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.

THE MCGREGOR VS MAYWEATHER FIGHT: HONEST ANALYSIS FROM SOMEONE WHO DOESN'T GIVE A SHIT



I can't see anyone else saying it, so as usual, I will.

We apparently live in a world where two men can do an hour's work - in this instance beating the shIt out of one another - and earn in the region of $100 million each.

Far from being merely 'OK with that', most people seem to be applauding it. We should be up-in-arms, but supposed 'love of sport' distracts from something that otherwise is deeply abhorrent.

Try explaining to a parent whose child may die because they can't afford the medical bills, that one guy who hits things for a living deserves to have every luxury this world can afford many times over - enough to provide free schools and hospitals if he so wanted - while their child suffers, left to die.

Try explaining to the family thrown out on the street because they can't afford rent, that a frickin' boxer deserves more riches than most people will ever see if they lived ten lifetimes, and that his right to that wealth takes priority over theirs simply to have a roof above them. Try telling those wittering their lives away on minimum wage and using food-banks etc that ANY man or woman on this planet should have so much, while they and their families deserve so little.

In a nutshell, this is why I believe in socialism. Market capitalism has become obscene, an ugly and bloated beast.

If you look down the road... really look, it seems obvious to me that 'little people' will only tolerate this so far. Revolution always comes when those at the top are too greedy. Whether they're monarchs, generals, aristocracy, clergy, presidents, landowners, tycoons or corporations - they are all variants of the same. 'Feudal overlords'.

There's only two ways this can end. Either 'little people' will somehow reclaim democratic society and restore a sense of propriety and balance, or those at the top who control the purse-strings will, at some stage, go to obscene lengths to control the masses and preserve their monopoly. It's like a mathematical equation that simply has to eventually balance out.

However that takes shape, it won't be pretty.

But hey, I do hope everyone enjoyed the guys smacking one another. 😁

#McGregorMayWeather

Friday, 18 August 2017

FAR FROM DISBANDING 'CONSPIRACIES' CONCERNING 9/11, THERESA MAY JUST GAVE THEM WEIGHT



The majority of the 9/11 attackers (allegedly) came from Saudi Arabia.

Saudia Arabia are not an 'enemy', but an ALLY of the west. And despite outcry, both the US and UK categorically refuse to give up that alliance. That in itself raises questions. Big ones. But whatever you do or don't believe about the tragic events of that day, the simple fact is, there's simply never been any attack in history shrouded in so much confusion and controversy, with so many 'official' details that don't add up - ever.

After fifteen plus years of ongoing pain and anger for the victims' friends and families, fifteen years of 'conspiracy theories' and explanations that simply refuse to go away, finally a UK government report was demanded into the potential involvement of our 'ally', Saudi Arabia. Finally, some of the speculation could perhaps have been put to bed. But after years and yeeeears of compilation, Theresa May has categorically refused to allow the British public to know the contents of that report. Not once, but twice now.

Rationalise that how you will, but to my sensibilities, that means there's something in it she doesn't want Joe Public to know. That sounds obvious perhaps, but WHY would May not want us to know? I'll tell you. Because if the Saudi government were involved, that means one of two things - there are literally no other alternatives. Either 1) our 'ally' betrayed us and were involved with the most horrific crime on western soil in history, but we bizarrely/suspiciously remain allied to them any way, or 2) they acted as a faithful ally, working in coordination.

Let's face it, neither option is great.

What if the Saudis weren't involved, I hear you cry. Fair question. Then why on earth would May suppress that? Surely anything to make her distasteful alliance more palatable for the public would be a positive thing; a boon to be wheeled out in her favour? Again, it just doesn't add up.

Yes, many might argue I'm ignoring countless variables here, that the report may contain sensitive information not relating to the issue, which can't be revealed. All manner of explanations are 'possible', that is true. But generally, if an animal has four legs, a tail, and barks, the likelihood is it's a dog. It's not somehow more rational to assume it's a sabre-tooth tiger.

Until some actual explanations are forthcoming, the suspicion and controversy will continue. Bottom line? Whatever is contained in that report, and whatever is or isn't true (I've given up trying to make sense of it all), this shady behaviour by our government only gives weight to the supposed 'conspiracies'. Quite literally the very furthest thing from disbanding them.

Thursday, 17 August 2017

MOTHER'S BRIEF HISTORY OF WORLD CONFLICT, AND THE ONE COMMON DENOMINATOR



'Mummy, why is there war in the Middle East?'

