United States cartoonist sacked for anti-Trump cartoons


United States President Trump breaking up families, censored cartoon by Rob Rogers

By Kayla Costa in the USA:

Political cartoonist fired by right-wing Pittsburgh Post-Gazette editors over anti-Trump cartoons

16 June 2018

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette fired political cartoonist Rob Rogers on Thursday, after weeks of editors blocking his content from the publication. The newspaper’s censorship coincides with the rise of openly pro-Trump members on the editorial board.

Rogers is an acclaimed political cartoonist, who has won a number of awards including the National Headliner Award and Thomas Nast Award. Having worked for the Post-Gazette since 1993, Rogers has only recently faced rejection of his political content. Nineteen of his ideas and cartoons have been rejected since March, according to his own count.

Tracey DeAngelo, an executive from the newspaper, said that their decisions “had little to do with politics” and more to do with the “working together and the editing process.”

However, the content of Rogers’ artwork places politics at the center of any editorial discussion. Of the cartoons that were rejected by the editors, many were highly critical of the anti-democratic and anti-immigrant policies of the Trump administration.

Rogers’ rejected cartoons referenced President Trump’s discussion of pardoning himself from the ongoing investigation into supposed Russian meddling in the 2016 election, his far-right attack on basic democratic rights and his brutal immigration policies. He also depicted topics relating to racism, including the recent moves by the National Football League (NFL) to force players to stand during the national anthem in the wake of demonstrations against police brutality.

The paper’s editors did not give an explanation to Rogers as to why these cartoons would not be published, but they had recently encouraged him to not issue such harsh criticisms of Trump or comment on other social issues. Prior to firing him, the paper tried to work out a new deal for 2 cartoons and a cartoon strip per week that posed less opposition to the right-wing views of the paper. While they didn’t ban him from anti-Trump content, they openly sought to lower “the tone and frequency” of it.

Another censored Trump cartoon by Rob Rogers

The censoring of Rogers’ artwork is a relatively recent phenomena, starting in March after the merger of the editorial boards of the Post-Gazette and Toledo Blade, both of which are owned by Block Communications.

Keith Burris, the new vice president and editorial director for both newspapers, represents the conservative and right-wing elements that now run the paper. He has written a number of editorials and articles that endorsed Trump’s 2016 election campaign and defended his actions since, such as his racist condemnation of immigrants from “shithole countries” in January.

The papers’ publisher, John Robinson Block, and Burris had a meeting with Trump on his private plane in 2016. Though the executive layers of the publishing company have long been filled with conservative ideology, the past three months mark a decisive shift to limit left-wing opinions from finding any expression the Post-Gazette.

Burris said on Friday that his goal is to move away from “ideological intent” toward “independent and thoughtful” journalism. To give an idea of the irony of these arbitrary guidelines, recent editorials by Burris run the headlines “Let Trump be Trump” and “John McCain: The last statesman.”

The editorial director’s right-wing views have drawn criticism from staff, including a letter from the Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh signed by 150 newsroom employees of the Post-Gazette that denounced his editorial justifying Trump’s “shithole countries” diatribe. The letter opposed the outright racist bigotry of the editorial and clarified that “its sentiments solely represent the opinions of the Block family, owners of the Post-Gazette, and not their loyal employees who use our talents to fight against what this editorial stands for.”

Upon being dismissed from the company and rejecting an insulting offer to be an independent contractor, Rogers said in a statement: “I fear that today’s unjustified firing of a dissenting voice on the editorial pages will only serve to diminish an opinion section that was once one of America’s best. I love what I do and will continue to find ways to do it and get it out there. The world needs satire now more than ever.”

Many individuals and groups have come to Rogers’ defense. The Newspaper Guild wrote, “Given the recent killing of a number of Rob’s cartoons critical of President Trump and conservative positions, favorites of the publisher and editorial director, it perhaps is not surprising that this sad day for the Post-Gazette, the Pittsburgh community and journalism has arrived.”

