Thursday, 19 October 2017

'STERN-BUNTON-GATE': WHO'S NEXT FOR THE CHOPPING BLOCK, AND WHERE COULD THIS LEAD?



The Weinstein scandal: the gift that keeps on giving.

I've seen quite a few folks sharing this hideous video today, of Howard Stern interviewing Emma Bunton back in 2005:



I admit, watching it makes me feel sick to my stomach. Creepy to the max, and very uncomfortable viewing. All-the-more uncomfortable for me, as in the past I've enjoyed a lot of Howard Stern's work; the guy's been an iconic pioneer for rock music, as well as freedom of speech for decades now.

As usual though, I shall endeavour to offer a side to the argument that most will be unwilling or too uncomfortable to explore, or even entertain.

One - and perhaps most importantly - Howard Stern is not Harvey Weinstein. He is not an alleged rapist, there are no reports of him sexually bullying women etc, and he has no criminal record. He is a comedian. (Whether he's any good or not, is not the point.)

Two - Howard Stern's entire act has been based on shock, and pure unbridled/unhinged filth and smut his entire career. He made his whole name for himself by saying seemingly unthinkable things, and challenging censorship at a time when we were pretty much all expected to be good Christian folk, and TV/radio entertainment was like living with the Mormons. A great deal of freedom of expression in the U.S is owed to Howard Stern, to this very day. He's also been a significant advocate of human rights, gay rights, and sexual equality.

If you know anything about the background of Howard Stern, or have seen the documentary-comedy about his life, Private Parts, you'll know the guy is a goofball who simply says anything that comes into his head, however depraved. The guy literally has no filter. He makes jokes that would turn the average person's stomach, that make those who do laugh feel guilty for laughing. He says equally creepy things to men or women, and the less prepared they are for it, the more he relishes it. He unquestionably goes too far sometimes. But on the same hand, that's exactly what put him on the map. This is a guy who had a female caller orgasm live on radio, who was banned by God knows how many radio stations.

Though I'd agree this interview is creepy and slimy in ways I hadn't honestly yet experienced, come on guys... anyone who agrees to get interviewed by Howard Stern must know what they're getting into?!? He's not David Dimbleby for God's sake. You wouldn't go on Celebrity Juice with Keith Lemon and expect not to be presented with filthy outrageous stuff, deliberately designed to make your jaw hit the deck. And if Bunton didn't know who Stern was, or what he was about, I hope she sacked her management team afterwards! The fact Stern said all of that live on-air to Emma Bunton as part of his show is hardly the same as a sexual predator saying those things to a woman in private, genuinely trying to cajole her. The exact and definitive thing about 'predators' is they keep their intentions and carnal desires hushed and/or disguised - they don't generally blurt them out over the airwaves. Hardly a great alibi if so, and I don't for a second think Bunton was under any threat.

The point is, yes... Howard Stern has said some gross stuff, and offended pretty much everyone in his time. And yes, these sorts of interviews are grossly inappropriate by today's standards, and no they're not acceptable any more. They send out the wrong message, and there needs to be a line somewhere. But Stern is not a sexual predator, he's a comedian. A very bad taste and smutty comedian, who's woken up today to find he's an outcast and villain for something he said twelve years ago.

Who's next for the chopping block? Keith Lemon? Mickey Flannagan? Frankie Boyle? Jim Jefferies? The latter two of which, apart from often making quite misogynistic jokes, are both highly principled men actively militant for equality and human rights - as much so as anyone you'd meet.

But that doesn't matter, a minor detail right?


Glutton For Punishment


I don't know why I always feel indebted to look at the flip-side of any argument, but I do. Even and especially in situations where individuals/groups are suddenly 'public enemy number one', or if they're uncomfortable topics: when it's generally far easier to simply grab yourself a pitchfork and start chanting with everyone else. Possibly because I've been on the other end of the pitchforks at various points. 

In truth, a few chaps I've spoken to are beginning to get a smidgen worried about where this Weinstein scandal could potentially veer though. On one hand, it genuinely seems like it could be an amazing thing that will genuinely change the world around us - especially for women - for the better. In fact you can almost feel the changes taking place right now. Certain things are just not gonna wash any more, and rightly so. Misogynists beware! It's a real cause for celebration, save for the poor women who were affected and intimidated by the creep.

Here's the thing many of us are scared to say though... any decent man in this world will unequivocally stand for the safety, happiness and equality of women; but neither can we help the fact we were born with a schlong either. And sorry, there is already a slight atmosphere of 'all men are responsible, and/or did nothing to stop it', and that's just not fair.

For example, on Twitter recently I saw British actor Robert Lindsay (of 'My Family') came forward to say he'd spoken up about Weinstein's abuse of his colleague at the time, Molly Ringwald. The result was that Lindsay's film career never quite got off the ground; he became blacklisted:




And I believe him too. I'd actually wondered before now why he hadn't appeared in more films over the years. Lindsay is a fantastic actor: to be honest I was surprised he didn't pop up in the Harry Potter franchise. The truth tends to make sense when you hear it.

Subtle Digs


Moving swiftly past the huge number of slurs I've seen on social media, mostly coming from furious women lambasting any male who dares to even politely dispute them on any aspect of any issue as 'vile sexist pigs' etc, I've also noted a few more subtle digs too. For example, a mostly marvellous article in The Guardian recently by actor Arabella Weir:



I read the piece, and was in passionate agreement with every damned word Arabella said... until the very last paragraph. When she rather flippantly commented: "No man was ever going to expose Harvey Weinstein."

