Sunday, 6 January 2013

Yes, Another Blog About Nice Guys And The Friendzone

In recent weeks there's been a lot of debate about the concept of Nice Guys and the dreaded 'friendzone' they inhabit, some of it sparked by the infamous and now-deleted 'Nice Guys Of OK Cupid' tumblr, which collated examples of men who considered their lack of dating success to be (somewhat counterintuitively) the result of them being 'too nice', while in many cases demonstrating attitudes towards women that were anything but.

I don't want this post to be a critique of that tumblr, or of anyone else's views on the issue, but a more personal take on why I think Nice Guys are a problem. For the uninitiated, when I talk about this stereotypical 'Nice Guy', I'm talking about those guys who think that women 'always go for jerks' and thereby 'friendzone' men who would be much better for them. By being 'too nice', these dudes think they've inadvertently locked themselves into a inescapable prison of friendship through which neither sex nor romantic love can ever be smuggled. Because Nice Guys, as you may have heard, inevitably finish last.  However, actual nice guys are, well, nice. You and I have no beef, nice guy.

Now, this may be hard to believe, but I haven't always been a confident, swaggering ladies' man, turning knees to jelly and breaking hearts on the reg. Reader, I've been rejected by women, I've been attracted to women that weren't attracted to me, I've had crushes on women and never actually told them, and I've felt waves of nauseating self-pity about the state of my love life, (and droned tediously on about it) in the past. When I was younger, I'd been the guy sat with a similarly unlucky comrade, complaining about how clearly I was lovely and awesome, and yet the object of my affection had stupidly spurned me for some kind of grotesquely horrible walking dick of a man. I wish someone had told me back then that this actually made me sound like the awful one, because ultimately, figuring shit out for yourself is hard. So this post will attempt to explain why I think 'friendzoning' is bullshit and you're an awful person, by giving you men out there some things to consider, should you find yourself one day explaining to some pitying observer about the quasi-masonic Great Friendzone Conspiracy that's keeping you from getting rightfully laid.

1) Being 'Nice' Isn't Everything
Look, a lot of things are 'nice'. Tea is nice. Hot water bottles are nice. Sheets of as-yet-unpopped bubble wrap are nice. Very few of these are likely to send you spinning into a lust-filled frenzy, though as ever, your mileage may vary on this, and I judge ye not. My point is, the kind of spark of attraction needed to make a woman interested in you is probably not going to be set off by niceness alone. Physical attraction is not the be-all and end-all, but the nature of attraction is complex and nebulous, not a simple one-item checklist containing merely 'basic human decency', which you can fulfill and expect to be rewarded with endless, dizzying fuckfests with the partner of your choice. So, what else you got? Are you smart? Are you funny? Do you have an excellent beard? If your answer to all three is 'no', then you're going to need to consider what your qualities are that a woman might like, and put them front and centre. Or just grow a beard. Either way could work.

2) Are You Being A Hypocrite?
So, we've established that you've not got much going for you in the personality department beyond that you're 'nice'. Now ask yourself if you'd date a woman who you felt no physical attraction to, and whose company you didn't particularly enjoy, if she were just kinda, y'know, nice. Can you honestly say that if a woman earned enough mate points, bought you enough rounds, helped you into enough taxis, you'd suddenly fancy her? If not, why are you expecting women to suddenly drop 'em as soon as you've 'been there' for them enough times?

3) Those Guys Dating The Women You Think You Should Be Dating Might Not Be As Bad As You Think
I know, I know, he looks smug as fuck swanning around with the woman who should be yours because you once listened to her cry about a break-up. But what do you actually know about him? You profess to like this woman, and yet you think she's intentionally shunning happiness with you in order to date some unholy mixture of Some Prick From Jersey Shore and Hitler? Have you stopped to consider that he may actually be nice in the conventional sense? Or that, even if he isn't, he may possess a lot of other positive qualities that she finds appealing? If you respect women, then respect their decisions, and understand that they're not playing some unfathomable game somehow designed to alienate you. Not everything is about you, and other people's consenting relationships are frankly none of your business. 

4) Declaring Your Intentions Is Hard But Important
This sucks, but honesty is a good quality. Are you attracted to your friend to the extent that it's eating you up inside? Tell her, if you can. It may hurt if she wants to just be friends, but it's not especially healthy to have an air of unspoken desire hanging between you and your friend. Ask yourself how many of the 'friend' things you do for her are actually because you care about her, and not because you want to get in her pants. Ask yourself if you'd want to know if your friend was in love with you. Tell her, and be prepared not to like the answer. Or, if you feel you can't, don't tell her. You don't have to. But don't fail to tell her, and then passive-aggressively complain behind her back that she's failing to read your signals, or putting you in the 'friendzone', or dating douchebags because she's a fucking moron. Accept that your inability to tell her is a problem YOU have to deal with, not her, and try your best to deal with the situation in a manner which is grown-up and not insulting.

5) The Friendzone Is Not Really An Actual Thing
If a woman is just your friend and not someone you're having sex with, that is what we in certain circles call a 'friend'. Yes, what you have there is a friendship, one between you, a man, and a second person, a woman. This can sometimes happen. The chances are she's not 'put' you there because women get off on torturing men, but because she simply wants to just be friends with you, like you might be with a dude. Sex is not the default interaction between men and women. Sex is a thing that happens between two (or more!) people that express a sexual interest in one another and then gratify it by mutual consent. It's not something you're supposed to expect, but which women then cruelly decide to deny you from their lofty position as the gatekeepers of the sexual realm. Friendships with women that feature no sex can be rewarding. Try viewing said woman as a person rather than a target for your dick, and see what happens.

6) You May Not Actually Be That Nice After All
Look, are you REALLY that nice? You're complaining about women refusing to sleep with you, but you haven't told them how you feel. Is that nice? You're friends with a woman, but whenever you do something for her you note it down mentally as yet another thing you've done which inexplicably went unrewarded with blowjobs, as if it should have been. Is that nice? Think long and hard about your expectations of women, and whether they're reasonable. And consider whether you're maybe acting with an unearned sense of entitlement. Be aware that what you think of as 'nice' (reluctantly listening to a woman's problems while wishing she'd shut the fuck up already and touch your penis), may not be what she defines 'nice' to mean. Perhaps she thinks of a 'nice guy' as someone who likes her with no ulterior motive and who isn't concealing his true feelings for whatever reason.

In conclusion, I'm not setting myself up as an expert on women, or relationships, or men, or indeed anything, because I am demonstrably an expert on none of those things. I don't know what to tell you if you can't find a girlfriend. I do know how tricky it is to let a woman know you like her in a way that's obvious without being aggressive. So if you do tell her, be considerate, because you're putting her in an awkward position. And think about how to deal with a 'no'. These things are all problems that will happen over and over again. Ultimately, though, my point is this: women aren't so incredibly stupid as to not appreciate you being nice. It just takes more than that. And it's not always palatable, but you can't just comfort yourself with the belief that women are just fucking ridiculous because they're failing to adhere to the clearly correct dating formula you've come up with in your head. But let's say you think that, that you firmly believe it. In that case, by all means say it, but be aware that saying it repeatedly does not make you any more attractive, or convince people that you're The Guy. It may just make you sound entitled, disrespectful and self-involved, with an inflated opinion of your own worth and a significant lack of understanding of what women are after. And that, sadly, ain't all that sexy.

