Peter Tatchell: A Good Thing

The occasion of Peter Tatchell\’s 60 th birthday.

Man\’s a loon of course.

His various forays into the world of economics have been laughably ignorant.

Certain of his campaigns have been based upon very, very, odd readings of the world.

Yet, as Sellars and Yeatman didn\’t put it, he\’s not been wrong but wromatic, nor even right but repulsive.

On balance, he\’s been a Good Thing.

On which note Happy Birthday to Mr. Tatchell, someone who probably wouldn\’t accept one but most certainly should be offered a peerage.

For we should cherish, promote, reward and acknowledge the loons that we are privileged to have among us.

32 comments on “Peter Tatchell: A Good Thing

  1. For we should cherish, promote, reward and acknowledge the loons that we are privileged to have among us.

    I am having trouble seeing the difference between a loon like Peter Tatchell and a loon like Ritchie at the moment. Give me a second and I’ll see if I can tell the difference. Well, Tatchell is so, ummm, flamboyant that there is no chance anyone will take him seriously. That is a plus. Apart from that, has Tatchell ever been right about any subject whatsoever? Let’s consult his Wikipedia page:

    Ignoring his early campaign for land rights for Aboriginals in his native Australia – which has turned into an utter disaster – because we do not know precisely what he supported, we have:

    He also joined the Australian campaign against the death penalty.

    While I think this is self-evidently stupid as well as wrong, let’s agree it is controversial and give him a pass.

    In 1968 Tatchell began campaigning against the United States’s and Australia’s involvement in the Vietnam War, which he believed was a war of aggression in support of a “brutal and corrupt dictatorship in Saigon which was notorious for the torture and execution of political opponents”.

    So Tatchell worked hard to bring Pol Pot to power and allow genocide in Indochina to take place. Not a plus. How’s the present government in Saigon doing on the torture and execution side of things Peter? A massive improvement has there been – all thanks to your campaigning? Not just wrong, but seriously wrong. Tatchell should walk across fields of bones in Cambodia and reflect on what he has achieved.

    In 1973 under the aegis of the GLF he attended the 10th World Youth Festival in East Berlin.

    So he gave aid and comfort to the Stasi. Great. It is true that he protested the East German treatment of Gays, but not of anyone else I note.

    1970 Founded the inter-denominational anti-war group Christians for Peace and elected secretary

    Self-evidently wrong.

    1989 Founding member of AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power – Act Up London

    An organisation that managed to piss off even other Gay groups due to its stupidity. Whose main activities consisted of pushing down the price of retro-viral drugs, making them available before proper safety testing and guaranteeing that HIV gets more research funding that cancer. The first is bad, the second not so bad, the third stupid.

    1990 One of the founders of OutRage!

    A vile illiberal group whose main activity was outing people they alleged were Gay such as Jason Donovan. Who isn’t. Although they have now branched out into demanding censorship of music. It was while involved in this group that Peter Tatchell said some things that could be construed as justifying paedophilia.

    Tatchell had written an article for the left-wing magazine London Labour Briefing in which he urged the Labour Party to support innovative direct action political campaigning to challenge the excesses of the Thatcher regime.

    Stupider than anything Ritchie has so far demanded.

    n February 2000 he resigned his membership of the Labour Party, citing its treatment of Ken Livingstone

    A double whammy here – not only did he join the Greens, he did so over the issue of the King of the Newts. Come on.

    Tatchell opposes expanding nuclear power in Britain and worldwide; instead he supports concentrated solar power.

    I hardly think any comment is necessary.

    For many years, he supported a green-red alliance. In the late 1980s, he co-organised the Green and Socialist Conferences.

    Likewise.

    His position on the Iraq War was, to say the least, nuanced:

    atchell opposed the Iraq war and the occupation of Iraq by the United States. He had previously advocated military and financial aid to opponents of the Saddam government in order to assist them to overthrow it; specifically suggesting that anti-Saddam organisations be given “tanks, helicopter gun-ships, fighter planes, heavy artillery and anti-tank and anti-aircraft missiles”.

    Exactly how he managed to square his conscience on this I don’t know.

