Friday, 30 July 2010

Wingnuts and Neologisms

'Well, it's quite simple, really.' Henry leaned forward and threw another log on the fire. ... 'The trick is to keep doing outrageous things. There's no point in passing some scandalous piece of legislation and then giving everyone time to get worked up about it. You have to get right in there and top it with something even worse, before the public have had a chance to work out what's hit them.'
- Henry Winshaw, What a Carve Up! by Jonathan Coe (1995:313)

A frequent guilty pleasure of mine is Sadly, No!, a US-based snark-blog that takes the piss out of American wingnuts (whose 'grassroots' movement actually called themselves teabaggers, then blamed Urban Dictionary for making it sound naughty). The gift, and the trauma, of American wingnuttery, is that there appears to be no bottom to the barrel. It reminds me of the everlasting pint of Guinness in the old gag, and just like that magical pintpot, it spews forward a gusher of foul, sticky, black bile that turns the stomach.

Take, for example, this, in which a man spends 5 pages calling Shirley Sherrod (the woman who lost her job after a wingnut edited a video to make her look like a racist) a liar because she described the racist beating to death of one of her relatives as a 'lynching'.

Plain as day, Ms. Sherrod says that Bobby Hall, a Sherrod relative, was lynched. As she puts it, describing the actions of the 1940s-era Sheriff Claude Screws: "Claude Screws lynched a black man."

This is not true. It did not happen. How do we know this? ... [quotes from Supreme Court judgement on the case] Hall, a young negro about thirty years of age, was handcuffed and taken by car to the courthouse. As Hall alighted from the car at the courthouse square, the three petitioners began beating him with their fists and with a solid-bar blackjack about eight inches long and weighing two pounds. They claimed Hall had reached for a gun and had used insulting language as he alighted from the car. But after Hall, still handcuffed, had been knocked to the ground, they continued to beat him from fifteen to thirty minutes until he was unconscious. Hall was then dragged feet first through the courthouse yard into the jail and thrown upon the floor, dying. An ambulance was called, and Hall was removed to a hospital, where he died within the hour and without regaining consciousness. There was evidence that Screws held a grudge against Hall, and had threatened to "get" him.

Yeah, Jeff, right on! How dare she call that a lynching? What was she thinking? She's like worse than Obamhitler.

But anyway, I thought that was going to be the vilest thing I read all week. But somehow, the EvilGuinness keeps pumping away, delivering new globs of devilfoam to parts you thought it could not possibly reach. Here's a man called Dan Popp.

Let's broaden our campaigns to keep not only our sports stars, but all our rich neighbors in the neighborhood. Let's not discriminate against white CEOs just because they can't jump. Instead of vilifying the rich and forcing them to justify their success, irrationally presuming that it must have come at the price of someone else's failure, let's embrace all those who bring value to our society.

If you're with me on this, please go to the nearest window, stick your head out, and shout:

Rich people, we're sorry. We've committed the sin of envy, the sin of covetousness, and the sin of slander. We have believed the lie and borne false witness against you. Forgive us for the nasty things we said. Please don't go. We want you here. We are all better off with mega-successful neighbors. We're going to tear down the "Keep Out" signs. We're going to stop robbing you of the rewards you've earned, confiscating your wealth as if you were convicted criminals. Please come and do what you do: increase the quality of life for all of us.

Now, I don't know what your reaction to reading that was, but *clever reveal* THAT'S THE POINT. I don't know how to describe my reactions to these pieces. On the one hand, there's a sense of disbelief, as though you've just witnessed someone chowing down on their own chod bin contents and pronouncing it to be as delicious as the finest Haribo. On the other there's a depressing element of 'where do you start' - it's so many kinds of wrong at once, like moving into digs previously occupied by students armed only with half a pack of J-cloths and Happy Shopper polish. It's an unequal struggle, is my point.

It's virtually impossible to comprehensively describe. There needs to be a new set of words to describe the emotional response to reading one of these articles. I've tried to make a list:
  1. Anger
  2. Annoyance
  3. Animosity
  4. Disappointment
  5. Disorientation
  6. Despair
  7. Ennui
  8. Flaberghastliness (already a compound emotion)
  9. Irritation
  10. Sarcastic
  11. Shock
  12. Slaptacular (yet to make it into the OED, nevertheless a perfectly expressive word)
  13. Superior, in a somewhat pointless and hard to defend way
  14. Weariness
Plus about 7 others I don't have a name for. It's one of those times that you wish English lent itself to compound nouns as easily as German does. It would mean that wingnuts have achieved something - the response to their madness would have outpaced antidisestablishmentarianism with ease, and make a good go for Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch.

