February 27

Little Bits of History

1964: Italy requests help to save an iconic landmark. The Torre di Pisa, or as we call it, the Tower of Pisa, has been leaning since before it was even fully constructed. The freestanding bell tower is part of the cathedral built in the Italian city and known worldwide for its distinctive tilt. It is the third oldest structure in Pisa’s Cathedral Square with only the Cathedral itself and the Pisa Baptistry older. Groundbreaking took place in 1173 but there was inadequate foundation for the structure. The ground on one side was too soft to support the weight of the tower.

It took 199 years to built the tower. Work began during a period of military success and therefore, local prosperity. When the work on the second floor began, the tower began its slow and inexorable tilt. The structure,  which eventually rose 184 feet into the sky, was built on…

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Echo & the Funny Men

The Trump administrations’ latest in a seemingly never ending line of gaffs has been to prevent certain news organisations from White House briefings. CNN, BBC and the New York Times have been singled out  and banned for…well, reporting the news. This news of course, is actual news, and not the fake news Donald Trump so often reminds us of.

Or is it fake news? At this point (31 days into his presidency) I’m honestly not sure. The lines between reality and dystopian sci-fi nightmare were already blurring as state results were swinging in his favour last November, so you can forgive me for not having a clue what he’s on about half the time.

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The maniacal nature of this presidency is anxiety inducing, tear-jerking and terrifying – it is everything you want from a Sunday Netflix binge. Sadly however, it is real, and in and amongst the cringe worthy interviews, satirical slaughtering of Trump, his staff, and support, along with the occasional bursts of ‘wow did he just..?’ there is a suspicious undercurrent of authoritarianism.

News organisations such as the BBC are often accused of bias. Ask a broad range of Scots and you will likely be met with an unequivocal rejection of this idea, or, an extended explanation as to how the BBC influenced every sentient life form in Scotland during the run up to the 2014 independence referendum. Brexiteers also followed this route, lambasting the BBC and main stream media for portraying their cause in a negative light…whilst they lied through their back teeth about NHS budget increases.

The BBC has its flaws, its shortcomings and its scandals, but it is a fantastic and informative service to the public,  the same can be said about their co-conspirators in this diabolical MSM propaganda campaign, it is a disgrace that they have been cast out.

Since his election, there has been no shortage of news to report from Washington, and the air time reflects this. In fact, I’d go so far as to say it’s just getting boring now, but the fact of the matter is that everything the press has reported thus far has either been announced by the White House, or proclaimed loudly by Trump himself (most likely on stage, in front of numerous other news organisations who also publish and broadcast his statements).

We are of course talking about news here, stories as they unfold, not opinion or punditry. Nonetheless, the media has a right to air or publish content such as this, if the White House can’t handle an opinion piece, then do they have the ‘stamina’ that Trump so boldly declared he had?

How can the White House exile these organisations in good conscience?

Wait, let me rephrase that…

How can the White House now morally or legally justify exiling them?

Hang on, I’ll try again…In fact no, no I will not try to rationalise this.

The reality of the situation here is that the Trump administration is desperately clambering to control the narrative, and by refusing to engage with news organisations critical of the government, branding them ‘fake news’ or biased, they think they can maintain this control through their own channels – They are gravely mistaken. With each passing threat toward the media and with every day they are locked out, the Trump administration loses what little reputation it even had in the first place, and places the ball into the court of the opposition and the press.

A fundamental aspect of any democracy is a free press and a transparent government. These two are delicately entwined and have been for decades. To restrict the press from carrying out its role of informing the public, and holding power structures to account, is an insult to the system itself and those living in it. Furthermore, it is a stain on the legacy of the idols they revere; Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln Et al

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In the alt-right echo chamber that Trump, his supporters and puppet master Steve Bannon exist, they feel safe and secure. After all, if you disregard opposing beliefs and ideologies, viewing your own as superior and everyone else as a cuck or snowflake, then it’s easy to understand why you’d be so eager to suppress everything else, you’re doing the world a favour. It would also be nice to imagine a world where nobody disagreed, where everyone conformed to the same thoughts and beliefs. (if you’d like to read more about this I’d suggest George Orwell’s ‘1984’.)

