A Government Motto I'd Like To See
I have a dream. I have a dream that someday, some political party will be elected to government on the platform of "It is not our job to ensure your business model remains forever profitable".
( Essay under fold )
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An Analogy for Allies
My ongoing analogy for people who are wanting to "ally" in activism with at least a bit of consideration:
The role of the ally in activism is like the role of the parent in children's sports. Allies can do all of the following things:
- We can get people to events, both physically and metaphorically. (Physically in the sense of "actually taking people to protest sites, rallies, etc"; metaphorically in the sense of providing things like the money to cover transport costs, or by participating in consciousness raising or similar activities to help people get to the point where they want to participate in activism).
- We can get them safely back home again (both physically and metaphorically - and this includes finding the funding for things like fines, bail, court payments, lawyers fees, and so on).
- We can provide the emotional support which keeps people carrying out activist activities
- We can provide the material support which makes activism possible in the first place (and this can be as simple as ensuring there's food, water and shelter available to people involved in activism).
- We can look after other people's families while they're taking part in events. (This includes providing funding to cover the costs of families where family members have been imprisoned, fined, bailed or whatever).
- We can help coach people in ways and means which will assist in getting a better result (bearing in mind the limitations which come built into the situation. A child can't do an adult training routine; people in marginalised groups aren't able to access certain forms of privilege)
- We can referee - which in the context of protest actions means leveraging our privilege to ensure fair play on the part of the people with power.
- We can keep score - sending pictures of what's going on to the media. Keeping track of who is being harmed by an action, and why.
- We can cheer from the sidelines, and provide support in every form we can think of.
- We can provide comfort, warmth and succour for people who are suffering a loss; and we can also assist in the "post-match" phase of planning how to do better next time.
- We can provide material and physical support during the "game" phase of activism (food, water, first aid, warmth and so on).
What we can't and shouldn't be doing for marginalised groups as allies is attempting to play the game (that is, performing the activism) for them. We also can't expect a trophy for participating. Our contribution may be registered by other allies, but we shouldn't require the gratitude of the people playing the game in order to want to continue helping out. We can be there at the game, helping out and providing support and cheering from the sidelines, but out of simple respect to the players, we have to stay off the field unless we're needed on there.
You stop being an ally when you try and make the game all about you. You stop being an ally when you demand trophies for your participation. You stop being an ally when you demand payment in the form of gratitude and recognition for your actions. You stop being an ally when you invade the pitch, and demand everyone pay attention to you, you, you, and ignore what was going on in the game as it stood.
We also need to recognise, as allies, that we aren't strictly needed
in order for the game (activism) to proceed. If we aren't there, if there aren't allies available, people will still organise and be activists (the same way kids will figure out ways to play team games even if there isn't a formal "league" organised by adults for them to play in) and their activism will still be just as valid, and just as real. Sometimes, we won't be welcome - and we need to accept this as well (in the same way kids resent having a fun game of street or back yard cricket with rules about "tip and run" and everyone having their turn at batting and bowling being taken over by adults who want to have a more "formal" game, with proper sides and designated bowlers and batters and so on).
The core truth is: it's their
game, and they're the ones who are going to play it, whether we're there or not. We don't get to set the rules, we don't get to choose the players, and we don't get to have participation trophies for showing up to spectate.
(Agree? Disagree? Comments, critique and constructive criticism welcomed, especially from people who are engaged in activism or in activist spaces).This entry was originally posted at https://megpie71.dreamwidth.org/115461.html. Please comment there using OpenID.
The Daftness of the "Toilet" Argument
The "toilet" argument is the one which says "of course trans* and gender-queer people shouldn't be allowed to use the lavatories appropriate to their preferred gender presentation" because somehow women will get their modesty affronted by having a person with a penis in the ladies room. I always get stunned by this argument, mostly because it shows a degree of wilful blindness to some necessary differences between masculine and feminine public hygiene set-ups which really needs to be addressed.
So, for the benefit of all those guys who haven't been in the ladies' lavs since they were tiny tackers escorted there by their mums, here is a description of the average set-up of every single women's public toilet block I've ever been in for as long as I can remember:
( Long and involved description under the fold )
So, to be honest, I absolutely fail to see how anyone's modesty is going to be affronted by someone who is trans-female, or female-identifying-today gender-queer, getting into the queue to use the stalls in the ladies. No matter what their (or your) individual plumbing hook-up appears to be, nobody else is going to be able to see it in use, or be offended by its presence.
I mean, on the other hand, if the people who are worried about the prospect of trans* or gender-queer people using the appropriate lavatories for their identifying gender are men worrying a trans-man or a male-identifying-today gender-queer person is going to go into the gentlemen's lavs and snigger at the willies on display at the urinals... well, just say so, guys. (And maybe use the stalls to pee). But please, don't push the whole mess over onto the women and feminine modesty.
(Oh, and if anyone who is trans-negative and female-identifying wants to explain to me either: a) exactly why and how their modesty is/would be affronted by a trans* or gender-queer person using the ladies' lavs at the same time as them; or b) how they'd know if a person in one of the other stalls was a trans* or gender-queer person; or even c) why they can't just deal with their problem by waiting for the trans* or gender-queer person to finish their business and leave; then feel free to do so in the comments.)
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What Border Force did Wrong on Friday.
( Very long Australian political rant below the fold )
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"What Makes A Woman?" by Elinor Burkett - Comment and Response
Found here: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/06/07/opinion/sunday/what-makes-a-woman.html
Okay, first thoughts about the first few paragraphs: this comes across as very TERF-y at times.
Further thoughts on reading more of it: actually, come to think on it, this is not only a wonderful example of trans-exclusionary feminism, but also a wonderful example of the sort of feminism which makes me want to say "if this is feminism, I don't want to be identified as feminist!"
