Having encountered many myths and scare stories about the evils of pornography, I decided to ask the people whose voices don’t tend to be heard: the women in the industry. This podcast features interviews with seven British female pornstars.
A couple of months back, I wrote a blog post lamenting the sad decline of the left: once the home of free thought and scientific reasoning, now the home of political correctness (aka “nice censorship”) and authoritarianism. A few weeks later, I was vividly vindicated by the furore around the British threat to raid the Ecuadorian Embassy, where Julian Assange was claiming political asylum (now granted by Ecuador).
For those of you have been off-planet for the past few years: Assange ran Wikileaks, a courageous organisation, dedicated to free speech, that has been publishing government and military secrets from around the world on its website since 2006. Government after government was revealed to be embroiled in corruption and illegality; but when in April 2010, Wikileaks released the infamous Collateral Murder video, providing strong evidence of the US military murdering civilians and journalists in Iraq, two things were instantly clear: first, that Assange was a hero of free speech; and second, that he was a marked man. The US has committed war crimes for decades, but now it was clear that it could no longer keep them under wraps. The only logical act for the US war machine (other than apologising and cleaning up its act) would be to make an example of those behind the leaks, and instil terror in anyone who thought they might emulate Wikileaks’ behaviour.
Bradley Manning, a US soldier suspected to have leaked the video, was arrested, and remains in detention without charge; his treatment appears to fall within the definition of torture. That, of course, left Assange. The Obama Administration, far from embracing the new openness, has declared war on whistle-blowers, especially anyone associated with Wikileaks. Those denying that the US is after Julian Assange, or that it would deprive him of his liberty permanently if captured, have clearly not been paying attention.
The accusations of rape that surfaced in Sweden in August 2010 were greeted by Wikileaks-watchers with instant suspicion, and with good reason. By early-2011 it had become crystal-clear that this was not being treated by the Swedes like a normal rape case, as shown by testimony from former senior Swedish prosecutor Sven-Erik Alhem, and an article by global rape law expert Naomi Wolf. Assange was in London fighting extradition to Sweden. He suspected (again with good reason) that the Swedes were working with the Americans to transfer him into US custody; in June this year, he offered to submit to extradition on the condition that the Swedes promised not to hand him to the Americans. This was refused, and Assange decided (and yet again it seems, with good reason) to claim asylum at the Ecuadorian embassy in London.
None of this, of course, casts doubt on the rights of the Swedish women to see justice done; but the behaviour of the Swedish and British authorities is blatant; they obviously have little interest in rape allegations, and every interest in grabbing Assange.
Then in mid-August, something truly astonishing happened. The British government threatened to raid the Ecuadorian embassy to arrest Assange. This was truly unprecedented and dangerous, and provoked outrage around the world; wars have been started for lesser reasons than this. Not only did the threat cause huge damage to Britain’s international standing, but the sheer scale of the threat provided proof that the Swedish charges were a cover for something bigger. Mass murderers have walked free from British custody, yet Assange’s arrest mattered enough that Britain was prepared to wreak huge damage to international relations, and breach a vital core principle of modern diplomacy: the right to claim asylum.
Twitter burst into life, followed by the blogosphere; demonstrators materialised outside the embassy. As I tracked events online, I began to wonder where the mainstream left were – they seemed entirely absent. OK, the threat against Ecuador did come in the middle of holiday season – but surely the opposition couldn’t be silent at such a moment?
In reality of course, poor Ed Miliband’s hands were tied. Senior Labour figures, including Ed’s own big bro are implicated in crimes against humanity; they played along with the worst excesses of America’s “war on terror”, including illegal kidnap, detention, torture, and mass-murder. Labour is as much a part of the repressive, illegal machinery as the Conservatives and the intelligence services, and it seems unable to separate itself from the Blairite clique that disgraced the party so badly. By the end of the day, the moronic, mainstream left had chosen its line: ignore Britain’s disgraceful actions, and instead play the rape card by restarting the old arguments over the Swedish allegations from two years previously. Followers on Twitter followed suit. Soon, anybody who supported Assange had been slurred with the moron buzzword-of-the-week “rape apologist”, as I blogged at the time.
