CANINE NINE NINE

It’s reassuring to know some things never change; they’re part of the fabric of the nation, upholding Great British traditions and hopefully continuing to do so in perpetuity. The shipping forecast, the Proms, the football results on a Saturday teatime, strawberries & cream, leather-on-willow, the proud ineptitude of the Metropolitan Police Force. When it comes to the latter, what a relief it is that this one particular Great British tradition is determined not to blot its impressive copybook of cock-ups and sheer stupidity.

Seven highly-trained elite officers were dispatched to a danger zone last Friday – bravely going where few mere members of the public would dare to venture, yet again putting their lives on the line to ensure we can sleep safely in our beds. No doubt clad in protective armour designed for confronting irate mobs of youths probably armed with acid and knives, ready for any horrors this sickening society could throw at them, the officers stormed the home of a pensioner in Kingston upon Thames and seized her Yorkshire terrier. Where would we be without our oh-so brave boys in blue?

Scotland Yard sent its magnificent seven into battle following a shocking incident involving a traumatised delivery man whose cry for help was deemed so urgent that it was six weeks before the coppers took action. The luckless chap was delivering a parcel to the doorstep of 73-year-old Claudia Settimo-Bovio; Miss Settimo-Bovio requested the package be dumped on the doorstep on account of her 10-year-old little dog Alfie adopting the territorial approach to unfamiliar intruders most dog-owners are grateful for; but as she opened the door to pick up the parcel, the delivery man had yet to exit via the garden gate and Alfie did his duty, determined to chase the stranger off the property. Unfortunately, the delivery man evidently had a fear of dogs – even Yorkshire terriers – and tripped-up, apparently screaming like a little girl as Alfie approached him.

The delivery man was rescued from being mauled to death via the intervention of a neighbour who casually scooped-up the offending beast, thus enabling the victim of this savage assault to escape to the safety of his van. Considering his performance when confronted by a four-legged equivalent of a kitchen mop, perhaps it was no surprise the delivery man went crying to the police, and the Met responded with its usual sensitivity by turning up at Miss Settimo-Bovio’s home at 8.00 in the morning to seize Alfie under Section 5 of the Dangerous Dogs Act. A bewildered Alfie was taken away to kennels – an environment of which he has no previous experience – and his owner cruelly left without her ‘out of control’ canine companion.

This case says so much about where we are now. The fact that the police turned up mob-handed to ‘seize’ a pet dog smaller than most cats; that, thanks to one of the most misused and damaging pieces of legislation ever passed in this country, they have the right to do so in the first place; and that a grown man responds to being confronted with a yapping lap-dog by dialling 999. Following a highly publicised series of dog attacks on babies and children by a media that still possessed considerable clout at the turn of the 90s, the brief moral panic of a tabloid horror story prompted the worst kind of knee-jerk response from government, leading to the ‘court of public opinion’-inspired Dangerous Dogs Act 1991.

Four particular ‘types’ of dog were the prime target of the Act – the Pit Bull Terrier, the Dogo Argentino, the Japanese Tosa, and the Fila Brasileiro; the poor old Pit Bull has been saddled with the ‘dangerous dog’ tag ever since the early 90s media storm, taking the place of one-time canine villains such as the Rottweiler. Owners of the four identified types (rather than breeds – and it takes a court to identify the types) can only own them if they have a special court exemption; they must also muzzle them and have them on a lead in public, as well as having them microchipped, registered (not unlike the dog licence of old), insured and neutered. Problems often arise from deciding whether or not a particular dog is a type specified in the law; by avoiding naming specific breeds, the Dangerous Dog Act has needlessly placed hundreds of family pets on death row over the last 25 years because of wrong decisions made by courts that aren’t helped by the vagueness of the legislation.

It’s been said before, but I’ll say it again. There are no such things as bad dogs, just bad owners. Dogs are incredibly intelligent, loyal, loving, affectionate and protective animals; give them a home, feed them and walk them, and they’ll be your best friend for life. Dogs can herd sheep, guide the blind, act as live-in helpers for the disabled, sniff out hidden drugs for customs officers, sniff out criminals for coppers, sniff out survivors in the rubble of earthquakes; and they can spell the respectively best and worst words in the English language from a canine perspective: W-A-L-K and B-A-T-H.

Human beings regularly treat dogs appallingly, yet if we show them kindness dogs won’t hold us responsible for the awful actions of one member of our species; if we give them love, they’ll give it back a thousand times over. It doesn’t take much effort to train a dog properly; they’re remarkably fast learners and eager to learn to boot. Badly behaved children are generally a product of badly behaved parents; dogs follow a similar path. Some adults aren’t worthy of their pets and should never be allowed to keep one – just as some parents should have been sterilised before they ever got anywhere near siring their unfortunate offspring. Sadly, the Dangerous Dogs Act has no such clauses and this inadequate law staggers on, making more misery for many responsible dog-owners and resulting in the ridiculous charade that took place at the home of a distraught Claudia Settimo-Bovio last week.

I accept some adults are inexplicably scared of dogs – probably arising from some childhood incident in which a dog frightened or attacked them; and chances are that dog’s owner hadn’t gone to the ‘trouble’ of training it so that the child would see the good in the animal and learn to love the species thereafter. If this fear fails to be addressed and it remains a lifelong one, even a Yorkshire terrier can spark disproportionate panic; but did it really warrant a phone call to the Met? Pathetic response; pathetic police; pathetic law; pathetic country.

© The Editor

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TRAFFIC NEWS

Road safety public information films from the 1960s are less heavy on the horror quota that terrified people into doing as they were told in the 70s; what one notices more than anything when watching monochrome pedestrians approach the edge of the kerb is the ironic emphasis on looking both ways for traffic when there actually isn’t any at all. Most of these shorts appear to have been shot on a Sunday morning judging by the number of cars passing by, and the absence of stationary vehicles lining the side of the pavement is a greater pointer to a different world than the sight of short pants or the black & white cinematography.

The gradual increase in car usage that characterised the end of wartime petrol rationing necessitated road safety being the most recurring topic of the early public information films; hand-in-hand with this growing awareness came improvements to official crossings for pedestrians to try to prevent them making their own way from one side of the road to the other and having to dodge traffic in the process. The first attempt at this was the Zebra crossing, which debuted in 1951, when there were two million registered cars on the roads. They were usually accompanied by Belisha beacons, which had been a regular street fixture since 1935, and the system reached its most notable worldwide exposure via the sleeve of ‘Abbey Road’.

