Tag Archives: Politics

Nick Cohen Finds Cover To Smear Robinson

The recent and undeniably stupid Tommy Robinson walked into jail. And this has given cover to many people that wanted to jump on the bandwagon. Perhaps made uncomfortable by his ‘activist journalism’, as he’s moved away from street protest himself, this last installment has proved too much of a temptation.

So, Nick Cohen jumped aboard.

Tommy Robinson and the rise of the new extremists

This is a thinly disguised hit piece on Robinson. Though disguised as general commentary on ‘extremism’ politics, that talks about the funding of political enterprises, it also throws in a few other individuals, but only in passing, for good measure, to keep up the tone so that it looks less like a hit piece with one target. He mentions Katie Hopkins, for example. But, Robinson gets more paragraphs than anyone else.

Why is Robinson lumped in with extremists? What has been extreme, exactly, about his activism? If you think he has, could you be explicit.

He created a street protest movement, the EDL, which he says himself was beleaguered because it attracted the unsavoury elements. Some of Robinson’s and the EDL’s reported thuggish behaviour was actually throwing those elements out. You’ll also note that in another context, when AntiFa are on the scene there’s often violence, and ‘arrests’ are reported – though what fails to be reported is that it’s usually AntiFa doing the attacking and sustaining most arrests. No matter. Blame Robinson.

So, other than a street protest movement, what extremism?

I don’t think Labour is considered an extreme party even though it has attracted left wing extremists all along, and arguably has them running the show now – but all very mainstream.

It doesn’t take Nick long to get down to trolling the uneducated masses. There’s the usually snobbish hat tip to the working class ‘beer hall’. But I suppose the ‘Doc Martens’  is very much a reference to the Reggae loving skinheads against fascism, isn’t it? Oh, well, may be not. Football thugs? Yes, that must be it.

On the point of football, what’s not covered here is the Football Lads Alliance. Look on Twitter and they are clearly labelled in the same light as Robinson often is: fascists, Nazis, racists. The FLA t might well appear on Nick’s radar when it has smeared so sufficiently to let Nick write a piece on it without seeming to be too obviously anti-working class. British football has undergone a transformation since its skinhead ‘bovver boot’ days. It’s now a family affair, supporting local communities, with female directors and women’s teams becoming stars alongside their male first team counterparts. Watch any FLA march and you’ll see people of all ethnicities, and, gosh, some females. And banners representing elements of supporters of many clubs – it’s serious business if you can unite football ‘thugs’. It turns out their message is pretty much the same as Tommy Robinson’s – it’s just that Tommy Robinson has been louder, and he’s been saying it longer.

Robinson has some issues, there’s no doubt. But, his actual criminality is, when you examine it, far more mundane than many other street activist groups, such as AntiFa, that not only get a pass from the press (if they can keep the violence below the radar) but are actually endorsed as Nazi-punchers. Robinson’s criminality emerges from his over exuberant stupidity more than any criminal intent, and also gets a good helping from conveniently unrelated charges being filed, and even thrown out of court. And what he genuinely does do that is criminal doesn’t remotely compare to the criminality that he protests, both terrorism and grooming gangs.

Yet more people on the ‘progressive left’ hate Robinson with a passion they seem unable to muster for the child killers and child rapists. They’ll happily scream about Robinson, but would be much happier if they could sweep the bomb bits, body parts and broken childhoods under the carpet.

To call (or, as in Nicks piece, to sneakily imply, with sufficient deniability) Robinson an extremist is extremely dishonest.

When Julia Ebner misrepresented Robinson in this way, though a little more explicitly, with less deniability, she did it in the Guardian, but while she worked out of the offices of Quilliam. Haras Rafiq felt it necessary to go on Newsnight with Robinson and actually deny that he, or Quilliam, endorsed what Ebner had written. Ebner didn’t last long after that. She still manages to do what Nick has done here: write a piece ostensibly on extremist politics, but name dropping Robinson with sufficient frequency,  alongside the names of actual extremists, that the inference is near impossible to fall for. Throw ‘alt-right’ in a few times, without actually saying Robinson is alt-right, and that will be enough to get retweets* of the article by those that will do the job more explicitly. And, when writing these articles, conveniently avoid an explicit meaning of the term alt-right – because Robinson is obviously not alt-right, since in terms of racism Robinson is as polar opposite of Richard Spencer as Nick Cohen is. But, the ‘racist’ smears will follow on nicely just by making sure ‘Tommy Robinson’ and ‘alt-right’ appear in the same article that avoids saying the former IS NOT the latter.

*Money making click bait that help Nick’s income? Odd, that Nick, a paid journalist, homes in on Robinson’s earning capacity, as if earning a living from a cause one is passionate about is less moral than other moralising journalism. That’s how the world works. 

Oh, and apparently, Robinson has been raised to the grand position of ‘politician’ or is it lowered – you can never tell with politicians. Anyway, this seems absurd:

Most conservatives steered well clear of Tommy Robinson, even though he was one of the few politicians who can speak well to the racist strain in white working class British culture.

