Saturday, 31 December 2011

Baby Barton and the Bad Writing

Fairly famous person becomes a father for the first time. The newspapers cover it. Fair enough. The punters are provided with a diet of trivia. This is understood. Nothing new there. But, in the case of the birth of a child, can't it be left at a simple reporting of the bare facts? The child's name, birth weight and the fact that mum and baby are doing well. That sort of thing. Isn't that enough? Even in the case of parents who court publicity? Just for common decency's sake? Because it's a special and unique time when perhaps it's in poor taste to use the story to make a point or to poke fun? Right?

No, not for the sort of bloody awful 'papers we have in this country.

Consider the recent arrival in this world of the first-born son of Ms. Georgia McNeil and Mr. Joey Barton, captain of QPR. According to the Daily Mirror, the fact that the boy's name is Cassius "has caused eye-rolling at the registrar's (sic) office". Really? Those of us who are parents will recall that a visit to a register office (get it right, you lazy tabloid hacks) is not something that is usually done within just a few hours of the birth. So, nameless hack at the Mirror, whose eyes have actually rolled? At which register office? Which registrar has been unprofessional enough to comment on a couple's choice of baby name? What is his or her name and when did you do the interview? Ah. So there hasn't been any "eye-rolling" at any register office, then? It was just a crap rhetorical device in your hastily written article? Why do you do that, though? Why just make up imaginary incidents? Is the truth not enough to work with?

Oh, and I see your article claims that Barton's son was named after Cassius Clay. But that hasn't actually been properly confirmed yet, has it? It's just an educated guess isn't it? While it might be true, you are reporting as fact something about which you're not actually certain, right? If you'd been listening in your journalism classes, you would remember that you can hedge your bets simply by inserting a modal verb such as might or could into your sentence. After all, some hacks have mastered this simple technique. On the same day that your piece came out, an unnamed Daily Mail reporter noted that "it is not yet known why the name Cassius has been chose (sic), although Barton is a boxing fan so it could be in reference to former heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali, who was born Cassius Clay."

The Mail, however, was also guilty of making up imaginary details when reporting the birth of Cassius Barton. In a separate article, Kirsty McCormack alleged that though "he's known for his bad boy behaviour... even Joey Barton's fans were shocked when he opted to play in a game while his girlfriend went into labour."

Guess what? Not a single "fan" of Joey Barton is named or quoted. If Ms. McCormack really did find any such "fans" who were "shocked", perhaps she'd be kind enough to name them and let us know when she conducted the interviews. Ahead of such proof being provided, let's just assume in the meantime that she was just inventing this detail of her story. It also seems odd that anyone might have been shocked when a careful reading of McCormack's own article suggests that the real sequence of events probably went more like this:

  1. Ms. McNeil checked into hospital on Boxing Day
  2. Joey Barton went to Swansea to play in QPR's 1-1 draw there
  3. the match ended
  4. Ms. McNeil went into labour
  5. Barton headed to the hospital and was there in time for the birth

Why can't tabloid hacks just stick to the facts? Are they absolutely determined to be among the most despised people in the country? A year of Hackgate revelations and the embarrassingly shambolic TV performances of Paul McMullan have done nothing to moderate the routine habit of lying for a living, it seems.

Those of us who are not famous are quite fortunate in some respects. When we experience the joy of a first child coming into the world, we don't have a national newspaper guessing why the kid's name was chosen, even if we tweet about the birth, as more and more new parents doubtless choose to do these days. We also don't have to endure snide comments about our motives around the timing of the new father's arrival at the hospital.

Regarding Barton sr., we supporters of Queens Park Rangers will presumably all be hoping that the new arrival is not causing sleep loss to point of our skipper being tired and listless on the pitch later today. Coming away from the Emirates Stadium with even a single point looks like a big ask. But success away at Arsenal on New Year's Eve is not without precedent. Cast your mind back to December 31st 1994. Gunners fans were pleased to see the goal-shy John Jensen finally hit the back of the net. They were less pleased by the goals from Messrs. Allen, Gallen and Impey. A great day. Oh what fun it was to see the Rangers win away. More of the same, please, with Barton running to the away supporters to lead one of those 'rock the baby' goal celebrations.

U RRRRRRRRRRRRRRssssssssssssssssss

Friday, 30 December 2011

ciao, giovanni

saw bert again

a wet walk and a haircut.
my barber says that all the butch lesbians in town
are coming to him now.
word of mouth, he says,
seven of them, just today.
and on the way there
I saw bert again

A Little Mix of Mail Morality

Do any readers still keep up with UK singles chart? Is it still of any interest? It feels like ages since the young people of the nation waited en masse and with keen anticipation to see which artists had sold the most records in any given week. Once upon a time, though, the Number One slot was so coveted and of such significance that accusations of the chart being fixed in order to secure it were not unknown. A notable example is the case of the Sex Pistols' irreverent God Save the Queen allegedly being fraudulently bumped down to Number Two in favour of a Rod Stewart track in 1977, the year of Elizabeth II's Silver Jubilee.

It seems like a fair guess that many who were appalled by Johnny Rotten's lyrics and the antics of the controversy-seeking punk band back in the seventies might be feeling more positive about the current UK Number One single, Wherever You Are. For the uninitiated, this is sung by a choir of the wives and girlfriends of military personnel deployed on the protracted and expensive nation-building exercise in distant Afghanistan, which continues to be marketed to the British population as somehow being connected with our own security here in the UK. The lyrics are drawn from letters between the women and their boyfriends and husbands, and the song came into being via a television programme in which choirmaster Gareth Malone worked to boost the morale and raise the profile of his choir. Along the way, the programme explores the women's vulnerability in the absence of their other halves.

