American politics&Corporate&Human rights&Race08 Sep 2005 07:43 pm

I didn’t write this. I found it on this Indymedia post and thought it said all the things I’d been wanting to write in response to recent discussions, only more succinctly. And more aggressively than I would’ve said it, to be honest, but it still saves me a job. (Lazy, moi?) So here it is.

Priorities of Empire

The American ruling class couldn’t give a shit about the largely poor and black population of New Orleans. To these corporate oligarchs the poor are just so much expendable trash, to be confined in prisons or sent to die in colonial wars.

The truth is revealed: America is neither a nation nor a community – it’s a rich man’s racket, a con imposed on the majority of the population. As a political entity it has ceased to exist for the majority of the population who are left out of the social contract. The sadistic oratory of the governer says it all: if you are starving we will shoot you, we will shoot to kill… The czar of Russia couldn’t have put it more crudely. We are your rulers, you are scum, one item of our property is worth more than your life, and the life of your family. Challenge one iota of our wealth and power and we will destroy you like an insect.

America wake up…refuse to fight, refuse to kill, take your country back from the slime that claim to rule in your name.

‘Dr Strangelove’

News media&Race05 Sep 2005 07:54 pm

Jenni has already mentioned the issue of media race bias, but it bears repeating. Apparently racism runs so deep in the corporate media, it can’t be spotted by a sub-editor even when it’d be glaringly obvious to the average 5-year-old.

Click here, take a look at the cuttings and compare the language used in each.

(Thanks to ‘Looter’ on Indymedia for the image.)

British politics&News media&Race&South Asia14 Jul 2005 01:05 pm

Let’s get one thing straight. The three named men suspected of bombing London were British.

I don’t care where their parents came from years ago, or what their religion was, or what levels of melatonin were in their skin.

They were British.

This may seem a minor issue to you. But if Britain starts channelling its collective fear and indignation into attacking its own population – or rather, those of its population who happen to tan easily and have names like Shafiq and Tariq rather than John and Andrew – then we are in even worse trouble than we thought.

If you don’t want to sit next to any bearded men of south Asian ancestry on public transport from now on, that’s your prerogative. But you’d better hope or pray to your applicable deity that any future bomb isn’t detonated by a white or black or Pacific Asian maniac with a grudge. There are no guarantees.

edit: …and this mainstream BBC article is so them-and-us, it’s not even funny.

edit 2:… and the media is now reporting that the fourth bomber is “understood to be Jamaican-born Lindsey Germaine, who lived in Buckinghamshire”. So there we are: a suicide bomber who didn’t fit the visual stereotype. Hold the front page.

Soundtrack to this post: Lifelines – A-ha

British politics&Pop culture&Race03 May 2005 11:39 pm

I have been unable to write any substantial pre-election babble in the last few days, due to the fact that:

  • we are effectively being asked to choose between killers, racists and dullards, and this is monumentally disheartening;
  • I watched that Tony Blair/Jonathan Dimbleby programme on Monday night and almost imploded in a fit of rage when some astonishingly dim woman started bandying around drivel like “political correctness gone too far” and “ignoring the indigenous people of this country”. WHAT INDIGENOUS PEOPLE, you halfwit? The Saxons? You’re a purebred original, are you? Even though humanity probably began in Africa and – whoops! here’s where your argument falls down – migrated elsewhere? And how can you have too much correctness? Either something is correct or it is incorrect. There are no degrees of correctness. This is like saying something’s “very unique”. Either it is or it isn’t. No excess or varying shades are possible. If you had bothered to master the language of the “indigenous people of this country”, you’d know. AAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRRRGHHHHHHHH.

And relax.

I still plan to watch the whole pantomime live on Thursday night though. If you’re very unlucky, I may end up throwing some live real-time coverage of it on here. Tune in! Or go to bed, or whatever.

Hope you all had delightful May Day bank holiday, Britishers. Hope you non-Brits had fun too, even though you didn’t get to take Monday off work.

