Tag Archives: Culture

Tories try to use Russell Brand to cancel dissenting political views on social media

Big Brother: do you really want the government to censor what you can see on the social media – or anywhere else on the internet?

“There is a war for your attention. Don’t give it to the wrong people.”

Those aren’t my words and, to be honest, I’m paraphrasing. They weren’t even spoken about the Russell Brand affair, which – in This Writer’s opinion – adds veracity to them.

You’ll be aware – who isn’t? – that Russell Brand has been accused of sex crimes, and the mainstream media have subsequently decided – without trial – that he’s guilty.

Now we learn that the chairperson of the House of Commons’ Culture, Media and Sport committee, the Tory MP Dame Caroline Dinenage, has been writing to social media platforms, asking them to cut off any supply of funds to Brand.

To Dr Theo Bertram, TikTok’s Director of Government Relations, Europe, she wrote:

“While we recognise that TikTok is not the creator of the content published by Mr Brand, and his content may be within the community guidelines set out by the platform, we are concerned that he may be able to profit from his content on the platform.

“We would be grateful if you could confirm whether Mr Brand is able to monetise his TikTok posts, including his videos relating to the serious accusations against him, and what the platform is doing to ensure that creators are not able to use the platform to undermine the welfare of victims of inappropriate and potentially illegal behaviour.”

Here’s a copy of the letter, along with a response from ‘Viva Frei’ on ‘X’. Do you think the respondent makes good points?

“Acquire total control over dissenting voices on the internet”?

As one of those voices, This Writer might want to have a say about that!

To Chris Pavlovski, chief executive of Brand’s main platform, Rumble, the Culture, Media and Sport committee chair wrote:

“We would like to know whether Rumble intends to join YouTube in suspending Mr Brand’s ability to earn money on the platform.”

Mr Pavlovski’s response was not limited to MPs, though. Outraged, he has made it public. Reading it, you may agree with his points:

“Today we received an extremely disturbing letter from a committee chair in the UK Parliament.

“YouTube announced that, based solely on these media accusations, it was barring Mr Brand from monetizing his video content. Rumble stands for very different values. We have devoted ourselves to the vital cause of defending a free internet – meaning an internet where no one arbitrarily decides which ideas can or cannot be heard, or which citizens may or may not be entitled to a platform.

“We regard it as deeply inappropriate and dangerous that the UK Parliament would attempt to control who is allowed to speak on our platform or to earn a living from doing so. Singling out an individual and demanding his ban is even more disturbing given the absence of any connection between the allegations and his content on Rumble. We don’t agree with the behaviour of many Rumble creators, but we refuse to penalize them for actions that have nothing to do with our platform.

“Although it may be politically and socially easier for Rumble to join a cancel culture mob, doing so would be a violation of our company’s values and mission. We emphatically reject the UK Parliament’s demands.”

Here’s the response, plus the letter from the CMS committee:

As I mention above, This Site is one of the “dissenting voices” on the internet over which it seems the UK’s Tory government is trying to gain control – and by “control”, I think we all know I’m referring to censorship; restricting or blotting out altogether the ability of members of the general public to see content that I post to the social media.

I’m concerned that this censorship is already taking place.

Vox Political began at the very end of 2011, with just 11 readers on its first day. By March 2020, in a single day, the site was read 178,888 times. And then – with no change in content, or the way it was supplied – readership started slipping off. Yesterday (September 24), I had around 1,700 hits.

You may want to suggest that the mood of the public has changed and people don’t want to plough through hundreds of words on a screen any more.

But that doesn’t explain the multiplicity of responses, whenever I ask Facebook who has seen my links to articles published on any particular day, saying they haven’t. Many respond by saying my query is the first post they’ve seen in weeks or months.

It seems to me that Facebook (and possibly Twitter/X) have already implemented policies to restrict or silence the voices of people whose political beliefs differ from… someone.

Is it Facebook/X executives censoring their platforms, or the Tory government?

And should they not publish notices warning us that their platforms are politically biased, if this is what they are doing?

The big question, of course, is: how can we get an honest answer out of any of these people?


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BBC Chairman said he did not help arrange a loan for Boris Johnson. Do you believe him?

Corruption? Richard Sharp (left) and Boris Johnson.

I can’t say I do.

Richard Sharp appeared before the Commons’ Digital, Culture, Media and Sport committee to explain his involvement in the arrangement of an alleged £800,000 loan for then-prime minister Boris Johnson, right before Johnson appointed him Chairman of the BBC.

