Right-wing vs Left-wing Libertarianism

MoronWatch came into existence to take snarky aim, on Twitter, at right-wing stupidity, religious/superstitious fundamentalism, bigotry and state brutality – a mish-mash of interests which all come under the umbrella of “moron-watching”. Those who have followed my blog for a while will realise the wheels began to come off this objective a couple of years ago, as my eyes were opened to immense depths of stupidity on the left as well as the right. Having been active on the left for a while in the 80s, I’ve been shocked and saddened by the intellectual decline that has taken place on the left while I’ve not been paying attention.

I’ve had to acknowledge the hypocrisy of attacking science-denial among fundamentalists (evolution) and conservatives (climate change) while ignoring science denial on the left (GMOs, nuclear power vs fossil fuel, biological determinism). Even more deeply, I couldn’t continue to comment on right-wing attacks on freedom while ignoring that the left has become every bit as authoritarian – or often even more so.

The intellectual collapse of both right and left has been met with an anti-politics trend that is mostly even less intelligent than the mainstream. The idiotic idea that “it’s all broken” and needs smashing is brutish and dangerous, and is as prevalent on the Farage-supporting old-white-man right as among the infantile Russell Brand “revolutionaries”. Smashing everything appeals to the ignorant and the elitist, but risks making things far worse, and turning back the clock on centuries of progress.

A New Enlightenment

The problems we face today have been faced repeatedly before. The solution lies in crowd-sourcing, to use a modern word for an old idea: people power. Not the power to storm parliaments in masks (that inevitably appeals to an elitist few who think they have all the answers), but the power to apply intellect and provide answers. How can our 7 billion brains (as well as our man-made thinking machines) be best applied to finding solutions to problems?

The answer is centuries old, and was provided by the most powerful thought revolution that has shaken humanity: The Enlightenment, which laid down a set of simple principles:

Liberty and Free Expression: The fewer restrictions there are on expression, the greater the variety of ideas that can enter the shared meme pool. A free marketplace of ideas, allowed to flourish, will allow the best ideas to triumph over the rest. No elite can be allowed to restrict the flow of ideas based on its own idea of right and wrong. Expression must be protected on principle: all of it. No individual or group has the right to suppress ideas. The antidote to bad ideas can only come in the form of better ideas. Censorship is a fundamental obstacle to human progress.

But how will such a process select the “right” answers among all the wrong ones? The second principle is:

Reason: Non-scientists tend to see science as a list of disciplines, each with their own lists of facts. But at its core, science is a method for allowing good ideas to float up, while the bad ones sink and die. In place of censorship, there is reason. In place of dogma, there is objective examination of evidence. Ideas are measured, not based on their popularity at any given time, but on the strength of the reasoned argument that backs them. Right answers always begin as minority positions, but given the application of reason, and the maintenance of a free marketplace of ideas, they will become majority ones in time.

Liberty and reason cannot thrive in a society without a commitment to…

Equality: A free marketplace of ideas cannot work without equal access. While plenty of lip-service is paid to equality, in practise it comes under attack constantly. In the recent past, equality was mostly threatened by the unfair treatment of women, racial and other minorities. But following the great political and cultural battles of the 1960s, laws were enacted against discriminatory behaviour, and the culture rapidly changed in response. But increasingly, denial of equality comes from the left rather than the right.

Where Has the Left Gone Wrong?

Today’s left has largely abandoned the very Enlightenment values that led to the birth of left-wing ideas in the 19th century.

On liberty, the left is worse, if possible, than the right. Sexual freedom – once the preserve of the left – now comes under more frequent attack from the left than the right. Recent attempts to ban prostitution in Europe have come about via a bizarre alliance of feminists with the religious fundamentalists. Similarly, music videos (especially by black artists) have been deemed “too sexualised” (with vicious slut-shaming attacks on Beyoncé, Rihanna and Nicki Minaj, among others), and there are regular calls for music videos to be censored. The banning of “offensive” speech is championed with equal enthusiasm by Daily Mail readers and Guardianistas. Student Unions have taken deeply censorious approaches towards what can or can’t be said on campus. The last Labour government introduced some of the most draconian censorship laws ever seen in the UK, to deal with the phantom problem of “extreme porn”. In practise, these laws have been used to attack the sexual activities of consenting adults. The Exhibit B art exhibition was closed down in London on the (almost certainly false) grounds that it was “racist”. Free expression – including bad, offensive, hateful expression – must be defended on principle.

On reason, the left appears to have lost its mind. Last week, the EU sacked a senior science adviser for telling the truth; a truth that upset an alliance of left-wing and environmentalist campaigners: that genetically modified foods are not harmful. Science that disagrees with left-wing dogma is attacked viciously.

And the left has largely abandoned its quest for equality. Instead, special rules are put forward for “oppressed” groups. Thus, non-whites are deemed to be incapable of racial bigotry, and women – as with children – are to be given special protections that men don’t need. The fact that male bodies are considered “safe” for public display, but not female ones, is one of many examples of where the left has quietly abandoned the quest for equality. Special treatment has replaced equality, and comes in the form of privileges in response to “oppressions” that are ill-defined. The left is increasingly stuck in the swamp of identity politics, determined to find oppression where none exists, and to rectify it by creating new remedies that deepen rather than solve inequality.

A Cross-Spectrum Libertarianism

Fascism could be defined as a nationalistic, ultra-conservative movement that rejects Enlightenment values. On that basis, today’s left and right have both become tainted with fascist ideology. Ironically, in UK politics, it is the Conservative Party that has tried to shake off its most backward instincts (inadvertently helping build UKIP), while the Labour Party has collapsed into a new conservatism.

Today, libertarianism is associated with right-wing attitudes – but it doesn’t have to be so. In response to the new rise of fascistic attitudes in Europe, the response must be for the left – as well as the right – to rekindle the Enlightenment. Thus, the left-right political spectrum has become relatively unimportant – what instead matters is a commitment to liberty and reason across the political spectrum. Cross-spectrum libertarianism would establish Enlightenment values as the foremost goal, to stop and roll back the spread of fascism, with differences between left and right to be treated as a secondary “problem”.