Leaders of the Ad Hoc Group to Free Rob Rogers organized a rally in downtown Pittsburgh on Friday where dozens denounced the paper. “The local paper is one of the foundations of American democracy,” the group wrote in an official statement. “Its purpose is to inform the citizens and to hold the powerful in the public and private sectors accountable. But who is there to hold the Post-Gazette accountable? We, the people. That’s who.”

Rogers’ cartoons largely reflect the politics of the Democratic Party. His criticisms of Trump do not mention the role of wider layers of the military-intelligence and political establishment, including the Democrats themselves. …

Nonetheless, the Post-Gazette’s decision to fire Rogers on the basis of his anti-Trump politics constitutes a disregard for basic principles of free press and must be understood within the context of right-wing, anti-democratic politics which dominate the mainstream media.

Google and Facebook have initiated an advanced censorship campaign in an effort to block all “fake news” and “divisive content,” suppressing left-wing, anti-war and progressive websites. These moves have been aided by their close relationships with the military-intelligence apparatus and federal government.

Local news agencies are not at all isolated from these trends. The FCC is likely to approve the proposal of Sinclair Broadcast Group to buy Tribune Media, after which the national media corporation would own local TV news stations reaching three-quarters of the American population. Sinclair openly pushes a right-wing agenda. David Smith, the executive chairman of Sinclair, told New York Magazine this year, “The print media is so left wing as to be meaningless dribble which accounts for why the industry is and will fade away.”

When media and news is dominated by a small handful of corporate interests, information itself is used in the interests of promoting the conservative, right-wing and fascistic politics of the ruling class that news executives represent. Fearing the growing radicalization of the working class and youth, the billionaires atop the media monopolies are eager to suppress left-wing and oppositional views from reaching a wide audience.

See also here.

A newspaper has dropped a syndicated cartoon after finding an insult aimed at President Donald Trump tucked in a corner of the strip. On Sunday, Pennsylvania’s Butler Eagle included the comic strip “Non Sequitur” drawn by Wiley Miller as it always does. However, this particular cartoon, featuring a “Bearaissance” character named Leonardo Bear Vinci, had a message scribbled in the lower-right-hand corner reading, “We fondly say go fuck yourself to Trump”: here.

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Over 100 bowhead whales seen in Arctic ocean


This January 2018 video is called Ice Giants [Bowhead Whale Documentary].

From Wageningen University in the Netherlands:

At least 100 Bowhead whales sighted in the East Greenland Sea

June 12, 2018

Scientists of Wageningen Marine Research have just returned from the Arctic after a successful expedition organised by Oceanwide Expeditions, Inezia Tours & Natuurpunt. During the spring, whilst working in the Greenland Sea to the Southwest of Spitsbergen, the scientists discovered a group of at least 100 foraging bowhead whales (Balaena mysticetus). This is a rare and endangered whale which is believed to be almost extinct and is consequently classed as ‘Critically Endangered’ according to the IUCN.

For some years scientists from Wageningen Marine Research have worked as expedition guides on board the expedition vessel Plancius from Oceanwide Expeditions. Since 2015, increasing numbers of bowhead whales have been observed on the edge of the pack-ice off East Greenland during these expeditions, but this year all previous numbers were exceeded. On the 1st June 2018, during almost 7 hours steaming along the pack ice, a total of 104-114 bowhead whales were systematically counted.

The bowhead whale is well adapted to live in the Arctic and is therefore the only large whale that can survive year-round in this extreme climate and specifically along the pack-ice. The sub-population of bowhead whales in the area of Spitsbergen/Greenland Sea has been greatly reduced since the whaling operations from the 16th century [on] and consequently this subpopulation, which is estimated to number ‘several hundreds of whales’ is now listed as Critically Endangered on the Red List of the IUCN.

