Friday, 19 October 2012

The more things change the more they stay the same

I visited Hull awhile ago taking my Nephew to see some of the museums and catch up with the city after leaving its University last year. Not much has changed but I took my camera and got a few nice snaps of some landmarks, you know statues and churches the usual tourist targets. However just a little ways from the car park I near the local Jobcentre I  noticed quite a weird sight, right next to the Jobcentre was a phone-box only unlike all the other phone boxes which were cream coloured (Hull was never added to the old British Telecom network and so has its own telecommunications monopoly Kingston Communications). You see this phone box was the closest box to the home of Olympic Boxing Golden boy Luke Campbell and apparently no one found it strange to paint a phone box primarily used by those on the Dole bright gold. It reminded me of a famous picture of the Great Depression.

                                The 1930's

                               The 2010's

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

EDL Vs Seriously Wounded Fourteen Year Old Girl

What you see above is bravery
I'm sure we've all heard the story by now, but for those who haven't a quick recap, Malala Yousafzai is a young female student living in Taliban (for those keeping track that's the Pakistani Taliban) infiltrated and at times outright controlled Swat valley. Given the well documented brutality of the Taliban you'd think she'd keep her head down and her face veiled. But she didn't, since she believes strongly in the right to education for girls she anonymously (reasonable precaution and still very dangerous) opposed the Taliban's attacks on schools in the area she became quite famous for her protests and even wrote a diary about it for the BBC Urdu section of the world service in 2009 when she was eleven.

The night was filled with the noise of artillery fire and I woke up three times. But since there was no school I got up later at 10 am. Afterwards, my friend came over and we discussed our homework.
School in Swat allegedly destroyed by the Taleban
The Taleban have repeatedly targeted schools in Swat

Today is 15 January, the last day before the Taleban's edict comes into effect, and my friend was discussing homework as if nothing out of the ordinary had happened.

Today, I also read the diary written for the BBC (in Urdu) and published in the newspaper. My mother liked my pen name 'Gul Makai' and said to my father 'why not change her name to Gul Makai?' I also like the name because my real name means 'grief stricken'.

My father said that some days ago someone brought the printout of this diary saying how wonderful it was. My father said that he smiled but could not even say that it was written by his daughter.

It can not be overstated how risky and brave it is for anyone regardless of age to criticise a movement as brutal as the Taliban when living in close proximity to them and their bombs. From their very start the Taliban deal harshly with their critics, when they first captured Kabul in 1996 they celebrated by turning the football stadium into an execution ground and brutally beat and then hung Dr Najibullah the last leader of the Soviet backed Democratic Republic of Afghanistan and his brother despite both of them remaining in a UN compound since the DRA was overthrown in1992. Najibullah posed no threat to the new Taliban regime as the small core of PDPA (his party) loyalists had been broken up for four years and the legacy of Soviet Hind gunships and Mines killed their popularity with the Afghan population.

This is what the Taliban do to critics and Apostates to their ideology
Sadly as we all know the Taliban eventually tracked Malala down and attempted to assassinate her shooting her in the head and leaving her for dead. Fortunately she has survived and the shear volume of disgust at the Taliban's actions abroad and within Pakistan got the Pakistani government to step in and send her to the UK for treatment paying for every expense.

Now too me and I hope to you that last bit of news should be a good thing, that despite the terrible crime human empathy was enough to get two governments to coordinate efforts to save a brave young girls life, but I know of at least one other group whom share the Taliban's frustrations and outrage that this girl still lives, they have three letters

Yes thats right the group that loftily claims to protect Britain's streets (even though streets seem to take a lot of damage when they march through) and constantly denies that they hate Muslims Asians and Pakistanis and just oppose Islam and Militant Islamism have decided that the best thing to do in this situation is insult this girl who single handedly did more to oppose Islamic fundamentalism then all of them put together. Accusations that this girl is a "parasite" for daring to recieve life saving treatment that another government is footing the bill for, at least one member went as far as to call her a "Piece of shit" and another claimed if she lived she'd just give birth to more terrorists.

Here's the source if you don't believe me, and here's a bit more evidence straight from the horses facebook walls.

 As disgusting as this open display of hate is I am actually glad they were stupid enough to post it, as it proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that the EDL is nothing more then a hangout of bitter thugs and shows that all their robotic protestations of "We oppose Jihad only" and "We aren't racist we just don't like the militants"to be hollow PR.