“can speak well to”? Well, if joining with people of various ethnicities, targeting one specific political judicial religious ideology, and being particularly clear that his real targets are Islamists, terrorists and grooming gangs, amounts to racism, then surely criticising the Indian Caste system or FGM is racist too. Yes, I know that some ‘progressive’ numpties think it is, but that’s besides the point. Pointing an accusing finger at the abusers and terrorists that currently over-represent in some (non-Monolithic) ‘communities’ is not racism.

In this context, you should note, though it’s often ignored, that Tommy Robinson targets the genuinely ‘Islamophobic’ politicians, police and press – you know, the ones that have such an irrational fear of Islam they will look the other way as abuse goes on, as Andrew Norfolk did, until he snapped out of his ‘progressive’ mindset and came to his senses.

“racist strain in white working class British culture” – Too easy, Nick. You know full well that for so many, this means ALL working class people. I hear this from people that are, or were working class too, but managed to get a reasonable education, leave their council estates for the suburbs, and now look down on the scum they left behind. The very people that jump down your throat if in talking about ISIS you don’t qualify it with NOT ALL MUSLIMS.

What about the title of the article? “Tommy Robinson and the rise of the new extremists”

Well, it doesn’t actually call Robinson an extremist. And we often see article authors using the get out of jail card, “Well, I didn’t write the headline.”

Many working class people, that lack the sophisticated education enjoyed by many that look down on them, are far more ‘straight talking’ – which obviously means not being as capable of being judicious with their smears as the more literary journalists that thinly disguise their contempt for the likes of Robinson.

For other topics of public concern, what would be called ‘people power’, is extremism when engaging in the thoroughly decent thing of not taking a dislike to Islam. Why do religions get such unholy passes to promote such barbaric ideas, and then get away with claiming to be a religion of peace?

It’s typical that the credibility of a call to ‘people power’ very much depends on who is doing the calling. Jeremy Corbyn manages to appear interested in the people, while looking down on the actual people that have no voice. He’s become the leader of the Labour party on the back of his say nothing, commit to nothing’ skills in this regard (“I abhor all bombing”).

But I’m afraid there’s somebody else shouting now, making the very claims about police and political corruption that allowed grooming gangs to operate in plain site. Maggie Oliver investigated and brought to justice just a small number of the Rochdale grooming gang members. Her success has given her a voice (and funnily enough, a means of earning a living from her valuable experiences). What’s Maggie Oliver calling for now?

People power.

Tommy Robinson was doing people power when ‘Islamophobia’ (the fear of criticising Islam or Muslims) was well established by Blair’s multiculturalist funding of self declared Muslim representative organisations.

Now, Maggie Oliver is saying what Robinson has been saying:

Remember, Islam is a very conservative political judicial religious ideology. The judicial part is Sharia, that so many Muslims turn to for justice. The politics is written into all religions that make social prescriptions and proscriptions, but it’s even more explicit in Islam, which is anti-secular and has an explicit goal of Islamic domination written into it.

Many traditional liberals like Nick have already commented on how the Left’s alliance with Islamism is characteristic of actual extremes having common goals – rub out the sensible voices in the middle and deal with the final battle of what looks like interchangeable good and evil later.

I won’t bother asking for examples of Robinson’s racism. They never materialise. Some very credible examples would have appeared by now were there any truth in the charge. That failed narrative has moved on.

The ‘far-right’, ‘alt-right’ and ‘extremist’ charges are much easier to make and not support, when you don’t even have to back them up. They are charges that are vague enough that they are far easier to deny you made them.

So, what extremes does Robinson represent? Well, you could actually make the effort to ask him.

 

To write a piece about extremism, and include Tommy Robinson, who Nick has sort of defended in other contexts, and the only difference then and now is his latest arrest, … well, that seems like outright dishonesty.

Sure, Nick thought he Robinson didn’t help himself. But an extremist? Like, comparible to say an Islamic extremist? Seriously? Has Tommy Robinson EVER called for the harming or ANYONE?

If we take Anjem Choudary, who approves of dath for apostasy, as the low bar of extremism, and ISIS as the high bar, compared to which even Hitler wins only because of numbers, then ‘extremist’ is already pretty wide. Even then, based on death for apostasy alone, that’s a lot of Muslims you’re calling extremists.

How about AntiFa? Sure. They are extremists. They shut down people they disagree with. Violently. That’s pretty extreme. Has Robinson EVER recommended that?

No. Nick’s piece is pure bullshit, when you look at in that context.

It’s funny, because I’m pretty sure Nick has lamented the tendency for the Left to call everyone Nazis, fascists, and other things they are not. What happened?

 

I suppose otherwise rational people can go off the rails sometimes.

Our Islamophobic Politicians

The hot trend at the time of writing is the call for the Conservative Party to investigate itself for the amount of ‘Islamophobia’ engaged in, by members or MPs.

Obviously, this is kick-back for the accusations of antisemitism in the Labour party, and it looks like Corbyn is now benefiting from his alliances in the Islamic world, as race baiting CMB and their puppet master Miqdaad Versi push this for all they’re worth.

To Conservatives in particular. You have lost the narrative to Islamic fundamentalists. You bought into the ‘multiculturalism’ narrative of Blair’s Labour, and you have lost. But, as you’ll see, you can start to save your party.

Politicians generally. You are being conned on ‘Islamophobia’.
The people know this.
The people know that YOU know this.
Do you realise the contempt with which you are currently held for this cowardice?

