Spinneyhead Blog

The internet rise of Britain’s far-right

On my list of possible subjects for a story is the threat of far-right violence and terrorism. I don’t have a specific hook for this story yet,
but I am collecting background information for research.

(And getting worried for my country as I do.)

Today, though, there is an autonomous mass of far-right activists propagating hate independently of formal far-right organisations, some of which we have outlined in our new report out today, State of Hate 2018. Some of the biggest names in this world are from the UK and they have global audiences. Many of the largest and most influential far-right sites in the world are visited by huge numbers of UK activists.

Source: Britain’s far-right keyboard warriors are taking advantage of our complacency

Licensed to litter (and commit other minor offences)

So, the government has revealed that MI5 agents can commit crime in UK in pursuit of their duties. There’s been no detail released, yet, of just how serious those crimes can be, or any of the more detailed guidelines.

In Bond-like stories, the MI5 agents become daring cat burglars, whilst in Le Carre land, retired agents live in fear of their misdemeanours in the line of duty being used as blackmail them into off the books espionage.

The mass shooting conspiracy theory script

There’s a script the conspiracy theorists, and gun nuts go through it every time there’s a mass shooting in the US. This article on The Psychology of Conspiracy Theories blog picks it apart.

These days, a mass shooting in the news is basically a guarantee that in the next 24 hours at least 100 different people on the internet are going to use the red paintbrush tool in MS Paint to put meaningful circles around pictures of people’s eyebrows.

I used to regularly argue with a conspiracy theorist in his site’s comment section. I’d investigate his claims, quickly find out how reality disagreed with them, then get accused of being part of the conspiracy for pointing out its flaws.

It was fun, in its own dumb way. But he withdrew from being wrong on the internet, and now the United States has a conspiracy nut as its President.
Conspiracy theories aren’t just amusing stupidity any more, they’ve become weaponised, and they’re being used to create further division (and endanger people such as the students in Florida who are speaking out after they came under fire- their friends were killed- in the latest school shooting).

The digital evidence disaster

There’s a story in the Police’s problems with properly handling digital evidence. I don’t know what it is, but I’m linking to a couple of stories from today’s Guardian for future reference.

Justice system at ‘breaking point’ over digital evidence

Public faith in the fairness of trials is being eroded and the justice system is approaching “breaking point” due to failures to disclose key digital evidence, the head of the criminal bar has said. The comments from Angela Rafferty QC come as a leading forensic scientist, Dr Jan Collie, exposes the difficulties defence experts have in obtaining downloaded material from police and prosecutors, including dealing with “games” officers play in pursuit of convictions.

Police outsource digital forensic work to unaccredited labs

The Guardian has learned that:

At least 15 police forces, including Greater Manchester police and the Metropolitan police, have outsourced digital forensics work – typically the analysis of mobile phones and computers – to unaccredited private companies, some of which are subject to no regulatory oversight.
One private company that holds a major contract covering more than a dozen forces had its accreditation revoked last year after failing its first audit, but continued to perform forensic work for the prosecution.
Just 15 out of 43 police forces met a government deadline in October to bring their in-house laboratories in line with minimum quality standards for analysing mobile phone, computer and CCTV data.

Break It Down!

Breaking the story down

This is the next stage in creating Uninvited Guests. I’ve taken the brief scene descriptions I wrote over Christmas, and laid them out as pages, ready for thumbnailing. Now I’m going to do a Marvel-ish method of partial scripting and page layouts as the next part of the process.


Uninvited Guests rough v2

I’ve done a couple of pieces of very rough concept art for the comic I’m planning. This is version two, done yesterday. Version one is below.

Obviously, I’ve got a lot of work to do. The monster isn’t going to be the clunky lupine thing in the second drawing, nor the flat black one in the first. I think I need to get to planning some layouts, and letting them suggest how to have it sneak into full view over a few pages.

Uninvited Guests rough v1

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.

Lever Street

Lever Street 060118

Amongst this year’s plans is a comic, so I’m going to get more sketching done, to boost my confidence with pencil, pen and brush. I fully intend to improve, and this is here as much to provide a reference to check against at the end of the year as anything else.

The drawing was done in the coffee shop across from (and slightly to one side of) the building depicted. I’d have put in more details, but the windows steamed up and obscured my view.

Paramount Books

Paramount Books

Paramount Books is the shop I wish I bought more stuff from. If I had more money, and a lot more bookshelf space, I could happily go wild in this shop. As it is, I’ll pop in every so often to pick up a few old copies of Starblazer or similar sized cowboy adventures or romances.

It’s only open Friday, Saturday and Sunday, so you can’t always pop in on a whim. There was a worrying time, last year, I think, when it looked like it might be closing down. As it’s still there, I shall continue topping up my Starblazer collection.

Put a lid on it (if you want)

I put off writing about it at the time, but The Helmet Debate resurfaced just before Christmas, along with rumours that the Government may consider making cycle helmets compulsory*.

So a few quick thoughts on the subject.

