Monthly Archives: March 2012

My Politics are Obvious

But then, so are Osbourne’s:

Watch “Don’t Stop Me Now” on YouTube

I don’t normally share these sorts of links, but I’m getting thoroughly bored of the Tory claim that they’re cutting because we have to do something about the deficit.

If that’s the case, why are they continuing to cut when we know that this system ISN’T REDUCING THE DEFICIT.

In other news, caps lock is fun.


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Bias, and Truth

The cornerstone of journalism, or so I am reliably informed, is non-bias. The aim is for journalists to impart the facts without passing on their own preconceptions. And a laudable goal it is too, but for one thing: it’s utterly, totally and in all other ways impossible.

The Evening Standard, which essentially  has complete access to all commuters in London, as been accused at times of being pro-Conservative. “No!” say its detractors, “a free paper should be non-biased.” They continue: “these unelected journalists are influencing the direction London by pushing their favourite candidates at the expense of his rivals.”

Of course, this is all completely true. The ES has done nothing but praise BoJo’s re-election campaign, recast Ken’s campaign in a negative light, and has consistently only mentioned third-party candidates when they feel it will split the liberal vote. I can’t be bothered to track down links for these because this article isn’t about the ES – it’s about bias.

This concept of non-bias hasn’t removed bias from the news – just ask the BBC, the Times, the Guardian, the Telegraph, the New York Times, Fox News, Sky News, MSNBC, Al Jazeera, The Sun, the Mail , the Express, the LA Times, the Washington Post, the Mail, the Boston Globe & Mail, the Mail, the Mail and the Mail. Or one of the other news outlets I haven’t bothered to mention.

The truth is, the emphasis on non-bias has done only two thing: groups have gotten better at hiding their bias, and groups have instead resorted to “he said, she said” journalism – the seeing both side argument. And I’m sick of it. Much as I dislike the Mail’s and Fox News’ message (hate everyone who isn’t like you, marriage is between one man and one woman, etc), I kind of admire their honesty – they are both open and unashamed about their bias.

Okay, if it wasn’t for the veneer of non-bias in the UK, then perhaps the politics here would be as horribly partisan as it is in the US. I can imagine a far worse divide tan the Times and the Guardian. But it’s the left who are more into self-policing their bias than the right – the Guardian is a left-wing paper, but it’s as left as the mainstream newspaper press gets in a country where the right has the Mail, the Express and the Telegraph.

Bias exists. Can we all just get over it and bring it out into the open? Then people can at least be prepared for the bigotry that’s about to hit them whenever they pick up the Sun.

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Filed under Journalism, Politics

Sometimes there are no words to express my rage

We (I, you, your friends – everyone but the super rich) pay these people actual money:

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Filed under Atheism, Politics

Sexism in Adverts

Well done to the man who put this together. I’ve been planning on talking about adverts again when my rage about the real world dies down a bit, but at least this is something which is just as successful at making my teeth clench as institutionalised racism or mainstream left-wing politics.

If any of you didn’t think we’re boxed into gender roles from day one, try the advert mashup game, then quietly weep to yourself.

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Filed under Advertising, Feminism

The Trayvon Martin Shooting

Being here in the UK, some of you may have missed the Trayvon Martin furore. This would be because there’s been essentially zero coverage of the whole thing. You’d be shocked at the date that the actual shooting occurred (26th of February) given that only now are we hearing about it.

Others have explained far better than I the facts of the case (here‘s a good starting point), but I wish to begin with a brief talk of the UK media’s reaction.

None of the mainstream UK media covered the case until mass protests began.
The first BBC News TV article, as far as I can tell, was on the day of the protests. First, that proves that protests do work, and that protests have value beyond making lots of noise. I didn’t see a newspaper article on the subject until the day after. Granted, I only read the Guardian, the Times and the free commuter papers, but surely at least one of these would cover it…

Every article is repeating the lie that Zimmerman was a neighbourhood watch volunteer.
Read James Fenton’s article, the relevant BBC article on the subject. The truth is that Zimmerman wasn’t a member of any neighbourhood watch scheme – he was a self-appointed neighbourhood watch volunteer. And he’s made massive numbers of calls to 911 pointing out suspicious (i.e. black) characters. He was also carrying a weapon, which he’s not supposed to do if he’s in the neighbourhood watch, and he followed the guy. That’s not just something neighbourhood watch officers aren’t supposed to do, it’s the thing he was explicitly told not to do by the 911 operator.