The first word I saw from a Labourite came in the next day’s Independent from Owen Jones, a young and apparently left-wing activist/journalist who is a popular up-and-coming Labour figure. Jones’ article was entitled: There Should Be No Immunity For Julian Assange From These Allegations.
I have three basic problems with the article:
- It is bland and populist. It contains all the ingredients needed to appeal to the centre-left, without saying very much of substance. It is a rallying cry to the Labour heartland, and it seems designed to rally Labourites against Assange. It contains the kind of meaningless-yet-popular phrases that would go down brilliantly at a Labour conference – for example, “Let’s be clear: rape is rape”. Whatever next – “Education, Education, Education”?
- It is inaccurate. It amplifies some of the old arguments that had been used against Assange, but ignores some other key points. An excellent blog post, Don’t Call Me A Rape Apologist by @EthicalGirl, covers Jones’ apparent bias regarding his coverage of the “facts” of the rape allegations. In addition, Jones repeats an old slur against Tory Minister Ken Clarke, which I blogged about at the time. I’m all for Tory-bashing, but prefer when it’s done with honesty and good reason. Again, this was great for the Labour heartland, not so great for accuracy and integrity.
- But the biggest problem is, of course, that Jones almost entirely ignores the big, Huge, ENORMOUS story of the day. His only, tangential reference to it is as follows: “Though its UK Embassy must be protected from any British Government attempt to attack its sovereignty, it is wrong to offer Assange political asylum”. Yes, that’s it. No comment on the government’s quite-probably-illegal behaviour, at all.
I have no idea whether Jones’ omissions are made through genuine ignorance or not. If he was (hypothetically) building up his profile ready for a safe Labour seat at the next election, his Independent article would have been perfectly pitched to capture grassroots support, while giving a wink to Labour top-brass that he could be relied upon to behave himself when it came to the Big Issues.
I generally agree with much of what Jones writes – but I selected this article as the earliest and most high-profile example of how the mainstream left managed to ignore (or deflect from) a very important story. I’m pretty sure that if Assange had been accused of something else – violence against a man, for example – many more of his supporters would have largely raised eyebrows and stood by him. But the “rape apologist” slur is one that terrifies the “liberal” male, and many good people buckled and became silent under the onslaught. I’ve no idea who first used it to label Assange supporters, but it was very well-chosen to have a chilling effect on the debate. Apparently a rape allegation is sacred; no man may ever cast doubt on it, however bizarre the behaviour of the prosecutors, because he will be accused, stupidly, of somehow supporting rape.
It is only thanks to brave and unimpeachable female anti-rape campaigners, like Naomi Wolf (above) and the veteran British group Women Against Rape, who wrote a marvellous article defending Assange, that debate wasn’t crushed altogether. But what a sad state the left is revealed to be in, if it is afraid to defend a hero of free speech for fear of being branded with the R-word.
Moron-watching is made both easy and fun, thanks to US Republicans. Barely a day passes without an insane outburst from a leading Republican politician or supporter; sometimes the utterances are so stupid, I have to double-check the source to check it’s not The Onion or some other spoof site. But invariably, the reports are true, and the stories are a gift to moron-watching. Whether they’re passing laws to make climate change illegal, labelling contraception campaigners as sluts or inventing Islamic infiltration of government, the Republicans provide endless moronic hilarity.
I often wonder if they’ve peaked – how could they possibly continue to match this level of craziness? But if I was in any doubt, this week, Missouri Senate candidate Todd Akin came to the rescue. Akin’s comment was on a familiar subject – the ongoing attempt to deny abortions to American women, even in the case of rape or incest. In most developed countries, that would be enough for the speaker to dismissed as a lunatic. But in the US, such people are not only listened to, but elected to political office.
