Pizzicato on the double bass, Spike Milligan and Goldsmiths

Advanced Music Class Goldsmiths College 1929-31. This animated and lively group photo features two mischievous double bass players at either end – the instrument that Spike Milligan took with him on the tram to his evening orchestral music class in the middle 1930s. Image: Goldsmiths, University of London.

Spike Milligan (1918-2002) is credited with revolutionising British comedy through his chaotic, surrealist, and subversive imagination.

He created the seminal radio comedy The Goon Show (1951-60), and wrote more than 50 books including six on his Second World War experiences.

To say he was larger and crazier than life itself would be an understatement.

And he was also a student of Goldsmiths College.

He attended a one term music orchestration course in the middle 1930s at the college’s evening department of Adult Education.

It seems this experience represented an important part of what he saw as his development as a musician and composer.

It is emphasised by Ned Sherrin who wrote his entry (2006) for the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography:

While working as an assistant storeman at Keith Prowse in Bond Street, Terence Milligan bluffed his way into a part-time evening course in orchestral practice at Goldsmiths’ College, Lewisham, and subsequently joined a local band, Tommy Brettel’s New Ritz Revels, playing drums, guitar, and trumpet, and occasionally providing vocals.

And it is also variously mentioned by his three biographers Pauline Scudamore, Dominic Beehan and Humphrey Carpenter.

John Cleese recognised his influence on Monty Python’s Flying Circus when he said: ‘Milligan is the great god of us all.’

This television comedy sketch of a tramp picking up his baguette in a café only to find that it produces a clarinet solo by Gershwin is a superb example of how Milligan’s surrealist imagination was also centred in sound and music.

Terence (Spike) Alan Milligan was actually brought up in India because his father Leo Alphonso Milligan was in the British Indian Army. Spike was born near Bombay in 1918.

For a while the Milligan family lived in Brigade House in Rangoon, Burma and remembered being visited by the famous author George Orwell when he was a police officer in his original identity of Eric Arthur Blair.

But in 1932 after the world-wide recession, cutbacks in military expenditure meant that Spike’s father was pensioned off at the age of 42.

The family, including his mother Florence and younger brother Desmond, left the splendour of colonial life with servants to face the hardships of unemployment and despair in a two room attic flat in Catford at 23 Riseldine Road, SE23.

Spike was fifteen years old, disaffected, and further disillusioned when he was turned down by the RAF.

He had a series of dead-end jobs including laundryman, and packer for a tobacco firm.

That is where he began to steal cigarettes to raise funds to buy his first trumpet.

It was the eloquent speech of mitigation by his father Leo at his trial that persuaded the magistrate to give him an absolute discharge on the grounds that his son’s genius as the world’s greatest future trumpet player deserved urgent consideration.

Spike liked to reminisce about his father’s blarney particularly when as a child he had woken him up in the middle of the night to confess that he had not shot any tigers.

When asked for an explanation Leo replied: ‘What would you prefer the boring truth or an exciting lie?’

Spike’s poem ‘Catford 1933’ captured the family’s fall from grace:

My father places his unemployment cards

in his wallet –  there’s plenty of room for them.

In greaseproof paper my mother wraps my

banana sandwiches.

It’s 5.40. Ten minutes to catch that

last workman’s tram.

The tram from Catford to Lewisham Way and Goldsmiths’ College would be the way Spike struggled with his double bass to attend the evening course in orchestral practice.

Humphrey Carpenter speculated that it is likely Spike had to deal with the conductors spinning the time-honoured joke that has irritated classical bass players since the instrument was invented:

How do you get it under your chin?

Answer: By keeping your big mouth shut.

Biographer Pauline Scudamore wrote: ‘He was not really of the standard required, but he bluffed his way into the class and it says much for both Goldsmiths’ insight and the immediacy of Milligan’s responses that he survived the course.’

When arriving for the first lesson he discovered that all the other string instrumentalists were rubbing resin into their bows; something Spike and his double bass lacked completely.

He pretended that he had left his non-existent bow at home. The music teacher said he could play pizzicato little knowing that at the time that was the only way Spike could play it.

Scudamore says Goldsmiths taught him the rudiments of harmony and counterpoint, the discipline of formal music and sight-reading.

Milligan said:

Well, Goldsmiths was the nearest I ever had to a musical education. I suppose I wanted to show off a bit. To show that I didn’t only strum, and that I could play with a bow if I wanted to, and that I took music seriously.

The college was a thriving centre for music in all its dimensions.  It had its own music society known as the Clef Club.

These were the years when the Goldsmiths’s Choral Union and Goldsmiths’ Symphony Orchestra trained by Frederick Haggis were formed, and a String Orchestra conducted by Miss Kitty Kennedy became prominent in local music festivals.

Reginald Jevons was famous for taking group piano lessons with dummy keyboards when there were not enough pianos to go round.

In 1935 there were 300 musicians attending the Adult Evening Department – one third of the overall total of students.

