My problem with “Hate Crimes”…

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.

commonsense1
[image: pearlsofprofundity.wordpress.com]
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:

  1. 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?
  2. 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”.
  3. 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…
  4. 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.

mistake1
[image: thewomensuniverse.com]
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:

shed1
[image: stevehamiltonphoto.com]

The Captain Marvel controversy is bullshit

I was recently surprised at the intense outpouring of hate and anger being directed at the new Captain Marvel film and as much as I planned to just ignore it, I simply had to read some more about just what the hell was going on. Turns out that I shouldn’t have been so surprised because as usual, it was internet keyboard warriors screaming into their echo chamber and raging about a movie that they hadn’t even seen yet. It was internet keyboard warriors ignoring the fact that this could well be another great Marvel film and urging a mass boycott based on lead actress Brie Larson’s views outside of her role as Captain Marvel.

captain-1

So…not so surprising then. Hate to say it guys but if you don’t want to watch something (for whatever reason) then just vote with your wallet and don’t watch it. What a concept! Heading to the ‘net to start getting angry and firing hateful shots doesn’t paint you in a very sophisticated light. Cinema operators probably don’t want people like you there anyway.

That’s not an attack on all detractors by the way, just the type I have described. It’s always okay to have an opinion and to decide that you don’t agree with something – whatever the reason – but putting it across in a calm, structured manner is always more likely to get people to listen to your view. Making Youtube videos to rage at a camera or posting Tweets comparing Brie Larson to Adolf Hitler is frankly embarassing. Sadly, this is the world we live in now. A world where the internet has given everybody a platform to mount and spew their ignorant, angry view and say things that they wouldn’t dare say in public or to somebody’s face.

The first grumblings I heard about Captain Marvel were from fans complaining that Brie Larson didn’t have the right figure to play a character like Captain Marvel. Given that comic books are primarily sold to a male audience who have grown up devouring artwork that depicts voluptuous, amazonian women in the role of superheroes then that wasn’t surprising. I do personally somewhat agree because the image I have of Captain Marvel (or her aliases, Ms Marvel and Warbird) is something like this:

ms-marvel-cho-1

[Frank Cho is GOD by the way]

I’m not going to sugarcoat anything or attempt to be apologetic because that isn’t the way here on Unfiltered Opinion. I would fucking love it if the MCU version of Captain Marvel had the hips and bust of her comic book counterpart. Imagine somebody like Kate Upton in the costume for example.

BUT this is no reason to slag off Brie Larson and get all personal about things. Also, if you were a true geek, you would recall that Carol Danvers was originally a fighter pilot for the US military so you could in fact reasonably put forward the idea that her statuesque glamour model figure was never realistic to begin with. I certainly don’t remember her filling out as a result of gaining her superhuman powers (correct me if I’m wrong). She has always been a military woman and this would also blow away another of the complaints about the character not smiling enough in the film’s promotional shots. Why would a hardened ex-military woman fighting off alien invasions stand around smiling?

Some fans have taken this the wrong way and assumed that the dark, conspirational powers-that-be in the decision-making roles cast somebody like Larson as the character for this very reason. They think that political correctness is out to get them, remove all traces of sexuality from our movies and sterilise our entertainment in order to satisfy the militant feminists and vocal #metoo crowd. Looking at the wider picture outside of this specific movie, I do think that there is an element of truth in this idea but I cannot believe that it is being driven on a conscious basis, one movie at a time. It is merely a reflection of the times we live in.

Thing is, comic books were – for the longest time – sold to men and teenage boys and written/illustrated by men. Of course, the women were going to be sexy and appealing. It was how they sold comics and also how the creators of said characters wanted them to look. I’m not condemning that because as a man, I’ve certainly enjoyed comics over the years and how the likes of Emma Frost, Captain Marvel and Black Widow were drawn. I will continue to do so too. The movies on the other hand have exploded in popularity and now have to cater to a wider audience if they want to keep on growing. Yeah, it sucks that they can’t look exactly how we want them to but do you expect Marvel to turn away Larson based on her measurements or cup size?

captain-2

But this was only the tip of the monolithic iceberg of hate and resentment that I came across. I ventured below the icy waters a bit further to see just how large this ‘berg was but was careful not to go too deep. You see, the biggest source of anger was surrounding Larson’s comments about Captain Marvel‘s press tour being more diverse and inclusive. Traditional male fans hit back, leaping to the conclusion that the actress was saying that the movie wasn’t for them and that it was a vehicle for political correctness and encouraging diversity.

