Why Am I Blocked On Facebook?

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As I write this, I’m blocked on Facebook, and have been since last Thursday. My personal account, and three pages I run (including MoronWatch) are all blocked to me; so is Facebook messenger. For my thoughtcrime (explained below), I am not allowed to even have private conversations with my friends. If I try to Like a family photo, I’m told my action ‘might be abusive’. Welcome to 1984.

MoronWatch began on Twitter, a platform I have always enjoyed for its free-ranging discussions and ‘promiscuous’ social networking: unlike the rigidity of Facebook, Twitter is a far more interesting and diverse platform, which quickly puts like-minded strangers into contact with each other. Although I began by following people I knew, I quickly found that – unsurprisingly – people I didn’t know were often more interesting.

Most people self-censor heavily on Facebook. We remember that people we know in real life – our boss or our mum, for example – can see our updates, so we dumb ourselves down. On Twitter, we craft new social networks that suit us; on Facebook, our offline social networks come online.

Free speech is liberating and cleansing, but it frightens and infuriates control freaks; for this reason, it is Twitter, and not Facebook, that has faced the greatest calls for censorship. There is a rising War on Twitter, as I outlined in a blog post two years ago. In response to this (and more importantly to Twitter’s poor financial performance), Twitter is reining in free speech, belatedly trying to become as bland – and corporate-friendly – as Facebook.

To paraphrase a great tweet I saw long ago: ‘Twitter makes me love strangers; Facebook makes me hate people I already know’. However, Facebook is by far the more successful platform, and not to use it would be foolish. After ignoring it for a while. MoronWatch started a page there, and that has been growing ever since.

On Thursday, I posted a flyer on my page, which advertised a White Pride rally, planned for Swansea in March. The flyer had originally been shared for discussion by a black friend, and I thought it would be perfect MoronWatch material. Indeed, it generated a long discussion thread, and was shared further. The flyer was pretty vile: although it purported to be promoting a day in which white culture could be celebrated, in practise it attacked immigrants and in particular took aim at ‘Jews and sh*tskins’ (a word I haven’t heard for a while).

I should point out here, for those that aren’t too familiar with this blog, that I’m a Jew, and my lovely partner, and mother of my children, is a sh*tsk… sorry, I mean black person. I’m also an anti-fascist activist, and have been since my teens a few decades ago.

One problem with censorship is that it is necessary dumb. Once the ludicrous concept of ‘hate speech’ had been ruled unacceptable, censors can’t tell the difference between genuinely hateful speech, parody, and discussion of hateful speech. Another problem with censorship is that it simply doesn’t work. Silencing discussion of a problem doesn’t end that problem, it just pushes it into corners where nice, middle-class people can ignore it (or at least, ignore it until it’s too late to do anything about it).

But the biggest problem with censorship is that it comes from a fascistic attitude that societal problems are best dealt with by empowering the state and corporations to silence things we don’t like. Instead of engaging in discussion about racism and other forms of bigotry, we beg the state and corporations to make it all go away, and in doing so, we surrender our ability to deal with problems in our communities. In the 1980s, racism was dealt with by bridging the divides between angry communities. Now instead, we build a virtual wall between the communities, and pretend everything is fine.

Facebook is just one platform, but it is a huge and powerful platform. Increasingly, its methods are leaking into public discourse. Last year, MPs recommended that ‘trolls’ should be banned from using the Internet. Presumably, this would include people like me, who try to counter far-right extremism online. We are stepping over the threshold from democracy into dictatorship, and doing so under the guise of ‘defending liberal values’. But the most fundamental of liberal values is free speech. No-ifs, no-buts, warts-n-all.

How can we deal with fascism if we can’t talk about it?

Facebook provides no due process. My right to free expression has been curtailed for five days, and there is apparently no right to appeal or any form of fair trial. My only recourse was to complain, which I did – below is the message I sent to Big Brother – sorry, I mean Facebook’s support team.

I am a Jewish anti-racism campaigner with a black partner and mixed-race children. I shared a white supremacist flyer on my page (which promoted a planned march in Swansea) in order to alert people to the nature of this group, allow discussion, and help plan a fightback. For this, I was blocked for propagating ‘hate speech’.

Your action demonstrates the sheer fuck-witted stupidity of all censorship regimes, including your own. Your moderators cannot possibly understand the context and nuance of every post, and clearly can’t tell the difference between ‘racism’ and ‘discussion of racism’. In suppressing discussion of such vital issues at a time when fascism is rising in Europe, YOU are contributing to the rise of fascism. YOU feed into conspiracy theories on the far-right that aids its recruitment and YOU make life for minorities (like my family) more difficult and potentially more dangerous.

