Thursday, 28 March 2013

David Goodhart responds!

Well, this is interesting... David Goodhart has responded to my last two blog posts, where I can be found criticising his ridiculous portrayal of the borough of Merton, in particular a distorted view of the impact of the Baitul Futuh mosque on the community, and a reflection on the response to the blog post.

I invited him to respond and this is what he shot back with over Twitter:

@georgialewis76 happy to reply to Ranting person though the single FACTUAL criticism of me is wrong. Merton is 48 per cent white British.

Good. Fine. So why did Goodhart not include this stat in his article with a source? I asked him this and challenged him as to why he used generalisations about white people throughout the article. He uses the word "white" without any nuance using lines such as "The white population has more or less shuffled along the bench and allowed others to sit down" and "Poorer working-class whites are doing worst of all in Merton."

This attracted a response from Goodhart that basically asks me to buy his book, which is plugged at the end of the original Daily Mail article:

@georgialewis76 I did include lots of footnotes in the book that the extract is taken from - perhaps read that and then complain

I told him that any relevant stats should be sourced in the article. That would be good journalism. There is no reason why someone at the Daily Mail couldn't have edited the article to cite sources. Indeed, Goodhart could have requested this before publication - the article is an extract from a book he is desperate to sell. The only footnote to the article is a line about how much the book costs and how to buy it.

Aboo Salik, tweeting as @aboosalik weighed in with:
@David_Goodhart how many factual criticism do you need? "Replacing the dairy which provided jobs for few hundreds" "when it was closed for 7-10 years and was the local crack den? Or small elite being invited to the mosque."

I'd also love to hear the justification for this part of the article, in which Goodhart creates the false impression that the mosque builders kicked out the dairy and caused hundreds of workers to be sacked and conveniently leaves out the fact that there was almost a decade between the end of the dairy and the start of the mosque.

Aboo Salik then goes on to win the internet when he invites Goodhart to get involved with a charity event in Milton Keynes that the mosque is helping. Just in case he is busy that day, Aboo Salik also suggests that Goodhart could possibly make a donation. After all, the multiple charities that will benefit from the event do indeed include those that help poor people, including the "poor white people" Goodhart mentions in his article. And failing that, Aboo Salik also tells Goodhart he is welcome to visit the mosque at any time. Surely that would be a good thing, no?

The invitation to visit the mosque is sincere. Surely, in the interests of fair journalism, the Daily Mail would be interested in a follow-up piece after Goodhart failed to mention the mosque's work for secular charities in his original article. After all, this is a newspaper that cannot get enough of follow-up articles by people such as Samantha Brick tackling the big issues of being too attractive for this cruel world.

At the time of writing, Aboo Salik had emailed Goodhart an invitation to visit the mosque and to attend the mosque's charity events. Goodhart is now considering the invitation. I will be visiting the mosque on April 12.

Wednesday, 27 March 2013

A postscript to the manufactured Merton mosque outrage

The response to my last blog post on a ridiculous Daily Mail story about the mosque in the London borough of Merton has been very heartening indeed. Multiple residents of Merton, the borough in which I have happily lived for the last two years, have told me how ridiculous they found the Mail's attempt to portray Merton as some sort of hotbed of racial tension. Nobody who communicated with me after my blog post recognised the Merton David Goodhart tried to sell us in an article cynically timed to coincide with news on immigration changes announced this week.

As well as an overwhelmingly generous response from people who attend the Baitul Futuh mosque, non-Muslims also shared with me their acceptance of the mosque and their complete rejection of the suggestions in the article that the mosque has somehow created what Goodhart appallingly called a "polite apartheid."

Goodhart wrote that the mosque - the largest in Europe so therefore an instant catalyst for ragefits by Daily Mail disciples - "replaced" a dairy that employed hundreds of local people. Except there was a seven-year gap between the dairy closing and the mosque building work commencing. Merton residents who have lived there for longer than I have told me that after the dairy closed, the abandoned site attracted drug-related crime. It was not a pleasant part of the borough and the mosque gave that end of Morden (for Morden is just one part of the borough - not that you'd know that from the article...) a new lease of life and a new and interesting community.

The worshippers of the Baitul Futuh mosque are from the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community and their slogan is "Love for all, hatred for none." The worshippers perform a wide variety of charity work in Merton. I have been visited by a mother and daughter from the mosque who were collecting for the Save The Children charity, a non-sectarian organisation. The mosque has also raised money for the Queen's Jubilee charities, they hold regular blood donation drives, hold clean-up days to remove rubbish from the streets and joined other community groups in 2005 in a campaign to save and sensitively redevelop a popular local park. This is not the work of a group that refuses to integrate with the wider community. Indeed, attempts to stir up anti-mosque feeling by the National Front in 2002 were rejected by local residents and it was peacefully inaugurated in 2003.

