Sunday, 17 February 2013

New Men and abuse.

[This is a first draft; it may change, feedback as always welcome. Trigger warning: DV, severe, rape, more abstractly. Updated 24/02.)

“UniLad: This online magazine's 'laddish' misogyny sends a message to young girls that their role is clearly delineated – you're worthless.”

I read with interest Rhiannon Cosslett’s article on Uni Lad, the ex-website devoted primarily to a form of showy macho misogyny. Cosslett, it goes without saying, is absolutely right about the misogynies that circulated on the site – rape denial, as well as vicious and gorily explicit jokes about violence against women were common there. The theory of ‘lad’ culture, that there exist a large number of men who think nothing of this kind of hate-filled abusive language, is certainly strong.
But where I begin to differ from many theorists of ‘lad culture’ is when they pick it out as the motor or the apex of misogyny, and the site of the most serious abuse. The reason why I differ is the same reason as there are so many articles like Cosslett’s on this problem – it’s there, and it certainly needs talking about, but the very fact that we are doing so so much, the fact of its obviousness is the very symptom of its powerlessness. I don’t intend here to insult or undermine articles like this – they’re essential, and they serve I think an important purpose. What I want to suggest, however, is the possibility that there might be a construct considerably more dangerous than ‘lad culture’ – that of the New Man.
The ‘New Man’ that I refer to here is a construct of postwar Britain, something that arose in the context of second-wave feminism and the movement of women into work and higher education, as well as the increase in social rights and economic power. Some explanations for the rise of the New Man are favourable – that men have chosen to take on housework and childcare, that they are moving away from domestic violence (‘lad’ culture?), and that they have become involved in feminism. These are of course all excellent things, but they have a converse as well.
The New Man was also a reaction against the feminisms of the 60s and 70s. As it became increasingly difficult for men to have economic, physical and intellectual dominance, the ways women were denigrated began to shift. Women were no longer seen so much as weak, irrelevant, emotional or irrational, but as the exact opposite – oppressors, bossy or manipulative people, bitches. ‘Ugliness’ expanded from a description of a woman’s physical appearance to her personality. What the New Man did was leave behind a world of confidently asserted dominance and move to one where the language of emotional intelligence was used to assert a pleading victimhood.  
Whereas before, the emotional realm was dismissed as an irrational female world that ran counter to progress and sense, the New Man, in the face of the astonishing gains of postwar feminism, moved into that world and made it his own. ‘You have emotions?’ he asked – ‘so do I, and they’re bigger than yours.’. MRA's, arguably the most significant antifeminist movement of the last twenty years, use exactly this language - that women have become too powerful, and rather than oppose this with overt domination, plead powerlessness to force what we might call concession by decency.
One of the areas this is very often seen is in the language of mental health. Since the rise of care in the community and active labour-market policies, it has become necessary to treat mental health diagnoses like tokens – tokens of relief from the world. There isn’t space to explore this in depth (this will be fleshed out in the forthcoming book), but a brief outline might go as follows.
To avoid the active-labour-market policy of jobseekers’ allowance, where the benefit is stopped if commitment to 24/7 jobseeking wavers, or to avoid the endless overtime shifts, or essay deadlines at university, it is necessary to plead medical inability. Only a doctor has the power to waive the endless pressures of the 21st century post-Fordist economy. And thus diagnoses become tokens, tokens that mean insanity but in fact grant sanity, grant relief. Rather than being terrified at diagnosis, as a pre-1990 patient might reasonably be, doctors are pleaded with to give diagnoses. Let me have depression, let me have anxiety, let me have OCD, because only these words, this paper, can protect me. Diagnosis has immense value.
But these tokens of victimhood are not unalloyed good things. Their availability is very limited – not just by the government, who employ people like ATOS to prevent them – but by social factors. They’re much more likely to be given to people who are likely to be in a position to shuck them a few months later. And they’re much more likely to be given to people who have learnt the language of emotional intelligence to assert a kind of victimhood, regardless of what their circumstances might be. This is exactly where the New Man fits in.
I have begun to lose count of the women I know whose boyfriends and ex-boyfriends threaten emotional instability as a way of getting their own way. Panic attacks and depression are very real, and terrible things that affect a great number of people, men very much included, but it’s an increasingly common thing to see men use them as a way of asserting abuse; that women make them feel a certain way, make them suffer and burn. This control via victimhood is profoundly, extraordinarily powerful. It slips easily into violence, too - rather than "I hit you because you're stupid" or "I hit you because you need telling" it manifests as "Look what you made me do", "You bring out the devil in me", "Nobody else makes me do this, nobody else is such a bitch to me, you make me desperate, you make me lash out.".
Where UniLad might have been keen on abuse, he was hamstrung by his words – it’s easy for us to spot someone like that, easier for us to avoid. Where abuse becomes truly frightening, it’s not because people are physically unable to leave – it happens because they feel the one at fault. Abuse continues because men are able to avoid being pigeonholed for it, because their situation of emotional power prevents us from speaking against them, partly for fear of damaging them, and partly because of how damaged we already feel they are. A friend who worked at a RCSAC described to me how many women took months or years after the end of a relationship to disentangle enough to see how violent and coercive it was. The ability to assert victimhood may be the strongest weapon in the misogynists’ arsenal.

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Where are all the rapists?

(Trigger warning: rape.)

We're all incredibly familiar with the statistic that one in four women are raped in their life. It's become almost a platitude, a totem like the comparisons of defence and aid spending, something traded as meaningful by even the most abhorrent moralities. It's a shocking, horrible number that men frequently like to demonstrate their new masculinity with.

But who is actually doing this? If one in four women are raped, a truly phenomenal number of men must be rapists, perhaps even an equal number - one in four. So where are they? Who are they? Why are we so comfortable to see women as victims but never men as aggressors?

In recited truths, rapists, like racists, belong to a tiny group of marginal men that apparently have no echoes or similarities with the rest of the world - a hermetically sealed environment of evil men. So it is with the EDL, so it must be with rapists, in this received wisdom.

So where are these rapists? Some, we must presume, reside in jail, and we 'know' they are rapists because even the law agrees. Certainly the law is so reluctant to convict that we can be pretty certain of these men. But day-to-day, where are they? Accusations against friends and acquaintances often catastrophically backfire on the victim, with the arrayed firepower of a patriarchal class rushing to the aggressor's defence and bullying the victim. It is certainly time we started being upfront about the rapists, who are absolutely, certainly, in our midst. It will remain incredibly hard for victims to speak up without a dramatic change in society, although that is one of the greatest goals we must strive for - but one thing we can do tomorrow, do to everyone, is talk about the fact that even if we don't know who they are, there are far more rapists than we are comfortable admitting. It's not a pleasant subject, but since we're apparently so comfortable talking about women being raped, exchanging that for talk of men being rapists might be a powerful step forward.

But there is one more place where whites are very comfortable imagining rapists, and that is when it is black men. The racist stereotype of black men as animalistic, brutish, cruel and powerful, opposed to black women as helpless, childlike passives is probably the most pernicious of all and its roots in the slave trade have been well documented. This goes far beyond Starkey blaming (misattributed) national characteristics for child sexual abuse, because it is not just attributing the motivation to race, but implying that all black men are potential aggressors. When we see black men called out for sexual abuse and not white men, what is on display is not feminism but racism. Feminism would be a concern for every victim and contempt for every aggressor, but a focus on just black perpetrators is using what has been dubbed 'imperial feminism', that of using a pseudo-feminism to further racist goals.

