Category Archives: Politics

The Sinister Backlash To #MeToo

Over the past year, the outing of serial sexual abusers Roger Ailes, the former and now deceased CEO of the Fox News network, Bill O’Reilly, the most popular Fox News host until his firing in April 2017, and most prominently, Harvey Weinstein, the Hollywood film producer sacked from his own company in October 2017, inspired a revolution. Women stood up in unison and said enough is enough. No longer would men get away with using their physiques or positions of power in the workplace to sexually assault women without consequence.

In a sane and moral universe the only response to this would be relief and celebration. Unfortunately, something darker and more sinister has emerged. Something that in many ways seems to have already increased the distrust of men on the part of women, and that has the power to justify many of our worst fears; is this not just the bad guys? Are in fact a majority of men in some way complicit in this repulsive mess?

In the era of social media it was inevitable that this would be the arena for the revolt, and so it is that women across the world have been sharing their experiences and uniting around the hashtags #MeToo and #TimesUp. But almost immediately the rot set in. To begin with, the protests and excuses came from unsurprising sources such as Rod Liddle and Douglas Murray. We could probably have anticipated this without it shaking our confidence in humanity.

However, we have since had to endure the letter denouncing the #MeToo movement from French actress Catherine Deneuve, which was signed by 100 women and unbelievably claimed to want to defend men’s “freedom to pester.” This sickening piece was loudly endorsed on Twitter by none other than world famous physicist Lawrence Krauss, who has almost half a million followers. Hot on its track was an article in New York magazine by the most moderate of conservative commentators, Andrew Sullivan, entitled ‘It’s Time to Resist the Excesses of #MeToo.’ Then Condoleezza Rice begged us in an interview to “be careful” because we don’t men to stop wanting women around. Patriarchy it seems requires a new name.

Needless to say, these comments have been shared by various sympathetic public figures with large social media followings, and of course many of their fans have roundly applauded the backlash. So what the hell is going on?

I have neither the time nor the will to pick apart the articles individually, but there are common themes that run through all of them which must be discredited and exposed for the illogic and unforgiveable apologism that they are.

Firstly is the claim that placing a hand on a female colleague’s knee or thigh uninvited is just ‘clumsy flirting.’ The easiest way to dispel this is to entertain how likely it is that a man would do it to a woman far stronger and physically more capable than them – Ronda Rousey for example – or a male apprentice doing it to a female board member . Even the boldest of abusers would resist in these circumstances because they’d know that they’d likely be physically restrained in an embarrassing and painful manner, or they’d be immediately fired. The threat of these outcomes would bring into sharp focus the fact that they have not received anything close to a green light for such intimate behaviour. Thus they would act in accordance with what they know to a moral certainty to be true – that to touch would be wrong. Given these truths, we can say that there is nothing stopping men from always behaving appropriately – nothing except their consciences.

The corollary of this kind of behaviour is that, having abused a position of power, whether physical or within the workplace hierarchy, the sex abuser has also belittled and intimidated the victim. The abuser is knowingly bullying through the conduit of sex. This must never be forgotten and it is one of the reasons why the aforementioned articles are so toxic.

The groper is another type of sex attacker who those rallying against the #MeToo movement strangely wish to defend. This is the man who grabs women’s bottoms or breasts at social gatherings and then disappears into the night without further contact. It differs from workplace attacks in that there is usually no prior relationship between the victim and the perpetrator. Remarkably, this too has been dismissed as merely poor judgement or ‘men just being men,’ and outrage has instead been reserved for the resulting resignations that the perpetrators have been pressured into.

I want you to imagine a few things. Roughly speaking, men are 20% heavier and 10% taller than women on average. So if you’re six foot and 90 kilos, imagine someone who’s 6’7” and weighing 108 kilos manoeuvring you about against your will, with their hands on intimate parts of your body. Just imagine how violated you would feel. Imagine how your agency as an adult human being would be corroded in that moment. Imagine how threatened and undermined you would feel. Sadly, although obviously entirely unnecessarily, these attacks also often result in feelings of shame in the victims mind for not having lashed out because they were too frightened or felt socially constrained. To make another person feel this way is to truly be the scum of the earth.

Those who insist that reputations do not deserve to be seriously compromised or careers derailed off the back of assaults like this have simply not grappled hard enough with the physical and psychological dynamics. Also, it goes without saying that if someone did these things to you or a loved one, the perpetrator would lose all of your trust and respect. By extension, it’s actually perfectly logical that everyone should feel this way towards them, which is why it is right that public servants should lose their jobs after committing these crimes.

Finally, I want to talk about the so-called ‘bad date.’ For the type of scenario that I’m going to write about this is an understatement of significant proportions, to the extent that the term is not fit for purpose and shouldn’t even be used. But again, depressingly, these are the very words that are regularly deployed to dismiss such assaults. I’m speaking of course about crimes along the lines of that allegedly committed by Aziz Ansari, which have been in the headlines this week. A seemingly non-threatening man invites a woman back to his apartment after a first date, and once the door is closed behind them he embarks upon a relentless campaign to gain sexual favours, regardless of the woman’s expressed wishes.

When these circumstances unfold, a woman is immediately faced with a multitude of questions and challenges. Presumably, she may initially wonder if perhaps she did mistakenly give off a wrong signal and so seek to get the evening back within her comfort zone. These efforts usually fail because sexual predators, once locked in on their prey, can rarely think of anything other than manipulating events to get what they want. The woman is no longer thought of as a sentient being worthy of concern.

For her part, the woman knows that after the initial attempts to repel a man’s advances are unsuccessful, there is no chance of having the evening that she desires and so she must escape, but this is never easy. Some are just crippled by social constraints and embarrassment – even wanting to avoid embarrassment for the man. The predator, of course, uses this commitment to good will to his advantage. Some physically and mentally freeze, purely out of shock at what is happening. More serious is the concern for women that to anger or frustrate a man at this point may result in a far more violent attack and rape.

Another obstacle is the physical presence of the man, who typically stalks the woman to every corner of the room as she seeks to put distance between herself and her assailant in order to temporarily cease the unwelcome sexual activity so that she can devise an exit strategy. Ultimately though, her options are limited. To end the assault the woman must become more assertive than the man, with the aim of shaking him out of his apparent trance so that she can leave peacefully – a terrifying prospect when faced with someone much bigger who is behaving aggressively. From this moment the evening can take many different turns, some far worse than others, but there is no mending the damage that has been done. A sexual assault has already occurred.

Whether the Aziz Ansari case happened as reported or not, we can be sure that many women do endure such a scenario. Make no mistake – these are life changing events. To be physically and psychologically manipulated in this manner, to be violated sexually, and to have had to experience that moment of raw panic, however fleeting, of being trapped with someone who seems unable to control themselves, is thank goodness, beyond my comprehension.

At the very least I can say it sounds like a nightmare come true, yet my Twitter timeline appears to inform me that perhaps as many as 50% believe that the Aziz Ansari depicted in the reports did nothing wrong. They say the victim shouldn’t have been there if she didn’t want sexual activity to occur (apparently denying her the option, among other things, of changing her mind), that she should have left sooner, that ‘bad sex’ doesn’t constitute assault or most troubling, that once turned on, men can’t possibly be expected to stop and so calling it assault essentially means that men will in future have to carry around consent forms. Some people have even declared the end of dating and eroticism altogether. Pure insanity, obviously.

