ALAS, POOR LAVINIA

It’s easy to forget now, but there was a time in the middle of the 1980s when all the artistic gains made in the name of 60s and 70s libertinism seemed in peril; we were on the cusp of a potential rewind back to the censorious era of the Lord Chamberlain’s Office and the Hays Code. Channel 4, which has made its early 80s name as a fearless purveyor of ‘anything goes in the name of Art’, was a frontrunner in this sudden and abrupt reversal of attitudes when it introduced its red triangle season of films circa 1986. These were movies that nowadays wouldn’t (or shouldn’t) provoke outrage, but at the time appeared shocking even by the easygoing standards of a TV station that had promoted the brief usage of an expletive such as ‘frigging’ in a primetime soap opera (‘Brookside’). The fact that characters on soaps are generally the only people in Britain who never swear was something ‘Brookside’ momentarily challenged until it became as blandly unrealistic as the rest of them.

Channel 4’s red triangle season featured TV premieres for the likes of Derek Jarman’s Romanesque gay fantasy, ‘Sebastiane’, as well as Dennis Hopper’s ‘Out of the Blue’; for those who weren’t around, the red triangle in question would be a permanent fixture in the top left of the TV screen whilst the movie aired, which allegedly served as an early warning system for the unsuspecting viewer who might switch over from something less contentious on ITV or BBC1. Most of the films screened as part of the short-lived season weren’t that different in content from what had already been shown on Channel 4 – it had premiered the infamous Sex Pistols movie, ‘The Great Rock ‘n’ Roll Swindle’, in 1985, for example; but the bizarre season can be seen in retrospect as a concession to the great moral backlash of the late Thatcher era, which also included Clause 28.

Back then, most of us watching thought that such unnecessary caution would be redundant by the time we reached the twenty-first century; we didn’t bank on our contemporaries raising children with so many layers of cotton wool wrapped around them that coming into contact with the classics by the time they reached university age would necessitate a revival of the same red triangle approach that Channel 4 had pioneered in the middle of the 80s. Lo and behold, however, the loathsome ‘trigger warnings’ have now even crept upon the works of one of England’s most revered wordsmiths like the kneejerk reorganization of the BBFC rules and regulations in the wake of the ‘Video Nasty’ moral panic of 35 years ago.

Apparently, students at Cambridge have been warned that certain masterpieces penned by an obscure playwright, name of William Shakespeare, might upset them; yes, the English lecture timetables have been marked with trigger warnings that take the shape of Ye Olde red triangle with accompanying exclamation marks. One play in particular has been singled out as specifically gory – and to be honest, it does read like the plot of an archetypal 80s Video Nasty in that a major female character is raped and then has her arms amputated by her rapists as well as having her tongue cut out.

Admittedly, ‘Titus Andronicus’ is a bit of a gore-fest, though is also one of the Bard’s most invigorating works, one in which the sibling perpetrators of the crime in question receive their just desserts by being baked in a pie that is then eaten by their mother. Elizabethan audiences were seemingly less squeamish than their equivalents 400 years later, perhaps because they didn’t question the eye-for-an-eye morality that was just as evident in the nursery rhymes they’d been raised on.

In defence, Cambridge University has claimed that such warnings are ‘at the lecturer’s own discretion’ and ‘not a faculty-wide policy’, though at the same time the esteemed academic establishment has admitted that ‘Any session containing material that could be deemed upsetting (and is not obvious from the title) is now marked with a symbol’. A representative from Derby University, Professor Dennis Hayes, commented ‘Once you get a few trigger warnings, lecturers will stop presenting anything that is controversial…gradually, there is no critical discussion.’ Critical discussion, for centuries a hallmark of university life, is now something to be avoided for fear of contaminating safe spaces. The impression given that universities today are akin to nurseries for mollycoddled adolescents who shirk from anything that contradicts the world as presented to them in infancy is hard to shake off when confronted by such ludicrous censorship; and if Shakespeare is fair game for the no-platform treatment, we really are f**ked.

The kind of guidelines familiar on the sleeves of DVDs now apparently apply to plays as well; if a sensitive seventeen-year-old objects to the content of something written by Shakespeare – and even the fastidious middle-aged Festival of Light brigade let the Bard off in the licentious 70s – chances are others will feel the need to be protected from centuries-old content that is hardly comparable to the kind of ‘adult’ material they’ve probably routinely scanned online. That ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’ has been removed from some US school syllabuses on account of it being ‘uncomfortable’ is a classic example of illiterate idiots taking over the asylum; as some wag on Twitter pointed out in relation to the ‘uncomfortable’ factor in Harper Lee’s modern classic, ‘that’s the point’; but if even Shakespeare is targeted in this revisionist facelift, anybody seeking to say something about the here and now has no chance.

