Saturday, 13 January 2018

HERE COMETH THE PURGE: IS THE FACEBOOK 'CLEAN-UP' CAUSE FOR CELEBRATION, OR CONCERN?




News just moves so damned fast nowadays.

In the UK we've had a cabinet reshuffle (after half of them quit), the resignation of Toby Young, an NHS crumbling before our eyes, Farage's suggestion of a second Brexit referendum, and in the U.S, a book about Trump, conflict with Bannon, natural disasters, 'stable genius-gate', and now the president just called every non-white country a shit-hole.

That was just the past few days.

Brexit, Trump, collusion with Russia, war with Korea, sanctions on Iran, ISIS, war in Syria, war in Yemen, war in Ukraine, travel bans, migrants, far-right rallies, fake news, mass shootings, social cleansing, institutionalised sexism, paedophile rings, the homelessness crisis, the NHS crisis, a looming financial crisis... it's all getting a bit much, isn't it?

It's hardly surprising many just want to close their eyes and ears to it - just to 'switch off'. But sadly, it's exactly when populaces do that, that the worst things are liable to be done in their name.

Has the world always been so frantic? Or does it just seem so because of the advance of social media technology, and the fact it's so much more in our faces? Are we just more acutely aware of what was always happening any way? The answer to the that is complex. Yes, probably... to a degree. Politics have always been toxic: it's just now we can all see it. But at the same time, only someone with their head truly buried in the sand could ever suggest there aren't major geopolitical changes taking place at present, or that things don't seem to be turning a little pear-shaped.

All the political division and bitter discourse of recent times has understandably caused many everyday people to resent politics, and more so, those 'political types' who insist on dragging misery into their 'perfect' social media worlds - where only shiny happy pictures are permitted, and boasts of all the wonderful things they're doing with their lives. In other words, those who are happy and secure in their lives (who need not worry about beastly 'politics') are fed up with being tainted by the unhappiness and frustrations of angry people, those less fortunate, and those demanding justice. Boo hoo. 

It seems Mark Zuckerberg agrees. Recent news reports slipped in among all the chaos state that Facebook is planning to do a major clamp-down on 'media and business posts', and to re-structure people's newsfeeds so they hear mostly from 'friends and family'. But amid talk of making the platform more 'friendly' and accessible, less noisy, there's a whispered undercurrent as to what this is all really about: the battle against 'fake news'.

The rise of the 'political celebrity'


Facebook has admittedly become quite an unpleasant place - but no more than Twitter I'd argue. Whereas Instagram is probably okay, as it seems a platform mostly designed for shallow grunting cave-people, who like to communicate with pictures.

Ironically, I daresay even the political ranters get very tired of so much ranting on Facebook. Becoming a 'political voice' is the new, more inclusive X-Factor: anyone can have a go.

It's a pattern that's dogged me my entire life to be fair, much to my frustration. I wanted to be a singer and musician when it was a fairly specialised vocation, next came reality TV, then everyone and their dog started thinking themselves a singer. I've watched the industry devolve into a saturated, shameless and vacuous mug's game as a result. Similarly, I've been writing and talking about politics on social media for ten years plus now while everyone else I knew was sharing cat videos; in the past two years I've seen more political blogs and political 'celebrities' spring up, commanding vast swathes of sycophants, than in the entirety of my time on social media before that.

Katie Hopkins, Paul Joseph Watson, Tommy Robinson, Milo Yiannopoulos... and dozens more.

Strangely, I personally moaned for years that nowhere near enough people were paying attention, that more people should take an interest in politics. Careful what you wish for. Now I can't help but think too many cooks spoil the broth. And actually, now everybody is shouting, it was possibly better when the medium of political discussion was niche, unofficially reserved for those who genuinely closely follow current events (not just sound bites) and know what they're talking about. Look at the carnage that widespread ignorance has caused.


Baby out with the bath water


Objectively, that is what we'd hope Zuckerberg is trying to counteract. But there's a very real danger that the 'baby will be thrown out with the bath-water'. Our freedoms, particularly our internet freedoms and freedom of speech are incredibly fragile - and once they've been taken away, not only will they be incredibly hard to win back, but we've pretty much sealed our own fate.

One problem is that 'fake news', to most people any way, will be an entirely subjective concept. Ask anyone mainstream or on the right in the UK, and they'd point you in the direction of publications like The Canary. Ask anyone on the left, and they'd point out that publications like The Canary sprung up exactly to counteract right-wing propaganda and spin.

