thumping the tub
Tub-Thumper - 1. A speaker or preacher who for emphasis thumps the pulpit; a violent or declamatory preacher or orator; a ranter. (from oed.com). This blog will be a combination of reasoned posting somedays and an occasional rant.
Sunday, October 30, 2005
MAKE BULLSHIT HISTORY
Some afterthoughts on the 'Make Poverty History' demonstrations in the summer. Malcolm X had this to say about the march where Martin Luther King made the 'I have a dream' speech. Most of it applies to the make poverty history stuff....

"the negroes were out there in the streets. They were talking about how they were going to march on Washington, march on the senate, march on the Whitehouse, march on the congress and tie it up - bring it to a halt and not let the government proceed. They even said they were going out to the airport to lay down on the runway and not let any airplanes land. I'm telling you what they said - that was revolution, that was revolution, that was the black revolution. It was the grassroots out there in the street; it scared the white man to death; scared the white power structure in Washington DC to death - I was there. When they found out that this black steamroller was going to come down on the capital they called in these national negro leaders that you respect and told them call it off. Kennedy said 'look you all are letting this thing go too far' and old Tom said 'Boss I can't stop it I because I didn't start it.'

I'm telling you what they said. They said 'I'm not even in it much less at the head of it.' They said 'these negroes are doing things on their own; they're running ahead of us.' And that old, shrewd fox, he said 'if you all aren't in it I'll put you in it. I'll put you at the head of it, I'll endorse it, I'll welcome it, I'll help it, I’ll join it.'

"This is what they did with the march on Washington, they joined it, became part of it, took it over. And as they took it over it lost its militancy. It ceased to be angry, it ceased to be hot, it ceased to be uncompromising. Why, it even ceased to be a march - it became a picnic, a circus, nothing but a circus - with clowns and all.

No, it was a sell-out. It was a takeover. They controlled it so tight the told those negroes what time to hit town, where to stop, what signs to carry , what songs to sing, what speech they could make, what speech they couldn't make and then told them to get out of town by sundown.
posted by michael the tubthumper @ 8:24 pm   3 comments
Saturday, October 29, 2005
POLITICIAN SPEAK TRANSLATED - PART 1
Pre-emptive Strike - this is the new term for attacking people who haven't touched you yet. To put it in a more social setting it is equivalent to going up to a man in the pub and punching him just in case he happens to spill your pint later on.

Preventive War - This means denying everyone but yourself and your friends the chance to even buy a pint.

Liar/Lying - In the bizarre politics of the early 21st century one of the strangest manifestations in the language is that the one thing that the politicians are trying to outdo each other in is the one thing they aren't allowed to call each other or accuse each other of (in the UK parliament).

Convention rules that even words such as "untruth" are frowned upon. Due to this some rather strange language has grown up around the subject. Lying has come to be known by such terms as "being economical with the truth", "putting an interpretation on events that was at significant variance with the facts", "terminological inexactitude" (Winston Churchill) or even "making a press statement".

"I'm glad you asked me that." - that was the one question I hoped you wouldn't ask me.

Hearts And Minds - These days we are often told that the battle for "hearts and minds" is more important than the physical battle with weapons. This seems a little confusing - presumably the western armies are hoping to pick up the pieces of these hearts and minds from the towns and villages where they have blown them up? Any other explanation seems unlikely, as it is difficult to convince people of your good intentions when you are bombing them.

Or perhaps it relates to what Chuck Colson, former aide to Richard Nixon said .."When you've got them by the balls their hearts and minds will follow".

European Partners - European Enemies

A Constructive Discussion - this means nothing at all. The phrase "a constructive discussion" is only used in circumstances where no agreement of any sort has been reached. We know this because if a solution is reached, even if its during a conference about the width of traffic cones then it is still called "an historic agreement"

We Will See How The Situation Develops - we do not have the time, the money, or the inclination to do anything about this at the moment.

An Historic Agreement - See entry for "A Constructive Discussion"

Collateral Damage - this means no more or less than dead people. This phrase released many politicians and military people from potentially difficult situations in that it is much easier to say "the operation was a success although we did sustain a small amount of collateral damage" than to say "we bulldozed our way through a civilian area and though we killed a few camel-f*ckers, we did get what we went in there for"

Weapons of Mass Destruction - do you remember doing French at school? This phrase only applies to "they" not "we" or "I". It's like an irregular verb -
- They have weapons of mass destruction
- You are either with us or against us and
- We have strong defensive capabilities,
or if you prefer "we shall defend our island whatever the cost may be"

Strong Government - ignoring everybody else. Thereby when the country doesn't want to go to war and you do you can say you are not being bloody minded or a warmonger - it is in fact "strong government".

We Are Putting The Matter To Consultation - This can mean one of 3 things, 1 = We are hoping everyone will forget this unpopular measure we are proposing and then we can bring it back when the media is concentrating on something else and try and slip it to them that way, or option 2 = we simply hope the matter will go away. Option 3 is to employ consultants that you know will agree with your initial hypotheses and then when they report back you can claim your original policy has been vindicated.
posted by michael the tubthumper @ 4:32 pm   9 comments
Friday, October 28, 2005
REMEDIAL BRITISH GEOGRAPHY AND POLITICS
I have been getting a few international readers and for the purposes of international understanding I would like to make a few things clear. Please don't take this the wrong way, I read this stuff about other countries and many people in the UK do not know the correct formation of this stuff (including my students). I have had an email telling me that Scotland was one of the nicest parts of England so I think I should explain. I have my teaching hat on today. If you are looking for more tubthumping posts then there is much more to get your teeth into if you scroll down.

