Monday, 17 September 2018

Here's the reason "centrism is really struggling to make headway"


In a speech to the Lib-Dem conference Gina Miller lamented the fact that "centrism is really struggling to make headway" before going on to call people to the left and right "fascists" with "cold hard ideologies".

The obvious problem with centrism is that the term itself is a complete misnomer that implies that hovering aimlessly around near the centre has some special moral virtue no matter how far off into the political extremes the prevailing political orthodoxy might go.

Thus during the post-war decades the political centre was the mixed economy of public ownership of vital infrastructure, services and industries combined with a strong welfare state and regulated capitalism (a position occupied by Labour, the Liberals, and the Tories), and the privatise everything, "greed is good" deregulate the financial sector right-wingers were fringe lunatics.

Fast forward to 1979 and the hard-right fringe were propelled into power and their mass privatisation, welfare-wrecking, deregulation mania has continued unabated for four decades with truly appalling consequences.

Just look at the behaviour of the self-declared centrists between 2010 and 2016 and you can see the disastrous consequences of this morally weak and utterly wrong-headed determination to occupy the centre ground between raving ideological extremism of the Tories and the Blairism that went before it:

  • In 2014 Theresa May introduced her extremist "hostile environment" legislation and bragged about how the Tory government could "deport now, hear appeals later". Dozens of black British citizens were deported under these rules. Several died in exile. Thousands more were denied employment, housing, access to public services, access to banking services, even medical treatment. The majority of 'centrists' either voted in favour of this disgusting legislation, with only a tiny minority of MPs opposing it on principle (or because their "cold hard ideologies" wouldn't allow them to enable it as Gina Miller would no doubt describe it).
  • After their election defeat Labour centrists like Chris Leslie actually tried to argue that losing the election by copying Tory extremism rather than opposing it meant Labour should shift even further to the right! Thankfully the Labour membership strongly disagreed and voted for a candidate who would actually oppose ruinous Tory austerity dogma instead of meekly copying it.
  • During the Labour leadership election the Labour centrists decided to abstain on a massive programme of Tory welfare cuts designed to further impoverish the poor, especially the working poor. Jeremy Corbyn was the only Labour leadership candidate to vote against it.

Centrist collusion with Tory austerity dogma had appalling consequences: The longest period of sustained wage devaluation on record, public services put under massive strain or shut down entirely, in-work benefits slashed, soaring food bank dependency, exploitative employment practices like Zero Hours Contracts and fake self-employment spreading like wildfire ...

Then it came to the Brexit vote and suddenly the complacent centrists were trapped in a pit of their own digging. The far-right Brextremists opportunistically blamed immigrants and the EU for the wage collapse, the failing public services, the in-work poverty, the suffering ... But the centrists couldn't fight back with the truth that these things were the result of austerity, because they were all complicit with austerity.

The only way the centrists have countered the far-right anti-immigrant anti-EU lies would have been to admit that 'centrism' itself was a fraud!


Amazingly centrists still occupy this bubble of delusion that it's somehow morally superior to triangulate with hard-right Tory austerity dogma than to oppose it. That all the 'centrist' MPs abstaining on Theresa May's vile "hostile environment" policy was acceptable and palatable xenophobia, but the xenophobic Brextremist lies were somehow so much worse than a policy they couldn't even be bothered to oppose that eventually led to British citizens dying in exile abroad!

The problem is that centrists promised us that their watered down version of neoliberalism would bring prosperity, but what it's actually delivered is Tory austerity dogma, collapsing wages, failing public services, exploitative employment practices, ridiculous privatisation scams, grotesque "hostile environment" policies, soaring in-work poverty, and eventually the centrist's own worst nightmare; Brexit.

But rather than admit their culpability in creating this dreadful situation, they're intent on moral high-horsing and abusing everyone to the left, and everyone to the right of them as "fascists"!

And it's exactly this kind of self-aggrandising and aloof sneering that's going to keep them in the political wilderness, because like it or not, the idea of aimlessly drifting around in the totally artificial territory of the 'centre ground' is finished.

