Freedom Or Freedumb

October 7th 2023

Book Review: Me, Not You: The Trouble with Mainstream Feminism by Alison Phipps

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In Me, Not You, Alison Phipps builds on Black feminist scholarship to investigate how mainstream feminist movements against sexual violence express a ‘political whiteness’ that can reinforce marginalisation and oppression and limits the capacity to collectively achieve structural change and dismantle violent systems. This short and accessible book challenges us to think deeply about how the politics of woundedness, outrage and carcerality are embedded within the feminist movement and our own organising, writes Lili Schwoerer, and serves as another encouragement to explore and engage with alternative imaginaries.

Me, Not You: The Trouble with Mainstream Feminism. Alison Phipps. Manchester University Press. 2020.

Me, Not You, authored by Alison Phipps, Professor of Gender Studies at Sussex University, offers a timely analysis of the connections between mainstream feminism, racism and carceral politics. Drawing on Black feminist scholarship while elaborating on the concept of ‘political whiteness’, Phipps investigates how mainstream feminist movements against sexual violence can reinforce the oppression of women who are not white, middle-class and/or cisgender. Her critique provides essential reading for white women involved in teaching and organising around sexual violence, as well as being of interest to all those seeking to understand and work against gendered and intersecting inequalities.

This short, accessibly written book pivots around the #MeToo movement, which, according to Phipps, provided a powerful opportunity to highlight the widespread nature of sexual violence, while also replicating and exposing some of the longstanding violences of mainstream feminism. The feminism that Phipps critiques here is Anglo-American, public feminism: the kind of feminism which is most hegemonic, and most visible, in corporations, NGOS and institutions, including universities. The book’s six short chapters draw together historical and conceptual analysis with empirical observations on the ways in which the tendencies to co-opt the work of women of colour and to centre white woundedness shape these kinds of feminist organising, and the political landscape more generally.

Phipps acknowledges that much of her analysis is not new to those immersed in Black feminist thought and is thus primarily directed at white women like her – and me – that are ‘interested in doing their feminism differently’ (11). She discusses the complexities that arise from her own positioning in relation to the topic she critiques, and the fact that critiquing whiteness from within can both re-centre it and reproduce some of its most vicious tendencies. Rather than seeking to solve these complicities, she leaves them open to critique, noting the incompleteness and collaborative nature of all knowledge production.

Chapter One, ‘Gender in a Right-Moving World’, situates sexual violence and gender inequality in the socio-economic formations specific to contemporary neoliberalism: the crisis of social reproduction and resulting precarity, the defunding of services providing safety for survivors and the global move towards the political right. Drawing on scholars such as Silvia Federici and Maria Lugones, Phipps links these newer formations to the historical development of racial capitalism through the intertwined structures of (settler-)colonialism and heteropatriarchy, connecting them to the centrality of the nuclear family in neoliberal capitalist, white-supremacist society. These formations, she argues, are central to contemporary right-wing ideology, which controls the bodies of women through restrictions on reproduction while simultaneously weaponising white women’s safety for racist and xenophobic means.

In the context of austerity-induced politics of scarcity, the control of women’s bodies intersects with increased fear and scapegoating of those who are constructed, often in contradictory ways, as ‘Other’. Phipps convincingly argues that these politics connect the far right, including the global anti-feminist backlash, with some forms of mainstream feminism, in particular those which seek to demarcate the boundaries of ‘womanhood’, excluding transgender women from its community. Later in the book in Chapter Five, she demonstrates that these connections are far from symbolic; they manifest in material links and coalition-building between the far right and anti-trans feminist groups (see also Lola Olufemi, 2020).

Phipps most skilfully connects histories of the feminist movement to its contemporary shortcomings in Chapter Two, ‘Me, Not You’. She retraces Black feminist critiques of the women’s movement, demonstrating how the subject of today’s mainstream feminism has arisen from white, Eurocentric, bourgeois and essentialist constructions of ‘respectable’ womanhood, which have always stood in opposition to women of colour and working-class women. She argues that these constructions, which leave no space for theorising the intersections between gender, race and class, have led to a mainstream feminist understanding of the essentialised white woman as a uniquely and maximally oppressed subject, while violence becomes located in the (again essentialised) male body. The white (feminist) self is then fundamentally a wounded self and preoccupied with threat: ‘’the cultural power of mainstream feminism is linked to the cultural power of white tears’ (72).

The core concept of ‘political whiteness’, discussed in detail in Chapter Four, allows for an elaboration of this point. Political whiteness ‘describes a set of values, orientations and behaviours that […] include narcissism, alertness to threat and an accompanying will to power’, and which is produced by the interaction between supremacy and victimhood (6). The concept thus opens up an analysis that recognises that the positions of ‘victim’ and ‘perpetrator’ are not mutually exclusive, and which draws parallels between mainstream feminism and some of its most vocal, right-wing critics.

The concept of political whiteness also allows Phipps to explore the affinity between mainstream feminism and the carceral state. Drawing on Elizabeth Bernstein’s notion of carceral feminism, as well as on Black feminist abolitionists such as Mariame Kaba, Phipps explores how the most public voices in the #MeToo movement have been focused on punishing individual ‘bad men’, despite the explicitly structural focus of the movement’s original founder, Black feminist Tarana Burke. This, she argues, risks not only leaving violent structures intact, but also invests in a system which has violence against people of colour at its core.

Phipps’s theorisation here successfully balances the individual and the structural: while she underlines that political whiteness is not merely a personal attribute of white people, she reflexively explores how white women in particular have internalised and reproduced these structures. This distinguishes her work from most other, earlier theorisations of ‘neoliberal’ or ‘corporate’ feminism: the focus on material histories of race and colonialism complicates narratives of contemporary feminism having merely ‘sold out’ or ‘lost its way’.

Phipps’s contribution to contemporary feminist scholarship is perhaps most pronounced in Chapter Four, ‘The Outrage Economy’, which theorises the relationship between narratives of survivorhood and trauma and contemporary political economy. Phipps, drawing on Jodi Dean’s concept of ‘communicative capitalism’, amongst others, explores how media outrage has amplified the carceral tendencies of the dominant voices in the #MeToo movement, and of mainstream feminist activism more generally.

Phipps writes emphatically about the needs of survivors to express their trauma and for it to be taken seriously, while also exploring how the public value of ‘trauma capital’ is structured by gender, race and class; trans women, women of colour and sex worker’s experiences of violence are less likely to be taken seriously than those of white, middle-class, cisgender women. In an ‘outrage economy’ structured by political whiteness, trauma can become currency in campaigns against trans women’s and sex workers’ rights. Middle-class cisgender women are most likely to be heard and amplified, and are able to navigate this economy best. Importantly, Phipps also discusses how outrage about sexual violence, in combination with punitive responses to it, can actually distract from understanding, and organising against, structural violence.

As such, this short and accessible book challenges us to think deeply about how the politics of woundedness, outrage and carcerality are embedded within the feminist movement and our own organising. In a moment in which calls to ‘take down violent men’ remain frequently voiced in the public sphere, thinking hard about the violence that could be enacted precisely through such responses is paramount. As abolitionist thinkers such as Kaba argue, the alternatives are not easy, one-size-fits-all solutions, but legacies of organising can serve as guidance, and ‘non-reformist reforms’ can bring us closer to a world free from violence. Phipps’s book serves as yet another encouragement to explore and engage with these alternative imaginaries deeply.

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Note: This article gives the views of the authors, and not the position of USAPP– American Politics and Policy, nor of the London School of Economics.

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About the reviewer

Lili SchwoererLSE
Lili Schwoerer is a PhD candidate in Sociology at the LSE. Her thesis explores how gender and feminist knowledge production in English universities is shaped and reshaped in the context of Higher Education marketisation and internationalisation. You can follow her on twitter @lili__lilian

When Feminism Is White Supremacy in Heels

From tone policing to whitesplaining, the liberal white women’s feminism is more toxic than they realize, explains Rachel Cargle.Headshot of Rachel CargleBy Rachel CarglePublished: Aug 16, 2018

Pattern, Red, Circle, Orange, Design, Polka dot, Graphics,

Illustration by Erin Lux

When I heard about the tragic murder of 18-year-old Nia Wilson, who was stabbed to death in an unprovoked attack in Oakland last month, I could feel my heart begin to bleed. My community of black women were grieving yet again.

As we grappled with the realities of Nia’s death, I began to use Instagram to facilitate a discussion and flesh out questions like: How many more black women and girls must die before mainstream media considers it a worthy story to cover? How could they possibly take away her white male murderer so gently in handcuffs, while black men are thrown to the ground during traffic stops? Why aren’t the recorded wails of her mother and the tears of her father enough for the whole world to be demanding justice right now? And where are the voices of all my white feminist friends when a black woman had been tragically murdered?

Almost immediately, at my request, hundreds of commenters asked the white women who they saw as friends and leaders to use their platform to highlight the tragedy of Nia’s death with the same outrage of their black feminist allies. And many did—both demanding that justice be served while expressing their disbelief that such a story hadn’t gained national attention in the same way that Laci Peterson’s or JonBenét Ramsey’s had. But there were just as many white women—women whose bios claim titles like “social justice warrior” and “intersectional feminist”—that somehow took this call for solidarity as a personal attack.

“White women who claim titles like ‘intersectional feminist’ somehow took this call for solidarity as a personal attack.”

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Instead of sharing in the outrage of Nia’s brutal murder, they came with fury for being tagged in a post that they felt challenged their own perceived feminist accomplishments. There were grand displays of defensiveness, demands that they be acknowledged for all the things they had done for black people in the past, and a terrifying lashing out that included racial slurs and doxing.

The fragility of these women was not a surprise to me. In a crucial moment of showing up for our marginalized community, there was more concern about their feelings and ego as opposed to the fight forward for women as a whole. What could have been a much-needed and integral display of solidarity and true intersectionality quickly became a live play-by-play of the toxicity that white-centered feminism can bring to the table of activism.

More from Rachel Cargle

It is the type of behavior that rests under the guise of feminism only as long as it is comfortable, only as long it is personally rewarding, only as long as it keeps “on brand.” But if the history of this movement taught us anything, it is that intersectionality in feminism is vital. We cannot forget the ways that suffragettes dismissed the voices of black women, sending them to the backs of their marches, only for black activists like Ida B. Wells and Anna Julia Cooper to make major moves while fighting for the vote in tandem with their fight for rights as black people—ultimately shifting the shape of this country. If there is not the intentional and action-based inclusion of women of color, then feminism is simply white supremacy in heels.

Going up against liberal progressive white feminists who refuse to let down their guard of “ultimate liberation” to actually learn from women of color—who have been fighting this fight with grit and grace for generations—is the most straining part being a black feminist activist. Still, as disheartening as the actions of many of these women who were “called in” became, my highest hope is that this bizarre episode serves as a lesson, a dissection if you will, of what toxic white feminism actually looks like. Let’s take a dive into a few of the items in The Toxic White Feminism Playbook:

Tone Policing

When women of color begin to cry out about their pain, frustration, and utter outrage with the system that is continuing to allow our men to be murdered, our babies to be disregarded, and our livelihood to be dismissed, we are often met with white women who tell us perhaps we should “say things a little nicer” if we want to be respected and heard.

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Spiritual Bypassing

The easiest way for white women to skirt around the realities of racism is to just “love and light it away”. When confronted with ways they have offended a marginalized group with their words or actions, they immediately start to demand unity and peace; painting those they harmed as aggressive, mean, or divisive.

White Savior Complex

Many white women insist that there is no way they could be part of the problem because of their extensive resume of what they’ve “done for you people.” Instead of listening to what the women of color are trying to express, they instead whip out the Nice Things I’ve Done For Black People In The Past, which often includes everything from “says hi to the black man next door every single morning” to “saved a black child through adoption and treats them just as nicely as my white children.”


This is the most common of all. White women get so caught up in how they feel in a moment of black women expressing themselves that they completely vacuum the energy, direction, and point of the conversation to themselves and their feelings. They start to explain why race is hard for them to talk about, what they think would be a better solution to the topic at hand, and perhaps what women of color can do to make it more palatable.

As these things play out over and over again, it is made painfully obvious that many white women believe that the worst thing that can happen to them is to be called a racist. Let me be clear, it is not. Seeing your child gunned down in the street by the police unjustly is much worse, being turned away for medical care due to race and underlying biases by medical staff, resulting in death, is much worse, being harassed by authorities only to be charged yourself instead is much worse.

But even moments of explicit dehumanization to the black community haven’t been able to rally the majority of liberal white women to join us in our fight for racial justice. I’ve learned through my work that white women seem to only digest race issues when it is reframed in the light of (white) feminism. So I often have to lay it out this way:

  • When you try to exclude yourself from the conversation of race by saying things like “I don’t see color,” or “I married a black man and have brown kids,” that’s just as irrational as a man saying there is no way he could be sexist or misogynistic because he has a daughter.
  • When you seek to not be lumped into the conversation about oppressive systems against marginalized people, because you view yourself as woke, you are essentially screaming “not all men.”
  • When you try to rationalize police brutality by saying “but black people also kill black people,” you’re coming in with the same argument that men have when they say “she shouldn’t have worn that skirt, she deserves to be raped”.
  • When you walk into black or brown spaces and “suggest” how they can more aptly reach white people on the topic of race you are basically mansplaining, only now it’s whitesplaining how people of color should approach their own activism.
  • When you begin to feel defensive about the conversation of race, demanding explanations, it is like a man walking into a women’s space saying: “Make me feel more comfortable in this moment, even though the point of this space is sorting out how I make you feel uncomfortable everyday in multiple ways.”

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So what does allyship actually look like? Accepting the reality of this country’s dynamics. White skin yields white privilege and an ally is willing to use their privilege to fight with and for those who are marginalized. Allyship means voting for elected officials who have a track record of ensuring the most marginalized among us are heard and advocated for. Allyship means using your sphere of influence whether it be your dining room table or the boardroom of your company to call out racist actions and ideals. Allyship means uplifting the voices and experiences of people of color so that we are not continuously drowned out and ignored.

“Many liberal white woman have an immediate reaction of defense when someone challenges their intentions.”

What makes allyship so hard for most? Many liberal white woman have an immediate reaction of defense when someone challenges their intentions. And it is in that precise moment they need to stop and realize they are actually part of the problem. It is never the offender who gets to decide when they’ve offended someone. If you feel yourself dismissing the words or experiences of people of color—because you think they’re “overreacting” or because you “didn’t know” or because “it has nothing to do with race”—it’s often due to your ego, not rationale. Listen and learn, instead.

Dr. Robin DiAngelo, a white woman sociologist who studies critical discourse, reminds us in her new book White Fragility that “the key to moving forward is what we do with our discomfort. We can use it as a door out—blame the messenger and disregard the message. Or we can use it as a door in by asking, Why does this unsettle me? What would it mean for me if this were true?

Racism is as American as pie. In order for the feminist movement to truly be progressive and intersectional, white women must face this fact and begin to take on their load of work. We are long overdue to dismantle this system, which, if it is not intentionally and aggressively addressed, will defeat us all in the end.

Follow Rachel Cargle on Instagram and respond to this post on the Harper’s BAZAAR Facebook page here.

September 25th 2023

‘No one expects him back’: what now for the BBC’s Huw Edwards?

Suspended presenter remains silent over partly withdrawn claims he paid a young person for explicit images but still faces internal inquiry

Jim Waterson Media editor

Last September, Huw Edwards sprinted out of a barbershop near his south London home after being summoned to the BBC’s headquarters so he could announce Queen Elizabeth’s death to the nation.

Now the BBC is weighing up whether it can ever reuse footage of Edwards’s historic royal broadcast, with the presenter still suspended in the wake of the Sun’s partly-retracted allegation that he paid a 17-year-old for explicit images.

The Sun newspaper

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It has been almost two months since the newspaper sparked both the fiercest and shortest BBC scandal in recent history. Within a week, it went from being a story that could topple the director general to one that was barely meriting a mention in the wider media.

Yet questions remain for the BBC, the Sun and the presenter himself – and it is unclear whether Edwards will ever be able to unwind the knotty mess of public, personal and workplace issues that have him left him off air.

One senior BBC journalist summarised the verdict of large parts of the newsroom when it comes to Edwards’s employment prospects: “No one expects him to come back.”

Some of Edwards’s closest colleagues say they have not heard from him in weeks. They say he is not responding to messages.

Though the police declined to investigate the Sun’s allegations, which were based on the testimony of concerned parents, Edwards still faces an internal workplace investigation that will consider whether he brought the broadcaster into disrepute.

Key individuals have yet to be updated on the progress of the BBC inquiry, which is described as still being at the “fact-finding” stage, suggesting there is no imminent conclusion in sight, with the presenter suspended and believed to be on his full £435,000-a-year pay.

One of the key issues that fanned the flames of the original story was the vague language used by the Sun in its original reporting – which the newspaper argues was an attempt to protect Edwards’s privacy.

The tabloid used gender-neutral terms such as “child” and “young person” to describe the person alleged to have been paid tens of thousands of pounds by Edwards in return for explicit pictures.

