A daily blog on the thrills, spills, and frequent absurdities of the world's one and only 'non-imperial empire' - as Barroso himself called it - the European Union.

Anything to say? Contact me at europeandisunion@yahoo.co.uk

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Conservative Teens: You'd be Surprised

'Right-wing' and 'teenager' are not a contradiction in terms. Picture by Simenon.

There's a thing about identity politics: it warps the mind. You end up thinking in neatly-delineating boxes, where you automatically assume that a person who is X cannot possibly be Y. It's called 'stereotyping' when not done by a suitably progressive government, and the net result of it - no matter who's in charge - is articles like this, where the existence of people who seep outside the boundaries appointed to their demographic is a source of genuine bewilderment.

"A new US magazine promoting a rightwing agenda to teenagers defies young people's natural desire to rebel," writes Victoria Bekiempis. I can tell you now, as a 'conservative' teen, that that's flat-out wrong: the reason that I'm a libertarian, rather than a modern liberal or even a social democrat, is the elitist attitude that those two ideologies exhibit. A long time spent reading newspapers, political blogs, and watching current affairs programmes - not to mention run-ins with prolier-than-thou activists in my personal life - has taught me that a great many modern 'liberals' tub their nose up at anyone whose views are distinct from theirs, and may regard them not only as wrong, but quite, quite mad.

Victoria Bekiemphis is guilty of exactly this in her own article, with her amazement at how teens could possibly hold such views, and the Nazi references throughout. Modern 'liberals' - and leftist ideologies in general - tend to take their supporters for granted and their critics for idiots. The comments are yet more evidence of the same: how many refer to this magazine's audience as nutcases, loners, or losers, simply because they don't have the political allegiance that 'liberal' commentors think they should have? Taking ideas and values that such narrow-minded people have claimed as their own and shoving them up their perfumed noses is rebelling, in its own right. Reading through the intoxicating judgementalism, unfounded allegations, and character assassination, I'm becoming ever more convinced that I made the right choice.

The Far-Right Fallacy

Some commentators need to learn what the far-right is before they run their mouths. Picture by Giovanni Dall'Orto.

There was a time, little over a decade ago, when you really had to go some to earn the label ‘far-right.’ You had to believe in certain things - you either did or you didn’t, and whether you did or didn’t determined whether the term could legitimately be applied to you. These things included eugenics; breeding out, excluding, or exterminating the weak links in the social chain. They included militarism and military expansionism; gender segregation; a rigidly-enforced social hierarchy; government creation and promotion of a social ‘norm,’ and the suppression of anything that ran contrary to it through indoctrination, intimidation, and force. You had to wholeheartedly believe in the virtues of oppression; you had to approve of a dictatorial leader. You had to actively and openly call for the establishment of a totalitarian state. If you didn’t do that, you weren’t far-right, pure and simple. You didn’t fit the definition.
But gone are the days when, in order to be called something you actually had to be it. Now, you can be mislabelled simply for having an opinion on any subject that people who think they know better than you have claimed as their sole jurisprudence. Take Marine le Pen, for example, the leader of the Front National. If you ignore their somewhat outdated name and look solely at their policies, you’ll find that they’re not ‘far-right’ by any actual standards (i.e., the kind involving definitions) at all; they’re little more than backbench Tories who’ve made the mistake of mentioning Islam on TV. The zero tolerance policy on crime, strict limits to mass-immigration, and support for integrationism may scare the pants off of professional activists, yet they’re nothing you won’t find in mainstream sentiment. If political commentators got out much, they’d hear similar sympathies every day of the week; on the bus, the cab, and in the comments of their own articles. From the Telegraph to the Guardian, Marine le Pen’s main gripes are simply part of common discourse. Her key policies, when you remove all rhetoric and look at what they’re actually saying, amount to limiting the number of people allowed to take up residence per annum within a national jurisdiction, and calling for religiously-prepared meat to be clearly labelled. Again, that’s the stuff that makes keyboard-wielding social campaigners spit lentils all over their MacBook Pro, but the ‘iconography of Nazism’ it clearly isn’t. Not to anyone endowed with a working sense of perspective and a cursory knowledge of Nazism, that is.
Even more extraordinary is the Dutch MP and leader of the Freedom Party Geert Wilders; there’s nothing in his manifesto that can be called anything other than centrist or even centre-left. You’d think that his calls to harshly punish violence against homosexuals and end Islamic gender apartheid would be roundly welcomed, considering they are the only party in the Netherlands that talks about these issues. Protecting homosexuals and Jews certainly isn’t something that fascists have traditionally been keen on - in fact, it’s not something that they can be keen on, given that both homosexuality and Judaism are perceived by fascists as threats to the sanctity of society and the state, which all far-right ideologues think paramount. But, no, to the self-same journalists that would mislabel le Pen, their seeking to protect homosexuals and Jews is just further evidence of far-right tendencies. Never mind that he once counted VVD politician and Somali-born atheist anti-sharia feminist Ayaan Hirsi Ali as a colleague, and together they questioned the government on immigration policy. Even his comparing the Qur’an, which, as you might have guessed, he hates with a passion with Mein Kampf is not enough to prevent the accusations of extreme views which, in policy and principle, there is no evidence of him holding.
It’s the same story across Europe. In Britain, UKIP finds itself branded ‘extreme’ because of its one famous policy - a public vote on major constitutional and political change. In Finland, The Finns Party advocates the establishment and expansion of an enhanced welfare state, state investment in industry and agriculture, and one of the most progressive taxation systems in Europe – yet, because of their opposition to homosexual marriage and the bailouts, they too have been labeled ‘fascist.’ In fact, almost all of the hard-right parties you hear about in the media aren’t hard-right at all (with the exception of those in eastern Europe, including Austria’s Freedom Party). Some of them aren’t even right-wing. They are simply parties offering alternatives to what we have now, ranging from national conservatism to liberalism and even social democracy, united only by the fact that they all had the gall to say something that major politicians shy away from addressing, be that Islam, democracy, the rural economy - or anything else.