One thing that I have already alluded to must be reiterated. Men know when they really do have consent. Evolution has actually equipped us with pretty good instincts for the feelings of others and this is evidenced in the description of the alleged assault by Aziz Ansari when he agrees to ‘chill’ before immediately continuing to molest and pressure as soon as he can get close enough. This does not describe a good guy who is unsure of his ground. They are the actions of a sexual predator.

Many people have been commenting that coercion is not consent. This is true of course, but men know this. We mustn’t be tempted to treat men like babies. If they proceed via coercive methods then there is no belief that they actually have permission – the act of coercing wouldn’t be required if they did. They are choosing to sexually assault at this point. This is the reality that we must face. The situation is not, as some would have you believe, that it’s so difficult to know when it’s ok that men deserve a get out of jail card. No, we must not allow this to be the narrative. The issue is that far too many men either don’t wait for clear signals of consent or won’t take ‘no’ for an answer.

It’s hard to know what explains the level of offence that the #MeToo movement seems to have inspired. It’s just too awful to contemplate a world where so many men want the right to sexually abuse women. One might hope it’s just political partisanship playing out rhetorically, and I think this does explain some of it, but many liberal leaning people also seem to believe that anything short of rape should be swept under the carpet. What has become obvious if it wasn’t already, is that the fight for women’s liberation, far from being over, is still in its infancy, and it may in the end turn out to be our greatest struggle.

Is Anyone Looking For The UK Cat Killer?

In towns across the UK, usually, though not always, located somewhere just off the M25 or the M1 between Orpington and Northampton, in the dead of night, a vicious and ruthless hunter dressed in dark clothing, wearing gloves and probably carrying a torch, prowls the alleyways of housing estates and moves from garden to garden on the lookout for his prey. Much like Peter Sutcliffe, the Yorkshire Ripper, 40 years ago, he carries a hammer to stun and incapacitate his victims and a sharp cutting implement to mutilate them.

His strike rate easily exceeds that of any other serial killer in criminal history. He has attacked over 400 times in the last 800 days, meaning that statistically speaking, this deranged killer will be ready to slaughter and maim again either tonight or tomorrow. Though serial killers do sometimes just stop, as the BTK killer Dennis Rader did in Kansas in 1991, there is little to suggest that this predator’s reign of terror will cease until he is caught.

Everything written above is almost certainly true – with one detail omitted – his victims are mostly domestic cats, though he has also attacked foxes and pet rabbits.

It will become apparent I hope upon reading this article that we must ask ourselves whether this detail makes it any easier to read the other facts and be significantly less terrified at the prospect of this person hiding in the bushes of our own garden as we take the rubbish out tonight, or indeed if we ask our children to do so. If you are able to dismiss this threat and furthermore are unconcerned about the welfare of animals, then perhaps you are unaware that many serial killers begin their ‘careers’ by attacking animals and that criminologists consider animal cruelty as one of the most reliable predictors of future violence towards humans.

I am writing about the case of the UK Cat Killer. The perpetrator, described by two presumed but not confirmed sightings, as male, white, in his 40’s, of average height, with short brown hair and possible acne scarring on his face, is believed to lure his victims with treats before bludgeoning them with a hammer. Since little or no blood has been present where the bodies are found, it is thought that the killer takes the animals away to mutilate them, typically removing the head and the tail, before returning to the area to display them in a signature way, either in a public place such as a playground or outside the owner’s home. Sometimes he appears to keep the animals for longer periods, as very recently deceased animals have been discovered despite being missing for a number of days. A possible reason for doing this is that the killer wants to watch the owner’s reaction when they find their dead pet – so he returns to pose the animal when he has the time to sit and wait. An especially sad detail of this case is that the attacker has on occasion returned to the same house, killing more than one pet from multi-cat households.

As an animal welfare advocate as well as a journalist, who is disturbed by the extent of the violence being inflicted upon these poor animals, and frustrated by the quality of the journalism I’ve read on the topic, I decided to do some digging. What I discovered is shocking.

The aspect of the reporting that raised the alarm for me initially was the constant referencing of a small, local animal charity (SNARL) as “leading the investigation” – actually a Google search for their website also provides this description. Many publications have used phrases such as “the cat killer sleuths” to describe the charity, as though it’s really quite a cute story. But just imagine if children were being murdered and the NSPCC were referred to as ‘leading the investigation.’ You don’t have to equate the two to feel like there is something very wrong with this.

The animal killer has been attacking with impunity since October 2015, yet the Police still apparently have no good leads. And the press it seems is not doing its job in holding them to account over their lack of progress.

As if things couldn’t get any worse, over the past few days a man from Northampton who was arrested and then released in relation to crimes apparently unconnected to the UK Cat Killer case ( according to the Police: http://www.northants.police.uk/news/2018-01-08/arrest-connection-arsons-and-cat-mutilations ) has been widely touted in the media as being the man responsible. The extent of the lazy reporting on this matter has been breath-taking to witness. It’s almost as if their only concern is web page hits – but at what cost?

I started my research by contacting SNARL – South Norwood Animal Rescue Liberty. They are essentially a two person team – Tony Jenkins and his partner, Boudicca Rising. Over the course of two phone calls, I spoke to Mr Jenkins for a total of approximately 50 minutes. Those conversations, I’m afraid to report, only served to increase my concern that the investigation into these dreadful crimes is way off track. During our discussions, Mr Jenkins, who says he accompanies the Police to most of the crime scenes, described himself as the ‘acting pathologist’ in the case since the Police, he said, have no training regarding animals. More worryingly, he then claimed to be a main point of contact for the public, saying that he is filtering calls and only forwarding to the Police leads that he thinks are worth following up on.

Needless to say, while I do not doubt that he is well intentioned and doing the best he can, I suspect that Mr Jenkins is not qualified to undertake these roles. So what is going on here? Have the Police outsourced crucial elements of the search for an extremely violent criminal to a member of the public?

Next I contacted the Metropolitan Police, who have launched Operation Takahe in response to the crimes. After a rather cartoon-ish exchange of messages where I was asked who I was writing for three times consecutively in the same email thread – it is apparently beyond the investigative powers of the Met. Police’s press office to scroll down – I did finally receive answers to some of my questions. Again, they are somewhat less than encouraging. Clearly, I have either been provided incorrect information or there is really no investigation worthy of the name taking place.

Firstly, I asked how many hours a week they are spending on the case. They replied that they are spending 10 hours a week on it. Considering that there are often three or four attacks in a week, this amounts to little more than attending the scenes and taking statements from the grieving pet owners.

I also asked if they had any suspects and they confirmed that they did not.

On the question of evidence, such as forensics, I was told that they did not have any and they added that DNA is almost impossible to obtain from cat fur and that they suspected the killer wore gloves because no human skin had been found under the claws of the cats.

Finally, I requested a list of the attacks with the dates and locations, which could be published. I believe it is in the public’s interest to know these details, both to heighten awareness of the threat but also to raise suspicions about the perpetrators movements among his acquaintances in the hope that someone might come forward with information. Alas, I was told that there was no list of attacks available.

Subsequently, I contacted Northants Police as there have been many attacks in their area, and the RSPCA, but neither were able to provide any additional information.