This – along with the mention of the individual being 17 when communication began – gave the impression that Edwards may have committed a criminal offence.

Dame Elan Closs Stephens, the BBC’s interim chair, subsequently told a parliamentary committee that the individual alleged to have received the money from Edwards was a “young man”.

The decision by the top BBC board member to state the gender of the 20-year-old at the heart of the allegations was largely overlooked at the time of the hearing.

But in response, Victoria Newton, the editor of the Sun, told the same committee that Closs Stephens had revealed more details about the young person than her newspaper. She said: “At no point have we identified the gender of the young person, which the BBC has done on more than one occasion.”skip past newsletter promotion

Huw Edwards presenting BBC News in 2022

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Yet it is subsequent allegations against Edwards – including complaints about the presenter’s social media messaging habits – which could ultimately cause him more headaches than the original disputed Sun story.

Gossip about Edwards’s habit of sending messages to younger members of staff in the BBC newsroom and on Instagram had been circulating for several years. Some of those who received them believed he was not aware of how some of the messages were being perceived and the power dynamics involved, considering him to be naive rather than acting improperly.

Others were less forgiving; some of the messages were said to have left junior staff convinced they had done something wrong.

BBC News’s own reporting suggested Edwards had messaged three young BBC employees, including one who is still at the organisation, with messages that made them feel uncomfortable.

Edwards also lacks a natural support base in the newsroom, having not always endeared himself to fellow BBC staff and management.

As one former colleague put it: “He thought he was on top of anything, he thought nothing of going straight to the director general and banging on the door. He was the colossus of the newsroom, he thought he had impunity.”

The presenter had a strong sense of his own value, especially after having to take a pay cut in the wake of the BBC’s gender pay scandal. His widely praised handling of the announcement of the Queen’s death landed in the middle of protracted negotiations over a new BBC contract, with Edwards publicly flirting with leaving the corporation for a private sector job.

In an incredible coincidence, he was photographed by a paparazzo who happened to be watching the back entrance of Global – parent company of the radio stations LBC and Capital – last September.

Sources at ITV said he was also briefly considered as a potential replacement for Piers Morgan as host of Good Morning Britain.

“Huw insisted he would need to keep doing his BBC royal coverage,” said one individual with knowledge of the talks, suggesting Edwards had a misplaced idea of how feasible it would be to straddle both major broadcasters.

In the end, Edwards signed a new BBC deal – only months before being suspended when the Sun approached the corporation for comment about the then-unnamed presenter.

Edwards was eventually identified publicly by his wife, Vicky Flind, who said he had been seeking help for mental health issues. Her statement, drafted with assistance from the former News of the World editor Andy Coulson, prompted a swell of public support for Edwards and shut down coverage of the issue.

Flind said her husband, who often seemed to relish public fights, intended “to respond to the stories that have been published” once he felt better.

What’s unclear is whether Edwards still intends to fulfil this pledge and tries to launch a fightback – or whether he is now considering leaving quietly.

September 1st 2023

Mother Ireland

For Ireland the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries were an era marked by war, economic transformation, and the making and remaking of identities. By the 1630s the era of wars of conquest seemed firmly in the past. But the British civil wars of the mid-seventeenth century fractured both Protestant and Catholic Ireland along lines defined by different combinations of religious and political allegiance. Later, after 1688, Ireland became the battlefield for what was otherwise Britain’s bloodless (and so Glorious) Revolution. The eighteenth century, by contrast, was a period of peace, permitting Ireland to emerge, first as a dynamic actor in the growing Atlantic economy, then as the breadbasket for industrialising Britain. But at the end of the century, against a background of international revolution, new forms of religious and political conflict came together to produce another period of multi-sided conflict. The Act of Union, hastily introduced in the aftermath of civil war, ensured that Ireland entered the nineteenth century still divided, but no longer a kingdom.

August 26th2023

Luis Rubiales kissing Jenni Hermoso unleashes social tsunami in Spain

By Guillem Balague

BBC Sport

A kiss on the lips, a growing backlash and mass resignations among coaching staff: BBC Sport’s Spanish football expert Guillem Balague reflects on a tumultuous week for the sport and for Spain’s society as a whole.

Short presentational grey line

This is the Spanish MeToo moment.

This is the Spanish MeToo moment.

It’s an opportunity to focus everybody’s attention on the treatment of women in football – and on the frustration at what many see as systemic blindness at the top of an elite organisation, the Spanish football federation.

Jenni Hermoso is being backed not just by female players, but male players too – although perhaps not as much as hoped.

It’s caused a storm in football, which has turned into a social tsunami. It feels like wherever you are, everyone is talking about it, and in Spain it’s the number one story every day.

It’s a story about a man – Luis Rubiales – who appears completely out of touch with reality, a man long followed by acolytes and surrounded by supporters with an apparently identical world view.

But now, this influential group has become a minority.

Their defiance on this issue has left many people incredulous – and in Spain, they are looking exposed.

The coaching staff of the women’s national side has resigned, but notably not the manager Jorge Vilda, who was – alongside other senior figures in Spanish football – spotted clapping when Rubiales was talking yesterday.

This has not gone unnoticed by the Spanish public.

Remember that the players were not just asking for Rubiales to go, but for other members of the federation to go too. These women who have conquered the world see this moment as an opportunity to move aside anyone they think is standing in the way of their mission to achieve unflinching respect and equality.

For many people, this is about how discrimination against women functions. It not just done by one person; it is done by a system.

And in Spain, this episode shows how the battle lines have been drawn.

It’s a battle being taken up at the very highest level.

President Pedro Sanchez has no fear proclaiming himself a feminist. In the Spanish sporting groups I circulate in, people feel they must intervene – that action must be taken.

And beyond that, the feeling is Spain must take advantage of this moment, which has intensified so quickly and is capturing headlines around the world.

One week ago, we were celebrating a historic World Cup victory. That has quickly soured, some say. It’s been a whirlwind of success and recrimination, of holding to account – and of sheer defiance.

But there is one thing people on every side agree on: this is one of the most important weeks for Spain in living memory.

For many people, it’s an opportunity to move into a better place. For others it’s a chance to set the record straight – as they see it.

It’s difficult to exaggerate how influential Rubiales was. His defiance suggests he may have felt safety in that influence.

But the voices against him have multiplied, starting with Jenni Hermoso and her fellow players and then snowballing into their coaching staff, the men’s game and the newspapers. Now, this is being talked about around almost every single dinner table in Spain.

He may not feel so safe any more.

The Dark History Oppenheimer Didn’t Show

Coming from the Congo, I knew where an essential ingredient for atomic bombs was mined, even if everyone else seemed to ignore it.

Person looking out of a small mine entrance

Papà, my dad, told me a story long ago about the uranium that powered the first nuclear bomb. The one dropped on Hiroshima; one of the bombs you saw being built in this summer’s dramatic film, Oppenheimer. Papà, you see, was born in the Belgian Congo.

Earlier this summer, I was invited to a screening of the blockbuster. The film’s director, Christopher Nolan, was there too. In a recurring scene, meant to symbolize the inching along of the scientists’ efforts, Oppenheimer fills an empty glass bowl with marbles—first one at a time, then in handfuls. The marbles represent the amount of uranium that has been successfully mined and refined to power the nuclear reaction. The outcome of World War II, and the future of humanity, hinges on who can create that monster first—the Axis or the Allies. The closer we get to the bomb’s completion, the more marbles go into the bowl. But there’s no mention in the film of where two-thirds of that uranium came from: a mine 24 stories deep, now in Congo’s Katanga, a mineral-rich area in the southeast.

As the marbles steadily filled the bowl onscreen, I kept seeing what was missing: Black miners hauling earth and stone to sort piles of radioactive ore by hand.

Papà was born in 1946 at Mission Ngi, a tiny Belgian missionary outpost. He told us how, growing up, the Belgians taught the Congolese to worship God; how the Belgians addressed Congolese adults with the informal French tu, not the formal vous; how the Belgians said eating with your hands, as Papà did at home, was uncivilized. The Congolese were backward and ancillary to modern life, Papà learned in school. So did I. And yet, Papà said, the Congolese were the essential ingredient, the sine qua non, of arguably the most consequential creation in modern history.

In 1885, when King Leopold II of Belgium first claimed ownership of this massive stretch of land sitting on the world’s deepest river, smack in the center of Africa, he called it Congo Free State. Of course, life for the roughly 10 to 20 million inhabitants meant surviving violence and a terror state run by the king. Throughout the territory, which was converted into a series of cotton and rubber plantations, the king’s soldiers amputated the forearms of Congolese people who didn’t meet harvesting quotas. King Leopold’s policies drove famine and disease. Millions didn’t make it.

In 1908, when the Belgian government snatched the territory from the king, “Congo Free State” became the “Belgian Congo.” At that point, writes historian Susan Williams, author of Spies in the Congo, the private sector replaced the king as the extractor of Congo’s natural resources. The violence remained. What’s more, while the Belgian officials let Christian missionaries begin formally educating kids, they were worried that literate Congolese would overturn the colony. Papà told me how schooling beyond the fifth grade was illegal for most Congolese kids. Papà, to the delight of his own father, would chance into one of the colony’s exceptions—education for those who would become priests—an opportunity even some of Papà’s elder siblings wouldn’t have.

As the marbles steadily filled the bowl onscreen, I kept seeing what was missing: Black miners hauling earth and stone to sort piles of radioactive ore by hand.

The colonial system built workers—or borderline enslaved people—not scholars. An American officer who traveled to the Belgian Congo described a scene he saw on his first day: A Congolese man in ragged shorts knelt on the ground, a Belgian officer towering over him with a chicote, a leather whip tipped with metal ends. “The whip whistled … Every lash was followed by a scream of agony … The black’s skin from neck to waist was a mass of blood with ribs shining through.” This, the American reported, was punishment for stealing a pack of cigarettes from a Belgian. “Welcome to the Congo,” the American was told.

The largest company in the Belgian Congo was the mining company Union-Minière du Haut-Katanga. The colonial government had granted it the rights to an area spanning nearly 8,000 square miles, over half the size of Belgium. One of the mines there, Shinkolobwe, was rich with uranium. In fact, it was filled with uranium that the Congolese had already excavated and placed aboveground. Initially, uranium was just a waste byproduct of digging for the more valuable radium, which Nobel-prize winner Marie Curie had helped discover could treat cancer. In 1938, using uranium, the physicists Lise Meitner and Otto Frisch worked out the calculations that defined nuclear fission. If enough nuclei were split, scientists realized, massive amounts of energy could be emitted. Uranium was now coveted.

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In 1939, just before the start of World War II, Albert Einstein wrote a letter to President Franklin D. Roosevelt with a muted warning: “The element uranium may be turned into a new and important source of energy in the immediate future … It is conceivable … that extremely powerful bombs of this type may thus be constructed.” Einstein’s letter mentioned four known uranium sources: the United States, which “has only very poor ores of uranium in moderate quantities”; Canada and the former Czechoslovakia, where “there is some good ore”; and Congo—“the most important source of uranium.” According to Jean Bele, a Congolese nuclear physicist at MIT, 100 kilograms of Congolese uranium ore could yield about 1 kilogram of refined uranium. The same amount of ore from the other locations would yield only 2 or 3 grams of the refined uranium necessary for such a weapon.

The mining company typically built fenced-in compounds that resembled prison camps for the workers and their families; the company initially gave each family about 43 square feet—the size of a small garage—and weekly food rations. At work, miners sorted uranium ore by hand. One person described a piece of Shinkolobwe uranium as a block “as big as a pig.” It was “black and gold and looked as if it were covered with a green scum or moss.” He called them “flamboyant stones.”

The director of Union-Minière du Haut-Katanga was Edgar Sengier, a pale Belgian man with a sharply cut mustache. Having seen Germany invade Belgium in World War I, Sengier was unsure about what Hitler’s invasion of Poland in September 1939 foretold. Would Belgium—or even the African colonies—be next? So in October, he fled Belgium for New York City and transferred the mining company’s business operations there. However, before he had set up shop, a British chemist and the Nobel Prize–winning scientist Frédéric Joliot-Curie, son-in-law of Marie Curie, tipped off Sengier that the uranium in Congo might become essential in the war. The next fall, Sengier ordered that it be shipped to New York.

So Congolese workers carried and loaded the ore. It was sent by train to Port Francqui (now Ilebo), then by boat down the Kasai and Congo Rivers to the capital, Leopoldville (now Kinshasa). At the port of Matadi, the uranium began its trek across the Atlantic Ocean, past German U-boats, to a warehouse on Staten Island. Sengier stored more than 2.6 million pounds of ore in the States. About 6.6 million pounds remained in Shinkolobwe.

In May 1940, Hitler invaded France and Belgium. The Belgian government fled to London, and the Third Reich installed a pro-Nazi government in Belgium. The governor-general of the Belgian Congo, however, declared that the colony would support the Allies. He drafted troops, offered up Congolese laborers, and created production quotas to supply the Allies with necessary war materials. And so, during the war, many Congolese returned to the very forests where their parents and grandparents had had their hands amputated, ordered to cull rubber again, this time for hundreds of thousands of military tires. As the war ramped up, Congolese miners also dug for minerals like copper in around-the-clock shifts.

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In Sengier’s mining towns, as elsewhere, the Congolese were unable to move freely without permits. Or to vote. Workers had to be home by 9 pm, lest they suffer harsh consequences. Pay was terrible. But by 1941, though “natives” were excluded from unions, Black workers at several of Sengier’s mines began organizing for higher wages and better labor conditions.

December 7, 1941, Pearl Harbor Day, was not only a pivotal day in the course of the war, but also in the lives of the Congolese mine workers. That day, Sengier’s Black employees organized a massive mining strike across Katanga. In Elisabethville, 500 workers refused to start their shifts. Soon, freshly off-duty miners joined them and assembled in front of management’s offices, demanding a raise. They won an agreement that they could come bargain the next day.

The next morning, the mine workers showed up to the local soccer stadium to negotiate with Sengier’s company and the colonial governor of Katanga. According to conflicting reports, between 800 and 2,000 strikers attended. The company offered a verbal agreement to raise wages. One historian describes it as the “first open expression of open protest in the social history of the Congo.” But when a Congolese worker named Léonard Mpoyi demanded written confirmation of the wage raise, the colonial governor insisted the crowd go home.

“I refuse,” Mpoyi said. “You must give us some proof that the company has agreed to raise our salaries.”

August 15th 2023


 All in today’s newsletter…Three people ‘suspected of spying for Russia’ are arrested in major UK police sting; police warn of social media ‘challenge’ as children try to overdose on paracetamol; and how to avoid being duped by fake Martin Lewis adverts
‘Russia spy suspects’ arrested by UK policeRead now
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Girl, 6, dies two days after hospital dischargeRead now
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July 10th 2023

