Bullshit News Special: Clickbait Digest Vol.1

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.

“What to do if your boss is an algorithm”

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[Link to original story HERE]

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.

“Circumcision: I’m scared of my own penis”

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[Link to original story HERE]

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”

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[Link to original video HERE]

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.

 

The Great British political disillusion

[Side note 1: it feels like forever since I last posted here. Things have been shit and motivation to write has been M.I.A. To anybody who cares, I’m back (I think)]

[Side note 2: the title of this post may be a mouthful but the second-rate hack of a writer in me wasn’t happy with the rather vague “Political Apathy” or overly-blunt “British politics is bullshit”. The latter is 100% accurate though]

So…we have just had our local council elections here in the UK. For those living outside of Britain, the locals aren’t the big elections that decide our MPs (Members of Parliament) or governance of the country itself but the vote to decide on the political make-up of local councils. For example, having a majority of Labour councillers in your local council just means that they will have the majority and therefore a greater influence on deciding what goes down in your district.

As you might have guessed – we citizens are SUPPOSED to vote in these local council elections based on issues in our local area(s) and the pledges/previous work of those standing for election. Unfortunately, the colossal shit show that is Brexit has overshadowed the whole thing and people have voted based on national events to make a statement about the ineptitude of the two largest parties – Conservatives and Labour. The glaring problem with this is that local councillers have no input into national events. They have no influence on Brexit. Yet, councillers either lost or gained ground in their local area because of the party they are a member of, not for anything that they have done or promised to do. I’m no fan of BBC news (aside from when they provide me with perfect blog post fodder in the form of bullshit “news” and biased, agenda-driven narratives) but this quote from their coverage of the election results did sum things up neatly:

“The elephant stalking the voting halls is Brexit”

The summary of the results is this: the Conservatives lost a massive 1000+ council seats while the other “main” party, Labour, didn’t lose nearly as many but still lost a lot and – more importantly – failed once again to capitalise on the impotence and general lack of public faith in the ruling Conservative government and their piss-poor handling of Brexit. The winners were the previously-obliterated Liberal Democrats (who rose from the ashes to claim hundreds of council positions), Greens and independents. Interestingly, even the mis-management of Brexit and (apparently) large anti-EU sentiment couldn’t prevent UKIP (UK Independence Party) from losing ground – again.

I didn’t even cast a vote in this election. The first reason was that I had had a huge day at work and by the time I was released from my prison, I was too exhausted and fed up to do anything other than go home, eat and sleep. I can’t deny that it’s a terrible, grossly lazy reason for waiving my opportunity to vote but I completely accept that, as a result, I also waived my right to bitch and moan about the election result.

The second reason is more relevant to the title of this post and that is my general disillusion with politics here in Britain at the moment. On a national scale, the two main parties (the only two with a realistic chance of getting into power) are an embarassment. The ruling Conservatives are constantly on the ropes and led by a Prime Minister who seems to be clinging on by her fingernails, fighting for survival on a daily basis. Their largest rival, Labour, are unable to take advantage of the situation and gain any more public support – shocking given how the current Conservative government is the weakest in years. Both parties are constantly rocked by scandals and resignations that have completely destroyed any credibility in the eyes of many.

On a local scale, the candidates spam our letterboxes with their promise-laden flyers but every year, they are the same promises to tackle the same issues. In short, nothing actually happens between elections or else the councillers wouldn’t still be promising to solve the same problems. The big issues round here are potholes, traffic problems, countryside-consuming housing overdevelopment and crime but reading the pledges on these issues from the candidates gave me a major sense of deja vu. What is the point in voting for people based on promises when the exact same promises haven’t been fulfilled in the time since the previous council elections?

And the flyers they shove through our letterboxes are hilarious. I have to give credit to the Conservative candidate (who did actually win) for sending several letters with pretty candid content that actually criticised his own party for how they have let the country down. The others though? The flyer for Labour’s candidate featured a horrendously pixellated photograph on the front that looked like it had been blown up from a 100×150 JPEG. UKIP’s on the other hand contained spelling errors, the bloke’s mobile phone number scrubbed out with marker pen (but still readable through the dried ink…) and a photograph of the town’s council offices photoshopped to look purple/yellow – the UKIP colours.

