There’s a party going on in England, and everyone’s invited whether you like it or not

I hate football. I’m not ambivalent, I don’t shrug my shoulders, couldn’t go one way or t’other, don’t ‘watch it if it’s on.’ I hate it. I hate overpriced millionaires rolling around the floor in agony because someone breathed on their shoulder. I hate commentators and studio pundits encouraging this sort of behaviour. I hate groups of fans calling themselves, ‘firms’ and defining themselves by how much damage they can cause. I hate the narrow minded nationalistic hysteria it inspires. I hate British Broadcasters referring to England as, “we”. I hate Rangers and Celtic.

Things are particularly difficult now because I live in England, and as I type, England are fifteen minutes away from beginning their first World Cup semi final in… I don’t fucking care and the country is transfixed. On that point, I hate plastic fans too.

God forbid you voice any discontent with this situation if like me, you were born with the crux of being, ‘a sweaty skirt wearing jock with a chip on his shoulder’. Your opposition to the beautiful game en masse is jealousy of your superior neighbour. It’s because Scotland’s national side is pish. You’re a sore loser. The two teams drew the last time they played but even had Scotland, as in the rugby, won, you would still be a sore loser, because this is what Scots who don’t support the Imperium are.

It seems unlikely that there are many other countries in the world beside England where the levels of indignation that their neighbours don’t support them is as high. Ask a Belgian why they don’t support Germany and the simple answer of, ‘I’m not German’ would suffice for almost any enquirer. The suggestion that Croats support Russia would be met with ridicule. Americans may suffer under the delusion that theirs is God’s team, but even they don’t generally expect support from Canadians or Mexicans. For the English, the fact that Scots, the Welsh, Irish, and Northern Irish don’t support them is a personal, mean-spirited affront, and can only be explained by bitterness on the part of their lessers. This doesn’t extend to France, a country just as close, presumably because the English never had a successful invasion of their Southern neighbour and so don’t see la Republique as theirs.

Ironically enough, this young England team is the most fun to watch they’ve have in years. I’ve been impressed with Harry Kane’s style of leading by example. Jordan Pickford is evidently the best English goalie since David Seaman. Harry Maguire is an arsehole but as an England defender this is pretty much par for the course. And Gareth Southgate’s quiet humility is fairly endearing. They’re a group of lads it’s easy to get on board with wishing well. Except if you hate football in the first place.

Imagine you live in a country where the national pastimes of football and hating foreigners are anathema to you. Imagine they’ve been having a celebration for a month centering around your least favourite thing. There’s no escape from it wherever you go and whomever you talk to. Even friends generally uninterested in such things have been swept along in the melee. There is no escape and should you voice a moment’s discontent with this state of affairs, you’re attacked with English banter which has more in common with a Presidential tweet than a loveable witticism.

I’ve lived in England for twenty years; two thirds of my life, and I’m happy to call it home. All of my friends are English. As individuals they’re wonderful people that I’d recommend to anyone. As a nation they’re the worst. The conversational equivalent of towels on sun-loungers and cutting in line. Obnoxious, ignorant, and ill-tempered. Just look at Brexit. Football brings this out loudly and proudly every two years and it’s always worse when England do well.

This is all to say nothing of a national media that insists on conflating England with the UK at every opportunity. It’s to say nothing of political pundits typically uninterested in the beautiful game suddenly proclaiming that as Scots it is our duty to support the English. And it’s to say nothing of the crime spikes every time England play.

I hate football. I’d hate it if I were in Scotland, Mexico, or South Africa. It’s my bad luck to hate it in England. And they’re currently winning 1-0. Fucksake.


I’m not sure you can adequately review God of War with just one playthrough

Jay-Z, talking to Joe Rogan once complained that music reviewers didn’t spend enough time with albums before publishing. “You can’t review an album in a day,” was basically his point and though I gave little thought to it at the time, I’m beginning to come around.

The problem is exacerbated in the games industry, where the mad rush to be first on Metacritic leads to reviewers skipping side-quests, ignoring cutscenes, and often enough to note, not actually completing the games they’re paid to review.

This is to say nothing of the long established trope of video game reviews; namely that every triple-A release is rated on a 7-9 scale rather than 1-10.