'Well darling, at the end of Word War I, the Western Allies broke up the Ottoman Empire, which had existed for hundreds of years and included most of the Islamic world - claiming ownership of various territories. Then at the end of World War II, they created a new country in the middle of one of those territories, right or wrong, and called it Israel. Then they spent 70+ years arming that country to the teeth, whilst simultaneously making sure the fragmented Muslim states around it stayed poor - who naturally allied with their enemies. It's a pressure cooker. They've been fighting ever since.'

'And Saudi Arabia? They're one of those surrounding nations, aren't they? Why aren't they poor too? How do they wage war and assert control?'

'With weapons and bombs supplied to them by Britain. They, like Israel, are supported with Western finance.'

'I see. What about Pakistan? I hear there's problems over there. What's that all about?'

'Well, before those World Wars, Britain conquered and ruled India. Pakistan was another Muslim nation forced out and brought to heel. When Britain finally gave it all back because it could no longer sustain its empire, it decided which bits Pakistan got and which India got. They've never been happy about that. They've been fighting ever since.'

'Oh dear. And North Korea? Why do they hate America so much?'

'Well, at the end of World War II, America and the Soviet Union - today known as Russia - split the country in two, taking half of it each. One prospered, and one didn't. And America punished the North for 70+ years for its enduring ties to Russia. Like in the Middle East, it's a proxy war between sabre-rattling super-powers. They've been fighting ever since.'

'Why all the problems in Africa?'

'Well, the British Empire and several other European nations - later America too - conquered the continent, divvying it up, selling off all its resources, and trading its people as slaves. Bit by bit, the continent was plundered, and when those powers gave up control, it was deliberately handed over to various competing tribes and left in turmoil, so the continent could never become strong, and illicit trade & supply deals could continue behind closed doors benefiting Western interests. They've been fighting ever since.'

'Wow. OK, what about closer to home? When you were growing up, there were problems in Ireland, weren't there? I've read about bombings and all sorts. I can't imagine it. Why were Irish people so angry?'

'Well... before it was called Britain, England spent centuries inflicting war and hardships on Ireland. Scotland and Wales too. Separated by sea, many people wanted Ireland to be its own independent country, and they spent centuries fighting back, until the English - now calling themselves British - were forced to retreat to all but a scrap of land, that is now called Northern Ireland. But Britain refused to let go of it, as a point of principle. And they've been fighting over it ever since.'

'Why are people talking about it now?'

'Because the dispute didn't really matter when we all became part of the EU, we all became Europeans - one people.'

'Is that why there haven't been any wars in Europe since World War II?'

'A big, big contributing factor - yes. Also, while we were united as one continent, Europe was a match economically and militarily for any of the emerging super-powers like Russia, China, and The USA. Britain was one of the most important nations at the table too. Now The EU is splintering, Britain and America are wobbling, and Russia is starting to lick its lips greedily.'

'So being part of the EU kept Britain safe - and Europe safe, and helped Britain to become secure and wealthy again in the carnage following the World Wars?'

'Yep, that's about it.'

'Why on earth would Britain give that up, or behave so ungraciously now?'

'Good question son, good question.'

'Have the EU started any wars, or pillaged anywhere?'

'No... no they haven't. They mostly just create laws to protect average citizens in every European country.'

'Hmm. All seems very strange to me Mum.'

'What's that dear?'

'If you look at everything we just talked about, all the  wars occurring today - or a good deal of them any way - there seems to be one inescapable common denominator.'

'What's that?'

'Britain. Us.'

Monday, 14 August 2017

TEN REASONS WHY THE LATEST EPISODE OF GAME OF THRONES, 'EASTWATCH', BUGGED THE LIVING HELL OUTTA ME



It's probably late in the day enough for me to have a moan about the latest episode of Game of Thrones, season seven/episode five - 'Eastwatch'. If it's not, sorry. But I do need to get this off my chest - the show I thought could never disappoint, finally disappointed. Not a great episode at all. One of the worst yet to be honest. Several details bugged the hell out of me, and the nerd in me needs to talk about them. Please bear with.

1) Apparently Jaime and Ser Bron are part man/part seal, both able to swim miles under water. In armour. We'll just ignore the whole 'beach with a straight-drop into a bottomless lake' thing too.

