Why I’ve switched from the Guardian to the Telegraph

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One thing that’s characterised this website throughout its nearly a year! of existence is a puppy-like loyalty to the newspaper The Guardian. I do read other news sources (including the BBC, the WaPo and various outlets in Italian, Spanish and, you know, Welsh), but my mainstay has always been the favoured journal of pinko bleeding heart libtard scum. Having read Nick Davies’ book on churnalism, I’m not an unquestioning reader of the Guardian’s coverage, but I do have a strong emotional attachment to it, to the extent that in our house we have not one but two subscriber-only Guardian-branded shopping bags. Within my world the phrase ‘I read it in the paper’ is always understood to refer to one publication, and it’s definitely not the Daily f*cking Telegraph.

However, I’m increasingly aware, in this age of filter bubbles, that I should seek to broaden my ideological horizons by varying my media diet, to push through the algorithmic fences that limit and direct our online movements*. News coverage biases aside, there’s obviously a risk of being exposed to the party line if I only read whatever George Monbiot, Aditya Chakrabortty, Suzanne Moore, and Owen Jones think of the world. James Ball, in his book ‘Post Truth’, lists reading a wider range of news sites as one means of resisting the tide of bullshit news. He also argues that newspapers themselves should seek to represent a range of political viewpoints. To be fair, The Guardian has made some efforts in this direction, employing columnists such as Matthew Norman, Simon Jenkins, Max Hastings, and for one brief period in the mid-2000s, Nick Griffin**. It’s important to challenge readers’ preconceptions from time to time. Maybe, since he’s no longer at the Guardian, Seamus Milne now writes a weekly column for the Daily Express. I wouldn’t bet my Guardian shopping bags on it though.

The obvious counterpart to the Guardian is the Daily Mail. If you can get past the almost always hateful front page it does have some stories which are both entertaining and reassuring if you happen to share its splenetic worldview. However, even though I live in Rome I simply cannot take the risk of being seen by a compatriot looking at the Daily Mail website on my phone. Maybe it’s merely my own projection, but I would actively sneer at such a person. Then there’s The Times, which does have lots of quality journalism and thoughtful columnists such as Caitlin Moran and Matthew Parris. The problem there is the paywall:  I’m not paying Rupert Murdoch a fucking penny***. So, further to the right, without dropping down a level to the Dailies Express or Star, we have the Torygraph. Although I don’t have any Telegraph-reading friends, in my family history there was one: Duncan, my favourite uncle, who was extremely affable, fittingly avuncular and profoundly Conservative. He would not have been seen dead with a copy of the Guardian – indeed, he still hasn’t been in the five or so years since he passed on. While he was alive his relationship with the Telegraph mirrored mine with the Guardian. This letter gives a flavour not just of his character, but also that of a lot of Telegraph readers: slightly blimpish but jocular with it. The perfect audience for Boris Johnson’s ultimately ruinous shtick, essentially.

My uncle lived all his life in the provinces; you very rarely see people in London reading The Telegraph (and even fewer in Rome, oddly enough****). It’s the favoured newspaper of Tims-nice-but-dims and white-haired colonels living in Surrey. When I picture the archetypal reader it’s Jim Bergerac’s friend Charlie Hungerford that springs to mind: an image of blustering pomposity unmatched by intellectual brilliance. I once knew a journalist who told me that during her training she’d learnt that regardless of its range of vocabulary, the level of argumentative sophistication of Telegraph articles is equivalent to that of The Sun. But these are ultimately prejudices, ones I want to, if not overcome, subject to rigorous reexamination.

However, there’s an immediate problem, viz: if I even think about that c*ntrarian Toby Young my blood starts to simmer. Plus, whenever there’s a Telegraph journalist on ‘Question Time’ you can pretty much guarantee that he or she will agree with at least 80% of whatever verbal effluence Farage comes out with. The Telegraph provides a platform for people who it’s very, very hard not to regard as mere trolls. Its chief political commentator is Charles Moore, whose climate denial makes it very hard to take seriously anything he writes on other topics. In addition, the Brexit vote almost certainly wouldn’t have happened had it not been for Boris Johnson’s Telegraph column spreading outright lies about the EU. Then there’s episodes like this, not to mention the tone of snobbery endemic to the whole enterprise. Nevertheless, the Telegraph does also employ proper journalists, experienced fact-finders who assiduously follow professional guidelines to render the truth with accuracy and fairness, even though it’s presented in the form of articles whose editorial bias occasionally makes people who care about others want to vomit with rage :-P.

