All posts by John B

The wrong 1980s Liverpool injustice

Scepticisle disagrees with my comments on the case of the (appallingly tasteless, Hitler-trivialising) Sun anti-Scargill front page from the miners’ strike which was blocked by the print unions.

My take was that either content should be illegal to publish, or people who want to publish (and are willing to set up presses to publish on – this isn’t a “Griffin on the BBC” point) should be allowed to publish. Even though this particular literary work was of no merit at all, it doesn’t justify overriding that principle to give a small-C-conservative-small-S-socialist cartel, with a massive interest in preserving union power, the power of veto over all nationally published voices. Which really was the case before the print unions were broken.

But that isn’t actually what I’m going to talk about here.

Obsolete also uses The Sun’s equally vile Hillsborough coverage as an example of something the unions might have prevented. In the context of writing about tabloid vileness, there really ought to be a Godwin-equivalent for Hillsborough and the Sun… but even so, the end-point on that one is surely:

1) the Sun is considered appalling and vile
2) the Sun’s accusations about pissing on and robbing the dead are discredited in the eyes of absolutely everyone
3) any suggestion that the Liverpool crowd’s behaviour might, even unwittingly and non-maliciously, have contributed to the tragedy that unfurled is pretty much off the radar of acceptable commentary.

…I’d say that was Liverpool 1, Sun 0?

However, a few years beforehand, when a slightly less fatal, equally badly managed by the cops, both-sides’-fans-equally-at-fault episode took place that also involved Liverpool, the net result was an official decree that Liverpool fans were evil (domestically and internationally), English fans were evil (internationally), and that football fans in general were evil (domestically). Literally unbelievably to anyone under about 30, all English clubs spent five whole years banned from European football.

And yet, even though Liverpool basically wasn’t scapegoated for Hillsborough, and yet massively was scapegoated for Heysel; even though the English football community basically wasn’t scapegoated for Hillsborough and massively was scapegoated for Heysel, it’s the former rather than the latter which is brought up as an example of Liverpool being misrepresented by the authorities and press.

Which is silly.

At Heysel and at Hillsborough, the primary cause of the deaths was the incompetence and complacency of the officials and police supposedly responsible for guaranteeing safety. At Heysel and Hillsborough, the behaviour of the crowds (Juventus and Liverpool fans alike at Heysel, Liverpool fans alone at Hillsborough) was a contributory factor that the authorities should’ve foreseen.

The difference is, the UK authorities (both football and public safety) have some degree of professionalism and non-corruption in retrospect [*], hence investigated Hillsborough properly. Whereas UEFA and the Belgian authorities stuck to the, pretty much criminally complacent, line that “Only the English fans were responsible. Of that there is no doubt“.

Yes, obviously I’m aware that the difference between the two events from a Liverpool perspective is that in one, the people who died were from Liverpool and in the other they were from Italy. The conclusion to draw from that is an interesting one: the stereotype of Scousers of being chippy whingers is actually rubbish.

If they were, then Heysel would be the event that was brought up [**], because it was the one that Liverpool was blamed for and which was properly lied about whilst the guilty went free. So it’s just not the gross injustice that saw Liverpool being blamed and punished for others’ failings that causes upset – it is, actually, grief at the fact that 96 of their people died, horribly and preventably.

And so while the Scum lives up to its name, as does Kelvin MacKenzie, I’m really quite sceptical that “THE TRUTH” headline has quite the impact it’s alleged, any more than staged videos of Palestinians dancing in the street had a significant effect on New Yorkers’ response to September 11.

The important and terrible thing had already happened; the rest was irrelevant.

[*] at least when it comes to investigation, compensation and recommendations for future action; I’m aware that punishment of officials who fail is disappointingly far down the line. However, the South Yorkshire police got a hell of a lot closer to the inside of a courtroom than anyone responsible [***] for Heysel.

[**] it’s interesting that “it was the Scousers’ fault, nothing to see here” seems to have satisfied the families in the Heysel case, despite being transparently false. I suppose “it was partly the authorities’ fault, partly the Scousers’ fault, and partly their own bloody fault” isn’t as satisfying as “the English bastards murdered them” to a grieving relation.

[***] looking lairy, red-and-white and a bit scary on CCTV doesn’t count as “responsible”, even if some kangaroo court does give you 18 months probation on jumped-up ‘manslaughter’ charges.