The programme and the song both seem unobjectionable. Neither appear to glorify the open-ended and somewhat opaque nature of the British presence in Afghanistan, and proceeds from the song are directed to charities that do the worthy work of providing financial, social and emotional support for military personnel and their dependants. For as long as this country's governments continue to shovel professional soldiers and airmen into foreign adventures of dubious worth without providing properly for their ongoing welfare, such charities will clearly continue to play an important role.

The public have been provided with an opportunity to understand the women's situation and support their good cause. Hundreds of thousands of people have responded by buying the track, which outsold the rest of the top twelve singles combined. Congratulations all round.

There seems nothing remarkable, then, about any media commentary which praises the efforts of Mr. Malone and his choir. But perhaps it's not surprising that Melanie Phillips, writing in the Daily Mail, could not confine her remarks to a simple expression of admiration for Malone, the singers and those members of the public who have decided to support their work. The tabloid 'paper is relentless in its mission to induce feelings of fear, loathing and scorn in its readers. Not a day may pass without the Mail causing its buyers to splutter indignantly into their morning cornflakes, horrified by some new offence against family values and supposedly venerable British traditions. Common targets of this bile include immigrants, gays, mothers who hold down jobs, the BBC, 'loony left' councils and the mythical 'PC Brigade'.

In her Boxing Day piece about the Military Wives Choir, Phillips picks a much less obvious target at whom to take a swipe. She notes that Wherever You Are has sold six times as many copies as the Number Two single, the début track by X-Factor winners Little Mix. She then uses this piece of information to make a point that seems entirely spurious.
"Wherever You Are is composed from letters between these wives and their men - Britain’s heroes - as they served on the battlefield. By comparison, Little Mix’s Cannonball - of all titles! - seems quite exquisitely tasteless and inappropriate. 
This triumph of The Choir over The X Factor represents the victory of courage over celebrity and endurance over inanity.
The X-Factor song stands for wannabes - however winsome - dazzled by the prospect of fame and money. The Choir’s song stands for courage, patriotism and true, enduring love."
Love for the X-Factor is not something you will find expressed here at this is my england. The only time that the TV talent show has had a mention here was in a poem that listed it among the bread-and-circuses items fed to the television watching public in order to keep them docile. But Phillips references the televised singing contest in an extraordinary way. For her, there exists an ideological battle between "courage" and "endurance" on one side and "celebrity" and "inanity" on the other. The singing wives of some servicemen willingly represent the forces of the former. They have consciously taken up arms and have prevailed. You imagined that they just wanted to enjoy the experience of recording a song and raising some money for charity? No, no. Not the case. Knowingly, they became valiant warriors in a fight between qualities-Melanie-Phillips-likes and qualities-Melanie-Phillips-doesn't-like. Their firm intention was to make a statement by trouncing Little Mix, those representatives of everything that the Military Wives Choir avowedly despises. Doubtless, not a single member of this choir of heroines has ever sullied her noble soul by watching the X-Factor on TV, so disgusted are they all by the programme's shoddy values. Phillips doesn't need to interview the choir members to find this out because it's just so obvious to anyone with a shred of decency about them.

In the imaginary world of Melanie Phillips, it is "inappropriate" and "tasteless" for the pop charts to feature a routine love song in the same week that the soldiers' wives release their charity track. In this imaginary world, all other recording artists should withdraw their material from sale in order to avoid causing offence. In this world, it's not enough simply to feel pleasure that a charity single has massively outsold the other stuff on offer. Instead, one must characterise a gaggle of wannabe pop stars as a vanquished enemy in a ludicrously described battle for the good moral character of the nation.

Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Monday, 26 December 2011

boxing day

I got a £50 gift token for a chain store
so I went to the branch in the town where I grew up,
but locusts had stripped the sale items,
leaving only horrible tat.
so I just wandered about a bit


firmly in the top two christmas gifts received this year:
illustrations by Shepard Fairey & Carlo McCormick

hundreds of lush pages stuffed with adhesive art 
across a broad range of contexts:
music, skate culture, consumer brands, graffiti,
fine artists and more;

also contains some real stickers:
let's see if they get stuck anywhere
ho ho ho

fucking bacon

A crack salesman and noted gourmand returned to his desk with a man-sized lunch of fish 'n' chips. A big fan of generous portions of both salt and vinegar on his chips, he nevertheless lamented how soggy that latter condiment had made his meal.

"What I need," he mused, "is a dry mixture of salt and vinegar."
"Like vinegar flavoured salt?" asked a colleague.
"Yeah," came the reply, muffled by a mouthful of damp chips.

Then a light bulb appeared above the salesman's head. "I should make that," he exclaimed. "That's a cracking business idea. The market for that would be huge. Loads of people like the taste of vinegar but don't want soggy chips."
"I hate to break it to you," another colleague chipped in, "but it already exists. It took me about ten seconds to find it online."

Malt Salt, it turns out, is just one of a number of products developed by the seasoning geniuses of J&D's Foods of Seattle, Washington, USA - and the vinegar-flavoured condiment, by dint of not tasting of bacon, is not really part of the firm's core range. Founders Justin Esch and Dave Lefkow, after all, have developed an obsession for the taste of bacon and have gone on a mission to find ever weirder applications for the uniquely distinctive flavour of the cured pig meat. Often without actually using real bacon, it should be stressed. Some of J&D's products are, incredibly, even certified as Kosher.

The pair started out with just $5000 that Lefkow had won by submitting a winning entry to America's Funniest Home Videos. The bar must have been set pretty low for that particular episode of the show because Lefkow's clip of his son knocking a baseball at him is not exactly a rib-tickler.

