How much longer can the corporate media continue to vilify Corbyn?

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By Daniel Margrain

In 1978, the Australian social scientist, Alex Carey, pointed out that the twentieth century has been characterized by three developments of great political importance: “the growth of democracy; the growth of corporate power; and the growth of corporate propaganda as a means of protecting corporate power against democracy.”

In order to defend their business interests against the forces of democracy, the corporations that now dominate much of the domestic and global economies recognize the need to manipulate the public through media propaganda by manufacturing their consent, largely achieved through coordinated mass campaigns that combine sophisticated public relations techniques.

This is the context of the political and media establishment’s vilification of Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership and their plot to oust him.

Media hate-fest

What Media Lens accurately described as a “panic-driven hysterical hate-fest right across the corporate media spectrum,” began during Corbyn’s campaign to become leader. This was manifested politically after a hardcore group of right-wing MPs all refused to serve under him.

After it became clear that Corbyn had secured ‘the largest mandate ever won by a party leader’, the attacks against him became more intense culminating in what colour poppy Corbyn would wear, his refusal to sing the national anthem or whether he would wear a tie or do up his top button. All of this was granted national news headlines and incessant coverage.

Not to be outdone, in October 2015, the BBCs political editor Laura Kuenssberg featured in an almost comically biased, at times openly scornful, attack on Corbyn’s reasonable stance on nuclear weapons. The BBC then broadcast five senior Blairite Labour figures all opposing Corbyn without any opportunity for an alternative viewpoint.

letter published in the Guardian signed by various academics and media activists, including Greg Philo of the Glasgow Media Group, Noam Chomsky and Edward Herman, noted:

“The leadership of Jeremy Corbyn has been subject to the most savage campaign of falsehood and misrepresentation in some of our most popular media outlets. He has, at different times, been derided, ignored, vilified and condemned.”

Other manufactured anti-Corbyn stories and attempts to undermine his leadership have included fake antisemitism claims and the McCarthyite purging of Corbyn supporters.

Increase in vote share & party membership

When in September 2016, Corbyn defeated Owen Smith’s leadership challenge, the former increased his share of the vote from 59.5% to 61.8% compared with the result of the 2015 leadership election. Membership of the party is currently higher than its last peak of 405,000 members last seen under Tony Blair’s leadership.

Under Blair, the party haemorrhaged 4.9 million votes between 1997 and 2010. The man who took the country to war in Iraq under a false prospectus, and who lobbies on behalf of some of the world’s most brutal and corrupt dictators, claimed in a moment of Orwellian doublespeak that Corbyn is a disaster for the party.

Blair was not alone. Prior to the last General Election, right-wingers within the party had continued to assert that Corbyn was an electoral liability for Labour. This was despite the fact that pre-coup, Labour led the Tories in three polls in a row over 41 days.

Myth-making

It was clear that the ‘left are unelectable narrative’ was intended to play into the hands of Corbyn’s opponents. It is a narrative that is based on a myth. The notion, for example, that you have to be right-wing to win elections is belied by the fact that the SNP under Nicola Sturgeon won the people of Scotland over on a left-wing ticket. Moreover, the British public’s ‘enthusiasm’ for Blair in 1997 was not based on policies that were subsequently known as Blairite, but, rather, on a left-wing image of the kind outlined in the 1997 Labour Manifesto.

Similarly, as the June 2017 General Election neared, the public began to frame their views on Corbyn, less on what the media wanted them to believe through their propagandizing of him, and more on what they saw and heard in public speeches and debates.

They liked what they heard. The bread and butter issues resonated across the board, but particularly with the young who saw in Corbyn somebody who at last was prepared to put issues like tuition fees, education, inequality, social justice and affordable housing at the top of the agenda.

The media’s depiction of Corbyn as a bumbling idiot and terrorist sympathizer didn’t square with the reality. Thus, the closer the election got, the narrower the polls became. When Theresa May called the election last April, the Tories lead over Labour was 24 points. A week before the election, the lead had been cut to just three.

Compassion, justice & humanity

Having galvanized the young and encapsulated the wider public mood with an inspired insurgency campaign, it was clear in the early hours on 9 June 2017, that Corbyn against all the odds, had prevented a Tory majority. The electorate in huge numbers had been persuaded by the Labour leaders message of compassion, justice and humanity.

Given the level of media vilification, hostility and bias against Corbyn from the moment he became Labour leader, the election result was nothing less than astonishing. Corbyn ‘increased Labour’s share of the vote by more than any other of the party’s election leaders since 1945, with the biggest swing witnessed since the Second World War. He won a larger share of the vote than Blair in 2005.

In his constituency of Islington North, Corbyn inherited a majority of 4,456, which increased to 21,194. He added a further 10,430 at the General election. He’s one of the few Labour MPs whose vote increased between 2005 and 2010, when he added 5,685 to his majority.

The corporate media commentariat – most of whom predicted a Tory landslide – were stunned at the result. When a tweeter suggested that Corbyn’s result was “brilliant”, New Statesman editor Jason Cowley replied: “Yes, I agree.” Just three days earlier, Cowley had written under the ominous title:

“The Labour reckoning – Corbyn has fought a spirited campaign but is he leading the party to worst defeat since 1935?”

In March 2017, Cowley opined:

“The stench of decay and failure coming from the Labour Party is now overwhelming – Speak to any Conservative MP and they will say that there is no opposition. Period.”

Cowley’s views are indicative of how the elite class in general have been slow in responding to the shifting political landscape. The unrepresentative nature of TV political punditry continues pretty much as it did before the election.

But it isn’t just the commentariate and TV producers within the elite media bubble who are out of touch and aloof. The Labour party establishment who endorse the elite narrative and who were filmed predicting Corbyn’s demise and felt he was unsuitable to lead the party into the election, have without any shame or embarrassment, continued with ‘service as normal’.