What that says about the world we live in, a world wherein British policemen are sent out wearing nail varnish to virtue-signal their stance against modern slavery when they’re in a better position to stamp out the practice than the rest of us, is profoundly depressing. But this be 2017 in the septic isle.

© The Editor

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DR. DIVERSITY’S CASEBOOK

Although I haven’t broadcasted it on here before, around two months ago I belatedly bowed to financial pressures and switched from smoking to vaping. My opinions on the rights of, and discrimination against, smokers haven’t altered; the decision wasn’t anything to do with me meekly surrendering to the fanatical anti-tobacco lobby, an admission that they were right and I was wrong all along; the simple fact is I couldn’t afford it anymore. The rising cost of a packet of fags – £10.50 for 20, last time I looked – hasn’t been in line with the price of everything else for a long time. The fact that, depending in which supermarket you shop, you can buy three bottles of wine for the same price as 20 cigarettes will cost you speaks volumes; and the drain on my finances was too much to sustain, so I stubbed out my final fag in August.

It helped that I instantly liked vaping and, as if to emphasise this, I still have a packet of Superkings containing four remaining fags that hasn’t been touched since the day I received my first e-cigarette; after almost 30 years of smoking between 30-40 cigs a day, I suppose that’s not bad going, and I can honestly say I don’t miss it at all. If the buzz from the drag is the key hook of the smoking process, I can get just the same nicotine hit from vaping and replicate the former gesture at a fraction of the cost. The vapours don’t linger in the room, they don’t discolour the fixtures and fittings, they don’t coat my clothes in a permanent odour, and they don’t dissuade non-smoking visitors anymore.

Immunity to the smell of cigarettes was a consequence of smoking them; only since I stopped have I become aware of it. It’s still entombed in my wardrobe because there are a lot of items on the coat-hangers there that haven’t been washed or worn since I ceased; but it’s amazing how strong the smell is on others now. When out and about, I can detect a cig from quite a distance, long before I see someone smoking it; and it’s remarkable how everyone I see with a fag hanging out of their mouth seems to be the most slovenly, scruffy slob imaginable; the archaic images of Marlene Dietrich or Lauren Bacall using cigarettes as a crucial element of their effortlessly cool personas aren’t being matched by the smokers I’m seeing. By contrast, the e-cigarette is a rather sexy, stylish object and, frankly, superior in all respects.

Not that the proven health (and financial) benefits of vaping deter the tobacco prohibitionists, who see it not as an escape route from smoking but as a gateway to the practice, the fools; the same limitations on ordinary cigarettes have been unfairly superimposed onto the e-cigarette, and I’m wondering when I’ll encounter opposition to it from the medical profession. I say this because the first time I remember being singled out by a GP for smoking was in the early 90s. I can’t remember the reason for being at the surgery, but I recall the doctor asking me if I smoked; when he received a reply in the affirmative, he placed a little sticker on the front of my file, which he presumably did for all smokers. Perhaps afterwards my file was slotted in a drawer along with the rest of his smoking patients, segregated from the non-smokers and downgraded in the case of an emergency when a choice might have to be made between the two groups.

Back then, it felt like a bit of an intrusion into my privacy, though smoking as heavily as I did was obviously a health risk, and I can understand to an extent that it would probably be in a GP’s remit to hint at what I already knew – i.e. smoking wasn’t good for me. What if it went further than that, though, into private areas that (unless the visit to the surgery was related to one’s ‘rude bits’) have no relation to one’s health in the same way? New NHS guidelines apparently imminent mean that health professionals will now be obliged to ask patients over-16 what their sexual orientation happens to be. It’s both a further extension of the nanny state’s nosy neighbour tendencies and the latest chapter in the ongoing ‘diversity’ agenda that has swept through every public body of late to seemingly appease a very small section of society with a very loud voice.

Doctors and nurses will now be recommended to inquire as to a patient’s sexual orientation at ‘every face-to-face contact with the patient, where no record of this data already exists’; what is horribly referred to as ‘sexual monitoring’ will be mandatory in England and Wales by 2019. Patients will be asked ‘Which of the following options best describes how you think of yourself – straight/gay or lesbian/bisexual/other sexual orientation’; presumably, the ‘other’ is paedophile or zoophile? Might I suggest an additional response on the part of the patient – ‘Mind your own f**king business’.

