I can’t say I’ve been keeping much of an eye on Scottish culture and if the outward looking artists she’s talking about are J K Rowling and Alexander McCall Smith she’s talking popularity rather than quality, but I found this article by Gillian Browditch interesting. The whole National Collective project, when a bunch of artists got together to call for independence so at the same time they could be against the establishment (Westminster) while doing the work of another establishment (SNP’s Holyrood) did strike me as a little bizarre.
I do note the writers that really did make their mark on the world stage – Boswell, Conan Doyle, Stevenson, John Buchan even, Spark – left Scotland and wrote about other places and for other places as well as their homeland. The exception is Walter Scott, who really invented Scotland for Europe, and as well as being a pioneer in Scottish folk studies was also a convinced Unionist from his home in the Borders.
Narrow cultural focus will tie us all in a tartan straitjacket
From Gillian Bowditch Published: 3 May 2015
“The kindest interpretation was of a small nation coming to terms with itself in the face of the relentless march of globalisation”, says Bowditch
It is just as well it is nearly over. The way things are going you’d be pushed to get odds of more than 10-9 on the Scottish National party taking 60 of Scotland’s 59 seats. It’s only a matter of time before the Sturgeon surge defies political gravity and Scottish politics enters a fourth dimension.
As it was, Ipsos Mori produced a poll last week which, if translated into seats, would give the SNP the whole of Scotland, wiping out Labour, the Lib Dems and the Tories. In the past, such a result would have had pollsters overhauling their methodology or wondering whether someone had tampered with the water supply.
Polls are a snapshot not a forecast, but they can identify trends and the trend for a nationalist monopoly, six months after a resounding “no” vote in the independence referendum, appears to have reached its zenith. A similar pattern is to be expected at the Holyrood election next year.
Of course, the chances of the SNP turning the whole of Scotland yellow are slimmer than the likelihood of the royal baby being christened Nicola. Undecideds, the level of voter turnout and the extent of tactical voting will all play a role, but we are now looking at a scenario where if Labour lost three-quarters of its Scottish seats, it would be spun as a triumph.
The political consequences will be significant but the cultural consequences could be seismic. Scotland has been through many iterations over the past 60 years; from cultural cringe to Scottish exceptionalism, from a crisis of confidence to a surfeit. Each phase has been dissected, analysed, picked over and then, just when we thought its ghosts had been laid to rest, revisited, exhumed and revised. We have conjured up the past and bejewelled it with a retrospective conceit.
Returning home in the 1990s after a decade of living in London, the Scottish obsession with identity struck me as faintly unhinged. The kindest interpretation was of a small nation coming to terms with itself in the face of the relentless march of globalisation. At worst it seemed to represent a particularly corrupt form of nostalgia. Our writers and artists always seemed to have one eye on the rear view mirror.
In the days of Labour’s central belt hegemony, the kind of privation humanity has spent centuries struggling to escape seemed to be preserved, lauded and endlessly reproduced. From Ralph Glasser’s Gorbals memoirs to the work of Jeff Torrington, and James Kelman to Irvine Welsh, the view of Scotland that was promulgated was that it needed a good boil wash. In the work of Peter Mullan, Ken Loach and Lynne Ramsay, Glaswegian grot was exported around the globe.
In the early years of the 21st century, something rather wonderful happened: there was a cultural renaissance in which Scottish artists no longer felt the need to examine and re-examine the Scottish condition. Alexander McCall Smith, Ian Rankin and JK Rowling were wowing global audiences. Janice Galloway won international acclaim for her book on Clara Schumann. Artists such as David Mach, Alison Watt, Douglas Gordon, Martin Creed and Jenny Saville were finding their way into international collections. Composers and musicians as diverse as James McMillan, Craig Armstrong and Nicola Benedetti were hailed abroad. Ewan McGregor, Robert Carlyle, Gerard Butler and John Hannah were the hot stars in Hollywood. They were, as in the words of Auden: “Like some valley cheese, local but prized elsewhere.” After decades of cultural dreichness, it was no longer quite so grim up north.
These talents still exist, but their influence has begun to diminish. The generation following in their wake does not shine as brightly. Patriotism has replaced miserablism as the key to our identity. Culturally, we have started to look inwards again.
If I were a young artist, musician or writer starting out in Scotland, I would feel quite depressed about the situation. There is now so much focus, not to mention grant aid, on such a narrow tradition that, unless you fit the cultural stereotype, it’s hard to see where the acknowledgement or encouragement is going to come from. It’s difficult to imagine the Scotland of today throwing up a writer with the breadth and depth of Dame Muriel Spark.