What is Left-Wing Libertarianism?

Right-wing libertarianism uses tricks of language that first need to be unravelled. The “state” is seen as a uniformly bad thing, but in fact libertarians tend to use the word loosely to mean three separate things:

The Security State: The state is the apparatus for maintaining control of society, and typically acts to maintain the status quo: the rule of the wealthy. The state includes the police, prison system, army and bureaucracy. To libertarians of left and right, the state must be seen as a necessary (or perhaps unnecessary) evil, and shrunk to the maximum extent possible. It’s fine for left and right libertarians to argue among themselves as to how quickly, and to what extent the state should be rolled back.

The Welfare State: In hindsight, the naming of the welfare state was unfortunate. It allows right-wing libertarians to blur it with the security state. Left-wing libertarians should separate these two things: one can accept that police powers should be reduced without needing to believe that universal healthcare or education are bad things. In fact, one can construct a libertarian argument for providing universal services, where the market has failed to deliver: using a pragmatic idea of liberty, rather than a dogmatic “liberty is the absence of a state” one, it’s clear that universal healthcare, efficient public transport systems and street lighting (for example) enhance rather than reduce individual liberty.

Government: Libertarians dishonestly confuse the state with government. All groups of people, left to themselves, will find that communities are better to live in with a set of shared values and services, and will naturally create their own governments to manage things. Government, so long as it is democratic and subservient to the will of the people, is not the same as the state. Government requires funding. The libertarian mantra that “tax is theft” is a near-religious mantra, not an intelligent policy position. Even the most libertarian village would eventually require every member to contribute to shared services. A pure libertarian society would last until the first cholera outbreak revealed the need for a collectively funded sewage system.

So it is quite possible for left-wing libertarians to defend the National Health Service, the welfare state, universal education, mass transit, etc. while defending Enlightenment values of liberty, reason, equality.

From a libertarian position, the left can show the flaws in right-wing libertarianism: for example, many libertarians are climate change deniers; not because the evidence is in doubt, but because they oppose coordinated government action on principle. Denying scientific fact that is inconvenient to your beliefs is a rejection of reason. The right must learn that markets are not the panacea to every problem, and that community action is sometimes necessary. But the left must also accept that market solutions are the best in many cases.

We need to stop worrying, for now, about our left/right identities and instead unite to reawaken the Enlightenment. This isn’t a luxury: it is the only antidote to fascism.

How the Middle Classes Appropriated “Oppression”

When I were a lad (yes, even Londoners had northern accents back then), and a left-wing activist, we were greatly concerned about oppression; and in the 1980s, there was no shortage of examples. The South African police had shot dead schoolchildren in Soweto in 1976, and continued to gun down innocents on a regular basis. In Latin America, US-backed dictatorships kidnapped, tortured and murdered thousands of activists. In Nicaragua, El Salvador, Guatemala, US-backed terrorists attacked civilians on a wide scale, with a special love of atrocity. In Africa, civilians were slaughtered in proxy wars between the US and USSR. Asia saw brutality on an unimaginable scale.

The left stood for the rights of oppressed peoples, but understood clearly that oppression is primarily a function of economic means, not of race, sex or sexuality. While we also opposed prejudice on these grounds, and supported women’s rights, gay rights and anti-racism causes, we knew that ultimately, oppression and poverty were inextricably linked.

But the left slowly died as the Cold War came to an end, and capitalism (coupled with social democracy) proved itself more resilient than Marx had predicted. The death of the British left can be located to a particular date: 3rd March 1985, when the miners sadly walked back to work after their long strike. For me, and many of my friends, this marked the point when our activism ended and we drifted away to live our lives.

But the organs of the left remained, and were rapidly taken over by a new breed: overwhelmingly white, middle-class and rooted in academia rather than trade unionism. This new left failed to understand the economics of poverty and oppression (never having witnessed these things themselves), so set about writing themselves a new ideology. So we found ourselves thrust into the era of identity politics.

The new left lacked the intellect of the old, and found itself making the most fundamental of all mistakes: confusing correlation with causation. So the left now sought out new groups that appeared to oppressed. Because white people held the most economic power, the moronic left reasoned that skin colour was a cause of oppression, and labelled all non-whites as victims. And since laws had been rigged against women, the left decided that mere possession of a vagina was equivalent to oppression.

While paying lip service to the oppression of the poor, the overwhelming white, academic, middle-class left no longer had any links with the working class, and so they focused on rescuing the oppressed groups they knew best: themselves. Largely, this meant that the individuals with the most “oppressions” (yes, I’ve really seen it used in the plural) were fast-tracked to the top. Those who screamed their self-pity the loudest became the most powerful, fast-tracked into political power.

But the rise of gay and black (often both) individuals was orchestrated by the white people who kept a firm hand on the reins. Black people would only be allowed into the hierarchy if they accepted that they were oppressed. Gay and non-white people who didn’t see themselves as oppressed by their colour or sexuality were labelled self-haters, and side-tracked. Non-white activists like Linda Bellos, Lee Jasper and Diane Abbott were only acceptable because they echoed the view of the white, middle-class establishment that they were oppressed.

In the intervening years, the self-pitying rhetoric of “oppression” and “privilege” has only gained further ground, to the extent that the meaning of these two words has been twisted almost beyond recognition. Almost comically, white, middle-class women appear to have decided that they are the most oppressed of all. Now, oppression isn’t something that happens to you. It’s something that you are. Now, oppression isn’t having your children shot dead, or a daily struggle to feed one’s family. No, oppression is a white middle-class woman, with a good job, having to endure the fact that men like looking at pictures of breasts. The following is a genuine tweet from just such an oppressed woman:

On tube sat next to a man reading The Sun and thus I start my day feeling a continuing sense of oppression

One wonders if Prozac might be the solution to this sort of oppression… or perhaps just a nice spliff. But I digress.