Jevons wrote optimistically in the Anvil, the Evening Students’ Association magazine:

Of the future surely there can be no mistake. We have to thank those whose foresight led us along this path of stimulating the love of good music, and in our own Department we rejoice to see the ideals being set before us, which gave opportunity for self-expression, and a sense of well-being which accompanies the rational expression of the faculties.

Such pompous classicism did not appeal to Spike Milligan.

He told another of his biographers, Dominic Beehan, he didn’t like Goldsmiths’ because it was ‘all classical music’ and at the time he only wanted to play jazz.

There is no doubt that having creative control and confidence over musical notation, arrangement and orchestration had an impact.

It all underpins the brilliance of such anarchic and in its own way, progressive and experimental musical pieces such as the Ying Tong Song first released by Decca in 1956.

Milligan says he wrote the Ying Tong Song in ten minutes during a journey on the London Underground.

The ‘I’m Walking Backwards for Christmas’ song was also written in 1956 and has remained another iconic sound track for what Dominic Beehan described as the Goons’ auditory surrealism.

Spike was not the only Milligan to attend Goldsmiths.

In 1948 his younger brother Desmond was eligible for a post World War Two education grant to study the three year Art Diploma course.

In the early 1950s Desmond, and his father Leo and mother Florence emigrated to Australia while Spike teamed up with Michael Bentine, Harry Secombe and Peter Sellars to form the famous Goons and as has often been said, the rest was history.

Another Goldsmiths’ connection exists through one of his sons, James Turlough, whose mother, the artist Margaret Maughan also went to Goldsmiths’ College.

When Spike Milligan died in 2002 the intense media coverage indicated that a national figure of great cultural significance had passed away.

However, a dispute over his passport application in 1962 led to his adopting Irish citizenship.

And the line he wanted on his gravestone ‘I told you I was ill’ is inscribed in Irish Gaelic as Dúirt mé leat go raibh mé breoite.

Ned Sherrin said Spike Milligan ‘opened new doors of irreverence and absurdity in his mission to entertain.’

He described him as ‘a troubled, gifted man with a unique mind, an affinity for children, and a puzzled pity for humanity and the animal world.’

These are all qualities that could be said to perfectly qualify him for the honour of being one of the Goldsmiths’ alumni.

Source: https://sites.gold.ac.uk/goldsmithshistory/pizzicato-on-the-double-bass-spike-milligan-and-goldsmiths/

 

 

How the Western imperial powers are using the Caroline Principle to circumvent international law

By Daniel Margrain

On September 28, 2015, in a speech to the U.N General Assembly in New York, President Obama alluded to the ‘responsibility to protect’ (R2P) doctrine as the justification for regime change in Syria. Earlier that day at the Labour Party Conference in Brighton, the Blairite, Hilary Benn, was more explicit by actually citing the R2P doctrine by name as the justification to attack Syria.

Formulated at the 2005 UN World Summit, the version of R2P currently in vogue and proposed by the [Gareth] Evans Commission, authorises “regional or sub-regional organisations” such as NATO to determine their “area of jurisdiction” and to act in cases where “the Security Council rejects a proposal or fails to deal with it in a reasonable time”.

Having long been considered a norm in international affairs, R2P has – with the accompaniment of lofty rhetoric about the solemn responsibility to protect suffering populations – been used to illegally overthrow a series of sovereign states, most recently in Libya. The version of the R2P doctrine formulated at the UN World Summit will almost certainly be used to justify the illegal dismembering of Syria.

From the Iraq debacle onward, there has been an attempt by the Western powers to circumvent the consensus view of what constitutes illegality among the world’s leading international lawyers. But it has been post-Iraq that the justification to reject the consensus legal view has become codified.

The Caroline Principle

What has been termed the Caroline Principle has been used to establish the concept “anticipatory self-defense“. This sets an extremely dangerous legal precedent. The rejection of the consensus view of the world’s leading international lawyers, was initially outlined in a memorandum written by lawyer Daniel Benjamin, dated 7 June 2004.

It was from this memorandum that the concept of the Caroline Principle was developed and then absorbed into the UN Charter. Significantly, it is the conceptual re-evaluation of international law that’s posited by Benjamin in his memorandum that has come to dominate Western political discourse. A key part of the memo states:

“It must be right that states are able to act in self-defence in circumstances where there is evidence of further imminent attacks by terrorist groups, even if there is no specific evidence of where such an attack will take place or of the precise nature of the attack.”

It is this minority legal opinion that was used to justify the attack on Iraq after the event predicated on – as one administration official put it –  “pre-emptive retaliation.” This, in short, is what defined the Bush Doctrine (enshrined in the National Security Strategy), and provided the catalyst for both G.W. Bush’s and Barack Obama’s geo-strategic ambitions. This became clear when the former announced what the Financial Times called “an entirely fresh doctrine of pre-emptive action” in a speech at West Point on 1 June 2002.

