The man in the street of course. Not the politicians who are fueling (no pun intended) the latest potential oil crisis. I think Linkin Park nailed it when they used this line in the song “Hands Held High”:
When you can’t put gas in your tank These fuckers are laughing their way To the bank and cashing their check
Yes, it’s the ongoing Yemen/Saudi Arabia/Iran/USA crisis that you may have seen in the news. Saudi oil refineries were hit by drone strikes that caused significant damage, with the knock-on effect being that global oil supplies have been cut by 5% and prices are going to go up at the pumps. Houthi rebels in Yemen claimed responsibility for the attacks while the US has pointed the finger at current global sparring partner, Iran. Obviously, Iran has denied any involvement despite the US allegedly having evidence to prove that the drones came from there and not Yemen.
In short, it’s you and I who will have to pay the price when fuel prices rise. If we’re lucky, that’s all that will happen. The worst case scenario is that fuel stations run out or have intermittent supplies – a situation that could well become reality should the Saudi facilities suffer further attacks and consequent damage. Then we really will feel the squeeze. It’s been approximately ten years since the last such shortage hit us here in the UK and that time, it was down to a national blockade and industrial striking. Prices soared and pumps ran dry as motorists had to endure miserable queues, fraying tempers and the not knowing when you would next be able to fill up.
A very sneaky and convenient thing happened when the shortage was finally resolved though. Prices went back down but NOT all the way down to where they were before the blockade began. If the price hike was due to the shortage then there’s no reason why the price couldn’t have returned to where it had been. Clearly, the oil giants saw the opportunity to sneak a permanent increase through while customers were just relieved to be able to get fuel again and at a lower price.
If I were to put on my conspiracy hat, I might even suggest that the whole thing was orchestrated on purpose to get that price increase through when there was no other justifiable reason to do so…
But back to current affairs, this latest strain on our wallets will be the direct result of world leaders once again waving their dicks about and playing power games, heedless of how the ordinary people will feel the impact of their supreme arrogance. The situation is of course complicated and I’m not going to pretend that I’m an expert on what is happening but I’ll try and summarise.
The Houthi rebels fighting for control of Yemen are backed by Iran
Their opponents – the overthrown Yemenese government of President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi – are continuing to fight back, backed by multiple Sunni Arab states.
Saudi Arabia are the principle backer of Mr Hadi’s government and the Saudis are, of course, aligned with the US who supply them arms.
So the core battle on the ground is a war between two different religious factors. But the far more dangerous aspect of Yemen’s war is the proxy war between outside states that overshadows the original conflict. As a predominately Shia country, Iran is of course going to support the Houthi rebels, especially when it means gaining greater influence in the region. Iran’s enemies – the Saudis – aren’t interested in that happening in the slightest and so they are naturally attempting to restore President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi’s government, get rid of the Houthis and prevent Iranian influence from creeping into a neighbouring state.
But there is another conflict taking place that is having a direct influence on the war in Yemen – the cold war between Iran and the US. Donald Trump continues to throw stones in glass houses as he takes a hardline stance with Iran which I’m sure some of Trump’s supporters and right-wing types appreciate. Don’t fuck with ‘murica! Of course, there is the irony of the President being robust with a country that he has called the world’s number one “state of terror”…the same President who was about to have peace talks with the Taliban, on US soil no less. Unbelievable.
However you view Trump’s stance on dealing with countries like Iran, the facts still speak for themselves. Since tearing up the nuclear deal and ramping up the sanctions on Tehran, Iran has become increasingly hostile. They have resumed enriching uranium and breached the previously imposed limit as defined by the nuclear deal. They have been accused of sabotaging oil tankers in the region and have seized others. All of this will have unfavourable effects on ordinary people when oil supply lines are disrupted.
Between this and Trump’s other actions on the world stage, he is causing a lot of chaos and conflict. It’s almost as if he is moving through a jungle and using a stick to prod tarantulas and snakes. Prod them enough and they will strike back but what else can you expect? Iran has its back to the wall – its economy suffocating beneath the weight of sanctions – so what else does anybody expect them to do? Simply keel over and do what an outside state demands them to? Would you expect the US to do that?
I’m not defending Iran because they are in no way innocent in all of this but this is yet another instance of a nuclear-equipped country telling another country that they aren’t allowed nuclear weapons. It’s double-standards of the highest order and you can see why the likes of Iran and North Korea don’t take too kindly to US and European insistence that they don’t create nuclear weapons of their own. America isn’t the shining defender of justice and liberty that it likes to portray itself as because, at the end of the day, their administration’s involvement in proxy wars and meddling in foreign spheres of influence is only ever to gain or maintain input on the global sphere of influence.
It should also be said that while we will be bitching and moaning about fuel prices, the real suffering is taking place in Yemen where innocent people are being killed and their lives utterly destroyed as religious conflict and foreign policy translates into constant airstrikes and the savage destruction of their home. I can’t even begin to imagine what it’s like to live in such conditions. So perhaps spare a thought for them next time you are feeling irate about have to spend a few more pounds to put petrol in your comfy German executive saloon.
The classic Monopoly game lets players collect $200 when they pass “Go.” Under the rules of Ms. Monopoly, male players will still get the usual $200, but women will receive $240, reversing the real-life pay gap between men and women in the workplace.
Where can I begin with this? Well, I feel that I must open by saying that I didn’t really want to talk about Ms. Monopolyat all. I didn’t really want to add a few more drops of combustible fossil fuel to the fires of outrage that have no doubt swept across socal media, leaving charred remains behind.
