Tag Archives: society

Paolo Di Canio: Is Fascism acceptable now?

So this weekend, premier league strugglers, Sunderland fired their manager Martin O’Neill and replaced him with self-declared fascist, Paolo Di Canio. Now, I know you’re going to say, “but what does it matter, as long as Sunderland stay up?”

You may not worry about the man’s political views, but when those same views (held by others) are responsible for the deaths of millions of people (Jews, Gypsies, etc) I think we should be concerned. And they concerned former foreign secretary, David Miliband – himself of Jewish extraction – so much that he resigned from the Sunderland board immediately. Apparently, that’s an overreaction. It’s lead to calls for Di Canio to “clarify” his political beliefs.

Firstly, it amuses me how they legitimise an anti-democratic, racist ideology by referring to them as beliefs. Now, before you all come squealing at me “he’s not a racist, he said so”, I’ll just remind you that one characteristic of fascism is demonisation of a scapegoat. This can be a political scapegoat, like communists, but is often an ethnic group or foreigners in general. Just look at Golden Dawn in Greece for an example of this.

(If you want to read more of fascism’s characteristics, here’s a good link)

Secondly, while some are concerned about an extremist at the helm of a premiership football club, others are wondering what’s the big deal. After all, it’s only his political views. What’s worrying about the second attitude is the disregard for the dangers of what an extremist ideology can do, and also the disrespect shown to all those who fought and died fighting fascism in Europe during the 1930s and 1940s. It follows the growing popularity of extremist organisations across Europe – The National Front in France, Golden Dawn in Greece, the English Defence League – which are responding to the economic crisis by blaming migrants, specifically North African/South Asian migrants, for the mess the banks caused. Where will it end? Views that were once considered repulsive, are slowly becoming acceptable and popular among a section of society.

As Pastor Martin Niemoller once wrote;

First they came for the communists,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a communist.

Then they came for the socialists,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a socialist.

Then they came for the trade unionists,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a Jew.

Then they came for the Catholics,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a Catholic.

Then they came for me,
and there was no one left to speak for me.

One day, fascist ideology will have made such progress into society that there will be no one left who is shocked and repulsed by it.

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Coalition whacks the poor in the wallet

Last night with his merry majority of 56, Iain Duncan Smith won his vote to cap benefits to a 1% (one percent) rise per year. The Tory logic is that “it’s not fair” on hard-working people (read: “deserving poor”) who haven’t had an wage rise for years.

Very well, but if you look at the list of welfare benefits that this change will effect, most are received by those in work on low incomes – for example, tax credits and income support. Even the Department for Work and Pensions, admitted the poorest would suffer most. That includes those in work, as well as those stuck on Jobseekers Allowance because the recession kicked them out of work.

So what is the point of these changes, if rather than help the poor, they actually push them closer to poverty. IDS referenced the answer in the debate yesterday when he said that Labour spent

“like drunks on a Friday night”.

Meaning that this is not so much about benefit reform as deficit reduction. Then the question is, why do you expect the poor to pay off the deficit? What do you expect to get out of someone on a very low income, apart from beans and crumbs? It seems that by targeting a section of the poor perceived to be scroungers, (and Labour are just as guilty of using this inflammatory language) public attention is diverted away from the real scroungers and cheats – the large corporations and mega-rich individuals who exploit every loophole going to avoid paying the correct amount of tax. That’s you, Vodafone, Amazon, Starbucks and Lord Ashcroft! If the public realised that the financial problems aren’t caused by a single mother struggling to feed her kids on a tiny wage and tax credits, then the Tories may just be worried.

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The Paralympics and Atos

(It’s a slightly black joke, but all good satire is slightly dark)

As we all watch the Paralympics and smile patronisingly at the disabled people competing, a good number of the population sense the irony in one of LOCOG’s choice of sponsors. Atos – also the government’s choice of stick to beat the disabled into work. Are they standing in the changing rooms with clip boards assessing the athletes? “Right. You’ve just wheeled 100m in twenty seconds, you’re fit for work.”

That may not be accurate, but it’s a good illustration of what the company is doing to disabled people across the country. From people in wheelchairs to cancer patients to the visually impaired. People with a range of disabilities have been given less than the 15 points required for Employment and Support Allowance, and are declared fit for work.

To most people this would seem illogical. How can you force people who are not in the physical shape to work? A cancer patient is too sick to have to add work to the schedule of chemo and radiotherapy. A visually impaired person cannot be expected to see dangers, and would be a danger to themselves and others a workplace. How can Atos and the Department for Work and Pensions decide that a wheelchair-bound person is able to work, when many areas of public transport are not open to them? Then there’s an issue of throwing more people into the job cattle market, when there are no jobs to apply for.