Thankfully, Dr Peter Swinyard, Chairman of the Family Doctor Association, was not impressed; in his opinion, the new guidelines were ‘potentially intrusive and offensive’, adding ‘Given the precious short amount of time a GP has with a patient, sexuality is not relevant’, rightly pointing out that sexual choice affected ‘relatively few medical conditions’. On the other hand, Paul Martin, chief executive of Manchester’s LGBT Foundation, says he is ‘so proud’ of the intrusion into patient’s private lives. His organisation has pushed for ‘sexual monitoring’, as it views the change as some kind of step forward to address perceived medical inequalities for those happy to be defined by the LGBT pigeonhole. Those patients who don’t want to disclose their sexual preferences – and why indeed should they? – will be placed in the ‘not stated’ category.

This compliance with the Equality Act 2010 by the medical profession is allegedly intended to ensure no patient is discriminated against; but if someone’s sexuality isn’t advertised on their file, no rush to judgement based upon it by a doctor who might hold prejudicial views can then be made – and doesn’t that make all patients equal? A doctor’s role is to treat whatever is wrong with the patient; a doctor doesn’t need further unnecessary data that bears no relation to the patient’s presence in their surgery – unless the patient smokes or vapes, of course; and then they deserve all the stickers their files can handle.

© 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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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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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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AFFIRMATIVE ACTION HEROES

1966 was a landmark year in the history of the American comic book; it saw the introduction of the first regular black superhero to the roll-call of hip Pop Art icons. It’s worth bearing in mind that The Black Panther debuted in the pages of Marvel’s ‘The Fantastic Four’ several months before the formation of the actual Blank Panther militant civil rights group, so there can be no accusations of cashing-in on the part of the character’s creators, legendary double act Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. Further additions to the ‘ethnic minority’ league of superheroes came in the early 1970s, with the likes of The Falcon and Luke Cage, Power Man; the latter was a blatant attempt to capitalise on Hollywood’s ‘Blaxploitation’ era, though as a 70s child randomly picking up imported US Marvel comics, the skin colour of said superheroes wasn’t an issue; all that mattered to me then was whether or not the stories and (especially) the artwork were worth shelling out 6p for.

A lot has changed in forty years. Ever since the Marvel Corporation was purchased by the Disney Corporation, Marvel is not so much seen by the general public as a comic book business than as the source material for an ongoing motion picture franchise. The need to appeal to the movie industry’s imposed diversity agenda has seen Marvel’s line-up undergo the kind of severe PC surgery in recent months that smacks of pure tokenism rather than a natural reflection of the changing American idea of what constitutes a ‘hero’.

Not so long ago, Spider-Man’s secret identity was redesigned as that of a mixed-race adolescent; Ms Marvel – one of Marvel’s second division characters – was remodelled as a Pakistani immigrant for no reason other than a presumed need to tick a few politically-correct boxes; Norse God Thor received a sex-change during the same period, as did Iron Man, when millionaire playboy-cum-scientist Tony Stark made way for (in the words of Bonnie Greer) an African-American woman. The comic branch of Marvel seems to have bowed to external pressures and thrust the ‘ethnic’ members of its universe into the limelight whilst its movies continue to boast a largely white cast appealing to a largely white audience. No wonder its sales have plummeted.

In 2014, 9 out of 10 of the best-selling comic book titles were produced by Marvel; last year, following the aforementioned revamps, it could only claim 3 out of 10. Between 2015 and the beginning of this year, Marvel launched a ridiculous 104 new titles, with a quarter of them being resounding flops. It would appear the department upon which the entire Marvel industry was built is currently being run by right-on headless chickens responding to a perceived need for a narrow definition of diversity, without any real clue as to what it is that makes the superhero genre work. Even a Senior Marvel Executive, David Gabriel, has admitted as much, though was predictably forced to retract his honest observation when it received the usual howling accusations of racism.

From its 1930s beginnings, the superhero as a character was a square-jawed strongman clad in the skin-tight costume then more commonly associated with circus entertainers. He was a one-dimensional figure without any trace of an internal life because he had one simple function that didn’t require much in the way of existential analysis – to fight crime. All the superheroes that sprang from what comic book historians refer to as ‘The Golden Age’ – Superman, Batman, Captain America, Captain Marvel et al – adhered to this successful formula. Wonder Woman was a novel deviation from the norm, but what essentially made her different was her sex; other than that, she was cut from the same cloth as her male counterparts.

