Of rapists and Lad’s Mags

So, this is interesting & has been doing the rounds on Facebook: Can You Tell The Difference Between A Men’s Magazine And A Rapist?

I think ‘Lad’s Mags’ are awful tripe which perpetuate objectification & emotional stuntedness, but I am dubious about the headline claim that the two are indistinguishable. As Ben Goldacre teaches us, it’s always important to be sceptical of a news story based on a press release, rather than the study itself – in this case the actual number crunching and stats are opaque, we’re only told that the subjects could differentiate little better than chance. It’s also quite a leap from two or three sentence quotes (again the selection of quotes is opaque, but presumably they were chosen for similarity rather than representativeness) to suggesting identical attitudes. A study where people observed an interview with a rapist and LM reader/writer would be very interesting, and I would guess that the average person could actually tell the difference.

Personally I was 100% right in telling the difference between the two. Not entirely sure what that says about me, but there are differences. The LM ones are appalling and crap, but also self-consciously over the top, whereas the rapist ones are much more sinister in their way and colder. It’s a provocative study, but I don’t think it justifies the interpretation being put on it.The more troubling finding is that men were more likely to identify with the rapist quotes than the LM ones. I guess that could partly be to do with the LM quotes being OTT, and it says some pretty dreadful things about LM, but it also suggests wider social attitudes and beliefs which align with the way rapists self-justify. That isn’t very surprising either, but it is a problem much wider and deeper than than ugly quotes in trashy magazines.

Update: More from Fantastic Nat – sample quote:

this is a bloody useful tool to make people remember that the public’s attitude to victims of rape totally fucking sucks, and that ‘othering’ rapists is pointless and futile. But it does not “show us that lad’s mags cause rape”. So please don’t say it does.

Linking to Breivik’s Manifesto – Ideas for Responsible Blogging

So, I spent a lot of time in my previous post justifying my linking to the material. In retrospect I probably should have hived that off into a different post, but I was in a rush and at the time I started writing there was barely anything online in English about any of Breivik’s writings. I predicted that “most people who commit atrocities of this sort in the future will produce self-justificatory manifestos online”, and it’s now emerged that Breivik himself did post one, apparently the work of several years (it’s over 15,000 pages long). Correction-it’s 1,500 pages long

I’m definitely not going to write anything comprehensive on it. One day spent imagining the inside of his head is more than enough, but I’ve skimmed it just to check that my analysis of the Document.no postings is still valid. I also just want to expand on my position about linking to such material. It’s very clear from the manifesto that Breivik is a deeply self-regarding individual, and will revel in the notoriety. There’s no way to starve him of that attention, considering what he’s done, but it is extremely important to consider the nature of the attention being directed, and the extent to which we are simply falling in with his wishes by our reaction.

The manifesto is a three part plan for an extended ‘European civil war’ to remove Muslims from the continent, preceded by a twisted history and distorted picture of the present which justify this war. It is possible that Breivik actually intended for the manifesto to be the more important project. In a section entitled ‘Sacrifices made when creating the compilation’ he says:

All that, however, is barely noticeable compared to the sacrifices made in relation to the distribution of this book, the actual marketing operation;)

Sick Fuck. Anyway, this really emphasises that drawing attention to his ideas is far from being morally neutral. I still stand by my points yesterday that there is more to be gained from analysing this material than ignoring or suppressing it. But, the more we learn about him, the more it becomes clear that there are responsibilities that come with approaching this material.

There is a lot of interest in the manifesto, and a lot to be learned from it. Some of it may well be along the lines of what I was writing yesterday, other parts may point in different directions. There is also a great deal of practical information about his buying materials and testing, and profiles of his best friends, all of which would probably be better off out of the public domain, but it’s now on in the wild in the internet, so little can be done about it. The sections which I’d suggest may well be of particular interest are an extended interview he conducts with himself about his motivations and process of radicalisation (pop psychology spoiler – it’s all about his negative experience becoming estranged from a Muslim friend as a child),  and the distorted reading of history that he  employs.

But, having thought a bit about this yesterday before I knew there was a manifesto, I wanted to throw out a list of suggested points for referencing and discussing this material in a responsible fashion:

  1. Non-sensatinalism. He did this to attract our attention and achieve notoriety. Feeding it by cherry picking the most extreme parts and hyping them is pandering to him. Don’t do it, even though this is exactly what the press are now doing.
  2. No linking without fisking. If you are drawing attention to this material, you have a responsibility to debunk it. Do not let anyone get any closer to reading it without them having to first read why it’s wrong. NB – a disclaimer is not sufficient. You bleating that you don’t agree with it and condemning it is not sufficient. Don’t say that it’s wrong. Say why it’s wrong.
  3. In analysis, include both facts and interpretation. It isn’t enough to say that how Breivik viewed the world is wrong, or point out where he didn’t get his facts and figures straight. Both are necessary, and neither should be provided in isolation.
  4. Consider linking only to an partial copy of the material. If you only are dealing with part of the material, should you openly disseminate the rest? Perhaps some parts of it should not be in the public domain.
  5. If you are going to make a political point, think about it very carefully. Breathe. Think about it again. This action was clearly political, and should be treated as such. Consider very carefully whether the bereaved (for example) would find it appropriate. Use your language carefully, and do not overstate your point.
  6. Humour – this one is contentious, but I think there is a role for humour in approaching this material. Not yet, in the immediate aftermath, obviously. However, part of deconstructing and taking apart this man and his ideas will necessarily involve recognising their innate absurdity. There is actually a rich source of material – he spends a lot of time designing a hierarchy of medals for the army who will fight this civil war, and discusses using squads of attractive ‘female patriots’ for propaganda purposes. Laughing at the ridiculous narcissism of this man is one of the most powerful responses to him and the outcome he would like to see, much more so than painting him as an evil genius or terrorist mastermind.

