Career Criminal

Alan Johnson's final judgement on Gary McKinnon's extradition, which he announced last week, is the last word of an unsaid sentence that started sometime in 2002. The first word was George W Bush's claim that he wasn't concerned about tracking down Osama Bin Laden, while letting the US military start their ruthless hounding of a vulnerable, shy computer geek. Gordon Brown's weekend announcement on Pakistan's inability to catch Bin Laden is the full-stop to this unsaid sentence. In a nutshell, the UK and US have given up the moral compass of catching the real terrorists in the world. It's just too darned difficult. They are instead labelling easy prey as the target or telling other people that they're not doing enough to fight the amorphous malleable concept they nicknamed the War On Terror. The British government mindset of being unable to fight an abstract concept has also been extended to the internet in general - if you can't control what goes on there and you can't deal with all those cunning cyber-criminals, then just make everyone online a suspect and go after people you know you can catch. In the United Kingdom, the logical outcome of this mindset became Lord Mandelson's Digital Economy Bill.

The UK and US governments should take a page from mogeneration's book. Last week, the iPhone product got the Rickrolling treatment by Ashley Towns, so an Australian company gave the enterprising young hacker a job. As The Guardian helpfully point out, Ashley Towns's iPhone worm is similar to a lot of viruses in that they are examples of proof-of-concept code going down a blind alley. I should know - I've created malware three times and all were an accidental side-effect of a proof-of-concept design. Aside from the different (non-malicous) motivations behind the hacking behaviour of Ashley Towns and Gary McKinnon, the end-result remained the same; a cheeky online rude message telling the boss-in-charge that he should really sort his crap security out. Yes, I realise that comparing the consequences of hacking a US military network against an iPhone network is disingenuous - all I mean is that both hackers essentially did the organisations a service before the real criminals or terrorists did something similar, but with a nastier conclusion.

From a personal viewpoint, I'd already advanced the real possibility in an earlier blog article that my career as a web developer automatically put me in the same category as Gary McKinnon. When I wrote that blog article, I had little idea that Lord Mandelson would be putting his signature to the Digital Economy Bill a few months later. In combination with the Extradition Act, it's a toxic mix for any web developer's career path. Bear in mind that when a simple web page is accessed, a request for that page is routed through a number of servers, many of which will be located in the States. It's almost inevitable that you'll come across the Stars and Stripes when trying to patch and fix web insecurities. The UK/US Extradition treaty frightens the life out of me as a result. Remind me never to do any anonymous unsecure servers any quick favours. In fact, when Shami Chakrabarti appeared on yesterday's Andrew Marr Show with Janis Sharp (Gary McKinnon's mother), she went further by saying any British citizen sitting at a networked computer could be under threat. In addition, being part of a community of Linux web programmers means I have to use filesharing and P2P networking on a daily basis for the maintenance of open source code. Mandelson's Bill targets all filesharers, via their Internet Service Providers (ISPs), and their internet connection can be cut if illegal filesharing is suspected in a crude "3 strikes" rule. This is before any legal or civil action is taken. So, theoretically, if Mandelson's Bill is passed, I'll be a criminal suspect every day of my life. That's the thanks I get for a job well done.

On the subject of doing a good job, I had an idea of starting up a green energy internet server company, which I've since had to junk. I didn't junk the idea because of bureaucratic red tape or being stung by IR35 in the past. It was the risk of being perceived as a homegrown or overseas criminal (rather than a budding entrepeneur) if I go through with that enterprise. Why? Well, I'd end up having to do large file transfers for such an operation, so I'd instantly be a suspect by my ISP under Mandelson's Bill. Plus, if I host third-party content on a server which, by some obscure twist of fate, offends some sensibility in American Law, I could end up being extradited to the USA. This is what has already happened to Brian Howes and his wife, Kerry. Unlike Mr McKinnon's rather silly felony, Brian has not even committed a crime. He sold some chemicals from his company in Scotland. A group of drug-dealers in the USA decided to make crystal meth out of those chemicals that they'd ordered online from Mr Howe's company website. What was the US authorities response? Well, let's just grab the dude from the UK - we're not sure he's guilty, but he's easier to catch than those pesky light-footed drug-dealers. Essentially, Mr and Mrs Howes are being dragged across the Atlantic away from their home, leaving behind four children, to try and prove their innocence. Yet again, that's someone fighting a "guilty until proven innocent" verdict. The US authorities have provided no evidence. They don't need to under the Extradition Act.

So, it's not just severe punishment for relatively minor crimes. It's about punishment being administered before a suspected crime is even shown to exist. Cyber-criminals shrug their shoulders and carry on doing what they're doing. After all, if they're clever enough, there's so many ways they can carry on filesharing or hacking and, even better, they can actually use Mandelson's Bill to scapegoat people (IP address spoofing anyone?), while they make good their escape. Historically, the British political establishment has always had an uneasy relationship with the technology community. The political authorites have always been innately suspicious of gadgets and have always had a deep suspicion of the internet. It gives too many "little people" a voice and access to resources that the privileged classes don't think they should have. This lack of support or even interest in the digital economy means that the UK government have aligned themselves with an anologue economy. That's the reason for the profound mistakes being made in digital law. It's an attempt to force one industry's laws into another industry that won't fit. Coupled with the moral failure of the War on Terror, it means that the real terrorists are well-equipped to be completely hidden behind rows upon rows of baffled, innocent civilian computer users. Some of those technically-gifted civilians, like Gary MacKinnon, could easily help government authorities track down real cyber-terrorism. Instead of Mr MacKinnon being treated like a vicious terrorist himself, they could look to the example set by Australia, when an Aussie company asked Ashley Towns to close a security hole and help protect them.

The Bad Sex Lieutenant

With mounting incredulity, I've realised that Nick Cave had been shortlisted for an award. An award he should not be nominated for. Okay, I'll play my hand. I'm a massive Bad Seeds fan and think that Mr Cave is a great Renaissance name for these bleak and troubled times. So, surely, I should be happy that he's possibly going to win some sort of fantastic trophy? The man already has a mantelpiece groaning under the sheer weight of fantastic concrete embodiments of backslapping, so what will one more achieve?

Well, it's for the Literary Award for Bad Sex, ain't it? Ah, says you, so you're being prissy over a hero of yours being villified. Well, no actually. I realise that his album "The Boatman's Call" was no more than a whiny example of emotional pornography over (admittedly rather lovely) tinkly music. Also, for someone who can turn his hand to (ok, get ready for this) music, soundtracks, novels, film scripts, poetry, festival curating, acting, photography, artwork and peerless duets, I can only expect that the man might stretch himself too thin and, with feet of clay, occasionally trip over.

Having said that, the offending sentence that has been shortlisted for the Bad Sex award is this one.

"Bunny lies on his back on the sofa. He is naked and his clothes sit in sad, little heaps on the living room floor. "

Neither spectacularly bad or, for an erudite and talented musician/novelist, spectacularly good either. However, it does the trick. It gets a message across to the reader quickly. It's certainly not along the plummeting depths of a Dan Brown "novel", memorably satirised by Stewart Lee. It's certainly nowhere near as bad as some of the other 2009 entries for the Bad Sex award either.

