Tuesday, 26 April 2022

Northern Independence Party leader Philip Proudfoot posted the following tweet today:

Proudfoot had been pursuing Oberman for quite some time and was able to take legal action because he had crowdfunded legal costs over social media. Without public support, I'm not sure his victory would have been possible. He was represented by Rahman Lowe Solicitors who I understand, have secured legal victories for other left-wing figures such as Ash Sarkar.

Some background to this:

Tracy Ann Oberman is a Z-list celebrity who was constantly getting into Twitter fights with left wing activists during the Corbyn years. She, along with another Z-lister, Rachel Riley, began suing many online leftists for libel and their lawyer even issued a legal threat to a 16 year old girl (although that threat was withdrawn once they'd received confirmation of her age).

Some people settled out of court because they felt intimidated by litigation proceedings or because their pockets were not deep enough. However, some did defend themselves, including my friend Jane Heybroek, who successfully defeated Oberman and Riley, securing a substantial pay out in the process.

While this victory was great and came as a huge relief, it also came at huge cost. Battles like this are hugely stressful and expensive and the consequences of losing are unthinkable - costs can run to hundreds of thousands of pounds. It gets worse, if you can't afford to continue defending yourself, you can lose by default and then lose everything you own, including your home. Even if you have a strong case, all it takes is one unsympathetic judge and you can be in trouble.

The reason I'm highlighting this is because it helps explain why Philip Proudfoot was so determined to pursue Tracy Ann Oberman and why he was so brave for doing so. I remember him insisting on Twitter that it's time for the left to fight back and not allow ourselves to be pushed around. Therefore, when he was libelled, he decided to crowdfund and take legal action - a hugely risky move. 

Here is the now deleted tweet:

"So a man called @PhilipProudfoot of @FreeNorthNow has a Jew blocklist. I've been out of the twitter politics loop for a few months but is this Party continuation Corbyn? Seems like it. And will it end up the same way? Seems like it. Good luck all."

We had thought the constant online attacks and vilification of the left were slowing down after Jeremy Corbyn resigned as Labour leader, however, new leftist movements quickly became targeted. And one of the figures targeted was the founder of the Northern Independence Party, who is a researcher in Political Anthropology, Development and Humanitarianism, and one of the nicest and most genuine people you could wish to encounter.

I remember Philip telling me how stressful he was finding the relentless online attacks against him. I'd experienced similar myself so I knew how stressful they could be. A lawyer once trawled through my tweets and told me to "enjoy the coming court case" saying "it couldn't happen to a nicer person", but thankfully, they had nothing actionable so it led nowhere. Still, they knew what they were doing, they were intimidating me. (To be clear, that threat was nothing to do with Oberman, I'm simply highlighting how I've been the victim of similar behaviour.)

When Proudfoot was receiving a barrage of attacks and false accusations, I told him about a mass-blocking tool I used which would auto-block the followers of any troll account. There was one particularly vicious troll account that had targeted Proudfoot and it had a substantial following, so he blocked all of its followers.

This account was known for accusing people of antisemitism and had accused Proudfoot of such because of some critiques he'd made of the Israeli government. The accusations were baseless and many Jewish figures leapt to Proudfoot's defence. However, when he blocked the followers of this account, he received an unexpected backlash.

Many of the followers of this account were Jewish and the ones who were targeting Proudfoot were discovering they were all blocked now. This led to their next line of attack: that Proudfoot must have a "Jewish block list" and must be blocking people simply for being Jews. (They'd previously attacked another friend of mine, James Foster, in the same way.)

Obviously, both of these men were innocent victims and Proudfoot, to his credit, decided he'd had enough. He therefore took the bold step of starting a fund raiser and fighting back against the people who were targeting him.

Tracy Ann Oberman made the mistake of joining in with the "Jewish block list" smear, and as she is a person who has targeted many people on the left with libel action, she absolutely became fair game. But as I pointed out previously, this was a hugely risky move on Proudfoot's part. 

