Saturday, December 28, 2013

I Can't Say That I Much Like The Mobile Phones

Just got a new phone for Christmas.  It's top of the range - the possibilities are limited only by the outer boundary of the user's imagination.

Having no imagination whatsoever, I'll probably just use it to make calls to people and to bore you all to tears with pointless pictures of myself standing next to celebrities.  Hello everyone, this is me with Sanjay off Eastenders, bitch I'll say to Twitter, while you contemplate the fleeting nature of human existence.  This is a huge leap forward in the dullard's art, if you ask me. 

Me and Sanj go way back.

I can't say that I much like the mobile phones, to be honest. I got one from my employers and all they ever do is call me on it and ask me to do more work on my day off, the swines, and I'm forever at the mercy of Scottish Power.  Where's our goddamn money, you stinking leech, they text me continually.  It's like volunteering to keep a miniature bailiff in your pocket*.

Still, I can now read a book on a bus, a feat that was literally unthinkable in the dark ages before smartphones were invented.  I can also sit on a bus watching TV shows about Californian heiresses getting upset because their siblings disrespected them, which will be endlessly useful if I ever sustain a debilitating head injury.

Once, sitting on a bus could be a rich televisual metaphor.  The actor/actress could lean on the window staring into the middle distance, facially conveying inner turmoil - hopes and fears, regrets, steely determination etc.

These days such a scene would look about as realistic as an episode of Match of the Day acted out by the Thunderbirds, without the main character watching kittens falling over on a WowPhone Fuckteen. Such is the world that we have created.


 "God damn you! God damn you all to Hell!"

*If you type "bailiff" into the Google the first result is "bailiff jobs", which suggests that lots of people are using their Wowphone Fuckteens to seek employment in kicking your front door to pieces then repossessing your Wowphone Fuckteen.

Don't look to me for help though - in years to come, I'll remember that when they came for the Wowphone Fuckteen users, I was playing Angry Birds on my Blingphone Retardo or watching video clips of Thai girls crapping on each other, because I was not a Wowphone Fuckteen owner.

Frogger - An Example To Us All

Horror at the Guardian as one of their bloggers notices that players can hump and kill prostitutes in Grand Theft Auto V.  It's an oddly specific complaint for a game in which you can also kill, like, five billion coppers with a flamethrower then drive over their lifeless bodies in a truck for no reason at all, but we'll let it slide.

So what, we might say?   In Fallout 3 you can blow up a town with a nuclear warhead and wander about a radioactive wasteland enslaving the poverty-stricken, and I've spent hours beseiging cities and executing Gauls in Rome: Total War. 

Go on, I used to cackle maniacally, bouncing in my seat and spraying Wotsit-dust in every direction, Nail some respect into those bumptious, computerised Celts, it's the only language they understand.  I later discovered that they may also have understood Gaulish.

But who now weeps for the Gauls?  Not the Guardian anyway, the dirty hypocrites.  Perhaps if I'd had sex with the Gauls before I crucified them, it'd be a different story?   The eternal vicissitudes of digital genocide - every execution, a minefield of niceties.  O tempora, O mores.

Anyway, our columnist frets - They play at night instead of doing their homework. It's cool to pick up prostitutes. This is how you learn to "be a man"...  but I'm not sure that this is true.  I mostly play during the day, and I learned how to "be a man" by watching old episodes of Columbo.  Nowadays I mostly squint at people over a dinky cigar and mutter about my possibly-fictional wife, before driving off with a Basset hound.

(I don't usually have sex with the Basset hound as a rule, although I admit that if I did, I might consider running him over, to prevent him squealing to the Old Bill.  Nobody ever gets on at Columbo for this kind of possibly horrifying theoretical criminality, I notice). 

Anyway, back on topic - I disapprove of having it away with video game hookers and then running them over.  Down with it, I say!  Games players should all agree to just stick to running them over and taking their money without any transactional sex taking place, like our parents did.

True fact - Frogger never once went with any pros, even though he was around in the eighties, when cocaine and high-class call girls were all the rage.

An example to us all, there.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

All I Want For Christmas Is Woo

Anatomy of a Furore

As the row over gender-segregated seating in certain university lectures rumbles towards its inevitable end with total victory for the press and campaigners, I thought it'd be worth taking a look at how such ferocious internet fistfights are made.


This particular case is an especially daft one, relating as it does to an administrator at some university body or other deciding it'd be a good idea to separate men and women at talks given by glowering, intolerant religious nutters, out of a misguided sense of "inclusiveness".

A wacky plan, but pretty much what you'd expect from the type of academic chuckler who manages events involving fundamentalists who like dressing up like Jedi Knights and arsing on at length about what God does and doesn't want you to do with your genitals.  Since academia really is pretty infamous for this kind of right-on howler, you'd think this would be a straightforward point-and-laugh story.

Not so, for nowadays we have a pre-packed plan for dealing with such treasonous criminals.  Some people pray for this kind of event and grab it with both hands whenever the chance arises, because all they want for Christmas is woo.

If you fancy a bash at this yourself, here are a few pointers on how to take some minor administrator's twatty idea and turn it into an intergalactic confrontation between secularism and The Forces Of Darkness.

Choose your opponents carefully 

The most important thing to consider when selecting a target for a massive hissy-fit is that you should never, under any circumstances, have a go at anyone who wields any actual power.


This makes academia a prime target, since it's notorious for producing vast quantities of woo, especially in the humanities, and because professors and suchlike have no real power outside of their own little fiefdoms.

Other excellent opponents are human rights NGOsallegorical feminists or even a generalised section of society, but beware - all of these people are quite capable of defending themselves, and there is a possibility that they may alert the public to any wildly overblown claims that you make.

The ideal target is one that barely exists in anything more than a symbolic sense.  Recall the way that sections of the media responded to the Rochdale sex abuse rings case: by waving their arms and screeching that they wouldn't be cowed or silenced by the PC Brigade, and that they would tell the terrible truth regardless of the certainly horrendous repercussions Tha Librulz would undoubtedly wreak upon them.

In reality, nobody attempted to silence the Times or the Telegraph or the Express - there was no barrier whatsoever to any of these vast media organisations saying whatever they liked, in whatever tones they liked, whenever they liked.  And yet, there was much back-patting and self-congratulation at the time for facing up to this non-existent, supposedly speech-strangling colossus.

The lesson here is that the best opponent to pick a fight with is an imaginary one.  After all, real people respond to your statements, but fictitious ones never do.

If you must pick an actually-existing gorgon to slay, always ensure that it's some ludicrous fanny of gargantuan proportions; somebody that no sane human being is going to pipe up in defence of.  This will assist you no end if your wails and screams amount to an uncontroversial statement of the obvious.

Of course, it always helps if your target is someone you've always despised, or if they can be said to represent people you've always hated in the first place.

Pick your issue well 

The issue itself is less important than getting yourself onto the side of truth, justice and the American Way.  In this sense, it's actually better if it's some minor procedural daftness or a dodgy statement to denounce, because these can easily be spanked up into an epic battle between secularism and religious totalism.


Remember, something like this seating plan malarkey isn't just an administrator talking bollocks - it's an urgent fight for liberty against apartheid, part of a vital battle against medievalist obscurantism and repression.  Some academic saying something cretinous is not merely a geezer talking nonsense, but the frontline in the great intellectual battle against relativism.

Stop sniggering at the back there, this is a serious matter, damn you.

You're a noble, embattled campaigner who just happens to be a well-paid columnist

All of Europe may have been crushed under the Roman sandal, but there is one village in Gaul that still holds out, and this is you.


Remember, your actual opponent may be some ineffectual tweedy dork, but he represents a great marching legion of all-powerful monsters.  You, on the other hand, are but a single voice and any victories you score are incredible feats of awesomeness.

Here's an actual comment I saw on Twitter the other day, from one of the noisier segregation wailers:


David Cameron has now come out against Uni segregation by gender. Keep pushing, folks. We may just win this.

Yes, with nothing more than your courage and determination, plus the agreement of platoons of opinion columnists and editors and the full endorsement of the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, you have somehow triumphed over some daftie who had a mental idea, against all the odds.  Who could've predicted such an astounding outcome?

Strike hard, with all of your power

There's no time for pussyfooting around - strike your opponent with maximum violence immediately because if you don't, he or she may back down before you've had a chance to really get on your high horse and suck some political capital out of the situation.

