Sunday, March 25, 2012

You can support the Open Rights long as you're not white and male

UPDATE 3 (27/03/12) - Jim Killock, Executive Director of ORG responds in the comments (Comment #10). Response is as expected - no condemnation of Nishma's views. My response follows in comment #11.

UPDATE 2 (26/03/12): Nishma Doshi responds on twitter. Comment #8 below.

UPDATE 1 (26/03/12): Mealy mouthed response from and twitter exchange with ORG advisory board member Owen Blacker added - comment #7 below.

I'm done. I've absolutely had it with attempts to work with the activist left in this country. No more.

The Open Rights Group held its conference 'Orgcon' yesterday. It's a hub of activity and interesting talks for anyone interested in the crucial issues facing us in the digital realm in general and with regard to the internet in particular. ORG have worked for many years now to raise awareness on issues such as the Digital Economy Act and ACTA and have run many campaigns to get people involved. These are causes that affect everyone and there is good reason for people of all political persuasions to get involved.

You might be reading this and passively wishing I'd included links to ORG and their useful summary pages on the Digital Economy Act and ACTA. That was a conscious choice not to and I won't be doing so again for the forseeable future. Tomorrow I will be cancelling my donations to them.

Let me tell you why.

For many years now quite a number of us on the libertarian right have made attempts to reach out to the broad left on issues of common concern. In my personal experience it was mainly for anti-war actions and campaigns. In every single case there would be at least one person amongst the left-wingers who would say that we "weren't allowed" to join them, and worse. I've known of so many attempts to hold out the Olive branch - and all from the right-libertarian - that have been rebuffed, and often with menaces.

I know this kind of attitude has put many of my libertarian and libertarian-leaning Tory friends off ever going to events run, or largely dominated, by lefties just for this very reason, even if the case for common cause is compelling and possibly necessary for any chance of victory. One of the clearest examples of shooting themselves in the foot in recent memory was in the battle over AV. The lefties refused to work with Farage and UKIP on this despite common cause. As a result the case for AV was seen largely as something exclusive popularised by the Guardian reading metropolitan lefty elite. And people were, it seems, right to think that. This is not to say had they made common cause the vote would have been won, but I suspect the pro-AV vote would not have been so embarrassingly small either, and the turnout perhaps a little better (and the debates from the AV side less childish too).

A couple of friends I'd mentioned the Orgcon to had already declined on the grounds that they didn't want to end up in an argument with left-wingers who would tell them that they were 'evil' and not welcome and blah blah blah. Yeah, you know the rest. But I thought I'd give it a go. I've been a supporter of ORG and their work for some time so now I'm based back in London I thought I'd finally make it to one of their major events.

Unfortunately I groaned almost as soon as I joined the - very long - queue to get in to the conference. Being the gregarious kind of chap I am I decided to start getting to know the people nearby in the queue. An older bloke behind me was ranting to a friend - I was about to say 'hi' but paused to listen first. He claimed, first, that the cuts on pensions would be 'given to the bankers at Canary Wharf' and second, claimed he had met a "right wing sociologist" whose secret task was - apparently - to "destroy the working class". It was a classic facepalm moment and I wondered if I was going to make it through the day without putting someone's head through a window.

Fortunately throughout the day I met a handful of friendly left leaning people with whom I found a lot of common ground. Interestingly they were generally older and also not UK natives. The two keynotes - by Cory Doctorow and Lawrence Lessig were particularly good and well worth watching when they go online. (I'm sorry I refuse to post links and give ORG traffic from this blog). Particularly notable was an argument made by Lessig - he made it clear that it was a mistake to regard these issues as left/right in any way and that the only division that mattered was those within the political class and those without. I thought he was very clear on this. Apparently not.

In the early evening most of the attendees went to the pub. Three libertarian pals joined me at the pub, though (lucky for them) two had to leave a little earlier at which point the two of us left retired to the back room of the pub to continue drinking and chatting.

It was then I encountered Nishma for the third time.

When she breezed in, whilst chatting to my friend, I passively noticed how the group of (white, males) reoriented around her and she became the centre of attention. That's nothing new in left-activist circles as I've observed over the years, though it is relevant for what was about to pass. Despite lots of fine rhetoric about being open minded and the women not wanting to be "objectified", that soons slips when it suits and I witness a ritual even more painful than most I've seen after 13 years of looking after nightclubs full of drunk idiots. I do honestly wonder how many of the men get laid in these circles and how dull their sex lives must be.

