A not-very-favourable review of The Knife’s gig in Brixton last thursday

Pretentious is a word which is often misused. It is taken to be synonymous with something long, ponderous and over-complicated. Such things are often pretentious, but that is not what the word means. I’ve just done a quick Google to save you the trouble, their definition is a good one.

“attempting to impress by affecting greater importance or merit than is actually possessed.”

This was a shit gig which pretended, not very convincingly, to be good. It’s like a magic trick. Everyone was fooled because everyone wanted to be. It’s like ‘The Prestige’ or something.

Writing this is heartbreaking, since Karin Dreijer Andersson is one of my favourite singers. The perhaps 8% of the gig where she stopped bullshitting around and sang a fucking song were pretty enjoyable. ‘Full of Fire’, along with a few others, was alright. The rest was not.

I was aware that dance would be a part of this gig, but not to the extent that the actual music would suffer. A confession: I hate dance, especially arty dance. God, it’s fucking dreadful. I’ll try to figure out why someday. Maybe it’s because once went to see The Rite of Spring and had my car towed. If I’m going to see a musical or something, then the dancing is tolerable, but I’m really only there for the music.

The first few songs featured a series of bizarre instruments. There was a long weird table with a bunch of string and drum pads attached to it. Unfortunately the sounds produced by these instruments could only be described as ‘attempted music’. Maybe it’s impossible to play such instruments in time or in tune – in which case they are fucking terrible instruments, which should not be brought on stage. A more likely culprit was terrible musicianship.

But so what, right? If you’re producing sound using an ash-hewn simulacrum of a quail’s rectum, then who the fuck cares about musicality? You’re pushing the boundaries of reality. Guitars and keyboards just don’t affect the required level of importance. I mean, we’ve all seen guitars and keyboards before, haven’t we? Get with the times, people! It’s all about the monochord!*

Who the fuck was singing? No-one knews. Perhaps that’s the point. I always thought the point of a gig should be musical performance, but not this gig. This gig is too clever for that. So, it seems, is this audience. Only an audience this clever could appreciate something so fucking dumb.

One claim I’ve heard repeatedly through comments sections, during my desperate search for validation following my ordeal, was that the music was good, even if it was mimed. Simply because we’re hearing music on the academy’s PA, which is, y’know, loud. Well, fuck me! I think every performance there henceforth will surely earn a minimum of five stars. Why fucking bother, right? What’s the point of even pretending to play live?

Sure enough, ‘One hit’ sounded incredibly like the one on the album, because it was the track from the album. Wow. They don’t even bother miming. Isn’t that clever? See how they are subverting our expectations? Well, I’m all for having my expectations subverted. It’s like going to see El Classico, only for the players to gather round the centre circle for a round of table-football. Colour my expectations subverted. Perhaps if we were to all have shat into our hands and flung the result stageward we would have subverted their expectations. That’s something I can get behind.

Occasionally a snippet of some motif from something I recognised as a Knife song would make its presence known, and draw cheers from a confused – though appreciative – audience. “Hooray”, everyone seemed to imply, “this is the riff from that song I like, maybe now we’ll hear something that even remotely resembles something I like.”

Then everyone was well chuffed at having that expectations subverted by the introduction of a neanderthalish house beat. It sounded like David Guetta had remixed a bunch of knife songs immediately after suffering massive burns to his hands and ears.

I can see how this would go down really well with people who don’t really like live music. I also note that Cheryl Cole has recently drawn huge criticism for appearing on national television and dancing around like a fuck while pretending to sing live. She should have got one of her backing band to play the bagpipes through a megaphone, such a move would surely have placed her at the bleeding edge of musical innovation, and the world would have surely rejoiced.

Only this sort of pretentious wank-off can five star reviews from The Guardian, The Independent et al. Had my expectations been sullied somewhat had I actually read the reviews of the gig, and discovered that the gig wasn’t a gig, but it was still a five-star non-gig. Seriously, music journalists and critics: do your jobs you insufferable fucking nobs.

While I’m at it, I hate music criticism, too. It is pointless. It need not convey anything that can be disputed. It’s just some cunt’s opinion (or lack thereof) expressed in a way that shows off how good they are at writing things:

As [the vocalist] wove [lyrical] themes of [alienation/yearning/hot chocolate] through a(n) <adjective> [morass/multi-storey car park/ikea] of [beats/guitars/basslines], and I couldn’t help but feel that something was missing…

If Richard Wagner ever really did advocate that this profession should be abolished, then he has never been more right. This is 2014. You can just go listen to the music rather than have some overeducated tosser tell you about it.