Acting pre-emptively, as a form of defense, is the cornerstone of the Caroline Principle in which a U.S ‘rule based’ policy (with the help of the ‘international community’), is intended to reshape the Middle East. As early as 2000, adviser to G.W. Bush, Condoleezza Rice, began to highlight ‘rogue states’ such as Iraq, Libya and Syria for regime change which essentially confirmed the alignment of the strategic interests of Israel with those of the United States.

The theory is that by working closely with Turkey and Jordan in order to foment the destabilization, principally, of Iraq and Syria, the United States and Israel will be able to ensure the balance of power in the region is maintained.

The regime change narrative is an agenda that allows Israel an element of autonomy – a clean break – achieved by means of a “strategic retreat by re-establishing the principle of pre-emption, rather than retaliation alone and by ceasing to absorb blows [to Israel] without response.”

The clean break strategy was at odds with Bill Clinton’s containment approach, which in terms of isolating Saddam had, by 1998, been a success, as weapons inspector Scott Ritter of UNSCOM confirmed. However, in January 1998, the Project for a New American Century sponsored a letter to Clinton denouncing the ‘failure’ of the policy of containing Iraq.

It declared:

“The only acceptable strategy is one that eliminates the possibility that Iraq will be able to use or to threaten to use, weapons of mass destruction. In the near term this means a willingness to undertake military action as diplomacy is clearly failing. In the long term, it means removing Saddam Hussein and his regime from power.”

The signatories read like a roll call of the Bush administration that would take office three years later.

The PNAC, in other words, marked the beginning in the shift of U.S strategy that ushered in the the conceptual reconfiguration of international law that was the precursor to the Caroline Principle outlined in the memorandum written by lawyer Daniel Benjamin dated 7 June 2004 outlined above.

Israel & energy independence

By facilitating the broader strategy to dismember Syria, the Caroline Principle will help usher in the granting of oil exploration rights inside Syria, by Israel, in the occupied Golan Heights, to the multinational corporation, Genie Energy.

Major shareholders of the company – which also has interests in shale gas in the United States and shale oil in Israel – include Rupert Murdoch and Lord Jacob Rothschild. Other players involved include the Israeli subsidiary, Afek Oil and Gas, American Shale, French Total and BP.

Thus, there exists a broad and powerful nexus of U.S, British, French and Israeli interests at the forefront of pushing for the break-up of Syria and the control of what is believed to be potentially vast untapped oil and gas resources in the country.

Against this are the competing agendas of the various belligerent gas-exporting foreign factions, that according to Orstein and Romer, have interests in one of the two gas pipeline projects that seek to cross Syrian territory to deliver either Qatari or Iranian gas to Europe.

As Orenstein explained:

“In 2009, Qatar proposed to build a pipeline to send its gas northwest via Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Syria to Turkey… However, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad refused to sign the plan; Russia, which did not want to see its position in European gas markets undermined, put him under intense pressure not to”.

Russia’s Gazprom sells 80 per cent of its gas to Europe. So in 2010, Russia put its weight behind “an alternative Iran-Iraq-Syria pipeline that would pump Iranian gas from the same field out via Syrian ports such as Latakia and under the Mediterranean.” The project would allow Moscow “to control gas imports to Europe from Iran, the Caspian Sea region, and Central Asia.”

Meanwhile, across the Atlantic, major defense contractors Raytheon, Oshkosh, and Lockheed Martin assured investors that they stand to gain from the escalating conflicts in the Middle East. Lockheed Martin Executive Vice President Bruce Tanner said his company will see “indirect benefits” from the war in Syria.

In addition, a deal that authorized $607 billion in defense spending brokered by the U.S Congress, was described as a “treat” for the industry. What better way to benefit from this ‘treat’ than for the major powers to secure the hydrocarbon potential of Syria’s offshore resources with the aim of reducing European dependence on Russian gas and boosting the potential for energy independence?

The overriding of the consensus legal opinion in international law is intended to provide the legal justification for more conflict and instability in Syria and throughout the Middle East region. The long-term aim of the Western Israeli-Gulf axis is the overthrow of the Assad government in Syria which will provide the imperial powers with a gateway to Iran. Daniel Benjamin has assisted greatly in the metaphorical building of the road.

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Hell of a state: What the tragic story of Don Lane tells us about Tory Britain

By Daniel Margrain

Don Lane

Don Lane, who suffered from diabetes, earned his living by delivering parcels to peoples’s homes and businesses throughout the country. Although Mr Lane was paid a salary by the giant courier company he worked for, according to the law, he was “self-employed”.

The amount he was paid depended on how many parcels he delivered. Mr Lane received no holiday or sick pay and was under constant pressure to meet targets. Drivers for the company get fined by them for rounds they miss. Mr Lane was recently fined for attending a medical appointment to treat his diabetes where tragically he collapsed and died.

