Saturday, June 23, 2007 

Get off your fucking cross.

Why are so many people increasingly insistent on martyring themselves? Apart from our friends seeking those elusive 72 virgins, we have of late increasingly witnessed those of faith trying to nail themselves up on their own makeshift, poorly constructed crucifixies, in the case of Nadia Eweida almost literally so.

At least Eweida had something approaching a legitimate grievance, barred from wearing a tiny cross for little to no real reason.
Shabina Begum, who wanted to wear the jilbab rather than the the hijab to school, rightly eventually lost her case against the uniform policy, although she carried with her a certain dignity, even if there were allegations of Hizb ut-Tahrir being involved.

None of this applies to Lydia Playfoot, the latest in a probably yet to end line of Christians, encouraged by some sections of the media, to cry about the great unfairness of alleged secularisation and how they're being discriminated against while the Sikhs and Muslims and other faiths can wear their religious clothing without being challenged. It makes no difference to them that Sikhs are required by the "Five Ks" to wear bracelets/turbans, or that a good number of Muslims regard the wearing of the hijab, for reasons of modesty, as similarly sacrosanct to their faith.

Miss Playfoot's father just happens to be a pastor, while her mother is part of the team that runs the UK branch of the "Silver Ring Thing", a deeply sinister organisation which seems to take the worst traits of evangelical Christian doctrine and put them into something which greatly appeals to the easily influenced teenager who feels like an outsider because of their faith. In case you think this might have something to do with her taking the case of not being allowed to wear such a vital part of her beliefs in the classroom, her parents assure us that it doesn't. How dare you think such a thing?

Initially, it does seem that the school is being rather petty. It's a small ring, and unless one of those hormone timebombs known as teenagers decided to feel her up, most of her fellow students were unlikely to take much notice of another whining, angsty 16-year-old with bizarre ideas about sex wandering around the corridors.

It's pretty obvious though that this is a vendetta of the Playfoot's own making out of their wider view of society, at the same time promoting the Silver Ring Thing, with their daughter either being a willing accomplice or unusually comfortable for a teenager with following her parents' wishes. This isn't about having the right to wear a small piece of jewelery in school, it's about nailing themselves up for the entire country to see, at the same time draining a school's resources for their own rather than the greater good. If it also wasn't such a stupid, regressive, worthless pledge that will be broken by thousands of those who make it, things might be different. As it stands, there are fewer dafter, juvenile ideas than saving your "purity" for marriage, as if your first sex won't be just as disappointing, bloody, embarrassing and potentially painful than it would otherwise be if it wasn't someone you supposedly loved. Best to get it out the way than be let down by the reality. It also ignores the obvious: that Miss Playfoot won't already be frigging herself silly whenever she feels like it. Purity is both hypocritical and overrated.

Perhaps in a couple of years she'll have realised this. Most 16-year-olds don't have a clue; I'm far past that age and I still don't. The stigmata look is even less attractive.

Labels: , ,

AddThis Social Bookmark Button


Please sir, can we have some more?

There's a few things I think we could all agree we need more of. Social networking sites, for instance. Indie-rock bands basing themselves around the Libertines. Valedictory TV programmes and newspaper articles looking back over Blair's 10 years. Lawyers. No win no fee firms. Hideously tattooed, mouthy female singers. Adverts where those who've sold their soul to appear in them suddenly break into song for no apparent reason. Blogs. Hollywood sequels. Suicide bombings. Books on how all religion is evil.

Out of all of those, there's one I missed out that is perhaps a little too obvious. Ten years after her death, there just simply haven't been enough books written about Princess Diana. No one has so much as charted her short, tragic, some would say holy life in complete, minute detail. We haven't found out which vibrator she used, that she sometimes went naked except for a fur coat, how she struggled with bulimia or that she hated that disfigured horse-faced cunt Camilla.

Thank Enya then for Tina Brown, who not only had the brilliant, original idea of writing such a book, but who has also produced one of the finest social histories, not just of this generation, but of any generation. The Diana Chronicles is a tour de force, a magnum opus, a truly wonderful achievement from a modest, beautiful, stunningly witty woman which will soon being taught on the Diana bachelor degree courses as the foremost set text. A wonderful example of just how fresh, exciting and completely honest Brown's portrayal of the undead Princess is has been provided by the current issue of Private Eye:

Brown's book is of course not just another vulture picking the very last, tiny scraps of pink flesh from Diana's corpse. It's a sexed-up, all revelatory biography to end all biographies, as Catherine Bennett's review of it shows.

With the princes' celebratory commemoration in the form of a music concert fast approaching, it's hard not to come to the conclusion that rather than being dead, Diana, like Elvis, Tupac, James Dean, Kurt Cobain and Marilyn, and perhaps Pete Doherty when he inevitably takes that one dose of skag too many, is going to be with us until the end of time. She's a license to print money, to pretend that you know what you're talking about when you're called on to comment on the celebrity culture, and like Marilyn, she's never going to get old. Her tits are never going to sag, her forehead isn't going to get wrinkled, her hair isn't going to turn to the colour which most resembled her existence that has since been painted any colour but, gray. She will be forever beautiful and young, while the rest of us will decay, wilt and shrink.