( Read more... )
I agree with this writer there's a lot of work men need to do on the way masculinity is defined and presented (and if she'd pointed out the complete lack of enthusiasm for the job demonstrated by the majority of persons identifying as male, I'd have agreed with her even more). But quite frankly, I don't see that attempting to lock transwomen out of the definition of "women as a whole" is a good move to get this work started. Trans identity is already gatekept by the medical community and the psychological and psychiatric community, not to mention the trans-erasing radical feminist community. I seriously doubt mainstream feminism needs to step up to the plate.
 Trans-Erasing Radical Feminism - the sort of feminism which basically states flat out that transwomen aren't "real" women because they weren't born with the correct genitalia.
 Can I just say, I have to wonder about when organised feminism became, by default, a movement intended solely for those women who were considered attractive by men?
 This can include things like requiring the permission of her husband, if she's married, or of her parents if she isn't - this for a fully functional adult with no mental illnesses or developmental impairments.
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Apparently, I am Useful...
It appears one of the employment scammers I've written about is trying their tricks again. I got a whole heap of comments just today from people thanking me for putting up something warning about RLB Solution and their Hiring Coordinator, Anna Stern.
To be honest, I'm glad it's been helpful to other people - this was what I wrote the piece for in the first place. I wish it wasn't necessary (and if "Ms Stern" decides to stop attempting to exploit job seekers, that suits me just fine too), but I'm glad it helps.
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The SIWOTI Fund
As some of you may know, over the past year, I've been dropping small change into a jar (well, a yoghurt container these days - the jar got broken some time earlier in the year) when faced with egregious stupidity online. Essentially, the rule of the SIWOTI fund is either 5c per comment which gets moderated down by moderators, OR a minimum of 10c per article which raises my blood pressure or makes me stressed. Yesterday was the maturation date for the end of the fund's "year", and I totalled up how much it came to.
The SIWOTI fund this year came to $128.85 AUD. $64.85 of this is going to buying booze, probably a bottle of rum for the household "liquor cabinet" and a bottle of wine for my parents' Christmas present. The other $64 of it is going toward games.
The main thing which contributed to the fund's size this year was the bountiful harvest of stupidity, daftness, and sheer WRONG from the Australian Federal Government. Their antics proved the leading contributors to the fund, and I'd like to thank our Prime Minister and his cabinet for providing such a wide range of things that annoyed me. Other big contributors included #gamergate, and various other MRAs online.
The SIWOTI fund re-starts today, and will get closed again on 21 DEC 2015.
 Someone Is Wrong On The Internet
 The small, reachable space behind the microwave where I store the bottles of cooking brandy and cooking sherry.
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Alan Jones Goes To Journalism School
To be honest, I'm not surprised Alan Jones has had to go to Journalism school. What should be surprising people is that this man got a job as a broadcaster without having any journalism training in the first place. Mr Jones previous history (as per Wikipedia) is as an English teacher, a rugby coach, a parliamentary speech writer, and an unsuccessful conservative politician. There's indications he was very successful as a rugby coach (it's what he got his MAO for, after all) but aside from this, most of his paid employment since approximately 1974 has been as a result of his connections in the Liberal and National (formerly Country) parties.
He used to be a columnist for the Sun-Herald (but lost the job after publishing a column which was pretty much a straight lift from a Frederick Forsyth novel without bothering to attribute his sources - the other staff at the newspaper campaigned to have him removed as a result).
Alan Jones was never a journalist. He was never trained as a journalist. He should never have been taken seriously as a journalist. He's a demagogue. Simple as that.
Sources and Resources:
http://theconversation.edu.au/a-very-naughty-parrot-acma-sends-alan-jones-back-to-school-10212 - The Conversation
http://www.abc.net.au/news/2012-10-18/alan-jones-ordered-to-do-journalism-training/4320534 - ABC.Net.au
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alan_Jones_%28radio_broadcaster%29 - Wikipedia page on Jones
http://www.independentaustralia.net/2012/business/media-2/alan-jones-greatest-hits/ - Independent Australian
http://www.acma.gov.au/WEB/STANDARD/pc=PC_600069 - ACMA media release about the conditions they've put on 2GB.
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On Being "Socially Awkward"
In the wake of the Readercon incident, and the general rush of convention season in the USA, I feel like addressing the regular refrain which springs up about people who are being accused of sexual harassment at conventions (particularly within the geek community).
This refrain is, of course, that the harasser (particularly a serial harasser) is "socially awkward" or has "poor social skills".
To which I say: bullshit. Absolute and utter crap. I do not believe this in the least.
Why not? Because their behaviour argues otherwise.
It takes a lot of social skill to develop a set of behaviours which are both threatening to the recipients and innocuous to disinterested bystanders. It takes a lot of skill and practice to be able to perform these behaviours in a public setting on a regular basis without drawing attention to oneself. Choosing your victim is a skill which takes practice and social awareness. So does choosing your friends in order to be believed when you tell people you're very, very sorry and it won't happen again (or at least, not until your friends have forgotten the last time).
Serial harassers aren't socially awkward. If they were socially awkward, they wouldn't be the menace they are. On the contrary, they're socially skilled, socially competent, and well practiced in what they're doing. They know where the lines are, and they're adept at walking them. They have enough empathy to figure out what's going to upset their victim, and enough callous self-interest not to care.
Genuine social awkwardness will manifest itself in all environments, in all settings, and around all people. The genuinely socially awkward person won't have many friends, and will have problems fitting into normal social routines under any circumstance. They won't be charming. They won't be popular. They will creep out people of both sexes, and all gender preferences, because they will be obvious. Genuine social awkwardness is rarer than you'd think.