It was only when Marvel rebranded itself as a major challenger to the dominance of DC via the launch of ‘The Fantastic Four’ in 1961 that the superhero acquired a level of realism he had never previously possessed. Stan Lee and Jack Kirby put together their crime-fighting team with unique human failings at a point when the superhero medium was emerging from a lull in which it had been superseded by romance, crime and horror genres. The latter had sparked a moral panic on both sides of the Atlantic akin to the ‘Video Nasty’ scare of the early 80s; the violence in comics was also linked to juvenile delinquency, leading to the introduction of the censorious Comics Code Authority. Superheroes suddenly seemed a safe option again.

Marvel’s revolutionary redrawing of the boundaries of the genre included giving the bespectacled target of high-school bullies the ability to climb walls and spin webs. Poor Peter Parker always lost the girls to the jocks – probably like the majority of the Marvel readers – and this relatable factor was crucial; who could relate to Bruce Wayne, after all? But Parker’s new identity as Spider-Man came at a price; initially a TV star showing off his superpowers, he declines to intervene in a robbery, only for the criminal in question to then kill his uncle. This twist, which saddles Parker with intense guilt, provokes him into fighting crime thereafter. There had never been that kind of mature storytelling in superhero comics before.

Marvel’s phenomenal success in the 60s – and its extensive college-age readership – gave DC a kick up the arse, leading them to exploit the latent dark side of Bat Man and making him a far more interesting character in the process. The introduction of The Black Panther was a natural progression; Marvel were already reflecting the culture of the times, so a black superhero was an inevitable development rather than the knee-jerk response to a demand for diversity. By comparison, the recent rush to cobble together a line-up of PC-friendly superheroes feels like the decision of a focus group, characters created by committee; and the readership know this, which is why they’ve rejected them. Once again, the few are dictating their agenda to the many, and the end result is a disaster.

© The Editor

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SHE WHO MUST BE OBEYED

candy-darlingFirst it was Germaine Greer, now it’s Jenni Murray. Their crime? Daring to voice an opinion that contradicts the doctrine of the new order consensus, specifically the clause that declares we must never question the authenticity of men who have undergone gender reassignment surgery and must automatically place them in the same category as women who were born with full female anatomy. And this despite the fact many Trans-Women invite such distinctions. No doubt the po-faced funereal spectre of Professional Northern Trans-Woman Paris Lees will be prompted into one of her regular ‘Channel 4 News’ or ‘Newsnight’ comedy turns in response, hurling the ‘old bigot’ slingshot at the latest target.

The veteran ‘Woman’s Hour’ presenter who has provided the serial offence-takers with a new hate figure is 66 years-old; Germaine Greer is 78. Unlike their hysterical detractors, both women were born into a world that had clearly defined boundaries based on class, race, sexuality and gender; and Greer in particular played a hugely significant part in changing the perceptions of those boundaries where gender was concerned, far greater than her twenty-something critics could ever imagine. She and Murray have been witness to arguably the most revolutionary breaking down of those boundaries that the western world has ever experienced; and it has happened in the space of barely half-a-century.

More than one generation has had to overturn all its inherited beliefs and opinions on society’s so-called ‘minorities’; and this takes the kind of time that those born into a world where the contemporary consensus holds sway have no comprehension of. To use just one personal example, I recall my mother expressing her embarrassment when my deaf granddad (her father) used the word ‘nigger’ loudly in a supermarket, yet she herself still uses the word ‘paki’, which makes me wince every time she says it. That she could find ‘nigger’ unacceptable whilst simultaneously not thinking the same of ‘paki’ highlights how her own inherited beliefs and opinions have changed, albeit not quite reaching the acceptable standard demanded by the speech police.

Expecting the grandparent generation to mirror the approach to what can and can’t be said in either public or private discourse as practiced by their grandchildren is not that different from expecting them to have unnaturally coloured hair, piercings and tattoos. The under-40s blame game from the losing side in the EU Referendum, reserving Remoaner vitriol for pensioners who had the audacity to hold a different point of view, largely based on life experience and a wider knowledge of the lengthy European project rather than ‘racism’, was a telling demonstration of that generation’s narcissistic refusal to accept there are contrary opinions to their own; and this extends into other facets of life in which their inability to respond to these contrary opinions with nothing more than lazy labelling is revealing a worrying absence of emotional maturity.

If a trans-woman wants to be recognised and accepted as a ‘real’ woman, why is there the need for the ‘trans’ prefix? One is either a trans-woman or a woman; one cannot be both, surely? It’s almost as though some want the benefits each can bring – acceptance as belonging to the sisterhood yet also requiring ‘special treatment’ that a natural-born woman is exempt from. Here’s your cake, and you can eat it too! I’ve met a couple of women in my life who were born male, and I wouldn’t have known if I hadn’t been told. To me, both resembled middle-aged Avon Ladies and they seemed happy in their skins, which is great; they weren’t declaring to all and sundry that they were spokeswomen for the LGBTRSVPABCXYZ community and demanding to be treated as a Third Sex.