But it’s just such a dumb, unhelpful concept to come out of Hasbro’s offices.
First of all though, let’s look at the positive elements of Ms. Monopoly. As per all special editions of the classic property-trading board game, the standard board has been shaken up with different things to buy.
“From inventions like WiFi to chocolate chip cookies, solar heating and modern shapewear, Ms. Monopoly celebrates everything from scientific advancements to everyday accessories — all created by women,” Hasbro said in a news release on Tuesday.
I mean, okay – why not? At least women AND men can potentially learn something here. For example, I didn’t know that the likes of WiFi and solar heating were invented by women. It’s always good to be more informed.
Secondly, as part of the game’s launch, Hasbro donated the total sum of £16,668 ($20,580) to three young female inventors of the future who already have some great inventions in the pipeline that would certainly benefit us all.
Sophia Wang (16) from Connecticut, USA – invented a device that can pre-emptively detect sinkholes. The device is apparently already 93% complete.
Gitanjali Rao (13) from Denver, USA – put together an invention to test drinking water for lead, to be used by individuals for instant results.
Ava Canney (16) from Ireland – invented a spectrometer that measures the levels of dye in sweets and soft drinks.
Excellent. Brilliant. Fantastic.
So it’s too bad that these undeniably positive bits, of what should have been another Monopoly special edition, have been wrapped up in such a badly-executed package that also aims to land a seat on a feminist train destined for Pay Gap City. I have no problem with feminism as long as it doesn’t cross that line and start wearing camo-print attire. I have no doubt that some hardcore feminists would see that as toxic masculinity and say, “huh, you’re ACTING like you support feminism but only as long as it stays within your pre-conceived boundaries.”
Tough. Deal with it. As far as I am concerned, toxic feminism needs checking just as much as toxic masculinity. Isn’t the whole point to strive towards equality?
And that’s where Ms. Monopoly’s $40 per-tour-of-the-board advantage in the favour of women torpedoes the entire product’s credibility. The playing field hasn’t been levelled nor has equality been achieved. In fact, a gender advantage has been handed out and the realm of double-standards breached. Isn’t it ironic to be accepting the kinds of advantages that you have been (rightfully) rallying against for so many years? These kind of things simply don’t help the cause and only serve to aggravate anybody with common sense.
Because I don’t recall the classic version of Monopoly being weighted in the favour of men. Unless I missed the edition where women are only entitled to 160 bucks for passing “Go” and must play the game in their underwear for the viewing pleasure of the male participants.
But, as a man, am I outraged about the existence of Ms. Monopoly? No. It’s just a stupid product that doesn’t contribute anything to the end goal of equality. The other important thing to remember is that products like this are devised by companies BECAUSE they will generate news items and explosive Twitter debates. Hasbro couldn’t ask for better publicity or for a more effective marketing campaign that needs little financial input on their part. All they had to do was drop a few press releases and images, sit back in the boardroom and watch the internet light up. In short, to get worked-up about products like this is to play directly into corporate hands – irresponsible corporate hands who are going to make a lot of money out of dividing our society just a little more as some of us fall into the Us vs Them trap. Granted, it’s mostly the extreme fringes that engage in virtual slanging matches but it’s also the extreme fringe types that shout the loudest and give positive causes bad names.
As already outlined, Ms. Monopoly does have some good stuff going for it but I see Hasbro and their savvy marketing.
My final thoughts are going to be on the game of Monopoly in general. I’ve long since found it incredibly strange that we enjoy playing this game. It’s a game based on the very same capitalist greed and social oppression that most of us absolutely resent and moan about on a daily basis. We’ve all been there: clinging onto a few low-tier properties, desperately hanging on to our last few bank notes while one player crushes us all with streets loaded with hotels. Perhaps you’ve also played with variations on the official rules where players can take out bank loans to stave off Game Over.
Sounds familiar, right? Like coming home from a long, tiring day at a minimum-wage job where you’ve been bitched at by men in suits who drive big cars and ensure that they stay at the top and grind everybody below them into dust in order to save a few pennies or squeeze an extra few cents out of the profit margin. Paying taxes and running the rat race just to keep the debt collectors at bay and food in your family’s mouths. Trying not to lose vital sleep over credit card statements or loan repayments.
Monopoly as a game is fun while everybody is on a level playing field. As soon as one player gains that significant advantage though, the fun stops. Neither Monopoly or its real-life counterpart discriminate based on gender. Both men and women feel the squeeze as those at the top live the high life and The System locks millions into a thankless machine of servitude. Many will escape of course, through hard work or being in the right place at the right time but, through pure circumstance, a vastly larger number won’t.
I guess we must be a masochistic race; playing a ‘fun’ board game based on our own suffering…for entertainment. Perhaps it is best not to over-think these things!
If you’ve ever read any of my previous posts on the shitshow that is Brexit then you may be familiar with the way I’ve described this catastrophe of a process as a rubbish version of Game of Thrones. Minus the attractive ladies and dragons of course. Unless I’ve missed a key day of news, neither of those things are happening down at Westminster.
But Brexit has everything else that makes George R.R. Martin’s books and HBO’s TV adaptation so enthralling:
Individuals using events to further their own agenda/careers
The struggle for power taking precedence over what’s important for the country
The populance being split apart with a growing “Us vs Them” environment
Wars of words with neighbouring countries
So what exactly is my point with all of this? I’m not actually sure but at least my half-assed attitude is more solidified than the rapidly-shifting events here in the UK that continue to flabbergast us. You honestly couldn’t write this shit. Each morning’s fresh batch of headlines bring something else that chips away at any belief I have in our leadership. This is a considerable achievement given that my current faith in our political elite would be represented with a negative number were I to use a percentage-based metric.
