The bizarre politics of the Psychedelic Movement

I like to think of myself as both a weirdo and a connoisseur of weird shit, and I think my nearly ten years of writing here speaks for itself, so I thought I’d take it upon myself to explore what is definitely one of the strangest parties I’ve seen in British politics: the Psychedelic Movement.

Psychedelic Movement, not to be confused with the psychedelic counterculture movement of the 1960s, is one of those third parties that is currently running a candidate Southend West, the same constituency that was previously represented by David Amess until he was murdered in October last year, as part of a by-election set to be held on February 3rd. The Psychedelic Movement probably won’t win, in fact I’d be surprised if they managed to get any more votes than some of the far-right parties also running, and indeed, with all the other more mainstream parties (including Labour) abstaining this race, I think that Conservative Party victory is an absolute certainty. But they stick out like a green thumb, if you know what I mean, so let’s see what they’re all about anyway.

If you’re thinking that these are basically fun-loving anarchist types who just want to legalize psychedelic drugs, that would only be partially correct. For one thing, they’re not anarchists. For another thing, their actual political ideology is really incoherent, and in some ways it’s actually kind of reactionary. It seems to be the pet project of a man named Jason Pilley, and seems to have been around since 2017. As the name of his party suggests, Jason devotes much of his social media presence to opposing the War on Drugs and advocating for the legalization of cannabis and other drugs. So far, so good. He also opposes the Conservatives (or what he calls “the Corporate Right”) for wanting to sell off the NHS, has spoken in favour of constructing a Hindu temple in Southend West, and incorporates esoteric imagery into his campaign material. That’s nice! But he also seems to be one of those conservative populists who likes to share articles from the very-definitely-unbiased New York Post to argue that Black Lives Matter are a scam, rants about Facebook being “finished” (yeah, any day now) and encourages people to join them on Gab instead (what could possibly go wrong?), in fact he seems to have stopped using Facebook entirely since May last year because of it, and he’s one of those shitheads who hates the left for the supposed “deconstruction of notions of family, discipline, punishment, ethics, etc, without the construction of anything better”. That’s really cringe. He also blames China for supposedly plaguing everyone with Covid-19, but then also says that Covid-19 is just “one poxy germ” and mocks the idea that it could “bring the world to its knees”. So in other words, China created Covid-19 and spread it throughout the world, but then Covid-19 is basically nothing. One might ask what exactly is the point of blaming China at that rate. Oh, and did I mention that he’s a fan of that racist football hooligan Tommy Robinson (real name: Stephen Yaxley-Lennon)? Because it seems that he most certainly is, and appears to have written a whole book where the second half is about Tommy Robinson.

The upcoming by-election is not Jason Pilley’s first go at running for office. In 2019, he ran as an MP for Rochford and Southend East during that year’s general election. He ran under the Psychedelic Future ticket, and came in dead last. He only won 367 votes, a whole 0.8% of the votes. I can imagine that his performance in the Southend West by-election won’t be much better.

But now, let’s focus on the Psychedelic Movement’s program for society, or at least their constituents. This can be assessed from their most recent election manifesto, which seems to have been posted on January 11th on Jason Pilley’s WordPress site. Let’s look at each point of his programme in order.

We will dig up the dullest roads and stick allotments there instead. Schoolkids across all school years will be given land and taught to grow food for themselves and their family.

This sounds nice, and I do rather like that in this way they mean to instill self-sufficiency in people from a young age, but I can’t for the life of me figure out if this policy method seems feasible. I’m also wondering where that land is going to come from, and what criteria Pilley will use to decide which roads are dull enough to warrant being dug up. For all I know it could free up some living space for people who need it, or it could potentially and unnecessarily disrupt public life for purely arbitrary reasons.

We will invite those South American churches that use ayahuasca in their services to open branches locally, and bring Shamanic Christianity to Southend.

OK, so, questions. Who are these South American churches that use ayahuasca in their services? And just what is “Shamanic Christianity”? Is it basically just when you worship Jesus by imbibing psychedelic drugs? That’s…OK, I guess? I mean it sounds like it would basically be the same spiritual message as Christianity but without the moral hangups about intoxication and psychedelics. In theory it probably would fly in the face of the asceticism that seems to be suggested in the morality of the New Testament, but I also remember hearing that even early Christians used psychedelic drugs as part of their religious practices, so if that’s true then it’s definitely not an unprecedented idea. Moreover, psychedelics have long been intertwined with religious practice throughout the pre-Christian world. To name just a few examples, the use of a psychedelic compound was a central part of the Eleusinian Mysteries, and there was a Vedic Indo-Iranian sacrificial rite referred to as the Haoma rite, which involved the use of a hallucinogen referred to as Haoma. Questions aside, I’m more than happy to see this aspect of religious life be reintroduced to society.