Take, for example, the furore around Chris Brown. It is obvious that what it is documented Chris Brown did is abhorrent in the extreme, an awful, horrifying and utterly unjustifiable attack. Nothing I want to say in any way excuses what he has done. But the way it has been responded to has been a playing out of exactly what I describe. Chris Brown has been condemned across the board, and been at the centre of the biggest moral panic in modern pop music. So far so good. But then the condemnation started to leak across to Rihanna. Why did she lift the restraining order? Why did she collaborate with him? Why did she resume a relationship with him? Won't she remember she's a role model? Rihanna was presented as an idiotic, slavish child in thrall to him and unable to tear herself away. Understanding just how limited the options available to women in abusive scenarios is vitally important, but in fact her agency - for want of a better word - was not presented as limited at all. Instead, she was criticised for using her 'agency' wrongly, for lifting the restraining order, for collaborating and then for getting back with him.

Chris Brown has come under attacks vastly out of proportion to white aggressors. I don't want him to have an easier life - I just want every white abuser to suffer the same. Do we picket Sean Penn films? Christian Slater films? How about Eminem? David Hasselhof is thought of as a 'comedy' figure. Roman Polanski continues to evade jail for child sexual abuse. Michael Fassbender. Mel Gibson. Axl Rose. Gary Oldman. Sean Bean. Bill Murray. John Lennon. I could go on.
My point is that the focus on Chris Brown is not, in most cases, motivated by feminism, but instead is fit into an easy, lazy stereotype of abusive black men. Every white 'feminist' can attack Brown, because he can safely be pigeonholed as an aggressor, in exactly the way that white men, as discussed in part one, cannot be. Even if it could be honestly said to be feminism, it is at the least a racist feminism, one focussed on black abusers to a far greater extent than white ones, and a feminism that leaves women of colour alienated without a side to join - abusers on one hand, racism on the other. Let's, as I pleaded in part one, start talking about the white rapists and abusers in our midst.

Monday, 2 April 2012

Don't Kill Yourself, You'll Make Us Look Bad

Guest post on Lenin's Tomb.

The following is a storified version of events that led up to the way mental health care is organised in the UK today. It should be familiar to all mental health professionals, and shows, I hope, just how evil - and I do not use the word lightly - care provision truly has become.

Institutional care brings to mind horrific scenes. Whether it's the iatrogenic madness of Crispina at the end of The Magdalene Sisters, gossip about the Rosenhan experiment, Broadmoor, or a fondness for Foucault, mental health institutions bring to most people's minds padded walls, straitjackets, isolation, forced injections and unheard screams.

The truth, in some institutions, was certainly not very different from this, and many were the rich families who felt it too cruel to let relatives rot there as if imprisoned. Their alternative though, was the provision of private nurses working in the home, and as this was expensive it was the privilege of a select few. Institutions were expensive, too, for the state - more so even than prisons. And so the dream of mental health care outside internment grew as the number of institutions grew, in some circles because of love, in others because of profit.

Enter Roy Griffiths. Griffiths made his bones in Monsanto (director, 1964-68) and then Sainsbury’s (1968-91), and naturally, this gave him uniquely brilliant insight into mental healthcare. Thatcher had commissioned Griffiths in 1983 to write a diagnosis of the problems of the NHS. What he decided the NHS really needed was more managerialism and internal markets (ask anybody that works in the NHS today what the biggest problem and waste of money is, and they'll all tell you, too many managers and markets), and this seemed to set him up as the best possible person to respond to the media crisis brewing around the terrible quality of institutional care in the UK.

Griffiths produced his report, Community Care: Agenda for Action, in 1988. It was a call to complete deinstitutionalisation, and as with the Browne Report last year, the Conservative government loved it, and implemented its recommendations as fast as they could. But Griffiths didn't just advocate deinstitutionalisation alone, because providing care in homes would cost even more than institutional care. Instead, he wrote that the state needed to move away from being a 'provider' of care, to being instead merely an 'enabler' of care. This move is crucial and in it lies the evil. For the state to deinstitutionalise its patients would surely have meant that institutional staff would become health visitors, but that's not what Griffiths wanted. What Griffiths argued for -and what was adopted in the 1989 White Paper Caring for People -  was the abolition of health services for patients, and the managing of the resultant situation with social work. And when the White Paper became the Community Care Act 1990, so 'Care in the Community' was born.

You might be thinking that this sounds a lot like the Government refusing to care for people with mental health difficulties, and that’s because that’s exactly what it is. You may be wondering, what of the patients with complex and specific needs who need round-the-clock care? Well, the Big Society would take care of it. Charities like Mind, who do 'befriending' services, and the weekly chats with social workers were supposed to take care of it, and when they weren't there, well, the Community would step up.

But ordinary people aren't trained to cope with and treat mental health problems. What's more, they have their own lives to lead, and can't deal with such an enormous and permanent responsibility as full-time care. Add to this the fact that people with mental health difficulties are assaulted and raped far more often than the average, and a very ugly picture begins to emerge.

It's OK, though, from the Government's point of view. The ugly realities of social work do occasionally make the headlines, in cases of systematic abuse, but in the other 90% of cases it is just not written about that people (and it is usually women) have to give up their jobs, their independence, their relationships, even their children or control over their own bodies, because nobody else will be the caregiver. The 1995 Carers Act went some way to relieving pressure (and enabling married women, for the first time, to receive an income for their work), but in many homes care was just impossible, and people were forced onto the streets*.

But there were even bigger problems than this: suicides, and assaults by people with mental health problems. Of course people with mental health difficulties are very rarely the attackers, far more commonly the victims, but when they are, it is the stuff of tabloid sensation. Suicide is far less glamorous, but if the Government's new deinstitutionalisation policies triggered a mass wave of suicides, it would nonetheless be distinctly embarrassing. So police were further trained on their sectioning powers, and they became the people you're put through to if you call the emergency services about a potential suicide.

There's other evidence of this suicide-containment strategy at the GP level. GPs are given extraordinarily little mental health training, not to mention limited surgery time, and so they really only have four possible strategies. Firstly, they make people fill in a self-assessment form, which we'll come back to later. Then, if the person really doesn't sound happy, they'll be prescribed SSRIs. Thirdly, if they embarrass themself by crying or some equally heinous act, they'll be given the phone numbers of Care in the Community services, which range from free online CBT courses or private group therapies to social workers and befriending services. Fourthly, if they're really weird, or the doctor is feeling particularly phobic that day, they can have you referred to a therapy course, which almost invariably is CBT. My descriptions are offensive, but I chose them because this is how people are made to feel in surgeries.

Now I could of course write about how calculatedly ignorant this provision is and how obviously deliberate it is - after all, if we want people out of institutions, we should empower them to be flourishing there - or I could write about how CBT is not therapy, but instead a way of forcing economic outcomes from people - but I'd rather focus on that self-assessment form. You can see a version of it here.

The purpose of this form is to return a simple numerical value to guide the GP's actions. Of course a single number cannot say anything at all about somebody's mental health, but that isn't the point of the form at all. If it is too high, and the person admits to considering suicide - and GPs are required to ask if they are - the GP is supposed to call the police, but if the patient is lucky and they have half a heart, social services instead. Obviously the poor patient, confronted by their social worker, let alone a couple of ignorant, bullying cops, immediately withdraws into themself and denies any such thoughts. 

