The Rise of the Cyber Narcissists

It’s 1968, Andy Warhol, skin taut and stretched like plastic wrap over his emaciated mannequin like face, is exhibiting his retrospective exhibition at the Moderna Museet gallery in Stockholm. The accompanying exhibition program contained the now famous phrase “In the future everybody will be world famous for fifteen minutes.” This led to the concept of ’15 minutes of fame’ – the idea that celebrity culture, reality TV stardom, media hype, scandal and so forth would be ephemeral – a drop in the pond until the next sucker came along.

Naturally, then, Warhol’s ’15 minute’ morsel, his twitterish adage is seen as quite prophetic. It seems though, in retrospect, that Warhol was totally wrong – a more apt rendering would be: in the future everybody will be world famous but only in his or her own mind

We are living through the age of cyber-narcissism, the ’15 minute rule’ no longer applies as the Internet and its affiliated cohorts such as Twitter, Instagram and Facebook, continually expand the reach of narcissist traits to an almost unimaginable, limitless capacity.

The Internet has become a mass self-aggrandising public relations tool, which we employ to bolster our self-image, look important and special, very unique, while we strive to recruit new admirers and sycophants – via likes, comments, thumbs up and followers – as a source of narcissistic supply to sate our distorted virtual self.

Narcissus, then, in Greek Mythology, was the son of the river god Cephissus and nymph Liriope. He was a conceited arrogant arsehole who spurned all who loved him. And so in order to punish him for his haughty contempt the gods led him to a pool, where he saw his reflection and fell in love with it, not realising it was merely an image (an avatar in the modern sense). Unable to leave the beauty of his own reflection, Narcissus lost his will to live. He stared at his own reflection until he died – the flower Narcissus grows where he once loitered.

It’s a salient point that Narcissus fell in love with his reflection, not himself.  These various virtual platforms – or digital reflections – are reinforcing people’s sense of their own importance to a pathological extent.

Consider the ‘grandiose exhibitionism’ and downright nuttiness that pustulates on social media – the ludicrous fairy tale weddings; those flattering close up selfies betraying a gut that’d make a bull dog blush; the deliberation that goes into selecting what photo to show to a world that doesn’t really care; the constant personal updates and carefully calibrated public profiles; the bizarre political rants, personal attacks and other myriad pretensions and delusions.

It is in the virtual realm that all forms of normal social interaction vanish and out crawls a subterranean beast writhing with delusions of grandeur, narcissism and impulsivity. It’s a fantasy amusement park where the rules of conduct no longer apply and the tyranny of the ego reigns supreme. The Twitter lynch mob – which claimed its latest victim Toby Young last week, in a relentless cyber campaign leading him to resign from some obscure educational quango – is essentially a cabal of virtual reflections, who will be heard, seen and listened to – whether you like it or not.

Indeed, nothing has done more to shape our culture and politics as social media – future elections may be won or lost; pointless online petitions that count for nothing (how is 200,000 people clicking on a button supposed to gave an accurate indication of public mood?); draping your Facebook picture profile in some country’s flag after a terrorist attack – I like your hollow display of empathy, thumbs up – and I in turn feel better and validated.

We could blame all this on Mark Zuckerberg when he invented Facebook – studies show that the more Facebook friends, the more you post and tag yourself in photos, the more likely you are to be a self-obsessed maniac: think of your Facebook friend count as your narcissistic personality score – the higher the count the bigger the ego.

Even on a more general, voyeuristic level, engaging with Facebook makes you more miserable. When users compare their average and, actually, quite normal lives, to the unrealistic fairy tale presented by friends, they are more likely to feel worthless and negative about themselves, their life and achievements.  It’s all a case of ‘show rather than tell’ and Facebook is a platform where we project only the most idealised versions of ourselves.

It’s an addiction, and not particularly pleasant one, like, say, dunking your hand in a bowl of lentils or squirting squirty cream into your cakehole – it’s re-wiring our brains. Getting a like on Twitter is akin to drug-addict getting their hit or an alcoholic their drink. Every time we get a like, share or comment, we get a rush of blood to the head, a dopamine hit, which in turn makes us want more shares and likes, triggering an addiction like response in the brain.

The Internet was supposed to make us all more global and interconnected – but, in fact, the exact opposite has happened, it has us made more individualistic and self-obsessed.

The social aspect of social media doesn’t really stand as no meaningful connection is made.  We are more interested in self-promotion (much less in listening to anyone else, unless, of course, they gratify our ego in some way), than having any sort of meaningful interaction or conversation – with terrible implications for our general mental well being.

Published here at Country Squire Magazine

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Brexit & The Very English Countryside

As I write, the view from the window is simply stunning. Garden gives on to meadow then woodland upon which perch a loose nest of cottages sprawled up the saddleback of Holcombe hill, which then finally succumb to the wild moorlands of the West Pennines. Sadly, all this will eventually disappear.