Plus, if you're an opinion columnist, you'll have to file about some other issue next week, so you'll have to milk this opportunity for all that it's worth while there's still time.

Remember, your new hobbyhorse can be ridden into literally anything, so if e.g. you've been told to pretend to be horrified by a celebrity divorce, for instance, you can just wedge the fucking thing in there at right angles, however incongruous it looks.

And when your triumph arrives...

Do not be modest

Once you've chased off whatever intimidating academic or threatening NGO was menacing the populace, it'd be rude not to celebrate by the internet equivalent of cartwheels and ostentatious badge-kissing.  Whoops and hollers are mandatory, as are cries of In your FACE, you elitist ivory-tower administrator! and so forth.

This is your victory, so enjoy it.  Well, yours and all those countless hacks and politicians, but let's not quibble.

And lastly...

Eyes on the prize, everyone 

Remember, this is but one battle in an ongoing war against whatever it is you usually spend your time whining about.  We can pause for a moment, but you must also issue reminders that whatever it is you were arsing on about has not gone away, and is merely waiting for the chance to say some other damnfool thing or invent a newer, crazier rule.

Take a breath and turn a watchful eye back to the battlefield, for some prick is guaranteed to make a loopy pronouncement sooner or later and when they do, you'll be there to batter them into submission with the twathammer of truth and the lance of getting really, really sanctimonious about things.

Stay vigilant, people.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Remembrance Day

This far removed from Remembrance Day, I can probably get away with these sentiments.

I am a bit offended, to see men who send soldiers to die for no good reason bowing their heads to the Cenotaph. The Cenotaph exists because it would've been impractical to dump the corpses of half a million men on Whitehall, where those who sent them to die could see them and atone for their many sins.

It's no more fun to see a Blair or a Brown or a Cameron bow their heads in memory of the men they sent cruising around the Sunni Triangle in piles of shrapnel on wheels. These politicians have no place at Remembrance services, since their main function has been the creation of more orphans and widows, and better lies and excuses.

Mind you, it does take a certain kind of brass balls to show up for such an event.

Saturday, November 09, 2013

The Ducks In Moscow Fly Backwards In October, Comrade

So, GCHQ and its tireless quest to keep us all safe from the kiddy-fiddlers.

Let's ratchet up the rhetoric instantly by noting that if you'd been permitted to ask Leonid Brezhnev what the Soviet Union's spies and secret police did for a living, he'd likely have called forth a cavalcade of contemporaneous villains - double agents, capitalist stooges, counter-revolutionaries, saboteurs and so on, all of them bent upon the infliction of all manner of harm upon the people and the nation.

And importantly, he'd be at least partially correct. This was the Cold War after all, so we know that the USSR was certainly crawling with spooks and traitors.  Nonetheless, let's also note that for as long as the Soviet Union existed, its people were afraid to speak openly in front of their own children in their own homes, lest the entire family disappear forever overnight.

And so the British security services invoke regiments of modern monsters: domestic jihadists and net-nonces and glowering foreign terror networks, and inform us that we sleep soundly in our beds because rough men are prepared to do violence etc and so forth.  I notice that around 80% of our free press relates this to us as a matter of absolute fact, rather than assertion, so there's a way to go yet before we get that Pravdatastic national consensus.  A secret state is necessary to protect our hard-won democratic revolutionary  freedom, yadda yadda yadda.

And yet, I can recall no democratic stamp being slapped onto the legitimacy of our spooks.  They grew from a genuinely authoritarian war government and have metastasised in secrecy, undiscussed at election after election. Has a major political party ever pledged to shed light upon their works?  If so, it's passed me by. The full extent of their democratic bona fides encompass the mere facts that politicians like spies and the public aren't much arsed, ergo we shall have spies. If you disagree, well, there's the door.

And already I can hear complaints - how unreasonable and childish, to imagine that a vast secret state apparatus operating far beyond public oversight could be considered to be reminiscent of the KGB.  Do you want the Taliban to kidnap your wife and insert a nuclear warhead up her innocent, trusting bottom? I lose count of the variants and accessories, but the nuts and bolts are reliably mass-produced to the point of being indistinguishable.

So let's note for now that our current tolerance of snoops and spooks is a huge and remarkable historical outlier.  You wouldn't know this from the opinion pages alone, but for most of human history, secret policemen have been feared and reviled with just cause.  Even in the modern era, Britain's fellatial embrace of spymasters is something of an exception to the global rule, one that causes consternation in other democracies.

Let us consider, briefly, the idea that the public's - also unusual, in the grand scheme of things - ability to choose between two institutional factions who will not make any serious effort to oversee our secret services, somehow elevates our spooks to some wholly different and more desirable status of benign accountability than the Soviet model.

Because once we buy that, we might as well start buying inspirational newspapers to learn the latest on tractor production and technological advancement in the smelting of pig iron. Because it's the same sales job in a gaudier guise.

Saturday, November 02, 2013

A Requiem For a Blog

So Normblog is now off on the Big Hiatus, prompting elegies and tributes throughout the land. Whether you agree or disagree with the content, I'd say that the one point they all share is entirely accurate - that Normblog was one of the great pioneers of the blogging game.

Try as I might, I can't imagine blogs without the Professor, much as I can't picture modern opinion thinkery without Chris Hitchens.  More than any other I can think of, Normblog really should be seen as the archetype of the form.

I'm not qualified to appraise the author's rich and varied cultural output, since my own narrow interests extend as far as football, dick jokes and shouting at people about war being awful, but that does qualify me to comment on the blog's political meanderings.

Readers will be unsurprised to discover that I don't recognise the supposedly deep and considered heavyweight cogitation that the obituaries describe, and that I take a less charitable view.  From my perspective, I think you can split Normblog's political blogging into a few distinct categories:

- Finger-waggy, history-heavy lectures upon the virtue of the current political settlement, usually prompted by some no-mark calling for a non-specific revolution, the jailing of public figures etc.  The prime example here was the Prof's response to the financial crisis, which IIRC was to ignore the globe-spanning corruption and destruction and the resultant austerity catastrophes, in favour of ticking off the only popular protest movement that emerged from the ruins.  Marxism certainly isn't my specialist subject, but Normblog's decision to focus on hectoring of a bunch of nameless hipsters and students suggests that I know even less than I thought I did.

- Sensible-sounding calls for men of violence to do insane and wildly dangerous things.  Generally along the lines of "I read about the suffering of the oppressed people of Abroadistan today.  All decent people would agree that it's now necessary to (antiseptic-sounding euphemism for killing lots of motherfuckers) after which (Cough, cough, mumble) ...Freedom and human rights throughout the region".  Worryingly vague on the specifics, but rock solid on "first principles", which was always a bit of an obvious dodge around practical reality.

- Reminders that e.g. The Taliban are cruel and vicious, presented in tones that suggest that only the author and his mates were aware of this.

- Assertions that democracies can indulge in all manner of violent and lunatic behaviours, because the mere act of people choosing which version of the Thatcherite consensus they wish to rule confers some form of law-swerving legitimacy. Usually deployed in a stentorian lesson on how Americans shooting fuck out of people for no sane reason is an entirely different phenomenon from other foreigners shooting fuck out of people for no sane reason.

- A tiresome and annoying pretence that some minor opinion columnist must logically be saying a thing which he or she patently has not said. The best example is the Prof's ten-year habit of kidding on that he couldn't grasp the meaning of the word "understand", a word he regularly portrayed as meaning "condone and encourage (violent incident (x))", rather than, you know, "comprehend". This one was odd at first, and only became more embarrassing and annoying with repetition, much like a non-stop, decade-long rendition of The Welly Boot Song would.

- Requests for others to engage with the author's ideas, usually accompanied by implications that we hadn't given a matter as much deep thought as the Prof had, or that we were unaware of our biases.  The classic is "I can see it from here, so maybe something is blocking your view of it... Maybe if you came over here, you'd see it". Basically a series of repeated requests for vastly more intellectual charity than the author was ever willing to grant anyone else.

