Monday, October 31, 2005

We are all suicide bombers now

There’s an interesting story about the alleged London suicide bombers in the Independent today

During a training seminar a Metropolitan Police anti-terrorism expert is quoted as warning fellow officers that terrorists now look and behave just like normal people going about their normal business…

As an example the unnamed official told delegates that Tanweer argued with a cashier that he had been short changed, after stopping off at a petrol station on his way to the intended target in London.

The official told the seminar held in Preston, Lancashire two weeks ago: "This is not the behaviour of a terrorist - you'd think this is normal.

"Tanweer also played a game of cricket the night before he travelled down to London - now are these the actions of someone who is going to blow themselves up the next day?

Me! Me! Me! I know the answer.

Cynical old scrotes like myself see this as part of the next stage of manipulating the 7/7 story. A very similar process took place after the 9/11 attacks. Uncorroborated assertions and rationalisations for apparently inexplicable behaviour are trickled into the public domain to consolidate the ‘official’ story; cementing it into the public consciousness. The most important thing is to ensure that these little titbits are never subject to any serious scrutiny.

The BBC did its part last week by airing a show called The 7/7 Bombers: A Psychological Investigation’. The clever part was showing this programme as part of the Horizon science documentary series. And, as we all know, scientists never bullshit and always stick to the facts.

Viewers were treated to fifty minutes of psychobabble that retrospectively fitted the actions of the 7/7 bombers to the official story. It was truly shameful. Whenever one of the bombers was on record as behaving like an innocent person that was due to their ‘discipline and training’ when they did apparently act suspiciously that was because the ‘strain was starting to show’. The entire exercise was reminiscent of that old Vietnam joke…

If he runs he’s VC. If he stands still he’s well disciplined VC

The most chilling conclusion of the programme coincided with the implication of today’s Independent story. The new breed of suicide bombers is indistinguishable from normal citizens. Their terrorist cells can form spontaneously and may have no contact with outside groups. There’s no way of picking them out.

This is the new dogma that is now being fed to people in the UK.

Part of me still thinks I’ll wake up one day to discover this has all been just a nasty little nightmare and Britain is sane again.

On top of the pseudo-scientific bullshit the BBC show also chipped in a few explanations for some of the oddities of 7/7 that the police haven’t got round to clarifying.

Oddities like, why did the suicide bombers buy parking tickets for their cars? A psychologist came on screen and explained, scientifically, that was because they didn’t want to draw attention to themselves by not paying the parking fee. Sadly, he didn’t go on to explain why the bombers a) bought return rail tickets or b) drove to Luton in the first place, when they could have taken the train to London directly from home.

The programme also repeated the timeline that has the bombers catching the 7.48am train to London. The problem with that is that the 7.48am was delayed and didn’t get into London in time to have carried out the attacks. Back in July, some newspapers reported the bombers caught the 7.40am, but that train had been cancelled.

The programme also managed to fully account for the motivations of the alleged 7/7 bombers without making any reference to Iraq whatsoever which, in itself, was quite an achievement on the part of the programme makers,

This behaviour is reminiscent of the treatment of some of the events of 9/11. Almost without exception, the mainstream media has forgotten that three buildings collapsed that day – the Twin Towers and WTC7. The collapse of WTC7 is quite problematic as it wasn’t hit by an aircraft and suffered only superficial secondary damage. The kind of damage that doesn’t cause 47 storey buildings to spontaneously collapse.

And the media’s treatment of the WTC7 collapse? It just doesn’t talk about it. Ditto for the sheer improbability of two of the hijackers’ passports being hurled out of the blazing planes onto the streets below and, unlike the aircraft black boxes, being recovered a few days later. The papers just didn’t touch it.

The failure to discuss WTC7 is the straw that broke the camel’s back when it came to my personal attitude to the mainstream media. If you can effectively write something as large as that out of history you can do anything. Luton train times and suicide bombers buying return tickets are fly shit in comparison.

Early last week the news outlets were full of the story that George Galloway had, yet again, been accused of corruption by a US senator.

