Archive for the ‘fascists’ Category

“Richard sent me photos of his private parts before I’d even met him,” says the redhead. “I thought this was very odd for a politician.”

Extremists. ur doin it rong

I can’t help but think this is a contribution to the ongoing debate about hero-of-the-blog Diego Gambetta’s work on engineers and terrorism. If stuff is upside down before you start the riot, fire, explosion, etc., your extremist cell could probably do with more engineers. Meanwhile, the SELF THOUGHT SPIRITUAL SCIENTIST guy next to him looks like he’s on a demo to demand that ordinary decent schizophrenics can de-compensate without the EDL lowering the tone.

Due to the 30th birthday, I didn’t cover this at the time, but there’s a really nice piece on the Bradford EDL rally and counter-demo here. “It’s the middle of Ramadan, as if we’re bothered about this lot”, indeed. And the EDL were the only people ever to decide that the Rubble Zone was a great place to hang out.

Something else I missed, except for the last 15 minutes: the Challenge Cup final. Lee Briers got the Lance Todd. Kevin Sinfield got his third runner’s up medal. He must be really desperate to escape the fate of another Loiner, Garry Schofield, who played in four finals and never won, a record.

Elsewhere: I’m sticking the boot in over at Stable & Principled again. What is it about the Blair/Gove academies that makes them so suited to influence peddling?

The Institute for Public Policy Research has issued a report on the correlates of BNP membership and support (pdf).

Fascinatingly, they reckon that there is very little or no correlation between BNP support and key socio-economic indicators like GVA per capita, growth, unemployment, immigration, etc. It’s as if a typical BNP supporter was, well, a case of free-floating extremism. (A dedicated swallower of fascism; an accident waiting to happen.)

Oddly enough, this replicates an earlier result.

The Nottingham University Politics blog has a more nuanced response, but I’m quite impressed by the fact that two analyses based on two different metrics of BNP support – votes in the IPPR study, membership in mine – converged on the same result.

…from the sea

What’s wrong with PROFIT?! Death to all Marxists! Hey, I usually try to remain calm, but this is getting unnerving. Everyone with any sense knew there would be an epic wingnut freakout after the US elections – the structural forces made it inevitable, after all the time spent denying plate tectonics – but who imagined that the tactical triggering event would be the healthcare bill? I was thinking in terms of carbon tax, or something that could be presented as a racist issue – immigration, perhaps.

But there you have it; you really can turn these people on and off like a tap and turn them on anything, like a hose. If there’s one remark I never want to hear again after the last few years, it’s the one about “if you don’t believe in God, you’ll believe in anything”.

Meanwhile, things like this happen:

“We are working taxpaying jobs, paying taxes, and we can’t get insurance because we make $6.55 an hour,” said Laura Head, 32, of Rogersville, Tenn., the first person in line Friday for the first day of the Remote Area Medical clinic, an annual three-day event offering free medical care. “This is really a great beneficial thing, but it doesn’t have to be this way; we could all have insurance.”

A single mother of three who mows yards and moves trailers for a living, Head said she arrived at the fairgrounds Tuesday, to camp out at the fairgrounds until the health fair began Friday morning. Her motivation was simple: severe, constant pain.

Close to two years ago, her boyfriend smashed her teeth, she said – but, without the $6,000 needed to have the teeth pulled she has endured infection after infection, making literally 100 visits to the emergency room for antibiotics and pain medication.

Back in February, 2008, I blogged about the French Navy dropping off a load of school books for New Orleans during a port call. I’m beginning to think that someone should write the story about one of their new Mistral-lclass Batiments de Projection et Commandement doing a free clinic on the tank deck, like the US Marines do from their LHAs in West Africa, as part of a semi-acknowledged drive for political influence in a zone of potential pre-insurgency and instability.

Or would the redcoats be more shocking? Albion would be the obvious ship, just for the name.

OK, so I got no takers for this prediction.

My money’s on the Latvian or the Hungarian to out himself as a buffoon or neo-nazi.

