Weekly roundup 28-8-21

Taxpayers subsidising the arms industry

The French have just announced a Euro 5 billion deal with Greece to supply them with frigates. What does Greece need frigates for – other than to prance about the Aegean and try to impress Turkey.

A few years ago Greece went bankrupt and the country was bailed out by European taxpayers. One of the reasons the Greek state went bankrupt was that they had been spending more than they could afford on a) social security and supporting an uneconomic civil service and b) on arms.

This deal which the President of France is boasting about is in fact therefore a) an act of extreme folly – this kind of military spending was what caused problems before and b) a clear case of the EU taxpayers underwriting/subsidising the French arms industry.

Vaccine propaganda

This is a piece of vaccine propaganda in the Guardian. It is part of the attempt to persuade/pressurise teenagers to get vaccinated. Boys in this age group are at more risk from Pfizer (the vaccine they are apparently being given) than they are from Covid; in terms of hospitalisation. (Nb. the study while seemingly credible has not yet been peer reviewed). The risk to teenagers from Covid is incredibly low.

The article leads on the story of one 15 year old girl who died of complications following a Covid illness. This is no more scientific than anti-vaxxers highlighting a death linked to a vaccine to discredit all vaccination.

The article states: “While some cases of heart inflammation have been recorded as an extremely rare side-effect of the vaccine, none have led to deaths in young people. The risk of myocarditis appears to be substantially higher from Covid than the vaccine”. This is the carefully curated line or ‘spin’ to attempt to get round the statistics that for young people vaccination may pose more of a risk than Covid. (The claim that no cases of have led to deaths from myocarditis of young people is questionable; maybe not yet young – but there are cases which have been linked to deaths from myocarditis in adults). The meaningful comparison to assess vaccine risk is between vaccination and no vaccination.

A statistical study by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control showed that for young people AstraZeneca was twice as likely to lead to death than Covid. Oxford hit back to the data showing a link between vaccination with AstraZeneca and blood-clotting with a study showing that for AstraZeneca blood-clotting was more likely to happen in those who contract Covid than in those who receive AstraZeneca. This is a tactic; the meaningful comparison to assess vaccine risk is between those who take it and don’t. This is how medical adverse affects are usually calculated. Of course one then weighs up the risks from the disease; but this is what the study which shows that AstraZeneca is more dangerous than Covid for young people has already done. The Oxford Study was designed by colleagues of AstraZeneca researchers to improve their PR. (No doubt they want to feel like heroes and the blood-clotting issue is a bit of a thorn in the side). This line comparing the risk of acquiring a specific condition from a vaccine and from Covid seems to have been more widely adopted and is the one the Guardian uses above to try to push Pfizer.

The other spin line is of course tales about “long Covid in children”. Such claims appear to be based on self-reporting of symptoms and doctors are often sceptical.

The Guardian article is propaganda – no more scientific than the kind of argument produced by anti-vaxxers. It is part of a campaign to scare teenagers into making a health choice whose real purpose is to protect the adults around them and to reduce disruption in schools based on a delusion that missing 2 weeks schooling is a health-risk.

Routine lying and third-rate journalism – the new norm in lost in the mire Britain

This is an article in the Guardian about a Conservative MP who gave a speech at a fringe meeting at the Conservative Party conference. Apparently the MP said that schools should report people who use the term ‘white privilege’ to Prevent, the government’s deradicalization programme. (Obviously this isn’t practical – but as a polemical point one can see what he is saying; the doctrine of ‘white privilege’ which seems to suggest that all white people have some kind of inherent ‘advantage’ (over black people) in (presumably Western) society is pretty unbalanced and one-sided*. Though against the idea of reporting people to Prevent one can say that this doctrine is unlikely to lead to violence). However; the MP did actually say that. The Guardian also reports that he said that “that teachers who criticise the Conservative party should be sacked”. Immediately of course I thought “this can’t be true; he can’t really have said that”. And of course; based on the actual text of his remarks reported in the article he didn’t. He criticised the way that it is acceptable in schools for teachers to criticise the Conservatives. (This is a long-standing meme in the Conservative party about ‘lefty teachers’). And he went on to say that pushing political ideology in the classroom should be a sackable offence. But if you unpack this he didn’t say that teachers criticizing the Conservatives should be sacked for criticizing the Conservatives. Based on the reported comments that is a straight misrepresentation. This kind of lying about what the other side says is becoming the norm for liberal journalists. It is part of the move to a totalitarian mono-culture where only one point of view (the liberal one) can be accepted as true; opposing views are not just that – a different point view. Rather they have to be discredited. Misrepresenting them is one of the easiest techniques to discredit them. For the record – I doubt I would be particularly sympathetic to this MP’s views – but I do believe that speech and reporting of speech should be free of this kind of distortion.

