Saturday, 17 February 2018
Now a 4.2 magnitude earthquake in Britain. Felt from the southwest to the Northwest, and all throughout Wales.
I think it's clearly fair to say, as far as omens and their timings are concerned, things ain't looking so hot right now for Britain. In fact, I don't think the universe could honestly be giving us more of a wake-up call, if the sky was literally on fire with the four horseman of the apocalypse pegging across it in a transit van. Or if the sky was raining a pick'n'mix of locusts, cats, and Celebrity Love Island contestants.
I don't generally believe in that kind of crap, but honestly... you couldn't write this stuff.
In fact, perhaps the poster for Brexit should just be a picture of the British Isles going up in flames under a mushroom cloud. But at that precise moment when all flesh has been ripped from our bones: and we're standing there momentarily looking like Skeletor, before milliseconds later being reduced to ash.
And would you also look at that.
This, only a few months after the Tory government allowed fracking to begin across the UK.
Strangely enough, I can't find much online to determine whether fracking has actually begun in the UK, but there are plenty of articles stating "fracking due to begin within weeks" dated from October of last year, and other pieces such as an article for The Guardian with this headline:
Weeks later, a 4.2 magnitude earthquake. Maybe coincidence? Maybe not. Earthquakes have occurred in the British Isles historically, to be fair.
But you know what? I sure as hell don't want to find out. We're not some massive sprawling land mass/continent with vast uninhabited areas, we're a fragile little island floating off the north coast of Europe. (A detail of relevance in various other circumstances too.)
Ergo if greedy rich fuckers who care nothing for anyone or anything other than their profits somehow cave in the very ground beneath our feet, we quite literally have nowhere else to go.
And like everything else... all driven by greed, and profit, Bastards.
In the mean time, I suggest we all invest in underground bunkers with Netflix and Wifi.
Sunday, 4 February 2018
It seems the whole of Britain was watching a puppet show. I fell for it myself, and feel rather stupid.
It turns out, it was a Rees-Mogg supporter who technically precipitated actual physicality/violence: quite deliberately by the look of it.
How many times do the hard-right & far-right have to watch this before grasping that a Jacob Rees-Mogg supporter, enraged by dissent, hit a young woman in the face. The ensuing scuffle was to prevent HIM from battering her again or harming other people pic.twitter.com/BMkOd87J3P— Will Black (@WillBlackWriter) February 3, 2018
And would you look at that... it turns out a reporter named Ben Kew, employed by Rees-Mogg's new Nazi friends at Breitbart, was quite literally ready and waiting with the camera rolling.
American-owned Breitbart News, at a minor and niche UK university talk. No, nothing fishy there.
My initial reaction, like everyone else, was to condemn the apparently violent protesters, and somewhat begrudgingly praise JRM's dealing with the situation. However, when I first saw the footage of him striding up the auditorium (as if on horseback) to reprimand the young hoodlums, standing there trying to reason with them, I did also chuckle to myself that he looked like a fish out of water. Extremely uncomfortable, to say the least. And I honestly couldn't help but wonder why he threw himself in apparent harm's way on that specific occasion.
Ah... the Breitbart reporter. That'd be it. NOW it makes sense.
And would you also look at that. This rather pathetic and virtually manufactured scuffle also seemingly made the BBC and wider press entirely forget about tens of thousands of people marching through London on behalf of the NHS yesterday. An issue of far more importance to this country, and a catastrophic failure that doesn't make the BBC's paymasters look very good.
Meanwhile, the right-wing now flounce around pretending that Corbyn, Momentum, and left-wing politics are the cause of all thuggery, dissent and violence in Britain:
Except they all conveniently seem to forget. The only ACTUAL murder and serious act of violence against a politician in this country in recent times, was the far-right fanatic who killed MP Jo Cox shortly before the EU referendum. A barbaric and heinous crime that pretty much served as the starter pistol for this whole mess.
Back then, I dared to hope that Jo's murder would assure success for the remain campaign: I thought there was no possible way the majority of Britain would want to associate with those kinds of people - or even be on the same 'team'. That maybe... just maybe a sizeable share of the UK populace would start to appreciate the insidious ideologies at the heart of all this, and what they would be enabling. I was wrong. And today, as a result, Britain is a very different place.
Leftist aggression takes place as a symbiotic reaction to unbridled far-right influence. It springs up only when oppressors overstep their bounds. It's as simple as that. Like most things, there is a cause, and a reaction. And while the reaction may be misguided or excessive, the fact it is a reaction must be considered. (Part of the reason we have a judiciary system.) A violent campaigner for human rights may be misguided, but to lump them as somehow 'the same' as a violent thug campaigning for segregation and ethnic profiling/subjugation is just warped.