It’s really my fault for not researching this more thoroughly. I should have read the interviews, wherein the dance component of the tour is discussed. It’s a political statement, dancing, apparently. How the fuck this is the case, I’m not sure. I thought a political statement was one designed to influence someone’s opinion about something. Wow, look at the way that guy’s moonwalk. It really conveys how the common agricultural policy is in dire need of reform.

Almost done. Just one final observation about this band’s politics. It’s always struck me as curious that the best way to dismantle corporate hierarchies is to change people £30 to watch your shitty non-gig. And that this goal is achievable through the sale of wanky t-shirts bemoaning neoliberalism, for a further £20 in the lobby. I can only suppose that this irony is intentional.

Overall: This gig was excellent in the same way that Russell Brand is an excellent thinker and writer. Indeed, this is gig was revolutionary in the same sense that Brand’s book is.

Disappointed.

Until next week.

*by this I mean no offense to the monochord, a worthwhile and noble instrument

Advertisements

On street harassment! And manners in general

So I’m guessing by now that you’re all familiar with this ‘street harassment’ viral video, in which a woman walks through New York and gets catcalled and so on.  This video is old news now, but it has spawned a shitload of discussion, (along with a slew of hilarious parodies), to which i’m now going to contribute.

I’ve heard a great deal about the problem of ‘street harassment’, but not a great deal of actual evidence for what it is.  This is unsurprising; I am a man, and men don’t get to see this problem.  Apart from those who actually bring it about.

On one side there are the third-wave feminists, like the Everyday Sexism campaign, who would qualify all of this as harassment of some sort or another, even completely innocuous shit like ‘how are you’.

For the other side, the problem is the woman.  They wear jeans which accentuate the buttocks; catcalling will inevitably result.  If you don’t want to be catcalled, be less attractive.  For these people, it’s all fine.  And what the fuck is wrong, ask this group of people, with giving a woman a compliment?

Context matters.  You’re not just giving out a compliment.  For a man to compliment a woman’s arse, for example, is to imply that he fancies her.  To express this in physical terms sets a tone for a prospective liaison.  If you say you like a woman’s arse, it implies that you want to fuck her, or, at the very least, that she ticks a box.  If you find yourself disagreeing with that, then feel free to greet the next male stranger you meet and express the same opinion:  “Hey buddy!  Nice arse!”

This video shows a whole spectrum of behaviors which range from cheeky to weird to creepy to harassment.  Knowing where to pitch yourself is a skill that everyone should learn.   Those yet to do so, however, should probably err on the side of restraint.  If in doubt, open with ‘hi’.

So there are shades of grey, here.  There are also, however, lines which pretty much everyone could agree should not be crossed.  Unless you’re a social retard, these lines are obvious.  As forms of address, “hello”, “good morning,” and “how are you?” are polite.  “MmmmmmHHHHMMMM”, “nice arse” and “damn…DAYUUUM!!!” are impolite.

While trying to work this one out, I find myself reaching for a words that have been abused into meaninglessness.  One such word is ‘inappropriate’.  It is sometimes inappropriate to offer a compliment.  And most of the time, it’s obvious.  “Your child has supple buttocks,” is not compliment anyone would like to receive at a parents evening.

Other times, it’s not so obvious, and it needs to be pointed out.  But by who?  Does anyone take pleasure in saying: “Don’t do that shit; it’s inappropriate.”  I certainly don’t.  It would make me seem like a moralising douchebag – which, as we all know, I am not.

Other such words are ‘manners’ and ‘politeness’, which have become passé.  Or perhaps I’ve just gotten old.

Manners fucking matter.  “Pass the salt, please,” is superior to just “pass the salt”.  In the former, you reaffirm your subservience to the person with the salt.  They have the power to either give you the salt or not.  The latter statement asserts dominance.  You’re telling them to give you the salt.  Ask for your fucking salt nicely.  What the fuck is wrong with you people?

Not all complimentary statements are polite.  We’re not fucking robots.  There are some truths we’d rather not confront.  One such truth is that some parts of our monkey-brains are just tasked with relentlessly seeking food, water and poontang.  I’m not in denial over this, I just don’t want to be reminded of it constantly.  I don’t want to consciously think in these terms, otherwise nightclub small-talk would consist of “do you desire intercourse with me [y]/[n]”.  Manners allow us to avoid this horrible nightmare.

Also important is the delivery of the compliment, as was as the person delivering it.  Supremely dashing, achingly suave men can speak freely – though, as we have seen, this is not a power we always exercise.  Enfeebled old men, disfigured men, and the mentally handicapped can deliver as many lewd compliments as they please – I don’t know why; it’s probably something to do with pity.

