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Live radio?

LIVE! Radio.
In the late 1990s, during my early twenties, I spent a year or so doing an overnight radio show on a commercial music station. I'd work from midnight until six and, after I'd finished, walk home past an old corner shop. That it's not there nowadays adds to a feeling that, even though this was over a decade ago, the world I'm about to describe feels to me like a different era entirely.

"Live radio! How did the LIVE radio show go?" would be the shop keeper's greeting to me, every morning. He was an elderly man, a classic British eccentric, with an absurdly out of place cut-glass accent. He'd seen me buy sweets in that shop every morning since I'd been a school kid and obviously found it amusing I was now doing the highly respected job of "radio presenter".

I got the impression he was concerned about status because he'd often drop into conversation the fact that he knew doctors, councillors and "all sorts of people".

Theatrical by nature, and always upbeat in the morning, he had a routine to play out every time I saw him. With occasional minor variations, it went something like this:

"Aha! It's our 'live radio' broadcaster, how did the 'live radio' show go?"

"Yeh, it was a good one, did you hear it?"

"Afraid not, my radio won't pick it up, it's Radio 3 or 4 for me, I shall try again tonight!

But, tell me, this ... a 'live radio' show you do, is it 'live'? A live radio broadcast? All live?"

"Yeah, it's live alright, I've just been there doing it."

"Live radio, though? All live?"

"Yep, live radio."

He'd then sort of trail off, as if thinking about it. Maybe he'd turn and get a plastic jar of 'kola kubes' and start weighing them out into a paper bag for me. Then he'd come back to the topic:

"But, if it's live, all live, what would you do if something went wrong?"

"Erm, I don't know, depends what went wrong -"

"But what would YOU do though? Live radio?"

"Err, ah, I'm not sure. The show must go on I guess..."

"Yes, but LIVE radio though, how would you do it, if something went wrong?"

Now the look on his face would always turn into that of someone who'd kind of proved his point. It couldn't be live, not all of it, that'd be crazy! Back then, radio stations and the broadcast media didn't really have the reputation they do now. They didn't make mistakes or do things wrong.

Still relatively unchallenged by the internet the UK's broadcast media was significantly more powerful, and held in much higher regard, than it is today. The BBC's horrific Jimmy Savile scandal[1] was still a dirty secret being kept by employees within the organisation. The Brand/Sachs scandal had yet to happen. The admission that prizes and competitions were often fixed was yet to come. Even the fake guests scandal, that blighted TV talk shows for a while in the UK, was yet to break.

The fact things so rarely went wrong with the broadcast media seemed to be a form of proof to this guy that it couldn't therefore be "live". It must be, in some way, stage managed. Whenever I was in the shop he'd kind of shout, "live radio", as if there was a mystery to be solved, a point waiting to be dealt with.

Once, as he was enacting this routine while sorting stock, he popped his head up over the cornflakes and raised an eyebrow. After a slight pause he said, "the music's not live though is it?".

This was back in the days when we would still actually play CDs on the radio instead of most of it coming through a computer. Over the next five years that world vanished forever and was substituted by automated play out systems. The show I presented will in that time period have become non stop music with an occasional recorded voice chipping in. Still, he had a point, the music was recorded in advance by pop stars in London. I was stunned and a little confused, subconsciously it felt like he'd caught me out, I nodded and went, "no, the music's not live, no".

In a perfect world that would have been the end of the story and the bloke would've been making a profound point about the superficial nature of mass media. Look back at old news reports and footage of the media industry today and, if you were alive at the time, you'll know it often relates more to reality as we would have liked it to be.

However we don't live in a perfected world and the man in question was possibly just harmlessly insane. He kept up his shtick long after, in fact I never knew him not go into that routine, whenever he saw me. In other words, he is a real person and cannot be 'explained'.

Even so the fact our broadcast media was not "alive" rang true to me. Because it so rarely made mistakes, swore, shouted and broke down, it always appeared inauthentic to me. It had an occasional air of infallibility and authority which frankly was not earned by anything other than the weirdness of being able to send signals over long distances to many people at once.

The world we live in has always been noticeably different to the one the broadcaster's described. This is why it was so interesting when I first heard a proper Northern radio phone in show. Presenters such as Scottie McClue, James Stannage and Alan Beswick were all deliberately provocative and often absurdly theatrical but their callers returned fire with an authenticity I recognised. People who rang in and argued over the airwaves on those late night shows sounded like, and possibly were, my real life contemporaries. They stumbled over their words, occasionally swore and often didn't say "the right thing".