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

The Good-Men-Who-Only-Occasionally-Rape-People Project

One of the endlessly fascinating things about the internet is that it forever seems to throw up new and eye-opening ways to really make you feel ashamed to be even broadly associated with other human beings. Football fan? Why not log onto the internet and see what other football fans think? (Note: don't ever do this). Maybe, like me, you're an atheist! Have fun logging onto the internet and getting embroiled in discussions about whatever stupid shit Richard Dawkins just said!

And so it is with men. Good old men. Perhaps the second most damning indictment of men as a group is the fact that 'The Good Men Project' is a thing. Men are genuinely so terrible that we have to have niche movements of dudes clubbing together to scratch their heads and try to figure out how not to openly be arseholes all of the time. I say that's the second most damning indictment of men, because the first is that said Project still manages to go ahead and publish an article by a rapist, about how he's not quite bothered enough about rape to stop drunkenly flailing his dick around. You can read it here, although obviously trigger warnings apply here in spades.

The article is genuinely called 'I'd Rather Risk Rape Than Quit Partying'. A reminder is due at this point that he's not talking about risking becoming a victim of a rape, although he goes on to make that argument too, but becoming a repeat sex offender. It begins with the line "When you party, when you move in party circles, you accept certain tradeoffs", the piece's anonymous author thus immediately setting himself up as the kind of Andrew WK of rape apology. It kicks off with three self-serving paragraphs explaining how super awesome it is to party, and how, hey, if you're going to be a wild party guy, some people might end up getting raped! Shit happens! Deal with it! Observe;
I swear to God, it is only after the fact that you start figuring out that one of the tradeoffs you’ve accepted is a certain amount of rape. The way crooked businesses accept paying fines for their infractions as the cost of doing business, you gradually, an inch at a time, realize that some of the stories you’ve heard, some of the stories you’ve lived, didn’t involve what they call good consent nowadays.
To this guy, rape is just one of the costs of doing business. PARTY BUSINESS! Whoop! Hey, you know what they say, you can't make a party omelette without seriously sexually assaulting a few eggs! So, this dude occasionally doesn't get "what they call good consent" when he has sex at a party.

Maybe he's not so bad though. I mean, he's probably not a real rapist, right? Maybe it was kind of a borderline thing that somehow a reasonable guy could accidentally do. What's his story?
I’d been in a drinking contest and she’d been drinking and flirting with me (yes, actually flirting) all evening. As blurry and fucked-up as I was, I read her kiss of congratulation to me as a stronger signal than it was, and with friends hooting and cheering us on, I pressed her up against a wall and… well. Call it rape or call it a particularly harsh third base, I walked away with the impression that it had been consensual, if not really sensible. (She had a boyfriend at the time, but their boundaries were fuzzy.)
Now we can see that he was merely forcing himself on a woman for his own pleasure and that of his no doubt equally cool-guy friends. "Call it rape or call it a particularly harsh third base". Yeah, I think I'm probably gonna just go ahead and call it rape there, because "particularly harsh third base" sounds uncomfortably like what a dickhead would call it.
Years later, she was in a recovery program—not for alcohol, ironically—and she got in touch with me during the part where she made peace with her past. She wanted to clarify that what had happened between us was without her consent, that it hurt her physically and emotionally, that it was, yes, rape.
Hint: this is the point where you're supposed to develop a sense of shame and a kind of humility about the thing you did. And yet, there's not even a hint of an apology or contrition about finding out that you've left someone emotionally scarred for years. Because, if he accepted that he'd committed a rape, then he would be, gasp, a rapist, and he really, really doesn't feel like one.
We talk about who is and is not a rapist, like it’s an inextricable part of their identity. “I’m a Libra, a diabetic, and a rapist.” That doesn’t work, though. Evidently I walked around for years as a rapist, totally unaware. Nobody stuck that label on me, I certainly never applied it to myself, even now it only feels like it fits when I’m severely depressed. The label, the crime, simply coalesced for me one day, dragging years of backstory behind it.
So, here's the thing, right? A rapist is just someone who has committed a rape. It's one of those things that you only really have to do once for it to be a name we can apply to you. It doesn't mean you wake up every day and plan your life around your next rape. It's not that kind of label, in the same way that just killing one measly dude is enough to land you with the uncomfortable term 'murderer'. If it sounds a bit harsh that people are calling you a rapist because of that one rape you did ages ago, it's because you're not supposed to rape anybody, ever. It's one of those awkward little rules we came up with after we figured out that rape is a bad thing. I'm sorry this causes you party problems. I'm doing a proper sadface.

Essentially, the piece is about how Rapists Are Bad, but this one guy doesn't feel like he's a bad rapist, so maybe we can invent another word for it? Tell him it's all okay? It's an awkward position to take; he's essentially arguing for a bit of maturity and nuance to the debate, but the reason he's asking for it is because he's set up 'rapists' in his mind as this massively evil group of people that a guy like him could obviously never be in. He's just a good guy trying to have loads of drink-fuelled orgies, and you can't expect him to be responsible for his actions because that would totally harsh his freakin' buzz, man.

The neatest illustration of how he simply Doesn't Get It comes toward the end. Told by society to stop drunkenly raping people, he somehow interprets this as a demand not to get drunk and have a good time. He asks, plaintively, "Do people who’ve been in car accidents give up driving?". Well, no, we don't tell people who've had accidents not to drive, but we absolutely do tell people who are drunk not to drive their cars around drunkenly running people over. When you hit someone with your car while drunk, you don't get to go "Hey, I was DRUNK! Can't a man fuckin' PARTY around here any more?" as a defence. You have to face responsibility for your actions. I'm happy to let people get as drunk as they want. We're asking you not to commit a rape. And if you can't judge whether you're committing a rape, it might be time to just fucking put it away.

Thursday, 26 July 2012

Gun massacres, and the importance of sensible bedtimes

When we're confronted with a genuine human tragedy, it's often hard to know what to do. Senseless violence and barbarity can be confusing, so we're left grasping for meaning, trying to make sense of it all. When someone walks into a cinema screening and opens fire on moviegoers, it's left to the rest of us decent folk to pick up the pieces, learn lessons, and ask the big questions, like 'why did this happen?', 'could we as a society learn from this?', and 'hey, isn't it past your bedtime?'.

Admittedly, the last one wasn't my own natural reaction. But then that's why I'm a lowly blogger and not an esteemed national newspaper columnist like that Allison Pearson. In her Telegraph column, she asks the questions that those of us without such a keen journalistic mind might miss.