Until next week!

Britain First! are they just wankers?

For a long time I’ve been dimly aware of the group known as Britain First. Britain First are a group of nationalist outrage-merchants, whose purpose is to put – you guessed it – Britain First. This seems distinct from its antecedents in that it spreads the good word through viral media: crappy little brainless images with bone-headed sentiments underneath. I’m sure you’ve all encountered them. I fucking hate those in general by the way, but that’s another blog.

The Britain First Facebook page is mostly used to flog a line of jingoistic t-shirts, hats and badges. This seems to encroach a little onto the territory of already-existing organisations that flog pro-armed forces paraphernalia, whose proceeds go towards helping members of the armed forces, rather than furthering some knuckle-headed political movement. Why the fuck would you not promote them instead, you insufferable parasites?

Britain First now have half a million Facebook likes, which is more than all of the other main four (Three? Five?) parties put together. This is like the young, technologically literate version of the same old bullshit. They are accumulated these through the use of the aforementioned inflammatory images. Do you disapprove of starving a dog to death? LIKE AND SHARE! Do you disapprove of child rape? LIKE AND SHARE! From what I can see, they put up five or six of those dumbass memes a day. Which makes my one-blog-a-week approach seem comparitively slovenly.

Britain First is a fascist organisation. You might think that’s overstating it, since their proposals are undoubtedly mild compared to those of Anjem Choudry and the like. And of course, it isn’t fascistic to denigrate Islam. It is fascistic, however, to relentlessly glorify the military, censor criticism and scapegoat ethnic and religious minorities. Boxes which they have pretty much ticked. I particularly loathe their hard-line Christian message which seems to have been overlooked, as it normally is.  Popular lefty blog AAV has documented this all a great deal more thoroughly than I will here, so go check that out.

Some UKIP supporters apparently didn’t get this memo. They decided to pose with Jayda Fransen, Britain First’s new front-end, for a photo, on the grounds that they agreed with everything that she had to say. This did not go down well at UKIP headquarters, who promptly issued a clarification, reaffirming that they are not not NOT a bunch of fascists.

Fransen is not a big bald white dude, which from a PR-perspective, is helpful. She has also mastered that amazing feminine ability to be obnoxious because she knows she won’t get a punch in the face. This talent is exhibited flawlessly in the videos on Britain First’s YouTube channel, in which her exploits are soundtracked by what sounds like a less well-financed Hans Zimmer alongside Two Steps from Hell and whatever other Epic music they could track down. Is this Rochdale town centre? Or is it Skyrim? This impression is re-enforced moments later when they barge into the local Tory office and encounter a man who can only repeat the words: “Could you leave please?” like an NPC for whom only one line of dialogue was ever recorded.

No reasonable person could have conceivably profited from the resulting exchange, wherein Fransen bellowed her political talking points at this hapless man. This is a common Britain First tactic: walk unsolicited toward your political opponents and bawl your opinions at them. Yeah, stick it to the man, Jayda! Don’t forget to LIKE AND SHARE.

I couldn’t help but feel sorry for the Tory-boy in question. He couldn’t very well call the police – that would not reflect well on the party, would it? He also couldn’t do what any other office worker would have done and tell them to fuck off. This is, I suspect, why no-one much wants to get into politics; you’re not allowed to simply tell people to fuck off. He instead attempts to subtly manoeuvre her out of the building using only his chest, which results in several bizarre accusations of manhandling.

He’d almost managed to get them to the door when he made the fatal mistake of deviating from the script and mentioning the proposed Tory in-out EU referendum, which prompted a tirade from the hitherto-silent cameraman. “TORY LIES AND SUBTERFUGE! WHERE WAS GONDOR WHEN THE WESTFOLD FELL!?”

I’m paraphrasing.

Camera Man also tried to get involved in a latter exchange with some Muslim guy outside a mosque. Something about England being for English people – because Jesus fucking Christ, why bother with subtlety at this point? Why pretend you’re not just the same old NF bullshit? Why not just become a cliché?

The primary concern seems to be a proposed mega-mosque. I can see why; if you’re not keen on mosques to begin with, the idea of a mega-mosque might seem utterly terrifying. If these Britain First people are to be believed, there’s a not-insignificant danger of the thing transforming, decepticon-style, into an enormous gun.  If you want my opinion, it seems only fair, since Britain’s churchgoers now enjoy around five-hundred square yards of worshipping space each, that the Muslims of Rochester be afforded a ginormo-mosque the size of Heathrow airport.