Ergo we today have an elitist gang of ideologists, mostly relying on the support of thugs, trying to tell us that anyone who opposes them, are thugs. And people are lapping it up.
He bounced up there and stuck his chin out. He was hoping for a smack. You see the word is out to discredit any left wing protests. A violent reaction would be perfect. When nobody popped Mogg the second attempt was to clip the woman and get a retaliation. Done.— Franqs1ight (@howkoolizdiss) February 3, 2018
Funny how Mogg meets Bannon. Has dinner with a Nazi then this half baked Antifa style incident happens. Looks dodgy to me— LINDA (@lindajedwards) February 3, 2018
If all concerned were actually angling for Rees-Mogg to get a thump (which let's face it, seems unlikely, but would have been their joyous Brexit equivalent of communists supposedly burning down the Reichstag), it would certainly explain why he looked so bloody nervous - yet still put himself right in the middle of the fray.
Either way, this is media manipulation and propaganda in action, make no mistake. The footage aired by the BBC etc did not show the full story at all, eg: the bully in the white shirt smacking Andreea Dumitrache, a protesting Romanian student in the face, or mention a couple of key details. Like a Breitbart reporter sitting there earnestly waiting.
Hi @Jacob_Rees_Mogg, you know how you say you dont know #whiteShirtMan, who hit the young woman at your #UWE event? Hate to tell you this but he seems to be following you around. It's almost like he thinks he's your bodyguard and on your team. #HesBehindYou pic.twitter.com/6lH6b2DXfK— Will Black (@WillBlackWriter) February 4, 2018
The more I think about this and read about this, the more I look at the footage and consider the larger political picture, what else is going on and where; the way that so many are cooing how Laura Kuenssberg and the BBC are taking a 'tougher line' of questioning with Theresa May - but coincidentally just as Jacob Rees-Mogg is now splashed everywhere portrayed like the 21st century equivalent of Sir Lancelot... and truly, it smells bad to me. Like the way is being subliminally paved for a political shift of some sort, in the Conservative party at least.
Concurrently, we also seem to be partaking in a society-wide overreaction and crusade of piety/moral judgement, often packaged as 'feminism', against things like pretty girls who like to make a living from dressing up and looking nice, adding glitz and glam to otherwise mind-numbingly dull affairs like Motorsport. Witch-hunts that people like 'devout Christian' Jacob Ress-Mogg would no doubt be on board with, and use as a populist sideshow to bridge support bases, and distract from all the unspeakable stuff he's doing behind the scenes. A very worrying combination. Puritanism, until recently, was generally considered a bad thing.
In recent times, I've slightly gulped to acknowledge eerie similarities between Jacob Rees-Mogg and the character 'Chancellor Sutler', in V for Vendetta. (As the film itself points out, "artists use lies to tell the truth".) JRM is a bit more softly spoken and charming than John Hurt's slightly OTT depiction, but no doubt the two of them would get on very well at dinner. And now could quite feasibly be the part of the film when Sutler breaks away from the Conservative party, and starts something new. Or re-brands it as 'Norsefire'.
"England prevails." Sound familiar?
My fear has long been that right-wing fascism and totalitarianism seem to be approaching in bite-sized palatable chunks, that the populace don't seem to notice they're swallowing. Orwell word-for-word predicted it:
"The people will not revolt. They will not look up from their screens long enough to notice what's happening."Each time it gets just a little worse. Cameron and Osborne now seem like positive libertarians next to May and her Hammer Horror montage of cabinet members, but ramping up to a Tory party led by the likes of Rees-Mogg, Johnson and Gove? It would be yet another right shift incrementally, all over again.
It's amazing how poor, oppressed and justifiably angry people are now back to being the baddies. Those pesky sorts fed up with being marginalised, fed up with being burned alive in tower blocks, fed up with wars in their name, being priced out of homes, fed up with racism and bigotry casually defended and propagated, fed up with corporate exploitation, abuse of both human and animal rights - well, they are again the enemy. Yep, we're all ANTIFA now. How neat.
As someone who literally worked in the theatre, I can't help but feel it all has a tang of feeling slightly staged, or at least manipulated. And I do say that fully and acutely aware that even by thinking or suggesting such a thing, I immediately sound like a nutcase to some.
The suspicion lingers, regardless. And the fact I sound like a nutcase is quite unequivocally the best (and likely only) defence to discredit it.
Tuesday, 30 January 2018
I came across an article from The Guardian this morning that, unbelievably, still managed to make my jaw hit the deck - even amid a world regularly fringing on lunacy. You can check it out here. The rest of what I have to say will make a lot more sense if you do.
