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Free speech and the fabulously rich and famous

It’s that time of year again. No, not Mother’s Day (or it it Mothers’ Day, I’ve never been sure if it was for mothers in general or just one), which down here is in actually in the middle of May anyway. No, I’m talking about the beginning of the Formula One season, which means over the past several weeks Melbourne’s Albert Park has gradually been closed to local residents, the poor bastards whose local taxes I imagine help pay for the park they use and who are tapped a second time along with everyone else in the state because of the government subsidising it to the tune of $50 million or so, and is by now humming and thrumming to the sound of highly tuned engines hurtling around the park’s main road. It’s the time of year when fans of motor racing, like me, are derisively called revheads by all the people who hate the race and/or the sport, even though I’m sure I’m not the only motorsports fan who objects to both the government subsidy and the use of a public park for the event.

I’m not going to blog about that because I’ve done so more than once before, such as here and here and here and here, and if you follow those links you’ll see that I don’t particularly care if it’s a sport I happen to like. If it needs subsidising by government, which ipso facto means forcing people who have no interest in it to contribute money as well, then either it’s not worth having at all or someone’s getting rich of off it. I’ve long felt that sports promotion of any kind should not be a function of government, especially given that picking winners in any industry is something they tend to be pretty bad at, and the fact that so many of them spunk away huge sums of money doing so anyway is just another reason to distrust and despise governments of all stripes. I haven’t changed my mind and I’m not going over the same ground again today.

Instead I want to say that another effect of the Formula One circus being in town is that F1 personalities seem to get a lot more press and attention around this time of year, including the little big man himself, Bernie Ecclestone. One bit of extra attention he, or in actual fact his daughter, has received has come from Labor federal MP Kelvin Thomson, who represents the seat of Wills just a bit north of central Melbourne, and who spoke in Parliament a couple of days ago on the subject of the Grand Prix’s cost and the Tamara Ecclestone reality TV show, saying:

One thing I am absolutely sure of: there are better ways to spend $50 million, year in and year out, than bankrolling Bernie’s billionaire bogan.

There’s a great deal that Kelvin Thomson said in that speech that I don’t agree with. As you’d expect of a left wing politician his thoughts were occupied on what Victoria’s government could spend that $50 million a year on – schoolsanospitals were a given, natch, as well as ‘undergrounding’ power cables (is ‘underground’ even a verb, and if so is it a better one to use than ‘bury’?) to reduce bushfire risks* – and never once did he mention the opportunity to end the compulsory tapping of every Victorian for about twenty bucks each to pay for it. Never once did he mention the possibility of simply telling Bernie that the Grand Prix must pay for itself and that incidentally, Parks Victoria is going to start charging rent just like the owners of any other venue do when someone wants to use it for an event. I assure you, in the highly unlikely event he wanted to hold the race in my back yard I’d charge him for it even though I’d be thrilled at the prospect, and I can’t see why so many governments can’t grasp this simple concept of being paid for providing the venue. Instead there’s the inexplicable queue to fellate him with mouthfuls of money, mostly taken from taxpayers. Kelvin Thomson does not seem to me to be particularly against the principle of fellatio with mouthfuls of taxpayers’ money but just objects to doing it for certain people and things, so naturally I’m going to disagree with most of what he says because he’s clearly just another politician who forgets whose bloody money it really is.

However, having not seen the reality TV show about Tamara Ecclestone, and feeling like I’d rather blind myself with an oily con rod than seek it out, I’m in no place to disagree with Thomson about her being a bogan, though naturally protective and unnaturally diminutive daddy did. Once someone explained to him what ‘bogan’ means.

Mr Ecclestone said federal Labor MP Kelvin Thomson’s comments had been “stupid” although he questioned what he had meant by ‘bogan’.

“I didn’t know what that means, does he speak English?” he asked on radio station 3AW.

Informed that being called a bogan implied his big-spending eldest daughter Tamara had no class, Mr Ecclestone suggested the insult was more suited to Mr Thomson.

Okay, well let’s look into that in a bit more depth than ‘takes one to know one’. First let’s get the dictionary definition from Macquarie (no link, subscription only).

bogan
/’boʊgən/ (say ‘bohguhn)
noun Colloquial (mildly derogatory) 1. a person, generally from an outer suburb of a city or town and from a lower socio-economic background, viewed as uncultured. Compare barry2, bennie, boonie, Charlene, Charmaine, cogger, feral1 (def. 9); Especially Qld bevan (def. 2); Chiefly Qld bev-chick; WA bog3; ACT booner; ACT charnie bum; Tasmania chigger2; Riverina gullie; Melbourne Region mocca; Victoria scozzer; Chiefly NSW westie.
2. a stupid person. Also, bogon. [origin unknown; ? from BOGAN]
–boganism, noun

On the one hand we have someone who’s been variously a lawyer, public servant and politician, and who favours the kind of politics that talk about robbi, sorry, taxing the rich to pay for nice things for the poor, but invariably ends up meaning taxing rich and poor alike, or would if some of those inconsiderate rich people didn’t keep buggering off with their money to lower tax regimes. I can think of many unpleasant and abusive things to call him, but ‘bogan’ isn’t one of them. And on the other hand we have a woman who, if Thomson and The Age are to be believed, has a home with an elevator for her Ferrari, motorised shoe racks, a bowling alley with crystal studded bowling balls, its own nightclub, a $1 million crystal bathtub, and wardrobes for her dogs… whose hair and nails are done regularly at Harrods… like you do. Whether all that’s sufficiently class free to be called bogan is probably up for debate, but I’d suggest there’s one thing about her that certainly qualifies, possibly to the point of überbogan-ness.

She’s got her own fucking reality TV series!

However, all that’s still a matter of opinion, and if Bernie Ecclestone disagrees that’s fair enough – he wouldn’t be much of a father if he didn’t speak up to defend his daughter. But I don’t think that defence extends to wanting someone sacked for voicing the opinion that she has less class than a derelict comprehensive.

“Who was the half-wit who said these things … he should be fired because he’s a bit of an idiot, he obviously doesn’t know what he’s talking [about].”

Oh, he may well be an idiot and he wouldn’t be the first politician not to know what he’s talking about, but he shouldn’t be sacked for several good reasons. For one, it was said in Parliament as part of a debate on state funding of the Grand Prix, and by extension Bernie Ecclestone and his family. It might not have been high quality debating but in parliament a politician should be free to make his arguments however he or she wants to. For another, even if he’d said it to some news crew in the street outside he’s as entitled to his opinion as anyone else. He gets to call Tamara Ecclestone a bogan and even label her old man a subsidy sucking goblin if he wants, which wouldn’t be OTT for a country with a proud history of political insult throwing (my favourite is ‘a shiver looking for a spine’ although I can’t remember who said it or to whom). And in return Bernie gets to call him an idiot if he thinks that’s a better idea than refuting it and justifying why taxpayers, few of whom attend the race, are made to throw 50 million bucks at him every year. For a third, how long he stays in his job is, at least in theory, entirely up to the people living in those Melbourne suburbs that make up his constituency. It’s a very safe Labor seat so in practice it’s also down to the Australian Labor Party, but for damned sure it’s not down to the whims of Bernie Ecclestone, who incidentally seems confused about what kind of political systems allow or encourage free speech.

“You’re not a communist state there are you?” he queried.

No, see, Bernie, in a communist state you’re not supposed to say unpleasant things about the wealthy and powerful because they might demand, and get, retribution in the form of getting you fired or assigned to some shitty work, or even charged with some bullshit offences in the most obscenely illiberal places – Bexley, for example. Which seems to be kind of what you want when you say that Kelvin Thomson should be fired. In Australia and Victoria, while currently leaning left of centre and while also technically lacking what I’d call real freedom of speech, this generally will not happen.

