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1 April 2009

Give the anarchist a cigarette

Today’s unfolding events in London have been truly remarkable to watch - both exciting and disheartening. Exciting because, like no other time that I can recall in my life, there is a tangible feeling that this is a once-in-a-lifetime moment where things could change for the better. Change in a way that could almost deserve the description ‘revolutionary’. I think a lot of the protesters feel that way, and want to grab this chance with a ferocious eagerness and desperation. I say desperation because the politicians want to tinker with the current system and ‘get it back on track’. Back to serving the interests of the rich and keeping the poor aspiring to little more than to be in debt for the rest of their lives. A gross simplification I know, but not a completely unfair one. The lack of vision in our politicians today is depressing. Even now, there is little really separating the major parties in Britain and America when it comes to economics. They are micro-managers arguing over how best to ‘repair’ the system. No major politican has stood up and said, ‘You know what - perhaps there was something fundamentally wrong with the system in the first place’. Instead the arguments occur on social issues and are completely blown out of proportion in order to present the illusion of huge differences and, most importantly, fundamental choices for the electorate. An electorate which is treated like a focus group made up of pre-schoolers.

Which brings me to the disheartening aspect of today. In the days leading up to this the foundation was laid for the ‘violent protests’. The media fixated on it. There was endless talk of the preparation being made by the police and the measures being taken to protect the G20 leaders. The impression given was that the G20 leaders were reasonable people who were meeting to try and ‘save the world’ while the protesters were extreme lunatics who wanted nothing more than to cause carnage. And so it was with depressing inevitablity that today’s news focused overwhelmingly on the tiny minority of protesters who were violent. They of course do themselves no favour by fitting so easily into the roles which have been defined for them, but the scene was set long ago and the media has been complicit in enabling the politicians to disregard opinion that is outside of the (economically) centre-right consensus. It’s a familiar story, really. One that is drilled into us throughout our life - that this is the way the world is and how it has developed, and anyone who believes it could be radically different is horribly naive/dangerously extreme. The little coverage which has been given to the political beliefs of the protestors has been very much of the soundbite variety, with some protester’s brief fury/optimism contrasted with a ‘city worker”s stoic ‘realism’. The latter has been very much of the ‘I just want to go out and work and make a living for myself and my kids’ variety. The implication being that people who don’t have responsibilities, who don’t have children, who haven’t ‘grown-up’ - these are the people who can afford to indulge in beliefs. Everyone else is too busy just trying to keep their head above water.

Of course, it’s almost impossible to reduce the protesters to one political mindset. I disagree with some of them and disagree with how some have taken action. But Christ, I want to thank them for actually doing something while the rest of us just sit and carp and feel superior and more educated and moan about them disrupting our day and go and take photos of them because it gives a little vicarious thrill to our lives and indulge in the stultifying cynicism which makes our generation so easy to push around.

20 October 2009

Outrage

These are strange times to be living in, huh? Our financial system is fucked, our political structures are discredited and our Supreme Overlord is some tone-deaf Geordie woman who cries at the drop of a hat. It really shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that our priorities are a little skewed. So it came to pass that, while our mass media continues to spread racism and re-affirm the class structure in favour of those at the top, what really riled people was some right-wing fucktard writing unpleasant things about a former boyband member. It was, of course, a deeply unpleasant article. But the Daily Mail is full of deeply unpleasant articles every single day. Seriously – have a look at it right now. If you are of a liberal mindset, it will not take you long to find something that you find very offensive. We could complain about each article, and perhaps have some success with this. But that obscures the real issues. The real issue, for example, of our newspapers becoming concentrated in the hands of a small number of super-rich people who use them to push their own agendas, misinforming people in order to turn them against any target other than themselves and their entrenched power. They really couldn’t care less if people complain about one of their columnists being homophobic. It’s just another act in the endless show of putting ultimately meaningless targets up there for us all to become outraged about.

To go back to something I mentioned at the start – the discrediting of our politicians and the structures around them. Again, there was obviously a real issue there, and real public anger. However, this story was pushed most vehemently by the Telegraph. The Telegraph which is owned by the Barclay brothers, renowned tax-dodgers who have tried to influence the politics of Sark (they ‘own’ a tenement island, you see) in boldly nefarious ways. The spectacle of tax-dodgers rousing public outrage at expense claims which pale into insignificance beside the sums they are avoiding paying to the Treasury really is quite something. Yet public anger is never directed at these tax-dodging, rabble-rousing, shady figures who try and influence our political systems for their own gain. You will not read spitting editorials about tax havens and tax loopholes, about media monopolies and union-crushing, about unelected economic power on a massive scale and undue influence on national governments. No, instead we’re told that our problems are because of immigrants. Because of unions. Because of politicians. Then we’re thrown some blether about Cheryl Cole and encouraged to grab our pitchforks over Stephen Gately. Over 20,000 people have complained about the Jan Moir article. 20,000. Can you imagine if 20,000 spoke in unison to demand that the government curb the power of media monopolies? If 20,000 people spoke in unison to demand the government end the scapegoating of ethnic minority migrants? If 20,000 people spoke in unison to demand the end to our regressive tax system which, government after government, continues to place the tax burden on those who can least afford it? Such a noise would be extremely powerful, and would attract other people to the cause.

