Thursday, March 11, 2010 

Social networking refuseniks.

I suspect, although I might be wrong, that I'm one of the few regular bloggers (not to mention also of a certain age) that hasn't also embraced the wonders of Facebook and/or Twitter. There are a few reasons behind this, especially the way that I'm not comfortable with revealing who I actually am, both in terms of my name and in posting photographs, which I loathe taking of myself in any event. I also dislike the whole erosion of privacy which comes with both, regardless of whether you hide behind a false identity or not; nor do I understand why other people would care what I'm doing at any precise moment. For those that have plenty of friends, or even just online friends, and are completely at ease with the past, I'm sure they're great and a wonderful way to keep in touch, I just don't think they'd add anything to the already pristine brilliance of my existence.

Are there then any other social networking refuseniks out there that do pretty much everything else on the net, including blogging, and yet don't get involved with these sites? I'd be genuinely interested to know, or even if you're just a refusenik that doesn't blog, with your reasons why, or just an acknowledgement. And no, I don't want persuading of just how fabulous Facebook and Twitter are. I'm not alone, right?

Labels: , , ,

Share |

Friday, January 22, 2010 

A short response to Edlington and David Cameron.

I'm sure you'll forgive me for not writing anything too extensive tonight, although if you want to read my response to all the comments on the post below it's now there, finally.

What I will do is link you to Unity's post on the sentencing of the boys who committed the terrible crime in Edlington, my own post from when they pleaded guilty, which still stands up pretty well in my admittedly biased eyes, and which also makes me deeply anxious about the media response we're likely to see tomorrow morning.

And no, Mr Cameron, it is not responsible to describe the crime committed by those two brothers, however horrendous and wicked, as "evil". You, more than anyone else, should be careful with your words and remember that we are dealing with children here, not adults. Stop trying to make political capital out of terrible but extremely rare events, which do not in any way, shape or form show that society as a whole is broken.

Labels: , , , , ,

Share |

Thursday, January 21, 2010 

Why am I such a fucking moron?

I have written here before, although not very extensively, about suffering from depression. It isn't something that I want to characterise my writing, or something which I become identified for, even if only by the few remaining like-minded individuals who take their time to read my babbling. Whilst I have for the most part made a good recovery, even if I still have incredibly low self-esteem and am pretty much a shut-in, hopeless at social interaction, one of the other problems I have is a complete inability to be able to forget and let go.

I don't know whether this is because is I haven't managed to establish any meaningful relationships with almost anyone since I left school, although I'm willing to bet that's fairly high up there in the reasons why. I do know however that I really want to be able to move on, but for whatever mental limitation I have, I simply don't seem to be able to. This manifests itself in different ways: while I have successfully gone months without feeling the need to remind myself of what a completely inadequate, insensitive and fantastically brainless fool I am, I almost always end up at some point, usually in the small hours of the morning when my levels of resistance to causing myself and others even more unnecessary pain, anguish and inconvenience break down, being unable to stop myself from doing things that in the morning I always instantly regret.

It is though by then far too late, and the damage as always has been done. By my reckoning this is now the third time that I've broken my promise to stop being such a wet, annoying fucktard; as before, I can only offer my increasingly insincere apologies. There is, just as there has ever been, only myself to blame. The kindness that I have been previously shown, which I don't even begin to deserve, only makes the cruelty to which I have responded to it with even more inexplicable. I hope that this gives a slightly more detailed explanation as to why. The best psychological definition of why this keeps happening that I've come across is that coined by Dorothy Tennov, termed limerence.

I don't want pity; that isn't the reason for this post. I'm more than able to pity myself. It just appears right now to be the best way to try and help myself, while also trying to help others to understand why I'm such a hopeless, ignorant internet equivalent of a bad penny. I wish deeply I wasn't like this; I wish deeply that I could just for once respect the wishes of others. Wishing though is all that I have, and my wishes up to now have never come true.


Share |

Thursday, December 03, 2009 

25 years of poison.

25 years ago to the day, the worst industrial disaster in history took place in Bhopal, India. 8,000 to 10,000 people died within 72 hours; the number of deaths attributable to the release of Methyl isocyanate from the Union Carbide plant has since risen to around 20,000, with as many as half a million affected in some way.

25 years ago to the day, I was born.