My blog post has been tweeted to David Goodhart and I welcome his response to my critique of his attempt at journalism. He has, at the time of writing, not responded. It could well be that the published article is the result of the original copy going through an extreme editing process, as happened to many people who have written for the Mail in good faith and not recognised the story that has been published. But even extreme editing with an obvious agenda does not excuse Goodhart describing Merton as a "polite apartheid."

It was also heartening to not get trolled by UKIP, EDL or BNP types as a result of my blog post. The closest I received to a negative response was a bizarre tweet with a link to a horrific "honour" killing that took place in a Muslim family in Mitcham. Yes, Mitcham is part of the borough of Merton and "honour" killings are completely inexcusable, but there is no evidence that the Baitul Futuh mosque supports such crimes or that the family involved even attended the mosque.

Since writing yesterday's blog post, I have met via Twitter some very friendly people from the mosque - it turns out that one of my new virtual friends uses the same butcher that I do. In a fine example of cross-cultural integration, this is the very friendly Muslim butcher who has joked with me about using wine with his meat - his lamb mince and my red wine-laden moussaka are a winning culinary combination.

Soon these Twitter friendships will move from the online world to the real world. On April 12, I have been invited to visit the mosque and I look forward to this opportunity.

Photo by Fin Fahey

Monday, 25 March 2013

The Merton mosque and the manufactured outrage

I try not to share links from the Daily Mail website because that is what they want - clicks galore to keep the advertisers happy, regardless of the nonsense the articles regularly peddle. But I am making an exception for a particularly bizarre article in Mail this week written by "leading liberal commentator" David Goodhart (although he identifies as "post-liberal" on his Twitter account). This is because it paints an absurd picture of the London borough of Merton, where I live, and the article needs serious analysis.

Just as Andrew Pierce, an openly gay man, regularly writes pieces for the Mail opposing such things as marriage equality, it would appear that Goodhart is a liberal whom the paper has decided is OK and therefore he can be used to further agendas. The pitiful "OMG, the Muslims are taking over and white people are becoming extinct!" agenda is the one Goodhart is helping push, whether he realises it or not. This becomes increasingly obvious as you read what Goodhart has to say about the Baitul Futuh mosque.

The Baitul Futuh mosque, the largest in Europe with a capacity to accommodate more than 10,000 people, is like a rage lighting rod for the average Daily Mail reader. As Goodhart tells us, the mosque "dominates the neighbourhood." Sure, it's a big building, but the edifice that truly dominates this neighbourhood is the unfeasibly ugly council building which looks like row upon row of broken, rotten teeth looming above the library. For those who are offended by the mosque, the very sight of it is blocked by repulsive council offices as you stand at the Morden tube station.

Goodhart then appeals to the Daily Mail reader's yearning for a bygone (read: whiter...) era when he tells us that mosque "replaced an Express Dairies bottling plant which provided a few hundred jobs for local people and lots of milk bottles - an icon of an earlier, more homogenised age."


Except the dairy closed in 1992 and the mosque was inaugurated in 2003.

In an insult to anyone who suffered under apartheid in South Africa, Nazi Germany or segregated America, Goodhart says that in Merton "a polite apartheid reigns, an accommodation rather than an integration." He then goes on to tell us that "the white population has more or less reluctantly shuffled along the bench and allowed others to sit down." Honestly, he is making my innocuous middle-class neighbourhood sound like a place that requires the activism of a terrifying white equivalent of Rosa Parks.

The white rage continues as Goodhart tells us that Merton's minority population as risen from 10% in 1980 to more than 50% today and the primary schools "which were still majority white as recently as 2003 - are now 64% ethnic minority."

Except, according to the last census, this is crap. Of the 20 wards that make up Merton, all of them have white ethnic groups in the majority - ranging from 57.12% in Longthornton to 87.21% in Lower Morden. The overall average for all the wards is 75.23% of people in white ethnic groups.

There's no real explanation from Goodhart as to why a white majority (which exists even though he says it doesn't) is a good thing or how this awesome whiteness is defined. Ever the generous soul, Goodhart says that because there's no one dominant minority in Merton, this "helps to make the changes feel less threatening." Well, that's a relief then. We can't have the white people freaking out at all this multiculturalism.

And, like all good attempts to manufacture outrage, there is a paragraph to which any sane person would say: "So what?". Goodhart "reports" that at a park near the station, on a sunny day (not that we've had a sunny day for a while so God knows when he did this particular piece of stellar research...) "the place is usually full but divided along ethnic lines: large groups of Pakistani women picnicking with children, Polish guys drinking beer, young Indian men playing cricket, Africans playing basketball."

