I’m being censored! Censored, I say!

Anyone who isn’t buying and reading all my books is complicit in the ongoing censorship of my awesome ideas, and should be ashamed of themselves. It’s my absolute right to sell millions of books, and you’re infringing my rights by not doing your part.

I exaggerate, of course, but I’m only a little leap of illogic from some of the cries of ‘Censorship!’ that have been raised since Virgin West Coast announced they won’t be selling the Daily Mail on their trains. It’s nonsense, of course, but proclaiming their victimhood when people are no longer going to take their shit is a very right wing thing to do.

The ‘newspaper’* is still going to be on sale at other shops, presumably even ones on the station, and, as far as I can see, no-one’s stopping people displaying their narrow-mindedness by reading the rag on VWC trains. Virgin made a commercial decision. They barely sell any Daily Fails anyway, and were reacting to complaints.

The corner shop nearest to me stocks only tabloids. I don’t for a minute think they’re censoring the Guardian, Times and Telegraph. I live in the sort of area where broadsheets aren’t commonly read. They’re stocking what they will sell, not making political or ideological statements.

The Daily Mail is, sadly, the largest source of opinion dressed up as news. The paper has railed against all manner of far less offensive material over the years, and practically led a campaign to have Channel 4 closed down. They’re not about to collapse because they’ve lost a dozen or so sales on Virgin trains. But they can see that this decision is another example of a significant shift in public opinion against them, and they’re scared that it’s getting harder for them to get away with their bullying and obsessing over the bodies of women and girls. Which is a good thing.

[But, seriously people, why aren’t you buying my books? It’s a terrible constraint upon my freedom to be a millionaire author. I say it’s your civic duty to pick up a copy of Sounds of Soldiers, Northern Gorehouse, or any of the other great (if I say it, it must be true) books by myself or Garth Owen.]

*I don’t know whether it deserves the title, if I’m honest.

Tory press cheers on £3bn cuts… but ignores anti-austerity IMF report

Today’s right-wing newspapers commit sins both of commission and omission. What they do and don’t say about economics today is very revealing. First, the omission. As Left Foot Forward reported yesterday, along with the Guardian, the Economist and others, the International Monetary Fund has published a report arguing that focus on cutting national debt rather than investment can do more harm than good. It said a bit of debt won’t actually hurt your economy, and will naturally be swallowed up by investment-led growth. Predictably, since this strikes to the root of the Tory government’s rationale for its economic policies over the past five years, (and for the five to come), the paper has been ignored by today’s right-wing print newspapers.

I’m shocked, shocked, I tell you, that most of the press in the UK is so obviously biased. Did the supposedly leftwing BBC mention this? I bet it didn’t.

Source: Tory press cheers on £3bn cuts… but ignores anti-austerity IMF report | Left Foot Forward

Thinking of applying for Britain’s Hardest Grafter? Read this first.

Certain members of the British press, particularly the Daily Mail and the Sun, are evil, poisonous shits. What’s worse is the number of people who read these sad excuses for newspapers and think that they have anything but a heavily filtered and smeared relationship to the truth.

The piece linked to is about the sort of appalling attention you can expect if you’re in the public eye and not the sort of person Paul Dacre and the like approve of, but their rotten world view poisons everything in the end.

Source: Thinking of applying for Britain’s Hardest Grafter? Read this first. | JACK MONROE: COOK, CAMPAIGNER, GUARDIAN COLUMNIST, MOTHER, AUTHOR, ETC.

That Was Then, This Is Now. (Or “Oh look, the Daily Mail is hypocritical.”)

London 2012 Games: Team GB have 61 ‘plastic Brits’ | Mail Online.

The controversy over ‘plastic Brits’ has been reignited by the revelation that Team GB will have 61 overseas-born athletes competing at this summer’s London Olympics.

Team GB Andy Hunt has come under fire over the selection of Cuban-born triple jumper Yamile Aldama and wrestler Olga Butkevych, who was born in Ukraine but received her UK passport only a couple of months ago.

