It is November 5, 2020 – and This Writer half expects to hear of a man in a Guy Fawkes mask setting off an explosion that destroys Parliament later this evening.
That is what happens in the movie version of V for Vendetta, Alan Moore and David Lloyd’s seminal graphic novel. And there are more similarities…
In the movie, Britain is under the control of a ruthless fascist dictatorship that offers security but not freedom. Does this seem familiar to you?
This administration has used a viral pandemic to seize power and keep the people of Britain under control. Does this remind you of a situation in the real world?
(Just to hammer the point home, the first dialogue in the first episode of the graphic novel includes these words: “The Brixton and Streatham areas are quarantine zones as of today. It is suggested that these areas be avoided for reasons of health and safety.” The locations may be different but that’s not too far from what’s happening today.)
The country is kept under curfew, enforced by a brutal police force known as “Fingermen”. As England goes into lockdown for a second time, do you remember Boris Johnson’s plan to give special enforcement powers to a select few people, to ensure that we all follow his rules?
The situation in the real world – now – demonstrates the point the film – and the original graphic novel that was originally serialised from 1982 onwards – made:
In V for Vendetta, Alan Moore shows us how the State effectively exploits the public’s sense of fear in times of crises and states of emergency to destroy our liberty & replace it with absolute control over our every thought, emotion, and action.
This Writer was among the first people to read V for Vendetta. I was 12 years old at the time, and an avid consumer of Alan Moore’s stories.
The thought of living in a country like that, frankly, terrified me. But I could see its roots spreading, in the Conservative government of Margaret Thatcher and the so-called “surveillance society” she created.
So could Moore. In the introduction to the 1988 serialisation of V, he wrote: “The new riot police wear black visors, as do their horses, and their vans have rotating video cameras mounted on top… one can only speculate as to which minority will be the next legislated against.
“Goodnight England. Goodnight Home Service and V for Victory.
“Hello the Voice of Fate and V for Vendetta.”
All very grim.
But the story ends on a hopeful note, and so will this article – because the message that has resonated with the public today is this:
“People should not be afraid of their governments. Governments should be afraid of their people.” I hope Boris Johnson hears those words today.
Have YOU donated to my crowdfunding appeal, raising funds to fight false libel claims by TV celebrities who should know better? These court cases cost a lot of money so every penny will help ensure that wealth doesn’t beat justice.
Alan Moore: As an image caption of him in the 1980s once stated, please do not adjust your eyeballs; all is well.
Counter-culture icon Alan Moore has announced that he is to vote for the first time since 1979 – for Labour – because “a world we love is counting on us”.
Mr Moore is considered one of the greatest ever graphic novelists (that’s a writer of comics, for those who don’t know the lingo). His early work V For Vendetta depicted a Britain in the grip of a fascist dictatorship that treated ordinary people as a commodity to be exploited and subjected people from ethnic and social minorities, the sick and disabled to medical experimentation that most commonly resulted in their deaths.
Some may see terrifying similarities with the current Conservative government in such a situation.
Mr Moore’s statement runs as follows:
“Here’s something you don’t see every day: an internet-averse anarchist announcing on social media that he’ll be voting Labour in the December elections. But these are unprecedented times.
“I’ve voted only once in my life, more than forty years ago, being convinced that leaders are mostly of benefit to no one save themselves. That said, SOME leaders are so unbelievably malevolent and catastrophic that they must be strenuously opposed by any means available. Put simply, I do not believe that four more years of these rapacious, smirking right-wing parasites will leave us with a culture, a society, or an environment in which we have the luxury of even imagining alternatives.
“The wretched world we’re living in at present was not an unlucky turn of fate; it was an economic and political decision, made without consulting the enormous human population that it would most drastically affect. If we would have it otherwise, if we’d prefer a future that we can call home, then we must stop supporting – even passively – this ravenous, insatiable Conservative agenda before it devours us with our kids as a dessert.
