Religion and Politics Blog

Card-carrying Liberal Democrat. My views are my own, and do not necessarily reflect party policy.

This World is Totally Fuguzi

When I checked in to a hotel in Worcester for a gig on Friday night I told the Polish receptionist it was the middle date of a three-day trip and I’d spent the previous night in Bristol.

“I hope you voted”, she replied.

There was a subdued mood at the gig; what happened affected band and audience. There were doubts at the back of the mind over how well this little grassroots scene would survive the coming storm. There were conversations about future gigs and festivals that ended with “Assuming of course it still takes place”.

Almost everyone I know has been completely devastated by the referendum result. Many are in fear of their livelihood, some are in fear of their personal safety and even their lives. Not only is the entire economy heading down the toilet, but the result has emboldened the very worst people in the country; especially the stupid, violent racists who now believe that 52% agree with them and think they have a licence to hurl crude abuse at anyone who looks foreign. If you voted Leave, you have helped enable these knuckle-draggers regardless of your reasons for voting that way.

But I can’t bring myself to hate everyone who voted Leave. Yes, some of those who voted Leave were unpleasant small-town xenophobes. Yes, others were the worst kinds of sociopathic libertarians. And many more were ignorant fools who were too willing to believe obvious lies. But there must have been many more who voted in protest against a political establishment that had ignored or taken them for granted for decades.

This doesn’t mean we should not be angry at those who should have known better, and there are many of them.

But I am far angrier at out political elites for getting us in this mess. David Cameron, whose catastrophic political misjudgement is the direct cause. And George Osborne whose ideologically-driven austerity program has screwed-over the poorest communities.

Then there’s the entire Leave Campaign, every single one of them lying two-faced pieces of shit. Boris Johnson is revealed as an utterly cynical charlatan. Farage has revealed his true nature as an out-and-out racist. UKIP are the natural successors of the BNP; the decline of that openly racist party not so much a rejection of their values as UKIP hoovering up their base. And don’t even get me started on the Daily Mail and the Daily Express for printing out-and-out race hate on their front pages.

And last, but not least, Jeremy Corbyn. There is increasing evidence that Corbyn, or at least his inner circle, actively sabotaged Labour’s contribution towards the Remain campaign. In a way that duplicity is even worse than Boris’ lying. It may be that Corbyn himself is innocent and the blame lies with people surrounding him such as the odious Seamas Milne, but the truth is the leadership did not support the party on the ground. That is why the party is now in meltdown.

We are now two nations who inhabit different cultural universes, and we must ask ourselves how the hell we got here. What happened to the confident outward-looking Britain of the 2012 Olympics? What made 52% of the voters believe the only way their voices would matter was to utterly screw over the other 48% in revenge?

It may well be that in the end we won’t actually leave the EU after all. The referendum was technically advisory and not legally binding, a deliberate loophole that neither campaign wanted to draw attention to. David Cameron did not send notification under Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty on Friday, and that may prove to be very significant. For all the talk of respecting the will of the people, a democracy is not the same as tyranny of the majority, and democratic systems have checks and balances for a reason. The majority was less that 4% and both Scotland and Northern Ireland voted to remain. The only thing stopping Parliament from overruling the referendum is how they’re going to sell it to the voters at the next election. But anything could happen and a lot could change in the next couple of months.

Healing the deep divisions in England and in Wales is going to take a lot longer.

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Political Grief Policing

Ian Dunt says that Brexiters must stop trying to police the reaction to Jo Cox’s death.

For the Remain camp the death forced a pause in campaigning just when they needed to get their message out. But for Brexiters it was far worse. In a contest which is fundamentally about risk and the public appetite for a jump into the unknown, the news of a mother being killed in the street seemed to affirm a sense of chaos and impending darkness. It provided an emotional backdrop which gravitated towards concerns about stability and security.

But that’s only half of it. Brexiters aren’t just scared the death will have an impact on the referendum. They’re scared it will force a change in how we talk about immigration. An expectation might develop that the debate be discussed moderately, with as little emotion as possible, and on the basis of facts.

That would be a disaster for the anti-immigration lobby, which is very good at telling stories designed to trigger an emotional response, particularly in those who are struggling to get by. ‘This family of seven just arrived in Britain and now they’re in the council home you didn’t get’ – that type of thing. Sometimes the stories are true. Mostly they are false. But they are all based on highly emotive and divisive attempts to turn the public mood. They reached a pinnacle – for now, if we’re lucky – in the Nigel Farage ‘Breaking Point’ poster.

For those two reasons – Brexit and the continuation of an aggressive anti-immigration debate – Jo Cox’s death needed to be stripped of its political context. It could not be treated as a political killing of a political person, with political causes and political repercussions. It had to be turned into a simple story of personal tragedy. Nothing more

What he says. Jo Cox was a politician who was murdered by someone who was opposed to everything she stood for politically. I’ve had to mute Leave suporters on social media who engaged in precisely the sort of policing Ian Dunt is calling out here. But there was never a peep from the same people over the Leave campaigns gross and inflammatory racism.