From these humble beginnings, the self-styled Bacontrepreneurs have built an empire founded on the strong sales of Bacon Salt (bacon-flavoured powdered condiment) and whose range now includes:
  • Baconnaise - bacon-flavoured mayonnaise
  • Bacon Pop - bacon-flavoured popcorn
  • bacon-flavoured croutons
  • bacon-flavoured gravy
But these are the more pedestrian examples of working to realise the vision expressed in the company's slogan (Everything should taste like bacon). When really thinking out of the box, Esch and Lefkow have come up with truly outré offerings. These include:
  • Mmmvelopes - envelopes with bacon-flavoured glue
  • bacon-flavoured lip balm
  • Bacon Lube - a bacon flavoured/scented massage oil and 'personal lubricant'
The last item in the list is real. Really real. What next? Bacon-scented anal beads? Bacon-scented condoms? Bring it on.

Saturday, 24 December 2011

gone but not forgotten

Just a week ago, this is my england discovered a top Twitter loon in the form of someone who appeared to be an Everton fan and whose profile picture was of Adolf Hitler wearing the latest Toffees shirt. He was into hurling abuse at people in the public eye. Lots of abuse at lots of different people.

One of his last tweets read "I'm fucking destroyed off going to work. the thought of doing that shit till i die makes me want to cut my self. anyone fancy running me over".

Maybe someone did run him over. On Twitter, at least, @efc1978 is no more.

thirteen christmases ago?


Friday, 23 December 2011


retail opportunities

“We can only get our economy back on track by creating a climate in which the private sector can grow and develop, creating jobs and opportunities for people across the country. This year the Government is determined to help deliver many thousands of new jobs and I’m delighted that the companies joining me today are part of that.
“Across a whole range of areas you’re going to see the most pro-business, pro-growth, pro-jobs agenda ever unleashed by a government. Its [sic] time we looked forward to a positive, strong, confident Britain. By developing the right skills and jobs I am determined that the many not the few will share in the country’s prosperity.”

David Cameron, Jan 2011

selfish cunts

a long streak of blow-dried piss walks into a bar. no, this isn't the start of a joke. it's the start of a fucking wind up. it's the start of a small urban outrage. it's the start of another dismal little chip at the unfashionable common courtesies that used to be part of making life bearably less brutish. it's the start of another small episode of "fuck you, out of my way, it's MY world, it's all about me because I'm worth it". 

so the cunt walks into a bar that looks like every other bar in a chain of bars forced into the hollowed out bowels of bank branches and monumental post offices on high streets and amongst offices full of selfish pricks.

fuck anyone else who wants to sit down. fuck anyone stupid enough to observe the outmoded conventions of English pub etiquette. buy drink BEFORE taking table? bollocks to that. claim your spaces with your effeminate little man bag and your jacket from the big branch of NEXT next to the branch of JD Sports, next to the branch of Carphone Warehouse, next to the branch of Pets at Home, next to the branch of Halfords at the retail park.

let those other cunts seethe and bristle - curly white-shirted cunt with his mean eyes, who's realising that the crap stepped-on coke he's just done in toilet is so weak that it won't make him brave enough to fight for a seat; red-shirted cunt with his flinty, hostile eyes and his spastic curtains haircut; token bird (Jenny from accounts, why is she hanging around with three blokes? is she fucking all of them? is she white-shirt's bird? is he the only one that can get a bird? look at those sad, loveless cunts - they'll probably go back to their bedrooms in their mums' houses and wank themselves to death, the fucking arseholes). yeah, run along, tossers.

you wouldn't try that in a real pub,you long streak of piss, seethes white-shirt. you wouldn't try that in my local. not with my real mates. come down there and we'll kick your fucking head in, he imagines.

here they come. your mates. two guys you know and some mate of Dave's. and Holly from accounts.  unshaven Karl, legendary target-smasher and fanny-magnet says: "you're a legend, mate." glow of pride. swelling of tumescence. bromance. football on. good view of screen. after a day spent on hilarious banter, Facebook updates and sales meetings, we deserve a drink. it's our reward.

now settle down to swap uninformed remarks about the team you've supported ever since they won the champions league when you were twenty-five. one day you'll go up to their ground to see a match. but it's the other end of the country and it's meant to be cold up north. and you get a better view on telly anyway.

"We produced a series of 20 TV spots for Carlsberg that air throughout the mid-week sports schedule on Sky Sports. The objective of the sponsorship is to get Carlsberg out of the fridge and into the hands of guys who want to kick back with a beer and their favourite sports channel. Reaffirming the brand positioning of Carlsberg as a reward around the tag-line "That calls for a Carlsberg""

Monday, 19 December 2011

Who gets hurt?

For the first time ever, an article here at this is my england has moved somebody to write a whole piece of his own in response.

The article in question was a recent exploration of the sorry little tale of Emma West, a Croydon woman who recently gained instant notoriety following an angry outburst on a busy tram, directed variously at immigrants and non-white Londoners. With the incident captured on video and uploaded to YouTube, she was rapidly identified and arrested for a racially aggravated public order offence. When the attention of this is my england was last turned to the case, bail had been denied and it seemed that Ms. West was going to spent the Christmas holidays in jail. Happily for her, bail has now been granted.

