The governments of the United States, the United Kingdom and France have all prejudged the UN investigation into the attack and condemned the Syrian government as the guilty party. It seems they are all itching for military intervention in Syria and this is exactly the pretext they need. It doesn't seem to matter a jot to them that the UN inspection team have yet to complete (or even properly start) their investigations. Clearly, the actual evidence isn't important.

Has nothing been learned from the decision to marginalise Hans Blix and the Iraq weapons inspection team? In 2003 the UN investigation was bypassed and the United Kingdom rushed into war on the false pretext of "Weapons of Mass Destruction". William Hague now seems intent on repeating a remarkably similar trick in Syria in 2013.

The alternative view that Hague derides, is that one of the terrorist groups on the Syrian rebel side might have faked this chemical weapons attack to give the United States and the United Kingdom the pretext to intervene against the Syrian government. Several people have expressed the view that the chemical weapons attack was a "false flag" operation by the Syrian opposition, not least Carla Del Ponte, who is a member of the UN Independent Commission of Inquiry into the Syrian conflict who stated that testimonies from victims and field hospital staff suggest the use of sarin gas by the Syrian opposition. There is also the accusation that pre-prepared footage of the chemical weapons attack was uploaded to the internet the day before the rebels claim the attacks took place.

I don't claim to have any special information that provides me with absolute certainty that either side committed this atrocity, but I am inclined to put the views of UN inspectors over the beliefs of people like William Hague that have been banging on about the conflict in a grotesquely biased and partisan manner for years. I also think that it is very important to consider who the beneficiaries from such an action would be, and look at the possible motivations.
  • Why would the Syrian government invite UN weapons inspectors to Damascus in July 2013, then deploy chemical weapons within days of their arrival?
  • How is it possible to make sense of this? Is it possible to believe that Bashar al-Assad so stupid that he would invite weapons inspectors into the country then launch a chemical weapons attack right under their noses?
  • Is Bashar al-Assad stupid/callous/tactically inept enough to order the use of chemical weapons in a conflict zone where his own forces were concentrated?
  • What kind of battle would be of such strategic importance to the Syrian government, that they would risk using chemical weapons right under the noses of the UN inspectors?
  •  Don't the Syrian opposition have inordinately more to gain by staging a chemical weapons attack (the US and the UK joining the conflict on their side), than the Syrian regime has (killing some rebel fighters and potentially taking control of a small area of Damascus)?
  • Has there been any formal investigation into the allegations that pre-prepared footage was uploaded to the internet the day before the attack?
  • Should high profile officials (like William Hague) wait for the UN inspectors to draw some evidence based conclusions and avoid condemning one party with belief based assertions and capitalising on the incident to spread biased pro-war propaganda?
One person that is willing (or desperate) to overlook all of these questions is William Hague. He claimed that any explanation other than his favoured theory that the Syrian government are so incredibly stupid that they would act in this way is "implausible". This assertion came in an interview on the (highly partisan) BBC where the interviewer seemed to be goading him into declaring war on Syria with loaded questions like whether the only options were a military attack or doing nothing.

Another question worth considering is the fact that the shells used in the Damascus gas attack, and in previous alleged chemical weapons attacks are crude "home-made" missiles, probably manufactured somewhere in Syria. The fact that non-standard military ordnance is being used suggests the rebel forces might be behind the attacks, however the western media prefer to spin it that the Syrian regime must have created these "home-made" shells in order to create "plausible deniability".

In my view, the Syrian government are well aware that the only countries that are allowed to get away with using chemical weapons are the United States and Israel (who both used white phosphorous as chemical weapons in Fallujah and Gaza). Given that the Syrian regime currently have the upper hand in the conflict, why would they provoke condemnation from the rest of the World, and massively increase the chances of US/UK intervention by using chemical weapons under the noses of the UN inspection team they invited into the country?

Whatever the evidence, William Hague is absolutely determined to use this chemical weapons attack as a pretext for military intervention. He has made his mind up that the Syrian government is responsible, he is determined to ignore any evidence to the contrary and he is pushing a very strong propaganda line in favour of the UK military intervention that he has consistently favoured. His actions betray a desperation that the UK take military action before the United Nations inspection team can conclude their investigation.



Note: As I was writing this article, the news broke that the UN inspection team were repelled from the scene of the chemical weapons site by a sniper shooting up one of their vehicles. It seems that somebody doesn't want the site examined. William Hague would probably have you believe that the sniper was working for the Assad regime, and that the following is the only "plausible" version of events.

1. Assad invited the UN weapons inspectors into Syria in July.
2. Assad ordered a massive chemical weapons attack within days of their arrival.
3. Instead of blocking access to the attack site on safety grounds (it's in the middle of a war zone) Assad allowed the inspectors (that he invited into the country) to approach the site in a convoy, but ordered a sniper to shoot up one of their vehicles in the hope that they would give up and go away.

Another Angry Voice is a not-for-profit page which generates absolutely no revenue from advertising and accepts no money from corporate or political interests. The only source of revenue for Another Angry Voice is the  PayPal  donations box (which can be found in the right hand column, fairly near the top of the page). If you could afford to make a donation to help keep this site going, it would be massively appreciated.



More articles from
ANOTHER ANGRY VOICE    
                  
David Cameron and the Syrian "blood pie"
                   


Infinite incompetence or Orwellian propaganda?
                             
Libeling the evidence: The Iain Duncan Smith fallacy

        
A warped Tory redefinition of rights     
                      
Secret Courts and the very Illiberal Democrats
                      
What do Tory donors get for their money?
            
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What is ... a Justification Narrative?

                  

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Theresa May, David Miranda and the Guardian Hard Drives

If you haven't heard about Edward Snowden, David Miranda and the Guardian hard drives then you mustn't have been paying much attention to the news this summer.

Just to recap:

Edward Snowden is the American whistleblower that has released lots of information about the massive scale of secret surveillance by the British (GCHQ) and American (NSA) secret services. Some of the things he has revealed include:
David Miranda is the partner of the Guardian writer Glen Greenwald, who is the lead journalist on the Edward Snowden story. Miranda was detained at Heathrow Airport by the British authorities under anti-terrorism legislation. He was kept in custody for the maximum permissible time of 9 hours (most people detained under section 7 of the Terrorism Act are detained for less than an hour). He than had his personal property confiscated.