Andrew Roberts, when talking about Brown's book on Newsnight Review, was adulatory in praise, describing it as perhaps the first revisionist account of her life, but that's probably because he gets mentioned and because he quite obviously fancies her. He raised the all important point though: like those incessant books about Hitler and whether he really did authorise the Holocaust or just went along with it once it had been decided upon by others, we've got the rest of our lifetimes to look forward to this modern-day celebrity dictator being written about and eulogised and condemned over and over and over again. Or at least until someone assassinates Paris Hilton.

Labels: , ,

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

Friday, June 22, 2007 

Scum-watch: Standing in the way of control.

(Note: This was written on Friday but is only being posted now (Saturday: 16:05) because my modem decided to die)

After spending most of the week whining witlessly about how Blair and Brown are going to sell our sovereignty to the bureaucrats in Brussels yet again, the Sun's leader today takes aim at control orders instead. To start with though, here's their article on the 7th man to disappear:

AN al-Qaeda terror suspect was on the run in Britain last night after vanishing while on a control order.

Is there absolutely any evidence whatsoever that this man was in any way linked to al-Qaida? Err, no. The evidence against him was so damning that he was released without charge in 2005 after being arrested along with five others under the Terrorism Act. It was only after he and the others were passed on to immigration that all were placed under control orders.

The suspect came to the UK as an asylum seeker but was one of six Iraqis allegedly plotting bomb attacks.


The unnamed suspect was linked to Osama Bin Laden’s Iraqi henchman Abu Musab al-Zarqawi — killed last June.

Firstly, al-Zarqawi was very much his own man and only probably pledged allegiance to bin Laden, if he even did that, so that the could take on the "al-Qaida" brand. He was also Jordanian, not Iraqi, to nitpick even more. As previously stated, if there had been any solid evidence that they had been plotting bomb attacks, they'd have been charged. Instead it seems that yet again the intelligence against them was of the variety that was either too vague, slight or inadmissible without changes that the government still appears to be holding out against.

The suspect had been on the order since November 2005 before scarpering on Monday. He was tagged and had a 14-hour curfew and travel restrictions.

Tighter controls had been overturned by judges in June last year — on human rights grounds.

The orders were actually quashed by Mr Justice Sullivan, not by judges. He had previously been on an 18-hour curfew.

And yesterday police minister Tony McNulty said human rights had left cops hamstrung in dealing with terror suspects.

This is nonsense, because the control orders are issued by the Home Office, not the police. The police have more than enough powers to deal with "terrorist suspects", it seems that in the case of these men that the evidence wasn't there.

Control orders were introduced in 2005 to counter objections to jailing terror suspects without trial.

By objections the Sun means the 8-1 verdict of the law lords who rightly ruled that indefinite detention without charge was a breach of the European Convention of Human Rights.

None of the fugitives have been found. Mr McNulty said Labour are considering a Human Rights bill opt-out to allow stricter restrictions.

Probably because they're thought to have left the country, at least according to the Grauniad.

Anyway, to the leader:

YET another terror suspect has done a runner while under useless “control orders”.

That means seven out of 17 potential suicide bombers are now on the loose.

This is more errant nonsense. Some of them might have wanted to be suicide bombers, but the simple fact is that we don't know what most are accused of doing or wanting to do, and neither do they themselves. The BBC recently posted a diary of one of those on a control order who escaped from a mental hospital after he had been sectioned, and while it's full of the typical jihadi thinking, there's nothing in it to suggest he was interested in becoming a suicide bomber, or even where his initial training was leading. Mental ill-health is unsurprisingly a running theme among those being held with little definite details of why. One man previously being held under a control order (I don't know whether he still is) was Mahmoud Suliman Ahmed Abu Rideh, who had repeatedly self-harmed and attempted suicide while being held in custody, whom even the police admitted was no danger to anyone except himself. This isn't to suggest that these aren't dangerous men; some of them undoubtedly are, but to suggest that they're all potential suicide bombers is just disingenuous garbage.

These are not misguided youths who fell into bad company.

They were supporters of Iraqi al-Qaeda leader Abu al-Zarqawi who allegedly sent them to Britain to carry out terror attacks.

See above passim ad nauseum.

Yet they have been allowed to disappear because judges rate their human rights as superior to our national safety.

They refused to put them behind bars where they belong.

