About that ‘cancel culture’ letter

A letter condemning cancel culture signed by over 150 academics, writers, journalists and others. In 2020 this shouldn’t have to happen, but it has and although the statement is as anodyne in defence of free speech as possible, it’s been causing controversy as people say there’s no such thing as cancel culture while at the same time rallying behind calls to cancel people listed on the letter.  The letter itself can be found at this link.

Thing is instead of an open debate we saw what the letter is talking about play out in real-time with people posting just why free speech is under threat, and why a certain aspect of the left has decided to be just as authoritarian and censorious as certain aspects of the right. As an example, the actress Jodie Comer was revealed to be dating a supposed conservative which has seen the most appalling screeching nonsense about how she’s Satan incarnate, and of course guilty without trial, evidence or indeed, sanity from her accusers.

There’s the element of witch-hunting here, and certainly, there’s an obvious joy from some that they can wield such power (I’d recommend Jon Ronson’s book So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed to see just how dark cancel culture can get) that a young woman like Comer can wake up to a stream of frankly, insane bullshit about her private life. Then there’s the reaction of people who think Person A is guilty by association so they hold or advocate the views of Person B who they don’t like. Remember when Johnny Depp was attempted to be canceled due to domestic abuse allegations which eventually ended up showing that in reality, Depp was the victim rather than perpetrator? Now that’s readily forgotten as people support Depp in his legal action against The Sun but for a while there it seemed like the internet had crucified Depp.

Problem is when we now spend so much time living online and everyone is a cop trying to police people for wrongspeak we have a situation where there is no debate. When that spills into the real world, especially in an academic context so that debating opposing views is shunned, or worse then we’re diving headfirst into a dystopia where everyone has to conform for fear of cancellation and all that brings.

So personally I’m done with being associated with an illiberal section of the left who want to control rather than convince, and that lives are simplistic things where people should only associate themselves with other like-minded people. Ideas are not exchanged, therefore they’re never challenged and we leap on this course of anti-intellectualism as this culture war between the hard right and left knock chunks off each other. I fear for where things are going and I’m not convinced there’s a way to pull back however, the only chink of light is the majority of people still find this alien which is why so many of these types on right and left, have major problems when entering the real world. Hopefully sanity will prevail.

 

Dawn of Planet of the Cops

The essay Planet of the Cops by Freddie deBoer has been something I’ve gone back and forth to since I first read it a year or so ago. As the days grind on it becomes more and more apprent that deBoer has more or less defined where we are in the West in 2020.

The first paragraph is more applicable now than it was then.

The irony of our vibrant and necessary police reform movement is that it’s happening simultaneously to everyone becoming a cop. I mean everyone — liberal, conservative, radical and reactionary. Blogger, activist, pundit, and writer, obviously, but also teacher, tailor, and candlestick maker. Cops, all of them. Cops everywhere. Everybody a cop.

Everyone is policing everyone. Everything is polarised. Everything is either black or white. People side with tribes regardless of how it goes against their personal trust in things like science, or their own political ideology which we’ve had in some shape or form for years, especially from the right, but now the left have grabbed this authoritarianism with both hands. And I’m not talking about people being exposed as crooks and complaints going through the correct channels, I’m talking of people being cancelled because they may have Tweeted something stupid even over a decade ago.

Take the case of Hartley Sawyer who plays Elongated Man on The Flash. He made some racist and misogynist Tweets which read like bad jokes however this was back in 2012 so someone has scoured his timeline looking for something to punish him. In this case, it’s lost his job. But yet something similar happened with James Gunn when old social media posts emerged but that had huge chunks of the left trip over themselves to excuse, and demand his job back at Marvel, which eventually happened. What’s the difference? I dunno. Neither should have been sacked is the main point but a witch hunt needs witches.

Liberalism and critical thinking is under threat now from right and left, which means one can be left wondering where exactly did it all go wrong. How did we go from the potential for free speech the internet gave us even a decade ago to an online Stasi state where someone, somewhere is looking through all your social media to find one post they can declare as wrongspeak so they can get you fired. As deBoer says, is it any wonder leftish parties in the West are struggling to gain support when these parties at their core are run by small, but powerful groups more interested in maintaining political purity and identity politics over winning elections or fighting for a singular cause which may well change things for the better for so many. Solidarity, especially class politics seem to be gone replaced by this.

