Wednesday, 31 January 2018

The Last of the Famous International Paedo Hunters

Evening - hope everyone is doing well.

I think it's a fairly safe bet that nobody 'likes' paedophiles. Whether you perceive what is 'wrong' with  adults who are sexually attracted to children as some sort of malfunction, the manifestation of pure evil or somewhere in between I am yet to meet anybody who thinks "you know, I think paedophiles get a bit of a bad press and are perhaps a bit, how do I say this, misunderstood". Often held up as a reason to restore capital punishment, people regarded as 'nonces' or 'kiddie fiddlers' are and shall remain, at least for the foreseeable, the lowest of the low, even when placed alongside other serious criminals such as murderers, armed robbers, kidnappers and terrorists.

There is a reason for me stating this undisputed obvious-ism. In the last few years the phenomenon of the 'online paedophile hunter' has emerged, with adults (usually young men) taking to internet chat rooms late at night and often into the early hours of the following morning, posing as girls aged 13-15 and seeing who amongst the adult population bites. Those who do are then taken down the road of arranging a meeting, only to be greeted by the 'stingers' who take photographs and record footage which ends up on their website or Facebook page. Sometimes this 'evidence' is passed onto the police and these outfits have been known on occasion to become key in securing convictions.

Now there are a great many who admire the work of 'Paedo Hunters' like the quite aptly named Stinson Hunter and see them essentially as diligent, community-minded citizens picking up one of law enforcement's many fumbles and running right to the endzone with it. The police and the courts, they reason, frequently let predatory paedophiles get away with soft sentences and then release them to re-offend. Judges who don't live in the 'real world' simply tell them they've misbehaved and to go to prison for a few years when we all know they should have their bits chopped off and be left to bleed to death in the street - all in the name of 'the decent majority' of course.

There are a few other important dynamics at work here - firstly, support for the likes of Stinson Hunter and 'Dark Justice' is a surefire way to register that you're just as disgusted by the behaviour of paedophiles as the rest of the population, a classic case of "my enemy's enemy is therefore my friend" if I'm ever going to see one. In this endarkened age in which we live, it also represents a sort of 'democratisation' of justice, the removal of the monopoly on investigating crimes from recognised law enforcement and a recognition of some sense that "the law belongs to all of us, we simply choose to delegate it out to them" - one person's 'mob rule' is of course somebody else's people power.

However, something else that has been greatly democratised in 21st century Britain is fame and I'm pretty sure it's this, rather than community spirit or a genuine concern for child welfare that motivates the overwhelming majority of those who devote large parts of their time to entrapping would-be paedophiles online. The first clue is the nature and status of those who take to such activities - where are the former business owners, entrepreneurs, surgeons, authors or astronauts taking to the web (or indeed the dark web) in the sly hours of the morning to dangle a bit of pyrite jailbait? The reality is that most partaking in this are in either dead end employment or none.

With dreams of becoming a rockstar or a bestseller stumbling out of their typewriter long behind them, and the reality of their lives feeling somewhat unsatisfactory, their choices in terms of ways to remedy the situation are fairly limited and go roughly as follows: a) actually do a bit of hard work, learn a new skill, that kind of thing b) apply to go on the next series of Big Brother, or rock up on Jeremy Kyle to discuss why it's not that bad that he's marrying his fiancee (even though she also happens to be his cousin) or c) seek out someone even lower in the food chain to launch a 'moral crusade' against and 'get famous' that way. Paedophiles tick box c) rather neatly.

Look, there's nothing stopping somebody from doing this 'paedophile hunter' thing as a sort of hobby, quietly handing their evidence over to the police and cracking on with their 'real lives' outside the glare of publicity. Although I'd still dispute the merits of what they were doing, I would have no problem whatsoever accepting that their motives were indeed the right ones as well as those stated. However, none of these 'sting operations' operate discreetly and out of the public eye - moreover, the explosion in the number of them since Stinson Hunter and 'Dark Justice' achieved notoriety smacks of opportunistic gatecrashers eyeing a cheap way to snatch their fifteen minutes of fame.

There are of a multitude of selfless and noble activities that individuals can (and in many cases do) involve themselves in where they live. Vulnerable people don't always have a support network or family to call upon and rely on the kindness of those who are at least partially inspired by a genuine desire to give something to others. There are charities which are aimed at saving people from distress or danger, conserving the environment, providing support to those suffering from illness or improving the welfare of animals. Some choose to contribute financially and others give their time, but none of them (well us, actually) demand that our name goes up in lights in return.

If self-styled 'paedophile hunters' were doing a genuine public good then you could perhaps take the utilitarian view of things and conclude that this outweighs the disingenuous nature of their motives. However, the reality is that these idiots represent a danger, not simply to law enforcement and their attempt to catch offenders 'the old fashioned way' but to every last one of us and our way of life. That's before we even countenance the possibility of mistaken identity, the lives of the wholly innocent being ruined and the potential disasters (including suicide) which can result from that. One out of 100 cases being of mistaken identity can only be described as one too many.

What people frequently fail to factor into conversations about complicated issues is the element of the unseen. If a paedophile who is under police investigation finds themselves on the end of an internet sting and works out it is a sting, perhaps even thinking it is the police then they may adjust their behaviour or go off-grid accordingly, totally undermining the police's efforts at great expense to the taxpayer. Publishing their 'evidence' online may also undermine the ability of the accused to get a fair trial and, if represented by a savvy lawyer, see the blatantly guilty (not to mention expensively investigated at our expense) walk out of court unpunished, free to offend again.

We never hear of the disasters, only the success stories.

Perhaps what makes me most angry about dickheads like Stinson Hunter is that there are pernicious, nasty and authoritarian bastards out there just itching to nibble at basic rights like that to a fair trial with the presumption of innocence and due process. Emotive topics like terrorism and rape (see this week's news regarding Danny Kay and Liam Allen) have been used as 'ways in' by those with sinister agendas in the recent past and by using the highly inflammatory subject of abuse against children, plus the working methods that they do, these online vigilantes offer low-hanging fruit to dark forces seeking to strip all of us of freedoms that were won on the battlefield by others.

While we're here, you have to pause and reflect on the mindset of anyone who goes online for several hours at a time, pretending to be a 14 year old girl who is "well up for it" and continuing conversation about all manner of 'adult' topics with men ostensibly two or three times 'her' age. Forgive me, but that clearly comes across as being distinctly at the 'unhealthy' end of the scale and probably poses a truckload more questions than it answers. It even leaves me pondering whether, given their determination to get to the epicentre of the sexual abuse of children, some of these self-appointed 'international paedo hunters' may have 'issues' in the area of being attracted to kids themselves?

Remember all those Tory MPs who had impeccably homophobic voting records (pass section 28, no equal age of consent, don't repeal section 28, no to civil partnerships) who later came out as gay?

Food for thought, I'll leave you to make up your own minds on that one.

Ultimately, the Stinson Hunters and Dark Justices of the world remind me of that colleague possessed of limited ability and the work ethic of a cadaver, but who manages to survive by inviting the pointing of fingers at others and throwing them under the proverbial bus. Were these supremely talented people then they would be applying those talents to something much more productive and rewarding for themselves and others. Were they community-minded in the true sense then they would be helping people (or perhaps animals) in the locality of where they lived with their money and/or time, while not expecting fame, affirmation or a round of applause in return.

What these bastards don't do to help others speaks volumes - in short they are scum, and just as bad as paedophiles themselves in their own way.

I just regret having given them some free publicity.

Anyway, I'll be back Sunday to discuss something 'edgy' like perils of tribalism, why representative democracy fails or racism in politics. If you have a serious topic that you'd like to see covered on these pages then feel free to nominate it on Facebook or the comments here.

Meanwhile I'll leave you with a tribute to all the fame-seekers and see you next time. Thanks once again for reading.

Sunday, 28 January 2018

Two Birds with One Stone - the 'White Working Class' and Men's Rights Activists

Afternoon - be assured that I mean it when I say that the Toddler Left and Toddler Right are two sides of the same toxic coin.

I appreciate some may have felt that the coverage on here has been a tad one-sided recently, so hopefully what you're about to read deals with any perceived imbalance.

I remember this rather well - about fifteen years ago the perception held by a significant number of people (rightly or wrongly) was that the government and establishment were devoting a disproportionate amount of their time to the pursuit of 'minority causes' (be this ethnic minorities, LGBT crusades etc). Processing the situation through something of a 'zero sum game' lens, what would soon go on to become 'the white working class' saw this essentially as validation and resources that could and should have been spent on them, especially given their 'indigenous' status as well as their sheer number. The embryo of an all-new 'identity politics victim group' was up and running.

During the campaign leading up to the 2005 General Election, the Tory candidate Michael Howard tapped into this emerging zeitgeist by claiming to be representing 'the Silent Majority' - although he went on to define this 'group' in a deliberately vague 'catch all' fashion (see 'hardworking families' for a more recent example of this magnolia everyman-speak). Basically 'the Silent Majority' was a label that could apply to just about anybody who worked, paid income tax, didn't break the law and generally felt they had been 'left out' or 'ignored' by the political class in recent years. As an absolute minimum this 'White Working Class' were a significant subset of the group Howard was referring to.

Straight away we've touched on the main issues with this new 'group', its apparent motives and indeed its entire reason for existence. Although the 'White Working Class' sets itself up as a response to identity politics and perpetual victimhood based solely on 'group membership' rather than the real events of people's real lives, the unavoidable truth is that the creation of this 'group' is a mirror image using the same modus operandi, a competing version of identity politics and the whole 'auto-victim' thing rather than a principled rejection of it. Moreover, far from being part of some oppressed group that has been silenced, these uber-snowflakes appear never to shut up.

