Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Just When You Thought You'd Forgotten About the RCP: Peter Webb on Milieu Cultures

Peter Webb is a lecturer in Sociology at Goldsmiths University and a founder of the ridiculous, posturing Industrialised Culture Research Network blog (ICRN)1. He also wrote the book Exploring the Networked Worlds of Popular Music: Milieu Cultures (2007)2. Stewart Home has already exposed the extent of the intellectual decomposition embodied in this work, in which Webb features as a love-struck fanboy happy to accept anything uttered by his subjects without bringing critical intelligence to bear on it; he is either unwilling or unable to do the work required to comprehend his chosen field. When Webb and/or his ICRN cronies piped up to whine about censorship and persecution - and isn't it peculiar how those with an obvious hard-on for martial values are so easily rattled by the slightest criticism - Home probed further.

No doubt we'll be hearing plenty more about Webb in future, since he not only embodies the kind of generic sycophancy that provides cover for the neo-fascist goons who operate in the milieus he is concerned with, but also perhaps lends those arguments some small authority by virtue of his position. He advances his career simply by having one foot in academia and the other in various 'milieu cultures'. The bands he sucks up to are happy because he lends them academic respectability; he himself gets to write about and meet his heroes; while his college bosses get to imagine (in a predictably dreary post-modernist way) that they are up to speed with stirrings even on the outer fringes of popular culture. His work is not critically informed, if it has any value at all it is only as intelligence for marketing agencies that need to be 'hip' to the latest 'trends' so as to sell into them: one man's niche culture is another's niche market.

Here I want to extend Home's critique in only one small detail, to pick up on how Webb deals with the issue of censorship by dragging the Revolutionary Communist Party (RCP) into the argument. Back in the 80s the RCP were widely tagged 'the Elephant Men of the left', and were notorious for taking reactionary positions so that they could claim that the rest of the left were 'complacent', differentiating themselves so sharply from everyone else that it was often impossible to tell them apart from their supposed enemies on the right. So, for example, they opposed the call for sanctions against apartheid South Africa; they supported the calls for a national ballot in the Miner's strike, which would inevitably have seen the strike immediately collapse; and they argued that there was "no good evidence that AIDS is likely to spread rapidly among heterosexuals in the West"3, and therefore that the left was succumbing to a reactionary 'moral panic' in taking the matter seriously. Now, you may or may not agree with those particular positions; the point is that there was a definite method at work in which they covered reactionary positions with left wing rhetoric. I am told (but can't confirm) that Webb was at one time a member of the RCP. If so it would at least explain how it is that he so casually reaches for their arguments when he needs to provide left cover for a reactionary position; if he no longer accepts all of the positions they defended he at least shows that he remembers some of their gymnastic techniques.

In the relevant section of his book Webb repeats the (laughably hypocritical) claims by Doug P (of Death in June - again, more about him in future) that the left are censorious because some of them have campaigned against his band and others they consider to be spreading fascist ideologies as part of a strategy of 'right Gramscianism', calling (with occasional success) for their gigs to be shut down. Webb proceeds by explaining that the RCP opposed this 'no platform for fascists' policy, and tops off his concoction by quoting RCP leader Frank Furedi speaking about the "fascism of the left"4. In other words, he uses the arguments of the RCP to argue that the left are 'fascist', and then contrasts this to the open-mindedness of libertarians, and puts his heroes in this latter camp because - surprise, surprise - they don't like to be 'censored'. In short, in this instance he doesn't just provide cover for the fascists out there; he implies that the real problem is those who oppose fascism.

It turns out that those dancing around at gigs in fascist-style uniforms, waving Cetic Cross and Totenkopf symbols on their flags, and singing hymns to fascist ideologues probably aren't fascists, but the people who oppose them tendentially are. So, at the end of all this teenage huffing and puffing, Doug P et al. finally emerge somehow as proto-typical heroes in the struggle against... fascism!

At this point further comment is probably superfluous - but if this is what passes for academic research these days then academia is a busted flush. Certainly it raises the question as to how naive and uncritical schoolyard 'analysis' like this could ever get published.

1. Use Google if you really need to find out
2. Webb, 2007, Exploring the Networked Worlds of Popular Music: Milieu Cultures, Routledge, London.
3. Michael Fitzpatrick and Don Milligan, 1988, The Truth About the AIDS Panic, Junius, London.
4. Webb, 2007, p95.

8 comments:

  1. "I am told (but can't confirm) that Webb was at one time a member of the RCP."
    I was a member of the RCP, and I am pretty sure that Peter Webb was not, indeed I don't think that he had any links with it.
    There was a student called David Webb, who read some RCP stuff while at U Kent, but that is not the same person (and David Webb wrote about the RCP, but was critical of it).
    and there was also another, rather older Peter Webb, who wrote a book on erotic art. He did not have any links to the RCP either, though I think we did object when he was persecuted at Middx Poly's Quicksilver Place art school.

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  2. I think if you talk to Tony Kennedy, Karen Gold, Ben and Julian from the Bristol Branch of the RCP in the late 1980s early 1990s you will find that Webb was a member. He was involved in their Workers Against Racism/IFM as well as the RCP, he organised a benefit gig for WAR at the Thekla in Bristol and for the IFM at a venue on the Gloucester road. He became disillusioned with their politics because of their unchanging stance on HIV/AIDs amongst other things. I played football with him in the late 1990s and know him well.

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  3. Kharma Kamieleon20 Apr 2011, 12:59:00

    This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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  4. So, Disorder of 17th Feb. - you know Webb well - tell us then - what went wrong? when did he stop doing good and start helping the Bad? I find the behaviour mystifying, and your testimony (that I truly believe is made in good faith) only increases the confusion.
    Don't get me wrong - one thing I AM certain of is that Webb has taken a very bad path - and I beg you - if you don't believe me check out his interview with wakeford et al - above and beyond the call of duty...