Bringing this post back to the original analogy, I have genuinely often thought, “fuck Game of Thrones. It has nothing on Brexit.” If Brexit was all entirely fictional and dramatised as a book then it would be one hell of an addictive page-turner, brimming with plots, counter-plots and end-of-chapter shocks that turn everything upside-down.
As I’ve already said, so much has happened since Boris Johnson ascended to the Iron Throne armchair in No.10, Downing Street. Therefore, it’s incredibly difficult to summarise the current situation – especially given that this crap has been selling papers since 2016 – but I will try to put it in layman’s terms…
Parliament is currently on shutdown because Boris Johnson asked the Queen for permission to do so. This is known as being “Prorogued”. During this time, MP’s may not enter Westminster and no parliamentary business may take place. Prorogation has historically been used by Monarchs in Britain to prevent parliament from interfering with their plans. In the modern era (where Monarchs are figureheads and don’t wield their theoretical power), prorogation is usually reserved for bringing parliamentary sessions to an end.
However, opposing MP’s were planning to try and pass new legislation which would prevent the Prime Minister from taking the UK out of Europe without a trade deal if one hasn’t been agreed on by October 31st. The “No Deal” option is seen as the riskiest option which could send economic shockwaves throughout the country but Boris Johnson has repeatedly made clear that he is going to get Brexit done by the 31st of October, whether a deal with the EU has been successfully negotiated or not. No request for an extension – just leave and get Brexit over the finish line.
The Queen granted Johnson’s request to prorogue parliament and it is widely accepted that he chose to do this in order to shut down parliamentary business as soon as possible and give the opposition much less time to pass their legislation.
The legislation WAS passed, however. Johnson’s Conservative government held a majority in parliament by the slimmest of slim margins – just one seat. Unfortunately for him, an MP defected to the Liberal Democrats thus torpedoing the Conservatives’ majority. The opposition was therefore able to band together, take control of parliamentary business and get their legislation through after winning a vote in the Commons.
This is where the shit really hit the fan and Westminster became the scene for raging slanging matches between Boris Johnson and the divisive Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn.
Furthermore, Johnson decided to expel all of the Conservative MP’s from his own party who had rebelled and sided with the opposition when it came to voting on the legislation that would make No Deal illegal (or at least very difficult to pull off).
The fallout is still happening, even as parliament is prorogued and Westminster lies dormant, despite that fast-approaching October 31st deadline.
A No Deal “worst case scenario” preparation document that speaks of potential food/medicine shortages and civil unrest was leaked and forced to be publicised. Jeremy Corbyn has been as indecisive and flaky as usual, saying he wants a General Election, then that he doesn’t, then deciding that he does after all. The Brexit Party has proposed some form of possible alliance with Johnson’s Conservative party if it means getting Brexit over the line. MP’s are resigning and switching teams all over the place. The public is sick of the whole damn thing.
I don’t know where all of this is going to end, nor would I be confident in making any sort of prediction. I do, however, think that the government is teetering on the verge of a cataclysmic implosion and might not see out the year. I also think that the next elected government has a high chance of being either a hard-right or hard-left party, due to the fact that so many people are absolutely fed up of politicians by this point and so millions of mainstream, centre-ground voters may simply avoid the ballot box.
One thing’s for sure though: as in Game of Thrones, it’s politicians and the rich elite that stand to gain from this mess while the common folk suffer as usual. They will certainly be able to weather any economic storm. Either way, they are playing a dangerous game and prioritising their own egos and party agendas. Is it really all about doing right by the country or is it about exploiting a weakness in the government and getting their foot in the door of No.10?
We should never have been given this vote in the first place but – staying on theme – it was a pledge in David Cameron’s manifesto. He promised to deliver a vote on the UK’s membership of the EU if he was elected. In other words, he offered the necessary treats to get voted into No.10, probably (wrongly) assuming that the British public would never actually vote to leave. And when we did? He immediately stepped down as Prime Minister and washed his hands of the problem – proof, if needed, that Brexit is simply the result of politicians chasing power and trying to further their own careers.
I think the likes of Tyrion Lannister and Littlefinger would be in their element here…
It’s been a while since I made a post about some bullshit news but, to be completely honest, I no longer find it worth my time to get annoyed at the news anymore, especially when it plays into the hands of our lovely media and their determination to split us into Camp Left and Camp Right before pitting both camps against each other in a fight to the death. Perhaps I NEVER should have invested ANY of my time and energy into dissecting mind-blowingly pathetic ‘news’ but hey; you live and learn.
Sometimes however, a freshly-laid, steamer of Bullshit News comes along and, because I’m only human (as The Human League once reminded us), I cannot help but analyse the shit that pops up while I’m looking at other, actual news items of importance.
Such as this advert that got certain people screeching “won’t somebody please think of the children?!?”
I saw it and thought it was an amusing ad – a bit of harmless fun that raised a small smile. But I guess that makes me some sort of 1950’s sexist pig according to those who demand that all humour and fun be sucked from the atmosphere.
Before I go any further though, I will say (in the interests of being impartial and balanced) that I understand why an ad like this would irk the progressive types who see it as a throwback to ye olden days where ad agencies would drape sexy girls over cars to sell them. I get it; I really do. Furthermore, the billboard looks cheap and a bit tacky so it won’t win any awards there.