In my more spiritual, bullshit, irrational moments, I like to imagine that despite the fact that I came into conciousness long before I was actually delivered, and that reincarnation in any event is laughable, that one of the souls which broke free from its corporeal body in such a brutally painful fashion flew half-way around the world and entered mine as I properly entered the world. Feel free to laugh. It sounds good though.

There is though the most tenuous of further connections. Chances are, I myself wouldn't be here if the youngest of my three elder brothers hadn't died in an accident when he was 5 years old. In a way, I was the replacement, right down to being born on the same day as he was, a coincidence rather than a conscious attempt on the part of my parents, as far as I'm aware. We do incidentally share the same hair colour but not the same personality, although you can't exactly know for sure how his would have changed had his life not been cut so short.

While the personal tragedy of my own existence continues, the genuine tragedy, the outrage which took place in Bhopal goes far beyond ordinary disgrace into extraordinary, deadly farce. As Indra Sinha concludes:

When people ask, "Why is the disaster continuing? Why has the factory not been cleaned? Why have Union Carbide and Dow not faced justice?", the answer is this: Union Carbide's victims are still dying in Bhopal because India itself is dying under the corrupt and self-serving rule of rotten leaders.

For me at least, however bad this sounds, it rather brings things into perspective.

Labels: ,

Share |

Thursday, April 09, 2009 

Frustration and terror raids.

This week has been deeply frustrating, not having the internet at home, my entire phone line still being completely dead, although Tiscali have finally put BT engineers onto the case, because despite it being ostensibly a "holiday" week with parliament in recess, the news has hardly been slow, what with the emergence of the video footage of Ian Tomlinson being assaulted, the arrest of the two boys in Doncaster in what seems like a chilling echo of the murder of James Bulger, which the tabloids have predictably leapt upon, as have the equally shameless Tories (although only following Labour's own politicisation of the Bulger killing), with Chris Grayling reprising his somehow worse than Labour front on tackling youth crime, and then finally with the anti-terror raids in the north-west.

It's the latter that's most intriguing because of the way already in which the "plot", if indeed there was one, is starting to be downplayed. Yesterday the Sun was headlining its website with "BOMB PLOT TO KILL THOUSANDS", as it is wont to do, while now spooks' friend Frank Gardner is briefing that it had been at "the aspirational, rather than operational" stage. This is quite a change from yesterday: then sources had been claiming, to the Guardian in particular that the attack was expected to have taken place by Monday at the latest, and that the raids, triggered by Bob Quick's slowness had successfully disrupted a soon to come to fruition plot. Others talked, even this morning, of suicide attacks on up to four locations, with the Daily Star yesterday going out on its usual limb (or as usual simply making it up) claiming that Anfield and Old Trafford were potential targets.

Equally, other stories claimed that those involved had been under surveillance for months; now the Guardian suggests that the intelligence alerting the authorities to the alleged plot had only arrived in the past couple of weeks, with the raids triggered because further intelligence had suggested that the attack was imminent. The only "incriminating" thing that appears to have been found so far is photographs of the Trafford centre, the Birdcage nightclub, St Ann's square and the Arndale centre, along with claims that officers watched and listened in as they took them.

It's enough to make you wonder whether already the police and security services are preparing for another "ricin plot"/Forest Gate style fiasco. This is the obvious problem when relying almost solely on intelligence rather than good old fashioned surveillance and police work; it tends, more than often, to be inaccurate. If the Guardian's take on the intelligence only coming in in the last two weeks is correct, it explains why both ministers and indeed the head of MI5 were up until very recently beginning to suggest that the general level of threat from terrorism had begun to diminish. If we assume for a moment that those arrested are at some level connected with jihadism, even if any attack they were planning was still way off, it does also suggest a step change in tactics. Until recently almost all those involved in past plots were either British citizens or had lived here for significant periods of time; only one of those arrested this time round is of British origin. Whether this is because those indigenous to this country had miserably failed, whether they be those involved in the fertiliser plot, the "liquid bomb" attacks or the Tiger Tiger/Glasgow airport patio gas canister debacle or because those at the top thought Pakistani student "clean skins" would have a better chance of going undetected, as well as being probably far better trained is unclear, but it does also suggest that the threat from actual Brits is declining, as suggested by Jonathan Evans when he said al-Qaida had no "semi-autonomous" structure in the country at present.