The Guardian hard drives were the ones that were destroyed as a result of David Cameron instructing Cabinet Secretary Jeremy Heywood to ensure that the Guardian copies of the documents leaked by Edward Snowden were either handed over to the British government, or destroyed. The Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger chose to destroy the drives rather than hand them over to David Cameron.

There is clearly plenty of material here for sufficient chapters to fill a book. Chapters could include: The terrifying scale of the surveillance operations; the impact on international relations; the distribution of stolen private data to hundreds of thousands of private sector operatives, and the likelihood that some of this stolen data has been used corruptly; the American operational influence over British secret services; the constitutional implications of mass surveillance in America; the way the UK surveillance operations have grown through function creep, rather than through due parliamentary process; William Hague's fascistic "nothing to hide, nothing to fear defence"; the collective punishment of family members; the misuse of anti-terrorism legislation; and the direct curtailment of press freedom by the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom.

The aspect I am going to concentrate on for the rest of this article is the bizarrely contradictory "operational independence" justifications from the United Kingdom government.

After it was first revealed that David Cameron and Theresa May were both aware of the detention of the journalist David Miranda under anti-terrorism legislation, the government trotted out the age-old, "we don't comment on individual cases" / "it's an operational matter" lines.

The Tories were forced to revise their "no further comment" stance after the former Lord Chancellor Charles Falconer condemned the detention as misuse of anti-terrorism legislation, saying "I am very clear that this does not apply, either on its terms or in its spirit, to Mr Miranda" and the former Tory prisons minister Crispin Blunt said "Using terrorism powers for something that doesn't appear to be a terrorism issue brings the whole remit of the laws passed by parliament to address terrorism into disrepute".

Even before we begin comparing it with other things, the justification the Tories came up with is utterly absurd. Theresa May's justification for not intervening was twofold. Firstly, she openly approved of the detention of a journalist under anti-terrorism legislation and the confiscation of his personal items, and overtly praised the police for doing it. Secondly, she stated that the police have absolute "operational independence", which is claim that politicians are somehow powerless to intervene in the operation of the legal system. This "operational independence" line was later reiterated by David Cameron's office, before Theresa May went one step further to imply that anyone raising doubts about the tactic of using anti-terrorism legislation to intimidate journalists, is guilty of condoning terrorism.

The "condoning terrorism" line is simply a reiteration of the George W. Bush "you either support us or you support the terrorists" stance and has been rightfully torn to shreds. The former Director of Public Prosecutions Ken MacDonald's described Theresa May's "with us or against us stance" as "ugly and unhelpful" before going on to say that "people who are concerned about these issues are not condoning terrorism. They are asking a perfectly legitimate question, which is: are we striking the balance in the right place between security and liberty?"

In my view the "operational independence" line is just as bad as Theresa May's blatant smear tactics. The thing that is so obviously wrong with the "operational independence" stance is that it creates a "get out of jail free" card for politicians. If this stance is accepted, it means that politicians are exempted from blame, no matter how corruptly, immorally or unlawfully they know that the police of members of the criminal justice system have acted, or how little they did to stop it once they found out.

The claim of absolute operational independence is farcical. Imagine politicians knew about a bunch of corrupt undercover police officers stealing the identities of dead babies, infiltrating protest groups, acting as agent provocateurs, forming sexual relationships and fathering children, before disappearing completely leaving several women with no financial maintenance. Imagine that politicians knew all about a vast police cover-up to hide their culpability in the deaths of 96 innocent football supporters through the mass falsification of statements and a smear campaign against the deceased fans.

OK these things are not at all hard to imagine, they actually happened, and it seems extremely unlikely that no politicians knew about these operations as they were happening.

Let's try considering something even more extreme than the theft of dead baby identities, rape by the state, mass falsification of disaster reports and smear campaigns against the dead:

Imagine that the Argentine dictator Jorge Rafael Videla had been allowed to use the "absolute operational independence" defence to explain away his involvement in the policy of kidnapping pregnant left-wing women, holding them as political prisoners until they gave birth, extrajudicially executing the mothers, then handing the babies over to supporters of his military junta. Even if the prosecution in his trial for crimes against humanity had been able to show that he knew all about, and openly approved of these barbaric practices, he could simply claim that he was "powerless to intervene" due to the sanctity of the "operational independence" of the Argentine Naval taskforce that oversaw these practices. Perhaps this is how Theresa May would like absolute operational independence to work? No matter how despicable the actions of the state, and no matter how much the political class knew about it, or approved of it, in her mind "operational independence" exempts them from all blame.

This "you can't blame us because we were powerless to intervene" stance from Theresa May and David Cameron contrasts quite rudely with David Cameron's words about the the Barclays Chief Executive Bob Diamond and the Libor rigging scandal. Here's what Cameron said back in 2012: "people have to take responsibility for the actions and show how they're going to be accountable for these actions" and that "it is very important that goes all the way to the top of the organisation". Note how these sentiments are absolutely incompatible with the "we're powerless to intervene because of operational independence" narrative.

The "absolute operational independence" line is absolutely ludicrous because it can quite clearly be used to excuse politician's knowledge of, and refusal to act against corruption, criminality and immorality. It clearly represents a complete abnegation of moral responsibility by the government.

To his credit, the Tory MP David Davis picked up on this attempt to abnegate moral responsibility when he told the BBC that "[the government] didn't direct it, nobody is suggesting they directed it. But they approved it by implication. If the home secretary is told this is going to happen and she doesn't intervene then she is approving it". He is absolutely right. If the home secretary is fully aware that the police are brazenly misusing anti-terrorism legislation in order to intimidate journalists, she has a moral obligation to, at the very least raise some concerns about it. Instead, she did nothing, and then paraded around in front of the press openly praising the police for their action and smearing anyone that dared to ask the questions that she should have been asking herself.

The really damning evidence comes when this "powerless to intervene in legal matters" argument is contrasted with the enforced destruction of the Guardian hard drives. An attack on press freedom by the government so egregious it even drew condemnation from the Americans!