“Although my vote is principally against the Tories rather than for Labour, I’d observe that Labour’s current manifesto is the most encouraging set of proposals that I’ve ever seen from any major British party. Though these are immensely complicated times and we are all uncertain as to which course we should take, I’d say the one that steers us furthest from the glaringly apparent iceberg is the safest bet.
“If my work has meant anything to you over the years, if the way that modern life is going makes you fear for all the things you value, then please get out there on polling day and make your voice heard with a vote against this heartless trampling of everybody’s safety, dignity and dreams.
“A world we love is counting on us.”
The possible irony of Mr Moore saying that “leaders are mostly of benefit to no one save themselves”, while making a statement that can only be interpreted as an act of leadership itself – an encouragement to follow his example – is not lost on This Writer. The difference is that Mr Moore does not stand to gain personally from his decision; he is already a very wealthy man and Labour’s taxation policy will probably mean he ends up paying more.
Clearly he considers this to be a price worth paying for an end to the current government.
Note what he said about Labour’s manifesto: “The most encouraging set of proposals that I’ve ever seen from any major British party. Though these are immensely complicated times and we are all uncertain as to which course we should take, I’d say the one that steers us furthest from the glaringly apparent iceberg is the safest bet.”
I would strongly support that sentiment.
Have YOU donated to my crowdfunding appeal, raising funds to fight false libel claims by TV celebrities who should know better? These court cases cost a lot of money so every penny will help ensure that wealth doesn’t beat justice.
Violence marred the Million Mask March in London – with the clashes apparently started by British police.
But you should not expect to see the spectacle reported on the news as the BBC and other right-wing media seem to have put their heads in the (proverbial) sand and, once again, failed to report anything that might indicate the British people are not happy with their government.
Thousands of people took to the streets, many wearing what is now seen as the symbol of protest against austerity cuts imposed by the rich – the Guy Fawkes mask made famous by the graphic novel ‘V for Vendetta’.
[Picture: Million Mask March London Facebook page]
Comedian Russell Brand, who has called for non-violent revolution, was spotted at the London protest.
Inevitably, someone had to spoil it and it seems the police were the aggressors.
According to the Huffington Post, an eyewitness said: “They [the police] started shouting move back, move back, but we had nowhere to go. The police started pushing us, screaming ‘move back, move back’. There was a fire on the right hand side of the monument [the Victoria Memorial near Buckingham Palace] and people started throwing things.”
The HuffPost reported: “The event is part of a Million Mask March, with similar protests being held in cities around the world. A Facebook page promoting the protest called for Anonymous, WikiLeaks, the Pirate Party, and Occupy to “defend humanity”.
“‘Remember who your enemies are: Billionaires who own banks and corporations who corrupt politicians who enslave the people in injustice,’ it read.”
If any Vox Political readers were at the march – or at any of the many others around the world – please tell us about it. Let us know what the mainstream news reporters aren’t telling us.
The Tory Faraway Tree: By the power of very bad image editing, David Cameron, Iain (RTU) Smith and Grant Shapps have replaced the protagonists. Careful, Mr Shapps – your panties are showing! How unusual that they aren’t on fire!
Do any British readers remember what it was like to live in a country where the government respected the law, and accepted facts without making up silly little stories about them?
What an amazing place that must have been.
Sadly, we’re all trapped in Tory-Coalition purgatory for the next 19 months at least, and have to endure the relentless procession of nonsense associated with it.
Yesterday (Friday) we were provided with two glowing examples.
Firstly, the visit of the United Nations Special Rapporteur on adequate housing, Raquel Rolnik, was treated with extreme prejudice by the Tories and their poodles in the right-wing press, after she announced she would be filing an unfavourable report after investigating the effect of the bedroom tax on the British people.
Tory chairman and ‘Michael Green’ impersonator Grant Shapps then wrote to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to complain about the Special Rapporteur’s behaviour. A reply has now arrived and, rather than give it the due consideration it deserves, Shapps seems to have handed it straight to The Sun.
