Things I thought

Thursday 30 December 2010

Save it for the enemy, solider!

As the last of the left over wrapping paper sandwiches are eaten and Father Christmas is dragged to the side of the road for the dustmen to collect, an amazing year draws to a close and thoughts on the left are finally turning to how we can best fuck ourselves in the twelve months ahead.

Since the coalition slouched into power, a diverse and colourful wave of protests has splattered itself across the political landscape like a Jackson Pollock study in revolution. While it’s true that the demographic of dissenters has been skewed towards those too young for Thatcher to have misappropriated their milk, the idea that this has been purely a minor’s strike is somewhat overblown. Yes, the vanguard of the cuts has come in the form of EMA and rising tuition fees, but the elder statespeople of the left – from unionists to politicians via veteran trots and good old fashioned anarchists – have been waiting in the wings, observing the groundswell of insurrection with a sharp and searching eye. What has been remarkable about the alphabetti-spaghetti of groups sharpening their tongues and for the fight ahead is that, so far, they haven’t knocked seven bells out of each other in the struggle to lead the fightback. That may be beginning to change.

On the blogosphere, in particular, left-on-left sniping has been the sport de jour over the Christmas season. This may, in part, be the shore-leave effect – now alliances are no longer enforced by the immediacy of action, we all have a little room to have it out with each another. Hopefully, this will merely turn out to be healthy spring cleaning, an airing of grievances ahead of what will, by all indications, be a make-or-break year for the anti-cuts movement. Yet I worry that the style in which these inevitable barnies are being pursued could be detrimental should it become the norm. The internet has been a huge boon to our movement, but it would be stupid of us to forget that the medium has a darker side. Read the comments on any Youtube video to see how quickly a civil discussion between people who can, presumably, tie their own shoelaces turns into a cacophony of bile, profanity and comparisons to Hitler. On the net, a fight can get half way around the world before a handshake can put it’s shoes on and, if we’re not careful, the very things that made the web a useful tool for us could be our undoing.

Yes, we will disagree with one another, publicly, but some simple courtesy could go a huge way to preventing utterly unnecessary splits in the year(s) ahead. Three simple rules spring to mind. 1.) – If you’re going to criticize someone, be they an individual or an organization, try to let them know in advance, or at least upon publication, what you’re doing 2.) where possible, give them a right to reply and 3.) If you’re on the receiving end of criticism, avoid oversensitivity, even when your critic has been less than polite. This movement isn’t about manners, or egos, or even who has the best ideas – it’s about working together to stop the Tories ruining the lives of millions of people.

With a bit of luck, all of this will probably turn out to be a case of me wearing shit-speckled-spectacles as I stare over the horizon. The year ahead could and should be a triumphant one for the left. See you on the barricades.

Sunday 25 July 2010

Rather po-faced article about the Burqa

Liberal opinion has been thoroughly divided this week over France’s (as-yet-unratified) decision to ban the public wearing of the Burqa or Niqab (being a culturally insensitive bigot, I have absolutely no idea of the difference between the two).

The weight of controversy and debate surrounding the topic is proof that this is an emotive and highly complex issue, which I’ll attempt to address with my usual sense of gravitas and nuance.

Obviously we shouldn’t ban the Burqa. Don’t be so fucking ridiculous. The very fact we can have the debate is evidence of an odd sort of intolerance that we reserve exclusively for members of the Islamic faith, clothed up in faux-liberal window dressing about the freedom and emancipation of women.

Let’s start with the core assumption – that women who wear the Burqa, or at least the vast majority of them, are being forced to do so by men. Even those who oppose the ban seem to assume this is true. What exactly do we mean by this? Either, we’re implying that domestic violence is routinely employed in the Islamic community in order to enforce quasi-sharia law (in which case, the problem is much more serious than the Burqa and should be verbalized and addressed head on rather than by proxy), or we are stating that Muslim women are being “forced” by societal pressures into conforming to a stereotype that is anti-feminist. Just like they are in Western society.

