So, it’s on. After all the name calling on all the YouTube videos, after all the social media stunts, call me cynical but all of which I’m pretty certain have been carefully choreographed in order to maximise public interest, Floyd Mayweather and Conor McGregor will fight on August 26, In Las Vegas.
At least I hope they fight, because up until now, to me the premise of this fight reflects more of a circus freak show than it does a contest of pugilism. McGregor and Mayweather are both the most talented performers, and the biggest showmen in their respective sports. Individually they are able to draw more attention to their own fights than any other fighter, combine the two of them and you’re guaranteed an unprecedented hype fest. Both have exchanged considerable amounts of trash talk through social media, thus selling the fight like no other in history. There’s nothing new about hype and fights but is there any chance that this fight can even come close to living up to this amount of hype?
Simply, no. Already I feel cheated. Cheated because I desperately want to believe that this will be a spectacular contest, a fight for the ages. I feel like a kid on Christmas Eve hoping for a PlayStation, only for the next morning to be given the box set of the Twilight saga. Nothing good can come out of watching the Twilight saga, we won’t learn anything from it, and I tend to feel exactly the same way about the Mayweather McGregor fight. At the end of Mayweather McGregor I’m afraid that I will find myself reacting like this boy, sucked in by the promise of great things, only for it to result in empty promises, abject disappointment, and self loathing at having believed in the empty promises, hype and cheap marketing:
All the name calling, all the funny jokes McGregor and Mayweather have made about one another has been to make the audience believe that there is some degree of animosity between them, a reason for these two to fight. Well the reason they’re fighting is first and foremost about the money. Quite simply neither fighter, nor his support staff, could refuse this fight. Both fighters will pocket in excess of $100 million, the revenue from pay per view television is anticipated to break $1 billion.
Financially the fight makes sense, the fight itself will generate almost a much money as a small African country can in a year. That really is disturbing. When Conor McGregor made his debut in the UFC he was paid $8,000. By contrast, over his career Mayweather has accumulated a wealth estimated at $340 million. But while this fight is a no brainer financially, will the public be spending there money on anything more than hype?
Again, the answer is almost certainly no. Don’t get me wrong, I concede that Conor has the puncher’s chance, but that’s what people always say when one fighter doesn’t realistically have a chance, Dolly Parton would also have a punchers chance against Floyd Mayweather. This will almost certainly be the most over hyped, over paid, and disappointing moment in sports since it was revealed to us how Sammy Sosa, Mark McGwire and Barry Bonds could hit home runs so far. The McGregor Mayweather fight wil fail because:
McGregor is not a boxer. Yes he does hit people with his fists in the UFC, but that’s as far as the similarities between boxing and mixed martial arts goes. The rationale that this can turn into a real fight is like Roger Federer challenging Tiger Woods to a game of tennis and saying that it’s fair because they both hit balls.
What are they fighting for? McGregor isn’t a boxer, Mayweather is a retired boxer. Whoever wins, what do they gain? What’s the incentive outside of the money. Money which they’ll be guaranteed before they step into the ring. Really, how can you expect a decent fight when neither fighter is really fighting for anything.
Mayweather is the greatest defensive boxer of all time, because of this he’s generally one of the most boring to watch. When watching someone swing and miss Mayweather for 12 rounds, it’s possible to appreciate Mayweather’s skill, while at the same time not be entertained. McGregor will be fighting with far bigger gloves than he uses in the UFC, to be honest he’d have more chance knocking Mayweather out using a pillow.
This isn’t the first time that a boxing legend has accepted the challenge of someone skilled in another martial art. The greatest, Muhammad Ali fought kickboxer, Antonio Inoki in 1976. However, unlike the Mayweather McGregor fight ,Ali’s opponent was allowed to to use his specific skill set and kick Ali. In truth it was an ugly, farcical contest, the highlights of which can be seen below:
Maybe I’m being too close minded about Mayweather versus McGregor, a touch too cynical. Maybe this type of contest heralds a new era in sporting match ups, in which we find two contestants with vaguely similar skill sets and then pit one against the other . For example, Stephen Hawking could take on Lewis Hamilton at formula 1. I mean Hawking literally lives in that chair, driving himself around all day, I mean how different can it be?
What about a contest in which Maria Sharapova challenges Beyonce to bake a Victoria sponge cake, whilst gurning. I know it sounds silly but hear me out. This should be an even contest based on the fact that they’ve both got opposable thumbs, and they’ve both got faces. Believe me, this promises to be a far more even competition, and probably a more entertaining spectacle than Mayweather versus McGregor is ever likely to be.
My final suggestion for this new age of celebrity competition features two people with egos comparable to that of Mayweather and McGregor, if not the same degree of talent. I propose that Kanye West, takes on Justin Bieber in a game of Russian roulette. I’m quietly confident that based on the fact they are a pair of insufferable idiots, the promise of at least one of them blowing their own brains out, should appeal to an enormous audience thus securing record pay per view subscriptions.
Well it’s 71 days until Mayweather versus McGregor, and despite all my negativity there’s not a chance in hell that I won’t be watching it. I want it to be good. No, in fact I want it to be great, it’s just that experience has taught me that I’m probably going to end up disappointed. Anyway, between now and August 26, I’ve got the Twilight box set to watch, so if you don’t mind.
Well here we are at the end of another election in which another western democracy has largely, once again, made itself look like a widower dancing at his own wife’s funeral. It’s undignified, largely arrhythmical, and depending on whether or not they’ve had a hip replacement, painful to watch. Nobody benefits from being forced to observe such a spectacle of misplaced eccentricity, much in the same way that nobody seems to have really benefited from last week’s general election. (I couldn’t find any videos of old men dancing at funerals, but I did find this, which to me at least appears equally as undignified.)
For the United Kingdom the general election was an unqualified disaster. In the wake of a Brexit vote that split the country 52%/48%, the country needed direction, to be led by a leader with a cast iron mandate. The strong and stable leadership that Theresa May repeatedly promised when she called the snap election with a 24 point lead in the polls, ended with her party losing the majority necessary to form a government. This now leaves May, a leader of the Tory party who has never even won a leadership contest, with a barely tenable mandate with which to represent the British people at the Brexit negotiations. The Brexit negotiations being the single most important event to happen in Europe since the fall of the Berlin wall.
In the space of just under 12 months Conservative leadership has called a referendum and an election that has resulted in the United Kingdom withdrawing from the European Union and ending up with a hung parliament, quite a staggering achievement given that 12 months ago David Cameron was the Prime Minister with a majority of 12, of a country that was still a part of the World’s largest economic bloc. When you consider that the British parliamentary system is stacked in favour of the party which has formed a government, they can call the election whenever they want, they can change the boundaries of constituencies, it becomes really hard to imagine that the Conservatives didn’t engineer their own downfall intentionally. If they didn’t, then they’ve clearly lost touch with the electorate.