Ah yes, it's all the fault of the judges, isn't it? As Mr Justice Sullivan pointed out when he declared the control order on this man illegal, John Reid himself said that the courts could quash the orders, then when they did he fiercely objected. The real fault lies with the government that refuses to respect our international conventions and which has comprehensively declined to legislate so that the evidence held against these men can be actually used against them in the courts, rather than arbitrarily imposing both ineffective and illiberal orders. Their human rights are not superior to our national safety; judges did not refuse to have them behind bars, as their decision was not binding. The government could have ignored it, but instead came up with yet another flawed proposal. Their human rights are the same rights that every single one of us enjoys, seeing as any one of us could be in their position. The talk of suspects not deserving rights is dangerous talk which is giving in to those who threaten us rather than holding up our values in the face of their barbarism.

Instead they were free to come and go, monitored only by futile electronic tags.

Which is rather the point here. For this man to have gone missing, he presumably would have had to remove his tag, which would have set off an alarm. This is as much the fault of putting faith in these piss-poor private monitoring firms as it is anything else.

The truth is that ministers are scared of offending libertarians who would rather put fellow citizens at risk than lock up someone who would blow us to pieces.

Obviously, because this government hasn't spent the last 10 years offending libertarians of every stripe. The rule of law, habeas corpus, the right to be innocent until proved guilty mean nothing to Rebekah Wade, Rupert Murdoch and their minions.

We can only pray they do not use their illicit freedom to do just that.

Or that if they do that they target Wapping.

Labels: , ,

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

Thursday, June 21, 2007 

Is Brown as smart as he thinks he is?

There doesn't seem to be much to add to the discussion about what Brown's motives are in attempting to draw in some Lib Dems to his first cabinet - it screams of him trying to show just how non-Stalinist and pragmatic he's prepared to be, while Ming Campbell is left with egg on his face over his closeness to the party leader he's meant to opposing. The main question is will the public see it as an attempt by Brown to build a new politics, or a cynical move that's only likely to benefit the Tories as the Libs and Labour are condemned for being one and the same. In the current climate, the latter seems more likely.

Labels: , ,

AddThis Social Bookmark Button


Giving al-Qaida credit they don't deserve.

Soumaya Ghannoushi regularly takes a battering on CiF for the more vapid of her warblings, but her latest piece in today's Grauniad probably gets more right than it does wrong. Her description of al-Qaida and how its ideology has spawned autonomous cells that have no real contact with the real leadership of the organisation and that act without hierarchy or a chain of command is probably one of the most accurate I've read in a while, in complete difference to how other commentators and reports often tend to suggest, sometimes for their own reasons, that al-Qaida is some sort of monolithic monster that threatens life as we know it.

Where she gets it wrong is in claiming that al-Qaida has gained a foothold in Palestine, and just how much it cares about what goes on there. She cites the Army of Islam, the organisation holding Alan Johnston, as proof of this.

It's certainly true that some would like al-Qaida to infiltrate the Palestinian territories or even attempt to build some kind of group there that could challenge the hegemony of Hamas and Fatah, as evidenced by an Islamic State of Iraq fighter from Palestine who recently gave an extensive interview on the Paltalk network, where he hoped that a Salafist jihadi alternative would emerge, and that the Army of Islam would be that alternative (PDF). The facts however about the group seem to speak for themselves: it appears to be made up entirely of one criminal family in Gaza, the Dogmush, who seem to have taken up the Salafi ideology more out of convenience and for effect rather than out of any real religious affiliation. They may have previously helped or worked with Hamas when the Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit was kidnapped last year, but the abduction of Johnston has certainly not gone down well with Hamas, who made clear that they want him freed immediately and would use force to do so if necessary. It's long been assumed that they were haggling with Fatah prior to Hamas's takeover in Gaza over exactly how much Johnston was worth. To suggest that such a weak group with no support whatsoever is the first signs of al-Qaida gaining a presence in the occupied territories is disingenuous at best and downright wrong at worst.

The reality is that despite all of al-Qaida's rhetoric about Palestine since its founding statement that Ghannoushi mentions, it, much like a lot of the Arab governments, doesn't really care that much about what happens there. Indeed, if the Israel-Palestine conflict were to be solved overnight, one of the main Salafi grievances/excuses would disappear. It makes for good propaganda, how the Palestinians are being oppressed by the Zionists, but the attacks that it's launched since its "official" establishment have almost all been directed against anyone other than Israel. The only assault directly against Israelis were the 2002 Mombasa attacks - and they've never been comprehensively linked to al-Qaida in any case.

The Palestinians themselves would virulently resist any attempts by genuine al-Qaida elements to set themselves up in either the West Bank or Gaza, for obvious reasons, which half explains why they have so far failed to do so. Hamas and Islamic Jihad have also proved suitably radical for those sympathetic to the Salafist ideology; as Ghannoushi mentions, al-Zawahiri recently condemned Hamas for joining the political process, even if it refuses to recognise Israel, something met with complete indifference if not contempt by those who actually have been involved with either group while Zawahiri continues to sit comfortably wherever it is he's hiding out.

