Category Archives: Media

Free Speech

The dogmatic adherence to the principle of free speech is in practice, taken to a point of absurdity.  It is free speech that allows me to tell you that the great and famous philosopher and writer Voltaire was recorded to have said, ‘I disapprove of what you say but I would defend to my death your right to say it.  In reality I doubt Voltaire would defend my right to tell you this as it is misinformation.  The quote is actually one from The Friends of Voltaire written in 1906 by Evelyn Beatrice Hall.  The context was not that Voltaire ever said it but that he held it as a state of mind at one particular time.  Evelyn later identified her inspiration for saying this as being the phrase, ‘Think for yourselves and let others enjoy the privilege to do so too.’  Whether this itself is fully accurate can also be questioned though the most legitimate sources I have uncovered include the Bibliotheque municipale de Lyon, which in turn quotes pages from the University of York.  The phrase Voltaire offered which became her inspiration certainly does exist and it does not seem to suggest that he has any belief in the war of who has the loudest voice that is currently being conducted in his name.


Whilst Voltaire certainly did defend the right to expression of ideas it is unlikely that he would advocate the kind of dogmatism that has developed around this principle in the modern day.  As a man of thought, he would have wished that people put thought into every principle by which they live their lives.  Dogmatism is the very thing that took the beautiful sentiments offered by the world’s religions and subverted them in favour of enacting their most egregious and disruptive principles.  If Voltaire were here today and he were to say, “Monsieur l’abbe, I detest what you write, but I would give my life to make it possible for you to continue to write” as he did in 1770 on the 6th of February in a letter to Monsieur Le Riche, I think had Monsieur le Riche written back saying, “You’re an idiot, IDIOT IDIOT IDIOT.  Voltaire is a divvy spanner.  Spacko Pillock.” Voltaire might have thought twice about his previously expressed sentiment.


Most people will agree when pressed that free speech must have limits.  In the States where free speech is most stringently protected by the First Amendment to the constitution a legal precedent was famously set by Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes in the case of Schenk v the United States, that consideration should be given to the use of the words and whether they were designed to bring about evils against which the government had a right to act.  Holmes complained at later times that this principle was abused to convict people for speech that should have been protected, which shows that it is a minefield picking through legal principles and precedents.  This instance concerned the limit of the principle where a possibility of criminal conviction was possible.  It might be questioned whether a positivist legal principle stands against absolute morality but an example offered by Holmes being that a person should not be protected for shouting ‘Fire’ in a crowded theatre shows that where very direct negative reactions may be caused speech can cross a line into becoming a form of weaponry or disruption.


A similar example might be the use of free speech to shout abuse in the ears of a child until their hearing is damaged.  Anyone who would consider this acceptable would find objection from almost everyone.  If someone tried doing this in a supermarket I would hope that they very quickly found democratic opinion was against them.  A line will be perceived, by anyone who does not blindly hold dogmatically to the principle without thought, that there must be a point at which speech stops being protectable and starts to become problematic.  Unfortunately the line is by its nature very broad.  Opinions will be divided in many cases.  Slipknot played 24 hours per day at full volume to break down the will of prisoners would probably be considered as something which could not be protected.  Sadly at one point at least, the objectors did not include the people charged with keeping the prisoners.  Leaving a 12 hour youtube video playing in the bedroom repeatedly chanting ‘badger badger badger badger mushroom mushroom’ before popping out to visit friends is far less offensive but your wife will no doubt consider it to be a serious abuse of free speech soon after you have left the house.


There are limits.  What those limits are may need to be looked at individually and based upon the merits of each separate instance but those limits do exist and they can not simply be defended against by offering a mis-attributed quote purported to have been said by Voltaire.  Even if Voltaire had said it, it would still not be absolute.  It would need to be considered according to the context.  In some quarters there is a tendency to abuse free speech in orgion expressivism that could almost be considered a weapon because it demoralises and terrorises the opponents of the speaker.  If there is an area where it can be most greatly defended it is in calm and measured political debate.  The instances in which the dogmatic protection of free speech should not be considered acceptable must obviously include obfuscatory marketing ploys designed to trick money out of people who are struggling to get by, surely it includes uses of speech that make people fear for their safety,  libel and slander are already covered by law, as is conspiracy or the promotion of terrorism.


There are of course instances in which the law does make a stand but it should not be considered by civilians that where the law doesn’t intervene free speech is therefore sacrosanct.  The lesser cousin to crime is the tort.  Torts are offenses against people and property that the law does not consider to offend against the public as a whole but the individuals involved; libel and slander are two examples of this area.  They have already been covered by the law but law moves at a glacial pace and simply because someone’s speech has not yet been covered does not mean that it falls under the dogmatic umbrella of free speech.  There are moral standards that must be evaluated and re-evaluated constantly.  Even if Voltaire was the dogmatic defender of our rights to offend and upset each other that people seem to think he was, he had no experience of Twitter, blogging, or the internet.  As an intelligent and thoughtful philosopher he would certainly have re-evaluated such principles in the modern era.  Considering the mis-attribution of the quote it is apparent that we should not need to wait for permission before exercising our own critical abilities.