I believe this is a public emergency. There is a psychopath on the loose who could be in your garden right now with a hammer and a knife. He has struck as far afield as Sheffield, Manchester, Margate and Brighton. Nowhere is safe. What will the information that I have reported faithfully in this article look like if tonight he turns his attention to a person instead? It need not be planned that way – he may simply be interrupted while attacking an animal.

It is unthinkable that someone could commit such a violent crime in public so regularly, and for so long, if the appropriate steps were being taken to stop them. I don’t doubt that Police resources are seriously stretched, presumably in part due to cuts in the number of officers imposed by the Government, but I worry that it is all too easy to lower the priority of this case on the premise that it is just about animals. It ought to be obvious that there is potentially a very real threat to humans too and it is vital that we all, the press in particular, demand that this person is caught sooner rather than later.

NB Please note that the animal killer has also struck during the daytime on occasion, so please keep a close eye on your pets at all times.

Explaining The Will Of The People

Today, the 15th November 2017, the results of the (non-binding) Australian Marriage Law Postal Survey were revealed. Voters were asked the question, “Should the law be changed to allow same-sex couples to marry?” They had two options – ‘Yes’ or ‘No.’ The result was a 61.6% vote in favour of ‘Yes.’ The turnout (defined here as legally cast votes) was 79.3%.

On the 23rd June, 2016, the United Kingdom held a (advisory) referendum to decide whether or not it should remain a part of the European Union. Voters were asked the question, “Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union?” They had two options – ‘Remain a member of the European Union’ or ‘Leave the European Union.’ The result was a 51.9% vote in favour of ‘Leave.’ The turnout (defined here as legally cast votes) was 72.2%.

On the surface, these two scenarios and outcomes may appear very similar. They are not. Unfortunately, we now need to talk about statistics. The data is everything, because it tells us what is really happening. Please bear with me. I will be as terse as I can.

In the Australian Marriage Equality Survey, 7,817,247 voted ‘Yes.’ Frustratingly (if, like me, you are a supporter of marriage equality), this equates to 48.8% of the total electorate (16,006,180), thus falling just short of an overall majority. So, not then ‘the will of the people.’ Or is it? To achieve more than 50% of the total electorate, 8,003,091 votes were required. The ‘Yes’ vote was only 185,844 short of this target – or 5.6% of those who did not vote. Is it reasonable to assume they would obtain these votes were it possible to ask the non-voters? Yes of course it is. In fact, it’s practically guaranteed that they would. Therefore, the result of this survey can and should be considered the will of the people, and the Australian government should move to legalise same-sex marriage immediately. Happily, their Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, has already indicated that he wishes to change the law by Christmas.

In the UK’s EU Referendum, 17,410,742 voted ‘Leave.’ This equates to 37.4% of the total electorate (46,500,001), well short of an overall majority. The ‘Leave’ vote required 5,839,259 more votes to achieve over 50% of the electorate – that’s 45.1% of those who did not vote. Is it reasonable to assume they would obtain this percentage of votes were it possible to ask the non-voters? No. Here’s why;  62.5% of people under the age of 50 voted ‘Remain’ and we know that the over 65s were twice as likely to have voted as people under 25. Therefore, we can say that the data strongly suggests the total electorate is in favour of remaining in the European Union and so leaving cannot and should not be considered the will of the people.

The key factors in all of this are the margin of victory and the voter turnout. ‘Yes’ won by 23.2% in Australia, with a 79.3% turnout – a clear and resounding victory. By contrast, ‘Leave’ in the UK won by just 3.8%, with a 72.2% turnout – ambiguous to say the least. Thus, while Australia unites and rejoices, the UK becomes ever more divided as it stumbles towards the EU exit door with no apparent plan in place and a government that looks distinctly out of its depth.

There was of course a very easy way to avoid this situation. When devising the grounds upon which they would agree to act in response to the results of the referendum, the UK government should have required certain criteria to have been met. A minimum 75% voter turnout and a 5% margin of victory seem to be the obvious choices. It is unconscionable that the Tories were so irresponsible as to not put these safeguards in place.

It would be remiss of me also not to point out that, while marriage equality is something one could expect the public to fully understand and make an informed decision on, the consequences of leaving the EU are not (especially when so much misinformation was spread during the campaigns). Therefore, the UK’s EU referendum should never have taken place to begin with.

Alas, the EU referendum was only advisory and Article 50 can be revoked. It is now the duty of the UK government to acknowledge that not only did ‘Leave’ fail to win an overall majority of the total electorate, but that it never could have. It should then cancel the process of leaving the European Union and focus its energy instead on effecting change from within. One might almost say it should, ahem, take back control.

The Alt-Right: Meet The Deplorables

hitler-salutes

I’ve began to feel as though I left a few things unsaid in my previous article, so consider this piece an addendum of sorts, albeit I fear, a slightly angry and unpolished one…

Hillary nailed it; the alt-right is deplorable. Though its adherents deny it one and all, they are white supremacists trying to fly under the radar with a quirkier sounding name. They insist that their detractors are simply too easily offended and don’t like free speech, or when this ruse fails, claim that they are only joking. But there’s never anything much to laugh at, and aside from the childishness of this defence, it reveals that they know very well just how sinister they are. Alas, all that appears to matter to them is their desire to push the boundaries of insult further and wider.

So who are the alt-righters? Well, they were the ones shouting ‘build the wall’ and beating up dark skinned people at Trump’s rallies. They’re the ones who want to stop all Muslim immigration and to ban the building of mosques. They’re the ones who do not wish to see a single refugee set foot in the developed world, especially if they look like they might be a day over 16 or aren’t close enough to death for their liking. They were the ones who insisted that Trump’s boast of sexual assault was just’ locker room talk’. They were the ones who spread malicious rumours about Barack Obama’s American citizenship, a barely concealed racist attack if ever there was one. They’re the ones who scream ‘femi-nazi’ at any woman who dares to have an opinion opposed to their own. They were the ones who scare mongered for years about the impact of immigrants on British society. They were the ones who deceived the electorate about the cost of EU membership and lied about where these make believe savings could be spent, for the sole reason of stopping foreigners coming to Britain. And last Saturday (19th November), in Washington DC, they were the ones shouting ‘Heil victory’ and throwing Nazi salutes back at Richard B. Spencer, the man who coined the term ‘alt-right’, while he told them that America was “a white country that belongs to us.”

