Monday, 23 October 2017

This Is What Happens

My Twitter account was permanently suspended the other day, after a run spanning nearly a decade & just shy of 100k tweets.

The first question people usually have is why. What did I do? Anyone who followed me on that landfill of a website already knows what I did: the same thing I did every day, insulted people, questioned their character & motivations, criticised their ideologies, threatened them with karmic retribution for their selfishness & greed. This was all done publicly, under my real name, as such things should, & in tandem with a community of like-minded individuals who both supported me & ensured I didn't stray from the correct path.

That my account would eventually be removed was inevitable, as inevitable as the destruction of any virus that insists on creating symptoms in its host. Eventually, the immune response will occur, or the host will die. I had hopes, but never any real faith, that my fellow infections lurking beneath the surface of Twitter's landscape of smooth, white fascism would kill it someday. I hoped for that, but knew: Twitter would remove me long before I could remove it.

The only thing that kills something like Twitter - an invaluable tool, utilised by millions for free, allowing communication of a sort & at a scale never before witnessed - is the same thing that always kills such enterprises: the ineptitude & evil of those who own & operate it. The bourgeoisie are the beating heart of every such enterprise within late capitalism, & they bring the same predictable shortcomings with them wherever they steal control.

They are rarely destroyed by their own users, who will generally bend over backwards to maintain access to what has become an intrinsic resource in their daily lives. They are, in fact, addicted. As am I, & have been for a long time, with full awareness of what that means. & how it would inevitably end.

The idea that Twitter might perish while I was still on there, or might exist forever, overlooks the tension at the heart of my use of it. This tension extends to every facet of my existence, & it's what drives me to fight with perfectly normal idiots & psychopaths, to call out the insane beliefs of the near-terminally stupid, to hurl invective at massive accounts that won't even notice my tirade. It's there, though. There are literally thousands of such tweets, from me alone, scattered throughout Twitter.

I still haven't said why I do this. Mostly it's because I can't imagine not doing it, but also & more importantly because it's the right thing to do. It's what such platforms are for. After a certain point, it's what other people are for; a conduit, through which ideas are passed to others, through whom other ideas will arise in response. The "marketplace of ideas," as marketeers with rivers of shit instead of brains call it. The culture war, the zeitgeist, the Dialectic; politics.

Without doing this, there's no point to Twitter, potentially no point to anything, which is why I've never understood the Moderate. I could say some shit like "moderates prefer material comforts & facile successes to more meaningful forms of self-realisation," but I don't really know what that means in practical terms. Might as well just say "because they're stupid cowards" for all the useful information that contains. True, but unhelpful.

Very well for me to point fingers, but that's the unusual position I find myself in. I am not a troll. I don't make fake accounts to badger people & confuse them, I don't stalk people here & there, I don't try to get into their accounts or call on my followers to bury their mentions in abuse. I just tell them what's up, using my real name & real(ish) face, & my own words. I did this, for thousands of hours, despite being constantly afraid it would get me banned. That I would lose dozens of friends, one of my primary time-filling activities, my access to the world & its politics. I'd lose all this, because some neckbeard with a media degree would click a button, because he didn't like the way I called some guy "white."

Despite this entirely-valid fear, I persisted anyway. As I did on Facebook, where my account was also permanently deleted, & on Ask.fm, where most of my answers were deleted. That is why, for all the fear, I'm not a coward: because I went ahead anyway.

Facebook was already dying when I was ejected, as Twitter is now. The problems these sites have won't be solved, only accelerated, because capitalists only have a small set of fixed responses when faced with economic adversity. All of them are immoral, & only very few work. One that works is bailouts, either in the form of stolen taxes, or venture capital. Uber famously supports its entirely-failed business model via venture capital, betting on a weakened regulatory environment & anti-worker technology to save them before the money runs dry completely. Twitter is doing something similar, not because it makes sense, but because capitalists only know how to do a small handful of things.

I apologise for this long-winded exposition, when some of you are no doubt only here to get the facts. Well, you have them now: I was permanently suspended because of being reported for numerous things, all of which were either not real misdeeds, or were outright fabrications. This is also how I stayed on the site so long despite my behaviour: I didn't really do anything wrong. I didn't make threats, or rely on bigotry to convey my feelings, or doxx anyone, or make fake accounts to circumvent being blocked. In order for me to be banned - particularly on a site full of white supremacists - something would need to go Wrong.

"As I’ve said before, there’s a great virtue in well-crafted nastiness, and there are few better measures of a good writer than how well they rise to the challenge of magnificently crushing somebody else. But when it comes to the question of online abuse, the left is forced to fight on strangely uneven territory. No wonder, then, that it’s the favoured terrain for anti-socialists. In Britain and in America, whenever a positive, hopeful, emancipatory left-wing movement makes electoral successes, it’s immediately dogged by claims that its supporters are behaving intemperately online. And it’s usually true. You will find supporters of any movement saying deeply unpleasant things on the internet. The goal of the accusation is always to present online abuse as a peculiarly left-wing phenomenon, or to make innuendoes towards some kind of complicity between the socialist left and the Nazi alt-right in their shared fondness for being mean online."

This is a quote from Sam Kriss, whose ignominious removal from Twitter & most of his employment & all of his public reputation massively overshadowed my own, which occurred on the same day. He's also my favourite writer, & our dual fates create an interesting binary from which to examine the current state of things.

It's a basic truism of the world I've always lived in that things are getting worse, & bad people are winning. Very few people seem to doubt this, with only a large swathe of the useless middle classes opting to ignore the entire question. Who the bad people are, how & why they're winning, is neither here nor there: we agree, generally, that things are bad & getting worse. The situations Sam Kriss & myself find ourselves in are a good moment to take stock of this.

It's difficult to argue that my suspension was unjust, from the perspective of those that enforce it. They are fascists, & I am decidedly opposed to that, & thus to them, & they to me. It is simply better for Twitter to ban me than not, from an ideological perspective. From every other perspective, not so much, but specifically in terms of Twitter as an entity, I am its enemy. I don't believe in the private ownership of such utilities, I don't believe in profit or wealth accumulation, & I don't believe anyone currently involved in the project is in a position to judge my actions. In fact, everyone employed by Twitter Incorporated could be fed into a meat grinder tomorrow & on sum, the universe would see a small improvement.

It's difficult to argue there's injustice to what happened to Sam Kriss also, this time from the ideological requirements of leftists, who were responsible primarily for his removal. He wasn't suspended by Twitter for his online conduct, he was ostracised by his comrades for his IRL behaviour. You can google the details for yourself; suffice to say, he's a real piece of shit to at least one of the women in his life. In my considerable experience, it's rarely just one.