So we have situations where people can raise campaigns to cancel someone because they liked a Tweet from someone ‘problematic’ but put the same effort into understanding how class politics affects people’s lives or take the time perhaps to look into a situation to find the truth, is simply not going to happen as a whole. And more and more people dirft away from a left more interested in eating itself, or standing up for anti-scientific positions, or dragging up a post someone did a decade ago so they can call on the rest of the Stasi to get the person sacked.

As deBoer says…

A cop culture is one where a mob forces a company to patch its game because the treatment of video game parrots is somehow deficient. Do you buy that narrative at all? Do you think any single human being is so fucking daft as to believe that lots of children are going to be inspired by Minecraft to feed their real parrots real chocolate chip cookies? Or do people like being cops? Do they like being in a position to make demands? Do they like lazily threatening people, “nice company you have here… wouldn’t want it to get embroiled in some controversy”? People are alienated and worn down and hopeless, and so they see their opportunity to finally be the one pulling over somebody else’s car, lazily tapping the glass with their flashlights. “I’m the one in charge now,” he thinks, as he sends an email to somebody’s boss over a Facebook status he doesn’t like.

The effect of all this is draining. It is cumulative and it solves nothing but it helps polarise things more and more, as people, scared of being sacked or ‘cancelled’ go along with the mob because they know one wrong thing said and that mob turns on them.  Good causes end up ruined or easily mocked by people who don’t live their lives in the middle of all this, so for them instead of being drawn into something which they may support are alienated because there’s no discussion, no thought. Just a doctrine that one must observe or face the wrath of the mob.

I have no idea where this ends. However we need to make a stand for things like critical thinking, science and the ability to win arguments though fact & reason, instead of death or rape threats added onto the threat of getting the person sacked. Plus if we let the right, especially the hard right, dominate the fight for free speech that will not end in a good way.

Hopefully things change soon but I really do fear we’re living in a neverending Planet of the Cops.

 

A quick word about the Warren Ellis allegations

For those who don’t know a series of allegations were made regarding Cameron Stewart and Warren Ellis by women who said both groomed them when they were younger, and like each such revelation it’s followed by a range of women who’ve been through the same experience with the named people, and although nothing illegal went on (though Stewart might have his collar felt due to Canadian law) it’s certainly a case where both appear to have used their positions to basically get sex, or at least try to.

Fact is this is not uncommon in the industry.  I’m not as full in the industry as I once was, but back in the day you’d see certain people sneaking away with women, or men, who were not their partners with everyone turning a blind eye because this was just how it was done. Plus you didn’t really want to get involved as you never know if people have open relationships.

This, however, doesn’t excuse what Stewart and Ellis are accused of though I will say there’s been stories about Ellis for some time but we’ll see in the months to come what happens next as Ellis hasn’t said a thing on his social media which is unsual.

There’s also a ream of people coming into the story late saying things like they’ll burn their comics because these people are bad, which is insane because the fact is nobody is 100% pure, and you’ve already spent your money. The fact is human beings aren’t flawless and quicker some of the people coming in late to the story realise that the better, but we’re in a weird, strange period right now so don’t count on it.

I hope both apologise and open up a larger conversation about this in the industry, because although the problem will never go away it may help reduce it in future.

Panic on the streets of London

Yesterday on the streets of London, thousands of far-right protestors took to the street to protect statues, mainly by fighting, drinking, fighting, throwing out Nazi salutes, fighting, beating up people who have nothing to do with anything to do with the protests, drinking and of course, fighting.

Oh, and pissing next to the memorial of a policeman killed in a terrorist incident. In the background to what is now a clear and outright culture war is Covid-19 which cares nothing for any cause, but it will kill a proportion of people it infects. It’s clear a second wave will come and it’ll come hard however that will play background to this as over the next few months the UK government looks for distractions for their Brexit policy.

At the same time, some protestors do have to introduce some nuance into their worldview. Some of these statues do need to go as they’re not relevant to the 21st century, but as much as I may despise someone like Churchill he needs something to acknowledge what he did to defeat the Nazis in World War 2, and there’s a number of people who may hold dubious views or were bastards but again, we need to note what positive work they did.  History is messy and nobody is pure.

