Michael Coren: Liar And Fascist Sympathiser

Michael Coren: Liar
The face of modern fascism ain't pretty

Heard of Michael Coren? I hadn’t heard of him until the wonders of the net brought him to me not so long ago. Coren is a Brit, but thankfully (for us Brits, anyway) he emigrated to Canada in the 1980s. He’s a right-wing, Muslim-bashing commentator in the Canadian media.

Whether the YouTube video below is typical of his output, I’m not sure, but regardless, the man is clearly a Muslim-baiting moron who lies on behalf of the fascist English Defence League (EDL) in order to advance their race-hate agenda.

A little background: the EDL’s leader, Tommy Robinson, is a master of fascist propaganda who can turn almost any event into racial hatred of Pakistanis among his moronic followers. A week or so ago, Robinson announced that he had been ambushed and severely beaten by “a group of Pakistani youths” in a car. An account of the incident and a photo of his “injuries” was released via a far-right web site.

EDL supporters are well known for their gullibility, so the story spread online. From the start it seemed unlikely, if not plain nonsensical, and the EDL have a history of poorly fabricated tales. Quickly, the good moron-watchers at edlnews.co.uk debunked it.

The day after the attack, Coren posted a moronic piece of propaganda, riddled with both outright lies about the incident and smears against Muslims. You can see the YouTube video below.

To deal with the video point by point:

  • Note that Robinson has already been on Coren’s show twice. Have anti-fascists been invited to counter Tommy’s hateful rants?
  • Robinson was “the sort of person fighting Hitler in the second world war”? No, he was the sort of person that was imprisoned in the second world war for supporting fascism – very much a modern-day Oswald Mosley in fact.
  • Robinson is “not a fascist” according to Coren – most “non-fascists” don’t need to continually point this out. Perhaps Robinson shouldn’t create confusion by acting and talking like a fascist.
  • Coren says Robinson was travelling by train, rather than car (as claimed by Robinson himself). Come on Michael, if you’re going to lie in public, at least tell the officially approved lie.
  • Coren says Robinson was “beaten up by an Islamic gang”. There are no “Islamic gangs” in the UK, Michael. Even the moronic EDL version said it was a “group of Pakistani youths”.
  • Coren repeats, without question, claims by a known liar, with no witnesses, such as the “gang” yelling Allahu Akbar during the attack.
  • Coren fabricates “multiple fractures” – even the EDL didn’t claim this. When Tommy comes in for his interview on 2nd January, are you going to ask how his bones healed so fast, Michael?
  • Finally, as I mentioned above, the attack almost certainly never happened. Even Murdoch’s Sun newspaper in the UK didn’t take Tommy’s word for it, since he didn’t bother to report the incident to police.

Although lying about Muslims and whipping up race hate against minorities (like British Pakistanis) is fashionable these days, something this overt and dishonest is unusual from a “mainstream” media figure. Clearly Coren’s Jewish origins (he converted to Catholicism in his 20s) haven’t stopped him from consulting the Goebbels handbook on how to whip up the fear of minorities.

Moronic Misrepresentations of Muslims

As I write this, I’m spending a few days in Egypt – by my count, this is the eleventh Muslim-majority country I’ve visited (though that count includes a fast, accidental journey through the Palestinian West Bank, driving a car with yellow Israeli number plates, so perhaps ten is a more accurate number). A few minutes ago I took a seat in a cafĂ©. At the next table was a veiled woman with two small boys; I smiled and nodded at her – she met my eyes and nodded back. Maybe she smiled back too.

Western misunderstandings and misrepresentations of Muslims and Muslim-majority countries don’t begin with the 9/11 attacks – the seeds of the fear have been there for centuries. I admit that when I took my first trip outside the “Christian world”, to Turkey, I expected to meet some unfriendliness at the least, and resolved to keep my Jewish identity a secret. I had already travelled in Europe and North America, but nowhere else. On my first day in Istanbul I asked a local how to get somewhere; he beckoned me to follow him, and I reluctantly did. We walked to a main street and boarded a bus. I looked around at the other passengers and listened to them talking their incomprehensible language, and wondered if I was heading into danger, or at least that my guide was going to try to fleece me for some cash. After a little while we got off the bus in a residential area. The man pointed up the street to show me my destination. Then he waved goodbye, turned and walked away. My first real encounter with a Turk, and he’d been more friendly and helpful than pretty much any Western stranger I’d ever met. Coincidence? It turned out not – Turks, I found, are generally more friendly and welcoming than any European population I’ve encountered (by which I include European diaspora cultures including North America and Australia).