Thoughts? I definitely won’t be linking to the manual any time soon because I don’t have the time or energy to do any of the above properly. I really hope someone out there does though.

The Role of the the UK Immigration Debate in the Norewegain Attacks

*NB – this is a long post, but I urge you to persevere. You can skip the first two sections if you like, but I felt it was really important to run through what I was doing and why*

Online Footprints

One of the surreal facets of the hyper-connected age we live in is that, when people achieve notoriety all of us can reach out and touch their digital presence and pore over that stream of bits that every one of us now leaves in their wake. Trying to make any sense from it all is a bit like reading tea leaves – about as futile as turning up at the jail and rattling their bars, as if staring at their face will somehow illuminate what they’ve done. But because they are out there, we were treated to pictures of Rebecca Leighton dressed up for a School Disco night on the Manchester Evening News cover the other day. The Mail, naturally was on the case, with coverage which just begged for a contempt of court’ charge. It should be noted that she has not been charged with murder, and the charges suggest fatal incompetence or malicious sabotage, rather than actual intent to kill.

It may have been slightly in bad taste, but last night on Facebook, I linked to the Norwegian gunman’s profile, noting his apparent liking of Vocal Trance. He’s no Eichmann, but musically speaking I felt there was a small flavour of Hannah Arendt in that detail. Anders Behring Breivik was also a fan of Orwell’s 1984 according to the page, and therefore would no doubt would have appreciated that this morning there is no sign on Facebook of my post actually having existed at all.

Rights and Wrongs

There are certainly questions  about the ethics of following an unverified twitter link to a profile and drawing attention to it, especially if it was set up by someone guilty of an atrocity. His twitter account, still live at the time of writing with over 1,000 ruberneckers on board, was clearly set up with the intention of being found after his actions and contains a single tweet misquoting John Stuart Mill. It is pretty innocuous, as was the publicly visible part of the Facebook profile, but it isn’t hard to envisage that most people who commit atrocities of this sort in the future will produce self-justificatory manifestos online. I guess we’re all just going to have to deal with that.

I can see quite a lot of the arguments for and against publicising that kind of thing. Publicising it feeds the self image of the perpetrator(s) as being a lone voice in a neglected and noble cause. No doubt there will also be plenty of readers who agree with some of what is written. Copycat acts and the lionising of the perpetrator is probably more likely as a result. The counterfactual counter-argument that those who emulate or venerate the perpetrator ‘would have picked up on something else if it wasn’t here’ is impossible to substantiate, and rather weak.

However, I think these concerns are overridden by the moral imperative upon a society to try to understand what motivates someone who goes on a rampage like this, in order to try and prevent it happening again. It is a shiboleth of the reactionary right that it is impossible, even repugnant, to try and understand somebody who sets out to kill as many people as they can. There is something in that: most of us cannot know with any certainty what it feels like to walk towards a crowd of teenagers shooting randomly, or to know what goes through your mind as you set a bomb in the full knowledge that people will die as a result. Indeed, even imagining it is horrendous.

At the heart of it, I feel, is the fear of the lack of conscience we assume must lie at the core of such behaviour, because our own consciences are so powerfully moved when we contemplate it. While the nature of Breivik’s actions are very different from that of Eichmann’s, the purpose of Arendt’s book – to try an understand how an ostensibly normal person could come to commit such atrocities – is still valid. By definition nothing that happened to either man is outside the boundaries of human experience, and despite the enormity of their crimes, their actions should not lie beyond the bounds of human understanding.

The uncomfortable truth is that Breivik probably does have a conscience, just one that is horribly misdirected. While it is more palatable to merely condemn, and understanding should never replace condemnation, we should not cast aside our critical faculties at the fist sign of horror. Real understanding will reinforce condemnation, not dilute it. While reading the writings of someone like this are an archetypal example of the kind of freedom we wish to have ourselves, but do not trust all of our neighbours with, that isn’t a choice which can extend to a general rule.

Although we live in a society which is far from being adult enough to deal as well as it might with some of the issues raised (and believe me, we’re about to see how far), I don’t see how failing to air them at all will help. In any case trying to stop something being available on the internet is a fools errand, and best left to the likes of the RIAA and their flunkeys.

The Document.no postings

So, what all that noddling was leading up to was this link. It purports to be the collected postings of Breivik on a website called document.no between September 2009 and October 2010. I came to this via Borris Watch, and can’t vouch for it. So there is a MASSIVE BIG DISCLAIMER THAT I AM DISCUSSING UNVERIFIED MATERIAL HERE. That said, there is too much material for it to have been written in the short time since his name was released, it fits in with information that is coming into the public domain as I write this, and therefore I am PRECEDING ON THE ASSUMPTION IT IS GENUINE. If it’s not, then I’ve wasted a few hours obsessing over this and you’ve wasted a few minutes reading it. If that’s not cool with you, then stop reading now.

Update – while I’ve been writing this, several excerpts have been published on Liberal Conspiracy. Apparently this is the comments in Norewegian, so I’m pretty content that these are genuine, presuming that the translation is reliable.

The terrifying thing about these comments is how familiar they are. The sentiment clearly originates from the anti-immigration populist right, but nothing that would be unfamiliar to anyone who has read the comments on the UK tabloid websites. In fact some of it could have been directly lifted from the comment pages of any of the right-wing newspapers in the UK:

 Those who dare to criticize multiculturalism (and supporting cultural conservative views) are now branded as fascists / Nazis / racists. The problem is that the doctrines which form the basis of political correctness will not or can allow alternative ideas and are thus very intolerant.