See the irony? A stage for people with disabilities (and good at sport) to shine, being sponsored by a company that is contracted to make their lives as horrible as possible. No matter how much the coalition say, “oh we’ve got to cut public spending”, “the previous government left the country’s finances in a mess” – it does not justify picking on those less able or disadvantaged.

So, while you watch the Paralympic coverage and marvel at those disabled people who excel at sport – remember that many people like them (without the “good at sport” bit) are having to fight a dirty war for something they are entitled to.

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Why Cameron can’t sack Hunt

Baroness Warsi: Takes family member on official trip, and fails to disclose business interest.
Jeremy Hunt: Responsible for overseeing the BskyB takeover (which would have required impartial judgement). Sends texts and makes phone calls to James Murdoch, congratulating him whenever the bid made some progress.

Now, who did David Cameron refer to the Ministerial Code Advisor? Only Baroness Warsi. Hunt, who was clearly too close to The Murdochs to judge the BskyB bid impartially – something that we all knew then, and was confirmed with his appearance at the Leveson Inquiry – survives for now. Both have done wrong but the Prime Minister protects one of them, and it’s very obvious why.

1. Andy Coulson – Ex News of the Screws editor, Ex communications chief at Number 10 and just this week charged with Perjury by a Scottish court for lying under oath during the perjury trial of Tommy Sheridan. Coulson resigned from NOTW, remarkably claims to know nothing about phone-hacking and later resigned from his job at Number 10. Cameron refused to send Coulson away with his P45. You could argue that Coulson might not have known about phone hacking, but that would just make him an incompetent boss. Incompetent or criminal – neither justify keeping him at Number 10 for so long.

2. Rebekah and Charlie Brooks – Close friends of David Cameron who were recently charged with perverting the course of justice. Rebekah Brooks was the editor of another Murdoch tabloid The Sun, has been described as like a daughter to Murdoch and last year resigned from her News International position as the Phone Hacking story really blew up.

So, you might say. Cameron’s surrounded by ex-Murdoch employees, doesn’t mean he’s close to Murdoch. Well, a quick Google search for “Cameron and Murdoch” reveals,

The PM met a News Corp board member secretly in November 2009. If there was nothing untoward in this meeting, why did he not disclose it sooner?

Rebekah Brooks mentioned in her evidence to the Leveson Inquiry that Cameron had met her and the Murdochs at social occasions. Also, James Murdoch discussed the BskyB deal with Cameron over dinner.

It’s worth remembering that Hunt was handed the responsibility for judging the BskyB deal after Vince Cable had been recorded saying he had “declared war on Murdoch”, and was deemed to be too partisan. Interesting then that they should choose someone partisan towards Murdoch. They couldn’t have Murdoch’s bid for domination of the sky halted by some old man who hated Murdoch.

So it’s obvious that Cameron is so deeply involved in the Murdoch family, that he can’t possibly refer Hunt to Ministerial Codeman or remove him from the cabinet. In this case, they really are all in it together.

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Misogyny Online: Mensch and Mary

I was reminded of this song by Christina Aguilera last weekend, and the lyrics made me think of the abuse that the Conservative MP Louise Mensch suffered for contributing to a debate on a parliamentary committee.

Now, I don’t normally agree with Louise Mensch – we are at opposing sides of the centre ground to have much in common – but I was very uncomfortable when I read some of the misogynist abuse she received after voicing her opinion on Rupert Murdoch. There’s nothing wrong with disagreeing with her views on the subject of News International, but why single her out for abuse (not debate) when there were two male Conservatives who took exactly the same line as her? Is it easier to attack a woman?

Then there was what the sneering, Times columnist AA Gill said about TV Historian and Cambridge professor, Mary Beard;

‘The hair is a disaster, the outfit an embarrassment. If you are going to invite yourself into the front rooms of the living, then you need to make an effort.’

Firstly, Mary Beard may not be conventionally attractive (by which I mean, clear skin and no wrinkles) but she’s not so hideous that she should not be allowed on television without a paper bag. Even if she was, does it matter? She’s presenting a history documentary, not American’s Next Top Model. Secondly, would AA Gill ever criticise David Starkey for his appearance on a history documentary? It comes back to the same point I made about Louise Mensch. Why single the woman out for abuse, when the same comment could equally be made about some men?

The Guardian conversation this week got me thinking about the level of misogyny online, and is there more misogyny now? Part of it comes down to the fact that on the internet you are hiding behind an avatar and a username, as I am doing right now – although my username is my initials and my last name, so unimaginative am I. Basically, this anonymity makes some people believe they can say what the heck they like, including racist and sexist comments. Also, the fact that the internet is so open means that you don’t need to be particularly tolerant to sign up to twitter or facebook and start posting bile. You just need a computer and an ISP. The hatred and misogyny has always been there, but they now have an audience of a couple of hundred rather than a few close friends. What’s said on the internet is a reflection of what’s said in society. So perhaps we should ask, why is society so misogynist?

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