Michael Howard deserves some credit on a political level for identifying these resentments within society and marketing a political response to them that was mildly effective, especially as he did it through a widely despised organ like the Conservative Party. Sure, he was never going to win the 2005 election but slashing the government's majority by 100 was a significant achievement, without which the results of 2010 and 2015 wouldn't have been possible. It was also the point at which many working people resolved 'never to vote for Labour again', as some ultimately turned to Toddler Right outfits like UKIP or the BNP, while most stopped voting altogether.

However, that this self-identified 'White Working Class' represents a significant voting bloc does not confer any greater rectitude (moral or otherwise) on its interests than would be the case with any other form of group or identity politics. It's worth pointing out that just as there is a difference between the guy across the road who happens to be gay and militant LGBT bullshit, the 'White Working Class' is not a reference to every 'White European' individual who happens to have been born into a low to middle income background. It does not include (say) the aspirational like myself, who work towards a more affluent existence and don't feel like 'traitors' for wanting that.

Just as the antics of those who choose to define themselves by their sexual orientation or 'transgender identity' serve as something of a 'rolleyes' moment, you have to question the wisdom (and in some cases the sanity) of anyone who makes a point of wearing their skin colour or the dirt under their fingernails as a badge of honour. It implies 'specialness' and a sense of entitlement at the expense of others, based solely on 'identity' rather than some objective, universally acceptable reason (disability or mental illness, for example). By extension it creates an idea of there being 'issues' uniquely important to that group, but which must be given immediate priority by everybody else.

I mean...who can forget 'the pink bus' run by the Labour Party to represent 'women's issues' during the 2015 election? Strokes like this actually cause me to ask the old counter-intuitive question:- just remind me, who's the sexist here? As a bloke looking at it from the outside, I find the suggestion that a homogenous block called 'women' are interested solely in free childcare and how much maternity leave they can get (so therefore need their own bus to promote these issues) rather insulting and, dare I say it, more than a tad sexist. long before we get a 'White Working Class' bus (painted white, presumably) to bang on about 'evil Muslims' and immigration?

If we're taking this madness to its logical conclusion, what about a 'Black Bus' for black people or a 'Yellow Bus' for the Chinese? Seeing as pink has been taken we'll now need a 'Lavender Bus' for LGBT and please suggest your own bus colour/causes combos in the comments section.

Look, whatever shade you paint this bullshit, it's still bullshit - and back to the original point, this 'White Working Class' is no less infantile, no less pernicious and no less transparently false than any other form of identity politics.

I might be pale-skinned and have lived in a council house when I was younger, but I reject this idiocy just as any sane, rational, responsible individual should.

Since I mentioned the pink 'women's issues' bus it seems expedient to quickly deal with the gender-driven equivalent of the rather dismal 'White Working Class', namely Men's Rights Activists. I have had dealings with a few and was sort of friendly with an American MRA at one point who used to publish mainly political and economic stuff with a bit of Men's Rights Activism thrown in. Now, based on the 'stopped clock' principle it's possible for anyone to be right as long as they essentially focus on the failings of 'the other side' - what the worst Feminists and worst MRAs tend to say about each other is invariably balls-on accurate (apologies for the pun).

However, saying "all women are the same" is just as bigoted and discriminatory as the most sweeping generalisations that radical Feminists make about men. Moreover, if there's one thing worse than listening to an army of embittered women whining and playing the victim, it's having to endure the husks of what are supposed to be grown men doing exactly the same thing. Apparently women are privileged, they all go round falsely accusing men of rape and ruining their lives for kicks. The Family Courts are inherently biased in women's favour, it's all like the Dark Ages in reverse polarity and men are 'oppressed' now. This bunch of whining pussies need to grow up.

I was going to write a case study on the Family Courts/Fathers 4 Justice thing separately so very quickly:- 90 per cent of couples who split up manage to sort their childcare arrangements out without getting the courts involved. More than half of those who remain settle in preliminary discussions and reach a resolution that everyone can live with. It's true that in the majority of cases amongst the remaining 3-4 per cent the mother ends up with Primary Custody, but this is because the overwhelming majority of the time that mother has been the principal caregiver to the child, perhaps having put her own job or career on hold in order to do so. This is fair enough.

The MRA/Fathers 4 Justice cry of "bias against men" in the system and calls for an assumption of shared custody deliberately seeks to ignore what the arrangement was while the couple was together. For some bloke to say "I know I pursued my career and liked to go out on the piss every weekend but now we've split up I've suddenly decided I'd like to be this modern, involved parent - and the courts should give me what I want" is a request for privilege and not equality, a demand that other people comply and fall into line with whatever Dad wants. It's a self-centred form of bullying based around 'parental rights' and not child welfare as is claimed - and it stinks to high heaven.

Having watched several documentaries about F4J and seen interviews with their key players, I came away with the unequivocal view that in the unlikely event of being caught up in a custody battle I wouldn't want these arseholes anywhere near it. One of their founders, a bloke called Matt O'Connor, admits to alcohol and mental health issues which no sensible person should hold against him on a personal level, but that has to be factored into a balanced assessment of how much access he gets to his kids. Demanding that a child serves as some sort of crutch to keep Dad off the sauce or away from the dark places his mind sometimes ends up in is totally unreasonable.

To ask my usual question...who's the parent here?

Like all other forms of group advocacy, the noise generated by the 'White Working Class' or Men's Rights Activists is driven by the pursuit of the unearned, an infantile sense of entitlement and not simply the claiming of their own rights but an assertion that their rights are somehow more important and/or worthy than the rights of other people. One of the great tragedies of representative democracy is that this irrational nonsense has to be listened to, with nothing buying votes quite like acknowledging victimhood based on 'group' membership. Individual freedom and responsibility may be 'where it's at' philosophically, but there are demonstrably less than zero votes in it.

So...the Toddler Right have latched onto MRAs and the perpetually angry 'White Working Class', just as the Toddler Left have welcomed their 'natural enemies' historically.

Like I say, two sides of the same toxic coin - please don't ever accuse me of not being logically consistent.

Democracy was 'sussed' economically and degenerated into a ponzi scheme several decades ago, maybe what we're currently witnessing is the exposure of its equally obvious flaws on the social axis.

I'll leave you with an unlikely cover of a 'working class anthem' - keep your head, stay rational and let's catch up midweek to discuss vigilante Paedo-hunters. Thanks for reading once again.

Friday, 26 January 2018

Petition to repeal 'Hate Crimes' Legislation - the Government Responds

Morning - getting an early one in seeing as it was wholly unplanned.

A couple of weeks ago I compromised myself somewhat by signing an e-petition when I only agreed with half of it. The petition, titled "Create a Free Speech Act and Bring an End to 'Hate Speech' Laws" gets something of a mixed response seeing as the first half of it calls for state intervention in favour of freedom of expression. This strikes me as being something of an oxymoron, just as a 'permission to breathe Act' or a 'permission to make an honest living Act' might be. Liberty exists in the absence of legislation, not the presence of it - and once you accept that 'freedom' is something the state 'gives' you, there's an implied acceptance of that same State's right to take it away.

However, a Parliamentary debate on the subject of 'Hate Speech' laws and whether or not they should be repealed was more than worth turning a blind eye to the well-intended but misguided concept of a 'Free Speech Act', so I happily signed and pretty much forgot about the thing. To be absolutely honest I anticipated that the repealing of laws around 'Hate Crimes' was always about as likely as someone naming an old people's home 'the Harold Shipman residency for the elderly', but I was genuinely surprised when the government responded to signatories of this petition yesterday. More than anything, it was that they felt the need to respond at all that caught my eye.

Here's the government's response in full:-

The Government is committed to upholding free speech, and legislation is already in place to protect these fundamental rights. However, this freedom cannot be an excuse to cause harm or spread hatred.
Current UK legislation values free speech and enables people who wish to engage in debate to do so - regardless of whether others agree with the views which are being expressed. Everyone has a right to freedom of expression under Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). This is a qualified right however, which means that it can be restricted for certain purposes to the extent necessary in a democratic society. This means that free speech is not absolute.
Importantly, the law ensures that people are protected against criminal activity including threatening, menacing or obscene behaviour both on and offline. The Government is clear that hate crime and hate speech are not acceptable in our society, and anyone seeking to use freedom of speech as an excuse to break the law should still face the full force of the law.
A hate crime is any criminal offence, for example assault or malicious communications, which is perceived to be motivated by hostility or prejudice based on a person’s actual or perceived race, religion, sexual orientation, disability or transgender identity. The Government takes hate crime very seriously, which is why we published the hate crime action plan (Action Against Hate: The UK Government’s plan for tackling hate crime) in July 2016.
It is also worth noting that section 29J of the Public Order Act 1986, for example, states that the offence of inciting religious hatred, does not restrict or prohibit discussions, criticism or expressions of antipathy, dislike, ridicule, insult or abuse of particular religions.

In this way, the Government believes the law strikes the right balance between protecting citizens and protecting their right to free expression.
Home Office

Ok, so it's pretty clear from this that 'Hate Crimes' are here to stay and won't be repealed at any point in the foreseeable future. The digestion of their response to the petition is a bit of a "where to start?" moment so perhaps the best way of approaching this is to deal with it point at a time and then present my observations/critique/rebuttal of what the Home Office is saying here (I doubt that Amber Rudd wrote this personally, probably either a junior minister or an unpaid intern). Anyway... 