The old left tried to overturn oppression, but to the new left, this is pointless. Rather than fix inequalities, the left has decided to cement inequality into place permanently. Now, anybody labelled Oppressed must be given special privileges as compensation. In a deeply Orwellian twist, the more oppressed one is deemed to be, the more privilege they must be given in return.

Thus, the woman who finds Page 3 imagery objectionable need not merely boycott the Sun (as I’ve done my whole life). Now she has the right to demand that Page 3 is removed from the Sun. As an oppressed woman, she has won the privilege of censorship. Don’t Page 3 models also have a right to work? Apparently not – the rights of the oppressed middle-class woman are far greater than those of the working class one.

The “black community” (an almost meaningless phrase) is also deemed to be oppressed. Those black individuals who accept their oppression (and scream loudly about it) are welcomed by the left. Black individuals who doubt their own oppression, or who see the dangers in teaching black children that they’re automatically oppressed, are screamed down as self-haters.

This was most clearly shown by the recent London art exhibition, Exhibit Bwhich was forced to close after the “black community” (or rather, a mob of 200 people) blockaded it. Thus, black people are SO oppressed that they too are granted the right of censorship of anything that offends them. Never mind that the exhibition had been critically acclaimed in multiple cities before reaching London, or that black people were far from united in hating it, or that those who protested against it had never seen it.

The irony with Exhibit B is that the mob was enabled by the white elite. Their oppression (and thus, their privilege) was granted to them by white people. Their language of “oppression” and “privilege” was forged by the white middle-classes in universities around the country. Far from being “conscious” or liberated, this black minority is determined to follow a white agenda to the bitter end. The left is determined to tell black people that they are doomed to fail; and give them a handy excuse for failure – their skin colour.

So now, the left doesn’t expect black people to conform to the rules affecting whites. And so, politics has turned full circle. In accepting that black people, women, and other groups, are oppressed, the left has attempted to destroy the very thing it used to fight for: equality. Now, groups deemed oppressed by the white elite are granted special allowances. And the fight for equality takes a huge step backwards.

So is it any surprise that groups have sprung up on the right to declare men and white people oppressed? Sure, these people are laughable – but no more laughable than the claims of oppression by the left. Self-pity is the new black.

If you’re born into a middle-class existence in the UK, you aren’t oppressed. This is true regardless of your skin colour, who you choose to fuck, or the shape of your genitals. It’s genuinely sickening to watch the pity-fest that has replaced left-wing politics in the 21st century. Get over yourselves.

Gaza 2014: The Final Solution Begins

As Israel slaughters its way through Gaza, it’s frustrating to watch discussions get confused by the daily complexities of the conflict, because the underlying truth is incredibly simple: the Zionists that now firmly control Israeli government intend to take permanent control of Gaza, making it a part of their nation. There is no nuance or balance needed to see the big picture. This might be illegal, brutal and savage, but nobody can claim not to understand it. To illustrate the point, here are four maps showing Israel and Palestine at various points in the past century. Gaza is the little strip of green on the coast on the left.

The incredible shrinking Palestine

The incredible shrinking Palestine

 

In Israel’s colonial plan, Gaza is a minor issue. The real prize is the West Bank, and as the map shows, that is being taken one settlement, one house at a time. Those spots of green are getting smaller every day. They are little spots of misery in a wealthy land, lacking the water, roads and other infrastructure available to the rest of Israel, and facing regular violence from Israeli settlers, who are backed by IDF forces. The biggest prize of all is Jerusalem, and as the map shows, that was once clearly part of Palestine, and is now being surgically extracted and grafted on to Israel.

From a historical point of view, the events in Israel-Palestine are fascinating to watch. Once, such land grabs were commonplace. In fact, every point on Earth was once inhibited by different racial and tribal groups: America and Australia were, of course, not white, England wasn’t Anglo-Saxon and China wasn’t Chinese. But blatant colonialism has mostly been banished into history. Israel-Palestine is (one can hope) the last example of a once normal class of human behaviour. It is also the only colonial takeover ever to be recorded in such minute detail on social media.

In 2005, Israel withdrew all Jewish settlers from Gaza. At the time, this was hailed as progress; but Israel had no intention of staying out, or of allowing Gaza to operate a normal economy or society. As soon as the withdrawal finished, a savage blockade was begun, ostensibly to prevent terrorist attacks. Gazans (including children) were terrorised, arrested, tortured, humiliated. Gazan fishermen were prevented by the Israeli navy from legally fishing, often coming under gunfire. Denied building materials and fuel, infrastructure crumbled. Disease spread and life expectancy fell. Gaza remained a desperate place, isolated even from the main body of Palestinian life in the West Bank.

The Hamas Myth

So it’s no surprise that support for the conservative Hamas grew in Gaza, creating a rift between Gazans and those in the West Bank who largely supported the secular Fatah movement. Hamas’ rise was aided by Israel, which benefited by sowing division in Palestine, and by creating for itself an “extremist” enemy. In the propaganda war, Hamas has repeatedly proven itself useful to Israel, as has been seen again in the current conflict, confusing observers into believing that Israel actually needs to defend itself against a mortal enemy.

Hamas was elected to power in Gaza in 2006, much to Zionist delight. Now the Israeli population could be whipped up into an eternal state of fear against the extremists, and the lines between Hamas and all Palestinians could be repeatedly blurred. It is often pointed out that Hamas calls for nothing less than the destruction of the state of Israel, and this is true, but it is falsely claimed that Hamas could never be persuaded to recognise Israel. Hamas has often proven itself far more pragmatic than the “terrorist” image crafted by Israel.