Jimmy Savile and the Reality Distortion Field.

It is shocking to read the information that has been coming out at the inquiry into the activities of Jimmy Savile.  A lot of what has been said implies further actions that cannot be proven.  A child taken by Savile who is not seen alive again; admissions of strange behaviour in the morgue and abuse of bodies; the keeping of trophies taken from the dead; connections with children’s homes where sexual and physical abuse was now known to be rife.  Worst of all is the fact that all this latest information is only that which is associated with his behaviour within the hospital system.  There is such a huge amount of abhorrent behaviour that it is easy to forget that he would have led a similar life out in the rest of the world.

A lot of the claims being made against Savile in the NHS reports being discussed at Leeds General Infirmary sound so outlandish that if it weren’t known that this is an official inquiry it would be easy to believe that a lot of his behaviour was nothing more than urban legend surrounding a vile criminal.  As it is, the truth is that he very probably did not just the things that have been claimed in the NHS reports but also much else besides.  

Inevitably where there is a likelihood of making financial claims against his estate and claims in tort against the hospital services that enabled him there will be people trying to take advantage of this.  Even if there is no one trying to take advantage there will be a perception that people will try to take advantage.  For this reason each claim of abuse will have to be examined to determine that the claimant is not simply making things up.  Another inevitability is that a lot of real claims may not have the requisite level of proof to satisfy an investigation.  When many of the victims were already dead there is even less proof; dead men tell no tales.

The police have identified fewer than 300 crimes according to one of the reports I have read today.  Over the long life of Jimmy Savile this would not even represent the tip of the iceberg.  Anecdotally, sexual assault was literally something that Savile habitually committed with a far greater frequency than anyone I know has ever had hot dinners.

When I first started investigating Savile I was struck by the coincidences surrounding his connections with The Yorkshire Ripper, Peter Sutcliffe.  One of the victims was left just outside Savile’s home; another was left inside the grounds of a hospital, not one of the hospitals with which Savile was intimately associated, but that would be stupid, however it would certainly cross his mind that a hospital’s grounds would be a reasonable place to dump a body; another victim left at a location that even shared Savile’s name, sadistic humour?  Savile’s friendship with Sutcliffe at Broadmoor; the fact that during Sutcliffe’s teenage years Savile was the manager in one of the local clubs Sutcliffe may well have frequented.  As if all these coincidences weren’t enough I later discovered that during the investigation into the murders Savile was even accused by an anonymous tip off.

I am certain that the crimes of Savile go far further than we will ever be able to prove, far further than we will ever even be able to suspect.  What interests me now is how he could ever have managed to get away with it for so long.  If anyone were to commit half the atrocities the police are certain about they would ordinarily have spent most of their lives in prison.  Savile has been described as being perceived as a National Treasure despite the fact that so many people knew about his personality traits that everything short of public accusations had been made on television.  Somehow he sustained his image as the kindly millionaire doing a lot of work for charity right up until his death.  Once he was gone the house of cards collapsed.

An expression associated with the late Steve Jobs was the ‘reality distortion field’.  Steve Jobs was able to assert his personality so strongly that he could make the impossible real.  His engineers knew that the things he asked of them could often not be done.  Steve asserted that they would be done anyway.  By the time of Steve Job’s death the things they had made were of such excellence that they had reshaped the technological landscape and made his company the most valuable company in the world.  Steve travelled in India in his youth, spent a lot of time meditating, and had claimed to have been enlightened.  These are all the sort of things that one would expect to hear from the sort of person who could have an ability to shape reality with the force of his own personality.  

Steve had the backing of the traditions of eastern mysticism and ancient belief systems in the qualities he used to change the world.  It seems to me that Jimmy Savile exercised a dark counterpart to this reality distortion field.  He could seemingly do whatever he pleased and never be caught.  It was so obvious that his behaviour was conducted in full view of the British public.  He was a regular fixture on British television, often with children sitting on his knee, often with his arms around scantily clad teenagers on Top of the Pops.  He made open admissions of some of the things he did to nurses in the hospitals.  Many of the things he did there were well known to them; he had a reputation.  Yet it was only after his death when his personality was no longer there to exert its influence that the reality distortion field came crashing down.