UKIP is a populist party as far as I am concerned and the party that people vote for when they feel like casting a protest vote in order to give the establishment their middle finger. They are nowhere near as unsavoury as the far-right BNP (British National Party) but are still difficult to take seriously. Oh and their logo looks like it belongs on the front of a bargain-bin “pound shop” store – always makes me smile.

Poundland-UKIP

Completing my disillusionment is the simple fact that local councillers can promise anything and everything but at the end of the day, if funding from central government isn’t available (which it isn’t these days thanks to never-ending cuts) then there’s nothing that they can do to deliver on their vows to increase spending in specific areas. So even though you are supposed to be voting on local issues and not the national stuff in the news, everything is still ultimately controlled by national budgets.

In conclusion, there is a definite lack of trust in our politics here in Britain and it feels standard to assume that all politicians are self-serving liars, unfairly tarring the decent ones with the same brush. At the same time, we don’t like to rock the boat too much and so the same two parties will continually trade power no matter how poor their performances are. What it adds up to is a glum resignation to the fact that whoever you vote for, nothing will ever change. Anybody offering radical change or a break from the status quo are dismissed as “nutters” and only ever manage to secure a few seats.

TL;DR: British politics suck and if you are laughing at us from the outside, I honestly can’t blame you.

Movie Talk: Heat (1995)

Heat-Poster-1Release Year: 1995     Directed By: Michael Mann   |   Starring: Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, Val Kilmer, Tom Sizemore, Diane Venora, Ashley Judd, Amy Brenneman, Kevin Gage, Natalie Portman, Dennis Haysbert, Danny Trejo, Jon Voight

[Not to be confused with “The Heat” (2013) or Heat (1986), Heat (1972), Heat (1996 Australian TV film)…how many times has this name been used? Jeez…]

I’ll go ahead and begin by stating that Heat is my favourite movie of all-time. It hadn’t used to be; that honour tended to switch between Terminator 2 and the first Kill Bill. Each time I re-watched Michael Mann’s crime masterpiece however, it crept up the order until I decided that, fuck it, Heat may as well be my favourite movie. I can’t say enough good things about it.

The film centres on professional thief, Neil McCauley (De Niro) and determined LAPD homicide detective, Lt. Vincent Hanna (Pacino). Both are dysfunctional individuals with their own code and the cat-and-mouse game between these two main players of the movie is one of its main draws. McCauley heads up a proven crew of organised thieves and is a loner by nature, living with the philosophy of not having anything in your life “that you cannot walk out on in thirty seconds flat if you spot the heat around the corner”. For McCauley, making the big scores is his life and all he wants to do. Hanna on the other hand is a workaholic cop that puts his job first at all times, even at the expense of his increasingly frustrated wife (Diane Venora) and step-daughter (Natalie Portman). Hanna is determined to take McCauley and his crew down and is unable to avoid putting the hunt aside to rescue his marriage.

The thing I absolutely love about Heat is that there are no irrelevant, filler scenes or dull moments – quite an achievement for a film that goes beyond the two-hour mark. Even the scenes that involve characters simply talking are enthralling because the writing and characterisation is brilliant. Obviously, the stars are De Niro and Pacino but the supporting cast are just an important. From the crazy Waingro (Kevin Gage) to the disillusioned Donald (Dennis Haysbert), there are so many memorable performances. Then there are the women who have to suffer for the actions and decisions of their other halves – just one of many subtle plot threads woven together to produce the epic tapestry that is Heat.

Another notable bit of genius is that it’s impossible not to like the characters no matter if they are good-hearted and innocent like Eady (Amy Brenneman), psychotic and violent like Waingro or greedy and unsavoury (most of the criminals). Heat is a character piece as much as it is a crime thriller or action movie and it feels natural to understand where everybody – good or bad – is coming from. Many of the characters blur the line between being wholly good or bad and this is probably what makes them so endearing as this is what it means to truly be human. We viewers may not partake in anything as dramatic as holding up armoured cars or putting big-time crooks behind bars but we can still relate to the characters and their motivations.