Also, if Mr Cave wins this award, he'll be in the same Trivial Pursuit question-and-answer set as Alan Titchmarsh. Ah, says you (again!), so you're being prissy that your highbrow liberal pretensions are being skewed by a concrete embodiment of Middle England, then? Actually, wrong again. I actually rather love the idea of Mr Titchmarsh. There he is, presenting the Chelsea Flower Roadshow, comfortable in the knowledge that he's a Snaily Fail favourite and content to occasionally fuck over that cozy image by churning out the odd bonkbuster. With friendly wink and smile to BBC camera to match, natch. However, check the passage (oo-er) that he was nominated for in the Bad Sex Award and tell me it's nowhere near the sappy screwy written entry by Mr Cave.

"She planted moist, hot kisses all over his body. Beads of sweat began to appear on Guy's forehead as he became more entangled in the lissom limbs of this human boa constrictor. For fully 15 minutes their mutual passion heightened, with groans, sighs and liquid noises."

I know I normally finish off every blog entry with a flourish and a winning argument. However, in this case, just compare and contrast the passages of the two authors (fnar), decide which is worse by using something called your eyesight, before concluding the possibility that Nick Cave should be nominated with a "FUCK THAT!".

Nasty Nick

In about a couple of hours, I'll be watching Nick Griffin on BBC1's "Question Time". I apologise unreservedly in advance for what I'm about to do. This is particularly an apology to anyone who'll be sharing a room with me as I watch the telly. The apology also extends to the interactive online community that bizarrely (but sweetly) read my ambling random thoughts on Twitter, as well as on this blog. I tend to get rather animated when I watch politicians on telly. This metamorphosis tends to change into shouting abuse, throwing objects of various size and the odd tweet on Twitter/text message for those moments that really frustrate me. However, I realise this may reach a whole new level when the leader of the British National Party takes centre-stage tonight. For three reasons really.

The first reason is, as well as being politically-minded, I'm half-white. Or "mixed race", as it is usually termed. If you really want to delve into the ethnic melting pot that is my blood, then I try and explain it (and my thoughts on it) a bit better on "If I'm mixed race, how come I dance like a white guy?" blog post. Suffice to say, I'm a bit miffed that my Northern English white Dad can conceivably join a racist organisation in the United Kingdom and I can't. I mean, just because I'm not as Caucasian as my old fella, I can be just as racist as him. In fact, I could probably be more racist than him for precisely that reason. As the comedian Chris Rock himself puts it, black people are more racist than whites, because there's actually two groups of people they hate; there's white people and then there are niggaz.

Secondly, due to the wonders of Facebook, I ended up getting in contact with a whole load of friends from school, one of whom is now a BNP supporter. Now, admittedly, he'd started off rather right-wing in the first place, but that's taking it a bit too far. Plus, more to the point, I wasn't certain why he was a BNP supporter, as he was actually one of my good friends at school. One of his other close friends was a fairly devout Asian Muslim bloke. This didn't compute, yet he seemed to have no issues in befriending either this Muslim bloke or myself, despite knowing the extreme views of his adopted party. As it happens, he's no longer my friend anymore. Funnily enough, it wasn't him voting BNP or any of his other repugnant views that had me breaking off the friendship. It was a series of rather homophobic* comments he made that killed the friendship off (funny how all these characteristics cluster together, ain't it?). But, to cut a long story short, I find anyone holding racist or anti-immigration views fascinating. I did a Psychology degree and find it eerily compelling that a person would have a hang-up with someone because of a slightly different skin pigment. Anyone that hasn't seen Shane Meadows' movie "This Is England" should go and watch it tomorrow. It shows confused, white working-class men that smoke the odd marijuana joint with Black friends, but who end up supporting the BNP. The film should be made compulsory at schools, quite frankly, as it shows how confused angry young men can end up walking down a skewed road.

Thirdly, I'm a libertarian and oppose censorship in any form. There's a number of fellow lefties that I know who are up-in-arms that the BNP are appearing on a television programme. A lot of these same fellow lefties were also calling for Jan Moir to be banned. For those living on the planet Mars recently, Jan Moir was the fat-faced, ugly bitch that decided to kick the barely-warm corpse of Steven Gateley with a series of ill-timed fuckwitted remarks of homophobic nonsense. However, I would fight like the Devil that she should be allowed to write such a badly-composed piece of piss in a crappy newspaper. In such an environment, it allows me to call her a fat-faced, ugly, homophobic bitch and for 250,000 complaints to be flung furiously at the toothless Press Complaints Commission (PCC). I feel better as a result of my liberal outrage, as do 250,000 other people. In such a democracy, it means that Jan Moir could be sacked and instead end up writing her foul fuggery on some obscure blog somewhere. But again, she shouldn't be gagged at writing her foul fuggery on an obscure blog somewhere. I'm certainly not gagged from writing my own brand of foul fuggery on an obscure blog somewhere. Anyway, back to the BNP. Nick Griffin can obfuscate all he wants on "Question Time" and so he should be allowed to. He should be allowed to obfuscate at length and preferably to be made as silly-looking as possible. I have every confidence that David Dimbleby will help him along, as he's done it before with a huge amount of success. Nick Griffin also made an idiot of himself two nights ago on Channel 4 News when he was interviewed by Jon Snow. Griffin was stuttering and stammering all over the place. It's not even as if Krishnan Guru-Murphy was interviewing him either, so he didn't have the excuse of being confused by a different skin pigment dazzling his wonky eyes.

In conclusion then? By tomorrow morning, you'll all be bewildered at the large audit trail of mocking and increasingly angry tweets (marked #bbcqt) that'll start at about 10.35pm tonight, while those sharing a lounge with me will have to put up with my choking laughter and baffled squeals, as I bark barely-concealed spite at the glowing box in the room's corner. Mockery is what I do best. It's what I used at school to fluster bullies and to baffle that BNP-supporting colleague. It should be added that I applied unsuccessfully to be in the audience for "Question Time" tonight, so my feeling of frustration is quite palpable. However, I hope you can all put up with my online ramblings this late eve. To those who get caught in the online crossfire, I sincerely and pre-emptively apologise.

*As part of this evening, I'm ready to hit any of Griffin's vulnerable spots, including his denial of a past gay relationship. If anything I say or tweet this evening looks like a homophobic comment, it isn't. It will, however, be extremely Griffinophobic.

Update: 23/10/2009

I made a video to go along with this blog entry!

Oh, Just Grow Up! Arrested Development And Republicans.

