I Don’t Want Your Freedom

There’s no doubt about it that new media has its upsides. For one, it provides knobbers like me with an arena to espouse ridiculous opinions and frame it like a potty-mouthed Mussolini for strangers who aren’t arsed and don’t agree. For another, you get to see things like 15-second videos of Idris Elba doing sit-ups and for me that’s entirely justified the Internet and everything on it.

You get to know about news events before the national news teams report it, and you get to see celebrities writing pissed up rants, deleting them, apologising for them, and then doing it again. Everyone’s a winner.

But there are, of course, intrinsic flaws in new technology that make for some horrific and seemingly inescapable trauma.

The first is that knobbers like me have an arena to espouse ridiculous opinions like a potty-mouthed Mussolini. And the second is that this new information landscape is difficult to navigate. The important things get lost. There are a myriad of dissenting voices, but only the powerful, hegemonic voices survive the malaise.

There are some notable exceptions. I mentioned The London Riots in a previous blog, which were partly mobilised because of social network activity and there are some great voices and political positions I’ve only ever heard from via the internet, but nonetheless I think the point remains.

For me, one of the most troubling outcomes of social media has been the reinforcement of Western Islamophobia.

There just seems to be great swathes of people who have a warped conception of Islam and Muslims, and because new media operates so insidiously, many of these people think they hate Muslims for entirely rational, logical and ethical reasons and that their position on Muslims came from their own experiences of them, which usually just isn’t true.

Islamophobia isn’t a new thing, of course. Edward Said wrote in his academic discourse of ‘Orientalism’ and the power of positioning people from the East as of ‘The great other’ – something different. Unlike us. To be feared and reviled in equal measure and as of having fundamentally different views to the rest of us.

This is an important message that has served Western governments well when trying to persuade us to go to war for oil, and framing it within a fictional premise of a potential for weapons of mass destruction, or when supporting Israel and funding their mass genocide, or when trying to contextualise Bin Laden in such a way that negates the fact they have previously funded him.

In addition to the most powerful governments in the world manipulating ordinary people into believing Muslims aren’t like us, there is a second reinforcement of Islamophobia from Nazis. The UKIPs, BNPs, Tea Parties, Tories and just general fascist arseholes whose hatred is not just restricted to Islam, but for whom Islam is a fantastic and culturally endorsed scapegoat. The seemingly constant and intellectually stunted bandying around of words like ‘Sharia Law’ by people who know little of it, is relatively new, profoundly disturbing and further evidence of the growing culture of animosity. Most of the founding laws in Europe and America were based on Christian religious scripture. Muslims themselves are divided – secularists, traditionalists and modernist – on a great many issues.

The mistreatment and murder of women and homosexuals is not something that is pertinent to Islam. As is demonstrated in Russia, the USA and Europe every day of every year.

Perhaps the most troubling thing for me is a new third-wave branch of Islamophobia. The neo-liberal assertion of Freedom of Speech, as espoused around the recent Charlie Hebdo attacks.

Freedom of Speech is important to me. Vitally important. Not least because it allows me an arena for my potty-mouthed Mussolini points of view. But I question everyone’s conception of freedom.

How free are ordinary, decent Muslim people when they must first suffer the huge and numerous political attacks upon them by Western Governments who put oil and money before the lives of hundreds of thousands of Muslim people globally? When they live here – sometimes as a consequence of aforementioned mistreatment, sometimes as nationals – they are persecuted for their religious identity. They go to the cinema and every second film is a Hollywood interpretation of their ‘otherness, violence and incivility’ – see Argo, American Sniper et al. They go on social media sites and are confronted with distorted understandings of Islam presented in a way to escalate fear and hatred. They see support for one-policy Nazi parties whose entire identity is built around sustaining, maintaining and creating a climate of prejudice.

And another thing; each time there is an Islamic Fundamentalist terror attack the Muslim community are criticised for not being vehement enough in their condemnation of said attack.

I don’t remember Christians being asked to go on television and apologise for sectarian bombings. Nor should they. It’s implied.

Which brings us back to Charlie Hebdo.

Freedom of Speech is important. Satire is also important. It pricks at the conscience of the powerful and it has the power to provoke and stimulate conversation, which can result in beneficial change. I think everyone should be a target for satire, including the religious.

I just don’t feel that attacking the personal beliefs of a group of already marginalised people is proper satire. First decent Muslims get fucked over by laws that undermine, murder and persecute them and then they face the further indignity of a second image of the Prophet Mohammed as some sort of internationally agreed code for global unity against terror? No.

The world has decided that the best way to fight hate is with more hate, and it’s this hate that will make for a better future for us all? No, thanks.

Satire is about socking it to the man. Not socking it to the persecuted on behalf of the man.

If we want to critique religion, I’m in. I won’t do it in the Ricky Gervais, professional atheist way, because it’s dull, condescending and doesn’t take into account that people who rely on religion are often doing so in the poorest of countries, after centuries of tradition and deserve a discussion, not derision.