But we’re in a culture war now. Where this ends up I have no idea but we should be very, very wary of the far right being able to mobilise a few thousand people on the streets of London during a pandemic. The next few months especially are not going to be especially fun ones, especially once the depression the UK is flirting with kicks in and the effects of that hurt.

 

The fall of Edward Colston

At last the city of Bristol is free of the Edward Colston statue.

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During the Black Lives Matter protest yesterday, crowds pulled it down and chucked the thing into the harbour where it suffered as watery a grave as some of the 18,000 human beings his company killed over the time it shipped slaves to the UK.

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First, the Covid issue. As you can see from the second picture any social distancing there was broke down, and I’m assuming everyone there won’t be quarantined for the next fortnight so it means the virus will spread. We can’t excuse one protest because we agree with its aims over any others, so this now opens the doors for other protests which on top of what seems like lockdown fracturing means there will be spikes and this will put pressure on an exhausted NHS.  Other protests in the UK did manage distancing, and organisers did make it clear protestors have to quarantine afterwards, so that should be the basic minimum from now on.

As for the incident; good. That statue needed to go and for decades has been a smear on the city. When I first moved to Bristol and when I first found out what the statue was and who he was, it was outrageous that at that point in the early 90’s in a city which was so multicultural celebrated a man who brand human beings with his name. The problem is the name and acts of Colston are woven through Bristol to the extent it’d be impossible to purge it completely but it now falls upon institutions carrying Colston’s name to do what they can because frankly, if that isn’t going to happen now at a time when the world is focused on this, then it never will.

Bristol made its wealth through slavery, as did cities like Liverpool, Glasgow or any major city in the UK. In some cities a debate has raged for decades, in some (Glasgow for example) there’s only a serious debate starting now as to what to do with the names which hold the names of slave traders and trading, and also those institutions who are still financially benefiting from slavery even today.

Whether this moment leads to lasting change remains to be seen. We’re in a pandemic still and life won’t ever be the same once lockdowns are loosened further but there’s also a potential second wave being predicted, plus on top of that a global depression is coming so overall we’re entering uncertain times however these sort of times are hell to live through but it may end up with the sort of social change needed in the 21st century.

 

DC Comics break from Diamond Distribution

The big comics news of the week is that DC Comics are breaking all ties with Diamond Comics Distributors in three weeks’ time. My first reaction was optimism as after all Diamond’s monopoly has not been a great thing overall for the industry, but the danger lies with Diamond going down (there’s been rumours of their demise for some time) with no replacement distributor on the horizon.

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Obviously Covid has pushed whatever plans DC had up to now so we have a point where all DC product will now come from two new distributors to comics which suits their new owners at AT & T.  Truth is there’s little money in periodical comics for the big multinational owners of Marvel or DC, barring the creation of new IP who they can exploit to the hilt.

But my early optimism is now vanishing as they could easily switch to a trades only policy, at least for the majority of the line while keeping a few higher profile books going monthly. The logical outcome of that is less risktaking, less new talent, worse books, more big events and a complete stagnation of the superhero genre which, whether we like it or not, still keeps most comic shops going.

At the minute things are still developing. It is worth reading this post by Chuck Rozanski as to where he stands. Also Bleeding Cool is saying UCS (one of the new companies distributing DC) will be distributing old Marvel titles which seems to be old Midtown Comics stock. There’s also a question as to how UK shops will be DC’s titles in future as it’ll cost too much unless you’re putting in a massive order, which may mean a prohibitively high secondary market and the return of the non-distributed title, but it certainly means those lower selling titles people were buying won’t come over here in numbers if at all?

If I was smart and had the capital behind me, I’d be arranging shops into units so they could place more cost-effective orders, or I’d even be talking about opening a central distribution depot if you can get the discount and agreement off DC as they may decide that 10-15% of sales they’ll lose from the UK are worth keeping and open up themselves. I dunno, we shall see but this is not a good time for this to be happening with this much uncertainty just as some reopening of the industry after Covid-19 was happening.