It could of course yet turn out to be everything which security sources initially briefed on, but as always it's equally difficult to know just how cynical to be, with Craig Murray getting his in early, especially regarding the coincidences regarding the Ian Tomlinson evidence and the continuing furore over parliamentary expenses. Always worth keeping in mind is that however much ministers and police attempt to exaggerate the threat, or what might have happened had a plot not been foiled, so far jihadists in this country have exposed their incompetence and ignorance on numerous occasions, while only succeeding once. The IRA used to say that they only had to be lucky once, which is true, but the odds are overwhelmingly, nonetheless, in our favour.

Labels: , , , , , ,

Share |

Tuesday, April 07, 2009 


Updates are likely to be light to non-existent until at least Wednesday evening, as I appear to be one of those lucky souls stricken by the major cable damage in East London, even though I'm a good 50 or more miles away and my phone line didn't go dead until late Sunday night. I'm sure you'll be able to amuse yourselves more than adequately in the mean time, although whether I will is another matter.

Labels: , ,

Share |

Wednesday, March 04, 2009 

Half-assed blogging.

Apologies again for the half-assed blogging so far this week. I'd like to say it's because I've got something major in the works, but I haven't, it's just me not managing my time properly. Here then are two outstanding posts which more than merit your attention:

Stumbling and Mumbling - Gordon Brown: a defence
Unity - Woolas: the Minister for Invertebrates

Labels: , ,

Share |

Monday, April 21, 2008 


Being dragged away for a few days. Should be back on Friday.

Labels: ,

Share |

Thursday, April 10, 2008 


In one of my irregular moments of madness some time ago, as any of you whom for some reason have searched for "septicisle" might know (41 people have so far this month, although 11 have also been referred here after they searched for "gay orgy", 2 were from "celebs with big foreheads", another 2 from "putting in a tampon", yet another 2 for "dont hit kids no seriously they have guns now", 1 from "gordon brown's student pamphlet 'how to sponge a living from state benefits'", 1 more from "my grief is killing me help me" and finally 1 from "cunts at jobcentre made me get a job at a care home which is unbearable") I made the stupid mistake of setting up a MurdochSpace page. For anyone wondering, yes, it's mine, and yes, you couldn't possibly have guessed that I looked like that, and yes, I realise this makes me the most horrendous hypocrite. Still, at least I'm not on Facebook.

If any of you are so inclined or dull enough to want me as a phony friend, feel free.

I get the feeling I'm going to regret this in the morning.

Labels: ,

Share |

Thursday, March 13, 2008 

Comment policy.

Seeing as I seem to be getting a few more comments lately (thank you to everyone who takes the time to incidentally, it's wonderful encouragement whether you agree with me or not) it's probably time for something approaching a policy on what is permissible and what isn't, although I'm hardly going to be strictly enforcing it.

1. Let's try and keep it as civil as possible - the exception being when someone so clearly deserves everything they get in return, i.e. Allison Pearson definitely yesterday, Kamm somewhat the day before. I'll always post a comment myself with the reason for why a comment has been removed, hopefully something I won't have to do.

2. Keep private/personal lives out of it as much as possible - unless rampant hypocrisy is in evidence. i.e. sorry to pick on you John, but what has happened on other blogs when he's commented and others have then sought fit to remind everyone of what he's served his time for is an example of something that's not going to fly here.

3. Anything I deem potentially libellous or wildly offensive that doesn't fall under the caveats in 1 is likely to be removed. Racism, misogyny, homophobia etc.

That should do it. If anyone has any suggestions, problems, then err, feel free to comment.

Labels: , ,

Share |

Tuesday, February 26, 2008 

The drugs can work.

Whenever there's a new major scientific study released, especially one that hits the front pages of most of the so-called qualities, it's always a good idea to see what the crew over on the Bad Science forum think, both of the report itself and of the subsequent summaries of that report in the press. Their verdict (Ben Goldacre's own is the last post on page 3), especially on the Guardian's report, isn't especially encouraging.

The Grauniad article opens with this statement:

Prozac, the bestselling antidepressant taken by 40 million people worldwide, does not work and nor do similar drugs in the same class, according to a major review released today.

Except the study, which is itself a meta-analysis of the 47 studies which the researchers obtained from the American Food and Drug Administration doesn't come to that conclusion at all. It instead finds that Prozac (fluoxetine, an SSRI), Seroxat (Paxil in the US, paroxetine, SSRI), Effexor (venlafaxine, an SNRI) and Serzone (Nefazodone, neither an SSRI, an SNRI, an MAOI or an older tricylic anti-depressant, and which is no longer prescribed in the US because of links with liver damage) actually do work, or at least up to a point. Compared to placebo, the study finds that the drugs do in fact have a slightly higher clinical effect, but for mild to moderate depression it's not significant enough under the NICE criteria for them to be considered cost effective (Endofphil has an MS Paint diagram example).