Go back to the 80s and-

The Daily Mail, a British tabloid newspaper, persuaded Budd’s father to encourage her to apply for British citizenship, on the grounds that her grandfather was British, to circumvent the international sporting boycott of South Africa so that she could compete in the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles. With a strong push from the Daily Mail British citizenship was granted in short order and she moved to Guildford

Conspiracy theorists don’t like real conspiracies 4

I keep meaning to write some more about the ongoing News of the World/News International implosion (Update Here’s my previous comment on it- Private grief is not public interest.). But every time I think I’m ready to start some more news breaks and I decide to leave it for a while longer to see what happens next. Thus have I tricked myself into waiting for this whole affair to be over before I say anything.

Going off at a tangent to the potential demise of Rupert Murdoch’s empire I did notice something interesting earlier this week. I follow the RSS of blogs by a couple of self righteous fundamentalists. It’s my way of keeping track of what I call the “reactionary bigotsphere”. One of these fundies is, conveniently, a believer of just about every conspiracy theory going, which helps me keep up to date with another set of fringe beliefs.

Now the whole Murdoch affair should appeal to a xenophobic conspiracy fan. It’s got an unsavoury foreigner acting against British interests and values, corrupting the Police and those in power, working to keep the public misinformed and stoke up fear and hatred, behaving in ways which are morally repugnant and illegal and co-opting his powerful friends to cover it all up. All with the aim of garnering more power and money for himself and his planned dynasty, no matter how far it drags the rest of us down.

A conspiracy theorist should be all over this, jumping up and down with glee and shouting “See! I told you so! The foreigners are out to get us!”. But my favourite conspiracy bigot has said nothing at all about the News of the World, he’s more interested in imagined crimes committed by, or on behalf of, the European Union.

Okay, maybe my mate Stewart’s a bit busy, maybe he hasn’t got round to covering Murdoch-gate yet. Maybe he hasn’t realised just how deep and how high the corruption that could come to light goes. He should check it out, then maybe he could stop relying on made up “facts” and actually get angry about stuff that really happened. But maybe some of his “they’re all out to get us” friends are ahead of him.

Stewie seems to have a high opinion of someone who blogs under the name of Leg Iron. Perhaps he has something pertinent to say about News International.

Cards on the table.

I don’t care.

Or perhaps not. After this busted flush Leggy then goes on to say nothing in particular about Rupert’s motivations in about half a dozen different ways.

To be fair, some of the people in Leg Iron’s blogroll do have things to say about News International. For instance- The Mirror uses private investigators more often than the NotW, therefore it’s all a Left wing plot (carefully forgetting that it was The Guardian that broke the story, and the Right wing press has piled on the story just as much as anyone else). Or “let’s face it, no one at the NotW actually murdered Milly Dowler” (has someone accused the NotW staff of committing murder? Is someone deliberately missing the point and making themselves sound like a tosser?). And similar stuff on and on and on…..

It seems that, when confronted with evidence that they’ve been lied to and manipulated, the sort of person who likes shouting loudly about how everyone else is being lied to and manipulated shuts up. I can’t help thinking that the reason this particular bunch aren’t interested in the crimes of News International (and the rest of the right wing press) is that those papers are the source of the lies and misinformation they use to fuel and justify their bigotry. Or perhaps they’re too scared to complain about genuine bad behaviour, because the next step is to take action against it, and they would rather carry on fighting non-existent enemies.

I’ll get back to the bad behaviour of Britain’s press eventually, and I’ll try to do something to make a difference. Which is for the best, because the conspiracy theorists are all looking the wrong way when it comes to what’s wrong with the world.

Private grief is not public interest 1

Last year people I know and love were caught up on the periphery of a piece of national news. For several days they had to put up with the stress of unwanted and unprincipled press attention. They learnt that all the bad things you hear about certain members of the Press are true.

Photographers trespassed to get photos which intruded upon people’s grief (and were angry and offended when the tables were turned and they were photographed). Reporters lied- primarily by omission- and acted as if they didn’t know some of the clauses of the Editors’ Code of Practice (then were upset when they met people who did). When the facts weren’t fresh or titillating enough they made things up, inventing hearsay and presenting it as common knowledge. A media feeding frenzy presented evidence of why so many think of journalists as scum.