The Secret State

4’December 2002
Opening Titles – True SPIES
Madeline Haigh: We were living in a very neat and tidy semi-
detached in a very neat, tidy, respectable street, it was all open
plan green lawns, and extremely middle class, extremely quiet,
extremely conservative, and my two young children were in a little
local fee-paying school.
And I used to teach Mrs. Thatcher’s daughter at a girl’s public
boarding school…
Commentary: Madeline Haigh was haunted by a recurrent nightmare –
that nuclear war would end the world.
She felt she had to do something and joined a local Quaker peace
group. When the authorities cancelled an anti-nuclear rally, she
wrote to the local paper.
Madeline Haigh
Madeline Haigh: …until I started writing anti-nuclear letters,
because I was worried about my children, the only political
activity I had ever taken was to vote.
Commentary: The Secret state – that’s MI5 in the lead and Special
Branch in support – was alerted.
West Midlands Police Special Branch 1975-86
Interviewer: Why did you find that letter of particular interest?
Keith: We had had information that Mrs Haigh had showed sympathy..
s ympathetic views towards the Communist Party..
Interviewer: Information where from?
Keith: An agent source.
Commentary: The source was a Communist. Apparently he’d come
across Mrs Haigh at a meeting. Special Branch then turned up with
a cover story.
Madeline Haigh: …said he was CID and that he was investigating a
mail order fraud for Grattons catalogue company.
Interviewer: A mail order fraud?
Madeline Haigh: Yes.
Interviewer: But it was a cover story, it wasn’t a true story?
Keith: Oh no, it would be a cover story to establish who she was.
Commentary: Keith, working to MI5, wanted to find out whether Mrs.
Haigh was a potential enemy of the state.
Interviewer: You were telling lies?
Keith: Absolutely, yeah, but it was seeking information, and
that’s what I was paid to do.
Madeline Haigh: It’s rather hard to say to somebody who’s being
perfectly friendly and polite “I don’t believe a word of what
you’re saying”. It’s.. it seemed terribly rude.
Keith: I didn’t see a problem with telling a few fibs to gain
information, that’s never been a problem. We get away with it
99.9% of the time.
Subtitle: It Could Happen To You
Commentary: At the time, the Cold War was reaching a new
intensity. Soviet military might seemed to threaten Western
America responded by deploying Cruise missiles on British soil
a t the Greenham Common airbase.
Thousands of women camped outside in protest. The Secret State was
convinced that Moscow was exploiting CND for its own subversive
Sir Philip Knights
Chief Constable West Midlands Police 1975-85
Sir Philip Knights: It was perceived that CND had links to the
Communist Party, and it was automatically, I think, assumed, that
there would be people in there who had subversion as their main
aim, and we wanted to try and find out who they were.
Commentary: Special Branch was interested in Madeline Haigh
because at gatherings of her Quaker peace group, she’d met the
occasional Communist.
West Midlands Police Special Branch 1975-86
Keith: She might develop into a Communist Party member. If she’s
fringe interested in extreme politics then she was certainly
within the remit of the Special Branch to be investigated.
Interviewer: They believed that you were a Communist Party
Madeline Haigh: (Laughs)
Interviewer: And that you had attended meetings of what they
implied was a front organisation run by the Communist Party.
Madeline Haigh: They’re completely mad.
Interviewer: And they said that an agent within the Communist
Party had told them about you.
Madeline Haigh: This is completely ludicrous. I mean what kind of
world were these people living in?
Interviewer: Did you go to any Communist Party related meetings?
Madeline Haigh: Never.
Interviewer: But it was a gross invasion of her privacy wasn’t it?
Keith: Democracies all have invasions of privacy. If you’re
perhaps a person who is interested in being against the general
run of democracy, then surely you put yourself within the realms
of being investigated.
Commentary: Madeline Haigh went to Greenham Common to show
solidarity with the Women’s peace camp.
Such was the climate of suspicion at the time that anyone involved
in CND could attract the attention of the Secret State.
Interviewer: So if I had gone on a CND demonstration in the early
80s I was therefore a legitimate person for investigation?
Sir Philip Knights: Unfortunately yes, you probably could have
been, yes.
Interviewer: And a knock on the door.
Sir Philip Knights: Possibly, yes, possibly.
Interviewer: By Special Branch officers.
Sir Philip Knights: Possibly. Yes. Unless you inquire, you don’t
find out. You can’t just pick it out of thin air whether somebody
is a subversive or not. You have to inquire.
Interviewer: How would you describe what happened to you?
Madeline Haigh: It was like going through a looking glass into
another universe. And I’d naively thought that in a democracy you
could challenge government policy.
And what I found was if you look like being too effective at that
then the machinery of the state would turn on you. And it was a
denial of what this country was supposed to be being kept safe
Sir Philip Knights
Chief Constable West Midlands Police 1975-85
Sir Philip Knights: The police can’t stand by and say isn’t it
interesting. You’ve got to be involved, and sometimes you make
mistakes, and sometimes you have to apologise which is what we
Commentary: Madeline Haigh refused to be fobbed off and it took
her three years to get the police to come clean.
As a result of her tireless efforts, new Home Office guidelines
were drawn up restricting the targets that Special Branch could go
They said: “Data on individuals should not be collected solely on
the basis that such a person supports unpopular causes.”
Race, like CND, was an issue that galvanised thousands to march
through Britain’s streets. The difference was that, unlike CND,
race provoked violence – as the Far Right and Far Left clashed.
The Secret State decided that both sides had to be targeted.
Special Branch recruited a spy to infiltrate the National Front.
Chris Cradock
West Midlands Police Special Branch 1970-87
Chris Cradock: I placed him within that organisation. He rose to a
certain level within the organisation that I wanted him to rise
to, very quickly, so it was easy for him to access information.
Commentary: The spy had been responsible for some notable
intelligence coups against the Far Right over the years.
His role was to keep his head down and ears open – to warn of
forthcoming street aggro and violent threats.
Special Branch Agent 1974-91
Steve: Sometimes people would come up and talk to me about naughty
activities and I would have to say I don’t want to listen to this,
and human psychology being what it is, they would insist on
telling me what it was. Or you have the ability to merge so much
into the background that socially people behave., feel able to
freely talk with you sitting there because you’re accepted like
part of the furniture.
Commentary: One of the key targets for the far Right in the
Midlands at the time was a leading light of the Labour party
known for her plain speaking.
Interviewer: How was Clare Short regarded?
Steve: Loathed. What would be described on the extreme right as a
‘race mixer’. She was constantly attacking the role of the
National Front, she advocated multiracialism constantly on TV,
generally a bad lot she’d have been regarded as.
Archive (Clare Short):
‘I get a lot of hate mail – I get racist letters from all
around the country saying ‘Ohhh you’re in favour of immigrants
and there are too many already’. I think they’ve got to be
Commentary: Some members of the National Front planned to rid
their area of this turbulent socialist, using methods more common
in Northern Ireland.
Interviewer: Were there plans to get her?
Steve: There was talk about fire bombing her home because she
lived in the constituency and there was also plans for her to
speak at the Trades Council, and they were planning to plant an
incendiary device under the stage where she was speaking from.
Interviewer: Were they planning to kill her?
Steve: I think that would have been an added bonus sort of thing.
Commentary: Steve heard they planned to start by torching the
Communist Party Bookshop in Birmingham.
Steve: It was decided to nip it in the bud as soon as possible,
and they were in fact all arrested at the first event which was
the attempted incineration of the Communist Party bookshop.
Interviewer: Where were they arrested?
Steve: Behind the premises with the materials, yeah. They were
tried and convicted and sent to prison.
Interviewer: How did they come to be caught? How did the police
Steve: (laughs) Well that’s fairly obvious isn’t it. Because they
had the information provided to them by me.
Commentary: Steve then felt the fear that grips all spies at such
moments – would the finger of suspicion point at him?
Steve: When things go wrong, they all start thinking of the main
players, don’t they. ‘Well who was there?’ And the more forceful
you were in the conversation at that time, the more likely you are
to be remembered and.. you know.. many’s the time people used to
say ‘well obviously you’re not under suspicion because you weren’t
there, were you’ when in fact I was.
Interviewer: How would you describe him as an agent?
Chris Cradock: In right wing circles, the best agent I’ve ever
dealt with.
Commentary: By the end of the 80s the subversive threat that had
occupied the Secret State for so many years, suddenly and
dramatically changed.
The Berlin Wall fell and the Cold War ended.
1115 no longer saw Moscow as the dark manipulator behind subversion
in the UK.
Stella Rimington
Director General MI5
Stella Rimington: You no longer had large domestic communist
parties which were acting in concert with, you know, the nation’s
enemy, so to speak, because the Soviet Union came to an end and
communism, world-wide communism collapsed.
Ken Day: And to all intents and purposes the routine inquiry work
on so called subversive groups really ended round about 1990. By
1991 it was virtually moribund.
Commentary: Any subversion there now was became the preserve of
Special Branch. 1115 was thus left free to concentrate its
resources and well honed skills on countering the IRA.
But the Cold War left a legacy. What was to happen to the mountain
of files so painstakingly compiled over the years?
Ken Day: I took the opportunity to weed out lots of old historical
records in Special Branch so we concentrated on the current
issues, and I was able to get rid of many thousands of records in
Special Branch.
Interviewer: You destroyed the files?
Ken Day: Thousands of them.
Ken Day
Metropolitan Police Special Branch 1969-98
Interviewer: But this is years of work.
Ken Day: Years.. it broke people’s hearts, I know it broke
people’s hearts, there were these old files going back to the dark
ages, but it wasn’t providing us with the intelligence about
Commentary: So what was to become of all the Secret State’s spies?
In the New World Order, those on the Far Left seemed redundant –
and even those on the Far Right could be retired.
Interviewer: Did you pay off your agents at the end of the Cold
Stella Rimington: At the end of the Cold War, yes, large numbers
of agents that had been working this area were stood down.
Interviewer: And pensioned.
Stella Rimington: Some of them would have been pensioned,
depending on, you know, their terms of employment.
Special Branch Agent 1974-91
Steve: They arranged for somebody to come and see me one day and
thank me for all my services and they slipped this envelope across
the table, that later turned out to have a considerable amount of
money in it.
Interviewer: How much?
Steve: £5000, and that was like the equivalent of a gold watch I
suppose. So therefore my role had effectively come to an end.
But I disagreed with that I might add, it’s like house insurance,
the only time you need it is when you haven’t got it.
Commentary: But the Secret State didn’t pension off all its
agents. Some it retained – to face emerging new threats.
The Cold War might have ended but Special Branch was determined to
stay in business.
Ken Day: It was regarded as being very useful if we could switch
these agents from Communist Party, Socialist Workers’ Party, to
report on the potential for public disorder and criminal
activities that these groups were carrying out. So they weren’t..
a lot of them didn’t go to waste, they still work today.
Interviewer: They were realigned.
Ken Day: Realigned.
Interviewer: And still working today?
Ken Day: And still working today
Commentary: One of the most serious new threats came from Animal
Rights activists like the Animal Liberation Front – the ALF – they
were prepared to use violence.
Benn Gunn
Chief Constable Cambridgeshire Police 1994-2002
Benn Gunn: Over the years animal extremists have learned tactics
from terrorist groups … in the sense of using incendiary devices
and on a few occasions high explosives. Their organisation is
difficult to infiltrate and clearly we need to use the whole gamut
of intelligence gathering methods in terms of addressing that
Commentary: Although the ALF deny they are terrorists, they
certainly look like them and, to the Secret State, act like them –
breaking into laboratories to liberate animals bred for tests.
They’ve also targeted meat lorries and abattoirs – as well as the
companies who run them.
In 1994 an ALF leader was jailed for 14 years for sabotage.
Keith Mann
Animal Rights Campaigner
Commentary: What you were involved in was terrorism wasn’t it? You
were a terrorist.
Keith Mann: Well again one man’s terrorist is another man’s
freedom fighter. Call us violent, call us terrorists, call us
thugs, call us anarchists, they’re all used regularly. All we’re
asking for is change. We want people to stop using violence
against animals.
Commentary: But animal rights extremists also devised more subtle
ways of hitting big business, they targeted giant multinationals
like Smith Kline Beecham which tested some of its medicines on
Keith Mann: The last thing in the world they want is the air of
publicity. They don’t want people talking about what they’re doing
to live animals in their laboratories behind closed doors. They’re
not almighty anymore these companies. They’re not all powerful.
They can be impacted upon by little people, and that’s what’s
Commentary: Special Branch countered these new economic
subversives with methods traditionally deployed against the Left
and Right. This resulted in intelligence that Smith Kline
Beecham’s Lucozade was to be targeted.
Metropolitan Police Special Branch 1976-2000
Interviewer: Where did you get the intelligence from?
Richard: From an officer who’d been associated with the group that
was plotting this.
Interviewer: An undercover officer?
Richard: Yes.
Interviewer: And is it difficult to infiltrate such groups?
Richard: Yes, it is extremely difficult, because only those who
trust each other will get involved in those sort of actions.
Keith Mann: The Lucozade bottles allegedly were going to be
contaminated with a bleach so that Lucozade, the company at the
time the time would have to remove that product from the shelves,
Commentary: The intelligence presented Special Branch with a
classic dilemma: to protect the public or protect their undercover
Richard: A decision was taken that protecting the public from
contaminated Lucozade was probably more important than protecting
the officer.
Commentary: As a result the company took drastic action – costing
millions of pounds. Five million bottles were withdrawn. The
public were safe – but what about the undercover officer?
Richard: I think there was fingers of suspicion pointing backwards
and forwards across the table at various people, but the officer
managed to survive that one.
Commentary: In the 90s, as animal rights activists widened their
campaign, the Home Office gave Special Branch additional funds to
recruit more spies.
Ken Day
Metropolitan Police Special Branch 1969-98
Ken Day: There were 1 or 2 that were on the payroll earning quite
considerable sums, probably up to £10000 a year, £10000 I would be
wanting 22 carat gold information from them, intelligence from
Interviewer: Did you get any intelligence of that quality?
Ken Day: Tremendous intelligence the whole time we were getting
Interviewer: Worth the money?
Ken Day: Every penny. We were running approaching a hundred agents
if not more within the animal rights field.
Interviewer: A hundred?
Ken Day: A hundred.
Commentary: Since there weren’t that many militant animal rights
activists Special Branch had most of them covered.
Benn Gunn: I would assess that there are no more than thirty or
forty activists prepared to use extreme violence to further their
cause in the country in terms of animal extremism.
Interviewer: Do you know who these thirty or so hardcore activists
Benn Gunn: Yes we do.
Commentary: So how did Special Branch deploy all its new spies?
The strategy was to identify the leaders and then target them.
A prime candidate was the ALF’s Press officer and Chief ideologue,
Robin Webb.
Archive (Robin Webb):
“It’s no good asking for animal liberation – they’re not
going to hand it to us. We’ve all, when we leave here, in our
own way, we’ve got to go out and take it.”
Interviewer: Robin Webb, how was he regarded?
Ken Day: Seemed, as far as we were concerned, to know too much
about what was happening. Whenever events., the real animal
activist had carried out an operation, he was the first one to be
told about it.
Robin Webb: When the law is wrong, yes I believe people should
break the law__ maybe, just maybe, we have to use short-term
violence in pursuit of a long-term peace.
Interviewer: Was he targeted?
Ken Day: He was targeted very much so, yes, we had agents running
against him.
Interviewer: Agents running against him?
Ken Day: We ran agents against him, yes.
Interviewer: That you were handling?
Ken Day: Yes.
Interviewer: And how close to him were they?
Ken Day: Very close, he wouldn’t.. I think he would be quite
surprised if he realised just how close they were.
Robin Webb
Animal Liberation Press Officer
Robin Webb: I have been made aware that my house, my car and my
telephone have been monitored, have been bugged, that I have been
under surveillance, and that my mail has been intercepted. All of
these are completely unwarranted in what is supposed to be a
democratic free society.
Commentary: But that’s not how Special Branch officers saw it.
They suspected Webb was up to no good.
Interviewer: And what information were the agents giving you?
What kind of information about Mr Webb?
Ken Day: Well in the end they gave us information that he may have
been in possession of a shotgun_
Interviewer: And what action did you take?
Ken Day: We kept surveillance on him and waited for him to pick
the shotgun up.
Commentary: Webb maintained that he’d been given an article in
wrapping and didn’t know what it was.
Robin Webb: I was aware of what I thought was in the package.
Interviewer: Which was?
Robin Webb: It was equipment which was going to be passed on to be
used by somebody else to help animals.
Ken Day: He was arrested in possession of a shotgun and without a
certificate and he was taken to a local police station and
Commentary: At Lewes Crown Court, the prosecution was asked to
disclose all its evidence – including that obtained covertly
through Special Branch spies and technical surveillance.
But the risk of exposing the agents was too great. The prosecution
dropped the case and Webb walked free.
His supporters suspected the Secret State had been up to its
Robin Webb: The Crown Prosecution Service made a formal admission
to Crown Court that an undisclosed agency had entered my vehicle
and had placed listening devices, although they refused to
identify which agency it was.
Interviewer: In your car?
Robin Webb: In my car.
Interviewer: A bug?
Robin Webb: A bug, yes.
Interviewer: Did you bug his car?
Ken Day: I wouldn’t wish to comment on that.
Commentary: Whatever the truth, a shotgun was found in the car.
The Secret State never got its man – but lessons were learned.
The next target was – another prominent Animal Rights activist
Barry Horne.
Interviewer: How would you describe Barry Horne?
Robin Webb: As a committed man, a very kind man, a very caring
man. He saw the whole spectrum of the animal welfare animal
liberation movement and was prepared to do whatever was necessary
at any given time.
Commentary: Barry Horne had been an animal rights activist for
years. He began his career by protesting against butchers’ shops.
Archive (Barry Horne):
“I’ve seen butchers carrying carcasses of dead animals into
their shops – that is totally offensive to me, it’s
Commentary: He then graduated from words to direct action.
Ken Day
Met Special Branch 1969-98
Ken Day: He was strongly, very strongly, suspected of causing many
hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of damage to stores in
Cambridge and on the Isle of Wight, very strongly suspected of
that, but unfortunately there was no evidence to bring him before
the court.
Commentary: Horne was so security conscious that initially Special
Branch failed to recruit a spy.
But eventually indications received in Special Branch that he was
about to start another bombing campaign…
Interviewer: How did you know he was about to start another
bombing campaign?
Ken Day: We had an agent who was reporting on Barry Horne.
Interviewer: Was he close to Barry Horne?
Ken Day: The man was very close, yes.
Interviewer: Why would a man like that who was close and a friend
of Barry Horne, be prepared to betray him?
Ken Day: I wouldn’t say it was a question of betraying him, it was
a question of possibly looking at it in a way of saving human
Commentary: Acting on information from the spy, Horne was tracked
around the country for six weeks by National Crime Squad
surveillance teams.
Finally he drove into Bristol. As he went round the shops, a team
followed him. Then they pounced. This time there was no lack of
Ken Day: Barry Horne was actually caught in the act of putting
three significant fire bombs down in three stores in Bristol and
actually being caught doing it, and they were defused there and
then. Saved a lot of damage and possibly saved peoples’ lives, so
yes we were delighted.
Interviewer: Caught red handed.
Ken Day: Caught red handed.
Interviewer: Could you have done it without the agent?
Ken Day: No.
Commentary: Horne was sentenced to 18 years for a fire bombing
campaign that caused £3 million worth of damage.
In gaol he embarked on a series of hunger strikes in protest
against the government’s failure to introduce a Royal Commission
on Vivisection.
He died last year, weakened by his protests.
By now terrorist threats were appearing once again in the ranks of
the Far Right.
Although the Far Left threat had largely disappeared there was a
growing menace from offshoots of extreme right wing groups like
the British National Party – the BNP.
Stella Rimington
Director General MI5 1992-96
Stella Rimington: There were still some small organisations – and
particularly fascist organisations still continued, you know, that
would have been still anxious to subvert the state if they could
Ken Day: There certainly seemed to be a growing number of racial
attacks and the excuse for those racial attacks was quite clearly
that this is what the BNP would support, and so we had that
growing at quite a considerable pace on the one hand, then we had
breakaway groups in the British National Party, particularly
Combat 18…
Commentary: Combat 18 was set up by the BNP – a hand-picked unit
of heavies to protect its members in confrontations with the Left.
It was called Combat 18 because the figures 1 and 8 refer to the
first and eighth letters of the alphabet – A and H – the initials
of one Adolf Hitler.
Stella Rimington: There was a certain level of threat from that
area, yes. And it was.. it was certainly looked at.
Interviewer: And action taken upon?
Stella Rimington: Appropriate action would have been taken.
Commentary: That usually meant recruiting more spies.
Metropolitan Police Special Branch 1976-2000
Richard: The Combat 18 organisation was quite open that they
wanted to engage in violent acts and they regularly published some
quite nasty magazines targeting leftwing opponents, members of
ethnic communities, and gays. So they were an organisation that
really need to be looked at fairly closely.
Commentary: But Combat 18 was on the lookout too. By the mid-90s,
it suspected Special Branch agents might be close.
Ken Day: We had people reporting to us on Combat 18 for several
Interviewer: But those agents would have been running serious
personal risks given the nature of the people they were working
Ken Day: Absolutely.
Commentary: C18 also established links with the Far Right in
Europe. They were equally unlovely. Aided by the European
fascists, C18 planned a violent campaign.
Richard: It was round about Christmas ’95, received information
that an attack was going to be made against the UK mainland by
rightwing extremists, probably from Scandinavia, acting on behalf
of Combat 18 in the United Kingdom.
Interviewer: How did you get the information?
Richard: From a source.
Interviewer: What was the name you were given by your source?
Richard: The name we were given was Thomas.
Commentary: This is Thomas – surname Nakaba. He doesn’t like the
Richard: Then discussions started with our colleagues in Denmark.
Interviewer: They knew who he was?
Richard: They knew him very well Yeah. He’s well known in Denmark.
Commentary: Special Branch heard of names on a C18 hit list and
picked up details of a plan.
Letter bombs were to be made in Denmark, taken by ferry to Sweden
and posted from there.
A surveillance team followed the bombers and watched them post
their deadly packages.
Richard: In the post box there was I think three jiffy bags
containing video cassette cases which were made up as postal
devices, fairly crude.
Ken Day
Metropolitan Police Special Branch 1969-97
Interviewer: Were they designed to kill?
Ken Day: They were designed to kill, there’s no two ways about
that. The damage that those things caused when they were
detonated, they were massive explosions.
Commentary: One of C18’s targets was the Olympic athlete, Sharron
Interviewer: Why Sharon Davis?
Ken Day: Because she had married a black athlete. You can’t
understand it, the mentality, you just cannot understand.
Interviewer: And what was the quality of the agent that enabled
you to stop these attacks?
Ken Day: Well obviously to be able to pre-empt an attack like that
they were absolutely first class.
Interviewer: So was the group destroyed from within?
Richard: Yeah, the seeds of destruction were sewn there, yes. It
then declined from there onwards.
Ken Day: Knowing that the operation that we had against the
extreme right saved peoples’ lives, there’s no greater reward that
I can have.
Commentary: But although the Secret State had the Far Right
extensively penetrated, the coverage was not broad enough.
It failed to prevent three murderous attacks in London by the so-
called ‘nail bomber’, David Copeland.
Special Branch Agent 1974-91
Steve: It’s a thought that’s haunted me ever since the Copeland
affair, I feel that if I’d have been around at that time and
operating in East London, I would have known after bomb 1.
Interviewer: You think you could have fingered him?
Steve: Given the fact that he’s been featured with the ex-leader
of the BNP at prominent meetings and rallies and so on, I would
have known who he was.
The cost of people being able to go round this country freely and
without fear of injury is that you have eternal vigilance.
Paul Gill
Newbury Bypass Protestor
Paul Gill: I love waking up to seeing the sunshine coming through
the leaves or hearing the rain coming down through them. Owls
perching on the branches just outside your window in the night.
The downside of it is that eventually they’re going to get chopped
down. To see an area of such beauty ripped apart by machines
tarmac’d over so that people can take a few minutes off a journey
time is devastating.
Commentary: As gridlock loomed, a new kind of protestor emerged –
gentler but no less exhaustive of police resources.
When the government announced a nine-mile bypass for Newbury, an
army of protestors took to the woods.
Some lived in trees to prevent the contractors cutting them down.
The sheriff’s men moved in. To the police, these were subversives,
determined to stop lawful activity.
Paul Gill: I know that the state have., you know, employed people
to creep around in the bushes and take photographs of me and
stuff, it’s sort of what happens, it sort of makes you feel a bit
Sir Charles Pollard
Chief Constable Thames Valley Police 1991-2002
Sir Charles Pollard: The ones who were planning and tried to carry
out seriously illegal acts are very subversive in a sense of
subversive to democracy.
Commentary: The cost of policing Newbury was almost £8 million.
The Secret State needed top grade intelligence to thwart the
That meant recruiting informants – from whatever source. The
information came at a price – and the prices certainly varied.
Mervyn Edwards
Thames Valley Police 1971-2001
Mervyn Edwards: Sometimes £25 to an informant is quite sufficient
for information that will help build the picture, right up to, on
some occasions, what would appear to be quite substantial amounts
of money for people that will give information at the top level.
Interviewer: A thousand pounds a week?
Mervyn Edwards: It could be, that type of money.
Interviewer: Worth it? It all sounds an awful lot of money.
Mervyn Edwards: It is a lot of money. For me, absolutely worth it.
Commentary: We can now reveal for the first time that the police
recruited a top grade agent to infiltrate the protestors. And
controversially he came from a private security company. The
police normally keep such firms at arms length.
Ken Day
Metropolitan Police Special Branch 1969-98
Ken Day: One’s got to remember that these types of organisations
are in it commercially, they need to gather intelligence, they
need companies to buy that intelligence, so there’s always a big
problem with looking at that.
Commentary: An unprecedented contract was drawn up between the
agent, the private security company and Thames Valley Police.
Sir Charles Pollard: That meant that we could anticipate what
their plans were in doing things, and therefore on many occasions
we were able to pre-empt the situation which would happen
Commentary: Once he’d infiltrated the green activists, the Newbury
agent had to prove his worth.
When the protestors realised that they too, like the trees, could
be uprooted, they literally dug in – excavating several tunnels.
The main one was ten feet deep and 90 feet long.
Paul Gill: We were hoping that the tunnels were going to stop
access of machinery onto site that they weren’t going to be able
to bring in large vehicles into the sites to get people out of the
trees to take the trees down, they wouldn’t be able to fell trees
because of the impact on the ground would cause danger to those
Commentary: Although the police had taken all the minor tunnels,
it was too risky to storm the main one.
The Newbury agent provided vital intelligence on the best time to
swoop. He told his handler there was only a man and a woman in the
shelter over the entrance. A third protestor, he said, was
sleeping in the main entry shaft.
Mervyn Edwards: …and so we decided to take the tunnel in the
middle of the night when there was nobody actually in the tunnel
itself, it was merely being guarded.
Commentary: Undercover officers were watching the shelter or
‘bender’ – and waiting for the agent’s signal.
Mervyn Edwards: It was clear that a good deal of drinking and
Tennents Strong Brew had been drunk because of the discarded cans
all around the camp.
And so inevitably in the early hours of the morning the male
protester, sleeping at the top of the tunnel in the bender, came
out and went into the bushes to relieve himself where he met with
the police officers who detained him, and inevitably his
girlfriend came out to go to look for him and she was also
detained and was reunited with her boyfriend…
Commentary: That left the person sleeping in the entry shaft.
Mervyn Edwards: …and it’s pitch black in the middle of the camp,
and by now it’s about 3.30 in the morning, and some noises were
made at the top of the entrance to the tunnel by police officers
which required investigation and he came out to investigate, and
again then he met with my police colleagues and at that point then
they had secured the entrance to the tunnel.
Commentary: The tunnel that had taken nine months to build was
captured in a few short minutes.
Paul Gill: We hoped that somebody was down the tunnel, it didn’t
take long to find out that nobody was, and so that defence had
sort of become ineffective, it was quite a big blow really, quite
demoralising, you know, a lot of effort had gone into it and a lot
of hopes had been put into it.
Interviewer: Could you have done it without the intelligence from
your source?
Mervyn Edwards: No, not in that manner, not at all. Not so
successfully, so safely and so quickly.
Interviewer: Did you know that the reason why the police were able
to take the tunnel when they did, was because they had a highly
placed agent in your midst.
Paul Gill: It wouldn’t surprise me. I wouldn’t be surprised at
Interviewer: He was paid a lot of money to do what he did, to
infiltrate you and..
Paul Gill: He’d have to be paid a lot of money, because if anybody
found out about it while he was there I should imagine it would be
quite dangerous.
Commentary: By the time Tony Blair came to power, the animal
rights activists had devised a new strategy – to target the
industry that they believed made millions from animal suffering.
They began by attacking the first and most vulnerable link in the
chain – animal breeders like Hillgrove cat farm
Keith Mann
Animal Rights Campaigner
Keith Mann: There is a whole network of companies in this country
and all around the world who make their money by breeding specific
animals for people who experiment on them.
So we decided we’d start at the bottom if you like and take out a
few of the.. take out some of the weaker links, the breeders, the
not so big companies.
Commentary: The Secret State planned to confound this scheme by
moving the Newbury agent into the world of animal rights.
Mervyn Edwards
Thames Valley Police 1971-2001
Interviewer: Your source moves on from Newbury with the street
cred that he’s got from Newbury to Hill Grove.
Mervyn Edwards: Yes, absolutely.
Interviewer: And that’s enabled you to do what?
Mervyn Edwards: To work on the sort of numbers that we could
expect to turn up, and whether they were going to target the
cattery or whether they were going to, as they did on occasions,
target the owner’s house which was all within the same
Commentary: The defence of the owner’s right to breed cats
stretched police resources.
The Newbury agent’s information meant the police were ready at the
right time and in the right numbers. The owner was at first
Archive (Farmer Brown):
“I am going to carry on to when I intended to retire. I don’t
intend giving in to anarchy It makes me more determined than
Sir Charles Pollard
Chief Constable Thames Valley Police 1991-2002
Sir Charles Pollard: If you just sat back and say okay, well this
is going to cost an awful lot of police so we can’t afford to
protect this person, that’s a pretty bad decision to take. So you
really have to take people on.
Commentary: Despite the best efforts of the Newbury agent, the
protestors won.
Archive (Farmer Brown):
“I’ve been beaten up, my wife has been attacked, the staff’s
homes have been attacked, cars have been completely
vandalised, written off. And that has been a big drain.”
Commentary: The cats were saved. The new strategy of applying
economic pressure seemed to pay off. Now it was time to hit bigger
Next on the hit list was Huntingdon Life Sciences – HLS – that
carries out animal experiments on behalf of pharmaceutical
The campaign was fuelled by a secret video filmed by an undercover
journalist who’d infiltrated Huntingdon’s labs.
The company was subsequently placed under new management. Two
workers were dismissed.
Greg Avery: A lot of people, whilst we were doing Hillgrove, had
watched the footage taken inside Huntingdon of the beagle puppies
being … punched and had never forgotten that.
Commentary: The campaign was spearheaded by a group known as SHAC

  • Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty. SHAC’s tactics include violent
    intimidation of HLS staff.
    Brian Cass
    Managing Director Huntingdon Life Sciences
    Brian Cass: I believe it’s as close to terrorism as most of my
    employees ever want to come.
    To them certainly when you’re being.. have a mob in your driveway,
    at your home, when your car may have been set on fire, that to
    those people is terrorism without question.
    Commentary: The campaign culminated with a violent attack on Brian
    Cass himself.
    Brian Cass: I suddenly heard running footsteps, obviously quite
    purposeful and more than one set, rushing up behind me, and I
    turned to find 3 individuals with balaclavas and what certainly
    looked like pickaxe handles or something of that nature, already
    literally raised above their head, intent upon obviously hitting
    me with them.
    So I got quite a severe beating across my arms and shoulders, and
    a very nasty gash on the head which required about 9 stitches.
    Keith Mann
    Animal Rights Campaigner
    Keith Mann: If the state keep closing in on legitimate protest and
    making it illegal and dangerous to demonstrate lawfully, people
    are going to go to the furthest extreme…
    Interviewer: Killing people?
    Keith Mann: …and the furthest extreme, absolutely, is to take
    the life of somebody like Brian Cass.
    I’m not saying I want it to happen or I’m encouraging it, but you
    can see that when a protest.. legitimate protest is taken away,
    there’s nothing left to people.
    Interviewer: And that’s why the secret state is watching you.
    Keith Mann: Well the secret state is making us like that. It is
    turning people into subversives.
    Benn Gunn
    Chief Constable Cambridgeshire Police 1994-2002
    Benn Gunn: If Huntingdon Life Sciences was to fail and be brought
    down by animal extremists they would merely move on to another
    organisation the domino effect that this would have on the
    pharmaceutical industry the biochemical industry, its customers,
    its finance stakeholders etc etc, would be a matter of serious
    concern for government in terms of economic stability
    Commentary: To combat this new threat – and the serious violence
    that goes with it – the Secret State uses every high tech resource
    a t its disposal.
    Greg Avery
    Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty
    Interviewer: What evidence of surveillance have you found?
    Greg Avery: Tracking devices on vehicles, listening devices,
    intensive, er, following of people – costs millions – all paid for
    b y the taxpayer.
    Keith Mann: People have learnt not to talk openly on the phones
    now, to check vehicles with radio frequency detectors for bugs,
    for tracking devices, not to talk in houses, to be aware who’s
    listening when they’re in the pub, if they’re having a
    conversation in the pub.
    Commentary: But as ever, the most effective method of spying is
    planting agents.
    Interviewer: Do you have agents inside SHAC?
    Benn Gunn: I think because this is a current
    activity that’s going on, you wouldn’t
    expect me to disclose operational tactics.
    Interviewer: Nor would I expect you not to have agents within
    Benn Gunn: That may be your view.
    Commentary: The coyness is perhaps understandable given the acute
    sensitivity of current operations. But there’s no doubt, the
    spymasters are committed to the long
    Ken Day
    Metropolitan Police Special Branch 1969-98
    Ken Day: We’d be prepared to fund somebody for a long period of
    time until they got to, if you like, a management position within
    these organisations and were able to report directly on what the
    plans were for the future.
    Interviewer: How long?
    Ken Day: Sometimes years.
    Interviewer: Years?
    Ken Day: Years.
    Interviewer: To get to the top?
    Ken Day: To get to that position where we knew that they were
    reporting what was going to happen tomorrow and not what happened
    Commentary: But in combating the many faces of subversion, where
    does the Secret State draw the line?
    The repercussions of a night-time raid on a British Aerospace
    factory near Preston illustrates the dilemma.
    The intruders were women belonging to a peace group known as
    ‘Ploughshares’. Their targets were fighter jets being sold to
    Janet Lovelace
    Janet Lovelace: Ploughshares is a movement that opposes anything
    to do with violence and promotes the good of all in the world
    Commentary: The women damaged a jet. They were subsequently
    arrested and charged.
    Janet Lovelace: It went to a jury trial and they were acquitted
    because … it was felt their crime was to prevent a bigger crime,
    and the public went with that, much to the annoyance of the state.
    Commentary: Because she was sympathetic to Ploughshares – though
    not actively involved – Janet Lovelace was about to be drawn into
    the Secret State’s net.
    It marked the beginning of an extraordinary chapter in her life.
    As a mother of three and a former police officer, it was the last
    thing she expected.
    After the Ploughshares acquittal, she had a surprise visit. Two
    Special Branch officers knocked on her door.
    Janet Lovelace: I was at home with my youngest daughter. I was
    very disconcerted they should be at my front door. They asked if
    they could come in to speak to me. I asked what it was about and
    they just said we want you to do some work for us.
    I was totally gob smacked is the only word I can think of. I
    couldn’t believe they were there asking me to work for them.
    Commentary: Janet Lovelace was worried. It seemed like the Secret
    State crossing the line.
    Janet Lovelace: I felt very intimidated and scared because I lived
    alone with three children and no family to support me. And I
    realised that these people were watching me.
    Commentary: The police may have failed the first time around, but
    now they were determined to get a Ploughshares conviction – this
    time based on inside information.
    Janet Lovelace: They said we want you to go to some meetings of
    Ploughshares to get us names and addresses, telephone numbers, car
    registration numbers of the people who attend these meetings. So I
    asked what was that for and they wanted to try and stop the
    actions before they happened.
    Commentary: Propositioning a potential spy is a sensitive
    operation – as every Special Branch officer knows from Lancashire
    to the West Midlands.
    West Midlands Police Special Branch 1975-86
    Keith: You’d always get the feeling from most people, ‘I don’t
    want to be a police informant. I don’t want to snitch on people I
    know, because it’s disloyal’
    Possibly the last thing you mention there may be some form of
    payment in it, you know, just slip that in gently somewhere
    along the line, and see how they responded.
    Janet Lovelace: They said they’d pay me £200 a month to start with
    which will be reviewed every so often. They would give me extra
    bonuses for important information and further bonuses should the
    key people be arrested with the information I provided.
    Commentary: The handler’s nightmare is that such Covert approaches
    will backfire.
    Keith: Very, very delicate operation, because they could report to
    the national press, ‘I’ve been approached by a police officer to
    become an informant in X organisation’.
    Commentary: And that’s exactly what happened in the case of Janet
    Lovelace. She went to The Guardian.
    She now dreads that as a result of her traumatic encounter with
    the Secret State, she too may have a Special Branch file.
    Janet Lovelace: I’m absolutely appalled and I’m not surprised, I’m
    worried, worried really because it’s the repercussions that could
    come on later in life. It’s a file on me. Is it going to affect
    the children as we go along because their mother did this, their
    mother did that, their mother stood up for the rights of other
    Commentary: It’s clear that in 2002, more than a decade after the
    end of the Cold War, the Secret State is still countering so
    called subversion – in this case from anti-globalisation
    The central dilemma that faces the Secret State today is the same
    as it’s faced over the decades.
    How far is it justified in infringing civil liberties to defend
    parliamentary democracy?
    Stella Rimington
    Director General MIS
    Stella Rimington: I suppose you could say that we won the Cold War
    without a shot being fired. So, that’s something that the West
    achieved. In this country we achieved that but we also preserved
    our civil liberties. We have no communist government, we have a
    democratic government. We have freedom of speech. We have freedom
    to form pressure groups and say what we want without the state
    trying to stop us.
    Commentary: That’s not how it feels to those on the receiving end
    of the Secret State’s attentions.
    Despite her background as a police officer, nothing had prepared
    Janet Lovelace for the intrusion on her freedom.
    Janet Lovelace
    Interviewer: So how did people react to learning about what
    happened to you?
    Janet Lovelace: The immediate reaction is don’t be silly, that
    doesn’t happen. They read these things in books and Spy Catcher
    and things. They don’t believe it happens to the ordinary person,
    and when I tell them “Yes it does” and relate the experience to
    them, they’re absolutely appalled that it does, and they can’t
    believe that it does go on at this level.
    Commentary: But to the defenders of the Secret State, if you’re
    innocent you’ve nothing to fear.
    Looking back over these turbulent decades they believe there’s a
    price to be paid for our freedom.
    Sir Charles Pollard
    Chief Constable Thames Valley Police 1991-2002
    Sir Charles Pollard: The idea that innocent people won’t get
    caught up in this, I wish there was a magic wand would stop that.
    But if they’re innocent, at the end of the day they’re innocent
    and nothing’s going to happen.
    If anything, we have not been bold enough. We have not been bold
    enough in seeing where the line is and going right up to the line
    to stop people who are basically criminal people doing serious
    things, whether its subversives or criminals. And it is that
    robustness that if anything we haven’t quite got.
    Commentary: Many may shudder at the thought – believing the Secret
    State has already crossed the line between national security and
    individual liberty.
    A liberal democracy needs a Secret State to defend it – but its
    citizens and politicians need to ensure it does so within
    acceptable and accountable limits.
    Eternal vigilance is required – not just to defend the security of
    the state – but to defend our personal freedom.
    End Credits
    Written & Presented by
    Specialist Photography
    Dubbing Mixer
    Cliff Jones
    VT Editor
    Graphic Design
    Production Team
    Film Researchers
    DR TV
    Channel 4 Television
    Meridian TV
    Lifeforce Foundation
    Film Editor
    Associate Producer
    Executive Producer
    Series Producer

