Categories
Politics

Why Refugees Aren’t Your Enemy

At the time of writing 31 people have believed to have drowned in the English Channel this last week. 27 bodies were found with 4 people missing or drowned, and there were only 2 survivors. Although many responses have called this incident a tragedy, sadly too many others have made light of it, seemingly revelling in the ‘stupidity’ of those who choose to cross the Channel. Where does this animosity come from? It is not my intention to take responsibility away from individuals who have anti-refugee beliefs, but I do think it is worth arguing that the hatred and suspicion of people crossing the channel is a top-down affair. The government and media have done a stellar job in convincing the British public that asylum seekers and refugees are scroungers, they are dangerous, they are ungrateful, and above all else they are inauthentic.

            An analysis of 2,000 newspaper articles from 15 UK papers in 2017 (The Times, Daily Mail, The Telegraph, The Guardian, The i, Daily Mirror, Financial Times, The Sun, Metro, Daily Express, The Sunday Times, London Evening Standard, The Sunday Telegraph, The Observer, and Daily Star) highlights the extreme prejudice shown towards refugees. They are frequently associated with illegality and terrorism, despite the fact that most refugees gain asylum status and between 2014-2017 only 5% of terrorist attacks in Europe and North America were committed by refugees. There is also a distinct lack of these peoples’ voices within the stories centred around them. Whilst 80% of newspaper coverage included quotes from politicians and officials, only 20% included direct quotations from refugees themselves. This discourse around refugees is clearly tainted and leads to a wider influence of misinformation, where refugees become increasingly seen as dangerous.

            So why do refugees come here? And where do they come from? Typically for small boat crossings, how those coming from the channel get here, 90% of them come from just 10 countries: Afghanistan, Iran, Syria, Iraq, Sudan, Vietnam, Kuwait, Ethiopia, Eritrea and Yemen. All of these countries face degrees of human rights crises or economic devastation or political corruption. The government would have us believe that these are ‘economic migrants’ which is meant to imply their journey has an ulterior motive and that they are not in genuine need of help. Of course, most of these refugees are fleeing actual persecution. But perhaps it should also be stated if any qualify as economic migrants, it is not in the same sense that a European migrant might. These people are rarely coming here just to get a better job or more money, it’s because their home country is so impoverished even if they are not directly being attacked by anyone the ability to feed their families or get proper medical help is too difficult a task. The government suggests that we are too generous and that there are ‘pull factors’ which bring refugees here, but they have yet to provide evidence for this claim, perhaps shockingly because there isn’t any.

            Commenters have derided the people who died in the Channel for having left ‘safe’ France, but this is a misnomer. Naturally, France is not a war zone but the implication it is safe blots out the actual experiences and treatment of refugees in the country. In 2015, at the beginning of the Syrian refugee crisis, the situation in France was not good for the refugees. There is a lack of housing units designated for refugees, meaning they are often left homeless waiting for their asylum claim to be processed. This situation has only worsened. Hussain, a young man from Afghanistan, told the New Humanitarian of his experience in Paris: “When I arrived, I had to sleep on the streets for a long time. It was so complicated. I was always sick.” With the neglect of refugees in France, it is not surprising that some would try to cross the Channel to the UK. They have already travelled far, what is one more step in their journey?

            Even if refugees survive the journey to UK shores, they are scrutinised as being treated too softly by our government. The truth is something much more Kafkaesque and dehumanising. For regular procedures, where people are not fast-tracked, there is no time limit for the Home Office to make a decision and attempts to impose a standard time length has been resisted. This means many applicants are left waiting in a legal void, as asylum seekers (not legally recognised yet) they have no right to work. They are usually put in accommodation centres before being moved to permanent housing awaiting their claim process. Many papers love to spew bile for refugees being put up in fancy hotels but often or not they are in the accommodation centres unless they are full, in which case any nearby alternatives are found: hotels, military barracks, etc. And these hotels are temporary situations subject to the asylum seeker’s final legal status. Asylum seekers are eventually moved throughout the UK to wherever there is cheap enough accommodation, the conditions are usually dirty and overcrowded, hardly the pinnacle of luxury. As a Libyan refugee, Mansoor said: ‘there seems to be so much delay and confusion in the system. They told us at the airport that we will have a decision on our asylum claim within six months, but four months have passed and we still didn’t even have an interview. We were also told we would get our asylum ID cards five days after the screening at the airport, but we got them three months later. Everything is delayed and the housing was also delayed.’

            Despite the fact refugees rarely have a good grasp of the UK’s welfare system, people like to insist they’ve come here to rip off the taxpayer. But this simply isn’t true. If a refugee is granted asylum status, their free accommodation is revoked, given to somebody else further down the chain than themselves. They have to find somewhere to live and pay rent or seek assistance from the government, although they are treated with the same dispassionate eye as any other person applying for benefits and the like. There is little to no evidence that refugees are a threat or that their desperation to get to the UK is misguided or cynical. They are a scapegoat for right-wingers to veer away from the real issues within the country. In the end, nobody is happy – the public continue to be undermined by their own government whilst being pointed in the direction of people seeking help from abroad.

Bibliography:

Migrant boat capsizes in English Channel; at least 31 dead: https://apnews.com/article/europe-france-migration-english-channel-551193aa7340b681d44af16eae9dc610

Beyond the ‘refugee crisis’: How the UK news media represent asylum seekers across national boundaries

https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/1748048520913230

Home Office ‘covering up’ its own study of why refugees come to the UK

https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2021/nov/20/home-office-covering-up-its-own-study-of-why-refugees-come-to-the-uk

What’s behind the housing crisis for asylum seekers in France?

https://www.thenewhumanitarian.org/news-feature/behind-the-housing-crisis-for-asylum-seekers-in-france

Country Report: Short overview of the asylum procedure:

Asylum seekers: are they living on easy street?

https://www.redcross.org.uk/stories/migration-and-displacement/refugees-and-asylum-seekers/asylum-seekers-are-they-living-on-easy-street

Refugee Voices:

https://www.refugee-action.org.uk/category/refugee-voices/

What populists get wrong about migrants and terrorism:

https://www.euronews.com/2018/10/30/what-populists-get-wrong-about-migrants-and-terrorism-view

Categories
Politics

The Long March: Or, the Scary Marxist Shuffle

What is the Long March, you may ask? Well, according to Marc Sidwell, it’s the infiltration and control of…all cultural and political institutions…by the Left…built upon theories expounded by Antonio Gramsci and Rudi Dutschke. Well, it certainly sounds intimidating, but what does this mean in practice?

