Israel & Gaza; It isn’t “being selective” that is the issue…. it’s the motive for the selection.

August 11, 2014

I’ve been writing on this blog for several years now, and every now and again I’ll be asked “why do you focus so much on….” The question is usually followed by “Islam?“, “Christianity?“, “God, even though you don’t believe in Him?“, “The GOP?“, “Tories?“. And for the most part, those people are right. It’s not a big selection of issues that I tend to focus on. I am selective. I focus on religion, because I’m a secular atheist interested and critical of all things religion. I focus on the US Republicans, because I find their shift to the far right to have created an intriguing atmosphere in US domestic politics. I focus on the Tory Party, because, well, I don’t like them. It’s that simple. I am selective. But I’m clear in my motives and my prejudices and on such issues that don’t have a clear right or wrong, I expect a lot of disagreement from others.

In Owen Jones’s latest article for The Guardian on the rise anti-semitism, I tended to agree with much of what he wrote, but some of it I found to be more excuses for his own recent motives. He was correct when he points out that during the protests, a section of the Western right-wing attempted to paint all of those attending, as anti-Semites, which completely dilutes the term ‘anti-semitic’. It was a hideous misrepresentation of many well meaning people with genuine concerns and a wish to see the end of immense human suffering in Gaza. Where Owen slips up, is in his characterisation of the criticisms that I and others have regarding the selective outrage of sections of the Western left. Owen writes:

“The response of many supporters of Israel’s attack has been instructive. In a world where there is so much injustice and bloodshed, they say, why not march against the sectarian murderers of Islamic State (Isis) or Boko Haram? This is known as “whataboutery”: an attempt to deflect from one injustice by referring to the suffering of others. Some defenders of Israel’s governments believe the supposed special attention received by the conflict is itself evidence of antisemitism. But Israel’s atrocities attract this attention because the state is armed to the teeth and backed by western governments, rendering them directly complicit; IS and Boko Haram, on the other hand, are (quite rightly) opposed by our rulers. Demonstrations and protests are generally a means of exercising influence over supposedly democratically accountable governments.”

- This paragraph highlights my point throughout this debate entirely. It’s probably worth noting that taking issue with Owen’s selective outrage does not make one a “supporter of Israel’s attack” nor a “defender of Israel’s government“. To subtly hint at such, is as ridiculous as suggesting that criticism of Israeli policy, comes from “supporters of Hamas“. It is not worth dignifying with a full retort.

Next, the entire paragraph is irrelevant in an article on the rise of anti-Semitism, there is no reason to include it, and so I suspect the entire article was written as a response to the criticisms Jones has faced in recent weeks. (Mehdi Hasan attempted a similar excuse, which I wrote on here.) It also fails, because whilst he’s correct that demonstrations and protests are a means of exercising influence over a government, there’s no reason – nor precedent – for protests being solely connected to whom the UK/US/West funds and/or arms. The conclusion to his paragraph therefore, does not follow from his overall argument. Protests against the Sri Lankan Civil War urged World leader’s to push Sri Lanka to declare ceasefire. Their motivation wasn’t that the UK had grotesquely sold almost £14mn in arms to Sri Lanka in the recent years of the conflict (that knowledge came later), it was a concern for human rights and a possible genocide. The Global Day of Action for Burma did not include in its demands any reference to funding being the sole justification for their protest, and instead focused on raising awareness and working to pressure governments of the World into taking action. The ‘Stop Kony’ fad of 2012 – whilst it didn’t achieve its key goal, and was doubtless a fashionable fad for many rather than a protest – did achieve significant goals. It raised awareness, leading to Human Rights Watch saying:

“We’ve spent years investigating the horrors perpetrated by the LRA in central Africa – Uganda, Democratic Republic of Congo, Central African Republic (CAR), and South Sudan. We gathered evidence at massacre sites – wooden clubs covered in dried blood, rubber strips from bicycle tires used to tie up the victims, and freshly dug graves – and spoke to hundreds of boys and girls forced to fight for his army or held captive as sex slaves. And we’re elated that #stopKony is a trending topic on Twitter – if anyone deserves global notoriety it’s Kony.”

- It also led to Senators Jim Inhofe and Chris Coons raising the issue in the US Senate and pledging the US’s support for governments in Africa trying to track down leaders of the LRA. It led to United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees noting an unprecedented reaction to the atrocities and new commitments to stop the LRA. To a large extent, it worked. Mobilising, protesting, using the power of social media, and all forms of pressure do not require first analysing the financial transactions of the UK. Which leads me to point two:

