Wednesday, April 27, 2011

People Of Britain - Restrain Your Genocidal Bloodlust And Read This

Remember when Peter Kosminsky made that drama Warriors about the war in Bosnia, and those public intellectuals took to the newspapers to wail and howl about how it was proof of some kind of anti-Serbian hate campaign?

You don't remember that?  What about the uproar after Saviour, Welcome to Sarajevo, Behind Enemy Lines, The Peacemaker or any of the rash of '90s films that featured Serbs as the bad guys?  Not ringing any bells?

Well, what about other films about horrible interethnic violence and/or military atrocity - Black Hawk Down, Hotel Rwanda, Shooting Dogs, The Killing Fields, Salvador and so on? You don't remember the uproar about those? 

No, neither do I.  That's why I'm less than convinced by Howard "Are the people of Britain about to launch a new Kristallnacht*" Jacobson's pretence that a recent Channel Four drama about the foundation of Israel represents some epic, racist affront and incitement.

See, when Melanie Phillips tells the world that the Brits are one angry speech away from genocidal rampages, I can console myself with the thought that she's internationally recognised as a crazy opinion hack who specialises in hysterically overblown alarmism.  She has an eager audience of dribbling idiots who are delighted to hear her confirm their prejudices, but not much more than that. 

Jacobson is a multi-award winning author and one of the country's leading cultural critics - when he speaks, he's taken seriously, for good reasons.  If he's telling the world that major British institutions have been brainwashed with hateful, racist propaganda or when he announces that he personally fears imminent, violent pogroms, that's some serious shit, and it's also pretty offensive stuff to other British people.  Me, I'm reasonably sure that my Dad, my brother or my friends will be able to restrain themselves from exterminating any ethnic minorities en masse in the next few decades.  I imagine you have similar thoughts about practically every single human being you know.

I offer an alternative thesis to Howard's, here.  I contend that the drama he's talking about was considerably less offensive than he's making out and that in fact, OfCom's ruling was entirely correct.  I also suggest that Howard has committed yet another ludicrously overblown piece of cynical fearmongering to the ages, to be considered alongside those works of his that aren't filled with wacky, wingnutty politics. 

*"The mood of those months inevitably found its way into my novel. I wanted to record what it was like being Jewish in this country then, when it seemed reasonable to ask whether loathing of Israel would spill into loathing of Jews - such a thing is not beyond the bounds of possibility - and whether a new Kristallnacht was in the offing.  Since many German Jews doubted they were in serious danger in the 1930s, how wise would it be of us to doubt we were in danger now?"  See

Also see - My review of The Promise - the series Howard is talking about - is here.   I thought it was worth looking at because even then, it was attracting some utterly mental commentary.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Stating The Obvious

You know, if far right headbangers really did represent the opinions of "the white working class" - so much so that jokers are asking for their activists to be recruited as the authentic voice of the WWC -  they'd be a massive political party on the cusp of government, and not a gang of powerless, angry twats.

White working class people are a massive chunk of the electorate and the one thing you'll notice about their voting habits is that they overwhelmingly vote for mainstream parties.  Even if the Lib Dems get creamed at the next election, they'll still outpoll the loony parties and have a far more legitimate claim to speak on behalf of their constituents. 

And yes, I have said this before, at some length, but it looks a bit like the point bears repeating.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

You've Taken That Too Far

I'm guessing that Scotland's death-threatening, bullet-posting, parcel-bombing periphery of football fans may have screwed up catastrophically with this caper.

After all, regularly threatening the lives of footballers is one thing.  When you start messing with politicians and high flying lawyers, you're fucking with real people.  I suspect that the boot of the state will foot these idiots up the arse so hard that they'll be coughing up their bumholes within about two days.

Monday, April 18, 2011

He Starts Monologuing!

