General Mattis, Trump’s pick for Defence Secretary, tells a story about an American and a Chinese Admiral, chatting.

The American asked, “What would you most like, to enhance your security?” He expected to hear a list of submarines, warships, maybe carriers.

“Ten million jobs a year,” replied the Chinese Admiral.

China is in a rare, decades-long period of stability and growth. It is being aggressive, nationalistic, threatening smaller nations from Taiwan to Japan, but it doesn’t usually project force, unlike Russia. China needs economic stability and continuing growth, or the regime will find itself in serious trouble.

So the levers Trump has been pressing have been economic. This has had other purposes too, of course, but this post is about foreign policy.

The Forrest Gump or Chauncey Gardener view of Trump seems to be the most prevalent. He’s a complete buffoon, who somehow, without any guile or wit, won the primaries and the the Presidency. What’s charming about this view is the fact it’s impossible to put it forward without being, temporarily, a complete buffoon.

If you do a little research, you uncover a planned run that began five or six years ago, with meetings and readings on all policy areas with people Trump found persuasive and important. One of those sources was, plainly, General Mattis.

I don’t know when they first met, but I do know that Mattis has been explaining his outlook for years, to Congress, in lectures, visiting professorships, interviews and question and answer sessions. He is extremely cogent, clear and consistent in his arguments. Obama sacked him for it.

Trump hired him for it. Mattis has a strategic view of the world that, if you understand it, provides a framework into which every Trump action neatly falls. Like economic levers for China. Like friendliness towards Russia and Pakistan.

People aren’t drifting from long-established news and comment sources because they’re mad, alt-right conspiracy theorists bent on re-tweeting Putin’s propaganda and False News. They’re drifting away because these media are crap. This information is all completely accessible. You can watch Congressional Hearings, lectures (I’ll link to an important one at the foot of this piece), interviews, and see what’s happening. But they don’t.

Take Russia. Mattis thinks the rise of aggressive nationalism there is a threat. He believes that where China feels their security interests would be best served by stability, Russia believes they’d be safest with a region of instability all round its borders. The EU created the invasion of Ukraine, he thinks, by starting a process of slow outreach to the country without any provision at all for the inevitable Russian response. Start the outreach by all means, if you’re ready to handle the response. But what does the flaccid, impotent cry of “Putin is nasty” achieve when you’re not willing to confront him.

But in the longer – not very much longer – term, Russia is catastrophically weak, and it will be with Putin or without him. Its economy is contracting. It has a demographic collapse caused mainly by internal social dysfunction. It has the longest land borders of any country in the world to defend, and the greatest number of Jihadis within them of any country outside the Middle East. The nationalism Putin is cultivating is weak on the fringes of the Federation where Russian identity is weakest, and so could form part not of external belligerence now but of internal collapse.

They have a lot of nuclear weapons and a culture of threatening to use them (one broadcaster who spoke about reducing America to radioactive ash was hired immediately by the state information agency). The world does not need a collapsed Russia with nukes in the hands of various nationalist and, possibly, religious factions.

So while it’s a form of great self-satisfaction for many people to turn denouncement of Putin into performance art at the moment, it is in the interests of the West to get into a position where we can help to support Russia. The starting point there is to be friendly, ally in common causes – maybe against ISIS because Russia does have a serious Jihadi threat – and try to turn them into a less belligerent country, and maybe an ally kept afloat by western economic support.

You’ll note the overtures this policy would demand have already been made by Trump, to a chorus of criticism. He has praised Putin, and suggested the anti-ISIS alliance, which would also possibly have the effect of turning Russia’s aim away from Syrians opposed to Assad. Again, if you realise that, you see why they have been so determined to finish Aleppo before Obama leaves office.

These are very unusual policy approaches – long-term, carefully thought-out, avoiding entanglements with unclear objectives and non-existent endpoints.

Some entanglements are unavoidable, though. This is where Mattis is uncompromising. No military conflict should be contemplated without extremely clearly-stated objectives, and endpoints. He says ‘endpoints’ a lot – how do we know we’re done? In the absence of these, you get the meanderings of Vietnam, Iraq pre-surge, Afghanistan post-2008.