Since everyone lost the ‘Brexit election’ – Brexit is now at risk, the anti-democrats are back pushing for a ‘soft Brexit’ which really means no Brexit which means our countryside is in danger – one naturally follows the other, you’ll have to trust me on this.  While I don’t claim to be an expert on matters of the country, like some of our more informed writers on CSM or indeed housing planning, I do know this: the more people you let in, the more houses you need to build, the more green space you’ll eventually have to bulldoze. Sometimes this can feel like banging your head against a brick wall. Yet to merely suggest this, for example at one of my increasingly diminishing dinner parties, is a step too far – I might as well have placed a Papiermâché of Adolf Hitler on my mantelpiece and lit candles around it.

Yet, having lived in the countryside around Bury, Greater Manchester, now for over four months – I can tell you the people aren’t happy. Coincidentally just today, I learned from a fellow dog walker that the privately owned park (which fronts that amazing view I just described) could possibly be sold off for housing development – that’s why they haven’t been cutting the grass, she told me. Yep, now it all makes sense. Not only that but possibly the green areas around the golf course too, it’ll be horrible, she said; horrible doesn’t cover it, profane is more suited.

All across this ‘green and pleasant land’ residents like my fellow dog walker are furious at the planned developments on their precious greenbelt (the most dramatic threat is around Manchester which must take 50,000 new homes); various Facebook groups, blogs, organisations, protests movements have sprung up as people vent their indignation.

For instance, without boring you with endless stats, according to the House of Commons library the number of homes granted planning permission annually in greenbelt rose five fold from 2,258 in 2009-10 to 11,977 in 2014-15 and the net loss of green belt between 2004 and 2014-15 amounts to 103,000 acres. And so the natural party of the countryside made a pledge in their 2015 Manifesto not to play Lego on the green bits, further reinforced by a recent White Paper; but they do, it must be said, have a habit of volte-face that’d make a wind-up toy appear consistent.

‘We desperately need to build around between 250,000 – 300,000 homes a year, one every tenth of a millisecond otherwise we’re all screwed’ they yell, yet make no mention of the fact that current net immigration levels have been running at roughly that figure for years. It’s not rocket science is it? Or maybe it is, again, everybody repeat: the more people you let in, the more houses, the more green space you’ll bulldoze (and if we’re honest Brexit was mainly a cry to reduce immigration – whether from inside or outside the EU).

Besides, it doesn’t take much of a push to see all this in the current political climate, this struggle of us vs. them – this war of plurality: the young vs. the old; ‘the tolerant vs. the bigoted’; soft vs. hard; Lily Allen vs. sanity, from which countryside vs. urban is but one skirmish.

I’m often quizzed by urbanites about why exactly I live where I do (value for money and lack of housing plays a part) and I suspect that certain urban elites resent the country and view it with suspicion. A narrative of England that’s lost familiarity: quaint English pubs – dogs allowed for necessity rather than trendy posturing; ringing church bells; homogeneous communities; real markets rather than those silly over-priced multicultural fares; social conservatism and a good slap of common sense.

And so common sense dictates that the beauty of the English countryside remains one of England’s greatest assets and so probably worth saving. This idea of organised lanes and hedgerows centred around a church and village pub – the nostalgic vision depicted by Constable.

But that’s not to say that a ‘hard Brexit’ and, presumably, a reduction in net immigration will totally save the countryside. There are of course other factors at play, not least house prices, occupancy rates and this insatiable national greed of wanting more, this need for a just a bigger better house – more room to stuff more crap in. But if the countryside must take its fair share of massive population growth, which comes solely from immigration, then surely Brexit will go a long way in addressing this.

This article was first posted here at Country Squire Magazine 

Anger Management

It all started twenty years ago. I remember it clearly like it was yesterday. It was a Sunday. Usually that meant a lie-in. Yet on the morning of the 31st August 1997 it was different, on that date Sunday mornings changed forever. The usual sequence of events was violated.  On that day my mother abruptly roused me from my slumber, earlier than usual, something bad had happened. I registered anguish, pain and sorrow. Someone I knew had obviously died.

It was the day Princess Diana died. I didn’t know Diana personally and, looking back, I recall not caring that much – I was only thirteen after all. Will cricket on the park be cancelled, I wondered? Then the memories fade. I only mention this, because in my mind, that’s the definite date that these mass orchestrated displays of public empathy started. Of course it’s now a common breakfast routine – an English tradition along with bacon butties, beans on toast and suicide bombing.

That was August 1997, but this is 2017. Empathy is one thing, but now increasingly public reaction, opinion and indeed anger to serious society-changing events is being managed. We’ve moved on from empathy management – it’s now the era of anger management.