That is simply not true. I know it for a fact, because I would have tried, and I'm sure many other inadvertent penis-owners out there would have too. My first piece on this Weinstein scandal, I specifically wrote of an instance where I spoke up regarding what I considered sexual abuse occurring at my university, even though positively no-one else around me had the guts to at the time. I took on my own course leader, and got a shitty degree grade as a result. Had it been more serious, eg: an instance where young women (or men) were being genuinely violated, I would have spoken up even quicker.

Robert Lindsay tried too; and he was not alone. 

If you analyse and pull words apart, certainly like I do, you cannot help but wonder exactly what Arabella is insinuating by that remark in The Guardian. It seemed a pretty broad (and pretty demeaning) brushstroke at best. Hopefully she simply intended to imply that women should empower themselves and not be afraid to speak up - a sentiment I'd agree with and support - but in which case, I'd argue her phrasing was rather poor. 

And certainly, quite needlessly hostile to and dismissive of men who in most cases, agree with everything women are saying entirely, and only want to help.

Warlock-Hunt


Let's just not turn this into a witch-hunt, eh? (Or warlock-hunt is perhaps better.) 

Because I tell you one thing dear reader, puritanism doesn't work. Prohibition of things that humans like to do/watch/listen to/consume etc, doesn't work. It forces them underground into the hands of genuinely unscrupulous people. 

In the new world some folks out there would seemingly like us to soon live in (the Sylvester Stallone and Sandra Bullock movie Demolition Man springs to mind), where comedy is censored, anything objectionable or that could be construed to incite a negative 'copycat' reaction is not allowed, where strip clubs and porn are outlawed, computer games and films are all about fluffy kittens, and a man is too scared to say a woman is attractive or even reflect on the fact she is a female for fear he'll be dragged in front of a tribunal... well, I tell you what ladies... there will be a helluva lot far more repressed and angry men out there. That ain't gonna end well. At the same time, any woman who doesn't fit in this neatly prescribed little box, or want to adhere to these new puritan rules, will simply end up levelled with even more stigma...more supposed 'slut-shaming'. It'll be like we're all back at Catholic school.

Have we learned nothing?

It's definitely not coincidence that the era of sexual freedom and enlightenment, traditionally thought of as the 1960s, was also the time people started talking about perhaps not endlessly killing each other and seeking world peace. 

Worth a mention perhaps.


Tuesday, 17 October 2017

THE 'EVIL OF WEINSTEIN' PART II: THE IMPLIED GUILT OF OWNING A PENIS



It's funny. I was a bit naughty with the last piece I wrote, about Harvey Weinstein. I deliberately put a 'red herring' headline, suggesting the piece was defending him - when really it was facetious, condemned him entirely (labelling someone a 'disease' you'd think pretty definitive), and it simply looked at other 'layers of the onion'.

I was interested to see how many people would pounce and start labelling me a sexist, a misogynist, a mansplainer etc without even digesting the point of the piece. (Eg: that silence in the face of evil is the enemy.)

The results were telling. I'm pleased to say the number of people who attacked the post were relatively small: less than I'd predicted. But there were still a few, and they were all females who basically lambasted me for not knowing what I'm talking about, or having no right to even speak on the matter, because I'm male.

Also quite telling, is I monitor how many peruse my blog (a vanity, I know), and that piece, with a headline that potentially 'enraged' - rather than stating clearly what it was about on the tin - was read considerably more than some of my material.

Hmm. And we wonder how The Daily Mail and The Sun garnered such power.

Real Equality


I'm pleased this has all come to light, and think exposure of Weinstein's abuses - perhaps for the first time - genuinely has a realistic chance of changing things. But at the same time, neither can it be ignored there are a growing minority of ladies out there, especially on social media, who seem to hold any and every man responsible: somehow arguing everything we say is seeped in misogyny. And if you dare to dispute so much as one aspect of their argument, it only heightens their resolve, making them more insistent you're a 'male bully'. (To be frank, it's highly reminiscent of arguing with Brexiteers - you're wrong, simply because 'you are'.)

That is not 'equality'. That's simply going too far in the other direction. The whole bloody point of equality is you judge people on the basis and content of what they say, regardless of religion/sex/race/wealth, or any other potentially stereotyped variable. Being born with a penis and/or being sexually attracted to women does not somehow mean you unequivocally harbour an inherent and genetically predisposed disrespect for women, it's ludicrous! I for one am the son of a single working mother, who brought me up by herself, who was smarter than most men will ever be. And today, I am father to a highly confident and assertive four year old girl who one day I want to rule the world. My entire life, I've categorically never ever thought of women as anything other than the equals of men. I'm the furthest thing from a 'macho man'. But some ladies manage to make even me, the 'enemy'.

I Put My Hands Up... I'm Guilty


Yes, I may in passing acknowledge occasionally the fact a friend I'm talking to is a female ('hi babe', 'hello gorgeous', 'yes my dear'). I might even crack a joke - God forbid - about a cultural stereotype ('bloody women drivers/shoppers' etc), but if you genuinely think that implies I really honestly believe women are somehow less capable, or have a 'secondary status' on account of their sex, you really are off your bloody rocker. That's absolutism to ridiculous extreme.