The choice now is between the hard-right neoliberals who want to keep us on the same course we've been on for four decades (more privatisation, more undermining of workers rights, more public service cutbacks, more under-investment in infrastructure spending and research and development, more welfare cuts for the poor, more tax cuts and lavish handouts for the mega-rich) or those on the left who want to change direction and make Britain more of a high-tech, high-skill society with a decent welfare system like Norway, Finland, Germany, or Denmark.

Of course it's necessary to take an ideological position to step away from the complacency and aimlessness of the political 'centre', but there's nothing "cold" or "hard" about opposing the political orthodoxy of welfare cuts on the most vulnerable people in society (the sick, the disabled, the working poor, the jobless, the children, the elderly and infirm ...) in order to lavish corporations and the mega-rich with ever more tax cuts and handouts.

Quite the contrary, it takes a "cold hard" heart to go along with such barbarity solely because you want to maintain the illusion that by doing so you're somehow a 'moderate' occupying the 'centre ground'!

When centrism actively helps the Tories grind the most vulnerable people in society into absolute destitution for five years in order to feed the greed of the mega-rich, and then centrists accuse others who object to this horrific agenda of "fascism" and having "cold hard ideologies" then you really can't expect anyone other than your ever-diminishing echo chamber of delusional 'centrists' to applaud your unbelievably hypocritical message.


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Why do Tory MPs get a total free pass on their astounding anti-business attitudes?


Today a Tory MP publicly accused the boss of a major UK employer of lying. The accusation was made by Bernard Jenkin who responded to the fears of Jaguar Land Rover that a "no deal" Brexit would be catastrophic for their company and their workforce by saying "I think he's making it up".

Now just imagine for a moment that a Labour Party MP had openly accused the boss of a major British employer of lying to the public.

The mainstream media would obviously be absolutely teaming with "Labour are the anti-business party" takes, at least for the rest of the day, and with the incident referenced over and again for months as evidence of Labour's anti-business agenda.

But because the badmouthing of British business is coming from a Tory MP, it's barely elicited a whisper of condemnation from mainstream media hacks, other than a few Tweets from half-decent journalists like Gavin Esler and Norman Smith.

Sustained media partisanship

Alarmingly this isn't the only example of highly partisan editorial decisions to avoid vehement condemnation of the Tories. Last week the majority of Tory MPs joined all the fascist parties in the European Parliament to vote in support of Viktor Orbán's anti-Semetic, judiciary-rigging, free speech-attacking, human rights-trashing regime in Hungary.

Again, just imagine the deafening howls of condemnation had it been Labour MEPs defying the European consensus to vote in favour of the most notorious anti-Semite in Europe, but somehow the Tories get a free pass.

Labour are now the party of business!

If you believed all the mainstream media rhetoric about Labour being rabid extreme-left fanatics under Jeremy Corbyn, the idea that they've taken over as the obvious pro-business party would seem insane, but the reality is very different from what orthodox neoliberals in the mainstream media are trying to make you think.

Admittedly Jeremy Corbyn has said that corporations would have to pay their fair share in tax (especially if they want to bid for government contracts) and that the Corporation Tax rate is going to have to rise so that it's back in line with the G7 average, which wouldn't go down all that well with Britain's most avid tax-dodgers and corporate profiteers.

However, most business leaders should be able to see the sense in many of Corbyn's strategies, and that the economic responsibility of paying their fair share in tax comes with significant payoffs too.

Making sure that major corporations pay their fair share in tax would create a much fairer playing field for hundreds of thousands of small and medium sized businesses that can't afford to pay expensive tax lawyers to hide their profits in tax havens.


Corbyn has clearly listened to British businesses (large and small) and to trade unions and he's made it clear that Labour would seek to retain access to the Customs Union and Single Market, while the Tories keep on threatening the ruination of a "no deal" Brexit and smearing prominent business leaders who express their concerns about this reckless game of ideological brinkmansip as liars!

