What Not To Study At University

Sport science

If you’re good at science, go cure cancer. If you’re good at sport, go be a professional footballer, they earn good money, more than soldiers according to your da’s Facebook status. If you excel in neither but are adequate in both, go do sport science; a course desgined to help underfunded polytechnics defraud gym-bros who wonder what all the long words on the back of their creatine bottles actually mean. As governments begin to treat higher education budgets like most people view their nephew’s 19th birthday present – they know they have to spend something otherwise it looks bad, but times are hard and a token amount will have to suffice – it’s easy to see why universities are happy to take nine grand a year teaching people that repeatedly picking up and putting down heavy weights can increase muscle mass. But why are people taking it? You’re paying the cost of a decent second car every year to turn up hungover in a BCK&HRSY t-shirt and write down the word “lactic acid” in your notebook whilst you slowly turn into Tim Sherwood, and right now Tim Sherwood wishes he hadn’t turned into Tim Sherwood. It’s no life, honest.

Business Studies

Effectively a 3 year course into how to be a dickhead. “Projected turnover” “profit margins” “stock options” this is the secret language of the dickhead. The ostentatious watch, bad tie, slimey-haired, greater-spotted dickhead to be precise. The sort of people who do business studies are the sort of people who aspire to appear on The Apprentice, and The Apprentice is basically just a mixture of corporate buzzwords, Nietschean nihilism and social awkwardness, like if Ayn Rand had written The Office. The saddest thing about this is even if the business studies graduate does prosper in the corporate world there are no captains of industry anymore, Carnegie, Rockerfeller and Getty belong to different age, the highest heights on offer now are Mike Ashley. You might have the wealth of Morgan, Midas and Mycaenas, but if you earnt it through flogging sportswear at discount prices it doesn’t have the same pinache.

Politics

Another 3 year course on how to be an dickhead, but unlike business studies politics throws up a range of potential dickheads. There’s the left-wing dickhead: totally earnest; fundamentally decent and very annoying. Prone to haranguing you outside campus to tell you about “the issue of the day” until you lose your temper and have to bark, “No! I’m not going to your anti-fracking demo” at them and then instantly feel a bit guilty because you’re no fan of nasty polluting oil corporations yourself, you just hate them marginally less than people from the home counties playing the bongos. Then there’s the right-wing dickheads, with his (it’s usually a ‘he’ anyway) booming laugh and ridiculous dress sense you can amuse yourself by seeing how many pints of real ale it takes to turn “I don’t have any truck with any of this political correctness nonsense” into outright racism. My money’s usually on three. Finally there’s a new edition, the post-ideological technocrat in waiting, usually linked to either the Liberal Democrats or the Labour Party. If opinions are like arseholes you wonder whether this person possesses either. They always seem to lack any real emotion, having replaced it all with ambition, they don’t even look real, like those regens that pop up when you’ve been playing Football Manager for three or four seasons.

Journalism

What an excellent idea, get a degree in an industry that’s dying on its arse and is widely reviled. Seriously, journalism was once not just a noble career but a viable one, you had figures like Woodward and Bernstein, and John Pilger. Now you have a fake Sheikh, Richard Littlejohn and the hacked voicemail of a dead schoolgirl, it’s hard to feel sympathy for the media as it tries and fails to operate profitably in a digital world. And failing it certainly is, with newspaper’s circulation having dropped more than Margaret Thatcher’s and no way of making money from the internet a journalism graduate today is in the same position as a loom operator in 1812. Unless Polly Toynbee’s going to make like the French saboteurs and chuck a clog into the servers at Guardian HQ, taking the website down and forcing everyone to go and buy a paper copy of the newspaper then I’m sorry but your journalism degree will most likely mean you writing copy for “exposure” for a very long time.

 

English

 

You’d always been fairly prodigious reader from a young age so it was natural you would do English at university, it was a ticket out of the suburban town you grew up in where the factories had closed under Thatcher. So you went to lectures dressed like John Alderton in Please Sir!, used the word “Brechtian” wrongly and found out what the highest score you can get on an essay based on having watched the film adaptation of Ian McKewan’s Atonement and read the Wikipedia page for The End of the Affair (2:1 since you ask, “excellent knowledge of the texts”). Then you graduated and found out just how fucked your generation is, working in a pub for minimum wage and trying to chat up your co-worker by mentioning you’ve read The Yellow Wallpaper. It won’t work mind, she wants to fuck the sport science undergraduate in the “sex, drugs and sausage rolls” t-shirt ordering shots at the bar.

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If You Masturbate To This, Then Your Children Will Be Next

So there I was, flicking through twitter, brain fuzzed by a mild hangover caused by Tesco smartprice vodka and lemonade, hoping to see some pictures of pugs or weird twitter making jokes about Pokémon.

Unfortunately I saw none of that, instead I mainly saw left-wing twitter discussing the Labour party conference and noted with interest the declining numbers of people who had any faith in the party to deliver anything even remotely resembling socialism. But amongst the big speeches from your Milibands and your Balls – very much the Cantona and Keane of pretending capitalism and socialism are compatible – there were fringe events, and it was at one of these fringe events where one of the ghosts of Labour past spoke, something I only became aware of due to horrified people discussing it.

David Blunkett, speaking at a Demos fringe event, publically came out in support of government enforced anti-porn web filters. Anyone who follows me on twitter or has ever had the misfortune of seeing what comes up when you try to type “analyse” into Google on my laptop’s Firefox, knows I am opposed to the idea of the state censoring what an adult can and can’t look at. There is obviously a debate ranging on the feminist front about this issue and I am content to largely sit that one out and let some excellent feminist women make the pro-sex case, as they are doing.

Blunkett is not the first Labour figure to come out in support of regulating the internet; Helen Goodman, who I can categorically state you – the reader – have never heard of, is Labour’s shadow minister for media reform, which is surely the most depressing job title going. Goodman believes that the internet is like a 13th Century forest and as such can no longer be allowed to continue in that mould. For what it’s worth I agree with the analogy but not the solution, for it was in the 13th century that much forestry was common land in which people could use as they wished, to collect timber or hunt game for their dinner table. It was only the enclosure acts which had already started at this point and would continue up until the 19th century that deprived people of this right. Then as now, it seems governments are reacting to a common area where people can share ideas by seeking to regulate it and portion it out to the wealthy.

Goodman goes on to attack Robin Hood as an outlaw and claim that, “that was not a sustainable position in the 13th Century and it’s not a sustainable position now.” Always nice to hear a member of a nominally socialist party attacking someone who stole from the rich to give to the poor, no place in new Labour that is “intensely relaxed about people becoming filthy rich” for socialists like Robin Hood or Aneurin Bevan. In fact I doubt Chukka Ummuna could even tell which of those two figures is fictional.

But Blunkett’s opposition to porn is, however, different. In fact his justification for wanting to curb an adult’s ability to look at pictures of willies and boobs is perhaps the single most bizarre shit I have ever heard used to advance this argument.

Blunkett thinks porn might lead to the Fourth Reich.

The ex-Home Office minister is of the opinion that the rise of Nazism was actually due to the lax morals of the Weimar Republic. His views are in full.

 In the late 1920s and early 1930s, Berlin came as near as dammit to Sodom and Gomorrah. There was a disintegration of what you might call any kind of social order.

People fed on that – they fed people’s fears of it. They encouraged their paranoia. They developed hate about people who had differences, who were minorities.

There always has had to be some balance, in terms of the freedom of what we want to do, for ourselves and the mutual respect and the duty we owe to each other in a collective society. I think getting it right is the strength of a democracy.

 Blunkett doesn’t talk about what exactly it is that people were getting up to in Berlin in this era but the fact that the city had one of the most active gay scenes on the planet at the time and his allusions to Sodom and Gomorrah give some suggestion of what exactly it is Blunkett is alluding to here.

So am I, pulling myself off to Stoya on xvideos, directly contributing to the rise of the far right? As someone who is solidly antifa, someone who believes you need to smash the fash with a hammer and a sickle, I hope not. Perhaps we can condemn women who seek to get themselves off with the old slogan “if you use rabbits, then there will be fascists”. Is someone with RedTube bookmarked desecrating the memory of the International Brigades? It seems unlikely, despite his private anti-clerical views Mussolini never bashed a bishop publically, in fact he openly courted the Catholic vote. I don’t think that one too many Sasha Grey videos will see Di Canio get his job back, though if he does you might see the boys in blue locking-up any centre-halves who are due to play his team, considering they are mass arresting anyone who seeks to defend their area from fascist attacks at the moment.  