You can ask the locals all about it this time next month when you’re in Shanghai.

* I understand burying power cables is expensive and comes with its own issues relating to losses and insulation. Shouldn’t be much of a surprise – if it was easy to bury high voltage transmission lines they’d be doing it more already. When it becomes the better choice, perhaps through some breakthrough in superconductors or something, then you can expect they will, though I imagine that maintaining a buried cable will always be more work than a suspended one. In any event, I’ll always hate hearing it called ‘undergrounding’.

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Okay, enough now

On Sunday I talked about offence seeking and mentioned that something I find particularly weird is this fashion of being offended on behalf of someone else, particularly when they’re not all that bothered themselves, the example being the fuss made over comments by a couple of daytime TV hosts about VC recipient and SAS member Ben Roberts-Smith when he clearly doesn’t think it worth getting worked up about himself. This happens a lot these days, and its zenith (or nadir, depending on your point of view) is generally found when some well intentioned right-on type, generally white, gets offended about something on behalf of a group who are not white and begins talking about patronising these people without noticing how patronising it is to act as if they can’t decide whether to be offended for themselves but need some PC obsessed wanker to do it for them.

However, there’s another depth it can sink to, and that’s when actual threats of violent retaliation are made, which is about where we are now with the level of frothing outrage over the remarks of those two TV airheads.

Two more companies have pulled their sponsorship from the morning television show The Circle as Channel 10 today condemned a number of “extreme comments” and threats on social media sites targeting co-host Yumi Stynes.

The latest company to cut ties with The Circle was Mirvac Hotels and Resorts, which posted on its Facebook page that it had cancelled all sponsorship due to the “abhorrent comments” made on the show last week about Australian war hero Ben Roberts-Smith.

[…]

Yoplait has also reportedly withdrawn its advertising within the morning television show. Yoplait has been contacted for comment.

It follows news yesterday that Swisse Vitamins, coffee chain Jamaica Blue and Big 4 Holiday Parks had cut their ties with The Circle after Stynes, along with and veteran journalist and guest co-host George Negus, mocked the Victoria Cross recipient.

Stynes has since become the target of an online hate campaign, including physical threats against her and her children, and racial vilification.

If companies want to ditch advertising during or sponsorship of the show then that’s up to them, and if people want to boycott the show or the products of companies who – how very dare they – don’t think such puerile comments are worth changing their advertising strategies over then likewise. But threatening someone over it? Threatening their children? Seriously? Why, what did her kids do?

What the fuck is wrong with people?

A tale of two, no, make that three Aussies

First, via an Ambushy Predatory tweet, the case of Geoff Stephens, a UK based Australian whose feelings were hurt by colleagues making Australian jokes, as I blogged in passing last year.

An Australian community warden called Geoff Stephens suing his council employer because people keep saying things like “G’day, sport” to him and making kangaroo jokes.

Look, folks, this must stop. It is wholly inappropriate to call Mr Stephens “sport”. The correct term is “yer big sooky la-la” and must be used from now on.

Well, it seems that Geoff – be careful not to call him Geoff-o or anything else that might sound a bit Australian in case the poor guy can’t take it – must have lost because he’s now in the news again. Yes (said with a sense of depressing inevitability), he’s taking his case to Europe.

An Australian community warden who claimed he was racially abused by colleagues who constantly greeted him with ‘G’day Sport’ is taking his case to the European Court of Human Rights.

Geoff Stephens, who has been in the UK for 27 years after coming over from Australia when he was 22 years old, claimed he suffered a barrage of abuse from co-workers for being Australian.

Anyone interested in how many times I’ve been called a pom? Anyone? No? Funny that, and maybe it’s because nobody, least of all me, thinks it’s that big a deal. With Western society having become so litigation prone I’d obviously be lying if I said it had never occurred to me to try to sue anyone over it, but I would be lying if I said it really bothered me and doubt I could do so with a straight face.

He claimed that the ‘racism’ and bullying’ he suffered at work ‘would eventually have killed him’ and that he constantly asked colleagues to stop making jokes about him being an Aussie.

Racism? Geoff, you idiot, Australian – except when referring to indigenous Australians – is no more a race than Islam is. I’d like to think that this is a subtle move to destroy the ability to play the race card by rendering it a bad joke with members of non-existent races making ludicrous claims about racism by people who look exactly like them, but sadly I suspect it’s just silliness.

He said that fellow wardens constantly greeted him with ‘G’day Sport’, ‘Is your girlfriend called Sheila?’ and made jokes about kangaroos and asked him to ‘Throw another shrimp on the barbie’.

Which is almost as lame as some of the attempts to mimic an English accent while I’m around. You know when David Cameron tried to do Julia Gillard?* Like that but even worse. My response has not been to run off crying for compo but to try to teach them how to do it properly using references to appropriate study material. This usually means films with Michael Caine in, and so if you happen to ever meet an Australian who, upon realising that you’re English, shouts “Dan’t throh those bladdy spears at me” you’ll know whose fault it is and how successful I haven’t been.

He said: ‘I’m totally disappointed with the tribunal outcome but am really hopeful about Europe.

‘The last few months have been a nightmare and my whole life has been turned upside down.

That’s because you’re from Austr… oh, forget it.

‘I have transcripts which prove they listened to my private conversations, including one with my doctor to see if I was telling the truth about my health.

‘I thought ‘Strewth’, and couldn’t believe it when I realised.

“Strewth”? Geoff, did you seriously just say that word? Come on, after spending more than half your life in Britain you must realise that that panders to every stereotype Brits hold about Australians. I think you should sue yourself for every penny you’ve got. I also think that you should, as they say here occasionally, harden the fuck up.

Something similar could be said about the unnamed police officer in this case from Plymouth (I think also via JuliaM).

A man abused a police officer from Australia saying: ‘We speak English in this country’.

Oh, that Wilde-ian West Country wit. The poor Aussie copper must have been mentally devastated, coming as he does from a country where everyone speaks, er, English as well.

Eoin McCarthy, for the Crown Prosecution Service, said police were called to a report of an incident in Wyndham Street East in Stonehouse.

He added officers questioned a group of men and wanted to search Morrison.

Mr McCarthy said: “The defendant was not particularly impressed by that, saying: ‘We speak English in this country’.

“The officer took offence in view of his nationality, which is Australian.”

The court heard Morrison continued to abuse the officer, despite being warned to stop.

Now it’s not said what the form of the continued abuse was and for all I know there was something arrestable at some stage (he ended up in court, after all), but it’s that penultimate line that got me. He took offence in view of his nationality. Aw, bless, although how this delicate soul was considered the right material for a job where being called a pig is an occupational hazard when he’s clearly so thin skinned that a pathetic gibe at his country of birth stung so much is quite beyond me. I’d have suggested a less confrontational line of work, such as a librarian. Yes, people could still take the piss but at least they’d have to do it in a whisper. On the other hand, if the officer wants to carry on with his chosen career I suggest he ponder the words of his fellow Aussie, Steve Hughes.

Finally, we have an example of an increasing trend that’s even more annoying than taking offence over trivialities – taking offence on behalf of a third party over trivialities that aren’t even aimed at you. In this instance the offended-on-behalf-of mob included half the media, and they really did make the whole thing look particularly ludicrous because far from being of a delicate flower like disposition the person at whom the comments were aimed is a serious contender for the title of Hardest Australian Alive, which he could put alongside his SAS beret, his Medal for Gallantry and his absolutely-shitting-you-not Victoria Cross.

Oh, and at more than six and a half feet tall he’s also fucking massive.