Progress Party is a victim of this intolerance.

Breivik was a member of Progress Party, although he seems to have parted ways with it because of what he perceived as its capitulation to multiculturalism. His understanding of multiculturalism is quite interesting:

The main problem in Western Europe is that there is only one accepted alternative, namely PC (PC = cultural Marxism / multiculturalism).

There’s a clear obsession with Marxism here – classic sign of far-right thinking:

Frankfurt School (kulturmarxisme) is a very ambitious unofficial ideology (and quite unknown to most) and they have succeeded in most areas (except to smash capitalism, European Christianity and European identity, traditions, culture). Vienna school is more a defense against this where we often use the Marxist ‘own creations against them (sexual liberation, feminism, liberalism, anti-racism, anti-autoriære arguments).

I don’t know loads about it, but for those not familiar with it, the Frankfurt School is a high academic strand of Marxism which is very concerned with cultural criticism. I’m not sure whether he actually follows in their footsteps, but if UK readers think ‘Terry Eagleton’, you’re in the right ballpark. The Vienna school seems to be Breivik’s own counter to his imagined enemy:

To sums up the Vienna school of thought:

– Cultural Conservatism (anti-multiculturalism)
– Against Islamization
– Anti-racist
– Anti-authoritarian (resistance to all authoritarian ideologies of hate)
– Pro-Israel/forsvarer of non-Muslim minorities in Muslim countries
– Defender of the cultural aspects of Christianity
– To reveal the Eurabia project and the Frankfurt School (ny-marxisme/kulturmarxisme/multikulturalisme)
– Is not an economic policy and can collect everything from socialists to capitalists

Again, this wouldn’t be out of place for the supposedly ‘acceptable’ right-wing in the UK. Notice the ‘anti-racism’ bit there. I bet there’s plenty of people in UKIP who would sign up to the points listed above. You’d need to explain Eurabia and the Frankfurt school to them, but I’m sure they would tell you that multi-culturalism was a hard-left plot without prompting. Eurabia, by the way, is a formulation of Mark Steyn, previously of the Telegraph and Spectator, meaning the domination of Europe by Muslims. I’m sure our friends in UKIP, once they were familiar with the terminology, would go along with this too:

It is very annoying however, that 90% of all kulturmarxister directly lying to the people by hiding / hide their agenda behind the “humanism and human rights”.

So, human rights are a left-wing plot. Where have I heard that before? Also, notice the ‘anti-racist’ point above. This is a guy who has totally internalised the line that “It’s not racist to talk about immigration“. He must be thinking what Michael Howard was thinking:

Ethnocentric movements that BNP, National Front is not successful and will never be able to get over 10% support (GDP 5%, the UN has 7%). One can not fight racism (multikulti) with racism. Ethnocentrism is therefore the complete opposite of what we want to achieve.

Wow, this really is the new acceptable face of right-wing racism which we all know and love. It can’t possibly be racist, because it’s about religion, which is totally different from race, and is in no way just a proxy for race or just using a single surface attribute to designate a whole group of people as alien so basically amounting to the same thing. I feel like I’ve just relived the entire British discourse on multiculturalism in the ravings of one man.

The UK

As you can see from the following, this familiarity is far from being a coincidence. Breivik is a man who is not just familiar with that discourse, but appears to be so involved with it he gives them tips:

I strongly doubt that your theory is correct. The whole conflict between BNP and EDL started with a change of leadership in the EDL for a few months ago. They threw out the racist and denounced the BNP. They chose instead SIOE’s ideological basis that is more or less mainstream view on the right side in Western Europe now (Vienna School of Thought).

Nick was very offended and began to demonize the EDL. Although they are now attacking each other as they compete not at all as these are two quite different fronts. 90% of all votes in the EDL continued BNP (Since this is the only alternative to multikulti in the UK) and 90% of BNP supports EDL regardless of what Nick had to think.

Second, Labour governs intelligence service. They had never in his life supported the EDL as these create a lot of positive attention for the cultural conservative movement in the UK

I have on some occasions discussed with SIOE and EDL and recommended them to use conscious strategies.

The tactics of the EDL is now out to “entice” an overreaction from Jihad Youth / Extreme-Marxists something they have succeeded several times already. Over The reaction has been repeatedly shown on the news which has booster EDLs ranks high. This has also benefited GDP. WinWin for both.

But I must say I am very impressed with how quickly they have grown but this has to do with smart tactical choice by management.

EDL is an example and a Norwegian version is the only way to prevent Flash / SOS to harass Norwegian cultural conservatives from other fronts. Creating a Norwegian EDL should be No. 3 on the agenda after we have started up a cultural conservative newspaper with national distribution.

The agenda of the Norwegian cultural conservative movement over the next 5 years are therefore

1. Newspaper with national distribution

2. Working for the control of several NGOs

3. Norwegian EDL

It’s not clear whether whether he had anything to do with setting it up, but there is now a Norwegian Defence League with links to the EDL. It’s also worth noting that Breivik’s analysis of the relationship between the BNP and the EDL is more accurate and incisive than anything you’ll find in the UK right-wing press, who are happy to wink and nudge at, and generate support for, the EDL while being very careful to denounce the BNP for the sake of propriety. Breivik would also like to emulate the Tea Party movement, who have also made overtures to the EDLin the past, and recommends the following websites:

Watch the pages gatesofvienna, brussels journal, Jihad Watch, religionofpeace etc

Some familiar names there. Craig Murray has also connected Breivik’s name with Atlas Shrugs, another usual suspect in the anti-muslim/anti-immigration/rabid-rightwing pantheon.