It seems almost vapidly obvious to point this out, but women in Western society are not free to dress as they please without social and cultural repercussions. To some, the Burqa represents the exclusion of women from civil and public society, a visual representation of different if not necessarily diminished status, but it’s silly to argue that Western norms of dress don’t do exactly the same thing, presenting women primarily as sex objects to be valued according to their looks.

Now, the obvious argument is that Western women choose to dress in the way they do. They like it. They want the attention. Their choice to be highly sexualized in appearance is in no way based on representations within the media that imply a woman’s primary function in society is giving a men erections. No, these are freely made choices, plucked from the blissful autonomy of the cultural vacuum. Equally, women who choose not to dress like this are in no way looked down upon by other women or openly derided by misogynistic men.

Conversely, no woman chooses to wear the Burqa. This is because Muslim women can’t make choices or think for themselves. When we have finally given them the choice – which, oddly, we can only do by taking away their legal right to choose how to dress – they will, as one, emerge into the bright new dawn of cultural emancipation in mini-skirts, push-up bras and stilettos, as nature intended them to be seen.

I’m not trying to imply that I think the female sexual stereotype of far-right Islam is better than the female sexual stereotype of the supposedly liberal West. What I’m saying is that the only reason we have given ourselves license to discuss such a massively illiberal act of censorship is because we are condemning “foreign” misogyny. If you doubt that, ask yourself: can you really imagine us having a similar debate about banning porn?

Wednesday 30 June 2010

More Economics/Less Filth

Look, I didn’t want to have to do this. I really didn’t. It’s just, they’ve left me no choice. Along with the usual grab-bag of sweariness, tortured analogies and obtuse sesquipedalianism, this blog will, by necessity, contain several, many or more Very Boring Numbers.

Now, I don’t know about you, but I hate numbers. Four, for example, is a complete twat. But today I need their help in showing you the way that the Prime-Minister and his allies in the blogosphere have been lying about the budget.

A lot of you may already have seen the Guardian’s excellent expose on the real impact of coalition cuts on employment. Based on a leaked Treasury report that David Cameron is now refusing to release in full, it makes for stark reading. For those of you who haven’t seen it, here come a few numbers that are too scary to be boring:

• A loss of 500-600 thousand jobs from the public sector
• A loss of 600-700 thousand jobs from the private sector
• A total loss of 1.1-1.3 million jobs

Right wing bloggers have been apoplectic in their response. Their defence of the indefensible largely centres around the separate Office of Budget Responsibility pre-budget report, and another OBS report (conveniently published today, though seemingly not online) - which separately cite private sector job creation of 2-2.5 million over the next five years.

Highly successful, semi-literate professional cockbadger Guido Fawkes helpfully published the bullshit graphic below on his blog, which you may remember as the organ which helped popularise the bollocks claim that Gordon Brown was on anti-depressants in 2009.

Despite making several schoolboy errors (for example, marking down all 1.3 million disappearing jobs as ‘public sector’, despite the fact more than half will go from the private sector) the graph neatly summarises the arguments of both the right wing blogosphere and the prime-minister – namely, that the damage done by cuts will be more than offset by increases in private sector employment. There are a few problems with this argument, which I’ve summarised below.

A.)The increase in private sector employment will occur in spite of, not because of, the budget and is mainly down to two factors, specifically net migration pushing up the size of the Labour pool (See OBR report P.82 - an assumption based on the premise that the Conservatives will ditch their pre-election pledge to cap immigration at 100k per annum) and hilariously optimistic forecasts for economic growth. Speaking of which…

B.) The growth forecasts are complete wank, predicting UK GDP to rise at over a percentage point above the Euro Area trend every year of then next five, as well as assuming that every available economic indicator will turn from shit dust into flying gold over the next twelve months due to some kind of as-yet-to-be-identified magic. Finally…

C.) Even if the highly positive growth forecasts were somehow correct, it would have nothing to do with this budget, which has prescribed economic retrenchment over investment. Any economic growth will, by definition, be the product of external demand and the banks beginning to lend again due to the global economic bailout instituted by whatsisface – you know, the last bloke we had in charge.