This is where he asks a question that has permeated Trump’s remarks: is political Islam in our best interests? Trump doesn’t put it like this, he has a different job, selling, persuading, laying the ground, speaking to different parts of the electorate. But it’s been there.

What is political Islam? In this sense it has two strands. The first comes from Iran and encompasses Hezbollah and supports Assad. The second derives from the Muslim Brotherhood and includes all the Al Qaeda manifestations and franchises, the Taliban, Boko Haram, ISIS and the brief MB government of Egypt. The list should also include the government of Sudan.

To attack political Islam, if such an attack were held to be in the national interest of the US or the West, the US needs to bring Russia across. It is vital to have Pakistan as an ally just as it was in 2001. That puts Trump’s friendly words to the Pakistani PM, which he was so pleased with he released the transcript, into some better perspective than the asinine squealing that greeted it from most commentators. Egypt, the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, all vital alliances.

It is hard to overstate how radical a policy change this would be. The Muslim Brotherhood and all their derivative organisations, would need to be expelled from the USA. Their mosques would need to be closed, as they have been in Egypt and Tunisia. We are in the odd situation where half a dozen Muslim countries suppress political Islam more effectively than any Western country.

Which brings me to Europe. We, in Europe, are as much a threat to world stability as Russia. The EU cannot make effective decisions but is can misjudge situations so badly the result is land war – which is what Russia’s invasion of Ukraine should be called. The Euro was certain to create regional political and economic instability. It did, and five or six years after this reached crisis point the EU has no solution, other than to – read this carefully – replace the odd democratically elected government.

Migration policies have brought genuinely far right parties to the fore in some countries, while other parties are denounced as fascist so compulsively it’s impossible to know which is which and the hysterical cretins of the EU-centric left and centre have ended up actually promoting fascism through their terminological incontinence, as their American counterparts did for the minuscule Alt Right.

Hardly any NATO countries meet their NATO spending obligations. Some European countries seem to be trying to end any pretence at national defence entirely. No NATO member is a reliable ally for America, yet all expect the US to protect them. Even Britain and France left the US in the lurch in Afghanistan and who stepped in? The UAE and Jordan, two of America’s actually reliable allies.

Worst of all, Mattis is clear about why he fights. He is defending Enlightenment values, the ones the US Constitution and Bill of Rights were based on.

European countries are abolishing Enlightenment values, privileging the more insane manifestations of religion (all religions) and bringing back de-fact or explicit blasphemy laws.

What would we be fighting for in Europe? We’re destroying ourselves, out of sanctimoniousness, narcissism and stupidity.

 

The following is time well spent, if you want to understand the politics of the next four years. Start 18 minutes in.

 

Post to Twitter

 

Update, thanks to Chris Hall in the comments. In fact, Galanos does credit Sessions with the help he needed to convict and to amass the evidence needed for the civil prosecution. So, while Sessions didn’t do this directly as has been suggested, he does seem to have been central to its success:

“What they need to know is he’s not a racist. I have never heard him even suggest racist comments. Either publicly or privately and I spent a lot of private time with him,” said Galanos, who was the DA in the 1980’s when Sessions was U.S. Attorney.

Galanos said because of Sessions, his office was able to prosecute and eventually execute a KKK member responsible for the vicious murder and hanging of a black teenager, Michael Donald.

“We needed some horsepower, which the feds through Jeff Sessions provided. Specifically we needed the investigative power of the FBI and the power of the federal grand jury. I reached out to him (Sessions) and he responded, tell me what you’ll need and you’ll have it,” said Galanos.

Galanos said in his opinion, it was the first step in the dismemberment of the KKK in Alabama.

“Because after the criminal cases were over, the Southern Poverty Law Center took the evidence we had developed and gave to them and they sued civilly and got a $7 million dollar verdict on behalf of Ms. Donald,” said Galanos.

Read more here.

