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Sunday 24 February 2019

Secular Sundays: Misdirection, or Whataboutism as Political Expedience

Misdirection, or Whataboutism as Political Expedience

Bosch (c. 1500) The Wayfarer

My previous post could have been made at any time in the last year really, especially as pertaining to the Labour Party and Jeremy Corbyn. However, this has been made current by a recent split in the Labour Party and the formation of the Independent Group, many of whom cited Labour’s Anti-Semitism (some felt they didn’t need to prefix this with ‘Labour’s failure to deal with…’ that prompts a tone change in the conversation) as their reason for leaving. However, it also begs the question, “WHY NOW?” Why now, when we are less than a month from a potential No-Deal Brexit? Why now, when the Home Secretary is making a British citizen stateless?

There is a real need for a legitimate discussion about issues caused by the actions of foreign states and our part in them, about our relation towards religion and liberalism in the UK, about certain types of bigotry being effectively ‘authorised’ by our Government in their unwillingness to act, something that calls into question the usefulness of liberal democracies when dealing with fascism. However, is that time now? Or this is just a helpful distraction from the ongoing and unfolding crisis of inaction by the UK Government in relation to Brexit?

I would suggest that based on the lack of actual attempts to make this discussion about apparent anti-Semitism an all-party debate, and the general tone of media ‘scandal’ that has accompanied such reporting that is this another in a long line of recent distractions perpetrated by Governments to shift the public’s attention from a larger problem within the ruling party.

This is something of a speciality by the Trump administration, whose constant barrage of new outrages means that the press, let along the public, barely have the time to react before something new has overtaken the previous story. This technique means that there is not sufficient time to perform a proper analysis of the situation, place it in context, research facts, and so forth.

However, more useful in its level of distraction, would be a different crisis that has no simple or immediate end in sight (if at all). So, raising the spectre of the failure of multiculturalism and liberal ‘double standards’ (this despite rabid anti-Islamic feeling in the British press and in various political parties, as well as recent actions by the Tory Government in the ‘Windrush Scandal’) gives a potentially limitless supply of ammunition in moving the public’s gaze from Brexit to criticising and distrusting one of the only party’s that could actually offer a solution from the Brexit crisis.

In today’s edition of the Observer for example there were; 12 articles about anti-Semitism in Labour and Corbyn’s failure to deal with the split that created the Independent Group, and 4 articles about Brexit and the potential economic problems that a no-deal exit would cause, and all of former pieces were critical comments on Labour and Corbyn. I suppose that scientifically I should look through ALL the Sunday papers... but I'd really need to be paid in order to spent my time with anymore of that...

Secular Sundays: Hypocrisy, or double standards relating to criticism of the State, Religion, and people.

Hypocrisy, or double standards relating to criticism of the State, Religion, and people.

George Grosz (1918) The Funeral

Recently a political figure in the UK was swiftly expelled from their party for making the following comment on Twitter, “Islamic people with any sense of humanity need to start speaking out publicly against the ruthless murdering being carried out by Saudi Arabia!”

No, wait a minute, perhaps I’m getting confused. Wasn’t it, “Muslims must do more than just condemn terrorism.”?

Although stateless terrorists and a state-sponsored murder of a journalist (amongst many other wrongdoings) are obviously totally different. In that… answers on a postcard please.

No, there is no real difference, because in both cases one group of people is rendered guilty by association. If they do not do X, then they are without humanity or are not being truly ‘British and Muslim’, what follows for a minority group stripped of human rights has played out throughout history with various despicable consequences.

Actually though this didn’t really happen. The second quote was indeed made by Sajid Javid, Conservative politician and current Home Secretary, but he received no sanction for it. He might have received a little criticism from the left-leaning press (very little) but in general his views were welcomed. No, the difference was the first quote which was actually, “Jewish people with any sense of humanity need to start speaking out publicly against the ruthless murdering being carried out by Israel!” and was made by Labour’s Derek Hatton, whose return to the Labour party, after previously being expelled for Misogynistic comments, was very brief indeed.

Now, I have no wish to defend Hatton (whether the comment was six years old or not), but simply to point out the great disparity in reaction to similar comments made about Islam and Judaism in Britain. Both statements (Hatton’s and Javid’s) place blame on a minority that implies the removal of ‘normal’ privilege by their failure to act in a specified way. Obviously Hatton’s, both coming in the form of a character-limited tweet and being made by a stupid bigot, is worse and comes to worse conclusions that the lengthy statement made by Javid, but then Javid is not a stupid man.

No reasonable person would wish to defend fundamentalist Islamic terrorist groups and would not therefore complain about such groups being criticised for various failures in rationality and humanity, but any such criticism of Israel’s Zionist ideology is counted as being a form of anti-Semitism and I would seek to make a clear distinction between being critical of Zionist ideology and being a person who hates Jews unconditionally.

For a start, let us remove the comparison with current or historic groups of terror as this is an unneeded emotive ‘accelerant’. One that draws a false comparison, as would comparing Israel with Nazi Germany, something that is so distasteful as to be an obvious inflammatory tactic. Instead let us compare my own criticism of the Trump regime of the US with my relationship with America and Americans. Hold on you say, this is merely an argument from experience and therefore a logical fallacy. One might as well say, “Some of my best friends are Tories.”