Take the horrific events of the past three months. In every case public reaction has been closely monitored and managed. We are told to hope not hate, to carry on, to sing ‘don’t look back in anger’, to be passive spectators, a hash tag on twitter, a face in a crowd of mourners. Then the game changed, the Grenfell tower burnt to the ground – and everything was exposed in the ugly charred mess. Islamic terror has a predictable routine and that’s fine, get used to it – but not this time. A poorly maintained matchstick masquerading as a block of flats was not part and parcel of living in a modern global city, and surely not one which imports cheap labour and masquerades it all in the name of diversity, no matter how horrendous the living conditions.

Read the rest here at Country Squire Magazine

Unite Against Hate – Go out, protest, be angry if it makes you feel better

It has now become clear: the politicians and perpetually outraged ‘liberals’ have no idea what they’re for or against or even what they’re protesting about – they’re starting to sound like a broken record, not a very good record mind, more like a Engelbert Humperdinck B-side or something along those lines. You’ll rattle their music box now and again and out they pop whipped up into a frenzy of faux outrage and endless nuggets of non-sequiturs and banality. “Join our protest against Islamophobia and racism’, said one tweet. ‘LGBT & Muslims solidarity, unite against all hate’ and ‘Fight both homophobia and anti-Muslim prejudice’, bannered Peter Thatchell. You can’t help but think they’re missing the point – but this is the point: don’t be angry, be passive and shut up.

So on Sunday, Unite Against Hate, organised by Gays Against Sharia, Tommy Robinson and others took the unfathomable view that ‘carrying on’ and shutting up really wasn’t going to cut it in the face of mass murder and Islamic terror anymore, so they had a protest to “honour the victims” of hate following the suicide attack by Salman Abedi; the march also marked the death of 49 gay people who lost their lives in Orlando, Florida.

Sure enough even the suggestion of such a protest released the hounds of angry leftists and their lap dogs in the media decrying it all as racist, Islamophobic and far right.

Business as usual, but then our new elected spokesperson for Islamic issues and community cohesion, Andy Burnham had this to tweet:

To those saying they weren’t EDL – I honestly don’t care. They still need to take a long, hard look at themselves. @gmpolice deserve better.

But if taking a long hard look at yourself wasn’t enough to shut you up, Lucy Powell, MP for Manchester central said:

These people are so wrong. Wrong to cause such division in Manchester at this time of unity… They disgust me and bring shame on us all.”

You’d think that protesting against terror would bring unity and solidarity – apparently not, only teddy bears and Justin Beiber can do that; Manchester council Leader Sir Richard Leese agrees:

“The last thing they or this city needed was a bunch of racists descending on us from outside our city bringing their messages of hate and division.

When people come from far and wide to protest mass murder you can be sure that hate and division will follow in its stead.

Here’s city centre councillor Pat Karney, with his wise words on hate and division:

“Given recent events in this city, it’s disgusting that these people come to Manchester to peddle their hate and division.”

Pat Karney gets it though; telling people to shut up about Islamic extremism might not be enough, best to make democratic protest punishable by law:

The Home Secretary should urgently review all the regulations around holding these events

Go out, protest, and be angry if it makes you feel better, challenge the status quo – do the opposite of what they say. The politicians and anti-protestors are Great Danes, the Scooby Doos of political debate, confident in their own security, protected by the halo of political correctness, afraid of anything outside the echo chambers of Facebook and banal meaningless slogans, you have a right to protest and demand answers – don’t let them stop you.

The Manchester attack aftermath: 7 things we’ve learnt

Since we’ve finally hopped, skipped and jumped through the five acts of post Islamic terror – namely, the horrific event; the nothing to do with Islam phase; the bromide hash tags, vigils and meaningless platitudes; the real concern: racism and Islamophobia; and finally the brain fade until the next and so on and on like some particularly prescient episode of the Twilight Zone. We should now turn our attention to what if anything we’ve learnt from last week’s events.

Western foreign policy is no big deal – Remember, pretty much everything pisses these guys off in the same hate filled, blood curdling way – so whether you’re busy invading a Muslim country; drawing a cartoon; writing a novel (Salman Rushdie); wagging your butt in a mini skirt; adopting a kitten, you name it, they hate it. Far from being ‘incomprehensible’ and mind boggling, the enemy is very clear in their stated aims of what they don’t like: our entire civilisation and everything it represents. They go for the Jews (Brussels, Toulouse and Copenhagen); the gays (Orlando); the infidel religion or Christianity as we prefer to call it (decapitating a French priest at mass, the Berlin Christmas market); symbols of national identity (Bastille day and Westminster in London); consumerism (Stockholm) and now young girls at a pop concert in Manchester. So Jeremy, I think it’s fair to say that foreign policy is quite far down the list (check out the official ISIS hate list here).