This is not intended as a patriotic or nationalistic piece - just for the purposes of information. The political classes in the UK are as parasitic as anywhere else (if not more so) but this is just to explain how the whole thing is supposed to play out.

What is the difference between England, Great Britain and the United Kingdom?

In the image above you will see the various COUNTRIES and one PROVINCE that make up the United Kingdom. They are not REGIONS.

The colour coding on the map at the top should help a little. The United Kingdom consists of Scotland (in red), England (in blue), Wales (in Orange) and Northern Ireland (in yellow).

Great Britain is the name for the island that encompasses Scotland, England and Wales and therefore does not include Northern Ireland. On a UK passport it states "The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland" - which is the full name. Now it is perfectly ok with me to debate how 'United' or for that matter, 'Great' it is but that is how it works.

With a bit of Wiki help I will go through the constituent parts of the United Kingdom - Scotland, England, Northern Ireland and Wales

Scotland (Alba in Gaelic) is a NATION in and a constituent country of the United Kingdom. It occupies the northern third of the island of Great Britain.

The Kingdom of Scotland was united in 843, by King Kenneth I of Scotland, and is thus one of the oldest still-existing countries in the world. Scotland existed as an independent state until 1 May 1707, when the 1707 Act of Union merged Scotland with the Kingdom of England to create the Kingdom of Great Britain. Scotland has 3 official languages - Gaelic, English and Scots

England is the largest and most populous country of the United Kingdom. England is named after the Angles, one of a number of Germanic tribes believed to have originated in Angeln in Northern Germany, who settled in England in the 5th and 6th centuries. It has not had a distinct political identity since 1707, when Great Britain was established as a unified political entity; however, it has a legal identity separate from those of Scotland and Northern Ireland, as part of the entity "England and Wales". England has one official language (no prizes for guessing).

Northern Ireland is one of four constituent parts of the United Kingdom. It was created by the Government of Ireland Act, 1920.

Wales (Cymru in Welsh; pronounced "KUM-ree") is a country and one of the four constituent parts of the United Kingdom. Wales is in the south-west of Great Britain (in Orange). The term Principality of Wales is often used, although the Prince of Wales has no role in the governance of Wales and this term is unpopular among some. Wales has not been politically independent since 1282, when it was conquered by King Edward I of England. Wales has two official languages - Welsh and English.

So therefore...

Scotland IS NOT part of England.
Scotland IS part of Great Britain
Scotland IS part of the United Kingdom

Northern Ireland IS NOT part of Ireland (though many feel it should be)
Northern Ireland IS NOT part of Great Britain
Northern Ireland IS part of the United Kingdom

Wales IS NOT part of England
Wales IS part of Great Britain
Wales IS part of the United Kingdom

Getting there?

There are independence movements in Wales, Scotland, a small section on England's south coast called Cornwall and there is even a fledgling English independence movement.

Scotland has its own parliament. The "devolved matters" over which it has responsibility include education, health, agriculture, and justice. It has limited tax-varying powers. A degree of domestic authority, and all foreign policy, remains with the UK Parliament in Westminster. Scotland also has, and always has had, separate legal and education systems and although the currency is the same Scottish banks print notes that are different in appearance.

Northern Ireland has its own assembly. The Assembly is a home rule legislature established in Northern Ireland under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement but currently under suspension.

Wales has its own assembly. Set up by the 1998 Government of Wales Act, the National Assembly for Wales cannot pass its own primary legislation, nor can it raise its own taxes, as these powers remain with Westminster. This is largely because Wales has had the same legal system as England since 1536. The Scottish Parliament and Northern Ireland Assembly, have stronger powers.

I hope that clears matters up.
posted by michael the tubthumper @ 2:57 pm   7 comments
Thursday, October 27, 2005
SPECIALLY RUINOUSLY ADAPTED FOR A HOLLYWOOD AUDIENCE
I have always been a huge fan of Douglas Adams. Anyone capable of writing lines like "He felt that his whole life was some kind of dream and he sometimes wondered whose it was and whether they were enjoying it" grabs your interest. Whilst I haven't always agreed with him in all that he says, he continually managed to be both flippant and profound at the same time - which is no easy habit to get into. He had an extraordinary amount of ability in the not-so simple art of putting one word after another.

Some examples...

"Human beings, who are almost unique in having the ability to learn from the experience of others, are also remarkable for their apparent disinclination to do so."

"A common mistake that people make when trying to design something completely foolproof is to underestimate the ingenuity of complete fools."

"Don't believe anything you read on the net. Except this. Well, including this, I suppose."

"He hoped and prayed that there wasn't an afterlife. Then he realized there was a contradiction involved here and merely hoped that there wasn't an afterlife."