That newspaper reported that the UN had “slapped down” Ms Rolnik for her behaviour. Shapps himself told the paper: “People expect the UN to be neutral, yet on this occasion a former Workers Party politician came with a clear agenda” – a bizarre claim, when the letter itself creates a completely different view.
It states: “Ms Raquel Rolnik is one of 72 independent experts appointed by the United nations Human Rights Council – the lead UN body responsible for human rights – on the basis of their expertise and independence, and following a competitive selection process. As in the case of all mandate holders, Ms Rolnik serves in an independent capacity and in accordance with a Code of Conduct adopted by the Council. She is not a staff member of the United Nations, is neither accountable to nor appointed by the Secretary-General, and does not receive any compensation beyond a daily allowance when engaged in mandated activities.
“Among other activities, Special Rapporteurs are mandated to undertake country visits to assess human rights enjoyment on the ground. The United Kingdom is one of 94 Member States which has extended a standing invitation to mandate holders thus indicating that it is open to the visit of any Special Rapporteur. Country visits are governed by rules and procedures set out in the Code of Conduct referred to above and the Manual of Operations adopted by Special Procedures. Ms Rolnik’s visit was planned and organised over many months in consultation with the Government in compliance with these rules and procedures.
“As in the case of all country visits, Ms Rolnik’s visit concluded with a press conference and a press statement, provided to the Government in advance, which indicate preliminary findings and recommendations. The final report on the visit will be submitted to the Council’s twenty-fifth session which will take place in March 2014 in Geneva.”
Reading between the lines, we can piece together the gist of Shapps’ correspondence – and it’s clear that he made a lot of mistaken assumptions. Firstly, it seems likely he wrote to Ban Ki-moon demanding that Ms Rolnik be fired from her position, in the belief that she is a hired hand and that the Secretary-General can hire and fire her as he pleases, the way Tories would like to run the UK. She’s just ‘the help’ in Shapps’s eyes. He must also have made a claim about her remuneration – possibly that she receives too much money from the UN or that, as a Socialist, she must be pulling pennies out of the public purse like there’s no tomorrow. Both claims get short shrift.
Next, Shapps is likely to have reasserted his claim that “It is completely wrong and an abuse of the process for somebody to come over, to fail to meet with government ministers, to fail to meet with the department responsible.” The UN response is the same as Ms Rolnik’s own statement in her preliminary report.
And the final paragraph seems to be a response to his further claim that it was out of line “to produce a press release two weeks after coming, even though the report is not due out until next spring.”
Taken at face value, then, this is a letter that entirely supports Ms Rolnik, both in her position within the United Nations and the way she carried out her role in the UK.
But that wasn’t enough for the United Nations, whose higher echelons clearly wanted to ensure there can be no doubt about the way this – let’s face it – international incident is being viewed.
Rupert Colville, a spokesman for the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, told the Huffington Post: “The Sun‘s take on it – that ‘The United Nations has slapped down’ Ms Rolnik – is pure spin. There was no such intention whatsoever.
“In the face of a blizzard of misinformation and personal abuse of Ms Rolnik, published in one or two other UK tabloids during and immediately after her visit, the letter to Mr Shapps simply corrects the factual errors that have been asserted about her status and her role as an independent UN expert, or ‘Special Rapporteur.’
“Ms Rolnik’s visit was planned and organized over many months in consultation with the UK Government in compliance with these rules and procedures.
“As in the case of all country visits, Ms Rolnik’s visit concluded with a press conference and a press statement, provided to the Government in advance, which indicate preliminary findings and recommendations.
“The final report on the visit will be submitted to the Human Rights Council’s session next March in Geneva.
“In short, there was nothing unusual or untoward about Ms Rolnik’s visit – apart from some of the reactions to it.”
No doubt Mr Colville will have drawn his own conclusions about the current UK administration from that Sun article – conclusions that, one hopes, will be included in that final report next March.
The New Statesman reckons the Tories have an “antipathy for evidence” and presents a theory regarding why this should be so: “If all the facts are against you, your best tactic is to make stuff up and hope you can shout the other person down (changing your mind obviously not being an option).”