Another reason for becoming a Telegraph reader***** is that in contrast to the Guardian’s Comment is Free pages, pretty much all of whose content I’m primed to agree with, it would surely be more useful for me to engage with those with opposing views (insofar as I have to comment in discussing newspaper articles online. Obviously I don’t.) However, as it happens there’s no shortage of right-winger commenters on CIF, in particular following articles written by women or those that dare to mention racism and/or climate change. Ideally, online debates on newspaper articles would be a meeting of minds and a serious engagement across the lines of political affiliation which would put our ideas and assumptions to the test; in reality, the internet doesn’t work like that, regardless of the masthead. At this point, anyone commenting below the line can be regarded as a troll unless they specifically prove otherwise.

It’s time to don the surgical gloves and get a forensic feel for the innards of this exotic creature, the Daily Telegraph website. As it happens, I’ve just received a handy email drawing my attention to the publication’s star columnists. When I click through to the site, however, I’m faced with an obstacle: much of what they write is only available to ‘Premium’ subscribers. I don’t have a problem with paying for online content – the Guardian will be forced to introduce something similar one day – but that particular word I find off-putting, designed to appeal to elitist values that I don’t subscribe to. There’s an echo of ‘How to spend it’, as though quality reporting and incisive commentary is a luxury. It turns out that unless I’m a paid-up subscriber I also can’t comment. But this is a club in whose leather-bound armchairs I don’t think I’d be very welcome to recline.

On the front page, however, I immediately feel more comfortable. There’s some bad news about Brexit, which is as it should be, and a report on George Sanders’ Booker Prize win. I really should get round to reading that novel, I think. I’m already starting to relax and feel that I’m simply reading a newspaper, rather than creeping through a rat-filled gas-reeking enemy trench. The Sanders article does have a particular angle which if I was feeling vexatious I could choose to regard as Typically Telegraph, the idea being that the Booker’s opening up to non-British and Commonwealth writers was misjudged. I could choose to get annoyed about this but on reflection its a fair point, and one I’ve come across elsewhere. There’s far more promising trigger material in an article by someone called Zoe Strimpel: an attack on the #MeToo meme, whereby women who’ve suffered sexual harrassment out themselves on social media. With its dismissive tone, references to “dated” 70s-style feminism, I soon find that the finger is starting to tighten. The whole piece seems like exactly the kind of thing you’d expect to find in The Daily Telegraph website, or maybe it would, except I can’t read the whole piece because I’m not a subscriber. Oh well. I click instead on (part of ) an article by Michael Deacon, who I’ve come across on Twitter, where he’s constently thoughtful and smart. On the Telegraph site he’s literally smart, with an colourful oversized tie and a sardonic expression which is also present in his writing – it has the wry tone of a parliamentary sketch writer. The piece is enjoyable (he’s having a go at David Davis), but it’s also Premium, so it also stops halfway through. I can take out a trial subscription, easily cancellable if I decide that the Barclay Brothers are to be trusted. At this point I think about all the things I could be doing in life rather than signing up for the Daily Telegraph website, but then remind myself that (at the risk of sounding as pompous as a Telegraph leader writer) understanding what other people think is probably one of the top three most important things in life. I decide that I will give it a week: no Guardian for seven days, just a steady diet of p̶o̶m̶p̶o̶u̶s̶,̶ ̶b̶i̶g̶o̶t̶e̶d̶ ̶h̶o̶r̶s̶e̶s̶h̶i̶t̶  news and commentary from an unfamiliar source. Hopefully the experiment will serve to both broaden and refine my view of the world; if, on the other hand, I suddenly start sporting a bow tie, declare Brexit to be the best thing since the slave trade and proclaim Jacob Rees-Mogg to be the saviour of Western civilisation, you’ll know something’s gone horribly wrong.

*A clear example of, in the words of Thomas Pynchon, ‘unshaped freedom being rationalized into movement only in straight lines and at right angles and a progressive reduction of choices, until the final turn through the final gate that leads to the killing floor’ (Against the Day, 2006, p11).
**An example of fake history.
***Why are there far fewer pubs in the UK than there used to be? The reasons are manifold and well-understood: housing market pressures; the smoking ban; changing demographics; cheap supermarket booze; and, perhaps most importantly, the greed of Rupert Murdoch. Recently, in a conversation about Cardiff’s disappearing drinking establishments, a taxi driver told me about a place he used to pick the staff up from. It was on the verge of shutting down, according to the duty manager, because the owners couldn’t keep up the payments on the Sky Sports package. The pub was paying, I shit you absolutely not, £600 a week. In case you’re too shocked to think, I’ve done the maths for you: that’s more than £30,000 a year. The effects of Murdoch’s social impoverishment of British society are akin to the damage that his Zimbabwean counterpart has done to his country’s economy.
****You may be able to buy a paper copy of the Telegraph from Roman newspaper kiosks, it’s never occurred to me to enquire. There’s always ‘Il Giornale’.
*****Apart, that is, from the cricket coverage.