Hamas has come close, at various times, to reaching a peace agreement. But Israel has never wanted peace, and nor does it want a Hamas “monster” that turns out not to be monstrous after all. Conciliatory Hamas leaders have repeatedly been assassinated by Israel: this fact alone exposes the lie that peace has ever been on offer. In 2012, Hamas leader Ahmed Jabari was close to signing a peace agreement, and so Israel, true to form, murdered him. Hamas has never been a serious obstacle to peace: Israel is the only obstacle to peace, because accepting peace would mean abandoning the colonial Zionist project of taking all of Palestine.

Again, in the current conflict, Hamas’ demands have not been extreme. Hamas has offered Israel 10 conditions for a lasting truce. The conditions are all reasonable, and in most cases simply demand that Israel complies with international law. And yet, Israel rejects them, and thanks to the lies of global media and governments, the public is allowed to believe the “peace with Hamas is impossible” lie.

Hamas is widely disliked by most Palestinians, and is largely powerless; and yet the ongoing slaughter is presented as a “war” between two sides. Such is the comedy of Zionist propaganda.

The Genocide

Since withdrawing from Gaza in 2005, Israel has alternated between providing slow death and fast death for the people of Gaza. During Operation Cast Lead in 2008/09, around 1,400 Palestinians were killed. Around half of these were civilians; those classed as “fighters” included many Palestinian police, who had been deemed a valid military target by Israel. The UN’s report, carried out by Richard Goldstone (a Jew), made clear that Israel had been repeatedly guilty of war crimes and violations of humans rights.

Besides the human cost, Israel destroyed or damaged schools, hospitals and 20,000 homes during Cast Lead. Once the conflict was over, a resumed blockade ensured that these could not be rebuilt. Gaza became increasingly unfit for human existence: in 2009, the UN reported that Gaza’s water supply was close to collapse – and yet Israel continued to blockade any investment in infrastructure. This has been nothing less than slow genocide, carried out in full view of the world.

Those Rockets

So Hamas has blindly fired puny rockets at Israel. Didn’t Native Americans have the right to fire arrows at white settlers, even if the act was futile? The firing of rockets is futile, and plays into Israel’s hands. But what. The fuck. Are Palestinians supposed to do? By way of comic interlude, here’s a cat being startled by a scary Hamas rocket.

The Anti-Semitism Shield

As a Jew, I have no fear in attacking Israel, but many of my non-Jewish friends tell me that they often hold back for fear of the standard “anti-Semite” attack. During this current attack on Gaza, I’ve been heartened to see increasing numbers of Jews, in the UK, US, Israel and elsewhere, standing up for Palestinians. Ex-IDF soliders too have been speaking out. In doing so, they help burst the myth that this conflict is about Jew against Arab, or Jew against Muslim.

It is true that anti-Semitism is, and has been for centuries, a powerful force, especially in Europe. It may well also be true that European anti-Semitism is on the rise. In part, that rise is the result of Israeli terrorism. Europe’s Jews can’t expect support from Israel’s Zionists; indeed, the Zionist wet dream is that an upsurge in violence against Jews in Europe will drive us to Israel, increase the Jewish population there, and add strength to the conquest of Palestine.

The Final Solution for Gaza

Oh – did I mention that Gaza has an estimated $4bn of gas reserves?

So it has been obvious, for years, that Israel’s 2005 withdrawal from Gaza was a temporary step, rather than an acceptance that Palestinians could keep hold of that little coastal strip of land. The question was when, and how, they would seize Gaza.

Today, we began to learn. The map below was tucked away at the bottom of a BBC news article. Israel, which has already killed over a thousand in the current conflict, and maimed countless more, declared a “buffer zone” in Gaza, and advised civilians to leave it. The problem with this announcement being that the zone takes up almost half of Gaza. Or, in other words, Gazans are being squeezed into half the previous space: and Gaza was, already one of the most densely populated places on the planet. Gazans (half of them children) are, as we speak, being driven into the sea.

If this isn’t genocide, what is? Will the world wake up? If not now, when?

Gaza: The Final Solution

Gaza: The Final Solution

Richard Dawkins: Moron or Bigot?

I write this post with a heavy heart: there was once a time when I had a valid claim to be among Richard Dawkins’ greatest fans. There was a time when I would have treasured a tweet from the great man; but when my moment arrived (last Saturday), I was long past getting excited by it.

I had decided I was an atheist around the age of twelve, but on reaching my twenties, I realised I couldn’t fill all the gaps in my detailed understanding of evolution, and decided I needed to remedy that situation. The remedy was Dawkins’ book, The Blind Watchmaker, which I tore through in days, enjoying every page. A little later, I read Dawkins’ first book, and true masterpiece, The Selfish Gene, which blows away the idea that evolution necessarily favours the most violent, selfish individuals, and thus gives a little hope for mankind in a godless universe.

And then, in 2006, came The God Delusion, a highly ambitious project. This time, instead of using biology alone to undermine religious ideas, Dawkins travels across a wide range of philosophical arguments in order to destroy the basis of religious belief. Again, I bought the book almost as soon as it was available (OK, perhaps I waited for the paperback) and read it fast. Again, many of the arguments were fascinating and compelling. In his usual razor-sharp way, the author shredded any possible religious response. The God Delusion is a devastating blow to religious thinking.

But there was something a little different and disturbing about this book. For the first time (at least, the first time I had noticed), the mask of scientific impartiality slipped. Dawkins’ hatred of religion became more pronounced, most blatantly in Chapter 8: “What’s Wrong With Religion? Why be So Hostile?” On its own, this was no problem to me: I’ve never been a fan of religion either. But Dawkins was now attacking the basis of religious freedom, arguing that to teach a child irrational belief was effectively child abuse. The subtext was clear: child abuse cannot be tolerated in a civilised society, and so – if society accepts his argument that religion is indeed abusive – then religion cannot be tolerated either. It’s a position that any fascist would be proud of: “we are too tolerant to tolerate you!”