Heat-1
[Source]
The action scenes are another highlight of Heat, particularly the gun battle in downtown LA as McCauley’s crew attempt to escape following their carefully-planned bank heist gone wrong. This kind of scene just wouldn’t exist today for many reasons. First up, there are no unrealistic and unnecessary explosions or dynamic action shots. There’s no music either. What you get is a group of guys simply trying to get away, using cars as cover while shooting at the LAPD, deafening bursts of assault rifle fire echoing off the buildings. It’s exactly what a real-life version of this scene would sound like and I’ve even read that their tactical retreat was used as a reference for police or military training (though how true this is, I can’t say). The whole thing feels raw and natural and is totally immersive.

The final showdown between McCauley and Hanna is another scene that would never be permitted today. Hanna gives chase to a desperate McCauley across the runways of LAX, even running across the path of a taxiing passenger plane at one point. As I understand, this kind of filming is now strictly prohibited in a post-9/11 world which is a shame but completely understandable.

Heat is a masterpiece of scripting backed up by superb performances from all actors involved. Every set-piece, every action scene and every conversation is special. I know I’m probably gushing over this fim and I haven’t said anything bad about it but really, I can’t think of anything. If you’ve somehow missed it then you should really rectify that mistake because – as cliched as it sounds – they really don’t make ’em like this anymore.

Sick

Do you ever have those moments where you feel sick of life and the world around you? That’s how I’ve been feeling over the last few weeks. Admittedly, a big chunk of the contributing factors to my down-in-the-dumps mood are a) things that I am already aware of and b) things that can be ignored or forcibly blocked out. I’m not seeking sympathy here. I know that I must actively try to reject the negativity around me and work on myself to tackle the things affecting me personally. That’s all on me.

As for being ground down by things that I’m already aware of, this is the danger of waking up. We are surrounded by bullshit and falseness but we walk through life not seeing it even when it dances before our eyes. I’m talking about the rampant materialism, commercialism and blatant corruption that we all KNOW is there but forget to question. Turning a critical eye on all of this is a double-edged sword because while it’s a good thing to analyse something rather than accepting it at face value, doing so can also spawn an entirely unnecessary resentment towards the world and its mechanations. I say “entirely unnecessary” because in most cases, there is absolutely nothing that we as individuals can do to change anything.

But you don’t want to hear my half-baked musings do you? You want to know just what it is that is killing my mood and bringing me down, don’t you? Well, there’s too much to list so I will just briefly mention the stuff that is swimming close to the surface…like sinister aquatic nightmares lurking in the shallows.

I put the news on this morning (a big mistake in itself) while I eat breakfast. Somebody has detonated bombs at multiple churches and hotels in Sri Lanka, killing around 180 people and injuring more than 400 (at the time of me writing this post) in cold blood. So much for celebrating Easter.

Ads on the radio bigging up the increase in both the National Minimum Wage and National Living Wage, featuring upbeat backing music and “down-to-earth”, working-class, just-like-you (honest!) voiceovers to promote this tiny, mandatory pay packet increase. Just don’t mention the fact that wages still don’t increase fast enough to match rising costs or that employers can still work their employees into the ground in shit jobs because ten others are lining up to take your place should you decide to throw in the towel.

TV ads set in bright, expensive homes where wide-eyed unnaturally enthusiastic pensioners talk about funeral plans. You get a £100 M&S voucher for joining! Wow!

Ads in general with people and companies just trying to sell you shit all the time. Want to listen to music on the radio? Want to watch an episode of your favourite TV show uninterrupted? Tough. Here, buy this shit instead.