Again, the thrill of this requires context, back then seeing real live 'normal' people break through was an event in itself. Only people of a certain age can relate to the oddness of this. Nowadays "Reality TV" is almost ubiquitous but back then it was yet to be even seen as a genre in its own right. In my opinion phone in shows were its early predecessor. Furthermore I think the people who make television, who generally hate reality TV, have had their hands forced by the internet.

The net shows you stumbles, swears and people who say the wrong thing. Its picture of the world is closer to a reality I can relate to. Though still sometimes trying to depict a world as we would like it to be the internet is currently very much 'live' and few would doubt it.

That broadcasters populate our airwaves with performers who have a common sense of being involved in 'show business' perhaps accounts for some of the difficulties they're having these days. This tendency to recruit people from an overtly fake world of performance and story telling may be one of the key factors behind it's often poor attitude to truth and accountability in journalism.

This was dangerous, when some people took this vision of our world at face value and believed nothing other than pure facts were transmitted by the broadcast industry. However, the quantities of people who believed broadcasters unquestioningly has always been underestimated I think, mainly by the broadcasters themselves.

In a perfect world this eccentric man would have been teaching me these truths and his 'punch line' revelation that the music wasn't live would have been a comment upon them.


[1] More than half my readers are American. Not aware of Jimmy Savile? Google it. It's shocking.

We are not machines

Albert Camus
"A living man can be enslaved and reduced to the historic condition of an object. But if he dies in refusing to be enslaved, he reaffirms the existence of another kind of human nature which refuses to be classified as an object."  
- Albert Camus

The eternal debate between nature and nurture divides people into two territories. Most of us live close to the middle of this divide, favouring one over the other overall but seeing merit in both points of view.


On the "nurture" side you have those who believe your destiny will be written upon you as a result of the environment you're born into. Here we are as blank sheets of paper (or a "tabula rasa"[1]) and our characters and lives are dictated to us by events beyond our control.


Over on the "nature" side there are those who believe you're born with natural instincts already written within you that will determine who you'll become. In the past this was seen as your intended "destiny" or destination. Nowadays those who side with this belief system tend to focus upon genetics.

The above points are important because they provide a lens through which a number of recent debates can be understood.

For example, of these two points of view I think the former is by far the most dominant in the UK and suspect this is why the establishment use its logic to justify their ideas. If you think we're all blank sheets of paper censoring the internet can be made to sound like good sense as it means you can stop "bad" ideas and thoughts being spread around and written recklessly upon helpless hearts of your citizens.

That the establishment pay lip service to the "nurture" argument speaks only to the fact they're trying to lead people. In fact, they appear to support the "nature" argument, with our Monarchy decided by birth right.

Personally speaking I find both points of view, even when combined, to be unsatisfactory and incomplete. Unfortunately I cannot use a 'rational argument' to articulate why this is. It's just a niggling feeling my human brain gets when seeing its kind reduced to the role of a machine either purpose built or programmed by others.

The word rational is derived from "ratio" and means to measure or quantify. There is something about people which I feel cannot be rationed. Perhaps I only think this because I am one but even if that is the case to deny this ineffable quality is to deny my human identity.

We are not machines, I just can't say exactly what it is we are.


[1] Tabula Rasa means 'blank stone slate'.

067 Armando Iannucci Occult Bond and Orwell's Oversight

An old interview with Armando Iannuci (Alan Partridge, The Day Today, The Thick Of It) comes out of the archive this week. Never broadcast in this form it's available for the first time now.
Also The Cult Of Nick's plans for the podcast to jump from hundreds of listeners to thousands in one month are outlined. Once you have downloaded the instructions into your brainium success is assured...
The occult symbolism inherent in James Bond is explored with the help of Philip Gardiner
And you get a reading of my recent rant: "Why we're not living in 1984 today: 'Orwell's Oversight'"
The music is from ZeroFriendsRecordings
Don't forget folks, that album is here
And my Twitter is here.
And the podcast has a Facebooks page here

Check out this episode!


I’ve kept an eye on the developments taking place in the world of the ‘virtual currency’ Bitcoin. “Buttons” is a guy who traded on forums but he has now had to cease this after his account was closed and his bank became inexplicably uncooperative.

His story is ongoing and, with his permission, we will return to him in the event of any major developments.