2) Having spent several seasons following these characters closely on their long journeys, they're now all hopping around Westeros in the blink of an eye. Journeys of hundreds of miles on foot/horseback/boat, journeys that would take months - all just glazed over. Apparently nothing of note ever happens during those periods...

3) The long enduring relationship and history between Daenerys and Jorah Mormont - the man who's just returned to her having cured himself of an incurable disease - all that is surmised with one paltry hug, before she sends him off again. Probably to die. With barely a line of dialogue. "Cheers, dragon queen."

4) Yes. I'm sure it would be blissfully easy to 'smuggle' Tyrion Lannister, the 'most famous dwarf in the world', right into the heart of King's Landing. And then have him waltz on out again like it 'ain't no thang'. It wasn't at all probable and/or likely that Jaime would take the Hand of the opposing Queen hostage, albeit his brother, considering in the last episode he was willing to die to end the war. Or that Cersei, as she apparently knew about it all in advance, would have had her imp brother seized. That would have been daft after all. She's only hated his guts for seven seasons.

5) This REALLY bugged me. One of the Lannister guards who catches Tyrion on the beach, was the very same actor who portrayed one of the touring 'pantomime' actors Arya Stark travelled with in an earlier season - the one who played Ned Stark as a befuddled idiot (Kevin Eldon). There are SOOO many actors who'd kill for a part in this show. So it's either grotesque laziness on the part of the casting directors, or blatant unbridled favouritism, compromising continuity either way. And they already did it once before, when the actor playing the murdered Martyn Lannister (Dean Charles Chapman) returned as the young King Tommen Baratheon.

6) Seriously, I know these White Walkers are slow, but how the bloody hell can everyone else fly round Westeros back and forth like Superman, while these chumps stumble about a relatively small block of land eternally 'on their way' to attack the Wall?? What the frick are they doing? Surely they've killed everyone north of The Wall by now? For God's sake, just get Daenerys to fly north (will take about 20 seconds of show time) and toast the whole damn lot of them. The White Walkers haven't got a giant cross bow after all.

7) After mining all that dragon glass, the purpose of his trip, Jon Snow seems to be returning to the north with barely a boat load. Good one Jon. Real clever.

8) In an episode where the screen-writers obviously attempted to cram in just about every character we'd forgotten about in the interim (Gendry, The Brotherhood Without Banners, The Hound, Ser Jorah, and the damnably annoying Samwell Tarly), the characters we actually WANT to see what's happened to, are strangely absent. What about the Sands? Are they rotting? Is the daughter dead yet? What about the bell-ringing 'Shame' Nun from last season... is she alive, what happened to her?? What's going on in Dorne? What about the Greyjoys? Apparently they had an episode off. All a bit jarring I fear.

9) Considering Bran 'piss on my chips' Stark knows absolutely everything, and is able to get messages to Jon Snow by raven while he's at Dragonstone, you'd think the bloody dimwit might also inform Jon that Daenerys is his Aunt. Especially considering it could possibly unite them, end the bickering, establish a dynasty everyone really likes, and you know, Jon's also on the verge of giving her one.

10) The rate at which the Stark girls are going 'dark side' is getting a bit gun-ho if you ask me. Considering they thought their whole families had been wiped out, you'd think they'd be a bit more trusting and nice to one another. Sansa is going very 'Little-finger', very quickly. Speaking of whom, for all her 'Faceless Man training', Arya didn't spot the guy hiding in a stairwell, or even think to look after she'd cat-burgled his quarters. Sloppy. Very sloppy. And again, you'd think Brandon Stark would step in and expose the subterfuge threatening to turn his sisters against one another. Nope, He's too busy flying about as 'crow-bro'.

I feel they're rushing it now, at the expense of continuity, sense, and/or maintaining a similar pace to the previous six seasons. Throwing in dodgy guest appearances, and relying on fairly daft one-liner jokes. It hurts. It hurts I tell you. I thought this show was infallible.

Plus if Cersei kills Bron, I'm gonna be majorly pissed off.

And breathe.


A PHOTOGRAPH THAT CAPTURES BROKEN AMERICA



If ever a photograph captured the tragedy that is America today, it's this one.

An Afro-American police officer in Charlottesville stands guard, protecting the rights of white American supremacists. One of whom is doing a Nazi salute. Another carries a sign stating Jews are 'Satan's children'.