The Highway Code specifies that motorists have to give way to pedestrians at a Zebra crossing, but some ignored the rule then as now; by just the first half of 1960, when registered car ownership had shot up to ten million, 533 pedestrians were either killed or injured at Zebra crossings, prompting a new solution by the Ministry of Transport. The ‘Panda crossing’ arrived in 1962 and was the first to have a pedestrian-level push-button system attached to the Belisha beacons, with instructions reading ‘Wait’ and then ‘Cross’; the design on the actual surface of the road was coloured the same as the Zebra crossings, but consisted of elongated triangles. The newcomer proved confusing for both pedestrians and motorists, and the unsatisfactory Panda crossing was phased out at the end of the 60s.

The successor to the Panda crossing, and maintaining the curious tradition of naming these street landmarks after animals, was the Pelican crossing. This first appeared in 1969 and whilst retaining the push-button aspect of the Panda, the Pelican introduced the familiar static red man and walking green man – though he always resembled a fairly non-binary individual, to be honest. In the 70s, this far more successful system was even promoted on a public information film by the cast of ‘Dad’s Army’ – a curious combination considering Captain Mainwaring and his platoon were mysteriously transplanted thirty years into the future without any of them seemingly noticing the fact.

Bar a few technological adjustments, when it was reborn as the ‘Puffin crossing’ in the 1990s, the Pelican remains the standard system of pedestrian crossing in British towns and cities. Tinkering with technology has also been responsible for a small handful of failed experiments, such as the brief use of a recorded voice by a celebrity that was a variation on the now-commonplace female voice announcing ‘Caution! Two-way traffic’ (presumably an aid to the visually impaired). I swear I’m not making this up, but around ten years ago Leeds City Council tried this out, and whose trusted vocal tones came over the speakers informing pedestrians the moment had arrived to cross the road? Erm…Jimmy Savile.

Throughout the 60s and 70s, children were the prime pedestrian demographic at which road safety programmes were aimed, as demonstrated with the proliferation of lollipop ladies at school crossings, as well as the Tufty Club, the Kerb Drill and the Green Cross Code – though the latter’s use of a be-quiffed old rocker clad in black (Alvin Stardust) or a muscleman in a cape and tights (Dave Prowse) probably wouldn’t be welcomed by kids in today’s considerably queasier climate.

Interestingly, the focus has now largely shifted to the other end of the scale; a study commissioned five years ago revealed that elderly pedestrians were struggling to keep up with the brisk walking pace of the green man. 76% of men and 85% of women of pensionable age were failing to adhere to the recommended international pace of 4ft per second; the findings of the 2012 report stated the average walking pace for over-65s is 3ft per second for a man and 2.6ft per second for a woman; it takes between four and seven seconds before the green man begins flashing (naughty boy), cutting it a bit fine for the plodding pensioner.

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) are recommending the period for crossing be extended a little, perhaps taking the more plentiful numbers of OAPs into account these days. Zebra crossings present even more of a challenge in that motorists who fail to stop for pedestrians or exercise their impatience by beeping their horns only face a £100 fine and the loss of three licence penalty points; some countries impose a fine of around £2,000. The rules do change slightly if a motorist fails to stop at a Zebra that is a school crossing point, however, with a potential fine of £1,000.

NICE also expressed concern at the pavement furniture that can be a potential problem for either elderly or disabled pedestrians, such as the awful eyesore of the bin parade. Maybe they should have gone a little further and included the infuriatingly annoying charity chuggers that make a habit of invading one’s personal space on the street. They could easily be replaced by the return of the old-school charity boxes featuring admittedly creepy (to a child, anyway) actual-size fibreglass models of disabled children or injured animals that were a regular sight of our streets until the Spastics Society was reborn as Scope and decided they were old hat. And on that subject…

© The Editor

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EQUAL OPPORTUNITIES

Better watch what you say in your comments today – disagree with me and I’ll be on the Hate Crime Hotline to PC PC; I’ll have you done for Petuniaphobia, and going by the new guidelines outlined by the Old Bill and their comrades-in-compassion the Clown Prosecution Service, anything can be interpreted as online abuse. Much as some find ‘Mrs Brown’s Boys’ the funniest thing since sliced Del Boys whilst others would rather be trapped in a lift with Kelvin McKenzie than watch it, definitions of what constitutes a cyber Hate Crime are subjective. Latest statistics reveal the CPS successfully prosecuted over 15,000 ‘Hate Crime incidents’ in 2015-16, though the Hate Crime category is so wide-ranging that it can encompass everything from a long-running vicious vendetta in which death threats are regularly tossed about to the guy who made a joke YT video whereby he manipulated his girlfriend’s dog into making a Hitler salute.

The latter not only highlights the ludicrousness of criminalising comedy (see Paul Gascoigne), but also seems to tie-in with the concerted clampdown on free speech that is well in advance of us on the other side of the Atlantic. An intended free speech rally in Boston at the weekend was gatecrashed by thousands of so-called ‘anti-fascist’ protestors, including the masked left-wing anarchists who go by the name of Antifa; following the heaven-sent Twitter comments of Mr President in response to the trouble in Charlottesville the week before, I wonder if the Donald pointed out that the violence this time round emanated not from both sides, but just the one – i.e. the anti-fascists?

Amongst numerous tasteless tactics in evidence was hijacking the death of Heather Heyer – the one fatality of the drive-in at Charlottesville; the protestors half-inched her image in the same way some here exploited the murder of Jo Cox for their own loathsome ends last year. Now the ‘movement’ has its first martyr, and even the picture of Heyer which was worn like a piece of corporate protest merchandise had a distinct look of the airbrushed Che Guevara photo that was de rigueur for late 60s student bedsits. Whatever she may have been in life, Heather Heyer has now been immortalised as a brand name for the Alt Left. Her family must be so proud.

The rally itself was intended to be unashamedly conservative with a small ‘c’, though everyone attending was naturally labelled ‘white supremacist/KKK/racist’ etc. If you’re not with us, you’re against us; there’s no moderate middle ground in this New World Order. And the world that existed before it actually didn’t exist at all; remove all physical traces of it and it never happened; get Google in on the act and cyberspace follows suit. Simple Ministry of Truth principles apply today. The intolerant McCarthyism of the SJWs has already polluted US campuses and rendered them uncomfortably reminiscent of Chinese universities during the Cultural Revolution, and this mindset has now spilled over into so many facets of American life that anyone daring to lift their head above the PC parapet is shot down in a way that would constitute a Hate Crime were it the other way round.