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On Asylum Seekers and Boat People
The Australian government is busy attempting to do nothing about asylum seekers and refugees arriving in Australia by boat (aside, of course, from trying to shuffle the responsibility for dealing with them off to Nauru). In the meantime, I've finally come up with the ideal solution to the problem.
Like so many problems, this one can be solved by a bit of education. The trick is to educate the asylum seekers before they leave on their journey. They need to be correctly equipped for the occasion, and they need to approach the Australian coastline with the correct attitude.
To start with, refugee boats should contain at least 5 - 10% armed troops (if possible, they should have better quality weapons than the Australian army). Rather than attempting to make landfall at any of the known ports, the boats should instead be aiming at landing on an unregarded bit of land. Once landfall is achieved, the new arrivals should set up a flag, and claim the area in the name of their former homeland. They should then make a camp, and set up a base.
If confronted by officials or representatives of the Australian government, they should deny the legitimacy of said officials, argue the land was vacant when they arrived, and point out that they don't recognise any extant governing body on this continent. Declaring the current occupants of the area to be sub-human vermin is purely optional, and is left up to the governor of the new country to declare.
While this plan may seem to be inhumane, unspeakably arrogant, and contrary to all known international law, it does have one major advantage: it's been shown to work in multiple circumstances across multiple countries and multiple centuries. When performed by white Europeans, it's called "colonisation". We know it's been successful in this country at least once.
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It Isn't Real Until It Affects White Americans - Where the "Occupy Wall Street" Movement Started
There's a lot being written about Occupy Wall Street, and a lot being written about the copycat protests which are now springing up in a lot of other countries (including Australia). There isn't as much spoken or written about where the movement to occupy city areas and public spaces, and calling for a renegotiation of the social contract as it is interpreted by the powerful, actually got started, and where it's been flourishing for the better part of a year.
It started in Egypt, in Tariq Square (where it's still ongoing, to the best of my knowledge). Occupation-style protests have been happening in Iceland, in Spain, in Greece, and in a lot of other European countries since at least June this year. And they're still going on there. See this list of articles from Pressenza to get a better idea of the scope of the actual demonstrating, both in terms of global spread, and temporal spread.
However, there appears to be this strong media (and now internet) -fed meme which says something isn't actually "real" until it affects white citizens of the USA - preferably white, middle-class, male, heterosexual Christian citizens of the USA. Unless they're affected, unless they're doing it, whatever's going on in the rest of the world doesn't matter. The global economic crisis didn't affect anyone (even though the economies of many countries were affected for months, or indeed years, before the US banking system was forced to own up to its iniquities at the end of 2008) until it affected the USAlien middle classes. Various World Wars didn't actually "start", in the opinion of hegemonic popular culture, (despite the involvement and devastation of multiple countries) until the USA sent troops. Poverty in the USA didn't exist until it started lapping at the toes of the middle classes (despite the presence of a growing underclass of persons who were born into poverty, and who have lived their entire lives in poverty, and who could not escape their poverty no matter how hard they tried, since approximately the Reagan years) and more particularly the white middle classes.
It's nice that the USAlien middle classes have apparently finally decided they're part of the world majority. It's nice that they're finally joining in with the rest of the people on the planet to demand a bit of equity, and a bit of fairness.
It would be even nicer if they would just, for once, publicly acknowledge that the problems existed before they'd noticed them or been affected by them; that the movement they've joined (and effectively hijacked) existed before they started to participate; that they were, once again, late to the party, and only joining in once other people had got things started. It would be really good to have this acknowledgement that not everything happens in a vacuum, and that the world outside the window of the USAlien white middle classes is actually present. It would be really good if the ongoing efforts of people outside the USA to renegotiate the social contract weren't erased, or ignored.
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Whadda we want? "Different ancestors"
When do we want it? "A couple of hundred years or so back, when it would have made a difference"
Not the rallying cry of the century, is it? But that's what should be screamed up at the windows of Wall Street; it's what should be rattling the windows of the privileged around the world.
One of the dirty little secrets which isn't often aired about the upper echelons of the rich and powerful (particularly in the USA, where the myth that anyone can come from dirt poor to stinking rich in a generation is still a powerful memeplex, peddled by extremely powerful myth-building corporations) is that by and large, they got where they are now by building on the gains of their ancestors. They didn't get where they were from nothing. They didn't pull themselves up by their own bootstraps. They pulled themselves up using a rope braided from the bootstraps of many ancestors, over countless generations, on both sides of their families, and reinforced by the bootstraps of countless non-family members as well. In the ranks of the extremely powerful, there's often a certain degree of both metaphorical and literal kinship.
Another dirty little secret: the secret to getting rich quick is to get rich slowly, over three or four generations, and then explode on the scene, flashing the wealth in an obvious way. This isn't to say there aren't the occasional rapid accumulators - people whose financial, technological, scientific or marketing genius was in the right place at the right time, people whose cultural input hits the zeitgeist in the correct spot to send the jackpot rattling down - but they're as rare as the lottery millionaires or the ones who broke the banks in casinos. By and large, the ones who are at the top now are the ones whose ancestors have been accumulating steadily since the sixteenth, seventeenth, eighteenth or nineteenth centuries.
( It's different for the rich )
(Whadda we want? "Different ancestors"
When do we want 'em? "A couple hundred years ago, when it would have made a difference!")
( It's different for the working-class )
Another dirty little secret of the rich and powerful: not many of them have had much exposure to people outside their social class in a context which isn't employment-related. So when they speak of the lives of ordinary people, it's usually from a position of profound ignorance. Marie Antoinette, when she said "let them eat cake" (or more accurately "well, why don't they eat cake instead?") was speaking from a similar position of ignorance - the ignorance of the very possibility of a reality where both bread and cake weren't in ready supply. So when they speak of how "simple" it is to make money, or stay debt-free, or whatever, it's because they really aren't aware of the full context of what's going on here. They've never had to learn that context, and for many of them, unless they absolutely have to face it, they never will learn that context.