Blow for Trump as golf stars ‘take a knee’

In an unforeseen development which will shake the world of sport to its core and cause further embarrassment to President Donald Trump, a number of the world’s leading golfers have chosen to demonstrate their solidarity with black victims of police violence by ‘taking a knee’. The golfers’ gesture will surprise those who saw the sport as one which would be resistant to political pressure. It will be politically disappointing for Mr Trump, as he is, like his North Korean counterpart Kim Jong Un, a major golf enthusiast, to the point where he has so far spent over two months of his term on the course.

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The first golfer to join the protests was current world number 1 Dustin Johnson, who remarked “I cannot stand by while people of colour are treated with contempt by law enforcement officers and denied justice. It is quite frankly unconscionable”.

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Johnson’s playing partner, three-time Major champion Jordan Spieth, was quick to join in. He said: “The response this week by certain sections of white America to the mere act of black sportspeople peacefully protesting what they rightly see as race-based injustice has been extremely unedifying. As a leading golfer it behoves me to stand up for my fellow Americans.”

Justin Thomas, winner of four PGA tour events, took the knee during the President’s Cup golf tournament in New Jersey. He said that he was “proud to take part.”

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He was joined by the winner of that competition, Steve Stricker, who told a subsequent press conference organised by Black Lives Matter that “As a human being, an American and a public figure, I had no hesitation in making this gesture. The rebirth of white supremacy, especially since this current administration took power, is both terrifying and deeply, deeply shameful.”

2017 Open Champion Brooks Koepka looked sombre as he knelt on the immaculate putting lawn at Florida’s Olympia Fields. He made no comment to the press, but did give a black power salute to the assembled crowd after completing the 18th hole.

Veteran golfer Matt Kuchar, who has won 13 titles throughout his lengthy career, said it was essential for someone of his stature to show an example to younger players, especially people of colour who aspire to play golf.

PGA tour star Rickie Fowler said that “as a Christian” he “would have been embarrassed if he hadn’t” taken a knee during the British Master’s event at Close House.

Tiger Woods also took part, subsequently stating via Twitter “#fuckDonaldTrump”.

A surprise participant in the protests was President Donald Trump himself, who commented “Racism is and always has been endemic to the American project, and my presidency is vivid living proof of that. Our country is literally unimaginable without plundered labour shackled to plundered land, without the organising principle of whiteness as citizenship, without the culture crafted by the plundered, and without that culture itself being plundered. This has to end. I am a disgrace”.

Mail editor Paul Dacre to be knighted at long last

“Arise, Sir Paul!”

Despite his pronouncements at last week’s Bafta ceremony on the innate snobbery of the British media industry (see our news story), Daily Mail editor Paul Dacre is set to receive the ultimate establishment seal of approval.

On accepting his fellowship of the academy award, the 79-year-old, who is also editor-in-chief of Mailonline, caused a controversy by telling the audience he had “never really felt I belonged in my own country, in my own profession.”

Quoting government sources, Saturday’s Sun newspaper said he was to be knighted in the Queen birthday honours list in June, on the personal recommendation of Prime Minister Tony Blair.

Dacre, born Maurice Micklewhite in east London, has appeared in more than 80 films, and is also a celebrated restaurateur with five eateries in London and one in Miami.

He has been nominated for an Academy Award five times, winning twice as best supporting actor, for Woody Allen’s 1986 Hannah and her Sisters and, last month, for Cider House Rules.

The Queen’s Honours are bestowed twice a year, on New Year’s Day and to mark her official birthday in June.

CORRECTION: It has been pointed out that this article contains a number of errors. It appears that details from an April 2000 Guardian article about the actor Michael Caine (now Sir Michael Caine) have somehow become attached to Mr Dacre. We are currently investigating how this may have occurred and would in the meantime ask that this misleading report not be widely shared as it may cause distress to Mr Dacre, who is understood to be deeply bitter that his lifetime’s service to inaccurate journalism and social division has never been and never will be rewarded with any sort of formal honour, ever. 