Here is a taste of how some of the alt-right’s favourite spokespeople behave:

Katie Hopkins – Former ‘The Apprentice’ contestant and loudmouth columnist for The Mail Online.  If you thought the headline below was bad enough, her first paragraph reads: “NO, I don’t care. Show me pictures of coffins, show me bodies floating in water, play violins and show me skinny people looking sad.  I still don’t care.”

katie-hopkins

Milo Yiannopoulos – The alt-right poster boy.  Previously exposed as a plagiarist, he now writes a column for Breitbart News.  He thinks feminism is worse than cancer, and apparently at least 11,678 of his fans agree:

milo

Nigel Farage – Former commodity broker, one has to remind themselves that he has never been elected as a member of parliament, given his overbearing, unceasing presence.  He’s currently the acting leader of UKIP, the populist far-right party in the UK, and a favourite of Donald Trump.  Here he is fear-mongering about Britain being invaded by refugees:

nigel-farage-refugees

Raheem Kassam – He is the editor-in-chief of Breitbart News in London, the favoured news feed of the alt-right.  He’s also regularly obnoxious on Twitter.  Here he displays the misogyny and the disdain for disabled people that has become so characteristic of the alt-right world view:

raheem-kassam

These people are the dregs of society. Doubtless you’ll be familiar with the calls to hear them out and to try to understand the grievances of this mob. If there ever was a time to indulge such a menace in an unnecessarily generous nod to civility, that time has long since passed. These people now have what they wanted. They have effectively won the Presidency in America and they have thrown Britain into a political, economic and diplomatic crisis by dragging it out of the European Union. If we are to prevent them from destroying everything that we have come to cherish – the freedom, the tolerance and the diversity, then all there is left to do is mobilise and to fight back – peacefully and democratically of course, but most importantly everyone must resist the urge to merely hope everything will turn out alright, or worse, simply assume that enough other people will make a stand. Those who cheer on the Donald Trumps of this world are counting on this. They are banking on liberals continuing to sleep walk into obscurity. It was the naivety of liberals in the first place that enabled all of this because the threat has always been there – it never goes away. However, recently too many liberals have forgotten to check their privilege and have taken too much for granted. 2016 must act as the wakeup call, before it’s too late. There’s so much at stake – we can’t afford to lose anymore elections.

Donald Trump And The Politics Of Hate

donald-trump

I started this blog primarily to write about, and to offer some resistance to, what I believed to be the greatest threat to our way of life – organised religion.  I must admit that I didn’t expect this to change so soon. But on the night of the 2016 US Elections, it did change. It’s not much of an exaggeration to say that Donald Trump is the worst possible choice as the leader of the free world one could wish for. If every US citizen were to draw straws, you’d almost certainly be guaranteed a better option. Sure you might end up with someone who is uninformed, as Trump certainly is. They might even be a misogynist and a racist. But they’re unlikely to also be a world champion narcissist who, for example, thinks that they know more about Iraq and Afghanistan than US army Generals, as Trump has claimed to. Indeed Donald Trump is so uninformed, that his own ignorance is a stranger to him.

Much has been written about the character traits that ought to have disqualified Trump from the Presidency, but it’s worth reiterating a few of them, if only to soften you up for my conclusions, so here goes…

Donald Trump is a racist, a xenophobe and an anti-Muslim bigot. Whether or not his father was a member of the Ku Klux Klan is up for debate, but what is certain is that Donald’s real estate company was sued for racism. In two states, New York and Virginia, black applicants had their forms marked with the letter ‘c’ for coloured. One of his hotels, The Trump Plaza, was also sued for $200,000 for ensuring its black employees did not serve a regular customer who was known to be a racist, in order to accommodate him. Undeterred, Donald would go on to be the most prominent voice in the ‘birther’ movement, a patently racist motivated effort to have Obama’s tenancy of the White House cut short due to him being a Muslim, a Kenyan or some other apparently undesirable non-American. Of course there’s no doubt that what was really meant by all those who supported this despicable movement was that they didn’t want a black man sleeping in the same bedroom previously occupied by Madison, Jefferson, Adams and so on.

When Trump launched his Presidential campaign last year, rather than seeking to reset his reputation concerning minorities, he immediately quadrupled down, calling Mexicans rapists and drug dealers and insisting that a 60 foot high wall be built along the US-Mexican border in order to keep them out. Trump then demanded that all immigration from Muslim countries cease immediately (Trump seemed unaware that Muslims also emigrate to America from Europe). Perhaps one of the most unsavoury and under reported events of Trump’s campaign was when he invited an organisation of women that exists solely and unfathomably due to their shared experience of having had a child murdered by an illegal immigrant, to stand alongside him at one of his rallies while he hate mongered to his mob. Deplorable doesn’t even come close.

Donald Trump is a misogynist who has no respect for women. It’s clear from the long history of his predatory behaviour that he sees women as objects without agency that he can do whatever he wants with. If you doubt this, just take another read of what he was caught on tape saying to Billy Bush in 2005:

“I just start kissing them… I don’t even wait. When you’re a star they let you do it. You can do anything. Grab ‘em by the pussy. You can do anything.”

It’s interesting to read the above statement in the context of the sexual assault allegations that have been made against him. Here is a list of those alleged attacks. The correlation with his own professed attitude toward how one can treat women is uncanny:

1980 – Jessica Leeds says Trump grabbed her breasts and tried to put his hand up her skirt on an aeroplane

Early 1990’s – Kristin Anderson claims that Trump put his hand up her skirt and touched her vagina through her underwear on a dancefloor in a New York nightclub

1997 – Temple Taggart, Miss Utah 1997, says Trump twice kissed her on the mouth uninvited

1997 – Four contestants from the 1997 Miss Teen USA, including Mariah Billado, say Trump walked in on them while they were changing. Some of the girls were only 15 at the time, but that hasn’t stopped Trump from boasting about the incident

1998 – Karena Virginia accuses Trump of grabbing her breast at the 1998 US Open Tennis Championship

2003 – Mindy McGillivray says Trump grabbed her bum at his Mar-A-Lago resort in Florida

2005 – Rachel Crooks says Trump kissed her on the mouth uninvited outside an elevator in Trump Tower

2005 – Natasha Stoynoff, a journalist with ‘People’ magazine, claims Trump pushed her against a wall and forced his tongue down her throat while she was interviewing him at his Mar-A-Lago resort

2007 – Summer Zervos, former ‘The Apprentice’ contestant, says Trump kissed her on the mouth uninvited, grabbed her breast, and thrust his genitals at her during a meeting to discuss possible employment

2013 – Cassandra Searles, the 2013 Miss World winner, says Trump grabbed her bum after the event and invited her to his room

Please remind yourself how Donald Trump mocked a disabled reporter who dared to criticise him. America, meet your new President, the man who now represents you on the world stage:

Video Link

Here are his ‘thoughts’ on climate change:

climate-change-trump

On abortion, Trump said the following in an interview with Chris Matthews earlier this year:

“You have to ban it… there has to be some form of punishment” (for the woman).

During a meeting with foreign policy advisers, Trump reportedly asked on three occasions why America can’t use its nuclear weapons. He also supports the proliferation of nuclear weapons to countries that currently do not have them, specifically naming Japan and Saudi Arabia as good starting points.

I could go on of course. There’s hardly a topic you could name that Trump hasn’t said multiple stupid, divisive or truly dangerous things about. The point that I’m trying to ram home is this; his victory wasn’t about economics. It was about hate, plain and simple. Surveys have shown that the average annual income of Trump voters is $72,000 (£57,000). No one chanted about trade deals at his rallies. They screamed “Trump that bitch!” and physically attacked people with dark skin or who simply looked a bit different. If you haven’t already, you really must check out Jared Yates Sexton’s live tweets from a Trump rally in Greensboro in June this year. They’re truly terrifying: https://storify.com/case_face/a-trump-rally-in-greensboro-anger-in-here-is-palpa.

