Wednesday, August 24, 2016

The independent media revolution

There is an independent media revolution going on. The mainstream press have been very slow to cotton onto the fact that independent media is having an ever increasing influence on the spectrum of political debate, but they seem to be catching up a little bit now.

Before social media

Back in 1997 a young Tony Blair stormed to power with one of the biggest landslide victories in British history. A lot of people within the current Labour Party hark back to the Blairite era as if Blairism is some kind of magical election winning formula, but they're apparently incapable of understanding that Blair's formula for success simply isn't fit for purpose in the 21st Century.

Tony Blair, Peter Mandelson and Alistair Campbell worked out a strategy for stage managing the mainstream media news agenda, and to be fair to them it was spectacularly successful. They drip-fed press releases to the mainstream media that were essentially pre-written stories, and relied on lazy mainstream media hacks to "churnalise" the hand-picked stories of the day. If they wanted the public to hear a particular snazzy little sound bite, or think about a specific statistic, the Labour Party spin doctors fed them into the mainstream media machine and waited for it to churn out item after item about it.

The Blairite model worked a treat in the 1990s because it was common for people to rely on just a few mainstream media news sources for their information. People generally stuck to the same newspaper, and had the same entrenched habits in relation to broadcast news too. In those days it was relatively easy to stage manage the news agenda because if the newspapers, the BBC and commercial radio stations and the TV news shows all recycled the hand-picked stories, then there was obviously very little scope for alternative takes on the news agenda to reach mainstream audiences.

The spread of the Internet and the growth in social media platforms has led to a huge change in the way that people consume political news. Blairite efforts to stage manage the news agenda simply can't work any more because people don't just read one newspaper or listen to one radio station anymore. These days anyone with a social media account is bombarded with news stories from a kaleidoscope of different sources.

The early Internet age

In the early days alternative media sources generally flew well under the mainstream media radar.

As social media use gradually became established as a social norm the press did address the subject, but often from a very pompous perspective. Leftie liberal columnists sneered at social media users from above, and right-wing tabloid columnists sneered at it with a great big chip on their shoulder, but few of them had the foresight to recognise that social media would soon end completely revolutionising the way that journalism works.

Thinking back to those early days of social media and the sneering editorials from the mainstream press pack, it's impossible not to appreciate the irony that all mainstream media publications and the overwhelming majority of mainstream journalists have Twitter and/or Facebook profiles these days.

Burn it, burn it with fire

Mainstream journalists gradually begun to realise that there is a growing demographic of people who rely on social media as their primary news source.

The initial reaction was one of abject horror at the realisation that their role as gatekeepers of the news agenda was under existential threat.

This terrified reaction was exemplified by a November 2014 "debate" on the BBC Daily Politics show featuring five mainstream media journalists bitterly slagging off social media, without a single representative to actually argue the case for social media!

The Daily Politics piece focused on a misleading infographic contrasting several completely accurate pictures of sparsely attended parliamentary debates on important subjects with jam-packed debates claiming to be from parliamentary sessions about MPs pay and perks.

The BBC correctly identified the fact that the jam-packed images of parliament were not what they were claimed to be, but completely failed to explain the important context that the images had originally been misleadingly used by mainstream media outlets (the Telegraph and the BBC) to illustrate online articles about MPs expenses debates!

They were so busy tearing into social media for being irresponsible, and pleading with their audience to stick with established news formats, that they forgot to even mention that the misleading images that they were spitting blood about actually originated in the mainstream press!

Changing attitudes

After over five years of running Another Angry Voice, and at least a couple of years of being one of the most visible non-mainstream UK political writers on Facebook, I finally got my first ever mention on the BBC when Kerry-Anne Mendoza (the editor of The Canary) gave me a shout out on Newsnight in August 2016 during a piece about the right-wing bias of the mainstream press.

Here is an extracts from the interview:

"What we're trying to do, and becoming increasingly successful in doing, is challenging some of these dominant [mainstream media] narratives. We have a situation in this country where 81% of the mainstream media is owned by six corporations and most of the journalists who staff them went to a handful of universities and graduated about six inches to the left or the right of each other politically. So this little gap between them becomes the minuscule arena for political debate in this country, and anyone who operates outside of that is either mocked, ignored, ridiculed or derided as some sort of mad, bad and dangerous person ... and that's a crisis."
The host Kirsty Wark was determined not to give Kerry-Anne an easy time, rudely interrupting her on more than one occasion, brazenly misrepresenting the above quotation as a determination to "back Jeremy Corbyn to the hilt" and then hurling the accusation that she is "not in any way objective", which is quite something from a BBC presenter for several reasons.

I've said it before and I'll say it again, anyone who claims that they or their organisation is completely unbiased is lying to you because the only form of pure neutrality is complete apathy. Kirsty Wark has as much of an agenda as Kerry-Anne Mendoza, but she is capable of deluding herself that she's speaking from a pillar of unbiased objectivity because she's floating along with the mainstream media tide, rather than actively swimming against it.

