This Post Will Self-Destruct in Ten Seconds

When I was a child one of my favourite TV series was ‘Mission: Impossible’ (not the films – those came later.) 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mission:_Impossible

At the beginning of each programme a disembodied voice would say: ‘Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is…’ and I would be on tenterhooks lest they choose not to accept it and there would be no programme.  In fact one week they did choose not to accept it, though thankfully they changed their minds a moment later.  Phew!  The music was thrilling and there was a fuse burning down across the screen – very exciting:

I must have had a deep attachment to programmes back then (I know my life was ruined if I didn’t get to watch ‘Batman’) but somehow as you grow up the attachment wanes: and one programme I have never been tempted to watch is anything with Matey Popkins on it.  In fact I think as a media troll Matey should get as little publicity as possible, which is why I’ve given her a pseudonym, and why this post will self-destruct once it has been read.

The trouble with trolls is that they feed on attention, which is why it may have been a mistake for Theatr Clwyd to put on a play entitled ‘The Assassination of Matey Popkins’:

https://www.theguardian.com/stage/2018/apr/27/the-assassination-of-katie-hopkins-review-theatr-clwyd-mold

Of course Matey, impulsive little scamp that she is, didn’t trouble to find out what the play was actually about and turned up out of nowhere with a giant billboard saying something about free speech or whatever (yeah, yeah).  But the trouble with satire is that unless you know it’s satire, it can look exactly like the thing you’re satirising: so that if all you know is the title, ‘The Ass of Matey Popkins’, rather than coming across as an examination of social media, seems like something much more sinister and intolerant.

Which brings us back to the world of dear old Matey – who has had enough publicity for one day and needs to go back to bed.  Night, night Matey!

Please click the ‘like’ button, after which this post will self-destruct in ten seconds.  Please stand clear of your computer. 

Ten… nine… eight…

Kirk out

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Hell is Other Facebook Friends

I have been reflecting recently on the difficulty of interacting with any decency on Facebook.  I have long since withdrawn from political discussion since any slight disagreement can degenerate in the blink of an eye into a nuclear standoff and the mildest of phrases such as ‘I’m not sure I understand your position here,’ can somehow translate as ‘you are an utter arse and have no right to exist’.  But I thought I’d be safe with closed groups; particularly groups which are there for mutual support.

I can’t say too much without giving away confidential stuff, but yesterday we had a situation.  This situation involved potential harm to a person close to me and I wanted some thoughts – not necessarily advice, but support, consideration, sympathy, comments from anyone in a similar position: the phrase I used was ‘positive thoughts.’  No sooner was my post up than someone commented: not someone I knew in real life, nor someone I’d interacted with before, but still a member of a support group.

What was I thinking?  This is Facebook, for god’s sake – you might as well stick your head above the trench in World War One and ask for the enemy’s opinions on dialectical materialism.  What I got was a blast of hot air from someone who in no uncertain terms told me I had no right to do what I was doing and should do x, y and z immediately.  Clearly to some people the phrase ‘send me positive thoughts’ translates as ‘please give me your strong opinions.’  It hurt: I deleted the post.  Maybe I shouldn’t have done; but I felt wounded by the encounter and unwilling to risk more criticism.

Isn’t it a bit of an over-reaction to feel that way about a few words from someone I don’t even know?  But I don’t think I’m the only one – lately people are opening up less and less on Facebook.  There’s far less personal stuff (even good news can attract some nasty comments) and far more general information.  It’s a shame, but I understand it.  When even a support group turns out to harbour nastiness, where do you go for support?

All of this feeds into the trans debate.  Obviously there is abuse and that shouldn’t happen; but equally, the mildest of questions can trigger an incredibly aggressive response.  I recently had a debate with a F to M trans person who got very angry with me for asking questions and not simply accepting their view of things.  They were rude and aggressive and when I’d had enough and signed out, saying I’d tried to debate respectfully, they said I’d failed.  Well at least I tried, I thought.

Sometimes Facebook feels like a highly dysfunctional household where you have to keep your thoughts to yourself because anything you say can and will be misconstrued.

And yet every time I think of leaving there’s something that pulls me back.

Kirk out

 

Hamlet is not Quite as Funny…

Image result for withnail and I open source images

I take as my text today the script of Withnail and I: yes, all of it – for as I have so consistently pointed out the entire film is basically a collection of quotes linked by a somewhat haphazard plot.