We will end all Covid regulations + hysteria

OK, this is dumb, and fairly dangerous all things considered. Jason Pilley appears to be one of those people who thinks that we’re entering into a state of totalitarianism as a result of measures that have been taken to halt the spread of Covid. Things have certainly been very draconian before the vaccines started getting rolled out (btw I hope he’s not against vaccines either), but to be perfectly honest, things don’t feel all that oppressive lately. For the moment Wales isn’t actually ratcheting up restrictions, which is probably natural because, while I hated Mark Drakeford a few years ago, it does seem like Wales has taken the best path available out of the four nations. If anything, England seems like it wants to actively avoid introducing any serious restrictions even after Christmas. And don’t get me wrong, I would very much like to avoid the rapid increase in carceral state power that the pandemic seems to be helping take shape and which plenty of people on the left seem to be clamouring for, but while I honestly don’t have a good idea of how we should go about things lately in light of that, somehow I don’t think that doing nothing and letting more people die in the hope that maybe some of us get “natural immunity” or “herd immunity” is going to make things any better.

We want our town to be unpolluted & energy-independent, using the full range of renewable-energy options available.

Good idea, and good aims. But I will say that I’m really not sure how you actually can do much without still contributing to the emission problem. As far as I can tell, even renewable energy sources require facilities that have to be constructed and produced in a way that consumes environmentally harmful gasses and fuels, and I’m pretty sure the same is true for nuclear power as well, which, to be honest, raises a whole host of questions on its own. Ultimately I think that you can’t get very far without changing the way energy is produced, and even then you can’t get too far without dismantling the whole capitalist order that sustains itself on rampant over-production and the super-exploitation of the world’s resources, and even then I expect some lifestyle changes to be necessary in the long term, and ideally I’d like our entire attitude towards nature to change alongside this. In short, even if we switch to renewable energy, fighting climate change isn’t as easy as thinking we can just consume our way out of ecological collapse.

Increase NHS funding by several percentage-points of GDP & fire all the “Diversity Officer” parasites.

Here’s a weird case where you have both good and somewhat bad mixed in the same place. Increasing NHS funding after a long period of privatisation is definitely a good thing, albeit by a conspicuously non-numbered percentage, but what’s his deal with “Diversity Officers” exactly? Oh boy what did Jason do or say to offend them? Whatever the case is, I’m pretty sure they’re not the ones responsible for sucking up the NHS’ funding, and somehow I think Jason himself knows exactly who the real culprit is, at least judging from his columns about the NHS. So why scapegoat these guys? It sounds like there’s some very reactionary motives involved to say the least. If it’s some useless neoliberal stuff like what Robin DiAngelo shills for, that’d be one thing, but I don’t know.

Ban the sale of front doors with their letterbox at ground level. It is bizarre to want to give your postman a backache.

Apparently these are real, and apparently there have been calls to ban these doors for a good few years now, so it’s not just Jason who has this issue. In 2019, the Communication Workers Union campaigned for new buildings to meet European Union standards for letterbox height, and Conservative MP Vicky Ford called for low-level letterboxes to be banned in order to protect post officers from getting their backs strained or being bitten by dogs. I can’t say I’m complaining about this proposal. If I worked as a mail man I probably would curse people who have their letterboxes all the way to the bottom, particularly as my back is not without aches. Seriously, just look at those ground-level letterboxes and tell me they’re not bullshit.

We would keep the Monarchy but overthrow the Windsor dynasty and install Hatun Tash as the new Queen instead.

This seemed like a joke proposal until I quickly looked into who Hatun Tash is. Hatun Tash appears to be a Christian evangelist who is mostly known for virulent polemics against Muslims and Islam, and for getting stabbed once in Speaker’s Corner last year. She works for an organisation called Defend Christ Critique Islam Ministries, whose mission is to preach Christianity to Muslims and who claim to be motivated by “love” for Muslims. Considering the often bigoted nature of their apparent polemics, I think it’s safe to say they’re all about hate rather than love, and while I’m not “pro-Islam” I think it’d be a lot more “loving” for DCCI Ministries to fuck off instead of preaching anywhere. Hatun’s supporters claim that she had been banned from going to the Speaker’s Corner over her views, which the Mayor denies. Some Christians like Hatun Nash for “defending Christianity” through her polemics of course, while other Christians dislike her for bigotry against Muslims; apparently she even took a KKK handbook and referred to it as the Quran. If that wasn’t bad enough she was taught by someone who referred to Muslims as “sewage”. But why exactly does Jason like her so much that he wants her to be the new Queen of England? To be honest, it sounds like it’s this dumb right-wing martyr complex where they elevate whoever agrees with them and suffered an attack that they can blame on their preferred scapegoat to quasi-divine status. But then this says a lot of worrying things about Jason. In any case, fuck Monarchy, regardless of who is the King or Queen.