The majority of men who have endured male-to-female surgery do so because they genuinely believe themselves to be women trapped in men’s bodies; therefore, once they re-emerge from hospital, their bodies are finally in-synch with what their heads have always held to be true and they are, to all extents and purposes, now bona-fide women. Yes, they have no menstrual cycle and cannot get pregnant, but other than that, there’s little to distinguish them from women whose bodies were compatible from day one.

I don’t believe the constant carping from militant Trans-Women or those professing to speak on their behalf really has anything to do with gender identity, more another example of the contemporary craving to sign-up to an officially designated minority, to uphold the trend for comfortable pigeonholing and membership of a ‘victimised’ collective that can gather together and share placards.

The original 70s Gay Liberation movement in the US often saw conflicts between those who preferred the traditional masculine male role model and those who revelled in their feminine side; the latter was seen as ‘letting the team down’ by camping it up and aping the flamboyant vanity and cartoon frivolity of girlie girls, thus reinforcing the archaic effeminate stereotype. But there was still room for both in the battle for acceptance. Today, any prominent gay media man, whether Stephen Fry or Peter Tatchell, faces the threat of the no-platform treatment if they dare to say anything that shatters the facade of everyone being in it together. Ridiculously, they can be labelled ‘homophobic’ just as Germaine Greer can be labelled ‘misogynistic’.

Virtually all of the men or women who have been targeted by the speech police in the last couple of years have been over-45 at least, and most were on the frontline of the actual battles that obliterated the old boundaries, something their wet-behind-the-ears opponents have benefitted from. More was achieved by ‘The Female Eunuch’ than mixed-gender lavatories, so it’s time the kiddies cut their predecessors some slack and stopped trying to impose their own rigid framework on generations that were far more fluid and broad-minded when it came to sexuality and whether or not their own predecessors agreed with them.

© The Editor

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WALLS HAVE EARS

wwiiA story appeared in the Mail last week that, on the surface, reiterated the regular ‘it’s political correctness gone mad’ narrative so familiar to Alan Partridge’s favourite Fleet Street rag, but contained within it a grain of what worries so many who wouldn’t ordinarily fork out for Mr Dacre’s flag-waving cancer-watch daily. It concerned a retired railway enthusiast whose voluntary duties included the twice-weekly winding-up of the iconic clock used in Noel Coward’s legendary 1945 weepie, ‘Brief Encounter’, restored to the platform of Carnforth Station in Lancashire 13 years ago. Since its restoration, a Mr Jim Walker has had the official role of keeping the clock in working order – though no longer. Mr Walker has been relieved of his duties on account of a busybody overhearing him having a private conversation.

Mr Walker is now ‘banned’ from entering certain areas of the station he has been an unpaid worker at for more than a decade because a visitor eavesdropped upon his comments during a private conversation (yes, I’ll say that once again), comments stating he regarded the migrants from Calais as unworthy of comparison with the Jewish child refugees who arrived in the UK before the Second World War. Hardly an opinion nobody else has expressed of late, but so grossly offensive that it warranted reporting, with the upshot being that the Carnforth Station Trust has now taken action.

According to a solicitor’s letter Mr Walker received, there was a ‘serious complaint’ made by a family at the station in regards to ‘loud, offensive remarks’ that consisted of ‘inflammatory and highly abusive language’; in the words of the Carnforth Station Trust, this was categorised as ‘a very serious incident which could have involved the police.’ For the third time, I’ll just remind you this was a private conversation Mr Walker was engaged in with another individual; he wasn’t adopting the guise of a town-crier on the station platform and broadcasting his own personal opinion on the subject of immigration to everyone present. Nevertheless, expressing free speech in a private conversation (one last time) is now seemingly a criminal offence, as long as there are people at whom it isn’t directed who are prepared to go crying to the authorities. UK or GDR? You decide.

I guess we all have our run-ins with those who seek to impose their self-righteousness on the rest of us; just today I returned home to discover I’d been sold the wrong brand of cigarettes on account of them all looking identical since it was decided hiding them behind a cupboard and placing photos of gammy feet on the front would dissuade smokers. I wonder why chocolate bars don’t feature images of the obese on their wrappers or alcohol doesn’t come with a photograph of a wino in the gutter stuck to the bottle? Perhaps the prohibitionist lobby isn’t quite as fanatical where other unhealthy stimulants are concerned.