If your sources of information are through news outfits such as Breitbart, known for its sensationalist and often offensive content, or InfoWars, led by a man who believes the upper echelons of the Democrat Party are part of an inter-dimensional, vampiric paedophile ring* – I’m being serious here – then I imagine your life would be pretty peachy. After all, ignorance is bliss as they say.

A real democrat however would relish the opportunity to see debate flourish, political engagement rise and a population elevated. A true patriot would welcome a stronger democracy, and in turn a stronger nation. The golden boy of the Republican Party, Ronald Reagan, would have rolled his sleeves up and slugged it out in a manner befitting of the office, he wouldn’t run away and scream 140 characters worth of bile onto social media.

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Trump is none of the above, and seeks to restrict those things, instead relying on ignorance and intolerance to control, through marginalising large parts of the populace and de-legitimising the pillars of democracy. We have seen on a number of occasions in the past century where a free press is portrayed as an enemy of the people, and these have largely been in totalitarian regimes such as Nazi Germany, Stalinist Russia and Maoist China – Is this any way for the President of the United States to act?

For a man and a movement that so often squeals about freedom of speech, he doesn’t seem too keen on ensuring it works both ways.

I’ll leave you with a quote from a real democrat, century’s old but still frighteningly relevant:

“Guard against the impostures of pretended patriotism.”

* For more on Alex Jones’ mind boggling statements see: Joe Rogan Podcast episode 911

Image Credits:

Gage Skidmore (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/legalcode)
(https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/legalcode)

Chris Christian (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/legalcode)

 

 

 

Dreams of the Past: A United Celtic Kingdom

Throughout the late 13th to early 14th century, the British Isles were the scene of bloody conflict. The Scottish wars of Independence, initiated with the rebellion of William Wallace and Andrew Moray – and completed by Robert Bruce – were arduous, brutal conflicts that tore at the very fabric of medieval Britain.

Scotland had long been prized by the English, who dominated both mainland Britain and Ireland. Although an independent Kingdom, Scotland was easily controlled as the smaller, weaker kingdom, often engulfed by petty rebellion, famine & poverty. King Edward I had maintained a firm grasp on the Scots through the puppet king John Balliol, who attempted to rebel but found himself in the Tower of London for his petulance.

King Edward I is the archetypal authoritarian ruler of the Medieval period. Unrelenting, intelligent and cruel to those who oppose him. He viewed the Scots, Irish and Welsh with an enormous contempt, believing them lesser. He crushed the rebellion of William Wallace, had him hung, drawn and quartered. A frightening taste of his vengeance were you to challenge his rule. His death however, marked a downward spiral in Britain that would see war and famine rule supreme. His son Edward II was not of the same cloth – Often portrayed as a gentile, perhaps weak man, incapable of the strength or cruelty his father possessed.

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With Scotland’s sovereignty firmly secured after Bannockburn in 1314, it would be safe to assume that Bruce would solidify his rule in Scotland and prepare for any future attacks from England. A Medieval defense strategy, utilising Scotland’s natural barriers; Its mountain ranges, glens, rivers and turbulent coastline. However that was not the case. In a very much unacknowledged period of British history, Scotland was on the front foot and could even claim to have been the dominant player in the game.

Edward Bruce, under the orders of his brother, King Robert, launched an offensive in Ireland to unite the two regions under the crowns of both Robert and Edward. The former would retain control of Scotland, and the latter would adopt the mantel of High King of Ireland. This bold strategy would have the potential to completely change the dynamic of Medieval politics in the British Isles, and forge a kingdom formidable enough to match England, and other nations in mainland Europe.

The reasoning behind this is quite clear; Open up a second front against the English, stretch their capabilities and capitalise on the weakness of King Edward II, who appeared to be completely blind to the military and political reality of the situation he found himself in post-Bannockburn.