What struck me most was the subliminal, and universal, suggestion of Galloway’s guilt in the coverage. This is in spite of the fact that he has gone to court, and won, a libel action concerning these matters. Jon Snow the anchor of Channel 4 News, for example, gave Galloway an absolute grilling; interrupting Galloway’s answers almost as a soon a Galloway started speaking and summarising the story with lines like

‘If Galloway is found GUILTY he could be sentenced to up to ten years in jail’

All the other news organisations said similar and managed to work the word guilty in most of the time. What none of them said was…

‘If Galloway is found INNOCENT that means a US senator is using forged material in an attempt to get an elected British MP jailed’

I mention all of this because at the end of the week on More4, Channel 4’s digital spin off, Jon Snow pointed out that US senators accusing George Galloway of corrupt dealings with the Iraq regime was intensely hypocritical when you consider that, in the same week, a UN report accused 2,000+ companies of doing the same. Roughly half are American and some have already owned up.

So, that suggests to me that at least some journalists are intelligent enough to know that they’re shovelling shit but only feel comfortable enough to comment on it when they don’t think many people are listening

Hmmmm… I really don’t know what’s worse, being an idiot or being a whore.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

This post is a Mr Sulu 'needing more thrust' joke free zone

NB In keeping with my new hip, trendy image designed to encourage yoof readers, elements of this post will be written in Internet Leet Speak. I will also mention how cool my iPod is at least once

I’m a big Star Trek fan.

I don’t dress up and Lieutenant Uhura and recite Shakespeare in Klingon or anything like that but ever since I saw my first episode I have been hooked. Though my introduction to Star Trek was delayed a little by me thinking that it was something to do with middle class kids on pony holidays and always changing the channel when it was announced (honestly). That would have been when I was about seven.

Anyway, I’m one of those people who believe that certain TV series' contain all of life’s wisdom in their body of work if only you study them enough. Some people swear by Seinfeld, others by the Simpsons but with me it’s Star Trek.

And even as an eight-year-old, the sheer camp tackiness of its production added an additional layer of appeal. Profound, thoughtful scripts combined with hammy over acting and wobbly sets make for a potent combination.

And so, it came as absolutely no surprise to discover this week that Mr Sulu is gay

Of course he is. I don’t recall being so underwhelmed by an outing since Richard Chamberlain was forced out of the closet. The really surprising aspect to most outings is that some people appear to be genuinely shocked by the news. I’m particularly mindful of 70s sex symbol Peter Wyngarde. Peter played a character called Jason King, the undisputed model for Austin Power’s teeth and fashion sense, in two hugely popular TV shows – Department S. and Jason King. I loved all of Wyngarde’s stuff, then and now. It was campy and bizarre and left the Avengers looking grey in comparison. That was until I was old enough to develop a 'thing' for Diana Rigg.

I can still remember my mother’s reaction when Peter Wyngarde was arrested for gross indecency in a public place in 1975.

But he was so sexy. How can he be one of them?

Even as a ten year old my response was ‘quite easily actually’. For the life of me, I was baffled by my mother’s surprise. I’m not claiming to have been a child prodigy when it came to assessing people’s sexuality, it’s just that Jason King was such an astonishingly camptastic old poove that I’d twigged that there was something a little ‘special’ about him even before I knew what being gay involved.

Fortunately, we live in more enlightened times and a minor cottaging conviction is a lot less likely to ruin a brilliant career in the way that it could in the 1970s. Mind you, allowing yourself to be portrayed as a heterosexual sex bomb when you hang around gents toilets for fun and recreation probably isn’t the smartest of moves at the best of times.

Fair play to the mainstream media on their reporting of the Mr Sulu story so far. I have detected absolutely no references to Mr Sulu ‘needing more thrust’ or ‘beaming up other crew members’ in their coverage. That would just be so cheap :)

MP3 of Star Trek – The lost gay Episode. (50undz v3ry k001 0n my iP0d)

‘One of them’. Now there’s an expression you don’t hear used very often these days.

On the subject of people who are a little bit special, anyone who enjoys looking at pictures of middle-aged men dressed in nappies and baby clothes as much as I do will approve of this site here.

W311, 7h3y’r3 n07 h4rming 4ny0n3 4r3 7h3y?

Friday, October 28, 2005

Ablogalypse Now

An anonymous comment posted onto this blog plopped into my inbox a couple of days ago...

yawn you're shit

Sadly, I didn’t have the energy to trawl through recent posts and see what anonymous was referring to but I’m sure someone so expressively gifted had a fair point.

