Thursday, 30 January 2014

Shoplifters Excused By Technophobic Media

A couple of media outlets have today excused shoplifting on the basis that self-service checkout tills are "faulty"; see this article in the Daily Mail for example. Dressing up shoplifting as some justifiable technophobic rebellion truly is a low point in the rather low-brow publishing history of everyone's least favourite paper.

They don't really elaborate on "faulty" beyond people finding them difficult to use. Sure, sometimes they can be a little frustrating. But I use them at least once a day (I live next door to Sainsbury's) and I experience very few problems and when I do the staff are usually there within seconds to help. On occasion I've had to wait for the staff to show up but never did it cross my mind to think of walking out the door without paying. When I go through a manned checkout, an experience I avoid due to their tediously slow nature, I don't walk off in frustration with my goods when the person at the checkout goes a bit too slow for my liking!

Every single day I see people who turn up at the machine and pay no attention to what they are doing. They, inevitably, experience difficulties as they forget to put an item they've scanned down before trying to scan the next one. Today the lady next to me stormed off in a huff ("Oh for God's sake!") when the machine asked her, for the first time, to put the item she'd scan into the bagging area. She continued to clutch the magazine completely ignorant to the concept of how the machine itself worked as she attempted to use the next machine along.

My favourite example was of a middle-aged couple coming the self check-out next to me and staring, dumb-founded, as I scanned and bagged my shopping in a relaxed (as relaxed as I get) manner. When their experience did not go according to plan (they were doing things at cross purposes) they seemed to get jealous (literally the man got more upset with each successful scan I did) of my ability to continue bagging my shopping and threw their shopping down on the floor (literally) and stormed off screaming bloody murder about infernal machines. (By the way I'm not particularly nosey about other people's business it is just some people are so loud or intrusively curious, as with this couple, as to be unavoidably noticeable)

Some people just aren't cut out for self-service machines. There is no shame in that. We're all different and some people are technologically challenged. But let's not blame an inability to operate machines, or to cope with a couple of minutes wait if it does do something silly, for someone shoplifting!

Sunday, 19 January 2014

Ukip Has An Anti-LGBT Freedom Problem, And It Is Far Deeper Than Just Religious Belief.

Ukip want to be presented as the freedom-loving party. They try desperately to pretend, for it is not true, to be "libertarian". But when it comes to Ukippers themselves and how they deal with others personal lives, you truly come to see the "real" Ukip. And the real Ukip has a major issue with LGBT people and their freedom.

Any reader of this blog will know I occasionally mention their odd candidates and their even odder views on homosexuality. There was Mike Mendoza who believed 1) gay people don't like football, 2) people who don't like football are more likely to be paedophiles and then 3) put those two thoughts into one paragraph. There was David Nixon whose leaflet was used to "smear" Ukip. Winston McKenzie said same-sex couples adopting was akin to child abuse, ironically not long after a council had tried to remove kids from a Ukip supporting family! And then there was Julia Gasper who was suspended from her position in the party many, many months after she first aired her dislike for LGBT folk.

When you follow those stories through you find Ukip, as a party, really doesn't know how to handle these people. The current example is a case in point. David Silvester, an ex-Tory Ukip councillor in Hendon, wrote a letter to his local paper criticising David Cameron and same-sex marriage and, in the strange style we've come to expect from US based evangelicals, blamed the recent flooding around the country on the passing of the same-sex marriage bill. A small Twitterstorm broke out and gradually the story found its way on to large news service's headlines.

Nigel Farage and the party spokesperson defended his right to express his religious beliefs, even if unorthodox. This would be more acceptable if Ukip hadn't sacked Olly Neville over his support of same-sex marriage! The concept of liberty is an important one, but if it doesn't apply to all then it is not liberty.

Today David Silvester, being admirably if catastrophically consistent, did an interview with BBC Oxford radio where he called homosexuality a disease. The story continued to spread and on a day when Ukip should've been shouting from the rooftops after a fantastic opinion poll (for them if not for those of us who believe weather and climate are based on a little more than who has sex with who) they were instead being made to look terribly stupid.

Realising the game was up, Ukip reversed course and suspended him this afternoon. Unfortunately for them not only does this mean they'll have to weasel their way out of yesterday's statements (blaming it, I suspect, on Silvester not following party procedure or some such thing) but they will also have to deal with the social media fall out of their supporters getting very cross over the suspension and saying even more ridiculous things.