The patient is desperately seeking help, human warmth and reasons to live, and what they have been confronted with is in the best case someone with the power to take away their children, and in the worst case a group of loudmouthed, laddish bullies who will talk about them in the third person as 'this nutter', with the power to intern them against their will, potentially indefinitely. With the only concern an avoidance of suicide, it could not have been less caring.

Lots of GPs, of course, are wonderful people who do their level best to learn about mental health, and subvert the system in all sorts of ways, just as lots of nurses and doctors in those old institutions did their best, too. Certainly most social workers do everything they can with the impossibly limited resources they have. But as I hope I have shown, it is not because of unpleasant individuals that mental health care in the UK has become an evil thing. It is the way the system has been designed.

*One of the things that can give people the designation of ‘intentionally homeless’ is the accusation that their behaviour is ‘antisocial’. Crisis estimate that those on the streets are 50-100 times more likely to suffer from a psychotic disorder than the average.

Thursday, 29 March 2012

Cette France-là

via Gavan Titley, I was made aware recently that an excellent collective, "Cette France-là", who have written extensively on Sarkozy's race-baiting politics and immigration policy, have two new books out last week. However, an informal media blackout of their work, in response to the tragedies in Montauban and Toulouse, has meant that their new books have had zero publicity. Please circulate this link to help circumvent this informal blackout and share this excellent work.

à partir de Gavan Titley, j'ai été mis au courant récemment qu'un excellent association, " Cette France-là", qui ont beaucoup écrit sur Sarkozy et la politique d'immigration, a deux nouveaux livres sur la semaine dernière. Cependant, une panne informelle entre la presse de leur travail, en réponse aux tragédies de Montauban et de Toulouse, a signifié que leurs nouveaux livres ont eu zéro publicité. S'il vous plaît circuler ce lien pour aider les contourner cette interdiction informelle et de partager cet excellent travail.

Mediapart article:

Cette France-là:

Friday, 23 March 2012

Plan B: Bringing Management to the Social

Plan B’s new single, Ill Manors, has attracted a lot of attention. The openly confrontational lyrics - What you looking at you little rich boy – and the videos of rioting, including an earlier version screened at TED that contained footage of the Olympics site, made it an instant hit with many areas of the left, who lauded it for its social commentary and confrontational, even class war, politics.
But I hope to show that the song is no such thing. Instead, I argue, Plan B’s writing of this single is a desire for authenticity and an act of appropriation on his own part, and an appeal for a white management approach to what are perceived as black problems.
Some people have criticised Plan B (Ben Drew) for his misogynist and rape apologist album, The Defamation of Strickland Banks. Whilst I’d agree with them, I would say that this principle of approving or rejecting songs based on the politics of their authors is a somewhat artificial one, and one dealt with in much better terms than I’m capable of at point (4) here; to reject this new song on his past misogyny would seem strange – those capable of terrible work are not excluded from the possibility of making good work.  He has also been criticised for ‘commodifying dissent’, which I do not believe is true. I think Drew genuinely believes in what he’s doing, he genuinely believes he’s helping. But 'help', as we shall see, is at the centre of the problem with Drew's work.
The first thing we notice, as the song begins, is who it’s addressed to – middle-class whites. “Let’s all go on an urban safari”, “He’s got a hoodie on give him a hug/on second thoughts don’t you don’t wanna get mugged”. Certainly Drew is mocking the top-down white patronisation of the ghettos he stylises in the video, but he does so to a white audience. He speaks to the privileged classes, mocking them for their preconceptions – “Keep on believing what you read in the papers”. This is not a song to be sung by one person of the ghetto to another, it’s a song intended to be sung to the political class.
But this is not as simple as the ghetto speaking up. Just as whites often describe young black men on television as ‘articulate’, betraying their sense of surprise at this, and subtly reinforcing the view that racial and economic oppression is due to poor arguments and priorities (‘inarticulacy’) rather that systemic causes, so Plan B’s video has surprised the political class with its articulacy.
But Plan B is white, and admits his background was not working class – indeed by 2010, he was ‘rich enough to retire’. Plan B was never excluded from the political class. This apparent articulacy – supposedly the thing that will end racist and economic oppression – is accepted far more readily than the tokenist acknowledgements of young blacks, because Plan B is of the political class. His claimed connections to the ghetto are self-descriptions of authenticity; yet Drew possesses none of the preconditions of this authenticity. Instead, he is appropriating this authenticity in order to support his arguments, and his bourgeois audience, separated entirely from what he claims and thus ignorant of it, believe every word.
In his TEDx speech (an event of the political class), Drew says “There is hip-hop that romanticises street life, and being a gangster, but there is also conscious hip-hop, and I was a fan of the conscious hip-hop.”. This distinction between apparently conscious hip-hop and apparently crime-loving hip-hop is one that is always noticed and talked about by whites. They see a difference between (say) NWA and Public Enemy that is between destructive and productive, between a desperate thanatosis and an emancipation. But this is just a way in which whites express their hatred for black cultures – NWA are castigated and excluded because their music doesn’t satisfy whites’ explanations for racist oppression. That is to say, apparently ‘un-conscious’ hip-hop is bad because white-designated ‘articulacy’ or ‘consciousness’ is not present, so it will not end racism. Additionally, it is hated for its apparent role in creating crime (as Plan B puts it, ‘glamourising gang culture’), in exactly the way in which whites who produce the the same words are not¹. In this view, racism is the result of poor choices made by individual blacks.
Crucially, this is the view that Drew is taking himself, placing himself yet more firmly in the (white) political class. A closer look at the lyrics betray more locators – “Who closed down the community centre/I kill time there used to be a member/What will I do now ’til September?” – sounds a lot more like a line by a Labour MP than a voice of the ghetto. This loose, vague concept of ‘community centres’ (Do any of the political class actually know what they do?) is again part of this arms-length engagement with blacks, it’s a supposed exclusive panacea that will solve black problems. Its function or effectiveness are never explained. 
Additionally, there is appropriation in the song, of black anger, poverty and location. The video is filled with footage of blacks in the riots and in confrontations with police. This instrumentalisation of black dissent as a credential of radicalness and authenticity is not new. The shouting of ‘what you looking at you little rich boy!’ is certain to find a happy audience – but it’s more likely to be a slightly guilty singalong by white students at one of the supremacist colleges² than it is a slogan of London’s poor blacks. As some interpretations of Gilroy have shown, the obsession with the next richest person is a white one; blacks’ oppression is too heavily characterised by racism to constitute a simple ‘black and white unite and fight’ class struggle. To underline further the inauthenticity of the song, we may remember that Drew is himself a 'rich boy'.

Drew’s TEDx speech is no less alarming. He bemoans that the schemes that keep children ‘monitored’ have stopped. He says that rioters ‘took the things that this society’s made them feel are the most important things’ (At the time, he criticised them for stealing food; now, it’s because it wasn’t food). He describes in detail how local blacks furiously objected to his filming in Newham, before being kicked out by others – he’s photographed with the new group, standing in the middle like a headmaster, and he describes using his position to benevolently put them in his film. He describes showing his (‘talented’ – again the surprise) guitarist ‘the opportunities that were waiting for him’; again reinforcing the view that poor individual choices have caused oppression. He plaintively bemoans not being able to ‘help’ more kids.
This solution, the idea that those in power are insufficiently philanthropic, runs throughout his talk. The hero of his talk, Andrew Curtis, is a white taking a individualised approach to stopping young blacks ‘having criminal records’. Drew describes them in the possessive, ‘He’s got kids’, and that they would otherwise be ‘going down the wrong path’. ‘I’ve changed lives’, says Drew, ‘Andrew Curtis is changing people’s lives.’. The owners of these lives are apparently incapable of changing anything themselves.
This view of whites as saviours of blacks who insist on making the wrong decisions and thus being victims of racist and economic oppression, is what runs throughout Drew’s music and interviews. It’s a form of racism found across the political class, from Drew to Blair to Powell. It’s not a surprise that Ill Manors has been so well received. It mirrors the actions of many white activists, whose attempts to 'help' those they designate as needing help, instead enact through their managerial method further abjecting. 