Labour's policies of investing in Britain's creaking public infrastructure and building hundreds of thousands of affordable homes would clearly create huge opportunities for construction companies, engineering firms, and myriad suppliers.

Labour's "Build it in Britain" industrial policy certainly must make a lot of sense to British-based manufacturers.

And Labour's policy of introducing a National Education Service to provide free education and training to all, would clearly help to ensure that the UK has the kind of flexible and highly-skilled workforce that is needed in order to reverse the Tory productivity crisis and make Britain a high-tech economy fit for the 21st Century.

Whether you support Jeremy Corbyn's investment-based economic strategy or not, you certainly won't be hearing any Labour MPs saying "fuck business" like Boris Johnson, or smearing prominent British business leaders as liars like Bernard Jenkin just did.

You can read more about Labour's industrial strategy here.

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Sunday, 16 September 2018

When it comes to democratic reselection and a 2nd EU referendum Jeremy Corbyn's reputation is at stake


One of Jeremy Corbyn's main points of appeal (beside his longstanding commitment to genuine democratic socialist values when so many Labour MPs abandoned them), is his policy of democratising the Labour Party and making it much more responsive to the views of ordinary Labour Party members.

Given that so much of his support relies on this reputation as a democratiser, his leadership is facing a huge litmus test at the Annual Labour Party Conference (September 23-26).

It's becoming absolutely clear that huge numbers of Labour Party members want to see changes, and two specific changes in particular.

Brexit referendum

The first clear demand from the membership is the widespread call for a second referendum on the terms of the Brexit agreement. Jeremy Corbyn's policy to date has been to subject the Brexit terms to Keir Starmer's six tests, and then oppose Brexit in parliament if the tests are not met.

So far scores of local Labour Party branches have called for a Conference vote on a second referendum, which would almost certainly be won given that well over 70% of Labour Party supporters are opposed to the Tory Brexit shambles.

A vote in favour of Labour supporting a second referendum would surely force Jeremy Corbyn to adapt his method of opposing Tory Brexit from parliamentary opposition (if you look at the actual parliamentary records, Labour have opposed the Tories on practically every single Brexit vote) to officially backing a second referendum on the final Brexit agreement.

Democratic reselection

The second demand from the membership is the introduction of democratic reselection of Labour MPs in order to put an end to the complacency of the 'jobs for life' brigade by allowing local constituency parties to weed out the most corrupt/self-serving/abusive/lazy/incompetent of Labour MPs.

Under the current system the only way to get rid of a disgraceful Labour MP is through the trigger ballot process, which necessitates negative campaigning against the incumbent MP rather than positive campaigning for a rival candidate.

Democratic reselection for all Labour MPs (including Corbyn and his allies of course) would create a much more positive environment where individuals who wish to challenge their local Labour MP get to run a positive campaign focused on how they propose to do a better job of representing the Labour Party and the local community in parliament.

Democratic reselection is hardly a controversial policy (except for those incumbent MPs who would feel understandably afraid of being held to account for their atrocious behaviour of course).

Every single one of the 54 of the Scottish National Party's MPs were democratically reselected before the 2017 General Election because they'd all done a fantastic job of representing the party in Westminster.

But then look at the Democratic primaries in the united States for examples of how open selection contests have reinvigorated Democratic politics. Consider the shock selection of the 28 year old Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez over a 10-time incumbent, and a wave of other progressives taking Democratic slots in the midterm elections.

Without open selection contests how many potential Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez type figures within the Labour Party are being denied the chance to shine in favour of keeping utterly complacent and self-serving old-timers in their party political sinecures?


If MPs do a good job of representing the Labour Party and their local communities then there's hardly any chance of them being ousted through democratic selection (because removing the incumbent MP and replacing them with a newcomer risks increasing the chance of losing the seat to a rival party), but democratic reselection would certainly invigorate local Labour Party politics, gives local people a fair shot at getting rid of the laziest and most self-serving Labour MPs, and give rising stars in the Labour Party a chance to make their own positive cases to be selected as candidates in their local areas.