I re-iterate that the Jan Moir article was horrible, and it is pleasing in some ways that people are so outraged by it. Yet the Daily Mail and homophobia are long-term partners (civil, of course) and a more subtle attack on gay rights will be along in a minute. We should ask why, and to what purpose – and this leads us to the people behind the scenes, who want to make sure that the outrage is never directed at them.

9 February 2010

Vermin

So Attitude magazine has put David Cameron on the cover. Not in itself a bad thing - there is an argument to be made that an interview with the potential next Prime Minister is a coup and that his record on gay rights should be tackled. What makes it a bad thing is the context and the ridiculous way that the magazine has went about it.

First, the context. Over the past 3 months the magazine has interviewed the leaders of the three main parties - Gordon Brown, Nick Clegg and now Cameron. The latter is the only one who has been given the cover. I’ve no doubt that the magazine would argue that this is because he is the most likely to be the next Prime Minister - the truth is that the former two leaders giving an interview to a gay magazine is not particularly noteworthy because their/their parties support for gay rights is well-established. Attitude know that Cameron being on the cover will garner attention from the ‘mainstream’ press because of the Tories’ appalling history on gay issues.

Now, again this could be excused with the arguments in the first paragraph. Indeed, the magazine trumpets the fact that Cameron is interviewed by ‘one of his most vocal critics’ and has a feature preceding the interview examining the history of the Tory party on gay issues. The interviewer does manage to make Cameron squirm on a couple of occasions, but more often he is allowed to be evasive and vague. A critical reader will take this as damning behaviour, but those looking to believe in Cameron’s conversion to the cause of gay rights will be able to read far more positive interpretations into the vacuum.

The final thing which renders Attitude’s decision to put Cameron on the cover utterly indefensible is their bizarre, patronising decision to have an ‘alternate’ cover consisting of…a model in his underwear. Featuring the tagline, ‘Think politicians are pants? Then here’s a man in some!’. The magazine knows full well that many of its readers will be appalled by its decision. Rather than have the courage of its convictions, it pretends that many gay people are so idiotic that they will be turned off not by the fact that a Tory is on the cover but by the fact that it’s a politician. Because we’re gay, and we like fit men, see? At once Attitude is saying ‘This is important! We tackle Cameron on gay rights’ and on the other saying, ‘You might find this a bit boring cos it’s politics lol’. It’s breathtaking.

Make no mistake, the fact that Cameron is on the cover when Brown and Clegg weren’t (not even on ‘alternate’ covers) will be seized upon by many Cameron supporters as further evidence of his and the Tories’ conversion to the gay cause. Completely irrespective of the contents of the interview. It’s symbolic and will be taken as an endorsement.

I honestly believe that no gay person could seriously believe that Cameron thinks that they are equal to heterosexuals (not deep down - I do believe that some gay people have convinced themselves that Cameron is onside, because supporting a political party is frequently like supporting a football team). He was still supporting Section 28 in 2003. His converstion to the cause happened when he wanted to be the party leader. Such a swift turnaround tells me not that he deeply realised the error of his ways, but instead that he realised the British public had long since moved on in their attitudes and he had to follow to have any hope of winning power. For that reason he cannot possibly be trusted, and Attitude are being completely irresponsible in playing coy with him..

22 July 2010

Ian Tomlinson

Dear Diane,

I wrote to you last year regarding the policing of the G20 protests and the death of Ian Tomlinson. I am writing to you again in light of the deeply upsetting developments today. The decision by the Director of Public Prosecutions not to bring any criminal charges over the death of Ian Tomlinson comes as the latest insult to justice in this sorry saga, and is sadly the latest in a long line of such decisions which place the police above the law.

As you know, the police deliberately spread disinformation in the immediate aftermath of Mr Tomlinson’s death, informing the media that he had died as the result of a pre-existing health condition and that his family were ‘not surprised’ by his death. They also falsely claimed that they had attempted to aid Mr Tomlinson but had been attacked by protestors. This in itself is completely outrageous. Despite eye witnesses coming forward in the days following to contradict this version of events, I strongly believe that this would have been the end of the matter if The Guardian had not obtained the now infamous video which shows Mr Tomlinson being assaulted as he walks away from the police with his hands in his pockets. As a side issue this causes me to wonder how many other instances of police violence have been subject to lies and disinformation which has gone unchallenged because of a lack of video evidence.

The fact that the IPCC unquestioningly accepted the police version of events (and in fact defended their actions) and did not launch an investigation until the release of the video, and that the officer involved was not suspended until 8 days after the assault, demonstrates the grotesquely dismissive attitude afforded to the death at the time.

For the Crown Prosecution Service to now claim that there can be no prosecution largely on the basis of ‘conflicting’ post-mortems, seems like the worst kind of scrambling for an excuse to abandon the case. The initial post-mortem, already conducted in dubious circumstances, was performed by a pathologist who is now discredited and has been removed from the Home Office register. The subsequent two, separate post-mortems both confirmed the cause of death to be abdominal haemorrhage. There is clearly a case to answer here, and CPS excuses as to why they cannot do *anything* simply will not satisfy.