So here we have two somewhat similar men, in the exact same situation, for entirely opposite reasons. Sam Kriss' success insulated him from the wrath of Twitter itself, his Verified Tick ensuring not only that he was difficult to ban, but that even swearing in his mentions could result in a fully-automated account suspension. However, that privilege only seems to have fueled his shitty behaviour, until his own supporters threw him under the bus (with a good number of these supporters expressing relief to outright glee).

My lovely supporters, on the other hand, were modestly devastated to learn of my fate. Though I lack Sam Kriss' notoriety & protective legitimacy, I also lacked his scrutiny, his constant visibility. I can get away with mistakes he cannot, but more importantly, my relative obscurity means I don't need to make those mistakes. Even if I did though, very few would care, & I certainly don't have a career to be derailed.

However, here we are, two white cishet male writers & staunch keyboard warriors for leftism, gone on the same day. One lost to our enemies, one cannibalised by our comrades, his corpse nourishing our bottomless need for ideological purity. Zero tolerance for abuse, regardless of how it empowers the fascists, who are still crowing over the destruction one of their most hated adversaries.

(I, too, had a small group of my former interlocutors unblock me to have a gloat in my mentions. A much more modest, but still deeply upsetting experience.)

I fell to Twitter's pro-fascist ideology because no one cared enough about me to prevent it, & Kriss fell to his own comrades' because enough people did care enough to prevent him. The obvious conclusion to draw from this has not escaped the hordes of right-wing trolls: you're damned if you do, damned if you don't.

I assume this isn't true. As I mentioned earlier, Kriss & I are a pair of white dudes. He's rich as fuck, also. Are we really what left movements need? Kriss' style of literary journalism alienated a lot of people throughout the political spectrum for its elitism & sneering disregard for its targets. Perhaps something more accessible, & richer in the perspectives of those outside the annals of White Straight Guys, will replace his contributions. Despite his being my personal favourite writer, to argue that he's a necessary aspect of leftist success seems absurd. The same is even more absurd of me: not only do I share many of Kriss' superfluous identity categories, I'm publicly insignificant & not as gifted a writer OR scholar. & I don't even have a Twitter account!

The loss of either of us, or both, isn't going to scuttle the political left. If nothing else, we're all permanently scuttled anyway, as far as I know. I hear history of the civil rights movement in the US, of unions fighting cops in the streets, of Paris in May of '68...but I've never seen anything like those. In my lifetime, all I ever see is the slow, incompetent stumbling of late capitalism, the pathetic whinge of the white middle class as they're tended to carefully by the truly wealthy, a buffer between themselves & the enemy: us.

If there is hope for leftism, it won't come from folks like Sam Kriss or myself. If you scratch the surface of us, there's a predictable darkness lurking. Kriss' was found & dragged into the public eye, & in his position I've no doubt I would've made some kind of similar mistake. Zero tolerance, that's the rule, & nobody's perfect. Certainly not rich white guys.

I do wonder if maybe the left is just going to clean house endlessly until the oceans swallow us all, but that's not really my problem. I came online, & without being paid or even asked by anyone, fought what I thought was the good fight. I presume Sam Kriss was also; if you want wealth & influence, in his position, militant leftism is about the worst possible way you could do it. I assume, whatever his numerous other flaws, Kriss is a believer in the workers' revolution, in whatever form.

So, we both made the ultimate sacrifice, that which has been demanded of us by the various minorities & oppressed groups of the left: to just fuck off & shut up. Personally, I have no regrets: I didn't indulge in the kind of dramatic self-sabotage that so often fells men like Kriss. I didn't secretly abuse women, or harbour a second life as a closet racist, or donate to Trump's election. I just attac the people who are being bad, & try to protec those who were being bullied by them. What else can anyone do?

Maybe this account makes it sound like I resent the leftists who "betrayed" Sam Kriss, who failed to even notice when I was struck down. As I hope I conveyed though, Kriss deserved his fate, & I didn't deserve any kind of popular movement to reinstate me. We are both, in short, no great loss. Whether our fates represent some failure of leftist praxis, I don't have to decide, thank God. That wasn't my problem to solve before, & it definitely isn't now. So if this does indicate some severe flaw in leftist online politics - as our critics on the right have been claiming, exhaustively, both before & since Kriss' implosion - I don't care. I did my best, & my reward is what was promised: obscurity, silence, & the quiet satisfaction of an almost-unwitnessed job done as well as I could. & Kriss? Meh. I love his writing, & I believe in his political acumen, but like I said...the left will survive the loss of Sam Kriss, no matter how shrill the excitement of those he fought, who are now ultimately validated by his fate. & make no mistake, they are energised by what happened to him, which is supposedly a price worth paying. I agree, ultimately, & have for a long time. Zero tolerance.

I asked myself many, many years ago, when I found myself getting up to my eyeballs in politics online every goddamn day: what are you hoping to get from this? What do you think the outcome will be? Are you hoping to get loads of pussy? Paid gigs writing stuff? The respect of your peers? Straight-up power? I couldn't see a plausible way to get any of those things via what I was doing, & honestly the notion scared me.

I behaved the way I did, & do, because it's just...how I roll. It's going to be very difficult for me to adjust to a world without Twitter, most of my social sphere is now lost, years of writing & photographs & experiences swept away. Similar to what happened when I was banned from Facebook years ago, so I was prepared, & had plenty of foreknowledge that this would be worse. & it is; I've lost so much. Did I mention that only a couple of days previous, my HDD crashed randomly, taking most of my personal documents, all my pictures & music, with it?

My entire past has been effectively erased by "circumstance" in the last week or so, & now here I am, writing a too-long piece on a blog no one will read, mostly because I don't know else to do. I'm basically 16 again, back on LiveJournal, throwing my thoughts into the uncaring void. Sam Kriss is in the same boat, his accounts gone, columns discontinued, nothing remaining but his blog. Just a couple of pasty ghosts.

I hope he can view this with the same level of rueful circumspection I'm scraping together, but either way let this stand as a warning to anyone who considers taking the high road: there's no pats on the head or happy endings. You either get large enough to see yourself become another object lesson, or eventually get quietly buried under an ever-expanding list of enemies. You don't do it for the props, you do it because it's right, & no other reason.