To any journalist, politician, or think tank who has ever decreed that any of these parties are ‘far-right:’ find out what the ‘far-right’ is. Not where it is relative to you, where it actually is, in the grand scheme of things. When you’ve done that, find out what it espouses. If any of the parties hitherto derided advocate any of the things that the Nazis did, that Mussolini did, that Franco did, feel free to shout it from the rooftops. Until then, speak the truth - not hyperbole - and debate through honesty and integrity, rather than salvoes of false phrases and empty words.

Sunday, 25 March 2012

Banning 'Hate' Sites: A Rash Non-Solution

Sarkozy (left) wants to censor the Internet. Picture by Sergey Guneyev, from www.kremlin.ru.

In the wake of an Islamist-inspired shooting spree that left seven dead in southern France, President Nicolas Sarkozy has proposed a brave new world of Internet surveillance and criminalisation: treating them the same way as people who access child pornography, he has said that 'habitual' viewers of sites that promote terrorism, violence, and 'hate' should be subject to imprisonment. It marks a bold new foray into widespread monitoring of online activity, and seems aimed at appearing 'tough' on jihadis and neo-Nazis who may seek to strike in the future.

Punishing those who repeatedly view sites that promote terrorism is clear-cut enough: you either endorse terrorist activities or you don't. But what defines a 'hate' site, exactly? We've seen in the UK how widely that particular net can be cast. It can be anything, from physical violence and verbal abuse to asking to be put with people you can actually work with in a science lesson. Or even not liking the taste of curry, by some insane standards (yes, that example is true - it comes from the National Children's Bureau, and you can read their 366-page epic novel, or, as they call it, 'guidance,' here). So will people now be banned from viewing this site, because I say that saag is one of the most disgusting foods invented by man? That sounds ludicrous. But, if Sarkozy's proposed e-law was implemented here on top of existing legislation, it would actually be perfectly possible. As that report reminds us, the definition of a racist hate crime in the UK is:

'..any incident that is perceived to be racist by the victim or any other person'
Where the

'...intent and perception of the perpetrator are irrelevant.'
That means exactly what it says. Namely, that anything is racist if someone says so. Such a subjective definition writ large online is a recipe for disaster; not only would all manner of sites - including national newspapers - be walking a legal tightrope every day, but poor little blogs and private sites wouldn't stand a chance if someone took offence at their content - even if the accusations were, by any non-childish standards, baseless. This would be enough to constitute a hate crime, even though it doesn't say anything remotely offensive about Muslims in the slightest (for the sceptics: re-read it. It doesn't. 'Fundamentalists' aren't all Muslims, and only a tiny, unknown percentage of Muslims in the UK live in the ghettoes I'm referring to), and anyone who read this blog after its publication would now be up for a fine or a prison sentence. Why they read it wouldn't be taken into account. For instance, I read a handful of the anti-Islam blogs in this country on occasion, to keep an eye on that ghetto situation I mentioned earlier (festering pools of fundamentalist hate really grind my gears). Do I agree with them? No. I don't do identity politics, especially of the 'my kind is better than your kind' variety. It's just playground antics played out on a grand scale, albeit with more destructive consequences. But they are one of the best place to go for raw information on that subject: information which, were visiting them banned, no-one would have access to.