I wanted to do something about it, to find a way to strike back and get some power given back to us, the public, over them, the newspapers and channels that exist to generate nothing but gossip and thinly veiled propaganda. But I didn’t. I couldn’t find a way into the subject of invasion of privacy that didn’t open people up to invasion of their privacy. I don’t have the tenacity of the creators of blogs such as Five Chinese Crackers, which take apart tabloid lies with such skill. And, I have to admit, I was nervous of the size and power of Britain’s tabloid press. What could I possibly do to affect them? Or, if I did have an effect on them, what could a bunch of people who have already proven themselves vicious and malicious, and have very large audiences, do to undermine me and harm me and mine?

But when there are publications that think it’s okay to hack into the voicemail of a missing teenager to get stories then torture her friends and family- and hinder the Police investigation into her disappearance- by deleting messages because they’re greedy for more information, sooner or later we all have to stand up and shout our opposition to such scum. The latest, sickest revelation from the reopened News of the World phone hacking investigation makes me as angry as the stories I heard last year

If one good thing comes from this horror story let it be that more people get angry about the actions professional privacy invaders who hide behind the lie that they’re journalists. Already companies are pulling their advertising from the News of the World, hitting them financially, the only thing it seems they’ll pay attention to. But we should hope for more. We should demand a greater accountability from the Press, and more ways for us to make them pay every time their actions hurt anyone who is already having the worst time of their life.

The Press Complaints Commission is notoriously useless when it comes to curtailing the excesses of newspapers. That it’s a body run primarily by newspapers obviously doesn’t help. Self regulation clearly isn’t working in this case. And when the Express can withdraw from the Commission so it doesn’t even have to worry about what little bite the PCC has, it’s clearly time for something else.

One idea (and please bear in mind that I only just thought of this and it is after midnight) would be to set up a very special kind of Legal Aid, a state fund for people slandered by a paper to use in their action against the paper. It would have to be carefully managed- a panel of experts, none of them with any ties to the Press, would have to assess claims for libel aid before it could be handed out- but it could claim back costs in any actions which were successful. If the papers knew that the people they lied about could no longer be scared off by the threat of legal expenses then they might learn to stop lying.

That’s just one idea, and a wildly impractical one. I’m not going to suggest it when I write to my MP, but I will tell him that it’s time to scrap or seriously reform the PCC. And you should too. The more of us who make a noise about this the more likely politicians are to pay attention and try to do something in our interests for a change.

Time to cause trouble and demand a more honest and decent media.

A step forward in the climate change debate

The Daily Mail reports on how a warmer Arctic could mean harsher winters for Britain. This in itself isn’t new news- the article mentions The Day After Tomorrow, the overblown disaster movie from a few years ago which used an extreme version of the theory as its basis. More recently I wrote Mia in the Snow based upon similar observations.

The big leap forward is that this article appeared in the Daily Mail, one of Britain’s foremost climate change denial newspapers. There’s the caveat- “No single season or year’s weather can be attributed to changing climate.”- but it’s immediately followed by- “However, the UK could see more snowy winters, similar to last month’s freeze.” Straight reporting of climate change from the Daily Mail, where they accept that the scientists know what they’re talking about and therefore have more merit than some bloke down the pub? Hell (but sadly not the Arctic) may well be about to freeze over.

Of course, the comments thread is full of the usual pseudo/non-scientific blather you’d expect from the denial crowd, but that’s to be expected.

Atheists are Nazis and promoting health and prosperity is more evil than child abuse? Papally inspired stupidity 8

So, it’s been the first day of the Pope’s long weekend in Britain. He got off to a good start by implying that Nazism arose from atheism and modern secular society is headed down a similar path. It’s basically that old unfounded Christian lament that the belief system which still holds an unwarranted influence over the country’s politics is being discriminated against, but with added “unbelievers are evil!”. Hitler’s beliefs are open to debate, as they are in this comment thread on Richard Dawkins’ site, but a great many Nazis professed to be Christians, the Catholic church’s record during WW2 was less than perfect and it was the godless hordes of Soviet Russia who sacrificed the most to put an end to the evil.