My second venture into an Islamic culture worried me more. I’d been offered a few weeks’ work in Abu Dhabi, in the United Arab Emirates. Growing up Jewish, having been taught to love Israel and having vague childhood memories of Arab-Israel hostilities, I had a negative view of Arabs. Nobody had overtly told me they were bad people, but somehow I’d developed that idea anyway. I was worried people might spot that I didn’t look particularly English, and enquire about my origins. At immigration, my passport was checked by a man in traditional Arab dress. I admit I was worried – but of course I had no problems. As my time in Abu Dhabi passed, I relaxed, and would stroll the city in the evenings, eating in local places. After a while, I confided in a work colleague (a Lebanese man) that I was Jewish. No alarms sounded; he didn’t look shocked; but shook his head sadly: “The Jews and the Palestinians are the smartest people in the Middle East”, he said. “If only they could work together, they would lead the region”. The people of UAE proved to be welcoming and friendly enough – though perhaps less approachable than Turks. Given that native-born UAE residents are fairly wealthy and form an upper class over a largely immigrant workforce, that’s not surprising though.

Later travels took me to several Muslim countries in North and West Africa. Each time I found people who were generally more welcoming of outsiders than Europeans; indeed, I started to realise that a natural hostility to outsiders seems to be a characteristic found more strongly in European cultures than elsewhere. Given our continent’s position as a remote north-western outpost of the Old World, that’s perhaps not surprising. Europe has been of little interest to outsiders for most of human existence, and Europeans aren’t used by nature to foreigners visiting us. We are still the fortress continent, and we (including our white American, Australasian and South African cousins) carry that old European fear of anybody different to ourselves. The only long-term visitors to Europe from outside are the Jews and the Gypsies – and neither group has fared well.

I have frustrating conversations on Twitter with ignorant morons, largely in the US, who have never visited a Muslim country – many who have never even met a Muslim person – and yet persist in a ludicrously narrow, stereotypical view of Muslims. There’s nothing that can be truly described as “Islamic culture”. Surface Arab conservatism hides the same vices that exist in the West. Morocco was a haven of tolerance for European homosexuals long before they were accepted anywhere in Europe. I’ve danced in a local Moroccan night club that doubled as a gay venue and a brothel; I’ve seen Gambian and Sierra Leonean women dance far more outrageously than would be considered “decent” in many American bars. Saudis drive to Bahrain to get drunk for the weekend just as Brits head out to Amsterdam to get stoned.

Is the Islamic world packed with uniformly wonderful people? Of course not – and it’s the diversity of cultures that gives the lie to the idea that there such thing as Islamic culture. (Muslim) North Africans I’ve met, who have worked in wealthy Saudi Arabia have described the (Muslim) Saudis to me as the most racist people they’ve ever encountered. The Muslim world contains communists and fascists, atheists and fundamentalists, just as the Western world does.

As for the growing myth that Muslims and Jews are natural enemies: this is spread by Christians, the true historic enemies of both Jews and Muslims. Muslim nations sheltered Jews in the 1930s and 1940s when Europe was no longer a safe place for them. Further back, the Islamic Moorish Empire in Spain protected the right of Jews to worship; when the Catholics retook Iberia, they forced Jews and Muslims to convert, under the threat of death. My own ancestry includes some Sephardic Jews who fled from Portugal to the Netherlands following the Christian victory over the Moors. Until the establishment of the state of Israel, every Muslim country in the Middle East and North Africa, plus Turkey, Persia/Iran, Pakistan, and others had thriving Jewish communities; most of these countries still have small Jewish communities, sadly diminished by the pull of Israel. Israel itself owes its existence to the Nazis; the vast majority of European Jews had no interest in joining the Zionist extremists until they were slaughtered en-masse by Christians.

As for alcohol? This is very much the European’s drug of choice, but I’ve drunk legally in every Muslim country I visited; in the UAE, only foreign passport-holders can drink legally, but in the other nine countries it was freely available, including locally-produced beers and wines. This is the case in the vast majority of Muslim countries. Cannabis and hash were also easily available in most of the countries, and generally more tolerated than in the majority of European countries or US states. Many Muslims drink, though more moderately than Westerners, and many tend to give up as they get older, seeing it as a drug for young people.

The Muslim Brotherhood, which recently polled around 40% of the vote here in Egypt, is conservative, and against much of what I believe in; yet most of its beliefs are markedly more tolerant and centrist than those on the Christian right of US politics. It’s sad but inevitable that democracy in Arab and North African countries has unleashed conservatism; the people of Egypt, Tunisia and Morocco are in the majority, poor and rural. Rural people are naturally conservative. The only way towards liberalism in these places is to allow democracy, development and urbanisation to occur. The next, better educated and wealthier generation in turn will demand their sexual and personal freedoms from the religious right.