According to the BBC News report,

BBC chairman Richard Sharp has denied that he helped arrange a loan for Boris Johnson when he was prime minister.

But the same report states that

Mr Sharp confirmed he had introduced his friend Sam Blyth to Cabinet Secretary Simon Case in late 2020, which was shortly before his appointment at the BBC.

Mr Sharp has previously said Mr Blyth had told him he wanted to provide financial assistance to Mr Johnson after reading about the then-PM’s money troubles in the media.

On Tuesday, Mr Sharp agreed with acting committee chairman Damian Green that he had “acted as a sort of introduction agency” between Mr Blyth and Mr Case.

It’s all a bit murky as to why this was necessary. Sam Blyth is said to be Boris Johnson’s cousin and well-known to him; the claim seems to be that Mr Sharp stepped in to provide a buffer between the two family members in order to bring Mr Blyth to the attention of civil servants.

Mr Sharp also said

“I did not provide and have not provided the former prime minister personal financial advice. I know nothing about his [financial] affairs, I never have done. I didn’t facilitate a loan.”

Really?

If he knew nothing about Johnson’s financial affairs, how did he know Johnson needed a loan?

Nobody seems convinced by all this mummery:

And then there is the fact that this happened while Mr Sharp was applying for the job of BBC Chairman. This has also attracted round criticism:

His evidence suggested that he did realise there would be a perceived conflict of interest; that’s why he said he told both Simon Case and Mr Blyth that he had to step back, after introducing them. But still…

John Nicolson, the SNP MP who hotly grilled Mr Sharp at the committee meeting, had this to say:

In the meeting itself, he went a little further:

“It leaves the impression so much of this is deeply ‘Establishment’; it’s pals appointing pals, donating money to pals.

“It rather leaves the impression that it is all a bit… ‘banana republic’ and cosy.”

Yes it does.

Here’s a video clip of the full confrontation between Mr Nicolson and Mr Sharp:

BBC staff are said to be furious about the shame Mr Sharp has brought down on the organisation.

So here’s the question:

Should he remain as BBC Chair or should he quit?


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Nadine Dorries appoints new charity regulator – the wrong way

Nadine Dorries: wrong again.

If you heard a job had become available because a candidate had failed, went for it, and then found you weren’t considered because the bosses couldn’t be bothered to do it all again, wouldn’t you be upset?

If so, you can understand why the House of Commons Culture committee refused to endorse Nadine Dorries’s decision to make Orlando Fraser the new chair of the Charity Commission.

Mr Fraser was only appointed because Dorries’s original choice – Martin Thomas, who was reported to be a long-time friend of Boris Johnson – resigned after just a week in the job over allegations of inappropriate behaviour in a previous post.

She simply went back to her shortlist and appointed the candidate who was next on the list – to the disgust of the Culture committee:

Withholding its approval for Mr Fraser’s appointment, the cross-party Culture Committee said in its report that Ms Dorries should have initiated an entirely new selection process at that point, rather than picking another candidate from the existing shortlist.

The “slapdash” failure to rerun the process raised “serious concerns” about the selection process and the lack of diversity in the shortlist, the committee said.

The controversy has cast a shadow over Mr Fraser’s tenure, before he even started in the job.

No matter what he does now, he will always be considered a second-best choice who only get the role because a government minister couldn’t be bothered to do her job properly.

Source: Nadine Dorries appoints new charity regulator in face of objections from parliamentary committee

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Survey shows there IS a culture of bullying in Priti Patel’s Home Office

The bully: and it seems Priti Patel is presiding over a culture of bullying in the Home Office.

It’s official, then: Priti Patel presides over a culture of bullying and intimidation at the Home Office.

The issue came to public attention when Sir Philip Rutnam resigned as Permanent Secretary for the HO, saying he would be taking Ms Patel to court for constructive dismissal.

He said there had been a “vicious and orchestrated” plot against him, and that he was offered a bribe to stop him from launching court action, in what we must conclude was an attempt to keep it from becoming a matter of public knowledge.

Now we find that the former Permanent Secretary’s situation was not a unique, solitary aberration; a survey of Home Office employees shows that thousands of them have suffered similarly:

The Home Office people survey… results show 16% of respondents claimed they had been discriminated against at work in the past 12 months, roughly equating to 3,375 individuals.

And 14% said they had been bullied or harassed at work in the same period, roughly equal to 2,950 employees.