Czech spy & Russia apologist

Almost a year on since the election, the elites have continued with their sustained anti-Corbyn fake news stories. One of the latest and most prominent of these was the claim Corbyn met with Czech communist spies to sell them secrets. Corbyn’s team were left with no option other than to threaten one of his accusers with legal action. With a potential libel suit hanging over him, MP Ben Bradshaw, was forced publicly to apologize unreservedly for the untrue and false accusations he made against the Labour leader.

Then in March 2018, Corbyn came under yet more attacks from his own MPs over the Salisbury Skripal poisoning case. Corbyn’s reasonable stance that prompted the attacks on him, was his request to PM Theresa May that she present to parliament evidence to support her assertion that Russia was responsible for the poisonings.

He was also criticised for reminding May that under the terms of the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) to which the UK is a signatory, the UK government was obliged to provide Russia with a sample of the nerve agent used, along with all related evidence uncovered in the course of the investigation.

It soon transpired that May provided no evidence regarding Russia’s alleged culpability. When Russia formally requested that the UK submit a sample of its evidence to the Organisation for the Prevention of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), May refused the request. It was subsequently revealed that on March 14, the UK government blocked a Russia-drafted UN Security Council statement calling for an urgent inquiry into the incident.

Compared with the histrionics of May and the establishment mass media, Corbyn had been far more circumspect and rational in his approach to the issue. There is a very good reason for this. Barely mentioned in the press was the fact that seven months ago, Russia had destroyed all of its stockpiles of chemical weapons.

The Director-General of the OPCW, Ambassador Ahmet Üzümcü, stated:

“The completion of the verified destruction of Russia’s chemical weapons programme is a major milestone in the achievement of the goals of the Chemical Weapons Convention. I congratulate Russia and I commend all of their experts who were involved for their professionalism and dedication.”

Former UK diplomat Craig Murray points out with reference to the contents published in a prestigious scientific journal by Dr Robin Black, Head of the facilities Detection Laboratory, that the evidence for the existence of Novichoks was scant and their composition unknown. As such “the UK government has absolutely no ‘fingerprint’ information such as impurities that can safely attribute this substance to Russia.”

But even if there was evidence of a compound corresponding to a “Novichok”, it doesn’t necessarily follow that Russia was responsible for manufacturing the compound, since no Russian sample can be compared to it. In other words, May’s assertion that the Russian state was responsible for the attacks on Mr. Skripal and his daughter on the basis that ‘Novichoks’ can only be made in certain military installations, is demonstrably false.

The antisemitism accusations resurface

Once again, Corbyn defied his critics. But it didn’t take long before the attacks on him would resurface. The Labour Friends of Israel lobby inside the party which, in April 2016, had manufactured a fake antisemitism crisis, took their opportunity two years later to strike again. The catalyst this time was an anti-capitalist wall mural by artist, Kalen Ockerman, removed from East London in 2012.

The basis for Corbyn’s admiration for the work – which actually surfaced in 2015 – was the anti-capitalist themes depicted in the mural (Corbyn had previously expressed praise for a similarly themed mural by left-wing Mexican artist Diego Rivera). What was a non-issue at that time, had three years later become a major media scandal. Yet not a single commentator in the corporate mainstream had thought to ask the question why.

Furthermore, the Jewish Chronicle responsible for the ‘scoop’ back in 2015, and which asserted at the time the mural might have “antisemitic undertones”, not only attributed the claim to Corbyn’s critics, but three years later had changed their tune. They were now claiming that the mural was explicitly antisemitic and attributed the support of the mural’s supposed antisemitic themes to Corbyn not his critics.

In addition, back in 2015, the paper described the scene depicted in the mural as “a group of businessmen and bankers sitting around a Monopoly-style board and counting money” not as the media is now doing, a “cabal of Jewish bankers”. Among the right-wingers who joined in the chorus of anti-Corbyn smears was former leader, Ed Miliband who accused Corbyn of not doing enough to counter the ‘problem’ of antisemitism in the party despite claims to the contrary outlined by human rights lawyer Shami Chakrabarti in her report.

Revealingly, only 18 MPs voted against Theresa May’s 2014 Immigration Act, which enshrined dogwhistle racism and the hostile environment policy. None of the 18 mentioned included any anti-Corbyn right-wing Labour MPs who supposedly care so much about antisemitism and racism within the party.

Nevertheless, in their attempts to make the fake antisemitic claims stick, some of the said Labour MPs continued on April 17 to denounce Corbyn’s handling of alleged antisemitism with rousing speeches in parliament. Corbyn critic and chief Zionist cheerleader, John Mann, recounted a story in which his wife was sent a dead bird in the post by an ‘antisemitic’ Corbyn supporter affiliated to Momentum. But it was subsequently revealed that the incident in question happened in 2012, three years before Momentum was formed and three years prior to Corbyn’s election as party leader.

Another MP and Corbyn critic who spoke during the ‘debate’ was former Israel lobby spin doctor, Ruth Smeeth who, after entering the UK parliament in 2015, continued to be funded by two leading figures from her former employer, BICOM – the Britain Israel Communications and Research Centre. The latest official register of financial interests for members of Parliament shows that Smeeth continues to be funded by the Israel lobby.

Vote with those you are officially opposing

The parliamentary ‘debate’ described, in addition to the recent accusations of antisemitism accompanying it, are aimed to coincide with the forthcoming local elections which Corbyn’s critics inside the party desperately want to be calamitous for the Labour leader.

Former UK ambassador, Craig Murray, recalled reporting on an Uzbek Presidential election where the ‘opposition’ candidate advised voters to vote for President Karimov. “When you have senior Labour MPs including John Woodcock, Jess Phillips, John Mann, Luciana Berger, Mike Gapes, Wes Streeting and Ruth Smeeth carrying on a barrage of attacks on their own leader during a campaign, and openly supporting Government positions, British democracy has become completely dysfunctional”, he said.