It just makes me laugh. It is not really science-fiction (he described himself as a comedy writer). Most science fiction is poorly written. Adams' work most certainly isn't.

I heard Hollywood was going to make a film of The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy and at first was pleased that the work would get to a wider audience. Then I panicked. I realised that even if it was done with the best intentions it was not going to translate to the screen. How do you translate "The ships hung in the sky in much the same way that bricks don't" or those I mentioned above into a visual image. It just won't work.

Then I noticed the Hollywood spin machine get into action. Several fake fan sites were set up to promote the film. Unsurprisingly, their reviews were always glowing. The repository for all things Hitchhikers - the 'Planet Magrathea' website - reviewed the film and said it was fairly poor. The man who wrote the review, after years of maintaining a brilliant website for fans chucked it in because of... "unwarranted, ill-informed personal abuse and libel which has been directed towards me on the IMDB, livejournal and many other websites in the wake of my review of the film."

Films cannot and should not replicate books exactly, it is a different medium and things have to be explained in a different way but despite this it often seems that things are not 'specially adapted' for the screen but instead are 'specially ruined' for Hollywood audiences.

Adams himself was asked about the differences between UK and US audiences and whether or not things had to be 'dumbed down' for the US. He replied that there was no great differences between the two and that the 'dumbing down' was not something that US audiences demanded or needed. The decision to do it is made on behalf of the US audiences by TV and film executives.

Happy endings tend to get stuck on as well. The US version of the dutch film 'The Vanishing' is a classic example. The Dutch version is chilling and not a little superb. The US version is the most appalling nonsense. US audiences did not demand this. US executives decided that they should see a version with a preposterous happy-ending and not a straight remake of the Dutch film (better still, why not just watch the Dutch film - there are such things as subtitles). In changing the end they entirely changed the point.

Spielberg's attempt at War of the Worlds is another case. H.G. Wells' book is about the arrogance of the human race in assuming that they are the sum of all things. Spielberg's version is about a few flashy special effects and Tom Cruise 'growing up and accepting his responsibilities.'

This is not to say that remakes cannot be done well. Most often they aren't, but occasionally they can be. Try the Orson Welles version of 'War of the Worlds' here.

Anyway, back to Adams. I still haven't seen the film but I have seen probably 10 minutes worth of clips and it is clear that a book that manages to take the finer points of philosophy (an academic friend of mine informs me that one section is 'inverse Kantian philosophy'), physics, metaphysics, astro-physics[i] and making sandwiches, has been transformed into a piss-poor slapstick with a couple of witty jokes.

I'll adapt an Adams quote to end..."In the beginning Hollywood was created. This has made a lot of people very angry and has been widely regarded as a bad move. "



An excellent talk Adams did at the University of California just before he died entitled "Parrots, the universe and everything" is available here

He also wrote the funniest short story I have ever read, which is available here

[i] I don't know of any other writer who could have came up with a line like "in the end he got lynched by a rampaging mob of respectable physicists who had finally realized that the one thing they really couldn't stand was a smartarse."

posted by michael the tubthumper @ 2:33 pm   5 comments
Wednesday, October 26, 2005
TALKING KKKRAP
All through the story the immigrants came
The Gael and the Pict, the Angle and Dane
From Pakistan, England and from the Ukraine
We're all Scotland's story and we're all worth the same
(From 'Scotland's Story' by the Proclaimers)

Some of the KKK propaganda cites Scotland as having the 'racial purity' that they long for. Some websites suggest that some of the founding members of the KKK were Scots who had emigrated to the US. Whether this is true or not is beside the point. You can find a few mindless, moronic bigots in any country, or any race or religion. The myth of Scotland being a 'racially pure' country is one I would like to explode if I can.

"The Scottish Nation is generally acknowledged to have come together between the sixth and fourteenth centuries, absorbing several races in the process of creating what certain individuals like to think of as the pure Scot. In fact, there is no such being. The early Scots were a post-Roman Gaelic-speaking people who invaded and settled the west coast, known then as Dalriada, having travelled over the sea from Ireland, and before that, it is fancifully suggested, although not as yet proven, the Middle East."[i]

The proponents of this middle-east link point to the similarities between traditional Scottish and middle-eastern music and instrumentation as evidence. If this is true, and you claim your link to Scottish heritage, then YOU ARE AN ARAB. The possibility of a middle-east link doesn't upset me at all, but if you are a KKK type then you should start thinking. Ha ha.

The burning cross symbol is another thing that various racist groups have tried to attribute to the Scots...

The "Fiery Cross," as KKK groups call it, is vaguely linked to an apparently real Scottish practice immortalized by Sir Walter Scott in his 1810 poem "The Lady of the Lake." But really, the Klan picked it up from the movies.

In Scott's poem, a small, handheld wooden cross is carried from village to village to announce a meeting of the clans for war. The cross was fiery only at first; it was extinguished with the blood of a sacrificial animal before making the rounds as a charred object. (Most likely it was the X-shaped cross of St. Andrew, the patron saint of Scotland.)