Clap for yourselves

PS: I reluctantly self-censored the word sh*tskins in this post. I don’t believe in such censorship. It does nothing to counter racism; it merely exists to protect the easily-offended – who appear mostly, in my experience, to be uptight white middle-class people.

Calling Time on Black Racism

Memory of the early-eighties: a school assembly. One of my classmates, who has joined the ultra-fashionable Rastafarian religion/movement, is ordered by the headmaster to remove his hat. The head has already spoken to the boy’s parents, who have agreed that their son shouldn’t wear his hat in school. My classmate refuses, claiming a religious right to cover his head. He is ordered to leave the school premises until he removes the hat. He marches up the stairs to leave the hall; at the top, he turns, raises his fist, and shouts “Jah Rastafari!”, before marching out. Cheers of support ring from the hall, but everyone else stays seated. For his Rasta salute, he is expelled. He never returns to school, and leaves without qualifications.

While he may have been unfairly treated regarding his religious choices, he was not a victim of racism. Rather, he was a victim of a black nationalist ideology that was a hangover from the earlier anti-colonial and civil rights struggles. He had been taught that “the system” (or “Babylon” as Rastas called it), was a white system, rigged against black people. He didn’t need the “white man’s knowledge” (you know – maths, science, that sort of thing) because it was designed to “keep the black man down”. In leaving school without any tools to thrive in the British economy, he was typical of many young black men of his generation. They rejected education because racist extremists had told them it was false knowledge, and that they could never succeed in white society.

This was untrue. In fact, literate, middle-class black kids, and especially those from African homes, found plenty of opportunity in the UK, regardless of the racism many encountered. Black nationalist ideology is a recipe for failure: many teenage boys would love an excuse to skip their classes and fail their exams, and afrocentric teaching gives them just that. But while this racist nonsense is rejected by most black parents, it is embraced by many confused white “liberals”, who amplify the message and patronisingly accept that when young black men fail, it’s not their fault: instead, it’s the white man, keeping the black man down via an intricate and invisible system of “structural racism”. As I’ve blogged previously, there is actually little evidence for structural racism affecting people’s economic outcomes, at least in the UK.

This imaginary “oppression” is increasingly used as an excuse for a huge upsurge in black racism. Those of us who have spent much of their lives as minorities along black communities (for 40 years, in my case) will know that black racism is not a new thing; but we are few, and the arrival of postmodern nonsense from Race Studies faculties that denies black people are even capable of racism has added fuel to the fire. While black racism has been largely ignored or excused by the black community and white “liberals”, the arrival of social media has made it increasingly hard to ignore. I have several hundred black Facebook friends – mostly in the UK but also in Africa and the US – and it’s rare that a day passes without seeing overt racism from black people that would be shouted down if it came from anyone else. Here are a couple of examples that have appeared on my timeline in recent days:

titanic

A bunch of white people died on the Titanic! Hilarious. Like most such memes, it’s based on a lie: black people were never barred from the Titanic, and in fact at least one black person was on board. Outside of the segregated southern US, colour bars were actually pretty rare; but history is now rewritten to be racialised, and a generation of black people raised on self-pitying “black history” rather than actual history is more than ready to believe this myth.

Here’s another:

go-black-people-go

There’s a nice, feel-good black business success story, coupled with a thinly-veiled celebration of an Asian business being burned to the ground. The message appears to be: black people can succeed, just like Asians! All you need to do is chase them out of black neighbourhoods! As in America, black provisions are often sold by Asians in the UK: human hair, hair and skin products and cosmetics stores in black areas are, more often than not, run by Asians, which causes resentment rather than self-examination among many. Anti-Asian racism is strong in the black community: in part, because Asian success gives the lie to the idea that non-whites can’t succeed in Britain.

Similarly, and for similar reasons, anti-African sentiment is strong among sections of the black community. At my school, this gave rise to “Ja-fake-ans”: Africans trying to pass as Jamaican to avoid bullying.

Every story that can be twisted into a black oppression narrative will be. The Ebola outbreak in West Africa prompted an equally virulent outbreak of racist conspiracy theories. First, it was a lie designed to allow neo-colonialists to invade Africa. Then, a genetically modified virus designed by the white man to wipe out Africans. Then, when an experimental vaccine was rushed into use, this was obviously a trick to poison black people. And then, as the outbreak came under control, new theories that the whole thing had simply never happened. All of this ignored the reality: that hundreds of white medical volunteers were putting their lives at risk to treat people, that European and American money funded the relief effort and the roll-out of drugs and vaccines, just as they had to tackle AIDS and malaria on the continent.