Despite not having the number of seats necessary to form a majority government, Theresa May will form a coalition that will enable her to theoretically have a majority. So who’s she inviting on board her political version of the Titanic? The DUP of course, you know the DUP? In British politics there’s the Conservatives, Labour, the Liberal Democrats, UKIP, the Green Party, Scottish Nationalist Party, Sinn Féin, Plaid Cymru, and then you’ve got the DUP. The Democratic Unionist Party, they will be the ones invited to form a government with Theresa May. The DUP with their 8 members of parliament will, in theory anyway, hold the power of veto over everything the Tory government try to do. But who are the DUP? Well, they’re the political wing of protestant paramilitaries in Northern Ireland, In other words they’re the yin to the IRA’s yang. They’re the pro United Kingdom terrorist group of Northern Ireland. Jeremy Corbyn was lambasted for having held talks with Sinn Fein during his political career, then only weeks later Theresa May will shamelessly form a government with the political wing of a known terrorist group. Of course if you watch the news no reporter dares to use the word terrorist, because when they appear to be on your side they go by the name of paramilitary. I’m sorry but whatever you chose to call them, it’s still…
But even if we’re able to ignore their paramilitary past, the DUP are fanatically pro choice, something I imagine, that would have not thrilled quite a number of people that decided to vote Conservative just last week. The idea alone of the Conservatives forming a coalition is counter intuitive, the ultimate political oxymoron. It’s a little like expecting a pride of lions to ask you to pull up a chair and share their freshly killed wildebeest with you. I’m afraid to say that the DUP will end up as the DUPed in the event that they form a coalition with the Conservatives. They will inevitably be wowed by the possibility of going into Downing Street. Of being shown the button, with which they’d want to unleash a nuclear strike on the Catholic population of Belfast. But, in reality they’ll be nothing more than a class of 11 year olds on a field trip to a bank. They’ll get to see the tellers count some money, they might even be shown a pie chart, but that’s as close as they’ll ever realistically come to influencing any long term fiscal strategy of the bank. And no politician ever wants to share their power. A politician needs power in the same way a diabetic needs insulin. Interestingly Theresa May is a diabetic, so she craves both. This leads me to wonder which one she could live without the longest, her slipping into a diabetic coma would certainly go a long way towards explaining some of her interviews in the lead up to the election.
Both the referendum and the general election have managed to drive a wedge down the middle of British society. I’m 40 years old, and I’m not sure I can recall the nation being this divided. With divisiveness being a theme which appears to be undermining so many western democracies, I was interested to learn that Sam Panopoulos passed away last week. Panopoulos was the leader of the Democratic Ulster Unionists for… No he actually had a far more positive impact than that; Panopoulos claimed to be the man who first conceived the idea of putting pineapple onto a pizza.
Like Brexit, Theresa May, and Donald Trump, putting pineapple on top of a pizza is a contentious matter, an acquired tase. And just like Brexit, Theresa May, and Donald Trump, the opinion you have regarding whether it’s reasonable to put pineapple on a
pizza can be used to determine the opinions that you probably hold about a swathe of other social issues. Just how if you support Trump people will assume that you’re against immigration, for the second amendment, and against commonsense. People that support using pineapple as a pizza topping are seen as progressive liberals who support immigration, gay marriage and universal healthcare. Compare this to the pizza that was most popular during Hitler’s Third Reich where olives and salami came to symbolise, strength, supremacy, and purity of the Aryan race.
Panopoulos’ Hawaiian pizza became political just before he died, when last year the president of Iceland said he would ban pineapple as a topping on pizzas if he could. At the time this created quite a stir amongst the press as they dreamed of a Neroesque president ruling over a remote volcanic island, issuing decrees about pizza toppings while making their pet dog commander of the Navy. Unfortunately for the media the evil Bond villain they desired never manifested, instead he was just expressing his opinion about pineapple being added to pizza, during a question and answer session with a group of high school children. President Gudni Th. Johannesson went on to state that it would be an abuse of his power to ban pineapple from being a pizza topping. This didn’t prevent the media from running with the following ridiculous headlines:
When Donald Trump was elected president of the United States, some of us expressed doubt as to whether a business man come reality game show host would have the political acumen necessary for the job. Others were concerned that a person with Trump’s impulsive character would have the worlds most powerful nuclear arsenal at his disposal. But, none of us could have predicted just how soon he would play the “covfefe” card.
The president’s mention of covfefe has set the heads of political analysts spinning:
Bunker Cheeks, BBC Political Analyst
This is unprecedented. To mention covfefe so soon into your first term as president represents an enormous political gambit, it’s a game changer. It will make or break his presidency. The last president to mention covfefe was Kennedy, and I’m pretty sure that he lived to regret that.
Many people were worried that the president had raised such a nebulous issue as covfefe at an inopportune moment, on the eve of important climate talks. But the president stuck to his guns, arguing that if Paris had an accord then why didn’t New York? The president then abruptly left the talks. Gerd Achterschip was a delegate in the meeting:
The President Trump stormed out of the talks so quickly that he resembled a sort of golden, orange gas. As he left the room he kept chuntering “covfefe” and made wild lurches towards all the female delegates.
One thing remains certain, amidst all of the political carnage, President Trump is unlikely to stop serving us with a veritable smorgasbord of covfefe and flapdoodle.
It’s testimony to the renegade maverick nature of this president, and shows all of us that he’s not going to kowtow to the Washington elite by using a lexicon they understand. Following the president’s tweet, covfefe climbed a point on the New York Pussy Grab Index as traders backed the president’s tough stance on covfefe.
Firstly, for inventing a pocket knife that allows its owner to open bottles of wine, clean their teeth with a toothpick, clean their pipe (smoking pipe, as opposed to some sort of rudimentary, DIY proctologist’s kit), always know which direction north is, saw through sturdy branches, and a knife that will inevitably be used to whittle the said branch, over a period of several hours, down to something the size of a toothpick, an implement that your trusty Swiss Army knife contained all along.
Secondly, because blaming the Swiss always seems like a relatively safe thing to do, based on them being neutral, so their Army has never taken part in foreign conflicts. It seems strange to me to have an army that doesn’t fight, even stranger still to arm them with a multipurpose knife that appears to predominantly function as a tool to aid hosting a successful picnic. I can see the Swiss army on manoeuvres, high up in the Alps, opening bottles of wine, smoking and cleaning luxurious pipes, whilst commenting on the direction of the wind as they determinedly pick pieces of bratwurst out of their teeth.
We live in a world now where a device is no longer expected to fulfil just a single function. Ten years ago mobile phones became fused, or confused depending on your point of view, with cameras. Televisions now access the internet. Watches contain MP4 players. Last night I played the microwave at chess and lost. There’s a shopping centre near to where I live that has toilets that clean your bottom for you. They shoot a jet of water up your bottom, the pressure of which has various settings. Then it blows hot air on your ass to dry it. When did we lose the ability, or the desire to clean our own
bottoms? What happens if a solar flare takes down all this electrical gadgetry and huge numbers of us are left shuffling around, with our trousers around our ankles holding toilet role with a fixed gormless expression on our faces, in search of the lost knowledge of how to clean our own backsides? Because this is what will happen if we become dependant on this technology. And my personal favourite, for the Swiss soldier out on exercise, but who might need to pop into an internet cafe, the Swiss Army knife with handy drive.
It feels as if much of what we buy today has to have added features, to be capable of fulfilling multiple purposes. Lately, I noticed this when buying orange juice from 7/11. I’m nearly 41 years old, and up until recently buying orange juice had been a relatively simple task, one that I’ve felt confident in my abilities of achieving. Essentially 7/11 offers a choice of 2 types of orange juice, standard orange juice, and an orange juice in an altogether more sophisticated black carton, costing a little more and with collagen. Being the strong willed, and independent minded person that I am, I was seduced by the darker and more mysteriously expensive orange juice that included collagen. I’ve been drinking this juice most days for the best part of a year now, when it dawned on me that I don’t even now what collagen is. Is it even something that should be added to orange juice? Should I be drinking collagen everyday? Have I become collagen dependent? What about when I was young, I don’t recall my mother ever enquiring as to whether I’d had my collagen today.
A couple of weeks ago I started with a fever, apart from feeling grumpy that it looked as if I’d be sick for a few days, I thought of food stuffs that might assist me in my convalescence. One of the first things I considered was fruit juice, and this caused me a considerable panic. Was my fever being caused by a collagen deficiency? Had I developed a tolerance to collagen, and thus my body needed an ever increasing quantity to sate its collagen fix?