My solution has always been to simplify things. Lose the absurdity of scoring a game out of 100%. What is the qualitative difference between a game rated 97% and one rated 98% anyway? Go beyond even the relative ease of 1-10 as well, particularly if you’re not going to use the majority of provided numbers. Lets talk about stars out of five. It’s served the movie industry well enough for decades.

A 1-5 score makes everything better. Piss off with your half stars too because that’s cheating. It’s extraordinarily simple, encourages (ironically enough) more range in reviews, and when faced with five games all rated 3/5, one might be tempted to look beyond the number at the end of a review, and actually read the preceding thousand words. They’re supposed to be the important bit anyway.

  1. Awful.
  2. Bad, but not without merit.
  3. Quite good.
  4. Excellent.
  5. Outstanding.

For game publishers, this increases the likelihood their game will actually get a ‘perfect’ score. For reviewers, it encourages more thought because 7-9 out of 10 is basically covered by 4/5 and you can’t rate everything 4 or 5 unless you work for Empire magazine. For readers, it’s an obviously more palatable serving.

I’m, to my friends at least, infamous for being miserly with ratings. Almost every Marvel film is a 2 or a 3. They’re adequate for the most part. By the numbers box ticking competent. Baby Driver is a 2. So is Shape of Water. To find a film I actually gave 5 stars to, you have to go back to 2015 when I fell in love in Ex Machina.

You’re of course free to disagree with these reviews. They’re all subjective and if you think Edgar Wright is the best thing to happen to film since Stanley Kubrick picked up a camera that’s fine. My point here is that I don’t give good reviews out like I work for IGN, so when I tell you I was happy to give God of War 4/5 upon completing it a few weeks ago, you understand that I thought it was excellent.

My opinion has since improved. Like Ex Machina, God of War has stuck with me for weeks now. I’ve rewatched cutscenes, enjoyed fan tattoos and artwork, contemplated where the series and its characters might go next, and, always nice as the result of a game, read more on the source material. I’ve started a new playthrough to appreciate the foreshadowing of the game’s big reveals, had Dad and Boy pose for the camera in photo mode. For a largely linear single player game the like of which EA incredulously told us gamers were no longer interested in, God of War hasn’t let go of me yet.

And so I find myself considering it as a 5 star game. It’s not perfect. Though the level design is admirably clever, the world occasionally feels somewhat cramped. There’s not enough variety in the bosses you encounter. Some of the puzzles slow the game down too much even when you know what you’re doing. The fast travel isn’t great. But there’s so much right with it. It’s a wonderful story of a father and son that for the most part uses Norse mythology only as a backdrop, with promise of much more to come. It looks fantastic and like Uncharted 4 before it, shows that the processing power of your system isn’t the most important thing if you have a talented developer who knows how to use it. Christopher Judge is inch perfect as Kratos, both a war god and a man trying to be better. Sunny Suljic bucks the trend of child actors and is annoying only when he’s supposed to be, spot on as a boy learning not only of the world and his father, but also himself. The combat is meaty and satisfying, calling your axe back from the chest of a vanquished foe never gets old, and almost all the central game mechanics just work really well. That shouldn’t be noteworthy, but alas it is.

At first there was no question to me that God of War was at the least a strong 4/5. I considered 5/5, but backed off because the few niggles I had with it were sticking in my mind. A 5 star game needn’t be perfect. Metal Gear Solid 3 has appalling casting for its largely Russian cast, Mass Effect 2 though superior in most ways has less depth of gameplay than its predecessor, Grand Theft Auto 5 has interminable waits for online lobbies. But they’re all 5 star games because on the whole, they’re exceptionally good. So is God of War.

With Ubisoft convinced that everything need be an open world, EA and Activision ready to ride ‘Games as a Service’ into the apocalypse, and Microsoft doing basically nothing to advance the gaming experience, you have to give credit to Sony and Santa Monica Studio for piling resources into a true blockbuster single player game, and be pleased when they reap the rewards. Naughty Dog did it with Uncharted and Last of Us, Guerilla took a huge gamble and did it with Horizon Zero Dawn. Now it’s SMS’s time.