I, and many other bloggers I read, have had a strange time of it since July. The bombing in London and all that followed them had a profound impact on many British bloggers. Some sites are slowly resuming normal service, others still seem shagged-out and muted.

And always in the back of my head there’s the sense of the sheer ludicrousness of commenting on current affairs.

Bloggers, the Internet equivalent of taxi drivers, putting the world to right from the comfort of their driving seat.

Consuming news, and commenting on news, is usually as much a form of vacuous entertainment as watching televised sport or reality TV. Most people have never been to Iraq, or Africa, or Pakistan, or wherever. Forming and expressing an opinion on events in those places makes as much rational sense as, say, being one of those Manchester United supporters who has never been to Manchester in their life. It’s a vicarious, masturbatory passtime.


The bombings in July don’t fall into that category. They could have killed me or people I know. At one point in July I was sitting at home on the wrong side of a police cordon as they searched for the man who allegedly tried to blow up my local tube station.

That’s fucking real alright.

Even if you choose to disregard the questionable morality of things being done in far off lands in our names. This stuff is on our doorstep.

And there is a growing list of other issues that are very real and in our faces; the rise of a police state, an illegal war in another country that has turned my home into a target, fucking lunatics in Washington and the Whitehouse looking to start another war which will make me and mine even more of a target...

Call me a bore but this stuff is uppermost on my mind.

So I blog about it

And, as much as I’d like to, it’s hard to work many knob gags into this material.

Admittedly my output has slackened of late. That’s down to a very British sense that once you’ve said something once it’s impolite and tedious to repeat yourself. Reading American blogs that, for example, map out the details Plamegate affair in excruciating detail, you immediately notice that American bloggers have no such compunction. I lost the plot on that stuff weeks ago.

Ah well, hopefully the knob gags will return to this site sooner rather than later. In the meantime, I either have to write my way out of my current one-track mindedness or put this blog on hold.

I think I’ll write. It helps silence the voices in my head and that has always been the point.

And if anonymous people occasionally feel the need to tell me that I’m boring and shit, well, I’ll just have to find some way to deal with the pain.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Sunni Delight pt2

During the Vietnam War the American military swore blind that it would triumph in South Vietnam if only supplies of men and material from North Vietnam along the Ho Chi Minh trail were stopped. The only problem was that much of the trail lay in neighbouring Laos. No matter, the US bombed the crap out of Laos and destabilised its government. The US also bombed the crap out of Cambodia and destabilised its government as well for similar reasons; killing half a million people in the process.

At this point it is only fair to point out that the Americans still lost the Vietnam War.

For rather obvious reasons, seeking to win a war in one country by attacking neighbouring countries is rarely a good idea. President Truman understood that when he turned down MacArthur’s requests to nuke China with 50 A bombs during the Korean War, the Israelis didn’t when they rolled into Lebanon.

So, when my government starts picking fights with countries neighbouring Iraq I start to get more than a little twitchy. Particularly when it starts picking fights with Iranians. Those guys are serious.

Last week the British media was filled with stories about how the Iranians were supplying Iraqi insurgents with high tech bombs that have been used to kill British soldiers. The initial stories came from unnamed sources but were eventually confirmed by Tony Blair and our foreign secretary. Whilst careful not to explicitly identify the Iranian government as being the source of the bombs they did lecture the Iranians on failing to maintain adequate border security. Which was a bit rich given that there are two sides to every border. And even richer when you consider, for example, that since occupation by British and American forces heroin exports from Afghanistan have risen forty-fold. Come to think of it, we can’t even keep the channel tunnel secure from mental patients in flip-flops.

Anyway, the British Government announced that a military intelligence team has been tasked with putting together an intelligence dossier that will prove the link between Iran and the insurgent attacks in Southern Iraq.

Yes, that’s right, another fucking intelligence dossier

They really do think we all are a bunch of stupid c*nts don’t they?

Amusing little snippets that almost certainly won’t be included in the new dossier include:

  • The fact that some of the cars used in ‘suicide’ attacks in Iraq actually came from US. Apparently the Iraqi insurgents are stealing them in America and smuggling them halfway around the world. Well that definitely sounds plausible.

  • That the bombs being used to kill British soldiers are based on IRA, not Hezbollah, designs. Actually, when I say IRA designs I really mean designed by British Army agents working under cover in the IRA.