It’s easy to make jokes about this – which is why I’m doing it – but there is a serious point to be made in response to Blunkett’s claims. What he is engaging in is victim blaming, telling the LGBT* community that they were responsible for their oppression and slaughter at the hands of the Nazis is sickening. It is the same argument that says, “well she was flirting and wearing a short skirt” or “these Muslims don’t make it easy for themselves” and it contains about as much compassion as you would expect from someone who has in the past expressed a desire to machine gun prisoners.

Fascism is on the rise, the EDL march through our streets, the party of which Ander Breivik was once a member saw its number of seats rise in Norway, Golden Dawn are attacking immigrants at will, we need to figure out how to fight it. But Blunkett seems to not want to fight fascism, but rather to accept its central narrative. I celebrate the Berlin of Isherwood that saw artists, singers, sex workers, jazz musicians and homosexuals flood there to enjoy its more liberal cultural and sexual attitudes. Blunkett condemns it and in doing so accepts the far-right narrative that rose at the time.

Don’t listen to him, if you want to oppose fascism you don’t agree with it, you fight it. You support the very freedoms that are inherently anti-fascist, including your right to watch consenting adults do whatever they want with their bodies.

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Onkas Big Plonka: Why Jamie Oliver Is Repulsive

There are some people who just seem to be such contemptuous shitgibbons that you really do wonder if they were created with the sole intention of discrediting the shit ideas they espouse.

Jamie Oliver is one of those people. Jamie first appeared on our television in the late 90s and was merely one of a host of irritants on our screens at the time. This was the era where producers were starting to notice the potential for what we now call “lifestyle” shows, in which people that the media classes deem to be likeable (the fact that they think these people are likeable is probably as solid proof as you will get that cocaine can seriously impair your judgement) show us round their houses and will us to care about gardening or home improvement or, in Jamie’s case, cooking.

Jamie’s USP was centred around the fact he was a bit of a “lad”. Spikey-haired and bedecked in a linen shirt from the “I went to a festival once, let me tell you all about it” range, Jamie was designed to push cooking shows to what TV executives imagine a “bloke” is. With his Mockney accent, down-to-Earth charm and catchphrase – “pukka tukka” – Jamie was a marketing man’s dream. The Naked Chef was consciously focused less on cooking and more on lifestyle, admittedly the lifestyle it focused on was the lifestyle of a twat, all shite music and bottled European lagers, but this was the 90s. Jamie tapped into the growing “lad culture” of the era, this was cooking for Loaded readers and post-Nick Hornby Arsenal supporters, the culinary equivalent of Soccer AM.

Jamie emerged at the right time. After the ‘80s had seen the destruction of working-class identity the ‘90s was the era when the middle-classes stepped in, like the cultural equivalent of asset-stripping venture capitalists, and surveyed the wreckage for what they could appropriate. The co-emergence of New Labour and nu-footie fans was not a coincidence. Jamie’s TV show aired the same year as Blair’s landslide electoral victory which saw the future war criminal heading a football with Noel Gallagher at the height of Brit Pop, a year later Oliver himself was cooking for the Prime Minister.

Dark days.

So far so despicable. The man’s a Boden-wearing, cheeky-chappy banter lad with a predilection for the most banal music in the world. I think all sensible people can agree that for those crimes alone he should be burnt alive in a wicker man, only unlike Edward Woodward instead of reciting the Lord’s Prayer he would sing Dancing In The Moonlight mournfully as the flames rose to engulf his face.

But unfortunately Jamie’s story is only just beginning, you see like most awful things that the west became aware of in the ‘90s – an economy built on housing and finance, the vengeful return of swaggering masculinity, Al Qaeda – it was in the ‘00s when the full horror of what Jamie Oliver stood for was truly realised.

2005 saw Jamie’s first foray into politics with his crusading television series “Jamie’s School Dinners”. When I call the series political it must be noted this is post-Fukuyama politics, stripped of any sort of belief system or ideology. So in place of any serious political message we got the politics of manufactured outrage and meaningless platitudes. Jamie said “shit” a lot and sneered at the food eaten by poorer children in the nation’s schools, in fact there was so much sneering at times it looked positively Victorian, like watching a duchess experiencing Gin Alley for the first time. Yet the campaign became an enormous success, Jamie returned to number ten, this time not Blair’s chef, but his equal. The pair sat down for a televised interview so staged and insincere that Martin Bashir and the ghost of Princess Diana must have felt moved to a state of nausea by the display. Blair did his best impression of sincerity and asked Jamie in a good approximation of an earnest tone, “what should we do Jamie?”

As I say the whole campaign was a huge success, in the sense it was never about helping children but rather about allowing Jamie to successfully rebrand himself to a market that is both different and the same from the previous. You see the target market of ‘90s lad culture was growing up; the same people that splashed their load over a Jill Halfpenny spread had now done something more productive with their jizz and were tearily telling people, “y’know having a kid really changes your perspective on life”. So seeing an opportunity to flog fucking bread bins or some such shit to reasonably affluent young parents Jamie cynically exploited the fears that everyone has about their children’s welfare to increase his marketing potential to this lucrative demographic.

And cynical is the exact word to use here as Jamie starts his journey from mere bellend to something much darker.

The team behind moulding the image of the Naked Chef were not the only cynical marketing fucks to realise the power of the campaigning celebrity. New Labour were the masters of the image and had from the start appreciated the power of fame, but now instead of merely having some Britpop artists round for a knees up they started actively seeking the opinions of stars. If politics is showbusiness for ugly people then politicians were fed up of being ugly people. The problem was Jamie’s School Dinners was a failure, the cost of providing school meals doubled with no nutritional benefit. But this didn’t matter as the media loves a narrative more than it loves fact and along with Live 8 – another conspicuous failure – the role of people that anyone actually cared about in politics meant that the news could cover serious issues whilst remaining relevant.

This has led to a situation where Alan Sugar was made Business Secretary and Mary Portas is charged with breathing life back into the high street. Opportunistic politicians like the interest that people off the telly bring to their boring campaigns, the celebrities like to feel worthy and important, the news likes to talk about people of their own media class, and us? we don’t fucking matter to these people.

So fast-forward to 2013 and what’s Jamie doing now? What some of us actually expected of him because we saw what Jamie’s School Dinners was really about, ego and snobbery. There were obvious warning signs, that interview with Jonathon Ross where the host chuckled that the people that were pushing food through the bars at school gates were “a bit council house” whilst Jamie and the audience guffawed at a millionaire spitting at the poor.

But now the cat really is out of the bag, and it’s a fucking horrible little moggy to boot. Jamie – worth £150 million pounds – has weighed in on the fate of the poor suggesting that they are all cheesey chips guzzling fatsos.

In an interview with the Radio Times he remarks, “I’m not judgmental but” – a starter that is surely up there with the now cliché ‘I’m not racist, but’ – before going on to say, “I’ve spent a lot of time in poor communities, and I find it quite hard to talk about modern-day poverty.” The ‘poverty doesn’t exist’ trope is well worn by now but is still habitually called upon by the cruel and the heartless to justify their attacks on those at the bottom of society. Warming to his theme he describes a scene he witnessed where “mum and the kid eating chips and cheese out of styrofoam containers, and behind them is a massive TV. It just didn’t weigh up.”

Jamie exhorts people to shop at their local market, ignoring the fact that they may well like to but it’s closed because the supermarkets have put them out of business. The snivelling two-faced twattery of this from a man who advertised Sainsbury’s for a decade has not missed most people’s attention. For a man who willingly promoted both a supermarket and a line of ready meals to attack the effects of supermarkets and ready meals is obscene. The only way he could be more hypocritical is if his next attack was on shite landfill indie.