Scott's story was copied by Thomas Dixon for his bizarre 1905 novel "The Clansman," a highly romanticized tale of the original, pre-Civil War KKK. Obsessed with the incorrect notion that the KKK had been founded by secret Scottish group, Dixon had them carrying the Fiery Cross around.
[ii]

I don't know if this is true. Maybe it was used as a way for the clans to meet for war. If it was, there is still a difference between that and a group of cowardly thugs using it to intimidate an innocent person.

In the 19th century there was another wave of Irish immigration and in the earlier part of the 20th there were many new waves of immigration from Poland (to get away from Hitler), Italy (to get away from Mussolini) and Lithuania (for all sorts of reasons). Most of the Lithuanians changed their names to make them more Scottish.

After WW2 new groups arrived from India, Pakistan, China and surrounding countries and the Caribbean. In the later part of the 20th century there have been more people coming from Africa. They are all welcome.

Apparently 'Braveheart' is required viewing at some of the KKK meetings. I would like to spoil the fun by pointing out that the majority of it is not true.

Now I am more of flag-burner than a flag-waver but I also see that the Scottish flag is being used by these people...

ONE of the fastest-growing white supremacist groups in the United States has hijacked the Saltire [the Scottish flag) to symbolise its struggle for a political system run by Celtic "kith and kin".

Scottish tourists visiting Florida and the southern states on holiday have been warned that displaying Scotland's national flag on their clothes now runs the risk of association with the extremist followers of the League of the South.

Kate Smith, who is researching nationalism at Glasgow University, said: "I think the league's hijacking of the Saltire could cause the average American citizen to confuse our nation's flag with right-wing extremism."[iii]

This seems to be a parallel with what happened to the Swastika, which, before Hitler hijacked it was an Indian symbol promoting good luck.

Whilst this nation has its problems with racism just like anywhere else, some of us are trying to deal with them. One of the steps in this is to explode the myth of Scotland as a pure-white country and a haven for racists. It isn't. We don't want your false history, false propaganda, displaced anger and vile attitudes foisted onto us. This country is, has been and always will be a country of immigrants. We like it that way.

p.s. I would like to point out that the 'celtic' in my profile is the football (soccer) team, not the historical stuff.
[i] http://www.electricscotland.com/world/english/scots.htm
[ii] http://archives.stupidquestion.net/sq111402.html
[iii] http://news.scotsman.com/topics.cfm?tid=525&id=1060392002
posted by michael the tubthumper @ 2:18 pm   10 comments
Tuesday, October 25, 2005
DEBATING THE POINT
I see George Galloway is in trouble again. He isn't guilty. I feel I can say that with confidence because if he was guilty there are so many knives out for him that he would have been convicted by now. The US (like some UK papers and politicians previously) is making a mistake pursuing him - he has a skill at turning situations to his advantage and this probably won't be any different. On the news this morning he told Senator Norm Coleman to 'put up or shut up' and said he is willing to get on the first plane to the US to face perjury allegations in court. As I said, I don't think he is guilty but I wonder if he is concerned that if such a thing happened, the court might not be as impartial as he would hope.

I watched the recent George Galloway - Christopher Hitchens debate (http://www.democracynow.org/ - scroll down) and was struck most by what a complete waste of time the whole thing was. Hitchens is 'a humbug trying to be a bugbear'[i] and I, like many others have been irate about the volte-face that he has performed in the last few years and wanted to see him brought down a peg or six, but I realised that by tuning in to see things like this I am only giving him what he wants - attention. This is exactly what the US senate are doing with Galloway.

Whilst I don't always agree with him, I sometimes do and I have an amount of respect for Galloway but it concerns me that certain sections on the left are turning into a George Galloway personality cult. The left should not base itself around one de facto leader, because, if that person is disgraced (fairly or unfairly) then a whole number of causes may go down with them. When Scargill was discredited the miners were finished. This also applies to Hugo Chavez, Cindy Sheehan and anyone else you can think of.

The origins of the idea for putting these two together came when Galloway went to the US senate and refused to answer questions from Hitchens. When asked why, he replied, "because you’re a bloated, drink-soaked, former-Trotskyist popinjay[ii]."

The plan was to have two relatively high profile figures to have an open debate in order to raise awareness of what is going on in the middle-east. There was a certain amount of promotion and it was billed as 'the grapple in the big apple'. I assume the two antagonists were paid for their exertions in the debate.

Hitchens attempted to take the intellectual high ground by conceding that he was not as good at abusing people as Galloway and thereby attempted to sidestep this part of the jousting. This was also a sly attempt to appear the 'nice' man of the two and thereby get the audience on his side.

Galloway said exactly what one would expect him to say and attacked where one would expect him to attack... "The vast majority of the people of Iraq are against the American and British occupation of their country...the vast majority of them want it to come to an end...and the vast majority of those fighting to bring it to an end are Iraqi's. Get used to it. Get over it. Understand it or you are fooling yourselves." He also still enjoys his Victoriana, no 'popinjays' this time but he referred to Hitchens as a 'gutter-snipe' and made reference to chimney sweeps.

Hitchens attempted to justify the unjustifiable just as he has been doing for the last few years citing the fact that Saddam is gone as a huge achievement and neatly glossing over massacres at Fallujah and elsewhere. This all went according to form.