I am not keen on this new excuse that amounts to a sort “we don’t fund them, so we’re not that fussed” reaction. This is not how the international left traditionally went about its business, and as seen with prior protests, has not been a major theme. It didn’t strike off the list all of those human rights abusing nations or groups that weren’t receiving Western aid. It wasn’t a primary concern, and I’m not sure why it is now. It is also a badly crafted excuse and I don’t buy it as the real motive. Pakistan is one of the biggest recipients of bilateral aid, with a large chunk from the UK, despite Pakistan’s violent grip on Balochistan, to no protests whatsoever from the Western Left. The US funded the gangland regime in Honduras for years, which in turn created a brewing humanitarian crisis on the US/Mexico border with very little registering on the US Left. Afghanistan with its awful Shia Family Law, corruption within the PA, Congo, Jordan, the list goes on, and the murderous, oppressive regimes receive little protest from the left. It is a self-evidently weak excuse, and still fails to do its job, because the selective outrage is still applied inconsistently. Those conflicts may involve the US to a degree (when isolated from all other context), but they don’t directly involve Israel, so the outrage may be limited to a few words of condemnation, in perhaps a Tweet or two about how it’s all the US’s fault. I would also argue that this inconsistency and a tendency to single out Israel under a daily microscope, whilst making excuses for that, has fuelled the rise of the very anti-semitism Jones now rightly argues against.

Thirdly, my criticism is not that Owen and others like him are selective in their outrage. We all do that. I do that. Whether on foreign issues like Gaza, or domestic issues like the Bedroom Tax, we’re all selective and we all have our motives for being selective. Being selective is not a negative in itself. It would be ridiculous of anyone to demand we register equal protest and outrage at every conflict in every part of the World on every single day. That appears to be what Owen believes we’re doing, but it simply isn’t the criticism I have. I am clear with my criticism, and it is based on motive. Motive drives us all in how we select, and that is no different for that particular section of the Left. My criticism is that there is a significant section of the Left that increasingly selects its moral outrage and how it chooses to protest, on the basis of whether or not the crisis and the victims can be used as a vehicle to progress a rabid anti-US/UK/Blair/Israel sentiment. Through this, I am frustrated by their rewriting of history to filter out surrounding context, by underplaying the contribution to the crisis from figures other than the US/UK/Israel, by sharing images that do not show what they purport to show, and articles that are far less than accurate and cannot be dismissed as simple oversight. The motive is not primarily concern for victims (though I don’t doubt that concern for victims plays its part, I’m not suggesting Owen’s section of the Left lacks empathy), nor is it the traditional Left’s motive of fighting oppression where ever it is found. It is the cynical use of conflicts, to progress the underlying narrative of anti-US/Israel/West, that forms the bases of my criticisms.

When such a dogmatic motive for a very narrow narrative lies just beneath the surface, it may not be formed through conscious bigotry, but it manifests itself in simplistic analysis, and manipulative rhetoric that perpetuates bigotry (see Galloway’s recent comments). As previously mentioned, Mo Ansar played to that crowd when working to underplay the devastation caused by Hamas rocket fire. This is also evident in Owen’s past articles. For example, in his article entitled “Why the left must speak up about the persecution of Christians” – a noble fight – it doesn’t take Owen long to simplistically blame the US and UK, betraying the original point of the article:

“It is, unsurprisingly, the Middle East where the situation for Christians has dramatically deteriorated in recent years. One of the legacies of the invasion of Iraq has been the purging of a Christian community that has lived there for up to two millennia.”

- Yup. It’s the West’s fault. For the rest of us, it is the ‘legacy’ of a plethora of causes, that to an extent includes the incompetent conducting of and the aftermath of the invasion, the sectarian and disuniting policies of Maliki’s government, but those are given their strength by religious turmoil for centuries including the massacre of Assyrian Christians in the 1930s, private funding for groups like ISIS from donors elsewhere, Saddam’s relocation of Christians away from strategic resources and an emphasis on the notion that Christians are to be ‘tolerated’ in those areas, rather than considered equal. It is not simply ‘legacy of invasion, blame the US’. The problems are rooted far deeper. The context far wider.

When it came to the crisis with the self-titled ‘Islamic State’ – ISIS – in Iraq, the focus for Jones was another overly simplistic analysis, in which surrounding context can just be dismissed, in a quest to blame the US/UK. This time, the self-serving motive was less subtle: “We anti-war protestors were right; the Iraq invasion has led to bloody chaos”. It’s almost as if there wasn’t bloody chaos – a couple of genocides, nothing to see here – prior to the Iraq invasion. In his incredibly reductive analysis, Jones chooses to ignore the Iraq that Saddam left behind devoid of any semblance of democratic institutions, a massive Syrian civil war, ignore the Arab Spring, ignore a power play between Saudi Arabia – seeking to weaken Maliki whilst also opposing Jihadists at home – and Iran in Iraq & Syria, ignore what seems to be support for anti-Shia groups in Syria from private donors in Qatar and Saudi Arabia, ignore a largely heavy handed Shi’ite security force in Iraq, ignore the fight for a resurrected Caliphate from extreme elements within Islam for decades (it’s difficult to blame Blair for the popularity of al-Nabhani’s ideas and the strength of Hizb in the 1980s/90s across the globe), ignore centuries of sectarianism (including Saddam’s hideous massacre of around 100,000 Shi’ite Muslims in and around Karbala and al-Najaf a year before Blair took over as leader of Labour), ignores al-Maliki’s sectarian governance, ignores a weak Iraqi constitution, ignores the tensions between ISIS and Jabhat al-Nusra. All surrounding context is filtered out, because it doesn’t indicate a line directly from Blair to ISIS.