But if we’re just looking to attack one religion, continuing to not identify their wrongful persecution, not reporting attacks on them properly, and frame it as a crusade for freedom? Je ne suis pas Charlie.


Katie Fucking Hopkins

There’s no two ways about it; I love shit telly. I’ve always loved shit telly, and I will continue to love shit telly. My friends often tell me that there are worthier pursuits, and there are, but I love the inordinate sense of pleasure I derive from watching people be dicks for my entertainment.

Partly because I’m also a dick. But mostly because, so are you.

Every single thing we ever watch on television is entirely weighted by political and socio-economic burden, so you may at well be watching Animals Do the Funniest Things, as opposed to an art house documentary, because neither are pure and polar bears are funny as fuck when they slip.

I’m not even trying to justify my watching of this year’s Celebrity Big Brother, because I always watch it and one year George Galloway wore a leotard and pretended to lick milk out of a purring Rula Lenska’s hands, and that’s entertainment in anyone’s book.

I think sometimes though, you have to look at the freak show and rule yourself out.

I’m there.

It’s been just over a week and I’ve watched a televised sexual assault, racial abuse, predatory sexual behaviour and relentless bullying, and at some point you have to object to a platform for Katie Hopkins.

Here’s (part of) the problem with having a vehicle for Katie Hopkins:

Big Brother is a popularity contest and Katie Hopkins is a Nazi.

Freedom of Speech seems to be the topic of the moment (next blog), nonetheless lines need to be drawn.

Abu Hamza might do a cracking Katy Perry impression, and perhaps Pinochet had a heart of gold after a couple of bottles of vino and would’ve got in the hot tub with his dick out. I wouldn’t want to know though, because I’m unwilling to look past their failings.

And let’s talk about those failings.

She called Palestinians filthy rodents and endorsed Israeli bombing.

She recently tweeted “Little sweaty jocks, sending us Ebola bombs in the form of sweaty Glaswegians just isn’t cricket. Scottish NHS sucks.”

She’s claimed she wouldn’t employ a fat person.

She hates the unemployed.

She works for The Sun.

On that basis, she’s legitimately abhorrent.

She preys on the scared and the disenfranchised, because people who hold reactionary views tend to be those of us most in need. And because those people are aspirational, they see someone with a posh accent, as ‘classy.’ So it works as a sort of double-pronged success.

What happens in Big Brother is that people are judged primarily on their behaviour for three weeks, and usually this operates in almost total isolation from their way of living.

This means people like Jim Davidson win Big Brother, despite having a racist act for 30 years and generally being a massive cunt.

One could argue that I’m demonstrating sour grapes towards Davidson – and I am – but the point remains.

In the scheme of things, it’s no great shakes if Hopkins wins Big Brother, but I just don’t want to be a part of it.

In the first few episodes – and there was much to be offended about – one of the most offensive suggestions was that Hopkins is clever.

If she were clever she wouldn’t be fucking around on Channel 5 with a couple of Page Three Girls and Keith fucking Chegwin.

None of the intellectual powerhouses in Great Britain have ever, EVER sat down and argued the misfortunate social scourge that is parents naming their children Tyler.

Never.

Nor will they.

Neither is she employed (which in itself is a sin) to espouse, “What we’re all thinking, but too scared to say.”

Not until I hear her say “My career is a vehicle of hate, because it earns me money and yields me an attention I revel in,  and because I’m fundamentally deeply unhappy and desperate for the approval of dick.”

I don’t care about Katie Hopkins’ pleasant, softer side in the same way I didn’t care Hitler was a vegetarian, dog-lover.

Just not arsed.

It’s possibly true that Katie’s hatred of fat is as a consequence of her own patriarchal slavishness to be considered attractive, which is fully demonstrated by the endless coquettish giggles and pouts.

It also might be true that she doesn’t believe what she’s saying and is instead just trying to earn a living by being the pantomime villain.

The point is that she is a filthy embodiment of attributes any humane, thinking person would object to.

Big Brother is giving Hopkins the opportunity to demonstrate her party trick – and she’ll win or lose on that basis – when she shouldn’t have been invited to the fucking party.


I Am The Mob

I wrote a blog about Ched Evans a while ago, and I didn’t want to then. I’m now writing a follow-up, and I particularly don’t want to now.

Nonetheless; I’m a minority, lefty, feminazi, vitriolic, brainless, bra-burning, anti-democratic, clueless, useless, hopeless, slaggy, tree-hugging, hippy, loony, man-hating, fully-paid-up-member-of-mob-rule-party slut and… hey, this is what we do.

As I type – and the media narrative changes hourly – Oldham Athletic Football Club have decided not to sign Ched Evans after days of public wrangling. When announcing their decision, they decided to do so by deriding the abuse they had received during aforementioned days of wrangling over the decision of whether or not to hire a rapist with an unspent conviction, who remains on license, has been convicted in a court of law, has lost two subsequent criminal appeals and is currently being fast-tracked for a review into said conviction.