We will open cannabis cafes and LSD clubs around Southend. Using the resources of the State to criminalize the Paul McCartneys of this world + crush the “Peace and Love” Sixties has been utterly destructive to society.

OK, this sounds awesome. Cannabis and LSD would be legal and there’d be whole venues meant as gathering places to support an entire culture built around the safe and pleasurable use of psychedelics. Well, of course, they actually plan to defy the law and open up those cannabis cafes and LSD clubs despite the illegality of these substances, somehow. It would theoretically make more sense for Jason to, if elected, just legalize those substances and their respective venues through new legislation, but, hey, I honestly like the fact that someone thinks they can put up a fight like that. In any case, I really would like to see that in the world. The only thing is, I don’t think the Paul McCartneys of the world are criminalized. Maybe they were in the 1960s, but not anymore. In fact, the Beatles have been more or less thoroughly recuperated as icons of the dominant capitalist monoculture, and that stupid slogan of “Peace and Love” is now little other a consumer mantra, not that it was capable of challenging anything. The 1960s counterculture was great in a lot of ways, but let’s be real, it was destined to be recuperated as an edifice of airy passivity, and this is partly due to the lack of radicalism and politicization involved even despite getting involved in the anti-war movement.

Apply existing “hate speech” laws to religious institutions: mosques, churches, synagogues & temples which refuse to condemn and repudiate hateful + violent content in their holy books will be closed and turned into social housing.

This is without a doubt the worst and most oppressive policy suggestion contained in this entire manifesto. Doing this would create a justification for the state to criminalize and persecute any religion it doesn’t like and tear down their places of worship. Judging from his support for Hatun Tash and Tommy Robinson, it’s plainly obvious that Jason is looking to justify the forced closure of mosques on the grounds that the Quran promotes violence and bigotry. The obvious problem with this is that you could just as easily do the same thing for the Bible, which on its own contains numerous pronouncements of violence against non-believers and others as well as bigotries of various kinds whether coded or explicit. Since Jason seems to be interested in some form of “Shamanic Christianity” and supports Christian evangelists who lob bigoted insults at Muslims, I would think that Jason ought to be much more concerned about the possibility of giving the state the power to persecute and criminalize Christianity and justifying that carceral power by arguing that the horrible content of the Bible constitutes “hate speech”. And it doesn’t end there. In the wrong hands (well, really there’s no such thing as “the right hands”), any religion could be clamped down on any similar rationales. What if someone decides that Heathenry needs to go because someone thinks that the runes are all Nazi symbols or some bullshit like that? What if someone decides that The Satanic Bible is a hate tract and wants to shut down Satanist organizations as a result? What if someone decides that the Buddha’s views on women mean that Buddhists should either publically repudiate sexism or face having their temples shut down? This is the kind of, I will say it, Stalinist form of authoritarian anti-religious campaigns that Jason would allow, ironically despite calling himself “anti-communist” and despite claiming himself to be a supporter of freedom of speech; but we’ll get to that in time.

Stick Stephen Yaxley-Lennon in the House of Lords to make up for all the lies that have been told about him. “We would rather stand with one proud black patriot than a hundred scumbag racists, that’s where we stand.” – Tommy Robinson