What would he prefer? If the Pakistani women and their kids had a beer with Poles before joining in a vigorous game of basketball with the Africans? Did he ask all these people how they felt about life in Merton? Is he certain all the cricket players were Indian, for cricket is very popular in Pakistan and Sri Lanka too? Hell, is he even sure all these people were born outside the UK?

Moving swiftly along, Goodhart inadvertently destroys one of the Daily Mail's favourite immigrant myths when he writes that "several of the more entrepreneurial communities, such as the Indians and Tamils and Iraqi Kurds, create jobs". So they create jobs, contribute tax revenue and aren't claiming benefits. Good to know!

But Goodhart concludes this line with the mournful "but they invariably go to members of their own community." Much like a lot of white people do, I would imagine.

Not content with passing off random observations in a park on a sunny day as fact, Goodhart plays another Daily Mail trump card - the fear of immigrant crime. He tells us that "some minorities import historic feuds." Instead of providing any real crime stats or interviewing anyone from the local police to back up this portrayal of Merton as a hotbed of racial tension, Goodhart tells us: "Orthodox Muslims in the area are suspicious of the Ahmadiyans [who worship at the Baitul Futuh mosque]; Tamil youths fight among themselves, as do Somalis; and the historic black (Caribbean and African) versus Asian antipathy is also played out on some streets."

Then Goodhart jumps off on another tangent and tells us that "economically, many minority Mertonites are doing pretty well in their enclaves." ("Enclaves  being Daily Mail-speak for "ghetto") He points out that it's the Indians and Chinese who are "doing best at school and in jobs, closely tracked by Koreans and Tamils" and, like the rest of the UK, "the white British are somewhere in the middle." I'm sorry if anyone is offended by people from ethnic minorities getting an education but this does not stop white kids from striving to do well at school. Are all white families failing to put a high value education for their kids? Surely that is a stupid stereotype on par with everything else Goodhart has spewed forth in this sad article.

Finally, Goodhart manages to quote someone, albeit anonymously, when a hairdresser tells him: "We don't like it, but we don't have much choice, do we?" of a "Muslim hair-cutter" who opened a shop two doors along. No, sweetheart, you don't have much choice - it's a free market economy. Offer your customers good service and good value and you'll probably stay in business. Would she say the same thing if a spate of Christian salons opened in Merton?

Then, after saying that the Ahmadiyans who worship at the big mosque are "model immigrants in many ways" and pointing out that they are grateful to live safely here and that they took out advertisements on London buses congratulating the Queen on her Diamond Jubilee, Goodhart goes on to quote another nameless resident. He describes him as "White Heritage Elder Male" and he was at a Merton council focus group when he said: "We've lost this place to other cultures. It's not English any more."

It is not clear what exactly parts of English life are now denied to White Heritage Elder Male as a result of all these immigrants. Goodhart didn't elaborate. Did he even bother to ask White Heritage Elder Male any hard questions after the focus group was over?

Is this gigantic mosque is causing the erosion of Christianity in Merton - that favourite measure of Britishness of the Mail? Probably not. Like the ethnicity question in the last census, the religion question revealed that a majority of residents in every ward identify as Christian. From a still-high low of 54.59% in Graveney to 74.36% in Lower Morden, it would appear that Merton is not on the verge of mass conversion to Islam.

Goodhart lectures us, saying that local political leaders "have no choice but to celebrate the new diversity." That'd be the diverse people who have has created jobs, opened businesses, paid taxes, not claimed nearly as much money in benefits as the Daily Mail would like us to believe and do such heinous things as have picnics, play cricket, drink a few beers and shoot hoops in the park on a sunny day.

The article then comes out with the usual argle-bargle about how we should be proud to be British. Goodhart, despite the earlier nonsense, even says that "very few British peoploe think you have to be white to be part of this." Good. Then why so much dishonest blather about white people being in a minority and losing their culture then?

Bizarrely, he concludes with the story of local Labour MP Siobhain McDonagh's father who arrived in Britain in the 1940s to work as a labourer. He married an Irish nurse, they had two daughters both did well with one becoming an MP and the other becoming General-Secretary of the Labour Party. Goodhart writes sentimentally as he tells of the father watching one of his daughters become a baroness and muttering under his breath: "Only in England... Only in England."

He says that he was "not technically correct - these things happen in other places, too - but they happen here far more than we admit and it's time our national story reflected them."

Right. So he concludes that our national story should reflect the achievements of immigrants? Or does he mean only white immigrants? It's hard to tell from such a flabby, directionless article what he is driving at with that conclusion. Is he trying to claw back some liberal credibility at the end? Is he trying to paint a completely false picture of the multicultural neighbourhood in which I love to live? Whatever the case, all this article has achieved is (at the time of writing) 571 reader comments, most of which indicate Goodhart succeeded in peddling more Daily Mail immigrant myths. Well played, sir.Well played...