            Isn’t it spooky how all universities have a left-leaning bias? Sidwell does use a statistic here, that 85% of university lecturers are left-wing, but does that mean all of academia and all the kids going to uni are being indoctrinated? In one paper, Herman G. van de Werfhorst, finds that whilst there is a general left-wing majority within the humanities this is not the case for social sciences. Werfhorst concludes: ‘[i]f universities were exclusionary organizations where diversity of opinions is undesired and conservative scholars are excluded, one would expect this would have resulted in a high level of homogeneity of opinions. The fact that that seems not to be very clearly the case is reassuring for the contemporary debates on ideological diversity in higher education.’ Although certain intellectuals may be more left-leaning than the rest of society, there is little to no evidence on the impact this has on their teaching or what their students believe.

            Uh, well that being said, what about the kids? Sidwell seems to think the high youth support for Labour could be due to universities, he cites John Gray as arguing that universities teach anti-Western values. Whilst this is certainly an interesting theory, I wonder whether living through two decades of neoliberalism could have radicalised these students instead. The tripling of university fees under the Coalition government might have had something to do with discontent towards the Tories. Not only this, but the general impact of austerity policies has done little in the way of wonders for young people, be it job opportunities or access to support for mental health. Living through uneasy times such as these could easily turn any individual towards even the mildest form of social democracy.

            Sidwell quickly moves on to what he views as a disappointing lack of conservatism…in the Conservative Party. Apparently, their drive to make sex education more wide-spread and compulsory just doesn’t cut mustard. Sidwell draws comparisons between this policy effort and the beliefs of several Marxists who advocated for compulsory sex education. I for one, am shocked, shocked I say, that György Lukács rose from his grave and drifted across the Channel to educate our children about sex! This seems like a fairly inane point. Sex education is incredibly important and anyone who attempts to undermine the careful implementation of it as a programme should be ridiculed. As Marta Reis et. al. note, sex education leads to less sexual risks, less sexually transmitted diseases, and less unwanted pregnancies and abortions. Surely all these benefits would be of great interest to conservatives, the standard-bearers of the pro-life cause?

            Enough about that! If people have proficient and positive knowledge about sex, they might have the wherewithal to spurn unwanted sexual advances. For example, in Sidwell’s case, why doesn’t anyone want to fuck Tories? This is surely a Marxist plot, and not the result of people freely choosing who they do and don’t want to sleep with. There is little to no evidence of dating apps using algorithms to prohibit conservatives from finding love, but if you put ‘Horny Thatcherite’ in your bio, there’s a large chance people aren’t going to send you nudes. Truly, the real bigotry isn’t racial violence by the police, the harassment and dehumanisation of trans people, the brutal treatment of migrants and asylum seekers, but the fact that Tories can’t get any if they vocalise their abhorrent ideology.

            You can tell Sidwell is a very Serious Writer Man with his evocation of the ‘Blob,’ an amorphous concept that he uses to highlight any and all political correctness within institutions, because of course the best way to unravel a very complicated and multi-layered concept such as ‘political correctness’ is to give it a dumb monster movie label and hope that passes for a forceful argument. Did you know that the Blob (not the one trademarked by Paramount Pictures but close enough) is also everything to do with critical theory? And that this Blob accounts for feminism and anti-racism in academia? Boy, I sure wish Sidwell did a better job of tracing the intellectual and theoretical genealogy of a lot of the garbage he’s spouting. The problem with this analogy is that Sidwell uses it fairly intermittently. It’s hard to tell if the Blob is what infiltrated Liverpool City Council in the 80s or whether this was Cultural Marxism (more on that later) or something else.

            At any rate, no progressive cause is legitimate because it could potentially have scary ties to *socialism*. The Militants that partly formed the Liverpool council certainly were controversial, but to say they were a ‘disaster in office, burning through the council budget,’ is a misnomer. They prioritised people over the budget and thought that Thatcher and central government had stolen millions, so they sought to take it back. Their urban regeneration provided new jobs, building new homes, sports centres, and nurseries, all vital for a thriving British society. Soon the Militants were ousted by Neil Kinnock, but Liverpool stayed Labour thereafter. Well, if urban regeneration doesn’t shiver your timbers (or something idk) how about the peace movement? Not only is peace disgusting and icky but it was all entirely funded by the Soviets! At least according to Sidwell, a very trustworthy and lettered man! Never mind the fact that British intelligence services have long considered the impact of the Soviets negligible on the peace movement, M15 has probably been infiltrated by degenerate Trotsky-Anarcho-Lib-Maoists.

            Not only are the security and intelligence services bought and paid for members of the Коммунистическая партия Советского Союза, but New Labour as well. Their managerial class and target-driven policies derived from the Thatcher era is akin to Stalinism. Interestingly, Mark Fisher made a much more convincing case for neoliberal targets being akin to Market Stalinism and the goal of financialising everything possible. Instead of the more objectively traceable link of privatisation and targets with a profit-motive, Sidwell thinks the real aim of all this managerialism is an equality of social outcomes. There is something within Sidwell’s writing that correctly points to the wrongness of Blatcherism but he’s not sophisticated enough to really appraise the legacy of Thatcher through Major to Blair and Brown.

            The real sadness of Sidwell’s writing comes across when he starts to criticise the Arts Council. Sidwell argues that the Arts Council is funding art to a political end (no-one tell him all art is political) and supposedly ‘despite championing ‘ambition and quality’, the plan explicitly rejects the tradition of valuing high art.’ Now, here’s the thing. I don’t know for certain whether Sidwell actually read the Arts Council’s public statement because he only cites a Telegraph journalist and not the Arts Council itself. However, I can attest to having read the ongoing and future goals of the Council and can only argue that they seem genuinely admirable and touching. Sidwell seems angry that the Council wants to make sure art is diverse and accessible to the entire country. The statement draws inspiration from what can only be described as a form of mass performance art piece, titled ‘We’re Here Because We’re Here.’ On July 1st 2016, 1,600 people across the UK appeared in military uniforms to mark the 100th Anniversary of the Battle of the Somme, where total causalities and deaths reached one million. These volunteers occupied everyday places like train stations and shopping centres, they were silent to the members of the public around them, but if approached they would hand a card over with the details of the soldier they represented. Public reaction to this artwork was immensely positive, and notably, not only was it performed by volunteers, but it was publicly funded. Surely, if this is the kind of publicly accessible as well as publicly funded art the Council has in mind, what objection could Sidwell have? Unless of course, Sidwell’s objections to the Council’s future plans are arbitrarily and childishly centred around fear of the words ‘diversity’ or ‘inclusion.’