We're fighting an enemy with more power, resources, & history than us, & far fewer scruples, diversity, & intellectual rigor. If, or when, the time comes for you to make sacrifices in service to a better world, just make them stoically. It's hard to call people "comrade" on the expectation they could turn on you at any moment, but if that's too much for you, become an MRA. Go to your shitty job & ignore the whole thing. Switch your vote to the fash & learn to love the taste of boots. You can degrade all the women you want, ignore most of the world's problems, be as selfish as you like, & all they ask in return is obedient silence in the face of their ongoing atrocities. Easy.

Or, you can fight, & lose everything in return for nothing, or if you're lucky, a permanently-marred reputation. I think it's worth it, but if you don't...consider yourself warned. This is what happens.

Saturday, 23 May 2015

Crash

Sometimes you get an itch on the edge of your awareness, moving slowly toward your consciousness, where it will eventually get enough steam for you to be aware of it, to attract your notice to a wound you were previously oblivious to. A small cut on your finger, perhaps, or a scraped elbow you hadn't noticed when you bumped into something. The pain wasn't noticeable before, & it isn't noticeable now really, but you have an awareness you didn't have previously. You've been injured.

You were injured before, the entire time since you nicked yourself on a ragged bit of metal, or got that tiny slice from a piece of paper. You were always injured, you now realise, but now you know. That changes things. Even if you shrug it off & continue doing what you were doing before, that slight pain has an origin, it has a reason. Now it's real, not just a dim awareness you didn't pay attention to. You weren't aware you weren't paying attention to it at the time, but now, in retrospect, you can remember how it happened. Something small, that any other day wouldn't have broken the skin, but now you're bleeding just enough to call it "bleeding" but not enough to do anything about it.

So you push it out of your mind & keep doing whatever it is you need to do, only now with a slightly irritating discomfort. It starts to burn, rather than itch, & you're annoyed that such a small thing could be causing you so much annoyance.

Some time passes, & you again become aware that the pain has somehow worsened. It's still not a serious thing, but you look back to the injury, & it's slightly discoloured. It's a bit swollen - it hurts a bit when you poke it, which you do. You keep poking it, in fact, the oil & whatever else from your finger getting in it, no doubt. What if it gets infected? It won't, it's small.

But it does. It does get infected, & it starts to ooze a bit. It's become sort of disgusting, & you no longer want to touch it, & you're pretty sure if you did it would hurt. It needs some kind of treatment, but just looking at makes you anxious. It'll heal on its own, if you stop messing with it.

But it doesn't. It gets worse, & people start to notice. "Hey, are you alright?" Yes, I'm fine, it's just a scratch don't make a fuss. It comes out harsher than you meant it, but they should mind their own business anyway. You'll deal with it when you feel like it, when you feel up to it, & not before. "No, I really think you should-" Yeah well I think you should worry about your own shit! Asshole. You know you'll have to do something, though. You'll put a bandage on it.

You go home & put a bandage on it & it feels better, the pain isn't so noticeable now. It's fine. You go back to work, & people nod toward the bandage & you awkwardly apologise for being such a dick. They forgive you, everything's fine now. You feel sort of silly for being so obstinate about it in the first place. You're relieved to put it all behind you.

A few days later you're feeling woozy & sweaty. You develop a fever. Blearily, you get yourself to a doctor for some medication. She looks you over, nodding & clicking her tongue while you stir impatiently. She asks if you have any injuries, but you've forgotten all about the bandaged wound. You say no, & she frowns. After looking at you for slightly too long with an insufferably thoughtful expression, she asks about the bandage. That? That's nothing, it's fine. She wants to take a look. You push down a momentary, irrational urge to say no. She's a doctor! She can look at it, right? It's no big deal, it's probably healed by now.

But it hasn't. In fact, it's so bad now you don't even recognise it. She draws back, a sharp intake of breath, but it's drowned out by your own. You stare at it in horror. Why didn't it hurt? It hurts now, though, making up for lost time. You can feel it throbbing under the unnatural swelling & colour palette that only be described as "sickness". The doctor says something you can't hear. What? "You need to go to a hospital," she says again. Your heart is thudding in your chest now. Hospital? It's just a scratch! It's a bit out of hand, sure, but can't she just give you something? No, she's very insistent. But you had things to do that evening, you were really looking forward to ordering some food & watching a few episodes of...whatever it was you'd wanted to watch. Not go to a hospital. You hate hospitals, they're full of sick people.

You thank her, & get up to leave, but she blocks your path. Suddenly, the world is different. You're trapped, now. You know that the longer this goes on, the harder it will be to get out. You move to step around her, put she puts her arm out. The movement is gentle, but now to leave you'll have to escalate the situation. Now violence exists in a way it hadn't before. You lock eyes with her. You only have a second to decide. If you hesitate, your life is no longer your own. You're a patient. You're a problem that someone else is going to fix. Decide, now.


This is what "crashing" is like. Some small thing someone says to you, or a mistake you make, or an awkward interaction, a harsh word, some small thing not panning out the way you'd hoped. You don't even notice it among the hundred things that happened to you that day, but it does something it shouldn't have, & it sucks away your positivity, like a tiny hole at the bottom of a jug of water. A slow trickle at first, but the draw starts to affect the entire body, slowly transforming it into a whirlpool that drags everything downwards.

It's something so small you can't really explain it, like someone explaining they're in the ICU for a papercut. It just sounds stupid, & doesn't call attention to the actual problem. Worse, the person who handed you the piece of paper will inevitably try to blame themselves for your predicament - the plight of the patient is that their agency is removed. Something as innocuous as handing someone a piece of paper causes guilt, which isn't what you want. You wish you'd done something about it sooner, but you didn't even realise it was there, how could you have fixed it? By the time you recognised the harm, it was already too late to do anything about it.

Worse still are the people who insist that it "must have been something else." Something so harmful can't be from such a tiny injury. They, & everyone else, deal with that sort of thing all the time. So do you, you insist, just this time it- they don't really listen, though. They assume your incompetence so abnormal you must be oblivious to the more obvious cause. Or they do listen, & suddenly you're the guy who can't handle a papercut. This is why you didn't want to deal with it in the first place, & you know what, you were right not to, in a way.

So the next time you get some small wound, something not really worth noticing, you're even less inclined to deal with it. You just want to get back to normal, back to the way things were. You push it out of your mind & keep going, back to normal, back to normal. Next time it happens, you're more careful to hide the wound from people. Don't want a repeat of last time, gotta get back to normal!