I’m not sure whether simply wandering into the nearest mosque and haranguing all the bemused-looking Muslims is a productive use of anyone’s time, but Jayda is. I think it’s quite impressive that none of them really lost their temper. I can see why they don’t, though; any anger would probably be held up as an example of terrible rage problems within The Muslim Community.

Britain First, and their ilk, seem keen to crowbar the Rotherham child-abuse scandal into their condemnation of Islam. It seems that the vast majority of the horrible child-molestation occurred in takeaway shops rather than mosques, and yet takeaways seem to have eluded the ire of Britain First. I get that. It’s not easy to campaign against kebab-houses. Everyone fucking loves kebab.

I’m sure we will hear more from this charming group in the future, but for now I’m done with them.

Until next week.

On criticising Islam, religion, Sam Harris and Reza Aslan etc.

There was a point in my life when I couldn’t go five minutes without criticising religion. I would inform anyone who would listen of my opinion that it was horrible and stupid and divisive.

I’ve stopped doing it now though. For three reasons:

  1. It’s boring.
  2. Other people have done it better.
  3. Everyone’s pretty much made up their minds.

The topic will occasionally rear its ugly head in public discourse, and so it has done quite recently.  I’m going to confront it – but I’m going to do it wearily. I’m particularly weary because the hubbub centres, as ever, on Islam.

Fuck.

Let’s be real. It’s controversial to criticise Islam. More than that, it’s controversial to mention that it’s controversial to criticise Islam. This much was demonstrated by Ben Affleck the other week in his now-infamous televised bellowing session.

Reza Aslan and Chris Stedman have since jointly penned an article in the Guardian. “Can’t we all just get along?” they say. Well that sounds very reasonable. I’m all for dialogue. Who isn’t? But there are a number of things in this piece which I found problematic. (‘Problematic’, by the way, is the new fashionable lefty word for when you want to complain without sounding like Mary Whitehouse).

“When 46% of Americans think Islam is more violent than other faiths but only 37% even know a Muslim.”

I’d rate ‘I know some Muslims and they’re alright’ as among the worst possible reasons for believing that one religion is more or less violent than another. Why not carefully and honestly examine its core tenants? The scripture? The homicide rate among its practitioners? Not just ‘I know Muslims and they’re alright’.   What the hell does that prove?

Here’s another gem:

“There is a great deal of work to do in the Muslim community concerning attitudes about and practices affecting LGBTQ people, ex-Muslims and women. At the same time, the atheist community continues to struggle with fraught debates over anti-theism, sexism and racism among atheists.”

If ever there was a false equivalence, this is it. A significant chunk of the world’s Muslim population believes that apostates should be killed, for the reason that it says in the Qu’ran that apostates should be killed. On the other hand, some atheists once disbarraged some feminists, according to some blog. So, y’know.

I’m unsure what the problem with ‘anti-theism’ is. Could this word be the new ‘islamophobia’? Am I going to encounter a lot of hand-wringing opinion pieces about confronting ‘anti-theism’? Can’t wait!

Here’s the rub. Criticising Islam is not the same as criticising Muslims. Muslims are people that practice Islam. Except most of them don’t do it very much, or do it in the same way I do – which is to say, not at all. This entire ceaseless hoo-ra could be distilled down to confusion around, and wilful obfuscation of, this distinction.

Let me give some obvious examples. The Qu’ran (and the Bible, for that matter) condones slavery. But only a complete cretin would believe that Muslims therefore condone slavery. I know plenty of Christians, who, if you were to ask them, would say that they didn’t believe in the efficacy of human sacrifice. That hasn’t affected my belief that Christianity is a nihilistic death-cult.

I’m now going to pose some questions to myself and answer them, just so you can follow my train of thought. I know, it’s annoying when people do this. It makes you think they’re trying to trick you or something. But bear with me.

Do the beliefs people hold influence their behaviour?

The answer is obviously yes. For example, my belief that I’m really clever and have a lot of shit to say influences my desire to write this blog. Your belief that you unreservedly agree with me influences you to continue reading it.

Do religious beliefs influence behaviour?

I see no reason why religious beliefs would be somehow exempt from this rule. In fact, many religious people claim that their religious beliefs influence their day to day activities more profoundly than any of their other sorts of belief.

Do religious beliefs influence bad behaviour?

Yeah. Especially when the religious beliefs themselves often determine what the practitioner believes to be ‘good’ and ‘bad’.

What about George Bush/drone strikes/Israel/The Westboro Baptist church?