Here’s what the illiberal media doesn’t want you to know about the Finsbury Park attack

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My wife and I used to live just up the road from the Finsbury Park Mosque, but now we live in Rome with our four-month-old daughter. How will we cope with bringing up a child in a time of mounting global turmoil, with terrorist attacks and climate disasters assailing us on almost a daily basis? In much the same way that previous generations have: by telling her stories which introduce and explain the world as comfortingly and as gently as possible, tales which allow her to gradually sense the dangers but also to imagine herself into the world as a protagonist as well as (we hope) a responsible citizen.

Adults tell each other stories in much the same way. The internet has sped up the process of the fabrication of fairy tales. Within minutes of an event like the attack in Finsbury Park, there are already rumours circulating online. Why did the police take so long to arrive? Could it be connected to the Grenfell Fire, or to London Bridge? Did it really happen? Is it all a distraction, a ‘false flag’?

Such gossip reassures people. It tells them who they are and situates shocking events in a familiar context. It reminds people they are powerless, that the world is under control, while also allowing them to pose in their heads as both initiates and heroes, privy to and sharers of occult and dangerous truths.

But while as parents we have our daughter’s best interests at heart, wanting to protect and prepare her for the joys and hazards of existence, purveyors of internet fairy tales do not. They use stories to manipulate, to promote an view of the world which benefits particular interests.

The mainstream media can operate in similar ways, but without as much blatant dishonesty and manipulation. Where that does exist, it tends to be infinitely more complex and sophisticated and not by any means always conscious. Recent exceptions to this, most notably Blair’s dodgy dossier and the lies of the Brexit campaign, have discredited democracy and the media and encouraged people to get their information about the world from even less trustworthy sources, ones that make a virtue of their antipathy towards formal media standards and regulations.

Someone in a Jeremy Corbyn Facebook group this morning was quick to blame the Finsbury Park attack on the “New World Order”. His kneejerk recourse to that phrase suggests he may have come under the spell of that most fraudulent of all tricksters, Alex Jones, who just by coincidence (really, Richard? Is that what you think?!) was the subject of a horribly misguided puff piece on NBC just last night. Jones is prominent nowadays as he has the ear of the President* and also because for the last few years he has been telling the world that the Sandy Hook Elementary School Massacre didn’t happen, that the children who ‘died’ and their ‘grieving’ parents were all actors. In promoting this story Jones achieves several objectives: drawing attention to himself, posing as someone who’s wise to what ‘The Establishment’ is secretly up to, and (most importantly) letting gun-lovers off the hook. The NRA is, of course, one of the most powerful and dangerous organisations in US history.

You don’t have to dig very far to see how the fledgling roots of these online fairy tales connect to some of the most powerful reactionary interests in the world. Online conspiracy theorising is, after all, a deeply conservative phenonenon, even though its often those on the Left who fall prey to it. Yesterday someone in the same Facebook group someone posted a link to an article which promised to tell you the facts that the ‘liberal media’ want to keep hidden about the Grenfell Fire. The article cut and pasted a post from the far-right website The Daily Caller which blamed environmental regulations for the disaster. The same material has been published days earlier by the right-wing British tabloids the Daily Mail and Express. While we can choose to ignore news outlets which we know to be controlled by political and/or business interests and place our critical trust in more independent, transparent and accountable publications, the internet exposes us to much more insidious attempts to hack our brains and install ideologically toxic misinformation.

No wonder Jones’ ‘friend’ Donald Trump instructs his supporters to ignore everything the ‘liberal media’ writes about him, while boasting that all he knows about the world he learned online. Progressives have to be cleverer and more critical than him when dealing with information about news events. That shouldn’t be too difficult, in theory. Just stick to news and commentary sites designed for adults, learn to question what you read without rejecting facts and arguments out of hand for no good reason, and steer well clear of those purveying internet fairy tales.

ps. If you’re seeking the facts as they stand in relation to the Finsbury Park terrorist attack, here are some sources which can help you:

http://www.guardian.co.uk
http://www.bbc.co.uk
http://www.independent.co.uk

Ps. This, from the University of Sheffield politics blog, is a very compelling argument which we Labour members and supporters ignore at our peril:

The ‘rigged economy’ conspiracy theory

In a previous critique of Corbynism, I examined the ‘personalised’ critique of capitalism which underlies the worldview of Corbyn and many of his supporters. This perspective sees poverty, economic crashes, inequality and even war as being the result of the conscious behaviour of shadowy ‘global elites’, usually in the financial sector.  Such a viewpoint, common amongst right and left, fails to grasp capital as an abstract social relation, dominating both rich and poor alike, and at its most extreme can lead to anti-Semitic conspiracy theories of Jewish plots to rule the world through control of the banks.  The prevalence of this kind of foreshortened critique of capitalism (or neoliberalism, as popularly understood) goes some way to explain the spread of conspiracy theories about the ‘Rothschilds’ and ‘Zionists’ through much of the ‘Canary’/‘Skwawkbox’ left, as well as the alt-right – they are not contingent or accidental, but the consequence of pushing an analysis of capitalism as conspiracy to its logical conclusion.