The religious right in America, despite being the most bigoted and loudest voice against Muslims, is the natural ally of the religious right in Arabia and North Africa. They believe in the same things: that sexual liberty needs to be reigned in, that drugs and alcohol should be tightly controlled, that abortion and homosexuality are wrong and that people shouldn’t be allowed the freedom to choose these things for themselves. The far-right in Europe is more secular, intelligent and cynical – they use the supposed “intolerance” of Muslims against them; yet this intolerance is a lie. For example, a recent poll in the UK showed British Muslims were marginally more accepting of homosexuality than British Christians were.

Sadly, even some liberals have fallen for this propaganda. Some have supported France’s bigoted ban on veils, accepting the lie that most women don’t choose the veil for themselves; they often accept the “Muslims are intolerant” line almost as easily as bigoted right-wing Christians do. They believe that Western troops in Afghanistan can somehow “improve” the lives of women (forgetting that the rise of the Taliban conservatives was caused by our own destabilising of liberal, secular regimes there).

Oh, and let’s get past the lie that Muslim-hate isn’t racist. Yes, as our bigoted moron friends will constantly point out, Islam isn’t a race. But Islamophobia has just become a proxy for race hate towards old targets: Pakistanis in the UK, Moroccans in the Netherlands, blacks and Arabs in the US, Turks in Germany.

We need to confront the lies and the liars head-on. The terrorism in the world comes overwhelmingly from ourselves in the West. We can strengthen liberal tolerance and freedom in Islamic countries by strengthening it in our own, and lending support to struggles for democracy, social equality and tolerance elsewhere. The rise of religious crazies in Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia will only be strengthened by the rise of fascist, Christian crazies in Europe and North America. Our job is to expose their moronic lies at home – our Muslim cousins can deal with their own problems.

As I prepared to submit this post, a little Egyptian boy came and offered me a bowl of sweets – I took one, saying Shukran. the boy’s mother and grandmother, both wearing hijabs, walked past and smiled at me. “It’s his Mum’s birthday”, explained the grandmother, gesturing at her daughter, flashing me a broad smile, before they hurried on after the child.

Dear Lowe’s: A Little PR Advice

Open Letter to Robert A. Niblock, Chairman of Lowe’s, a chain of home improvement stores in the US.

Dear Mr Niblock,

First let me say I’ve never visited one of your stores; to be honest, as a British citizen and resident, I’d never heard of your company till this week. Being even more brutally honest, even if I lived in the US close to one of your stores, I’d probably not visit as home improvement isn’t one of my skill-sets. I’ve put up the odd shelf successfully. And then the odd one has fallen down. Overall, as the young of today might say: home improvement Fail.

You came to my attention because of the TV show All American Muslims. Of course, I haven’t seen it, but from what I’ve seen it’s been favourably reviewed in the media, both American and international. The show, apparently, is a fly-on-the-wall documentary, looking at the daily lives of some American Lebanese families. It sounds fun, and fairly harmless. And undoubtedly a show like this is useful right now, what with small gangs of crazies like the Florida Family Association trying to stir up hate against ordinary Muslims, and everything.

It was inevitable that people like Pamela Geller, a hate-monger with strong links to European fascist groups (not to mention an inspiration to the Norwegian terrorist Anders Breivik), would jump on this bandwagon – after all, spreading hate and fear is how people like Pam make their living. And so of course, some crazies were going to call for a boycott of the show. And in this Internet age, it’s so easy to put a form online allowing any old moron to click a button and instantly send a protest email.

So, complaints were duly sent. Morons don’t want to see actual, real-life Muslims. They want to see TV programmes representing Muslims as terrorists with red, angry eyes slitting babies’ throats. Which would be a bit like presenting Tim McVeigh as your average all-round American. But that’s morons for you – can’t live live them, can’t live without them (at least I can’t – this blog would be really boring without their help).

I’m a British Jew, and these moronic calls for boycotts of anything Muslim remind me of the things my grandparents and their friends and relatives went through in the 1930s. We had relatives scattered across mainland Europe, and boycotts of anything Jewish became commonplace. And then it got worse (not sure if news of this reached America, but we European Jews had a small local difficulty they call the Holocaust). My Dad had a go at drawing up a family tree a few years ago (as boring old retired people tend to do) and identified over 100 of our relatives who had died in the Holocaust. So forgive me if I seem a little over-sensitive, but boycott of anything on racial grounds brings up negative thoughts.