British politics&News media&Race05 Apr 2005 11:39 pm

This Indymedia article describes an anti-racism march taking place on Saturday in support of the rights of travellers.

At the end of the piece, the author mentions that the Press Complaints Commission have informed her/him that The Sun newspaper is currently being investigated by police for “incitement to racial hatred”.

At last.

No doubt a guilty verdict would only mean a fine, at best. But if it’s a significant amount, or has a detrimental effect on advertising revenue, it could encourage NewsCorp (and the loathsome Daily Mail/Daily Express) to curb their xenophobic bile.

“Zero Tolerance: We Love It.”

Stick that up your headline, Murdoch.

British politics&Pop culture&Race05 Apr 2005 12:50 am

I’ve just watched the Channel 4 documentary Kilroy’s Week With The Gypsies. It followed idiotic hobby politician Robert Kilroy-Silk’s week-long expedition onto a gypsy residential site. The gypsies in question were about to be evicted.

Kilroy, fresh from writing one of his inflammatory newspaper articles on travelling communities, went along to “experience a gypsy lifestyle from the inside”. This seemed to be rather the wrong way round, but better late than never.

From Channel 4’s point of view, it was commissioned in the not unfounded hope that Kilroy would say lots of bigoted and stupid remarks on camera. But the subject himself was clearly approaching it as a PR opportunity. He reined in his outspoken views wherever possible, though some seeped out at the edges.

Kilroy was visibly shaken by the fact that he was expected to sleep in a caravan, so he opted to spend most nights in a local hotel instead. Let’s face it, the absence of an on-site sunbed was always going to cause problems. But he did bunk down one night, after complaining about everything from the water pressure to the length of the fold-out bed. Claustrophobia was unavoidable – imagine having to squeeze such a colossal ego into a confined space! – but he struggled on gamely. The big orange hero.

The main thrust of his Romany hosts’ complaint was that they were being evicted from land they’d bought, on the whims of planning laws. His response was predictably simplistic and ill-conceived – “Well, why don’t you just buy houses instead?” – and in the end, the families were evicted.

Evicted from their own land, remember. Not squatting. Not using public land for residential purposes. They had just contravened planning regulations by parking caravans on the site which they owned outright. It is evidently easier for Tesco to get planning permission to build yet another superstore than it is for a Romany community to plant their temporary living structures on empty land which they have paid for in full. Go, as they say across the Atlantic, figure.

In response to this bizarre interpretation of property laws, travelling communities have requested that councils designate areas for them to stay. If they can’t just buy their own land and use that, what else can they do? Unfortunately for them, councils have been under no legal obligation to provide sites since 1994. Guess what? That means they don’t bother.

Now there are too many Romany families chasing too few sites. Those who are evicted from the land they legally own are forced to park on roadsides or borrow friends’ back yards. They’re unwelcome with the tabloid-baited locals, who fear the unknown and “the mess”, and entirely abandoned by the local authorities which are supposed to serve all British residents.

I’m sure the fact that nomadic people live outside the tax and electoral roll structures has absolutely nothing to do with governmental indifference to their welfare. Just as I’m quite sure the hatemongering tabloids don’t pick on gypsies, immigrants and those below the poverty line solely because they’re groups without the financial clout or consumerist inclinations to matter to their advertisers.

Oh wait, no. I do think that.

You know, our world is packed with cruel ironies. (Terri Schiavo, a woman who fell into a coma as a result of severe bulimia, was starved to death by court order.)

It’s also full of frankly incomprehensible decision-making. (Michael Howard, a man whose own parents fled Hitler’s death camps for asylum in Britain, is Britain’s highest profile anti-immigration politician.)

And at the end of Kilroy’s PR-thirsty documentary, a voiceover told us that Nottingham Council had spent £500,000 in court proceedings to evict that single group of gypsy settlers from their very own land. That’s half a million quid. (Americans, we’re talking about not much change from a million dollars here.)