Back in Blighty, a naive notion of equality whereby cultural, racial and sexual differences are deemed an unnecessary weapon of division is the mantra of the moment, whereas the accompanying word is ‘fluidity’. Schools now generate the fallacy that we’re all the same – something that extends to the school sports day, whereby everyone who competes receives equal billing. Of course, the quality of education a child receives still being dependent on whether or not its parents can afford to pay for the best makes a mockery of this philosophy; and outlawing competition amongst pupils hardly prepares them for the world beyond the playground when it remains a crucial element of the rat-race. Parents that have repeatedly told their offspring how special they are have had such praise reinforced by teachers, yet the insulated Telly Tubby Land these pampered potentates are eventually released from is hardly the ideal training camp for the absence of gormless optimism that awaits them.

As recent as four or five years ago, I would’ve regarded myself as very much on the left, and while I’m a long way from the right (I remain contemptuous of IDS and Gideon), I do feel somewhat stranded at the moment – a bit like one of those athletes in the Olympics who fly under no flag. Politically, I’m stateless. The humourless, censorious finger-wagging serial banners that have taken control of the left are to me no different from the Whitehouse/Muggeridge/Longford collective that once operated from a similar standpoint on the right. It matters not to me which side of the political divide these attitudes inhabit; they go against so many of my core beliefs, and if it is the left that currently exercise these restrictions of freedom of thought and speech, f**k ‘em. I reserve the right to criticise whoever I want to, whichever party of whichever colour they represent. And I can do that without resorting to name-calling Hate Crime.

One of the unfortunate offshoots of being told what one cannot think or say is that it creates a vacuum for rational and sensible debate, one that is then filled by the egotistical gobshites and professional contrarians who love the sound of their own voices – the kind that don’t possess the intelligence or humour of a Christopher Hitchens. As these are then perceived as the only ones who express an alternative opinion to the consensus, anyone who harbours an alternative is inevitably lumped in with them. I detest Hopkins as much as I detest Abbott, so where do I go? I may have voted Lib Dem at the last two General Elections, but that was for a decent constituency MP rather than any party allegiance, and Old Mother Cable carping on about a rerun of the EU Referendum is about as relevant to me today as calling for a repeal of the Corn Laws.

Equality cuts both ways; it doesn’t mean usurping those who kept minorities oppressed and then oppressing the usurped. It should mean everyone – whatever their political persuasion – being on a level playing field and all voices being heard. But, politically, it doesn’t work that way anymore than the Tsar being ultimately superseded by Stalin meant the Romanov’s palaces were burned to the ground and the ruling class of Bolsheviks set up home in a community of garden sheds. The aphrodisiac of power is as appealing to those who don’t have it as those reluctant to let it go; and I’ll still be out in the wilderness whichever side grabs it. In 2017, however, I think the wilderness is the most interesting place to be.

© The Editor

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MADE IN INDIA

William Makepeace Thackeray, Rudyard Kipling, George Orwell, Vivien Leigh, Spike Milligan, Engelbert Humperdinck, Cliff Richard, Joanna Lumley, my mate Vicky’s dad – all made in India. Considering the British presence in India spanned the best part of 200 years, it’s no wonder some of those born in the Subcontinent left their mark on the artistic and pop cultural landscape; though it’s ironic that when The Beatles visited India to sit at the feet of the Maharishi in 1968, the one member of the band who had been born there was no longer present – Pete Best. However, by the time the last batch of these household names arrived, the days of British India were numbered, anyway; there were only 500 Brits left in the Indian civil service by 1935 and the posting was no longer viewed as the job for life it had been for generations.

For an exit that was, in the end, perceived by many as ridiculously hasty, there had been warnings for decades that the Raj was unsustainable; but it took the draining impact of the Second World War on the Mother Country for the jewel in the crown to finally slip from the imperial grasp. Some Indian nationalists had expected independence – or at the very least the dominion status afforded Australia and Canada – as a reward for the manpower India supplied in the First World War, where a million Indian troops had served King, Country and Empire; but the failure of the British to concede either fuelled the nationalist movement anew, and saw a fresh figure emerge who recognised the power of enigma.

Like Benjamin Franklin two-hundred years earlier, Gandhi had undergone a transformation from loyal colonial subject to unlikely revolutionary; he had written of his younger self, ‘Hardly ever have I known anybody to cherish such loyalty as I did to the British Constitution.’ The man who eventually took charge of India upon independence, Jawaharlal Nehru, had been educated at Harrow and Cambridge and had been admitted to the English bar. But both he and the Mahatma were one-time Anglophiles whose previous participation in the traditional cultural exchange between Britain and India didn’t affect their desire and demand for independence.

The Raj may have been mythologized in the British imagination since 1947, but it was mythologized during its lifetime. Unlike many of its overseas colonies, India was viewed by Britain in the same way Algeria was viewed by the French, as an extension of home soil; Indian sportsmen from the world of cricket and polo were as familiar a sight in the UK as Maharajas were in London society, and we all shared the same King/Emperor. Even if the beneficiaries of the Raj on both sides tended to be small in relation to those for whom it was either an irrelevance or an encumbrance, the idea of another England thousands of miles away baking beneath a sun that never set was one that embodied all of the vaguely comical grandeur of romantic British pomp and circumstance. Even when the British sensed the sun was setting after all, they still anticipated it would take decades after the end of WWII before it happened.

As with the majority of Britain’s colonial possessions, the British presence in India had arisen from maritime trading rather than a military invasion. The trailblazers had embraced the nation’s religions, taken Indian wives and enjoyed the kind of cross-cultural immersion that was frowned upon following the 1857 Indian Mutiny, when direct rule by the British Crown replaced the corporate rule of the East India Company. From then on, there was a strict divide between colonists and natives; the playing fields of Eton trained the governors, administrators and Viceroys, whereas the civil service was open to any ambitious young Englishman, and many ambitious young Englishmen went for it.

For the generations of Brits who lived, worked and died in India, the standard of living for someone working in the civil service was considerably higher than they could expect back in the UK, and the job was an attractive proposition. Army postings on the Subcontinent were also envied; even the future Duke of Wellington had served his dues in India as a young ensign. In retrospect, it was remarkable that so few Brits were able to govern so many Indians for so many decades and for so long. But the system was stretched on several grim occasions, such as the 1919 Amritsar Massacre or the devastating series of famines in 1876-78, 1896-97, 1899-1900, and 1943-44; the total death toll of the first is estimated to have been in the region of 6.1 to 10.3 million.