Then there's the matter of how the police would know who's visiting what and when. Lucie Morillon, of Reporters Without Borders (a group which already has France on its concern list) fears the new Internet surveillance system that will be necessary to make this law viable. The law also makes a ready assumption that a visitor to such a website not only agrees with its content, but wants to commit illegal acts. Laws which assume are dangerous things. The French government itself has no idea how the law would actually work; neither Sarkozy's office nor the Ministry of Justice have thus far offered any details. But, should it come to pass: be afraid. Be very afraid.

Saturday, 24 March 2012

Reassessing the Mali Coup

The entrance to the Malian capital, Bamako.

It is now three days since disaffected army officers rolled up to the Presidential Palace in Bamako and ousted President Amadou Toure. The key charges laid against Toure by the rebel administration is that they have not been properly equipped to fight the rebels, that their widows have not received financial support they are entitled to, and that the government's handling of the crisis in general is 'incompetent.' Soldiers have complained of a lack of arms and equipment in the past, and, compared with the hardware brought home by Tauregs who fell in with Gaddafi's oil-rich regime the average Malian squaddie isn't what you could call technologically superior.

However, accepting the rebel's narrative at face value overlooks the fact that the Taureg's armed insurrection abated, as many Taureg fighters chased petrodollars rather than continuing the war at home. It only intensified in January - that's hardly long enough for disattisfaction to boil over into revolutionary sentiment, especially as Mali's twenty-year-old democracy was showing no signs of failing. Elections were due, and Toure was not a candidate; finding a replacement would have been a simple affair. Mali was also due to receive $137million in US military aid, mainly focused on counter-terrorism activities (an issue inextricably linked with the Taureg rebels, who offer safe haven to al-Qaeda militants) which the coup has now jeopardised. Either the 'National Committee for the Redressment of Democracy and the Restoration of the State,' as the rebels are styling themselves under the leadership of Captain Amadou Sanogo, didn't think this through in its entirety, or there is some other reason for their rashness.

What could that reason be? Well, first off, even quite considerably research into this Sanogo doesn't turn up anything that might give us a clue. He's a bog-standard African insurrectionist, a middle-ranking officer with some training at a US military college. He came out of nowhere, with no mentions of his name in the Malian news prior to the coup. He is a soldier, not a charismatic revolutionary leader, as any of his television performances will show you. However, there is something to be said about his supposed supporters: he claims to have received a message of support from one (and only one) opposition party, the tiny African Solidarity for Democracy and Independence. The party's president, by contrast, claims to have never heard of him, stating: 'I don't know him, I don't know anything about him.'

That said, the far-left, pan-African party, which opposes the privatisation of state industries and the influence of foreign multi-nationals, has a long history of being anti-establishment. With only four of the one hundred and forty-seven seats in parliament, it would never have won the election scheduled for April, and has long cast itself as an outsider - neither ruling nor opposition. It has previously debated whether to continue to participate in government, as some - including supporters of the Secretary-General - argued that it would be against the party's views. Most notably, in 2007 a local party activist was found dead - the party claimed assassination. Mistrust of government? Check. Revolutionary ideology? Check. Nothing to lose? Check. Refusing to denounce the coup, when every other party did so? Check. If the party itself is not involved in the putsch, its ideals might well be.

Socialistic pan-Africanism is a tried and tested recipe, that, if anything, will be the rebel's staying power - not arguments over army rations and equipment, which a simple election could have solved.

Friday, 23 March 2012

Independent Columnist Caught Out Misquoting Le Pen

'You cannot trust quotes on the Internet' - President William McKinley, Supreme Leader of Icantbelieveitsnotistan

If there's one thing that grinds my gears more than misquotations, it's conveniently-placed misquotations offered as evidence for a point that would otherwise be pretty shoddy. In an article entitled 'France is a deeply racist country, and Toulouse will only make that worse,' Adrian Hamilton has it that Miss Le Pen, leader of the right-of-centre-and-once-criticised-Islam, aka. far-right, Front National said the following:

fight this war against these politico-religious fundamentalists who are killing our Christian children, our young Christian men
thereby implying that she only cares for white Christians, and is thus deserving of the far-right, chauvinistic, xenophobe label that the Independent often ascribes to her and her party.  I should clarify that Adrian Hamilton has not misquoted her: rather, he's blatantly disregarded half of what she said. Her actual quote, as recorded in every other media report that discussed the subject, is:

fight this war against these politico-religious fundamentalists who are killing our children, who are killing our Christian children, our young Christian men, our young Muslim men and who killed these Jewish children two days ago

It makes a difference, no? The ommission of those lines can take Miss le Pen from a Muslim-bashing, foreigner-hating bigot to an open-minded and inclusive secularist. Their inclusion would have demolished the claim that France is a 'deeply racist country' -  the central thrust of the piece - and it simply wouldn't do to have the supposed 'far-right' leaders come across as more caring and inclusive than the average Guardian reader, now, would it? To include the quotes would have shattered the narrative. Perhaps that's why comments were disallowed, too, because a few of them would have shattered the narrative - or even pointed out Mr. Hamilton's error?

