Well over a month since my last round-up, so this bunch of links to recent must-reads might be even more obese than normal…
Call to action
SyriaUK on why the UK must act on Southern Syria before it’s too late.
James Bloodworth brilliantly anatomises the six types of useful idiots. An extract from the entry on the power worshipper:
While [George Bernard] Shaw was singing the praises of Stalinism the Soviet Union was gripped by a terrible – and entirely avoidable – famine. Yet the spell cast by Stalin’s flattery overpowered any potential concern on Shaw’s part for the starving peasantry.
In more recent times fringe journalists such as Vanessa Beeley have travelled to Syria only to return to Britain toeing the regime line that President Bashar al Assad is engaged in a manichean struggle against the terrorists of the Islamic State. In return for such obsequies, those like Beeley, the daughter of the late British diplomat Sir Harold Beeley, have received access to parts of Syria such as Aleppo usually denied to independent journalists.
In normal circumstances Beeley would be considered a crank. She believes that the deadly attack on Charlie Hebdo magazine in 2015 was a false flag operation and that Al Qaeda was not responsible for 9/11. But Beeley is useful to the Russians and their client state in Syria, and appears regularly on English language Russian State media.
The willingness of Beeley – as well as other activist-cum-journalists including Neil Clarke and John Pilger – to champion the Kremlin line has the happy side effect (for those in question at least) of opening up large media platforms denied to them by the mainstream, spreading disinformation about Russia’s blood-soaked foreign policy.
The new right
From Bella Caledonia: Inside Climate Denial, Disinformation and Fake News. This long piece is on the full Brexit populist ideologues around the Spectator and Telegraph, particularly those who are part of the sinister former Trotskyist LM/RCP network (famous for genocide denial and excessive hair gel). An extract:
The approach of Dacre, Clark and James Heartfield (also known as James Hughes and William Deighton) is to divert attention away from political crisis, legal implication and the obscenity of social housing and bring the readers gaze back to their comfort zone of bashing greens and denying climate reality. Heartfield (or whatever he’s called) has written for Living Marxism, Culture Wars, the Pro-Choice Forum and Spiked, speaks at the Battle of Ideas and is a director of building promoters Audacity. He is a member of the new Full Brexit group and is the pivot point between ‘libertarianism’ and the far right. He started the defence of smacking children in the 1990s as part of a campaign against ‘taboos’ and here he is interviewing Neil Hamilton way back in 1994, where the mutual appreciation is palpable, Hamilton ends: “‘My preferred reading matter is the Daily Telegraph and LM these days’, he adds.
The red-brown zombie plague
An essential series in NZ’s Fightback by Daphne Lawless on how fascist ideas are becoming popular on the Left: 1. The pod people and alt-imperialism; 2. Vectors and Germs of the Red-Brown Virus (cites Anton Mukhamedov and also Amar Diwarkar’s “The Permutations of Assadism”); 3. The three germs of red-brown convergence. (Previous useful texts by Daphne: “Against Campism”, November 2015; “Against Conservative Leftism”, February 2016; “Trump, Brexit, Syria… and conservative leftism, December 2016”.) An extract:
It’s common sense in liberal and Left circles that ideas like “9/11 Truth”, the theories that Barack Obama’s birth certificate was forged, or that the victims of the Sandy Hook or Parkland school shootings were “crisis actors”, are wild fantasies either made up by the bigoted and ill-informed to justify their prejudices, or else false narratives being deliberately fed to such people (for profit or political gain) by unscrupulous media operatives such as FOX News or Alex Jones’ InfoWars. We are appalled when parents of school shooting victims are harassed by unhinged strangers calling them conspiracy operatives and telling them that their dead children never existed.
And yet this is precisely what much of the Western Left has been doing to the people whose children died of chlorine poisoning in the basements of Douma, Syria. Experienced Western journalist Robert Fisk even took a trip to Douma – courtesy of the Syrian government – to find an anonymous doctor who would confirm such fantasies. This, while actual Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) inspectors were still barred from the site, so that the regime and its allies could make the evidence disappear.
The motivation is clear. “False flag” theories are based on the idea that elaborate lies are being told by a secret conspiracy to manipulate public opinion, and that mainstream sources are part of this conspiracy. Alex Jones claims that school shootings are arranged/faked by the US state (or a secret faction within it, known as the “Deep State”) to take away US citizens’ rights to bear arms. The Left argues the same about atrocities in Syria, only the goal of the conspirators is to build support for a “regime change” invasion of Syria. Similar stories are currently circulating on Leftist social media about the protests against social welfare cuts in Nicaragua, and their murderous suppression by that country’s government (search “Nicaragua CIA” on Twitter). The far-Right and the Left end up with the same narrative – there is a conspiracy within the current US State to fake atrocities and protest movements so as to expand its influence, which must be pushed back. In fact, American fascists are just as keen as any on the US Left to deny chemical attacks in Syria – the Snopes article cited above reproduces a tweet from alt-right celebrity and star of the famous “punch in the face” video, Richard Spencer, doing just that.
Daphe’s text is taken from the June edition of Fightback, which is a special on fascism/anti-fascism. Among other features, it includes “Fighting the Fash since 1932: a history of Antifa in Germany” and an interview with the great Australian anarchist anti-fascist blogger Andy Fleming, aka slackbastard (see his blog here). And here’s a snippet from Michael Lyons’ book Insurgent Supremacists on the US far right.
The hard right and its apologists
Diminiutive petty hoodlum, self-publicist and Islamophobic demagogue “Tommy Robinson” (Stephen Yaxley-Lennon) has been much in the news for getting himself arrested for contempt of court. The Secret Barrister explains the legal case. David Aaronovitch attacks the Jews who stupidly jump on board with his racist message. Here’s one example of an Islamophobic activist in the UK Jewish community.
Russia and the multipolar spin
The repression of dissent in Russia is deeply ingrained. In particular, anti-fascists and anarchists are targeted. Joshua Yaffa in the New Yorker has an important piece about this (HT Andy F). Russian libertarians autonomen regularly report on these issues – an essential read to get a feel for the Russia its state media don’t like to report. See also People and Nature, Libcom and oDrussia.
Renewing left politics – against Lexit populism and political confusionism
Matt Wrack on socialism, Stalinism, Grenfell, Momentum and more, Martin Thomas on Industrial policy in one country. Andrew Coates on Aaron Bastani’s Fully Automated Luxury Communism: Confusionism for Happy Bunnies, and on Giles Fraser’s turn to antisemitic national socialism.
Robert Fine z”l
One of the most important thinkers of our time on some of these issues – developing arguments against left nationalism and left antisemitism, from a cosmopolitan perspective – has been Robert Fine. His premature death last weekend is a devastating blow to radical politics. Here’s some memories by comrade on the left and here’s an obit in Engage, which has this set of links at the end, to which I’ve added a couple more.
- Karl Marx and the Radical Critique of Anti-Semitism
- The Palestine/Israel question and racialised discourses on Jews
- Fighting with phantoms – a contribution to the debate on antisemitism in Europe
- debating with the boycotters at Leeds University
- debating the boycott of Israel in the South African context
- universalism and the Jewish question