But this is 2011 – really, would any business in this day and age carry out a Nazi-style racial boycott? So imagine my surprise when I saw your company, and your name, mentioned in the media as having withdrawn advertising from the All American Muslims TV show. Of course, business is business, and if you think a lot of your customers are Nazi-inspired, bigoted cretins who won’t come to you next time they want a garden furniture set (or whatever it is you sell), then you gotta do what you gotta do.

But here’s the thing: I’ve run a few small businesses, and I don’t get your PR strategy here. You’ve gone and got yourself loads of global, negative publicity. The name Lowe’s has overnight become synonymous with fascism. Now OK, perhaps you have your eye on the Nazi dollar. But is that dollar going to balance out all the bleeding-heart fascist-despising liberal dollars you’ve just lost yourselves? Personally, I doubt it. From what I know, rednecks don’t even buy garden furniture. They recycle broken old sofas in their yards (I’ve seen the Dukes of Hazzard), which is certainly environment-conscious, but not great business for the likes of Lowe’s.

Now here’s what I would have done: in the face of a boycott campaign by Nazi morons like Pamela Geller (who after all, only commands the adoration of a few thousand internationally-scattered illiterate fuckwits), I’d issue a press release, along the lines of: As an American business Lowe’s upholds American values of freedom and equality, and completely rejects calls for blah blah blah…. Then, sure you’ve lost some of your Nazi customers. But you get yourself free, nationwide (even international) publicity. You sell more crap to liberals. And you corner the Muslim market! (Quick, build yourself a store in Dearborn!)

Looks like you’ve missed that boat – hopefully someone smarter than you will grab it.

Best regards,
MoronWatch

PS: if any Lowe’s shareholders are reading, I’d recommend you fire your moron Chairman.

Drunken Brawl Excites Morons

Daily Mail Fail
News For Morons

Let me start with some background for people who have never visited Britain: we drink. A lot. And unlike our continental neighbours, who drink moderately most days of the week, we like to binge. This makes for busy times for the police and hospitals at weekends. In fact, if you’re an aspiring war reporter looking for experience, just head for any British town or city on a Friday night. But be careful out there.

Usually, this attracts little attention in the media. After all, it happens all the time, everywhere. But one particular brawl has excited the moronic end of the press, along with morons throughout the Twitterverse: a brawl that took place in the city of Leicester.

What Happened

A group of Somali women attacked a white woman; they claimed they were responding to racial abuse. The incident was captured on CCTV and the women were arrested, charged, found guilty and handed down a suspended sentence and curfew (for the worst offender) and community service for the rest.

Then The Media Got Wind Of It

Drunken brawls happen in every British city, every weekend. The unusual aspect of this was that it involved Somalis: almost all alcohol-related disorder usually involves white British people.

Being Somali, the women are also Muslim – although clearly are not practising Muslims. This helps expose the nonsensical far-right accusation that “Muslims refuse to integrate”. I personally know Muslims who drink and mix freely in British society; the EDL, BNP and other Muslim-baiting morons would have you believe that all British Muslim women wear burqas and “hate our way of life”. It seems that these young women actually like our “way of life” – perhaps a little bit too much.

The right-wing press, of course, sniffed a chance for Muslim-baiting. Rather than celebrate how well adapted these women had become to the British lifestyle, they ran headlines such as The Telegraph’s: Muslim women not used to drinking walk free after attack on woman. The only other papers to carry the story, with the same anti-Muslim spin, were the ultra-right-wing Daily Mail and Murdoch’s Sun. All three papers have great racist form. Oh, and StormFront, a Nazi site, also carried the story.

All three papers managed to mention the women’s religion in their headlines. Strangely, I’ve never seen a headline about Christian drinking violence, although this happens pretty much every day. The “walk free” part of the headline was used to imply that they were let off. This was misleading – as I’ve mentioned, they were found guilty and received similar penalties that anyone else would have done in the same circumstances.

And Then Twitter

The far-right BNP, EDL and their moronic online supporters wasted no time in spreading the story, twisting it more with each telling. What began yesterday as a regular Friday night incident for Leicester police, with a racial twist, is now evidence of a Jihad.

This is a perfect example of the race-hate machine in action: from the seed of any story comes another excuse to stoke up race hate among morons. The fact that around 99% of drunken, violent attacks in the UK are made by white people is irrelevant to them; they only need these isolated incidents to fire up their moronic followers into a frenzy of mouth-frothing hatred.