It's the little details that we miss. I would never have thought to start a column with a wistful, thoughtful analysis of the killer's name;
James Holmes. It’s a quiet sort of name for a mass murderer.
It is, isn't it? We didn't stand a chance really. If his parents had called him Deathbringer McMurderson, perhaps we'd have been on the front foot and this whole sorry tragedy might've been avoided. But 'James Holmes'? It's a bit-part Doctor Who actor's name. The name of someone who listens to Radio 4 and whose only real immorality is cheating on his wife with a string of younger veterinary clinic receptionists. None of this makes sense, dammit.
But then unreality – the failure to distinguish between what’s true and what’s make-believe – is the crux of this tragedy.
When Holmes first opened fire, using some of the 6,000 rounds of ammunition he had bought online, cinema patrons said they didn’t notice. They thought it was part of the film.
This is impressive work. Already, by the end of the first paragraph, we know what lies at the heart of this tragedy. It's probably because of films, right? There's violence in films, now there's violence in an actual cinema. That's where they show films! You don't have to be a rocket surgeon to figure out the link. I guess the police can discount the theory that he just went on a gun rampage because of the extortionate price of lobby-bought soft drinks and wine gums now.
And there was something else that was hard to grasp. Tragically, among the dead was a six-year-old, Veronica Moser-Sullivan.
What was a six-year-old doing at a midnight screening of such a violent film?
Yes, why WAS a child at a cinema at their parents' discretion to see a film about Batman? Watching a film they were legally allowed to see? What's up with THAT? Isn't that the real issue here? Frankly, if you're going to take your child to a PG13 certificate movie after, ooh, let's say, 9pm at night, then you can't very well complain when that child is shot to death by a masked gunman. Everyone knows the dangers of sitting quietly in a movie theatre. Would you push your child down a razorblade-filled rubbish chute into a shark tank? No. The same principle obviously applies to going to see a film about a funny-looking superhero who never kills anyone.
What kind of adult would subject a tired little girl, with a highly plastic imagination, to the deafening horrors of Christopher Nolan’s movie? 
Perhaps someone who believes that it's impossible to shield your child forever from on-screen violence, and instead allows them to see it under supervision and explain to them that it's just a film? I don't know, to be honest. But I sure as shit know that the decent thing to do in this situation is pour cauldrons of molten-hot judgement over her grieving parents. If Telegraph columnists aren't gonna step up and blame the parents of a six-year-old child who just wanted to see a film, then who will?

In many ways, the child's parents most fatal mistake was not knowing about Allison Pearson's own entirely made-up classification system beforehand. I reprint it here in full, so that tragedies of this nature can be avoided in future;
Well, I went to see The Dark Knight Rises last night and, I tell you, the innocent or angelic should be kept well away. In my house, we have our own film classification system. There’s SFG – Safe For Grandparents. And then there’s MA – Mummy Appropriate. The Dark Knight Rises would not get an MA rating
If we could adopt this rating system universally, then maybe the next time someone decides to murder innocent strangers at random at a film screening, they will at least only end up executing grown adults, ones who aren't 'mummies'. It'll be a better world.
...please don’t tell me that certain warped minds, minds like that of James Holmes, don’t sup full of the horrors they see on screen and develop a taste for it. Can it be coincidence that Holmes boobytrapped his apartment with explosives to kill police – the same wicked trick played in Speed by the maniacal Dennis Hopper?
Normally I'd argue the point here, but to be fair I've just watched four seasons of Breaking Bad and decided to embark on a career in the field of RV-based meth labs and disposing of the bodies of my enemies in acid-filled bathtubs. And it's fair to say that watching the 2001 movie 'The Hole' taught me the life lesson that a lot of problems could be avoided by having sex with Thora Birch, something I will keep at the back of my mind if I'm ever trapped in a disused underground bunker with her and her annoying underage friend. So, yes, we can learn things from movies. But does that mean the movies are to blame? I don't know, because I'm not the esteemed writer of 'Admit it, chaps – you just prefer other chaps' and 'Is Pippa Middleton all about bottom line?'.

Pearson moves on to briefly touch on triflin' shit like gun laws, but quickly returns to her theme;
We need to ask what kind of a system allows a six-year-old to watch such a frightening film. 
A terrifying system of informed consent, where allowing kids to watch certain films is left to the viewers' discretion? Pearson pauses thoughtfully to deliver her final verdict, and somehow just nails it;
Batman himself flew into Colorado yesterday to pay his condolences. “It’s amazing to see Christian Bale,” said one fan, “he was stepping into reality.” So the actor who plays a fictional hero visits the scene of a real crime committed by a real student who thought he was a fictional villain and enemy of Batman, but who murdered real people who had gone to see a movie about a fictional hero who has the powers to defeat evil. Confused? We all are. And that confusion is a breeding ground in which dangerous minds can bloom and grow.
Alternatively, 'a real person shot some other real people with a real gun in reality', which is less confusing. I read this paragraph a few times, trying to determine some kind of point. I'm now pretty sure that Pearson's argument is that unwieldy and convoluted sentence structures which add unwarranted complexity to descriptions of events may lead to confusion and, eventually, murder. Either that, or, that the six-year-old would probably grow up to be a killer anyway, having been inappropriately taken to a violent film. So we can take some small comfort in the fact that someone came along to snuff out her no doubt budding death lust.

The moral of the story is this; we can't stop this epidemic of movie premiere-related gun massacres, but we can protect our kids from it by sending them to bed early. Spread the word. For a brighter tomorrow.

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Nice Guys Finish First, But Feel Kinda Bad About It After

So, earlier I was reminded of The Good Men Project by the fact that their spamtacular Twitter account unfollowed me on Twitter so they could spam-follow someone else. So I went to check out their site. The rant which follows has almost nothing to do with the fact they unfollowed me on Twitter, although that does clearly mark them out to be wrong'uns right from the get-go.

The Good Men Project is a seemingly well-intentioned group of cuddly men's rights activists. They're ostensibly not the outwardly sexist 'Why isn't there an International Men's Day, bitches?' whiners invading feminist blog comment sections and dribbling their entitled slobber all over the place. These are the guys who just think that, hey, us totally non-creepy guys who've never even hit a woman - even when she really deserved it - need a voice too. And so I come to In Praise of Small-Breasted Women, by the "writer and singer/songwriter" Mark 'No, not THAT Mark Radcliffe' Radcliffe.

Radcliffe uses this article to position himself as a pretty sensitive, rounded kinda guy. The kind of guy who would really get you, and who you ladies need to get to know. Sexually, yes. But he'll probably talk to you afterwards. He's just that nice of a guy. He begins by singling out the small-titted among you for some of his...special attention.
Despite the typical male preoccupation with breast size, there are some of us who wouldn’t want you any other way, who see sublime perfection where others see absence.

Maybe we’re just not as vocal as some.

We’re not the guys working construction who whistle chauvinistically from across the street three stories above you as you walk to work.
I mean, come on, girls! Any sexism I may exhibit would be way more sophisticated than hollering at you in the street! When I perv on you, I'm perving on you on a whole other, much deeper level, baby.

So, you know how some people will try and make small-breasted women feel less marginalised by saying that women of all shapes and sizes are just fine? Well fuck that shit. Radcliffe is here to deliver the message that he actually gets off on your small boobs and thinks the way you look makes you super-fuckable.
Maybe we’re the ones quietly taking you in from five tables away. Listening to your voice. Your perspective. Your sense of humor. The witty way you referenced an F. Scott Fitzgerald line in the middle of ordering your drink.

And yes, don’t worry, we snuck a good, long look at your body.