The intolerance of ideas is a deeply unscientific position, and thus an odd one to be coming from someone who has spent so much of his life promoting science. The Enlightenment – which laid the foundations of modern democracies – was based on the twin ideas of reason and freedom of thought. The fathers of the Enlightenment advocated a free marketplace of ideas as the only model for human advancement. Dawkins himself invented the word meme to model how ideas spread and mutate within such a marketplace. Either Dawkins has no faith that his own ideas could thrive against religious ones in a free marketplace, or his hatred of religion is driven by just that: hatred.

There seems to be a particular type of Twitter atheist that revels in attacking, and trying to upset, religious people. Many of these atheists were raised with religion before becoming atheists, and tend to blame their earlier intolerance on their religion rather than on their own innate wankishness. They seem not to notice that they’re just as intolerant as they used to be: they’ve just converted from being religious wankers into atheist wankers. Dawkins, since taking to Twitter himself, has attracted a large following of such people (and simultaneously lost many of his earlier admirers).

Dawkins’ Twitter rants have become infamous, and he has often been denounced as a bigot. Until recently, I haven’t subscribed to the idea that he is bigoted against any one religion or group; he clearly has a hatred for religion (and religious people) in general. But it has been hard to ignore that he, like so many “enlightened” people, has a special hatred for Muslims (although he would no doubt characterise it as a hatred of Islam rather than the religion’s followers). To my eyes, his crime has been far worse than just irrationally hating people: he has shown himself quite willing to abandon scientific principle in order to demonstrate his dogmatic view that religion is evil. Thus, he will happily tweet about the flogging of a woman for adultery (because the abuse has a religious justification) while ignoring mass slaughter in Congo or Sri Lanka (because he has no interest in rapes or murders that can’t be blamed on religion). This, from a man who was the University of Oxford‘s Professor for Public Understanding of Science for over a decade. Cherry-picking data to suit your dogma is the very crime for which he has correctly castigated purveyors of creationism and Intelligent Design.

Dawkins is also happy to spread anti-Islamic mythology when it serves his purpose. His site purports to be dedicated to removing the influence of religion, and yet carries several articles about female genital mutilation; this is clearly done to perpetuate the myth that FGM is an Islamic practise. But it isn’t: it’s primarily an African cultural one, largely perpetrated by women against their daughters and granddaughters. What do articles about FGM have to do with Dawkins’ war on religion? In reality, nothing, but they help him demonise religion as evil, and stir up intolerance. Clearly, accuracy and truth – things that are at the core of science – matter less than creating hatred against religious people. In trying to destroy religion, Dawkins has adopted the methods of religion.

Is he just naively amplifying far-right propaganda against Muslims, or does he have a far-right agenda of his own? I have long supported the former view, but evidence is increasing for the latter. One of many generic far-right Muslim-baiting Twitter accounts is @JihadistJoe. Although Joe claims to be a running a JIHADIST PARODY, COMEDY & SATIRE account, he seems to have forgotten he’s supposed to be a PARODY. Besides forgetting to tweet in character, Joe also forgets he’s supposed to be tweeting COMEDY. Joe does retweet a lot of bigoted comedy, and yes I admit, some of it is even funny if you can get past the small-minded hatefulness of it all. But Joe’s own material is as funny as you’d expect from someone who’s too stupid to know what “parody” means (i.e. not funny at all).

Dickie’s view differs from mine, however, and on Saturday he tweeted:

As a result of which, Joe acquired several thousand new followers. So Richard Dawkins, man of science, thinks that tweets such as the following are “very funny and DEADLY accurate”?

Laugh-a-minute stuff, and oh! such wonderful parody! At least, Dickie thinks so:

In response to Dawkins’ praise for Joe, I tweeted:

To which he replied:

Being attacked by Dawkins for being shit at biology would be hurtful, but being abused by one of the world’s most humourless men for my lack of humour? I can handle that. Note the “.” to make his tweet public – I was then, of course, bombarded with tweets from moronic Dawkins fans for a while; I make no protest, as I’ve frequently employed the same tactic.

So Dawkins has proven a huge disappointment to me, and many others who admired him as a man of science. Is he really stupid enough to fall for the anti-Muslim propaganda that’s become so prevalent? That seems unlikely; but he seems guilty of the anti-science crime of not questioning data if it backs his own bigoted views. And for that reason, however high his IQ might be, I think it’s fair to say that Richard Dawkins is a moron.

Dumb Atheists

I’ve encountered a couple of interesting stats about the British people lately. The most recent was that, according to some humanist survey, the majority of Brits are now non-religious. I greet this as good news, but I’m far less excited about it than I might have been a few years ago. The second stat, heard on a radio science programme, was that science literacy (however that was defined) has long remained around the 10% mark in the UK (as well as in the US).

Those two numbers seem to be a mismatch. I’ve long assumed, till recently, that atheists and the scientifically literate comprise roughly the same group of people. But it seems not. Certainly, most science-educated people are atheists; but that apparently doesn’t work in reverse.

I like to define science as the art of separating fact from fiction. A grounding in science allows you to quickly take a fact, assess its likelihood of being true, and then find the evidence to confirm or overturn your original assumption. Today, a scientific/reasoned approach (I use the terms interchangeably), allows one to plough through the piles of crap friends post on Facebook and decide how ludicrous each post is.

Judging from my own Facebook feed, the rise in atheism has not been accompanied by a rise in reason. A handful of my friends do post religious messages, but in terms of their dumbness, these are benign next to the other things I regularly see. What’s annoying and even frightening is that a high proportion of my friends subscribe to mythology in some way, and mostly it has nothing to do with a belief in God. Many of the new myths revolve around some badly defined, shadowy force, which secretly runs the world. For some, it’s the Illuminati or the New World Order. For others, it’s Big Pharma, genetic modication, the Davos summit. For feminists, its Patriarchy. Other are worried about the Zionist media, or the white supremacist hierarchy… the list is endless. Then choose from a series of conspiracies: apparently someone is using planes to put (undefined) poisonous chemicals into the air – you thought those contrails were just condensed water? No, they’re actually chemtrails! Sodium fluoride isn’t put into water to improve dental health: No! it’s a neurotoxin! Vaccines are being used to poison our kids! Fruit and veg can cure cancer, which means that actual cancer medicine (you know, the kind that works) is part of some kind of plot to poison us. Evolution messed up and so we need to consciously detox our bodies. The white man is hiding the Truth that Jesus was black! 9/11 didn’t happen! Muslims are [insert your favourite Islamic threat here]. Someone invented an engine that runs on urine but Big Oil is suppressing it! Patriarchy is simultaneously promoting nude imagery to degrade women, and banning nude imagery to prevent female empowerment (depending which type of feminist you are).