Support for this action in Ireland was welcomed by some in the North. Historically the Bruce family had ties to the Ulster region through their mother Marjorie, the Countess of Carrick. With both Celtic and Norman heritage, the Bruce’s had ample opportunity to create a lasting, cross-cultural dynasty. However, as with the cultural self-determination of the Scots, the Irish had long been wary of foreign interference – regardless of shared heritage between the Scots and Irish

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In May 1315, after being declared the rightful heir to his brother’s kingship, Edward Bruce landed in Ireland with a force believed to be around 5,000 men. At this time, Ireland was divided into a series of smaller, petty kingdoms, many of whom initially opposed Edward. However in June of 1315, King Donall O’Neil of Tyrone swore fealty to Edward, along with a dozen other northern kings, proclaiming Edward as King of Ireland.

Irish accounts of the time state: “they consented to him being proclaimed King of Ireland and all the Gaels.”

With this act, Edward had secured a significant foothold in Ireland, ruling much of middle and eastern Ulster. This plunged the English nobility into a frenzy. English control of Ireland had been secure for a number of years, and was highly profitable to the kingdom. With such a disastrous defeat a mere 12 months before at Bannockburn, and now the establishing of a united kingdom in Northern Ireland, many in England were losing what little faith they had left in the monarchy.

After seizing Carrickfergus, Bruce marched south, taking Dundalk. In a quintessential Medieval fashion, Bruce laid waste to the town, raising virtually all of the buildings and massacring indiscriminately both the Gaelic and Anglo-Irish people’s there. Although an act of shocking barbarism, it is clear the Bruce did so to intimidate the opposing Irish dominions that he would later encounter. Instilling fear into the enemy of the present – and those he would meet further on, would prove to be an effective move on his part.

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In July, Bruce would face his greatest test thus far of his budding kingship. At Sliabh Breagh, near Ardee, he was faced with two opposing forces. Led by Richard Og de Burgh, 2nd Earl of Ulster and his ally, Felim mac Aedh Ua Conchobair, King of Connacht, Bruce faced a formidable challenge to his advance. The second opposing force, led by Edmund Butler, Earl of Carrick, looked to surround Bruce and hamper his supplies and potential retreat.

Rather than face off against a numerically superior force, Bruce decided to withdraw, sacking the town of Coleraine during his retreat, and isolated De Burgh’s forces after burning the bridge passing over the river Bann. In a second act of genius, he parlayed with rivals to Felim, King of Connacht, who then invaded his kingdom, forcing him to withdraw and suppress the rebellion at home.

After crossing the river Bann, fresh with supplies and troops, Bruce defeated De Burgh near Connor in September.

English dominion in Ireland was on the ropes. Could the Bruce’s be defeated? Was this the beginning of the end or the Plantagenet dynasty and the heralding of a new dominant name in the form of the Bruce’s?

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Prophetical tales of Robert Bruce being King Arthur reborn began to circulate around the English kingdom, and Edward II went so far as to execute those who were proliferating these prophecies.

The idea of this is particularly interesting. Dating back centuries, the tale of King Arthur points toward a resurgence of the subjugated Celtic people’s in the British Isles. The deposition of the largely Saxon & Norman based culture now prevalent on the island, and the ascension of Celtic culture would completely alter history as we know it.

From an English perspective, this was absolutely unacceptable. Were Ireland to fall entirely into the hands of The Bruce’s, then by rights, Wales would likely follow suit on accounts of their Brythonic heritage. Additionally, England had claim to Irish holdings through Papal Decree. If the Papacy decided to abandon this in favour of Edward, the outcome was bleak.

This exact scenario almost came to fruition in 1317. After two years of tentative but successful campaigning in Ireland, supporters of Edward Bruce requested that Pope John XXII delegitimise the English claim to Ireland in support of Edward. Fortunately for King Edward II, this request was ignored.

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This proved to be the perfect opportunity through which Edward II could re-establish his rule. He called upon the Anglo-Irish Council – an institutional method of regional control – to begin preparations for a joint effort against the Scots-Irish alliance. Reinforcements were dispatched to Ireland in light of recent losses, which saw a joint force against Edward Bruce beaten back and the sacking of Kells.

After wintering in Loughswedy, Edward Bruce began preparations to move further toward his ultimate goal. However support was beginning to dwindle. The denial of Pope John XXII dented his pride and legitimacy. Furthermore, Edward’s supply methods were beginning to tire among the Irish population. A continual supply chain from Scotland was not viable at the time, and so they resorted to pillage and plundering the regions through which they traveled. With their logistics strained, Edward failed to completely control the regions he had conquered thus far, and his lack of popularity grew further.