July 9th 2023

What’s Behind Our Enduring Fascination with Barbie?

Unpacking what makes Barbara Millicent Roberts (aka Barbie) one of the most popular cultural influencers of our time.

Pocket Collections

  • Corrie Evanoff

Image by Jon Kopaloff / Stringer / Getty Images

View Original

Send Me to Barbie Land Immediately

Danielle CohenThe Cut

The Barbie movie is a welcome salve for our weary bimbo souls.

View Original

A Cultural History of Barbie

Emily TamkinSmithsonian Magazine

Loved and loathed, the toy stirs fresh controversy at age 64.

View Original

Barbie’s ‘Pornographic’ Origin Story, as Told by Historians

Maham JavaidThe Washington Post

A new trailer for the Barbie movie shows her visiting the real world. In reality, the doll was based on a German sex toy called Lilli.

View Original

The Long, Complicated, and Very Pink History of Barbiecore

Cady LangTime

Barbie has had her fair share of critiques, especially when it comes to gender and diversity.

View Original

When Barbie Went to War with Bratz

Jill LeporeThe New Yorker

How a legal battle over intellectual property exposed a cultural battle over sex, gender roles, and the workplace.

View Original

Barbie, Her House and the American Dream

Anna KodéThe New York Times

Take a stop-motion journey with the young, single homeowner of the Dreamhouse. Ken isn’t on the deed.

View Original

I Found the Black Side of California’s Barbie World

Olivia HardenSF Gate

SFGATE travel reporter Olivia Harden designed a Barbie doll that looked more like her.

View Original

10 of the Most Valuable Barbie Accessories

Nicole PylesMental Floss

Selling that old Barbie Dream House could bring you one step closer to getting your own.

View Original

The Hollow Man: What Do You Mean ‘Just’ Ken?

Miranda CollingeEsquire

In anticipation of Greta Gerwig’s Barbie movie, starring Margot Robbie as the leggy doll and Ryan Gosling as her gelded beau, Esquire gets beneath the plastic of an uncomfortably freighted icon of anti-masculinity.

View Original

The Real-Life Scandal Behind Barbie’s Two Strangest Characters

Dais JohnstonInverse

There’s only one Allan, and don’t ask his wife about their child.

View Original

The Most Valuable Barbie Dolls in 2023 — According to the Experts

Sarah BarrattGood Housekeeping

As the new Barbie film hits screens, we ask the experts about the old dolls that could fetch a pretty penny.

View Original

You Can Spend a Night in Barbie’s Malibu DreamHouse

Charlie HobbsCondé Nast Traveler

Ken is renting it out on Airbnb—and yes, it comes with a disco roller rink and a pool.

June 27th 2023

War Is War – comment by R J Cook

The amount and extent of anti Russian moralising over the Ukraine War is almost a joke. There has been nothing like the coverage of Anglo U.S War Crimes in Latin America and the Middle East let alone the history of empire and post empire.

The Anglo – U.S believe they are the only ones entitled to start wars. The fact that they started the Ukraine War by proxy and covert hostilities ,is not something we are supposed to hear in western fake democracies.

Russia is fighting an existential war. Over here in the U.K, as I am hearing and watching now, the BBC’s privileged patronising Russia editor Steve Rosenberg, is sneering at Vladimir Putin. The idea that the Wagner Group’s coup was western backed is ridiculed. But the western media are desperate to milk this for propoganda to push Putin out. The wealth backed media rules western public opinion. Its overpaid pundits are working hard to sow discord. Too much money is at stake here for the hideously corrupt wealth and power obsessed western elite to shut up or talk about how they and Zelensky provoked this war. War is War , so people die.

The West are eyeing up £400 Billion profit from rebuilding Ukraine post war. Russia’s Sevastopol Naval Base is high on the west’s list of objectives as a NATO base, because they want control of the whole Peninsula. Ukraine is necessary to destabilising the Northern Middle East and Southern Russia.

R J Cook

Kramatorsk: Russian missile strike hits restaurants in Ukrainian city

By James Gregory

BBC News

Russian missiles have hit the centre of Kramatorsk in eastern Ukraine, killing three people and injuring many more, Ukrainian officials say.

A restaurant and shopping area were hit in Tuesday’s strike on the city, which is under Ukrainian control but close to Russian-occupied parts of Ukraine.

People may be trapped under the rubble and a rescue operation is under way.

An eyewitness told the BBC he saw “dead people, people screaming, people crying, huge chaos”.

A teenager is among those who were killed, according to Ukrainian Interior Minister Ihor Klymenko.

Belgian freelance journalist Arnaud De Decker told BBC Newshour he was at the popular Ria Lounge restaurant just minutes before it was hit.

“There’s still people underneath the rubble because it’s a big restaurant,” he said.

“Now I can hear people screaming underneath the rubble as rescuers are trying to save them.”

He estimated up to 80 staff members and customers were on the restaurant premises at the time of the strike, so feared the casualty number could be “severe”.

Officials say at least 40 people were injured, including a child and three foreigners.

Ukraine war: Russia executed 77 civilians detained by its forces, UN says

A file photo of Mariupol in March 2022
Image caption, The besieged port city of Mariupol in March 2022 – Russian forces took control of the city months later

By James Gregory

BBC News

Russian forces summarily executed 77 civilians they had arbitrarily detained during Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine, a UN report says.

Another male detainee died from torture, inhumane conditions and denial of medical care, the report adds.

The UN documented 864 individual cases of arbitrary detention by Russia since it launched its invasion last February.

Ukraine also violated international law by detaining civilians, though on a much smaller scale, the report adds.

“We documented the summary execution of 77 civilians while they were arbitrarily detained by the Russian Federation,” Maltilda Bogner, head of the UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission told a press briefing in Geneva on Tuesday.

Some 72 of those killed were men and five were women.

Summary executions, or the immediate and deliberate killing of individuals without a fair and full trial, is a violation of human rights.

Russia denies committing atrocities or attacking civilians in Ukraine.

The mission did not document any summary executions of civilian detainees by Ukrainian forces.

Ms Bogner said there was also evidence Russian forces and law enforcement had engaged in “widespread torture and ill-treatment of civilian detainees”.

“Torture was used to force victims to confess to helping Ukrainian armed forces, compel them to cooperate with the occupying authorities, or intimidate those with pro-Ukrainian views,” she said.

Overall, the report documented more than 900 cases of arbitrary detention of civilians, including children and elderly people – with the “vast majority” perpetrated by Russia.

In 91% of those cases, detainees described being subjected to “torture and ill-treatment, including sexual violence” by Russian interrogators, the report said.

There were 75 cases of arbitrary detention by Ukrainian security forces, mostly of people suspected of conflict-related offences.

“We documented that over half of those arbitrarily detained were subjected to torture or ill-treatment by Ukrainian security forces,” Ms Bogner said.

“This happened while people were being interrogated, usually immediately after arrest.”

The UN mission’s report is the latest evidence of atrocities carried out by Russian forces in Ukraine.

In April 2022 near the beginning of the conflict, more than 400 bodies of civilians were found in Bucha, a town on the outskirts of Kyiv.

In March this year, the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant against President Vladimir Putin for suspected war crimes.

June 22nd 2023

Why the pursuit of happiness leads to misery — and what to do about it

Impossible standards and poor self-understanding are making us miserable.

a painting of a woman laying on a couch.
Credit: “The Blue Gown,” Frederick Carl Frieseke, 1917

Key Takeaways

  • A growing body of research shows that the pursuit of happiness actually makes us miserable.
  • This paradoxical finding likely results from people setting impossibly high standards, excessively monitoring their happiness, and misunderstanding what will make them truly happy.
  • Positive psychologist Tal Ben-Shahar says that to be happier, we must find ways to pursue it indirectly while also accepting painful emotions.

Kevin Dickinson

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Imagine you’re traveling through the desert. You’re exhausted, dehydrated, and on the brink of collapse. To the east, maybe a mile out, you see a pastoral outpost with an artesian well centered among the plain, clay-brick homes. To the west, teetering on the horizon, you see an oasis. Palm trees enwreathe a cool blue pond next to which stands a pavilion supported on alabaster columns. And, if you’re not mistaken, it’s populated with sexy servants armed with frond fans and dishes piled with exotic fruits. Which do you choose?

The pastoral village, of course. You may be dying of thirst, but you aren’t an idiot. You recognize a cliché, cartoon-inspired mirage when you see one and know that such a pain-free paradise will remain forever out of reach. Better to seek true relief than risk further misery. 

Yet when it comes to our happiness, the mirages of our minds fool us time and again. We set our sights on dreamy perfection, and despite our best efforts to cover the distance, such happiness eludes us. In fact, a growing body of research demonstrates that the more we value and pursue happiness, the less happy we become. This is known as the happiness paradox.

That puts us in a predicament. Happiness is associated with an oasis of life benefits: more creativity, a boosted immune system, stronger relationships, improved mental health, and better performance at work. Plus, it just feels good to be happy. But how can we become happier and enjoy those benefits if we can’t pursue happiness directly? Research suggests there is a way, but we first need to understand why the pursuit of happiness is so counterproductive.

Pursuing happiness, finding misery

In 2014, Brett Ford and Iris Mauss, the principal investigators at the University of Toronto’s Affective Science & Health Laboratory and UC Berkeley’s Emotion and Emotion Regulation Lab, respectively, surveyed the research on evaluating happiness. Based on that survey, they proposed three mechanisms in which valuing and pursuing happiness ultimately backfires.

The first mechanism is that people tend to set high standards for their happiness. They may desire intense levels of happiness or to feel happy more often than is realistic. Either way, those unreasonable expectations lead to disappointment, both in themselves as well as in their lives.

Simply consider that annual exercise in high hopes and crushing reality: New Year’s Eve. In one study, researchers asked participants about their plans for New Year’s Eve 2000. They followed up two months later to see how things went and how much the participants enjoyed their celebrations. They found that most people who partied like it’s 1999 left dissatisfied, but those who planned the biggest bashes, spent the most time preparing, and thought they would enjoy it most were also the least happy.

“This study illustrates what can happen when people attempt to maximize their happiness in a context where happiness is thought to be highly attainable: disappointment can ensue, and therefore, happiness is less likely to be attained,” Ford and Mauss write.

Those only are happy who have their minds fixed on some object other than their own happiness.John Stuart Mill

The second mechanism is people’s inability to properly forecast what will make them happy — courtesy of a host of biases, heuristics, and misconceptions. One such misconception is to assume that happiness lies with ends rather than through means. For instance, many people adopt diets and exercise routines intending to reach a specific weight or body type. But because such routines feel torturous and are unsustainable, they are quickly abandoned. The end result isn’t happiness but feelings of discouragement and failure.

Another misconception is to assume that happiness is self-focused. People buy new TVs, work hard for that promotion, and spend big to be pampered at the spa. While these pursuits do make people happier, it’s short-lived. Afterward, people quickly return to their happiness baseline and must start the search for the next high again (a concept known as the “hedonic treadmill”).

The final mechanism is self-monitoring. People who value happiness tend to monitor their experiences excessively, which leads to being less satisfied overall. Ford and Mauss cite studies showing that participants who are asked to explain why they liked a product or monitor their happiness while listening to music report being less happy than those who simply experienced the experience. A potential reason for this discrepancy is that monitoring experiences for happiness and enjoyment make people become less in tune with them.

If you’re happy and you know it, don’t do all three

These three misguided mechanisms for happiness have one thing in common: They emphasize, value, and pursue happiness as a direct goal. The way around this according to Tal Ben-Shahar, a positive psychologist and co-founder of the Happiness Studies Academy, is to pursue happiness indirectly.

“If I wake up in the morning and say to myself, ‘I want to be happy, I’m going to be happy no matter what,’ I am directly pursuing happiness,” Ben-Shahar writes in his book Happier, No Matter What. “This deliberate pursuit to be happy reminds me how important happiness is to me — of how much I value it — and therefore hurts more than it helps.”

In his research, Ben-Shahar discovered a means of pursuing happiness indirectly which he calls SPIRE. The acronym stands for spiritual, physical, intellectual, relational, and emotional well-being, and it represents the five elements of life that we can pursue to become happier and healthier. And by shifting our focus away from happiness and toward other goals, SPIRE has the added benefit of helping us sidestep the three mechanisms Ford and Mauss outlined in their survey.

Get inSPIREd

So then, how can you cultivate Ben-Shahar’s SPIRE to pursue happiness indirectly? Unfortunately, it is a question that cannot be answered in an article. As is often the case, the solution will be a personal one and will require self-honesty, open-mindedness, and a willingness to experiment to find the SPIRE makeup that works best for you.

With that said, here are a few ideas to get you started:

Pursue enjoyable means, not favorable ends. Seek out the activities and artifacts that you find intrinsically rewarding. An intrinsic sense of reward not only makes you happier in the moment but also makes pursuits more sustainable over a lifetime. 

Returning to the exercise example, it is best to avoid routines that make you miserable even if they promise beach-ready results. It’s better to adopt ways to move that you find pleasurable. If that means going hard at the gym, then that’s great. But if it’s biking, swimming, walking, or even gardening, that’s great too. The same goes for things like work and lifelong learning.

