Woolwich…. is history repeating?


On the 9th of November 1938, Nazi leaders instigated a pogrom against the Jewish population and their property across German cities. The attack was a ‘retaliation’ for the murder of a German staff member in the Parisian German Embassy.  This man was killed by Herschel Grynszpan, a young man acting alone and out of anger for the expulsion of his Polish born parents from Germany. The retaliation lasted for days, cost 91 lives, synagogues and buildings were destroyed and the police and fire service intervened only to protect the property of the non-Jewish population. In the days following the attack approximately 30,000 Jews were rounded up and sent to concentration camps. Jews who had had nothing to do with the murder, who wanted to be left alone to live their lives, were attacked, rounded up, sent to concentration camps and murdered.

To add some context vis a vis the religious situation in Germany at the time, the Catholic Church in Germany had just emerged from the Kulterkampf put in place by Bismark, and as such their  loyalty was under question. The church stood accused of ultramontanism. Their status in Germany was settled only through the Concordat between Germany and the Vatican in 1933. Though it guaranteed the Catholic Church autonomy in Germany, it also demanded official Catholic silence on all anti semitic policies.  In short they were bound on a promise of non intervention made in advance (the moral being if a regime like the Nazi party asks you to make open ended promises of non-involvement and silence in advance in return for basic civil liberties, it’s very probably a bad idea. That said, silence in the face of atrocity appears to be something the Catholic church is rather good at…) Some even went so far as to support the newly rising Zionist movement alongside the nationalist groups which increased during the interwar years. Then, through the Protestant population, Nazism, found it’s ally and a route to power. To them to be German was to be Christian and the Jews represented a secular threat to Christianity. Christian apologists can scream until they’re blue in the face the misnomer that Hitler was an atheist, the German people were certainly not…

Got Mit Uns (God with Us)

German WW2 Belt Buckle

The anti-semitic legislation in place since the beginning of Nazi rule in Germany in 1933 did not only mean displacement, it meant loss of civil liberties, being barred from certain professions, barred from owning and running their own business. The universities had strict quotas on Jewish admissions which they could not exceed so he had no hope of self improvement.  At the same time the Nazi propaganda circulated blamed the Jews for all the nation’s troubles. They were called parasites and vipers. Legislation was brought in to beggar them and then the were pilloried for what the Nazis had made them. Young Herschel Grynszpan may have had some small justification for his act.

Popular intolerance had been promoted throughout the interwar years with papers, pamphlets, and church agitation reinforcing traditional prejudice all played their part in the rise of nationalism. The extreme right was embroiled in rivalry between the center right, weak leadership at the center of power, combined with the  acculturation of the Jews despite the economic decline of Germany, their decisiveness as a group, the failure of zionism (at this point, the British were severely limiting all Jewish emigration to Palestine) to provide any meaningful or sustainable solutions to the ‘Jewish question’ symbolises the mean situation of Eastern central Europe in the interwar years (1918-33), up to the beginning of Nazi rule and beyond.


On  May 22 2013, two young men, one recent a convert to Islam, set upon a 20 year old British soldier, brutally killing him with a meat cleaver in revenge for his part in the conflict in Afghanistan. They believed that Islam was under attack from non-Muslim powers. Since this brutal and utterly unwarranted attack, mosques have been attacked, the Daily mail has been printing its standard fare of anti-islam and anti-immigrant (anti anyone who isn’t rich, white, christian… well, them really) tosh, and even Radio 4’s ‘Any Answers’ had it’s share of right-wing ramblers on demanding that non-white and non-christians be deported. I was disgusted.

These young men (like the brothers in Boston) radicalised themselves through viewing online videos of radical preachers who have twisted their view to suit the agenda. The one that gives them the best possible chance of influence.  Since they [the preachers] were unable to gain credibility off their own merit, they are happy to recruit from a supply of vulnerable young men, who are equally happy to see others as a maleficent influence, deliberately ‘keeping them down’. These preachers feed the vulnerable the easy answers that will get them onside and listening. They promulgate an ideology so far from the truth of either reality or their actual religion that it’s virtually unrecognisable to the majority of British Mulsims.  These loose canons and lunatic mal-contents manage to convince others that they are under attack and must defend their faith with as much force as possible: in short, terrorise the majority until they submit and convert. They are one trick ponies who love to think that Islam in general is undergoing the same ordeal as the Jews in wartime. They are not.  Not in the west

What do the crimes have in common?