In The God Delusion, Richard Dawkins points out that 95% of people simply adopt the religion of their parents. He doesn’t point out though that it works the other way too. Once most people disbelieve in any god, so will their children. Humans are herd animals, and once atheist beliefs become dominant, the majority will quickly decide to be atheists. We appear to have reached that tipping point in the UK. There are additional incentives to adopt an atheist viewpoint: many on the far-right now use atheism as a stick with which to beat Muslims. I suspect atheist Nazis once used a similar tactic to attack Jews. Hence, it’s premature to celebrate the ascent of atheism as a sign that reason is also on the rise; on the contrary, it appears that reason is going through a particularly bad patch right now.

So Dawkins and his militant atheists have declared war on the wrong target. Religion has been in long-term decline for centuries, without their help. The decline has accelerated in recent decades as ideas have spread more quickly. But religious ideas have just morphed into new forms, the most dangerous of which are widespread within parts of academia, and on the liberal left, and are thus fashionable. Science denial has updated itself, and is alive and well. It’s fun – and easy – to attack creationism, but this misses the point. Creationism is a hangover of ancient, dying belief systems. It’s far harder, and much braver to take on the new dogmas.

Just like religion of old, the new dogmas are highly intolerant of heresy. Ask a fundamentalist why evil exists, and the (non-)explanation is: the Devil. People who would laugh at the invocation of Satan will happily invoke modern satans. I’ve seen “skeptics” invoke a modern devil, the Patriarchy (“the” is optional) to explain away differences between male and female behaviours that already have perfectly strong explanations in evolutionary biology and genetics. Today, it is heresy to suggest that “outdated gender stereotypes” are the result of evolution. “Biological determinism” (a term created by feminists to attack biological science that contradicts feminist dogma) is sneered at by postmodern fundamentalists, just as evolution is dismissed as nonsense by religious fundamentalists.

This now means that any attempt to explain human behaviour via evolution is attacked by many “liberals”. Just as creationists once claimed that humans are fundamentally different from the other animals, so now do many on the secular left. The academic “gender expert” who denies “biological determinism” is taking a creationist position that’s been updated for the 21st century. Both belief sets assume that we have some kind of essence (or perhaps soul) that can be separated from our physical self. That we can deny our underlying nature by some form of magical intervention. This new religious ideology underlies modern attempts to suppress human sexuality. Just as Christians claim that monogamy is a natural state of affairs (because God created humans, and he wouldn’t have made us promiscuous, would he?) so the conservative left attacks expressions of human promiscuity from pornography to sex work. Many skeptics laugh at the religious preacher who says that the female form is dangerous and must be covered up. And then applaud the feminist campaigner who uses very different words to say exactly the same thing, with an equal lack of supporting evidence.

How bizarre, and depressing, that science today comes under its strongest attacks from the secular left, not the (comical) religious right. Those who thought that eradicating religion would lead to a rise in reason (me included) have been proven wrong. So this is a call to skeptics and militant atheists: leave the old religions alone – they’re dying, albeit slowly. If you’re feeling brave, take on the dangerous new dogmas instead. You could start by questioning a friend’s belief in the Patriarchy. But be prepared to be burned at the stake.

How To Deal With UKIP: Yes, Let’s Talk About Immigration

A month ago, I was at a weekend music festival with seven friends, all black (as I’ve explained before, I’ve long been accustomed to the role of token whitey). Misreading a headline on my phone, I announced that Jeremy Clarkson had been sacked by the BBC for – allegedly – mouthing the word “nigger”. My friends’ reaction was an immediate groan: yet another dumb, politically-correct decision made by rich white people in the name of protecting the feelings of black people. It’s not, of course, that black people enjoy being racially abused: but such abuse is, in fact, incredibly rare. There is a huge difference between having “nigger” shouted at you in the street by a stranger and having it said as part of a nursery rhyme. This is a difference that black people tend to understand, and the white middle classes tend not to. Similarly, no black people (to my knowledge) were offended when a radio DJ accidentally played a tune containing the word (for which he was sacked) or when a One Direction band member affectionately called a friend “nig”.

Let’s not be under any illusion: the white media and political establishment has not, all of a sudden, become the champion of black people’s feelings. Indeed, by blurring the lines between genuine race hate and words that they deem to be “racist”, they are setting back the cause of race relations by years. When I attended marches and came face-to-face with the thugs of the National Front, Combat 18, the British Movement and the British National Party, I don’t remember being supported by hordes of Oxbridge-educated BBC executives; and yet today, the white British elite dares to tell me, and others who risked our necks to clear racism from our streets, what words we may or may not use, regardless of the context.

There is no such thing as a “racist word”. There is racism for sure, and there are words that might have racist connotations depending on context, but in their irrational fetishisation of mere words, politically-correct cretins have opened the door wide for racists to operate with free rein. The rise of political correctness – which is itself a politically-correct term for censorship – has been a victory for the far right.

UKIP can thank the white middle-class left for its rise. Nigel Farage must laugh daily at the ease with which he can navigate the rules of political correctness: each time a UKIP councillor says a “racist word”, he expels them. And yet he can easily formulate genuinely racist messages that pass the moronic PC check-list. Whether Farage himself is racist (he probably is) is irrelevant. What’s important is that he has mastered what the Americans call “dog-whistle politics”. He is the master of rallying society’s bigots without breaching the “don’t say naughty words” rules. Can’t say “nigger” or “paki”? No problem – just hint that the “complexion” of our society is changing, or that “somebody” from “somewhere” is taking your job.