Aside from some reasonably good repartee ("you've fallen out of the gutter into the sewer") the reaction of the audience was the only interesting part. Rather than listening to what either of the speakers had to say it was clear that the audience took sides very early on (probably before the doors were opened) and cheered and booed accordingly. Due to this I am not sure any deeper understanding of the issues was achieved by this whole charade and toward the end both of the speakers were visibly bored.

A much more interesting debate of the same kind is Noam Chomsky and Richard Perle which you can get http://www.chomsky.info/audionvideo.htm (toward the bottom of page). This debate is conducted between two people who, for entirely different reasons, are big-hitters but do not particularly enjoy the limelight - not two self-promoters. Even though it is from 1988, there is much more of interest mentioned in this debate than in the Galloway-Hitchens.



[i] From 'Moby Dick'
[ii] Popinjay - An early name for a parrot.
posted by michael the tubthumper @ 12:29 pm   6 comments
Saturday, October 22, 2005
IT'S A PITY

It's a pity that Poppa has sold his soul,

It makes him sizzle at breakfast so

The money was useful, but still on the whole

It's a pity that Poppa has sold his soul

When he might have held onLike the Baron de Coal,

And not cleared out when the price was low.

It's a pity that Poppa has sold his soul,

It makes him sizzle at breakfast so.

(A.M. Currie)


posted by michael the tubthumper @ 11:54 am   4 comments
Friday, October 21, 2005
THE DAY I MET SCOTT RITTER
So you are trying to interview someone reasonably famous. You are not used to doing it and you know there is going to be a scrum to get near him. How would you like to approach such a day?

It certainly wouldn't be the way I did it, which was nursing a bad hangover. Not only that but at the campsite I had cracked my rib tripping over a tent rope and hitting a picnic table the previous evening. I then slept outside with no sleeping bag (its cold in Scotland). I had to go the campsite because I was so drunk I missed the last bus home. In short, I was not on top form.

G8 alternatives were hosting a massive political meeting in Edinburgh. Scott Ritter, Bianca Jagger, George Galloway, George Monbiot, Danny Schechter and so many others were coming to speak. I had a press pass and wanted to speak to a lot of them but I hadn't really done any hack work before. In truth I found the whole thing fairly demeaning, scrambling toward people you don't know begging to be spoken to. I will do interviews again, but not the press pack scramble.

I had my first experience of this earlier in the day (when the hangover was worse) and lots of journalists were trying to get a piece of George Monbiot (there is a link to his site here). I lost heart in the venture very quickly. The mainstream media journalists were more or less giving him abuse and I ended up taking sides and giving him a question he could attack rather than defend. I can't remember exactly what I asked him, it was something like "do you think the corporate greenwash[i] so widely disseminated in the mainstream media is damaging to the public debate?" That was one he could have a go at so I sat back, didn't take notes and just enjoyed the looks on the hacks faces as they scowled at me and got abuse from him. Still, I never did get the chance to speak to him afterwards, which was a shame.

Later in the day it was Ritter's turn. He made a speech similar to many I have seen him make before, aggresively criticising US middle east policy. At the end I started to sidle toward the stage as did a few others. People from the audience were coming up and shaking his hand, saying that they really respected what he was doing and so on. I thought the way people were looking at him was odd - almost reverential. They were congratulating him on his bravery. I think some of them thought it was a matter of time till someone shoots him.

His military past was obvious. Someone asked him something and he burst out with "amateurs talk tactics, professionals talk logistics" at which I had to suppress a smile - the way he said it had ex-soldier written all over it.

Then he talked about being a Republican. I asked him that if that was the case how did he feel going round the world criticising Bush et al. He just replied 'he's not a Republican.' I asked him how he felt about the fact that in order to speak publicly about the issues he is raising he most often finds himself in crowds full of radicals and pacifists. He talked about the US constitution and how it was mostly written by one left wing guy and one right wing guy who hated each other and that it is all about freedom of speech and that reasoned debate was one of the things that the US stands for (or at least it used to). I neglected to mention that it was written by 50 white males, the vast majority of which were wealthy landowners and that it semi-legitimised slavery and therefore did not include as much room for debate as is popularly supposed.

Nevertheless, I just turned on Democracy Now! and there he is again, banging on about being an American Patriot but still furiously indignant about the way the US government is conducting itself. As a former UN weapons inspector and marine (I think it was a marine intelligence unit) his insider knowledge almost unrivalled and no one I have seen has been able to prove anything he says false. His courage is an inspiration, even if his some of his political opinions (or historical analyses) aren't things I buy into.

I hope I bump into him again, only without a microphone - and without a hangover.