In the end though, it just makes me wish I was the sort of person who only made the same mistake once. The lesson is clear: don't get out of the boat. One day, perhaps I will learn this.

Wednesday, 21 July 2010


The Daily Mail's latest 'Teh Kidz r In THEIR ROOMS DOIN STUFF!!111eleventy!' piece is brilliant.

First, there's the Brass Eye nature of the piece itself. But more importantly, the commenters have invaded and totally Speak You're Branes'd it.

You DO want to get out of the boat for this one. Quick - before the mods figure out what all the kool kids are talking about and delete it all!

I-Dosing: How teenagers are getting 'digitally high' from music they download from internet

They put on their headphones, drape a hood over their head and drift off into the world of ‘digital highs’.

Videos posted on YouTube show a young girl freaking out and leaping up in fear, a teenager shaking violently and a young boy in extreme distress.

This is the world of ‘i-Dosing’, the new craze sweeping the internet in which teenagers used so-called ‘digital drugs’ to change their brains in the same way as real-life narcotics.

Thank you, Daniel Bates, for this sterling work. Comment samples:

When I started I-Dosing a year ago it was just for fun. I had an otherwise normal life. Fast forward to now... I've been layed off, I lost my car, and I I-Dose every chance I can get. To pay for my fix I rob unlocked cars and a couple of times prostituted myself, just for the iTunes money. I'm probably losing my apartment soon, but I don't care, all I need is my iPod and my headphones. Can't wait to iDose again...

I was at a local basketball court in Philadelphia and some friends and I were playing a game. A couple of guys came down the street and they were listening to headphones. They were talking crazy and started fighting. Turns out, they were "dosing." My mom was so upset she sent me to live with my aunt and uncle here in California.

They're probably high on Cake too.

I've just tried i-Dosing and I'm TOTALLY WASTED!!!

Of course, this being an internet and, worse, a Daily Mail Internet, there's always some cretins who don't get it but do manage to sound like massive wankers...

This is crazy! Soon there be private grants to study this, then the government grants. Soon anyone who dissagrees will be labeled "insenative" or worse. The lawyers will sue for the "victims"; welve step programs, support groups and the new defense for mass murders. The music made me do it.Political pressure will be brought to bear and our now government controlled heath system will require all health insurance to cover it. Hundreds of millions of dollars will be wasted on a fantisy, money that could be used to treat real disease.

- William Tyson, Laguna Woods CA USA, 21/7/2010 5:16

In the end though, I'm forced to come back to robii of Loughborough, who seems to have spotted what Daniel Bates apparently didn't.

This story is nonsense

- robii, Loughborough, UK, 20/7/2010 20:23

Nevertheless I URGE you to check it out. I mean, look at the capital letters - I must MEAN IT, mustn't I?

Friday, 9 July 2010

Is Alexander Chancellor the world's most pointless human being?

The Guardian employs a lot of idiots in its comment pages. Probably so that gullible fools will write long, angry rants about their idiocy, thereby increasing their webtraffic. But Alex has been writing for years and years - way back when dead tree was the norm and interwebs were for porn, I remember finding his column in G2 and wondering if, having read the title of his articles, it would be possible to sue the corpse of CP Scott to get my time back.

Still, Al, as I'm sure he hates to be called, Al, who has perfected the art of bringing mediocrity to a new middle over many years (sample titles: 'It's looking quite clement out' and 'Everything's all electronic nowadays isn't it?'*) has managed to be quite stunningly offensive today.

Raoul Moat: Why the police should stop flattering him

Fugitive gunman is getting a lot of public sympathy

I have to ask: how is it possible to type this, without your own medulla oblongata realising what must be done for the good of humanity and ceasing respiratory functions immediately? This is the worst thing since Al's autobiography Is it time for tea yet? and other amusing incidents from my life.**

**Almost certainly.

Tuesday, 6 July 2010

A Straw-Man Pissing Contest? How Very Gauche.


A while ago I found a solution to the problem that certain displays of idiocy tend to push my rant button, resulting in the counterdispaly of a blogpost that itself displayed my compulsive need to respond to certain types of fuckwit in print rather than just my internal monoshout.

That solution was: stop visiting CIF.

Don't get me wrong, I love a good rant. But it was interfering with my life of lounging around on taxpayers handouts that, as a leftie, I almost certainly do.

Anyway, today I got out of the boat. Hence the following.