What I’ve been up to, week ending 2009-11-29

  • Hate to say it but I'm with Murdoch on this – – printworkers shouldn't have a veto over editorial content, however vile #
  • ULTIMATE EVIL FTW -> RT @krishgm we report Microsoft is talking to Murdoch about paying for exclusive content access to take on Google #
  • Very much enjoying the Jordan Wimmer / Mark Lowe tribunal. Crazy-delusional employee vs sleazy-vile boss; both can only lose. #
  • Note "TfL fares" in the first, "TfL services" in the second – ie TfL/National doesn't apply if your journey's all-NR irrespective of fare #
  • Dear Online Media Gurus: is this how a CV ought to look in this day and age, or is it UNREADABLE and ANNOYING? #
  • Fair and balanced piece on the CRU scandal from Jim Bliss: #
  • New rule of thumb: if someone says "we should change the law to make it easier to bang people up", they're scum irrespective of nominal wing #
  • Oh no! Hope he's OK: RT @feral_pigeon choke on turkey bones #
  • Phew: RT @feral_pigeon fast walk bob bob bob bob bob bob bob bob bob bob #
  • This is rather jolly: #
  • I'm going to get, and drink, a bottle of this: #
  • Afterwards, I intend to beat Jack Law of Alcohol Focus Scotland to death with the bottle. #
  • I wish our politicians were as EXCELLENT as Sofia Bothorp (via @Stefing) #
  • RT @WAYNER555: APACHE (n): Advanced gyrocopter gunship used to instil freedom, named after a race which was robbed of it. #DrJohnsonA #
  • The Polish government has passed a law to send people who glorify totalitarianism to jail – #
  • Presumably, anyone who says they think this law is a good idea will be thrown into jail under it… #
  • Tonight was a nice night. Hope I haven't fucked things up. Tweeters, twit me luck… #
  • I am seriously enjoying @antonvowl's Winterval card series: #
  • People who think computer hacking is a serious offence, rather than meh #morons #
  • People who think the US has a justice system, rather than a vindictive punishment-to-innocent-and-guilty-alike system #morons #
  • People who're so obsessed with PUNISHMENT that they forget government's first duty is to defend its citizens, whatever they've done #morons #
  • This, ^1000 -> RT @benlocker Wine labels and cigarette boxes: cut the morality and tell us what they taste like: #
  • And yes, the units thing is deeply annoying. 750ml, 10% ABV, that's 7.5 units, duh. Or "slightly more than it's safe to drink every day" #
  • I admire this stunt. Good work, 'youths': #
  • This is awesome in the proper sense of the word: – beautiful, illicity-shot pics of the Heron Tower under construction #
  • A fine Saturday slogan: RT @jonnelledge I would like to apologize for anything I said/did/threw up over/attempted to molest last night #
  • I just generated my #TweetCloud out of a month of my tweets. Top three words: people, post, piece – #

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Airline security is the last refuge of the scoundrel

I love aviation. Genuinely, I really enjoy flying in a plane… well, the first eight hours, after that I get a bit bored. If Boeing and Rolls-Royce hadn’t made the 747-400, then I’d be happier (BA’s flagship flight in 1984 was London-Bombay-Madras-Singapore-Perth-Sydney. That strikes me as far more fun than London-Singapore-Sydney, especially if you stop off for 24 hours till the next flight everywhere en route…).

One of the many things that I love about aviation is how exceptionally safe it is. Not just safe from accidental death or injury, although it is, but also safe from crime of all kinds.

…and this is why, as someone who is obliged to fly an awful lot, I hate the scaremongers, bureaucrats and right-w(h)ingers who’ve turned it from a jolly and harmless experience into an exercise in annoyance and humiliation.

From a comment I’ve just made elsewhere, aimed at a worthless idiot [*]:

When I go to an airport, my first experience is with the jolly character on bag-drop, who’s employed by the company I’ve paid for my flight, who treats me with respect and who I repect. My third experience is in the lounge, where I get treated with respect and where I respect the staff.

However, the second experience, and the one which makes aviation-in-general vile, is with a bunch of utter twats employed by BAA/some goverment twattery to pretend that plane-terrorism is relevant, who don’t give a monkey’s about the people paying their wages, because they’re under some kind of insane delusion that their job involves something other than being nice to the people who you deal with.