The Government is committed to upholding free speech, and legislation is already in place to protect these fundamental rights.

Well straight away we're on rocky ground. The best and in fact only way to protect free speech is to pass precisely zero acts of Parliament and have as little on the stature book (preferably nothing) pertaining to it as possible. Legislation assumes that this 'freedom' is actually the State's to give you and therefore something that same State can remove at any time that it deems such action necessary, for any reason or none.

However, this freedom cannot be an excuse to cause harm or spread hatred.

Didn't take us long to start 'playing God' did it? Moreover, we've rapidly headed down the 'deliberately vague' route that should make anyone with a healthy respect for individual liberty somewhat uneasy. If by 'harm' you mean inciting a riot, or slandering/defaming somebody then there were already perfectly good laws covering those situations long before 2006 when 'Hate Crimes' legislation came into effect. If by harm you are in fact referring to merely upsetting or offending someone else by expressing a personal belief or point of view, then the notion of laws to protect people from being offended is absurd. The vague use of the word 'harm' is the issue here.

As for 'spreading hatred', as nasty as that is how person A feels about person B, or tries to persuade person C to feel about person B (i.e. spreading hatred), is none of the state's business. What people then go out and do is another matter entirely.

Current UK legislation values free speech and enables people who wish to engage in debate to do so - regardless of whether others agree with the views which are being expressed

Nice words and I like the 'voltaire sentiment' that appears to underpin them. However, the presence of 'Hate Crimes' laws and those centred around 'Hate Speech' in particular would suggest that this is not the reality.

Everyone has a right to freedom of expression under Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).

See my earlier response about freedom of expression being yours by right and not something for the Government (or as in this case an international body like the EU or ECJ) to give and withdraw from you as it pleases.

This is a qualified right however, which means that it can be restricted for certain purposes to the extent necessary in a democratic society. This means that free speech is not absolute.

It's true that freedom of speech is not absolute. It doesn't give you the right to incite violence or disorder. Nor does it allow an individual to broadcast or vocalise what they know to be untruths about another person, or to raise a false state of emergency or alarm (crying fire, bomb etc). However, the Uk did not have a massive problem with individuals doing these things and the powers that be being unable to respond prior to 2006. All of these scenarios were covered by laws around incitement, public order offences, slander, libel, defamation etc. Taken at face value, laws around 'Hate Crimes' do not actually give anyone a single new right, or criminalise anything that was legal beforehand.

So...what's the point of them?

Importantly, the law ensures that people are protected against criminal activity including threatening, menacing or obscene behaviour both on and offline. The Government is clear that hate crime and hate speech are not acceptable in our society, and anyone seeking to use freedom of speech as an excuse to break the law should still face the full force of the law.  

'Threatening, menacing or obscene behaviour' was already illegal, as was "using freedom of speech as an excuse to break the law". I mean, the clue really was in the title regarding that second one wasn't it?!! As for these things 'not being acceptable' I'm still yet to understand what the government seeks to render 'unacceptable' that was previously 'acceptable', at least legally.

A hate crime is any criminal offence, for example assault or malicious communications, which is perceived to be motivated by hostility or prejudice based on a person’s actual or perceived race, religion, sexual orientation, disability or transgender identity.

FFS!! Assault is against common law and if by 'malicious communications' you are referring to knowingly false statements about another individual (as in a malicious accusation) then as I've already stated more than once, this was already covered by libel/slander/defamation law. Then again, by 'malicious' you could simply be referring to an everyday meaning of the word - to the effect of nasty, spiteful, expression of ill-will etc. No doubt this can frequently take forms that are unpleasant and offensive, but freedom of speech has to be especially for the unpleasant and the offensive, otherwise it is not worth having.

But then...race, religion. sexual orientation, disability or transgender identity. Is the real agenda here to set up a series of 'special groups' in society who the rest of us will then be frightened away from commenting on, let alone daring to criticise, question or ridicule? Just out of interest are anti-white racism, heterophobia and attacks on 'men who identify as men' (that's my 'transgender identity', apparently) covered? Surely either everybody is 'covered' by this stuff or nobody is if we're interested in genuine equality as opposed to setting up certain 'priveleged groups' in society? Personally I'd rather nobody was 'covered' and people were free to say pretty much what they like.

Also note the sneaky inclusion of the word 'perceived' in there - perceived by who, exactly? We all know that perception can be highly subjective and less than wholly reliable, especially when the right to 'play God' ends up in the hands of the police or somebody feeling victimised.

The Government takes hate crime very seriously, which is why we published the hate crime action plan (Action Against Hate: The UK Government’s plan for tackling hate crime) in July 2016.

Oh a Hate Crime Action Plan!! I bet the Windsor Chapel of the Ku Klux Klan are shitting themselves...

It is also worth noting that section 29J of the Public Order Act 1986, for example, states that the offence of inciting religious hatred, does not restrict or prohibit discussions, criticism or expressions of antipathy, dislike, ridicule, insult or abuse of particular religions.

Yes, but what if someone finds the criticism, antipathy, dislike, ridicule, insult or abuse of their religion 'harmful' or 'malicious' under the terms of what you've outlined above? Can't you see the antagonism between these two pieces of legislation, how someone might look at both and have far less idea where they stood afterwards as opposed to far more?

You'd be forgiven for thinking that someone, somewhere was being deliberately vague and confusing just to intimidate freethinkers into silence, perish the thought.

In this way, the Government believes the law strikes the right balance between protecting citizens and protecting their right to free expression. 

That there is a 'balance' to strike, be it between liberty and security or across 'competing rights issues' is one of the most pernicious activities that States participate in, allowing them as it does to get away with trampling on the personal freedom of their citizens in the name of some contrived greater good. There are no 'competing rights issues' outside of common law and every last one of us should have the right to say things that might cause offence, to be offended by views expressed by others, and to counter what we've just heard by registering that sense of offence/disagreement. The right 'not to be offended' or indeed a right 'not to be challenged' does not (or at least should not) exist.

Once we establish that legislation around 'Hate Crimes' cannot possibly exist for the reasons stated (since those reasons were already covered by the law of the land beforehand) it become valid to ask whether there might be some more sinister agenda behind them. What occurs to me regarding 'Hate Crimes' is the extent to which they have put a lot of decent, reasonable people on edge and genuinely unsure of where the 'acceptable lines' are (they even sound Orwellian and I don't think that's an accident either). The contribution that freedom of expression makes to our society is sometimes unquantifiable, but however expensive it may be, it's still more than worth it.

I just hope enough of us wake up to this reality before it's too late.

I'll leave you with the recently departed Mark E Smith - RIP and thanks for the memories.

Appreciate you dropping by once again and catch you on Sunday.

Wednesday, 24 January 2018

Just Look What You've Lost - Beware of Bullseye Syndrome

Evening all - a few years ago I was in a state that lay somewhere between an existential crisis and being full-blown depressed. While talking to the doctor I made a point about how there were so many people offering what was simplistic "if I were you" type advice, which, I might as well add right now, I had not asked for. The utter stupidity of those offering such peals of wisdom was not lost at me at the time. The phrase "if I were you" is its own inbuilt logical fallacy, seeing as the person offering the advice is by definition incapable of truly seeing the situation from the perspective of the person being advised. What they would do in the same material position is actually rather uninteresting.

My doctor nodded and told me this was a phenomenon he referred to as 'Bullseye Syndrome', named after the audience participation part of the game show where the team with £445 are invariably implored to GAMBLE!! the lot on the chance of winning a speedboat (which really came in handy for the couple who lived in a tower block), caravan, all-in-one home gymnasium or whatever. That the £445 already might won might be immensely useful to those in possession of it never occurs to those in the crowd, who just want a bit of excitement and have perhaps deluded themselves that this is what they would do in the same situation. How on earth would they know?

'Bullseye Syndrome' is basically the tendency of people to offer advice to the effect of "go for it and don't even consider the negative consequences" from the comfort of their armchair or soapbox, safe in the knowledge that the consequences for themselves of this being rather poor advice are precisely none. Self-justified by the ready-prepared excuse of "well you didn't have to listen to me", those debilitated by Bullseye are basically cowards living vicariously by encouraging others to take bold steps they lack the intestinal fortitude or the spine to go through with themselves. It's ten parts voyeurism and ten parts assessing the terrain of their own life.

This kind of advice exists in many forms - it could be an instruction to make a move on that person you like, or give up your secure income to throw yourself into some business venture, or something to the effect of "you might never get to do this again, so you MUST do it now". The humiliation, potentially ruined friendship and other social awkwardness of being rejected, the possibility of someone's family ending up homeless and without a pound to their name, or basically any other consideration, do not come into it. Life through the 'Bullseye Lens' is incredibly straightforward - 'going for it' = Bravery and any sane, rational assessment of risk = Cowardice. Simples.

The reality is that people offering such advice invariably do not navigate their own existences using a similar modus operandi. As I stated earlier there's a voyeuristic element to it and it can often take the form of sadism as well, with the 'executive consultant' in something of a no-lose position. If things go to plan then it was all down to the quality of the advice received. On the other hand mishaps can simply be shrugged off with "well you didn't have to listen to me", as we mentioned earlier - plus there's the small matter of a nice 'motorway pile-up' to get an eyeful of from the sidelines. In the world of moral hazard the question as always is...what could possibly go wrong?