Ghannoushi also mentions the emergence of Fatah al-Islam and the other groups in the Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon as further proof of the growth of al-Qaida, but this again seems flawed. There's been reports suggesting that Fatah al-Islam had been funded by the US as part of an attempt to curb Hizbullah's influence, but it again seems that the group is more of a criminal nature, like the Army of Islam, taking up the Salafi ideology for its own ends. The conditions in the camps are also likely to be a factor in some in them becoming radicalised, and like the Army of Islam, the others in the camp who were shelled and killed in the crossfire were by no means of supportive of their actions.

Her conclusion however is accurate: the blatant idiocy of ignoring the democratic choice of the Palestinian people, while deciding to recognise the use of violence as an opportunity to ditch the boycott does nothing to encourage further steps towards the end of violence as a means of resisting. Sticking it to Hamas for being too radical, as Jonathan Freedland argued yesterday, could have consequences which might result in the rise of a group that does have mass support and genuinely does share al-Qaida's ideology.

Labels: , , ,

AddThis Social Bookmark Button


Scum-watch: Ban this sick site, on err, our network.

The Scum (proprietor: R. Murdoch) has in the past shamelessly plugged MySpace, (proprietor: R. Murdoch) but its latest article on the social networking site from hell is curious to say the least.

A MYSPACE page claiming to be the work of Yorkshire Ripper Peter Sutcliffe has been labelled "sick" by an MP.

The site includes the tagline "Well, it's me", as well as pictures of Sutcliffe and a report which claims to be his police confession, set against a background of hammers, knives and saws.

Well, call me a sick bastard but I have to say I find this particular joker's spoof Sutcliffe page (there are at least another 10) very faintly amusing, if only because of the links to other pranksters' pages on Kilroy-Silk and Roy Walker. Which MP did the Scum ring up to get a quote from?

Philip Davies, Conservative MP for Shipley, West Yorkshire, has also called for the page to be taken down.

Well, that fucking figures. This would be the same rent-a-gob MP who previously urged the non-existent Muslim yobs to fuck off, who claimed that the fact that prisoners who had been given the keys to their cells so that they could lock their possessions or themselves in was evidence that the government was turning jails into hotels, who said that he wouldn't have chosen bright pink as a colour to represent the United Kingdom because it was apparently a capitulation to the politically-correct world that this government appears to inhabit, and most humourously, had a round of handbags with the Labour MP Stephen Pound. Davies additionally supports the Campaign Against Political Correctness in parliament.

Now, correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't wanting to censor potentially offensive internet sites just ever so slightly politically correct? Let's not beat around the bush, Davies is clearly an idiot, but even idiots tend to try not to contradict themselves.

Anyway, the Scum continues:

Olive Smelt, 78, of Halifax, who survived after Sutcliffe attacked her with a hammer, said the perpetrator should be locked up.

She said: “It is disgusting. For someone to actually pretend to be that man.

“It’s absolutely terrible, you wouldn’t think anyone would be sick enough to do that.

“I just can’t believe it, they should be locked up and I think any of his other victims would feel the same.”

Sutcliffe’s younger brother, Mick Sutcliffe, said the person responsible for the “sad and sick” site should be dealt with by the authorities.

“Whoever has set up this site must be mentally ill," he added. "They can’t be normal. It must be a very sick person.”

He said whoever was responsible needed to be found and put in front of a psychiatrist because they could be capable of doing something much worse.

Have any of these people ever even been on the internet? It was bad enough back in the Geocities days, but now you have to wade through torrents of shit, plenty of it far more offensive than anything on the Sutcliffe spoof page to find the ever decreasing pearls amongst the grunting, constantly-defecating swine. YouTube and MySpace are altars to the inane, idiotic and short-attention spans of this generation, with Rupert Murdoch and his fellow sensation purveyors chiefly responsible for this inexorable decline, coupled with the rise and rise of the moronic. You get the feeling that if any of these people saw goatse, let alone one of the pain series of images they'd call the police and complain that they'd been raped by their computer.

In any case, if the Scum feels this strongly about such pages on a website which err, its parent organisation additionally owns, why doesn't it get them taken down rather than bleat about them in a fashion which seems incredibly close to advertisement? Strangely, no one at MurdochSpace was available to comment, which perhaps ought to indicate just what the point of this article was.

Labels: , , , , ,

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

Wednesday, June 20, 2007 

Overcrowded with the same old nonsense.

It's incredibly rare that I feel even slightly sorry for this government, for the simple reason that it has brought nearly all of the problems it faces now down directly on its own head. The prison overcrowding crisis is most certainly of New Labour's own making, but it definitely isn't the fault of Lord Falconer, the hapless minister now taking the flak. He's been made to look idiotic because of his promise that there would be no early releases only a month ago, but this is a mess of John Reid's creation, with him handily being outside the frame due to the creation of the new Ministry of Justice. In any case, both he and Falconer are likely to be out of a job by next week - Reid already having announced his return to the backbenches, and Falconer unlikely to keep his position in Brown's reshuffle.