I get joyous when I tell people about God of War. I’ve readily beamed when sharing the story with non-gamer friends who nonetheless “ooh” and “ah” with sufficient glee when particular story points are brought up. I’ve enjoyed fan trailers cut from captured footage and images taken in game. All of this adds to my enjoyment of it. All of it contributes to a higher score than I originally gave it.

Games journalism, such as it is, is a business like any other and the primary goal is to make money. To that end a quick review is better than a considered one. There are certain reviewers out there though, that I’m prepared to wait a month after launch to hear their opinions, because I know they’ll be complete experiences rather than a run down of the first eight hours, or the results of a hurried run-through at a review event monitored by the publisher.

Beyond that, maybe everyone could benefit from waiting a week or two after completing a game to give their reviews the finishing touch. With most games it may not affect the score at all, but some stick with you longer than others. They carve out places in your heart that you may not be aware of in the heat of the moment. It’s only on reflection that you truly realise you’ve become a fan.

Like most European gamers I cared little for the shouty hack n’ slash arcade beat ’em ups that were Kratos’ Greek adventures. Cory Barlog and his team have dragged me on board with a gutsy reimagining that so easily could have been rejected by a community that’s always ready to pounce when it doesn’t get its way. It worked out. It was a success. On reflection, it was a five star achievement, and I’m only just getting that now, weeks after I completed it for the first time.

Unionists are terrified of a second Scottish referendum, and this is how they could lose it

It’s baffling to many Yes voters and campaigners that so many in ‘mainstream’ or ‘old’ media continually represent the last independence referendum as a torrid, rancorous, calamity which took a land previously bathed in the joy of unicorns riding on rainbows and tore it asunder, causing families to war with each other, siblings to spit at one other in the street, and mothers to abandon their newborn babes at English orphanage doorsteps lest the spirits of Atlantis sink Scotland into the sea, ever to be mourned as a lost nation.

Why, when they recall it as a ‘Festival of Democracy’ which inspired the apolitical to get involved and educated concerning politics, and which engaged the young as never before, do others consider the two years leading up to September 2014 a black mark upon Scotland’s modern history? Well, in short, it’s because it serves their purposes for it to be remembered as catastrophic. Who wants to revisit the inferno, after all?

For those who post about politics on twitter every day, the question has always been ‘when’ and not ‘if’ Scotland will hold another referendum on Independence. Yes voters have looked forward to it with unconstrained glee; unionists fear and loathe the idea. The latter never wanted the first referendum and know full well how close they came to losing it, squandering a thirty-point lead in the polls, and only pulling it out of the bag at the eleventh hour with Faustian promises of more powers for Scotland. While it’s true that another quick victory for No would indeed settle the matter for a generation, it’s never been clear enough which way the Scottish public would vote a second time for there to be any genuine confidence from the former members of Better Together.

It’s easy to forget when embroiled in the Twittersphere however, that most of the people in Scotland don’t engage in 140-character snark-baiting. For those who don’t post on Twitter every day, read the newspapers only on occasion, and find River City, ICW, or Outlander to be worthy of considerably more interest than Reporting Scotland, the referendum is done and while most independent voters may have had no more interest in a second than unionists, they don’t fear it half as much either.

So it falls to the Aiden Kerrs, Stephen Daisleys, and David Torrances et al, to do their best to put that fear into them. “You remember the last referendum?” they ask with the barely concealed contempt of hacks who feel they must hold the electorate to count rather than politicians. “It was ghastly, wasn’t it? We don’t want another of those.”

Putting aside the point that the average person in Scotland is fairly capable of remembering internationally newsworthy events of only four years ago, if you repeat something often enough in the media, it becomes truth in the media. Alex Salmond was for years the most popular politician in the country by a mile, matched only by the woman who would go on to succeed him. But how many times did you read how divisive he was? How many times was his ‘arrogance’ portrayed as a crutch for Yes Scotland and the SNP? It is now an accepted media fact that had someone else led the party and (nominally, at least) the campaign, Yes would have done better. The complete lack of evidence supporting this and the amount of evidence disproving it are an irrelevance. The narrative is all.