            The jab at the Arts Council is but one of several examples Sidwell makes to show how ‘political elites’ have invaded the cultural beaches of Great Britain (or something else equally stupid sounding). Another example of culture war casualty, at least to Sidwell, is the Starbucks Mermaid Cookie which gave 50p of each sale to the Mermaids Charity. I’m not sure exactly what it is Sidwell wants to say here because he doesn’t elaborate as to why this is bad. I mean, there are plenty of good reasons to criticise Starbucks; they avoid paying taxes, they use cut-throat business practices to undermine competitors, and their coffee tastes pretty bad. But no, showing minor support for a very important charity invested in the wellbeing of transgender youth is taking things too far. This is where Sidwell draws the line. Next, you’ll say we have to respect trans people, as well as giving them vital services for their wellbeing. The nerve!

            Sidwell states that ‘Britain’s post-Blairite political class – the final product of the left’s long march into our institutions – has failed. It has been rejected decisively at the ballot box.’ Here is the thing about that…I don’t think any serious analysis would suggest the reason Labour lost at the last election is because of the institutional leftist boogeyman but a myriad of complicated factors surrounding Brexit as well as issues like the Anti-Semitism Crisis which were dominant in the media at the time of the election. Take for example, the infamous Red Wall, the Northern constituencies which traditionally voted Labour but turned Conservative. It was not a repulsion towards Corbyn but a desire to see Brexit finished which compelled many voters to swing Conservative. There is no stand-out culture war in the Red Wall area, the values there typically align with the rest of the country in terms of immigration, free speech, transgender rights, and teaching about Britain’s colonial history.

            If Britain is fed up with all this wokeness and political correctness, then what will it take to see it gone? Sidwell turns to the edgy bad-boys of the right, be they Laurence Fox, Andrew Doyle, James Lindsay or Helen Pluckrose. Who else has the fortitude to take on the amorphous and largely imaginary politically correct machine than an uneducated actor from Harrow, a Twitter comedian who relies on 2015 humour, or two academics who submitted articles to pay-to-publish journals to try and make some sort of point about postmodernism? Sidwell also points to online groups like the Daily Wire (he smartly omits mentioning Ben Shapiro by name because that would be incredibly embarrassing) as well as grifters like Dave Rubin, who nobody, right or left, seems to take seriously.

            Sidwell concludes that the Conservatives ‘as cultural exiles’ are in an ideal position to fight back against the ‘elite consensus,’ I suppose despite the fact the Conservatives are elite in every serious meaning of the term. This is the tragedy or comedy of conservatives like Sidwell, they are the winning side, situating themselves within the most efficient political machine on the planet, but ultimately their cultural values will become undermined through progressive struggle. Racism will continue to be countered, transphobia will be challenged, and class struggle will be waged. Sidwell will have to content himself, like the rest of the poor-hating twits at the New Culture Forum, with the production of flimsy publications like the one I have just spent the afternoon reading through. The work here is a scattered mess of ideas that lack nuance, relying on the old framework of ‘Cultural Marxism,’ the far-right conspiracy theory which lunatics like Anders Breivik evoked in his manifesto before subsequently murdering over seventy people, most of whom were democratic socialist youths. As Joan Bruane writes ‘[p]roponents of this theory, whether they quietly write books or livestream themselves conducting mass shootings, are perpetuating untruths that make the world more dangerous and less humane.’

Bibliography:

The Long March: How the left won the culture war and what to do about it: https://1518bef4-bd8f-4123-a4c4-d07f5878f592.filesusr.com/ugd/e42793_b3a9c979e20b414e943212ef97b1c28b.pdf

 Are universities left-wing bastions? The political orientation of professors, professionals, and managers in Europe: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/1468-4446.12716?campaign=wolearlyview

The effects of sex education in promoting sexual and reproductive health in Portuguese university students: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1877042811027273#:~:text=Results%20showed%20students%20who%20had,less%20unwanted%20pregnancies%20and%20abortions

Militant Tendency Liverpool: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Militant_in_Liverpool#Illegal_budget

Soviet Influence on Peace Movement: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Soviet_influence_on_the_peace_movement

Arts Council ‘Let’s Create’ Statement: https://www.artscouncil.org.uk/letscreate

Is the stereotypical image of ‘Red Wall’ residents actually accurate?

https://yougov.co.uk/topics/politics/articles-reports/2021/05/17/stereotypical-image-red-wall-residents-accurate

Who’s Afraid of the Frankfurt School? “Cultural Marxism” as an Antisemitic Conspiracy Theory: http://transformativestudies.org/wp-content/uploads/Joan-Braune.pdf

