Liberal?… Laughable.

Many people will have been caught up in news about the England riots this week, including discussions about social media and the internet. We’ve seen the negative side of social media, with riots apparently being organised through different social networking sites, and we’ve seen the positive side of social media, with thousand upon thousands of messages of support for the police, sympathy for those injured or the families of those killed in the riots. We’ve seen blog after blog filled with reasons for the riots from all sides and from all perspectives. Now let’s look at a more dangerous and sinister side of media, and what can happen when people, some of them even professional journalists, have free reign to publish whatever biased opinion they care to.

The name Sean Boscott may be familiar to you. If not, let me fill you in. Sean Boscott is a young man from Brighton. On Monday, at the height of the London riots, he set up a Facebook page called “Supporting the Met Police against the London rioters”. The group was started at the right time, and with the right title. People joined in their droves. I was one of them, and the group grew and grew. An immediate refresh of the page would show another 30-40 members having joined. People were discussing events, coming together to condemn the rioters and looters, sharing information about where trouble was happening. There were a few posts thanking the group for information that had saved people from what would have been inevitable confrontations with looters and rioters. There were thousands of people moving from the Facebook page to Sean Boscott’s twitter page, where he’d set up a ‘name & shame’ hashtag so that pictures of looters and rioters, thieves and violent assaulters, arsonists and murderers released by the Metropolitan Police could be identified. And, notably, there was almost unanimous well-wishing from Sean Boscott and members of the group he had set up to the Malaysian student whose jaw was broken during the unrest, to the families of the three Asian men that were sadly killed in a hit & run in Birmingham, and to the countless others who had been negatively affected by the rioting.

So popular and helpful was this group, that it was mentioned by David Cameron in his speech on Wednesday, August 10th, when he praised “the million people on Facebook who’ve signed up to support the police”.

It is important to note here that Cameron praised the almost 1 million people that had joined up to support the police, and didn’t mention Sean Boscott once. As you can probably guess though, others did. In an attempt to mar Cameron’s name (not something I am in essence entirely opposed to), bloggers, with an unfortunately oft-precedented disregard for the individual and the truth and the sanctity of free speech, set about ‘digging up the dirt’ on Boscott. And there was dirt to be had.

Unsurprisingly, on Sean Boscott’s twitter page, @SeanBoscott, the tagline of which was “I tweet bad taste/offensive jokes from various sources too [sic] the masses!.Adult Humour not 4 wimps;”, they found bad taste and offensive jokes.

Now, in the name of full transparency, had the blogs said “The guy tweeted some offensive jokes and might not be the best person for Cameron to praise the Facebook page of”, or similar, I would have absolutely no issue with it. The problem is that instead of being transparent and honest in their reportage, they have been selective in their publication of Sean Boscott’s jokes and using the propaganda machine to its full, terrible potential, branded the man as a ‘racist’. We have seen only too well, recently, the abject immorality that can exist in the media and the imbalanced views that can be portrayed to the public as ‘truth’ in the name of furthering an agenda, and it should not be presumed that self-published blogs are any less capable of the same evils.

I will provide links to the offending blogs and publications at the bottom of this post, but I would like you, if you would, to read a more reasoned account of what happened and what Sean Boscott ‘did’, first.

At this point I will point out that I do not know Sean Boscott, that I am entirely unaffiliated with him, that I found some of his jokes equally as disgusting as others did, and that rather than vindicating Sean Boscott, my purpose in writing this blog post is to point out and hopefully go some way toward combatting 1: perpetuating the desire of some to make every issue about ‘race’, purely to get a ‘story’, and 2: the desire of some to abolish any offensive rhetoric, and thereby cease our ability to engage with and educate those that harbour prejudiced views.

So on to the jokes. Having been demonised, harangued , harassed and called all manner of names (racist and bigot are the ‘tamer’ ones) by those who have read these trash blogs and taken them at face-value, Sean Boscott’s twitter feed and Facebook pages and groups have now been taken down, so unfortunately I can’t give you the entirety of the feed in question. Upon reading the blogs though, you will see that they have branded him ‘racist’ and included only jokes about race that they found on Sean Boscott’s twitter feed. There were jokes on the feed (tasteless and offensive ones – let’s not forget that the tagline specifically said that this was the purpose of the feed prior to Sean Boscott using it to help with the identification of rioters) about race, sexist jokes about women, sick jokes about paedophilia and the death of Baby P. The kind of material you would expect to find on sites like ‘sickipedia’, made purely for ‘sick’ jokes to be posted.

