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Monday, November 20, 2006



Too slow for the interweb?
To keep up in the world of blogging you have to move fast. A day or so of deliberation and you are left trailing in the wake of writers who operate a little closer to the edge of current affairs.

Two stories that it now seems redundant to spend too long commenting on are ‘the chicken time bomb scenario’ – I have, quite brazenly, stolen this title from Chicken Yoghurt, on the basis that it was too good not to – and ‘electrifying student profiling’.

The Chicken Time Bomb Scenario
The best coverage of the controversy revolving around Halal chicken being served at a school Christmas dinner are offered at Chicken Yogurt, Five Chinese Crackers and Not Saussure.

As far as my own thoughts go, I will say, without equivocation, that the objection is nothing more than racism. Show me another explanation. If the parents are objecting on the basis of animal cruelty, then I hope that they are rejecting the vast majority of meat. But they are not, are they? The industrial farming and butchery practices that deliver non-Halal chickens to our plate are uncontroversial. If the parents are objecting on the basis that, as ‘Christians’*, they have a theological objection, then I challenge them to make this case. But they have not, and they will be unable to without stepping well beyond the boundaries of the modern, mainstream Christian churches. And if the parents step so far outside the mainstream, then how does their claim to be defending ‘our’ heritage hold water? And if the parents are serious about preserving ‘our’ cultural heritage, then I ask them; what on Earth are you talking about? Is it the eating of chicken that is contrary to our cultural heritage? If so, why not concentrate on the choice of fowl rather than the method of butchery? If butchery is the issue, are these parents really saying that industrially managed farms and slaughterhouses are a key component of ‘our’ heritage?

The answer is none of these. The most generous answer is that there is a BNP provocateur at work, whipping unreflective xenophobia into a racist response. The least generous answer is that in our current climate, produced by the Express, the Mail, the Sun, New Labour, the Conservative Party and the rest, Muslims are inherently threatening, and that the parents of Oakwood are a racist reflection of this. Denis MacShane ought to be ashamed of himself for pandering to the bigoted politics at work here.

I challenge anyone to give me one good reason why serving Halal chicken should be in any way controversial for a ‘Christian’ happy to eat industrially produced meat.

Electrifying Student Profiling
The story of the Iranian-American student being singled out for an ID check at a UCLA library and, when he objects, being repeatedly tasered by campus security is offered at Lenin’s Tomb. All I can add is an edited round-up of the comments I left at Europhobia.

UCLA is, remember, an elite university. Imagine how American security forces treat the underprivileged – and in court, underrepresented – sections of the United States citizenry. Imagine how they treat foreigners. Imagine how they treat foreigners abroad, out of the sight of camera phones and off the radar of well-motivated and well-rewarded lawyers.

I could not see the porters at any UK university that I have been to behaving in this way. For one thing they do not have tasers.

This is not a facetious point. I have never been happy with the enthusiasm shown by some liberals for ‘non-lethal’ weapons. This unease has nothing to do with the actual lethality of these weapons, and everything to do with the way that non-lethal, but still coercive and forceful options for paramilitary control can change the ‘mind’ of the state. Given ‘non-lethal’ weapons, is it not reasonable to expect our security services to become incautious and immoderate in their use of force?

There is a big difference between making the decision to disperse a crowd by firing into it, and making the decision to disperse a crowd by the deployment of non-lethal weapons. If the non-lethal weapons are as good as their advocates would have us believe, the latter option is just as certain and coercive a means of control. But the decision is far easier to take. And it pleases the technological-fix fetishes of the ‘modernity’ crowd.

A police state that only has guns can kill people, but it loses its legitimacy very quickly. A police state that has non-lethal means of paramilitary control can tell itself, quite convincingly, that it is not a police state after all. Remember the mantra that works a fascistic charm; if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear. At least until you have a close encounter with a policeman. Or any other real, human authority figure.

Ah. It seems that in the world of blogging, coming second appears to be no bar to holding forth.

*I know from personal experience, and we all know from the evidence of evolving rhetoric of the BNP, that the word ‘Christian’ is used as a politically disguised placeholder for ‘white’. At the time of the last census I worked in an office staffed by reasonably educated people. For a lunch break or two, discussion in the office revolved around the question of what religion people would claim. The consensus appeared to be that people in the office were ‘Christian’ because we were white and therefore unlike a variously defined ‘them’. No one claimed to go to church, read the Bible or actually believe in God. It therefore infuriated me when my census response – the census response of thousands of others – to claim to be a ‘Jedi’ was declared invalid. This was a claim that was no more or less fake than the claim made by my colleagues, and was, patently, a response made with a greater degree of reflection and consideration.

Thursday, November 16, 2006


Foreign bodies

The Daily Express is… fascinating. If you want to know the particular brand of xenophobia currently animating the neurones of little, closed minds, scan the front page. If you do not have the time, or the hard headed detachment required, Five Chinese Crackers performs an estimable survey of the Express and her ideological sister rags.

And hard headed detachment is something I am lacking. Faced with page after page, in both newsprint and pixels, of racism and xenophobia, I feel like giving up the battle. So kudos to those who keep on exposing the lies and the half-truths that are finding fertile fields in imaginations that range from the far-right to the decent left.

I can, however, still be shocked by the absurdity of some of the headlines that the Express editors deem to be the most important news items of the day. Normally, these concern the threat that one or another group of foreigners – or sometimes British ‘aliens’ – pose to the Bulldog Nation. Lately the editor of the Express has directed his readers’ ire towards inanimate objects. ‘Foreign’ objects, of course.