Islamophobia:

  • a) a tool used by Islamists (those politically motivated to further Islam and Sharia)
    to shut down discussion of the worst practices in Islam,
    by conflating criticism of Islam, anti-Muslim bigotry, and racism.
  • b) a fear instilled in Muslims, based on indoctrination into a cultish reverence
    for Mohammed and the Quran,
    such they submit themselves to Islam,
    often above family members,
    so that some would kill their own children or siblings if they left Islam.
  • c) a fear instilled in Muslims by Islamic fundamentalists,
    that to speak out about the bad practices in Islam is
    un-Islamic, treason, blasphemous, heretical,
    even default apostasy by fiat … and threateningly, a death sentence
  • d) the fear of Islam instilled into UK politicians, police and press that shuts them up,
    and even persuades them to collude in the silencing of those that speak out about the worst aspects of Islam.
  • e) the fear of Islam instilled in politicians across Europe,
    that Muslim unrest is more difficult to deal with than any popularist reactionary unrest,
    so that they would rather kow tow to Muslim community demands.

Islamist have succeeded. We realise you just want it all to go away. Your opponents know how to play this game. It’s a rhetorical method that works very well throughout the wider Islamic world. But, you are too scared to do anything about it.

Andrew Norfolk knew of this fear of Islam, when he accepted he’d sat on a report on paedophile Muslim grooming gangs, and let the rapes continue unexposed.

Maggie Oliver knew this, when her GMP seniors deflected her from investigating a case. Only with #threegirls in Rochdale, did she get anywhere.

Maggie Oliver realises you have no stomach to do the right thing. So she now calls for people power.

But we know what you politicians and police have done when people have raised this. We have seen you smear those that speak out, or at best, you have looked the other way.

Labour sacked MP Sarah Champion. They even deselected a Labour councillor.

Decent head teacher, Ray Honeyford, was hounded out, three decades ago, for trying to protect and improve the lot of children, and YOU or your fellow MPs let this happen.

Here’s what you can do.

  • You can start by rejecting the term ‘Islamophobia’.
  • Islam is the set of ideas.
  • Muslims are the people.
  • Oppose actual anti-Muslim bigotry, where individual decent Muslims are persecuted.
  • Oppose racism.

On that last point, I’m sure you’ve been told, but, Islam is not a race. There are many ‘white’ Muslims, and many ‘non-white’ non-Muslims. Make sure you are prosecuting actual racism, and not opinions on what is just another set of ideas.

If you play this ‘Islamophobia’ game, of seeing Muslims as victims while a minority, then you’ll find that you are becoming the minority.

Decent secular Muslims will tell you all this too. Perhaps you don’t want to listen. perhaps you’ve already submitted to Islam.

 

Killers for Religion and Atheism?

So, an atheist kills a bunch of religious people, and the religious can now cite an example that shows that their religion isn’t that bad after all.

Not so fast.

Atheism vs Theism

Both Atheism and Theism are simply opposing philosophical positions. Any other system’s metaphysical philosophy is ‘atheistic’ if it rejects theism.

A particular theism might be vary vague – “I believe there is one, and possibly more gods, but I don’t know whether any of the religions are true …”.

Or it might be specific yet still ‘other worldly’ – “I believe that there must have been a creator god, but I have no idea what he intends for us, and I offer no moral guidance based on my belief that there is a god.”

Or it might be committed to the variable claims about the god or gods of a particular religion, which may have many sects.

Atheism is pretty much opposition to these sorts of theism, usually on the grounds that there is no evidence or reason to believe specific claims, or support the level of hopefulness that the ‘spiritual’ seem to be clinging onto. In this respect Atheism is a negative position: it simply rejects the claim that there are gods.

Note that Atheism does not assert that there are definitely no gods.

Some atheists might assert that there are absolutely no gods, but that isn’t much better than asserting absolutely that there are gods. You might call such an atheism a ‘faith’ based atheism. But if you take the trouble to pin atheists down they generally agree that they do not hold such a strong opinion, but merely act as if they do because that’s often easier to express.

But this acting as if there are no gods is a fair position to take. Christians act as if there are no Norse gods. They act as if there are no fairies or Santa. (Note that playing along with such fantasies for the fun they provide for children isn’t acting with true belief.)

Religions

Religions are a subset of Theism …

Atheism-Theism-Religion

[Agnostics may not deny the existence of god, but they don’t positively assert there are gods either.]

Religions take the basic philosophical position of theism, thinking there are some teleological entities that created our universe, and add many more specific claims:

  • Our god is the only god.
  • Our god cares about us.
  • Our god dictates our moral codes.
  • Our god wants us to punish people that don’t follow his codes.
  • Our god wants us to punish people that don’t believe in him.
  • Our god doesn’t want us to eat pig meat and thinks it a moral obligation that we don’t.
  • Our god wants us to punish people that have sex outside the specific type of union sanctioned by our god (monogamy for Christians, up to four wives, but one husband for Muslims)
  • Our god will not remarry divorcees – old school Catholic; god changes his mind sometimes; he’s fickle; or humans decide he changed his mind.

Most religious people are born into, indoctrinated into, their religion. And the religion may provide many social benefits if it’s a large religious community.