    I particularly like this:

    In 2003 Tatchell wrote in The Guardian that he supported giving “massive material aid” to Iraqi opposition groups, including the “Shi’ite Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq” so as to bring the downfall of Saddam.[35] But in 2006 Tatchell noted that SCIRI had become markedly more fundamentalist and was endorsing violent attacks an anyone who did not conform to its increasingly harsh interpretation of Islam. He claimed that “the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), which is the leading political force in Baghdad’s ruling coalition [wants] to establish an Iranian-style religious dictatorship. [has a] goal of clerical fascism” and has engaged in “terrorisation of gay Iraqis”, as well as terrorising Sunni Muslims, left-wingers, unveiled women, and people who listen to western pop music or who wear jeans or shorts

    So giving aid to impose clerical fascism is better than invading and installing a democracy?

    The same year he founded and was elected secretary of the inter-denominational anti-war movement, Christians for Peace. Later, on moving to London in 1971, he was active in solidarity work with the freedom struggles in Mozambique, Angola, Guinea Bissau, Namibia, Eritrea, Oman, New Hebrides, Western Sahara, Palestine, East Timor and West Papua. From the early 1970s he was also involved in campaigns against the dictatorships in the Soviet Union, East Germany, Indonesia, Spain, Portugal, Greece, Philippines, Iraq, Iran, Nicaragua, El Salvador and Chile.

    Freedom struggles? What they mean is that he supported the Communist Parties campaign of terrorism in Angola and Mozambique. How has life turned out for the peoples of those territories since Tatchell got his way and the Portuguese were removed? Again, this is what Tatchell wanted. Namibia? Luckily SWAPO gave up its Communism when the USSR fell. Eritrea? How is that working out Peter? Oman? Well that Communist terrorist group was defeated so the people of Oman are not too badly off. Peter must be disappointed. New Hebrides? Actually that one didn’t turn out too badly. Western Sahara? He supports Polisario. No more needs to be said about that. Palestine? The less said the better. East Timor? Another post-Soviet Communist Party. At least West Papua might have worked out well.

    Tatchell gets a good press because of Britain’s Panto tradition. We treat him like Julian Cleary or Quentin Crisp. When actually, if he wasn’t Gay, it would be obvious that on a good day he is more like Ritchie and on a bad day, more like the Bells.

  2. He is hopelessly confused on a lot of issues as the comment above suggests. He has, however, been admirably tough against Islamist extremism, which has created some grimly amusing tussles on the hard left.

    So overall, I wish him a happy birthday. I met him once and he seemed a very civil chap.

  3. SMFS: your comments about Cambodia are wrong. The Khmer Rouge came to power as a direct result of the US involvement in the Vietnam War. It was US bombing of Cambodia that enabled the Khmer Rouge to become a mass movement, and the US-inspired overthrow of Sihanouk that installed a highly unpopular government and drove Sihanouk into an alliance with the Khmer Rouge.

    Supporters of US involvement in the Vietnam war should walk across fields of bones in Cambodia and reflect on what they have achieved.

  4. I don’t deny that he is , like Ritchie, a WGCE but he has shown considerable physical courage.
    SMFS. I think he gets good coverage not only because he’s Gay but because he’s on the extreme left. If he’d ever stated publicly that he thought Maggie was the best thing since sliced bread, I’ve no doubt his media coverage would’ve been quite different.

  5. In the field for which he is most famous- gay rights- he doesn’t make the two mistakes that a lot of his contemporaries make:

    – Demanding that other peoples’ rights are curtailed in order to outlaw any disapproval of homosexuality.
    – Making excuses for violent anti-gay rhetoric among people belonging to designated victim groups.

    So even though he is a loon on most things he is at least principled and honest.

  6. I don’t much like his socialist fundamentalism, but then again I don’t like anyone’s socialist fundamentalism.

    He has however done some peculiarly brave things in his life, one of which was attempting to make a citizens arrest of Robert Mugabe.

    Another thing I always liked about Tatchell was the way he was magnanimous in defeat during the Bermondsey By-Election of 1983 after some nasty and vindictive electioneering by the supporters of Liberal Democrat Simon Hughes.