The Caitlyn Jenner episode, for some reason, prompted an upsurge of spiteful transphobia and racism from black people. One particularly odd meme originated from Snoop Dogg, who said:

Snoop-Dogg-instagram-post-congratulating-Akon

Where to begin? How about the laughable idea that an R&B singer is single-handedly bringing power to the entire African continent? The actual story was that he was funding a school for solar engineers in Bamako, Mali. This claim is particularly odd given the afrocentric obsession with pointing out how damn enormous Africa is. One moment, a huge continent, the next a plaything for an American celebrity. This was far from the only anti-Jenner hate I saw from black people. White “liberals”, normally outraged by the faintest hint of transphobia, appeared to be universally silent about this sort of thing. The racism of the new left excuses black people pretty much anything because – well – the poor, oppressed dears don’t know any better, do they? The new left has accepted the core ideology of the old, white supremacist right: that black people can’t be held responsible for their actions, nor held to be equals in any true sense.

All of this comes on top of the vile #BlackLivesMatter campaign, which successfully turned the burning issue of police shootings into a racial one. While racial statistics on police shootings were initially hard to find (because, amazingly, no official count is taken), the Guardian stepped up to the plate by maintaining its own database. Via this, we discover that so far this year, 901 Americans have been killed by police, of whom 416 are white and 217 (24%) are black. Black Lives Matter is a slap in the face to the families of the rest: those whites, Hispanics, Asians and others who have lost a loved one to US police violence. Indeed, those who tried to propose an #AllLivesMatter hashtag were screamed down as racists on social media. #76PercentOfLivesDontMatter, apparently. Stupidly, this campaign has dismantled attempts to build a cross-societal backlash against police violence, and instead taken the opportunity to create another self-pity party for those who feel most hard done by. Martin Luther King is, no doubt, face-palming in heaven.

It’s true that black deaths are disproportionately high; it’s also true that black people are more likely to open fire at police officers (70% of shootings at police in New York State were by black people, according to an Economist audio report some months back). If you shoot at US cops, you’re going to get shot! There is a racism element in all this, no doubt, but it is undoubtedly smaller than Black Lives Matter claims.

Similarly, the death of Sandra Bland was breathlessly reported as the eighth black woman to die at police hands that year; the reporting failed to mention that 17 white women had died in the same period. Can you name any of the 684 non-blacks killed by American police this year? The supreme irony is that, while denouncing the media for ignoring black deaths, in fact the reverse is happening: only black deaths can be publicly mourned. The rest must go unmentioned, because to even mention their existence risks being tiresomely labelled “racist”.

Note that Black Lives Matter has nothing to say about the shooting of black people by police… in Africa, which is a daily occurrence. #BlackLivesMatterButOnlyWhenAWhitePersonCanBeBlamed, apparently.

The list goes on indefinitely… a UK government warning against washing chicken for hygiene reasons became a Facebook excuse to label whites as unhygienic. To explain context: washing chicken and meat is common in black cultures; so is a belief that white people are dirty.

Personally, I rarely give a damn about much of the casual racism directed against whites, Asians, mixed-race people and others by black people. I’ve experienced this more times than I can count, especially when in the company of my black partner: the sight of a white man with an attractive black woman is guaranteed to bring out the worst in some people; even more so now that we have a child together. This has been a background fact of my life for decades, but I know from experience that for every black person who dislikes me for my colour, there are many more who will stand up for me. But while we get hysterical every time some silly old white man says something vaguely racist, we are utterly silent in the face of more prevalent black racism.

Thankfully, there are signs that many black people are waking up to the problem, and challenging it. Several black friends of mine have begun to stand up to black racists on Facebook: bravely so, because to do so means dealing with accusations of being a race traitor, and other silly forms of abuse. Many within the black community are beyond sick of people playing the race card to excuse their failures, rather than take responsibility for themselves. Perhaps the tide began to turn with Chris Rock’s legendary “blacks vs niggaz” act, now almost 20 years old. In a recent discussion on a friend’s page, a black American woman contributed the following: “I’m tired of the race card being pulled some blacks are just misguided and stupid and create their own problems”. But the white-dominated anti-racism movement has proven itself too cowardly or simply unaware of this problem, and stays away. What’s the point of an anti-racism movement that ignores racism? This is gold dust for the far-right, which can harvest white, working class supporters rejected as “racists” by the left for merely complaining when they themselves experience racism.

Just as white supremacy was fatally holed by the election of a black President, and is sinking rapidly, so it’s time for racist black nationalism to go the same way. I have never tolerated racism in any form, and frequently stood up against it. I don’t intend to stop doing that now.

The Great Unfriending

It’s official: I’m a very rare breed of social media user.