The litmus test

If the Labour leadership deliberately stonewalls either of these internal democratic campaigns, then Corbyn's reputation is surely going to take a significant hit.

Personally I think it's an incredibly dangerous idea to hold a second referendum when the electoral rules haven't been reformed to prevent the absolute tidal wave of dark ads, lies, distortions and outright fraud we saw in 2016, and because the Electoral Commission who would oversee it are a shockingly discredited joke (just a week before Labour Conference the courts found they had given Vote Leave misleading and unlawful advice that they could channel excess funds through shell campaigns).

But if it's the will of the Labour Party membership to hold a second referendum under such risky conditions, Corbyn would tarnish his own reputation as a respecter of democracy by stonewalling it.

When it comes to democratic reselection I'm strongly in favour. I can't see any reasonable objection whatever against Labour MPs being required to renew their mandate to serve in democratic processes. All the objections centre around a seething contempt for the whole concept of democratic accountability.

If the Labour leadership caves in to the demands of Labour MPs in safe seats that democratic reselection proposals be taken off the table, this would be a much bigger betrayal than stonewalling a second referendum because Corbyn has staked his reputation on the internal democratisation of the Labour Party,.

If the Labour Party ignore the membership calling for democratic reselection in order to protect incumbent Labour MPs from democratic accountability, it'd be a betrayal of one of Corbyn's main points of appeal.

Next week Jeremy Corbyn faces probably the biggest test of his credentials since the General Election, so let's hope he manages to pass it. 

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Saturday, 15 September 2018

The shockingly inadequate reaction to the bankers' crisis is the reason Britain is in such a state today


It's 10 years to the day since Lehman Brothers collapsed into bankruptcy and practically nothing has been done to rein in the excesses of the mega-rich speculator class who created the Bankers' insolvency crisis.

First the entire establishment class rallied around to ensure that their mega-rich speculator mates wouldn't lose out as a result of the crisis they caused with their reckless gambling, with bailouts, and quantitative easing cash galore to prop up the value of the assets of the rich.


Then Tories cynically used the bankers' economic crisis as an excuse to impose ruinous austerity dogma as a means of pushing the cost of the crisis onto ordinary people through wage repression, in-work benefits cuts, welfare cuts for sick and disabled people, local service cuts, etc.

Meanwhile the Tories actually rigged the economy even further in favour of the mega-rich by slashing corporation tax, slashing taxes on the mega-rich, and lavishing the speculator class with ridiculously one-sided outsourcing contracts, and handing them massive chunks of public infrastructure and services at bargain basement prices (like the Royal Mail) or even for free (like the state schools given away to private academy profiteers).

The bankers' insolvency crisis called for decisive action to ensure such a meltdown could never happen again. Action like breaking up the "too big to fail" banks, restraining the ridiculous short-term bonus culture to make financial rewards dependent on the long-term sustainability of the institutions paying them, jailing the most reckless and fraudulent of the financial sector gamblers, increasing competition and diversity in the financial sector, reducing the amount of wealth that gets funnelled into non-productive areas of the economy like property price speculation and the vast global derivatives casino ...

But instead of decisive action nothing was done, so that the property bubble and the the global derivatives casino have continued sucking vast amounts of wealth away from the real productive economy.

But what's even worse is what the Tory response to the bankers' crisis taught the mega-rich speculator class.

It taught them that financial crises are absolutely fantastic news for them. Their losses will be protected through bankers' bailouts and obscene policies like quantitative easing, while the cost of the meltdown is borne by the poor and ordinary.

And now, instead of waiting for the next crisis to come along (when the housing bubble bursts, or major banks gamble themselves into insolvency on the global derivatives casino again) the mega-rich speculator class are seeking to deliberately cause the next crisis.