Appreciating men and women are often different, they often like different things and are often good at different things, is a beautiful mystery that keeps the world spinning. Anyone with a brain knows they're not 'rules', not exclusively the case, and that 'equality' means allowing someone to choose their own path without restriction. But neither does acknowledging those preferences exist, somehow make you a crusader for male bigotry.

Recently, a couple of female friends posted things on Facebook that were, to my puerile mind any way, wide open for jokes. One was a friend named Adele who casually commented that "upon returning from her honeymoon, she turned vegan". I couldn't resist making a crack, though I did it somewhat timidly by asking "is NO-ONE else gonna make a joke here??" The other, another lovely lass named Lauren commented "she wished they did delivery roasts." Again, my inner childish smut-peddler came out, and I commented that depending on what sort of roast she was after, I'm sure there'd be plenty of volunteers. Only a minute later, I added a follow-up post apologising profusely to anyone who might find that offensive. Something I wouldn't normally have done. (Some might see that as a resulting victory from this Weinstein scandal.) I don't generally like to tiptoe around my female friends though, just because they're female.

I knew the friends in question would not take offence at these quips, they're both intelligent and confident women who did in fact laugh, and if they had a problem with me or anything I'd said, I'd like to think they'd tell me. But I did later wonder how many others might think me a 'shameless misogynist' for those comments, and/or were somehow judging me. And really, that's not cool either.

No, I'm just an infantile dickhead with a silly sense of humour, eternally wanting to make people laugh. Not everyone will, but I don't particularly like the idea of living in a society where humour is policed and censored.

Shit Gags


Anyone is of course free to think they were shit gags, horrifically immature and unworthy of the slightest smirk, even that they were totally inappropriate. But to think that stands as ironclad evidence I'm clearly someone who disrespects women? No. That is a grotesque assumption. No more than if I hear a female comedian making a joke about beating her husband or 'cutting his todger off' (key word being 'joke') or making silly generalisations about men, I don't assume she actually condones violence, hates men, and/or mutilates her unfortunate spouse.

I once fell foul of an editor, a lady I liked and respected a great deal, because I commented 'woof' on a picture of Charlotte Church in the newsroom, looking particularly ravishing. Really. I still just don't get it. Okay, as my better half told me, it probably wasn't incredibly smart, but on the scale of things that's pretty darn tame, and hey - I don't hide who I am or what I find interesting/funny. Plus, if any woman I knew in the world commented on a picture of Brad Pitt (or male equivalent) and commented 'what a hot piece of ass', 'come to mama' etc, I can honestly say I wouldn't, and really don't give two hoots! Go for it ladies, eat all you can eat.

Again, that is equality.

Simply saying 'woof'?? Really?? Maybe not classy I grant, but hardly a slur or imposition on the state of womanhood. And I'd also argue, anyone who thinks that is grossly offensive, clearly hasn't actually ventured out to talk to actual 3D people much in the real world. Try touring with a rock band, or working at a car dealership.

No, of course it's not the sort of thing I'd say to a stranger, or directly to and about a woman in a professional capacity, and it's certainly nothing like shouting or 'wolf-whistling' women you don't know in the street etc - that is intimidating and sexually aggressive. But commenting to a friend that you think a man or woman is 'hot', however you phrase it (within reason) is hardly the same thing at all.

When and if women are genuinely expected to behave like the comedian Mickey Flanagan portrays them, then there's genuine reason to worry. But until then, let him make his jokes. (I don't actually find his whole misogynistic routine funny by the way.)

Finger-pointing


In the last few days, I've seen finger pointing in all directions. Video games, films, TV, music, the adult entertainment industry, education, cultural values, James Cordon, you name it. Some of the criticisms contain elements of truth. But not universally, and not to a degree I believe women should now start demanding everything cater to sensibilities of the most sensitive and/or at risk among them. Not everyone who watches a violent TV programme goes out to commit violence. Not everyone who plays Grand Theft Auto on their X-box goes out murdering prostitutes and running people over. Not every guy who visits a strip club thinks of women as objects to be used and abused. Not every film director/producer who put a 'sexy chick' in a movie where she took her clothes off, is a vile sexist pig, or cajoled her into doing so. Not every guy who likes boobs is a potential rapist-in-waiting, or a man like Harvey Weinstein. These are too wide assumptions to make, however serious and tangible the issue.

Nobody should ever be bullied or pressured into doing something they don't want to do. Ever. But neither is it for those puritans among us, male or female, to decide what others do or don't like either; what they do or don't find acceptable. If nobody is hurt or violated in any way, live and let live I say.

There are so many issues and examples within our society of genuine institutional misogyny, and rife casual prejudice against women, there's no disputing that. And I wouldn't try to. Tampon tax? Get tae fuck. Wage inequality? Fucking preposterous. Sexual predators and bullies? Despicable wankers. It is disgusting, and all of it has to change. But please... please ladies, a minority few of you do need to appreciate not everyone with a penis is somehow responsible for this state of affairs.

As I kinda tried to point out in my last piece, 'evil is evil' - regardless of whether it's white or black, Muslim or Christian, rich or poor. And certainly, whether it has a penis or vagina.

What matters, is that we call it out wherever and whenever we see it.

Sunday, 15 October 2017

IN DEFENCE OF HARVEY WEINSTEIN: EVIL 'IS WHAT IT IS'



Okay, I'll say straight away that was a deliberately controversial and antagonistic headline.