Again Jamie reinvents himself to suit the prevailing cultural and economic needs of the time. No longer the bloke, nor the concerned parent, now he is the smug face of the conservative moralisers who tell us, ‘well, poverty’s awful, but maybe if they were a little bit more careful with their money…” It is the purposeful re-imagination of poverty, not as a fault of political or economic decisions by those with power but of the poor themselves. Capitalism’s fucked, the money’s run out and the government are slashing benefits for the poor whilst wages for those at the bottom of the heap fall significantly. Fortunately Jamie’s here to provide the intellectual justification for benefits cuts and wage freezes by telling us if we just learnt how to use a slow cooker and bulk meals out with lentils then we can eat cheaply and have enough cash left over to bomb the fuck out of some Syrians. He’s not the only one, comedy is now aimed at getting the maximum laughs out of the very poor, Chris Addison, the floppy haired Mock The Week cockcheddar recently spoke about the “women called Sandra pushing burgers through the school gates”. Whilst every night on television there is a programme called something like, “Feckless Shits” where Tory grandee Norman Tebbit and Conservative-voting page 3 model Lucy Pinder walk around Moss Side poking the unemployed with sticks. Probably.

But Jamie deserves special attention because he is the Zelig for everything wrong about this country. When lad culture was reasserting a misogynist idea of masculinity in response to the identity politics and feminism of the ‘70s and ‘80s he was there,  gurning away and teaching Stereophonics fans who liked a bit of a banter how to cook a ruby for a night in with the boys. And now poor bashing is all the rage amongst the political and media classes he is there again, with a paternalist wagging finger telling the most vulnerable in society to put the chips down and informing them from a position of immense influence that they’re not really that poor.

Jamie Oliver is a crass product of canny marketing and ruthless business decisions who has carved an empire out of appealing to the cultural prejudices of the time to get his face – looking as it does like a cartoon of a schoolboy about to go apple scrumping – on as many products as possible to make him rich beyond the dreams of avarice. Jamie Oliver is a lickspittle device of politicians keen to entrench their own positions and live off the reflected glories of someone else’s media profile. Jamie Oliver is a cunt.

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On Online Abuse

I think I once – in a more arrogant period – described this blog using a Bill Hicks quote, “Chomskey with dick jokes”. Generally there is some attempt to be funny about things that are happening in the world today.

Today’s blog post will be humour free, like all the others you might suggest? but this one is purposefully so.

If you don’t like it, don’t read it. I am planning an article on Cameron banning porn which will be full of wanking jokes; that will probably go up next time I am in a brief sober period. So if you purely want cock jokes, come again soon. This, however, is a more delicate subject so I shall be keeping onanism references to a minimum.

Twitter and Hate Speech

Twitter is an excellent tool for communication, debate, for building friendship groups and support networks. You can use twitter how you wish, some people don’t tweet at all, preferring to simply follow others and find out what Graham Linehan thinks about geese or some shit. Others might chose to use it as a tool to talk to friends or loved ones, presumably favouring twitter’s format or usability over Facebook or text. Still others might chose to engage – or attempt to engage – with people they like, revere and respect, telling Graham Linehan what exactly they think of geese. A subset of this group is those that choose to engage with those with a profile in a more negative manner, perhaps telling Graham Linehan that they like geese and that the IT Crowd was shit and that he once made out with a hot dog.

It is clear that a platform such as twitter that easily allows someone with a wholly anonymous account that can be easily created in about a minute or two to send messages to whomever you wish will encourage certain people to send about as nasty shit as it is humanly possible to. It is also true that in a society which is insanely homophobic, misogynist, racist, ableist, transphobic and classist then much of that abuse will be bigoted in its very nature. It is also interesting how this is coming to light just now, despite the fact that the routine abuse has been something women online have had to deal with for years.

The Story Thus Far

The hateful remarks aimed at a young woman on twitter have been news for a day or so now but for those of you who may have missed it I shall attempt to re-cap.

Following a decision by the Bank of England to replace Elizabeth Fry with Winston Churchill on a fiver – something that would leave women wholly unrepresented on bank notes – a number of reasonably high profile feminists with a strong twitter presence took it upon themselves to fight what they saw as a white-washing of women’s history. A campaign was launched to rectify this that drew noticeable media coverage and a few months later it was revealed that the Bank of England would be putting Jane Austen on ten pounds notes instead of Charles Darwin. Those involved in the campaign claimed victory. Others pointed to evidence suggesting that the decision had already been made prior to the campaign and that furthermore the campaign did little to actually address serious issues affecting women.

It’s not really my place to comment on whether putting women on banknotes will end a form of systematic oppression that I am never going to be the victim of. My two cents would merely be that I quite like Jane Austen’s work, I think Northanger Abbey is an excellent satire of gothic tropes and if as a result of this someone fancies reading some Austen then it will have introduced them to a fine writer.

In response to a successful – in their eyes – campaign those involved took to twitter for the web 2.0 equivalent of a glass of champers. Pleased with what they felt they had achieved they were celebratory and tweeted their pride in their achievements/

The story immediately becomes a lot darker at this point, one of the women involved in the campaign, Caroline Criado-Perez, was subjected to foul abuse. The sheer volume of hatred aimed this woman is pretty difficult to describe. I will provide a link to a site that has collated this information so you only have to view these comments if you wish to. Trigger Warnings for misogyny, homophobia, sexual violence, violence against women and, well, pretty much everything.

Link 1 2 3

Now, these people clearly represent a multitude of utter shits. Scared, pathetic men abusing a woman from behind a keyboard. Twitter user and blogger on “equality, politics, tech, illness, ranting and swearing” Latent Existence (well worth a follow if you have twitter, playing a huge part in the attempt to correct media narrative over disability and bring ATOS to account) has written well on how embarrassed he feels as a man reading this shit.

I wholeheartedly add my voice to those decrying this virulent misogyny online. For evil to prevail it is necessary the good do nothing; if, as a straight cis man, you’re not prepared to add your voice to this condemnation then you’re enabling it to happen.

What’s To Be Done?

Whenever anything awful happens comes to the media’s attention people understandably want something to be done. However it is interesting to note that this has only come to the media’s attention now, despite the fact it has been going on since twitter existed. This seems to be largely because this time the victim met a few pre-determined criteria to be deemed important enough for the press to take an interest in.

Ultimately this seems to come down whether the victim is someone who is recognised as a “worthy victim”. This means that are, preferably a member of the commentariat, and if not that they aren’t threatening to any of the white, cis, privileged sorts that make up the vast bulk of that cosy commentariat. This is why the abuse aimed at Caroline Criado-Perez – white, Oxbridge, in the media – hit the news whereas the tidal wave of abuse aimed at women online before this hasn’t. The media’s selective coverage of online abuse aimed at women seems to have effectively decided that abuse aimed at some women isn’t worthy of their coverage and, implicitly, that those women aren’t worthy themselves. This is a sickening state of affairs that seems to suggest a media class that believe some women either don’t receive abuse or that abuse aimed at these women is somehow less problematic. So much of the talk regarding online abuse centers on the notion that this is something that “high profile” people suffer. This is simply not true. There are women online – some of whom I would consider to be close friends – who suffer this level of abuse everyday, without the handwringing articles in the Indie Voices. In fact not only do people without a media profile find themselves victims of misogynist, racist, homophobic, transphobic and ableist abuse they are also less likely to have support networks online to deal with this level of abuse. It is not to diminish the vulgarity of what was said to Caroline Criado-Perez to point out that many victims of hate speech online can’t rely on a supportive message from Caitlin Moran or Stella Creasy.

It also seems to be the case that there are people in the public eye exploiting the current attention being given to this incident to support measures to ensure they are not held accountable for their views. There has been what I believe to be a purposeful attempt to conflate clearly unacceptable threats of rape and violence with “people disagreeing with me” by a host of the usual suspects.

They can do this as the way the media reports online “trolling” or “haters” is hugely favoured towards the privileged. There is noticeably less media outcry when Ricky Gervais uses his enormous twitter clout to bully those that call him up on his offensive tweets. There was very little when Noel Fielding called a woman with Cyclothymic disorder “big nose” before shepherding his followers into abusing her until she tried (thankfully unsuccessfully) to take her own life. Both these cases are covered in more detail in this excellent article. They are far from the only cases of this happening; I pick them merely as I believe Fielding and Gervais to be the most egregious offenders from my time on twitter. In every discussion of online trolling I have seen it has always featured someone in the media being attacked by an anonymous account with 140-odd followers; the instances where celebrities use their position to destroy people’s lives are not well documented. Those in media circles do not wish to antagonise someone they may rely on at some point for a gig or a place in a film.