- Lengthy "thought experiments" of the "You hear your neighbour beating his wife and  grab  your trusty rocket-launcher" genus. I imagine that even Normblog's most avid readers would acknowledge that the sole function of these whimsical scenarios were to simplify complex matters well past the point of bathos, with the aim of justifying whatever wacky suggestions couldn't be argued for in their own terms. Of course, the answer "let's ignore that scenario because it's preposterously reductive and self-serving" was merely a symptom of the speaker's unwillingness to engage.

- And of course, the huffy complaints that people the Prof had spent years barracking and denouncing refused to credit his good intentions - roughly, "Why oh why oh why won't these godawful bastards admit that there were good reasons for supporting the disastrous invasion and occupation of Iraq?".  A reader who got their news from Normblog alone would swiftly conclude that this shameful reluctance to afford charity to the madcap ideas of Professors Emeritii of Politics was one of the major injustices of the era.

And that word, "Iraq", really has to be raised in any critique of Normblog, much as a history of the Scottish international football team is likely to feature the word "defeat". The early blog scene was characterised by men - and it was almost entirely men - acting up like amateur McArthurs, putting cardboard boxes on their heads and driving their imaginary tanks all over Mesopotamia, and Normblog more than most.

Of course, once the lofty humanitarian rhetoric dried up and the entire escapade went shit-shaped, there was little else to do but issue sniffy pronouncements upon the villainy of public figures and opinion writers. Thus did blogging generally move from pushing little tin tanks around the atlas, to a long and dull police action upon the outer boundary of acceptable discourse.

The Professor attacked the task with gusto and an insatiable appetite for triviality. No academic was too insignificant to be held up as an exemplar of the whateverness of the modern left; every single sentence became ripe for a point-scoring pounce. No matter how violently the Professor's preferred policies exploded, he could always be counted upon to produce some representative badthinker to belabour. Where the consequences of these decisions were seriously considered, they were dismissed in a Walter White-esque manner in which most actions could be justified individually, without ever considering whether every small and mean act was but a minor part of a greater and more terrible whole.

To use the Prof's own methods, "Imagine you're watching the aftermath of a grotesque terrorist bombing on the news, and you turn to your wife and say, Fuck me dead Violet, that's a really horrible tie that Huw Edwards is wearing tonight".

It's for this reason that I say that Normblog was the apex of the form - an era of violent right-wing monsters rampaging like beasts across the planet, while a bunch of  white academics argued in fiery tones that the biggest issue of the age was some conveniently abstract demon like "relativism", or some similar nonsense.  Like the Cold War, but with even more irrelevant bullshit.

But you know, that wouldn't sound very nice amongst the tributes in the broadsheets, so it isn't said, but it does have that added force of being true.

Few of us get to see our paths to Utopia paved to our specifications in the way that Professor Norm did, and even fewer will get Guardian and Tines obituaries that slide over our errors so smoothly, to portray the production of windy variations on "I agree with the government" as an act of outstanding courage.

Well, Nick Cohen said in his tribute that he owed most of his political and moral thought to Professor Norm. I imagine that we can all draw our own conclusions from that.

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Lunatic Laundry, How May I Rehabilitate You Today?

This apparent change of heart by arch-mentalist EDL leader Tommy Robinson, gamely supported by anti-extremist group Quilliam, provides an opportunity for an interesting experiment.

Before we get into the specifics of Tommy's desire for more political Lebensraum,  let's recall what happened the last time a pressure group put up an allegedly reformed former violent headbanger to front one of its campaigns.

Back in 2010, Amnesty International chose to run a high-profile campaign against the United States' highly sinister and secretive international prison system, into which unknown numbers of people had vanished.  They toured this at a number of gigs fronted by Moazzam Begg, an ex-Guantanamo detainee with deeply whiffy politics.

To cut a long story short, this ended with Amnesty taking a terrific monstering in the press from numerous papers and pundits - most of whom, in an astounding coincidence, had track records of hemming and hawing and reluctantly-concluding on the issue of Americans torturing prisoners.

This public punishment beating didn't take the form of constructive criticism, you may recall.  Most opinionistas jumped straight in with accusations that Amnesty had betrayed its entire mission or thrown its lot in with the Taliban, then turned the volume up from there.  Some fervently wished that a spontaneous uprising of somebody else would magic a new and better Amnesty into existence, one that would spend most or all of its time harshing on the Islamic terrorists and, maybe, a little less on the US.

And so here we are, with the "anti-extremist" Quilliam Foundation hosting a PR event for a major realignment of the British far right, hosted by a man who has renounced few of his previously espoused beliefs and whose supposed moderation appears to extend to a desire to reduce the amount of Third Reich imagery at his public events.

I imagine we'll see all those who so furiously browned their trousers at Amnesty leading the pack against Robinson and Quilliam, of course.  Nobody who tore off on a jag about Amnesty legitimising extremist beliefs by bringing them into the mainstream and so on could possibly be fooled by Robinson's newfound position of expelling all the Muslims with the utmost respect.

Given the organisation's record of rehabilitating extremists - apparently by taking folk who believe in killing people with nailbombs and instilling them with firm convictions about killing people with Hellfire missiles -  I'd hope they'd see it as a conjob that involves making a show of transforming people from one type of violence-loving idiot into another, for political reasons.

Or at least, I hope they do. Because if lots of these folk are taken in, that would imply that all of this "anti-extremism" stuff is basically nonsense with little purpose beyond lining up the public behind a general policy of bombing fuck out of half the planet and incarcerating whoever we damn well feel like zapping in the nutsack with a cattle prod.

Why, it would imply that you can be any kind of psychotic cheerleader of mayhem and atrocity you like,  provided you later converted to an advocate of the kind of mayhem and atrocity you can't commit without a multibillion-dollar budget.  It'd imply that it's not extremism that's problematic, so much as a lack of compliance in the service of an ever-more necessary militancy of one particular type.

Still, it will be fun to see who buys Quilliam as a kind of all-purpose lunatic-laundry service. 

Your Violently-Inclined Extreme Bigotry, Dry-Cleaned While U Wait.  Now, there's a slogan. 

Saturday, September 07, 2013

Liberties


So Tony Blair was apparently on the radio this week explaining that "trust" isn't as big an issue over Syria as it was over Iraq, since we know that the Assads have and use chemical weapons.

A neat point, but one that won't wash with those of  us who'd be against a war, even if Tony produced an authenticated clip of Bashar himself sneaking around Damascus like Dick Dastardly with drums of  poison.

Why? Well, if your basic position is like mine, then one of the many reasons to disown any future wars is precisely that our political class has repeatedly proven that they can't be trusted not to do something insane the second they get what they want.

They request an inch, and take a mile.

You'll look long and hard through Hansard before you'll find a parliamentary vote on the invasion and twelve-year occupation of Afghanistan.  Nor will you find any clips of Dick Cheney telling the press that the US intended to invade Iraq, topple its dictator and turn it into a laboratory for lunatic free-market experimentation under a bunch of locally-despised exiles.

You won't find these, because the official excuses for these wheezes were "killing or capturing some very specific terrorists" and "finding some theoretical weapons".

You might say well, circumstances forced us to reassess, but let me suggest that "what our leaders did" may well have been influenced by "what they had always intended to do".

Our last war was little different: having secured permission to patrol the skies of Libya to "protect civilians", we miraculously ended up bombing fuck out of everything that looked like it might have been useful to the regime. Thus did a mission that was sold on the protection of the people of Benghazi end with the people of Benghazi blasting hell out of urban centres with the very artillery that was once trained upon them.

Like a gaggle of miniature Douglas MacArthurs, these people simply can't be trusted not to deliberately abuse whatever trust is placed in them.

God only knows what they have planned for Syria, but I wouldn't be surprised if they tried to paint the place pink and puce or appointed Rolf Harris as King.

They create a dessert, and they call it peas.

This determination to grab whatever can be grabbed is one thing, but their tendency to lie brazenly about their activities is just plain insulting your intelligence.

Readers will be familiar with this behaviour so i won't labour the point, but who can forget Barack Obama's insistence that our bombing campaign in Libya wasn't even a war, or fail to be suspicious when he says the same of our upcoming Syrian adventure?

Who doesn't feel nostalgic about that time when David Cameron and William Hague furiously denied   targeting the Gaddafi clan, while Liam Fox was simultaneously telling anyone who would listen that hell yeah, it was open season on dashiki-wearing thugs and their offspring?

