Privilege Is One Hell Of A Drug…

…it makes people comfortable to the point where they aren’t aware they are privileged, it allows people to exert their privilege to claim the concept of privilege is nonsense, and can lead those who are allies and aware of their privilege to abuse it.

While I disagree with a lot of what Louise Mensch says in this piece on feminism and checking one’s privilege (especially the casual dismissals of ‘cis’ and ‘intersectionality’ as being essentially too unnecessarily complicated and boring for words)  it’s the reaction to it which I find infuriating. And unsurprisingly, it’s mainly from the exact people who do need to check their privilege but naturally lack anything remotely resembling self-awareness, such a Labour MP Tom Harris (who responded with mockery), and Independent columnist John Rentoul (who responded by adding ‘check your privilege’ to a list of banned phrases in a manner that made me want to reach through the screen and punch him).

The worst offender was the Telegraph’ Dan Hodges (who claims to be a Blairite but really plays the same role for a right-wing media outlet that ‘Democrats’ Pat Caddell and Kirsten Powers do on Fox News in the US), who was self-admittedly completely unaware of what was meant by ‘check your privilege’  up to this point, proceeded to write a glib, snarky, staggeringly ignorant post mocking the whole concept of privilege and concluding, after having missed the point as badly as John Terry missed this penalty,  boasting that he’d go out of his way to act like a complete arse to spite the Privilege Police.

Apparently, if any of us wish to comment on a particular issue we have to first “check our privilege”. It’s like a sort of moral entry exam. Before expressing a point of view we must first establish our bona fides. So for example, if you want to talk about an issue such as welfare reform, you have to consider whether you are middle-class or not. If you are, then sadly you fail the test. You can’t comment. Or if you do comment, then your point of view is in some way invalidated.

Ah yes, the ‘they’re trying to shut us up’ fallacy, the close relation of ‘I’m the real victim here!’ ploy. Here Hodges’ ignorance of what feminists/minority groups mean by this is glaring. No, Mr Hodges, we’re not telling to you shut up. We’re not telling your opinion is invalid. Nor are we telling you what to think about subjects that don’t affect you. We are asking, very nicely, to bear the experiences of the people it does affect in mind and compare them to your own when formulating that opinion. That’s what allies are – people who do not belong to a specific group but support their aims, empathise with them and recognise that they can use their privilege for good by helping combat the issues the group faces without hijacking their struggle  (as in the case of anti-racism crusader Tim Wise).

Sufficiently briefed, I sat down to give myself a comprehensive privilege MOT. White: tick. Male: tick. Middle-class: tick. Public school education: fail. Able-bodied: tick (well, half a tick. I’ve only got one eye. But you get two for a reason). Heterosexual: tick, (though never say never).

OK, Dan, I’m going to sit you down and explain what exactly privilege is as you are no more informed now than you were when you first asked what CYP is: it is not merely being a member of a certain demographic, as you seem to think with this list: it is the consequences (or rather lack of) and benefits which come with being part of said demographic. It’s not an insult, nor do we hate you for being privileged, it’s merely stating a fact. Privilege is being paid more on average because of your gender. Privilege is not having religious institutions and assorted groups dub you subhuman and campaign to deny you rights because of your sexuality. Privilege is not being thought more likely to commit a crime purely due to your skin colour and being stopped by the police for this reason. Privilege is being able to write a facetious lot of tripe about a serious hindrance to progress in a national newspaper read by thousands.

For a start, how do we actually define privilege? Let’s go back to the example I gave about welfare. Who really holds the privilege in this debate? Is it someone like me, who has never taken a penny of welfare, except to make regular withdrawals from the bank of mum and dad.?

Why, yes, it is!

Or is it those who are actually subsisting on, and benefiting from, welfare themselves? Who, in this case, actually enters the debate from a position of self-interest? Shouldn’t it be those Shameless types who we all know are merely idling and scrounging and swinging the lead, who should be giving their own privilege the run down?

From your lofty perch as someone who’s never been on welfare, you make allusions to lazy, greedy people sponging off the state. Privilege in action which Hodges’ exhaustive and failproof Privilege MOT somehow didn’t register. We’ve had mansplaining, we’ve had whitesplaining, and now with Hodges’ piece we’ve got douchesplaining. Have a seat, sir.

