Antisemitism and the misuse of statistics

Last week saw the publication of a very strange report entitled ‘How serious is the threat of antisemitism in Britain today?’ and published on the website of the controversial Jewish Voice for Labour group. It was written by Alan Maddison, an ‘independent strategist’ and associate member of the group with a history of previous attempts to discredit claims of antisemitism. Maddison begins by noting some recent media headlines about antisemitism, and then proceeds to set out the following position:

A review of the latest evidence, presented here, suggests that these headlines are unnecessarily alarmist. The pro rata risks for assaults are lower for Jewish people than for those from other races or religions. The increase in antisemitic hate crimes reported to the police is around half that reported for other victim groups. Finally, a Jewish person is 50 times more likely to be the victim of a general assault than one motivated by antisemitism

Having set out this position, Maddison promises to ‘review the latest evidence behind these more reassuring statements, and place antisemitic hate crime in a broader perspective’. Unfortunately, the way in which he does so discredits the entire enterprise, and calls into question Jewish Voice for Labour’s motivations in publishing his report.

I’ll go through Maddison’s arguments one by one.

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Sam Kriss and the misogyny of the Far Left

Today, an accusation of sexual harassment was made against Sam Kriss, freelance Vice and Guardian journalist and alt-left attack dog. You should read the whole thing, as well as the public statement in which he acknowledges the truth of the allegations but tries to paint his behaviour as arising from a simple misunderstanding between friends.

Kriss admits having ‘crossed a line from persistence to aggression’ in consequence of ‘not picking up on [his accuser’s] signals’ — where he considers that ‘line’ to lie, and how much more obvious her ‘signals’ would have had to have been for him to take notice of them, he does not explain — but insists: ‘Anyone who follows me closely will be aware that I am friends with many women with public platforms.’ Perhaps he is, but he’s been a public enemy to many others. His accuser highlights this:

I had hoped I would never have to write this account. But watching a man who repeatedly groped me, twisted my neck to forcibly kiss me, ignored any attempt I made to stop him, and refused to ‘let me’ drink non-alcohol, unashamedly attack feminists online, use misogynist language, singling out women for ridicule time and time again, means I’ve not really been able to forget.

Sam Kriss is one of several young men on the Far Left who have been extensively rewarded for public displays of aggression and misogyny. His abusiveness was not merely enabled by but key to his success within the political culture in which he made his career — which is, at the end of the day, only the latest version of the political culture that enabled generations of sexual abusers such as Gerry Healy and Comrade Delta. His accuser did a brave thing in speaking out.

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This is what terrorism is

Last night, a man walked into the foyer of the Manchester Arena as the crowds were leaving an Ariana Grande concert. Surrounded by the happy faces of children, he detonated a bomb, killing and injuring as many as possible. Others have also died or been maimed, and all deserve the very deepest sympathy and respect — but girls and young women were undoubtedly the main target. It was an Ariana Grande concert. And even if the killer didn’t know who the members of an Ariana Grande concert audience were likely to be, he will have seen them all around him before he chose to end their lives.

Thoughts must be with the victims and with those for whom they were and are the whole world — and in those family homes where (as a friend wrote this morning) ‘a make-up- and clothes-strewn room is silent.’ And thoughts must also turn to the prevention of further atrocities. The act was possible because of particular security assumptions that now should perhaps be revisited. But it was also possible because of certain fantasies that must no longer be indulged. The killer’s intention should have been inconceivable; it was not.

This is what terrorism is. Never accept a point of view from which it might be justified.

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I hear him coughing

I’ve probably spent more time listening to Leonard Cohen than to Bowie and Prince put together, but somehow his death has hit me less hard. I don’t know why. I guess because much bigger things have happened to shake me. This has been a pretty horrible year, all told. Or a pretty good one if you hate the things I love. There was the Brexit vote, which told me that my family weren’t as welcome here as I had once thought. There was the United States presidential election – about which, no words are enough. In the US, the UK, and in France, we have seen the rise of pro-Kremlin nationalists employing a racist and isolationist rhetoric the likes of which I once thought belonged only to the political fringe. This isn’t the world that many were expecting, back in the 1990s when I came of age and I fell under the spell of that eloquence and a voice drenched in resignation and regret.

But it turns out that this is what the future was, and he was right. It really is murder.

The days pass, and I hear him coughing.

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Sometimes rhetoric has consequences

When you shout BREAKING POINT over and over again, you don’t get to be surprised when someone breaks. When you present politics as a matter of life and death, as a question of national survival, don’t be surprised if someone takes you at your word. You didn’t make them do it, no, but you didn’t do much to stop it either.

Sometimes rhetoric has consequences. If you spend days, weeks, months, years telling people they are under threat, that their country has been stolen from them, that they have been betrayed and sold down the river, that their birthright has been pilfered, that their problem is they’re too slow to realise any of this is happening, that their problem is they’re not sufficiently mad as hell, then at some point, in some place, something or someone is going to snap. And then something terrible is going to happen.

Alex Massie, 2016

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For a love I could not obey

Femme fatales emerged from shadows
To watch this creature fair;
Boys stood upon their chairs
To make their point of view.
I smiled sadly for a love I could not obey;
Lady Stardust sang his songs
Of darkness and dismay.

Bowie, 1972

I spent a fortnight looking for the right words. Today, I realised you’d already written them, before I was born.

Goodbye, David.

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