In 2015, during a similar expedition, a total of 90 bowhead whales were recorded. It became immediately clear to the scientists that this type of data has an important scientific value as so little is currently known about this species that occurs in the Greenland Sea. The data indicate that the bowhead whales gather along the pack-ice during May/June. Old whaling data from the 16th century onwards highlight that the whales were hunted in the waters to the northwest of Spitsbergen (in April/May) and migrated south-westward by late spring (adult males and females without calves), while others moved north from Spitsbergen into the receding pack ice. Acoustic data has recently shown that during the winter months the bowhead whales occur further north off West Spitsbergen.

The bowhead whales were intensively hunted from the 16th century onwards for several hundred years and the various subpopulations that occur in the Arctic have yet to recover. Added to this the species’ very survival is now under threat from climate change. Even though it appears that the Spitsbergen sub-population may be larger than previously assumed, continued international research is still very necessary. In spite of the exceptional numbers of Bowhead whales encountered by the scientists this spring it is clear that this long-lived whale continues to be on the brink of extinction.

More government Internet censorship in Britain


This video says about itself:

‘Enemy of the Internet’ – UK accused of mass surveillance & censorship

5 April 2014

Reporters Without Borders have branded the UK an ‘Enemy of the Internet’ for their mass surveillance and censorship programmes, the first time they have appeared on the list. Appearing alongside countries such as China, Iran and North Korea, the UK was criticised for mass surveillance of nearly a quarter of the world’s communications. And the report also said they confused journalists with terrorists.

By Simon Whelan in Britain:

British government extends censorship of online activity

16 June 2018

One year on from the June 2017 attack by Islamist terrorists at London Bridge, Conservative Home Secretary Sajid Javid used the anniversary to announce new authoritarian and anti-democratic “counter-terrorism” powers.

The measures incorporate “the lessons learnt from the attacks in 2017 and our responses to them,” he said. One of the key lessons learnt, he said, was that the authorities could “do better” in sharing information more widely and locally.

The WSWS has noted the intense collusion between British security services and Islamist terror groups. What is clear from the evidence that emerged in the aftermath of last year’s terror attacks is that the reason they were not prevented from their brutal assault was not due to “intelligence” failures.

Rather, there is evidence that the British security services were entirely aware of the activity of the terror cell who carried out the London bridge attack. In the case of the suicide bombing at Manchester Arena, British intelligence knew the bomber and his immediate relatives as members of a Libyan Islamist group they backed to depose the Gaddafi regime in Tripoli.

The real target of Javid’s measures are the democratic rights of working people.

In order to share information, the home secretary announced that local authorities, community police forces and probation officers will be allowed—for the first time—to see declassified intelligence about terror suspects in a pilot scheme to be run initially in London, the West Midlands and Manchester.

Javid declared these new and intrusive measures—whereby the British state accrues ever more dictatorial domestic and international powers—would be used to tackle the dangers presented simultaneously by Islamic terrorism, far-right terrorism and the Russian state.

“The threat to the UK today remains at severe—meaning an attack is highly likely” Javid announced ominously in the speech. The terror attacks in Manchester and at London Bridge, the slaying of Labour MP Jo Cox … together with the alleged nerve gas attack by Russian actors upon Sergei and Yulia Skripal, were meshed together in order to stampede public opinion behind the further erosion of democratic rights.

Immediately after telling the public they cannot be protected from an attack by terrorists, Javid revealed, “Our security and intelligence agencies are, right now, handling over 500 live operations, they have 3,000 ‘subjects of interest.’ And there are a further 20,000 people who have previously been investigated, so they may still pose a threat.”

The personal information held by MI5 on 20,000 British “suspected” citizens is to be declassified and shared with local authorities, police “and others.”

About the thousands of additional suspects, Javid said, “This is not about people who are the hardened attack planners, out there plotting or being active right now,” before adding, “That will remain predominantly the preserve of the intelligence services and the specialist policing.”

Who are these 20,000 people? What exactly are they meant to have done? Why they are they being targeted? Upon whose say so? Upon what evidence? Exactly where and when are declassified details about the 20,000, and the personal information held on them, to be shared with local authorities, police “and others”?