Sometimes, even the most liberal parent has to give a misbehaving child a smack, despite their squeamish dislike of such punishment. Which is why the Democrats should treat the conservative far-right like a petulant 6-year-old. Like children jumping up and down, red-faced and plump, the Republican right are annoyed that their toys and massive bag of chocolate coins are to be shared around the other less fortunate kids. But like children, they're using facile falsehoods to try and get rid of that horrible new sensible parent who just won't give and give and give, like that last slightly stupid Uncle did. "Look at that Stephen Hawking!" they squeal, "he'd be dead if he was in that horrible socialist United Kingdom and in that grimy hospital they call the NHS! We want shiny hospitals just for us, fuck the rest of those stupid kids". You can lie and lie till you're blue in the face, fat spoiled brats, it's not going to change the world just by you fibbing repeatedly. "He's not our real parent anyway - he's not even American. Look, see. He's Black. And his birth certificate proves he's not a Yank. We need a real American, like that Terminator-dude, to be in charge". We've been here before. We let the brats scream and bawl the last time a sensible parent tried to run the States. We heard them moan about non-existent conspiracies involving sneaky property deals and ridiculous romantic affairs. When the spoilt ringleader, Kenneth Starr, found that some random lady had sucked the surrogate parent's willy in the Oval Office, they jumped up and down in delight and argued that this just proved all the other fairy stories correct. And by doing so, they finally got what they wanted - they got a stupid Uncle adopting them, who would just let them run around remorselessly with impunity.

If you think I'm taking the American far-right as regressive minors parallel a touch too far, then think again. I can go all the way to the beginning of Piaget (and subsequent neo-Piagetian texts) to show that arrested development is responsible for a majority of this behaviour. Seriously, if you have the time, read the summary of Piagetian stages of child development. Even if there's debate as to when those stages occur, they're generally followed as a model for children growing up.  Whether it be the lack of perspective, empathy, abstract thought or recognition of reciprocal altruism, the American far-right might as well be spoilt kids. After the last time in the 1990s, of spending eight solid years in total self-delusion and denying Clinton was in the Whitehouse, they're now doing it again from the moment President Obama Hussein took power. This time, the only way to deal with the Republican brats is to actually treat them like children, because we saw what happened when Starr and his bunch of jockey pals chased Clinton all over the schoolyard. Fast-forward a few years and they're desperately trying to claw back being King of the Castle. Sarah Palin is behaving like a spoilt little princess from drama school, going on about healthcare plans being "evil", as well as claiming that the British NHS has "death panels". Meanwhile, the source of that embryo death panel idea, Betsy McCaughey, sat at The Daily Show desk, like a child showing her badly written homework, with Jon Stewart acting as the responsible adult trying to point out that certain words didn't exist in the proposed healthcare legislation. Most notably the words "mandatory" or "euthanasia".

During the last election campaign, John McCain had to apologise on many an occasion at the pack of feral fibbers behind him and notably was the only Republican who did try to behave like an adult. This was the reason why he had to be the only Republican presidential candidate, because the previous eight years of the U.S. had been governed by an occasionally Pretzel-choking teenage brain permanently hooked into the baseball coverage. If the conservative right are bereft of arguments and ideas, why not just be truthful instead of lying? "We don't like Obama's healthcare plan, because we have shares in Medicare and will lose money, plus we don't want to pay our taxes toward poor people" would actually go down a lot better with the right-wing electorate than making up stuff. Except maybe not. These conservatives are all at various early stages of arrested development and probably actually believe in death panels.On top of that, if all those shockingly barely-racist remarks that some leading Republican thinkers are choosing to come out with are perceived as allowable, then the most troglodyte-like followers are going to be led to do something stupid. The best example being Glenn Beck's hick town school jock act, which has finally bitten him back. Advertisers (including even Walmart) wanted nothing to do with a show where the main protagonist accused Obama of being racist against white people. Again, another childish lie. An egocentric passive-aggressive lie. He only learned his lesson in the way that all teenagers learn their lesson. By being punished and having his toys confiscated and told to do his homework, Glenn was effectively told to go to his room and not come back until he'd finished (he's on "forced vacation" at the moment). But then Glenn always struck me as the guy stuck in a regressed frat boy stage, wondering why the kids that he used to bully at school were suddenly earnestly engaging in adult debate and (currently) now running the country.

But as many media commentators have pointed out, it's not just the fact that the far-right Republican movement make up lies. It's that they're really bad lies. Rather like children saying things off-the-cuff, it's the sheer infantile nature of the fibs. They even behave like juveniles when they're caught and remonstrated. A figure of speech employed by extreme right-wingers is fears of a "Nanny state" or "big government". These words are spoken truly as the children who can't stand what sensible parents might say. I always remember one media commentator saying that the the George "Dubya" Bush administration pedaled "small lies" as well as "big lies", all the way down to the municipal level. A perfect example he drew from was a massive flag drawn up by Republican campaigners for an aircraft carrier that said "Mission Accomplished", where the embarrassing real-world disagreed with the statement. Later, the sailors on the battleship were blamed for the daubed banner. The commentator who pointed out the lies at all levels was Ron Reagan, son of Ronald Reagan. Admittedly, Ron Reagan Jnr is a well-known liberal, but it's notable that more forward-thinking Republican senators, such as Arnold Schwarzenegger, have kept an embarrassed silence during the snarling vitriol aboutt an American national health insurance scheme idea. Maybe it's because Arnie realises that his Austrian countrymen enjoy a successful national health scheme and that one in the US might be quite a good idea?

But if the UK has felt under attack from childish insubstantiated claims, a particular part of the UK, Scotland, has just had another avalanche of lies to go with the double-order of Freedom lies it got with the NHS.The attack had been prompted by the Scottish Government freeing Al-Megrahi, due to his terminal cancer. First up,Scotland is apparently "a state where Church and government" are the same, while America is secular. Another brilliant example of the lie that is just plain awful and cringeworthy. Has the dog eaten your homework this time? They also claim that: "You have shown to the international community that your government and the United Kingdom as a whole will stop at nothing to pursue the neverending and relentless acquisition of oil revenues." This awful Boycott Scotland campaign wasrightly hijacked by Scots who used their well-used tools of mockery and out-and-out belligerence.To quote Charlie Brooker (admittedly about Jeremy Clarkson insulting Gordon Brown), rather like the pot calling the kettle black, this is a case of the cunt calling a cunt, a cunt.

Dana Gould talks about a "permanent anger class" and described these people as "conservative fundamentalists". "People who have stuff are enraged, while the people who have nothing live in hope". Now, the "people who have stuff are enraged" - what does that sound like? Disgruntled toddlers who have flung their toys out of the pram. Conclusion: let us not forget that a lot of conservative fundamentalists are at the earliest stage of Piagetian development They're trying to own the world around them using accomodation and assimilation, while having a complete egocentricity about anything needing to be shared out. "It's my stuff, you're not having any of it!". The only way to educate kids like this is the one that most liberal parents are uncomfortable with. And that's to just give them a smack when they behave unreasonably. There's absolutely no way the new liberal elite can go down the same path as last time. When Clinton was in power, the Neo-Conservatives played as dirtily and vehemently as possible to get rid of him from day one. They're doing the same again. If liberals think about these people no more than spoilt children, a use of mockery or force is only to be expected. Or even the old Victorian maxim that "the Republican right should be seen and not heard".