To treat New Labour with a fairness they don't deserve, they weren't the architects of the "prison works" mantra which has become gospel to the tabloids and right-wingers and is the true root cause of this latest stupidity; Michael Howard was. The murder of James Bulger almost certainly also had a similar chilling effect on penal policy, even though his death was a macabre, disturbing, freak crime which only tends to occur once in a generation. It did however make people question how two ten-year-olds could possibly do such a thing, with a sick society being one of the easy things to point the finger at. At the heart of this was the belief that criminality in general was being treated with too light a touch, something reprised today when the Scum blames judges for being soft when the prison statistics bear out the fact that they are anything but.

Even so, New Labour has not just continued with Howard's stated aims, it's accelerated them, and with every passing year a new criminal justice bill has brought ever tougher penalties and the creation of new imprisonable offences. When Labour came to power the prison population stood at just over 60,000; within 10 years it's increased by 20,000. Labour additionally, despite the claims of the Scum, has also in that time built 9 new prisons, creating those 20,000 places which have been filled as soon as they were available.

By the reaction which both the Scum and the Tories have opted to go for, you'd imagine that the ministers had suddenly decided to throw the doors of the prisons wide open and let anyone and everyone walk out. Instead, the plans for early release are so timid that within months we'll have the same problem again, with the Home Office admitting that by October crisis point will have been hit. Only those serving sentences of 4 years or less, and not imprisoned for violent or sexual offences will be considered for early release, and even then they'll have to go before a parole board which will consider if they pose a danger to the public or not. Those released will in effect spend the last 18 days of their sentence out on license with a tag, not just let out scot free. Around 1,500 to 1,800 will be immediately eligible for early reason, which will free up places for those currently being held in police and magistrates cells at an obscene cost of up to £1million a week, where facilities consist of a bare cell, toilet and a hard bed, which is not exactly conducive to rehabilitation.

This is why the howls of anguish and outrage from the Scum and Tories are so self-serving and pathetic. They've never had it so good: a party with a prime minister who cares more what the Scum thinks about criminals and prisons than it does what criminologists and reformists do, which has gone along completely with their ever tougher stance on even minor crime, even while crime itself has been shown to have fallen to a historic low, completely ignoring the fact that overcrowding itself is the main cause of re-offending, as it means that rehabilitation is nigh on impossible when prisoners find themselves banged up for increasingly longer periods, unable to get access to education, schemes to ween themselves off drug addictions, or to the health care that many with mental health problems so desperately need. To read the Scum's George Pascoe-Watson with a straight face write how wonderful today's prisons are, with a choice of seven different meals and a television in the cell, ignoring completely how you don't happen to be on your own but instead with other highly dangerous people who you can't trust for a second, not to mention the mind-numbing boredom involved in being banged up is to look into a world where highly-paid hacks who've never so much as been questioned by police except when they're asked how much they'll be paid for providing information about what murder victims were wearing when they were killed spit on their own readers.

The government, having been aware that this was going to happen, has had two options. It either continues on the path it's taken, continues to build more prisons or make places available, or it about turns, emphasises that prison does not work except to keep the public safe from the truly dangerous, makes community sentences for lesser offences more attractive to judges and takes on the newspapers that argue otherwise. It has instead done neither, and Reid didn't help himself by telling the Scum that he'd turn old MoD bases into makeshift open prisons, something that local communities would have rightly opposed, as they are completely unsuitable for such use, as well as look into buying "prison ships", when none of the ports want them and when the only one that was in use
was condemned by the inspector of prisons.

It's difficult to stomach a newspaper that has been instrumental in creating this fiasco, with New Labour almost in effect making Rebekah Wade the home secretary, having the balls to criticise ministers for their failings, but then nothing will ever be good enough for Murdoch's minions, a trap which Blair has repeatedly fell into.

THE prisons crisis is a stinking national scandal.

Much like this very newspaper.

And the Labour government has only itself to blame.

True, for indulging your fuckwitted arguments and petty prejudices for 10 years.

Ministers have known for years that we need more jails — but wilfully refused to build them.

And just where pray are they meant to? Has the Scum ever offered a single sensible proposal for a prison other than pie-in-the-sky nonsense about camps and ships?

While they dithered, the jail population has hit a record 81,000 — double the number 15 years ago.

As a direct result of the Scum's ceaseless campaigns and own sheer lack of backbone.

That record will be broken again next month, with lags crammed three to a cell — fertile ground for riots.

Really? I thought prisons were idyllic, happy places where you get your meals brought to you and where Sky Digital is plentiful?

How does the government respond?

Laughable Justice Minister Charlie Falconer is setting 25,500 drug peddlers and burglars loose early.

