Religion & Politics Blog

The Worlds Shortest Political Quiz describes me as a left-liberal. I consider myself a non-fundamentalist protestant. I have little time for dogmatism or sectarianism in either politics or religion, but this blog will contain opinions. Read at your peril.

Not So Alternative Comedy

In a Guardian comment thread that was actually far more entertaining than the nasty mean-spirited blog post it was attached to, somebody linked to this joke from Alexei Sayle:

I was at a Motorhead gig when after an 8 hour number entitled ‘I’ve got a dick the size of a Ford Cortina, someone called out “sexist shite” and they thought it was request …

If you laughed at that, it’s very likely that you know little or nothing about Mötorhead or their music.

Alexei Sayle could be a very entertaining comic actor, but I never rated his act as a stand-up comic in the early days of his career. He presented himself as an “alternative comedian”, eschewing the sexism and racism that was a staple of so much second-rate comedy of the 70s.

But his act was actually nowhere near as radical or as funny as he liked to think it was, and tended to be laced with a lot of smug self-rightousness. The example above showed, just like the racist Bernard Manning, he was willing to get cheap laughs by punching at his audiences’ designated out-groups without needing to put in any effort to be genuinely funny.

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White Males Behaving Badly

Nigel Sad-HaircutA reminder that when it comes to stupid bigotry, it’s difficult for anyone to beat conservative white men. Meet Professor Nigel Piercy of Swansea University.

Professor Piercy, whose time at Swansea has been marked by a series of conflicts with staff and students, had written that among those “claiming the right to censor and veto” academics’ pronouncements were “unpleasant and grubby little people, who purport to represent others because they have persuaded a tiny number of people to elect them to office in trades unions and the like”.

Such “creepy little people” were “usually distinguished only by their sad haircuts, grubby, chewed fingernails and failed careers”, he wrote. Another characteristic was “straggly beards”, “half-way between designer stubble and a real beard” and “probably indicative of a hormone deficiency”.

When the university’s pro-chancellor has to apologise for the bollocks he’s been spounting, you wonder if he should move to Goldsmiths College in London. I’m sure he and Bahar Mustafa would get on really, really well….

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Culture Wars Battle of the Week

Bahar MustafaThis week’s social media outrage is all about Bahar Mustafa, the Diversity Officer for the Student Union of Goldsmiths College in London. First there was some controversy surrounding a diversity event from which white men were excluded, which quite probably got blown up out of all proportion. Then there were some allegedly offensive posts on Twitter using the #KillAllWhiteMen hashtag.

Now it’s all over the media, and she could end up losing her job.

Her defence of her behaviour isn’t helping.

She then defended her position on camera, saying ethnic minority women cannot be racist as they “do not stand to gain” from inequality.

Now I know that the American-originated Critical Race Theory redefines racism as “prejudice plus power”. But that not what the word means in common everyday usage in the wider world. Not only that, Britain’s laws on racial discrimination use the older and more widely understood definition.

But she added the uses of hashtags such as “kill all white men” on her personal account were “in-jokes and ways that many people in the queer feminist community express ourselves”.

Ah yes, the old “It’s just banter” defence. That worked so well when used by racist footballers. My own use of social media follows the principle “Never say on Twitter what you can’t justify to your employer or your mum”. That would have been good advice for Bahar Mustafa, or indeed anyone in a highly visible public position.

At this point it would be easy to paint Bahar Mustafa as a bad actor in the same vein as Lutfur Rahman or Benjanun Sriduangkaew. But a more charitable explanation might be that she simply lacks the self-awareness to realise how her remarks could be interpreted outside the self-referential bubble of academic leftism.

If there is a genuine need for so-called “safe spaces” for minorities at Goldsmiths College, then surely it ought to possible to articulate the reasons for them without using risible canards that play into the hands of white racism.

On the other hand you do wonder whether the middle-class identity politics that constantly casts white men rather than the wealthy elites as the villains actually achieves much when it comes to tackling serious structural inequality. When taken out of academia into the real world, it certainly won’t be terribly effective at winning over the traditional working-class vote that progressive forces need if they are ever to win elections and form governments.

Still, calls for Bahar Mustafa to be prosecuted are utterly ridiculous. As to whether she gets to keep her job is a matter for her employer, Goldsmiths College Student’s Union, not a mob of random people on the internet with virtual torches and pitchforks.

And nobody deserves death threats, no matter who they offend.

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Can’t help feeling a sense of schadenfeude at the post-election implosion of UKIP. Having a backbench revolt when you have precisely one MP has got to be something of an achievement.

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What now for the Liberal Democrats?

The result of the 2015 General Election are taking a long time to sink in, especially if you have been a lifelong supporter of the Liberal Democrats.

All my adult life I’d seen the Liberal Democrats, and the Liberals before them slowly but steadily grow in strength. There were setbacks of course; for years the party was good at winning byelections in seats that proved impossible to retain in the following general elections. But they slowly built up from a dozen or so seats in the 1970s to more than 60 MPs in 2005. To see them reduced to single figures is heartbreaking. And the tragedy is that while nobody seemed to see it coming, it was all too obvious in retrospect.

Yes, they made tactical errors in their campaign, failing to emphasise core Liberal values, and let the two bigger parties squeeze their support. It became obvious just how many of their seats had only been held over the years though tactical voting by natural Labour supporters. Once those voters had enough and went back home, swathes of formerly orange parts of England and Wales went blue. And no party survived the SNP steamroller in Scotland. Continue reading

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It is very disappointing the royal baby is not called “Kayleigh Lulu Angelina”.