To come back to the Mensch piece which kicked this whole thing off, I noted that in it she claimed it was inspired by Laurie Penny of the New Statesman and a an average Jo and feminist activist on Twitter, whose handle is @jonanamary.  I’ve taken issue with  a well-known person singling out a relative nobody for criticism (implicitly or explicitly) before, so this did not sit easy with me. And then this happened:

 

noplatform

 

It turns out that the reply scheduled was going to be from the other person mentioned in Mensch’s post, Laurie Penny – who already has a platform to respond and is on a level playing field. @Jonanamary, the unknown tweeter, still has no means of replying to criticism directed at her in the Guardian, which will be read by thousands of people.

I myself have experienced something similar – I once called out the Telegraph’s James Delingpole for his blatant racism towards Barack Obama on Twitter, and found myself the subject of his ire in a post following this on his blog.  Now, I have a very small blog which I only update when something really gets my goat and only a modest amount of Twitter followers, so there’ s an immediately obvious imbalance of power here.  My personal attitude towards this was one of contempt – really, a blogger for a national newspaper punching this far below his weight? – and satisfaction at having irked this bullying poltroon enough for him to single me out in his defensive response. But the fact remains, like Mensch with Joanamary, Delingpole had a platform (and a large one at that) from which he could denounce me, while I did not.

What’s the word for being in a position of having more influence, strength and power than another person?

Oh yeah. Privilege.

 

 

Sanity Is Relative

 

There’s a claim I’ve heard many times from my American friends. “The UK Conservative Party is more liberal than our Democratic Party. Those guys are sane, sensible conservatives.” And every time I see a claim along these lines, I roll my eyes.

Yesterday, it was announced that Britain’s double-dip recession is intensifying:

The economy shrank by 0.7 per cent between April and June, the Office for National Statistics said. It is now smaller than when the Coalition came to power in 2010.

Since then, the Chancellor has pursued a strict policy of austerity – “Plan A” – in an attempt to bring down the deficit, leading to accusations that he has not done enough to stimulate growth.

Wednesday’s fall was worse than expected and means that Britain is firmly back in recession, with negative growth for the past nine months.

Amid a growing clamour from business groups for radical action, one senior Conservative figure admitted that the economy was likely to be in “intensive care” for another two years.

The Coalition’s  been in power for 2 years, and things are now even worse than they were when they were elected. As a clearly on-the-ball politician points out here, the world’s economy is recovering albeit slowly while austerity-driven Europe is struggling:

“The challenge is particularly great in our neighbourhood…since the financial crash the world economy has grown by 20%. But Europe’s has hardly grown at all.”

…said Prime Minister David Cameron. Cue frustrated headdesking.

The Tories’ solution to economic disaster caused by austerity has been the same as George W Bush’s to Iraq: stay the course, and unsurprisingly had the same results. The Tory party might not obsessively attempt to restrict women’s and gay people’s rights, but their economic policies are as destructive as their counterparts’ would be and threatening to bring about both a lost decade and a lost generation of young people who simply cannot find employment. Supporting gay marriage doesn’t make David Cameron a liberal (as some would hold) – it makes him a typical conservative: supporting one kind of family value, while harming families with his idea of ‘reforms’.

Let’s compare and contrast what our Coalition and US Democrats have done or attempted to do:

UK: Undertaken a policy of austerity which has led to crippling cuts in public spending with only one of the promised effects: it’s causing a lot of pain to British people, but making our economy worse.

US: Passed a stimulus bill which stemmed the economy haemorrhaging  jobs and turned it around to the point where America has now had 27 months of job growth and 11 consecutive quarters of economic growth. US conservatives would like America to follow our plan.

UK: Raised caps on tuition fees to a maximum of £9000, which resulted in virtually every single university choosing the maximum fee, as anyone not a Lib Dem could have predicted. Students now face leaving university burdened with a minimum of £36k debt.

US: Extended low student loan rates to make life easier for college students.

UK: Overhauled the welfare system, with the following impacts: disabled people are worse off, companies get free labour from young people on ‘work experience placements’ (workfare) which still does not help them find work, families lose out on child benefit, household benefits are capped at £26k because everyone’s situation is the same, cuts to housing benefit instead of regulating landlords, and proposing that all young people should be deprived of housing benefit altogether.