I don’t want to get too deep into this because I will openly admit that I don’t know enough to start throwing judgments about. What I will say is this: when did superhero films suddenly need to get so deep and involved in social events? We saw it with Black Panther and all the praise for it being a ‘black’ film in the mainstream. I heard more about that than the actual film itself. The fact that it featured a black cast should have been a given since the fictional country of Wakanda is in Africa. Yet somehow it generated this massive buzz as if people were excited that Marvel Studios hadn’t cast white actors in the place of black actors. As far as I was concerned, it was just a very accurate and successful, common-sense casting that anybody would have seen as the only way forward.

And now we have Captain Marvel being in the news for all the wrong reasons and all of this debate about Brie Larson’s comments and beliefs rather than the movie itself. The only thing I’m hulking out about is the superhero genre becoming such a battleground for social issues. Stop all of this bullshit. These are meant to be popcorn films and simple escapism, not Oscar-winning productions or reasons to start debating sexism or discrimination. It was always this way and that was fine.

To the riled-up haters: grow up and just don’t watch Captain Marvel if it offends you. Yes, not everything lines up with what us comic book fans might want to see but flinging shitty insults and ignorant views around in an aggressive manner won’t get anybody to take you seriously. Brie Larson was hired to play the part based on her acting skills and you really don’t need to dig deeper and berate a movie based on an actor/actress’s comments outside of the film. No, I’m not saying that you should like her (or anybody) and you are one-hundred percent entitled to disagree with what she is saying (I don’t agree with a lot of it) but does it need to get any more serious than that?

To the film industry and actors/actresses: stop turning brain-off entertainment and escapism into debates on social issues, sexism, equality, discrimination etc. These are all important talking points but we are exposed to them constantly through the media and society. We don’t need it spilling over into comic book films for fuck’s sake. I want to watch these movies for what they are and decide whether I enjoyed them or if they were shit without all of this background context going on. It’s getting hard to just be a geek for fuck’s sake.

 

Car Talk: Honda turn their back on Swindon

Last month, Honda shocked Britain by announcing the closure of its Swindon factory, scheduled to cease producing the Civic by 2021. As a British bloke, a petrolhead and – above all – a Honda owner this was pretty disappointing news. Of greatest importance however is the impending loss of well in excess of 3,000 jobs from the factory with further reprocussions likely as supply chains and other associated businesses (even down to the snack vans and local eateries that benefit from the trade of the Honda workforce) are hit by the domino effect. Honda’s Swindon factory has been producing cars since 1989 and so Swindon IS Honda. The plug being pulled on operations there is going to hit the town harder than the Honda-powered Mclaren MP4/4 pummelled the rest of the Formula 1 grid in ’88.

hl-1

But why was this decision taken? The first inevitable suspect is the big bad arch-demon in the room that some whisper can be summoned by sitting in the centre of a pentagram and chanting the word “Brexit”. So far though, Honda have denied that the economic uncertainty being felt as a result of our embarassing divorce from the EU is to blame and I actually believe them (for reasons I will explain in a moment). Instead they have cited vague global market shifts and a need to adapt quickly. Sales of diesel cars are falling and electrification is now seen as essential.

None of which really explains why Swindon had to close; not in black-and-white plain-speaking terms at least. One rumour I read online (and I have to stress the word “rumour” given that I have no hard evidence to back it up) claimed that the equipment and robotics necessary to manufacture electric vehicles was actually on the way from Japan but the ships were turned back. Other inside sources claim that Honda had been promising upgrades to the factory to enable production of more technologically advanced vehicles for years now.