The scandal that underlies the story is one which the bosses and shareholders of giant multinational companies like the one Don Lane worked “self-employed” for, have seen their dividends and pay go through the roof, while workers at the bottom, have experienced a real terms drop in their income over many years. The ideology that drives this “gushing up” of wealth towards the top, is called neoliberalism.

Before its onset four decades ago, the UK was a much more equal society than it is at present. The available data shows that the share of income going to the top 10 per cent of the population fell over the 40 years to 1979, from 34.6 per cent in 1938 to 21 per cent, while the share going to the bottom 10 per cent rose slightly.

As measured by the Gini Coefficient (see below), the redistribution of wealth from the poorest to the richest, rose sharply under the Thatcher government in 1979. The trend continued, albeit less drastically, under successive Tory and Labour governments where it reached a peak in 2009-10.

Figures show that GDP, adjusted for inflation, has grown over the last 60 years from £432bn in 1955 to £1,864bn in 2016. This increase in wealth, however, has become increasingly concentrated in fewer hands.

Inequality

SourceIFS 2016

Impact of inequality

report by Oxfam highlights the significant role neoliberalism plays in perpetuating inequality and suggests that the societies most affected are more prone to conflict or instability. The report also points out that extremes of inequality are bad for economic growth, as well as being related to a range of health and social problems including mental illness and violent crime.

Moreover, Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett, authors of the book, The Spirit Level. argue that other impacts of inequality include drug addiction, obesity, loss of community life, imprisonment, unequal opportunities and poorer well-being for children.

Left Foot Forward has cited studies that illustrate the close correlation between inequality and unhappiness. The tendency to equate outward wealth with inner worth means that inequality colours our social perceptions. It invokes feelings of superiority and inferiority, dominance and subordination – which affect the way we relate to, and treat, each other.

But rather than introducing socioeconomic policies that help reduce inequality, the Conservative government under Theresa May, has deliberately and consciously continued with the failed high borrowing-low investment/high debt economic neoliberal model that gives rise to it. Under the guise of austerity, the government have instead turned on workers, the sick and the disabled. The result has been increasing rates of depression, anxiety and suicides.

Fragmented

The existence of fragmented and atomised communities outside the confines of the workplace, the reduction in organised labour within it (illustrated by the long-term decline in trade union membership) and the lack of any safety net, means that ordinary people are increasingly vulnerable to the vagaries of “market forces”.

The ideology that underpins the neoliberal assault is the pseudo-science concept known as biological determinism, the legitimacy of which rests on the assertion that the social order is a consequence of unchanging human biology, as opposed to the result of inherited economic privilege or luck.

Thus, biological determinism reinforces the notion that inequality, injustice and the existence of entrenched hierarchical social structures of government, media and commerce are “natural”.

But it also highlights the artificial limits that a system driven by profit imposes. Any rejection of biological determinism and the rigged market system that reinforces it, is regarded by its promoters as being the fault of the individual, not the social institutions or the way society is structured.

Thus, according to evolutionary psychologists, sociobiologists and those within the elite political and media establishment, the solution to overcoming inequality and injustice is not to challenge existing social structures upon which “reality” is based, but rather to alter the chemical composition of the human brain to accommodate it to this reality.

In extreme circumstances it has been used to justify the elimination of individuals altogether who challenge the prevailing orthodoxy and/or whose values are perceived to be a “drain on the taxpayer”.

Social Darwinism

Years before moving towards explicit racial genocide, the Nazis developed the notion of ‘useless mouths’ or ‘life unworthy of life’ to justify its killing of ‘undesirables’ or ‘low hanging fruit’. These ideas are a variant of nineteenth century ‘Social Darwinism’ and eugenicist theories.

The said theories adapted Darwin’s notion of the survival of the fittest to describe relationships within society or between nations and races as a perpetual evolutionary struggle in which the supposedly weaker or defective elements were weeded out by the strongest and the ‘fittest’ by natural selection.

Intellectual challenges to neoliberalism and evolutionary psychology help undermine the notion that rigid social stratification, inequality and injustice used to justify them, are inevitable. Indeed, prominent economists such as Joseph Stiglitz, Paul Krugman, Dani Rodrik and Jeffrey Sachs have for a long time been raising their voices against the neoliberal experiment.

What is self-evidently clear is that the current rigged economic system in which power is increasingly concentrated at the top, is not sustainable. The only thing preventing our ability to tackle extreme inequality is political will.

At the next election voters will be faced with a clear choice – either to maintain the status quo by returning the Conservatives to power or, alternatively, to engender a paradigm shift by electing a Labour government. If future Don Lane’s are to be avoided, then we have no alternative other than to ensure a Corbyn victory.

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The on-going stitch-up against Julian Assange

By Daniel Margrain

Two years ago this month, the UN ruled that the deprivation of Julian Assange’s liberty was unlawful. The ruling stated that Assange is being “unlawfully and arbitrarily detained by UK authorities—and must be released & compensated—under international law and treaties the UK has signed.”