¹Consider Nick Cave, or English folk music – lots of gleeful and gory descriptions of killing women, and precisely zero politicians worried.
² I am firmly of the opinion that given education inequalities, a colour-blind approach to admission based on A-level grades is bound to a white supremacism; this is certainly manifested in their intake.

Friday, 13 January 2012

A response to zetkin

My anti porn article has attracted the ire of This is my response:

It seems pretty unlikely that myself and Sofie are ever going to agree over this, seeing as she's not anti-porn, but I think there are a couple of things I'd like to say about our respective positions.

Sofie's objection to my use of the term 'rape' to describe sex work is, I think, a liberal one. My use of the argument 'you can't buy consent', means that all sex workers are not capable of consent, and this I will return to later. But as I say in my article, what happens in porn is only in the best case happening for money. Vast numbers of women are in bonded labour. Some women are there because of sex trafficking, some because they owe a 'debt', many because - as with prostitution - their partners, or at least a man with power over them, have forced them into doing it to get money, whether just to live, or as is far more common, to finance a habit. These women do not have a choice. It is not controversial to point out that this is not a choice.
To return, then, to the example that is beloved of liberal defenders of the sex industry: women who decide that sex work would be a good way to earn money and work in liberating conditions that allow them to freely withdraw their labour at any time. It doesn't matter that that's an absurdly small minority of women, because I recognise that for my argument to stand up I must show that that too is exploitative.

For a start, in the basic Marxist sense of exploitation, all labour is so. When the labour is required to come from specific people, in, again, the simple Marxist sense, it is obvious that capital will exploit those people the most. Indeed in the attempts to continually increase profitability, vast efforts will be made to maximise the profit available from the labour and the bodies of these people, and this will be reinforced by (in the case of women in pornography) the fact that most women try not to be part of such an industry, and of course by the patriarchal power structures that have historically and do currently force women into positions of less power. Examples of this 'less power', lest I am again accused of thinking women 'feeble', might include the way many women are talked over, the way many women are paid less (in conventional wage-labour), and the way many women's opinions are dismissed as mad or irrational. There are, of course, many women who fight the conditions of this power, and their victories are many and brilliant. But I'm sure me and Sofie are in agreement that patriarchal power structures  make many things very hard for most women, and for some, destroy their whole lives.

Most women who work in pornography have 'agents' - people better described as pimps, who take a cut of the money that the woman is paid. Again, in the strict Marxist sense, these too are exploiters, who force women to do more and more work in higher and higher paid films so that they can live on the profit. I should also say that the pay in porn films is correlate with how difficult it is to find people to work in them - which usually means things that most women would refuse to do. In the Marxist sense, these people living on the 'surplus' of the labour are the ruling class, and the reason they are able to do so is because they have power over - an orthodox Marxist might even say 'own', but I shan't- the woman. After all, if they didn't have this power, why on earth would the women give them a cut of their pay?

Consent in capitalism is a bourgeois privilege. For example, the proletariat are forced to sell their labour. It's not even true that they have genuine choice where they can sell their labour. Their consent was not given for this, nor is it possible that they could ever have given consent. I argued in my article that commodity fetishism - put very roughly, the commodification of human relationships into relationships between objects - meant that consent was becoming impossible to give, as women were increasingly - due to the commodifying effect of pornography - being viewed as objects from which commodities were extracted.

I think, therefore, Sofie's accusation that I presented women as objects is entirely correct. I did so deliberately, as I was attempting to point out how the industry operates. As the industry treats women as objects, I described the way it does so. I'm genuinely very sorry for its being upsetting reading, but as a polemic against a horrifying industry I felt it necessary not to shirk the realities.

However, this point:
"If a sex worker cannot consent, even within more-or-less constrained circumstances, why does it matter when she is raped?"
 -is a very poor one indeed. Certainly I think that sex workers do not have the ability to consent. But of all the terrible things that are done to their bodies, if there are some they decide are beyond the pale, then why on earth would Sofie think I would not think that was rape? Of course it's rape. Of course it matters, any such incident matters if someone in that position says so, and there is nothing in what I have written that suggests I would think that a sex worker saying she's been raped shouldn't be taken seriously. It's a completely unfounded accusation.

I suppose I should mention that I worked with several sex workers in Scotland, when I was a mental health caseworker. I certainly think it's vital not to patronise these women, and I know very well that the patronising approach of giving sex workers a hug and telling them you understand that it's all rape is going to get you little more than contempt. But in much the same way, I wouldn't approach a rubbish collector or a secretary and give them a hug and tell them I understand it's all slavery. Naturally, to say so is utterly unhelpful and a complete ignorance of the day-to-day realities of these women. But that doesn't mean it isn't true. I agree that the end to the sex industry will not come from white men telling sex workers they're being raped. But neither will it come from liberal feminists saying that these women choose to be sex workers.

Frankly, accusations that I am denying sex workers agency are liberal arguments, and if that's Sofie's position then certainly we shall never agree. Agency in patriarchal capitalism is frighteningly low, and I think arguments that it is higher tend to the liberal, arguments that it is the lower, tend to the Marxist.
I do not ever claim to speak for any women, let alone all women, I merely intended to show the danger of the commodity fetishism in pornography. Yes, I certainly stated that women are being denied choice by porn, yes I did it in polemical language, yes I think porn is causing men to treat women as objects, yes I think porn is diminishing the agency of women. But these are obviously terrible things. It's a lament, not a celebration.

However, I am a man, Sofie is a woman, and while there have been women pleased with the article there are several women disgusted with it, and I must obviously bow to them. To all those disgusted, I am sincerely sorry. I hope that our differences are merely different schools of feminism; I have tried to show this in this response. If I am wrong, I am sorry.

UPDATE 16/01: A response to a few more criticisms aimed at me from twitter and Mhairi McAlpine's article
I do not intend to suggest that it is impossible for consensual sex to exist. I merely wanted to explore the ways in which it was being eroded. The final paragraph is in future tense; this is deliberate, as it is only a theorised outcome. It is not intended to describe the facts of sex for every woman in the world. Indeed, I couldn't describe the facts of sex for any women of the world. It is only a theoretical exploration of forces that are making things more difficult for women.

Mhairi (and others) make the very good point that exploring what is making things harder for women is all very well, but it is important to recognise that even despite the vast array of forces and powers against them, women are very far from the passive actors I described, and even in the toughest circumstances they challenge and subvert their oppression. This is of course perfectly true, and I will certainly admit that it is something of a glaring omission from my article. By intending to explore only the increase in oppression that women face from porn, I precluded myself from describing what women do to fight this. I recognise that this is something I should have written, however. Part of the reason I did not is my expected audience: writing for the Anti-Porn Men Project, I had in mind a mostly male audience who might have been unconvinced of just how serious the effects of pornography are, and so I was intending to make them aware of what their porn use and their actions might be capable of doing. I also based the entire article around a series of conversations I have had with women about their sexual experiences, and while there are not quotes, these are some of the problems they described to me. However I realise that it isn't enough to say that I wrote it for those men based on what some women have said: I should have been more fully aware of how women might respond.