 

Original post here:

The Weekly Standard ran a piece a couple of days ago about Jeff Sessions, a Trump Administration nominee, and allegations of racism. Far from being a racist, it claimed:

As a U.S. Attorney he filed several cases to desegregate schools in Alabama. And he also prosecuted Klansman Henry Francis Hays, son of Alabama Klan leader Bennie Hays, for abducting and killing Michael Donald, a black teenager selected at random. Sessions insisted on the death penalty for Hays. When he was later elected the state Attorney General, Sessions followed through and made sure Hays was executed. The successful prosecution of Hays also led to a $7 million civil judgment against the Klan, effectively breaking the back of the KKK in Alabama.

This is mainly untrue or misleading.

The claim he desegregated schools came from Sessions himself, in a 2009 interview. he said:

I signed 10 pleadings attacking segregation or the remnants of segregation, where we as part of the Department of Justice, we sought desegregation remedies — the takeover of school systems, redrawing lines — all those things that I was allowed to participate in supporting.

That part, the claim Sessions himself can be traced as having made, seems likely to be true. It would have been easy enough to check, if anyone had felt it worthwhile.

Sessions seems never to have claimed credit for the Hays case. I can’t find him trying to do that in any online sources or archives. So far as I can see, this just comes from the Standard.

Henry Francis Hays was executed in 1997 for the 1981 lynching of 19 year old Michael Donald. Hays’s father was the head of the United Klans of America, reportedly the most vicious of the Klan groups, at the time. Sessions was an U.S. Attorney in Alabama when the lynching took place and his office investigated it, but didn’t prosecute it.

That fell instead to District Attorney Chris Galanos, who urged the judge, Braxton Kittrell Jr., to pass a death sentence. This was slightly complicated:

At the time of the killing, March 21, 1981, Alabama’s death penalty law prohibited a judge from increasing a sentence to death if a jury recommended life imprisonment.

The law was changed later in 1981, but Ed Carnes, Assistant Attorney General in Alabama, has said the earlier statute applied in the Hays case.

Judge Kittrell said, however, that he believed the Legislature intended to allow ”the court itself, and not the jury, to be the final sentencing authority.”

So Galanos and Kittrell deserve the credit, if your views on capital punishment allow you to consider it such, for pressing for and obtaining the highest penalty, even though the jury hadn’t demanded the death sentence.

The $7 million judgement against the Klan is another matter, and the person responsible for that shouldn’t be allowed to be lost in obscurity. She was very remarkable.

She was Michael Donald’s mother.

Jesse Kornbluth wrote this exceptional piece about her. And you should read it.

The bottom line is:

Mrs. Donald’s determination inspired a handful of lawyers and civil rights advocates, black and white. Early in 1984, Morris Dees, co-founder of the Southern Poverty Law Center, suggested that Mrs. Donald file a civil suit against the members of Unit 900 and the United Klans of America. The killers were, he believed, carrying out an organizational policy set by the group’s Imperial Wizard, Robert Shelton. If Dees could prove in court that this ”theory of agency” applied, Shelton’s Klan would be as liable for the murder as a corporation is for the actions its employees take in the service of business.

Mrs. Donald and her attorney, State Senator Michael A. Figures, agreed to participate in the civil suit. Last February, an all-white jury in Mobile needed to deliberate only four hours before awarding her $7 million. In May, the Klan turned over the deed to its only significant asset, the $225,000 national headquarters building in Tuscaloosa. Meanwhile, Mrs. Donald’s attorney moved to seize the property and garnish the wages of individual defendants. ”The Klan, at this point, is washed up,” says Henry Hays, from his cell on death row.

But do read the piece in full.

And note too, Mrs Donald’s attorney, Figures, is the main source of the allegations that Sessions has made racist remarks.

Post to Twitter

Google had a global email issue, over the last 48 hours, affecting Google Apps for work customers, mainly in the US and UK. It can affect isolated users within Apps domains. The symptom is a ‘service not available’ message when the user tries to log in, as though email were an optional app not enabled for that user.

