Posts Tagged ‘Will Self’

Cameron’s Idea of Fun

October 3, 2015

Generation Swine Cover

Hunter S. Thompson’s book, Generation of Swine: Tales of Shame and Degradation in the 1980s

The one of the biggest stories over these last two weeks has been the allegation in Lord Ashcroft’s book on the current Prime Minister, Call Me Dave, that Cameron performed a sexual act with a severed pig’s head while he was at Oxford. This was in order to get into the elite Piers Gaveston Society, named after the favourite and gay lover of King Edward II. The story has gone around the world. Simply looking for it on Youtube, you can see that it’s not just been discussed in Britain, but been covered in America and the Antipodes. Ian Hislop, the editor of Private Eye, pointed out that this was despite the fact that the story was supported by extremely little evidence. The ‘Street of Shame’ column in this fortnight’s edition of the magazine has two articles on the matter, one on the author of the allegation, the former Sunday Times’ columnist Isabel Oakeshott, and her apparently cavalier attitude to backing up her stories with supporting evidence. The piece, entitled ‘Heart of Oakeshott’, begins

Even the most hardened tabloid hacks are wondering how Isabel Oakeshott thought she could get away with claiming that the young David Cameron pointed his percy at a porker. None of Cameron’s contemporaries believed that he played hunt-the-sausage with a pig’s head or any other piece of charcuterie., Nor could Oakeshott produce a scrap of evidence.

With sublime insouciance, she explained on Newsnight that she didn’t do anything so laborious as check her facts. Rather she and the obsessively grudgeful Lord Ashcroft preferred to put it out there and let people “decide for themselves whether it’s true” – relying on the non-dom peer’s under-taxed fortune to deter libel writs.

The Eye also points out that as well as not really having anything in the way of evidence, she has arguably failed to protect her sources. While there’re no witnesses to the supposed act, there is supposed to be a picture. Oakeshott and Ashcroft haven’t been able to track down that, but it was apparently seen by the source of the story, whom they describe as ‘a distinguished MP, who was a contemporary of Cameron at Oxford’. As the Eyesays, that gives a rather narrow list of suspects.

The Eye also goes on to state that she has previous when it comes to not protecting her sources, and for retailing bogus stories. The Lib Dem MP, Chris Huhne, was jailed for a driving offence and perverting the course of justice after his wife, Vicky Pryce, told Oakeshott in confidence that she had swapped penalty points with the MP. Oakeshott then handed this piece of information, and all the other confidential email conversations that she’d had with Pryce, over to the rozzers, thus breaking the Omerta that journalists should always protect their sources.

She also wrote a similar bogus story about the decadent antics of the upper classes at Uni at the beginning of her career. According to the Eye, in 1999 she published a piece in the Edinburgh Evening News ‘Student Princes and the Upper Class of ’99’, which claimed that the members of the university’s wine-tasting society were guzzling champagne and oysters, and renting helicopters so they could fly down to London for hunt balls. This article too was spurious.

On last night’s Have I Got News For You, Ian Hislop argued that the real story behind the allegations was Ashford’s own attempt to bribe his way into government by funding the Tories to the tune of £8 million. He did so in the hope that he would get a plum job as defence secretary. When he was finally offered a place in government, after being passed over several times, Ashcroft decided that it was below his station, and was a derisory gesture given the money he’d paid. So he wrote the book about Cameron, including the unsubstantiated allegation about sexual antics with a pig.

The Eye notes that while the bribery act only became effective in 2011, too late to mount a prosecution for Ashcroft’s attempts to buy himself a cabinet job, it could meet ‘the threshold test for the miscond7uct to be sufficiently serious to amount to an abuse of the public’s trust in the office holder’. this was the charge against the News of the World journalists Lucy Panton and Ryan Sabey, who got their info from paying public officials. The prosecution failed, and they walked, just as the Eye expects Cameron to walk if he’s charged with the same offence. Nevertheless, the Eye takes the line that the prosecution would still be worth making.

The American progressive news programme, The Young Turks, also covered this case. They point out that, even if the story was true, it’s nothing more than what a lot of drunken frat boys get up to at Uni. It’s a fair point. The story is believable because it does sound very much like some of the bizarre antics that characterise the ‘Lad’ culture of drunkenness and crude and offensive sexual behaviour at universities. The sports societies and particular the rugby clubs have a reputation for similar antics. The Turks make the point that what’s really offensive is the fact that Cameron allegedly did so in order to join a society of rich snobs, who had absolute contempt for the poor. Here’s The Young Turks on Cameron’s supposed porcine antics.

Considering the antics of the Bullingdon club and their snobbish contempt for the poor, that part of the story is also highly credible, even if the episode with the pig isn’t. On the other hand, as Hislop pointed out last night, Cameron’s whole career in government has been full of despicable acts, such as the bedroom tax, cuts to welfare benefits and so on, which haven’t generated nearly so much outrage and interest as this story, weak and trivial though it is.