Not surprising, really. But what I didn’t expect was that even though the Latvian turned out to be the neo-nazi, the buffoon would turn out to be Timothy Kirkhope MEP, the Tory leader in the European Parliament, who I had always assumed to be an uninspiring but roughly acceptable placeman. But it looks like the Borat Party’s Borat is actually its leader. However:

He and the Latvian LNNK denied that it was in any way sympathetic to Nazism. “There was a commemoration of those who had served in the Waffen divisions of the Wehrmacht in the Second World War. The Labour Party has been churning this thing out over and over again,” Mr Kirkhope said.

“The truth of the matter is that attendance of the commemoration service for those who have died in wars is not just by members of LNNK — it is by others attached to the EPP because the Baltic states were taken over and oppressed by the Russians and the situation was that the Germans conscripted a number of people to join the Waffen.”

“The Waffen divisions of the Wehrmacht”? What the fuck is that even supposed to mean? For a start, “Waffen” means “weapon or “armed”. Did the German army of the Second World War have any unarmed ones? Of course, it’s completely nonsensical as a unit designation. Kirkhope was presumably trying to skate around the phrase “Waffen-SS”, which refers to the SS’s field units as opposed to its “general purpose” administrative staff.

But even if we straighten out his mangled words, his argument is still ignorant and morally awful, as it rests on the long-discredited idea that all the atrocities of the Eastern Front were the work of the SS, and the regular German army obeyed the laws of war. Further, even if that wasn’t wrong, he would still be hopelessly ahistorical, because the various locally recruited units the Germans set up starting in 1942 were administratively attached to the Waffen SS, not the Army. The Army did recruit a lot of foreigners as individual replacements, but it didn’t create a foreign legion; the SS did.

And worst of all, the earliest Latvian SS were recruited from a vicious militia which emerged as the Russians pulled out in the early summer of 1941 and immediately started murdering the local Jewish population without even waiting for the Germans to show up. The degree of horror they achieved regularly sickened hardened soldiers and deeply impressed the SS Einsatzkommandos that followed the army; they lost no time in signing them up and using them all over Central and Eastern Europe to do the dirty work, including acting as the guard force at the extermination camps.

As if you needed any confirmation of this, the Times report has a useful photo of a Latvian remembrance day parade, complete with red-and-white flag, swastika, and Adolf Hitler’s likeness. A note for the guidance of readers, and Timothy Kirkhope MEP: if you need to know if your allies might be fascists, check if they like to wave flags with Hitler’s face on them. This is not an exclusive test, but the false-positive rate is essentially zero.

(Oh, and if anyone’s still interested in the bet, I’m taking the Belgian guy or at least his party to place.)

More information is becoming available about the Christopher Hitchens brawl. It appears to have been a telling moment in Decency. The crucial detail is that Hitchens didn’t just deface any old SSNP artefact – he scrawled on the monument to the first shots fired in resistance to the Israeli occupation of 1982. Now, I’m sure the Syrian Social Nationalist Party – funny name, funny guys – are far from ideal. Funny swastikoid logoware, want to annex Cyprus, you get the picture.

But it’s hugely telling that Hitchens’ squiffy decision to take The Greatest Intellectual Struggle Of Our Times outside resulted in him doing three things – thinking he was fighting fascists, while in reality he was taking the side of Ariel Sharon, with the upshot that he got a kicking about which he could moan in a publicity-generating manner.

This is, after all, precisely the pattern of his career since the neoconservative turn in about 1998; protesting bitterly that he is on the Left, while mocking and demonising anyone who didn’t agree with the most aggressive hard-right US Republicans and Likudniks, and using the outrage and betrayal that resulted to prove his commitment to his new mates. Up on the Hill, they think I’m OK…they just don’t say, and it is in the nature of being the pet defector that you’ve always got to go further than the others to maintain your position. Hence things like his bizarre appearance on Newsnight to claim that the victims of Hurricane Katrina weren’t Americans.

Down at the tactical level of debate, it’s notable that he spent so much time between 1998-2005 strawmanning the opinions of various deranged groupuscules onto the great majority of British voters; someone like the SSNP, or George Galloway, has always been necessary for successful Decency.