If you want to see some of what Scott Ritter has said before and after the conflict in Iraq then try these
http://www.commondreams.org/views02/0721-02.htm
http://www.alternet.org/waroniraq/21631/

[i] Disinformation disseminated by an organization, etc., so as to present an environmentally responsible public image; a public image of environmental responsibility promulgated by or for an organization, etc., but perceived as being unfounded or intentionally misleading.
posted by michael the tubthumper @ 4:21 pm   4 comments
Thursday, October 20, 2005
ACADEMIA NUTS

That's true, I agree with him. The intellectual tradition is one of servility to power, and if I didn't betray it, I'd be ashamed of myself.[i] (Noam Chomsky)


One would think that in universities some of the finest minds of their time come together to work out new ideas and solutions. Sadly, this is not the case. The most closed minds I come across tend to be in the academic world. As an undergrad I spent years being dismissed as a fringe conspiracy nut because I kept bringing up the Project for the New American Century. I was saying that this very sinister group of people were planning some extremely serious and nasty business. Given that they now hold the positions of US Vice-President, head of the World Bank, US ambassador to the UN, US Secretary of State and many more and have begun a series of illegal wars I feel I have been somewhat vindicated.

I am still in the academic world. I tutor in a university and wanted to do a PhD but the more I look at it the less I want to do it.

The way the academic world works is that you have to specialise to become an expert in your own field and therefore gain repute by virtue of knowing so much about one or other matter. This narrows the focus of enquiry and sometimes seems to lead to a situation whereby academics can only see the world through the single lens of whichever specific area they study. Thinking 'outside the box' (sorry, that is an ugly phrase) or using unconventional sources (particularly from the web) is not always encouraged and is often frowned upon. I don't want this to happen to me.

Part of it is a generational thing. A majority of the employed Doctors and Professors studied from books and journals - not the web. This can lead to a sort of snobbery regarding web sources. You often hear that "there is a lot of rubbish on the web." Well, of course there is but there is a lot of rubbish written in textbooks as well. Academics happen to be very quick to point this out if someone they don't like has written a book.

Post-modern conceptions about the nature of truth may be another barrier between the public and the academic world. It is a form of arrogance to claim that one knows 'the truth' definitively about any one thing and in response to this much academic literature is worded in less forthright language. As Orwell pointed out in 'Politics and the English Language'

"It is easier -- even quicker, once you have the habit -- to say In my opinion it is not an unjustifiable assumption that than to say I think."

This style of language is also part of the reason that most of the work done in social science departments simply passes the public by.

So is keeping people away from alternative sources of information a deliberate attempt muzzle debate? A term often used in the American labour press was "the bought priesthood". This referred to "the media and the universities and the intellectual class, that is, the apologists who sought to justify the absolute despotism that was the new spirit of the age and to instil its sordid and demeaning values".[1] Not sure if this is true for the US, I think its only partially true here.

I think that many social scientists are far more concerned with the reactions of their peers in the academic world to their work than (i) the Aristotelian, Socratic and Platonic ideas of the 'Intellectual Tradition' (that is, in short, the duty to reflect on the truth then report it back to as many people as possible), (ii) the reaction of the public at large, or (iii) any impact the work may have on societal structures.

[1] From 'Democracy and Education' Noam Chomsky, Mellon Lecture, Loyola University, Chicago 19/10/1994. Available at http://www.zmag.org/chomsky/talks/9410-education.html

[i] On being accused of betraying the intellectual tradition.
posted by michael the tubthumper @ 7:46 pm   7 comments
Wednesday, October 19, 2005
NOTHING MORE TO SAY
In solidarity with the grandmothers arrested in New York recently I would just like to stick this photo of a couple of our more chronologically challenged people getting in on the act....
I don't think there is much more to say.
posted by michael the tubthumper @ 10:31 am   9 comments
Tuesday, October 18, 2005
CONVERSATIONS WITH GEORGE - NUMBER 1
The Following did not occur but by god how much do I wish it did. It may continue not to occur in instalments on this blog. The place where it does not occur is in a TV studio...

Presenter - Welcome, tonight we have a very special guest with us. The recent breakthrough in cloning technology has allowed Eric Blair aka George Orwell to come and speak to us. We hope to fill him in on recent events and that he can give us his perspective on them. Good morning Mr Orwell.

GO - Good Morning.

Presenter - First of all, I suppose we should start with the man who is, nominally at least, the most powerful on earth and that is the President of the United States, George W. Bush. [Shows him picture]

GO - [I looked] through the photographs in the New Year's Honours List, I was struck (as usual) by the quite exceptional ugliness and vulgarity of the faces displayed there. It seems to be almost the rule that the kind of person who earns the right to call himself Lord Percy de Falcontowers should look at best like an overfed publican and at worst like a tax-collector with a duodenal ulcer. But our country is not alone in this. Anyone who is a good hand with scissors and paste could compile an excellent book entitled Our Rulers, and consisting simply of published photographs of the great ones of the earth. The idea first occurred to me when I saw in Picture Post some 'stills' of Beaverbrook delivering a speech and looking more like a monkey on a stick than you would think possible for anyone who was not doing it on purpose.[i]


PRESENTER - You have a reputation as a stickler for the correct use of language so you should be aware that Mr. Bush is not often noted for his eloquence, in fact he admits himself that "I am not one of the great linguists." He often trips over his words and it is not always clear what he is trying to say. Yet when quizzed about this he sometimes appears to revel in it and many Americans seem to think it means he is a more down to earth and genial person, therefore not really a politician therefore more likeable. He even said he has coined new words like 'misunderestimated' and 'hispanically.'