So, we can discount the ‘we fund them’ excuse, because it doesn’t seem to extend far beyond Israel, and still leaves us with the same criticism of the motives for selection. We can discount the ‘we protest to pressure the government’ because that is the case with most protest movements regardless of whether or not we fund the culprits. We can discount the ‘whataboutery’ complaint, because it isn’t the criticism we actually have in the first place. My conclusion remains the same; there is a purpose in working to oversimplify conflicts in the manner that the Galloway-left often does. Being selective is not the issue. The motive is the issue. In this case, ‘being selective’ is focused entirely on how a crisis can be used to progress an anti-US/Israel narrative. Manipulated and reductive history, dismissal of all surrounding context, blatantly false or emotive images and information, and awful excuses, are all utilised to that end. And I’m fine with that motive, if only they’d admit it, because at the moment it gives the rest of us on the Left a bad name.


Ten Tory MPs with less than 50% of the vote.

July 10, 2014

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It is true that if you were to include the number of potential voters in each constituency, no current Cabinet Minister would have received over 50% of the vote. But with the freedom to vote, comes the freedom to not vote, and with that in mind we should look more closely at the the percentage that current Tory MPs – seeking to impose voter threshold on strike action – managed to win at the 2010 general election, among actual voter turnout.

So here’s a quick list of ten:

  • Sajid Javid – MP for Bromsgrove and Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport and Minister for Equalities – 43.7%.
    – A man who is in control of the state’s involvement in culture, media, sport, and has the key responsibility for equality in the UK, was elected with less than 50% of the vote in Bromsgrove.

  • David Jones – MP for Clyde West and Secretary of State for Wales – 41.5%.
    – A Secretary of State for an entire country, elected with a little over 40% of the vote.

  • Oliver Letwin – Minister of State at the Cabinet Office and Chairman of the Conservative Party’s Policy Review – 47.6%
    – Letwin – after winning less than 50% of the vote – insisted that public sector workers require “discipline and fear”. On a completely unrelated note, Letwin used £2,145 in Parliamentary expenses to fix a leaking pipe on his tennis court.

  • Mark Garnier – MP for Wyre Forest -36.9%
    On his website, speaking of strikes in November 2011, Garnier writes:

    “These strikes, which will cost the economy up to half a billion pounds, were not voted for by a majority and will hit ordinary working people hardest.”

    - Replace the words “strikes” with “Tories” in this massively ironic statement, and you have a far more honest sentence.

  • Jessica Lee – MP for Erewash & Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Attorney General Dominic Grieve – 39.5%.
  • Stephen Mosley – MP for the City of Chester – 40.6%
    – On his website, Mosley says:

    “The strike action undertaken by PCS union members in June highlighted the unconsidered approach that appears to be the default setting for many unions.
    Less than 20% of their members voted for the industrial action and less than half walked out on their responsibilities that day.”

    - Interesting admiration for majority votes, when almost 60% of Mosley’s own constituency doesn’t want him representing them.

  • Nicky Morgan – MP for Loughborough – 41.6%
    – Elected with a minority of the vote, and yet voted in an attempt to ensure same-sex couples couldn’t get married. She believes with less than 50%, she gets to regulate the love lives of others.

  • Edward Garnier – MP for Harborough, Knight Bachelor and former Solicitor General – 49%.
  • James Morris – MP for Halesowen & Rowley Regis – 41.2%
  • Paul Uppal – MP for Wolverhampton South West – 40.7%
    – Uppal voted in favour of a change to striking laws that would prohibit strikes in the transport sector unless a majority of the workforce voted in favour and not merely a majority of those voting. This same principle, if applied to Parliament, would mean every Cabinet Minister would not have been elected. The closest would have been Theresa May, though she’d still have fell short by 7%.

    - If a Conservative Party wishes to impose a 50% voter threshold on strike action, then I see no reason why there should not also be a 50% voter threshold on the ability to propose legislation and vote in Parliament. Indeed, if MPs with less than 50% of the vote in their own constituency can vote to restrict pay and pensions for public sector workers, I see no reason why those same public sector workers can’t then strike with less than 50% of the vote.


  • The Imperial President? Not so much…

    June 30, 2014

    President Obama and Speaker Boehner shake hands at the State of the Union. Photo Credit: By Pete Souza (Executive Office of the President of the United States)

    President Obama and Speaker Boehner shake hands at the State of the Union.
    Photo Credit: By Pete Souza (Executive Office of the President of the United States)

    If you were to add together the average executive orders of President Obama, President Washington, Jefferson, Adams, Madison, Monroe, Quincy Adams, Jackson, Van Buren, Harrison and Tyler (and the first few months of Polk’s Presidency); they’d still add up to less than President Reagan’s average. And so for a Republican Party with a Presidential hero sporting an executive order average of over 11 Presidents (including the current) combined, alongside its recent history of losing the Senate, losing the Presidency twice, losing the popular vote for the House, wildly abusing the filibuster, and generally considered responsible for the shutdown of the government, you might think the Speaker would be a little humble. You’d be wrong. Instead, he’s choosing to sue the President for use of executive powers.

