Moron Media Ignores Iran War Build-Up

New York Times Iraq War
Where Is The Free Press?

It was pretty clear, except perhaps to morons, that Bush and Blair were building up for their attack on Iraq long before war was declared in March 2003. Most people will still remember the huge global day of protest in February 2003. Most populations, with the notable exceptions of Israel and the US, were strongly against the war, and most people were well aware that the Iraqi “threat” had been concocted. People were also unconvinced that Saddam’s “evilness” constituted a reason for war, especially since he had been armed and supported by the US for years before he was identified as a “bad guy”.

London’s march on 15 February 2003 was the largest protest in British history: over a million people demonstrated against the war. However, that protest was not the first; 400,000 Londoners marched against an attack on Iraq in October 2002 – itself one of the largest marches ever seen in the UK. Already in October, most intelligent observers knew that the decision had been made, despite the Bush/Blair lie machine claiming that our leaders were still “hoping for a peaceful resolution”. Years later, we discovered we’d been right: Blair had already given his backing to the neo-con war plans in March 2002, a full year before the war began.

We weren’t fortune-tellers or mind-readers; we simply knew some history, and could see that the public was being softened up with scare stories about Saddam Hussein. Likewise, we already knew in 2002 that the neo-cons planned to attack Iran. On a successful “liberation” of Baghdad, they would continue on to Tehran. Fortunately, the Iraq war was incompetently handled, and the US became bogged down, preventing a new front from being opened. But the war on Iran wasn’t cancelled, just postponed.

As I’ve observed repeatedly over recent years, the only reason Iran hasn’t been attacked is that, with wars underway in Iraq and Afghanistan, the US doesn’t have enough military capacity. It’s no coincidence that, alongside the recent US troop withdrawal from Iraq, America has also opened dialogue with the Taliban (yes, those same evil-doers that they were going to wipe out in 2001, remember?) The US now has plenty of capacity for a new war – and when in recent history has it ever failed to take advantage of such a position?

The excuses for attacking Iran are as patchy as those for attacking Iraq. They may be developing WMD (in the form of nukes)… but the US has been saying that for years, and there’s still no firm evidence. Even if they are, there is nothing in international law to prevent Iran from owning nukes – Pakistan and Israel both developed the bomb in secret, resulting in relatively little fuss. There are simple lies aimed at the most gullible morons: Iran says it wants to wipe Israel from the map? False. Iran denies the Holocaust? Also false. Then there are truthful claims about Iran’s human rights record; yet Iran is no worse than many US allies: Saudi Arabia, Israel, Jordan, Uzbekistan to name a few. The US never – repeat Never – goes to war in order to defend human rights (in any case, wars can only make the situation worse for the people of Iran, and make it impossible for them to rise up against the regime).

You’d hope that enough Americans would have learned the hard way, from Iraq, or Vietnam before it. But most Americans rely on the US mass media for facts, and (as we saw in Iraq) the US mass media is incapable of holding the military-industrial complex to account. The New York Times famously apologised for its Iraq coverage; most US newspapers and TV channels were even worse, but failed to apologise.

Now, here we go again. We can see there is a war coming, because US troops are being deployed, rapidly and in large numbers, to the region. This is hardly a secret. Russia Today reported on January 5th that thousands of US troops were being deployed to Israel. The latest edition of The Economist confirms that 9,000 troops are in Israel, and a further 15,000 on their way to Kuwait. Western-backed terrorists – probably Mossad or the CIA – have already been carrying out attacks against Iranian military facilities, and have murdered at least four scientists.

The case against an Iran war is even simpler than the one against Iraq. Unlike Iraq, Iran has never attacked its people or neighbours with WMD. Indeed, it was Iraq that attacked Iran with chemical weapons in the 1980s; weapons that were supplied by the Reagan administration. Yet morons seem to never learn; and the moron media in the United States seems no more willing to tell the truth about this coming war than they were in 2002/03. Iran’s huge reserves of high quality oil hardly need mentioning.

The UK government is making supportive noises of the coming American war; Cameron will undoubtedly follow, but without the support of the population, just as Blair did. This time, much of the EU is also on board. The Obama administration may be no less warlike than the Bush regime, but it’s clearly more skilled at diplomacy.