The cult of Gandhi and his philosophy of non-violent protest in the 1930s contrasted with the increase in Sectarian violence that the British authorities struggled to keep a lid on. The PR sold back to Britain glossed over the realities of the situation as best it could, but it became harder to attract recruits to the Indian civil service in the years leading up to the Second World War. When British barrister Cyril Radcliffe arrived in India in 1947 to deliver the geographical partition he’d drawn up once India’s independence as two nations had been decided, he found the country in a far worse state than he’d been led to believe. Civil war seemed all-but inevitable. In June 1947, the last Viceroy, Earl Mountbatten, announced the date for the end of British India; the remaining Brits had barely two months to get out as the unsatisfactory new map provoked the natives into migration, panic and unprecedented bloodshed.

The shock for the wave of Brits departing the only home they’d ever known upon arriving in Blighty was the jarring comparison with the place they’d left behind. A cold monochrome country, battered by wartime bombing and recovering from a crippling winter was compounded by the sudden diminishing of their social status; from comfortable surroundings complemented by servant staff, most found themselves reduced to living in small, grey homes on small, grey streets and having to accept jobs several notches down from the ones they’d enjoyed back home. It must have been a humbling comedown, and a story rarely told when the end of British India understandably concentrates on the bloody division of the nation the Brits left behind.

A language, an educational system and a legal system are the most visible and valuable legacies of the Raj in India today, surviving and thriving while the statues and monuments to forgotten British figures crumble away with the same slow drift from living memory as those Brits born and raised in the Raj. Not many of those voices have been heard during the media coverage of the 70th anniversary, but this anniversary marks a moment as crucial to the story of Britain as it is to the story of India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. In its own way, 1947 ranks alongside 1066, 1815, 1918 and 1945 as a pivotal turning point in our fortunes.

© The Editor

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THIS YEAR’S MODEL

It says a lot about ‘terrorism fatigue’ that the latest atrocity – 14 dead in Barcelona to date – is something I’m struggling to write about without being overwhelmed by déjà-vu. Spain hasn’t experienced this kind of attack since the appalling Madrid bombings of 2004, but Blighty hadn’t undergone anything on the scale of 7/7 until Westminster, Manchester and London Bridge in our ‘Spring of Discontent’ earlier this year. By the time the third of these casual massacres came around, the media clichés were becoming familiar enough to induce the kind of reaction that dilutes the brutality of the slaughter and renders it almost on a par with all the other eye-rolling headlines that newspaper proprietors concoct to arrest falling sales figures.

The censorship of the gruesome reality is part of the game. There was an almighty storm on Twitter last night in which some thought it vital to show images from Barcelona whereas others regarded doing so as insulting to the people who lost their lives. Key to their recruitment policy, ISIS don’t spare the gory details in screening the aftermath of allied bombing raids on innocents abroad; seeing pictures that news outlets prefer not to show us has an impact that the Jihadi mindset responds to with a sense of vindication for their own retaliatory actions. What, one wonders, would the response in the west be were our broadcasters to practice a similarly uncompromising disregard for the editor’s scissors in the wake of another terrorist incident? Perhaps their very worry as to what response it might inspire is significant.

Whereas television news initially picked up the fearless baton from cinema newsreels and broadcasted the grim warts-and-all facts in vision from the 60s through to the 80s, recent trends have seen oversensitive censoring that leaves the reality to the viewers’ imaginations. Footage of Nazi death-camps may not have emerged until six years of conflict were already reaching their climax, but the horrific sight solidified hatred of the Germans for a generation and offered further justification for the Second World War, even if it was hardly still needed by 1945. Programmes this week marking the 70th anniversary of the partition of India have screened archive film of the bloodbaths in the wake of the British exit from the Subcontinent, yet it’s almost as though the grim images being in monochrome and from so long ago means they’re permissible in a historical context – akin to a false admission that this kind of brutality is something the civilised world left behind more than half-a-century ago.

Hearing of one more massacre on European soil and being denied the evidence transforms mass murder into an abstract concept and distances it further from the gut reaction images naturally provoke. When the world was shown the 1982 butchery at the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps in Beirut, Israeli troops absolving themselves of responsibility led to impassioned demonstrations in Tel Aviv that spilled over into Israel’s parliament; merely hearing of what had happened probably wouldn’t have inspired the same level of outrage as seeing the images did.

But seeing the hideous truth of precisely what it is Jihadists are capable of would tarnish the fatuous script Theresa May recited with routine precision last night – the whole ‘standing with…’ speech, which has no doubt already been accompanied by complementary appropriation of the Barcelona FC badge as a makeshift profile picture on social media. The pat sentiment of this speech, echoed across Europe in the respective languages of all the other leaders who recycled it, says nothing about the issue and fails to address it because to address it would leave the harmonious Utopian narrative in tatters. Jeremy Corbyn’s dismissal of Sarah Champion for having the nerve to say a fact out loud is symptomatic of this brush-it-under-the-carpet and don’t-frighten-the-children attitude which is fine for an ostrich but won’t prevent another atrocity in another European city before the year is out.

Unrelated on the surface, though sharing the same spirit, are the increasingly fanatical demands by the Puritan militants to remove public monuments to long-dead American heroes whose philosophies are out of kilter with contemporary mores (no surprise when most have been deceased for over a century). Confederate generals are the current target, though one enlightened online idiot apparently advocated the blowing-up of Mount Rushmore yesterday. Considering the first handful of US Presidents were slave-owners and that the White House itself was built by slave labour – something Obama at least acknowledged with a refreshing absence of froth in his mouth – means any rewriting of American history on this level will require the removal of a good deal more than a statue of Robert E Lee from the landscape.

The Taliban or ISIS destroying ancient antiquities and Islamic iconography that they find offensive or insulting to their twisted take on the faith is no different from what is being allowed to take place in America at the moment; to condemn one and condone the other is hypocrisy of the highest order. These are not the symbolic gestures of revolutionary rebellions emanating from a subjugated populace breaking the chains of totalitarian bondage, but the product of those indoctrinated in the ideology of fanaticism. Whether on an American campus, in a Middle Eastern Jihadi training camp, or inside English churches under the reign of Edward VI, it matters not; the motivation is the same, and it is this unswerving tunnel vision that drives the greatest threats to freedom of thought, speech and living we are confronted by in 2017.

© The Editor

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THE SECRET SERVICE

I’ve used the term ‘Star Chamber’ on more than one occasion as a derivative description for a clandestine collective of decision-makers operating behind closed doors – most recently with regards to the new censorious regime on YouTube. However, when it comes to decisions being made that are a good deal more serious than having one’s uploaded video slapped with a ‘not advertiser-friendly’ label, one need look no further for a genuine Star Chamber than the smug and sinister network of box-ticking, back-slapping, self-righteous do-gooders operating under the umbrella banner of social services.