The reason why the attacks against Corbyn have reached fever pitch is precisely because his critics within the establishment know he is highly electable and therefore represents a threat to their privileged positions both inside and outside of the party. This is probably no better illustrated than the positive reaction by the CBI to Corbyn’s February 26, 2018 Brexit speech.

In the aftermath of the speech, establishment writers for centre-right publications like the Spectator and pro-hard Brexit right-wing politicians like Jacob Rees-Mogg who, financially, stand to lose the most should Corbyn become the next Prime Minister, are the same people who appear to have undergone somewhat of a Damascene conversion to the working class cause.

Power of social media

Corbyn’s success is indicative of the power of social media to break the ability of the corporate mainstream to manufacture the electorates consent. All those within the political and media establishment motivated primarily by elite interests associated with money and power will disappear once the money dries up. Social media is leading the way in helping to dispel the myths and falsehoods for which the elites depend in order to sustain their privileged positions in society. Corbyn’s rise is indicative of how the consolidated power of the old established corporate- media hierarchies and their fake narratives are breaking down.

This is bad for the elites but good for democracy. Given that the smears promoted by the press have had virtually no effect on public opinion, and as Corbyn edges closer to the reigns of power, for how much longer will the corporate elite class be able to sustain what has arguably been the most prolonged and vitriolic reportage ever witnessed against any British political figure in history?

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What’s so great about David Crosby’s ‘If Only I Could Remember My Name’?

By Daniel Margrain

In ‘Revolution Blues’ from his 1974 album, ‘On The Beach’, Neil Young famously spews vitriol on the fake tinsel town celebrity life-styles of the wealthy residents of Laurel Canyon many of whom lionized the killer, Charles Manson:

 “Well, I hear that Laurel Canyon is full of famous stars, but I hate them worse than lepers and I’ll kill them in their cars,” sang Young.

Forming part of his ‘Ditch trilogy’ this was Young at his most angriest and bitter. It’s probably the Canadian artists greatest song from one of his best albums that reflected his disillusionment with the idealism of the hippies as the realism of the 1970s began to take hold.

Three years earlier, one of Young’s contemporaries, former Byrds member and long-time collaborator, David Crosby, released a far more cerebral, but no less brilliant take on the pessimism of the age. Indeed, with ‘If I Could Only Remember My Name’, Crosby manages to evoke the resigned naturalist idyll of the Bay Area as a catharsis.

Among the seminal musician’s of the period who worked alongside Crosby on the album included Kaukonen, Slick, Casady and Kantner of Jefferson Airplane, Garcia, Leisha, Kreutzmann and Hart of Grateful Dead, Neil Young, Joni Mitchell and Graham Nash.

The creative influence of these brilliant musician’s is tangible, but the sound created is nevertheless ‘neutral’ and not comparable to any other kind in the bay area during the period when it was recorded.

Deeply philosophical and existential, the music and vocals exude a sadness and poignancy. Crosby appears to be lamenting a world lost in the mists of time while simultaneously yearning for spiritual redemption as if attempting to communicate with mirages or ghosts while in a trance.

This is arguably best expressed by the slow progression in the opening ‘Music Is Love’, which consists of a single verse (‘everyone says that music is love’) which is endlessly repeated by Crosby and choir in a mantra like way.

‘Laughing’ is one long note as if suspended between earth and heaven before returning to a resonating echo before it gradually fades into the silence of ‘What Are Their Names’. Possibly the weakest track on the album, the whispered tinkling guitar and harp strings of ‘Traction In The Rain’, evokes crystalline waterfalls.

‘Song With No Words’ is like an intense opera evocative of a subdued and poignant prayer in which the singing soars in a sublime flight. With the closing hallucinatory ‘I’d Swear There Was Somebody Here’, a cry of joy and despair is exuded which is a kind of corrective to the ambiguous dream and mystical states that preceded it.

The album which has influenced greatly contemporary musicians of the likes of Julia Holter and Julianna Barwick, is a tonal, harmonic and semi-baroque masterpiece akin to an impressionist painting. In the canon of rock music, it remains, nearly half a century since its release, one of the most absorbing and moving experiences in the history of the genre.

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From the abstract to the concrete: urban design as a mechanism of behaviour change and social exclusion

Shopping malls are unforgiving, soulless and unfriendly places. For many people, frequenting the modern shopping mall is a deeply alienating and physically damaging experience. It brings with it a recognition of how some groups of people are being coerced and physically situated in the world – how citizens think and act is increasingly being determined by ‘choice architecture’ –  which is all-pervasive: it’s situated at a political, economic, cultural, social and material level. Hostile architecture – in all of its forms – is both a historic and contemporary leitmotif of hegemony.

Architecture, in both the abstract and the concrete, has become a mechanism of asymmetrically changing citizens’ perceptions, senses, choices and behaviours – ultimately it is being used as a means of defining and targeting politically defined others, enforcing social exclusion and imposing an extremely authoritarian regime of social control.

Citizens targeted by a range of ‘choice architecture’ as a means of fulfiling a neoliberal ‘behavioural change’ agenda (aimed at fulfiling politically defined neoliberal ‘outcomes’) are those who are already profoundly disempowered and, not by coincidence, among the poorest social groups. The phrase choice architecture implies a range of offered options, with the most ‘optimal’ (defined as being in our ‘best interest’) highlighted or being ‘incentivised’ in some way. However, increasingly, choice architecture is being used to limit the choices of those who already experience heavy socioeconomic and political constraints on their available decision-making options.

Urbanomics and the cutting edge of social exclusion: what is ‘defensive architecture’ defending?