Update: the Independent also has this story. They also report it as “In leaked recording Jonathan Gullis also called for teachers who criticise Tories to be sacked”. It is presented as an ‘exclusive’. One can listen to the audio. Anyone (other than a deluded ‘journalist’ firmly set on generating propaganda) can see that the MP did not do what he is accused of. On the contrary the MP, who appears to have previously been a school-teacher, speaks out quite cogently (even if his delivery is a little fast) about political ideology in the classroom. He even says that had he pushed his Conservative beliefs when he was working as a teacher he should have been “hauled up in front of the headteacher”. That is pretty clear; he doesn’t think that political ideologies should be pushed in the classroom. Labour or Conservative. Both the Guardian and Independent feed their readers a completely false narrative. One expects print media to have an editorial line. But there is a difference between allowing your editorial line to govern your choice of stories and the kind of comment and opinion pieces you offer and what we have here: false reporting. This is pretty sad. I just see it as part of the total collapse in values in the UK. No one even thinks that truth (generating a basic representation of reality using the symbol system of language to the best of your ability) matters any more. Politicians lie openly. Official government statements use a specialist spin language utterly bereft of moral content in which they manage to deceive and control the narrative without specifically lying. The press reports these scripts without comment. Journalists just write fiction as it suits the editorial line of the corporation who owns them. (Of course; maybe the motive here is simply to generate sensation and get more clicks).

* I haven’t really studied ‘white privilege’ but I’m going by a BBC definition. Based on this it appears to be a theory which says that the dominant racial group in a mixed race society has an inherent advantage in society because they do not face the discrimination which members of minority groups automatically face. (At least I assume that proponents of ‘white privilege’ would talk about ‘black privilege’ in say Nigeria; if not then it really would racial theory rather than a sociological one; though of course here too I expect some would argue that because of the history of colonisation white people enjoy ‘white privilege’ all over the world). – My view on all this is that of MLK: “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the colour of their skin but by the content of their character”. The interesting point about ‘white privilege’ it seems to me is that it takes racial discrimination – which is of course a reality in, say, the UK – though only up to a point – and it turns that around and invents a concept of ‘white privilege’; if some black people sometimes experience discrimination and all white people never do they (the white people) enjoy ‘white privilege’. Racial discrimination (while much less prevalent than formerly) is a real existent thing. ‘White privilege’ is some kind of academic concept which is stuck onto white people. I think it is a tactic in a war designed (in the thinking of its strategists) to give black people an advantage. Rather than fight to end all discrimination the idea seems to be to use discrimination for political advantage. It is divisive at the theoretical level; rather than try to end discrimination it presupposes the existence of discrimination and requires it in order to operate. It is reactionary (in Nietzsche’s sense). It seems to me to be patronising because it seems to assume that black people need extra help just by virtue of being black. It seems divisive in effect – stoking a race conflict just at that moment in society when racial discrimination was on the way out anyway. Anyway, as I say personally, I find all this banging on about race odious. Even talking about ‘white privilege’ seems to me to unnecessarily focussed on the colour of peoples’ skin. I would need to go into this deeper but it looks to me like another white liberal scam to grab power and hold onto it forever.

Weekly round-up 17-8-21

Absolutizing ‘democracy’

The Prime Minister of Canada, Justin Trudeau, has explained why Canada will not recognize the Taliban as the legitimate government of Afghanistan: “They have taken over and replaced the duly elected, democratic government by force” [1]

This, no doubt meant sincerely enough, is a good example of the kind of thinking which prevails in Western capitals. This reflects a belief in parliamentary democracy as some kind of whitewashing absolute value which trumps all others. No matter that this ‘duly elected, democratic’ govenment was a) only possible due to a massive armed invasion and occupation which saw tens of thousands of civilians killed, many of them directly by Western invasion forces, [2] b) voter turnout in the last Presidential election in 2019 was less than 20% [3] – hardly surprising since the country was in a civil war, c) the 2019 elections were were disputed amid allegations of fraud, d) the entire state and governmental apparatus of the country (that is that part which was actually controlled by the government) was riddled with corruption.