A scientific study of Twitter interactions on climate change discovered that almost all people who tweet about climate change are only listened to by people who already agree with them. Or to put it another way, they’re probably wasting their time. The people who bridge the gap between the two sides are so unusual that some are listed by name. They include Richard Betts of the Met Office, New York Times environment writer Andy Revkin, “… and an account named @moronwatch”.

This isn’t to say that I’m ambivalent on climate change: I’ve often taken the piss out of climate change deniers on this blog, as well as on Twitter and Facebook. So I was very proud to learn that I’m one of the tiny minority that has had the opportunity to change minds on climate change.

But beyond my personal little triumph, the finding is profoundly depressing. Increasingly, and globally, people on social media are building themselves tight little echo chambers. After May’s general election, I saw a spate of updates from Facebook friends, proudly boasting of unfriending Tory voters. Then, following the historic and wonderful Supreme Court decision last week that finally brought gay marriage to all 50 US states, it happened again. People who should have been overjoyed (and magnanimous in victory) instead showing off that they had deleted friends who expressed concerns over the judgement.

But why? What purpose is served by deleting someone with opposing views? If one holds a view strongly, surely one also wants to influence other people’s views too? That, after all, is why I blog, at times, about climate change: because it’s an important issue, and it’s important to change minds.

And likewise, I want to challenge homophobic, racist and other views I encounter. I have many black friends on Facebook, many of whom are religious; black Christians (in my experience) are far more likely to express homophobic, or at least anti-gay marriage views (it’s debatable whether these are the same thing or not). Last week I witnessed anti-gay marriage comments from three Facebook friends – all black Christians. In each case I could have unfriended, or just ignored. But this issue matters to me, so in each case I responded, and made similar points: 1) I disagree with you, 2) I respect (and will defend) your right to hold your views, 3) I’m open to further discussion and would like to change your mind.

In interacting with these three people, I believe I did far more for the cause of combatting homophobia than did any person that decided to delete “homophobic friends” on the basis of their own supposed “tolerance”. In fact, if anybody turned back the clock on gay rights, it was those people who witnessed homophobic views, and decided to ignore them.

To delete “homophobes”, “racists” and other evildoers is to create a childlike view of the world in which every person can be stamped with a simple label of either good or evil. It denies the existence of shades of grey, or the fact that good people can be flawed. It is the action, not of a liberal or tolerant person, but of a self-centred and selfish individual. It expresses a simple belief that so long as MY view of the world is shiny and nice, then the world is a shiny and nice place. It is an abrogation of responsibility to improve the world. I’ll go further: by burning bridges, it makes the world a worse place, building up walls between increasingly hostile tribes.

Ironically, most of the people I personally encounter expressing racist, anti-Semitic, Islamophobic, sexist, transphobic or homophobic views are black. To selectively cleanse my friends would be to make my circle whiter. Most of the “liberals” I see deleting friends have almost exclusively white, middle-class social circles. What kind of liberal doesn’t extend their social networks beyond their own narrow social and racial groups?

How do you tackle racism, if your world-view says you must unfriend anyone expressing what you consider to be a racist view? How do you deal with homophobia if you won’t talk to homophobes? By deleting friends, you reveal yourself as intolerant, closed-minded and apathetic. You show yourself incapable of, and disinterested in, making the world a better place.

In 1984, Orwell wrote about doublethink, which twisted the meanings of words beyond recognition. Aptly, this was a creed of English Socialism – INGSOC – which had taken left-wing values and twisted them to mean the exact opposite of their original meaning. An INGSOC slogan was: “War is Peace; Freedom is Slavery; Ignorance is Strength”.

Let’s add one more to that: Intolerance is Tolerance. By turning on the minority opposed to gay marriage, today’s mob is no different from any other majority that hated any other minority. In this case, the mob is more likely than the average to be white, middle-class and well educated. A white, privileged mob shunning and marginalising a poorer, darker minority. Ring any bells? Same shit, different era.

What Does Fascism Look Like?

Let me first apologise – my ‘three part’ series “Are Women Oppressed?” is taking its time: only part 1 has been written so far. I’m working on a book, which I hope to announce soon – this (and caring for a young child) has sapped my available blogging time. Tangentially, the book will cover the same subject area as this post: the renewed rise of fascism, and the need to reinvent the left as a progressive force once again.

The book will be announced soon, I hope. please join my mailing list to learn more. I will also be dropping my pseudonymity… who is MoronWatch? Watch this space…

Inevitably, a comment on the first post accused me of being “reactionary”. This makes my point. The new, conservative left uses the language of the old, progressive left but without the understanding that was once there. The “Are Women Oppressed?” series is to demonstrate this point: the old organs of the left – including the feminist movement – have become reactionary. Their language is similar, but their goals have reversed. The new claim of “female oppression” (which has only really surfaced in the past few years) is a fascistic one with the purpose of turning back the clock on women’s rights. All progressive movements will decay, if they’re allowed to survive long enough.