GO - The great enemy of clear language is insincerity. When the general atmosphere is bad the language must suffer. It is clear that the decline of a language must ultimately have political and economic causes, but an effect can become a cause, reinforcing the original cause and producing the same effect in an intensified form, and so on indefinitely. A man may take to drink because he feels himself to be a failure, and then fail all the more completely because he drinks. It is rather the same thing that is happening to the English language. It becomes ugly and inaccurate because our thoughts are foolish, but the slovenliness of our language makes it easier for us to have foolish thoughts. The point is that the process is reversible. Modern English, especially written English, is full of bad habits which spread by imitation and which can be avoided if one is willing to take the necessary trouble. If one gets rid of these habits one can think more clearly, and to think clearly is a necessary first step toward political regeneration.
[ii]

Presenter - What form of regeneration though? In the 50 years since you passed many things have changed. The Soviet Union has collapsed and opposition to capitalistic forms of government have been marginalized for some time, though they occasionally appear to be on the rise again.

GO - Capitalism leads to dole queues, the scramble for markets and war. Collectivism leads to concentration camps, leader worship and war. There is no way out of this unless a planned economy can somehow be combined with the freedom of the intellect, which can only happen if the concept of right and wrong is restored to politics.
[iii]

Presenter - Ah, but who is to judge right and wrong? Most politicians believe they have right on their side. Mr Bush remarked that 'I know what I believe. I will continue to believe what I believe - I believe what I believe is right."

GO - ?

Presenter - How can you or anyone else claim to have the definitive answer on what is right or wrong? Is disseminating your opinions not just a form of imposing them on someone else?

GO - It can be argued that no unbiased outlook is possible, that all creeds and causes involve some lies, follies and barbarities: and this is often advanced as a reason for keeping out of politics altogether. I do not accept this argument, if only because in the modern world no one describable as intellectual can keep out of politics in the sense of not caring about them. I think one must engage in politics - using the word in the wide sense - and that one must have preferences: that is, one must recognise that some causes are objectively better than others, even if they are advanced by equally bad means.
[iv]

PRESENTER - will the ideas of an individual person not always have a contaminating effect on others? Do the prejudices we all hold not make us all unsuitable to enter into politics?

GO - I do not know, but I do believe it is possible to struggle against them, and that this is essentially a moral effort. It is a question first of all of discovering what one really is, what one's own feelings really are, and then of making allowance for the inevitable bias. If you hate and fear Russia, if you are jealous of the wealth and power of America, if you despise Jews, if you have a sentiment of inferiority toward the British ruling class, you cannot get rid of those feelings simply by taking thought. But you can at least recognise that you have them and prevent them from contaminating your mental processes. The emotional urges which are inescapable, and are perhaps even necessary to political action, should be able to exist side by side with an acceptance of reality. But this, I repeat, needs a moral effort.
[v]

Presenter - Thanks, we'll talk again soon.



[i] 'As I Please' 7th Jan 1944
[ii] From 'Politics and the English Language'
[iii] From 'Capitalism and Communism - Two paths to slavery'
[iv] 'Notes on Nationalism'
[v] 'Notes on Nationalism'

posted by michael the tubthumper @ 2:08 pm   6 comments
Monday, October 17, 2005
BEING UNREASONABLE
REASON - A statement of some fact (real or alleged) employed as an argument to justify or condemn some act, prove or disprove some assertion, idea, or belief.

JUSTIFICATION - The action of justifying or showing something to be just, right, or proper; vindication of oneself or another; exculpation; verification, proof (obs.). b. That which justifies; a justifying circumstance; an apology, a defence.
[i]

Not the same thing are they? There is a gulf between the meanings of these two words that Blair and the New Labour machine have been attempting to occupy since the London bombings. In doing so they are using the full repertoire of lies, PR techniques and half-truths that we have come to expect from them.

It has now become almost a mantra "there can be no justification for this kind of attack". The majority of people (including me) know and believe that already. They aren't looking for justifications of terrorist attacks - they are looking at reasons. In deflecting the arguments on to whether or not it was justified Blair is shifting the ground in such a way that it allows the media to frame the debate in terms of murderous fanatics and 'dangerous religious ideologies' or 'preachers of hate' or whatever this weeks sound bite happens to be. Doing this has allowed Blair and his government to dismiss all talk of reasons. It is an old and frequently employed PR tactic: If the terms of the debate are uncomfortable for you then change them. The direct link between these acts and the occupation of Iraq, Afghanistan and at the root, Palestine, is particularly uncomfortable ground for New Labour to fight on.

The level of duplicity in some of Blair's recent statements is almost staggering. Blair does not come from a position of religious innocence. He knows better than any of us some of the atrocities being perpetrated around the world - he has entire government departments paid to find them out and tell him about them. Therefore the selection of which atrocities he chooses to highlight and which he ignores says much about him and his policies.

The narrative New Labour has been providing the press with for a long time and that everyone is now familiar with runs thusly... There is a group of murderous fanatics hell bent on destruction who are fuelled by a virulent religious ideology and their attack is intended not to change any particular policies of the government but is meant to be an attack on our (sic) 'way of life.'

