Media

Maxwell: a charlatan capitalist

The subtitle of John Preston’s new biography, Fall, is "The Mystery of Robert Maxwell". Mysteries certainly abound in this story — and not just about the fraudster’s death. The biggest mystery of all is how it was that this extraordinary charlatan was allowed to continue with his business activity right up to the time of his death in November 1991, despite having been declared by a Department of Trade and Industry investigation in 1971 to be “not in our opinion a person who can be relied on to exercise proper stewardship of a publicly quoted company”. This gripping book is so entertaining that...

Facebook, Australia and democracy

In the week ending 20 February, users of Facebook platforms in Australia found links to many external sites no longer available. Facebook claimed they aimed only to cut links to news outlets, but the bans were more wide-ranging including some trade-union and campaigning organisations (such as Living Income For Everyone, LIFE, where Workers’ Liberty people in Australia are active), as well as state bodies. Facebook have stated that some of the bans have been errors, but it is unclear which will be reinstated or when. It has gone for “shoot first, question later” maximum disruption. That is its...

Chinese state still has defender in British media

On February 4, Ofcom, the media watchdog, revoked the UK broadcast licence of China Global Television Network (CGTN), the Chinese state’s English-language television channel. The grounds were that it is controlled by the Chinese Communist Party and not the licence-holder, Star China Media Limited. That the licence-holder has editorial oversight of the channel’s output is a legal requirement. Fiona Edwards, of the “No Cold War” international organising committee, responded in the Morning Star (6-7 February) that the decision was “an outrageous act of censorship which reveals that the West’s...

What is an "activist"?

The widely-publicised September special issue of fashion magazine Vogue, billed as “Activism Now” and focused on anti-racism, includes an article titled “How one lawyer-turned-fine-jeweller made sense of Black Lives Matter – from her Left Bank apartment”: “I stopped feeling guilty that I wasn’t marching. I no longer find it strange that a typical day might start with me picking up a finished piece of jewellery from the atelier in the Marais, heading over to my diamond dealer to sort through piles of grey diamonds looking for just the right hue for a custom design, and then end with rushing...

Tories spread Stalinist smear

The far right blogger "Guido Fawkes" has taken up the story, first invented by the anonymous Stalinist Red London Facebook page, that Socialist Organiser (a forerunner of Solidarity) "published pro-paedophile articles". And the Express is recycling Fawke's story. Fawkes and the Express aim to smear Jeremy Corbyn as well as us, complaining that Corbyn wrote frequently for Socialist Organiser in the 1980s. The bit about Corbyn writing is true. The rest is not. Fawkes's prize exhibit is an article from Socialist Organiser in January 1981 which protested against the use of the catch-all and...

The world of online hate

In 2013, the Australian journalist Ginger Gorman became the subject of an online hate campaign. In 2010, she had interviewed two gay men, seemingly an ordinary couple, about their adoption of a young boy. Three years later the men were convicted of child sexual exploitation; they had been involved in an international paedophile network. Naturally Gorman was mortified that she had, however inadvertently, given these men a platform. But a few days after the conviction Gorman began to be inundated by tweets from ″conservatives″ saying she was a paedophile collaborator, and, equally horrifying to...

A new humanist politics?

Paul Mason’s latest book, Clear Bright Future, is written as a defence of humanism and human-centred politics, against the resurgent threat of the far-right, from Trump to Bolsonaro, Le Pen to Salvini. The title is a reference to Leon Trotsky’s testament. Mason entreats us to fight “all evil, oppression, and violence”, and shares Trotsky’s optimism for the future. Mason draws a convincing link from the financial crash in 2007-08 to Trump’s election. Mason emphasises how the monopolisation of information (think Google and Facebook) has led to systems outside our control, for example, of online...

Reading or stagnating?

“You can never get a cup of tea large enough or book long enough to suit me.” – C. S. Lewis When I was a young child, I learned an appreciation for the written word through both of my parents reading aloud to me and through listening to audiobooks on long car trips. Somewhere during the dreaded forced reading during my secondary and tertiary schooling, I lost my fascination with reading. Then, over time, with that lack, I noticed other things were lacking. There are so many reasons to read: to inform, to amuse, to connect, to understand, to critique, and so on. Reading is a fantastic way to...

Dangerous nonsense: Bower on Corbyn

Every Labour canvasser will have come across him (and, invariably, it is a he). Leering out of his doorway he delivers a deranged tirade about how the country is going to the dogs. Communist-run trade unions. Moscow gold. Economy wrecked by strikes. Scroungers living off the dole. Better off than him, an honest hardworking man. Of course, not a racist. But too many immigrants. Especially Muslims. Bogus asylum-seekers. Should stay in France. Got a council house instead of his daughter. Live off the state. He’s accused of racism for telling the truth. In his own country! And, in the more up-to...

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