If Akin had merely argued for abortion to be denied to rape victims, he would have been almost part of the mainstream. But he took things further, by answering as follows in response to a question on the subject:
From what I understand from doctors, that’s really rare. If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that down. But let’s assume that maybe that didn’t work or something. I think there should be some punishment, but the punishment ought to be on the rapist and not attacking the child. (video)
Akin’s comment, unusually, was attacked by fellow Republicans, and he has been under pressure from within his party to stand down from the Senate race (fellow moron-watchers will be delighted to hear that he resisted that pressure). But he’s not under attack for wanting to deny the right to an abortion to rape victims, but simply for his idiotic misunderstanding of science (something which is normally a Republican badge of pride).
Denying abortion to rape victims is almost mainstream Republican ideology; indeed, Mitt Romney’s Vice Presidential candidate Paul Ryan also appears to take this view.
Perhaps Akin’s fellow Republicans are really most upset at Akin’s suggestion that God provides for some kind of “natural abortion” when women are raped – hardly a message that supports the anti-abortion side of the argument.
So it seems the Republican Party has no problem with Akin’s abhorrent views; they simply objected to them being spoken out loud, especially in such a moronic fashion.
Given the amount of noise around the Assange case for the past few days, it’s unsurprising that confusion reigns. The rape allegations against Assange, made two years ago, have suddenly resurfaced, and that debate has masked important global events: in particular, illegal and undemocratic behaviour by the UK government last week, in its unprecedented threats against the Ecuadorian embassy. The ex-Ambassador Craig Murray covers this in a recent post. Surely nobody, other than the most moronic, thinks the UK would threaten centuries of diplomatic precedent over a rape suspect; this is the kind of act that begins wars.
The behaviour of the Swedish authorities also has been bizarre in the extreme; it’s true that anyone accused of rape should face justice – what the mainstream reports, and much of the debate, have missed is that it’s Sweden, not Assange, that has obstructed justice for the women alleging rape. Senior Swedish ex-prosecutor Sven Erik Alhem has explained in a detailed statement how the prosecutors themselves have breached fundamental protocols for carrying out a valid prosecution which could lead to a fair trial.
Unfortunately, much of the online debate has lapsed into hysteria. Anyone questioning the bizarre behaviour of the Swedes has been attacked with this week’s Orwellian slur: “rape apologist”. So before this is repeated in the comments below let’s be clear: rape is a serious allegation. Alleged rapists should face trial. If anyone is a “rape apologist”, it’s those who turn a blind eye to Sweden’s abuse of due process in the case of rape allegations. The Swedish prosecutors have ensured that no fair trial can be possible – where are the howls of outrage about this?
A new Australian TV documentary breaks down the events of the past couple of years. It’s important viewing for anyone with an interest in this case. And everyone should have an interest – this story is about alleged crimes from rape to mass murder, the greatest attacks on Western free speech since the 1930s, and the full-scale subversion of Western democracies, including our own in Britain.
I posted the video yesterday, but YouTube removed it; here it is again. It’s worth 45 minutes of your time.
Recently, the #PornTrial created a storm on Twitter and then in the British mainstream media. Simon Walsh was on trial under a draconian law that criminalises the possession of so-called “extreme porn”. This law outlaws images and videos of many sex acts, including many that are perfectly legal. I met Myles Jackman, Walsh’s solicitor, to discuss the trial and its implications.
For half a century or more, the Great American Terrorist Roadshow has brutalised one region after another, crushing freedom (in the name of freedom), deliberately destroying economies, creating chaos, and leaving millions of dead people in its wake. Following the Roadshow’s sellout tour of South-East Asia in the 1970s, Uncle Sam turned his attention to Latin America. Whether done in the name of fighting socialism or drugs, or simply carried out in secret, US terrorism crushed democracies, propped up murderous dictators and killed hundreds of thousands of civilians.
In the 1990s America grew bored of killing Latinos and decided to go bully Arabs instead – no doubt, Latin Americans watched the Gringos leave with tears in their eyes. Latin America was left alone (to some extent anyway) to lick its wounds and rebuild its freedoms. Today, Latin America hosts some of the world’s most vibrant and independent democracies – and it’s hardly surprising that giving America the finger is a popular pastime among leaders in the region.