But maybe it’s not a giant rack we’re looking for.
I mean, hey, you don't have a big rack, right, so you're probably intelligent. Not like those stupid big-boob women, and the gross dudes who like them. Do you see now how most men are terrible and you should totally suck off this one guy? Check it; he knows F. Scott Fitzgerald. He's maybe got Met-Art in his bookmarks and not regular porn. He probably even fancies Audrey Tautou more than he fancies Christina Hendricks. That's some deep shit. Observe;
Some of us grew up as athletes, amongst thin, athletic, small-breasted women and grew to like different physical traits than most guys. Like the tight calves of a runner. Or the strong thighs of a skier. Or the muscular stomach of a volleyball player. Maybe we know that having an athletic woman at your side means being more likely to live an adventurous and daring life. (Not just in the outdoors, but in the bedroom, too…)

So hey girl, don't worry about not packing some pendulous swingers under your top. As long as you've got a flat stomach, incredible legs and an ass that won't quit, Captain Sensitive here has got a sympathetic boner for you. I think my favourite part of this whole grubby  affair is this bit:
Guys like me, like the fact that you’re used to having to win people over with your mind and personality, not what was peeking through your blouse.

For me, an A-cup puts you on the A-list, every time.
See, Nice Guys are not just interested in your tits. They're not shallow. But FYI, your small tits are HOT, and actually totally work for some guys, guys who aren't solely interested in your tits but can still get off on them because they don't like big tits, even though tits don't matter like I just said. You're welcome. And so, when they make sweeping judgements about you because of your tits, it's okay, because they're being kind of benevolent and complimentary. You're probably smart or something! (Radcliffe goes on to say that "Some of us have learned from experience that small-breasted women often have larger minds", making full use of his Boob Science degree from Sensitive Dudes University).

There's something super-creepy about this whole thing. It's an open love letter to a certain section of women which aims to be enlightened but just ends up sounding like a weak attempt to rebalance the Earth's perv-scales somehow. I think it's good that some guys can recognise that body fascism is a problem and that bangers aren't everything, but I don't really think the way to address that is to fetishise the opposite kind of body. It reminds me of when people try and fight against the supposed 'size zero' orthodoxy by saying they prefer 'curves' and 'real women'. It doesn't really help to say "hey girl, you don't need to look like Kate Moss, try and look like Kim Kardashian instead because tits and ass rule"; it just replaces one improbable ideal with another. Likewise, acting like you're some kind of fucking hero because of your subjective preference for dicking Natalie Portman-alikes over women who look a bit like Kelly Brook, makes you look like kind of a dick. It doesn't help the cause of inclusivity to single types of women out for compliments.

As I say, it's good that men are trying to be nicer guys, and I'm sure The Good Men Project do a lot of worthy things, but...if you have to actually declare yourself to be a nice, sensitive guy, it's probably because you're not sufficiently coming across that way with your actions. That's really the kind of stuff other people are supposed to say about you, rather than something you announce yourself.

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

The Public Interest

I still remember the moment I heard the news. Some stories do that to you. The second plane hitting the South Tower on 9/11. The death of Osama bin Laden. That time Gordon Brown said some woman was kind of a bit racist or something. These are stories that shape your understanding of the world, news events that you know instantly are going to change everything, define whole eras with their magnitude.

I felt this way the day I logged onto the internet and heard that David Beckham might have had sex with someone who wasn't his wife. The day started like any other; coffee, eye-rubbing, the mysterious emergence of an unprompted but not unpleasant morning erection. But once I went online, BAM! It was everywhere; the crushing, almost incomprehensible news of Beckham's allegedly misdirected penis.

At first I didn't want to believe it. I couldn't. David Beckham was a footballer, not for nothing known as the world's noblest profession. Killers, sex offenders, violent thugs, racists, homophobes, all these people are lightly frowned upon in the footballing community (albeit allowed to continue playing if they're vaguely any good at kicking). For years, heck, for all my life that I can remember, I thought that being a footballer gave a man a certain sense of moral superiority. I simply couldn't conceive that a footballer, especially one with as cultured a right foot as David Beckham, would behave in the lascivious, lustful, caddish manner one associates more readily with politicians or tabloid journalists. "Say it ain't so!", I cried. My mind rejected the notion. I needed the tabloids to go on and on and forever fucking on about it, just so I could understand that it was real. That my hero had done this.

I mention this because the former News Of The World chief reporter Neville Thurlbeck has been defending his pursuit of the David Beckham/Rebecca Loos story in 2004 at the Leveson inquiry as having been squarely in the public interest.

"We decided there was huge public interest in that matter because the Beckhams had been using their marriage in order to endorse products," he said.
They were making "millions of pounds on the back of that image. It was a wholesome image that the family cultivated and the public bought into on a massive scale and we exposed that to be a sham," Thurlbeck told the inquiry.
A sham, exposed. This is what journalists are for. Journalists are often maligned, frequently by me, but when Thurlbeck said that, I realised he wasn't an unprincipled, devious shitbag desperately scrabbling around for unconvincing mealy-mouthed justifications for the most voyeuristic kind of grubby tabloid 'reporting', like I had previously assumed. No, Thurlbeck is a hero. He's a hero of the kind David Beckham once was, before his capricious wang prompted his philandering fall from grace.

You see, some people will claim that David Beckham became famous, at least partly, for his footballing talent. They'll talk about his goal from the halfway line against Wimbledon or That Goal Against Greece, his dazzling free-kicks or his array of trophies. Others will claim that Beckham's fame is also in part due to his dashing good looks, which saw him famously modelling the underpants which coquettishly housed the genitalia that would one day betray a nation. Poppycock, I say! For me, and millions like me, Beckham was meant to be a monogamist first, a footballer a distant second. I prized his marital fidelity above all else. Beckham had always, repeatedly, constantly told us that he would never, ever, ever shag anyone who wasn't his wife, scout's honour. Not in words, exactly. It was sort of just kind of implied. Yet it defined him. His faithfulness was pivotal to his fame, it was his very essence. As Sinatra was defined by his voice, as Hendrix was synonymous with his guitar, as Cat Bin Lady was forever entwined in the public consciousness with the image of that cat and that bin, so was Beckham's spirit manifested in his sexual purity, forever the unspoiled poster child for not shagging around.

Sometimes you'll hear idiots saying things like "But Beckham was just really a good footballer who married someone famous and who people liked to look at! He no more claimed to be pure of virtue than you or I, Mr Thurlbeck!". Other morons might say things like "Call me a flipping cynic, but I suspect the News Of The World was driven primarily by a profit-hungry desire to sell papers off the back of one of Britain's most famous celebrities, rather than motivated by a lionhearted determination to expose the corrupt lie at the heart of the Beckhams' marriage!". Others might point out that the Beckhams remain married 7 years on, and have had two subsequent children, and that this might suggest that their claim to have been married to each other (which is really all they ever promised) remains fundamentally true. Still others will say to Thurlbeck, "Hey, man, if you're so comfortable up there on your moral pedestal, how come your paper paid Rebecca Loos over £100,000 for her shabby kiss-and-tell story? Does this not suggest that you're actually just opportunistic gossip-mongers selling the worst kind of gratuitous tat to satisfy your readers' baser appetites?".

All those people miss the point. The fundamental, undeniable point remains that David Beckham only ever sold himself or ever made any money on the explicitly-stated promise never to fuck his PA.

