Wednesday, 24 August 2016

Video Fallacy and Soapbox Toss

I find this video problematic on a number of levels. The first is the rather selfish discomfort that, by commenting on it, I'm commenting on comments on media that is itself comment. Once one gets three-times removed from any actual *thing* or *content* or *fact*, one really is blowing hot air. So I'm painfully aware of what insubstantial effluvia this is.

That said, LET'S DO IT TO IT!!!!

1) The guests are introduced by their stances in relation to the Labour party leadership election, which is what the segment is about. They are given their credentials in on-screen pop-ups.

If the first guy is introduced only as the leader of the Socialist Party that would not tell you that he wants to join the Labour Party, or that he was in the Labour Party in the 1980s when the Militant thing happened. The same goes for the lady: if she's introduced as only "a new member of Labour's NEC" that does not tell you she supports JC.

Essentially, it would be confusing to the viewer to introduce them in any other way.

2) (1.00) i) the 'broken' graphic is fair enough, seeing as the party is certainly not unified currently. It's a completely fair summation of the situation where differing factions are competing to run the party. And, besides, it's a bloody graphic. ii) "JC's Labour" Well, this chap didn't want to join when it was Tony Blair's Labour, or Gordon Brown's, or Ed MIliband's. Maybe there's something about JC that he likes. Maybe JC likes things he likes. It is completely fair.

3) (1.20) "Violent revolution": this is the presenter interpreting what is meant by "revolution" - revolutions are real things, usually violent, the interpretation is shrill, but still what many might read in the word "revolution", especially coming from the leader of the Socialist Party. He is given the chance to rebuff it. He rebuffs it. All fair.

4) (1.55) "Trot". It's a tough word, designed to challenge the guest. He seems to deal with it well. Being challenged is not unfair treatment. (I could just reduce this entire thing to that statement: "Being challenged is not unfair treatment"). Equating "Trot" with "Paki" is offensive and absurd. The guy who made this video has clearly never been subject to racial abuse. There is a vast difference between a disparaging term for an ideology and racist language.

5) (3.00) Webbe requested not to be involved in the preceding discussion or any back-and-forth with the other two guests. I don't know why that is: no-one does. It is perfectly fair of C4 to be upfront about that, even if it does reinforce the point that the Labour party is in trouble. Because: the Labour Party IS engaged in a bitter argument with itself: it is fair to say so.

6) (3.15) "The Soapbox Shot". Said no-one. Ever. It's not a term in use in television production. The author of the video has just pulled that one out of his arse. I have it from someone who worked on live TV for 15 years who has never heard of "the Soapbox Shot". I've googled it: no results. It's just bollocks.

7) (3.45) Phrasing a question as a statement is common both in television interviews and in the course of my job, collecting statistics for the ONS. Webbe has the point that she is there to rebut put to her in the strongest possible terms. That is, again, completely fair. If you forget the fiction about the 'soapbox shot', it is altogether less sinister.

8) (4.20) Webbe was not called a trot - that is an outright lie. Webbe herself did not want to take part in the earlier part of the discussion, so C4 are certainly not to blame for her only being brought in at this point. And, yes, she had to listen to someone she disagrees with: that's called "politics". She did seem nervous. "Politics", as they say, "ain't beanbag".

9) (5.30) I don't know which polls the author was looking at, but I didn't see any with Labour ahead. They have been consistently lagging behind the Tories in most polls since the GE. And saying "well, it might all change after the leadership election" is not a point the presenter needs to make. It's the point that Webbe needs to make. Again: Being challenged is not unfair treatment.

10) (6.10) The point being made by the Owen Smith campaign and by others within the Labour Party is that JC is too far left. The presenter is trying to get Webbe to address this criticism in relation to pandering to the far left. Being challenged is not unfair treatment. Saying "Trotskyist" is not insulting or off topic: the guy across from Webbe is a self-confessed Trotskyist and Jeremy Corbyn introduced an early day motion recently to "Rehabilitate Leon Trotsky". I'm not saying that's wrong - I think he probably should be officially rehabilitated, as all thought on how the world could be made a fairer place should be encouraged. But, in doing this, he's clearly showing some ankle, as it were, to TUSC and Socialist Worker, etc.