Of those who claimed they had been bullied, 1,444 said the nature of bullying was “negative micromanagement eg excessive control; made to feel incompetent”, while 1,242 respondents said they had been “humiliated in front of team or others”.

This is the accusation that was levelled against Ms Patel, of course.

The rot comes from the top; Ms Patel presides over a culture of intimidation – and in the meantime she has been falsely assuming credit for measures to restrict the spread of coronavirus.

She has to go.

Source: Survey of thousands of Home Office staff revives bullying row | Home Office | The Guardian

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Second reshuffle in a day for May as she makes Hunt the Unhealthy her new foreign secretary

“Now, see here, Jeremy – you’re the new Foreign Secretary and you’d better get used to it!””Yes ma’am! I live to serve, ma’am!”

If this motley crew is the best Theresa May can dredge up to form the latest version of her government, she should throw in the towel now.

Jeremy Hunt – a pathetic, chinless yes-man who, through a mixture of malice and incompetence, has managed to ruin the National Health Service – becomes Foreign Secretary. It is a gift that has been tarnished by the fact that Theresa May reportedly offered it to David Davis in a vain attempt to persuade him not to resign from her government last night – and then tried to lie about it, saying she offered him Andrea Leadsom’s job as Leader of the House of Commons instead.

Matt Hancock – another toadie whose most recent scandal involved the launch of an app in his name which collected contact details, photos and videos, check-ins, and other digital content, even when users had denied permission for it to do so – is the new Health Secretary. How many scandals have there been about Tory health secretaries trying to collect and sell off patients’ information to private companies for unknown purposes?

Jeremy Wright becomes Culture Secretary after making such a huge impression as Attorney General that people think the role is still held by Dominic Grieve.

I had to look up Geoffrey Cox, the new Attorney General, on Wikipedia. It seems he is a barrister, so that’s something. Beyond that, he is notable only for having been involved in an alleged tax avoidance scheme. And now he’s our top lawyer? Hmm!

What a shambles. In fact, that’s what the new government should be dubbed: “Theresa May’s Brexit Shambles.”

Jeremy Hunt was named as foreign secretary to replace Boris Johnson on Monday night, one of three men who supported remain during the referendum campaign who were promoted in an evening reshuffle.

The health secretary was called to Downing Street to be offered the job by Theresa May after a tumultuous day of resignations in response to her soft Brexit plans.

Matt Hancock, the culture secretary, was appointed as Hunt’s successor at health, while Jeremy Wright, the attorney general, is to become culture secretary.

The Tory MP Geoffrey Cox was later named as the new attorney general.

Source: Jeremy Hunt appointed to replace Boris Johnson as foreign secretary | Politics | The Guardian

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Even during the Tory conference, Labour is stealing the limelight

Culture of secrecy: Theresa May.

Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott has published an article on the PoliticsHome website, showing how Labour would reverse the “culture of secrecy” created in the Home Office by the Tories.

And who, exactly, has been in charge of the Home Office for most of the seven long years we’ve had a Conservative-led government?

Who is responsible for the

Leaked documents, misconceived policies, suppressed reports, judicial condemnations, false statistics and ‘accidental’ deportations

mentioned by Ms Abbott?

Why, that would be the current prime minister, Theresa May.

Grenfell survivors are still living with the threat of deportation, deaths in police custody continue, police stations are being closed and the fire service continues to be run down.

The Home Office is the government department primarily responsible for the safety and security of our citizens. Yet under the Tory government, the failure to exercise this duty is exposed across all fronts.

Each of these failings must be addressed thoroughly and urgently. But they also appear to be symptomatic of a deeper malaise, which must be rooted out to prevent a recurrence of this chaos.

This malaise would be the culture of secrecy, which Ms Abbott asserts is the product of Tory ministers – like Mrs May – attempting to “escape all scrutiny and accountability”.

She writes:

This culture of secrecy infects all other areas. So, reports into deaths in police custody, on the international funding of terrorism which may aggravate the Saudi royal family, into the effects of racism and on the impact of international students are all suppressed.

Labour in government will end this chaos. We will not set arbitrary and unworkable immigration targets. We recognise the invaluable contribution that migrants make to our society, to all areas of our public and social life, and to our economy. We will introduce a new immigration system to reflect those very different values.