In short, what Cameron et al are doing is committing murder and then pleading innocence because babies are being born all the time (see, there’s one of those tortured analogies I promised you). Here’s a quick chart summarising the reality of the situation.

In related news, I hate Excel.

Monday 28 June 2010


Masochism is rarely an attractive quality. I don’t mean the pretend-coy, arse-slapping methinks-the-lady-doth-cum-too-much masochism most of us enjoy. I mean the woe-is-me, self-hating, auto-industrial-flagellation that our current coalition government loves.

Yes, - I know there’s a deficit. I saw a program about it and everything. We’ve all been very naughty boys and girls – and perhaps a few hard cracks with the economic cane wouldn’t go amiss. A severe increase in the top rate of income tax, or a crackdown on avoidance and evasion, might appropriately redden the national buttocks. But that’s not how this slutty little coalition has chosen to play it. Instead, they’ve left the UK prostrate and hog-tied, ball-gag already in our mouths, and a “Britain: Open For Business” sign proudly hanging above our gaping national arsehole.

Take two recent decisions by our cock-hungry government. First, the scrapping of a loan to Sheffield Forgemasters. Their business – building parts for nuclear power plants – is not one I feel totally comfortable with. But it would, doubtless, have been fantastically profitable over the next few decades. Yet the Government chose to scrap it. What other explanation, apart from balls-deep masochism, can there be for such deliberate economic mismanagement?

Or, take a more recent decision – the announcement by Vince Cable that we won’t “prop up” failing auto manufacturers. In reality, this is just a massive fuck-you to British Industry. It’s not as though our fellow G8, G20 or G195 nations are going to halt their subsidies in response. So all this does is send a big signal to global manufacturers that Britain’s Government has no faith in Britain. We’re just bending over, spreading and hoping the financiers see us as easy.

The sad reality is that, no matter how much Osbourne, Clegg, Cable and Campbell widen their mouths and beg for jizz, all we’re likely to get is a torrent of hot, steamy piss from money-markets who despise weakness above all else. The lesson from those states who’ve stood up to them – for example, Argentina – is that they are much more eager to climb into bed with a nation that maintains a little bit of self-respect.

Wednesday 9 June 2010

The HTML gateway, not the deodorant.

Allo you lot. No time for wordsplurge today, but here's some yummy links to be getting on with.

For the best interview with a giant green feminist that you'll read today, check out:

If Feminist Hulk has inspired you,  why not get yourself a fistful of SMASH over at UKFeminista who are crowdsourcing ideas for a campaign against the Daily Mail's bullshit attitude to rape victims:

And, for a highly entertaining deconstruction of something deeply anti-feminist, as well as a brief snatch of Mark Kermode singing the Internationale, go here:

The article he mentions in the Stranger is worth a look too:

Be seeing you.    

Tuesday 1 June 2010

Baddies Hurt Goodies On Boat

Some goodies got hurt by the baddies on Tuesday when the goodies fought with the baddies on a boat. The boat was in the bit of the sea which belongs to everyone.

The goodies didn’t want to have a fight and were only trying to stop the baddies from hurting people, but the baddies really wanted to keep on hurting people so they decided to fight with the goodies. In the fight, some people got killed.

Now everybody’s cross.

Even though it was OK for the goodies to hurt the baddies because of what the baddies were trying to do, it wasn't OK for the baddies to hurt the goodies back because the baddies were trying to do something bad. Some people who are friends with the baddies have been saying wrong things, like that the goodies were trying to do something they shouldn't have been, and that it’s the goodies' fault people died. At the special club were everyone is supposed to get together and sort things out nobody can agree on anything because the baddies friends keep telling lies and ruining things for the goodies.

The goodies don’t want to have fights, but everyone treats them very unfairly. This makes it really hard for the goodies to stay out of fights with the baddies, who treat them most unfairly of all. If only the baddies would stop doing bad things and stop trying to kill all the goodies, then it would all be OK.

But they won’t so the goodies have to keep trying to kill all the baddies until everything gets better.