All the officer can do is stare at the ground. He's just trying to 'get on with it' and do his job. But sunglasses cannot hide his despair.

This heroic man symbolises the world for many of us at present.

Forced to stand idly by, powerless, trying to 'get on with it' - all the while acutely aware that genuine evil is quite literally rising up around us. Fearful for our families and our future, fearful for innocent people we don't even know, and fearful of what might happen if we dare to shout back too loudly.

He refused to denounce them. The President of the United States actually had to be told to condemn Nazis and white supremacists. The same odious neanderthals who used to hide behind white hoods and burn crosses, now walk down the street proudly waving Swastika flags, wearing President Trump baseball caps and t-shirts.

Trump made a point of placing blame on both sides. Yes, the liberals were apparently to blame too - simply for standing up to unapologetic fascists, and for being in the way of that car. His words were nothing short of chilling

Perhaps more scary is that in his mind, small as it is, Trump probably thought he was being 'fair'.

We're not quite there yet in Britain, but we're on the same page.

(Instead, our Nazis chant 'Brexit.')

THE PUTNEY JOGGER 'COCK-UP': IS THERE NO PLACE FOR COMMON SENSE??



I don't get this:



The story is breaking everywhere, yet not one of them says what the woman herself has said?!?

She saw him. Twice. He ran back across and she tried to accost him. Surely she can identify him? She's not going to blame an innocent man for that, she's going to want justice?!?

Is there no room in our criminal justice system for basic common sense??

If the victim has positively identified him, it's on camera, and yet he's wriggled out of it by creating a doubtlessly expensive alibi, because oh yeah... he just happens to be a millionaire banker... that is beyond appalling. We as a society cannot let that happen. We just can't!

And if he wasn't the perpetrator of that shocking behaviour on Putney Bridge, why the flaming heck was he arrested in the first place?? Again, the small detail of a witness who looked him straight in the face, one might have thought a fairly significant factor in any arrest.

In that instance, someone was physically paid to come up with that intel... intel unbelievably ignoring the most obvious and rudimentary evidence.

What a farce! Hardly inspiring of competence. And it really makes no sense, either way round.

Clarification is needed. Pronto.

IT'S NOT ALWAYS MENTAL 'ILLNESS' TO FEEL BROKEN. IN FACT, THAT'S HALF THE STIGMA.



An article I came across by John Pavlovitz - 'Sinead O’Connor is Telling Us Mental Illness is Killing Her. Do We Give a Damn?' - regarding the singer's recent post from a New Jersey hotel room, was almost as heart-breaking as the video it discussed.

And also, bang on the money. It's well worth a read.

Pavlovitz is right. For some almost bizarre reason, we'll celebrate and mourn people who've taken their lives - talk about the tragedy, the terrible things that sent them down that particular path, all the beautiful things about them, what should have been done etc. But only if they do actually kill themselves.

By comparison, people who are on their way to that point, eg: people in pain, people on the edge, people whose lives and careers have unravelled, people desperately crying out in whatever way they can for someone to help them - we don't want to know. Those people are shunned and avoided. It's just too much effort. Too 'uncomfortable'.

They are shunned, in essence, simply for being a little bit stronger than those who gave in. They're trying to hold on. They desperately want to find positive things to live for, they have not given up hope that this world could be a better place for both themselves, and others. They don't want to give in, and on some level, actively want to feel alive again. The finality of death is so very absolute; there's no coming back from that, and they know it.

Yet the sad truth is, that added tenacity generally puts them in the 'freak' category, as opposed to the 'tragic'.

It's as if they're dismissed for 'Crying Wolf'.

Sinead O'Connor is such a person. I positively guarantee most people will be speaking of her recent antics very differently to the way people currently speak of Chester Bennington and Chris Cornell, for instance. And what Pavlovitz's article points out so poignantly, is it seems no-one will care or try to help her until it's too f**king late.

That is when people will start saying nice things, trying to look like compassionate human beings. All the radio stations will play Nothing Compares To You on repeat. And frankly, it will mean nothing. Try showing love to those in pain while they're still alive.

The Stigma of Mental 'Illness'


I think part of the problem and stigma, for some any way, is being depressed and suffering from anxiety do not feel like an 'illness'. The classification of 'mental illness' suggests on some level, you're mad and/or some kind of babbling loon. (Which is ironic, as many studies claim greater levels of intelligence leave an individual more susceptible to depression.)