Well, alright then, let’s start again. People often use something like the argument that, “Jews are the only group of people who do not have the right to aspire to their own nation state in their historic homeland. The same people (who do have a problem with this) have no issue with Kurdish, or Catalan, or Nepalese, or Palestinian peoples making similar national aspirations. Anti-Zionism is then the political wing of anti-Semitism and the hidden desire to remove the Jewish people from existence.”

Under this argument it is therefore contradictory to say that one is anti-Zionist but not anti-Semitic in the same way that it would be to say that, “I’ve no problem with the Japanese, I just don’t think that Japan should exist as a country or that the Japanese have any right to a country.”

There is comparison to be made with Zionism and that is with a similar argument made by the BNP that, “Britain belongs to the British” which means something quite different to them than it does to me. I would, for example, agree that Britain does indeed belong to the British (although it does strike one as a bit of a redundant comment to make) but among the British I would count; Muhammad, a Sudanese-born Muslim who came to the UK to train and work in the NHS and has now married and had a child here (although name changed this is an actual person and not, I would suggest, unique in that), and many others that the BNP and their current representatives, UKIP, would not allow to be counted as ‘British’. The comparison to be made between Zionism and the white Nationalism of the BNP is that both are Ethno-Nationalistic ideologies.

Perhaps then this is why ethno-state advocate Tommy Robinson also talks of being a Zionist and not least because he has received funding from Zionist organisations, but also because they have similar World views. However, I suspect that the ‘enemy of my enemy is my friend’ attitude between white nationalists and Zionists only goes so far. Were the far-right to come to power in the UK their ‘connection’ with Zionism would be dropped and all Jews would either be expelled to Israel or have to cease ‘being Jewish’.

To call an ethno-nationalist ideology ‘regressive’ would probably be the least one could say about them. As a product of ‘turn of the century’ anxieties about ‘living space’ as well as pseudo-scientific ideas of race propagated at the time, followed by the collapse of Empire(s) brought about by ‘the Great War’ (WWI) I would suggest that ethno-nationalistic ideologies belong in the past. Although the replacement of such ideas cannot come about without some intellectual and political work taking place. Again we look to the new generation to do the work that we and our parents have failed to accomplish (or even start).

Anyway, let’s bring this back to the false equivalence already mentioned. So, I don’t have a ‘problem with the Japanese’, but I’m critical of their actions during WWII and their lack of proper apology to Korean and Chinese victims during this time, does this make me anti-Japanese? I mean, I say I’m just anti-Shōwa but really I must just be anti-Japanese.

However, you could just dismiss this argument as me being disingenuous, because nobody is arguing for the reconceptualisation of Japanese WWII Militarism, this is purely historical and an abstraction. It was be as nonsensical as someone still hating Germans for having been Nazis, and no one does that!

Okay then, let’s criticise Shinzō Abe… He is a lapdog of Trump, having being told to put Trump forward for a Nobel Peace prize for two years in a row he has done just that, more than that he is a regressive Business before People’s Welfare politician, a corrupt leader who gives preferential treatment to his political friends and allies (i.e. Cronyism). Would such a criticism be evidence of anti-Japanese sentiment? Well, perhaps it might, but does this stop my criticism from being valid?

I suppose you’d have to ask me more to find out. Of course, one clue might be that I haven’t implicated Japan in a global conspiracy to run the banks and Hollywood and bring about Multiculturalism to create a downfall in the ‘West’.

What if… Abe decided to persecute the Ainu people? He reverses the 2008 ruling recognising the Ainu people as indigenous to Japan and instead strips them of their rights, removes them from their land in Hokkaido, land that he claims is properly Historically Japanese, and houses them in settlements elsewhere in Japan without providing proper amenities. What then? Would my forthcoming criticism of these actions hide a secret desire to exterminate the Japanese people? Or would it be a criticism of brutal dehumanising actions of a Government? Could it be both? Without reading minds how could you know for sure? A person's words AND actions perhaps? Therefore, to bring it back to the initial case (Hatton etc), what action(s) of the Labour party suggest anti-Semitism?

What if... We consider Zionism as an understandable reaction to the building anti-Semitism of the time in the latter half of the nineteenth century. Why shouldn't the Jewish people have a homeland, a homeland that they once held? And, of course, I would agree with this. How could a compassionate person think otherwise? But, how was it done, how was it arranged? Empire builders cutting up a land and a people that wasn't theirs and creating countless problems because of this. Consider, as comparison, the Partition of India that created a massive crisis at the time (in 1947) or perhaps the foundation of Iraq (in 1920) after the collapse of the Ottoman Empire and (again) controlled by the British. And then, regardless of what we think of the formation of a country (all are an 'artificial' imposition in some way) we can then critique it's Government and leaders for their policies and actions, can we not?

P.S. If it needs saying, I think that anti-Semitic and anti-Islamic and Misogynistic and anti-LGBT+ and racist and fascist and, indeed, all forms of hatred and bigoted views are ALL wrong.

(or do I? how do you know? maybe I hate the Finnish, you don't know)