What if he was unable to raise the necessary funds? Oberman is someone who has previously boasted of how lawyers are willing to represent her pro bono. Philip had no such luxury, but he did have a strong case. And he pursued Oberman until she humiliatingly backed down and agreed to pay damages. Some would call this karma. I would call it justice.

Personally, I find the libel laws in this country to be archaic and a huge threat to free speech. I therefore do not believe in pursuing individuals for libel in almost all cases. However, this was one such case where litigation was absolutely fair and necessary, and I congratulate Proudfoot, not only on his personal victory, but for courageously standing up for the online left.

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Saturday, 2 April 2022

Jack Monroe recently posted a tweet which was deleted in roughly an hour, despite getting a huge response. Her tweet was critical of Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer for stating the British people do not want a revolution. Jack explained she does want a revolution actually and asked people if they agreed with her. The answer was a resounding yes, so much so that a Twitter hashtag was started: #IWantARevolution.

Monroe clarified in a follow-up tweet that she was not calling for violent revolution, of course, to the disappointment of lunatics like myself who were readying our pitchforks and calling for the return of guillotines. Rather Monroe was calling for the sensible approach of a general strike.

A general strike is when everyone, or certainly a huge chunk of society, across industries, goes on strike, refusing to work or even go shopping, attend school, pay bills, etc. It is the ultimate act of rebellion, short of violence and civil war. It is the people saying we will no longer participate in your system because we deserve something better.

In the world-leading democracy that is the UK, calling for a general strike is essentially forbidden. We are not allowed to collectively down our tools and demand a new, fairer economic system - and fairer economic systems do indeed exist. You should probably spend some time thinking about the implications of that.
NOTE: While calling for a general strike is not explicitly illegal, anti-union laws effectively make it so. This is because of the rules which state that strikes are only allowed when they are called in contemplation or furtherance of a trade dispute between workers and their employer.

However, UK law contradicts international labour law - namely the ILO Convention 87 - which permits strikes organised to achieve political aims. Presumably, anyone calling for a general strike would have to prepare for a lengthy court case and find a good lawyer to make this argument.
Jack Monroe is very much one of us, from the point of view she has been a working class single mother on benefits and she knows the struggle firsthand. But she is also one of them, what with her being a celebrity TV chef. Perhaps she was fearful that such a call for rebellion, for an essentially illegal general strike would harm her media career. And to be fair, it probably would.

And that is the problem: the system has so much control over us, it makes it incredibly difficult to revolt, but if we're not going to revolt now, when are we going to do it? For too many, life is near-impossible.

You don't need me to tell you our energy bills are shooting up by 54%. For some people, it's even higher. Those with pre-paid metres are suffering particularly badly. One Twitter user reported an 86% increase in their cost per unit. A pensioner posted they will never be able to use their central heating again. I suspect many people, not just pensioners, are in the same boat.

The response from Tory idiots online has been to "put an extra jumper on". This is the type of comment a person makes when they've never gone a day in their lives without central heating, so let me explain this in terms even an idiot can understand:

When you don't have central heating, it doesn't just make your house a bit cold, it makes it drop almost to the temperature outside. Sure, you have shelter from the wind and rain, but otherwise, your home is just as cold as outdoors, or moderately warmer, depending on how good your insulation is. Most poor people don't have good insulation, and either way, your home becomes freezing.

Imagine telling someone to sit in a garden all day and night and then telling them to put a jumper on if they're cold. Imagine saying that to parents with babies. That's basically what Tories are doing.
I remember sitting in my old flat with my coat on and a quilt wrapped around me and still feeling freezing cold, so please, for the love of God, stop fucking telling people to wear a jumper!
It's not just the cost of our energy bills that's going up, it's the cost of many things. Take school dinners, for example.

Our kids' school has kindly told us the cost of meals is going up because they're switching to a private caterer. Yes, during a cost of living crisis, they're introducing a middle-man and passing on the extra cost to hard up parents. They even told us the kids will be given sandwiches for the next two weeks because no hot food will be available. What a wonderful start!

But it gets worse...