The Taliban subscribe to a version of the Islamic faith. It seems that parilamentary democracy is not a value in this system. Legitimacy is confered by faith and right-living, not by elections.

There is, as far as I can see, no philosophical argument which justifies making parliamentary representative democracy into an absolute value which trumps all others and which is so ‘right’ that one is justified in killing tens of thousands of people to impose an imperfect (almost farcically so) version of it.

The “conspiracy theory” of the lab-leak

I like this in the Guardian:

AFP reports that in the face of China’s reluctance to open up to outside investigators, experts are increasingly open to considering the theory that the virus might have leaked out of a lab, once dismissed as a conspiracy

“once dismissed as a conspiracy”. Ah – where would we be without the passive voice and its handy ability to hide the subject of an action? If we use the active we would have to say “which we, the mainstream liberal press including the Guardian, for a very long time dismissed as a conspiracy”. And we can’t have that can we? That is; it wasn’t dismissed as a conspiracy theory universally but by a specific locus of power and for specific reasons. They’ve changed their tune because in the face of mounting public evidence – especially the impossible to deny lack of cooperation from China – the carefully constructed “conspiracy theory” line was falling apart. (In part the idea that it is a ‘conspiracy theory’ stemmed from an artful article in the Lancet in which a group of scientists condemned the lab-leak theory as a ‘conspiracy’. It turned out later that there was a ‘conspiracy’ – the letter itself. At least one of letter writers had links to the organisation involved in funding the dangerous lab experiments in the first place yet at the bottom of the letter they wrote “We declare no competing interests”). [3] These people are not yet quite at the level of a fully totalitarian regime. A 100% full-on totalitarian regime can say “there is no famine” even when the TV presenter is fainting from malnutrition. These people (Western liberals) still have to maintain their brand and their brand includes a notion that they are objective truth tellers.

A new tactic by these shameless Ministers

UK government Ministers – at least the curent batch – strike me as setting a new bar for being self-serving and devoid of moral principles. One tactic I’ve noticed being used to deflect crticism is the tactic of responding to criticism by including junior staff in the answer. The effect is to neutralise the criticism because the critic is now seen to be criticising junior staff. This is a nice example from a government Minister James Heappey. The wider challenge was that UK government ministers have let down many Afghans who worked for the UK and who are now at risk from the Taliban and the specific point was that the UK Foreign Secretary did not place an important call with his Afghan ‘counterpart’ which might have helped. (This itself is of course a substanceless piece of media froth generated by the PR team in the Labour Party – but still the Minister needs to respond). This is how the Minister handled the criticism:

What I see is that from the prime minister to secretaries of state to my junior ministerial colleagues around government to senior civil servants, all the way down to the brave volunteer civil servants who have gone forward to Kabul … is people across Her Majesty’s government working their backsides off in order to get people out.

The tactic is to connect the Minister with the, in this case, “brave volunteer civil servants”, so that any criticism of the Minister appears to be criticism of the junior individuals – which of course no one would want to do. It is like a general hiding behind his troops rather than taking responsibility. The ex ‘Health’ minister (Matt Hannock) was a past master at this – often responding to criticism of his actions by talking about his “team” who have been working so hard etc. It is a tactic that can only take place in the context of the populist poliitcal culture – where the most imporant concern of Ministers is to be seen to be “connecting” to the public and “in touch”. Here the Minister secures two wins. He can come across as “in touch” – thinking about the junior staff – and at the same time subtly deflect the crticism of his role, or that of his senior colleague. (The leading analysis of the populist political class is the book by Peter Oborne The Triump of the Political Class). [4] (Notice too the ‘populist’ and informal language – “working their backsides off”. You can’t argue with that.)

Notes

  1. https://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/canada-recognition-taliban-1.6143660
  2. https://watson.brown.edu/costsofwar/costs/human/civilians/afghan
  3. https://thebulletin.org/2021/05/the-origin-of-covid-did-people-or-nature-open-pandoras-box-at-wuhan/
  4. Peter Oborne. The Triumph of the Political Class. Pocket Books. 2008. https://amzn.to/3zggERe