The piece by Maryn McKenna is from last year, but as I say, I've only just encountered it. Which possibly says something in itself: as everybody should probably know about this. I'm pretty sure they don't. They're likely to know Ant and Dec won best presenters at the recent National Television Awards for the seventeenth time, but not that Brexit could potentially bring with it chickens that wipe out humanity.
Holy shit. And I thought chicken was the 'healthy option'.
I didn't know any of this. Yes, I knew American food was generally bland, stodgy, and pumped full of chemicals to make it mutant-sized; I've spent a fair bit of time in the U.S, and even if we put aside the veritable horror stories that are our Yankee cousins' notion of things like bread and chocolate (I have never tasted anything as disgusting in my life as Hershey's), I also remember the first time I encountered their bizarre, warped 'puffy' fruit. I remember chowing down on an apple the size of a very large male adult fist, which somehow didn't feel particularly healthy to be eating, even to someone who generally eats crap back here at home in the UK. As for the bananas, they looked like they could possibly be used to bludgeon someone.
So much of the food I encountered in the U.S didn't 'feel right'. A problem I never really encountered in Europe, or elsewhere in the world. However, the rabbit hole goes far deeper.
The biggest threat to humankind's existence other than climate change, is antibiotic resistance. And apparently it is literally being invited through mass produced food. More specifically, in America, chicken. It's a ticking time bomb (or rather, a clucking one). And now developing nations are hopping aboard the drugged-chicken-gravy-train too.
As for the fact this is being done in America to a mass-produced food that is... how can I put this delicately... stereotyped as being quite popular with the poor and certain oppressed ethnicities? Ethnicities that America doesn't have a great history of looking after so well? However you spin it, the bottom line is that people/groups who've been overexposed to antibiotics in cheap mass produced food will be the first wiped out, if and when a super-bug arrives.
Doesn't look good, does it?
In fairness, it should probably be mentioned, some U.S companies have bowed to pressure from consumer watch groups, agreeing to stop using antibiotics in their chicken, like McDonalds. KFC and other larger fast food chains are also following suit. However, domestic food sold in supermarkets is not quite as under the microscope.
Also note the American author starts off the whole piece by comparing these U.S 'mutant' chickens to those found on a French market place.
"I had eaten chicken all my life: in my grandmother’s kitchen in Brooklyn, in my parents’ house in Houston, in a college dining hall, friends’ apartments, restaurants and fast food places, trendy bars in cities and old-school joints on back roads in the south. I thought I roasted a chicken pretty well myself. But none of them were ever like this, mineral and lush and direct."
McKenna speaks of what real, authentic, chemically un-enhanced chicken tastes like by comparison, and how she finally enjoyed flavours denied to her in her native America: land of the mass-produced. You see, the E.U do things a little differently to the U.S - they generally try to protect their citizens. They look out for them. For example, they don't unethically poison them (or risk wiping out humanity) just to increase the profits and turnover of large greedy corporations.
Ah, you've gotta love capitalism.
So basically, rich Americans are selling mostly poor Americans stuff that could eventually kill us all. And then are using the exuberant proceeds they've earned from doing so to live the life of Riley. (And, one would imagine, to buy posher food not laced with chemicals.) If it was someone selling cheap knock-off Rolexes en mass, and using the proceeds to buy proper ones for themselves, no doubt the law would intercede; but when it concerns the future of the whole human race, well... it's apparently not worth the time and effort.
Today's capitalists care nothing for the future of humanity. That seems to be the era we're in. Like they've done a deal with the devil, and simply decided: "the whole world is screwed, we're on borrowed time, so WE might as well all get as rich and fleece it while we can, fuck everyone else". And really, no group or government in any modern Western society represents that attitude as much as Trump's America, or indeed Brexit Britain under the Tories.
What a wondrous tag-team they are.
Brexit means breakfast (a really bad one)
There are so many aspects of Britain's departure from the E.U that sadden me; the list is endless. But as a man who enjoys his food, who was born and grew up in a Britain that enjoyed easy and cost effective access to fresh produce from across the European continent for nearly forty years, this aspect of what Brexit will do to our availability/price of staple foods really depresses me. And even worse, that Britain seems desperate to plug that trade gap of 40+ years with closer U.S trade. Eg: the one country in the world with lower food standards than just about anywhere, where any Martin Shkreli dip-shit can pump it full of turpentine if he's greased the right people in congress.
Britain is selling its soul for corporate greed. (Ironically, the one thing Brexit was supposedly an antidote to.) Swapping European pragmatism and cooperation to become the 51st state: under a mad orange orangutan who'd sell his own Nan to the highest bidder. It just makes no sense to me.
