February 24, 2017
by Martin Odoni
As we all know, Nigel Farage, ex-leader of the UK Independence Party, and Donald Trump, President of the United States (seriously?! Boy, did I get that prediction wrong…), are firm friends. They are both part of the ‘Alt-Right’ – which is of course a politically correct nametag for “Nazis-who-grail-against-political-correctness” – they are both anti-‘Big-Government – which is of course a politically correct nametag for “rich-people-who-don’t-like-the-Government-making-them-give-money-to-anybody-else” – and they are both deceitfully xenophobic.
This last week, they have both tried to use Sweden as a platform for spreading paranoia about refugees from the Middle East. Trump initiated it in a typically risible fashion at a rally last weekend, and made himself look even more stupid than usual in the process. He invoked an ill-defined ‘atrocity‘ that he thought had occurred in ABBA’s homeland the previous evening. Of course, there was no such atrocity, and Trump was rightly skewered on social media over the next couple of days.
Attempts have subsequently been made by the right wing media to present statistics that, at first glance, suggest Trump had a point (although it is very clear that he had not seen any such statistics before making his gaffe). Political Scrapbook has done a very comprehensive job of explaining why these stats have been completely distorted, so I shall not bother reproducing someone else’s sterling work here. But I do wish to draw attention to a startling irony, from when Trump’s dear chum Nigel got involved. It shows that Farage is not nearly as clever as some people like to think.
Farage, while speaking on LBC Radio, was another to use those same stats to give the idea that Malmo is the ‘rape capital of the world’. No doubt, he thought he was defending his dear friend manfully by making this claim.
Now, the stats that saw an upswing in recorded rape in Sweden are taken from the years before the surge in refugees from the Arab Spring arriving in Europe, so their relevance to immigration is doubtful in the extreme anyway. But more significantly, they are a reflection on the unusually broad definitions of rape and sexual assault in Sweden.
Rightly or wrongly, activities that are classified as rape in Sweden are not so-classified in other countries. As Doug Saunders of Canada’s Globe & Mail put it in May last year; –
If your boss rubbed against you in an unwanted way at work once a week for a year… in Canada, this would potentially be a case of sexual assault. Under Germany’s more limited laws, it would be zero cases. In Sweden, it would be tallied as 52 separate cases of rape. If you engaged in a half-dozen sex acts with your spouse, then later you felt you had not given consent, in Sweden that would be classified as six cases of rape.
(Italic emphasis mine.)
In other words, Swedish official crime stats actually include many forms of non-consensual touching. (Just to make clear, I am expressing neither agreement with nor disapproval of this definition, I am merely establishing what the Swedish definition is.) Nigel Farage, by using these stats to encourage the notion of sexual offences being out-of-control in Sweden, is endorsing that definition. A definition that includes any non-consensual contact upwards of rubbing up against another person.
In that light, it is hardly a surprise to learn that, just for instance, grabbing another person without their consent by the genitalia, is also classed in Sweden as rape.
If this definition were extended to other countries, then of course the rate of sexual assaults and rapes worldwide would massively increase. But that is not my immediate point. Instead, let us consider the following. With this Swedish definition in mind – the definition that Farage has had to endorse in order to make his argument workable – other than refugees from the Middle East, who else can we think of Farage is effectively accusing of rape? Who can we think of, say, who not only grabs unconsenting women by the genitalia, but then even boasts about it to his friends? Who is classed by Nigel Farage, therefore, as a rapist?
Need a clue?
With friends like Nigel, eh?
February 15, 2017
by Martin Odoni
This blog has, to this point, treated the Hillsborough Disaster and the UK Independence Racket-… er, sorry, I mean the UK Independence Party, as two completely unrelated subjects. I suspect that they still are, in fact. But over the last few days there has been an unmissable furore over whether claims of the new leader of UKIP, Paul Nuttall, to have been in the stadium on the day of Hillsborough are true or not.
NOTE: I have chosen to link to the Skwawkbox blog, because I am getting a little fed-up of the Guardian getting all the credit for identifying the anomalies in Nuttall’s story when the SB blog got there way earlier.
I do not wish to spend too long speculating on whether Nuttall’s claims are true. I myself, despite long years studying the Disaster, was not there, and so I have no possible way of knowing for certain. Even so, I can say that I was skeptical for a long time about Nuttall’s claims, and events over the last week or so have only served to increase my doubts. (His latest attempt to explain away a proven falsity in his claims has been debunked with astonishing speed and ease.) I disagree with suggestions that Nuttall’s account of being at Hillsborough was actually contradictory, but even so I doubt he was there, for reasons I have little need to explain, as they are being discussed widely elsewhere.
So I want to discuss the response of some of Nuttall’s defenders, rather than his detractors. Particularly noticeable and crass was of course the intervention of UKIP’s chief funder (and, some would argue, real leader) Arron Banks, who tweeted last night that he was “sick to death of hearing about” Hillsborough.
For my own part, I have stated more than once in the past that I am sick of hearing people say that they are sick of hearing about Hillsborough. This is not least because there is something nauseatingly insufferable about anyone who imagines their personal boredom-threshold is more important than the grisly deaths of almost a hundred people. It says something about Banks’ self-centred arrogance – always in long supply – that he could put his wish for a change of subject before the fact that, even with the new Inquest verdict last year, there has still not been a single successful prosecution over the Disaster or the cover-up that followed.