Did it occur to anyone at the council to:

(a) spend that cash on a designated site for the travelling community, as requested;


(b) waive those biased planning laws in cases where they are clearly ludicrous, to prevent the pointless expense of evicting families from land they have owned and occupied peacefully for years?

Apparently it did not. Vacancy at Nottingham City Council for someone with a triple figure IQ, then.

I don’t live in that council tax catchment area, but I’m pretty sure that my own council would have squandered my contributions in the same way. I’m ashamed that my tax can be used to persecute a group of people who choose to live outside the prescription of tabloid-sanctioned society. I’m ashamed at the despicable way in which the corporate media and the Tory party are manipulating public feelings about travellers, with scarcely a murmur of dissent from the usually garrulous Guardian-reading middle class. I’m ashamed that, in 2005, it’s still possible to openly discriminate against an ethnic group with a non-mainstream lifestyle and remain inside the law.

Is it just me?

Pop culture&Race&Random life&Strangeness01 Mar 2005 01:00 am

When I was a youngster, I loved Michael Jackson. Not just in the general way I loved all pop music. I mean I really loved Michael Jackson.

For a couple of those formative years, my best friend and I hoarded every scrap of memorabilia and newspaper cuttings we could get our hands on. When it came to Christmas or birthdays, we arranged between us which of his commercial output would go on each of our request lists. Our plan was to ensure no duplication, so we’d both have access to his entire oeuvre.

Our parents didn’t quite understand the urgency of our requirements at times, but we did pretty well nonetheless. In those days, I’d have no qualms about skipping out of school at midday to buy 7” singles with my lunch money, so it wasn’t long before we built up a sizeable Jackson stash.

Of course, we wanted more than just his recordings. In 1988, aged 13, I went to my first ever gig. Michael Jackson at Wembley Stadium. Quite a spectacular start to a lifetime of live music. It gave me very unrealistic expectations. At my first grotty Camden indie gig a couple of years later, I was perplexed by the shambolic ordinariness of it all, wondering when the pyrotechnics were going to start.

You see, what Michael Jackson offered was the sort of cool oddness you didn’t often see in the suburbs of southern England. Thriller defined the zeitgeist in a way no musician has since replicated. And the man could dance. Really dance. His audacious talent, coupled with the natural glamour American superstars seemed to exude, left us awestruck. I even – ahem – taught myself to moonwalk. (Yes, I can still do it. No, don’t ask me to demonstrate at your wedding reception.)

In the summer of my 14th birthday, during the Bad era, I read his ‘autobiography’ Moonwalk on holiday. In it, he claims that his gradual facial changes were due to the natural growing up process. He goes on to say that he has only had 2 nose jobs and a cleft put in his chin, and that anybody who accuses him of having extensive surgery or bleaching his skin is lying. Despite the evidence of my own eyes, I believed him. I even defended his position to laughing detractors. “He wouldn’t be allowed to say that if it wasn’t true,” I naively protested.

Looking at the cover of the book now, I’m astonished at how easily I believed his word against the evidence of my own eyes. He’d transformed himself from shy, black, sweet-smiling teenager to milky-skinned, wire-limbed, doe-eyed alien.

Sometime around the start of his solo career in the 70s, Michael Jackson must have decided his own face didn’t fit. So he set about redesigning it. The first sign was when his nose began to narrow. Then, shade by shade, his skin grew lighter. Looking back over his many faces, it is horrifying just how dramatic the transformation was.

From the late 80s onwards, the newspapers carried endless “WACKO JACKO” stories, all about Jackson’s pet chimp Bubbles, his oxygen tank, his odd pseudo-parental relationships with ageing stars like Elizabeth Taylor and Diana Ross and the comical hygiene paranoia which meant he only appeared in public if masked. His dissatisfaction with his appearance, his perpetual facial reconstructions and his changes of skin colour were considered a joke, proof of the incorrigible eccentricity of millionaires.

It wasn’t until many years later that I realised just what a grotesque freakshow my former favourite had become, and how none of his family or entourage seemed to think this disturbing behaviour warranted intervention. Scroll through the pictures in this post from top to bottom and reflect on the fact that the British press did little more than jeer at him for this self-mutilation, and that professional surgeons saw no ethical conflict in continuing to take his money.