Categories
Politics

Swimming Lessons for Statues: British History as Abstraction

There is an Orwellian doublethink when it comes to British history, particularly the history of its empire. At once we are invited to be proud of our many achievements, to bask in our island’s individualistic endeavour for greatness, so long as we do not in fact think about history. When we are told to be proud of our history, we are not actually meant to engage in it, we are not meant to think of it in fact but instead picture it, through the gaze of vague disinterest and fumbling nationalism. I say fumbling nationalism because I find so often patriotic appeals to Britain’s greatness to be all too flimsy. Colonialism seems to be the colossal C-word from which public conscience simultaneously cringes from its invocation before then proceeding to mount a defence in its name.
In the wake of the BBC Proms controversy over the National Anthem, Boris Johnson stated: ‘I think it’s time we stopped our cringing embarrassment about our history, about our traditions, and about our culture, and we stopped this general fight of self-recrimination and wetness.’ To be honest, I am still not sure when exactly we started feeling appropriately embarrassed at our history of slavery and colonialism. As a nation we have rarely if ever formally or materially apologised for colonialism, the one major instance in the last few decades is when Kenyan victims of torture successfully took the government to court and received £19.9 million in compensation. This was on all accounts a begrudging ‘apology’ and compensation from the British government whereby the Foreign Office tried its best to prevent any compensation claims. William Hague, foreign secretary at the time, said ‘we do not believe that this settlement establishes a precedent in relation to any other former British colonial administration.’ Clearly, this compensation was meant to be an exception.
There is a sense of manufactured outrage surrounding the attempt to discuss colonial history. When the National Trust produced a report called ‘Interim Report on the Connections between Colonialism and Properties now in the Care of the National Trust, Including Links with Historic Slavery’ (title isn’t snappy I know), conservatives went wild. Ben Bradley MP for Mansfield along with 27 other Tory MPs wrote a letter protesting the Trust’s report. Bradley even appeared on the BBC to try and defend the view that the Trust was engaging in revisionism and was anti-British. The issue here being that history is by no means a fixed entity, the more we uncover, the more we view the past and present (and future) differently. In the letter to the Trust, the signatories write ‘history must neither be sanitised nor rewritten to suit snowflake preoccupations.’ It should be apparent to anyone that accurately tracing the historical significance of sites of British heritage to the colonial past around them is anything but sanitising. The hilarity of this letter highlights the danger of those who want history to be a mere touchstone, a floating signifier of Britain’s greatness; Churchill and his aura must be forever beyond reproach, to even consider his family home of Chartwell in relation to his imperial preoccupations is blasphemy. Perhaps these same people think when we tourists visit Hitler’s Wolf’s Lair in Poland, we shouldn’t pay any mind to Nazism or the Holocaust.
This abstraction of history as only ever a point of reference for patriotism reaches new heights of hysteria on the topic of statues. This last summer, during the BLM protests in Britain, the statue of Edward Colston in Bristol was torn down and thrown into the harbour in protest. The removal of the statue by protesters should not come as much of a surprise. Beginning in 2018, the Bristol City Council planned to produce a new plaque for the statue to replace the original which read: ‘Erected by citizens of Bristol as a memorial of one of the most virtuous and wise sons of their city’. There is no mention to Colston’s exact source of his wealth. The second plaque was intended to amend this in frank terms, detailing his involvement in the slave trade and the number of Africans trafficked, as well as using his status as a Tory MP to defend the right to trade slaves. A Tory councillor objected to this proposal and a historian representing Merchant Venturers tried to revise the proposal into cleaner terms. They tried to change wording like ‘trafficked’ to ‘transported’ and removed mention of Colston’s selective philanthropy grounded in religious kinship. Although this revised proposal was ultimately vetoed by the Mayor Marvin Rees, the attempt to sanitise British history is all too evident. But even when Colston’s statue, a commemoration of a man responsible for the trading of some 80,000+ plus Africans was thrown into the harbour, the attempt to save his reputation and that of Britain was still underway by some foot soldiers in the cringeworthy culture war.
Enter Save Our Statues, a not-for-profit organisation that has tasked itself with protecting the nation’s statues and monuments from those who want to see them removed. The organisation pledges to ‘deploy all legal, educational and political domains available in order to save our beloved national history and culture from intentional destruction, distortion and deterioration.’ It is interesting here that statues are considered national history and culture in their own right, rather than commemorations of said national history. From abstracted history, these statue simps (as Joel Golby calls them) use physical monuments as receptables for this abstraction. The organisation began as a Twitter campaign headed by property developer Robert Poll who argues ‘judging historical figures by our modern laws and morals is a futile exercise.’ Whilst it is not straightforward to hold past societies or figures to present day standards, Poll’s argument here is inherently flawed in presupposing that nobody contemporaneous with people like Edward Colston thought that slavery was wrong. Samuel Gorton, an early settler of North America and a republican, was a fierce critic of economic slavery and stated in 1651: ‘there is a common course practiced amongst English men to buy negers to that end they may have them for service or slaves forever; for the preventing of such practices among us, let it be ordered, that no black mankind or white being forced by covenant bond, or otherwise, to serve any man or his assigns longer than ten years.’ The institutions of slavery and the anti-slavery movements were contemporaries and to suggest we cannot hold slavers accountable due to historical circumstance is either ignorant on the part of people like Poll or purposefully obfuscating historical fact and our ability to think critically about our past.
Peter Whittle, ex-UKIP deputy leader, acts as the chairman of the organisation and in a moment of what I can only assume is extreme detachment from reality states ‘never was a campaign more important than this.’ Personally, Peter, I’m not so sure about that one. I’m all for a bit of hyperbole but given this whole campaign began in reaction to Black Lives Matter protests there might in fact be more important issues at hand. What organisations and individuals like these mean for social justice is an obfuscation of real concrete issues and instead a focus on outrage and fetishizing British history. I think the real smoking gun of discourse around British history can be seen in Steven Yaxley-Lennon (alias Tommy Robinson)’s rant about Colston’s statue where he says ‘who gives a shit what it’s about and what the man’s done? It’s part of British history.’ In essence, any statue is worth saving no matter the context of who is being commemorated.
Britain has a difficult and troubling past when it comes to our empire and colonialism. I am not sure whether I am a patriot or not, I certainly don’t feel proud for being born here. I didn’t exactly have a choice in the matter. I am grateful being born in Britain for having a degree of material comfort other countries do not possess as strongly. I am grateful I can write this freely (unless I end up with a bullet in the back of my head tomorrow in which case joke’s on me). But I am interested in my socioeconomic standing in relation to other countries as well as people in Britain. In Britain ethnic minorities have unemployment rates of 12.9% where White people only have 6.3%. Black people with degrees on average earn 23.1% less than White workers. The homicide rate stands at 30.5 per million for Black people, 14.1 for Asian people, and 8.9 for White people. 35.7% of ethnic minorities are more likely to live in poverty compared to 17.2% of White people. I cannot be proud of Britain’s history because it is so large, so far-reaching, and so abstract. I am proud however, of those who throughout its history, have stood up against inequality and against powerful establishments. As can be seen in the statistics I have listed here, work still needs to be done. This must occur through economic investment, proper and affordable housing, democratising workplaces, and criminal justice reform. What good are the monuments to a dead empire if its surviving ancestors are still facing the challenges of racism and capitalism in its death?