Media narrative – In the immediate aftermath, the rolling news curiously imprints the same effect on your mind as binge watching the Real Housewives of Cheshire – first there’s spittle, then resentment, and finally a numbed passivity. Following the BBC coverage you’d be forgiven for thinking an accident had happened – perhaps a crash on the M60 or a collapsed concert hall brought on by shoddy workmanship – certainly not a politically inspired suicide attack brought on by a medieval religious text. Cue the desperation to portray Muslims in a good light even if it’s a woman in a Burhka with the words love spelled out in various forms of ammunition (link here) – in retrospect, quite funny.

Andy Burnham – Our new Major of Manchester and Koranic expert Andy Burnham said ‘this man was a terrorist, not a Muslim’. Essentially, Burnham had ex-communicated Salman Abedi – a practice known as takfiri and widely practiced by ISIS and other Islamic extremists (In a bizarre twist, Burham has put his own personal fatwa on Abedi!).  Furthermore, Andy has been cosying up to Manchester’s Muslim communities in order to get himself elected. One of the ways he did this was to call for the government’s one and only counter extremism ‘Prevent’ strategy to be scrapped. He’s also appeared at a mayoral hustings organised by the ‘anti-Islamophobia’ pressure group Muslim Engagement and development (MEND). The group is led by Azadi Ali who previously lost a libel battle with newspapers who said he was a “hardline Islamic extremist who supports the killing of British and American soldiers in Iraq by fellow Muslims as justified”. (You can read more about this here)

Twitter hates Katie Hopkins and Tommy Robinson more than Abedi – Rather than direct all their hate and anger to the real problem – the twitterati, the liberal left and the rest of the lynch mob decided to unleash it on Katie Hopkins or whoever else. Simply nothing more than an exercise in virtue signalling and an indication of how political correctness has taken over every facet of life in this country. It seems they’d rather let us all die than be politically incorrect.

‘Don’t look back in anger’ is an incredibly stupid choice of song – The 90’s Oasis song was the message of ‘defiance and unity’ the crowd of mourners sent to the dead victims and presumably to ISIS and other forms of Islamic extremism (though I have no evidence of this at present) here’s a snapshot of some of the lyrics:

 Slip inside the eye of your mindDon’t you know you might find, A better place to play?    

 So I’ll start a revolution from my bed, Cause you said the brains I had went to my head

Please don’t put your life in the hands, Of a Rock ‘n’ Roll band, Who’ll throw it all away          

(That part is, I believe, directed at those who flee to Syria to join the renegade rock band ISIS)

Why are we united and what are we united against? – Mass murder and terrorism unites us. We’re encouraged to feel love, empathy, hope not hate and to ‘carry on’. Our reaction to these events are strange. The politicians clearly feel that if we the public release our inner anger and start asking questions then we’d surely become a mob of torch wielding angry villagers – set on a path of rampant destruction.

Weeping for our fellow citizens is, I suppose to a certain degree, a natural reaction but we need to move past that and start getting angry and asking questions – many of them uncomfortable. Let’s start with the official state sanctioned response of ‘carry on’ and ‘unity’ – unity about what? Around what? A pop song? What values should we be united around? Diversity? Carry on until what? The next time? Carry on camping? In other words, ‘carry on’ and ‘unity’ are the new buzz words for shut up and don’t ask questions.

Getting a Manchester bee tattoo makes total sense – The bee emblem represents Manchester. Manchester got a terrorist attack. Therefore I’ll emblazon a bee on my skin. Ludicrous, of course, but this wasn’t primarily an attack on Manchester in the sense of the city itself – rather, as the attacker saw it, on whole on western civilization – and in this case young girls enjoying themselves at a pop concert. Yet for a country that doesn’t know what its values are and what we should rally behind – apart from some vague musings about diversity, tolerance, multiculture and the like. Getting a bee tattoo makes total sense.

Booze is fantastic; don’t let anyone tell you otherwise

It has now been roughly 23 days since I last had a drink or, more precisely, 552 hours or 33120 minutes or 1987200 seconds and counting; I said roughly remember, I can’t recall the exact moment when I quit, I’m not an addict for gods sake – just dedicated, to booze that is – I’m a dedicated drinker. Like most of the population (I suspect, if we’re honest) I’ve dedicated more of my life to the heady elixir of fermented yeast than perhaps anything else – admit it, you probably have to0. Of course there’s nicotine, caffeine, uppers, downers, inners and outers – but they don’t have a scratch on booze: the pièce de résistance.

Is there anything good about being pissed? Or is its sole purpose to make our lives a misery? The scraps and confrontations, the pregnancies and STDs, the weight gain, the cold blue dawn light of clarity followed by regret and apprehension concluding in anxiety and paranoia, the vomit, the divorces, the heartbreak and fallings out, the indigestion and acidity, bloated tummies and empty wallets; a Mephistopheles of the soul: a scatterer, a disperser, a plasterer of lies, seeking to corrupt men, a foot soldier of Lucifer.

Or does it come as a saviour? A diligent and efficient waiter – French perhaps – to serve and ultimately collect the half bitten empty morsels of those already damned. Not a temptress or siren but a masseuse of the soul for those in danger of being damned – a vanguard to the portal of our ever present private hell.