Update 06/09/2009

It's since taken the courage of the slightly unlikely figure of Dan Savage to point out that "unfortunately in the Republican Party, there are no adults left in the room", as well as the fact that the anti-Obama rhetoric trotted out by a lot of leading conservatives is tantamount to "trying to get the president killed". My own take on this is not only should the new Democrat administration treat these people as infantile, they should also treat them as children who have access to guns. Or, worse, as angry children armed with guns. That gives a whole new map direction to the way liberal politicians should behave toward these extreme views espoused by conservative Republicans.

Janet Street-Porter: Surely She's An Obvious Twitterati Member?

This is a 'mini blog post' on Janet Street-Porter's article in The Independent.

As per usual, while The Guardian grows more and more Twitter obsessed (I'm expecting the headline "Twitter saves the world" from them soon), The Independent dredges up another anti-social networking article bringing them in line with The Daily Mail and Express. The truth lies somewhere in the middle, unsurprisingly.

There is a real need for a genuinely critical article of Twitter by someone who has used the service. Janet, your article isn't it. It's counterproductive, particularly as you've made the usual mistake of criticising some of the superficial features. But dig deeper and you'll find that the reason there's a 140 character limit is because it's the perfect length for a hyperlink (normally leading to a blog or even -shock horror- your article) and a few descriptive words. Also bear in mind that Twitter now has picture and video plug-ins, which you can link to from a tweet. How did that old saying go? A picture tells a thousand words?

Just like the telephone or even the television, Twitter is extremely good for some things and bad at other things. I wouldn't ever use Twitter to conduct a job interview, for example. But then I think job interviews held over the telephone are bad too - where's the body language to study? Twitter is very good at transporting info very VERY quickly and it's genuinely worldwide. You can use a bog-standard mobile phone, so it doesn't alienate people who don't have a computer. Don't trivialise it's use in the Iran elections or in helping break up the lies that Fox News spread about Obama's healthcare bill.

In short, I've always felt the strengths of Twitter is when using it for 'micro-blogging' or information sharing. It also helps if you have strong opinions to share. Using it as a 'sleb' following machine is normally relatively useless at best, unless you're bringing something interesting to the table (e.g. if you really want to talk to Wossy, bring your obscure film trivia with you). I always think of Twitter as a 'thought networking' tool, as opposed to 'social networking' tool, as I think it's surprisingly bad for the latter. Normally, if social interaction is to continue post-Twitter with anyone, then Facebook, email or the real-world are better.

In short, Twitter is the beginning of major conversation, but certainly not the end of it. There are better critical articles one can write about Twitter. For example, there does appear to be a liberal bias built into it and the broadcast media luvvies utterly love it, particularly ones who have big mouths and opinions. Which rather baffles me as to why you're not on Twitter, Ms Street-Porter.

Statuesque Reality

Originally published 10/08/2009, updated 05/09/2009

Art is a reflection of reality, right? Or is reality a reflection of art? Never have two questions been more in perfect symmetry as when the subject of performance art comes up and a recent best example is, of course, oneandother. Performance art is something I've never been completely comfortable with, even though I admire some of its representatives. Too often, it can end up as an inane stunt, such as a mime artist throwing prawns from a bucket at a brick wall to represent the stalemate of the War On Terror. However, when I heard about the oneandother showpiece in Trafalgar Square, I was genuinely baffled as to how it was going to work, despite my faith in the chief artist, Antony Gormley. I could understand his motivation behind such the piece, though. A member of the public would stand on the fourth plinth for every hour, on the hour, for the next 100 days. It would be a brilliant piece of 'living art', but the performance art itself wouldn't be Gormley; it'd be the individual random members of the public. But my bafflement can be asked with two questions; how would you administrate such a thing and surely that would just attract the same members of the public that would audition for reality television? You'd get a rather skewed section of a supposed Great British public. While that question hovered in front of me, it appeared to be answered decisively by a close friend of mine, Louise, who promptly announced that she'd be doing it; and said close friend is eminently sensible and has zero interest in chasing fame. In fact, she was even a sort of an ex-boss of mine who used to keep me in line. We worked in an office where we couldn't move the fishtank from the previous office, so we replaced it with a computer piping forth the "Big Brother" Channel 4 live feed. This was about the most literal upgrade replacement I could think of. All done irony-free, of course. It's about a year since I wrote about "Big Brother", Channel 4's reality TV series, and it's generally recognised as the granddaddy of reality shows (loved and loathed in equal measures, but no-one can deny it te granddaddy title), but that ain't what this article is strictly about.

Because I hate "Big Brother". There, I've said it. Weirdly enough, not because of any contestants who have gone into "The House" this series (or, indeed, from any series). Yes, there's wannabes, exhibitionists, et al, but I always have a sneaking admiration for anyone who lasts till the end. My occasional co-writer, Spiderboz, and I have had chats about the series and are distinctly confused as to why anyone would want to go on it. Spiderboz tends to go from a privacy angle (e.g. why would you offer your entire life on a plate for people to watch?). Mine is more pragmatic - I can't stand people in general and love living in a flat by myself. In fact, I'm always impressed by the "mediator" characters who are in the final, as they've essentially got to the end with the patience of Mother Theresa living in a habitation full of closeted adults afflicted with attention-deficit disorder and/or juvenile dementia. I've gone hiking and hosteling before and you always end up in an enclosed place with at least one asshole, usually in the middle of nowhere. I'm nearly always the one to make the "first call" on said asshole, much to the embarrassment of the rest of a hostel group and am therefore, "evicted" (usually to sleep in someone's car boot or in a tent outside). In fact, often the said asshole is me. Case closed.

I might've shocked a few of you by saying that I can't stand "Big Brother", while others that might have seen my odd Twitter/Facebook status update will be thinking, "Hang on, I've seen you pollute my news feed up occasionally with the odd BB reference, what gives?". For the haters, a lot of them use a superiority position and claim a "tabloid" or "lowest common denominator" argument. For others who know me better and who have seen me write about BB (from over a year ago), they'll know my dislike of producer-choice edits. Oh, c'mon, production companies have got into trouble for re-editing the Queen, for fuck's sake! Conversely and perversely, my friends will also know that the reason I liked it (certainly in the olden days of the first few series) was because it allowed voyeuristic ex-psychologists like me to observe a social experiment unshackled of any pesky psychological ethics committee intervention; this was pre-OFCOM obviously. However, there's a very simple reason why I don't like BB. It eats up too much fecking time. I had an entire Summer eaten up by the seventh series (sparked by an ex-school buddy going in) - as a result, I've decided to just read two very funny blogs on it and dispense with the long silly hours spent watching producer-constructed storylines and go and enjoy slices of real life.

This leads back neatly onto oneandother. The phrase 'slices of real life' is a fairly good subtitled description for it. There's no supposed storylines, so you can tune in and out of the 'live feed' whenever you want to. In that respect, there's a pleasing symmetry to oneandother being a simple live feed, while the granddaddy of reality shows has perversely dispensed with theirs. It shows an understanding that spectators want another model of reality to perceive, as opposed to one individual egocentric's take on it. If you live in London, you can even go along and have a good old gawp at whoever is on the fourth plinth in Trafalgar Square. However, this still leads back to my original question of who would go up there? And, like I said, I appear to have got half-an-answer when my dear friend, Louise, travelled down to London to, well, go up there. For the past year, I've also been in occasional online contact with a former reality TV contestant, who has offered up some feedback on televison's take on reality soap opera when reading my blog entry on the subject. My conclusion is that the common thread through all of these people is very simple - and it's not actually exhibitionism or wanting instant fame. It's impulsiveness. It's "why the fuck not?".

