Gorey matters


No, I ain’t dead yet, just busy with the election campaign. Next Wednesday is the big day, when we’ll see who gets voted into Parliament this time and whether the new government will last longer than 86 days… I’ve also been on holiday and had little time for blogging then either.



While I’m busy campaigning, shoving flyers through letterboxes, freezing my nuts off standing behind a stall in the market explaining why you should vote SP, why don’t you take a a look at Goreyography? Yep, you guessed right, it’s a website dedicated to the weird and wonderful works of Edward Gorey, author and artist. There’s also a Gorey font if you like that sort of thing. Both found by Sandra.



Oh and please: Turn your Back on Bush

Schadenfreude

So the much lauded rightwing coalition of CDA (Christian democrats), VVD (neoliberals) and LPF (idiots, mostly) has collapsed. Oh dear. And I was sooo enjoying the LPF soap.

So what happened to the Revolution, the New Politics the LPF would bring? What happened to Pim Fortuyn’s heritage? Well, it turned out that stuffing a party full of nitwits, egotrippers and cocky businessmen is not a good idea. Without Pim Fortuyn as leader to guide them, power struggles erupted. The party had no vision, no experience and no leader. It was part of a coalition with the two parties with the worst reputation for power games, whom both had long experience in keeping coalition partners down. The LPF never had a chance.

All of which means there will be new elections soon. Until then, there’s nobody governing the country and important decisions cannot be taken… What this will mean for the upcoming decision about extension of the EU, to which the Netherlands has to give its consent, is anybody’s guess.

Objectivists defend blacklisting

I was idly googling on Michael Italie, the sewing machine operator and SWP member who was fired from his job at Goodwill after he ran for mayor of Miami, when I came across this gem: The Importance of Blacklisting, hosted at the Objectivist Center.

In this article, one Roger Donway describes the case of Michael Italie and argues that Goodwill was in their right to fire him, that in fact this was a tactict objectivists should emulate. He argues that blacklisting is justified in defending “bourgeois standards”:

The central issue of the Goodwill case has nothing to do with the right of free speech or the right to run for office, for those rights were not touched. The central issue of the Goodwill case is nothing but the right of citizens to weaken their destroyers by refusing to fund them. Of course, when alumni and employers withdraw their money, Marxist professors and anti-capitalist employees will whine, “Don’t I have a right to my own opinion?” To which the proper answer is: “Yes. And I’ll be happy to debate your opinion, if I have time. Meanwhile, I decline to support those who attack the political-economic system that makes my support possible.”


[…]

Consequently, I believe that libertarians should openly align themselves with the philosophical advocates of bourgeois morality, whatever the cost in popularity may be. They should point out that a major virtue of abolishing government regulation and subsidies will be a greater need for rationality, personal responsibility, and productiveness; a greater need for prudence, sobriety, and thrift; a greater concern for one’s own reputation and a greater reliance on the reputations of others, with a corresponding esteem for those behaviors — patriotism and cultural assimilation, marriage and child- rearing, decorum in conduct, speech, and appearance–that are commonly thought to be indicators of personal solidity.

But libertarians should go further still. They should also urge plausible, non- political mechanisms –ostracism, boycott, and blacklist–that will impose severe costs on those who flout bourgeois standards.

In short, Dunway argues punishing people for their political beliefs by taking away their livelyhood is okay, that objectivists should in fact use this tactic to “defund the Left”. Pretty vile, if you ask me. It’s typical of a certain breed of Libertarian: quick to claim the moral high ground, though their deeds are anything but moral.

Socialist gets fired for his political beliefs

(This is old news, as it happened in October of last year but still instructive.)

Michael Italie was a sewing machine operator at Goodwill Industries in Florida, who also ran for mayor of Miami on behalf of the US Socialist Workers Party. A few days after he appeared on a televised debat with the other candidates for mayor, he was sacked:

On Oct. 22, a sewing-machine operator named Michael Italie was fired by Goodwill Industries, the network of nonprofit groups best-known for collecting and selling used clothing and furniture in order to provide job training for the disabled. Among Goodwill’s lesser-known functions is to supply low-cost contract labor to the federal government. Italie’s job was to sew U.S. Navy jackets in Goodwill’s Miami plant. The factory had been humming since Sept. 11; to meet the surging demand for American flags, it had gone on a 24-hour production schedule.

At 5 p.m., half an hour before the conclusion of his 10-and-a-half-hour shift, Italie’s supervisor called him into the personnel office, where he was greeted by the plant’s head of security. “Because of your views of the U.S. government, which are contrary to those of this agency, you are a disruptive force and cannot work here anymore,” he said, according to Italie. “Take your things and go.”