    In lieu of addressing wage disparity, or a jobs bill, or working to solve climate change issues, the Republican obsession with the President has become a pantomime. In his memorandum, Boehner’s case lacks substance, whilst also betraying the true purpose of the lawsuit. One of his points reads:

    “There is no legislative remedy”

    - What this means is, there is no legislative remedy – from a positive PR perspective – to force the President to give in to the demands of the minority Party, and so they’ll pass the buck to the judiciary, whilst throwing around terms like “Executive Monarchy” in the hope that the public will jump on board. There is of course already a legislative remedy to the overreaching of executive power, and that includes de-funding the executive branch and beginning impeachment proceedings against executive branch officials if they feel they have a strong case. They’re also aware that the judiciary has the power the strike down executive orders if they deem it to be unsupported by the Constitution. The Speaker therefore does not have a strong case, and so neither of the previously mentioned legislative remedies serves the GOP well from a PR standpoint, especially after the constant failure of House Republicans to defund the ACA, the obscene abuses of the filibuster, and the disaster of shutting down the government. They’re therefore ignoring the legislative remedies, as if they don’t exist. It is one big publicity stunt, and as with the shutdown, it will be scrutinised thoroughly and reflect terribly on the GOP.

    Further, the ill-fated lawsuit that Boehner seeks to bring against the President, will be filed by the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group – a standing body of the House of Representatives – funded by every taxpayer in the US. If the lawsuit fails – which it will, because the President has not issued an unconstitutional executive order, nor overreached executive power – it will be the second time Boehner has used ‘BLAG’ and failed, costing the taxpayer in the process. It must strike most as incredible that a Speaker has been able to get away with wasting taxpayer’s money on constant symbolic attempts to defund the ACA (knowing they’d fail every time), defending anti-liberty discrimination based on sexuality (for which Boehner used BLAG), on shutting down the government, on a publicity stunt to sue the President, all whilst successfully achieving the title of the least productive Congress in history with disastrously low approval ratings.

    The Speaker summarised the President’s use of executive orders as the work of “aggressive unilateralism”, and that the President is in fact an “Executive Monarchy”. Echoing Boehner’s summary, the beacon of wisdom Karl Rove – conveniently forgetting the time President Bush aggressively used signing statements to bypass laws and extend Presidential power – said:

    ““This is imperial power, this is George III.”

    - I’m almost certain King George III did not face such a hostile Parliament, to the point where getting basic aides confirmed by the Senate becomes a long drawn out battle. The implication from Rove and the Speaker, is that the President is abusing the use of executive orders beyond anything that came before. The biggest threat to liberty since George III. So, how does that check out. How does the President’s yearly average of executive orders compare with past Republican Presidents? According to research by The American Presidency Project:

    President Obama – Democrat – yearly average: 33.58
    President Bush – Republican – yearly average: 36.38
    President Bush Sr – Republican – yearly average: 41.50
    President Reagan – Republican hero – yearly average: 47.63
    President Ford – Republican – 68.92
    President Nixon – Republican – 62.30
    President Eisenhower – Republican – 60.50

    - President Obama has a lower yearly average of issuing executive orders, than any previous Republican President since the 1950s. Compared to those Republican Presidents, he’s a beacon of restraint. Indeed, Obama is issuing executive orders at a rate of 0.09 a day, far below the Republican Presidential average of 0.22 a day (which is higher than the Democrat Presidential daily rate).

    To find a lower yearly average on issuing executive orders than President Obama, we have to go back to Grover Cleveland’s first term as President, between 1885 and 1889. The highest in my life time, has been small government, Republican hero, President Reagan. In his first term, President Obama issued 147 executive orders. By contrast, President Reagan in his first term, issued 213 executive orders, and Reagan wasn’t faced with the one of the most hostile and obstructionist Congresses in decades.

    If 33.58 magically turns President Obama into King George III, I can imagine 47.63 turns President Reagan into King Henry VIII.

    Remember those figures as the Speaker wastes taxpayers money on a frivolous party political publicity stunt over the coming weeks.


    The right-winged media & the release of al-Baghdadi.

    June 22, 2014

    The BBC reported today that ISIS have moved to within 90 miles of the Iraq-Jordan border, having taken over the town of al-Rutba. The town sits on the main road between Jordan and Baghdad, and is around 110 miles from the border with Saudi Arabia. It marks an unnerving couple of weeks of very violent extremists spilling over from the Syrian civil war into the new and fledgling democracy to the south.

    The past couple of weeks have also produced a plethora of commentators trying to untangle the web of blame, hoping to land at a particular constant (their favoured figure of hate), rather than admit a whole host of variables, like a complex jigsaw, led to the rise of ISIS and the damage it is inflicting upon Iraq. America’s conservatives have spent the past couple of weeks attempting in any way possible to lay the blame for the crisis in Iraq at the door of the President.

