Things I thought

Monday 25 June 2012

Why David Starkey is 33 times more racist than the BNP

Footage emerged today of prominent Tudorphile and exemplary bellend David Starkey angrily haranguing oft-trolled bete noire of the right Laurie Penny at some sort of fucking function they were both at. The historian seemed rather tired and emotional as he attacked the reporter, cradling a glass of claret in one hand as he repeatedly jabbed a finger from the other in Ms Penny's rather startled face and accused her of requesting money in return for work.

What, you might wonder, had she done to so enrage the odious little tit? Ms Penny's crime - which was oddly not addressed in Starkey's rambling polemic - was to affirm David's status as one of Britain's foremost racists, a title I'd previously assumed he was rather proud of. On this particular occasion, Starkey had managed to use his appearance at an education festival to make a comment about a gang of pedophilic pimps having values that hailed "from the foothills of the Punjab" (as to whether those who live higher up the mountain ranges have better morals, Starkey remained silent).

While it should be clear to anyone with basic comprehension skills which side I'm taking in this fracas, I don't want to dedicate a blogpost to defending Laurie Penny, as she's more than fierce enough to do that herself. Instead, I'd like to dwell for a while on what an unspeakable prick David Starkey is, and why "saying the unsayable" (as he puts it) often translates into talking bollocks.

Those of you who weren't availing yourselves of the rich pickings on the high streets last year may have seen Mr. Starkey synonymise crime with blackness, and seemingly declare that those white people who took part in the riots only did so because they had "turned black", despite photographic evidence to the contrary. Understandably, most people was disgusted by this outburst, and many were left wondering why the police didn't use rubber bullets and tear gas against a historian who was clearly out of control. Fighting a courageously ill-informed rearguard action against common sense, Starkey eventually declared that "80% of gun crime is black!", waving his finger in the air like an out of work proctologist.

Most of you probably took the opportunity to pick apart Starkey's inglorious bollocks during August of last year. At that time I was somehow giving Her Majesty pleasure in one of her less auspicious properties, so was sadly alienated from the social melee. Bearing that in mind, please indulge me as I spend the next few paragraphs kicking seven lengths of cock out of this ugly myth.

Let's leave Starkey's grammarcide aside and assume what he meant to say was the 80% of gun crime is committed by black people. As just under 3% of Britons self-identify as black, this stat would be fairly astonishing if true and, like many such nuggets of statistical lore, it has a foothold independent of its veracity, echoing from sources as diverse as Diane Abbott and the BNP. So where does it come from?

It's hard to find anyone willing to go quite as far as Starkey in their claims - Abbott quotes the stat in relation to "black on black gun violence in London" and even the BNP only ascribe it to murders involving firearms (rather than all gun crime). Indeed, a little digging quickly reveals that only around 3% of UK gun crime results in death or serious injury (.PDF, page 11). At this point it's worth noting that the difference in scale makes David Starkey roughly 33 times more racist than the BNP*.

Starkey, Abbott and the BNP not only disagree on the exact nature of the statistic but all fail to cite any sources - indeed, for such an oft-repeated statistic, a source is hard to come by. The closest thing I've been able to find (and I admit this pure conjecture, as each party may just as easily have been picking numbers of the top of their heads) is a 2007 parliamentary memorandum from Trident, London's "black gun crime" unit, which claims that 79% of gun related homicide and shooting suspects in London are Afro-Carribean.

Assuming that this is where the original data eminates from, there are obviously a few problems. First of all, all coppers are bastards and cannot be trusted - doubly so when it's one of the most racist branches of the famously racist metropolitan police pontificating on the relationship between race and crime. Secondly, even if we do trust the Met's statistics, they only claim that 79% of suspects (rather than convicts) are Afro-Carribean. Anyone who's able to lob half a brain cell at this should find themselves unsurprised that, when a crime happens, the police often think a black person did it. By Trident's own admission, in only one in eight of their cases is a suspect actually found guilty.

All of which is to say that when a bad man uses bad statistics to make a bad point that's bad. It would perhaps be better if David Starkey spent a little less time excoriating Laurie Penny for her "exorbitant fees", and spent a little more time hitting the books to earn the ones he demands for himself.

* If the BNP are claiming that black people are responsible for 80% of gun related homicides, and these represent 3% of overall gun crime, the BNP is claiming that black people are responsible for 2.4% of all firearms offences. David Starkey meanwhile claims black people commit 80% of all gun crime, making him 33.3 times more racist than Nick Griffen's big bullshit bigots club.

Saturday 9 June 2012

Crass Comedy And Crooked Coppers

Trigger warning for discussions of rape culture. 

I've spent a lot of the last week thinking about rape culture. This is partly because I don't spend enough time at parties, but mainly because there seems to be a lot of it about lately. Take last Monday, for example, when overproduction at the fuckwit factory produced the #ItsNotRapeIf hashtag. Surprisingly, for something that should have been pretty straightforward, the sheer weight of inaccurate definitions made the hashtag trend, at which point most of my feed began either stabbing their own eyes out or mercilessly mocking the cockends responsible.