However, this is not an excuse to be lazy. Many intrinsically rewarding pursuits can, will, and should be challenging. A life lived on Easy Street is no life. But in the end, the challenges should be life-affirming, invigorate you, and strengthen your sense of self-efficacy.

Pay attention to your attention. Rather than worry about how much happiness your next vacation or upcoming promotion will bring, learn to just enjoy the experience. Research shows that when our minds wander to things other than the experience at hand, we are generally less happy.

One way to heighten your awareness and contentment of experiences is to approach them with a sense of gratitude. Research by psychologist Adam Grant shows that when we recognize the value in what we do, we become more energized, more engaged, and more motivated — even when it comes to something as seemingly bland as washing the dishes. Exercises in gratitude cultivation, such as journaling, have also been shown to improve our mood. 

The best way to cheer yourself up is to try to cheer someone else up.Mark Twain

Focus on others. Many longitudinal studies have looked at how people thrive, and they overwhelmingly converge on an important finding: People with strong relationships report being happier and healthier than those who don’t. Careers, achievements, and material goods don’t make people anywhere near as happy as social connection does.

“All types of relationships convey benefits to us, not just intimate partners. You don’t have to have an intimate partner to get these benefits. They come from friendships, family relationships, work relationships, and even casual relationships,” Robert Waldinger, director of the Harvard Study for Adult Development, said in an interview.

You don’t have to throw swinging New Year’s parties to build these social connections either. You can grab a coffee, go for a walk, or simply call to see how a friend is doing. These small efforts, Waldinger notes, pay big in your relationships and happiness.

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Spend money wisely. Money can’t buy happiness, but it can nurture it if you spend wisely. Rather than lavishing yourself with passive leisure and the latest tech, use your money on pursuits such as exercise, hobbies, education, and exploration — things that feed into Ben-Shahar’s SPIRE. The wisest spenders use their money (and time) to benefit others and build social connections through acts of generosity.

Don’t confuse pleasure with happiness. New furniture, delicious cocktails, and nights on the town can be pleasurable, but we shouldn’t confuse them with happiness. That’s because pleasure, while not unwelcome, is fleeting and dependent on external things or conditions. Conversely, happiness is an internal sense of well-being and contentment that can help us weather life’s challenges and heartaches.

“I don’t think there’s a point before one is unhappy, after which one is happy,” Ben-Shahar said in an interview. “Rather, happiness resides on a continuum. It’s a life-long journey, and knowing that, we can have realistic rather than unrealistic expectations about what is possible.”

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With a diverse library of lessons from the world’s biggest thinkers, Big Think+ helps businesses get smarter, faster. To access Tal Ben-Shahar’s full class for your organization, request a demo.

June 20th 2023

If You Were Fired, Don’t Lie About It in a Job Interview. Do This Instead.

Be honest, but concise.


  • Leah Fessler
More from Quartz

Being fired is awkward. Sometimes you deserve it, and sometimes you don’t. Either way, it can be a difficult thing to explain at a future job interview. In fact it’s hard to think of a less tasteful way of selling yourself for gainful employment than admitting that you were forcibly removed from a previous post.

But getting fired doesn’t make you a bad person, nor does it mean you won’t be an all-star in a new role, or at a new company. I was once fired from an ice cream scooping job because I bit my fingernails too much and apparently the sight of my chewed-up digits bothered the customers. I can share the experience now and laugh about it; humor, as they say, is just pain plus time.

But what if you haven’t made the same peace with a firing? And what if a prospective employer asks why you left your last job? Just saying, “I was fired,” without explanation, isn’t great, and most of us know that lying is worse. So, what should you say when you’re at an interview, and you’re called upon to explain a suspicious departure? Thankfully, Alison Green, author of the popular Ask a Manager blog and a columnist for The Cut, has shared a simple solution.

Step One: Don’t Lie

According to Green, covering up your firing is setting yourself up for disaster. “If you lie and say you left voluntarily (or frame it as a layoff or otherwise misrepresent what happened), the employer will likely find out the truth when they contact your references or do a background check,” she writes. “And if that happens, the lie itself would be a deal-breaker—whereas an honest explanation often wouldn’t be.”

Step Two: Keep It Brief

There’s no need for a longwinded explanation. “Saying too much will make it a bigger deal than it needs to be, and generally you’ll come across as pretty defensive,” writes Green. “Typically all you need are a few sentences explaining what happened.”

Step Three: Follow the Script

The key to successfully answering questions about why you were fired is focusing on what you learned, and how you plan to improve going forward. Green provides two sample scripts for responding when an interviewer wants to know why you left a job:

“Actually, I was let go. That’s on me — I took a job that required pretty advanced design skills, which frankly I don’t have. I thought I’d be able to get up to speed quickly, but I underestimated how much I’d need to learn. They made the right call, and I was relieved to get back to editing.”

“Actually, I was let go. The workload was very high and I didn’t speak up soon enough and ended up making mistakes because of the volume. It taught me a lesson about communicating early when the workload is that high, and to make sure I’m on the same page as my manager about how to prioritize.”

Keep it concise, calm, and non-defensive, says Green. Most importantly, remember your own worth.

April 29th 2023

Off On A Cruise by RJ Cook

I have just watched the brilliant Tom Cruise youthful performance in ‘Born on the Fourth of July.’ To my knowledge Tom has never won an Oscar because the Oscars are for the bland and PC.

The striking thing about ‘Born On The Fourth of July’ is that it is so redolent of the Anglo U.S led proxy war on Russia. Here in the U.K we have retired army Major ‘Disaster’ Ben Wallace as Secretary of State for Defence’ ( sic ) who needs this war for his ego from the consequences of which he will defend us ( sic ).

These people don’t care how many people they kill or maim for greed, power and self glorification. The rich let a few toadying weasels through each year to ease the tension and male U.K look a bit less tyrannical. But ultimately it is still what it is.

Young hopeless men ,including ex army men will queue up for mercenary work in Ukraine. A few months ago I spent time with a helicopter pilot who was heading out there. He told me he had a death wish and thanked me for my company before he left. If you are reading this Tom, as much as I do not support NATO, you are a beautiful man, so take care and return to motorcycle racing if you must kill yourself.

Wars are never about truth justice democracy or freedom. One might have thought humanity would have found better solutions to conflict. But the elite can’t get past ‘divide and rule’ methods. Unlike the old days, however, the children and grandchildren of my generation of elite university students do not tolerate protest or dissidence. We are supposed to have retired peacefully and gone off on a cruise.

R J Cook

April 26th 2023

Black Progress: How far we’ve come, and how far we have to go

Abigail Thernstrom and Stephan Thernstrom Sunday, March 1, 1998

Let’s start with a few contrasting numbers.

60 and 2.2.
In 1940, 60 percent of employed black women worked as domestic servants; today the number is down to 2.2 percent, while 60 percent hold white- collar jobs.

44 and 1. In 1958, 44 percent of whites said they would move if a black family became their next door neighbor; today the figure is 1 percent.

18 and 86. In 1964, the year the great Civil Rights Act was passed, only 18 percent of whites claimed to have a friend who was black; today 86 percent say they do, while 87 percent of blacks assert they have white friends.


Abigail Thernstrom

Senior Fellow, Manhattan Institute


Stephan Thernstrom

Progress is the largely suppressed story of race and race relations over the past half-century. And thus it’s news that more than 40 percent of African Americans now consider themselves members of the middle class. Forty-two percent own their own homes, a figure that rises to 75 percent if we look just at black married couples. Black two-parent families earn only 13 percent less than those who are white. Almost a third of the black population lives in suburbia.

Because these are facts the media seldom report, the black underclass continues to define black America in the view of much of the public. Many assume blacks live in ghettos, often in high-rise public housing projects. Crime and the welfare check are seen as their main source of income. The stereotype crosses racial lines. Blacks are even more prone than whites to exaggerate the extent to which African Americans are trapped in inner-city poverty. In a 1991 Gallup poll, about one-fifth of all whites, but almost half of black respondents, said that at least three out of four African Americans were impoverished urban residents. And yet, in reality, blacks who consider themselves to be middle class outnumber those with incomes below the poverty line by a wide margin.

A Fifty-Year March out of Poverty

Fifty years ago most blacks were indeed trapped in poverty, although they did not reside in inner cities. When Gunnar Myrdal published An American Dilemma in 1944, most blacks lived in the South and on the land as laborers and sharecroppers. (Only one in eight owned the land on which he worked.) A trivial 5 percent of black men nationally were engaged in nonmanual, white-collar work of any kind; the vast majority held ill-paid, insecure, manual jobs—jobs that few whites would take. As already noted, six out of ten African-American women were household servants who, driven by economic desperation, often worked 12-hour days for pathetically low wages. Segregation in the South and discrimination in the North did create a sheltered market for some black businesses (funeral homes, beauty parlors, and the like) that served a black community barred from patronizing “white” establishments. But the number was minuscule.

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Beginning in the 1940s, however, deep demographic and economic change, accompanied by a marked shift in white racial attitudes, started blacks down the road to much greater equality. New Deal legislation, which set minimum wages and hours and eliminated the incentive of southern employers to hire low-wage black workers, put a damper on further industrial development in the region. In addition, the trend toward mechanized agriculture and a diminished demand for American cotton in the face of international competition combined to displace blacks from the land.

As a consequence, with the shortage of workers in northern manufacturing plants following the outbreak of World War II, southern blacks in search of jobs boarded trains and buses in a Great Migration that lasted through the mid-1960s. They found what they were looking for: wages so strikingly high that in 1953 the average income for a black family in the North was almost twice that of those who remained in the South. And through much of the 1950s wages rose steadily and unemployment was low.

Thus by 1960 only one out of seven black men still labored on the land, and almost a quarter were in white-collar or skilled manual occupations. Another 24 percent had semiskilled factory jobs that meant membership in the stable working class, while the proportion of black women working as servants had been cut in half. Even those who did not move up into higher-ranking jobs were doing much better.

A decade later, the gains were even more striking. From 1940 to 1970, black men cut the income gap by about a third, and by 1970 they were earning (on average) roughly 60 percent of what white men took in. The advancement of black women was even more impressive. Black life expectancy went up dramatically, as did black homeownership rates. Black college enrollment also rose—by 1970 to about 10 percent of the total, three times the prewar figure.

In subsequent years these trends continued, although at a more leisurely pace. For instance, today more than 30 percent of black men and nearly 60 percent of black women hold white-collar jobs. Whereas in 1970 only 2.2 percent of American physicians were black, the figure is now 4.5 percent. But while the fraction of black families with middle-class incomes rose almost 40 percentage points between 1940 and 1970, it has inched up only another 10 points since then.

Affirmative Action Doesn’t Work

Rapid change in the status of blacks for several decades followed by a definite slowdown that begins just when affirmative action policies get their start: that story certainly seems to suggest that racial preferences have enjoyed an inflated reputation. “There’s one simple reason to support affirmative action,” an op-ed writer in the New York Times argued in 1995. “It works.” That is the voice of conventional wisdom.

In fact, not only did significant advances pre-date the affirmative action era, but the benefits of race-conscious politics are not clear. Important differences (a slower overall rate of economic growth, most notably) separate the pre-1970 and post-1970 periods, making comparison difficult.

We know only this: some gains are probably attributable to race-conscious educational and employment policies. The number of black college and university professors more than doubled between 1970 and 1990; the number of physicians tripled; the number of engineers almost quadrupled; and the number of attorneys increased more than sixfold. Those numbers undoubtedly do reflect the fact that the nation’s professional schools changed their admissions criteria for black applicants, accepting and often providing financial aid to African-American students whose academic records were much weaker than those of many white and Asian-American applicants whom these schools were turning down. Preferences “worked” for these beneficiaries, in that they were given seats in the classroom that they would not have won in the absence of racial double standards.

On the other hand, these professionals make up a small fraction of the total black middle class. And their numbers would have grown without preferences, the historical record strongly suggests. In addition, the greatest economic gains for African Americans since the early 1960s were in the years 1965 to 1975 and occurred mainly in the South, as economists John J. Donahue III and James Heckman have found. In fact, Donahue and Heckman discovered “virtually no improvement” in the wages of black men relative to those of white men outside of the South over the entire period from 1963 to 1987, and southern gains, they concluded, were mainly due to the powerful antidiscrimination provisions in the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

With respect to federal, state, and municipal set-asides, as well, the jury is still out. In 1994 the state of Maryland decided that at least 10 percent of the contracts it awarded would go to minority- and female-owned firms. It more than met its goal. The program therefore “worked” if the goal was merely the narrow one of dispensing cash to a particular, designated group. But how well do these sheltered businesses survive long-term without extraordinary protection from free-market competition? And with almost 30 percent of black families still living in poverty, what is their trickle-down effect? On neither score is the picture reassuring. Programs are often fraudulent, with white contractors offering minority firms 15 percent of the profit with no obligation to do any of the work. Alternatively, set-asides enrich those with the right connections. In Richmond, Virginia, for instance, the main effect of the ordinance was a marriage of political convenience—a working alliance between the economically privileged of both races. The white business elite signed on to a piece-of-the-pie for blacks in order to polish its image as socially conscious and secure support for the downtown revitalization it wanted. Black politicians used the bargain to suggest their own importance to low-income constituents for whom the set-asides actually did little. Neither cared whether the policy in fact provided real economic benefits—which it didn’t.

Why Has the Engine of Progress Stalled?

In the decades since affirmative action policies were first instituted, the poverty rate has remained basically unchanged. Despite black gains by numerous other measures, close to 30 percent of black families still live below the poverty line. “There are those who say, my fellow Americans, that even good affirmative action programs are no longer needed,” President Clinton said in July 1995. But “let us consider,” he went on, that “the unemployment rate for African Americans remains about twice that of whites.” Racial preferences are the president’s answer to persistent inequality, although a quarter-century of affirmative action has done nothing whatever to close the unemployment gap.

Persistent inequality is obviously serious, and if discrimination were the primary problem, then race-conscious remedies might be appropriate. But while white racism was central to the story in 1964, today the picture is much more complicated. Thus while blacks and whites now graduate at the same rate from high school today and are almost equally likely to attend college, on average they are not equally educated. That is, looking at years of schooling in assessing the racial gap in family income tells us little about the cognitive skills whites and blacks bring to the job market. And cognitive skills obviously affect earnings.

The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) is the nation’s report card on what American students attending elementary and secondary schools know. Those tests show that African-American students, on average, are alarmingly far behind whites in math, science, reading, and writing. For instance, black students at the end of their high school career are almost four years behind white students in reading; the gap is comparable in other subjects. A study of 26- to 33-year-old men who held full-time jobs in 1991 thus found that when education was measured by years of school completed, blacks earned 19 percent less than comparably educated whites. But when word knowledge, paragraph comprehension, arithmetical reasoning, and mathematical knowledge became the yardstick, the results were reversed. Black men earned 9 percent more than white men with the same education—that is, the same performance on basic tests.

Other research suggests much the same point. For instance, the work of economists Richard J. Murnane and Frank Levy has demonstrated the increasing importance of cognitive skills in our changing economy. Employers in firms like Honda now require employees who can read and do math problems at the ninth-grade level at a minimum. And yet the 1992 NAEP math tests, for example, revealed that only 22 percent of African-American high school seniors but 58 percent of their white classmates were numerate enough for such firms to consider hiring them. And in reading, 47 percent of whites in 1992 but just 18 percent of African Americans could handle the printed word well enough to be employable in a modern automobile plant. Murnane and Levy found a clear impact on income. Not years spent in school but strong skills made for high long-term earnings.

The Widening Skills Gap

Why is there such a glaring racial gap in levels of educational attainment? It is not easy to say. The gap, in itself, is very bad news, but even more alarming is the fact that it has been widening in recent years. In 1971, the average African-American 17-year-old could read no better than the typical white child who was six years younger. The racial gap in math in 1973 was 4.3 years; in science it was 4.7 years in 1970. By the late 1980s, however, the picture was notably brighter. Black students in their final year of high school were only 2.5 years behind whites in both reading and math and 2.1 years behind on tests of writing skills.

Had the trends of those years continued, by today black pupils would be performing about as well as their white classmates. Instead, black progress came to a halt, and serious backsliding began. Between 1988 and 1994, the racial gap in reading grew from 2.5 to 3.9 years; between 1990 and 1994, the racial gap in math increased from 2.5 to 3.4 years. In both science and writing, the racial gap has widened by a full year.

There is no obvious explanation for this alarming turnaround. The early gains doubtless had much to do with the growth of the black middle class, but the black middle class did not suddenly begin to shrink in the late 1980s. The poverty rate was not dropping significantly when educational progress was occurring, nor was it on the increase when the racial gap began once again to widen. The huge rise in out-of-wedlock births and the steep and steady decline in the proportion of black children growing up with two parents do not explain the fluctuating educational performance of African-American children. It is well established that children raised in single-parent families do less well in school than others, even when all other variables, including income, are controlled. But the disintegration of the black nuclear family—presciently noted by Daniel Patrick Moynihan as early as 1965—was occurring rapidly in the period in which black scores were rising, so it cannot be invoked as the main explanation as to why scores began to fall many years later.