But there can also be great costs for those that simply cannot continue to believe. In some more fundamentalist communities, ex-believers can be ostracised, might suffer social and economic hardship if rejected by the community, and might even risk death. If the religion prescribes death for apostates, as is the case for Islam, then even if the religion isn’t the state authority, believers are easily persuaded to take it upon themselves.

The list of additional beliefs on top of basic theism, including the many moral prescriptions and proscriptions, is long. It depends on the religion, the sect within the religion, and the personal willingness of individuals to follow the rules of the religion.

This becomes a little tricky for the religious that try to divert criticism away from their religion, when opinions differ so widely within:

  • God changes his mind often, it seems, judging by how religious opinions change.
  • Individuals make up their own minds what they take from their religion … you’d think the religious would therefore appreciate how atheists make up their own minds about morality.
  • The greatest opponents to a particular religious believer’s views are … other religious people. Islamic terrorism? Many victims are other Muslims, for being the wrong type of Muslim.

The variety of religious belief is often greater than the difference between Atheism and a particular Religion. Modern Anglicans that accept secular liberal democracy, have no problem with homosexuality, even in the church, are for full gender equality, and gender identity. They have much more in common with the social and political leanings of many atheists, than with even their fundamentalist Christian brethren, let alone than with people of other faiths.

And yet, the religious stick together. It only takes the whiff of an atheist with a strong opinion for the ‘interfaith’ community to band together in offended outrage. And let anyone speak out about the Islam of the Islamic extremists and even moderate Muslims will come to Islam’s defence as much as agree with an atheist that there might be a problem with the religion.

[Update 5/12/2017] There was greater outrage that Trump retweeted a lead figure one of Britain First’s outspoken anti-Islam activists than at the content of the videos the activist posted. One was ‘fake news’, but the other two were of Muslims persecuting others. Despite the acts of the Muslims, this was actually seen as anti-Muslim bigotry. Take a moment. Here’s the upshot: every tweet condemning German neo-Nazis is anti-German bigotry; every tweet showing and condemning videos of Britain First are anti-British bigotry, and by extension, anti-Muslim bigotry, since, as  is belaboured painfully, British Muslims are British. This is the state of play in 2017, where any criticism of Islam is interpreted as ‘Islamophobia’, ‘anti-Muslim bigotry’ … and yes, ‘racism’.

Political Ideologies of Hitler, Stalin, Mao, …

Whenever an atheist argues with Christians or Muslims, it’s not long before we get the Hitler, Stalin, Fascism, Nazism, Communism line thrown at us. And no matter how often it’s pointed out that this isn’t a valid argument, it still keeps on coming up. Often from the same people that have had this pointed out before.

Political ideologies can of course cross boundaries of Atheism-Theism. Christians can be socialists. In the 70s it was quite common for Islamists to lean towards socialism … maybe they hadn’t realised how far right Islam really is … or maybe they had.

And, Hitler was not an atheist. He might not have favoured the established churches that opposed his thugs, but that doesn’t mean he wasn’t religious. Many Nazi ideas were based on the old Teutonic ideals of religiously motivated knights.

Communism? Don’t think that political ideology stops you believing in a personal god … it just becomes less convenient and maybe a little dangerous to admit to one, but Communism does not preclude theism.

These political ideologies tell us little about the wide variety of atheists. The Atheism that some political ideologies might embrace informs the ideology with nothing other than the fact that there is no evidence for any god.

Religious Political Ideologies

Some political ideologies are religious ones.

And most religious ideologies are political – they are inherently so because they dictate the behaviours of people, and that’s a very political thing to do. And they usually have a lot to say on social issues … not all good. Homophobia, sex outside marriage, modesty, … religions can be obsessed with sex, particularly with regard to women, and if feminism isn’t a political matter I’m not sure what is.

It is possible to believe in a religion and treat it as an entirely personal belief system that determines how you live your own life, without you making any claims about what it implies for anyone else.

But this is rare. Most religions, and especially religious organisations, are very keen on telling: religious believers how they should act; non-believers that they are anything from misguided to evil; the religious what they should do to the non-believers: killing apostates, bombing abortion clinics, punishing people for blasphemy (the modern version is imprisoning people for ‘hate speech’).

Christianity, as supposedly expressed by Jesus, is a “render unto Caesar” kind of religion – a reasonable basis of separation of church and state. However, the Catholic church in Rome put a swift stop to that. Christianity, especially through many bishops and popes, made state business very much church business. The US continues this tradition by distorting the intentions of the founding fathers and making it the godly nation the founding fathers tried to avoid – they’d seen enough of that in Europe.

Islam is very specifically, inherently, by design, a political ideology. Only Muslims can hold certain offices of state. Muslims and non-Muslims are taxed differently.

Many Muslims will try to pull a fast one by telling you that Islam insists that Muslims follow the laws of the the land in which they find themselves … where Muslims are a minority that does not hold power. But Islam also requires Muslims to spread Islam … which means it would eventually become a majority. This is why many opponents of Islam also oppose too much immigration from Muslim countries.

Of course many Muslims don’t want a dominant Islam any more than non-Muslims do. Many escape the domination of Islam of their homelands, and are quite happy to live in secular democracies where they can practice their religion in peace.