Home for Christmas... but why?
It remains the position of this blog that it is quite right for a civilised society to legislate against the aggressive harassment of members of the public and quite right to mete out a level of punishment commensurate with deterring such behaviour. It will never been argued here, however, that such offences (unless accompanied by any act of real violence, suggesting that the offender poses a serious danger to the public) should be picked out for especially harsh treatment. Given that it seems most non-violent first-time offenders would not expect to be denied bail, it will not be asserted here that Ms. West deserved to be separated unnecessarily from her family simply on the basis of the content of her remarks. That seems excessive for the offence of which she is accused. Magistrates, however, justified the fact that she was set to be held in custody over the holiday period by citing the apparent danger posed to Ms. West by idiots sending her death threats via Twitter and Facebook.

So why has she been allowed to go home now? Anyone maintaining an optimistic view of the fairness, efficiency and clarity of our criminal justice system would presumably make the assumption that the alleged threat to Ms. West's safety was, in good faith, initially deemed serious but has now been confidently judged to have abated to a negligible level. Another optimist's interpretation might be that the danger still exists for Emma West but that arrangements have been made to guard against her coming to harm. 

Anyone much less confident about the smooth and just workings of our courts, however, might arrive at one of a number of quite different possible conclusions. One of these might be to suppose that the magistrates initially overreacted to the idle chatter of online trolls and have now come to their senses after a period of reflection. In this interpretation, the magistrates concerned look a little foolish at worst - this version of events possibly implies a degree of incompetence but nothing of a sinister nature would be entailed.

But interpretations implying something worse than incompetence have been offered. 

The person who wrote a whole article in response to the musings of this is my england on this case, for example, would seem to favour none of the above suggested explanations for the volte-face regarding Ms. West's suitability for bail. Closing out that article, CanSpeccy (Canadian Spectator) poses a rhetorical question when remarking on Emma West's release from jail: "The judiciary beginning to sense a swell of public anger?" This question captures the idea of magistrates yielding to public pressure when deciding to send Emma West home until her committal hearing on 3rd January. It is the view of this blog that it would be quite wrong for that to happen.

Who is speaking up for Emma West? Nobody...
Who, then, has been arguing that Ms. West should not have been held in custody? Readers of the this is my england piece will be aware that among those articulating such views have been some of the spokespeople of the far right – from the teenage self-described 'racialist' vlogger  Sean Allan to the editorial teams of the BNP Ideas and British Resistance websites. On the latter, Paul Golding of the 'patriotic political movement' Britain First has since written to applaud the decision to grant bail to Ms. West. On 2nd December, Golding's movement organised a poorly-attended demonstration outside the prison where she was being held ,and another was planned for 17th December

Golding appears to concede that it "may well be coincidental that" Emma West was released "on the verge of another Britain First demonstration" but nevertheless describes her return home as a "victory" for "all those who joined in the campaign to have [her] released from prison". 

It is the fervent hope of this my england that Ms. West's release is no such thing. Would we really welcome the idea that our courts should make their decisions about criminal cases in response to small-scale pressure groups and their campaigns? 

One interesting feature about this particular campaign is that it is built around a person from whom nothing has been heard by the public since the notorious YouTube clip went viral. 'Patriots' and 'nationalists' have variously commended Emma West's 'bravery', speculated about how she might have been provoked and presumed to know what she was thinking when ranting on that tram journey. 

These then, are the characters purporting to speak up for Ms. West. They are doing so, as far as anyone can tell, without her knowledge, much less her consent. Some of the thoughts and motives they attribute to her may be an accurate reflection of her mindset. But alternative guesses about what's on Ms. West's mind could be made. Perhaps she is not very committed to any of the things she said on the Croydon tram. In light of what has happened since, perhaps she regrets every word and would truthfully and willingly retract her remarks if given the chance. Or perhaps she will always remain somewhat attached to the views she articulated when shouting on the tram but now prioritises a swift and minimally damaging end to the legal proceedings in which she is now involved. In that scenario, she could be agreeing with advice from a lawyer urging her to appear contrite. In that scenario, her lawyer could be advising her that her case will be harmed rather than helped by campaigns mounted supposedly on her behalf by the political parties and fringe groups of the far right. These are guesses, of course – much as the assorted activists of the BNP, Britain First et. al.  can only offer guesses about what is going on in Emma West's head.

No one then, is really speaking up for Emma West. All we have is a collection of opportunists, seeing a chance to promote their causes in the plight of an unfortunate woman with a history of mental illness and a court case on her hands. 

Among those purporting to know what Emma West believes or understands is that man CanSpeccy. On some points, it seems at first that this is my england and the Canadian blogger and are not far apart. "Sure," he writes, "legal immigrants are not to blame if they accept an invitation to immigrate." He also concedes that immigration "may be largely driven by corporate interests that demand a cheap and mobile work force" and that "the economic prospects of lower class Britons like Ms. West are hurt by the mass immigration of energetic people willing to take whatever work is available, thereby making jobs for barely competent Brits scarce, and keeping wages low."

The two blogs part company, however, when CanSpeccy expresses the belief that "Ms. West, however muddled her expression, understands that the real issue is more fundamental than economics" and that "mass immigration is quite simply destroying the British race."

In pretending to be able to read the mind of a woman he has never met, CanSpeccy joins the ranks of those using this apparently vulnerable person to make a point that he can only guess she would support if asked. All that can really be said of CanSpeccy's appropriation of Ms. West as useful tool when making an argument is that in his case there is a smaller chance of doing harm to her prospects in court than might be the case with the assorted UK far right groups hijacking her plight for their own ends.  It is also striking that the Canadian writer, while purporting to speak up for working class people, betrays what might be his true feelings for them by using the altogether more judgemental term lower class. 

What exactly is being 'destroyed'?
Of course, the most significant difference of opinion between this blog and CanSpeccy's is not around a preference or otherwise for the patronising use of a stranger's unknown thoughts to make a point. That's just a difference of style and standards. No, the bigger difference is around this notion of the "British race" being "destroyed". 