These are often brought up as a diversionary tactic. I can see why; when I’m arguing about something I’m tempted to steer the conversation toward some superficially-related topic with which I’m more acquainted. For example: Do you know how many drone strikes Obama carried out in Pakistan the other month? How does that sit with your claims regarding the futility of prayer? Motherfucker?

Reza Aslan has shot to prominence in the last month or so, thanks to some viral encounters with barely-cogent newscasters. I haven’t read any of his books, but I have read some of his interviews, including one with nymag.com, where he had the following to say:

“…the scriptures are inundated with conflicting sentiments about almost every subject. In other words, the same Torah that tells Jews to love their neighbour also tells them to kill every single man, woman, and child who doesn’t worship Yahweh. The same Jesus who told his disciples to give away their cloaks to the needy also told them to sell their cloaks and buy swords. The same Quran that tells believers if you kill a single individual, it’s as though you’ve killed all of humanity, also tells them to slay every idolater wherever you find them.

So, how do you, as an individual, confront that text? It’s so basic, a child can understand: The way that you would give credence or emphasis to one verse as opposed to the other has everything to do with who you are. That’s why they have to sort of constantly go back to this notion of an almost comical lack of sophistication in the conversations that we are having about religion. And to me, there’s a shocking inability to understand what, as I say, a child would understand, which is that religions are neither peaceful nor violent, neither pluralistic nor misogynistic — people are peaceful, violent, pluralistic, or misogynistic, and you bring to your religion what you yourself already believe.”

I’ve noticed one running theme through Aslan’s rhetoric: his opponent’s ability to comprehend the obvious truth of the shit he’s laying down, which he will often unfavourably compare to that of a child. Another favourite accusation is that his opponents lack ‘sophistication’, or ‘nuance’. To an ‘almost comical’ degree, no less.

Aslan’s contention here seems to be that religious beliefs aren’t actually caused by religion. Rather, religious believers cherry-pick the bits they like and leave the rest. Right. This is undoubtedly sometimes true of religious people – but it seems to strongly support the contention that religion is fucking dumb. If you’ll excuse the lack of sophistication.

Aslan, you won’t be at all surprised to learn, has voiced a particular dislike for Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins, for the reason that they say uncharitable things about his religion. Harris has attracted censure for his claim that “Islam is the mother-lode of bad ideas”; Dawkins is currently experiencing the wrath of the twitterati with his disagreement with those that consider the Arabic language ‘beautiful’ – a view that I find it hard to disagree with, especially in the case of spoken Arabic, which demands that the speakers occasionally simulate the sound of filling their mouths with mucus. HUUUUUUUAAAKKKKK.

Aslan also finds himself at odds with everyone who has read The End of Faith without coming to believe that Sam Harris wants to launch a pre-emptive nuclear strike against Iran, or that he thinks perpetrating genocide against religionists is morally permissible. Harris defends himself from this bullshit and more here!

I’m not sure how much further out of their way Bill Maher and Harris and Dawkins et al need to go to point out that they’re not talking about all Muslims. And yet still, whenever they blithely refer to ‘Muslims’ without inserting some quantifying adjective beforehand, they are accosted with accusations of racism.

It’s all rather tedious, really. God, even writing about this topic is like walking through a minefield! Whatever happened to the benefit of the doubt? Need our whole discourse now be conducted in horrible legalese? Need I insert hedges and caveats into every sentence in order to avoid the tiniest shred of doubt? Must I assume that my readership will wilfully misunderstand my every statement?

Is this qualification necessary? Would omitting it make me guilty of some sort of hate crime? When I go into the chippy and they ask “would you like salt and vinegar on your chips?” and I reply “yes,” would it be reasonable for them to say: “AHA! I TAKE IT YOU MEAN ALL OF THE SALT AND VINEGAR IN THE WHOLE WORLD? I HOPE SO BECAUSE THAT IS WHAT YOU WILL GET.”

Is everyone who says ‘Communism is a mother lode of bad ideas’ going to be assailed with accounts of the plight of how some enfeebled old woman who once lived in Maoist china had never hurt a fly in her life? What about my great great uncle Pytor, an avowed communist until his final breath?   He harmed no-one! Your criticism of the system which propelled him toward a premature and horrible death besmirches his memory!

I want to be able to go through the claims of a religion and criticise them. Not only that, I want to be able to malign, ridicule, and generally attack them. And I’d prefer to be able to do it without anyone taking it personally. But if they do, then, well, whatever.

Until next week.

PS.