These are entirely minor examples and readers will have their own favourites.  Perhaps it's Condaleeza Rice babbling about mushroom clouds or claiming to hear the "birth-pangs of a new Middle East" in the bombed-out ruin of southern Lebanon, or maybe President Bush assuring the world that America doesn't torture the people that it does in fact torture.

Whatever - the fact is that our leaders are entirely comfortable with all manner of crazy shenanigans, and are quite willing to entirely lie about it if caught.

They mistake their own propaganda for facts

More or less the only way to understand a character like Tony Blair, for instance, is to assume that he entirely believes the insane things he says.

I'm quite certain that to this day that he believes he told us all the truth about the invasion of Iraq, and this is because he's incapable of realising that a PR campaign easily tips over into outright porkies.

Lynx deodorants, for instance, would think you were mental if you accused them of fraudulently selling armpit-sanitizer as Viagra.  MacDonalds don't much fret over their responsibility to be straight with the public, and nor should they.

Wars, on the other hand, are a bit more important than burgers. They present unique challenges and acute moral dilemmas, ones that can't be overcome with daring acts of creative imagineering. There really is a responsibility to level with the public, if you intend to send their kids into harm's way and deploy the might of the nation among the houses of women and children.

Consider: is John Kerry being honest with America when he tells the people that "Assad has killed 100,000 Syrians"? That would, after all, imply that regime forces haven't taken any casualties at all. When he makes grand claims about damage to American prestige caused by failure to blam Damascus with missiles, is that a real and important thing, or a bunch of PR horseshit?

If it's the latter, then how far can anything he says be trusted?

They're so very fucking bumptious about it.

And we'll finish with a minor point - our politicians are so keen to cast their own actions as vitally important and historic that it's difficult to avoid concluding that they're victims of narcissism.

Take Iraq, for instance. Even if we believe the government was sincerely concerned about terrifying weapons of massive destructiveness*, then the invasion was surely a regrettable but essential endeavour rather than a moral crusade.

And yet, recall the soaring rhetoric of the era, which existed purely to cast as noble and virtuous an action which, by its own architects' admission, was only necessary.

Echoes of this can be heard in Michael Gove's lunatic rants after last week's vote, as he reportedly accused everyone within earshot of appeasement. Yo, Mike - this isn't 1938 and you sure as hell aren't Churchill - you are, at best, a twat.

-

So, you get the idea. If I carried any clout at all - which I definitely don't - my bottom line would be "no more wars until you've proven that you won't take the piss".

Of course, none of us can see the future and it could well be that five years from now, Angela Merkel will hoist the Swastika and invade Poland.

Until that point though, I'd say it's best to err on the side of caution.



*"WMD" itself being a term of art, designed to make the public worry about nuclear warheads when it really means "some nasty poison gas".


Sunday, September 01, 2013

Gentlemen, You Can't Fight In Here!

Well, well - we do live in interesting times. Some thoughts on the ongoing fallout of the Syria debacle in the UK, in no particular order:

- It's difficult to understate how badly the government had sex with the hound in making its case for bombing.

To pick a couple of previous PR campaigns, we've had a case full of scaremongering, slightly-true bollocks and magical fulminations on the wonders of democracy (Iraq) and a case that amounted to a series of bald lies about our objectives (Libya).  Both were packed with nonsense, but it did feel like they were at least making a bit of an effort.

For Syria, the government tried the novel tactic of not making a case for war at all. Perhaps it was complacency that reduced the entire campaign to some horrible TV footage and a vague plan to like, bung some missiles at Syria so that the regime would, like, totally know we meant business and shit.

So you can't really blame folk for not buying it. This kind of behaviour looks pretty deranged when it's a bunch of Palestinian yahoos spunking rockets at their neighbours for no particular reason, and it doesn't sound more reasonable just because the guy proposing it went to public school.

- If your plan is so flimsy that it can't even stand up to one guy saying, "Can you explain this in a bit more detail", then it was probably a shit plan in the first place.  This part of war-planning is usually the most insulting phase, as everyone pretends there's an actual debate to be had, beyond how badly we intend to fuck up some foreigners.

After all, it's not like Ed Miliband asked for a detailed twelve-step programme for the elimination of death itself. Labour's quibble basically offered 100% backing for yet another whizzbang firework show, provided Cameron handed over something - anything, any excuse, however feeble - by way of justification.

Frankly, I thought Cameron could've published a war prospectus that consisted of a map of Syria with BOMB HERE written on it and a clip of Tulisa honking on another cock, and he would've been buried under a towering pile of backbenchers' frilly knickers, like Tom Jones. A mere fig leaf to drape over Britain's vast, throbbing war-boner would've been sufficient.

Instead, we were treated to one of the least edifying hissyfits in Parliamentary history, as Number Ten chewed desks, rent garments, spoke in tongues, called down the judgement of heaven etc. and so on. Michael Gove and William Hague looked like they were engaged in a contest to see who could best convey the abstract concept of bollock-torture, through the medium of facial expressions.

Well, it'll probably come to war anyway, but let's just notice for now that all it took to derail these hijinks was for one major politician to say "Hold on, let's have a bit of a think about this first".  Perhaps there, we see where we've been going wrong all these years.

- The most psychotically aggressive human beings in this country aren't soldiers or football hooligans, but Times journalists. For the past fortnight, their opinion columns and editorials all read like they were written by a pissed-up Scrappy Doo.

- And it really is very lucky for our mental foreign policy wonks that all these disasters keep happening in places that they've always wanted to bomb to smithereens in the first place.

- I suspect that most of our war-loving pundits have been in such a state of boiling, omni-directional seethe since that vote, not just because they love those Syrians that we weren't planning to kill so very fucking much, but because

a) Britain chose not to join in with the Americans and the sky has not yet fallen, which teaches the public all kinds of highly inconvenient lessons, and

b) These aren't people who are used to being denied whatever they want. War pundits have been spoilt rotten these last fifteen years, so it's no surprise that they're stamping their little feet and bawling when Mummy tells them that we have to play nice and keep the toys in the box for once.

- Elsewhere, Paddy Ashdown has been telling everyone who will listen that not bombing fuck out of countries whenever we feel like it is some terrifying form of hateful extremism.

Call me nuts, but his wailing about "isolationism" strikes me as hilariously premature. Parliament narrowly declining one war in every ten or so doesn't sound much like a Fortress Britain mentality to me, yo.

Still, let's note that while Ashdown's Fuck 'Em And Feed 'Em Frag Grenades attitude to military adventurism is wildly unpopular with the actual electorate, it places him squarely in the centre of the most mundane mainstream of UK politics.

- Also, somebody needs to send some British journalists a link to the Wiki page for "War", because almost none of them appear to be aware that bombing fuck out of another country is a little bit war-ish.

I mean, sure, these days we only make war on countries that can't meaningfully fight back so the definition is stretched, but the formula is still Attacking a country = War, no matter how many nice press releases you issue while you're doing it.

- And that line we kept hearing, about how "Syria is not like Iraq". I'm assuming that it means "Not like Iraq in 2003", because it sure as hell looks a bit like Iraq in 2007 to my untrained eye.

- It's fairly incredible to me that the press seem to be able to find endless numbers of Syrians who want us to bomb their countrymen on their behalf, but almost none who actually want to be bombed themselves.

You'd think there would be quite a lot of Syrians who'd state publicly that they'd rather not be fragged into space dust by the force of our humanitarianism, but I guess they must be too busy to give interviews.

- Who doesn't love being told that "We can't let Russia or China dictate our foreign policy" by wonks and hacks who are entirely in favour of outsourcing our foreign policy to Pennsylvania Avenue? It's just precious.

- If everyone on Twitter giving it hee-haw about how anti-war types should protest the Russian embassy had actually protested outside the Russian embassy themselves, there would've been a massive protest outside the Russian embassy.

It would've achieved squarely nothing, but it would at least have backed up their tiresome patter with a bit of action.

And finally, whenever the Americans do start bombing Damascus, my money is on "Operation Lightning Justice". You heard it here first, folks - enjoy the display.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Meet The New Boss

And so we add Syria to the long list of nations fortunate enough to benefit from our glorious military largesse.

As if from nowhere, it appears that our leaders have decided that while eighty thousand deaths were an acceptable expense, ninety thousand is now intolerable.  In a matter of days, evidence of chemical weapons use that was once sketchy and unreliable has miraculously engorged itself to convincing solidity.