To many, the idea that someone... anyone could, or would, attempt to defend the Hollywood producer's now notorious (alleged) actions will be so abhorrent, so unthinkable, I'm hoping a good few will click out of curiosity, perhaps purposely seeking something to get angry about. That seems to be the fashion nowadays.

Here's the thing. I'm not defending Harvey Weinstein's conduct. If the reports are true - as would now seem inevitable, judging from the sheer quantity of affected women speaking out against him, as well as taped recordings of his predatory mannerism - he is an utterly deplorable and depraved human being. One who certainly deserves to be stripped of every accolade ever awarded to him. It's appalling that any individual was able to thrive for so long, virtually unimpeachable for his bullying and sexually aggressive behaviour.

But again, here's the thing: evil IS what it is.

Evil exists, and it's all around us. To pretend otherwise is sheer folly. And in a sense, you can hardly blame an evil human being - particularly one that's been enabled by everyone around them for years - for being 'evil'. Any more than you can blame a hungry grizzly bear for eating your neighbour.

One particular sentiment on Twitter caught my eye, for good reason:



One of the most farcical aspects of this whole scandal is that we're apparently all so 'shocked' this sort of thing goes on in Hollywood. Or in politics. Or in the music business. Or in big business. Or the in media in general. When in fact, anybody even remotely connected to these industries know full well that sort of behaviour is just 'a given'. Something Emma Thompson voiced rather well on Newsnight recently.

Pyramid Scheme


Certainly in my experience, those at the top of any pyramid generally think they can do what they like. And often, the bigger and more powerful the company or institution, the more shameless and irresponsible their conduct. Again speaking of my own experience, my own seeming inability to 'keep quiet' in the face of such ethics has been my undoing on many occasions: many more than I'd care to admit.

One of the earliest examples I can think of, and not an altogether unrelated subject: the head of my course at university used to throw highly questionable parties for his students, encouraging them to do and perform lurid things on camera for his entertainment, often for financial incentive. And most of them seemed OK with it. I wasn't. And my fairly obvious disgust at his behaviour eventually resulted in a degree classification in no way befitting the work I'd done, or my level of competence.

I attempted to fight his 'assessment' afterwards, but it was too late. It was all 'hearsay'. And by taking him on, all I achieved really was to alienate myself from the countless students and friends who'd been only too happy to befriend him, turning a blind eye and/or engaging with activities at his parties. Because believe me... everybody knew.

And that's the point. Those who do speak up, are demonised. By even daring to have a voice that challenges the people in charge, or those committing the offences, you make yourself a target. Instantly, you're the 'moaner', the one who won't 'get with the programme'. You risk being sidelined by friends and colleagues who want an easy life, and on the whole, opt to take the easier path of silence.

Where did I go wrong? I only spoke up forcefully when it affected me personally: when MY degree result was adversely affected. If I'd planted my foot in the sand immediately and challenged the lecturer's behaviour, if I hadn't been motivated by self-preservation alone, I might have been able to enact change before it affected me and my future. Maybe not, but I'll never know.

In almost every walk of life - certainly those I can think of - the most awful malpractices, crimes, and even violations against other human beings occur, and continue to occur, exactly because those committing them are buoyed by the huge swathes of people who 'just accept it'. It's a 'perk' of being in charge: the 'status quo'. The perpetrators specifically rely their victims don't (and won't) speak up. Onlookers' conception of power, and its threat to adversely affect their entire life and career is just too great a cost for most, whatever industry they're in. It's understandable. Life's hard enough as it is.


The Uncomfortable Truth


Yes, self-preservation is understandable.

But the uncomfortable flip-side to that, is those vast swathes of people who keep their mouths shut are symbiotically as responsible for those vices as those who commit them. They are quite literally enabling the crimes.

What's really at stake, is whether one's sense of self-preservation is more or less effectual than inherent desire to see decency and fairness win out.

I'd argue such people - those who have that inner desire for things to be fair and right - are in the minority, and declining. No matter how much Western culture has (at least until recently) propagated the idea we're the 'guardians of decency', who always like to see the good guys emerge victorious. It's being bred out of us. And the reason that fantasy no longer flies, simply put, is that genuine ethics of fairness fundamentally contradict the guiding ethos of capitalism.

In light of that, it's almost like our societies have now given up pretending: or are at least headed that way. No one with a sense of perspective could possibly dispute the odious hypocrisy, or the huge problems faced by a western world where two highly successful, powerful and effectual household names of America are both accused of similar crimes, but one of them is currently disgraced: the other is President of the United States.

When horrible, nasty and downright immoral things occur routinely without challenge; when nobody seems to raise an eyebrow or dare stand up to them, you can hardly blame the perpetrators for being lulled into a sense their conduct is somehow 'acceptable'. That's the brutal truth.

Again, that goes for all walks of life, from the most humble to the most extreme. World War II didn't happen because of Adolf Hitler, because of one man: it happened because of all the people who followed him, who'd have argued they were simply being patriotic, and/or 'doing their job'.

Lessons from Drama School


Back at drama school, one of the kindest, most ethical and inspiring teachers I ever had - a gentleman named Amir Korangy taught me what I would like to believe an invaluable lesson in acting. Namely that no villain thinks they're a villain. Unless you're appearing in an Austin Powers movie or a pantomime, bad guys don't generally make a categorical decision to become evil, or to adopt manic cackling laughs to forecast their inherent malice.