Photo courtesy of sarflondondunc

Seven things that should be bloody obvious

1. High school students should not be playing with their phones during lessons. Teachers, on top of having to actually teach, are now being told to keep an eye out for students sexting in class. Call me old-fashioned if you will, but when you are a student in class, you are meant to be there to learn things. If I was a teacher, I'd make all students hand in their phones at the start of the lesson and I'd give them back at the end. And I'd fully expect some spoilt moron to accuse me of a human rights breach. Which is bloody insulting to people who have really had their human rights compromised.

2. The "Baby on Board" badges, as seen worn by women on the Tube in London, are to alert people that the woman is pregnant and would appreciate a seat. This concept was a little bit beyond the Duchess of Cambridge last week when she was given one and asked how they work. She then said she'd wear it at home. Because her house is overrun with people who are sitting on all her chairs?

3. For first world countries, water is readily available. The designer water/energy drinks industry is a money-making scam. The latest idiocy is "ionised water" achieved by fitting a device to your taps. There are parts of the world where there is little or no access to clean drinking water or the water that does come out of the taps is of poor quality. I lived in one of these countries and it was annoying to buy water from the shops all the time so that I wasn't risking kidney stones from the local supply. If you are not living in one of these countries and you are still buying all your drinking water from the supermarket, you are an idiot.

4. In the same food fad vein, if you are not gluten-intolerant, you can eat food with gluten in it. Eating a whole loaf of bread in one sitting is, obviously, stupid but if you're not suffering from coeliac disease, you don't need to cut all gluten out of your diet. Seriously, have you tried gluten-free bread? Truly horrible stuff. Why anyone would eat it by choice is a mystery. Cutting out gluten for no medical reason is not a pathway to instant slenderness. But it is a way for a lot of people to make a lot of money.

5. Frankie Boyle will probably make jokes that will offend some people if he returns to the BBC. If you don't like it, turn it off. If it doesn't rate, he won't get another series. People who throw their toys out of the pram every time something appears on TV that isn't quite to their taste are self-involved morons.

6. Boris Johnson is a man who is economical with the truth and doesn't cope well when interrogated, as per the interview with Eddie Mair on The Andrew Marr Show. Why this is a surprise to anyone is baffling. We have a man who has built his whole public image on being a lovable, bumbling buffoon. No shock then that he folded like a Gap T-shirt when the questions got a little spiky. So what if he was asked questions about stuff that happened in the past? It's not as if he, or his party leader, is above blaming the past for the present.

7. If a kid at a school, throws food, the problem is with the kid, not the item of food. Despite this glaringly obvious statement, a school in Essex had a review "of the texture and shape of the flapjacks" after a kid was hit in the face with a flapjack of the triangular variety. Or you could just tell the kids that throwing food is a dick thing to do. Easy!

Sunday, 24 March 2013

The annual farce that is Earth Hour

What did I do for Earth Hour last night? Er, I watched a movie with my husband, an act which required the magic of electricty. We had one light on, the fridge was still running, it was a bloody cold night in London so the heating was going, and the router was turned on because we're nerds who look stuff up while watching movies so we can say: "Oh yeah, she was in that thing with that other bloke...".

In short, we didn't do anything out of the ordinary for the hour. We weren't being extravagantly wasteful and, besides, sitting miserably in the cold and dark struck us as a ridiculous way to make a point about saving the planet.

But every year for Earth Hour, the terminally self-righteous come out of the woodwork and declare to all and sundry how they turned everything off for 60 minutes. To add to the stupidity, a mass switch-on at the end of the hour can actually place additional strain on the grid. It's a token gesture and if you're at all serious about environmental issues, surely it's better to set an example all year round and campaign on the bigger issues.

A sense of proportion is urgently required. Steve Hughes, a fantastic stand-up comedian, said it best: "They're running around the world dropping depleted uranium all over the Earth, sitting there letting nuclear weapons off under the sea, and the rest of us, what are we going to do? Sit at home, with a special light bulb and a shopping bag for life."

While there's no harm in using energy in a sane manner, recycling and generally showing a bit of respect for the world in which we live, sanctimoniously living like an Amish person for an hour a year is idiotic.

This year's Earth Hour happened in the same week that George Osborne, Britain's woefully unqualified Chancellor, announced compensation for communities adversely affected by energy companies seeking to develop Britain's shale gas industry. Meanwhile, it looks like hybrid cars will no longer be exempt from London's congestion charge as of July, thus reducing the incentive for private motorists and companies to buy such cars. Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, wasted £1.4 million of public money on technology that is meant to "glue" pollution to the roads, but it doesn't work. All this probably should have attracted a bit more noise from environmentalists. Nah, sod it. Let's sit in the dark for an hour!