The faulty narrative – that abuse is received primarily by those with significant media exposure – the media are pursuing has led, as all faulty diagnosis do, to a faulty cure being proffered.

The first proposed remedy for twitter’s ills is to end online anonymity. Again this is total horseshit. The effect this would have on people living under repressive regimes, sex workers, people discussing their mental health online and scores more groups whose voices need to be heard more than anyone’s is obvious. Hell, even I might want to go anon at some point as if I’m going for a job I don’t want a quick google of my name by an employer to reveal a) I’m a Marxist who believes in the power of organised labour to defend worker’s rights b) I tweet a lot about wanking. Neither of those things scream “dream employee” to many big corporations.

The next bad idea comes from Caitlin Moran and is openly offensive. She suggests charging a £30 annual fee to use twitter because… poor people are evil? To be clear I would be one of the people gentrified from twitter under this current scheme, £30 is three quarters of what I live on a week, I could not justify spending that much on a social network. Nor could many who are on the dole, disabled or working poor, at precisely the time when we need these people’s voices to ring loudest in order that they can describe the sustained attack they are under by this Government. The fact that Moran feels this is a way to oppose rape threats on twitter says something about her. It means she thinks misogyny (and presumably other forms of bigotry that Moran disagrees with, which are not as many as you would hope) is the preserve of the poor. From anyone that is a sickening suggestion but from someone who plays heavily on her working-class upbringing and who was deservedly commended for her attempt to reverse the media narrative on benefits claimants following the Phil Potts case it is baffling. Does Moran seriously think that due to the fact I’m poor I’m going to sit at home and think, “can’t afford the pub tonight, off to twitter to make rape threats”? Or does she just think us povvos are some sort of under-class that can’t be trusted to talk to people with Times columns? This argument also serves to switch the argument about how oppression works on its head, as opposed to oppression being the result of existing power structures being used against those that lack power Moran would have us believe oppression is the product of the proles. Why a privileged person such as her would seek to recast the privileged as victims of, not perpetrators of, patriarchal power structures should not need explaining.

The most commonly accepted medicine for the ills of online abuse seems to be twitter having a better and easier system for reporting abuse. Like all dangerous ideas it seems at the outset to be fair. Why shouldn’t people be able to be easily report abuse on twitter then for twitter to actively shut down accounts? The problem lies in what people would regard as abuse and how those with power would use this system. To best illustrate this it might be sensible to look at an incident that happened not so long ago and then to imagine what might have happened had such a feature existed on twitter during the time that this incident occurred.

Suzanne Moore wrote an article in the New Statesman featuring the claim that men want women to look like “Brazilian transsexuals”. Understandably people reacted angrily to this racism and transphobia and immediately took Suzanne Moore to task over her language. Moore claimed she was being “bullied” and “harassed” by those who were calling her to account over her language. Much of the mainstream media accepted this narrative, that calling out a white, cis, middle-class woman with a successful media career was in fact bullying. Few bothered to question how bullying in fact involves a power dynamic and perhaps the true face of bullying is a privileged woman using her considerable voice to further demonise a still marginalised and oppressed group of women. No member of the commentariat would wish to do this as there’s a good chance one of them might bump into Moore at a dinner party, literary festival or awards gala. Simply put when you are on a plush, well-catered for yacht you do not jeopardise your place by rocking the boat.

Yet despite many furrowed brows at CiF (which published a defence of Moore by Julie Burchill that was possibly one of the most offensive things I have read in a nominally liberal-left newspaper) those who were involved in calling Moore to account were free to do so. Under new proposals Moore could simply use a twitter abuse button and due to the societal power afforded to her by her media profile have those who disagreed with her vanquished from the site.

As Zoe Stavvri says in her blog post on the issue of a twitter abuse button

I use rude words and tell people to choke on various bodily secretions. I don’t let things drop. I hold people to account, sometimes seriously and sometimes by gleefully engaging in some pure, unadulterated puerile trolling. I subtweet shade, leaving it where it can be found by the vanity searchers, and I’m not afraid to call out the racists, the misogynists, the transphobes and homophobes and ableists of the world. That would get me banned pretty fucking quickly, only taking a few powerful people to get pissed off at me. And my goodness, I piss off the powerful.

I don’t want people gone from twitter who piss off the powerful. I don’t want bigots to be able to silence those that call them on it using their position of power to remove the voices of those they have slighted.

I’ll finish with a genuine tweet that I read on this subject today.

It’s hardly conducive to coming up with solutions if people are too afraid to throw ideas out for fear of being torn apart by detractors.

No. That’s bullshit and it’s dangerous, dangerous bullshit. Bad ideas should be torn apart as I have done my best to do here. Whilst I’m angry at how the media have ignored abuse being aimed at my friends for so long as they did not fit into a preconceived notion of what they wanted from their victim I am happy that they are finally waking up to what women are expected to put up with online. It would be awful if as a result of this nothing was done. However it would be worst if the wrong thing was done and the situation regarding abuse directed towards othered groups deteriorated even further.

I am aware that I have offered no solutions myself, the reason for that is I can’t think of any that wouldn’t cause more damage than they would prevent. I do however hope that this attempt to correct the false narratives that surround this issue might lead to much cleverer people than me coming up with a good solution.

Also I don’t usually blog on issues as delicate as this so if there is anything here anyone thinks is particularly problematic feel free to tweet me or whatever to correct me.

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#RightOnTwitterShitz

Britain is in a low pay crisis, the post-Fordist, de-unionised economy is not paying enough for people to consume the goods produced by capitalism, causing an economic crisis, which capitalists use as an opportunity to lower wages, which means people are even less able to purchase the goods produced by capitalism which in turn means… well you get the picture. The always excellent Zoe Williams writes well on the subject here.

In dry academic terms this means economic downturns and the financiers opening up the cheap debt floodgates to finance a false economy based on housing.

In the real world experiences of real people this means parents having to explain to their kids why they might have to go hungry a few times this week because the washing machine’s fucked and despite mummy working two jobs she can’t afford to fix it and feed them on her two wage packets.

I only start with this rather bleak evocation of Britain in 2013 – the Britain of foodbanks and the homeless living in caves – to describe why I’m going to be so fucking angry about and so fucking nasty to the people involved in #BrightonLitterBlitz.

To recap on those who don’t know what’s happening down in Brighton can read an article on the BBC website here.

Essentially the council is cutting wages for people who collect the city’s refuse. These are people who could be described as, in the words of reptilian overlord/enormous bellend/reptilian bellend George Osborne, “the shift worker, leaving home in the dark hours of the early morning”. Hard-working people getting utterly fucked over.

So what is the response of some on the soft-left to this? They have decided to utterly undermine the strike with the #BrightonLitterBlitz hashtag designed to encourage legions of people who are quite liberal but think racist, colonial apologist Boris Johnson is “a bit of a laugh” to do unpaid work collecting Brighton’s litter.

Let me be clear on this. Doing the jobs of those who are on strike is called “scabbing”or “blacklegging” or “being the lead singer of The Charlatans”. Think about it, would you want to be accused of being any of those things?

Whilst you should never cross a picket line it is perhaps possible to understand why some might do it. Strike funds run out, partners struggle to keep the family’s finances together, savings get dangerously low, you want to send your son to ballet school as you think he has prodigal gift. I know the last one can definitely happen as I saw it on a documentary.

I am not defending strikebreakers here, merely talking about how the bastards at the top know how to play worker against worker to defeat strike action.

Yet the crazy (by which I of course mean massively fucking cuntish) thing about these strikebreakers is that they aim to work for free.

Even the filth from the Met’ who acted as Maggie’s thugs during the miner’s strike were getting paid. They were vicious, violent class traitors, but they weren’t so cretinous as to be pro bono class traitors. They had SPMM – Scargill Paid My Mortgage – badges. What are the #BrightonLitterBlitz tossers going to have on their badges? Kitcat Gave Me An Enormous Hard-On About What An Excellent Sell Out Fuck I Truly Am. They’d need massive badges for a start!