It’s patently ridiculous to suggest that a white man, born into extreme privilege, who has hob knobbed with the rich and famous, including billionaires and Presidents, his whole life, and who hasn’t paid federal income tax for the best part of 20 years, represents the outsider or the hard working men and women of America. One of the great things about the internet age is that everyone has the key information. Everything that I wrote in the first 1,000 words of this article was outlined ceaselessly every night on television and was constantly trending on social media. No one could have been under any illusions as to what they were voting for, and no one surely could have imagined that Trump was really what America needed to be great again. The 60 million people who voted for Trump simply didn’t care. They were fully prepared to burn the house down in service to their lust for hate. For most, it was hatred of ‘the other’ (blacks, Latinos, Muslims, homosexuals, women), for some, it was hatred of Hillary. But I would argue that the latter reveals more than many seem willing to entertain because if you believed it was more important to block Hillary’s path to the Presidency than to resist the sexism and racism of Trump, then in my book you just don’t care enough about sexism and racism. One does not have to travel too far into our past to witness the consequences of such indifference. Sadly, many on the left were also culpable here, and ultimately they too played their part in handing Trump the golden ticket.

So what now? Depressingly, with the Senate and Congress also lost to the GOP, America and the rest of the world can only cross its fingers and hope we get through this with Western civilisation still intact. It’s that bad. Going forward, liberals must learn to recognise fascism when they see it, and be prepared to set aside their petty squabbles to unite against it. They must also learn that elections are largely about personalities, and just as Miliband and Corbyn proved inadequate to resist Farage and the brexiteers, so too was Hillary Clinton incapable of garnering enough support to defeat even an obnoxious buffoon like Donald Trump. Good luck everyone.

Brexit: Now Is The Time To Fight

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So a week has passed since the people of Britain voted to leave the European Union, and with it immediately threw the country into economic turmoil (we’re on the verge of relegation from 5th to 6th place in the world’s leading economies and have lost our triple A credit rating status), brought down the existing Prime Minister, David Cameron, leaving the country without stable governance, and tarnished our reputation internationally, not least due to the shocking rise in hate crimes toward foreign nationals in the aftermath of the result – apparently many appear to believe that the outcome of the referendum legitimises racism and means we’re poised to tell all immigrants to go home. Among the plethora of potential long term consequences is the increased likelihood that Britain will be broken apart, as Scotland voted regionally to remain a member of the EU. Who now could blame them for once again seeking independence?

And all of this for what? We haven’t regained our sovereignty, for it was never lost. The EU has a parliament of 751 members, voted for in free and fair elections by the citizens of member countries. There will be no more money for the NHS. The £350m a week that was claimed to be available by the Leave campaign, isn’t actually there (the highest possible amount is in fact £161m but this doesn’t take into account other inevitable costs of leaving the EU), and does anyone imagine that the Far Right would spend it on socialised medicine even if it was available? On matters of security, Britain has now made itself vulnerable to what intelligence experts refer to as the ‘discontinuity effect’. 40 years worth of cooperation and institution building now has to be unravelled and reset. Doubtless it will be in the interests of everyone to continue to work together, but changes of this magnitude take time to impart, potentially creating gaps – gaps that terrorists are experts at taking advantage of. As for immigration, the real issue that ‘leavers’ voted out on, well anyone capable of doing further reading beyond the headlines in The Sun and Daily Express knew that access to the single market (touted as unnecessary by the ‘Leave’ campaign before the election but now acknowledged as essential by the very same people) was always going to turn on our borders being open. There will be no significant change in immigration.

Yet in spite of this unrelenting disaster for the future of Britain, a strange air of resignation appears to have taken hold. I keep hearing and reading things like ‘let’s make the best of it’, ‘we’ll find a way, we always do’ and perhaps most aggravating ‘the most important thing now is to all pull together and heal the divisions.’ Even ‘Remain’ voters seem to be falling over themselves in a race to come across as the most reasonable. It reminds me somewhat of those atheists who nonetheless compete to see who can tolerate the most religious intolerance. Well I’m sorry, you’ll have to excuse me, but this self-congratulatory posturing is not for me and I certainly do not feel much like bridge building. Here’s why:

  • The Leave campaign was almost entirely built on lies, as laid out above but also now largely admitted by many of those involved. One of the most unsavoury features of the past 7 days has been witnessing key figures in the Leave camp seeking to distance themselves from the campaign they had led.
  • The Remain campaign simply did not get its key demographic to the polling stations. Only around a third of 18-24 year olds voted, compared to more than two thirds of over 65’s. Yet 73% of young people intended to vote ‘Remain’. Statistically speaking, the older you are the more likely you were to vote ‘Leave’ – over 60% of the uppermost demographic voted ‘Out’. By contrast, considering that the consequences of this decision are decades long, it is the young who will be the most affected.
  • We now know that significant numbers of those who voted ‘Leave’ regret their vote. They say that they voted to leave either because they believed the lies or because they thought that a positive result for the Remain side was a done deal and so decided to use their vote as a form of protest. If the polls are accurate, then we would see somewhere in the region of a 900,000 vote swing in favour of ‘Remain’ if all those who voted could have another go.
  • At the time of writing, 3,923,805 people from the United Kingdom (4,086,208 worldwide) have signed an online petition demanding a second referendum – approximately 9% of the total electorate. If you haven’t done so already then please go ahead and sign now. You can find the petition here: https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/131215/
  • I would argue that our membership of the EU is not an issue that ought to be decided by a referendum. This probably requires an essay in itself to fully flesh out, but in summary I feel there is simply too much required reading to do in order to be fully informed of all the facts. The reality is that most people do not have the time to do it. This is an issue, like thousands of others, that our politicians are paid to sort out on our behalf.

I believe these 5 points layout not only a compelling case, but also a moral duty to challenge this debacle. It is not anti-democratic, as staunch ‘Leavers’ would have it, to seek a peaceful way out of this mess. Indeed, it is the final con trick of the Far Right to bully people into thinking that they have no choice but to accept the result lying down. On the contrary, the wonderful thing about a democracy is that there are always options available to protest governance without having to resort to anything other than conversations and debate. I would like to beckon you all to do whatever you can to keep building the pressure on our MPs so that they feel empowered to reject our exit from the EU by whatever means possible. If we have to have another referendum, then so be it. Now is not a time to feel sorry for ourselves or to surrender. Now is the time to fight.

“We are all born ignorant, but one must work hard to remain stupid.”

– Benjamin Franklin


A Short Note On Pacifism

Pacifism

Recently, on Real Time with Bill Maher, rapper Michael Render, ironically known as ‘Killer Mike’, said the following with regards to an advertising campaign for a charity representing wounded warriors:

“Why don’t we stop sending poor and working class boys to war? And then we don’t have to have those commercials, we don’t have to have a charity, we don’t have to get angry that the VA (Veterans Association) hospital won’t see them for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) when they come back so we have higher suicide rates. If we do the right thing by avoiding war, we don’t have to have that…”

This soap box rant received rapturous applause despite the fact that it has at best only a tenuous grip on reality and is somewhat immoral if taken literally.

While I was still thinking about what to make of this, I found myself in a political debate with a total stranger in the café at my local gym. He was steeped in regressive left rhetoric, tracing every problem on the planet back to Dick Cheney and Tony Blair, before topping off my growing frustration with him by proclaiming, “you can’t stop violence with violence.” Though I’m fairly confident I’d debunked this within about 20 seconds, he nonetheless remained perfectly satisfied with his position.