This is a nonsense figure which the Scum and Tories have arrived at by looking at the projections for the number of prison places that are going to be needed by the end of next year, then ignoring that those serving sentences longer than 4 years are still going to be getting out in the meantime, freeing up places, coming to the wrong conclusion that 25,500 prisoners are going to have be released to cover those newly sentenced. Surprisingly, it doesn't work like that.

This crisis did not come out of a clear blue sky.

The Sun has been campaigning for years for prison ships.

We called for thousands of foreign criminals to be sent home.

Neither of which offers are real kind of solution, as those countries unsurprisingly don't want them back, at least until they've finished the sentences.

Yet a succession of Home Secretaries failed in their most important duty — protecting the public. They’d rather see hundreds of murderers, rapists and terrorists walk through open prison gates.

I'd say that they've succeeded - crime has fallen dramatically, although it was already doing so before they came to power, and now only those who are no danger to the public will be released; the Sun's hyperbole only underlines the lack of rigour in its argument.

Villains in jail cannot commit crime.

And without those prisons, we are all more likely to become victims of crime.

Because everyone in jail is a villain, as we know, and the fact that the prisons are going to be hopelessly overcrowded whatever the government does, unless it completely changes course, means that those who are released are ever more likely to re-offend as a result. Whatever the government does it loses, all as a result of its initial mistake in even attempting to ride the Murdoch and Rothermere tigers.
P.S. The following comment on the reports into Iran capturing the 15 sailors is a complete joke:

NOBODY would say the 15 sailors captured by Iran in Gulf waters covered themselves with glory.

Nor did the hostages improve matters by selling their stories when they were freed.

This would be the same Sun newspaper which contributed towards the £100,000 paid to Faye Turney for selling her story to the err, Sun.

Labels: , , , ,

AddThis Social Bookmark Button


Quote of the week.

Likewise, air force pilots are urged to bomb sensitively.

Labels: , , ,

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

Tuesday, June 19, 2007 

Hunting for witches in Manhunt.

Before getting into why the BBFC have decided to ban Manhunt 2, it's worth mentioning just how an organisation that was previously the most draconian censorship body, most likely in the Western world (Germany is probably now even more strict than the BBFC is) has managed, without legislation and with the ever scandalising and moral panic purveyors in the tabloids watching their every move, to reform itself. The great turning point was the retirement of James Ferman as director - ironically enough, being the chief butcher of the organisation and more feminist than his female colleagues were in his views on films' portrayal of sexual violence - over his realisation that in order to stop the real hardcore pornographic material becoming legal, he had to give into the slightly softer variety, which nevertheless sparked the tabloids into mass outrage.

To be fair to Ferman, there is probably now a revisionist account to be written of his years at the helm of the BBFC which takes into consideration the fact that he probably did the best he could, faced with the "video nasties" moral panic and later the Bulger killing, erroneously linked by the judge in the case to films which there is no evidence to suggest the boys ever saw, in helping to stop both politicians and the media from demanding even more chilling intrusion into what adults decided to watch in their own homes. He was one of those who lobbied furiously against the opportunist attempts by David Alton to effectively ban all 18-rated films from being released on video in the aftermath of the Bulger trial, something which looking back, only 13 years on, seems almost beyond belief, considering how close it came to fruition.

Even so, within a year of Ferman leaving, films that had previously never been available since their original theatrical release, purely because of his own views on them, such as the Exorcist and the Texas Chainsaw Massacre, were passed uncut. This was swiftly followed in 2000 by the BBFC's failure to overturn a decision by the Video Appeals Committee which gave an R18 certificate to 7 hardcore titles, which it decided not to appeal against, finally leading to the full legalisation of hardcore pornography, if only available from licensed sex shops. The same year also brought a step-change in its guidelines for films as a whole, after research commissioned by the BBFC overwhelmingly showed that adults unsurprisingly didn't want to be limited in what they could watch. No longer was extreme violence or gore liable to be cut, unless it was either of a sexual nature, which has always troubled the organisation for good reason, or involving the breaking of the law as it stands, such as animal cruelty. Since then only a few mainstream films have been cut, with Ichi the Killer and Baise-Moi falling foul of the sexual violence guidelines, for instance, while a decent number of the former "video nasties" have been passed entirely uncut, some even with a 15 certificate. The organisation now mainly finds itself cutting R18s for some of their more dubious content, even though it's completely consensual, something which understandably irks its distributors.

All of which makes it all the more surprising the Manhunt 2 has been refused a certificate. The only recent titles to have been entirely refused a certificate instead of being cut have been prurient, real-death displaying documentaries, such as Terrorists, Killers and other Wackos and Traces of Death, extreme bondage/S&M material like Severe Punishment, and "Women in Prison" exploitation flicks, Jess Franco's "Women in Cellblock 9" being the last to be banned. Objectionable as all those decisions are, none comes close to the lack of legitimate reasons, or at least lack of honest reasons for why Manhunt 2 has been rejected.