History is often cruel, and we see that events are shaped by the circumstances under which they arise. This occasion is no different. From 1315-17 Europe suffered through what became known as the Great Pan-European Famine, and Ireland shared in this turmoil. With a lack of food, no army can survive, disease will spread and the numbers will dwindle over time. Edward, it seems, fell victim to the tumultuous nature of a primitive era, and he was finally defeated and killed at the Battle of Faughart in 1318.

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Not much is known of the Battle of Faughart, other than that Bruce was the architect of his own defeat. After making a series of safe plays previously, he may have been over-confident in his ability to outwit the Anglo-Irish forces he faced. His Irish allies are said to have refused to engage with the enemy outside Dundalk, and as such he placed them at the rear, in a strategically ineffective stance, choosing his Scottish troops to lead the vanguard.

In addition to this, he decided not to wait for reinforcements from home. Scottish chronicler John Barbour, as well as the Annals of Clonmacnoise both correlate their claims when stating

[He was] “anxious to obtain the victory for himself, he did not wait for Sir John Stewart’s brother.”

Contrary to these accounts, English chronicles of the time point toward Edward’s confidence in battle, and, a level of naivety and incompetence.

“The Scots were in three columns at such a distance from each other that the first was done with before the second came up, and then the second before the third, with which Edward was marching could render any aid. Thus the third column was routed just as the two preceding ones had been. Edward fell at the same time and was beheaded after death; his body being divided into four quarters, which were sent to the four chief quarters of Ireland.”

With a final hammer blow, this sounded the end of Robert Bruce’s master plan for a united Celtic kingdom. Scotland’s security was assured to a degree, however the risk of their powerful English neighbours seeking revenge was ever present. Scotland did have successes on mainland Britain in the years following however. In 1322, the Battle of Byland in Yorkshire lays claim to Scotland’s most significant victory over England since Bannockburn, albeit on a smaller scale. In the centuries to come, peace was never assured, and both Scotland and England regularly made plays throughout the border regions of both respective kingdoms.

One must ponder the impact upon British and European history this would have had, were it successful. The combined area, population, wealth and might of Scotland and Ireland may have proven a buffer against English aggression during the period. Had victory been achieved, the Welsh may have also taken up arms against English dominion and joined this kingdom. With defeat, often comes blame, and it would likely be placed solely at the feet of King Edward II. His deposition would have been inevitable, and civil war likely.

A weakened England would be unable to compete with the French on mainland Europe, and the British Isles may have seen a dominant military, political and cultural force in the form of the Scots-Irish Kingdom, rather than Anglo-Norman, thus massively changing history as we know it.

 

Singapore: A Nail in the Empire’s Coffin.

On the 75th anniversary of the invasion of Singapore, one can reflect on the monumental impact this event had upon the British Empire. During the height of World War Two, to lose such a strategic position in the Far East was, to put it bluntly, a failure of cataclysmic proportions.

Britain had retained its dominance in the Far East for the best part of a century , and as with the tradition of colonialism, had done so through brute force, with millions dying in China & India during decades of British control. In fact, as Japanese Imperial forces besieged the island fortress, millions were dying in India as a direct result of British policy.

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This event marks the beginning of the end for both British and European dominance in the region . Once firmly under the thumb of European capitalist powers, the grip of these nations was slipping in the face of unparalleled Japanese expansion, and ultimately led to the complete disintegration of colonial rule in the decades following.

The political impact of this at the time, and the years following World War Two cannot be ignored, and the story of Singapore’s fall is a bloody, brutal one, resulting in countless deaths that continued to rise in the months & years following. Japan solidified its position as a power to be reckoned with, their tactics during the invasion of Malaya and the attack on Singapore were both dynamic and ferocious in equal measure, it was this fanaticism and ferocity that led the Allied Powers to take drastic measures in combating the Japanese, later leading to the use of atomic weaponry.