The alleged death and rape threats strike me as a stark and rather contradictory position to that of people who are opposed to wanting sex offenders to play professional football, which is a role that involves community work and is therefore pertinent to the conviction. There is indeed a cynical part of me that believes that those supportive of Ched Evans’ reinstatement into professional football would have more to gain from anonymous death and rape threats to footballing professionals, than those opposed to it. But in any case – wouldn’t it have been a glowing indictment of humanity if OAFC had represented many of their other fans by publically condemning rape and sexual violence within the same statement?

I think, whatever your position, one cannot help, but concede that a great number of those within sport have done a sterling job at demonising great swathes of the British public, and – in many ways – positioning both Evans and indeed football executives and controlling bodies as victims.

There is little to be said on the case that has not yet been said. But I think there are some conclusions to be drawn from the last four years that are profoundly important.

Since I’m depressed about the entire issue, I’ll start with the good shit.

There have been some incredibly brave football journalists and fans who have stuck their heads above the parapet and have openly, robustly, and articulately spoken out against misogyny and then defended their decision, in the face of overwhelming adversity.

Part of the reason Rape Culture – in football and in society as a whole – is so successful is because it operates insidiously and in tiny, almost unperceivable ways as well as in huge, heinous ways like rape.

So when a football journalist (especially when they are male, but in either case) openly criticises the behaviours of football executives, players, managers or fans this can have a tangible and profound effect on their career. They might not get invited to certain press conferences, they threaten relationships with contacts they have who may give them important information at clubs, and – in addition – they may face polarising their audience for whom it would be much easier to write transfer rumours and dressing room banter pieces. Or they could have taken a third route – as many journalists have – and written a non-committal, “two sides to every story” piece that reflects the story, but does so in a way as to not threaten their own position.

Therefore it really is a powerful, important and brave thing to do to take a stand that rejects the footballing establishment’s thus far callous and immoral handling of the whole affair.

Ok, that’s it. That’s all I can do for positivity.

There are a few things that are deeply worrying that I haven’t addressed in my previous blog that I’d like to highlight here.

The first is Gordon Taylor.

Gordon Taylor likened the Hillsborough Tragedy yesterday, to the Ched Evans case. That is, the smearing of an entire city by the media, a massive government cover-up of the gross negligence of the Police, resulting in 96 deaths; being measured against a man being sent to prison for raping a teenage girl.

Even if – and money makes the fucking world go around – Ched somehow manages to get his conviction overturned retrospectively (a long shot made shorter by the amount of money being thrown at it for big name lawyers, but nonetheless a long shot), the cases are so magnificently incomparable as to be a vile and disgusting desecration of those that lost their lives, and the very fact a person would have it within his capabilities to compare the two, speaks volumes about his desperation and morality. How dare this person speak of the uncivilised behaviour of those campaigning for a rape survivor in the very same statement!

Gordon has made no secret of the fact that he believes Ched Evans should play football again on license. He’s also made some very pertinent remarks about the possibility of Ched’s innocence, which lack impartiality and pragmatism, and shows utter disregard for the continuous suffering the survivor in this case has endured, which has been heavily documented.

And let’s make no bones about this; I don’t believe Gordon Taylor or indeed any of the managers who allegedly anonymously offered their support to the Oldham Athletic board to sign Evans have any special affection for him.

It’s not about Evans. It’s just about cash.

Football executives do not want to have to lose money as a consequence of the criminal behaviour of any of their footballers and the real crux of this is that they don’t want Evans’ case to set a new precedent in which – heaven forbid – football fans might have a right to hold the people whose wages they pay accountable for their behaviour.

It’s not lucrative.

Let’s Kick Racism Out of Football, their campaign screamed.

Until of course that meant preventing top flight defenders and strikers play football, which meant profit losses and unhappy sponsors and yanks and Russian businessmen and all sorts of complicated executive meetings involving numbers of middle-aged white men panicking about television rights and losing their summer houses in the fucking Algarve.

And then it becomes, “Everyone deserves a second chance” and, “How can we magic criminal abuse into a seven match ban, lads?”

And they do it. Because there’s too much money involved for them not to do it.

Which brings me to my second point.

It’s great, but –ethically speaking – the only acceptable course of action to withdraw sponsorship of a club considering hiring a rapist on license. Mecca and Zen deserve perhaps minimal respect for their decision to do so, given that their decision was almost certainly motivated by money at some level. Nonetheless, to use their economic strength in a way that denounces sexual violence is to be applauded.

Conversely, Mike Ashley owner of Sports Direct who declined to publically withdraw sponsorship and is rumoured to have privately supported Evans’ signing to the club, only further typifies the footballing establishment (Ashley owns and part owns other football clubs) and their institutional failure to adhere to supporting women and decent football fans, in favour of the dollar.