But then we also see a lot of duplicitous language from supposedly ‘moderate’ Muslims that think homosexuality should be illegal, and make excuses for their more extreme brothers and sisters (“Nothing to do with Islam”).

In Europe the atheists and secularists have been opposing the power of the church for centuries, letting the humanistic principles take precedence. There’s still plenty of religious protectionism that goes on – a refusal to give up the reigns of power, as diminished as they are. Why the heck do Bishops get seats in the UK House of Lords – and why is there even such an unelected house still?

But I’ve seen and heard much more of the stranglehold religion has in some parts of the US, where the mark of a good plumber is whether he’s a good Christian or not. “In God We Trust” – indeed they do.

So, religions are political, and as such are as fair game for criticism and ridicule as any non-religious political ideology.

And being offended when religions are criticised is just one more political tool the religious try to pull. It may be a genuine feeling, and so they try to give it moral weight. Hence, critics of Islam are labelled haters of Muslims.

But, realising that atheists tend not to be impressed by the special pleading for the religion, that atheists aren’t taken in by the piety, the hurt feelings, what are the religious to do? Compare their religion to atheism? They can’t. They are not comparable.

Humanism

So, religious friends, you can’t really compare Atheism with your religion.

You can compare Atheism with Theism, if you’re talking only about the philosophy, reason, evidence, to support either case.

But you can’t compare Atheism as such with Christianity or Islam. Yes, I know that atheists argue against Christianity and Islam, but they do so on two quite separate grounds:

1 – A disagreement with the underlying theistic claims of your religion. If your religion relies on a claim that there is one or more gods, and there isn’t, then 2 is irrelevant. But, we humour you anyway and so …

2 – A disagreement with the moral assertions that you think your imaginary god has prescribed. It’s not like we disagree with all your moral positions, we just hold those we agree on for different reasons, for which we don’t need an imaginary god. But those Humanist atheists also find many of the moral guides of religion to be immoral, barbaric at times, and remnants of ancient codes of conduct prescribed at the time of the religion’s inception.

The thing is, Atheism prescribes no moral position whatsoever. It really is merely the rejection of your unsubstantiated claims about your god.

And this, of course, leads to another failure to understand atheism: “Atheists have no morals. They are nihilists.” Not so.

We have morals. We just don’t think some imaginary friend dictates them; and we very specifically reject many of the immoral codes that gods supposedly do dictate.

But you’re nearly right. it’s not our atheism that determines our morals, it’s something else.

Many atheists find other reasons for their morality – many simply acknowledging that harming others isn’t nice. People and animals don’t like to suffer harm, so we prefer to minimise that. It seems a very simple idea, but it’s amazing how far you can go with just that basic starting point. And it also avoids the need to punish people for daft reasons – such as for having sex outside marriage, for not being heterosexual, for drinking, for working on the Sabbath.

[In the UK the Shops Bill 1986 was defeated; the Sunday Trading Act 1994 eventually introduced limited Sunday trading … so strong was Christianity’s hold over British life. Now we’re finding we have to start again, with Islam.]

Many atheists want to live by their own moral ideals, and many collect these ideas about living a moral life into a set of codes. It’s not that these codes are necessary, but they are helpful in declaring some minimal set of behaviours we agree to abide by.

And one example of such a guide is the Humanist Manifesto. Take a look at it. You’ll find no diktats about women being lesser than men, or how to deal with the evil of homosexuality, or what the best way is to kill apostates. Humanists don’t have to look for ‘nuance’ and ‘scholarship’ to explain away inconvenient passages ‘revealed’ through some desert warlord or hippy.

So, if you want to carry out any comparisons I’d suggest you try these:
– Atheism vs Theism
– Humansim vs Christianity, Islam, …

You might find that many atheists tell you they don’t belong to any Humanist organisation, because they would rather not belong to any group that sets their ethical standards for them, as they can figure it out for themselves. They have a point. We are free to decide our own moral codes, and put them to the test in our societies.

My personal subscription to Humanism is one of convenience, and support for many of the programs of Humanists UK (formerly British Humanist Association).

Other atheists might join other groups of common interest, such as the many secular and skeptical societies around the world. Ex-Muslims have a shared experience that brings them together in various groups – often with the added benefit of providing a safe community to those ex-Muslims that are still at risk from their families.

Let that sink in, and imagine a child of Humanists being ostracised, forced into marriage, threatened with death, killed. I don’t know of any such incident. Has one ever made the news?

The next time you’re arguing with atheists on Twitter, they are unlikely to be Nazis. So when you pull the “What about Hitler, Stalin ..” it’s a Straw Man. If you want to argue for your religion, why don’t you try coming up with good reasons for it, not excusing the bad stuff by dragging in some irrelevant comparison.

And for pities sake, give up on trying to defend the indefensible. Your religious texts are full of ancient stuff that really doesn’t stand up to our moral standards today. Some religious passages are outright contraventions of the human rights that most people would want to sign up to. Stop defending that crap with ‘nuance’ and ‘scholarship’ – it makes you look like damned fools that are fooling no one but themselves.

Atheist Terrorists

And that atheist killer you want to call a terrorist because you’re sick of hearing about Islamic terrorists? Could be they are genuinely crazy, or have some motive other than their hate for religion.