Social exclusion exists on multiple levels. The distribution of wealth and power, access to citizenship rights and freedoms, political influence and consideration are a few expressions of inclusion or exclusion. It also exists and operates in time and space – in places.

Our towns and cities have also increasingly become spaces that communicate to us who ‘belongs’ and who isn’t welcome. From gated communities and the rise of private policing, surveillance and security to retail spaces designed to fulfil pure profiteering over human need, our urban spaces have become extremely anticommunal; they are now places where an exclusive social-spatial order is being defined and enforced. That order reflects and contains the social-economic order.

Retail spaces are places of increasing psychological and sensual manipulation and control. Hostile architecture is designed and installed to protect the private interests of the wealthy, propertied class in upmarket residential areas and to protect the private profiteering interests of the corporate sector in retail complexes.

The very design of our contemporary cities reflects, directs and amplifies political and social prejudices, discrimination and hostility toward marginalised social groups. Hostile architectural forms prevent people from seeking refuge and comfort in public spaces. Places that once reflected human coexistence are being encroached upon, restrictions are placed on access and limits to its commercial usage, demarcating public and private property and permitting an unrestrained commodification of urban spaces and property.

In 2014, widespread public outrage arose when a luxury London apartment building installed anti-homeless spikes to prevent people from sleeping in an alcove near the front door. The spikes, which were later removed following the public outcry, drew public attention to the broader urban phenomenon of hostile architecture.

Anti-homeless spikes in London

Dehumanising ‘defensive architecture’ – ranging from benches in parks and bus stations that you can’t actually sit on, to railings that look like the inside of iron maidens, to metal spikes that shriek ‘this is our private space, go away’ – is transforming urban landscapes into a brutal battleground for the haves and socioeconomically excluded have-nots. The buildings and spaces are designed to convey often subtle messages about who is welcome and who is not.

Hostile architecture is a form of urban design that aims to prevent people from lingering in public spaces. The anti-homeless spikes here, for example, were installed to deter beggars and those sleeping rough.

Hostile architecture is designed and installed to target, frustrate deter and ultimately exclude citizens who fall within ‘unwanted’ demographics.

Although many hostile architecture designs target homeless people, there are also a number of exclusion strategies aimed at deterring congregating young people, many of these are less physical or obvious than impossibly uncomfortable seating, which is primarily designed and installed to prevent homeless people from finding a space to sleep or rest. However, the seating also excludes others who may need to rest more frequently, from sitting comfortably – from pregnant women, nursing mothers with babies and young children to those who are ill, elderly and disabled citizens.

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When the purpose of public seating isn’t taking the weight off your feet and providing rest.

Some businesses play classical music as a deterrent – based on an assumption that young people don’t like it. Other sound-based strategies include the use of high-frequency sonic buzz generators (the ‘mosquito device’) meant to be audible only to young people under the age of 25.

Some housing estates in the UK have also installed pink lighting, aimed at highlighting teenage blemishes, and deterring young males, who, it is assumed, regard pink ‘calming’ light as ‘uncool’. There is little data to show how well these remarkably oppressive strategies actually work. Nor is anyone monitoring the potential harm they may cause to people’s health and wellbeing. Furthermore, no-one seems to care about the psychological impact such oppressive strategies have on the targeted demographics –  the intended and unintended consequences for the sighted populations, and those who aren’t being targeted.

Hostile architecture isn’t a recent phenomenon

Charles Pierre Baudelaire wrote a lot about the transformation of Paris in the 1850s and 1860s. For example, The Eyes of the Poor captures a whole series of themes and social conflicts that accompanied the radical re-design of Paris under Georges-Eugène Haussmann‘s controversial programme of urban planning interventions.

Baron Haussmann was considered an arrogant, autocratic vandal by many, regarded as a sinister man who ripped the historic heart out of Paris, driving his boulevards through the city’s slums to help the French army crush popular uprisings. Republican opponents criticised the brutality of the work. They saw his avenues as imperialist tools to neuter fermenting civil unrest in working-class areas, allowing troops to be rapidly deployed to quell revolt. Haussmann was also accused of social engineering by destroying the economically mixed areas where rich and poor rubbed shoulders, instead creating distinct wealthy arrondissements.

Baudelaire opens the prose by asking his lover if she understands why it is that he suddenly hates her. Throughout the whole day, he says, they had shared their thoughts and feelings in the utmost intimacy, almost as if they were one. And then:

“That evening, feeling a little tired, you wanted to sit down in front of a new cafe forming the corner of a new boulevard still littered with rubbish but that already displayed proudly its unfinished splendors. The cafe was dazzling. Even the gas burned with all the ardor of a debut, and lighted with all its might the blinding whiteness of the walls, the expanse of mirrors, the gold cornices and moldings…..nymphs and goddesses bearing on their heads piles of fruits, pates and game…..all history and all mythology pandering to gluttony.

On the street directly in front of us, a worthy man of about forty, with tired face and greying beard, was standing holding a small boy by the hand and carrying on his arm another little thing, still too weak to walk. He was playing nurse-maid, taking the children for an evening stroll. They were in rags. The three faces were extraordinarily serious, and those six eyes stared fixedly at the new cafe with admiration, equal in degree but differing in kind according to their ages.

The eyes of the father said: “How beautiful it is! How beautiful it is! All the gold of the poor world must have found its way onto those walls.”

The eyes of the little boy: “How beautiful it is! How beautiful it is! But it is a house where only people who are not like us can go.”

As for the baby, he was much too fascinated to express anything but joy – utterly stupid and profound. 