So, to kind of sum up Breivik’s worldview as it appears in the Document.no comments:

tell me one country where Muslims have lived peacefully with non-Muslims without the Jihad against Kafr (dhimmitude, systematic slaughter or demographic warfare)?

How many thousands of new Europeans must die, how many one hundred thousand European women should be raped, millions robbed and tractor discarded before you understand that multiculturalism + Islam does not work?

Of course, if you were to go out and start killing people over this kind of thing, you would need to believe that lives were at stake, that the situation was critical and there was an ongoing emergency happening now. Incidentally, the rape of ‘our’ European women by ‘the other’, that hoary old racist canard, crops up often in his comments. He doesn’t mention the UK in this context, but the BNP have long used this racist trope over here in their campaigning, and it is clearly visible in the background of the debate into issue of gangs grooming young girls. Jack Straw should get a special mention and BNP recruitment badge at this juncture for his deeply cack-handed approach to the subject.

There have now been a mass exodus of non-Muslims from Oslo East in 20 years, even if the media refuses to cover this trend. The reason is simple. People do not want to be oppressed, they do not want to live like other citizens rangs (dhimmitude). Parents observe but can not do much. There are of course very dependent on the situation. If it is 50% Muslims in school or only 2%. It is often easiest to move in instead of letting your child carry the “integration issue” on their shoulders.

I dare not even think of how many Norwegian children who have been suicide because of these experiences (assault, robbery, rape, psychological terror committed by Muslim youths). There are probably several hundred in the last 15 years.

It is important to note that Breivik doesn’t actually live in East Oslo, which he thinks ‘must be hell’, but in Oslo West. There are again huge parallels with the UK, where ethnically mixed areas are not usually the ones with the most virulent racism – this tends to manifest itself more in areas where the white population feels vulnerable (often justifiably so in terms of economic and social privilege) and projects that onto an immigrant population they have little direct experience of.

The UK Media

Let’s go back to a sentence in the previous excerpt: “even if the media refuses to cover this trend”. This is once again, horribly familiar to anyone with a passing familiarity to the rightwing discourse on immigration/islam in the UK – the repeated claim that this is an issue which is suppressed, which it is forbidden to discuss, and about which the ‘liberal elites’ are in denial. Of course, the strident and relentless coverage of this issue completely belies this claim, but that doesn’t stop it being repeated ad nauseum.

Despite being contradicted by it’s own prominence, this idea of a taboo is widely believed – Michael Howard’s disgusting 2005 ‘It’s not racist to put limits on immigration” dog whistle poster didn’t come out of nowhere –  it will have been carefully honed by focus group. It spoke very clearly to a certain segment of the population who are concerned by immigration and feel that every time they try to talk about it they are told they are racist, and that there is a taboo on the subject. Now clearly some of them are racist, and some of them are not (and that’s a whole different blog post), but what I want to highlight is how politicians feed this narrative.

Although the views in question are clearly right-wing, both Labour and Tory politicians are guilty of this (step forward in particular John Reid, David Blunkett and Phil Woolas). By cynically purporting to feel the pain of a demographic of very attractive swing voters (mostly male, working or lower-middle class, and at the lower end of the skills & education spectrum), they repeat this mantra that they are breaking a taboo by discussing immigration. Unfortunately the irony of a this actually being a font bench politician parroting a line shared by the majority of the press on an issue that is nothing short of a national obsession, appears not to register. And so the consensus that this is a no-go issue is re-affirmed, ready for the next time someone wants to make some political capital of it.

This belief pervades the way that the right-wing press talk about immigration in this country, and Breivik has lapped it all up. He links to this BBC story, which he thinks is about ‘Muslim riots’ and says in the manner of one who is well versed in how these things work “I reckon this is going on Newsnight today! (NOT)”. However, the most prominent piece of UK press in his comments comes from this Telegraph story – ‘Labour wanted mass immigration to make UK more multicultural, says former adviser’, from which he posted the title, subtitle and another paragraph with a summary and analysis:

Labour threw open Britain’s borders two mass immigration two full socially engineer a “truly multi-cultural” country, a form[er] Government adviser ha[s] Revealed.

The shapes Labour adviser said the Government opened up the UK borders Mostly two humiliate Right-wing opponents of immigration.

This proves therefore that some of the motivation for mass immigration is not based on humanism (cloak) but more due. direct hatred of people with conservative values ​​as us, the cultural conservatives. A large part of them hate all European and want to destroy it through multiculturalism. Multiculturalism is an anti-European hate ideology designed to destroy a European culture / traditions, identity, Christianity and the Nations sovereignty. The goal is a utopian Marxistist superstate. To accomplish this, the first all European annihilated. Of course there are genuine humanists (which is only suisidalt naive) but I suspect that a larger proportion of a previously thought are cultural Marxists (multiculturalists) direct hateful intentions.

Now this is quite an extreme response, but the first two sentences of that second paragraph are entirely in keeping with the slant of the piece. Reading between the lines in the article, the advisor (Andrew Neather) was probably trying to argue that Labour failed to make the case for immigration out of cowardice, but it has been written up as a conspiracy theory to increase immigration in order to antagonise conservatives i.e. those reading the article, which we now know included Breivik.


Now, I’m not saying that this Telegraph article made him go out and commit his crimes, or in any way lessens his culpability. But his ideas come from a certain milieu, and this article is part of it. It is quite clear that this was a man very well versed in the outlook of the anti-immigration/anti-muslim right-wing in the UK , was clearly influenced by and regularly citied the media narrative about immigration and Islam in this country. I’m not the only person to have said that the way that these interconnected issues are treated by the media here is driving racism, inter-community hostility and violence. What I am saying loud and clear is that everyone who is culpable in that forming that whole sorry media discourse bears some small responsibility for what happened.