Some would argue that the initial educational gains were the result of increased racial integration and the growth of such federal compensatory education programs as Head Start. But neither desegregation nor compensatory education seems to have increased the cognitive skills of the black children exposed to them. In any case, the racial mix in the typical school has not changed in recent years, and the number of students in compensatory programs and the dollars spent on them have kept going up.

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(1920) Declaration of the Rights of the Negro Peoples of the World

Primary Document

UNIA Parade, NYC, 1922 (Ebony Collection)


Be It Resolved, That the Negro people of the world, through their chosen representatives in convention assembled in Liberty Hall, in the City of New York and United States of America, from August 1 to August 31, in the year of Our Lord one thousand nine hundred and twenty, protest against the wrongs and injustices they are suffering at the hands of their white brethren, and state what they deem their fair and just rights, as well as the treatment they propose to demand of all men in the future.

We complain:

1. That nowhere in the world, with few exceptions, are black men accorded equal treatment with white men, although in the same situation and circumstances, but, on the contrary, are discriminated against and denied the common rights due to human beings for no other reason than their race and color.
We are not willingly accepted as guests in the public hotels and inns of the world for no other reason than our race and color.

2. In certain parts of the United States of America our race is denied the right of public trial accorded to other races when accused of crime, but are lynched and burned by mobs, and such brutal and inhuman treatment is even practiced upon our women.

3. That European nations have parcelled out among them and taken possession of nearly all of the continent of Africa, and the natives are compelled to surrender their lands to aliens and are treated in most instances like slaves.

4. In the southern portion of the United States of America, although citizens under the Federal Constitution, and in some States almost equal to the whites in population and are qualified land owners and taxpayers, we are, nevertheless, denied all voice in the making and administration of the laws and are taxed without representation by the State governments, and at the same time compelled to do military service in defense of the country.

5. On the public conveyances and common carriers in the southern portion of the United States we are jim-crowed and compelled to accept separate and inferior accommodations and made to pay the same fare charged for first-class accommodations, and our families are often humiliated and insulted by drunken white men who habitually pass through the jim-crow cars going to the smoking car.

6. The physicians of our race are denied the right to attend their patients while in the public hospitals of the cities and States where they reside in certain parts of the United States.
Our children are forced to attend inferior separate schools for shorter terms than white children, and the public school funds are unequally divided between the white and colored schools.

7. We are discriminated against and denied an equal chance to earn wages for the support of our families, and in many instances are refused admission into labor unions and nearly everywhere are paid smaller wages than white men.

8. In the Civil Service and departmental offices we are everywhere discriminated against and made to feel that to be a black man in Europe, America and the West Indies is equivalent to being an outcast and a leper among the races of men, no matter what the character attainments of the black men may be.

9. In the British and other West Indian islands and colonies Negroes are secretly and cunningly discriminated against and denied those fuller rights of government to which white citizens are appointed, nominated and elected.

10. That our people in those parts are forced to work for lower wages than the average standard of white men and are kept in conditions repugnant to good civilized tastes and customs.

11. That the many acts of injustices against members of our race before the courts of law in the respective islands and colonies are of such nature as to create disgust and disrespect for the white man’s sense of justice.

12. Against all such inhuman, unchristian and uncivilized treatment we here and now emphatically protest, and invoke the condemnation of all mankind.

In order to encourage our race all over the world and to stimulate it to overcome the handicaps and difficulties surrounding it, and to push forward to a higher and grander destiny, we demand and insist on the following Declaration of Rights:

1. Be it known to all men that whereas all men are created equal and entitled to the rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, and because of this we, the duly elected representatives of the Negro peoples of the world, invoking the aid of the just and Almighty God, do declare all men, women and children of our blood throughout the world free denizens, and do claim them as free citizens of Africa, the Motherland of all Negroes.

2. That we believe in the supreme authority of our race in all things racial; that all things are created and given to man as a common possession; that there should be an equitable distribution and apportionment of all such things, and in consideration of the fact that as a race we are now deprived of those things that are morally and legally ours, we believed it right that all such things should be acquired and held by whatsoever means possible.

3. That we believe the Negro, like any other race, should be governed by the ethics of civilization, and therefore should not be deprived of any of those rights or privileges common to other human beings.

4. We declare that Negroes, wheresoever they form a community among themselves should be given the right to elect their own representatives to represent them in Legislatures, courts of law, or such institutions as may exercise control over that particular community.

5. We assert that the Negro is entitled to even-handed justice before all courts of law and equity in whatever country he may be found, and when this is denied him on account of his race or color such denial is an insult to the race as a whole and should be resented by the entire body of Negroes.

6. We declare it unfair and prejudicial to the rights of Negroes in communities where they exist in considerable numbers to be tried by a judge and jury composed entirely of an alien race, but in all such cases members of our race are entitled to representation on the jury.

7. We believe that any law or practice that tends to deprive any African of his land or the privileges of free citizenship within his country is unjust and immoral, and no native should respect any such law or practice.

8. We declare taxation without representation unjust and tyran[n]ous, and there should be no obligation on the part of the Negro to obey the levy of a tax by any law-making body from which he is excluded and denied representation on account of his race and color.

9. We believe that any law especially directed against the Negro to his detriment and singling him out because of his race or color is unfair and immoral, and should not be respected.

10. We believe all men entitled to common human respect and that our race should in no way tolerate any insults that may be interpreted to mean disrespect to our race or color.

11. We deprecate the use of the term “nigger” as applied to Negroes, and demand that the word “Negro” be written with a capital “N.”

12. We believe that the Negro should adopt every means to protect himself against barbarous practices inflicted upon him because of color.

13. We believe in the freedom of Africa for the Negro people of the world, and by the principle of Europe for the Europeans and Asia for the Asiatics, we also demand Africa for the Africans at home and abroad.

14. We believe in the inherent right of the Negro to possess himself of Africa and that his possession of same shall not be regarded as an infringement of any claim or purchase made by any race or nation.

15. We strongly condemn the cupidity of those nations of the world who, by open aggression or secret schemes, have seized the territories and inexhaustible natural wealth of Africa, and we place on record our most solemn determination to reclaim the treasures and possession of the vast continent of our forefathers.

16. We believe all men should live in peace one with the other, but when races and nations provoke the ire of other races and nations by attempting to infringe upon their rights[,] war becomes inevitable, and the attempt in any way to free one’s self or protect one’s rights or heritage becomes justifiable.

17. Whereas the lynching, by burning, hanging or any other means, of human beings is a barbarous practice and a shame and disgrace to civilization, we therefore declare any country guilty of such atrocities outside the pale of civilization.

18. We protest against the atrocious crime of whipping, flogging and overworking of the native tribes of Africa and Negroes everywhere. These are methods that should be abolished and all means should be taken to prevent a continuance of such brutal practices.

19. We protest against the atrocious practice of shaving the heads of Africans, especially of African women or individuals of Negro blood, when placed in prison as a punishment for crime by an alien race.

20. We protest against segregated districts, separate public conveyances, industrial discrimination, lynchings and limitations of political privileges of any Negro citizen in any part of the world on account of race, color or creed, and will exert our full influence and power against all such.

21. We protest against any punishment inflicted upon a Negro with severity, as against lighter punishment inflicted upon another of an alien race for like offense, as an act of prejudice and injustice, and should be resented by the entire race.

22. We protest against the system of education in any country where Negroes are denied the same privileges and advantages as other races.

23. We declare it inhuman and unfair to boycott Negroes from industries and labor in any part of the world.

24. We believe in the doctrine of the freedom of the press, and we therefore emphatically protest against the suppression of Negro newspapers and periodicals in various parts of the world, and call upon Negroes everywhere to employ all available means to prevent such suppression.

25. We further demand free speech universally for all men.

26. We hereby protest against the publication of scandalous and inflammatory articles by an alien press tending to create racial strife and the exhibition of picture films showing the Negro as a cannibal.

27. We believe in the self-determination of all peoples.

28. We declare for the freedom of religious worship.

29. With the help of Almighty God we declare ourselves the sworn protectors of the honor and virtue of our women and children, and pledge our lives for their protection and defense everywhere and under all circumstances from wrongs and outrages.

30. We demand the right of an unlimited and unprejudiced education for ourselves and our posterity forever[.]

31. We declare that the teaching in any school by alien teachers to our boys and girls, that the alien race is superior to the Negro race, is an insult to the Negro people of the world.

32. Where Negroes form a part of the citizenry of any country, and pass the civil service examination of such country, we declare them entitled to the same consideration as other citizens as to appointments in such civil service.

33. We vigorously protest against the increasingly unfair and unjust treatment accorded Negro travelers on land and sea by the agents and employee of railroad and steamship companies, and insist that for equal fare we receive equal privileges with travelers of other races.

34. We declare it unjust for any country, State or nation to enact laws tending to hinder and obstruct the free immigration of Negroes on account of their race and color.

35. That the right of the Negro to travel unmolested throughout the world be not abridged by any person or persons, and all Negroes are called upon to give aid to a fellow Negro when thus molested.

36. We declare that all Negroes are entitled to the same right to travel over the world as other men.

37. We hereby demand that the governments of the world recognize our leader and his representatives chosen by the race to look after the welfare of our people under such governments.

38. We demand complete control of our social institutions without interference by any alien race or races.

39. That the colors, Red, Black and Green, be the colors of the Negro race.

40. Resolved, That the anthem “Ethiopia, Thou Land of Our Fathers etc.,” shall be the anthem of the Negro race. . . .

41. We believe that any limited liberty which deprives one of the complete rights and prerogatives of full citizenship is but a modified form of slavery.

42. We declare it an injustice to our people and a serious Impediment to the health of the race to deny to competent licensed Negro physicians the right to practice in the public hospitals of the communities in which they reside, for no other reason than their race and color.

43. We call upon the various government[s] of the world to accept and acknowledge Negro representatives who shall be sent to the said governments to represent the general welfare of the Negro peoples of the world.

44. We deplore and protest against the practice of confining juvenile prisoners in prisons with adults, and we recommend that such youthful prisoners be taught gainful trades under human[e] supervision.

45. Be it further resolved, That we as a race of people declare the League of Nations null and void as far as the Negro is concerned, in that it seeks to deprive Negroes of their liberty.

46. We demand of all men to do unto us as we would do unto them, in the name of justice; and we cheerfully accord to all men all the rights we claim herein for ourselves.

47. We declare that no Negro shall engage himself in battle for an alien race without first obtaining the consent of the leader of the Negro people of the world, except in a matter of national self-defense.

48. We protest against the practice of drafting Negroes and sending them to war with alien forces without proper training, and demand in all cases that Negro soldiers be given the same training as the aliens.

49. We demand that instructions given Negro children in schools include the subject of “Negro History,” to their benefit.

50. We demand a free and unfettered commercial intercourse with all the Negro people of the world.

51. We declare for the absolute freedom of the seas for all peoples.

52. We demand that our duly accredited representatives be given proper recognition in all leagues, conferences, conventions or courts of international arbitration wherever human rights are discussed.

53. We proclaim the 31st day of August of each year to be an international holiday to be observed by all Negroes.

54. We want all men to know that we shall maintain and contend for the freedom and equality of every man, woman and child of our race, with our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor.

These rights we believe to be justly ours and proper for the protection of the Negro race at large, and because of this belief we, on behalf of the four hundred million Negroes of the world, do pledge herein the sacred blood of the race in defense, and we hereby subscribe our names as a guarantee of the truthfulness and faithfulness hereof, in the presence of Almighty God, on this 13th day of August, in the year of our Lord one thousand nine hundred and twenty.


African American History, Primary Documents


20th Century (1900-1999), United States – New York

April 23rd 2023

How the Republic of Ireland reaped an astonishing tax bounty

More on this story

Euro banknotes
Image caption, The Republic of Ireland raised €22.6bn in corporation tax in 2022

By John Campbell

BBC News NI economics and business editor

In April 2021 comments by the US Treasury secretary prompted nervousness among Irish politicians and officials.

It was clear the US was preparing to reinvigorate international efforts to reform business taxation.

Janet Yellen wanted to end “the global race to the bottom” where large, mostly US firms organised operations to sharply reduce corporation tax bills.

A long-standing part of the Republic of Ireland’s economic strategy has been to attract tax-sensitive foreign investment.

Its headline corporation tax rate of 12.5% is among the lowest in the developed world.

Work on those global tax reforms has not been completed and Ireland may yet face a reckoning.

But for now the country is reaping an astonishing bounty.

That was made clear when Finance Minister Michael McGrath delivered his spring economic forecast last week.

Michael McGrath
Image caption, Michael McGrath is in a position that many finance ministers around the world would envy

He was in the happy position of being able to predict a budget surplus of €10bn (£8.85bn) this year or 3.5% of national income.

In other words the state will collect €10bn more in taxes than it spends.

That is not expected to be a one-off; the annual surplus is forecast to be more than €20bn (£17.7bn) by 2026.

Where has the money come from?

Ireland’s economy has recovered strongly from the Covid-19 pandemic so more taxes like VAT are being collected.

But something else is going on. That something is the corporation tax coming from multinational companies.

Last year Ireland raised €22.6bn (£20bn) in corporation tax, 182% more than the €8bn (£7.08bn) it took in just five years ago.

Of that €22.6bn Mr McGrath has designated about €12bn (£10.62bn) as a “windfall” from multinationals, meaning it has been derived from a particular set of circumstances that won’t last forever.

Ireland has long featured in the tax planning of multinational companies, often as a conduit for shifting money around.

But in the middle of the last decade some of the world’s biggest companies began to reorganise their affairs in a way which meant they would pay a lot more tax in Ireland.

Ironically this was partially a response to the pressure on big companies to clean up their act on tax.

The principle was that companies should declare profits in locations where they have substantial real operations or activities rather than just a low-tax location where they happen to have an office with few employees.

The Apple logo on a building
Image caption, Multinational companies such as Apple employ thousands of people in the Republic of Ireland

Ireland fitted the bill – it was a tax-friendly jurisdiction but companies like Apple had long had real operations in the country, employing thousands of people.

What came next was the legal relocation of intellectual property (IP) assets to Ireland – the most valuable profit-earning parts of these businesses.

Apple’s shift of IP assets in 2015 is widely believed to have been responsible for a wild swing in the country’s GDP that year.

Finance journalist Thomas Hubert has analysed company filings to work out how much tax Apple has paid in Ireland since that IP move.

In a recent piece for The Currency news site he estimated that the company paid Irish corporation tax “in the high €3bn (£2.65bn) to €4bn (£3.54bn) bracket” in 2022 alone.

There are probably other factors at play, including the expiration of certain tax breaks but commercial confidentiality means there is not really a full and easily understood explanation of precisely what is going on.

So what to spend it on?

Prof Alan Barrett from Dublin’s Economic and Social Research Institute said the difficulty in defining how much of this tax is a temporary windfall means there is caution about how the money should be spent.

“The government and all commentators recognise that because we can’t explain why so much extra revenue is coming in, that revenue could disappear very quickly,” he said.

“The discussion at the moment is all around the notion that we have to be really careful not to start making long term day-to-day spending commitments based on this revenue.”

He said there was an awareness of the danger of repeating the mistakes at the end of the Celtic Tiger period when spending plans were dependent on property-related tax revenues which collapsed along with the property market.

A protester holds a placard that reads: HOUSE THE HOMELESS NOW
Image caption, Rental prices and the sale value of homes have rocketed amid the Irish housing crisis

One obvious way in which the money could be spent is on a huge programme of social housing and related infrastructure.

Ireland is in the grip of a housing crisis which the governing coalition has struggled to get a hold of and is being punished in the polls as a result.

But Prof Barnett said that turning the windfall into houses was not straightforward.

“The difficulty is that the economy is essentially at full employment so there just aren’t the bodies available to do things like building housing or other forms of infrastructure,” he said.

For that reason thoughts are turning towards some form of sovereign wealth fund.

In the conclusion to his forecast, Mr McGrath said that “the costs of demographic change are now very clearly on the horizon” and that over the course of this decade it will cost up to €8bn a year more simply to deliver existing levels of public service.

For that reason he will soon be proposing a way to “pre-fund a portion of these costs via a longer-term public savings vehicle”.

But don’t expect the entire windfall to be squirrelled away.

Ireland’s next general election must be held by March 2025 and a couple of giveaway budgets may be the coalition’s best shot at retaining power.

BBC Biased Broadcasting Corporation Reporting Below.

Ukraine war: Russian artists back Putin or face censorship

A protester in Mexico City holds a sign reading, Caution! Russian culture sponsors the war!
Image caption, Russian arts and culture are in the spotlight amid the country’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine

By Vitaly Shevchenko

BBC Monitoring

The war with Ukraine has split Russia’s artistic community.

Those who support it have enjoyed government backing, but those who oppose it have come under huge pressure to toe the line.

Speaking out comes at a price in Russia. You can get killed, jailed or forced into exile, and if you are a person of culture, you can also be frozen out of key platforms and venues.