I've teased my American friends about their crap, bland food for many years; joked how eating too much of it might cause one to 'grow gills', or maybe just additional nipples. Well, thanks to Brexit, British families might soon get to put my theory to the test.
Monday, 29 January 2018
ONE OF BRITAIN'S MOST INFLUENTIAL RAPPERS JUST SMASHED THE ENTIRE ANTI-CORBYN ARGUMENT IN SECONDS (2017)
(Written for Evolve Politics, May 9th 2017, going viral to near half a million people: also referenced by Buzzfeed and The Independent as example of online/left-wing news outperforming mainstream news. Since removed from the former link.)
Akala could quite feasibly be described as a modern philosopher. His intelligence, his factual knowledge, and obvious powers of persuasive rhetoric leave most opponents dwarfed. There is simply no substitute, or defence, against an individual whose arguments are based on true understanding and thorough research. Which is of course exactly the reason the far-right are so persecuting of the educated, and demonise supposed ‘liberal elites’. But Akala is living proof that born wealth and ‘liberal elitism’ are nothing to do with it. And as much as educational opportunities do play a vital role in producing informed/sentient members of society, to a certain degree, it’s also the choice of any individual as to whether they educate themselves. This man certainly has.
In a post today on his Facebook page, Akala explained why – for the first time in his life – he is actively going to defy his inherent beliefs and vote for an ‘establishment’ political party:
“I will be voting in a general election for the first time on June the 8th and I will – I am shocked to be typing this myself – be voting Labour. I am not a Labour supporter; I do not share the romanticism of many that the Labour Party was ever as radical an alternative as some would like to think. Labour – despite building the welfare state/NHS – has been an imperialist party from Attlee to Wilson to Blair, thus for a ‘third world’ internationalist such as myself I have never been able to cast a vote for them.
In truth my politics are closer at present to the Green Party, of the options available. Regardless, in the years since I have been an adult, neo-liberal New Labour has basically been a Tory Party anyway, so I, by virtue of my age, missed any point in history where Labour could have even been argued to have been any sort of real political alternative.
So why will I be voting now? The answer will surprise none of you, Jeremy Corbyn.”
What I, and hopefully others too should find fairly remarkable about Akala’s post, is that it dares to be nuanced; to read between the lines. He is not bound by tribal allegiances to one faction or another, he thinks for himself, and dares to acknowledge that Corbyn is not perfect – that he has short-comings too:
“It’s not that I am naive enough to believe that one man (who is of course powerless without the people that support him) can fundamentally alter the nature of British politics, or that I think that if he/Labour win that the UK will suddenly reflect his personal political convictions, or even that I believe that the Prime Minister actually runs the country.
I also recognise that Mr. Corbyn is a human and as such is an imperfect ‘leader’. He was abysmal during the Brexit campaign for example and this whole sense that a left wing exit from the EU was possible via a campaign led by anti-immigrant fervour is to my mind ridiculous.
It seems around this issue Corbyn was more committed to an ideology than reality and how that reality would affect real people. He is a politician, he will make more mistakes, or at least what I deem to be mistakes."
In fact, in some ways Akala seems quite sceptical of Corbyn – describing him as not having an “electric personality”. And even more sceptical of the power he’d physically wield as Prime Minister, when so many members of his party (not to mention parliament) are opposed to the fundamental re-balancing of equality in Britain Corbyn seeks. However, the rapper goes on to succinctly explain why it doesn’t matter; how there is simply far more at stake here than ‘business as usual’ party politics:
In a sense, he smashes every single anti-Corbyn and Abbott-related arithmetical smear in a matter of seconds:
“We do not need perfect politicians, because we are not perfect people ourselves. However for the first time in my adult life and perhaps for the first time in British history someone I would consider to be a fundamentally decent human being – that is, someone who does not want to kill the poor and does not routinely make a habit of rationalising the bombing and invasion of other people’s countries under the rubric of humanitarianism – has a chance of being elected."
Akala goes on at length, and points out how Jeremy Corbyn has championed equality, social justice and peaceful resolution his entire career. He was one of only thirteen MPs who voted against the disastrous military intervention in Libya in 2011, which undeniably initiated the humanitarian crisis of refugees crossing the Mediterranean, and unleashed the new emboldened ‘war against terror’. When it comes to issues of inherent freedom and moral decency, Corbyn has always been on the right side of history, and has warned countless times where all this aggression will lead.