And it's exactly the ambiguity of the blanket term 'fake news' that's so frightening. It can literally mean absolutely anything the people in charge want it to describe. Those in charge of Facebook, the police, the government... THEY get to decide. Words can't really stress how dangerous that is, not least given the authoritarian turn our societies seem to be taking. We all gasp and jeer at leaders like Erdogan silencing the press and civil dissent in Turkey, but really, the same thing is happening in Britain - just more gradually, more subversively. Small piece at a time. Only a few days ago, I saw a Facebook user video showing a van load of UK police attending a union sanctioned strike, blocking and man-handling protesters. We ain't got Bobbies to police the streets, or to stem knife crime and acid attacks, but God forbid large companies in league with the government should lose out on profits. Meanwhile at the same time, they're proposing rounding up homeless people in Windsor to avoid unsightliness at the next royal wedding, and new scratchcards to gift the Queen a yacht.

The police in the UK and America are gradually becoming enforcers of corporatism, not the rule of law. A privatised police force, as prolific authors like Orwell predicted. If those same principles are applied to social media now (more so than they already are), we're in real trouble.


Upsetting the apple cart


What this is really about is that left-wing voices and ideologies are now heard. For a while, a good long while, the powers-that-be were unable to silence them. Political discourse and journalism were no longer merely the realm of cold, distant and passionless words - of facts and figures voiced by a disassociated clique, to whom small matters like poverty, starvation, war and injustice are just words in a conversation. Referenced as flippantly as anyone else might 'tea & cake'.

Emotions, passion, righteous anger... these are things most distasteful to the privileged and moneyed classes, who really just wish the plebs would shut-up.

The independent online journalism 'epidemic' really started with left-wing blogs and activists, mostly since 2010: when openly hard-line Conservative politics again took root in Britain. The left-wing started to fight-back. The wide availability of information meant that those who paid attention started recognising lies, and asking questions. They gained traction. Skip forward five years, we had a genuinely socialist leader of the Labour party in Jeremy Corbyn. Then, despite every effort of the right-wing and mainstream press to destroy him, the activists and independent left-wing press who championed him (of which I'd consider myself a very small part) almost upset the apple cart at the 2017 General Election.

The 'noise' has only ramped up in the last few years because the right-wing caught up. The likes of The Daily Mail, The Sun and The Express were losing their grip, so the same factions started making their presence felt on social media - perhaps even more effectively. The left and centre weren't at all ready for the level of callous dishonesty and unashamed manipulation they'd employ, which is how we ended up with Brexit, and Trump. The angry clash between the two parties on both sides of the Atlantic has been making one helluva din ever since, and social media insanely toxic.

'Woke' populations


It's hardly surprising that 'woke' populations, aware of the corruption rife among those supposedly governing in their interests, go hand in hand with civil unrest. It's a legitimate and justifiable response. It's also how humankind and civil rights made progress, mostly in the twentieth century - when rich men and dictators robbed millions of everyday people of their lives, in a grandiose game of chess. The free press and freedom of information played a big part in that progress, which in turn is now amplified beyond imagination by social media.

However, now the suggestion and general feeling is that instead of embracing truth and justice like we did in the past, being informed is actually a bad thing. No, we all need to go back to being 'ambivalent'. Eg: instead of visibly addressing widespread malcontent, the establishment's answer is to forcibly shut our eyes, and tell us not to care. To let them get on with it. 

Nor is it coincidence that it's happening precisely as we concurrently see the beginnings of assault on education and learning in Britain. Smart, well informed people rock the boat. (The French Revolution began in universities, after all.)

The real target


Social media news has certainly engaged younger generations in ways that newspapers always struggled. They generally only appealed to 'boring elites' in suits, and people looking for gossip and/or tits on page three. That youth engagement is incredibly dangerous to an establishment that actively relies on little people just accepting their lot in life, and not paying much attention.

If the wide availability of news and information on Facebook is shut-down, or at very least severely hamstrung, the right-wing press will survive. Rupert Murdoch will survive. Those who've always controlled the flow of information will survive. The large corporations who profit on misery will survive. Left-wing causes may not. It's a very deliberate step to silence the likes of The Canary, Evolve Politics, Sqwawk Box, Another Angry Voice, and also more 'respected' left-wing varieties like the Huffington Post, The Independent, and The New European. Not to mention little old blogs like mine too. Eg: those who rely on social media circulation. 

Yes a few publications like Westmonster and Media Guido might get taken down with us, but there's more than enough bile and spin to take their place. The BBC alone have probably got it covered. Social media news allows the populace to decide what's important and what's not: it interrupts the intended news cycle of what we're supposed to forget, or simply not notice. (Grenfell survivors, for example, would have been long forgotten without the advent of social media activism. And Toby Young would now be in office. Two drops in an ocean.)