Photo by Paul McMillan

Thursday, 21 March 2013

False rape accusations: perceptions, proportion, paranoia and problems

False accusations of rape ruin lives. Only an idiot would dispute this. Anyone who is a fan of justice is not a fan of false accusations for any crime, especially one that carries the stigma of a rape conviction or a rape charge which is later disproved in a court of law. As well as the great personal cost to the falsely accused, false accusations cost public money and waste court time. As such, it is appropriate that false accusers are punished within the boundaries of the law. None of this should be disputed.

What should be questioned is whether there is a plague of false accusations sweeping the nation. A study released this week would indicate this is not the case at all. The study, released by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), found that over a 17-month period in England and Wales, there were 5,651 prosecutions for rape and 111,891 prosecutions for domestic violence. Over the same period of time, there were just 35 prosecutions for false rape allegations, six for false domestic violence allegations, and three for false allegations involving both rape and domestic violence. So, in a country of more than 60 million people, there were 117,542 prosecutions for rape and domestic violence in total, compared to a grand total of 44 prosecutions relating to false accusations. Over the 17-month period of the study, 159 suspects were linked to allegedly false claims.

It would be lovely to live in a world where there were no false accusations of rape or domestic violence, but when the false allegations are massively outnumbered by the successful prosecutions, it is pretty clear that a sense of proportion is required.

It is certainly important to look at who makes false accusations and why they happen, but it is extremely important to focus on preventing rape and domestic violence from happening in the first place. The domestic violence figures, in particular, are shockingly high and a national conversation is required to find out why there has been an increase of 11% in cases reported to Citizens Advice in the last three months of 2012 compared with 2011.

It is heartening to see advertising campaigns here in Britain that focus on telling rapists not to rape rather than blaming the victim. The If You Could See Yourself television advertising campaign (TRIGGER WARNING) is a welcome step away from telling women what they already know about unattended drinks and walking home alone, or reinforcing the Taliban mentality that what you wear means you're asking for it. But what the government gives with one hand, it takes with the other with the privatisation of sexual assault referral centres. Inexplicably, the government has given a contract to manage some of these centres to G4S, a company best known for their incompetence in handling security at the 2012 London Olympics,  No private company should profit from handling sexual assault cases - that is completely immoral. Meanwhile, on Sky News, Lorna Dunkley interviewed the British woman who alleges a hotel manager attempted to sexually assault her before she escaped by jumping over the balcony of her room in the Indian city of Agra. It is a shame Dunkley felt the need to ask her if she felt there was anything she could have done differently to prevent the assault. Like what? Not travelled alone? Not requested a wake-up call to catch an early train?

And in the meantime, the "Bitches ruin men's lives!" cries from rape apologists just keep on coming. Let's look a little deeper into the figures, shall we?

Of the 159 people linked to allegedly false claims over the study's 17-month period, of which 44 were prosecuted, 92% were women, almost half were aged 21 or under and in 38% of these investigations, the initial complaint was made by someone other than the alleged suspect. None of this should come as a shock to anyone.

There is no one-size-fits-all profile of a false accuser any more than there is a one-size-fits-all profile of a rapist. False accusations are often a symptom of an immature person trying to deal with relationship issues in an immature way. False accusations can also happen as a result of mental illness. False accusations can happen when a vulnerable person is used by another who seeks vengeance. False accusations can happen when well-meaning but ultimately misguided parents mistake their offsprings' consensual sex lives as rape. There is plenty of anecdotal evidence to suggest that for many false accusers, the situation raged out of control and they felt unable to stop the legal process. Then the waters are muddied further by cases of women who have been raped but then retract the rape claim and, as such, find themselves on the end of a false accusation charge. And so on and so forth...

So what is to be done? Of course, false accusers deserve punishment - it is a crime that destroys people and they make it harder for rape victims to come forward and report the awful crimes committed against their bodies. But this is largely because of the myth perpetuated by many rape apologists that false accusations are pandemic.

As a result, we end up with loud voices, such as the campaigners to free Ched Evans, a footballer convicted of rape and sentenced to five years in prison, adding to this myth. Leaving aside the issue of guilt, Evans' campaigners are obsessed with stereotyping women, especially women who sleep with footballers (not a crime last time I checked...), as a horde of greedy, lying harridans. One of them called me a slut, a slag, a libtard and a cunt via Twitter this week, which doesn't exactly help the credibility of the cause. The cause's website also hoists the campaigners by their own petard. It features a large section dedicated to unused witness statements. This is a catalogue of inadmissible evidence, such as a statement that the victim had left the club with other men on previous occasions. Having this information on the internet for all to see could seriously prejudice a fair retrial.  

In punishing false accusers, just as in the case of punishing rapists, rehabilitation is as important as retribution. If there are mental health issues or evidence of past abuse experienced by false accusers, this should be dealt with compassionately. Equally, a sane justice system should offer its full support to those who have been falsely accused, and convicted rapists need rehabilitation to reduce the risk of re-offending and have them emerge from prison as better, more educated people.