So what could my fellow gym goer and Killer Mike possibly mean? Surely we all want to avoid war, so what’s the problem with their beliefs and commitments to non-violence? Here are some thoughts:

Pacifism hinges upon two propositions:

  1. There are no truly evil people and ultimately anyone can be reasoned with.
  2. It is better to die without putting up a fight in order to set an example of non-violence.

The first of these misunderstandings really has its roots in western privilege. To put it simply, the majority of us have never encountered a truly dangerous person in a situation where we’re vulnerable to being victimised by them. This is of course a good thing and alludes to the fact that in the west we have built relatively safe and civilised societies. However, this also provides a false sense of security in that it disarms many people from even being able to imagine how badly a collision with a psychopath in the wrong circumstances might go. But a brief study of the cases of Richard Ramirez (The Nightstalker) or Dennis Rader (BTK), or an afternoon spent sourcing the uncensored versions of Jihadi John’s videos, ought to provide you with all the information one could require to realise that if you were ever cornered by people like this then the time for talking in the hope of a good outcome has long passed.

Unfortunately, this is where the rot really sets in. There are people who believe that even when words have obviously ran their course, the only thing left to do is to submit yourself to whatever harms are in store for you without resistance. Taken to its ultimate conclusion, this means one person armed only with a knife could murder everyone in an entire city, given enough time and the requisite motivation. It also inspires apparently moral people, such as Mahatma Gandhi, to say things like this:

“Hitler killed five million Jews. It is the greatest crime of our time. But the Jews should have offered themselves to the butcher’s knife. They should have thrown themselves into the sea from the cliffs.”

I’m proud to say that this is not the world I wish to live in. I believe that tyranny and evil should be confronted wherever they arise. If ever there were an example of a utopian vision setting us off course and causing real and avoidable harm, pacifism is surely it. The unhappy truth is that there are some very bad people in the world who can only be neutralised by recourse to violence (either actual or convincingly implied) and so even moral people will occasionally be required to apply it if our goals are to survive, to live in free and democratic societies, and to minimise suffering.


Christopher Hitchens – 1,000 Days Gone

Christopher Hitchens

The 10th September, 2014 marked a 1,000 days since the passing of the greatest rhetorician and debater of our time.  As a tribute to this fearless warrior, I thought I would post a video of some of his best moments, together with 25 of my favourite ‘Hitchslaps’, philosophical quotes and other highlights of highlights from Hitch’s career of rallying against organised religion and all forms of tyranny across the world.

So immense is his reservoir of wit and wisdom that the list below would look entirely different were I to undertake this task tomorrow.  As such, I implore you all to embark on your own voyage of discovery of this great man.

In order to gather the list below, I raided the Twitter account of @Hitch_Slapping – set up in honour of Christopher, and which reminds us almost hourly of just why he was so loved by his friends and feared by his enemies.  I highly recommend ‘following’ this account – or joining Twitter even if for no other purpose!

Ladies and gentlemen, friends and comrades, I give you Christopher Hitchens (13th April 1949 – 15th December 2011):

 

Video Link  (15 mins)

 

“Go love your own enemies, don’t be loving mine.  My enemies are the theocratic fascists.  I don’t love them, I want to destroy them.”

“Your question cannot possibly be as sappy as it sounds.  I mean, you must have meant to say something more intelligent than that.”

“If you call someone a man of faith it seems, for the moment, like a compliment. I’d like that to change.”

“I’d like to exempt myself from the host’s kind offer of protection. So if there’s anyone who would like to get rough, I’m willing to play.”

“Perhaps the clearest empirical proof of the non-existence of god is that he appears to have given up on the battle against stupidity.”

“By the way, scientists don’t condemn one another to eternal punishment for getting things wrong.  I just thought I’d point that out.”

“There is an inverse relationship between the claims religion makes and the evidence it can produce for them.  You must’ve noticed that?”

“I don’t concern myself with what people think of me.  I much prefer to think: do they realise what I think of them?”

“Millions of secular people thought Mother Teresa was a saintly woman; instead of the douche bag and liar and thief that she actually was.”

“Never be a spectator of unfairness or stupidity.  The grave will supply plenty of time for silence.”

 (“My question is for Mr Hitchens.  I don’t think he’s going to like it”) “Bring it on.  You’ll probably like the answer even less.”

“It’s not true that you shouldn’t drink alone; these can be the happiest glasses you ever drain.”

“I won’t have it said that I only judge religion by the extremists. I could just as easily attack it at its best if you prefer.”

“Anyone who wants to say anything abusive to me or about me is quite free to do so, and welcome, in fact.  At their own risk.”

“Don’t I ever get tired of debating the religious? Absolutely no I don’t, because you just never know what they are going to say next.”

“If I find when I pass from this veil of tears that I’m confronted with a tribunal, I’d say, I hope you noticed I didn’t try and curry favour.”

“How much vanity must be concealed – not too effectively at that – in order to pretend that one is the personal object of a divine plan?”

“You no doubt, as a Christian, or whatever you are, require hypocrisy of people. Well, I’m sorry, but you’re asking the wrong person.”

“Take the risk of thinking for yourself; much more happiness, truth, beauty and wisdom will come to you that way.”

“How can the church say it has moral superiority?  It has difficulty catching up to what ordinary people regard as common and ethical sense.”

“People say, ‘respect faith’.  Well actually I don’t.  Because I don’t think that lying to children is a respectable occupation.”

“Every time I open a newspaper I see theocratic infringement upon free society, and I won’t put up with it!  Up with which, I will not put.  I hope that’s clear.”

“I could’ve asked that question 50 times more eloquently than that, and I will now, without conceit, answer it 50 times as comprehensively.”

“Let me take your points in reverse order, if I may, just so I am dealing with the most ridiculous one first.”

“People who claim to be offended can by all means do so; it takes a lot to make me cry.”

 


The War On Terror And Why We Should Care About Everyone

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Over the past few days I’ve had to endure numerous tweeters and bloggers pondering whether the west should intervene in Northern Iraq, predicated upon concerns over cost, imperialism, what we might hope to achieve, how long it might take, the lives of our soldiers – almost everything in fact other than what ought to be worrying us; the lives of those poor Iraqis who are being starved, shot, beheaded, crucified, buried alive, raped and so on by the tens of thousands.  Of course, it goes without saying that if a group like ISIS took control of northern Europe for example, everyone in the developed world would know why America, let’s say, should intervene militarily, as indeed they did in June 1944.

But I think what has made this latest catastrophe in Iraq particularly unpalatable to me is that public opinion only seemed to turn in favour of air strikes against ISIS when it became apparent that Christians were being threatened in large numbers.  I thought perhaps I ought to check a calendar in case I’d entered a parallel universe where the year was 1400.  Having the love of Jesus in your heart sure seems to harden it in ways unfamiliar to myself at least.

So why wouldn’t the West help people in need if they have the resources to do so, regardless of the skin colour, nationality or religious belief of those who are in danger?  Why do we seem to have more concern for people who were born within the same lines drawn by other people (not God) on a piece of paper, or for people who worship the same God?  Why do we proudly boast about this?  For me, these questions run to the heart of the problems the world is currently facing, whether the subject is the economy, poverty, climate change or terrorism.  For sure we cannot hope to prevent scenarios such as that in Iraq re-occurring unless we begin to come up with the right answers to these questions – or in other words, until we begin to acknowledge what our responsibilities really are.