And it’s made significantly more distressing by the fact that – because you and your lot have no power or chance of success in real life – we actually have to defer to you and treat you like gods in aeroplane life. “Oh, my airline security hero. I can’t believe I committed the heinous sin of smuggling 125ml of aftershave through your holy checkpoint. If I effuse myself at your feet will you please not send me to the back of the queue?”. So even though we know the whole rigmarole is completely useless – and either so do you, or you’re sufficiently idiotic to be subject for remedial treatment – we still have to pretend that you deserve respect.

(I’m struggling to think of people who demand, literally at gunpoint, respect from those who they’re subjugating solely using their power. Muggers and rapists are the only ones I can think of; perhaps our readers are more imaginative?)

Bonus points to the first idiot to lie that terrorism is a serious concern, rather than something made up to annoy us [**].

[*] yes, like a boncentration bamp buard, he was just doing his shitty, worthless job.

[**] a good friend of mine found himself in Boston Airport in 2002. There was a sign up saying “it is illegal to mock the security arrangements in this airport”. If you actually feel you have to to make mockery illegal, then you’re the loser and I’m on the other guy’s side. See also “Tango and contact lens solution can make a bomb“. Yes, the chaps who tried to make a bomb of Tango and Alcon are bad, but no different from a witch-doctor trying to make me die with curses and evil eyes…

Collation of thoughts

I’ve got a new post up on LC. I don’t post enough on LC; I should post more on LC. See also: posts here.

I’ve had some positive comments on the LC post from people I respect, both over there and on Twitter. Given that unlike my usual LC work, this wasn’t a ‘using hard data to bust myths’ article but just a ‘thought-dump in something vaguely resembling readable English because we needed someone to write something quick-sharp’ article, this was quite pleasing. At least, until I remembered that “reasonable opinions in readable English” don’t win columnist gigs…

Anyway. In response to the comments on the LC piece, I came up with a couple of digressions that I thought were worth repeating here:

Not that the US is liberal, but there is a generally understood rights+votes model of governance called ‘liberal democracy’, which pretty much consists of (US + EU + might-as-well-be-EU-but-don’t-want-to-lose-their-fish/oil/gold + trying to be EU + Commonwealth), but which doesn’t encompass everywhere that has the occasional vote to choose which dictator will torture you on a whim.

(yes, South America is a mild exception, but ‘if you stop voting in right-wing dictators then secret agents from a Liberal Democracy will turn up and assassinate people until you start again’ deals with that one).

Also, why (ideological aims aside), even though the current crop of Labour MPs appear to be worse at Parliament’s legislative duties than their Tory and Lib Dem counterparts, this is structural more than anything else:

If you’re a Tory MP in the current parliament, you’ve either been there forever, or you’ve managed to land a safe seat by serious politicing in the wilderness years when others were busy management-consulting, PR-ing, etc. If you’re a Lib Dem MP in any parliament, you’ve either been a Liberal since Gladstone, you’ve managed to land an incumbent-if-hardly-safe LD seat through serious politicing throughout, or you’ve been selected for a by-election to show the nation that the Lib Dems are Serious People.

On the other hand, while a lot of long-serving Labour MPs live up to the duties expected of them (my MP, Jeremy Corbyn, is so good at this that I’m going to vote for him next time despite my utter distaste for the national party – because there is absolutely no way that anyone else standing in Islington North will be a greater asset to Parliament than him. This is how you, dear reader, should choose your MP. Similarly, when my MP was Beverly Hughes, I didn’t vote for her even though at the time I supported the national government), most of the 1997 intake were daft hacks who didn’t even expect they’d get in, and most of the subsequent intakes have been subservient hangers-on.

Hence, it’s pretty much certain that after the next election, in terms of general competence and respect for parliamentary procedure rather than sheer political allegiance, that there’ll be an awful lot more dreadful Tory MPs than now, and that there’ll be far fewer dreadful Labour MPs.