During their push toward the Gibraltar of the East, Japanese divisions were instructed not to take prisoners, as it would slow down the advance upon their target, and place pressure on the logistical aspects of the invading forces. Hundreds of wounded were murdered, and countless civilians who were believed to have helped the allies were also murdered. From reports at the time, it was claimed that Australian prisoners and civilians were doused in petrol and set ablaze – These claims paint harrowing similarities to their occupation of Manchuria and the rape of Nanking.

Japan’s relentless advance was met with complete disbelief by the British command, who viewed them with the same contempt we so commonly see toward non-whites and colonial insurrections at the time. Britain did not see Japan as a threat to their empire or holdings, one that stretched across the globe and upon which the sun never sets. This arrogance, in response to the actions of supposed smaller nations, or powers deemed inferior, had led to disastrous defeats in the past for Britain.

The Boer War, several invasions of Afghanistan and the First World War seemed not to pester the minds of British imperialists and military commanders. British imperial power was absolute, who could possibly challenge the Royal Navy? Take Singapore? Simply preposterous. Singapore’s governor, Sir Shenton Thomas, reflected the mood and culture within the British command when he is alleged to have said: “Well, I suppose you’ll shove the little men off.”.

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It was this complacency, lack of planning and incompetency that led to the fall of Singapore. The fine-tuned, highly disciplined Japanese military was rampaging throughout South-East Asia and the Pacific, and was soon to land upon the shores of Singapore Island and obliterate all before it. Initial intelligence had Britain believe any invasion of Singapore would come by sea, despite army forces encroaching upon the Malaya colony, and as such, defences were altered to cater for such an attack.

These beliefs seemed to have been proven correct, as in late 1941, the Imperial Navy launched an offensive in the area. British vessels such as HMS Prince of Wales and HMS Repulse were destroyed by torpedo bombing during a naval skirmish. This surprised Naval Command, dealt a killer blow to the illusion of British naval superiority,  and eliminated Britain’s naval defence of the Island and greater area.

Casting our gaze toward the land defence of the Malayan colony, one would assume the advantage lay with the Empire forces, dug deep in their island fortress with efficient supply lines. General Percival, commander of Army Forces in Malaya, had 90,000 men at his disposal, compared with the 65,000 men the Japanese could field.

However, as with the Russian advance on Germany in the late days of the war, battle experience played a key role. Many of the men under the command of General Tomoyuki Yamashita had seen combat in Manchuria, a bloody campaign carried out with a Wehrmacht level of efficiency and precision – Many of the British forces had never fired a shot in anger. A series of bloody battles erupted on the Malayan Peninsula and the British, Indian & Australian forces – unable to hold at bay the ferocious Japanese infantry – sounded a full retreat. They were pursued relentlessly and on February 8th 1942, 23,000 men crossed the Straits of Johor.

Defending forces were bloodied, exhausted and spread too thin, and could not match the speed and ferocity of the invading force. In a cruel twist of fate, Britain’s previous intelligence came back to haunt the defending divisions. Singapore’s formidable artillery batteries were all but rendered useless, as they pointed toward the sea and were of little use. Britain had placed all its chips on an invasion force arriving from the completely opposite direction – The gamble failed.

Cry Havoc! And let slip the dogs of war. Japanese forces ran amok throughout the island, in scenes reminiscent of their invasion of Manchuria several years previously, killing indiscriminately and with no concern for the gentrified illusion of war that British troops had become so accustomed to. Alexandria hospital was attacked, with little attention paid toward Red Cross symbols, nor mercy granted to the wounded & sick. Patients and staff were murdered and dozens were held outside overnight, bound tightly together with little water or food.

Fighting on the streets of Singapore was fierce, but allied forces could not withstand the tide of Japanese troops. Over 100,000 men were captured, thousands of whom were to meet their fate on the hallowed Burma Railway.

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The surrender of colonial forces is a monumental moment in British Military history, and in the months & years following, commanders came under intense scrutiny for their incompetence, as well as their fleeing of the island, condemning their men to cruelty and death. On the eve of the invasion, Winston Churchill is claimed to have said:

“Commanders and their senior officers should die with their troops. The honour of the British Empire and the British Army is at stake.”

Despite this defeat, British arrogance and disbelief still remained, with Gordon Bennett, Lieutenant General and Officer in Command of Australian forces stating:

“The whole operation seems incredible; 550 miles in 55 days – forced back by a small Japanese army of only two divisions, riding stolen bicycles and without artillery support.”