The idea that government ministers are absolutely powerless to intervene in legal matters (even if they suspect that the police are behaving unlawfully) is absolutely blown out of the water by the fact that the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom considers himself to have the powers to gave a direct ultimatum to a newspaper to either hand over their source material, or to destroy it. If Cameron's attack on press freedom is not an absolutely clear cut example direct of government intervention in legal matters, I'm not sure what would be.

It is frankly ludicrous that the Tories believe that anyone would accept the idea that the government will intervene to bully a newspaper into destroying their source material, yet later claim to be utterly powerless to ever intervene in legal matters, no matter how unlawfully they believe the police might be behaving. 


 Another Angry Voice  is a not-for-profit page which generates absolutely no revenue from advertising and accepts no money from corporate or political interests. The only source of revenue for  Another Angry Voice  is the  PayPal  donations box (which can be found in the right hand column, fairly near the top of the page). If you could afford to make a donation to help keep this site going, it would be massively appreciated.



Sunday, August 18, 2013

The Personification technique



The fallacious reasoning strategy that I like to define as the personification technique is incredibly common generalisation fallacy. Once you've read this article you'll begin to notice how often it is wheeled out, not just by right-wingers, but by advocates of all kinds of other ideologies too. I have already addressed this fallacy once in this series (almost a year ago to the day in fact), when I cited a specific example of the personification technique used by a barkingly right-wing Ayn Rand acolyte called Gary Hull. In that instance I referred to it as the "sentient concept" fallacy because he stated that the abstract concept of egalitarianism has the capacity for hate.

The personification technique is generally used to deride a particularly unfavoured ideology or group of individuals (Islam, Socialism, The Left, Muslims, Religion, Liberals, Jews,  Germans ... ), by tarring the whole concept or group with personality attributes shared by only some (or none) of it's adherents or members. That the personification technique is such a commonly used, and rarely commented upon debating technique illustrates the fact that there must be a great deal of tolerance for abject generalisations and talking in absolutes amongst the general public.

I'd like to imagine that most people would accept the idea that generalisations are "wrong", if asked their opinion directly. However, many people seem to be unable to spot the fact that the personification of an entire concept is not just a form of generalisation, it's the reduction of a complex and nuanced concept down to an absolute, arbitrary and philosophically incoherent definition.


Examples


At some point in your life you must have seen some right-wing reactionary spouting off in generalised terms about "the left". You must have heard a right-winger claim that "the left" wants to control people, that it hates free enterprise, or that it is jealous of successful people. These human personality traits simply cannot be ascribed to a loosely defined collective of assorted people, or to political ideologies such as socialism, left-libertarianism, social democracy or communism. It doesn't matter if you consider a particular trait to be held by even the vast majority of people that believe in a particular concept, it is just nonsense to label the entire concept with the personality trait you ascribe to it's followers.

Take this observation from the polemical right wing blowhard Rush Limbough: "I didn't know that the left had such jealousy of the Tea Party", which he made in an argument that the Occupy movement is somehow contrived and the Koch brothers bankrolled Tea Party movement is organic and natural!

You don't have to be trained in philosophy to work out that ascribing the personal emotion of jealously to a nebulously defined concept like "the left" is abject gibberish. That didn't stop the right-wing reactionary brigade from lapping it up and chipping in with their own contributions though. The levels of ignorance and cognitive illiteracy on display in this thread about Limbough's "jealousy" personification of "the left" are really something to marvel at. Here are a few more examples of the personification technique from just that one thread:

  • "What the Left fears is that the Tea Party will mike them irrelevant in 2012"
  • "Tea Party members are educated, have a clear purpose and realistic ideas to better our country. The Left simply has the opposite characteristics."
  • "The Left are ideologies [sic] where everything is based on theory."
  • "Being jealous of what others have is what makes the left so....so....left."
  • "So their [sic] jealous of me. WOW that’s a kicker! I know they hate my pickim up especially when I blow past em in their little fart cars. Yee haw!!!!!!!!!!!!!"
OK, so the last one isn't actually an example of the personification technique, it's just a wild semi-literate generalisation, but it's worth including for context I'm sure you'll agree.

The fact that these people are only capable of talking in such absolute terms about a generalised "enemy ideology" shows how closed their own ideology is. These poor individuals seem to have been programmed by a diet of Fox News and right-wing talk radio shows to think in these absurdly generalistic terms. They don't give the faintest damn about what socialism or Occupy are actually all about, because they've got a set of simple character traits that they can apply to anyone that does anything they deem even vaguely "left". Why would these people want to cloud the water with stuff like "theory" (that they clearly hold in contempt - judging by the number of recommends given to the anti-theory comment) when they can just idly label vast swathes of the population with generalised characteristics in order to maintain the illusion that they have a perfect understanding of American politics?

Another fine example of the personification technique in action is the work of the (Richard Dawkins approved) far-right Islamophobic ranter Pat Condell, who repeatedly refers to Islam and Muslims as if they are a single indivisible entity. In just one of the Condell videos uploaded to the Richard Dawkins Foundation for "Reason" and Science website, he uses the technique repeatedly. He claims that the entire concept of Islam "makes no secret of its desire to exterminate the Jews" and claims that Islam "rejects" and "despises" America. 


Ascribing personality traits to the entire concept of Islam is a shamefully weak debating strategy. Damning a whole religion with personality traits that are shared only by a minority of its followers is a crap debating strategy, and anyone that is attuned to spotting philosophical bollocks should be able to identify it as the gibberish that it is. That Richard Dawkins didn't spot it, or that he allowed confirmation bias to completely over-rule the critical judgement that he is supposedly so famous for, simply because he agreed with the anti-religious slant, illustrates the fact that Dawkins is not the great logical thinker and champion of reason that so many (including himself) make him out to be.

Another example from the extreme right from a hysterical Islamophobic ranter on the Another Angry Voice Facebook page called Daniela.
"Enjoy Sharia Law you completely deluded idiots ... And whilst we are on the subject, how come there are NONE of you screaming at the tops of your lungs protesting female genital mutilation, which this barbaric ideology demands? I note none of the left like to protest that too much. Oh no that's right I forgot, you are all way to busy supporting this ideology and demanding they be treated equally."
That Daniela makes broad, sweeping generalisations is bad enough, but that she openly concludes that some people should not be treated equally (based on nothing more than their religious heritage) and furthermore, that it is some kind of degeneracy to even dare to argue that they should be treated with equal rights, marks her out as a fascist.