The unconscious speaks. Considering the whole affair as a weird kind of liberal-hawk psychodrama, it’s significant that Hitchens took his stew of unresolved inner conflicts to Beirut, city of unresolved conflicts par excellence and a taste for high living. Both the SSNP brawl, and his self-administered waterboarding, can possibly be seen as a sort of ritual self purification through which he hopes to return to the Left (a Lacanian would call it the Father’s Law), now that gonzo-reporting CPAC has become something for the mainstream rather than a move reserved for Sadly, No!.

Various people asked what would happen if I excluded London and Northern Ireland from the BNP analysis. Here’s a table showing the R-squared for each factor, first for the whole data set and then excluding these two outliers. (After all, who needs statistical analysis to know those two are weird?)

Factor R-Squared R-Squared Excluding NI, London
Immigration 0.0364 0.0810
Emigration 0.0330 0.0460
Migration 0.0343 0.0843
Services % GDP 0.0639 0.0009
Industry % GDP 0.0885 0.0066
Agriculture % GDP 0.0659 0.1697
Long Term Unemployment 0.2078 0.0074
Unemployment % 0.1080 0.0235
Economic Growth %, 1991-2006 0.0782 0.0692
Density Change 1991-2006 % 0.0369 0.0035
Population Change % 0.0008 0.0160

I’m still not convinced there is any rational pattern here at all. Immigration is still astonishingly weak as a predictor of BNP membership; weirdly, economic growth is even weaker, and positive! (I’m feeling so prosperous…I’m going to join the BNP!) In fact, the only factor in the second set of numbers that has an effect measurable without going into three significant figures is the proportion of GDP accounted for by agriculture. Northern Ireland is both surprisingly agricultural (2.3% of GDP – 130% of the UK average) and unsurprisingly low in BNP members (0.0024 per 100), so we wouldn’t have seen this earlier on.

The Thatcher legacy – long term unemployment as a percentage of all unemployment – was the strongest correlate with R-squared = 0.2078, but when you drop London and NI, it vanishes, as does unemployment in general.

OK, so I’ve spent some time getting more data together on the correlates of BNP membership. I’ve created a table which contains the following metrics: population growth (%), change in population density (%), Gross Value Added (GVA) in 1991, 2006, change in GVA, % GVA growth, unemployment, long-term unemployment as a % of total unemployment, the shares of GDP accounted for by agriculture, industry, and services, total immigration between 1994 and 2002 per capita, total emigration per capita for the same period, total migration per capita, and BNP members per 100 citizens.

And you know what? I was expecting to find a correlation with the economic variables. I had a theory that long-term, Thatcher legacy unemployment, especially, would be a strong correlate of BNP recruitment. But nothing correlates. None of those metrics have any predictive effect. Have a look at this.

Bb5fd48a-b898-11dd-941e-000255111976 Blog_this_caption

This strongly suggests that some completely different force is at work; perhaps BNP membership is driven by something else entirely. It could be the distribution of social authoritarian tendencies in the population, as Robert Altemeyer theorises. Or alternatively, it could just be that a gratifyingly small percentage of people are completely fucking stupid and pig-ignorant, that this is normally distributed in the population, and it’s essentially a matter of chance what pig-ignorant fucking stupidity they get up to.

It’s probably worthwhile pointing out that the average concentration of BNP members is 0.0203 per 100 citizens and the standard deviation is 0.0116. So with the sole exception of Northern Ireland, 1.54 standard deviations below the mean and therefore staggering towards the edge of the 90% confidence interval, the variation between regions is entirely explicable by chance.

(For some reason, this post has started to remind me of Donald Crowhurst‘s campaign leaflet, which bore the headline “YOU MAY THINK YOU ARE LOGICAL – BUT DARE YOU TAKE THIS TEST?” Inside was a sort of flowchart designed to explain logically why everyone should vote Liberal.)

