Tweet Checking: Yes, Paul Mason, Clement Attlee Did Represent the Workers and the Poor
The French philosopher Jean Baudrillard theorised the theme park — Disneyland in particular — as a place of ‘hyperreality’, where the boundary between reality and the simulation of it can no longer be fully distinguished, becoming impossible to separate in the mind of the subject. On the other hand, George Saunders, whose CivilWarLand in Bad Decline contains four theme parks or resorts, somewhat reverses this: the bizarre theme park becomes the direct representation of the worst of our reality rather than something separate or transcendent of it. The theme park is a camp of corporate exploitation, worker pitted against worker, humanity commodified, false advertising (or fake news?), and the embodying of an artificial reality (which we know is fake, but give into anyway). The most horrifying thing? You escape the theme park and the ‘real world’ is the exactly same, just perhaps a bit less organised.
Are we all now living in some twisted theme park? In this line of work it sure looks like it sometimes.
5. Stephen Dedalus
What first got my attention in this tweet was the use of the word “yoon”, a slur directed against unionists, which I suspect will be an increasing part of our political discourse as we hurtle down the illiberal road.
Now this cheery fellow is correct that the article in question does relate to a letter written and signed by “consultants who work in or run A&E units in England and Wales”, but he seems to be labouring under the assumption that the Scottish health services under the glorious SNP regime is the epitome of immaculate Hippocratine care.
This is not the case: the A&E in Lanarkshire was in crisis after the Christmas period; waiting times for treatment and diagnostic tests were at their worst for six years last November, and overall A&E numbers continued to deteriorate into the new year; the number of nurses leaving the profession was rising in Scotland along with the rest of the UK (although doing better than England and Wales); and just this week hundreds of operations were suspended.
But as usual, the article is part of a conspiracy directed against the Scottish government, in this case an English plot to bad mouth NHS Scotland by not making it clear enough that…oh forget it. What’s the point of trying to figure it out?
4. Donald Trump
Many thousands of years from now, classicists will teach students the legend of the American emperor who loved himself so much he sang electronic twitterings of woo to himself while the empire burned.
I’ve already covered in a previous column why a low unemployment rate is not necessarily desirable, so I’m going to let Newsweek deal with the rest: “The survey [which Fox News—Trump’s source—misrepresented] found that Trump's approval rating among black Americans has not doubled—it has dropped. […] The results, which were reviewed by the Times, showed Trump's approval rating among "black America" had dropped 5 points, from 20 percent to 15 between February 2017 and last December.” But that ain’t all: “He's also lost ground with white voters, with non-college educated whites—his best group in 2016—down 10 points to 56 percent approval, and college-educated whites down 8 percent to 40 percent approval, The Atlantic reported citing the same poll.”
3. Philip Schuyler
What I despise most about “shitholegate” (“shitgate”? “holegate”?) is that it’s lowered conversational standards to the extent that people are flinging the s-word about on CNN at 7:30 in the morning. I’m no prude but we’ve ended up living in a South Park episode. Trump has done this, and it doesn’t help that his minions continue to defend him, either by denying it altogether, attempting to defend the use of the term “shithole”, or somehow trying to make out he actually said “shithouse”, as though that makes anything better.
There were indeed six people at the meeting, but only three have actually directly denied the term was used: Trump himself obviously, and the Republican Senators Tom Cotton and David Perdue, who insist on the “shithouse” version of events. The remaining people are Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen (who “said she didn't recall that word — "shithole" — being used by Trump, although there was "cussing" during the meeting by various members”), the initial accuser Dick Durbin (who is doubling down), and senior Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, who has not directly confirmed the use of the term, but has praised Durbin for speaking out, and says that his “memory hasn’t evolved” on the event, suggesting he is not challenging Durbin’s account.
So, in actuality, discounting Trump (as of course he’s going to deny it), and understanding that “shithouse” is not better than “shithole”, it is more four against one person who seems to be feigning ignorance to protect her job.
As to what this has to do with the Donna Brazile scandal? Nothing, that’s just flinging merde at the wall and hoping it sticks (not to mention that it was CNN who severed ties with Brazile after it was made clear what she’d done).
2. Paul Mason
The sad irony of this tweet in this is that at the end of thread Mason announces that he’s giving the 2018 Clement Attlee Memorial Lecture. Clement. Attlee. The greatest Prime Minister Britain ever had. The founder of the NHS. The father of our welfare state. The builder of new towns. The decoloniser of India, Burma, and Sri Lanka. The nationaliser of basic industries and public utilities. The man who made free secondary education a right and introduced universal family allowances.
Yes, Mason will gladly give the lecture in his name, but he will obliquely deny that this man—and indeed any Labour Prime Minister — ever represented the workers, the poor, or the cause of internationalism.
But Mason’s not the only one indulging in a bit of Attlee-bashing this week…
1. Crimes of Britain
Nobody is exactly sure where Crimes of Britain comes from; it’s “ABOUT” page briefly gives its year of foundation and mission statement before listing of a smattering of truths, half-truths, misrepresentations, and conspiracy theories. I distinctly remember reading something about its origins in the Dissident Irish Republican movement, but I can no longer find the source.
If you read through its Twitter account, you gradually realise that this no standard “anti-imperialist” thread, but exists as a living and breathing orifice of pure Albionophobia. I don’t exaggerate—I’m no chauvinist—just drag yourself back through the months. Every single thing Britain does and every single Briton is the embodiment of evil—even Tony Benn. However, in spite of their 100,000 followers, one should not be afraid of them, as most of their tweets are as laughably debunkable as this.
There was another tweet trying to “prove” the Irish Potato Famine was intentional genocide on the part of the British (rather than a combination of natural disaster, failed land policy, and Malthusian fatalism), but when I saw this I saw foul straight away.
According to the Toxic Remnants of War Project, British scientists were instrumental in developing the herbicide Trioxone (similar to but not the same as Agent Orange), and it was used in Malaya during the anti-colonial insurgency (leaving “persistent contamination”). However: “Widespread testing and spraying using modified fire fighting vehicles was approved in 1952. […] Spraying by helicopter commenced in March 1953.” Attlee left office in October 1951.
As to Attlee overseeing the “ethnic cleansing of 400,000 Palestinians”, this ignores the complexities of the brutal civil war and then invasion going on in Israel-Palestine in the period. British forces in the Mandate had fought the Irgun and other Jewish (and Arab) insurgents for more than a decade, and by the start of the heavy fighting had more or less retreated to their bases, having already announced a withdrawal of forces in February 1947; the majority of Palestinians fled Israel after its declaration of independence, leaving the British even more impotent to do anything. What CoB seems to be complaining about here for a change is a lack of imperialism in this instance…
How Attlee gets the blame for the partition of India is anyone’s guess. What about Sir Cyril Radcliffe? The Pakistan Movement? The Muslim League? Muhammad Ali Jinnah? Perry Anderson goes as far to blame Gandhi and the Indian National Congress for making Hinduism such a central part of Indian national identity, leading to Hindutva, something Indian Muslims couldn’t tolerate.
As to waging war on Korea…well, the North attacked and invaded the South. Any idiot knows that.
About the author
Harris Coverley writes the Tweet Checking column for Disclaimer and is constantly looking for readers to help him correct the worst of internet. No stupidity or falsehood is too great a challenge.
He lives in Manchester and holds an MA in Intellectual History from UCL. He also writes short fiction and poetry, the former of which only Disclaimer has had the good sense to publish.
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