The fix is very simple. I’ll prefix this, though, with the disclaimer that you’re responsible for your own actions and data and should take advice, by using the support system in the domain management console, if you are at all uncertain or want to check this with Google first.

In the management console, choose Apps and then Google Apps. Gmail should be marked as ‘on for everyone’. From the three dot menu to the right, choose ‘Off’, then click to confirm in the dialogue that pops up. Wait ten seconds, then click again on the three dot menu and choose On For Everyone, assuming that was your setting. If you only allow it for selected users, enable them as you did previously.

That’s it.

Post to Twitter

I’m sceptical about the claims that Russian state intelligence was behind the hacks of the DNC servers. Maybe they were, but the process of attribution for attacks is a complicated one, and this association was claimed at the very outset.

For background, I investigate attacks on servers most weeks. Most of the time, you can’t say who was behind them with any certainty just from the attacks – you might have as a starting point the concern that a particular party is having a go at you or your client, and that’s different, of course. You start out tracing them to machines that were themselves compromised, and rely on some cooperation from their administrators. IP addresses or social media accounts used for the attacks are cut outs, in the classic tradecraft sense.  This is true when the people behind them are probably kids, or common commercial competitors. There are tens of millions of compromised computers in the world, any of which can be used to front an attack.

So when you read that an attack has been attributed to Russian hackers, this does not often mean there’s been any sort of trace through the internet.

Instead, there will have been some analysis of the toolkits or techniques used. This is the identification technique used by the investigators of the DNC hacks. But toolkits get shared and sold, and copied. This is true of toolkits and malicious code that’s used at first by intelligence agencies. I don’t think there’s much doubt that national agencies were the origin of the Stuxnet trojan that affected centrifuges in Iran. This first appeared, in an early form, in 2009 (although there are claims of earlier forms four years beforehand). The final form contained a timestamp from February 2010. By November 2010, having been discovered in June 2010, it was reportedly being traded commercially on the black market.

So a toolkit used in an attack that was likely to have been a state agency can, and will, turn up in other hands within months of being identified.

I’m not the only one who isn’t sure this was the Russian government. Fidelis Security has become involved in the DNC response, and this is how they blogged it:

Over a 12-month period, the DNC was victim to not just one, but two intrusions from a nation-state actor, Russia.

[…]

Finally, if Russia is to blame, this breach marks the first time that a nation-state has used cyber espionage to influence a United States election.

The first claim is what’s being reported, the ‘if’ isn’t. There’s a worrying degree of certainty being displayed in many reports at a stage in the investigation that’s so early it can’t be possible to say who was responsible. But confirmation bias is a powerful thing.

Crowdstrike did say they thought phishing, and spearphishing in particular, played a part in these attacks. That amounts to saying that people were induced by deceptive websites or other techniques to install malware themselves, unknowingly, on the DNC systems. That suggests they don’t think it was a remote exploit – some vulnerability in the internet-facing part of the systems that attackers could use to get in.

If malicious software could have been installed unknowingly, it could also have been installed knowingly. Rather like murder investigations, an actual penetration of a system casts suspicion on those closest to it, if you’re being an objective investigator.

I’ve been involved in electronic security since the late 1980s. Then, it was finding, and planting, listening devices and using other techniques to gather information. The most notorious thing I did was tap Darius Guppy’s telephone, and record the conversation he had with Boris Johnson about beating up a journalist, but most of the work I did was finding rather than planting. When you find an intrusion of some kind, and even then it could be external to the location that was being monitored, you need to consider who was behind it. You also need to consider whether it’s actually best to leave things in place, so the intrusion that’s happening is a known quantity, rather than blowing that and leaving the road open to further unknown ones.

When you try to figure out who was behind an intrusion, the first thing to think about is, who has a motive? Who benefits? And the first thing you need to think about when an attack is publicised, is why? Why not just watch it and gather intelligence?

So the Cui Bono question is worth considering here. Who benefited from these attacks, or who might have been the intended beneficiary? The main take-home was that the DNC favoured Clinton’s candidacy over that of Sanders. The releases of files came just before the Democratic Party’s convention. If you were a Sanders last-ditcher, that’s what and when you’d have wanted.