Further Reading:

Boris Johnson on BBC Proms and British history:
https://www.standard.co.uk/news/uk/boris-johnson-uk-embarassed-history-proms-row-a4532761.html
UK Compensating Kenyan Torture Victims:
https://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/jun/06/uk-compensate-kenya-mau-mau-torture#:~:text=Britain%20is%20to%20pay%20out,%2C%20William%20Hague%2C%20has%20said.&text=%22We%20understand%20the%20pain%20and,events%20of%20emergency%20in%20Kenya
Ben Bradley on National Trust:
https://www.indy100.com/news/tory-mp-slavery-ben-bradley-national-trust-9724954
National Trust Report:
https://nt.global.ssl.fastly.net/documents/colionialism-and-historic-slavery-report.pdf
Edward Colston Statue and Bristol Council:
https://www.bristolpost.co.uk/news/bristol-news/second-colston-statue-plaque-not-2682813
Save Our Statues Website:
https://saveourstatues.org.uk/our-cause/#issue
‘A bat signal has gone out to Britain’s proud patriots: Save Our Statues’:
https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2020/jun/10/britain-statues-edward-colston-bristol-slaver
Abolition and Republicanism over the Transatlantic Long Term, 1640-1800:
https://journals.openedition.org/lrf/1690
Equality and Human Rights Commission Statistics on Race:
https://www.equalityhumanrights.com/en/race-report-statistics

Categories
Politics

Plandemic: Covid, Conspiracy, and Child Abuse

I don’t think anyone would contest that 2020 has been a strange and exhausting experience so far. The thing that has suffused our recent, collective history and our daily experiences has of course been Coronavirus. We are all sick of it, so to speak. The science on Coronavirus is in parts sketchy, we are still getting to grips with the disease and how to combat it. There have been human trials ongoing throughout the summer and talk of a possible vaccine by the end of the year, although this seems to be viewed with scepticism. At the time of writing, there have been over 40 million cases of Coronavirus worldwide with over 1 million deaths. In the UK, there has been nearly 800,000 cases and over 40,000 deaths. In America, there has been over 8.5 million cases and over 227,000 deaths. With these numbers it’s hard to dispute the gravity of the situation except…some people appear to be doing just that, including the President of the United States. How reassuring.

I

A certain word has been thrown around social media in relation to Coronavirus: Plandemic. It is an incredulity by the population with our leaders and with the media that by way of conspiracy theory they have concluded the pandemic is a means of societal control à la 1984. I think the root of this distrust of authority comes from a place of genuine neglect on the part of the people in positions of power. That is not to say that outrageous conspiracy theories can solely be blamed on the people at the top, scientific education and critical thinking are two disciplines that need to be better instilled amongst populations. I am not advocating for thought-control or strict party lines, only that we should focus ever more on discerning and refuting fake news.

            The origin of the term Plandemic, as far as I can see, is with the documentary, ‘Plandemic: The Hidden Agenda Behind COVID-19.’ The video was taken down from Youtube and Facebook but had already accrued millions of views. Judy Mikovits, a discredited doctor, is the central voice of the documentary and proceeds to make numerous false claims such as the virus being manipulated in a laboratory, that hydroxychloroquine is effective against the virus family, and that wearing a mask ‘activates’ your own virus. Mikovits isn’t merely some scientifically incorrect eccentric, she’s an opportunist who works for dubious medical companies and organisations that prey on desperate and sick people. Leonid Schneider, writing at For Better Science, extensively documents her career and highlights the many job roles she has had including but not limited to Genyous Biomed International which peddled Traditional Chinese Medicine as cancer cures by rebranding them ‘with more clinical-sounding titles to increase their credibility.’

            Perhaps Mikovits is an exception, who else would take her or any of these claims seriously? In March, Donald Trump touted hydroxychloroquine (a malaria drug) as a possible treatment for Coronavirus despite there being negligible evidence that the drug was effective. The danger of this careless statement resulted in panic buying of the drug meaning people who required it as a form of regular medication were finding it more difficult to obtain, as noted by Mendel, Bernatsky, Thorne, et al. for the British Medical Journal. Not only this but one man in America died from consuming a parasite treatment intended for fish because it contained chloroquine phosphate. Clearly the discourse surrounding Coronavirus and potential treatments can be dangerous. If this needs further testimony, Trump reported to be taking doses of hydroxychloroquine to ward off the virus before then contracting it at the beginning of October. The White House’s flouting of safety guidelines at public events and downplaying the severity of the virus made for a potent combination which undoubtedly led to Trump taking ill.

II

A concern I want to raise is the presence of the QAnon conspiracy, a product of Trump’s rise to power, that seems to have married into Coronavirus denialism. If postmodernism is the cultural logic of late capitalism as Frederic Jameson claims, then with QAnon comes the most postmodern type of belief system. The followers believe shadowy satanic paedophiles control society and that Trump is going to bring them all down in ‘the Storm’, an event quintessential to any good doomsday cult. The anonymous Q, propagator of the namesake conspiracy, leaves breadcrumbs of information for followers to pore over and interpret, essentially allowing any conclusion desirable to be made.

            It makes sense that this outlandish conspiracy does merge with Coronavirus denialism, as I said before there seems to be a distrust of governments regarding the coronavirus response, at least from my perspective of the American and British landscapes. The merge begins when QAnon followers and adjacent conspiracy theorists claim that the virus and all the government action is a way of covering up the ongoing elite paedophile ring. The problem here is that not only is the virus very much real and very serious, but there is no elite paedophile ring, at least not one that controls all of society as we know it. There are undoubtedly paedophiles in the top echelons of society, Jimmy Saville’s fetid presence still lingers in the public conscience, and Jeffrey Epstein’s suspicious death and extensive network is fresh on everyone’s minds. Child abuse and assault are violent issues that must be combatted at all levels of society, that it occurs at the top is not especially significant except that sometimes the rich get away with it. If I could cast any doubt on the QAnon conspiracy, it would be that child sexual abuse is often committed by individuals known to the victims, only 7% of the time are the perpetrators strangers. I also find it interesting that the people who want to bring the elite paedophile ring to justice rely on Trump to do this task. Trump has been accused by at least 26 women of sexual misconduct, not only this but he had close ties with Jeffrey Epstein and had a lawsuit brought against him for the alleged rape of a 13-year-old girl in 1994. The lawsuit was dropped after the victim had received numerous threats in the same manner of many of Trump’s other accusers. This is the man who will pull back the curtain and expose the paedophiles in the Democratic Party and Hollywood. I wait with bated breath.