Since his ‘populist turn’ at the start of the year, Corbyn has severely ramped up this kind of talk.  Throughout the election campaign there were endless references to the ‘rigged economy’ set up by elites which had ‘ripped off’ the British people.  Like the isolationist foreign policy, this discourse has an appeal to both the ‘anti-vax’ wing of the Green left and the Trumpian-UKIP right, with the vagueness of the ‘rigged’ concept allowing people to point the finger of accusation at whatever scapegoat fits their particular prejudice.  While it can be effective, there is an inherent risk in this kind of approach to politics, in that it can rapidly spiral out of control and in unexpected directions if not strictly supervised.  There is no guarantee that once let out of the bottle this kind of personalised critique of capitalism will inevitably lead in a progressive direction.  If it is true that Corbyn has managed to patch up a right-left electoral alliance on these grounds  –  along with implied migration controls and an isolationist foreign policy  –  it will require extreme vigilance to ensure it does not veer onto a regressive track.

(http://speri.dept.shef.ac.uk/2017/06/13/reassessing-corbynism-success-contradictions-and-a-difficult-path-ahead/)

Wikileaks boss appeals for ‘any’ information regarding Donald Trump

Wikileaks founder Julian Assange has made a public appeal for “any” information relating to US President Donald Trump.

Speaking from the cupboard in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London where he has for the past few years been hiding from trial on several well-substantiated rape charges, the Australian-born hacker asked for “anyone out there” to provide his organisation with “any” details relating to Trump’s “public life or private dealings”.

“We at Wikileaks would be very grateful if anyone could google Mr Trump’s name, do a screen shot of the results page and email it to us”, he said. Referring to Wikileaks’ “stainless” reputation for exposing corruption among public figures and its track-record of campaigning for transparency, he requested details such as Mr Trump’s place and date of birth, his middle name and information relating to any major controversies or scandals he may have been involved with in the past.

Mr Assange also specified that his organisation is “very interested” in allegations of Russian collusion in the recent US election (won by Mr Trump) and asked that anyone sympathetic to the aims of his organisation visit the New York Times or BBC websites, find articles containing the basic facts as they stand, print them out and send them to ‘Wikileaks, Utility Cupboard, Ecuadorian Embassy, London’.

He also urged supporters of Wikileaks to look beyond the “mainstream media” and visit sites such as Reddit and Twitter in order to track down any information relating to Mr Trump, particularly in relation to the sort of business activities he may have engaged in before becoming President and also what political program he campaigned on during the election.

Asked why, given that Wikileaks normally works by drawing on an extensive global network of secret informants, hackers and whistleblowers, he did not use other more surreptitious means to investigate Mr Trump and his alleged Russian contacts, Mr Assange paused and said that he “hadn’t thought of doing that” but that he “didn’t want to get in trouble with (at this point he appeared to adopt a comedy Russian accent) ‘you-know-who’. 

Mr Assange stressed that Wikileaks will continue to do “whatever it can” to expose misdeeds in public life, “regardless of political bias”. In response to questions as to why his organisation had not sought to investigate allegations of corruption against far-right French Presidential Candidate Marine Le Pen, and had instead endeavoured to diffuse disinformation against her centrist opponent, Mr Assange was nonplussed, explaining that he personally had been “away” for the last few weeks in another part of his utility cupboard, and that Wikileaks must have been “hacked, or something”. He appealed to anyone possessing or with access to any basic biographical information on Le Pen or any details regarding France (its geographical coordinates, the name of its capital city and any major landmarks generally associated with it) to send it marked for his personal attention at “the usual address”.

Mr Assange then excused himself, explaining that he had a “very important health-data related project” to complete for “a group of private clients”.