God knows. And who cares? All I know is that everyone, everywhere, loves booze, all the time, throughout the ages – without exception. The Chinese, Babylonians, Sumerians, all of them loved a tipple – the religious and spiritual especially, they even had gods devoted to wine – imagine such a thing. Then there are the Romans who believed wine a democratic necessity – available to all, whether slave, peasant, patron or squire and what else can you say that about? The Greeks loved their symposiums and the Macedonians, devoted followers of Dionysius (God of wine), gained a reputation for loutish behaviour and believed the stuff made you more masculine – no arguing with that.

Even the bible loves booze: Give strong drink unto him that is ready to perish, and wine unto those that be of heavy hearts. Let him drink, and forget his poverty, and remember his misery no more (proverbs 31: 6-7). And so immediately after the flood Noah had his own private vineyard installed and Jesus (that’s Jesus Christ) was so desperate to revive a flagging party that he used special powers to turn water into wine – I think that’s what you call the miracle of miracles.

It turns out that inebriation is the one thing – perhaps the only thing – that has united the sorry pit of humanity throughout the ages. That and porn; and like smut it seems to be everywhere. Whether you’re sacrificing to the gods, celebrating a victory, getting married, attending a funeral, going into battle, pledging allegiance, departing and returning, or evening abstaining; booze will turn up, always, waving its hands, dolled up like a tart to bow to its legion of followers cheering as they beckon him in. (Ok, maybe porn wasn’t a good example, but you get the idea.)

The late great legendary boozer Christopher Hitchens was right: “It has been said that alcohol is a good servant and a bad master. Nice try. The plain fact is that it makes other people, and indeed life itself, a good deal less boring.” Indeed can you imagine life without it? – The agreeable nods, the smug self satisfied grimaces of the perpetually healthy as they torture you with their latest body mass index, the health food restaurants and the gluten free freaks (naturally), taut skin and shiny cheek bones, grimaces masquerading as content, the tee-total dating sites (Margery, 27, enjoys horse-riding, the Green Party, quinoa, herbal tea and being tied up and have someone wee wee on her – strictly no DSS or Tories, thanks).

Apparently the old are drinking more and the young a lot less – and by less I mean total abstinence. The number of under-25s opting for a booze free existence has increased by 40 per in the last 9 years, with more than quarter not drinking at all. This probably has something to do with the current Mohammed name fad and the rising Muslim demographic (in ‘ultra diverse’ London 1 in 3 people are now teetotal) but also to do with the fact that generation safe-space are the most censorious, whining, narcissistic and irksome generation ever. And who wants to end up like that? So good riddance, let them wallow in their boredom.

As I said I’ve have been a loyal and faithful follower for over 17 years and never missed a weekend – until now, that is. Time to reassess, take stock, sort ones life out, as they love to say. I’ve done a month and that’s long enough. Just another 68 hours and 32 minutes left to the end of my temperance. I can’t wait. I’ve a bone to pick. So here’s to alcohol the greatest and most unifying contrivance or connivance mankind has ever discovered or invented. Cheers.

Bored of Islamic terror? – You’re not the only one

Ah, remember when Islamic terror used to have a sort of long drawn out tiresome spunky excitement to it – the bromide hash tags and slogans; the pathetic shows of unity; the facebooks and the tricolor; the self flagellation; the candle lit vigils; the celebrities; the Beatles songs and the pianos; the Katie Hopkins rants; we’re all in it together, this is a difficult time and so on.

Remember the predictable sequence of events and denials of reality in the aftermath:

First, you see bodies littered over some street or other, usually in France – no mention of the I word or the M word just yet: after all it could’ve been a pissed off Anglican priest or a crazy Buddhist off his meds. Then everyone takes to Facebook and social media to promote whatever silly slogan or avatar the moronic inferno has decided to adopt as its sentimental rallying cry. By now the politicians are out of bed and condemning the attack as ‘shocking and appalling’.

Then, no longer able to conceal the truth from the public despite their best efforts, the BBC et al. confirm the perpetrator was indeed a bloke called Mohammed. No use of the I word or M word yet. Next, more gory details start to filter through. Eyewitness accounts. Then ISIS claims the attack as a victory – good for Hollande so he now can say: “We’re going to hit ISIS where it hurts” – anything to sell the atrocity as a foreign rather than a domestic issue. Other world leaders condemn the attack.

Then we move to Act 2. Yes the psycho was indeed a Mohammed, as usual, but this doesn’t mean a jot. Because the BBC have found someone – possibly a cousin or some other acquaintance who tells them that he ate pork pies and never even went to church, sorry the Mosque. His family know fuck all as do the local community who say he was a quiet loner addicted to sex with himself. No mention of the I or M word yet. Breaking News: Mohammed had accomplices – probably also called Mohammed but possibly even Ahmed or Iqual (in any case immigrant names). No mention of the I or M word yet.