They know that they can plunge the entire UK economy into a much bigger crisis than the bankers' meltdown if they can ensure that the UK conducts a "no deal" flounce out of the EU.

If they know exactly how and when the crisis is going to occur, the opportunities for making £billions by betting against Britain are obviously absolutely huge.

Then once they've made a killing by betting against Britain, and against the elements of the real economy they know will suffer huge losses in a "no deal" meltdown (manufacturing, haulage companies, leisure and tourism, aviation, shipping, agriculture, the automotive industry ...) they can pile back in with the £billions they made by betting against Britain in order to buy up masses of distressed British assets on the cheap.

The UK establishment response to the bankers' crisis created moral hazard by proving that the state would not let the mega-rich speculator class fail under any circumstances (even when they gambled themselves into insolvency).

Tory austerity dogma made the moral hazard even worse by demonstrating that the Tory party would deliberately load the cost of the crisis onto ordinary people, whilst actually rigging society even further in favour of the mega-rich speculators who trashed the economy in the first place.

And Brexit is the culmination of this truly outrageous response to the bankers' crisis.

First the Brexiteers used the wave of public anger at the consequences of austerity madness to deliver the Brexit vote, by attacking immigrants and the EU as the reason wages were collapsing, public services were failing, and poverty was rising ...

And now they're seeking to use this Brexit vote as an excuse to deliberately trigger another economic meltdown so that their greedy billionaire speculator mates can make even bigger fortunes on the social and economic suffering of the rest of us.

You'd have to be a fool to not see how the shockingly inadequate response of the establishment class to the bankers' crisis, and the imposition of ruinous hard-right Tory austerity dogma are responsible for the absolute state of Britain ten years later.


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Friday, 14 September 2018

Theresa May and the Tories are the ones with the serious anti-Semitism problem


One of the first world leaders Theresa May met after she was appointed Prime Minister was the fanatically right-wing Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán.

Since then the Tory party have continued to cosy up to Orbán and his anti-Semitic, xenophobic, judiciary-rigging, free speech-attacking regime.

After Orbán retained power in the 2018 Hungarian elections which featured a massive anti-Semitic poster campaign the then Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson Tweeted gushing praise for Orbán and his party.

And in September 2018 Tory MEPs in the European Parliament sided with all the exreme-right nasties in Europe (Front National, Golden Dawn, PiS, PVV, AfD, Swedish Democrats, True Finns, FPÖ, Lega Nord, and Britain's own UKIP) in order to defend Orbán's government against a motion of censure that was overwhelmingly supported by the European centre (from conservatives, through liberals to the socialists and greens).

The Tories were the only (supposedly) mainstream government in Europe to ally themselves with Orbán and the extreme-right.


Here's one of Orbán's most notorious quotes about Jews: "We are fighting an enemy that is different from us. Not open, but hiding; not straightforward but crafty; not honest but base; not national but international; does not believe in working but speculates with money; does not have its own homeland but feels it owns the whole world".

Isn't it extraordinary that the mainstream media spent the entire summer digging around in Jeremy Corbyn's past to cherry-pick absurd out-of-context quotes, fixate over images of him laying a wreath (at a graveyard where none of the Munich terrorists were even buried), and even 
smear a Jewish Holocaust survivor as an anti-Semite to paint Corbyn as an anti-Semite ... but when yet more evidence of the Tories' active collusion with a horrifically right-wing government led by an unmistakably anti-Semetic tyrant comes to light, suddenly the mainstream media anti-Semitism guns have fallen silent?

Orbán's extremism isn't just limited to anti-Semitism either. He's continually attacked Muslims as "invaders", he's been rigging the Hungarian judiciary by stacking it with pro-government figures, he's clamped down on free speech and attacked the free press. His supporters have even drawn up a blacklist of charity workers, campaigners, journalists, academics and other public figures considered "enemies of the state".

It's quite incredible that Theresa May and the Tories have openly colluded with this vile regime right in front of our eyes, for years, safe in the knowledge that they won't be held to account for it by Britain's docile, compliant, and ridiculously right-leaning press.