11) (6.25) Webbe, as the presenter points out, is not answering the question. To be fair to Webbe, she's not a TV regular and is clearly struggling, so to call her evasive or anything like that would be unfair. She eventually addresses it by saying that there is a small proportion of far left people who have re-joined the Labour Party under JC. Now: what's so wrong about that? I happen to think that's a good thing - for the Labour Party, at least.

In conclusion: I need a shower.

This shrill nonsense dressed up as media analysis is exactly the sort of partisan twock that convinces people to switch off from politics and the real world altogether. The underlying idea is that C4, along with the BBC, Sky, ITN and every other news outlet, is purposefully targeting JC in a massive conspiracy to deny the country his policies. It uses fake terminology ("The soapbox shot") and sciency-sounding terms ("neuro-linguistic") to convince you of a concerted effort over the course of an interview to attack and belittle Jeremy Corbyn supporters.

This ignores the treatment EVERY OTHER POLITICIAN GETS ON TV.

Do you remember when Jon Snow served Tony Blair delicious crumpets on the 6 o'clock news after the invasion of Iraq? No? What about when Jim Naughtie tossed gentle soft balls at Ed Miliband before the 2015 GE? Nope: didn't happen. Do you remember the time Jeremy Paxman lay down and let David Cameron pee in his mouth? No: nor do I.

Jeremy Corbyn is inspiring many people to join the Labour Party and take notice of politics for the first time. He is an inspirational figure for many and someone who widens the appeal of politics to the young and to the disaffected within society. Thus these people are experiencing political dialogue, either for the first time, or from a new perspective: instead of rooting for the interviewer to tear the evil politician to pieces, they want the politician to shine their light of truth on national TV. Well that's not how it works around here: here the media challenges politicians in the strongest possible terms, which is fun when it's not someone you like or believe in, but hard to watch when it is.

Saturday, 8 August 2015

False Dichotomy of Socialism and Capitalism

The emergence of Jeremy Corbyn as a (the?) leading contender to become chief lunatic of the Labour party has sparked much hoo-ha from all sides. Last night I listened as an ultra-Tory (probably called "Tristram" or maybe "Hugo"? I neither know nor care) on Radio 4's Any Questions? tried to say that Corbyn represented the ideology that LOST the cold war and was exclusively responsible for all the privations, corruption and slaughters of the 20th century.

Of course, he was wrong. But that's not why I'm writing.

I'm writing because of the apparent misunderstanding; this country is held together by socialist institutions like free education, free roads, free healthcare, free police, free fire brigades, free army and free political representation. People can live in this country without ever having to trouble themselves with working within free-market capitalism. This is not a 'pure' free-market economy by any stretch.

Socialism did not "Lose": it was inbibed by the many-headed beast of common sense, who built monuments in honour of its folly. Free-market capitalism has no place in the process of politics or policing (this is known as "corruption"), nor in what concerns public safety, e.g. fire and healthcare (this would be known as "inhumanity") nor in the keeping of a standing army (this is known as "stupidity") nor in the realm of public education (this is "corrupt, inhuman, stupidity").

Where socislism falls down is in the regulation and mainenence of goods, i.e. the market place. The free market should have well regulated rein in the sphere of markets, but not be unleashed on social goods as if, say, 70 years of the NHS hasn't been a vast improvement on what came before, when healthcare was for those that could afford it.

Free-markets are fine concerning goods, and are arguably better at amenities and aspects of transport, but a decent, humane, intelligent society must let social goods be taken care of through socialist methodologies, where the many help the one to the detriment of none.