And even if they carried out the heinous act because they hate religion and religious believers, there’s no Atheist Bible, and nothing in the Humanist Manifesto to suggest they should … unlike your religious books. Not even The God Delusion, Letter to a Christian Nation, or any of the New Atheist books.

If some killers that are atheists really are killing for atheism, there’s nothing in atheism, or Humanism, that can be removed that would stop them. There are no doctrines we can reject. There’s no “Believers are children of Satan” sermons going on. Pointing out the problems with religion doesn’t automatically create Atheist Killers. Sadly it does all too often create killers of atheists.

But, hey, if someone has a terrorist agenda, against believers, for atheism, then pretty much all humanist atheists will oppose them. I’ll happily denounce any such terrorists. But I won’t be able to point to any atheist texts that has incited them. I can only point to Humanist texts that are very short and very explicit in their opposition to doing harm. There is no Humanist Prophet whose example I should follow that includes his beheading of enemies.

The Humanist Manifesto is so clear in rejecting doing harm to others there’s no way you can mistakenly or otherwise derive some crazy idea that it’s a good idea to kill believers.

This cannot be said of the books of Christianity and Islam. Alongside all the lovely stuff is some seriously dark and immoral doctrine.

Look, if you want to call some atheist killer an atheist terrorist, knock yourself out. Any disagreement from atheists will be on a technicality, not for some fear of having to explain away our inconvenient texts. Let me help you out with A Guide To Terrorists For Idiots.

Lies, Damned Lies, and .. Political Rhetoric

Britain voted to leave the EU, and the 48% of British people that voted remain went all wobbly, then turned into hate filled monsters spewing fire in the direction of the 52% Brexiters, for the hate filled xenophobic racist bigotry some of the 48% perceive in them.

I’ve no way of knowing how many of the 48% have gone crazy with hate, but they are certainly loud. It really isn’t the end of the world for the UK, though you’d think it was from the rhetoric. Look at Aleppo. Remember two World Wars?

We’re damned lucky to live in Britain, even a Brexit Britain. We have to get over our disappointment and deal with it, whether it’s committing to the leave process or trying to persuade the nation to remain in the EU despite the referendum – not such a good idea.

But the haters, with their powder dry, primed and ready to blow, watched the Tory government hold their conference. Correction – the crazies watched and misrepresented, and the gullible lapped up the misrepresentations.

There is always room to criticise a government – none are perfect and there’s always room for improvement, and opportunities to take a different route. That’s what an opposition should focus on. The gross misrepresentations are plain dishonest and bring into disrepute the offenders themselves more than their targets.

Amber Rudd gave her conference speech, and despite the text of her speech being available, people seemed to hear things that weren’t said by Rudd, their Babel Fish translators set to Demonic.
Continue reading Lies, Damned Lies, and .. Political Rhetoric

Referendum – Not Such A Good Idea

I used to like the idea of a referendum on big decisions that set the direction of the nation for the foreseeable future. It’s important everyone gets a say, right?

When I was really young and idealistic I looked to a future where the power of computers would allow every voter to have a say on every issue and problem the government faced. Until I realised how chaotic that would be.

But I still thought it was a pretty good idea on big issues like EU membership. I voted in favour every time we had a choice. I’ve gone off the idea. Is it just because I was on the losing side? Or has being on the losing side woken me up to the problem with referendums?

One problem with a referendum is it represents a single snapshot of opinion, influenced by conditions at the moment of the vote, supposedly on one issue, but influenced by many others. Had the UK EU referendum been held before Merkel opened the door to migrants (and not just the minority that are refugees) the result could have gone the other way. Had Johnson not made such a hash of it with his Bus NHS millions the Brexit win might have been greater. It’s all down to the moment, the chaos of lots of voices, each making points, some of them dumb.

Another problem is that many of us, we the voters, don’t have the technical knowledge to make the right choices. And here for me, like Dawkins, I don’t mind admitting this is the case, even if I do think I have a grasp of many of the issues.

Elected representation for a number of years brings some stability that a referendum cannot. The scientists at Cern don’t have a referendum on what experiments should be run.

And ‘experiment’ is a good analogy. The world is changing all the time, such that any elected government is effectively experimenting with the economy in a set of novel world conditions, and the conditions change throughout the life of a government. And you need bags of expert input when making decisions (not less, Mr Gove).

Not only is a referendum a bad idea in this regard, it could also be argued that all too often governments don’t take enough of an account of expert opinion, letting ideological politics overrule it.

It’s not just the government choosing ideology over good ideas. What’s disappointing about a lot of politics is that oppositions act as if the government should have foreseen and planned for problems that neither the government, OR the opposition saw coming; or the opposition work to make a government policy fail, and then crow over the fact that it failed. Much of our plolitical rhetoric carries the fortunate weight of hindsight.

Perhaps we need to make the system we have work better, rather than throw it out in favour of a referendum. And perhaps demand better quality members of parliament, and better standards of political behaviour, and political education (but not the indoctrination of children – looking at you, Momentum).

One of the principles we hold dear is that elected members should come from a cross section of society and therefore be ‘representative’. Unfortunately that alone isn’t enough, because it ensures some popular but inadequate people can be elected, and their faults become apparent the more important a role they are given in government. Counter to this is the fear of elitism – but in science I want scientists to be the elite of their profession.