Song writers say that pleasure ennobles the soul and softens the heart. The song was right that evening as far as I was concerned. Not only was I touched by this family of eyes, but I was even a little ashamed of our glasses and decanters, too big for our thirst. I turned my eyes to look into yours, dear love, to read my thoughts in them; and as I plunged my eyes into your eyes, so beautiful and so curiously soft, into those green eyes, home of Caprice and governed by the Moon, you said:

“Those people are insufferable with their great saucer eyes. Can’t you tell the proprietor
to send them away?”

So you see how difficult it is to understand one another, my dear angel, how incommunicable thought is, even between two people in love.”

I like David Harvey‘s observations on this piece. He says “What is so remarkable about this prose poem is not only the way in which it depicts the contested character of public space and the inherent porosity of the boundary between the public and the private (the latter even including a lover’s thoughts provoking a lover’s quarrel), but how it generates a sense of space where ambiguities of proprietorship, of aesthetics, of social relations (class and gender in particular) and the political economy of everyday life collide.”  

The parallels here are concerning the right to occupy a public space, which is contested by the author’s lover who wants someone to assert proprietorship over it and control its uses.

The cafe is not exactly a private space either; it is a space within which a selective public is allowed for commercial and consumption purposes.

There is no safe space – the unrelenting message of hostile architecture

What message do hostile architectural features send out to those they target? Young people are being intentionally excluded from their own communities, for example, leaving them with significantly fewer safe spaces to meet and socialise. At the same time, youth provision has been radically reduced under the Conservative neoliberal austerity programme – youth services were cut by at least £387m from April 2010 to 2016. I know from my own experience as a youth and community worker that there is a positive correlation between inclusive, co-designed, needs-led youth work interventions and significantly lower levels of antisocial behaviour. The message to young people from society is that they don’t belong in public spaces and communities. Young people nowadays should be neither seen nor heard.

It seems that the creation of hostile environments – operating simultaneously at a physical, behavioural, cognitive, emotional, psychological and subliminal level – is being used to replace public services – traditional support mechanisms and provisions – in order to cut public spending and pander to the neoliberal ideal of austerity and ‘rolling back the state’.

It also serves to normalise prejudice, discrimination and exclusion that is political- in its origin. Neoliberalism fosters prejudice, discrimination and it seems it is incompatible with basic humanism, human rights, inclusion and democracy.

The government are no longer investing in more appropriate, sustainable and humane responses to the social problems created by ideologically-driven decision-making, anti-public policies and subsequently arising structural inequalities – the direct result of a totalising neoliberal socioeconomic organisation.

For example, homeless people and increasingly disenfranchised and alienated young people would benefit from the traditional provision of shelters, safe spaces, support and public services. Instead both groups are being driven from the formerly safe urban enclaves they inhabited into socioeconomic wastelands and exclaves – places of exile that hide them from public visibility and place further distance between them and wider society.

Homelessness, poverty, inequality, disempowerment and alienation continue but those affected are being exiled to publicly invisible spaces so that these processes do not disturb the activities and comfort of urban consumers or offend the sensibilities of the corporate sector and property owners. After all, nothing is more important that profit. Least of all human need.

Homelessness as political, economic and public exile

Last year, when interviewed by the national homelessness charity Crisisrough sleepers reported being brutally hosed with water by security guards to make them move on, and an increase in the use of other ‘deterrent’ measures. More than 450 people were surveyed in homelessness services across England and Wales. 6 in 10 reported an increase over the past year in ‘defensive architecture’ to keep homeless people away, making sitting or lying down impossible – including hostile spikes and railings, curved or segregated, deliberately uncomfortable benches and gated doorways.

Others said they had experienced deliberate ‘noise pollution’, such as loud music or recorded birdsong and traffic sounds, making it hard or impossible to sleep. Almost two-thirds of respondents said there had been an increase in the number of wardens and security guards in public spaces, who were regularly moving people on in the middle of the night, sometimes by washing down spaces where people were attempting to rest or sleep. Others reported noise being played over loudspeakers in tunnels and outside buildings.

Crisis chief executive Jon Sparkes said he had been shocked by the findings. He said: “It’s dehumanising people. If people have chosen the safest, driest spot they can find, your moving them along is making life more dangerous. 

“The rise of hostile measures is a sad indictment of how we treat the most vulnerable in our society. Having to sleep rough is devastating enough, and we need to acknowledge that homelessness is rising and work together to end it. We should be helping people off the streets to rebuild their lives – not just hurting them or throwing water on them.”

‘Defensive architecture’ is a violent gesture and a symbol of a profound social and cultural unkindness. It is considered, calculated, designed, approved, funded and installed with the intention to dehumanise and to communicate exclusion. It reveals how a corporate oligarchy has prioritised a hardened, superficial style and profit motive over human need, diversity, complexity and inclusion.

Hostile architecture is covert in its capacity to exclude – designed so that those deemed ‘legitimate’ users of urban public space may enjoy a seemingly open, comfortable and inclusive urban environment, uninterrupted by the sight of the casualities of the same socioeconomic system that they derive benefit from. Superficially, dysfunctional benches and spikes appear as an ‘arty’ type of urban design. Visible surveillance technologies make people feel safe.

It’s not a society that everyone experiences in the same way, nor one which everyone feels comfortable and safe in, however.

The article above is an edited extract from the blog of writer and human rights activist, Kitty S Jones. 

The original article can be found athttps://kittysjones.wordpress.com/2018/01/03/from-the-abstract-to-the-concrete-urban-design-as-a-mechanism-of-behaviour-change-and-social-exclusion/

Please support Ms Jones’ research and writing of informative, insightful and independent articles, by making a small donation on her website. Thank you.

Saving Syria’s Children: How the BBC are embedding their journalists with Jihadist groups in Syria

By Daniel Margrain

For many years I have been following Robert Stuart’s exhaustive and detailed exposition of the BBC Panorama documentary Saving Syria’s Children that highlighted the aftermath of an alleged incendiary bomb attack on the playground of the Urm al-Kubra school near Aleppo in Syria.