So as much as many of us would prefer to rewind the clock, back to before the world chose insanity, and no-one cared too much for politics...back to when Facebook was just for funny videos and pictures of cats, please friends don't be too quick to condemn us to the potential darkness of ignorance and easy manipulation. The only 'clamp-down' should be upon those who disseminate false, unverified, and unsubstantiated material.

Because of course, the simply huge elephant in the room, is the only people who get political updates on Facebook any way, are those who've actively chosen to see them. Anyone who wants to clean up their timeline and/or bury their head in the sand, can already do so very easily.

What Zuckerberg, or those pulling his strings seem to be removing, is that very ability to choose. I'm not sure I can celebrate that.
 

Thursday, 11 January 2018

PLEASE STOP HARPING ON ABOUT LIB DEM "BETRAYAL". BLAME THE ORGAN GRINDER, NOT THE MONKEY.




I just don't get it. It's infuriating. The same old lines about "betrayal", and how Lib Dems must never be trusted again. It's so absolutist, and so tiresome.

Let me break it down simply.

Dave and Nick rent a house together. Dave pays dramatically more of the rent than Nick and has a much higher regular income, but Nick has the initial lump sum to pay the deposit. Without Dave's greater income, never could Nick afford to live in that house, but without Nick, Dave can't quite get the house either. They both need it to get to work easily. So they do a deal.

Yes they play friendly and try to get along initially, compromise where possible, but the imbalance becomes very obvious very quickly. Nick later finds out Dave is a right bastard. Which one of them do you think gets final say in the house? Will Nick get any say in anything at all really, when Dave takes very obvious pleasure in pointing out he has all the money, and he pays all the bills?

No is the answer.

“The souls of emperors and cobblers are cast in the same mould. The same reason that makes us wrangle with a neighbour creates a war betwixt princes.”― Michel de Montaigne

What I'm trying to say, is the analogy of an everyday situation like a 'house share' possibly isn't as daft as it might first appear.

If you don't like that analogy, how about the Bible? Where does it say that if a party/person or organisation makes a mistake, they can categorically never be trusted again? Or their words should cease to carry any worth at all?

On the contrary, in the words of Jesus Christ, our (alleged) Lord and saviour:

"Let he without sin cast the first muthaf**king stone."

Okay, I may be paraphrasing slightly, but you get the point.

I refuse to bow to this idea we must all follow one party and/or leader blindly, rather than judging by the policies they propose and what physically comes out their mouths. That is tribalism, plain and simple.

Am I a fan of Tony Blair? No. Did I agree with his role in the Iraq war, or somehow condone it? Not in the slightest. Do I think he was virtually a Tory in disguise? Yes. (But hey, at least he was that now sorely missed breed of Tory who merely pursued wealth as the end-goal, as opposed to these hard-right ideological Tories we now face.)

However, do I also think he's saying some sensible things about Brexit, and the future of this country? Yes, yes I do. And I do sorely miss the days when a British statesman of gravitas could put Nigel Farage in his place, like this:


As much as I support Corbyn in many regards, certainly his ethics, I shall not be sucked into refusing to acknowledge what other reasonable and pragmatic people have to say, labelling them "scum" and "traitors" etc on account of mistakes made by former leaders, back before Brexit was even an issue. It's senseless.

Though in fairness, Lib-Dem supporters and many ardent remainers are just as rude and dismissive about Corbyn too. It's just such a bloody mess, and very depressing.

Meanwhile the Brexiters and far-right are cackling, rolling around in the spoils of our demise. 


Suing the doorman


It's just so bizarre. Some Labour supporters apparently hate the Lib Dems and resent them so much, and vice versa, they're both effectively willing to give a free pass to the party that physically caused all the woes! Like suing the doorman, rather than the owner of the company that screwed you.

It seems to me that reasonable western populaces needs to wake up sharpish, and remember the meaning of 'compromise'. To take stock of the fact that sometimes those we disagree with, or even oppose, might have a point and be right about some things. We need to stay talking, acknowledging shades of grey; not become polarised into two teams of mortal enemies on single principles alone. That way lies ruin.

The minute you stop listening to someone on account of who they are or something they once did, as opposed to the merit of what they say, you're in very shady and prejudiced territory. Prejudice never benefits an informed or rational analysis. Ever.

DEAR LUVVIE FRIENDS WORKING IN MUSICAL THEATRE, PLEASE LIGHTEN UP A TAD?



I must admit to being slightly amused by various friends and former colleagues in Musical Theatre being up-in-arms about an article in The Guardian yesterday, where writer Stuart Heritage lays into the genre in admittedly, quite brutal fashion:




It's probably no coincidence that I really liked it! The success of Frankie Boyle's writing for The Guardian has obviously rubbed off here. And I say bravo.
"Maybe we’ll get to see a musicless version of Cats, where some cats introduce themselves and then nothing else happens."
That genuinely made me laugh out loud.