If the cycle repeats itself enough times, it becomes banal as any other routine. You start to expect it, and you stop trying to "get back to normal." In fact, you're pretty sure there never was a "normal" for you to get back to. This is just life, now, a constant rise & fall of mood where every period of "normal" is inevitably punctured, that same whirlpool forms in your consciousness, draining away your joy. It's boring, now, the process unfolding with a tedious inevitability, becoming more & more refined until the turnaround is measured in months, then weeks, then days.

Eventually, you learn not to try to be "too happy," because the better you feel, the harder you're going to crash. Life stops being about achieving your dreams, following your high hopes, being all you can be, it becomes about managing your next crash. It becomes automatic, like any boring thing, you don't even need to think about it. Don't hope for things. Don't be happy about things. Don't fly too high. Everything you achieve or attain for yourself is dangerous. People wonder why you never seem happy, tell you to cheer up, & you smile & nod enough for them to leave you alone.

"Cheering up" is for other people.

Tuesday, 7 April 2015

Vani Hari & the social responsibility of scientists

This is a response to this fantastic take-down of Vani Hari, aka The Food Babe, which you should definitely read.

First off, it should go without saying that this woman is a charlatan & a liar, & I hope she gets fired out of a cannon. That said, as is my tradition I'm going to take a non-obvious approach and say that her idiotic productions are actually kind of good.

How is it good to exploit unfortunate morons? Some might be tempted to take a kind of schadenfreude from seeing idiots get exploited. I'm one of those people, but this kind of smug privilege should be resisted at all costs. Not everyone has the good fortune to be educated in science, not everyone has the background to know why scary-sounding chemicals aren't that scary. You, as someone who DOES know this stuff, have a RESPONSIBILITY to help other people understand it, not stand at the sidelines like a smug asshole grinning at poor shmucks who buy into hucksterism.

So why is it good? Well, it goads scientists into lowering themselves into the slums of the common people, again. This piece is a FANTASTIC take down, not because it marshals facts & whatnot, but because it's well-written, accessible, & carries the appropriate level of sneering disdain. THAT is how you communicate with a general audience, not with the lofty, authoritarian tones of the ivory tower, or the stale, purified jargon of the laboratory. Those dialects have their place, but when it comes to the RESPONSIBILITY of the educated to inform the uneducated, you aren't doing charity. You're doing your duty, and part of that duty is ensuring you're understood. This Gawker piece is understandable, it's approachable, it's entertaining & it feels like it's worth reading. It does talk down, but not to the reader, it talks down to the unethical slimeball it's refuting.

What irritates a lot of people about the scientific community is its sneering, exasperated elitism. I have a LOT of affinity for sneering AND elitism, but after a few years of painfully listening to idiots I understand where they're coming from, and they have a point. They're basically trying to impart what I've said above, that leaning on your privileged education & expecting it to automatically convey authority is bullshit. Saying a bunch of words you know damn well your audience won't understand, then rolling your eyes and snapping "VACCINES GOOD. CLIMATE CHANGE BAD. Let me know when it sinks in you fucking idiots" doesn't let people know you're an expert, it lets them know you're a fuckwit.

So, what's wrong with expecting to be taken seriously as an expert? Science is a profession, one that takes many, many years of intense study. If you decide to eschew that kind of labour in favour of doing some half-assed bullshit like learning a TRADE, or raising a FAMILY, why should hard-working scientists have to learn to dilute their knowledge so it can be effectively communicated in populist terms? Don't people have a responsibility to educate themselves, if not to the level of actual scientists, then sufficiently so they can at least understand them?

No, they don't, and part of the reason why is excellently demonstrated by Vani Hari here, which is why this whole thing is kind of good. In short, the language of science is so steeped in exclusionary lingo that it's almost impossible for the under-educated to distinguish good science from bad. "But science is extremely precise!" I hear the scientists opine, & they're right. I believe science needs its complicated, extremely precise terminology & methods. Scientific inquiry, after 1000s of years of compounding development, needs to be exhaustively detailed & precise.

So there's an impasse here. Science is inaccessible, and into this uncertainty creeps assholes like Hari, who put on the veneer of popular science language to basically make shit up, trading on that most popular of human emotions, terrified aversion to the unknown. The unknown quality of science, NO MATTER HOW NECESSARY, is the responsibility of the scientific community to address. Science is done on the behalf of our entire species, that is the conceit the scientific community has adopted for itself, and I applaud it without reservation. It is the proper comportment for a scientific community, and indeed for any community. It is a truly inspiring brand of humanism.

However, saying it is one thing, actually doing it is another. Actually DOING science for humanity's sake means ensuring your insights are actually accessible to humanity, including the pesky humans that aren't scientifically literate. This means work, difficult work that scientists have spent their careers not learning, and in fact dismissing as an irrelevant distraction. It means writing well, it means debating, it means (and this is the most galling part) PERFORMING. Making people believe something means making it understandable, making it plausible, whilst maintaining your authority. This Gawker piece is an excellent example of one way to do that.

Another way to do that, which I do NOT like, is the semi-religious grossness of productions like Cosmos, or books like Richard Dawkins' The Greatest Show On Earth. These productions are steeped in the elitism of scientists as lofty geniuses, as truth-givers from on high, bedazzling us with spaceships & fascinating but totally irrelevant insights about bizarre distant environments & abstracted materialist philosophies about the nature of matter. It's fucking prestidigitation, an insulting spectacle of graphics & sound designed to make scientists look like wizards rather than the dedicated, often working class professionals they actually are.

Aside from how insulting it is, it's ultimately not functional for what it needs to do. The spectacle of the "gentleman scientist" like Dwakins or DeGrasse Tyson is easily replicated & turned to any ideological mission, as Dwakins himself has demonstrated with his one-man theological religious crusade against traditional spirituality. He's no different from Vani Hari, using the language of science to sell books to the gullible. Fuck that noise. It's little wonder that this language is appropriated by accessible, actually LIKABLE people such as Vani Hari. It's little wonder that people are more than willing to take heed of a "scientist" who doesn't ooze elitist smarm or constant exasperation with the ignorance of the morons around her.

I still, almost daily, on Twitter & elsewhere, hear scientists bemoaning the hubris of the humanities for trying to explain the social role of science to scientists. These are the same people who also whine endlessly that their warnings about climate change & GM crops & vaccines & 100 other things fall constantly on deaf ears. They also take umbrage at people like Vani Hari appropriating the veneer of their disciplines to make a few bucks at the expense of people's ignorance. Well, their ignorance is your responsibility. If your science is merely a way for you to get paid, that's fine, but then you're no different to any lawyer or other career professional, and people have no greater cause to treat your work with automatic respect. If it's merely a personal labour of love, then it's a hobby, and again is of no automatic relevance to anyone else. If it is a social DUTY, an undertaking for the betterment of all mankind, then that lofty ideal carries with it responsibility. A responsibility to communicate truths effectively, to educate the uneducated, and to protect your authority from appropriation by charlatans.