No, however warped and twisted the villain has become, even the most vicious and malicious individuals and groups believe they are justified in their attitudes: that they are the good guys. It's an important switch of mindset if you're looking to play an 'evil' character with realism, rather than hammy stereotypes.

It also goes a long way to explaining how, and why, we're now seeing the resurgence of attitudes and politics that quite frankly, I never thought I'd see resurgent in my lifetime. Not in my country any way. Nor the 'Land of the Free'. And I try to bear it in mind when conversing with people of opposing opinions (with varying levels of success, admittedly).

In Defence of Harvey Weinstein


Weinstein's abuses are obviously seeped in the pertinent issues of institutionalised sexism and misogyny, which in some ways, are separate issues to what I'm discussing here. Plus as a male, I am perhaps not best qualified to speak or testify on account of them.

But in defence of Harvey Weinstein, the seemingly callous rapist and sexual predator, I will mention the aspect few others would dare to. Namely that Weinstein is like an entitled child that's been allowed to kick/punch and abuse his/her classmates without redress. He probably genuinely thought there was nothing wrong with it; that it was permitted for a man in his position. An unwritten rule. Therefore, a portion of the responsibility does lie with those who allowed him to form that opinion, and for so long. That sadly includes every single person who, for whatever reason, lacked the courage or conviction to speak up: to put decency ahead of careerism.

That's not to say Weinstein shouldn't be held squarely to account. Only that you rarely cure a disease by treating the symptoms alone.

Wednesday, 4 October 2017

THE LEGEND OF 'ANTISEMITIC LABOUR AND THE SOCIALIST GRAIL'



The current political discourse in Britain is just nuts.

The level of hypocrisy and flippant political rhetoric thrown around on social media has reached fever pitch, truly. Not only among the masses, but among political pundits and politicians, journalists and activists etc - those we once upon a time relied upon to be subjective. Every day we're confronted with new confirmations that this country - and more generally, the world as a whole - is going down the toilet, yet most of seem to be obsessed with using these events to score points off their 'chosen adversary'. Regardless of how tenuous the link.

We've got natural disasters arguably linked to climate change ravaging millions of people, with some scientists saying by 2050, we're screwed. We have open physical abuse and violation of citizens in Spain. Britain about to dive face-first off an economic cliff, under an incalculably incompetent government. Towers of poor people bursting into flames, with no money to house them, but ample to bribe folks in Northern Ireland, fix a giant clock, and redecorate Buckingham Palace. Airlines closing, and businesses fleeing the country like rats from a sinking ship. Beyond Britain, though the Western media have mostly abandoned the subject, the migrant crisis continues in the Mediterranean - and has according to reports, intensified. Genocide in Yemen - a conflict in the Middle East that gets ignored due to lack of vested Western interest. Then the worst and most horrific mass shooting in in American history, under a US government now saying it's OK to murder gay people, nigh on the verge of going full-on 'Third Reich'. (But the American version... the 'best version, it's gonna be great.')

Yet somehow, bizarrely, a good portion of political debate in Britain seems to have swung back round to whether the Labour Party is antisemitic or not.

'The pressing issue of our time'.

The Labour Conference


The minute the subject was raised at the Labour Party conference, seemingly out of nowhere, some of us sighed and said 'uh-oh, here we go.' It was pretty inevitable. Now the momentum seems to be with Corbyn (that pun seems to be unavoidable, apologies), I wondered how long it would be before we were all 'Jew-bashing Holocaust deniers' once again. Not long, as it turns out.

Then an American-Israeli author named Miko Peled made a comment at the conference regarding free-speech, and where you should draw the line: in essence saying (I'm paraphrasing):

'Yes, you should be free to criticise everything from the Holocaust to the actions of Palestine, but Israel's testament as to how it treats Palestine is about as reliable as Nazis defending their actions, or supporters of apartheid in South Africa'. 

That is a fairly brutal way of putting it, I grant. And liable to incite an emotional reaction; but perhaps that's the point? In truth, I cannot fault the sentiment. Peled didn't mention Holocaust denial, but that's somehow been made the focus. It's completely missing his intended point. Which is exactly yes, we should be free to discuss and debate ideas, however distasteful and uncomfortable - or even ludicrous, such as Holocaust denial - but not for the perpetrators of arguably heinous offences to legitimise their crimes. Their particular 'testament' is too biased.

That message has been obscured entirely.

But even if you disagree, or find even that position offensive, how are the comments of one party member representative of all? If that was the case, surely the odd balls of Conservative and UKIP should have sunk their parties long ago?

Mindboggling


I just find it mind-boggling. The minute you say anything that dares grant even the slightest concession to the Palestinian side of the argument, even if you're Jewish yourself, you are instantly slurred an 'antisemite'. And it goes further. That same day of the conference, when I was perhaps stupidly sucked into political debate on Twitter, I ended up being slurred an antisemite simply for saying there are powerful Jewish elites in Washington, Wall Street and Hollywood. Which to me, honestly is just a given! Apparently, describing them as Jewish is what makes me 'a racist' though - a detail I'd refute til I'm blue in the face.