When Blair took us to war, MI5 told him we would likely experience terror as a result. on 7 July 2005, 52 Londoners were killed on public transport, and hundreds injured. If we attack Iran, we expose ourselves to new terror – which in turn will create new justifications to continue this eternal American war. The next war is coming soon; our leaders are terrorists, and are inviting terrorism upon us; mass-murder will, yet again, be done in our name. And we have no choice but to resist.

How To Tell If You Live In A Police State

Nazi Searches
Look Familiar?

Remember Freedom? It was that thing we were going to deliver to Afghanistan and Iraq. OK, so it was a little embarrassing when Iraqis joined the Arab Spring to demand the end of the US Occupation, but good intentions and all that…

So anyway, it turns out that the whole “War on Terror” thing may have backfired on us. As the Bush administration was warned, if you’re going to undermine rights on your own territory in order to “fight terrorism”, then, well – the terrorists can claim to have won. And so it now seems. Asian and African leaders can laugh out loud when the US State Department slaps their wrists for doing all the same things that the US has been guilty of over the past decade.

The slide from democracy into a police state is subtle. Some of the very people trumpeting the danger are the same ones supporting attacks on civil liberties. Here is a list of ten ways to spot the trend:

  1. The prison population increases. This isn’t due to increasing crime, but increasing fear of crime resulting in more laws and harsher punishments. Large prison populations are incompatible with freedom – that seems obvious, but morons don’t seem to have noticed. The US has the world’s biggest prison population (24% of total), followed by China (17%) and Russia (9%). Smell the freedom!
  2. You hear a lot about a “terrorist threat”. This is an excuse that has been used by dictators from Hitler to Gaddafi. The tiny number of successful attacks on Western targets in recent years is an indication that the “threat” is hugely exaggerated. But don’t expect morons to understand that.
  3. You hear a lot about “crime increasing” even if it isn’t. Crime is at a historic low in much of the Western World. Crime surveys agree with the official figures: people feel safer in their own neighbourhoods. However, the conservative media’s job is to convince people that life is becoming more dangerous, and the drip-feed of scare stories about crime takes its toll on morons. Fear of crime means that the police are allowed to get away with more abuses, most of which aren’t noticed by the frightened middle classes (though working class people in the inner cities certainly feel the pain of all that extra police attention).
  4. You hear about “knife crime epidemics” that don’t actually exist. This is a favourite in London. A growth in knife crime was “discovered” by the British media just before the mayoral election in 2008, just in time for the right-winger Boris Johnson to be elected. This led to more stop and searches by police (largely on young, non-white males). The UK murder rate has remained extremely low throughout. But morons are frightened, and fear allows the police state more leeway to act as it likes.
  5. You hear scary new phrases like “sexualisation of children”. “Sexualisation” was a clever PR invention by a UK-based Christian lobby group. This was drip-fed through the media so that the average moron has come to believe this is a sudden new problem, indicating some kind of moral breakdown in society. The truth is, all children become sexualised; it happens when they hit puberty, just as it has always done. However, it’s now being used by the UK government (and others) to justify new censorship measures, from Internet filtering to attacks on “explicit” music videos. The S-word has also recently been spotted in the US and Australia.
  6. Minorities become a “threat”. This, of course, is standard far-right methodology. Find a scapegoat that is too powerless to fight back, and imbue it with threatening attributes. It worked against the Jews and this time Muslims are taking the brunt. Moronic attacks on Muslims are gathering pace, especially in mainland Europe. Many morons believe in this “threat”, as a glance at my Twitter family will reveal.
  7. The police are allowed to stop and search someone without good reason. One of the foundations of a free society is that you don’t get harassed by the police unless they have good reason to believe you have committed a crime. This has clearly slipped a long way already, especially in the inner cities. And when young people finally get sick of it, the police are given even more powers to harass them.
  8. The police start finding new reasons to stop people. Terrorist laws are always (yes, always) used to attack free speech. In the UK, terrorism law has been used to harass press photographers who might expose police behaviour. In the US, the Patriot act has been abused to attack Occupy protesters. But the most pernicious of all are the drug laws; while these aren’t new, they are enforced, or not, at the whim of the police. Millions of people use illegal drugs, and always will, but that’s not the police’s concern; the drug laws are simply a proxy for being able to stop anyone, anywhere, any time.
  9. The police get ever-better weaponry, despite crime falling. The police recently deployed rubber bullets for the first time on the UK mainland. Because of increased violence? No, to create increased violence. This adds to the increasing armory of the police, already carrying tasers, batons and pepper spray. Thirty years ago, with much higher crime rates, the police managed without most of these weapons.
  10. Fellow citizens take an increasing interest in your private life. Before we go blaming the state for everything: remember, a police state depends largely on a moronic, frightened citizenship that believes the scare stories served out to them on a daily basis. Effective police states like that in Communist East Germany require citizen spies. Today, citizens are stoked up into constant fear about crime and terrorism and asked to report on “any suspicious activity”.