Perhaps this strikes some of our readers as a slightly odd topic of discussion, but I take an interest in psychology and have always considered these pages to be a nice fusion of the personal and the political. Advising someone to "do as I say, not as I do" is a telltale sign of an authoritarian mindset if I've ever seen one, as is engaging in schadenfreude and reveling in the misfortune of others. I've seen where this type of 'advice' can land those too prone to trust, and note that when the shit hits the fan the armchair philosopher is off down the fire escape, several stratospheres from any offer or attempt to help clean up the mess. Talk about finding out who your friends are.

'Bullseye' advice, and those offering it, should be avoided like the plague.

If I'm honest I clocked this at fifteen when faced with a non-romantic situation in which I rationalised that the only smart, intelligent move to make was to ensure that my 'feelings' for a certain someone never became public knowledge. Watching the less rational and less cynical plunge off the cliff-face like lemmings (one made a series of unhinged late night 'booty calls' and another wrote a monologue tribute to, er, Dana, the love of his life) stiffened my resolve and, realising that two lives and not one would be turned into circuses I bit down on the gumshield and hung on for dear life. Let them think you're asexual, homosexual, anything to avoid armageddon.

You're both better than those parasites.

Doing the right thing involves not simply doing the right thing, but understanding that there is no presentation or medal coming your way for it afterwards. of the difficulties of 'Bullseye Syndrome' is precisely how many people suffer from it. Many years later I developed similar 'feelings' for someone I worked with, but it was accompanied by a lingering sense that something wasn't right, that I was being roped in by a counterfeit human being, an actress getting her lines from somewhere else. Quite regrettably I get greyskulled one night and confess the existence of these 'feelings' to someone else from work (I was stressed out and neither eating nor sleeping properly). Cue absolute mayhem, total havoc played with careers and massive interference from mulitple directions (believe me, people like this are VERY authoritarian).

Not only do I end up in a very messy personal and professional situation, I become utterly convinced that my previous act of dignity, mental strength and tactical awareness was actually some dismal stroke of cowardice, the processing of which impacted both my physical and mental health. Look, we all 'play for a draw' in life sometimes, usually because we're aware that the odds of success are greatly outweighed by the prospect of going for broke and ending up on the end of some sort of shellacking be it physical, emotional, spiritual or financial. There is nothing whatsoever wrong with that, but respecting others means respecting their right to process these things the same way.

As a general rule I offer very little advice and tend to keep that which I do give to areas in which I have an established knowledge of the subject. Moreover, I limit it these days to when it is either specifically being asked for or I 'get' the topic of a discussion in which I'm involved. At the risk of breaking that rule I wish more of us approached the concept of guidance with a similar mindset, but then that probably means a great many dropping the nosy form of authoritarianism that they're sadly infested with. Other people are not guinea pigs and their lives are not 'experiments' in the laboratory of the world - they mean just as much to them as yours or ours do to us.

So...put the remote control down. Please.

And...stop asking everyone else what they think. Nobody knows you quite like you do after all.

I'll return on Sunday with something Toddler-Right orientated as I appreciate they've got off somewhat lightly in recent weeks.

Perhaps a two for the price of one piece concerning the 'White Working Class' and 'Men's Right's Activists' - let me know if you have any better ideas.

In the meantime I'll leave you with 'friend of a friend' Simon Roadnight and his distinctly above average band, Raspberry Tortoise. Thanks for reading once again and see you next time.

Sunday, 21 January 2018

The Austerity Myth

Afternoon - in political terms, my 'formative years' were probably the New Labour era that really started at the turn of the millenium (they were on a sort of probation period between 1997 and 1999) and ended when the Coalition was left to clean up the mess in 2010. There's a certain clarity that we're all inclined to have about formative or significant periods of time in our lives, and one of my most striking memories was of a popular desire for ever-increasing levels of public spending. This was matched by the political parties who invariably engaged in a strange sort of Dutch auction over who could spend the most of other people's money. It was the zeitgeist of a curious time.

Generally speaking, the thread would go something like:- Labour promise to increase spending on Department XYZ by 5 per cent next year. Faced with the challenge of either competing with their opponents or sticking to their guns, the Conservatives would typically propose smaller increases than the government was offering (say 3 per cent in this example). Come the next election, that more modest rise in spending on Department XYZ is presented not as a smaller increase, but a real terms cut equivalent to the closure of schools and hospitals, the sacking of doctors, surgeons, teachers and classroom assistants. It worked, the election results of the period are testament to this.

That 'Tory Cuts' poster with the scissors for the letter T remains etched on my brain even now, as does the billboard with Margaret Thatcher's hair meshed onto the top of William Hague's head (apologies to anyone trying to enjoy their dinner). Suddenly it became conventional wisdom that Thatcher had savagely cut public services to the bone, closed some down completely and significantly reduced spending on others. In 1990, Britain was apparently a Minarchist tax haven akin to Hong Kong or Singapore, but this was simply untrue. Thatcher ran a 40+ per cent state in ten of her eleven years in office - and it was 39 per cent in the year 1989-90.

Supporting ever-increasing levels of public spending was associated with kindness, compassion and being forward-thinking while if you were a 'small-state low tax kinda guy' then this clearly denoted a sort of scrooge-like meanness, a wish to return to the days of Dickensian squalor, of sending young boys up chimneys and what have you. When the government started borrowing to fund their latest round of electoral bribes, sorry I meant spending increases in 2004, the Tory MP Howard Flight dared to suggest out loud that this was a rather unwise move, that his party should go into the next election promising to reverse those increases and balance the books.

Flight was slaughtered mercilessly and hung out to dry by his own side - alas, he has of course been proved right by the events of the years that followed but it really was that crazy in the mid-2000s.

Speaking of the years that followed, the crisis of 2008 and beyond was undeniably compounded in the Uk by the steady but very real creep towards Socialism that had occurred in the preceding eight or nine years. Indeed, by the time Gordon Brown was booted out of Downing Street in 2010, State spending represented a whacking 48 per cent of GDP. In parts of the North of England, Scotland and Wales this was actually significantly higher and the sort of figure you'd expect to have seen in Eastern Europe immediately before the collapse of the Berlin Wall. Yes, this was artificially raised by the running of deficits but 48 per cent represented a de facto Socialist State nonetheless.

It's worth pointing out that we are still running deficits, albeit more modest ones, and the books have not yet been balanced. This is often forgotten when the word 'austerity' is used to describe attempts by the Coalition and now the Tories to gradually reduce that negative figure to zero while causing minimal levels of disruption and, perhaps crucially, remaining electable. Just rattling off a dictionary definition of the word austere (severe or strict in manner or attitude) is enough to blow this characterisation out of the water. What the Irish did, namely taking an axe to State spending and insisting on balancing within a few years, was austerity. And it has done them good in the long run.

Gradually working down from negative £125 billion a year to break even over the length of about a decade cannot be described as 'austerity' in this lifetime or the next.

One of the massive problems that I alluded to earlier is the scale of electoral bribery that has greatly increased the size and scope of the welfare state, dragging millions more people into some form of welfare dependency than was the case circa 15 years ago. Once people 'need' handouts to sustain their standard of living, it becomes safer from a political angle to cut legitimate functions of government like law and order, defence or education than it is to (say) reform tax credits and/or limit the 'free stuff' being offered to affluent pensioners. Throw in the 'sacred cow' status of the NHS and we've seen some mad, mad choices in terms of where to cut and by how much.

So what people are watching is a 'slash and burn' approach towards the military and police in particular which gives the impression of some sort of ideologically-driven move towards austerity. However, it's worth pointing out that as recently as 2016, a nominally Conservative government was spending 42 per cent of GDP, with most of that expenditure heading in the general direction of the Welfare State. Given that many frontline services have indeed been cut, it's worth asking exactly where this 42 per cent as going - as well as to consider whether or not the regular increases of the Labour years were used efficiently. Perhaps some really tough choices are needed?

And...let's nail this 'ideology' thing while we're here. It's been argued that cuts to public spending due to a recession represent some sort of power grab along the lines of "never let a crisis go to waste", but there's a significant slice of 'if only' in this. Let's use nice round numbers in the scenario I'm outlining to avoid confusion. Say you have an economy generating £1 billion a year and public spending totaling £400 million (so a 40 per cent share of GDP). Due to horrendous economic circumstances this economy shrinks by 20 per cent back to £800 million just before you call your next budget. This leaves you with two 'gardens of options' and a very important decision to make.

One choice (and predictably enough, the one that I would make) is to cut public spending in such a way as isolated the 'needs' and slashed all the 'wants' (i.e anything non-essential) until we get to the £320 million figure needed to sustain the 40% slice of the cake - I accept that anything beyond that could be construed as ideolgical, but I'm not arguing for that. Alternatively, you could keep the absolute level of £400 million intact and either tax or borrow the additional cash to pay for it (given that we've already established your economy is in trouble you would most likely be borrowing the money). This would of course raise the State's spend relative to GDP from 40 to 50 per cent.

It's quite apparent from over here that the ideological choice in that scenario is that of not cutting spending in absolute terms, especially when we factor in the truism that Statists do not argue for or even truly accept the need for reducing public spending, at any time or for any reason. It's actually the advocate of Socialism or big government who is refusing to let the crisis in our hypothetical scenario go to waste, while reducing spending in line with what we understand is the type of State that can be afforded is not 'austerity' at all, but simply a fiscally responsible approach to the reality we happen to be confronted with. Precisely nobody appears to be making this point with any conviction.