The masses blindly inviting crap like Alexa and “smart” technology into their homes, completely oblivious to the fact that they are handing over more and more control of their lives to the corporations as well as inviting it’s maker or any internet hacker to eavesdrop on their privacy. Real stories of smart technology getting a little too smart and doing crazy Terminator shit are apparently just comical anecdotes to chuckle at then forget. If somebody said, “hey, can I just install this speaker in your house and connect it to the internet?”, you’d say “fuck off, mate” or “get off my property”. Sell it as a convenience however for those people too fucking lazy to get off their fat asses and turn a light on with the switch and suddenly they can’t get enough of the idea, even PAYING for it. Idiots.

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The rollout of “smart” energy meters that allegedly save you money. Do your research. The savings aren’t that monumental. Worse still, why is nobody listening to the people who are warning us that the energy companies can control your energy useage remotely with these things? How about the fact that they will be able to charge you different rates depending on what you are using the electricity for? Or how about being stone-walled by your provider when the “smart” technology combines the readings for everybody in the street and sends you a ludicrous bill for everybody’s power consumption?

The government and companies putting all of their eggs into one basket and making more and more critical technology reliant on 4G and 5G despite the blinding danger of terrorists and rogue states taking out the whole lot in one go, tech failure or the ability for people to hack and take control of more and more of our lives. Let’s not even mention the fact that the UK pays foreign companies to build most of this tech and infrastructure…

All of these eco protests that have been happening. I see the people being arrested and all I see are rich-looking, suited types who can AFFORD things like expensive electric vehicles while us working-class normal types CAN’T. I see hippie students flying high on their massive student grants who aren’t holding down crappy jobs to get the bills paid and need their battered-up, dino juice-consuming transportation to get shit done. I see thick-rimmed faux-nerd-glasses-wearing, organic London coffee-shop-dwelling hipster morons who don’t have a clue about normal jobs and life outside of social media and The City.

The increase in random stabbings and the heart-breaking murders of young adults who did nothing wrong and had nothing to do with these vile cunts. All the while, the government expresses sympathy before sticking it’s fingers back in it’s ears and continuing to cut police funding.

The drawn-out misery that is Brexit and having to constantly hear about it.

Pressure and stress at work getting so bad that I have been feeling physically ill and angry enough to kick things, punch things and get shouty. At the same time, I don’t have the confidence to start all over somewhere else with new people even though I know that this is the next logical step that HAS to happen soon for the sake of my health.

Obsession with celebrity and looking up to these people as if they are important or awe-inspiring. No thanks.

People drooling over the latest phone(s) and paying insane contract charges just to have the newest handset. Each to their own but I don’t get it. Queuing outside Apple stores for a phone that you will rave about for the first week then bin without hesitation next year for whatever ‘+’, ‘R’, ‘XS’ or whatever update is released is the dictionary definition of materialism running rampant. Last week I had to listen to a 20+ minute monologue (I won’t use the term “conversation” because I only had the chance to input the words “Uh-huh” or “Right” at the correct places) from a work colleague about how he phoned up his network provider multiple times and had all of this back-and-forth hassle to get a contract upgrade. It was enthralling.

My email inbox drowning in reminders to address Facebook notifications, view what people have shared or to check out somebody’s status.

All the pop-ups on my PC reminding me that my anti-virus and firewalls are out-of-date and MUST be upgraded or else I am at risk. Hackers CAN see me and my files WILL be stolen. Honestly, the wording and fear tactics that AVG use is absolutely disgusting.

I could go on forever but you get the gist (hopefully). Paranoid ranting? Angry childish tantrums? Possibly, possibly. As I said near the beginning of this post, I know that I need to be ignoring almost all of this and just getting on with my life but sometimes I look around and see so much shit that is just heading in the wrong direction with gaping problems. Any legitimate concerns about overly-intelligent tech for example would just be brushed off as “stupid” worries inspired by fantasy like The Terminator. I see stupidity and monstrous naivete. I see society breaking down. I see our “free” world gradually becoming more and more censored as the SJW and “think of the children” nutters demand that we are choked by restrictions and a growing list of what and what isn’t “allowed”. I see companies caving to their demands and people actually buying into this shit. I see people drugged-up on tech and material possessions, kept in their places just as the corporations and governments WANT.