  7. No one is perfect but on balance Pete is A Good Thing. Altogether now, hip hip hooray in triplicate.

  8. PaulB – “The Khmer Rouge came to power as a direct result of the US involvement in the Vietnam War. It was US bombing of Cambodia that enabled the Khmer Rouge to become a mass movement, and the US-inspired overthrow of Sihanouk that installed a highly unpopular government and drove Sihanouk into an alliance with the Khmer Rouge.”

    No it wasn’t. It was the presence of Vietnamese soldiers on Cambodian soil that meant that the rise of the Khmer Rouge was inevitable. As Stalin said, whoever controls a territory imposes their own political system on it. The Vietnamese gave massive aid, training and weapons to the Khmer Rouge, although as long as Sihanouk was willing to be a useful idiot, they held the Khmer Rouge back. The removal of the King, due to his de facto alliance with the Communists, simply shaped the way that the Khmer Rouge came to power.

    “Supporters of US involvement in the Vietnam war should walk across fields of bones in Cambodia and reflect on what they have achieved.”

    Indeed. And they can stand proud for having resisted that end. Naturally the Left knows what it has done and feels the need to blame the war but it doesn’t make it so.

    7Jonathan – “I think he gets good coverage not only because he’s Gay but because he’s on the extreme left.”

    So is Ritchie. He doesn’t get a good press here.

  9. diogenes – “and when it’s John Pilger’s turn?”

    A very good example of the difference between someone who is willing to play Widow Twankey and someone who is not.

    14johnny bonk – “… that is true.”

    I hope that is sarcasm. The Vietnam War was a war of aggression in support of a brutal and totalitarian dictatorship in Hanoi.

    Not to mention the Khmer Rouge.

  10. I’m starting to think SMFS is a parody of fact-denying far-right contrarians.

    Aboriginal Australians still don’t have a great time of it, but their position in *absolutely every sense* is far better than before the land rights campaign.

    Mainstream historians accept that the North Vietnamese government was no more brutal or repressive than the South Vietnamese government, that the US bombing was a key factor in enabling the Khmer Rouge to come to power; and the Khmer Rouge was only ultimately overthrown by Vietnamese military intervention.

    And so on.

  11. If any Green Party person is going to end up in the House of Lords, better Tatchell than any one else.

  12. john b – “Aboriginal Australians still don’t have a great time of it, but their position in *absolutely every sense* is far better than before the land rights campaign.”

    That is nonsense. Health indicators have dropped. Employment rates likewise – not the fault of land rights admittedly, but equal wage legislation. Still, part of the same push.

    “Mainstream historians accept that the North Vietnamese government was no more brutal or repressive than the South Vietnamese government”

    Name three of them. They would have to be deluded to think so. As can be seen by the fact that the Communists could operate in the South but no organised political activity of any sort outside the Communist Party could exist in the North. Or to put it another way, the South could not stop Buddhist monks from protesting. When the Communists took Hue in the Tet offensive, they murdered every monk they could catch. Different in kind and in nature.

    “that the US bombing was a key factor in enabling the Khmer Rouge to come to power”

    This is a point of view held by former Maoists and other assorted friends of the Khmer Rouge like Noam Chomky and Ben Kiernan. That does not make it true. Wherever Communist soldiers go, they impose Communist governments. The exceptions – Austria for instance – are minor. As can be seen by the fact that Laos did not have a massive bombing campaign, but it did have North Vietnamese soldiers and so remains a Communist country to this day.

    “and the Khmer Rouge was only ultimately overthrown by Vietnamese military intervention.”

    That is true. And Nazi Germany was mainly defeated by Soviet soldiers. Doesn’t make Stalin a nice person. Nor does it make him a friend of the German people, democracy, human rights or anything else you can name.

  13. So is Ritchie. He doesn’t get a good press here.

    I’m fairly sure Ritchie is neither gay nor extreme left-wing. He’s more of a deluded wannabe Islington metro-sexual (but blackballed because of age and, well, being utterly dull) slightly left-of-social-democrat than a partying-Brightonesque-SWPer.