The debate is not "Socialism against capitalism" but rather; what is a social good and what is a market good? Where does one end and the other begin? Should amenities like broadband and gas be seen as social goods and therefore provided by the state to all for free? Or should they be left to the market to provide, and therefore people's access survive, fold or thrive due to market realities?

Both capitalism and socialism are proven governing philosophies in their own spheres, all there is to argue about is what exactly those spheres are?

Monday, 11 May 2015

In Defence of Our Undemocratic System

The First Past the Post electoral system in the UK has been under renewed scrutiny since an election where the party with the third largest number of votes got all of one seat in Parliament. This is 55 fewer than a party that got about a third of its votes. The bare numbers (thanks, BBC) look like this:

Conservative: Votes: 11,334,520 Seats: 331
Labour:                     9,347,326           232
UKIP:                       3,881,129            1
Lib Dem:                   2,415,888           8
SNP:                        1,454,436            56
Green:                      1,157,613           1

On the face of it, these figures speak of a system that fails to reflect the will of the electorate in the division of Parliamentary power. Discounting the two largest parties, there is no sense in these figures.

But I'm here to tell you that this election is the perfect example of the beauty of the first past the post system. The sense it has made of the will of the British people is sublime; the product of a genius beyond the imaginings of mortal man.

What it has so successfully reflected is not the capricious whims of a significant percentage of eligible voters, but rather the will of those with actual, real-world concerns, actually affecting life in this country.

Liberal Democrats have one and a half million less voters and eight times the seats of UKIP, not because the system is in any way unfair, but because the Lib Dems have assisted real people with their local concerns and addressed actual issues within communities to the satisfaction of enough voters in those constituencies to return those 8 MPs. UKIP have not.

The SNP have successfully transferred the support they have garnered for their stewardship in Scotland, and for their pro-independence platform, to a significant share on the national stage. Communities feel they have benefited and can benefit from the SNP having more power. UKIP have done nothing for any community.

UKIP's support is dispersed across the country, with no one place actually feeling that UKIP's policies would benefit the community significantly. Almost 4 million individual voters, and no one place where community-wide concern was addressed or harnessed into a UKIP victory, aside from Clacton, where Douglas Carswell, a popular MP when he was a Tory, had his majority slashed.

Their issues (by which I mean "immigration") are not a dominant, community-wide issue in any one place. They are a party that has done nothing for any part of the country. They have no specific constituency. They speak for no particular community.

Labour purport to speak for the working classes; the map of their constituencies reflects that. Tories speak for men called "Tristram"; their domination of rich, rural areas near, but not actually in, Slough reflects that. The SNP speaks for Scottish people who like the idea, if not the actual option, of independence, so they swept the board in a Scotland that's still happily within the Union.

UKIP speak for a minority of people who are generally concerned when they see someone with a different skin colour. They have no particular reason for this, apart from their underlying fear of difference and insecurity when faced with colours other than beige.

These people may not actually be racist, they are just so isolated from their communities, and insulated by wealth or by ignorance, that they have lost sight of the actual concerns that actually fester in their communities. Their share of the vote reflects this fearfulness within the country; their share of parliamentary seats reflects the lack of any specific, real-world justification for their fears within any specific community.

So it is that our much derided, undemocratic electoral system of First Past the Post reflects the reality that racial animus and ignorant xenophobia are not, in fact, justified; that those who cower in fear against the possibility of change do so for reasons not reflected in the world around them but for reasons residing primarily in their own heads.

I hope that we do not bow to the instinct to simplify our electoral system and that trite rationality shall never replace the beauteous teacher of this elegant lesson.

P.S. Perhaps everyone would have voted Green if they understood what ecological disaster would mean for their children and grandchildren; not all issues that matter are issues that are obvious to any one community. 

Saturday, 9 May 2015

Election 2015: Post-Mortem and Prepartum

With the election results yesterday a media narrative of a crushing victory for the Tories and the SNP, with Labour and the Lib Dems bereft of hope and leadership, with the first past the post system likely to be reformed any day now. I think things are a little more complicated than that. For every party there are challenges both immediate and long term which I'd like to name and propose solutions to.