We might ask ourselves - what changed? A vicious, barbarous civil war remains vicious and barbarous; its participants remain murderous and its victims terrorised and pitiable.

In reality, only one aspect has changed, but it's a biggie - the side that we like least from two terrible options has begun to rack up some clear victories.

So you'll pardon me if I don't join in the chorus of We Can't Sit Back And Do Nothing when plainly, sitting back and doing nothing has suited our leaders just fine, provided that it was our favoured faction that was in the ascendency.  You'll notice that William Hague's outrage has waxed and waned with the rebels' military gains and losses, much as Vladimir Putin's has in equal and opposite terms.

After all, what does President Obama intend to achieve by shoving more and better rifles into the hands of the losing side?

Not victory for the rebels, since he himself has repeatedly told us that handing out guns to one side in a sectarian bloodbath will only ratchet up the bodycount without winning the war.

Not a negotiated peace, since President Obama has repeatedly told us that peace is only acceptable to him if it's made on terms that are unacceptable to the regime.

What can arming the rebels achieve, then?  Reader, let me lay this on you - arming the rebels will keep the war going; it will grind down the enemy factions gratifyingly and, as a highly regrettable yet entirely foreseeable consequence, it'll also keep that pile of dead civvies growing indefinitely.

But hey, we've all got to go some time, right?

This is the heart and soul of it. It's not the murdering or the bombing that we find intolerable, it's the losing...  And by appearances, it seems like we're willing to fight Assad and his allies right down to the last Syrian.

If this strikes you as ultra-cynical then I have to ask you - what was it in our leaders' recent behaviour that led you to believe that they regard anything at all in Syria as "intolerable"?

Certainly not sectarian slaughter, since some of the worst Iraqi death squads ended their war on the American payroll. Not ethnic cleansing or executions, since we spent the Libyan war providing air cover for the persecution of that unhappy nation's black African populace.

We plainly don't object to massive bombardments of basically incarcerated populations, since ourselves and our allies have played that game enthusiastically for the last decade, from North Africa to the Tigris.

We're clearly fine with all of the enormities of modern warfare, to the extent that we have entire PR departments, publications and a cottage industry of thinktanks dedicated to finessing the politics of our own democratically-inclined destruction.

And these are the people we're to trust with another "humanitarian intervention" in the Middle East?  These theoretically-reluctant bombers with their eternal outbursts of supposedly-accidental mayhem and chaos?

Unless we're using the term "humanitarian" in the same way that we'd talk about a vegetarian intervention at the salad bar, I suspect the results might belie the moniker.

Anyway. All of this must seem alien and insane to many, but if I can offer one piece of advice on this situation, it'd go like this...

Every major political actor involved in this godawful catastrophe is lying about their intentions, be they dictator or democrat, and not one of them fears inflating the horror more than they fear backing the losing side... And every single one of them is willing to get people killed in large numbers to get what they want.

Ah, needless and super-destructive Cold War proxy conflicts.  How I've missed you, and the gibbering cavalcade of outrageous, offensively obvious horseshit explosions you proliferate in every direction.

Saturday, June 08, 2013

Same Again

So I'm in a bar, speaking to this friend of mine, who we'll call Bill.

Bill's a defence lawyer in Glasgow, deals with shoplifters, sticky-fingered junkies and pavement boxers, that kind of thing.  He's telling me about Mr S, who he's just finished defending against a charge of fraudulent benefits claims.

"Mr S is in his fifties", Bill says.  "He's an engineer, worked in the same factory since he was nineteen.  Two years ago, boom, firm goes into administration and lays off the entire workforce.  Suddenly, it's unemployment.  Mr S gets Jobseeker's Allowance, but it's a shitty way to live. He's still trying to pay off his mortgage, two kids to look after, and nobody anywhere wants to hire a fifty-four year old engineer..."

"Sucks to be him" I say.

"Sure does.  So one day, Mr S shows up at the Job Centre.  The guy behind the desk says, we've been looking at your case, and you've claimed six hundred and fifty quid that you aren't entitled to".

"Over two years?" I ask, doing a quick calculation.  "My God, he's been ripping us all off for more than six quid a week".

Bill nods.  "Yeah, the guy's a regular Ronnie Biggs.  So Mr S says it was an accident, that he ticked the wrong box, says the form was long and confusing".

"Did you believe him?" I ask, thinking back to my own fortnight on the dole.  I had to fill in a form the size of a novella and I got the princely sum of eight quid, and no job offers...  And that was in 1999, the salad days by comparison.

"Hell," Bill says, "The sheriff believed him, not that it did him any good.  I've seen those forms.  You need a degree in fucking advanced mathematics to work those things out.  Mr S is all like I've worked for every penny I've ever earned and I've never stolen nothing from anyone and all that shit".

"Is it true?".

"Who knows?  Who cares?  Not me, not the clerks, especially not the sheriff.  Intentional, unintentional, it's all the same.  So anyway, the DWP are having this big crackdown on benefit cheats, and they're not interested in Mr S's offer to pay them back.  Pay them with what, the money they're giving him?"

"We couldn't have that".

"No, heaven forfend.  Doesn't matter whether he meant it, doesn't matter whether he ripped off five hundred quid or fifty thousand.   Here he is sitting in a room with a sheriff, some lawyers and a pack of twitchy junkies and wham, conviction, there you go.  Guy never had a chance of getting off with it, really".

"Bad luck for Mr S", I say.  "I hope he gets a job soon. Imagine having to go back to the Jobcentre to grovel for change to the same guys that poled you up the backside like that".

"Well, if he was struggling to get a job before, he sure isn't going to find it any easier now that he's got a criminal conviction for dishonesty.  You have to declare that to potential employers, you know".

I whistled.  "Man, that's harsh.  Does the government know this kind of thing is going on?"

Bill gave me a funny look, like I'd asked where babies come from.  "Mate, I told you - the government is pushing this crackdown so hard it's a wonder their arms don't burst out of their sockets".

I gave that some thought.  "I wonder what Iain Duncan Smith thinks about folk like Mr S", I said.

"Hell, I bet he stays up all night long worrying about those motherfuckers", Bill said, draining his pint.  "I bet their plight just breaks his heart".

"Iain Duncan Smith has a heart?"

"I fucking hope so, or there'll be nothing for the vampire hunters to drive a wooden stake through...   Same again?"

I finished my pint.  "Of course," I said.

Saturday, June 01, 2013

That Syria Dilemma, In Total

Our quaint politics, how foolish.

The Sauds* took our decision for us, long ago.

*When I say "The Sauds", I mean "The Americans and the Sauds" although it's a distinction without a difference.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Now Wash Your Hands

Rory had tried to hold it in until full time, but the urge was too strong.  His bulging bladder strained against his jeans, stretching and complaining, distracting him from the game and his pint.

Sighing, he double-timed it towards the pub toilet and stood at the far urinal, gazing absently into the tiled wall.  The tiles bored him within seconds and he began to coax the tiny cakes of soap into a jerky pishdance, deftly hopping one over the other and back again.

It was then that Haircut and Specs entered, honking loud blokey banter about nothing.

Reflexively, Rory's spine snapped him upright into a nonchalant stance with the supernatural speed that only a man caught chasing cludgie-cakes with his dick can muster.

And then, showing no respect for decades of unspoken male convention, Haircut and Specs insolently took up positions next to Rory at the first and second urinal.

Their audacity stung Rory so badly, pinned between Specs and the wall as he was, that he began to lose his flow.  Haircut's choice could be forgiven thanks to the modest one-pisser interval, but Specs'?  An empty cubicle five feet away, and yet this guy had the effrontery to take the middle position, right next to another man!

Why not just give Rory's arse a cheeky pinch, while he was at it?

Haircut and Specs were still yammering at each other, talking bikes now.  Rory focused on the bowl as if the drama unfolding there was the most compelling spectacle he'd ever beheld.  He was in uncharted territory - if one of these pricks asked him a question, the situation could hurtle out of this unsettling homoerotic zone and into the full George Michael without any warning at all.

Specs finished quickly, shaking himself off and heading for the basins.  Specs was a sipper, Rory realised with satisfaction, disdaining the more manly bucket-session.  Rory steeled himself for the combat to come, keeping his jet strong, straight and steady.