This all sounds a bit esoteric and I apologise for that.  I am making no supernatural claims about either man.  I am merely observing that there is a similarity in their two vastly contrasting contributions to mankind, a similarity that could certainly appear to more primitive minds to have supernatural explanations.  The psychology behind whatever allows for such forceful personalities to extend beyond themselves is at present something that we are not yet able to fully understand.  The disciplines of psychology and psychiatry are still in their infancy and the number of variables involved, plus the difficulty in making constant enough and accurate enough observations on something as impermeable as the human mind makes it tricky to develop our knowledge further.  

Despite my belief that this could all be explained in purely scientific and rational terms I am convinced that what we are able to observe in these two contrasting examples is an ability to shape the perceptions of others by providing such psychological cues that they could effectively twist reality to their own wills.  The fact that folklore has developed describing such personalities before is evidence that this sort of thing is not previously unheard of.  Where Steve Jobs has changed many of our lives for the better with his ability to push technological development forward, Jimmy Savile has done the opposite, satisfying his own selfish desires and inflicting misery and unhappiness around him.  Where one might have been seen in the past as the prophet (he certainly turned a profit), the other would have been seen as one of Satan’s minions on earth.  Had he lived in an age where such beliefs were prevalent I have no doubt that Savile would have used such a title to enhance his power.

The Future of Podcasting

Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press in the 15th century setting in motion the process of releasing the typewritten word to the general population that eventually developed into webpages such as the one on which you are probably reading this.


Thomas Edison invented the phonograph in 1877 setting in motion the process of recording sound that eventually developed into the podcast.


The internet grew from the written word on bulletin boards and in an echo of technological development through the centuries gradually incorporated pictures, sound and video.  The podcast was named for the ipod and was one of the best reasons to have an ipod.  Podcasts took off.  As is so often the way on the internet everyone was talking about podcasts and everywhere you looked there were companies setting up podcasts.  The podcast was the future; a way of delivering content to a different audience, the people who listened rather than reading or viewing.


The problem was that everyone read on the internet, especially once the internet became filled with the communications of their friends on social networks.  Those who didn’t read wanted something like the television that they were accustomed to watching through the evenings in the pre-internet world.  The people who liked to listen to podcasts wasn’t such an attractive audience for whom to produce content, the profit wasn’t there.  Gradually the podcasts have begun to disappear.  A lot of people who spend time on the web are fans of technology; for these people the disappearance of Stuff magazine’s podcast, followed by Cnet’s main podcast, and most recently by T3 magazine’s podcast has been notable.


These 3 big companies of technology have decided that podcasting is not worth the effort involved.  In times of austerity the natural way to save money is to cut back on those expenses that are not profitable enough.  Is this the best plan.


Companies are ruled by their shareholders and at regular points they must release details of their profits.  The problem with this is that if they do not continually try to save money and build up good dividends then they will lose value in the shareholder’s eyes with the result that funding will become harder, expansion will become harder, even staying afloat will be harder.  Lose too much value and you risk being bought out and liquidated.


However the internet has been with us for a while and there are many people who are beginning to feel swamped by the intensity of information that is delivered.  A short while ago Facebook was developing into something massive.  It was so massive that when it made its initial public offering on the stock market its value ballooned to ridiculous levels that were totally disproportionate to its ability to earn money.  Even though this has now died back Facebook is still left with having to sell a lot of advertising to create the necessary profit to maintain its value.  The result for Facebook users is that newsfeeds are filled with sponsored posts.  Chosen pages are having their posts suppressed if they don’t pay to promote them.  Facebook has become chaotic and time consuming to read.  Those who love facebook are finding that it is eating up too much time to justify its place in their life.


Facebook is only one example but in general the web demands too much of those who live there.  200 years ago the average reader would own a few books in their lifetime which they would read and reread, eventually memorising them.  There is now more information uploaded to the internet everyday than any one individual could hope to read in a lifetime.  A lot of it is tripe but a lot of it is stuff that we want to read, in fact most of it is designed specifically to pull all the strings that make us want to read it.


A lot of us spend our working lives sitting at desks interacting with computers; we carry phones which have the same functions; it is possible to spend hours conducting a social life under exactly the same conditions.  For the first few years of the internet it was an intriguing mystery.  When the world wide web was created it started to become something that ordinary people would use.  As more people have begun to use it the web has become a potential target for corporate profit.  The result has been the explosion of exciting and enticing content crying out to be seen.  If television was ever the drug of the nation then the web is the crack cocaine that was even more addictive.


I am not saying we should all become Amish and reject modern technology but when we find it stealing our lives we have to take something back for the sake of our health.  However we can learn from the internet and besides, we enjoy the information.  The beauty of a podcast is that we can run in the woods while we listen to them; we can go shopping; we can travel to work or to visit friends; we can sew and paint.  All those things that we have lost to the internet can be given back to us by the podcast.  As people start to become disillusioned with the theft of their time they can take it back but still enjoy the benefits of news, reviews and opinion.