Who benefits from the claim it was Russia behind the attacks? Clinton does. Her main line of attack has shifted from Trump’s alleged racism, which isn’t such a strong line in the wake of the BLM movement stopping ambulances and inspiring the murders of police officers, to Putin wanting Trump to win. She is repeating the claim that Russia was behind this, when with the best will in the world the most that could be said is that some of the software used is similar to that used in what was thought to have been a Russian assault on some German systems a few years ago.

Maybe Putin does want Trump to win, and maybe he was behind these leaks of data. But Putin hasn’t done badly under the Obama administration Clinton served in. Russia has become the most credible external power in the Middle East and has invaded two Eastern European countries. More of the same would suit Putin. The only real problem he has is that fracking in the USA has depressed the price of gas, which Russia relies on. Clinton has given out mixed messages on fracking, but she did say, in a debate with Sanders, that:

“By the time we get through all of my conditions, I do not think there will be many places in America where fracking will continue to take place,”

Trump has benefited from the hacking in one way. He’s trying to get disaffected Sanders voters to switch to him, and the idea that their candidate was stitched up by the DNC, which is a stretch from what has actually been revealed – a preference rather than a manipulation of the process – would help him.

So it’s complicated, more so because the earliest DNC penetration was dated to last summer which, depending what ‘summer’ means, saw Trump on as low as single figure polling and makes it hard to believe an attack was started with the intended effect of helping him in his campaign.

It might be the case that Russia was behind this. It’s most likely, given the facts we know so far, that any definite attribution will be hard to make. But it is certainly true that if at the moment you think this is a Russian cyber attack designed to help Trump beat Clinton, you’re believing what you want to believe.

Out of interest, though, one of the techniques pioneered by one of the groups fingered for this is very cool. It uses Twitter accounts and steganography – which today is mainly the embedding of encrypted data in image files, but which was first described in 1499.

Post to Twitter

Chris wrote:

If it is membership of the EU which is undermining competitiveness, why is it that Germany is doing so much better at exporting to China than the UK? Last year, its exports (pdf) to China were €71.4bn (£51.7bn) compared to the UK’s £12.8bn, which meant such exports represented 2.4% of GDP against 0.7 per cent for the UK.

I was curious and Googled. Wikipedia has this to say:

The frequent high-level diplomatic visits are acknowledged to have helped guarantee the smooth development of Sino-German relations. From 1993 to 1998, German and Chinese leaders met face-to-face 52 times: Among those Chinese leaders who visited Germany were President Jiang Zemin; Qiao Shi, former Chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress (NPC); and Li Peng, former Premier and Chairman of the NPC Standing. Meanwhile, German leaders who visited China included President Roman Herzog, Chancellor Helmut Kohl, Foreign Minister Klaus Kinkel and Minister of State at the German Federal Foreign Office Ludger Volmer. Among these leaders, Chancellor Kohl visited China twice in 1993 and 1995. Since the new German government came into power in October 1998, Chancellor Gerhard Schröder has paid three visits to China. One after another from Germany came Vice Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer, Defense Minister Rudolf Scharping, and Minister of Economics and Technology Werner Müller. At the same time, Germany welcomed Chinese Primer Zhu Rongji, Foreign Minister Tang Jiaxuan, State Councilor Wu Yi, Member of the Political Bureau of the Chinese Communist Party Central Committee Wei Jianxing as well as Vice President Hu Jintao.

Relations would continue to improve after 1998. For instance, both Beijing and Berlin fervently opposed the invasion of Iraq in 2003, and in 2006 both Germany (the largest economy and the most populous country of the European Union) and China further enhanced their bilateral political, economic and diplomatic ties within the framework of Sino-EU strategic partnerships. Both Germany and China opposed direct military involvement in the 2011 Libyan civil war. Before the 2011 visit of China’s PM Wen Jiabao, the Chinese government issued a “White Book on the accomplishments and perspective of Sino-German cooperation”, the first of its kind for a European country. The visit also marked the first Sino-German government consultations, an exclusive mechanism for Sino-German communications.

