Saturday, 26 December 2015

Milo Yiannopoulos - Rise of the Anti-Feminist

There are two kinds of people who want to throw themselves in front of an seemingly irresistible force. The brave and the nihilistically narcissistic. When it comes to the feminist movement, more specifically the aggressive anti-men aspect, that is a fight a fool picks. Why? Because it is a battle that is being lost. Yet, in amongst all this, one man has risen to take them on. That man is Milo Yiannopoulos and I'm still not wholly sure whether he's the former or the latter. I'd have to say he's probably both.

Gaining prominence from the Gamergate controversy, Yiannopoulos has now effectively trolled his way into the spotlight, courtesy of his strong and sensationalistic views on how white women in Western society are asserting suppressive supremacy. It's a view he quite cleverly dresses up with that problematic thing for anyone blindly passionate about female subjugation in the West: facts, science and empirical studies.

I commend him for taking the fight to the extremist views that some sections of the feminist movement prescribe to. All too often, extremism within feminism is tolerated because women have been socially stifled for so long that it is deemed okay for them to give men a few kicks back. Yiannopoulos rightly acknowledges that this isn't right. If a reasoned quest for equality is to retain its credibility, it cannot be the platform to domination. That is social injustice.

Yiannopoulos's main concern is men who are under the age of 30. He states that they will find it harder to get a job because they are men, which can be supported by plenty of studies. Men under 30 will be subject to a presumed rape culture, which is a hideous thing to impose on men; that because they are men, they either have a craving to sexually assault women or they cannot understand the concept of consent. One rapist does not make the other 99 men rapists. He does not tolerate that women get on their high horse about being objectified but quite happily indulge in the practice with men. Rebecca Reid of The Telegraph found this out quite publicly in a debate with Yiannopoulos at the University of Bristol, when he cited an overt example of it in an article she had written. These points, as well as others he makes, are perfectly valid, should be spoken and heard.

There are other things that he gets plain wrong. He uses similar rhetoric, sarcasm and sneering to make his case, like fighting fire with fire is the best method. He only makes a hypocrite of himself when he does that. He's clearly intelligent enough to know that, which makes me think that it is a conscious choice on his part.

You see, Yiannopoulos probably spotted that the ugly ultra feminist wing got noticed by using those very tactics. In fact, it is more prevalent in the social media era. Standard and moderate views are drops in a vast ocean of thought. Yiannopoulos decided to be an erupting volcano. Yes, it might get ugly but I imagine his hope is that people who listen will hear the truths and shrug off the rest.

The grand irony is his hatred for ultra feminism and all it created made him too. He is rapidly becoming the most prominent anti-feminist out there, if not the kingpin of them all. And his rising prominence could be easily dismissed as a misguided misogynistic rant but I think it is more than that. The fact that the anti-feminism movement is gathering pace, with Yiannopoulos keen to spearhead it, does suggest that feminism needs to take stock of where it may have gone wrong.

So if feminists don't like the rise of Yiannopoulos, fighting him with glibness and anger is taking him on with the weapons he's already mastered. They need to strive for equality and not demonise men. It seems like a simple thing but when Jess Phillips, a female MP, is laughing the idea of having a men's issues debate on International Men's Day out of committee, when a similar debate exists for women's issues on International Women's Day, men rightly feel increasingly marginalised. It has to stop. The problem with Milo Yiannopoulos isn't that he is a sophisticated internet troll. It's that he has a point. A valid one.

Saturday, 19 December 2015

Last Minute Christmas Shopping

Anyone with any sense knows when to do the Christmas shopping. That would be in October and primarily online. Yes, the sales may kick in around late November but they are luring you into a trap with those phantom discounts. Now some of us decide that such things can wait. Even until the final week before Christmas. After all, nothing says I love you and Merry Christmas quite like charcoal bought from the local petrol station at 11pm on Christmas Eve.

If you do fall into the trap of last minute Christmas shopping, I offer this as a warning. Don't do it. Tell the kids Christmas was cancelled. Take all the excuses you handed teachers when you hadn't done your homework, bundle them into a Government style document and present it to your loved ones. Because if you don't heed my counsel, this is what you have in store for you!
  • The Slow Walkers
If you're out shopping within 7 days of 25 December, it is not for your health. It is for the urgency. Yet with this common knowledge, it appears that the Universe has unleashed an army of zombies onto the streets of retail outlets.  These creatures meander down the way so slowly, you almost want to check if they have overdosed on Valium. 

