Wednesday, 14 August 2019

Hot Air Emissions: Nigel Farage and the Royals

Well, he's done it again. Nigel Farage has had his ups and downs since he wrote the Christmas Message for this blog in 2016. He's left UKIP now they've shown their true colours, founded a so-called political party and been returned as an MEP, together with a number of fellow Little Englanders. Oh, dear - what a shame he can't keep spouting offensive opinions! You would think that he had enough to do, spearheading the march into the Brexit abyss, without passing pub-loudmouth opinions on the royal family. Is Mr Farage a pub loudmouth? Surely not!
Well, he has certainly upset a lot of people by his recent unguarded remarks about the royals. As we know, he described the late Queen Mother as " overweight, chain-smoking gin drinker". He was on a working holiday in Australia when he said it, and I wonder what he was drinking at the time. It might even have been gin.
He derided Prince Charles as "Charlie Boy", and said that he hoped the Queen would live long enough to stop the prince becoming king.
Of particular interest, though, are his comments about Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. As "The Sun" says:
"He criticised them for their “irrelevant” environmental and social justice campaigns when asked about their decision to have “two kids, maximum”.Farage also said Prince Harry used to be a “young, brave, boisterous” man who was the “most popular royal of a generation”.But he added that it has now “fallen off a cliff” after he met the 38-year-old American actress."
Now it gets interesting. Yesterday on Jeremy Vine's radio programme, the writer, Yasmine Alibhai-Brown, accused Mr Farage of "coded racism"; Stephen Doughty MP openly accused him of racism. He told "The Mirror":
"With his vile comments about the Royal Family, laced with barely concealed racism, Farage yet again shows his true colours. He's a pound shop fascist who only drapes himself in the British flag when it suits.'
Of these two reactions, I believe that of Mrs Alibhai-Brown to be closer to the truth. When the future wedding of the now Duke and Duchess of Sussex was announced, I believed it to be one in the eye for racists all over the world. I should have known that the racists would not take it without lashing back. The most extreme example of this was the planned terrorist attack on Prince Harry by two neo-Nazis. There is also what appears to be a sustained adverse publicity campaign against Meghan by the right-wing media. I'm not a royal watcher, but she seems to be under constant criticism  for all manner of minor infringements.
These "infringements" are hardly earth-shattering. She has a lavish lifestyle (haven't all the royals?); she has been guest editor of "Vogue" (what's wrong with a hobby?); she has a baby shower (so what?); she is allegedly trying to "celebritify" the royal family (what's new?). None of these activities are atypical of what the royals have already done. Quite rightly, many people have suspected that there are other reasons for this hostility to Meghan from the right-wing British press: she is a commoner; she has been divorced; she is (oh, dear!) an American; she (to use a Victorian racist phrase) has "a touch of the tarbrush", ie. is of mixed race. For me, and hopefully many others, these "outrages" are totally uninteresting and irrelevant. These spiteful attacks upon Meghan are clearly motivated by xenophobia, racism and old fashioned snobbery of the worst kind.
To return to Nigel Farage, I think it wrong to describe him as a racist or fascist, coded or pound shop. I believe Farage to be the same type of political operator as was his idol, Enoch Powell. Powell denied being a racist, as has Farage, yet both have an enthusiastic racist following. This is where Yasmine Alibhai-Brown has a point. Even though both men made no overtly racist statements, and perhaps have held no racist sentiments, the racist elements in our society interpret the public utterances of both Powell and Farage as being sympathetic to them. Please read my recent post as an example.
To finish on a simple human note, rather than a political one, I do hope Harry and Meghan weather the media storm around them at the present time. If they can maintain their happy relationship, that is the best possible way to confound their critics. Like the rest of us, they are entitled to go their own way.