The problem for Ukip is that, to the vast majority of sensible people (even those who oppose much of the LGBT rights agenda), their candidates are often seen as being a bit out of touch and very offensive. But if they sack them or punish them in anyway they risk alienating their core support who quite obviously agree with them!

This is evident in Ukip's very poorly articulated policy on same-sex marriage. It wants to be all things to all people, but manages only to be an absolute mess. See here and here.

They are stuck between a rock and a hard place and unfortunately the rock keeps bashing against them. Just see this latest story reporting a Ukipper's dislike of "gays, Catholics and Communists" in Glasgow.

They've hitched their tent on religious freedom. There is no dishonour in that. But they forgot to set their own beliefs clearly enough to avoid being tarnished by every nasty comment uttered by one of their members. This was a rookie error, and I wonder just how many other Ukip policies are as ill-thought out and ill-considered as this.

Worryingly nearly 2 people in every 10 currently state they'll vote for them. Then again far more believe in ghosts and UFOs in this country so perhaps that sort of number was inevitable.

Saturday, 11 January 2014

LGBT Ugandans Don't Need Giles Fraser Labeling Them As Homophobes

There is no doubt some truth to the closeted homophobe meme. We need only look at Nigel Evans, Cardinal O'Brien or, possibly, Aaron Schock to see this and need not even look at the studies pointing out the links between an extremely closeted life and projections of anti-LGBT sentiment.

But the gusto with which some have adopted it to explain every case of homophobia concerns me for a number of reasons.

Giles Fraser today implies, rather than looking with true curiousity at the fact Uganda is at once a country recently infamous for anti-LGBT legislation but also the one with the 3rd for search requests on Google for "man fucking man", that Ugandans looking at gay porn might well be homophobes. Perhaps LGBT Ugandans have plenty else to be worrying about without some Westerner labelling them closested homophobes on top of that.

I can think, just off the top of my head of a couple of possible reasons Uganda is so high on the listing.

1) They aren't all that high in reality for searching for gay porn or similar search terms. "Man fucking man" is hardly likely to feature highly on most Western English-speaking countries lists (where gay is currently the near universally accepted descriptive for such liasons) nor in many non-English speaking countries so the list is dominated by Commonwealth (or former Commonwealth) countries where English is spoken but which are not overly Westernised. The very basis for Fraser's assumptions is flawed. I'd like to see some real evidence LGBT Ugandans are uniquely incredibly drawn to gay porn before we start calling them homophobes!

2) Perhaps Uganda is so high up in search results for "man fucking man" because anti-LGBT feeling in their country makes engaging in such sex for real rather risky? Surely this would have some affect on porn consumption among sexual minorities?

Fraser falls into the trap of victim blaming in order to insult opponents. And it is a typical liberal-leftie move to insult opponents by calling them gay. "Eww... that homophobe is a GAY!"

Yes homophobic homosexuals are hypocrites. All readers of this blog know that I find them abhorrent and never waste a moment in bringing up their names (NIGEL EVANS) to remind the world to avoid them at all costs. But not all homophobes are homosexual, I suspect not even a majority are. And them being homosexual isn't the problem... their homophobia is!

No matter whether the people behind "Kill the Gays" are LGBT or not (I suspect a big "Not" on that one), the bill itself was fundamentally wrong and what has come after it remains so.

We need to stop casting aspersions on whole groups of people just because it fits into our neat pseudo-psychological political aims. LGBT Ugandans need our sympathy and our support. Not ridiculous accusations.

Tuesday, 7 January 2014

Cardinal O'Brien Isn't Going To Help Any Closeted Priests

I said last month that, were it not for the actions that led up to it, Cardinal O'Brien's very public fall from grace would've been the highlight of 2013 for me. What actions was it that made me a little more reluctant to gloat? Was it the fact he'd hurt so many people with his aggressive and hurtful language in opposition to LGBT freedom? Nope, though he did. 

My concerns with Cardinal O'Brien stem not from his textbook example of how to be a homophobic closet-case, but from the fact he hurt several men he was responsible for. From a position of power he made inappropriate sexual advances on men who clearly did not want them. I know how the media love a good "former homophobe comes out and makes good" story and I know I'm no fan of such narratives (see my distaste for people like Nigel Evans). But this is not even one of those stories. 

Cardinal O'Brien is a man we should be glad to have got rid of, a man whose story serves only as an example of how not to live your life. So why am I bringing him up again? Because Mary McAleese, former President of the Republic of Ireland, thinks Cardinal O'Brien telling his life story would some how assist priests struggling with their sexuality. 