Also, on this podcast, I explain the album which a friend and I have made. It can be found here:

I’m on one of the tracks, “The Awakening”.

The rest is the work of ZeroFriendsRecordings and has been designed, with my help, as a meditational aid using the tarot deck’s major arcana. A proportion of the price you pay will go back into funding this podcast's hosting costs. You may recognise them, they've been the music backgrounds to The C.O.N. for a while now.

My twitter is here:


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I am getting addicted to the website It reminds me of the old days of the forum 4Chan for the randomness of information you get out of it.

Like all great things on the internet it's incredibly hard to explain at first. Remember the first time someone tried to explain Facebook or Myspace to you? Was it anything like they described? Well, with that in mind, here's my blundering attempt which is likely to seem hilarious in the future. I've partly written this in the hope that readers who know more than me will expose my ignorance in the comments section...

Firstly, when you log on to the website, it shows you a front page that has been built in accordance with your specifications. This is done by you subscribing to information feeds, or "subreddits". These subreddits are lists of links to websites that match the description of the subreddit.

For example, you might sign up to a subreddit called "aww". Thats an information feed dedicated to pictures of cute animals. Everyone who subscribes to that likes cute animals. Furthermore, anyone who wants to upload a picture of a cute animal would send a link to that page and if people like your picture they tick it and vote it up. The more votes your picture gets the more prominently it will be displayed to people who have subscribed to that information feed.

Your front page is a mixture of all the subreddits you've subscribed to and the default subscriptions you've yet to alter.

The website calls itself "The Front Page Of The Internet". It's certainly becoming one of my favourite sites.

Today I tried to create my own subreddit. It was going to be called "ratemybookshelf". This explains why there's a picture of a bookshelf which appeared on this blog prior to me filling out this entry.


Owen Jones and the folly of criticism

Criticism often tells you more about the critic than the criticised.

Owen Jones is a classic bigot:

Owen Jones

big·ot [big-uht]


a person who is utterly intolerant of any differing creed, belief, or opinion.
- He's known for blocking people on an industrial scale on Twitter.

Anyone who has disagreed with him online will know this because if you're not "famous" he'll block you. There's nothing wrong with that of course, free speech does not entitle people to speak to those who aren't interested.

- He thinks the following sentence makes sense: "Here is a man who should be damned by all tolerant people."

Google the word "tolerant" and explain how and why someone who has that characteristic would "damn" others? They may disagree with people but it's a paradox to suggest they will not tolerate them.

In my opinion only a bigot can make sense of such logic.

Nick Margerrison


They're absolutely right of course...

Your perspective and the death of authority

Barthes - people would bootleg his 'banned' essays
Everyone has their own unique perspective. None of us can occupy the same space, with the same eyes, using the same brain, at the same time, ever. Power in society comes partly as a result of someone convincing you this is not the case and that their perspective is more valuable than yours. Their orders from their perspective, must be obeyed. A good leader hears alternative points of view but uses their own judgement to make the final call.

In English Literature there's no right or wrong answer when speaking about what a poem or a play means to you. It's all about your personal perspective and reaction to a work. People who went through the UK's "education system" in the 1980's, or later, will recognise this idea. Its origins lie in an essay called 'The Death of The Author' which, despite its influence now, was initially viewed as a very controversial piece. However, those who agreed with the premise, became almost evangelical and some used to hand out 'banned' photocopies of the essay on University campuses. The educational establishment's old guard likely saw it for what it was: a profound attack on the idea of authority.

"We know now that a text is not a line of words releasing a single ‘theological’ meaning (the ‘message’ of the Author-God) but a multi-dimensional space in which a variety of writings, none of them original, blend and clash. The text is a tissue of quotations drawn from the innumerable centres of culture."

- Roland Barthes, The Death Of The Author

More than anything else Barthes pushes the idea that the final call regarding the meaning of a piece ultimately ends with its reader. As each reader is unique a text's meaning becomes multi-faceted and increases with each person it engages with. Books and fiction are set free by this truth but also are made distinct from "factual works" such as religious texts, news reports or legal documents. Barthes though does not add this proviso, it has been tacked on later by people who realise the full impact of this thought-bomb.

Although Barthes is speaking of fiction, something we generally say has been wholly invented, he also draws in the fact writers are clearly influenced by and 'borrow' ideas from others. To be original in fiction is to be the one who originates new things but even the best stand upon the shoulders of giants. It's impossible not to, we all use words others invented and ideas we don't claim to have thought up on our own. That some might frown at this speaks only to the fact that we've monetised the argument so inventing a fiction entitles you to something because it's "all your own work".