Look, I'm a pretty small state and low tax kinda guy myself, and wish we had taken inspiration from the Irish approach to the crisis of circa 2008. However, that's precisely the point - nothing on anything vaguely resembling the same scale has happened with regard to public spending in the Uk and I wish people would stop using the word 'austerity' to describe some rather tame, modest and gradualist spending reductions over what will end up being about ten years. A 42 per cent State is not 'austerity', unless you aspire towards the Scandinavian model and are comparing what we have to that - by all means argue for what you want, but let's also be honest about who's being ideological here.

I have an uneasy feeling that only 'allowing' Momentum to crash and burn the Uk economy will restore some sanity to the conversation. I sincerely hope I'm wrong.

Anyway I'll be back midweek so thanks again for reading. I'll leave you with some music and catch up with you all next time.

Friday, 19 January 2018

Why Politician-Bashing has to Stop

Afternoon - hope you've all got your eye in and are in good form.

If you're looking to start your own blog or set yourself up as some sort of social or political commentator then here's a bit of useful advice being offered by somebody in the know, totally free of charge. A really 'fast forward' way of securing some sort of fanclub, cheap validation and a bargain basement round of applause is to latch onto the 'anti-politician' line of argument, crank up the distortion on your amplifier and screech into the microphone as loudly as you can. You can come at it from either end of the spectrum, both of which have their own brand of anti-politician type populism, but as is always the case with Toddler Left and Toddler Right, the formula is the same.

If you're coming at it 'from the left' then you need to bang on about how 'the political elite' have 'betrayed' the ordinary people of this country through its cosy relationship with 'the rich' and big business. Scapegoats include 'the 1 per cent', male or white privilege, the entrepreneurial class (many of whom are of course 'class traitors' by Toddler Leftist logic) and of course, those career politicians who have 'let this happen'. If your diaper happens to lean 'to the right', then simply substitute these scapegoats with immigrants, foreigners, 'political correctness gone mad' and politicians ignoring 'the silent majority' and 'the white working class' in particular.

All of this is perfectly doable on an easy-to-digest 'by numbers' basis and with very little original thought whatsoever. You'll become more popular than this site within about a month and probably go on to achieve some sort of mainstream recognition while accumulating a bit of a fanclub and the desired reviews in various publications, both positive and negative. I'm not even charging a fee for the spot of first class 'consultancy' you've just been given, so please simply remember me when you clean up at the Total Politics awards, or appear on Question Time - "without whom", and all that. In fact I'm pretty sure this is what a lot of 'political commentators' are actually doing.

I'm back writing not to service personal ego, but because I know that having used the blogosphere in the past as a tool for rationalising my own thoughts, I have something far more profound to talk about 'this time' than I did when I was actually 'somebody' within the Libertarian corner of the blogosphere six or seven years ago. Unfortunately, I engaged in a bit of crude politician-bashing of my own back then, partly because what I was saying had more than a grain of truth to it and to pick off the low hanging fruit that was 'the political class' to create a feelgood vibe among our readers. It was a cynical, stupid and counter-productive thing to do, something I rather regret.

To be clear this doesn't mean that I have a fundamentally different view of politicians to that which I previously held. Look, career politicians in particular, those who have precious little and in some cases virtually no 'real life' experience, are  of course a pretty dismal bunch on all sides and perhaps the old maxim of "if you've nothing nice to say then say nothing" can apply here. Nor am I saying that the particular actions of individual members of Parliament, public figures or indeed governments should not be analysed and criticised robustly if needs be, as and when they occur. This stuff is in the public eye, frequently impacts all of our lives and is quite rightly fair game.

What I changed my mind about circa 2 years ago was this depiction of 'ordinary people' as 'victims of politicians' as if we're all suffering from some collectivised version of battered wife syndrome. If you look at the Toddler Left and Toddler Right, both appropriate self-righeous victimhood at every chance that presents itself, usually on the basis of nothing more than membership of some 'oppressed group' that they feel has been 'betrayed' by politicians and is therefore 'owed something' for what most sane, rational adults would be inclined to conclude is an imaginary or made up reason rather than a real one. 'Politician-bashing'  merely feeds and amplifies this sense of victimhood.

A good analogy would be with the 'unlucky in love' type individual who has maybe half a dozen short lived relationships and reaches a conclusion along the lines of 'all the same' or something like that. Now it may seem 'nice' to offer validation and a sympathetic ear to someone in that position but it's quite apparent that once you're into relationship four, five, six then they are either the unluckiest person on earth or at they are at least a partial cause of their own problem and in need of some introspective time out of the game to work that out. They might be picking 'the wrong types', be poor relationship-builders in some way, have unrealistic expectations, 'issues' of their own or whatever.

Saying "there there, it's not your fault and I'm sure you'll meet the right person soon enough"  is probably what they want to hear, but is ultimately going to lead him or her down the path of doing anything other than the work that they almost certainly need to. It will either lead to a form of messiah-seeking, a rather unhealthy quest for that 'special' individual who is "not like all the others" or the polar opposite, a narcissistic retreat towards isolation and self-imposed Spinsterism, the whole 'nobody is good enough for me' thing. Either way, the sense of self-righteous victimhood (and therefore entitlement) ends up being re-enforced rather than challenged.

Politician-bashing is just another variation on this ridiculous princessery, one which I'm rather embarrassed about ever having participated in. Setting ourselves up as Cindarella outside the ballroom at five to midnight, waiting to be 'swept off our feet' by the latest 'messiah', then claiming victim status for ourselves when they don't deliver the 'utopia' they promised us is pretty desparate, especially when we then delude ourselves "don't worry, Mr or Miss Right will win the next election - and if that doesn't work out then it's not our fault either". The 'first move' here is not politicians magically changing their behaviour, it's actually us uplevelling as individuals.

When we do that work then two important changes occur organically. One is the immediate rejection of victimhood based solely on group identity rather than real events that might have occurred in real people's real lives - I find it striking that while we embrace such nonsense as Black Lives Matter and LGBT, we seem to have become less empathetic towards each other on the individual level. Secondly, once we reject the Utopia that career politicians believe that they have to promise us in exchange for our votes, the question of what purpose they serve (if any) becomes one we can ask rather loudly, one I'm struggling and am honestly not that keen to find an answer for.

So...why not replace RepDem with Sortition and deal in this new reality ourselves?

I understand to an extent that the language of "betrayal" and "it's not your fault" provides something of a warm glow, but it's astonishing how many otherwise sane, rational and intelligent people engage in social and political issues with a mindset that they would find lamentable in others as and when they came into contact with it in 'real' life. "Left wing victimhood" has brought Momentum to the brink of running the country and the government preferring to keep a lame duck leader in office rather than triggering an election they would probably lose. "Right wing victimhood" gave us 'the Donald' and the misfortune of a squalid Brexit that happened for all the wrong reasons.

It's an unhealthy sort of silliness that I should never have gone near and be assured I will not indulge again. Please pull me up if you notice any 'slippage' on that point as I'd like to think we're above all that on here.

Anyway, thanks for reading and I'll leave you with some appropriate music. Catch you on Sunday.

Wednesday, 17 January 2018

The Uk Independence Party (UKIP) - an Obituary

Evening all of you.

I think we can safely close the book, read UKIP the last rites and bury them. Last week was a pretty terrible one even by the standards of their last couple of years, and its hardly like they were coming into it from a position of strength. Since 2015 we've had four leaders (and the current incumbent is teetering on the precipice), an 18-day reign of error, people claiming to have been at Hillsborough and played professional football when they didn't and MEPs deciding to settle their political differences by going for a proverbial straightener on the cobbles. Anyone who thinks they have a future is either sorely deluded or badly needs to lay off the solvents. UKIP are done.

Someone I respect referred to UKIP as a racist party on social media recently and I've been reflecting on that intermittently during the day. Five years ago I would probably have told anyone calling UKIP racist to shut up and stop flinging mud at people they disagree with, but in the last two or three years I would have to concede that it's a far less black and white issue (apologies for the pun). They saw an opening in the short-term grab that is the squalid anti-immigration market, and not without a degree of success. However, this became what we might refer to as the UKIP paradox - namely the reasons for any good results they achieved also became the cause of their rather rapid demise.

It would be churlish to dispute that UKIP definitely had their moments. In 2014 they became the first party other than Labour or the Tories to win a nationwide poll for a century when they won the European election. They then polled 13% of the vote at the 2015 General, although our rather archaic voting system meant this only translated to a single MP (the Liberal Democrats and SNP both got significantly more seats off many fewer votes). There were numerous occasions on which they were a whisker away from securing stunning by-election triumphs, but narrowly finished second - a problem emphasised in 2015 when they finished second in no less than 120 constituencies.

However, there's much to be said for that old saying "if your auntie had bollocks she'd be your uncle" - the reality is that despite whatever relative success they had and despite the noise and hype around them, UKIP managed to win a parliamentary seat from a standing start on precisely ZERO occasions. Of the three instances in which they 'flipped' an MP (namely Bob Spink, Douglas Carswell and Mark Reckless) only Carswell remained a UKIP Member of Parliament after the election that followed. Nigel 'man of the people' Farage stood for election to Parliament on no fewer than seven occasions and lost every time, most notably in the South Thanet constituency in 2015.