It’s entirely facile to speculate that Breivik would not have committed his crimes if the picture he saw in the UK was characterised by a measured, non-hysterical debate about immigration. I wouldn’t try to claim that. These issues are on the rise across Europe; they are symptomatic of a dysfunctional response to the minor phenomenon of Islamist terrorism and the larger, but still unremarkable phenomenon of migration from the developing to the developed world. But what is clear that the way these issues have been handled in public discourse in the UK were fuel for the fire inside Breivik, and there is no getting away from that.

What to do

We urgently need to change how this issue is dealt with. Fuck it, we’ve needed to change it for a long time, but this ought to be a wake-up call. Anyone familiar with the plethora of blogs which spend time exposing the lies and distortion in the tabloid press knows that this issue is the subject of more misrepresentation and distortion than any other. The blatant untruths which then circulate as fact cannot then be denied without reinforcing the claim that there is some kind of conspiracy of silence or taboo.

The laughable Press Complaints Commission has endorsed this shameful behaviour by, for example, ruling that any factual claims within comment pieces do not need contain actual facts. Putting a system in place where newspapers can’t print huge lies and distortions with indemnity would actually kill off a significant number of immigration stories altogether. Making the press print visible and meaningful retractions (this post outlines what happens at the moment) would go a long way towards educating their readers. These measures even have an outside chance of being enacted, with the inquiries into the press of the hacking scandal. They would by no means be enough, but they would be a start.

Stopping politicians from cynically exploiting this issue is more difficult. Stripping Phil Woolas of his seat was a step in the right direction, and might provide a minor deterrent. As he engaged in race baiting somewhere there have been race riots in recent memory, he really deserves to be publicly flogged, but I can’t see that working in practice. Also, any action taken on this needs to be very careful not to feed into this idea that this issue is taboo or that people ‘speaking out’ are being  silenced.

I guess the kind of work done against the BNP by Hope Not Hate in Barking and Daganham might be a model – electorally undermining and working to unseat any politician who plays the immigration card for political gain. Obviously it couldn’t be undertaken by HNH, because it is run by the unions at the moment, and the Labour Party harbours some of the worst offenders. Any such effort would need to be non-partisan, and ideally would involve co-operation between all the opposition in any seat where it took place.

The Really Difficult Part

The last, and most difficult step is to address the underlying social issues which drive anti-immigration sentiment: building affordable housing, reducing income inequality, reversing the negative trend in social mobility. These aren’t new ideas, but these issues have been totally neglected by politicians for decades, and we are now witnessing some of the ugly blowback. Sadly, the current trends are for them all to get worse.

I hate to say it, but Maurice Glasman has a point – increasing the labour pool through immigration benefits businesses but may also depress wages. Whether it’s true or not, there is a wide perception that this has happened. Only a gibbering idiot would decide the solution lies in slogans about Family, Faith and Flag and a name like ‘Blue Labour’, but this needs to be addressed somehow. Greater job security would also help.

The other half of this last task is to deflate the hysteria about Islamic Terrorism. It’s been nearly 10 years since 9/11, and countless lives have been wasted in a quixotic fight against something that never really represented a major threat in the first place. Although what it did do was terrible and hateful, even at it’s zenith al-Queda never had the means to threaten more than a small fraction of the population.

That may be a contentious statement, but even in terms of terrorist incidents in Europe, Islamist Terrorism isn’t the most significant threat. You would never think that from the response of the press yesterday to what happened in Norway – the Sun even put “‘Al-Queda’ Massacre” as its subheading this morning, on the basis of zero information. I’m not saying we should forget about the threat of Islamist Terrorism, but the prominence it is given is way out of all proportion to the risk. Yesterday one man on an anti-Muslim crusade killed nearly twice as many people as were killed on July 7th (though ironically, they probably killed more Muslims than him). However, the number of  people who die on the roads each year in either country exceeds the total several times over. The emotive state of the debate helps no-one, and probably helped kill a lot of people yesterday.

Last Thoughts

And finally, let me anticipate an objection to all of this – ‘you can’t possibly know that any of this caused what happened yesterday’. Not for certain, no. But all of this is a reaction to comments written by the perpetrator, analysing his obsessions and beliefs. I think it is not only justified, but necessary, to look at them and try and work out what we can do to stop things like this happening again. It’s possible that these obsessions of his had no bearing on his actions yesterday, but given the way they dominate his online comments, I think it very unlikely.

Ideas and thoughts matter – being exposed to different ones changes what people do. That’s an obvious statement but it bears repeating because it’s just not correct to say that some people are ‘just crazy’ and will latch onto ideas which they then use to justify what they do. Ideas don’t cause people to do certain things, but some people wouldn’t do certain things without being introduced to certain ideas.

Anders Behring Breivik was exposed to certain ideas about the UK, about race relations and immigration here, and they made such an impression on him that he was repeating them on Norwegian online forums and wanting to replicate the EDL in his own country. Yesterday he killed nearly 100 people. Even if it didn’t stop another single person being killed by a lone maniac, we should still do something about this toxic debate, because of what it does here: racist attacks, street clashes with the BNP and EDL, and people on both sides feeling alienated and unwelcome in their own country.

The way our national discourse has been shaped hurts people and is destructive. One of the recurring points made by Breivik on the Document.no forums are a series of spurious sets of demographic figures showing Muslim populations displacing Christian populations in country after country. I checked the current ones for Lebbanon, and as well as being a gross oversimplification, they are incorrect. Doubtless these figures are doing the rounds on countless right-wing message boards and websites, being repeated by unscrupulous US shock jocks, little Englanders and neocons. Maybe someone out there even knows who made them in the first place, but there’s no way to stop them circulating.