If you still believe in the myth of BBC objectivity just speak to someone Scottish about what the BBC's independence referendum coverage was like, or consider the fact that an academic study found that the BBC Six O'Clock news was extraordinarily biased against Jeremy Corbyn during the first week of the Anyone But Corbyn coup attempt, or consider the fact that just a couple of years ago the BBC ran a piece contrasting social media with the establishment media with five mainstream media representatives and nobody from social media at all!

The thing that has undeniably changed since 2014 is that the reach of alternative media is now getting so big that the mainstream media can't simply ignore us anymore. Kerry-Anne Mendoza put it into perspective during the Newsnight interview when she pointed out that despite not even being a year old, The Canary has already surpassed long established political news sources like The Spectator, New Statesman and The Economist in web traffic. There is an independent media revolution going on, and a lot of mainstream journalists have clearly been caught off guard by it.

Continued hostility

There are clearly an awful lot of mainstream journalists who feel threatened by the growth of independent media. This attitude can be seen in the sneering contempt for The Canary that has become oh-so-fashionable. The idea that the arguments of the myriad different writers who contribute to The Canary can all be glibly dismissed because "The Canary is just biased leftie rubbish" is an intellectually lazy attitude that is being spread by right-wing hacks like Michael Deaton in the Daily Telegraph. 

This kind of ridicule is endlessly repeated by mainstream media rote learners who consider such glib dismissals to be dynamite debate winning tactics, rather than cognitively lazy drivel that actually demonstrates a fear of considering and attempting to critique things that exist outside of the comforting mainstream media spectrum of debate.

The interruptions and blatant misrepresentations from Kirsty Wark during the Newsnight interview were another demonstration of this hostility to independent journalism from mainstream journalists who can see the tide changing, but really don't like the threat it represents to the established way of doing things.

The independent media revolution

There are ever increasing numbers of people who choose to obtain their political news from independent sites where the writers can write what they like without fear of reprisals from the editor, media mogul owner or advertisers.

Several high profile journalists like Paul Mason on the left and Peter Oborne on the right have abandoned their lucrative mainstream media platforms for the greater degree of editorial freedom afforded by independence. 

The mediascape is evolving increasingly quickly and it seems inevitable that independent journalists are going to continue playing an ever increasing role in confronting the established, press baron and corporate advertiser approved mainstream media narratives.

Aside from the conversion of big-hitters like Paul Mason ans Peter Oborne, the ongoing independent media revolution has allowed people like me (who would likely never have found the opportunity to write for a mainstream newspaper) and countless others to actually have a voice.

Of course the content is hit and miss. Some of the articles in the Canary are as poor as others are excellent. Of course my self-edited blog features regular spelling errors and formatting problems. But I challenge anyone to point me to a newspaper or television channel where the content is 100% faultless.

Whatever the news source, it's inevitable that the quality of the content is going to be variable, but at least if you're reading my blog, Tom Pride, Craig Murray, Wings Over ScotlandJohnny Void, Vox Political or some writer on The Canary you know that we're expressing our own free opinions, rather than some compromised opinion that has to comply with the political agenda of some sociopathic tax-dodging press baron, bullying editor or the multitude of multinational corporations that advertise in their propaganda sheets.

If you want to help to support this shift away from a news agenda dominated by complacent hacks who churn out copy for billionaire media moguls (being careful not to offend their advertisers or the foibles of their editors) you can get involved.

If you would like to see a change towards genuinely independent journalism, where journalists have the editorial freedom to say things the way they see them, then you could consider setting up small monthly subscriptions to support the work of the independent journalists you like.

By setting up a small monthly donation to some of the independent writers and websites that you enjoy, you could help to support the media diversification that is absolutely necessary in order to stop the political agenda being dictated by the BBC (who will always remain biased in favour of the government of the day who get to hold their purse strings) and a tiny bunch of (savagely right-wing) billionaire media moguls.

millions of people have quit reading newspapers over the last decade. If just a small fraction of them were to set aside the equivalent of 50p a day or whatever to support the independent journalists and websites they like, the cumulative amount would be an enormous boost to independent media.

 Another Angry Voice  is a "Pay As You Feel" website. You can have access to all of my work for free, or you can choose to make a small donation to help me keep writing. The choice is entirely yours.


Why does Richard Branson think Virgin Trains are above the law?

Jeremy Corbyn clearly exaggerated when he said that the train he was on was "ram-packed" in order to make his case for rail renationalisation, because he now admits that there were a few single seats available but that he didn't want his wife and his team distributed randomly throughout the train.

When there's an ongoing scandal over the Tory health secretary Jeremy Hunt's decision to bury the evidence that his 7 Days NHS agenda is unworkable and dangerous because there simply aren't enough staff it seems odd that week old train stunt is dominating the news agenda.