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0094336/?ref_=nv_sr_1

But my subject this morning is not the film per se, but the Facebook group.  It is my contention that The Withnail and I Appreciation Society is one of the healthiest groups on social media.  Why?  Because it allows people to hurl the most terrible insults at each other with impunity.  When someone calls me a terrible c**t, I chuckle; when a man declares that he means to have me even if it must be burglary, I laugh uproariously and when people ‘feel unusual’ I’m not a bit spooked.   Because the film licences this rudeness, which is not about the person you’re talking to but about your shared enjoyment of the film.  And this is very healthy I think.

This is what happens: people post pictures, memes and links to news stories on which to hang their references to the film.  And because the film has a thousand and one quotable bits, it just keeps on going.  As a youth I used to weep in butcher’s shops.  I’ve only just begun to grow last year.  The joint I am about to roll can utilise up to twelve skins.  It is called the Camberwell Carrot.  This will tend to make you very high.  Bollocks, I’ll swallow it and run a mile.  That wouldn’t wash with Geoff.  Imagine getting into a fight with the f***er.

It’s not all insults: you can offer sherry, fulminate about cats or eulogise root vegetables.  You can talk about garlic, rosemary and salt or good quality rubber boots; you can tell Miss Blennerhasset to call the police or demand the finest wines known to humanity.  You can even go on holiday by mistake.

The film ends with a soliloquy from hamlet, another play that’s full of quotable bits.  Though Hamlet isn’t quite as funny…

Marwood out.

You Cannot Be Siri!

I think I must be channelling the spirit of Ronnie Corbett: I keep wanting to make corny jokes.  Incidentally I was very touched by the image of four large candles standing solemnly on the altar at his funeral last year:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-36073888

RC was much loved, perhaps more so than Barker of that ilk who, though more talented, could be a tad pompous.  It was crystal clear to anyone watching Ronnie C in the BBC armchair in his trademark sweater and lacking only a cup of cocoa to resemble a parent going to bed (my parents drank Bournvita which I found disgusting, though I used it once mixed with water to paint my face) that he did not take himself remotely seriously.

But I digress – which, now that I think about it, is further proof that I am channelling the little Ron, since his whole routine was nothing more than a long digression followed by a short punchline.  Lots of foreplay, you might say.  Anyway, somebody on Facebook suggested that I should tap Siri on my i-phone and say ‘I see a little silhouetto of a man’.  I didn’t even know who or what Siri was (I guess it’s a sort of speaking Google) but I did so and it spoke the lyrics of Bo Rap, as Queen fans call it, in a gravelly electronic voice.  Which was amusing.  And which brings me to today’s joke:

What did John McEnroe say to Harry Potter’s grandfather?

You cannot be Sirius!

Kirk out

Nothing Will Come of Nothing…

… speak again.’   So says Lear to Cordelia – and pretty soon the government are going to have to say it to the electorate, ‘speak again – because we didn’t quite hear you the first time.  You weren’t enunciating properly.   You were trying to say too many things at once and we couldn’t make out what you wanted.’

Still, muddled as the result is, some things are pretty clear: first, that most commentators vastly underestimated Corbyn and his supporters.  I had felt for a long time that the press were overplaying their hand and that by getting out and talking directly to the public, JC could get past them.

https://wordpress.com/post/lizardyoga.wordpress.com/9023

And I’ve largely been proved right: the press threw everything they had at Corbyn and he still increased Labour’s share of the vote by 10% and the number of seats to 262, even winning ‘unwinnable’ seats like Canterbury and – what the hell? – Kensington.  Kensington!!

His critics are queuing up now to apologise and say they misjudged him: Owen Smith, Alistair Campbell, Yvette Cooper and so many others are falling over themselves to apologise and offer to serve in the shadow cabinet.  Likewise media commentators: Jon Snow yesterday and said ‘I know nothing about elections,’ and even the BBC has admitted its error, Laura Kuenssberg once again causing me to shout at the screen when she said that Corbyn had been subjected to unfair criticism.  ‘Yes, by you!’ I yelled.

We still need to win an election; but that is looking increasingly achievable now.  May’s hold on power is so tenuous and her coalition so weak and misguided that it is not a matter of whether she goes, but when.  Under any other circumstances than these, a Prime Minister who had called an election to increase their mandate and had instead lost seats would have to resign, not carry on as though nothing had happened.  Whether it be days, weeks or months; whether it be a leadership election or a vote of no confidence, she will be out.  And when there is an election Labour, with its membership now at 800,000 and rising (more than 150,000 new members since the election), are poised to win – and win decisively.  I watched JC on television yesterday: he looked poised, relaxed, assured and confident.  It was a pleasure to see.