What is most perplexing is that the left’s spokespeople on race are those members of society that have the least experience of it. The white middle classes are the most ignorant on racial matters; and yet, because the middle class possesses an immense self-confidence in its own abilities (and quietly scorns the lower classes that it claims to defend), somehow the liberal narrative on race and immigration has been written by those who least understand these issues.

When I was active in the anti-racist movement, it wasn’t like this. The unions formed the bedrock of the mainstream left, and unions (love them or loathe them) were the very bodies that encompassed working people of all races. Long before the ascent of moronic political correctness, the most powerful black man in Britain was Bill Morris, who led the mighty Transport and General Workers’ Union and then the Trades Union Congress.

The Blairification of the Labour Party made the party acceptable to the middle classes, and won it a generation in power; but simultaneously, it removed the party from its bedrock working class support. Now, none of the big parties could understand working class resentments, and now, UKIP has filled the vacuum.

Today, political leaders are being urged to “talk about immigration”: but this is euphemism for accepting the far-right position that immigration has damaged society, and must be reined in. Yes, we must have an honest discussion about immigration if we are to see off the rising threat from the far right: and for that to happen, the moronic censorship rules of political correctness must be stripped away. The narrative must be wrenched away from pompous, privileged commentators and the voices of those who have been most affected by immigration must be heard.

Let’s talk about immigration.

Fact 1: Immigration changes working class communities

When, a century ago, Jews flooded into the East End of London, the locals had never encountered anything like them. They were alien people with strange ways of talking, a bizarre religion, and weird food. Despite being white, they clearly looked different from English locals. The animosity that flared between Jews and locals was hardly surprising. Of course, the upper classes scorned the fascist street thugs; but they also scorned the Jews. The same happened in the 1950s, when certain, poor parts of British cities – such as Notting Hill and Brixton – rapidly filled up with black people. The Notting Hill race riots of 1958 blew up because poor white people were confronted with a culture they had never encountered, and left by the establishment to deal with it. The problem was solved, not by PC language policing imposed from above, but by the community itself. The Notting Hill Carnival (in my humble opinion, the world’s best party) is the lasting result of that. The same happened in Bradford in 2001, when working class communities had to deal with an influx of Asians. Communities can resolve these problems, so long as government responds to ensure that housing, health and education services cope with the new population. Political correctness makes the problem worse: When the sneering PC response is to tell people not to say “Paki”, when they are facing rapid changes to their communities and ways of life, the effect is to drive traditional Labour voters to embrace the far-right.

The message: yes, immigration has directly affected your community. This doesn’t make immigration a bad thing, but the authorities must take heed of your worries and problems.

Fact 2: Non-white people can be racist

Perhaps the single most ludicrous position of the politically-correct elite is to declare that only white people can be racist. This point (rightly) enrages people who live in areas of high immigration, and know from their own experiences that white people can be, and are, the targets of bigotry. It is a statement that can only be made by privileged white people who have had little, if any, contact with black or Asian communities. If any single sentence can be blamed for the rise of the BNP, the EDL and UKIP, it is this one. The truth is simple: some people are hateful morons, and those people exist in every community. To decide that a violent assault is more or less acceptable depending on who threw the punch, and who received it, is the height of idiotic thinking; and yet this appears to be the default position of today’s left. Those white people like me, who have spent much of their lives as a white minority in black communities know that there are a few people who hate us for the colour of our skin, not the content of our minds. When many Somalis migrated to the UK, it was primarily the black British community that resented their arrival, and violence between the groups was common. When I was at school, some black people turned on “Pakis”, pleased to find common cause with white skinheads. Many people in mixed relationships have learned that they experience far more bigotry from black people than from whites. This isn’t the “understandable” result of “racial oppression”, as too many white liberals appear to believe. It’s racism.

The message: No group is free from racial bigotry. Any victim of racism is as worthy of support as any other. This includes white people.

Fact 3: Free speech is ESSENTIAL

As the left has become increasingly dominated by the white middle classes, its messages have become increasingly ludicrous, and irrelevant to society as a whole. The new generation of left-wing journalists is called upon to comment on everything. Privileged white Oxbridge graduates from the shires write comment pieces on every subject under the sun, including race – a subject with which they surely have little direct experience. Even when they attempt to take on board working class views, they come across as patronising and ignorant. When editors select black commentators, they tend to pick those who will repeat the standard white narrative. The banning of “offensive” words has crippled the ability of the left to counter the UKIP threat. I urge those with politically-correct sensibilities to listen to the excellent N Word from the rap artist Greydon Square. As the introduction says: “There is no such thing as the N Word… the word is Nigger… how can we get past the word when we can’t even say it?”

The message: UKIP will not be countered by banning words. Political correctness has been the greatest friend of the far-right. It must go.

Fact 4: Some people have been disadvantaged by immigration

Economists are clear: immigration is a boon to economies. London, by far the greatest home to immigrants in the UK, is also by far the wealthiest city. This is not a coincidence. However, there have been both winners and losers. A bricklayer friend was clear to me that his wages dropped after mass immigration began from Poland. Prostitutes tell a similar story. This is not a reason to stop immigration; but the authorities must respond, identify those people who have lost out, and find strategies to help them. Scrapping university tuition fees for affected groups might be one of many ways to address the problem. One of the many disastrous legacies of Blairism was to close the door to working class people entering higher education.

The message: We accept immigration has not been a win for everyone.

Fact 5: Immigration is a good thing: long may it continue!