They had the right ancestors, you see. Simple as that.
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An Open Letter to WA Senator Michaelia Cash, regarding the Carbon Tax
Dear Senator Cash,
My partner recently received your lovely little screed in the mail - the one about the carbon tax and how this is going to cost local employers and local industries vast amounts of money, and leave them vulnerable to excessive competition from overseas interest. You cited a total of ten companies which employed people in the electorate of Brand (or, more specifically, on the Kwinana industrial strip) by name. Curious, I decided to do a little bit of research on the internet.
Of the ten firms your leaflet mentioned by name, precisely two are actually based and headquartered here in Western Australia (Wesfarmers and Coogee Chemicals - both of which are fairly large companies). Of the rest, six are owned pretty much entirely by multi-national corporations. The other two are Australian-based, but one is based in Queensland, and the other is based in Melbourne.
To give you a quick run-down of the rest:
* BHP-Billiton is a joint Australian-Dutch company (so no, it's no longer the Big Australian, and you'll notice BHP-Billiton doesn't use that slogan any more);
* Alcoa is an alumininum mining and refining multinational firm, with the overall headquarters for the company based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA;
* Tiwest is a joint-venture between two Australian subsiduary companies of two different multinational firms - Tronox Incorporated (USA) and Exxaro Resources Limited (South Africa);
* BOC is part of the Linde Group, a large German-based multinational corporation;
* Air Liquide is part of the Air Liquide group, a multinational corporation first incorporated in France, and headquartered in Paris;
* Bradken (while having a wholly Australian company name) is actually owned by a combination of Castle-Harlan Australian Mezzanine Partners (a subsiduary of Castle Harlan, a US-based private equity firm); ESCO Corporation (US owned and based multinational) and Bradken Management (as minority shareholders);
Forgive me for seeming sceptical, but aren't these multi-national corporations exactly the sorts of international competition that your leaflet is implying our local industries and employers will be attempting to match? Given this information, I doubt they'll be having huge amounts of trouble.
(Incidentally, finding all this information took me approximately thirty minutes all up. It's amazing what you can find out from the internet. The information was on the websites of the companies concerned - all it took was a few seconds on google to find each one).
I took a look down the rest of the list of "facts" you provided, and noticed you failed to mention the various tax offsets which were planned (an important part of the carbon tax package) in order to compensate average Australian householders for the increased expense. Since these offsets and compensation are being introduced at the same time as the carbon tax, not mentioning them seems a little disingenuous, to say the least. Particularly since energy bills (both domestic and industrial) in WA have already risen by at least 10% thanks to the actions of the (Liberal) state government.
You failed to mention whether carbon emissions will continue to be rising by the same amount under a carbon tax package as is currently forecast. You failed to mention whether overall carbon emissions per capita will be rising, falling, or remaining steady (and whether there are any changes expected in the size of the Australian population between now and 2020 as well). You fail to mention whether the rise in carbon emissions overall between now and 2020 (from 578 million tonnes to 621 million tonnes) will be a greater or lesser rise than the equivalent period between 2002 and now.
Your leaflet also fails to mention anywhere (a grievous omission, given your final "fact") that you, in fact, represent the political party which gave the Australian political environment the terms "Core" and "Non-Core" promises. It was the Liberal Party of Australia, under John Howard as Prime Minister, which made it excessively plain to the Australian people that the majority of political promises made by them during an election campaign were in fact "Non-Core" promises - or in other words, outright lies made in order to get elected.
I therefore find it somewhat hypocritical, to say the least, that it is the Liberal Party of Australia who are now harping non-stop on a single "broken" promise made by a member of the ALP.
(Again, this internet thingy is amazing.)
Having said all of this, here is my statement as a voter living in Brand, and a voter living in Western Australia.
I support the carbon tax as an overall good not only for people Parmelia, not only for people in Brand, but for people in Australia, and people the world over. Global climate change is occurring, and we here in the south-western corner of Western Australia have been seeing the effects of it for the past thirty years or more. Something needs to be done to at least begin to tackle the problem. The carbon tax may not be the optimum solution to the problem, but it's better than nothing.
I find the highly negative style of advertising, polling, and campaigning used by the Liberal Party of Australia to be highly offensive. The Liberal Party of Australia has a strong tendency to provide such negative statements particularly surrounding policy areas where their own solutions are lacking either in detail or in existence (I checked your party's website - the last constructive thing I can see about a climate change policy is dated almost a year ago - all the more recent stuff is basically slinging off at the ALP, without offering constructive solutions). I'd be more willing to at least listen to your side of the argument if your party showed any signs of willingness to either fish or cut bait. Instead, the Liberal Party of Australia gives the strong impression of a bunch of whiny toddlers who are sorely in need of being put down for a nap while the grown-ups get on with business.
Meg Thornton (Ms)
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The scandal over the phone message data theft in the UK is terrible, and one of the questions which is being asked is "who is responsible?". Who is responsible for this terrible thing happening? Who should take the blame? Who should we punish?
Well, from one angle, the Murdoch family and their News Corporation bear at least some of the responsibility, for creating a news climate where such things can happen, where they can be tried, and where they can be covered up with such success that the true depth of the scandal is only starting to become visible five or six years later. This means everyone in the chain, all the way up from the first journalist to pay the PI for information, right the way through the corporate hierarchy to Rupert Murdoch himself. They profited from the misery of others, and they haven't paid the price. Some of the responsibility is theirs.