Long-term readers of this blog may recall a couple of posts I penned last year (https://winegumtelegram.wordpress.com/2016/11/21/a-social-disservice/ and https://winegumtelegram.wordpress.com/2016/11/29/consensual-healing/) on the subject of a severely mentally handicapped child whose mother is a friend of mine. Her child, a ten-year-old I referred to as X, was placed in a temporary care unit for children of similar conditions last November because her single mother could no longer cope with the day-to-day demands of looking after such a challenging child alone. The authorities were reluctant to take on this responsibility (and that’s putting it mildly), forcing the desperate mother to adopt desperate measures, such as refusing to collect the child from school the day after she’d been fobbed off on the phone when begging for assistance, thus leaving the authorities with no choice but to re-home X there and then.

Since this traumatic incident at the back-end of last year, the child has been living in a temporary care unit that currently only has two other resident children; the mother has established a pattern of visiting three times a week and taking the child back to her home for a couple of hours on each occasion. These occasions usually involve allowing X to indulge in the simple pleasures that make her happy, ones that don’t come within the narrow, rigid remit as endorsed by the powers-that-be overseeing the care unit – basically enabling X to enjoy foodstuffs frowned upon by them, and exercising a degree of realism absent from the fatuous positivity practiced by the ludicrously long list of employees on the social service gravy-train trained to believe X’s condition is one that can be ‘rehabilitated’.

This training imbues its recipients with a superiority complex and emphasises parents are an irritant if they express views that are contrary to those deemed appropriate by state employees – even though the parents may have spent many years 24/7 with the child and therefore know what makes it tick. Parents are viewed as something of an encumbrance to the system because some of them can see the system is getting it wrong re their children’s best interests and are prepared to puncture the positivity balloon by pointing this out. Social services aren’t keen on those not in their exalted position of faux-authority telling them the system they’re trained to obey with unswerving subservience sucks.

When X returned to a spate of self-harming – mainly biting her arms and hitting herself on the head – these were new behaviours that began when she entered the care environment, and her mother instantly knew what the problem was. X does this when she’s bored or hungry; her capability for expressing her frustration in any way other than self-harming is virtually zilch. But no one in authority wanted to discuss or even admit that this was happening. It wasn’t until the mother presented photographic evidence of appalling bruises and bite-marks that the self-harming was actually acknowledged.

Initially, when the staff at the care unit placed food on her plate such as noodles, spaghetti or anything she couldn’t hold and chomp on like Henry VIII with a chicken-leg, she refused to partake in the meal and lost a good deal of weight as a consequence; this was due to what are called ‘sensory processing issues’, and until it was pointed out by the mother, the staff wouldn’t provide X with a replacement meal, refusing to veer from a menu that caters for a mere three children. There have been other incidents where the staff will take X swimming at a time when she would normally eat, a decision flying in the face of common sense. Very much a creature of repetitious habit as befitting the most extreme outer limits of the autistic scale, X reacts to any alteration in the schedule by reverting to her worst traits, even if (as her mother constantly points out to employees of the system) these traits can be avoided.

The entire county in which X resides has the one solitary temporary care unit for children in her condition; a fourth child who had attacked X on several occasions was recently relocated to another care unit, but this time down in Shropshire – a considerable distance from home. In a way, the process of relocation is akin to when convicts are removed from one prison to another, often hundreds of miles from where the con’s family live, thus necessitating an increase and expense in travel come visiting day. And, just as the families of prisoners have no say in where the authorities choose to dispatch their loved ones to, social services will place children wherever the hell they like if they have ultimate charge of the child; parents aren’t consulted because parents aren’t important.

Yesterday, X’s mother was belatedly informed by X’s social worker (incidentally, the nineteenth X has had in her ten short years) that the social services’ Star Chamber had held a secret meeting the day before in which they’d decided they would effectively gain power of attorney over X, absolving her parents of all rights and claims to her. The parents were not informed and no review was held that would’ve given a platform to the parents’ concerns and enabled them to express a view on future plans for X when a permanent home for her needs to be found eventually.

If this goes ahead via the intended court order, the social services can place X anywhere in the country and the parents will have no say whatsoever in the matter; X’s mother has established a routine with X that benefits X and brings a modicum of pleasure into a life that has a paucity of it; if X is relocated hundreds of miles away, all that will cease. Is this really being done in X’s best interests or is it another penny-pinching exercise conducted by overpaid, arrogant authorities whose PR machine sells the uninformed public a different reality to the one parents such as X’s mother have been battered around the head by?

Post-Savile, it would appear police and social services have swapped places. The boys in blue’s politicisation over the past five or six years, underlined by borderline-spoof Twitter accounts from obscure officers declaring their PC credentials in prioritising ‘Hate Crime’ and the rights of minorities, has seen them adopt the right-on tactics once associated with the social worker; at the same time, social services have been transformed into a veritable secret police, granted powers to swoop unchallenged on parents they deem unfit and ill-informed as though overcompensating for the numerous well-publicised failures of social services to prevent actual abuse of children. For most parents in X’s mother’s position, the social services add to the burden the child represents, something that completely contradicts their purpose.

For the last decade, X’s mother has been exposed to a side of the welfare state that mercifully few of us have to contend with, and it has understandably left her so cynical towards the state that she simply doesn’t trust the state to do what’s best for her daughter. Therefore, the only choice she can see is to take X back into her home – narrowing the scope of her day-to-day life yet again as she reverts to the role of carer and gaoler for a child whose brain will remain that of a three-month-old baby, but whose body is physically maturing as normal. Next birthday, X will be eleven. And her mother will be exhausted. Again.

© The Editor

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LEAVING LAS VEGAS

This might be the second post in a row to begin with a reference to Princess Diana, though that’s neither intentional nor some sort of preparation for a gushing post come the last day of August. For this particular post, I exhume our Queen of Hearts once again solely in relation to the media tsunami that accompanied the aftermath of her death; for one specific generation, this was the first moment when the demise of a ubiquitous household name was afforded such blanket coverage. For me, that first moment came precisely twenty years earlier with the death of Elvis Presley – forty years ago today.