US: Reluctantly renewed all the Bush tax cuts so that the unemployed could continue to receive the unemployment benefits held hostage by Republicans. The Obama Administration also offered states waivers from the work requirements in Bill Clinton’s welfare reform.

UK: Passed NHS ‘reforms’ which will create massive amounts of bureaucracy, put patients’ interests lasts, open the door for privatisation of the NHS which will lead to more of this awfulness, and saddle doctors with responsibilities they don’t want at the expense of doing their actual job of treating people.

US: Passed healthcare reform which will expand healthcare coverage to millions and act as a foundation to eventually progress to a single-payer system. In other words, Britain and America are now moving in opposite directions on healthcare.

As for those American liberals who think the Democrats are too awful to vote for this November, I’d like to point our ‘Liberal’ Democrats aided and abetted all of the above horror stories – in some cases after having campaigned for the exact opposite – which are helping keep Britain stuck in the mire along with Europe while the rest of the world pulls itself out. And that your Democrats voted for all the good stuff on that list. You have no idea what betrayal of principle is, so grow up.

So America, you have a choice. You can vote Republican this November and go the same way we in Britain have. Or you can vote to keep climbing out of the well towards the light.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Real Benefits Scam

With the House of Lords voting to approve the coalition government’s truly awful welfare reform package which will plunge thousands of families below the poverty line, and Ed Miliband’s Labour Party already stating that they’ll vote for amendments to the bill, and won’t actually oppose it, Britain took a considerable turn for the worse today. And the worst of it is it’s a bill based on out-and-out lies and pure, vicious ideology.

Let’s start with the £26,000 cap on household benefits, and how the Government arrived at that figure. Iain Duncan Smith claims that this is the average household income in Britain, but this is extremely misleading, as the Guardian points out (the article as a whole is an informative Q&A piece on the consequences of welfare reform):

Critics say it is excessively draconian. The Children’s Society says the cap confusingly compares non-working household income with average household earnings. Were it to align the former (more fairly) with average household working income – which includes tax credits, and a range of benefits – the cap would be set at £31,500. This would mean thousands of poorer households would not be pitched into poverty by the cap.

What the Conservatives have successfully bludgeoned out of people’s minds is that housing benefit is not actually income. It does not in fact go into the pockets of the people receiving it, but goes to pay the rent their private landlord is charging.  And as housing benefit makes up the bulk of the average household on welfare’s payments, the right wing’s justification for this horror of a bill, namely that people on welfare at the moment can earn more than people who work, is shown for the pack of lies it is. If you want to blame anyone for ‘excessive welfare spending’, as our dear Prime Minister David Cameron puts it, blame the landlords who jack up the rent to ridiculous levels. After the banking industry, the housing industry is probably the next most in need of regulation. But of course, the Government’s attitude to this is: if the rent is too damn high, move!

Yesterday, the Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith said the reforms were not designed to “punish” families.

He told Sky News: “I simply make the point to them that the purpose of this is not to punish people but it is to give fairness to people who are paying tax, who are commuting large distances because they can only afford to live in the houses that they have chosen.”

It’s particularly galling that this dismissive ‘just move to a cheaper area’ message is coming from a group of people to whom moving house involves using taxpayers’ money to finance the mortgage and furnishing of a second home in London. Unfortunately, poor people don’t have the option to put the costs of upping sticks on expenses. And, of course, there’s the fact that moving house would have a serious impact on children in myriad ways; being uprooted from a place they call home, having to change school and start all over at a new one with no friends, living in reduced circumstances (but hey, you and your siblings, who may be of the opposite sex, being packed together in one bedroom is no big deal according to Duncan Smith, who also lies about the charity Shelter defining this as homelessness on its website; it doesn’t). And there’s the problem of finding another house. As anyone with any actual experience of the real world will know, a great many landlords refuse to accept people on welfare as tenants. Finding a house that suits your family’s needs is not easy either. Hard as it may for the green-eyed monsters of the Daily Mail to believe, the reason those large families they pin on their front page in their idea of public shaming live in large houses is – this will come as a shock, I know – large families need more space.