Usually I would try and write some sort of detailed analysis or debate-style piece at this point but instead, I’m just going to be lazy, quote stuff from the news article on the BBC’s website and call out the bullshit where I see it.
The air conditioning advert – described by an academic as “plain sexist” – features the line: “Your wife is hot!”
First of all, what kind of “academic” gets themselves involved in cheap journalism like this? What is their field of expertise?
It was meant to appear on seven buses in Nottingham but Adverta, which places adverts on buses and trams in the city, blocked it and said it could cause offence.
All I can say is that if you get offended by an advertising billboard like this then you clearly have little else to give a fuck about. It reminds me of those people who write into the rants section in the back of the TV guide to complain about an inaccuracy in a TV soap or the cleavage that a female host displayed at an “inappropriate” time of day. Roll your eyes and forget about it. As a man, I’m used to doing that when I see ads that make the man of the house out to be a fuck-up that can’t handle the finances without a woman’s help or is (apparently) unable to multi-task. Does it offend me though? No because I have more important shit to think about and – when it really – comes down to it? We are clueless when it comes to certain things that women are better at.
Prof Carrie Paechter, director of the Nottingham Centre for Children, Young People and Families, said the advert was “like something out of the 1950s” and called for it to be removed.
A professor now? Gee, we really are having some high-IQ intellectual types getting involved in this. I will agree with Ms. Paechter that the ad is “like something out of the 1950’s” however. Removing it though? I’m not a supporter of that. My main concern is that old chestnut of “where does it end?”. If we have certain segments of society shouting “Ban this”, “Ban that”, “Censor this” and “don’t allow that” then we end up with an environment edited by pressure groups to suit their own vision of what the world should be like. Obviously, there ARE things that should not be permitted but on the whole, free speech and humour should not be threatened because a certain section of society disagrees with something. There was no malice or sexism intended by the creator of this advert. In fact…
The advert – at the junction of Woodborough Road and Porchester Road in Mapperley – was designed by Not Just Cooling owner Mr Davies.
“I don’t mean to offend anybody,” he said.
“I saw an advert like this in America, I chuckled to myself and thought ‘why not?’. Air conditioning is a very hard thing to advertise.”
He said he ran the idea past his team of engineers, who are all men, and discussed the idea with his mother and wife, who approved too.
“My wife knows what I’m like,” he said. “She thinks it’s funny because my wife knows my sense of humour.”
I suppose the “academics” in our midsts would say that Mr Davies’ wife and mother were brainwashed or are being subjected to some sort of toxic masculinity regime. Or – back in the real world – maybe they are just normal women who can see the joke without flying into an offended rage about it? All I can say – from my own personal experience – is that I have yet to encounter any women (or men) who bang on about banning billboards or trivial things being sexist. At work, the blokes take the piss out of the women and they take the piss out of us. We might tell them that they can gossip for the country about utter crap. They tell us that we are useless, one-track-minded blokes. Nobody takes any personal offence or gets wound up about it.
“The subliminal message about society is that it’s OK to comment on women’s bodies, and comment on women’s bodies as if they are the possession of someone else – ‘your wife’.
Ah, the convenient and vague subliminal messages. First of all, it isn’t a fact – it’s a perception of one person. Second of all, it’s a crime to comment on women’s bodies? Look, I in no way condone insulting women or making derogatory remarks about their form if their body isn’t considered ‘optimal’ by society. That shit should indeed fuck right off. Nor do I condone groups of men publicly shouting at women and giving them unwanted attention – acting like slobbering dogs who have never seen an attractive female before. But appreciative talk happens. Always has done and always will do. It’s natural among men and no more “wrong” than when women get a twinkle in their eye and gush over the likes of Magic Mike XL or whatever the fuck he/it is called.
“It also gives the subliminal message that it’s the man of the house that’s responsible for getting the air conditioning fixed.”
Another subliminal message that I guess we normal people are just too stupid to see lurking in the background like a social assassin striking from the shadows. Or is it somebody reading way too deeply into a fucking billboard that was created as a joke? Honestly, I can see BOTH sides of the argument for most of this billboard drama but these two lines here are absolutely hilarious. For a crude advertisement supposedly stuck in the 50’s, it sure has some intelligent subliminal logic behind its seemingly blunt imagery.
What do you know? I guess I did end up wasting my time on a petty news item after all. Stories like this are intentionally broadcast to us to wind up the political right and reinforce the idea that the world has gone maaaaad and that feminists are out to ruin their lives. The reality is that the internet, social media and the news outlets have seriously warped our perception of the world around us. As I previously mentioned, I have yet to meet anybody who thinks like those who get offended so easily in these news reports. Of course, I may well be wrong, but to me that says that the ‘problem’ isn’t as big as some paranoid blokes believe.
Ultimately, I would just ignore the easily-offended snowflakes and dismiss their outrage. It is only because of social media and virtual echo chambers that people are able to make a noise about things that nobody would have gone to the effort of giving two fucks about back in the day.
This billboard isn’t classy and it isn’t highbrow but not everything has to be.
Sometimes I see some seriously bad “news” on the internet that has me questioning humanity and what we feel the need to read about. I want to rip these excuses for journalism a new one but don’t think I could put together full-fat posts. Here then is Vol.1 of Clickbait Digest, a new (potentially) regular spot on Unfiltered Opinion where I sell my soul to the ad revenue machine, click on attention-seeking stories and review them for the masochistic fun of it all.