In addition to creating a new layer of state surveillance, the government expects to increase their cooperation even further with the private sector. As is de rigueur ministerial custom, Javid fawned over big business and their role in censoring the Internet, stating, “As someone with a private sector background myself, I understand that government cannot deal with these kinds of challenges alone. I’m committed to improving how we work with businesses across a range of issues.”

Consequently, the role and responsibilities of technology companies to police the Internet and social media will increase even further. The giant tech corporations will be granted greater responsibility to tackle cases of whatever is deemed as “extremist” online activity, either by the state or increasingly by the self-imposed censorship of the technology corporations.

Javid also called for greater cooperation with small businesses to identify what he described as “worrying buying-patterns.” In addition to increasing the powers of the state and big business to monitor the online activities of all, the government is recruiting small businesses, such as car and van hire companies and various shops, to pitch in and report any assorted petty suspicions they may have.

The response from government for more teachers, nurses and ambulance crews are met with a constant refrain of “there is no money.” Nevertheless, there is an open spigot of funding for the security services to employ vast numbers of spooks to spy on the British public.

Javid said, “In the 2015 Spending Review, this government committed to spending more than £2 billion on counter-terrorism each year. We’re giving counter-terrorism policing a £50 million increase in funding this year—to over three quarters of a billion pounds. And we’re recruiting over 1,900 additional staff across the security and intelligence agencies to improve our response still further.”

Javid also used the opportunity to reaffirm the government’s support for the reactionary and widely despised “Prevent” programme, which criminalises students’ opposition to militarism and makes teachers and lecturers akin to spies in their day-to-day employment. MI5 will apparently warn teachers and police about those it deems suspected “child militants.”

Under the changes proposed by the home secretary, the offence of possessing information likely to be useful to a terrorist—the parameters of which have been deliberately left open—would be extended to apply to material viewed online three or more times. The maximum penalty for this offence would be increased from 10 to 15 years in prison.

Certain material freely available to view online will be reclassified as illegal on government say so. Anyone viewing it can be punished under the crude and arbitrary “three strikes & you’re out” policy.

The scope to extend these measures beyond what the government currently deems subversive and politically dangerous is wide open to future redefinition.

In October 2017, MI5 head Andrew Parker grossly exaggerated the threat posed by Islamist terrorism when he claimed that threats were “at the highest tempo I have seen in my 34-year career.” Likewise, the military/intelligence complex and the government are exploiting the actions of a handful of known Islamist extremists and right-wing thugs to strengthen the state in anticipation of an eruption of the class struggle.

The press release issued by the government to accompany Javid’s speech stated, “Responding to the recommendations of MI5 and the counter-terrorism police Operational Improvement Review into the 2017 terrorist attacks,” “new multi-agency approaches—initially in London, Manchester and the West Midlands—involve MI5 and the police using and sharing information more widely, working with partners such as local authorities to improve our understanding of those at risk of involvement in terrorism and enable a wider range of interventions” (emphasis added).

The New York Times and Washington Post this week published reports of a private meeting last month between eight major technology and social media corporations and the US intelligence agencies, to discuss their censorship operations in the lead-up to the November 2018 mid-term elections: here.

‘Trump like Hitler’, ex-CIA boss says


From the Jewish Telegraph Agency, 17 June 2018:

Former CIA Chief Compares U.S. Immigration Policies To Nazi Germany

Former head of the Central Intelligence Agency and National Security Agency Michael Hayden compared the Trump administration’s immigration policies to Nazi Germany.

In a tweet posted on Saturday, Hayden wrote: “Other governments have separated mothers and children”, under a black and white photo of the front of Auschwitz as seen from the railroad tracks approaching the former Nazi camp.

The tweet is a response to reports that under the U.S. government’s so-called zero tolerance policy against illegal migrants nearly 2,000 children have been separated from their parents or adult guardians after entering the United States.