In both the comments section of this blog and in his own article, CanSpeccy notes that "precisely what the term 'British race' means would need lengthy exposition." Perhaps we should be guided towards this lengthy exposition. Those of us who are supposedly under threat might like to know on what basis we have been identified as part of a group that is both discrete and endangered. 

By way of dealing with this "briefly", CanSpeccy argues that "the British have existed as a relatively isolated population since the glaciers retreated after the last ice age, ten thousand years ago." Relatively isolated, that is, apart from the arrivals of the Romans, the Anglo-Saxons, the Norse and the Normans. CanSpeccy, though, believes the "genetic evidence" that "indicates that the great majority of the British population that existed prior to the post 1950 mass immigration, i.e., the indigenous people of Britain, was descended from [the] first Celtic settlers." While it is true that some studies do support this view, others suggest that a far higher percentage of the modern English (perhaps even the majority of them) have Anglo-Saxon ancestors. Perhaps CanSpeccy is unaware of studies that do not support his position. Or perhaps he chooses to ignore them. A third possibility, of course, is that as well as writing his blog, CanSpeccy is a world-renowned scholar of genetics and, as such, is especially well-placed to discriminate between more and less robust studies of the English population’s DNA. Perhaps he will write in to outline his credentials. 

For this is my england, it is of little interest if more people on this island are descended from Celts alone than from a wider range of European ancestors. It's difficult to see how knowing either way would make much difference to anyone's daily life in the modern world. 

CanSpeccy, meanwhile, speaks in terms of the "the British... being subjected to non-violent replacement through mass immigration" and uses the term "genocide" to cover this phenomenon. 

Actually, the figures he cites are pretty convincing. It is indeed clear that if the current patterns of reproduction  continue (i.e. foreign-born mothers and non-white Britons having a higher fertility rate than white UK-born mothers) then over time the ethnic makeup of the country will change significantly. 

But so what? What would be so bad about a population with a higher proportion of brown or black skins? Whether or not the DNA of the Anglo-Saxons and the Normans is present in a majority or just a large minority of Brits with deep roots on this island, it is indisputably the case that the arrival of both groups brought about major changes in governance and language. Both sets of arrivals doubtless seemed alien and unwelcome to some at the time. But our English language and our collective culture are both formed from the blend of these influences. Very significant change to how we live and who we are is not without precedent.

So why does further significant change have to a bad thing? Could it not be to the advantage of a country wanting to grow its economy? Let's revisit a passage from this is my england's last Emma West article:
"Ambition, a propensity to work hard and the drive to improve one's material circumstances are values to which we are all meant to aspire in a capitalist economy. In the majority of cases, immigrants are simply people who embody these values and who, by accident of birth, have started their lives in countries where conditions conspire against the full realisation of the ambitions that any pro-capitalist thinker would encourage in us all."
So is our culture likely to be worsened or improved by adding the influence of people with the gumption to get off their arses and seek a better life through hard work, thrift and initiative? Perhaps the truth lies somewhere between the two. Perhaps Britain's culture will simply become different in some ways. Neither worse nor better. Just different. It's hard to see how CanSpeccy and his fellow travellers can be so sure, particularly when being so vague about the supposed ill-effects that they predict. 

Saturday, 17 December 2011

fallen angel


Some deucedly funny fish swim around the Twitter whale. Consider, for instance, the account whose profile picture shows Adolf Hitler wearing the current Everton F.C. shirt. This person occasionally hurls abuse at prominent people, often seemingly apropos of nothing. Here is a selection:
  • 25th July, to actor Sir Ian McKellen: "alright gandalf you nobhead. You shit old gay bastard."
  • 1st August, to Indian cricket legend Sachin Tendulkar (during his side's test series defeat to England): "ha ha your getting battered. Stick to what your good at. Making curry and stinking of shit."
  • 26th September, to Hollywood star Tom Hanks: "saving private Ryan was good but big was shit so fuck off"
  • 26th September, to rapper-turned-preacher MC Hammer: "your shit music and massive keks were a crime against humanity. Fucking spook"
  • 26th September, to pop star and DJ Boy George: "you are the personification of evil. You are without doubt gods biggest mistake"
  • 26th September, to girl band member turned tabloid regular Kerry Katona: "get back on the beak. You know you want to. Go on fail like you've always failed. You're a shit mum"
  • 29th September, to the account of anti-fascist action group UAF: "why don't you all fuck off you Fucking wankers. All you are is anti British. Multiculturalism can suck my balls. #muslimsarecunts #pork"
  • 4th October, to wrestling legend Hulk Hogan: "fuck off"
  • 7th October, to footballer Wayne Rooney: "I see your dad is a match fixing cunt. How fucking tight are you anyway. Give him some cash so he doesn't need to commit fraud"
  • 8th October, to actor Matthew Perry: "friends was shit. I see your career ended as soon as it finished. You might as well just kill yourself u un-funny fucking fag"
  • 23rd October, to actor Stephen Baldwin: "why do u believe in god. You have no evidence he exists. Answer my fucking question you deluded cunt. #Godcaneatmyshit"
  • 12th December, to boxer Amir Khan, shortly after his defeat by Lamont Peterson: "im absolutely made up you got beat you complete cretin. love to see you fight mayweather as he could do you some real damage"
Just this week, to no one in particular, efc1978 tweeted "I'm fucking destroyed off going to work. the thought of doing that shit till i die makes me want to cut my self. anyone fancy running me over"

efc1978 currently has fourteen followers.