The Conservatives

Yes, they have a majority, but just barely. The last time the Tories held the majority after a General Election was 1992, and the Major government was the weakest government of my lifetime, with division over Europe hobbling much of their term. David Cameron's majority is even smaller. His challenge is to keep the back-benches in line - a challenge I, unfortunately, do not see him as succeeding with.

My prediction is that, with increased popularity of some figure of the left, the Tories will become as hated as they were in '97. However, with leadership of the party changing before 2020, they still might avoid total electoral disaster.


Oh, dear. Their plan must be to find a unifying voice that is authentic, probably coming from someone who has never served as a special advisor or policy wonk.

Dan Jarvis would be my pick: as a former Major in the Parachute Regiment, he will be immune from criticism of being naive or out of touch, and will certainly not be accused of being a "north London geek." Whether the union bosses would allow him in is another matter; having coronated Ed "The Wrong" Milliband, will they once again stand in the way of the broad opinion of party members, should Dan Jarvis, or another candidate, garner a groundswell of popular support? The answer is "Yes". Why? Same reason as last time: nannying know-betterism.

I can see Chuka Umunna getting very enthusiastic backing, and I think he would make an excellent candidate. The obvious problem with both my picks is that they are both just coming through their second election and may not have the political chops to navigate a leadership election, or have the alliances necessary to corral enough MPs to endorse them. And if they do, will they fall flat on their faces at the dispatch box?

The Liberal Democrat Party

Eight MPs? Should they even be on this list? This is for main parties.

I really feel bad for Nick Clegg, who took his party into coalition five years ago in order to avoid constitutional chaos. He forsook hasty campaign promises to bring political stability to a country riven by economic crisis.

The Lib Dem support disappeared into the aether after contact with power, as if it were steam evaporating from a hot hob. In my view, the voters who deserted the Lib Dems for, primarily, UKIP, are a bunch of vapid buffoons with no conception of what it is to wield real power - as they were seemingly affronted to see their party making decisions that didn't represent their purest ideology, but rather reflected political, social and economic reality.

I applaud them for compromising like adults.

I see no way back for them soon.


Mission accomplished. Brilliant. Question: Once you've won 95% of the seats you are running for, what are you running for next time? Only to maintain your gains. They can only fight a defence from here on in. In Scotland, they are now the establishment.

Ask Nick Clegg what that's like.

My suggestion is for them to seize the opportunity they now have to become a national force by becoming a national party. Of course, they will need to change the name, but not the pro-independence-referendum policy.

As Bob Dylan said "He not busy being born is busy dying". They even have a ready-made, social media-friendly name already associated with their policies and faces and close to the hearts of their core supporters.

Ladies and Gentlemen, go with me on this, I give you "YES!". What more positive, inspiring message could be conveyed in a party name than that? They are the political mavericks, the party everyone sees as the upstarts, the underdogs, the ideological, starry-eyed dreamers - but they are also a party with real power in Scotland through the Scottish Parliament, where they can display assured maturity and intelligent stewardship (with the safety net of not quite having enough power to completely destroy their country with naivety and recklessness).

"YES!" conveys their socialist zeal to spend every last pound China has on double the number of nurses in your new local hospital where you can go for a fully funded seven year degree course in panda wrangling... OK, OK, I'm being slightly facetious. But I want you to think of this completely seriously.

They can either stand still, having maxed-out their potential, and wait to fall apart, or they can grow. If they grow, they need to change their name. "YES!" is such a positive message, which conveys their optimistic view of the potential of the electorate. They will invest in the electorate though social policies like increased funding for the NHS and free university tuition, paid for through canning Trident, drawing down military spending overseas, and real financial reform. "YES!" can co-opt and sweep away the Labour strong-holds of Liverpool and Sunderland by offering those supporters what they really want, which is a full on, peaceful, left-wing revolution.