Does Daniela offer any evidence to back her assertion that "none of the left" ever complain about FGM?

Of course she doesn't, she's a hysterical ranter for whom the idea of substantiation is a totally alien concept. There are countless examples of "lefties" (especially the feminist left) who oppose FGM. I certainly classify as "left" in her warped worldview simply because I would never agree with her fascist view that people some should be discriminated against because of their religious heritage, and I have regularly expressed my opposition to every form of child genital mutilation. That wouldn't matter to Daniela though, she's got her closed worldview that the concept of Islam has evil intentions and that "the left" behave as a hive mind of identical Islam supporters and FGM apologists. No amount of evidence to the contrary is going to convince her otherwise, because she "knows" these personality attributes to be true, so anyone arguing otherwise must be dismissed as a Islam loving leftie liar.


Of course it is equally possible for the left-wing thinker to fall into the same trap and start thinking of "enemy ideologies" as having personality traits. However in my experience (anecdotal evidence I know - but I do read through thousands of comments on my page every week) by far the most common users of the personification technique are angry, borderline coherent right-wing reactionaries.

Anyhow, having read this article, you've now got absolutely no excuse for using the feeble personification technique in debate yourself, no matter what your political or theological ideology.

 
Conclusion

The personification technique is a propaganda strategy used by people that either don't understand the meaning of the language they are using, or that simply don't give a damn. Either they are so locked into their closed worldview that they can't grasp the fact that personality traits can't be applied to concepts, or they do understand it, but hope that the victims of the propaganda they are spouting against their "enemy ideology" are so cognitively illiterate and riddled with confirmation bias that they won't even register the philosophical incoherence.

Next time you see an example of someone wheeling out the old personification technique ("the left despises this", "Islam hates that", "The Jews want whatever") you should note that the user of this strategy is spewing philosophically illiterate rubbish. Vast, nebulous concepts like religions, nationalities and political ideologies are not single, indivisible and sentient. If the person wants to say that some left-wing people, many Germans or a minority of Muslims have a particular characteristic, they should damn well say so, instead of crudely labeling an entire concept with the attributes of only a proportion of it's adherents or members.



 Another Angry Voice  is a not-for-profit page which generates absolutely no revenue from advertising and accepts no money from corporate or political interests. The only source of revenue for  Another Angry Voice  is the  PayPal  donations box (which can be found in the right hand column, fairly near the top of the page). If you could afford to make a donation to help keep this site going, it would be massively appreciated.



More articles from
 ANOTHER ANGRY VOICE 

            
The sentient concept fallacy
    
  What is ... a justification narrative?
    
What is ... Confirmation Bias?
                   
Richard Dawkins and the far-right extremists
            
The Occupy movement
        
                     
The "making Work Pay" fallacy
         
The case for ... Evidence based policy
                                          
The warped Tory redefinition of rights
                                            

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Who is responsible for mass uncontrolled immigration?

So you claim that "lefties"are to blame for mass uncontrolled immigration do you?

Don't worry! Politically illiterate claims like this are remarkably common. You're not alone in having been misled by the corporate media into believing that "the left" introduced and continue to support mass uncontrolled immigration.

In reality mass uncontrolled immigration is a right-wing policy.

I can almost hear the alarm bells ringing in your head.

You don't like it do you?

You refuse to believe it ...

Alright then ... Have a little think about who benefits from mass uncontrolled immigration.

Is it the workers (you know, the ones that "lefties" are supposed to represent)?

No, of course it isn't.

Uncontrolled immigration drives down their wages and increases the competition for jobs (especially low-skilled jobs), making the prospect of unemployment, low pay or the horrors of zero hours contracts much more likely for millions of ordinary workers.

Another way in which ordinary workers lose out through mass immigration is the increased pressure on local services such as health and education, on which they, and their children rely.

So who does benefit then?

The corporations and rich employers benefit from the large labour surpluses created by mass uncontrolled immigration, because the increased competition for jobs allows them to drive down the wages they pay, therefore increasing their profit margins.

The profitability of the labour surplus is hardly a new concept. Karl Marx explained how capitalism benefits from surplus labour way back in the mid-19th Century. A large standing army of unemployed, provided with just enough welfare to keep them alive is absolutely fundamental to the modern neoliberalised capitalist system.

The wealthy minority are almost completely insulated from the negative effects of mass uncontrolled immigration. They don't even notice the extra pressure on services, because the majority of the executive class generally have private health plans and privately educate their kids. What is more, they are much more likely to be dodging their taxes, so many amongst them don't even contribute towards the costs of providing these extra services, despite the fact that they are the ones benefiting most from mass uncontrolled immigration.


How did you come to such a remarkably backwards conclusion then?

One of the most important factors that leads to your confusion is that us "leftie liberals" tend to advise you not to blame the individual immigrants. After all, they have every legal right to come here, and we would do the same in their circumstances: If we could earn 400% or 1,000% of our current salary working abroad in low-skilled jobs, we'd be off in a flash. What us "leftie liberals" tend to advise you to do is to blame the politicians that introduced these neoliberal open borders reforms to the immigration system. We like to council you that mass uncontrolled immigration isn't the fault of the immigrants that come for a better life, it's a macroeconomic problem created by the political class.

It is quite easy for the right-wing corporate media to warp and misrepresent this "don't blame individuals for macroeconomic policies" message into a simplified straw-man argument that "bleeding heart leftie liberals love mass immigration".

Another major factor in the spread of this popular misconception is the tide of misinformation from the right-wing corporate media. The vast majority of newspapers in the UK push the neoliberal agenda and continually deride "the left".

One of their most brazen propaganda strategies is to blame the spectacular failures of the neoliberal policies that they steadfastly support, on "the left". Thus, in the right wing press, the 2007-08 financial crisis wasn't caused by recklessly deregulated banks gambling wildly with other people's money on all kinds of junk that they didn't even understand; it was supposedly caused by "excessive welfare spending".