The argument for making helmets compulsory is that they’ll make cyclists safer. This is toss. My helmet doesn’t make me any safer. It doesn’t throw up a forcefield to deflect close passing cars, or fill in potholes in the road ahead. Nor does it psychically alert pedestrians that they should look both ways before stepping into the road- even if all those cars are standing still. It’s not there to make me safer. It’s there to minimise a specific type of damage, for when its nonexistent magical abilities don’t prevent an accident caused by bad driving, crap roads, inattentive pedestrians, or my own mistakes.

So many of the things that people think of as safety devices are, likewise, really just damage limitation features. Staying on the roads, seatbelts aren’t safety devices. Nor are airbags, crumple zones, side impact protection, or strengthened pillars. Whilst you want your car to have all those things built in, to save your life, you don’t want to ever have to use them.

Safety devices are the things that can help you prevent the damage limitation features being used. Brakes, good tyres and suspension, a well maintained and marked road, and, most of all, actually using that thing between your ears.

If campaigners and politicians are genuinely interested in making the roads safer for all (but especially cyclists, in this context), they should ignore all calls for mandatory helmets, and look at ways to improve driver awareness, and build better cycling infrastructure.

*Based upon flimsy evidence, admittedly. But we have a ridiculously flimsy Government at the moment.

Meet the New Year, just like the Old Year?

Well, we made it out of 2017. Which is nice.

I’m trying to imagine that we’ve now entered the third act of a bizarre tragi-comedy. 2016 was the first act, where a bunch of really bad decisions were made. 2017 showed the first effects of those decisions, and signposted potential future horrors, but it also signalled the beginnings of resistance. 2018, hopefully, is when the resistance begins to undo the damage, and gives us signs of a more positive future.

One can hope.

I don’t really do New Year’s resolutions. But I have a few aims. I had begun to hit a work rhythm that combined my freelance job with writing and other creative work, but that got disrupted in the weeks before Christmas. I’m going to try to get back into it this week.

Cycling is something I’ve been doing less of in the last few years. That’s another thing I hope to do more of.

And I’ve not been experimenting with food as much, either. So more of what I call Collision Cooking is called for. In fact, I managed tp start the year with a little bit of it.

Some of Christmans was spent in Cumbria, which meant I got to have Rum Butter for the first time in years. It’s basically alcoholic, coarse grained, butter icing, and is more-ish in that way all the least healthy foods are. As a last bit of Christmassy decadence, I had some on my porridge this morning, instead of honey.

And it was nice. The butter melted, and added a rich creaminess which was a nice counter to the dark richness of the brown sugar and rum. I’ve still got about three quarters of a jar of it left, so it’ll be appearing on porridge in the future, when i really want to spoil myself.

So, I’ve begun the year in one way I intend to go on, as well as getting some (but not enough) writing done.. Tomorrow, I’ll try to get a few more started

Who’d have thought that Police cuts would lead to an increase in crime?

I’ve heard of people being told that the crime against them won’t be investigated because the sum stolen was too low. Even though the criminal had cleared out their bank account. If they were wealthier, perhaps the Police would have investigated, but poor folks aren’t covered because the return is too low.

Something to remember when I get started on the next Rain and Bullets story.

Crime is rising in the region as crooks ‘take advantage’ of policing cuts, force insiders and fed-up victims have told the Manchester Evening News.

Home Office figures show that crime rose by 31 per cent – an additional 70,000 crimes – in the year up to June 2017.

The statistic represents a crime report every two minutes.

Source: ‘We can’t keep up’ – crime rising as crooks take advantage of police cuts – Manchester Evening News

White Supremacists Share Bomb-Making Materials Online

US white supremacists, but we have our share of home-grown equivalents.

In May, federal agents searching the Tampa home of 21-year-old Brandon Russell discovered an array of explosives and bomb ingredients: fuses made from rifle shells, a white cake-like explosive substance called HMTD, more than one pound of ammonium nitrate and other explosive precursors, and two different kinds of radioactive material. The agents promptly arrested Russell, who was both a member of the Florida National Guard and a leader of Atomwaffen, a small fascist group calling for a “white revolution in the 21st century.”

Source: White Supremacists Share Bomb-Making Materials in Online… — ProPublica

Were-sharks and Nazi leprechauns: the rise and fall of the horror paperback | Books | The Guardian

The Lost Picture Show series I write as Garth Owen, is inspired by genre film. But horror paperbacks of the seventies and eighties are sneaking a bit of influence in there as well.

I don’t have anywhere near as many to read as the guy interviewed here (the book he’s just published is on my to-read list, though, so I can find more to look out for). My interest was renewed a couple of years ago, by re-discovering the works of Guy N Smith (Crabs, etc), and finding a big pile of them in a charity shop. I need to sit down and devour half a dozen or so over a week some time soon.

The next planned Lost Picture Show story is going to have a few nods to the sub-genre, with satanic rituals, sex in odd places, and gore. All updated and given a smartphone and internet twist.

Source: Were-sharks and Nazi leprechauns: the rise and fall of the horror paperback | Books | The Guardian