Depression and anxiety are not often 'spontaneous' like an illness. Some people admittedly do simply have propensity for greater sadness inside them, but it's not always that there's 'something wrong' with them. Sometimes depression and anxiety are a very natural reaction to a world that, let's face it, is all too often a horrible piece of sh*t.

Harsh realities, disappointment, tragedy and bereavement, unpleasant life experiences, frustration, loneliness, injustice - they forge who a person is. Some are able to rise above these detracting factors, others are not. But really, in a sense, they are the cause - not 'deficiency' in a victim's brain. The equivalent would be beating an animal repeatedly with a stick, then saying there must be 'something wrong with it' because it can no longer walk. No... it's because the creature was beaten within an inch of its life, to the point it could no longer function in a normal capacity. That's not 'illness'.

I suppose you could argue it's just terminology, and that even in the analogy I just gave, the beating of the animal physically 'made it ill'. But it doesn't feel the same. It doesn't feel fair, or acknowledging of causation. And I do genuinely think that's part of the stigma. Some people are fragile because they got repeatedly bashed, not simply because they're 'ill', or somehow started out weak.

Why So Prevalent in The Arts?


An old friend commented when I posted this article on social media, asking the following question:



It's a fair question.

I've always happened to believe that yes - you do need a screw loose somewhere to be a performer. In a sense, you have to be slightly 'mental' and/or pretty needy to want to make a career out of saying "please look at me, please love me and think I'm wonderful". That counts for all of us in the business, myself included.

Then within that group, you get a spectrum. At one end you have the egotistical types, who genuinely think they are amazing, and everyone should rejoice in their presence - performing is a way to enhance their social status as much as anything else. And at the other, those who aren't so sure. Those who have major insecurities/personal problems etc, but performing is something they're called to regardless. More 'neurotic' than 'egotistical', applause is the only love they know. They are the ones at risk. Because naturally, the first type are more geared to succeed in an odious business that literally runs on egotism, especially if they are actually talented. Whereas type-twos don't fit in so well. The business tends to stamp on them, as do the ego-maniacs who think they're so much better than the 'social lepers'.

So basically, you've potentially got already damaged/insecure people being exposed to egotistical and often very bitchy cliques, in an absolute cut-throat business where the very ability to work and do what you love is usually entirely dependent on getting on with those same cliques. (And kissing the right asses.)

If/when things go wrong, type-twos lose their entire way to relate to people, and the only thing that makes them feel 'worthwhile'. And often, the higher the rise, the higher the fall. I reckon my friend Natalie was right on both counts. The factors are symbiotic, in fact.

I'd also say that most performers/artists etc are generally more emotional and in touch with their feelings than 'Average Joe'. And I guess when you feel more, the things in life that hurt, hurt more. That's a fairly rudimentary assessment perhaps, but there's something in it. And sadly, often when people are thought of as being 'dramatic', the content of what they say - even the reason and genuine pain behind it - can be entirely dismissed.

I hope somebody steps in to help Sinead O'Connor, I really do.

Monday, 7 August 2017

GAME OF THRONES SPOILERS TO BE MADE PUNISHABLE BY FLOGGING, ACCORDING TO NEW GOVERNMENT LEGISLATION



New government legislation has suggested those who post Game of Thrones spoilers online, ahead of the regular broadcast time, should be beaten and publicly flogged. 

‘Not all of us have Sky Atlantic you know’ commented one angry fan of the HBO series. ‘And these nerds who stay up to watch it at 2am the night before are obviously complete losers.’

‘Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m half way through renovating my loft to look like the throne room of King’s Landing. I’ve made an Iron Throne out of kitchen cutlery.’

‘Admittedly, it’s not very comfy.’

A former university lecturer in North Yorkshire, Harrison Dingle, was recently divorced by his wife of 35 years - simply for a Facebook post last year, revealing Jon Snow was not in fact dead. Mrs Dingle later cut off his penis, force-feeding it to him inside a Melton Mowbray pork pie.

Tory politicians are reportedly overjoyed by the idea that UK society should mirror the imaginary world of Westeros, adding the show seems ‘a very fair and workable model for post-Brexit Britain’.

A potential ‘Walk of Shame’ was also briefly discussed, for anyone on a salary of over £50k who openly supports Jeremy Corbyn.

The idea was dropped, as there aren’t any.