As it was the middle of the school summer holidays, I got up in August 1977 when I felt like it rather than being dragged out of bed as I would be during term-time. Therefore, I was denied the playground reaction the day I heard, but I was informed about what had happened by my mum the moment I appeared for breakfast; she’d been watching ‘News at Ten’ the night before and they’d announced it on there. Up until Elvis died, I can only recall a small handful of famous people whose deaths I was made aware of at the time they happened. There was Roger Delgado, the actor who’d played The Master opposite Jon Pertwee’s Doctor Who; there was racing driver Graham Hill; there was Chairman Mao; and there was ‘Record Breakers’ star Ross McWhirter. But none of those demises prepared me for the event of Elvis’s death.

Elvis mattered to people and meant something more to a greater number of them than any of the aforementioned names other than Mao. A mate of my dad’s wore all-black for a full week after Elvis died – an unusual gesture to make in the sartorially colourful 70s; a friend of mine once told me he remembered his father strolling out into the garden when he heard the news and standing in tearful silence out there on his own for a good ten minutes. At that age, I’d never witnessed the passing of a person nobody I knew had ever met having that kind of impact. But even in a pre-internet and 24/7 TV news age, it was impossible to avoid the worldwide outpouring of emotion that Elvis’s death provoked.

John Lennon’s oft-quoted opinion when a reporter shoved a microphone in his face that day in 1977 was ‘Elvis died when he joined the army’. This off-the-cuff statement may have had a grain of truth to it re the ‘pure’ undiluted Elvis as a relevant musical force, but Presley’s military sojourn in Germany had introduced him to the profoundly unhealthy diet that eventually killed him, so Lennon wasn’t far off the mark. At the same time, Elvis’s charisma and popularity seemed undimmed by his slow slide towards a premature end; his most devoted fans almost regarded him as immortal, which was why his death shook them so much. The King of Rock ‘n’ Roll continued to exert a powerful influence over the generation who’d been around when he’d dropped like a pop atom bomb into the static music scene of twenty years earlier.

I had grown-up with fat Vegas Elvis in his white, rhinestone-studded jumpsuit, and though it sounds sacrilege now, when I’d been roundabout five I used to get him mixed up with Gary Glitter! However, I gradually became aware Elvis had once been young, slim and sexy via the odd old movie of his on TV; and it’s strange to think now that the Elvis of my childhood was only in his late 30s/early 40s. He seemed so much older. After almost a decade squandered on the diminishing returns of Hollywood, Elvis had re-emerged as a live act at the end of the 60s and began making decent records again; it was a respectable renaissance, yet his self-destructive personality and isolation from anyone bar his yes-men mafia soon saw the Elvis roadshow become as damaging to his reputation as the movie conveyor belt had been.

Subsequently seeing his physical and mental deterioration via concert footage from the months leading up to his death, one comes away feeling both disgust that such a beautiful-looking human being could let himself degenerate into such rack and ruin at so young an age and sadness at the waste of talent. It’s as tragic to see the obscenely bloated Elvis drenched in sweat and mumbling his way through his set-list as it is to see the audience still whooping and cheering despite the blatant evidence before them that Elvis is virtually dead already. But by the mid-70s, Elvis had become little more than a barely animated tourist attraction. Not that this was initially reflected in the reaction to his death; the gruesome details seeped out in the years afterwards. In August 1977, even the NME – then the bible for the Punk scene that was at its height – put the young Elvis on its front cover and declared ‘Remember Him This Way’.

When I watched television images of the huge number of fans besieging the Graceland mansion in 1977, their collective mass reminded me of crowds en route to the Cup Final or hysterical girls chasing The Bay City Rollers; but the novel aspect of these images was that the fans – none of whom were children – were all crying. You didn’t see adults cry in public very often when I was a kid. The coverage of the reaction to Elvis’s death wasn’t just limited to the day after either; it seemed to go on all week. By the time ‘Top of the Pops’ came round again, his current single, ‘Way Down’, had zoomed up to No.1; even the Christmas schedules four months later bowed to the demand, and one of Elvis’s movies – of which there are perhaps three or four actually worth watching – was screened every morning on BBC1 over the holidays.

We’re used to all this now; but it was new to me then. Three years later, the same response greeted John Lennon’s death, though the nature of Lennon’s passing was far more shocking. Whenever a major pop culture figure dies today – and we’ve had quite a few in recent years – we tend to view it through the post-Diana prism, something enhanced and intensified by social media. But Elvis got there before her.

© The Editor

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GARDENERS’ QUESTION TIME

Maybe a glorified paddling pool was the most fitting tribute to our ‘Queen of Hearts’; the Diana Memorial Fountain in Hyde Park, which opened to an underwhelming fanfare in 2004, was, like the public image of the woman it was supposed to be a tribute to, an impressive triumph of style over substance. In the years immediately following the premature death of the former Princess of Wales, many such fanciful schemes were suggested, some considerably abstract and bearing little obvious relation to the woman herself. Perhaps the unintentionally hilarious statue of Diana and Dodi in Harrods was at the forefront of the minds concocting these prospective memorials.

Joanna Lumley, an actress who doesn’t seem to act very much anymore, suggested a ‘floating paradise’ as one more bizarre tribute to Diana barely a year after events in Paris; this somewhat vague concept eventually morphed into the notion of a bridge that also doubled up as a garden – with or without the Diana brand attached to it. Following her successful campaign to gain Gurkhas the right to settle in the UK, Lumley suddenly had a public platform that proved immensely attractive to politicians hoping some of Purdey’s star quality would rub off on them. One such politician was the ex-London Mayor Boris Johnson. Riding high on the PR victory of the 2012 London Olympics, Bo-Jo gave the green light to what became the London Garden Bridge project.

Ah, yes – the Garden Bridge. It is now officially an ex-bridge, bereft of life and all that. The ambitious (if rather impractical) idea of another shortcut across the Thames that would serve as a novel rural facsimile in the heart of the capital looked good on paper, yes; but the proposed location wasn’t a part of London in desperate need of another bridge and the locals whose lives would be disrupted by its protracted construction weren’t even consulted as Boris took it upon himself to be the project’s salesman; when he gained planning permission in 2014, Johnson’s record in facilitating the ongoing despoiling of the capital’s skyline by constantly ruling in favour of developers over opposition didn’t give cause for optimism.

Initially, the public were told the bridge would be financed by private investors, but the struggle to raise the required funds necessitated the diverting of taxpayers’ money into the project – a total that now stands at around an estimated £46.4m. As Chancellor, George Osborne promised Boris £30m from the public purse, and a chunk of that squandered cash found its way into the black hole of the Garden Bridge courtesy of David Cameron; Dave ignored the advice of his civil servants by throwing more taxpayer’s money at it when the failure of recruiting enough private investors revealed a £56m shortfall in the accounts of the trust set up to handle the lucre.