It is amazing the willingness of young people to go out and give their all for the establishment – possibly lizards? certainly shits – in this country. Whether they’re setting up twitter accounts pretending to be our unelected head of state, chortling at another “hilariously non-PC” (what we’re apparently calling racism now) quote from Prince Philip or buying all manner of utter shit with war time slogans on. The last one is particularly apt I feel, I doubt a single person involved with this display of utter shitehawkery doesn’t own at least one Keep Calm And Carry On mug. In fact the best way to describe the #BrightonLitterBlitz crew is as a bunch of Keep Calm And Carry On mugs.

When the Luddite’s smashed looms the people hid them; today they’d probably re-tweet the wanted posters, no doubt with earnest appeals for information of their own. If a group of Chartist demonstrators showed up in Manchester to voice their demands for a fully democratic society the government wouldn’t even have to send troops to violently put down the uprising, #ClearUpPeterloo would be trending within the hour and a bunch of fresh-faced nobcheddars would be on hand to supress those brave men demanding working-class suffrage. Not that if we had twitter then there would even have been such an event, the left would probably find itself tweeting, “Castelreagh more like CastelGAY”, and crossing their fingers they might get five favourites.

Yet we can’t really despair too much that for most of today’s youth organised labour seems wholly irrelevant. Most of our press is fiercely anti-union. We have some of the most repressive anti-union laws in any developed democracy. We have Ed Miliband telling anybody that will listen how wrong industrial action is, with Ed Balls at his side. The double act looking like Wallace and Gromit as directed by Elia Kazhan, or a Claymation produced to amuse Tebbit during his lucid periods.

In this sort of climate maybe people don’t understand why you should never cross a picket line, why you should always support workers over bosses, why the other side’s fighting a class war so you should too!

Or maybe most people today still do, and these people are just a particularly slavishly obedient, furlock tucking bunch of Birkenstock-wearing shitgibbons. It’s in the balance.

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5 Things Ordinary People Are Doing In Manchester This Weekend.

The M.E.N. does a list of “5 Things To Do In Manchester This Weekend” that usually includes watching live music, attending art exhibits and visiting museums. But that’s a list of things that we know we should be doing, what will actual people actually be doing this weekend?

1. Throwing up all over their shirts outside neon lit nightclubs

The Printworks’ cobbled walkway suggests a rustic early-modern European urban area; the sight of scores of people passed out and projectile vomiting confirms this tableau to be set around the time of the Black Death.

Martin, 24, is a shelf stacker at ASDA in Moss Side,  for this he is paid £6.95 by a company whose profits are up 6% because capitalism is really shit. He said “I’ve got a degree in Art History from a red brick uni and I spend 5 days a week putting fucking loo roll on shelves. And people seem to be surprised that at the weekends I choose to drink so much I’m a little bit sick over my new Ben Sherman shirt?”

His friend and work colleague, Phil 26, said, “I’m treated like shit by some jumped bellend supervisor who wants to know why I don’t smile more at work. Maybe because I’m on less than the living wage, I can barely afford rent and every weekend consists of downing bright blue alchopops and getting into the most poorly justified fights since the Iraq War.”

When it was pointed out to Phil that there was a wealth of cultural events in Manchester this weekend including beat poetry and a vegan food taster session at Sandbar he replied that he would like to go, but unfortunately he was not enough of, “a fucking pretentious dickhead”.

2. Talking shit at each other under the influence of various drugs.

In Fallowfield John, 20, will be hosting a house party for, “a few friends off my course, you know, a few cool heads, pretty relaxed really”.

It is expected that presence of large quantities of alcohol, marijuana and MDMA will lead to some intellectual clashes between Laura, who is taking a break from her dissertation on how intersectionality in feminism offers a challenge to traditional white, middle-class and straight critiques of patriarchy and Michael, an undergraduate in Film and Media in Salford. Expert analysis of previous arguments Laura and Michael have been in shed some light on their traditional debating styles and may offer some predictions of what will spark this particular disagreement off. It is suggested that after around three lines of Mandy and a bottle of wine Michael will broach the subject of gay marriage, the argument will last for about twenty minutes and end with Michael chivalrously calling Laura, “a fucking dyke whore”. Laura will likely respond that Michael is a “fucking shit for brains bigot” before angrily storming out of the room, accidentally knocking a mug that is being used an ashtray over in the process. Jeremy Paxman is deemed unlikely to be in attendance.

Unaware of what experts believes lies in store for his little shindig John is preparing for the party by buying plastic cups,  making a Facebook event and hiding his guitar in case some twat starts playing Wonderwall, badly

3. Having disappointing sex with a stranger

Under the advice of her friends to “forgot about that creep” and “just have some fun” Lucy, a 27 year old travel agent will likely find herself drunk and with a similarly inebriated gentleman in her apartment. Due to the volumes of alcohol consumed by both parties Lucy will most likely find herself trying to coax a flaccid penis into life with her mouth whilst ignoring the repeated farting of her pissed paramour for the evening. After ten minutes of this it is believed the gentleman in question will concede, “I don’t think anything’s happening” and that “maybe we should just cuddle”. An unsatisfied Lucy may get herself to sleep by imagining the impotent gentleman who she met in Birdcage crying as his pets die in front of him.

4. Freezing to death whilst wankers ignore your suffering

As a testimony to the continuing strength of Margaret Thatcher’s legacy, even after her death, a homeless man will this weekend freeze to death in a cruel and heartless world.

Ross, 47, is used to hearing that he should “get a job” usually said without irony by people who work in wholly made up finance jobs and spend enough on a haircut that they could provide shelter for a human being for a fortnight. Ross, a former squaddie suffering from PTSD, points out, “if I hadn’t fought in Iraq then their natural resources wouldn’t have been privatised leading to huge gains for those who were invested heavily in oil futures.”

Ross’ death on Saturday from exposure will come around 34 after the death of society, the results of which allowed a particularly smug prick who is involved in “short-selling foreign currencies” or some shit to walk straight past someone in dire need.

The reporters were unable to ascertain Ross’ views on his noble sacrifice in dying quietly due to the withdrawal of Whitehall cash from a local homeless shelter in order that millionaires would be given a tax cut by some other millionaires. He is also understood to be unclear on the irony of the fact he will die with a Starbuck cup holding £2.48 worth of change in front of him, a sum that will not buy him a coffee from the chain, but is probably more than they pay in tax to support social services to help people like him, the corporate shits.

5. Pretending your relationship isn’t dead

A young couple that have been together for 6 months will be spending the weekend sat together on the sofa, watching The Voice and pretending that their relationship, and perhaps even just their lives, still have some form of meaning.

When the pair met at a Didsbury book club they instantly bonded over a shared love of Ian McEwan’s Atonement. But what started off as a fun and rewarding bond of companionship between two people has quickly turned into a cross between Annie Hall and Waiting for Godot.

Alice, a 32 year old teacher is expected to spend the weekend ignoring her boyfriend’s low level insensitivity by telling herself that her body-clock is ticking and if she wants kids she’ll just have to make this one work. Similarly Tim, a 34 year old IT consultant is prepared to pretend that Alice’s selfishness is not such a big deal as he is haunted by the fear that he will die alone.

The pair will order a Chinese but upon its arrival Alice will tell Tim that, “you know I don’t like fucking chicken satay, God you are the worst!” whilst Tim is certain to reply, “Well I’ve paid for it now, just fucking eat it!”

The meal will likely be consumed in silence whilst the feuding couple watch the utter garbage that makes up much of Saturday night fare in Britain, cry quietly inside and think about how much longer it is till their own deaths.

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…in which I can’t be arsed with cruel comedy anymore.

People that know me generally tend to think of me as a bit of a comedy snob. Some would suggest that sentence works without the word comedy; others would go further and drop the “S” too.

Actually I do watch some mass appeal stuff, as much as How I Met Your Mother has declined massively, I’m still hooked trying to find out who the mother actually is and Josh Radnor as “douche-Ted” is not without his moments.

Like every student in Britain I have watched F.R.I.E.N.D.S. on E4 in my boxers whilst eating cornflakes and trying to ignore the fact I have an essay on Virginia Woolf to do. I would find it easier to write an essay on F.R.I.E.N.D.S., on its sharp writing, or its excellent use of a bottle episode in “The One Where No-one’s Ready” which really showed what can be achieved in that limited form.