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  5. ...so: interesting that it seems its being implied that Webb was a 'good guy' once so can't have changed into a 'bad guy' subsequently - even though Disorder has acknowledged that he became 'disillusioned' aka. changed his opinion.
    And yet...
    so many people [including Webb] expect us to believe that yes, Tony Wakeford was a 'bad guy' once but has subsequently become a 'good guy'.
    just sayin'....

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  6. I don't look at this often but passed through and noticed your responses. It is amazing that you are `certain' that PW has taken a `very bad path' by reading the interview he did with TW and Reeve Malka - the Israeli/Jewish producer. Haven't you considered that, when you read the interview, TW is talking about the fact that he was a racist, he got himself into the political bubble of the NF and that he regrets and is embarrassed by it. After that period he got invovled in the world of paganism and the occult which he also feels is full of sociopaths and nutters and he has slowly untangled himself from these worlds. If you listen to anything he has done since 2000 none of it could be seen to express a far right political position. In fact he did an album recently about the Jewish Ukranian/poish poetess; Zuzanna Ginsburg who was killed by the Gestpo in 1944 - the album was a celebration of her poetry.
    So have you not considered that PW was giving TW a chance to openly discuss some of his past and make his position clear. It is not an analysis piece it is just a straight forward interview done in a way to let TW speak. You won't get the kind of Matty Blag approach from TW but you do get a clear statement of his disgust at that period of his life. When he did the interview PW believed that TW had moved away from those politics and had plenty of conversations and discussions with those around this scene to verify that. PW has in no way taken a path towards any of the crap ideas you suggest. He is a humanist and democrat and yes I do know him well and I suggest that you don't know him at all by your comments here and need to rethink these ridiculous allegations..... It is absolutely stupid to link him to the ideas of the `very bad path'.. Bristol Punx

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  7. Disorder says: "You won't get the kind of Matty Blag approach from TW but you do get a clear statement of his disgust at that period of his life..." Yeah, so "disgusted" that Wakeford was still selling his openly fascist (NF sponsored and guided) Above The Ruins 'Songs of the Wolf' release from his own website when he issued his pathetic 2007 statement saying he regretted his NF membership (he didn't apologise for his fascist activism and still hasn't, and the regret seems to be for the hassle it has caused him).

    My guess would be that Disorder (assuming this isn't Pete Webb using a pen name) has just been listening to Webb on this subject of Wakeford in the pub or something. Nonetheless Disorder does themselves (and Webb) no credit by defending post 2000 Tony Wakeford. Try checking out some of the other threads on here so we don't need to go through the same arguments again and again. And for the kind of milieu in which Webb has involved himself recently, I'd recommend the entire thread under the post "Peter Webb: Statement on Neo-Folk and Post-Industrial Music". With friends like the ICRN, Webb doesn't need enemies....

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  8. mboi, a Guardian article 'Left and libertarian right cohabit in the weird world of the genocide belittlers', on Mick Hume and 'Living Marxism' - journal of the RCP;

    "n a leading article last week the Times decried the "malign intellectual subculture that seeks to excuse savagery by denying the facts". The facts are the genocides in Bosnia and Rwanda. But it was oddly vague about which intellectual subculture it meant, and it mentioned no names. Could this be because the British person who has done most to dismiss these genocides is a journalist who writes for the same paper?
    ...
    From 1988 until 2000, Mick Hume was editor of a magazine called Living Marxism (later shortened to LM). The title was misleading: it was a hard-right libertarian paper, which argued that those with the power to act should not be prevented from using it. It campaigned against the control of guns, tobacco advertising and child pornography. It dismissed global warming and demanded greater freedom for corporations. It denounced what it called "the cult of the victim".

    In 2000 the magazine closed after losing a libel case: LM had made false claims about ITN's footage from the Trnopolje camp, in which Bosnian prisoners were held by Serb forces. In 2001, Hume launched an online successor called Spiked. He also began working for the Times, writing opinion pieces until the beginning of last year. He still writes occasional feature articles for the paper.

    In 1996, LM maintained that the figure of 8,000 killed at Srebrenica was the result of "manipulation" and "misrepresentations". But, the article concluded, 8,000 is "a more useful number for propaganda purposes than 800." In 1997 it carried a sympathetic interview with Radovan Karadzic, former president of the Bosnian Serb republic. It challenged none of the outrageous claims he made. Of the Sarajevo marketplace massacre of May 1992, he said: "It is quite obvious to anyone objective that Muslims have done it." He insisted that "General Mladic would not allow any sniping, particularly against civilians". The people who died at Srebrenica were soldiers "killed in fighting". When Ratko Mladic was arrested last month, Hume, writing for Spiked, insisted that the concept of a war crime is a "highly questionable notion", as are both the numbers of people killed at Srebrenica and the circumstances of their deaths.

    LM also mocked and belittled the genocide in Rwanda. In 1995, for example, Fiona Fox, who is now the director of the Science Media Centre, wrote a piece for the magazine in which she repeatedly put the Rwandan genocide in inverted commas, and claimed that "this was not a pre-planned genocide of one tribe by another. Those targeted by government militia were Tutsis and Hutus suspected of supporting the RPA invasion." In the Times in 2004, Hume repeated a pair of long-discredited deniers' claims: that the genocide began when "supporters of the old regime lashed out" after Paul Kagame's army "shot down" President Habyarimana's plane. Is it any wonder that the Times leader refrained from naming names?"

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Please at least use a pseudonym so it's possible to follow your argument if you make multiple posts