So it seems like a very sudden snap deicision and I would be accusing Honda of side-stepping the citation of Brexit as the true reason but the company also announced the closure of a Civic plant in Turkey. Obviously, the uncertainty surrounding Brexit will not help any business make decisions and long-term commitments to the UK but I don’t believe that Brexit itself is the sole motivator for Swindon being axed. Honda, it seems, are simply pulling out of Europe.

As dire as this is for the town of Swindon and the UK economy, I do want to take a balanced viewpoint and ask if this was really such a surprise. After all, the Swindon plant only produces Civics out of Honda’s current range of cars. Additionally, one of the production lines has been dormant for some time now. Finally, should warning signs have been visible? The automotive landscape is shifting towards electric vehicles and it’s odd that Honda has lagged behind the likes of Toyota and Nissan in this field, especially since they were one of the first manufacturers to “go green” and sell the hybrid car to the masses with the gen one Insight and hybrid Civic saloon.

ctr-2
[image: carscoops.com]
Then you have to consider the fact that Honda, as a Japanese business, will always want to be seen prioritising the industry and workforce in their homeland and that could well be another reason for bringing more work home. That and cheaper wages + reduced costs in an industry that has slumped sales-wise. This is understandable of course because if it were the other way around, I’m positive that British people would want manufacturing to return to the UK with little regard for overseas job losses. It sounds harsh but it’s the truth, as cold as it may sound.

Whatever the reasons behind Honda’s decision, one thing must certainly be held against them and that is the way in which the workforce at Swindon became aware of their upcoming job losses. Employees didn’t get the word from their employer; it broke on social media first and the first that many knew of it was when their exit from work was met by TV cameras and reporters. Clearly somebody from higher up said “fuck that” to confidentiality and squealed. It’s a shitty business and make no mistake about it.

Finally, I have to mention the ridiculous idea that Civic Type-R production is going to be axed altogether with the current FK8 generation since Swindon is the only Honda factory producing these winged hyper-hatches. Production is just going to shift to Japan and these cars will still be sold to us as usual…at a higher price no doubt once taxes and import duties have had their say.

Should you still listen to the music of disgraced artists? [ft. R Kelly and Lostprophets]

Back when I was a sixth form student (or “college” in other words), I didn’t have much money at all and I wasn’t clued-up on the dark arts of ‘acquiring’ music for zero outlay so I used to listen to the same handful of CDs – ripped to my MP3 player – over and over. Liberation Transmission by Lostprophets was the soundtrack of my sixth form days and the singles released from the album (Rooftops, A Town Called Hypocrisy and Can’t Catch Tomorrow) were still being played over and over on Kerrang Radio so there was no escaping the Welsh band’s sound…not that I wanted to anyway.

I left education behind in 2008, just as the job market was at a seriously bad point. The recession (sparked by the banking crisis) had hit and jobs were thin on the ground. CV’s went ignored and countless applications for basic office roles were turned down again and again. Eventually, the Job Centre (a government-run set-up here in the UK that is supposed to help you find employment and also ensure that you ARE properly looking for work if you want to keep your unemployment benefit money) sent me on an ’employability’ course which was probably one of the most miserable, demeaning experiences of my life. That’s a story for another day though. Why I mention it at all is because Lostprophets’ music (still on that ancient MP3 player!) got me through those dark days.

So to say I liked their music would be an understatement.

LP1
[image: NME.com]
But then, in December 2012, front man Ian Watkins was arrested and charged with thirteen counts of sexual offences against children including the attempted rape of a one-year-old girl. To say that the news came as a shock was as much an understatement as me saying that I thought his band’s music was just “all right”. It was the sort of headline that you hope isn’t true but unfortunately, Watkins later pleaded guilty to the charges and was sentenced to 29 years in prison.

After that, I was left with a moral dilemma: do I still listen to Lostprophets as I had done before Watkins’ terrible crimes came to light? All around me, others had made up their minds. The band’s music vanished from the airwaves, Music Magpie (a company that buys unwanted CDs/DVDs/Games) wouldn’t accept my Lostprophets albums when I was having a clear-out and people were saying that they felt dirty themselves if they listened to the band.