Luvvie friends, please. It's clearly a comic article, pitched in the most insulting way possible for comic effect. A style I'm rather partial to myself. Please please ditch the outrage.

A lot of people hate musicals, deal with it. For those who do, this piece is undeniably rather funny. Similarly, anyone who likes musicals is not going to stop going to see them or suddenly start hating them as a result of this chap sharing his opinion. Are former colleagues really suggesting that a writer shouldn't be free to take the mick, or publish his/her thoughts on a very much Marmite art-form? Really? And on account of what...their sense of personal offence?

Dare I say, the overreaction seems a tad 'snowflakey'.

Whereas that's normally a jeer by the soulless right-wing to describe anyone with the vaguest sense of compassion or decency, in this instance, I'd have to say it does actually demonstrate the derisory 'limp and weak' qualities they mock. I don't think it helps the perceived 'liberal' cause or credibility, being brutally honest.

On a personal note, even my partner Lucy and I - who both trained in Musical Theatre at one of the country's top drama schools and even knew perhaps fifty percent of the supporting cast - could not sit through the Les Miserables film. Sorry guys.

The truth is, we turned it off after twenty minutes. It was genuinely traumatic; the equivalent of audio-visual self-harm. Director Tom Hooper's decision to have the cast over-act like they were on stage, and glower down the camera lens singing, was truly one of the most horrific things I've ever witnessed on celluloid.

"Do you hear the people sing?" Yes. In fact I still have nightmares about it.


Wednesday, 10 January 2018

MY PLEA TO VINCE CABLE & THE LIB DEMS: "DITCH THE SMEAR, AND SORT YOURSELVES OUT".




Dear Vince Cable, and the Liberal Democrats.

This morning, I encountered this video from you on social media:



I have a few things to say about it, and hope someone from the party might pay them heed.

I am a swing Labour/Lib Dem voter. And I've also written for two of the publications that unequivocally helped Corbyn garner support in the UK against considerable odds - those supposedly odious and untrustworthy publications The Canary, and Evolve Politics. I eventually parted company with them for a number of reasons, but partially because of my inclination for the centre ground, the Lib Dems, and my preference for more moderate centre-ground politics. (Not to mention I follow policies, not a cult of celebrity.)

I've written pieces that defended the Lib Dems, and Nick Clegg specifically, that have often literally alienated me from Labour supporters, and one even got me blocked by Momentum members.

So please believe me when I say, as someone who supports you to a degree, this sort of social media campaigning is remarkably lack-lustre, and simply won't cut it in modern day political discourse. Not in Britain in 2018. You need to be fighting a battle for the soul of this country. There is a war for hearts and minds occurring, in case you hadn't noticed. A cutesy little piano 'Maple Leaf Rag' and a demeaning pic of the opposition leader, with a list of supposedly awful things he did, is really quite a shocking effort.

In short... ditch the smear, and sort yourselves out.

For God's sake, focus on what the Tories have done wrong, the countless ways they've ravaged our country, and the things you'd do to save our necks. You need to realise that Corbyn now, bizarrely, really IS like Obi-Wan Kenobi... the more you try to strike him down, the more powerful he will become.

Really, you guys also need some 'big-guns' willing to help you properly engage in this social media war. Someone not afraid to cut to the nub of issues in fairly frank fashion, to tug on heart-strings. (You need someone like me, and I'm available by the way.) People may want gentler, more humanist politics in the UK, but they're getting increasingly angry about their absence. Sometimes you need to fight for decency. Scoring points that are small-fry, the politics of inter-party bickering:...the British people are bored of it, it's not what they want to hear. The Tories too were snooty about independent online/grass-roots journalism and its effects, and it nearly cost them the election in 2017. Now they've wised up, and are getting in on the act too. The Lib Dems need to as well, if they are to have any hope to survive.

I've been a Lib Dem voter most of my life; only in recent years have I supported Labour. I support most of Corbyn's policies in truth, other than his position on Europe and defence, but more than anything, I recognise he is a good man. That is why your smear tactics will inevitably fail. (As did Murdoch's and Dacre's.) I also recognise Labour are in an impossible situation: if they come out clearly against Brexit, we WILL have a Tory Brexit, of that there is no doubt. Corbyn walks a precarious path. While there is ambiguity, both remainers and leavers have a reason to vote for Corbyn: opposition to the Tories. They are forced to judge on factors other than Brexit. Take that away, and sit back and watch support for the Tories spike beyond recognition, and maybe even the return of UKIP.