The decision was a legally binding vindication of all the activists who have supported the quest of the Wikileaks founder to bring into the public domain the illegalities of Western power in the name of democracy and freedom.

What was shocking was the then UK Foreign Secretary Phillip Hammond’s reaction to the decision. In the view of the former UK diplomat, Craig Murray, Hammond’s lies were “utterly astonishing”. The official statement by Hammond reads:

“I reject the decision of this working group. It is a group made up of lay people and not lawyers. Julian Assange is a fugitive from justice. He is hiding from justice in the Ecuadorian embassy.”

Hammond’s statement belies the fact that every single one of the UN panel is a distinguished lawyer and was clearly made in order to undermine the UN ruling.

Even Iran puts the UK to shame

Previous rulings by the panel have gone against countries with some of the world’s worst human rights records, such as Saudi Arabia, Myanmar and Egypt. High profile cases where the UN has ruled in circumstances in which individuals have similarly been detained and subsequently released, include the Washington Post journalist, Jason Rezaian in Iran in December, 2014..

Given that countries like Egypt and Iran have released detainees based on the decisions of the UN, the latest court judgement (6 February 2018) in London that re-affirmed the arrest warrant against Assange, is therefore surprising to say the least. The decision of senior district judge Emma Arbuthnot would appear to fly in the face of international norms.

Speaking outside Westminster magistrates court, following the judges decision, Assange’s lawyer stated:

“Mr Assange remains willing to answer to British justice” – but “not at the risk of injustice in America. This case has, and will always be, about the risk of extradition to the United States and that risk remains real. Nobody can credibly deny that risk.”

The judgement effectively means that the UK authorities still have the right to seize Assange for jumping bail and taking refuge in the Ecuadorian embassy in London back in 2012, despite the fact that the statute of limitation ran out on the Swedish sex assault case against him.

Responding to judge Arbuthnot’s decision, Craig Murray tweeted:

“I have grown tired of the polite fictions of British society where we pretend Justice Arbuthnot is in any sense acting independently of government and particularly the security services. I saw the inside of the system.”

Set-up

The UN findings confirmed that Assange’s detention has been unlawful since his very first arrest in the United Kingdom in 2010 and that there has never been any genuine attempt by the Swedish authorities to investigate the allegations of rape made against him which were merely the Casus Belli.

This was given credible weight early on by Naomi Wolf, a prominent American writer, feminist and social commentator. Wolf argued that the allegations against Assange bore all the hallmarks of a set-up. This was further elaborated on by Craig Murray who thoroughly demolished the case against Assange.

As John Pilger outlined, the reality is, there was no genuine judicial process in train against Assange in Sweden, a point that was advanced by Assange’s lawyers before the UK supreme court.

All Assange has ever requested from the outset, is a guarantee from the Swedish authorities that if he agrees to travel to Sweden to answer the rape allegations made against him, he won’t be extradited to the United States.

Assange’s request for this assurance from Sweden is supported by Amnesty International. However, the Swedish authorities have consistently failed to give Assange such an assurance despite the fact that he has not been charged with any offence.

Justified fears

Assange’s fears of being extradited to the U.S and subsequently imprisoned their are justified. Chelsea Manning was imprisoned for 35 years in 2013 for leaking information to WikiLeaks. Moreover, according to Edward Snowden, Assange is on a US “manhunt target list” . The Independent revealed that both the Swedish and American governments have already discussed Assange’s onward extradition.

The reality is that under the ‘liberal-progressive’ presidency of Barrack Obama, the United States had imprisoned more whistle blowers than all US presidents combined. What also needs to be emphasized is Sweden’s damning record of extraditing people to other countries and its cooperation with the US in extraordinary renditions.

Then there is Assange’s justified fear of a complicit corporate mainstream media. Recently on Twitter, for example, Assange revealed a series of fake news stories against him. Much of the vitriol stems, not from the traditional right-wing of the media terrain, but from the liberal-left. Owen Jones, for example, inferred that diplomatic immunity is a feature of the Assange case.

Red herring

But this is a red-herring since neither Assange, his supporters, legal team or anybody else outside the media bubble, have ever suggested that his case is predicated on a claim of immunity. The lie was repeated by the Guardian’s legal expert, Joshua Rozenberg, presumably in an attempt to add a certain degree of gravitas to the claim.

Jonathan Cook sums up just how far down the perilous road towards fascism our governments’ and their accomplices in the media are prepared to go in order to augment the interests of the powerful:

“The degraded discourse about the UN group’s decision does not just threaten Assange, but endangers vulnerable political dissidents around the world. The very fact that…[liberal media commentators]… are so ready to sacrifice these people’s rights in their bid to tar and feather Assange should be warning enough that there is even more at stake here than meets the eye.”

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The bizarre world of Peter Hitchens

By Daniel Margrain

Peter Hitchens Says Tories Should 'Call Themselves the ...