So I’m not quite the comedy snob, but I do genuinely think comedy matters. I know the reaction to this column already, “it’s just a laugh”. It’s a retort that I think is at its worse when used as a defence by comedians. If your job is laughter then surely you should be taking your job more seriously than that? You don’t get doctors going, “it’s just medicine, lighten up”. If you’re a comedian you should know that jokes matter, they matter to how society sees itself and I wish sometimes comedians whose humour is totally aimed downwards would recognise that fact.

Like most people I have made a joke amongst friends that I probably shouldn’t have. I’ve said things that invoked laughter at the expense of various disenfranchised and othered groups in society because I knew they might get a cheap giggle. But afterwards I did have to deal with the fact that the gag I just made had made the world a little bit worse, a little bit less understanding of difference and a little bit sharper and more unpleasant for people for whom the world might not be the most soft and warm place anyway.

Bearing in mind how much of a shit I have felt like in the past for going for the easy and the brutish how do half of Mock The Week live with themselves? Mock The Week is a pretty vicious bearpit for the 6 comedians on there. As Stewart Lee – if you’ve read this far and haven’t guessed I’m a Stewart Lee fan, minus ten points – correctly observed…

Since I’ve had kids, I don’t like Mock the Week, I’m more sqeamish. I find it cruel. I don’t like it when they make fun of handicapped people, or old people, do jokes about poor people, ugly people. When they Mock the Weak, basically. Mock the Strong, that’s what I say! Have a bit of ambition. It’s what raises us above dogs.”

For me Mock The Week is a bit like a Findus Lasagne. Living in Manchester I am not far from some excellent stores selling fresh ingredients and neither am I far from pubs or clubs offering fresh comedy. Yet despite my high-minded plans by the time 6 o’clock comes round I am usually piercing holes in the cellophane lid of a ready meal before putting it into my never-clean microwave and resigning myself to a night watching “witty banter” on Dave. Both the ready meal and the panel show are cheap to produce, mass market and both do satisfy me to some extent, but both also make me feel vaguely sick and with a lower opinion of myself than I had started the day.

I recently did have the good pleasure to see a young, interesting comedian live. Upstairs at my local pub a woman did a 45 minute preview of a show she was looking to tour that was both hilarious and intelligent. But what is the future for this incredibly talented woman? The route from fringe success to mainstream success seems in many cases to rest on a few decent performances on Mock The Week with a hope that you might find yourself on Live At The Apollo. That means for many female comedians being the only woman on a panel of white men whose voices you vaguely recognise from car insurance adverts. The manner in which this harms female comics is well documented.

Tory MP Nadine Dorries has hit out at Mock The Week for not featuring sufficient female talent, showing that she doesn’t think women should be in charge of their own reproductive organs, but does think they deserve a chance on “scenes we’d like to see”. Elsewhere Victoria Wood has hit out at Mock The Week for being like a bearpit, Jo Brand has said she no longer has any interest on appearing on the show.

Look at the great female comedians out there who do deserve a chance but won’t get it on Mock The Week. Isy Suttie – famously Dobbie from The Peep Show – has a brilliant live act combining stand-up, anecdotes and songs. Josie Long has won critical acclaim for her performances that are times both whimsical and subversive and rely on audience interaction. Neither of these women could really fit into the confines of Mock The Week as their acts are too leftfield too work within the tightly honed parameters that most panel shows rely on.

But it’s not just women who are ostracised by the current comedic status quo, many interesting male acts are wholly unsuited to the current format as well. Mark Watson wrote in The New Statesman; “I’ve never really got the hang of Mock the Week. Since the dynamic between the regulars is so well honed, it’s not easy for guests to come in and make an impression… The people who tend to do it well are confident, fairly bullish comics with a lot of one-liners.” The whole piece is broadly supportive of the show itself which clearly features people that Watson likes and respects. He does however recognise that, “the show dictates a certain “trying to outdo each other” agenda anyway, because it’s just the way that shows are bound to go, when everyone’s trying to get jokes in at the same time” which does not suit him, “because my “material” is mostly rambling stories and they want jokes about the news.” Whilst I’m not Watson’s biggest fan I do enjoy much of his output and have always found him a fairly thoughtful and interesting stand-up in a culture where ignorance is increasingly not something to be tolerated but celebrated. In Pol Pot’s Cambodia of course people who wore glasses were seen as dangerous intellectuals and were summarily executed by the regime. Mark Watson wears glasses and is often perceived as quite cerebral. Now, I’m not saying Mock The Week is exactly like the Khmer Rouge, I’m just saying there are some interesting parallels to be drawn should you wish to.

It is of course unfair to single out Mock The Week, there are some even worse panel shows out there, it’s just Mock The Week is the market leader. I have never seen League Of Their Own but a Guardian column on the proliferation of panel shows included a 2:17 clip with James Cordon, Jason Mansford, Jack Whitehall, Shane Warne and Frank Lampard. There was a less hateful panel of people on trial at Nuremberg. Looking for erudite comedic performances? Abandon hope all ye who enter here. That YouTube video featured a dance off amongst people I imagine as future defendants in a revolutionary kangaroo court when our Robespierre emerges to take on the ancien regime of banality and lad culture. I know it’s very Daily Mail to judge shows you haven’t watched, but I feel confident in saying League Of Their Own ranks alongside the Iraq war in things to which the correct response is “not in my name”.

Outside of the panel show green room it does seem comedy in general is getting nastier. I have always believed that comedy should punch upwards at deserving targets at the top, I despise cheap gags whose victims are the dispossessed, the vulnerable and the already discriminated against. To a lot of people these battles have been won, growing up I always felt that raging against the cheap suit and a pint of beer comedians who engaged in sexist or racist comedy was a bit like saying everyone needed to be careful about the growing threat of fascism in Europe. I may have liked to imagine myself in the hills of Spain with Orwell during Spanish Civil War, I may have liked to imagine myself in a grimy pub in the 80s watching a young comic tear into his older peers who made cheap gags about their mother-in-law, but ultimately I was secretly pleased to live in a world where I and my loved ones were not under threat from General Franco or Bernard Manning. Yet watching television lately and flicking between election results in countries ravaged by austerity and Live at the Apollo I can’t help but be shocked at the rise of Golden Dawn and Micky Flanagan. From Jimmy Carr’s infamous gypsy gags to the aforementioned Micky Flanagan’s Nigerian accent on Mock The Week it seems all the battles won by the alternative comedians, identity politics and politically correct warriors of the 80s are being reversed. Anyone who follows Ricky Gervais on twitter will have seen the man responsible for the most important British sitcom of the past two decades resort to jokes about “mongs” and his hateful #ChavMum wheeze where a millionaire, white man made jokes about impoverished women. The disdain towards the poor and towards women – and the combination of poverty and femaleness that seemed to particularly irk Gervais given his 19th Century concerns about how sexually liberated the underclass were in comparison to the chaste ladies of the home counties – isn’t anything new in comedy. The public school irritants Little Britain’s arguably most famous creation was Vicky Pollard, a loud, uncouth caricature of what the pair thought of as Britain’s underclass. This phenomenon is well documented in Owen Jones’ excellent Chavs: The Demonisation Of The Working Class in which the Stockport-born holder of the fountain of eternal youth details how since the noughties reactions to the very poor in a number of areas – not least popular culture – has grown teeth-gnashingly vulgar.

I’m sure these comedians imagine their comedy to be edgy, to be actually thumbing its nose at the “politically correct establishment”. This is utter horseshit; sneering contempt towards “the lower orders” is as old as time itself and is the most conservative and privileged of occupations. The government in this country is right now actively at war with poor and disabled people and in this war it requires that the general public are heartless to their plight. Every time Gervais tweets a gag about Chav mums spending benefits on Stella, every time David Walliams puts on some sportswear and does a silly voice then the job of the most right-wing Government this country has suffered since the the war gets a little bit easier. These “controversial” comedians are not fighting against the establishment, they are stooges of the establishment, spineless shills for Cameron, Osborne and their crowd of braying millionaires in the cabinet.