You lot really need to stop scoring points, and start making allies of one another. Along with the Greens, the SNP, and Plaid Cymru... anyone and anything to stop this Tory coup of Britain. SO many people are praying for it to happen; I wish the Lib Dems and Labour would see it.

Yours faithfully,

Alex McNamara


Tuesday, 9 January 2018

MUSIC TODAY: ROCK STARS SUING POP STARS FOR PLAGIARISING SONGS THEY PLAGIARISED




It's nice to talk about something other than politics occasionally.

Although I suppose, if one were intent on being a real pedant, everything we talk about and discuss are 'politics' of some variety. Even the porn industry doubtlessly has its politics. Though admittedly, you're less likely to find them discussed in The Sunday Times.

Rock star sues pop star


I read this morning that Radiohead are suing Lana Del Ray for ripping off their song 'Creep': a song I happen to know rather well, and loved dearly as a kid. Apparently Ms Ray's song 'Get Free' was more than a bit reminiscent of the Oxford-born misery-peddlers' original masterpiece. But that's not something we're unaccustomed to today, is it?

As a man approaching thirty-nine, I can safely say the ageing process brings with it select joys, such as nasal hair, random strands sprouting from your ears, aching joints, and the inability to walk up stairs without farting. But also a keen ear for popular music that's been ripped off by whippersnappers.

Musical plagiarism is something I'm torn about. I trained as a musician for the entirety of my childhood education and beyond; I'd also say my musical tastes are pretty eclectic by anyone's standards. And as any self-respecting music fan would probably have to acknowledge, nearly everyone has borrowed something from someone else. I remember the day I discovered one of Andrew Lloyd Webber's most iconic theme tunes - 'The Phantom of the Opera' motif - was nicked pretty much directly from Pink Floyd's 'Echoes': it was quite a revelation, and one I hadn't expected.

But listening to other musicians is how budding musicians develop and grow. Hell, it's how most things develop! It's called progress. Houses and buildings constructed today are built upon the architecture of previous generations. Cars today are based on older ones that originated in the early Twentieth Century. It's a very natural order for things. The saying "imitation is the sincerest form of flattery" holds true in many situations, not least in music. And I'd generally hate to think that any musician or author should hold rights to a good chord progression simply because they got there first; there's only so many physically possible for a start.

'Self determined'


The other thing is, not all musicians are songwriters - some don't possess that gift, and/or instead follow careers as performers, performing the work of others. For some reason this is perfectly acceptable if you're a classical or jazz musician, performing the works of Bach or Miles Davis, but if you choose more recent popular music... still in living memory, there's often a peculiar snobbery about it. Especially in the UK. I know. I sang in the number-one 'tribute band' in the world for five years, selling out arenas and theatres worldwide...outselling even 'legitimate' bands I loved growing up - something that often astounded me. But there was still always that stigma of being 'cheap knock-offs' in Britain - where we as a population are generally spoiled, self-entitled, overly hostile, critical of those with talents far exceeding our own, and keen to put down anyone and everyone we can.

Sorry. What I mean to say is, we're 'self determined'.

The point is, I'm not averse to musical ideas being re-formed and rebranded. In fact I rather enjoy it - in fact I possibly feel slightly smarter for being able to recognise the influences! So I was certainly rather shocked to read Radiohead are demanding 100% of the royalties from Lana Del Ray's song, 'Get Free'. That seemed a bit extreme. If Ed Sheeran can get away with re-writing/releasing TLC's 'No Scrubs' under the name 'The Shape Of You' - and be on top of the charts for a whole frickin' year - how badly could Lana have ripped off 'Creep'?

Then I listened on Spotify. Wow. Fair play. As shameless plagiarism as it comes. Bad Lana.

It's one thing to borrow an element of a well known song... a motif, a rhythm, a chord progression, even a lyric.... quite another to literally 'borrow' the exact same chord progression for the entirety of the song and the same structure, not acknowledge the theft, then pass it off as entirely your own. Lana's vocal line in 'Get Free' is very different, but it's unmistakably 'Creep' underneath.

Very bad Lana. Or so I thought.

Taking the piss


Keen to share positively anything worth discussing on social media that's NOT politics related these days (I'm keen to hold on to the few remaining friends I have), and knowing a fairly plentiful pool of musicians, I thought it was worth a sardonic post.

Lo and behold... literally moments later, a couple of friends corrected me - pretty much schooling my own musical knowledge. Musical education never ends; it's a beautiful thing.