And once we’ve dispensed with the mealy-mouthed bullshit that has characterised the race debate for decades, we can make our case loud and clear. Immigration has enriched our culture. Immigration has enriched our economy. Sure, there have been inevitable cultural clashes, but these can be managed, as such clashes have been in the past. Yes, there have been losers, but we are richer as a society, and can afford the welfare state and education system that we need to fix these short-term problems. But ultimately immigration can and will continue, and will continue to make our country a better place to live. Let’s face it: much of the UKIP vote came from people least affected by mass migration. It came from the whitest areas of the country, and the older, more conservative individuals. It is an ultra-conservative reaction to inevitable change. We can sympathise with those who fear change, while pointing out that they’re wrong, they’re ignorant, and they will inevitably lose.

The message: It’s time to man the barricades. The right is on the march; it’s time to let Labour die, and create a muscular new left that can counter it.

Nigeria’s Disaster Porn

There’s no doubt you’ve heard about the shocking kidnap of over 200 Nigerian schoolgirls by the moronic rebel group Boko Haram. This is one of those rare catastrophes that captures Western public attention. In part, this illustrates a positive trend: a mere generation ago, few people cared what happened in far away lands. But nothing is far away any more. Everything is within the reach of live satellite broadcast and the Internet reaches ever further. The empathy we once reserved for our close neighbours is now extended globally. Humans are becoming more caring.

But this doesn’t explain the focus on this particular incident. The kidnap and enslavement of the girls is doubtless horrific. The likelihood that they are being sexually and physically abused makes the episode even more sickening. But kidnaps in Nigeria are daily events: over 25,000 have been recorded in the past couple of decades.

My own Facebook news-feed has been filled with outrage of various kinds. Friends of mine who never normally protest have gathered in solidarity at the Nigerian embassy. Moronic rumours have been spread. From some black friends, the insinuation that the world isn’t paying enough attention because the girls are black. I’ve even seen the suggestion that Boko Haram are part of a CIA plot – thus neatly reviving the afrocentric meme that everything bad that takes place in Africa is somehow the fault of foreigners. Meanwhile, at least three of my white friends have taken to spreading far-right anti-Muslim propaganda, focusing on the fact that Boko Haram is an extremist Islamic group (but not the fact that most northern Nigerians, and many of the kidnapped girls, are Muslim, or that such episodes frequently happen in Christian regions too).

Of course, to Western eyes, this incident is a big deal. But everything is relative, and by the standards of much of what takes place in Africa, this is a minor thing. For years, the Democratic Republic of Congo has experienced warfare and terror. Six million people are said to have died there, and mass kidnaps and rapes are commonplace. Not so long ago, 48 women per hour were estimated to have been raped (and many men also have been raped). Yet this failed to catch public attention. Of my own Facebook friends, only one regularly posted about this, and she is of Congolese background.

Genocide has been raging across Sudan for years, and since the country split into two, South Sudan is now undergoing a new wave of genocide. Women and girls are kidnapped, raped and murdered in far greater numbers than in Nigeria. Yet this has failed to capture public interest.

It’s not just Africa: Sri Lanka just five years ago, an estimated 40,000 civilians were slaughtered, and hundreds of thousands rounded up into camps, where many still remain. Rape and summary execution has been recorded on a huge scale.

But not, apparently, on a big enough scale to warrant a hashtag.

So why is this event different from the others? In the case of my own Facebook feed, there are a couple of obvious reasons. I have a number of British-Nigerian friends, and it seems obvious that they will be interested in this. Also, given the dominance of Nigerians in today’s black British culture, many of my other black friends also feel close to the issue. Meanwhile, Sudanese people play little, if any, part in black British culture, so few people here are aware or interested in the South Sudan events.

But the fascination with this kidnap is global. Michelle Obama has expressed her outrage (though cynics have been quick to point out that her own husband’s foreign policy has slaughtered far more children than Boko Haram ever could). The British and Israeli governments have offered military support. And of course, both Britain and Israel have long records of providing international humanitarian support without asking for anything in return*.

The politically-correct and the far-right are united in presenting this as an unusual situation; the former are terrified to generalise about African human rights abuses; the latter are determined to blame this on Islamism, and add to the growing demonisation of Muslims around the world.

But the plain fact is that this is one of a long string of similar incidents in Africa, both in Muslim and Christian regions. African conflicts from Biafra to Congo to Sierra Leone to Sudan to Uganda are routinely characterised by mass abductions, child soldiers, industrial-scale rape and slavery.

Given the incompetence and corruption of Nigeria’s military and government, there is a strong argument for Western intervention to help find and free the girls, but we should not try to pretend that such interventions are primarily motivated by the fate of a couple of hundred girls. So why this place and this time?

To say “oil” would miss the point. Nigerian oil is already flowing freely to the West, and many billions of dollars of revenue are flowing into Nigeria… much of which then finds its way into Swiss bank accounts (this fact alone provides a far better explanation for Nigerian instability than the “Islamism did it” theory). The true explanation for the West’s sudden interest in African human rights is even simpler.

It’s The Economy Stupid

Last month, Nigeria’s GDP suddenly grew by 89%, catapulting the country ahead of South Africa to become the continent’s wealthiest, as the result of a long-overdue recalculation. Nigeria’s economy is now more than a fifth the size of the UK’s and is growing much faster. The West, long used to dismissing Africa as an economic irrelevance, and captivated by Asian and Brazilian growth, has only just woken up to a key fact: Africa is finally joining the big boys. By mid-century, Nigeria’s population will be bigger than America’s and (all being well) its economy will outstrip many Western ones.

Investors around the world want a piece of the action; but the instability of the country, and its neighbours, adds serious risk to any investment. If Nigeria wants to secure its place at the table of leading nations, it will need to play by global rules. It will need to ensure that taxes are collected, and that they’re spent on public services and infrastructure. It will need to accept that global economies don’t have most of their citizens living on less than $2 per day, and start distributing the nation’s wealth more fairly. It will need to adopt global human rights standards. Western liberals will need to swallow their dislike of “cultural imperialism”, if it means an end to child soldiers and slavery.

The kidnap of the schoolgirls is nothing new, but it might be the last straw. To focus on this one incident alone might be hypocritical, but if it is the catalyst that brings about African progress, it’s worth it.

*Sarcasm alert