As for the question of women being 'unrapable'; frankly I find it extremely frustrating that I have been repeatedly accused of denying the possibility of rape for women. I certainly intended to point out that rape might be much more common than many people think; but I never intended to 'dilute' or trivialise the definition of rape. As it was put to me on twitter, I was creating an 'all cats are grey' situation, a logic puzzle where it is impossible to say which cat is grey; but this is a fallacy, as it assumes that I would, should a cat approach me and say 'I'm grey!', deny it was so, so to speak. The idea of some rapes being more serious than others contains within it an implicity that some rapes might not matter, and this certainly is a terrible thing. Every rape is different, yes, and every rape is terrible. The idea of comparing them or suggesting some have equivalence and some do not, is a terrible thing that would be a slippery slope to rape denial. Nowhere in my article is there the slightest suggestion that I would establish such rape hierarchy or deny rape. In fact, I have been roundly attacked for the reverse, ie suggesting that there is more rape than we might be aware of.

Lastly, a final word on sex workers: I understand the points made here as a liberal argument. Conflating the positions of all-sex-work-is-rape and rape-is-'part of the job description' is based on the assumption that sex work can be considered a 'job' in the liberal sense of the word. Dismissing the rape of sex workers as irrelevant due to their 'job' is clearly an abysmal thought, but crucially, one that can only exist on the basis that sex workers freely choose to be in the work they are. If one approaches this from the Marxist view that their work is not something they have a choice about giving, it means that that which their labour demands of them is not their choice to give either. To talk specifically, if we understand sex work as something that is not entered into freely (as is the case with all proletarian work), then any and all rapes that occur during the sex work cannot be understood in any sense as the fault of the sex worker. Somebody who might say that 'rape is part of the job' to a sex worker is therefore actually saying that rape is something happening repeatedly and completely out of the control of the sex worker, and shows clearly that the sex worker is in a terrible position indeed. Vegan Vixen says, "Rape against prostitutes needs to be taken seriously, and recognized as rape, not just a necessary danger that’s bound to happen in prostitution. [my italics]" Indeed, its seriousness is paramount, but the conception of necessity is a liberal one that implies conditions in choices. The Marxist argument that there is no work choice removes the possibility that there can be conditions to a choice, and thus the possibility that responsibility can be assigned to the sex worker for being attacked, and incidents dismissed on the grounds of 'you've made your bed, now lie in it'.

As a result, then, a position of complete humility to sex workers follows, I think, naturally: what boundaries and behaviours as they need must be given to them, and dogmatic seriousness must be given to any and all reports they give of any oppression, whether rape or otherwise.

Thursday, 12 January 2012

New article published on Antiporn Men
Edit: Until such time as the editor will let me amend the sentence in the third paragraph, please read this appendation:
"I just wanted to make one clarification – when I suggest that people looking at porn might naturally prefer porn of their own race, I was referring specifically to people of colour. Whiteness is specifically constructed in porn to be the dominant and the norm, and seeking a situation where people that look like them exist as equals is impossible. I certainly did not intend to imply that a white homogenisation would be a good and sympathetic goal – as after all, a making white of porn is exactly what goes on, as the process of making white is done by opposing and abjecting blackness. So people of colour are necessarily in porn, in order to assert further whiteness. I hope this clears up any ambiguity."

Monday, 9 January 2012

A thought on 'chav'

One of the most common views of the word 'chav' amongst the left is the idea that it's offensive because it's simply interchangeable with 'poor person', and that to use it is in itself class hatred. Things that are associated with being a chav (or ned, townie, kev, charver, etc) are those that cost little, and to denigrate such a culture is to directly insult people for their poverty.
I think, however, it is more meaningful to characterise 'chav' as a subculture. Subcultures, as any good Marxist would assert, are very much products of socioeconomic conditions, but by no means should be considered to be insults. Of course insults are bandied around, as with all subcultures, fights and bullying exist between groups and inside them, but I think to reduce 'chav' or any of it's synonyms to merely an insult is ignorant.
Most of the chavs I've known describe themselves as such. They can often be hesitant with the word, but that's not an unusual feature of subcultures too, especially amongst teenagers. While possibly Britain's biggest subculture, it's also not, to my estimation, the majority of the poor and shouldn't be considered an interchangeable term with poverty. There are certainly features of being a chav that have their origins quite plainly in an (sometimes aspirational) poverty - things like diamante, fake gold chains, hatchback cars and tracksuits, representing the poorest ways to indulge in what everyone else seemingly has effortlessly - but what people seem to be ignoring is people in that subculture who do have money, and what they spend money on remains similar - real diamonds, real gold chains, hyper-upgraded hot hatches, Emporio Armani tracksuits.
It wouldn't be accurate to say that everyone who started off as a poor chav and became richer remains in the subculture, and there are some obvious exit routes that confidently work concurrently with growing up, too, such as the Essex Boy and his extremely sharp suit - Emporio Armani become Armani Privé - but it must be recognised that there exist people who spend tens of thousands of pounds on those hatchbacks with the loud exhausts and blue running lights - it's something to be proud of.
There of course also exist chav celebrities: I think less of the Jade Goodys of this world, because of the obvious rags-to-riches story, and more of people like Peter Andre, Katie Price, Lady Sovereign, and Wayne Rooney. These people have differing backgrounds and yet all (with the exception of Lady Sovereign) have been very rich for quite a long time - if we understand chav as just a classist insult, it doesn't explain why they've stuck to their chosen lifestyles, despite the derision that it draws from the media.
However, what is salutary about the existing understanding of 'chav' that I have noticed is recognising that, whatever it means, it is definitely a term used to bully and exclude people, and certainly from the most conservative of positions. It contains implicit hatred not only of the poor but of the nouveau riche, with all their brash cars and flashy jewellery. This form of classism is of course also familiar in its racist use against the hopelessly misnamed 'hip-hop culture', and it's difficult really to imagine anyone without a lineage to the Hapsburgs who qualifies as acceptable.
I didn't write this in order to reclaim the word 'chav'. I wrote this because I'm becoming increasingly concerned at the very top-down nature of the engagement with chavs. Too many people seem to say "you mustn't call them that" while simultaneously remaining completely blind to the fact that the people they are trying to protect have no such interest. It's nauseating to hear the chinless wonders braying for a 'chav hunt', but I think no less so to hear an leftwing activist bright-eyedly denouncing the idea that people might genuinely want branded sportswear, even if - shock horror - it costs more than plain Ikea chic.

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Police and the homeless: revisited.

The Birmingham Mail carries the story that four police officers are being investigated for mugging the homeless.
I said this happens on Novara and in my Big Issue article.
But of course the vast, vast majority of cases of this go completely unreported. Nobody sees what happens in the middle of the night in underpasses. Nobody believes the homeless, let alone police desk sergeants. And so it isn't reported. Even the word of a bourgeois citizen almost never gets a police officer convicted.
There is a very telling sentence, too, at the end of the Birmingham Mail article:
"..cops said legitimate sellers of the magazine had told officers that aggressive beggars were having a negative impact on the public’s perception of homeless people."
This wedge, the homeless turning on the homeless, is exactly what I aimed my Big Issue article at - making some see themselves as better than the others, and resulting in even more horrific conditions for the non-vendors.
Hate to say it, but I fucking told you so.