Anyway, I digress. Nishma was ranting loudly about Tory bastards this and Tory bastards that and at one point turned to the two of us and asked something about hating right wingers. I said 'well, there's two of us right here'. A stunned silence ensued until one of her compatriots said "libertarians". At which point she seemed to relax slightly. (The underlying implication being that whilst we had some credibility in their eyes, Tories were not allowed full stop! As many of you know there's no love lost between myself and the Tories but I still find much of the left attitude towards them utterly repugnant not to mention often completely wrong).

She then proceeded to tell us how libertarianism "excludes women of colour" (how?) and how everything was the fault of us evil white men. My (female) libertarian friend, to her eternal credit, then leapt to my defence and pointed out what a hypocrite Nishma was. Nishma then came out with the classic line we're all used to now that it isn't racist or sexist if it's white men we're talking about. Both of us started laughing at which point she also then said "and then there's colonialism too". The mutual recriminatory exchange only got worse from then on until she flounced out of the room.

At this point something inside me just gave. I'm done with putting up with this, or just putting it to one side for the perceived greater good. She was surrounded by four (white) men who - as per fucking usual in these groups - just passively accept this offensive concentrated bullshit. But of course they do - they all want to get into her pants and its hard work when the odds are 4 to 1 and they have to pay lip service to not "objectifying" her and taking their licks as "evil white men". If they were confident men and not emasculated craptivists they would have done one of two things - either i) backed up her position or ii) told her to stop being so offensive to almost everyone present and shut up. They did neither. They made a very quick exit, with one muttering "I'm getting out of here!". Fuck 'em. They're welcome to their sex starved lives of constantly having to self-flagellate for being white and male and beg for approval.

Now here's the second important bit:

Nishma Doshi is the Community and Events Organsier at the Open Rights Group.

She's responsible for PR, outreach and is the main point of contact for many people with ORG. As such she's very much a bona fide spokesperson for the organisation and just not some random nutter amongst the supporters.

As I mentioned, earlier I'd ecountered her already at least twice that day. She'd already said something offensive about everyone in the room being "white males" at one of the workshops but I let it slide again in the interests of getting something out of the session. No more. Other greatest hits from this white hot intellect included - in response to her being asked why she thought Boris Johnson was corrupt, it was because "he went to Eton" and during the "hacktivism" workshop she shared her - barely out of teens years of experience - clue for working out who the police informants and undercover agents were. They're socially awkward apparently. This was said to a room full of techie geeks.

With someone this openly bigoted, dogmatic, sexist and racist, following the usual cultural marxist script in such a sensitive position at ORG it is reasonable to assume that her views are at least passively tolerated.

Well that *is* intolerable to me, especially after having promoted and supported ORG for so long and joined in on their various campaigns.

So I'm sharing this blog with all of my libertarian and right wing friends and asking them to share further and boycott ORG unless and until Nishma Doshi no longer works for them and they release an official statement to the effect that they apologise and do not endorse her views and that people of all political persuasions (and white men) are welcome to get involved. I will be cancelling my donations to ORG tomorrow and writing them a formal letter explaining why and what it will take for me to consider ever associating with them again in future.


Anonymous said...

A genuine pity to hear that yet another libertarian has given up even trying to co-operate with parts of the Left where there is agreement.

But, you're not at fault. The behaviour of the leftist you describe is not uncommon, alas.

I've concluded that many Lefties' contempt of Tories is simply drawn from no less an irrational basis than a racist's loathing for other races or a homophobe's loathing for gays. Doesn't matter what wing of the Party they're from, doesn't matter where they've come from in life - they're Tory, ergo "the enemy".

And why do they do it? To feel self-righteous? To establish themselves as politically "pure" among their peers? Or is it because they're actually just plain stupid?

It's sad, really. One can't help but pity these people. They help condemn their own causes to failure (superb point about the YEStoAV group's monumentally stupid blunder in ignoring UKIP) and rail against groups among whom there are people actually prepared to help.

But will they all ever learn? No, they're too indoctrinated, too full of self-righteous angry. Theirs is the rage of Caliban.

Move on from them. They're doomed.

Katabasis said...

Many thanks for that comment Anonymous.

And yes I agree. The left will eat itself.

Woodsy42 said...