The French Left Rounds on Le Pen

Having failed to see a problem themselves, the left now seeks to discredit those that can. Picture by Antoine Bayet.

This time three days ago, the entire world suspected that the person responsible for the terror attacks in France was a far-right extremist. Or at least that's the impression you'd get if your source of information was Europe's national papers. The left-wing l'Humanite, which doesn't do beating around the bush at the best of times, screamed 'racist killer.' Le Figaro pondered ironically whether Islamophobia was to blame. La Depeche du Midi took a similar tack, noting that 'racism' was a possible motive.

Well out in front, though, was Britain's ever-humble Guardian, publishing a full piece on its online edition by one of its longest-serving columnists, Fiachra Gibbons, brazenly entitled 'race, religion, and murder.' He blamed outright the questioning stance of French politicians towards mass-immigration and Islamism, and opined that the killer was similar to Anders Brievik (a cultural nationalist ultraconservative) and neo-Nazis, inspired by the rhetoric of the presidential campaign trail. He, like most left-wing comment pieces on the subject, made reference to the Front National, the French party blithely mislabelled far-right (more like backbench Tories, who happened to mention Islam on TV) famous for their integrationist, anti-Islamist stance, and their dynastic le Pen leadership.

It's since turned out, of course, that the killer was not the 'far-right' at all, nor was he a white racist, but in fact an Islamic fundamentalist who claimed links to al-Qaeda. You'd think that Marine le Pen would stand vindicated, and, to her mind, she does. But, rather than operating under a code of humility and retracting their mistakes - or at least adjusting their rhetoric to suit the truth - the same newspapers that initially blamed her and Sarkozy for the attacks now accuse her of playing the crisis for political gain.

Having changed her moniker from the incorrect 'far-right' to the wildly wrong 'extreme-right,' undoubtedly in an attempt to offset any popularity she may have gained, the Guardian accused her of 'playing the politics of fear' in 'the hope of repeating the electoral shock' of 2002, where her father (who was actually far-right) came second to the incumbent. Alexis Corbiere, a spokesman for the far-left candidate Jean-Luc Melenchon accused her of feeding 'a Crusader spirit inspired by religious war under the theory of a clash of civilisations.'

That's abysmally wide of the mark: it fails at the word 'Crusader.' Le Pen is not talking of embarking on foreign expansionist wars: she is, and has only ever, spoken of increased (perhaps excessive, and some would say oppressive) vigilance against Islamist fundamentalism at home, specifically in the banlieus. Vigilance that would have served well if put in place already. Nor has she stated any support Christianity, or hinted that it is 'superior.' Unlike her father, she's cut a more secular tack through the minefield of religion: in fact 'politico-religious fundamentalists' of all colours or creeds are what she's set herself against in the days since the attacks, deploring the men 'who are killing our Christian children, our young Christian men, our young Muslim men and who killed these Jewish children two days ago' (note: she was shamefully misquoted by Independent columnist Adrian Hamilton, who ommitted her reference to Muslim men and Jewish children on a piece where comments were, unusually, disallowed).

Le Pen has said nothing since the crisis that she didn't say before it. But she has put her presidential rivals - whom she accuses of ignoring the Islamic fundamentalist threat - on the back foot. Now, in the wake of an event which validates, if not vindicates, her claims, her critics are having to resort to mislabelling, misquoting, and outright lies in order to prevent her approval ratings from rising.

No Taxation Without Representation

Robin Hood: more of a 'man of the people' than any Commissioner will ever be.

