Religion and Politics Blog

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

Farewell, Jack Chick

Jack Chick, author of the awful but compelling badly-drawn fundamentalist tracts railing at Catholics, Jews, Muslims, Gays, Freemasons, Rock and Roll, Dungeons and Dragons, or anybody who didn’t share the specific doctrines of his particular Protestant sect has died, aged 92.

Many of his tracts were little more than crude hate-speech with no redeeming qualities, and while they deserved mockery, weren’t very funny to his targets.

One exception was his anti-Dungeons and Dragons: “Dark Dungeons”, which ended up being unintentionally laugh-out-loud funny. Anyone who has ever played D&D will recognise how ridiculous it is. Though his vision of an all-girl D&D group was way too ahead of it’s time, pre-dating Contessa or I Hit It With My Axe by a generation.


There is even a Lovecraftian parody of Chick Tract out there. It’s disturbing how close the style and tone is to Chick’s own tracts. But then, some of H. P. Lovecraft’s dark cults were Presbyterian sects that had gone off the rails, so maybe it fits after all?


I learned of Jack Chick’s death on Twitter while listening to AC/DC’s Highway to Hell. This may or may not be evidence that God has a sense of humour. If Jack Chick does make to Heaven (who am I to put limits on God’s mercy?), he may well be in for a surprise with some of the people he meets there.

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Back in Play?

Even though Liz Leffman didn’t achieve what would have been an improbable victory, the Liberal Democrats still did remarkably well in the Witney by-election. To come from a poor fourth place to a strong second and slashing the Tory majority has put the party back in play in British politics. It’s also heartening to see The Greens beat the repellent UKIP into fifth place.

It’s not an unexpected result either. Although the Liberal Democrats have been stuck in single figures in national opinion polls they’ve been winning council by-elections on double-digit swings all over the country, but especially in Tory heartlands. One or two such victories might be explained away as flukes influenced by local personalities, but there have been enough of them lately to show a clear pattern. The party gets little attention in the national media, but on the ground in actual election campaigns voters are receptive to the party’s message.

The Tories should be worried. Under Theresa May’s leadership they have pivoted into an English nationalist party with the intention of destroying UKIP and peeling working-class social conservatives away from Labour. But that strategy only works in the absence of a viable Liberal Democrat challenge to their opposite flank. There is far lower-hanging fruit that Witney, and a Libdem revival will cost the Tories seats.

David Herdson of Political Betting thinks otherwise, suggesting it’s a reversion to the early 90s with the Libdems merely displacing UKIP as the protest vote party. But it could be more than that; they are the only party with a clear and unambiguous position on what has to be the most important political issue of our time.

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Off With Her Head?

As people fight in the aisles of Tescos over the last jar of Marmite with rolled-up copies of The Daily Express, Nick Cohen reminds us what happens to executives who pick a fight with parliament and lose.

All the government’s bombast flows from the relatively quiet economic summer we had after the Brexit vote. Like George W. Bush, when he declared ‘mission accomplished’ after the Americans rolled into Baghdad in 2003, cocksure Tories are full of-unwarranted self-confidence. It will shatter if the pound keeps heading for parity with the euro, and a nation with huge sovereign debts finds that the Treasury’s predictions of the tax take slumping are accurate. If jobs start going, if inflation and the national debt start rising, if the bond markets turn ugly, voters will demand that MPs intervene, and the sensible majority in Parliament will be only too pleased to oblige. May will then learn that, for all our faults, we are a parliamentary democracy, and that politicians who treat parliament like Charles I risk meeting the fate of Charles I.

I would hope he’s talking metaphorically rather than literally here. But the events of the past six months are a reminder of why show trials and public executions were a feature of less elightened times.

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Don’t Feed The Trolls

This is a textbook case of a troll derailing an entire conversation and making it all about themselves. What sort of person concern-trolls a memorial post and argues with mourners? Before the internet, a person like that would have to crash a funeral to reach that level of abusive behaviour.

Now. I know next to nothing about that subculture and even less about that specific community. But I doubt very much that this individual is motivated by genuine concern over “cultural appropriation”, especially when there is little or no evidence to support their accusation. Far more likely to be a case of clinical-level personality disorder, and has appropriated the rhetoric of “Tumblr social justice” because that’s a known weak spot in some communities’ immune systems. In other words, it’s pure trolling in the original sense of the word.

There are plenty of reasons to criticise the memes of Tumblr-style social justice, and one of those is the way it creates such a rich environment for trolls. It can be hard to tell the different between trolls and zealots with no clue about boundaries, and that allows trolls to thrive.

Trolls are parasites. They suck up attention and energy that could have been used in sharing information or building community, while contributing nothing in return. Their “free speech” comes with too high a price tag for anyone else.

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The Express goes Full Brownshirt

Faced with the possibility of the Hard Brexit they’ve been lusting after for years slipping from their grasp, The Daily Express responds by completely losing it.

It’s chilling totalitarian stuff, the sort of thing my grandparents’ generation fought World War II to stop.

The reality, of course, is that Theresa May’s unelected government have found out the hard way what every Labour government in history has always known; that a government’s freedom of action is constrained by what the markets will allow. And the markets appear to be vetoing a Hard Brexit.