There's a strong element of wanting to take one's self outside the usual rules and conventions of dull everyday life, if only for a little while. This doesn't have to include exhibitionism, or getting your face on telly, or getting a magazine deal to talk about romance. It can do, but it doesn't have to be like that. I'd actually say that oneandother is scarier than any edited reality television construct. In a television gameshow, you're at least cocooned within a studio environment that is ringed by security and then eventually ejected to possible audience ridicule for, oh, about two minutes. Then you can admire Davina McCall's improbably shiny and conditioned hair, as well as shelf-life fame afterwards. As part of oneandother, you're exposed to unexpected weather changes, random strangers and Sky Arts cameras delivering live feed video footage to bored Guardian journalists, online Messiahs and giggling students. Who'd have thought it would be an ideal replacement for "Blockbusters"? With this in mind, I'm glad I travelled to Trafalgar Square a week ago. I felt surprisingly protective of Louise. I say surprising, because I'm always trying to give the projection of being aloof and distant. Because I am both of those things, I generally succeed. When I encounter an emotion that is outside of that, I don't try and repress; I tend to go and follow it to see where it leads me. The results of this journey can be seen in the live blog entry version of this. You see? In the traditions of the earlier Big Brother series, there's actually a "live feed" version of this blog entry; this blog entry is the "producer edited highlights" (for those wanting to read the live feed version, I recommend playing assorted birdsong noises while reading it and watching the recorded feed of these people - click on Wednesday, and check them out from midday).

The conclusion from my "live blogging" is two-fold. Firstly, it's as much about the way the audience perceives the plinth inhabitant. About which, more later. Secondly, it's another spin on using different media to try and make some sense of day-to-day reality. From the crude modelling of real life in reality television to the scarily natural uptake of social networking devices to advertise what we're doing, this is the modern art's take on day-to-day living and, by rights, it should really win the Turner Prize. It overshadows the posturings of Tracy Emin, because Antony Gormley has always had a very clear-sighted vision of what he wants to achieve. Every single plinth person has done something immeasurably different from everyone else. So, Gormley has been able to illustrate the innate uniqueness that exists in every human being. However, the audience reaction is far more interesting, particularly as I spotted something fascinating that may well-and-truly spell the end of reality television series like "Big Brother". I've christened it the Fifty Minute Fame Mark.

Put briefly, there seemed to be an almost unnoticeable shift in peoples' perceptions of dear Louise on the plinth at about the 50 minute mark of the hour she was up there. I've described it in more detail in my 'live blog' version of this blog article. Yes, you heard. It takes approximately 50 minutes. Ok, fair enough, it's maybe an ephemeral sort of fame - did you expect any less? Oh, it doesn't even need TV cameras either, although that does help. How do I know it takes 50 minutes? Well, empirically, I don't. But after observation over a decade of "instant fame", plus a gathering of qualitative data while watching my friend on the plinth in Trafalgar Square, I reckon this is a good ballpark figure. The ephemeral fame is obviously variable too, depending on your performance value. Remember Susan Boyle? I think that was about the 50 minute mark in an hour long show too - the ephemeral fame was rather extreme, obviously, as the 'reveal' of her singing voice occurred at just the demographically-targetted moment and for maximum effect.

I think the Fifty Minute Fame Mark (FMFM) will be a substantial nail in the coffin of reality television. We're already seeing it anyway; the extremely low audience figures for the granddaddy reality TV programme is one example. Mark Lawson argued that all TV brands have a finite life anyway and used examples like DIY programmes lasting for about 7-8 years. A lot of hardcore devotees of reality TV would claim the loss of a live feed and having to rely on producer edits is the kiss of death for "Big Brother" - indeed, such is the anger at the lack of a live feed this year, I've seen a discussion thread with a ludicrous number of posts, as well as a rather sweet former reality TV contestant asked to lobby the powers-that-be for it to be returned (her reply was an understandably baffled, "Um, I can't do anything, why do you ask me?!?"). As I alluded to before, social networking ensures we're constantly living in an environment viewing the unfolding reality show of other friends' soap operas. TwitVid, which is the latest add-on to Twitter, is effectively the real-life version of "Big Brother" anyway (celebrity or otherwise).

A lot of reality TV shows, as we know them now, will increasingly look like they will soon be added to the ranks of curious zeitgeist mementos, such as "The Adventure Game" from the 1980s or "Treasure Hunt" from the 1990s. Also, rather like politics being ruined by the emergence of the professional career politician, TV programmes like "Big Brother" are being ruined by professional reality TV careerists; they literally live from one reality show to another (two examples of this just left the BB house recently). They do it to keep the profile up, as well as the cash that comes their way. Perhaps tragically, the prediction that I made a few years back about there being genuine casualties amongst reality TV's depleted lifeblood of careerists looks to be becoming true. Already we can count more and more cries for help, particularly this year with Sree and the aforementioned Susan Boyle, as well as the case of Kat McKenzie's post-series suicide in "Paris's Best Friend" (accompanied by a hugely suspicious lack of coverage for that last one). But the FMFM rule means that you don't have to sit in a badly hoovered TV studio for three months to achieve fame, because it takes 50 minutes. Ask my friend Louise. At the 50 minute mark, the schoolkids had all suddenly decided she was a Goddess, one bloke (a few yards away from me) decided he was in love with her and I was suddenly getting calls on my mobile phone from mutual friends who suddenly wanted her to acknowledge them in some way while she was up there. Instant fame? Either use your own personalised social networking tool with video plug-in, constant daily updates and make your own reality show with your friends. Or just add water and a picnic to Trafalgar Square.

Update: 05/09/2009

The tenth series of "Big Brother" ended last night. Next series will be the last, as broadcast by Channel 4. The announcement that the franchise will no longer be shown on the channel occurred last week. The above blog article had already predicted some sort of reality television cancellation, so it didn't surprise me at all. Of interest to me was that two former contestants from the "Big Brother" series commented on the cancellation with the same criticisms that I mentioned in my article.

Nick Bateman argues strongly for returning to the earlier roots of the series, with meddling from producers cut down to a minimum. It chimes strongly with what I'd said about producer-edits actually being a turn-off.

Meanwhile, Aisleyne Horgan-Wallace is trying to put forward the idea of attracting people who are not fame-seekers with the intriguing concept (not to mention funny concept) of chucking ten bankers in the house. This strongly tallies with what I said about attracting a genuine cross-section of society, as opposed to reality TV careerists.

In short then, if the concept of reality TV is dated, it needs adapted. But I still think in the world of social networking, it'll need to be substantially revised.