There couldn't really be a better example of a deliberate distraction than millions of people talking about whether there were sufficient seats on one particular train on one particular day, rather than the fact that the Tory health secretary deliberately hid the evidence that his 7 Days NHS plan was inevitably going to lead to either service reductions or dangerously overworked staff. One man sitting on a train floor is suddenly more important than the safety of millions of NHS patients!

The week old story of Jeremy Corbyn sitting on the train floor was reignited when Virgin Trains released CCTV images of the train journey to the press to try to prove that the service was not as crowded as Jeremy Corbyn had claimed.

The Data Protection Act is pretty damned specific when it comes to the use of CCTV images. The law of the United Kingdom says that "Access to retained images and information should be restricted and there must be clearly defined rules on who can gain access and for what purpose such access is granted; the disclosure of images and information should only take place when it is necessary for such a purpose or for law enforcement purposes.".

The data protection rules that Virgin Trains are obligated under UK law to maintain state that "In certain circumstances we may need to disclose CCTV images for legal reasons. When this is done there is a requirement for the organisation that has received the images to adhere to the Data Protection Act".

A private train franchise feeding their CCTV images to the press in an attempt to damage the reputation of a politician who wants to renationalise the rail network clearly doesn't fall under the definition of a legal reason or a law enforcement purpose.

The Information Commissioner's Office has stated that they are investigating the Virgin Trains CCTV leak as a potential data protection breach. It would be very surprising if they didn't conclude that Virgin Trains had broken the law by leaking their CCTV images to the press because doing so is so clearly not a law enforcement issue.

Richard Branson clearly endorsed the unlawful behaviour of his company by sharing a link to the press coverage of the CCTV leak on his Twitter account.

The answer to the question of why Richard Branson and Virgin Trains decided to ignore the law of the land is completely obvious: Jeremy Corbyn favours renationalisation of the railways, meaning that their company stands to lose their profiteering cash-extraction schemes. Damaging Jeremy Corbyn to protect their own business interests clearly takes precedence over complying with the law.

It's incredibly fanciful to imagine Branson and whoever it was in Virgin trains who decided to authorise the leak had no access to lawyers who would have told them that such a leak would be unlawful, but just for the sake of argument let's keep it alive as an option. This leaves us with two potential scenarios.
1. Whoever it was who authorised the leak was unaware of the Data Protection Act and didn't bother to run their plan past Virgin's legal team. Conclusion - Virgin Trains are incompetent
2, Whoever it was who authorised the leak was well aware that leaking CCTV images to the press for political purposes is unlawful, but they decided that the law of the land is secondary to Virgin Trains business interests. Conclusion - Virgin Trains are criminals
The behaviour of Virgin Trains in this scenario is illustrative of what has gone so horribly wrong in this country. Business tycoons, corporate executives, bankers and the like have come to believe that they are completely above the law.

They believe that stuff like obeying the law and paying tax are just for the unimportant little people, and that the only thing that governs the behaviour of their corporations is profit. If more profit can be made by paying tax lawyers to hide their profits in tax havens, that's what they do. If the law stands in the way of their scheme to discredit a politician who threatens their ability to keep profiteering from their taxpayer subsidised monopolies, they just ignore it.

These people are so used to buying influence and hobnobbing with the Westminster establishment club they genuinely believe themselves to be untouchable. 

Look at Fred Goodwin and his oh so cosy relationship with Gordon Brown and the way he got to walk away from destroying RBS with a fat pension instead of a jail term. 

Look at Philip Green and his love-in with David Cameron and the way he pillaged BHS and its pension fund and then flogged the husk of it to a bloody charlatan with no retail experience whatever resulting in over 11,000 job losses. 

Look at Richard Branson's cosy relationship with Tory Blair and the way that he's clearly going to be let off with an insignificant slap on the writ  at the absolute most for completely ignoring the Data Protection Act in order to try to protect his profiteering rail franchises from the threat of nationalisation.

These people are used to buying influence, dodging-tax and ignoring laws that don't suit them, and that's why they're absolutely terrified of Jeremy Corbyn. They know that his principles can't be bought. They know that he won't back down on plans to renationalise the railways or make corporations actually pay tax on the profits they earn in the UK, even if they offer him a cushy post-politics corporate consultancy.

That's why they'll attack him relentlessly, even if that means ignoring the law of the land to do it.

 Another Angry Voice  is a "Pay As You Feel" website. You can have access to all of my work for free, or you can choose to make a small donation to help me keep writing. The choice is entirely yours.


Tuesday, August 23, 2016

"Train-gate" vs "NHS patient safety-gate"

There are two stories about political Jeremies doing the rounds, it's interesting to consider which is actually the most important, and which is being given the most media attention.

Jeremy Hunt

A leaked risk assessment document drawn up by the government's own civil servants revealed serious risks in the 7 Day NHS service that Jeremy Hunt has been pushing.