Perhaps even more brazen than the lie that welfare spending caused the ongoing "debt crisis" (The Great Neoliberal Lie) is the concept that mass uncontrolled immigration enabled by one neeoliberal government after another is somehow also the fault of "the left".

"Ah" but I hear you counter "Labour opened the immigration floodgates, so it is the left's fault, Hah!". However, this counter-argument of yours relies on the flawed conception that the modern Labour party is actually a left-wing party.

You're not happy with this either are you? The right-wing corporate media have told you over and again that Labour are a left-wing party. You know that Labour are more left-wing than the Conservatives, so therefore they can't be right-wing can they?

How are you so wrong about New Labour too?

When Tony Blair and Gordon Brown took over the Labour party in 1994 they re-branded it as "New Labour" and embraced the right-wing economic ideology of neoliberalism. Here are just a few of the many indicators that demonstrate that almost 20 years ago Labour became a right-wing party, wedded to the pseudo-economic ideology of neoliberalism.

Privatisation
If you know just one thing about left-wing politics, it's got to be that they nationalise things, not privatise them.

In 1995 Tony Blair re-wrote Clause IV of the Labour party constitution in order to get rid of the commitment to "common ownership of the means of production, distribution and exchange". Once New Labour came to power in 1997, not only did they refuse to renationalise even the most botched Tory privatisations (such as the rail franchising mess or the hopelessly wasteful and inefficient water companies), they actually set about privatising even more state owned infrastructure (such as Air Traffic Control and the HMRC property portfolio). Indeed, New Labour reforms to the NHS, the Post Office and the state education system also kicked open the door to the mass privatisation schemes currently being enacted by the Tory government.

Do left-wing governments support the neoliberal privatisation agenda? 


Of course they don't!

PFI
One of Gordon Browns favourite policies was a special kind of privatisation scam called PFI, which resulted in the government building up some £200 billion in liabilities to the private sector, to be paid back over the course of decades for infrastructure that would have cost less than £50 billion had the government funded it directly and built it themselves. Don't take my word for it: A Parliamentary select committee found that PFI "is an extremely inefficient method of funding [public infrastructure] projects". [It is worth noting that George Osborne and the Tories have reneged on their commitment to ditch the use of PFI].

The PFI "economic alchemy" scam has two main benefits for a right-wing government. Firstly, through the use of a ludicrous accounting trick, these vast long-term debts to the private sector are hidden from the national debt figures. To create a simplified household analogy: PFI is very much like borrowing £2,000 at a ludicrous rate of interest from a Payday lender like Wonga in order to avoid borrowing an extra £500 on the very low interest loan facility that you have with the bank. Using the PFI accounting scam allows the right-wing government (with a commitment to siphoning countless billions of private sector cash into private sector pockets) to maintain the illusion that they are fiscally prudent by borrowing money in an "extremely inefficient" manner.

The other benefit for the right-wing government is that it allows them to hive off public services into the private sector in a much more favourable way than the old-fashioned Privatisation 1.0 used by the Thatcher government. Margaret Thatcher's government actually expected the private sector to cough up a token payment of a tiny fraction of the value of the assets they were "buying", PFI actually creates the situation where public infrastructure is transferred to the private sector, then the government pays them subsidies of many times the actual value of the assets over the course of decades.

Do left-wing governments use complex economic alchemy scams in order to hand control of public infrastructure to the private sector and pay them £billions in subsidies on top?

Of course they don't!

Industry
Another indicator that New Labour are not a left-wing party is their track record of contempt for British industry. Instead of intervening to support and save British industries and British jobs, they just sat on their hands as the industrial decline that began under the Thatcher regime continued to wipe out industry and jobs (mainly in left-wing Labour voting heartlands too!). What made this refusal to intervene in the shocking decline of British industry and manufacturing so much worse is that in 2008 they couldn't intervene quickly enough to save the financial sector from the consequences of their reckless gambling. The financial sector bailouts amounted to well over 90% of GDP, to put that into perspective, the official national debt in 2008 was just 37% of GDP.

Labour poured almost three times as much cash into the financial sector black holes of debt than all the debt that has been built up over the decades to pay for absolutely everything else the state provides (hospitals, schools, universities, local services, infrastructure investment, policing, military expenditure, subsidies, R&D loans, roads, fire services, libraries, pensions, disability benefits, other welfare spending, and not least; the illegal invasion and occupation of Iraq).

It doesn't take a lot of imagination to realise how much better the employment situation might be right now had Labour spent just a tiny fraction of these vast financial sector bailouts (or the cash they wasted on the invasion of Iraq) on supporting British manufacturing and industry during their 13 years in power.

Do left-wing governments steadfastly refuse to intervene to slow the decline of manufacturing and industry rsulting in the losses of millions of skilled working class jobs, then rescue the financial sector from the consequences of their own reckless behaviour with the biggest state interventions in the whole of history?


Of course they don't!


Tax
Another thing one expects from a left-wing government is the establishment of a progressive tax collection regime and a strong stance against tax-dodging, in order to protect government revenues. What New Labour gave us was exactly the opposite.

They kept most of the regressive taxes they inherited from the Tory party, and escalated several more regressive taxes. Even worse than their refusal to fix the regressive tax system was their disgustingly lax attitude towards tax-dodging. Nobody in their right mind would expect the Tories to do anything serious to stop the massive scale of tax-dodging, given that so many of their major donors are themselves tax-dodgers, which leaves the situation that if anyone was ever going to sort it out it should have been Labour. That they didn't bother, and actually allowed the situation to get significantly worse during their 13 years in power is yet another indication that New Labour is absolutely nothing like a party of the left.

Do left-wing parties oversee extremely regressive tax systems and refuse to do anything meaningful to combat tax-dodging?

Of course they don't
!

Conclusion

On the face of things, your argument that "the left" are to blame for mass uncontrolled immigration appears to be a remarkable display of political illiteracy. However, you shouldn't feel too bad about it: The most likely reason you came to believe such a ludicrous thing is that the right-wing press have drip-fed these lies to the public for years. The corporate media carefully maintain the fiction that the New Labour party are a left-wing party, when they have actually become far more right-wing than the Tory government of Harold MacMillan ever was.