So, every so often, people who were once broadly on the left, drift to the right in their old age. In Mark Steel's case this meant leaving organised Trotskyism for free-wheeling Trotskyism. More usually it marks a more drastic break with your past. Classic examples include: Christopher Hitchins, David Aaronovitch, and of course, Nick Cohen.

Today Peter Bracken* has decided to join this band of bluster and, as is traditional, he has bravely launched an attack on a strawman. There seems to be an inherent need when these people defect to vociferously attack some perceived holy cow, as though the Tories (who in this situation might be analogised to the big kid in the playground who's got all the Transformers to Peter's weedy but needy asthmatic) will welcome them into the Kool Kids Klub once the ritual beating of the little kid (who, as we thankfully reach the end of this oddly over-written analogy, is whatever right-wing idea about what the left is this time, or if the motive is sectarian, something that can be attributed to the many tentacled monster that is the SWP) is complete.

Of course, if you're going to do this sort of thing, it's vital that your screed attack some version of your enemy that everyone with 'common sense' (a term which in politics is an effective simile for 'ignorance') can agree to dislike.

In Peter's case, this is
the section of the left denies the mainstay of the authentic left's agenda: liberalism.
Which is of course, rubbish. Liberalism is not a left-wing position but a centrist, and crucially, non-ideological one. Liberalism is pragmatic and comfortable with the wielding of power over others, the left is revolutionary. Even the right-wing of the labour movement, the aim is to alleviate the effects of inequality and the worst of poverty, a sure recognition of the desire to change the status quo, that cannot be authentically called liberal. Liberalism is distinguished from reaction largely by its recognition of and compassion for the poor. To the extent that one attempts to change this situation it is a left position, because that is the extent to which the existence of class conflict is recognised and arms are taken on behalf of one side against the other. You will look in Marx in vain for support of the Whigs, but you can see the faint ghost of Marx when liberals defend the minimum wage.

Anyway, having made a mess of his political categories, Peter goes on.

a left that aligns itself against the west cannot be a progressive force, especially one which vents its opposition by finding cause with the grotesque illiberalism of theocratic and proto-fascist regimes

Of course, the left aligns itself against capital and its forces, not 'the west'. And who are these lefties that align themselves with theocrats? Well, Peter provides a list, but unfortunately they do not seem to mean what he thinks it means. 'The Left' (a mysteriously monolithic beast to someone who claims to be on the left and should therefore know better), is guilty of

morally depleted rationalisations that "explained" 9/11 (the US had got its comeuppance).

Funny, cos the article he links to says

there is also the feeling that all the ‘civilised world’ (a phrase which Western leaders seem able to use without a trace of irony) is paying the price for its glib definitions of ‘terrorism’ and its refusal to listen to what the ‘terrorists’ have to say. There are very few people on the planet who devise carnage for the sheer hell of it. They do what they do for a cause; because they are at war. We might not like their cause; but using the word ‘terrorism’ as an alibi for thinking what drives it will get us nowhere in stopping the violence.

which actually seems to be saying "if we mindlessly use the word 'terrorist' we will have no clue as to how this event happened." How terribly glib. Of course, Peter is in no way being glib by suggesting that the US did nothing to anger anyone, and conflating the US Government with its people (an error he has in common with Al Qaeda).

The rest of his bobbins isn't much better, I'm afraid. Having made his exceedingly palpable hit by finding Comrade Beard's secret communique to the Supreme Soviet, outlining Teh Left's Like Totally Universal Position on 9/11, he moves on to attack people who support the Palestinians. This isn't really worth bothering to come back on, as it's a permanent feature of these kinds of articles that you have to side with the aggressor against the victim: it's all part of the posturing. Notable that he doesn't provide a link for that one though.

The ones that there are links for are so misrepresented that it's easy to see why he couldn't even quotemine them. For example, he complains of
the fanciful opinion – expressed only recently by Seumas Milne – that China, far from being an exemplar of human rights abuses on a colossal scale, is in fact an exemplary bulwark against a rapacious, capitalist hegemony.
Curious, as the article is about the strikes that have undermined the state recently and what this means for the economy. At no point does he defend Chinese state repression. Seriously, go read it. I'll wait.

Done? OK, so next up is an attack on Zizek and Callinicos. Fine, except that again, he just displays stupidity. When Zizek says
The problem is that such a simplistic liberal universalism long ago lost its innocence. This is why, for a true leftist, the conflict between liberal permissiveness and fundamentalism is ultimately a false conflict.
he does not mean, as Peter implies, that the Iranian government doesn't kill people, he's saying that calling your society a liberal democracy does not wash the blood off your hands. You'd really have to be remarkably obtuse not to see that.