Monday, 12 December 2011

Homelessness talk on Novara -

My appearance on has been uploaded: Aaron Peters' Novara show, talking about homelessness.
There are, it's important to note, a couple of errors - the Vagrancy Act was 1824, not 1874; and Dale Farm is in John Baron's, not Eric Pickles', constituency.

To listen, click here.

Monday, 31 October 2011

Deaths caused by police clarified.

Many anti-police-brutality sources are citing that there have been 333 deaths in or shortly following police custody since 1998. This is true (well, as of this financial year's statistics it's 354), but some sources are not clear on the distinction between police custody and police contact.

Deaths during or shortly following police contact are much higher - 147 this year alone, including 46 suicides - and although I only have statistics back as far as 2001, there have been 1072 deaths since then. You can check the statistics back to 2005 here although you have to request older data from the IPCC as they do not keep it on their website as far as I know.

It is of course absurd to pretend that deaths in police custody are all we should be focussing on. 46 of the deaths this financial year were suicides, and this is always the largest proportion of deaths. Last year it was 54. It's almost certainly a conservative estimate too - only suicides in the two days following police contact are counted, unless there is other strong evidence that links the police (for example, in suicide notes).

We also need to understand the number of cases that never make the annals of the IPCC. Deaths amongst the homeless, and the isolated are rarely, if ever, recorded. Nobody notices they're gone. Hundreds of cases are dismissed due to 'lack of evidence'. Well, when somebody's beaten in the back of a van, or in an underpass, that pretty well goes without saying.

Deaths that occur in public order situations attract a lot of publicity. While this is obviously a good thing, the deaths that occur in the everyday work of the police are far more numerous. Where is their publicity?

It's time we started counting the other deaths due to police action. It's not a competition, but police driving people to suicide is arguably worse even than directly killing them. Let's stop saying 333 deaths since 1998. Let's start saying 1072 in the last ten years.

Major sources here:
333 deaths, IPCC:
Annual deaths, IPCC:
Remainder available on request.

Wednesday, 17 August 2011


Yesterday, 16th August, a man was murdered by police in Barrow-in-Furness.
He had a Taser used on him, while being arrested in his home for criminal damage.
Why did officers arrive at his house carrying weapons? And why were those weapons used?
When Tasers were introduced to the UK we were told that only authorised firearm officers would be allowed to use them; that they would be a non-lethal replacement to firearms. This didn't last long: in 2008 Jacqui Smith ordered 10,000 more to be given out to non-firearm-specialist police.
Death from the use of Tasers is not at all uncommon. Nor is it restricted to those with heart or other health problems; Taser were recently ordered to pay $10m to the family of a 17-year-old killed by their device in North Carolina. Taser themselves were forced to admit that the device cannot be described as non-lethal. Instead we now call them "less-lethal". I wrote in June of the escalation in lethality of police firearms; yesterday's murder complements this with illustrations of what untrained police with lethal weapons do.

I shouldn't have to repeat this: the police are supposed to protect, not murder. Their position is supposed to prevent crimes, not commit them. This idea of committing murder or GBH to 'prevent a greater crime' is not only fictional, but abhorrent; our doctors have to swear 'first do no harm'; why not our heavily armed police?

Sunday, 24 July 2011

The Big Issue

So it seems David Cameron is to edit the next edition of the Big Issue.
This should come as a surprise to none. The Big Issue is perhaps one of the most conservative institutions working in homelessness in the UK. Its entrenched liberarianism is summed up exactly in its tagline, "Working Not Begging".
I'll level with yous. I've been both homeless and vulnerably housed for long periods of time, and in my mental health case work I've worked with a lot more people in the same situation. And nothing, but nothing, prepares you for how you are treated - spat at by passersby, beaten and repeatedly mugged by others, including other homeless people as desperate for the means to survive as you are, and repeatedly beaten, searched and mugged by police as well, who often deliberately won't arrest you for the devilry of depriving you of a bed. If you're found with drugs or alcohol on you, it's still unlikely you'll be arrested, just beaten and moved on, which means into the wet and cold from wherever you've been found. And they come back and check you aren't still there. And there's no need for them to kick softly. Nobody really notices when someone homeless dies. I was first kicked in the head by a policeman when I was six years old. This is the reality of homelessness.
And begging- begging is the single most humiliating thing you will ever do. You stink. Your hair is matted, your clothes soaked and muddy, your stuff is falling out of ripped tesco bags and you're in their way. You quite possibly don't have the strength to stand up, and you certainly don't have the mental strength to look them in the eye and not feel shame, right to your core. The can of Tennents Super - that's the only thing blocking out the cold and the inevitable sores - in your hand makes them shrink from you. And you know what they're thinking. They're thinking "Ugh." They're thinking "He's there because he's addicted to drugs. It's his own fault". They're thinking "If I give him money - I can see what will happen! It will be spent on beer!". Well, so what?
This is what John Bird sees. And what is his solution? I will make these people salesmen. They will sell products, products nobody wants, and to make things worse, I will make them pay for the privilege. That way, he thinks, these people won't be able to spend half the money they make. The more desperate their need one night, the less they'll make the next. It'll teach them.
It'll teach them the world fucking hates them.
Working not Begging? Only the sickest libertarian with a hatred for the homeless so blind that he refuses point-blank to understand how it happens could have come up with this foul slogan.
When I was first homeless in the sense of sleeping on the streets, I was looked after by a man called Alf. Alf had acid burns on his cheek and shoulder so deep that you could see open bone for a week before it healed over. He'd been given them because he got one of those "payday loans" from a pawnbrokers'. He'd missed a payment. Interest on those things is about 3000%, so what he missed quickly spiralled out of control. The pawnbrokers, a chain firm incidentally, called the bailiffs. They discovered Alf had nothing they could sell. He'd sold everything already just to make rent. So they called the 'boys', and Alf's debt got passed on to local organised crime. It went from £600 to £6000 that day, with a demand to pay it in a month. Alf was on benefits. He couldn't -didn't- do it. They threw acid over his face and set fire to his house. His landlord evicted him. Hello, homelessness.
Alf's story isn't remotely unique, and nor does it end there. Nearly 40,000 people die every year from the cold in the UK, and it claimed Alf, three years later. I was lucky enough to be adopted by a loving family. If I'd been older I'd likely have had the same fate.
It's none of your business what someone spends the money you give them on. You aren't 'keeping them in a cycle of dependency'. You aren't 'contributing to the drugs trade'. Yeah, lots of homeless people are addicted to drugs. Yeah, lots are to alcohol. Yeah, they spend money on it. But exactly what do you think you are doing denying them even the possibility of help? Do you think you control addiction by keeping someone in the rain, in the cold? Do you think you control addiction by giving a sarcastic sausage roll? Do you know why they're addicted? Has it occurred to you that all they want is to stop hurting and stop feeling? You really want to help? Give them money. Even just talk to them!
What fosters this kneejerk hatred of the homeless and their motives and deeds is exactly the Big Issue's rhetoric. "Why aren't they working?" "Why can't they get a job?" "Why can't they get off drugs and alcohol?" "Why don't they have any ambition?"... Why? Because being homeless destroys everything you have.

So let Cameron edit the Big Issue. And for goodness' sake, buy it. Even better, give them the money and tell them to keep the magazine, pride allowing. But don't be surprised. Cameron's natural home is this rightwing institution, fostering the hatred of the vulnerable and yet couching itself as an idea of help. And it's time we made it clear to the political class. Nobody deserves to be homeless, and there's no excuse for it.

Monday, 4 July 2011

Baader Revisited; Retracted.