Harden the fu... oh, er, sorry mate, didn't mean you

This is Corporal Ben Roberts-Smith, who was awarded the VC for an incident in Afghanistan in 2010 in which his patrol was under fire from three machine gunners. Cpl Roberts-Smith deliberately left cover, killing at point blank range an enemy grenadier who got in the way, in order to draw fire away from his team, and since his patrol commander’s grenade only took out one of the machine gunners he stopped screwing around and killed the remaining pair himself. He must be pretty damn quick on his feet too because those three machine guns that stopped firing at his patrol in order to concentrate their fire on him managed to miss despite him being, as I think I mentioned, fucking massive.

That or the bullets were frightened of getting hurt when they bounced off him.

What can anyone possibly say about a guy like Ben Roberts-Smith that he’d need protecting from? That maybe he’s not the sharpest knife in the drawer or much good at sex, apparently.

The co-host of Channel Ten program The Circle has publicly apologised for making a sexist and disrespectful comment about Victoria Cross recipient Ben Roberts-Smith, saying she had never met the Australian war hero and “felt sick” at the angry backlash she had received after branding him brainless.

Yumi Stynes admitted she did not know much about Corporal Roberts-Smith when she commented on a photograph of the shirtless war hero in a swimming pool yesterday, saying: “He’s going to dive down to the bottom of the pool to see if his brain is there.”

Stynes’s guest, co-host and veteran journalist George Negus had then quipped: “I’m sure he’s a really good guy, nothing about poor old Ben. But that sort of bloke, and what if they’re not up to it in the sack?”

Another host questioned whether Negus was suggesting “that he could be a dud root”, to laughter from the audience.

Yes, the mind does indeed boggle. Offensive? This kind of thing is so lame that if it had hooves someone would shoot it behind a tarpaulin. I could shrug that off and I’m not worthy of standing in temporarily for one of Ben Robert-Smith’s lower legs. Addressing such witless and puerile remarks to such a highly decorated soldier is certainly tasteless and may be embarrassing for the rest of us to have heard or read, but whether it’s offensive to Ben Roberts-Smith is solely for Ben Roberts-Smith to decide. Nonetheless…

The Circle’s Facebook page was flooded with angry comments, while a relative of another decorated war veteran contacted The Age to call for the Stynes and Negus to be sacked.

[…]

Opposition defence personnel spokesman Stuart Robert condemned the comments made by Negus and Stynes.

Nothing quite like the faux outrage of an opposition politician to make me take something less seriously.

“The irony is that the freedom of speech these journalists exercise is a freedom neither of them have fought for -but which both enjoy.”

Wrong, Stu. I’d argue that we don’t actually have freedom of speech when there are things that simply may not be said, but also that anyone may fight for freedom of speech just by saying anything that someone disapproves of and refusing to be kowtowed into retracting it. Not that I’m suggesting Yumi Stynes and George Negus were doing anything so noble rather than just talking the kind of schoolyard bollocks which both of them, and Negus especially, should have outgrown. Still, the content of their comments is not the point. The point is that the only person who can say whether Cpl Roberts-Smith is offended is Ben Roberts-Smith himself. And, perhaps not all that surprisingly for the Hardest Living Thing in Australia (Counting Some of the Crocs), he wasn’t really.

Victoria Cross recipient Ben Roberts-Smith has dismissed sexist and disrespectful comments aimed at him by the Channel Ten program The Circle as “surprising” but not malicious.

[…]

Both personally apologised to Corporal Roberts-Smith for their comments before appearing on The Project to explain their actions.

Stynes said that she was “humbled” and “sorry” for her comments.

“I did speak to the winner of the Victoria Cross on the phone and said to him ‘look, I’m really about this’ and he was like ‘I’ve got a pretty thick skin’ and he kind of went ‘you know this stuff happens, you say stuff, don’t sweat it, let’s move on.’

She added that it was “uncool to make fun of him” yet she was “relieved” to speak with Corporal Roberts-Smith.

[…]

Negus, who also spoke with the decorated soldier, added: “It was very difficult to get him to accept my apology because he didn’t sound as though he thought I needed to make one.”

Perhaps because for some people not even sticks and stones, or bullets and grenades for that matter, seem able to break their bones. Some words might be able to hurt them, but for damned sure words like ‘brainless’ and ‘dud root’ won’t be among them. Most people are made of strong enough stuff to deal with that, and those like Roberts-Smith are made of sterner stuff still.

So if you want to make some remark about mad hair, guy-liner and 80s Goth/New Wave music I’d go right ahead, because the chances are that nest to nothing you can say or do to the guy is going to be significant enough to warrant much of his attention.

* I mean her accent, you dirty minded sods.

2012 sees fiercest ever competition to be offended by Jeremy Clarkson

The annual competition to be outraged by something that Jeremy Clarkson said is shaping up to be hotter than ever this year, according to both organisers and participants.

First out of the blocks has been the Society for People with Lumpy Faces, whose complaint to Ofcom regarding Clarkson’s comment that a car with a bulge on the back looked like John Merrick and would be ignored by other cars at a party was timed almost perfectly, allowing most people to have forgotten whatever it was he said to upset the Indians. It’s expected that they’ll be followed swiftly by the usual complaints from short people that Richard Hammond never gets to drive the really good cars and shout “Power” a lot.

Adding to this year’s contest for the first time are some of the older and better known charities, who’ve begun to realise that for some years they’ve been neglecting the valuable source of publicity that the annual Clarkson Offence Competition has come to represent.

“Frankly, we’re kicking ourselves,” said Jacquie Russell from Battersea Dogs Home. “All these years Jeremy Clarkson has been describing shit cars as dogs and it didn’t occur to us to say anything about it. And now we find out that we’re too late this year because the RSPCA, Blue Cross, PDSA and Guide Dogs for the Blind are all ahead of us in the queue to complain if he says it again this season. We’re hoping he might say something rude about SW11 and we can join in local offence taking about that instead.”

Meanwhile the Cats Protection League are expected to do poorly with their complaint to the BBC about being marginalised in the competition due to the lack of offensive Clarkson remarks about cats. “It’s completely racist,” said a gorgeous little tabby kitten that you’d need a heart of stone not to adore.

Bookies have said that it’s early days and that there is no clear favourite as yet, while at a press conference the Top Gear producer and representatives for the BBC all insisted that the lucky winner will not be announced until the Christmas Special as in previous years.

“It’s like an elderly gypsy’s incontinence pants,” said Mr Clarkson at his home yesterday.

Offence seeking déjà vu

Do you remember the end of 2010? I do. My very last blog post of the year was titled “Last effort for the Offence Seeking Twat of the Year Award” and was about the Top Gear Christmas special outraging literally some people, most of whom were white, middle class Graun readers. Oh, and Andy Choudary.

Needless to say I haven’t actually seen Top Gear’s “Three Wise Men”, and being a Christmas special I expect it’ll air here between Easter and late June, but it has already made some news here. And it’s all thanks to James May, a rock, a few square yards of black cloth, and bloody Anjem “Is-It-‘Coz-I-Is-Slamic” Choudary. It seems that James May brained himself with a rock somehow and that when he came out of hospital, for reasons I don’t pretend to understand, this was what he was faced with.

Jeremy Clarkson and Richard Hammond disguised themselves as women by wearing Islamic face veils which only revealed their eyes in a Christmas show filmed in Syria.

Don’t fancy yours much.

Andy, with almost gravitic inevitability, was upset because he saw this as an attack on a symbol of his religion, which as far as I could tell the burqa isn’t, having been predictably silent over the years about Muslim attacks on the symbols and traditions of other religions.

Still, all to be expected, and so is the nature and level of outrage directed Top Gear’s way over this year’s Christmas special.