I hate to pull rank (OK, cancel that – I enjoy it), but I have impeccable left-wing credentials. I descend from a century of socialists and communists, and was very active on the left from the late-70s and through into the 90s. I had – still have – links into the old revolutionary movements, including the ANC’s radical generation. 35 years ago, the bright young things were tempted by the fragmented Trotskyist movement. Today, smart young people in politics appear to be clustering around libertarianism. The point for progressives then is to make the case for left-wing libertarianism, as I have tried to do.

Fascism is a deep, socially conservative, anti-sex, authoritarian and anti-science ideology. It is neither inherently right nor left. Yes, the left is correct that 1930s fascism, born in Italy and then in a more extreme form in Germany, was a right-wing movement. That doesn’t mean it will be this time around. The key thing to understand about fascism is that it comes from the grassroots, not from above. It is the mob, mobilised to attack progress. That’s why it is the most frightening of all political tendencies. To see how 21st century fascism might look, don’t get too distracted by the UKIP types. They are the dying embers of the old fascism, endlessly rehashing old xenophobic messages. It’s no accident that the typical UKIP voter is older than average. The creation of UKIP, in the longer run, will be beneficial to the centre-right. The Tories have shed their most poisonous tendencies and are thus able to move back towards the centre. This will benefit them in the mid-term.

Where are the young fascists? Those are the ones to watch.

A look at the No More Page 3 campaign gives a hint. hundreds of thousands of people have signed a petition against female nudity: the progressive feminists of the 1960s would be horrified. Although it operates under a veneer of feminism, those who have encountered the movement close-up have found it to be heavily religious in nature. This campaign has united Britain’s largest trade union with the girl guides… The old anti-rape organisations that emerged from the Women’s Lib era have given up chasing rapists, and put their names to a movement that seeks to claim women’s bodies are dangerous and must be covered up. They are blaming women for rape, though a little more subtly than the old “don’t dress like a slut” brigade. If the campaign had called itself British Mothers for Chastity, the left might have been suspicious. But fascism moves on; it is a worm that seeks to embed itself in the softest spots of society. If masquerading under the banner of “women’s rights” is to tactical advantage, that’s where it will be found.

When the British Christian morality movement fizzled out, its ideas found a new home. If you can’t beat feminism, you reinvent it as a wholesome, pure, anti-sex idea. NMP3 has cleverly used the left’s tribal hatred of the Sun and Murdoch… and what’s not to hate? But the Sun’s heyday is long gone. It is a declining force, and so makes for an easy target. To see the ranks of the organised left march in (goose-)step behind a closeted Christian morality campaign is worrying indeed.

The anti-racism movement has gone the same way. Just as with “female oppression”, the new shout of “white privilege” didn’t originate in the civil rights era, or in the anti-racism movement of the 70s and 80s. It’s a new slogan, and created with the intent of turning back the clock on equality, and trying to redefine people by their skin colour. Tellingly, this expression seems designed to taunt poor, white, working-class people into joining ranks with the far-right. It is good, old-fashioned race-baiting. A century after the peak of European power, and with China, India and even Africa rising, now fascists have decided to proclaim the end to racial equality with the creation of the bogus idea of white privilege. Attacking racial equality is the home turf of fascism. Only the slogans have changed.

In South Africa, fascism today means that immigrants are lynched by locals. This isn’t the first time – it happened on a larger scale in 2008, and back in the 1940s. If this was happening in Europe, the left might understand what was going on, but when black people kill other blacks, they don’t recognise fascism in action. Instead, ludicrously, this is blamed on “the legacy of Apartheid” or colonialism. And so the left has adopted the most colonial type of thinking. Black people, they seem to think, are like children who copy the bad habits of we white adults. It doesn’t seem to cross their minds that Africans are just as capable of xenophobic brutality, for their own ends, as we are. Just as elsewhere, the old South African heart of progressivism – the ANC – has imploded, become conservative and corrupt. The ANC’s new generation of leaders have enriched themselves. So has the left-wing “outsider” opponent to the ANC, Julius Malema: simultaneously a “revolutionary” and a multi-millionaire who spreads racial division. Once a revolution is done, the revolutionary organs will rot.

The very concepts of “left” and “right” have dissolved into meaninglessness. Progressives need to take a step back and re-examine their beliefs: equality, individual liberty, democracy and evidence-based thought form the bedrock of progressivism. The last great liberal era – of anti-colonialism, anti-racism, women’s rights, gay rights, civil rights – was a full half-century ago. Nostalgia for the good old days of revolution, Labour, trade unionism and equality is blinding the new left to the reality of the new fascism. It’s time to move on.