(First article here).

There must be something peculiarly boring about reading an article that talks to you about your set of genitals, but assumes they’re a type you don’t possess. Actually fuck it, let’s drop the nonspecificity, it basically only happens to people without penises. I’m directly guilty of this, and so I’d better start with an apology: sorry, everyone.

The reason I did this, not that I’m trying to excuse it, was because it’s exactly the appeal I felt the film was making, an appeal to phallocentric sexuality, a trick that was designed exactly for it. But mine might have been a more interesting critique if it hadn’t had such sexual exclusivity – effectively, guilt of the same crimes as its target.
Let me follow that through. I claimed that Baader “fires his gun from the hip, spraying his revolutionary ejaculate over Germany”. Who actually thinks of guns like that, except men? Why the keenness to see the penis not just as a weapon but a deadly one, why the keenness to see a 1,500mph projectile as equivalent to semen? Why so quick to equate sex and violence? Why so quick to use interchangeably the words fucking and sex?
This belies a certain misogyny in the writer. Many feminists write about male obsession with guns as phallic objects, as analogies, and there’s weight and worth in that. But that isn’t what I did. What I did was directly take a gun as a phallic analogy myself. My critique was not “the film vainly attempts to make us see a penis in Baader’s gun” – no, it was more like “the penis we feel in Baader’s gun emasculates his audience” – which firstly doesn’t apply to 50% of the world, and secondly sounds like the idiot conscience of the 50s bemoaning its macho sandcastles slipping away to the tide.

Lots of readers won’t agree with me that the words ‘fucking’ and ‘sex’ should not be used interchangeably, (and I daresay I’ll get the usual accusations of romantic conservatism. But you’d be wrong, so fuck off), but I think it’s essential. This is my explanation:
Many women have their first sexual experience with men. The formula for this is becoming almost hegemonically prevalent: man/boy has very clear idea of what sex is, woman is much more open about what it might be, with the result that the woman is aggressively ‘taught’ what sex is. It’s hard to describe it as “sex with”, instead “sex on”, “sex to” or perhaps “sex against” might be more accurate. 
Let’s try to throw out right away any accusations that I think women can’t look after themselves or that women are never in control; many women are in control. But let’s not be in revolutionary denial here – one of the most obvious aspects of patriarchy is the way apparent norms are imposed on women, the way male discourse is dominated by the imperative, and the level of violence and humiliation (and readiness to employ it) at the disposal of the average male. Of course there are many women and men, girls and boys, who don’t fit this.
But it goes further. Lots of feminists, both pro- and anti-porn, have noted the rise in proportion of female users of porn. So what? The porn they watch, the porn there is, is entirely within male gaze. Women are raped and forced to beg for more in a structure that is exclusively about ‘traditional’ phallocentric sex* and that which is faked itself a form of violence in its own level, the fantasy of endless choking screams being forced out of someone by the sheer weight of physical assault. I mean, violence is fine, if you’re into it, but remember that porn is ideology. Is your ideology violence against women? 
So there’s this phenomenon of sex as done to people, sex as the ideology of porn attempted as reality, and I don’t think it’s one that can be described as sex. Say what you like about the importance of not over-romanticising sex, but it should never be consensual in deed but rape in form, or to put it another way, consent given for sex but taken by males as acceptance of fucking.
That’s how I distinguish the two words. Maybe this will anger some of you who like the word fucking, and I’m not going to make you accept my meaning, worse still tell you that your sex is not what you say it is, but nonetheless I do continue to worry about the level of porn-centred, male-imposed sex that exists. I’m not trying to impose definitions; I’ve always thought of the word this way. For those of you who also wouldn’t use the word fucking about something you wanted to happen with or to you, perhaps you already understand the definition as I do.
Hence my apology for using fucking and sex interchangeably.
One last point. When I said “sex is measured in time and speed and decibels, and consumerism in time and speed and pounds”, I meant not sex, but fucking. I believe the rationalising (time, speed, decibels), although we haven’t yet used numbers in these categories, is a feature unique to the porn ideology and therefore something that explicitly demarcates talking about fucking from talking about sex.

I retract the article; it was, while perhaps funny, perhaps ebulliently angry, perhaps fun to write, was also revealing of lazy misogyny on my own part, and doesn’t stand up with that removed; and most of all, it acted as if my audience was entirely male. Fuck that.


*as opposed to other phallocentric sex: worshipping someone’s penis doesn’t have to fit in with beginning, middle, end, or fasterfasterfasterSTOP as you might phrase it, and is of course not necessarily unfeminist.

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

It's Not Just You

Quick promotion for what I believe is an excellent project: Ms Ellie Rose (@eleanorrose) is looking for people who've had experience of mental illness for a blog project called It's Not Just You. The point of the project is to reduce the stigma around mental health by showing people how it is- hence the title. I'm proud to say I've contributed myself. Anyway, she can describe it better than I can, see here:
Please circulate to your networks - the more people get involved the better. 

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Machine gun police: what you ought to know.

David Allen Green has written an article at the New Statesman about the plans to give the British Transport Police machine guns for use on the tube. Further to his article, I want to point out some of the more frightening aspects that he doesn't mention. Lots of people, especially on the left, don't know a lot about guns, and this is usually a very good thing; the fetishisation of phallic murder doesn't really go hand in hand with standing up for the oppressed.

However, for better or worse, I do happen to know an alarming amount about firearms, and I do think it's important that we understand what these plans will mean.

The Evening Standard was first to pick up on these plans - here. The justification is the "rising threat" (more phalluses anyone?) from terrorism. They also mention that John Yates, Assistant Commissioner in the Met, has argued for more guns on the grounds of preventing a copycat attack of the 2008 Mumbai attacks.
What I want to focus on most of all, however, is what they're going to be armed with. The Standard reports that they will carry Glock 9mm pistols and MP5 carbines.

First, the Glock pistol. Two variants of this are currently used by the Met; the Glock 17 and the Glock 26. The 17 is your run-of-the-mill semiautomatic (ie fires one shot at a time, but doesn't need to be cocked between shots), and it has a 17-shot magazine. The 26 is a much smaller version of the 17, and is designed for 'concealed carry' ie so people can have one without you knowing. The smaller handgrip makes aiming harder and recoil more difficult to control, and the shorter barrel makes the gun less accurate. All pistols are pretty inaccurate; they're designed for only one thing, convenience. They tend to be used at very close range, and the lack of a butt makes them relatively hard to control.

The MP5 carbine, however, is a different and altogether more frightening beast. It's 70cm long and weighs 3 kilos, has a 15, 30 or 32 round magazine, and a holographic weapon sight. Usually the Met use the "SF" variant of this gun, which stands for "Single Fire", i.e. semi-automatic like the Glock pistol. However, this is not a given: The armed officers around Stockwell station were armed with a shorter, less accurate, and automatic version of this gun. "Carbine" means a gun shorter than a rifle, and, it's important to note, with a corresponding loss of accuracy. These guns do have a stock, so can be braced against the body for more accuracy than a pistol. However, if fired in automatic mode, they become quickly impossible to control, and extremely inaccurate. Using one in a confined space is staggeringly dangerous. We don't yet know what variant of this gun the BTP will be armed with.

However, most serious of all about this is the ammunition that's being rolled out to armed police in the UK. The Guardian picked this up in May. The police are to start using what's called "Hollow Point" or "Dum Dum" bullets. In the linked article, the Met's spokesman, Commander Jerry Savill, is knowingly lying about this ammunition. Allow me to give you a little background.