I would like to take this opportunity to wish this brave young girl a speedy recovery, if you wish to do the same you can do so here.

Monday, 8 October 2012

The Black Panther Party for Self Defense

 This month is the 42 anniversary of the founding of the Black Panther Party for Self Defense. On October 15th 1966 Huey P. Newton and his friend Bobby Seale after months of frustration with the already established Black political groups in Oakland established their own group which quickly grew into a local and then national political party and social movement.

I personally believe that the Black Panthers were one of the most important political developments in post war America and that their destruction by the authorities a tragedy for American Idealism. In an era where on the one hand White radical movements were trying to reach accommodations with the establishment after the Vietnam War wound down removing the urgency for more affluent Americans to fight for change. And on the other black and other minority groups whom had grown impatient with the slow pace of reform advanced by the mainstream civil rights movements meant many young black Americans grew parochial and turned to extreme Black Nationalism whose beliefs could often be mistaken for a KKK document with a find and replace treatment.

The Black Panthers remained defiant and contemptuous of the hypocrisy and corruption of the American establishment and rejected simplistic Nationalism/racism in favour of Socialism and reaching out to all the oppressed in America and the world.

 The History of the Black Panthers

The group grew to have branches all over America and beyond, in addition to an international section in Algeria (which also held similar refuges for over Revolutionary groups like the South Vietnamese National Liberation Front) the Panthers inspired black Brits to form their own Black Panther party. Though rather wisely the British Panthers realised that just copying the gang across the pond wouldn't be very effective in dealing with issues facing Black Brits so developed an independent program.

Fundamentally the Black British and the Black American experience was different, right from source. Black Americans were dragged, screaming and kicking, from the shores of Africa to an utterly hostile America, whilst my parents, they bought a ticket on the ‘The Windrush’ bound for London! So, right off, you have it there, a major fundamental difference.

The British Black Panthers were mostly active from 1970-73 tackling racism, police discrimination and community issues, but quickly wound down soon after. Nevertheless the Party did provide much needed political experience to many in the Black community such as Darcus Howe. And members and ex-members could be found forming or taking part in many other community groups.

Unfortunately the original Black Panthers also succumbed to the pressure put on them by the FBI. Huey in particular degenerated from a community stalwart and dedicated leader to a crack addicted murderer prone to bouts of violence, before a drug dealer gunned him down in 1989. COINTELPRO doesn't excuse his and similar meltdowns on the part of Panther Activists but the enormous strain heavy handed policing put on the organisation (It should be remembered that similar methods and resources were not placed against White racist militia's like the Minute Men or the KKK, even though both were quite active in the same period) not to mention the deliberate attempts to drive wedges between party members (extremely risky given the party was well known to be armed) were contributing factors to this decline, and responsible for a lot of the political and criminal fallout that the implosion of the Black Panther Party caused.

Nowadays the Panthers legacy has been hijacked by the so called "New Black Panther Party" a group that is blatantly racist and makes a mockery of the Cause and dedication of the original Black Panthers many of whom paid a high price for their commitment to end an oppressive system that oppressed billions around the globe.

In fact so successful has this group been in hijacking the imagery and legacy of the Black Panther Party that the Huey P. Newton foundation an organisation set up by Huey's widow Frederika Newton to archive information on an by the Party and its surviving members had to publish a lengthy condemnation of the New Black Panthers making it clear that the party is doing nothing more then the ideological equivalent of squatting.

In response from numerous requests from individual's seeking information on the "New Black Panthers," the Dr. Huey P. Newton Foundation issues this public statement to correct the distorted record being made in the media by a small band of African Americans calling themselves the New Black Panthers. As guardian of the true history of the Black Panther Party, the Foundation, which includes former leading members of the Party, denounces this group's exploitation of the Party's name and history. Failing to find its own legitimacy in the black community, this band would graft the Party's name upon itself, which we condemn.

Photo source
Second Photo

Saturday, 6 October 2012

Enemies of the Internet

Yep this is another one of them preachy posts, once again accompanied by a nice Infographic from the good people of Open-Site, for a quick recap of similar posts click on the following links:

Technology production
Online Activism

 Today's theme is sort of a companion piece to the one about Activism (though arguably they are all interconnected) its about those whom threaten all the good things the Internet gives us, including pornography and fan sites about obscure television shows an out of print pulp series.