While we're on about Randian supermen, I note with mirth that the movie of Rand's Atlas Shrugged, a barking-mad, thousand-page hymn to the divine entitlement of superior beings, has finally been released... And, by all accounts, it sucks.1

No surprise there, I suppose.  If anything, I'm surprised that a film of the book was greenlighted - not because it's the work of a lunatic, although it is - but because all of Atlas's themes were explored in far more entertaining fashion by Pixar, in 2004.  Pixar's movie featured superhuman collossi, crushed beneath the heel of a government that forces them to conform to the mediocrity of the common man; a state riddled with thieves and haters and one that, above all, asserts itself via a bunch of jumped-up, finger waggy little men ticking off their betters in annoying, high-pitched voices.

It was called The Incredibles, and not only was it vastly more enjoyable than Rand's interminable harangue, it was also significantly more concise, less histrionic and a damn sight less juvenile. It had cool action sequences and humorous slapstick, drama and a bit of emotional heft.  It was, in short, a good film.

Oh, it had the same fruity message, of course - the grasping failed suicide who owes the protagonist his life, yet repays his saviour by screwing him with the courts (Oh no, initiating violence!);  the bureaucratic hacks forcing our heroes to hide their awesomeness; the scheming, wimpy boss... In fact, most of the regular, non-super humans are either grifting, villainous midgets, victims thereof or merely stunned bystanders. 

Looters and Moochers

Helen: Everyone's special, Dash.
Dash: [sullenly] Which is another way of saying no one is.

Who's this, then?
Now, I'm not daft - I know that most of this bubbles up from comic books and superhero movies, to be appropriated and reworked for modern use.  The dodgy ubermensch undercurrents in superhero mythology have been done to death in recent years, largely because the films that don't make use of them have a tendency to go all rubber-nipples, high camp and Holy Godawful dialogue, Batman.

I raise this merely to note that it's a fitting testament to Rand's epic that its main impact on popular culture is in kids' movies, comic books, dystopian science fiction and computer games.  I guess that's what happens when you fill your magnum opus with flawless He-Men, cackling villains and wacky futuristic technology. 

1. Recall - one of the main reasons the 2011 film got made is because the US is supposedly in the grip of some titanic uprising of anti-statist yadda-yadda and more pertinently, because a bunch of wealthy wingnuts kicked in a few bucks to get the thing off the ground. 

Well, the movie's taken $1.7m in its opening weekend, which I'm told is pretty respectable for an independent film.  That said, both book and film have had millions of dollars worth of free publicity as every wacky outlet in America fluffed it as the antidote to the era of Obamafascocialism, or whatever the hell they're calling it now.  God knows how many bums on seats $1.7m buys you, but I doubt that it amounts to a sequel. 

The Incredibles, by the way, took $70.5m in its opening weekend, largely because it was distributed nationwide and wasn't shit.  Rand fans seem to have enjoyed it, though.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

And The Animals Looked From Randian Superman To Looter

A very sad yet utterly insane story here of how the Libertarian Party of the United Kingdom quickly metastisised  from a bunch of loopy bloggers complaining about being robbed by the sociofascist state, into a small cadre of shits robbing and taking advantage of a bunch of loopy bloggers. 

I doubt there's anything going on here that hasn't happened since time immemorial, and yet I have to repeat for the nth time that one of the features of democracy is that people so often get exactly what they ask for, good and hard.  I tend not to trust politicians who tell me that politicians only seek power in order to enrich themselves and enhance their own interests, for obvious reasons.

Well.  I had wondered why we'd heard so little from the country's libertarians in recent years, given their former ubiquity.  I'd assumed that the Tories' electoral victory and subsequent mean-as-hell political trajectory had convinced them that the looters and moochers were being sufficiently battered.  Much as they once furiously denied angry Torydom, I think that would've been a lot more edifying for everyone than the real story.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

To Melanie Philips,
c/o The Spectator,
Deepest, Darkest Wingnuttistan,

Dear Melanie,

Thank you for your letter of 12th April, in which you raise very grave allegations about flawed news reporting on Israel and the history of the region by the BBC.  I assure you that I take such issues very seriously indeed and that if any evidence is produced by non-fucknut sources - e.g. a source that is not a one-eyed, wackadoodle internet circle-jerk like Just Journalism - I will do my utmost to ensure that the matter is thoroughly investigated.