    Fox News’s Jeanine Pirro told the nation last week, that ISIS’s leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was in US custody, and released in 2009 during President Obama’s Presidency:

    “The head of this band of savages is a man named Abu Bakr al Baghdadi, the new Osama Bin Laden. A man released by Obama in 2009, who started ISIS a year later.”

    - This came a few days after Pirro called for the President to be impeached for the prisoner swap that led to the release of Bowe Bergdahl.

    Fox’s Megyn Kelly went a little further, and described the circumstances under which al-Baghdadi was released:

    “We are also learning more about the leader of the terror group, a man described as the new Bin Laden, the heir to Bin Laden. It turns out he had been in U.S. custody until 2009, over in Iraq, when he was then turned over to the Iraqi government as part of our troop drawdown. And then he was released.”

    - The implication being that the President has a history of releasing dangerous prisoners, including one who went on to form the group currently slaughtering its way across Iraq. Indeed, Michael Daly writing for The Daily Beast took up the story and went further:

    “When Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi walked away from a U.S. detention camp in 2009, the future leader of ISIS issued some chilling final words to reservists from Long Island.”

    - The chilling words were reported by Army Col. Kenneth King, the commanding officer of Camp Bucca in 2009 and said to be al-Baghdadi telling the camp as he left, that he would:

    “See you in New York.”

    - The source of the story, Colonel King goes on to express his anger at the release of al-Baghdadi in 2009:

    “We spent how many missions and how many soldiers were put at risk when we caught this guy and we just released him.”

    - The story went international, with The Daily Mail over here in the UK taking it up and capitalising the words “set free” for extra effect:

    “Revealed: How Obama SET FREE the merciless terrorist warlord now leading the ISIS horde blazing a trail of destruction through Iraq.”

    - The UK’s Daily Telegraph proposed their own explanation as to why al-Baghdadi was released in 2009:

    “One possible explanation is that he was one of thousands of suspected insurgents granted amnesty as the US began its draw down in Iraq.”

    - So to summarise, according to the right winged press and TV networks, Al-Baghdadi – the leader of ISIS in 2014 – was released from US custody in 2009, handed to the Iraqis, probably due to an amnesty granted to insurgents at the behest of the Obama administration. That’s the narrative. And yet, the problem with the entire story here, is it isn’t actually true. Any of it.

    Politifact researched the claim and found it to be entirely false, and worse for US conservatives; al Baghdadi was actually released in 2004, when a Republican was President. A year later, a US intelligent report tells us that the Pentagon considered al-Baghdadi to be incredibly dangerous:

    “He would kidnap individuals or entire families, accuse them, pronounce sentence and then publicly execute them.”

    - Less than one year after al-Baghdadi was released from custody on President Bush’s watch, the US was again searching for him, for the most hideous crimes.

    Back to the story. It seems that Michael Daly, the Telegraph, the Mail and Fox all framed their narrative around the story told by Col.King. Interviewed days later on ABC, King told the network that he “could have been mistaken” and that whilst he didn’t know the name of the guy he’d seen at Camp Bucca in 2009, it looked a bit like al-Baghdadi. From what he could remember. Five years ago. And from that, Fox construct an entire anti-Obama rant, with a story of how al-Baghdadi was handed over to authorities in Iraq and then released. Politifact checked with the Department of Defence, who issued the following statement:

    “Ibrahim Awad Ibrahim Al Badry, also known as ‘Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’ was held as a ‘civilian internee’ by U.S. Forces-Iraq from early February 2004 until early December 2004, when he was released.”

    “He was held at Camp Bucca. A Combined Review and Release Board recommended ‘unconditional release’ of this detainee and he was released from U.S. custody shortly thereafter. We have no record of him being held at any other time.”

    - And so it turns out al-Baghdadi wasn’t even released to the government in Iraq, as Fox claimed, let alone in 2009. Nor did Obama release him as part of a “amnesty” as suggested by the Telegraph. Though, had al-Baghdadi been released in 2009 as part of an amnesty, that too would not have been President Obama’s doing. As Politifact notes, it was late in 2008 – toward the end of President Bush’s term in office – that the President signed the Status of Forces Agreement with Iraq, an agreement that binds the US to the following terms:

    “The United States Forces shall act in full and effective coordination with the Government of Iraq to turn over custody of such wanted detainees to Iraqi authorities pursuant to a valid Iraqi arrest warrant and shall release all the remaining detainees in a safe and orderly manner, unless otherwise requested by the Government of Iraq.”

    - Not only was al-Baghdadi released in 2004, but had he been released in 2009 – as suggested by the right winged media – his release would have been due to a framework signed by President Bush in 2008.

    The entire story was false and ridiculously manipulative. It relies solely on an army Colonel remembering a face from five years ago, that looked “very familiar”. There was no fact checking from Fox, The Telegraph, The Daily Mail, or The Daily Beast. There was no mention of the US-Iraq agreement. This is how little it takes for Fox to turn a non-story into a familiar national anti-Obama scandal that bears little – if any – resemblance to reality.