This means, like it or not, expressing yourself in a way that can be understood by those without a science background, eg most of humanity. That is a responsibility the trappings of scientific endeavour are bound up with. Either take it seriously, even if that requires sullying yourself with the concerns of the humanities, or abandon it entirely & join the ranks of the working class professionals, & leave the determination of truth to the democratic populism of politics. Just don't start fucking moaning when nobody heeds your dire warnings, because I don't know if you've turned on the television lately but EVERYONE has a dire warning about some shit or other. The word of scientists carry automatic weight, and that's the way it should be, but the word of scientists is only useful if it can be understood. If you don't know how to do that, I've got some good news: I know a shitload of underemployed humanities graduates who would just love to help you guys out.

Thursday, 4 December 2014

Atheist Reformation

My short but violent road to renouncing my ideological commitment to neo-atheism was not an easy one. I didn't like it for a long time, & then once my experiences & education forced me to accept it, I sought some way to make a compromise, but there was precious little compromise to be had. Ultimately, I had to abandon it wholesale. My atheism is now nothing more that a shallow grave where the part of me that could have had faith in something is buried.

Neo-atheism isn't just a disavowal of the currently-popular organised religions, any more than being an anarchist merely requires not voting for major political parties. It is a repudiation of the very possibility of these ideas, in much the same way an anarchist resists the very possibility of centralised government. Neo-atheism is a reaction against the very notion of faith, the possibility of extending possibility to anything that isn't physically measurable. I never understood the hold-outs who expressed some kind of "agnosticism." I regarded it to be some kind of ideological or metaphysical bet-hedging, but in reality it's just atheism without the zealotry.

Now I'm left with faith in nothing but the measurable, the visible, & the narrowly possible. In essence, the domains of the physical sciences. There is no wonder here, no possibility, no real cause for hope. "Maybe there's something wondrous out there?" The atheist ponders, staring into the vacuum of space in a crude aping of spiritual rapture - seeking hope in the most hostile, anti-human environment outside of an active volcano - all the while unavoidably reflecting on their own inability to think beyond such a limited scope of potential, & pretending this limitation makes them superior. This is little different to the priest who take a vow of celibacy, & fashions this lost element of their humanity as a sign of superior dedication. And it is! It is a symbol of their dedication to God, & the ideals that He represents. What is the atheist sacrificing their faith in service to? What kind of dedication are they enacting?

For me, I guess it was mostly that I wanted to be dedicated to something, but faith is embarrassing when you've the limited imagination of the materialist. Things that don't make material sense are, after all, "magic" - stories for children. I didn't want to be a children. Also, as a reactionary progressive by nature, the stale conservatism of Christianity was a serious turn-off. Community itself was also never an attraction to me. Nevertheless, I longed for metaphysics, without even knowing what the concept meant.

Unfortunately, "more physics" is by far the least uplifting, enlightening, spiritual, or interesting form of metaphysics humanity has come up with. Only the dustbowl marriage of liberal capitalism to its corpse bride of scientistic Enlightenment could birth such a bankrupt understanding of the universe. And sure enough, as explained by James Hennessy in this Jacobin article more expertly than I could have, the interests of liberal capitalism & neo-atheism align almost in spite of themselves. What matters is not that Sam Harris is a bloodthirsty sociopath, or that Dwakins is a simpleton, or that Hitchens was as eloquent an apologist for imperialist authority as Kissinger. What matters is that their core beliefs - their total lack of faith in anything grander than dirt - is like a waterslide that, scrabble though they might, inevitably dumps them into a materialistic brutality.

Whatever good intentions these men might have, whatever the good character of ideological neo-atheists or militant anti-theists or whatever you want to call them, your metaphysical beliefs - what you place your faith in - is what protects you from the brutish & hollow realities of a universe governed by selective forces, by energy reacting to simple laws, by meat things rubbing up against each other.

I no longer have much truck with criticising the fundamental metaphysics of others. Their politics, sure, but even when I can see those politics stemming directly from their metaphysical assumptions - as is the case with Hitchens, Dwakins, et al - challenging those beliefs is a waste of time. Beyond that, a war over metaphysics is a permanent war, it's a war on a certain type of person, not a particular belief or a resource or some political grievance. I prefer to keep conflicts as specific as possible. Political struggles are difficult enough without expanding their scope outwards to include more or less everything of substance about a person.

So then why am I doing so right now, in this very post? Because these are my beliefs. Atheism, for better or worse, is my metaphysic - an empty hole where my faith should be. It is my religion, & I will criticise its doctrines as I see fit, with the righteous zeal of any True Believer. Not merely because I'm allowed to, but because to do so is my responsibility. No one properly understands the hollow emptiness of atheism without fully accepting it into their heart. Without living it, without letting it form the basis for your understanding of every thing, you have no basis to critique it to the depth that I can. It is, at its core, utterly nihilistic - it preaches that with our deaths, everything about our selves will be permanently extinguished, that we are nothing more than animated meat, following a series of biological impulses, chemical reactions, & physical laws.

There's a profound self-hate to this doctrine, an automatic misery that applies to all aspects of life that most of us cope with by simply pretending it isn't there. Some take solace in their intellectual superiority, like a priest taking pride in his willpower to abstain from sex. Others use what I call the YOLO Doctrine, which is to simply live this life to the Max & pretend that when death comes, they won't be gripped with the Fear. This is no ordinary fear, either. This is the despairing, immiserating Fear of oblivion that moved Lovecraft to write his Cthulian horrors - implacable & unknowable, a direct repudiation of the rationalist order that the Enlightenment respected above all else, & which justifies the neo-atheists in their lack of metaphysical imagination. The absolute nothingness of non-material existence.

No matter how much you learn about the materials of the universe, no matter how far you look into the cosmos, no matter how deep into the space between particles or into the possibilities of mathematics you go, you can never reach beyond the Cthulian nightmares occupying the darkness beyond What You Can Know. They represent oblivion, the inescapable final destination for the death-cultists of the New Atheism. Dwakins derides the Christian God as a "god of the gaps", as it were, as the convenient filler explanation for any uncertainty. Because Dwakins is an idiot, & his fellow atheists are also idiots, we fail to understand: as you stare into the nothingness of those gaps, the nothingness stares back into you. Christians aren't afraid of ignorance, they're afraid of becoming monsters. They're afraid of becoming Atheists.