We’ve got ourselves into a mess. Many things need doing, including:

  • Repeal the Patriot Act and similar “anti-terrorist” laws elsewhere.
  • Make concerted efforts to cut prison populations – however much the morons may squeal.
  • Decriminalise drug possession, removing the police’s single biggest excuse to stop people.
  • Tighten stop and search powers to prevent their random use.
  • Confiscate the police’s arsenal of anti-citizen weaponry.
  • Strengthen laws against police violence – almost no officer is ever prosecuted, even when someone is killed.
  • Educate the morons: their fear drives a vicious circle of ever more aggressive state behaviour.

The Guardian’s Sexual Hang-Ups

Stripper Edie Lamort
Photo courtesy Millie Robson Photography www.millierobson.com

The British press is among the best in the world. And among the worst. We have some of the most intelligent journalism that can be found anywhere, but also some of the most moronic. There are five daily newspapers (Guardian, Times, Telegraph, Independent and FT), from across the political spectrum, that are worth reading; of these, the Guardian often stands head and shoulders above the rest when it comes to providing high-quality journalism. The Guardian, for example, carries much of the credit for exposing the corruption at Murdoch’s News International. When it comes to challenging dangerous abuse of power within the British state and corporations, The Guardian is often alone in publishing stories ignored by the rest of the British media.

At a time when social conservatism is on the rise in many pernicious ways, it was good to see a Guardian article yesterday by Zoe Margolis (aka The Girl With The One Track Mind) challenging the anti-sex crusade spear-headed in parliament by rightwing Tory MP Nadine Dorries. And yet, on the broad subject area of sex and sexuality, The Guardian, more often than not, comes down on the side of repression. The paper comes very much from the liberal, middle-class, English tradition, and the one subject the English middle-classes have always had trouble dealing with is sex. The Guardian also tends to take anti-sex campaigners more seriously if they adopt the “feminist” label than if they crusade under a more old-fashioned “morality” banner. On this subject, the Guardian’s coverage can swing from liberal to deeply conservative in the blink of an eye.

I blogged recently about the UK Government’s steps towards Internet censorship, using the excuse of “protecting children from pornography”. The Guardian, normally a warrior against censorship, lost its mind in an editorial on the subject, using Daily Mail-type phrasing such as “…bombarding of people’s homes and children by pornography…” and “…the destructive effects of pornography on relationships and values…“. The editorial also mentioned a recent government-commissioned report on “sexualisation”, neglecting to mention that it came from a Christian lobbying organisation. The idea that anyone who doesn’t want to see porn is “bombarded” with it is of course laughable, and serious research on porn has yet to reveal the harmful side effects claimed by conservatives of various shades.

And this wasn’t a one-off: on the icky subject of sex, The Guardian is often deeply conservative. I recently interviewed strippers who are defending themselves against campaigners who threaten their right to work in the London boroughs of Hackney and Tower Hamlets (podcast coming soon). These women are articulate, well-paid and belong to trade unions. Yet, the Guardian is apparently convinced that stripping is bad, and refuses to take seriously the voices of the women themselves who earn a living that way; instead, they give a platform to “feminist” (aka sexual morality) groups who use fascist-style propaganda methods (such as claiming a non-existent link between strip venues and rape) to attack the venues and the people who work in them. While women who strip have offered to write for the Guardian about their experiences, only one ex-dancer, Homa Khaleeli is published, because she tells “the truth about lap dancing” – in other words, she makes the “exploitation” and “objectification” noises that Guardianistas want to hear.