I understand this. I understand this because I, too, once worshipped David Beckham. I bought everything he endorsed. And the day I found out he'd erroneously put his penis in a woman other than that Spice Girl, my world came crashing down. Overnight, all those products I'd bought became tainted with betrayal. No longer did I feel I could recline seductively in my tight white Armani briefs. Every word I'd ever written with a Beckham-endorsed Sharpie felt like lies, horrible lies. Whenever I see that goal he scored from the halfway line now, a little bit more of my soul dies. It was once a great goal. Now it is the goal of a philanderer. I hate it. It makes me sick to my gut. I've tried to put on my expensive Police brand sunglasses, but I can't see anything through them now. All I can see now is Beckham's wayward, sinful penis, sliding grotesquely into the various orifices of that...that iniquitous harlot. But with each one of these tragic moments I become a little more grateful to the dogged truth-warriors of the News Of The World, for exposing Beckham's disgusting LIES before I fell any deeper into his indecent web. Thank you, a million times thank you, Rupert Murdoch.

A thought occurs...did they ever decide on a permanent statue for the fourth plinth in Trafalgar Square? Because it might be time your brave, brave decision to pursue a story that would obviously sell a metric fuckload of papers was recognised, Neville Thurlbeck. We love you. And we always will. Unless you cheat on your wife.

Saturday, 12 November 2011

The Daily Mail vs The Gays...vs Cancer

I suppose in some ways I need to thank the Daily Mail. Occasionally, living in my cosy liberal bubble surrounded by people who aren't constantly-seething, hate-filled, evil morons, I sometimes think we've progressed much further than we have in reality. So it's important that occasionally I'm reminded that we still have a long way to go.

In Outrage as Tesco backs gay festival... but drops support for cancer charity event, the Mail gives us a curious glimpse into the conservative mindset. Here's the gist of the story;

Tesco has triggered outrage by ending its support for the Cancer Research ‘Race for Life’ while deciding to sponsor Britain’s largest gay festival.
Some religious commentators and groups have condemned the decision and are calling for a boycott of the supermarket chain.

Suddenly, it's time to pick a side. Which side are you on, cancer or gays? NO, YOU CAN'T CHOOSE BOTH. Tesco has made two seemingly unrelated decisions here, but the Mail is convinced that Tesco have really decided they love gays more than they want to fight cancer. Maybe that's true, maybe the gay demographic spends more than the stricken-with-cancer demographic, I don't know, I'm not in marketing.

But what is the Mail really angry about here? They're not actually angry about Tesco dropping support for Race For Life, because that happened in September, and nobody, least of all the Mail (as far as I can tell), gave a shit. Y'know, because it was just another big company making another marketing decision based on its usual set of flipcharts and whatnot. Race For Life will continue, they're looking for other sponsors, it's probably all going to be fine. You can stand down.

What the Mail are actually angry about is the gays. Mail readers don't spend their hard-earned law-abiding taxpayer two-parent family money on Tesco's Finest Yorkshire Pudding ready meals, for that money to go towards helping The Gays have a street party! The Mail helpfully illustrates how outrageous this is with an entirely representative picture of five buff dudes in sparkly red underpants.

Let's get one thing clear here; the amount of money Tesco is spending on sponsoring Pride is tiny. Toward the end of the the article, we find out that it's a mere £30k, which for a company of Tesco's size is the equivalent of listlessly tossing a White Company button at a toll both like it ain't no thang. It's a mere fraction of the £800k Pride costs to run. This would suggest that this decision is a small-scale one unrelated to the dropping of Race For Life, except in the fevered imaginations of Mail hacks. So what is the actual problem here?

Well, I don't know about you, but when I want a balanced, reasoned reflection on corporate sponsorship choices and homosexuality, I head straight for the Catholic blogosphere!

Francis Phillips, a commentator at The Catholic Herald, condemned the shift, saying: ‘Tesco is a supermarket. 
The kind of searing insight only a life dedicated to solemn religious study can bring, there. But wait! It continues!

Its remit has been to sell good-quality food and other items at very reasonable prices, and in this it has been hugely successful. 
Why has it now aligned itself with an aggressive political organisation such as Pride London?
‘Why has it given up its sponsorship of Cancer Research? Or at least…why hasn’t it taken up with another mainstream charity such as the British Legion or Age UK? 
The next person it quotes is from 'Anglican Mainstream'. Why, it's almost as if this story has been lifted wholesale from Phillips' blog! It turns out the Anglican Mainstream may not be as cuddly and mainstream as they sound;

He wrote: ‘For Tesco to sponsor a tiny homosexual minority – according to the Office for National Statistics, that amounts to little more than 1 per cent of the population – will be showing the utmost contempt for a large proportion of British society that still adheres, more or less, to the morality and values of the Ten Commandments.’ 
Seems a rather baffling stance to me. I'm not gay, but I'm really quite fine with this. Were people who didn't have cancer being discriminated against when Tesco was sponsoring cancer research? I didn't realise I was supposed to be upset when people who aren't me are acknowledged in some small way. Still, cute of this guy to imagine that British society still adheres to the Ten Commandments. I would love to see him go out on the streets of a major city of a Friday night and ask people what the Ten Commandments are, in full. I guarantee that most of them would do better listing football teams' starting line-ups. "Something about an ass? Covering an ass? Don't do that?".

Next, we are told that homosexuality is one of a number of unnamed "dubious fringe political movements". I guess we need to get rid of these dubious political movements and replace them with minority religions instead, huh? To get an idea of the extent of quite how fucked-up this article is, one quote is - and I'm not making this up - introduced thusly; "Catholic campaign website Protect the Pope said..."

Protect The Pope! Excuse me while I sick up my fucking soul for a second. So what do Tesco say?

Tesco said it was in talks with the charity to support its work in other ways and would encourage staff to continue taking part in the Race for Life.
A spokesman said the decision to drop its support ‘is not connected to our £30,000 sponsorship for Pride, which is one of hundreds of community and charitable events that we will be supporting next year’.

You...bastards. Of all the things Tesco has ever done, sponsoring this inclusive street party which aims to foster tolerance and understanding of homosexuality is easily...oh, wait, it doesn't even register, does it? As much as the Mail tries to feign mass outrage here, all it can provide is quotes from wacky Catholic bloggers. Of course, their myopic presentation of the story as TESCO WANTS GAY PEOPLE TO DANCE ON CANCER PATIENTS' GRAVES does manage to elicit some choice wingnuttery in the comments. At the time of writing, the top-rated comment is an unhinged screed about how gays should just bloody well keep quiet and act a bit more flipping STRAIGHT, from a person who calls themselves "
Free Britain from the unelected EU dictators in Brussels". This is your market, Daily Mail writers! I hope you're happy.

Ooh, just received an emailed addendum to The Gay Agenda. If anyone wants me, I'll be at Tesco's....

DISCLAIMER: This blog post was not sponsored by or endorsed by Tesco. But if anyone from their marketing department is reading, I am currently too skint to afford Modern Warfare 3...

Friday, 7 October 2011

An Englishman's home is his drug farm

This morning's Express front page returned to a familiar theme of British debate; the right of an upstanding Englishman to shoot the living shite out of anyone who tries to touch their stuff.