False accusations ruin lives. Rape also ruins lives. If we lose sight of that, Steubenville-type incidents will keep on happening, victims will continue to be blamed, victims will continue to be too scared to come forward and the false reporting myth will be grotesquely inflated and this will continue to harm women.

Image courtesy of

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

The American right's failed attempt to slur Ashley Judd

I love observing American politics. It is important to be aware of what goes on in the most powerful nation on Earth, and it fascinates, amuses, frustrates, delights and angers me in equal measure.

Hilariously, if I engage in a discussion on Twitter about American politics, sometimes I am told to mind my own business. Freedom of speech is only for Americans within America, according to some idiots. It's sad to be so insecure when it comes to criticism or curiosity from people outside your own country.

So, this blog post will most likely infuriate some people. Well, pardon me for taking an interest in the wider world...

At the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) held in Washington DC last week, there was an attempt to manufacture outrage about Ashley Judd. Amid talk that the actress may be launching a political career representing the Democrats in the state of Kentucky, Steven Crowder, a conservative comedian, thought he had uncovered a Republican wet dream - a Democrat who said something stupid about rape. After the accident-prone Republican election campaign last year, this was just the sort of thing the American right could seize upon. A chance to say: "Hey, look! It's not just us! Liberals say dumb things about rape too! Why aren't the libtards calling out Ashley Judd for saying something stupid about rape?"

Except she didn't say anything stupid about rape.

Crowder launched into an attempt at comedy by referring to this tweet from Judd:

Then over to eastern Congo for connection between conflict minerals used in our electronics, mass rape, & forcibly displaced persons.

Crowder said: "By the way, in breaking news, Ashley Judd just tweeted that buying Apple products, again, is akin to rape. From her iPhone. Rape - now she knows how my brain felt after watching Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood. Oh, she said it. What is this obsession with Ashley Judd and rape? It's pretty unnerving."

Except, quelle surprise, there is a predictable lack of nuance or context in Crowder's attempt to slag off Judd, a rape survivor. The tweet is part of many tweets, talks and writings by Judd on the Democratic Republic of Congo, a country she has visited to raise awareness of the country's ongoing troubles. They include the militarisation of the mines from which material for products such as iPhones are sourced, and the violence, exploitation and slavery that goes along with it, including rape used as a weapon of war.

Judd wrote a blog post on this very subject in which she admits she is as guilty as anyone else who avails themselves of iPhones, iPads and the like. For anyone who can concentrate for five minutes in one sitting, her points are clear. She admits the hypocrisy of her own and everyone else's reliance on technology sourced from places of conflict, she calls for transparency from companies such as Apple, and she doesn't flinch from chronicling the horrors of rape, especially on women suffering from fistulas.

Instead, of making a lame joke about brain rape, Crowder could have pointed out that Judd was doing it right when it comes to discussing rape and that perhaps it would behoove certain conservatives to do better. While trying to call out Ashley Judd for saying something stupid about rape, Crowder managed to say something stupid about rape. Genius!

The gaffes about rape during the 2012 election, the subsequent justification of these gaffes by some conservatives, and the despair publicly expressed by other conservatives indicates there is some shit that needs to be sorted out.

There is a difference between misspeaking and the exposure of awful views on rape and this stupidity isn't restricted to conservatives. Whoopi Goldberg deserved every condemnation for her ridiculous "rape-rape" explanation for Roman Polanski's behaviour and Joe Biden's "garden-variety slap across the face" gaffe was a bloody stupid thing to say. But the ongoing stream of stupid things said about rape has disproportionately plagued the American conservative movement.

Indeed, an American conservative I follow on Twitter, the forthright @rachelveronica told me she would happily give a "Don't say stupid things about rape" talk at CPAC 2014.

I realise that talking about how to discuss rape in a sensitive and sane manner doesn't sound like a golden opportunity for comedy, but in the case of Crowder, this is irrelevant because he is a man who is about as funny as a leaking fistula.

Image courtesy of

Monday, 18 March 2013

Some WTF questions for rape apologists post-Steubenville

The tidal wave of stupidity when it comes to discourse about rape has reached critical mass. Just when I thought it was impossible for any more vile, victim-blaming, ignorant tripe to be spewed forth, the Steubenville  rape trial guilty verdict was delivered. While this is an American case, the pathetic and sickening attitudes towards rape and rape victims, and the accompanying under-reporting of such crimes, are, tragically, universal.

Sanity prevailed briefly last year when all the Republicans who said moronic things about rape during the 2012 election campaign failed at the ballot box. After such bullfuckery as abortions resulting from "legitimate rape", women's bodies being able to "shut that thing down" so they wouldn't conceive during rape (Behold! The magic rape-repelling womb...), conceptions via rape being a "gift from God" (Shucks, bad luck if you're a pregnant atheist rape victim...), a "some girls rape easy" remark and some dickhead likening pregnancy out of wedlock to rape, it was heartening to see that such men (and, yes, it was a man in every idiotic instance) were not rewarded by voters.