"The left will eat itself. "

Then I wish they would hurry up and get on with it!
But be fair Katabasis, these people are not actually left. They are middle class elitists, progresives and their fellow traveller who have hi-jacked the traditional political left field.
My grandfather was a staunch left winger, a working man and labour party supporter all his life. Were he around today he would find these people as offensive as you do.

James Oliver Deckard said...

'The Left will eat itself' - that's MY line! :o I name Nicholas Jones as my witness. Glad its use is spreading ;)!/nishmadoshi
Sign up for Twitter to follow Nishma Doshi (@NishmaDoshi). Feminist. Grassroots. Activist & Campaigner. Postcolonialist. Alterglobalisationist. Geek.

Tells you all you need to know, really.
It's a shame. As you point out Cory Doctorow is excellent.
There are some Lefties one can work with on issues - Peter Tatchell on free speech for example. Even Maryam Namazie at the last Free Speech demo was relatively unpartisan (and she is personally likeable). So many on the Left are bitter, unpleasant people. You attend their meetings and their back is up, deeply suspicious while they go through a checklist to see if you are PC enough for them. I encountered no such bottom-sniffing when I first went to libertarian meetings.
While do I end up hanging out and chatting to Tories and right-wingers when my views are often radically divergent from theirs? It is because they are less judgemental and better mannered.There are exceptions on both sides obviously and there ARE people on the Left one can work with but Angela Harbutt's excellent article on the Yes to Av campaign failure <a href=">The humiliation of the Yes campaign</a>

Katabasis said...


Yes I do agree for the most part. I often think back to the SWP and Anti Nazi League people I used to know 15+ years ago and simply can't imagine them in the same room as today's crop without an almighty punch up.


Sorry James I couldn't remember who I heard say it recently otherwise I would have credited you. ;)

I totally agree there are some that are open and intelligent enough to work with people outside their immediate political village and I'd certainly agree with those you name.

Also I often find myself in the company of tories for the same reasons you identify. The only awkward point is they have a propensity to go to smart dos where things like bow-ties are mandatory and that's really not my thing. ;)

Paul Marks said...

The "joke" is that this PC stuff (the formal name is "idenity politics") was created by white males (and well off ones at that).

The Frankfurt School of Marxism (which became the New York School of Social Research) created all this cultural Marxism stuff (using the politics of race, sex.....) as far back as the 1920s.

"Middle class elitists have taken over the left".

Errrr who were the Webbs? And who were George Berard Shaw and H.G. Wells?

Katabasis said...

Full Twitter exchange with Owen Black from the ORG advisory board. Note use of the 'she was tired' and 'something she said out of turn' defences as if these aren't core and regularly expressed beliefs for her:

" I'll write something longer on this later, but ORG is an apartisan broad church. We need you guys on the right just as people like me on the left. Whilst I (as an AC member and Board candidate) agree with Nishma on many issues.. she was not speaking for ORG there. We recognise that the issues we work with cannot be fixed by one side of politics alone"

"It went without saying that she wasn't speaking for ORG. But you tolerate her sexist, racist and bigoted views nonetheless."

"We tolerate all kinds of views that aren't relevant to "our" issues, so long as they don't get in the way of the campaigns... I would be surprised if the same weren't true of most political parties."

" So Nick Griffin would be welcome to work for ORG?"

" That's not what I said and you know it's not."

" apparently it is. Nishma expresses sexist, racist and bigoted views but of a variety that is OK by you."

"No, not ok by me. But not something I'm going to flay her about in public. Quiet words are usually more effective... I agree that, from your characterisation, what she said was unacceptable, but I don't believe it merits boycotting ORG"

" not good enough. Those cultural marxist views are often held and unchallenged in left dominated groups. Enough is enough....this wasn't some exceptional outburst. These are her deeply held beliefs. Which her peers either share or tolerate."

"ORG is not a Marxist group and is widely welcoming of all political views. It you would like to use the in-the-pub views....of one person self-evidently not talking ex cathedra to tar the whole of an organisation, there's no point in continuing... this conversation."

" Utterly laughable. This is your main point of contact we're talking about here. "welcoming of all political views" eh."

"They are words she said in the pub—not ex cathedra—after a very long day where she's organised a very successful event..... I do understand your point of view, but I do think you're overreacting. Sorry, we're going to have to agree to differ...She is not our executive director, she is one of the people involved in ORG. Now I'm sorry, but I have a day-job to be do"

"thanks for a perfectly lame non-response that would sit well with our political class in the face of similar've confirmed my reasons for boycotting ORG and many others will see it the same way too."