Pope Rat should sack his speech writers and any advisers who thought that spouting this sort of nonsense was a good idea.

A selection of eminent humanists wrote a letter to the Guardian attacking the elevation of the Pope’s visit to that of a state visit, pointing out some of the crimes the Vatican “state” is guilty of and questioning its right to be given the same recognition as real countries. Stephen Fry is justifiably proud of being vilified by the Daily Mail for his signing of the letter. I’m jealous, I’ve long wanted to be hated by the Daily Mail. It’s been one of my ambitions for several years. Sadly I am not as eloquent as Mr Fry, nor yet known, let alone as well known as he. Maybe one day.

The letter also attracted the attention of Stewart Cowan, one of the less enlightened bloggers I follow for entertainment value. Cowan throws around some stupid insults, but makes no intelligent or coherent points and no doubt, in his head, thinks he’s won the argument. In Cowan’s bizarro world family planning, disease prevention, compassion and education are all greater evils than child abuse. Thinking like Cowan’s and the Pope’s is the cause of far more harm than anything done by the people they want to blame.

The shallow end of the meme pool 8

During the election I subscribed to a load of political blogs’ RSS feeds. After it I unsubscribed from most of them. Foolishly, I revisited the two most obnoxious of them again recently.

Richard Carvath stood as an independent candidate in Salford and Eccles, the seat retained by Hazel Blears and polled 384 votes. He claims, loudly and repeatedly, that he would have done better if the media, the big parties and homosexual-perverts hadn’t conspired against him. Homosexual-perverts is a favourite phrase of Carvath’s. He can’t just say homosexual, it has to be homosexual-pervert. He may have read somewhere that you can reinforce your message by using your preferred phrases regularly until the reader starts thinking in them as well. But he’s gone overboard- the Carvath blog is overloaded with them, every sentence employs a piece of similar wordplay, all of it of a level which should embarrass anyone over the age of ten. Homosexual-perverts abound, homophobic registrars who refuse to perform Civil Pervertships are conscientious objectors honoured with the title of Decents. I’ve seen him use the phrase Guardian-perverts as well, and it should be obvious who Barack Obortion is. I’m sure he thinks it’s all very clever, witty even, but it just looks like the ever less coherent ramblings of someone with serious mental problems.

Carvath is on a mission from God, the voice in his head. He recently had a nasty accident whilst climbing, breaking several bones and damaging his back. If it had happened to any of his growing list of homosexual-pervert enemies (which is anyone who points out how nasty his beliefs are) he would no doubt be crowing about how God had punished them for their sins. Because it happened to him it’s somehow a form of blessing and all part of his invisible friend’s holy plan. I can only hope he gets better mentally at some point as well as physically.

Real Street is the blog of Stewart Cowan, a Scottish evangelical christian who has yet to meet a conspiracy theory he doesn’t like. Recent favourites include a bus advert which is going to turn us all into Muslims and how trying to cut down homophobic bullying in schools is secretly a plan to legalise gay paedophilia. Cowan doesn’t mangle language as much as Carvath, but he does like to grasp at anything which he feels supports his prejudices whilst dismissing all evidence against them. The Daily Mail and conspiracy loving tabloids are right and anyone answering him with facts and basing their replies upon reality is obviously deluded.

Cowan has a couple of tame commenters who’ll up the frothing at the mouth quotient when necessary. English Viking hates foreigners who come over here to work and improve their, and our, lot. Ancient Danes and Norwegians who popped over for a little recreational raping and stealing are obviously okay, though. Len wants you to know the Truth and accept God, because science, reality and not hating people just because they’re different is obviously the work of Satan.

The natural response to the likes of Carvath and Cowan is this-

XKCD- someone on the internet is wrong

But in the long run that’s just a waste of time. They enjoy being wrong, and feel that having all the flaws of their arguments pointed out somehow proves their case. It’s far better to ignore them or point out elsewhere just how stupid they’re being today.

Which is what I know I should do, and what I shall try to do, but I’m not making any promises that I won’t pop over there occasionally and slap them on their own blogs.