    Sarah Vine & Daily Mail land.

    June 11, 2014

    In the green pastures of Daily Mail land, where the year is perpetually 1950, Dvorak’s Symphony 9 plays on a loop, and everyone attends Church on a Sunday. Where someone with slightly darker skin in the village is a frightening novelty, morality and normality are defined by Christianity, gay folk are trying to destroy humanity, and someone with tattoos can only mean one thing; the decadent youth and their alien ways are throwing their lives away, destroying this once great country, and they don’t even know it. If only they’d suspend their critical faculties, and pick up the Daily Mail from time to time, the country could be great again!… Or something like that.

    I woke up shocked this morning. Shocked that my life has been a lie. Thanks to Sarah Vine over at the ever illuminating and rational Daily Mail, I learnt this morning that my tattoos are simply a “hideous” form of self harm. This came as a shock, because up until now, I thought I had my tattoos as a form of self expression, that I chose them because I felt they represented me in a way that I wanted to represent myself, and that they had a certain meaning to me and me alone. I thought I was pretty happy when I had my tattoos. Of course, we all have our problems in life, but on the whole, I really fucking love me. At least, that’s what I thought. I thought I knew what my tattoos meant to me, because, well, I’m me. That all changed this morning when I read Sarah Vine’s column for The Mail (and Tory’s and the Mail are notoriously excellent at understanding young people) and discovered I have serious mental health issues that I address by harming myself with tattoos. I discovered my friends must be covering their intense inner sorrow, with outward displays of faux-happiness and joy. I discovered that the word “self-harm” can now be thrown around whenever we see someone doing something we personally wouldn’t do.

    But then I thought, maybe it’s an ironic piece? I mean, there appears to be a noticeable irony in someone writing for the Daily Mail, and being married to Michael Gove having the nerve to refer to anything other than writing for the Daily Mail and being married to Michael Gove as “ghastly” and “self harm”. Perhaps it is Sarah Vine’s cry for help. I mean, she has her ears pierced; a needle pushed through the body, and a piece of metal shoved into the hole. Does this not also count as self harm? There can’t be much pleasure in writing for a newspaper famed for its tacit support for Fascism in the 1930s, and that recently hounded a transgender person – Lucy Meadows – to suicide, whilst married to a man universally hated by the profession he’s the Minister for. Perhaps at this point you’re thinking that I’m being incredibly judgmental in presuming that I get to tell someone else that their private life, their private loves, and the way they express themselves is “ghastly” or “self harm”. Yes… you’d be right. It’s pretty shitty and irrational of me, isn’t it?

    There is a degree of irony in the article itself:

    “Think of poor, frail Amy Winehouse, her emaciated limbs decorated like a navvy’s; think of the ethereal, fragile Peaches Geldof.”

    - Yes. Think of the ‘poor, frail Amy Winehouse’, like The Mail did when they plastered unflattering pictures of Amy Winehouse all over a completely irrelevant article, whilst needlessly poking fun at her, despite this being in the middle of her health issues:

    “At first glance it may seem she had forgotten to get dressed.
    But bra, shorts and ballet slippers almost count as overdressed for Amy Winehouse these days.”

    - Think of the ‘poor, frail Amy Winehouse’ like The Mail did with this article dedicated entirely to how ill she looked coming out of a restaurant:

    “The Rehab singer looked worse for wear after dining at Balans restaurant in London and exposed a small pot belly after the meal.”

    - Nothing says compassion and sensitivity for those suffering quite like having a gutter photographer selling you photos of every troubled moment, for a paper that gets a bizarre kick out of dehumanising those struggling. So yes, think of the ‘poor, frail Amy Winehouse’ and the grotesque rag of shit with a business model that relies on perpetuating the suffering and misery of others.

    The article goes on:

    “When I was Barkley’s age, tattoos were the preserve of sailors, Hell’s Angels and ex-cons.”

    - When my grandfather was my age, in the 1940s, writing for (or owning) The Daily Mail was the preserve of Nazi supporters and the British far right. Some things change, some things remain remarkably similar.

    The article goes on, still:

    “Twenty-year-old Ross Barkley, by contrast, has used his to illustrate his more contemplative side. On the outside of his arm, in Chinese script, the word ‘fengxian’, meaning ‘to devote’. And at the base of his hand, a quotation from none other than the Greek philosopher Aristotle: ‘No notice is taken of little evil. But when it increases it strikes the eye.’
    Wow. Who knew that beneath that rugged exterior lurked the sensitive soul of a classicist?”

    - This came as a shock to me too, because I have a rose tattooed on my arm, and I haven’t even studied botany. There is absolutely no reason why Barkley would need to know the first thing about the classical period, to take away something meaningful from a pretty universal quote. Indeed, that is part of the timeless genius of Aristotle. You don’t have to be a connoisseur of classical Greek philosophy, to take something meaningful from a fifteen word quote. Similarly, Sarah Vine doesn’t have to be an expert in the art of jewelry making, to have a piece of metal shoved in her ear.