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There are a lot of parallels between the Trump Tapes and The Mixon Report on Requires Hate. Both had the effect of removing plausible deniability from those who had been supporting and encouraging an obvious malevolent sociopath.

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Trumpina May: Not In My Name

This has to have been the ugliest and nastiest Tory Party conference I can remember while the party have been in power. Yes, there were some vile hate-fests when people like the sadistic Iain Duncan-Smith were leader, but in those days they were the unelectable opposition to the imperial pomp of Tony Blair, and they were in little danger of winning an election.

But, though we never elected them, this lot are the actual government. And they seem to have gone Full Donald Trump.

Yes I know Tory conference attendees are essentially the comment section of The Daily Mail and it’s traditional for ministers to play to the gallery and throw them red meat in return for rapturous applause. And some of what’s said gets watered-down or quietly forgotten in the following weeks and months. But come on, ministers channelling Mein Kampf? And being praised by French neo-Fascist leader Marine Le Pen? What the Hell is going on?

Despite all the nastiness and bigotry of Momentum, in terms of actual policy Labour have not shifted as far to the left as the Tories have just shifted to the right. There are a few economic announcements that sound like an overture to the traditional working class with the intent of parking their tanks on Labour’s lawn. But it’s quite wrong to think of that representing any sort of move towards the centre ground. This is more Fascism-lite.

Theresa May does not speak for me. Her small-minded and backward-looking vision of Britain is an alien land to the cosmopolitan nation where I have lived and worked all my life.

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Jackie Walker is the #AllLivesMatter of the Left

Padraig Reidy has had enough of Momentum chair Jackie Walker constant dog-whistle antisemitism, and concludes her supporters in Labour have a question to answer.

Like a not-as-clever-as-she-thinks-he-is white woman posting an “All Lives Matter” meme, or a whinging Men’s Rights Activist demanding to know when is International Men’s Day. Walker, with her ignorant complaint about Holocaust Memorial Day has revealed something about herself: there is no reason to question the phrase Black Lives Matter unless you have a problem with black people. There is no reason to complain about the idea of International Women’s Day unless you have a problem with women. And there is no real reason to question the validity of Holocaust Memorial Day unless your problem is with the people who suffered most during the Holocaust.

I wonder how much of this nonsense is the endgame of the Top Trumps style “Oppression Olympics” that has taken hold of the middle-class left. Where you divide the world into “Priviledged” and “Oppressed”, and move Jews and gay men into the “Privileged” column because a tiny number of them are wealthy and powerful, you end up legitimising dangerous bigotries.

Many German Jews were wealthy and successful in pre-war Germany. That didn’t stop the Nazis loading them into cattle trucks and sending them to the death camps. This is why “It’s not racist if you’re not as oppressed as X” in dangerous.

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This is why we can’t have nice things

Late last night after the predictable comments on Twitter about the awfulness of the panel for BBC Question Time, I Tweeted this:

And on next week’s #BBCQT panel, Ernst Stavro Blofeld, Jabba the Hutt, The Eye of Sauron, Mr Blobby and Davros.

It was intended as a throwaway humorous comment, and the names were the first ones that came into my head. But almost immediately came a response that my fantasy BBC Question Time panel was all male. Worrying that I’d thoughtlessly committed a sexist microagression I deleted the tweet and apologised if I’d caused any offence.

But it’s been gnawing away at me all morning. It’s most unlikely that the comment in response was an actual demand to take down my tweet, but it was from someone I barely know, and the 140 characters of Twitter don’t allow a lot of space for nuance. The comment may well have been as innocently intended as my original Tweer, and probably was. But the level of “performance outrage” on Twitter puts me on a hair-trigger, and I delete things on a reflex.

I don’t blame the person who responded. But I do blame the wider outrage culture that’s developed, making good people walk on eggshells. Nobody wants to be the next Justine Sacco or Tim Hunt. Is performance outrage killing spontaneous humour?

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Jeremy Corbyn and Seumas Milne as Good Cop, Bad Cop?

Writing in The Daily Telegraph, James Kirkup suggests we should blame Jeremy Corbyn rather than Seamas Mlne for Labour’s poison,

Treating Seumas Milne as the evil genius controlling a hapless Jeremy Corbyn lets Mr Corbyn off the hook, and perpetuates the idea that he is some sort of ingenue, too unworldly and witless to know what that nasty men around him do in his name. A tool of men like Mr Milne and John McDonnell, not their leader.

And of course, that idea is false. Mr Corbyn is the Labour leader and an adult in full possession of his faculties. He bears responsibility for the actions taken by those who work for him.

If Mr Milne poisons and knifes, he does so with Mr Corbyn’s authority and permission. If Momentum’s online thugs abuse and threaten female MPs and Jewish members of the Labour Party, they do so with Mr Corbyn’s approval.

It’s a good point. A lot of us have boight into the myth of Jeremy Corbyn as a decent honourable man led astray by the thuggish Seamas Milne, when the evidence suggests otherwise.

Perhaps it’s more a case the pair of them playing “Good cop, Bad cop” while working closely together?

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