But these were not typical buffoons spouting such nonsense; these were political correspondents from The Irish Times and The Guardian, one of whose sentiments got retweeted by J.K bloody Rowling of all people! It was upsetting and ridiculous in equal measure. The fact that - like Miko Peled - I'm half Jewish myself, and am also ironically the son of an Austrian Jewish holocaust survivor? Or that anything and everything I've ever argued for is fairness and equality - to look at both sides of any argument? Well, apparently such details are neither here nor there in Britain's political discourse of today. 'You disagree with me? Or state a detail I find uncomfortable? That's prejudice.'

A Routine Witch Hunt


It's not a flash in the pan. This theme has been an undercurrent of discussions surrounding the Labour Party since Corbyn first became leader. The reason, simply put, is Corbyn's adamant criticism of Israel's aggression. He insists that both sides of the Israel/Palestine conflict have legitimate grievances, and he sticks to it. That's really the nub of it. Yet somehow that equates as anyone who supports Corbyn's Labour being an 'antisemite.'

It's a damnable witch hunt. I for one can certainly say I've never spoken to anyone on the left of politics who's 'antisemitic', or in fact prejudiced against anyone for their ethnicity or religion. That's kinda the point of being on the left! Written on the tin. Or being 'liberal' at any rate. True antisemitism? That's all the far-right's turf, and deep down everyone knows that.

Which leads me neatly to a post I saw this morning, concerning Jewish citizens harassed in the U.S. A Jewish bakery in Brooklyn received an openly racist and Nazi-supporting threat in the mail. Nasty stuff. The threat of fascism being legitimised in America is very, very real - again, anyone should be able to see that.

Yet bizarrely, the first and only comment on my friend's post about this horrific abuse in the U.S? Well... it was a pop at at the UK Labour Party:


Yep... when I see a Swastika, the very first thing I associate and think to talk about is Jeremy Corbyn and/or Labour. Honestly, how ridiculous. Right or wrong, I bit back at this silly person. I'm sick of hearing it to be frank, and such smears deserve to be held accountable. But I remained polite. The lady's response? Cries of implied 'abuse', labelling me a 'troll'. 'Here we go, another Corbynista'. Orders to 'cease and desist'. Somewhat pitiful appeals that flippant slurs are OK if you're a 'good person who opposes racism'. Or if unbelievably, you also happen to be 'a member of the Labour Party'. (Perhaps therein lies a big part of the problem.)

Then she tries to 'shame me' for detracting from the original issue of Jews being persecuted in Brooklyn - conveniently ignoring she was the one who detracted from it in the first place!

NO. ENOUGH IS ENOUGH. If you're gonna post bullsh*t, have the guts to back it up. Provide some evidence, or at least a coherent justification - don't scarper like a coward, attempt to close down the discussion where YOU want to leave it, protesting that anyone who calls you out is 'abusive'. It's beyond pathetic.

Sadly, the person whose post it was joined in deeming me inappropriate for saying their friend was wrong. I'm apparently 'narrow-minded' for calling out someone who's being narrow-minded. I hear it and see it all the time in political discourse... you're a 'bully' if you attempt to push back against a bully. You're a 'racist' if you dare criticise a nation that suffers racism. You're 'prejudiced' if you call out prejudice. You're condemned as 'offensive' for using an expletive, by someone arguing for the real-life persecution of actual human beings. Where does it end? It's like anti-logic, and it's driving me potty.

A Fashionable Ruse


This fashionable ruse is now aped by politicians and journalists, who do exactly the same thing. It started with Angela Eagle, when she didn't like being contradicted and held accountable for her smears of 'antisemitism' and the alleged 'targeted hate campaign' within Labour, back in 2016.

That legacy is now we've got the likes of Jacob Rees-Mogg, Daniel Hannan, Nigel Farage, Julia Hartley-Brewer, Boris Johnson, and countless other Tory toads frequently postulating that any who oppose their views are simply 'abusive'. As if the criticisms and hostility they face are somehow born of prejudice for them as individuals, rather than the noxious stuff coming out their own gobs.

My greatest fear however, is this 'abuse' is currently being primed as justification for the removal of free speech on the internet. Eg: the one and only thing that stands in the way of their propagated 'legends'.

Very much like the legend of 'Antisemitic Labour and the Socialist Grail'. Coming to a crap cinema near you.


Sunday, 1 October 2017

MIGHT THE TORIES SACRIFICE A PAWN, TO SAVE PIECES OF GREATER WORTH?



Many months ago, prior to the general election, I wrote something for Evolve asking the seemingly facetious question, "is Theresa May actually TRYING to lose this election?" Simply put, May and the Tory government seemed so reckless, so inanely incompetent, it was almost like they wanted to hand over the 'poison chalice' of Brexit, knowing full well it will be an unmitigated disaster. It was also the most popular theory in a poll of 7.5K people.

It seemed that theory was truly out the window, as obviously the Tories won. Kind of, any way. May clung to power like an angry toddler to a dummy, at any rate.

Many months have passed since then, and the difference in attitude towards the likelihood of Corbyn's potential premiership could not be more different. Almost ridiculously so. There are different angles to be found, but even the most ardent Tory mouthpieces are hinting it's likely JC will, or at least could, be our next Prime Minister.