So when a Bolivian government minister announced that he would ban Coca Cola this coming December, nobody was too surprised. The suggestion is more than just a dig at America’s favourite weight-enhancer; it’s a symbolic statement on the US “War on Drugs”, which continues to terrorise and destabilise Latin American countries. Coca leaf, the raw ingredient used to make cocaine, is a traditional Bolivian product, and commonly used as a mild stimulant. The US-initiated ban on coca is an attack on the Bolivian economy, which could benefit from legal coca exports. Bizarrely, Coca Cola is the only US company which is allowed by the federal government to import coca leaves for use in Coca Cola (although it refuses to confirm or deny the use of coca in its products).
In summary: the US government bans the import of a Bolivian agricultural product, with the exception of one company, which uses that product to make a drink which is consumed by millions of Americans. It could make sense to ask why coca isn’t more generally allowed for sale in the United States – a trade that would boost the Peruvian and Bolivian economies. But sensible questions are incompatible with the Orwellian War on Drugs.
Naturally, the Bolivian idea of banning Coke (the tooth-rotting, obesity-encouraging variety) is now being downplayed as a comment “taken out of context”. A serious point has been well made, but with Latin America now perhaps the world leader in freedom and democracy, we can expect to see more serious initiatives towards ending the moronic War on Drugs – and perhaps see America turning its aggressive gaze back on the region in response.
As the global corporatocracy forces Greece into implementing austerity measures that are guaranteed to destroy the country’s economy, the inevitable outcome is a widespread collapse into poverty, a breakdown of society, and the rise of nationalism. Organised fascism has appeared, in the shape of Golden Dawn. Unsurprisingly, the police have been accused of turning a blind eye to anti-immigrant violence – indeed, it’s been reported that 50% of Athens police voted for Golden Dawn in recent elections.
In one of many recent attacks, an Iraqi man is reported to have been stabbed to death on Sunday morning by five individuals. A Golden Dawn supporter, Andreas Asimakopoulos, appears to have admitted involvement in the murder on Facebook – another user took a screenshot of the admission; a translated version is shown above, and the original image (in Greek) can be seen here.
Activists have informed Athens police.
In the mean time, the centre-right Greek government has chosen to launch a huge round-up of immigrants in an attempt to attract votes away from Golden Dawn: a cowardly and dangerous strategy. The original cause of Greece’s ongoing collapse – austerity designed to force the country into selling its assets to private bidders – continues unchanged.
Update: the following is a translation of a Greek newspaper article I’ve been provided: The Facebook user in question has contacted
This week, the UK government ended a consultation on whether cigarette companies should continue to be allowed to use branding and packaging to make their products more attractive. I’ve read and listened to some of the coverage, trying to decide as to whether this strategy will be effective in cutting smoking, but so far few facts have emerged from the noise of debate. Anti-smoking campaigners argue passionately for the ban, while “libertarian” free market advocates claim it will have no effect, and stifle freedom.
My heart is with the ban; the tobacco industry has proven itself to be the worst kind of scum, successfully denying any link with cancer for decades after 1950s research revealed the risks (indeed, denial of the tobacco-cancer link until the 1990s was a favourite moron argument, paralleling today’s denial of climate change). Only when huge class action suits threatened the industry’s very existence did it turn away from lying about its product’s health risks. Tobacco is by far the most dangerous of all recreational drugs, linked with an estimated 18% of all deaths in British over-35s, and 5% of all hospital admissions. My libertarian sympathies, also, aren’t aroused by the prospect of forcing the removal of branding from packaging. Liberty is for people, not corporations, and nobody is (yet) suggesting that people shouldn’t be allowed to buy or smoke tobacco (I’d strongly opposes any outright ban on tobacco sale or consumption). The idea that anyone is losing liberty by having to buy Marlboro in an olive rather than red-and-white pack is ludicrous (yet this kind of argument is a common piece of “libertarian” nonsense).