The BBC team comprising reporter, Ian Pannell and cameraman, Darren Conway (who coincidentally were inside Syria when the alleged attack happened), reported on, and filmed, the incoming casualties arriving at the Atareb hospital on 26 August 2013. The footage formed the basis of the documentary.

Staged

Stuart contends that the filmed sequences were largely, if not entirely, staged. Scenes from the documentary were shown as part of a brief BBC News at Ten broadcast report by Pannell and Conway which contained harrowing scenes of teenage boys and young men, their skin apparently in tatters, racing into what the report describes as “a basic hospital funded by handouts” to be treated for burns.

In one particularly disturbing scene a tableau of young men writhe, drool and groan, seemingly in great distress. What is particularly striking about the scene, are the actions of the central figure, Mohammed Asi, who looks directly into the camera for several moments before raising his arm, at which point the group around him instantly became animated before moaning in unison.

Other anomalies include:

  • Conflicting and contradictory claims.
  • A “victim” who appeared to be grinning.
  • Implausible demeanours of alleged victims.
  • Questionable authenticity of the alleged burns to victims by experienced doctors.
  • Apparent choreographed behaviour.
  • Unconvincing injuries.
  • Testimonies that challenge the BBC version of events.

All of the anomalies and contradictions highlighted call into question the authenticity of the entire alleged attack.

Doctors & weapons

Saving Syria’s Children also referenced to two British female doctors, Rola Hallam a ‘volunteer’ executive for the ‘charity’ Hand-in-Hand-for Syria (recently rebranded as Hand in Hand for Aid and Development) and (former?) BBC TV presenter, Saleyha Ahsan, an ex-captain in the British Army Medical Corps. The former’s father, Dr Mousa al-Kurdi, is a senior Syrian opposition member.

Atareb Hospital’s self-proclaimed, Medical Director, Abdulrahman Obied, was filmed alongside Dr Rola Hallam. In a blog article, Stuart showed that Abdulrahman’s younger brother, Iessa Obied, posted on Facebook numerous images of himself posing with an array of weapons.

All of this information was hidden from the public by the BBC.

Safe passage

More recently, Stuart has alleged, convincingly, that BBC licence fee money was used to ensure the safe passage of Pannell and Conway and that the film-makers were given protection by the ISIS-affiliated Salafist terror group, Ahrar al-Sham.

According to Stuart:

“The award-winning team of reporter Ian Pannell and cameraman Darren Conway OBE were embedded with jihadi group Ahrar al-Sham which, according to Human Rights Watch, had three weeks earlier worked alongside Islamic State (IS) and al-Qaeda affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra as one of the key fundraisers, organizers, planners, and executors of an attack in which at least 190 civilians were killed and over 200 were kidnapped.”

Furthermore, in the midst of the crisis, Stuart produced evidence that “Conway filmed, at close quarters, an ambulance plainly bearing the ISIS logo, along with its militarily attired and armed occupants.”

Concerns

This prompted Stuart to report  Pannell and Conway’s flagrant abuse of their positions as professional BBC journalists to the National Counter Terrorism Security Office on the grounds that:

“the named individuals apparently established a business relationship with members of a jihadi group with links to al-Qaeda and ISIS in Syria in August 2013.”

In a January 2018 blog piece, Stuart mooted the possibility of a connection between the alleged incendiary attack and the then incipient White Helmets. The researcher confirmed the veracity of this assertion in a follow-up article where he demonstrated that senior White Helmets members were present at Atareb Hospital on this date.

Stuart outlined the above issues to his constituency MP, Shadow Defense Secretary, Emily Thornberry, and opposition leader, Jeremy Corbyn but neither have addressed any of his legitimate concerns.

Sham

The researcher has also presented his findings in open public forums on numerous occasions and the BBC have been informed of an award-winning U.S online magazine’s description of Saving Syria’s Children as “a sham.”

Despite this, neither Stuart nor the said U.S online magazine, have been threatened by the BBC with any injunctions which would almost certainly have been the case had the allegations or claims been false.

The controversy that surrounds Saving Syria’s Children and the BBCs connections to Islamist terrorist groups, including the White Helmets, adds fuel to the fire of those independent researchers and journalists who posit that mainstream coverage of the current turmoil in Syria is emblematic of the corporate media’s systematic war propaganda against the Syrian government of Bashar-al-Assad.

It is clear that the BBC not only colluded in the production of false UK government propaganda intended to influence a vote in parliament to commit British troops to Syria in yet another illegal war, but that they did so by engaging in a sophisticated and well-planned series of events. This involved the active participation, not only of Islamist terrorists and their sympathizers, but the embedding of its journalists.

Conclusion

As the decline in traditional forms of media begins to take hold, the notion of the documentary as a sophisticated form of war propaganda, is increasingly being sold as a the new form of communication to the public. Indeed, Saving Syria’s Children must be seen in the context of the 2018 Oscar-nominated, emotionally charged propaganda documentary Last Men in Aleppo.

The willingness of the BBC to overtly fund and directly produce war propaganda would appear to be a first for the corporation. Their actions are not only inexcusable, but they have the potential to pose a serious risk to national security and to further undermine what little remains of the trust the public has in the corporation’s ability to report accurately and objectively on issues of national importance.

Robert Stuart contacted Jeremy Corbyn, requesting the need for a public investigation into Saving Syria’s Children. That time has now come.

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The royal benefit sponger

Princess Beatrice and Boyfriend at the Beach - Zimbio

For many years the media have portrayed the lifestyles of ‘the undeserving rich’ who inhabit Britain’s Benefit Malls, as feckless wasters and a burden on the tax-paying public. There have been signs over recent months that their attacks on this largely invisible minority in society are beginning to take their toll.