So then I guess the question we all ask ourselves when we see people telling or laughing at ‘sick jokes’ is whether those jokes are indicative of an underlying prejudice. Is telling or laughing at a racist joke an inherently racist act? Is telling or laughing at a sexist joke an inherently sexist act? And if so, is it fair to brand Sean Boscott a racist, or is it only fair to go further and suggest that he is a racist, sexist man with proclivities toward child abuse and sexual abuse? Quite the leap of logic there, isn’t it? A lot harder to rationalise, and in my opinion the precise reason why these blogs have favoured such skewed reporting.

Emeritus Professor of Social and Political Science Christie Davies studied humour, and specifically ethnic humour, for most of his career. His major work on ethnic humour (Ethnic Humor Around the World: A Comparative Analysis [Paperback]), classifies ethnic jokes according to the stereotypes they express. He analyses jokes that depict groups as stupid, dirty, mean, canny, cowardly or militaristic and he argues that there is no link between prejudice and the enjoyment of such jokes. He says that “The general theme of these jokes is the pinning of some undesirable quality on a particular ethnic group in a comic way or to a ludicrous extent.” In a prior paper, Stupidity and Rationality: jokes from the iron cage (published in C. Powell and G.E.C. Paton, Humor in Society) he says that those who tell ethnic jokes do not necessarily believe that ethnic group members really possess the stereotypes depicted in the jokes. Davies suggests that Jewish jokes, for example, using stereotypes about money, are not necessarily anti-Semitic, for anti-Semites use devices other than humour to express their animosity. And he says “let us not also forget that jokes are first and foremost jokes”

This is just one social scientist, and there are many more with the same view. There are of course others with the opposing view that ethnic and racist jokes are indicative of racial prejudice, but since every paper or book I could find from this perspective started with the unsupported assumption that all racist jokes are indicative of an underlying, fundamentally racist mindset, and went on only to point out ways in which particular jokes could be considered racist, I consider them to be too methodologically flawed to use.

Conclude from that what you will. From my research on this issue and from personal experience, I conclude that jokes of any kind are not necessarily indicative of and underlying prejudice or ideology. I further conclude that when taken in context with an array of ‘sick jokes’ about all manner of subjects, one particular issue, such as race, or sexism, or child abuse, cannot and should not be depicted as the ideological make-up of the person telling them, unless we go as far as to condemn the person for ALL types of jokes told, and state that they ALL point to an underlying prejudice or sickness. But this is not what these blogs are doing. So what are they doing, and why?

What they are doing is quite simple, really. They are taking jokes from Sean Boscott’s twitter feed and posting them in blog posts which brand him a racist, refusing to acknowledge any other jokes about any other issues, and gleefully throwing out Sean Boscott insults and branding any opposing commenters on their blogs as “Sean Boscott apologists” or, worse “racist apologists”. I’m sure I can handle being called an apologist though, dear reader. Fear not. Additionally, they are creating a link between David Cameron and Sean Boscott’s jokes, or “racist views” as they are attempting to propagandise them, where none exists. One of them even openly admits in the comments of his own blog post that he originally used only the subset of jokes which are relevant if one’s goal is to paint Sean Boscott’s support for the Met Police as being indicative of a desire to see ethnic rioters brutalised.

Why? Well, let’s see. Given that many of the blogs are by left-leaning authors, and particularly given that one of them chose to title his post “David Cameron’s new best friend” it’s pretty evident. They seek to link David Cameron’s name to Sean Boscott’s jokes – jokes that would, if posted by any politician, spell instant political death. But Sean Boscott is not a politician, and in my opinion he has the right to publish as many sick jokes as he wants to. When he later goes on to do some good, by creating a Facebook that was evidently appreciated by almost a million, and by creating an avenue for criminals to be named and shamed on his twitter feed, if people feel the need to ‘dig’ at his past for whatever reason, he has the right to an absolute minimum of balanced and honest reporting that gives the full picture of the jokes he was tweeting, rather than agenda-driven drivel that paints him as a racist simply as a means toward striking at one’;s political foes.

Here are a few examples of the titles and taglines of blog posts written about this:

“Supporting the Met police against the London rioters” group founder appears to have very questionable views on race. – This in the New Statesman, by a journalist (Tom Calvocoressi), no less. So much for balanced reporting.

“I think it’s perfectly reasonable for them to brought to people’s attention and they can make their own judgment.” said NorthBriton45, in the comments section of his own blog post on the matter. Quite right. But NorthBriton45 also says “It is true I only picked the racist jokes as it made the point succinctly.” and follows this up with “People can laugh at whatever they want. It does not mean I can’t mock knuckle-headed racists.” Again, and unsurprisingly, from a professional journalist. In the interest of full disclosure, NorthBriton45 has since edited the blog post to be more reflective of the truth. Unfortunately, given the nature of blogs and that ‘edited’ pages don’t trigger RSS feeds or email subscribers, it may be too little, too late. An empty gesture, rather than an acknowledgement of wrongdoing.