The Racist Tram Woman And Her Moronic Defenders

Racist Tram Moron
Racist Tram Moron

You’ve probably seen the video of racist-tram-woman ranting at “non-English” people on a tram in South London; it went viral yesterday, culminating in the woman’s arrest. The arrest was predictably followed by moronic screams about attacks on free speech or authoritarianism. But the woman’s behaviour was clearly within the definition of hate speech, and was clearly upsetting to those she chose as targets. It also came close to inciting a violent response. It was a textbook example of why hate laws exist.

People who have never experienced such an attack may have difficulty understanding how it feels to be on the receiving end. As I’ve mentioned before, I have experience of being a “visible minority”, to use the politically correct terminology. At my London school, I was among a white minority of around 10%. Through my adult life, largely because of choices I’ve made, I’m often in a minority of one among black people. And black crowds are no more enlightened in their treatment of minorities than white crowds are.

I experienced something very similar to yesterday’s incident, a few years ago on the Subway in Brooklyn. I was the only white person on my train carriage; this didn’t strike me as weird or frightening, as I’m used to being in that position. Nothing happened until I caught the eye of a man staring at me; my natural response was to nod in greeting, to which his reaction was to scream at me: Who the fuck you looking at, you White Bastard? My initial response was rage, then a mixture of fear and embarrassment. In London, I’d know how to respond, but in New York, I didn’t know where I stood. Unlike the other passengers in the South London tram incident, nobody on that train stood up for me. Every coward or racist on that carriage found something else to stare at. If there’s a shred of comfort from the London video, it is that people stood up to the racist bully; London 1, New York 0.

There’s no such thing as “reverse racism”; it’s a myth. Racism is racism, and it’s always moronic. The idea (that I’ve heard from liberals at times) that racism directed at white people is somehow more excusable due to the actions of other white people towards other black people at other times is ludicrous. Because some other white people were/are guilty of “oppressing” some other black people somewhere else doesn’t make my skin colour a valid target of hatred.

I’ve experienced racism many times – usually in subtle forms. Walking with a black woman in London, New York or Accra I have been met with confrontational stares from passing men. My only option as a man on the receiving end is to puff out my chest and stare back. To look down, to back down increases the risk of an attack escalating. This can become tiring; it drains you, makes you angry, makes you start to misjudge people’s attention and see racism where there isn’t any. Those black and Asian people on the London tram have all faced racial aggression before – probably not so overt, but nonetheless, it’s hardly a novel experience for any of them to know that a person dislikes them for their skin colour or accent. I fully understand the reaction of the young black man who rose to respond; but was glad that he was persuaded to sit down again.

People have the right to ride a tram or walk the streets without facing aggression. The moronic woman broke hate laws and it’s right that she was arrested. A failure to react condones the behaviour; at a time when racism and nationalism are on the rise, failing to deal with hate crimes will inevitably result in the crimes multiplying and becoming more serious.

The same applies to hate speech everywhere; for example, South Africa too is experiencing increased racial tension, not just against the white minority but against foreign blacks too. South African minorities need hate laws to be enforced every bit as much as (or perhaps even more than) minorities in the UK need protecting. So do minorities in Rwanda, where hate laws (for obvious reasons) are ruthlessly enforced. Racism is a universal problem, affecting minorities of every race, tribe, religion and colour. To protest that arresting the tram moron was an attack on free speech is simply moronic.

The Reality of Right-Wing Nationalism Hits Norway

75 years ago this October, my grandfather, the son of Jewish immigrants to London’s poor East End, took to the streets with thousands of others to stop the ultra-nationalist British Union of Fascists from marching through a largely Jewish area. The event turned into a pitched battle, with Oswald Mosley’s fascists and the Metropolitan Police on one side, and locals, Jews, Irish, socialists and communists on the other. The fight (which became known as the Battle of Cable Street) ended with victory for the anti-fascist side, with the fascists and police beaten off the streets.

Following the Holocaust, Fascism became a dirty word, but Nationalists have continually tried to detoxify their brand and reinstate themselves into the mainstream. Mosley returned in the 1950s, this time labelling black immigrants, rather than Jews and Irish, as the main “threat” to the “British way of life”. In the late-60s, Conservative MP Enoch Powell became famous for predicting that mass immigration would lead to “rivers of blood“. Through the 70s, right-wing nationalism and street-thuggery rose in the form of the National Front, but the movement was resisted on the streets, and finally dissolved in the early-80s as a new, multicultural music scene brought young black and white people together socially. By the 90s, nationalism seemed to be a thing of the past, but the 9/11 attacks gave the racist right a chance to re-brand as an anti-Islam force. Nearly ten years on, and we can see that the “Islam is a threat” message has worked its way from fascist meeting rooms into the political mainstream-right in Europe and the US.