White House policy advisor Stephen Miller was instrumental in convincing President Trump to enact his zero-tolerance border policies that have led to immigrant children being separated from their parents, The New York Times reported Saturday: here.

As Children Cried, All the Way to the Gas Chamber: here.

London Grenfell Silent Marchers interviewed


This video from London, England says about itself:

Silent march for Grenfell – one year on. Meeting the firefighters at Labroke Grove, west London, 14th June 2018.

From the World Socialist Web Site in London, England:

Grenfell Silent Marchers speak

“I have woken up to the fact that class war still exists, it’s alive and kicking

By our reporters

16 June 2018

World Socialist Web Site reporters spoke to some of those attending the Silent March on the occasion of the anniversary of the Grenfell Tower fire on June 14.

Linda works at a Tesco’s supermarket in London. She said, “Nothing much has progressed in a year for the families. People are still living in hotels and B&Bs. How can you sit there and say to yourself I just want to go somewhere and say, ‘This is mine’? If you are living in hotels and B&Bs you can’t do that. You haven’t got a proper life back.

“It’s bad how it has been dragged out so long. They’ve got no release. They are still having to fight, but they are still grieving. It’s hard for them. We need something sorted as soon as possible.

“Look at Hillsborough [the Sheffield football stadium where 96 Liverpool fans were killed in 1989 as a result of a crush caused by the decisions of the police and authorities]. How many years is that? That could have been avoided.

“It’s health and safety issues. The firefighters could only go above so many floors [at Grenfell]. It was in 1974 that it was built. You would think, over the years, they would have said you can have some kind of safety system—outside stairs, sprinklers or something. How much would that have cost? Maybe they would have had a better chance to get out if they had that.”

Patty lives in London and was originally from East Germany. She said, “I’ve lived a fairly sheltered life in the UK. But I grew up in East Germany and there was always talk about socialism and class war, but it always felt stilted and unreal. This is the first time I have woken up to the fact that class war still exists, it’s alive and kicking. People used to say that class war is not real any more, but it is.

“I am gob-smacked. I came here to show solidarity, but I’m completely speechless about how crooked this government is, how cold and psychopathic. They were saving a few pennies over the lives of people. They need to be brought to justice and not through the regular routes, because it’s the establishment that makes the rules. That’s why, so far, they haven’t been punished for it, so the whole system needs overthrowing, I think.”

Asked her opinion on the public inquiry into the fire, Patty remarked, “If it’s led by the people in charge, the government in charge, then it will be a coverup. I agree this is a social murder. It shows there is one rule for us and one for them. If any other person or entity had done anything like that, it would be so obvious they were guilty and something would be done about them. Because it’s the government and because it’s the council, it’s acceptable corporate manslaughter. Just because it’s at such a high level it’s being ignored. It’s just not right.

“I’ve seen great community spirit today, which is incredible. A phrase we always used to spout in our childhood was ‘workers of the world unite’, but that is exactly what we need today.”

Josh, a documentary filmmaker, said, “I am here to support Grenfell and support the community, the people who have been so grossly neglected by the council, by the people in charge. These are people who refuse to admit they are wrong.

Josh

“Due to underfunding and neglect, Grenfell didn’t get the fireproofing it needed and this horrible accident happened, costing so many wonderful innocent people’s lives.

“To see the community that a large part of my family has grown up in come together is an incredibly beautiful thing.”

Frank Henry is a resident of Paddington in west London who knew two of the victims of the Grenfell fire, Denis Murphy and Raymond “Moses” Bernard. He said, “Nothing has been done for the Grenfell people. If I was to commit a crime, you would want to see me locked up in jail.

Frank Henry

“People can’t get justice. Things have been held down [by the authorities] for a year now, and now there’s the [public] inquiry into the fire. How long can they hold it down for? I just want to say that the people at the top who did this need to be in prison.”

Keeran works as an accountant in London. He said, “I saw the flames as I was working around Paddington last year; it was very heart-breaking. I did come here to offer some help afterwards.