I'm afraid Cardinal O'Brien has done enough damage as it is, unhelpfully feeding the homophobic stereotype of gay men as sexual predators. And when it comes to a group such as priests they didn't need any more bad press of that sort. It is, I've no doubt, far harder for a Catholic priest to come out post-O'Brien's downfall that it was before. 

And what would his story say? Would it paint him as the victim of his sexual desires? Is a man who takes out an internal conflict by making unwanted sexual advances against others really a man who has anything useful to tell us about overcoming fears of coming out? 

I cannot imagine a worst example. Though an example of how not to do things can be useful, the risk of making him some sympathetic character and of him overshadowing his victims (once again) is one I think is best avoided. 

Keep O'Brien away. Give the Catholic church a chance to make good on the pain he, and others like him, have caused to others. And offer real support to struggling priests with LGBT outreach and avoid tarring them with any connection to such an unworthy man as Cardinal Keith O'Brien. Give them hope, not hate. 

Monday, 6 January 2014

My Own Little Boxing Match: Conflicting Emotions On Evander Holyfield

Just yesterday I was ranting on Twitter about people who "suffer from same-sex attraction". Their odd beliefs that they or, in the minds of their allies, others "suffer" from something akin to a "disability" because they are attracted to people of the same-sex are worthy of strong bouts of derisory laughter.

Sadly yet another example of this appeared within hours when Evander Holyfield put forward the Christian perspective on same-sex attraction: Holyfield remarked that finding someone of the same-sex attractive was akin to having a birth defect that needed medical attention.

This is enough for anyone to recognise he hasn't a clue about the subject at hand. Sexuality is a complicated and fluid thing and the dangerous idea it needs to be policed when it harms none is one should be mocked and vigorously argued against. (And for those who would point out "Well it does harm people" I would ask them to explain in what way touching another member of the same-sex's genitals in a consensual setting could possibly harm another as a general rule [i.e. sexually transmitted diseases, not unique to same-sex couplings, don't quite cover it]).

All well and good so far, I'm fighting on the side of the "angels" (for which read the leftie, liberal progressive worldview).

But the reaction from Channel 5 and Ofcom, with dodgy wordings from Big Brother such as:

"While Big Brother understands these are the views you hold, they aren't the views that are held by a large section of society, and expressing these views will be extremely offensive to many people. 
Do you understand why?"
Exactly what point are they trying to get at? Homosexuality has, for a great deal of time, offended a large section of society. That didn't mean homosexuality was wrong. If I were to base my moral and ethical judgments on what a "large section of society" believes I think I would be far less moral and ethical than I currently am (for which see people who think boxing is a suitable sport to watch or participate in).

And Ofcom's suggestion that it might investigate Celebrity Big Brother over the remarks stinks of the sort moralistic mothering that crushed LGBT people's freedom of expression for years.

I hate to do this but I, for the most part, find myself agreeing with Brendan O'Neill (a man whose career is partially based on supporting every homophobic remark or campaign he comes across out of a sense of contrarianism) when he calls attitudes towards Holyfield "intolerant".

I wholeheartedly believe that Evander Holyfield is an idiot. I completely oppose his position that same-sex attraction is in any way worthy of shame or correction. But, just as when I've stated I'm not opposed to LGBT folk seeking ex-gay or ex-trans therapy regardless of its efficacy or lack thereof, I cannot see any reason (he makes no threat of violence nor demands action against others) to censure or censor his remarks officially.

Let the anti-LGBT folk hang themselves with their words. My office was filled with derisory laughter today over his remarks. They were hardly eloquent or thought-provoking enough to have engendered any other reaction from most reasonable people. We must argue forcefully against such people. But let's try to be the better people whilst doing it.

Sunday, 5 January 2014

Abraham Lincoln On Union

I've determined once and for all to finish Shelby Foote's amazing "Civil War: A Narrative". Starting at the beginning again means I've already gotten to take in the magnificent language of Abraham Lincoln's inaugural address. Though said in much different circumstances I feel some parts reverberate strongly in the run up to this year's independence referendum in Scotland.

"Physically speaking, we cannot separate. We cannot remove our respective sections from each other, nor build an impassable wall between them. A husband and wife may be divorced, and go out of the presence and beyond the reach of each other; but the different parts of our country cannot do this. They cannot but remain face to face, and intercourse, either amicable or hostile, must continue between them. Is it possible, then, to make that intercourse more advantageous or more satisfactory after separation than before? Can aliens make treaties easier than friends can make laws? Can treaties be more faithfully enforced between aliens than laws can among friends?" 


“We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory will swell when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.”