Gradually, the anti-Islam message has morphed back into a more traditional anti-immigration message, being amplified by the right-wing tabloid press here (and Fox News in the US). The nationalist, anti-immigration message isn’t easy to sell; it relies on persuading people that the past (or rather, an imaginary, idyllic past) is being replaced by a more dangerous future as immigrants join their society. Prior to 9/11 it seemed that the Western World had moved beyond irrational fear of foreigners, and that society’s liberal tendencies had prevailed; but we soon learned that race hate and xenophobia weren’t far beneath the surface; that US and European society had changed less since the 1940s than we’d convinced ourselves.

When the drum of fear and hate is being pounded consistently, the infection will naturally spread. For most fear-infected morons, the outlet of Twitter or a blog is enough. But it’s inevitable that angry or mentally-disturbed individuals like Anders Behring Breivik will become infected too, and violence will follow, as it did last Friday in Norway. Breivik’s choice of target, the mainstream, liberal Norwegian Labour Party, was a natural one for anyone understanding the history of European nationalism. He chose a multicultural youth camp, something designed to ease racial tensions in Norway, but also proof (in Breivik’s confused world view) that evil forces were trying to dilute Norway’s racial and cultural past into something new and alien.

Whether Breivik acted alone, it can be stated with certainty that he was influenced by master-manipulators of the nationalist movement. It’s already been established from his own blog (English translation provided by @Dilmunite) that he admired the far-right English Defence League; according to many EDL Facebook posts, Breivik had many EDL Facebook friends, and attended an EDL rally in the UK in 2010. I’d recommend following @BanTheEDL and @EverythingEDL on Twitter for a collection of evidence linking group members with Breivik.

Another key Breivik influencer was someone I’ve often mentioned: Pamela Geller, a self-appointed “defender” of America against “creeping Islamification”. Pamela spent the weekend tweeting new myths distancing herself from the terrorist, for her army of moron followers to disseminate.

In my Twitter feed, I’ve long watched morons large and small disseminate misinformation about Islam, Muslims and immigration. Their purpose was to spread enough hatred widely enough that sooner or later someone would take action, and set a chain of violence underway. It looks as though they found a new disciple (though not their first – right-wing terror plots have long been of concern, especially in the US), and no doubt other “white heroes” are watching and contemplating whether to follow Breivik’s example (as was clearly his intention).

Western governments now need to decide whether Islamaphobic lies and smears equate to hate speech, and whether to prosecute the most virulent of these liars. The shock following the Norway attacks will quickly pass, and lack of action against armchair-nationalist morons by governments will result in more confidence in the nationalist movements, and inevitably more violence.

Racism and Moronic Science

Satoshi Kanazawa, a British-based evolutionary psychologist, managed to achieve headlines last week by claiming on the web site Psychology Today to have carried out research showing that black women are less attractive than other woman (article now removed but a copy exists here). He of course provoked an immediate backlash from those who had found his “discovery” offensive. Though I immediately doubted his finding, science isn’t served without giving ideas a fair hearing.

So what was Kanazawa’s method? He showed some American men and women a selection of photos of women of various races, and the black women scored lowest. This immediately rings alarm bells for at least two reasons: firstly, how were the subjects selected? More importantly, this took place in America, the country that probably has a greater in-built cultural bias against black people than any other; the reasons for this are complex but primarily descend from the US’s “Jim Crow” racial segregation laws. Although these laws were abolished following the civil rights movement of the 1960s, their social hangover exists to the present day. American society is still very segregated. In a nutshell, any study of this kind conducted only in the United States would be almost guaranteed to “prove” that black women were “less attractive” than whites or Asians. This study is simply an analysis of American attitudes towards black women – and we didn’t need a survey to guess what the results would say.

As if this wasn’t unscientific enough, Kanazawa’s explanation was even more moronic:

Africans on average have higher levels of testosterone than other races…women with higher levels of testosterone have more masculine features and are therefore less physically attractive.

Um right… so he set out to “prove” that black women are less attractive, set up a study that would provide the answer he wanted, and then plucked a random “fact” out of the air to explain it.

I should now point out that in American “one drop” thinking, “black” refers to pretty much anyone who appears to have at least some African heritage; Barack Obama of course is probably 50% African and 50% European, while Tiger Woods is no more than 25% African, yet they’re both referred to as black. It’s likely that many of the “black women” in Kanazawa’s study are actually mixed race rather than African in origin.