But now we are back at square one.

Within moments of two "high school footballers" (that all-American euphemism for "fine, fit, promising young men") being found guilty of raping a 16-year-old in the Ohio town of Steubenville, there was an appalling torrent of invective towards the victim. With awful echoes of the Ched Evans case here in the UK, the "Jane Doe" victim's first name was revealed on Twitter along with threats of violence and vengeance. Fox News also managed to air her name.

And like the Ched Evans case, the rape apologists have crawled out from their sorry little holes to blame the victim. Jane Doe's heinous crimes, according to these intellectual bankrupts, include being drunk, not being a virgin, and wearing shorts and fitted top to a party. One particularly awful blog post - which I'm not going to link on my blog because it is too repulsive - added to the mire by saying that being drunk, wearing "immodest" clothes and attending a party all meant she was consenting to sex.

Further fools have displayed a total absence of logic by responding to the Steubenville case with a cry of: "But what about if men get raped?". If a woman is raped, this does not make the rape of a man any less of a crime. This is not how sane people respond to, say, the crime of burglary. "But what about all the men whose houses have been robbed?" Said nobody ever. Male and female rape victims should all feel equally able to come forward and report their attacks without fear or shame. Glad I've cleared that one up.

Meanwhile, two reporters at CNN jumped the shark with Candy Crowley and Poppy Harlow having an on-air conversation that focused on the ruin of the "promising" lives of the rapists rather than the victim. (Here is a petition to sign to call for an on-air apology and here is a link to RAINN, where you can donate to help victims of sexual abuse)

Christ on a cracker, this is making my head explode. I ask the rape apologists these questions:

1. Do you actually understand consent? I realise that Jane Doe was 16, the age of consent for the state of Ohio, but do you seriously believe that a drunken, out-of-it teenager is able to consent to sex?

2. Do you think that women should expect to get raped if they are drunk? Should drunk men also expect to get raped? Or should men simply expect to wake up with something stupid drawn on their face with a Magic Marker if they pass out after too much alcohol? Is it too much to expect that if someone is drunk and incoherent, regardless of gender, that others will look after them, make sure they can get home safely and tuck them into bed to sleep it off without raping them?

3. Also, why do you think you can have it both ways and use drunkenness to both blame the victim and excuse the rapists? Try and answer me that one without sounding like a total douchenozzle.

4. At what point does a woman's outfit cross the line from "modest" to "asking for it"? Should we take rulers to parties to measure skirt length? Is one inch above the knee the equivalent of consent? Two inches? Three, four, five, six? What about necklines? How much cleavage is consent? Then there's the thorny issue of slutty, slutty shorts. Does wearing hot pants mean consent but not sensible, knee-length hiking shorts? How about a test of tightness for tops? Should promising young footballers consider a woman in a spandex top as consenting but not a woman in baggy T-shirt? What if she is wearing a baggy T-shirt with a short skirt? Honestly, this is a minefield...

5. If you truly believe that attending a party equals consent, would you mention this on the invitation next time you throw a party? Does the "party attendance equals consent" notion apply to all parties? Weddings? Bar mitzvahs? Is it only relevant to parties where alcohol is served? Does this mean that if Great Aunty Ethel has a few too many sherries at Christmas, she is asking for it?

6. Can you see already how ridiculous victim-blaming over alcohol consumption, choice of attire and party-attendance is?

7. If you can't see how ridiculous your victim-blaming is, ask yourself this: Why would anyone be interested in having sex with a woman who is barely conscious? What pleasure would one get from such an awful act? Why does the idea of forcing yourself on an inactive participant turn you on?

8. Are you so lacking in empathy that it would actually take the rape of a woman close to you to quit being a rape apologist? I am assuming you are opposed to murder regardless of whether anyone close to you has been murdered or not. Why should rape be any different?

9. Have you dared use the "but these boys were great students and now their lives are ruined!" defence? Surely if they were such role models, they'd know right from wrong by their age, no? In any case, this excuse has been blown out the window with news that one of the convicted rapists is going to appeal on the grounds that his brain isn't fully developed.

10. After all these questions, are you feeling like a creepy moron? I do hope so. Finally, why are you OK with a mentality that treats women no better than the Taliban does, with directives to cover up in case men are overcome with lust? Why are you OK with such an insulting view of men, a view that reduces them to animals unable to exercise any self-control in the presence of drunk women, women in certain outfits or women who have the temerity to attend parties?