Katabasis said...

And the racist, sexist useful idiot responds! -

"@mkpdavies I'm @kata_basis doesn't know the difference between recognising oppression and hate."

"@kata_basis This is the only response I'm going to give you: I define myself as a feminist and a seeker of social justice. I don't flame."

Well that's alright then, isn't it?


john in cheshire said...

Two observations :
1. Ms doshi doesn't sound too bright. Having a big mouth and using her gender as a shield for what she says doesn't make one worth listening to.
2. if she was a man, I know a few pubs where she'd have been well and truly flattened for her outburst.

Jim Killock said...

Hi there,

I'm Executive Director of the Open Rights Group.

ORG maintains close relationships with as many sympathetic MPs from as many parties as we can. We work with people from all parties and none. We have Conservative voters on our Advisory Council, although at current, no MPs, and we will continue to seek input from Conservatives and libertarians. I personally have worked with UKIP MEPs on ACTA and copyright in the past. We also have close relations with Liberal Democrat, Labour and Green politicians: ORG is strictly non-partisan, because our issues effect everyone. We will always welcome people to support ORG from all political walks of life.

I am very sorry to hear about your experience and want to be clear that Nishma was not speaking for ORG. I have spoken to her about this and she agrees that her personal opinions should not have been expressed in an ORG setting.

However, whatever complaints that anyone has with an ORG staff member, a public forum is not an appropriate place to raise them. Some of the remarks made here are extremely personal and upsetting. I would ask anyone who has a complaint about ORG to discuss it with me or ORG's Board in the first instance, and allow us the opportunity to respond and put things right.

I'm sorry to hear that you'll no longer be supporting us, and hope that you'll reconsider.

Katabasis said...

Outstanding Jim.

So let's summarise here:

i) no condemnation of her views (it's just unfortunate she got called on them for once, right?)

ii) "a public forum is not an appropriate place to raise them." - I'd really like to know why not. Especially as it is important for others (i.e. us evil right wing white males) to know what one of your most prominent members of staff really thinks about us.

iii) "Some of the remarks made here are extremely personal and upsetting"

Diddums. Nishma's remarks were extremely upsetting too and part of a continual pattern not just from her but also with many others like her who appear to prosper without penalty at left-dominated organisations.

If you're referring here to some of the things I've written, then good. I purposefully included those comments in anticipation that at least one of you would claim "offence" whilst at the same time failing to condemn Nishma's utterly offensive tripe.

Congratulations on sinking to my low expectations.

As you *are* the executive director of ORG I'll take your word as the final one. Which means you passively tolerate Nishma's views and are only sorry she got caught.

Your organisation is not deserving of support from us right wingers (or white males more generally apparently, unless I guess they join the rest of you in wilful self flagellation for having the misfortune of being born white and male) and I will continue to advocate a boycott.

Dol said...

"Idiots exist on the left. A percentage of those idiots are female. I met one in a pub." That's the story? Or is her behaviour somehow a prism reflecting the general idiocy of the rest of us lefties? And what the bejeesus is cultural Marxism? Is it something I exude as a leftie without knowing it?

Not to mention, of course, every single one of us *has* been an idiot, on more than one occasion, especially in pubs after political meetings. I'm going to go out on a limb and say, yes, even you. I know I have. Are you really comfortable with this public character assassination? Apologies for how much this is going to annoy you, but I couldn't help but think: "Continuing to be the Gerard Butler of the right, as per your header image, good work."

If ever we meet and you for a moment lose your rag at my warmist cultural marxist ramblings, would you be comfortable with me blogging about you in the same way? (Not that anyone reads my blog, but you know what I mean!)

Katabasis said...

""Idiots exist on the left. A percentage of those idiots are female. I met one in a pub." That's the story?"

- There are too many people like Nishma out there - and she's in a position of influence. That's the problem. Added to the fact that groups such as ORG seem happy to tolerate her offensive views (leading to perverse consequences such as an unequal application of the law - Diane Abbott and Lee Jasper get to say what they want whilst Liam Stacey is sent down), that's an even bigger problem. And the story. It's telling that you don't seem to have an issue with her views yourself and are instead hand-wringing over my writing this blog entry.