So what is Kanazawa up to? Well, he already has form on racial matters, having weighed into the area of race and intelligence previously; this is a favourite one for racists, because IQ tests do tend to give higher scores for whites than blacks. This line of reasoning has been utterly discredited however, as IQ tests have been shown to measure the amount of science-based education a person has received. As more black people get access to good education, black IQ scores have been rising faster than white ones, and the gap is closing; the differences are cultural and social, not genetic – and Kanazawa surely knows that.

So the man is without doubt a racist; his work has also been repeatedly discredited – click here and here for examples.

After this episode, Kanazawa will have little academic credibility left, but will no doubt become a poster boy for American white supremecists, a dying breed who need every bit of credibility they can find.

Banning Sharia And Other Dangerous Things

About six months ago, the US state of Oklahoma pioneered the banning of Sharia (Islamic) law. It’s not too clear why, since Muslims represent only about 0.4% of Oklahoma’s population, but given Oklahoma’s habit a century ago of hanging black men from trees, picking on defenseless minorities seems to be standard Oklahoman thinking. At least 13 states have now proposed such legislation, for no apparent reason other than the fear of minorities that seems to make up an important part of the white American psyche.

I wondered if there were other “useful” laws that Oklahoma should consider introducing, and here’s a selection, with thanks to some helpful people on Twitter.

  • Ban Dragons – Big, scary and fire-breathing. A menace to all God-fearing Oklahomans.
  • Ban Faster-than-light travel – it may be impossible, but do we really want to take the risk? (@ikonografer)
  • Mandatory leashing of unicorns – have you seen the horns on those things? (@DanVerg)
  • Gravity to remain between 9.7 and 9.9 meters-per-second-squared – do you want your weight to increase suddenly without warning? Me neither.
  • Ban christian fundamentalism – proposed by @elizabethr1533 who is obviously a Muslim-loving Commie.
  • Ban monsters under the bed – thank you to brother @cpoffers for this sensible idea.
  • Ban Spiders were suggested by @seancourt, who obviously hasn’t thought about feasibility. Much easier to ban something that isn’t there.
  • Black men to be banned from running for President – no, I didn’t think it could happen either. Does Oklahoma want to risk it happening a second time?
  • Ban Gays – you mean they haven’t already?!?! (@mrrob88 and @jonrod1) – I should point out they were joking. I think.
  • Alligators over 1 metre in length should be forbidden from keeping pet cats (@metalollie) – I don’t think you’re taking this exercise seriously.
  • Bill Bertrand suggested on my Facebook page that False Raptures should be banned. Interesting idea, but far too sensible.
  • Also on Facebook, Tziedel Tammas proposed Equal rights for Martians – that’s much better, though the prospect of Oklahomans voting in favour of equal rights for anything seems unlikely.

Feel free to add your own below.

Is Fascism Back in Europe? Did It Ever Leave?

Like all European Jews, I was taught about the Holocaust during childhood. The facts of the event are too staggering for even an adult to comprehend, let alone a child. But the explanation given was fairly straightforward: the German people went through some kind of temporary madness; the “good guys” (Britain, The US and the Soviet Union) went to war; we won and killed Hitler; surviving Jews were freed from the camps; it couldn’t happen again.

Some less palatable facts were left out of the account; the Holocaust was massive in scale, but was just one of countless European attacks on Jews and Gypsies throughout history; it wasn’t just the Nazis, or just the Germans, but a mass genocidal movement that rose spontaneously across large parts of Europe; the only reason it may not happen again was that this time it was a “success” – so many Jews were killed, and so many more fled to New York and Israel that Europe’s thirst for Jewish blood may have finally been sated.

What was “special” about Jews and Gypsies? Simply this: that both groups originated outside of Europe. And Europe hates outsiders.

Most people I know like the simplicity of the “one-off madness” theory. It saves thinking too much, and avoids any worry that similar could happen again. British Jews in particular like to blame Germany for everything; acknowledging you live in a continent that has taken repeated joy in slaughtering our ancestors is too much for most Jews to think about.

I believed in the simple view myself until I started travelling to Italy on a regular basis. I’d fallen in love with the style and beauty of the country, and learned to speak Italian to a good level. Visiting a friend’s family in the Alto Adige, a mixed Italian/German province in the far north-east of the country, helped open my eyes. It was casually explained to me that the city council of Bolzano (the main city of the region) regularly changes hands at elections – between the German-speaking Fascists and the Italian-speaking Fascists. I thought this must be some mistake; surely Fascism died in 1945, never to return?