    Or have I got him completely wrong?

    But, no, he doesn’t get a good press here.

  14. SMFS –
    “…the fact that Laos did not have a massive bombing campaign”. This must be some other Laos than the one I’m thinking of, which you can find by googling “The Most Bombed Country on Earth”.

    It’s true that Vietnam was responsible for bringing the communists to power in Laos. But Cambodia was quite different – by the time the Khmer Rouge seized power it had strong popular support but had fallen out with the Vietnamese.

    You might find this article instructive: http://www.yale.edu/cgp/Walrus_CambodiaBombing_OCT06.pdf

    I sympathize with your loathing of murderous communist regimes. But it is simply not the case that they come to power because we fail to drop enough bombs on peasants.

  15. This is a point of view held by former Maoists and other assorted friends of the Khmer Rouge like Noam Chomky and Ben Kiernan.

    And that noted Maoist, er – William Shawcross.

  16. Surreptitious Evil – “I’m fairly sure Ritchie is neither gay nor extreme left-wing. He’s more of a deluded wannabe Islington metro-sexual (but blackballed because of age and, well, being utterly dull) slightly left-of-social-democrat than a partying-Brightonesque-SWPer.”

    I will admit he probably isn’t Gay. A pity as it might make him more interesting. But he is not slight left-0f-social-democrat, no? Admittedly few people these days are as far to the Left as Widow Twanky was. But if you think about what he wants. Which, in fairness, I have to admit Ritchie probably doesn’t. He is probably utterly clueless about the implications of what he wants.

    24PaulB – “This must be some other Laos than the one I’m thinking of, which you can find by googling “The Most Bombed Country on Earth”.”

    Per capita. Laos at the time had about 4 million people living therein. No one knows. It is about the size of Great Britain. You can bounce a lot of rain forest without anyone noticing in such a country.

    “It’s true that Vietnam was responsible for bringing the communists to power in Laos.”

    So to recap – because exactly the same thing happened in Laos as in Cambodia up to a point – the Royals had no choice to accept the North Vietnamese using Laos. The North then quietly sponsored their own puppet Pathet Lao. The Royals also looked the other way as America bombed them, but did not otherwise get all that involved. Then, when there was no more need to pretend, the North Vietnamese overthrew the Royals, installed their puppets and have kept Laos as a de facto colony ever since.

    The only difference in Cambodia is that the Army overthrew the King who stupidly went to China and was talked into siding with the Khmer Rouge. There is no reason to think anything else would have happened if the King had stayed in power except what did happen.

    The best predictor for brutality in a Communist country is the internal state of their sponsor at the time they take power. So if Stalin or Lenin was in power, mass murder follows. See China, Eastern Europe and Mongolia. If Khrushchev was in power and demanding moderation, less mass murder follows. Still mass murder but not as much of it, especially of peasants. See Cuba. Unfortunately for Cambodia their sponsor was China which was in the midst of the Cultural Revolution and so serious mass murder followed.

    “But Cambodia was quite different – by the time the Khmer Rouge seized power it had strong popular support but had fallen out with the Vietnamese.”

    Sorry but neither of those claims is true. We have no idea how much support the Khmer Rouge had – although given their paranoia it is likely they felt they had little. And they had not yet fallen out with the Communists in Vietnam.

    “But it is simply not the case that they come to power because we fail to drop enough bombs on peasants.”

    No that is true. They came to power because we, or rather the Americans, refused to back the Phoenix programme to the extent they should have. The Thais were not so stupid and so the expansion of Communism stopped there.

    25BenSix – “And that noted Maoist, er – William Shawcross.”

    As he was then, yes.

  17. SMFS: so the Chinese-backed Khmer Rouge took power in Cambodia because we failed to assassinate enough Soviet-backed communists in Vietnam?

  18. ‘Mainstream historians accept that the North Vietnamese government was no more brutal or repressive than the South Vietnamese government’.

    I suspect that the hundreds of thousands of Boat People who fled the country in the late 1970s – or, at least, the ones who survived the journey – might beg to differ.

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