Then, that went a step further. In the past 48 hours, I've heard 'announcements' on MSM morning TV programmes etc that some bookies predict he will be Prime Minister "before the end of the year". That Labour are "preparing for government" etc. Erm... even ignoring that's exceedingly unlikely unless the government somehow abdicates, it's almost like the powers-that-be are now trying to feed a different 'reality' into our collective subconscious. And again I find myself asking questions. I can't help it. Whenever I am 'fed' ideas, my brain forces me to look at the reasons 'why' I'm possibly being fed them. It's like chess. You don't just look at the piece moved by your opponent, but also what manoeuvres they're enabling for the others. You step back, looking at the entire situation.


Harsh Reality


Face it... Brexit is a catastrophe. It's already lashed our nation economically and socially on untold scale, and hasn't even happened yet. It's damaged our reputation globally (with anyone other than Trump's America that is), and anyone with a brain can see it makes no sense for us to tumble off a cliff like this. It seems utterly doomed. But that doesn't mean I don't think it's going to happen. On the contrary, the rich and powerful tax-dodgers who've engineered it all, I think, will see it through at any and all costs now. It seems unavoidable. 'Will of the people' and all that.

If the Tories were exceedingly clever and manipulative (and make no mistake, they are), they might theoretically recognise whichever government is at the helm for this sh*t-storm WILL go down with the ship. And possibly in perpetuity. After all, the British people will undoubtedly regret this 'decision', those of modest means will any way - when and if supplies from Europe are stopped and/or slapped with tariffs. When the little Englanders start to appreciate we produce little of our own, save for dodgy financial services the EU precisely wanted to restrict.

So a wise chess player might sacrifice the pawns, to save key pieces on the back line. What might that look like? That may just mean more daggers in the Conservative Party - that Theresa May will be made the 'fall guy', and a new monstrosity will gush forth from the Tory ether of hideousness. But, if Brexit is in fact ultimately doomed to be a disaster, it might also conceivably make sense for the Tories to allow responsibility for this grisly transition to fall into the hands of their beleaguered opponents. The equivalent of 'passing a turn' in a board game or quiz.

When a new government steps in, the status quo doesn't change overnight, and certain 'chess pieces' have already been moved. There's a knock-on effect. If Corbyn stepped in tomorrow, the DUP have already got their cool £1bn bribe, the small matter of Tory election fraud has already been swept under the table, and promises David Cameron made - such as enacting Part 2 of the Leveson Enquiry have been long forgotten. Countless matters decided under a near decade of Tory rule would simply be small-fry compared to the juggernauts Corbyn would have to tackle. Many would slip through the cracks. And when they did, his opponents would say: "look... he's failing."

In fact, it fits quite beautifully. If Labour don't prevent Brexit, and the whole country falls to ruin... and Corbyn has nothing left to work with other than an isolated bankrupt island at war with itself, economically crippled and globally despised? When the businesses have all fled elsewhere, but the British elites have adequately protected their interests, shielding their assets from accountability to the British tax-payer? Who will then be blamed? Who will then be the scapegoat? Many among the British people have already shown themselves to be inanely gullible, to swallow whatever nonsense they are told by their papers and TV sets. If those forces again set their sights on the new 'socialist experiment' in Britain under Corbyn as being to blame for the Brexit fallout, as opposed to the vicious capitalist protectionism that drove it, the British people WILL buy it hook line and sinker. The Tories would be back in power in a heartbeat, and the experiment would be over - a mere 'bump in the road'. Capitalist forces would again seize the reins, with even more gusto,

It's alarmingly neat.


Best Case Scenario


That's not to say I think it would somehow be preferable for the Tories to remain in power. The sooner they're out the better. But Corbyn needs to be aware they will unequivocally be planning for that turn of events, and what their next move will be. Now the obvious momentum is with Corbyn (pardon the pun), tactics will undoubtedly have changed - and someone, somewhere in the Conservative Party will now be thinking about the 'long game'.

Of course, if Corbyn does get into power, he could hypothetically pull the rug out from beneath them - by reversing Brexit. (If that's even possible now.) By allowing himself a chance to remedy the ills of this nation from a position of Britain having kept its economic integrity and security intact, he might ACTUALLY repair this country.

For me personally, I have always hoped - and will continue to hope - this is Corbyn's 'ace in the hole'. That even if he is Eurosceptic, he would not plummet this nation into potential financial and social catastrophe if he genuinely thought it imminent. That he's a man of enough modesty, he would put our actual interests ahead of populism and 'nationalistic pride'.

I'll keep hoping.

Featured image: 'Checkmate Satan' by Ry-Spirit.

Friday, 29 September 2017

BREAKING NEWS: UKIP's new leader named as KFC Colonel



BREAKING NEWS: UKIP's new leader named as KFC Colonel.


Other contenders for the role, which included Ronald McDonald, the zombie corpse of Enoch Powell, and the guy from the Go Compare commercials, are all said to be "not too bothered".

Releasing a statement, the Colonel said:
"I very much look forward to leading a party that's about as relevant as scurvy."
"Clearly there's no point in us even existing, as the Tories basically stole every one of our policies. WE made xenophobia cool again, but they get all the credit. It's not fair. So I'm now arguing for the UK to gain its independence of Planet Earth."
"I'd also like to mention, my new limited edition Tennessee Jack Burger is available until October 8th."

Sunday, 27 August 2017

WHY BILLIONAIRES ARE CATCHING ON THAT 'UNIVERSAL BASIC INCOME' IS OUR ONLY HOPE


The problem with listening to the value and content of what people say, rather than focusing on personal feelings towards them, is that just occasionally even monsters make a good point.