Nietzsche foretold our coming, & he saw in us a chance to rise above the weaknesses of Christianity's compassion & privileging of the weak. So far, as the guiding metaphysicians of Western imperialism, we atheists have done our job well. We chase child-molesting pastors with an Inquisitorial glee, all the while indifferently dropping cluster-bombs on children & drowning refugees in the ocean, knowing full well no higher authority will ever hold us to account. It is no coincidence that Sam Harris' atheism lets him talk calmly about turning Saudi Arabia into a bowl of glass - that is what his beliefs have conditioned him to do. For the atheist, death is the great equaliser, its inevitability divorcing it from any possibility of tragedy. It is an escape from responsibility, not an arrival at judgment. It is also, perhaps most distastefully, what allows our leaders to commit these atrocities with their mouths full of scripture. In a secular society, there is nothing to fear from religious heresy.

With no God to judge us, nothing is true, & everything is permitted. So we sit in our tiny secular universe, devoid of wonder or possibility, reflecting on horrors from the mechanised hell of the Holocaust, to the destructive wizardry of nuclear weapons, to the clinical terror of long-range missile strikes, to the detached banality of drone assassinations, and we wonder - why are things so awful? Why can't we address climate change? Why do all these religious people hate us so much? Why am I so depressed even though I did everything I was supposed to do? There are holes in us that no amount of sugary foods or internet pornography or exquisitely-produced melodrama can fill.

The most chilling part of this ignorance is its genuineness, which I can attest because I feel it too. I don't feel like, in order to be moral, I need the guidance of some higher being threatening me with punishments or tempting me with rewards. The thing is, though - and this is something Christians can't really say, so I'll say it for them - you do. You clearly do, because your behaviour is monstrous beyond anything committed in the history of time. The scale on which we deal death is quite literally without parallel, and it scarcely seems to register with us at all. For the atheist, death is a terrifying inevitability, & we don't want to think about it, so we don't. For the atheist, killing an "insurgent" via a video game attached to a killer robot is, ultimately, just turning a clock forward 10, 20, 40 years. Death comes for us all - you'd like it to be later rather than sooner, but beyond that...we're all just dust, on a long enough timeline.

It takes concepts like ensoulment & divine judgment to make us think of anything beyond that, and these are concepts that you can't internalise simply on the basis of utility. Sure, they might be useful from a cultural perspective - I pontificate as my democratically elected leader sends my fellow Australians to Iraq to kill brown people I know nothing about - but that doesn't restore my ability to be spiritual or whatever. That nerve cluster was long ago severed & cauterised in the searing-hot rhetoric of the neo-atheist writers who oversaw my intellectual awakening. So what am I supposed to do now?

I honestly don't know, but at the very least we need to confront the reality: secular atheism has left us morally bankrupt, entirely at the mercy of imperialist forces of capitalist materialism & scientistic rationalism. The wonder is stripped from our lives & replaced with plastic toys & bright murder simulators, & anything more meaningful than negative gearing is met with the weary disinterest of people who truly believe they are headed to an inescapable oblivion either way, where everything they care about will vanish to such a totalising extent they can't even imagine it. It's time we confronted, honestly, the reality of our terrifying death-driven metaphysic, & give some serious intellectual effort to a Reformation of our own.

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

The Political Reality

I've been talking about "winning and losing" in politics, which is a concept I understand intuitively. For many, that seems very abstracted & too simple. How can such an understanding of political struggle translate into actual events?

Let's hear from Adam Brereton, who's forgotten more about Australian politics than I'll ever know. He wrote this amazing piece after the last election, about the function of Cory Bernardi's ridiculous tome "The Conservative Revolution" as a victory cry for Australian conservatism. If you want a copy of the book to read for yourself, paperbacks on Amazon start at 38 cents, but you can get the gist from Brereton's column.

The habit I've observed in many of my fellow Australians - of viewing ideological conflict as a side-show that plays out on the margins of things that actually matter - strikes me as the greatest asset of our era's revolutionaries. The policies of government, even at their most obligatory or banal, are more important than you, your career, your safety, your assets, & your relationships. Whether you voted for them or not, every decision that gets enacted is the focused will of 27-odd million people. These decisions create the world we live in, in a more profound way than has ever been true before.

Next to these decisions, your individuality is meaningless. Many are awed by the vastness of space, but that empty vacuum is of vanishing importance in comparison to the focused intent of that many human beings. Framing the individual as sovereign, painting politics as childish wrangling among idiots, presenting the movements of capital as mysterious & explicable only to experts, these idioms allow your will to be directed - along with everyone else's - to serve the interests of a powerful few. They are all misdirection designed to maintain power, not for evil, or for good. Just FOR those who can control it. This isn't a conspiracy, it's just governance.

Contrary to what our discourse encourages you to believe, you don't have to sacrifice everything to demand what's right. When a white man tells you that your way of life is threatened by a few hundred asylum seekers wanting to live on a continent with an average of less than one person per square kilometer, you know that's a lie. An intelligent mind asks "but what if I'm wrong?", and a clever leader uses that self-reflection to paralyse moral reasoning. After a lifetime of this, you can barely recall what a moral imperative is. Your fearful self-doubt is a security blanket - it's never led you wrong before, and the consequences for a wrong decision could snuff out everything you've worked for. You're merely being cautious, patient, even-handed, waiting until the facts are in. In reality, you're making excuses for your indifference, while others suffer. A parking fine you didn't earn will throw you into a rage, but an innocent man dying in jail at the hands of police is just a harsh reality of life. Some part of you knows these things don't add up, but it must be reality, because it's What's Always Happened.

It isn't you who gets harmed by your inaction. You're rewarded for it with security, stability, comforts. All you have to do is remain too uncertain of yourself to draw a line, to say "you will not do this. We demand it, and you will comply."

I'm not trying to move you to some dangerous radical activity. Like me, you'll only take risks when you need to. What would you do, anyway? Throw a bin at a cop? Write an angry letter? Donate to a political party? I don't even know, but I'm not interested in whipping you into a frenzy anyway. All I want you to do is pay attention. Know what's happening, teach yourself to exercise your own moral principles, to react with disgust & outrage; the most primal human responses. Do this, so that when your friends & family ask you "does this seem wrong to you" instead of automatically falling back on "who knows" or "I'm not sure" or "I don't really care about politics," you can guide them, behave like a citizen of a nation, instead of being yet another example of the normality of ignorance & apathy, cowed by condescending talk of complexity & dire consequences.