This debate is particularly vital in the online era, if you use an idea you found elsewhere are you "stealing" it or copying it or re-using it? Barthes' observations regarding the interplay of ideas once they're detached from their authors could easily be a description of the internet forum/twitter/facebook subculture. There quotes are fired off without anyone having read the original text and concepts are re-labelled and "borrowed" all the time.

That this forces ideas to speak for themselves is no bad thing, for too long people have taken pot shots at the reputation of those behind an argument rather than deal with the debate at hand. I disagreed with a good many of Thatcher's policies but fascination with her as a person meant those who opposed her ideas often lost by thinking the best way to tackle them was to insult her:

"I always cheer up immensely if an attack is particularly wounding because I think, well, if they attack one personally, it means they have not a single political argument left."

- Margret Thatcher

"The left" are still very much locked into this paradigm if the recent "Thatcher death parties" are anything to go by and, without question, it's still a prevalent "right wing" tactic. Show me a famous communist or socialist and it takes only google to find a piece from the papers telling you what a 'hypocrite' they are because they live in a big house/have rich parents etc.

The wider issue though is the fact that the words "Author" and "Authority" are linked for a reason, one obviously being the root of the other. When I was first told there was "no right or wrong" in English Literature I was thrilled, I thought it stripped teachers of their authority to tell me I'd failed. I was half right, there's still such a thing as a well constructed argument and without one you'll fare badly if you think Henry V is really about ice creams and stickle-brick.

Your unique perspective does not have to be at the cost of logic and clear thinking. Furthermore, the internet is what you make it, so you will be able to refine and articulate a personal point of view in a manner that was unthinkable when old media were your main source of news and information. Barthes' essay fits into this context, where the establishment's perspective is revealed for what it is: just another point of view. The important central truth revealed by the multiple perspectives avalilable online is that there is not in fact, just as in fiction, one single interpretation of any event or moment ever. So, as you watch the establishments of the world begin to crumble, understand what they have let from pandora's jar and remember this: the birth of the internet must be at the cost of the death of authority. 

Nick Margerrison

Don't just agree, RT!

065 The Global Awakening / Microchip Agenda

Today's podcast begins with a new version of "The Global Awakening".

The music on it is from Zero Friends Recordings.

This is followed by an interview with

My Twitter is here.

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Why we're not living in 1984 today: "Orwell's oversight"

"Orwell's oversight"

Any instance where the establishment's official line is contradicted by the communications revolution. Orwell suggested a society where citizens were constantly watched and controlled by surveilence technology. Instead we live in a world where everyone is watched by everyone else. "The rulers of the world" are no exception.

The following article from CNN is worth reading, as is the book, 1984 by George Orwell, a novel which changed my life:
CNN: We're Living 1984 Today

We live in a world that George Orwell predicted in "1984." And that realization has caused sales of the 1949, dystopian novel to spike dramatically upward recently -- a 9,000% increase at one point on
1984 has become a victim of its own success. A vision so compelling it has enchanted many. Including those in positions of power. An inevitable vision of our future in fact as opposed to fiction. However to criticise it as inaccurate factual prophecy, with a key oversight, is only to notice a distinction between fantasy and reality. I'm not arguing the book is any less worthwhile. Instead I am saying those who mistake it for reality are living in an oppressive fiction.
"Orwell's oversight" relates to why the internet is so successful and why it represents a dramatic change to the balance of power. In short: the information superhighway sends traffic both ways. The watchers are being watched and "Big Brother" is also a prisoner of the web.

Or as anti-hero Rorschach says in The Watchmen "I'm not locked in here with you, you're locked in here with me!"

In the UK the death of Ian Tomlinson is a good example. Initially a report was dictated to the media on the 2nd of April 2009 which described a case where evil protesters attacked heroic police officers who were trying anxiously to save a poor man who lay helpless on the ground dying. Then, "Orwell's oversight" kicked in and a member of the public submitted footage of Tomlinson being anything but helped by the police.

One of many pictures revealed by Orwell's Oversight
Previously such thuggery would have been impossible to report because it would likely only have been supported by word of mouth testimony. However thanks to our "surveillance society" that was not the case in 2009 and The Guardian had source material to work with which was impossible to dismiss.

Ultimately this has real impact and forced the issue resulting in an apology from the police this month: Ian Tomlinson's family win apology from Met police over death in 2009, Guardian.