Monday, 5 August 2019

A Tale of Two Fantasists and Their Victims

The two men whose faces appear in the photo above are separated in time by more than half a century. The man on the left is Noel Pemberton-Billing (1881-1948); the other is 51-year old Carl Beech (aka "Nick"), who has recently been sentenced to 18 years in prison for making false and malicious allegations against a number of high-profile figures.
Separated by time, background, class and a number of other factors, they have one thing in common: both these men are fantasists who made false but damaging allegations against prominent people. One has been punished and the other got away with his crime, but we will come to that.
Pemberton-Billing was an upwardly-mobile adventurer who became an MP in 1916. He became known for his obsession with "enemies within" - Germans, initially, despite being married to a part-German woman, but he attacked Jews as well. He founded a virulently anti-German, anti-Semitic news paper called "The Imperialist", later renamed "The Vigilante". On February 16, 1918, he published a story attacking the Canadian dancer and actress, Maud Allan, who was about to stage a private performance of the Oscar Wilde play, Salome. Billing saw an opportunity."Headstuff" comments here:

" He had been targeting Margot Asquith, wife of the former Prime Minister Herbert Asquith, for some time and he now claimed that Margot and Maud were conducting a lesbian affair orchestrated by German puppetmasters. Furthermore he claimed that they were at the centre of a great conspiracy to enlist the wives of powerful men into what he called, with a typical lack of constraint, the “Cult of the Clitoris”.

He also claimed to know of the existence of a "Black Book" in which were listed the names of 47,000 prominent Britons who were at risk of being blackmailed by the Germans for homosexuality and general depravity.
To cut a long story short (and it's well worth reading about in full), Maud Allan felt compelled to sue, despite the fact that she actually was gay, which Billing and his legal team could have exploited. With the help of mendacious witnesses, who claimed to have seen the non-existent book, and despite the absurd nature of Billing's claims, Billing won his case and was acquitted, to loud applause from the public. Basil Thompson, head of Special Branch, commented:

“Everyone concerned appeared to have been either insane or to have behaved as if he were.”

After the war, Billing's witnesses were discredited and he bowed out of politics, but this did not repair the harm done to the reputation and life of his main victim: Maud Allan.
Maud Allan's career did not survive the acquittal of the man who libelled her. She went into professional decline, eking out a living as a dance teacher and sinking into genteel poverty. She left Britain for the USA, dying in Los Angeles in 1956 at the age of 83. There are several videos about her, and her dancing heyday, on YouTube.
 History does not record the effect of Billing's calumny upon Margot Asquith.
Pemberton-Billing died in obscurity in 1948. The newspapers did not report his death, and only WW1 buffs like me remember him at all - and then with the utmost contempt.
The case of Carl Beech is well known.

As we are aware, this man, using the pseudonym of "Nick", made a number of accusations against public figures, leading to police raids upon their homes and placing these men under intolerable pressure. Unlike Pemberton-Billing, Beech was exposed as a liar when his claims were shown to have no basis in fact. The police, however, have a number of questions to answer, first among which is: why were his lies listened to so readily? Was it because of the criticism levelled at them because of the refusal to listen to the victims of Jimmy Saville? As the BBC says:
"The Met publicly described Beech's allegations at the time as "credible and true", and they were given further publicity by Labour's deputy leader, Tom Watson, and media organisations, including the BBC".
Two years of investigations, and several million pounds, produced no evidence of wrongdoing.
One common factor with the Pemberton-Billing affair, though, is the damage done to the lives of the victims.
Harvey Proctor lost out severely because of Beech's allegations. He lost his job, his home and was target of a good deal of public abuse, so bad that he fled abroad. It is difficult to refute his claim that a thorough investigation would have torpedoed "Nick's" allegations.
Lord Janner's son, Daniel, told "Jewish News":
“It’s hard to underestimate just how appalling these allegations of the most serious kind have been in terms of their effect. Carl Beech manipulated for money and lied about my late father and others, lies of the most horrendous kind."
Lord Janner died in 2015.