    There is no single reason someone gets a tattoo. Do some people get tattoos as a form of self-harm? It’s a possibility, though I don’t know of anyone who has. For some, their bodies are a canvas for the art form. For others, a tattoo might commemorate a moment in time. For others, a tattoo might be a middle finger to a neat and tidy, soulless, and robotic business-defined culture they find to be so devoid of individuality. For me – as for all others – it is simply a form of self expression. I don’t care what someone else thinks of my tattoos. There is no hidden anguish in my choosing to be tattooed. Like the clothes I wear, the haircut (to an extent; though nature took away most of my hair) I have, the photographs I take, the words I write, the tattoos I have; all are forms of expressing myself, and myself alone. They mean something to me. We express ourselves in a variety of ways and what is important is that I decide what it is that represents expression to me. No one else. Certainly not a Tory journalist flippantly using the subject of mental health to explain away her personal dislike of tattoos, from the unbearably stagnant pastures of Daily Mail land.


    Trolling UKIP: #WhyImVotingUKIP

    May 21, 2014

    It’s a day before the European election, and the #WhyImVotingUkip Twitter trend has spectacularly backfired on the Party this morning. Once you make your way through the three pro-UKIP tweets, you find yourself in a forest of wonderful satire. And so, here are a few of my favourite #WhyImVotingUKIP tweets so far:

    btfd

    fff

    ddddde

    fffffg

    nhgnr

    rfrr

    trey

    untitled1

    Untitled-2

    Untitled-2d

    Untitled-2e

    Untitled-2r

    Untitled-3

    Untitled-r2

    At least, I think these are satire. Given the frequency by which Tea Party-esque comments are publicly made by UKIP members, all of the above tweets could just as easily be actual UKIP comments.
    Tomorrow is election day. Get out and vote!


    European Elections – East Midlands – UKIP’s Roger Helmer.

    May 4, 2014

    East Midlands Member of the European Parliament; Roger Helmer. Source: Berchemboy at en.wikipedia [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], from Wikimedia Commons.

    East Midlands Member of the European Parliament; Roger Helmer.

    Source: Berchemboy at en.wikipedia [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)%5D, from Wikimedia Commons.

    It seems the case that with the European elections on the horizon, those voting will be voting for the party rather than the candidate. Indeed, no European politician in this country – with the exception of Farage – seems to be a household name. We tend not to know whom our representative in Brussels is, instead choosing to vote for the party we most identify with at that moment in time. For that reason, I thought I’d offer a brief overview of the MEP for my area – the East Midlands – UKIPs Roger Helmer. And what an overview it is; vicious homophobia, rape victim blaming, admired by Koch funded corporate pressure group, climate denier.

    It is fair to say, I am not a UKIP fan. Having spoken recently to a young Polish girl who had been disgustingly mistreated by nurses at a hospital that she had given birth at, purely for her nationality, and how she’d cried herself to sleep that night – a night that should have been a happy time, now forever ruined in her memory – I fully blame the divisive and grotesque rhetoric of UKIP among others for that. Human beings are a pawn in their game and I find them very much the heirs to Thatcher, with a hint of fear-driven nationalism thrown in for good measure. In short, the Tea Party of the UK.

    We all remember the UKIP Councillor who blamed the floods on gay marriage, and we laughed. But rabid homophobia and anti-secularism seems unnervingly to be a key component to the thinking of a lot of UKIP politicians. Helmer, on kids struggling to come to terms with their sexuality (a struggle perpetuated by the idea that one particular sexuality is ‘right’ and the other ‘wrong'; a religiously motivated absurdity), said:

    “If we give adolescent youngsters the wrong signal at a key period of their lives, if we glamorise homosexuals in the media, if we fail to discriminate, we risk the likelihood they will fixate on the wrong gender. We risk denying them the chance of a normal life.”

    - He also wrote that the real victims are not the LGBT community still fighting for equal rights, and to be free from religiously motivated discrimination, bullying, and stigma; but the homophobes themselves:

    “Many people find the idea of homosexual behavious distasteful if not viscerally repugnant. It is this perfectly biologically-determined repugnance that the homosexual lobby seeks to stigmatise with the word ‘homophobia’.”

    - It’s like claiming George Wallace was the victim of the civil rights lobby.

    Helmer also tweeted:

    “Why is it OK for a surgeon to perform a sex change operation, but not OK for a psychiatrist to try to ‘turn’ a consenting homosexual?”

    - The implication – along with his early statement, that children might become gay if the media “glamorises” homosexuality – being that homosexuality is a mental illness that can be cured, further dehumanising the LGBT community. As if dehumanising immigrants wasn’t enough. It is about as rational as claiming a psychiatrist can try to ‘turn’ a blue eyed person into a brown eyed person. It is anti-scientific, anti-human, and a very religious position to take. Incidentally, The UK Royal College of Psychiatrists agree:

    “…homsexuality is not a psychiatric disorder. There is no sound scientific evidence that sexual orientation can be changed. Furthermore, so-called treatments of homosexuality create a setting in which prejudice and discrimination flourish.”