There were two main issues with UKIP as an organisation, both of which we've covered as potential pitfalls for any political group in the past. One was rabid anti-intellectualism, its rather primitive commitment to an angry nativist form of 'common sense politics' which certainly tapped into a zeitgeist of the first half of this decade, but is also liable to render any party a 'poison brand' in the eyes of large swathes of the population. Moreover, it became nigh on impossible to describe what UKIP-ism is, meaning that anger replaced ideas, serving as a very clear 'not welcome' sign to anyone identifying as young, forward-thinking and definitely a product of the modern world.

This feeds into my second point. When talking to my good mate Chris Coey last week I stumbled across something of a shared talent, namely the ability to pick up the 'political vibe' coming off somebody who is speaking about a subject. Let's be clear, there wasn't always a nasty vibe coming off UKIP and its representatives, but in its latter years the arsenic levels gradually rose until you expected to look at your fingernails and find they'd changed colour. They had quite consciously and deliberately become a 'nasty party' - even if they weren't a "shut the door, we're full" outfit, they sounded like one, and their low-rent brand of populism turned out not to be all that popular.

Any political party which discards imaginative and well thought out policies for white noise and a series of loud grunts about foreigners is going to have an element of 'stuck record' about it before too long and end up with a distinctly limited shelf life. In their 'peak years' I can only ever remember UKIP having three policies that were confirmed, namely 1) leave the EU, 2) stop or at least significantly reduce immigration and 3) ban the burka (I know).  They had once been a small-state, free market type party but abandoned that to chase votes in the North. They flirted with being pro-civil liberties for a period but discovered there were negative votes in that and piped down.

As a result, the only thing capable of keeping UKIP together was not a shared philosophy or view of the world, but a cultish demagogue who ruled with a cocktail of wide boy charisma and an iron fist. Step forward Nigel 'pretty straight kinda guy' Farage. Taking over after UKIP's Kilroy-inspired Euro election success in 2004, he remained at the helm for almost all of the next decade, aside from a brief period when he stood aside to contest the speaker's Parliamentary seat in 2010 (as you already know, he lost). Numerous ex-colleagues complained about our Nige being boorish, a bully, a misogynist etc, with one, Martha Andreasen, famously referring to him as 'just like Stalin'. Lovely.

But then again, just as Iraq just might have needed Saddam Hussein and Libya needed Colonel Gaddafi, perhaps an egomegalomaniac like Farage was the only type of leader under whom a disorganised rabble like UKIP could have thrived. It's certainly true that nobody who has followed him has managed to hold things together for long, although an alternative view is that Farage deliberately turned UKIP into what it became, frightening off independent and original thinkers, precisely to render it a sort of 'cult' and nurture dependency. One way or another, he was certainly the reason for many committed members of UKIP choosing to end their association.

One, quite incredibly, was Dr Alan Sked, who had founded UKIP in 1993 as something altogether removed from what it became. His vision of the party was of a moderate centre-right outfit that was anti-EU membership but had policies in all of the other major areas. He expelled Farage from UKIP in the late 1990s, partly over Nigel's wish to bring ex-National Front members into the organisation, partly over a disputed claim about Farage using racist language and also a tendency to turn up for official business (i.e. work) in what could be politely described as a 'relaxed mood' - a legal challenge was mounted, Sked couldn't afford to fight Farage's people and so it was he who had to go.

Dr Sked later distanced himself completely from the "Frankenstein's Monster" he had inadvertently created.

Alas it didn't have to be that way, and this is the point I've deliberately left until late. So many people credit UKIP with 'getting us the EU referendum' through threats of Tory defections and Dave panicking. This is true to an extent but also assumes that had UKIP not been there to serve the purpose they did, precisely nothing else would have been. This is a denial of the sort of political gravity that most of us understand, namely that political parties stay in business because a market for someone or something like them continues to exist. Who's to say that something far more well-run and professional couldn't and shouldn't have occupied that space instead?

Which means...maybe, just maybe Brexit happened despite UKIP and not because of them. This is something I think you'll hear on this site, possibly EU Referendum and precisely nowhere else but I've always been uncomfortable with the slice of the credit that has been casually handed to the Kippers and believed that it may have been somewhat overstated. While Farage himself cut something of a background figure during the campaign, where was any other member of the party at this critical moment that they had apparently worked themselves into the ground to engineer? Either AWOL or deemed irrelevant and worse than useless - either way it's a reason to think again.

Probably the most damning aspect to consider about UKIP is that despite having had Euro MEPs for 17 years at the time of the referendum, they were still no closer to nailing down a process by which we could unravel ourselves from the EU. This begs the question:- apart from trousering money from the 'EU gravy train' they claimed to despise and wandering round the South of France getting shitfaced, what exactly were those UKIP MEPs doing? Throw in the small matter of two of those MEPs (Tom Wise and Ashley Mote) going to prison for crimes of theft or dishonesty and it's worth asking if these were really 'men of the people' or an opportunistic bunch of political bogus roofers.

A tribalist's dream, to say that UKIP were light on substance is a mite generous if anything.

Anyway RIP and I appreciate it's unkind to speak ill of the dead, but hopefully you'll appreciate that history needs to be recorded accurately. The truth is the truth.

I'll leave you with the best song I could think of and thank you for reading once again. Catch up with you next time.

Tuesday, 16 January 2018

I Was Wrong about...the Apolitical

Evening - philosophy is an ongoing process in which some humility is not just desirable but necessary.

In the coming weeks I will (amongst other things) be going into several subjects on which I have changed my mind in either the very recent or not-so-recent past and offering a few reasons why I was wrong in the first instance (given the scale of the eureka moment I had in the Autumn, there are a surprising number which fall into the former category).

We'll be discussing such challenging topics as Conservatives, Libertarians, the BBC, Political Correctness and Societal Pressure.

But first up it's our apolitical friends - thanks very much to any non-partisan neutrons who've decided to drop by, I hope you're not disappointed.

Before we start let's get a definition of the word apolitical out there that at least most of us agree on. From where I'm stood, defining anyone who rarely or never votes in elections as apolitical strikes me as being far too broad brushstroke a way of approaching it, an over-simplification which fails to examine the possibility that at least some apolitical people do vote with a degree of regularity. A far more sturdy and reliable definition of an apolitical individual would be someone who does not identify themselves as being of a particular party, tribal, ideological or philosophical label (left/right, small state/big state, libertarian/populist etc) and generally does not vote.

This, I think, is what I'm gonna roll with.

Now at the heart of my previous misunderstanding of the apolitical was a mistaken belief that the failure to get to a point where you could identify some sort of consistent thread running through what you believed could only be attributed to either a) a basic lack of intelligence or b) a sort of intellectual laziness - in short, either an inability or lack of desire to think about a number of different subjects and then rationalise the angle from which you tend to approach at least most of them. Look, there's the collectivist angle, the individualist angle, conservative, liberal etc. Some monumentally thick people at least manage to establish a tribal affinity, so what's the problem?

The apolitical always struck me as being possessed of a particular brand of immaturity. These, I reasoned, were the zombies who sat there watching Strictly, then switching channels right on cue for another exciting episode of the X Factor, followed by an hour of the 'utterly hilarious' Ant and Dec (who, lest we forget, are actually about as funny as leukemia). How can this gerbil-like existence be satisfactory to anybody but the incredibly fucking stupid? Did they ever think about anything more meaningful than their favourite colour, or who they wanted evicted from the Big Brother house that week? Day 31, and Karen from Telford is still missing a chromosome...

Only...I should have known better at the time. My younger brother is and always has been apolitical - as far as I'm aware when he voted Remain in the EU referendum that was the first time he had voted in pretty much anything and I've never heard him apply a particular preference, label or name to describe 'what he believes' in layman's terms. Knowing that he is certainly not Strictly/X Factor/Big Brother fodder and could not be described as dumb in this lifetime or the next, I concluded that he was simply a bit of an oddball, a statistical outlier, someone who had fallen into being apolitical for reasons we could only ever file under 'miscellaneous' or 'other'.

This is probably as good a point to state the obvious - my brother is not an outlier at all, and quite inexcusably, I found that I was guilty of treating 'the apolitical' as if they were some homogenous block rather than unique individuals.

Eventually I realised that it was me who had been arrogant, intellectually lazy and just plain wrong.

Once I began to retreat away from party or tribal politics myself, one of these misplaced assumptions began to collapse around me immediately - just because someone is apolitical does not mean that they do not think about and/or discuss deep, serious topics that might fall under the umbrella of politics or philosophy. In fact, those of some intelligence who detach themselves from 'the process' of politics tend to be some of the most rational, objective and rewarding people to exchange ideas with. In many ways, the failure or refusal to pin a convenient label on what you believe should be considered a strength rather than a weakness.

If others 'don't get it' then that's their problem - and none of us are under any obligation to dumb ourselves down for the benefit of the genuinely dumb or intellectually lazy.

Labels are helpful most of all to those who refuse to acknowledge the presence of nuance or grey areas, and in that regard they are very much a mixed blessing.

I remember an ex-work colleague and the father of a childhood friend who both liked the game of football but didn't have a team that they particularly supported. As well as talking more sense about the sport than most, they had the benefit of not getting ridiculously stressed out or anxious in a way that many football fans do about their team's results. In the same way, the apolitical don't have 'a horse in the race' and are therefore more likely to remain clear-headed, not become 'politically angry' and start playing the man rather than the ball through the use of ad homs and personal insults. It usually augurs well in terms of the honesty and value of any discussion you might have.