I don’t even know what collagen is and all of a sudden, to my neurotic mind anyway, it’s become a dietary staple. I’m convinced that it’s collagen that keeps my DNA helix bound together. Without collagen I might simply just breakdown on a cellular level, or implode up my freshly scented anus. What does it even look like? How do they add it to orange juice? Is there a man with a wheel barrow who shovels it into the vats of orange juice? Is it a paste that gets squeezed into the juice through a giant hypodermic syringe. Is collagen a gas that gets pumped through the juice?
There was a time when orange juice was just orange juice. You couldn’t take a photo with it, you couldn’t use it to call you mother and ask her to pick you up, and you definitely couldn’t use it to whittle a stick, to fashion a tooth pick.
So he’s back. The self proclaimed provocateur, troll queen, out of work pantomime drag act, Milo Yiannopoulos is back. Much like a turd that refuses to go quietly around the u-bend, Yiannopoulos resurfaced last week on NBC, announcing that he will undertake a new tour hell bent on attacking the sensitivities of the over sensitive.
We haven’t seen Milo since his resignation from Breitbart following widespread condemnation of his comments on the gay age of consent, even though this reaction came a year after he initially made the comments. Yes, the comments he made could be construed as inappropriate, but doesn’t the fact that the outrage took a year to be expressed call into question the degree of sincerity and authenticity behind the sentiment?
Now that the dust has settled, and if we’re all honest about it, what really happened was some of the people who find Yianopoulos to be an odious twit, of which there is no shortage, became aware of some distasteful comments he made on a podcast called the Drunken Peasants. These people saw the opportunity to twist Yiannopoulos’ comments around into arguing that he sympathised with paedophilia. The fact that the outrage occurred over a year after he made the comments can be, perhaps cynically, attributed to Yianopoulos’ increasing fame and the impending release of his new book. Don’t get me wrong, I found Milo’s comments on child abuse to be crass and flippant, but let’s be honest, Yiannopoulos would fellate his own grandfather if he knew it would get him a minutes worth of media exposure.
I know that whenever anyone starts a sentence by saying, “I’m not homophobic, but…”, they tend to go on to say something extremely homophobic. So let’s see what happens when I give it a whirl. I’m not homophobic, but I get really annoyed when someone uses their sexuality as gimmick to support their argument, and that is precisely what Yiannopoulos does. Like some sort of failed pantomime drag act, Yiannopoulos openly admits to using an outrageously camp style to deliver his message. For people that have lived a sheltered life, this mincing polemicist appears to be avant-garde, the enigmatic paradox of a conservative homosexual is enough to fascinate people and keep them entertained. Add to this his supposed Catholic faith and Yiannopoulos provides us with an act, or character of contradictions, capable of causing considerable cognitive dissonance.
But when I look at this character objectively, I realise that he’s nothing more than a manufactured iconoclast,a giant zeitgeisty contradiction. He talks about basing arguments on facts while espousing a belief in an unprovable supernatural deity. He’s openly homosexual yet claims to be Catholic, despite the fact that homosexuality isn’t accepted by the Catholic church. But Yiannopoulos’ religious experience doesn’t end with him being a Catholic, rather it goes on to include that he was abused by a Catholic priest while he was a minor. This is a perpetual chain of contradictions, contradictions that have been contrived in order to generate interest.
I do find Mr. Yiannopoulos entertaining, in the same way that in the past I have found other drag acts to be. But Yiannopoulos confuses his audience, which doesn’t seem to be an especially difficult thing to do, as they fail to discern between the bawdy, drag entertainment that is paired with an essentially hateful rhetoric. In essence it would be like having Ronald McDonald present a plan for the reintroduction of slavery, it looks fun but hides a sinister message. Milo Yiannopoulos has created a comical character to deliver a divisive message that people find intriguing. But, he’s a character filled with contradictions, and theses contradictions extend to his message.
Perhaps the most interesting thing about the whole Milo phenomena is how a gay Brit has become a champion for American rights? I mean the irony alone of a British person, whether gay or not, upholding the rights that a country granted themselves after becoming independent of Britain, should make Milo’s platform an impossibility. What’s next, a German lesbian Nazi giving speeches in Tel Aviv on the dangers of antisemitism? Or, what about an executive of a petrochemical company lecturing groups of native Americans on protecting the environment? It just seems to go against the grain, that a Brit is motivated to protect the liberties of a country that got its liberty from the country he is a citizen of.
Sometimes I start to suspect that Milo Yiannopoulos’ concern for the First Amendment might actually be disingenuous, and that he’s just stumbled upon a cause that feeds his insatiable appetite for infamy, and rewards him for expressing the same tired, old opinions ad nauseum, leaving him soundinglike a satnav system going round a roundabout. Feminism, Islam, immigration, freedom of speech, feminism, Islam, immigration, freedom of speech, and on, and on…There’s an election in his own country, doesn’t he feel compelled to weigh in with his polemic discourse, or is he only interested in America because that’s where his circus act, freak show makes the most money? It’s certainly a puzzle. I haven’t seen his desire for standing up for the freedom of speech for the people in say Zimbabwe, as a former member of the British Commonwealth it would actually make more sense, with the one exception, it wouldn’t make Milo anywhere near as much money.
It’s also interesting to note that Yiannopoulos’ passion for our right to the freedom of speech fails to extend to his own website, which censors all comments before they appear on it. You see the freedom of speech only works for Milo and his supporters when it suits them. Is this hypocritical?
Milo – Why Today’s Troll is just Tomorrow’s Social Justice Warrior
Hasn’t anybody else realised the contradiction inherent in the whole Milo argument? Milo has identified so called Social Justice Warriors (SJW’s) as having been the catalyst behind the problems that have developed as a result of unenforced immigration practices, extreme feminism, political correctness, and a failure to require Islam to adopt western values. And up to a point he’s absolutely right. Where I take issue with Yiannopoulos is with his identifying Social Justice Warriors as being the problem, and I take issue for two reasons.
Firstly, the people who riot, get angry, and generally act irrationally at the slightest provocation, on issues that don’t directly affect them aren’t SJW’s, they’re simply idiots. And as such idiots are everywhere, like Steve Miller once said, “clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right”. Idiocy permeates across the entirety of the political spectrum. Branding idiots as SJW’s is giving idiocy more credit than it deserves. These people are what they are, idiots. To me at least it appears ironic that today we’re calling idiots, Social Justice Warriors, it sounds like a politically correct way of just referring to idiocy.
Secondly, let’s look at a definition of Social Justice Warrior and compare that to what Milo Yiannopoulos himself does:
A pejorative term for an individual who repeatedly and vehemently engages in arguments on social justice on the Internet, often in a shallow or not well-thought-out way, for the purpose of raising their own personal reputation. A social justice warrior, or SJW, does not necessarily strongly believe all that they say, or even care about the groups they are fighting on behalf of. They typically repeat points from whoever is the most popular blogger or commenter of the moment, hoping that they will “get SJ points” and become popular in return. They are very sure to adopt stances that are “correct” in their social circle.
“…an individual who repeatedly and vehemently engages in arguments on social justice on the Internet, often in a shallow or not well-thought-out way, for the purpose of raising their own personal reputation.”
Milo fulfils this criteria thus:
Milo’s whole argument is centred around our right to the freedom of expression. Given that this is the protected by first amendment it isn’t unreasonable to infer that the freedom of speech is considered the most fundamental of our inalienable rights. Therefore, isn’t anyone who believes there is a need to campaign for it, to some degree campaigning for social justice, and QED mustthemselves be a Social Justice Warrior?
The second sentence of the definition states:
A social justice warrior, or SJW, does not necessarily strongly believe all that they say, or even care about the groups they are fighting on behalf of.
The fact that there is a British man arguing for American constitutional rights, would appear to me to be incongruous and therefore disingenuous. What’s next, a campaign against pig farming subsidies in Latvia?
The third sentence of the definition of a Social Justice Warrior reads:
They typically repeat points from whoever is the most popular blogger or commenter of the moment, hoping that they will “get SJ points” and become popular in return.