Somewhere out there are a lot of people a bit like Breivik who will encounter them for the first time. For some of those people, the figures will chime with their prior beliefs and they will accept them as gospel. For others they might not fit with what they previously thought to be the truth and they may look elsewhere and find them to be bogus. That difference will largely depend on what they previously have been told. Polls show that British people, when asked, believe that the proportion of immigrants living here is three times the actual figure. While two thirds initially say that immigration is a problem, that figure drops to one third when they are told the actual figure. Readers of the the rightwing or popular press were more likely to say immigration was a problem than the average. This needs to end now, before anyone else gets hurt.

Update: Piece published in the Guardian referencing the same source while I was writing this.

Update #2: Daily Quail on twitter says that Breivik’s manifesto quotes Melanie Philips twice – on one occasion reproducing an entire article. I had actually mentioned her as being one of the worst offenders while I was writing this, but removed the reference during the final edit as she is not mentioned in the Document.no comments

Update #3: Some excellent examples of press misrepresentation in this 2008 report by Peter Oborne and James Jones ‘Muslims Under Seige’

Your powers are weak old man, or are they?

I know the Murdoch inquisition gentle probing by the select committee had been analysed to death,  but…

So, for the first twenty minutes or so under Tom Watson’s questioning – the bit that was actually quite incisive – Rupert Murdoch seemed in complete and utter meltdown. “Not so much a titan before whom all must tremble, as an elderly man on a day trip to the coast, mistakenly arrested for shoplifting” was one excellent description.

A lot of speculation since has been that this was mostly a put-on act with the cunning old bastard playing up to the Manuel defence they were running. But look at how he loosened up when the questioning got a lot more flabby and less detailed. Clearly he’s well past his peak, but the reason for the long pauses wasn’t general senility. He was desperately trying to remember his coaching, and what he could legally say – trying to work out how to bridge the gap between the PR necessity of appearing contrite and forthcoming, and the legal necessity of denying that he had any inkling that his newspapers were as ruthless and rulebreaking as he is. Obviously he was out of his depth and couldn’t think on his feet,  but that was all about the specific context of the questions he was being asked.

Later on, when the questioning wasn’t forensic and detailed, he warmed up and was even quipping in places – he’s obviously a man who is used to saying what he thinks and being surrounded by sycophants, and not used to having to be careful or guarded. You could see more of a glimpse of what he’s really like when he was talking about how Singapore is the most open society in the world, or how he wishes Prime ministers would leave him alone. It’s a shame that the committee didn’t have the backbone to realise that he was taking the piss by making jokes about his influence and call the cheeky bastard out on it.

Even so, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Murdoch of the first half will stick in the minds of his investors – the toothless bear in abeyance – even if he isn’t as doddery as he seems, under tough questioning he was a man who wasn’t in control of the situation and was out of his depth. It’s looking today like James isn’t going to be so glad about all those questions that were asked after all, and it wouldn’t be out of the question for his father to be gently but firmly removed from post in six months or so – not so soon that it’s obvious, and ostensibly on his own terms, naturally…..

The subtle art of smearing the dead

So, there’s one thing that’s been bugging me since Yates tried to put the lid on the phone hacking scandal in July 2009 – the act which has now finally bitten him in the arse so hard that he lost his job. I wondered what made the police so averse to picking a fight with News International. The generally accepted explanation is a combination of the carrot of a cushy column in retirement and the stick of them pursuing you and publishing every bit of dirt they can find.

The latter incentive also works at the institutional level and has long been one of the primary motivating factors in British public life, for the police as well as all sorts of other players. Much as I thought it was common knowledge that was how things worked, it’s nice to see the Munchkins of Westminster village finally admit it to the world, throw off their shackles and dance their little dance of victory because no-one is going to listen to evil press barons any more. Come to think of it, that carrot incentive has been quite good to politicians as well over the years, hasn’t it David Blunkett? Of course it now appears that individual cops have also been on an informant retainer for the Murdoch press, which no doubt also focussed minds vis a vis which hands to not bite.

Anyway, it occurred to me in 2009 – fresh from being roughed up and threatened with death by the cops at the G20, and fuming about the death of Ian Tomlinson – that there was another, more dubious reason why the Met was no way going to take a proper look at News International when they could just lock up Clive Goodman and Glen Mulcaire, stuff the 11,000 pages of evidence in a bin bag and get back to the important business of chasing brown men with beards and beating up hippies. Aside from being a fanatical champion of any kneejerk law-and-order measure ACPO feel like demanding from politicians, the News International papers are also the organ of choice for police PR people trying to smear the reputations of people the police have killed.

I’m not the only person to notice this. Alex has blogged about it, and Merrick drew the link today between the Met, the hacking scandal and the lies they told after they killed Tomlinson. The News of the World carried the exclusive smear suggesting that Jean Charles de Menezes was high on cocaine when he died, and I seem to remember they also had a story about Tomlinson being alcoholic the Sunday after the video of him being attacked by PC Simon Harwood was released (I’d like to dig out some links, but Google results for NOTW are clogged up with the phone hacking scandal). Alex also points to the Forest Gate raid, where the innocent man shot by police was smeared as a paedophile with an exclusive in….you’ve guessed it – the News of the World. And look – as I was writing this I just thought I’d check to see if I could find find something on Harry Stanley – shot by the Met for carrying a chair leg, and here is Tim Ireland on the case with another NOTW smear against a dead man. For my money, this is worse than hacking Milly Dowler’s phone. The police kill people, members of the public. Then police staff, paid with public money, plant stories in the Murdoch press – either outright lies or twisting the truth – blaming those people for their deaths at the hands of the police.