Where the drugs are considered effective and perform far better than placebo is on those with severe depression, and which in any case is what doctors are meant to only be prescribing them for. For mild to moderate depression doctors are pointed towards offering counselling or "talking therapy", up to cognitive behavioural therapy or interpersonal psychotherapy. This though is often unavailable in certain NHS trusts, and even if it is the waiting list tends to be a mile-long, leaving doctors with little option other than recommending the almost cliched exercise, talking to friends or getting out a bit more. Many people who feel they're at their wits' end go and see their GP and beg for anti-depressants, something that most will most give in to, even if they don't appear to be severely depressed. The figure banded about for anti-depressant prescriptions is 16 million written a year, but that of course includes repeats.

Seeing as I have something approaching "experience" in this area, my path towards getting help was roughly as follows. After summoning up the courage to see my GP, he referred me to a psychiatrist. By the time my appointment with him was coming up, my situation had declined considerably and I was taken to see the psychiatrist at the local A&E, whom prescribed me Lustral (sertraline, Zoloft in the US, an SSRI). I then saw the first psychiatrist whom also prescribed me an anti-psychotic (first Zyprexa, olanzapine, now Seroquel, quetiapine) and introduced me to the psychiatric nurse, who I've been seeing for almost roughly 5 years now every month or so. In between then I've been referred to various individuals, among them a psychologist, with whom I underwent interpersonal psychotherapy, a youth worker who I basically just poured my heart out to, a group on overcoming depression, which started off with around 10-12 people attending and at the finish with around 4 of us, and probably some others I've missed out. I certainly can't say the NHS hasn't bent over backwards to help me, that's for certain. Out of all these things, what I do think has helped the most? To get over the initial bad period, I have very little doubt that the drugs helped immensely; after which, I think the interpersonal psychotherapy was the most rewarding, challenging and effective.

The main problem with anti-depressants is that some have the impression that they're a panacea, and this isn't just down to being ill-informed, but rather because the drug companies, big pharma or whatever you want to call them lobby and advertise furiously that this is indeed the case (see above advert). Because of both the NHS, the advertising laws and otherwise, we don't have the drug companies directly advertising their wares to us in this country, or at least the ones that are prescription only. In America however they do, and they don't just recommend the SSRIs in them for depression, but also for a whole assortment of other mental disorders, some for which their efficacy has been uncertain at best. This is partly why this study is important: it contains reports submitted to the FDA but which weren't officially published, for the simple reason that the study didn't find the drug to have the beneficial effects the drugs company claim they do. This is publication bias, and it buries the results which don't chime with what the company funding the development of the drug wanted to hear.

The other problems with the SSRIs are well-documented. Since Prozac, the first SSRI to be mass-marketed arrived, there have been claims suggesting that in some cases the drugs have actually contributed to suicides or in some rare occurrences, homicides. As a result of further research on the use of SSRIs in those under 18, they were highly recommended not to be prescribed to the young as some, and the accusations against Seroxat were the loudest, were found to actually increase the risk of suicide. This could potentially not be down to the drug itself, which take around a month to six weeks to start to work in most people, but rather due to the depression not reaching its apex when the prescription was first written, although the decision is certainly sound. Getting on the drugs is usually fine: I was sick for a couple of days when first going on them and suffered from dry mouth for about a week, then both went away. It's the getting off them that's incredibly hard, as the withdrawal symptoms, which often ironically resemble the symptoms for why you went on the drug to begin with, can be incredibly severe. Effexor, which is also considered one of the most powerful and is apparently most used in mental hospitals, is especially notorious for its withdrawal symptoms, while GlaxoSmithKline, the makers of Seroxat have had class-action lawsuits brought against them in both the US and UK because of the withdrawal those on them have suffered. I can't say I'm looking forward to eventually getting off either of the drugs.