So I suppose the answer to Chris’s question might be that Germany is China’s biggest trading partner and has a special trading relationship with it outwith the EU.

Post to Twitter

Chris is right in everything he says about nationalising the banks, and I think he’s wrong. It’s a completeness problem.

His core argument is this:

[Nationalisation] wouldn’t prevent banks losing money: these are inevitable sometimes because of complexity, bounded rationality and limited knowledge. However, when banks are nationalized, their losses would create only a very minor problem for the public finances as governments borrow money to recapitalize them*. That needn’t generate the fears of a credit crunch or financial crisis that we’ve seen recently. In this sense, nationalization would act as a circuit-breaker, preventing blow-ups at banks from damaging the rest of the economy. (Given that countries are exposed to financial crises overseas, the full benefit of this requires that banks be nationalized in all countries).

This argues for an exchange of private gain/public loss with terrible knock-on effects, for public gain/public loss, which is more balanced. You could argue that the former alternative has other remedies.

But the main problem I see is the other effects of nationalisation: costs, regulation and enterprise.

Costs are hard to control in public enterprises. Partly because of the effects of regulation, partly because they’re unbounded by the profit motive, costs tend to increase to fill the space available when next year’s budget depends on completely spending this year’s. Problems tend to be solved by more money and more management, rather than by eliminating the problems.

Regulation of public enterprises is, necessarily and rightly, more onerous than it is for the private sector. The latter needs to to focus on the prevention of abuse and dishonesty, the former needs to include both measures to prevent corruption and ostentatious displays of virtue. I don’t mean that in a bad way. Tenders to public bodies have to be ritualised in a way private buying decisions don’t.

But despite all the best efforts of those involved, corruption, or nepotism, tend to take over public allocations of funds. To be anecdotal, I was asked a few years ago to take part in a business that was to be situated in Wales. The business plan was, this bloke knew someone in the Welsh Assembly who gave out grants. That was it.

If public sector priorities took over banking, the case study for any sort of finance would become: “can I cover my ass if this goes wrong?” Worthiness would tend to take priority over business cases: you wouldn’t criticise a loan to disabled veterans, would you, you bastard?

What effect would that have on the economy?

There’s another, broader, way he’s wrong too, I think. He says:

My point here is, however, a broader one. One fact illustrates it. During the golden age of social democracy – from 1947 to 1973 – UK real total equity returns averaged 5.1% per year. If we take the fall of the Berlin wall in 1989 as its starting point, they have returned 4.9% per year in the “neoliberal” era. This alerts us to a possibility – that perhaps some social democratic policies are in the interests not just of workers but of shareholders too. Maybe the beneficiaries of neoliberalism are fewer than one might imagine.

All true, I’m sure.

But in 1973 I wore darned socks and trousers with patches, and my younger brother wore my old trousers. We lived in a three bedroom detached house in a nice cul de sac in Essex, just outside the M25 (it wasn’t yet built). That house financed the rest of my parent’s lives, a couple of decades later.

Today I wear socks that cost £5 for 5 pairs, from Tesco, and when they wear out I buy new ones, and I don’t ever see any kids with patched trousers. Torn knees in jeans became fashionable, much later. Then they meant you weren’t patching your kid’s trousers. Signals of actual poverty are never fashionable.

Meanwhile, the people making the socks and the trousers have become many times richer than they were in 1973. Chinese workers have seen their incomes rise by an average of more than 15 times. We’re richer, in terms of what we can actually consume, and so are they. Their increased wealth is more measurable than ours. I’ve never seen a graph of jean patching or sock darning.

That’s also something neoliberalism has achieved. It meant we came through a calamitous banking crisis with problems, for sure, but without the dustbowl economics and breadlines of the 1930s.

The undoubted problems of banking today could be addressed in different ways. Chris talks about a return to full reserve banking, but we don’t have fractional reserve banking, we have Basel Rules that let banks use dodgy securities as backing for loans. Maybe actual fractional reserve retail banking is worth consideration. Maybe lowering the regulatory burden but making it more effective would allow the banking sector to become more diverse, so banking failures were isolated, like failures of newsagents or engineering companies.