Even now, when the Tories' scandalous support for this vile regime is incontestably recorded in the voting record of the European Parliament, there's nowhere near as much condemnation and noise from the people who were howling at Corbyn, and making hyperbolic accusations that Labour are an "existential threat" to Jewish people just a few weeks previously.

Instead of vehemently condemning this outrageous Tory collusion with one of the most notorious anti-Semites in Europe, the Jewish Board of Deputies expressed only "disappointment"!

Others to have whipped up the anti-Semitism furore to attack Jeremy Corbyn and undermine the momentum towards genuine democratic socialism haven't even said a word.


The day after this Tory collusion with Orbán, Jonathan Sachs stood up in the House of Lords to talk about anti-Semitism and didn't even mention it!


BBC heavyweight Andrew Neil, who has repeatedly pushed the anti-Semitism attacks against Corbyn remained silent, which is hardly surprising given his personal involvement with the Hungarian government.

All of this raises the question of how stupid and gullible they think we are. 

They seem to imagine that they can manipulate us into believing that the lifelong anti-racist campaigner Jeremy Corbyn is the Jew-hater, whilst they actively turn a blind eye to Theresa May and her party repeatedly sucking up to the most notorious anti-Semite in Europe!

In reality this is such a spectacular display of over-reach that swathes of the mainstream media are permanently wrecking their own reputations. 


Repeatedly trying convince people that black is white is bad enough, but then after posing as valiant anti-Semitism campaigners for the entire summer of 2018, their deafening silence on the Tory collusion with Orbán clearly exposes their political partisanship and their utter hypocrisy.

If you decide to present yourself as a valiant anti-Semitism campaigner all summer, then you'd better not turn a blind eye to it in the autumn when your political allies are up to their necks in it, otherwise you've just burned your journalistic reputation to the ground.

Anti-Semitism is a vile form of racist bigotry that needs to be confronted wherever it's found.


It's not a convenient issue to be weaponised and used as political ammunition, only to be immediately forgotten about when your political allies decide to defy the European political consensus and actively support the most notorious anti-Semite in Europe.

This political weaponisation of anti-Semitism is particularly disgusting because it cheapens the fight against anti-Semitism by making the issue seem like partisan political point scoring, rather than a serious problem that need to be confronted wherever it arises.


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Why did the Tories align themselves with all the extreme-right nasties in the European Parliament?


Days after the Tories aligned themselves with all the extreme-right nasties in the European Parliament to vote against censure of Viktor Orbán's anti-Semitic, judiciary-rigging, free press-attacking, human rights-demolishing government in Hungary, Theresa May and the Tories are still refusing to provide a convincing explanation for their actions.

The political parties the Tory MEPs aligned themselves with include:

Fidesz - Orbán's ruling party in Hungary.
PiS - The extreme-right government in Poland that is launching similar attacks on the judiciary and the free press to Orbán.
Golden Dawn - The Greek neo-Nazis
Front National - The French extreme-right led by Marine Le Pen.

FPÖ - The Austrian extreme-right party founded by the Nazi Anton Reinthaller.
AfD - The German extreme-right anti-immigrant party.

True Finns - An anti-immigrant nationalist party in Finland.
Sweden Democrats - The Swedish extreme-right party with fascist and white supremacist origins.
Lega Nord - The Italian extreme-right who are in coalition government with the populist anti-vaxxer Five Star movement.
PVV - Geert Wilders' extreme right party in the Netherlands.


Fortunately the Tories decision to back Orbán's fanatically right-wing government failed as the motion of censure was passed by 448 - 197, just passing the 2/3 majority needed.

The Tory party were the only ruling conservative party in Europe to back Orbán, with the rest of the European conservatives joining the socialists, liberals and greens to condemn his undermining of the independence of the judiciary, his attacks on free speech and the freedom of the press, his vendetta against Hungarian civic society, his anti-Semitic smear campaigns, his anti-Muslim bigotry, and his discriminatory ethno-nationalist policies.