It seems to me that we are just reaching the point at which the podcast is going to be the solution many of us are looking for.  The demand for profit of corporations is going to drive us away from the internet that we have been enjoying for the last few years, but ironically the demand for profit is what is taking away the refuge that the podcast offers.  There is a future for the podcast but the companies are throwing it away ahead of time.  Like so many things that have come before it, the podcast was invented a little bit ahead of time.  With the right approach the podcast could make a comeback with a vengeance.


Having lost three of my favourite podcasts, Stuff, Cnet and T3, I am glad to say that when the Times newspaper decided to shut down its hilarious Bugle podcast the presenters thankfully took matters into their own hands to seek sponsorship and create merchandise to keep it running.  The people who will profit when podcasting again attains a height of popularity will be those people like this who do it because they enjoy it and because it is who they are.  The companies that were only doing it because they smelled a profit may all have ducked out by that point.  There is still a future of great content to be developed and it will be developed by the real enthusiasts, and perhaps that is the best way it should be.

Future PriceSpy gadget guru?

I have recently been placed in the line up for becoming the UK gadget guru for PriceSpy.  It is currently being put to the vote on Facebook.  As far as voting stakes are going I am currently not in the top running but then neither am I at the bottom.  It is unfortunate that friends and connections can be a bit slow at clicking through to things and on Facebook there is always the problem that nobody wants to give any permissions to a site they’ve never previously heard of.

There are eight of us in the running and we have been told to be ready for interviews up in London next week.  They have also asked to see a piece of our writing, naturally focussed on gadgets/technology.  I am planning to write about the Neo900, which I think is a particularly interesting phone soon to be released that has received hardly any publicity due to its opensource origins.  I am being limited to 500 words so I will not be able to say everything I wish to say; I will therefore be likely to publish the full length impression I have been given of the Neo on here for you to read.  In future of course, if I get the job, I will be writing anything technology based on the pricespy blog primarily.

Pricespy themselves are a Swedish outfit I believe, Prisjakt Svaerige.  Their umbrella company is one of the leading Norwegian media companies so they are not a small outfit.  They have successfully entered a number of European markets but this is apparently the first foray into the British technology world.  It is fairly well known that Norway and Sweden are amongst the most advanced nations on the planet.  The economist has named them as some of the best governed countries in the world.  Things are done differently up there in Scandinavia and even with the distrust of big business I usually have, I must say I would feel far happier working for a Norse/Swedish company than I would for most.

Ultimately I am here blogging to blag for your vote.  I don’t know how many people are likely to read this piece of text but if you do then please go to the UK PriceSpy Gadget Guru voting page on Facebook and put in your vote for Ro Atkinson.

Why the Government like Anonymous

The image and idea of Guy Fawkes has become a romantic concept. The Alan Moore book and subsequent film, V for Vendetta brought the idea of Guy Fawkes as a folk hero into the popular consciousness of the late 20th century. Guido Fawkes, the politics commentator may have had something to do with the character entering our contemporary field of vision. After years of burning Guys in effigy he has suddenly become a hero of those disgruntled with a hypocritical and uncaring government.

It is an image that has been adopted by the group, anonymous. A group whose main feature is given away by their title, anonymous. We don’t know who they are. They could be your next door neighbour; they could be your children; they could be your parents or even your teachers. They could be anyone. They could be the police and they could be government operatives. Just about the only thing that they couldn’t be is an acceptable figure to stand alongside if you are an average person working in an office who dislikes the government’s harsh plans of austerity. In essence, anonymous is the perfect activist group as far as the government is concerned because anyone remotely respectable does not want to be associated with them.

David Cameron has described legitimate protestors against austerity with terms such as ‘feral’. That is certainly how they looked on television to the rest of the country. The reason for this is that the ones in masks are so much more dramatic than the rest of the protestors. Why film those who look like normal everyday people when you can film those who look like characters from the film, V for Vendetta. It makes much better television to film the ones in masks. Not to mention that if anyone is going to be doing anything newsworthy for which imprisonment might be appropriate they will prefer to be in a mask. To the rest of the country observing through their television screens it appears that the only people present are wearing Guy Fawkes masks and smashing windows. It certainly never looks as though the protests are being attended by Bob from the pub, although he might be just out of shot in his tweed jacket, he is simply not newsworthy enough to make it onto television.

What is even better than the fact that normal people are alienated by anonymous is that if nobody turns up and starts vandalising the seat of power it is easy enough to send in anyone in a mask to do the job. If Boris Johnson was in the midst of a protest throwing bricks through the windows of the Supreme court nobody would ever know so long as he had a mask of Guy Fawkes on his face. We would laugh at the fact that someone had turned up in a suit with hair just like Boris’ hair but we would never imagine it was him. Of course I very much doubt that Boris would do such things. Mainly because we know that undercover police have been doing similar things for years. We have seen their confessions of working with activist groups in the newspapers. Why do it yourself when you have plenty of people who will do it for you.