Now is not the time for recriminations.  Now is the time to form a government.  JC4PM!

Kirk out

Verb and Re-Verb

In the last year or two I’ve been collecting examples of new verbs.  These are usually existing words which have been either squashed or repurposed and made into verbs.  Previously they were either phrases (eg to manage a project becomes to project-manage) or nouns (eg to window, meaning to schedule a delivery within a particular period of time).  So here’s a little list, by no means exhaustive but comprising the ones I’ve managed to capture and commit to pen and paper:

to re-platform (heard at the railway station)

to window (seen on Facebook)

to project-manage (heard in conversation and rendered somewhat redundant by the phrase ‘I project-managed a project’…)

to part-time work

to offshore (as in tax)

to vacation (to be fair, this has been around for a while in the US but has only recently made it over here)

to semi-final (heard on University Challenge)

to sunblock (read just today on Facebook)

I’m sure there are thousands more.  Have you come across any?  I’d love to hear them.  Please send them to me and I’ll post them

Thanks

Kirk out

Trans-Substantiation

File:Germaine Greer.jpg

Like many other women of my generation I owe Germaine Greer a great debt.  She put a lot of my life into context and helped me to understand my experiences.  I’m referring of course to ‘The Female Eunuch’ but also to other books, including one on female artists.  I’ve always held her in high esteem – but lately I’m starting to think she’s gone off on one – and I especially take issue with her comments on transgender women -‘Just because you lop off your d**k doesn’t make you a **** woman:

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/people/germaine-greer-defends-grossly-offensive-comments-about-transgender-women-just-because-you-lop-off-a6709061.html

I find these comments unhelpful, to say the least – and far from a positive contribution to the debate.  But that does not mean we shouldn’t have a debate in the first place.  I would suggest that with transgender issues we are at the same stage now, as a society, as we were in the early ’70’s with homosexuality.  It is not now appropriate to ask someone why or how they came to be gay (though you could ask when they first knew) because these things are generally understood and accepted.  We are not at the same stage with transgender people.  Many in society are baffled and confused by what appears to be an explosion in transitioning: many people (myself included) have no idea why this is happening, what it means or where it comes from.  And so we need debate: because without debate or questioning, there is no understanding.  But here’s the problem: the party line on this is that we should not question, but accept, because the very act of questioning is construed by some as an attack on their right to exist.

Just the other day I got into a dialogue on Facebook about whether Germaine Greer should be allowed to address an International Women’s Day event in Brighton. http://www.brightonandhovenews.org/2017/02/08/activists-call-for-germaine-greer-appearance-at-international-womens-day-event-to-be-shelved/

There are calls for her appearance to be cancelled, which seems to indicate that remarks by a person on a previous occasion, whether or not they are likely to be repeated at the event in question, can cause people to block them.  And I have a problem with this.  Hence the dialogue on Facebook, where f-to-m trans person was arguing very forcefully that Greer should not be allowed to speak, claiming that her remarks have been the cause of suicide in children before now.  This seemed a bit of a stretch to me (not to mention being hard to prove), and so I was arguing in a very restrained way that freedom of speech is important and that I am uneasy about restricting people on the basis of previous remarks.  My arguments were met with a barrage of anger, swearing and vitriol which eventually turned personal, whereupon I commented that I had tried to argue respectfully but was now leaving.  I was then told that my attempt to be respectful had failed – presumably because the very act of questioning is in itself disrespectful.  So here’s the thing – under those rules we stand on very unequal ground, because my interlocutor made no attempt whatsoever to address me respectfully.

It’s clear to me that people should not be given a platform to spout racism, sexism or any other prejudice: in any case, we have laws about that sort of thing.  But should a person be refused a platform because they have previously (even if it was only once) stated hateful opinions?  There’s a fine line here and I’m very uneasy about this.  On the one hand, I know hate speech has an effect on people because we can clearly see the rise in hate crimes since Trump and Brexit – but should the same apply to someone who has expressed certain views on trans people but is giving a talk on a completely different topic?

To be honest I can see both arguments on both sides.  But what I don’t like is being harangued because I have the temerity to disagree with a transgender person on this.  I have every right to disagree – and every right to be accorded respect, no matter how repellent they find my views.

If you have views on this I’d like to hear them.

Kirk out