  • That the officer responsible for investigating the case of the two SAS men caught dressed as Arabs in Basra died this weekend "not due to hostile action and also not due to natural causes". The most entertaining suggested explanation for his apparent suicide so far was this one reported by the BBC "It's pretty tough for them and it's not very comfortable doing the kind of work they have to do, particularly in the kind of heat we have seen this year". Coincidentally, at the same time his death was announced the newspapers explained that the two SAS guys dressed as Arabs ‘had been spying on a senior police commander who was allegedly torturing prisoners with an electric drill’. Yes, of course, driving around in a car armed with two assault rifles, a heavy machine gun, grenades, a rocket launcher and possibly explosives, then firing at the local police when challenged is precisely how an undercover surveillance team would behave. I really, really believe that one.

  • Plus all sorts of stories reported by the Arab-speaking press of bomb-toting Americans being caught dressed as Arabs and several Iraqis being rather put out at finding bombs underneath their cars attached to mobile phones.

  • And while I’m jotting down stories from my Iraqi ‘You couldn’t make it up collection’ how about this one about Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, one of the dozen or so ‘Al Qaeda No.2’s’ out there, sending a letter in which he says hello to himself. A letter verified as genuine by the US Director of National Intelligence. Marvellous. Isn’t it a pisser writing letters in a second language?

(category: political stuff)

Monday, October 17, 2005

Sunni Delight pt1

Back in 1975 I was ten years old. That makes me just old enough to remember watching the coverage of the last days of the Vietnam War. I didn’t really comprehend what was going on at the time but I still retain jumbled memories of ARVN troops and civilians retreating down Highway One, the fall of Saigon and scared people clutching onto the last few helicopters out. Being ten years old, my mind was largely preoccupied with other things but even then I realised that some people were very unhappy somewhere in a place called Vietnam and also in a place called Cambodia.

Later on I became a bit of a connoisseur of the whole thing and developed a more sophisticated understanding of the true significance of the Vietnam War…

It was a really, really big fuck up.

I learned that. America learned that. The Vietnam War was an object lesson is how not to fight a war, or even get involved in one in the first place. I also learned that the American government had applied enormous pressure on the British government to get us involved in the War. To his eternal credit, the then Labour Prime Minister Harold Wilson told Lyndon Johnson to fuck off.

Nice one Harold.

And since 1975 every single conflict America has been involved in draws the inevitable facile question from the media ‘Is this going to be another Vietnam?’

To be honest I’m not sure that many people know what they mean when they ask this question. The correct response to it should be ‘In what way do you mean?’

Back in 2003 when the ‘Coalition Forces’ rolled into Iraq out came the question, regular as clockwork ‘Is this going to be another Vietnam?’. And the response usually was ‘Of course not, there is no jungle in Iraq’

No jungle in Iraq… Great, full steam ahead then.

As if the wretched failure of America in Vietnam was entirely due to leaf cover. Actually, a lot of people genuinely believe that. That, or the canard that US soldiers were actually winning the war but were let down by the collapse of popular support back at home. Fucking hippies. The Nazi party encouraged a similar myth, for similar reasons, about the causes for Germany’s defeat in the First World War.

Anyway, where was I? Oh yes, parallels. Actually, genuinely significant parallels between Iraq and Vietnam are beginning to come into focus. A couple seem particularly pertinent at the moment…

The first is the notion that we can’t pull our forces out of Iraq right now as chaos would ensue and we have a debt of honour to prevent that from happening.

Something very similar plagued the Americans in 1968. They knew there were going to have to pull out sooner or later, the only question was when. Perversely, they stayed in Vietnam for another four years and actually escalated the conflicted. Hundreds of thousands of people died so that America could negotiate a face-saving settlement with North Vietnam. They finally pulled out in 1972 and three years later the North occupied the South. Game over. There are a couple of morals to this tale

  • Once unified, Vietnam most emphatically did NOT become a hotbed of revolutionary communism. Neighbouring countries did not fall like dominos. The Vietnamese always maintained they were only interested in removing foreign occupiers and uniting their country and that’s exactly what they did. The entire basis for undertaking the war in the first place was a lie. Sixty thousand Americans and maybe as many as two million Vietnamese died for nothing

  • America continued fighting and supporting its puppet Vietnamese government for seven years after it knew defeat was inevitable. America didn’t save any ‘face’ by doing so, but hundreds of thousands of people lost theirs.