The corporate media also maintain the fiction that "the left" approve of mass uncontrolled immigration. Just a little bit of independent thought on the subject reveals that the main beneficiaries of mass uncontrolled immigration are the corporations and the wealthy employers (traditionally right-wing) and the main losers are ordinary working people (traditionally left-wing). The genuine left tend strongly oppose mass uncontrolled immigration, in favour of targeted immigration (where migrants are welcomed if they have the skills and attributes that are needed by society).

The people that favour mass uncontrolled immigration are the Lib-Lab-Con political establishment, who all plough the right-wing furrow of neoliberal pseudo-economics. There are only a few genuinely left-wing MPs left in parliament, there's tirelessly hardworking Caroline Lucas of the Green Party, the loud mouthed but rarely present George Galloway of the Respect Party, and a small bunch of Old Labour backbenchers such as Dennis Skinner, Michael Meacher and John McDonnell. To blame this minority for mass uncontrolled immigration when the right-wing neoliberals have been running the show since 1979 really does take quite a major abandonment of reason.

Just to reiterate:
  • New Labour are not a left-wing party and haven't been for nearly 20 years.
  • The genuine left is not responsible for mass uncontrolled immigration because they haven't been in power for decades.
  • The obvious beneficiaries of mass uncontrolled immigration are the corporations (you know, the things that "lefties" usually try to limit the power of).
Now that you are armed with this new perspective, perhaps you might start blaming those that are actually responsible for the problem: The adherents of right-wing neoliberal pseudo-economics that have usurped the leadership of all three Westminster establishment political parties.

Oh, and before you go thinking that UKIP are the alternative, bear in mind that they are even more zealous about pushing neoliberal pseudo-economics than any of the three establishment parties.




Clarifications

As a measure of how hysterical people get when mass immigration is mentioned, I have been accused of being a "Daily Mail scaremongerering", "UKIP supporting", "xenophobic", "Daily Express reading" believer in unicorns for daring to raise the subject.

If you think I'm just making up uncontrolled immigration, I suggest you take a look at how the EU freedom of movement for workers legislation actually works.

If you think net immigration isn't happening, I suggest you look at the August 2013 UK Labour Market Statistics, which will tell you that the number of foreign born workers rose by 204,000 in the last year, whilst the headline rate of unemployment is still almost 2.5 million, down just 11,000 from a year earlier. That's Marx's standing army of surplus labour isn't it?

Mass immigration and high unemployment are deliberate macroeconomic policies designed by politicians to create wage repression, yet the right-wing reactionaries love to blame the immigrants and the unemployed, and the left-wing reactionaries love to deride anyone that points at the verifiable evidence as a "Daily Mail Scaremongerer!".

Other people have insinuated that I an anti-immigration, which I'm not. I am opposed to the current shambolic immigration system, and in the article I clearly stated that I am in favour of targeted migration, where immigrants are judged on their skills and attributes rather than their nationality.

Under the current system there are no limitations on the number of unskilled immigrants that can come in from the EU, whilst immigration of migrants from outside the EU (often highly skilled) is made almost impossible with ludicrous fees, bureaucracy and arbitrary income requirements if the non-EU immigrant is not married to an EU migrant.

If a non-EU citizen is married to someone from elsewhere in the EU (Italy, Poland, Estonia, Spain, Hungary, Lithuania, Germany, Portugal, Slovenia, Belgium. Latvia, Greece ...) they can come and go as they please, no matter if they can't speak a word of English or have no skills.

If a non-EU citizen is married to a Brit on the other hand, the Tory government (and the Neo-Labour government before them) make it ludicrously difficult for them to enter, even if they are highly skilled, speak English, have English kids and want to stay in the UK and contribute.

This situation is absolutely ridiculous.

I believe there should be a points based immigration system, with the biggest positive scores coming from factors like :
  • Has British family (spouse, kids, relatives) 
  • Has a skill that is in shortage in the UK economy 
  • Speaks English
 
                         
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More articles from
 ANOTHER ANGRY VOICE 
             
Tory immigration policy: Discrimination against the families of British citizens
                    
The economic case against tax-dodging
                         
What is ... Neoliberalism?
                  
The "Golden Hammer" of neoliberalism
                     
Mixed Economy vs Neoliberalism
                     
                  
                    
The incompatibility of Christian ethics and modern Conservatism
                          
What is ... Regressive Taxation?
                        

Thursday, August 15, 2013

The Another Angry Voice Hall of Shame

In the first three years of running the Another Angry Voice Facebook page I only banned two people. Each time I banned someone I informed the group of my action and provided an explanation of my decision. In the summer of 2013 there has been a noticeable surge in the number of extreme-right fanatics dropping by to vent their bile and to demonstrate their vapid debating techniques, their appalling grasp of the English language and their astonishing levels of political and historical ignorance.

It is for this reason that I have decided to create a list of the people that I have banned and my reasons for banning them.

I believe that keeping a list like this will be a great way of showing:

A: That unlike almost all Facebook pages and websites, Another Angry Voice has a completely transparent and accountable moderation policy.
B. Exactly how extreme people's comments must become before they push me into abandoning my  strong anti-censorship stance.
The Hall of Shame

1. Scottish Machine Gun Precher (calls for ethnic genocide) The first individual I ever blocked was an odious ranting racist using a fake profile to call himself "Scottish Machine Gun Preacher" who had been preaching his hatred of Arabs a little too much on my page.

I have no problem with people criticising what I say, in fact I really enjoy a civilised debate (as several right-wing followers of the AAV page would attest). Often things have gone a lot further than civilised debate. I have allowed the use of foul mouthed insults, personal attacks against me, misrepresentations of my views and motivations, and the deployment of countless other deliberately fallacious arguments to stand uncensored. However if you call for ethnic genocide with statements like "wipe out the Arab scum" and then accuse me of being a "fascist", then you can just fuck off!

I was very disappointed to break my longstanding no-censorship policy, but Another Angry Voice is my page and I didn't want it filled with hateful racist bile.

2. Eva Silver (persistent spamming) Eva left a number of thought provoking comments on my page, but she also had an infuriating habit of spam-bombing my wall, sometimes with more than 20 links per day. One of the most annoying things about Eva's spam-bombing activities was her habit of posting extremely contradictory links. One minute she posted a link criticising the extreme-right, the next she was posting an extreme-right anti-immigration rant.