Perhaps at a time of great political change, when nationalism is the predominant force, that is to be expected, but cultural separatism inevitably leads to parochialism. Our heritage and icons are co-opted to the cause. The focus in education in recent years has not been the pursuit of excellence but the pursuit of Scottishness.
While more Scottish literature and history in the curriculum may be overdue, the tartan straitjacket is concerning. Teachers have been urged to find a Scottish perspective from which to approach topics. One told me that under the Curriculum for Excellence, she had to find a Scottish element to the Holocaust — solipsism taken to a whole new level.
It is no coincidence that the Scottish Survey of Literacy and Numeracy 2014, published last week, has found the ability of Scottish school children to be in decline. The percentage of S2 boys doing well or very well in writing is now below 50% at 47%, down from 58% in 2012. There is a similar fall in standards for S2 girls, from 70% to 63%. It’s not as though we were at the top of the international league tables in 2012.
We keep hearing from the Scottish government that, with more powers, more jobs will be created and an economic boom will ensue of such magnitude that it will render irrelevant the pesky oil price fall and the deepening deficit that independence or full fiscal autonomy would bring.
But these children are the employees of the future and if less than 50% can string a written sentence together after nine years in the Scottish education system, we have a problem. Economic growth requires a highly literate, educated and productive workforce.
The education minister Angela Constance has now pledged to redouble efforts but this is to miss the point. If excellence is not at the heart of the education system, then no amount of effort will improve attainment. What is happening in universities is just as worrying. Because of the disparity in tuition fees, a whole generation no longer even explores the possibility of leaving Scotland for its tertiary education.
One of the most depressing things about the referendum was the number of Scottish writers and artists cravenly hitching their wagons to the SNP. Last week, National Collective — a pro-independence cultural movement which engaged thousands of people, organised petitions and campaigned — shut up shop. Its key founder has been absorbed into the SNP as “an engagement strategist”.
The nationalists’ programme for government is called One Scotland, but for a truly confident nation we need to let a thousand Scotlands bloom.
Here’s a sober rebuttal of the nonsensical and totally irresponsible remarks George Galloway made about forced marriage.
It’s from the Muslim Women Network.
Muslim Women’s Network UK (MWNUK) is a charitable organisation with the aims of promoting equality, diversity, social inclusion and racial/religious harmony, and does not support, nor is affiliated to any political party. However in order to defend and strengthen women’s rights and in particular to promote the empowerment of Muslim women and girls, we regularly engage with, and if required challenge, politicians, political candidates, public servants and any other body or organisation where considered necessary.
It is for this reason that MWNUK deems it necessary to challenge certain insinuations made about forced marriage and domestic violence victims by George Galloway, currently the Respect Party’s PPC for Bradford West, when he commented on Labour candidate Naz Shah’s forced marriage and domestic violence experience. Given his influence, we consider Mr. Galloway’s insinuations to be irresponsible and which will have a wider, counter productive impact on victims of forced marriage and domestic violence or those at risk.
When Ms. Shah shared her story publicly, she explained that she was married at the age of 15 and suffered from domestic violence. Many women tend to remain in abusive relationships and suffer in silence. Cultural concepts of honour and shame often prevent women from articulating their experiences openly even when they have escaped their situations. We therefore commend Ms. Shah’s courage in sharing her very personal experiences. It is important that when survivors share their stories, which is often very difficult, that they are heard. Only with open discussion will more victims or those at risk come forward and ask for help.
Although we cannot comment on the details of Ms. Shah’s personal experiences, we are very concerned about the misleading information regarding forced marriage and domestic violence being alluded to in the statements made by Mr. Galloway and his officials. MWNUK challenges the assertions that have been made as follows:
¥ It has been alleged that Ms. Shah could not have been married as a minor at the age of 15 because her official marriage certificate registered with the authorities in Pakistan states her age as 16 and a half.
It is not uncommon for victims of child marriage to have an unregistered Islamic (nikah) ceremony while they are under age and to later register the marriage officially once the child is over 16 especially if documents are needed to make an application for a spousal visa. It is important to recognise this can happen to children. In fact we have come across victim stories where this has indeed happened.
¥ It has been alleged that Ms. Shah’s marriage could not have been forced because her mother was present at the marriage.