I see all of this (and so much more) and sometimes wonder what the future holds and how I’m going to deal with this crap only swelling in prominence. The do-gooders are already trying to take away my love of cars and motoring by demanding that we all drive around in yawnsome dishwashers loaded with smart technology that carries the kind of morons who shouldn’t even be on the road in the first place.

I feel sick of it all and sometimes want a way off of this planet before it’s too late.

Next Time: something more positive!

 

Let’s NOT stay connected [Part 2]

Some time ago now, I wrote about the hassle of mobile phones and how I cannot stand being contactable at any time no matter where I am. If you missed that angry, anti-social rant then you can read it here. Unfortunately, things have gotten worse since then…much, much worse.

Now I am being hassled to join a work’s WhatsApp group. This is apparently going to be a good idea and allow the department to remain connected (*shudder*) and ditch the slower methods of text messages and those dusty old things from yesteryear that we knew as “phone calls”. For a stubborn, introverted S.O.B like me, the idea of my phone continuously pinging with work chatter or teh funniez isn’t fun at all. It’s absolute HELL and an inconvenient nuisance that I simply do not want to invite into my life. If you’re the kind of person that embraces all of this kind of shit and think Whatsapp is a cool thing then you’re probably thinking, “what the fuck is this weirdo going on about?”

So let me just break this down rather than attempt to form flowy paragraphs of justification:

  1. I hate work. I don’t want to talk about it any more than is necessary and I am confident in betting money on a work’s WhatsApp NOT shutting the fuck up once our shift(s) is over.
  2. I’m really not interested in pointless small talk or sharing humorous gifs or memes.
  3. I don’t want the hassle of being expected to reply to stuff.
  4. I don’t want the intrusion into my personal time/space.
  5. As I said in Part 1, any time somebody calls me while I’m working, it’s usually related to problems, disasters or shit that has gone wrong. I REALLY don’t want more of this when I’m trying to get my job done.

As I said earlier, I am an introverted person. I intend to hopefully make some more posts on this (often misunderstood) personality type sometime in the near future but suffice to say, we don’t enjoy this sort of thing and we certainly don’t find the idea of being connected something to get excited about.

wa1

I would much rather turn my phone off completely and be done with it all as soon as possible. The world aggravates me. People aggravate me. That might sound cold and monstrously anti-social but I simply have a limited amount of energy for socialising and have to expend it all during the day dealing with customers and work colleagues. Anything extra on top of that is genuinely a big ask which is why I have zero interest in joining a Whatsapp group and getting involved in any more chatter than is necessary.

This isn’t me saying that I hate my work colleagues or don’t want to talk to people. It’s actually the opposite. I get on with the people I work with and there’s a part of me that wishes I was more extroverted (because it’s difficult being an introvert in an extrovert’s world) but I’m not and I’ve learnt from experience that fighting your natural personality (as opposed to accepting it) only causes greater despair and misery.

But sometimes it seems that society won’t let you just be you. Resisting the WhatsApp conversion nets you odd looks or probing questions. I understand and expect this of course but I wish that “no” was enough. If I don’t want WhatsApp then I don’t want it. Leave me be.

Please.

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.

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[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:

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[image: stevehamiltonphoto.com]

Desensitisation to violence

I currently have a large list of topics and ideas for posts that I will hopefully be getting around to in the coming weeks (if anybody is interested that is) but I wanted to put them all to the side and talk about this – something serious – for today’s post. The growing desensitisation to violence and cruelty in our society. It’s something I’ve noticed more and more as the years pass and quite honestly, it concerns me. Perhaps it shouldn’t but it does. And I think more people should sit up and take notice of what’s going on because there are many questions that can and should be asked.

I’m talking about indifference to the latest terrorist attack wherever it happens. A bomb obliterates a marketplace of innocent people in some far off Middle Eastern country? Shrug of the shoulders. No surprise there. Carry on watching Netflix.

