Category Archives: WHAT????

Why I don’t understand the Labour Party fuss

First, I am pleased with the Labour Party for taking accusations of anti-Semitism seriously and investigating them. I wish other parties were equally prepared to address accusations of racism.

However, if you look at the most recent fuss, I find it difficult to understand where the frothing comes from.

So, number one: Naz Shah tweeted an image of Israel overlaid on the US and suggested that the $3 billion (?) the US spends on Israel each year could be used to aid people in moving. OK — not a very clever joke, but I don’t see how it’s anti-Semitic.

Surely it’s (a) not meant literally, and (b) actually a commentary on the relationship the US has with Israel? More of an attack on the US than Israel. And I do understand that the words “transportation” and “solution” are likely to raise hackles in that context, but that still does not make the tweet anti-Semitic.

Number two: Naz Shah tweeted: “Everything Hitler did in Germany was legal” with #IsraeliApartheid as a hashtag. That’s been seen as “comparing Israel to Hitler”, but it isn’t — the full quote is:

We should never forget that everything Adolf Hitler did in Germany was “legal” and everything the Hungarian freedom fighters did in Hungary was “illegal.” It was “illegal” to aid and comfort a Jew in Hitler’s Germany. Even so, I am sure that, had I lived in Germany at the time, I would have aided and comforted my Jewish brothers.

And it’s by Martin Luther King.

Surely the point here is that something being legal is not a guarantee of its being right or moral? The squeals of outrage at putting Israel and Hitler in the same space may reflect a lack of tact, but that’s not anti-Semitic, it’s pointing out that some of the Israeli government’s policies in 2014 were not right or moral. Lots of people agree with that.

Number 3, and this is the only place I think the accusations of anti-Semitism are more defensible, is a comment she made before she was an MP on a tweet about whether Israel had committed war crimes where she referred to people who were saying it hadn’t as “the Jews”.  Talking about “the Jews” instead of “supporters of the Israeli government” was definitely blurring the lines, but that doesn’t seem to be what got her into trouble.

Let’s take Ken Livingston, because this is the bit I really don’t understand. He said “Hitler supported Zionism” before going “mad and killing six million Jews”. Again, the words could have been better chosen, and his definition of Zionism is that Hitler and the National Socialists made a 1933 agreement with some Zionist groups that supported Jews fleeing Germany and moving to Palestine. It’s a working definition of Zionism, and the fact that Hitler was not aiming for a successful and flourishing Jewish state is not really the point — Hitler and his colleagues did seek numerous ways to remove Jewish people from Germany before they settled upon mass extermination (which could reasonably be seen as going mad). There are a lot of perfectly respectable historians who make this argument — among them Christopher Browning and Martin Broszat. They’re called “Functionalists” (as opposed to the “Intentionalists” who believe that Hitler always intended to exterminate the Jews).

I am distressed that no one seems to be aware there are different arguments and that not everyone agrees with Dawidowitz (who is seem as the classic Intentionalist).

The Functionalist viewpoint is not anti-Semitic. The argument is that the Nazis stumbled into mass extermination, pushed by the failure of their plans to deport people, the reviving fortunes of the USSR in the war (which closed off the east as a possible area for re-settlement), the failure of the Nazis to defeat Britain and then bully France into giving over Madagascar for another settlement plan.

It has all sorts of significance for us now as we refuse to take refugees, giving the dispossessed and the vulnerable nowhere to go. Fortunately this time, Germany is leading Europe in being welcoming and civilised.

And finally, I thought this statement from the Jewish Socialist Group was very interesting.

Parenting and Platforming 1

Forgive me while I work some things out. I appreciate that people who think about things more than I do have already reached their position on this, and they’re happy with that.

I still haven’t.

Recently, for reasons too tiresome to go into, I have discovered a fair bit about the “No Platforming” struggle, which seems to consist largely of students demonstrating against speakers they regard as objectionable, and journalists etc. throwing their hands in the air and despairing of this new snowflake generation.

And, you know, how can one possibly argue against Free Speech? It’s one of the fundamentals of our freedom from tyranny, right? If we compromise it, we’ll end up in 1984, being watched by the television and robbed of words like “fantastic” and “ecstasy” (which will become, by order of government, “double-plus good”).

I might be naive but I’m not totally uninformed. I might have spent the last ten years in baby-twilight, but I do know what happened in the totalitarian regimes of the early 20th Century. I have degrees. Some of them entitle me to put letters in front of my name as well as after it. I have spent time freezing my fundament off in archives in Moscow, Ul’yanovsk (now Simbirsk) and Ivanov just so that I can have opinions on stuff.

