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I’m critical of identity politics both in its passive form, as theory-lite substitute for class analyses of oppression and exploitation, and in its more active manifestations. Such as when, in 2016, millions of progressives bought the idea of HRC as the self evidently superior White House contender. This despite a role in Libya that should have seen her in the dock at the Hague, and a commitment to ‘no fly zones’ in Syria that in the view of America’s most senior military officer (indeed, of any rational observer) would have brought the world closer to WW3.
Such as when liberal media drip feed, into their hawkish charge sheets against Russia, Putin’s alleged homophobia.1 Or when self styled liberals vie in Guardian features to pour ordure of the vilest kind on Julian Assange, a man true progressives – God knows there’s enough of the easy kind to go round – owe a profound debt of gratitude.
Then there’s Israel, regarded by many of us as an apartheid state and by some of us as regional gendarme for western imperialism. Its lobby groups are skilled at cosying up with Washington’s Beltway, with pork barrel senators beholden to America’s military-industrial complex, and with a Labour right-wing bent on smearing Jeremy Corbyn in the name of fighting anti-semitism.2
Who’d disagree that anti-semitism is an affront to decency? Not me. And who’d object to the promotion of breast cancer awareness? Again, not me. But to hijack the fight against racism in all its hideous forms for the reactionary ends of hasbara? That too is an affront to decency. As is the cynical use of a cause so worthy you’d need a heart of flint not to sign up for it …
Note the designer-feminism in the comment leading into the image. But women’s freedom is not to be confused with gender neutral pronouns, or ensuring that female celebs are paid the same number of millions as their male co-stars. Nor yet with glibly reductive assessments of militarism as ‘toys for the boys’. Just as there is no truth more fundamental about racism than that the world’s poorest are dark skinned, so is there no truth more fundamental about sexism than that women suffer disproportionately from ‘our’ wars on the global south.
While the IDF tugs at our heart strings a mix of political naivety, feminism at its most superficial and good old commercial instinct co-opts itself onto the apartheid state’s agenda. Cup of Jane, which brought us the image – and tongue-in gallery playing of that women’s air force quip – is a coffee shop in Raleigh, North Carolina. Here’s its FB page, showing how its baristas dress.
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- I neither know nor care about Putin’s views on homosexuality. I do know that whether a leader is homophobic and sexist is a hypocritical and disingenuous test for whether he should be demonised by a West whose true rulers make kings’ ransoms in arms sales to Saudi Arabia. (Yesterday morning on BBC Radio 4 I heard Emily Thornberry, touted by some on the Labour left as worthy successor to Corbyn, describe Saudi as a friend. Progressive that she is, she added that Riyadh must be given friendly criticism – “because that’s what friends do” – on human rights. Right on, Em. That’ll learn ’em! And without upsetting our arms profiteering rulers to the point where media subject to market forces grow even more hostile to any Labour leader leftways of Yvette home-flipper Cooper.) But such equations – the man’s a queer-bashing neanderthal So Take Him Out! – are seldom drawn explicitly. The realm of conscious reasoning is not the arena of choice for propaganda. Or to be more precise, not in the formative stages of opinion manufacture, when a degree of subtlety is still required.
- John Mann and Margaret Hodge publicly addressed Labour colleagues, respectively Ken Livingstone and Jeremy Corbyn, in tones that combined an incredibly rude word beginning with the sixth letter of the alphabet with unsubstantiated charges of racism. Neither have had the whip withdrawn, far less faced lawsuits for slander. The speed of Islington Council’s response to Gilad Atzmon’s threat to sue over being banned from a Xmas gig may give a clue as to why not. Islington promptly hired one of London’s most expensive law firms, the kindest reading being that of an eyebrow-raising use of scarce funds. And a less kind reading? That a third and deep-pocketed party stands in the shadows.