Even the Guardian, generally a well-regarded source of information, has picked up on Calvocoressi’s unfounded, unbalanced painting of Boscott as racist and linked it in their commentary on the riots. Shame on them.

Is it just me, or is this looking more and more like a case of a man – whose only crime was tweeting some tasteless and offensive jokes about all manner of subjects – now being defamed and harassed by professional journalists – far more aware of propaganda technique than the layman? It is certainly anything but unprecedented.

Here is one gem from Calvocoressi: “By all means get behind the police but reject the racist sentiments of people like this — who seem to be exploiting a volatile situation to divide British society at precisely the time when we should be doing anything but.”

Read it again.

Now, Sean Boscott’s Facebook page has since been taken down, as has his twitter page and just about any other page he had on the internet. Imagining the harassment he was probably receiving while these ‘journalists’ give not a second thought to the impact of their blog posts on his life, it is little wonder. All that remains is the skewed and heavily biased ‘clippings’ of content by Calvocoressi, NorthBriton45, and their ilk.

I was in that Facebook group. I refreshed often, I sat and watched the news at the same time, and I saw what was going on in there. Sean Boscott himself (not to mention many, many users) expressed deep concern for those injured in the riots. He expressed deep sympathy for the families of the Asian men mindlessly killed in Birmingham. And he mentioned particularly the Malaysian student who had his jaw broken when he was mugged and robbed by a (white) rioter. And all of this before any ‘digging’ into his past was done, and before anything about his past jokes was blogged. Here is Boscott speaking in a later interview about the latter incident:

“That video alone made me feel sick, and I… honestly… that could have come from any country but ours. That does not represent the UK. It made me feel sick to the core and again with my followers, we tried to track down information on that person and we found out which hospital they’re in and how they’re doing. There have been talks about setting up various sites to raise some sort of money or being able to say, you know, we’re not all like that. This is not our country. I believe the chap is a Malaysian student and suffered a broken jaw. There are so many people in this country that were appalled by that. And that really isn’t the UK. That’s not Britain today, it really isn’t.”

Now, you tell me what is more representative of a person’s mindset – an array of deliberately offensive and bad-taste jokes which the person in question acknowledges as such, or a seemingly colour-blind concern for people affected by real-life events? Are these the actions of a man who “seems to be exploiting a volatile situation to divide British society”? Perhaps Calvocoressi can reconcile the above statement of British unity and disgust for the actions of a white rioter towards an Asian bystander, with his accusation that Boscott was “exploiting a volatile situation in order to divide British society”, because I sure as hell can’t.

Maybe Calvocoressi should examine his own role in imposing or exaggerating the racial dimension to the riots and “exploiting a volatile situation in order to divide British society” by considering the impact, given what I have presented here, of selectively quoting Boscott’s tweets to suggest that David Cameron and the million people who expressed their support for the Met Police via the Facebook page were the unwitting dupes of a near-EDL troglodyte.

On another note, I am in no way an apologist for racist attitudes or behaviours, but if we seek to silence all rhetoric that could be considered racist, if we attempt to make thought and speech a crime, how are we to engage with and educate those that hold racist or prejudiced beliefs? If we push disgruntled mumblings about ethnic minorities (or relative majorities) and immigrants underground, how can we ever hope for an open and honest discourse that can combat ill-conceived ideas of inequality?

Of course, now Sean Boscott has been branded not only ‘racist’, but a ‘liar’ as well. In this interview he gave when contacted by Sun news, and on a Twitter/Facebook message, he stated that the ‘sick jokes’ were not his doing, that his twitter account had been hacked, and that the jokes were posted by his partner. Now, this may or may not be true. To appease those calling for Sean Boscott to be fired from his job and arrested, let’s presume that he lied. Let’s presume that these jokes were posted by him. It makes perfect sense to me that he would lie. He is being contacted by journalists who wish to interview him about allegations that he is racist. Let’s not beat about the bush here – this is life-wrecking stuff. So maybe he did lie. If he did, I would consider it to be silly, but certainly not the evil act it’s being portrayed as.

Let’s look at just some of the allegations levied against Boscott by just one poster on the New Statesman blog.

“1. These jokes are sick, racism, rape, having a go at disabled, jewish, you name it, it’s there on his twitter feed (and it’s still there, he has just protected his tweets). He says he’s been hacked but these offensive jokes go back months whilst at the same time, he has been talking to his mates, arranging his social life etc on the twitter feed. If his account has been hacked then its been hacked for a very long time with the person concerned pretending to look like Sean and steal Sean’s social life!”

