Pop goes civilisation……..

Pick the most unfunny thing currently on the planet and my brain turns it into a novelty 1980’s pop song.  I’ve no idea who first gave Mohammed Emwazi the iteration ‘Jihadi John’, but I do hope his name was Gordon.

Lots of blame has been directed at the security forces for not stopping Emwazi leaving the country, but it’s almost irrelevant. He’s just the new IS poster boy, preventing him getting to IS wouldn’t have saved any lives. Sure, the propaganda blaming the UK for turning him from a ‘football-loving London university graduate’ into a murderous terrorist wouldn’t have been generated, but that in itself is unlikely to cause more young Muslims to be radicalised. Incidentally, I wonder if he still ‘loves football’? “Sorry lads, we need to delay our next barbaric act until this evening, the League Cup final’s on.”

As more young Muslims are being radicalised, and anti-Islam feeling and protests increase across the west, I’m reminded of the lyrics of another novelty pop song.

“It’s a mixed up, muddled up, shook up world, except for Lola.” Well, maybe apart from the ‘Lola’ bit.

You doth protest too much…….

I can’t imagine myself on a protest march. Although I hold fairly strong and sometimes non-mainstream and hypocritical views on a diverse spread of subjects – protection of wildlife,  bigotry, motorists rights, affordable housing – I don’t see the attraction, or the effectiveness, of joining hundreds or thousands of like-minded individuals stomping through city centres to draw attention to my beliefs. To be honest, many of my views wouldn’t fill a protest meeting in a telephone box, let along a large banner waving crowd marching along Whitehall.

So, I have little sympathy with the climate change marchers who are outraged that they may have to fund their own security on their tramp through Central London rather than being given the protection of our nothing better to do police force, funded by the taxpayer. The organisers have been told the police will no longer facilitate the temporary closure of roads along the agreed route, and that they need to hire a private firm to oversee it.

“Protest is a fundamental right”, so says Sam Fairbairn, national secretary of the People’s Assembly. Indeed, I have a fundamental right to drive on a motorway, but not to demand that taxpayers pay for my car.

He continues, “This will make it virtually impossible to hold a protest unless you have rich backers.”  Maybe, but with Bill Gates, Richard Branson and Bono among the ranks of vocal climate change lobbyists, surely they could muster the necessary financial support. And surely the marchers, these guardians of our climate, could also raise a few quid among themselves, given that none of them will have the expensive running costs of motor vehicles or the need to buy supermarket meat.

Yes you have a right to protest, but not the right to use the tax I pay to support your views which I may or may not agree with. Who the hell do you think you are? The under-funded Metropolitan Police probably believe that they have slightly higher priorities than providing traffic control for anyone who may wish to pursue their cause by congregating in public spaces – like fighting crime, maybe?

Fund your own causes, as I do. Which is why I’m paying for a room in a local hotel next Tuesday to protest about the downsizing of Wagon Wheels. I don’t envisage any public safety issues.

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Nice has passed me by

Basically, I think I’m not a nice person.

Upon hearing that a man – a beloved grandfather – has drowned, the most humane response surely has to be “How terrible’. Or at least “How did it happen’? Whatever, I’m sure the response of a decent human being isn’t to laugh out loud.

Which I found myself doing when I read the headline in The Times ‘Man drowns as he scatters sister’s ashes’. I’m still not entirely sure what amused me about it. Maybe it was the phrasing, I not sure that I would have found The Telegraph’s headline for the same story – ‘Grandfather swept out to sea whilst scattering his sister’s ashes’ – so amusing. We’ll never know, as my preference for The Times means that their headline introduced me to the story and asked the question of my laugh reflex first.

Along similar lines, when I read ‘Brazilian girl, 6, eaten by piranhas’, my immediate instinct was to think I should find a piranha, and execute it in revenge. To be fair the story did immediately follow the one where Jordan had extracted spitefully timed vengeance for the latest ISIS atrocity by executing prisoners. But should my mind really work this way?

Henri Bergson said that often, seeing the funny side of a tragic situation results from ‘a momentary anaesthesia of the heart’. And Charlie Chaplin said; “Life is a tragedy in close-up, but a comedy in long-shot”, and maybe I can find some defence in quotes.

But I have a feeling that it’s just that I’m not a nice person.

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It’s all Greek…..

A turkey doesn’t vote for Christmas, and a Greek certainly doesn’t vote for a continuation of austerity measures. Which is why Alexis Tsipras, the head of the Syriza party will be celebrating victory when the results of the national election are released tomorrow.

Media from other European countries are full of experts and commentators laying into the Greek people for even considering picking the far-left anti-austerity party in today’s polls, and the leaders of both Ireland and Finland, among others, have said that the impoverished country must be made to repay it debts to Europe.

Well, tough shit Eurozone. Mirroring the major causes of the banking crisis, you leant money to an entity without taking up references, and without considering if they had the means to repay if things got tough.