            There has been a long diversion here and for that I’m sorry. I have made visible a small fragment of the varying discourses and claims that interlink and undermine the safety of ourselves and society. Governments need to be challenged and there does need to open debate about policies and abuses of power. However, the charlatans behind Plandemic, Trump, QAnon, none of these groups or figures are the way to go about it. I’ve seen QAnon spread to the UK and it is a scary thing to behold. Ultimately these ideas play on people’s fears and doubts, much in the way that Judy Mikovits and her colleagues profit from rebranded Traditional Chinese Medicine.

In a discussion (argument) on Facebook, a man criticised my cautionary stance by mentioning some 12,000 scientists and doctors who warned against using masks or going into lockdown. The closest thing Google could throw up was the Great Barrington Declaration, and what a great declaration it is. The Declaration calls for herd immunity as a way of combatting the virus, although there are two interesting points to this document as noted by Nafeez Ahmed. Firstly, the vetting process for signing the Declaration seems next to non-existent so anyone can claim to be a medical professional. Secondly, the funding for the meeting that sparked the Declaration was from the American Institute for Economic Research, a beneficiary of none other than billionaire Charles Koch, the man behind much of America’s climate denial discourse. I am sure he and all the libertarian think tanks he props up with oil money has the population’s best interests at heart when he wants people to get back to work. But that’s just rude. Surely nobody in Britain acted dangerously in order to pursue financial and political gain during a pandemic?

III

The Coronavirus outbreak began in Wuhan, China, late last year. By the end of January, the World Health Organisation had declared a Public Health Emergency of International Concern, a declaration usually considered a last resort and one that states have a legal duty to respond to under the International Health Regulations. Sadly, Johnson neglected to attend five consecutive Cobra meetings in January and February but did find time to host a Chinese New Year reception at Downing Street. Maybe it’s cynical to assume this was a trade-related move and not a celebration of culture. In a speech at Greenwich on British trade deals, Johnson outlined that Britain must be the Superman-like figure of trade contrasting those who have ‘a desire for market segregation that go beyond what is medically rational to the point of doing real and unnecessary economic damage’ in the face of the virus.

            The UK went into lockdown at the end of March and some people question whether the country should have shut down sooner. I think a clear symptom of the government’s incompetence in the face of the virus is the inability of them to settle on what day lockdown started: was it the 16th March? the 23rd March? Matt Hancock and his colleagues had differing opinions it seemed. Regardless of when exactly it started there is a general sense that Johnson was staving off the lockdown for as long as possible for economic purposes. The case that lockdown measures were lifted early for economic growth is easier to see as much of the rhetoric around it was business-charged. Rishi Sunak’s ‘Eat Out to Help Out’ scheme did in the short-term aid businesses across the country although during this period of eased restrictions Coronavirus cases were on the rise again. Multiple factors come into this naturally but the nationwide de-escalation of lockdown and the growing confidence in returning to a sense of normality cannot be discounted.

            My focus on the economic factors around Coronavirus is because there is a true antagonism in society that isn’t between us regular people and elite paedophile rings. It’s those who have and those who have not. A report from UBS highlights that billionaire wealth soared between April and July, a time in which many people were struggling either to hold onto work or find new work, and even having to dig into their savings to get by. Coronavirus denialism and QAnon conspiracy theories are useful strategies for the wealthy elite, they engineer the population to get back to working and to consuming, and they drive clefts into the possibilities of solidarity amongst all of us who might wish to make the ongoing crisis better. The people who believe in stuff like QAnon come from a place of sincere concern and presently if they wish to ‘save our children’, they could start nowhere more perfect than with the Tories having just voted down on providing free school meals for children over holidays. The free meals would benefit 1.4 million children across the UK, the government can prioritise getting people to eat in restaurants again but when it comes to the wellbeing of children where there may be no immediate financial gain, they are not concerned. At the time of writing, Coronavirus cases are still on an upward trend, the end is by no means in sight. At least the conspiracy theorists seem to come from a place of care, the government doesn’t give a shit.

Further Reading:

Nafeez Ahmed, Climate Science Denial Network Behind Great Barrington Declaration, Byline Times. Available at: https://bylinetimes.com/2020/10/09/climate-science-denial-network-behind-great-barrington-declaration/

Pippa Allen-Kinross, When did lockdown begin in the UK?, Full Fact. Available at: https://fullfact.org/health/coronavirus-lockdown-hancock-claim/

Nisreen A. Alwen, Rochelle Ann Burgess, Simon Ashworth, et al., Scientific consensus on the COVID-19 pandemic: we need to act now, The Lancet. Available at: https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(20)32153-X/fulltext

Rory Carroll, Woman accusing Trump of raping her at 13 cancels her plan to go public, The Guardian. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/nov/02/donald-trump-rape-lawsuit-13-year-old-cancels-public-event

Stephanie Cockroft and Rebecca Speare-Cole, Trafalgar Square anti-lockdown protest shut down by police after thousands of maskless demonstrators ignore social distancing, Evening Standard. Available at: https://www.standard.co.uk/news/london/trafalgar-square-antilockdown-protest-thousands-a4556931.html

Erika Edwards and Vaughn Hillyard, Man dies after taking chloroquine in an attempt to prevent coronavirus, NBC News. Available at: https://www.nbcnews.com/health/health-news/man-dies-after-ingesting-chloroquine-attempt-prevent-coronavirus-n1167166

Daniel Funke, Fact-checking ‘Plandemic’: A documentary full of false conspiracy theories about the coronavirus, Politifact. Available at: https://www.politifact.com/article/2020/may/08/fact-checking-plandemic-documentary-full-false-con/

Oliver Gadney, Aline Haerri, Annegret Meier, et al., Riding the storm: Market turbulence accelerates diverging fortunes, UBS. Available at: https://www.ubs.com/content/dam/static/noindex/wealth-management/ubs-billionaires-report-2020-spread.pdf

Sara Hiom, How coronavirus is impacting cancer services in the UK, Cancer Research UK. Available at: https://scienceblog.cancerresearchuk.org/2020/04/21/how-coronavirus-is-impacting-cancer-services-in-the-uk/