The status quo is nothing new.  Flagrantly misguided and irresponsible (to say nothing of outright mean and selfish) attitudes toward the wellbeing of other people have been writ large in recent years.  There is almost unanimous agreement that the removal of Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq was a terrible mistake, and that now we have cleared Afghanistan of Al-Qaeda terrorist training camps, we should leave and allow the Taliban to retake control of the country, as they surely will.  In Iraq, we are currently witnessing what happens if a tyrannical regime is ousted, advanced weaponry is stock piled, and then the liberators leave before properly securing it – i.e. before ensuring that a nation has its infrastructure fully rebuilt, its army well trained and its governance stabilised.

The truth is that the events that have led to the ISIS incursion are almost comical.  All that was needed to avoid it was a change of emphasis.  We should have prioritised actually doing a good job for the people of Iraq.  One can only wonder what conversations take place amongst ordinary Iraqis with regards to the Allied effort over the past 25 years.  For sure it’s too awful to even try to estimate how many lives might have been saved, including those of Allied soldiers, had we finished the job the first time around in 1991.

So firstly, I want to reiterate unapologetically that I think it is a good thing that we (finally) freed the Iraqi people from the tyranny of the Baathist regime, which essentially held Iraqis hostage to the will of the Hussein crime family for the worst part of 30 years, while continuously threatening the borders of neighbouring countries.  The oil money went straight into the pockets of Baath party thugs or was paid out as rewards to the families of Palestinian suicide bombers – clear evidence of sponsorship of international terrorism by the way.

Though millions in Iraq lived in squalor due to 12 years’ worth of crippling sanctions imposed by the West in order to curtail Saddam’s military ambitions, he built countless palaces and mosques of ever increasing grandeur.  Freedom of speech was non-existent, thousands were being murdered regularly at Saddam’s behest to crush any hint of rebellion, and WMD’s were being vigorously sort after from North Korea and other pariah states.  Having gassed 250,000 people with chemical weapons in Iraqi Kurdistan, no one should be under any illusions as to whether Saddam would have used such weapons again had he managed to get hold of them – the only debate should be where – or where first?

As for those types predisposed toward spouting inane drivel about the so called stability in Iraq under Saddam, maybe they might pause to ask themselves whether the families of the million and a half or so who died in the wars he started with Iran & Kuwait miss ‘that’ stability.  What a shame it is that we didn’t have the nerve or the will to win the peace after winning the war.

Perhaps even more astounding is the insistence that Allied forces leave Afghanistan by the end of 2014, regardless of the situation and in spite of the fact that the current Afghan government has nowhere close to the means required to defend itself against a resurgent Taliban.  Why would anyone believe it to be a good thing for Afghans to again be exposed to such feudal brutality?

Mullah Omar’s men ruthlessly enforce Shari’a.  If a woman is raped in Afghanistan, they are immediately in even more danger the moment their ordeal of sexual assault is over because they are very often brutally punished for the perceived dishonour they have brought upon their menfolk by having sex out of wedlock – and sometimes they are stoned to death for it.  All women are forced to live their whole adult lives in a cloth bag with only a thin slit to look out through and they are forbidden from gaining an education or having a professional career.   Those who are caught attempting to defy these suffocating restrictions are most commonly attacked by having acid thrown in their faces, causing hideous disfigurements and occasionally death.  As if having their public lives mandated isn’t bad enough, Afghan women also have their home lives decided by other people.  Their husband is chosen for them (and the husband-to-be’s family pay a dowry, which equates to them paying for their son to rape an often pre-pubescent girl) and women must be a virgin on their wedding night or face violent reprisals from their communities, essentially meaning that they can never experience a loving relationship or have sex with someone of their own choosing.

I cannot think of any endeavour that should be more pressing upon our consciences than to try to protect the women of Afghanistan from having to live this reality, yet it seems to be almost an article of faith that we should leave them to the mercy of pious men as soon as possible.  Why aren’t feminists angry?  If nothing else, in an environment such as this, what does anyone imagine might be the mind-set of the next generation of men who are raised to subjugate women and only read one book?  Doesn’t anyone think that this might become a problem for us again one day?

We really do have to stop being so tribal.  We really must stop thinking of ourselves as British or American, as Christian or Islamic or whatever.  It’s meaningless.  Every life must be considered equally important for its own sake.  That might shake some people’s sense of identity but just think; instead we could identify ourselves with something far grander – the whole of planet earth.

There was a time when villages battled against each other, before realising it was counterproductive.  Later, whole regions, such as counties in England (Yorkshire against Lancashire for example) used to fight.  Then people turned their suspicions on neighbouring countries until, at least in the developed world, it became obvious that millions of people were dying for nothing, exemplified never more so than by the pointless bloodbath of The First World War.  Finally now, we have entered a new era – often controversially termed the clash of civilisations.  But with thousands of nuclear warheads in existence, most with a destructive force 30 times greater than the bomb dropped on Hiroshima (just imagine the catastrophe), we really cannot afford to continue to be so childish or short sighted any longer.  We must start to think of ourselves primarily as members of the human race, with mutually shared goals to survive, flourish and minimise suffering.

Of course I’m not suggesting that we should intervene immediately everywhere that tyranny exists.  In many circumstances, thankfully, diplomacy is the best option.  However, we must get to grips with the fact that sometimes such a human emergency can unfold that immediate, decisive action is the only correct and effective course of action.  Turning a blind eye is not a moral choice.  Doing nothing does not mean that nothing happens, it just means that something else happens.

How long will it be before a crude nuclear device reaches our shores?  Many experts put the timeline for such an eventuality at less than ten years.  We are in much more danger than a lot of people seem prepared to acknowledge and isolationism is not the answer.  Contrary to popular belief, it is not western intervention that offends the likes of ISIS & Al-Qaeda, it is the uncovered face of a woman, homosexuals, the continued existence of Israel, and non-Muslims.  The extremists have been murdering dissenters for over a thousand years.  As Sam Harris pointedly asked: “What sanctions did we have in place in the year 900 AD?”

Check out the recent Vice News videos regarding ISIS on YouTube.  These people are truly terrifying and they mean business.  Here is their latest report:

Video Link

Our goal must be to encourage the formation of more stable, democratic governments and thus allow educated, secular communities to flourish.  This will undoubtedly take a very long time.  But we have no choice other than to commit to this path because the alternative is to un-movingly watch mass graves being dug from afar and await the next assault on our homelands?


UKIP’s Conjuring Trick (And What We Can Do About It)

UKIP

On the 22nd May 2014, 4.3 million UK residents voted for the UK Independence Party (UKIP) in the European Parliament elections.  That’s about 1 in 10 of all UK adults.  Bearing in mind we are talking about a political party that wishes to privatise the NHS, legalise handguns, introduce a flat rate of tax (though they are apparently ‘re-thinking’ this), outlaw gay marriage, remove women’s rights to maternity leave, re-introduce hunting with dogs, and is led by a man who is proud to boast of his disdain at hearing foreign languages and his desire not to live next door to people of certain nationalities, this looks pretty alarming on the face of it for all moral, tolerant, liberal people.