“Not just the Rothschilds”: Wikileaks reveals truth about Macron

In a not-quite-a-shock move designed to shift the balance of the French Presidential Election in favour of the candidate who denies the Holocaust, Wikileaks (previously renowned as a media transparency organisation, now more widely regarded as an amalgam of mercenary hacking collective, source of digital forgeries which benefit the far-right and rape cult) has published documents that prove “conclusively” that “former Rothschild usurer” Emmanuel Macron is connected to a “secret conspiracy to dominate the planet”. 

Describing the revelations as “extraordinary and unprecedented”, cupboard-dwelling Wikileaks founder and aspiring Bond villain Julian Assange said that the documents raised “very serious questions” about the long-term goals of Macron and other “globalist neoliberals” such as George Soros “and various other jews”.

Assange also stated that as a proven and powerful ally of “at least three major world leaders”, the chances of his getting away “scott-free” with raping a “reasonable” number of women were now looking “very much improved, thank you for asking”. He then, to giggles from a number of male Wikileaks colleagues, added the words “allegedly raping”. In response to a question about the global implications of enabling a lifelong fascist to be elected as leader of one of the world’s most powerful countries, Assange replied that he found it “funny”. Asked about connections between his organisation and the Kremlin, he smirked and said “no comment” in what appeared to be a comedy Russian accent.

The Wikileaks tranche of emails relating to Emmanuel Macron (released as part of an ongoing collaboration with the Breitbart website and the Office of the Presidency of Russia) can be found here.

P.s. Someone has responded to this written-on-the-bus-in-five-minutes-in-a-blind-rage piece of hot-take satire by pointing out that Assange has claimed Wikileaks has nothing to do with the slurs against Macron. The fact that he was threatening three months ago to do exactly this suggests very strongly that he’s lying. He will do and say literally anything to get out of that cupboard (except face trial on several well-substantiated rape charges, obviously).

Milo, Miller and Marine Le Pen: Pedophiles, Nazis, and genocidal Islamophobes

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No thinking and feeling human being can do other than take great satisfaction from the downfall of the white supremacist activist/’libertarian’ ‘provocateur’ (aka racist troll) Milo Yiannopoulos, who was exposed this week as an advocate for pedophilia. This icon of the “alt-right” movement clearly thought we as a  civilisation had reached the point where all forms of abuse of the vulnerable by the powerful could be openly celebrated, but it turns out he was wrong. From now on all coverage of the alt-right should include an explicit reference to its chief figurehead’s support for the rape of children.

The speed with which the far-right fake news outlet Breitbart dumped their star turn shows that they are more vulnerable to media exposure has been assumed. It’s unfortunate that no such outrage has accompanied the news that White House spokestroll Steven Miller is also an outright white supremacist. Progressive elements in the mainstream press should counter any tendency to normalise such affiliation by seeking not just to expose him but actively seek to oust him and others like him.

The global far-right movement knows how to stretch the boundaries and to insinuate their values into mainstream and even ‘progressive’ opinion. Yesterday  I saw this in practice. At some point over the last few months I must have liked or signed up to a US-based Facebook group called ‘Real Progressives’. It seemed mostly made up of Bernie ‘supporters’ who had been naive and/or arrogant enough not to heed their hero’s warnings at the most crucial time, and thus helped Trump into power.  Still, with the election out of the way and all radical forces united in opposition to the new ‘President’, I would have assumed that we had essential values in common.

That turns out not to have been the case. On Tuesday someone who, judging from their profile, was clearly a pretty serious racist posted a meme showing the French fascist leader and Presidential candidate Marine Le Pen calling for children wearing headscarves to be expelled from France. The immediate response from members of the group was not just approval, but a collective outburst of genocidal racism. There were even people calling for Muslims to be sterilised. My remonstrations (and those of a few others) had little effect. We pointed out she’s on the same side as Putin and Trump, and that she proudly associates with holocaust deniers, but they weren’t interested. She’d thrown a bone and they went for it without hesitation.

The far-right knows how to position itself and how to frame its messages. These ideological mengeles know where to insert the needle to get their poison directly into the veins of people who, although they go on believing themselves radical and progressive, are now primed to accept the fascist agenda. These were people in this group of ‘socialists’ and ‘Greens’ openly calling for, if not the rape, the physical abuse of children on the basis of their religion.

Perhaps if Milo Yiannopoulos had specified in his rant that only Muslim children were fair game for sexual abuse, his message would have found a more receptive audience. I hope not, but what I’ve seen in pro-‘Bernie’ and Jill circles makes me suspect that it would have gone down well with at least some of their self-declared supporters. All of us on the Left need to be extremely vigilant and very vocal with regard to any anti-Muslim racism appearing in our midst. That is the Trojan horse being used by the smarter elements of the far-right to insinuate their insidious messages into supposedly ‘progressive’ milieus.