A one-size-fits-all plan is a supremely cack-handed approach at the best of times, but when it impacts actual human beings, the results are even more horrendous. A single parent family with, say, 3 kids in London will have very different needs to a two-parent family with one child in Liverpool. To force the same cap on everyone receiving benefits, regardless of individual circumstances, is not only incredibly stupid, it’s unfair and yes, contrary to what Iain Duncan Smith says, punishes people. Because that’s what this is all about, really. The Tory approach to winning elections is and always has been: further improve the lives of their traditional voting bloc, the rich; then get a big slice of the middle-class to vote for them not by making their lives better, but by fanning the flames of resentment towards those on welfare and making the poor’s lives shittier, to make the middle feel better about themselves. It’s the same dynamic you see in the battle over public sector pensions; instead of encouraging the private sector to offer their employees better deals, the Tories instead dishonestly bash public sector employees and work to strip them of the pension rights they have earned by accepting reduced salaries during their working lives. It’s disgusting, it’s despicable, and tragically, it works.

And here’s the most depressing thing about this whole sorry debate:

All three parties are behind the benefits cap in principle – but there are disagreements over the details.

And then there’s this, which makes you wonder what the fuck the point of even having an opposition party is:

Labour reacted cautiously, suggesting that it would try to find a compromise. “Labour won’t be voting against the benefits cap, but we will be seeking to amend the Bill.”

That’s the sort of bold, principled leadership we’ve come to expect from Ed Miliband’s Labour!

In Britain, people on welfare are now everybody’s whipping boys – not just the right wing’s. And this a prime example of why I laugh my head off at the idiotic liberals in America who whine when a bill that is inherently progressive whatever happens to it gets watered down. Here, the only thing that gets watered down by our allegedly ‘left wing’ (ha!) parties is right-wing political and economic theory.

 

 

I’m Just A Teenage Douchebag, Baby

The Oxford University application process goes like this: you fill in an application form, attach a sample of your work relevant to the subject you’ve applied for along with a teacher’s reference. If you’re in luck, they invite you for an interview and entrance examination which takes place over a couple of days, while you stay as a temporary guest in the halls of residence at the Oxford college you chose, or were assigned to. You then get either a rejection or acceptance letter in the post some weeks later.

 

Miss Elly Nowell, pictured, had other ideas. She decided that she would turn her nose up at Oxford immediately after the interview. You see, she’s just too grand for one of the best universities in the world, as her the rejection letter she wrote to Oxford indicates.

 

 

Ms Nowell’s letter began: “I have now considered your establishment as a place to read Law (Jurisprudence).

“I very much regret to inform you that I will be withdrawing my application.

“I realise you may be disappointed by this decision, but you were in competition with many fantastic universities and following your interview I am afraid you do not quite meet the standard of the universities I will be considering.”

Should the university wish to “reapply”, her letter continued, “while you may believe your decision to hold interviews in grand formal settings is inspiring, it allows public school applicants to flourish… and intimidates state school applicants, distorting the academic potential of both”.

Someone should study how it is teenagers manage to cultivate and refine smugness, arrogance and condescension to the highest level, because it’s a talent that really does peak in this age group and afterwards declines at varying speeds depending on the kind of person you are.

But yes, Elly, you’re right. It’s appalling that Oxford chooses to interview students in its college buildings which have existed for centuries, are some of the most glorious architecture to be found in Britain, and are steeped in history and the presence of the great and good who passed through its doors. Down with this sort of thing, I say! Bring in the bulldozers, and wipe out centuries of history, beauty and achievement so that snotty teenagers may avoid being exposed to those things…sorry, avoid being ‘intimidated’, I mean.

She said: “It was while I was at interview that I finally noticed that subjecting myself to the judgement of an institution which I fundamentally disagreed with was bizarre.

I spent my entire time there laughing at how seriously everything was being taken.

It’s at this point that I wish I could reach through the screen and smack this horrible, bratty little bitch silly.

There’s an unfortunate tendency amongst the British left to treat the universities of Oxford and Cambridge and their graduates with contempt because a majority of attendees are wealthy ex-public schoolkids. Never mind that these universities are the best in Britain, are the only British universities to feature on the world’s top universities list, that they offer an exemplary standard of education, have resources like the extraordinary Bodleian Library (Oxford) or the Botanical Gardens (Cambridge). No, instead the attitude is: they’re elite, therefore they suck.British left-wingers, in other words, behave ironically exactly as US right-wingers do towards the Ivy League.