In a sense, it must be far simpler to simply 'pick a team' and run with whatever they say, absent of the requirement to think for oneself - what I'd argue most of the country does in regard to supporting the Conservative Party. 'I don't care if Jacob-Rees Mogg wants Britain to adopt workplace rights akin to that of India or for people in full-time work to starve: he hates Jeremy Corbyn and supports Brexit, so he's the guy for me.'

Of course, the other name for that mentality, is 'tribalism'.

Bring On The Branson


I for one have felt, and for some time, that introduction of a 'Universal Basic Income' for all citizens is quite literally the only way our society can survive and endure in harmony. Therefore it's an issue I'm exceedingly happy won't go away, and that actually, people of note are now starting to speak out about it too.

Richard Branson, of all people, has apparently come out in favour of Universal Basic Income. Along with other multi-billionaires like Mark Zuckerberg and Elon Musk.

I do think it's quite telling that the billionaires speaking out about this are not 'establishment cronies' or people born to wealth and privilege, but the 'self-made' ones. The billionaires who've arguably made their fortunes, at least initially, through an intent to improve and advance humankind.

This provides them quite a unique perspective. Not only are they literally sitting at the very top of the tree, with global resources and insider knowledge most people could never even conceive of, but on some level, they also have empathy or fleeting memory of what it was like to not have those things.

As much as I'm sure the likes of Branson, Musk and Zuckerberg have each behaved like absolute hound-dogs in their respective careers, each lusted after money/power/influence etc and stepped on people to get there, it is still fundamentally possible to want to rise to the top and, in general terms, want the best for average people too.

The best example I can think of is Tony Blair and Brexit. I, like many, despise the man for his role in creating the world we live in today. For destroying ethics of socialism in the UK, for his war crimes and his pandering to George Bush, for his unashamed profiteering since leaving office, and his sabotage of Jeremy Corbyn's leadership. But when Blair spoke out about Brexit, I agreed with every damned word he said. And I do genuinely believe it was motivated by him not wanting to see his country go down the toilet, not personal interest. That's a difficult concept to make peace with, I know. (As much so as being a Corbyn supporter, but not wanting the UK to belly-flop out of EU membership.)

I have my issues with Branson. Particularly the way his company Virgin are quietly privatising and taking over the NHS behind closed doors. The way he's established himself as a kingpin over our transport and entertainment, and now our health too. I certainly do not approve of some of the circles he travels in. He is undoubtedly a hypocrite in countless ways, and responsible for many problems. But nor will I deny when the man is talking sense, or smear his motivations for doing so.

In fact, he may be better placed to know what's really coming down the line than most of us.


Time To Face Facts


To spell it out, society could be headed for disaster. Automation, and the gradual erosion of countless industries in favour of mechanised and internet based commerce, is a ticking time bomb. There will simply be nowhere near enough jobs to sustain our bloated populations very soon - fact.

Doing things in a more efficient and technologically advanced way is a worthy pursuit - but not if it takes jobs away from millions of people, forcing them into poverty and irrelevancy. There will be no 'commerce' when no-one has anything. So that technological progress must benefit all of humankind, not just the select few, who then wouldn't need to give anything back to society at all.

It stands to reason, if humankind has advanced to a stage where much of the demanding work can be done effortlessly and by automation, that stage has been reached through a communal effort. The people calling the shots may not want to acknowledge it, but they enjoy the fruits of hundreds of years of labour and scientific progress: our shared advance as a species.

If that 'progress' now effectively produces money (eg: commerce/industry) on tap, it needs to be shared out. That is fair. Every citizen needs to be given enough to survive, and enjoy a basic quality of life - a chance to taste and enjoy the few pleasures this world has to offer. Regardless of what they have done or haven't done, of what job they've got or where/how they were educated, where they happened to be born etc. Everyone gets to live - at least a little.

Britain's 'Culture of Benefits'


How the right-wing, and those who supposedly oppose Britain's 'benefit culture' would cry out!!! I can hear their disapproval screaming through the ether...

But Universal Basic Income is not a 'hand-out' in the traditional sense. It might simply ensure our UK society is a vaguely half-way decent and ethical place to live. Surely even hideously rich people must get to a point where they want to live among a population that's vaguely happy?? Truly imagine a British society where far FAR more people are unemployed than employed: absent of either purpose, or income - with no way to survive or provide for themselves.

The mind boggles at the thought, but that's what's coming for western society unless something is done. An economy does not work if only a tiny few have all the money. A multi-millionaire might have the resources of 10,000 people, but he/she doesn't buy 10,000 pairs of trousers/shoes, take 10,000 trips to the cinema, have 10,000 weddings etc.

Also, the notion of UBI is undeniably fair. Even those in work and well-off would receive exactly the same. Nobody could complain! It would simply take account of the fact we're moving into a world where jobs are not as widely available, and that commerce is now realistically in the hands of an unacceptable few. Universal Income could quite literally make people's lives better, reduce the stigmatisation of being unemployed, and ease tensions between communities/classes.

Seems to me, we should stop demonising the idea as being some kind of 'free-loader's dream', and start examining Universal Basic Income as a very pragmatic and potential solution to a problem that isn't going to go away.

More to the point, forward thinking nations like Finland are already doing it. And proving it works.