Are Women Oppressed? Part 1…

By definition, a political movement needs a shared set of political goals. By that measure, there have been two feminist movements in history: first wave, which fought primarily for the women’s right to vote, and second wave (aka Women’s Lib) which fought primarily on issues of sexual liberation (abortion, contraception, recognition of rape within marriage) and equality under law.

Although there are still plenty of people calling themselves feminists, and one hears of third and fourth wave feminism (anyone raise me to fifth?), political feminism fizzled out in the mid-1970s, having achieved its goals. From that point on, we’ve been landed with cultural feminism, putting forward a vague, often contradictory set of values and beliefs, but no coherent political movement. I’ve often asked “feminist” friends what feminism is, and the answer generally goes something like: “I believe in women’s rights. Well, I guess I believe in human rights really. So…”

The basic problem is that feminism requires a set of goals that apply to all women. Unfortunately, it can’t seem to find any that weren’t already addressed 40 or more years ago. This doesn’t stop feminists claiming they know what women want or need; and in turn, this explains why most women have no interest in defining themselves as feminists any more. There are no identifiable political objectives that unite all, or even most, women, any more than there are issues that unite all men.

In place of political demands, which can be fulfilled, today’s feminists instead claim that women are “oppressed” or suffer from “structural misogyny” or similar. And thus, unlike the short-lived first and second wave feminist movements, today’s “movement” has no goals, and so can live forever. Feminism has morphed from a political movement to a quasi-religious one, railing against its own demon, The Patriarchy. Today’s feminism claims it wants to bring down The Patriarchy and end Female Oppression. Since The Patriarchy is imaginary, this movement can live on forever.

But what about female oppression? Given the widespread belief in this phenomenon, one would expect it to be easy to define and quantify. Once quantified, a political programme could be drawn up to end it, and feminism can be victorious once and for all. But it turns out that the idea of systemic female oppression has little or no solid evidence to back it. Indeed, it is based on a series of myths that, over the decades, have become cemented into articles of religious faith. Try to question these beliefs, and believers will respond like the disciples of any other religion: with anger and abuse. Blasphemy against this faith will make you a Misogynist, a Rape Apologist or a tool of the Patriarchy. You will be burned at the virtual stake.

In the following two articles, I will look at the evidence for female oppression: firstly, the economic case, and second the issue of gender violence.

Parts 2 and 3 are coming soon: to ensure you don’t miss any MoronWatch articles, please join my mailing list.

Should Progressives Vote for the Green Party?

British politics are getting more interesting. The two parties that have shared power for most of a century, along with the traditional third party, are all in decline. Scotland is undergoing a nationalistic surge, and has become – for the time being – a one-party state. Insurgent parties of right and left are in the ascendency. Much discussion goes on about the nature of UKIP, but the Greens have been under far less scrutiny. Urban liberals, disenchanted with Labour and the Liberal Democrats have drifted greenwards.

The Green Party has adopted the kinds of left-wing talking points that would appeal to disenchanted progressives in search of a new party, but its roots lie in environmentalism. Although the environmental movement has become associated with the left in recent decades, its instincts lie in true, small-c conservatism: a deeply-held belief that the old ways are the good ways. Because of this, the Greens have a dodgy relationship with science and high-technology solutions.

Continue reading Should Progressives Vote for the Green Party?

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.

Continue reading Right-wing vs Left-wing Libertarianism

Dear Co-op …

A letter from Edie Lamort, feminist and sexual freedom activist, to the Co-operative Group about their latest censorship decision.

Just over five years ago I bought a flat in London SE1. One of my local shops happened to be the Co-op and on my first visit I picked up a Co-op membership form. Loyalty cards can come in handy after all, you get discounts and bonus points. This week the Co-op announced that they had given in to pressure from extremist groups and decided that Lads Mags must come in modesty bags. So as a Co-op member I decided to write a letter to Chief Executive, Steve Murrells. Here it is:

Steve Murrells
Co-operative Group Limited
PO Box 53
New Century House
Manchester
M60 4ES

31st July 2013

Dear Steve Murrells

As the Co-op is one of my local stores I decided to become a member and to use it when I can. I prefer use the independent shops and the Co-op rather than give yet more money to the ubiquitous Tesco. However with this weeks news that the Co-op will be demanding that Lad’s Mags to be sold in modesty bags I will no longer be shopping my local Co-op. The reasons for this are as follows.

As a woman I find the current trend towards more puritan values very disturbing. Lobby groups such as UK Feminista and Object represent the more extreme and fanatical end of this trend and I am very disappointed that the Co-op has buckled under pressure from them. With the proposed censoring of the Internet last week and the general moral panic at the moment about ‘sexualisation’ this is another retrograde step. It is almost like we are experiencing a sexual counter-revolution.