Thursday, 15 December 2011

movin' on up

debts, goodwin, nana

that man (woman?), that persistent camden sloganeer,
he (she?) has been at it again, aiming barbs
at fred the shred and those who suggest
that blighty is in debt
like never before

yeah, yeah, anyway...
like the little sticker says


man in a glass house:
from Private Eye 1303

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

not one english person on this bus

so we all get worked up and wordy
but sometimes lo-fi satire
really hits the spot

Sunday, 11 December 2011

Saturday, 10 December 2011

Who is Emma West?

The big viral YouTube hit of ten days ago was a clip of a woman on a south London tram unleashing a foul-mouthed tirade directed at immigrants and ethnic minorities, thereby upsetting a number of her fellow passengers. She did this with a young child balanced on her lap. We now know that she is 34-year old Emma West of New Addington in the London Borough of Croydon. 

Twitter: the mob rules?
The Daily Mail confirmed yesterday that West, having been charged some days ago with a racially aggravated public order offence, has now been remanded in custody until January 3rd. Bail was denied, with Magistrate Ian McNeal explaining that this was for West's own protection, the court having heard that she has received numerous death threats and that her address has been widely circulated on Facebook and Twitter.

However you feel about Ms. West's behaviour, it seems safe to assume that decent people will be repelled by  threats of this nature. As someone who has not yet submitted a plea for what was a non-violent offence, she would ordinarily have a good chance of spending Christmas at home while the wheels of justice are turning. But online social networks have been abused by those who would rather threaten violence than calmly watch due process being observed.

A story carried by the Croydon Advertiser last week seems to provide a further reason to worry about the role of social media in this affair. The article alleges that there was some interaction between British Transport Police officers and Ms. West immediately after her outburst but that she was only arrested once the incident had been viewed very widely on YouTube.

What sort of time lag are we talking about here? If the Croydon Advertiser piece is to be believed, the altercation on the tram may have occurred a full ten days before the video recording was first posted online.

Kerry Finch, someone claiming to be a close friend of Ms. West's, told the Advertiser that police were quickly made aware of the incident, with officers then removing her from the tram and waiting with her for another one. Finch has said that her friend was then accompanied to New Addington by these officers.

Ms. Finch feels that "the way the police have handled the situation is really poor". She may have a good point if, as she says, the BTP "were fully aware of what had happened at the time but... only decided to arrest [Ms. West] when everyone kicked up a fuss".

This account is at odds with comments from a BTP spokesman who, the Advertiser reports, "said it remained unclear when the incident took place and, therefore, whether anyone had reported it at the time".

Should Ms. Finch have correctly recollected the sequence of events, we may have a case of what looks ominously like mob rule: the police only deciding an alleged offence is serious once Twitter had lit up with expressions of outrage. If we give lawmakers and law enforcers the power to establish and maintain systems designed to ensure the smooth running of a civilised society, we might reasonably welcome any technology which complements the working of those systems. But if technology enables a sudden public outcry to take precedence over the usual processes we might have cause for concern.

You think you know Emma West?
What do we know about Emma West? On the day her awful behaviour was attracting widespread interest and much comment, nobody saying their piece knew this woman at all. The Croydon Advertiser, once again,  offers more information on the the suddenly notorious south Londoner than any of the national news outlets, giving us some detail of a history of depression and time spent in psychiatric care.

With this this mind, might those who direct threats and unmitigated bile towards Ms. West wish to reconsider their views? Sure, depression does not excuse lamentably aggressive and anti-social behaviour, but it may offer some explanation for why the villain of the YouTube clip failed to observe the usual unwritten rules of restraint and decency in public.

But even if we accept that there may be reasons not to condemn Ms. West quite so strongly for her failure to behave well, does that make the muddled views she tried to express any less abhorrent? More to the point, are her opinions actually abhorrent? Are her ideas out at the outer fringes of public opinion or does her hostility towards immigrants and non-white Britons sit somewhere in the mainstream?

A five-country European survey run by the Guardian in March suggests that further immigration to the UK is not broadly welcomed. Just 31% of the Britons polled agreed with the statement "I approve of people moving from one EU country to another so they can work and live." In the case of moving to the EU from the wider world, just 20% of UK respondents agreed with the corresponding statement.

So it seems that some elements of the sentiments expressed by Emma West are not wildly out of line with public opinion. this is my england, however, is sticking with the opinion put forward when first commenting on this dismal little incident, namely that berating non-white Britons and recent immigrants in an aggressive fashion and in a public setting is something that would not sit comfortably even for most people who oppose further immigration to the UK. The idea that a majority of people in the country would find Ms. West's behaviour acceptable is at odds with the day-to-day experience of living in what remains a fundamentally safe and decent country, whatever its flaws and whatever the stresses and strains being felt at a time of economic pessimism.

So Emma West appears to be a person some of whose views might not be a world away from the concerns of a population battered by relentless bad news about their pay, pensions, working conditions, job security and quality of life. But she seems to be someone whose other troubles around mental health have led her to express her concerns in a way that surely only very few of us would find acceptable.

The feeling here at this is my england is that even those who express similar views to Ms. West's in a more restrained manner are directing their fears and anger at the wrong targets.