BBC News prides itself on being a respectable, global leader in news and journalism but it can’t help joining in the clickbait party and invariably comes up trumps. Here is a headline that promises some real HAL 9000 shit and shows what appears to be a still taken directly from Terminator 5: Rise of the Cash-Cow Sequel. The video I am taken to also features an intriguing blurb: “Digital sociologist Karen Gregory on how to cope when your boss isn’t actually human“. So it’s a disappointment then to see that the video is just talking about employees working to for computer AI and automated data systems in workplaces. Worse still, the video serves up some bleak predictions of 20% of the UK workforce being displaced by computers and only the privileged and wealthy – with access to higher levels of learning – being able to succeed and move up the ladder in this environment. The video offers no realistic solutions other than vaguely saying that workers need to band together and come up with their own organisational solutions to prevent becoming displaced. Thanks for that. 10/10 for clickbait though.
This one did at least turn out to be more of a “real” story, concerning the horror stories of male circumcision and the condition known as phimosis. Unlike most of this crap cluttering up the news sites, I did actually learn something here. I just wish a large news broadcaster like the BBC could use a more conventional title for the story other than “I’m scared of my own penis”. It’s unnecessary baiting and almost – almost – makes a joke out of genuine issues. The article begins by recounting somebody’s suicide FFS. Get it together, BBC.
“My son died after fellow pupil threw cheese at him”
If you aren’t familiar with it, we have a daytime TV show here in the UK called “This Morning”. I suppose it’s classed as a “magazine” show. It runs for several hours and features guests talking about real life issues, advice segments, fashion and phone-in competitions to win holidays – all that sort of crap. It’s the kind of ‘informative’ daytime TV that should only real appeal to gossips or the retired. It certainly encourages you to get off your arse and get a job if you’re stuck at home with this tripe all morning. Speaking as a man, the only reason to pay any attention at all is presenter Holly Willoughby but even then, is it worth it if having a perv also means suffering crap like this? Unfortunately, This Morning’s Youtube channel is one of the clickbaitiest things I have ever seen on Youtube’s home page and makes a mockery of truly tragic stories. This story is a case in point: a schoolboy died from anaphylactic shock after a piece of cheese was thrown at him and made contact with the back of his neck.
The tone of interview is understandably sombre but you can’t help but feel that the producers of This Morning only care about twisting a freak tragedy and a mother’s grief into a clickbait headline and carefully selected thumbnail in order to grab the views. This kind of stuff really pisses me off and makes me feel increasingly disgusted with the world we live in. The headline of “MY SON DIED AFTER FELLOW PUPIL THREW CHEESE AT HIM” is also plastered along the bottom of the screen for the OMG factor while the poor woman is relating her story.
I took a look at the suggested videos also from This Morning and it was a series of clickbait titles that seemed to be making light of pretty serious stuff, inviting people in to gawp as if it were a zoo exhibition.
“Our daughter died after eating a Pret a Manger aguette”
“Teacher who was viciously assaulted breaks down”
“Strangers think my girlfriend in my nurse”
“My husband cheated on me with our daughter’s friend”
“I married a homeless man living under a bush”
It’s the kind of sensationalist stuff that makes you want to run the fuck AWAY from our society and go live in a shed atop a mountain. The blend of “dramatic” I-can’t-believe-that-would-ever-happen stories sharing space with genuinely horrible recountings of abuse and death is just very bad in my opinion. And these segments on the show will be immediately followed-up with a competition to win a car!
And that’s about all I can deal with for Vol.1 of Clickbait Digest. Join me next time for more of the internet’s sewage. Maybe.
It’s been a while since I delved into some Bullshit News but the truth is, I actively avoid the news as much as possible these days – taking a proactive approach to not allowing more negativity than necessary into my already-poisoned chalice. Unfortunately, the news is a goldmine for that rich, potent BS that makes for fun writing and scathing analysis pieces.
So it is with a mixture of regret and eagerness that I have returned to the world of clickbait and twisted facts for this latest entry in Bullshit News. This time, it’s because Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn is banging the £10-per-hour drum again, vowing to end the Minimum Wage boundaries here in the UK and ensure that workers below the age of 18 receive the same wage as their older colleagues. This follows a previous promise to increase the National Living Wage for workers over 25 to £10-per-hour.
If he and his party are elected in next year’s general election of course.
For those outside of the UK who have no idea what I’m talking about, here’s a quick lowdown. We have a National Minimum Wage; a legally-binding hourly rate that employers must pay to their employees at a bare minimum. This was originally introduced to prevent unscrupulous employers from paying people peanuts or hiring cheap, foreign labour at the expense of British workers. The Minimum Wage isn’t a one-size-fits-all however. 16-17 year-olds receive £4.35 p/h, 18-20: £6.35, 21-24: £7.70 and 25+ get £8.21.
Obviously there are many flaws to this system. Disgruntled younger workers being paid less for doing the same job for instance thus affecting motivation and sparking much anger over equality. On the flipside, you must factor in lack of experience and effectiveness in a job role which would make a reasonable argument for established employees receiving a higher wage in the first place. You can’t expect the ladder to have only one rung after all. But the counter to the counter comes along when you have new blood in a company eager to impress and working hard while their older counterpart – on a higher rate of pay – does the bare minimum and slacks off, taking home more money for performing the same role…even though their output may be worse.