Both victims were military personnel but neither victim, past or present, had any part in the decision making process of their respective government. They were both killed by young men radicalised by a sense of victimhood: one justified (the victimhood, not the murder).  In the case of the Nazi staff member, he was JUST following orders as Germany was not a member of the Geneva convention, so even if he had been involved (and as he was not a diplomat or official, we have no reason to believe he was), he was not protected by the convention should he have disobeyed an order. This is not to say that this historical murder was justified, merely that his killer was a disenfranchised young man: a Jew who had witnessed his own parents ejected from their homes and the country they knew and loved. They had not been killed but this was a group of people whose existence really was under threat.

The murderer of the soldier and young father by these young men, had no ties to Afghanistan other than a religion in common. They had not seen their rights curtailed, nor businesses ruined, their existence threatened.  They had not been barred from further education or the professions, they had not been attacked and persecuted by the state… Their attack was ‘revenge against ‘the British’ for the deaths of muslims overseas. These ‘deaths’  (not denying there are any) were the ‘everyone knows‘ deaths referred to by demagogues without an argument

Satirical dialog moment:

Demagogue: “refer to a few deaths here, mate”…

Trainee “why?”…

Demagogue: “cos it really draws in the crowd, plus nobody argues about “deaths'”


History is only repeating itself insofar as the reactions to both murders were grossly out of proportion. Britain is not the relatively new state Germany was in 1933 (only unified as a nation state since 1870), and nor has Britain had it’s economy smashed by a punitive non-aggression treaty (whole other post). We can thank the bankers for that… The historic actions of a nation under a fascist totalitarian state is in no way comparable to what is going on today in Britain, or with the majority of our overseas action. The recent MoD balls-up is a subject for another time. This is not to say persecution is a thing of the last century either: for example Israel’s occupation of Palestine is a disgraceful act. Israel are no longer a nation of displaced persons, they have become the aggressors in an illegal conflict (yet another post) and their history does not justify their behaviour. Nor should the comparison with the Holocaust  just be bandied about the moment a group is feeling picked on as so many love to do but this seems a more typical trait of American evangelists, who claim that Christianity (their version) is under siege.

News flash: this is not new, the 17th century settlers felt ‘picked on (they weren’t allowed to persecute Catholics anymore) and under threat , its why they moved there. It has gone on so long that the idea of Christianity under threat has merged with the evangelical mission to convert followers (provided motivation) It downgrades what the actual victims of that hellish time went through, and insults the real victims when, for example, a spoiled and pampered ‘news’-doll for Fox can score a few cheap sympathy points with the idiots staring at their legs, bums, and boobs. There is only one conflict which even comes close to the actual holocaust and even that was mostly politically driven: the first and second Boer wars, where the Boers were rounded up into camps etc… by the British (Read Thomas Packenham -‘ The Scramble for Africa’ and ‘The Boer War’) (oh look another idea for a post).

What is it the right wing groups picked up on in Woolwich? The groups as equally maniacal as the preachers they deplore? They pick up on the inferences spread by the right-wing hack rags and then act on them. The EDL  added 2 and 2 and made 17, and then good people who had nothing what happened in Woolwich were attacked for being Muslims. To my international readers, the English Defense League are a source of national embarrassment. They are not representative of the population as a whole, no matter how much they would like people to think they are. What else is happening in response to a gruesome murder committed by two people, acting alone? A Conservative government suggesting they reconsider the monitoring of everyone’s individual internet browsing habits… in short, the thought police want to know what people are reading/and watching just in case… Just how they plan to operate this scheme after they have been letting public sector workers go in their thousands is beyond me.  It would probably be privately outsourced… the Tories just love doing that.

