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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.

20 February 2011
21 February 2011

Victims

“It says much about Rihanna’s story that she pierced the mainstream bubble only after she was widely photographed sporting a black eye, given to her by her then partner, the singer Chris Brown. For a woman who became the overnight face of domestic violence to later release S&M, a song with the lyrics: “Sticks and stones/ May break my bones/ But chains and whips/ Excite me,” is either ironic, empowering or plain silly.”

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/cifamerica/2011/feb/20/rihanna-video-brits-lachapelle-music

This rewriting of history is one of the many sad (and even disturbing) fall-outs from the domestic violence case. Of course Rihanna had ‘pierced the mainstream bubble’ well before the ‘incident’ and had a string of massive hits behind her. She was also hardly known as being a wallflower. So what does it say that self-identified feminists now see her as someone who was ‘made’ by being attacked and should be mindful of this when creating new pop?

25 February 2011
3 March 2011

Can we talk about liberal bias now?

The only criticism I have seen of Johann Hari’s recent silly (dangerously so) article about ‘Muslim homophobia’ has been in blogs:

http://www.islamophobia-watch.com/islamophobia-watch/2011/2/28/are-muslims-responsible-for-a-huge-rise-in-homophobic-attack.html

http://leninology.blogspot.com/2011/02/can-we-finally-talk-about-johann-haris.html

Guardian journo Gary Younge tweeted that he disagreed with it, but went out of his way to also tweet that Johann Hari was an “important voice & ought to be engaged, as some have, not demonised.”

Engaging proved difficult. Johann’s response to people tweeting criticism at him has either been to ignore it completely or to, in one case, label the person responsible as ‘extremely unintelligent’ and it seems he has blocked many of the critics (including at least one of the authors above).

Some of the attacks on Johann since his article have been quite hysterical. But most that I’ve seen have been reasoned and calm. It’s raised an interesting, but quietly disturbing question about ‘liberal writers’. Johann and many other ‘left’ journalists quite regularly write indignant columns about the ignorance and stupidity of people like Melanie Phillips and Richard Littlejohn. Whether this is helpful or productive is another question, but it’s not something that most people are going to be particularly bothered by because, on the whole, they do seem to be ignorant and stupid.

However, I have not seen a single one of these writers tackle Johann’s article. An article which has since been shown to be based on a completely incorrect assertion and which, as I argued here:

http://howupsetting.tumblr.com/post/3503560578/can-we-talk-about-muslim-homophobia-now (I wrote this before seeing the above blogs so obviously the crime figures bit is moot)

is factually selective, logically muddled and presents an at times almost incoherent argument. I have absolutely no doubt that if a right-wing columnist of a similar profile to Johann had written a factually inaccurate, inflammatory colum about Muslims that there would have been at least a couple of high-profile attacks on it. The absence of this suggests that it’s okay for a liberal writer to write provocative tosh about Muslims, because they’re on ‘our side’ and write good columns about causes close to our hearts such as UK Uncut.

We’re supposed to be better than the right-wing bastards. We’re supposed to have higher standards. Johann is a writer I have long followed and he has written some things that I have admired. His refusal to either acknowledge that his article contained inaccuracies and apologise, or to tackle the criticism head on and explain why he’s right, has greatly reduced my respect for him. People share these articles and people assume that what they’re reading is based on accurate information (the issue of people thinking about such articles critically is another one entirely). They calcify opinions and create false oppositions. They are, as I wrote earlier, deeply irresponsible.

11 March 2011
13 April 2011
25 May 2011
Even catching the trailers for all of these ‘reality shows’ (a true perversion of the term if ever there was one) makes me feel like we’re living in the last days of Rome. Television devoid of any thought or merit whatsoever beyond purient voyeurism at truly horrible people. Ignorant, apolitical, greedy, amoral, superficial fame-hungry idiots with absolutely nothing to say and given an enormous platform on which to say it. It’s bad enough that one of the sole purposes of the shows seems to be so that we can all feel superior to what’s on screen; worse is that there seems to be an underlying encouragement to see these people as lovable, harmless folk who are ‘just like you’. A strained division, certainly, but one that obviously seems to work for many people.
I remember when Madonna was inducted into the UK Music Hall of Fame (whatever happened to that?) back in 2004, she said something along the lines of ‘I wanted to be famous because I had something to say and I wanted the world to hear it.” Now people have ‘something to say’ because they think it will help lead to fame. And that ‘something to say’ is incredibly banal - bitchy, rude, so-called ‘sassy’ remarks about nothing of importance whatsoever. Hell, WAGS are role-models compared to this lot - at least they had to *marry* someone famous.

Even catching the trailers for all of these ‘reality shows’ (a true perversion of the term if ever there was one) makes me feel like we’re living in the last days of Rome. Television devoid of any thought or merit whatsoever beyond purient voyeurism at truly horrible people. Ignorant, apolitical, greedy, amoral, superficial fame-hungry idiots with absolutely nothing to say and given an enormous platform on which to say it. It’s bad enough that one of the sole purposes of the shows seems to be so that we can all feel superior to what’s on screen; worse is that there seems to be an underlying encouragement to see these people as lovable, harmless folk who are ‘just like you’. A strained division, certainly, but one that obviously seems to work for many people.

I remember when Madonna was inducted into the UK Music Hall of Fame (whatever happened to that?) back in 2004, she said something along the lines of ‘I wanted to be famous because I had something to say and I wanted the world to hear it.” Now people have ‘something to say’ because they think it will help lead to fame. And that ‘something to say’ is incredibly banal - bitchy, rude, so-called ‘sassy’ remarks about nothing of importance whatsoever. Hell, WAGS are role-models compared to this lot - at least they had to *marry* someone famous.