I really don’t need much of an excuse to share this god-bashing video: 

Psychic Sally should really have seen this coming….haioooooo

Woah, Christ. I’m a little snowed under with work at the moment. I think I’ll blog a bit later in the week, as I’d like to pass comment on this whole Sam Harris/Bill Maher non-controversy.

But I couldn’t let Tuesday pass me by without mention of something that caught my attention over the last week. Does anyone have a friend who just lies all the time? Of course we do. We all know someone who is just reliably full of shit. The lies are just obvious: they once arm-wrestled Kate Middleton, or once incapacitated a bear with one swift punch, that sort of thing.  But talking absolute bollocks in order to impress and intrigue your friends is one thing. Monetising your bullshit is another.

Sally Morgan, in case you didn’t know, is a psychic. Or really, she’s not a psychic.  There’s no such thing as a fucking psychic.

Here’s the thing: Sally Morgan cannot contact the dead. Any more than she can breathe underwater, cast fireballs or sprout leathery wings and take flight when no-one’s looking.  I know this not because I know anything in particular about Sally Morgan, but because of a small number of basic facts concerning human physiology. Three, in fact.

  1. The overwhelming improbability of a person’s consciousness surviving the decay of their brain.
  2. The exponentially more overwhelming improbability of a person being able to contact another person whose consciousness had survived the decay of their brain.
  3. Then we have the third and final impossible bullshit: that the dead person in question might choose Sally Morgan as their ambassador to the realm of the living.

Is this a spooky magic show? No, these shows are largely attended by people who have a dead friend of relative. And I’ve little doubt that many of these people haven’t quite gotten over the bereavement. What a fucking poisonous industry this is. What hope-vampires these people are. What emotional havoc they uncaringly wreak on their audiences. To compare this to a magic show is to slander magic shows. Has Paul Daniels ever seriously claimed to be able to reattach dismembered limbs/torsos?  What a fucking disgrace.

Enter Mark Tilbruk. Who is Mark Tilbruk? Well, he’s a man who is sufficiently impassioned about fighting bullshit that he is willing to go out alone and hand out leaflets to people entering these shows. What do these leaflets look like, you ask? Like this.

Anyway, it turns out that if you do this, a pair of laughable cockbags will approach you and repeatedly threaten violence and death against you, ridicule you for being pale and imply that it’s because you’ve been sodomised. I’ve never been on the receiving end of homophobic abuse* but I imagine that this is quite terrifying – I’d be shitting myself, frankly. Particularly grotesque was how they boasted that they had silenced national newspapers through our fucking laughably atrocious legal system. Anyway, here’s the video.

Morgan herself has since fired her husband and son-in-law. I suppose we’re all meant to assume that she had absolutely no idea what monumental cockheads they were – though her telepathic powers extend into the land of the dead, they don’t quite reach her immediate family. She’s obviously sincere in her contrition; far be it from me to quote someone out of context, but she’s written on her website: “Many of my friends are gay.”

There’s little left for me to do but express my sincere hope that The Streisand Effect will cause considerable financial harm to this charlatan and her thuggish entourage. I hope you’ll all permit me my schadenfreude. And I hope you’ll all join me in saluting Mark Tilbruk, who is undoubtedly a ledge, legend, sound guy, acceptable person, the hero Gotham deserves, etc

Until next…time!

*I suppose I technically have, but let’s be real, here.

Some thoughts on Paedophile hunting

The first thing you need to know is that my ass is broken. At some point over the last week, some essential and load-bearing component of my derriere has given out, thereby condemning me to spend the latter part of yesterday shuffling decrepitly to the cornershop and back, a varied roster of geriatrics zooming past me all the while, wielding their walking sticks menacingly. My plight drew their pitying glances – the sorts of glances reserved solely for a man who appears to have shat himself.

The world’s problems seem, as they often do, more multitudinous than ever; moreover, a great many of them seem worthy of commentary. And yet I cannot bring myself to seriously consider any topic but the crippling agony emanating from my prematurely-enfeebled butt-cheeks. What a clichéd Gen-Y narcissist I am.

I note that last week a lot of you expressed displeasure at my view of dogs. Well, this week I’m going to steer this boat toward less controversial waters. Yes, I’m sure you’d like to know what I think of Channel 4’s The Paedophile Hunter.