Jeremy Clarkson has been accused of offensive behaviour once again after mocking Indian culture in a Top Gear Christmas special.

Okay, can I interrupt to make a brief point. There’s no ‘accused of offensive behaviour’ about it – if someone was offended then ipso facto his behaviour was offensive. The question is whether that’s a reason for doing anything, and since nobody’s ever done so much as two fifths of fuck all about most of the things that offend me, and since that doesn’t keep me awake at night, I’d say the answer is no, no reason to do anything at all. Being offended is painless and causes no loss unless someone chooses to allow it, which says more about them than what they’re complaining about. By all means take offence and say so if you like, but don’t tell me it harmed you and the other person must be silenced.

Viewers have complained to the BBC after the outspoken presenter made a series of controversial remarks about the country’s clothing, trains, food and history.At one point, Clarkson appeared to make light of the lack of sanitation for poor residents by driving around slums in a Jaguar fitted with a toilet.

And? It’s not the wittiest way of making the point but unless it’s actually wrong and Indian slums typically have indoor plumbing, piped water supplies and sewers now I don’t see the problem. These people are dreadfully poor and literally don’t have a pot to piss in. I’m not saying that Clarkson was subtly highlighting the issue of Indian poverty but it’s not as if he was saying something that isn’t true. Even if he was the appropriate response is rebuttal, not howls of righteous outrage and the usual demand to have him sacked and flogged with broken glass.

And then we have the actual volume of complaints.

A spokesman for the BBC said they had received 23 complaints about the programme, which was broadcast on Wednesday evening.

And how many watched? According to the Graun, who I imagine would like nothing better than the anger of the terminally thin skinned over Clarkson’s shoot public sector strikers remark to kill TG’s viewing figures, five million people watched and it was the most popular show in its time slot. Assuming every one of those 23 who complained actually watched the show that’s 0.00046% of viewers who were offended, and given that about a million people in the UK are of Indian ethnicity it says even more that only 23 complained. Not that all those 23 were necessarily Indian – some are probably white, middle class Graun readers getting offended on behalf of Indians, who presumably don’t know when they’re being offended. Certainly some of the people taking to message boards and Twatter seem to be.

Owen Hathway tweeted: “Whats wrong with the BBC that they think casual racist stereotyping is acceptable on top gear?”

No idea, Owen, but why don’t we leave it up to the million British Indians and the billion Indian Indians to decide whether to be upset. Many of them might think it’s some middle aged white guy making a tit of himself and find it amusing. But no, they’re clearly mistaken and should be as outraged as the Owens are on their behalf, because it’s raaaaaaaacist, see? Raaaaaaaacist!

Which reminds me, where do I write in to complain about this sketch by Goodness Gracious Me from a few years back? I thought it was pretty funny at the time, but now thanks to 23 anonymous complainants and an assortment of condescending pricks I now realise that it was mocking English culture and… what was it again? Oh, yes, I remember: casual racist stereotyping.

I mean, what is wrong with the BBC that they thought it was acceptable?

What’s good for the goose is for the gander, offence seekers, and you can’t have it both ways. Either both are bad and offensive and shouldn’t be allowed, or both are fair play regardless of whether someone somewhere is (or just decides they ought to be) offended by it. I’d say the latter because, as I’ve said before, there is no right to go through life and never be offended, and since one person can be offended by something that is said while another can be offended by it not being said there never can be a right to not be offended.

As someone who’s offended by opening the paper and has moved somewhere that has its own special name for the English my advice would be to get offended all you like as often as you like by absolutely whatever you, er, dislike. Just don’t sit there fuming and expecting it means you have a right to insist that anyone else has to accommodate your feelings, because a free society can never work that way and all an unfree society can do is to pick sides.

Hero of the Day – UPDATED

In a small way Gerry Reynolds is a minor hero today for speaking up in support of Jeremy Clarkson’s freedom to be as hyperbolical as he likes.

He said: “I have decided that if I am ever put in charge that I would like to line all the UK’s copycat complainers up against a wall, tell them that I have had enough, and shoot them myself.”
… “Of course, that is a joke, I don’t own a gun, never want to, and would rather use a sledgehammer.
“The reason why I want rid of these people is simple. Just as I take the freedom to walk across a picket line as seriously as the right to stand on one, the freedom to express jokes and opinions is very dear to me.
“The moment creativity is constrained by the opinions and values of copycat complainers, religious fanatics or people trying to sell newspapers, we are in seriously deep trouble.”

Good for Gerry Reynolds for understanding this very important point about liberty, and good for him also for ignoring the inevitable offence seeking, freedom-phobic handwringers who promptly complained and demanded the comments, made on a council blog, be removed as well as the editor of the blog who said he didn’t see anything wrong with what Gerry Reynolds had said.

“It’s a blog and it is personal opinion. I don’t agree with all he says, or with his high opinions of Jeremy Clarkson. There is a comments box if anyone wanted to put forward an opposing view.
“He is not writing this as a council officer, and he is not representing Northings or Hi-arts. It is a person blog.”

In fact about the only thing a reasonable person could have against Gerry Reynolds is that he too is a public sector employee, occupying the position of Events and Promotions Manager at Highland Council. And since I feel that events and promotions management should not be a function of any level of government I’d suggest that his reward should be to be taken out and shot. Or possibly just his job since he sounds like someone who’d find something in the private sector without too much difficulty.

UPDATE – Gerry Reynolds himself has ducked all the gunfire going on to leave a thanks and a FYI that his blog is not a council one but a personal one on which he avoids talking about anything to do with his employer. Fair dos, correction noted.

Too bad

Click for linky

Cynthia Crawford, who worked as Lady Thatcher’s personal assistant from 1978, said the Hollywood biopic was likely to upset her friends and family.
She said the opening scenes of The Iron Lady, starring Meryl Streep, were likely to be particularly distressing as they show her suffering from dementia.

I have exactly the same thing to say to offence seeking right wingers as to their offence seeking left-wing oppos. There is no right to not be offended and there never can be such a right because I for one would find the imposition of it extremely offensive (and no, I’m not saying that to be bloody difficult but because I’m a fucking adult my skin’s thick enough that I don’t need some paternalist twats wringing their hands on my behalf). If someone says something you don’t like, don’t listen. If they say something you think is wrong then debate it. If they make a film that you think is unfavourable to someone you admire in that it portrays them with dementia, even though they really do have dementia in real life, then just don’t go and watch it. And so on.

This is not rocket science. Grow up and get over yourselves.

Hell hath no fury like a public sector union ridiculed

Oooh, Jezza, you are in trouble now. It was one thing having a pop at the Prime Mentalist of Britain and his eyesight, though I felt the term ‘one-eyed Scottish idiot’ just served to identify exactly which of the 600 or so idiots was being talked about in case anyone didn’t catch the name, but how very dare you use a typically hyperbolic expression that only a attention seeking moron with a Pavlovian response to take offence to almost anything would take literally when talking about the heroic public sector workers.

Heroic workers

Within hours, public servants had bombarded the BBC with more than 4,700 complaints, but Dave Prentis, the general secretary of Unison, took matters further. He said Clarkson’s “revolting” comments were “totally outrageous, and they cannot be tolerated”.

Okay, more than 4,700 complaints from the two million or so that Dave Prentis claims were striking. I make that less than a quarter of one per cent who got sufficiently bent out of shape about it to complain. Or who knows, perhaps a quarter of one per cent is about the number who complained when they were told to by Dave Prentis? Or any combination of the two.