    On gay marriage, Helmer – like most absurd right wingers – argues a slippery slope fallacy, whilst defending Church opposition to same-sex marriage, as justification for restricting the rights of others, and upholding Christian supremacist ‘values':

    “…once you start to tamper with the institution of marriage, you get into some very murky water indeed. If two men can be married, why not three men? Or a two men and a woman?”

    - Firstly, this implies that Christianity has some sort of inherent right to the institution of marriage in the first place, and secondly, if Helmer is correct and homosexual marriage leads inevitably to “murky waters” such as polygamy (ironically, Biblically acceptable) then we must accept that heterosexual marriage lead to homosexual marriage, and so in fact the very institution of marriage itself, starts the ball rolling down the slippery slope. The only way out of that slippery slope, is to claim “traditional” marriage should continue to be defined along religious lines. And that’s fine if you’re a Christian; simply don’t have a same sex marriage. You however have no right to enshrine your self-claimed ownership of marriage into law, restricting the rights of anyone else. Helmer’s argument by its very nature, is one that seeks to impose religious “values” on everyone. Roger Helmer is anti-secular.

    Whilst seeking to restrict the rights of the gay community, and subtly hinting that they’re all mentally ill, Helmer said that the word ‘homophobia':

    “…it is just a propagandist word created by the militant gay rights lobby.”

    - Yes! Those ‘militants’ fighting for the same rights that Helmer himself enjoys, whilst referring to those who simply wish the same rights as “…distasteful if not viscerally repugnant“.

    Echoing a number of US Tea Party members, Helmer also isn’t a big fan of women. In 2011, on his blog, Roger Helmer said that in the case of rape':

    “…the victim surely shares a part of the responsibility, if only for establishing reasonable expectations in her boyfriend’s mind.”

    - Yes. He said that. In fact, here’s the blog in question.

    He goes on to say:

    “It is naive for a woman to undress and get into a man’s bed and not expect him to draw the obvious conclusion.”

    - A creative way to say “you brought this on yourself“. Roger Helmer believes that the victim shares blame for being raped. Those poor rapists. I’d suggest that if Roger Helmer believes this, he poses a danger to women, not just for how he votes, but for the fact that he’s clearly unable to control his sexual urges, and considers “establishing reasonable expectation” as a justifiable excuse for violating the autonomy of the body of another human being.

    As UKIP seem to be positioning themselves as a party of the ordinary working people, it’s probably worth noting that Farage himself is an ex-city trader, and that Helmer was appointed ‘Adam Smith Scholar’ by American corporate funded right winged pressure group ‘American Legislative Exchange Council’. ALEC is funded by corporate donors, including in 2009, over $200,000 from the Tea Party funding Koch brothers. The same family that funded right winged extremists during Kennedy’s Presidency, and orchestrated the 2013 government shutdown, seeking to denying the ordinary working people affordable healthcare. Helmer – being a climate skeptic – was also a key speaker at The Heartland Institute’s Seventh International Conference. The Heartland Institute also received funding from the Koch brothers, as well as – predictably, given the subject – big oil companies and big tobacco companies. UKIP are the Tea Party of the UK, in every way possible.

    So for all his climate denying, and speaking on the topic to institutes funded by big corporate interests, imagine my surprise when at the previous European election, we had a leaflet through our door for Helmer’s campaign – he was a Tory at the time – that read:

    “Conservatives played a key role in making new laws to cut carbon emissions and promote renewable energy“.

    - This part of the leaflet, was a major factor for the Helmer campaign, given that it had an entire section dedicated to:

    “…tackling climate change”

    - And yet, the leaflet didn’t explain to voters that Helmer is a key member of ‘The Freedom Association’ of which he became the chairman of in 2007. In 2012 – after Helmer had became Chairman – at a time his campaign was running on its green credentials – ‘The Freedom Association’ said:

    “Evidence is quite clearly emerging that man is not having the impact on the climate that the EU climate alarmists claim.”

    - The leaflet was a blatant lie, given that according to ‘Friends of the Earth’, Roger Helmer has one of the worst voting records when it comes to the environment, in Europe. The campaign literature gave the impression that Helmer had ‘played a key role’ in cutting carbon emissions, when in fact the opposite is true. And he’s proud of it.

    I often write on the absurd and often offensive and hideous remarks and actions by US Tea Party members toward every minority that possibly exists. They seem entirely divorced from reality, a threat to human liberty and dignity, funded by corporate interests, and yet, my own area in leafy middle England appears to have elected one of them – a homophobic, religious supremacist, corporate, rape apologist, victim blaming, misogynistic, climate denier – and looks set to re-elect him. And so, if you’re in the East Midlands, get out and vote on May 22nd. I am embarrassed to know that in Europe, the area that I live is represented by Roger Helmer. We are not like him. The East Midlands deserves far better.


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