"Or is her behaviour somehow a prism reflecting the general idiocy of the rest of us lefties?"

- I'm presuming you went blind at the points where I qualified this such as "Fortunately throughout the day I met a handful of friendly left leaning people with whom I found a lot of common ground."

"And what the bejeesus is cultural Marxism?"


"Is it something I exude as a leftie without knowing it?"

- I have no idea as it has been a long time since I saw you in person. You seem to be happy to tolerate people like Nishma so, yes.

"Not to mention, of course, every single one of us *has* been an idiot, on more than one occasion, especially in pubs after political meetings. I'm going to go out on a limb and say, yes, even you. I know I have."

- No shit. Really?

" Are you really comfortable with this public character assassination?"

- It's a description of her behaviour. Am I not permitted to write about people's bad behaviour or offensive claims Dan? Would it presumably be better to dig a hole, sit in it and wuss out like - presumably - you would do? A character assasination would involve a whole lot more ad hominems and probably a lot of exaggerations and untrue claims. What I've described above are her closely held beliefs, which she has expressed multiple times and in multiple formats. It wasn't a one of lapse of judgement as you are disingenuously attempting to imply.

"Apologies for how much this is going to annoy you, but I couldn't help but think: "Continuing to be the Gerard Butler of the right, as per your header image, good work.""

- 'When someone says 'but' you should disregard everything said before it'. Man up and say what you mean for once Dan instead of offering limp-wristed and meaningless apologies that you don't mean. The header image is supposed to invoke the spirit of Leonidas not Gerard Butler. I'm not sure how that fact escaped you. I have no idea what point you're poorly attempting to make anyway.

"If ever we meet and you for a moment lose your rag at my warmist cultural marxist ramblings, would you be comfortable with me blogging about you in the same way? (Not that anyone reads my blog, but you know what I mean!)"

- Do what you want. People are used to seeing me lose my rag in public. That's me. No one will be surprised. And you are again - spuriously - attempting to imply that this was a one off from Nishma. Why? What's your real angle here Dan?

Captain Ranty said...


The comment you have in your spambox is not one of mine.


Anonymous said...

It's mired by self-interest and misguided egos and I don't trust it. What is unfortunate is that it continues to be cited as being an accurate representation of those concerned about issues it discusses by mainstream media, but it doesn't. It's unwilling to do anything if it isn't benefiting those within Open Rights Group. I don't understand it's Advisory Council's purpose either - its activities aren't discussed - and its Supporter Council doesn't exist; rather it was due to begin doing something, but since being announced 2 months ago, it hasn't done anything. Was it due to disinterest? Or was it just because it was realised that it would be doing work that Open Rights Group should already have been doing itself?

Dol said...

Just coming back after our fb encounter - I thought I'd get an email for replies to this post, sorry I missed it and thanks for responding thoughtfully.

Anonymous said...

I'm not going to argue that it shouldn't exist, because I think it's obvious that the issues Open Rights Group claims to represent and those it claims to represent understand its importance. But if Open Rights Group isn't going to do as it claims, it's difficult to argue its existence unless it's able to demonstrate that it's capable of doing so.

Anonymous said...

She had also said that she didn't think it was appropriate that Julian Assange should attend it because she considered him to be dangerous because of unsubstantiated allegations. She's a presumptuous bigot.

Katabasis said...

Thanks for that addition Anon:

"She had also said that she didn't think it was appropriate that Julian Assange should attend it because she considered him to be dangerous because of unsubstantiated allegations. She's a presumptuous bigot."

- Good grief, really? She's 'all in' isn't she?

Anonymous said...

I didn't know if it was her personal opinion, or that of Open Rights Group but it was concerning that I couldn't differentiate between either. But it isn't about her that is most concerning, or that I'm concerned about, but ORG. If ORG is unwilling to adapt, it's unfair to those it claims to represent and to itself. If ORG continues to disappoint, would it be justifiable to create another bearing a similar remit?

Anonymous said...

Did you ever send a letter? Or receive a response?

Katabasis said...

Hi Anon,
I got that reply above in the comments from Jim Killock before I even had the chance to send the letter. I took that as the final word - namely that he couldn't see a problem, would cover for her and nothing would change.

Anonymous said...

Good news, she's now a former member of staff, though you have to wonder how many more there are like her within the organisation. People like that don't get into positions of influence without others in the organisation at least partially sharing their extreme views.