Perhaps most importantly given the nature of so much of what we're been discussing on here, the apolitical by definition are not on the lookout for a messiah and have altogether more realistic expectations of politicians generally than those who have 'picked a side' in the team sport being played around them. The politically active and tribal have this dreadful tendency to put 'their side' on some sort of divine pedestal while regarding 'the other lot' as Lucifer's representatives on earth. This leads to all sorts of logical and moral inconsistencies which you just need to turn on your PC or television to be exposed to. Being apolitical is basically a bulletproof vest to this nonsense.

So from a position of sweeping and misplaced generalisation, I've come to regard the apolitical (and particularly the thoughtful apolitical) with a great deal of respect. Refusing to take part in 'the process' does not (as some stupidly claim) deny you a right to an opinion, in fact that non-participation is itself an expression of a wider view in many cases. Even if it's a straightforward case of "can't be arsed", well the examples we know of within the Toddler Left and Toddler Right should serve as compelling evidence that getting off your arse and doing something is not automatically a good thing (this is another ridiculous and oft-parroted claim by politicos which is easily rebutted).

Once we establish that this is true then some sort of reverse thesis also applies. The apolitical are, by definition, a threat to the life, liberty and property of precisely nobody solely by virtue of inaction. They are not chasing a messiah, demanding bribes or validation in exchange for their vote or identifying 'enemies' who will be 'punished' by their demagogue of choice in a rather unhinged act of passive-aggressiveness by proxy. Seeing as they never had false expectations of the government or politicians in the first place they're far more likely to take responsibility for their own lives and think with a greater degree of reason and logical consistency than their tribal counterparts.

In short I was wrong about the apolitical and must say on reflection I rather like at least most of them - sincere apologies for my previous stupidity.

I'll leave with some appropriate music and catch you all at the weekend - thanks once again for reading and take care.

Sunday, 14 January 2018

The Transgender Agenda

Afternoon all.

You'd have to be deaf, dumb and blind not to have noticed the recent avalanche of transgender-related stories in various forms of media, plus the apparent 'debate' that we're all supposed to be having on the subject. Well, it's either that or you're one of those incredibly smart people who manages through a series of deft and agile manoeuvres to black out the mainstream media altogether - credit where credit's due and I'm most impressed. I've always wondered who or what plants the seeds of these 'debates' and decides what the rest of us could, would, should and then ultimately must talk about. Right now and remember to reach the 'right' conclusions at the end. Or else.

I've no problem admitting that I don't really 'get' the concept of gender dysphoria and on the very small number of occasions I've met transgendered people in 'real' life I've been somewhat wary of them, due at least partially to a genuine 'eggshells' fear of saying 'the wrong thing' and causing inadvertent offence. My basic understanding of gender dysphoria is that it's a sense or belief, held over a long period of time that the sex into which somebody is born is basically a misnomer when placed next to the gender with which they identify socially, so (say) a person born as male but personally identifying themselves as a female, hence the need for operations etc.

Now that can't be a nice way to live - in fact it sounds pretty traumatic and it's something I genuinely wouldn't wish upon anybody. If I could hit a button that would rid the world of gender dysphoria for good then I would do so without hesitation - less dysphoria means fewer miserable and unhappy people living in a perpetual state of identity crisis until the possibility of a highly intrusive and risky procedure becomes a viable option. That's before we even get onto the need to be pumped with hormones over several years, sometimes for the rest of the individual's life. However, Utopia is not an option and we know that no such 'magic button' exists.

However I'm not sure that absolutely everybody would like to rid our planet of this nasty condition, a point I promise to return to later on.

So anybody in that situation has my sympathy in an abstract sense but it clearly strikes me as the sort of thing you've either gone through personally or really have very little idea about. Something that continues to grind my gears is this wholly false attempt by too many people to offer a sort of pseudo-understanding of the suffering of others, when the possibility of walking a mile in the other person's shoes simply does not and never will exist. This is far closer to the virtue signalling method of people making the right noises to make themselves look and feel good, enable a self-congratulatory pat on the back, rather than actually doing any good. It's nasty, exploitative and wholly insincere.

Now for another shocking confession - in addition to not really 'getting' gender dysphoria I also have to admit to the heinous crime of finding the whole thing just ever so slightly odd or unusual. Apparently, this alone makes me an evil bigot on the same scale as an Imperial Wizard in the Ku Klux Klan, guilty of the all-new shiny hate crime of 'Transphobia' no less. Now I would like to make two points in my own defence before you wheel out the electric chair. Firstly, it is odd or unusual, strictly from a statistical point of view. Secondly, the process and procedure to go from one gender to the other is indeed drastic by definition, that is simply an objective fact. Do I get to live now?

Predictably enough the 'debate' we are all supposed to be having about 'trans issues' is not a debate at all, but a crash course in what to think dressed up as some sort of discussion. In a genuine debate, there is an acknowledgement that while facts are sacred an opinion is free, that any worldview which does not infringe upon the basic rights and liberties of others is a valid one to be respected. This is quite apparently not what is going on here, as acknowledging that "it's your body and do what the hell you like with it" is simply not good enough. You're either a fully paid-up virtue signaller, offering 'support' and 'understanding' or you are a 'transphobe', a hater.

And note:- there is absolutely NO in between, everybody one side of the road or the other.

The tactics of Marxoids and their useful idiots within the Toddler Left are pretty clear-cut when it comes to this stuff. Bait people with the latest round of group advocacy, then fling mud at anybody breaking ranks from the established orthodoxy and conventional wisdom of 'inclusiveness', 'diversity' and all that jazz. That they have now moved onto transgendered people is interesting in itself as it comes quite close to an admission that there is now very little mileage left in the traditional goldmines for this subversive bullshit that have been the supposed 'wars' on racism, homophobia etc. Soon these bastards will need to invent new 'groups' to pull this stuff with.

Inequality before the law is always, always wrong - that should really go without saying. But it's worth noting that no such legal inequality exists in relation to transgendered people. Any adult suffering from gender dysphoria can pursue a sex change operation if they remain sure they want one after counselling. He or she is then able to get a court order which legally acknowledges their change of name and also of gender. They cannot be refused public services on the basis of being transgendered - and rightly so. They cannot be refused a job or fired from their current employment on that basis either - and rightly so. Where exactly is the 'inequality' here?

But then this is the thing - 'inequality' isn't about 'before the law' anymore, we've moved way, way past that and into the dark arts of 're-education'  and social engineering, 'informing' people of the narrow range of 'acceptable' opinions they have the State's 'kind permission' to hold. Marching to get people the vote or genuine equal rights has now given way to something intimidatory, let's call it 'bullwashing' (a hybrid of bullying and brainwashing), in order to 'change the minds' of those holding potentially 'dangerous' views, or at least cow them into silence. While promoting 'diversity' on questions of identity, any diversity of opinion is something social engineers seek to crush ruthlessly.

It's no accident that the 'trans crusade' has attached itself to that which claims to promote the interests of gay, lesbian and bisexual people (yes, all of them, these are apparently not individuals possessed of agency or free will, but a homogenous block who think, feel and want entirely the same things). The appropriation of the letter T within the LGBT umbrella has the deliberate intention of conflating people who have had sex change operations with those who might come out as gay, lesbian or bi and be accepted by the overwhelming majority of people, at least at any time in the last 15-20 years. This is pernicious, manipulative and wholly disingenuous. They are not the same.

If your friend Dave comes out as gay or bisexual next week then it probably represents a minor adjustment, but nothing that most intelligent and reasonable people can't make fairly quickly and with little fuss. It's possible that you already had suspicions (for want of a better word) in this regard and were unperturbed by the possibility. In essence, Dave is still circa 90% the same person, a very small component part of who he is, namely his sexual orientation and identity, perhaps isn't what you assumed or expected but so what? It might or might not be something that you can then have 'banter' about depending on your relationship. But after any initial awkwardness, life goes on.

Now Dave becoming Davina is a wholly different situation by definition, as the person you knew as Dave has made a conscious decision to reject the identity of who you knew (and by extension, the friendship itself) in favour of a new identity and new life. The individual with whom you might have gone on holiday, played in a band together, played football or simply gone drinking with no longer exists. This is not hyperbole, that now ex-friend is as good as dead on paper and in the eyes of the law, which is not a minor adjustment at all but an absolute bombshell. Any automatic expectation of 'support' from others on this basis strikes me as unreasonable and presumptuous.

It's this assumption that only the person of re-assigned gender is effected by the whole thing that feeds this poisonous assertion that it is somehow incumbent on the rest of us not simply to respect their rights, but to form a sort of quasi-support network for the transgendered, suspending any impact upon ourselves while doing so. Friends, wives or husbands and even children are now being (gradually less) subtly instructed that the transgendered demand for 'support' aces any sense of confusion, bewilderment or pain that they might be feeling themselves, as if this is another of those 'competing rights' issues and their 'rights' simply do not come into it in the final reckoning.

Of course the whole notion of 'competing rights' issues is itself horseshit but...another night.

Speaking of "I can't imagine", the possibility of any child seeing a parent 'switch gender' strikes me as something with the potential to be immensely traumatic and potentially ruinous to the child. We're now in the process of talking about 'genderless toilets' and teaching what can only be described as kids (less than 10 years old) about 'trans issues' at Primary School. This is a clear nod to the very real position that the transgendered now have within the hierarchies the Toddler Left adhere to (of course the Toddler Right have their own hierarchy but we'll do that soon enough). Being near the top of that particular tree of course gives you privileges and special status, as opposed to genuine equality.