Saturday 1 May 2010

Fire is the cleanser

Here's a moving picture of my face explaining why I'll be setting fire to my ballot paper on May 6th.

Friday 19 March 2010




There is a new drug craze sweeping the nation. They may be cheap, legal and easily available - but stories about mephedrone kill.

Users – known as “readers” - report feeling superior, self-righteous indignation, but side-effects include paranoia, high blood pressure, psychosis - and even death.


“We do it because it’s fun.” Said Maureen Nibbs, 54, who asked to remain anonymous. Maureen has been a regular Daily Mail user for eight years, and has nowstarted reading Mephedrone stories. “We all get together at the WI coffee morning and read the stories, sometimes four or five in one go. Then we just sit there and tut for hours and hours.”

In hairdressers, bingo halls and caf├ęs across the country, news fiends gather to binge on unscientific rubbish, before spending the rest of the day in a sick angry stupour, shaking their heads and repeating over and over ‘it wouldn’t have happened in my day.’

“We’re not hurting anybody” Maureen says.

But nothing could be further from the truth.


Readers often become violent, causing danger to themselves and others.

“He was like an animal.” says one victim “I’d just gotten home, and Dad was sat on the sofa. I could tell from the look in his eyes that he’d been reading Meph stories. Next thing I knew, he had me up against the wall, demanding to know what I’d done to the cat. At least, I think that’s what he said. He was a bit pissed.”


Worse still, while readers think they know what they’re putting in their eyes, many articles are cut with nonsense. One fleet street dealer explained: “If we just reported facts, it’d be very ‘ard for readers to work up a dangerously uninformed sense of moral superiority. So we chuck some other stuff in – a bit of innuendo here, some rumours there, occasionally a drop of complete bullshit – just to give it all a bit more oomph. We cooked up a batch of Meph stories a few months ago and we chucked in a line saying some bloke ‘ad ripped ‘is scrotum off. There was no evidence for it, just a couple of posts on an internet forum. Look, I’m not saying it’s right, but if I didn’t print it, someone else would, know what I mean?”


As readers become increasingly paranoid and deluded, fears are growing that they will turn to legislation to get their next fix, forcing Mephedrone users back onto more dangerous drugs like Cocaine and Methamphetamine. Article addicts are so desperate for more that they're willing to give the mephadrone trade over to armed gangsters in order to satisfy their cravings.

These stories are sick, dangerous and deadly. Today, Anarchish asks: How many more young people will die before we put a stop to it?

Monday 4 January 2010

I only review things I've watched all the way through, and other excuses.

December 31st 2009 saw the end of long running period drama, “The Noughties”. Set over ten years and featuring a cast of over six billion characters, The Noughties' scale and complexity was surpassed only by The Wire. Though The Wire was set primarily on the mean streets of Baltimore and The Noughties was set everywhere, they did share at least one big similarity: both spectacularly jumped the shark in their final incarnation. Along with the sudden and unexpected deaths of what seemed like half of its main characters, and a desperately unrealistic sub-plot in which a black man became President of the United States, 2009 primarily jumped the shark due to the overuse sheer, hysterical melodrama.

Take one of 2009’s main plot twists: the long illness and subsequent death of tragic chav goddess, Jade Goody. After a recent storyline that saw Ms Goody revealed as a thick, racist bully during her second stint on vacuous visual-vomit factory Big Brother, the writers showed absolutely no respect for their audience by turning wildly on a sixpence and proclaiming her a deeply sensitive every-woman the moment she was diagnosed with cancer. Her legendarily low IQ was soon being talked about in Zen like terms, and her pathetic amount of charity work was spoken of in hushed and hallowed voices, as though she was some kind of cross between Princess Diana and Gandhi. All of this hyperbole served to justify the ludicrous lavishing of attention on what must have been the most over-exposed death in history, with the press delving into every irrelevant detail of the irrelevant woman’s demise.