Parents are often the instigators of forced marriage, coercing their children to marry against their will and therefore present at the marriage ceremony. In fact parents themselves can be pressured by members of the extended family to accept marriage proposals for their children and feel they cannot back out due to dishonor.
¥ Ms Shah has been questioned as to why she did not (as a British citizen) simply get on a plane and come back to the UK if she had been forced into marriage.
Girls are more aware of their rights now due to forced marriage campaigns, yet the crime continues to be under reported. Twenty-five years ago victims faced even greater barriers to disclosing. The Forced Marriage Unit did not exist then and there were far fewer women’s rights organisations. To imply that it is easy to escape a forced marriage suggests that victims are at fault for not leaving abusive situations.
¥ Ms. Shah has been questioned about why she had not gone to the police, social services or an imam if her husband had subjected her to violence.
This indirectly suggests that women who do not report their abuse cannot be suffering from domestic violence. Such assertions are very dangerous. Women from all communities find it difficult to come forward and report abuse and the reasons can vary such as: fear of consequences; women blaming themselves; women not realizing they are victims; lack of awareness of the help available; being isolated from family and friends and not being able to reach help; being worried about finances; and hoping the partner may change. Asian women face additional cultural barriers that prevent them from seeking help such as, fear of dishonouring family, shame, stigma, taboo and being rejected by the community. Also women in these communities are expected to suffer in silence. They are also usually blamed for any problem within the family including the violence and abuse to which they are subjected. This fear of blame can also prevent women from coming forward and getting the help they need. Not surprisingly domestic violence is therefore under reported in Asian / Muslim communities.
¥ Ms. Shah was questioned about her domestic violence and child marriage because her first husband has denied the abuse. [WELL HE WOULD, WOULDN’T HE?]
Denial by the alleged perpetrator should never be used as evidence to determine whether abuse has occurred or not.
Why aren’t the citizens of Bradford pissing themselves laughing when the intending candidate for Bradford West (Respect) tweets this:-
plus this picture:-
Why aren’t the gutters of Bradford running with streams of urine as people double over hooting at the bombast and sheer grossness of this garbage?
(Oh, and the Israeli people waving flags – you are going to be horribly disappointed with Naz Shah if she wins. Her views on Israel are anti-Zionist, of course.)
However, Galloway always has his ardent followers. He makes statements about forced marriage which are both false and extremely damaging to its victims and gob-smackingly horrible – but still they follow. Prove Naz Shah was sixteen rather than fifteen when forced into marriage, and you’ve made a huge point against her. Point out her parents were attending, and of course it wasn’t a forced marriage at all – against every definition of forced marriage, all experience of young women and men forced into marriage – but you’ll stroke the cocks of the men who would hate to have a particular sexual power over women as forced wives and forced offspring taken away from them.
Tendance Coatesy has a couple of posts on Galloway’s outrageous shittiness and a Galloway groupie called Neil has arrived in the threads. Among his general dishonesty and fatuousness are suggestions that women who find Galloway’s politics vile must be secretly attracted to him. Galloway holds this view too of women e.g. Helen Pidd who as part of her job as a journalist, writes about him, must get an odd flutter in their heart and other tender parts at the thought of him. It’s false and grossly insulting and stupidly conceited but it no doubt raises a little frisson among his posse.
I’d guess that a lot of the Galloway groupies would like to be him – to have the multiplicity of pretty wives, the attention of Big Men in the Arab world like Hussein and Assad and senior leaders in Hamas, the media spots, the hefty income, the attention. They share his own fantasies of his importance.
And the arseholes vote for him.
Update from Private Eye:-
I wrote to Amnesty expressing concern about their association with Cage and got the following reply:-
“Amnesty no longer considers it appropriate to share a public platform with Cage and will not engage in coalitions of which Cage is a member. Recent comments made by Cage representatives have been completely unacceptable, at odds with human rights principles and serve to undermine the work of NGOs, including Amnesty International.”
We had engaged with Cage together with several other organisations on the specific issue of UK complicity in torture abroad, on which they had particular expertise. At the time that Gita Sahgal left Amnesty International, we commissioned an independent external review into our work with Cage and Moazzam Begg which concluded that it was reasonable for Amnesty to campaign with Cage and Moazzam Begg in his capacity as a former detainee at Guantanamo Bay. Gita’s view was that it was inappropriate for Amnesty International to share a platform with individuals and organisations whose religious or political views were inconsistent with the full range of rights and women’s rights in particular.
Amnesty International has never questioned the integrity of this view or the sincerity with which Gita held it. However, it is not uncommon for NGOs to enter into coalitions with other organisations or groups on one specific issue despite their disagreement on others.