If they walked single file in a straight line, you'd be okay with it. That. however, doesn't happen. They move in groups and weave in a drunken stupor. They are like the middle lane hoggers of the motorway. Oblivious to anything around them, they block the way until someone punches them in the back of the head.
  • Blockers
Shops are generally set out very well. Big sign posts as to where stuff is and broad aisles to allow groups of two to three people by. So why do some people think that the best place to have a six person conversation is at the top of the escalator? The stupidly stand there as person after person is craned into the wall they've created. 

Hilariously, when you say to them "That's not a good place to stand", they give you a look like you've been really offensive. You can call a spade a spade but you can't call an idiot an idiot. The PC nature of the 21st century is further proof that a genocide style event is the only thing the human race deserves.
  • Beggars
I'm not talking homeless people. I'm not even talking the criminals who pretend to be homeless. I mean the arbitrary charities that use the Christmas veil as an excuse to put on half arsed money collecting exercises. Give people a nice Christmas is their mantra. Okay, does that mean I can forget about them in January? Should my conscience be clear in the Summer? It is utterly insincere. 

People need our help all year round. They don't feel it more at Christmas. They feel it pretty pointedly every day. Christmas is not a guilt trip I'm willing to tolerate but they'll try to make you if you go last minute Christmas shopping.
  • The Out of Stock sticker
"Everything we have is out on the floor" is a line I heard on a few occasions while out doing my last minute shop. Really? Everything? You're telling me that if I walk into that MASSIVE stock room you have, it is completely bare? Either the shop assistant is too busy to help these customers, which is appalling, or the company hasn't stocked up sufficiently. Fair enough if that statement is rolled out in the last hour of Christmas Eve shopping. Six days before Christmas? No, don't buy that (neither will the people who asked the shop assistant). 

It's not like Christmas snuck up on them. It doesn't move around like Easter. So when I see the Out of Stock sticker, I take it as a marker of incompetency. You'll see just how incompetent retailers are if you go out there.
  • DON'T DO IT!
Like I said, don't go out there. You'll end up hating Christmas, charities, people, in fact, everything and anything that moves, breathes or lives. You'll end up watching action movies, praying that the mad villain who wants to destroy the planet wins. Yes, you'll end up like me. That should be warning enough!

Thursday, 17 December 2015

When Are Spoilers Acceptable?

The build up to Star Wars: The Force Awakens has come with a strong caveat among all anticipating its release. That being NO SPOILERS. We've all seen films that we've gone in cold and come out blown away by the experience. Sadly, those days are harder to come by. It is all too easy to bump into a major plot twist on the internet. Marketing for films has become so aggressive that sometimes the studios give too much away. News outlets scrape the barrel for sources telling us tiny bits about the upcoming blockbuster.

Then it gets released. Friends and colleagues watch the films we all love. They openly talk about it so much that if you don't see the big film on the midnight showing, every minute holds the threat of the surprise being ruined. We all get that. If anything, especially evidenced by Star Wars: The Force Awakens, people are being more cautious. People will ask "Has anyone not seen it?" in the group before powering into spoiler land uninvited.

My question is how long should that 'no spoiler' condition stand?

I was talking about The Last Samurai and cited a pretty emotional and powerful moment at the end of the film. The response I got was "Hey! Spoilers!" The person in question insisted I had now ruined his chance of enjoying that film. In case you don't know, The Last Samurai was released in 2004. Is a movie still under the spoiler caveat after 11 years?

So when can you speak openly about the storyline and plot points of a film without having to make a check on everyone's knowledge of it? Do you have to be sure that everyone who wants to see has seen it?

There are various schools of thought. You could go with the cinema run is done. Everyone had approximately 14 weeks to get out and see it. If they didn't, they can't have been that fussed.

Or should you wait until the DVD release is done? Let people who don't like going to cinemas have their chance, perhaps?

Maybe we should wait until it is shown on free to view TV. Then those who want to see it but can't afford cinema tickets or DVDs can. There is the chance that people want to see it but are too busy.

For me, I think once the cinema run is done, your chance to moan about spoilers ends. You had the chance to see it. Anyone publishing spoilers before that is just disgusting and disrespectful. I give you the prime example in the form of Rosie O'Donnell. She had seen a preview showing of Fight Club, which contains one of the great film twists, and had decided she hated the film due to the violence in it. She took to her TV show and announced the twist to the nation of viewers, in an effort to convince people not to go. She should know the effort people go to in making a story and putting it together. Needless to say, people woke up to the reality of her irrelevance and Fight Club is now a cult classic, if not one of the all time great films.