I am worried about this overall message that demonises the female body and buys into centuries old patriarchal tradition that female flesh is sinful and corrupting. It is this mentality that spurred the Witch Trials of the 16th Century and in more recent times has cast a veil of silence over sexual abuse. It leads to an environment where people are made to feel shame about a perfectly natural urge leading to anger and frustration rather than self-awareness and understanding.

The message the Co-operative is sending out is that it agrees with the backward idea that female sexuality and the female body is essentially a corrupting and bad thing and therefore must be hidden. That the female body is dirty, wrong, and bad. It is also extremely hypocritical as celebrity magazines such as OK and Heat are far more salacious and negative about bodies. I find it bizarre that you are ok with these gossip mags that foment insecurity around cellulite, weight etc but are not with ones showing confident and liberated women. Will you also require them to be covered up? What about videos games that regularly feature violence?

We have come along way since the 60s, and the emancipation of all of us to wear what we like (a woman will not longer be branded ‘tart’ for wearing a short skirt) and to explore our sexual selves, which has been a very important social force. I can guarantee you that if this trend towards puritanism continues we will see a rise in sexual harassment, sexual assault and rape. This is because the message you and others are sending is that sex and especially of the female kind is inherently wrong. This will make zealots more confident about chastising the ‘temptress’ or slut-shaming women who dare to be emancipated. The train of thought that goes ‘oh she’s a slut look at her she deserved it’ will be encouraged by actions such as modesty bags.

It also seems like a cheap publicity stunt, similar to David Cameron’s unworkable Internet porn ban. I am aware that the Co-operative Group is not the best financial shape and that a sensational press release will raise brand awareness for far less money than a broadcast advertising campaign.

I would urge you to reconsider your actions; meanwhile please find enclosed my membership card, as I no longer wish to be associated with your company.

Regards

A member

Please feel free to add your voice at steve.murrells@co-operative.coop or write a letter to the Manchester head office address above.

Sex Work & Feminism, This-ism, That-ism, Ism! Ism! Ism!

Ev’rybody’s talkin’ ’bout
Bagism, Shagism, Dragism, Madism, Ragism, Tagism
This-ism, that-ism, ism ism ism
All we are saying is give peace a chance

In the 1980s, lefties like me dismissed John Lennon’s lyrics as utopian hippy bullshit. Those people who identified as Socialists, Marxists, Maoists, Trotskyists, Communists, Feminists, Fabianites, Anarchists etc. were dismissive of those mindless ideology-free fools. If you couldn’t put an -ism to your name, what kind of spineless person were you?

It became apparent as I grew older that -isms are not so much about believing strongly in something as wanting to belong to a tribe. And who doesn’t want to belong? I used to think that people like Marx and Trotsky had created brilliant new ways of looking at the world. And I still do. But I suspect that Marx and Trotsky would be deeply embarrassed at most of the Marxists and Trotskyists in the world. Great men are great for the very reason that they think for themselves. The reason so many people like -isms is because they would rather let somebody else think for them.

These labels of tribal identity have become so ossified that they have lost their meanings. I’ve met conservatives who call themselves Marxists, and progressives who think they’re conservatives. A label comes with a handy set of “beliefs”, which people can adopt without going through the tiresome process of actually thinking.

As I’ve blogged before, it’s not that I’m no longer left-wing – it’s more that the left has become dogmatic, conservative and stupid in its thinking – the very opposite of what it used to be. All groups become stale and stuck in conservative ways of thinking. The left’s intellectual heyday was in the 19th century – no wonder it is tired and conservative these days.

Feminism is another label that has lost all sense of its roots. First wave feminism fought for the vote and women’s property rights in the 19th century. Second wave feminism fought for gender equality, the recognition of rape as a serious crime (including in marriage) and sexual liberation for women. Having moved on from these goals, 1980s feminism split into various opposing fragments.

Like all other -isms, most people call themselves feminists as a handy tribal label. Most feminists today don’t know much about feminist history, any more than Marxists have read Marx. I’ve heard people say things like “I’m a feminist, so I am opposed to porn”. This is dumb at two levels – first, that feminists don’t automatically oppose porn (though some do), and second because it isn’t a reasoning process, but a mere statement of identity. People who make such statements have clearly not thought through the issues for themselves, but simply adopted somebody else’s ideas as their own.

I’ve written quite a lot about conservative feminism vs. sex-positive feminism. Some people who haven’t paid enough attention have accused me of attacking feminism; and yet, I’m pointing out that feminism has been attacked from within. Social conservatives have adopted the feminist label in order to make their ideas seem progressive, and in doing so, have undermined feminism itself.