Based on an extensive review of comments made by Cage Prisoners (as it was then known) then available to the public, we concluded that limited cooperation with Cage on the narrow issue of accountability for UK complicity in torture abroad was appropriate, given their consistent and credible messaging on this issue. Comments made by Cage recently have clearly changed that assessment and have led to our decision to terminate such relations. But this does not alter the fact the decision in 2010 to continue this limited work was taken for good reasons and after extensive reflection.
Further to that, the refusal of a Cage spokesperson to condemn violence such as FGM and stoning – themselves examples of torture and degrading treatment that we are campaigning for an end to – is of huge concern to Amnesty and has made any future platform sharing with Cage impossible.”
Amnesty have now made a statement on their website.
“Amnesty no longer considers it appropriate to share a public platform with Cage and will not engage in coalitions of which Cage is a member.
“Recent comments made by Cage representatives have been completely unacceptable, at odds with human rights principles and serve to undermine the work of NGOs, including Amnesty International.”
Many have pointed out that CAGE hasn’t changed since 2010, and that Amnesty is being disingenuous in suddenly finding them an unfit partner because of unwelcome publicity. A comment below:-
The reply by Amnesty’s Kate Allen contains a contradiction in terms. While she is affirming that it isn’t uncommon for NGOs to enter into coalitions with other organisations or groups on one specific issue despite their disagreement on others, nevertheless now Amnesty is severing ties with CAGE over their views on violence and torture including FGM and stoning. Which one of the two Amnesty holds true – that their partners’ views on ‘other issues’ such as violence does not matter or that do matter? If they do matter now, how can Amnesty explain those views didn’t matter back in 2010 and they considered it perfectly normal to share a platform with CAGE. They either have to admit a gross incompetence and issue an apology to Gita Sahgal (though this is going to be difficult because Gita Sahgal warned them about CAGE’s views) or admit they acted in bad faith and hoped nobody will notice – in this case too, they at least have to issue an apology to Gita Sahgal.
CEMB Forum said in the thread below this post:-
An improvement. However, Amnesty need to do the following:
(1) Put this out as a public statement. Explaining their errors in the past and why they have realised they shouldn’t associate with CAGE again, including a specific expression of moral disgust and distancing from them on these issues. [They have sort of done this – though their words for CAGE “completely unacceptable” and “of huge concern” do not equal “disgust”.]
(2) An acknowledgement of Meredith Tax’s central point in her book ‘The Double Bind’ – that they need to maintain an objective critical distance from Salafi Jihadi apologists / groomers and Islamist reactionaries. [They haven’t mentioned giving Islamist groups a body swerve.]
3) A full public apology to Gita Sahgal. She was right. They were wrong. She is vindicated completely. Amnesty acknowledges the central points she made in her critique of them. Now apologise. [I bet they never do that.]
Over at Liberal Conspiracy Sunny Hundal makes a C minus apology. If you have the energy you can look back at Pickled Politics archives to see the many posts jeering at Gita Sahgal and boosting Moazzam Begg.
5 years ago, when Amnesty UK’s work with Mozazzam Begg was questioned by former employee Gita Sahgal, I came to Amnesty’s defence (though I actually wrote the issue was more complicated than many pretended it was). Recent events show that Gita called it right and I called it wrong, as did Amnesty. I’m happy to admit that, and I regret some of the intemperate language I used.
At the time I was defending Amnesty (not Cage) against people (excluding Gita) who wanted to undermine the organisation for other reasons, i.e. its focus on Guantanamo Bay and Israeli war crimes. I continue to think Amnesty is a great organisation but it should have refused to work with Cage then. I made lots of calls which turned out to be right (unlike many of Amnesty’s critics) but in this case I was wrong. Gita Sahgal’s instincts have been vindicated.
That last sentence does induce some nausea. When you apologise for being badly wrong, don’t point out how often you were right compared to the less enlightened. Also, it wasn’t Gita’s instincts that were right, it was her knowledge and experience and principles – which should have weighed a good deal heavier in the scales than Begg’s glamour as a Guantanamo detainee. But there you are – half a loaf and all that.
We at Shiraz were of course firm in our principles.
Back in 2010 we ran a piece defending Gita Sahgal in her dispute with Amnesty International.
As you will all remember, Gita Sahgal had blown the whistle on Amnesty’s partnership with the jihadist supporting group Cageprisoners (now CAGE). She was suspended for going public and eventually sacked.