It's a time-honoured tale, rehashed in various configurations ever since the conviction of charming Middle England pin-up Tony Martin, for bravely shooting an unarmed 16-year-old intruder in the spine as he tried to run away all those years ago. Today's version concerns the tale of Malcolm White, a homeowner who, finding himself beset by intruders, took the ultimate action to protect his property, and by extension himself and his family, by allegedly shooting an alleged intruder. The Express, never big fans of moral ambiguity, or indeed facts, has picked a side pretty early on here, and I don't think it will be a terrible surprise which side. The story of the 'hero dad' firmly plants the Express in White's camp thusly;
Neighbours of Mr White, who is 60 and described as a pillar of the local community in Whitbourne, Herefordshire, were furious after discovering that he had been arrested.
Mr White is a retired clockmaker. Quaint, right? It's like Midsomer. We get to hear much about his good deeds over the course of the story. If this guy was auditioning for X-Factor, Coldplay's 'The Scientist' would be kicking in right about now over a montage, as we learn of White's recent ill health, and that he generously fixes the church clocks. He's 60, 'gentle-natured', and 'a very nice bloke'. He's just a guy in his £420,000 house trying to enjoy his life with his wife and his £50,000 car, and trying to make it as a pop star. Wait, not that last bit. But still, an all-round Good Egg, dragged into doing something desperate because of Broken Britain. But wait, what's this? If you go to the Express' site at the time of writing, the front page appears to have changed. Malcolm White's story is no longer front-page news. Wayne Rooney's dad remains a hot topic, but now the most pressing issue facing us is how the cuts to the bloated BBC that bloody well needed cutting down to size may lead to a few extra hours of sickening REPEATS which we all hate...


Now, I'm sure the BBC repeats issue is vexing to Express readers, being as they are the kind of people who can simultaneously want licence fee freezes AND dramatic improvements in quantities of original output. But it's a tad harsh on good old Malcolm White, no? I wonder if, perhaps, it could have anything at all to do with this extra little facet to the story, that emerged after the initial front page was released? Shock over drug farm after shooting.
Villagers have spoken of their shock after detectives investigating the shooting of a suspected burglar found a "well-organised and large-scale" cannabis farm during forensic searches. West Mercia Police said a 60-year-old man, named by neighbours as Malcolm White, was still being questioned on suspicion of attempted murder and of cultivating controlled drugs after the shooting incident late on Wednesday. Meanwhile, officers investigating the alleged break-in at White's home in Whitbourne, Herefordshire, have arrested a second man on suspicion of burglary.
I should make several things clear at this point. I do not know if Malcolm White is a drug farmer or drug dealer. I do not know if he was acting in reasonable self-defence when he seemingly shot his intruder. He may well be, and if he was I hope justice is done and no charges are brought against him. Those are things for courts, rather than jumped-up snarky media bloggers, to decide. But I would like to go on record as stating that, if Malcolm White does indeed turn out to be a massive weed dealer protecting his homegrown stash (as well as being a charming elderly clockmaker), I will laugh my fucking tits right off.

Because if he does turn out to be less than whiter-than-white (if you'll excuse the pun), the Express have put themselves in an awkward position. And in withdrawing the front page as soon as it turned out he might not be the type of man they like, they would have shown themselves to be moralising cowards whose sympathy for human beings is threadbare and conditional. I love this story because, if all the elements I've presented here turn out to be true, it shows that we're not simply a world of Good Guys and Bad Guys, nasty burglars and gentlemanly 'pillar(s) of the community', as White was described in the Express' story. We're human beings with shades of grey, capable of heroism and evil and good old-fashioned moral ambiguity. As I've said, I don't know. But if Malcolm White acted in self-defence then he has my sympathy whatever he may or may not have been cultivating, and for whatever purpose. Does he still have the Express' sympathy?

(Hat-tips for this story to Richard Peppiat and Five Chinese Crackers)

Monday, 3 October 2011

Correctness gone mad!

One of the fun aspects of the Daily Mail is that relatively minor changes in administrative procedures can seem earth-shatteringly, pants-tighteningly important. Imagine, for a second, that changing the name of a particular field on a passport application form could herald the death of thousands of years of civilisation and tradition as we know it. If your beloved, time-worn traditions are so entirely flimsy that they can be under threat by a simple choice of words, then congratulations! You have found your newspaper.

Today's Mail, then, is upset. Very upset. See, the liberals are at it again, and this time, they're coming for your mum and dad. And all because of the gays. Those meddling gays. In Goodbye, mother and father! Now Parent 1 and Parent 2 appear on PC passport form (direct link), we get a shocking insight into what the tree-hugging liberal do-gooders have gawn and done now:
For decades, passport applicants have been required to provide details of their mother and father.

But now, after pressure from the gay lobby, they will be given the option of naming ‘parent 1’ and ‘parent 2’.
Oh my! That's disgus...oh, wait, it's fine, isn't it? It's really actually a pretty straightforward change which enables the Passport Office to get accurate data from everyone about people's legal, rather than biological, parents. Including, wait for it, those of us with a mum and dad. The Mail's story goes on to breathlessly blame all this horror on The Gay Lobby, only slightly undermining themselves with this bit:
Officials accepted that the move was made following lobbying from gay rights groups who claimed it was discriminatory.

But a spokesman for the Identity and Passport Service insisted it was necessary to incorporate same-sex parents on the form so that accurate information is collected.
Accurate information? What will these PC liberal Nazis want next? I bet they'll have to add extra lines for people who have three or more gay parents! That's what they're like, isn't it? Quick, get some rent-a-quote dickbag to denounce this travesty!
Norman Wells, director of the Family Education Trust, said: ‘Fathers and mothers are not interchangeable but have quite distinct roles to play in the care and nurture of their children.

‘To speak of “parent 1” and “parent 2” denigrates the place of both fathers and mothers.

‘Much as the equality and diversity social engineers might wish it were otherwise, it still takes a father and a mother to produce a child.’
Norman Wells, there, a man who apparently takes his cues about what he should call his parents entirely from passport application forms. Inspiring. Wells then goes on to make a point which is as self-defeating as it is joylessly bigoted;
‘It is high time ministers started to represent the interests of the country as a whole and not capitulate to every demand made by a vocal and unrepresentative minority.’
Just process that for a second. 'The country as a whole'. That's quite an interesting insight into this mindset ,there. See, what this relatively minor change does is to indeed serve the country as a whole, including people who were raised by same-sex parents, without in any way excluding the majority of people who weren't. What Wells is asking for there is instead the exclusion of a minority, in the face of a simple solution, just because of his pearl-clutching devotion to How Things Have Always Been Done. At the end of the piece, The Mail goes on to, quite bizarrely, parrot statistics about how few gay people there are in the country. The underlying message of all this, of course, being; you're gay, you're a minority, you don't count. Why should we change anything to help you?

There's very much a sense that this whole article was tossed off in a rush. Wells is surprisingly the only self-publicising loudmouth the Mail could find to back up their hell-in-a-handcart narrative. The rest, including the headline, is left to shady, unaccountable 'critics';
It has led to claims the official travel document is being turned into a ‘PC passport’.
And, in a photo caption;

Capitulating: Critics say the official travel document is being turned into a 'PC passport'
At no point are the identities of these 'critics' revealed. Perhaps they are too afraid to speak up publicly, lest Stonewall send in their big gay militia. Perhaps the critics are simply too numerous to name. Perhaps the critics are little voices nagging, nagging, nagging in the author's head that never stop talking in the night and won't go away and OH GOD MAKE THE VOICES STOP. Who knows? All we can know for sure is this; The Critics do not take too kindly to being made to be politically correct. Or, as we might more accurately call it in this case, correct.