Voodoo Histories keep repeating

I recently read Voodoo Histories: How Conspiracy Theory Has Shaped Modern History by David Aaronovitch. It’s an interesting book which clearly, though with much sarcasm, lays out the history of several conspiracy theories then debunks them. From the Protocols of the Elders of Zion to (in the revised edition I read) the fuss over Obama’s birth certificate, it takes apart the most popular made up histories of the last century.

One of the theories examined in the book is the “mystery” of the death of David Kelly, a conspiracy theory which has been dug up again by the Daily Mail. The in-depth and considered (“The Mail has a healthy scepticism of conspiracy theories.” insists a related editorial) drags up the same arguments as previous iterations of this tale. “Severing the ulnar artery couldn’t have produced enough blood loss to die from.” But only one mention of the overdose of co-proxamol painkillers Kelly took, enough to be fatal by themselves in most cases, and none of an existing arterial problem. “Kelly didn’t seem suicidal.” To people who knew him in passing and are looking back on the events with the whispers of foul play colouring their opinions. His wife, on the other hand, had noticed how depressed he was about his sudden unwanted notoriety. “The Government stood to gain from his death.” Now I’m no fan of Blair, and opposed the invasion of Iraq, but I can’t see any way that the slimy little bastard could have benefitted from Kelly’s death. If anything, the suicide kept the spotlight on the flimsy reasoning behind the invasion of Iraq far longer than if Kelly hadn’t died.

Of course, it shouldn’t be a surprise that a conspiracy theory wouldn’t die. I bet the Protocols are still considered real in certain circles. And it’s no surprise that the Daily Mail should be so intent on stirring it up. It’s just a shame that so much time is going to be wasted on this when there are more important things to be dealing with.

The Editors’ Code of Practice

This is the document which newspaper editors are supposed to refer to to guide their behaviour. We all know they don’t, and that the Press Complaints Commission has a history of letting them get away with it. Isn’t it about time we demanded more rigorous enforcement of the code? I’ve been meaning to look into this for a while, and recent events have emphasised the need for it.

The Christians demand special treatment 1

Lord Carey, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, wants employment tribunals involving Christians to be adjudicated by judges “with a proven understanding of religious issues”. In other words, judges who’ll rule in favour of the Christian defendant no matter how weak their case. This was reported as a good thing, to be supported and defended, by the Daily Mail and inspired the usual drivel from Melanie Phillips. Just imagine the frothing anger that would have been on display if a prominent imam had said it instead. (And is it any surprise that they make Lord Neuberger, with his very Jewish name, the bad guy of the report and opinion piece?)

Workers have every right to refuse to perform certain tasks if they deem them to be dangerous, illegal or counter productive. I don’t believe that using your religion to justify your prejudices counts as a valid reason not to do your job.

The Press Complaints Commission is a joke 1

My acquaintance the conspiracy theorist should turn his attention to this, it’s got more substance than the stuff he’s buying into.

The Press Complaints Commission is headed by Paul Dacre, editor of the Daily Mail- which is probably the worst of a bad bunch. Left Foot Forward has taken a look at the PCC’s record on dealing with climate related falsehoods and unprofessional reporting. When the papers can get away with making stuff up without so much as mild tutting from the Commission why does it exist in the first place?

Rounding up a few links

That conspiracy theory about Labour re-engineering Britain’s population through immigration? (Just read that sentence and try to get your head around the absurdity of what some people want to believe.) It’s utter rubbish, of course, and Five Chinese Crackers does a good job of dismantling it. Just don’t tell the conspiracy theorist who’s trying to Fisk me, he’d invent a conspiracy theory about a conspiracy to quash the original conspiracy theory.

Sometimes, there comes a point in a discussion where you just have to look awkwardly at your feet and shuffle away, like when when the troofer tells you the CIA were responsible for 9/11, or the cab driver tells you he blames the blacks, or when the shouty man on the bus tells you he invented paint. Any rational response would fall on deaf ears. If vague mentions of social benefits of immigration being cut from speeches can be proof of deliberately importing voters, nothing you can say will make a difference.