Alternatively, we return to V for Vendetta territory. The graphic novel’s writer, Alan Moore, referenced Enid Blyton’s novel The Magic Faraway Tree several times. For an anarchist like the story’s protagonist, the Land of Do-as-you-please would be very attractive – but here in reality, it seems the Tories think they’ve taken the ladder to that land and can do and say whatever they want – and facts don’t matter.
For more evidence of this, let’s turn to our second example: The Department for Work and Pensions and its reaction to a benefit tribunal in Scotland, who ruled against Fife Council, saying that a room of less than 70 square feet should not be considered a bedroom for the purpose of the bedroom tax. This led the council to call the tax “unworkable” and demand its reversal. Since then, a disabled gentleman has won a ruling against Westminster Council, after he claimed that a room used to store equipment that helps him manage his disability was not, and never has been, a bedroom.
In his decision notice, the judge wrote: “The term ‘bedroom’ is nowhere defined [in the relevant regulations]. I apply the ordinary English meaning. The room in question cannot be so defined.”
Perhaps we are to assume Iain Returned-To-Unit Smith believes that, having achieved one retrospective law via the normal legislative route, he can now ordain such rulings willy-nilly. He’s wrong.
His Department’s demand that “when applying the size criteria and determining whether or not a property is under-occupied, the only consideration should be the composition of the household and the number of bedrooms as designated by the landlord, but not by measuring rooms” is worthless.
If he wanted that to be the case, he should have written it into his silly little Bedroom Tax Bill (or whatever it was called).
For the moment, Shapps and RTU can get away with their bizarre pronouncements – although they can’t expect to be believed – because the Conservatives are in office.
But they won’t be in office forever.
In the meantime, let’s all keep supporting the opposers, wherever they turn up. If you are being subjected to the Bedroom Tax – appeal. And write to the UN, supporting Ms Rolnik and her findings against the tax.
You have a chance to prove that the Land of Do-as-you-please is a very small place.
And, as in the book, the return to normality involves a very, very long descent.
The masks were adopted by the loosely-affiliated protesters Anonymous as a clear indication of members’ feelings towards a Conservative/Liberal Democrat Coalition government whose actions, they believe, have been increasingly fascist.
These people have a point.
Has anyone read V for Vendetta lately? An early chapter, ‘Victims’, provides the historical background to the fascist Britain of the story – and provides very disturbing parallels with the current government and its policies.
In the story, there is a recession and a nuclear war. Fortunately, in real life we have managed to avoid the war (so far) but the recession of 2007 onwards has caused severe hardship for many, with average wages cut by nine per cent (in real terms) due to government policies.
In the story, the line “Everybody was waiting for the government to do something” is notable. Isn’t that just about as British as you can get? As a nation, we seem unwilling to take the initiative; we just wait for someone else to do something. We queue up. And then we complain when we don’t find exactly what we wanted at the end of the queue. But then it’s too late.
Does the government “do something”? Well, no – not in the story, because there isn’t any government worth mentioning at this point. But then… “It was all the fascist groups. The right-wingers. They’d all got together with some of the big corporations…”
Here’s another parallel. How many corporations are enjoying the fruits of the Conservative-led (right-wing) government’s privatisation drive?
The NHS carve-up signified huge opportunities for firms like Circle Health and Virgin, and Bain Capital (who bought our blood plasma supplies). Care UK, the firm that famously sponsored Andrew Lansley while he was working on the regressive changes to the health service that eventually became the Health and Social Care Act 2012, no doubt also has fingers in the pie.
The Treasury is receiving help – if you can call it that – from the ‘big four’ accountancy firms – PricewaterhouseCoopers, Deloitte, Ernst & Young and KPMG. They have written the law on tax avoidance. By no coincidence at all, these are the firms that run the major tax avoidance schemes that have been taken up by businesses and rich individuals who are resident in the UK. For more information on the government’s attitude to taxing the rich, see Michael Meacher’s recent blog entry.