The jokes are sick. I don’t think anyone would contest that. Thankfully this poster has included the array of subjects that the jokes touched on rather than being as biased and agenda-driven as the blog’s author evidently was. His ire then, seems to be levied at the fact that Sean Boscott ‘lied’ about having been hacked. As already mentioned, if this IS the case, it was silly, but understandable.

“2. What has wound up a lot of people is that Sean has started to use his million likes as some sort of mandate to talk to the press, pretending to represent a million people.”

Let’s be clear here. Sean didn’t use his million likes as a mandate to talk to the press. How absurd. He was, no doubt, contacted by the press and asked to give an interview. Which he did. And in which he noted how sickened he had been by the video played on the news and elsewhere of the Malaysian student Mohammad Asyraf Haziq being mugged and robbed by rioters.

“3. Sean has also used his Facebook page to promote racism – any questions about his tweets are immediately deleted and those posing the questions are banned. Yet there have been lots of threads on that page that are racist or are even supporting the EDL or BNP. Whilst some of these had been deleted, many racist comments have been left up for all to see.”

So in a group of ONE MILLION users, this guy blames Sean Boscott for racist remarks left by other Facebook users. Hopefully, pointing out the abject ignorance of this accusation is unnecessary. Just in case it’s not – and given the number of people who have blindly and willingly jumped on the “Sean Boscott is a racist” bandwagon, that may well be the case – anyone who has ever created a popular blog, Facebook page, Twitter feed, MySpace page, forum, etc. will tell you how impossible it is to moderate something with even a couple of thousand users, let alone a million.

It is unfortunate that people do not stand back and attempt to objectively rationalise the information with which they are presented. More so that journalists and bloggers do not consider the effect of their actions on the lives of those they victimise in the name of one-upping a political foe.

I simply cannot overstate the danger of this kind of one-sided reporting. For the good of all of us, it must be stopped. We must refuse to believe propaganda, we must refuse to accept what we read without investigation, and we must call to account those who believe that refusing to provide good, objective, well-investigated reportage in pursuit of a personal agenda is acceptable. We must allow our view of prejudice and inequality to be dictated by fact and by our every-day encounters. We must tackle it where we can, and we must abjectly refuse to perpetuate it by seeing it where it does not exist. Only by tackling prejudice where it exists rather than creating it for our own ends can we combat it.

It is easy to see what has happened here, and I can only hope that this blog post might go some way to stopping it happening again, or at the very least bringing the immoral and biased, agenda-driven reporting of incidents like this one to the attention of readers. When Sean Boscott told the interviewer at Sun News “I don’t want to obviously put myself or my family in harm’s way”, he was probably talking about rioters and looters. It is likely that he never thought for one second that those putting him and his family in harm’s way would be bloggers and journalists.



The blogs:













The Liars, the Glitch and the Core Probe

Many things have been said about the UK riots that took place over the last week, but I don’t think anyone has put causation as succinctly as inspectorgadget when he said “They hate you for the same reasons they hate us, because you have what they do not; industry, motivation, patience and morals.”

I come at this issue from a position of having grown up in a council estate, worked in the department for work and pension, and being the daughter of a (now retired) police officer. For anyone who grew up, as I did, in a housing estate mostly populated by benefit claimants, the abject and reckless criminality and lack of responsibility from the gangs of thugs terrorising streets in the UK will have come as no surprise. A shock, perhaps, in the beginning, but when the ball got rolling, there was nothing happening that does not happen, if on a smaller scale, every single week in this country.

Some journalists and bloggers are attempting to make it taboo to call those who look to excuse the criminals ‘apologists’. Well, they can try, but with the entire country having witnessed the behaviour, they won’t get very far. The fact of the matter is that every individual person that took part in looting and rioting, and even those who stood aside and snickered while others looted, are morally corrupt and harbouring a false sense of entitlement.

One article from the Montreal Gazette, interestingly entitled “London rioters resent media image of hooded teen thug”, goes on to quote some people who took part in the riots, and people who supported them. Oh, do they? Really? What a surprise. Hundreds of hooded teen thugs take to the streets to wantonly destroy the property of others, to assault people, to steal the clothes from people’s backs, to kill people, to burn down businesses that have taken years to build, and they resent images of hooded teen thugs appearing in the media? Perhaps we should have left the shops unlocked for them, too?

Quoted in the article, a man of 22, who took part in the riots and believes so strongly in what he looted for that he refused to be named, says “Some of the parents were there. For some parents it was no big surprise their kids were there. They’ve gone through this all their lives,” Of course they have. It is a sad fact that generation after generation of people are being permitted to live from the state with no intervention, and that the attitude of entitlement is perpetuating through those generations. Many people have been calling the looters, rioters, murderers, assaulters, thugs and criminals “disillusioned”.