The Garden Bridge had its critics from day one; they viewed it as an expensive vanity project that could be to Cameron’s Government what the Millennium Dome was to Blair’s. Its proponents, such as chairman of the trust, Lord Davies, claimed the Bridge would be a ‘beautiful new green space in the heart of London’; but it’s not as though Central London, for all its traffic bottlenecks and overcrowded pavements, doesn’t already have an abundance of spacious parks and green squares to breathe in – most of which have been part of the London landscape for well over a century.

The Garden Bridge could well have gone ahead as a felicitous white elephant for Japanese tourists if enough private investors had been prepared to pay for its construction as well as the projected £3m a year needed for maintenance once open; but for so much public money to have been squandered on ‘a public space’ without public consultation is outrageous, especially now the whole thing has been abandoned.

A review into the project chaired by Dame Margaret Hodge was severely critical of the methods of raising money for it and also of Boris Johnson for his inability to justify the public expense; Hodge’s conclusion was that it would be better to call time on the Garden Bridge before any further costs were unwittingly incurred by taxpayers. Johnson’s successor as London Mayor Sadiq Khan has finally pulled the plug on it following the findings of the review, though some say he could have spared even more expense had he done so earlier; his predecessor claims Khan has killed the Bridge out of spite, saying ‘The Garden Bridge was a beautiful project and could have been easily financed’, though his own failure to finance it without regular recourse to the public purse hardly backs up his response to the Mayor’s belated decision.

As another cheerleader for the Garden Bridge, even Lord Davies admitted earlier this year that the project was not currently ‘a going concern’. The trust still hadn’t purchased the land on the South Bank of the Thames that would serve as the bridge’s southern landing and no private investors have been persuaded to part with their pennies for a full twelve months. The total provided by private investors is alleged to be around £70m, though how much of the public money wasted on the project was spent on courting potential private investors is unknown.

Ultimately, the London Garden Bridge can join a list of other intended attractions for the capital that never made it beyond the drawing board, though some came closer to succeeding. Watkin’s Tower, London’s planned answer to the Eiffel Tower in the 1890s which, had it been completed, would still be taller than the Shard, made it as far as 154ft before being abandoned and then demolished, eventually making way for Wembley Stadium. But it’s interesting to note that one of the proposed ideas for the Wembley site prior to the partial construction of the Tower was a replica of the Great Pyramid of Giza, in which food would be grown in hanging gardens. Perhaps the committee responsible for the Garden Bridge should have studied their London history books beforehand.

© The Editor

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SONG OF THE SOUTH

When Belfast City Council voted to break with tradition in 2012 by reducing the flying of the Union Flag atop City Hall from 365 to 18 days a year, the more vociferous wing of the Unionist community greeted the announcement with violent protests. A couple of days ago, marking the anniversary of the Battle of the Boyne, bonfires were lit across Unionist strongholds of the province, many of which were decorated with photos of prominent Sinn Fein politicians. I only nod to our neighbours over the Irish Sea to make a roundabout point on how the issues that enflame passions on both sides of the sectarian divide in Northern Ireland barely register on the mainland; they’re viewed by the rest of the UK (with the possible exception of Glasgow) as parochial concerns unique to Ulster and characteristic of a land with an extremely long memory.

Even with the high profile suddenly afforded the DUP in the wake of Theresa May’s golden handshake, the ‘street politics’ of Northern Ireland rarely attract outsiders to the barricades, something that can’t be said of another divided community from a region with a similarly turbulent history several thousand miles away – Virginia. The dramatic and ugly events that took place in Charlottesville, Virginia at the weekend didn’t have their source material in religious divisions, but race – the most contentious of all American issues that just won’t go away. Not even eight years of a black President could sort it.

Virginia was one of the four slave states from the ‘Upper South’ of the US that, along with Arkansas, Tennessee and North Carolina, joined the original seven Southern secessionist states in the Confederacy during the Civil War. Its history, now so bound-up with the Confederacy and its aftermath, predates that era considerably, with Virginia being the first English colony in the New World, established as far back as 1607. But it was also prominent among the 13 colonies that broke with British rule and has a claim as being the birthplace of the USA; it certainly was the birthplace of eight US Presidents, for one thing.

Like the rest of the states in the South, Virginia had a segregationist policy in place until the civil rights movement of the 1960s gradually led to a repeal of the remaining Jim Crow laws; but its past, like many of its neighbours’ pasts, continues to attract the attention of those for whom integration remains a greater threat to making America great again than the hardware in Kim Jong Un’s toy-box.

Recent attempts to reduce the high visibility of the Confederate Flag in the Southern states have gone hand-in-hand with a concerted programme to remove statues of, and monuments to, Confederate heroes from public places; and these efforts at erasing a history that sits uncomfortably on the shoulders of modern America have served to ignite the ire of white Southern natives proud of their inheritance, as well as white supremacists from different parts of the country who exploit the situation to promote their cause. When Washington belatedly addressed the iniquities and inequality of the South in the 60s by outlawing its segregationist traditions, the white population claimed the rest of the US didn’t understand the South and there’s probably a grain of truth in that. The South was seen as something of an embarrassment that contradicted America’s international reputation as the Land of the Free; the South was a place where the past remained present.

The ongoing contemporary operation to change the perception of the South, not only for outsiders but also for those who live there, has been characterised by the official removal of ‘negative’ symbols relating to its past; though whereas the pulling down of statues during an uprising or revolution tends to come from the emancipated population itself, the policy of removing them that has been taking place across the South of late is a decision of federal government. Many have viewed this decision as symptomatic of rewriting American history, a rewrite that fails to acknowledge aspects of it that don’t complement the image America likes to project of itself. There are also concerns that by erasing the visible legacy of the Confederacy, future generations are being presented with a lopsided story of their country, one without warts and all, and one depriving them of a history they could learn from.

Plans to remove a statue of Robert E Lee, Confederate Civil War general, in Charlottesville led to the town being invaded on Saturday by a ‘Unite the Right’ march, bringing in angry white men from all over America for a rally that was destined to be met with a counter-rally. Whatever valid points had a right to be made didn’t stand a chance of being heard; both sides were infiltrated by those whose intentions were obvious from the start, many of whom had little or nothing to do with the part of the country they headed for.