Akala also goes on to communicate his deep concerns regarding the current Conservative government’s war-like stance and militaristic rhetoric. Controversially, he even suggests that denying the “Trump worshipping Tories” and Theresa May the keys to Number 10 should be an easier decision than US voters faced, deciding between Trump or Clinton:
“I simply think we cannot afford, in this very particular set of circumstances, to not vote. Our brothers and sisters in America were not given an alternative, their options were one war-mongering lunatic vs. another and many of them (almost half the US electorate did not vote at all), quite understandably could not bring themselves to vote for Hilary Clinton, despite the threat of Mr. Trump. Were I an American I must confess I would have done the same. We, however, do have a chance for the first time to vote for the lesser of two evils.”
He warns with specific examples of other countries such as Jamaica and India, and how if they came up against the mighty nationalist will of the US or UK respectively, public opinion could quickly be swung to make them the enemy. Just as the Murdoch/Rothermere/Desmond press now do with EU nations. It doesn’t make for comfortable reading – but that is the point. That’s the world into which Trump and May, and other right-wing politicians are dragging us.
On the NHS
The Kentish Town born rapper also speaks of what should be the key ingredient in this General Election (sadly too often saturated by bickering, nationalistic nonsense and talk of ‘saboteurs’ etc), eg: the NHS. His words are both powerful and poignant:
“There are a great many other progressive policies that make Corbyn a genuinely different candidate from what we have seen before but another very key area – of literally life and death – is the NHS. If you want to see what privatised healthcare looks like just ask any poor American. There are countless American families mired in a lifetime of debt for basic healthcare that citizens of every other industrial country (and Cuba) receive as standard from public money. When I was five I got the measles and nearly died, if I was an American child born into a similarly poor family I would either likely be dead now or my family still paying off the bill.
When I was 10 my mum got cancer, same story. The idea and reality of an NHS is one of the most democratic ideas ever invented, it must be protected at all costs, the Tories have made their intentions in this area quite plain – as has Corbyn. If you are so busy hating those pesky ‘immigrants’ (you know the same darkies and foreign nationals that overwhelmingly staff your NHS) that you can’t see that the Trump worshipping Tories are callous enough to condemn millions of ‘their own’ people to slow and early death because they are poor and because it’s profitable, (as the Republicans just have) then you are unlikely to be reading this anyway. But if you have such people in your family (as I do) please try and talk some sense into them, for their own good.”
Everyone should hear Akala’s thoughts and reasoning on this matter. He, like many, is simply incredulous that a Conservative party so demonstrably keen to deprive its citizens of fundamental human rights can be apparently ‘sweeping to victory’. Voters are not asking themselves the right questions – they’re too caught up in the polarised issue of EU membership to notice we’re actually on the brink of losing far far more, by virtue of this new ‘Anglo-American convergence’.
"The simple fact is, if enough people vote for Corbyn/Labour they will win. In fact there are enough people that did not vote at all in the last election to tip the scales decidedly. A Britain led by the SNP and Corbyn’s Labour would be drastically different – though still far from utopian, whatever that means – to what the Tories have in mind and have clearly told us they intend."
It really is that simple. ‘To be anti-Corbyn at this precise moment in time, is to effectively stand for something far worse’.
I don’t know about anyone else, but I’m beginning to think Akala should perhaps run for office himself. Few politicians communicate with his clarity. But in the mean time, this remarkably talented and eloquent activist makes it only too clear where he believes votes should go on June 8th. And that is to Jeremy Corbyn.
Friday, 19 January 2018
So Kim Jong-un wants to build nukes. Donald Trump wants to build a wall. And now Boris wants to build another bridge.
Anyone else think we just need to get these idiots some Lego?
The fact Johnson has ALREADY got a failed bridge project to his name, and in very recent times (the cancelled 'Garden Bridge' project and vast £37m wastage of taxpayer money), just proves the man is a straight-up buffoon who refuses to learn from his mistakes, with zero concern for what people in Britain actually need.
(As if more proof were required.)
It just fries my brain. The country is falling apart, our NHS is crumbling, we have the highest inequality in Europe, a social care crisis, people in work relying on foodbanks, our schools can't afford sodding books, and now Boris f**king Johnson wants to build a new 22 mile bridge across the Channel we don't even need.
Okay Boris. Because we didn't need a bridge (in addition to a tunnel) for all the decades of free-movement between the UK and France. But now that's gonna end, now it's gonna be a right pain in the keester and require border/passport checks for Brits to travel in Europe (and vice versa), yes... obviously an extra bridge will be needed. Just for the sheer volume of Brits rushing across for Euro-breaks; especially with our economy tanking and GBP worth less than toilet paper. Likewise, I'm sure Europeans are just dying to visit Little England in their droves, now they know they're about as welcome as syphilis.