In the meantime, if you find the behaviour of your occasional employers to be so utterly beyond redemption that you are compelled to lobby a government minister about it, I suggest that you immediately resign from The Moral Maze on Radio 4 and refuse any further requests to appear on BBC1's Question Time or on any of their other current affairs programming.

As a further gesture, it would be a bold and courageous statement of your displeasure if you were to publicly refund to the BBC all of your appearance fees for, say, the last calendar year.  This would be a far more eloquent demonstration of your disgust than any amount of letters or raving newspaper columns, and it would clearly affirm the seriousness with which you treat the welter of accusations that you make on a near-weekly basis.

P.S. I'm glad to see you're still sticking it out in Britain, even though you've repeatedly told your readers that the people of our country exist in a perpetual state of raging, pre-genocidal bloodlust.  You're a trooper.

Yours fictitiously,

Rt. Hon Jeremy Hunt MP, member of the same HM Government that you have previously accused of collaborating with an international genocidal conspiracy.

No Rules

"There are no rules for writing a book", I was sombrely informed today by a published writer.

To which I can only respond: okay, write a kids' book set in 1976 with Pol Pot as the hero, or a crime novel about a snail which sits on a rock for four hundred pages monologuing in phonetic Farsi and Serbo-Croat, then falls off.  Now, take it to a publisher. 

I'm not saying the guy was wrong, of course.  He's the writer and I'm a chump.  I'm just saying, maybe that little maxim shouldn't be taken too literally.

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Oh Yes, Those Silly Americans

While I'm at it, I might as well point out that the New York Times is telling the American people that the Libyan rebels are a badly-organised civilian militia who are basically crap at war, and that they can't win.

On the same day, the London Times* is celebrating the truly awesome Libyan rebels' Boy Scout movement, much as the Times has been telling the British people that the rebels are outstandingly brave, and awesome and courageous right from the start of this debacle. You'll notice that none of those descriptors forbid the terms "doomed", "fucked" or "entirely dependent upon French airstrikes".

Now, this whole idea that the Americans have a ludicrously biased, corporate media?  I think we need to talk about that.

*Behind the Times paywall.  You'll just have to trust that I'm telling you the truth.

Shorter Rodent: Bullshit

I love this opinion piece by Ari Shavit in Ha'aretz.  Summary - the Left are more worried about actions and behaviours that they can directly and democratically affect than those they can't, and this somehow reflects badly upon the Left.

Ignore the fact that Shavit is talking about the Israeli left particularly and pay attention to the fact that he's calling for greater general left condemnation of the horrifying behaviour of the foreigns, since this piece could've been written at any time in the last twenty years in Britain, the United States or France, to name but a few.  The basic point is that an undefined Left is far too concerned with the actions of the authorities it can elect, is governed by and is compelled to fund, and isn't nearly exercised enough about the behaviour of the individuals and states that it can't practically control, affect or even vaguely influence.

I could go on forever, but really, three straightforward points...  First, you know this as well as I do - man bites dog trumps dog bites man.  Shavit is on about journalism here.  I don't like it any more than you do, but the fact is that repressive theocracy theocratically represses citizens is much less newsworthy than, to invent a random issue, liberal democracy imprisons political dissidents.  Ask a journalist - the unusual gets the ink and the everyday gets the shaft, and if you think that's unjust, then I suggest that you rail against market forces rather than institutional bias.

Second, you'll notice that the right manages to produce vast numbers of lunatic enthusiasts for total war against more or less everyone, without devolving into internecine conflict bordering on mutually-assured destruction.  By way of random example, even the reasonably sane and humane Alex Massie at The Spectator manages to peacefully share a stable with a deranged and intentionally inflammatory demagogue like Melanie Philips, and yet I can only recall him ticking her off once.  Nobody regards that as an indictable offence.  I don't wonder why that is, by the way.