Author and journalist, Peter Hitchens, is probably the most enigmatic and controversial public figure currently working in the corporate mainstream media today. Most noted for his six published books and his Mail on Sunday newspaper column, Hitchens seemed to be destined for a life of controversy at an early age, when in his youth, he was arrested for breaking into a government fall-out shelter in Cambridge.

While studying Politics and Philosophy at the University of York, Hitchens became embroiled in what is now the Socialist Workers Party. While publicly admonishing himself from what he described in later life as a Trotskyite “disease”, he nevertheless recognized the important role that the analytical rigour associated with Marxism was to play in formulating what he perceives are his critical thought processes.

Hitchens is a great example of the quote “If a man is not a socialist by the time he is 20, he has no heart. If he is not a conservative by the time he is 40, he has no brain,” even if a great many of conservative utterances put the second conclusion in doubt.

The media commentators journalistic career began with the Daily Express in 1977. This was also the first of six years he spent in the Labour Party. Having moved to Communist eastern Europe where he worked as a foreign affairs reporter (he became the Daily Express resident Moscow Correspondent in June 1990), he soon become disillusioned with the movement he ingratiated himself with, eventually embracing the Thatcherite critiques of the Soviet satellite bureaucracies of the Cold War period.

Hitchens left Moscow in 1992 basing himself for a brief period in London. He then reported from South Africa during the last days of apartheid, and from Somalia at the time of the US-led military intervention in the country. In September 1993 he became the Daily Express resident Washington correspondent, and during the next two years he reported from all over the United States, as well as from Canada, Haiti and Cuba.

After having completed a five year stint as commentator and columnist for the Daily Express from 1995-2000, Hitchens quit joining The Mail on Sunday, where he has a weekly column and weblog. In 1997 he joined the Conservative Party but left in 2003. Hitchens has authored and presented several documentaries for British television.

In addition, he has been a regular contributor to numerous UK TV discussion and debating programmes in which many of his controversial views – teenage pregnancy, drugs, sexuality, religion, public health and morality, education, international relations etc  –  have been aired.

Particular pet hates of the Mail on Sunday columnist include, abortionhomosexuality, birth control, feministsleftists, all pop and rock music in totality, human-induced climate changeevolutionIslam, secularism, neoliberalism and the metric system.

Among his core believes are that women who are raped should be denied anonymity; that woman’s place is in the home; that women should not have access to contraception; that women should not have premarital sex and that women should not have the right to an abortion.

He has also posited that homosexuality is something that should be kept “in the bedroom” and, in a January 2009 column, propagated the ‘just world fallacy’ by claiming that there is no objective poverty in the UK only that people suffer from “moral poverty”. According to Hitchens, the poor are being punished because there is “an almost total absence of good examples in their lives”, while the middle class are “better off because they are good.”

In addition to fanning hatred of women and gay people while helping to legitimize poverty, Hitchens also helped fan the flames of the anti-MMR vaccine hysteria. He has consistently promoted and attempted to justify his pseudo-scientific outlook by citing the disgraced former physician and medical researcher, Andrew Wakefield, who was one of the modern movements originators.

In terms of the debates around immigration, Hitchens paints himself as a defender of ‘traditional English values’ characteristic of a ‘return’ to a ‘lost’ quasi-religious idyllic past imbued with a yearning for nostalgia. The illogical inference made by Hitchens that rural England (in which only a minority of the population has lived since the great expansion of the 19th Century) is inherently more English than urban England (even though England was the world leader in mass urbanisation), has palpably racist overtones that cannot be nullified by reference to a romanticised rose-tinted view of the past that never existed.

But it’s Hitchens denial of the reality of the science underpinning man-made climate change that is the basis of arguably his most bizarre thesis. The fact-based debate on this is as one-sided as bringing an 8-inch atomic artillery piece to a knife fight. So Hitchens denial of the science inevitably involves a barrage of bad-faith misdirection tactics that do nothing to rebut the scientific consensus at issue.

Whilst it is encouraging that Hitchens opposed the war on Iraq; has challenged the media propaganda on Syria and is in favour of the re-nationalization of Britain’s railways, the vast majority of his views which the media barons are happy for him to espouse to millions of people, are not only insane, but are highly inflammatory, dangerous and misinformed.

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Masters of war: How the corporate media deceive the public

By Daniel Margrain

Mainstream <b>Media</b> <b>Lies</b> About Charleston, Guns & Racism With ...

In September, 2016, UK Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson, effectively announced that the British government had channeled £2.3 billion in support of propaganda campaigns in Syria of which charities and NGOs like Hand in Hand, the Syria Campaign and the funding of terrorist mercenary forces, are an integral part.

It has been noted that the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), working with the Ministry of Defence (MoD), the Home Office and the Prime Minister’s Office, formed contracts companies for the express purpose of creating ‘targeted information’.

The means by which this is achieved is through the production of videos, photos, military reports, radio broadcasts, print products and social media posts branded with the logos of fighting groups. One of the most prominent of the groups allegedly overseen by the MoD, are the White Helmets, who Johnson named, and whose members are affiliated to Islamist terrorist groups.