The name "Dum Dum" comes from a town on the outskirts of Kolkata, where the British empire founded an armoury. The bullets they made had a hole drilled in the front of them (pic here and here). This meant that once they entered a target they 'mushroomed', becoming much larger in frontal area, delivering much higher hydrostatic shock, tissue damage, and blood supply damage (if all else failed the target would bleed to death rapidly). This shows what happens to the bullet.

"Hollow Point" is just a technical description of what became culturally known as "Dum Dum". They are exactly the same thing. Savill is correct that some criminals drill holes in bullets in order to ape this effect, but the effect is only to make the bullets the same as the Met now use.

I can't stress this enough: Savill is lying - the bullets are the same.

The Met's argument for using hollow point ammunition is that they tend not to exit the body and will thus reduce bystander casualties. Firstly, this is very misleading; at close range (and given the inaccuracy of their chosen firearms, it will have to be close range) hollow point bullets are very likely to exit the body, and since they frequently fragment, that which exits the body could well be a spray of shrapnel rather than the single piece of a normal bullet. Secondly, and most seriously, it means that almost any bullet wound is likely to be fatal. You are very likely to bleed to death, suffer a stroke, heart stoppage or serious brain damage from shock even if hit in a normally non-lethal area. The amount of damage these bullets do compared to a normal "full jacketed" bullet is phenomenal. See this (horrible) video for an illustration of it.

Using hollow point bullets is one of the most serious escalations of lethal force by the police that has ever happened in the UK.

This idea of bullet exiting merits a little more unpacking, I feel, as it's the main justification given for this ammunition. Of course there can be no justification for murder, but there's no harm in pointing out the foolishness of even this argument to the psychopathic utilitarian. Firstly, there is absolutely no guarantee a hollow point bullet will not exit the body, whatsoever. Secondly, if there are people standing behind or near your target, police are absolutely instructed not to shoot - it's called 'not having a clear shot' and takes into account the fact that the officer may well miss the target anyway. Thirdly: even was there no exiting and police were 100% accurate and shot people in crowds, are we seriously listening to an argument that thinks reducing exit velocities is an important enough priority that we should kill people to achieve it? Because that's what using hollow point bullets will do.  

Hollow point bullets have been banned in warfare since the 1899 Hague Convention. It was believed that they are too lethal. This ruling does not seem to be likely to be challenged, and rightly so. So why are the UK police using them? How is this legal?

Well, basically, because soldiers in wartime effectively have more laws to protect them than you or I. The Hague convention doesn't apply to police. The world's legal systems are more worried about bullets killing soldiers than their own civilian citizens, it would seem. It's important to remember too that it's never legal for a police officer to shoot somebody; they may be taught endless guidelines and so on, but if they shoot you, it's murder, it's the same as anyone else shooting you, legally speaking.

But of course the police are never prosecuted on the same terms. Even according to the cronyist and complicit IPCC, who dismiss hundreds of cases of violence and murder committed by police every year, UK police kill about 100 people every year. And yet not one police officer has ever been found guilty of murder or manslaughter in the UK. The CPS and IPCC have a lot of explaining to do; and the more guns we have everywhere and the more lethal the ammunition is, the more deaths are going to occur. I don't even need to talk about Jean Charles de Menezes here; shooting by the police is never acceptable, even if against a nutter with a bomb or a gun; we don't have the death penalty in this country, and even if we did, it would require a trial. Our doctors follow the principle of 'first do no harm' - why not our police? Why do the police not take ambulances when they carry guns? Why haven't tasers (terrible weapons, but less lethal) replaced firearms, as we were told they would?

I'll finish with a graphic I made in 2008. It charts the number dying from police contact, (source IPCC, and unquestionably a serious underestimate) against the number dying from terrorism (source Home Office), to help you see things in perspective - to advance against utilitarians the folly of arming against terrorism.

Who's the real threat?

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Explode Me

I stood in the corner of the department store, leafing through pink plastic-packed jumpers warm from the spotlights. I was tired, yet restless from hours spent between iphone and sales assistants.
At the back of the shelf my hand hit something soft. Without staring into the dark at the back of the enclosed shelf, I scrabbled at it and tore it away from the wall it was stuck to.
It was heavy, and wrapped in brown paper and sellotape. With one hand I pulled my damp collar from my neck and looked behind me, the other clutching at the package.

Nobody was there. I tore at the paper, my hands moving quickly from their shaking. I thought I already knew what was inside, and my heartbeat accelerated.

It was a bomb. Two brown tubes, about eighteen inches long and three inches in diameter lay in my hand. My heart missed three beats, I counted them, as the most important things. I began to grow hard.

On the first beat, my body was soaked in a chill. I checked my shoulder again. Nobody. The shoppers had mostly gone home while it remained light. I turned the bomb over, and my heart missed its second beat. A circuit board was pinned to the tubes. On the third beat, I saw, scarcely believing, a red display, counting down.

I had one minute thirty-seven seconds until it exploded. Enough time to run, enough time to be safe. But I couldn’t let go of this impossible machine. My heart started, my body flooded with adrenaline and warmth. Nobody could take this bomb away from me.

I grappled the brown tubes in my hands like live things. They were twin phalluses to me, their rounded ends breasts, the gap between them a thick vulva. Sweat covered my hands and back.

Who had made it? In one minute and twenty-one seconds I would be joined with them in a second of sexual ecstasy, their technological orgasm delivered to me in these brown tubes. I pressed the circuit board against my crotch, feeling the pinpricks of carefully soldered wires against my skin.

How had it been made? Flasks had been filled by phallic test tubes, and within them had gestated this monster, watched over in secret by someone in a mask and eye goggles, checked on in baths and waste carried secretly miles away. In one minute and six seconds it would be complete, a fulfilment of weeks of work and growth.

It would rip through me, in time counted by my heartbeat, four for every red LED second, from where it was clamped between my legs, through my body, through my head, covering these plastic-packed clothes and hangers and shelves in my liquid lust.

In forty-three seconds, in orgasmic slow motion, it would spread through my flesh, taking each nerve and propelling it into me, in its long flash engorging them, penislike, to burst with uncontrollable pleasure.

It would reach to my heart, sending a shockwave through it stronger than the worst of lovers’ jolts, thrusting it through itself, giving me one heartbeat to take all others, smashing my body and my blood, and boiling them.

In thirty-one seconds, its sexual holocaust would snap my neck back like a dancers, dominating through me utterly in the way I only craved to be pushed further, breaking me like a thousand rough lovers. It would ejaculate itself into my brain, its spermatozoic atoms filling my last ecstatic thought with its fire and fertility.

My legs tightened around it, my breathing heavier and heavier and more ragged. In nineteen seconds, in one impossible moment, my orgasm would spread from this inception, the atomising of my penis, through a mist of lust.

In eleven seconds, I alone could be triumphant, standing on the edge of this realisation of my dream. I rubbed my crotch against the bomb, the utter bomb, blood spurting from my penis.

I thrust it harder and harder against myself, and grunting and screaming, mashed it with myself harder than my muscles could burst it to. This was just foreplay, blood now covered my arms and my hands pumped like irons, in just five seconds, so close, rolling on my back, in just four seconds, thrusting my whole into this bomb – three seconds – this incredible bomb, this eternal bomb  - two seconds – and curled over to eternally – one second –embrace my utter lover.

disclaimer. dear police. i don’t want to hurt anyone, or blow shit up, yeah? so don't go all paul chambers on me, mkay?