Charles Clarke speaking on 8th July...
"The fact is that the people who make these kind of attacks are about destroying the very essence of our society: our democracy, our media, our multicultural society and so on. That's not about Iraq or any other particular foreign policy issue, it's about a fundamentalist attack on the way we live our lives." [ii]

Politicians are essentially a cowardly bunch and the point of this narrative is not necessarily a vilification of certain sectors of the community. It is that it skilfully excludes the possibility that the activities of the UK government are in any way responsible for increasing the likelihood of attack. It also provides the press with sensationalist headlines and easy targets and therefore keeps them off the back of the government.

Don't fall for it.




[i] From http://www.oed.com/
[ii] http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/4663313.stm
posted by michael the tubthumper @ 8:34 pm   5 comments
THUMPING THE TUB

hi

so i finally gave in and started a blog. its taken 3 hours for me to get this far and i still can't seem to get the thing to work properly. will fix it up as soon as i know how. i don't really know what i want to achieve with this. its a chance to rant one day and reason the next.

i write for a few other sites and was nervous of blogging because i can see myself getting into it. thats why i have put it off so long....

time will tell.
posted by michael the tubthumper @ 6:49 pm   5 comments
U.S. MONETARY Cost of the War in Iraq - other people are spending too, and the human cost is much higher
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What is Tubthumping and who is doing it?

Name: michael the tubthumper
Home: Glasgow, Scotland
About Me: Tub-Thumper - 1. A speaker or preacher who for emphasis thumps the pulpit; a violent or declamatory preacher or orator; a ranter. This blog will be a combination of reasoned posting somedays and an occasional rant. 28 years old, I write and research for a couple of websites and also do my own stuff.
See my complete profile

Thumping The Tub Video

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I have made a few short movies. Here are links to free downloads for them all in the order that I made them (as far as I can remember). Please feel free to use, distribute, disagree with, shout at etc etc

  • Praise The Lord and Pass The Ammunition
  • This was a REAL song from World War 2. I was so stunned by it I had to make a movie

  • How Far Is It From Here to Nuremberg
  • This is my attempt at a video for the excellent, if worrying, David Rovics (see links) song

  • What You Like
  • I believe the word for this is "splenetic". Only 20 seconds long.

  • Imperial Measures
  • What is going on in Iraq? Some things you knew, some you didn't. A couple of bits of info are out of date now.

  • Wish You Were Here
  • Wish You Were Here is a 6 minute film about the unprecendted rate of animal extinction we are currently experiencing

  • Gorillas and us
  • I don't like creationism, neither did Douglas Adams

    Recent Thumping
    Older Thumping
    Links

  • spinwatch
  • adbusters
  • internet archive
  • art not oil
  • blairwatch
  • bushflash
  • camcorder guerillas
  • corporate watch
  • campaign for press freedom
  • noam chomsky
  • common dreams
  • counterpunch
  • cost of war
  • david rovics
  • democracy now
  • dissident voice
  • the dossier
  • downing street says
  • etims
  • robert fisk
  • food not bombs
  • global research
  • gmwatch
  • impeach blair
  • indybay video
  • killing hope
  • lobbywatch
  • mediachannel
  • medialens
  • mickey z
  • mixed up records
  • george monbiot
  • mark thomas
  • john pilger
  • radio 4 all
  • schnews
  • snow shoe films
  • sourcewatch
  • tom englehardt
  • ukwatch
  • video activist network
  • howard zinn
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    some of the blogs I look at
    Arse of the month

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    The inaugural 'Arse of the month' award goes to our very own Scottish First Minister Jack (Joke) McConnell. He seems to spend a lot of his time sucking up to english politicians and yet it appears they don't even know his name. Follow the link to see..

    NODOBY KNOWS ME
    It's All Gone Scottish

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    A list of some other Scottish sites and blogs most of which, if not all, are pro-independence. I don't agree with content on all of them obviously. Some are Scots at home, others abroad.

  • The Scottish Patient
  • Kim Ayres
  • Our Scotland
  • average tosser
  • 1820
  • big stick small carrot
  • J. Arthur MacNumpty
  • World of Jack McConnell
  • The Firefox Chronicles
  • Independence 1st
  • Radio Free Scotland
  • Scots and independent
  • Scottish Independence Guide
  • TCOAW
  • Small Nation
  • Inveresk Street Ingrate
  • Radical Glasgow
  • Want to Swot?

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    If you like this site and think it is time to start getting informed here are a few real favourites of mine that will help you blow away the corporate and government propaganda you are constantly bombarded with. It is added to every so often.

  • politics and the english language
  • Beyond Hope
  • the gore exception
  • your tax dollars at work
  • a cultural chernobyl
  • choose life (not trainspotting)
  • shooting an elephant
  • a war crime within a war crime...
  • the menace of liberal scholarship
  • the modern era of law
  • naming the problem
  • the four ages of sand
  • a news revolution has begun
  • come september
  • money is the cause of poverty
  • countering corporate power
  • Other Stuff

    Who links to me?

    For a DotSCOT Domain!

    Fight Spam! Click Here! Blunt Cogs Image Hosted by ImageShack.us Image Hosted by ImageShack.us Politics Blog Top Sites BlogRankers.com Scottish Blogs Blogdust Find Blogs in the Blog Directory Top 100 Scottish Websites
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