Italie does indeed have a view of the U.S. government that is unconventional, even hostile: As a member of the Socialist Workers Party, he favors creation of a “workers’ and farmers’ government” in the United States along the lines envisioned by Karl Marx, V.I. Lenin, and Leon Trotsky. (The Socialist Workers Party began life in 1928 as a Trotskyist splinter from the Communist Party U.S.A., but over the past 30 years the venerable blood-feud between Leninists and Trotskyites has faded.) “We don’t advocate violence,” Italie told Chatterbox. “Violence is rooted in the capitalist system.” (He really does talk like that.)

According to the above Slate article this politically motivated firing was completely legal. I find that disturbing. In my view employers should never be able to fire their workers for what they do outside work (apart from criminal activities like
theft or rape).

Brendan O’Neill doesn’t get it

Nor does Mick Hume. They both, O’Neill in his weblog and Hume in a Times article complain about how “the left” has responded to the new revelations about the September 11 attacks. The last week or so evidence has come out that the Bush administration may have known about the upcoming attacks, or at least had enough information to know some sort of attack was imminent -why else would Ashcroft have started traveling on chartered jets?

Hume first:

Was September 11 preventable? The answer, of course, is yes. All the Bush administration had to do to
prevent those terrorist attacks was to close down the entire civil airline industry and evacuate all skyscrapers and government buildings (or, better still, empty the cities of New York and Washington). Then it could have rounded up and interned all Muslims and everybody of ‘Middle Eastern appearance’ (including several million US citizens) and launched nuclear missile strikes against Afghanistan, Sudan and anywhere else that might be accused of harbouring Osama bin Laden and his agents. Job done.

Does anybody see the flaw in this? That’s right, it excludes the middle! It’s a common tactic. Juxtapose your own, entirely sensible position with something ridiculous and over the top (for bonus points imply this is what your critics think), make sure everybody knows how ridiculous it is, then declare victory. In this case Mick Hume, ignoring practical measures that could’ve been taken to prevent the attacks, instead pretends that the only choice was between doing nothing or unleashing World War III to stop the terrorists.

However, the prevention of the Millennium bombplot, because one of the bombers was stopped during a routine US border patrol suggests otherwise.

Then Brendan O’Neill jumped on hume’s bandwagon, in an article called the shame of the left:

The shame of the left. At first it was just annoying — all the endless anti-Bush carping about what Bush knew, didn’t know, should have known, and failed to do. Some left- wing websites turned their entire content over to mocking Bush and revelling in the revelations that the administration knew something prior to 11 September. It was annoying because it suggested that the left has become
incapable of developing a decent political alternative, instead jumping on the politics of chance,
rumour and conspiracy.

Then it became more than annoying. By getting bogged down in the ‘Bush knew’ fever sweeping America, the left actually granted Bush a significant moral victory and made it far harder for themselves, or anybody else, to protest against the Bush administration in the future.

[…]

With their demands that Bush do more, more, more, the anti-Bush left have effectively given him carte blanche to clamp down on civil liberties, issue panicky warnings that will heighten people’s sense of fear, and even to intervene abroad in the name of stopping attacks on the USA. The left have argued that ‘precautionary action’ should be the centre of American politics — and Bush might just be happy to take up their offer.

Here O’Neill takes Hume’s portrayal of “the left’s criticism” as fact, using it to castigate them. Again, the middle ground between doing nothing and turning the US into a police state and the rest of the world into a bomb crater is ignored:

How will the left respond when Bush and Blair and their friends in the West decide to bomb Iraq, on the dubious grounds that Saddam Hussein is building weapons of mass destruction with which to threaten the West? The ‘evidence’ for Saddam’s weapons programme may be thin bordering on non-existent, but so were the pre-11 September warnings of a hijacking in America. When Bush says he is bombing Iraq as a precautionary measure to protect America, the left won’t have a leg to stand on.

This is specious arguing at its worst. Hume and O’Neill have taken sensible criticism of the Bush administration, twisted it beyond all recognition and then used this strawman to beat up “the left” with.

I cannot help but think they have an agenda in this. O’Neill and Hume aren’t strangers to each other. Mick Hume is the editor of Spiked Online while Brendan O’Neill is its assistant editor. Spiked Online itself is the reincarnation of the old LM Magazine, previously known as Living Marxism, which disappeared after it lost a libel trial. And both magazines were involved with/part of/published by (the distincitions are unclear) the old Revolutionary Communist Party, which disappeared into its own asshole to re-emerge as the quasi libertarian-socialist Institute of Ideas [1].

Spiked touts itself as a champion of “unorthodox, enlightened thinking” but I’ve always had the nagging feeling they were just another group of establishment pundits. They often seemed to be more interested in slagging of “the left” then in doing much to shake up the established order. In this context, this latest attack on the antiwar left makes sense. It establishes once again their independence, their “freethinking” spirit, without running much risks. It impresses the punters and I bet those two articles will be quoted all over the blogosphere in the next few weeks or so.

[1] This Guardian article has some more detail about the Institute of Ideas. More about Living Marxism can be found in this Weekly Worker article.