I wouldn’t want to give an opinion on how formal this sordid little ‘arrangement’ is, and police briefing obviously goes wider than the Murdoch press, but there’s certainly a pattern emerging here. I am past being surprised by the depths to which the cops or News International will stoop, but it’s worth mentioning that this state of affairs wouldn’t necessarily need to involve the parties doing anything as vulgar as spelling out to each other that the cops have blood on their hands and need to quickly put out some lies to deflect some of the justified public anger. All that needs to happen is a strategic leak of ‘operational details’ on the understanding that the ensuing story will have a certain slant. The filth get their story, and the scum get theirs. You know what? I think flogging really might be too good for them.

Anyway, I’ve been stewing over this little theory of mine for about two years, so why share it now? It was actually triggered by listening to Billy Bragg’s new song about the Liverpool boycott of the Sun after their coverage of Hillsborough. This is a shocking episode, even by Murdoch’s disgusting record. What did the Sun do, after police negligence resulted in the death of 96 Liverpool fans? Why, they smeared the victims of course. I was only nine when this happened, so I wasn’t so familiar with the details, but Wikipedia has a good section on it, which I’d now like to share. These quotes outline the basics:

The newspaper cited the words of unnamed police sources and a Conservative MP for information relating to the alleged incidents….It obviously wasn’t a silly mistake; nor was it a simple oversight…It was a ‘classic smear’…The story claimed that “drunken Liverpool fans viciously attacked rescue workers as they tried to revive victims” and “police officers, firemen and ambulance crew were punched, kicked and urinated upon”. A quotation, attributed to an unnamed policeman, claimed a dead girl had been “abused”, and that Liverpool fans were “openly urinating on us and the bodies of the dead”.

Note that the story also claimed that the Liverpool fans beat up police who were giving the kiss of life to the injured. Actually the police prevented fans from taking the wounded to ambulances (this is almost identical to Ian Tomlinson who attended to by protesters and a photographer, with the police impeding them; the police then press released that they had tended him under a hail of projectiles from the crowd). It’s pretty obvious that once the extent of police culpability over Hillsborough began to be apparent, they (possibly with the involvement of an unnamed Tory MP) realised that something had to be done to take the heat off them, and got on the phone to Kelvin McKenzie at the Sun. I guess this has been going on for a long time

Why Rebekkah Brooks still has a job

So the NOTW closure tells us that Murdoch is still a wily old bastard who values both a) the career of Rebekah Brooks and b) the BSkyB bid more than he values one discredited and reviled newspaper. It’s now the job of all right thinking people to bring both a & b to an end as soon as possible.

I’ve heard it suggested that Brooks must have some serious dirt on the Murdochs to have not been fired yet, but but I actually think there’s a lot of loyalty there, on both sides. I’m sure I’ve read that she’s something of a daughter figure to Murdoch senior, and the events of the past few days bear that out – she’s definitely part of the firm.

No doubt the Murdochs have done enough dirty work in their time to finish the BSkyB bid if it ever made it into the public domain, but I doubt it will, even if Brooks goes. James, and possibly Rupert, will have connived on the cover-up, but I sorely doubt there is anything directly linking them to the hacking itself. They are clever enough to have built plausible deniability into their sordid little racket. Even if she did have something on them, think about Murdoch’s record of business success. You don’t get where he is without being capable of  engineering a golden handshake and a workable gagging clause, even for the likes of Brooks.

Remember that Clive Goodman & Mulcaire served time without squealing and have never implicated anyone higher up. The supposition is that News Corp has picked up all of their legal fees and then some. I even wonder whether Coulson working for Cameron wasn’t some sort of compensation for him falling on his sword in the first place, brokered by Brooks herself.

I do think her days are numbered, now that Cameron has sort-of called for it. All indications are that the Murdochs will rage long and hard against the dying of the light, but I reckon that when she goes, she’ll go quietly.

In defence of ‘the’ Black Bloc

Originally written to a friend who was on the march on Saturday, and expressed solidarity to everyone except the black bloc

So, firstly, as you’ve probably already heard it’s a tactic, not a group. I know a lot of people who went black bloc yesterday to participate in the UK Uncut shutting down of corporate tax avoiders in the West End. Surely you don’t have a problem with that.

It’s a tactic to avoid individuals being identified, to allow groups who don’t know each other to team up. The point is to facilitate direct action and any protest considered non-acceptable by the authorities, and to be able to successfully challenge the police doctrine that they should be able to exercise complete control of the streets and crowds.

There are legitimate criticisms to be made of individual actions, targets etc – appropriateness of tactics, cost/benefit failings and what have you. I guess it’s a fundamental drawback to the tactic that the everyone wearing black will be seen as responsible for the actions of every other individual wearing black. I was speaking last night to a friend who went BB and he was pretty down about people were smashing up the Ritz instead of targeting tax avoiders and the more meaningful targets identified by UK Uncut. Personally I think any action which scares ordinary people, doesn’t have a strong meaningful narrative or which can be easily pigeon-holed as ‘mindless violence’, is likely to be counter-productive. I want my actions to challenge people’s assumptions if possible, not confirm them.

However, I respect people’s right to take action as they see fit, and I completely reject the characterisation of damaging property as ‘violence’. If you don’t allow space for people to use black bloc tactics, you are essentially narrowing the room for political dissent into the small space that the authorities deem acceptable (kettling, if you will). You are in effect insisting that anyone taking action outside those limits be subject to surveillance, to violence at the hands of the police because they cannot muster sufficient numbers to protect themselves, and to being inevitably caught and subject to ‘deterrent’ punishments like those poor sods who were made an example of for the protests outside the Israeli Embassy during Cast Lead.