The Commission has finally resorted to bribery to ease the implementation of its financial transactions (aka. 'Robin Hood') tax: if countries, thus far reticent about allowing a supranational body to directly level taxes on legal entities under their jurisdiction, agree to play ball then their net contribution fees to the European Commission will be reduced by half. The idea is that of the EU’s Budget Commissioner, Janusz Lewandowski, who, facing stiff opposition from Germany, the UK, France, and others, has had to come up with more innovative ways to get his message across.
Like most deals, it sounds attractive until you boil it down: allowing the Commission to impose a tax on large financial transactions well beyond what most of us will ever deal with, and in return we all save a substantial amount of money. £7,600,000,000, in fact - or one hundred and twenty four pounds extra that the government could spend on every single person in the country. If you're brain skipped that number, rather than reading it, then you've got a measure of just how big it us. But, boiled down, it does not sound quite as appealing: let us, an unelected body, set taxes over the heads of your elected parliaments and we won’t charge you so much for the privilege of our governorship. Not only would accepting this deal a titanic blow to our notion of ‘democratic control,’ allowing an unelected, unaccountable, and largely unknown institution to plumb the depths of our pockets without us being able to do a thing about it, but it is also nonsensical: why should we get our money back? Why should we be paying in the first place> The Commission doesn’t do anything that our elected pdoesn’t, or couldn’t.
Our elected government could put in place an exact replica of anything the Commission espouses, to the same effect. The tax itself would remain unchanged; it’s the institution that’s different. Not only would this be infinitely more democratic, ensuring that the only institution that can rifle through our family budgets remains directly accountable to us, but we’d save double the amount that the Commission are offering, simply because we would not be paying them a penny in the first place. We would keep all the £15,200,000,000 that we are scheduled to give them in net contribution over the next ten years alone (assuming that our contribution doesn’t rise - and it always does). Put simply, we can have exactly the same thing, without sacrificing our democratic control over the government, or shelling out much-needed cash. When the contrast is made between having a national government putting in place an FTT or the European Commission doing the same, the national, democratic option comes off better in every respect.
That is if we do go down the route of a financial transactions tax, of course: that would be a very risky action, considering that our economy is shaky at the moment and the only sector we can consistently count on is the financial one. London is still clinging on to its title as the world’s financial capital, and in times when we’re not exactly outdoing ourselves with the growth figures it would be irresponsible to let any economic advantage slide, much less give it away to one of our close competitors. But no matter what the idea is, and no matter how vehemently you disagree with it, it is far better that it is put in place in as democratic a way as possible. After all, loss of money is temporary, and easy to rectify. Loss of control is not. We can always repeal a law or tax we don’t like, provided we have control over the people who set it.

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Co-operation Doesn't Require the EU

'I am Nils Olav, commander of armies.' Picture by Lee Carson.

It's an observation that the more astute, and perhaps less ideological, critics of the EU often make: almost nothing the EU does couldn't be done without it. The most oft-stated 'benefits' of its existence - and our membership - do not actually require it at all. Greater co-operation between nations, enhanced trade links, and closer defence ties are all things that could be, should be, and, the world over, already are, being taken care of by democratically-elected national governments, under the auspices of no-one but their own electorates.

What proponents of the EU often forget is that nations are capable of unity and agreement with unaccountable supranational government. In fact, there is not a region on earth which does not have some kind of assembly where diplomats from all nations in that region come together and negotiate for their mutual benefit. They sign trade agreements, co-ordinate efforts, synchronise laws, etc. all without surrendering an inch of national, economic, or democratic sovereignty.

The UK and Europe is just as capable of it as any other state or region. Only today, we signed a Memoranda of Understanding with one of our oldest allies, Norway, allowing for greater co-operation in the field of military defence. Similar agreements have also been signed with Germany, the Netherlands, and Poland. It comes after comments, made by David Cameron in January, that there was an 'alliance of common interests,' ranging from economic to environmental issues. All the while the EU is nowhere in sight. So much for it being 'vital' to peace, co-operation, and prosperity in Europe.

14% 'Want Further Integration'

Your move.

It's amazing how many ways the same poll can be cut:

60% want to loosen ties.
20% want to leave.
Only 13% happy with the status quo.
Two times as many people want out than in.

One thing you can't ignore is the figures themselves. Not only has a YouGov-Cambridge poll found that over sixty per cent of people in the UK want a referendum on our membership of the European Union, one of the highest figures ever recorded, but it's also revealed that only 14% of people in the UK want further integration.

This is one of the lowest proportions ever recorded, and shows not only that support for EU integration is slipping, but that any new treaty, any new framework, and any new opt-in will automatically enjoy the support of just over one in ten people - hardly a ringing endorsement. The subtle inclusion of a third option, akin to Scotland's 'devo-max,' dilutes but does not hide the truth: that the overwhelming majority of people are not happy with the way things are, or the way things are going in regards to Europe.

David Cameron, take note before you put your name on the dotted line.

The EAW Continues to Mock Justice

The man responsible: Liberal Democrat MEP Graham Watson, second from left. Picture by the EPP.