Instead of constantly knocking them and making fun of ordinary kids who want to go to Oxbridge, we ought to be applauding these dreams and fighting to make it easier for state school and poor kids to achieve them. And it’s precisely because there are so many students who would dearly love or have loved to have the opportunity to go to these educational utopias that Elly Nowell’s little stunt makes me so angry. She was given an opportunity…and she spat on it, before declaring it never meant anything to her anyway.

Ms Nowell admitted that her email was not meant to be taken 100% seriously.

She said: “Oxbridge is a fairly ridiculous and prominent elitist institution, yet unlike the monarchy or investment bankers it is rarely mocked.

“Even comedians tend to avoid Oxbridge as a subject.

“Being a successful student should depend on the student, not on whether or not a couple of academics have deemed you to shine in a twenty-minute interview.”

So basically: she messed Oxford and busy academics’ time around for a cheap laugh. Seriously, fuck you.

As I’ve pointed out above, this is absolute bollocks. Oxbridge gets mocked all the time, both in good-natured Stephen Fry’s dig at Rowan Atkinson in Blackadder: “Oxford’s a complete dump”, anyone?) and mean-spirited ways. But yeah, it’s elitist. Fuck yeah, it’s elitist! Because elitism isn’t necessarily a bad thing! What people forget is that while the university’s make-up is skewed in favour of those from privileged backgrounds, it doesn’t let people in for being rich. It lets people in for being really bloody smart.

And, Elly dear: if you carry that “a twenty-minute interview shouldn’t decide your fate” attitude into the job market…in your case it won’t be the Tories’ fault that you can’t get a job.

 

 

 

 

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The Coalition’s £500 Million Blush-Sparer

This is unbelievable.

Welsh Secretary Cheryl Gillan’s opposition to the proposed high-speed rail link between Birmingham and London was so strong she pledged to resign if the plans were approved. Her main reason for opposing it was the railway line would be an unsightly blemish on the beautiful countryside in her Buckinghamshire constituency. So, to avoid a Cabinet minister’s resignation creating an unsightly blemish on David Cameron, the Government will have a tunnel built in Gillan’s constituency to the tune of £500 million (The Daily Mail’s headline is incorrect – it is the Welsh Secretary, not the Transport Secretary, they are desperate to keep in the Cabinet):

Plans for a railway tunnel costing up to £500million to spare David Cameron an embarrassing Cabinet resignation are expected to be unveiled this week.

Sources say Transport Secretary Justine Greening is likely to confirm the 1.5-mile project when she gives the go-ahead for the London-to-Birmingham high-speed rail line. The proposed new tunnel, in the Buckinghamshire constituency of Cheryl Gillan, comes after the Welsh Secretary threatened to quit at the prospect of some of the loveliest countryside in England being scarred by new trains racing by at 250mph.

But if, as expected, Ms Greening approves the new tunnel under the Chilterns, Whitehall sources say they hope it will be enough to persuade Amersham and Chesham MP Ms Gillan to withdraw her threat. However, the move would come at a heavy price – the planned extra tunnel works out at about £190,000 a yard, or nearly £5,300 per inch.

While the Tories trumpet austerity, make devastating cuts that will harm families and communities all over Britain and are already strangling our fragile economy to the point of sending it back into recession, they will blow £500 million on a project that serves no purpose other than to save a politician’s career and avoid yet more embarrassment for this already ridiculous Government.

As always, austerity is for the little guy, while the big shots carry on as normal.

 

 

 

 

Dumb Belles Of The BNP

When I initially read this, I called Poe’s Law – it simply had to be a spoof, because while I’ve seen a lot of breathtakingly idiotic stuff from following US politics, I thought nobody could actually bring the weapons grade stupid you are about to see in this article interviewing BNP ‘babes’. But parody it is not.

You no longer need to be a hatchet-faced National Front refugee to join the whites-only club. The fascist menace no longer wears jackboots. It no longer flags down the number 25 bus with a hearty “Sieg Heil”. Nope, ours is a new, gentler, more airbrushed age. Feminism’s here, so now girls can dig race hate too. As the BNP’s attempts to reposition itself as a mainstream party have advanced its perimeter far beyond the usual crewcuts-n-tats brigade, we spoke to three of the more acceptable new faces of the unacceptable. What a bunch of hotties! Phwoar! Makes you aroused to be British.