Despite all the BBFC's carefully considered and detailed arguments for rejecting the game, it's almost impossible to believe that they weren't at least slightly influenced by the case of Stefan Pakeerah. Pakeerah was murdered by Warren Leblanc, according to the police, judge, and the evidence presented at his trial out of a motive of robbery. It was only after Leblanc pleaded guilty that Pakeerah's family, especially his mother, Giselle alleged that rather than Leblanc, Manhunt was to blame. There has never been any even circumstantial evidence presented that Leblanc was influenced by the game, let alone that he was obsessed with it. The game, rather than being found in Leblanc's possession, was in fact found in Pakeerah's bedroom. His mother says that Leblanc lent it to him, which rather undermines her argument that young people shouldn't have access to such games, seeing as she wasn't able to impose her own authority over her own son, let alone those of others. Predictably, despite some retailers removing it from their shelves, those that refused to do so reported a rise in sales.

The damage however had already been done, with the tabloids, long since having moved on from attacking films, now turning their sights on video games. Keith Vaz, another opportunist, attempted to resurrect his long dead political career by campaigning against such games, without showing even the slightest knowledge of what he was talking about. The furore, along with that directed towards Grand Theft Auto and the publicity surrounding its Hot Coffee mini-game which had been discarded in the code only to be rediscovered, inspired the BBFC to commission its own research into them, which very recently released.

The research is hardly a ringing endorsement of the BBFC's subsequent decision to reject Manhunt. Among its key findings were:

younger games players are influenced to play particular games by peer pressure and word of mouth, but negative press coverage for a game will significantly increase its take up;

violence in games, in the sense of eliminating obstacles, is built into the structure of some games and is necessary to progress through the game. It contributes to the tension because gamers are not just shooting, they are vulnerable to being shot and most gamers are concentrating on their own survival rather than the damage they are inflicting on the characters in the game. While there is an appeal in being able to be violent without being vulnerable to the consequences which similar actions in real life would create, gamers are aware that they are playing a game and that it is not real life;

gamers are aware that violence in games is an issue and younger players find some of the violence upsetting, particularly in games rated for adults. There is also concern that in some games wickedness prevails over innocence. However, most gamers are not seriously concerned about violence in games because they think that the violence on television and in films is more upsetting and more real;

gamers are virtually unanimous in rejecting the suggestion that video games encourage people to be violent in real life or that they have become desensitised. They see no evidence in themselves or their friends who play games that they have become more violent in real life. As one participant said: “I no more feel that I have actually scored a goal than I do that I have actually killed someone. I know it’s not real. The emphasis is on achievement.”;

non-games playing parents are concerned about the amount of time their children, particularly boys, spend playing games and would prefer that they were outside in the fresh air. However, they are more concerned about the ‘stranger-danger’ of internet chat rooms. While the violence in games surprises them and concerns some of them, they are confident that their children are well balanced enough to not be influenced by playing violent games;

All of which they probably well knew before they bothered to commission proper research, but it identifies just how video game violence, despite the player being the one perpetrating it, is viewed differently from that in films, which is both far more realistic and troubling than anything yet to be portrayed in any game.

Manhunt is undoubtedly a violent, unpleasant game which as the BBFC describe in their justification, has few of the relenting or redeeming qualities which the likes of Grand Theft Auto have, where senseless, wanton violence quickly results in you getting arrested and failing certain missions, while the non-linear content of the game means that it's not all kill, rob and sex. The graphics have probably been improved considerably since the original was released, but a video on YouTube shows the type of violence which it contains, and there's very little that's overly gory, detailed or glorifies the content; if anything it just looks silly. The decision to reject it has to be put into the context of how the undercurrent, especially in recent horror films, is to be completely unrelenting and grueling in their depiction of violence, with the emphasis on nihilism, even giving the killers in films such as the Devil's Rejects anti-hero status, all with the films being passed uncut at 18 and with few critics other than the Daily Mail's hack Tookey getting out of their pram about them. Why should adults who can make their own decisions to watch those films not be allowed to play similar games? The original Manhunt was 18, and if parents did their jobs properly and didn't give in to their kids' demands to buy them such age-restricted games, there wouldn't have been any panic in the first place.

The saddest thing is that as the BBFC's own research pointed out, gamers are now more likely to be intrigued and delight in its banned status, importing copies from Europe where it will be easily available, as I'm reliably informed that the first one wasn't up to much. Why martyr such a unsatisfying game because of the well-intentioned but utterly wrong cries of the tabloids and a grieving mother? The BBFC should let us know.

Labels: , , , , ,

AddThis Social Bookmark Button


The economics of omission.