You can bet your life that the talks that took place at any of the football clubs that have been reported to have considered signing Evans at any point since his release have not involved great numbers of women, have not included representatives for organisations committed to ending sexual violence and have been more of a “How can we sign Evans without a furore?” as opposed to a “How can we help Ched understand what constitutes rape and make sure he doesn’t do it again?”

Which brings me on to my last point.

Ched Evans’ clearly forced statement which claims he objects to the victimisation of the person he is convicted of raping is at direct odds with the website his family and friends established that serves to further ridicule, pour scorn on, dehumanise and subjugate his survivor.

I had the misfortune to read some of it, which includes a letter from another rape survivor who discredits and humiliates the woman who has been proven in a court of law to have been raped. And other hideous chapters about Evans that position him more as a wrongly-imprisoned Mandela, than a thick, Welsh rapist.

It’s one of the most disgusting, indefensible and deplorable texts I have ever witnessed.

It shows such a blatant disregard for women, their sexual agency, their emotional value and such a stunted and medieval conception of what constitutes sexual violence, that reading it becomes not just an intensely saddening experience, but also a frightening one.

It does however, cast some light as to the sort of reasoning and lack of basic humanity that could have prompted Ched to commit his crime in the first place.

Every day we must think primarily of the suffering endured by Ched’s survivor and the many thousands of women who are raped.

And not just raped, but victimised for reporting it.

And then their supporters must face victimisation and bold, relentless, commercial, corporate, institutional condemnation in a variety of ways; on social media, at the pub, down the shops, in the office… because objecting to rape, objecting to disproportional favourable employment opportunities for men who rape, objecting to the team you pay money to go and watch play football twice a week consisting of a rapist and a board of people paying him makes you a slag, a hippy, a loony, a lefty, a feminazi, a do-gooder, a liberal, a slut, a man-hater and part of the mob.

PS Someone robbed and rehashed my first Ched Evans blog if you’d like to read it in a slightly shittier format. Don’t say I never give you owt:

https://ballsthecat.wordpress.com/2014/10/17/baby-its-cold-outside/


God Bless Us, One and All…

It doesn’t matter what sort of life you have carved out for yourself –nice friends, an active social life, a home you like living in, a lovely little long-term romantic relationship, a stylish wardrobe, a full gym membership, respectful colleagues, a fabulous coffee maker – it all goes to absolute shit when you are once again surrounded by a group of your extended relatives.

Yes, there are people who have to face Christmas without family, or money, or alone, or in the wake of terminal illness, in war, or after a close bereavement. Their pain – of course -is much deeper and more profound than those of us who just had to face the hideous onslaught of familial criticism and Mrs Brown’s Boys.

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That being said; my family can go and fuck themselves.

It started on Christmas Eve.

The eight additional adults and two additional children I was welcoming into my home –six of whom only left today (2nd January) – entered the house on Christmas Eve in the early afternoon and by half six my mother was crying.

What terrible injustice had she been served on this, the sacred annual celebration of the Eve before Christ’s birth? I’d put half a tablespoon of Garam Masala in a three-litre quantity of a Jamie Oliver Parsnip Soup recipe.

My mother had requested Parsnip Soup some six weeks before Christmas, because she’s on a ridiculous protein diet and wanted something (and I quote) “to look forward to” so I scoured the fucking internet, shopped for the fucker, and found myself going next door to borrow a fucking blender from my twatty next door neighbours to accommodate her request.

You’ll just have to take my word for how ill suited I am to the role of middle-class soup maker. I don’t even like soup.

My mother and I have lived on some of the shittest council estates in Greater Manchester, and the monumental personal difficulty I experienced whilst reading Jamie’s mockney recipe instructions (and subsequent twee “soup community forum” comments), buying organic vegetable stock and swallowing my pride and knocking on next door’s for an implement I wasn’t sure they possessed and didn’t know how to use was my little Christmas present to her. And how was I repaid?

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She wailed about Christmas being ruined “You KNOW I don’t like curry!” (once again, half a teaspoon of Garam Masala in three litres of fluid, akin to pissing in a swimming pool) in front of my six year old kid, and that pretty much set the tone for Christmas.

Christmas Day went the way it went in pretty much every household in Britain. Those that should have been drunk, weren’t, and those that shouldn’t ever drink, were hammered by half four.

My mother wore a white tuxedo, obviously. My brothers (early thirties) hijacked the computer games console and then spent two and a half hours sulking about a perceived injustice pertaining to the result of said game. Three quarters of an hour were spent barking pidgin Italian to foreign relatives down the phone. I cooked the dinner, served the dinner, cleared up after the dinner and washed the dining receptacles totally unaided. My brother’s girlfriend gave my stepdad a sort of lap dance. My other brother had a row with my mother about paedophile priests and the lunacy of organised religion, and at one point my mum came down in my dressing gown which was definitely in my bedroom, folded up in the drawer underneath my sex toys.