So what’s to be done? Well firstly it might be sensible to review the man most people credit with fighting the last wave of unpleasantness in comedy. It is fashionable to imagine Ben Elton was never actually that relevant – Mark Steel put him into Room 101 for this very reason, observing, “he always use to say, ‘You know what we say about Thatcher down my end?’ And I always use to think, ‘she probably lives down your end’” – but I think this is a mistake. Observe this stand-up from 1981, which is doing the rounds online, taking apart the old hoary tropes from the dark days of 70s sitcoms. Elton deals with the offensive and crass innuendos that were commonplace in the day and ends with a raised fist warning, “sexism in comedy, watch out for it!” He looks like a bit of a twat because he’s Ben Elton, but at least he looks like a twat because he’s trying too hard. His targets were fair ones and his jokes broadly inclusive.

His new sitcom – The Wright Way – has been torn to shreds by pretty much every critic that reviewed it, perhaps most accurately being described as looking a bit like “When The Whistle Blows” from Extras by various people on twitter. The programme starts with the titular character exasperated at how long his daughter’s girlfriend is spending in the loo. “She’s a woman in the bathroom, she’s never finished” he admonishes his daughter. I mean fucking seriously, that sort of shit was old hat 40 years ago. The only thing of note is how the low-level “pfft, women eh? What are they like?” sexism compares with the more aggressive misogyny one might encounter in modern comedy, it’s sort of quaint when compared to the rohypnol and duct tape gags you will find at most comedy open mic’ nights. The “sit” of The Wright Way is the Health and Safety department of a local council. Those jokes that don’t involve women being innately ridiculous are centred on Daily Mail “Elf ‘n’ Safety” myths, meaning the whole thing looks a bit like a Richard Littlejohn column being acted out by sixth-form drama students who are aware that they are above this. It is also painfully unfunny, if you have not seen it I really cannot stress enough how cringe-inducingly weak much of the material is. I think if you showed this episode to the Durham Miners even they would concede that the wrong 80s icon died. Elton’s descent into this hackneyed conservative bilge is thoroughly depressing. To return to the great Stewart Lee who said. comparing the former doyenne of alternative comedy with the former doyenne of Islamic radicalism, “at least Bin Laden lived his life via a set of consistent ethical principles”.

So what is the answer? In Soviet countries the state media would broadcast poetry and opera at tea time, now I’m not saying state communism was a laugh, all the starvation and the gulags were no doubt pretty shitty, but it seems the free market gives us Andy Parsons. I’m not entirely sure that’s a trade-off we should necessarily be thrilled about.

But it’s a trade-off we have made so what is out there that you can do? Well you can do your best to support the great comedy that is out there. The American Louis CK’s stand-up is controversial but witty, contemplative and interesting. Sitcom-wise NBC’s Community is one of the most experimental and brilliant shows on television today with a perfect cast that means that the creator Dan Harmon’s vision is realised. Similarly its NBC compatriot Parks and Recreation – or Parks and Rec’ as the cool kids call it – is quite simply the warmest and most decent sitcom since Cheers. One of its stars Aubrey Plaza is an acclomplished comedian in her own right and star of the heart-achingly gorgeous indie/sci-fi Rom-com Safety Not Guaranteed. Here in Blighty Simon Amstell’s Numb and Do Nothing are both introspective masterpieces. Stewart Lee is hosting a cabal of brilliant acts as part of his Alternative Comedy Experience. Of those featured Isy Suttie, who I have mentioned, (and who also has a radio 4 show) and David Doherty are my favourites.

If we don’t? Take this excerpt from an incredibly interesting interview Ross Noble did with the Guardian,

There are young acts now tailoring their act so it’s short and punchy and can get on Live at the Apollo,” he laments. “There’s no space for someone starting now who wants to do what I do.” Be creative, in other words, and unorthodox.

After another few minutes of rambling, Noble conjures a dark vision for standup’s future. “We’ll have gone full circle, back to the shiny-suited, dickie-bow-tie stuff that alternative comedy first railed against. And in that post-apocalyptic world, I’ll be in goggles with a shotgun, driving around the wasteland, and there’ll be a TV show with someone who looks like Jim Bowen doing material that’s halfway between Frankie Boyle’s and Michael McIntyre’s.”

I don’t think I have Noble’s resolve or bravery, when that day comes I will be sat there like Winston Smith at the end of 1984.

“Two gin-scented tears trickled down the sides of his nose. But it was all right, everything was all right, the struggle was finished. He had won the victory over himself. He loved John Bishop.”

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A Rush Of Blood To The Head Is The Greatest Album Of All Time

Short post here, I was on twitter the other day and someone from the Guardian music team was asking for two-hundred words on why A Rush of Blood to the Head is the greatest album of all time.

I quickly dashed something off and e-mailed it to them. In the greatest musical injustice since Cliff Richard was denied a Eurovision win by Franco’s Spain I was not selected, this was.

Anyway, this is a slightly longer version of my actual entry.

It must be hard to not actually like music. It must be difficult when everyone else around you is on drugs dancing around to techno or furiously scribbling lyrics down in their homework diaries. You are essentially a social outcast, alienated by your inability to enjoy Marlena Shaw or Burial, you know people are laughing at you, you’ve heard them. Coldplay’s A Rush Of Blood To The Head is a Godsend to these desperate people. Inoffensive and bland, Coldplay are the band for people that just don’t get music.

Like the Iraq war A Rush of Blood To The Head was attributed by its architects to the September 11th terrorist attacks, bearing in mind Osama Bin Laden’s stated aim was the destruction of western culture it appears he has to some degree been successful. Coldplay’s output is so white and insipid it seems a shame the name “The Cardigans” was taken. But for some people that is all music will ever be, something to have on in the background whilst they discuss house prices. Martin’s lyrics are so banal they can apply to literally anything without ever challenging the listener to think. And thinking is difficult. Radio 2 listeners voted A Rush Of Blood To The Head as their favourite album and these people are allowed to exist and they have the right to be happy. Probably. So for making estate agents that pick their children up from school in Volvos slightly less miserable I think it is fair to call this the greatest album of all time.

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Chavez Dies Before International Women’s Day: Fox News Claims Proof He Is A Misogynist

Hugo Chavez, saint or sinner?

What a stupid fucking question, admittedly I asked it myself, but lots of other people seem to be asking the same question, and they’re fucking stupid for doing so.

It’s centred on a totally false dichotomy, that leaders can only be heroes or villains. The truth is Chavez was somewhere between the two.

Chavez’s claims for sainthood are obvious, the man took power in a country that served a tiny white elite and used the oil revenues to transform the lives of the disenfranchised poor. His subsidised supermarkets, free medical care and cheap gas for the poor changed the lives of millions. When people attack the Chavistas for their die-hard support for Chavez they never stop to think how it must feel to go hungry, to have an illness go untended. When someone remedies that then you do tend to end up with a serious amount of affection for them.

Whilst Chavez is not without his faults there is a great deal of hypocrisy involved in attacks on Chavez from the west. Some people attack him for compromising the independence of the judiciary. Yet those same people seem to the ones cheering on Theresa May for her war on judges over the Human Rights Act. Others attack him for consorting with dictators, and I am not going to deny that the “my enemy’s enemy is my friend” adage is anything less than stomach-churning. But 192 other countries engage in exactly the same form of realpolitick. Cameron chums around the Communist heads of China, sells weapons to Saudi Arabia and offers support for Al Qaeda affiliated fighters in Syria. Blair backed Mubarak and Gaddafi, Thatcher’s record on giving succour to human rights abusing dictators – and if you want to know what a real Latin American dictator looks like try Augusto Pinochet – is well documented. Furthermore Chavez’s detractor’s claim he has concentrated power too much in the hands of the executive, they do so on the same day that Obama grants himself judge, jury and executioner of both US citizens and foreigners. It was against this sort of egregious abuse of the executive that Bradley Manning was reacting when he leaked sensitive US data to WikiLeaks, a crime for which he will be tried – without a jury – and likely receive a punishment ensuring he will never see the outside of a prison cell again. It is against this sort of thinking that Rand Paul’s filibuster in protest at Obama’s new drone policy is taking place.

Some on the conservative right have even had the cheek to criticise him for cracking down on the trade unions. I honestly don’t know how these people have the nerve. And more to the point why does no-one in the room call them on their bullshit? When some tweed-wearing, whiskered Lord Tufton Bufton starts complaining about Chavez’s battles with some sections of the organised labour movement how does no-one just scream at them, “COS YOU’RE SUCH A FUCKING FAN OF THE UNIONS AREN’T YOU? YOU’RE A REGULAR RED ROBBO YOU!” and slap the shit out of them? Though admittedly that sort of behaviour might not land you a job as an interviewer for Auntie Beeb or a Parliamentary Researcher for the Honourable Member for Little Bigot on Thames, or wherever it is Tories are bred.