Almost everyone dislikes the austerity measures dreamt up by Mr Osborne with the help of his limited experience and inadequate education. Almost everyone is being impacted negatively by them. Almost everyone would like to protest against them. A lot of people have been protesting against them, not that you would know that with the minimal coverage the television news has given such protests. According to the television news there have been a small group of masked ‘anonymous’ youths causing trouble in the capital. The average man is supposedly far more concerned with the mass influx of that nice couple down the road that own the corner shop taking all our jobs. Or the huge number of terrorists not blowing anything up with anything like the regularity that the IRA did. If only the IRA had been mostly Muslim instead of Catholic; the streets of London would have been far safer in the 70s.

As far as the average person is concerned the only people protesting against the fact that they are being overworked in a horrible job for so little money they can’t afford to pay for taxes and hideously overpriced power bills are ‘feral’ youths in Guy Fawkes masks. Therefore poverty, misery and hunger are obviously not the sort of thing that average people are complaining about. We will just put up with them because it is obviously natural justice that slogging our guts out all week should only just allow us to stay alive while inflicting all this misery on us while sitting in a gold throne is obviously far more worthy of an obscene income.

The government knows full well that we are not going to like what they are doing at the moment. They know better than we ourselves know. They are privy to the kind of information that they are trying to keep hidden from us. As far as we are concerned perhaps there is only a small group of people who are really bothered by this austerity. We are divided sufficiently to stop us putting the pieces together too easily. With the knowledge that there is a disgruntled population, the most pressing need the government has is to keep us all quiet. Anyone who remembers the miners’ strikes knows how uncomfortable things can get when the people are unhappy. The friend of the government throughout all of this is ironically Guy Fawkes. As long as people are wearing the visage of this valorous visitation of bygone vexation they may indeed be the vestige of the vox populi but they may also be the very venal and virulent vermin they vow to vanquish. What we need is not the veneer of vanity of a vaudevillian veteran. What we need now is for ordinary, average people with ordinary average faces to say ‘it is US that dislikes these cuts’.

A journalistic career

I would imagine that a lot of people blogging on wordpress or blogger or wherever probably harbour hopes of becoming a journalist.  This is a fine and noble profession.  At least it is if it is done correctly.  The protector of free speech and the exposer of corruption is one of the most important people in a functioning liberal democracy.  Why else would dictators and other trouble makers around the world imprison them and punish them for letting the world know what is going on?  When journalists put pen to paper, fingers to keyboard, camera to eye then the dictators know that they are soon going to have to start giving some thought to human rights and justice because the people are going to start hearing about them and they will eventually take action if they are being wronged.  Naturally the journalist does not have a great time throughout a lot of this mistreatment.


In everyday life away from battle zones and horror the journalist’s life is not a great deal easier.  Naturally there are some journalists who will spend their time simply sitting in an office interpreting the latest feeds from Reuters; they are just another bunch of office workers, like the rest of the slaves of the personal computer.  Those who need to go out and source the news though do not have a good time.  If you want to become a journalist, as many of you will then you really need to consider if it is the right move for you.


I decided to move in that direction many years ago and applied to study journalism at degree level because the normal thing to do when you wish to enter a field is to get a degree.  Of course if you then decide the field is not for you then you have wasted three years of your life getting a useless degree.  I escaped in the first year and transfered to law because I realised that the kind of journalist the degree course was for was the kind of journalist who would be working at the bottom level on the local newspapers around the country.  It is probable that journalism is indeed a highly competitive area to enter.  However everyone needs a milkman or supermarket checkout operator now and then but most people get by without journalists to a great extent even though society itself depends upon them.  Despite the limited number of places available it is unlikely that there will be a great number of people to fill the places because a lot of people will point blank not wish to do it.  Of those who do it there will be a lot who do not do it very well and of those who might wish to do it and might even be skilled at it they may not have the stomach for it.


My degree course had a number of modules in the obvious practical skills of copy writing, shorthand, page layout, etc; but the thing where it is easy to fall down on is actually getting the stories.  If you can’t do that then you are little more than a secretary.  Parts of the degree required finding random people in the street for voxpops, i.e. hearing the voice of the people, the vox populi.  This is tricky if you are shy but not as bad as death knocks.  Thankfully there was little opportunity for tutors to send the students out to do this but they made it clear that in a lot of instances the place to get a story was at the front door of grieving families who had just suffered a horrific loss.


Despite having left the degree to move onto another course it is plainly obvious from the fact that I am writing here that I have not abandoned the idea of publishing the written word for the public to read.  I did learn a lot on my degree, although I believe in ignoring most of it, and I do always carry a camera for potential journalistic use.  This evening I encountered a situation that a journalist on a local newspaper will at some point be forced to face that would make them wish they were on a battlefield bringing out the truth about the psychotic dictator who would probably be locking them in a dungeon next week.  It was a situation that my wife had had to face a few times in her own time working on the local newspaper as a photojournalist.  A serious traffic accident.