It turns out that 'Creep' by Radiohead itself was an incredibly blatant plagiarism of another famous, older song. A song that somehow, until now, had escaped me - called 'The Air That I Breathe' (no, not the Simply Red version) by The Hollies. And that Radiohead themselves were apparently sued for exactly the same thing by the song's composers Albert Hammond and Mike Hazlewood!

Again, I had a listen. (From the consumer point of view, admit it, Spotify is great.)

If anything, the plagiarism is even more striking. Lana, or her production team, nicked the chords and wrote her own soulful vocal tune to go over the top. Radiohead nicked the chords and the vocal melody!

That makes the whole situation entirely ridiculous. You can't sue someone for plagiarising what you've obviously already plagiarised?! That's like doing a caricature of the Mona Lisa, then complaining someone else has done their own.



I do have admiration for Radiohead. No one paints musical despair and angst quite like those chaps, and it's often quite beautiful. A healthy respect for them too, given their support of the fight for justice for Scott Johnson: the drum technician tragically killed in Canada in 2012. But come on guys... haranguing a young pop star for nicking a song you already nicked is frankly taking the piss. Take it as a compliment and move on. You're rich enough, you're still making money from music today, and hypocrisy is a truly ugly trait.

They could have even been really cool, and offered to do some kind of mash-up.

One can't help but think of all the problems the world is facing at present, the vast fortunes both Radiohead and Lana Del Ray have amassed. The people struggling even to eat, or keep a roof over their heads. The doubtlessly exorbitant court costs and lawyer's fees incurred by the law suit, or the resources it will occupy instead of worthy causes and situations crying out for justice. And it leaves rather a sour taste.

On a lighter note, I now understand why every generation typically grumbles about the music of those later, complaining "it's all been done before".

It really has.

Tuesday, 2 January 2018

HOW THE HELL DID TOBY YOUNG GET HIS "D**K UP THE ARSE" OF HIGHER EDUCATION IN BRITAIN??



It's funny. I'm often forced to reflect on the ways I've adversely affected my own performing career through political writing in recent years, and my inclination for rather frank discussion. I couldn't even hazard a guess how many hours I've worried myself silly, thinking about the people I've alienated, how many friends have turned their back, or the number of doors that have slammed shut because of it. It keeps me awake at night; I live with that legacy every day.

Which is why I am so utterly confounded and bemused, so entirely outraged, that concurrently individuals like Toby Young - the new Tory 'minister for universities' - experience literally the exact opposite.

Frogmarched out the door


I was physically sacked in mid 2017 by an organisation called 'Rock Choir' as a choir leader, the instant they found out about my writing and political activism - more specifically, my left-wing activism and support for Jeremy Corbyn. No exaggeration to say I was literally frogmarched out the door without any justification, or even an opportunity to protest. And all because the night before, at the end of an unpaid training week, I'd suggested I use a different name for my work with them - so not to cause the company any unwanted complications with my writing for Evolve Politics at the time. I was trying to be pragmatic, and to do the right thing!

At that stage their CEO, Caroline Redman Lusher, and/or Rock Choir's leadership team went away and checked out my online material. I was let go within fifteen minutes of arriving the next morning, no reason given other than "I was not the sort of person they wanted working for them".

Then the company had the gall to threaten me with legal action, should I dare to speak out about their treatment of me, or report/speculate why they literally sacked me overnight. They warned they would be 'monitoring me' (quote). Sadly I don't generally respond well to threats and intimidation. My late mum brought me up to believe you should never fear telling the truth, and that's the mantra I live by.

So if anyone from Rock Choir is reading this, tough titty: your company's conduct was nothing short of disgusting; I'm not afraid to say it.

Worse still, they're the tip of the iceberg in Britain today. The year before that, after leaving Aussie Floyd, I went to work for a year in the car industry. And if you wanna learn firsthand a thing or two about exploitation, and working like a slave on minimum wage for horrid and often quite ignorant/bigoted people, I highly recommend it.

One rule for some  


But let alone having their careers negatively affected by controversial (and arguably distasteful) opinions they've aired in the public sphere, commentators like Toby Young actively go from strength to strength. They're now, albeit incomprehensibly, being appointed to government.

The difference? They're supported and backed by the right people.

Even when they've said things so horrid, infantile and outlandish... things that would never even occur to a horrible, supposedly 'militant leftie' (like me) to say in a public space. Things like this:




That is the Tories' new minister for universities, Britain. Breathe a deep breath of pride.

There's a veritable treasure trove of this stuff out there; not a flash in the pan. Toby Young has been playing to the misogynistic 'moneyed boys club' for quite some time. Years in fact. He's a younger, balder, Nigel Farage.