The Guardian has a confused idea of defending sexual freedom. While Gay, Lesbian, Transgender issues are treated with the appropriate straight-faced correctness, other forms of sexuality and sexual freedom have Guardian journos giggling like school children. Fetishes, swinging, polyamory, BDSM, open lifestyles, bisexuality and sex work… these aren’t causes for free speech but excuses for The Guardian to pander to middle-England prejudices (and have a good, Carry On giggle in the process).

It’s not that I’m asking for the Guardian to become a campaigner for sexual freedom; but it should be delivering the quality of journalism it does so well elsewhere. Repeating misinformation about porn leading to marriage break-up, lap dancing leading to rape or most prostitutes being “victims” isn’t good journalism. Accepting the word of a woman simply because she calls herself a feminist but ignoring the many voices of women who earn their money this way isn’t fair or balanced. Ignoring researchers in these fields but listening to morality campaigners lets down the readership.

It’s not that The Guardian is the worst offender – not by a long way! – but it’s the one (or am I being naive?) that should “know better”. In fact, the most level-headed coverage of sex and the sex industries comes from the Financial Times and its stable mate The Economist, but these are targeted primarily at business people. Among mainstream press, the Guardian, often alone, has the courage to expose police brutality and corporate corruption. Why not maintain the same high standards on the difficult subjects of sex and sexuality? Up your game Guardian, and stop being so damn English about sex!

How The Religious Right Censored The UK Media

Beyonce Dancing
Does This Image Damage Your Children?

Although the Internet’s roots lie in defence and academic research projects in the 50s and 60s, it only exploded into the public consciousness in the mid-90s, after Tim Berners-Lee created the technologies behind the Worldwide Web.This was, not only in hindsight but widely recognised at the time, a hugely significant moment in human development; a point at which anyone, with a little technical skill and a little cash, could share their thoughts, beliefs, ideas, or products with a global audience. The control of publishing and broadcasting had always been concentrated in the hands of an elite. These few had a stranglehold on deciding what constituted acceptable culture, and what ideas should be kept away from the masses. They defined the consensus.

Now, ideas deemed “dangerous”, “immoral”, “obscene” or otherwise previously unacceptable could be publicly aired. Publishers could choose, if they wished, to remain anonymous. The implications were enormous – and given the benefit of hindsight, the predictions of the day weren’t overblown; the effect of the new communication medium has been social dynamite.

Given that the peoples of the developed world could, for the first time, choose exactly what content to consume, the Internet could be seen as a measure of repression; people would naturally use it to fill vacuums previously unoccupied by other, censored, media. How would people use the Net?

We quickly found the answer; although there was of course a true explosion of creativity, bringing us services from Amazon to Hotmail, the overwhelming majority of network bandwidth was used by people downloading pornographic imagery. There was a simultaneous exponential rise in the use of anonymous “dating” services to find sexual partners, either to engage in cybersex or to meet “in real life”. The Internet had provided the first unbiased survey of what the world was thinking; and what the world had on its mind was Sex. Few had realised how ruthlessly sex had been censored from human discourse in the preceding decades and centuries; only when all censorship was removed did we find out just how controlled our lives had been prior to the Web.

From day one, it was inevitable that the authorities would catch up with this turn of events and try to crush it; surely, our rulers hadn’t spent centuries pushing sexuality underground, only to have the whole project die in a few short years. The American religious right was quickly on the case; it had been funding academic research since the 1980s trying to prove that porn in some way caused harm to people and society. The religious right was joined in its efforts to stigmatise porn (and other open expression of sexuality) by a new strand of feminism; this time, instead of fighting for the rights of women to enjoy their sexuality without stigma, these new feminists were insistent that free sexuality was harmful to women. Collectively, I refer to the religious right and neo-feminists as the New Puritans.

With no academic research to back up their claims, the New Puritans took to establishing myths in the public consciousness. The Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels is famous for his observation that a lie repeated often enough becomes the truth. There are many “facts” about porn and sexual imagery that many liberal-minded people have accepted as true with little thought: sexual imagery “objectifies” women; the free expression of sexuality somehow benefits men and subjugates women; porn is “linked to” misogynistic thinking; porn is “linked to” sexual violence; sexual freedom is “damaging to” relationships.