Zimmerman’s actions have been condemned by the National Sheriffs’ Association which sponsors the US’s nationwide neighbourhood watch programme, a crime prevention scheme that allows local volunteers to patrol the streets. 

It said it had no record that the community involved was registered with the NSA programme, calling Zimmerman a “self-appointed neighbourhood watchman”. 

“The alleged participant ignored everything the Neighborhood Watch Program stands for and it resulted in a young man losing his life. Our thoughts and prayers are with the family of Trayvon Martin during this terrible time,” said Aaron D Kennard, the NSA’s executive director.


The far-right wing seem to think Obama’s involvement made this falsely about race.
This is an America article which the far-right blogosphere in the UK is currently circulating. There’s a couple of things in here which are just wrong, and I found it pretty instructional to understand them – it helps me understand the mindset of the far right a little better.

A Hispanic man shoots a black kid where no one knows the exact circumstances in which the shooting occurred and where we are likely never to know what happened. Instead of waiting for the facts, narratives have replaced truth and we have a full blown racial incident when it isn’t even clear that race was a factor.

Again – this kid was armed and ready. With a bag of skittles and a drink. He was 17. He was alone. He was followed by a man with a track record of making 911 calls to police of other suspicious (once again, i.e. black) characters.

He was followed by a man who was carrying a 9mm handgun (or as I call it, a “magic death button”), and shot dead. He put up the hood of his hoodie because he was scared he was being stalked. We have that from a tape of him with his girlfriend.

How will he look if it comes out that the shooter was justified in defending himself?

We know better – besides, what could he possibly be defending himself from – are the red ones in a Skittles packet particularly dangerous? Obama has weighed in because of the massive outcry that justice has not been done. Nobody has even tried. Obama came down on the correct side, because a man has shot an unarmed child, and has not even been investigated by the police. This is sick. This is exactly the institutionalised racism that we in the UK think has gone away now we’ve convicted Stephen Lawrence’s killers.

It has not.

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Filed under Ethics, Politics, Racism

Politically-aligned blogging

I’ve recently unsubscribed from Progress, whose tagline is “News and debate from the progressive community”. A quick perusal of their website will prove that’s not the case – in fact, the first sentence you read will explain that Progress is a new Labour pressure group with a logo disturbingly similar to the current designs of the Democrat/Republican mascot animals (a donkey and elephant respectively – we know who won that PR battle).

That wasn’t enough to put me off. I read vile bigot Guido Fawkes and viler bigot David Vance of Biased BBC, and I’m still subscribed to their sites. Their blogs, despite being devoid of anything approaching a redeeming feature still elements which I, as a genuine progressive, actually want to read.

These two bloggers, in their dismissal of anyone trying to help others, have a deep-seated distrust of the left. They spend huge amounts of time looking for every failure the left ever makes. And that’s good. Without vile bigots watching our every mood, we’d still be believing that Labour are fighting in our best interests. We’d still be under that horrible misapprehension of having a political party that actually serves our interest.

Progress is different. Have a read through their last 5 posts. I guarantee you’ll find:

  • A labour councillor explaining how a Tory policy will mildly harm people within their constituency
  • A prominent Labour MP with a 4000 essay on their latest policy which will almost certainly never make it into law
  • A vague attempt to discredit the coalition as infighting instead of trying to stop their genuinely damaging policies
  • An appeal to give to a person’s pet charity, with the vague implication that only those with the guts to be out and out Labour supporters are generous enough to truly care about others
The issue here is not necessarily the motivation – Tory policies are causing real and measurable harm to a massive majority of people, and people should be given to charities. But the posts are essentially a mouthpiece for the Labour top- and mid-level leadership to have a mouthpiece, to provide the false impression of grassroots support.
Truth be told, Labour aren’t the party of Labour any more. Their constitution no longer covers it, and they haven’t fought for it for far too long. Even their rhetoric is anti-Labour, despite a massive portion of their funding from a traditional relationship with the unions. But every article is told within Labour’s own image of itself – as a party in opposition it sees itself as the voice of the people, standing up bravely against the combined forces of the coalition as they try to destroy Britain as we know it.
But they’re not. While the real progressives fight for our rights, and people like me sit at home and type, the Labour party fight every movement until they succeed before co-opting the movement’s rhetoric as their own. For all that the Conservatives are bastards and the Lib Dems shills, the Labour party have become the worst kind of class warmongers, smiling about equality while supporting the 1% every step of the way before claiming every minor civil rights victory as their own.