Not to mention, I imagine putting 22 miles of concrete across one of the world's busiest shipping lanes might cause a few issues.
Honestly... what a dick.
These idiot boys with their toys are a liability. Please please can somebody put the adults back in charge now??
It's so hard to accept the state of the world today; it feels like it should all be a very bizarre dream, or some kind of wind-up.
Saturday, 13 January 2018
News just moves so damned fast nowadays.
In the UK we've had a cabinet reshuffle (after half of them quit), the resignation of Toby Young, an NHS crumbling before our eyes, Farage's suggestion of a second Brexit referendum, and in the U.S, a book about Trump, conflict with Bannon, natural disasters, 'stable genius-gate', and now the president just called every non-white country a shit-hole.
That was just the past few days.
Brexit, Trump, collusion with Russia, war with Korea, sanctions on Iran, ISIS, war in Syria, war in Yemen, war in Ukraine, travel bans, migrants, far-right rallies, fake news, mass shootings, social cleansing, institutionalised sexism, paedophile rings, the homelessness crisis, the NHS crisis, a looming financial crisis... it's all getting a bit much, isn't it?
It's hardly surprising many just want to close their eyes and ears to it - just to 'switch off'. But sadly, it's exactly when populaces do that, that the worst things are liable to be done in their name.
Has the world always been so frantic? Or does it just seem so because of the advance of social media technology, and the fact it's so much more in our faces? Are we just more acutely aware of what was always happening any way? The answer to the that is complex. Yes, probably... to a degree. Politics have always been toxic: it's just now we can all see it. But at the same time, only someone with their head truly buried in the sand could ever suggest there aren't major geopolitical changes taking place at present, or that things don't seem to be turning a little pear-shaped.
All the political division and bitter discourse of recent times has understandably caused many everyday people to resent politics, and more so, those 'political types' who insist on dragging misery into their 'perfect' social media worlds - where only shiny happy pictures are permitted, and boasts of all the wonderful things they're doing with their lives. In other words, those who are happy and secure in their lives (who need not worry about beastly 'politics') are fed up with being tainted by the unhappiness and frustrations of angry people, those less fortunate, and those demanding justice. Boo hoo.
It seems Mark Zuckerberg agrees. Recent news reports slipped in among all the chaos state that Facebook is planning to do a major clamp-down on 'media and business posts', and to re-structure people's newsfeeds so they hear mostly from 'friends and family'. But amid talk of making the platform more 'friendly' and accessible, less noisy, there's a whispered undercurrent as to what this is all really about: the battle against 'fake news'.
The rise of the 'political celebrity'
Facebook has admittedly become quite an unpleasant place - but no more than Twitter I'd argue. Whereas Instagram is probably okay, as it seems a platform mostly designed for shallow grunting cave-people, who like to communicate with pictures.
Ironically, I daresay even the political ranters get very tired of so much ranting on Facebook. Becoming a 'political voice' is the new, more inclusive X-Factor: anyone can have a go.
It's a pattern that's dogged me my entire life to be fair, much to my frustration. I wanted to be a singer and musician when it was a fairly specialised vocation, next came reality TV, then everyone and their dog started thinking themselves a singer. I've watched the industry devolve into a saturated, shameless and vacuous mug's game as a result. Similarly, I've been writing and talking about politics on social media for ten years plus now while everyone else I knew was sharing cat videos; in the past two years I've seen more political blogs and political 'celebrities' spring up, commanding vast swathes of sycophants, than in the entirety of my time on social media before that.
Katie Hopkins, Paul Joseph Watson, Tommy Robinson, Milo Yiannopoulos... and dozens more.
Strangely, I personally moaned for years that nowhere near enough people were paying attention, that more people should take an interest in politics. Careful what you wish for. Now I can't help but think too many cooks spoil the broth. And actually, now everybody is shouting, it was possibly better when the medium of political discussion was niche, unofficially reserved for those who genuinely closely follow current events (not just sound bites) and know what they're talking about. Look at the carnage that widespread ignorance has caused.
Baby out with the bath water
Objectively, that is what we'd hope Zuckerberg is trying to counteract. But there's a very real danger that the 'baby will be thrown out with the bath-water'. Our freedoms, particularly our internet freedoms and freedom of speech are incredibly fragile - and once they've been taken away, not only will they be incredibly hard to win back, but we've pretty much sealed our own fate.
One problem is that 'fake news', to most people any way, will be an entirely subjective concept. Ask anyone mainstream or on the right in the UK, and they'd point you in the direction of publications like The Canary. Ask anyone on the left, and they'd point out that publications like The Canary sprung up exactly to counteract right-wing propaganda and spin.