There are numerous other examples, around the world, of "Orwell's oversight" catching out the authorities. I welcome examples in the comments section and will update this entry to include more over time. Big Brother could tell his citizens what he wanted and they had no way of countering him but in 2013 the reality is quite different, drone attacks cannot be covered up, revelations from the likes of Wikileaks won't go away and evidence of the disparity between what the establishment claims to represent and actually is will continue to frustrate their agenda.

This has undoubtedly caught them by surprise more often than not. The establishment is used to a more compliant and controlled broadcast media supplemented by newspapers which are, in the main, ignored by the masses. It's important to remember the distinction between the print media and the broadcasters, one is licenced directly by the powers that be and the other is not. This accounts for their different editorial directions. 

Another aspect of "Orwell's Oversight" though is the fact the net allows anyone to give direct feedback and offer a counter narratives to the establishment's online representatives:
Advertisers and politicians have always fantasised that people passively consume the media, believing everything it says, and accept it as an authoritative source of information. Personally I don't believe this was ever the case, there's a slight of mind trick played on people in the media industry that silence is consent. 

I can't be the only one who remembers people mockingly saying "oh, yeah it must be true if it was in the papers, ha ha". Furthermore as a child I used to love listening to my Dad take the piss out of the "wankers" on the telly. I always assumed that's how most watched it, with a proverbial pinch of salt. If anything the advent of the net has confirmed this belief.

Tune in to a TV show and watch the level of stick the presenter gets on Twitter while hosting a mainstream show. Previously media "stars" and politicians were protected from this because the broadcaster only sent traffic one way and responses top their message were always filtered. Silence was wrongly taken to imply consent or satisfaction by many.

Finally "Orwell's oversight" relates to any new policy regarding the 'communications revolution' which will inevitably make a problem for the establishment in the long term. David Cameron's attempts at net censorship in the UK are a good example. He intends to apply filters to the internet which allow you to opt-in if you want to view pornographic sites and any others your ISP wants to include in the filter. In Big Brother's dictatorship this would mean one thing, in the real world it means information on which MPs and bureaucracies do and do not choose to allow porn into their computers.

A Twitter follower of mine referenced this with a mention of the awful embarrassment the MP (and ex-colleague of mine) Jacqui Smith endured when her husband was caught paying to view porn with public money:
The word "apocalypse" means "revealing". Perhaps those who thought we faced a human holocaust in December 2012 simply misunderstood this. If anything we've seen a very large number of 'revealing' stories at the moment, many of which would have been suppressed by the establishment without the force of "Orwell's Oversight" behind them. Wikileaks, NSA, Jimmy Savile (establishment paedophile in UK) and even the UK Parliament's expenses scandal were all pushed forward by the fact the journalists involved knew the information could be spread without the media if necessary.

The new dynamic is simple, we live in a world where everyone has access to a global communications system. Those who have been awarded a licence to broadcast by the establishment are becoming irrelevant. The full consequences of this have not yet been allowed to play out but they already suggest a very different world to the one Orwell predicted in 1984.

Nick Margerrison


Don't just agree, RT!


"Legally High" Channel 4

Channel 4 generally make the best TV documentaries and last night's "Legally High" programme was interesting if only because it furthers the case for a sensible drugs policy in the UK.

The sight of people getting high on "research chemicals" was depressing. I feel like the generation under me has been badly let down by morons who have stubbornly refused to honestly debate this issue for reasons I have never ever understood. As a result my worst cynical tendancies emerge.
We live in a nation where people have advocated a form of learned helplessness. Legislation is written in an attempt to make society fool proof and, to paraphrase Orwell, it results in one fit only for fools.
The "Legal High" market feeds on the absurd belief that if something is not against the law it's therefore ok. This is also true of the counter argument to legalisation.
I became tired of the topic during my time as a phone in show host, winning the argument is like shooting fish in a barrell. You encounter the same conditioned responses every time because the establishment's middle managers (politicians etc) have insisted on framing the debate thus: if you advocate legalisation you love druggies and drugs and everything they've ever done.
Legalising drugs is not the same thing as advocating them. If someone wants to get messed up on heroin, coke or whatever, good luck to them, they're not doing anyone other than themselves any harm.