Aww, Bless. Soon, I Might Have My Very Own Meme

Psychologists don't like framed questions. As a man with a degree in Psychology myself, I'm not very keen on framed questions either. They elicit a response based purely on the context of the question itself, as opposed to a genuine opinion. The absolute opposite of framed questions is free association. It's altogether more random and can sometimes elicit deeper answers about the human id. These two strands of thought lead ultimately to something I've been fascinated by for a long time; the internet meme. And they led to two rather interesting 'watershed' moments last week. Firstly, there was the Iran Election, the first internet meme that finally gave Twitter the proper attention it deserved as a medium for serious internet communication. And, secondly, psychologists themselves raised the problem of the 'framed question' issue and suggested that newspaper polls with a political agenda would only get a self-fulfilling prophecy answer; what followed next was a spontaneous internet meme, as The Snaily Fail had its poll on gypsies roundly vandalised by a meme. I would hazard a guess that the 'internet meme' has now finally come of age; now no longer childlike and obssessed with LOL Kittens, but flexing it's muscles. The internet meme is the ultimate example of a bunch of human ids freely associating and gleefully ripping apart biased polls and elections. So far, and certainly before last week, it shows something that I love about humankind - namely, silliness rules and ridiculous authority figures suck. Since the Iran Election internet meme, the balance has tipped more toward the latter. But after my last serious few blog entries, I'm keeping this internet meme wibble light and frothy. Not a completely intellectual dissection of human nature, I'll grant you that. If you want that, go and read Desmond Morris's blog.

Before the Iran Election and Daily Mail poll of last week, the internet was always throwing up these internet memes. The recent being my favourite 2009 moment so far, namely Keyboard Cat. In a lot of ways, Keyboard Cat demonstrates a very typical internet meme. Firstly, it's surreal and involves animals. Secondly, it's a demonstration of the power of sabotage. Thirdly, it's fucking funny. Oh, and lastly, it only becomes a matter of time that somebody somewhere claims the internet meme has run it's course, usually in a snobby and derisory fashion - and then that spreads and kills the original meme off. Yes, that keyboard cat is getting awfully passé, ain't he? He's just the same joke over and over again. I was there right at the beginning you know. Before all the proles leapt on the Keyboard Cat bandwagon and brought celebrity into it etc etc. The dissolution also normally comes about when internet trolls take the idea too far; currently, there are now Youtube videos of Keyboard Cat playing off the 9/11 bombers (no, I'm not linking to it!), so I'm predicting the end of it pretty soon (although not before someone tries a few variations, such as Mexican Cat and the frankly awesome Hall & Oates megamix).

Except, as raucously funny as I find Keyboard Cat, we've seen it all before in another classic internet meme. In 1999 (yes, that's ten frickin' years ago), some poor Turkish bloke called Mahir did a rather sweet home website. Since this was the naive early days of the internet, Mahir published his web pages on a rather insecure server, promptly inducing the self-indignant rage of some pre-pubescent security-conscious spotty oiks to then go and vandalise it. Okay, I admit to sniggering away at Mahir's website, when I myself was a spotty wet-behind-the-ears software oik. But I'm also totally sure that Mahir had the last laugh. Like, for example, when he became the first worldwide internet celebrity, made a bundle of cash and was invited onto chatshows. This was due to links to another internet meme, the Hamster Dance (told you, this one also involved animals), as well as the astounding variation and repetition of the Mahir theme throughout the internet; indeed, the repetition just made it funnier. So, someone made a techno dance track around Mahir's "I kiss you!!!" catchphrase. There were Warhol-esque paintings of Mahir on the beach with his red swimming trunks. There were numerous silly animations and little movies, animating the photo of Ping-Pong-playing Mahir. More to the point, this was before social networking sites had hit maturity. There was no Youtube. No Facebook. Christ, Friendsreunited hadn't even happened yet. Most of the Mahir internet meme took place over forwarding emails and, yes, word-of-mouth in pubs. There's something gloriously life-affirming that we discovered the capacity of spreading world wide web silliness in the first flushes of internet teenagehood (leaving aside the childrens' years of basic newsgroups and mailing groups).

A few other internet memes followed. A lot of them seemed to involve cats or kittens, moreso than any other animals. Another personal favourite of mine, as an example, was the Catscan website. The name is misleading - people visited it initially, thinking it was a medical diagnosis site where CAT scan slides would be displayed. What they actually found was a website where people sent in scans of their moggies, normally spreadeagled on top of the glass. Again, this internet meme displays all the prototypical features; an example of sabotaging (expectations of medical experts), animals, surrealism and eventual dissolution (mainly due to the concern that poor kitties were being mistreated by being flattened on flat-panel scanners). However, probably the most famous internet meme is Rickrolling. It became so widespread a practice and became so ubiqitous that it eventually transferred over into the real world, with absolute no dependence on Youtube at all. I'm thinking of starting my own new internet meme, particularly as Twitter now makes something like that slightly easier by use of the hashtag. It will be Kingrolling. Links would actually end up leading to a Youtube video of Jonathan King's "Everyone's Gone To The Moon". As well as it having that "clever clever" sheen of irony that Rickrolling had, it would mean that a video of the UK's most famous convicted paedophile would get a huge number of hits, hence confirming The Snaily Fail assertion that the internet is solely a vehicle for child porn. Well, maybe that's a bit tasteless. Plus, it means if this ever becomes an overnight viral sensation, then my name will frequently be reported as linked to a convicted nonce.

Thus, I've decided that my internet meme will be harmless. I've also decided that it won't involve animals, but rather that other staple; namely celebrities. The hashtag or trending topic on Twitter will be called #greatcelebs. It's based slightly on a bit of high jinx that a few of my friends used to indulge in on a Friday afternoon at an old office. Arguably, it got kicked off in fine tradition by Bignose Barry, when he emailed us all a picture of Leslie Crowther. Incidentally, there was no explanation as to why he sent us this picture. No subject heading, no caption, no agenda, no pre-warning. Just sheer unexpected 1970s gameshow host Friday afternoon goodness. It then went a bit wild after that; Dickie Davies, Duncan Norvelle, Jimmy Krankie and Duncan Goodhue. There are no rules to #greatcelebs, as such. But to encourage the meme, I'm going to be marking them like an exam essays - so, here's a few guidelines.

i) The adjective 'great' perhaps needs explained here. By 'great', I'm talking about great in a specific, and almost capsule, period of time. So, people like Al Pacino, David Niven, Marilyn Monroe, Johnny Cash, Michael Stipe and Brad Pitt do not fit into this category. They're all 'timeless' celebrities. And, in a few cases, 'dead' celebrities. By all means, you can set your own meme up for that - I'm sticking with my 'great celebrities' (or #greatcelebs).
ii) Extra points will be scored if the 'great celebrity' pictured is obscure. But not so obscure that they're unrecognisable. The reaction you're looking for when your 'great celebrity' picture is sent around, is a gasp of recognition from the viewer, followed by a "I wonder what the fuck happened to HIM/HER?! What are they up to these days?".
iii) By no means are the celebrities confined to the 1970s and 1980s, despite me showing an obvious bias - that's just my age. Indeed, if you get any from the 90s or noughties, or the 40s, 50s and 60s, so much the better. As an example, Rick Witter from Shed Seven would garner you a load of points. Not only did he hail from a lower premier division indie band in the early 90s, his name was rhyming slang and he had a stupid haircut. Similarly, a dreadful Elvis copyist from the 1950s (not Tom Jones, he's 'timeless') or a George Formby rip-off from the 1940s would be a formidable coup.
iv) Evidently, this being a 'Google Detective' job, it's fairly easy to get photos on the internet these days. Therefore, you score a pile of points if it was YOU that took the photo. On top of that, your score is tripled if you have your photo taken with the named 'great celebrity'. And you score a shedload of points if both you and your fellow 'great celebrity' are in the 'thumbs-up pose'. Incidentally, there is a fundamental exception to all this. No pictures of David Hasselhoff will be accepted. Piccies of the Hoff will net you no points. UNLESS, you have a photo of him and yourself, both sticking your thumbs up in the air and grinning inanely at the camera. That's an automatic gain of 100 points.