Don't mistake the comfortable continuity of your own life for a lack of change in the nation, or the world. Things are are changing more quickly than they ever have. Revolutions used to play out in gutters red with the blood of patriots in the capital, while everywhere else life continued more or less as normal. Now, a momentary failure of political will in the capital (safely removed from major populated areas, as it was designed to be) sees drastic changes across the entire continent. These changes take hold in a matter of weeks, not decades. No marching armies, no pockets of resistance, no messages carried across country on horseback, no communal bonds of shared history telling you you have every right to resist. Just a handful of white people raising their hand, and people go to jail, can't register their car, are deported from their country, can't get food, can't pay rent. You can no longer opt out of society like our ancestors could. Now, all politics is for keeps, and every change matters to everyone.

History is written by those who show up. Cory Bernardi has written his version of history - do you know what it is? Do you care? You don't like Tony Abbott's decisions, but do you know why he makes them? Could you tell someone why they're wrong? Why not? What is happening in your life that you think is more important than understanding these issues? When you dismiss someone like me who swears & shouts & calls for change, as being unhinged & unstable & lacking perspective, why is that? Why don't you care as well? What makes your calm indifference wiser than my insistent attentiveness?

When you read history, it's a history of politics. That's what in the books - who fought whom, what treaties were signed, who got assassinated, who won the election, where the borders were redrawn. Our lifetime won't be any different. What makes you think you're in a position to ignore these changes? At what moment in recent history do you think these things ceased to matter? Was it around the time telecommunication allowed changes to be enacted remotely, instantaneously? Or was it the time everyone became instantly connected to the minutia of everyone else's life, 24/7? Was it when wars started being fought via remote control from the other side of the world? Was it when we discovered that every inch of the globe had finally been revealed to us, that there were no more worlds to conquer? Perhaps it was it when we realised our very presence was ruining a planet that for our entire history was assumed to be infinite?

Politics is real, it's for keeps, & it's happening every day with a frankly miserable relentlessness. Cory Bernardi knows this, & it fills him with a revolutionary zeal. It doesn't matter than he's a sniveling immoral idiot - he turned up, he joined the winning team, he wrote the version of history that suits him. You can't be bothered reading 2000 words, meanwhile he wrote 200 pages intended to motivate & direct a new generation of political agents. And if he's lucky, 50 years from now, school children will read some version of it.

Everything around you compels you to go to work, to keep your head down, to buy the things you like because you deserve them. Everything around you compels you to avoid the morass of politics that is 90% boring & 10% horrible, & seemingly too massive for you to influence. What are you, compared to 27 million? You misunderstand - Australia doesn't exist to serve you. You exist to serve it, and in so doing, hopefully have the privilege of seeing your will reflected in the world around you. That's what gets Cory Bernardi out of bed every morning. But you don't have a lifetime to dedicate to leadership, like Cory Bernardi does. You have other priorities, so all you can do is pay attention, make demands, be informed, and don't look the other way when someone says or does something wrong.

You'll lose friends, you'll get upset, you'll have a bad time. None of that matters. Nothing you ever do will matter as much as one of the decisions these unqualified sociopaths make every time Parliament is in session. The matter deserves your attention - indeed, your emotional investment. No one's asking you to go to jail, or fall on a bayonet, or burn down a building, yet these are all things men & women have done throughout history for countries lesser than ours, sometimes with the stakes much lower.

All you have to do is pay attention, and treat politics with the respect it deserves. You just have to care about it, because it matters. You don't even have to read Cory Bernardi's nauseating book, & contrary to popular belief, you don't even have to vote.

By and large, people are right when they say only the deranged care about politics, but this should alarm you rather than move you to idle indifference. Politics is not beneath you, you are beneath politics. We all are, and if we don't take part meaningfully, it'll roll right over us and build us a future we spend the rest of our lives despising.

Friday, 21 November 2014

Inherited Entitlement Brings Out The Worst In Us

[This article is an experiment in writing in a particular style, one which I don't especially admire. It shouldn't be taken as representative of my views necessarily, & certainly not of how I write.]

As a child, my white anglo-saxon protestant grandparents served as an excellent counter-point to my white anglo-saxon parents. However, as I grow older and the time approaches for me to have children of my own, I lament the new generation of grandparents as they increasingly fail to live up to the high bar set by the Greatest Generation.

They weren't always perfect, with their casual racism and gender essentialism, but they were colourful characters, possessing a kind of black-and-white morality mixed with almost pagan ideals about virtue. World War II gave them a strange mixture of optimism and pessimism - anything was possible, but at the same time the entire banking system could collapse at any moment. They were stoic, no-nonsense people who taught me the value of respecting my superiors and of unfailing politeness, yet would frequently have a couple of whiskeys at the senior's bar & start singing bawdy songs at the top of their lungs. These contradictory attitudes and behaviours helped me understand that nobody is ever one thing, that even the most white-bread battle-hardened patriot was a patchwork of virtues and flaws, jostling each other to create people who always focused on doing what was right for their family and country. Their approach never made much sense to me, as a child more interested in my Game Boy than stories of the horrors of war, but I learned from them all the same.

I look at their replacements, the so-called " Baby Boomers", and despair. Gone is the world-wearied wisdom of their predecessors, replaced with an endless, high-pitched narcissistic whine about negative gearing and the cost of immigration. Don't get me wrong, my grandparents' generation could be racist as hell, but their racism had a purity to it - a genuine belief that some people were just Better. I never thought I'd come to view this kind of prejudice with the rose-tinted spectacles of nostalgia, but the Boomers have found a way: by framing their own particular brand of self-aggrandising racism in economic terms.

Non-white immigrants, for Boomers, aren't a problem because of differing cultural beliefs, or even an absence of Good Breeding, but instead by presenting an imaginary economic burden. Immigrants are stealing jobs, costing valuable tax dollars, having anchor babies all over the place. This self-interest is the most tiring kind of racism I can think of. Gone are the spurious virtue-based justifications for xenophobia, replaced with the cold, detached greed of the bean-counter. What kind of example is this going to set for my own children? Reducing people to mere economic inconvenience? For my grandparents, the threat presented by the Other was existential. For the Boomers, they're an unacceptable dent in the bottom line.