Stinson Hunter, as he probably wasn’t christened, shot to fame last week after Channel 4 documented his nonce-finding exploits in exquisite, excruciating detail. And what compelling viewing it was. It provoked a largely positive reaction on social media; indeed, he has now raised nearly £30,000 for his Kickstarter project – which I suspect will consist of a well-funded version of the same sort of thing.  My personal hope is that it will be a little less like ‘To Catch a Predator’ and a little more like ‘Turok: Dinosaur Hunter’; maybe then I’ll have a long blog debating the rights and wrongs of chasing paedophiles down the street and shooting them in the head with a cerebral bore.  Or maybe he’ll use the money to retrospectively alter his back-catalogue. Perhaps he’ll employ CGI to render an army of shambling paedo-demons into the outdoor scenes, thereby rendering the Tamworth skyline more recognisably Tamworthian. Thinking about it, that was probably always his intention.

I feel the need to make a distinction before proceeding. A paedophile, as I understand the word, is someone who harbours sexual desires toward children. A child-molester is a paedophile who then acts on that desire. You can condemn someone for the latter, as there is a choice involved. For the former, I’m not so sure. Tricking someone into migrating between the two categories strikes me as creating a problem, rather than solving one. But that is pretty much what Stinson Hunter does: He finds paedophiles and encourages them to become child-molesters.

The leading argument in support of Mr Hunter is that his actions prevent people who might otherwise harm children from doing so. Who could object to that, right? To object to that would make me pro-paedophile. Perhaps in the same way all my objections to Guantanamo Bay make me pro-terrorist. This is one area of modern discourse where it’s quite acceptable – nay, appropriate – to judge someone for what they are rather than what they do. Humiliating paedophiles on the internet is now fine and dandy, since we’re now too civilised to use the stocks. We characterise unpleasant people as inhuman monsters, rather than fallible human beings. I guess that makes things easier to cope with.

Ron Ball, the police and crime commissioner for Warwickshire, has reprimanded the program in writing:

“Extreme emotions and justice make very poor bed fellows. What is apparent from the programme was that the humiliation and rabble-rousing are essential drivers for Hunter, but neither has a place in the pursuit of justice.”

Here’s where you’re wrong, Rob. No-one cares about justice. Justice is for academics and pompous Guardian-reading tossers. It requires the reading of a great many books, and a lot of furtive chin-scratching over very boring distinctions. Its discussion often demands the use a lot of fussy Latinate terms like habeus corpus and modus operandi. Ain’t nobody got time for that!

Paedophile hunting, on the other hand, is like any other form of hunting: it’s visceral. It’s (dare I say it?) thrilling. The reason ‘The Paedophile Hunter’ is so compelling is because it’s like a game show, with stakes, where one party outsmarts another. That’s gold – especially when the audience is encouraged to view one party as a subhuman monster and the other as a tortured anti-hero. It’s as close as we get to a real life Batman.

So let’s call this what it is – entertainment. It’s entertaining. But it has precisely nothing to do with protecting children. The relationship between this show and child-protection is as incidental as the relationship between Cowboy Builders and the construction industry.

The subject is evidently personal for Mr Hunter. He refers to himself in every other sentence. (“I must do this”, “I was not a nice person”, “This is important to me,” etc.) He is driven by hatred of paedophiles, rather than a desire to merely prevent paedophiles from operating. This guy fucking despises paedophiles, and wants to see them suffer. Not an uncommon sentiment.

The problem will not be solved in this way. Even if we were to take the extreme step of rounding up every paedophile in England (and everyone who looks like a paedophile, for good measure) and shoot them in the head, we would still have a paedophile problem in a few years’ time, there’s another paedophile born every minute. To many, this is probably an acceptable solution, since it allows the venting of a great deal of pent-up bloodlust.

Not so acceptable is the idea that paedophiles might be offered help in controlling their sinister urges. I’ve never had to control such an urge, and I very much doubt that anyone reading this has, either. It is strange, then, that we all behave as though doing so is obvious and straightforward. I’ve yet to see anyone pipe up on Facebook with the whole “I really, really, have a thing for school-age girls but you don’t see me trying to molest them!”

In conclusion, I’d prefer if television programmes were more concerned with solving society’s problems rather than turning them into hideous, tawdry freak-shows. But if that were the case I probably wouldn’t watch them, because I, like most people – enjoy a good freak show.

Until next week, when I will hopefully be a great deal more mobile

Dogs!

I return from my travels to find my homeland overcast and midway through party conference season: two phenomena I’d happily forgotten had even existed. I have never more fervently wished that I were still on holiday. This is in spite of Dalyan’s teeming population of stray dogs, all ready to drink pool water, chase cars and shit in the street.