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The humiliation of defeat and the solidification of Japanese power in South East Asia is often the focal point of the Malayan theatre. However the fall of Singapore leaves an often unacknowledged legacy.

Although victory against Japan would be eventually be achieved, the defeat leads to a series of events that would ultimately destroy European control in Asia. Japan, hardened and uplifted by their victory, would continue to march ever further toward the ultimate goal, the jewel in the Empire’s crown – India, placing further pressure on Britain in a brutal conflict in the jungles of Burma. It greatly damaged the seemingly invincible position of the British in the East, and, in the years and decades following the war, dozens of colonies – specifically Vietnam – would rebel against British, French & Dutch rule, thus plunging the world’s newest superpower into an unwinnable conflict.

 

 

The ‘F’ Word

The term ‘fascist’ is thrown around so nonchalantly today that the word itself is beginning to bear next to no meaning. Its overusage dilutes the term to the point where anyone on the authoritarian spectrum could be by our definition, a fascist. When one imagines fascism, we conjure images of Mussolini, Franco, Hitler. We imagine the bald-headed, brainless Neo-Nazi thugs that demand Shariah Law be abolished in Britain – despite it having never been imposed. We imagine the horrors of Nazism and the bombing of Guernica during the Spanish Civil War.

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Credit: Gage Skidmore @ Flickr

Some may say the fascists of today do not wear brown shirts, they wear crisp suits, ties embellished with American or British flag pins, they cast their votes out of anger and they read Breitbart or watch Fox News.I have my own views of the political right, continually we witness the deregulation of social services & the financial sector, policies regarding personal choice that are deeply detrimental to women’s health, and populism that ultimately breeds division and petty nationalistic viewpoints. His policies bear all the signs of fascism, however to brand an entire demographic as fascist, or sympathetic toward this ideology, is equally as damaging and divisive.

With Donald Trump’s first two weeks as POTUS, he has followed through on many of his absurd campaign promises. The pinnacle of this being the immigration ban that affects the citizens of multiple Middle-Eastern nations. Lets be honest with ourselves, this is a blanket ban applying purely to Muslims, enacted under the auspices of ‘keeping America safe’ – It is not. It is purely an act of symbolic gesturing, made in a petty effort to ensure the great ignorant masses of the US and the West that Trump is doing something, anything, to prevent hypothetical and unlikely bloodshed on our streets.

The reality is this however, nations such as Iraq, Iran, Somalia, all have radical groups & individuals, they all have their issues – Ironically, many stem from US imperialist meddling. But if one were to truly tackle the issue of Islamic Extremism, hateful ideology and the threat to supposed Western values, then Trump would have included Saudi Arabia on this list. He has not, and I am sure you are aware as to why he hasn’t included a nation that still mutilates criminals, beheads apostates and prevents women from accessing the basic human rights and dignities that we all enjoy.

Trump is displaying inherently fascist tendencies thus far in his time as POTUS, we can all agree on such. Plans to introduce a weekly ‘list’ of crimes committed by immigrants bears harrowing similarities to tactics employed by Nazi Germany. Breeding fear of the unknown, the different coloured men, those whose prayers differ from ours, it’s all there, in plain sight. His ludicrous wall is nothing more than an effort to prevent the influx of Latin American immigration, in an attempt to limit cultural and societal integration, and perhaps in the long-term, restrict his political rivals from a share of a vital voter demographic.

The White House press team are ever striving to control the flow of valid, factual information. Throwing out ‘counter facts’ to stifle the press’ ability to report, and in their following, we see the perfect weapon to delegitimise the press. Droves of mindless social media users, frighteningly uninformed and brainwashed to 1930s standards, who cry ‘fake news’ as often as leftists cry fascist or thereabouts.

Opponents of the Trump presidency are too quick to cry ‘fascist’ in my opinion however, and their doing so but merely fuels the fire that burns through the Trumps followers. During the election campaign cries of racism and bigotry merely solidified Trump’s voter base and encouraged an ‘Us versus Them’ mentality. People (somehow) voted for Trump for these reasons, and will likely continue to support him for carrying out his campaign promises. Make your voices heard, organise and resist, but more importantly, remember to engage with the opposition and encourage debate. Change their minds and allow them to see the madness unfolding, utilise the free press and factual information. Do not bombard the airwaves with insults as relentlessly as they do.