Ben Shapiro is the brainchild of the majority of Yiannopouolos’ opinions. Both were former employees at Breitbart, essentially their only difference is the proclivity one of them has for thinking that wearing a dress strengthens their message.
The final sentence of the defeinition states:
They are very sure to adopt stances that are “correct” in their social circle.
As a contrarian, a polemicist, an iconoclast and self professed troll, Yiannopoulos, like any good entertainer, plays to the expectations of his audience. To his credit Yiannopoulos has full awareness of what has garnered him so much interest, and he continues to feed it. This is largely why we’ve never seen any change in his act nor his message. Yiannopoulos sounds controversial, but in essence all he is saying is exactly what is audience hopes he will, a message that challenges the establishment and political correctness. A message that Milo Yiannopoulos appears willing to continue to repeat for as long as there are people willing to listen to him and give him their money.
Milo Yiannopoulos is little more than a carefully created character, part circus freak, part drag act. He’s made politics accessible to a generation that were raised by games consoles as opposed to parents. Yiannopoulos’ greatest appeal is that he makes his audience feel that they are more intelligent by feeding them with arguements that challenge the status quo. But at the end of the day it’s nothing more than an act, if P. T. Barnum were alive today Milo Yiannopoulos would be placed centre stage, because both of them believe in the following Barnum saying:
Only hours after I posted this article, Milo Yiannopoulos released tasteless and crass comments in the wake of the terrorist attack st the Manchester Arena. Yiannopoulos that suggested that Ariana Grande sympathises with Islamic extremism. For a man who apparently bases his reasoning on facts, we should ll be asking what proof he has for this outrageous suggestion.
Much of the hatred towards Grande stems from comments she made in a doughnut shop over 2 years ago. I find it ironic, hypocritical even, that conservatives can’t forget this while they have told us all to stop talking about a president and his pussy grabbing comments. I’m starting to suspect that this up surge of conservatism led by Mr. Yiannopoulos is just a hypocritical as the loony liberals who preceded them.
I’ve written a blog now for maybe a couple of years.
Much of what I choose to write about is irreverent, and never meant to be taken seriously.
This week I was going to continue with my rants on the apparent rise of fascism across Europe and the United States. Then the British Prime Minister, Theresa (I haven’t got a mandate) May – a woman who has only won the right to represent her constituency of 74,000 people, but has found herself leading the 64 million people of the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland through the countries most delicate period of time since the end of World War II – announces a “snap” election.
I was going to write about this, this “snap” election. Something that a piece of legislation passed in 2011 called “The Fixed Terms Parliament Act” was supposed to have brought an end to. But no, the woman with no mandate to even lead the U.K in the first place was now defecating over the final shreds of our democratic dignity. I was incensed, and this was to be my theme.
But, it was then I had an epiphany. It was as if the sky was torn asunder and a heavenly light, shone down on me. And the almighty asked me a question “what right do you have to spread your ill informed, personal opinions using technology that can reach almost anyone on the planet, I mean who the fuck do you think you are, some kind of god or something?”
In less biblical terms what happened was, I lost my internet connection for 12 hours and was hit by the realization that I was free from its limitless bullshit. The seemingly infinite and boundless “reckonings” of half brained people passing on their opinions of the things that they rarely half understand.
What Happens When Advanced Technology for Communication is Supported by Stone Age Reasoning?
An apocalyptic explosion of bullshit. When mankind’s understandable passion to protect their unalienable right to the freedom of expression, is combined with the kind of rapid improvements in the technology of communication that we have seen over the past 20 years, this facilitates, an apocalyptic explosion of bullshit. Or, what I’m choosing to call the information, communication, technology paradox.
As our capability to communicate has risen to the levels of what only a generation ago the authors of science fiction could only have dreamt about, the information that the masses have to communicate using this technology, is founded upon the same logical principles of thought as those people who lived during the dark ages. And I don’t wish to come across as being rude, but the majority of us have about the same degree of scientific understanding as a person that lived in the dark ages. Yes many of us know the term DNA, I’d even be brave enough to suggest that over half of us can spell DNA, but few of us actually understand it. The gulf between knowledge and understanding has never been greater, as is our lack of awareness of this gulf. I’ll prove through the use of theoretical anecdote.
Imagine you are transported in space and time to Mainz, Germany and the year 1439. You are standing in a room with Johannes Guttenberg and his workers, who over a great deal of time, have painstakingly developed the concept of, movable type. They have empowered themselves to reproduce the written word at a speed, and in volumes, that were hitherto unthinkable. This was a time when the only book that existed was essentially the Bible, and its reproduction was overseen by being copied out, by hand, by very dull, antisocial men, living in monasteries. But, here was Guttenberg, with the power to spread new ideas, and there’s you standing there, nearly 600 years from the future stood next to him. Aside from adopting the mantle of some type of Nostradamus figure using your knowledge of future events, what knowledge would you encourage Guttenberg to disseminate? Could you contribute to stopping the spread of diseases like the plague? Could you introduce them to, and provide them with electricity? Could you improve on the abacus that was still being used, or Blaise Pascal’s adding machine that wouldn’t be invented for another 150 years? You could describe television and radio, but how many of you could describe the design and engineering necessary in order to make one? You could describe what a far simpler device like a calculator looks like and does, but again few of us could make one. You could describe an electric torch, but again, how many of us understand it well enough to actually tell someone how to make one? In all eventuality few of us would be able to engineer a simple toothbrush that resembles anything similar to what a toothbrush looks like today.
My point is simple; while we are surrounded today, by what is a wealth of technology that allows us to do things that a person 600 years ago would be more likely to assume came from another planet, than resulting from the processes of rigorous scientific reasoning and refined techniques of engineering, that allowed the development of such technology. While this technology has been made for the use of almost anybody with opposable thumbs, it doesn’t acvtually make us any smarter. We can all use a television, a smartphone, a computer and a calculator, but I would hazard a guess that less than 1% of us have anything more than a very rudimentary understanding of how any of this technology actually works. Just because we have calculators to help us do sums faster doesn’t necessarily make all of us better mathematicians than the man using the abacus. For some of us the calculator is a tool that we learn to master and that allows us to do very advanced mathematical calculations. Calculations that are used in architecture and engineering, these are examples of when a tool like a calculator or a computer can further our understanding, but it is only a very small minority of people that actually utilize modern technology as a means to develop more advanced technology. For the vast majority of us technology is synonymous with communication, and what we communicate are ideas that are scarcely more evolved or complex than were entertained by the minds of the average inhabitant during the dark ages.
Quantum physicist Richard Feynman, considered by most as only second to Albert Einstein, and considered by a few as superior, tells us the difference between knowing the names things and understanding the nature of things. Go on you can do it, it’s only 2 minutes long, and it involves moving pictures and sounds.
The year of the invention of the Guttenberg press, is probably the invention that draws the most parallels to the internet. In my earlier, theoretical anecdote, I tried to argue the point that very few of us actually understand much that we could have persuaded it was worthwhile for Guttenberg to consider printing. Indeed much of the printing done by Guttenberg’s presses was just to reproduce more and more copies of the Bible. It must be said however that it Guttenberg’s printing press facilitated the Bible to be translated out of Latin, thus replacing it as the Lingua Franca, and enabled the development of the vernacular of the European Languages we know today. And here we see a parallel, hasn’t the Internet done a similar thing for language with its use of emoticons, emojis, netlingo and chat acronyms.
The Internet can’t Create Knowledge, Communication Leads to the Decay of Knowledge
The internet can’t create information, it can’t create knowledge. Two scientists sharing ideas and data do use the Internet to create new findings and formulate new hypotheses, but this constitutes such an infinitesimally small amount of the actual communication that takes place over the Internet; the majority is half brained idiots treating us to “what they reckon”.