The Oath Keepers, the scary sort of organisation which appears when people take conspiracy theories too seriously. It sounds like an unwritten part of Sounds of Soldiers.

A battery technology which uses a carbon polymer could be the future of electric cars. One idea is that the car’s body will serve a double purpose by being made out of the battery material.

The Daily Mail and Sunday Times’ climate journalism is made up to suit their climate change denial agenda. Which is a shock and surprise to me. Really.

Lulu will give me a free copy of any book I upload to them by the 16th of next month, to use as a galley copy for proof reading. I do have an urge to collect the short fiction which has appeared on Spinneyhead over the years (and one or two of the comment pieces as well maybe).

South Cheshire Militaire. Which I shall be visiting on Sunday. Because I’m a geek.

That’s cleared away some of the open tabs.

The usual rubbish from the Daily Mail

Petronella Wyatt’s mother was hit by a cyclist, so she’s spun a piece full of the usual anti-cyclist nonsense out of it. I sincerely doubt she’d have come out with all that drivel if her mother had been hit by a driver.

I’ve left a comment, but the Mail has a habit of losing stuff that doesn’t agree with them, so here it is-

I hope your mother gets well soon, but everything else in your piece is nonsense.

Let’s start with simple numbers. It’s a bad year if one person dies because they were hit by a cyclist, whereas it’s a good year if fewer than 4000 are killed by cars. If you want to make the roads safer you don’t start by attacking one of the least dangerous groups on them.

Your mugger rode a bike? Many muggers escape on foot, should we ban trainers?

I couldn’t find the statistic you quoted on the TRL site, but I know that one of the motoring organisations has admitted that 3/4 of car/bike accidents are primarily or wholly the driver’s fault. The EU law doesn’t say drivers must always be at fault and is open to evidence of cyclist wrongdoing, but it is based upon the balance of probability.

Cycle training should be taken up more. It sounds like you didn’t take any, so you’re being hypocritical about it. Drivers need it mor than cyclists, if only to show them how dangerous they can be.

A N Wilson’s stupidity is thermonuclear

Perhaps Wilson and Melanie Philips are conducting parallel experiments in just how moronic they can make their opinion pieces and still get published. The flaw in their methodology is that they’re writing for the Daily Mail, a “newspaper” with a policy of champion ignorance amongst the middle classes.

Wilson’s piece- Yes, scientists do much good. But a country run by these arrogant gods of certainty would truly be hell on earth is one of the dumbest, least coherent bits of writing you’ll read outside of a Creationist museum. It is rightly being ripped to shreds in the comments. Of course, the paper itself is unlikely to print any of the replies to the piece, sparing their more Luddite readers from reality.

If Wilson continues in this vein it won’t be long before he’s writing about how pixies can save the economy and the dangers of immigrant trolls living under our motorway bridges and decimating the English goat population.

It takes a very rightwing paper to warn us about very very rightwing terrorists?

The Daily Mail seems like the least likely paper to run a piece acknowledging there are some mad and dangerous racist rightwing bastards out there to complement the mad and dangerous islamic bastards. Cue the predictable responses from their readership, which sound almost exactly like the nonsense spouted by American rightwingers after a similar warning in the USA.

What are we coming to when being truly British and proud of it seen as being “Far-Right”?!

The BNP is far left, not far right. That is why they are taking all the disgruntled Labour votes across the country and the only reason the BNP are being labelled “right” is because Labour are suffering and are hoping to associate the BNP with the Tories.

Any fueling of racial tension will come from the far left anyway, because it is mostly the working classes who are losing their jobs to immigrants.

I actually think it is quite possible that the authorities may be behind this. If something happens and trouble stirs, they get exactly what they want. A complete police state and the tools to quell any revolution. This is just a new label to demonize those Brits who have had enough of the way this country has been destroyed. Just watch, it is happening in America also with furious American patriots being called “neo Nazi” or “KKK”, rather than outraged citizens. My final point is clear. Join the dots and you can now see why the police are so keen to change the Contempt of Court Act now.

etc. etc.