On November the 2nd the Express front page was wailing at the disrespect shown to our glorious war dead by a ‘Muslim scarf’. The headline was:

“She [Camilla] IS wearing one [a poppy] but you can’t see it under Muslim scarf”

And today, on November the 16th, the Express front page played the role of doom monger. Foreign bodies were bringing disease into Britain. Yes, we have heard that story before. But this time it was not ‘immigrants’, but eggs. The headline read:

“Danger in millions of eggs from abroad”

The self styled “World’s Greatest Newspaper” is beginning to read like the sort of parody published in Viz.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
I know that this is a spoof of the Daily Mail. The Mail is but a Siamese twin of the Express. And the two are joined at the head, and the gut.

I think it might be a good thing that their anti-foreign rants have become so unhinged. Perhaps their purchase on the British imagination might loosen, if only a little.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006


The Chingford Paradox

Norman Tebbit blames the unemployed for their state, offering the advice that they should get on their bike and look for work. Norman Tebbit despises those who get on their bike and look for work, vehemently opposing immigration to Britain.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006



Many news stories slip from the headlines. BNP members are apparently caught with the material requirements for explosive terrorism, but it is the utterly impossible plans of a fantasist that seizes the headlines. Who can say why this is?

One story that seems to have more or less fallen completely from the journalistic field of vision is the upheavals taking place in Oaxaca. Mexican politics does not seem to figure highly in the British media consciousness; witness the difference in the tone and intensity of the reporting of post-disputed election Mexico with that enjoyed by the Orange Revolution in the Ukraine. And now there is barely a noise made on a labour dispute that has escalated into a popular and largely peaceful act of mass dissent, even rebellion. Who can say why this is?

Socialist Worker carried an article on Oaxaca, while Through The Scary Door [One, Two, Three, Four, Five, Six] has been watching the coverage of Britain’s more ‘reputable’ news providers with some care.

Who can say why this is? Why are the ‘decents’ reluctant to tackle the free press, apart from the racist slur of prefixing news providers with the appellation ‘al’? Perhaps the ‘free press’ is a similar entity to ‘terrorism’, the operation of which must be subject to analysis or explanation, except in terms of the foibles of ‘great men’.

Billy Bragg sang:
If this does not reflect your view you should understand
That those who own the papers also own this land
When you wake up to the fact
That your paper is Tory
Just remember, there are two sides to every story

But there is more than that, Billy, in the operation of the capitalist press. It does not work merely by providing a one-sided view of stories, but by making some stories prominent and by concealing others. Not as part of a conspiracy, but simply as the product of a world-view, the ideology of the capitalist press. And note that while the ‘decents’ will wail and scream over ‘Muslim censorship’ of British and European newspapers – something that simply does not happen given the simple fact that Muslims neither own major newspapers nor hold political power in Britain and Europe – they remain utterly silent over the everyday controls and constraints the shape the content and tone of the ‘free’ – read capitalist – press.

But I will close with a claim made in the spirit of Dhiren Barot. I plan to build a super-powerful laser by hoarding second-hand DVD players. I will then use Google Earth and my ‘Children’s Guide to the Planets’ to aim the laser, with devastating effect, at any point on the surface of the Earth. Of course, as we have seen from the ‘red mercury’ case, the fact that a terrorist plot is utterly implausible is no defence for the plotters once in court. So, while I might be interned due to my laser-based plans for world domination, you should all to remember that, at least on the evidence of these ‘plans’ I am not a danger to the future of civilisation.

Monday, November 06, 2006


A bad guy

The Guardian is not a paper of the left. It a soft-liberal, pro-capitalist, reasonably intelligent and humane paper. But it is not a paper of the left.

The Guardian has been holding its nose when writing about the election in progress in Nicaragua. In the political imagination of the editorial staff Daniel Ortega, the leader of the Sandinistas and the front-runner in the presidential race, reeks. In a nominative slip that exposes the rank vision of the Latin American world, The Guardian writes:

“Analysts have said Mr Noriega stands less chance of winning a runoff as various opponents are likely to unite behind a single candidate.”

There is no ‘Mr Noriega’ in the Nicaraguan Presidential race. It was Mr Ortega who was meant to be the subject of this sentence. But Mr Noriega, erstwhile dictator of Panama, is a ‘bad guy’. Notwithstanding the support he received from a George H.W. Bush headed CIA, as a drug-smuggling, anti-Communist friend of America, in popular memory he is the strongman, the jefe removed from power in operation ‘Just Cause’. He is a ‘bad guy’.

And so is Daniel Ortega, it seems. How easily The Guardian buys into this line. For The Guardian, the Contras are an ambiguous organisation, their history in doubt and open for debate, being only “accused of waging of a brutal campaign of intimidation” [emphasis added]. And while the US-supported candidate is quoted, there is not a word from the likely winner.

The Guardian is a ‘decent’ paper. Despite the racialised slur of ‘al-Guardian’ that the ‘decents’ sometimes toss that way of the newspaper, much of the editorial line is perfectly in-line with that of the ‘decents’. Sure, there have been disagreements over quite how many wars of occupation can be supported at any one time and the competency of those planning and executing these wars. But the political line is one that supports the interests of capital, so long as it comes with a polished veneer of liberalism. Of course, this veneer can be dazzling, leading to a confusion over just what liberalism. Being decent, these days, seems to involve supporting war and occupation, the demonisation of a vulnerable minority group and the use of torture.


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