Would a branding ban reduce smoking? That seems less clear. Its advocates seem to have more passion than facts at their disposal. A comparison with the illegal part of the recreational drugs business suggests that branding isn’t a pre-requisite for product popularity. Highly popular drugs, such as MDMA (pure Ecstasy crystals) and cocaine are typically delivered in small plastic bags, or neatly folded up in a old lottery ticket. Cannabis is sold in a plastic bag or clingfilm. There are some approximations to branding: batches of Ecstasy tablets can usually be identified by size, colour, shape and stamp. Mitsubishi pills were popular a decade or so ago, and popular brands like Apple and Nike have taken over more recently. Rumours of a particularly good batch of pills would make a particular brand popular; but in a black market with no trademark protections, if “Apples” are all the rage, manufacturers will quickly begin producing fake Apples. Cannabis is “branded” based on its strain; a grower who creates a hybrid to be proud of will give it a memorable name – classics include White Widow and Orange Bud. But once the seeds are in the public domain, all brand control is lost.
Due to their illegality, cannabis, cocaine and Ecstasy can’t be effectively branded; but their popularity seems undented nonetheless. For decades (millennia in the case of cannabis), these drugs have only increased in popularity. It seems that branding, rather than increasing overall market size, simply increases the ability of corporations to control the market. To me, that seems like a bad thing – corporations create brand loyalty in order to ultimately reduce consumer choice and dominate the market.
It seems that brands contribute to the monopolisation of markets, reducing competitiveness and choice. The huge variety of recreational drugs for sale, and the endless scientific innovation in the field contrasts favourably with the increasing lack of innovation in legal markets, where corporations, having established dominance, get better returns from crushing competition than from investing in research and development. This is the classic contradiction of Capitalism; by succeeding, it dies.
On this basis, branding is the ultimate enemy of the free market. Can anyone claim that McDonalds or Budweiser have led to improved choice or quality? Brand psychology is hugely sophisticated, and we’re all susceptible, however aware we are. It’s why Brad Pitt sells more movie tickets than a brilliant, but unknown actor. It’s why in a strange city, I gravitate to Starbucks – it’s not the best coffee, but it’s familiar and I know what to expect.
Perhaps libertarians, rather than defending the right of British American Tobacco to lure us with fancy packaging, should be welcoming the tobacco experiment, and calling for its extension. In a sane world, perhaps adults would be presented with a choice of unbadged tobacco, alongside unbadged cannabis, cocaine and Ecstasy, all of which have far fewer health issues than cigarettes. Of course, we don’t live in a sane world – but it’s worth at least thinking about.
The news from Israel/Palestine (at least the real news, rather than the sterile state-approved variety carried by much of the world’s mass media) is relentlessly grim. The lives of ordinary Palestinians, so dehumanised by racist, biased reporting, are always on the verge of desperation. Israel constantly turns up the pressure, preventing people from travelling to work, restricting supplies of clean water and other basic goods; not to mention daily small-scale violence, and the occasional, astonishing act of mass-slaughter, like Operation Cast Lead almost four years ago.
I report frequently on news from the area (often using the wonderful resource provided by Jews For Justice For Palestinians) – I see no short-term solutions, but the first act must simply be to raise awareness worldwide. But what can ordinary supporters of Palestine do to help? If the political problem is intractable, at least the lives of ordinary Palestinians can be relieved by gestures of love and care. The Palestinians often feel abandoned by the world – with good reason.
It’s currently Ramadan, the fasting period, which is followed by the celebration of Eid. Four Londoners, will soon be travelling to Gaza to volunteer in the Jabalia refugee camp, in which around 100,000 people are squeezed into 1.4 sq km, which makes it among the mostly densely-populated places on Earth. The Israelis, in their wisdom, bombed one of the UN-run schools in the camp during Cast Lead, killing 40 civilians, mostly children. The four will be carrying gifts for some of the children there; at least to give a moment of happiness, as well as a reminder that people outside Gaza do care about the atrocities being perpetrated.