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Nick Clegg may well be damaged goods, and his political career may be almost over, especially if he loses his seat in Sheffield Hallam nect Thursday. But Britain still needs a party that promotes liberal values, and that party isn’t Labour or The Conservatives.

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Nick Cohen on Charlie Hebdo

This blistering piece on Charlie Hebdo by Nick Cohen in the Spectator pulls no punches when it comes to those parts of the Anglo-American left who seem all too willing to make excuses for terrorism.

Not one mentioned that the gang went on to slaughter Parisian Jews in a supermarket for no other reason than that they were Jewish. But they cannot oppose religious prejudice – and in their failure they live a lie far greater and more grotesque than their lies about the dead of Charlie Hebdo.

Prose, Carey, the London Review of Books and so many others agree with Islamists first demand that the world should have a de facto blasphemy law enforced at gunpoint. Break it and you have only yourself to blame if the assassins you provoked kill you

They not only go along with the terrorists from the religious ultra-right but of every state that uses Islam to maintain its power. They can show no solidarity with gays in Iran, bloggers in Saudi Arabia and persecuted women and religious minorities across the Middle East, who must fight theocracy. They have no understanding that enemies of Charlie Hebdo are also the enemies of liberal Muslims and ex-Muslims in the West. In the battle between the two, they have in their stupidity and malice allied with the wrong side.

Most glaringly they have failed to understand power. It is not fixed but fluid. It depends on where you stand. The unemployed terrorist with the gun is more powerful than the Parisian cartoonist cowering underneath his desk. The marginal cleric may well face racism and hatred – as my most liberal British Muslim friends do – but when he sits in a Sharia court imposing misogynist rules on Muslim women in the West, he is no longer a victim or potential victim but a man to be feared.

What he said, basically.

If you follow any discussions in left-liberal or social justice circles, you hear the word “privilege” a lot. Privilege is a very useful concept when it makes you consider the crap that other people have to deal with and you don’t, especially when it makes you mindful in not contributing towards that crap.

But privilege is not an infallible moral calculus that can decides who’s right and who’s wrong in any situation based purely on what demographic or sub-demographic group they belong to. And it breaks down completely if you start to believe in one-dimensional hierarchies of oppression than take no account of contexts or individual agency. Sooner or later you’re going to end up defending out-and-out evil. And once people start getting killed, society pays a high price for such moral self-indulgence.

If there are really significant numbers of people in the Anglo-American middle-class left who believe that cold-blooded mass murder is a lesser evil than publishing sacrilegious cartoons because White Privilege, then it demonstrates the utter intellectual and moral bankruptcy of the left. They will deny it if challenged, of course, but their use of weaseling language of the “I’m not racist but” variety and the way they spend more time explaining why Charlie Hebdo are bad than condemning the murderers shows whose side they’re really on.

Not that the right deserve to get off the hook either. The right’s continual blurring the distinction between criticism of fundamentalism and old-fashioned racism, and Bush and Blair’s criminally ill-conceived and disastrously-executed military adventures in the Middle East that have killed vast numbers of innocent people have done much to poison the well. And it’s all compounded by the idiotic Red Tribe versus Blue Tribe nature of American politics which poisons everything it touches, so if one tribe supports a thing the other will oppose it as a knee-jerk reaction regardless of the merits of the actual issue.

You are perfectly free to believe that Charlie Hebdo’s cartoons are gross, purile, insulting or offensive. But that is not the point.

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How a dictatorship flourished in the East End

The Guardian’s Nick Cohen is on blistering form describing how a dictatorship flourished in the East End

The neurotic fear of accusations of race and religious bias helped Rahman build a municipal dictatorship. The system of elected mayors is always open to abuse, because there are so few controls on them. Rahman pushed it to the limits. He controlled grants and officials could not prevent him handing public money to his supporters. He controlled the officials, too, and used supposedly impartial public servants to “carry out electoral activities on his behalf”.

Tower Hamlets First, his political party, was nothing more than a cult of the personality. If you wanted a safe seat on the council, you had to show a lapdog loyalty to Rahman. Speaking of dogs, the judge noticed that when there was not even the slightest justification for an accusation of racism, Rahman and his cronies would accuse their opponents of “dog-whistle politics” instead. By these means, anything and everything an opponent said could be turned into coded racism, even when the racism was only in the mind of the accuser.

Come on, admit it – it’s not just in the East End you see these tricks played. The postmodern universities and identity-obsessed scour speech for the smallest hint of bigotry, real or imagined. They seize on it – and with a whoop of triumph – cry that the mask has slipped to expose the true face of prejudice. Surely you have noticed, too, that in the paranoia that follows, careerists and charlatans flourish.

He doesn’t mince words, does he?

It’s yet another examle of the way the identity politics and priviledge theory adopted by large parts of the left have created an envionment in which corrupt bullies can thrive.

The fiasco of Tower Hamlets goes to prove it’s not just the storm-in-teacup culture wars in nerd fandoms or the toytown politics of student unions that have been poisoned.  If effects the real world as well.

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When writing about controversial subjects you have two choices. You can write balanced pieces that stick to the facts, and watch them sink without trace. Or you can write button-pushing clickbait and partisan hit pieces. But surely it’s better to keep your integrity and self-respect than to be Arthur Chu

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