From another angle, some of the responsibility lies with the advertisers, who are always seeking the ideal vessel to purvey their product - they want something which will attract a lot of people to see or hear their ads, but they don't want their precious product associated with anything bad. So the advertisers play their part in this, through demanding both the high circulation that the News of the World achieved, and through also demanding the cover-up of sources, and the hiding of illegal behaviour. They were willing to accept the high circulation figures, without asking what was done in the name of achieving this circulation. So some of the responsibility is theirs, also.
From a further angle, there's the responsibility of the telephone companies to provide education and data security for their users. In a large part, the crime of hacking into the message databases was caused by the lack of knowledge on the part of people who owned phones - they didn't know the pass-code existed, didn't know they could use it, didn't know they could alter it. So the pass-codes were left at their default. A simple procedural change, such as ensuring that the account was locked to external access should the user not attempt this within a month of opening their account, would have secured the vast mass of this data. That there was a back-door left not only unlocked, but practically gaping wide open, is not decent data security. So the phone companies bear some responsibility, too.
The journalists who paid for the stolen data bear responsibility, because they knew this data wasn't coming from kosher sources. They knew they weren't respecting the privacy of the people involved. They knew they were effectively breaking the spirit of the law, if not the actual letter of the law, by using this data in order to create their stories. They knew they were encouraging further breaches of the law by paying for the data.
The private eye who figured out how to hack into the phone message banks, and then sold on the data to the News of the World, also bears responsibility, as the one who committed the crime. According to reports, he was paid 100,000 UKP for his services.
There's the politicians who permitted the Murdoch family to purchase so much of the world's news infrastructure (the world's largest news gathering organisation is a privately owned family company). There's the police, who didn't understand the magnitude of the crime when it was presented to them (not to mention the police who were bribed into silence). There's the various managements and journalists of other news organisations, who let their concerns about their own profitability over-ride their interest in the privacy and rights of the people they purport to represent. All of these people are responsible, and all of them will probably be mentioned in articles regarding the whole scandal.
But there's one responsible group the news media won't mention. One group who will be allowed to skate by scot free. One group who won't ever be expected to look their responsibility in the face and name it for what it is. And that's us.
If you've ever bought a newspaper, if you've ever clicked on a link to a news site, if you've ever listened to news radio, or watched the news on television, you bear some responsibility for this as well.
As viewers, listeners, readers, we create the demand for news articles. As viewers, listeners and readers, we've fed the Murdoch machine, given it the money it needed to create a monolithic view of the way news "should" be, a monolithic view of "what sells newspapers, what sells advertising space". We have allowed our news to become tawdry, cheap, nasty, vicious, invasive, insensitive. We have allowed this, because we haven't spoken up and said no. We have allowed this because we've purchased the products the advertisers sell. We have allowed this because we've bought the papers, listened to the radio stations, clicked the links, watched the programs, bought the magazines. We have allowed this, we have facilitated this, by demanding more and more and more and more from the news media; by not criticising it enough; by continuing to feed the maw.
If you feel sickened by the actions of the News of the World; if you feel angry about the actions of the Murdoch family; if you feel self-righteous about the way the advertisers are fleeing the sinking ship, remember: we asked for it.
We asked for it. Now we have it.
Maybe we should start asking for something different.
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Thoughts on The News.Corp Phone Hacking Scandal
Latest news in this ongoing disaster is that the newspaper imprint at the centre of the scandal, the News of the World, is being shut down.
Certainly, the paper has been haemorrhaging advertisers since the scandal started breaking, and as the breadth and depth of the depravity involved has been further exposed, the advertisers are running further and faster to put distance between themselves and the newspaper that published the majority of the stolen voicemail data. But I have to wonder: what about the rest of the News International/News Corporation stable?
It's worth noting that the executive who was the editor of The News Of The World at the time when most of the data theft occurred is still employed. She's now the Chief Executive of News International, and while she's offered to resign, that offer has been resisted - apparently she "knew nothing of the crimes allegedly committed when she was editor" (sourced from News of the World shuts amid hacking scandal). Which, to me, doesn't really sound like an outstanding endorsement of her managerial ability, to be honest. Either she didn't know about such things (in which case, what the hell was she doing in order to earn her salary?) or she did know and pretended she didn't (which leads me to wonder whether she'd do the same sort of thing when faced with evidence of an embezzlement), or she did know, and took steps to cover it up (which means she's criminally culpable too). She's still employed by News International.
That Ms Brooks is still considered a valuable employee by News International leads me to question the management and ethical practices of the entire damn corporation. The problem which was "resolved" by data theft didn't start in the newsroom of The News of The World. It started further up the corporate ladder, with the constant push on all the News Corporation properties to obtain ever-increasing profits, ever-growing circulation, ever-climbing advertising revenues.
Another thing which interests me is the way that the various News Corporation properties tend to pass a story around. For example, here in Australia, the Australian newspaper will report on a story which "broke" in the magazine New Idea (both of these are News Corporation properties), or they'll pass on a story which started off on Fox News in the USA, or in the Sun over in the UK. So there's the potential for the scandal to go far further than just this one newspaper. If we examine stories propagated across the News Corporation stable of properties throughout the period in which one News Corporation property was buying information obtained through data theft, how many other stories are tainted with this same brush? How far did the rot spread? How far up did the rot go? Did it go all the way to the top?
(It's worth noting that the Australian head of News Limited has officially denied that such a thing could happen over here:
Today, News Limited chief executive officer John Hartigan told the company's Australian journalists "the behaviour that has been uncovered at the News of the World is an affront to all of us who value the integrity and credibility of good journalism, the reputation of the company and our own reputations as professionals."
"Phone hacking is the antithesis of everything we stand for. It is a terrible slur on our craft," he said in a statement to staff posted online.