Now that Haircut was the only contender, Rory risked a sidelong peek at his foe.  Haircut was leaning against the wall on one outstretched arm, palm flat on the tiles.

The Fuhrer piss!  A bad sign, Rory thought, straining to maintain momentum.  Haircut was plainly made of stronger stuff than his fallen comrade.  Rory was drawing on his last reserves now, forcing his muscles to their most heroic limits of endurance.  He gritted his teeth and willed himself onwards to victory.

And then, it was over.  Haircut's strength collapsed and he shook, retucked and made for the door, too cowed by defeat to face the basins.

Yes! Rory shouted inwardly, letting out a last exultant splash of triumph.  There can be only one!

Look upon my wazz, ye shitey, and despair! 

Humming a little tune, he shook himself off and walked over to the sinks.  The face in the smudged mirror beamed back at him, lined and tracked with a telltale tracery of tiny burst veins.  He ignored the greying hair, the gently sagging flesh, and stared into his own eyes, radiating confidence.

"There's life in the old dog yet!" he announced to the empty room.  "Woof!"

But as he started towards the door, a sign above the sinks caught his eye.

NOW WASH YOUR HANDS, it said. 

He complied happily, whistling.  A colossus of steely machismo he might be, Rory told himself, but he wasn't a barbarian.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

What Do We Bicker About, When We Bicker About Terrorism?

I've got less time on my hands for internet bickering than I used to, but I am a seasoned veteran.  If you're reading this, you're probably a bit handy at the internet bickering yourself.

So let's skip straight to the main course - what do we bicker about, when we bicker about terrorism?  More or less everything except terrorism, is my suspicion. 

A few observations about the responses I've seen to yesterday's bloodcurdling horror in Woolwich, starting with 

When a guy who has just beheaded a man while shouting about Allah is shown explaining that he did it because of violence perpetrated by British soldiers in "Our lands", it's probably okay to call him a Jihadist or an Islamist terrorist-wannabe. 

You'd think this would be uncontroversial, given that beheading-while-shouting-about-God is one of the Jihadi's favourite pastimes, and that publicly justifying yourself with standard Jihadi boo-hoo can reasonably be described as "Jihadist behaviour". 

But you'd be wrong.  

Now, our legal system and its presumption of innocence is one of the things that makes this country great, but we aren't all lawyers in court, so we can draw conclusions as we see fit.  

I expect it's possible that these arseholes were crazy* wannabe-Glorious Warriors of God, but we all know that the sole requirement for being a Jihadi is saying that you are one.  That is, after all, the whole point of Al-Qaeda and its offshoots - anyone can join in the fun, by declaring that you want to do so**.

There are times when it's appropriate to reserve judgement; there are times when the best course is quiet reflection until all the facts emerge. 

And then, there are times when a man bloodily decapitates another in the street while shouting Jihadist slogans.  At moments like this, a rush to judgement is probably justifiable.  If anything, it's reasons to doubt Jihadomentalist lunacy that may need backing up in this scenario. 

Also, 

While it's certainly true that 99.99% of Muslims are not bloodthirsty Jihadi arseholes, it is also necessary to point out that a sufficiently worrying number are.  

It's great to see how many people are at pains to note that most Muslims are no happier with psycho-murderers than any section of the the UK's populace.  Go on folks - there are plenty who need to be reminded of facts like this, and reminded often. 

Nonetheless, I do have to point out that Jihadi arseholes are a conspicuous and alarming problem whose ability to sow hatred and discord is wildly disproportionate to their meagre numbers, and that this has to be discussed with clear eyes and no illusions.  

Going apeshit every time anybody mentions the loony, supremacist Islamist theories popular among most who commit these very specific murderous acts isn't helping the situation and is probably helping those who want to inflame it.

Yes, there are "media narratives" and people looking to exploit this or that, but neither I nor the public at large are much worried that "the media" are going to set off nailbombs in our cities.

Yes, there are other forms of terrorism, and "terrorism" is a much-abused word.

Nonetheless, back when Anders Breivik quoted Melanie Phillips and her cohort of pant-shitting imitators in his loopy theories about imminent Marxo-Jihadical genocide, we all thought it was hilarious when the lot of them started backpedalling away from their own whiffy theories like roid-raging cyclists while screeching about censorship. 

Still though, I think it's worth noting that when Breivik said he was prompted to action by his favourite doom-mongering race theorists, he may just have been telling the truth, much as David Copeland probably was a Nazi scumbag.

Which brings us to... 

When lots of criminals keep telling you their crimes were motivated by (x), then their crimes are more likely to have been motivated by (x) than by whatever theory you have just pulled out of your arse. 

We've seen this one before - some twatty little gimp stands up in court and says that yes, he committed acts of terrorism because yes, he's a Soldier of God in a war that encompasses Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan.

And folk stand around stroking their chins wondering what he can possibly have meant by such a statement.  
Well, look.  I'm aware that Islamism didn't spring into being fully-formed from nowhere; I'm also aware that it barely needs grievances to justify whatever bugfuck nuts acts of mayhem and destruction it wants to commit.  I'm also aware that it won't go away if we would only tickle its ears and give it a saucer of milk.

But I have to say that, when folk insist on continuing to kill themselves and other people and then justifying it by calling it revenge for this or that disastrous foreign policy catastrofuck, they probably mean that they're angry enough about our foreign policy to kill and die over it.

This is one of the great unsayables, for much of this country's pundit class.  To note it is to attract accusations that you're saying that you deserve to be killed, and so on.  Sadly for fannies of this ilk, this issue is totally impervious to our feelings about it.  

Or, in shorter form - just because a man's statements are highly inconvenient for your personal foreign policy preferences, doesn't mean they aren't true

And lastly, a favourite topic of mine... 

What the fuck are we still doing in Afghanistan?

Let's play devil's advocate and accept the standard hawkish boilerplate.  Let's assume that a vast section of the world's Muslims are deranged with lunatic, murderous psychopathy. 

Well then, what? Do we intend to make war upon a billion people and if so, what proportion of that population are we going to have to splatterate in order to make the remainder see sense? 

And if you can put an exact deaths-to-revelation ratio on this then how, exactly, is a temporary occupation of the arse-end of the Islamic world meant to remedy that situation? 

And of course, it won't.  But then few of our bickerings have really had much to do with reality anyway, this last ten years or so.


*And it actually is okay to use the word "insane" to describe the behaviour of people who do things that we think are insane, even if we don't think that those people are literally insane.  

**This is the point, often made, that had pundits twiddling fingers at their temples when Adam Curtis raised it but not, curiously, when Jason Burke does likewise.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Biased Against Everyone and Everything, Everywhere

"Nigel Farage has said he hung up on an interview with BBC Scotland because the line of questioning "was insulting and unpleasant"... He told the BBC he did not regret the interview's abrupt ending, adding "I wasn't very impressed with it..." - BBC, 17 May 2013
"Asked about how many elected representatives he has in Scotland, Mr Farage said: "Absolutely none, but rather more than the BBC. We could have had this interview in England a couple of years ago, although I wouldn't have met with such hatred as I'm getting from your questions.  Frankly, I've had enough of this interview, goodbye." - Telegraph, 17 May 2013
 "Newsnight Scotland has been accused of being biased towards the SNP.  Labour MP Ian Davidson called it "News-Nat" throughout an interview...  Record, 9 August 2012
"Labour have hit out at BBC Scotland for refusing to broadcast their conference this weekend... Labour MSP David Whitton said "This is a remarkable decision and demonstrates a serious lack of balance from the BBC..." - Record, 17 March 2011
"SNP anger at "enemies" in the BBC boils over...  Stewart Stevenson, a former minister and close friend of Alex Salmond, tweeted: "Once is happenstance. twice is coincidence, three times is enemy action – Ian Fleming." - Telegraph, 7 March 2013  
"SNP go on attack against BBC Scotland over EU interview...  The SNP unleashed an extraordinary offensive on the BBC yesterday as ministers scrambled to salvage their claims a separate Scotland would enjoy an easy entry to the European Union. - Telegraph, 28 January 2013

I could go on and on here, since these boo-hoo-woe-is-us assaults on BBC Scotland are more or less endless - but I'm sure you get my drift. 