So that child who might be upset, confused or just plain angry at Dad now becoming a woman called Delores will be told that they are being selfish (especially if this happens to be a white, middle class child). In a deranged subversion of the parent-child relationship, he or she will be reminded  to stop being so 'transphobic', that Delores really needs her kids' support right now, and that they have no claim on any feelings of their own about the situation. Then the whole class will be subjected to a Maoist 're-education' on 'trans issues', just to correct anybody who wrongly believes that these decisions impact anybody other than the people making them. This is poison.

It doesn't surprise me that in the true style of anyone seeking to brainwash the young, a maxim of 'the younger the better' is being applied here, but then that doesn't make it a single percentage point less pernicious or dangerous. Not only is it brutal and inhuman to ram this stuff down the throats of children, it runs the risk of creating more gender dysphoria, more confusion amongst young people for whom the adolescent years in particular are already traumatic and difficult enough without being bombarded with 'trans' propaganda. What could be a 'passing phase' in reality might end up being misconstrued as a clear cut case of dysphoria, with particularly horrendous results.

You'd be forgiven for thinking that someone, somewhere actually wants this, but then we'd be entering the realm of 'conspiracy theory' or something like that. I'll leave you to make up your own minds.

It's worth repeating that anybody with long-running gender dysphoria should be free to pursue whatever surgery and/or treatment they feel is necessary, although the question of whether the taxpayer should fund it is an altogether different one. On balance it's probably correct that the individual concerned gets to be legally recognised as their 'new gender' and the anti-discrimination rules that have existed on the grounds of race, gender and sexual orientation are extended to include the transgendered. Creating new 'oppressed groups' within society is bad, but creating inequalities before the law is certainly 'as bad' and probably quite a bit worse.

That said, legal recognition and 'social acceptance', let alone a demand that the rest of society reacts or responds to you a certain way on threat of punishment, are absolutely stratospheres from each other. One is the recognition of and a certain respect for the rights of an individual, while the other is a blatant trampling over the rights of others to hold politically incorrect, socially conservative or even offensive points of view without penalty. I'll say it again, collectivism based on this kind of hierarchy and oppressor/oppressed lens is inherently selfish. Dressed up as 'equality', it's actually a totalitarian assertion of your 'rights' way over and above the natural rights of others.

Counter-intuitive as that might be, it also happens to be true.

I'll be back later in the week to discuss the life and times of the Conservative Party - anyway, I'll leave you with the most appropriate song I could find and thank you all one once again for reading. See you soon.

Wednesday, 10 January 2018

Rejecting "Real World" and "Common Sense" Politics

Evening - hope you're all in fine form, especially anybody inclined to engage in a spot of plagarism of what they have read on here. Much obliged.

Apologies to Malpoet who I know has already heard this story. Before I left home it got to the point where I was refusing to discuss 'anything serious' with my parents. Part of this stemmed from their general hostility towards 1) logic 2) objective truth and 3) being disagreed with on anything, ever. Anyway, one night the biological mother comes up with her latest 'policy initiative', a suggestion that the children of all who currently receive tax credits (of whom she was one) should also receive free school meals. I listened to the rather flaky 'rationale' and 'moral case' behind this and patiently waited for my turn, rapidly compiling a list of Paxman-esque questions in my mind.

Now it's the easiest thing in the world to argue that you should be in receipt of even more 'free stuff' than you currently get with no regard to the cost or where the resources for it would come from. What I wanted to know was how this would be paid for, and (perhaps mischievously) what SHE was prepared to lose elsewhere in order to find that money. Of course, turkeys never argue in favour of Christmas and likewise the biological suggested something silly like "tax the rich" as a way of raising the required funds. I ended up calling out the obvious, namely that she thought it was a wonderful idea because she personally would gain from it. And for no other reason.

Predictably enough, this didn't go down too well.

I spent years working with a fella who I found myself in disagreement with about pretty much everything. Maybe I'm being unfair but his worldview seemed to be shaped by 1) regular chats with pub racists and bar-room bores 2) Jon Gaunt's radio show and 3) the editorial of the Daily Star. I remember us having quite a heated argument about the war in Libya (he and his mate were well up for it, I thought it was insane at the time) and he said something which became a constant during any instance of differing perspective "see Daz, you're not used to dealing with people who live in the real world are you?". It was a clear ad hom and I was taken aback by it.

I asked what he meant by "real world" (as opposed to the, er, surreal one?) and he told me "house, kids, filling the car, all that 'normal' stuff".  Well, not being the owner of a car or the father of any kids I know about it's unlikely that I could ever inhabit my friend's 'real world' but it's something that stuck out and I felt the need to reflect upon for some time. This fella liked to present his 'worldview' as if it was something coherent, logical and well thought out but it was really a set of prejudices rather than a belief system of any significance or meaning. Even the gentlest cross-examination found more holes than Swiss Cheese and 'real world' was his way out of dodge.

Another former sparring partner from social media used to use the term 'real people' to describe people who saw the world exactly the way that he did. Given that he was a rabid Nationalist with a soft spot for the English Defence League and Britain First, this left a lot of 'surreal people' out there having the temerity to, er, not agree with this fella about absolutely everything. One day I said some less than flattering things about his beloved EDL and he abruptly terminated our association with each other, leaving a series of 'invisible' (and, I'm going to guess, highly malicious) messages on my wall when I woke up the next morning and found myself blocked.

The tactics people use in these situations reveal a huge amount about their mentality.

I'm remembering all of this because the whole 'real world' and 'common sense' angle seems to be something that is surfacing as an alternative to thought, ideas and any type of philosophy. Both the Toddler Left and Toddler Right follow a type of politics that reflects their 'real world' and a 'common sense' solution to the problems that exist within it. Both reject the presence of an objective truth, the concept of 'ideas' or anything whatsoever to do with philosophy or values in favour of fixed lists of 'the oppressors' who must be punished and 'the oppressed' who are 'poor victims' deserving of some restitution, as well as 'forced respect' from the State.

In short, 'real world' or 'common sense' politics is retarded politics-by-numbers, designed specifically for people either too dumb or too lazy to think. During the Brexit campaign I was horrified when Michael Gove muttered the words "I think people are rather sick of experts".  Well, when my eye test is due I tend to visit an optician and in the event that I ever need open heart surgery then I think getting a qualified surgeon (y'know, one of those ghastly 'experts') to carry out this life and death procedure might be smarter than letting Karen from Telford do it. Of course she's entitled to a view about the state of my eyes or my ticker, but then I'm equally entitled to ignore her.

This misplaced sense of anger and grievance is what lies at the heart of the philosophical 'endarkenment' we see taking place before our eyes. Yes, a democracy means that anyone is entitled to hold a view about any topical subject that they wish, even one that others might construe as ill-conceived, insane and probably dangerous. However, who and what people decide to take seriously is a completely different matter, and every last one of us chooses to ignore opinions in our daily lives on the basis that they might be irrational, built on a false premise, motivated by greed, bigotry etc. We don't all have an inalienable right to be taken equally seriously.

I watched a few videos of the all new party of the future 'for Britain' recently, so that I could earn the right to speak about them from a position of knowledge. Quite apart from being a modern day Joan of Arc who probably dreams of being assassinated, their leader, the quite brilliant (in a way) Anne Marie Waters kept referring to her new party being first and foremost for 'common sense', which should serve as an immediate red flag to anybody who likes to keep their politics on the right side of the psychiatrist's door. The claims that she's some sort of 'actual Fascist or Nazi' are wide of the mark, but their manifesto is up online and, well, it's an interesting shade of authoritarian madness.

They will fail spectacularly for a very, very obvious reason that doesn't even go into the realistic prospect of 'for Britain' being infiltrated by arms of the State. Look, 'common sense' is NOT a philosophy, belief system or set of values that can bind thousands of people together when you're regularly losing your deposit in elections. You need a bit more than 'we hate the EU' or 'we hate Muslims' to remind people what they are campaigning for (rather than against) when all that effort really doesn't seem worth it. That means ideas, it means a clearly stated direction of travel, it means some values and, dare I say it, a philosophy. 'Common sense' is 'anti' all of this.

The notion of 'common sense' or 'real world' solutions to problems is a wholly subjective one which means entirely different things to different people. Your 'common sense' or 'real world' perspective might be my perception of madness and vice versa. Moreover, all of this is limited by the axes of x) conventional wisdom and y) a snapshot of the present. It was once 'common sense' to think that the plague was a punishment from God, that women did not deserve the vote, or that the world was flat. 'Common sense' is hostile to progress, challenge and that guy in the corner of the room with a 'leftfield' idea. It can only ever end in an authoritarian state, and quite possibly a totalitarian one.

Finally, back to my mother's argument:- 'common sense' or 'real world' politics is normally nothing more than crude and cynical self-interest dressed up as some sort of quasi-philosophy or belief system. This is probably necessary in a democracy as a means of re-packaging the appeals of "free stuff for me" as something more palatable, whether it's 'social justice', 'national identity' or whatever. Yes, 'paying our gas bill and keeping the lights on' is important but last time I checked it didn't have its equivalent of JS Mill or Adam Smith who'd written with some eloquence on the subject. That's the cue to think again by the way, as opposed to having a book bonfire.

I'll be back Sunday, perhaps with a case study of Fathers4Justice and quite possibly covering some other topical issue.

In the meantime, I'll leave you with Talk Talk and catch up with you all at the weekend. Thanks again for dropping by.