Next, the really boring bit Act 3 – the nothing to do with Islam phase. By now it is no longer possible to conceal the words Islam and Muslim from the public (at least when debating it – C4 News and the BBC will try to avoid it at all costs in headlines). Everyone will debate radicalisation as though you just somehow catch it like gonorrhoea – and will offer no clear answers. Vacuous news presenters ask ‘experts’ why it keeps happening in France – no clear answers, but foreign policy will raise its head and possibly Israel and Palestine. No one remembers the dead victims anymore. Politicians inform us that this has nothing to do with you know what and they don’t represent you know what. Mass marches through the streets about peace, love, unity, open borders and all the rest of it. A massive prick sings a song.

Finally, act 4 – Islamophobia. Having now established that none of this has anything to do with you know what – focus will now be turned on the real problem facing us all: racism. Politicians may even apologise on behalf of the Muslim community for how they must feel; news footage shows an angry mob of EDL supporters; the rise of the far right is discussed; concern about Islamophobic attacks: a women in a headscarf was called a bimbo or whatever; ‘you ain’t no Muslim bruv’ or ‘Islam is peace’ or something similar trending on twitter.

Well, those were the good old days (a few months ago) when we at least made an effort, there used to be a formula, a method to the madness. After the Nice attack we hopped, skipped and jumped through each act in a matter of hours rather than days. As Douglas Murray writes, ‘everything barely worth saying will be said endlessly. And the only things worth saying won’t be said.’ Let’s hope the Islamists take our lead and succumb to ennui – I doubt it though.

You can’t laugh at that! How the middle class liberals have hijacked British comedy

I don’t know when it happened exactly, but at some point during the last decade I stopped watching British stand-up comedy. It wasn’t a conscious decision, but rather a dawn get-a-way, tiptoeing with stealth and acuity out of a dodgy hotel room you might leave a whore in (I’ve been told) or a heap of hung-over drunken sailors after a night of debauchery. It just stopped-being-funny and became more of an angry pedantic lesson on how to think and what political beliefs were and were not acceptable in polite society.

Take, for example, ‘alternative’ comedian Stewart Lee in last night’s episode of Comedy Vehicle entitled ‘Migrants’ – go on, I bet you can guess what Mr Lee’s views are on migrants? Go on try it. You’re going to be right. You are right. He has exactly the same views on migrants as every other dinner party liberal; same as he does with UKIP, Islam, the Tories and a whole host of other stuff that preoccupy this narrow minded sub-strata of society. You know what they’re going to say before they utter a syllable and it’s boring.

In fact, Stewart is such a stereotype that he even has a regular column in the Guardian – the bible of the faux left chattering classes. It’s a shame, because he was, once, actually very funny and genuinely alternative (watch his stuff from the 90’s). Now, he seems to have fallen in line with every other comedian: stand-up saturated with rigid political orthodoxies, right-on, faux left and generally mocking of anyone who doesn’t share his twisted liberal view of the world – particularly the common muck.

Stewart, bizarrely, spent 20 minutes of his stand-up routine mocking Spectator and Sunday Times columnist Rod Liddle (who is side-splittingly funny, by the way); which is fine, only, it wasn’t funny at all – which is a bummer if you’re a comedian. What is revealing is that he chose to mock not only Rod’s political beliefs per se but also his working class roots and ‘plebeian’ background (as he sees it); which, I assume, he believes is responsible for all of his awful uncivilised views.

Embarrassingly, the pompous wanker could barely conceal his utter contempt for the working class, as he rounded off his tiresome pageant of Rod being covered in gravy, angel delight, suet, jelly from a pork pie (not anything as middle-class and foreign as pate, he insinuated) and Tunnocks teacakes. The last ten minutes was particularly cringing as he mimicked Rod eating a poppadum in an Indian Restaurant – it went on and on, until I actually started to feel sorry for the guy. But hang on Stewart, isn’t that racist? You could’ve at least chosen an English chippy – you’re supposed to resent the culture you come from, right?

Anyway, Stewart Lee has spent his career being the anti-hero of comedy, but now, unbeknownst to him and his legion of smug Guardianista fans, he is no longer alternative but rather the choirmaster of a seemingly endless chorus of ‘comedians’ who advertise for the liberal establishment – there’s nothing alternative about him. He’s totally mainstream. And the same goes with practically all of them – except maybe Ricky Gervais – at least not yet.

Whether it’s the cross-dressing Euro-nut Eddie Izzard who used make brilliant surrealist observational comedy, but is now content with moronic jokes comparing Nigel Farage to Hitler. Or star of the brilliant Peep Show, David Mitchell, who now presents ‘soap box’ videos for the Guardian Website – guess what gets on his nerves the most? Go on guess. Even his co-star Robert Webb, again used to be funny, but now writes a weary column for the Guardian’s big brother – the endlessly tedious and humourless New Statesman.