So we return to that concerning the referendum’s tone. No one of note, sound mind, or honesty would deny there were hostilities, open threats, and an ugliness that should have been condemned by all. But those same people would also note that such contemptible behaviour was only practiced by a tiny minority of people, barely deserving of the title. Both sides would blame the other for the majority of it. Yes voters would talk of George Square, mounted riot police, and Nazi salutes. No voters would speak of stickers and an egg.

Old media’s narrative however, is that which was detailed further above. The Scottish referendum of 2014 was roughly equatable to the Battle of the Bastards, flayed corpses and all. And if they can convince voters that the referendum was bad, then it naturally follows that those who made it happen, and will make it happen again are bad.

How then, can Yes voters counteract this now that it seems a second referendum is inevitable within the next three years? Well Yes owns Twitter; that much has been clear for years. But Twitter though fun, and useful in its own way, is not where any political battle is won or lost. Twitter has a few hundred million active users around the world each month. If you want to campaign on social media, the big blue is still the place to be. One billion people log into Facebook every month, and there’s a much greater percentage of unionists and non-politicos (read: normal people with social lives) who are likely to get their information from a shared article on their wall than a retweet in their newsfeed. Both come secondary to television and newspapers however, and while it may be the case that some Scottish publications will change their stance on independence given the results of the EU referendum, those journalists who are staunchly opposed to the idea remain. And they will not lightly change their tune.

There is nothing Yes voters can do about them, but there is something they can do about the material they are given to work with. As we saw with Jim Murphy and Ian Murray, the slightest impolite infraction from those of the Yes side will be pounced upon by old media. ‘Yes it may only be an egg,’ will run the op-eds masquerading as reports, ‘but that egg represents an English-hating, introverted, racist, violent darkness in the heart of the Yes campaign.’

Should you be minded to consider this ridiculous, no one would blame you. But we saw four years ago that it’s not unprecedented or unique. So don’t give them the ammunition. Live up to the memory you have of a joyful, optimistic, and inclusive campaign. Take a second before you post on social media to consider whether your words could be taken out of context to represent something you never intended. Imagine them printed in a newspaper and how they would look next to an hysterical headline proclaiming sweary Braveheart fans have overtaken Scottish democracy. Consider how a demonstration at Pacific Quay will be received in the media and whether it will actually achieve any good. Don’t talk of stringing up ‘parasitic’ royals. Don’t throw eggs at soon to be unemployed politicians. Before you shout, consider whether talking might be a better approach. Don’t tweet anything ever, to or concerning JK Rowling.

Independence campaigners ran a hugely impressive campaign last time around. Whatever guff might have been spouted lately by those glad the UK’s leaving the EU about being up against the entire British establishment, Yes really was. It might have a few more newspapers on its side this time (don’t count on it), but make no mistake that those against will be out for blood immediately. It’s already begun in some dark corners. No one will underestimate Yes this time. No one will dismiss them. Plenty will try to sully their name, and paint them as something they’re not to fit a narrative that says once again, Independence is Bad for Scotland, and These People are Bad for Scotland.

Don’t give them the opportunity  to use you as an example of this.

Part of a fandom? Yeah, you’re probably toxic as fuck

I’ve been a fan of Star Trek almost as long as I’ve been a fan of anything. Owing to a mother raised on the adventures of Kirk and Spock, I was raised on the adventures of Kirk, Spock, Picard, and all others who would follow. At one time I could tell you the launch date of the Defiant, the length of the Excelsior, the number of decks on the Enterprise, and the maximum stable cruise velocity of Voyager (Warp 9.975, in case you cared).

With the democratisation of the Internet and fan forums popping up everywhere like STIs after shore leave, it didn’t take me long to realise that in one way, I was different to most other fans. I liked Deep Space Nine.

Deep Space Nine is consistently regarded by critics as the best written, most interesting, and daring of all the Star Trek franchises. Contrasted with Voyager which aired at the same time and told no story that couldn’t be forgotten a week later, DS9 ditched the white picket fenced perfection of the original, told a story of Paradise Lost, good men lost to brutality, the control of religion, and the horror of war. In short, it took risks and was rewarded by most fans by being firmly cast as their least favourite Star Trek series. Voyager by contrast, remains a firm favourite.

Despite my enthusiasm for all things Trek, I never described myself as being part of a “fandom”, not least because no matter what Wikipedia might tell you, no one did back then. But the cornerstones of the faith which defines all of them were clear to see even then. Put simply, they were as follows.