Beech, when making his allegations, described Lord Leon Brittan, who also died in 2015, as " a brutal, sadistic and evil man". As Brittan was terminally ill when these allegations surfaced, it is difficult to imagine his feelings, as it is for his family in the light of the verdict against Beech. There are many other victims, and, says "The Spectator", four people have some serious questions to answer. They are Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, Tom Watson, retired detective Kenny MacDonald and Exaro reporter, Mark Conrad ("Beech's most trusted confidant"). Just these four? That's probably an underestimate; perhaps we should ask ourselves why we are so ready to believe that celebrities are engaged in nefarious activities.
So, then, we have two cases with a century between them, both brought about by pathological liars with axes to grind. Both generated an enormous amount of publicity; both led to damaged lives and reputations.
While I have every sympathy for all victims and their families in these two cases, I can't help but think of the many ordinary people who are wrongly accused of crimes (and I've known some!) whose stories are never told.
The fake news operator himself - described by Noel Halifax as "the Nigel Farage of his day".

Sunday, 4 August 2019

Amazon and Nazi Literature - Complaints Ignored

In the current edition of "Searchlight", the anti-fascist magazine, there is an article  by Jerry Goldman - "Still on the Shelf". Goldman is writing about what can only be described as an ongoing scandal: the fact that extreme right wing literature is available for sale on Amazon. This is not a new issue. In 2016, I learned that "The Turner Diaries", which inspired fascist terrorists such as David James Copeland, the London nail bomber and the Oklahoma City bomber, Timothy McVeigh and is thought to have influenced the murderer of Jo Cox, Thomas Mair, was being sold on Amazon. It is still available on the Amazon website at £15.99. Complaints about this from individuals and religious organisations have had little, or no effect.
However, I underestimated the extent of extremist literature that Amazon sells, and I have to thank Jerry Goldman for highlighting just how bad the situation is. There are books by Colin Jordan (late and unlamented British Nazi), Arthur Butz (Holocaust denier), Fred Leuchter (David Irving's favourite researcher), Mark Collett (ex- BNP youth leader) and many others. As might be predicted from this, we find David Irving's books on sale, despite his convictions for Holocaust denial. Most disgusting, though, is the presence of books by at least two murderous Nazis who were executed for crimes against humanity in 1946: Alfred Rosenberg, author of "The Track of the Jew Through the Ages" and Julius Streicher, pictured above.
Streicher was a leading Nazi Party member with a special interest in anti-Semitic propaganda. He founded the newspaper, "Der Sturmer", and, sickeningly, wrote several anti-Semitic books for children, one of which is pictured above. It sells for £7.64 on Amazon and has three customer reviews, two of which are commendably hostile and one contemptibly favourable. A Mr Andreas Backman gives the book five stars and describes the book thus: "This is the forbidden truth". No prizes for guessing Mr Backman's political allegiance! Were this not bad enough, Hitler's "Mein Kampf" is sold by Amazon for £8.99 (paperback) and 98p (Kindle edition). Before the advent of Amazon, such literature was hard to come by, being sold by extreme right-wing booksellers linked to outfits such as the National Front or British Movement. Amazon, it seems, has cornered the fascist market, and the Fash don't seem to have any complaints.
As for Amazon, they (predictably), defend their sale of such poisonous material by making it a free speech issue. telling the online magazine, Quartz:
“as a bookseller, we provide our customers with access to a variety of viewpoints, including books that some customers may find objectionable."

Amazon, says Quartz, prohibits hate speech:

"They do not allow, for instance, products that promote, incite or glorify hatred, violence, racial, sexual or religious intolerance or promote organizations with such views. “We’ll also remove listings that graphically portray violence or victims of violence,” Amazon’s terms say. Yet these terms “apply to all products except books, music, video and DVD,” arguably the categories most likely to include such content."

Besides this, as Jerry Goldman points out, Amazon has "some of the toughest lawyers in the world." Anyone seeking to tackle Amazon on this matter in the courts will need very deep pockets. So, the far Right can continue to direct their followers who want to read more of their vile propaganda to the Amazon website, and there's nothing that we can do to stop them.
Or perhaps there is...
In his article, Goldman says that:
"Although Amazon removed such books (see above) from its online store in countries where Holocaust denial is illegal, they remain available to shoppers in Britain".
That being the case, it points to a need for the UK to fall into line with the rest of Europe by making Holocaust denial illegal, thus putting an end to Amazon's sale of all such material. However, as we now have one of the most right-wing governments in living memory, that does not look likely.
The best place for neo-Nazi and racist literature.