A day or so beforehand, and just two years after the rest of the internt, I'd discovered the Dickwolves controversy. To be honest, in this case I was more shocked by the whiney, butthurt and self-righteous response of the comic's authors than by the joke itself. That's not to say the original comic didn't cross a line - it did - but it edged across it, while the #ItsNotRapeIf hashtag cleared the thing like a triple jumper.

Then last night The Guardian reported that another member of the Met's specialist anti-rape unit may have in fact been working for the Met's secret specialist pro-rape unit, both of which have the exact same name and membership. At least two officers from the Sapphire unit are now under investigation for tampering with evidence in order to sabotage, derail or simply end ongoing rape investigations. Read that again. Police officers have been breaking the law in order to help rapists get away with it. I genuinely thought the behaviour of our constabulary couldn't shock me any more - I expect them to be venal, violent, self-serving, greedy, corrupt, selfish, lazy, uncaring and bastards - but something about this really took my breath away. While we don't know all the facts yet, the most likely explanation for this bullshit behaviour is that officers routinely assumed that women who reported crimes were lying. Indeed they were so sure of this fact that they broke the law in order to make sure that no proper investigation could be conducted.

It's sometimes hard to see the links between rape culture and its effects, but in this case I think the lines between the dots are clear and stark. These are men so distrustful, hateful or contemptuous of survivors that they'd risk everything to help those accused escape justice. This is rape culture made flesh, the logical end product of a society that thinks that rape is something safe to joke about and acceptable to ignore.

I could write a long, sad, angry missive about these things and how they tesselate, but this clusterfuck of misogyny has already made me feel pretty shit and powerless. So instead I'd like to ask: what can we do about it? The police may be broadly untouchable - you can't even shoot at them these days without the nanny state breathing down your neck - but rape culture, while pernicious, is surely something we can have an effect on? I'd like to write more about how here, but the topic is far too big to tackle in a single sitting. To that end I'll be applying both of my brain cells to the problem in upcoming blog/s, and sharing my naive/patronising thoughts with you, my already well informed readers. Feel free to tell me this is a bad idea. Otherwise, stay tuned.

Saturday 2 June 2012

God Save The Queen

The historic day has finally come round and, aside from a handful of naysayers, the whole of Britain will go away with joyous memories of this year's most anticipated event: The Royal Execution.

Monarchists will argue that the sense of national jubilation had more to do with the four day weekend than any real desire to see Her Majesty receive her final severance package. Still, any such voices will have to contend with the pictures seen round the world of exuberant commoners dancing in the Queen's blood, their happy children kicking her head again and again against the hard stone of Nelson's column. Try telling them they didn't want to see the Head of The Commonwealth dead.

The day was filled with all the pomp and pageantry you'd expect from any royal event. As planned, at dawn on Saturday a small cadre of Beefeaters defected and opened the palace gates to a baying mob of peasants: dressed in a daring sack-cloth and cardboard ensemble stunningly envisioned by Sarah Burton, the mob was a rhapsody in brown. Thirty thousand of Her Majesty's lowliest subjects stormed the palace, tearing priceless paintings from the walls, downing hundred year old bottles of champagne and generally ripping the place apart in a beautifully choreographed display of wanton destruction. The Corgis, finally liberated, cantered into the streets of London, celebrating their newfound and long awaited freedom by pissing literally everywhere.

The scenes that came next, of a captured and dishevelled Monarch weeping on her balcony as she was ordered to confess the crimes of her reign, will stay with many of us forever and are already commemorated in a tasteful collection of nine decorative plates (£14.99 + P&P. Quote "Anarchish" when you order to get a historic figurine carved from Prince Charles' bones absolutely free).

The Sovereign did not take much prompting to begin a long and eloquent speech listing the many ways in which she had betrayed her realm and subjects. The confidence in her trained voice was belied only by the shaking of her hands and the occasional vomiting. Indeed, to universal surprise, the confession lasted 14 hours, and scholars for years to come will debate whether its thoroughness was due to genuine remorse or a desire to prolonge what was left of her glorious life.

Her multitude malfeasance admitted to, the Chief Hunter of The Manitoban Order of the Buffallo Hunt
was thrown onto a turnip cart and paraded down Whitehall. Hundreds of thousands of onlookers waved, cheered and joined in ironic chants of "God Save The Queen" as the red and black bunting fluttered overhead. At the end of the mall, the prime minister, David Cameron, sobbingly prepared the guillotine before selflessly allowing the executioner a practice swipe on his own neck. At last, the special moment had arrived. The Sovereign of The Most Ancient And Most Noble Order Of The Thistle knelt down and pushed her head through the special hole, before a child from a local comprehensive who'd won a competition pulled the lever and ended her. I'll never forget the loud cheering, the popping of liberated champagne corks or the horribly final chopping sound.

Since the Queen demanded to be beheaded for her jubilee just over a year ago, the nation has been coming to terms with the decision. She was, as she correctly pointed out, a grotesque anachronism, an unaffordable white elephant and, in the 21st century, a national embarrassment . A royal execution would stimulate the economy and help the tourist industry. Finally, she added, if she had to hear "God Save The Queen" one more fucking time, she'd find a gun and do it herself.