Please support these four Londoners in their journey. They are covering all of their travel expenses by themselves; any donations will go towards Eid gifts for the children of Jabalia refugee camp.
You can donate here: http://gofundme.com/gifts-for-gaza
Another article from our striptease correspondent Edie Lamort: a stripper’s view of the Olympics, pole dancing and “objectification”.
It was a working weekend for me and it coincided with the Olympic Super Saturday. There were only a handful of customers up until 10pm so we all sat there cheering on the athletes and watched Team GB row, run, jump and throw their way to Olympic gold. Girls in their underwear cheering and applauding for Jess, Mo and the rest of team. Then the conversation switched to the next day and the men’s 100 meters.
“Are you watching it?”
It seemed that most of the girls were planning on watching, to drool over the astonishing physique of the male athletes. So lengthy conversations flowed between ‘how amazing it would be to have a body like Jessica Ennis’ and ‘which discipline resulted in the best male body?’ ‘Is it the athletes? How about the swimmers? The boxers? Or the gymnasts?’ Now were we wicked women ‘objectifying’ these poor athletes? Focusing on their bodies rather than their feelings, opinions and stories? Having those very detailed discussions about the thighs, bums, shoulders and biceps of these alpha males at the height of their physical fitness. They use their bodies for their work and spend all their time striving for physical perfection. Is that a terrible thing?
Then it was time to ‘jug’ and go on stage. I went around and collected for my show, smiling and making small talk with the handful of customers, patiently waiting to watch some striptease. Small talk such as; ‘enjoying the Olympics?’
“Which ones?” asked a customer, “The track and field on the TV or the gymnastics on stage?”
Well thanks guys! It’s nice to know all that training gets noticed. All of us on the shift were pole dancers who stretch, train and practice our pole moves. We lift our body weight, do vertical splits on the pole, hang upside down from one ankle and hold on with one armpit. One of the girls I was working with is also a black belt kick boxer who trains three times a week and competes. She is an amazing ‘poler’ too with muscles I didn’t even know existed.
“Pole should be an Olympic sport,” said another group “It’s a form of gymnastics.”
The audience clapped at the end of the show, and also during the show, each time someone did an impressive move. From the incredibly posh boys in their suits and cravats, who had been at the rowing that day, to the rock ‘n’ roll-tattooed groups from the nearby council estate. These people appreciated the show we were putting on. There we only two idiots during that shift, one who I watched in amusement as he insulted the black belt kick boxer, and thought, ‘feminists’ worry about the safety of the girls but maybe they should be more concerned for the safety of the men!
The night before I had been at another pub in Shoreditch and the same conversations were happening. Screens at the side of the stage were showing athletics next to girls on the stage, doing gravity-defying pole moves. The female athletes were wearing tiny crop tops and hot pants, kind of like we do for the first half of our shows, before getting naked. I could see customers glancing from screen to stage making the connection. There was a particularly good set of dancers on that night including this year’s runner-up in Miss Pole Dance UK; a girl who is beautiful to watch and trains for a couple of hours a day, including an hour of stretching. Her shows are wonderful because it is the combination of aerial performance and the sexiness. As opposed to just a show of strength it also has the grace of dance and a stripper’s ability to be sexy. I admire her dedication to her training because I certainly don’t do that!
So as athletes performed on the track, strippers in London’s east end did shoulder mounts, hangback into half moon into bow and arrow, Aisha holds and vertical splits, flags and hand springs. Our mostly male, respectful audiences ‘get it’, those ‘feminists’ who wish to make us illegal do not.
Who ‘objectifies’ and fetishizes us? It’s not the majority of the customers in the strip pubs. What does that ridiculous word ‘objectification’ even mean? Some of the bizarre questions and obsessional sanction we get from the prohibitionists verges on a weird kind of voyeurism. I love my art form and have recently added another move to my repertoire, which is exciting and very satisfying. I look forward to doing more training and getting more graceful. I like the feeling of health and strength, and I like my biceps, even though they may not be considered feminine. We are independent and strong women. We do not need to patronized or rescued. We need to be celebrated!