I don’t like dogs. Or, actually, that’s not true. I like some dogs. I like cat-like dogs, you know? The ones that don’t bark and run around in circles like overly-contented morons. I think my disdain for this creature deserves a more thorough exploration, but first, a proviso: I’m not talking about wild dogs, who we can all agree are amazing. Wolves, jackals, coyotes and foxes are among the most excellent of all creatures. They are predators, known for their cunning and intelligence.

Dogs, by contrast, are known for their bumbling stupidity and lack of personal hygiene. Obedience is a necessary, desirable quality in a dog – actually, that’s an understatement, since they are entirely dependent on humans. If human beings were to die out tomorrow, there would be a brief plague of dogs, as they glutted themselves on our abandoned offal; but that would be the final spasm of a doomed species. Dogs would be fucked along with every other pet.

So dogs must be pets, if they are to be anything at all. But it seems to me that the cat is more generally suited to pethood than the dog: a cat’s claws retract, a cat buries its shit, and the cat word for ‘hello’ is not the most annoying sound ever. Admittedly, cats bury their shit for political cat-reasons, rather than through any inclination toward hygiene. But why should that matter?

I could go on, if I were so inclined; but that would be a waste of time, as this much is not disputed. We all agree that dogs are dumb and obnoxious and ugly. If you call someone a ‘dog’, you are implying that they possess these qualities. If that someone is a woman, then even more so. If a man’s hair turns grey, you call him a ‘grey fox’. If you were to call him ‘grey dog’, it would imply something entirely different.

We see this also reflected in the world of fiction. When a writer wishes to make a character appear to be badass, they name it after a particular sort of wild dog: The Jackal, Sniper Wolf, Fox Mulder etc.  I doubt Charles de Gaulle would have had much to fear from an assassin named ‘The Golden Retriever’ or even ‘The Dog’.

Cats, by contrast, are known for their cunning and style. If someone wants to name their badass character after a cat, it is sufficient to simply call name it after a cat. Like Catwoman, or The Cat from Red Dwarf. Except that episode where they go to a parallel universe or something, and The Cat is The Dog, who has no style and stinks of shit.

While writing all this, intending it to be quite light-hearted – as I almost always do – I found myself frowning. There is a Big Question here. Sorry guys. But isn’t having pets just a bit creepy? I’m talking about animal domestication in general, really: the uniquely human practice of manipulating a formerly wild animal into complete subservience.

At least in farming I can see a clear purpose to it all. Are we going to eat all these dogs and cats? No. I suppose at one point the dog was used to help hunt and kill other animals that we might wish to eat, but not so much now. All the writing about pets concern practical advice about how to keep them, but no-one really ever seems to ask why we should. We just have for a long, long time.

I can’t help but notice parallels with the human slave trade. If it’s wrong to enslave humans, then isn’t it wrong to enslave animals? But I suppose a subservient existence is all a pet is equipped for, and they have no awareness of their plight, rather, they seem quite contented with it, so does that make it not slavery? But, as I’ve already discussed, if we were to release these animals, they would die; so I suppose that means that they are forever doomed to slavery.

The process by which modern pets came into being is also very problematic. Pet-breeders want to create better pets, much like eugenicists and Nazi witchdoctors wished to create better humans. Of course, what constitutes ‘better’ is now largely determined by what constitutes ‘cute’. God, I’m glad my ancestry wasn’t predetermined by the taste of some other life-form.

The more I think about it, the more disturbed I get. The problem is particularly heinous when it comes to pedigree breeds.  What if an alien race were to land, and decide to keep us prisoner and force us to have sex with our close relatives and other people we don’t want to have sex with, until our descendants had all the qualities that the aliens found appealing, like webbed toes, giant hands supported by tiny weedy arms, and eye sockets too big for our eyes, or whatever. How fucking not cool would that be?

What a vacuous, terrible existence these animals must lead! Can you imagine what it might be like to be a dog?   The once-proud, upright ears of your ancestors flopping over, your once-sharp mind turned to wet cake. Some part of you is built to chase rabbits, and to hunt, but all you chase is balls. And sticks. And Frisbees. It is amusing, but only in the sense that the audience of The Jeremy Kyle Show might find The Jeremy Kyle Show amusing.

It would be easier if your stubby little legs could only support your weight. It would be easier if breathing weren’t such a struggle. Years of inbreeding have made your jaw too bulbous and deformed to help but slobber all over yourself. You are too placid to do anything but bumble from meal to meal, from shit to shit, pausing momentarily to give your master a look that they think is love. But it’s not.

Eugh. Right, that’s enough of that rambling now.

Until next week.

PS.  None of this means I’m going to stop owning pets and whatever. I still eat meat, so, y’know.