  • If you’re losing a morally ambiguous conflict bail. What will happen will happen, either this year or in five years. You’re just delaying the inevitable. Better to get it over and done with.

to be, as they say, continued…

(category: political stuff)

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Mr War Photographer

A few days ago I posted about how I’d almost given up on London street photography because I was finding it too boring, depressing and dangerous.

Thanks to my mate Ian salvation appears to be at hand in the shape of the Mr War Photographer – fully posable action doll.

He comes supplied with an impressive array of accessories, including interchangeable lenses, kevlar body armour and complimentary copies of Apocalypse Now and Michael Herr's Dispatches.

Mr War Photographer comes fully endorsed by the pros from the Magum Photographic Agency

This is fantastic news. All I have to do is pick up my own Mr War Photographer plus a few complimentary deranged street characters, complete with tiny little replica cans of lager, burned out motor cars and signs from the police appealing for information and I need never leave the relative comfort and safety of my back garden.

I’m back!

And Ian, you can come round to my flat to play but only if you bring your own

The State Broadcasting Company

The brightest news for me this week has been the launch of Channel 4’d new digital television channel, More 4.

Don’t misunderstand me, most of the stuff on More4 is just as crap as all the other TV networks, except for one thing

They’re showing the Daily Show.

I love the Daily Show and, not having visited the States for over a year now, I’ve missed it.

I won’t waste time enthusing about its finer qualities here, suffice to say it is the best news programme on either side of the Atlantic.

The fact that it is produced for the Comedy Network is significant.

With one or two notable exceptions, British alternative comedians do not tackle the political establishment any more. They supported the New Labour movement en masse back in the 1990s and the worse the New Labour government has behaved the quieter they have become. The hypocritical little gobshites.

It may also come as a surprise to Americans reading that someone from the UK rates a US news show above British domestic product. Countless times I have read or heard educated Americans exclaim how they no longer trust mainstream US news outlets and that they only rely on the BBC to provide reliable information.



Until a couple of years ago the BBC was run by someone appointed largely because he was a major cash donor to the Labour Party. In spite of that, he displayed a certain degree of independence and supported his news team when they exposed the lies behind the ‘dodgy dossier’ that persuaded British people to support the invasion of Iraq. Perversely, he and several others lost their job for performing this valuable public service whilst most of the people responsible for compiling and promoting the dossier received promotions.

Since then, the BBC has been a good little bitch.

Very often it’s just too painful to listen to. Now, more than ever before the BBC truly is the State Broadcasting Service. It’s getting to the point when the stories published by Pravda sometimes seem more reliable. The worm has most definitely turned.

Regular BBC news broadcasts now are composed largely of a mix of the following:

  • A headline Fear Story – terrorism, bird flu, environmental catastrophe etc – the usual subtext being that only government can save us from oblivion

  • The results of a survey commissioned by some pressure group or another looking for air time and loot – ‘the results of a survey of commissioned by the Society for Cheese Safety indicate that not enough money is being spent on researching cheese safety. People will die’ etc

  • Someone reading out a government press release verbatim ‘It is expected that later today the Prime Minister will announce a major new initiative that will eradicate cancer and all infectious diseases by 2015. He’s great’

  • Opportunistic and shameless statements from non elected public bodies or companies that seek to cash in on someone else’s misfortunes that have made the headlines e.g. ‘We're unlikely to see flooding in the UK like that caused by the Boxing Day tsunami and Hurricane Katrina, there is still a significant flood threat here from extreme rainfall and coastal surges," said Environment Agency chief executive Barbara Young caught my eye this week

  • The daily sports news round up

I’m sure that the fact the BBC is going to be allowed to increase the licence fee, that we are all obliged to pay under threat of imprisonment, by 50% is totally unconnected to degradation of independent news content and the almost total extinction of investigative journalism. Personally, being forced to pay a increasingly onerous tax for an organisation that has become an advocate for government and vested interests falls far too much into the 'adding insult to injury' category for my liking.

(category: political stuff)

Friday, October 14, 2005

Daft Link Roundup

Some recent web links that didn’t quite make the cut during a tidy-up of my favourities folder

  • The Wagner’s Meat Home Page – I was a little concerned that Hurricane Katrina might have closed them down but it appears to be business as usual. Bad news for vegetarians, good news for fans of knob gags.