He’s right, though one reason why this story has received so much coverage, and has been believed by so many, despite its extremely slender basis in reality, is because it apparently epitomises the absolute corruption and depravity of Cameron himself. It presents him a snob, who’s prepared to perform any act, no matter how vile, shocking or degrading, in order to ingratiate himself with other over-privileged, spoilt upper class snobs. The sex act with the pig becomes a metaphor for the way his government has royally screwed the poor, the unemployed and the disabled.

And if these allegations seem trivial in a British context, you consider just how dynamite this would be if they had been made about an American president. A few decades ago Jon Ronson made a series, Secret Rulers of the World, on the strange milieu of conspiracy theorists and their belief that the world is being run by a secret cabal. In modern American Conspiracy culture, this is the Illuminati, who are aiming at a one world government to overthrow democracy, Christianity and capitalism in order to create a totalitarian global state. This secret conspiracy, often identified with the Freemasons, Communists, Jewish bankers, the Bilderburg group and the Trilaterial Commission, amongst other bête noirs of the American Right, is literally in league with Satan. The group performs vile orgies and ceremonies, involving human sacrifice. On one edition of the programme, Ronson filmed the ‘Sacrifice of Dull Care’, a ceremony performed at the Bohemian Grove meetings of America’s super-rich. It’s a kind of play, in which an effigy of ‘Dull Care’, is ritualistically killed and burned. It looks to me like it’s simply intended to show that the world’s elite plutocrats have put the cares of the world behind them in the few days they’re at the Grove networking.

The footage of the pretend ‘sacrifice’, shot by Alex Jones, one of the major leaders in contemporary American Right-wing conspiracy culture, had a truly explosive effect. Ronson showed it’s progress across successive news channels and programmes. The effigy was initially described as ‘about the size of a baby’. This then changed so that it was a real baby, which was being sacrificed by the global elite running America to Satan. For many Right-wing Americans, alienated from their government, this was further proof of the utter Satanic corruption of their government. Such allegations are part of the reason behind the formation of the Militia and Survivalist groups, and why so many Americans view Obama with suspicion as a Commie Satanist, quite apart from the similarly false beliefs that he’s also a Nazi and a Muslim. If the same amount of paranoia existed in Britain, or if the allegations had been made about Obama, then it would be seized on as evidence that Cameron or Obama was also a Satanist, and had performed the act as part of some depraved ceremony through which the elite showed their allegiance to the Devil, and their absolute contempt and complete lack of morality for everyone else. And there’d be even more people running around with guns urging you to stock up food, water and gold, and be prepared to kill the federal officials, who are coming to take your freedoms and your life away.

And the action’s of Cameron’s own party and government would make this twisted view all too credible. It was, after all, Leon Brittan, an alleged paedophile, who suppressed a dossier given to him about the activities of high-ranking paedophiles in the government and parliament. Jimmy Savile, a true monster, was a friend of Maggie Thatcher. Under Cameron the gap between rich and poor has widened immensely. The welfare state is being dismantled to the point where hundreds of thousands are only prevented from starving through the existence of food banks and the generosity of friends, neighbours and strangers, and the NHS is being sold off piecemeal. Corporate profits are booming, while the unemployed are virtually enslaved through workfare.

I gave this article its title as a reference to one of Will Self’s grim works, My Idea of Fun. This featured a cast of characters, who committed a number of vile and depraved acts, including having sex with the severed head of a pitbull terrier. Private Eye reviewed the book when it came out, and declared that the book’s preference for drugs, nude teens and so on was no-one’s idea of fun. Having sex with the head of a dead pig probably isn’t Dave Cameron’s either. But he does, apparently, take a sick delight in destroying the lives and wellbeing of the poor, the sick and the old through his misnamed ‘welfare reforms’. This is Dave Cameron’s idea of fun, and it’s truly disgusting.

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Shock! Horror! Cadaverous Author of Macabre Novels Calls Slumlords What They Are! Channel 4 Newsreaders Amazed!

October 5, 2013

It’s been an interesting week for the Coalition and their supporters receiving a drubbing by journalists. Mike, over at Vox Political, has put up a good piece about the way Mehdi Hassan demolished Quentin Letts of the Daily Mail on Question Time. Hassan had rebutted Letts’ arguments by asking who the person, who really hated Britain was: Miliband senior, a Jewish immigrant, who fought for his country, or the Daily Mail. This is the newspaper, he reminded us, that insinuated that Stephen Gately’s death was somehow due to his homosexuality, attacked Danny Boyle for including a mixed race couple in the Olympic Games opening spectacle, called Olympic champion Mo Farah a ‘plastic Brit’, despises immigrants and Muslims, and seeks to undermine the NHS.

Last night, Have I Got News For You also laid into the Daily Heil. They covered the Mail’s slander of Ralph Milliband. Ian Hislop, the editor of Private Eye naturally showed the Mail’s hypocrisy by pointing out its pro-Nazi past, complete with its headlines screaming ‘Hurrah for the Blackshirts’ and opinion piece praising Nazi Germany and dismissing the allegations of Nazi atrocities. Hislop also pointed out that Paul Dacre, the Mail’s editor, also showed a signal lack of patriotism, as he did not pay any tax to his country, avoiding it through a complex network of offshore companies based in the Bahamas. He also said that it was a bit rich for Dacre to accuse others of totalitarian sympathies, considering that Dacre’s own staff call him ‘Mugabe’ because he’s ancient, won’t retire and despises the opposition.