'All that is required for the deportation of a suspect under an EAW is basic information about their identity and an alleged offence.' No evidence. No proof. No chance to stop it. If another country forwards your name onto your local constabulary, and some description of a crime, there's nothing that you, the courts,  or even the government can do: that's where you're headed to face trial. You might spend months or even years in post-Soviet prisons, where none of the basic amenities of home are available, and none of what you might think your basic legal rights afforded to you; only, at the end, to stand before a court in a country where the law is not as mature as, say, France or Germany, where corruption is rampant, and where judicial delays and oversights are par for the course.

If you are found innocent, which a shockingly high percentage of those subjected to such conditions are, you'll likely have spent your life savings on proving it, and, depending on the country that called for your extradition, you may still be on a database of some kind. And it really could happen to you: because there is no requirement for the country requesting extradition to offer any kind of proof at all - not even flight records showing that you even visited - literally anyone could be plucked from their humdrum routine and thrust into the world of 'pan-European justice.' Don't take my word for it - Fair Trials International, an NGO that usually spends it time campaigning against and shedding light on the intricacies of the law under Third World despots, has said the same thing in their report on the subject.

Britain is about to opt-in to a European treaty (the Prum Treaty - no, I've not heard of it either) that requires the sharing of driver registration details amongst the twenty-seven nation bloc. Owing to the UK government's prized DNA collection - the largest on earth - that puts British citizens especially at risk of allegations arising from 'false positives.' That could lead to an increase in the numbers of people, rattled through a haphazard multinational court system at great personal and financial cost. Most worringly, research in Holland suggests the EU scheme only has a 33% success rate, meaning that most - not some, but most - of those hauled into such a situation will be innocent. What's stopping you, as a law-abiding citizen, being one of them? Nothing, that's what.

What can we do about it? We can't change the EAW through voting: it's beyond us. Nor will writing to MPs, signing petitions, or sending in angry letters stop the government from doing as it pleases. No amount of amateur activism will help our cause. So, what do you do when amateurs can't get the job done? Send in the professionals. The following is a template email to Fair Trials International, which is very much leading the charge against the EAW at the moment, and can be contacted here:

Dear Fair Trials International,

I would like to express my admiration for your work in fighting the European Arrest Warrant. At a time when the coalition government is largely silent on the issue, it is vital that there is someone who continues to strive to bring this systemic reduction of judicial standards to the attention of the people. I feel that there would be a groundswell of public anger, if only more people kneww about it, and I suspect that, as a campaign group dedicated to opposing it, you feel the same. On behalf of people who have and will have their most basic expectations of the law and the sanctity of their personal lives dragged through the mud, please continue your work, and please do more to publically take the government to task on this issue. They will listen to no amount of public outrage: but a resourceful and respected campaign group they just might.

Thank you kindly.

Yours sincerely, ...

Or, you could always invest in your future rights, i.e. donate. Fair Trials International is the only charity fighting these abuses: if it can't, there's no-one.

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

UKIP and the BNP have Nothing in Common

Extreme-right parties do not do this. Picture by Editor5807.

Matthew Goodwin, renowned expert on the far-right, has alleged in the Guardian that UKIP 'shares far more with the far-right than it admits.' Following on from a study by himself and Professor Jocelyn Evans, he writes that similar proportions of supporters of the two parties agree on a series of questions asked of them. But all this amounts to is cosmetic similarities: arguing that UKIP and the BNP are the same because the same proportion of supporters, give or take 20%, agree to the same broad questions is equivalent to saying that Gordon Brown is a fascist because he once championed 'British jobs for British workers,' or that David Cameron is an ecologist because of his green policies. Any politician, anywhere, can say the same things as someone else: it doesn't mean they agree on everything. Ideology is where the true distinction lies, and, ideologically, UKIP and the BNP are polar opposites.

The BNP is a nationalist party. Cultural nationalist, in fact. Cultural nationalism is by definition collectivist, authoritarian, and anti-permissive; the government promotes a cultural ideal that it declares to be the 'norm,' and will often chastise non-conformists through the tax or legal system, depending on its level of extremity. This is staunchly conservative thought that well and truly belongs on the right of the spectrum. UKIP, by contrast, is libertarian: libertarianism literally means the belief in liberty. It is a liberal philosophy placed on the right of the spectrum due to its 'if-it-ain't-broke-don't-fix-it' attitude, commitment to low tax and spending, and rejection of identity politics. It is by far the most individualistic ideology outside of anarchism, and, due to its firm commitment to local democracy and referenda, could not be further away from the BNP's big state authoritarianism if it tried. The only other party that even comes close to it in this regard is the Greens.