Since Christmas Day I have been to Yorkshire for a couple of days and my family STAYED. In my house. I wasn’t there. They all live up the road.

On New Year’s Eve when – for a fleeting moment – everyone seemed amiable and in reasonably high spirits my ma did this thing she does when she’s not the centre of attention and asked us all to remember dead people who weren’t there. In the epicentre of a moment of global enforced sentimentality and morose retrospection, my mother harnessed the mood and brought it squarely back to her and her sequinned fucking body con dress. And, you know, in a way you have to admire the plucky fucker.

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We also spent an arduous afternoon in an Italian restaurant on New Year’s Day, which involved my brother’s girlfriend wearing only a bra on her upper torso, and my mother asking if they had any gluten-free coconut cake. They didn’t.

But going back to the original point, it’s not about family specifics or race or class or gender. Whenever you return to your family, you’ll always be whatever role they have carved out for you from an early age.

If you’re the selfish cunt, you’ll always be the selfish cunt to them, whether you spend your life volunteering for Oxfam and saving dead seals, or not. If you’re the lovely one, like say, my youngest brother, you could spend your days butchering small children and still be saved the turkey breast and given the last Quality Street Purple One.

Which sort of explains Russell Brand and Miley Cyrus.

So chin up, selfish cunts and next year – go on holiday.


How to Currie Favour

It takes a very special level of cunt to be able to go on television and say to a much younger reality television personality that they should live their lives for other people, when they effectively handed the keys of a hospital to a paedophile who went on to sexually abuse many of the patients in his care.

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I mean, that is next-level cuntery, surely?

 

All those cunts in the cunt factory and she’s managed to edge right in front by stating that she felt it wrong for aforementioned personality to leave her kids for three weeks to go on telly, when she was once Health Secretary and is quoted as saying, ‘Good Christian people don’t get AIDS…”

 

For those of you with better things to do, I’m talking about Edwina Currie appearing on this year’s “I’m a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here!” on ITV1.

 

Sweet Christ, she’s evil.

 

Most of us would hide away if we’d positioned the most notorious paedophile in British history in a place he went on to abuse great numbers; not Edwina.

 

She also once suggested old people who couldn’t afford their heating bills should “…wrap up warm in winter.” That’s the sort of monumental bell end we’re dealing with.

 

It’s no great surprise to any of us that Edwina Currie is a Tory woman.

 

Tory women are – without exception – the enemy of other women, never ever feminists, and are amongst the biggest man-pleasers on the planet.

 

I don’t like reducing any group of women to their gender, but right-wing women are an exception.

 

All of them – Dorries to Thatcher to Currie to Hopkins to Mensch -live for the approval of dick.

 

Even if you were looking for another explanation for women to be actively involved in a political identity that actively serves to undermine, marginalize and negate them, and do so fervently; coquettish giggles (Currie and Hopkins do it identically) and parliamentary love affairs give the fucking game away.

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It’s a more advanced version of when women pretend to be gay and snog on nightclub dancefloors so that surrounding dickheads will find them more desirable.

 

Tory women protect and defend the notion of capitalism, which is inherently misogynist – and claim the feminist act is merely the fact that they’re doing it surrounded by men – because, and it’s absolutely fucking obvious, the middle-aged white men who benefit from their brand of politics are their target audience.

Mensch admits cosmetic surgery

 

They use right-wing politics as a glorified, “I’m not like other women” statement.

 

Fucking right you’re not.

 

And don’t get me wrong, this isn’t slut-shaming. I don’t give a shit about who or how they’ve fucked – not even Currie’s four year affair with Major (although it’s rich after her outdated morality preaching) – and I won’t get into an arena where I’ll criticize the way they look or how they parent.

 

I’ll leave that to the likes of them.

 

But I simply cannot let it go unsaid that Tory women are almost identical in temperament and motive. And Currie is no exception.

 

There’s no doubt about it that when commentators wrongly identify a right-wing woman as a feminist, it hurts more. I feel sadder when someone with a fanny subscribes to ideas that make things harder for both themselves, and me. But I reconcile myself with the fact that they’re much bigger victims of patriarchy than I, and if the pursuit of the D is that important to them – and it clearly is – it’s just another reason for the rest of us to fight.

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Fuck me, that Currie is a jeb though…


Waiting for Black Friday

You don’t need another blog about how intrinsically prejudiced Hollywood is and, frankly, I can’t be arsed writing one. But my last two cinema trips have just been so profoundly depressing, on a number of levels, I have to offload.

 

Lord knows, there are enough People of Colour speaking articulately and vehemently enough on the subject of race in cinema, but I’m left wondering for how many more decades we have to endure this shit before anything changes.