One of the highlighted risks is that there are simply not enough trained NHS staff to implement the 7 day programme. In the section entitled "workforce overload" the document admits that without sufficient consultants, GPs and other health professionals the full 7 day service simply cannot be delivered.

This revelation is a complete vindication of the Junior Doctors who have always stated patient safety as their number one reason for their strike actions. The Junior Doctors repeatedly argued that without significant additional investment in staff, the choice would be either a deterioration in NHS service coverage, or patient's lives being put at risk by tired and overworked doctors. This leaked risk assessment document proves them absolutely right.

A second subsidiary lie that the report reveals is the way the Tories endlessly harked on about their "Plan" for the 7 Days NHS as if it was an actual plan, rather than a just an empty vote-winning sound bite. The risk assessment document states that the objectives and scope of the project were not properly finalised meaning it was liable to scope creep, and that there was no robust, quality assured plans for the various NHS work streams meaning a likely inability to effectively deal with delays in the project's implementation.

The leaked document reveals that Jeremy Hunt and the Tories repeatedly mislead the public by hiding concerns about the risks to public safety, and again by pretending that they had a proper plan for a 7 days NHS rather than just a vague vote-grabbing sound bite that was always likely to turn into a complete shambles.

Jeremy Corbyn

After Jeremy Corbyn filmed a short clip about over-crowding on Britain's shambolic and massively over-priced private rail franchises onboard a Virgin train, the company responded by breaching the Data Protection Act* and their own privacy policy** by releasing CCTV footage of Jeremy Corbyn apparently walking past empty seats before he recording his piece.

It's absolutely obvious why Richard Branson would want to undermine Jeremy Corbyn.

Corbyn's policies of renationalising the rail network and ending the ongoing Tory NHS carve-up would clearly hurt Branson's Virgin Health and Virgin Rail business interests.

It's no surprise that the mainstream media and a load of Anyone But Corbyn coup-plotters jumped on the story instead of focusing their efforts on the much more serious case of Jeremy Hunt deliberately provoking a series of Junior Doctors' strikes and misleading the public over the safety risks inherent in his 7 Days NHS project.

I'm not going delve too deeply into the debate over whether there were available seats on the Virgin train or not. There are pictures Corbyn walking past loads of clearly reserved seats, a video clip of him walking through a clearly crowded train and there's public testimony that the train was over-crowded too, but then there's also the Data Protection Act breaching CCTV images of what appear to be unreserved seats on the train. To me the bigger issue actually appears to be that billionaire business tycoons like Richard Branson feel entitled to completely ignore Data Protection laws and use the CCTV data they collect on unsuspecting members of the public to launch political attacks against them, which is all a bit Orwellian for my liking.

The important issue isn't whether there were seats on a particular train. Everyone who has travelled by rail in recent years knows that rip-off prices, unreliable services and dangerous levels of overcrowding are real problems faced by millions of commuters a day.

All rail users have thought "how bloody much?" when buying train tickets (even pre-booked ones); we've all experienced severely delayed or cancelled trains (especially people who are reliant on the abysmal Southern franchise); we've all had to stand on trains that are so jam-packed that it's a filthy perverts' fantasy of inappropriate touching opportunities; and we've all wondered how many people in the severely over-crowded carriage we're travelling in would end up dead if there was some kind of accident.

The sad thing is that people (including an awful lot of Labour people) are so busy going potty over "Traingate" and poring over images and video clips to see if seats on one particular train on one particular day were reserved or not, that they're forgetting all about the fact that the other Jeremy was willing to put the lives of millions of NHS patients at risk, and that he repeatedly and deliberately mislead the public by hiding the safety concerns about his project, and by misusing statistics as propaganda in favour of his dangerous reforms.

I guess that trying to discredit Jeremy Corbyn's rail renationalisation policy is a much more important political agenda for a lot of people that the safety of NHS patients.

 Another Angry Voice  is a "Pay As You Feel" website. You can have access to all of my work for free, or you can choose to make a small donation to help me keep writing. The choice is entirely yours.


* = "The disclosure of images and information should only take place when it is necessary for such a purpose or for law enforcement purposes". Trying to undermine the pro-nationalisation policy of a politician doesn't really seem to be a "law enforcement purpose" to me.

** = "In certain circumstances we may need to disclose CCTV images for legal reasons. When this is done there is a requirement for the organisation that has received the images to adhere to the Data Protection Act"

Beware of the cry-bullies

The cry-bully debating strategy is a disgustingly cynical and manipulative bad faith debating tactic that is becoming increasingly common in UK political discourse. 

In this article I'm going to describe what cry-bully tactics are in the context of the lamentable decline in the standards of political debate, and then detail some of the worst offenders.

Bad Faith vs Good Faith debating tactics

The vilification of Jeremy Corbyn after the EU referendum debate for daring to treat the electorate like adults by presenting a considered fact-based case for remaining in the UK is evidence that in modern politics good faith debating tactics are considered "useless", "inept", "lacklustre", "half-hearted" and all of the other criticisms hurled at him.