This view was quite neatly expressed last week by blogger Natty Vee:
"When I hear this kind of thing in public, I can’t help but pity the person it comes from. 'They’re coming over here, taking our jobs' is a convenient way of explaining why life's a bit shit to someone who struggles to understand a concept as massive as [the] global economy, which is probably why this view has been grasped by many people with both hands. It's only natural that they will tend towards the thing that’s most easily imaginable to them, that some sort of villain has stopped them from getting what they want. If that villain is the Polish community, or ‘brown people’, so be it. Things like recession, national debt etc. just tend to cloud the simplicity that these people crave."
Recent immigrants to this country are here because it has suited the business community to import cheap, willing labour. Should the immigrants face opprobrium for answering that call? Or should businesses be criticised instead? If either is to face some flak over immigration and tensions arising from it, this is my england would direct that flak towards the latter. Ambition, a propensity to work hard and the drive to improve one's material circumstances are values to which we are all meant to aspire in a capitalist economy. In the majority of cases, immigrants are simply people who embody these values and who, by accident of birth, have started their lives in countries where conditions conspire against the full realisation of the ambitions that any pro-capitalist thinker would encourage in us all. Many London-based readers working in white-collar jobs will doubtless be surrounded in their offices by people who were not born in the capital - ambitious Brits from the provinces who have relocated to where better-paid jobs are most plentiful. It is the view of this is my england that moving to London from Warsaw, Dhaka or Lagos is as unremarkable and as unexceptionable as coming to our capital city from  Bradford, Glasgow or Sunderland. Arrivals from all of these locations are economic migrants. It just happens to be the case that the existence of current and arbitrary nation states, none of which are very old, confers the label 'foreigner' on some groups and not others.

It remains the view of this is my england that Emma West was wrong-headed in her rough analysis of what is ailing a Britain she described as now being "fuck all". The real enemies of a relatively low-paid, probably poorly educated person who feels angry and disenfranchised are not her fellow south London residents who happen to have been born in other countries or who happen not to be white. Her real enemies are the politicians who collude with the banks who ruin the economy and the CEOs running the companies that drive down costs via the importation of inexpensive labour, via the off-shoring of more and more jobs and via the sheltering of their profits from the taxation needed to keep this country a decent place to live.

As Natty Vee says, "this lady isn't everything that's wrong in the world, she's just a product of it. She doesn't know what she's saying, doesn't react to what's being said to her at all. Every statement is learned, copied and  repeated because it makes sense in her imagined version of reality".

From where, though, has Emma West learned those statements, and who would benefit from such statements being widely circulated? Ladies and gentlemen, please be introduced to the predominantly right-wing news media of the United Kingdom. Owned and operated by those who seek to minimise their tax liabilities, maximise their profits and normalise the ideas to which global capital would prefer you to confine your thinking, these newspapers are the sources of the remarks made in anger and confusion by an unfortunate woman on a south London tram. Not least among these is the Daily Mail, whose description of Ms. West's potty-mouthed  outburst as a "vile racist rant" is deliciously ironic given the fearful intolerance of change and difference that is at the core of the 'paper's world-view.

Presuming to speak for Emma
While the other cities listed above were chosen at random as examples of places from which people might move to London, Sunderland was included for a reason. The north-east England city was selected because it is the home town of someone who, when watching Emma West chooses to see not a confused and unhappy person but a paragon of some mythical 'British spirit.'

It's uncertain why Sean Allan, a prolific teenage vlogger from Tyne and Wear, rejoices in the YouTube user name MarmiteMan4. Perhaps the name draws on the widely promoted idea that the sticky, dark brown yeast extract is loved by some and loathed by others. Or perhaps young Sean just really likes Marmite.

At just seventeen years old, Allan has decided that Hitler (whose Mein Kampf he reviews rather favourably) lived well into his seventies and had children, finally passing away surrounded by loving family members in Argentina. Smirking when he says it, the self-described "nationalist" calls this image of the German dictator meeting a peaceful end as a "Zionist's nightmare". For a supposedly dedicated Hitler fanboy, though, young Master Allan has only a loose grasp on the details of the usual account of Adolf's demise. The young Mackem labours under the misapprehension that the history books place Hitler's death as taking place in the Reichstag. Of course, the apparently keen scholar of all things Adolf has confused Germany's parliament building with the altogether less grand hole in the ground in which the Führer took his own life. Let's hope that Sean applies himself more carefully to his college studies. After all, he's going to need solid exam results for the remainder of his time in education. He lives in an area of high unemployment and while he is undoubtedly more than averagely articulate, he may find that his digital footprint causes him some trouble when applying for jobs in the years ahead. Not every employer would feel comfortable having a Hitler apologist on the payroll.

Of course, Master Allan is keen to believe some crackpot account of the defeated dictator escaping to South America because, in his view, reports of Hitler having committed suicide are a "Zionist lie" propagated to smear the young vlogger's hero as a coward because "Jews simply don't like him."

Regarding Emma West, MarmiteMan4 tells us that the south London woman "showed amazing courage" to say "what millions of other people are thinking but will not say".

Here, then, young Allan constructs an argument entirely out of assumptions. He assumes that Ms. West has devised a coherent set of views and that the cause of her sharing them in a public place is her "courage". He also presumes to know what "millions of people are thinking". Always distrust any argument based on a supposed ability to get inside the heads and thoughts of millions of people. It can't be done. If it could, it would count as a magical power. Even surveys such as the one presented by the Guardian back in March  offer only limited insight into people's actual thoughts. Just because a majority of people have found reasons to oppose further immigration does not imply that they have decided to think of immigrants or non-white people as "their enemies", which is what Sean Allan decides to call the various tram passengers to whose presence Ms. West seemed to object. We now understand that the infamous 'My Tram Experience' video shows a woman with a record of poor mental health behaving badly. We understand that we know nothing about whether she has ever consciously constructed an organised set of views about race, immigration or nationality.  We don't know if she just happened to focus on these issues when angry on a tram or if she might have gone  on about something else when feeling unhappy and provoked in all-white company. For Allan, though, this sorry little episode shows "that British people, even surrounded by their enemies, today, will not give up." He feels that ranting incoherently at people travelling on a tram is a demonstration of "British spirit". Well, perhaps. But only that strand of British spirit which we used to see among the worst dregs of the England football team's travelling support or still see among the most ignorant and inebriated fools that this country flies out to the beaches of Spain and Greece.