I’ve even been told that listening to Lostprophets means that YOU are also a paedophile which is utterly ridiculous and a fucking stupid thing to say.

In the end, I decided that I WOULD continue to listen to Lostprophets for several reasons.

  1. I’ve never been the kind of person to ‘follow’ bands/artists closely beyond enjoying their music so in many cases, I don’t even know what they look like in real life. Ian Watkins was one such case so I didn’t have that problem of seeing and hearing ‘him’ when listening to the music, something that others have cited as their reason(s) for no longer being able to listen to Lostprophets.
  2. I remembered that Lostprophets was more than just Watkins. Yes, he sang the songs but they were the work of a group and the rest of the guys weren’t to blame for what had happened.
  3. Because fuck everybody else and what they thought. I liked Lostprophets’ music and their songs meant something to me, taking my head back to the times (for better or worse…) where I hammered the Liberation Transmission and Start Something albums.

I can see why people chose to sever ties completely though. After all, buying and playing their music is kind of supporting a convicted sex criminal in a way. You also can’t cruise around with their tunes belting from your car either because the majority of people simply don’t see it as the done thing.

The uncomfortable truth however is that good music doesn’t stop sounding good just because the singer got banged up for heinous crimes. I genuinely believe that overly vocal former Lostprophets fans who loudly reject the music they once adored still like what they hear but refuse to admit it. Because doing so is seen as taking the side of criminal or even condoning his despicable actions. Bullshit in my opinion. Does a beautiful woman look any less sexy for being a murderer? Is vast wealth and power any less appealing despite being the cause of devastating wars and the oppression of the less fortunate? Do fast cars become any less desirable even though they pollute the atmosphere more than sensible vehicles?

Me, I prefer to just be honest and simplify the whole thing. After all, you can say the ‘correct’ thing in public but lying to yourself is foolish and impossible to boot. So…

I like Lostprophets’ music.

I don’t like Ian Watkins. What he did is fucking disgusting and (by all accounts) utterly predatory. I don’t give a fuck what happens to him in prison.

But now it is happening again, this time with R&B singer R Kelly who turned himself into the police last week. Kelly is accused of multiple sexual assaults, several of the alleged victims being minors at the time. Now this isn’t such a big deal for me personally as I’ve never been a massive R Kelly fan beyond a few songs (a quick look at the bloated music library on my phone revealed that I only have She’s Got That Vibe and Bump N’ Grind) but even so, if Kelly is convicted, will we have to ask ourselves the same questions again? Will his songs be removed from existence as if they never happened?

FILE PHOTO: Singer R. Kelly arrives at the 41st American Music Awards in Los Angeles
[image: tekportal.net]
In the case of R Kelly I can take it or leave it. I like the couple of tracks I have but I’m not bothered either way. They certainly don’t feature in my “Most Played” playlist.

Real fans will have a decision to make however and it will be interesting to see the outcome although I’m already made up on how I think it will go down based on the fallout of Ian Watkins’ crimes.

What would you do?

Suppressing our emotions = bad

So: this whole Liam Neeson thing that caused a major media shitstorm. It got me thinking about us and our society here in the West; about how our culture has developed to encourage the suppression of our true thoughts and feelings. After all, if you admit to an irrational thought-train that pulled into the station in response to a painful personal scenario (like Neeson did) then you are immediately torn into by social media and the militant SJW factions that have been waiting for the next major celebrity to slip up. It is my opinion that we should be able to discuss our darker thoughts openly providing that we haven’t actually acted upon them of course.

Now, I don’t want to go on about this Liam Neeson thing too much because the story is really only a springboard for this topic but I will quickly re-cap it for the three people that missed it the other week as some context is usually helpful. The short of it is that somebody close to Neeson was raped by a black man “years ago” (no actual specific date/year given) and the movie star admitted to walking the streets for a week, hoping that a black man would randomly start some trouble with him so that he could kill them.