The above are exactly why anti-depressants shouldn't be available on demand. We're an increasingly hypochondriac society, and it doesn't just affect those that read the Daily Mail and one day are told something's good for them and the next day that it's bad, all via press release and competing studies where their funding is obtuse at best. Neither should the drugs be dismissed in the way that some of the reports today have done; it's well and good lauding CBT and the rest of it, but the very need for it has increased because of our increasingly fractured and atomised lives. We don't feel that we can take anyone into our confidence, and the friends that we do have and do think we can talk seriously to we then think don't want to be burdened down with our own personal misery, and in most cases we'd be right. At its core, the idea of the anti-depressant is one bound up in both consumerism and materialism; a magic pill that takes away the blues. Like consumerism and materialism, it's a myth and one perpetuated by the exact same forces. It can help, but that's all. It's only when we open up and are honest with ourselves and everyone else that we might directly help each other, and it well might be that goes most against the very nature of our modern living.

Labels: , , , , , , ,

Share |

Tuesday, February 19, 2008 

Reporting suicide compassionately.

A few years ago, for a number of reasons, I became suicidally depressed. This wasn't just teenage angst on a grander scale; I was positively a danger to myself. I self-harmed; I hung from a railway bridge over a river and wanted, desperately, to let myself go, and when I pulled myself back up, I hated myself and my pathetic nature even more. For those who've never been depressed, let alone severely depressed, you simply can't know how a person ever thinks or feels when they're in that sort of a downward spiral. The gloom, the mood, whether you call it a black dog as Churchill so accurately described it, or something different, both inhabits and inhibits your every action. In every different person it manifests itself in a different way: I tried, as best I could, to hide it. I laughed, I joked, I tried to participate; then I went home and probably cried while I walked. In my case, I went to sleep praying that I wouldn't wake up in the morning, and then when I woke up I was even angrier and sadder that my wish hadn't come true. Your constant desire, if not always at the front of your mind then nowhere near the back, is to die, and as quickly as possible. At moments I was absolutely furious, both at myself and at the world at large; in the next I was so self-defeating that I would have accepted anything that anyone had wanted to do to me.

Thankfully, and with the help of both anti-depressants and a NHS mental health team that has bent over backwards, I've made something approaching a recovery. I can't pretend that the experience hasn't deeply affected me, and it's certainly changed my perspective on a whole host of things. It also I would hope have given me an insight into what it's like to be mentally ill, temporarily or permanently. That's why the coverage on the "Bridgend suicides" is now so concerning me.

The media at large are now reporting that the 17th suicide within the space around of a year has occurred. There's a problem with that very fact to begin with: it implies that there's a connection between them. As the police and the coroner have been at pains to point out throughout, they have completely failed to find any link between the suicides; no evidence of any pact; nothing to suggest that the teenagers had been encouraging each other to kill themselves; and certainly nothing even to support the contention that there's a cult linked to the online memorials to those who have killed themselves on social networking websites.

Instead, what there certainly is is a growing belief that the heightened media coverage is only exacerbating the problem. Wherever or whenever the suicides began, the pattern appeared to be that friends of those that had committed suicide were also making attempts on their lives. Doubtless the loss of their friends influenced their actions, but it would be naive to believe that was the only reason why they tried to kill themselves. Now it seems to increasingly be that those who had no dealings with the others are making what could be copycat attempts, although it's impossible to be certain. That hanging seems to have been the method chosen certainly suggests that's the case. Of course, this could also be to fall into the same trap as the media themselves have; we might be looking for patterns that aren't there, when we know that mental health problems will now affect 1 in 4 at some point during their lives.

The pressure and media move into Bridgend does however seem to have had anything but a positive effect. Very few of the organisations involved in reporting have taken any notice for example of the Samaritans' guide to reporting suicide. A number of its sections are worth quoting:

A fine line remains between sensitive, intelligent reporting by the media and sensationalising the issue. The focus should be on educating and informing the public. Copycat suicides account for about six percent of all suicides and the imitative behaviour can follow certain types of news reports and other portrayals of suicide.

Consider the timing.

The coincidental deaths by suicide of two or more people makes the story more topical and newsworthy, but additional care is required in the reporting of "another suicide, just days after…", which might imply a connection. There are 17 suicides every day, most of which go unreported.

One of the findings of a systematic review of research literature on suicide and the media concluded that "certain portrayals tend to increase the likelihood that imitative behaviour will occur", with prominent or repetitive news coverage of particular concern. When added in to how misguided and sensational some of the coverage, especially in the tabloids with the largest circulation and most likely to be read by the young has been, there's a high possibility that at the moment the media is doing more harm than good.