The Great “Earthquake” Swindle

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If you believe this, you’ll believe anything! Notice btw that it comes from a *government* website.

It’s telling that the global warmist lobby, with their constant bombardment of fake news about floods in Thailand and drought in Africa (make your mind up, guys!) go out of their way to cover up the real stories. It turns out that those “doctors” would have you believe that “cells” within your “body” can go bad and ultimately “kill” you were lying. That’s right: “cancer” doesn’t exist. It’s a hoax that’s been played for decades, one perpetrated by the government and the mass media and believed by all those who don’t dare to question what they’re told. These are the same people who tell you that the President of the United States is married to an immigrant or that it’s (as one of these so-called “pediatricians” told me in person last week) “an act of grave irresponsibility” not to get your child vaccinated! Thank god (another fake news story that I bet you fell for!) that we have Facebook and Twitter so we don’t have to believe their bullshit any longer.

But even worse than so-called “climate” “scientists” and “cancer” “doctors” are this bunch of self-appointed experts who call themselves “seismologists”. This is a fancy name for people who want you to believe that the “earth” (which other “scientists” will tell you is as round as a baseball! – but that’s another story) can tremble and shake like a blancmange! The official story (and I can tell you, I’ve studied this in some detail) is that it’s caused by (try not to laugh) “sudden movements in the Earth’s crust”. Well I’m going to tell you a personal story, something that “happened” to “me” just this “morning”, which will show that this whole “earthquake” racket is no more than yet another official libtard hoax.

We went to our local “hospital” for a checkup with someone who calls himself a “gynecologist”. This shyster is paid thousands of euros of taxpayer’s money to tell us that as a result of a little cuddle time me and my “wife” enjoyed several months ago she is now “pregnant” and is going to have a “baby”. While we were “there” we visited another “couple” who apparently have just “given birth” (there was no actual evidence of this; there was a very small human being in the room and two beaming but exhausted new “parents” but there could be any number of explanations for that). After a few minutes of “conversation” (I noticed that the “baby” was pretending to be asleep the whole time) the “father” character drew our attention to the “fact” that the “water” in a bottle on the “bedside” was “shaking”. Sure enough, it “was”; I then “looked” at the “curtains” and they appeared to be moving – which obviously raised my suspicions! Then I “felt” with my “body” that the whole “building” (we were on the “eighth floor”, in the so-called “maternity department”) seemed (I’m being very careful with my language here!) to be “trembling”. I suddenly felt quite “scared”. Our “friend”, the new “mother”, checked on her “iphone” and said something about “the “epicentre””(it’s depressing to see how all this quakist jargon has wormed its way into the heads of ordinary sheeple) being near a place called “Rieti”, which I knew at once to be a lie, because although I’ve seen the name on a so-called map and noticed it on the front of “buses”, I’ve never actually been “there”.

We made our excuses, and “left”. I dread to think what fairy tales that baby will grow up hearing. They’ll probably tell it all the usual pseudo-scientific nonsense about “water” being “wet” and about how it gets “dark” at “night”. Personally I’m glad that I’ve seen through all that crap. As soon as “my” “child” is “born” I’m going to tell him the truth: that “hospitals” do more harm than good, that “teachers” do nothing but lie, and that so-called “parents” are the least trustworthy people he’ll ever meet. I’m also going to make sure he understands that whatever information he receives through his “eyes”, “ears”, “nose” and “fingers” is almost certainly bullshit, and that the last thing he should ever do in life – even worse than putting any faith in “experts” – is to use his “brain” to interpret the world. And you can stick your Dr Seuss, Alice in Wonderland and Roald Dahl books back where the sun don’t shine. I won’t be reading him any “bedtime stories” (in any case, if you believe that human beings “need” to “sleep”, quite frankly you’ll believe anything -and as for “breast” “milk”, don’t get me started on that junk!). Instead he’ll be staying up all night with me getting the real story from my good friends at Breitbart, Infowars and Wikileaks. I want my “child” to be brought up on a solid diet of the truth.

NB: This is a work of satire. In reality the only thing more dangerous than seismic activity is climate denial. They both serve to destroy the foundations of our existence.

EFL Fake News lesson plan

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This is a plan for a lesson I taught a couple of times before Christmas on the very timely subject of fake news. I did it with Politics and International Relations students on University courses, but it could be very easily adapted to a more conventional EFL context. The lesson develops their reading, writing and discussion skills and is aimed at upper-int and upwards. It should take about 90 minutes. My students really enjoyed the class and produced some interesting responses and some very imaginative pieces of writing.