I’m both amused and pleased that my writing has not only persuaded some progressives that they are no longer feminists, but that I’ve also persuaded at least one male conservative that he is in fact a feminist.

Today marks a day of protest to end violence against sex workers. Although sex workers are of both genders, most of the stigma associated with sex work, and most of the violence, is targeted at women. If there is a cause for feminists to embrace today, this is it. Feminist sex workers are on the front line in this battle, fighting for recognition and against criminalisation. And yet, the most vociferous opponents to recognising sex worker rights include both the religious right and “radical feminists”. These two groups come from very different roots and use very different language, but all too often share platforms to fight for the same goals: censoring sexual expression, stigmatising sexuality, criminalising prostitution, closing down striptease and burlesque venues.

Sex workers have little doubt that criminalisation and stigmatisation increase violence against them. Yet some feminist groups refuse to listen to the workers, claim that no woman in her right mind would choose sex work, and call for the trade to be pushed underground. Feminists succeeded in this goal in Sweden, which introduced the so-called Nordic Model to criminalise the sex trade and push it underground. The Nordic Model is being held responsible by sex workers for the murder of a sex worker and activist known as Petite Jasmine, an event which triggered today’s protests.

I personally doubt that anti-sex work feminist groups genuinely have women’s interests at heart; they have been caught twisting the facts too often to be credible as feminists (as Brooke Magnanti exposed in her book, The Sex Myth). But if they want to call themselves feminists, that is, of course, their right.

As for me, I’m in favour of decriminalising sex work, and agree with sex worker advocates that the Nordic Model is bigoted and dangerous. Does that make me a feminist? Ism ism ism… I’m with John Lennon on this one.

Tuppy Owens: I Was Censored By Feminists

Tuppy Owens
Tuppy Owens

Since the 1960s, Tuppy Owens has been a sexual libertarian: she has campaigned tirelessly for sexual freedom and set up groups that fight for sexual rights for disabled people. As a woman fighting for the sexual rights of women (as well as men) to enjoy sexual pleasure without guilt, she might once have been embraced by the feminist movement; yet since the late 1970s, she has been repeatedly attacked by anti-sex feminists. Here, she describes some of her experiences.

 

My name is Tuppy Owens and I am a woman. I started the Outsiders Club in 1979 for disabled men and women to gain confidence and find partners. Feminists immediately started attacking me, accusing me of encouraging disabled men to be “as disgusting as other men”. I can remember them sitting in the front row at conferences I spoke at, hurling abuse. I chose to ignore them.

For 25 years of my life, I published the Sex Maniac’s Diary, a jovial pocket book featuring sex positions of the day, kinks of the week, and international listings for sexy hotels, swing clubs, fetish clubs and places to enjoy commercial sex. Many people bought it as a joke Christmas present but in reality the information was very seriously researched and presented.

There were obviously more commercial establishments for men than for women (as there still are), but feminists therefore decided the little diary was “sexist”, and slowly printers refused to print it and criticism abounded – its charm and innocence were lost. I was very upset, but there was nothing I could do, anti-sex feminism was “in”.

Rather reluctantly, I was persuaded by its organisers to join Feminists Against Censorship. I didn’t really go along with their way of working and had nothing in common with the members. One of them asked me, while scrounging a lift in my car, “do you still fuck men?” “Yes”, I replied, why not?”. “Well, men just do what they want.” I thought about this and told her, “Yes, men do what they want and women do what we want. That’s what makes sex so great.” “Oh” she said, and sat silently.

Feminists Against Censorship decided to produce a book. I suggested they call it “Tales from the Clitoris” but it ended up with the rather vulgar title, “Tales from the Clit”. I was to be given a chapter, to write about Outsiders and my work with disabled people.

I wrote it from the heart. Midway through, I expressed my concern with what was happening a great deal at the time (late 80’s, early 90’s) when women felt their genitals were rather like a trophy which would be shared only in very special circumstances. I watched women swagger around as if they held this precious object between their legs, not to be shared. “Where had the generosity gone? How sad it was for disabled men who would never live up to the required standards, and never get to taste their delicious pussies and share their pleasures.”

Or something like that. Well, this paragraph was censored out, and I declared “I’ve been censored by Feminists Against Censorship!”.

Sadly, things have got much worse now. Feminists have joined forces with religious groups to get rid of all the wonderful striptease joints in London and elsewhere. Why can’t they listen to the women who are strippers before campaigning to close their places of work? Why are they allowed to get away with this? Probably because the feminists have kicked the balls out of the politicians, council members and journalists who might, in the past, have stopped them behaving so outrageously.

Feminism makes me not wish to identify as a woman, or a human being for that matter. I think I’ll opt for just being a mammal.