Banks’ remarks are also startling vacuous at other points. He tweeted, “if a policemen opens a gate trying to help and makes a bad decision it’s an accident. As for a cover up it was the 80’s.”
Now, the first sentence is just stupid, because it is an implied strawman argument contradicted by the drearily obvious. Nobody is suggesting that the South Yorkshire Police were deliberately trying to get someone killed at Hillsborough. (At Orgreave, probably, but let us leave that on one side.) Everybody knows that the crush was unintentional. That does not satisfy the definition of an ‘Accident’ in a Coroner’s Court, I should mention. But even so, no one imagines that David Duckenfield was stood in the police control box next to the Leppings Lane end, tweaking his non-existent moustache and rubbing his hands together in evil glee, like a stereotype Bond-villain, as over three thousand people were crammed into a space suited for about seventeen-hundred. It is beyond stupid to imply that people are arguing Hillsborough was a deliberate attempt to take lives.
But if the first sentence is stupid, the second sentence is just meaningless. It was the 80’s, you say, Mr Banks? Well knock me down with a feather! Say, Arron, have you noticed? The year was called “1989”! Could that be connected with these “80’s” things you are talking about? There must be some link, right? EUREKA!
Sarcasm aside; again, we already know. Just saying, “It was the 80’s” does not explain anything, nor does it constitute a particularly clear reason for just shrugging the shoulders and dropping the whole subject.
Banks then tried to clarify his ‘point’ (for want of a better word), by adding, “It was the 80’s” [thank goodness he repeated that, there was a real danger we might not have figured out which decade 1989 was in without his repeated information] “I been[sic] at some matches that were squeezed beyond belief. This could have happened anywhere anytime.”
Sadly, this only intensifies the impression of crass stupidity. Again, Banks is saying nothing that has not been said countless times before, so he is enlightening nobody; it is perfectly true that almost all stadia in Britain and Ireland at the time were at least as unsafe and poorly policed as Hillsborough. But also, he in fact defeats his own argument in saying it. It is precisely because the Disaster at Hillsborough could have happened anywhere that the issues surrounding it remain relevant today. These issues are; –
- Prejudiced, heavy-handed policing against presumed hooligans.
- Complacency among football clubs and authorities, and again by the police, on matters of public safety.
- Corruption of public and private institutions who are more concerned with protecting their own reputations than with honesty or transparency.
These matters have never been brought properly into the light-of-day, never given adequate official scrutiny or in-depth reform, and quite probably are still not properly guarded against even today. Simply saying, “Oh it was the 80’s” is merely giving this culture-of-shabbiness a name, not explaining or resolving anything. Wrongdoing remains wrongdoing, no matter the decade in which it happened, and a failure to fulfil one’s responsibilities, compounded by a subsequent attempt to shift the blame for that failure onto the people who suffered because of it, is only more wrongdoing.
As for feeling “sick to death”, I can tell Banks this; I’m “sick-to-death” of Banks and his allies lying to us non-stop about how much better off we will all be once we are out of the European Union, but that has never stopped them.
Inevitably, far lower-profile ‘Kippers than Banks have been leaping with partisan fervour to Nuttall’s defence. I have seen UKIP supporters registering squealing objections all over social media. One theme that seems to be popular among ‘Kippers is the notion that the British Left is somehow ‘exploiting’ the way Nuttall has been caught red-handed.
I find this argument vomitous. For a start, how can condemning Nuttall’s dishonesty (this chapter is just part of a far wider pattern of, shall we say, ‘seriously embellished’ claims Nuttall has made for himself) be called ‘exploitative’? Surely it is Nuttall’s manipulation of the Hillsborough Disaster, in an apparent attempt to associate himself with one of the British public’s greatest ever victories over institutionalised injustice, that is exploitative? He is standing in the Stoke-On-Trent Central By-Election next week, and the people there need to know the sorts of confections he is capable of. They must consider whether it is safe to elect a man who would lie to the whole nation about something like this, and in order to deliberate on that, they need to know he has done it.
But equally, let us remember that this whiny objection is coming from supporters of UKIP! Which is to say, from the party and support-base that have spent most of the last five years or so constantly trying to score cheap and cruel political points against other parties over alleged widespread child abuse by politicians. That UKIP supporters get so outraged about child abuse, but never seem to remember the alleged victims after the desired political damage has been inflicted on opponents, should tell us all just how much they really care about those same victims. So how is that not exploitation of a far, far lower order than merely pointing out when someone is using the tragedies of others to gain publicity? In fact, Nuttall has been pulling the same trick by trying to tap into outrage over the police cover-up after Hillsborough. If he was not there – and on balance it seems ever more likely that he was not – then he is being exploitative in one of the ugliest ways I can imagine, and so if you want to say that giving him a public caning for it is also ‘exploitative’ (it is not), well, swings-and-roundabouts.
No, the exploitation is very much on one side. Whether Nuttall was at Hillsborough or not, it is clear he was little-affected by it, but still he tries to associate himself with the campaign for justice after remaining silent about it for well over twenty years. Nuttall did not have to use Hillsborough to gain publicity, he chose to. He has exploited, he has not been exploited. He deserves vilification, for, after all the horrendous agonies Hillsborough campaigners have been put through over the last twenty-eight years, they did not deserve to be used like this.
It was their battle, not his.