Procedure

  1. Write the words ‘fake news’ on the board. Get your students to give you some examples. Have a couple to hand if they can’t (if you’re in Italy, like I am, you could always show them this). (5 mins)

  2. Explain you’re going to give them a presentation in which they will look at how to tell the difference between facts and opinions.

  3. Take them through this presentation, doing the practice exercise in pairs and clearing up any confusion at the end. The final slide directs them to where they can do further practice online. (15-20 mins)

  4. Tell them you’re going to read together an article about a ‘fake news sausage factory’. Elicit ideas about what that might be (Ans: it’s a website which produces and distributes fake news stories – don’t tell them that yet). (5 mins)

  5. (If they have internet access) Direct them to the article online or (if they don’t) hand out paper copies of the article. Instruct them to skim the beginning of the article to check if their guesses were correct. Give them two minutes and then get feedback; clarify if they’re confused. (5 mins)

  6. Put these questions up on the board. Students work through them in pairs. Monitor and give the occasional mild hint to those who are struggling. With weaker upper-int students let them use (but not overuse!) a dictionary. (15 mins)

  7. Go through the factual answers, also eliciting the appropriate part of the text. (5 mins)

  8. Make sure you leave time for discussion of the more subjective questions. (5 mins)

  9. If you have time and the students are willing, you can get the students to do a short writing task. Depending on their level, get them (individually or in pairs) to write the first paragraph or more of a fake news article about someone in the news in their country. (15 mins)

  10. Students stick their articles on the wall, read the others and choose their favourite (5-10 mins).

  11. Homework: Get them to redraft and extend their writing.

  12. Additional reading for very strong students: direct them to this.

Bob’s your uncle; Nora’s your aunt :-).

Wikileaks: ‘Russian’ email claims false, Chemtrails are for real

assangeWikileaks founder Julian Asange has revealed to Fox News that a Russian-connected source didn’t leak hacked emails from the Democratic National Committee to his organization. He also confirmed that evidence suggesting a pattern of past sexual discretion on the part of President Elect Donald Trump was false. Asange went on to assert that all and any attempts to link Donald Trump’s father Fred Trump with the Klu Klux Klan was inaccurate, and also stated that the KKK itself had been the victim of widespread misrepresentation in the past. In a separate statement given to Russia Today, Wikileaks also announced that its investigation into the recent Austrian election revealed a disturbing level of foreign intervention which may have influenced the result.  Meanwhile, a further Wikileaks press release stated that information had come into its possession which suggested that long-standing rumours of former Ukip leader Nigel Farage and his father’s involvement in the British National Front were ‘definitely unfounded’. In a separate development, a document placed on the Wikileaks website suggested that reports of mass killing of civilians as a result of Russian bombing of Aleppo had been falsified, while on Wednesday morning in a statement to the news organisation Breitbart Wikileaks said it had ‘firm evidence’ that the outgoing US administration had forged papers related to the birthplace of President Barack Obama. Asange also spoke by phone with Alex Jones of the website infowars.com and confirmed that his organisation had documents indicating that governments across the world have been manipulating weather patterns and that the chemical trails from airplanes suggest that this information is well-founded. Asange also gave a press conference Thursday from his cupboard in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London during which said he now had ‘proof’ that he was innocent of the rape charges leveled against him, promising to provide the ‘conclusive’ evidence to the international media as soon as his fax machine was up and running again. He also announced plans to merge the Wikileaks website with that of Breitbart, Infowars and davidicke.com in order to combat the rising influence of ‘fake news’ from websites such as the Guardian, the BBC and the New York Times and promised to release a ‘devastating’ report handed to Wikileaks by an anonymous source which he said would ‘seriously challenge’ our understanding of both what he called the ‘hoaxacaust’ and the 1969 Moon Landings. In response to a question about the allegations from some quarters that his organization is now little more than a puppet of the Trump Government, Asange waved his arms in a wooden fashion, fell to the floor with a clattering sound and made no further comment.

UPDATE: I posted this on the Wikileaks Facebook page, and within a few hours this actually happened:

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…it then disappeared from their page like a flash. If they’d checked the tags on the original post they would have seen it was flagged as #fakenews and #trolling. But they didn’t -they didn’t even click on the link before liking and sharing it. That’s what Wikileaks is like these days. So Assange’s claim that the emails didn’t come from Russia is almost certainly not true either. They simply don’t check their sources.