In common with the previous report from the National Audit Office that immigration is in fact not destroying the country, overwhelming public services or undermining wages, a new report from the TUC, the economics of migration (PDF), has come to similar conclusions:

Contrary to far right accusations that immigrants are a drain on the welfare state, TUC research shows that migrant workers are paying more in taxes than the value of the public services they receive. Across the economy the arrival of migrant workers has not depressed jobs or wages, and although there is limited evidence of some local effect on wages and employment for low-skilled workers, so far low-skilled workers have not lost out thanks to the vibrant economy.

The report doesn't pretend that everything is fine though, as none of us should. It argues that workers, both indigenous and from abroad are still far too easily exploitated, something that Jon Cruddas has been unafraid to tackle during his deputy prime minister campaign. It also rightly points out that the extra prosperity and tax revenues which migrants are contributing to should be focused on ensuring that local areas which have experienced an influx of foreign workers are able to cope, nipping any potential tensions that could arise between communities as a result in the bud.

Seeing as the report is challenging the image which the right-wing tabloids have repeatedly tried to paint of migration, it's instructive to note that neither the Sun or the Express found the space to cover the TUC's findings in any form. The Daily Mail does have a report up on its site, but it's not bylined, and the comment section is also missing. Then again, they don't want their readers' to think that their favourite rag has got it wrong, do they?

Update: The Express did in fact report on it, as FCC points out in the comments, although it seems to have entirely lifted the report from the TUC's press release. Not sure why it didn't come up in the search when I searched for both TUC and Trades Union Congress, but never mind. Apologies.

Labels: , , , , ,

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

Monday, June 18, 2007 

If there's one thing we need, it's more databases.

If there's one thing that can be said about this government, it's that it's so bloody-minded that it will just not recognise that it simply cannot do anything to do with IT right. You've got to admire that sort of obnoxious stubbornness.

After disasters involving the IT system which junior doctors submitted their application for jobs to, which it transpired was so insecure that anyone who had access to it could look at anyone's information simply by tapping in their profile number, the continuing debacle of the new IT system for the NHS, currently coming in at a cost of around £12.4bn, and the criminal records bureau fiasco, any government other than this one would probably think twice about going ahead with any other highly ambitious IT programmes involving incredibly sensitive information. This though is New Labour, and there is no reverse gear.

It at least has to be said that the motives behind the "ContactPoint" database are honourable, something which can't be said about the ID card scheme which is being cooked (cocked?) up as we speak. The shocking nature of the Victoria Climbié case, and the failings of the local social services to act is a good an impetus as any.

The report in today's Guardian then makes for ominous reading. Not only are 330,000 people going to have access to it, but it's going to be open from the internet. Sound like a recipe for disaster? Well, it's OK, because they're asking people not to access it from internet cafes or public reception areas. Additionally, it will have a two-part security authentication system, which I sure hope doesn't mean login and password plus captcha.

It doesn't take a genius to realise, putting aside the concerns about snooping, that this is likely to be a hot target for identity thieves. The tax credits scheme has already been infiltrated by such people, and with the whole thing being wide open rather than internal network-based, it's only going to further encourage such attempts to break in. All in all, it's shaping up to make the NHS IT scheme look like a storm in a teacup.

Labels: , , , ,

AddThis Social Bookmark Button


How do they make the effigies so quickly?

Fat, racist cunt dies
  • Pakistan announces official day of mourning
  • Muslim Council of Britain pays tribute to legendary equal opportunity xenophobe

Bernard Manning, known universally for his carefully considered, subtle japery has died aged 76 stone.

Manning shot to fame in the 70s on the back of his premier performances for the ITV show the Comedians, reducing audiences to tears with his spirited repertoire, especially his "those darkies, eh?" gags, which won him a special place in the heart of the immigrant communities, who have never stopped exploding with laughter since.

On hearing of the sad news, the Pakistani parliament immediately adjourned the session and called for a motion on declaring an official day of mourning, which was passed unanimously. The Pakistan religious affairs minister, Mohammed Ijaz ul-Haq, was one of the first to eulogise about Manning's demise:

He may have been politically incorrect, but at least he didn't BLASPHEME like that bastard Rushdie. I call for any suicide bombers who might have thought of targeting Manning's funeral to instead hold their laughter.

The Muslim Council of Britain also issued its condolences, with Mohammad Abdul Bari confessing to how he was first smitten with the Manning bug:

It all started so innocently, with a few jokes about the mother-in-law and that charming tale about the Aristocrats. Then he launched into his fusillade about the blacks and Jews, and I just couldn't help it, I wet myself. His death is a final contemptuous parting gift from Tony Blair to the Muslim world, which he'll most likely blame on terrorists instead of his own actions in invading the Embassy club. I hope Rushdie is pleased with himself.

Other tributes are starting to flood in, much like the blacks, with Wikipedia identifying Manning as one of the top-100 knob-jockeys of all time.

Sir Salman Rushdie is burning.

Labels: , , ,

AddThis Social Bookmark Button


  • This is septicisle



Powered by Blogger
and Blogger Templates