Wednesday, 2 August 2017

"I WAS AN EDITOR FOR THE LEFT-WING BLOG 'EVOLVE POLITICS'. NOW LET ME TELL YOU WHY YOU CAN'T TRUST THEM AN INCH."



I talk about a lot of stuff frankly on social media, but I do try to avoid discussing my own dirty laundry. I try to focus on general, more widely effectual subject matter. But this one time I'm gonna make an exception, because as ever, I would like truth to be out there somewhere. And it may well be my last 'piece' for a while - I have truly had enough.

Until very recently, I was a writer and Assistant Editor for a left-wing publication called 'Evolve Politics'. I'd written for them since February, and after making a positive impact, I was asked to be an Editor in May. I worked for the publication tirelessly, often through the day and night, and for very little financial reward. In fact, it was me raising the issue of remuneration that resulted in Evolve seeking out sponsorship so they could begin paying their writers a vaguely feasible wage. Something they subsequently got - in part - off the back of a piece I wrote that went viral to more than a quarter of a million people and was listed in several newspapers.

Then out of the blue I was sacked a couple of weeks ago.

Why? Allegedly because I was frank, and used bad language on a Facebook thread under a pseudonym: a deliberately comic and 'potty-mouth' satire account I run based on the character 'Malcolm Tucker'. In fact, only the guy in charge at Evolve even knew it was me because I'd told him: it was in no way connected or affiliated to the publication. I simply took on a 'troll'. It honestly never occurred to me that the boss would be 'holier than thou' as to reprimand me for bad language (that wasn't particularly offensive any way) from a private account, let alone an anonymous comment in defence of our own team. In fact, he went a step further.

He wrote a post effectively outing my pseudonym, dramatically apologising for my "appalling" behaviour. In other words he played the hero to parade his own 'integrity', and sold out someone working for him simply to court the praise of trolls - who mostly didn't know or even care what it was about.



Yep, I do enjoy the odd expletive, and I take few prisoners - I'll freely admit it. But I do know 'integrity': it's something I strive for. And it's something this organisation definitely doesn't have. I was extremely alarmed to read today that Evolve Politics have applied for an official parliamentary lobby. I found it very disturbing - the idea that such an organisation might garner that much influence, whilst simultaneously lacking any journalistic integrity whatsoever.

For me, that was the final straw. Let me say a few things about Evolve Politics' supposed 'integrity'.

The Man Behind The Curtain


When I told the 'Editor-in-Chief' that his reaction was unnecessary and actually very disrespectful, he behaved like the worst kind of man-child I've experienced in 38 years. He just blocked me on Facebook - my only method of contact. Removed me from website admin, closed down my Evolve Wordpress account, including locking me out of all my articles; he virtually spat in the face of six month's work. Refused to speak to me, terminated my income without a second's thought - when I was only just beginning to make ends meet after more than a year of writing. (With a four year old child to support, for the record.)

What a great example of 'socialist ethics'. What a truly remarkable way to demonstrate how things should be 'fair', how people at the top shouldn't abuse their power, or behave irresponsibly without accountability. Evolve's owners take the lion's share of all revenue from all articles, leaving their writers with pitiful fees - and then preach of 'socialism'. They are frankly everything they claim to oppose.

But my demise within the organisation stemmed from previous run-ins. See, there is a dark secret concerning this 'influential' left-wing news outlet. Unlike The Canary, which is run by experienced journalist Kerry-Anne Mendoza, or even publications like SkwawkBox and AnotherAngryVoice, which are run by knowledgeable individuals with worldly perspectives, Evolve Politics is run by a young couple who basically know bugger all about anything outside their own very limited life experience. They are simply two hypocritical and petulant kids, who've become experts at grumbling and whipping up viral memes.

To be more specific, Evolve Politics is run by a chap named Tom Rogers.

I never met Tom, nor would he speak to me on the phone - he remains entirely anonymous for 'official' purposes regarding Evolve. He says it's due to debilitating illness. Out of respect and sympathy for this condition, whatever it is, I gave the issue a wide berth - letting a lot of his weird behaviour go. Including his sleeping all day/being up all night, his drinking binges, his forgetting of entire conversations, his frequent hypocrisy, not to mention his completely 'Jekyll and Hyde' temperament. But frankly, being ill doesn't give you the right to behave like an asshole. Or assume you can get away with it.