Rather than seriously entertaining the notion that BBC interviewers are viciously biased against Nigel Farage, UKIP and the Union, we should ask ourselves why, exactly, a man who can't hear a few incontestible facts without a hilarious meltdown can somehow keep his shit together on UK-wide media.  

Because it should be obvious that any politician who responds to being asked how many representatives UKIP has in Scotland with "None, which is more than the BBC" then hanging up, is not exactly an arch-media manipulator. 

Monday, April 08, 2013

My Girls Are The Creme De La Creme

If you believed the Meryl Streep film, she died like she lived - in comfort, delivering rambling, fantastical homilies on personal responsibility to the uncomprehending and the indifferent.

I was a toddler when she was elected, but she must've hit Scotland like a thunderbolt.  The nation never wanted any part of her lunatic revolution - we rejected it at the ballot box again and again, in fact - but by God, we got it good and hard anyway.  Such was the wonder of free choice that we had that of others thrust down our throats by the fistful for a decade.

If you could've called forth Middle England's rampant id in all its virtuous pomposity and self-regard, it would don one of those fruity little dresses and wander around quietly lecturing the less fortunate on the value of thrift.  She came from a sub-species of affluent, frustrated bores who thrill to imagine themselves menaced by the phantasm of some terrible, probably Bolshevik menace, from the safety of their own inviolate Hobbit-holes.

She was the perfect product of a system warped by a righteous belief in its own entitlement and a suspiciously convenient terror that somebody, somewhere, might be nibbling on a hunk of government cheese at its expense.

All of which is ironic really, since she resembled nobody more than that stock figure of Scottish letters -  Miss Jean Brodie, resplendent in her Prime, sermonising to the class like Providence, like the God of Calvin.

She sold the UK on her little home-spun homilies about the path to prosperity but force-fed vast tracts of it grinding misery.  That was the eighties for many of us: endless harangues on hard work and self-sufficiency, delivered by those who were striving daily to make the possibility of either ever more remote.

If she ever suffered a moment of doubt while entire towns were shuttered, she never showed it, certain that God was on her side whatever her course.  So she experienced no difficulty or sense of hyprocrisy in stomping like a stormtrooper on those who resisted her, sending legions of militarised police to spread her message of personal freedom by force.

If our skyrocketing unemployment rate ever gave her a moment's pause, we never saw a flash of it.  In all the broken marriages and deprived upbringings and jobless poor, she saw only more proof of the powerful correctness of her opinions, and redoubled her efforts to kick us all into a shape she found more pleasing.

All of our lives and livelihoods were secondary concerns in the great psychodrama of her personal battles.  The atmosphere she created was like sitting in a classroom copying out lines from the Bible, with no toilet breaks, and the penalty for asking questions is caning.

Most of Scotland didn't hate her because it disagreed with her politics or her style.  It didn't loathe her or the clique of privileged, over-educated sexual deviants around her simply because they might as well have been aliens with flourescent genitals, for all that they understood us or our lives.

We despised her because she made war on us gladly, with a song of joy in her heart, for our own good.  She was certain she knew better what we needed than we did ourselves, and she never missed an opportunity to let us know that she could make us see it her way, any time she liked.

She loomed over our childhoods like a gorgon and bequeathed to us as adults possibly the most offensively cretinous politics ever to stain the tattered ideal of British democracy.  In a more just world, her political legacy would be fit only for slapstick comedy and allegorical children's TV dramas.

She was a fantasist and a mentalist.  She sent us all to fight for General Franco. Her passing comes far too late to offer any comfort to those upon whom she wreaked the worst of her harm, like the death of Stalin.

I'm not glad she's dead.  

I'm sorry she entered politics, and I'm sorry we did such a shitty job of repudiating her that we became a nation that richly deserves to be ruled by her idiot offspring.

Friday, April 05, 2013

That Marriage Argument, In a Nutshell

Lover One:  My darling, I love you.  I want to share my life with you, declare my devotion to you before our loved ones and as an incidental result, entitle you to a significant share of my estate if I die unexpectedly.

Lover Two:  Dearest, I love you too.  I want to share my life with you, declare my devotion to you before our loved ones and as an incidental result, entitle you to a significant share of my estate if I die unexpectedly.

Weirdo Humanist MC:  I now declare you -

(Bang, Crash!) 

Lunatic interloper:  Stop!  You two autonomous individuals cannot order your personal lives and legacies in whichever way you see fit!

Lover One: What?

Lover Two:  What?

Lunatic interloper:  Moral/Religious/Civil law says that you can't do what you're about to do.  You must stop.

Lover One:  Eh?

Lover Two:  (Who's a bit more streetwise about these things)  Keith, gonnae chuck this mentalist out, eh?  He's talking pish.

(Scuffle, Scuffle, Shout!, Scuffle, return to relative peace) 

Lover Two:  Now, where were we?

Lover One: My darling, I love you...

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Oh Yeah? Well, Regulate This!

Oh no, the liberal-left has gone berserk again!

We're talking about Nick, of course, so it's worth recalling that for him, "the liberal-left" is "going berserk" roughly 99% of their waking lives, and that when he says "berserk" he usually means something like Saying rude things about Sarah Palin or Thinking that having massive wars with everyone is a silly idea.

To go berserk then is basically to disagree with Nick about something.  Quite how being rude about Sarah Palin is some kind of 28 Days Later rampage is anyone's guess, but there it is, in black and white.

Today, we're "berserk" because some percentage of us agree with proposals for press regulation, a stance which strikes Nick as a kind of parade of suburban Mussolinis crushing human freedom.  This represents a form of progress for Nick, given he's usually more fond of dressing people up in SS uniforms and making them march about for his amusement, as opposed to comparisons with Hitler's more slapstick Italian accomplice.

You'd be forgiven for missing the freedom aspect of course, since a skim-reading would leave you with the impression that the topic is "My God those liberals are bastards and I hate them all, the verminous wankers that they are", as opposed to a Tom Paine-esque defence of liberty.

Sharp-eyed readers will spot that the bodycount from all of these berserkers is zero, while many of Nick's own pet projects are now buried under a sky-scraping pile of skulls.  We might question whether somebody who has a long record of hemming-and-hawing and reluctantly-concluding on the issue of  torture might have a bit of a cheek to accuse anyone else of enabling oppression, but likely to no avail.

Well, I'm agnostic on Leveson.  I think it's entirely right and just that the press should be held accountable for their behaviour, but I'm not convinced that these proposals are the right way to go about achieving that.  These proposals may in fact be terrible idiocy, and Nick may well be correct to oppose them.

But let's just observe how odd it is that most of the hacks I've seen really shitting their legs off with rage over press regulation are the type who are prone to making sweeping generalisations about the inherent villainy of entire demographics.

I mean, I'm not saying it's impossible that Nick is particularly offended by encroachments on human freedom.  It's not the kind of thing that usually bugs him, since he's been entirely on-board with just about every major bit of loony Star Chamber legislation aimed at "protecting the public from terrorism" of the last decade, and an enthusiastic booster of pretty much unlimited, omni-directional war whenever the option has presented itself.

Maybe Nick is trying to alert us to our voluntary adoption of our own disenfranchisement.  I'd say it's also at least possible that Nick is chewing the cushions because press regulation might make it more difficult to call people pro-genocide dictator-fellaters and so on without then getting publicly reamed by the regulator for disseminating bullshit.

And you can probably imagine why somebody like Nick would find that an alarming prospect.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Plus Ca Change, Plus Ca Le Meme Bullshit Chose

Oh, those whiny war protestors!  So narcissistic, thinking their opinion should trump that of parliament!  So self-indulgent, to ignore the fact that many had different opinions!

I mean, I understand these whacks at anti-war hacks.  I found all those Boo-hoo how come nobody listened to us? opinion pieces trite and annoying too.  Who wouldn't?  I agreed with the authors' sentiments and I felt like launching the laptop out of the window.  Me!

What's noticeable though is that the last week's pre-war nostalgia parties came in only two flavours - either the We-Were-Right variety from the anti-war folks themselves, or the You-Were-Kind-Of-Right-But-You're-Dicks species from their detractors.

And indeed, the But-You're-Dicks guys have a point, at least about democracy.  Loads of people really did think Saddam Hussein was armed to the teeth with nuclear and chemical weapons and that somewhere beneath the smoking remnant of his fucked airforce or the charred ruin of his 70's-era army, lay the Destruction Of The West.