I'm not one of those who is completely opposed to suicide or any discussion of it whatsoever for fear that people will get ideas. I think that's an entirely wrong and simplistic message which people use to put all the blame on everyone other than themselves, especially when the young kill themselves. There are times when suicide should be accepted as something approaching honourable, or as the least worst way out, rather than as something to be dismissed as cowardly or as leaving others to pick up the pieces. Every case needs to be assessed on its merits.

I think we can all agree though that those who have killed themselves in Bridgend, especially the teenagers, have not experienced enough of life to be able to make any sort of decision on whether their life is worth living or not. Those who are mourning the death of their friends need space to be able to grieve and come to terms with what has happened; losing friends young is always incredibly difficult to accept or make sense of, and is especially likely to affect someone for the rest of their life. The media need to back off, leave Bridgend and at the very least adhere to the recommendations of the Samaritans. While the media should not be personally blamed for anything that has happened, as that itself would be to simplify and ignore the multiple reasons behind what has occurred, it needs to respect the requests of an increasing amount of those in Bridgend itself and at the very least stop its rampant speculation and lack of feeling for those caught up in what is nothing less than a continuing tragedy.

Then again, Madeleine Moon is currently on Newsnight blaming the media when she was the one scaremongering recklessly about social networking sites in the first place. Perhaps there really isn't any connection whatsoever to anything.

Labels: , , , , , , ,

Share |

Friday, December 21, 2007 

We need to talk.

I realise I'm very late to the party on this one, but in the last couple of weeks I finally got round to reading We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver. I have a terrible habit of starting books, especially novels, and not finishing them: I must have at least 4 or 5 that I've recently began and either lost enthusiasm for or simply find myself picking up another when I go to grab one. It doesn't help that Age Concern have recently opened up a second hand charity bookshop in town, which proves too much of a temptation, especially when I find gems like Bakunin on Anarchy for less than a pound. (Even more rewarding was that inside was a cutting from the Guardian on the 100th anniversary of his death from 1976!)

I found Kevin though completely impossible to put down. Whilst I have read Shriver's articles in the Guardian, they don't in anyway prepare you for the sheer virtuosity of the prose: flowing, vivid and thrilling. The questions it asks which are never answered in the pages are put into a perspective which you never previously would have seen them from. The only real flaw is that if anything Kevin is just too benevolently vile, so much so that it justifies Eva's cruel unwillingness to really attempt to like him, yet alone love him, even from when he was first placed on her breast. While not wishing to give anything away for those who haven't read it, I didn't quite foresee the final explanation for why Eva is writing to her ex-husband, although I came very close to doing so. By most accounts Shriver's follow-up seems to have simply tried drawing her narrative out too far: Kevin is by contrast just the right length. Shriver's opus is the diametric opposite to Vernon God Little, also a fine recent novel on school shootings, although nowhere near as satisfying.

Next up, apart from the Looming Tower by Lawrence Wright and Imperial Life in the Emerald City by Rajiv Chandrasekaran for my non-fiction fix, I've got The Road by Cormac McCarthy.

Labels: , , , ,

Share |

Thursday, July 12, 2007 

Two more years.

Today is this blog's second birthday. Coincidentally, and appropriately, this is also the 1000th post. I continue to be amazed by the fact that some people actually return to read my vapid, badly written and convoluted murmurings every day; a thank you to everyone who visits, and here's to another two years.

Labels: ,

Share |

Friday, May 18, 2007 

Your love alone is not enough.

I'm a contrary motherfucker. Much as I dislike going away from this concrete, soulless hellhole which I call home, I quickly find that I enjoy myself much more than I ever would have expected.

We went to the Lake District, staying at Flookburgh, and traveled around most of the national park in the five days we were there. It's one of the few parts of Britain that I can say without caveats that I absolutely adore. The rolling countryside, winding, almost empty roads, the clearness of the lakes and refreshing, nourishing air. I haven't been in high season, when I expect the place is crowded to the rafters and much less enchanting as a result, but at this time of year its beauty is almost unsurpassed. Field after field and hill after hill are occupied by local, rarer breeds of sheep, many with newly born lambs in tow, skipping along, unaware of the likely slaughter to follow in a few months time, but for now at least without the slightest care in the world.