To some extent this worry of electing dummies is alleviated by the fact that cabinet positions are determined by the leader, and the leader is chosen by the party. There’s a chance that there are enough sensible people around not to elect a fool. Not iron clad I know, but still better than a referendum, surely. It’s even dubious whether opening leadership election to the whole party membership is a good idea – Mr Corbyn.

Corbyn has been elected leader effectively by a referendum of the Labour party membership – anyone with £25 and a bucket of idealistic wishful thinking to spare; and he will now have the power to determine a shadow cabinet. Which will form a destructive rather than a constructive opposition.

So, we (I) have realised that referendums aren’t that helpful.

Is that it? Scrub referendums and let the government decide? Well, no. It should be a parliamentary decision, with free votes – not of that bullying party whip stuff. And perhaps it should be preceded by more expert opinion. Parliamentary committees have a pretty good reputation generally. We should use them more as precursors to big events, rather than for telling us what went wrong after the fact.

And, better political education! Did I say that already?

Catlicks and Prodidogs

 

Religion’s sectarian influence pervades the minds of children and can persist into adulthood and on into politics, and on across generations.

Heather Hastie’s More Delusions About Religion looks at a news article that tries to distance religion from violence, by trying to convince us that the the Northern Irish Troubles were not about religion. That’s nonsense, and here’s why. Continue reading Catlicks and Prodidogs

I Don’t Like The Labour Party

I haven’t voted Labour for a long time, and even back then I occasionally voted Conservative when I thought that Labour was leaning too far left.

I’ve been watching the Labour internal conflict and it has echoes of earlier decades, just different players. A post I read recently was about the unelectability of Corbyn, and the author mentioned “57 varieties of Trotskyists“. That pretty much says it all. Continue reading I Don’t Like The Labour Party

Populations in a Secular Liberal Democratic EU – #EUref

This is about the UK referendum on EU membership. It’ll meander back an forth across some issues as it’s more an ideas and concerns barf than a rational argument aimed to persuade, so apologies if it’s a chaotic and incoherent at times. These are the issues that I hear people talking about; issues about populations, migration and sovereignty that are easier to understand than the economic ones that even the ‘experts’ can’t give clear answers to.

Here’s a quick summary, with short videos, that explains the organisation of the EU and the powers of its various bodies. Use it as a primer if you’re not sure what the EU is about: BBC’s EU Introduction.
Continue reading Populations in a Secular Liberal Democratic EU – #EUref

Arm The Teachers God Damn It!

GunOwners

BBC had a reporter in a gun store somewhere in the US. One gun happy customer or staff member said this latest shooting wasn’t a gun issue but a mental health issue.

OK, so keeping automatic rifles out of the hands of a person with issues wouldn’t have prevented the deaths?

And would that same commenter be happy to pay the taxes to solve all the mental health problems in the US, so honest decent sane folk can have their guns? As if that would be possible.

But he may have a point. It might be a mental health issue really. An issue of the mental health of these people that see their particular right to bear arms and their right not to pay taxes (that might help to improve the health of the nation) as being so essential.

The American Dream turned nightmare (again). Automatic firearms in the hands of a people steeped in religious ire, enabled by conservative greed, and libertarian I’m OK so sort yourself out because I couldn’t give a fuck and I’m not paying taxes to help you fix your shit. What could go wrong, so often?

Just in case you think the right to bear arms and religious nut-jobbery are independent carzinesses, try this: What Does the Bible Say About Gun Control?

Maybe all this lunacy is hard to avoid in a place like the US. Diversity doesn’t guarantee sanity. The UK is smaller and it’s easier to manage the craziness. Our total population is only about twice that of California; about 20% of the US as a whole. There are fewer backwaters where craziness can unfold unseen in plain sight, though we’ve had our share.

In Hungerford UK in 1987 Michale Ryan killed 16 people. How did he manage to kill so many? Semi-automatic rifles and a hand gun. Surprise. In 2010 Derek Bird killed 12. His weapons: a double-barrelled shotgun and a .22-calibre rifle with a scope and silencer. But part of the problem in this case was that he was on the move. The death toll could have been less had he tried a single location spree. Without automatic weapons there’s the opportunity to fight back at some point, or to evade the shooter. Without any firearms the nut case is even more limited in the damage he can do.

This is the armoury of James Eagan Holmes, suspect killer of 58, as reported on wiki:

On May 22, 2012, Holmes purchased a Glock 22 pistol at a Gander Mountain shop in Aurora, and six days later bought a Remington Model 870 shotgun at a Bass Pro Shops in Denver. On June 7, just hours after failing his oral exam at the university, he purchased a Smith & Wesson M&P15 semi-automatic rifle, with a second Glock 22 pistol following on July 6. All the weapons were bought legally. In the four months prior to the shooting, Holmes also bought 3000 rounds of ammunition for the pistols, 3000 rounds for the M&P15, and 350 shells for the shotgun over the Internet. On July 2, he placed an order for a Blackhawk Urban Assault Vest, two magazine holders and a knife at an online retailer.

His defence at the moment is based on his mental state. But would his mental state have enabled him to kill so many without all the firepower?

Obviously not. Surely that is obvious, right? But I’ve got it all wrong it seems. Gun control isn’t the answer!