Or is it 4,700 out of the six million or so people in Britain who are either in the public sector or who depend on it for a living, making it well below a tenth of one per cent? Or should we go the whole way and just say that it’s 4,700 out of the 50 million or so adults in the UK, making it less than one per cent of one per cent. I suppose given the minority rule model of democracy practised in the UK and favoured by left and right alike, but I feel especially the left, acting on the wounded feelings of one person in every ten thousand seems almost reasonable.

Clarkson should be sacked by the BBC, he said, adding that the union was “seeking urgent legal advice about what further action we can take against him and the BBC, and whether or not his comments should be referred to the police”.

Britain having long since given up any pretence of free speech. Look, Dave, this is a phrase that’s been used by people in the same exaggerated style for decades. as pointed out in The Tele by James Delingpole.

… he was employing it as a figure of speech. I know this won’t mean much to half the morons who complained to the BBC yesterday, but the English language is an extraordinarily rich and nuanced thing. Sometimes, when the speaker says that someone should be shot, he really does mean it: if, say, it’s an officer giving orders to a firing squad about to shoot a deserter or a looter in 1915. More often, though, he doesn’t. For at least the last fifty years “they should be taken out and shot,” has been a socially acceptable, perfectly unexceptionable way of expressing colourfully and vehemently one’s distaste towards a particular category of unpleasantness, be it striking Unison workers, revolting students, poorly performing members of your football team or the Lib Dem members of Cameron’s cabinet. Context is all.

And that’s easily confirmed by googling variants of the phrase and setting filters to exclude all the stuff from the past couple of days. In a couple of minutes I’d found people who’d said that health nuts should all be shot, jobless hippies should all be shot, fairweather motorbikers should all be shot, people who like Elvis Presley should all be shot, and somewhat ironically, someone who’d said journalists should all be shot. Jeremy Clarkson, having certainly started out as a journalist and I expect technically still being one, would Dave Prentis and the 4,700 complainers be leaping to his defence in the belief that he’s about to be killed?

And calling in the police? For heaven’s sake, Dave, do you have any idea how ridiculous that looks to people in the real world? If Clarkson had control over people who both had the means to take strikers out and shoot them and were willing to do it then maybe, just maybe, it might have been incitement. But Clarkson doesn’t control the judicial system, police and military, does he? He doesn’t even control what he describes as the pokey little motoring programme of which he’s a third of the presenters, much less its entire fan base – very few of whom in the UK would possess guns and even fewer of whom would think his comments were anything more than his usual over the top style.

It’s not a crime, Dave – no, not yet even in non-free speech Britain – if no rational person would take it seriously, and on that point what does it say about you and the 4,700 complainers that you do seem to take it seriously? I mean, if they really think a right wing bigmouth like Clarkson would mean it when he says he’d have people shot and could follow up on it would they themselves be dragging people into the street if Ed Milivanilliband had said it?

And now before I go any further, a mandatory blog warning in the spirit of regulations that don’t yet exist but might one day. Readers with recent surgical stitches may be advised to look away now.

In a rant worthy of Clarkson himself, Mr Prentis suggested children watching the programme “could have been scared and upset by his aggressive statements”.

Ahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha. Ahahahahahahahaha. Ahahah. Hoohoohoohoo. Ahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha. Ahahahahahaha.

Dave, are you that desperate to score a point or are you actually clinically delusional? Look, this is how the BBC describe The One Show: “Magazine show with topical reports, features and interviews from around the UK.”Do you really think any child of the narrow age group that is old enough to understand what was said but too young to recognise it as nothing more than exaggeration for cheap laugh (which of course was the reaction it got in the studio, and is probably the kind of thing that helps children learn what not to take literally) would be watching? I don’t mean in the room at the same time it was on, I mean looking and listening and paying attention to the content. I’d suggest the number to be hovering right around zero with even less remembering it by the next morning, though I’ll concede that there might be a few whose heads were turned to the TV by loving but very PC and extremely fucked up parents who whispered, “That nasty man on telly says he wants to take mummy and daddy away from you forever.” They might still be upset because some tool of a union boss keeps bloody going on about.

Seriously, Dave, this is almost the right-on version of Godwin’s Law. “Won’t someone think of the chiiiiiiiiiiiiiiildren” is the last refuge of a scoundrel, and when someone resorts to it it’s a good sign that their argument holds less weight than a paper bag that’s been left in a puddle of piss for a month and won’t smell much better. For that reason alone I think Dave Prentis loses any credibility and forfeits the argument.

We could call it Lovejoy’s Law.

Pish of the Day redux: dessert course

In the comments the Ambush Predator wondered what our fishing averse tourist David Copp might find if he tried a bit of self-googling. When I looked earlier links to articles about his whining that fishermen catch fish and bring them ashore dead rather than swimming around in little bowls appeared about halfway down. I checked again just now and I saw one that wasn’t there earlier, and it’s tone is, shall we say, less than neutral. In fact the Irish Independent is just heaping more ridicule on the man, and doing it well enough that I’m just going to have to quote the whole thing.

David Copp (46) brought his family on a break to Devon and had a horrid time.

He was shocked — shocked! I tells ya — when he was confronted by the appalling vista of 12 crates of dead fish which, he says, were really smelly and left his two children ,aged seven and nine, “quite distressed”.

Now, it should be pointed this happened at Ilfracombe Harbour, a working fishing village and the crates were there to be taken out to sea to be used as bait by the local trawlers.

But that’s not good enough for our thin-skinned hero and his overly sensitive children, no sirree Bob.

In fact, after the local trawlermen basically told him to feck off and pointed out that when you’re in a fishing harbour there is a very good chance that you might bump into fish, he contacted the local newspaper to complain and said: “It’s not the sort of thing you want to see on holiday, there was a real stench. These people should be a bit more considerate of holidaymakers.”

Yeah, those nasty fishermen and their . . . fish.

Although I do have some sympathy for the man.

After all, I once went down to a dairy farm in the country and there I was shocked to see some cows.

I couldn’t sleep for days because of the trauma.

Sarcasm – not the lowest form of humour, sometimes an essential dose of common sense and often the only choice when someone is acting like a colossal dick.

Pish of the day

Pop quiz: what do you expect to find in the harbour of a British fishing village or town? I know the industry is a shadow of its former self but I’d still hope that most people of my age, give or take ten years, would probably say things like harbour walls, jetties, boat ramps, chandlers… oh, and since there’s a bit of a clue in the word ‘fishing’ there, probably some fishing boats. Cynics, and I’d count myself among them, might expect sheltered, state edumacatified townies with little ability to picture the source of what’s on their plate to be surprised to find fishing boats in harbours, but surely not someone in their 40s. Surely not.

Oh no, you’ve got to be kidding.

… when David Copp came across a fishing trawler moored in Ilfracombe Harbour he took great offence and complained about the “disgusting” smell.
The 46-year-old was outraged that his children, aged seven and nine, had been forced to endure the sight of 12 crates of dead fish and crabs, piled up on the quayside.

Oh, the humanity! Er, piscinity? Whatever.  (Image from here.)

Look, David, you peanut, it’s a fishing harbour. Fish-ing. Har-bour. What the hell did you expect to see there? Bubble pits? A petting zoo? Disney’s little mermaid?

He said the ordeal had left them “quite distressed” and demanded to know why the harbourmaster was not more considerate to tourists.

Yes, David, you demand those inconsiderate fishing people trying to make a living supplying seafood be evicted and replaced with Ariel and her mermaid friends, just so it doesn’t upset your kids. Or not.

AAAAAAAARGH! DADDY, IT’S COMING FOR ME! 

“There were flies flying around and the smell was awful,” he said. “The ship was just sat there not doing anything, and there were 12 crates of dead crabs and fish just lying there covered in flies.”