Finally, if this ridiculous nonsense is the source of some epic split in left wing politics, then it's back to the drawing board.  We're back at basic theory here, and if it's a wildly controversial idea that people tend to be more upset by the activities of their own governments than they are about those of other states, then it's time for a major reorganisation, because - and correct me if I'm wrong - focusing on the behaviour of your rulers is the foundation of modern democracy. 

Shorter: Bullshit.

Up To Their Knees In Fines And Bans

Rangers are to face a UEFA disciplinary hearing over sectarian singing during last month's Europa League match away to PSV Eindhoven...  The chief executive stressed that the club condemned sectarian singing and that had "been made clear time and again"... (Chief executive Martin Bain said) "It has also become clear that there are people who have been determined to undermine our club at any cost and have constantly lobbied Uefa and other organisations to take action against Rangers." - BBC News

So.   Group (x) is caught out in some form of reprehensible behaviour; its defence is that other people do the same or worse and that anyway, they're only being targeted because of the biased, hateful and politically-motivated machinations of some unnamed yet undoubtedly malicious coterie.

It's not often I'll say this, but I actually sympathise with Rangers' predicament here. [1]  Naturally, I don't think they've done enough to deal with the horrible bullshit that pours off the terraces, but I acknowledge that the club itself have tried to tackle the issue and I believe that the management would love nothing more than an end to sectarian chanting, even if only for a quiet life.

Still, note the club's defence.  Would Other people steal more stuff than I do stand up in any court in the land, or would The prosecution lawyers hate us because we're (x) see any trial wound up for prejudicial treatment?  I don't think so.

I raise this as part of my ongoing quest to prove that the partisan mentalities of football fans are an excellent analogy for those of politicians and politics enthusiasts.  Within their own milieu, Rangers are correct - their fans' behaviour is bad, but it pales in comparison to fans of, say, Italian bastards Lazio, or the various terrifying nutters who follow teams from the former Yugoslavia. [2]  Even so, the supporters in question are still clearly guilty.

Only in politics or football would people tell you with a straight face that your eyes or ears are lying to you.  I've watched defenders perpetrate scything assaults that would earn them jail sentences in any other walk of life, only to be told that resulting punishment is politically motivated.  I've seen slo-mo footage of footballs either crossing or falling short of goal lines, and heard people argue the exact opposite of the evidence.

This isn't just a Scottish thing, either - witness Arsene Wenger's selective eyesight, or the wildly differing ways in which English commentators treat simulation by home-grown and foreign players.  Readers from other countries can provide their own examples, no doubt.

Hell, I'd hope that most readers would regard me as a fairly reasonable and rational person, and yet I remain convinced that the Scottish football authorities are quietly biased towards Rangers, even though I know full well that the recent evidence is flimsy at best and that almost everyone else making that claim sounds like a paranoid lunatic.  To be clear, I'm admitting right here that I know that I hold an irrational belief, and yet I still believe it to be true.

If that's the case with me, what chance of arguing round people prone to angry waffle about cultural Marxism,  or some other mad form of conspiracy theory?  None, is my guess.  Some academic type should write up a study, I think.

Not that I have a solution, of course.  Like all other bloggers, I merely seek validation.

1.  Rangers the club, that is, not Rangers fans, and certainly not the sections that have brought this action upon their team.  They're hoist by their own petard, and if Celtic fans were regularly attracting adverse attention from UEFA, I'd be howling for them to be kicked out of the ground.  European football is what separates Scottish football from its equivalent in Wales or Northern Ireland, and without it we'd be toast.

2.  Or Nazio, as I prefer.  Also, Croatian fans once famously formed a human swastika at a friendly with Italy, which remains one of the most outstandingly offensive things I've ever seen at a football match, even though the first game I ever went to was Hearts v Celtic in 92 when the Jambos had Maurice Johnstone and Justin Fashanu up front.