In essence the Internet is being predominantly used as a machine that enables us to play the classic children’s party game “Chinese Whispers”, on a global level. Does this mean the game should no longer be called Chinese whispers? Or, does it covertly tell us about the Chinese aim for global domination? Why not write to me and tell me what you reckon?
The internet draws us all together so closely, it’s probable that it reduces Milgram’s hypothesis of the 7 degrees of separation down to 4 or 5. In today’s game of Chinese whispers, when the child passes on the half understood, garbled reckoning they received from their friend, who they themselves only half understood the message that they received, a process that we could trace back ad nauseum, but I’m sure you get the point. Inevitably the further down the line you are of this convoluted, twisted chain, of what people reckon means that you’re the recipient of a piece of information, that’s of about as much use as an electric cucumber toothbrush.
But the problem gets compounded further. This misinformation is no longer timidly whispered into the ear of the person next in line. If it’s true, that in space nobody hears you scream, on the internet nobody hears you whisper, instead half understood, distorted reckonings are relayed from one friend/acquaintance to another, constantly being molded to fit the reckonings of the new disseminator, and spread around the globe at nigh on the speed of light, or at the very least to their 5,000 or so Facebook friends. You can’t play Chinese whispers on the internet. On the internet nobody hears your whispers, on the internet there are no whispers, just whirlpools and maelstroms of misinformation and a digital universe comprised nearly 100% pure, bullshit reckonings.
I used to believe that the internet marked the democratization of information. Today I’m left feeling like I must have been somewhat of a naive twat. How completely ignorant I was to have worn the rose tinted spectacles through which I first viewed the technological marvel of the Internet. you see there’s nothing wrong with the Internet itself. As a tool it retains the enormous potential to educate and inform almost every single person on the planet. So how can I claim there is a paradox and that it is actually contributing to the dumbing down of the majority of us?
Simple, any tool is only as good as the person that operates it, and the majority of mankind are just utter ass hats, that believe, just because we can use hi-tech equipment that we ourselves must be more advanced. Well here’s a clip of monkeys using an iPad, there’s a load more on YouTube, this is by no means a one off:
What should have become quite apparent from this short video is that whilst monkeys are an intelligent primate, the fact that they can use an iPad should confirm that using this advanced technology doesn’t require a highly developed mind. Indeed, the technology of today is designed to be as intuitive to use as possible, hence we see a monkey using it.
There may be no greater evidence that supports the intuitive ease with which we can use this most advanced technology than the fact that a method of schooling called Waldorf Schools, is the education of choice for the children of employees in the Silicon Valley. What makes Waldorf education unique, is that it deprives its students the use of all forms of technology, no tablets, mobile phones, computers or calculators are allowed. They claim “it’s out with technology and in with imagination”. As mantras go I found this to be quite underwhelming, unimaginative, and well, frankly shit. But, there can be no greater endorsement of this anti technological form of education, than the fact that it’s highly endorsed by those who are at the cutting edge of developing such technology.
The very nature of a paradox tends to make them a bitter pill to swallow. Paradoxes tend to have a habit of promising us one thing while in actual fact leaving us with something totally unexpected, and usually unpleasant. The information, communication, technology paradox might just be the paradox that will go onto destroy the hubris of mankind. This is a significant statement that deserves to be thoroughly explained, but if I CBB G2G & FAP @ JAV pron.
To me the damage that the Internet is doing to the knowledge and understanding of the average person is ineffable, so I’ll leave you with my favourite ever video on YouTube, 4 dwarfs racing a camel, which to some extent proves my point better than I ever could:
Some quotes from history that might have foreshadowed our slough of despond:
“He who knows nothing is closer to the truth than he whose mind is filled with falsehoods and errors.” Thomas Jefferson
“I know one thing; that I know nothing” – Sometimes referred to as the Socratic paradox
It’s just been recommended to me that it’s a good time to read Margaret Atwood’s, The Handmaid’s Tale. I agree, but unfortunately I’ve already read it, probably at a time that wasn’t as good as now, but I haven’t got the time to reread it as I’m currently reading another book that I’ve also been told ‘it’s a good time to read,’ Sinclair Lewis’ It Could Never Happen Here. I’m reading It Could Never Happen Here after having just finished Camus’ The Plague, it also having been recommended to me on the basis of ‘it’s a good time to read.’ Other literary titles that seem to be being recommended as apropos are the unimaginative dystopian trio of 1984, Brave New World, and Fahrenheit 451. Frankly if you’re over the age of 21 and haven’t already read these then I guess you’ve probably been too busy watching America’s Got Talent while masturbating into a sock. Recently I’ve also been recommended, and purchased, Assholes: A Theory,byAaron James, A People’s History of the United States, byHoward Zinn, and a rather more upbeat title, Utopia for Realists: Why Making the World a Better Place Isn’t a Fantasy and How We Can Do It,byRutger Bregman. I suspect that by the time I get round to finish reading these it will no longer be ‘a good time’ to read them, as Chelsea Clinton will have just become the president having edged out Kim Kardashian in an election that was so close it had to be resolved in the most democratic means available to a celebrity worshiping society, a naked mud wrestling splashdown, broadcast on pay per view, in high definition, surround sound. It’s either this or that sun dried fart of a president, Donald Trump, will have reduced our species to a pile of radioactive dust. I’ve also heard that Amazon has seen a surge in people wanting to read Mein Kampf, maybe because ‘it’s a good time.’
I just finished reading Camus’ The Plague, not as famous as The Stranger, but certainly no less skillfully written. Camus’ The Plague is a stifling, suffocating tale of a small Algerian town placed under quarantine after an outbreak of bubonic plague. It has been suggested that the story is an allegory of how Nazi ideology spread throughout Germany in the years leading up to World War 2, and the seemingly futile efforts of the French Resistance as they tried to find ways of overcoming the Nazi occupation.
While reading The Plague, it didn’t require any great leap of imagination to liken the spread of a highly contagious disease to the rapid spread of the alt right ideology. (An absolutely shameless and poor attempt to segue into what it is that I’m trying to say. I could have actually put in my opening paragraph; if I hadn’t become side tracked by dystopian literature, and the equally dystopian level of nudity that I predict will be required to decide our governments of the future.)
Despite having a name that sounds like a keyboard short cut it should be no surprise that the alt right has gained the majority of its following through the internet. The internet has proven to be an ideal breeding ground to facilitate the pervasive spreading of an ideology that only a couple of years ago would never have been discussed in public. The anonymity afforded by the internet has enabled people to voice radical opinions and meet up with others holding similar views. Over a relatively short period of time the numbers of people that have banded together sharing concerns over immigration, Islamic terrorism, feminism, and the preservation of the right to the freedom of expression, have increased at an alarming rate. To help put this into context I refer to the arbiter of public consciousness, Google. Type the terms ‘alt right’ into Google and you’ll get a choice of just over a quarter of a billion results to look at. Search ‘Democratic Party’ and you get a measly 64 million hits, search ‘US Constitution’ and you have what appears like an anemic choice of just over 10 million sources to look at. If the internet is the new battleground then it’s obvious that the alt right are winning the war. Mind if you do a search for ‘evil cat’, that’ll get you 43 million responses. So whether or not we should be fearing an alt right, evil cat coalition, or that the internet is really nothing more than a digital rubbish tip of mankind’s deranged sensibilities, I’ll leave you to decide.
The alt right has used the right to the freedom of expression as a foothold to gain itself a tenuous amount of legitimacy. They promote themselves as being the only political ideology that truly upholds this right, the self proclaimed guardians of the first amendment. It’s most likely that they’ve been able to achieve this as they’ve held opinions that were unutterable in civilized gatherings for the past twenty years. This logic is however flawed as any morally bankrupt ideology would be able to lay claim having had their freedom of expression limited by societal norms and values. For instance, and much to my own chagrin, people are very reluctant to engage in conversation that are open to considering the benefits of necrophilia. The truth is that the freedom of speech for those with repugnant ideas is no less than anybody else’s, what has to also be considered is the right that a large number of people have to react to those that espouse hate filled ideologies.