8 June 2011

The Human Centipede 2

I keep reading a lot about the ‘rights’ of individuals to watch whatever they want. Where does this ‘right’ come from? It certainly isn’t a ‘right’ recognised in the European Convention on Human Rights, which states:

1. Everyone has the right to freedom of expression. This right shall include freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority and regardless of frontiers. This Article shall not prevent States from requiring the licensing of broadcasting, television or cinema enterprises. 

2. The exercise of these freedoms, since it carries with it duties and responsibilities, may be subject to such formalities, conditions, restrictions or penalties as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society, in the interests of national security, territorial integrity or public safety, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, for the protection of the reputation or rights of others, for preventing the disclosure of information received in confidence, or for maintaining the authority and im-partiality of the judiciary

This being a serious, grown-up document which recognise that there are always competing rights and responsibilities. Such as the responsibility of a filmmaker to acknowledge that the work they create contributes to our culture, and our culture is hugely powerful in shaping our values and our societal mores. Such as the right of everyone to fight against a culture where the brutalisation of women is presented as entertainment for men, as if this has absolutely no effect beyond entertaining the viewer. We don’t need research to look into the effect of culture on people - everyone has at some point been profoundly affected by art. We are moved, elated, inspired, angered, outraged…why then is it such a leap to believe that something with no purpose other than to present sexual brutalisation as entertainment can degrade a viewer?

The BBFC isn’t a perfect body and no-one would argue that it is. But I think only a complete fool would argue for its abolition or for its powers to be reduced. Allowing a free-for-all isn’t a mark of civilisation. Recognising competing rights and responsibilities, and the compelling power of culture to shape us all, is what is civilised.

Posted: 8:54 PM

Response to ‘June 7, 2011 Anti-Gay Hate Crime Up 21% in Tower Hamlets”

This response was posted by a Kevin O’Neil on the Homintern ‘press release’ re: homophobia in Tower Hamlets, which I wrote about yesterday. It was deleted within 30 minutes. I think this underlines that these people really have an insidious agenda and zero interest in any honest discussion of the issues involved. Pathetic.

Thank you for posting the link to your data source for the 21% claim. A look round the Met’s crime figures website has proved most illuminating and allows one to put your headline into a context.
A 21% increase in homophobic crime in Tower Hamlets initially sounds dramatic but becomes less so when compared with other London Boroughs. Westminster, Lambeth both 26%, Brent 29%, Islington 60%, Croydon, Sutton 62%, Enfield 75%, Havering, Kingston-upon-Thames 83% and Harrow a wapping 125%.

Of course these are self-reflexive percentages only relating this years figures with last years within Borough boundaries. What about actual numbers of reported homophobic crime? A 21% rise in Tower Hamlets has lead to a total of 81 cases in the last year, an additional 14 cases. That is less than the 88 cases in Islington in the previous year BEFORE a 60% increase to 131 cases. It equals the 82 cases in Camden achieved after a 13% reduction. It is significantly less than Westminster’s 148 cases and Lambeth’s 132.

One also has to ask what are the nature of these homophobic crimes? In Tower Hamlets the 81 incidents, 14 more than last year, will include every official report made to the Police of the appearance of the stickers. We do not know how many that was (although I imagine a Freedom of Information request should be able to obtain the data). There was talk in the gay press and online blogs and forums of up to 70 appearances of these stickers. If each of those was officially reported separately we have a very different picture of only a dozen non sticker sighting related homophobic crimes. Conversely, if none were officially reported we have the possibility of an East London gay community who really weren’t that upset by them. I suspect it would be something between these extremes. However, if the reporting of the stickers were stripped out of the statistics I think we would be congratulating Tower Hamlets on a reduction of homophobic hate crime.

You seem to want to lay some of the blame for these stickers at the feet of the East London Mosque and make demands of them which you acknowledge the say they are already doing. Whether the ELM is still harbouring homophobic, ranting, nut-jobs or not, it would appear from a more thoughtful analysis and contextualisation of your data that hardly anyone is listening to them anyway.

Your whole agenda of wanting to link homophobic hate crime specifically to an extremist Islamist campaign and to the ELM is a fallacious red herring and does a great disservice to the gay community. A look at the statistics for homophobic crime across the capital shows that there is a serious problem that needs addressing. You wish to focus on a blind alley and lead the gay community into a battle with an enemy that is about as influential as Monster Raving Loony Party candidate in a safe seat.

A number of the signatories here state they are journalists and media professionals. Why are you not investigating the real picture of homophobic hate crime across London? Why are you not looking at the increases and total numbers in Westminster, Lambeth, Islington, Camden. The homophobic crime cases in these Boroughs do not include people reporting offensive stickers. Conversely why are you not looking at the successes across London and finding out what they’re doing right; Greenwich, Bromley, Barnet, Redbridge, Barking & Dagenham, Hammersmith & Fulham and Haringey all down by over 40%.

You talk of people living in fear in Tower Hamlets. Fear does not come directly from threat, it comes from the perception of threat. Your fallacious red herring stokes a perceived threat where very little actually exists. Shame on all the signatories for instilling fear in the hearts of the gay community of Tower Hamlets and generating more misery.

One final comment. You give the increase and numbers for homophobic crime in Tower Hamlets and state that racist and religious hate crime has remained static. But you do not give a figure for it. The number of incidents there is 352.
I note however the the Met refers to “homophobic crime” and “racist and religious HATE crime”. This would seem to support the contention towards the beginning of the piece about institutional bias in tackling hate crime. But then begs the question as to why you do not make this the focus of your demands”

Themed by Hunson. Originally by Josh