 

There are greater racial injustices in the world than a media that doesn’t seem to want to include non-whites at any significant level in production, as has been demonstrated by yet another policeman escaping conviction, after killing yet another innocent black teen in the US this week.

 

Nonetheless, I feel like being able to enjoy a film that doesn’t serve the interests of PoC, in any way – all white production, disposable and superficial characters that play on reductive, white interpretations and a sanitised politics that reduce complex political issues into neo-liberal sound bites for middle-America – is impossible.

 

And each time I watch a film that has failed PoC – and consequently, everyone – I’m met with other white people arguing that attempting to insert an interesting black character into the film wouldn’t be right for it, or would be tokenism, or not reflective of reality.

 

Let’s be basic – taking aside the fact that U.S. Cultural Imperialism is, in itself, racist (the world sees the U.S., the U.S. never sees the world) – more than 22% of the US isn’t white. Which is vastly disproportional to those who act in mainstream film (only 12 Black Actors, male and female, had won Oscars up until 2009) and catastrophically out of synch with those who produce and commission it.

 

If nearly a quarter of Americans never see themselves fully realised by non-white actors, who are positioned by non-white directors, written by non-white writers and then promoted and governed by non-white executives, then the truth is that those people are being effectively excluded from true engagement. And I can’t enjoy that.

 

I have seen films at the cinema that aren’t white and managed to engage, you’re right. Bollywood films, for example. But I see those films within a U.S. dominated malaise, and it forms part of a larger range of film in which I regularly see white people. I have that option. Plus white people rule the fucking world, so it’s not the same. I can console myself with a reality in which I’m twice as likely to be employed and all the other statistical atrocities I enjoy because of a combination of melatonin and hate.

 

I went to see Nolan’s new film – and I like Nolan films – and whilst it was wildly scientifically inaccurate and starred the talentless Hathaway (give it up, Chris, she’s not gonna shag you), it was pretty dynamic and watchable. But can we ever say a film is great anymore when you know the one significant black actor in the entire fucking thing will definitely die?

 

No. You just can’t in 2014.

 

No film that has one black character in it, who dies in the first half of the film can ever be great.

 

At what point do all these white executives and casting directors sit around the table in 2014 and go,

 

“OK so we have Hathaway in trying to persuade us that love is a tangible scientific force akin to gravity, right? We’ve spent six million pounds on special effects and we have a sinister twist with a big-name surprise? You know what we need now, don’t you? A black guy. How about this character with no back story, no redeeming features and a sudden, unemotional death in the first half?”

“Perfect!”

 

I know this isn’t the only film to do it. In fact, so commonplace is the non-white character’s demise that it has become a recurring joke in the rest of popular culture. Yet here we are, with a new fucking blockbuster, and the same tired and depressing inevitability.

 

Then I saw the new James Brown Biopic – Get On Up.

 

If you’re not a fan of the music of James Brown, I’ll pray for you.

 

The actor who plays James Brown – Chadwick Boseman – is absolutely perfect and as anyone who has seen Brown’s performances can attest, to portray him well is a significant feat.

 

It’s a fucking brilliant film. A stellar cast, comprising mostly black actors and Dan Ackroyd as Brown’s long-time manager and friend. The soundtrack should make you sob with it’s sheer majesty and despite the clunky narrative (Brown was a wildly eccentric individual with a lot of story to fit in), there is so much tenderness and beauty in it, you’d have to have a nerve of steel not to be moved.

 

However.

 

Despite living in an era of extreme racial tension, being the Godfather of Funk, and growing up in dire poverty to become the most sampled musician of all time; Brown was also a complex, troubled and flawed icon. He beat his wives, was greedy, made some terrible political decisions (including endorsing Nixon and befriending Reagan) and once shot a gun in an insurance company because someone had used his personal toilet.

 

But, hey, don’t they want you to fucking know it?

 

It took around a decade for this film to ever be made despite it being such a significant one – it was being mooted before Brown died in 2006 – which is much the same length of time it took for them to make Ray – the Ray Charles biopic starring Jamie Foxx. And now that it is made, they have certainly shown us the warts and all version of Brown, despite some of his drug abuse, politics and violence being tempered.

 

We certainly know by the end of the film that Brown was flawed. Because, heaven forefend, we’re allowed to focus on his incredible music legacy – inclusive of the “I’m Black and I’m Proud” anthem -and the pathways he opened for other musicians, of all races.

 

Speaking of which, Mick Jagger is the producer of this film. Which marks my major problem with it. The film is directed by Tate Taylor – the white fella who also directed The Help (Hm…) – written by two white men, and produced by Jagger who apparently owns the rights to this film, for some reason.

 

That’s Mick Jagger of The Rolling Stones, who, much like The Beatles in their early career, copied (in some cases directly covering) early black Rock n Roll musicians like Little Richard, Chuck Berry, and indeed, Brown, which is essentially the reason for their fame and fortune.

 

This is the same Rolling Stones who have members who fucked people under sixteen, when they were very much over 16.