Another problem is that businesses have gotten around having to pay higher wages by simply employing people for less hours on part-time contracts. In a lot of businesses here in the UK, this gives the employer a bonus secondary benefit because employees don’t necessary receive the same contractual benefits unless they are classed as “full time”. It also gives them greater control over moving employees’ shifts around to benefit the business, meaning that people desperate for work will end up having to take crappy, unsociable shifts with inconsistent hours.
So in short, the National Minimum Wage was a well-meaning idea but like most legalities, businesses will always find loopholes and ways to work the system to their advantage, not the supposed beneficiaries – the workforce. And as is usual, the government are far too slow and ponderous when it comes to closing said loopholes and keeping pace with the wily tactics of large businesses.
So you would think that a £10-per-hour wage would at least be some sort of consolation for being an employee trapped in The System. It really isn’t though and Jeremy Corbyn’s promise to deliver this is equally as ineffective in combatting the problems facing the UK’s working-class people.
Yes, companies will be required to pay their employees £10 p/h and in doing so will be adhering to the law of the land and going about their business with (mostly) clean hands. But you’d better believe that they will subsidise that cost somehow, ultimately leading to worse working conditions for those very same employees reaping the “benefits” of an increased pay packet. To use a first-hand example, the company I work for suspended quarterly bonuses one year in order to cover the cost of raising the workforce’s Minimum Wage mid-financial year – a cost that hadn’t been foreseen in the financial planning for the year.
An increased minimum wage will also result in an increase of part-time contracts (weighted in the employer’s favour) and – more depressingly – greater cost-cutting. The fatcats at the top don’t want their large salaries to be affected by the grunts at the bottom receiving their (comparitively minor) wage top-up. They want to continue driving around in company BMWs, sitting in offices drinking coffee and making decisions based on no hands-on experience of what it’s like for those doing the actual work that keeps their wallets bulging.
The solution is to reduce investment and hack away at employee perks until all that is left is the bare minimum required by law (and they will push the boundaries even then – believe me). It means an end to subsidised staff canteens and vending machines. It means cutting jobs and not replacing those who jump ship thus piling greater pressure on the remaining employees who are expected to deliver the same results with diminishing resources. It means reducing investment into the likes of facility maintenance and equipment purchases. Ultimately it means a harder life for the working man.
But the thing that earns Jeremy Corbyn’s pledge a free admission into the Bullshit News segment of my blog is the fact that his words are a mere bribe. He and his Labour party have a history of telling the younger generation what they want to hear in order to win their votes. They know that the UK’s youth is a politically dormant vein waiting to be tapped. Instead of gold or crude oil, that vein will yield votes – important votes. You see, many young people in this country take no interest in politics and don’t exercise their right to vote and it’s completely understandable. They see old people in positions of power that they can’t relate to. They see politicians making decisions that benefit the rich and established, not them or their aspirations. They see the lies, U-turns and constantly-swelling landfill site that needs ever more space to accomodate all of those false promises and undelivered pledges.
So nobody can blame Corbyn and Labour for trying to win the vote of this age group because they know that they feel ignored or disadvantaged by the current status quo. We can debate these points and the rights/wrongs all day long but what I’m saying is that it’s important to remember that the £10 p/h promise is just a bribe – the same as being offered £50 in exchange for voting Labour in the next election. There’s no guarantee that the wage increase and an end to a scale system will actually happen.
But it makes for a good, attention-grabbing headline that will make young people take notice and that’s what politics is all about. It’s about talking big and shouting loudly on volatile subjects. It’s about telling people what they want to hear. It’s about making voters believe that their interests are actually at heart – not the power games at Westminster and the battle for the Iron Throne keys to No.10, Downing Street.
If you need any further evidence of undelivered promises, attention-grabbing soundbites and ideas that sound great without looking into the actual implementation(s) and knock-on effects/consequences then look no further than the appalling embarassment to our nation that is Brexit. If you, valued reader, live outside of the UK and laugh at us then I genuinely can’t fault you for doing so. It’s some shitshow alright.
The bottom line is that it’s the businesses and corporations that actually control our lives, not the governments. Corbyn’s promise is great on paper but it is ultimately just another bribe and workplace life will suffer as a result once the big employers start making their cost-cutting measures to fund not only a wage increase but also a wage scale dissolution that would shake up everything.
I’m not saying that it’s all bad or that you – as a younger voter – shouldn’t want to vote for more money and fairness. I’m saying don’t take such promises at face value without digging deeper or being prepared to take the rough with the smooth.
Yesterday I wrote about the movie, Blade Runner, a futuristic vision which is just one of many possible futures that we may well face. We can laugh about such movies now and brand them sci-fi fantasy nonsense but the downsides of corporate-controlled, heavily censored, technology-ruled, dystopian futures are very real and will be with us soon depending on how careful we are with our decision-making NOW. After all, self-aware computers such as HAL and Skynet were once “just” sci-fi but here we are, inviting smart technology such as Alexa into our homes and giving it increasing access to the controls. Do a quick search on the internet and you will already find stories of Alexa getting a little too smart. People are laughing about it now but for how much longer?
Anyway – as I said – the avoidance of such futures will be based on intelligent decision-making now but unfortunately, I don’t have any faith in our species to make those calculated choices. Every time I dare to look at the news I see the planet’s sanity slipping away bit by bit as my brothers and sisters persist with their determination to flush common sense down the toilet.