Anyway, I digress; back to Mr Martin. His personal point of view on a contentious subject (if, indeed, it was as innocuous as the Mail declared), not to mention the response to it, is one that seems certain to enflame passions on both sides. The Government’s decision to reduce the number of Syrian refugee children from entering the country on one hand seems like basic meanness and a pandering to the post-Brexit consensus of the Leave camp that often appears to legitimise the worst kind of ‘England for the English’ throwback; on the other hand, the bumfluff profiles of the ‘children’ apparently benefitting from the scheme that were plastered across the likes of the Mail suggests they’re not all as cute as the little boy whose washed-up corpse provoked a swift turnaround in Murdoch and Dacre-Land a couple of years ago.

Both points of view can no longer be expressed without vociferous reactions from its opposing opinion – bleeding-heart liberal Vs xenophobic racist etc. – neither of which helps the issue when it comes to addressing it; and yet the methods by which one side enforces its opinion have become increasingly worrisome, especially in terms of free speech and fair play.

Another development which could be viewed as an extension of the busybody shit-stirrer into private discourse is the instigation of Northumberland’s horrific ‘Crime Commissioner’, the newly-ennobled Vera Baird. Bemoaning the lack of rapes reported to police, Dame Vera once proclaimed this wasn’t good enough and more or less ordered every woman to get themselves down to their nearest police station and report a sexual assault, something that sounded akin to a virtual call-to-arms to ambulance-chasing law firms and female barristers with an axe to grind where the male of the species is concerned.

Fun-loving party animal Dame Vera has now taken this tactic a step further when it comes to rape trials; at her behest, an ongoing experiment in Newcastle has seen the addition of a dozen observers to the courtroom landscape. For the past two years, a committee of professional do-gooders who seem to spend their days sitting on panels that decide the futures of people they’ll never meet (the usual Star Chamber suspects of social workers, counsellors and academics) has been present at such events and has issued recommendations to senior judges presiding over them, something that must fill the accused in the dock with confidence.

On one of my four failed driving tests in the 80s, I remember there was an observer present on the backseat, taking notes on the performance of the examiner; any minor error I made was hardly likely to be overlooked by the man testing me when he himself was being tested, so the odds were pretty much stacked against my achieving a pass. Similarly, how anyone accused of rape can expect a fair trial when confronted by a coven of self-appointed experts with an evident agenda putting pressure on the judge is questionable.

The infantilisation of women at a Rape Crisis centre in the city unfortunate enough to be under Dame Vera’s regime is emphasised by the addition of children’s toys which the female visitors are encouraged to use as an aid to ‘recovering’ the memory of dim and distant sexual encounters, part of the drive to increase rape convictions at all costs. If guilty men are finally sentenced, fair enough; but the false allegation industry doesn’t seem to care about wrongful convictions as long as the statistics look good on the spreadsheet at the end of each year.

Vera Baird and her storm-troopers are of the same mindset as whoever conspired to deprive a pensioner of his harmless hobby at Carnforth Station – acting as unofficial moral watchdogs and exploiting a climate whereby deviations from the accepted consensus are greeted with fear and hysteria. If the US Government could paint Colonel Gaddafi as the Blofeld-figure he never was, it’s hardly surprising that Jimmy Savile could be posthumously rebranded the Most Wicked Man Ever or Ordinary Joe can be hung out to dry by Nosy Parkers whose sinister mantra is seeping into everyday life with unchecked stealth and is aided by the complicity of those to whom questions are a burden. Watch what you say – you never know who might be listening.

© The Editor

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EVERY BELITTLE HELPS

chaplinLong-term followers of my ‘oeuvre’ may recall a weekly YouTube series of mine that spanned a year from the spring of 2014 to 2015; called ‘25 Hour News’, it parodied rolling news channels by presenting a satirical spin on the headlines of the preceding seven days. Although most episodes have since been deleted on account of their irrelevance to the here and now (not to mention a few ‘copyright’ issues), there are still a small handful of specials available, including my takes on both the Scottish Independence Referendum and the 2015 General Election as well as a compilation review of 2014. Revelling in freedom from the permanently anxious censorship committees that police the potential for offence re most television comedies these days, I viewed everyone as fair game for having the urine extracted from them.

At the time when ISIS decided American journalists would function better by having their heads removed, I recall concocting a spoof on a certain 70s game show called ‘Muhammad Forsyth and the Decapitation Game’; I only put together the opening titles and a description of what the programme consisted and that was that – job done. The audience was in the thousands rather than the millions, so I didn’t have to respond to the kind of ludicrous Twitter outrage that this week greeted a rare comedy parody of our friends in the Middle East.