“God forbid you’ve ever had a member of your family hurt under criminal conditions. I’ll tell you a story. This is true.”

“She handled the situation of the rape in the most extraordinary way but my immediate reaction was… I asked, did she know who it was? No. What colour were they? She said it was a black person.”

“I went up and down areas with a cosh, hoping I’d be approached by somebody – I’m ashamed to say that – and I did it for maybe a week, hoping some [uses air quotes with fingers] ‘black bastard’ would come out of a pub and have a go at me about something, you know? So that I could kill him.”

“It was horrible, horrible, when I think back, that I did that. And I’ve never admitted that, and I’m saying it to a journalist. God forbid.”

“It’s awful. But I did learn a lesson from it.”

I’m not going to dissect this too much though because the interview has already been analaysed to death. Also, I’m not here to look at the racial side of Neeson’s comments. What I WILL say is that he was crazy to expect he could admit this stuff and not invite a turbo-charged media storm. It’s – sadly – the age we live in and one seemingly innocent admission could sink a career.

ln-1
[image: CNN.com]
And this is the point of this post. There are many with a neutral stance on this story who are saying that Liam Neeson should have just not said anything. As I mentioned just above, I can see why this line of thinking comes about but all it encourages is a suppression of our thoughts, feelings and emotions. What Neeson admits to is some pretty heavy shit and while I could never support what he did, I can still understand to an extent. Clearly the crime affected him deeply and sometimes, these things give birth to wholly irrational thoughts and mental states that seem insane when looking back on them with the benefit of time’s passage. At the time however, the irrational nature of these emotions is very difficult to see if it’s you in the eye of the storm.

Unfortunately, our society has grown highly competent at playing Judge/Jury/Executioner and so if you are considering letting some shit out that has been weighing your mind down then it will take some huge balls to do so. After all, rather than take a balanced approach and attempt to disagree but also understand, it’s much more fashionable to loudly condemn a person for their perceived sins. It’s even easier to do this if the confessor in question wants to open up about anything relating to race or sex. Finally, if you are a celebrity or somebody of high profile, then expect the brain-dead social media sheep to jump on the bandwagon and bleet their rage. Not necessarily because they give a shit but because it makes them look fashionable to be commenting on a high profile news story and be seen to be appalled by something, anything. It’s easy to condemn from that safe spot behind your screen isn’t it? I guarantee that at least 90% of people wouldn’t even bother getting involved if social media was non-existent and doing something about something meant getting off their arses to join physical protest marches.

Hypocrisy rears its diseased head at this point because we are constantly being told that it’s “good to talk” and to be open but it seems that this only stands if the nature of your problems or innermost thoughts is acceptable by the standards of the mindless Twitter mobs, the easily offended and “Won’t somebody think of the children?!?” brigade. Anything remotely controversial or worrying means that you ARE a racist or that you ARE a sexual predator/rapist. As I touched on at the very start of this post, there is a clear divide between having bad thoughts and actually doing something about them. I am in no way excusing those who have followed through on them because it means that somebody else has been hurt or had their life destroyed as a result and the offender needs taking out of society and either punishing or rehabilitating.

But how many of these crimes could have been prevented if society was more open about discussing our more unpleasant thoughts? I ask because it’s basic knowledge that suppressing emotions or hiding certain things only makes them grow stronger over time, perhaps to the point where they warp minds and the owners lose control. We’ve all heard the one about the shy, innocent girl actually being the filthiest of the lot due to suppressed sexuality or having to “watch out for the quiet ones”.

I’m not saying that there is complete, consistent truth in those random examples but one thing I DO know is that nobody is black or white. We are all both. Yin and Yang. Light and Dark. Good and Bad. To try and completely suppress the unsavoury and socially unacceptable segments of our psyche and become modern day saints in the process is a foolish and impossible task. That’s why I believe it is important to talk if it will help ‘release’ some of the bad thoughts but we must be comfortable in opening up without being sent to the figurative gallows. We must also learn to understand and accept that we all have a darkness within and that acknowledging its existence and being comfortable with it could well be one of the best ways of controlling it.