However there is a flipside to this, just because your opponents are hypocritical doesn’t mean they’re wrong. My GP regularly tells me to lose weight, curb my drinking and give up the fags. The fact he’s a chubby, drunk smoker doesn’t mean his advice is any less medically sound. Should I find myself meeting my maker in twenty or thirty years’ time due to diabetes, emphysema or one of my patented “amazing drunken adventures” going awry it would be difficult for me to explain the I shouldn’t be at the Pearly Gates just yet because I was no worse than those that sort to criticise me for my falstaffian self-indulgence.

Chavez centralised power in his own hands, turned a blind eye to corruption and consorted with some fairly unpleasant people. All of those things are wrong. Just because he lifted people out of poverty does not change that fact. Just because those who are going after him now are guilty of just as bad themselves does not excuse that fact.

So what do we say about Chavez? Ultimately I think he was a force for good for the vast majority of the Venezuelan people, as seen by the huge electoral victories he won.

RIP Chavez, a flawed but decent bloke.

International Women’s Day.

March the 8th is the birthday of Cheryl Baker, Gary Numan, Kat Von D and James van der Beek (facts that I knew myself and definitely didn’t Wikipedia) but it is also International Women’s Day. Personally I am in two minds about International Women’s Day. I’m certainly not one of those morons who goes “There’d be uproar if there was an International Men’s Day” or some odious shit like that, though you can check out Twitter for a host of entitled shitgibbons saying just that if you like. These same people will pop up at other times of the year and say things like “Black Policeman’s Federation, imagine if there was a White Policeman’s Federation” and “Wonder if the council would pay for a straight pride march?” and the only acceptable thing to do with these people is jab them in the eye with a fork. The most egregious of these comments is always, “If there’s a MOBOs award there should be a MOWOs award” because that shows that the person in question is not only an entitled idiot that is unable to understand how privileged they are in that there has never been a sufficient campaign of hatred against people like them to necessitate organisations which exist to provide a way of celebrating minority achievements. But worst still it shows that they think there should be another award that can be won by fucking Mumford and Sons.

In fact my main complaint with IWD (as I shall now call it to save my fingers) is that it seems like such a small thing. People get angry that women own a mere 1% of the world’s wealth yet seem to not be similarly bothered they own one three hundred and sixtyfifth of the Gregorian calendar. That means women – Joan D’Arc, Debbie Harry, my mum, Jane Austen, the lead singer from Blondie, Golda Meier, Madonna, Boudicca and whoever it was that sang One Way Or Another  – are deemed by calendars to be as worthwhile as people that talk like a pirate, a number of people which has year on year been steadily decreasing since the 17th Century. (Though admittedly there has been an upsurge since the breakdown of Government in Somalia has led to the destruction of the fish stocks and dumping of nuclear waste which had previously fed their people forcing some into hostage-taking as a means of making a living.) But whilst it’s not a perfect state of affairs that the world’s 3billion plus women are considered no more important than deceased Cornish actor Robert Newton, it is certainly better than nothing.

So what should we do with this important day? If you’re a boss of a multinational corporation you could try paying men and women the same wages, just for today as a bit of an experiment. If you live near Seth McFarlane you could punch him in his smug face for his lazy, hackish, misogynist turn at the Oscars. If you write for the website “UniLad” you could try not advocating sexual violence against women and describing inebriated teenage girls as “vulnerable”. If you fancy a doing a bit of AgitProp you could wear a purple and green sash, wave a Votes for Women placard and pour a Findus Lasagne over your head to recreate the tragic demise of Suffragette martyr Emily Davison; a woman that before meeting an early end at the hooves of the King’s horse at the Grand National is believed to have played a part in blowing up David Lloyd George’s house.

If you want some better suggestions then I would suggest reading blogs on the subject by Sarah McAlpine, Laurie Penny, Ellie Mae O’Hagan and a host of other excellent female writers whose conciousness raising polemics I have personally benefitted from in enabling to see the world outside my narrow window of privelege.

Personally I will be listening to Riot Grrl! groups all day. If you’d like to join me and you’re not acquainted with the genre may I suggest starting with the brilliant Bikini Kill, particularly Rebel Girl from the album Pussy Whipped which I am listening to as I type these very words.

However you choose to spend this IWD understand it for what it is; a very small attempt to balance society slightly more in favour of a group that is still demonised, objectified, harassed, besmirched, belittled and ignored.

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Murdoch Revamps Page 3 With Glamorous Fashionistas For Necrophiliacs

It’s often difficult to know what to get someone for their birthday. Will your sister appreciate a Coldplay CD? For her the sake of her musical tastes you may hope not, but they’re selling cheap at ASDA. Does granddad want a book about Nat King Cole? He’s into crooners but he’s also into the BNP. And as for mum, Baileys or Harvey’s Bristol Cream – what does one drink with Valium?

Thankfully the good people at the Sun newspaper have created a product that anybody would appreciate, a chance to see themselves on the front page of the Sun with a personalised faux-news story about their upcoming birthday. Usually to get mentioned on the front page of the Sun you have to do something special, like be an Argentinian conscript serving on the Belgrano before it was illegally sunk during the Falklands, or get crushed to death at a football match as a result of police incompetence, or even have your life tragically cut short by a gun wielding Paralympian. Though to be fair the last one only works if you’ve got decent tits and there are some pictures available of you in a bikini.

But fortunately all one need do now is go onto the Sun’s website and type in your name, age and location and the Sun will happily mock up a front page for you. In fact I doubt you even have to visit the website, another way might be to leave your order on the voicemail of a dead schoolgirl and wait for a Sun journalist to get back to you.

It is easy to why so many people would want to be associated with the Sun and its brand that for millions of Britons sums up all that is best about Fleet Street. This is the paper that with Woodward and Bernstein-esque investigative journalism has run such seminal stories as “STRAIGHT SEX CANNOT GIVE YOU AIDS – OFFICIAL” and uncovered the secret activities off swan munching asylum seekers.

There you have it a bespoke front-page fit to feature in any home. Well, except any homes that contain the gay mafia, scrounging benefits claimants, dinosaur trade unionists, looney-lefties, hairy-man-hating feminists, job-stealing immigrants or people with any fucking moral compass at all.

In fact some people really don’t like the Sun. One of these people is the Guardian’s Marina Hyde who has written an article for Comment is Free that were I not, let’s say, affecting authorial voice in order to satirise the Sun newspaper and its politics, I might be tempted to describe as one of the best pieces of polemical journalism I have read in far too long.

Toby Young however understands the appeal of the Sun, to people who find violence against women gives them erections, and speaks dismissively of “rabid” “lefties” engaging in “tomfoolery” for their opposition to a recently deceased woman being used as wank fodder.

TORIES NOT FIT TO BE PARENTS SAYS GAYS

A group of gay men have caused controversy today with their remarks on the right of Conservatives to be parents.

In what their supporters are calling ‘a good day for common sense’ the homosexuals have taken issue with what they see as the increasing manner in which trendy political correctness has trumped the right of children to be bought up in a safe manner.

“Look at Margret Thatcher, how can you tell me she was honestly capable of creating a loving or caring environment” said Ross Westgrave, a 28-year old graphic designer and penis fan from Hackney.  “And it shows, Mark Thatcher’s basically Flashman without the charm, trying to lead military coups in countries he can’t spell. As for his sister Carol, what a racist shit-for-brains she is.”

“I can hear the critics now, describing us as Toryphobes who just need to get with the 19th Century” said another male phallophile, Rhys Murphy, a 41-year old plumber living in Ardwick. “But I actually have a Tory friend, I don’t mind them, as long as they’re not one of those Tories that come out of the closet and start acting differently, wearing tweed, jabbing single mothers in the eye and basically living up to the stereotype.”

“What people need to realise is just because being a Tory is acceptable in the Shires for a lot of kids in the cities or the North coming from a Tory family could lead to a lot of playground bullying.”

The remarks have caused a buzz on twitter where Tim Montgomery of ConservativeHome has presumably waffled on for a bit before posting a blog by Nadine Dorries from his site.

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