For further details of the Amnesty/Cage debacle read the always excellent Jacobin here.
Now of course CAGE (misleadingly dubbed a Human Rights group) came out in defence of Mohammad Emwazi, who among his other faults (beheading hostages and having the filmed results used as PR for ISIS) is, what you could call “complicit in torture”.
Which makes the last letter to the PM that CAGE was a joint signatory to with Amnesty about “complicity in torture” a little well, hypocritical to say the least.
Amnesty has been highly embarrassed by their partnership with CAGE and have been on Twitter and were on Radio 4’s Today programme on Monday saying that all they did was have CAGE as a joint signatory on nine letters. (Listen here at 1:09) 1:09
This is not true. Gita Sahgal stated that among other things CAGE had done research projects with Amnesty and here is one instance of this. Here Cageprisoners are one of the “six leading human rights groups” working with Amnesty to co-author a briefing paper.
Why did Amnesty pick up with CAGE? I have heard rumours that the SWP have done their usual entryism. Here’s a comment below Gita Saghal’s article in Open Democracy back in 2010.
Itsn’t it about time to break the silence and name the problem, which is, that AI today, unlike AI in the past, is full of people from the SWP, and is carrying out their line? Obviously people are afraid to say so in public for fear of being accused of red-baiting but they certainly say it in private. I don’t even live in London and I have been hearing this for years.
I was told this by someone else as well. In the Weekly Worker they mention Asad Rehman formerly of the SWP who used to be an events manager at Amnesty International
There are noticeable characteristics of the SWP – the old one of their entryism, whereby they come into organisations with credibility and clout and try to turn them to their own purposes. (I saw that happen at a listings magazine I worked for once which they wanted to turn into a propaganda sheet and they were busy in CND). And a relatively new one – of their sucking up to Islamism to the point of holding segregated meetings at the Brothers’ request.
So Amnesty’s debacle with CAGE, which has damaged their reputation and lost them subscribers may be layable at their door. Amnesty changed direction from being focussed on prisoners of conscience to a fuzzier all-causes organisation seeing nothing wrong, for instance, in “defensive jihad”.*
This is just speculation on my part – anyone got any harder information? Or was Amnesty’s partnering with CAGE simply part of a kind of radical chic which is now starting to look a bit 2010 as people learn more about Islamism and the various organisations which are jihadist fronts.
The Charity Commission has now cut CAGE’s funding. CAGE will no doubt continue in some other form. I doubt Amnesty will co-sign letters with it again – but will they actually come out with a statement saying that they have decided that a pack of jihadist sympathisers are not really a good human rights organisation; and perhaps they could say a few words of apology to Gita Saghal (highly unlikely – but if you’re an Amnesty member – and I am – do write to them and suggest they do so).
*Defensive jihad, in contrast with offensive jihad, is the defense of Muslim communities. Islamic tradition holds that when Muslims are attacked, then it becomes obligatory for all Muslims of that land to defend against the attack. Indeed, the Qur’an requires military defense of the besieged Islamic community.
In contemporary Jihadism, it is impossible to draw an objective distinction between offensive and defensive jihadism, as even unilataral attacks on the soil of non-Muslim states are justified as retaliatory for events conceived of as “attacks on Muslims” (e.g. 2009 Fort Hood shooting, Woolwich attack).
I found Carlton Reid’s Roads Were Not Built for Cars a valuable reference book and a good read.
He’s now kickstarting the funding for a new book, Bike Boom.
Nice video which I can’t get to embed.
Use of bicycles in America and Britain fell off a cliff in the 1950s and 1960s thanks to the rapid rise in car ownership. Urban planners and politicians predicted that cycling would soon wither to nothing, and they did their level best to bring about this extinction by catering only for motorists. And then something strange happened – bicycling bounced back, first in America and then in Britain. Today’s global bicycling boom – even the one in the Netherlands – has its roots in the early 1970s.
And this is what I’d like to explore in Bike Boom, a book that will use history to shine a spotlight on the present, and demonstrate how bicycling in the future has the potential to grow even further, if the right measures are put in place by the politicians and planners of today and tomorrow. ..
Bike Boom will aim to dig down into historical sources to find out how the Netherlands built a world-class network of bicycle paths – and much of the rest of the world didn’t. I’d also like to interview the bicycle advocates and planners of the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s (and those of today, too) to hear their stories, and learn from their successes and their mistakes.