Labour are there for the taking; a tired, jaded, sad party who don't have a clue what they stand for any more, who will barely defend themselves when challenged. How can they? The Blair and Brown governments betrayed and disappointed the Labour base by invading Iraq and leading the country to a financial collapse that hit everyone except the well-off. Labour supporters, faced with a YES! candidate preaching social egalitarianism at home and peaceful coexistence overseas, will have no convincing argument - their words would turn into ashes in their mouths.

YES! would sweep away Labour and have a huge swell of optimistic youth support. If played right, YES! could form the next government. I'm not joking. If the SNP strike now, before Labour regroups, and announce that they are going to go national, they would take a massive slice of the Labour vote, they will hoover up the outsider vote of UKIP, Lib Dem and Green, as they do not represent an establishment party, but a beautiful idea: YES!

Set against a government that will doubtless be at war with itself, arguing about Europe and the severity of austerity, YES! would become a beacon of hope, a party for the people, for the little guy, not stained with establishment or power, just representative of the blue skies of tomorrow growing ever brighter: YES! YES! YES!

Friday, 9 January 2015

Saw This Post on Facebook; It Made Me ANGRY

No. Critical thinkers know better than to use the same "False Flag" explanation for every evil perpetrated in their compass. Boston Bombing? False Flag. Oklahoma City Bombing? False Flag. Sandy Hook? False Flag. 9/11? 7/7? False Flags. Drummer Lee Rigby? False Flag. Now... 

Charlie Hebdo?... Errr... let me see... well, it could be the act of a small number of individuals acting out of their frustration with the ghettoisation of the Muslim community in France, enthusiastically taken in by a message purporting to be Islam, that rather better reflects the violent, puritanical, misogynistic, honour-esque ethics of the nasty young man who thinks he is the shit, rather than any particular religious doctrine. That would explain the character of the killings being very much like Charlie Hebdo said something about their mum and they went to sort him out. 

The motivations of the killers are clear: they are frustrated with being marginalised and are liable to act out. They have been given, "Indoctrinated in to" if you will, a fantasy system of punishments and rewards that cast them as vessels of divine vengeance who will gain only rewards for carrying out punishment. This ethic uses their anger and the fact they are young men liable to act violently if given an excuse - the more 'honourable' or 'holy' the better.

But all this is quite complicated, isn't it? It requires a scant knowledge of race relations in France (not good), a quick pop-psych of the perps, and... no, wait, I feel my 'critical thinking' coming on... FALSE FLAG. It's obviously a false flag! These attacks were PERFECTLY TIMED with MILITARY PRECISION and the MEDIA reports have CHANGED. Obviously, it's AN INSIDE JOB. The FEDS are SENDING A MESSAGE to the MEDIA, they're trying to TERRORIZE THE PEOPLE into TOWING THE LINE. 

Critical thinking is EASY. ALL it requires is PARANOIA and a CAPS LOCK key. Granted, you never get to understand the motivations of the perps themselves, or an adequate explanation as to what the false flag gets the feds that they couldn't have got the usual way (assuming that false flags aren't the usual way). Sure, the murderers are reduced to automatons acting at the behest of unseen actors, but the world makes a lot of sense.

It is split into three camps: THEY are the first. THEY try to dominate, manipulate, depress, divide and conquer the rest of the world. The next is WE, meaning us, the people who can see what's going on; the critical thinkers. Then there are the SHEEPLE who aren't THEY but aren't WE either. SHEEPLE don't agree with WE because they're blind and asleep. They're not necessarily stupid, they just won't see what's obvious to WE. SHEEPLE are why THEY are still in power. 

The self-satisfied implication of all of this is that the conspiracy theorist is capable of a level of critical thinking that the sheeple are not, meaning that the more conspiracy theories they can concoct or become aware of, the smarter they are in their own eyes and those of their fellows. Aside from being infuriating, this is a self-sustaining vortex of paranoid delusion leading to self-affirmation leading to paranoid delusion leading to self-affirmation leading to paranoid delusion leading to self-affirmation... 