Filthy Foreign Food

This Michel, as indefatigably Gallic as his mother, had been cooking for himself in his small London flat, and had in the last few days made himself ill by stuffing himself with filthy foreign food of his own preparation, in particular, Dixon gathered, spaghetti and dishes cooked in olive oil. This seemed fit punishment for one so devoted to coagulated flour-and-water and peasants' butter-substitute, washed down, no doubt, by' real' black coffee of high viscosity.- Lucky Jim, Kingsley Amis, 1954

The past is, as they say, a foreign country.  In another novel, I might be inclined to see a satirical snobbery in this passage but then, those would be novels that don't take "Decent Englishman beset by insufferable arseholes" as their subject material.

After all, spaghetti Bolognese is now a staple of the British diet, coming in right next to fish 'n' chips and a mile behind chicken tikka masala, as best I can tell, and yet in 1954 it seemed deeply queer - in the old, though not-so-different meaning of the word - to one of the country's most celebrated authors.

Lucky Jim is still a cracking read, if not quite so hilarious as advertised, and its repressed, raging protagonist's war with the world in general has long since been hijacked as a British comic standard, and with good reason - Mark in Peep Show, Tim in The Office; maybe even Basil Fawlty, if you cranked up the snobbery.

Nonetheless, I couldn't help taking away the impression of it as an evolutionary step in modern British wingnuttery.  Chip away the comedy stylings and the snappy wordplay, and you're left with a parade of capricious, uppity women; bumptious Celts and the plummeting educational and cultural standards of the modern era.

It's all here - the ostentatiously demanding and self-involved females; the cavalcade of insolent Welches, Michies, O'Shaughnessys, McCorquodales and Ap Rhyses, and the damnable, interfering bureaucracy elevating dunces above their station.  Chuck it into a cocktail shaker and shoogle it up with a dash of multiculturalism and feminazism, and it's the Daily Mail with funny jokes.  It's quite an achievement on Amis's part that he's able to maintain Jim Dixon as a sympathetic character, when he basically whines and complains about everything from start to finish.

Not that this was particularly new in its day, of course - that old quote about how the people of England are never happier than when they are told they are ruined was minted in 1758.  Still, it makes plenty of sense to me that the great and the good were busy complaining of how Britain was going to the dogs, twenty-five years before I was born.

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

How To Rank Comparative Unfairness In An Unfair World

Amid all the usual screechy hysterics from the muppets at Comment Is Free, it should be noted that Jonathan Freedland is largely right. Freedland is one of the nation's better columnists, in that at least he's honest and isn't obviously deranged, and he's right that the Israelis generally get a harder time for their numerous and frequent human rights violations, to a greater extent than other, often more deserving, nations.

When he notes that, say, the UN Human Rights Council focuses disproportionately upon Israel, he's correct.  Now, he knows as well as I do that this is because the Council is elected by the UN's member states, and that dictatorships game the system in their own interests as surely as the democracies do, but still - it's entirely true, and it does no greater injury to anything than it does to the oversight of human rights standards worldwide.

I'm more dubious about his claims of intrinsic bias in the "media, cultural and academic sphere", and I'm really quite cynical about the idea that any of this represents some epic injustice, in the way that Freedland appears to believe it does. {1}

If only, I thought to myself, there were some way in which we could assess the severity of this situation... And then, it hit me - there is!

Here's my proposition.  I reckon that from now on, we should all agree to treat the Palestinians' behaviour with the same level of outrage as we would the Israelis' frequent bombing campaigns.  Whenever a volley of improvised rockets is fired from Gaza, the UNHRC will issue stern condemnations and call for high-profile investigations, which will then be utterly ignored.  Simultaneously, we could all make loud declarations of solidarity with the suffering citizens of Israel, and the hacks could pen 48-point headlines about what a travesty it all is.

By way of compensation, we'll send the Palestinians three billion dollars' worth of cutting-edge military hardware every year, from fast attack jets to drones and smart missiles.  The Israelis can have the food parcels.