Boris Johnson, Boris Johnson: Britain must become the Superman of global free trade, The Spectator. Available at: https://www.spectator.co.uk/article/boris-johnson-britain-must-become-the-superman-of-global-free-trade

Brendan Joel Kelly and Hatewatch Staff, QAnon Conspiracy Increasingly Popular with Antigovernment Extremists, Southern Poverty Law Center. Available at: https://www.splcenter.org/hatewatch/2019/04/23/qanon-conspiracy-increasingly-popular-antigovernment-extremists

Arielle Mendel, Sasha Bernatsky, J. Carter Thorne, et al., Hydroxychloroquine shortages during the COVID-19 pandemic, British Medical Journal. Available at: https://ard.bmj.com/content/early/2020/05/20/annrheumdis-2020-217835.full

Maria Nicola, Zaid Alsafi, Catrin Sohrabi, et al., The socio-economic implications of the coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19): A review, US National Institute of Health. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7162753/

Toby Phillips, Eat Out to Help Out: crowded restaurants may have driven UK coronavirus spike – new findings, The Conversation. Available at: https://theconversation.com/eat-out-to-help-out-crowded-restaurants-may-have-driven-uk-coronavirus-spike-new-findings-145945

RAINN, Children and Teens: Statistics, Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network. Available at: https://www.rainn.org/statistics/children-and-teens

Eliza Relman, The 26 women who have accused Trump of sexual misconduct, Business Insider. Available at: https://www.businessinsider.com/women-accused-trump-sexual-misconduct-list-2017-12?r=US&IR=T

Leonid Schneider, Judy Mikovits’ Plandemic COVID-portunism, For Better Science. Available at: https://forbetterscience.com/2020/06/24/judy-mikovits-plandemic-covid-portunism/

Will Sommer, What Is QAnon? The Craziest Theory of the Trump Era, Explained, Daily Beast. Available at: https://www.thedailybeast.com/what-is-qanon-the-craziest-theory-of-the-trump-era-explained

Peter Walker, Boris Johnson missed five coronavirus Cobra meetings, Michael Gove says, The Guardian. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/apr/19/michael-gove-fails-to-deny-pm-missed-five-coronavirus-cobra-meetings

Ollie Williams, Post-Coronavirus The Rich Will Get Richer From Rising Inequality, Forbes. Available at: https://www.forbes.com/sites/oliverwilliams1/2020/06/24/post-coronavirus-the-rich-will-get-richer-from-rising-inequality/#680f5aa4774a

Zoey Williams, How out of touch are the Tories? The free school meals row tells you everything you need to know, The Guardian. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/education/2020/oct/23/how-out-of-touch-are-the-tories-the-free-school-meals-row-tells-you-everything-you-need-to-know

Categories
Politics

The Illusion of Trump’s Economy

What is the robbing of a bank compared to the founding of a bank?

-Bertolt Brecht.

I really wish people would shut up about Trump building an amazing economy, when really the economy seems to be performing in line with the recovery manned by Obama after the 2007-2009 recession. I hate even having to talk about this because I am thoroughly an anti-capitalist. I have no respect for a system that causes poverty and hardship whilst effectively bailing out the banks that caused said poverty and hardship. However, the present situation of the world is so skewed that things have to be asserted without a shadow of a doubt. To suggest an elitist, fascist-adjacent figure such as Trump has been exceptionally good at handling the American economy is egregious in its falsehood and dangerous because so many people seem to buy into this idea that he has been a positive figure within politics. For clarity, I don’t think I have respect for any single American president, but we still have to be as truthful as possible.

            I have heard two common arguments from Trump supporters about the president: 1) Trump has created a great, if not, record-breaking amount of job growth and 2) The American stock market, in the context of Covid-19, is doing well. If we look at job growth in America, Trump claimed in his State of the Union address that he had created 7 million new jobs since his election. FactCheck.Org places his job creation at 6.7 million once he had taken office, pointing out that he was in fact taking credit for job growth that occurred whilst Obama was still in office. For further context, Obama entered office under an economic recession which was the largest downturn since the Great Depression and according to the Federal Reserve Board cost every single American approximately $70,000. Trump entered office under a significantly healthier labour market than Obama did, and it is thanks to his predecessor that Trump has relatively stable economic growth. CNN Business tracks job growth and unemployment rates, contextualising that Trump benefited from continually decreasing unemployment numbers under Obama and in fact had less job gains in his first 35 months than Obama had in his last 35 months of presidency.

            We’ve established Trump hasn’t done anything particularly magical with employment, there is no reason to believe that he has personally contributed to growth except from benefitting from the economic recovery undertaken by Obama. If we turn to the stock market, we can acknowledge that after having tanked under the Covid-19 pandemic it has recovered. Is this something that we can: 1) attribute to Trump and 2) does the stock market’s health have the same positive effect as employment? Neil Dutta, writing for Business Insider, argues that various factors contribute to the stock market’s rise even during the ongoing pandemic. The reopening of parts of Europe has led to a potential confidence which benefits the US dollar exchange rate. Dutta notes that businesses like restaurants, hotels, and movie theatres make up less than 5% of private GDP and that the bulk of the stock market is concerned with industrial and technological businesses that might be less restricted than retail. We like to think that the stock market doing well automatically means that we, the average Joe, benefits from it. But…do we?

            So far, I’ve addressed employment levels under Trump and the stock market in the context of Covid-19, but I think we need to talk about these topics with further context. Even as unemployment has been steadily declining, real wage growth has been stagnant for about four decades even accounting for inflation. This means that a worker has less purchasing power whilst more money is accrued by the people at the very top. Drew DeSilva, for the Pew Research Center, posits one theory that employers are less inclined to increase wages based on other benefits such as health insurance, although this may not account for the fact that 70% of employee compensation comes in the form of wages. A potential factor I find personally interesting is the decline of labour unions, a form of employee solidarity discouraged widely over the last century. A potentially egregious note, which I’m inclined to make, is that similarly to wage stagnation, the gap between wages and productivity has grown wider. From 1979 onwards productivity rose 108.1% whilst hourly wages only grew 11.6%. Capitalists have grown richer and richer whilst the majority of the workforce have stayed in the same place, having to live in accordance to the health of the economy in general.