And it is.  Although it’s true, as one tweeter put it, that Nigel Farage can’t even move a wheelie bin as his party have no seats in the House of Commons, control no councils and the European Parliament is still dominated by pro-EU members, UKIP do have one heck of platform.  They may look and sound like the BNP (that’s because they are almost indistinguishable on policy and rhetoric!), the BNP have never managed to mobilise 10% of the population, gain almost 40,000 members, or be recognised by OFCOM as a major political party.  When we consider all of this alongside the British Social Attitudes Survey released last week, that reported, amongst other things, that 30% of British people admit to being racist, we should perhaps be a little worried about the direction in which our politics may be heading.

Nigel Farage’s ‘achievements’ are all the more remarkable when we observe just how un-correlated his rabble-rousing is with reality.  Here are some statistics:

  • The UK population is approximately 64 million.  Around 56 million are white (approximately 87% of the population).
  • 7.5 million UK residents are immigrants (approximately 12% of the population).  About a third of these are from within the EU.
  • Between 2000 and 2011, immigrants were 45% less likely to claim benefits than people born in the UK and 3% less likely to live in social housing.
  • Between 2000 and 2011, immigrants arriving from within the EU contributed 34% more in taxes than they claimed in benefits, whilst British people paid 11% less in tax than they received.
  • 5% of UK residents are Muslims.
  • In the 2011 census, approximately 3.6 million people identified themselves as homosexual (approximately 6% of the population).
  • Between 2002 and 2012, total incidences of recorded crime in the UK fell from approximately 5.7 million to 3.5 million, including plummeting homicide and violent crime rates.  See the table below:

UK Gov Crime Statistics

These numbers hardly represent a United Kingdom being overrun by non-whites, foreign nationals, Muslims and homosexuals (not that that would be a problem of course!), who are destroying our once great nation by living off of benefits and causing spiralling rates of violent and sexual crime.  Yet all last week I had to listen to UKIP voters explaining that they don’t recognise their own country anymore.  Really?!

So how has Nigel Farage done it?  How has he convinced so many people of such pernicious untruths?

As has been the case time and again throughout human history, he has exploited the genuine misfortunes of people who are struggling to adapt to a fast changing world and (I suspect deliberately) misdiagnosed the cause of their problems in order to give his own prejudices a day in the sun.  To put it bluntly, he has spread lies about certain minority groups that he doesn’t like, apparently merely because he doesn’t like them, and is using this false narrative to convince people that those minorities are the root cause of their problems.  Let’s look at some more numbers:

  • In 1960, life expectancy was approximately 65 years.  In 2014, it is 78.
  • In 1960, 23 out of every 1000 babies born died before their first birthday.  Nowadays, less than 5 do. 
  • In 1960, the UK population was 52 million.  In 2014, it is 64 million.
  • By the end of the 1960’s, UK immigrants already totalled more than 3 million.  See the table below:

Population Growth

This ought to make it clear that the UK has been hurtling toward an emergency for decades.  Our population has increased by 12 million over the past 50 years (or almost 25% in half a century) but only about a third of this is due to immigration.  Thus the recent increase in the rate of immigration has only accelerated our confrontation with this emergency by a few years.  The jobs being taken by those damn foreigners that UKIP despise so much (which is odd because I thought they were mostly claiming benefits?!), would soon be unavailable in any case.

The truth is that the stresses currently being experienced in the UK are a microcosm of what is happening across the developed world (which is why many other countries are also witnessing a rise in the popularity of their far right political party’s).  We are quite simply victims of our own success.  Due to massive improvements in medicine and nutrition, the ‘baby boomers’ are refusing to die, and though we’re now having less babies over the long term, more are making it to adulthood fit and healthy.  Technological advancements have reduced the numbers of labourers required in agriculture and industry, have allowed us to import much of our produce and have enabled the offshoring of, for example call centres and helpdesks.  Though it might not seem so due to 24 hour News channels thrusting conflicts into our living rooms in high definition, we are living in increasingly peaceful times, meaning there is no longer a need to have large scale standing armies.

In short, most modern towns and cities are now painfully over-crowded and so we spend a lot of our time in queues and traffic jams.  Juxtaposed to the improvements in standards of living is the fact that even well qualified graduates are currently struggling to find work due to there being many more people and far fewer jobs.  And such is the huge demand for everything, prices are sky rocketing.  Life is hard and many people are angry and confused.  Unfortunately, this is fertile ground for the likes of UKIP and Nigel Farage.  For all too many it is enough simply to point a finger at the person with an unfamiliar accent and they will (inaccurately) fill in the blanks themselves.

Clearly then, along with disease, poverty, nuclear weapons proliferation, climate change and terrorism, over population is one of the huge questions that our generation must find an answer to.  And as with all the other issues listed above, we will not find the answer in isolation.  UKIP’s insistence upon leaving the EU and ‘closing the doors’ is guaranteed to fail to resolve the problems facing modern Britain simply because it has almost nothing to do with them.  That is not to say that the EU is perfect in its current form, but we must certainly seek to cooperate with, influence and build a strong European State.  The equal opportunities, fair minimum wage and other social welfare and health care advantages available in Britain must be nurtured and strengthened at home and exported abroad, so that other countries are equally appealing places to live, work and raise a family.  We must also of course increase tax revenue to pay for the ever growing demands on our social services.  Whilst it’s impossible not to notice that the very wealthy are in a good position to contribute to this, we should also cease to subsidise whims of fancy with the public purse.  The tens of billions of pounds spent every year funding organised religion and fighting the drug war can no longer be entertained, even as sport.  This money is entirely wasted (actually it’s worse than that – it pays for failed policies that harm society), yet it would all by itself fill the current funding gap within the NHS, with more than a little spare change left over.

‘How to save the world’ is a detailed manuscript few of us have the time to write, but we can be sure of some general themes; we know that the emancipation of women is a good cure for poverty.  Free universal health care is an obligation of any moral society, as is the tolerance and equal treatment of people from all countries, of all skin colours and of all variants of consensual sexual preferences.  The strict control of firearms has never come up short of useful for reducing violent crime and murder rates, particularly in relation to gang disputes, and a concern for the welfare of animals is also a vital health check for any community as it is inextricably linked to how people tend treat each other.  This list could hardly be more opposed to the policies of UKIP and most other far right wing groups, and so it should be obvious that it is essential for our survival and progress that we reject them.

But how do we convince the disillusioned that Nigel Farage is a false prophet?  As ever, facts are our best weapon.  You will find that almost everyone you know thinks that immigrants disproportionately claim benefits and that violent crime is on the rise, due at least in part to mass immigration.  Likewise, although Eastern Europeans, homosexuals and Muslims make up only about 15% of the UK population combined, many people seem to imagine these groups are individually approaching the majority (again, it wouldn’t matter if they were, but proving they’re not goes a long way to exposing the false narrative).  We must all be on high alert to such erroneous statements and be ready to set people straight.  Knowledge of the true state of affairs directly impacts how people view the world.  Clearly this is not a guaranteed win – the religious debate has taught us that.  Some people do prefer to live in ignorance, but such is the extent of the misinformation doing the rounds, correcting it must be a great place to start.

So argue.  Argue as if your life depends on it.  It is possible that, in Britain at least, those who believe in fairy tales will avert serious consequences of their delusions regarding the nature of the cosmos, but we can all be sure of a reckoning in this lifetime if we take a wrong turn on the political spectrum at this crucial moment in our history.  Voting will probably help as well…