If we just ignore the ‘swivel-eyed’ loons of the extreme (insert fringe group of nutters) there is very real a danger that history will repeat itself. Pretending its not happening is not a solution which is why people like me speak out the way we do. Sometimes the nutters need to be mocked and pointed at, just so the rest of the world is aware of the danger they pose to us all.  If we are vigilant and make sure people are equipped with the skills of reason and critical thinking from an early age, we may avoid another Woolwich tragedy.  The Pope’s ‘atheists aren’t so bad’ speech and the invitation for tea (see, TEA is the answer), biscuits and football, from a Mosque in York to the wider community in front of, and inclusive to EDL supporters was a brave and positive step toward peaceful coexistence. I hope to see more of the same.  Considering the reactions of the last week though, I fear there is more conflict on its way before we see any real improvement.

Random fact of the day…

The word ‘heresy’ is derived from the Greek ‘heresis‘, meaning ‘choice‘.



Suspension of Critical Thinking, A+, & Why I’m Done with It.

Groupthink: thinking so dominated by the desire to maintain unanimity of thought in a group that critical thinking is suspended or rendered ineffective. (Chaplain, 2010, p.201)

Extrajection: attributing one’s own characteristics to another. (Chaplain, 2010, p.169)

Projection: 1. attributing one’s own traits, attitudes, or faults to others… 3. a prediction beyond the given data.  4. perceiving one’s personality traits, needs, desires, goals etc. in unstructured stimuli, such as ink blots… (Chaplain, 2010, p.358)

Psychological warfare: a general concept referring to all attempts to weaken the enemy’s ability to wage war by weakening their moral, with corresponding attempts to strengthen one’s own war potential. (Chaplain, 2010, p.366).

Groupthinking and extrajection…

In the last few months (and even years in some cases), I and others have been both witness to, and on the receiving end of all four of the above.  It seems a vast number of the Atheist movement are unable to exercise the same level of critical thinking that we demand from others or even mock people for apparent lack thereof.  This is not restricted to one side of the ‘A+?’ battle of wills, with one side declaring that what ‘A+’ is demanding (yes,demanding) already exists – humanism – and they do have a point, with some sneering before hearing them out, and the other side bull-headedly declaring that A+ stands for positive social justice and asserting that all who oppose or criticise them in any way are anti-social justice.  These assertions are rubbish.  For a start we only really have people’s online personas to go by.  We don’t really know any of the people we meet online.  We just have to trust, they are who they say they are and hope they’re not some cyber-stalking head-case.  So, that said, assuming we ‘know’ the politics of an individual that we meet, by sheer chance, based solely on a few comments made on a forum is utterly absurd.

This is where the groupthink has kicked in.  Anything less than 100% support to either side (in some cases) has become, to some, tantamount to an outright betrayal of  the ‘movement’ and condemnation of all ideas.  This is not the case as one can agree on principal with an idea and yet have qualms over the finer details.  The slightest criticism now results in slurs against characters, accusations of trolling,  and ‘questions’ about one’s moral integrity (you know, the same conduct that we condemn when we get it  from religious trolls that post on atheist threads). That’s one hell of an assumption to make about an acquaintance that you wouldn’t recognise in the street, and in most cases those making those assumptions and hurling labels around as epithets are the first to call people out when they are on the receiving end.

It is both naive and asinine to assume (or assert) that just being an atheist equates automatically to being ‘nice’.  It is equally naive to assert that those who choose not ascribe themselves to any particular cause or label are bigoted.  I have always had a humanistic outlook.  It’s how I was brought up.  I’m vocal about a number of issues about because I have neither the time or resources to apply that in a physical sense, but what I do is no less valuable an action than physically going out and ‘doing the work‘.  Many charities (such as http://responsiblecharity.org/ which I’ve been supporting Hemley on since day one) rely strongly on volunteers giving up their time to raise awareness in whatever ways they can, while other’s volunteer for the on site grafting.  Nor I do not think other humanitarian causes are less worthy of attention: I have merely had to narrow down what I do and others are free to follow their own causes: it’s not a competition.