The photograph above was taken at Fell Foot, a National Trust owned small country park on the shore of Lake Windermere. We arrived at about quarter past five as the actual facilities were closing, which meant we had almost the entire place to ourselves until they locked the place up at around seven. The lush grass a few yards back from the lake was literally covered in dozens of rabbits which had come out to nibble and forage as the bulk of the public had gone, and most were so tame that you could go within a few feet without them dashing for cover. Tuesday had been something of a dull day, but at around six the sun finally put in an appearance, and for half an hour the lake was resplendent in the early evening light. The swan in the photograph, no doubt used to being fed by visitors, came right up to us and almost seemed to demand that we find something for it. Perturbed that we didn't have anything, it swam off, and it seems I caught its departure just right.

Cumbria seems to be one of the last few holdouts against complete Tescopoly. I only saw one the whole time we were there, which was heartening. Most of the towns in the district are also still individual, only the larger ones having the chain stores which blight and depress the rest of the land. We can but hope that it continues to stay that way.

Labels: ,

Share |

Monday, January 15, 2007 

More bloggocks, and some personal shit.

Infighting in the horribly named "blogosphere" has existed since its very inception, and will of course continue until its dying day when the offspring of Jordan, Chantelle and Jade, genetically modified by mad scientists in order to appeal both to the Heat-buying masses and the Torygraph/Grauniad reading pseudo-intellectuals, win power and immediately destroy mankind by accidentally pushing the red nuke button, thinking it alerted their lackeys to their desire for a bucket of KFC chicken. There hasn't yet been though such an apparent opening blast of civil war as that directed from Tim "Manic" Ireland towards Paul "Guido Fawkes" Staines.

I'm in the strange position here of having an at least tenuous involvement with both. Tim has considered my half-baked rants worthy of linking to, and in my short-lived battle last year with the representatives of a certain Mazher Mahmood, Guido offered moral support, as we were both threatened by the legal might of Farrer & Co. I'm therefore somewhat wary of some of Tim's more strident attacks on Guido's blogging.

While undoubtedly his apparent fiddling with comments is a breach of acceptable if unwritten blogging etiquette, and I have in the past found his self-promotion rather amusing, I think it's going a little too far to accuse him of being lower than a red-top. As readers of this blog will know (all 2 of you), the Sun at its worst excesses is the equivalent of TV's Naughtiest Blunders, except in a crude, ugly, misleading political propaganda form; a unending cavalcade of the very worst of absolutely everything. Worst of all, it's almost impossible to get any right of reply in the Sun, or News of the World. They will only print what they want you to see. The letters are hand-picked so that there is hardly ever any deviation from their own chosen line, and the only way to get any kind of recompense, unless they've committed an utterly huge blunder which would almost certainly lead to damages in a court of law, your only hope is that the Press Complaints Commission, which has Les Hinton, News International's chairman on the code committee, will listen to your complaint. If your complaint is about their political coverage rather than something about you personally, then forget it.

This is, I think, the difference between Guido and the tabloid press. Guido, because of his very presence as a blogger, can be taken to task by the community which surrounds him, as Tim today has shown. The Sun, for all the rivalry it has with the Mirror and the distaste amongst the liberal broadsheet press for its crude propaganda, cannot be held to account adequately by either the press or by bloggers. For the press to do so would result in all out war, something which hacks who despite differing political allegiances would resist, and with the resources that Murdoch has, would result inevitably in the defeat of those who rise up; and for bloggers, who cannot possibly contend or deal with every single abuse of power that is wielded, every story that is not just wrong, but horribly wrong, and warped by the politics of those behind it. Just trying to keep up with the worst excesses, as this blog tries to, is tiring and time-consuming enough. Guido, on the other-hand, can be held to account. His output is nowhere near that of a newspaper; he can be challenged on other blogs, and his refusal to reply to accusations would be telling. When it comes to taking on the might of the Sun, all you hope for is that you reach a few people who might otherwise be taken in, that you correct the worst of its mistakes and show it up for what it really is. You know that you will largely be preaching to the converted, but the whole "blogosphere" is based around doing just that, more or less anyway.