Basically, Vice.com decided to interview/take the piss out of these brownshirt bombshells. The result? 24 carat comedy gold. Here’s one of them, Rebecca Edwards, 23, showcasing her formidable intellect:

When people say the BNP is a fascist party, what do you think?
Fascist – I don’t understand that word.

Think of Nazi Germany, or 1930s Italy.
I can’t even remember when that happened really, but I’m against them anyway.

This girl should run for office.

She follows that up with this gem:

What do you think symbolises Britain best?
Well, I used to know Britain as strong, and over the past couple of years, I don’t know if I’ve grown up, but I’ve seen it going soft. The memory I have is the war, and how we fighted [sic] all the people in WWI and WWII, and it makes me proud to be British.

So, she can’t remember when Nazi Germany happened, but World War 2 makes her click her Ginger Spice Union Jack platform heels to the tune of Rule Britannia for a country she loves can’t wait to get out of. Move over Einstein.

What’s the best thing about living in Britain today?
I hate Britain and I want to move to Spain in the next couple of years, ’cause our country’s not England any more. It’s very rare for English people to live here any more. When I went to Lanzarote, I felt more English there than I do here, and that’s no exaggeration.

So, if you just can’t handle your country being taken over by an imaginary tsunami of foreigners, be a foreigner taking over someone else’s country! That’ll learn ‘em. Oh and please, please do move to Spain. Britain’s collective IQ would rise at least 50 points, with the added bonus that you would finally have done something genuinely patriotic. Win-win.

Read the whole thing and the other interviews with other hilariously thick racist chicks – and also this interview with Miss Edwards which basically goes: “How dare you post things I actually said? Now people think I’m racist and dumb, which I’m totally not! Dumb, that is.”

Stuff like this proves that Andrew Sullivan and co, instead of promulgating the horrendous Bell Curve bullshit, should consider the theory that there is a strong correlation between racism and lack of intelligence.

 

 

 

 

 

 

News International And War Dead Relatives

In the wake of the News of the World’s depraved phone-hacking of dead soldiers’ relatives, I thought it would be a good time to revisit what its daily sister paper considered such a grievous insult to our war dead it led a manipulative and nasty campaign against then Prime Minister Gordon Brown.

Misspelling a dead soldiers name, poor handwriting, and worst of all, not dotting his Is:

COMMITTED four other spelling mistakes: Greatst for greatest, condolencs for condolences, you instead of your, and colleagus for colleagues.

He also wrote the letter “i” incorrectly 18 times – mostly by leaving the dots off them but once by using two in “security”.

And he ended with a repetition – writing “my sincere condolences” and then signing off “Yours sincerely”

What an evil, evil man. How did he ever sleep at night?

The Sun proceeded to callously exploit the mother’s grief for its own ends, to viciously attack Brown. Which is the hallmark of Rupert Murdoch’s media outlets of course – exploitation, manipulation and hit jobs to try and obtain a certain political outcome.

News International: where spelling mistakes when writing an emotionally difficult letter to a dead soldier’s mother is a hanging offence, but illegally invading and violating the privacy of relatives is A-OK.

The Murdoch Empire Is Undermining Democracy

The last few days have been dark ones for the journalistic profession. A free press is supposed to be the lynchpin of democracy, but when the press engages in behaviour which, if committed by the government, would rightly be described as Orwellian, it fundamentally betrays that principle. Yesterday’s revelation that the News of the World was willing to eavesdrop on grieving families after one of Britain’s grimmest days reveals that there was no depth they were unwilling to sink to. How can people feel secure when the very organisations who are supposed to help protect them from abuses of power intrude on their privacy and grief should they have the misfortune to be involved in a heavily publicised crime or event?

And this is just what’s happening this side of the pond. Over in America, for the last few years Murdoch’s Fox News has effectively played Pravda to the Republican Party’s Soviet Union. Whether it is magically turning scandal-plagued/unpopular Republicans into Democrats, repeatedly lying about and smearing a Democratic President, or actively telling its employees to use words which are likely to have negative connotations in the minds of viewers to describe Democratic policies, Fox is not so much a news network as the media arm of the GOP – and that’s just the allegedly straight news parts. Sean Hannity, Bill O’Reilly, Brian Kilmeade, Chris Wallace and the now-departed Glenn Beck are in a league of their own when it comes to right-wing propaganda, as Charlie Brooker hilariously explains. The goal is to spread misinformation, fear and lies in order to manipulate the masses into supporting the same party Rupert Murdoch and Roger Ailes do…while sowing hate in the minds of their gullible and faithful viewers towards anyone who isn’t white, rich and conservative. During Watergate, John Dean spoke of a ‘cancer on the presidency’. Fox News is a cancer on America.