The school told us all meals must be paid for in advance, otherwise the children will not be fed. Ex-fucking-cuse me?

We've reached the point where it's acceptable to starve children in the 6th richest country on Earth now? We've decided it's okay to expose innocent children to the brutal reality of capitalism? To punish them because capitalists decided they won't pay their parents enough to cover the cost of living? How can people think this is okay?

My children will probably never have cooked meals at school again. They will be taking in sandwiches and whatever else we can afford to pack into a lunch box. How far have we regressed from the days when we saw national campaigns for healthier and tastier school meals to the point where a school meal is a luxury only afforded to the middle class?

Don't have children if you can't feed them! the idiots cry, like that helps the children who've already been born, like reproduction should only be for the middle class, like it's not just a morally repugnant thing to say regardless.

In the next breath, the same idiots who are telling us not to have children are complaining that millennials are not having children, the moment they realise there aren't gonna be enough people to work front line jobs 20 years from now.

If the working class don't reproduce, we won't have a working class.

Many of my peers are shying away from having children precisely because they couldn't afford to feed them and would face ridiculous attitudes, if they asked for help from Tory boomers who bought their homes for about 50p and then bought 20 other homes, ensuring millennials would never be able to buy their own.

The economic system they imposed on us is the cause of this situation, the idea the market is king and the needs of the individual are irrelevant.

You either sink or you swim, only we're not all swimming in the same water - some spend their lives in the shallow end, others are thrown in with sharks...

This is precisely why it was so frustrating to hear Sir Keir Starmer say the people don't want a revolution. Many people do, Keith - the people who are swimming with the sharks.

We know the Tories are fucking useless - they're market fundamentalists - but the leader of the Labour Party is not supposed to be that. He is supposed to understand the needs of the market are incompatible with the needs of the working class. If you doubt that's true, just look at how big pharma price gouges insulin in the US - that's the market deciding shareholder profits are more important than human life.

The market does not exist to meet human need and often has no incentive to do so.

A Labour leader is supposed to come up with solutions, to protect people from the cruelty of the market and build a fairer economic model that's based on collectivism, rather than rugged individualism.

But this Labour leader is offering a £10 minimum wage, two years from now, which in real terms will probably be a pay cut.

Starmer simply hopes the market will come up with solutions to the suffering it intentionally created to enrich itself. When energy companies discover they can make record profits from letting people freeze, they have no incentive to change course. Indeed, they are incentivised to continue doing what they're doing. You can't free market your way out of this.

And one of the problems here is privileged people still have absolutely no idea of the human cost. They think that because the cost of living crisis means a few less pennies in their bank accounts, that's all it means for everyone else. But it doesn't.

We are talking already struggling people being up to £4,500 a year worse off.

This means pensioners and vulnerable people at risk of hypothermia and starvation. It means children not getting fed at school. It means people becoming homeless.

And even if families like mine can avoid the worst of this, it still means parents working overtime, only to have all their extra earnings go to corporations. That's not just money we're losing. It's our time. It's our energy. It's our mental health. It's precious moments with our kids. It's our lives.

The market prefers it if we exist only to make them richer, and now we're not even allowed to live in basic comfort, to spend quality time with our children.

1.9 million people are being plunged into poverty, including 500,000 children, because comfortable people decided to put market forces in charge of our lives. And the leader of the opposition is not leading any kind of fight back. We've been abandoned. These are the perfect conditions to start a revolution and soon, enough people will be living in the poverty trap that revolution will become inevitable.
Werner Sombart had the perfect term for the unsustainable time we're living in: Late-stage capitalism.
We need major changes in this country. We need a written constitution that enshrines things like food and housing as human rights. We need the democratisation of our work places by converting them into worker co-ops. We need proportional representation. We need a ban on corporate lobbyists. We need democratised media. We need our key public services protected from the greed of capitalists. We need an economy that prioritises human need over corporate greed, that is built around sustainability and fairness, that will leave a habitable planet for our kids and our grandkids. We need a democracy and we sure as hell don't have one now.

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