My experience of the Greek people – admittedly mainly, but not exclusively, limited to annual holidays – are that they are a hospitable, and easy-going bunch, and have been governed as such. No one in Greece has ever gone to prison for tax-avoidance. OK, that can’t be classed as a national virtue, but with 25% unemployment, rising to 50% among young people, increased homelessness and a crumbling health service, is any surprise that when offered an ‘anti-austerity’ option, they place a big tick against it in the box.

I would and, if you’re honest, so would you.

Islam, the Catholic Church and Mr Blobby

Earlier this week Pope Frances was quoted as saying that people who mocked Islam could “expect a punch”While he’s obvious correct in that statement, as the terrible events of recent weeks have shown, he went on to say “You cannot insult the faith of others. You cannot make fun of the faith of others.”

This is where he is completely wrong, and where the fundamental backbone of free speech surfaces.

I believe that Mr Blobby is the one true God, and that in 2020 he will reveal himself as such by appearing at the top of the London Eye and, by using magic dust, successfully banish all bearded men and red-headed women to hell – which in this case would involve watching ‘Deal or No Deal’ on a continuous loop until madness sets in (probably after 10 minutes).

That is now my faith and you can’t mock me – at least no Catholic can mock me – because the Pope says. I am fully protected from ridicule, and any attempt to do so would be blasphemous. You laugh at my Mr Blobby belief and purgatory may well await you.

To many people the belief that there is one omnipresent deity appears completely crazy, illogical and nonsensical, and they have a right under free speech to express that view. Otherwise where does it all end? To  be able to voice a statement of belief which no-one is allowed to challenge is clearly crazy – although it would tidy up Prime Minister’s Question Time somewhat.

Freedom of speech is important, and no-one has the right not to be offended. Be passionate in your beliefs, but don’t expect them not be challenged, debated, satirised and ridiculed. Life’s too short not to be able to take the piss.

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N.B – Obviously I don’t really hold the Mr Blobby view mentioned above. No, actually I don’t think he’ll wait until 2020.

Don’t let the truth…….

The past week has produced two shining examples of how our national press is fast becoming as pointless as our local news media.

The Times published a story about Gordon Taylor, the head of the Professional Footballers’ Association, under the headline Football chief says Evans case is ‘like Hillsborough’. Except he didn’t say that at all. Taylor was, admittedly clumsily, talking about possible miscarriages of justice around the Ched Evans rape case, and using Hillsborough as an example. We all know that mentioning the ‘H’ word always provokes a knee jerk reaction of emotion and protest (aren’t we due another Hillsborough TV documentary, there hasn’t been one for, oh, at least 3 weeks?), so he certainly should have known better, and like most 21st century trade union leaders, he is undeniably a complete twat – but that is no reason for a so-called ‘up-market’ newspaper to publish a twisted and damning article under a completely inaccurate headline.

Earlier in the week the ‘NHS in meltdown’ headlines appeared on front pages of most of our newspapers. Political capital was quickly made from ‘the worst A&E crisis for a decade’ and our press was quick to sensationalise and take to their usual party allegiances. So, why the unexpected increase of A&E admissions during this unusually mild winter? I am sure the analytical minds of our top journalists will explain that to a simple bloke like me. Nope. Nowhere, broadsheet or tabloid, could I find the answer.

There’s a lot being made of data journalism at the moment. It’s bollocks. The press will always side with sensationalism over sharp analysis and that’s why good journalism, which backs up a mandate to educate and inform, is rapidly becoming a thing of the distant past. The subject of freedom of speech is all over this morning’s print and broadcast media, maybe they should consider what they do with it when they’ve got it.

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From Russia with love….

As we move into 2015 it looks like President Putin’s arrogance and general tunnel vision around both internal and external affairs will not subside. Putin seems untouchable, despite Russia’s current economic hardships, and tensions between him and  US led western countries are slowly escalating, a situation which can only result in one thing. A new cold war.

And I for one welcome it.

OK, it’s not that pleasant to have nuclear missiles pointed at our major cities (I suppose the ‘what you can’t see can’t hurt you’ dictate probably doesn’t apply here), but otherwise the cold war could be quite, well, comforting.

For a start, many fantastic films and books were generated by the last cold war. ‘Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy’, ‘Funeral in Berlin’, ‘The Hunt for Red October’ are classics, and our fictional super spies are always at their best fighting the Eastern Bloc as opposed to some trumped-up and implausible megalomaniac.

Due to the UK’s strategic geographical position, the Americans may start caring about us a bit more, which would be good for trade. We may even be able to reinvent the ‘special relationship’ we had in the 1980’s, through whichever muppets are elected our respective leaders over the next twelve months.

Lastly, the cold war was clean. By which I mean it would represent a pleasant change from the religion fuelled terrorist conflicts which exist today, and have been highlighted in the terrible events which have unfolded in France the past week. Poisoned umbrella tips, radiation laced cocktails and exploding cigars are really rather cool, and must be preferable to mass executions.

As I write, I fear I may be alone in my opinion, but that’s freedom of speech for you – it gives idiots a chance.

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