Saturday 14 July 2018

The ayes have it

I’m linking to this HoC Westminster Hall debate (3rd July) UK-Israel Trade, for a reason. Several reasons actually. Firstly it makes a nice change to see MPs debating Israel in a positive way without being shouted down by the massed choir of Israelophobes that usually dominate such debates. 

Secondly, I’m using it to highlight the way memes and tropes embed themselves in the language to be trotted out by the culturally and historically illiterate.

Looking at the list of speakers, certain names leap out - (from the left) habitual offenders in this respect. Predictably they duly chimed in, to the tune of ”occupied territories” “settlements”  “illegal under international law”. It’s dispiriting to witness Israel-bashing zealots citing institutionally anti-Israel organisations like the UN to back up their argument; more so when they are allowed to do so without facing robust challenges by wiser, better-informed and more legally literate opponents.

So let’s have a look at the memes and tropes concerning Donald Trump that have embedded themselves in the language, which are thoughtlessly bandied about by all and sundry.

Ed Miliband gave us a prime example. His explanation for his presence at an anti-Trump demo came simply in the form of a list: Fascist, Misogynist, Racist - there may have been another couple, which have momentarily eluded me.

We heard the same list again from a caller to Any Answers. The term Fascist has suffered extreme mission creep. It now seems to mean nationalist, or, if you like, patriot.  Misogyny is the label most commonly associated with Trump, which I assume stems from that infamous recording resurrected from his pre-politics era. The crudely worded confidences he blurted out to his companion seemed to me to be nothing much more than an inarticulate expression of delight and surprise at the unexpected benefits of power and success. It reminded me of Robbie Williams, half stoned apparently, crying out “I’m rich beyond my wildest dreams”. 

The real problem with The Donald is his limited vocabulary. You can tell he’s struggling with language, falling back on rudimentary words and expressions just as a small child would, but sometimes cutting through the bullshit and shaking up the torpid status quo in the process. 
I don’t think Trump is a racist. Or is Islam officially a race these days? 

The caged children thing is disingenuous. I understand that President Obama’s record is no less disrespectful of human rights, and for that matter, Bill Clinton’s and John H Kennedy's are no less misogynist and so on. This is one occasion when ‘whataboutery’ looks like a valid approach.

Another caller to Any Answers accused the BBC of whipping up anti-Trump animus, singling out John Sopel and Paul Wood. Anita Anand wasn’t happy. “They aren’t here to defend themselves”, she said, “and I’m not going to criticise my colleagues.” 


  1. I heard that and the protests featured prominently, as they did in the BBC coverage of the visit yesterday. Hearing Anand, I thought back to the Obama-supporting hat she wore when working for the BBC. Then to hear such scruples she has when it comes to protecting her precious colleagues from any taint of criticism of bias! I was shouting (in my mind, not actually) at the radio: How can people defend themselves against the BBC and prats like them and you?

    These marchers weren't all that bothered about misogyny. If it had been that, there would have been a small march by women, mainly. No, the mass protest was really about the so-called racism. Misogyny was tagged on as a makeweight or another charge to add to the sheet.

  2. "The term Fascist has suffered extreme mission creep." Very nicely put. It now includes, as far as the BBC, SWP, EU and sundry other institutions are concerned, populist democrats with a nationalist approach to politics. In other words it has become meaningless. Not an entirely new phenomenon - Mrs Thatcher back in the 70s was accused of ushering in an era of "stocking-footed fascism" (by Healey or Foot? I can't find a source)...not much quoted now I think because of the inherent sexism of the quote but shows blurring of the boundaries is not new. Fascism is explicitly anti-democratic. It places all or nearly all political authority in the hands of a dictator. It has a bias towards corporatist economics. Trump and the populists have never done anything which suggests they are seeking to dismantle the democratic process as fascists do.

  3. This ties in with a previous post about the now ubiquitous use of the words “far-right”. The term “fascist” has long been used by the left to describe anyone they disagree with or see as a threat, but it is now banded about with such clueless abandon that anyone who cares about history must be close to despair. There is no textbook for fascism, no fascist equivalent to Karl Marx, but what it does have in common with the far-left is brutal totalitarianism. Trump may be crass and his apparent isolationism is extremely worrying, but he is not a fascist. One might have hoped that our “world class” news provider with its remit to educate the public might have addressed this wilful ignorance a long time ago, but unfortunately they are part of the problem.

    You can always rely on Anita Anand for a playground response. If she were to apply, “they’re not here to defend themselves” generally, “Any Answers” would soon run out of answerers.