In a way, conspiracy theorists are critical thinkers - in fact they are pure critical thinkers, in that they are presented with a news event like Sandy Hook, like 7/7, like Charlie Hebdo, and without reference to any pertinent facts outside of the news reports, critically think about how the tragedy fits into their worldview - they reorder the news to be commensurate with how the omnipotent THEY are trying to get SHEEPLE to react. Their paranoid delusion leads to self-affirmation as the epiphany strikes that it's all planned.

Of course, the world isn't planned: it's just a chaotic mess. That isn't very satisfying and it's not self-affirming, but whoever said it was going to be? 

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

UKIP, Morons and Shipwrecks

This news about the down-sizing of search and rescue operations in the Mediterranean is the latest edition of the long running series "When Politics Trumps Humanity".

The news in brief is this: the search and rescue operation in the Mediterranean is being cut by two thirds. For the last year, the Italian Navy has been running an operation called Mare Nostrum, which was started in reaction to hundreds of people drowning off Lampedusa. Mare Nostrum was always going to be a short-term fix, and was never going to be adequate. 3,000 people are reckoned to have drowned trying to cross the Med over the last year with it in place.

Now the EU has proposed a long-term operation called 'Triton', which is roughly a third of the size of Mare Nostrum. Mare Nostrum will continue for a time, but the Italian government is going to cut it fairly soon.

Triton has one helicopter, six ships and two planes. For the entire fucking Mediterranean. This rank inadequacy is entirely on purpose.

Policy makers have decreed that a search and rescue operation is a feature attracting migrants to attempt the crossing. Never mind that they were doing it before Mare Nostrum. Never mind that so many still die making this journey. Never mind that they are people fleeing war-torn countries that are war-torn largely because of European interventions, past and present. The purported logic is literally: "Not saving people's lives will save people's lives."

There is a long tradition among mariners that those in the water should be saved from drowning, whomever they are. Enemy sailors shipwrecked by your torpedoes? Pick 'em up and take 'em to port. People trying to sail the Med in a rusted tin can that disintegrates beneath them? Save them, the fools. Drowning is a lonely, terrifying way to die; no mariner would ever be knowingly left by another.

Admiral Foffi, in charge of Mare Nostrum, is obviously appalled by the shrinking of his resources and is clear that cutting the search and rescue operation will mean more lives lost at sea. Many, many more lives. He is also adamant that it will not discourage people from trying to make the journey.

But they're immigrants, you see: asylum seekers. Those faces slipping beneath the waves are the bogey men of European politics. Do you think our UKIP representatives in the EU parliament would vote for a new initiative to save these people?

Honestly, why would they? They were voted in by the people of this country to shrink the EU budget until they could drown it in the bath. What better representation of this philosophy than allowing thousands upon thousands of desperate people to drown?

UKIP are not alone: the EU parliament has more than its fair share of isolationist bigots. They are, somewhat ironically, a unified block within the parliament (though that unification has recently, rather unsurprisingly, collapsed).

Immigration has been used across Europe as a right-wing bludgeon of fear, hate and ignorance. It is the cover-all, cure-all, international political panacea to every question of budget or policy; it is the rallying cry for the ignorant aggrieved, the working miserable, the hopeless, the joyless; the people who are angry that the sun rose and are furious it had the temerity to set.

You know: Morons.

But: morons who tend to vote. Thus the main parties, like our own Conservatives and Labour, are the dogs being wagged by the tail of UKIP and it's message of banal evil. They are competing to see who can accrue the most morons by election day; not competing, dear reader, for YOUR vote.