I try to post around half a dozen carefully considered items per day so as to avoid being one of those really annoying pages that floods your Facebook feed with dozens of posts a day until you unfollow them. I asked Eva on several occasions to stop spam-bombing my page with so many links, but she kept ignoring my requests and carrying on regardless until I lost patience and blocked her. Nobody gets to post more than four times as many items on my wall per day as I do myself, no matter what the content.

3 Davey Brown (defamation) This rambling right-wing extremist decided to defend his vile ideology by threatening violence, bigoted ranting about "Islamofascism" and making totally unfounded accusations of paedophilia against me, and several other people (amongst other things).

I have every respect for the freedom of speech of people with differing points of view (as many of my regular critics will no doubt attest), but if people have no better debating tactics than bigoted ranting and the hurling grotesquely slanderous accusations of paedophilia, they are simply not welcome on my page.

These people still have their freedom of speech because there are plenty of BNP, EDL and NF affiliated pages where their brand of ill-informed, slanderous, hate-fueled bile is always more than welcome.

4. Stephen Campbell (hate speech) This guy repeatedly made foul mouthed, abusive and insulting comments at anyone that dared question his extreme-right ranting. The final straw was his decision to describe all Muslims as "rats". I blocked him from posting anything else because I'm not prepared to have my page used as a platform for people to spew their bigoted hate and hurl foul mouthed abuse at anyone that disagrees with it.

5. Staf Coombes (repeated foul mouthed insults at other users) I actually found Staf's regular right-wing brain farts highly amusing. It was almost as if they were written by a satirist doing a parody of a cognitively illiterate reactionary.

Unfortunately Staf decided to launch several abusive and foul mouthed tirades against other people on the Another Angry Voice page. People have every right to disagree with what I post on my Facebook page, but if they have nothing to offer but slinging a load of foul mouthed insults at everyone else, then they too will join Staf on AAV's very short block-list.

6. "Alf Garnett" (foul mouthed abuse) A blatant troll account named after the most famous fictional racist in the history of British television got himself blocked for repeated use of disgusting language, culminating in a foul mouthed tirade in which he/she/it told me to "fuck off" on my own page. This inspired me to devise a new rule. If you use a blatantly fake Facebook account to troll my page and then tell me to "fuck off", you can "fuck off" yourself. 99.99% of users will be entirely unaffected by this rule.

7. Kasablaka Hill (persistent spamming) Whoever is behind this American page kept spamming "copy n' paste" adverts for their cannabis business on my posts. I actually think that cannabis should be legalised (especially for medical conditions), but since it is not currently legal in the UK, and because I repeatedly asked them to stop spamming my page, in the end I decided to ban them from posting any more spam links inciting people to buy drugs.

8. El Smith (ironic self-fulfilling prophecy rule) This guy showed up on one of my threads then went on a prolonged trolling spree, turning up on nearly every thread to pick (ludicrously fallacious) arguments with me and everyone else. His behavour was annoying, but I had no intention of blocking him until he lost his temper and accused me of being a "fascist".

I usually allow people to get away with slinging insults at me becuase I believe that when they resort to insults, it just shows the paucity of their argument, however, as a left-wing libertarian, being called a "fascist" by a persistent right-wing troll is a step too far. If they are going to loose their temper and start slinging the word fascist around as an insult, they shouldn't be at all surprised when the "fascist" that has been letting them troll away for days without deleting a single comment, resorts to irony in order to block them.


9. Ben Hardie (ironic self-fulfilling prophecy rule)  There's something deeply amusing being called a "fascist" by an intellectually stunted Islamophobic UKIP propagandist.

10. Neil Bannister (ironic self-fulfilling prophecy rule) One night this guy angrily tells me
to "fuck off" on my own page (water off a duck's back), so I politely suggested that if my page upsets him so much, maybe he should unfollow my page and/or block notifications from it. Instead of doing either of those simple things, he came back the next night to call me a "fascist", thus triggering my Ironic Self-Fulfilling Prophecy Rule and getting himself banned.

11. Rich Jones (incitement to murder) This guy turned up to hurl puerile abuse at people he concluded were Tories, including one comment which could be construed as incitement to murder. I'm not sure whether this was a left-wing ranter or some right-wing black hat effort to make the left look bad, whatever the case I won't have "let's go and kill the guy who said something I don't like" comments on my page.

12. Simon Young
(ironic self-fulfilling prophecy rule) This defender of extremist ideologies was completely delusional, turning up in my photo album on right-wing extremism to hurl a load of abuse at me, in between bouts of hopelessly fallacious reasoning (such as the binary fallacy, ad hominum attacks and blatant straw-manning). He was awfully upset that I had dared to criticise his beloved Britain First hate chamber and eventually ended up posting this picture, which triggered the ironic self-fulfilling prophecy rule. During his tirade of abuse he also admitted that he only followed my Facebook page to troll and that he had never actually clicked a link, so it's no surprise that he'd never seen this article entitled "Why I want you to question everything - even me" on my blog.

13. Andrea Stevenson
(ironic self-fulfilling prophecy rule) Yet another person who turned up on my page to baselessly call me a fascist, simply because I suggested that people find out which of their friends follow the vile Britain First page, then present them with verifiable information about who Britain First actually are, and the nasty tricks they use to con people into joining their fascist hate group and donate money to them. It is quite remarkable how supporters of fascism love to accuse those who oppose fascism of being fascists for doing stuff like presenting facts and information.

14. "Minxy Cat" (trolling and mental disability based insults) This person hiding behind a fake cat profile stalked me for a very long time, leaving comments littered with personal insults against me and dismissals of my audience as "sheeple". 
This is clearly a very disturbed individual who gets some kind of kick out of stalking people that they don't like in order to hurl a load of insults at them. I tolerated it for so long because juvenile insults are like water off a duck's back to me, but when this cat pretender person resorted to calling me a "moron" and a "fucktard" I had enough. Mental disability based insults are disgusting, no matter who they're aimed at. I don't have to put up with reading such filth, and neither do the rest of my audience. Banned again when she returned using sockpuppet accounts.