There's also quite major economic differences. The BNP is heavily interventionist, to a greater extent than Old Labour, advocating mass-nationalisation of land and industry, a commitment to full employment, anti-globalist, anti-free market and protectionist. UKIP, by contrast, is a free-market party, which remains strongly supportive of capitalism (even though it opposes the bank bailouts and connections between government and big business, which it - like all libertarians - thinks of as 'corporatist' and anti-capitalist in nature), especially small and medium-sized businesses. It is firmly committed to meritocracy, and opposes the BNP's 'native Britons first' mantra was a matter of course.

Furthermore, none of the things that Mr. Goodwin alleges are aspects of the 'extreme right' actually are. Opposition to uncontrolled immigration, for instance, is near-universal: the key word being 'uncontrolled.' You can cover the entire spectrum from the National Front to the SWP, and not a single voice is calling for restrictions to be lifted entirely. Does that make them 'far-right?' No. It means they have a modicum of common sense. Likewise, tighter border controls is quite a typical stance, especially after that furore in the summer where it turned out that many of the border controls we thought we had were, for all intents and purposes, non-existent. Deporting illegal immigrants can be adequately justified by the word 'illegal' - they're breaking the law in being here, why should we let them stay? - and criticism of multiculturalism is now mainstream. Germany, France, and the UK have all officially abandoned it - and, contrary to what some of the commenters on Comment is Free would have you believe, none of them are ruled by 'extreme-right' governments. No extreme-right government on earth would tolerate Nick Clegg.

'1,505' UKIP supporters out of 2,000 interviewees in total is quite a large 'control group,' not to mention an odd one: why not Labour, or the Tories, the two parties considered 'mainstream?' Why UKIP? And the ommission of ideology in favour of superfluous number-crunching is a glaring oversight - especially from someone with a first class honours in politics. In the end, if he did not intend to smear UKIP by associating it with the far-right ring, why did he do it?

Ken's Extremist Connections Should Not be Brushed Under the Carpet

Ken Livingstone invited this man to speak in London, as a 'reformer.'

A new poll has shown that Ken Livingstone and Boris Johnson are now neck-and-neck in the run-up to the London mayoral election. The Labour candidate is now thought to be more 'in tune' with popular concerns, including but not limited to budget cuts, the Olympics, and rail fares. The Guardian has jumped on the bangwagon, publishing a piece by Rabina Khan - cabinet member for housing on Tower Hamlets council - attacking those who claim that he associates with Islamic extremists. She puts these claims down down to the 'rightwing press' appealing to the lowest common denominator and the 'politics of fear.' But the truth is rather more nuanced than that.

One of Mr. Livingstone's long-standing allies is the 79-year-old Sheikh Yusef al-Qaradawi, styled by the BBC as an 'Islamic scholar:' It was Livingstone who invited him to London, and welcomed him to City Hall, calling him a 'reformer.' Let's take a look at these 'reforms:'

Not intermingling with men in such way that their bodies come in contact or that men touch women

Flirting and seductive behaviour are characteristics of wrong-minded women

If the husband senses that feelings of disobedience and rebelliousness are rising against him in his wife, he should try his best to rectify her attitude by kind words, gentle persuasion, and reasoning with her. If this is not helpful, he should sleep apart from her, trying to awaken her agreeable feminine nature so that serenity may be restored and she may respond to him in a harmonious fashion. If this approach fails, it is permissible for him to beat her lightly with his hands, avoiding her face and other sensitive areas

Try as he might to make this sound remotely civilised, it still amounts to 'obey me or I'll hit you' - an attitude the UK grew out of in the 1800s. Now, on the subject of homosexuals:

This perverted act is a reversal of the natural order, a corruption of man's sexuality, and a crime against the rights of females

tthose who practice it slaves to their lusts, depriving them of decent taste, decent morals, and a decent manner of living

And racial integration...

If the number of Muslims in a country is small—for example, if they are immigrants residing in a non-Muslim country—their men ought to be prohibited from marrying non-Muslim women because, since Muslim women are prohibited from marrying non-Muslim men, their marriage to non-Muslim women means that many Muslim girls will remain unmarried
All this comes from an article, entitled 'In the name of Allah, the Compassionate, the Merciful, The Lawful and Prohibited in Islam,' available online and penned by the Sheikh himself. Feel free to take a good, long read: even the most hardened Guardian contributor might, after a hundred and fifty pages, come to realise why having a Mayor of London who once counted this man as an ally is such a bad idea. He is homophobic. He condones spousal beating. He supports FGM (provided it does not 'physically harm' the female). He endorsed the fatwa calling for Salman Rushdie's execution. He is considerably more racist than even the most hardened 'far-right' activist:

Oh Allah, take this profligate, cunning, arrogant band of people...this Jewish, Zionist band of people...do not spare a single one of them

If opposing a man who says something like that makes me 'right-wing,' then so be it.