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Football, Racism and Tragedy

The tragedy of Fabrice Muamba, which is now thankfully turning out to be far less of a tragedy that it could have been, has brought some fantastic aspects of football, and sport in general into light. I know a lot of people who dislike sport, “on principle”, and it kind of makes me sad to know that it takes an in-game heart attack for the great parts of sport to appear in the professional version of the most popular game in the world.

  1. Sport brings people together.
    It kind of goes without saying, at least within teams. A team of players come together to perform their best and push themselves to their limits. But it also brings spectators together: anyone who’s ever stood in the stands will know how that works.
    But sport does more than that. At the amateur level, it’s a fantastic way of meeting people, of staying fit, keeping healthy, and of developing a better appreciation of other people. Sport is inherently non-partisan, there’s no choice who might be in your league, and for most amateur players it’s in your best interests to get on with your team mates and opponents alike.
  2. Sport is a true meritocracy.
    This isn’t always true. At a coaching level the old tropes about institutionalised racism still abound, and of the major sports only American football has done something about it, with brilliant and beautiful consequences. But players earn their salary by performing, not by the colour of their skin. And that’s good.
    Fabrice Muamba is a perfect case in point. He entered the country at eleven without speaking a word of English, and was a hero at Bolton long before his name became synonymous with Saturday’s incident. He’s only ever played for English national sides, having identified as English since the day he arrived here. He represents everything immigration is supposed to be about – cultures coming together and melding into one, until the only national distinction is geographical, not cultural.
  3. Sport draws out the best in people.
    One need only look at the #prayformuamba hash tag to see people, often traditionally rivals, come together. The message is clear: the man, a life, a livelihood, is more important than the game. It’s an admirable message, and one I can only wholeheartedly support. It is this humility that allows sport to be so great, a combination of high drama, and the knowledge that the result is less important than the game itself.
But for each of these highs, the Muamba case reminds me of all of the things we still need to do. All of the improvements we still need to make. All of the ways in which my lofted ideals fall short in reality:
  1. Sport pulls people apart.
    How, in sport, can there still be Old Firm hatred in the city of Glasgow? Rivalry is fantastic, and caring about the result is great, but violence? I have seen internet commenters saying the most hateful things, simply because the topic in question concerns a rival club. I’m a Liverpool fan, and when they aren’t playing us, I back Everton: they’re a great side with a manager who ensures they always punch above their weight.
  2. Sport is not a meritocracy.
    Name one openly gay footballer. I’ll give you a moment.

    Okay, time’s up. Anton Hysen. Heard of him? Probably not, he’s in the fourth division of Swedish professional football. He is the only openly gay footballer in professional football. And there’s no reason why he should be the only one beyond an institutionalised and, frankly, medieval homophobia which still holds the game in thrall. We still have a long way to go.
    Outside of football, the very papers who are celebrating Muamba (rightly) as a beacon of British pride, would be treating him as the worst kind of scum. After all, he arrived in England aged 11 with no English whatsoever. The Mail, the Express, the Sun; all of these would be livid at the idea he were even able to enter the country had he not developed a talent worth tens of thousands of pounds a week.

  3. Sport draws out the worst in people
    Luis Suarez, John Terry, Salman Butt, to name a few. Institutionalised hatred: see points 1 and 2 above.
The goal is there, we just have to reach it. I look forward to a day when sport can be competitive without being damaging, and passionate without being hateful.

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Filed under Ethics, Sport