Andrei Makarevich is one of the best-known performers to fall from favour after criticising government policies in Vladimir Putin’s Russia.

He rose to prominence during the Soviet era as the frontman of a rock group called Mashina Vremeni (Time Machine). State TV once called him “a Beatle of Perestroika”, referring to Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev’s wide-ranging programme of reforms.

But over time Makarevich grew increasingly critical of President Putin. After Russia’s initial invasion of Ukraine in 2014, Makarevich wrote a song titled My Country Has Gone Mad and attended anti-war rallies. After this, a string of his concerts across Russia were cancelled, and Makarevich accused the Kremlin of orchestrating a campaign of persecution.

Andrei Makarevich (left) and then-President Dmitry Medvedev
Image caption, Andrei Makarevich (left) at an event in 2010 with Russia’s then-president Dmitry Medvedev

After the start of the full-scale war in February 2022, Makarevich left Russia a deeply disillusioned man. “People have turned out to be much easier to manipulate. More ignorant and aggressive,” he said in an interview.

Nikolai Rastorguyev, on the other hand, is an example of a performer favoured by the state. He is the lead singer of Lyube, which is often described as “Putin’s favourite band”. He is a vocal supporter of the Kremlin’s policies including the “special military operation” in Ukraine.

Unlike Makarevich, Rastorguyev appears to have enjoyed easy access to Russia’s best venues for years.

On 15 March 2014, the day Makarevich was nearly assaulted by anti-Ukraine activists following a peace march in Moscow, Lyube celebrated its 25th anniversary at the capital’s Olympic Stadium.

The following day, his band performed in Crimea in support of a vote that had no international recognition but was used by the Kremlin to justify its annexation of the Ukrainian region.

Rastorguyev and his band have played at Kremlin-organised mass rallies held at Russia’s largest stadium, Luzhniki, and attended by President Putin. It has also authored a song celebrating a bridge linking annexed Crimea to Russia.

Nikolai Rastorguyev's band Lyube has appeared on the same stage as the president and is known as his favourite band
Image caption, Nikolai Rastorguyev’s band Lyube has appeared on the same stage as the president and is known as his favourite group

In a sign of the band’s influence, police searching for political subversives have even forced patrons at a bar in Moscow to sing a Lyube song, as proof that they support the government.

Nikolai Rastorguyev is subject to EU sanctions imposed for their role in “the Kremlin’s disinformation and information manipulation ecosystem”.

In Russia, numerous performers critical of the Kremlin, such as Makarevich, have been officially designated as “foreign agents”.

Film and theatre

Divisions run deep among stars of film and theatre, too.

Nikita Mikhalkov is one of Russia’s most celebrated actors and film directors. One of the pinnacles of his career is Oscar-winning drama Burnt By The Sun (1994), which he both directed and starred in. The film is about lives wrecked by terror in the USSR under Soviet leader Stalin.

Mikhalkov’s views are also very close to the Kremlin’s official ideology: he is a religious conservative, and he espouses extreme anti-Western views.

He shares these conspiracy theories in his TV show Besogon (Exorcist), which is aired on state television and is said to number President Putin among its viewers.

Putin (right) and Nikita Mikhalkov (left)
Image caption, Nikita Mikhalkov (left) is an ardent supporter of President Putin

Mikhalkov is an ardent supporter of Vladimir Putin.

In 2007, he co-authored an open letter calling on the Russian president to seek a third presidential term in violation of the constitution. The same year, Mikhalkov made a film celebrating Putin’s 55th birthday, which was shown on the day by state TV.

The film director has headed Russia’s Union of Film-Makers since 1997, and he has received numerous awards and funding from the state, including the Defence Ministry’s award for “developing the Fatherland’s culture and art”, and $2m in state funding for a sequel to Burnt By The Sun.

He has supported Russia’s war on Ukraine in 2022, parroting the president’s rhetoric that Ukraine is ruled by a “Nazi regime” and that the very Ukrainian language is a manifestation of hatred towards Russia.

Months after the invasion started, Vladimir Putin awarded Mikhalkov the title of a “Hero of Labour” at a ceremony in the Kremlin. Thanking the president, the film-maker referred to the fighting in Ukraine and said that “a new Russia” was being forged there.

For his role in spreading “Kremlin propaganda narratives”, Mikhalkov has been sanctioned by the EU.

Actress Liya Akhedzhakova holds very different political views, and her career has followed a different trajectory. She rose to fame in the 1970s thanks to roles in hugely popular Soviet films such as The Irony of Fate and Office Romance, as well as numerous performances at Sovremennik, one of Moscow’s best theatres.

Since the break-up of the USSR, the diminutive actress has never shied away from making her political views public, and has often been harshly critical of government policies.

At a rally in Moscow in 2014, she praised the so-called Euromaidan – protests in Kyiv that led to the toppling of pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych and Russia’s initial invasion of Ukraine.

Euromaidan protests
Image caption, Protests in Kyiv toppled the pro-Russian leader in 2014 and led to Russia seizing Crimea and parts of eastern Ukraine

There was applause and chants of support as Akhedzhakova urged the crowd to honour the pro-democracy demonstrators killed in the Ukrainian capital.

By the time President Putin had launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine eight years later, rallies like this were unimaginable in Russia. Speaking on the day of the invasion to independent Dozhd TV, Akhedzhakova urged fellow performers and celebrities to oppose it.

“I’m calling on all people of culture – the time has come to speak out. We have to speak out. We won’t get another chance. A war is going on, and there are so many lies, a whole sea of lies,” she said.

Less than a week later, Dozhd was forced to relocate abroad due to tightening censorship and concerns for the welfare of its staff.

A year later, Akhedzhakova lost her last role at Sovremennik after 45 years of working at the theatre. According to the actress, the theatre’s newly appointed director told her it had been “inundated” with letters criticising her – a practice reminiscent of state-orchestrated persecution campaigns in the Soviet Union.

In another echo of Stalinism, a pro-government activist recently asked prosecutors to check if the actress was guilty of treason.

Comment Words almost fail me. Any actor who goes off the U.S Democrat pseudo liberal message is going to destroy their careers. The same goes for the music industry. It is much the same in the U.K , which having a sort of Brexit arrangment, is out to brainwash Europe. Actor Lawrence Fox was destroyed for a simple comment about political correctness on a BBC politics Panel. A self styled posh mixed race female academic labelled hin a ‘privileged white male’ and not worth listening to. They want the morons to take over a Russia which simply wanted the Minsk deal honoured and a Ukjraine neutral zone. Western minions love it all. While the leaders sabre rattle ,the most terrible deeds are being done. Meanwhile,when is Julian Assange going to be freed and Chelsea Manning pardoned for exposing Anglo U.S war crimes.

R J Cook

All Global Matters,Transaction,Transparent and Translucent Pages have been removed by the authorities in ‘Independent News’ Britain. The site may follow soon. Britain is the home of censorship in the name of ‘keeping us safe.’ The information HIGHWAY is a Disinformation LOWWAY.

Given that the site is under 24/7 police monitoring and the fact that outside authority can remove key pages as they have done today , and presumably use the same process to add incriminating data without any need to go to court , undermines the viability of this site. I have informed a lawyer accordingly. This site was founded on my ideals of truth , justice and real democracy – not Anglo American Class Ridden War Mongering Hypocrisy. This may be my final post unless I get a reasonable legal explanation for what looks like censorship.

This is not a world where a fair open minded person can express an opinion about anything off official message. To condemn Russia as a tyranny is at the very least a matter of a very dirty pot calling the kettle black.

The rampant super capitalists are very afraid of Russia and its communist past. Closer to home, the issue of trans and gender politics cannot be discussed – as I have been doing – outside of the LGBTQI, J.K Rowling and TERF Feminist box polarity. There is no more I can say. .

R J Cook

More on this story

My web host informed me that their organisation had no involvment in removing key pages from this site: referencing 1 ) NATO’s proxy war on Russia, 2 ) A recent appointment with Dr James Barrett of the Finchley Gender Identity Clinic where a so called surgical assessment involved demanding information regarding my income sources, history of my conflict with 2 police forces and mortgage status along with threats of withdrawing any clinical help if I asked embarrassing questions about my appalling treatnent or their so called intelligence files . 3 ) The TERF / Rowling Feminist hate war on Transsexuals with mainstream media deliberately misrepresenting a Scots double rapist as Trans or a multi agency approach fitting me up without evidence , or credible investigation as a ‘gay escort’ ( allegedly working in my son’s and his gangster friends’mythical brothel to compromise my sex change treatment , labelling me clinically insane thus getting me fired from truck driving ) and an innocent young white trans girl murdered by two 16 year old boy and girl morons in a park – police stating transgender made her a target but there was no evidence of hate crime.

The following extract is informative concerning exactly what police can do on the internet in the interest of keeping ‘us’ safe :

Home > Government & Legislation > Police Computer Hacking Powers and Civil Liberties

the government.

News|Russia-Ukraine war

A year on, what do young Russians think of the war in Ukraine?

We speak to six young Russians about the devastating conflict, which has entered a second year.

Yuri, 20, now in Tbilisi, says the war is 'a political theatre where human life is worth nothing' [Courtesy: Yuri]
Yuri, 20, now in Tbilisi, says the war is ‘a political theatre where human life is worth nothing’ [Courtesy: Yuri]

By Niko Vorobyov

Published On 2 Mar 20232 Mar 2023

Finding out what young Russians really think about the war in Ukraine is not easy.

Polls have suggested that even though they are the least likely to support the invasion, many still back it.

Keep reading

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Russians make Thailand a refuge as Ukraine war enters second year

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Russia unnerved by drone attacks blamed on Ukraine

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What history shows: How will the war in Ukraine end?

list 4 of 4

Photos: Ukraine says it’s survived its ‘most difficult winter’

end of list

But as anti-war sentiment is heavily cracked down on, few are truly open about their beliefs.

What we do know is that young Russians, unlike their elders, are growing up in an era of smartphones and social networks, and therefore have access to a wider range of information compared with what they are told about the war on state media.

Some teenagers have been arrested for sabotaging railways, sharing anti-war memes on social media, and taking part in peace rallies – although actual criminal charges for under-18s are relatively rare.

At the same time, there have been cases of pro-war pupils recording their teachers making dovish statements in class, and reporting them to the authorities.

We spoke to six Gen Z Russians about their views:

‘We were nervous so we left in a hurry’

Kim, 18, originally from Novosibirsk, now living in the United States

“Since we lived in Russia, the war affected us quite a lot. My mother and I were very afraid for our lives, so the decision was made to leave. We were nervous so we left in a hurry. With the move, my life has changed dramatically.

“I am against any war. This special operation is complete nonsense and an absurdity that no one needed. Although Ukraine is a much smaller country, it is strong patriotically. [Russian President Vladimir] Putin is just another man who has been in power too long. After all, what are elections for? One person shouldn’t be in power for a long time, all this power twists and corrupts people. His strange behaviour was noticeable a long time ago. It was the same in 2014, with his decision to annex Crimea.

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“I follow everything on Telegram and independent analysis from both sides. The future is very dark. Everything that’s happening does not give me any hope for a stable resolution.”

‘There are a lot of lies. Both on our side, and from Ukraine’

Jasmine, 21, Moscow

“It’s scary. You don’t know when your friends and family will be taken away for mobilisation. Relatives of friends are already dying on the front. I’m afraid they will announce a full mobilisation and take everyone.

“Other than that, we haven’t been affected much yet. The economy hasn’t been stable for a long time and the sanctions haven’t gone away. Travel is hard – you can’t go anywhere with a Russian passport. But there’s also a positive side. Many Western brands leaving Russia have paved the way for young entrepreneurs and new, high-quality Russian brands are thriving.

“About the war, I don’t know much about this situation, so I can’t judge. Everywhere they say different things and I don’t know who to believe. One thing I know for sure – there are a lot of lies on TV. Both on our side, and from Ukraine.”

‘The war is f***** up and wrong’

Yuri, 20, Tbilisi

“It so happened that I served a year in the army right before the war. It was my own fault for not studying instead. I’m physically completely healthy, no flat feet or asthma. I demobilised in November 2021.

“The war is f***** up and wrong, a political theatre where human life is worth nothing.

“[At the start], I saw more and more people in clothes with symbols and inscriptions of the pro-war position. Each time I was thrown into rage and regret – how can you think that what is happening is normal? But I was no better: I didn’t try to convince any of them, I didn’t go to rallies. I sometimes shared breaking news on Instagram, and talked to my relatives on this topic. Fortunately, no one in our family watches TV and no one has voted for Putin for a long time.

“On September 21, 2022, my girlfriend woke me up with the words, ‘Wake up, the circus is in town again.’ I understood everything from Putin’s [mobilisation] speech perfectly, and that I need to buy tickets to Tbilisi immediately, since many friends and acquaintances were already there. Airfares were growing each time I refreshed the page and having reached the figure of 300,000 rubles ($4,000), I understood that an alternative was needed and bought bus tickets to Tbilisi with my girl from Moscow for 5,000 rubles ($66) each.

“On the 27th of September, we got stuck in a traffic jam on the Lars crossing. I realised that if we don’t get off the bus, we won’t cross the border. We bought two bicycles in from Vladikavkaz for 15,000 rubles ($200) each and rolled to the border. Every cop from Moscow to customs said, ‘You won’t get through, they won’t let you in, everything is already closed there.’

“It was so much easier to breathe in Tbilisi. The concentration of human beings – and not cyborgs with eternally gloomy faces – per square kilometre is much higher here than in Moscow. It’s nice. But if you have imperialist views, you will not be able to live in Tbilisi for long. I found a job and a very good place.

“Two days after I crossed the border, my aunt called me and said that people in uniform came to the apartment where I was registered and asked if I lived there.”

‘I‘m not going to leave here and give up. Russia is my home’

Asya, 19, Arkhangelsk

“At the beginning of the war, I cried constantly. It seemed to me that all this was not real and could not last long. I very much sympathise with all the residents of Ukraine. But as time passed, I got used to it, no matter how terrible it was. People get used even to war, especially if they live far from the battleground.

“I also began to think differently and started learning new topics: decolonisation, anthropology, and anarchism.

“My father has a very strange position – it seems that he simultaneously supports and does not support the special military operation. Overall, he’s always had nationalist views, so it’s not surprising. I haven’t lived with my parents for many years, but even if I did, I wouldn’t argue with them, because it’s their business what to think.

“I know activists from other countries and they support Russian activists, but they don’t understand how we can continue to live and work under the war and the current government. There are likely many others who hate Russia, but it must be remembered that it’s necessary to separate the Russian government, a mad machine of repression and destruction, and the people of Russia, who for the most part are not guilty.

“I’ve come to terms with that it’s only going to get worse in the future. As for politics – I don’t believe that the opposition in Russia will succeed in the coming years, but I‘m not going to leave here and give up. Russia is my home.”

‘After such colossal losses, the army will have to be rebuilt again’

Nikita Karpov, 25, Noginsk

“At the beginning, I took a favourable position [of the campaign], because even before February 24, I considered it necessary to eliminate the Ukrainian problem. But now time has passed, it’s become obvious that no positive outcomes are to be expected.

“Putin is a president born of the Soviet system. This man has a certain political style, to which most of the Russian population is already accustomed. He is not a bright leader, and not the tyrant that the opposition paints him as, but he is definitely not the best thing that could happen to Russia.

“Since the Russian Federation is the largest state in the world at the moment with a huge population, it follows that this is a dangerous beast. It is impossible to write off Russia just like that, as many people do, predicting defeat, reparations and so on.

“The conflict between Russia and Ukraine may last for several more years. I believe that the political system in Russia will be severely degraded in the coming years. Business, housing and community services, medicine, education – everything will sag. After such colossal losses, the army will have to be rebuilt again.

“It all looks scary, but my generation will definitely have something to do.”

‘We do not deserve Russophobia’

Renazimov, 16, Moscow region

Read More

About the Author

Robert Cook
facebook I went to school in Buckinghamshire, where my interests were music ( I was a violinist ), art ( winning county art competitions ) athletics and cross country ( I was a county team athlete ). My father died as a result of an accident- he was an ex soldier and truck driver- when I was 11. It could be said that I grew up in poverty, but I did not see it like that. As a schoolboy, I had my interests, hobbies and bicycle, worked on a farm, delivered news papers, did a lot of training for my sport, painting, and music. I also made model aeroplanes and was in the Air Training Corps, where we had the opportunity to fly an aeroplane. I had wanted to be a pilot, but university made me anti war. At the University of East Anglia-which I also represented in cross country and athletics- I studied economics, economic history, philosophy and sociology. Over the years, I have worked in a variety of manual, office and driving jobs. My first job after univerity was with the Inland Revenue in Havant, near Portsmouth. I left Hampshire to work for the Nitrate Corporation of Chile, then lecturing, teaching and journalism - then back to driving. I play and teach various styles of guitar and used to be a regular folk club performer. I quit that after being violently assaulted in Milton Keynes pub, after singing a song I wrote about how cop got away with killing Ian Tomlinson at G7, in broad daylight and caught on camera. The police took no action, saying taht my assailant had a good job. The pub in question was, and probably still is, popular with off duty police officers.

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