We've already seen the repercussions in America of politicians who believe that sort of sordid and disrespectful 'locker-room talk' is acceptable, and even desirable. I'm sure Toby would get on very well with President Trump. They'd no doubt enjoy grabbing pussies together. And sadly, Young's appointment is unequivocally a symptom of this Anglo-American 'alignment' of right-wing values we're currently experiencing in Britain. Eg: it's okay to be a vile bigoted thug espousing divisive and repellent things, as long as you're conceived to stand for the right demographic (no pun intended).

But of all departments, to assign such a misogynistic and odious thug (albeit one with a degree and a posh accent) to effectually represent Britain's universities: the revered institutions of learning and culture that truly once made Britain great?? Well...it's just an insult. And given the recent assault on Britain's higher education institutions by The Daily Mail and other right-wing entities, simply for challenging the Tory coup that is Brexit Britain, we should all be really rather concerned. 

It's barely a stretch to now foresee this Tory government appointing Katie Hopkins as minister for journalism, Tommy Robinson as minister for Islamic relations, or Gary Glitter as minister for schools.


Tip of the iceberg


Maybe we could forgive Toby Young for acting like a teenage boy discovering his first boner, if the ideals and 'virtues' he stood for were nobler and more responsible. Sadly, the truth could not be any more different. He is a veritable beacon and neon-flashing warning sign as to the type of people we are allowing governance of Britain today. 

The fact he was appointed on the very first day of 2018 (perhaps the Tories hoped Britain was hungover and would fail to notice), could hardly be a more depressing omen.

Let's start off with the fact he's grotesquely ill-qualified. He literally knows nothing and has no experience of working in education. He's a journalist, or rather, to coin the description by Lynn Barber writing for The Guardian in 2006:

"a shameless publicist the world loves to loathe, who crashed and burned as a New York journalist, a London playwright and a Hollywood screenwriter."

I won't simply repeat everything that's already been reported by left-wing press (eg: independent online publications mostly). Tom Pride has done a lot of the work for me, if you'd like to cross-reference.

But suffice to say Toby Young - the new minister for universities - did not get into Oxbridge on merit, but instead because his family were well-off and moved in the right circles. They were able to manipulate (eg: bribe) the system. He then later made outlandish comments that 'working class' students who got into Oxbridge on actual merit, were 'ugly' and effectively 'lowered the tone'. 

Bad enough? Nope. He's also actively argued that making provisions for disabled students in schools is "ghastly political correctness", and openly suggested that a student with physical impairments will also likely have an impaired mind. Ergo, they are holding back the development of other more 'worthwhile' students. 

Yeah... go fuck yourself Stephen Hawking.

Viable use of resources


Young's task bequeathed by the Tories is to turn Britain's universities into a soulless cash-making machine. As we know, disabled people usually need society's help and support - they're not generally a cash-cow to be exploited, so it's hardly surprising he doesn't see them as a viable use of resources.

In fact, what Young really prides himself as supporting is 'progressive eugenics'. The definition of which is "the selection of desired heritable characteristics in order to improve future generations, typically in reference to humans".

If that doesn't send a cold shiver up your spine, allow me to explain why it should. The last government that openly and unapologetically supported theories of 'eugenics' was a little known group called 'the Nazis'. In fact, Hitler's book Mein Kampf - 'my struggle' - was in part his accounting for how and why eugenics should be incorporated into Germany. His dream of a perfect Aryan 'master-race', and by implication, how we should go about removing all those who don't make the grade - a process later referred to as 'the Final Solution'.

The same 'Final Solution' that killed off my own father's family, because they were 'undesirable' Jews living in 1930s Austria. So you know what? I'll be damned if I'll stand by and say nothing, watching the beginnings of this play out in Britain. I don't frickin' care how many jobs or prospects I lose in the process. 

A nation does not turn to fascism overnight; it happens in stages - a palatable chunk at a time. A population that didn't challenge the last 'small change of policy' is very unlikely to challenge the next one... or the next, or the next. It's how Nazi Germany went from mere 'self-determination' to gas chambers, all in the space of a decade.

Toby Young is a big chunk. If we swallow this, God knows what's coming next. But one such eventuality I do sadly hypothesise is the fall of the NHS in Britain: something that will kill millions of people long term, and force countless more into poverty over generations. 

But hey...that's just part of the 'eugenic' theory of 'natural selection', isn't it? Survival of the fittest. Or the richest, at any rate. Pieces of a puzzle.

Men and women of my country. Please please wake the hell up to what's going on, before it's too late. 

Oh, and Happy New Year.

Friday, 29 December 2017

JEREMY CORBYN: ASTUTE POLITICAL PLAYER, OR STUBBORN OLD GOAT. WHICH IS IT?