Yes, David, because they’d just been pulled out of the sea not long before and had not yet been cleaned and gutted. Did you think fishing boats just lower nets and bring the catch up already boxed? Who would kill and box the fish down there? Well, apart from that creepy red headed mermaid, of course. She looks like she’d murder anything else with fins just for shits and giggles, and could probably be persuaded to package them up ready for the supermarket in exchange for your children’s souls. But otherwise ten seconds rational thought should have told David Copp that what he was seeing was pretty much what he should expect to see.

But instead he rang up and complained.

Mr Copp called Ilfracombe harbourmaster Rob Lawson to complain about the smell that had emanated from The Lady of Lundy trawler before calling the North Devon Journal to air his woes.
[…]
“He was very upset that he had come across the boxes of fish and thought it was entirely inappropriate and not a good sight or smell,” [Mr Lawson] said.

I’m glad to see that unlike my last post on offence seeking there’s no report of any apologies being made here. Rob Lawson simply explained the facts of life in a working fishing harbour, though with apparently limited success.

Mr Lawson tried to explain that fishermen depended on the daily catch for their livelihoods and that it was a common site on a working quayside.
[…]
“I explained the workings of the harbour and that it was a working quay and that while it was not ideal, sometimes this happened.
“But he didn’t calm down, he went to the local newspaper and then when they printed his complaints, he came back to me to see what I had to say.”

So having blown a good opportunity to educate his kids about where food comes from in favour of looking up the actual phone number of the actual harbourmaster and picking up an actual phone to complain, this tool then compounds it by whinging to the papers when the harbourmaster doesn’t take his complaint about fishing boats in a fishing harbour terribly seriously. Jesus Christ on a jetski!

How things have been resolved is not reported, but I understand that the suggestion that Birdseye will be redesigning their packaging is a rumour and has no foundation.

I still call Australia ho… a bit touchy

Qantas (the post title is from their advertising jingle, “I still call Australia home”) has set the offence seekers a tweeting and a twatting recently. They’re racists, you know, oh yes, really. Oh, they’ve apologised of course, but the secret’s out now. Racists to the very core, every single one of them.

Qantas celebrating indigenous Australian culture with VH-EBU
“Nalanji Dreaming” – the intolerant racist pricks

And what have they done, you may ask? Well, they only went and ran a competition on Twatter for a couple of tickets to the annual Bledisloe Cup rugby match between Australia’s Wallabies and the New Zealand All Blacks, and get this, they asked entrants how they’d support the Aussie team. Can you believe that? Raaaaaci… wait, what? Sorry about this. I must have missed something obviously racist somewhere. Let me just re-check.

To win, competitors had to tell Qantas via Twitter how they intended to show their support for the Wallabies at the match.

Ah, there, see? Raaaci… no, actually that isn’t really, is it? Ah, it’s the winners because they chose to dress as their favourite player.

Charles Butler, from his twitter account pek_anan, promised to ”dress as Radike Samo. Complete with Afro Wig, Aus rugby kit and facepaint”. For this, he won the free tickets.

Yes, it’s the winners, the racist bastards, and so Qantas are racist bastards for picking them. Radike Samo must have been terribly wounded to find out that he’s the favourite player of such appalling rednecks, and no doubt he’d have blanked the pair of them if he’d run into them. Except that actually he posed for a photo with them and was completely cool with the whole thing.

“I don’t know what all the fuss is about. These guys were actually paying me a tribute. It was a bit of fun and I think it was great they regard me as their favourite Wallaby. I didn’t have an issue with it at all. I was glad to be in a photo with them, so I don’t know why anyone is getting worked up – that sort of reaction is just silly.” – Radike Samo

And to be fair, if your favourite sporting hero is black with a big afro (actually he’s from Fiji but I don’t know if there’s such a thing as a Fijfro) and you’re white with just regular white guy hair it’s pretty difficult to dress up as your idol without the face paint and the wig. I mean, rugby players don’t really have permanent shirt numbers so if you don’t make some kind of effort with the star’s distinguishing marks nobody’s going to know. “Who are you supposed to be, then, eh?”

Uh, don’t laugh… Radike Samo? Hey, my eyes are up here.

Except you look like every other supporter wearing merchandising so probably nobody will even ask.

And anyway, how the hell’s it racist to dress up and even get made up like someone you admire? Was Lenny Henry racist for whiting up and putting on a grey wig to impersonate Steve Martin (about 3:15 in) because he thought Steve Martin is a comedy legend? And if it’s not about whether or not it’s someone admirable then was it racist of Dave Chappelle to do the sketch about the white supremacist who didn’t know he was black (content warning: do not drink coffee near keyboards approaching 1:15)? Or is this another one of those things where it’s only racist if white people do it?

And above all what’s it got to do with Qantas? All they did was run the comp and since Radike Samo himself was clearly not offended in any way, if anything a bit flattered by the sound of it, why shouldn’t they choose these guys as the winners?

“Shame on @QantasAirways for backing such ignorance.”

Oh, do shut your fucking face hole, whoever you are. Get it into your head: expression of admiration for a great player, okay? Said great player thinks it was awesome, okay? Said player plus the Australian Rugby Union support the two fans, right? Two-fifths of fuck all to do with everyone else, d’you see? Unless… unless these people crying racist think that Radike Samo is incapable of deciding for himself when he’s being insulted. Yes, that must be it. It was an insult after all and Radike Samo needs it explained to him by these well meaning white people who… hey, wait. Isn’t that a little paternalist, thinking Samo can’t decide for himself if he should be offended by something? In fact isn’t it really quite patronising? So if these people do think that the fans were insulting him and Samo just wasn’t getting it, doesn’t that make them…

RAAAACISTS!

Probably not, of course, and if they really did it’d be up to Radike Samo to decide if it was offensive to him and/or racist, albeit well meaning racism. No, what we have here is classic offence seeking, people desperate to be seen as right-on and PC and taking offence on behalf of other people. They must surely know it wasn’t meant as anything other than a tribute to a player by a couple of admiring fans, and they certainly know that Samo took it in the spirit it was meant because he’s told everybody. And since the two fans and Qantas know that they know it’s a mite disappointing that they caved in, took down the photos and issued apologies. Good on the ARU and Radike Samo for being the ones to tell it like it is.

“… that sort of reaction is just silly.”

This isn’t about racism or prejudice. It’s about self righteous pricks getting a hard on playing Disgusted of Tunbridge Wells, except the tweets are probably coming from places like Kirribilli and South Yarra. Someone must be running a course.

Non Sequitur by Wiley Miller

Second hand morris dancing

Clearly it’s a filthy habit and non-morris dancers might come into contact with bells and handkerchiefs, so The Swan and Three Cygnets pub in Durham was quite right to ban a bunch of morris dancers.

“A woman member of staff hollered ‘no bells’ at us.
“One of our group, wearing his morris dance gear, went in first and was served a pint of beer without question.
“But when two of our lady members followed wearing bells they were told to get out.”

So they went round the corner to a different pub instead, possibly with a whack-fol-a-dildo though if so it appears to have gone unreported.

Of course nobody is insane enough to think that there’s such a thing as passive morris dancing or that there it’d be a ‘public health’ problem if there was.* Not yet anyway, although Wikipedia mentions that some dances involve a couple of clay tobacco pipes and you just know that that must be upsetting someone somewhere.** The morris dancers weren’t chucked out for being morris dancers but because the pub had a ban on music, and someone in the pub decided that bells on shoes counted as being musical. Probably bollocks but the way things are in Britain these days I wouldn’t be at all surprised if the pub could cop a fine for being in breach of some licence or other if any music was played, and nor is it a stretch to imagine that some over-zealous local authority prick wouldn’t say that morris bells, if that’s the right term, are music even without accordions and fiddles joining in.