I often like to return to this fantastic quote by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe:

“Where the light is brightest, the shadows are deepest”

At the end of the day, I can’t take the self-righteous whiter-than-white do-gooders seriously when they scream about people being wrong or the devil incarnate for simply having human thoughts. Irrational and unpleasant, yes but human all the same. We evolve over thousands and millions of years so to expect society to shed its primal, territorial instincts so quickly (in relative terms) with no margin for slip-ups is ludicrous. The fact that we are as civilised and morally conscious as we are NOW is a small miracle in itself and shouldn’t be taken for granted.

WK-1
Even this White Knight chess piece casts a shadow…[image: Tiptopprops.com]

The self-righteous and uber-SJWs amongst us try to be as white and morally superior as possible but the stronger their light becomes, the longer the shadows grow. It’s why those crusading for “good” causes have been known to employ suspect tactics in order to get what they want. On a more basic level, these people are no different or better than the average man or woman and will be harbouring the same dark thoughts or desires behind closed doors, even if only in small, harmless quantities. You can’t have Good without Bad due to the nature of a small thing called Balance. The best we can strive for is to be as Good as possible and keep the dark in check while acknowledging that it is there.

So next time somebody “does a Neeson” and comes out with something outrageous, stop and take a moment before reacting. I’m not telling you to agree with their admission or to let it slide without challenge or scrutiny but at least try to understand and ask yourself if you have been in their situation yourself. Can you actually relate? Are you qualified to judge their state of mind without the relevant experience? Most importantly, did the person in question actually act on their irrational thoughts?

What I’m saying is, don’t preach tolerance and freedom of speech if you aren’t prepared to tolerate other people’s thoughts or allow them to be honest.

Brexiteers don’t understand Gibraltar

The latest Brexit-related stink bomb has been dropped and this time it concerns the overseas British territory of Gibraltar which has been described as a “colony” in a piece of EU legislation concering the travel rights of UK citizens post-Brexit. Gibraltar is a complex and long-running item of heated dispute between the UK and Spain, the latter believing that sovereignty rightfully belongs to them (Gibraltar was ceded to Britain in 1713). Back here, the British government hasn’t taken kindly to the “colony” designation or Spain’s refusal to agree to the footnote in the legislation being removed/changed.

I’m not here to debate the issue of Gibraltar though because it’s a big debate that I’m not fully clued-up on and I’m honestly not informed enough to be hurling ignorant opinions about. Plus, as a British man, I’m probably likely to be biased on the matter.

What I AM here to showcase is this terrible hack-job of a digital poster that one of the various Brexit-backing online organisations has produced to be shared on social media for the purpose of sticking it to Brussels for their brazen use of the term “colony”.

Brex-1

I’m not even going to comment on the huge message dominating the image because there’s nothing actually wrong with it. What I DO find utterly daft however is that “Leave Means Leave” logo up in the top-right…

…because it’s a little bit massively ludicrously ironic given that 96% of Gibraltarian’s voted to remain in the European Union at the referendum!

Brex-2

Evidently, the research team for the Leave Means Leave campaign didn’t do a very thorough job on this one. Should I be surprised though? Absolutely not.

You see, these guys didn’t do even the most basic bit of research because they were too busy jumping for joy at being handed another piece of anti-EU ammo to fire back at the evil empire that are now attacking the sacred frontier of Gibraltar. These people don’t give a fuck about the people of Gibraltar or what they want. All they were concerned about was using this latest tit-for-tat news item as a fresh piece of anti-EU propaganda to whip up more Brexit support over social media.

Fucking embarassing.

Bullshit News: Red Bull poster banned

I haven’t posted anything here for around a week (I think) but I’ve been having internet issues that have, quite honestly, left me not feeling up to broadcasting my witty insightful ragged viewpoints if there’s no guarantee that I can get online to publish them. Society’s ability to bamboozle those of us with a common sense approach isn’t hindered by such first-world issues however and so all kinds of “WTF?!?” stories have been flying about and escaping my criticism in the meantime. This one is just a quickie to keep my foot in the blogging door while I work on some “better” stuff.