When Milo Yiannopoulos discussed his opinion that relationships between middle aged men and teen boys can be ‘life affirming.’ Mr. Yiannopoulos had the freedom, and made the choice, to express this opinion. His publishers Simon & Schuster, who were due to publish Yiannopoulos’ book, then exercised their right to react to Yiannopoulos’ statement by withdrawing their support and cancelling the book deal.
When a person promotes racist values that another person finds to be offensive, that person has just exercised their right to express their opinion. Anyone who listens to an opinion that they might disagree with, or find offensive, then has the right to disassociate themselves from such persons, who express such opinions. Simply put, we all have the right to say whatever it is we want, but we should also realize that there might be consequences to what we choose to say, in the form of how others might choose to respond to it.
And this is where I believe that we find ourselves today. A sizable group of people have, through the internet, suddenly found themselves empowered to express an extremely polemic point of view, leaving us with a society that is essentially in shock. The alt right is shocked that they have been able to voice opinions after they’ve had to bite their tongues for so long. The liberals meanwhile, are shocked there are so many people with such horrible ideas, and not enough people are thinking about the children.
Researching the ideology of the alternative right feels like driving to the dentists during the rush hour, because it’s an ideology that’s driven by fear, promotes intolerance and ultimately arrives at its final destination of self-loathing. Essentially what underpins the political philosophy of the alt right – I say political philosophy even though it has a set of opinions that are about as diverse as a satnav system stuck going round a roundabout – is nihilism. The alt right essentially rejects any reality that is in conflict with its own. It simply ignores the fact that culturally, racially, and economically our societies have become complex. Diversity has been the result of technology being able to transport people and goods, more quickly and cheaper than ever before. This doesn’t appeal to the mindset of the alternative right.
Steve Bannon, doyen of the alt right and Donald Trump’s chief strategist, promotes what he calls economic nationalism. According to Bannon, economic nationalism is the antithesis of globalization. Economic nationalism puts the American worker first, particularly when that worker is a white male. Bannon’s idea of economic nationalism provides us with an almost tangible glimpse into what an alt right Utopia would look like. It hearkens back to the days of 1950’s America. An America that rewarded hard working men, provided they came in the right shade of white. America before the civil rights movement. As a baby boomer this was the America that Steve Bannon grew up in, which makes me wonder if economic nationalism is nothing more than Bannon’s fantasy to relive his youth; so he can murder his father and have sex with his mother in order to fulfill an Oedipal complex that has laid dormant in him for the best part of half a century. I tried to make that last bit sound funny, but I can’t. It’s difficult to make a joke about a man who has admitted in public that he respects the power of Satan and who might also, in my opinion probably does, harbor sexual fantasies for his own mother.
Bannon’s economic nationalism has been criticized as populist in its appeal. As being an ideology that over simplifies economic issues, reducing them to the sort of sound bites that appeal to a stigmatized group, which in this case happens to be the working class white male of the American Rust Belt. Perhaps the most fundamental premise at the foundation of the alt right ideology is a belief that western culture has been destroyed by years of liberal economic
policy. The sorts of policies that have made it easier for the free movement of goods and people have been blamed for causing the economic downturn that has caused the rust belt. Being opposed to economic policies that promote globalization is a perfectly valid opinion for a person to have, but this opinion starts to become a concern when it’s hijacked by a group of people that espouse populist rhetoric in order to appeal to a group of people and get them believing that they have been the targets of economic policies that have seen other ethnic groups taking their jobs. Such rhetoric is extremely effective at spreading fear and hatred of the groups that appeared to have not fared as poorly. This type of rhetoric can cause alarm as it echoes that of Hitler identifying the Jews as the cause of Weimar Germany’s economic disaster.
But if I’m honest then I have to admit that I’m utterly bored, even contemptuous towards the economy. Whilst all of us have grown up to unquestioningly believe that economics and politics are ingredients fundamental to the running of a developed society, politics and economics have been the exclusive domain of intellectuals and economists. On the one hand we are made to feel that the health of the economy we live in is so vital that it closely mirrors our own well being. If the economy was a game that truly affects us all then I’d refuse to play as I have very little understanding of the rules. In fact the only people who do know the rules seem to be the sort of people I read about after they’ve drained all the money out of a pension fund.
Banking, as far as I can tell, seems to be almost as precise a science as using a slot machine. You either blindly hope for the best, delude yourself into thinking you’ve worked out a system, or open it up when no one’s looking and rig the settings so it’ll pay out illegally.
Just spend 5 minutes watching Bloomberg, inevitably you’ll hear two people trading economic jargon in a sort of duel to the death to prove who owns the most absurd lexicon. A man wearing a blue suit with a hair style so impossible that it defies all hitherto understanding of the laws of physics will open with an idea to “cultivate robust e-services,” the other participant in this discussion of virtual economic pugilism, parries this opening salvo and counters with “benchmark web-enabled e-commerce,” this backs the impossible hair into a corner, forcing them to respond with “scale out-of-the-box partnerships,” this for a moment catches his opponent off guard, he seems to stagger, his eyes roll back in his head, before he gathers his senses and unleashes a devastating combination of “brand vertical networks,” quickly followed by “productize clicks-and-mortar e-markets”. There’s an awkward pause as the hair realizes that he’s beaten, defeated in a contest that I failed to understand a single word of, and find hard to imagine that anyone else who’s just watched it has been able to comprehend.
The fact that the economic system is so unintelligible means that it relies on a public suspension of disbelief. A tacit understanding from the working classes that just because it sounds complicated, and that money is important, this imbues it with all the credibility that is necessary. I however am more cynical than that, and suspect that the financial sector has invented a lexicon so impenetrable so as to place itself outside of the realm of common sense, thus enabling those with an understanding of its strange, esoteric language, carte blanche to steal as much money as and when they like. The economy has done its best to marginalize the working class, who have then been told to hate immigrants, or globalization as being the reasons why they have lost their jobs, when in actual fact their frustrations should be focused on the bankers who will remain in their jobs irrespective of whatever government we might have.
If there’s one thing that the election of Donald Trump and Brexit should have taught all of us it’s that the working class, and in particular the white working class, are tired of being framed pejoratively by a media that has for too long looked down its nose at them. And this is an incredibly dangerous thing to have done which again has been seized upon by, the psycho with an unrealized fantasy of sleeping with his mother, Steve Bannon. Discrediting the media strikes a chord with working class people that have good reason to feel that it has failed to represent either them, or their concerns for a very long time. When a government is able to discredit a weak media it removes society’s most effective means of enforcing checks and balances upon that government. Being supported by a group of people that have long since seen it given up on listening to reason, who are now convinced that their government are the only voice of truth, inevitably empowers that government to do essentially whatever it pleases.
Trump had spoken, and his audience had heard him. Then I did what I’ve been doing for two and a half months now. I Googled “mainstream media is…” And there it was. Google’s autocomplete suggestions: “mainstream media is… dead, dying, fake news, fake, finished”. Is it dead, I wonder? Has FAKE news won? Are we now the FAKE news? Is the mainstream media – we, us, I – dying?