  • That story about armed, special forces-trained dolphins being released back into the ecosystem by Hurricane Katrina. Sadly, there has been no follow-up to that gem.

  • That story about the german inventor developing a process that can turn dead cats into fuel

  • Photos Beyond the Wall – A US based photo editing service for people in jail

  • Truth or spoof? – Rent My Daughter

  • A collection of Donald Rumsfeld quotes - as well as being the spitting image of Dr Strangelove, he really is America’s Greating Living Intellectual

  • I also couldn’t help noticing that the online edition of Pravda has taken to occasionally linking to articles featuring pictures of naked women. I’m not sure what Lenin would have made of it. Another sign that Pravda is keeping up with the times is the fact that they’ve started publishing a ‘Funny Stories’ section, though a certain degree of traditional central control can still be discerned in titles such as Russian Oligarchs Ready to Pay Millions for Huge Penises and Putin Will Be There for You… Even When You Go to the Toilet. It’s also clear that the Russians still haven’t quite worked out their long standing issues with the Chinese.

And a couple of links that need sound…

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Crap Joke of the Week

Condoleezza Rice to George Bush

"Yesterday, 3 Brazilian soldiers were killed in an accident"

"Oh MY GOD !", the President exclaims. "That's terrible. All those lives..." and slumps forward, head in hands.

His staff sit there, nervously watching, stunned at this display of emotion.

Finally the President looks up and asks....... “by the way - how many is a brazillion?"

Saturday, October 08, 2005

You're the sun and as you shine on me I feel free...

A commentator on my previous post noted, fairly, that London has always had its ghettos and, by implication, that’s not a reason in itself to lose interest in taking pictures of the city.

He’s completely correct.

Besides, if squalor and social exclusion were, as I believe, on the rise that would be a powerful reason to take even more photographs.

The problem is I can’t. I can’t because an increasing number of people have something to hide, because many people suspect my motives and because my government doesn’t want me to.

I find it painfully ironic that in an age when every street, every building interior, every scrap of open space is covered by CCTV cameras operated largely by private companies that people are so jittery about someone with a camera. Point your camera in the direction of people and you’re a sex pervert. Aim it at a building and you’re planning a terrorist attack. The fact that these fears are almost entirely, arguably entirely, without foundation is forgotten.

Could Bill Brandt’s famous ‘Lambeth Walk’ picture of kids dancing in the street that I’ve mentioned in an earlier post be taken today?


It seems that those who rule can get away with absolutely anything they want these days, provided they can get people scared enough beforehand. And the mainstream media plays along like the whore it is.

And, yes, people have always been manipulated through fear but this is different, certainly for the UK at least. It’s different in terms of the scale of the fear and the way it has come to permeate almost every aspect of our daily lives. The Britain I grew up in would have stuck its fingers up and said bollocks to the characters who are perverting our society in the name of protecting our safety and freedoms. The Britain I live in right now is bending over and taking it like a bitch.

I would be the first admit that I am more sensitive to these issues than other people. I have time on my hands, I grew up in London and enjoy(ed) taking pictures on its streets. But the honest truth is that the prospect of me being scooped up by the police going about my lawful business and having my entire life given a ‘good seeing to’ has passed from being an improbability to a possibility in a handful of years. At the current rate of change, it could even become a probability in a matter of a year or two.

Too paranoid? Try reading this account of a journalist arrested by the police for acting suspiciously at Southwark Underground station…

Suspicious Behaviour on the Tube

All I would have to do is pull a camera out in the wrong place or say a word out of turn in public or in something like, err, a blog...

I grew up two minutes walk from Southwark Station my family still run a business nearby. I regularly carry a backpack laden with all sorts of photographic and electrical equipment and because I’m me my flat is absolutely packed full of material that would look interesting laid out on a table in a police station. A few GPS units, some pocket knives, ‘military style’ outdoor equipment, soldering irons, annotated maps of city centres, all sorts of contentious books, a crappy old air pistol with a gimmicky ‘laser’ sight. The list is worryingly large.