“I am an immigrant, having lived in the UK since the age of four. I’m from a middle-class background, so I was fortunate not to experience what these poor people have experienced. For me ever since the day I saw these flames, I wanted to do what I could to help.

“I don’t think people should forget, not only the injustices that the government did to the victims, but against everyone else. Coming here to me is a gesture to refresh the memory of what happened that day.”

Asked about the government’s inhumane treatment of the survivors, with many still not permanently rehoused after a year, he said, “I think it is a complete violation of their human rights. There was a recent fire in Kensington [The Oriental Hotel], and people were relocated and the media covered it very well. But in the case of Grenfell, the victims were made to be forgotten. Over half the victims have not yet been rehoused. Had it happened to a higher class of victims, it would have been seen straightaway as a crime. But it just seems that no one [in authority] cares. I hope from the bottom of my heart they will get justice. With the current government, it will be very difficult.”

“I think that capitalism has many, many bad things, but we can change it, like yourselves going around speaking to people. I don’t think that capitalism and truth can ever coexist.”

This video from London, England says about itself:

Grenfell Silent March and Firefighters 14 June 2018

This short clip shows the interaction between residents, families and supporters with the Firefighters. This takes place on the 14th day of each month. This action of solidarity and support needs to continue until every resident and their families receives justice.

By Alice Summers in England:

London Review of Books publishes scurrilous account of Grenfell Tower fire

15 June 2018

On June 7, the London Review of Books featured The Tower, a lengthy essay on the Grenfell Tower inferno by journalist and novelist Andrew O’Hagan. The essay marked one year since the devastating fire that claimed at least 72 lives. It also coincided with the opening days of the official inquiry during which fire survivors and relatives of those who died gave moving tributes to their loved ones. O’Hagan’s piece, however, is a mockery of journalistic and social integrity.

The Tower, a 60,000-word essay, was penned by the same individual who produced a hatchet job account of Julian Assange’s life in 2011 in his book The Secret Life. In that work O’Hagan portrayed the WikiLeaks co-founder as narcissistic, paranoid and lying. In an interview with the [Rupert Murdoch owned] Times, he accommodated himself to accusations that Assange was a Russian stooge because of WikiLeaks’ role in leaking documents pertaining to Hillary Clinton’s 2016 US election campaign, as well as to the bogus rape charges against Assange.

The same contempt for democratic rights and the lives of working people is abundantly present in The Tower. There are sensitive and moving portraits of those who lived in Grenfell Tower in the first part of O’Hagan’s essay, but this is overshadowed and outweighed by the subsequent six parts.

O’Hagan’s piece is characterised by vicious and dishonest misrepresentations, inaccuracies, the demonization of local activists, residents and firefighters, and hymns of praise to the local council.

Various survivors and local residents who were interviewed by O’Hagan, or have read his account, have denounced The Tower. They have condemned his apologetics for the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea (RBKC) council and vilification of the local community, as well as asserting that O’Hagan misled them as to the purpose of his piece and altered or invented some of their comments.

Nursery worker Melanie Coles wrote an open letter of complaint to LRB, which was posted on Twitter by Noha Maher (who lost her brother, Hesham Rahman, in the Grenfell fire) and which has been shared widely. Coles, who was interviewed by O’Hagan, had taught Fethia Hassan, a four-year-old girl who tragically died alongside her mother and sister in last year’s fire. In her letter, Coles accuses O’Hagan’s article of being “damaging to the credibility of our community” and making for “highly distressing reading for people directly affected, and for some of them offensive, due to the inaccuracies it contains.”

She points to multiple inaccuracies in his account, including his naming of the school which Fethia Hassan attended as the Maxilla Children’s Centre, which was closed in 2015 after council funding cuts and amalgamated with the nearby Golborne Children’s Centre. According to Coles’ letter, O’Hagan’s article invented some of her comments and posted the recording of her interview online without her permission, when she had been told that the video recording would be used only for the purposes of creating a transcript.