We will end the targeted harassment of EU and non-EU nationals alike and begin to treat them both fairly. We will also uphold the right to a family life, in contrast to current rules and practice, which denies UK citizens the right to reunite their families if they happen to be married to a non-UK citizen.

We are committed to begin reversing cuts made by the Tories in police numbers, in the fire service and in the Border Force personnel. We will also review the priorities of the security services to ensure the greatest possible resources are devoted to combatting terrorism here.

Finally, we will establish a new Home Office-led agency to coordinate the response to tragedies like Grenfell, and impose solutions on recalcitrant bodies where necessary.

This government’s priority is the scapegoating of others for their own failings. Labour’s priority is the security and wellbeing of the entire population.

That seems better than anything so far declared at the Tory conference!

Source: Diane Abbott: A culture of secrecy infects all areas of this government | PoliticsHome.com


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Poor? Want to be an actor, artist, or work in culture? Forget it.

[Image: Getty Images.]

Careers in the arts and culture are perks for the rich from now on – as Christopher Eccleston warned, not so long ago.

The arts industry is suffering from a “class-shaped hole”, a Labour Party inquiry says.

The Acting Up report suggests the high audition costs for drama school is one of several factors deterring people from working class backgrounds from entering the arts.

It also recommends more school trips to the theatre to encourage young pupils.

The government said it was a “priority” to ensure everyone can take part in the arts and culture, including in schools.

Source: Arts suffering from ‘class-shaped hole’, Labour inquiry finds – BBC News


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New chair of parliamentary committee overseeing UK press in the pay of Rupert Murdoch? | Pride’s Purge

161107-media-commitee-membership
Clearly IPSA hasn’t noticed. Or maybe it has…

It must be great working in the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, making up excuses to allow MPs to do all the things they’re not supposed to.

All with absolutely no accountability at all.

The new chair of the parliamentary Culture, Media and Sport Committee is Conservative MP for Folkestone and Hythe Damian Collins.

Damian’s job will be to make sure the committee continues its crucial work of calling to account and overseeing the UK press and media in a rigorous and completely unbiased way.

I’m sure Damian will be completely unhindered in this task by the fact his publisher is Harper Collins – and this year he has received thousands of pounds in advance fees from the publisher for a mysterious new book he hasn’t yet written.

That would be the Harper Collins owned by Rupert Murdoch.

So no conflict of interest there then …

Source: New chair of parliamentary committee overseeing UK press in the pay of Rupert Murdoch? | Pride’s Purge

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Challenged to defend their record of persecution against the disabled, Tories have nothing to say

Debbie Abrahams in the House of Commons.

Debbie Abrahams in the House of Commons.

How pleasant to hear this said in a Parliamentary debate, with not a single word of denial from the Conservative Government:

“Last week there was an amazing sequence of events. On Monday, the Secretary of State told me that he could not publish … data because they were not kept, and told me to stop scaremongering; on Wednesday, the Prime Minister said that they would be published; and this was swiftly followed by the Government saying that they were appealing against the Information Commissioner’s ruling, stating that publishing these data would lead to ‘probable misinterpretations’ and ‘was too emotive…and wasn’t in the public interest’. What an absolute shambles!”

This was part of the speech by Debbie Abrahams, Labour MP for Oldham East and Saddleworth, in a debate on ‘welfare reform and people with disabilities’, called by her to set the scene for any measures against the disabled that George Osborne is considering for his July budget. As the Government prepares to cut £12 billion from the annual social security budget next week, there are real concerns that – in addition to potentially slashing tax credits for the working poor – they will cut further support for working-age people with disabilities.

She was referring, of course, to the government’s increasingly confused response to This Writer’s request for an honest answer to the question, ‘How many people have died while claiming Employment and Support Allowance between November 2011 and May 2014 (the date of my request)?” But wait! She continued:

“I could not disagree more. This is definitely in the public interest. As a former public health academic, I am more than aware of the strict criteria for establishing causality, but there are no grounds for not publishing numbers of actual deaths as well as the Government-proposed standardised mortality ratios, including those who died within six weeks of being found fit for work. Will the Minister now confirm when these data will be published?

Dear reader, it falls to This Writer to report that not one word came back from the Government benches – not even when the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Justin Tomlinson (who?) got onto his hind legs to give the Government’s response to the debate.

You can sign the petition demanding that the Government end its appeal against the order to publish the statistics, and provide the figures to the public, on the Change.org website.