My training told me that this was a situation that needed to be reported.  The bystanders who were watching attested to the interest that the public had.  An entire section of the road around Cirencester was shut off this Sunday evening with the attendance of more police cars than I have ever seen in one place in Cirencester.  The air ambulance appeared to have been called as there was a helicopter hovering above.  There were also a number of ordinary ambulances parked alongside.  It was difficult to see how much damage had been done because the area was so busy.  There were far too many blue flashing lights to be able to see clearly from a distance.  Certainly too many lights to allow a camera to take a photo from a distance.


Part of the training on a journalism degree is about the importance that the news should be reported.  Just as there is importance in reporting a battlezone or a court case there is importance in reporting a road accident, especially one that looked as major as this evening’s.  If road accidents were not reported then people wouldn’t realise the importance of road safety and the result would be more road accidents.  Driving into Cheltenham this morning my wife mentioned the danger on the particular stretch of road we were using.  I had never had any idea of the danger there before and had always travelled down there as fast as I liked.  According to my wife there had been about eight fatalities on that stretch of road in the last four years.  If people read about this then they would not travel fast; they would take care; there would be fewer fatalities.  I never travelled down there thinking it could be the last thing I ever did.  I went down there like a bat out of hell without a care in the world.  My wife said the tendency was to report the story in a tiny little paragraph that barely anyone ever saw or remembered.


If people read these stories and remembered them then people would make sure to be more careful on that stretch of road and they would not get killed.  The journalist could save those lives.  Why was it that the story took such a small space?  Largely because there were never enough photos to make it an important front page piece.


I found myself this evening in Cirencester with a camera in my hand and a major road accident.  I don’t think there were any fatalities but the accident was definitely of the kind of magnitude to make for the kind of spectacular pictures that would get a story put around them that people would read and remember; the kind of story that would make people take care on that stretch of road.


I couldn’t do it.  If I had been a jobbing journalist I would not have been able to do my job.  My wife told me that she had only had to do it three times; it was the kind of job that no one wanted to do.  It made me feel sick to even think about taking photos of what was a horrific and extremely personal moment for the people in that crash.  The police were there keeping the situation under control and the paramedics were there making sure the victims survived.  I have just explained that the journalist would be saving lives too, but that is not how it looks, nor is it how it feels.  The journalist just looks as though he has taken rubbernecking to a professional level, a vulture making a living off the misfortune of the wounded.  In that moment I would far rather have been under fire taking photos of scenes of carnage in Afghanistan, at least there would be some heroism in that.  My wife had been here before, she suggested a better spot from which photos could be taken.  I told her ‘no.  Let’s go.  This makes me feel ill.’

If you want to become a journalist then be aware that a journalism degree is not going to make you into a journalist.  The degree will teach you the side of the job that you don’t want to know.  If you write, then the way to do it is to just focus on the thing that drives you and get into that.  Some people will be driven by the desire to report the news but those people are few and far between.  Most publications are magazines and most writers are interested in writing for those magazines.  Just be aware that a journalism degree is not going to focus on that kind of journalism.  It is for the all rounders and it will teach you the murkiest harshest side of the career.  Make sure that is what you want if you are going to apply.  And remember, if you do get the degree it still won’t guarantee you the job.

Scandalising the Judiciary

I usually try to keep things fairly light hearted on the mindsplurge but every now and then I find something a little bit more serious that I do not think has been adequately dealt with in the press.  Such a story is that which follows regarding the offence of ‘scandalising a judge’.

A very recent case that was brought against Peter Hain MP by the Attorney General of Ireland John Larkin regarded criticisms that Peter Hain had made in his autobiography about Lord Justice Paul Girvan’s handling of the judicial review of Hain’s decision to appoint a police widow, Bertha McDougall as interim victims’ commissioner for Northern Ireland during Hain’s time as Secretary of State.  There was criticism in the press of the decision to bring the case against Mr Hain.  The Guardian has in a blog said that the public should have the right to criticise the judges to ensure that justice was always done.  An old Latin saying goes “Quis cusodiet ipsos custodes?” – Who keeps the keepers.  It has been adapted more recently by the English writer of graphic novels, Alan Moore, who wrote the book ‘The Watchmen’ (since made into the film of the same name) as, “who watches the watchmen?”  I do agree with this to an extent but I kind of think that the Guardian has missed the point.  In their handling of the story I felt the Guardian had taken a viewpoint that was sympathetic of Mr Hain and seemed to give the impression that the offence of scandalising a judge was archaic and should no longer be prosecuted.