But here’s the thing, it’s their pub and that means they get to decide who drinks there, just as is the case for the Half Moon which was happy enough to take the morris dancers’ money and serve them with beer. Yes, the morris dancers have their noses out of joint because they couldn’t drink in the first pub they went into, but such is life – presumably if it had simply been too full to get near the bar they’d have just gone to another pub without thinking anything of it. As it happens this pub is weird about people wearing bells and the other one wasn’t. As long as at least one pub was prepared to have them – and the Durham I recall had enough pubs that I’m sure there’d be far more than just one – who cares? Let The Swan and Three Cygnets become whatever kind of pub it wants to and cater for whatever kind of clientele fits in with that. If you can have biker pubs and gay pubs and student pubs and so on why shouldn’t there also be a nice quiet pub for librarians or whatever? Just as long as they’re not all like that and fat bearded men who like to dress in white and wave sticks at each other to music have somewhere to drink as well. And since that seems to be the case I’d say it’s all working pretty well.***

Now, why can’t the same thing apply to smokers?

* I believe ‘public health’ is the correct term for not letting someone do something they want to do on the grounds that you think it’s bad for them or that you just don’t like it, and possibly making up a lot of crap to justify the restrictions you’re demanding.
** Good.
*** Meaning it’s either a bit of a slow news day or The Teletubbygraph has jumped onto the offence seeking bandwagon.

YouTube’s sense of humour failure

The Go The Fuck To Sleep book is probably pretty well known by now what with the press it got when it came out and especially with the Samuel L Jackson reading. So it’s slightly surprising that when Noni Hazlehurst, who I’d never heard of but apparently was on the Aussie Play School for twenty years or so, put up a clip of herself reading the book Play School style, and which amused me enough to blog and embed it here, YouTube pulled it.

Noni, to her credit, has promptly put it back up again, and bloody right too since other versions of it were never taken down.

Former Playschool presenter Noni Hazlehurst says the decision to remove a recording of her reading mock children’s book Go The F— to Sleep from YouTube was ‘‘laughable’’ and ‘‘absolutely ridiculous’’.
The video was pulled late last night only to be posted again about 5am today.
[…]Her video was removed, but others including those read by German arthouse film director Werner Herzog and American actor Samuel L. Jackson stayed online.
‘‘It’s ridiculous, absolutely ridiculous, and to leave all the others up there is even more ridiculous,’’ Hazlehurst said.
‘‘The hypocrisy just makes me laugh.’’
[…]
‘‘Anyone with a tenth of a brain would realise this is not meant for kids,’’ she said.

The trouble is, Noni, that some people who look at YouTube probably have less than a tenth of a brain.

A YouTube spokesman said no comment would be made about individual videos, but they could be removed because a user had flagged them as offensive or because the person who had posed (sic) the video was underage.

Since Noni Hazlehurst is in her fifties it sounds like the latter. I’m speculating here, but I reckon some softcock, and sadly it’s probably an Aussie who saw her name and thought ‘Oh, this will be sweet and harmless’, got offended by it and complained to YouTube rather than take the more practical option of turning it (the fuck) off. Samuel L. Jackson’s version? Well, he’s an actor who says bad words in lots of his films so our mystery whinger(s) may never have come across his version. Werner Herzog? Arthouse film director? Hmmm, ditto I expect. But sweet Noni Hazlehurst who used to – she’s not presented the show for a decade – sing songs down the TV at toddlers and make stories with teddy bears and dolls, that Noni Hazlehurst going all potty mouthed? Oh no, the childhood of some 30-somethings is irrevocably shattered. It can’t be borne, so it must be banned.

And of course SupineTube caved in.

Fellas, it’s aimed at adults. It’s humour for adults who can laugh at the frustrations an adult may feel when trying to get a noisy baby to shut the fuck up and give them a little peace. And maybe, according to Noni Hazlehurst herself, a bit of a warning.

The book and her reading are a bit of fun, she says, ”but there’s a serious underlying issue. People need to understand when they’re talking about how nice it would be to have a baby that it’s a huge undertaking.”
[…]
”Many of the kids I entertained are parents themselves now, and I think it’s pointless saying, ‘Make sure your child has a lovely environment to sleep in’. I think we have to speak in a language people understand.”

This subtle distinction is apparently lost on YouTube, who’d rather pull something not meant for a general audience because someone’s had a whine about it, even though other versions remain on their site. It’s a little tempting to go trawling through the place looking for any overtly religious damnation-to-sinners type videos and flag as offensive as many as I can just to see whether or not they pull any of those, but that’d be unfair to anyone who actually did get their video removed. Instead I think I might make and put up a video myself and then log in as someone else with some bullshit complaint about how it offends me, and then we’ll see what they do.

In the meantime, here’s Noni Hazlehurst hosted by EyeTube…

http://eyetube.me/player.swf

Complaints may be addressed to gothefuckaway@tellsomeonewhogivesashit.com

By any other name…

I’m all for the principle of everyone having the right to their day in court but sometimes I do wonder how the hell some people expect to have their day without being openly laughed at. The list of legal actions falling somewhere between the frivolous and the outright ludicrous is ever increasing, and from America we have one that may just top them all. A prison inmate, Gerard Domond, is suing the prison service for US$50 million for…

Actually, before I continue I should perhaps warn readers to carefully put down any food or drink well away from the computer and swallow anything they’d already taken a bite or slurp of before sitting back down and reading on, as this has the potential to ruin a few keyboards. Done that? Okay. Prison inmate Gerard Domond is suing the prison service for US$50 million for calling him a prison inmate. Yes, really. It’s stigmatising him, apparently.

THE family of a cold-blooded killer serving 25 years to life in state prison for shooting a man in the head complained he was being stigmatised by the use of the term “inmate”.

Okay, well it seems it’s actually his sister doing the suing, but still. And why does she have a problem with her prison inmate brother being called a prison inmate?

The label “implies that our brother is locked up for the purpose of mating with other men,” Marie Domond claimed in a lawsuit against New York State Correctional Services Department.

Yes, her surname is Domond and not Malaprop, and since her dear brother has been locked up since 1987 I find it difficult to believe that she’s only just heard that he’s been referred to as an inmate and that she doesn’t actually understand what the word means. For her benefit a quick visit to dictionary corner is in order (Webster’s since we’re interested in the American English definition), and it says anyone who is lawfully detained so as to take it up the Gary Glitter with monotonous regularity. No, of course it doesn’t. It says this:

I’ve checked a couple of other dictionaries and nowhere is there any suggestion that the word inmate implies any particular purpose in locking up people, least of all the specific purpose of encouraging hot botty man loving. In fact it doesn’t even necessarily mean that someone is locked up, although that is a common enough usage that the word probably does imply that someone is forcibly confined. Not that that helps the Domonds since Gerard is without doubt forcibly confined. So why is…

Acting as her own lawyer…

Ah. I’ve never been a fan of that lawyers’ sneery line about someone representing themselves having a fool for a client, but I have to admit that there’s probably something in it now and then. This might be one of those times.

Acting as her own lawyer, Marie insists: “The suggestive nature of the word is disgraceful. This cruel psychological programming has weighed heavily on our emotional and psychological well-being.
[…]
“I couldn’t understand why no one recognized that somebody being labeled an inmate, why they wouldn’t recognize that.”

Oh, good grief.

“It’s something that’s bothered me for a long time.”

But, and I’m assuming for the moment that all of that is genuinely meant, it doesn’t seem to have bothered her enough either to have questioned why nobody else has been bothered by the use of the word over the centuries or to have done anything about it until only a couple of years before Gerard may get out. Ignoring the possibility that fingers may be crossed in the hope of a fat windfall coinciding with whatever they call release on licence in New York state, it doesn’t seem like it’s been much of a priority, does it?