A typical photograph of my good self (and taken by Broccoli) illustrates the above points. See where I've gone right and where I've gone wrong? Well, Barney Rubble fulfills the criteria of a 'great celebrity', being as he was very famous for a brief period of time during the 1960s and is now becoming a bit obscure over the years - unlike Fred Flintstone, the main lead, who is of the 'timeless' variety. See also how I'm grinning inanely. Also, some extra marks for the fact that I'm pointing at him. However, where I lose out for the perfect 'great celebrity' photo is firstly, the fact that I'm not doing the proper thumbs-up pose and, secondly, by the fact that Barney Rubble DOESN'T EXIST! I'm sure you lot can do better. I'll start the ball rolling by chucking a few generic 'great celebrity' photos out onto the Twitsphere. Please note, however, that the point of this ISN'T to get yourself in the photo. The point is to Tweet some fabulous 'great celebrity' photos. So, get cracking trying to find that elusive photo of that bloke in the hat from "Curiosity Killed The Cat". Or a picture of the "Barrat Man" from those adverts for crap housing in the 1980s. You know you want to. Just remember, the old hashtag #greatcelebs.

I was going to initially write this blog entry on why specific internet memes spread and others don't, illustrating with psychological theories. This was going to cover how Keyboard Cat is actually a Jungian archetype within the collective human consciousness, while Rickrolling appeals to the original Freudian id and regressive childhood. But then, I prefer coming across as a gloriously silly sod, rather than a pretentious New Age cunt, so I thought better of it. Here's a fabulous scrollable internet meme chart.

Next week: No politics, no celebrities, no internet chat, no geeky talk and absolutely NO Michael Jackson. It'll be about Ice Cream Vans. Yes, Ice Cream Vans! You gotta problem with that?

Down, but Definitely Not Out

There's no chance that I'm doing a blog entry on the Iran elections. As such, this is no more than a mini blog post. There are two things to note, however. The first thing concerns an extremely astute (and now prophetic) article written by a close friend of mine, Deborah Martin. About six months ago, she wrote an article on the untapped potential of Twitter and Facebook for political protest and free speech. The second (and rather sadder) thing to note is that Twitter can finally lay to rest the dull celebrity tag that has been foisted on it by tabloid and (shamefully) broadsheet newspapers. Currently, only The Guardian appears to have 'got' Twitter - even The Independent has written appalling articles on tittle-tattle, naff status updates and it being that social networking tool that's used to stalk celebrities. Real-time searching, tsunami/earthquake warning system possibilities and almost universal blogging potential have all been roundly ignored in the print media.

If you want to read a blog post on the Iran elections, here is what you do.

1. If you're not on Twitter, sign yourself up with an account. Don't worry, you can always delete it later if you think that Twitter is just a banal social networking tool with pointless talk and too many egos.
2. Once you're on Twitter, sign in and look at trending topics - click on #iranelection. If this isn't present, type in #iranelection into the search box.
3. Read, absorb and watch the fully live 'blog entry' on the situation in Iran. I don't need to tell you anything.
4. If you want to help or get involved, please read this blog entry. If this blog entry has been taken down, then look for similar blog entry guides on how you can help the #iranelection online campaign. I really recommend this, as I tripped myself up by re-tweeting a proxy server that Iranian people could use and thus ended advertising it in the public arena (and was rightly told off by someone). Better to use Direct Messages if at all possible.
5. An 'internet meme' this maybe is - but it involves real people, in real danger. As opposed to something silly like Rickrolling (as much as I was amused by that).

Oh and 6. Don't do what this idiot Republican senator did with his thoughts on the Twitter Iran campaign.

Vote for The Celebrity Party!

This blog entry comes from four threads of thought. The first thread comes from watching the precision of the Ghurkas campaign led by Joanna Lumley. The second thread comes from observing the slight snootiness of some media commentators, when they muttered that celebrity was needed to challenge Gordon Brown in the first place. The third thread is from MPs deluding themselves with their own sense of importance and ability, particularly Hazel Blears MP (just before she "resigned"). The final thread regards former presenter of "The Word" and ex-reality show contestant, Terry Christian, and a discussion he had with Blears in mid-May about non-participation in politics. But what really united these threads of thought was seeing a television programme that one of the people mentioned above used to be in. It was really funny. You should've seen it. If you've never seen it before because of some sort of highbrow small-mindedness, give it a go. I was entranced by all those people filing into that house and now they're either walking out or getting evicted already. But enough about the BBC News coverage of 10 Downing Street. Boom boom. There's that oft-quoted statement repeated ad nauseum that politics is "showbusiness for ugly people" and I used to hate when folks said that, as I've always believed that politics was standing for what you believe in and was a great public service. Nowadays, MPs can't do their job properly and have a puffed-up idea of their own personality - they think they're celebrities of principle, in the mould of Muhammed Ali, when they're actually behaving like the worst example of reality television contestants.

A perfect example of this behaviour is Brown's use of Youtube, with that wrong-headed fake smile. It's already well-documented and is probably Brown's mistaken belief that you need to be perceived as some sort of talkshow host to be popular. Brown also waffled about "saving the world" in a Freudian slip that illuminated the suspicion of his narcissism complex. Lumley, in comparison, showed unerring down-to-Earth leadership in single-mindedly pursuing the Ghurkas case and behaved more like a politician than either Brown or Phil Woolas (Immigration Minister), who infamously stood there like a scalded schoolboy while school matron Joanna read his speech out for him.  At a different level, Hazel Blears has demonstrated throughout her career how totally deluded she is, with snidey articles full of silly "Youtube if you want to" jokes that just come across as pithy. After being caught up in the expenses scandal in avoiding capital gains tax, she infamously held up a £13,000 cheque, like some parody of a Telethon or Comic Relief personality. This only succeeded in overshadowing an ill-advised quote about countering voter anger by introducing "ordinary people" into the Standards Committee. Her choice of words seems to suggest she now no longer counts herself as an "ordinary person" and just shows her up to be the female equivalent of the reality TV pastiche, David Brent. Of course, use of this analogy leads me neatly to Terry Christian, as he had previously grilled Hazel in mid-May and has himself appeared on a rather famous 'celebrity' version of a reality show at the beginning of this year. The show was pretty instantly forgettable, but one surprise that was thrown up from the show was Christian himself. Formerly associated with infamously tawdry pub-night Channel 4 show "The Word", nobody expected a slyly intelligent, articulate and politically aware Mancunian - but that's exactly what happened. After casually stealing the show with a dry wit, he was always chortling at the ludicrousness of 'celebrity' and the comfort he had in being an ordinary bloke. Crucially, he left fellow contestant and supposed actual politician, Tommy Sheridan, looking guppy-mouthed in awe at the level of detail he commanded on political legislation. After his eerily prescient interrogation of Hazel Blears on ITV show "Its My Life" on the lack of connection between youth communities and local government (a week before she was seen waving that cheque around), can't we now just have Mr Christian as Communities Secretary instead of somebody as ludicrously self-deluded as Blears?