And it’s that key phrase – “Common Sense” – that links my waffling about Terminator-style futures and that bitch, Alexa, to so-called Hate Crimes (we got there in the end). What does any of that have to do with current social issues, I hear you ask? Well, it’s the same lack of common-sense when dealing with today’s social issues that will see us ruled by our washing machines at some point in the future. It’s one of those classic “where does it all end?” questions.
But first, what exactly IS a hate crime? Well, let me go straight to the top and retrieve the definition from our own Metropolitan Police website here in the UK.
“A hate crime is when someone commits a crime against you because of your disability, gender identity, race, sexual orientation, religion, or any other perceived difference.”
“It doesn’t always include physical violence. Someone using offensive language towards you or harassing you because of who you are, or who they think you are, is also a crime. The same goes for someone posting abusive or offensive messages about you online.”
And it goes further…
“A hate crime is defined as ‘Any criminal offence which is perceived by the victim or any other person, to be motivated by hostility or prejudice based on a person’s race or perceived race; religion or perceived religion; sexual orientation or perceived sexual orientation; disability or perceived disability and any crime motivated by hostility or prejudice against a person who is transgender or perceived to be transgender.’
A hate incident is any incident which the victim, or anyone else, thinks is based on someone’s prejudice towards them because of their race, religion, sexual orientation, disability or because they are transgender.
Not all hate incidents will amount to criminal offences, but it is equally important that these are reported and recorded by the police.
Evidence of the hate element is not a requirement. You do not need to personally perceive the incident to be hate related. It would be enough if another person, a witness or even a police officer thought that the incident was hate related.”
A prime example of our country’s definition of a hate crime was reported back in March (I meant to post about it sooner but quite honestly, couldn’t be bothered…) when a Catholic journalist made the mistake of referring to a transgender woman as a man on good old Twitter.
From MSN News:
“Caroline Farrow appeared on ITV’s Good Morning Britain alongside Susie Green, whose daughter Jackie Green is transgender, to discuss Girlguiding’s decision to let children who have changed their gender join the organisation.
On Tuesday Farrow tweeted that she did not “remember said tweets”, adding: “I probably said ‘he’ or ‘son’ or something. All I have been told is that following an appearance on Good Morning Britain I made some tweets misgendering Susie Green’s child and that I need to attend a taped interview.””
“Using the wrong pronoun could be an offence under the Malicious Communications Act, which makes it a crime to send messages that are indecent or grossly offensive, threatening, or contain information which is false or believed to be false, if the purpose for sending it is to cause distress or anxiety. Breaking the law carries a maximum sentence of two years in prison.”
The first issue here is that I titled this post “My Problem with Hate Crimes…” when I really should have used the plural, ProblemS. If you’re of a calm, common-sense orientated mindset, as I am, then you will no doubt have picked up on them already after reading the quotes above. I wouldn’t want you to do all the work though so in the interests of not being lazy, here are the glaring faults as I see them:
We are constantly being reminded to respect the faith and religious beliefs of others and I assume that NOT doing that would also be classed as a hate crime. With that in mind, why are Caroline Farrow’s CATHOLIC beliefs on the subject of gender change being criminalised?
What part of this so-called “crime” was motivated by hostility or prejudice? Farrow later stated that she tries “really hard not to misgender people” and that’s despite her Catholic beliefs, let’s not forget. Anybody with a brain (a dying breed it would seem) would realise that she simply made a mistake when choosing her terminology on Twitter. I don’t believe for a second that there was any malice or deliberate attempt to defy the “victim”s transgender lifestyle by selecting the words “him” or “he”.
We need to talk about this Malicious Communications Act because being sentenced for two years in prison for using the wrong pronoun is bonkers. I’ve heard of ACTUAL criminals getting less time for doing far worse. The positive side of the Act is that it deters internet trolls and low-level, neanderthal types from targeting specific people with racial or sexual slurs for the sole purpose of attacking them with words and causing psychological harm. This is GOOD. This is why such legislation was needed in the first place. The problem is that the definition of Hate Crimes becomes far too loose and grey around the edges as a result. In the case of the Caroline Farrow story, the wrong pronoun may have been used but it was an innocent mistake. Unfortunately it seems that even non-malicious errors potentially carry the same consequences as intentionally setting out to spread hate. My big issue here is that if the transgender “victim” still looks and sounds like their original sex then it is highly likely that you are going to accidentally refer to them by their original gender out of pure INSTINCT. It is a MISTAKE, not an intentional attack which brings me to my next point…
When did everybody decide to become so incredibly sensitive? In my mind, the normal reaction to accidentally being referred to by your original sex would be either to calmly point out the mistake or simply accept that people make mistakes and will be doing so for some time to come. As long as that person didn’t purposely set out to offend or ridicule your life decisions then I see no issue. To me it seems that so many people are simply waiting to leap to irrational conclusions and are prepared to see attacks and hatred coming at them from every angle, like a tripped-out stoner having hallucinations of ten copies of the same person sharing a room with them.
I’m also not happy about the constant use of the word “perceived”. Rather than have concrete definitions of a crime, it’s as if the victim gets to make the judgment call on whether something was a crime or not. Correct me if I’m wrong but isn’t that sort of thing for the police, a jury or a court judge to decide? After all, somebody might say the same thing to two different transgender people and one will shrug it off while the other defines it as a criminal act. You can’t do that with other types of crime such as murder or theft; it either happened or it didn’t. And of course, Perception loves to share a bed with Overreaction.
Oh and let’s not forget this little nugget from the police’s description of hate crime:
“Evidence of the hate element is not a requirement”
So now we have “crimes” that don’t require evidence? Fuck.