Many were critical of this, pointing out that Jade’s spectacularly public shuffling from this mortal coil seemed to be little more than a commercialisation of death itself, a macabre spectacle in which we, the viewers, were invited to peer into, speculate upon and ultimately own someone else’s final moments. Others celebrated the move, saying the storyline gave us a chance to collectively examine issues to do with grief and our own fear of mortality in a way which was genuinely empowering.

Whatever the truth of the matter, the storyline was so incredibly popular that the writers scheduled a second, American version of the plotline for later in the year. As with all things American, it was bigger, louder and much more spectacular.

The death of Michael Jackson from a heart attack while drugged off his face on his honey-trap of a ranch dominated the headlines for weeks. Cribbing from the Goody story, Jackson had his own chequered and conflicted past. The singer spent the latter part of his life under a cloud, batting back allegations that he had undergone plastic surgery, had sexually interfered with underage boys, and hadn’t released a decent album since Thriller. As with Jade Goody, these contradictions caused polarisation instead of universal revulsion, with the debate over the artist’s life and legacy occupying the news for far more time than one man’s death decently should.

What was really unusual was that the writers of The Noughties gave so much more airtime to these stories than seemingly bigger, more important ones happening elsewhere. In April, the leaders of the G20 nations met in London. There they collectively conspired to give yet more public funds – money which had been repeatedly denied to schools, hospitals, police forces and every form of social program – to the very richest people in society, in exchange for their total decimation of the economy and in return for absolutely no control of the banks. Outside, people who disliked these and other ideas, such as the possibility that billions of people will likely be killed if we don’t stop steadily strangling our planet, were beaten and arrested. One of those who had the shit kicked out of him later died, a killing the police initially tried to pin on the protesters.

The death of Ian Tomlinson was a different kind of media spectacle to the others we’ve examined. Unlike Jackson and Goody, he was never beatified by the press – indeed, initial reports decried him as variously a protester, a yob and an alcoholic who, in all cases, had only himself to blame. It was only as details and, more importantly, videos emerged that the press and police had to tacitly admit it was the state, not the crowds of idealistic youngsters, who were at fault.

This story, one which seemed to uncover systematic state abuse and repression, not in some far flung Middle Eastern Dictatorship, but right here, in 21st century Great Britain, looked for a moment like it was a watershed, a fundamental shift in the institutional framework of the British state. Then the papers found something much, much more important to cover.

In May of 2008, the country was shocked into apoplexy by the discovery that politicians are greedy, earn more than you, and lead quite privileged lifestyles. It was like watching a lynching at the ideal homes exhibition, with each fresh revelation from the register of members’ interests inspiring both violent disgust at the largesse of our leaders and weasely fascination with how the other half live. What the mob seemed impervious to was the constant klaxon call that nothing illegal, or often really even underhand, had actually been done.

The specific items that MPs had claimed on expenses were often farcical, such as Jacqui Smith’s husband’s claim for a hareem of prostitutes and Douglas Hogg’s claim for a space castle, or petty, such as Alistair Darling's reimbursement for half of a penny sweet or Hazel Blears' claim for a single ant. What they were not, in the traditional sense, was news. One felt that public outrage and indignation was being transferred from the bankers, who had largely ignored the hissing and foaming of the masses, onto politicians, who have no choice by to take our idiot heckling seriously, no matter how unfair it may be. The overall result of the public’s rage at wealth, privilege and unaccountability is that they are now more likely to vote for a Conservative government. Good luck with that, guys.

Overall, 2009 was a cautionary tale about the danger of paying attention to the wrong things. From Susan Boyle’s matchingly mediocre looks and voice, to Obama’s Nobel Peace Prize for sending more troops to Afghanistan, to the appearance of a fat stupid racist on Britain’s premiere topical panel show, in 2009 we forgot what was important. Perhaps this was because our real problems – from the recession, to Pakistan, to Climate Change – seemed too big and impossible to properly contemplate, let alone take action on. In the final few episodes of the 2009 series, The Noughties stole once again from The Wire's playbook, reminding us with a failed Copenhagen agreement and dark mutterings about Yemen that it's all cyclical - for all the admitted defeats and perceived victories, little has really changed.