Thursday, 22 September 2011

On Charlie Wolf, the death penalty, and loss-leading bananas

I suppose the combination of the Daily Mail and a former TalkSPORT host who blazed a trail for Jon Gaunt to follow was never going to be quite perfectly tuned to my taste. Even so, I was taken aback to discover quite how often the "American broadcaster currently living in the UK" Charlie Wolf managed to make me splutter bewildered obscenities at my screen in his jaw-dropping piece on Troy Davis' execution last night by the state of Georgia (direct Mail link).

Wolf begins by painting a surprisingly quaint picture of the scene of the execution which I won't quote in depth; peaceful, gentle, humane. Lovely in all aspects really, with only the minor niggle of a man being slowly killed by the state having to be glossed over. "Putting down the family dog would have been a lot worse", claims Wolf, before embarking on one of those sentences you have to read numerous times, from different angles, possibly getting a trained professional to confirm that you just saw it;
Far from an execution, this was more like state-ordered euthanasia. execution, then? I'm not sure how something can be 'far from' being the thing that it is, but then I guess that's why I don't get paid the big bucks to write for the Daily Mail. It takes a special breed of...well, something. I kind of wonder why he stopped at 'euthanasia' in his brazen attempt to cutesify the fact though. Why not call it 'judge-encouraged natural causes'? Or 'state-nudged endless sleepytime'? I worry that some of these writers lack ambition.

Wolf though, sensing his moment, is in the ascendancy at this point. Other writers might consider pacing out the crass statements at this point to conserve energy, but Wolf boldly goes for the jugular and piles stupid on top of stupid in a wobbling Jenga tower of madness;
The average person going into any Accident and Emergency department would have had a more painful experience than those put to death as doctors jab, prod and shock people in an effort to keep them alive.
The key distinction, fans of subtlety may note, between going into A&E and being executed is that one is trying to keep you alive, and the other is trying to kill you. Some people might consider this difference big enough to make void such a comparison, but perhaps I'm missing the bigger picture. This sets Wolf off on an entirely pointless riff about how totally not-painful lethal injection is compared to having your heart restarted after a major coronary or something, as if opponents of capital punishment are only bothered about the pain of the subject in the brief moments of the act itself. Baffling non-arguments come thick and fast here; Iran has more painful executions! The Chinese kill people who haven't even killed people! Something about Guy Fawkes!

Having seen the level on which Wolf's arguments operate thus far, it's frankly terrifying to see him begin his next bewitchingly cock-eyed point with the phrase 'In simplistic terms...', but he does. Oh God, he does. Explaining how having the death penalty proves that a society 'values the lives of its citizenry' (no, really), Wolf scrawls the following with his very bestest crayons;
In simplistic terms think of it like one of those self-service scales in Tesco.

If I push the illuminated button for 'bananas' and the little sticky tag comes out I expect it to fall in a certain price range.

Too much and I don't buy -- but also, if too little, just pennies, I am suspicious too. Why so cheap? What's wrong here?

They mustn't be that good if they are worth so little.
Not having the death penalty, yeah, is like selling surprisingly cheap bananas. Right? Why would anyone eat cheap bananas? It seems obvious now he's said it. But you would never have thought of this analogy, would you? That's the difference between normal, human folk like you, and The Professional Writer. They're missing a trick not paywalling this stuff.

After a brief detour to the glittering outskirts of reality, Wolf returns to the Tesco metaphor he's obviously so proud of;
Getting back to the Great Tesco Scales of life... If I was to put the lives of Officer McPhail, shot in cold blood; James Byrd, dragged to a grizzly death; or the Petit girls and their mom, raped and killed, what is the price that would come up? How much would their lives be worth?

In this country, how much is the life of Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman from Soham worth?
Seemingly for Wolf, the answer is 'exactly the same amount as their killers'. Victim dies, the killer dies. Balance has been restored! It's so simple, it's almost childish! Yes...almost.

For me, the reality is that the loss of a loved one is so huge that it can't be balanced out by removing someone else from the face of the earth in retribution. For Wolf, the value of your life can plunge quickly to nothing if you commit a serious enough crime. I can understand 'an eye for an eye' in principle at least. I just can't help feeling it does little other than increase the total amount of suffering. Not just killers, but their families. And people who find the spectacle of executing citizens on ceremony a tad distasteful. Anyway,
What is the life of James Bulger worth (what little there was; he was tortured and murdered at the age of two)?
Well, it's worth the lives of two other children (Thompson and Venables), apparently. This is how Wolf's macabre scales work. It's basic science, stupid!

No Daily Mail article would be complete without a wild flail at The Left, and sure enough Wolf gets a picture of Bianca Jagger up on his dartboard and takes aim;
But I don't see any enlightenment --or indeed consistency-- on the left. The only consistency is the fact that the liberal intellectual elite is secularist, and puts no stock or sacredness in the value of life.

They do not protect the lives of the unborn; euthanasia (and not just for the terminally ill) is toted as an ideal over palliative care; and in the case of heinous crimes they opt to protect the lives of the murderers over the victims.
Yes! You can cross that one off on your Tired Argument Bingo card and collect your prize; a gnawing sense of fruitless despair! What Wolf is arguing here is that the Left is mad for only giving a shit about the living, when foetuses should clearly be prioritised over those of us who are here (be it people convicted of a crime*, or women who don't want to have children). Wolf impressively manages to find time in that breathless run-through of a stock argument to cram in a hilarious bullshit strawman about how the Left approve of euthanasia for people who aren't terminally ill, and implies that they think it should be instead of palliative care instead of as a last-ditch alternative when palliative care isn't providing a tolerable quality of life. Quite a skill.

[*Let's not forget here that the reason this case has become so high-profile is because there's a widespread belief that Davis is the victim of a miscarriage of justice and may indeed be innocent. While I personally oppose capital punishment in all circumstances, his potential innocence is the reason this case is being discussed].
The abolition of a death penalty here is not the sign of some form of modern day enlightenment but in fact is just the opposite.

If anything it is a sign of moral weakness, of a society that is so afraid of its own barbarity that it cannot grasp the difference (or distinguish) between justice and revenge.
See? Liberals just don't get it! It's about justice! A word I've just appropriated and defined around my existing beliefs! Suck it! Stop being so morally weak and let the state have the ultimate power to kill people! What exactly is so unenlightened about leaving a man strapped to a gurney while he waits for lawyers to finish negotiating over whether he lives or dies?

Conveniently, the abolition of the death penalty in the UK was the fault of people Wolf already hates, which is a bonus. It was 'the intellectual liberal classes of Oxford and Cambridge in the sixties that hijacked the Left', in case you were wondering. Anyway, knowing the value of a strong finish, Wolf waits til a couple of paragraphs from the end before solving the tricky 'does the death penalty deter murder?' argument once and for all, with the razor-sharp clarity of a man who hasn't really thought about it for more than a single fucking second;
The deterrent effects of the death penalty in the United States are incontrovertible.

One only has to look at studies and statistics concerning murderers who have been let out to kill again to realise that the death penalty does work as a deterrent – if not for others, at least for the killer in question.

At this point I could go round digging for statistics about how many murders there are in the US, but I'd have more success walking out into the main road and trying to stop speeding lorries with my penis than I would trying to argue with this guy. It would probably be less painful, too. I'm not sure he even understands what the word 'deterrent' means. If he does, he's hiding it deep under layers of his own bluster here.

