Monday, 15 October 2012

German support for Hitler in the 1930s

Recently watched a fascinating, but rather frightening, episode from the "Nazis - A warning from History" series.

It was the second programme in the series and looked at the ways in which the general population reacted to the Nazis rule in the 1930s.

The programms began by describing how, once they gained power, the Nazis began imprisoning their opponents in concentration camps. There was no significant public outcry against this becasue, as Manfred Von Shroder (Nazi Party Member 1933-45) commented, people knew of the concentration camps and thought that "so what, the communists would have done the same, and this is a revolution...the English had invented them [concentration camps] in South Africa with the Boers"

Lizzie Van Zyl was a child inmate of a British concentration camp
in South Africa during the Second Boer War

The programme also looked at the way the government was run in Nazi Germany, with Prof Ian Kershaw commenting that the country was unusual in being one where there was "No collective governemt yet where the head of state does not spend all his time dictating"

The narrator comments that Hitler was surrounded to acolytes who knew that their future depended on being able to please him. So ambitious Nazis would listen to Hitlers vision and, on their own initiaive think of ways his vision could become reality, making up detailed policy and claiming they were acting "on the will of the Fuhrer"

As far as the general population was concerned, life improved under the Nazis, not least because they printed money to finance large infrastructure projects (such as the autobahns) and a re-armament programme.

The programme also described how Jews were systematically discriminated against and banned from any jobs in the public sphere.

Front Page of the Nuremburg Laws Legislation which
banned Jews from participating in public life.

Johannes Zahn (Economist and Banker since 1931) was asked what it was like to work in a system that was so discriminatory and responded, rather frighteningly, that "Well, the general opinion was that the Jews had gone too far in Germany, that out of 4,800 lawyers in Berlin, 3,600 were Jews" and that "there was hardly a theatre director who wasn't a Jew. And one day it became just too much. The general feeling that the Jews should be driven back was not opposed"

A Nazi anti-Semitic cartoon, circa 1938--showing Churchill as an octopus with a Star of David
over its head and its tentacles encompassing a globe

Nazi propaganda hugely exaggerated the number of Jews who were in professions like the Law or the Theatre and didn't mention that the Jews had been banned from other careers for hundreds of years.

Surprising information about the Gestapo has come to life in the town of Wurtzburg, where US soldiers prevented the destruction of Gestapo files. Recent research on these files has revealed that, far from their being a pervasive Gestapo network, there were only 28 secret police officials for a region of nearly a million people

As Professor Robert Gellately comments "I think the Gestapo could not have operated without the co-operation of the citizens of Germany...there were simply not enough Gestapo officials to go around", adding that around 80-90% of the crimes reported to the Geatapo came from ordinary citizens.He goes on to say that it was previously thought that the German population had been brainwashed from above but that now the view was that the system was manipulted from below by lots of people for all kinds of reasons.

As the narrator points out "the citizens of a town like Wurtzburg didn't have to fear the Gestapo as much as what their neighbours might tell the Gestapo

Jewish refugees from Czechoslovakia being marched away by police at
Croydon airport in March 1939 prior to being deported to Warsaw.(see also here)

Update : 16 Oct 12
Sent a webform to the BBC saying thank you for airing this programme.

Image Sources
Lilly Van Zyl
Jewish refugees at Croydon Airport
Nurenburg Laws

Sunday, 14 October 2012

Muslim Communities in Nottingham - Reports

BFTF recently became aware of two fascinating reports on the Muslim Communities in Nottingham.

Firstly there is as report on the "Muslim Diversity in the City of Nottingham", commissioned by Nottingham Council and published in 2009.

And secondly there is a report entitled "Understanding and Appreciating Muslim Diversity in the City of Nottingham", again commissioned by Nottingham City Council and published in 2009.

It is perhaps worth looking at these reports in a little more detail...

"Muslim Diversity in the City of Nottingham"
This report contains a SPECTACULARLY complicated schematic map of Muslim communities in Nottingham, broken down by ethnicity and school of thought.

"Understanding and Appreciating Muslim Diversity in the City of Nottingham"
This report is pretty much worth its weight in gold as it comprehensively describes the issues facing the Muslim communities in Nottingham, together with the dysfunctional way they operate and recommendations on what should be done to rectify the situation.