"I am confident that the practices that have been uncovered in the UK do not exist in Australia, at News or any other respectable media outlet." - sourced from Murdoch accused of tabloid closure 'stunt'
If, like me, you're a fan of Yes Minister and Yes Prime Minister, you know never to believe anything until it's been officially denied.)
[I feel I should mention at this point that I have absolutely no monetary interest in seeing the Murdoch family go down. However, I do feel a certain moral and personal interest in the challenging of their ideology that what people are interested in is solely the cheap, the tawdry, the nasty and the unfriendly. The Murdoch family's News Corporation is a big part of the global kyriarchal bully culture, one which glorifies the petty, nasty side of the human psyche to the point where they present this as the only damn option there is. I don't want to read, watch or hear nasty comments about other people, so I don't purchase their products. Now, if only there were a viable alternative.]
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Random thoughts about buying online
I do a certain amount of online shopping, because it's convenient for me. As someone who's living in Western Australia, and who has previously spent some time living in the Eastern States, I know perfectly well there are whole heaps of things which never make it across the Nullarbor to the west side of the country. In addition, having worked retail, I know there's not really much scope for ordering things in - if I do this, I'm likely to have to pay extra for the inconvenience to the retailer.
So I buy things I can't find in the stores here online from places in NSW and Victoria, and get them mailed to me.
I do a certain amount of online shopping because it's more comfortable for me. I don't know whether anyone's been looking these days, but a lot of bricks-and-mortar stores appear to have embraced the notion that the more auditory and visual clutter they put in the way of people looking for product, the better. I find this overloads me and leaves me feeling exhausted - I'm more likely to shop in a store which doesn't have loads of banners, or doesn't store items on shelves apparently at random than I am to stop in at some of the "big box" retailers which do. I also don't appreciate mall shopping, for much the same reason. I prefer the comparative quiet of the local shopping centre to the noise of the nearest big mall.
So I buy things in online stores, because I can find what I'm looking for without being distracted and overloaded.
I do a certain amount of online shopping because there are some things which just aren't available from Australian retailers. I'm a fan of yaoi manga, and I've also shopped overseas looking for things like obscure British historical drama series which hadn't been broadcast on Australian TV (to my knowledge) and more obscure films from one of my favourite actors. If I literally can't find it here in Australia (because for one reason or another it doesn't get shipped here) I'll look around online and see what's available.
So I buy things online because that's the only place I can find some of them.
I do a certain amount of online shopping because it's where I can get decent value for my money. If I can get something for approximately half the price from the US than the equivalent item here in Australia, I'm going to buy it from the US. The proof of the difference in prices has been around on my major retail purchase (books) for most of my life. I have books dating back to the seventies where the UK price is 1 UK pound, while the Australian price is $2 - and the difference in prices has increased over the years, to the point where Aussies are sometimes paying more than twice the price of the original product. Why does a translation into English of Ouran High Host Club cost $12 here in Australia, but only $7 in the US? Can't be the distance, because the blasted thing is translated in Singapore. Maybe it's a relic of the old marketing arrangements, or maybe it's something else. Either way, it's annoying and frustrating for me as a consumer.
So I buy things online because sometimes it's cheaper, even factoring currency conversions and the fees for same charged by my bank.
I prefer to do a certain amount of online shopping overseas because I can find what I'm looking for, buy it cheaper, and also get it shipped to me sooner than the corresponding Australian mob can be bothered to manage. Oh, and the service is better - online retailers appear to actually want to keep their customers, which is a nice change from the majority of the big box retailers here, who have the attitude of "take it or leave it" when it comes to selling things.
We're a big country here - the Australian land mass is the size of the continental United States. We're also unevenly distributed across this landmass. But our retail giants seem to have decided that the One True Way of shopping is to go to bricks and mortar stores in mega malls, and purchase from these. If we can find what we're looking for. If we can afford it. If we can spare the time, the energy and the mental fortitude to do so. Online shopping is a godsend for people with energy-management issues (such as depressives like myself, whose get-up-and-go has already got up and left) or for people with mobility issues who may indeed have actual difficulties entering bricks-and-mortar store fronts. Online shopping is a help for people with social issues (for example agoraphobia, social phobia, shyness etc) because you don't have to face people in order to get your purchases done. Online shopping is a great help for folks who are living in rural or remote areas, because it means they don't have to travel hours or even days to reach the nearest supplier of whatever-it-is they're after.
Unfortunately, some of the big retailers here in Australia are currently complaining about the way that purchases online under $1000 aren't charged GST (our goods and services tax, currently set at 10% of the price of the goods). They're complaining it's eating into their margins, and taking jobs away from Australians. Which is interesting, since they're part of the reason why the Australian manufacturing sector collapsed in a heap (can't compete with the cheaper imports from South-East Asia) or relocated offshore. It's also interesting, because at present, online purchases under $1000 make up approximately 2% of the overall Australian retail spend. Further interest comes from the evidence of massive mark-ups which occur simply because a product is being purchased in Australia by an Australian - 100% isn't unusual, higher mark-ups have been mentioned as well.
For some reason, the average Australian online shopper appears to believe the big box retailers might just be having a bit of a lend of us, and trying to protect their oligopoly market.
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My thoughts on #MooreandMe
I started out participating in this because I was irritated. Irritated with the whole shemozzle surrounding Julian Assagne (who, quite frankly, sounds more and more like a creep the more I hear of him or from him), irritated by the whole business of who said what, irritated by the whole dismissive tone of the arguments of Assagne's supporters. I was even more irritated with the similarity of the whole mess to the Polanski and Gibson accusations and the consequent media furore.
It seems there's a particular little syllogism which operates for many people regarding creative/progressive/liberal/left-wing people - particularly the men. It runs like this:
1) Being creative/progressive/liberal/left-wing is a positive and good thing.