Larry Pratt, executive director of Gun Owners of America, believes we should arm the teachers. This, from the New Yorker:

“Following the Newtown shooting, Larry Pratt, the Executive Director of Gun Owners for America, suggested that these massacres might be avoided in the future, if only more teachers were armed.”

Be prepared, for your next job interview:

Yes, you have a PhD in your subject, have taught at several prestigious schools and come with glowing references. But I see that you are only expert in small arms. Is there some reason why you never trained with semi-automatics? You’re not a God-damned Darwinian Evolutionary pacifist sun of a bitch are you?

The New Yorker again:

“As Pratt’s sentiment should make clear, the United States has slipped its moorings and drifted into a realm of profound national lunacy.”

Slipped? Drifted? As in dived headlong?

Anticipated teacher training:

Lesley’s Salford Experience

Lesley posted an interesting item today in which she described her experience of Salford. I know Salford quite well, though I grew up on Langley – another notorious area that suffered many of these same problems.

The post was mainly about homosexuality. But what I found more interesting was the type of society that exists in these places that, despite all the publicity, is still below the radar for most educated people. There are plenty of hard working decent honest people in these areas (that’s right off a politician’s crib sheet) who live side by side with troubled families.

We think the gulf of understanding between atheists and theists is great – it’s nothing compared to the gulf between the educated middle classes and this under-class. Let’s not mince words; there are very different segments of our society, and even though we no longer like to think in terms of classes, that’s as good a term as any.

The recent Raoul Moat Facebook page comes to mind. I urge you to listen to this: Siobhan O’Dowd. What you hear is a severely uneducated woman being taken down a peg or two by a reasonably articulate radio presenter. All his points are reasonable. It’s so endemic in these sub-cultures to be so anti-police that anyone who evades them is a ‘legend’. Siobhan O’Dowd isn’t condoning any of the harm Moat caused, but isn’t the least bit sympathetic for the police efforts or the expense of mounting the police efforts. Her mind is filled with this screwed (to us) view of affairs, “I wouldn’t say he’s a legend for shooting people, but I would say he’s a legend for keeping the police on their toes, like I’ve told you about five times.”

If you don’t get this ‘other world’ that they live in, then you don’t get quite a lot about life.

Here’s someone who misunderstands, who comments on the clip, “What a disgrace of a human being.. the chav whore.” Another, “this stupid bitch should be steralized and lobotomized.” Another, “Ian is awesome!? This interview is hilarious. Siobahn O’Dowd is fucking retarded.”

Well, she may or may not be clinically retarded or otherwise biologically impaired, but she seems to suffer a psychological depravation that comes from a life of poor education, poverty, and being forced to mix with others in the same deprived environment.

If school doesn’t catch you and inspire you, if you come from a poor home that offers you little, if you can’t figure out that a 200% or 2000% interest to a loan shark isn’t a good deal, if a good bargain is knocked-off tele or mobile from the pub, if you think the police are your enemy, if you think the ‘Social’ is out to screw you and you’re entitled to screw them, then you are basically screwed for the rest of your life, and you are bound to repeat the whole experience for your own children.

To think the Siobhan O’Dowd’s are in control of their lives to any great degree beyond instinctive short sighted responses to problems that come their way, is to be mistaken. To think the common notion of free-will is at work in many of these individuals is a mistake. I’d say it would be mistaken understanding of free-will, but that’s another story – yet our misunderstanding of free-will colours our judgement.

This is our under-class, that includes the Siobhan O’Dowd’s, the mothers who spend more on cigs than their kids’ meals, and the women who learn that some of the men in this environment can’t be trusted, because those men too grew up in the same environment, where their inherent worthlessness leads to the abuse of women and children. You have to get a feel for how lost they are to what we consider a normal life to appreciate how much beyond self-help many of them are.

This isn’t a liberal lefty plea to let everyone off the hook. As members of a society we have a right (we invent this right and claim it) to have a say in how our fellow members behave, to some extent: Golden Rule, least harm, whatever your view is. We are prepared to say that some behaviours are intolerable, and so we avoid where we can, and criminalise where we have to.

We often hear kids say, “I didn’t ask to be born.” when trying to avoid their responsibilities. Well, many of these people didn’t ask to be born into poor families in deprived areas that condemn them and their children to this perpetual cycle. They will not, cannot, break the cycle. They cannot live up to their responsibilities because they are not equipped to do so.

Only the rest of us can do that for them, if we want to. We can make gestures like Lesley’s and help on the ground – but this only alleviates a specific problem for some people. If there is no political will to make bigger changes then we have to accept that this is how it will be.

Political Islam

There may be plenty of British Muslims that are perfectly peaceful, want nothing more than to be allowed to follow Islam on a personal basis.

But that isn’t where the trouble for democracy lies. This Telegraph article, and this Channel 4 Dispatches programme, show the real intent of many ‘politicised’ Muslims. But it’s not as if being ‘politicised’ is restricted to a few fundementalists. Islam is both a religious and a political movement, and it’s long term intentions are made clear over and over again. And the concept of infiltrating organisations that have views or policies that are incompatible with Islam (i.e. with Sharia) with the intent of taking control and applying Sharia wherever they can, is perfectly compatible with the long term aims of Islam.

Pay attention!