Coles further explained that despite being told the article was intended as a sensitive tribute to those who died in the blaze, she and others were misled into participating in a work with very different intentions, including being highly biased in favour of the local council.

The video of Coles was later taken down and some of the errors she pointed to altered or removed. However, rather than issuing an apology, one of O’Hagan’s researchers, Lindsey Milligan, released a contemptuous response. Dismissing Coles’ concerns over the use of the video as “all in your head” and accusing her of not having “understood the bigger picture”, Milligan stated that “it is ludicrous to suggest that his story isn’t compassionate about the victims.”

Daniel Renwick—who produced, co-wrote and co-directed the Grenfell documentary Failed by the State—also criticised The Tower for misrepresenting members of the local community and for its ardent defence of the council, describing the essay as a “deeply insidious piece of writing.”

From the second of the seven chapters of his essay, O’Hagan falls over himself in extoling the virtues of RBKC and its leaders, decrying the unfairness of those who dare to criticise it. The author in particular idealizes council leader Nicholas Paget-Brown (whose “gentle manners” O’Hagan fawns over in the third chapter of his piece) and his deputy Feilding-Mellen. He paints a picture of a noble and blameless council doing its best to help the victims in the face of much adversity and receiving only ingratitude and unfounded accusations in return.

O’Hagan dwells at length on the personal histories, feelings and families of these two esteemed Tory gentlemen (Feilding-Mellen is the son of Amanda Feilding, the countess of Wemyss and March, to whose aristocratic family history O’Hagan thought fit to dedicate nearly 700 words). Indeed, a considerable portion of the essay is little more than a sob story about how difficult it must have been for these two council leaders! He complains how Paget-Brown’s honourable attempt to rise above “political mud-slinging” after the blaze was about “to bring his career to an end.”

The majority of chapters two to five, and large sections of the final two chapters, are devoted almost entirely to absolving RBKC of any guilt for the outbreak of the fire and lionising their subsequent relief effort.

“The council leaders did not cause that fire”, declares O’Hagan in the fifth chapter of the essay. “Like many councillors all over Britain they were in office when cladding was installed that we now know to be unsafe. … They were not on a mission to cut costs.”

He praises the council for its record in “protecting social housing”, making much of the fact that its social housing stock has risen by 200 properties in the last 20 years! In the same period the population of the borough has risen by around 10,000, while the number of homeless people doubled in the five years leading up to 2015.

O’Hagan is able to contrast this record with that of Labour-run boroughs such as Islington, where the number of council properties has fallen by roughly 4,500. Also noting that the cladding used on Grenfell Tower had been used on at least 306 tower blocks across Britain, he points to comparable levels of criminality and cutbacks in other Labour- (and Conservative-) run councils across London and throughout the UK. But this revelation about the filthy role played by both parties is hardly a defence of the RBKC.

His praise is for a local authority that struck deals with property developers to allow them to avoid the requirement to build “affordable accommodation” supposedly meant for the working class. Research, conducted by EG, a property consultancy firm, showed that in 2016 alone the council agreed deals worth almost £50 million [$US66 million] to enable developers to avoid building “affordable homes”.

O’Hagan also celebrates the role played by the local council in response to the fire, describing how it “mobilised 340 staff on 14 June [2017]” and “found hotels for hundreds of residents that day. Everyone from the tower who wanted to go and everybody from the blocks below.” Railing against the “narrative” that council members were not present to help after the fire and that the local authority’s response was inadequate, O’Hagan quotes a council worker as saying: “That was the narrative. It was the story they wanted: the richest borough neglects people in social housing. It was very difficult. We had officers here working 18 hours a day.”

O’Hagan acts as though the RBKC is blameless and powerless, forced to satisfy the cost-cutting whims of a cruel and callous central government. He devotes several passages to criticisms of the central government response, accusing them of having “hung [the council] out to dry.”

He does not dwell on the fact that Paget-Brown, Feilding-Mellen and other Conservatives who make up nearly three-quarters of the borough’s elected councillors belong to the same party as the government he criticises.