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Where do we go from here?

Jo Cox (Wikipedia)There were some rational arguments in favour of Leave, but their appeal has always been based more on emotion than on reason. Which was why Remain found it so hard to counter Vote Leave’s lies with cold, hard facts. Vote Leave has tapped into a rich seam of pent-up resentment from people mainstream politics had been ignoring for decades.

But everything has changed in the past 48 hours. After the terrible murder of Jo Cox technical arguments about economics or democracy or sovereignty just don’t matter any more. It’s become a question of what sort of country we want to be, and a vote for Leave represents an endorsement of the blatant and ugly racism of Leave’s loudest and nastiest supporters.

And that is something which simply cannot be allowed to happen.

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But he does good work!

The story of Jacob Applebaum resignation from TOR following multiple accusations of sexual assault is a disturbing one. It’s an all-too-familiar story; his behaviour appears to have been common knowledge for years, but he was powerful enough that nobody was willing to call him out publicly. Then once a critical mass of victims were willing to share their stories, it opened the floodgates. How he was able to get away with so much for so long is one of those questions it’s hard not to ask.

There are important differences, but there are also strong parallels with Requires Hate in the SFF community. Both are examples of manipulative sociopaths surrounded by sycophants, and both are examples of the values of a non-mainstream subculture serving to enable an abuser.

Violet Blue pulls no punches, blaming a hero-worshipping culture for enabling abuse, and is prepared to name and shame some of the people who continued to write fawning media pieces even as his character and behaviour was becoming widely known.

Maybe they knew, or maybe they didn’t care enough to vet him, but CCC and Assange and Snowden gave him power and that needs to be part of this conversation, because we need look no further for proof that hero worship and the cult of belief is pure poison. He convinced people to trust him with secrets, like docs, and threatened the unthinkable if cornered. Jake also benefited greatly — and I can’t stress this enough — from journalists who did not check their facts, reporters who bought into his bullshit persecuted-hacker narrative, and blogs like Boing Boing who breathlessly starfucked his appropriated hacks and docs and reprehensible behavior into credibility.

This didn’t happen because we’re broken as a hacker culture, or because we’re hackers and thus too undeveloped to comprehend empathy. People like Jake can be found in other places; priests and churches, Hollywood, the porn industry, and more. Wherever power imbalances, hero worship, and secret-keepers intersect. People like Jake are found in hacker culture, too, and it’s past time for hacker culture to deal with it.

And, of course, the music industry is hardly immune. Violet’s line about the effect of seeing people praise the work of a known abuser has on their victims cuts rather close to home. Do we single out the likes of Gary Glitter and Rolf Harris and ignore or play down the behaviour of others purely because the latter’s music is considered more worthy?

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British Politics Decends Into The Darkness

I am finding it very difficult to find the right words to express my shock, horror and anger at today’s events.

Yesterday the referendum campaign descended into farce with a mock sea-battle on the Thames. Today began with Nigel Farage using imagery lifted straight from 1930s Nazi propaganda, and ended with the murder of Labour MP Jo Cox. While there appear to be conflicting eye-witness reports, much of what we’ve heard suggests the killer was a supporter of the far-right.

David Cameron’s decision to call a referendum on Britain’s membership of the European Union was a spectacular political miscalculation in the first place. It has unleashed dark forces into British politics which will prove very difficult to banish. The Leave Campaign and their supporters in the press, especially The Daily Mail, have been steadily ratcheting up the racist rhetoric in the past weeks; they’re not even bothering with the dog whistle any more. It’s hardly surprising they have the far-right marching under their banner.

In this increasingly ugly atmosphere, it was only a matter of time before something like this was going to happen.

I knew very little about Jo Cox, but the tributes I’ve seen flowing paint a picture of a woman dedicated to making the world a better place. She was a reminder that the majority of MPs across all parties are essentially good people; that the sociopaths, demagogues, charlatans and cynical careerists that exist in all parties too are a minority.

When something like this happens, it’s easy to give in to hate. To rage against the people whose rhetoric empowered the ugliness that took an innocent life. They need to be called to account, yes. But more hate won’t break the cycle.

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Responses to Orlando

Maajid Nawaz predictably doesn’t mince any words when it comes to the tragedy in Florida. “Admit It: These Terrorists Are Muslims”, he says.

Liberals who claim that this has nothing to do with Islam today are being as unhelpful and as ignorant as conservatives who claim that this represents all of Islam. The problem so obviously has something to do with Islam. That something is Islamism, or the desire to impose any version of Islam over any society. Jihadism is the attempt to do so by force. This ideology of Islamism has been rising almost unchecked among Muslims for decades. It is a theocratic ideology, and theocracy should no longer have any place in the world today.