An unhinged teenager brings a machine gun to show-and-tell day and fills his classmates with bullets just because “nobody liked him” or a girl turned him down for prom. Yawn. Seen it all before. Show me something new.

A woman is raped and brutally murdered on parkland simply for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Whatever; it happens all the time. Push it down to the minor news items so that we can focus on the real news. Who is illicitly shagging who in showbiz for instance or how Kim K’s butt looked in public this week.

I get it. There’s nothing that getting upset or overthinking on stories like these will achieve. We are constantly bombarded with terrible news on a daily basis and so it is probably only natural that we can only be shocked by so much before the shocking gradually loses its ability to deliver a gut punch. Further, it’s easy to look at awful things happening in faraway locales and not feel threatened by it because of all that space between us and them. It’s a luxury of the western world that shouldn’t be forgotten.

But often I am seeing fun being made of atrocities and savage violence; horrific, needless losses of life being trivialised and accepted as ‘normal’. Don’t get me wrong: I can take a joke and see the logic in laughing so that you don’t cry but I see this desensitisation being taken too far, too often. Nowhere is this more prevalant than with school shootings in the US. These are some of the worst things I have ever seen reported on TV: innocent children being shot to pieces for no crime other than attending school. Young lives cut short for no good reason and families/friends destroyed. I see these events unfold on the news here in the UK and it genuinely breaks my heart…and I’m far from a weepy, emotional sap – believe me.

Others clearly don’t feel the same though. I recently watched the video for Foster The People’s Pumped Up Kicks on Youtube (a song that alludes to school shootings) and the comments section was interesting to say the least.

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I don’t believe that any of these people mean malice or are necessarily “bad” people. Also, this is a music video and not a political/social battleground so I wouldn’t EXPECT serious discussion. However, do these comments reflect a general lack of respect to the results of school shootings? Are these people US citizens poking fun at these horrible tragedies that are occuring in their own country? It’s one thing to be unable to react emotionally to attacks in foreign countries but in your own? Obviously this is Youtube and the internet so we can’t assume contributers’ locations.

But why is it that we – as a society – are able to make fun of apalling acts of murder and act so indifferent to them? I personally believe that it’s down to the “it won’t happen to me” mindset that too many of us have. We feel safe in the west even though we know that murders and shootings are happening in our midst. There’s also the fact that we are “drugged up” on entertainment and non-important life content. It is all too easy for us to shut out life’s horrors and bury our heads in videogames, movies and the internet. Sometimes, it’s the real world that feels like the fiction while the fluff and materialistic things have a greater power to offend or anger us.

Even so, try explaining your latest school shooting joke as “harmless fun” to somebody whose daughter was shot dead at high school. Inform the friends of a dead highschooler that they can’t “take a joke” after they get upset at the latest fatal shooting spawning “witty” humour. To me, it’s wrong. People are only able to come out with this stuff because they personally haven’t been the victim of a similar attack. I really hope they don’t ever have to experience it for themselves but if they did, I imagine that the laughing and clever jokes would stop.

Sometimes I look around and wonder how we got to this point so quickly. I don’t doubt that bad taste humour has always been around (because it has) but the millennial generation have taken to it like a duck to water and continually push the boundaries. Then I wonder to myself: how much worse will it get? How much are we prepared to laugh about? Children are growing up with shootings, stabbings and brutal killings being the norm thanks to a media that is determined to broadcast them to us on a rolling twenty four hour news feed. If it’s no longer out of the ordinary then how will it shock?

In my mind, it all comes back to our lives being too easy with no real hardships. Yes, we all experience suffering to different degrees for various, personal reasons but we are all fortunate nonetheless. If we lived in war-torn countries then I doubt we would be posting amusing memes about death on social media. Was WWII funny for the generation who being called up and sent to their probable deaths in trenches? I doubt it.

I’m not really sure where I intended to finish up with this post. All I can say in conclusion is that this desensitisation to violence is disheartening and unhealthy. I hope that attitudes might change but I think that the indifference is only set to grow.