And it's exactly the ambiguity of the blanket term 'fake news' that's so frightening. It can literally mean absolutely anything the people in charge want it to describe. Those in charge of Facebook, the police, the government... THEY get to decide. Words can't really stress how dangerous that is, not least given the authoritarian turn our societies seem to be taking. We all gasp and jeer at leaders like Erdogan silencing the press and civil dissent in Turkey, but really, the same thing is happening in Britain - just more gradually, more subversively. Small piece at a time. Only a few days ago, I saw a Facebook user video showing a van load of UK police attending a union sanctioned strike, blocking and man-handling protesters. We ain't got Bobbies to police the streets, or to stem knife crime and acid attacks, but God forbid large companies in league with the government should lose out on profits. Meanwhile at the same time, they're proposing rounding up homeless people in Windsor to avoid unsightliness at the next royal wedding, and new scratchcards to gift the Queen a yacht.
The police in the UK and America are gradually becoming enforcers of corporatism, not the rule of law. A privatised police force, as prolific authors like Orwell predicted. If those same principles are applied to social media now (more so than they already are), we're in real trouble.
Upsetting the apple cart
What this is really about is that left-wing voices and ideologies are now heard. For a while, a good long while, the powers-that-be were unable to silence them. Political discourse and journalism were no longer merely the realm of cold, distant and passionless words - of facts and figures voiced by a disassociated clique, to whom small matters like poverty, starvation, war and injustice are just words in a conversation. Referenced as flippantly as anyone else might 'tea & cake'.
Emotions, passion, righteous anger... these are things most distasteful to the privileged and moneyed classes, who really just wish the plebs would shut-up.
The independent online journalism 'epidemic' really started with left-wing blogs and activists, mostly since 2010: when openly hard-line Conservative politics again took root in Britain. The left-wing started to fight-back. The wide availability of information meant that those who paid attention started recognising lies, and asking questions. They gained traction. Skip forward five years, we had a genuinely socialist leader of the Labour party in Jeremy Corbyn. Then, despite every effort of the right-wing and mainstream press to destroy him, the activists and independent left-wing press who championed him (of which I'd consider myself a very small part) almost upset the apple cart at the 2017 General Election.
The 'noise' has only ramped up in the last few years because the right-wing caught up. The likes of The Daily Mail, The Sun and The Express were losing their grip, so the same factions started making their presence felt on social media - perhaps even more effectively. The left and centre weren't at all ready for the level of callous dishonesty and unashamed manipulation they'd employ, which is how we ended up with Brexit, and Trump. The angry clash between the two parties on both sides of the Atlantic has been making one helluva din ever since, and social media insanely toxic.
It's hardly surprising that 'woke' populations, aware of the corruption rife among those supposedly governing in their interests, go hand in hand with civil unrest. It's a legitimate and justifiable response. It's also how humankind and civil rights made progress, mostly in the twentieth century - when rich men and dictators robbed millions of everyday people of their lives, in a grandiose game of chess. The free press and freedom of information played a big part in that progress, which in turn is now amplified beyond imagination by social media.
However, now the suggestion and general feeling is that instead of embracing truth and justice like we did in the past, being informed is actually a bad thing. No, we all need to go back to being 'ambivalent'. Eg: instead of visibly addressing widespread malcontent, the establishment's answer is to forcibly shut our eyes, and tell us not to care. To let them get on with it.
Nor is it coincidence that it's happening precisely as we concurrently see the beginnings of assault on education and learning in Britain. Smart, well informed people rock the boat. (The French Revolution began in universities, after all.)
The real target
Social media news has certainly engaged younger generations in ways that newspapers always struggled. They generally only appealed to 'boring elites' in suits, and people looking for gossip and/or tits on page three. That youth engagement is incredibly dangerous to an establishment that actively relies on little people just accepting their lot in life, and not paying much attention.
If the wide availability of news and information on Facebook is shut-down, or at very least severely hamstrung, the right-wing press will survive. Rupert Murdoch will survive. Those who've always controlled the flow of information will survive. The large corporations who profit on misery will survive. Left-wing causes may not. It's a very deliberate step to silence the likes of The Canary, Evolve Politics, Sqwawk Box, Another Angry Voice, and also more 'respected' left-wing varieties like the Huffington Post, The Independent, and The New European. Not to mention little old blogs like mine too. Eg: those who rely on social media circulation.
Yes a few publications like Westmonster and Media Guido might get taken down with us, but there's more than enough bile and spin to take their place. The BBC alone have probably got it covered. Social media news allows the populace to decide what's important and what's not: it interrupts the intended news cycle of what we're supposed to forget, or simply not notice. (Grenfell survivors, for example, would have been long forgotten without the advent of social media activism. And Toby Young would now be in office. Two drops in an ocean.)