Michelle, a 40 year old mother who used to work for the police youth offenders unit, said “My son is 12 years old, and he already knows that police do not work for black people,” Hold on a moment. Your twelve year old son has been taught that the police ‘do not work for black people’. By whom, exactly? Wasn’t it the middle class white male that was supposed to be fostering racism? “The reason I don’t work for them any more is . . . it’s a white institution, and I won’t change my identity,” she said, after apparently stating that her friends and children saw her as an informer while she was working for the police. Okay then, so because your friends and children are presumably doing things bad enough TO be reported to the police, causing a conflict of interest for you, your identity is being suppressed. How about not condoning criminal activity and not hanging around with criminals?

According to the article, “heavily tattooed” Jackie said, while chuckling, “I was out in the riots. My 16-year-old daughter was calling me asking where I was,” Mother of the year, or the kind of responsibility-flouting scum that produced these swathes of young criminals? I’d go for the latter.

Another man, Ariom, said “But if the riots kick off again, I’m going. It’s history, it’s a revolution”. The thing is, beyond getting new treads or a new plasma TV, or burning down a small business for shits and giggles, none of the criminals seem to know exactly what the revolution is, or what they want to happen. Their entire reasoning seems to be that other people are rich, and they are not. Or that the police have the audacity to try stopping them from committing crimes.

Well what, exactly, are they disillusioned about? Another article from Reuters quotes a 41 year old youth worker – that is a person employed specifically to work with these young people to better them – he says “Youths are frustrated, they want all the nice clothes. They ain’t got no money, they don’t have jobs,”.

I have an idea… how about they don’t get to have ‘all the nice clothes’ if they can’t afford them? How about that? I know plenty of people who work 40 hour weeks in minimum wage jobs and shop for clothes in Primark and other discount stores because they can’t afford to buy designer labels. They can’t afford Adidas hoodies, they can’t afford the latest pair of Nike treads, they can’t afford the latest Blackberry phone. So they don’t have them. They live within their means, and let’s be honest, given that the government provides for those who can’t work, and for those who can and are too lazy or self-important to do so, everyone should be living within their means. As a good friend once said to me “it is remarkably easy to live on very little money if you budget well”.

The same youth worker: “The people that run this country, they got money, they are rich, they got nice houses. They don’t care about poor people.” Just a slight correction there: the people who run this country took advantage of its education system, had ambition, had drive, worked hard, and got to where they are today. With the exception of those who’ve inherited large sums of money and those who’ve won the lottery, so did every other ‘rich’ person in the country. And what is the exact monetary value at which these criminals believe it’s okay to demonise someone based purely on their bank balance? 25K? 50? A million?

The excuses for the criminal activity that we’ve seen over the last week come from two places: those who are simply ignorant to the culture that festers within welfare-funded estates and families, and those that are from that culture themselves and have seen the ‘excuse’ on the media and grabbed it with both hands. Many people have pointed at social mobility as a main excuse for the riots, but they fail to understand that it is impossible to socially mobilise people who simply do not wish to be mobilised. There are free courses, apprenticeships, programmes for the unemployed, and seats remain empty while young, unemployed people sit on street corners in their welfare-bought designer clothes using their welfare-bought Blackberry phones. The opportunities in the UK are not perfect, by any means, but any single person who is not too ill to work, who is unemployed and has no qualification or skill to offer should not be doing nothing. There are apprenticeships and places for these people to be, bettering themselves in order that they CAN find work more easily and be more employable.

Apparently, in Hackney in particular, the problem lies not so much in a divide between rich and poor, but in the fact that rich and poor live within such close proximity of each other. The poor see the rich going to work in their hard-earned jobs every day in their hard-earned cars from their hard-earned homes, and think “I want that so I can take it”. Woe betide anyone stop and think “I want that so I shall use the facilities and resources available to me and earn it”.

Many apologists will say that it’s the fault of the authorities. “The Man” is holding everyone down. I see where this attitude comes from, and by and large the vast majority of these people really do mean well. The problem is that they have not experienced the cultures in question first-hand. They have not grown up watching large families ever-expanding, living generation to generation from the state, parking large cars in the drive-ways of their large, state-provided housing. They have not witnessed parents faking ailments for their healthy children, so that the children will be judged disabled and more money will be provided. They have not witnessed the “I don’t have to work so I won’t” attitude. They have not sat in a benefit office, and been screamed and sworn at for stopping the means-tested benefits of someone who just won £50,000 at bingo. They have not had to deal with someone who is irate because after stealing thousands of tax-payers pounds through benefit fraud, they are incensed that it is being taken back from them at a rate of five pounds per week. And whenever they do come into contact with these attitudes, they invariably dismiss it as an isolated phenomenon. But when one has lived in this environment, and seen this mindset at work over and over again, it becomes impossible to ignore the fact that it is an entrenched, highly prevalent social reality. If this problem does not get tackled, people who really need welfare, people for whom the system was created, like those who are too ill or disabled to work, or those who are honestly looking for work every waking moment, are being failed. Once again: it is impossible to socially mobilise those who steadfastly refuse to be mobilised.