In a world where drugs were legal it does not follow that you'd ignore the crimes of someone who got high on coke and battered someone.From a personal perspective it's quite the contrary, my belief we should legalise drugs walks hand in hand with the idea that we should triple sentences for violent crime. In fact, it makes that possible as legalisation would free up space in the prisons. If someone is violent they are a danger to others and they need to be locked up for that reason.
By criminalising drug use you're sweeping the problem under the carpet and widening it by encouraging people to buy illegally sourced products. Billions of pounds, every year, are pumped into organised crime by the drugs trade and it funds a criminal underworld capable of terrorising communities a scale almost impossible to imagine if you've never seen it up close. Don't for one minute think the UK's street gangs will ever be defeated as long as their foot soldiers can turn a quick coin selling weed on a street corner.
The millionaire criminals who are "untouchable" were made by the drugs market. Legalising it renders their entire business model disfunctional and it's destroyed, forever. There simply is not the demand for other black market products such as guns. To break the back of the organised crime industry would surely be a good thing? Weed and coke are the big sellers, at the moment that demand can only be met by criminals thanks to our drugs laws. Why do politicians ignore this side of the argument?

The internet is allowing these points to be made to a mass audience now and I feel change may well be on the horizon as a result. However, as long as the tedious non-debate we've had to put up with is allowed to continue, this "legal" drugs market will cause unknown damage to kids who just want to get high.

Finally, if any reader can help out with this one I'd be interested to know, the Government claims illegal drug use is down at the moment. Does that decrease accompany the rise in popularity of these "legal highs"?

064 Part 5 of essays for the Discordian Occultist

This podcast contains an interview with Shirley Phelps-Roper from the Westboro Baptist church, less widely known then than she is nowadays the piece also features gay rights activist Peter Tachell.
Also there's an interview with a couple of people about a film called "Islam: What the west needs to know". It's one view on a very contentious subject.
Right at the end of this podcast is Part 5 of Essays For The Discordian Occultist. These essays will form the spinal collumn of my book but are, in early form, already published in full on
The music on this podcast is from Zero Friends Recordings.
My twitter is here:
Nick Margerrison

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Caitlin Moran unwitting pawn star?

Caitlin Moran got a lot of press coverage regarding her "#twittersilence" protest against abusive Twitter messages. If you missed it the Times collumnist took a day off the social media site and encouraged others to do the same.

Her justification for the stunt, and defence against the obvious argument that being silent in the face of sexism and bullying might be the wrong approach, is consistent in her time line.
It's important to relate to her background as a media person if you are to comprehend why she thinks this is an end in itself. Personalities such as her are actively encouraged to get as much press as possible and the more "cross promotion" a stunt gets from other sources the better.

However, I strongly suspect that the reaction to her "protest" has more to do with the agenda being pushed by the UK Government to censor the internet than it does her public realtions skills.
The above tweet implies the issue was about to be left to one side, I can't emphasise how wrong I think that is.
It's likely we will see a lot of new stories being given prominence and telling us that "something has to change".
A good example is found on Caitlin's timline which carries a tweet about a tragic 14 year old who committed suicide.
If you want my opinion on that, this article "Who is to blame for suicide?", will clarify my thoughts. What's important to stress is this tragedy is being widely reported because it fits the Government's agenda to try and censor the internet. Teen suicides are not uncommon but they are rarely national news.

This tactic of pushing stories which support a Government plan is not new and nor does it involve a big conspiracy. It's simply down to the fact that Westminster provide a large majority of the broadcast media's source material so they get to dictate the agenda a little.

As a result, well meaning campaigns get co-opted into a very manipulative system populated by very persuasive people who see them as pawns on a chessboard:
What's pleasing about the internet is people are noticing this trick and starting to see through it on a much bigger scale than previously.
The difficulty for some people comes in realising when they have been used by others. I do not suspect Caitlin will notice, she was too busy praising herself. Perhaps when the net is being censored in the UK she'll have a different perspective.

Is Dr Who a massive racist?

I love Dr Who but when it comes to announcing a new actor in the role the knee jerk reactions are tiresome. "Left wing" or "right wing" thinking are not useful[1] because they send you down very predictable patterns of thinking. As an ex "lefty" the following is an example..

From The Guardian:

Peter Capaldi is perfect for Doctor Who – if we must have a 12th white male

Fans will be safe in Capaldi's wonderfully unpredictable hands, but let's have a woman or ethnic minority Time Lord soon
It's "lefty-by-numbers" idiocy but what's particularly dull about it is I guarantee you've read it before.