The relatively liberal college town of Charlottesville was hijacked by opposing sides looking for a battlefield. The far-from spotless ‘Black Lives Matter’ crowd were accompanied by the masked men from ‘antifa’ – an abbreviation of ‘anti-fascist’ – who have a reputation as violent left-wing anarchists; they were the group responsible for the trouble that occurred in Washington on the day of Donald Trump’s inauguration. Those under the Alt-Right banner included neo-Nazis as well as that old mainstay always up for a fight, the Ku Klux Klan. The KKK are almost to the South what the Orangemen are to Ulster, though for all their shared pseudo-Masonic ritualism and shameful record of gerrymandering, the Orangemen are a long way from the Klan when it comes to provoking and stoking hatred in the most sinister manner.

What was already a predictable and unedifying clash on Saturday plumbed especially appalling depths when one lunatic ironically took a leaf out of the Jihadi manual and drove a car directly at protestors; his efforts were responsible for 19 injuries and one death. The white supremacists, who view President Trump as ‘their man’, were gratified that the Donald seemed reluctant to attribute blame for events to them, though the majority of the Alt Right (to whom Trump owes a great debt) probably regard the extremists who descended upon Charlottesville with the same abhorrence as the left views the ‘antifa’. It would certainly suit the narrative of the moment to lump together anyone who questions or challenges the anti-Trump consensus into one hate-fuelled, racist mob; but unfortunately, it’s not quite so…erm…black and white.

© The Editor

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FAMILY ENTERTAINMENT

As with the two Peters, Hitchens and Oborne, Paul Joseph Watson is not a media figure whose every pronouncement provokes a nod of the head, yet as with those aforementioned grumpy grandees of Fleet Street, he often nails the ludicrousness of the world we live in simply by daring to challenge it. An unapologetic ambassador of the so-called ‘Alt Right’, Watson is the face of the UK branch of ‘Info Wars’, the US conspiracy theorist site fronted by the ranting human foghorn Alex Jones. Watson doesn’t adopt the breathless bluster of his American sponsor; adopting that approach for a British audience would reduce him to the level of Jeremy Clarkson. Instead, he sometimes comes across as Owen Jones through the looking-glass, the flipside mirror image of the pocket Northern Socialist.

Watson has posted a series of regular videos on YouTube over the past couple of years, both highlighting and ridiculing the increasingly fatuous fanaticism of the extreme left’s PC storm-troopers, especially on the other side of the Atlantic; as a result, he’s made as many enemies as fans, and while one may not always concur with his conclusions, there’s no doubt he’s highlighted a lot of things that needed highlighting. Until now, that is.

Watson has temporarily drawn the blinds on his YouTube window due to the fact that he can no longer make a living from it thanks to a new Star Chamber of YouTube judges, installed by parent company Google to police the medium and crack down on any questioning of the consensus. Many may be unaware that ‘monetising’ one’s uploads to YT can bring in a little revenue depending on the number of views the videos receive; Watson’s videos received astronomical views and no doubt brought in a nice little profit on a monthly basis. However, the crackdown on anyone saying anything that could be perceived as ‘offensive’ means all of Watson’s videos have now been deemed ‘not advertiser-friendly’, thus meaning he can’t make a penny from them anymore.

I’ve written on more than one occasion in the past of the transformation of YouTube in recent years. What was initially an invaluable platform for, amongst others, lovers of archive footage unavailable on DVD and rarely screened on TV – often uploaded from decrepit off-air VHS recordings or sourced from actual television vaults by insiders – has slowly seen passionate promoters of the rare and obscure edged to one side by The Man and his corporate bullyboys. Copyright laws have been tightened to the point whereby every piece of film not actually shot on one’s own camera is subjected to a ‘third party infringement’ order, regardless of how minimal its use may be. I once had a video stamped with copyright claims simply because I used the BBC4 ident for a handful of seconds as the intro to it.

This OTT enforcement of copyright has made navigating such rules something of an art-form for veteran uploaders, but perhaps responding to criticisms of alleged lax attitudes to ‘hate’ videos, YouTube has now embarked upon a censorious crusade in which any video that doesn’t promote the Coca-Cola ideal of a harmonious multicultural/LGBT/Islam-with-a-smiley-face society is penalised; anyone who takes the piss out of or merely questions this bland make-believe Utopia is denied an income as a consequence. People regularly air their grievances with the BBC as pandering to a left-leaning notion of ‘Right-On’ politics – often justified, viz. the hardly unbiased four-person panel of prominent Muslims discussing the latest Pakistani grooming network on ‘Newsnight’ this week; but YouTube has suddenly usurped Auntie Beeb as an intolerant home for one view and one view only.

Infuriatingly vacuous American airheads who call themselves ‘vloggers’ – usually squeaky-voiced teenage Disney Princess types who exude the air of hyperactive six-year-olds albeit bereft of infantile charm – make millions from their vapid videos that appeal to a generation whose heads have already been ground to slurry by being force-fed media sedatives; and these are the future of YouTube, not anybody with anything to say. My own personal speciality area tends to be satire, but satire is now as welcome on YouTube as a copy of Charlie Hebdo would be in a Parisian mosque.

A couple of days ago, the new YouTube constabulary provided me with a long list of my videos their panel has decided I can no longer make any money from. To be honest, I don’t make much, anyway – around £120 a year; I have a loyal following who will view my output whatever I upload and I also pick up casual viewers en route, but I’m a cult presence and probably always will be. I accept that some of my output is coarse in the Derek & Clive tradition, but YT already had an age-restriction system in place where rude words were concerned, so anybody stumbling upon them knew what to expect beforehand.

None of the previous rules in place to protect a ‘family audience’ were apparently sufficient, however, for the strict new boundaries have narrowed the range of opinions on offer even further. Many of my own videos parody the politically-incorrect 1970s and therefore need to be viewed with that in mind, yet the humourless martinets Google has recruited to clean-up YouTube’s lingering vestiges of its original freewheeling spirit can’t even tolerate that. One particular video of mine was a spoof 70s BBC trailer previewing a night of programmes marking ‘National Smoking Day’; it’s so obviously a piss-take, yet it’s been labelled ‘not advertiser friendly’. Despite infringing no copyright, I can’t earn anything from it anymore.

I attach another innocuous video in this style to the post and ask you to watch it in order that you can decide whether or not it’s remotely ‘offensive’. The video in question being ‘banned’ as a source of income was something I challenged; when I did so, I was informed the team won’t review the status of a video subjected to this treatment unless it receives over a thousand views in 28 days; some of my videos can take months to reach that amount of views, so I haven’t got a cat in hell’s chance of reversing the judgement. It’s a rip-off and it’s an outrage. But it’s 2017. Sign up to the consensus or be cast out into the online free-speech wilderness.

 

© The Editor

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