At no point did anyone mention the fact that Michael Jackson is almost certainly suffering from body dysmorphic disorder.

A close friend of mine has also battled the debilitating symptoms of BDD for many years. Thankfully, she has now managed to achieve stability after a long struggle and occasional relapses. It helps that she has no private fortune, nor access to unscrupulous surgeons. If she had been granted every delusional whim, rather than being forced by sheer self-loathing and desperation to seek treatment, she would undoubtedly look similarly unearthly now.

By the time I was 15 or 16, I was no longer interested in Michael Jackson. Hip hop and indie had captured my attention. Sequinned gloves and moonwalking belonged to the 80s. The 1990s, I surmised, held no place for him.

I wasn’t the only one who felt that way. Jackson’s sales were already dropping. His public behaviour was increasingly strange, and his face changed shape from one month to the next. The tabloids stopped alternating teasing editorial with expedient respect for his popularity, and started really laying into him.

And then things got even weirder.

He married Lisa Marie Presley. He married Debbie Rowe. He produced blonde, blue-eyed children like rabbits out of a hat, claiming they were his own. He gave two of them the same name. He dangled one of them off a hotel balcony.

He was accused of molesting a young boy named Jordy Chandler.

When the child abuse story hit the headlines, what surprised me most was how certain I felt that he was guilty. And how guilty I felt at assuming the worst about someone I used to admire, without hesitation.

As a former fan, I could have automatically given him the benefit of the doubt. I might have been among the legions who dismissed the allegations as ridiculous. But I wasn’t. And when he silenced his juvenile accuser with money, I didn’t cheer along with his loyal public. I wasn’t glad the charges had been dropped. I was disgusted at his amoral cowardice.

As you know, 46-year-old Michael Joseph Jackson has been accused of child molestation again, and he couldn’t fix it with dollars this time. The LAPD is out to get him. The biggest celebrity trial in recent history has just begun.

(Read the case against him here.)

Did he do it this time? Yes… I think he probably did.

Yet at the same time, I also believe it’s possible he is convinced he has done nothing wrong, and is being honest when he denies the charges.

Michael Jackson is clearly a damaged man, plagued by mental health problems and deeply scarred by a traumatic childhood. His eternal child/Peter Pan complex is more than just a marketing gimmick, it’s evidently an obsession. His ability to relate to children as equals is probably also real. The sinister side of these obsessive childlike delusions is that a grown man, with adult hormones and adult sensibilities, may genuinely believe anything he does with children is therefore normal. Little boys often play strange pre-sexual games with one another. In the crazed parallel universe of Neverland – a universe in which he only has to make a wish and it is granted by a paid lackey – Jackson may see no difference between that and his own behaviour. He may genuinely think it impossible for such activities to be child abuse, because he believes he counts as an honorary child too.

Or perhaps I’m still being naive and he’s just a really good liar. Perhaps he knows exactly what he’s doing. Who knows.

So, you see, the start of Jackson’s trial and the ensuing media circus makes me feel a little sad. Michael Jackson was once a disproportionately significant figure in my life, in the way childhood heroes often are. I discarded him long ago, but he still figures in the story of my life in the same way a memorable teacher might.

I’m hopeful that justice will be done this time, but it really depends on just how low the defence team are prepared to go. And given that they are employed by a superstar, they will probably stop at nothing to destroy the reputation of their opposition. However, the prosecutors seem equally determined to prevail, so we shall see. (Whatever happens, it will be played out in public for all the gawping world to see. Inevitably, the criminal justice system is no more than light entertainment when the protagonists are familiar faces.)