If you think that identity theft is the worst-case-scenario of Internet use, you clearly don’t live in any of the nations that make the list of top “Enemies of the Internet.” Not only do these governments monitor their citizens’ web activity, but they also make it nearly impossible for them to safely share and gather information through anonymous microblogs, Facebook pages or Twitter accounts. One nation sports a cyber police force that is larger than the city of Orlando, Florida. And when protests erupted in another country, Twitter accounts were created for the sole purpose of diverting citizens from spreading information. Although these nations represent the extremes of national cybersecurity, the measures they use are based in legislative bills like SOPA, PIPA and CISPA. Check out the following infographic to find out which nations make this list. The next time you surf the web, think carefully about who’s watching you and who’s blocking you.

 If you're finding the graphic a bit small you can get the full sized version here.

Anyway I believe this is a fairly comprehensive list of nations that have less then liberal attitudes to the world wide web. In fact do take a look at both lists in the second image, we have the usual suspects China, Burma, Belarus, Russia, Cuba etc all well known for Authoritarianism but we also have a few surprises, Bahrain, Egypt and Tunisia, all of which had until the Arab Spring been well known for tourism and an accommodating attitude to Westerners.

And yet all of them at least embraced legislation that allowed their security forces to monitor the web. Why is this necessary? Well its quite easy to co-opt mainstream or old media either nationalise it or keep it in private hands and reach an agreement with the owners. Murdoch used to be the perfect example of this in the UK before the phone hacking scandal ruined his credibility and usefulness to government. Remember private ownership of the media doesn't necessarily equal independent or free.

Of course the problem with that framework is lying about a problem doesn't make the problem go away. People whom are frustrated and not getting anywhere through official means often go "underground"  and the internet has made this much easier to do and more effective to reach a larger audience. Owning the Times and Government FM simply won't stop dissent from spreading hence monitoring programs, and criticism laws (which we'll get to later) and don't hold your breadth for the new governments in Egypt and Tunisia to get rid of these particular laws. You would be surprised how useful such measures are once someone else has done the hard work and took the flack for implementing them.

For example in South Africa the ANC kept very unpopular Apartheid era laws in case their Administration faced an insurrection. Or did you think they just forgot about the legal justifications to arrest and beat them when they were the people's Vanguard?

Bahraini bloggers have often faced arrest and fines and that was before the protests against the Monarchy kicked off in full. Now you can expect a night raid and assault.

You may also wonder why Australia and France are on the list, after all those are civilised "Democratic" Western liberal nations. So why are they playing follow the leader with the Moustachioed Despots? Put simply because the same tensions that make surveillance and arbitrary detention so attractive to Governments exist in all nations. Can you honestly think of a nation that is completely homogeneous in outlook and harmonious? I can't... well that's not true North Korea (As its government portrays it anyway) seems pretty orderly, but given that its society is heavily militarised and has an extremely powerful police and intelligence service suggests that harmony is manufactured to some extent. And even they have very restrictive internet monitoring programs.

In the UK Tory and Labour governments have been blocking sites since the 90's. Some because of allegations of terrorism promotion and child pornography but, sometimes file sharing, I can't access Piratebay.Se anymore to give a recent example. In fact if I remember correctly in the 90's most websites blocked or shut down were Scatological pornsites (I'm not checking to make sure, you do that if you want too) which while unpleasant content wise isn't exactly what I'd call and economic or societal menace.

And of course I'm sure we're all familiar with the Alphabet bills in America and the EU trying to increase restrictions on the internet in our lands. SOPA, PIPA, CISPA, ACTA and so on. This initiatives need to be fought, not because they'll take away free films and music (even though its been debunked that piracy negatively affects those industries) but because they all legalise attacks from both government agencies and corporate "Rights holders" to attack our democratic space. You are naive in the extreme if you don't realise that these measures open the door to censorship of ideas and groups. And maybe you don't care all that much when the groups being shut down are "terrorists" or of the political and social opposition, but can you honestly guarantee that that is were the line stops? Would you be so complacent if the party bringing in these policies was one that opposed your beliefs and tried to silence your activism and debate?

Again credit to the Open-Site for the infographic.

More from this series:

Technology production
Online Activism

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