15. Stephen Selby (ironic self-fulfilling prophecy rule) This example was particularly ironic because Stephen Selby was trying to defend the work of a fascist organisation by calling me a fascist!

16. Alex Hartley (insults and slurs) 
There is a big difference between allowing people to have freedom of speech on my page, and allowing them to sling abuse around and make slanderous personal attacks against me with impunity, so this guy had to go. Banned again when he returned using sockpuppet accounts.

17. Stuart Court (ethnic slurs): I put up with this guy for a very long time because he neatly illustrated the rotten ignorant mentality of the typical Ukip supporter with his insult laden comments, hopeless debating tactics and casual xenophobia. I gave him plenty of warnings about hurling insults at people and using straw-man arguments befor finally banning him for making ethnic slurs against Roma people. He claimed (without a shred of evidence) that 99% of Roma are thieves, and that "thieving is a way of life to them". I'm perfectly happy for people to express criticism of my views, but my page is not a platform for people to spread ethnic slurs.

18. Bobby Fisher (defamation): This guy showed up to make unsubstantiated accusations that a certain public figure is a paedophile. I deleted the comment and asked him to not post content that could end up getting my page shut down. He immediately came back to hurl abuse at me and repost the same libelous accusations so I banned him.



One of the images included in Ellis' 2nd bombardment.
19. Ellis Baker (spam-bombing): Some people seem to think that they can use my page as their own political platform by bombarding my wall with loads of vile extreme-right memes. Usually they are sensible enough to stop when I warn them that they will be banned if they persist, but Ellis Baker decided to bombard my page with another long stream of extremist images, giving me no choice but to ban him. Remarkably Ellis Baker has his real employer on his Facebook profile, so I have contacted them to see whether they are comfortable with such views being openly propagated by their sales manager. Hopefully they will explain to me and my audience what they plan to do about it, if not I may consider escalating the situation ...


20 Tammy Christian Savage (anti-semitism)

This person liked to spam bomb my comments threads with loads of links, sometimes dozens at a time. Some of them were decent stuff about monetary reform, but others were sick anti-Jewish conspiracy links. I warned them to stop with the anti-semitic gibberish, but they persisted posting links claiming stuff like "The Jewish people as a whole will become its own Messiah. It will attain world dominion by the dissolution of other races ...", so they got themselves banned.


21 Julian Lenard Gilbert (defamation)
This notorious right-wing troll account hung about on the AAV Facebook pages for ages using it as a platform to post links to extreme-right material and to sling insults and smears at anyone who disagreed with him. Eventually he was banned for posting libelous comments about the Labour Mayor of London Sadiq Khan. I'm fine with people offering opposing opinions on my page, but using it as a platform to spread defamatory rumours is unacceptable. The guy then came back with a number of sockpuppet accounts and set up a number of pages designed to smear me and my work by spreading fascistic propaganda using my AAV logo as an avatar.

22. Tony Woodall (abuse)
I let Tony stick around for ages despite his long track record of doing little but sling abouse at anyone and everyone he disagreed with, including me. I've got thick skin so his insults never bothered me that much, but when he slung a load of insults at the veteran Tory MP Ken Clarke after being warned about his abusive behaviour on several previous occasions. I finally had enough. Why should I allow this guy to continually lower the tone of the debate with his foul mouthed and abusive rants? Nobody should have to wade through such abusive drivel on a page that is about politics.


23. Angela Ormerod (disrespect)

This account kept repeatedly posting my own infographics with the Another Angry Voice logo crudely photoshopped off them. I asked her three times to stop because it's disrespectful to rip off my work and then post it onto my page as if it's her own work, but she refused to. In the end I decided to ban her. It's the least serious thing I've banned anyone for, but I politely asked her to stop insulting me by ripping off my work and posting it on my page and she refused. What else could I do?


24. Steve Sadler (bullying)

This guy openly admitted that he was trying to get himself banned as some kind of infantile badge of pride. On numerous occasions he slung insults and abuse at other AAV readers. He was usually particularly bad on Friday and Saturday nights when at the pub getting sloshed. On more than one occasion he threatened to fight people. In the end I banned him. He is the main reason for the introduction of the Another Angry Voice anti-bullying policy.

25. Tim Thorne (abuse)

Yet another Ukipper who decided to use Another Angry Voice as a political platform for his hateful views. I had no problem with him expressing different opinions, I even put up with him posting outright lies (the UKIP leaflet claiming Labour are planning to scrap the NHS and introduce charging - a policy actually favoured by several UKIP politicians), but when it came to his abuse memes using mental health slurs against people with differing views and even images calling for anyone with left-wing views to be removed from the gene pool, it's just too much. Nobody visiting my page needs to be confronted by appalling abuse. If they want to see loads of appalling right-wing abuse memes they can easily visit the Britain First page, the BNP page, or pretty much any of the Ukipper Facebook groups.


26. Will Rowlands (defamation)

This annoying right-wing troll stank out the debate for ages with his appalling misrepresentations of other people's arguments and his sly evasive refusal to answer questions but I didn't ban him because being obnoxious and evasive isn't grounds enough. When he decided to accuse a living politician of helping the paedophile Jimmy Saville he went too far. If you don't have evidence to back up your allegations then what you are saying is defamation. AAV is a page for political debate, not a platform for people to hurl libellous accusations at people they don't like.


Conclusion

The Another Angry Voice Facebook page now attracts thousands of comments a week, many of which disagree with my views. I hope that the fact that these are the only people I have blocked illustrates that I am very tolerant of dissenting opinions, and that I'm determined not to turn my page into a closed ideology echo chamber like so many other political pages on Facebook.

In my view everyone is entitled to their say, but sadly, sometimes people take advantage of free public spaces like the AAV Facebook page in order to spew grotesque and unacceptable bile. I dislike having to ban these people from commenting, but even the most committed libertarian must surely agree that "freedom of speech" doesn't actually mean "freedom to hurl gratuitous abuse", "freedom to call for ethnic genocide", "freedom to spread outright lies", "freedom to bully people", "freedom to write slanderous comments about people" or "freedom to make unfounded accusations of fascism".