Of course there have been others caught up in the mob-mentality. A youth worker, a graduate, a graphic designer. In other words, the media would like us to know that there are ‘normal people like us’ facing charges. They fail, of course, to mention that this is an incredibly small percentage of those arrested for the events of the last week. It is amazing what mob-mentality can do to these ‘normal’ people, but these people have nonetheless committed crimes and should be held individually accountable for them.

Police have done the best that they can with the resources that they have and with keeping in mind their own health, safety and reputations. Policing riots in a post-Tomlinson climate, where people are ready and willing to jump on the ‘police brutality’ bandwagon is no easy feat. Despite the vast majority of the British public calling for tougher measures to deal with rioters, the tiny voice of the anti-police brigade can still be heard. After three whole days and nights of murder, assault, arson and burglary, one officer shown using a baton on a person has sparked immediate outrage in the do-gooder camp. I have heard things like “an institution of police brutality” mentioned. Unfortunately, there will be ‘bad eggs’ in every walk of life, in every institution, in every community, but when we allow our lust for conspiracy to override our common sense and blind us from the good done by the majority, something is seriously wrong. When people are being murdered and assaulted, and others are sitting on the edges of their seats, gleefully awaiting the first baton-strike so that they can claim ‘police brutality’, there is a morality issue in our society that goes far, far deeper than even the riots of the last week.

Of course, for anyone with direct experience within these welfare-claiming cultures, it will come as no shock that people hate the police. The police try to stop them taking what they like from the rest of us. But to exemplify the point, I would ask you to think back to when Raoul Moat mercilessly shot three people, killing one of them, and went on the run for days. The same attitude that is now giving us riots and murders was ‘liking’ the Facebook page “RIP Raoul Moat You Legend”. Why was he a legend? Because he shot a man who was a father, a son, a husband, in the face. The man happened to be a police officer.

Interestingly, people from generally law abiding areas, or even people from areas with a high crime rate who are not criminals themselves, do not hate the police. They praise the police and they welcome police presence, because the police are the people who protect us from violent criminals and burglars and people who would assault us in the street. People who are law abiding do not, generally, claim a culture of police brutality unless they are part of a small minority for whom the notion of police brutality helps to further a wider political or ideological agenda.

The rioting and looting of the last week is nothing short of wanton criminality and should be dealt with accordingly. Further, it’s time to get tough on those who claim job-seekers allowance, and make no attempt to seek jobs. It’s time to start using a token and photo ID system so that only essentials can be bought with welfare funds by the people that claim them, and it’s time to start limiting the amount of available funding for any single family unit that refuses to take long-term responsibility for itself.

This year marks a century since the beginning of the modern welfare state in the UK – and it’s very obviously broken. It’s time for change. Big change.

Branding the Begetter

I just got back from spending the weekend with my dad, my stepmother, my brother and my sister. My brother and sister are not full blood relatives, but this doesn’t matter to me. I adore them both, equally. I grew up as an only child in a single parent family, my mother having divorced my father (or vice versa, I’m not sure, and it really isn’t relevant any more) when I was very young, and as much as solo Buckaroo and Monopoly were fun and all, the thing I really, really wanted, was siblings. So when I was sitting in a marquee this weekend, watching my brother (18) sipping a pint of beer and laughing with my partner, and watching my sister (10) running around in the misty rain and protesting vehemently that she didn’t need a coat (she was right – she was already soaked to the skin), I couldn’t help but think about the words of David Cameron when he wrote an article for the Telegraph to mark Father’s day.

‘Runaway fathers’, he said, should be stigmatised. They should be outcast and scorned – “looked at like drink drivers, people who are beyond the pale”. I was with him, for a moment, until I realised that he would consider my own father to be a ‘runaway father’, and would have him be stigmatised and have the ‘full force of shame’ heaped upon him. Now, don’t get me wrong, I didn’t see my father anywhere near as much as I’d like when I was growing up, but I’m pretty sure that the times that I did get to see him, and indeed the times that I didn’t, were far happier than they would have been had my parents remained together through some arbitrary sense of responsibility, or fear of ‘shame’. I can hardly believe that my parents – two people who are almost polar opposites – managed to bear each other long enough to conceive me. The idea of them remaining together for the next eighteen years is funny, at best, and dreadfully sad, at worst.