Integrity


Ironically, even the slogan Evolve Politics have coined on their header is 'fake':


Jim Waterson never said that referring specifically to Evolve. He referred to a string of left-wing websites, among which Evolve were one. Tom took the comment of of context, twisting it to boost his own publicity. (Oh the irony.)

Bottom line? Tom does not stand by any of his work. He instead hides behind his girlfriend Jess - who's officially in charge, but actually does little. (If anything.) Her qualification is she's apparently got an English degree (something she often liked to remind me, like I was supposed to bow in awe) whereas Tom has no qualification at all, as far as I'm aware. But his anonymity allows him to share Evolve's pieces as a supposed 'neutral' reader all over social media, and ironically, comment anonymously whenever he sees fit. He also argues with readers all the time, but just deletes the comments if they're too clever and/or show him up - I saw it for myself.

Tom writes for Evolve under several pseudonyms, including 'Summer Winterbottom', 'John Corr', and 'J.D McGregor' - basically to make the coverage and contributions seem more than predominantly one disgruntled guy in his bedroom. And now he wants access to Westminster... it's almost funny. But certainly, for Tom to chastise (let alone sack) anyone else for commenting behind a pseudonym, is more than a bit rich.

It's the tip of the iceberg though.

Only days before, I'd been contacted by a former colleague at The Canary who informed me (out of courtesy) they were running a story directly calling out something we - and a few in the MSM - had covered concerning an alleged 'suicide bomber' and threats made by the 'Cornish Republican Army':


It was apparently hyperbole nonsense: something more than a few of our readers had responded to say:



I myself wrote the piece. But here's the crucial detail: I was actively INSTRUCTED to write it - by Tom. Literally given the sources to use, and Tom chose the wording of the headline down to the very last detail. (That's pretty much his main involvement at Evolve: to make memes, and decide which angles get plugged/how they'll be spun.) At the time of publishing, I was actually told off for trying to reduce the scandal/click-bait factor.

But I did take the claim by The Canary seriously. I believe in truth, and accountability. So I advised we should investigate, and issue a retraction/apology if necessary. The Editor's response? That it 'didn't matter'. That The Canary's story probably wouldn't gain any traction:






It was a shameless and quite appalling reaction.

Journalistic integrity matters. Especially for those who would report from Parliament.

Mistakes happen, but no-one with any sense of ethic should recoil from retracting them, or owning up to mistakes. In a nutshell, their hypocritical and self-styled intention to 'Evolve Politics' is a complete sham. Evolve are, in fact, no better than the worst of the manipulative right-wing MSM publications they spend so much energy decrying.

Those publications at least have to follow some level of due process though - both in terms of journalistic accountability, and employment practice. Another final straw for me, was recently seeing Tom post an article under one of his pseudonyms, haranguing The Sun for an article they'd retracted:



At the absolute peak of his pomposity, Tom postures over how noble his organisation is... yet again. Jeers at the tabloid for having to retract their mistake - eg: something he certainly didn't have the decency to do himself. I found it pretty sickening. You know when The Sun show up another organisation's lack of ethics, it's in trouble.

Tom was also outraged by supposed 'slander' when Evolve were accused by Media Guido of sharing an incorrect 'D-notice' story regarding Grenfell Tower. He put grand gestures all over social media, asking lawyers to get in touch, saying Evolve were going to sue for defamation etc. Trouble is, the claims were NOT wrong. Team members at Evolve HAD in fact shared the false 'D-notice' story. They'd just deleted it before anyone noticed. Yet again, Tom just wanted to look far nobler than he actually was, even if it meant taking hypocrisy to a whole new level.

Apparently for Tom, his team member's free speech and bad language were worth apologising for, even from an unconnected source. Even due a grand gesture of 'apology'. But researching and/or apologising for his own categorical misinformation and manipulation of news was not. Says it all really. Tom prizes his own sense of 'offence' as being more important than actual truth - the very definition of a 'snowflake', for all intents and purposes.

Warped Priorities


My impressions of these young 'socialists' admittedly became skewed quite early on, when in a three-way chat with Tom and Jess on Facebook, one of them glibly mentioned "hating their dad and waiting for him to die, at which point they'd be rich." Again, ethics at their very finest.

Regarding that same 'Cornish Republican Army' story - and more specifically Tom's intention to tell it the way he wanted - the same guy who supposedly fired me out of  'decency and integrity' also casually ASKED ME TO LIE. Days before, he'd asked me to throw in a made-up source/quote to justify his desired headline - to literally invent one out of thin air:



It was a request I categorically refused. See I actually do have a sense of ethics, and common decency.