When the scandal initially broke Theresa May tried to wash her hands of it by claiming that she had no knowledge of how her own MEPs had voted!

This excuse is an extraordinary admission that Theresa May imagines that using her own incompetence and poor leadership as an excuse is an adequate reason for supposedly not knowing what her own MEPs are up to!

The next excuse the Tories tried was that the vote was just a technical matter rather than an endorsement of Orbán's extreme-right government, with Downing Street instructing all the Tory MEPs who sided with the extreme-right nasties to back Orbán's government to issue a tweet claiming that their vote to back Orbán's government wasn't an endorsement of Orbán's government!


This narrative is ridiculous enough in its own right, but it's truly absurd when it's viewed in the context of the Tory Foreign Secretary's gushing praise for Orbán and his extreme-right party earlier this year after they used a massive anti-Semitic poster campaign to win the Hungarian election.

There's a lot of speculation going around that the Tories deliberately aligned themselves with the European extreme-right in this way as a cynical Brexit manoeuvre to undermine the EU position in the negotiations by eliciting support from the mainly Euro-sceptic extreme-right.

If that's the case then it certainly puts their Brexiteering into perspective. They're so keen to launch a hard-right economy-tanking, environment-wrecking, workers' rights-abolishing, food standards-trashing Brexit that they'll gladly align themselves with the European extreme-right fringe to achieve it.


But don't expect Theresa May to be pressed very hard on this outrageous scandal because backing her into a corner over her party's demonstrable support for one of the most dangerous anti-Semitic bigots in Europe runs entirely counter to the prevailing mainstream media objective of steadfastly defending the neoliberal orthodoxy by vilifying Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party's return to democratic socialism under his leadership.

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Thursday, 13 September 2018

The European Parliament just voted to vandalise the open Internet


The European Parliament has just voted by 438-226 to vandalise the open Internet with a truly absurd set of proposals that will undermine independent media, further distort the political debate, and radically impact the way citizens use the Internet.

The two most controversial proposals in the proposed Copyright in the Digital Single Market legislation are article 11 and article 13 which have been dubbed the Link Tax and Upload Filters.


Link Tax

The Link Tax seeks to financially penalise any websites that use more than "individual words" of an article to describe what is being linked to. Thus the automatic previews of hyperlinked articles on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter will fall foul of the Link Tax for including the full title of the article and a subheading or extract from the article.


Even linking to an article with a text link that quotes from the article would fall foul of this ridiculous new law.

The Link Tax proposal puts the onus on EU member states to ensure that the sites where the hyperlinks are posted pay financial compensation to the news organisations that are being linked to.

The absurdity of this should be obvious to all but the worst Internet illiterates. What the EU is proposing is that in return for hosting free adverts to mainstream media websites on their platforms, social media organisations should have to pay them compensation!

The obvious get-around for this absurd legislation would be for social media platforms to block automatically generated hyperlink previews when users post links to their platforms. 


So instead of getting a picture, the title of the article, and a subheading/short extract, the hyperlink would simply display as a plain link, essentially creating a lucky dip instead of the current situation in which social media users are given a foretaste of what they're likely to find on the link they're considering clicking.

Another option would be for social media sites to eradicate the link tax problem altogether by blocking links to mainstream news sites altogether.


Whatever the social media platforms decide to do to combat the threat of the Link Tax, it would undoubtedlycreate a massive incentive for them to favour highly partisan political dark ads (that they get paid to promote) over hyperlinks to independent media sites and mainstream media news organisations that they would face financial penalties for hosting on their sites if they include even the most rudimentary of previews!

It's extraordinarily difficult to see how any mainstream media organisation could be in favour of wrecking hyperlink previews of their articles through such wild copyright extremism, especially since they actually design their hyperlink previews to attract as many people as possible from social media onto their own websites, but that's where the all pressure for this ludicrous legislation is coming from, and if you Google search "Link Tax" you'll hardly find any mainstream news outlet describing the policy, let alone critiquing it.