If you ever struggle to put your finger on exactly what it is that troubles you about their message and their manner, know this: The direct result of UKIP's tactics, rhetoric and success will be the deaths of thousands of poor, desperate, disenfranchised, hounded men, women and children on the open sea. They will die alone, cold, unable to cry out, being tossed around in the waves, possibly for hours without hope of rescue. They will die because their country has been torn to shreds by decisions made in Westminster, Washington, Berlin and Paris; decisions that never took them into account. They will die trying to bring the receipt for those decisions back across the sea, not even for it to be paid for, but to pay for it themselves. They will die finally because Brussels refuses to rescue them; because Nigel Farage refuses to rescue them; because morons have been told and do believe that rescuing them is a waste of their money and that they are not people; they are immigrants.

UPDATE: Britain has withdrawn funding for rescue ops in the Med: "Britain will not support any future search and rescue operations to prevent migrants and refugees drowning in the Mediterranean, claiming they simply encourage more people to attempt the dangerous sea crossing," read more:

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

The Art of the Audience

One of the problems with the USA's rhetoric about free speech is that it is the speech that is glorified, not the hearing of it. The speaker is the star; no one wants to be the ones sitting quietly and listening. A consequence of this is that, when people get an idea about a subject they bleat it out, loud and proud, deafening themselves to what anybody else has to say.

To be a good audience is an art all by itself; just as musicians are judged by their music and directors by their films, connoisseurs are judged by their taste. The difference being that we are all amateur connoisseurs, whether we want to be or not, and there is value in being a good one. I find this troubling, given my love of Star Trek, 90's pro wrestling and The Moody Blues.

But being an audience is about more than having taste; it is about fulfilling your part in the performance by witnessing it and that requires only that you watch, listen and try to take it in. If you do this, you are a good audience. If you talk all the way through it, snore loudly, beat an African drum out of time or just don't bother engaging with it, then you are a bad audience.

Political discussions and debates should be where both parties play both performer and audience, but they're not. Almost all debate is adversarial, between parties standing at their pulpits and never sitting down. Sometimes that can work in a debaters favour, as they are forced to keep coming up with holes in the opponents position and to keep finding more strengths in their own. Mostly, it teaches you finesse, so you never have to admit that you're wrong. However, everyone is wrong sometimes. I know: I have been wrong sometimes, too. In that way, I'm like everyone.

I have not only been wrong, but I've been loud and insulting at the same time. What can I tell you? I am drawn to the fruits of my own mind like a wasp to sugar, and once I have supped its intoxicating nectar, like the wasp I stumble around stinging people at random and frightening pretty girls. I'm trying to get better. I've been trying for years. I think I'm getting somewhere.

When I first heard the term 'Rape Culture' I thought "That's a dumb term to use - so divisive, empty of meaning, insulting to everyone - it's sure to kill any chance of reasoned debate between feminists and potential allies. Besides, it's probably reactionary claptrap."

But instead of yelling that repeatedly every time it's come up, I've been speaking to a friend I respect about it, in a round about sort of way (i.e. I haven't just said "So; 'Rape culture.' What's that mean?"). She's a girl I've known for years, whose currently studying for a Phd. in the US, and who has been patient enough to put up with my adversarial style of debate (and friendship) for long enough to actually teach me something.

I have come to the conclusion that there is some content in there worth taking seriously. So when a feminist goes on Newsnight and says "Men are raised to hate women" I don't immediately greet it with derision; when I see feminists holding signs saying "Don't teach girls to not get raped: teach your sons not to rape!" I understand that there is a whole background of thought to that statement, and it's not just reactionary, pie in the sky nonsense.

Of course, there is understandable resistance to accepting that there is even such a thing as 'Rape Culture', never mind that it refers to some insidious element woven into the fabric of our society in the ways women are depicted, treated, taught to act, what is expected of them and how they are judged; not only that, but how sex is thought of, how boys are taught to think of sex and girls, and, well, etc.

I like to criticise: it's easier. But proclaiming a belief in something that is so challenging to not just society but my own attitudes seems pretty unwise and sure to backfire. Especially when I'm aligning myself with the more extreme proclamations of a group as widely reviled as feminists. But upon hearing the arguments against them, filled with unexamined misogyny, categorically prove their point, I can't help but feel people need to listen to them better.