Then, there’s Marcus Brigstock, who loathes working class culture and mocks ‘overweight women who tuck a copy of a women’s magazine under the pizza in their shopping trolleys’ and lazy builders who ‘need eight gallons of tea every five minutes’. (Maybe some of those builders are Polish – the coward wouldn’t dare mock them). Even risqué standup Frankie Boyle has a Guardian column in which he slags off the Tories and hurls insults at Americans – the only nationality you can mock without being called a racist – again, another coward.

So, you see there’s something a lil’ bit fishy going on; but don’t be fooled – this isn’t just a troupe of annoying elites spitting bile at anyone who has the audacity share an opinion other than what they deem acceptable; no, this is much darker and has more wider cultural significance.

A few years back I attended a Christmas party and as is the norm on these occasions I, along with my co-workers, got pebble-dashingly pissed faced. The conversation turned to British Comedy and why it isn’t funny anymore – because you can’t laugh or joke about anything – a wry and fellow piss head observed; someone even suggested that Thatcher put an end to jokes about the Irish – this, though, has yet to be proven.

Anyway, I can’t entirely recollect what happened next, but I recall putting a serviette on my head and performed my embarrassing gay Jesus routine – this went down well (everyone was hammered); then I pretended to be Mohammed and the scene turned nasty – that’s offensive, that’s racist, stop it, they all cried – even though nobody was Muslim and everybody was, supposedly, a Christian.

Make of that what you will – but when society at large, and increasingly the state, starts to police jokes, we’re in very dangerous territory indeed. Old working class pub stand up, Bernard Manning, was probably a bigot, but I’ll take him any day over this new breed humourless, PC, patronising bien pensants.

RIP, Ronnie Corbett

Why does Manchester hate dogs? Are we androids?

Something ridiculous happened at this year’s hideously over managed, tiresome and predictable Christmas markets in Manchester. An employee of the dog Stasi, aka Manchester City Council, prohibited me from entering Albert Square (a public area, by the way) because I was carrying my beloved Chihuahua in a bag. I’ll say it again: a Chihuahua in a bag.

That wasn’t the worse bit though (and came as no surprise considering how increasingly regulated our lives are); no, the worse bit was the look of horror, and near panic on the official’s countenance. As though I’d strapped a suicide vest to the poor animal and darted toward one of those silly mock Disneyesque beer huts screaming Allah-Akbar.

‘Why’, I asked. ‘Don’t know, council ‘ave banned them,’ she replied, in your typical dim bat council employee fashion. But why? What’s the precedent? What possible disturbance could my Chihuahua in a bag inflict on the hundreds of already loud, mouthy drunken Christmas revellers?

In typical patronising fashion, here’s what the council say on their ‘we-know-better than-you-poor-peasants’ website: ‘Sorry pooch, but Albert square’s market area has a strict ‘no dogs’ policy…We love our canine friends but the enclosed space is just too busy and crowded, which isn’t a very suitable area for dogs…You can bring your dogs to other markets though…but it’s probably best to leave them at home while you visit the Christmas markets.’

Is it really probably best? Thanks nanny for informing me what probably is or isn’t best for my dog. The hundreds council pen-pushers (probably) who were paid to come up with that drivel are (probably) ignorant idiots. And here’s why: as any dog owner knows, the best way of bringing up a well behaved dog is by ensuring it is well socialised; in other words, by introducing it to a variety of social situations no matter how raucous, busy or enclosed, the dog will adapt and therefore behave more agreeably outside of the house. Restricting dogs in every conceivable arena of public life, as we do these days, is more likely to produce a problem dog.

The council though, in their new designated role as public life-coaches, have decided that it would probably be best if they legislated our dogs (along with smokers) out of existence.

Take, for example, the Metrolink, which has had a bye-law prohibiting dogs since 1992. Despite recent public consultations, which revealed that a majority were in favour of allowing dogs on board, they still refused to have the ban lifted – citing the usual waffle about health and safety, fouling damage, stress induced behaviour and allergies (By the same logic, you might as well ban children, the elderly, people displaying flu like symptoms, vomiting drunks, the agitated and infirm).

Bizarrely, dogs are now being discriminated against in the city’s parks. Certain restrictions apply in designated areas; or you must walk them on a lead, and a very short lead at that, or else. Some parks, including Platt Fields, have designated dog-walking areas – but watch your mutt like a hawk, in case they frighten an innocent bystander or maul a pigeon to death.

Anyway, I was reminded of all fascist big state stuff when reading Phillip K Dick’s brilliant dystopian novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sleep? (Later filmed and renamed as Blade Runner.)

In the novel, a simple empathy test is performed to determine who among the populace is an android. ‘Subjects’ are given hypothetical situations relating to animals (such as pulling the legs of a spider and lots of other weird stuff) and tested to see their reaction.