  1. An avowed opposition to original thought, and
  2. An insistence that the product was better when they first experienced it.

In a line; “Star Trek was better when I was a kid, and you should make it like that forever.”

Of course everything was better when you were a kid. WWE was better when it was called WWF and featured The Rock and Stone Cold every Monday. Match of the Day was better when Des Lynam hosted it. Assassins Creed II was the best of the lot, they don’t make drugs like they used to, and why the fuck is Taylor Swift so popular?

Of course the realisation seemingly beyond the grasp of most is that these things were better not because of any inherent qualitative difference, but because you were better, happier and more enthusiastic as a kid. Now you have bills, a mediocre car, a disappointing partner who’s settled for you, and two point four children you try your best to pretend you’re happy were born even as they eat away your twenties, figure, and freedom. There’s a reason John Inverdale looks back with rose-cunted glasses.

The direct result of this fandom mindset is easy to identify. Deep Space Nine was unloved. Enterprise which is now accepted as, “not as bad as people say,” was left to die. The 2009 hyper-successful JJ Abrams reboot “isn’t Star Trek”. The 2013 sequel, Into Darkness, an unashamed love letter to The Wrath of Khan is a “rip-off”. Beyond is… Well. Star Trek Beyond is a shitpile. Let’s be honest. And the first Star Trek series anyone’s had in thirteen years is most charitably describable as, “divisive”.

All of this from nice polite, bespectacled, dorky, loveable, kind-hearted, Star Trek fans. Who are to nerds what nerds are to jocks. It has never really been socially acceptable to like Star Trek the same way some like Star Wars or the reheated microwave meals of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Star Trek fans are losers. Christ, what would it be like if they weren’t?

Fandoms seem to have this strange idea that they have part ownership of an intellectual property, and nowhere is this easier to see than with Star Wars. I like Star Wars. Always have. Most people I know will happily sit down and watch one once in a while, even if they only recognise Boba Fett as a concussed incompetent who fell down a hole in the eighties.

But there are fans, and there is the fandom. A bulbous, hateful, non-productive, disorganised, incoherent, mess of testosterone and bile. A fan will tell you why they don’t like a particular film in a franchise. The fandom will call for the head of the director. In fact, let’s add two more characteristics.

  1. An avowed opposition to original thought.
  2. An insistence that the product was better when they first experienced it.
  3. Assumption of ownership privileges.
  4. The creation of enemies.

JJ Abrams (the JJ is short for Jar-Jar – har har) was the most hated figure in Star Wars production history since, well, George Lucas. And that tells you everything you need to know. It’s not enough that George Lucas created Star Wars. That laser swords and space wizards and Han shooting first were his ideas in the first place. He ruined Star Wars. He raped my childhood. He’s a problem. Take the above in order.

  1. An avowed opposition to original thought.
    1. Midichlorians are stupid.
  2. An insistence that the product was better when they first experienced it.
    1. The prequels aren’t as good as the originals.
  3. Assumption of ownership privileges.
    1. This isn’t my Star Wars.
  4. The creation of enemies.
    1. George Lucas needs to go and Ahmed Best should kill himself.

Enter Disney and JJ Abrams. Let’s play again. Abrams, being no fool saw the value in paying homage to the original just as he’d done with Star Trek. His two Trek films are littered with references to the original series, often so subtle or obscure that most people miss them. The Force Awakens is, as has been noted elsewhere at length, effectively a reboot of A New Hope. Desert orphan runs away from space nazis, loses a father figure and becomes a hero. As a result though there is some vocal criticism of him, most are agreed that The Force Awakens is acceptable. It’s about 85% audience appreciation on Rotten Tomatoes. Abrams didn’t break the first rule of fandom. There’s nothing original about his Star Wars film. Indeed that’s the biggest criticism of it from mainstream viewers, but for the fandom, this is ideal. Unlike the actions of Rian Johnson who basically caused global warming with his follow-up.

  1. An avowed opposition to original thought.
    1. It was too funny for a Star Wars film.
    2. Rey isn’t a Skywalker, Solo, or Kenobi, and so invalid to the Star Wars experience.
  2. An insistence that the product was better when they first experienced it.
    1. I liked Luke better when he was young and hopeful.
    2. Green milk makes a mockery of blue milk.
  3. Assumption of ownership privileges.
    1. He had no right to take such risks with the story.
    2. This still isn’t my Star Wars.
  4. The creation of enemies.
    1. Jar Jar Abrams is ruining Star Wars like he ruined Star Trek.
    2. Kelly Marie Tran is a legitimate target for my ire.

“Fandom” used to be a word I associated only with tweenage girls who for reasons best known to child psychologists, appeared to be under the impression that Justin Bieber was not only the greatest musician who’d ever lived, but the best person too. There was no question as to his greatness and news outlets who shared stories (with plenty of evidence) of him leaving a monkey with German immigration to be destroyed, urinating from a balcony onto his adoring public, or vomiting on stage because he’d drank too much for a pre-schooler, were swiftly inundated with all caps illiteracy defending the pint sized prick.

It’s evolved since then though. Donald Trump has a fandom. And I’m not even kidding.

  1. An avowed opposition to original thought.
    1. That is fake news.
  2. An insistence that the product was better when they first experienced it.
    1. Make America Great Again.
  3. Assumption of ownership privileges.
    1. They’re taking our jobs and our country away from us.
  4. The creation of enemies.
    1. The North Atlantic Treaty Organisation.
    2. The European Union.
    3. Canada.
    4. The World Trade Organisation.
    5. The United Nations.
    6. “Lock her up.”
    7. “Build that wall.”

Star Trek fans can tell you why the don’t enjoy episodes of Discovery. The fandom shouts that Star Trek is dead.

Star Wars fans can tell you why they don’t rate The Last Jedi. The fandom talks of ruined childhood and chases actors off social media.

Fans of Donald Trump might say why they didn’t vote for Hillary Clinton. A member of the fandom calls for her incarceration.

To talk of, “a part of the fandom” is to muddy the water unnecessarily. Fandoms are toxic by nature. If the first thing you can describe yourself as on twitter is a fan of a particular show, film, or person, you’re not well placed to speak objectively about them, and the liklihood is that when someone disagrees with your interpretation, you won’t take it well. In fact your feelings re this post probably run something along the lines of,

  1. An avowed opposition to original thought.
    1. That hasn’t been my experience.
  2. An insistence that the product was better when they first experienced it.
    1. Maybe there is a small problem now but it wasn’t always like that.
  3. Assumption of ownership privileges.
    1. Your opinion doesn’t matter because your franchise is worse than my franchise.
  4. The creation of enemies.
    1. I’m never reading this stupid blog again.

I like Star Trek. I like the old Star Trek; I like the new Star Trek. I also like Star Wars, Battlestar Galactica and Firefly. I’ve never cared if the neighbours like them, and never gotten angry when I didn’t like them. I’m a fan. Not part of the fandom.

You shouldn’t be either.

Trump is not a threat to the American Dream; he’s the inevitable result of it

Time for some truth, America. President Donald Trump was always in the works. America is a country which more than any other has celebrated and championed ruthless capitalism ahead of the public interest; of course the Oval Office was eventually going to be bought by an amoral billionaire.

President Elect Trump is not the problem with America; he’s the symptom of an insidious parasitic disease which has always been a part of the American experience. This is the richest country in the world that can afford to do literally anything; build a colony on the Moon or turn the Middle East into glass; and yet won’t fund healthcare or education. A country that has used 9/11 as the excuse for every evil it has perpetrated since, and yet refuses to look after those brave first responders who are dying as a result of the smog at the World Trade Center site. America is a country that acts so often in the name of its founding fathers while deliberately and systematically dismantling the systems they created.

A country that for years has looked at tens of millions of its citizens who quite literally cannot read, and rather than attempt to change this fact has cultivated a distrust of those who attend the finest educational centers in the land. “Ivy League” is a greater insult in the US than “illiterate”. A country where televised news is explicitly designed to consider advertising revenue as more important than informing the electorate. Where the sacred duty of acting on behalf of the people in holding politicians to account has been replaced with fawning over celebrity, misreporting pop science, manufacturing epidemics of fear, spending more money on three dimensional diagrams than research, and replacing statesmen-like journalists like Edward Murrow with hyperactive TV presenters like Wolf Blitzer.