I’m all for positive action to achieve REAL social equality but we cannot expect everyone to jump to and support every cause and project around especially if there is a ‘by fair means, or foul‘ clause attached to it.  THAT does not sit right with me.  It should be ‘by fair means, or not at all‘.   If we cannot do it honestly, then how are we fit to criticise other injustices? Just because an individual does not support our chosen project or cause, it does not mean they are lacking in empathy or necessarily ‘against’ us, or any number of negative connotations someone might dream up and hurl at someone else in order to defend their own position.  That is NOT debate.  That is NOT discussion. That IS browbeating and guilt tripping and those who engage in the practice should feel thoroughly ashamed of themselves.  Character is judged through action, and actions like that, I find sickening and I will not be a party to them.  Nor will I be tricked through, omission of information, into putting my name to a project which cannot live by its own standards of behaviour.  People will have their own reasons for joining in or not joining in: none of us are accountable to any but the laws of the lands we live in, and our own consciences. We give to charity and volunteer our time in other ways but must we therefore leap on the A+ bandwagon? No. It’s up to the individual and nobody has the right to guilt anyone else out of following their own conscience in favour of some hair-brained agenda or other.

When somebody disagrees with a course of action, or claim being made, it does not make them a libertarian or right-wing, or anything else: all it means is they disagree.

This is war psychology and it generally paired with projection as a result of group think, when other members cannot think of a valid counter-argument.  As we know, groupthink situations occur when there are a minority of critics/proponents of a course of action within a group situation and the majority is determined to either force, or not to allow, a change in either action or attitude.

Generally, on the online forum situations, it comes in the form of accusations of dishonest motives and projection undesirable traits such as aggression and other trolling behaviour, which weren’t actually there but were attached to the accusation in order to justify discounting any criticism.  It is used to attempt to discredit opponents and avoid giving an answer which might show the user of this tactic in a less than favourable light, rather than admitting that the criticism might actually be valid.  Other group members will chip in to argue the toss and try to bully any and all opposition (which is usually in the minority) round to their way of thinking by hurling labels around, and making negative assertions about their character.  When this fails the aggression is projected back on to the critic and they are threatened with banning (rather than just banning them) in an attempt to silence them and claim a virtual and public victory.  Any supporters of the minority voice are equally shouted down.

Suspension of Critical Thinking, Failure to Adhere to Equal Standards, & General Lack of Consideration for Others (when no longer convenient to need)…

It seems that the first project of A+ is in the planning stages: transcription of atheist podcasts and videos for the deaf and hard of hearing.  It’s a good idea.  My one concern when I first learned of this project, via Greta Christina’s blog, was that the producers of these videos and podcast would be consulted (a fair few in the atheist community are in strong disagreement with the A+ movement – or their conduct toward critics – and may understandably object to their work being tampered with by the off-shoot group).  I wanted to be sure, so I could make an informed decision before offering my assistance and then having to withdraw it after a disagreement, that if a video-blogger’s or podcaster’s decision was ‘no‘ then their wishes would be respected as they have a justified say over who does what to their work.   I did not suggest transcription should not be done. In fact, I repeatedly stated the that the project was a good idea.

My support for the idea was consistently ignored in favour of trying to shut me down with accusations of  ‘derailing‘, ‘dumping on a project‘, ‘being aggressive‘ (I was on the receiving end of the aggression btw), ‘sarcasm‘  (I’ll give them that one) etc.  Yes, I am sarcastic at times,  especially when pointing out such blatant hypocrisy.  Okay, it’s not a problem which has occurred yet, however I work on a philosophy that prevention is better than cure.  If you pre-empt potential problems and plan for their avoidance (like not deliberately circumventing people’s personal autonomy over their work, for instance), the problems are less likely to occur.  I can see their attitude of “we’re going to do this regardless of what anyone else thinks, and if a few people’s rights get trampled on, it’s for the ‘greater good’, so they and everyone else can stop whining” is going to cause them a great deal of problems.  I will say this, if the A+ers truly care about social justice as much as they claim to, then the protection of everyone’s rights should be paramount to their concerns: they don’t get to ignore inconvenient truths whenever it damn well suits them.

The people orchestrating the project seem to disagree with the importance of a private person’s authority over their work. They ‘won’t let the project be bullied like that’ (because producers objections to their work being co-opted without their prior knowledge or against their wishes is obviously ‘bullying’ behaviour, isn’t it. The same way objecting to having bogus religions (tautology, I know) down our throats is ‘persecution).  By that they mean they aren’t planning on giving people even the opportunity to refuse participation, but instead to just charge ahead regardless and impose it on people whether they like it or not. Besides any legal considerations, asking first is just a basic common courtesy that any of us would expect to be treated with. What is so heinous about asking for some simple good manners to be exercised? Do they cost anything? No. Do they hurt? Not the last time I checked.