So, bearing in mind that two personalities from different parts of the celebrity spectrum could do ministerial work better, why don't we have The Celebrity Party? Well, snobbery, mostly. There's still an air of slight incredulity and ironic detachment when a national institution like Ms Lumley gets interviewed by broadsheet journalists about the possibility of public office. As an actress, she high-kicked villains in the 1970s and then went all weird on us by playing a non-existent periodic table element in the 1980s. Mr Christian gets it even worse. Not only does he have "The Word" as an albatross around his neck, he's also been tarred with the reality television brush. This means automatic Z-list relegation for most people, if not out-and-out demotion to a cephalopod. You want proof? Another inspiration behind this blog entry concerns a book I'm reading by a former reality show contestant, Aisleyne Horgan-Wallace. The reasons why I'm reading it will be possibly saved for another blog entry, but even I was taken aback by the sheer ferocity of the snobbery aimed at her book launch by The Snaily Fail. The book itself is breezily well-written and literate, so any worries that this was a hack job don't appear to be founded. It's a rare feeling when I'm slightly astounded by The Fail, but when they actually win their own snootiness contest for which they've raised the bar quite high, even I admit to being slightly impressed. But I've got to thank the Fail for that, as I also recall them being appalled by regional accents on telly and "The Word". "What the Fail say, bet the other way" is one of the many principles of life that I swear by. "The Word" and assorted other pub-fare shows were just bread 'n' butter jobs for Mr Christian anyway, we can easily disassociate them from the man himself. So, if we kick the snobbery specs off, there shouldn't be a problem with getting well-organised and relatively intelligent celebrities to just go ahead and stand in a new independent political party?

Of course, another reason for not having The Celebrity Party is feeling overwhelmed and slightly jaded by the sheer number of celebrities, celebrity magazines and, yes, celebrity books. I admit, I have in the past been peeved by all this. This comes from years of being worn down from reading accompanying stories whirling about in the printed press. "Right, what's happening in Afghanistan?" I'd think before I opened the newspaper. After a bit, I'd then close the newspaper and muse, "Well, I don't know what's happening in Kabul, but I do know that Brian Belo tripped over a car yesterday. I didn't even think that was physiologically possible". Nowadays, that story would bring a warm smile to my face and it's got nothing to do with mellowing during my thirties. Every other figure in the public eye has let me down. MPs have obviously let me down. High profile bankers have lied, cheated and shown no remorse. Religious figures have all totally confounded me. Even print journalists that exposed all the political corruption have disgusted me. One fine example of the latter was a Daily Telegraph journalist crowing delightedly over MPs being heckled on Question Time; he smugly announced he'd been fighting for truth when exposing the expenses scandal, and then promptly got booed himself. In contrast, celebrities are doing a great job. Essentially, they're providing a service within the public domain and have done it unfailingly. They make speeches, play villains and heroes in films, trip over their own shadows on reality shows, walk up red carpets, occasionally get caught drunk on camera and bits of their bodies sometimes fall out of their dresses. Those last two examples are particularly important for The Celebrity Party, as it proves your Celebrity Party representative is a real person and not an automaton. Plus the question now isn't whether there's too many of them, like it usually is. The question raised is now whether there's too many MPs. They've all realised that themselves now. 600 could easily be culled down to 400, say some leading figures.

The reasons for creating The Celebrity Party become more pervasive when you realise it appears to be spontaneously happening anyway. Sir Alan Sugar was offered a government post. This was just before he was supposed to offer a job to one of his new Apprentices. Old Gordo must've realised that his Youtube performance was like a pale imitation celebrity and he should maybe employ a real one with more gravitas. Particularly someone who has an idea of how an enterprise might be run in the current economic climate. Meanwhile, Esther Rantzen has unofficially thrown her hat into the ring as a possible Member of Parliament. It's not as if she's got a grip on current political issues, or has the common touch, or can speak to the ordinary member of the public? Oh wait a minute, yes she has. Martin Bell hasn't said no to going back to the old Parliament building either. As a political television journalist, he proved more than capably knowledgeable in his last stint as an Independent MP. Then there's David Van Day. He's thinking of standing for election as MP in his local area. Actually, scrub that last one. There are limits, honestly. If we're talking proper representative democracy, I suppose there's always going to be one extremely silly candidate anyway.

One final and deeply serious point. The Celebrity Party would have the added skill of quelling angry heckling from frequent experience and are already good at exposing personal frailities for tabloid readers to project their rage on. They wouldn't utilise the political practice of repeating the same thing over and over again to a question that wasn't asked. In a supposedly celebrity-enthralled culture, where newspapers like The Scum encourage online readers to anonymously vent their fury at reality TV show stars in the comments section (most shockingly demonstrated by attack articles on a highly vulnerable Susan Boyle, as well as Ms Horgan-Wallace at her book launch), people are more likely to be desensitised to chucking anger around willy-nilly and doing something stupid like walking into a voting booth, disillusioned at the three expenses-splurging, piss-taking political parties, and voting for the British National Party. Oh shit, they already have. Call me an old-fashioned mixed-race Brit, but I don't want different parts of my anatomy being deported to four different parts of the planet. I'd prefer a celebrity-obsessed society to vote for The Celebrity Party, to be honest. For fuck's sake, if The Roman Party can poll about 5,000 votes in the European Elections, then it's conceivable that The Celebrity Party would perform well.

2010 British Cabinet - Joanna Lumley (PM), Carol Vordeman (Chancellor of the Exchequer), Stephen Fry (Minister for Technology), Terry Christian (Communities Secretary), John Cleese (Minister For Overseas Development), Ross Kemp (Minister for Defence), Keith "Cheggers" Chegwin (Culture & Sport), Jeremy Clarkson (Dual role: Justice Minister and Foreign Office), Bill Oddie (Minister for Environment), Peter Andre (Minister for Education), Mr Motivator (Minister for Health). Thanks to Spiderboz, an esteemed co-writer of mine, and Bigkenny, for helping me compile a shortlist for the new Cabinet. I realise that the last one was just an excuse to stick a photo of Mr Motivator at the end of this blog entry, but I think EVERY blog entry would be improved by a photo of Mr Motivator at the end. In precisely the same way that another friend of mine suggested every movie ending would be improved by Burt Reynolds and an orang-utan turning up in a battered truck. Seriously, think of any movie and tack that at the end. "Se7en" is my personal favourite.