2) A person who does positive and good things would never commit a crime against a person, like assault, mugging, rape or murder. Crimes against property (including intellectual property) are okay, because after all, all property is theft.
So, when a person who presents as creative/progressive/liberal/left-wing is accused of a crime against a person, there's a logical disconnect. Either the person has committed a crime against a person, in which case they cannot possibly be a person who does good and positive things (and thus cannot be creative/progressive/liberal/left-wing) or they're a creative/liberal/progressive/left-wing person, and therefore the accuser cannot possibly be correct. In these situations, it all comes down to a combination of who the accuser is and what proof they have. The best possible accuser is someone who is also creative/liberal/progressive/left-wing, preferably male, preferably white, preferably heterosexual, preferably Christian, and preferably of an equal or higher social class to the accused - in other words, someone who has a greater level of inbuilt societal privilege. The best proof is video footage, preferably from multiple sources, and preferably with a clear shot of the face of the offender.
If, however, you have a situation where, for example, a white, middle-upper class male person is being accused of a crime against a person by a non-white or female accuser, without absolutely unchallengeable proof (such as a copy of the video footage signed by God) you're going to have a situation where the accuser is going to be strongly dissuaded from laying charges in the first place. The argument is that the accuser is just trying to gain attention; just trying to bring down the person they're accusing; part of a conspiracy against them; that what happened to the accuser never happened; that the accuser is outright lying; that the accuser isn't behaving like someone who's had a crime committed against them; that the accuser provoked the crime in the first place; that the accused would never do something like that; that the accused is a good person; and finally, that the accused is creative/liberal/progressive/left-wing.
This is precisely what happened when Michael Moore went on Keith Olbermann's show to speak about why Michael Moore decided to contribute to the bail for Julian Assagne. Two ostensibly liberal, progressive journalists repeated incorrect information in front of cameras. They spread lies. Neither of them has apologised for their actions in a manner which is even half as public as the actions themselves. Keith Olbermann re-tweeted a link which named the accusers in this case; said accusers have been receiving death-threats, rape threats, and are generally being harassed something horrible, because they've had the temerity to accuse a man who is publicly perceived as being creative/progressive/liberal/left-wing of a number of crimes against persons, rather than crimes against property.
Now, rape is one of those weird little crimes - rape as we know it today wasn't prosecuted even a century ago, much less two. That's because rape as we know it today is regarded as a crime against a person. A century ago, it was regarded as a crime against property. If a woman was raped, the person who was offended against was her husband, or her father if she wasn't married, and if the prosecution went ahead, the restitution was made to either the husband or the father. Over the past century or so, progressive persons around the world have been working to alter this viewpoint, so that women have altered from being regarded as property to being regarded as persons.
Unfortunately, as the Assagne case is showing, this change hasn't really sunk in to bone-deep levels yet. Instead, when a woman tries to raise rape as a crime against a person where the perpetrator is on the creative/liberal/progressive/left-wing spectrum, it gets the same reaction as a crime against property - affronted rage that someone could possibly accuse their darling of having committed a crime at all.
Now, my own opinion is if the accusations against Julian Assagne are correct, the man stands accused of crimes against persons, crimes against property, and definitely crimes against hospitality. I don't know about anyone else, but one of the things I was raised to believe is if you're a guest in someone's home (particularly if they're offering you free accommodation), you're on your very best behaviour at all times, and you work hard to avoid causing problems. Which rather rules out assault as being on the list of acceptable guest behaviours. Of course, I was also raised to believe if someone said no to something while they were awake, they meant no to it while they were asleep as well. I also hold the apparently unreasonable belief that if your sexual partner wishes you to take an STD test, you should take one, if only to set their mind at rest. But, as I said above, the more I hear about and from Julian Assagne, the more convinced I become that whatever else he may be, the man is an utter creep.
I'm still participating in #MooreandMe because I want to change attitudes. I want crimes like rape to be regarded as crimes against people, right down to the bone, rather than "excusable peccadillo" crimes against property for the creative/progressive/left-wing/liberal type. I want enthusiastic consent to become the rule, rather than the exception. I want to reduce the lifetime risk of rape from 1 in 6 for women and 1 in 33 for men (even if it's just to 1 in 7 for women and 1 in 34 for men, it's a start). I want more.
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#MooreandMe - A linkfest
So I've been wandering about the internet, looking at bits and pieces regarding the whole #MooreandMe thing. Here's a quick list of some of the posts I've spotted.
EDIT - stuff marked with ** is new since the last time I updated the article.
LAST UPDATE: 1115h Western Australian Summer Time (zone GMT+8) 23 DEC 2010.
THE BASICS: If you spot a broken link, let me know (if you have the corrected link, even better!). If you've been linked here and you want to be delinked, let me know (if possible, let me know whether you're willing to accept a link which is cut-&-paste friendly, or whether you wish to be removed from the list altogether). I read all comments and screen them - your comment may not show up immediately. I read comments from both Dreamwidth and InsaneJournal, and will collate all of them into the one post which is cross-posted. Comment at whichever site suits you.
STATEMENT OF THE BLEEDING OBVIOUS: I just provide the links. I don't provide the content. I don't endorse the content. I didn't write the content at the links except where stated. I also don't guarantee the reader is going to be able to understand it. Some of it them have hard words, like "rape" and "truth" and "consent" and "responsibility". I suggest if you're having problems with anything, you consult a dictionary.
( Links under the fold )Again, I read comments from both InsaneJournal and Dreamwidth. Feel free to comment at either site.
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Meg answers the "But Don't You Know You're Fat?" trolls
(Prompted by this thread on Shakesville)
Yes, I'm fat. Yes, I know I'm fat. No, I don't give a damn about it.