They have decided that their project is for such a good cause that it trumps the rights of any objectors and that this web-page has given them a legal free-pass to transcribe the work of private individuals with or without their permission. Never mind that the site refers to in-video closed-captioning* (rather than full and separate transcription located elsewhere and out of their control) of commercially produced video media, and says nothing at all regarding podcasts or radio broadcasts. Add to this the fact that those, referred to in the article, who objected to the legislation were registered entertainment companies. They were not private individuals expressing their own views on blogs on the internet.

*Doesn’t YouTube already have an automatic in-video closed-caption function anyway?

Other Sources

Well said, Jen!

How I Unwittingly Infiltrated the Boy’s Club & Why It’s Time for a New Wave of Atheism | Blag Hag, is the latest post by FTB’s ‘Blag Hag’.  It is well-reasoned and clearly articulated.  I would like to write my own thoughts but have no wish to flood her comment thread with a lengthy answer.  I feel that would be rude of me.

Here goes.

Firstly, I am aware that many among us do not believe there to be an atheist movement, as such. That’s fine, but a lot of us do feel that our collective group has become such a movement (me being one of them) for real equality, and that should be acknowledged too.  I don’t pretend to represent anyone, nor do I assume that anyone is trying to represent me.  I use this blog as a place where I can say things as I see them.  If people want to listen or agree with me, that’s great.  If they don’t that’s also fine.  What none of us get to do is prescribe a set way of seeing things and then go about, shunning, ridiculing, harassing, belittling those who disagree with us.  Isn’t that something else ‘we’ claim to be against?

There are many issues requiring attention, none of us have the time, energy or inclination to follow all of them, but ‘we’ are not the only group who cares.  Nor should we by any means polarise ourselves into one-issue-activists, limiting ourselves to single causes, and turning an otherwise noble concern into some sort of bizarre competition.  It’s not productive and, as much as I hate to say this, it makes us all look ridiculous.  ‘We‘ fight hard against the idea that we are all petty, angry, amoral people, with no inclination or reason to think beyond ourselves and the issues that affect us directly as individuals. So why, within our own movement, can we not apply that same attitude?  When we criticise other groups for in-fighting and hypocrisy, can we not just take a non-rose-tinted look at our own collective behaviour?  It’s simply illogical to assume that we are immune to the same group dynamics as every other.

Not being the ‘all men are predators and therefore a threat‘ type of feminist has earned me a certain degree of contempt, as if I am somehow being half-arsed about it.  The sad fact is that the moment that women openly own the term ‘feminist‘ a they get a great deal of grief from both people within the ‘movement’ as well as from without.  My own creepy cyber-stalker (just as a for instance) is just the ‘one-issue only’ anti-feminist type mentioned in the linked post and above. It’s the reason he’s hounding me. He’s the sort that believes in the non-existent level ground, so it’s okay to hound women online, because he believes that’s what gender equality means. Women might well be more equal before the law than they were 30 years ago, but socially that equality is just a veneer hiding something very ugly and it’s not limited to the atheist movement, it’s everywhere.

If we are going to try to claim the moral high-ground in the ‘good behaviour stakes’, over the religious fanatics we stand up to as a ‘movement’, then we really need to clean up our own act (as that same movement) and stop trying to pretend that it’s not happening, stop attacking the people who speak out when it does, stop attacking the deniers because they are lucky enough not to have been through it and are in a privileged position so cannot empathise with those who have,  and actually sit down and have a reasonable discussion about what can be done without having a dig at rival bloggers at every given opportunity over a disagreement. It has been noted by members our ‘group’ that some of the most hateful and spiteful comments have come from bloggers complaining about said abuse, against even the most innocuous reply.