 

Why couldn’t black people have MADE this film? This story belongs to black people.

 

The fucking travesty of Jagger stealing a genre of music, then years later re-packaging it into another creative project to peddle back to the people he stole it from, irks me.

 

I like the music of The Rolling Stones. This isn’t about The Rolling Stones. This is about the fact that non-white people are the best authors of their own stories.

 

The world is racist, so cinema is racist. I know. I get it.

 

But prevailing popular culture informs and shapes society, and if you’re enjoying racist creations, you’re pretty much racist.

 

And we all don’t want to be racist. I’ve discovered that on Social Media.

 

“How dare you call me racist!” says the racist every day on Twitter and Facebook.

 

What racists don’t understand is that racism isn’t just about having a black mate at work, or Asian spouse, or words used on social network sites. Racism is a doing word; an activity. It’s not just about overt exclusion, or inclusivity. It’s about complicity. If you’re enjoying something non-whites are deliberately and meticulously excluded from and you don’t overtly object to or question it; you’re the problem. There needs to be a fucking good reason for an all white lead cast, and there rarely – if ever – is one.

 

The truth is, as I’ve previously outlined, this topic is too huge and important to be fully addressed in one blog. It’s also an issue that is far better articulated and expressed by people who aren’t white, and I’m white.

 

But it’s the duty of all of us to start questioning – at every fucking turn – just why it is people who aren’t white are never anything more than what White Hollywood wants them to be. Fighting for a rightful place in cultural production is absolutely an agenda for non-whites. But objecting to that exclusion is a duty of us all.

 

Fuck Hollywood, and, if you think this is PC nit-picking, fuck you too.

 

 


Papa Needs a Brand New Brand

The thing about Russell Brand is, he’s not a bad fella. I have no doubts that his motives are well-intentioned, if a little (lot) self-serving. His clumsy manifesto seems routed in a genuine humanity and – at times – is well researched, and supported by some strong academic discourse.

 

Also, it’s pretty easy to pour scorn on Brand. He’s a character who admits to his own gargantuan ego, and said ego permeates every facet of his over-worked performance. He’s overbearing, smug, over-stylised, self-satisfied and seems to lack any sort of humility whatsoever, which is at odds with his frequent verbal attempts to be self-deprecating, in a false, “I think this, this and this [showboat face] but what do I know, Guv?” sort of way.

 

Despite all of this, there is something likeable about him. He is genuinely witty and robustly articulate, which has stood him in good stead when arguing with right-wingers and generally proffering his new-found revolutionary spoutings.

 

He’s managed to beguile Jeremy Paxman, Katy Perry and even some yank filmmakers, and there is no denying – even if you aren’t won over by his 19th century porno-pirate costume – that he does have some charismatic charm.

2011 MTV Video Music Awards Arrivals(2)But this new incarnation as leader of the People’s Revolution is fundamentally flawed on a number of levels, and someone needs to nip this shit in the bud before it gets any worse.

 

First, Brand is the sort of figure that the Ruling Class absolutely loves. The reason for this is because he poses no real threat to the establishment. I’m not talking about his ridiculous faux pas about not voting. It was a stupid, ill-advised point though. But it’s bigger than that.

 

Nobody in Whitehall is shitting themselves about Brand’s new brand of politics; they’re pissing themselves. And quite rightly.

 

You could look at the farcical, fucked-uppery of Nigel Farage and Boris Johnson and their absurd bumblings, replete with deer-hunter hats and comedic slip-ups, but the truth is both of those people have a clear agenda.

 

Farage is preying on the irrational fears of the disenfranchised, with policies based on a hatred, which is anchored by fear and perpetuated by insidious propaganda.

 

Johnson… well, I’m not sure what the fuck Johnson is doing. He’s just a very lucky idiot and his village is London. Further proof that the north is the real intellectual hotbed of England.

 

But both of these people are politically successful with their gimmickry and personal indignities, because people feel let down by identikit, humourless politicians in too-tight suits, speaking in ridiculous sound bites they’re too afraid to deviate from.

 

Which should make Brand a dream for those wanting an alternative, which isn’t imbedded in racism or offensive gaffes.

 

The problem is, Brand isn’t really offering anything. He talks about revolution, and overthrowing hegemonic imperialism in the very broadest terms. And – put simply – revolution will not be about rhetoric, but action.

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The single most revolutionary event in the UK of the last ten years was the London Riots. It came about as a direct reaction to a perceived injustice over the death of Mark Duggan in August 2011. It was not orchestrated by any spokesperson, it did not need endless discussions about the distribution of power, but it was very clearly revolutionary.

 

More than any organised political demonstrations, sound biting, or posturing from self-appointed figureheads (bumbling, funny or otherwise) it was direct anti-establishment activity that absolutely threatened government and big business and was a clear demonstration of a general dissatisfaction, as well as a commitment (albeit anarchic and unstructured) to change.