The Department for Work and Pensions has employed many private firms; this is the reason that department is haemorrhaging money. There are the work programme provider firms who, as has been revealed in previous blog entries, provide absolutely no useful training and are less likely to find anyone a job than if they carried on by themselves; there are the IT firms currently working on Universal Credit, about which Secretary of State Iain Duncan Smith lied to Parliament when he said he was having to write off £34 million of expenditure – the true figure was later revealed to be closer to £161 million, almost five times as much; there are Atos and Capita, and probably other firms that have been hired to carry out so-called ‘work capability assessments’ of people claiming sickness, incapacity and disability benefits, according to a plan that intentionally ignores factual medical evidence and places emphasis on a bogus, tick-box test designed to find ways to cut off their support; and there is Unum Insurance, the criminal American corporation that designed that test, in order to push British workers into buying its bogus insurance policies that work on exactly the same principle – this is theft on a grand scale.
So we have a government in cahoots with big business, and treating the citizens – the voters – like cattle. We’ll see more of this as we go on.
“Then they started taking people away… All the black people and the Pakistanis…” All right, these social groups have not been, specifically, targeted (yet) – but we have seen evidence that our government would like to do so. Remember those advertising vans the Home Office funded, that drove around London with a message that we were told was for illegal immgrants: “Go home”?
“That is a term long-associated with knuckle-dragging racists,” said Owen Jones on the BBC’s Any Questions.
“We’re seeing spot-checks and racial profiling of people at tube stations. We have a woman on the news… she was born in Britain; she was told she was stopped because she ‘didn’t sound British’. And we have the official Home Office [Twitter] account being used to send gleeful tweets which show people being thrown into vans with a hashtag, ‘#immigrationoffenders’.
“Is this the sort of country you want to live in, where the Conservatives use taxpayers’ money to inflame people’s fears and prejudices in order to win political advantage? Because I don’t think most people do want that to happen.”
This blog’s article on the subject added that not only this, but other governments (like that in Greece) had created an opportunity to start rounding up anybody deemed “undesirable” by the state. “Greece is already rounding up people of unorthodox sexuality, drug addicts, prostitutes, immigrants and the poor and transferring them to internment and labour camps,” it stated.
Note also the government’s response to criticism from UN special rapporteur on adequate housing Raquel Rolnik. Grant Shapps and Iain Duncan Smith and their little friends tried to say that she had not done her job properly but, when this was exposed as a lie, they reverted to type and attacked her for her racial origin, national background, and beliefs – political and personal. You can read the lot in this despicable Daily Mail smear piece.
Back to V for Vendetta, where the narrative continues: “White people too. All the radicals and the men who, you know, liked other men. The homosexuals. I don’t know what they did with them all.” Well, we know what Greece is doing with them all, and in the story, such people also ended up in internment and labour camps. We’ll come back to that.
“They made me go and work in a factory with a lot of other kids. We were putting matches into boxes. I lived in a hostel. It was cold and dirty…”
Last month this blog commented on government plans for ‘residential Workfare for the disabled’, rounding up people with disabilities and putting them into modern-day workhouses where someone else would profit from their work while they receive benefits alone – and where the potential for abuse was huge. If that happens, how long will it be before every other jobseeker ends up in a similar institution?
A while ago, a friend in the cafe I visit said that a Tory government will always see every class of people other than its own as “livestock”. That’s the word he used – “livestock”. From the above, with descriptions of people being treated like cattle, or being herded into the workhouse for someone else to profit from their work, it seems he has a very strong case.
So let’s go back to these internment and labour camps – in V for Vendetta they’re called “resettlement” camps. A later chapter – The Vortex – reveals that inmates at such camps are subjected to unethical medical experimentation. The doctor carrying out the trials notes in her diary that the camp commandant “promised to show me my research stock… they’re a poor bunch.”
Her research stock are human beings who have been subjected to conditions similar to those of the Nazi concentration camps. Notice the language – this doctor considers the other human beings taking part to be her property. And they are “research stock” – in other words, she does not see them as other human beings but as livestock – exactly as the friend in the cafe stated.
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