She also asked when the Government will publish redacted information on the circumstances of the deaths of claimants who died while sanctioned, and what changes the DWP instigated in the light of reviews of these deaths – and whether the significant surge in suicide rates for both men and women since 2010— particularly for working-age men—is being analysed by the DWP. No response.

The Government doesn’t have anything to say to the sick, disabled or vulnerable, and even less to say about them.

Ms Abrahams began her speech by pointing out, “It is poignant that this debate falls on the very day that the Independent Living Fund closes. A further £1.2 billion is being cut from support for people with disabilities. Such cuts were a hallmark of the Tory-led coalition, and many are concerned that not only will this increase but the cuts will get worse under this Government.

“I … want to draw attention to the punitive and dehumanising culture that has been part of the delivery of these welfare reforms, which set the tone for the leadership within the Department for Work and Pensions and the Government’s wider tone on social security.”

Here’s a quick precis of the facts: She said that, by 2018, £23.8 billion of support would have been taken from 3.7 million people with disabilities, according to Demos. The measures include:

  • Indexation of social security payments was changed from the higher retail prices index to the lower consumer prices index
  • There was also a 1% cap on the uprating of certain working-age benefits.
  • People on incapacity benefit were reassessed.
  • The time that disabled people in the work-related activity group are able to receive the employment and support allowance was limited.
  • Disabled people in receipt of disability living allowance are being reassessed to determine whether they are eligible for the personal independence payment.
  • Disability benefits are approximately 15% of average earnings. With the recent changes—the 1% uprating and the indexation to the consumer prices index—they will fall even further below those in Austria, Belgium, Croatia, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Hungary, Iceland, Luxembourg, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Serbia, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland.
  • People with disabilities are twice as likely to live in persistent poverty as non-disabled people: 80% of disability-related poverty is caused by extra costs. This has implications for disabled people’s families – a third of all families living in poverty include one disabled family member.
  • Since the Government’s new sanctions regime, the rate of sanctioning of people on IB and ESA has doubled.

She said part of the Government’s strategy has been the “invidious” spreading of a culture of blame and fear.

“In the 1980s we saw the unions being targeted; today the focus is on the poor and the vulnerable.

“The narrative associated with the so-called welfare reforms has been one of divide and rule, deliberately attempting to vilify people who receive social security as the new undeserving poor.

“The Government have spread a culture of pejorative language, such as “shirkers” and “scroungers”. They have intentionally attempted to demonise social security recipients, including disabled people.

“The innuendo that people with a disability or illness might be faking it or are feckless is, quite frankly, grotesque… Unfortunately, the regular misuse of statistics is another way that the Government are trying to harden the public’s attitude.

“The facts are that, in an ageing population, the largest proportion of social security recipients are pensioners and not, as is often implied, the workshy.”

The whole debate can be found here.

Additional: It has been pointed out to me that Mr Tomlinson stated: “We will be publishing them [sic] the mortality stats—I know the hon. Lady is keen to see them soon; we would all like to see them as soon as possible.” Since he did not define the form those statistics would take, nor did he provide a firm date on which they would be published, it seems clear that what he did say was as near to nothing as makes no odds.

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UKIP and their idea of culture – Guy Debord’s Cat

"Policies for brain-dead people. But a UKIP government? Isn't that wishful thinking?" Words and image by Guy Debord's Cat.

“Policies for brain-dead people. But a UKIP government? Isn’t that wishful thinking?” Words and image by Guy Debord’s Cat.

I’ve just returned home to find this UKIP election leaflet on my door mat, writes the author of Guy Debord’s Cat.

My eyes were drawn to the section marked “culture” and nowhere does it mention the word ‘art’. Instead, we are treated to a list of things, which have little or no relevance to culture.

At the top of the list is this predictable pronouncement:

UKIP recognises and values an overarching, unifying British culture, which is open and inclusive to anyone who wishes to identify with Britain and British values, regardless of their ethnic or religious background.

Two questions – and these are questions that I’ve posed to white nationalists when they bleat about “British culture”: what is British culture and what are British values? Readers, I have to tell you that I have yet to receive an answer. All I get for my trouble is personal abuse and paranoid assertions about how this country is being “contaminated” with “foreign cultures”. There is no such thing as “British culture”and  as for “British values” one could argue that this includes bullying, an obsession with property ownership and institutionalized child sexual abuse. But we don’t like talking about those things, do we?

And that’s just the start of the article! For more illumination of UKIP, visit the original piece on Guy Debord’s Cat.

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