If Cameron gets his way, people like my parents might end up staying together even in truly miserable relationships to avoid this government-sponsored intolerance and stigma. Given that inter-parental arguments are thought to affect children’s psychological development, negatively impacting their aggression levels and academic achievements, who exactly is Cameron attempting to protect? The parents? The children? Or society at large, through his very subjective view of ‘family’ as king? And what of my father’s family now? The children he has cared for since birth, the wife he has been married to for nearing two decades? Is he to be retrospectively forgiven for his ‘crime’ (consisting entirely of a desire to be happy) against society, in light of he and his wife having provided that same society with a stable family?

This is what I see:

I was a high enough achiever in school. I never dropped below the ‘top’ class on any subject. I worked hard in some menial jobs and then in a civil service job for several years, before eventually moving on to care work, and now deciding to get a degree. I was no more of a ‘problem child’ than my peers – considerably less so, in fact – and I had, and still have, a very open and loving relationship with my mother. I also have a very good relationship with my father.

My father’s family unit – the one consisting of him, my stepmother, my brother and my sister, is fully functional and highly productive to society. They are both professional people, my stepmother is probably the best mother I’ve seen in action, and my brother and sister will end up as equally productive, I’d imagine. Obviously, I don’t have a crystal ball, but the values have been instilled and the signs are there.

What I don’t see are damaged people, menaces to society, or leeches on the public purse. I don’t see anything here that makes me realise what David Cameron is attempting to get rid of.

Even in cases of true ‘runaway fathers’, where the man can disappear and never have contact with his children – Cameron cannot FORCE a parent to want to spend time with their child. I can also think of nothing worse than a child feeling that a parent is being forced to spend time with them. That is not to say that financial responsibility should not exist, but financial responsibility does exist, and can be enforced by the law and relevant government departments – this is absolutely an area where the government is welcomed and needed, but is still not reflective of anything that Cameron has to say about runaway fathers.

Finally, the term ‘runaway father’ irks me, as it should anyone else concerned with equality – it is horrendously one-sided, pinpointing men as the ‘bad guys’ when sometimes they are not with their families because their ex-partners are stopping them from seeing their children, or using children as a weapon against them. Similarly, it is not always men who instigate breakups – women do, too. The suggestion is also sexist toward women – assuming without regard nor any apparent consideration that women are the ones to be left with custody of children. This isn’t always the case, and in this age of apparent equality, shouldn’t be the expectation, surely?

So in summation, I couldn’t disagree more with David Cameron. Those fathers who do want contact with their children will either have it, or will be kept from it by the children’s mothers or other circumstance, and those fathers who do not want contact with their children will be unlikely to care about any social stigma or shame – this exists to some degree already, after all. Stick to policy making and ensuring that those who need to be financially responsible for children, are – stop trying to insert yourself into everyone’s front room – your subjective, rose-tinted opinions do nothing but alienate you further from people for whom the family unit you are lucky to still have, didn’t work out.

Defaming the F-word?

I read an article on Deborah Orr’s blog this week, entitled “Why is feminism still so afraid to focus on its flaws?” While I was reading, I found myself a bobble head, nodding along enthusiastically with almost everything she wrote. From my perspective, as a woman born in the early 80s with what I would imagine to be a fairly average exposure to media nowadays, I can see exactly where she’s coming from. “Yes!” I thought, “Perhaps now feminism will aim to change its image so that the rest of us women – women who are intelligent, forthright, independent and ambitious in our own ways – can join in the good fight for equality!” Imagine my dismay, then, when the first response I read was one written by Helen Mott, entitled “Blunt? Stubborn? Paranoid? Don’t pigeonhole us feminists.”

Rather than realising that Orr’s reluctance to label herself a ‘feminist’ stems from a deep-rooted unease regarding the way in which the most extremist (and therefore well documented) feminists seem to expect women to behave and think, Mott has immediately, and rather predictably, jumped to the defense of herself and her fellow active feminists. The post really does nothing to address the very real problem of the perception of feminism among women who would, if given the chance and a little more perceived credit by their feminist ‘sisters’, become active in the playground of equality and prejudice as it relates to real women leading real lives.

Mott said: “Is the accusation really directed, then, at people who are in the media spotlight? (If so, since when did the “media feminists” get to define what feminism is?)” Unbelievable. To me it is quite evident that the accusation is very blatantly directed at people who are in the media spotlight. In this age of propaganda, advertising, social media and marketing, where people are relentlessly bombarded with information throughout their days, who else would it be directed at? And who else, truly, is in a position to reform the public perception of feminism, if not feminists in the media spotlight, or feminists willing to take up the media spotlight?