Ur-Sustrans built its first cycleway on the Bristol to Bath route from 1979 – 1986. I remember the Innocent Railway stretch Edinburgh when it was still covered with ballast and gave you punctures and the tunnel was blocked – that was the early eighties. It is now a black top path and the main North Cycle Network 1, and this was through my own cycling organisation, Spokes. In the UK the progress has been local and patchy and has taken much patient volunteer effort.
The Innocent Railway – National Cycle Network 1
Scottish commentator Chris Derin notes the rise of anti-Semitism, and the fact that in Scotland it’s not coming from Islamists or the traditional far-right, but from elements of the supposed “left”:
Unthinkably, anti-semitism is once again on the rise across Europe. Benjamin Netanyahu’s suggestion that the continent’s Jews should move to Israel, following the attacks in Paris, Belgium and Copenhagen, has angered many of his co-religionists, but the fact he felt able to say it should give the rest of us pause.
A timely article published yesterday in Scotland on Sunday by the journalist Dani Garavelli showed concern about their safety is growing among Scotland’s Jews. Giffnock’s long-established community has seen security stepped up outside Jewish buildings, including police patrols at the synagogue and at Scotland’s only Jewish primary school. The children are no longer allowed to line up in the playground in the morning.
The number of anti-semitic attacks in Glasgow rose ten-fold last year, according to Garavelli. A woman selling Israeli cosmetics from a stall is said to have had a ‘burning’ substance thrown in her face, while a rabbi was taunted with shouts of ‘Sieg Heil’. A sheltered housing complex in East Renfrewshire was daubed with a swastika and the words ‘Jewish Cunts. Jews Out’.
It seems to be politically hip to adopt an anti-Israel stance. What used to be the preserve of the far-Right now sits more easily with the far-Left, which is currently undergoing a modish revival in Scotland. Criticism of Israel’s government, a perfectly reasonable thing to do, all too regularly shades into the dark prejudice of anti-semitism. There’s nothing cool or modern about this. Anti-semitism is the most ancient of hatreds, and it was only 70 years ago that Europe’s Jews were nearly destroyed in a mass extermination programme. Anti-semites: think of the company you’re keeping.
JD adds: here at Shiraz we’ve had cause to comment on the anti-semitism of the Scottish PSC before now: “A little bit anti-Jewish”.
An excellent article about the proto hipster Nathan Barley, who would answer the phone “Hullo you wanker”. Nathan Barley was John the Baptist to Russell Brand’s Messiah:-
Looking for an online guru with an open-ended nanofesto that boils down to “peace and fucking – believe!”? Sorry Russell Brand, Nathan beat The Trews to the punch by 10 years with the rambling video homilies on his website (back when websites were novel)trashbat.co.ck. Barley aficionados will surely see in Brand some echoes of the show’s Preacherman character, the burnt-out style writer Dan Ashcroft who is bullied by style mag Sugar Ape’s appalling editor Jonatton Yeah? into adopting a voice-of-a-generation role. Replace the cynical weariness with messianism and you have Russell to a tee. …
Nathan started life on the TVGoHome website….
TVGoHome was [Charlie] Brooker’s surreal and scatalogical late 90s collection of fake TV listings, including imaginary shows such as Inspector Bumhat, Daily Mail Island and the probably-best-not-explained Mick Hucknall’s Pink Pancakes.
….One regular listing concerned a young media man about town called Nathan Barley. It went under the pithy title of Cunt…
Chris Morris, the creator of The Day Today and Brasseye, had written listings in secret for TVGoHome. Around 2000 he suggested that they try to develop a show around the Nathan character and east London’s increasingly absurd club/art scene. “We talked about the show for years before we made it,” says Brooker. “Chris was adamant very early on that there should be a tiny acorn of likability to Nathan, something irrepressible. He does terrible things but he has an endearing sort of rabbity enthusiasm to him. In the fake listings he really was a cunt, whereas in the TV show he’s a twat – and there is a difference.
As there is.
Kingsley Amis liked these sorts of fine distinctions.
He says of a club bore: – “he was only an old fart, not an old shit as well.”
(The Folks Who Live on the Hill)
That’s a wide distinction. But when it comes to the following:-
A privilege granted to few
Is meeting a pratt on the scale
Of Nicholls: by common consent
A nitwit not fit to shift shit,
Whether more of a bastard or cunt,
Views varied, one has to admit.
(Kingsley Amis The Reunion)
The distinction is narrower. But here’s a working definition – a bastard will cheat on his partner, a cunt will get back at her with revenge porn.