So extreme have these attacks on some of Britain’s most privileged elite been, that many within the gold-vaulted communities of Knightsbridge, Mayfair and Kensington have decided to fight back. One of these individuals is 28 year old Benefit Mall TV reality star princess Beatrice Ferguson.

Allegations

Recent allegations that Ms Ferguson has taken advantage of Britain’s benefit system, continue to be stringently denied by the princess. One of the most serious accusations relates to the claim that Beatrice set herself up as a business matchmaker after having secured a high-profile client in the shape of would-be stock market debutant Afiniti.

It has been reported that a member of the Zia Chishti entourage, who is said to have accompanied Ferguson to meetings and parties at the World Economic Forum in Davos, including to a lunch for many of the most senior figures in British business, phoned the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) hot-line in the UK anonymously in order to inform on her activities.

Undercover

When challenged by undercover journalists about this, Beatrice reportedly said that she informed her local Job Centre Plus in London’s Bayswater Road of her intention to take a week’s holiday abroad to which she claims she was entitled:

“I phoned the DWP three days in advance informing them that I would be taking a foreign holiday for a week which was agreed at the time by my work coach. This was not a working holiday”, she said.

But this version of events was contradicted by her alleged clients, the advisory board members of the company that is headquartered in Washington DC, comprising no fewer than 21 senior figures. An account relayed to investigators by one of these individuals, BP chief executive Lord Browne, however, appears to support the benefit claimants version of events:

“The notion this young lady is connected to a company called Afiniti, or that I am one of her clients, is absurd. I recall that she was at a party I attended as a guest. The fact that Mr Chishti, who previously co-founded and brought to market a company that makes transparent braces for teeth straightening, is merely coincidental”, Browne said.

Spotted

In previous years, Beatrice has been spotted taking to the water on Roman Abramovich’s £1 billion super yacht, Eclipse, which is docked off the Spanish coast near Ibiza.

Asked by reporters how the alleged penniless royal could afford to rack up seventeen holidays in nine months on a weekly Job Seeker’s Allowance of £73.40 since giving up her 20k a year role at Sony, Beatrice claimed the trips were paid for using savings accumulated in her Barclays Instant Saver account.

Responding to accusations that her lifestyle is excessive, Beatrice snapped back at reporters: “The Benefits Mall programme represents a smear campaign. If I knew then, what I know now, I would never have agreed to participate in the programme”, she said.

Beatrice claimed that chalking up three skiing holidays on top of multiple hot weather breaks and repeated trips to New York, “is my human right”. The celebrity princess continued: “People are jealous that I have saved up some money that funds a lifestyle to which I’m entitled. When I visited New York, it was to see my sister, Eugenie”, said the streetwise hustler from downtown Belgravia.

In November 2016, the DWP cited an on-line article which claimed that Beatrice visited the United Arab Emirates for a “business engagement” with her father, the Duke of York and also that she subsequently attended a lavish party on board a Polynesian themed party yacht. Beatrice categorically denies both claims.

Private jet

Later that week, Beatrice admitted to investigators she flew on a private jet with her mother, Sarah Ferguson, to Beijing for a wedding, paid for by her father which she claims didn’t break DWP rules since she was able to sign-on the following week.

Moreover, she claimed she was able to prove to her job coach that she had spent the required amount of time actively seeking work. The alleged princess put her late attendance that day down to heavy traffic along the Bayswater Road and that the number 148 bus she was travelling on had broken down.

Serious questions, however, remain with regards to Beatrice’s whereabouts during the Christmas period. Having failed to have turned up to a 2pm appointment previously arranged with her work coach who had planned to run through her CV with her, Beatrice claimed she phoned Job Centre Plus saying that she was too sick to attend.

But a tip-off from a member of Beatrice’s entourage later alleged that after enjoying Christmas lunch with the Queen at Sandringham, the Benefit Mall star jetted off to Verbier to stay at her parents £13m ski chalet. My source then alleges she flew to the Caribbean where she saw in the new year relaxing on a yacht belonging to billionaire Lakshmi Mittal.

Verbier & Great Guana Cay

With the authorities becoming suspicious of Beatrice’s increasingly erratic lifestyle, the DWP finally made the decision to suspend the reality TV stars Job Seekers Allowance. The suspension of her housing and council tax benefits swiftly followed.

After complaining vociferously to TV executives at Channel Five about the manner in which the programme-makers had characterized her and her class in Benefit Mall, Beatrice flew back to her parents place in Verbier.

With her stress levels now at breaking point, Beatrice then flew out to Florida for her twelfth holiday in five months before moving on to the Gulf State of Bahrain as a guest of it’s Prince whose father helped put down pro-democracy protests.

In September, Beatrice flew to Florence before jetting off for her third Caribbean jaunt where she was photographed lounging on a beach in Great Guana Cay, home to just 150 people, and blessed with a five and a half mile stretch of sandy white beach, virgin forest and pristine coral reefs.

In a recent column for the Daily Mail, renowned independent investigative journalist, Richard Littlejohn, asked how her father, who has a modest naval pension, could afford a £13m property and pay for regular private jet flights?

“The Royal Family is still guarding secrets that we the people should know about”, said the Guardian.

Conservative MP, Amber Rudd, has reportedly taken an interest in the Beatrice Ferguson case. She has also promised to look into the other alleged incidences of royal benefit fraud highlighted in Benefit Mall. Rudd stated that in the event of any more information coming to light, members of the public could contact her anonymously at the Palm Fringe Savoy Hotel, Bahamas.

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Fantasy Island

Best Episodes of Fantasy Island | List of Top Fantasy ...

I haven’t written anything on this site for a while now.  It’s actually rather difficult to know what to write when confronted with the astonishing spectacle of national self-destruction that is unfolding in front of our eyes.  Nowadays hardly a day passes without another  reminder that the UK has entered a new political dimension in which delusions of grandeur, magical thinking and ideological fantasy have replaced anything that we once thought had any connection to the real world.