But even more than this, I feel sad at the sheer tragedy that is Michael Jackson. His body of work is packed full of genuine pop classics. (Who can keep still when the bassline of Billie Jean starts? Even you guitar boys have to concede that one.) He seemed to have so much promise. He was a naturally good looking young man, who hated himself so much he carved his face to pieces. He was blessed with rare gifts but exploited his position to gain the trust of children and their families, and used his fortune to build a huge child-friendly lair. If even one of the children’s allegations is true, somewhere along the line a talented, sweet-looking boy turned into a monster. Who – or what – made him that way?

A psychotherapist friend (who specialises in treating abused children) informs me that it is almost guaranteed that a sex offender who preys on children will have been abused him/herself as a child. According to her, abusers will procure children of the same age they were at the time their own abuse started. For example, if a man sexually molests boys of 11, it usually means that he was abused himself by a man from the age of 11. It also usually means he will not be interested in his victims once they grow out of that age group, for example when reaching puberty.

This information is irrelevant if Jackson is innocent. But if he did it, the next question we should be asking is: who abused Michael?

Pop culture&Race07 Dec 2004 05:36 pm

It’s been a good few days for laughing at other people’s misfortune. As long as those people are pompous bigots who make a living promoting hatred.

First came the news story ‘Robert Kilroy-Silk attacked with slurry’. I haven’t enjoyed a headline that much since ‘Archer Jailed’. (For non-Brits: RSK is an egomaniacal ex-TV presenter who was sacked and disgraced for writing an anti-Arab tirade in a newspaper column. He subsequently joined the UK Independence Party in order to maintain a public platform for his xenophobic, nonsensical views and delusions of charisma. His face emits an otherworldly fluorescent orange glow.)

Today we learn that the BNP (for non-Brits: this is a gang of exceptionally stupid, racist thugs masquerading as a political party) accidentally booked a black DJ for their Christmas party. Some of them walked out. “He sounded white on the phone!” bleated one dunce.

Now I’m all for peace on earth and goodwill to all. But where those who disagree with that fundamental premise are concerned, I see nothing wrong in a little uncharitable giggling.

‘Tis the season to be jolly, after all. Ho ho ho.

American politics&Audience participation&Race09 Nov 2004 11:11 am

“If you look at American statistics, it shows that majority of Hate crimes are instigated by blacks. It’s fact. Not disputable.”
written by Katy – click here for full post

Americans, help me out here. Is this kind of view commonly held in your country? Or is it very much a minority view? Because I’m stunned by it. And if anyone in Britain spoke like this in public, the room would fall silent in horror.

This is a serious question, so if you’re American or you’ve spent a lot of time there, and you can spare a moment, please reply in the comments area. Thanks.

American politics&Audience participation&British politics&Europe&Global politics&Human rights&Middle East&Race&Religion&Self07 Nov 2004 02:00 pm

Those of you who have trawled through the comments on this blog may be familiar with Katy, the Texan Republican who disagrees with me on every conceivable point. Well, Katy’s written an extensive refutation of my Goodnight America post in her own blog here.

Being up for a squabble, and clinically unable to leave her opinions on Jesus, racism and Bush unchallenged, I confess I responded in similar detail. That response is below.

I warn you: they’re quite long posts. And I still can’t work out how to modify my template for the cutaway technique, even by following the idiot-proof instructions. (I’m blaming the template itself for having tricksy style sheets, naturellement.) So it’s just a big slab of text. Whole paragraphs of the stuff.

But if you enjoy watching war-loving Christian Republicans and bleeding heart British socialists crossing swords, maybe you’ll think reading it is time well spent. It’s your call.

In an earlier post, Jon kindly remarked on my “patience” in responding to another commenter’s dissent. Ha. Jon, I wonder if it’s not so much patience as a natural extension of my British politeness. We apologise when other people push us in the street. (Seriously. We do!)

Besides, while it might be tempting for all sides to take the “Is your head full of marshmallows, dipshit?” angle, that would just shut closed minds even tighter. In all honesty, I’m often shocked at views like Katy’s, but it’s best to hear them. We each surround ourselves with like-minded people, so it’s easy to float along in an ideological bubble. At least this way nobody fools themselves that the world is anything other than a big argumentative soup. Er, so to speak.

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