Re Charlie Hebdo:-
“The point of satire is to attack the powerful, to expose their hypocrisy and absurdity, and of course to be funny. If satire is directed downwards it is not satire, it’s bullying.
Two elementary objections:-
1. Mohammad and Islam are very powerful to a gruesome degree in some places;
2. It’s not the point of satire to attack the powerful. The point of satire is to ridicule absurdities. It’s not just the powerful that are absurd.
Tim Sanders belongs to some left wing groupuscule. I suppose he’d admit that left wing groupuscules are (sadly) not powerful. They had the piss gloriously taken out of them in The Life of Brian with the The People’s Front of Judaea vs the Judaean People’s Front.
Here’s a video clip to refute his argument:-
1. It’s funny – one of the funniest scenes in one of the funniest films
2. It attacks the powerless – who happen to be absurd in this instance. In fact their powerlessness is part of their being ridiculous.
However word seems to be getting about that satire MUST attack the powerful otherwise it isn’t really satire – punching up against punching down. Will Self said something incoherent about this on Channel 4 (both he and Martin Rowson are purgative – see them fisked here.)
“You always have to ask with something that purports to be satire, who is it attacking? Are they people in a position of power? And if it’s attacking people in a position of power, is it giving comfort to people who are powerless and who are assaulted in some sense by those powerful people? This is not the dynamic with Islamist terrorists, they are not in power in our society, and it is not comforting the people who look at these cartoons whether in Charlie Hebdo or in newspapers here, they don’t feel better about themselves or about life to see Islamist terrorists mocked or the beliefs of Muslims in general mocked – why does it make anybody feel better?”
Islamists do have power within our society. In that interview the cartoonist Rowson said he wouldn’t draw Mohammad in case staff at newspapers got killed, i.e. he obeys the assassins’ veto. Pissing off Islamists and their followers seems as morally imperative as pissing off David Cameron and his – except that David Cameron won’t execute you out of hand.
When Rageboy was in one of his fits about a crappy film, – those fits which would be funny if they weren’t sinister, it made me feel better to knock this cartoon up. Caption:- Film Critics Revolt
Self teaches contemporary thought at Brunel University but his notions of satire seemed to have stopped at Spitting Image. One thing to notice about modern culture, as I thought last night when watching Charlie Brooker’s Screen Wipes, which twists the tail of the ordinary glazed-eyed citizen as well as world leaders, is how it is flooded with satire, with piss-taking, with smart-arsery, with Reddit, and Cracked and Weird Al Y?Yankovic . It’s the modern idiom. Selfie, with his natural tone of sneering contempt and his ultra-punnable surname, is evidently the fish who doesn’t know it’s water he’s swimming in as he hasn’t noticed that early twenty first culture in the anglophone world is satirical to the point of misanthropy, which makes our politicians despised to an unhealthy degree, because, they, poor buggers, have to talk in the language of hope and belief, and it’s as if they’re speaking Victorian Uplift, while we their voters speak Modern Cynic.
However Self may have been doing a piece of satire of his own – perhaps a subtle reference to the English academic in David Lodge’s Changing Places (a satire against the not very powerful) who boasts he’s never read Hamlet.
Satire can be cruel, or it can be gentle. Goodness Gracious Me was rather gentle about its crass whites, its social climbers the Coopers and the bloke who says Indian about every invention (who should be resurrected as a Muslim saying, “It’s in the Qu’ran” about genetics, embryology and thermodynamics.)
Jonathan Swift punched up at politicians in Lilliput and Brobdignag, and scientists in Laputa, but come the fourth voyage he was punching downwards at grovelling humankind. The Simpsons punches down at America’s blue-collar class. Shameless punched down at the British underclass. The Royle Family punched down at the British working class and Rab C Nesbit punched down at the Scottish schemey.
Mo Dawah one of the best things on Twitter aims his darts at the target of the “community leader” – who has a helluva lot more power than their victims though less power than the Government.
We must not be afraid to address the problems within our community, by introspecting fearlessly on how it is everyone else’s fault.
We have to fight the hegemony of hetero-normative racist patriarchy that tries to blame the perpetrators who are victims too #Rotherham (Now that one is savage.)
Sick of double standards of liberal fascists imposing freedom to say what I want on me, whilst denying my right to impose censorship on them
Well I’d think you were a shit of course, but I already thought that about you.