So, by all means state that you don’t personally agree with smashing up shops or throwing ammonia or whatever (it’s basically a staining agent/stink bomb, incidentally, but it sounds much worse to call it ammonia, doesn’t it?). But, please also bear in mind that the media and met press office are not geared towards informing you about what people were actually doing and why, quite the opposite. Some of what you read will be fabricated, other parts distorted, and the few people who were most interested in just fighting the cops or smashing shops which somehow totemically represent wealth or privilege will be brought to the fore, while action that was more deliberate, thought-through and targeted will be obscured.

I’m afraid you have to broadly take it on trust from those who do make a habit of deviating from the official route of marches that the vast majority of actual violence (ie hurting people rather than damaging objects) in these situations is initiated by the police, that the cops are ruthless at using their PR to advance their agenda, and the media just make up loads of crap and distort things to make them more sexy. UKUncut say that they have witnesses to a sky news employee offering cash to anyone who was willing to throw a brick for the camera. That is a pretty ugly set of claims I’ve just made, but experience bears them out.

By buying into their narrative of good protesters and bad protesters you are making yourself an ally of the Tory press, the cops whose idea of a good citizen is one who keeps his head down and does what the government tells him, and you are tying your own hands. I have a lot of respect for everyone who marched on Saturday, but I have no faith in the capacity of such an exercise to change what the government is doing. It’s main function was in allowing people to vaguely estimate how many people are sufficiently pissed off to get down to London on a Saturday. It’s quite heartening to know that the answer is between 200,000 and 500,000, because that is quite large, but we all know that the most it will achieve is a pat on the head, and possibly an acknowledgement of our concerns from the government before they get back to the important business of shafting us.

They will get on with things as before, because that’s what governments do. If we want to stop things, we need to actually intervene in them – intervene in business which wish to extract wealth from this country without contributing to the public purse, intervene in the workings of governments and political parties who serve the narrow interests of business at the expense of the rest of us. Iraq is the lesson here. A million people on the streets of London could have brought down the government and prevented that war if enough people had been up for it and sufficiently coordinated. Several hundred thousand people on the streets on Saturday could have seriously impeded the workings of government enough to make them blink and agree to some key demands (firing Lansley and leaving the NHS the fuck alone, as per their fucking manifesto ferchrissakes, springs to mind).

Walking en masse along a police-approved route to listen to Ed Milliband triangulate his way between feeling our pain and sticking to a programme of slightly ameliorated yet still ‘credible’ neoliberalism isn’t going to cut it. Doubtless you will argue that neither is a few people putting in windows on Oxford Street. I’m inclined to agree with you, but putting tactics such as masking up beyond use is doing to work of the Tories and their allies for them. Without the Millbank occupation top-up fees wouldn’t have been the issue they became. Granted, the policy went through, but that event made the political weather on that issue for months and hugely increased the damage to Clegg for his u-turn. It’s pretty sad to see the TUC doing the work of the very people who emasculated them in the 1980s by joining in with the good protesters/bad protesters dance, but that’s where we’re at.

So let’s please have a bit of solidarity here. There are more than a few dickheads out there, and some of them do like to dress up in black and cause a ruckuss for fun, but that doen’t mean everyone in a mask is to be condemned. Knee-jerk statements to that effect are straight out of the divide and conquer playbook. Everyone I know who was in black on Saturday would have been in solidarity with you striking last week, so you really ought to return the favour – out of courtesy, if nothing else. And as allies, they will stick with you a lot longer than anyone who is more concerned with damage to Oxford Street shop frontage than with the violence being done by the government to communities, services, jobs and lives.

On the AV referendum

To start with, neither FPTP nor AV have the first bloody thing to do with ‘democracy’. We don’t have ‘rule by the people’. We are ruled by a largely self-selecting political class, and are allowed to shake the kaleidoscope every 4 years or so, before watching things continue more or less as before: gaudy and childish. The referendum will be between two different methods of shaking.

One of them, FPTP, disproportionately rewards parties with a record of previously winning, makes only a small percentage of seats competitive and amplifies swings in voting patterns to such an extent that a small cabal of party apparatchiks usually get to dictate national politics for the next four years. The other reduces entry costs for new political parties, does not reward established parties, and makes it much harder for a single political party to win an absolute majority, though it isn’t proportional.

As far as I can see, the only argument for FPTP is: ‘I want my chosen political cabal to wield absolute power in 5 years stretches and not have to bargain with other political interests’. Good to see an issue separate the dyed-in-the-wool atavists from the lukewarm reformers.

Yet more insane hi-jinks from corporate psychopath Sony

It’s geeky, but the story that Sony have got subpeonas to get the IP address to GeoHot’s PS3 jailbreak site is well worth following. ‘Jailbreaking’ in this context means the same thing as jailbreaking an iPhone – usurping the restrictions that stop you installing your own software on hardware that you paid for. Ironically, the impetus for this work came from Sony having originally shipped the PS3 with the ability to run it as a Linux computer, and then removed that functionality with a later software update. So jailbreaking your PS3 is necessary to restore the functionality is was originally advertised as having.

Sony’s completely proportionate response to this has been to launch massive lawsuits against the people involved and now a sobpoena giving them the IP address of everyone who has visited sites and watched YouTube videos of how do it. I wouldn’t put it past them to then start legal proceedings against all of the IP addresses they find. This really is the front line in the corporate battle to control hardware.

More on Sony’s past record on this matter here, with extra Betamax irony…