Stories are one of humanity's great creations. I remember my reaction to some of the iconic twists and tales that have graced a cinema screen. My reaction, whether it be gleeful, shocked or visceral, is the crowning jewel of that adventure. If anything, you should want other people to have that feeling too. Publishing spoilers is just robbing someone of the experience. That's not funny or clever. It is denying other people of the key element of a story. How it makes them feel. In a world where we've become increasingly numb, doing such a thing is a crime against humanity.

So no spoilers. Let's all enjoy the story like it was intended to be done. Like life, each moment unfolding, one after the other, until the tapestry of the tale is fully revealed.

Tuesday, 8 December 2015

Donald Trump - A Lesson In Demagoguery

8 December 2015. The Race for the White House in 2016 is starting to gather momentum on both sides, as the parties prepare` for their respective primaries, which begin in February 2016. On the Democrats side, despite impassioned and powerful campaigning by Bernie Sanders, Hilary Clinton is walking to a near divine coronation as the Democratic nominee. In fact, beyond Sanders, her opposition is so painfully insipid, it's little wonder that they are getting very little coverage.

Because on the other side, in the deeply divided Republican Party, a war for the soul of US politics is being waged. While the field is filled with perfectly credible candidates in the form of Rubio, Cruz and Christie, it is being ripped apart by Donald Trump, who has a huge fortune to push him forward and polemic rhetoric to cut through the media noise.

Let me bold in my prediction. Trump will win the Republican nomination. More so, I think he will be the next President of the United States. It's not what I crave but it is a political rise that fascinates me. You see, a lot of people have fallen into this trap that he is a loud mouthed idiot. That portrays a fool who just shouts anything to get attention. He didn't fluke his way to billionaire status and he hasn't got lucky on his way to the top of the polls. This is a very clever, devious man, who is a master in demagoguery.

You can deny it but when he says these controversial things, he is appealing to a lot of people who feel cut off within his country. They have listened to politicians be ambiguous with their statements as a way of wriggling out of obligation. He taps into people's raw emotions and their personal experiences with what he says. He takes those cracks and widens them up, so the lava of people's emotion spews out in the form of support for Trump.

When he spoke of Muslims rejoicing in the streets of America during 9/11, the media instantly denied any evidence of this happening. Yet there is plenty of anecdotal evidence of it happening. I know, I'm one of them. I wasn't even in America when that fateful attack occurred. I was in Tunbridge Wells, stood in a Dixons store, watching the whole thing unfold with my American colleague next to me. I had to physically restrain him when a Muslim man came in and openly celebrated the attack. Now if I was a politically ostracised American and I heard Trump preach what I had seen and the media deny it, why would I believe what the media says ever again? 

Suddenly, Trump's demagogic tactics pay off spectacularly. The media, the only ones able to truly scrutinise the billionaire's statements, can be dismissed as running their own agenda. They will have 'lied' before, so why not do it again? Trump can then say what he wants, as long as he finds that raw nerve or that ugly opinion that people bury down deep. What happens? The people who have doubted politics have a new messiah. Left wing politics has had a loud voice for a long time in the media and subsequently social media. Now right wing politics has a brash Trump-et to make themselves heard and they want to play their tune with every last bit of volume they can find.

Trump knows this. What he has spotted is not that people in the US crave controversy but a dismissal of compromise. Americans are not the only ones to fail to understand that politics should be the arena of compromise for the greater good. Most democracies fail to grasp that, ours included. So Trump is a genius in identifying that now was the time to present a ultra-strong approach. One that wouldn't back down. One that doesn't play nice. One that plays to a lot of old American values, even if they appear to contradict the Constitution.

Trump is many things but he is not an idiot. He knows exactly what he is doing. When he said that all Muslims should be banned from the US, he did it off the back of the San Bernardino shootings, whose perpetrators were Muslims. Ugly as it may seem, he tapped into the feeling of the American people very quickly. Politicians who walk the corridors of power in Washington know that Trump's statement is dangerous. They can condemn him but that only serves to widen the perceived chasm between Congress and the everyday American. Trump shows them the empathy they crave. All the others, no matter how reasoned or intelligent, are in political checkmate. Disagree and be dismissed by the electorate. Agree and they disappear into Trump's shadow. 

It is for these reasons I believe that Trump will be the next President of the United States. He will stand atop of a mountain of bitterness, fear, hatred and disenfranchisement to rise to the very top of US and world politics. So with that in mind, it becomes me to leave you with this very American thought.

God bless us and God bless the United States of America. Indeed, God help us all.