The sad fact is that while Mott, and indeed anyone else directly involved in feminist activities, women’s groups and any other gathering of people and minds that focus on a moderate quest for female equality seem blind to public perception of feminism, real women leading real lives are not. That is not to say that Mott and other feminist activists and proponents are not ‘real women leading real lives’, but it is to say, quite categorically, that their view of the public perception of feminism is unavoidably skewed by their subjective view – particularly when that view comes from within feminism, rather than without.

To put not too fine a point on it, they are inside an analogical goldfish bowl, and we are watching from outside. To take the analogy further, we can think of extremist radical feminists as large Siamese fighting fish, almost perpetually stuck to the glass, shaking their shiny tails, and the moderate feminist as the guppy in the middle, quietly getting on with life. Obviously, the most prominent fish in the bowl is the one that will garner more attention from anyone taking a brief look at the tank. If current, active moderate feminists wish to change the perception of feminism, then the onus is on them to stop attacking people who point out the public perception of feminism, and to start attempting to change the face of feminism for the better, or to be more aligned with the views and goals of the majority of feminists.

The public perception of feminism is not one of women collectively engaging in debate, discussion and activism for the sake of gender equality, but one of inherent misandry, perceived superiority and misogyny. Let me point out what I mean, and where this public perception comes from.

Some nuggets from feminists in the media spotlight:

Julie Bindel’s assertion that there is a “war against women”, for example, being fought by men. She also believes, as a lesbian, that homosexuality is a choice and opposes rights for transgender people, calling the Equal Opportunities Commission “your best friend if you are a man wanting to get into nightclubs free on Ladies’ Nights”. When we read an article by her about political lesbianism though, we see a fairly transparent and tragic story of a young lesbian woman, indoctrinated at an early age into the radical feminist, lesbian political ideology.

Sheila Jeffreys: “The act which men commonly perform on prostituted women is penis-in-vagina sexual intercourse. There is nothing “natural” about that act.” and “We do think… that all feminists can and should be lesbians. Our definition of a political lesbian is a woman-identified woman who does not fuck men.”

Andrea Dworkin, possibly one of the most famous radical feminists and writers, published a book called Intercourse.  In the book, she argues that all heterosexual sex in our patriarchal society is coercive and degrading to women, and sexual penetration may by its very nature doom women to inferiority and submission, and “may be immune to reform.”

Gunilla Ekberg, special adviser to the swedish division for gender equality. This woman is a radical feminist who is one of the biggest international advocates of Sweden’s current prostitution laws (laws which are misogynistic and detrimental to sex workers in practice, but are touted as feminist). In this documentary, we see her extremist views in full swing. The interviewer is met with aggression, kicked out of the premises, and told that, should she ever be in a vulnerable position requiring the help of Gunilla Ekberg, she will be left to rot. All of this, simply for questioning a person’s integrity, and for refusing to swallow the idea that any woman not ‘on-side’ is simply too stupid or ideologically blinded by the patriarchy that she cannot see the truth.

Interestingly, Sweden has accepted and adopted an unusually high representation of radical feminism within its political arena, specifically in relation to prostitution, regarding all sex work, always, as violence against women by men. To highlight the way that women are viewed under this ideology, in response to a council of Europe human rights resolution that adult, female sex workers should be consulted in the drafting of policies that concern them, a Swedish delegate vehemently disagreed. When the same was proposed for children, that they be consulted in the drafting of policies that concern them, the Swedish delegate agreed wholeheartedly. So under this radical feminist ideology, adult women who disagree with the radical feminist view are treated with less entitlement and afforded less agency than children.

These representations show only the extreme part of radical feminism, obviously – the area of feminism that is not only misogynistic, misandrist, prejudiced and belittling to women, but labels anyone not ‘on-side’ as simply too stupid or ideologically blinded by the patriarchy that they cannot see the truth. Furthermore, they do this in advance, by including  this blindness of all but the very few ‘enlightened’ as part of their theory – theory which at this point is so far from reality, it can be seen as little more than intellectual masturbation, or subjective, superfluous academia. These are the feminist that send women away, quietly shaking their heads at the arrogance and idiocy of ‘feminists’.

Whether Mott likes it or not, this is the current public face of feminism, and will continue to be until feminists with the desire and ability to take the limelight focus on real issues for real woman, stop treating women as a tool for furthering an agenda that is, on the whole, entirely alien to them, and start taking back the public stage for a more moderate, relevant feminism.