The general point is true even if Maajid Nawaz is overstating things with this particular tragedy. Even though he claimed to carry out his monstrous acts in the name of ISIS there appear to be conflicting reports over the extent that Omar Mateen shared their poisonous ideology. The reports that he was apparently a regular at the club he went on to attack paints a picture of a conflicted and disturbed individual. But those are precisely the sorts of people who gravitate towards extremist groups; were he white and grown up in a different community he sounds like the sort of person who may well have been drawn towards the white nationalist far right.

It’s certainly wrong to use this tragedy to demonise out-groups. Donald Trump’s two minute hate against all American Muslims is despicable. But some of the sanctimonious diatribes I’ve seen from male feminists about “toxic masculinity”, blaming their favourite target of low-status “straight white males” are little better.

The world does have a problem with violent extremism in the name of a perverted version of Islam. America has a problem with mass killings in a nation awash with guns. What happened in Orlando was a terrible intersection of the two.

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Don’t fall for it

Look, I know it’s tempting to vote Leave just to give David Cameron a bloody nose. You’re all pissed off with deteriorating public services and falling standards of living. But don’t fall for Vote Leave’s lies that it’s all the fault of the EU and migrants. It’s six years of Tory cuts that caused that.

Cameron is probably toast whatever happens now. Only Remain winning by an overwhelming majority will save his premiership, and that’s not going to happen. Voting Leave will only see Cameron replaced by something even worse.

Leaving the EU is at best a desperare gamble, and the Leave campaign have completely failed to articulate their vision of how Britain outside the EU will look. But it will almost certainly leave Britain a less prosperous place, with less opportunity for you and your family. By the time it’s your job that’s lost in the economic downturn, it will be too late.

I’m probably just preaching to the choir here, but it needs to be said.

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The Return of Tony Blair?

LetMeFuckAHorse(From the entertaingly silly Tumblr Comment is Weird)

OK, the very last part about the Second Coming of Tony Blair is far-fetched, but the rest of it far more plausible. Whichever way the referendum on June 23rd goes, it’s going to force a major realignment in British politics in which neither the Conservative or Labour parties are likely to survive in their present form. A split in both parties looks inevitable.

The outcome of the referendum, for better or for worse, is going to shape British politics for a generation. Our present party system is a legacy of the 20th century struggle between labour and capital. The EU referendum cuts across that divide; it’s really between internationalism and parochialism. So we find the trade unions and the financial houses of The City on the same side, and see both the populist right and the old-school hard left on the other.

The next few years and the next couple of Parliaments will be messy. We may eventually end up with parties called “Labour” and “Conservative” which bear little resemblance to the parties of today, or we may see completely new parties emerge to replaced them. But whatever happens, the politics of the new few decades won’t look much like the politics of the last century.

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Brexit would be Jeremy Corbyn’s fault.

Good post by Robert Peston on Facebook, in which he puts his finger on the problem with Jeremy Corbyn’s handling of the EU referendum campaign, in a rather better way that Mick Hucknall’s ham-fisted twittering.

So the question is why Corbyn has not been more conspicuous and passionate in campaigning to remain.

There are three arguments put to me by his despairing colleagues:

1) his heart isn’t in it, because he loathes Brussels, and he detests Cameron more;

2) he doesn’t have experience of campaigning in the mainstream on mainstream issues;

3) he thinks Brexit or an ultra narrow victory for Remain would see the PM toppled and the Tory party fracture.

If any of that is true, Corbyn would be taking a huge personal risk.

The point is that whether he likes it or not, he is the head of a major party campaigning to keep us in the EU.

And his colleagues tell me that if we opt for Brexit, when Cameron is bundled from office, Corbyn would be defenestrated and ejected from the leadership too.

If the worst happens on June 23rd, it will be as much the fault of Jeremy Corbyn as Cameron or Osborne.

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You’re not one of the cool people unless Mick Hucknall has blocked you

It seems that Mick Hucknall of Simply Red has blocked me on Twitter.

Yesterday he got into a Twitter fight with Jeremy Corbyn and his supporters, in which Labour officials called him a political and musical has-been. He then started blocking everyone who even mentioned his name, regardless of context, and not just people who mentioned him by his @mjhucknall Twitter ID. For a while his name was a trending topic on Twitter, and half the tweets were “Why has Mick Hucknall blocked me”?

What sort of person doesn’t just look at their Notification column but ego-searches their name too? Previously I’d had absolutely no opinion on Mick Hucknall or his music. His world simply didn’t intersect with mine. Now, on the evidence of his behaviour he comes over as a narcissist who dishes it out but can’t take it.

The irony was that his criticism of Corbyn was at least partly justified. I’ve said very similar things myself.

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