In conclusion, I could really have quoted more of this, to be honest. Part of me wonders why I bothered to share something this painfully boneheaded with you all. But then I thought, hey, an eye for an eye. If I have to suffer, I don't see why you lot shouldn't too. It's balance. Karma. And, er, something about banana prices.

Monday, 11 July 2011

Brendan O'Neill vs the tabloid-hatin’ Twitterers

In a strange way, it's almost reassuring that Brendan O'Neill has written a column deflecting blame for the News of the World scandal onto the liberal intelligentsia with their fancy lattes and their hemp shoes and their stupid moral compasses. Imagine if Brendan O'Neill wrote something a human being could agree with? I just wouldn't know what to believe any more.

For those of you unfamiliar with Brendan O'Neill; run! Your life is clearly going better than mine is, and ignorance is genuine bliss in this case. If you must know, though, he's a Telegraph journalist and the editor of Spiked Online, which is kind of like The Ironic Review (video), except it got bored of trying to just be contrarian and expectation-confounding, and just settled on trying to troll liberals. Richard Littlejohn with a more well-thumbed dictionary, in other words.

Much of what you need to know about the sort of person O'Neill is, he gifts us in the opening paragraph of today's piece, a frothing tour de force of misplaced outrage which might give Melanie Phillips cause to be concerned that there's a pretender to her throne:

“It is clearly people power that has forced this decision.” That was Ed Miliband’s impressively otherworldly take on the shutting down of the News of the World. It takes doublespeak to dizzy new heights to describe the closure of this popular Sunday paper as a victory for “people power”. On what kind of warped Orwellian planet can a crusade led by a few hundred Twitter activists and liberal journalists against a newspaper read by 7.5 million people be described as a democratic moment? It is the polar opposite of “people power” – it is chattering-class intolerance of mass tastes, resulting in the extinction of a tabloid which the cliquish great and good considered vulgar and offensive.

Let's get this out of the way right at the start; regular people didn't close down the News Of The World. The owners of the News Of The World made that decision. Few even among the Twittersphere demanded its closure, fewer still actually expected it. There was a groundswell of outrage at the paper's conduct which led to a campaign for advertisers to boycott, but the decision to not even attempt to ride out the storm and shut the paper down almost immediately the moment the story hit the front pages was not ours.

Now, a cynic might suggest that Rupert Murdoch sacrificed the NotW to rescue his bid for the vastly more profitable complete ownership of BSkyB. Other cynics have pounced on evidence that a 7-day edition of its sister paper The Sun was already planned, as somehow being proof that the NotW's closure would have happened anyway, and the outrage just sped up the process a little.

Those are the sort of things a terrible, terrible cynic might suggest. O'Neill instead suggests that the decision was effectively made by "a few hundred Twitter activists and liberal journalists". Frankly, this is fucking brilliant news! Politicians have long sucked up to Rupert Murdoch in a desperate attempt to get into power, so it'll be a nice change now that they merely have to appease Josie Long, that dude who wrote Father Ted and a couple of earnest Guardian columnists. Keeps things fresh, I think.

O'Neill tosses his clusterbombs of scorn still further, taking out Mumsnet like this:
Justine Roberts of Mumsnet used the term “consumer power” to describe her galvanisation of Yummy Mummies against scummy tabloids.
BOOM! Take that, Mumsnet! How dare you use the term "consumer power" to arrogantly describe consumers using what power they have! You're nothing! Nobody! O'Neill seems to be having his cake and eating it here, simultaneously complaining about the disproportionate power of activists and yet sneering at the same activists for deludedly thinking they're "leading a modern-day peasants’ revolt against evil powerful men".
In truth it is nonsense on stilts, nonsense on a “Freddie Starr ate my hamster” level, to describe the movement against the News of the World as an expression of “people power”. It’s mad even to call it a “movement”. More accurately, it was a tiny cabal of liberal journalists and time-rich, tabloid-hatin’ Twitterers who spearheaded the campaign to get big corporations to withdraw their adverts from the News of the World and to bring this 168-year-old institution to its knees.
O'Neill dcesn't name any of these "liberal journalists", perhaps because he realises how ludicrous it would be when he named a bunch of people half his readers had never heard of. It is of course fair to say that this story started in the Guardian. What's unfair is to imply that no-one else outside of the Guardian and a small gang of actors and comedians on Twitter gave a shit. My parents, Daily Mail readers to the core, were outraged by this. It's been a hot topic of debate on my Salford construction site. Apparently even red-top reading, Page 3-enjoying manual labourers think that spying on the private voicemails of missing 13-year-olds and causing their families even more worry is a bit, well, not on. It's almost like they're people, huh?

The story didn't gain traction because they were hacking into the phones of some small-scale liberal icon like Charlie Brooker or David Mitchell. We had a liberal storm already about this, and the wider public didn't care because it was Sienna "Oh, THAT'S Sienna Miller!" Miller that was being intruded upon. This, this was different. It gained traction because they were targetting regular, non-celebrity people, outside of "the chattering classes". Not just normal people, but vulnerable people, people who'd done nothing except suffer personal tragedies. So people from all across the political spectrum were incensed that the family of Milly Dowler could have learned that her voicemail was hacked and messages deleted by unscrupulous private investigators, paid for by tabloid hacks in pursuit of a gossipy, voyeuristic story. It goes beyond what most people will tolerate, even people who read OK! magazine and love finding out what Kerry Katona's about to be sacked from or what Cheryl Cole has said to Ashley lately.

So when O'Neill suggests that:
For many of these so-called warriors against wickedness, the hacking scandal was a simply a very useful stick with which they could beat something they’ve always hated: tabloid press, tabloid values.
...perhaps he should look at himself and consider whether he's really as in touch with the ordinary people as he claims. No-one elected Brendan O'Neill either, and yet here he is, telling us what people who would never read his Telegraph blog in a million years think.

The most telling part in all this is that nowhere in his piece does O'Neill attempt even a single caveat apportioning any blame at all to Murdoch, Rebekah Brooks, Andy Coulson, Glenn Mulcaire, or any of the other figures involved in a widespread and systematic campaign of actual criminal activity. No, just like in his previous rant on the subject, his entire focus is aimed at the whistleblowers and campaigners, the "do-gooders" and snotty liberals, rather than those who did what you might call "the actual bad shit".

It's a straightforward abdication of responsibility. Just as the Mail's Melanie Phillips and Beth Hale are today saying "Yeah, but Steve Coogan was a drug-taking philanderer, so I think you'll find he's the real sick man in this so-called society", O'Neill is using the scandal as an excuse to bash the liberals that clearly annoy him. And yet he complains that his enemies are the ones using the scandal to further an agenda.

My favourite part, though, is that it isn't even a secret that many liberals enjoyed watching the News of the World implode. Coogan was quite open on his infamous Newsnight appearance about hating the News Of The World and what it stands for. Many of my cabal of liberal Twitterati were equally delighted. I was, and I'm such a liberal I used two Lee and Herring references in this piece! But while all sides in this debate have their own agendas and politics, the ultimate question is; was what the News Of The World (and other papers) did wrong, and do people have the right to criticise it? If the answer to that question is yes (and it obviously fucking is), then all O'Neill is doing here is flailing around trying to point the finger at anyone and everyone but the actual people responsible. As befits a man who deems "do-gooder" an insult.