The day before this, on Thursday, Channel 4 covered the brilliant state of the housing market under the Coalition in an investigatory feature entitled ‘Generation Rent’. It showed that the present, younger generation have little chance of getting on the housing ladder due to the lack of properties being built. This was due to the recession. Mortgages on the properties that were available were exorbitantly high, so that most young people simply cannot afford them. They were thus forced to rent. This also was difficult and expensive, due to a lack of affordable properties. Many of the homes and flats were aimed at the affluent, not ordinary peeps wanting a roof over their head. The programme talked to a number of landlords, as well as tenants forced to rent due to property prices. Among the landlords interviewed was one, who bought properties simply to rent out to other landlords.

The programme’s guest commentator for this section of the programme was Will Self, the cadaverous novelist, whose grisly works include Great Apes and How The Dead Live, as well as other tales of mayhem, mutilation, perversion and horror. Self’s own private life has supplied much newspaper copy in its time. He was for years a drug addict, whose finals in philosophy while a student at Oxford were interrupted by his arrest for the chemicals. One newspaper also printed a long, spurious story in which it was alleged that the master of the modern macabre had found the company of John Major so insufferably dull while sat next to him on a plane trip, that he resorted to heroin to liven the journey up. Self’s clean of drugs now, and like that other master of the extreme and transgressive, his friend, J.G. Ballard, Self lives in bourgeois domesticity with his wife and child.

He’s probably not the best person to provide a sympathetic view of the housing market and industry. A year or so back the roof of Self’s own house collapsed, and he duly appeared on the News talking about the incident. When Snow asked him what he thought about the issue, Self described the landlord, who rents to other landlords as a ‘rackman’. Snow blanched at this. No doubt with the spectre of Outraged of Tunbridge Wells writing in to denounce yet more Channel 4 left-wing bias, he said that Self could say it, but they couldn’t. Self’s reply was short, ‘I don’t know – I don’t think it’s actionable.’

But Self’s description is accurate. It precisely describes the situation many young people now face, in which they cannot afford to buy, and the rents on those properties they can afford are raised so that they eat up a progressively larger proportion of their income.

What also was not remarked on the programme was that this situation had created a further potential for racial/ nationalist friction. One of the developers interviewed was Francis Liu, a Chinese businessman, who specialises in the construction of one-room apartments. These combine bathroom, living room and bedroom in the same space in a kind of even smaller bedsit. They look horrendous, like Bruce Willis’ cramped home in the Fifth Element, but without Moebius’ and Besson’s visual flair and style. Channel 4’s reporters interviewed some British people, who were forced to live in them now, because that’s all they could afford. Liu’s apartments weren’t particularly cheap at £70 a week. They were also aimed at foreign investors from the Far East. This looks to me like a recipe for danger.

Globalisation and Neo-Liberal economics has succeeded in creating a trans-national elite that have more in common with each other, than with the citizens of their countries of origin. Hence all over the world there’s a growing indifference to the plight of the poor by the super-rich. Mass immigration, as populations from the Developing World move to the developed West and North in search of jobs and better opportunities, is already a major political issue. It has led to the rise of far-Right movements across Europe, like the Golden Dawn in Greece, and increasingly harsh anti-immigrant measures in Italy and elsewhere. It is also not only Western culture that has racist elements. There is also racism in Chinese culture. I can remember finding in Waterstone’s in Bath nearly two decades ago a large, hardback academic book on Chinese Racism. One of the Chinese students I knew at university told me a few years ago that he was horrified at the level of anti-Western prejudice and hatred in his country. Some of this hatred is due to the immense feeling of humiliation felt by the Chinese at their defeat in the Opium Wars, and the division and virtual colonisation of their great nation by the European powers.

The racist and nationalist Right in Britain and the rest of the world is motivated by resentment at the way foreigners are, or are perceived to be, given preferential treatment to the indigenous, host population. The Daily Mail and other right-wing tabloids have frequently attacked the government’s immigration service for accommodating asylum-seekers in luxury housing. With Liu and developers like him building properties mainly or exclusively for rich foreigners from the Far East, then it’s easy to see how this might enrage the existing, poorer local population, excluded from this luxury market. Liu was building his properties in Leeds, which I think may also have suffered from the effects of poverty and unemployment resulting from Thatcher’s decimation of British industry. The local population likely to be priced out of properties like Liu’s is not only White, but also Black and Asian, including families of Chinese descent, who’ve been British since coming here in the 19th century. Years ago I read a book on Japan by a Times journalist. He noted the resentment and controversy that had erupted in Australia when Japanese developers began building luxury beach complexes, which were to be owned solely by the Japanese. The construction of luxury rented properties, aimed at the Far Eastern rich, threatens to create similar tension and conflict over here.

Regardless of their ethnic origins, the landlords taking advantage of the current housing market to raise rents to ludicrous levels are Rackmans, has Self described them. It’s another example of how the Coalition’s policies are increasing the gap between rich and poor in the name of liberalisation.