The fallout between left and right blogs, and between fact checking blogs and others shows that this contained internet community can (mostly) moderate itself. Where Tim is right to be concerned I feel is about the influence of far-right neo-con bloggers, such as Michelle Malkin, Little Green Footballs, etc. They're the ones doing the dirty work of the current US administration; abusing, smearing, distorting and attacking, with all the more ferocity because their own masters can no longer do it themselves. They in some way mirror what MediaLens sets out to do, except taking on the whole of the "mainstream" media, which they regard as liberal, defeatist, anti-American, etc, as their target, while MediaLens sets out only to take on the actual liberal media. Both are utterly convinced that they are right to do so, and as a result both have gone way too far, MediaLens with Iraq Body Count and George Monbiot for instance, the far-right with the concocted Jamil Hussein "scandal", the hysteria that the massacre at Qana was somehow contrived entirely by Hizbullah, as if they wanted the children to die in order to use them for their own purposes, and over the targeting of Red Cross ambulances by Israeli laser-guided missiles, which they denied actually happened. Unlike MediaLens, these bloggers have major influence; they're making waves, especially on the likes of Fox News, and they're getting their claims into the mainstream media, true or not. They genuinely can discredit blogs as a whole. Guido doesn't wield anywhere near as much power.

Tim is also on uncertain ground over the legal aspect. Guido may boast that he is untouchable, but that is as yet untested. He certainly received an order, along with this blog, to take down the photographs posted of Mazher Mahmood, and had his case not been such a potential blow to freedom of expression online, as well as argued by incompetents, we may well have had to provide damages to the scourge of celebrities everywhere, not to mention the innocents he has entrapped in the Victora Beckham and red mercury plots. Rosie Winterton, one of John Prescott's other presumed mistresses, also realised that if she tried to sue Guido over his accusations that she risked letting everything out of the bag. Tim is right to be worried that the likes of Guido could soon use such potential blackmail against innocent targets, but that ought to be perhaps dealt with when it happens.

Most of all, I feel there has to be a place for someone like Guido out there, as Nosemonkey also argues. To claim, as Guido himself sort of does, that he's an online Private Eye is to give him way too much credit, but he does occupy that sort of niche that is fun, humourous and less demanding than that of other political blogs. Private Eye's own financial dealings are reasonably secretive, also. While Private Eye may not have the ideology behind it that Guido perhaps has, how many Tories devoted to the party would come out on their blogs like he has today and imply that cannabis ought to be legalised?

I won't then be joining in with removing Guido from the blogroll, although I'm sure that now these points have been put across that many more eyes will be on him, watching his moves a lot more carefully than they perhaps have been.

On a personal level, Tim's wider points about anonymity, funding and background as much affect me as they do Guido. My own operation here, however pathetic, is based around anonymity. The original name I used here, Simon Verwest, is not my real name. The main basis for my anonymity is based partly on my own cowardice. However paranoid it may be to think, the attacks that I make here on the Sun/Murdoch make me an obvious target for eventual "revenge", or at least some sort of "expose" or smear, and to make a comparison, although I am in no way comparing what I do here to what Tommy Sheridan has done as a politician, something on a far lower level to what has happened to him is something, however ridiculous it might seem, that I fear.

This farcical reason for anonymity though is no excuse, nor is it the only one. Although a lot of blogging is surely down in at least some way to vanity, one thing I certainly am not seeking is fame, even among my peers as it were. I am, it has to be admitted, something of a solitary animal. Not only do I not like being identified, I'm scared of it. The cliché goes that if you have nothing to hide you have nothing to fear, yet though I probably don't really have anything to hide, I still fear.

It's only right then that I at least give some background. I don't know how much the average reader cares, wants to know, other than to maybe read my convoluted ramblings, but in line with Tim's idea for something of a voluntary code, I'm going to at least come a little out of the shadows. I'm 22 years of age. I'm currently unemployed. For the last three years I've been slowly but surely recovering from severe depression, brought on by a number of factors. I had planned to go to university, 3 years and 2 years ago respectively, but the first time I decided it was best to give it another year, and the second time I found I just didn't have the mental strength to go through with it. I have no plans to try again as yet.

Half the reason I started writing here was to distract my mind somewhat. It's worked, and in conjunction with other things, I now feel a lot more confident both about myself and life in general. I hope to start looking for some sort of job shortly. I'm also going to change my name used here to septicisle, while still remaining something of my anonymity. Whether I fully "come out", we shall have to see. And in case you couldn't tell, I utterly loathe writing about myself. Trackback links are also now enabled, which for some reason I didn't previously have on, and you also now have to be registered to comment, which I doubt will affect things much.

Related posts:
Chicken Yoghurt - Off the artistic roll call
D-Notice - Bloggerheads vs Guy Fawkes
Bob Piper - Bloggerheads on the Plonker

Labels: , , , ,

Share |


  • This is septicisle


Powered by Blogger
and Blogger Templates