It may come as a surprise to many people who have heard these ideas that none of these “facts” is backed by any research whatsoever. Indeed, attempts by the New Puritans to find “smoking guns” have failed dismally, after more than two decades of trying. The research that does exist suggests the opposite to what is claimed by the New Puritans. Most remarkably, in those societies that have embraced sexual freedom in its many forms, rates of sexual violence have fallen massively. Porn video first became widely available in the United States with the widespread adoption of VHS in the late-1970s. In 2006, the Washington Post reported that the incidence of rape in America had fallen by 85% from 1979 to 2004. Of course, availability of porn was one of many social changes taking place in the US during this period, but the conclusion seems to be that greater sexual freedom in society makes women (and almost certainly children) safer from sexual violence.

Scientific research has firmly dismissed the “porn causes harm” myths, with the publication Scientific American recently reporting on a number of studies that seemed to show the opposite – that porn use is correlated with positive outcomes. In the UK, researcher Clarissa Smith has studied the effects of porn over 20 years and has come to similar conclusions (her research is soon to be published).

So, game over for the puritans? Of course not; freeing sexuality means less money for religions that reap the benefits of sexual guilt; there’s also money in selling “cures” to the (probably imaginary) ailment of porn addiction and writing books about the evils of pornography.

With the election of a Conservative government in the UK in May 2010, the New Puritans saw new opportunities. Claire Perry, a right-wing MP, began a parliamentary enquiry into “protecting children online”. Simultaneously, a Christian lobby group known as the Mothers’ Union began a media campaign to convince people that children were being “sexualised”. This was a good, old-fashioned attack on “permissive media”, packaged into a fancy new term. Pretty soon, even level-headed people were believing that children were being “sexualised”, without any clear idea of what that meant. So far, so predictable.

Then it gets weird; David Cameron appoints an “expert” to carry out a review into sexualisation; this expert is none other than Reg Bailey, Chief Executive of the Mothers’ Union. So without public consultation, representatives of the religious right are writing policy proposals at the request of the British Government. In response to this absurd coup, the media outcry was… non-existent. An incident which should be treated as a political scandal has been ignored or even applauded. The very notion that children are being “sexualised” or that something should be done about it has been passed on without question in the mainstream press.

Reg Bailey published a report which was swallowed without comment by the government (I wrote about this in June). It stated, without being backed by research, that children were being sexualised, and that widespread media censorship should take place, from billboards to music videos to the sale of children’s clothing. Having now established religious prejudice as fact in the mind of the British government and media, a raft of censorship measures is beginning to be implemented.

The latest measure was announced this week when the government came to an agreement with large ISPs that consumers would be asked whether they want the ability to see porn when they sign up for a home Internet connection. This is done in the name of “protecting children”, although filtering solutions for children already exist (and have done for many years), and the effect of blocking an entire household can only be to prevent adults from watching porn. Although the measure is voluntary, there have already been attempts to stigmatise parents who are too “permissive” with their children; Clarissa Smith (mentioned above) says that parliamentary committees are already talking about “bad parents” who choose not to block porn to their household. Undoubtedly the next step will come when religious lobbyists report to MPs that parents are (shock, horror) choosing to remove the ISP block and watch porn in their own homes. Homes that have children in them!!!

The UK government has taken its first, definitive step into Internet censorship – something it has castigated other governments for in the past. It has been unclear about exactly what content is considered “unsuitable for children”; undoubtedly this definition will become ever broader with time. Undoubtedly too, the voluntary block will be under review, and the New Puritans will be demanding more sites to be blocked, and measures to make it harder (or impossible) for adults to access certain types of content via their home connections.

The response of the mainstream media has been almost non-existent. Most disappointingly, The Guardian writes in Daily Mail-esque terms about “the destructive effects of pornography on relationships and values, harming not just children but also adults” while blissfully ignoring that the claims of harm exist nowhere but in right-wing propaganda, and are not backed anywhere by research. In any other field of interest, The Guardian would undoubtedly investigate such claims, something that in the areas of laws related to sex and drugs, it repeatedly fails to do.