Meanwhile, while we do not have a Fox News-esque channel acting as cheerleader for a political party over here in the UK, we face something more ominous in the form of the imminent News Corp takeover of BSkyB, which unfortunately is likely to be green-lighted by the Government despite the snowballing hacking scandal. A media run solely by the state is something nobody in their right mind would want, but how is a media run virtually by only one man and his corporate empire any better? Yet that is a scenario we are increasingly faced with. Yes, they’ve pledged to sell Sky News, but there’s absolutely nothing to stop them buying it back once the takeover deal is secured. And given the Murdoch media’s complete disregard for things like ethics, morality and truth, if that takeover were to go through, we would have more to fear from our new media overlords than our government. And that is a truly terrifying thought.

Rebekah Brooks Is Either Incompetent Or A Liar

Rebekah Brooks continues to deny all knowledge of the despicable hacks into Milly Dowler and 7/7 families’ phones, leading to only two possible conclusions: either Brooks was so incompetent an editor that she had no control over and no idea of what was being done by her own newspaper, or she’s a liar, neither of which does her credit.

As the Independent revealed today that she asked the same private detective who dug up the Dowlers’ number to do other searches, I’m leaning towards the latter.

Ms Brooks, while editor of NOTW, used Steve Whittamore, a private detective who specialised in obtaining illegal information, to “convert” a mobile phone number to find its registered owner. Mr Whittamore also provided the paper with the Dowlers’ ex-directory home phone number.

The Information Commissioner’s Office, which successfully prosecuted Whittamore for breaches of the Data Protection Act in 2005, said last night it would have been illegal to obtain the mobile conversion if the details had been “blagged” from a phone company.

Ms Brooks, who said yesterday she was “shocked and appalled” at the latest hacking claims, admitted requesting the information. But she said it could be obtained by “perfectly legitimate means.”

I highly doubt that, but let’s leave the ‘means’ aside for a minute and focus on her actual request – trying to discover the private owner of a private mobile phone for no justifiable reason, on top of gaining access to a phone number that was removed from the directory books precisely to stop unwanted callers from obtaining it. Ethics, schmethics.

 

From New Labour To Hard Labour

In the row over public sector pensions which led to tens of thousands of workers going on strike today, the Tories have behaved as you’d expect: with threats and continuing to turn the word ‘fairness’ into newspeak. You would think, however, that the party whose roots are entrenched in the labour movement, hence the name ‘Labour’, would be sympathetic, if not supportive of the public workers’ battle to secure the pensions which compensate for poorer salaries than those in the private sector.

But alas, the Labour leadership has shown no sign of returning from the centre-right ground staked out by Tony Blair. For all the taunts of ‘Red Ed’ and suggestions of radicalism, Ed Miliband is not so much Marx as Milquetoast: an ineffective leader who put himself in the ridiculous position of attempting to bash the Government while offering absolutely no support to to the striking workers, calling the strikes ‘wrong':

Labour leader Ed Miliband has delivered a blunt message to striking teachers and council workers: “You’ve made a mistake.”

Addressing the Local Government Association conference at the ICC in Birmingham, Mr Miliband said: “I understand the anger of workers who feel they are being singled out by a provocative and reckless government.

“But I also believe this strike is wrong. Negotiations are on-going and it was a mistake to go on strike.”

And days earlier, Ed Balls adopted the mantle of concern troll by telling mutinous workers that striking would just play into the Tories hands, and so they shouldn’t strike:

Ed Balls has urged public sector workers not to strike over the government’s planned pension reforms saying: “The trade unions must not walk into the trap of giving George Osborne the confrontation he wants.”

Between the two of them, the Eds illustrate exactly why people did decide to take industrial action – because if they didn’t stand up and fight for their rights, who would? Certainly not this awful Labour Party that has never been less worthy of the name. Tony Blair created ‘New Labour’, perhaps the current incarnation should be called ‘Hard Labour’.

UPDATE: Paperback Rioter has a good piece up giving background to the whole sorry situation and showing what a crock the Tory and Miliband positions are,