So as much as many of us would prefer to rewind the clock, back to before the world chose insanity, and no-one cared too much for politics...back to when Facebook was just for funny videos and pictures of cats, please friends don't be too quick to condemn us to the potential darkness of ignorance and easy manipulation. The only 'clamp-down' should be upon those who disseminate false, unverified, and unsubstantiated material.
Because of course, the simply huge elephant in the room, is the only people who get political updates on Facebook any way, are those who've actively chosen to see them. Anyone who wants to clean up their timeline and/or bury their head in the sand, can already do so very easily.
What Zuckerberg, or those pulling his strings seem to be removing, is that very ability to choose. I'm not sure I can celebrate that.
Thursday, 11 January 2018
I just don't get it. It's infuriating. The same old lines about "betrayal", and how Lib Dems must never be trusted again. It's so absolutist, and so tiresome.
Let me break it down simply.
Dave and Nick rent a house together. Dave pays dramatically more of the rent than Nick and has a much higher regular income, but Nick has the initial lump sum to pay the deposit. Without Dave's greater income, never could Nick afford to live in that house, but without Nick, Dave can't quite get the house either. They both need it to get to work easily. So they do a deal.
Yes they play friendly and try to get along initially, compromise where possible, but the imbalance becomes very obvious very quickly. Nick later finds out Dave is a right bastard. Which one of them do you think gets final say in the house? Will Nick get any say in anything at all really, when Dave takes very obvious pleasure in pointing out he has all the money, and he pays all the bills?
No is the answer.
“The souls of emperors and cobblers are cast in the same mould. The same reason that makes us wrangle with a neighbour creates a war betwixt princes.”― Michel de Montaigne
What I'm trying to say, is the analogy of an everyday situation like a 'house share' possibly isn't as daft as it might first appear.
If you don't like that analogy, how about the Bible? Where does it say that if a party/person or organisation makes a mistake, they can categorically never be trusted again? Or their words should cease to carry any worth at all?
On the contrary, in the words of Jesus Christ, our (alleged) Lord and saviour:
"Let he without sin cast the first muthaf**king stone."
Okay, I may be paraphrasing slightly, but you get the point.
I refuse to bow to this idea we must all follow one party and/or leader blindly, rather than judging by the policies they propose and what physically comes out their mouths. That is tribalism, plain and simple.
Am I a fan of Tony Blair? No. Did I agree with his role in the Iraq war, or somehow condone it? Not in the slightest. Do I think he was virtually a Tory in disguise? Yes. (But hey, at least he was that now sorely missed breed of Tory who merely pursued wealth as the end-goal, as opposed to these hard-right ideological Tories we now face.)
However, do I also think he's saying some sensible things about Brexit, and the future of this country? Yes, yes I do. And I do sorely miss the days when a British statesman of gravitas could put Nigel Farage in his place, like this:
I know some people hate Blair, but I came across this of him giving Farage a good talking to in EU Parliament.— Damon Evans (@damocrat) January 9, 2018
“You sit with our country’s flag. You do not represent our country’s interests. This is the year 2005, not 1945! We’re not fighting each other anymore”
Then came DC. pic.twitter.com/wHToTsEyk6
As much as I support Corbyn in many regards, certainly his ethics, I shall not be sucked into refusing to acknowledge what other reasonable and pragmatic people have to say, labelling them "scum" and "traitors" etc on account of mistakes made by former leaders, back before Brexit was even an issue. It's senseless.
Though in fairness, Lib-Dem supporters and many ardent remainers are just as rude and dismissive about Corbyn too. It's just such a bloody mess, and very depressing.
Meanwhile the Brexiters and far-right are cackling, rolling around in the spoils of our demise.
Suing the doorman
It's just so bizarre. Some Labour supporters apparently hate the Lib Dems and resent them so much, and vice versa, they're both effectively willing to give a free pass to the party that physically caused all the woes! Like suing the doorman, rather than the owner of the company that screwed you.
It seems to me that reasonable western populaces needs to wake up sharpish, and remember the meaning of 'compromise'. To take stock of the fact that sometimes those we disagree with, or even oppose, might have a point and be right about some things. We need to stay talking, acknowledging shades of grey; not become polarised into two teams of mortal enemies on single principles alone. That way lies ruin.
The minute you stop listening to someone on account of who they are or something they once did, as opposed to the merit of what they say, you're in very shady and prejudiced territory. Prejudice never benefits an informed or rational analysis. Ever.