How can these Boomers be trusted to offer my children a useful counter-point to my own values, as my grandparents did for me? While us sorry Millenials struggle with the tribulations of actual economic difficulty, of a depressed job market and skyrocketing rates of mental illness, how can these self-interested martyrs be relied upon to teach a new generation the harsh lessons of history? My grandparents' generation derived their understanding of suffering from tank warfare, from the Kokoda Track, from the Depression. Boomers are haunted instead by the spectre of The Youth failing to surrender their seat on the train, or having their headphones turned up too loud. The Greatest Generation taught me that unimaginable sacrifices could be made in the interests of safety and prosperity, that you could survive the most lethal circumstances and go on to live an exciting life where every moment is a miraculous gift. The Boomers, inheritors of this hard-won prosperity, will teach my children that even if you have three investment properties it's an unacceptable affront for unemployed youth to expect the kind of free education they enjoyed in the '70s.

If this is the kind of example my children can expect, I despair for the future. Boomers have no concept of responsibility, no concept of hardship. They're softened by technology, with one hand out grasping for middle-class welfare while the other taps an email to The Australian demanding we close our borders to those suffering overseas. The Greatest Generation understood all too well the realities of war, but these Boomers consider refugees nothing more than a cost-benefit analysis that doesn't weigh sufficiently in their favour.

My grandparents didn't teach me to be a racist - my own parents were on hand to put that particular nonsense in its context. They did, however, teach me spiritual lessons. What it means to be an Australian, what it means to pay the cost for prosperity in blood and suffering. What are the Boomers going to teach their grandchildren? To view people as economic inconveniences, to treat young people with scorn for failing to enact the same courtesies their parents earned, and they expect to inherit with no effort? This concept of inherited entitlement is at the core of the Boomer ideology: a constant, justified fear that their own example has failed to garner them the same respect their parents earned the hard way. The Greatest Generation died in droves to ensure their children would have safe access to free education, but Boomers balk at merely paying their taxes. This isn't the example I want set for my children.

I see little reason to hope for improvement. Boomer entitlement is a pervasive influence in our national media, and as my children grow up and use their technology to access their national discourse, I fear they'll be wired-in 24/7 to a narrative of petty economic wrangling and political self-interest. They won't be fooled by the smokescreen of endless think-pieces about public transport etiquette and the ways sharing photos will somehow un-make our presumably excellent national character, but the underlying message will seep in: Australians are greedy, self-absorbed narcissists, inheriting an unearned prosperity that exists only to be squandered, while ensuring none of it is shared with those experiencing real hardship.

My message to these Boomers is simple: grow up, and start taking your responsibilities seriously. Put down your stock portfolios and cease this empty-headed staring at the Murdoch press. Your country is decaying under your sorry influence, and your grandchildren deserve the same kind of gravitas and depth I was fortunate to absorb from my grandparents' generation. Worry less about where young people sit on the train, and more about how they're going to retire after a lifetime with no job security. Stop talking about selfies, and start talking about a lifetime of student debt.

And for crying out loud, stop being suckered by chain emails. You're embarrassing everyone.

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Double-Speak

I want to highlight a popular mode of contemporary double-speak, exemplified in this short Guardian piece by one Peter Preston. He's bemoaning that John Oliver airs his show Last Week Tonight with John Oliver on the US' HBO, rather than on a British broadcaster, from which political satire apparently originates. That's fine. He then suggests this came about because British broadcasters have no stomach for "digging the boot in" & speaking truth to power, which is also fine.

The clever ruse at play here is the attribution of Britain's satirical cowardice to an environment of "huff-puff, humourless outrage", or what we in Australia refer to as "political correctness gone mad". The prestidigitation is to present John Oliver's success as caused (or at least enabled somehow) by American culture's more-relaxed attitude towards politically oppressive speech. He offers some examples of the "problem" at work in recent British discourse:

Jeremy Clarkson receives a "final warning" from the BBC for mumbling the n-word in 2012.

The BBC's apology for Iain Lee's casual racism on his breakfast program.

The Daily Mail lambasting Sandi Toksvig for comparing to Ed Miliband to a terminally ill child.

This is a patently idiotic position to take if one knows anything at all about the cultures of these two places, which is why he doesn't say it directly; his statements refer instead to a more-general absence of "bite" in British political satire that renders it lame next to the likes of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. His examples, however, all uniformly involve examples of institutional backlash against insensitive speech.

Aside from being factually ridiculous from a cultural standpoint, this shamelessly dishonest commentary paints over Oliver's total aversion to insensitive speech of exactly this sort, and the numerous examples of American satirists - such as Stephen Colbert of The Colbert Report - being harshly criticised by the public for insensitive speech. John Oliver has indeed demonstrated a masterful ability to deliver timely and hilarious political satire, but he has done so uniformly without straying into the kind of casual denigration of minorities that has plagued vacuous, irrelevant dinosaurs like Jeremy Clarkson or frat-boy misogynists like Daniel Tosh.

This is the double-speak that ossified champions of lazy mainstream maligning of minorities resort to in 2014. "Look how much I love progressive, popular acts like John Oliver" they announce to establish their connection to a time post-1990, "sure would be nice if Britain allowed casual racism huh" comes the completely non-sequitur follow-up. This is not only utter nonsense when spelled out clearly, it's also a slimy attempt to "claim" John Oliver as one of their ilk of rapidly-aging buffoons. In reality Oliver obviously goes to considerable lengths to avoid speaking insensitively, despite his platform on HBO offering him an opportunity to do so.

Herein lies the actual reason John Oliver is a rising star of political satire and Jeremy Clarkson is Britain's most widely-exported non-lethal embarrassment. While Clarkson clings to a simpler age when the absence of social media protected celebs from the consequences of their toxic casual racism (along with more serious crimes), Oliver instead navigates the new age of public accountability via an ingeniously simple method: he just doesn't act like a disgusting piece of shit. While Peter Preston may share Clarkson's view that refraining from racist or sexist speech is so difficult that "even the angel Gabriel would struggle to survive with [it] hanging over his head," figures like Oliver give the lie to their shrill whine that moving with the times is impossibly difficult whilst still managing to be humorous and critical.

So now they resort to desperate co-option of those who succeed without indulging in the moral shortcomings of entertainers past. Don't fall for this rhetorical misdirection: the downwards-punching cowardice of British (and Australian!) comedy is far more detrimental to its success than the rapidly-burgeoning public insistence on political correctness. The "we just need to convince the public it's OK to be racist again!" crowd of decaying social warriors are on the wrong side of history. Disembark from their doomed bandwagon now, while you still have any credibility left! Complaining about political correctness is going to be the future equivalent of your racist grandparent who complains there are "too many black people on television these days."