O’Hagan’s presentation of the council contrasts starkly and sharply with the manner in which he depicts survivors, activists and local residents. He presents legitimate social outrage as anarchic brutishness, for example, in his description of protesters storming the Kensington Town Hall in the week after the fire.

Describing a meeting he held with local activists while researching his essay, O’Hagan comments, “No evidence was presented at the lunch [with the local activists], just repeated assertions, most of them defamatory, of extreme criminality on the part of individual councillors, and expressions of contempt, often on class grounds, for people they thought were ‘evil.’”

O’Hagan’s attack on anyone daring to bring class into the equation is significant. One of the most striking features of the response from survivors and local residents is the nearly universal understanding that this was a crime committed by the ruling class against the working class. This approach terrifies the privileged layer that O’Hagan speaks for.

He reserves his fiercest criticism for the Grenfell Action Group (GAG), the tenants’ association that played an important role in raising concerns about the safety of Grenfell Tower before the inferno. Presenting GAG as unreasonably prejudiced against the RBKC, he writes, “The Grenfell Action Group hate the Tory council. Over many years, the council had been the enemy and to them every move it makes stinks of corruption.”

The safety concerns that GAG had been raising for many years are dealt with only briefly in The Tower. They are brought in chiefly to point out that the flammable cladding installed on the tower in its refurbishment—which played an important role in facilitating the rapid and deadly spread of the flames—had not featured in GAG’s criticisms of the safety of the tower block.

O’Hagan declares that the group “had never been very popular on the estate”, giving significant space to an anonymous council worker who states, “[W]e tried to answer every issue raised by the action group, but it was never enough; they bombarded us with round-robin emails and to my knowledge we tried to keep on top of them… They hated everything the council and the TMO did, no matter what.”

He presents the many legitimate grievances brought forward by the community group as paranoid and “obsessive” grumblings with little relevance to the actual deadly fire.

In truth, many of the warnings made by the residents’ association, including the dangers of the inadequate fire doors, exposed gas pipes and proximity of the newly built school to the tower (potentially obstructing access for emergency service vehicles), did bear significantly on the fire that eventually broke out and on the toxic smoke spreading so easily. They were key to the problems faced by the London Fire Brigade in its rescue effort.

O’Hagan devotes only a single sentence to the fact that the RBKC council threatened legal action against GAG for their efforts in raising safety concerns. Evidently this does not fit with his narrative of a blameless, noble council.

Expressing his contempt for the working class, O’Hagan seeks to delegitimize the safety concerns of local residents and grievances over housing standards by arguing that contemporary living conditions are far better than they were in Dickensian London!

“In the eyes of some”, he states, “the tower blocks are the continuation of the old habit of keeping minorities poorly housed. But, as always, it depends how you measure it. If the yardstick is the white people’s mansions on Elgin Crescent, then yes. If it’s Victorian pigsties, however, then improvement has definitely occurred, albeit too slowly and for too few.”

Firefighters are not spared O’Hagan’s venom. Joining in with the recent chorus of condemnation for the London Fire Brigade, he blames the “huge and dramatic failure” of the fire service for the 72 deaths: “Everyone knows that cost-cutting is a problem but there was also a problem with the way the Grenfell response was managed”, he writes. “We don’t like to say these things, but events on 14 June [2017] show that, regardless of our affection for them, the professional fire services’ response to the fire at Grenfell Tower was anything but strong.”

O’Hagan ends his essay by recounting the stories of two families who have been successfully re-housed and are beginning to get their lives back on track. While choosing to describe at length these “happy endings”, he neglects to mention that a year on from the fire, more than half of the households made homeless have yet been able to move into permanent accommodation: 72 households continue to live in emergency accommodation, such as hotels, and another 57 are still in temporary homes.

The Tower, in short, disgustingly and disgracefully turns reality on its head, presenting victims as perpetrators and perpetrators as victims.