The blurb in the Radio Times accompanying the new BBC2 series ‘Revolting’ painted it as a hidden prank show, to which my reaction was ‘just what the world needs – a hipster Beadle’s About’; it wasn’t until the online serial offence-takers kicked up a fuss yesterday over a sketch from the show spoofing those horrific reality TV ‘rich wives’ programmes that I realised the series apparently amounted to more than a ‘Candid Camera’ for the Instagram generation.

The skit in question was called ‘Real Housewives of ISIS’ and was, I thought, a pretty funny piss-take of both a nauseating television genre and the equally nauseating principles of those stupid enough to seek salvation by selling themselves into Jihadi slavery. Lest we forget, British Muslim women who have made the journey from the UK to Syria haven’t been kidnapped; they volunteered. And if they’re dumb enough to fall for the ISIS PR, they’re worthy of ridicule, as is the organisation nobody forced them to join. Considering the absence of sensitivity to non-believers and infidels that the ISIS philosophy promotes, why should anyone spare them the deserved scythe of satire? According to the ISIS apologists on the left, however (those for whom Israel is the only Middle Eastern nation that has blood on its hands), this sketch was beyond the pale.

‘Real Housewives of ISIS? Wow, the BBC got some explaining to do’; ‘The Real Housewives of ISIS is so distasteful. Lowest of the low from BBC2’; ‘Sick, you are truly sick in the head and morally bankrupt’ – just a small selection of the Twitter comments that followed the programme’s broadcast. I suppose the ‘morally bankrupt’ accusation is the one that stands out; morally bankrupt by taking the piss as opposed to the unimpeachable morality of the suicide bomber? One can’t help but think that the same voices would probably have reacted in similar fashion to ‘The Great Dictator’ had Twitter existed in 1940. ‘Chaplin, you are morally bankrupt 4 attacking Nazis and Hitler’!

To be fair, Chaplin himself later admitted that had he known of the Final Solution when he made ‘The Great Dictator’, he wouldn’t have poked fun at Adolf in quite the same way, but by making a movie satirising Hitler in the US at a time when America had yet to enter the Second World War, he was putting himself out on something of a limb. The great exodus of European Jews from the continental film industry to Hollywood bore fruit for American cinema in the years to come, but the stories they told upon arrival were ones Chaplin absorbed when formulating the concept of ‘The Great Dictator’; he’d also viewed Leni Riefenstahl’s grandiose Nazi propaganda movie, ‘Triumph of the Will’, and had apparently found it unintentionally hilarious. The end result of these influences was one of the first comedic takes on Hitler and the Nazis, but not the last; as the conflict escalated, Chaplin was hardly alone in mocking the Führer.

Cartoons and comics aimed at children were crammed with humorous interpretations of Hitler and Mussolini throughout the war years; wartime strips in The Dandy and The Beano included ‘Addie and Hermy, the Nasty Nazis’ (Hitler and Goering reborn as archetypal DC Thompson dimwits) and ‘Musso the Wop (He’s A Big-A-Da-Flop)’. It’s an age-old truism that one way an enemy can be belittled by those not in a position to take them on with force is to laugh at them; just look at James Gillray’s caricatures of Napoleon in the early nineteenth century, whereby the physically inaccurate portrayal of Bonaparte as a short-arse literally belittled him and established the myth of the French Emperor’s size that still lingers. I wouldn’t go so far as to say this image contributed towards Napoleon’s eventual overthrow, but it definitely served to make him less of a bogeyman in the popular imagination and defused the fear of him that he undoubtedly drew strength from.

It’s a measure of how effective the PC intelligentsia have been in dictating to TV companies what we can and can’t laugh at that something such as the ‘Real Housewives of ISIS’ sketch is seen as outrageous. A fashionably dismissed comedy from the 70s like ‘The Goodies’ had a dig at Apartheid in an episode simply called ‘South Africa’, one scene of which features a spoof travel ad for the country wherein the Black & White Minstrels act as salesmen for the system that had its fair share of appeasers in Europe at the time. It all sounds very radical and daring by today’s standards, but this was a pre-watershed mainstream series that was even regarded as lightweight back then.

There are so many aspects of contemporary life that often seem more like parody than the real thing, and I sometimes think the architect of the present day’s culture is not some great political thinker, but Chris Morris. And, as the old adage goes, if you don’t laugh, you’ll cry. Laughter is an essential salvation at times like these, and the BBC should actually be applauded for allowing ‘Real Housewives of ISIS’ to air; they’ve nothing to defend or apologise for.