Hard left VS hard right = a bloody mess


I've had a fair bit of unfortunate stuff happen in the past few years. Everyone has their cross to bear of course, but certainly, it's been no picnic. Changing careers dramatically from touring musician to writer, I put my heart and soul into my work for Evolve - hoping to make a difference. And I think I was beginning to. I was making waves in all the right directions, and a lot of people seemed to enjoy my style and candour. To have it all whipped away and to be back to square one in a heartbeat - simply down to the petulance of one unhinged guy? Well, it's actually pretty painful to be honest.

But in truth, writing for an organisation constantly looking to whip up scandal and/or a one-sided narrative was also pretty painful.

Things went wrong when I started to challenge the 'click-bait' direction and the megalomania of the young chief. I'd supposedly been invited on board at Evolve specifically because of my desire to seek a 'middle-ground', to look at both sides of any argument. And also - ironically - my fairly frank writing style. But like the 'snowflake' he sadly is, Evolve's Editor-in-Chief Tom Rogers can't handle any scrutiny or 'independent thought' whatsoever. His glorified blog caters for very little more than a howling 'Corbynista crowd': there is no nuanced or balanced reporting to be found. And I do say that as someone who actively supports Jeremy Corbyn (on most issues, if not Brexit).

In fact, I see how people like Tom (and even myself, to a degree) have been responsible for growing levels of intolerance in this country too. Perhaps not on the same level as the tabloids, or the right-wing menace that currently blights us. But part of the problem nonetheless. It's not even that there aren't a couple of decent writers at Evolve. For example, the other Assistant Editor, Matt Turner - a recently graduated politics student - is a very intelligent and reasoned individual, and he writes regularly for The Independent. But he too is young. And he certainly doesn't pull the strings at Evolve. He's frankly just a name to give Tom and Jess' pet project a level of 'legitimacy' - and he gets pocket money in return. And sadly, however competent Matt is, when the top of the tree is rotten, most of the fruit falling off it is pretty rotten too. The idea that Evolve are now posturing to be taken seriously as a legitimate outlet, I find utterly jaw-dropping. Yes, this piece may seem like 'sour grapes', but frankly I don't care. I want anyone and everyone to know the truth and what this new breed of 'hard leftist' actually looks like. Because wanting people to know the truth, and fighting for the underdog is why I got into this writing malarkey in the first place. Not so yet more dishonest individuals can exploit hard-working, principled ones.

I'm very tired of all the arguing, the division and dishonour. So much shameless and unapologetic hypocrisy. Hard leftists are almost as bad as the far right - it's sadly true, I can't deny it. No-one's listening to anyone any more. The art of compromise, weighing the value of what someone says (as opposed to which team they support) - even free speech and humour are being entirely lost. Political writing has led me down quite a bleak road, I must say.  I've engaged with hundreds of thousands of readers in the past year, but still I doubt most respectable outlets would employ me: I am stained by the association. So a year of work has - ironically - just been to put money in other people's pockets. 'Socialists' like Tom and Jess.

If the likes of Evolve Politics are given access to Westminster, it will truly be the death of any sort of journalistic standard in this country. I'm not saying that new voices and representations aren't desperately needed... but let's just make sure they're vaguely competent and vaguely ethical, eh?

A pecking order in all things


In closing, I would like to offer a paragraph from a piece I wrote for Evolve - again, now quite ironically - referring to The Daily Mail, and the 'regime' of Paul Dacre:

"There is a pecking order in all things. The people at the top always call the shots: their will is the ultimate goal, and everyone below them fears for their livelihood. Feudalism becomes the natural order, unless legislation prevents it. “Fairness and accuracy” don’t come from those lower down the food-chain following directives blindly. Those ethics only arise when lowlier people dare to question the autonomy and agendas of their superiors, even if it’s to their detriment."

I kinda proved my own case in point.

What's next for me? Who knows. Maybe I'll give the music another go, however old and ugly I happen to be. It's perhaps a tall order to find a paid job working for 'the machine' when much of your writing has criticised the mechanics! All I know is trying to be a 'voice for good' has got me absolutely nowhere - the world is a bloody mess, and I personally feel more disillusioned than ever.

I just never thought it would be with people supposedly on the same 'team'.