These tendencies reach across the political spectrum.  You can find them in George Galloway, doing the full UKIP/Churchill thing on Arron Banks’s Westmonster website (sorry not linking to this) and reminding Europeans that WE saved them during WWII and that ‘If not for us not a single European politician would hold office anywhere unless as a Quisling collaborator of the German Reich.’  For the Churchillian war-child Galloway this means that ‘ when I hear a “Schnell” or an “Achtung” from the Junkers (sic) of this world I don’t consider it music in my ears.’

Let no one spoil this demagogic rant by telling Galloway that Jean-Claude Juncker comes from Luxembourg not Germany. He already knows that.  But for Galloway, anyone who has anything to do with the EU is close enough to Nazis to make no difference, and anyone who says otherwise, like Churchill’s opponents, belong to what he calls ‘the gang of appeasers and fifth columnists within the British elite.’

Such idiocy, as we have seen for some time now, is not confined to the fringes.  Take Boris Johnson’s latest fatuous suggestion comparing the border between  Northern Ireland and Ireland to a congestion zone between Westminster and Camden.  Never one to resist blowing his own trumpet, Johnson reminded Radio 4 listeners ‘ when I was mayor of London we anesthetically and invisibly took hundreds of millions of pounds from the accounts of people traveling between those two boroughs without any need for border checks.’

Many people have pointed out that it may not be so easy to ‘anesthetically and invisibly’ bypass Irish history or a conflict that cost 3,000 lives.  It’s a bleak testament to the current state of things that such points even need to be made, or that a self-aggrandising buffoon like Johnson has any influence on anything at all.  But his continued presence in the corridors of power is a symptom of a detachment from reality that only seems to grow wider as the Brexit process slouches incoherently  towards political Neverland.

For eighteen months the May government has been asking for things it cannot have, promising things it cannot deliver, bluffing, posturing, and pursuing things that cannot be achieved, even as its own impact assessments predict that the country will be worse off in every single Brexit scenario.   Yet when civil servants point out the potential damage that the country is likely to inflict on itself, they are dismissed as traitors, quislings, closet Eurocrats or members of the ‘pro-European elite’.

Humankind cannot bear very much reality, wrote TS Eliot, and Brexiters cannot bear any reality at all that conflicts with their fantasy of a global buccaneering Britain, freed of EU red tape and the unwanted immigrants that the country depends on, able to smoke in pubs as we surge toward a brave new world that we now know will not be a ‘Mad Max-style’ dystopia.

In fact a country that allows its politics to be driven by ideological fantasies and straw man constructs is likely to find itself inhabiting a reality that is more dystopian than its opposite, and the right aren’t the only dreamers in Brexittown.  On Monday, Jeremy Corbyn once again demonstrated that the left is no less prone to magical thinking than the Rees-Mogg/Nadine Dorries crowd.

Corbyn’s speech was hailed by his fans as a ‘ bold Brexit vision’, because his fan base will never say anything different about anything he says.  But despite – or perhaps because of – its attempt to be everything to everyone, his speech was littered with little reminders of why His Majesty’s Opposition have presented very little opposition whatsoever to the Brexit process,  and has largely fallen over itself in its desire to wave it through.

There was a leftwing version of the ‘£350 million for the NHS’ pledge in Corbyn’s promise to ‘use funds returned from Brussels after Brexit to invest in our public services and the jobs of the future, not tax cuts for the richest.’  While insisting that there should be ‘no scapegoating of migrants’, Corbyn once again promised that ‘Our immigration system will change and freedom of movement will as a statement of fact end when we leave the European Union.’

So migrants won’t be scapegoated, but freedom of movement – one of the great progressive achievements of the European Union – will end  in order ‘ To stop employers being able to import cheap agency labour to undercut existing pay and conditions’.

When Corbyn last mentioned this ‘importation’, it was in relation to the construction industry, which has a skills shortage and where wages are actually rising.   But Corbyn clearly believes that immigration is a ‘bosses club’ ploy and in Brexit Britain believing is everything.   Corbyn won’t accept a ‘ deal that left Britain as a passive recipient of rules decided elsewhere by others’ even though the EU has made it quite clear that it will not accept cherry-picking deals that allow the UK to continue to enjoy a privileged position without any obligations.   Then there is this:

‘There will be some who will tell you that Brexit is a disaster for this country and some who will tell you that Brexit will create a land of milk and honey. The truth is more down to earth and it’s in our hands. Brexit is what we make of it together, the priorities and choices we make in the negotiations.’

Not really.  Because whatever priorities and choices we decide upon, the UK is negotiating within a very limited set of parameters and is almost certain to find itself worse-off than it was before, no matter what is ultimately decided.  The tragedy is that neither the government nor the opposition want to admit this. Mesmerised by their own narrow party or personal interests, wide-eyed and prostrate before ‘the will of the people’, they offer fantasies and pipedreams and demand the impossible in an attempt to square circles that cannot be connected.

Sooner or later the consequences of this political cowardice and dereliction of duty will become impossible to ignore, and when that happens things may get even uglier than many of us imagine.  Because there are historic mistakes that cannot easily be undone, and Brexit is one of them.

For now, it seems, the millions of us who are unwilling passengers on this runaway train can merely sit while it heads towards the buffers, hostages to a political nightmare that we seem incapable of waking up from, shouting out warnings that those who are driving this process seem unable or unwilling to hear, and from the point of view of a writer – and a citizen – that is not a comfortable position to be in at all.

The above article was written by Matt Carr and originally published on his excellent blog, Matt Carr’s Infernal Machine at:

http://www.infernalmachine.co.uk/fantasy-island/

 

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/