Trump’s America is burning

There’s been some awful American President’s in my time, but to see the country burn in flame and anger sparked in a large part by Donald Trump’s reaction to George Flloyd’s killing by the police, it has to be said Trump is by far the worst.  Unlike past times when the country has been gripped in protest, I can’t see a way out of it that doesn’t involve things getting worse, or further lives lost certainly not before November’s election.

ftrump

The sad thing is there’s a pretty good chance Trump will win again this year for a variety of reasons, but the fact is that if he does then what we’re seeing now is a warm-up for the main event which is breaking the US apart forever. I fear for the next few months in America and the fact the country is more or less in martial law with trigger-happy police facing off against protestors, many of whom are young and not used to the chaos of protesting.

So good luck, stay safe over there and remember, Covid-19 hasn’t went away. It is still there and there will almost certainly now be a massive second wave in the US but take what precautions you can and try to make what is hopefully Trump’s last few months in power ones where the people hold him to account.

Saving Dominic Cummings

By now everyone should be aware of the Dominic Cummings saga and how it is seriously interfering with the governments public health message during the coronavirus with beaches across the country rammed. The lockdown is compromised which bluntly, means people will die but Dominic Cummings has been unaccountabnle so far.

In any other situation he’d have been sacked before the start of the bank holiday weekend but we live in odd times and now he’s doing a press conference from Downing Street where he’s spun a load of nonsense which makes the situation worse. The lie about driving to Barnard Castle to check his eyesight is his ‘Prince Andrew can’t sweat’ moment.

Fact is there’s tens of thousands dead. People have made sacrifices. But Dominic Cummings can’t even say sorry because he’s so arrogant he doesn’t feel that people’s deserved anger at him breaking the clear lockdown rules is something to apologise for. So his job is saved for now, but people know a cunt when they see one and today they’ve seen a massive one lie to save his job.

Dominic Cummings hates you

Dominic Cummings has never been elected to any position of power in his life, yet as the UK government’s chief advisor he is probably the second most powerful person in government after the Prime Minister. So you’d expect him to abide by the law right? Wrong, he drove over 200 miles while displaying Covid-19 symptoms from London to Durham to his parents’ home.  This was at the end of March when lockdown was in full effect, and there have been people resigning for less but as of now, Cummings remains in a job being defended by reams of Tories who are acting as defence for him.

The issue is that Cummings did what we were told not to do. He travelled hundreds of miles while displaying symptoms possibly infecting who knows how many people because he wanted to be with his parents so they could look after his child. Yet across the UK there must have been thousands of families in the same position who didn’t risk their entire family by sticking to the rules. There’s also thousands of people who couldn’t be with their loved ones as they died hoping that a nurse or a doctor would be with them in their last moments.

But people, on the whole, respected the lockdown. They wanted people to be safe as well as their families. They respected the law in a time of crisis. Yet here’s someone advising the government ignoring laws, breaking lockdown, infecting who knows how many and now, rubbing our noses in it because he frankly hates us. We’re just shit off his shoe. The contempt for the public’s trust is contemptible and in a normal democracy would lead to Cummings being charged, as well as being sacked but he’ll survive this. Trust in the lockdown will be diminished and people will just go ‘fuck it’ and go around to see loved ones they’ve not seen in ten weeks at least.  All the hard work and sacrifices people have made since March is all gone in a moment of complete selfishness yet Cummings escapes a fine or charge.

Fact is you are treated with contempt and despised, and the elite aren’t even trying to hide it.

Boris Johnson has went missing in action

In my entire life every Prime Minister was on TV during a crisis letting us know what was going on (even in their own terms which played with the truth) throughout the crisis. Every one, apart from Boris Johnson who has been mainly invisible this week. In fact since PMQ’s last week he’s vanished. Even the likes of Thatcher or Blair didn’t shirk their responsibilities.
 
Even Trump (mostly) attends his daily Covid briefing, but Johnson it seems can’t get out of bed. We’re in the worst crisis outside of war, hundreds are still dying each day and yet, the man who is supposed to be the leader of the nation is almost invisible so instead we get stooge after stooge coming on to do the Covid briefings or appear to a media who are still mainly supportive of the UK government.
So where is Boris Johnson? Why is he being protected while he’s out of sight and just when is he intending to even remotely do his job?