Some of the most interesting points are shown below:

Religious Leaders and Muslim Community Engagement...In general, Nottingham‟s Muslim religious leaders provide an effective channel of engagement into the communities they serve. However, we found particularly amongst local religious elders, a general reluctance and in some cases a refusal to engage with Muslims outside the confines of their respective Muslim Maslaq or practice...

Biraderi...These systems traditionally play an instrumental role in arranging marriages, conflict resolution, organising joint commercial activities, selecting community and Masaajid leadership, and vitally in consolidating support for sponsorship of Local Councillors and community leaders...However, when associated with other factors such as deprivation, alienation, and poor socio-economic expectations, these systems can be exploited in a negative context

Muslim CouncillorsOf the Muslim councillors we interviewed, most were keen to disassociate themselves from Nottingham‟s Masaajid, religious structures and groupings. Many were critical of faith-based schools and highlighted theologically based divisions to explain their preference for a secular based mainstream approach to tackling issues effecting Muslim communities...However, as we heard overwhelmingly in feedback gathered during focus groups and interviews, most Pakistani heritage Muslim councillors were perceived by their respective communities as being sponsored and elected through Birardari based support networks...Further, due to the perception that Muslim councillors‟ primary allegiances were determined by their personal Birardari affiliations, almost all were viewed as being self-serving and unrepresentative of wider Muslim opinion and needs.

Support for younger people...amongst religious, community and civic elders [there was] a reluctance to give up their positions to younger generations. The common response from both religious and civic elders was that the young were not “ready” to take up leadership positions. When asked to identify any prospective young leaders, most “couldn‟t or wouldn‟t”, despite some being involved in projects or programmes supporting the development of young Muslim leaders...

Community Centres...We heard suggestions that some centres were run as a “one man show” – precipitating rivalries, conflict and accusations of corruption and pilfering. Another commonly expressed concern was related to the appointment of family and fellow Birardari members onto management committees and other positions of influence

Exclusion of Women...As in other parts of the country, we heard from Muslim women in Nottingham who feel that their voices are not heard. They seemed to distance themselves from mainstream society, the Council in particular. And they are excluded from the majority of Masaajid in the city. They have no confidence in the traditional community leadership, nor that of the Council.

Council Consultation...[community] leaders were highly critical of the Council‟s current approach. There was a general distrust, suspicion and doubts about the Council‟s sincerity and commitment in relation to engagement with Nottingham‟s Muslim communities.

Some of the Recommendations: The Council needs to...
i)ensure it is aware of (and has up to date contact details for) all the key groups and individuals across Nottingham‟s Muslim communities. Of particular concern is the lack of information held by the Council at present and this needs to be remedied urgently;
ii) encourage individuals from groups not currently actively engaged in civic life to become more involved by setting up new channels of communication and engagement and other initiatives.
iii) work with the faith communities in the City to encourage Imams (and other faith leaders, where appropriate) to speak English and become more closely engaged with the wider life of the City.

Update 15 Feb 2013
Following a dialogue described here received the following response from Nottingham Council on how the reports recommendations had been implemented (response has been edited slightly for conciseness) :
Community Engagement:
Community Development Workers (Previously 3, now 1) worked with a huge range of groups from women’s groups providing sewing classes to mosques doing work with young men. Work with many of these groups, particularly ones with a focus on women’s issues continues.

The Muslim Communities Steering Group (MCSG), and sub groups on Youth and Women did a lot of work to look at the different parts of the Muslim community and to look at ways to engage with them.

We now have a central database (Digits) which includes both Mosques and Community Groups and can be searched by relevant ‘fields’ (e.g. Faith) to enable the Council to mail out to a targeted groups.

We are currently working to improve our relationship with groups providing services to young men in particular and to broaden our reach across all faith groups both directly and through Nottingham Interfaith Council.

Training and Development
Imam Training was part of the MCSG action plan. Diversity training for staff is part of the induction, and additional training is provided by the Equalities Team.

Schools and Community Cohesion
The Cohesion Team and Schools Support service have worked closely to provide a range of training to schools and teachers, on Cohesion, Hate Crime, Understanding Diversity, the 2010 Equalities Act and most recently ‘new arrivals’

The MCSG funded some leadership training, for women and community leaders. The Cohesion Team continue to support new community groups and empower those involved to take on other roles in the city, including on advisory and consultative groups, interviews and mystery shopping.