This is probably the part of Psychedelic Movement’s manifesto that I’ll bet got the most attention. Suffice it to say, Jason is not interested in the idea of abolishing the House of Lords. That makes sense for him, I suppose, since he’s not interested in abolishing the monarchy either. But I really need to establish why it’s a problem for Jason to support Tommy Robinson in this way. Tommy Robinson seems to be presented here as a principled opponent of racism who is merely lied about by a media eager to present him as a racist. The obvious problem with this is that Tommy has repeatedly demonstrated the opposite to be true. For one thing, he was a member of the fascist British National Party before founding the English Defence League, who in turn were friends with other far-right parties like the British Freedom Party (itself a spin-off of the BNP), planned to bomb mosques, and had links with the Norwegian far-right terrorist Andres Breivik. For another thing, Tommy accused Muslim refugees of trying to “invade” Europe, referred to Somalis as “barbarians”, accused London Mayor Sadiq Khan of being part of a plot to invade Britain, accused a young Syrian refugee of attacking English girls in his school (for which he was successfully sued for libel), accused every Muslim in Britain of perpetrating the 7/7 attacks, threatened violence on the entire Muslim community if any British citizens were killed by a terrorist, and believes Muslims have been waging war on British people for 1,400 years. On top of that, Tommy’s an actual con artist. He was arrested in 2014 for £160,000 in mortgage fraud, in 2018 a former aide revealed that he had been raking in £2 million in donations, which probably allowed him to keep living in a lavish four-bedroom gated house, he also made £20,000 from Bitcoin during a brief prison sentence in 2018, and in 2015 he actually claimed to have owned seven properties by the age of 25. This is the man Jason thinks deserves a Lordship? Give me a fucking break here!

Steal from the United States their First Amendment and write that into UK law, guaranteeing Free Speech.

Not a bad idea, it would be nice to have a theoretically unassailable constitutional support for freedom of speech in the books. Hell, it’d be nice to have an actual and not just de facto constitution in this country. But there’s a few problems with this proposal. First of all, as I already discussed, Jason doesn’t actually consistently believe in freedom of speech. I’m gonna say it here, you can’t argue for a concept of freedom of speech that isn’t subject to compromise while also calling for the state to close down mosques on “hate speech” charges!!! Another problem is that, if you think about it, the popular idea that the First Amendment absolutely protects freedom of speech is, in practice, a myth. For one thing, FOSTA/SESTA legislation effectively criminalizes freedom of speech when it comes to even non-pornographic material discussing sexuality, and in some states it’s possible to face penalties for criticizing Israel (Texas, for instance, has a law against boycotting Israel). In fact, more recently, in Florida Governor Ron DeSantis put forward a bill criminalizing protests against the police, and in Kentucky a bill making it illegal to insult police officers actually passed. Seems like the First Amendment really isn’t doing all that much to prevent these injustices against freedom of speech. Or is this all about Facebook not letting him post a New York Post article? Well, that sucks, that’s wrong and all, though if he thinks that he can use this to mandate that social media companies “respect freedom of speech” somehow, that’s something I’ve been thinking about lately. Putting aside the much bigger discourse about the pros and cons of nationalizing social media in the name of free speech, a thought that crosses my mind is do we not get into certain territory about freedom of association? Yeah yeah I know they’re private corporations and according to my political philosophy private corporations shouldn’t exist because that’s capitalism, but let’s say we aren’t dealing with private corporations and we aren’t dealing with an age of private corporations. Let’s say instead we’re dealing with free associations without bosses and everyone is the “owner” in some loose sense. They too would make their own rules as to what their platform is used for. As a matter of fact, so do “alt-tech” companies like Gab, who occasionally ban memes when keeping them online gets inconvenient for them, and their account on Twitter bans certain people from commenting on their posts. Somehow I don’t recall anyone calling for Gab to respect the free speech of the people they’ve censored, certainly not many people were calling for everyone to leave Gab. And what about the hypothetical free associations? Should the state be allowed to decided what these associations do and do not allow within their own boundaries? It’s a bit of a conundrum, and there may not be an easy answer, but I suggest that people like Jason think about it carefully.

Make Martial Arts/Self-Defence classes a core part of the school cirriculum, raising stronger children instead of sitting watching as child obesity rates rise.

This is another one of those ideas from Jason that I actually like, though I suspect he’s sort of in it for the wrong reasons. I mean, come on, are you sure that fat people can’t do martial arts? Overall, though, I like the martial arts classes as core cirriculum concept, and it seems to connect back to the first point when it comes to self-reliance. From my standpoint, though, the real point shouldn’t be that people become stronger simply to lose weight. Strength, specifically the strength to stand under your own power and stand up for yourself, is its own value, and power is what you can take into your own hands. Being physically fit is nice and good, and physical strength is a great thing to have, but what matters most, what makes strength its own value, is the ability to demonstrate your own power of self-reliance as expressed through your strength. And for a truly free society, what matters is to extend this principle collectively.

We would allow women to purchase and carry pepper-spray to protect themselves here on The Planet of The Psychos.