There’s no question we have a problem with banking. But making it run with the beige inertia of British Telecom circa 1978 isn’t the answer.

Post to Twitter

We could go on. We could mention Deborah Orr in the Guardian, who somehow managed to link events in Cologne to the historical failings of European (and British) criminal justice systems; or Gaby Hinsliff (also, coincidentally enough, in the Guardian) who contrasted the “expensive smartphones” of the assaulted German women with the miserable lives of “young male migrants…scraping by at the bottom of Europe’s social and economic food chain” (query: what’s the Arabic for “with that iPhone she was asking for it”?). Suffice to say that to endure the Krakatoa-like eruption of cognitive dissonance from the feminist left in the aftermath of the obscenity of Cologne was to have a whole new dimension of unpleasantness added to what was an already thoroughly unpleasant ordeal: A bit like being hectored by One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest’s Nurse Ratched during a particularly difficult colonoscopy.

 

Post to Twitter

Jeremy Corbyn has been a supporter of the Chagossians’ plight for a long time, and on this I agree with him. On his website, an article is published, which discusses the depopulation of Diego Garcia and notes that
“This was done in secret and with no consultation with the people who matter most, namely those people who lived there”
Hard to argue with, really. I’m with him so far. But it becomes difficult to square all of this with his attitude to the Falkland Islands.

Post to Twitter

Forty six minutes into this discussion about trigger warnings, freedom of speech and campus lunacy, Brendan O’Neill tackles Bea Campbell about her role in the Satanic Abuse witch hunts of the 1980s. He says he supports her freedom to make false allegations, though not to destroy working class families.

Campbell replies:

The conversation I really want to have is this, it’s about, not so much freedom of speech, but the difficulty of speech, the difficulty for those who need to speak, the difficulty of giving voice, particularly when what they need to say has been shrouded in shame, whether it’s about the shape of their body or somebody abusing their body. This is at the centre of experience of women for ever, as far as we know. Now, the thing that’s fascinating about that difficulty is that all sorts of other oppressed and marginalised groups have something to say about that as well.

Primo Levi describes, let me just remind myself of the way that he puts it, ‘the unlistenable to, the unlistenable to, the unheard things that need to be said’.

Let’s just remember where the great inspiration for the contemporary language of feminism came from. It came from people who defied death, in Mississippi, in Alabama, just to vote. Black people who in order to vote had to risk life and limb and had to actually recuperate some sense of personal worth, which they recovered amongst each other, to give voice and to enter the public realm.

Now, the thing that I think is shameful about you [O’Neill] and your Institute of No Ideas [some discussion because O’Neill isn’t formally attached to the Institute of Ideas] I want to refer to your article about… rape… you had a go about this current rape thing that you go on about and you likened contemporary feminism to the Ku Klux Klan. And you cite that great, heroic, astounding figure Ida B. Wells, who campaigned against lynching and particularly named the ways in which white people enlisted the spectre, your term, the spectre of rape to lynch black men. The thing that you do is to traduce, to erase, the history of black women at that time in the service of your repudiation of the implications of rape.

She went on from there, and you can listen to it if you like.

Let’s look at what she did.

First, she claimed primacy over other people. She claimed to be more important, to make her voice louder than O’Neill’s. She did this by playing to the natural sympathy everyone has for people who feel ashamed of themselves or who have been abused, then saying that’s a female experience, centrally so. She is, of course, female.

Then she made the inevitable leap to the civil rights movement in America.

So far, the logic of this is:

  1. Victimhood is more important than equality and freedom
  2. I am one of a victim class
  3. I also claim honorary membership of an even more evocative victim class

Remember, this is a response to an allegation that she had been part of a campaign of lies about parents forcing their children to eat excrement during satanic rituals, a campaign that resulted in state child abduction.