Grants were reviewed and funding given in both small and large grants for cohesion in 2009 for 3 years. The Community Development Officers have supported a wide range of groups to ensure they understand how to fill in application forms for funding and to build their organisational frameworks and capacity to obtain funding.

Preventing Violent Extremism Funding from National Government was ring fenced,

Related Content
Dates in the Square
Noor Inayat Khan - SOE operative

Sunday, 7 October 2012

How to Disagree

The rise of social media and "user generated content" on on-line newspapers has resulted in a dramatic increase in the number of people who can argue, in real-time, online.

But as people are not generally trained in the skills of debate and argument, the quality of these online discussions can sometimes (perhaps often) end up as a simple slanging match.

Which isn't helpful - and just leaves people angry.

So BFTF was chuffed to find out about a "Hierarchy of Argument", devised by Paul Graham, which describes the ways in which people argue, and how some approaches can be fallacious. It's shown below, together with some comments taken from Graham's essay on the subject, and also a short list of some common fallacies.

Unfortunately it's common for counterarguments to be aimed at something slightly different. More often than not, two people arguing passionately about something are actually arguing about two different things. There could be a legitimate reason for arguing against something slightly different from what the original author said: when you feel they missed the heart of the matter. But when you do that, you should say explicitly you're doing it.

To refute someone you probably have to quote them. You have to find a "smoking gun," a passage in whatever you disagree with that you feel is mistaken, and then explain why it's mistaken. If you can't find an actual quote to disagree with, you may be arguing with a straw man.

While refutation generally entails quoting, quoting doesn't necessarily imply refutation. Some writers quote parts of things they disagree with to give the appearance of legitimate refutation, then follow with a response as low as Contradiction or even Name-Calling.

Refuting the Central Point.
The force of a refutation depends on what you refute. The most powerful form of disagreement is to refute someone's central point.

Even as high as Refutation we still sometimes see deliberate dishonesty, as when someone picks out minor points of an argument and refutes those. Sometimes the spirit in which this is done makes it more of a sophisticated form of ad hominem than actual refutation. For example, correcting someone's grammar, or harping on minor mistakes in names or numbers. Unless the opposing argument actually depends on such things, the only purpose of correcting them is to discredit one's opponent.

Truly refuting something requires one to refute its central point, or at least one of them. And that means one has to commit explicitly to what the central point is. So a truly effective refutation would look like:

The author's main point seems to be x. As he says:

But this is wrong for the following reasons...
The quotation you point out as mistaken need not be the actual statement of the author's main point. It's enough to refute something it depends upon.

Other Common Fallacies

Ad Hominem (Argument To The Man):
Attacking the person instead of attacking his argument. For example, "Mr Smiths views that black people should be deported are worthless because he is a convicted benefit fraudster” (which may be true, but is not why his views are wrong)

A common form is an attack on sincerity. For example, "How can you argue that we should “Buy British” when you have a Japanese car?”

Another variation is attack by innuendo: "Why don't scientists tell us what they really know; are they trying to hide something?"

Straw Man (Fallacy Of Extension):
Attacking an exaggerated or caricatured version of your opponent's position. For example: "Mr Smith says that we should abandon Trident. I disagree and cannot understand why he wants to leave us defenceless”

Excluded Middle (or False Dichotomy):
For example, "We must deal with poverty before spending money on science ” - Why can't we do some of both ?

Appeal To Anonymous Authority:
An Appeal To Authority is made, but the authority is not named. For example, "Experts agree that ..", This makes it impossible to verify the information and it may well be that the arguer themselves does not know who the “experts” are.

Moving The Goalposts
If your opponent successfully addresses some point, then say he must also address some further point. If you can make these points more and more difficult (or diverse) then eventually your opponent must fail. Asking questions is easy: it's answering them that's hard.

It is also possible to lower the bar, reducing the burden on an argument. For example, some person might claim that eating sunflower seeds prevents colds. When they do get a cold, then they move the goalposts, by saying that the cold would have been much worse if not for the sunflower seeds they were eating.

Image Source :
Heirarchy of Argument