A Poor Excuse For Rationalists

As an atheist, secularist and rationalist I should be within the ideal catchment area for the Rationalist Association.

I should be, but I am not.

Having read their recent contributions to the discussion over Richard Dawkins’s conflating Islam with Muslims as a bloc, and studiously avoiding the issue of why he retweeted material from an EDL sympathiser I am less than impressed at their rationality.

I don’t mind a polemic. But to be oblivious of racism in Britain, not to understand the nature of the English Defence League and to reflectively defend Richard Dawkins is not rational, even for the Rationalist Association.

Daniel Trilling’s moderate piece on how we need to get beyond Richard Dawkins has set the cat among the pigeons and brought out some rather irrational rationalists.

Not good.

Update 1: A reminder of what a self-confess Dawkins fan said:

“Because Dawkins has gone from criticising the religion itself to criticising Muslims, as a vast bloc. They’re not individuals with names, they’re “these Muslims” or “some Muslim or other”, undifferentiated, without personhood. They haven’t managed to get very many Nobel prizes, presumably because they’re stupid, or brainwashed into zombiehood by their religion.

Yes, it’s only a “fact”, but in different contexts, the same fact can have different meanings. For instance, would Dawkins have tweeted another fact, which is that Trinity also has twice as many Nobel prizes as all black people put together? It’s just as true, but presumably he doesn’t believe that it’s because black people aren’t as clever. Yet he is willing to make the equivalent inference about Muslims, without further evidence.“[My emphasis.]

Update 2: I was probably a bit harsh, not all at the Rationalist Association are purblind to racism.

Paul Sims wrote a good piece in 2011, Demonising Muslims: When does criticism of religion cross the line into racism?

“Whatever the debates over terminology, it seems clear that there is a serious problem with anti-Muslim prejudice in Britain and, indeed, beyond. “All across Europe we have seen right-wing extremists moving more and more to using attacks on Islam as a way of using fear to win people to their cause,” says Sam Tarry, a campaign organiser at the anti-fascist organisation Hope Not Hate. Of the extremist groups tracked by Tarry and his colleagues the most high-profile in recent years has been the English Defence League, which emerged in the aftermath of a protest in 2009 against homecoming troops in Luton by the extremists of Islam4UK, the now-proscribed group led by Anjem Choudary. Drawing on pre-existing networks of right-wing extremists and football hooligans, the EDL positioned itself specifically in opposition to what it called “militant Islam” and organised street demonstrations in towns with large Muslim populations, drawing attendances of up to 2,000 by the spring of last year.

While EDL leaders maintain that their concern is with Islamic extremism, Tarry says their marches target a far broader section of society. “They’ve actually hardened their position over the last two years,” he explains. “Now they are pretty much saying they are against Islam itself as a religion, that it’s evil, that it’s incompatible with the West, and this feeds into a whole other set of arguments that they make about the general Islamification of Britain.” Hope Not Hate estimate that the demonstrations, which have frequently descended into violence, have cost the taxpayer as much as £25 million in policing and have caused serious damage to community relations. “I was there in Leicester [in October 2010] when they managed to break through police lines,” says Tarry. “Around 500 managed to rampage through the city centre and attack a halal fast food restaurant, smashing windows and storming it. In terms of victimising a particular community in this way, we haven’t really seen this kind of behaviour since the days of the National Front.” “

Golden Dawn’s True Face

History has shown that we ignore the growth of neofacism at our peril. Golden Dawn is but one example of that.

Konstantinos Georgousis’s film on Channel 4 is a a reminder to never underestimate the boldness, stupidity or vileness of neofacists:

Update 1: The JC has a worrying development:

“Leaders of the Greek neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party have announced plans to open nursery schools.

The decision comes after the organisation ran a pilot class at the party’s offices in Artemida last month.

More than 20 children, aged six to 10, were taught “Greek ideals” and mythology in accordance with the ideological values of the third most popular party in Greece.

A spokesperson described the class as a “national awakening” on the party’s official website. Educators across the globe have drawn comparisons to indoctrination methods used by the Nazis. “

The BNP Congratulates Neo-Nazis in Greece

Anyone pretending that the British National Party were merely a bunch of concerned citizens, rather than hardcore neofascists, will have to do a lot of explaining.