Despite trying to consider the Trump government, and the alternative right with an open mind, what I struggle to get beyond it its sense of nihilism. It seems to believe that everything that has been done over the course of the past 20 years has been wrong to such an extreme that everything must be discarded and replaced. It makes me feel that the last 20 years were all just a waste of time, and that we would have all been better off if we’d just stayed at home, watched The X Factor and masturbated into a sock, which is largely what I think most of us were doing. It rejects any idea that mankind is just one race, the human race. Instead it concentrates all of its malevolent energy into focusing on what makes people different. It then takes these differences and tries to convince mostly the white working class males, that these differences mean that diverse societies are incapable of peace or prosperity. The Utopia of the alternative right would seem to be a homogeneous society of people whose shade of white only varies according to how long ago it was they were last on holiday. However, whether these holidays could be taken abroad remains unclear. With the alternative right being so fearful of economic globalization and cultural diversity, holidaying in a country that dares to speak a different language or eat rice will probably not be possible if the fantasy of the alternative right comes to fruition.
I can see how the alternative right is being made to appeal to white, working class males. But I end where I started, with a quote from Camus’ The Plague, which is how I would feel if I found myself supporting the alternative right:
I was with them and yet I was alone. When I spoke of these matters they told me not to be so squeamish; I should remember what great issues were at stake. And they advanced arguments, often quite impressive ones, to make me swallow what none the less I couldn’t bring myself to stomach. The Plague – Albert Camus
Below are some pages that might interest you if you’re looking for more in depth, and frankly better written articles. Not something that sounds like it just leaked out of the mind of a person that was having their soul devoured by a xenophobic, hate filled wraith at four in the morning.
At the start of this week I was thrown a curve ball and caught on the hop, the careless mixing of the metaphors alone left me conjuring up an image of one of baseball’s more surreal moments. I was totally unprepared when I was asked, at very short notice, to cover the “Global Citizenship” class for a few weeks. Although it’s a subject that I’ve never taught before, I would be teaching it to a class of grade twelve students that I have taught English to for the previous three years, because of this I had no qualms about covering the class until a replacement teacher could be found.
Having had no time to plan a lesson, or for preparing any materials, my plan had to be formulated during the ten-minute motorcycle journey to work. I decided that the first week we would have a debate, and I allowed the students to decide the topic from a choice of three:
Is there a difference between being a global citizen and a citizen of your own country?
Is technology causing us to become less human?
Does the freedom of speech mean that all opinions should be respected equally?
The students narrowed it down to between numbers two and three, which pleased me as these were the two questions that I had given the time and effort to thinking of on my way to work, the third one being someone else’s idea that I had taken the time and effort to steal off of the internet.
Eventually, the students decided that they would discuss the topic of whether technology was causing people to become less human. From initial conversations, it became apparent that the students’ opinion was split evenly between those who felt technology was causing us to become less human and those who felt that it wasn’t. As I allowed the students to research and prepare their arguments, I casually circulated around the room in an awkward manner that only a 40-year-old male with little self-awareness can. As I listened to their conversations with one another I couldn’t help but get involved. What became apparent very quickly to me was how at ease both groups were with the role that they allowed technology to play in their lives. Most students felt that conversations over a webcam lacked none of the intimacy of a conversation conducted face to face. A number of students expressed the idea that they actually felt less awkward communicating through digital formats, whether it be text messaging, emails, chat-rooms, or webcams. After a short amount of time, both groups had discussed the proposition and despite the fact that they were meant to be preparing for a debate, they had concluded that progress is good, or at least that progress is inevitable so you might as well enjoy it, and that technology is inextricably linked to progress and therefore it too must be good. The arguments of both groups had run aground on a sandbar of technological apathy. It occurred to me that these students experience the world almost as much through technology, as they do through any of their other senses. To them discussing the benefits of technology was akin to discussing the benefits of using your eyes. It appeared to me that technology had almost become an extension of their senses, and debating whether it’s beneficial was, to the students, redundant. When I asked them whether a conversation over a webcam had less value than a face to face discussion, they looked at me in a way that was at first confused, but then gave way to sympathy as they realized how the teacher was “so old, and just doesn’t get it”. When at last they were able to comprehend the meaning of what I had just asked them, they just casually responded that there were no advantages to having conversations face to face and that a webcam is perfectly capable of capturing the essence of communication, maybe even of what it means to be human. I looked disbelievingly at them and asked for clarification, which they provided for me by rolling their eyes and returning my look of disbelief wrapped up in an air of unhealthy cynicism.
It started to become obvious to me that the teacher and the student were looking at the same issue from two totally different perspectives. Being forty years old, I had seen computers evolve from machines that had struggled to do anything more advanced than the most basic mathematical calculations. This had left me cautious and skeptical as to their ability to replace, or even enhance, the fundamental requirements necessary for meaningful human communication. These students, however, expressed no reservations about embracing any technology into their daily routine, trusting that its benefits will always outweigh any problems it might create. Because after all, technology is progress and progress is good.
I was starting to feel my age, and so, as I withdrew from their conversations I started to understand how alienated my lack of faith in technology had left me, how much the world had moved on during the time I’d spent researching Japanese pornography.
Back in the early nineties, I was a teenager struggling with my sense of identity. I had a low self-esteem and I was trying desperately to figure out who I was. I was insecure and unsure of my place, my purpose and my reason for being in the world. In short, it was a challenging time. Some would have called it teenage angst, others might have seen it as an existential crisis, when in all reality it was probably nothing more than just good old fashioned puberty.
The world was moving quickly, the dawn of the digital age and the personal computer was upon us. As a student, I was told that my ability to get a job, to fend for myself, to provide for my family, would be inextricably linked to my ability to use a computer. Failure to adapt to the computer revolution would result in my becoming a technological pariah, pushed to the fringes of society and laughed at. While I could understand the potential of computers and the role that they would inevitably go on to play in society, my predisposition for self-loathing wasn’t helped by the fact that somebody, somewhere, had decided that the public would be more likely to accept the digital revolution, if it was presented to them through the medium of talking pieces of inanimate office stationary. Struggling to appreciate your sense of self-worth becomes infinitely more challenging once you start taking advice from a narcissistic paperclip that talked down to you. I was never that scared of using computers, I was open to the idea, and could even see the benefits of using them to complete my school work. What I did become affraid of was being second-guessed by a paperclip with all the personality of sundried fart, and the agenda of a dogmatic demagogue. Who can ever forget the irritatingly malevolent, froideur bastard Clippy? A character dreamt up by the twisted mind of a perverse, failed software engineer, somewhere in rainy Seatle, entombed deep in the bowels of Microsoft. The instant I would start to type something Clippy would appear in my field of vision at some sinisterly oblique angle, questioning me as to what my purpose was, whether my intentions were aligned to that of the software. Clippy went about his job with the sort of enthusiasm and zeal of a Nazi on his first day at work, guarding a concentration camp.
What made Clippy particularly malevolent was how his abhorrent personality had been disguised by the form of a doe-eyed paperclip. His appearance succeeded in fooling many of my friends, but I knew a bastard when I saw one. And so it was that I embarked upon several years of psychological warfare with a talking paperclip, and just when I appeared to be getting the upper hand Clippy called in the reinforcements.
Admittedly Clippy had at least gone to the trouble of enlisting the help of sentient beings to undermine my fragile confidence, but there was something not quite right about the fact that I’d gone from taking the advice of a paperclip to taking advice from the twentieth century’s foremost physicist Einstein over a relatively brief period of time. Inevitably this led me to question the likelihood of Einstein not just having a talking paperclip as a colleague, but also a talking cat and a pagan wizard. All this ended up doing was for me to develop a heightened suspicion towards any of Einstein’s theories.
Nearly thirty years on and the memory of Clippy lingers and can still be the cause of a restless night’s sleep, so enduring has been the pernicious nature of the damage he wrought upon my fragile psyche. The confidence of a thirteen-year-old boy can’t be expected to wrestle with both Oedipus and Clippy in some kind of bizarre, Freudian tag team at a morally corrupt Wrestlemania, whilst a fanatical crowd bays for the youth to be emasculated by random pieces of office stationery.