It was clear even 15 years ago that governments and corporations would never allow the Internet to continue as an uncensored medium; too many powerful vested interested are harmed by an open network. The US at least has the first amendment, making it harder to introduce censorship. But there’s little doubt that the Mothers’ Union, fresh from its success at turning the UK into a flagship for its “sexualisation” idea, will use us as a case study to campaign for similar measure elsewhere.

Celebrate Heroes, Not CEOs

Wangari Maathai
Wangari Maathai photo by Martin Rowe

I had a moment of genuine shock when I woke up on Thursday, picked up my iPhone and read the headlines, to discover that Steve Jobs had died. Of course I already knew he was ill and that he was standing down, but the severity of his illness had been kept quiet, meaning that news of his death came to most of us as a surprise. After my Wow moment, I carried on with day as normal. Shock number two came when I logged into Twitter and Facebook to find tributes to Jobs liberally posted. Jobs’ death seemed to have become what we call in the UK a “Diana Moment” – an outbreak of apparently inexplicable mass grief for a personality only known to most through the mass media. People I know who never follow business or technology events were swept up in the tide of tributes. The sayings of Jobs were being shared with the same reverence as quotes from Jesus or Gandhi.

When I went to bed on Wednesday, Jobs had been a hugely successful business innovator who’d turned Apple from a near-failure to a dominant brand in technology, and then in media and entertainment. By Thursday, he’d apparently devoted his life to furthering the development of mankind. Waves of mass hysteria are rarely spontaneous; nor could Jobs’ death have been a surprise to Apple, who must have prepared themselves with great care. Thursday’s wave of grief and love for a CEO was a brilliantly orchestrated PR campaign, and many smart people I know were drawn into it unquestioningly.

I’m a technologist, and fully aware of the immense achievement of Steve Jobs in turning Apple into the powerhouse it is today. I’m also (as you many have noticed in the first line of this article) a fan of some Apple products. Jobs has done for Apple what Bill Gates did for Microsoft, and what was previously done by IBM: achieve a position of power and dominance over the technology market. But more than that, the rise of Apple coincided with the rise of digital media; so Apple didn’t just get to rule the technology roost, but has also taken a dominant position in the retail of music, film, TV, software and books.

Apple hasn’t been shy in exploiting its stranglehold over these markets; any media owner wanting to reach iPod, iPad and iPhone users now must pay Apple handsomely for the privilege. App developers may create a unique piece of intellectual property and even find a market for it, but the only way their audience can access their product is by paying Apple for it. Apple arrived in an open, standards-based technology world and stifled the openness for profit.

Sure (you may say), but Apple is a business. It exists for profit, not to improve people’s lives. And you’d be right – Jobs and Apple created well-designed, timely products, coupled with a smart and ruthless strategy to bring themselves control and power over people’s products, work and media consumption. That’s what businesses do (or at least, try to). But does it make Jobs into a hero? Certainly not – any more than Bill Gates was a hero for forcing the dominance of Windows, and holding back technological development for perhaps a decade before the openness of the Internet swept him away. Apple’s dominance is crushing competition, which will hold back technology, not enhance it.

But Apple’s story is darker than just control of supply chains. Apple’s enemy in its dominance of digital media is the open Internet, with its free speech and lack of censorship. Apple is a ruthless censor of online content. Create an app containing nude imagery? Sorry, the censors at Apple don’t approve of that. Political satire? Sorry, the Apple thought police say No. You thought you were buying a phone? Actually, you were buying a good, clean, Christian way of life.

Apple’s use of cheap labour working in ugly conditions has been well documented. This is hardly limited to Apple, nor can the company be severely criticised for taking advantage of globalisation – if you don’t use Chinese labour to make your product, you’ll go out of business. The solution to that problem is growth in the Chinese economy coupled with transparency in the West. But can Jobs in any way deserve his new status as some kind of a saviour of mankind? I don’t think so – chalk up a huge win to Apple’s PR company. Do I blame Apple for turning Jobs into a hero so that some of the shine would rub off on its products? Not at all – they’re a business and that’s what businesses do.