The BNP’s web site can be seen applauding a Golden Dawn rally and droning on about Social Nationalists (which is presumably the new name for neo-Nazis):

“The preparations for the rally and the march begun from early this morning, preparations suiting the greatest Nationalist march of the last decade.

The streets around the monument are filled with Greek flags and the banners of the Party, while our slogans rocked the surroundings. Those attending saluted the newcomers with cheers.

The Parliamentary Team of the Golden Dawn, the General Secretary and representatives of Regional Organizations all over Greece.

At the peak of the gathering, 50.000 Nationalists honoured the memory of those that fell in Imia, in 1996.

Speeches were given by many comrades, including the Greek Popular Front of occupied Cyprus.

Once the memorial ended, the Greek National Anthem and the Hymn of the Golden Dawn were sung.

The post on the BNP web site provides direct links to Golden Dawn’s YouTube page, where bucket loads of neofacist propaganda can be found.

This is a reminder about the awful, neo-Nazi, Golden Dawn:

Golden Dawn_Salute1



[Pictured above are Golden Dawn supporters giving the Nazi salute, with Nikolaos Michaloliakos, their leader walking by.]

Michaloliakos called Hitler “a great personality of history”.

The Guardian provided an in-depth look at them, Fear and loathing in Athens: the rise of Golden Dawn and the far right.

At Searchlight, 30,000 Golden Dawn Supporters March in Athens Under Neo-Nazi Banners.

The Observer’s 2009, Exposed: ugly face of BNP’s leaders.

Haaretz on Greek mythology.

Finally, Golden Dawn’s leader makes excuses for the Nazis’s crime. That is what the BNP admire.

Update 1: Spiegel Online is reporting that Golden Dawn are linking up with German neo-Nazis:

“The Greek right-wing extremist party Golden Dawn has established contacts with German neo-Nazis in Bavaria. The group, which is represented in Greek parliament, is also attempting to set up a cell in the southern German state.

The Greek right-wing extremist party Golden Dawn is establishing close contacts with Bavarian neo-Nazis and began setting up a cell in Nuremberg last year. The party, known in Greek as Chrysi Avgi, even held a conference in the southern German city recently.

Bavaria’s state intelligence agency is particularly interested in meetings that have been taking place between right-wing extremists from Greece and those in Bavaria.

Silvio Berlusconi, Compare And Contrast?

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Recently, we have seen how LibDem MP, David Ward, tried to devalue Holocaust Memorial Day by taking a quick jab at “the Jews”, but Silvio Berlusconi has tried to trump him.

Italy’s ex-Prime Minister wanted to rehabilitate Benito Mussolini, the National Post reports:

“ROME — Former Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi praised Benito Mussolini for “having done good” despite the Fascist dictator’s anti-Jewish laws, immediately sparking expressions of outrage as Europe on Sunday held Holocaust remembrances.

Berlusconi also defended Mussolini for allying himself with Hitler, saying he likely reasoned that it would be better to be on the winning side.

The media mogul, whose conservative forces are polling second in voter surveys ahead of next month’s election, spoke to reporters on the sidelines of a ceremony in Milan to commemorate the Holocaust.

In 1938, before the outbreak of World War II, Mussolini’s regime passed the so-called “racial laws,” barring Jews from Italy’s universities and many professions, among other bans. When Germany’s Nazi regime occupied Italy during the war, thousands from the tiny Italian Jewish community were deported to death camps.

“It is difficult now to put oneself in the shoes of who was making decisions back then,” Berlusconi said of Mussolini’s support for Hitler. “Certainly the (Italian) government then, fearing that German power would turn into a general victory, preferred to be allied with Hitler’s Germany rather that oppose it.”

Berlusconi added that “within this alliance came the imposition of the fight against, and extermination of, the Jews. Thus, the racial laws are the worst fault of Mussolini, who, in so many other aspects, did good.”

More than 7,000 Jews were deported under Mussolini’s regime, and nearly 6,000 of them were killed.

Thus far, David Ward hasn’t past any judgement on Berlusconi’s comments.

I somehow feel that Ward won’t understand the similarities between him and Italy’s grubby ex-PM. Both crass politicians pushing a tawdry agenda.