The corporate mainstream media are failing in their duty to reveal what the true foreign policy objectives of Johnson and his government are in Syria and the wider middle east region, nor have elite corporate journalists critically evaluated their own integration within the state apparatus.

By acting as echo chambers for Western imperial power, the role of the said journalists when reporting on foreign affairs is akin to stenography. Examples include the Telegraph’s reaction to the Houla massacre of May 25, 2012 which cast Syria into the ‘civil war’ and the widespread misrepresentation of the UN report into the Ghouta chemical attack of August 21, 2013.

Then there has been the rush to judgement by Guardian and New York Times journalists in relation to the alleged April 4, 2017 sarin attack in the Syrian town of Khan Seikhoun, and the media’s failure to follow-up on allegations made by investigative journalist, Seymour Hersh, that the CIA, with the support of M16, was responsible for ensuring the transportation of arms by Islamist groups from Libya to Syria.

The BBC Panorama documentary, Saving Syria’s Children, Channel 4 News, Up Close With the Rebels and the fake The Caesar Torture Photos story,  illustrate the extent to which the media has attempted to disorientate the public. These examples of ‘news’ functioning as propaganda in the service of power in relation to Syria, however, represent the tip of a huge iceberg.

Independent researcher and investigative journalist, Vanessa Beeley, has meticulously documented numerous occasions where the BBC and Channel 4 News have relied solely on unsubstantiated and biased Syrian opposition ‘rebel’ sources for its reports, and where dissenters of the official narrative have been smeared and abused by Guardian journalists simply for asking ‘difficult’ questions.

Moreover, the heavy reliance on what were clearly fake reports by al-Jazeera and CNN,  intended to sway public opinion in support of foreign intervention in Syria, adds fuel to the fire of those who accuse the elite media of being nothing more than conduits for  state power when it comes to their reporting of foreign affairs that involves the interests of the imperialist nations and their proxies.

Recent reports of protests throughout Iran, which investigative journalist Nafeez Ahmed stated were fomented by the U.S State Department, are the consequence of harsh U.S economic sanctions of the sort used against Iraq and Syria. But this kind of ’cause and effect’ analysis is totally absent from mainstream news reportage. In short, the inability of elite journalists to report critically on foreign affairs which have the potential to cast the empire in a bad light, is indicative of a democratic deficit.

This is reflected in the highly concentrated nature of media ownership. Writer Tom London points out that almost 48% of the combined print and online press is owned by just two billionaires – Rothermere and Murdoch – and 75.1% is owned by just six billionaires. These media barons have shared economic interests with the military and political establishment that perpetual war helps facilitate. The securing of these narrow interests are antithetical to the notion of a fair, free and open media.

Author Ed Jones points to other factors that are symptomatic of the lack of democracy at the heart of the media system. These include its domination by privately-educated white men, the politicisation of sources and the manipulation of the press by the intelligence services.

The billionaire media barons understand the importance, not only of spending huge amounts of money on advertising and public relations, but also of employing ‘liberal-left’ journalists whose apparent principal role is to function as ‘gate-keepers’ for established power. Indeed, what John Pilger referred to as “counterfeit journalism” in which “the surface of events is not disturbed”, is central to the ability of the media barons to engineer the public’s consent.

As Jones points out, it’s the billionaires who own the press that set the news agenda. The BBC, who are among the forefront of news agenda-setting media in the UK, play a particularly pernicious role in the propaganda process by amplifying it due to their reputation for alleged impartiality.

However, the central role of the British state broadcaster is to spread ‘British values’ to a global market in much the same way the U.S government spends hundreds of millions annually on outfits like RFE/RL in order to spread ‘American values’.

In other words, the default position of the British state broadcaster is their false sense of entitlement to report selectively on international affairs in order to protect perceived “British interests”. Thus, embedded journalism that ignores ‘our’ criminality is deemed to be acceptable based on the flawed premise that elected politicians serve the people, and that it is the task of the BBC to support, not undermine, democracy.

The founder of the BBC, Lord Reith, was more honest in his assessment of the structural bias of the media, the BBCs role within it, and its relationship to the elite political-media class: “[The establishment] know they can trust us not to be really impartial”, he said.

The recent willingness by the BBC to offer an uncritical platform to the head of the CIA is an example of the corporations dual function role as purveyor of state propaganda in which both Westminster and Washington benefit. Apparently, propaganda only becomes a “problem” when Russia’s state broadcaster, Russia Today (RT), are themselves accused of actively promoting it.

As historian Mark Curtis pointed out, the simple truth is elites do not believe the public has a right to know what is being done in their name. The questioning of prevailing narratives leads critics open to smears and abuse. In relation to Syria, Louis Allday posited that to express “even a mildly dissenting opinion … has seen many people ridiculed and attacked [by liberal-left journalists] … These attacks are rarely, if ever, reasoned critiques of opposing views”.