It's the political shock wave of Christmas 2017: Jezza has apparently ruled out a second referendum on the terms of our exit from the EU. Some will not be surprised in the slightest, for many of us, it defies logic or belief.

The man that many in the UK see as a 'champion of decency' (including me) bizarrely seems to be supporting a Tory coup only actually voted for by 37% of the electorate - about 27% of the population. And even more bizarrely, a Tory coup opposed by many of his own MPs, and apparently most party members and Labour voters too:

Machiavellian tactics 


So Corbyn is either playing an incredibly smart game and waiting for the right moment to play his hand, or frankly he's a fool and stubborn old goat, turning his back on what the majority of decent and pragmatic people in his party (and the country) want.

I just wish I could work out which it is.

I've argued the former, for a long time. I thought I understood why Corbyn hadn't come out against Brexit. In fact a niche of Labour supporters seemed to appreciate any definitive intention to stop or reverse Brexit would split the Labour vote entirely, and effectively hand power to the Tories...gift-wrapped with a bow. That doesn't help anyone. And though it sounds cold and 'Machiavellian' to say aloud, 'good intentions' mean nothing in politics if you don't claw your way to power first. To some degree, the end must justify the means.

That ambiguity seemed to be working. Corbyn's turnaround from two years ago could not physically be more apparent. The man ridiculed as a laughing stock from all sides of the establishment, could today feasibly inherit the keys to Downing Street.

But even my faith in him is beginning to crumble now. It's one thing to mediate and to play the ambiguity, keeping options open, but quite another to refuse to acknowledge the wishes of half the nation... to pander to the Brexit mob, throwing fuel on the fire of insanity. I'm not sure I can get on board with the pretence that any of this has been democratic, or that we must now see through this self-harm as a point of principle.

Clinging to that thread of hope


It is still just about possible I guess, that my rather desperate 'hypothesis' has been correct, and continues to be. After all, nothing's changed really. Even now, if Corbyn opposed Brexit and/or argued formally for a second referendum, it would probably still hand power to the Tories. Such is the power of pig-headed nationalism in Britain today.

The risk is that many British citizens desperate to retain their EU guaranteed rights and liberties will be so furious about this, they will abandon him now. Eg: the balance of power will shift any way. Politically speaking, the Tories have played a blinder. Absolutely anything any of the other parties do to combat this madness is virtually falling into a trap deliberately set.

Yes, we all know Corbyn was a Eurosceptic. As was that icon of the left, Tony Benn. But not attending a party is very different from drunkenly crashing out of one, attempting to trash the joint on the way out and humiliate the hosts. I thought Corbyn got that, which was why he supported Remain - at least nominally. And I for one have always argued Benn too might have felt differently about us exiting the EU, had he lived to see the Tory coup intended to take its place, or the blank cheque it would hand them.

Maybe...just maybe Brexit somehow needs to die on its own. We've ludicrously reached a stage where outright opposition to it, is political suicide. Even for the Conservatives, even if they wanted to oppose it! It's a bale of hay that's built up such momentum, it's now accumulated the force of a freight train, and even economic suicide now seems preferable to admitting we cocked everything up royally. (Or risking upsetting the nationalists.)

Lesser of two evils


Jezza will still get my vote over the Tories (testicular cancer would get my vote over the Tories), but I've honestly never felt as politically homeless. I'm pretty disappointed, and on the verge of cancelling my Labour membership. I do not really want to financially support a party that refuses to protect Britain, simply to play politics. Yes, wherever possible you need to be smart and play the long game, but sometimes you just have to stand up and do/say what is right.

My fear is that if vast swathes of people feel the same (which I imagine they might), it could realistically seal our fate: marooning us on a lonely and impoverished Brexit Island, under the iron boot of the Tories. And that really is the worst thing that could possibly happen.

Plus...to be honest...a second referendum? I'm not sure that's the answer any way. As this whole shit-show has proved, as the Minister for Brexit himself so poignantly explained in 2002, referendums are dangerous. A license for mob rule. And if there's one thing I no longer have faith in, it's the sentience of my fellow countrymen and women, or their ability to recognise a pig in a poke when they see one. It's probably why our forefathers ran with Parliamentary Democracy in the first place. Heard the analogy of 'too many cooks'? Yes, well imagine that amplified by about 34 million.

No... enough of the lunatics running the asylum. We're better off putting a sane adult back in charge, with the balls to do right by their country, admit the categorical mistake made by a former Prime Minister, and cancel the whole damned thing.

I still hope against hope that will be Jeremy Corbyn. And even if not, I'm still confident average British people will be better off under him than a Tory government.

I don't have much alternative right now.