What people 
apparently wanted from Corbyn was  more of the kind of manipulative absolutist propaganda that the rest of the political class were spewing. They didn't want him to treat the electorate like adults, they wanted him to treat us like a bunch of sub-juvenile halfwits who can be goaded into supporting one position or the other through fearmongering, false promises, threats, naive wishful thinking, flag-waving and a great big mound of outright lies.

Political debate has been so corrupted that people haven't just become normalised to bad faith debating tactics, bad faith is now so ubiquitous that people react with horror and derision when they notice someone like Jeremy Corbyn who actually uses good faith debating tactics.

Cry-bully tactics

There are all manner of bad faith debating tactics, but one the most disgusting of all is the cry-bully strategy. This deeply cynical and desperately hypocritical tactic entails goading people with a barrage of insults and smears, then reacting with synthetic outrage when someone eventually retorts in kind with insults of their own.

One of the things that makes cry-bully tactics so effective is that the people using them are usually professional writers or media trained politicians, which means they're adept at finding ways of structuring their insults to really wind people up without resorting to foul language or actual threats, while a certain percentage of the people they infuriate with their insults are bound to be nowhere near as well-educated and articulate, meaning they will retort by slinging abuse laden insults at them.

Cry-bullies are basically above-the-line trolls who deliberately wind up large cohorts of people in order to fish for insults in order to then shriek "look at the abuse I'm suffering"  to smear everyone within the cohort of people that they insulted first.

The cry-bullies

Alex Andreou

The ex-Guardian columnist Alex Andreou gave a masterclass in cry-bully tactics in his Acid Attack article against Jeremy Corbyn and anyone who supports him. The article was absolutely full of smears and insults aimed at riling up anyone who is sympathetic to Jeremy Corbyn, but the article was book-ended with complaints about how he's been bullied for expressing his anti-Corbyn views, and how it's all been so stressful that he had to take a "Twitter break" over it.

Funnily enough Andreou's "Twitter break" didn't stop him from turning up on the Another Angry Voice Facebook page to sling insulting generalisations at everyone who follows my work and to make defamatory claims that I'd falsely attributed quotes to him in my critique of his article (a claim he was far too much of a coward to retract and apologise for after I clearly disproved it).

Apparently it's absolutely fine for members of the punditariat class like Andreou to deliberately wind people up by insulting them and their ideas, to dismiss all criticisms of these utterly cynical tactics by labelling them "nothing but seething abuse" and to deliberately make defamatory accusations in desperate efforts to discredit their debating opponents, but anyone who gets angry with them and retorts in kind is held up as evidence that all Corbynistas are nasty aggressive bullies.

Michael Foster

Michael Foster is the millionaire Labour Party donor who tried to get Jeremy Corbyn barred from the Labour leadership election. After his effort to use the courts to oust Corbyn was thwarted he wrote an extraordinary diatribe for the Daily Mail  entitled "Why I despise Jeremy Corbyn and his Nazi stormtroopers".

In his article he called all Jeremy Corbyn supporters "bullies", "arrivistas", "a divisive, aggressive holier-than-thou cadre of hard-Left socialists", "bullies and arm-twisters", "economically illiterate people", "a mob", "second-rate minds", "the extreme left" and "Nazi stormtroopers" who are guilty of  "wave after wave of inappropriate, democratically damaging and wrongful actions".

After writing an insult laden diatribe like that he had the absolute gall to complain that Corbyn supporters are bullies based on pathetically weak stuff like lies about that notorious brick (you know, the one that wasn't actually thrown through Angela Eagle's constituency office window at all).

Andreou's article was a clear example of cry-bulling, but Foster's article went so much further it's actually quite extraordinary. Imagine the kind of gullible fool it would take to mindlessly accept that the guy slurring his political opponents as "Nazis" in the Daily Mail (of all places) is the innocent victim, while the hundreds of thousands of ordinary people on the other end of this appalling public smear (with no massive mainstream media platform of their own to sling insults, even if they wanted to) are the nasty bullies!

Sadly a lot of people are that gullible, otherwise cry-bully tactics wouldn't work and would be widely held up to ridicule in the mainstream press, instead of the job being left to independent bloggers like me.

Tom Blenkinsop

The Labour MP for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland has been having a spectacular Twitter meltdown which includes repeatedly yelling "entryist" at people (including lifelong Labour voters), calling for a Stalinist style purge of left-wingers from the Labour Party and blocking thousands of accounts (including me, Harry Leslie Smith, Tom Pride, Owen Jones, The Morning Star and huge numbers of people who have never even interacted with him!).

Blenkinsop is clearly using cry-bully tactics. The vitriol on his Twitter feed is extraordinarily provocative and it's no wonder it's made a number of people absolutely furious. 