Actually, the police wouldn’t even need any of that stuff to make a case to justify banging me up without charge or trial or sticking me and everyone I know on a watch list. I remember reading this blinding comment in a news article shortly after the July bombings…

Police officials say privately that they believe the men's penchant for exercise was part of a training regimen meant to keep them in top physical shape for their mission, which could have been in the planning stages for months, if not years. Keeping fit is also a tenet of devout Muslims.

Yes, being a member of a gym is a valid cause for suspicion. I’ll let you into a secret. Absolutely any form of behaviour is grounds for suspicion if you flip it right. Why not make it a game next time you have friends round for dinner? You play the part of the suspicious character and they get to ransack your home in search of compelling evidence of a terrorist conspiracy – videos of your visit to Disneyland, smelly socks, half-eaten food, bottles of perfume, whatever they can come up with. It’ll be a blast and good practice for life in the twenty-first century.

Right now, the emphasis is on Muslims but the beast is hungry and gradually widening its net to include any groups of people who don’t conform to ‘normal’ standards of behaviour. 'Normal' being sitting indoors and watching reality TV, getting pissed four times a week and not giving a fuck about the rest of the world. Protestors, photographers, even trainspotters, are beginning to fall foul of anti-terror legislation. I’m a White Christian and if I feel this nervous Christ knows how Muslims must be feeling right now

And does anyone think any of this is going to fucking stop, or is even intended to stop, terrorists? Behave.

(category: political stuff)

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Ghettos? What ghettos?

A few days ago, I was chatting with a friend on the phone about going for a walk around London to take some photographs. This is something we have been doing for years now and the pair of us have covered pretty much every part of London on foot. It would not be an exaggeration to say that we have achieved an almost Zen like sense of ‘knowing’ what is going on in most parts of town; famous and not so famous districts alike.

At the end of our chat we decided, even though it was beautiful day and we had time on our hands, that we could not be bothered and watched television instead.

London has become arse.

Surf a photo-sharing site like Flickr for a while and you can see what I mean. Look at pictures taken in other cities around the world and you’ll see vibrancy and life that are almost totally absent from photos taken in London. Sure, lots of people are grabbing shots of the London Eye and other tourist attractions but the photographic record of the true life of London is almost totally non existent.

They are a couple of reasons for that.

One of the reasons is that large swathes of London are looking increasingly like third world ghettos. Your average Joe with a camera tends to deal with the spread of social exclusion and squalor by pretending it doesn’t exist. Not only is it less troubling emotionally it is physically safer.

One of my minor heroes Charles Booth, a pioneering Victorian social reformer, drew up a colour-coded map of London in 1889 that recorded the relative affluence of each individual street. The interesting thing looking at that map 116 years later is that if I were editing it now most streets would either be the same or downgraded. Upgrades are few and far between. I have been toying with starting my own 2005 version of Booth’s map that charts the location of crack houses, stabbings, street crime black spots, streets where people live ten to house, brothels staffed by sex slaves, stuff like that. I even had a complete set of cute little icons worked out but gave up on the idea because it was just too damned depressing.

What was just as depressing was reading the public reaction to a speech made Trevor Philips, the Head of the Commission for Racial Equality a couple of weeks ago. He warned that ghettos divided by race and religion could be developing in the UK and said that a New Orleans-style separation could emerge in the UK. The gist of the public response from politicians and the media was that things were nowhere near that bad.

Ghettos ‘could be developing’?

It’s already happened mate.

True, most of the parts of London I consider to be ghettos aren’t single race/ single religion locations. There are lots of races and religions jammed all in together. London in 2005 is a lot more inclusive than New Orleans. Absolutely anybody can be a member of our burgeoning underclass, regardless of race, colour or creed.

It just happens that I know both London and New Orleans pretty well. It is true that the scariest parts of New Orleans were off-the-scale-scary in comparison to London but that is because there are more guns in America, for now anyway. But, having said that, the underclass in New Orleans is a lot more cohesive than the one in London. Blacks in New Orleans share race, language and culture in a way that many of the groups jammed into shitty parts of London do not.

I never bought all those stories about the rape, pillage and murder that were supposedly taking place in New Orleans and recognised that coverage as being part of a now familiar fear driven agenda. But I'll let you in on a secret, if London ever underwent a calamity like that endured by New Orleans, life here would become very nasty indeed.

Come to think of it, it is not exactly a bowl of cherries for millions of people right now.