 

Does this mean I think rioting is the solution to overthrowing our oppressors?

 

Perhaps not. The truth is, though, that is how revolution begins. And direct action is what’s needed in order to implement radical change. In any country that has achieved revolutionary political change within the last two hundred years, it always begins with the poor – very often the youngest poor (average age of the Bolshevik party members was fifteen) – rioting. It’s not something that will occur little by little through European Human Rights legislation, or workplace laws. Significant change will involve direct action, some of which will be unpleasant and possibly unlawful, because the laws only serve to protect those in power. By any means necessary, and all that.

 

The rhetoric used during the riots by politicians about the “real cost” of the riots being incurred by small business owners was clever, but misleading. The bigger cost came to the government, which is why rioters were so ridiculously penalised in the aftermath, and to insurance companies – who did their best to squirm from financial obligations, but ultimately lost a great deal. But nowhere near the cost that small business owners undertake to protect their businesses, so let’s not get daft about it.

 

I do think those riots were infinitely more meaningful than Russell Brand showboating on the Jonathan Ross Show. And more importantly, so do the establishment.

 

I’m under no illusion that Cameron and Co. are having a giggle about Brand’s antics, and despite the low-level attempts to smear him in the press, he pretty much smears himself because this new-found political identity is really just another vehicle for Brand’s ego.

 

He went from MTV Presenter, to comic, to DJ, to columnist, to full-time shagger, to film star and I don’t begrudge him any of it. Not even the shagging.

 

Do I think that Brand has a disrespectful attitude to women? Quite possibly, but not resoundingly so, and his well-documented succession of sexual partners doesn’t seem to form a pattern of promising women any sort of romantic future – aside, of course, from that one he married, but we can’t condemn someone for a failed marriage – so it’s all fair dos. In any case, I don’t think his attitude to women is overtly worse than any other man in the public eye. In fact, he always seems to be fairly respectful to the opinions of women he engages with publically, which is a step further than many other male celebrities.

 

The problem is though; this politics stuff is a folly. That’s the perception, and that’s the second biggest problem with Brand. He initially warmed us up with talk of revolutionary change in newspaper columns, with Paxman and on subsequent political panel shows and was received so favourably, that he wants to press on.

 

He’s a good orator and the more attention he receives the further he wants to take it. Cinemas up and down the country, screening Brand calling for (a very vague and unstructured) revolution, without equipping us with a strategy for what that revolutionary change will look like is pretty fucked up.

 

It’s actually quite dangerous. Someone who’s in it for the gratifying applause, but without the personal strength and long-term commitment to what is truly needed to lead people into action, is an easy target and a threat to positive change.

 

The other thing – and it’s fairly fucking pertinent – is that Brand is not an ordinary person. He’s from a working-class background, a recovering addict, and from a single-parent family, but he’s also a film star who marries pop stars in elaborate Asian ceremonies. Despite his funny and not-unreadable sports columns and chirpy cockney persona, he’s actually very rich, very well protected by law, and not subject to the same oppressive struggles some of the rest of us face. He’s white, he’s a man, and he lives his life indulging his faddy diets, trendy quasi-religious dabblings, and knocking around on film sets. If he wanted to be truly revolutionary he’d give up his wealth, refuse to work with film companies that operate in intrinsically capitalist ways and reject much of what it is he’s attempting to convince us he is opposed to. That’s the truth.

 

It might sound churlish to ask him to make such personal sacrifice, but if he is sincerely speaking of revolution, whilst living in a way that contradicts this sort of change, how can anyone take it seriously?

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It’s very easy of course, to be cynical and dismissive of those speaking political truths by dismantling them as people. The truth is, much of what Brand is saying is absolutely right. Therefore shouldn’t we just be glad that someone is saying it? It seems that that is what Brand is asking of us. To accept the sincerity of what it is he saying, whilst accepting he is a flawed leader and himself a part of the establishment, without asking anything else of him personally.

 

Let him talk a good talk, which is at the very least progress because not enough other people are doing it well, and because he is a high profile figure? Well, ok except that – and this is my final major point – much of what he is peddling is not his own work.

 

For years, Brand has incorporated little snippets of intellectual trivia into his act so as to make him appear more knowledgeable and worldly. I never really minded, because we all do it to a certain extent and because when he was on Big Brother’s Big Mouth and referring to his cock as a winkle, and interspersing it with throwaway comments about Wittgenstein, it was entertaining. His flourishes could be a bit annoying, but on the whole the whimsy was fun.

 

It’s not fun when you’re using the work of other academics – sometimes successfully, and sometimes slightly clumsily and out of context – to peddle your own career in entertainment.

 

You’re an entertainer or you’re a politician because this shit is too important to use as a public wank vehicle. It might not be as important to you, with your LA mansion, famous mates and blood-type diet. But for the people you’re purporting to represent it really is life and fucking death.


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