The only messages Blenkinsop ever draws attention to by replying to them are the tiny minority that include insults or abusive words and phrases. He has received hundreds of politely worded messages questioning his behaviour, but he just instantly blocks them all. Just check out the #BlockedbyBlenkinsop and #Blenkinblocked Twitter hashtags to see how many people he's been blocking.

It's bad enough that coup-supporting political pundits and a major Labour party donor have been using cry-bully tactics, but it's absolutely outrageous to see an actual Labour MP deliberately riling Labour Party members and voters with a torrent of insults and smears, then cherry-picking only the tiny minority of abusive replies in order to cry about the abuse he's suffering.

Right-wing cry-bullies

The three examples above are all Anyone But Corbyn coup-supporters, which certainly makes it look like there's a concerted effort to use cry-bully tactics to undermine Jeremy Corbyn, but there are plenty of other non-Labour cry-bullies out there too.

One of the most glaring examples of cry-bully tactics happened when a notorious right-wing attention-seeking troll woman (who I have sworn never to name on this blog) read out a selection of mean Tweets that people have sent her. This woman has insulted pretty much everyone on the face of the planet with her attention-seeking right-wing diatribes, so crying about the abuse people send back to her is an absolutely blatant display of cry-bully hypocrisy.

David Torrance

The cry-bully strategy is increasingly common in wider-UK politics thanks to the Anyone But Corbyn coup-plotters, but the people of Scotland are much more familiar with it because the Scottish columnist David Torrance is an absolute master of slinging insults at huge cohorts of people then crying for sympathy when a minority of the people who argue back use insulting words and phrases.

Torrance's use of cry-bully tactics was brilliantly skewered by Stuart Campbell in an article entitled "The Formula". This section relies heavily on the points raised in that article. I strongly advise you to read it for yourself, it really is one of the most devastating take-downs I've seen in years.

Torrance loves to insult people. In one article he referred to all Scottish nationalists, Leave voters and Corbyn supporters as "utterly vacuous". Not just some of them, but all of them. Every single one of them.

The maths is a bit complicated because there is some overlap between the three groups, but it's clear that Torrance has called something like three quarters of the entire Scottish population "utterly vacuous".

Insulting as many people as possible is a very good strategy for provoking angry insult laden diatribes in response so that you can cry about all the abuse that horrible "cyber-nats""Bexiters" and "Corbynistas" are slinging at you, and imply that it's representative of all of the people you insulted, rather than just the tiny minority who swallowed the bait.

After years of using his public platform to sling abuse at all kinds of people, retweeting severe misogynistic abuse, gratuitously comparing people to Donald Trump, and taking people's words completely out of context to score lame political points, Torrance decided to flounce off Twitter and then write an article for the (Rupert Murdoch owned) Times about the trauma of being supposedly bullied off Twitter.

Stuart Campbell explains that when using Torrance style cry-bully tactics it’s important to "emphasise that it’s never your fault for being wrong or deliberately provocative, of course. None of the subjects of your attacks, whether they be powerful politicians or powerless members of the public are ever permitted legitimate anger in reaction to your provocation. They must simply endure it forever in meek silence, even when they’ve been obliged to pay for it through a legally-enforced licence fee. They must ON NO ACCOUNT call you a 'disgruntled walnut' or 'angry Weetabix', for example. The vacuous, dishonest, stupid, bullying cultist cyber-scum".

Campbell concludes his article about Torrance's cry-bully formula with a couple of useful observations:

"The political landscape is shifting faster than anyone can keep up with, and those who see themselves as gatekeepers, interpreting events for the benefit of the poor dumb plebs live in terror of being rendered obsolete by change and by ridicule. Any voices ranged against them must be tainted and discredited, painted as a vicious lynchmob of thugs and bullies ... so expect this routine to be played out many more times over the coming months and years (not just against Scottish independence, but also Jeremy Corbyn and anything else perceived as a threat to the existing order). Because the one thing that can never be allowed to happen is normal people being allowed to speak and think for themselves".

Dealing with cry-bullies

The conclusion is simple. Cry-bullies are appallingly manipulative people. Beware of giving them what they want by retorting to their abuse with insults of your own, because if you do, you're giving them precisely what they're fishing for. You're handing them exactly the ammunition they're looking for to attack you, your ideas, and anyone they care to identify you with.

It's often best to just ignore cry-bullies, but if you do feel compelled to respond to a journalist or politician who has taken to slinging insults in the hope of goading people into insulting them back, it's vital to stay calm.

An "I can see what you're doing" response is one of the best approaches. You could calmly identify the insults and smears they've used, then explain that you know that they're just using such insults in order to provoke inarticulate people into slinging insults back at them so that they can then start crying about the terrible "abuse" they're suffering.

Once they've been rumbled like this. other people can become aware of their cynical and manipulative cry-bully tactics, and any abuse that does get thrown back at them elsewhere in the comments can be seen in its proper context.