What she’s doing here is drawing a veil of virtue over herself. How can you criticise someone without a voice? Campbell is without a voice despite having one of the biggest platforms of anyone in the UK; her voice has been heard in the national media, in books and in academia for decades. But she has no voice as a member of an unvoiced group.

How can you not reverently make room for a voice that has been kept hushed by shame, of body image and shame that stems from abuse?

How can you disagree with someone whose great inspiration, dammit, came from Black Americans who’d been denied a voice, just like her?

It’s drivel, of course. So is what follows. O’Neill has erased black women by quoting a black woman. This is gibberish. But not even O’Neill is brave enough to challenge it as she comes out with it.

If you want to know how it is that someone could help tear families apart, causing irreparable trauma to children, over an obviously bogus piece of hysteria and yet retain both a sense of personal virtue and an always-warm seat on BBC discussion programmes, as well as a lifetime sinecure in a university, this is your answer. It’s the veil of virtue.

This veil acts as a turbocharger for the motte and bailey doctrine (if you haven’t yet read the paper at the end of that link, take a few minutes and rectify that right now). Motte and bailey arguments have a solid, defensible inner core (the motte), and a fatuous or worse hinterland (the bailey). If challenged on the bailey, the proponents retreat to the motte until it’s safe to come out again. An example motte and bailey feminist approach was given on the starslatecodex blog a year or so ago:

The feminists who constantly argue about whether you can be a real feminist or not without believing in X, Y and Z and wanting to empower women in some very specific way, and who demand everybody support controversial policies like affirmative action or affirmative consent laws (bailey). Then when someone says they don’t really like feminism very much, they object “But feminism is just the belief that women are people!” (motte) Then once the person hastily retreats and promises he definitely didn’t mean women aren’t people, the feminists get back to demanding everyone support affirmative action because feminism, or arguing about whether you can be a feminist and wear lipstick.

The turbocharged version is, instead of “But feminism is just the belief that women are people!”, you get “But feminism is the only way the marginalised can ever have a voice, especially those who men have made feel bad about their bodies, and it’s exactly the same as the civil rights movement, and you don’t want to lynch black people do you, you bastard???”

Campbell isn’t the only person who does this. It’s characteristic of her generation of political activists. This is why it’s ironic, and often quite funny, when younger activists, the current crop in particular, attack those of the 1970s using exactly the same tactics and shout them down for being trans-exclusionary – transsexualism not having formed a part of the identity politics that set, like concrete, in the minds of 1970s activists thirty years ago.

This inflexibility is a serious problem now. In the aftermath of the mass sexual assault of women in Cologne on New Year’s Eve, we read that

Barbara Steffens, the minister for emancipation in the North Rhine Westphalia (NRW) government, said the New Year’s Eve incident was “the tip of a very unpleasant iceberg”. She called for a “larger societal condemnation of a male abuse of power”.

This incident in Cologne was created by migration without assimilation, not by masculinity, and European men don’t behave like that. A politician who can’t understand that can’t deal with it either. But by falling back on this call to ossified identity political roles, distraction can be achieved. Distraction without effective action, that is.

This is how several thousand children came to be raped in full knowledge of the authorities in northern English towns like Rotherham for a decade and a half or more. The crumbling, Soviet-era concrete of the political priorities of the Labour Party meant that imaginary white racist backlashes were more important than the actual racist rape of white children. And you know, you wouldn’t want to be suggesting there was anything systematic about the rape of white people by non-whites would you? I mean, not even if we both know the statistics show exactly that.

Just as nobody on the panel in the clip above was willing to challenge Campbell’s ridiculous attempt to co-opt US civil rights as a cover for British witch hunts because they didn’t want to risk appearing to attack the US civil rights movement, nobody was willing to risk being called racist in Rotherham.

It’s time to stop buying this crap.

It’s time to say that Bea Campbell stands in a line of descent from Matthew Hopkins, not Ida B. Wells. In more current issues, it’s time to stop letting the descendants of Bantu colonisers of southern Africa pretend their anti-white crusade is anti-colonialist.

It’s time to challenge not just the ideas of the regressive left, but also their false assumptions of virtue.

 

Post to Twitter