However, let’s treat this seriously for a second or two and spell out the difference between making fun of a religion with its sacred objects and a staggering, culture-breaking historic event that still has living witnesses. Here are a couple of cartoons featuring women – one semi-mythical (though admirable on the whole).
The Virgin Mary/Our Lady
A rape victim
I’m sure you Holocaust cartooners can find something absurd and ridiculous about her plight and will knock up a nifty speech bubble. As for me I never want to google “rape victim” images again.
Actually if I was Charlie Hebdo I’d do a caption like “Her skirt must have been too short” which, to explain to those who are slow on the uptake, would be a satire against rape-victim-blamers. But I haven’t got the heart or stomach.
My satire is constrained by my own boundaries and a shared culture is one where we judge what is outside of enough. We can judge satire as good or bad in all sorts of ways, but not that it only should attack the powerful and that cartoonists laying into a religion should think again, except for the prudential reasons that now are forcing us to mind our manners or else.
In December 2013, former Charlie Hebdo editor Olivier Cyran, who had left the magazine in 2001, published an article, “Charlie Hebdo, Not Racist? If You Say So,” on his website Article11.
Charlie Hebdo’s religion editor, Zineb el-Rhazoui, replied in an essay published the same month. I’ve translated her essay below. When the attack on the paper’s offices occurred, el-Rhazoui was traveling in Morocco. (From Too Hot for Jacobin)
Olivier, you start from the premise that the Muslims of Azerbaijan, of Bosnia, of Malaysia, Egypt or Burkina Faso, represent a single whole that can be designated as a “race.” Well, it so happens that that’s the one I belong to. The fact that I’m an atheist, and proud of it? It makes no difference, since you don’t ask us what we think; you talk about racism, and therefore race. I won’t keep beating around the bush, since I don’t doubt for a second that, like me, you perfectly understand the distinction between a religion and a race. If you make this lamentable conflation, it’s because you engage in a sociological fallacy whose origins lie in the demography of France: our Muslims are most often those we call “Arabs.” I’m sort of starting to understand why you speak of racism. But let’s try to be precise: we’re not talking about the Arabs of Lebanon, who are rarely encountered in the French projects, nor the persecuted Arab Ahwazi minority of Iran, whom nobody in France talks about, and certainly not the Arabs of Qatar who keep Louis Vuitton in business. No, you’re talking about the “Arabs” of North Africa — and here again, it so happens that that is the “race” from which I spring. Moreover, for your information, those “Arabs” aren’t always Arabs. The best-informed people in France know that they are Berbers, a word of Greek origin, “Bearded,” which refers to us Amazighes, Imazighen — Free Men, as we like to call ourselves. I am thus triply qualified to dispel the obvious confusion you manifest when you identify those you claim to be defending: the Muslim race.
Muslim You Will Stay
Among the individuals that you assign to this racial category, there are militant atheists like me, obviously secularist (laïque). There are atheists who have other fish to fry, they are secularists too. There are atheists who love Charlie Hebdo and support it; others less so or not at all. There are agnostics, skeptics, free-thinkers, deists; they are secularists as well. There are believers who are non-practicing but politically Islamist, practicing but secularist, or even those with “no opinion,” whose daily lives do not suffer because of Charlie Hebdo. There are converts to Christianity — and oh, are they secularist, for they’ve endured the terrors of theocracy in their countries of origin. And finally there are the fundamentalists (intégristes), the militant Islamists, the adherents of an identity defined above all by religion, and those are the ones you have chosen to defend. Those are the ones who, given the reality of French laïcité, have no other choice than to cry racism, a tear in their eye and a hand on their heart, on the pretext that their “religious feelings” have been mocked by a drawing in Charlie. Among them you will find many who stand for laïcité in France but vote Ennahda in Tunisia, who do their shopping at a Parisian halal butcher but would cry scandal if a misfit decided to open a charcuterie in Jeddah. Who are outraged when a day care center fires a veiled employee but say nothing when someone they know forces his daughter to wear the veil. They are a minority. But they are the standard to which you have chosen to align the identity of all of us.
Meanwhile the Sheikh of Bradford and First Sectarian of mainland Britain has his own take. I got the picture from the Council of Ex Muslims of Britain who observe that (a) he’s increased the usual number by half a billion; and (b) it’s hard to do a religious headcount in countries where atheists and agnostics and converts to other religions keep their gobs shut.
Update:- of the 2 billion victimised about 300 turned up to hear Galladin – which is fewer than the 1000s that turned up in anti-Rushdie days. (I got that pic off Twitter and suppose 2014 is a typo.)