While in Bolzano, I accompanied a friend to visit her father’s grave. She thought I’d be interested in the Jewish section of the cemetery so we walked around it. She said she didn’t think there were any Jews left in Bolzano – but she didn’t know where they had gone. That was my moment of revelation: by punishing the Nazis for the crimes of WW2, most of the guilty had gone free. History had been re-written. As Europe rebuilt, it had learned fewer lessons than it liked to pretend.

The European far-right struggled to re-establish itself for decades, but bit by bit it has returned to strength. The movements are deeply adaptable – unlike its cousin in America that finds it hard to hate anyone except black people, the European far-right is pragmatic in its choice of scapegoats. It’s no longer considered acceptable to blame Jews for everything? Then parade your “love” for Israel and blame Muslims instead. Homosexuality has become acceptable in Europe? Then gays will no longer be lynched – in fact the new fascists positively embrace homosexuality, brandishing their “tolerance” to show how “intolerant” Muslims are (cleverly ignoring the fact that European gays used to travel to Morocco on vacation when they were not acceptable to the average European).

Suddenly, apparently within a few months, far-right nationalism is confident and resurgent. The seed of this growth was in large part sown on 9/11, but it’s taken a decade for the anti-Muslim narrative to evolve. Mostly, the new nationalism is finding strength in the same places that embraced fascism in the 1930s: France and Italy, Hungary, Belgium, the Netherlands, across much of Europe. Nationalism is presented in fresh, acceptable forms. While we were on the lookout for jackboots and racist mobs, it instead presents itself in the form of Geert Wilders, who has gained popularity in The Netherlands, Marine Le Pen in France, and the boringly-British duo of Nick Griffin and Nigel Farage in the UK. It cloaks itself as “concern” over “excessive” immigration or as “defending our sovereignty” from the European Union. We forget so fast that Europe, by nature, is the world’s most warlike continent, and that the EU has created the longest period of peace in European history.

So here we are again – it’s not so much that far-right nationalism is back, it’s just that we forgot it never went away.

(Update: a Dutch translation of this article is available. Thanks to krapuul.nl)

Barack Obama Exposes Birthers As Morons

Most of you, whether in the US or anywhere else on Earth, will have heard about the Birther controversy. The widespread rumour that Barack Obama wasn’t born in the US, and so was ineligible to become President. In an attempt to lay the story to rest, Obama released his birth certificate during the 2008 election campaign; but the story, fueled by political rumours, continued to grow, with denials that the certificate released was real, and calls for the release of the “long-form” birth certificate.

The point was often made that no former (white) President had ever been asked to show his certificate – that the claims about Obama being non-American were coming from the traditionally racist right-wing constituency who were doubtless enraged with the election of a black President, and for whom the birth certificate issue became a proxy for their racism.

The discussion had seemed like it may slowly subside into the darkest corners of moronic conspiracy blogs when at the start of 2011, along came publicity-seeking billionaire Donald Trump, who raised the profile of the discussion again, much to the delight of the Obama-hating right, including the 40% of Republicans who believed that Obama was born overseas.

Then a couple of weeks ago, something strange happened; Fox News pundits who had enjoyed spreading anti-Obama stories, including birth-certificate-related ones, suddenly started to come out against the conspiracy theory. Had the anti-Obama right finally seen sense and decided to allow some honesty into the debate? Well, it seems not…

Today in a surprise announcement, Obama called time on the hysteria and released the long-form certificate. Perhaps he had finally decided to end the dumb discussion. Or maybe he’d carefully picked the moment to cause maximum political damage to his enemies. If the latter, he thoroughly deserves his moment, after having to take flak from morons over a period of more than two years.

So let’s look at who (deservedly) loses out here:

  • Donald Trump, who decided it was smart to place himself at the head of the birther movement, and whose presidential run is probably now doomed as a result. Strangely, Trump is trying to spin the birth certificate release as a victory… well, good luck with that!
  • The Republican Party, which allowed the discussion to grow and grow, and now can only be damaged by it.
  • The Tea Party, the fake “revolutionary” movement created by right-wing billionaires, which is tainted with birtherism.
  • The right-wing media, most of all Fox News, that helped spread the idea. Even right-wing British rags like the Daily Mail joined the game.
  • And finally, thousands of ordinary morons who used Twitter to repeat the lies they’d been told. Their racism got the better of their reason (if they had any to start with) and they end up looking most stupid of all.

The War On Morons has a long way to go; but today marks victory in a decisive battle.