Why is the Guardian, supposedly a 'liberal' paper, allowing space to people who try to defend Ken Livingstone's association with a man who is in every respect the antithesis of liberalism? Why did a right-on 'progressive' such as Ken Livingstone make a point of inviting him to London in the first place? And why is not wanting a future Mayor of London to have such close links with him considered 'bigoted?' It strikes me as profoundly sensible. To my mind, sharing a platform with a man who thinks that women can be beaten and says that about the Jews should render one unelectable for life: it probably would, had said mayoral candidate been a Tory, or a member of any smaller party.

And it cannot be excused as a simple error of judgement.
 Qaradawi is not the only radical Islamist that Ken Livingstone or his administration forged close links with. The Islamic Forum of Europe, a multinational group whose leader was quoted espousing shari'ah by an episode of Dispatches, is based in the East London Mosque, which received hundreds of thousands of pounds of public money during Ken Livingstone's time in office. An IFE-linked lobby group, Muslims 4 Ken, unsuccessfully campaigned for Livingstone's re-election in 2008. The connections between Ken Livingstone and radical Islamist preachers run deep. Re-read those quotes of Qaradawi the reformer, and read the transcript of the Channel 4 Dispatches programme on the IFE, then ask yourself: is this man, who sponsored and supported these people, really who we want as our mayor?

That is the antithesis of the harmonious, tolerant, and open-minded city that London is, and that most Londoners want it to be. Surely we do not want a mayor who associates with them?

UKIP MEP: Greece 'heading towards revolution'

The 'flower of Greek youth' is waxing. Picture by Kanibalos.

RT's commentary on the bailouts (blindingly simple compared with ones offered up by the UK media) usually contains quotes by individuals that wouldn't be on the top of the list for most major nationals here. Paul Nuttal, as one of the most prominent lights of the pro-withdrawal movement in Brussels, is one such individual. Quoted by RT (formerly Russia Today), he said:  "you just have to look at the amount of people who are out on the street demonstrating at the moment. Suicide rates are up. The minimum wage has been cut. There’s mass homelessness in that country at the moment. All the European Union is doing down this line is it’s encouraging the cradle of civilization to head towards revolution, because that’s what will happen if we continue with these austerity measures." It was only a month after Nigel Farage appeared on the same programme, saying a similar thing.

It sounds like a dire prediction indeed, but, whatever you think of UKIP, it's worth remembering that not a single Eurosceptic economic prediction has turned out wrong. It was Eurosceptics who surmised there'd be a need for a bailout in the first place, and then that there was a risk Greece would default on its debts. EU officials flatly denied both statements, but they turned out to be spot-on. Likewise, the bailout of Ireland; the bailout of Portugal; the second bailout of Greece; the doubling of the 'stability fund,' thoughts of an exit from the Eurozone, etc. These are all things the EU and national governments thought impossible, which, nonetheless, happened. Whatever the flaws of Eurosceptic parties, the pro-withdrawal movement as a whole is the only one that comes out of this sordid mess with an unblemished economic record.

Admittedly, this isn't solely economics: though they may not be the Colonel Blimps of Guardian demonology, a Grecophile the average Eurosceptic isn't. But it's not just Eurosceptics who've cottoned on to the threat of upheaval: the CIA itself warned that there may be a military coup if the current austerity march continued, and that was two years ago. Hundreds of billions of pounds of debt has been heaped on the benighted country since then - through the bailouts, no less, that very mechanism that is meant to save it - and its social, political, and economic infrastructure has been shattered. The democratic option has been firmly closed by the imposition of Lucas Papademos, a former European Central Bank vice-president, as the Greek premier (current polls suggest a hung parliament, of which Papademos or another placeholder will surely be appointed head), and already comparisons of government officials to Nazi collaborators have slipped into popular culture. That's all well and good until you realise that they're bloody serious: Greece's largest police union has threatened to issue arrest warrants for leading IMF/EU officials for 'covertly abolishing or eroding democracy and national sovereignty.' Most worringly, a survey by respected polling company Public Issue found that over half of Greeks think that 'deep change' is needed, and that a further third would support a 'revolution' towards that end.

It's easy to believe when you look at what's being 'asked' of them: the full list of austerity measures is too long to summarise. And that's just the terms of the previous bailout. Who knows what yet more 'solidarity' will bring to a grateful Greek population? All in all, it's a very bad time to be a member of the Eurocracy in Greece: although far from inevitable, a revolution is also not unthinkable, and by pursuing the same course of action over and over, with increasingly catastrophic results, the 'troika' and the Greek parliament may be careering towards one.