I blame the ordinary person-on-Facebook for being so unselective in his or her choice of heroes. Only a couple of weeks ago, a Kenyan woman called Wangari Maathai died, also of cancer. Maathai was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004 for her political and environmental work. She had been persecuted, abused, beaten, for standing up against political and corporate power. She made this sacrifice, not for financial gain or power, but because she felt it was right. The suffering of other people mattered to her more than her own safety and well-being. Do you remember two weeks ago how Facebook was filled with tributes to this great woman when we heard news of her death? Of course not. Maathai had no huge PR operation. The corporate-owned media don’t celebrate the lives of their enemies. She didn’t create that greatest God of Capitalism: Profit; indeed, her actions undoubtedly threatened profits.

Heroes still exist – they always have done. It’s just that the mass media would rather we didn’t know about them. Instead, they give us corporate heroes, CEOs, men who change the world – but not necessarily for the better. We need to be more selective about who we hero-worship. The power to write real heroes back into history is in our hands.

The Sexualisation That Wasn’t

The British are known for being prudish about sex, but that’s not really a fair view; Britain’s a very secular country and religion has little sway over the views of the average person. Many Brits are far more relaxed and open about sex than our reputation would suggest. But for some reason, our political leaders and media are years behind the rest of us when it comes to sexual attitudes.

For the past year or so, there’s been a coordinated media campaign to persuade us that British society, and British children in particular, are being “sexualised”. A variety of news outlets, ranging from the obvious (the Daily Mail) to the more surprising (Channel 4) have been increasingly vocal in spreading the sexualisation message. Politicians have taken up the cry. The campaign, though apparently a grass-roots one, has been driven by Christian cash and PR expertise, much of it being driven from the United States.

The Conservative party, now in government, has helped pump up the fear. David Cameron commissioned a report on sexualisation from Reg Bailey (picture above), Chief Executive of the Mothers’ Union. Which happens to be a Christian organisation. Bailey has no expertise in the area of sexuality, but is paid to push right-wing Christian views into the mainstream. The secular British people have been pushed into a Christian-led moral panic without realising it.

The Bailey/Christian/conservative argument is completely circular:

  1. The media has been running scare stories based on Christian PR claiming that “our children are being sexualised”, without any facts or research to back up this claim.
  2. Bailey then surveys parental attitudes in a highly biased way and comes to the conclusion that “parents are concerned about sexualisation” (note, not a shred of evidence to show that these “parental concerns” are actually justified).
  3. The Conservatives in government then take Bailey’s worthless, biased conclusion and use it to propose some of the most draconian censorship seen in any democratic country.

The result of this masterful piece of conservative PR is that Britain faces new laws and regulations that will take our already high levels of censorship to new levels. Many British people, including many who consider themselves liberal, have been tricked into agreeing with the conclusions – because after all, what right-minded person wants children to be “sexualised”?

Think please, dear reader: what does “sexualisation” actually mean? Are children watching Rhianna’s music videos and rushing out to have underage sex as a result? Does the (completely-non-sexual) Playboy logo on a writing book send children into a frenzy of sexual experimentation? The answer of course is No. There is NO academic research to suggest that children are becoming “sexualised” – whatever that might really mean.

Sexualisation, if it exists at all, is what happens (and has always happened) to children when they reach puberty. Before this, they have little interest in sex, after this moment they become fascinated by it. Britain has made great strides in the past 15 years to improve sex education for children and teenagers, and the result is more confident, more educated teenagers.

If children have been so “sexualised” by the Internet, by music videos, or by “inappropriate” clothing, why have teen pregnancy rates more than halved since 1997? (See graph on BBC news item).

British small-C conservatives, as with many in Europe, are feeling stronger and more confident than they have for many years. The “sexualisation” story is just one front of a wider attack on freedoms that progressives have won in recent years and decades. Don’t believe the scare stories – your children are safer than they’ve ever been – and that’s because society has become more relaxed about sex, not in spite of that fact.

In the next few months, we will see the start of unprecedented levels of censorship in the UK. It will be sold as “protecting our children” or “protecting us from terror”, but the aim is to censor our home Internet connections (work is already in progress) and our TV channels (we already have the tightest TV rules in Europe). If we don’t resist these changes now, we may look back with nostalgia at a golden era of British free speech: beginning in 1994 with the widespread appearance of the web, and ending in 2011, as our fear of “sexualisation” overcame our belief that freedom of expression is at the core of a free, stable society.