 Another Angry Voice  is a "Pay As You Feel" website. You can have access to all of my work for free, or you can choose to make a small donation to help me keep writing. The choice is entirely yours.


Monday, August 22, 2016

Has nobody told Heather Wheeler that the British Empire is finished?

Instead of just enjoying the fact that the Great Britain and Northern Ireland Olympic team managed to finish second in the Olympic medals table, the Tory MP Heather Wheeler took it upon herself to mock up a medal table for the British Empire in order to have an utterly pathetic dig at the EU. 

It shouldn't really be necessary to explain why this was an incredibly tasteless move, but it's not so long since a YouGov opinion poll found that 44% of British people are actually proud of our history of colonialism, so I suppose it's necessary. 

According to YouGov's findings, for every one person who recognises that our history of stealing other people's land, pillaging their resources and subjugating their people is not actually something to be incredibly proud of, there are two people who think that colonialism was a jolly good show!

If we forget about the land theft, the pillaging of resources and the political subjugation of millions of people and just look at a few episodes of famine, slavery and mass genocide, I think that's enough to get the picture that the Empire wasn't just a bunch of jolly japes.

It's certain that modern day Olympic heroes like Usain Bolt (Jamaica), Wayde van Niekerk (South Africa), Michael Phelps (USA), Penny Oleksiak (Canada) and the Fiji Rugby sevens team hold no animosity towards modern UK citizens over the appalling British history of colonialism, but they'd most likely react furiously if you told them that they didn't win their medals for their own countries, but actually for the British Empire.

Interestingly the Tory MP was using Britain's colonial legacy to have a dig at the EU. It's a spectacularly ill-conceived argument to say "look at how well all these countries we once invaded and occupied have done in comparison to your modern political union of democratic states".

Still, I guess a load of desperately ignorant Biffer and Kipper types will adore this harking back to the days of empire when the British could invade other lands with complete impunity, pillaged resources and murdered anyone who got in their way. I guess appealing to the savagely right-wing sentiments of people like that was the point of posting such an image.

I just can't figure out why Heather Wheeler couldn't just be happy with the spectacular over-achievement of UK & NI athletes in the medals table without bringing Britain's appalling history of colonialism into it to have an utterly pathetic dig at the EU.

 Another Angry Voice  is a "Pay As You Feel" website. You can have access to all of my work for free, or you can choose to make a small donation to help me keep writing. The choice is entirely yours.


Tom Blenkinsop's vitriolic Twitter tantrum

The Labour MP for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland Tom Blenkinsop has been having a quite extraordinary cry-bully tantrum on Twitter.

Months of anti-Corbyn drivel


Ever since the inept Anyone But Corbyn coup was launched Tom Blenkinsop's Twitter feed has been absolute abomination, with dozens and dozens of tweets attacking the Labour Party leadership and party members, and barely anything criticising the Tories, but over the weekend before ballot papers for the Labour leadership election were sent out he went into complete-meltdown mode.

Here's an example of Blenkinsop's anti-Corbyn drivel before his complete meltdown: "Corbyn is more wooden than a wooden spoon sitting in the wooden draw of a wooden the woods". The guy obviously thinks he's got some kind of searing rapier wit, but before his meltdown it was just cringeworthy babbling like that, retweeting hatchet-job articles from the likes of hard-right blogger and Murdoch stooge Guido Fawkes and repeatedly calling for Stalinist style purges of the Labour Party.

Something snapped

Over the weekend before the ballot papers were sent out something clearly snapped in Blenkinsop. He went from cringeworthy anti-Corbyn chuntering and calling for a Stalinist style purge of the Labour Party to rid it of all Corbyn supporters to repeatedly yelling "entryist" and "idiot" at anyone who dared question his ridiculous behaviour.

Calling for a purge of left-wing Labour Party members is bad enough, but repeatedly yelling "entryist" at anyone who dared question his attitude (including someone who clearly identified as a lifelong Labour voter) is sickening.


Blenkinsop followed up his bizarre calls for a Stalinist style Labour Party purge with an even more explicit call for a purge of anyone who booed Sadiq Khan's divisive attack on Jeremy Corbyn (just a few weeks after Khan had vowed to stay neutral in the Labour leadership election).

The most ridiculous thing of all is that after repeatedly calling for an ideological purge of the Labour Party, he then had the absolute gall to retweet someone who was chuntering on about Jeremy Corbyn supporters being a bunch of Stalinists.

One of the interesting things that arises from Blenkinsop's repeated calls for an anti-democratic purge of the Labour Party is that he clearly won't have a leg to stand on if Corbyn defeats the coup-plotters then decides to do the sensible thing and allow democratic re-selection of appallingly divisive and self-serving Labour MPs.

Blenkinsop wouldn't have a leg to stand on if the Labour Party allowed his local constituency Labour members to hold a democratic ballot to deselect him as their MP when he's openly and repeatedly called for an anti-democratic purge of the Labour Party.