Opinions like these:

  • Students complaining about things are only complaining. They’re not in charge of the government, they’re not silencing people literally — they are making their own voices heard and protesting. Sometimes, the speaker in question changes their mind about coming to speak. This is not censorship, it is protest — another of our fundamental rights blah blah.
  • Students protesting are very different from totalitarian governments. Perhaps that’s obvious. It really should be.

Break for a moment for me to draw on the last ten years or whatever and mumble about parenting.

If you want a quiet house and you have multiple children of different ages/ strengths, one thing you can do is leave them alone together. In these circumstances, often, there is not much conflict because what the big kids want is what happens. This is especially effective if you put them somewhere you can’t hear them.

Being powerful means you get to do what you like.  It’s true for kids, maybe it’s true elsewhere? Hold that thought.


(And, in case you feel the urge to comment and discover it doesn’t show up, please be reassured that I am not censoring you. It’s just that the comments are so crazy with spam that I just block them all.)


Won’t somebody think of the numbers…?

(Note: I don’t have an official position on the referendum but ageism and dodgy counting annoy me)

There’s just been a bit of a Twitter fuss about a poll produced by Lord Ashcroft, which suggested that support for “Yes” in the Scottish independence referendum was highest among 16-17 year olds (at 71%), and lowest among people over 60 (at 27%).

The table released on Twitter

Cue a lot of bile directed at older people who have apparently snatched independence away from the adventurous young with their aged conservatism. How dare they vote! You’d almost think people over 60 were human, or something.

So many angry tweets.

And when Lord Ashcroft released the data it turned out this bile and fury was based on the responses of 14 (I’ll write that out so it’s more obvious: FOURTEEN) 16-17 year olds. Ten of them voted “Yes” and four of them voted “No”.

I’m not sure what his selection methods were, but even if they were as pure and perfect as it’s possible to be, you can’t draw conclusions on a polled sample of fourteen people.

Calculating things hurts my brain, but this is important and so let’s do counting:

You have margins of error. One way of calculating margin of error is:

The margin of error in a sample = 1 divided by the square root of the number of people in the sample

The square root of 14 is 3.74, so 1 divided by 3.74 is 0.267, or 26.7%.

So, what we can say with something approaching something like confidence is that (probably) between 98% and 44% of 16-17 voted “Yes”. Maybe.

I could probably have told you that anyway.

To be fair to Lord Ashcroft, he hasn’t made any claims based on this figure, he just released the table.

So, Twitter, stop fussing.

Women and Twitter and Strength — a ramble

It’s been a while. There was a holiday, and a lack of internet access (!) and revisions to my shiny story, and other excuses too, naturally.

And I came back to the internet to find something completely bizarre. People have finally started questioning whether it’s actually okay to threaten someone with rape because you want Winston Churchill on a bank note and they do not.

Rape? For voicing an innocuous opinion? How did we let that happen, ever?

If I was inclined towards conspiracy theories I’d think this must be some sort of cunning ploy by the nefarious (and cloaked) agents of global feminism, because who could seriously claim they weren’t a feminist when faced with such an alternative? We live in a post-feminist age, hmm? Battle for equality won, huh? Apparently not.

And it’s not about guys who live at home with their mums. Several years ago (and I’m counting with fingers and toes here) I moved to a new city. I knew no one there so my boyfriend put me in touch with a guy he’d gone to school with, and we arranged to be flatmates. We looked at various flats and got messed about by a rather evil estate agent. Who was a woman. And my flatmate-to-be, who was studying for a PhD, who hadn’t lived with his mum for at least 3 years and had gone to school with my boyfriend, said, when we were alone together: “She needs a good raping.”

And I don’t think he meant to lurk outside her offices and jump on her. I think he meant it as a throwaway remark to indicate disapproval. And I’m not sure he’d considered the effect of saying it to a lone 22 year old woman who’d agreed to live in the same house. And he was weird in many, many other ways (though less weird once he got a girlfriend) but he wasn’t from another world. He grew up in Dundee. He went to a good (fee-paying) school there. He’d done a degree, half a PhD.

It goes deeper than internet trolls. It goes deeper than idiots dribbling into their keyboards. And that is the really, truly scary thing. Somehow, we’ve made it acceptable for women to be threatened for having opinions. Sexually threatened. Less than a year after the horrific Delhi rape case.

I really should be angry, but it makes me want to weep.


In other, far more positive thoughts: I love this article on Strong Female Characters.