What I’ve been up to, week ending 2009-11-22

  • Slightly late to #PaulClarke – as far as I can see, everyone did their job except the jury, who are scum and need crucified. #
  • That's not quite fair – clearly whoever pressed charges is an arse, but this is exactly the kind of case that juries are for. #
  • Oh no: Ewar Woowar is ea! #
  • RT @duckorange No funeral for poor, dead Edward Woodward. They're just going to burn him in a wicker man. It's what he would have wanted. #
  • Hurrah, Ewar Woowar is a trending topic #
  • World O' Irony: @pennyred accuses HP of bullying witch-huntery; HP responds with a bullying witch-hunt: #
  • *sigh* – having rejected plans to make LHR useable, the Tories push their BANANA credentials still further: #
  • AD SALESMEN: if you work for, be very careful to enunciate your company's name properly #toptips #
  • RT @Oedipus_Lex After a wonderful weekend of lunacy I'm not sure I can face the office tomorrow <- I wonder if he realises it's Monday night #
  • Damn right RT @mrpower We need laws to protect innocent press victims while celebs and others who live by media shld sort it out themselves #
  • RT @gilescoren YESSSSS OKAY! I used to be on [The F Word]. But NOW it's for cunts! <- #dothprotesttoomuch #
  • Encountered touts for this gig at Kentish Town on way home yesterday – had to quickly check it wasn't 1993 #
  • In other news, #Nirvana to reform with bloke from Silverchair as lead singer #
  • Yup, in worst retail recession ever I'm *sure* new premises hard to find, and this isn't just compo-chasing excusery: #
  • In approximately one day I'm expecting my 227th follower #bandparty #
  • HAHA, #bandparty comes early. Thankyou, @weaselbacon #
  • Thanks to @steff631, sorry for compo-related dissing of Dean St shopkeepers: 3 months is quite rubbish notice and might bugger small cos #
  • Dog whistle blown, Mail readers respond (see comments): – via @tabloidwatch #
  • Lesson from Deanstreetgate: next time I'm in a café that's scheduled to be knocked down for a Grand Projet, I'll tell them just in case… #
  • RT @OtherTPA: New post: TaxPayers' Alliance – experts on child abuse, sentencing, plumbing #
  • Sad to see @newscientist churnalising misleading 'oooh, the children' PR from charlatan Jim Gamble: #
  • Sure, it's always easy to be a sneering libertarian – but I'm struggling to disagree with Mark Wadsworth on this one: #
  • Now the bloody Grauniad is giving space to notorious charlatan Jim Gamble to push his nonsense #grrr #
  • …although commenter SD1000 wins the thread, with 100% Depressing 100% Truth: #
  • Meanwhile, an entirely sensible Guardian piece on prostitution – great antidote to horrific McShane-ery #
  • RT @sun Good night London! I will be back in 15 hours, 22 minutes <- #depressing #bloodywinter #
  • Haha, @themanwhofell has the right take on the current copyright-hysteria-over-nowt Twitscarefest: #doctorowisatwat #
  • Great @Heresy_Corner piece on how a clampdown on driving would do us all good, global warming or no: #
  • N London has a blue plaque on every wall saying someone lived
    there; S London has a yellow sign on every corner saying someone
    died there #
  • RT @Glinner: The Sikh guy in the BNP must be getting sick of putting shit through his own letterbox #
  • baby and its owners successfully dispatched; now drinking with single 30something reproductive failures. feel less inadequate. #

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15% of people inexplicably weird

Rather depressingly:

Fifty-six per cent of the public agree that “the greatest victims of discrimination in Britain these days are often ordinary white men”

Now, this is obviously false, and anyone who believes it is either deluded, moronic or both. If you’re a selfish white male, however, it’s at least rational to express the belief in the hope that if the myth becomes accepted, it’ll be easier for you to maintain your privileges.

However, only 41% of the population are white British males. So, even assuming that all white males are either selfish or idiots, 15% of the remaining population are so brainwashed that they actually believe this nonsense against their own best interests.

Which is pretty much as clear a demonstration as you’re going to get anywhere that The Patriarchy is still thoroughly in charge and thoroughly shaping political and news agendas.

Ah well. On the plus side, whilst it’d be nice to live in a fair and equal society where attempts to address injustice weren’t met with ridiculous whining from the privileged that conned a sizeable proportion of the oppressed, at least the current setup makes my life easier and more comfortable…

(via Liberal Conspiracy, which points out that at least Twitter users are less halfwitted and bigoted than average. Well, duh.)