            Wage stagnation has an arguable correlation with an inability to invest in stock, meaning most of the workforce has not got much in the way of stock hold. Robin Wigglesworth, quoting Goldman Sachs, states that the richest 1% of Americans account for more than half the value of equities owned by US households. This level of disparity is staggering. When the stock market is performing well, how are we meant to reasonably conclude that it is to the benefit of each and every American? Zack Friedman, writing for Forbes, cites a study that notes that more than half of minimum wage workers have to work more than one job to make ends meet. According to the same study more than 1 in 4 workers do not accrue savings each month and nearly 3 in 4 workers are in some form of debt. It doesn’t seem to stand to reason that the health of the stock market is congruent with the health of the worker or their wealth.

            Finally, some thoughts on the recession which Obama inherited and subsequently dealt with, in the process benefitting Trump with a positive net gain of job growth. The 2008 recession was a result of deregulation which led to banks granting more subprime mortgages to people who truly couldn’t afford them and essentially causing a bubble which then burst when returns weren’t possible. The banks responsible for the crisis were not in any sense reasonably punished nor reprimanded but instead bailed out by the government. Gautam Mukunda, writing for the Harvard Business Review, states that none of the banks’ CEOs were fired nor did the bailouts stop executives from being generously paid. What are we meant to make of this when millions of Americans lost their jobs and had to scrape by whilst the rich were relatively unaffected? Where do we find ourselves now?

            Some of Trump’s success with the economy is attributed to his policies of deregulation. The 2008 recession was brought about by Randian-inspired deregulation, how much faith can we place in Trump’s deregulation of various industries? The decline in regulation of greenhouse gases emissions standards will be detrimental to an environment that has passed the threshold whereby the annual increase in global temperature will continue to the point that the oceans will rise and forest fires will increase and little can be done to reverse these disasters. With banks being deregulated yet again under Trump, should we expect a different if not positive outcome compared to 2008? Not only this, but certain health and safety regulations have been repealed to help speed along the building of the border wall with Mexico so we can only wait and see to how the stripping back of said regulations will benefit the people at the top and the workers. Slavoj Žižek, in the spirit of Marx, says that history repeats itself: first as tragedy, then as farce. If the 2008 recession was a tragedy, then…well.    

            The economic problems shadowing Trump despite the supposedly positive figures have been there since Obama and have been there for several decades. Ultimately, neither Trump nor Obama has greatly combatted the real causes of wealth disparity or economic hardship in America but have responded as and when is strictly necessary. Deregulation will hurt the working class in the long term and unless solidarity is cultivated amongst the workforce, there is no reason to believe that wages will truly grow any time soon nor will economic disparity narrow. I wish I knew how to end this blog but truthfully, I am the furthest thing from an economist and I just feel depleted whenever somebody says Trump has done incredible things for the economy. Trump is at most working in accordance with the general tracking of Obama’s recession response and is looking to strip away certain liberties and regulations which would potentially affect workers first and foremost. Please, please, please shut up about Trump and the economy.

Further reading:

Courtney Bublé, ‘Watchdogs Criticize Trump Administration’s Deregulation Efforts During Pandemic,’ Government Executive. Available at: https://www.govexec.com/management/2020/05/watchdogs-criticize-trump-administrations-deregulation-during-pandemic/165371/

John Cassidy, ‘As a Businessman, Trump Was the Biggest Loser of All,’ The New Yorker. Available at: https://www.newyorker.com/news/our-columnists/as-a-businessman-trump-was-the-biggest-loser-of-all

Drew DeSilver, ‘For most U.S. workers, real wages have barely budged in decades,’ Pew Research Center. Available at: https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2018/08/07/for-most-us-workers-real-wages-have-barely-budged-for-decades/

Neil Dutta, ‘There are clear reasons for the stock market’s surge, despite the terrible pandemic news,’ Business Insider. Available at: https://www.businessinsider.com/why-stock-market-rising-despite-coronavirus-pandemic-higher-us-cases-2020-7?r=US&IR=T

Economic Policy Institute, ‘The Productivity–Pay Gap,’ Economic Policy Institute. Available at: https://www.epi.org/productivity-pay-gap/

Bill Fay, ‘Poverty in the United States,’ Debt.Org. Available at: https://www.debt.org/faqs/americans-in-debt/poverty-united-states/

Zack Friedman, ‘78% Of Workers Live Paycheck To Paycheck,’ Forbes. Available at: https://www.forbes.com/sites/zackfriedman/2019/01/11/live-paycheck-to-paycheck-government-shutdown/#5f5a5bdc4f10

Chris Isidore, ‘How Trump’s three years of job gains compares to Obama’s,’ CNN Business. Available at: https://edition.cnn.com/2020/02/06/economy/trump-obama-jobs-comparison/index.html

Brooks Jackson, ‘Trump’s Numbers January 2020 Update,’ FactCheck.Org. Available at: https://www.factcheck.org/2020/01/trumps-numbers-january-2020-update/

Eugene Kiely, Brooks Jackson, Lori Robertson, et. al., ‘FactChecking the State of the Union,’ FactCheck.Org. Available at: https://www.factcheck.org/2020/02/factchecking-the-state-of-the-union-3/

Michael Kranish and Marc Fisher, ‘Trump Revealed: An American Journey of Ambition, Ego, Money, and Power,’ Scribner.

Gautam Mukunda, ‘The Social and Political Costs of the Financial Crisis, 10 Years Later,’ Harvard Business Review. Available at: https://hbr.org/2018/09/the-social-and-political-costs-of-the-financial-crisis-10-years-later

Mayra Rodriguez Valladares, ‘The Weakening Of Big Bank Regulations Under Trump Is The Seed For The Next Financial Crisis,’ Forbes. Available at: https://www.forbes.com/sites/mayrarodriguezvalladares/2019/05/22/the-weakening-of-big-bank-regulations-under-trump-is-the-seed-for-the-next-financial-crisis/#3f93a2474f4c

Robin Wigglesworth, ‘How America’s 1% came to dominate stock ownership,’ Financial Post. Available at: https://financialpost.com/investing/how-americas-1-came-to-dominate-stock-ownership

 Joseph Zeballos-Roig, ‘Trump keeps touting the fact that more Americans are working than ever before. But the boast is almost meaningless for one key reason,’ Business Insider. Available at: https://www.businessinsider.com/trump-record-high-employment-jobs-numbers-boast-meaningless-2019-11?r=US&IR=T