You will hear all kinds of people in authority say that immigration, or population growth, is causing people to turn into racists and vote BNP, either just because (the rightwing version) or because of “pressure” on public services (the Decent Left version).Therefore, they usually say, we need a stingier immigration policy. If you’re reading this, you probably think this is crap. But now, I can prove this scientifically. Thanks to the leaked BNP membership list, we can empirically measure how many people are active racists, active and committed enough that they joined a political party and paid a subscription. Using the data by county, I established a table that matched the UK regions.

Now, if immigration or population growth really is causing people to go fascist, we’d expect to find a correlation between population growth and BNP membership. Or, perhaps, we might find that places that are losing population are economically depressed and hence susceptible. A further detail might be changes in population density; becoming more urban might lead to a perception of being “swamped”, or becoming more rural/exurban might lead to one of isolation. So I drew up a table of population growth from 1991 to 2006, change in density for the same period, and BNP members per 100 citizens.

Here are the results.

Cb712430-b737-11dd-bf3a-000255111976 Blog_this_caption

Population growth is on the Y axis, bigots on the X axis; the size of each dot represents the change in density. There is no correlation whatsoever. Anyone who tells you this story is talking nonsense.

There is a fascinating post at Pat Lang’s about a study trip to Lebanon which involved meeting some interesting and alarming people (Samir Geagea, described here as “a bit Lyndon LaRouche” – well, whatever hard things have been said, quite understandably, about the latter, he never commanded a militia that cut huge crosses in the bodies of its enemies). Bashir Assad’s wife is apparently an Obama Girl, Walid Jumblatt is losing his wits, Saad Hariri is an arrogant twit, Rafiq Hariri’s sister is considerably smarter than Saad, Siniora is a Mann ohne Eigenschaften, and all the Hezbollah representatives they met were very impressive indeed, once they laid off the war porn propaganda pix.

Apart from this Lebanese version of the Spectator at its best, I was interested by this:

Amin Gemayel was not particularly forthcoming, and seemed badly out of touch. When pressed for details on a number of points he was completely at a loss. He seemed to resort to stock politician phrases even in personal conversation. My impression was of a man losing vitality. I tried to push him on the question of what a real ‘national defense strategy’ would be, seeking some common ground between him and Hezbollah. He replied that he envisaged a ‘Swiss model’ of every citizen owning a gun. Incredulous, I asked him if that would really deter Israeli or Syrian aggression. He responded evasively, citing the importance of various UN resolutions. When I cornered him privately after the session, he said that in the 1970s they had tried to acquire Crotale air defense systems but were thwarted by Israeli pressure, indicating that similar factors were at play today.

Not that he means much these days, but I can’t see what the objection to a “Swiss model” would be. In fact, Hezbollah’s total strategy down south appears to have been exactly that in 2006. And given that Lebanon will always be surrounded by bigger powers with dubious intentions, and it is unlikely to be allowed to create a manoeuvre-warfare capability even if it can afford to (see above), it’s hard to see what other policy is available.

Further, the availability of cheap ATGWs and electronics is a big boost to the strength of such a force, and there is no shortage of people to use them. In some ways it’s a lot like the development of another well-known army in the Levant, which was founded on the guerrilla wing of an integrated political party/economic development organisation/rebel army. Can anyone guess which it was? Of course, the Israelis concentrated on buying tanks – but then, they weren’t in the mountains. The other good thing about such a policy is that it would be a handy way of dealing with the existence of militias – wrapping them into some sort of national command structure.

And, of course, Lebanon used to call itself the Switzerland of the Middle East. The similarities are actually more than you think – cantons of differing linguistic/religious identities, mountain frontiers, a profitably discreet and profitably dubious banking sector. You can even ski. But, you know, Switzerland as an island of perfect peace is quite a new idea, created by its neutrality in the world wars – before then, well…there’s a reason why the pope has Swiss guards, which is that back in the day, Swiss mercenaries scared the hell out of Europe so much that some international treaties specifically bound the parties not to recruit them for use against Christians. (Savages, well, that was OK.)

The overall impression is that the system is gradually working its way back into equilibrium, not least as a result of Bush no longer having an active policy. “Have you figured them out?” asked Zaphod. “No, I’ve just stopped fiddling with them..”