I imagine quite a few even believed he could fly over London in one of those model planes the Americans pretended to be afraid of, then drop an ebola-stuffed atom bomb on Great Ormond Street Hospital out of his arse.

People believed these kinds of inane fictions because largely, they were naive enough to think that the government wouldn't lie through their teeth with the charm of conmen slipping a sly finger into Granny's purse, but they believed it nonetheless.

And so it's noteworthy that we've seen so many pieces reminding us of how many people believed all the bullshit propaganda, and so very few pieces explaining why people actually believed this facile, transparently fantastical nonsense.

I mean, this is surely the big story here.  When nearly half the population base their opinion on a war - a war with a bodycount big enough for a respectable mid-20th century conflict, mind - on tall tales and oogah-boogah, you'd think that would be an issue.  And yet, from what we've seen this week, it barely rates a mention.

The reason is plain, I imagine.  It's fun to club writers like Owen Jones and Laurie Penny for being angsty and strident.  It's fun to concuss these people with the club of political reality, and fun to call them wankers for dismissing so many suckers.  Let's laugh at the weepy idealists is a grand lark.  Point with me, people!

We fucked up and got tens of thousands of people killed, on the other hand, is not fun.  Explaining why you fell for one of the most hilariously obvious con-jobs since those American women got serially-groped by the door-to-door Breast Inspector isn't fun at all.

Nope, correspondents can't don Kevlar, stand on the deck of an aircraft carrier and shout over swooshing infographics, which demonstrate that unmitigated lies and bullshit came out of this mouth here, entered journalistic ears at this strategic point, and were then distributed verbatim to the populace over a wide area, here and here.   

Can't do that, no sir.  We were slack-jawed, credulous idiots doesn't sell papers, unless maybe you can think of a way to get a credulous but photogenic idiot to get his or her arse out during the confession.

Nobody can explain their grand theory of humanitarian derring-do while perched upon the carcass of a nation.  You can't take the moral high-ground when you've carpet-bombed the middle-ground and napalm-nuked the low-ground, and then strafed the rubble.

Nobody looks good when they're gabbling justifications for credulously accepting Iraq as some kind of sudden, pressing threat to world civilisation.  It sounded ludicrous back when there was doubt over the issue but now, long after the matter has been settled, even the masters of the art just sound like they've been caught whacking-off to bestiality-porn on the office computer.  Again.

And that's what all of this is, in the end-up - a choice between publishing self-effacing articles openly declaring the authors' incredible levels of gullibility, or just forgetting the nation's credulity and giving the hippies one more richly-deserved slipper-thrashing.

This country's no different to any others, I imagine.  Lay out a choice like that, and the hippies are always going to wind up with smarting arsecheeks, especially if they've had the temerity to be both correct and smug about it.

If it also has the effect of drawing a discreet veil over one of the most crass and nonsensical episodes in recent British history well, that's just one of those little added benefits that life sometimes throws you.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

TFMAVAWMETAPMN, Redux

(Since I spent most of my time on this blog arsing on about our myriad wars, and since we're coming up for the ten-year anniversary of The Fabled, Most Awesome Virtuous Anti-War March Ever To Achieve Pretty Much Nothing, I thought I'd revisit TFMAVAWMETAPMN.  After all, every other lazy bugger is). 

I remember it was very cold, and I was very hungover.  It took a long time to get to Glasgow - either lots of people were driving through for the protest, or there was a football match on.

I remember it was damn loud and some jokers had brought drums, but I recall being fine with that.  It was all kind of exciting.

I remember we joined in right behind a bunch of Commies with shouty placards, since it seemed as good a place as any.  "Who are these guys?", Mrs R. asked me.

"A bunch of Commies, by the looks of things", I told her.  I seem to recall that the crowd behind us were crusties, Greenie types, although my memory is vague by now.

I remember that when we turned south and made for the Clyde, a workman in a hardhat shouted down from some scaffolding at us.  "Don't you have anything better to do?  Get a job!"

Get a job?  I had two, for Christ's sake.  "It's Saturday, dickhead" I shouted back, and added the finger for good measure.  I was a youngster, you know how it is.

I remember Mrs R's friend phoning her right then.  "Youse are pure fannies", Mrs R's friend told her. "Do you want Saddam to bomb us?"

Mrs R told me her friend thought we were pure fannies and wanted to know whether we wanted to get bombed by Saddam.  I told her I thought brainless, credulous horseshit like that was one of the main reasons for being there in the first place.

I remember when we got to the Armadillo, where the Labour Party conference was being held, we had to wait for about an hour and a half for everyone else to arrive.

I remember the Prime Minister had showed up earlier than expected for his big troop-rallying, let's-bomb-fuck-out-of-Iraq-for-reasons-that-make-no-damn-sense speech and then buggered off long before we got there, to avoid any unpleasantness with the huge crowd of pissed-off people.

I remember the snipers on the cranes overlooking the Clyde, and how big their rifles looked even at long distance.  I remember the police cars parked at the Armadillo all had one copper driving, and another with a sub-machine gun in his lap.  MP5s, I'd learn later from playing Call of Duty.  Deadly effective up close, but not so much at range.

My mate thought they were there to protect us from terrorist attack; I thought they were there to protect the Labour Party delegates from popular attack.

I remember thinking there must have been about sixty thousand people there.  I'd been to enough football games to know what a big crowd looks like, and this was a big crowd.  I remember the cops thought it was half that size.

I remember that the protesters were about evenly-split between Barber-jacketed middle class folk, studenty/crusty types, and ordinary Glaswegian punters.

It was the Glaswegians who actually made an effort to speak to you.  They were nice and many were clearly from rough parts of the city, and although some of them had some fairly wacky ideas, all of them appeared to be basically aware that wars involve killing fuck out of people in vast numbers.  That put them far ahead of the lawyers at my work, who mostly thought this war was an awesome idea.

I remember that many of the speakers were boring as hell.  I remember Tommy Sheridan blared slogans at us like an angry foghorn, exuding little of the personal charisma that he's apparently famous for.  I remember John Swinney gave us a hedging, if-this-then-that speech of the genus you'd expect from a professional politician with higher ambitions.   Mind you, I remember that Jimmy Reid - I think it was Jimmy Reid, anyway - was witty and acerbic, which I liked, although I had no idea who he was back then.

It may be because I like her so much that I remember Margo MacDonald making most of the points I agreed with: the ones about how the whole affair was a stupendously retarded and dangerous idea, certain to end in a godawful bloodbath; about how the Vietnam War must've struck people as sane at some point, even though it was plainly deranged, but mostly about the jaw-dropping levels of political bullshit citizens were being forced to wade through, to get at anything that looked like a semblance of truth.

Somebody pointed out that the previous Gulf War had been sold as a virtuous police action, but later turned into an insane death-rampage, although I don't recall who.  Somebody else noted the many and various porkies that had been told about the new war, and how you couldn't trust anyone who you caught telling you porkies.  You couldn't trust them at all, and you were a sucker if you did.

And then, we walked back to Mrs R's car and went home.

I remember it was still very cold, even though it was a beautiful sunny day, but I remember there was a widespread feeling of satisfaction, like something good and worthwhile had been done...  Like maybe, some kind of contribution had been made to the debate, a statement that couldn't just be ignored or slyly shoved aside.  The crowd was plainly a mish-mash of political cranks and ordinary citizens, but getting this many people to take time out to agree on one basic message - This war is total bullshit - felt like an achievement.

I don't remember whether it was that night or the next day that we got the Prime Minister's response, but I do remember that I was out of the front room, and that Mrs R shouted me through to the TV.

"Tony Blair was just on talking about the marches", she said with a confused look on her face.  I asked her what he'd said.

"He said he was glad that we could protest, because people in Iraq can't do that", she said.

"Uh, okay.  What else did he say?"

Mrs R shrugged.  "That was it.  He said it's great that we can march, because Iraqis can't".

"That was it?"  I looked at the TV.  The newsreader was talking about something else.  I clearly remember rubbing my temples like I had a bad headache coming on.

"The man's a fucking lunatic", I said eventually.

"Yes", Mrs R said.  "He is".

Then, we watched the football reports.