Obviously, it isn’t my intention here to play down genuine offences or the struggles that the transgender community face because I know it is happening right now, all over the world, and that some of the legitimate hostility is quite aggressive and foul. But is it so far-fetched to believe that some people are overreacting over simple mistakes when they should be saving their fight for the REAL haters? Is it a case of the overall cause being so important that common-sense and rationale need to be sacrificed at the altar of progression? I think we need to be careful. It’s brilliant that the law here in the UK is offering protection for these relatively new movements but it shouldn’t also offer a blank canvas for people to decide what is and isn’t a crime, making the perpertrators of genuine mistakes out to be bad human beings.
There’s also another issue here that I think needs to be brought into the light: the difference between accepting something and agreeing with it. I sometimes feel that people think in black-and-white and can’t understand that it’s possible to disagree with something and still accept it. I personally don’t agree with people changing their sex, especially when they are children well below the age where the law classes them as an adult. BUT I accept that this is happening and I wouldn’t dream of insulting a transgender person or taking the piss out of them. As far as I am concerned, it is their life and they can do what they like with it. They aren’t hurting anybody after all and I have always bought into the philosopy of doing what you need to do in order to be happy considering that our lives are short and can end at any time. After all, the haters can spew their bile and waste their energy but if it’s YOU who are happy with your life and the choices that have got you to that point then who really gets the last laugh?
But I can’t help but see people searching for injustice and actively seeking it out; twisting even the most minor of things into a full-blown outrage that deserves media coverage and a Twitter-storm so that like-minded self-victimisers can get together in the echo chambers of the internet, their numbers bolstered by hoardes of tag alongs that have nothing to do with the issue but want to look fashionable by liking or commenting on whatever is trending. And once all of that has escalated to Red Alert status and the furious meltdowns begin, the trivial root cause of all the screaming is forgotten and somebody who perhaps said the wrong word by mistake has already been metaphorically tried and executed by social media as the devil incarnate.
If you think I’m making too big of a deal out of it then read the following news excerpts and tell me that these aren’t the signs of a society descending into madness…a society where people are furious about everything and set on turning non-malicious errors of speech into criminal acts.
“In February, a teacher who was accused of misgendering a child was told by police that she had committed a hate crime.
The teacher reportedly refused to acknowledge that the pupil self-identified as a boy and failed to use the pupil’s preferred pronouns of “he” or “him”.
Okay, I can only half give this one because the teacher in question did actively refuse to acknowledge the pupil but even so…how do we know that the student in question hadn’t just decided off their own (non-adult) back to “be” a boy? Is it fair to call this a hate crime? Is it right to force society to agree with it and not give the option to retain an opinion?
“Last year, it was reported that a teacher was suing a school after he faced disciplinary action for referring to a transgender pupil as a girl.
Joshua Sutcliffe, from Oxford, said he was investigated after he said “well done, girls” to a group that included a student who identifies as a boy.”
In this case, this has to have been a simple mistake. Let’s face it, if you were teaching a class of girls, wouldn’t it be easy – understandable, even – to accidentally forget that one of them identified as a boy? Let’s not forget that “identifying” as a boy doesn’t mean that you actually look like one so the mistake would be even easier to make. Finally, did the pupil even tell the teacher/school that they identified as a boy or did they use witheld/private knowledge after the so-called “incident” to retroactively lodge a complaint? This one is ridiculous as far as I’m concerned. Teachers shouldn’t have to go and do their job (difficult enough anyway with budget cuts and lack of discipline amongst school-age children these days) and then have to deal with this bullshit on top. I would ask those who are offended to put themselves in the position of the teacher and look at the situation from a different perspective, their own beliefs set to one side for a moment…
“Last October, a transgender lawyer launched the UK’s first “deadnaming” case in the high court against Father Ted’s screenplay writer after he referred to her using her birth name. The transgender activist Stephanie Hayden is suing Graham Linehan, the co-writer of the comedy TV series, for defamation and harassment after he allegedly published a series of tweets “deliberately misgendering” her by using her previous male name, otherwise known as “deadnaming”.
Hayden said Linehan “caused her distress” and that his actions constituted harassment, a misuse of private information, and were a “gross affront to her dignity as a woman”.
So now we have “deadnaming” too? And our old friend, Perception as well as that amazing word “allegedly”. We don’t know that Linehan intentionally used Hayden’s original name in his tweets. Could it simply be a conclusion that was leapt to without even asking Linehan? There’s no concrete evidence or fact to this one and yet it warranted a court case and the extreme terms of “defamation”, “harassment”, “distress” and a “gross affront”. How about that misuse of private information? The original name of a TV actor that was already out there in the public eye and no-doubt in the end credits of many TV episodes? Come on: get real here. Maybe Linehan DID do it on purpose but if he didn’t, I bet he was sitting there thinking “huh?” and wondering what kind of parallel universe he’d fallen into during his sleep.
And that’s about all I can stomach, I’m afraid. The whole hate crime thing is deeply flawed and far too open to any old rumours and personal perceptions being classified as criminal acts. There is well-meaning there and I am 100% in agreement that unnecessary prejudice and hate is out there and a real obstacle. But how about this: save the energy and passion for taking down the REAL hate-speakers, not the poor guy who saw a woman, didn’t know that ‘she’ identified as a man and ended up having to take a police interview for an honest mistake that anybody would make.
I need to go now anyway. I have to complete the move into my new house: