Category: Politics

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.

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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.
    3. RIAN JOHNSON IS THE MOTHERFUCKING ANTICHRIST.

“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.

#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.

msp.jpg

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.

We can no longer afford to ignore religion’s role in promoting evil

In the eighteenth century, the French Enlightenment philosopher Voltaire wrote that, “if you can make people believe absurdities, you can make them commit atrocities.” It is, sadly, every bit as much a truism today as it was before the tulmultous events of the Revolution which followed his death at the close of the century.

It is important to note that at the time of writing, it is unknown who committed the latest atrocities which struck at the heart of France though of course that hasn’t stopped unscrupulous ‘journalists’ and by extension the twitterati from baseless speculation. Inevitably, the phrase on everyone’s lips is, “Muslims.”

It’s become an unfortunate cliché to begin such a discussion with, “of course most Muslims are peaceful, but…” Non-Muslims can only imagine what it must be like to have to defend their faith in times such as these. We do not require Christians to answer for Anders Breivik or the bombers of family planning clinics any more than we demand contrition from the Saudis for Osama bin Laden. Neighbourly ribbing aside, no one judges millennial Germans for the actions of their great grandparents, Iraqis are not held to account for the crimes of Saddam Hussein, and yet following every attack on civilisation by Islamic extremists we cast a suspicious eye on our Muslim citizens, waiting with baited breath to chastise them if they voice anything but the most vocal and heartfelt condemnations.

Religious terrorism is the great evil of our age. There is no explanation, excuse, or circumstance which justifies the actions of those who would strike at our friends and family in their homes. And yet there is no doubt that these fractions of men, these cowards and curs, feel entirely justified in their murder. They are as indignant in their slaughter as we are in our outrage. They go to hell covered in the blood of innocents with pride and joy because old men taught them to hate, as those old men were taught before and though it flies in the face of accepted tolerance in the West, to ignore religion as the direct cause of the rage that beats at our door is an abandonment of reason.

Debating the difference between mainstream religion and fundamentalist or extremist religion is to sidestep the obvious. There would be no religious extremism without religion. From human sacrifice in Mesoamerican civilisations, through Egyptian slavery and the Crusades, right up to the Ku Klux Klan’s so called ‘white pride’, the Vatican’s protection of child molesters and ISIS waging war on Humanity itself, religion has been the primary fuel that burns in the fire of human barbarism.

Still we patronise them. A man preaching the ridiculous is mad; a civilisation chanting along is religion. “Faith-based” is a lazy stereotype thrown around by unionist commentators to describe Scottish politics. It is derisory. An unashamed criticism. “People only vote for the SNP on faith; it’s nothing to do with facts.” The merits of such an argument aside, why is the same naked scorn not there when it comes to the origin of that very criticism? It seems preposterous to have to note the following, but there is no evidence – none whatsoever – for the existence of a singular or pantheon of beings or entities that bear any relation to the fictions our ancestors invented to enslave people. There is a compendium of evidence that points to the truth. Religion is about control, and the easiest way to control is to instil fear. From there it is only the shortest hop to anger and hatred. This is why religion was created.

Whether Islam is ‘better’ or ‘worse’ than other religions is an interesting, but irrelevant discussion when it comes to countering the threat of terrorism. It is not atheists strapping explosives to their chests. Agnostics do not vow death to the West. Humanists do not cry “God is great” as they deprive men, women and children of their lives. No evidence-based judgment of the Human condition can conclude anything but that that ours would be a world more peaceful and loving absent the bigotry that we indoctrinate our children with.

There is no denying that we are at war, and horrific though it is, there are times when the use of violence to defend ourselves is inescapable. Firearms and munitions alone however will not save us from the loveless abyss these men of God would drag us into. As with so many ills in the world, education is the silver bullet. No one is born religious. There is no such thing as a ‘half-Christian’ child. We tell lies to the young, and they are the most odious untruths our species has ever conceived. We tell them to abandon personal responsibility, because God has a plan for us. We discourage critical thinking because faith is the shibboleth by which virtue is judged. We encourage them to scorn their neighbours because there is only one true religion and non-believers, whatever their other qualities, will be judged accordingly. Perhaps worst of all we instil a casual disregard for life itself because our very existence is but a test for the next, and everlasting rapture lies in wait for true devotees.

It is no coincidence that so much of the world’s horror comes from the Middle East not because the region favours Islam over Judeo-Christian mythology, but because education is seen not as an inalienable right, but a pernicious evil that must be shied away from. Dissent is not merely rude or irritating; it is a sin against God and punishable by the most extreme measures.

If we wish to triumph over terrorism, we must first acknowledge the mire in which it breeds. We must bring about an end to such insidious claptrap as ‘respect for religion.’ Everyone should of course be able to believe what they will. If religion brings someone strength in the privacy of their own home then we should respectfully disagree and wish them well. The moment it impedes on our lives however, there should be an abandonment of tolerance. We should teach our children the difference between respecting someone’s right to believe, and respect for the belief itself. Religion should be no more shielded from scorn and ridicule than Fifty Shades of Grey or Twilight.

This war is not about land or resources; it is about hatred. That hatred is taught, and religion is the maestro. If we are to combat hatred, we must combat its source, and the peace must be won at home before we can hope to spread it elsewhere.

#Politics Can we ditch the Left/Right spectrum and get complicated, please?

It’s hard to argue in anything but support of the proposition that political debate would be a lot better in this country if we ditched the concept of left-wing and right-wing. Jeremy ‘may or may not be an IRA plant – not sure yet’ Corbyn is either left wing or far left depending on how you see it. To some he’s centre-left but these are the same people who don’t find the SNP worryingly authoritarian so we won’t bother with their delusions today.

I find David Cameron right wing personally. Some go further, and yet just last week he and his ilk were talking about not only claiming the centre ground, but the centre-left. Couple this with a Labour party that secretly really liked those racist mugs and we are through the looking glass already.

Of course we’re not. It’s all politicking. It’s bullshit. George Osborne is no more a centrist today than he was a year ago. Theresa May, having moved on from her anti Nasty Party phase years ago is now so right wing she thinks immigrants swapped alphabetti spaghetti with hoops to try and scare her at dinner time. Jeremy Corbyn is far left if you accept the middle ground as Blairism, but no one bar Blairites does that.

The “centre-ground” is a meaningless phrase in modern politics. Once upon a time it was solely about economic policies. The left wanted to tax and spend and the Right wanted to cut taxes and have poor people string themselves up by their bootstraps. Or something.

It’s not now though. Now Left is interchangeable with liberal just as Right is interchangeable with conservative. And since none of us can agree where the centre ground is, aiming for it is an exercise in futility.

Most of my friends are liberal. This is hardly surprising. I’m liberal, one year shy of Churchill’s switching age and most of my friends are younger than me. By and large, the young are more socially compassionate than the old.

Most of my older friends however, to say nothing of the majority of people in my life I have real intellectual respect for, are conservative, at least with a small c. They have more financial interests than the young and are, reasonably enough, more concerned with such things than people currently enjoying a student grant.

But we’re not America, at least not yet. We’re a more interesting people than red or blue. My best friend has voted Conservative all his life and yet found it hard to disagree with what Jeremy Corbyn had to say on social matters. He earns more than the average and has no problem paying more for things like education, foreign aid and the NHS. In the US they’d call him a RINO – Republican in name only – save for the fact that in America, he’d likely be a conservative Democrat because their notion of the centre ground is to the right of ours.

I have liberal friends who hate the idea of foreign aid when British children are suffering in (relative) poverty. I know one young, liberal bar manager who wants to run his own place one day and sees no problem in the basic conservative theory of cutting tax credits so long as the minimum wage catches the difference.

I don’t have a moral objection to private citizens owning firearms, but the results of the US’s catastrophic fuck ups on this front cannot be ignored. Nor am I morally opposed to Trident in the UK. I can see a coherent argument for a nuclear deterrant without balking. My opposition has always been financial – we’re an island nation and I’d rather the funding went to naval defence forces. Or schools and hospitals, but that’s just my inner hippy blethering on.

People are too fond of labelling themselves; particularly in an age and country where we’re all supposed to be individuals, and more than that, we’ve a desperate need to be part of a gang. The SNP speaks for a huge part of liberal and centrist Scotland, but rather than be satisfied with this, there are acolytes who lap up everything Nicola Sturgeon lays out for them as if it were delivered by the Angel Gabriel and actively hound those who dare criticise even a single SNP policy. Despite what most papers would have you believe, they’re not alone. Scottish Labour and many of their supporters are hamstrung by a visceral hatred of the SNP, unable to acknowledge even the slightest good deed, and desperate to criticise things their opponents aren’t remotely responsible for. Gang mentaliy.

But where do these two parties lie on the spectrum? Both claim to be centre-left. There are many pundits who say they are dangerously far-left while on the street (and by street I do of course mean twitter), supporters of each denigrate the others by referring to them as Tories. Red Tories, Yellow Tories, and even some Blue Tories, goes the cynical joke.

If we can’t agree on the centre however, we can’t begin to get into the comparative intricacies of far-left, centre-left, and so on. So let’s just stick with liberal and conservative. Let’s acknowledge that life is too complicated to spend saying, “I agree with X on Y so I agree with X on every-fucking-thing.”

Or we could do what Political Compass do and recognise the need for at least two axes. Left/Right and Authoritarian/Libertarian. Sounds a mite complicated for the average political pundit though, doesn’t it?

Jeremy Corbyn calls himself a socialist. Alex Salmond calls himself a social democrat. I don’t know what the fuck that is. I call myself a left-wing, libertarian, pragmatic, liberal. Or at least I do when someone asks for specifics which is almost never from someone who matters, because those who are worth talking to recognise that your position on one thing need not dictate it on another. We are shades of grey, we are multi-coloured, we are fucking complicated.

And left or right, I don’t like anyone who wants to be part of a gang.

#UKIPCalypso is about as racist as ordering a black coffee. Pick your battles

The title of this piece likely means more to me than it does you. Whilst at unviersity, I had a debate on Facebook with an SU officer about racism in today’s society and one helpful contributor suggested that ordering a ‘black coffee’ was nowadays, racist.

I treated this suggestion with the scorn it deserved; the move towards an age when white people simply saying “black” to describe something is considered racist? Not something I’m eager to help progress. On the flipside, “PC gone mad,” is, like “I’m a taxpayer” and “as a Christian,” something said almost exclusively by fucking arseholes and I’ve no wish to join that club. Let’s be honest though; anyone who has a problem with someone innocently ordering an Americano minus the Starbucksian bullshit phrase that now accompanies it has a problem with perspective.

UKIP Calypso has caused a fuss with such people and others beside over the past couple of days. “It’s racist,” goes the cry. Why? Because it features an English white man putting on an Afro-Carribean accent. Heaven forfend. As has been pointed out by others though, such people don’t seem to have a problem with Ricky Gervais’s “Equality Street” so what’s the difference?

The suggestion that one is parody and t’other be not is ridiculous. Anyone with a lick of sense can see both riff on classic tunes that aren’t suited to an oxbridge dialect. Neither has racist lyrics. These are not white supremacist songs we’re talking about. The trouble is that it’s a song in support of a vile organisation that is favourited by racists, so there is a liberal rush to condemn it by that association. But just as UKIP is not solely populated by racists, so too not everything associated with it is racist either. Let’s have some other examples.

Many moons ago whilst in a drama class, I potrayed a taxi driver with an Asian accent. “Stop!” cried the teacher. “That’s racist!”

“Why?” asked I? “Why is it any different to an English student putting on a Scottish accent?” I wasn’t being horrible about Asian people or perpetuating a myth about cab drivers; I was reflecting that many taxi drivers are Asian. The character’s race had nothing to do with the story; it was simply an added element of realism.

“It just is,” came the pitiful response, and duly pissed as a Scottish student in England, I played the rest of the scene pretending to be William Hague.

There’s a scene in the popular Assassin’s Creed series of games where the main character, having relived memories of an Italian ancestor speaks to a statue of another with, “Hey, what’s a matta wit you?”

“You’re racist!” cries another character.

You’re racist,” he jokes back. Neither takes it seriously.

And why should they? Putting on different voices is fun; there’s never been any harm in it. Because I liked a certain movie, I’m particularly partial to putting on a South African accent every time I say “prawns” (and of late, “Pistorious”); no one who has ever heard me seriously thinks I’m attacking South African people. How many of us affect an Australian when playing about with a “barby” in the back yard? Every time we mimic a movie trailer we put on the ‘epic’ American voice-over accent. It’s not anti-American.

So what’s the problem with UKIP Calypso?

It’s for UKIP, and it’s that simple. We don’t like UKIP, lots of Ukippers are racist, thus the song is racist.

Except, the only way it’s racist is if I’m racist for putting on South African, Australian, Spanish, Russian, American, Japanese (you get the idea) accents too. As a liberal whose liberal ideas typically out liberal most liberals (try saying that over and over), I don’t like the idea that I’m racist. Which is fine because I’m not.

If I hated black people, I’d be racist. If I advocated inferior treatment of them to white folks, I’d be racist. I don’t. Every now and again though, I do put on an accent to make people chuckle.

UKIP Calypso commits no greater crime. Yes, it represents a party which policies are overtly racist. Yes, it represents a party which attracts racists like flies to shit. Yes, most Ukippers you meet and speak to are racist even if they’re too fucking stupid to realise it themselves.

That doesn’t mean the song is though. It’s a white guy putting on an accent for a laugh and because it suits the melody. It’s no worse than Ricky Gervais, or Alistair MacGowan or Jon Culshaw for that matter.

If you’re a liberal still reading this, fight UKIP. It is a horrible, backwards, establishment party (despite convincing most supporters it’s for the everyman) that will fuck up poor people and minorities in this country something rotten if they ever get in. They are one of the most serious threats to the continuation of the UK as a relatively free society.

That doesn’t mean the song is racist. It’s not. Pick your fucking battles.