© The Editor

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FLAGGED AS INAPPROPRIATE

geriThe news that a tourist souvenir shop in Muswell Hill, the sort that sells the kind of tacky tat that is of little interest to anyone who actually resides in the UK, has been targeted by the Puritan ‘ism’ brigade as some sort of retail outlet for ‘Britain First’ simply because the establishment happens to be called Really British is an interesting measure of how patriotism as manifested by an object bearing the national flag has once again been designated as the province of extremism and rendered a no-go area by the PC branch of the left. The symbolism of the Union Jack seems to swing back and forth every decade or so, and we now appear to have returned to what it represented in the 1980s.

I remember a classmate of mine once being sent home from school for arriving in a Union Jack T-shirt; it probably didn’t help his case that he had the kind of crew-cut then associated with skinheads and the far-right puppets the tribe had become in the early 80s. Today, of course, having a shaved head is no longer a pointer to one’s political stance, though I doubt the kid in question had any political stance other than getting off on the provocative lyrics spouted by the unlistenable ‘Oi’ bands he claimed to like, anyway. He was no doubt simply doing what a lot of teenagers do by selecting a musical style and fashion guaranteed to get up the noses of his elders.

Fifteen years earlier, the Union Jack had been appropriated by Swinging London and its musical foot-soldiers such as The Who as an ironic and characteristically cocky ‘up yours’ at the establishment in the same way that early Mods nicked the cranial crown of the upper classes, the bowler hat. The mock-military outfits available on Carnaby Street, which The Beatles later adapted for their Sgt Pepper alter-egos, were a similar tongue-in-cheek play upon Victorian and Edwardian Imperial costumes; it was all about dipping into Colonel Blimp’s dressing-up box rather than expressing affinity with an outdated and archaic ideology associated with an Empire that was already consigned to the history books. For a while, the Union Jack had become a cool visual insignia with the same kind of potency that the smiley face had for the Acid House generation at the end of the 80s.

Ten years later, the absorption of a youth cult that had once danced the night away to Jamaican Ska and Reggae into the thuggish embrace of the National Front rendered the national flag something to be ashamed of in a way that other nations would find baffling. The rise of the right-on alternative media and its po-faced spokespersons in the 80s further alienated the flag from polite conversation, reduced to the desperate jingoism of the chinless wonders who force their way to the front of the stage during the Last Night of the Proms on one hand and the ugly unapologetic racism of the far-right on the other.

This attitude still lingered as late as 1992, when Morrissey made the front cover of the NME for wrapping himself in the Union Jack on stage and igniting fresh controversy in the process. Within three or four years, however, the pendulum had swung back again.

From Noel Gallagher’s guitar to Geri Halliwell’s dress, the Union Jack was reclaimed by the apolitical in the middle of the 1990s and rebranded as the ensign of Cool Britannia. Britpop may have been manufactured as a movement by a cluster of music journalists too young to have experienced the negative connotations the national flag had possessed for well over a decade, but its return as a symbol of chic frivolity was something few saw coming. Twenty years on, the climate has changed to the point whereby it’s hard to imagine Harry Styles or Jessie J (or whoever it is the Kids are listening to these days) utilising it in a similar fashion without being bombarded by the same accusations that showered down on Morrissey in 1992.

According to Chris Ostwald, proprietor of Really British, one incensed (not to say unhinged) customer entered his shop and proclaimed the word ‘British’ should be banned because of what Jo Cox’s murderer allegedly shouted as he slaughtered her. Social media has also facilitated the tunnel vision intolerance of this mindset, with numerous comments along these ludicrous lines, and how long before a Facebook campaign is launched to boycott and ban the premises? It’s probably already happening as I write this.

The post-Brexit timing of the shop’s arrival on the streets of Muswell Hill is unfortunate in that some are actively seeking emblems of ‘hate crime’ to vindicate their desperate stance, and Mr Ostwald has delivered as far as they’re concerned. He can’t be accused of ‘cultural appropriation’ when it’s his own culture, so that culture has to be condemned one way or another.

Of course, London has always pandered to the misplaced sentimentality for Olde England that certain overseas visitors love and Really British is just another extension of that industry. For remoaners incapable of accepting the decision of the people to latch onto a shop as somehow embodying everything they regard as racist and unacceptable about this country will serve to drive any celebration of quaint, old-school Britishness back into the arms of the far-right, which is presumably what they want.

It’s only a matter of time before a delegation of Britain First morons lead a precession to the shop and claim it as their own. But in upholding the divide & rule tactics of the powers-that-be, both parties are playing into their hands and ensuring that fighting amongst each other will keep them from aiming their ire at the common enemy. And what could be more British than that?

© The Editor

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