As you might expect animal empathy is pretty much a hard-wired human emotion, so naturally none of the androids pass (schizophrenics also fail, so it’s important to differentiate). The point being that loving and caring for animals is a basic human emotion; and since our city’s leaders clearly hate dogs, it naturally follows they too must be either androids or schizophrenics (I’d proffer the latter – in the novel androids have really high IQs).

So, the wonderfully diverse city of Manchester that caters and panders to every conceivable minority – no matter how ludicrous – has stuck two fingers up at the dog owning population, which you know, only accounts for between 200,000 – 300,000 council tax paying households in the region; 52,000 of whom live within 80 metres of the dog hating tram. And yes, of course, there are some skin headed hoodlums out there straining a pit bull on a lease – but these surely are a minority. Get a grip.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Mancunian weather: The rain falls hard on this humdrum town

When Mr Manchester himself, Tony Wilson, said ‘Jazz was the last refuge of the untalented’, what he really meant to say – to quote Oscar Wilde – was that ‘conversation about the weather is the last refuge of the unimaginative’.

Tucked away in a precipitous bowl shaped area of land, bordered to the north and east by the Pennines and to the south by the Cheshire plain, here, every day is like Sunday – we are forever destined to be the umbrella capital of the country

But the mercurial nature of Mancunian weather isn’t just an icebreaker. It’s a mood, a memory, a sound, an errant child and a naughty mistress. It’s an atmosphere, an emotion, an expression and era – and in this age of globalisation, it’s the weather that still ties us down to one specific place. It’s who we are and where we come from.

The relentless drizzle of our beloved city has inspired our greatest writers from Thomas de Quincey – who described his mental landscape as a terrifying cloud structure bubbling up beyond control – to our greatest painter L.S Lowry, whose unforgivably bleak, grey and unchanging skies were the expression of a generation of matchstick men destined to toil in this most industrial of cities.

Without the rain, Manchester would never have been the powerhouse of the industrial revolution (the damp air means the cotton is less likely to snap) – there would be no decaying mills and silent chimneys – which haunt, like ghosts, the psyche of our city’s writers, lyricists and artists. Rumour also has it, that the damp air is responsible for our slight nasal diction.

When Morrissey sang – “The rain falls down on this humdrum town, this town has dragged you down” – he owed much to the post-industrial romanticism of the city and the people that roamed its damp wet streets. The lethargic Well I Wonder, another Smiths song, ends with the sounds of falling rain, evoking the sense of a lazy rainy day. The same with Joy Division and their bleak claustrophobic mechanised melodies – both bands could only have come from the manufacturing capital.

But is it all a myth? Does the city really deserve the accolade of the ‘rainy city’?

That beacon of climatic common sense – The Met Office – defines a ‘rain day’ as being a day on which one millimetre or more of rainfall is measured. Manchester has on average 86.7cms of rain every year, compared to Britain’s wettest cities, Cardiff (115cms); Glasgow (112cms); Preston (103.36); it even rains more in Blackpool (88.27cms). In fact, Manchester barely makes the top ten – we do, however, have more rainy days than most with 150 sodden days a year (Glasgow still beats us with 170, as does Preston with its commendable 153).

If it is a myth, then where does it come from? Perhaps a document, dating to 1926, can provide the answer.

Discovered by researchers a few years ago, the 90-year-old record contains a map showing that some parts of what is now Greater Manchester experienced 139cms of rain a year, but only 78cm fell over Manchester. In 1926 the average rainfall in England was 91cms. The map was shaded blue – one of the first of its kind in the North West – to denote annual rainfall. It was printed widely in the press, including the Manchester Guardian, and experts believe it was instrumental in reinforcing the city’s reputation for dismal weather – and of course, once something sticks it’s difficult to shake off.

But then, myths are more potent than history; and if it’s a choice between legend and fact, always go for the legend.

Some rain enthusiasts disagree with the naysayers, pointing out that Manchester has, in fact, been getting wetter over the past 100 years – even going as far to suggest that Tuesdays are the wettest, Saturdays are getting wetter, and Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays are the driest.

And besides, if you count any form of wet like: drizzle, sprinkles, mizzles, dew, light showers, intermittent spots, mists, sprays, breezes, splashes, puffs, scuds and even a squelchy ground – it is ‘technically’ always raining in Manchester, even if you don’t necessarily get soaked.

So, there you go: the rain – the tippling, the pelting, and the plothering – luttering from clouds the colour of cigarette ash. It has inspired, amused, dampened our hair and spirits, razed our sense of fashion to the ground, besmirched our weekends, muddied our floors and revolutionised our textile industry. Whether we are the ‘rainy city’ or merely the ‘somewhat rainy city’, the rain still deserves a place in all Mancunian hearts. So, you see, Mr. Wilde, there’s nothing unimaginative in conversation about the weather.

(Published here at ilovemanchester.com)