Hell, the Palestinians would go for it.  If you asked me if I'd like three billion dollars and total impunity from prosecution, I'd be far too busy being all, like, Wahey, I'm in a helicopter! to worry about Mohammed Al-Pissed-Offo or whoever watching his angry resolutions being swatted like flies on the East Side of New York.  Also, if I had three billion, I'd be able to handle a few Guardian journos calling me a prick in print, I can tell you that.

What have the Israelis got to lose?  At least it would cancel out the terrifying threat of all those pointy-headed English Lit professors trying and failing to enact some kind of boycott, and Just Journalism would never again have to worry whether the BBC had used the word Militant rather than Terrorist. 

I say, give it a go!   We'd find out in double-quick time exactly how unfair it is that some nations can't bombard heavily-populated urban areas without a lot of foreigners making sad-faces about it.

{1} A quick check-up of Freedland's own output might prove instructive here, of course.  Readers may notice that his own journalism isn't exactly a fountain of information about Congo or Darfur, although no doubt that's different.

Friday, April 01, 2011

All War, All The Time

As it slowly begins to dawn on Britain that the nation has jumped feet first into yet another wildly dangerous and insane conflict with precisely no forethought or planning, I thought I'd draw your attention to this little exchange from the first Parliamentary debate on Libya, which took place after the bombing had started. 

David Cameron had just been asked why Britain should intervene in Libya particularly, as opposed to a number of other pressing areas of humanitarian concern...

The Prime Minister: As I said the other day, just because we cannot do the right thing everywhere does not mean we should not do it when we have clear permission for and a national interest in doing so. One commentator put it rather well at the weekend: “Why should I tidy my bedroom when the rest of the world is such a mess?” That is an interesting way of putting it.

Yes, it is indeed.  It's certainly an interesting way for the fucking Prime Minister to put it when he's talking about an ill-defined and quite possibly catastrophic military intervention in a full-on civil war, on the side of an angry militia who, it later transpires, may or may not be jammed with Jihadists, to raise only one major problem.

As the Independent's perma-twattish John Rentoul points out, the "Why should I tidy my bedroom" crack is possibly the first Parliamentary ReTweet - see here.  The gag provoked much amusement among this new war's most vocal backers, at the time.

So.  It looks a lot like Libya is a test case for the much-invoked "Responsibility To Protect" in international law.  Asked why Libya meets the test and other crises - Ivory Coast, Bahrain, Syria, maybe - don't, the Prime Minister responds with a wanky RT, much to the joy and merriment of R2P enthusiasts.  Much as the Iraq War did in the Americans' adventurist democracy promotion in the Middle East, Libya may well bury R2P in an open grave in the desert, but LOL!  Teenage Trot tossers, haha!

You'll notice that all of those chucklesome japesters have fallen silent now that the sheer scale of the task we've set ourselves has become apparent.  Certainly, I've seen very few supporting Tweets cracking wise along the lines of OMFG Tha rebels r being beaten like rodeo clowns in what appears 2 b a total military clusterfuck WTF!!  

I'll say this about the Iraq invasion - it may have failed brutally for want of planning, strategic thought or common sense; it may have been an epic disaster with consequences that may well explode in our faces for the remainder of the century. 

Unlike Libya, however, there was at least a faint air of gravitas and half-serious deliberation about it.  The lunatics and fools who led us into that debacle with bullshit slogans and fuck all else, well, at least they put a little bit of thought and effort into it.  

This time, a bunch of honking politicians, columnists and internet fuckheads marched in waving their dicks in the air, braying about how huffy and annoying their detractors were.  Now that it's gone predictably tits up and we're basically relying on luck and crossed-fingers for a non-murderous outcome, silence.

It might do us some good in future to recall who these people were and how they comported themselves around issues of life and death, especially on the next occasion that they pipe up with some Good Ideas, I think.

This used to be a comedy blog, you know, with jokes about animals and stuff.