So, what would you think if you saw the following poster from energy drink giant Red Bull while passing through the London Underground?

rb-1

Clearly it’s just a playful joke but it seems that some people have had a sense of humour malfunction and actually taken time out of their day to complain to the UK’s Advertising Standards Authority. Then again, here I am taking time out of my day to talk about people taking time out of their day to complain about something. The irony isn’t lost on me, I can assure you.

Anyway, the ASA banned the advertisement on the grounds that it implied “unauthorised health claims”. To quote the report from BBC News’ website directly:

One person who saw the poster complained to the ASA that the advert implied the caffeinated energy drink had a positive effect on health, improving focus and concentration.

And here we have the magic word! “Implied”. I’m going to (mostly) gloss over the fact that somebody saw a poster on the tube and went to the trouble of contacting the ASA to lodge a complaint. Haven’t people got better things to do? Perhaps I’m the only one who doesn’t really pay any attention to adverts like this beyond the pictures. After all, it’s always some sort of marketing speak or “clever” wording to get at the cash in your wallet and so I don’t tend to give 95% of ads any of my time.

The thing is though, energy drinks DO improve focus and concentration so there’s no lie there. Reading the ingredients and looking at the facts on how the likes of caffeine, taurine and the various other minerals impact on your body/mind shows that these drinks will give you a boost. This boost is only temporary though and drinking the likes of Red Bull in excessive amounts will either reduce the effectiveness of the drinks over a period of time or simply make you ill. None of this has ever been denied and it should be common knowledge.

Nowhere on energy drink cans does it ever state that the contents provide a positive effect for a consumer’s health. As I said, it should be common knowledge that a can loaded up with sugar, caffeine and fuck knows what else cannot be ‘good’ for you in any way and should be consumed in moderation (or better yet, not at all). If you feel that a poster advertisement is all it takes to lead the general populance astray however then I’m (not) sorry but you are an idiot.

Energy drinks – like alcholol, cigarettes, porn, drugs etc. – provide a quick and easy rush that you KNOW is bad for you. I don’t believe that any of these things should be banned or cracked down on because those who use them responsibly and in moderation will pay the price for everybody else’s lack of self control and education. I firmly believe in doing whatever the hell you want (excluding the likes of murder, rape, abuse etc.) but also being aware of and being prepared to face the consequences should you fuck up.

Furthermore, I don’t believe that consumers are as dim-witted and easily brainwashed as as the SJW and their “save people from themselves” mantra would have us believe. What’s actually happening is that millions of people have zero self-discipline or other underlying issues that they avoid by seeking the quick fixes offered by the likes of energy drinks. Rather than turning to a can of Red Bull, you should be questioning why you are tired or unmotivated in the first place and working to solve that problem. Perhaps you don’t get enough sleep or maybe your diet is the cause. The reason may even be that you aren’t happy in your job and need a change.

Not according to the ASA though:

But the ASA ruled against Red Bull, saying that consumers would understand that the poster did imply those health claims, which were not authorised on the EU Register.

Well I’m a consumer and I wouldn’t even entertain the notion of believing that Red Bull is good for my health, especially not by glancing at a fucking poster in a tube station. I hate to use the well-worn terminology here but it really is just Nanny-State hand-holding once again.

That and the word “Implied”. This word along with the likes of “Insinuate”, “Interpreted” and phrases such as “could be seen to…” are the real problem here. Any news item that uses this sort of vocabulary is either trying to turn vague rumblings into a ‘Story’ or is presenting the opinions of random nobodies on Twitter as facts which is a complete journalistic disgrace in my opinion and only worth printing in cheap, trashy rags calling themselves NEWSpapers. You’d get more factual information from the Page 3 girl’s tits than the garbage “news” printed on the other pages. To see such once-respectable sources such as the BBC promoting this crap above REAL news is sad to see.

The final tragic irony? Those who complained to the ASA probably feel vindicated now that the ad has been banned but the only winner here is Red Bull and the free publicity that they gained.