For the purpose of objectivity, one need look no further than Obama administration for the hallmarks of fascist behaviour.

Under Obama mass surveillance was established and even so much as accepted, those who outed these blatant infringements upon civil rights were ostracized, imprisoned or continue to be hunted by the US Government. Execution of US citizens without due-process or trial was seen as the norm through Drone strikes (See: Anwar Al-Alwaki for more) and thousands of civilians have been needlessly killed in Pakistan and other Middle-Eastern countries, all under the auspices of maintaining American security.

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Credit: Stephen Melkisethian @ Flickr

The closure of Guantanamo Bay was promised during an arduous election campaign, it was not, and continued the summary torture of prisoners, many of whom had received no legitimate trial or due process. Finally, let us not forget that Obama utilised the executive order, at times with such haste, that it rendered government pointless.

Are these not the actions of an inherently fascist regime? Abandoning the judicial processes of the state and preemptively attacking without concern for civilian casualties or the political consequences? 1930s German acted in a similar fashion, annexing states under the guise of liberating German minority demographics without a moments thought for the diplomatic ramifications, the indefinite imprisonment and torture of political prisoners, the introduction of secretive, clandestine surveillance measures. These are all comparative and all fascist in nature.

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Credit: Medill Dc @ Flickr

Barack Obama was known as the ‘Deportee in Chief’ and under his government, the levels of deportation were nine times that of the decade previous to his government. Obama also introduced a temporary travel ban for Iraqis. By my recollection, there was no such level of rage, no mass organisation of protests, no Twitter campaigns or popular online petitions. Did we not see this at the time, or did we simply ignore it for the sake of having a government that acted on behalf of many?

This is not intended to be a tit for tat, they did this, they did that post. But for the sake of maintaining some sanity I felt it was worth pointing out that under successive governments we have seen increasingly fascist tendencies. American’s supported the Patriot Act a decade before this, and the British public followed suit, we have allowed successive administrations to lay the inevitable groundwork for the dissolution of democracy and we here in the UK have done so the same. Laying the blame for this culture of division and rash policy making at the feet of one man is as absurd as it is forgetful – This is all on us.

Allowing individuals such as Trump to even be considered as candidates, through outdated voting methods and democratic structures, also on us. Wholesale reform is required and I am not the man to suggest how, but it is obvious that the way to achieve this is to use your vote to elect those who will truly represent the people, not corporate stooges and yes men.

If people took the time to engage and involve themselves in politics before it arrived at this point, and if governments were continually held to account, rather than the selective ire that we see once every so often, then governments would act purely on the consensus of their voters and ludicrous travel bans would not be in place. Perhaps if western imperialism and world policing were halted then we would not see the failed states that supposedly threaten us, if we simply educated our working classes, offered them the chances in life they have been promised and stopped belittling them, then they wouldn’t follow demagogues and liars who claim to represent them.

Keep protesting, it is heartening to see such unity and it is what the left does best, but try and remember you allowed this before, and probably will again.

 

 

Image Credits: Stephen Melkisethian (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/legalcode)

Gage Skidmore (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/legalcode)

Medill DC (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/legalcode)

Why Do You Care?

There seems to be a culture of questioning why one should care about issues far from their doorstep. Social media brings out the worst of this, “Why do you care?” “What difference will this make?” “Focus on your own issues”. Are we restricted to caring about one issue at a time? If that were the case, would anything change?

In the weeks running up to Donald Trump’s inauguration, there have been protests around the world, and today Edinburgh, Scotland, has seen a protest involving dozens of people in the city centre. The public response to news articles covering this varies from support, to indignation, and some go so far as to question why, say, a Scottish student would protest the inauguration of the new US President? The answer is quite simple; We are all in this together.

I would say that focusing on every issue imaginable would be equally as stifling to progress as focusing on one at a time. However to ignore the realities that will be affecting other human beings, purely because they’re living in another country, is ridiculous and shows a complete lack of empathy, compassion, and interest in the lives of others. Furthermore, showing an interest in American politics and society does not equate to a lack of interest in the ills that affect those in other nations, or their own, it merely proves that our world and societies are interconnected, vibrant and strong.

Stop chastising people for caring, it is your right to protest regardless of where the issue takes place, or whom it involves.

The Fake News Debacle

The ‘Fake News’ debacle is not one to be taken lightly. Although many social media users are capable of identifying legitimate news sources, it seems the lines are becoming increasingly blurred on what is considered news. Furthermore, the use of this phrase is allowing the public, and governments to ignore issues or deny wrongdoing.

The Pizza Gate affair – the details of which I will not delve into – has shown the influence that social media has upon the spread of information , factual or false. In light of this, Mark Zuckerberg has assured us that Facebook will begin introducing precautionary measures to filter out falsified news stories, this is a good start. Twitter is following suit.

The situation is very, very dangerous. If a fake news article is read and subsequently shared by thousands of people online, then the risk of damage to character is very real, as well as merely proliferating an ever-growing culture of misinformation in the ‘post-truth’ society we find ourselves in.

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The political left and right should be united in their attempts to clamp down on slanderous material. However, like with virtually every other issue, they are growing further apart. Each side profit from having the public misinformed on the activities of their rivals, no doubt. However is this really the society we wish to live in? One that rejects legitimate news reporting for mere conjecture?

In 2016 we witnessed a so called ‘rejection’ of conventional news sources, the dreaded and dastardly Main Stream Media. The menace that has allegedly plagued the people’s of the western world for decades, and promotes the far more feared ‘PC’ society – One where people simply can’t spout racial or religious hatred (Ridiculous, right?). Trump supporters and Brexiteers alike share the common idea that the MSM cannot be trusted, and instead place their undying devotion in the hands of the demagogues they follow, relying on their leaders to inform them and rejecting objectivity entirely.

Whilst browsing social media on Saturday, I happened across several articles posted by The Guardian and Independent. The response to these articles was astounding, with several individuals accusing the publications of posting ‘fake news’ – using the term in the form of a hashtag. These were genuine news articles, not garbage. Actual pieces focusing on current issues and upcoming events, one of which was the arranged women’s march in Washington DC (Article can be found here)

Upon scrolling through the fake news hashtag, it seems this was plastered all over posts by news organisations and individuals. A common theme was that these were pieces critical of Donald Trump or the alt-right. Now the issue of impartiality in news coverage is an entirely different conversation, and I do not have the time, nor the statistics to look into air time, number of negative articles etc, so I’ll avoid it.

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However to me it appears that many on the right of the political spectrum are using this tag as a means to de-legitimize genuine news articles and stifle discussion. After all, why have an in-depth debate on an issue when you can simply ignore your opponents or write them off as the pawns of a political conspiracy? It almost appears to be encouraged by the PEOTUS as well. Upon hearing of claims that a dossier contained information pertaining to Russia’s involvement with Trump – and the dangers of this – he took to social media to castigate those who had published the information, deeming it to be fake news, and claiming that Buzzfeed was a fake news organisation.

This is a highly volatile situation we face, if this document leak was false (there are claims and counter claims), then it is the responsibility of the media to acknowledge this, and any publication of it is wrong. However, on a fundamental level, if information critical of government can be suppressed through making this claim, then we linger dangerously close to the edge of a society found only in the works of George Orwell.

I tried engaging with one user and asked him why he had deemed this to be fake news, but was met with the response of “Coming from the side that cries racist”.

Now there is no denying that many on the political right are met with unjustified claims of xenophobia or racism, and that is equally as deplorable and counter-productive to debate as what we discuss, but this gave me a terrifying glimpse into the world of online discussion. A future in which one side screams, and the other refuses to acknowledge that the scream itself was legitimate.

If we continue down this path, then press freedom, accountability of government, and civilised debate will become things of the past. This cannot be allowed to happen, but what is the solution? Can we truly expect society as a whole to be equally well informed? People will believe what they want to believe, I suppose it’s up to the rest of us to not go insane dealing with the madness many spout.

Featured Image Credit (Original): Freepress.net [https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/]