Another policy proposal that I unconditionally like except for one problem: it doesn’t go far enough! I mean, why stop with just pepper spray, if you get me? But seriously, women need actual power when it comes to being preyed on by men. Liberal society bullshits women so much, it gets everyone thinking that the only way for women to be safe is if they and everyone else live like cowards under a carceral and paternalistic regime that dresses itself up in the garb of women’s rights. It’s curfews for men and conversations about sexual morality instead of showing women that they have the right to fight back, because at the end of the day our conversation about the safety of women, like so much else about politics, has its roots in a contemporary and universal sense of powerlessness, and the enshrinement of that powerlessness as the norm of the human condition as opposed to the creation of the society in which we live and the systemic structures that support it.

We will burn nag champa incense in all public buildings.

This seems frivolous. Not bad, but not inherently good, and it mostly just serves to mark him out as a New Age guy. I can assure you that it’s not proof of any connection to Hinduism as a religious practice. Nag champa as an incense is not some ancient religious artefact. It was invented in the 1960s by K. N. Satyam Setty, who created it under the name Satya Sai Baba Nag Champa and founded a company named Shrinivas Sugandhalaya for the purpose of manufacturing more incenses like it. So really it’s a modern product, nothing ancient and sacred. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with having or using Nag Champa incense at all, rather it’s just kind of funny to think of Jason setting about turning Britain (or at least just Southend) into Aldous Huxley’s Island by festooning public buildings with consumer incense.

Sue the Chinese Communist Party £20 trillion for what they have just done to the world.

I’ve already briefly addressed this subject earlier on, but since we’re here it bears discussing again. Jason is utterly confused on the subject of China and Covid-19. Here, he seems to be implying that China has damaged the whole world by unleashing Covid-19 onto the world. Putting aside the fact that China didn’t create Covid-19 despite the media’s newfound love affair with the lab leak conspiracy theory, and that Covid-19 probably may not have even originated within China, the incoherence of Jason’s position rests in the fact that he himself considers Covid-19 to not be a credible threat, and yet wants to sue China because of the global pandemic. He referred to Covid-19 as “one poxy germ” (“poxy”, by the way, basically means it’s worthless or neglible), mocked the notion that it could “bring the world to its knees”, and advocates for the abolition of all pandemic-related restrictions and laws because he considers the whole thing to be “hysteria”, and yet even though the threat of Covid-19 seems so miniscule to him, he still thinks that it’s enough of a plague upon the world that China should be sued for trillions of pounds because of it. Why? It doesn’t make any sense whatsoever, yet you see it often in right-wing politics, where conservative politicians frequently dismiss the threat of Covid-19 and call for the abolition of lockdowns and any pandemic-related restrictions on the basis that Covid-19 supposedly doesn’t kill anyone while at the same time ratcheting up geopolitical tensions with China and calling for reparations on the basis of exactly the same pandemic that they consider to be cartoonishly overblown. I mean, am I missing something or does this not seem like obvious, self-contradictory stupidity, probably motivated by jingoistic racism?

The last point of the manifesto is just a dedication to David Amess, which I suppose was to be expected. I’m sure it’s a kind gesture, by some metrics anyway, though I’m not sure Amess wouldn’t have actively opposed some of the policies Jason wanted to be fulfilled.

There really isn’t much more to say about this. I’ve explored basically everything to see when it comes to the Psychedelic Movement, and, to be honest, this really does smell like a far-right party to me. It probably isn’t, at least by normal standards, and it sounds like one of those edgy, quasi-libertarian centrist movements with a conservative edge and whose politics are predictably incoherent. But, for something like that, it also flirts with a fair few far-right themes and/or arguments, whether consciously or otherwise, which is probably to be expected from these quasi-libertarian centrist conservative types. Believe me, I know from experience how this shit works. It’s weird that maybe half of the polices that Psychedelic Movement has range from “not bad” to “actually this is based”, and the rest is just pure dogshit and confused nonsense, and it’s all mashed together into what makes for a really messy and generally reactionary political platform. I think that if some of the more reactionary parts of this programme were removed, and the rest was retooled into what is, let’s say, a libertarian socialist or anarcho-communist programme that just really likes psychedelic drugs and also supports martial arts and self-reliance, I’d love that, and if that was a party, I’d vote for it every time, without hesistation! But that’s just not the party we’re looking at. In fact, instead it looks like a pretty textbook example of how the far-right manages to co-opt countercultural movements, or aspects thereof, recuperating them towards their own reactionary purposes.

And now that you know what Psychedelic Movement is….don’t vote for them.

Apparently this is a logo for Psychedelic Movement, from their Facebook page

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