At the beginning of the 1990’s computers were being used by students more and more for school work. For example, all Business Studies projects had to be submitted after being typed up on a word processor. Today that seems like no big deal, but you have to remember what the ‘technology’ was like back then, what with the continuous feed printer paper with the tear off holes down the side. In essence, it was little different than handing your ideas in on a piece of high tech toilet paper. I remember my parents bought me a word processing program for my computer, the Commodore Amiga. Now the Amiga was primarily a computer for playing games, and using it to produce academic work would today be comparable to trying to do your accounts on a Sony Playstation. Of course, the neo-Luddites in society did their usual thing and claimed that spell check would destroy people’s ability to spell, leaving society as nothing more than a severely dyslexic, gibbering mess. Of course ten years earlier they had been shouting and screaming similar things about how the calculator would render us incapable of performing even the most simple mental arithmetic ever again. If history has been able to tell us one thing, it’s that those who try and stand in the way of progress run a high risk of ending up looking like a complete arse.
Generally speaking, the track record of man to predict the impact that a technology will have on society in the future has often at best been hit and miss. Take for example Alexander Graham Bell, the inventor of the telephone, who completely failed to grasp the full potential his invention had to change the world when he said:
“One day there will be a telephone in every major city in the USA”
And finally, you might have been wondering about the title, yes I did intend for it to be a reference to Carrie Fischer, the first childhood crush of a generation of boys in the mid-eighties. She made it possible for many of us to understand that people with a significant mental illness can still lead a somewhat productive life; sometimes.
The East End of London has long been associated with violence. It was on these streets that the infamous Jack the Ripper stalked his prey and where the notorious Kray brothers kept peace on the street by dispensing their own unique brand of justice.
The new wave of violence has its roots firmly established in the past. In Elizabethan England the blood sport of bear baiting was popular, and The Globe Theatre made famous by Shakespeare was a venue well known for staging this barbaric entertainment. Indeed many Shakespeare scholars believe Shakespeare’s most famous stage direction “exeunt pursued by a Bear” is an indirect reference by Shakespeare to the practice of bear baiting. In recent years respected historian and novelist Dan Brown also discovered that the play this is taken from, “A Winter’s Tale”, is in fact an anagram of “Animal Death Hell”.
Whilst the practicalities of trying to smuggle a bear unnoticed around the streets of London has put an end to bear baiting, equally vicious blood sports have succeeded it. The following news report allows us a glimpse into the shady, underworld of Weasel Fighting:
There can be little room for doubt that evil in weasel fighting, but the influx of Eastern European gangs to London has seen blood sports become ever more exotic. Former Russian mafia hitman Bogdan Andreev confessed all he knew about the depraved world of blood sports.
I started out training against otters, but it seemed like I was a natural so I quickly moved on to stouts then ferrets. I remember my first fight, it was in the cellar of a pub in London’s East End. The punters formed a circle around me, then one of them threw a hessian sack writhing with weasles at me. As it was my first fight there was only 25 or so which I neutralized in just under 40 seconds. Naturally the crowd was amazed they had never seen an amateur handle himself like that before, I felt like that Russsell Crowe in “A Beautiful Mind” . I became a celebrity overnight in the East End underworld. Inevitably drink, drugs and women were to distract my focus from my training, and in elite weasel fighting that can turn the tables in the favour of the weasel. We have a saying in weasel fighting that somewhere out there there’s a bag of weasels with your name on it.
Having trained lightly for his next bout Andreev could never have expected what the organizers were staging. Andreev’s dominance was making it difficult for the bookmakers to turn a profit, thus forcing them to sabotage the contest. Andreev explained:
I remember looking at the sack, somehow it was different it, was writhing in a completely more frenzied fashion, and when they released the weasels, well it was just carnage.
Little did Andreev know that prior to the fight the weasels had been forced to ingest phencyclidine, PCP or colloquially known as Angel Dust.
They just kept coming at me with an unnatural strength, a strength you’d more associate with say a swan or a llama, not that I’ve ever wrestled a llama but with a strength I would expect from a llama.
Andreev would never fully recover from this incident, sustaining the loss of two fingers, a testicle and his sense of humour. But Andreev goes on to give even more alarming testimony concerning a man known as Yuri from Kazakhstan.
It all started one morning after breakfast, we’d all hit the vodka pretty hard when Yuri suggested he wanted to fight a monkey. What really interested him was the idea of spanking a monkey. He believed it would reinvigorate the East Ends interest in blood sports. We all tried to explain to Yuri that “spanking the monkey” was a euphemism for having a wank, but Yuri was both a focused and determined man. We heard no more about it until I got word in an East End market that a Russian intended to spank the monkey in a pub cellar. Well I knew immediately that somehow Yuri had procured his monkey.
With the assistance of an artist and Andreev’s eye witness account, we believe that what happened that evening looked much like this:
Well it was at this stage, having had my situation and watch Yuri spank a monkey in a dark, damp pub cellar, that I knew things were getting out of hand. For a couple of weeks Yuri was the talk of the town, but like any addict he needed to push things further to get his kicks. Spanking his monkey in public no longer did it for him, one day he upped the ante and declared his intention to “bash the bishop”. Those of us who were there looked at one another nervously. Moving on to people had never been considered, let alone a man of God. From the demented, deranged and depraved look in Yuri’s eyes I could tell he was serious. Again things went quiet for a couple of weeks, then the tabloid newspaper ‘The Sun’ reported that the Archbishop of Canterbury himself had been abused.
It was following this that Andreev fled London to start a new life in Thailand, as he reinvented himself as a kindergarten teacher. If it wasn’t for his braveness to speak out about the unfathomable cruelty of organized blood sports, neither bishops nor monkeys could enjoy the safety they do today.
Has the postmodern era made us lose sight of what was originally meant by the freedom of speech, do we now see it as a licence to say whatever we please, insulting whomsoever we chose, in the most offensive and degrading ways possible, whenever and wherever we please, no longer appreciating the freedom of speech for the liberty it really is?
Even the most liberal defender of the freedom of speech recognizes the need to limit the very freedom for which they advocate. For example advertisements can’t be intentionally misleading, the freedom does not extend to state secrets, nor to the publishing of material of a sexual nature of children. All of these seem reasonable with perhaps one exception, who decides on what is and what isn’t a state secret? For a long time most western societies have operated comparable policies and approaches to the freedom of speech (perhaps with the exception of the former eastern bloc) and until recently with little call for concern, so what’s happened to upset the freedom of speech apple cart? Why is it that in recent times we have heard our producers of entertainment, especially comedy, offending various groups of people living within our societies? My answer may appear over simplistic but for me the growing pervasiveness of postmodernism in western thought has led to the boundaries of decency to be pushed and the bar for the bar to be lowered a forever deepening abyss of self loathing.as it takes just too much god damn effort to raise the bar, what is most commonly done is to find ever more redundant, purposeless, verging on nihilistic ways of ridiculing popular beliefs.
Postmodern humour responds to and references the fears, fixations, frameworks and technologies which underpin our postmodern existence.
BLAIR SCOTT FRANKLYN The University of Waikato 2006
Franklyn’s observation on the characteristics of postmodern humour are apt as it has been through humour that the freedom of speech has most commonly been put to the test in the age of postmodernism.
“Nothing is original. Steal from anywhere that resonates with inspiration or fuels your imagination. Devour old films, new films, music, books, paintings, photographs, poems, dreams, random conversations, architecture, bridges, street signs, trees, clouds, bodies of water, light and shadows. Select only things to steal from that speak directly to your soul. If you do this, your work (and theft) will be authentic. Authenticity is invaluable; originality is non-existent. And don’t bother concealing your thievery – celebrate it if you feel like it. In any case, always remember what Jean-Luc Godard said: “It’s not where you take things from – it’s where you take them to.”
[MovieMaker Magazine #53 – Winter, January 22, 2004 ]”
― Jim Jarmusch
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