They always do this, despite the fact The Doctor now has a daughter, they want him to be female. An actor of a different ethnicity is less of a stretch but, if for example he did choose to be black, the next question would be, why hasn't he done it before?

The fact is this, anti-racists often end up seeing the world in terms of racial politics just as much as racists do.

The Doctor has shown no interest whatsoever, ever, in racial issues. I would assume he, like me, has difficulty distinguishing the different races.[2] Unlike me he has more of an excuse because he's an alien and from a distance the distinctions caused by race are incredibly slight.
Unthinking criticism often reveals more of the critic than the criticised. It acts as a little window on the author's subconscious.

I suggest Jenny Colgan, the writer of this Guardian piece, learns to attend to the wisdom of this famous Nietzsche quote:
“Beware that, when fighting monsters, you yourself do not become a monster... for when you gaze long into the abyss. The abyss gazes also into you.”- F. Nietzsche
She has come to see the world through the eyes of a racist, via her anti-racist agenda. Having a non-white and non-male character in your TV show does not a racist statement make, unless you always see the world through the lens of racial politics.

However, anyone who follows her logic, may well ask why her profile omits to mention enough ethnic minority entertainers, for example:
Jenny Colgan

Jenny Colgan is a novelist, journalist and occasional radio pundit. Her interests include Dr Who, Jon Stewart, Nintendo, traditional music, Edinburgh, oysters, trains, Kate Bush and complaining boringly about the West Wing being cancelled.
The closest we've got is Jon Stewart who is Jewish. Why has she not named any of her favourite female comedians? Is she saying women cannot be funny? Etc etc.

The above argument is absurd obviously. Just as is her article.

Nick Margerrison

[1] I have explained in a previous post that I consider the "left right paradigm" to be dead.

[2] I don't know why this is but I've always had difficulty noticing people's "race". I have a number of friends who've even been totally confused by the fact I didn't notice they were "asian", "jewish" or "mixed race". You have to have very strong racial distinctions for my un-observant brain to notice and even then it's tricky for me to remember it as important.

This sounds really right-on but it's partly because I don't care and also because I'm too wrapped up in my own little world to worry about what race the people I'm getting on with "belong" to. I'm not saying genetics do not have a part to play in who someone is but I do believe the key is in what people think, say and do.

Is the internet "unpolicable"?

"Facebook is John The Baptist, Twitter is the real thing" - Graham Linehan

The subtext of this recent debate about Twitter being used by people to issue specific threats of violence has been bubbling under for some time now: our nation's laws are becoming unenforcable and the internet is revealing the limits of state power.

For a brief moment this was an overt theme for a number of news providers including The Independent newspaper and commercial radio's main news provider IRN. However, for reasons that are not clear, the script has changed over the weekend and the angle is less obvious now. In fact the script has literally been re-written without any explanation whatsoever in the case of The Independent.
Previously the link from the above tweet led to a news article with these astonishing paragraphs at the bottom:
Today, Steve White, of the Police Federation, said the problem was "unpoliceable" and more needed to be done by social media organisations.

He told BBC Breakfast: "The organisations that run these social media platforms probably need to take a long, hard look, they need to take some responsibility.

[...] social media sites need to think long and hard about being able to prevent it from happening in the first place.

"Crime has completely changed. Internet crime and e-crime, including the kind of trolling that we've seen this week, is hugely on the rise. Members of the public don't really understand what to do about it as well, so it goes unreported.

"We can't possibly deal with every single comment that someone doesn't like on these social media platforms, but I think the Government's got to take a long, hard look at resources and have got to understand that there is a changing face of crime in this country, and the police service needs to adapt to that and the resources need to be there to do it."[my emphasis] [1]
In an earlier post I warned of the inevitably sinister consequences of having a police force who intend to prevent crime rather than catch criminals.
The primary role of the police is to prevent crime, not catch criminals, the chief inspector of constabulary for England and Wales has said.

Tom Winsor said focusing on would-be offenders, likely victims and potential crime hotspots would save taxpayers' money and keep more people safe.

But "primitive" technology is limiting officers' ability to do that, he added.
Source BBC News.
The real question regarding this debate is why do MPs and campaigners all insist on missing this side of the story. It's illegal to make specific threats against people, it always has been. If someone were sending you threats in the post you'd be astonished if an MP contacted you with plans to justify intercepting everyone's mail to sort the problem, wouldn't you?

Nick Margerrison


UPDATED ON 10/09/14

Slightly updated it, couple of typos. Thanks for the comments point them out!