    1. Our wonderful Mayor in London has gone one better and now describes people like the leader of UKIP attending the Free Tommy rally as "extreme far right".

    2. When they are talking about Muslim leaders in distant lands the BBC has no difficulty in labelling them as 'extreme conservatives'.
      Anita Anand's job is surely to enable her callers to better make their case, not to apply the BBC's stamp of approval. The BBC has been quite happy to do down President Trump across all of its output, even in gardening programmes and the weather forecast, but he has never 'been here to defend himself'.

  4. Here's a transcript of that 'Any Answers' exchange:

    ANITA ANAND: But first of all John Gunton who's calling us from Poole in Dorset. Hello.
    JOHN: Yeah, good afternoon.
    ANITA ANAND: Hi. You wanted to talk about the Trump visit?
    JOHN: Yeah. I was fully in favour of the Trump visit, and I was disappointed and I cannot believe the lay before you said they were all good-humoured, etc. Some of the signs I saw were certainly not good-humoured...
    ANITA ANAND: (interrupting) There were no reports of violence, were there?
    JOHN: Well, perhaps not physical violence but certainly verbal violence, and I think that's just as bad. I was pleased to see Trump. Trump actually gives us some very good home truths. I think his talk about Nato was fully taken and he's right that Germany should pay a lot more for their defence. I also actually think that the BBC had something to blame here...
    ANITA ANAND: (interrupting) What have we done?
    JOHN: Ah, very much. You've got two reporters, Jon Sopel and Paul Wood, and I have never heard them say anything positive about Trump...
    ANITA ANAND: (interrupting) Again they're not here to defend themselves and I certainly don't want to be the frontline defending everybody who I work with, although I have a great deal of respect for my colleagues. So let's....if you want to talk generally about the BBC awesome, but if you're going to single out people who aren't here to talk for themselves that's going to be tricky, isn't it John?
    JOHN: I just thought I'd mention their names and maybe somebody will hear that. No, look...this lady talks about 'fascism'. That is a comment made like 'racism' and 'misogynist'. Good heavens! Probably the biggest misogynist in office was Clinton, Bill Clinton. John Kennedy wasn't much...
    ANITA ANAND: (interrupting) OK, but do you not you not see that there is something problematic about his relationship with women, when there are again taped comments. That doesn't give you pause for thought?
    JOHN: Those are past comments. Certainly if it had been actions when he was being president that would be different but you want to ask his wife. What does his wife think about him? His daughters think about him? I not not believe he is a misogynist...
    ANITA ANAND: (interrupting) OK John, if they want to call up they're...well 03 700 100 444 is the number to call.

  5. People like Paul Wood are intelligent people who throw in stuff like this to their articles to steer UK public opinion:

    "In a New York Times op-ed in August, the former director of the CIA, Michael Morell, wrote: "In the intelligence business, we would say that Mr Putin had recruited Mr Trump as an unwitting agent of the Russian Federation." "

    The New York Times? An oracle? They've been seriously wrong about a whole host of things, including whether Trump would become President. This is like claiming the Guardian is some sort of oracle with an accurate take on all manner of things, when we know it's stuffed full of unstable lefties with serious character deficiencies.

    And of course, the BBC does not report fairly on the other side...the strong possibility that this whole Russia-Trump rumour mill was started by the CIA,for political reasons, who -with the connivance of Obama and the Clinton campaign - co-opted the Five Eyes intelligence agencies to come up with the alleged dirt that would justify surveillance of the Trump campaign. Putting election campaigns under state surveillance ("wire tapping" as Trump quaintly put it) is a serious business. Well at least in the USA, which has some controls of such behaviour.

    There is of course no doubt Russia attempted to influence the American elections, just as America has attempted to influence votes around the world, including in Russia (we haven't forgotten Obama coming to lecture us during our Referendum campaign). But did Russia really have the water games with prossies stuff on Trump? That seems highly doubtful.

    I wouldn't mind so if Wood and co. were more balanced - balancing the anti-Trump dirt with pro-Trump stuff. For instance if you look into this you'll ex CIA director John Brennan has admitted voting Communist back in the 60s. Furthermore, he is accused (by an ex colleague) of having undergone a conversion to Islam in Saudi Arabia (where he worked for many years). The fact that he swore himself in on the Constitution rather than the Bible,as you would normally expect, would seem to give credence to that.

    Also look at this:

    Present Strozk in a completely positive light - he's "defending" himself. His "defence" is weak, even absurd: that although he sent fierce anti-Trump messages on FBI equipment in FBI work time, he wasn't biased in his work!


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