This is the country that has decided children being massacred as they sit in school is an acceptable price to pay for the right to carry a firearm.

For the rest of the world looking in, America is the great horror show. For every Barack Obama, there are ten Donald Trumps. George W. Bush’s Presidency, hugely unpopular across Europe, now seems like the good old days of Republicanism. At the turn of the Millennium, Europeans thought there could not possibly be a less competent character for the highest office in the world. Then Americans gave them Sarah Palin. Surely, that was the worst it could get. No. Not in America where gross incompetence is no more a deal breaker than outright racism or brazen lies.

2016 has been an awful year in almost every regard; movies have been appalling, beloved artists have died, and across the civilised world, countries have competed to see who can commit the most self harm in one vote. For months it seemed that the UK would claim this title with Brexit and a resulting GBP value roughly equivalent to a half eaten tub of Pringles, but never to be outdone in size or stupidity, the US has wrestled the title of Stupidest Electorate In The West from their old masters.

Donald Trump has lied perhaps more than any other Presidential candidate of all time. His supporters do not care and nor, despite the indignation of some individual commentators, do the media. FOX News is often correctly lambasted for its openly partisan reporting and its continuing support for Mr Trump was never in question, but organisations such as CNN and MSNBC have much to answer for as well. In an attempt to chase ‘balance’ they have switched fairness for false equivalency. Johnny Sixpack may be excused a, ‘they’re both as bad as each other’ albeit with a weary sigh, but respected newscasters suggesting the same have abandoned reason. Whatever her faults, Secretary Clinton is manifestly more qualified to hold office than the host of The Apprentice. She has been a public servant for decades, she is respected around the world, and she doesn’t lie as often as Mr Trump. There is nothing of real public interest in the Wikileaks emails (all courtesy of a man who is effectively an anarchist, lest we forget), and yet they have dominated electoral converge.

The environment has been a non-issue in this campaign. So have guns, so has healthcare, the shape of the judiciary for the next fifty years, congressional and electoral reform; John Kerry lost an election because absent evidence, the media perpetrated the narrative that he was a coward in Vietnam; Hillary Clinton lost an election because absent evidence, the narrative was that leaked emails suggested corruption on her part.

There is no dressing this situation up. It is not hyperbole to say that Mr Trump is potentially the worst American President in history. An office held by great men; men like Abraham Lincoln and Teddy Roosevelt, FDR and James Madison, is now to be held by a man who boasts of sexual assault, a man openly supported by white supremacists, a man who demonises people based on nothing more than their place of birth, who has called for political rivals to be incarcerated, who suggests shooting Presidential candidates, who calls the sitting President an ISIS founder and a Kenyan Muslim, who lies and lies and lies and lies – this is to be the Leader of the Free World.

This is to say nothing of Vice President Elect Mike Pence who believes homosexuality is an illness which can be cured, man-made climate change is a myth and there should be no such thing as the separation of church and state.

This could not happen elsewhere. Donald Trump could not become President of France or Chancellor of Germany or Prime Minister of Canada. Only in America could a bullying, misogynistic, racist, failed Emmy winner be rewarded for his petulance with the highest office in the land. Donald Trump is the violent ejaculate of a superpower that treats its own citizens with abusive disdain. Other Western democracies house middle-classes that bemoan the inequality of society and wonder how best to help the weakest in society. America scrapes its poorest off the boot of unconstrained free market economics that work from the basis that if you’re not rich, it’s your own fault and the horrors that follow are your just desserts.

Of course America voted for Donald Trump as President. The shock of Barack Obama’s election wasn’t that he was black; it was that he was socially liberal in a viciously illiberal society. That a shred of basic decency had somehow made it through the faecal gauntlet that is the American electoral system. President Obama was a modern European pragmatist in an Old Testament country.

Donald Trump is larger than life, ridiculous, inexperienced, unfit for command, a bully, a charlatan, a cur, mocked around the world, excessively wealthy despite having done nothing to earn such riches.

You reap what you sow. Donald Trump is America.