“To me it just sounded very wrong,” said Marie.

Oh, well, if it sounds wrong then clearly it must stop and he be referred to as something else forthwith.

How about ‘murderer’?

Unintended consequences of anti-tobacco zealotry

The Big Pharma sponsored anti-tobacco crusaders have had a couple of their ideas bounce back at them in the last few days. First is the news that the fact that no smoking signs actually outnumber smokers, or at least seem to what with laws requiring them to be put up just about everywhere imaginable, may actually be encouraging people to smoke. Remember this bit of TV from a few years back?

Partcularly the bit where he says that you immediately think of a black cat when someone tells you not to think of a black cat. Well, it seems that the no smoking message being plastered on every available surface is having a similar effect.

No-smoking signs may be driving more people to light up, a psychological study suggests.
Scientists say the messages have an ”ironic effect” that increases smokers’ craving for tobacco.
”You get ironic effects when you couple information that people perceive with negation,” said researcher Brian Earp, from Oxford University. ”When I say don’t think of a pink elephant, I’ve just put the thought of a pink elephant in your head.”

Black cat, pink elephant, do not go and have a lovely soothing cigarette while reading this. See?

”No-smoking signs in particular are everywhere. If you’re a smoker walking down a street you’re likely to pass five or six of these signs in windows or on doors. If you have a chronically positive attitude to smoking this could boost your craving.”

But also, and here I’m speaking from personal experience, if you have a negative attitude to smoking. Both my regular readers will know that I once smoked but gave up a few years ago, and now think of myself as a non-smoker, though the tolerant and freedom loving kind, rather than an ex-smoker. What I may not have mentioned was what I found the toughest part of giving up smoking. It wasn’t the cravings or not knowing what to do with hands that were used to being occupied with making, lighting or smoking cigarettes, although I went through phases of both.* No, it was the non-stop barrage of anti-smoking messages, bansturbation signs and offers to help me quit smoking when up ’til the point I saw them I’d gone several hours without even thinking about smoking.

And then the fucking fuckers fucking went and fucking reminded me!

Follow-up research which has not yet been published indicates that anti-smoking messages really do prompt smokers to light up.
Mr Earp thought the same principle might apply to other public health messages, such as ”Say no to drugs”.

Exactly! It drove me away from the TV because every program on the commercial channels was and still is guaranteed to have at least one ad break include an advert about some over-priced nicotine patch or gum or a bit of government strength-through-joy-ism on the subject, and it used to fucking infuriate me that every fucking time it would remind me that I hadn’t had a ciggie for days and fucking make me want to have one all over again. They’ve long since ceased to have that effect on me but it still boils my piss whenever I see one because I remember how often I’d have a bout of craving a cigarette brought on by nothing other than the wowsers’ efforts at making me stop. I could cheerfully have shot the fucking TV. Overall I found that quitting smoking is actually pretty easy with willpower alone once you’ve lost any real desire to carry on smoking, but the nannying bastards would make life a hell of a lot easier for people in the process of giving up smoking if they’d just shut the fuck up about it.

They won’t, of course. They know it doesn’t sell any patches or gum.

The second own goal, though to be honest I’m not sure if the one above is a bug or a feature, is specific to Australia and relates to the idea of reducing smoking by making legal tobacco products come in plain packaging just like all the illegal tobacco and drugs which don’t struggle for customers.** As I mentioned a few weeks ago, Nicola Roxon, the Minister for Health and Aging (at least the second part of her portfolio looks after itself), unveiled a design of plain box consisting of the predictable shocking image cum health warning and the brand and variety of cigarette in a boring font on a plain olive green background. Needless to say the tobacco industry has complained but they’ve been joined by another. Hilariously the olive industry is now getting involved.

The federal government’s plan for all cigarettes to be sold in plain ”olive green” packaging has outraged the Australian Olive Association, which claims the move will denigrate their brand and cost them money.

Translation: olive growers do not want to be tarred with the notoriously broad de-normalisation brush.

Chief executive Lisa Rowntree has sent a cease-and-desist letter to Health Minister Nicola Roxon, asking her to stop using the term ”olive green” and instead adopt the term ”drab green”. The letter states: ”Our members are having enough problems countering the flood of imported olive products being dumped in Australia via the large supermarket chains without the government promoting to the community that there is something negative about olive green.”
[…]
Mrs Rowntree told The Sunday Age the Health Minister’s comments were potentially damaging.
”She referred to it as ‘disgusting’ olive green, so it hasn’t been very favourable. To associate any food with cigarettes is a thoughtless thing to do, especially one that’s had a very good reputation as being a healthy product. You could have called it ‘drab green’ or ‘khaki green’ or, better still, not used green at all,” she said.
‘Green is also a healthy word – green, clean – it’s not a colour that should be associated with cigarette packaging. It’s the colour of our leaves, it’s trees, it’s grass, it’s nature and I think to use a nature colour like green in cigarette packaging is ridiculous.”

Oooh, wouldn’t it be funny if the Green party joined in as well? Oh, and hey, when you’ve finished I suggest you take on all the world’s militaries who’ve chosen your favourite colour both for uniforms and paint schemes for all kinds of really deadly equipment.

Absolutely positively not olives – do not add to pizza

“I don’t think it’s been very well thought through at all.”

Look, love, I could have told you that, though it’s been poorly thought through in more ways than you’re thinking of. As for your claim that your customers may associate olives with cigarettes because of the use of the colour and term ‘olive drab’, it makes you sound like you think they’re not terribly bright. Being able to distinguish a small fruit that goes into salads, pizzas and martinis from something that you put in your mouth and set fire to is as easy as, oh, I don’t know, noticing that a road legal Ford ute is not the same thing as a Ferrari Formula One racing car. On that occasion Ford also thought its brand was somehow threatened by the use of a similar name and actually began legal action, resulting in Ferrari changing the name and issuing a wonderfully sarcastic press release:

“In order to avoid the slightest risk of anyone confusing a Formula 1 car with a pick-up truck, for their part the men from Maranello have decided that the car will lose the F that precedes the number 150 and which stands for Ferrari, as it has done on numerous occasions when it’s come to giving a car a code name, be it for the race track or the road,” read a Ferrari statement.

“It appears that this could have caused so much confusion in the minds of the consumer across the Pond that, at the same time as losing the F, the name will be completely Italianised, replacing the English “th” with the equivalent Italian symbol.

“Therefore the name will now read as the Ferrari 150° Italia, which should make it clear even to the thickest of people that the name of the car is a tribute to the anniversary of the unification of our country.”

I’d be tempted to suggest that official nanny health minister Nicola Roxon write a similar letter back to Mrs Rowntree and the olive growers, but as far as I’m concerned anything that gives her a headache over this ridiculous and pointless plain to introduce plain packaging in the vague hope of reducing smoking, but possibly the more realistic aim of beating us poms at something, by introducing plain packaging is on the whole a good thing.

In a statement Ms Roxon said: ”I’d be happy to offer an (olive) branch to the association and support their bid for greater publicity.”

I’d be happy for you all to have a branch apiece if you use them to beat some sense into each other.

* And now and again I do still miss the satisfaction of having hand rolled a near perfect, even and crinkle free roll up. Despite having absolutely no desire to smoke one if a rollie smoker came round I’d probably beg him for his paper and baccy and happily make him a load of smokes for later on. It’s odd what the body remembers – last time I tried the first cigarette was passable and by the third or fourth the fingers had remembered enough to make pretty respectable efforts, but the last time I tried riding a bicycle I fell off.
** I don’t think they’ve thought of it that way.