UPDATED ON 06/08/13:

I was totally thrown by the Independent amending their article and had difficulty finding the "unpolicable" quote when I first wrote this. I've given it a quick re-write and amended the excess focus on re-edited news stories.

Thanks to an eagle eyed reader who wished to remain anonymous, the "unpolicable" quote is to be found still here:

[1] If you follow the original twitter link it now leads to an article where the above quote has been censored and any mention of the internet being "unpolicable" expunged:
There's an old saying from my forum days, "the internet is written in ink". Fortunately for us there is a stored version of the article as it first appeared, on, where you will find the quote as it was:

If there is a problem with me pointing this out online I am unaware of what, in a legal sense, that might be. I would like to be able to tell my readers the full story and am confused by the lack of a retraction or explanation by the news source in question.

What's so great about free speech?

Imagine the world's various nations are like big boats floating along the ocean. The ship's captains demand total silence on deck, they concentrate on where they're going and its everyone else's job to support them by agreeing the current course is the only realistic choice.

Then one of the boat's captains invents a mad idea called "free speech" where people are allowed to criticise his choices. All the other captains are horrified, from their point of view this was a dangerous choice, it could result in mutiny.

Oddly, over time, a number of other ships try this "free speech" idea out. Why would any of them even entertain such an idea?

In short, it's because it took only a small period for boats with "free speech" to gain massive advantages over the others. They began to spot their mistakes and correct them. This led to a massive upsurge in scientific development enabling them to build things like factories where they produced guns, tanks, bombs and so forth. Their boats became bigger, better and, more importantly, were able to change direction so became very hard to predict.

After years of progressing in exactly the same direction year after year boats were suddenly starting to improve themselves.

Why should free speech walk hand in hand with scientific progress?

We'll keep it simple and explain using the story of the flat earth vs round earth theories.
In the past the captains all knew the earth was flat because it looked flat and the maps they used told them it was. So, the evidence of their own eyes, combined with knowledge which went back thousands of generations and had never failed them. It was obvious, the earth is flat and they were very skilled at navigating its edges.

On the other hand, if anyone took the heretical and obviously wrong idea that the earth was round seriously, everyone would die when they sailed over the edge. The thought itself needed to be supressed for the good of everyone and so anyone who spoke in that direction was killed as a heritic.

The only place you could survive if you considered this obviously wrong idea was on a ship which was trying out "free speech". Over time one of those ships started to get a little braver and sail closer to the supposed 'edge of the earth'. Debate onboard had reached fever pitch and many of the inhabitants had begun to accept the earth was in fact round. The eventual tactical advantages to this ship led them to "confirm" this truth: the world is round.

So far this piece is predictable. Lets now add a twist.

Imagine the first boat to discover the earth was round also suffered a major trauma, a world war with another ship which was convinced the world was flat. In the aftermath the idea of a flat earth became taboo, in the same way it had previously been to suggest the world was round. Being a "flatist" got associated with being against everything the people on the boat stood for, including "free speech". To be accused of advocating "flatism" became a terrible thing in itself and those who did were shunned and ignored.

Over time the captains of the ship realised such name calling was a great way to supress any possible rivals and would often accuse people of being a "flatist" simply to avoid a debate. They had not really enjoyed the "free speech" period and many of them were happy to have a way of shutting people up again.

Also, such debates were pointless because the captains all knew the earth is round and were very skilled in navigating its edges. They knew this because the maps they used went back generations and had not failed. If anyone took the heretical idea that the earth was flat seriously everyone would die so, the thought itself needed to be supressed, and for years anyone who dared speak in that direction had to be killed as a heritic.

The "free speech" idea of old got dropped and forgotten about by the captains. It was mainly trivialised into a debate about how rude a popular onboard comedian could be or whether or not it was ok to have the ship's stripper on deck during the day. Trivial matters were ok but anything serious had to be approved by the captain for everyone else's safety.

Flat earth theory was not discussed at all after that, no one dared. This protected it from criticism and ironically stored up the possible threat of it making a return as people who were not familiar with the debate announced to themselves how alike to a flat surfact the ocean was. This horrified many on the boat, it was proved how seductive a theory flatism was and justified it being legally supressed. Free speech was officially abolished onboard many of the boats, the stakes were far too high, the captains knew their directions nowadays anyway. What the ship's captains needed was total silence on deck so they could concentrate on where they were going. It was everyone else's job to support them by agreeing their current course was the only realistic choice.


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