I was a little bit disappointed by the coverage that the case got in the national press considering that it dealt with such an important issue.  Aside from the Guardian’s ostensibly biased report and a couple of very matter-of-fact reports that were delivered by the BBC, Sky, and the Independent there was little mention to be found of the story in the national press as far as searching Google revealed.  Many small local papers had carried the story but it was as though no one really cared despite the importance of the case.

Admittedly Mr Hain’s book: ‘Outside in’ is hardly going to rock the world by criticising one judge but the fact that it set up a precedent whereby it would be open season for contempt of legal decisions made in the courts was extremely worrying.  I do not think that Mr Hain has really done anything wrong; he made some comments about Lord Justice Paul Girvan’s decision that could have been slightly better worded but was quite gracious about his intentions when he clarified exactly what he had meant.  Of course once he had clarified the point he had wished to make the case was dropped.  A.G. John Larkin had no wish to prosecute and bore no ill will to Mr Hain but it is important to ensure that the court system is not criticised in such a way as to create scandal and to undermine the work that they are doing.

Mr Hain’s publisher proclaimed that the decision to drop the case was a triumph for freedom of expression but really freedom of expression was never under any threat.  The public’s right to criticise the judiciary was never in any danger.  There is simply a right way to go about it and a wrong way.  As soon as Mr Hain explained how his criticism was intended A.G. John Larkin backed off.  It has to be remembered that everybody is allowed to have an opinion.  That is a quality of our life in a liberal democracy.  The position of Mr Larkin and Mr Girvan was merely that it was unacceptable to categorically state that Mr Girvan’s decision was wrong.  To do so would have been the voice of a senior political figure undermining the judiciary.  That would have been utterly unacceptable.  As soon as Mr Hain coached it in different terms to clarify that he had:  “never qualified his (Lord Justice Paul Girvan’s) standing and motivation as a judge before that case nor have I done since.  My words were never intended to, not do I believe that they did, in any way undermine the administration of justice in Northern Ireland or the independence of the Northern Ireland judiciary…” then the case was dropped.

The A.G. Mr Larkin said, “If the matter had been qualified or explained in the way it now has and only now has, these proceedings would not have been taken.”

There is no victory for freedom of speech here so the triumphant smugness of biteback publishing is wholly inappropriate.  I am offended that so many politicians should have leapt to the defence of Mr Hain.  Really he should have known better than to publish his criticism using the words that he did.  As a politician his craft is rhetoric and he should have been able to avoid this before it had even happened if he had been more careful with the way in which he expressed himself.

I do hope that this case does not lead to new legislation proclaiming this offence to be obsolete.  There is no reason to lose the offence of scandalising a judge.  It would serve no purpose to repeal such a law.  As has been seen in this case it has not infringed on Mr Hain’s freedom of speech, it has merely encouraged him to choose his language a little more carefully.  The purpose it serves in protecting the judiciary from aggressive criticism is a purpose that is of the utmost importance to law and order.  In this modern age when people are worried about hoodies, drug addicts and crooks the last thing we need is to undermine the operation of the judiciary just so that politicians can be lazy with their use of the language.

Should Lads’ mags be Condemned?

I just came across this article on the Guardian website and I wondered what everyone’s opinion was on it. It talks about the two lad’s mags, ‘Nuts’ and ‘Zoo’ and also considers ‘Loaded’ and ‘Arena’. I once read a copy of either Nuts or Zoo that was on a bus seat and it appeared to be mostly drivel with boobs. Loaded was a good read in my youth but is palpable pap nowadays. I am not familiar with the modern version of Arena as I knew it only in its artistic earlier format. None of them are really to my taste as I think life is too short for simplistic titillation but I do not have any ideological objection to any of them.

It seems from the article that with the exception of the reservations felt by the author almost everyone involved, models included, thought it was a bit of fun and their own choice. The main objections seem to be from people who are by choice not even involved in the genre. Surely the whole point of living in a liberal democracy is that we all have the freedom to do as we wish. It strikes me that the naysayers for this form of publication are repressed prudes who are simply sticking their oar in due to the fact that they are clinging to a past which has been gradually eroding since it was first recognised that a lady did not need to cover her ankles in public.

However, I am a man and as such do find the visual imagery of naked women stimulating and by nature aim to progress towards a role of domination in all aspects of life, such is the imperative of male genetics, I may be biased in my views. For this reason I would really like to canvas the opinions of others, particularly the ladies, within my networks and see how people in general feel about this sort of publication. Is it viewed as negatively as the negative speakers who make their voices heard say it is, or is it a sign of the times and simply a natural progression away from the culture that was previously forced upon us before our society became more liberal and secular?