10 myths busted about the Ched Evans case

The Secret Barrister

Footballer Ched Evans was today acquitted after a retrial of one count of rape. The jury at Cardiff Crown Court returned a unanimous verdict of not guilty, Mr Evans’ solicitor read out a statement on his client’s behalf to the gawping media on the court steps in the time-honoured fashion and, within seconds, social media duly exploded with more speculation, myths, distortions and unjustified fury than one might suppose 140 characters could contain.

Ched Evans was a star player at Sheffield United.

The facts, as reported, can be briefly summarised: Ched Evans was originally tried with a co-defendant, and fellow footballer, Clayton McDonald, in April 2012. On 29 May 2011, Evans and McDonald had sex with the complainant, X, in a hotel room. McDonald had met X on a night out, taken her back to the hotel room, and had alerted Evans that he had “got a girl”. Evans duly arrived, made his way to the room and, seeing McDonald…

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#EXCLUSIVE: Two men in one hotel room shocker! WAAAH!!!

There’s an article in today’s Herald which covers both a fraudulent Tory having to pay back ill-gained expenses and an illicit homosexual affair in a hotel room. Or so you might think if you read the papers the way most people do.


The implication concerning the former is obvious. Tory MSP Ross Thompson has been forced by the Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body to pay back £120 he claimed for a hotel room he wasn’t allowed to. Except  it wasn’t the SPCB who made him pay it back; it was his own party and the reason they did this was because it might be interpreted as less-than-good; not because there was any actual evidence to suggest wrongdoing had occurred.

So that, as they say, would be that. Barely newsworthy, you’d be forgiven for thinking. But therein you miss the meat of the article. The clue’s in the sixth word of the subheading. A Tory sharing a room with someone from Labour isn’t all that exciting, but a “male friend”? Well that’s more intriguing, isn’t it?

In case you were as to any doubt as to the importance of both sleepers’ gender, article writer Daniel Sanderson rubs the point harder in the second paragraph by pointing out that Mr Thompson is, “in a civil partnership.”

It’s impolite, to say nothing of jarring, to refer to the subject of an article as, “one of them gays” but pointing out in an innocuous fashion that said subject is in a civil partnership is absolutely fine. And necessary, when discussing MSP expenses, of course.

The article then spends some time talking to one of Mr Thompson’s colleagues (the anonymous kind, of course) about how he is ambitious, inexperienced, immature, a renegade, and a problem.

It’s towards the bottom of the article, when almost all readers have departed for saucier climates that this reasonably important line makes it in.

There is no suggestion of anything beyond a working relationship and friendship between the pair.

You might wonder again, at this point, why the need for the article in the first place. An MSP was asked to pay back £120 of expenses because it might look bad, and he did so. There’s no suggestion the expenses were claimed illegally. Because they’ve been paid back so quickly they won’t even make it into the SPCG’s annual report. Neither Mr Thompson nor the Scottish Conservatives have anything to say regarding the matter. That’s a sidebar stub if ever there was one.

So why does the article go on for so long? What does it matter who was in the room with Mr Thompson if the concern is merely the cost? Why start off by effectively saying, “a gay man was in a hotel room with another man who wasn’t his husband,” then devote more than a few lines to the questioning of his character before quietly slipping in at the end, “but no one’s saying he did anything wrong”?

I don’t like knee-jerk reactions and I’d like to think the best of Mr Sanderson, but this article leaves a decidedly scummy line around the tub. It’s entirely possible that this is just a bad amalgamation of two separate articles; one small one concerning a non-event, and another larger one concerning the controversial (if you’re into such matters) hiring of a Labour man by a Tory.

But it’s also possible that this is something else, and the fact that the thought even arises betrays a lax editorial standard at the Herald where language open to such an interpretation evidently goes by without a double take. Mr Thompson’s civil partnership has nothing whatsoever to do with anything mentioned in this article. The only reason to mention it at all, let alone so prominently in the second paragraph is to let you know immediately that you’re reading about a gay man. The only reason to mention the sex of the other person in the room, let alone in the subheading itself, is to invite snide speculation as to the private actions of a gay man when he’s alone in a room with someone of the same sex and a bed.

This may not be deliberate. Hopefully it’s not. But it’s there. It happened. You can read it for yourself. People used to expect more from the Herald. This is one small example of why they no longer do.