Yes, I've tried dieting. Yes, I've tried lifestyle changes. I tried for ten years or so, and all they got me was an extra fifty kilos; a thyroid condition; dodgy knees; an aversion to exercise and clothes shopping; and a major blow to my self-esteem that I'm still recovering from some fifteen years later.
Yes, I've given up dieting and lifestyle changes. I came to the conclusion they didn't work for me, after the gain of those fifty kilos and the thyroid condition. When should I have given up, in your opinion?
Yes, I know being fat is a health risk. I may lose years off my life. Given I've had three out of my four grandparents survive into their nineties, I have to admit I'm not overly worried. Yes, I realise I'm talking from a position of privilege here - feel free to complain about the genetics which give me a likelihood of an extensive lifespan, just so long as you realise they're also the ones which gave me a metabolism which was ideally adapted to surviving for a long time on low food levels. The same metabolism which was only optimised by ten years of dieting (oops, sorry, "lifestyle changes") so it now runs for ages on the metabolic equivalent of the smell of an oily rag. Can't have the one without the other.
Yeah, my body shape is a type the fashion industry isn't designing for (I'm short, big-busted, small-shouldered, big-hipped, short-waisted and small-waisted). The fashion industry hates me. Boo-fucking-hoo. I'm so upset. Given I'm a geek, all I tend to want out of clothing is a decent pair of jeans or trousers with enough pockets for the things I want to carry around with me; some shirts which don't gape at the cleavage; a bra which doesn't drive me bats or try to pierce my armpits (no underwires, in other words); and knickers which don't try to ride up my bum crack. Oh, and a decent comfortable pair of flat shoes which are built around the assumption humans have five toes rather than three or four. I've found all these, and often multiple examples thereof.
Yes, I'm sure I could find heaps of clothes which would make me look sexier if I was a smaller clothing size. But that's working from the assumption I want to look sexy in the first place, when, to be honest, I don't give a damn. I have a partner who thinks I look sexy no matter what I'm wearing - this is a man who thinks I look gorgeous when I've just woken up, can barely focus, and have bed-hair from hell. He's the one who matters. Please to explain why I should give a damn what Joe Monaro in the car park thinks?
Yes, I have aches and pains which are probably connected with being fat. My knees ache, I have a dodgy ankle, and I have chronic depression. But, given
diets Lifestyle Changes don't appear to work for me on the physical side, and have the lovely side effect of making the mental illness worse, there doesn't appear to be much I can do about it, does there?
Yes, I am aware a lot of people find fatness physically unattractive. That's their problem.
No, it's their problem. Not mine. I refuse to apologise for my existence. They think the world could be a better place without me, they can take it up with my parents. I certainly don't see it as my responsibility to change my physical self to fit their world view.
Nope, don't give a damn who else it is. I like me for me. My partner likes me for me. My family accepts me for me. The rest of the damn world can go tie itself in a knot.
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I Love Centrelink.
I love Centrelink. Really, I do.
But sometimes, they make it extremely, agonisingly difficult to so much as like them. Like today, where I've received a lovely little note from them saying my unemployment benefit had been suspended pending enquiries regarding my eligibility. This effectively means I have no money coming in.
Now, I am well aware that the whole business revolves around the issue of which section of Centrelink's budget the money they will (hopefully) be paying me once again will be coming out of (I'm hopefully moving from Newstart - aka "the dole" - to Austudy). But a single-sentence letter saying my payment has been suspended, when I'm on the low end of a pay fortnight, and I am literally down to my last week's rent (I have $300 in my bank account - this will cover the cost of my share of the rent for next fortnight; after that I don't have any money at all) DOES NOT HELP THINGS at this end of the equation. Now I'm in a real tizzy about whether or not I'm actually going to be paid any money at all for the next fortnight, and what the hell I'm going to do if I'm not paid anything and what the hell I'm supposed to do to obtain the next instalment of the rent.
Okay, maybe I'm over-reacting, but the absolute terror that comes from realising I have no money and I have no way of getting any in a world which is very much geared toward needing money from people in order to acknowledge their very existence is very hard to overstate. Particularly since one of the number one nightmares I have, the really deep, existential fear which drives my very being, is a fear of vanishing completely from people's notice - slipping through the cracks in reality, perhaps.
I'm stressed, and I'll admit it. If I don't wind up getting onto Austudy; if I have to re-apply for Newstart, or worse still if my eligibility for either of those benefits is cut off and I'm regarded as being ineligible for both of them (for whatever reason) then I am genuinely without resources. The global financial crisis may not have hit Australia very hard, but it's hit our particular household hard enough that we are teetering constantly on the verge of bankruptcy, and we literally have no financial resources available to us. It's a stress I don't need, coming on top of a bundle of other stresses I didn't want.
[I'm having to write this in fits and starts, because if I stop and think about things too much, I'll wind up flooding my keyboard with tears, and at this stage I can't afford a new one.]
So for the rest of the day I'm going to sit tight, and try not to think too hard about any of this. I may have to sublimate a lot of the anxiety in a frenzy of washing dishes and cleaning the house, or gaming, or find some way of doing something to take my mind off things. Tomorrow I have my orientation day at uni, and I'm going to be absent from about 8 in the morning until I finally stumble home at about 10 past 5 in the evening. Hopefully by then I'll have received a nice letter telling me whether or not I'm getting Austudy. If not, I have a meeting with the nice man from CRS on Friday (to which I am going to have to scoot directly from the second uni orientation day, missing the social activities side of things... damnit) where I'll be able to get him onto the whole mess. After all, HE was the one who recommended I go back to uni. He can damn well earn his fucking keep.
Now, if you'll all excuse me, I'm going to pour myself a cup of tea, and try to convince myself that this will all work out in the end.
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