Sean Allan, then, a young man who lives in one of the least ethnically diverse cities in England presumes to know that the various peoples of London go around thinking of each other as enemies. Sean Allan, a young man who may very well have never knowingly met a Jew in person, sees Zionist conspiracies at the root of much of the world's troubles. On this last point, his thinking seems particularly muddled when he warns young people in America (it's uncertain how many of his viewers are young Americans) against the possible lure of the Occupy movement. Reminding us that "as you know" (more mind-reading presumption there) "the entire financial establishment in America is controlled by one group of people - Zionists; as is the media, as is the Government and basically everything that is completely mainstream in the United States", Allan identifies the Occupy protesters as a mixture of black power groups and Jews. So that's Jews protesting against a Zionist establishment then, Sean? So presumably these are non-Zionist Jews? Jews who, if they're not part of your imagined Zionist conspiracies, are surely just decent people who happen to be Jewish? But if they're just decent people who happen to be Jewish, why would their participation in the Occupy movement be one of the things that makes you warn against it? Anyone would think that you just have an irrational dislike of Jews merely on the basis of ethnicity and faith if you object to even those Jews who are not part of the shadowy "movement" you believe controls everything of influence in America. That would make you a racist, even though you profess to prefer the term 'racialist'.

Sean Allan is not the only racist to have adopted poor, confused Emma West as a symbol of a dubious ideology without her knowledge or approval. He is certainly not the most prominent racist to do so - notwithstanding the million hits received by his video about the tram incident, his is, after all, just a kid in a bedroom outlining his ideas on YouTube.

More well-known than young Sean is Andrew Brons, one of the BNP's two MEPs. Having apparently fallen out with the other one (Nick Griffin), Brons's cause is furthered by a website called BNP Ideas. An article there puts forward the idea that the arrest and imprisonment of Ms. West is evidence of "the creeping Sovietisation of Britain" and that she is a victim of the "British Soviet Gulag".

Another person whose views seem to have a lot in common with the BNP and Andew Brons is Jim Dowson. Writing on the British Resistance website, he urges readers to send Christmas cards and money to "brave" Emma West. "I know things are tight," he writes, "but how can we, as patriots, possibly enjoy our Christmas surrounded by family and friends if we do nothing for Emma and her children, separated by the high priests of multiculturalism and her family sacrificed on the high alter (sic) of political correctness". Those "high priests", presumably, are a few British Transport Police cops based in South London and the magistrates down in Croydon. It seems likely that low-level cogs in the justice machine would be surprised to hear themselves described as high priests of anything. Though perhaps Dowson, like Sean Allan, sees complicated conspiracy everywhere. Perhaps he believes that Ian McNeal and his fellow Croydon magistrates take their orders from some hook-nosed Mr. Big in Tel Aviv or on Wall Street.

Big things made of little things
So here we have a small incident. A woman with a history of mental illness gets herself into a bit of trouble by shouting at some strangers on a suburban tram. We don't know much about her but she immediately becomes held up by some folks as a symbol of what they think of as terrible flaws in British society and by others as some kind of heroine figure for neo-Nazi crackpots. This is an age of hysteria and bullshit. Oh for quieter times.

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

the morning paper

Amazing. Tariq Tahir, a hack with the commuters' give-away rag Metro, has found an Indonesian ant with a classical education. The well read invertebrate knows of the eternal labour of Sisyphus. True, the surprisingly well educated insect does not have the wit to draw a useful transferable lesson from the plight of the Thessalonian king, but it would be churlish not to be impressed by the tiny creature being somewhat conversant with Greek mythology.

This story, naturally, gets a lot more space than boring shit like Afghans getting blown up or the Syrian security forces doing their worst. Heart-warming, isn't? A little ant climbing over a marble. Bless! Awwwww.

Monday, 5 December 2011

it's him again

same town, different street, same face:

looks like his name might be Bert...

Saturday, 3 December 2011

a pleasant evening

up to the usual in Shepherds Bush
when we noticed this poster

it seems that BORN BLONDE
a shoe-gazing retro beat combo
run a club night in a W12 nitespot 
that used to be a public toilet;
coming soon: 
a particularly big thursday shindig featuring the band
plus various guests on the decks. 
not the least of these guests - DJ CUNT FUCKS

sounds like a nice boy


OK, this is confusing. Our first world pain seemed to be over. But it's not:

Bugger these bugs.

pain over

The first world pain seems to be over here at this is my england:

Life is sweet. is buggy.


Friday, 2 December 2011

a first world pain

Are you one of the 320,830 people who follow @FirstWorldPains on Twitter? If not, you might like to. It's instructive.

From said Twitter account there emanates an endless stream of the kinds of complaints that only those of us who live comfortably in developed countries have the opportunity to make. It's like when you hear someone describing it as a "nightmare" when their favourite flavour of yoghurt is out of stock at the supermarket or when their flight to a holiday resort is delayed for a couple of hours.

Some samples
  • My parents are threatening to take away my 2012 Cadillac Escalade if I don't get at least a C in all my classes.
  • I ran out of USB ports on my laptop.
  • I bought an iPad app for my cat to play with and he does't like it. 
  • I have more shirts than hangers. 
You can even submit more first world pains if you want to.

A first world pain is affecting this is my england today. Suddenly, is reducing the size of uploaded pictures. It's a nightmare! A fucking nightmare!

Sunday 27 November: nice big picture in the light box
Thursday 1 December: shitty little picture in the light box