We should have realised by now that Atheism doesn’t automatically lead to humanism.  We keep saying that atheism says nothing about a person other than their lack of belief in god. Ayn Rand was an atheist, and still managed to be a hateful, selfish bitch. Why is it such shock, then when we find out that not everyone in our group is a nice, reasonable person?  It’s because we keep repeating to our selves ‘we’re better than them, we’re not like the (insert religious group)‘ as if that will magically erase what’s happening right under our noses.  Because what’s happening here in our own group, isn’t ‘as bad’ as the worst extremes we hear of in the news, it gets dismissed as somehow irrelevant and those who do complain get dismissed as overreacting whiners.  THAT IS NOT ON!  The ‘ignore it, they’ll go away‘ comments aren’t helpful or productive either, because of what is NOT happening.  What is not happening is bullies and stalkers – as well as the people who go along with them – being called out and exposed.  It puts all the responsibility on the person being targeted to be ‘the bigger person’.  It’s a couched ‘stop whining and go away‘.  It essentially lets bullies off scott-free while those they target are subjected to further dismissal, abuse and ridicule, and it ultimately empowers the bully to continue.

The general atmosphere of nastiness is not called for. And, as I said, yes I have been on the receiving end of it. Some of the deniers though (not all of them men), are in the privileged position of not having been on the receiving end and so, in their view, there is no problem to address. When your home address is published online by a rival blogger (totally disregarding your right to privacy), or you are receiving rape and death threats (nothing merits that) for objecting to a pathetic chat up attempt, a woman has every reason to be furious. If someone impersonates you in fake profiles, continuously emails you to gloat, starts blogs about how ugly you are and uses stolen photos of you, you have every right to be angry.  Blogging does invite comment but it is NOT, under any stretch of the imagination, granting ‘consent’ to harassment or to become a  punch-bag for verbal or other abuse, any more than my walking down the street or waiting for a bus or train ‘invites’ lude gestures, comments and cat calls from strangers.  That sort of thuggish behaviour is not a compliment, its sexual harassment and it’s very intimidating especially if I’m out with my two small children. If that had been something I had been subjected to at a workplace, I would be within my rights to complain and expect to be taken seriously, so why should any women have to ‘put up with it’ in the street or at events?  In an ideal world women wouldn’t have to deal with it at all and wouldn’t  have to keep reminding the world that we are people, regardless of where we happen to be at the time.

The hypocrisy is glaring, that if and when women behave (it does happen and its equally – not more – vulgar and unattractive) in the same appalling way (gestures and shouting across the street etc), social convention means that not only are the women and the behaviour denounced and decried from all quarters – especially in the male dominated tabloid press and popular media – but feminism and feminists automatically get the ‘blame’. Meanwhile, men behaving in such a way is STILL largely accepted (on a social level) ‘as ‘par for the course‘, or ‘just one of those things‘ and that we should just grin and bear it, and pass it off as ‘men being men‘. Or, in even worse cases, it is even cheered on as some applause-worthy display of masculinity.

Not all men are like that. My husband isn’t, nor are the men in my group of friends, family and loved ones. Am I to arrogantly assume that they and my male readers are somehow the exception to a rule? No, but nor are you responsible or accountable for the actions of your entire gender. All ‘we’ can do is call out shitty behaviour where and when it occurs, put the deniers (politely) in their place, because rudeness is not going to make ‘us’ any better than the perpetrators of the abuse we criticise, and try to police ourselves, as individuals, not to allow disagreements, which do happen, to descend into petty, tit-for-tat squabbles.  If the elevator issue of last year had been allowed to simmer down, maybe it would maybe have remained a slight overreaction (but it was no less alarming, considering  what her talk had been about) to an ill-considered chat up attempt.  It hasn’t been allowed to, and given the level of animosity toward women who call harassment out, and as people are STILL having a go at Ms Watson long after it should have gone to rest, yes, she has my sympathy and support.

Homosexualmisia: The Hatred of Homosexuals | Al Stefanelli

Homosexualmisia: The Hatred of Homosexuals | Al Stefanelli.

The result of this cycle of hatred is a suicide rate about seven times higher than that of heterosexual youth. Sometimes, bigots actually try to prevent intervention by teachers in the schools. Often, their ignorance causes them to believe that somehow homosexuality is an infectious disease that their own children might “catch.””


Another FANTASTIC post from Al Stefanelli of FTB.