Amazingly he then manages to be even more facile.
Alex Callinicos himself is a member of Socialist Workers' party, which implores Iraqi insurgents to "use whatever means necessary" to defeat the western coalition. He is a supporter of an organisation, in other words, that apparently condones the use of terror to destabilise a fledgling democracy. An honourable opposition to the war in Iraq is one thing; an express wish to see Islamist insurgents prevail is quite another.
Here's why this has teh stoopid:
  • If you're opposed to the war in Iraq, it is in no way inconsistent to support the Iraqi people against their occupation. In fact it seems, if you're genuinely progressive, the obvious response to the unchecked aggression of a superpower. Peter doesn't like the word 'imperialist' when applied to the US, but if he can think of a more appropriate one, I invite his submission.
  • A genuinely leftist critique of Iraq would have to talk about the nature of the invasion and its effect on the people, otherwise it is not leftist or even political, but handwringing drivel.
  • It ignores the consistent, genuinely terrifying use of terror used to both topple the Iraqi government and then to impose a neoliberal nightmare of the occupiers' choosing.
  • The use of the phrase 'Islamist insurgents' is particularly telling. 'Islamist' is in no way implied by support for the Iraqi people. 'Insurgents' is a funny way of talking about Iraqis. If there are insurgents in Iraq it is surely the foreign military powers that are imposing the new political order. Foreign fighters in Iraq even at the height of the 'insurgency' were relatively few, though a flood of arms into the country did seem to be noticeably present. You know, in amongst all those American invaders.
  • Fledgling democracy is a lovely turn of phrase, but in the context of Iraq can only mean the successful imposition of a regime approved of by the victors. The Iraqis did not make a revolution against Saddam and they did not choose the form of their new government. They are being asked to participate at gunpoint.
He then has the nerve to call those on the left who genuinely support self-determination for the Iraqis 'nihilistic' and claims for himself the mantle of defender of freedom. Sometimes, one is tempted to think that some people would really benefit from a bit of extraordinary rendition, if only to remind them of what 'support for a fledgling democracy' really means.

To conclude:
I didn't like this very much, and I don't think much of its author either. This is a reductivist, dishonest and ignorant account that wears its simple-mindedness on its sleeve.
*No, me neither.

Friday, 2 July 2010


Anyone who watched Mock The Week last night will have seen the weird spectacle of Russell Howard stealing Richard Littlejohn's material.

Now, I really don't know much or care about football*. But for fuck's sake: it wasn't a war, it was watching 11 millionaires not be very good at their jobs. After all, it's not the first time we've seen that recently.

*Just to be clear, I don't hate football, some of my best friends like football etc. It's just very dull to me. And I don't like displays of nationalism at the best of times, least of all in sporting events, because I can't for the life of me see what the point is.

Thursday, 1 July 2010

One of these things is very much like the other

So, late, cryptic and probably way behind everyone else, I thought I'd do a quick post on the whole twuntfest that is the Coalition. Don'tworry, I'm not going to go into what others have said, far better, and elsewhere. Instead I'm going to offer a quote. It should probably be on the other blog, in fact, but even fewer of you fuckers read that one. Besides, there's an original anecdote in this one.*

The kind of crisis Friedman had in mind was not military but economic. What he understood was that in normal circumstances, economic decisions are made based on the push and pull of competing interests ... However if an economic crisis hits and is severe enough ... it blows everything else out of the water, and leaders are liberated to do whatever is necessary (or said to be necessary) in the name of responding to a national emergency. Crises are, in a way, democracy-free zones - gaps in politics as usual when the need for consent and consensus do not seem to apply.
- Naomi Klein, The Shock Doctrine
The only addendum I'd insist on is that there is a consensus on this occasion - the consensus of the political class and the media. It's only unions, right-wing economists, centrist economists, and left-wing economists and those tiresome types who keep thinking we should try to build a better world rather than a worse one who don't agree.

*True story, a friend who claims to have some kind of centre-left credentials announced her admiration for Ken Clarke yesterday, on the basis of the 'we're too poor to afford new prisons' policy. Just to be clear: he's not a nice man, he's a bastard standing next to a shower of cunts. There is a difference. And remember, if a Tory ever does the decent thing, it's either an accidental spinoff of something evil (in this case unnecessary and destructive public sector cuts), or just plain accidental. Stopped clock etc etc...