It would obviously take a very brazen individual to object to democratic re-selection of MPs after calling for an anti-democratic purge of Labour Party left-wingers, but judging by the constant stream of divisiveness and abuse that passes for his Twitter feed, it's beyond doubt that Blenkinsop is capable of such brazenness.

Owen Jones is not an idiot

The fact that Blenkinsop calls Owen Jones an "idiot" is indicative of the guy's mentality. He's using a public platform to hurl abuse and insults at members of his own party, he writes dozens of anti-Corbyn tweets for every one he writes criticising the Tory government, and he's repeatedly called for a Stalinist style purge of the Labour Party, then his response to someone criticising his attitude is to call them an "idiot".

Personal abuse is pretty the lowest possible level of debate, and Blenkinsop's Twitter tantrum is a perfect illustration of the fact that he's a political gutter-dweller.

If you want some proof that Owen Jones isn't an idiot you could read his 9 questions for Corbyn supporters article and my response to it to see how the Labour leadership debate could have been conducted if it wasn't for people like Tom Blenkinsop who would clearly rather ruin the Labour Party completely than allow Jeremy Corbyn any chance of success.

Cry-bully tactics

Blenkinsop is clearly utilising the cry-bully tactic. The objective of which is to repeatedly insult and abuse people to the point that they respond in kind with abuse and insults of their own, then cry about the terrible abuse you're suffering. We've seen it already from the ex-Guardian hack Alex Andreou in his Acid Attack article on Jeremy Corbyn and anyone who supports him, and now we've got a classic example of an actual Labour MP using the same dirty underhand tactics.

This guy is supposed to be an intellectual!

One of the strangest things about Blenkinsop is that he's apparently got a degree in PPE and a Masters in Continental Philosophy from Warwick university, but on Twitter he comes across as having the debating skills of a petulant child having a tantrum.

Perhaps the philosophy department at Warwick University taught him that the ideal way to structure an argument is to repeatedly hurl insults at your opponents and then accuse them of things that you yourself are arguing for?

Blenkinsop is clearly acting as a very poor advert for the post graduate philosophy department Warwick University. If  an abuse-hurling intellectual lightwieght like Tom Blenkinsop is the calibre of person they churn out, then what value do their qualifications actually hold?

Blenkinsop's echo chamber

I first became aware of Blenkinsop's Twitter tantrum when someone posted a screenshot of one of his comments on the Another Angry Voice Facebook page, but when I went to check out whether such a ludicrously divisive comment could be real I discovered that he's blocked me, which is odd because I've never had any interaction with him on Twitter whatever.

It subsequently turns out that Blenkinsop has blocked pretty much every left-wing Twitter account out there, including Harry Leslie Smith, anyone who disagrees with him, a load of other people who haven't ever even interacted with him and even his own constituents!

There are only two reasons to use the Twitter block button. One is to stop people hurling abuse at you and the other is to create a closed ideology echo chamber where all views that contradict your own are silenced. Given that an awful lot of people who are blocked by Tom Blenkinsop have never even interacted with him, it's absolutely obvious what he's been doing.

I'm definitely going to consider the fact that I've been blocked by Tom Blenkinsop despite never having interacted with him as a badge of honour.

Worse than Britain First

The extreme-right hate group Britain First operate a similar kind of closed ideology echo chamber to Tom Blenkinsop, but with one crucial difference. They wait for people to actually leave dissenting comments before they hit the block button, they don't just go around randomly blocking anyone who might challenge their precious closed ideology.

It's incredibly sad that there's a Labour MP out there with an even more censorious attitude than the fascist britain First hatemongers.

Bringing the Labour Party into disrepute

Labour Party politicians like Sadiq Khan and Kezia Dugdale have every right to back whichever candidate they prefer (even though their stated reasons are laughable), but what the likes of Tom Blenkinsop and Ian Austin are doing with their divisive Twitter hate campaigns is completely unacceptable.

Any other party would have launched disciplinary proceedings against such divisive and vitriolic abuse aimed at fellow party politicians and members. Could you imagine Theresa May standing for a Tory MP who has taken it upon themselves to wage a one-man Twitter war against her, her cabinet and a significant percentage of the party membership? Of course she wouldn't.

Once the leadership election is over, I'd be amazed if muck-hurling Labour MPs like Tom Blenkinsop aren't at least put up for re-selection by their constituents, which seems to be a fair guess at why he's having such a tantrum. He can see that his toys are going to be confiscated because of his bad behaviour, and he's having a screaming tantrum about it.

Sadly for Tom, he doesn't even seem to realise that resorting to screaming tantrums rarely ever result in sensible adults changing their minds.

 Another Angry Voice  is a "Pay As You Feel" website. You can have access to all of my work for free, or you can choose to make a small donation to help me keep writing. The choice is entirely yours.