Upload Filters

The concept of upload filters is perhaps even more radical copyright extremism than the link tax. Upload Filters put the onus upon all but the smallest of websites to constantly scan their comments sections for copyrighted material. 


The logical step for most small websites would be to severely restrict their comments sections to block the upload of images and/or hyperlinks, or just shut their comments sections down altogether.

Another deeply concerning aspect of the Article 13 proposal is that it looks set to outlaw memes, because once an image has been added to the EU's proposed database of copyrighted images, people will find themselves blocked from uploading copies for the purpose of parody, commentary and/or criticism.


An assault on the open Internet

By effectively outlawing hyperlink previews, banning memes, putting onerous burdens on small independent websites, and giving social media platforms a massive financial incentive to prioritise partisan political dark ads over legitimate political commentary, the EU are seeking to radically reform the way that citizens use the Internet.

The mainstream media organisations and the political elitists are clearly absolutely terrified of the way that the Internet and social media platforms have opened up political discourse to ordinary citizens, but this effort to use copyright extremism to stamp out the threat is the wild flailing of people who don't even understand the phenomena they're trying to crush.

They're trying to attack citizen journalism and restore political discourse to the carefully curated pro-neoliberal echo chambers of the 1990s and early 2000s.


But now that people have got used to being their own news curators and commentators through social media, the sharing of hyperlinks, memes, blogs, and the comments sections on assorted websites, they're going to see it as a massive invasion of their free speech when the EU attack the sharing of hyperlinks on social media, outlaw popular memes, and enforce the restriction/closure of comments sections on all manner of websites to avoid the onerous burden of continually scanning them for copyright infringements.

Opposition

The Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales and the World Wide Web pioneer Tim Berners-Lee are two of the most famous opponents of this copyright extremism from the EU. Other opponents come from across the political spectrum, the academic community, a coalition of open science advocatesmultiple media companies who are the intended beneficiaries of this nonsense, and even the European Copyright Society!


Hypocrisy or idiocy?

If you look at the social media feeds of the MEPs who voted in favour of this copyright extremism, their feeds are full of hyperlink previews of articles on mainstream media sites, yet they're pushing for these hyperlink previews to be outlawed.

These people are either disgraceful hypocrites who think there should be one copyright law for them and another much harsher copyright law for everyone else, or they're idiots who don't even understand the legislation they're supporting, or anything about the Internet other than how to open their Facebook/Twitter account.


What the hell are Labour playing at?

Unfortunately the majority of Labour Party MEPs in the European Parliament actually voted in favour of this nonsense, proving that a. they don't have a clue what they're doing, and b. they're intent on defying the will of Labour Party members who would surely mostly oppose what's being proposed if the mainstream media actually bothered to explain what the EU are plotting.

No wonder people hate the EU

I've continually argued against Brexit because the concept of enabling an unprecedented hard-right anti-democratic Tory power grab to escape from the EU is a classic out of the frying pan into the fire situation.

The EU's blatant bias in favour of copyright extremists who want to radically reform the Internet to restore their own power and influence is grotesque.

The shockingly incompetent way they're going about imposing this copyright extremism agenda is infuriating.

And their tone-deaf response to critics of their Link Tax and Upload Filters proposals is all too reminiscent of their aloof and contemptuous dismissal of widespread concerns about the TTIP corporate power grab.


The fight isn't over

The copyright extremists may have won this battle to radically restructure the Internet in their own favour and interfere with the way ordinary citizens behave online, but the fight isn't over yet.

The European parliament must debate these rules with the European Commission before they bring it back for the final vote, and even if they win the final vote, there are clear grounds for fighting these proposals in the courts, given the radical impact they'll have on free speech and free political expression.

Make sure you're following Julia Reda on Twitter and check out the #SaveYourInternet and #SaveTheLink hashtags to keep up to date with these ridiculous new laws.


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