One final thought which has just occurred to me is that isn’t it part of the nature of feminism that women should be allowed greater freedom?  For millennia they have been repressed by men and it is in this last century that they have at last been allowed to express themselves as they wish to express themselves.  However, it seems that even now they are restricted from the freedom that they should by right be allowed, and I can guarantee that if men were given the opportunity no one would stop them.  This restriction of their freedom to express themselves is ironically often the product of the intervention of self proclaimed feminists who feel uncomfortable with such decisions themselves.  The basis of this discomfort is merely a vestige of an ancient religion which has become so ingrained into the cultures of the world that it has become part of our psychological make up that many of us are unable to shake off.  Certainly it is being shaken off gradually; the practice of covering a tables legs so as to not arouse menfolk is archaic and laughable nowadays yet people still cling to the ideals of these ancient religious attitudes.  I am certain that all religious proscriptions were made with sensible aims and of course in the more dangerous past a woman would have needed far greater protection against the rampant passions of possible male assailants.  However, we now have an advanced society that is growing ever more advanced, I do not think it is over optimistic to say that the law and cultural mores are rapidly beginning to arrive at a position where we can imagine a time in the future when women will be safe from potential rapists.  In the days that these rules were created such a possibility was probably not even imaginable.

Isn’t it time we allowed people to make their own choices when it comes to such harmless activities?  We allow people to make their own decisions in vastly more damaging areas of life.  It seems to me to be hypocritical that we take this stance when it comes to adult nudity.

So Pippa Middleton is a crazed gunman’s sidekick?

The post above is from the Sun, which is owned by Rupert Murdoch’s newscorp.  I have been batting a few of my opinions onto Facebook for the benefit of my friends but once again it appears that my passion for the issue has led me to write far too many words so I have come here to post them for the world.  I believe that some of the things I say need to be emphasised.  I am aware that they have been said before but they have not been said by me and I believe they need to be said again because the world is still allowing it to happen.

This is an utterly ridiculous overreaction. Do you really think that someone in the company of the future queen’s sister would be likely to point a real gun at a PHOTOGRAPHER for the PRESS? It is obviously a fake.

Admittedly in the instance that they were pointing it in a threatening manner this would also be fairly stupid, but consider they have obviously been attending a fancy dress party then it seems obvious that they are: a) wearing costumes, which may include fake guns. b) having a good time and just messing around, not getting violent and perpetrating gun crime. c) merely posing for the cameras and not making threats at the camera man.

What you are seeing here is a sly camera man who has realised that his photo of a group of kids playfully posing for him to get an amusing picture will be worth a lot more money if he reports it to the police and creates an international scandal so that news sites throughout the English speaking world will want to pay massive amounts of money for the picture that the kids playfully set up for him.

This is highly irresponsibly journalism. I am not saying the kids were not stupid but this photojournalist is exactly the sort of reason why it is impossible to get any decent representation of what is actually happening in the world from the newspapers. It would be harsh to say that the entire profession is a joke but I refused to complete my journalism degree because I was to ashamed to spend my life working in this field.

This article comes from the Guardian and they recognise the ridiculous overreaction.

This is the view of the left in the newspaper world. The left are notorious for their ambivalent stance on the royal family yet at least the Guardian can see sense. What you see here is the difference between responsible journalism by people of intelligence and mercenary journalism by retards that can barely string a hundred words together.–Koch.html?ITO=socialnet-twitter-mailonline

Finally I present to you the view of the Daily Mail, which I consider to be a newspaper in name only.  Kudos to them for taking the side of common sense.  I was surprised; basically if even the Daily Mail think you’re approach to journalism is ridiculous and sensationalist then the lesson to be learnt from this is that you should have your oxygen privileges revoked.

I read the Daily Mail’s reportage expecting more sensationalism but even the Daily Mail can see the Sun is overreacting. I can only imagine that the result of Rupert Murdoch’s completion of a PPE degree was that he became a nihilist because he appears to have no control over his subordinates unless he has imposed upon them that any means to the end of raking in as much cash as possible is acceptable.

That man may not approach Hitler’s level of abhorrent behaviour but considering that Hitler’s actions led to the creation of the human rights act and the formation of the European Union and common market that allows us all to buy such cheap goods from Europe, not to mentions many other reactions around the world such as the recognition of the crime of genocide I would submit that Rupert Murdoch will have a far more malignant effect on the world than Hitler did.

That may sound over the top; admittedly Hitler was an evil S.O.B. but the reaction to his attempts to annihilate the Jews has led to the substantial resolution of tensions that were felt throughout the western world for hundreds of years.  Admittedly there are still problems surrounding this issue but the difference to the popular opinion regarding minorities before 1945 is incredible.  I will be surprised if Murdoch manages to generate such an adverse reaction to his brand of evil.  Hitler was an irritant that we could use as a springboard to make a better world but Murdoch is merely a creeping malaise that fills our lives with everlasting misery.