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My tribute to Mark E Smith

By Daniel Margrain

  • CAKE POLICE: WHY <b>MARK</b> <b>E</b>. <b>SMITH</b> IS COOLER THAN KURT COBAIN

Yesterday (January 24, 2018) the music world lost one of it’s most prolific, inimitable, distinctive and impenetrable characters. I first saw The Fall at Totnes Civic Hall in 1981. It was one of the greatest gigs I have ever seen – the best stay with you. Uncompromising to the last, the bands front man, Mark E Smith, was a much maligned and misunderstood artist and poet who maintained an aura that exuded menace combined with a characteristic dry and dark acerbic wit.

The Fall created a musical language that echoed the anti-conformism of the punks but was far more radical and authentic rooted in England’s northern suburban streets and smoke-filled pubs. The bands raw sound, and Smiths maniacal, unorthodox delivery and scowling on-stage presence, was indicative of the alienation felt by suburban youth of the period.

The Fall re-invented the anti-establishment language of Captain Beefheart and the Magic Band for a post-industrial generation of music fans who had grown up with the likes of Roxy Music, Lou Reed and the Stooges. Unlike many of their respective contemporaries, both Beefheart and Smith were genuine outsiders.

Whereas the musical aesthetic of the former closely resembled the marginal aspects of Freak Culture, The Fall faithfully expressed the anxieties of the punks. Both had a desecrating vision of the world, and both were not averse to intellectualism. Smith’s adoption of the famous Albert Camus novel, for example, was a deliberate invocation to something more profound than just music intended for estranged kids.

Smith emphasized that the underlying philosophy of the groups music was far closer to the aesthetic of the garage bands of the 1960s than it was to the simplistic profanity of the ’70s punks. Mark E Smith’s art can essentially be construed as a cryptic game imbued with pathos and humour but at the same time, darkly sinister.

Audience and band members alike were rarely able to relax during a Fall performance. As with Zappa and Beefheart – his key mentors – Smith had a clear artistic vision that required a musical discipline and devotion to the craft necessary to pull off the level of sustained musical repetition often associated with The Fall.

A self-confessed non-musician, Smith would sometimes berate his band when he felt the vision slipping. He knew what he wanted musically, and artistically, and pushed the band hard because he felt he had a certain responsibility to the public. He almost certainly wasn’t the kind of pathological dictator many have claimed.

Luke Turner on Twitter put it well when he said, “Smith didn’t rule The Fall, he wasn’t the dictator of cliché. He saw it as an entity outside of himself, of which he was the curator, the caretaker, the hip priest.”

Smith’s ability to play tricks on the public and his band is what kept both on their toes. His playful characteristic cackle and biting wit often underpinned a more serious side. He seemed to have an incredible ability to be able to tap into the psyche of people and displayed an innate sense of when he felt they were going too far, reining them in with apparent consummate ease. He appeared to understand what passes for human nature more than most people. If he hadn’t succeeded as a “musician”, Smith could of been a professional street hustler.

Indeed, the sound of the early Fall has more in common with the rambling street lo-fi music of David Peel than it does with any of the music trends of the period. Smith’s often deadpan and ironic lyrics were delivered in a manner that merged Iggy Pop with William Burroughs. The result was often primitive and tribal, but also Swiftian in terms of its intellectual endeavor.

The real critical successes of this early period, were the albums ‘Live at the Witch Trials’ (1979), the humorous singles, ‘Totally Wired’ (1980), ‘Elastic Man’ (1981) and the EP ‘Slates’ (1981). It was slightly later when the band first grabbed my attention.

The groups third session for the John Peel show – recorded on September 16, 1980 (first broadcast on the 24 September 1980) – was when the band really began to leave their mark. With the classic line up of Smith on vocals, Marc Riley (guitar), Craig Scanlon (guitar), Steve Hanley (bass) and Paul Hanley (drums), the band excelled with rockabilly infused tracks like ‘New Puritan’ and ‘New Face in Hell’.

But it wasn’t until March 21, 1983 that Smith and the group would produce their tour de force session for Peel – a cacophonous tribal rock masterpiece. The seminal ‘Smile’ from the session, later to appear on ‘Perverted By Language’ (1983), was performed live on Channel 4s ‘Tube’ show and to this day remains one of the greatest  performances by any British group seen on TV.

Other outstanding works include ‘Hex Enduction Hour’ (1982) and ‘This Nations Saving Grace’ (1985). The latter contains the muscular ‘Gut of the Quantifier’, the voodoobilly infused ‘Cruisers Creek’ and ‘Spoilt Victorian Child’. Of the bands later works, ‘The Real New Fall LP’ (2003) and ‘Your Future, Our Clutter’ (2010) stand out. The latter contains three Fall classics – ‘OFYC Showcase’, ‘Cowboy George’ and ‘YFOC Slippy Floor’.

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