There MUST be a wide-ranging and independent inquiry into the role of the City of London Police, the coroner, the pathologist and the IPCC, who have all played a part in ensuring no charges were able to be brought. This is an issue which goes to the heart of our democracy and our rights as citizens. I urge you to keep pressing for justice for Ian Tomlinson, and for reform of the institutions involved so that we do not have to endure yet another consequence-free death from police brutality.

Philip Matusavage

24 February 2011
Tags: Politics
13 April 2011
21 April 2011

OUTRAGE!

Apparently there’s ANOTHER ‘kiss-in’ at the John Snow tonight. It seems there are a lot of people willing to be mobilised against ‘homophobia’ without spending even a cursory amount of time investigating the origins of their ‘outrage’ and the actions they’re signing up to. The more I read about it, the more I am convinced that there was no homophobia in what happened (a summary explanation which I posted elsewhere is below.)

The surge in ‘Twitter outrage’ in the past year or so is incredibly bizarre. It only ever seems to reach a superficial level and rests entirely on a very narrow ‘liberal’ identity of self derived from identity politics. The ‘promised land’ seems to be a place where we can all live without offence rather than achieving any real equality (a significant, substantive equality which recognises class structures and economic power as primary, not who we have sex with.) I’m not sure if it’s pushing people to express opinions on things that they think little about or if it’s just giving a platform to people who have never tended to do this. Either way, it’s a bit dumb. I’ve said it before – for all the shouting about ‘equality’ that certain people do, their entire sense of identity would be lost forever if people *really* stopped giving a shit about people being gay.

Re: the ‘incident’ (it was in response to someone demanding further action so I’m tackling their points):

I’m afraid this is a perfect example of what I said when I wrote about people being outraged without actually bothering to check the details of what they’re outraged about! The version of events that has taken hold (a gay couple kissed and were forcibly ejected) bears little relation to what we’ve been told: - The info about the complainant is here: http://news.pinkpaper.com/NewsStory/5215/16/04/2011/man-who-sparked-john-snow-furore-claims-couple-were-fondling.aspx

Firstly, I think it’s important to acknowledge that there WAS a complainant. Previously we’d been led to believe that the landlord just took exception, not that a member of the public made a complaint. The complainant’s description of their behaviour tallies with what my friend told me. She said that most people were indeed rolling their eyes and thinking ‘get a room’, but if someone complains then clearly that places pressure on the pub to do something, right?

Secondly, and crucially, you’ll see that both the complainant *and the guy who tweeted when ejected from the pub* acknowledge that they WERE asked to tone it down, and remained in the pub for at least an hour afterwards. If this was a case of bar staff taking offence to gay people, why on earth would they not just eject them immediately?!

Thirdly, in the original story the guys involved said they ‘refused’ a request to moderate their behaviour. They said they told the person who came over to ‘turn around instead’ and ‘took little notice’ and continued to kiss ‘not in a confrontational way, just on the mouth’. That’s a bit different from the version in this story, where they stopped, stayed for an hour and then were randomly ejected.

Fourthly, again originally they described their behaviour as nothing more than a ‘peck on the lips’. One of the SUPPORTIVE witnesses described it ‘full-on snogging, but not heavy petting’.

Next - no-one ever suggested that the John Snow had contacted police or requested police remove them. The police involvement (which only seems to appear in some versions of the story) was that when they were arguing with the landlady, a man in the pub identified himself as a police officer, showed a badge and said they had to leave if she asked them to.

Some other points - I’ve no doubt similar things have happened in other Sam Smiths pubs - because similar things happen in pubs across the country. The implication that there is some Sam Smith-wide policy on gay kissing is risible and an insult to all of our intelligence. There are several Sam Smiths pubs in Soho, myself and many other gay friends regularly frequent many of them without incident. And I have seen straight people being asked to leave pubs after kissing before (not Sam Smiths ones, but I’ve never witnessed anyone being ejected from one of them that I can recall.)

Yes, I do think the people involved should know best - but a) there are so many inconsistencies that it’s impossible for any of us to know exactly what happened, least of all those now trying to destroy the pub b) I don’t think just because someone believes they’ve been discriminated against, it means they have been. If you were asked to leave a pub for kissing, of COURSE you’d be angry and indignant, whatever sexuality you are. It doesn’t mean you were asked to leave because you were gay (and indeed gay people get ejected from gay pubs.)

Lastly, yes it’s odd that no-one from the pub has made a statement, but I don’t think this can be used as some damning evidence of guilt. Because really, it snowballed so quickly that if the pub stuck to their guns, said they weren’t homophobic and had every right to eject the pair, the people who turned up to the kiss-in (and countless others) would be demanding their blood. Perhaps an apology would have satisfied everyone, perhaps not, but maybe they don’t feel the need to apologise and are being stubborn. As for Sam Smith, I imagine they feel at arms length from the situation given their heavy presence in Soho without incident and the fact that the landlord makes the rules about who comes in and who stays, not them

27 April 2011
15 June 2011
21 June 2011
Themed by Hunson. Originally by Josh