If you are still a cretinous rape apologist after careful consideration of my questions, if you are still crying more tears for the ruination of the rapists' lives and not the victim, all I can do is request that you crawl back in your hole and stay away from the outside world. Rapists are to blame for rape. That is all.

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Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Lies, statistics and Band-Aid solutions to big problems

Statistics are marvellous. But they are very easy to misinterpret. The media loves to play on this - it is so easy to pull a supposedly shocking stat out of the bag, lazily run it as fact without any nuanced analysis to peddle an agenda, and wait for the inevitable outrage and website clicks. And when it comes to healthcare, scary numbers make for easily manufactured outrage.

The scary healthcare number that has been freaking everyone out of late is the "1,200 unnecessary deaths" in Mid Staffordshire hospitals. The researchers at the excellent website, have analysed this big number very carefully and found that while nothing will bring back dead loved ones and Mid-Staffs has some big problems to sort out, the 1,200 figure should be examined more closely.

The 1,200 number actually refers to 1,197 "observed deaths" over 10 years, minus the "expected deaths" between 2005 and 2008 (171 in 2005-6, 187 in 2006-7 and 134 in 2007-8 - a total of 492 deaths). A south-west London NHS trust paper defines expected deaths as "death following on from a period of illness that has been identified as terminal and where no active intervention to prolong life is ongoing."

It all stems from the Francis Report, commissioned in 2009 to investigate "higher than average" mortality rates for emergency admissions at the two hospitals managed by the Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust. The 1,200 number did not appear in the final report - it was removed from the report because there were concerns that it would be misunderstood, but it was leaked to the press.

The report included Standard Mortality Ratios for each hospital between 2005 and 2008 for patients admitted as emergency cases and these varied between 127 and 145, against a national average of 100 - the number of deaths was 27-45% higher than the baseline figure. Obviously, this isn't a great result for the two hospitals but witnesses who testified for the report cited problems with data collection so the accuracy is wobbly to begin with.

But in this dizzying sea of numbers and the accompanying hysteria centred on one NHS trust, we're not getting any closer to any solutions. And instead of looking at ways to improve the NHS, the 1,200 figure has become a stick with which to beat the NHS in much the same way that the Jimmy Savile case has become a stick with which to beat the BBC.

David Cameron has blamed Labour for creating a target-setting culture in the nation's hospitals. If he was so concerned about this, why didn't he set about reversing this culture when he came into office? The timing of the release of the report was perfect for Cameron's government to take a stand.

The Francis Report was commissioned by Andy Burnham, the former Health Secretary under the Gordon Brown's Labour Government, in June 2010, after an initial inquiry in 2009. By the time the initial inquiry report was finished, it was February 2010. David Cameron became Prime Minister in May 2010 - did he really expect Labour to have sorted it all out in two months with an election campaign going on? By the time Cameron took office, there would be no excuse for the shiny new Health Secretary, in the form of Andrew Lansley, not to be aware of problems at Mid-Staffs, and by the time the final report was released, after hearing from 164 witnesses and receiving 87 witness statements and 39 provisional statements, Jeremy Hunt was Health Secretary. The final report is addressed to homeopathy-loving Hunt in February this year.

When asked why he didn't sack Sir David Nicholson, the NHS chief executive, Cameron said that Sir David had apologised. Well, that's just fine and dandy then! How about looking into emergency department procedures and data collection at the two hospitals? Hell, what about looking at the reasons why patients were being admitted via the emergency department to determine if preventative measures might help reduce admissions in the first place? Or is some joined-up thinking, which may involve multiple stakeholders and government departments, all too much for this government? Simply apologising is a pathetic response.

People will always die in hospitals. No hospital will ever have a 0% mortality rate. But there is always room for improvement and investment. Sacking Sir David and making a fresh start from the top down would not be a bad thing.

Sadly, however, in the current climate, all we're getting is buck-passing, a spectacularly unsuitable Health Secretary in Jeremy Hunt, sneaking threats to women's reproductive rights, multiple A&E and maternity units at risk across the country, three children's heart surgery units closing down, eight walk-in NHS clinics slated to close in Birmingham and Solihull alone, and multiple health services put out to tender to private companies with little protest from anyone much. Oh, and there's the small matter of 141 Lords and 66 MPs having either recent past or present vested interests in private healthcare - that'd be the people that we have to entrust with casting votes on the future of British healthcare.

My condolences go out to anyone who feels they unnecessarily lost a loved one at Mid Staffs, but if the privatisation by stealth and ongoing slashing of health services continues, the whole nation will mourning the slow, painful, needless death of the NHS.


In news just at hand, David Cameron has indulged in a spot of nurse-bashing at today's Prime Minister's questions brawl. Oh, good. That will motivate nurses at Mid-Staffs and around the nation...

Image courtesy of

Monday, 11 March 2013

Updates on O2 and Hilary Mantel's excellent refusal to repent or recant

In the last couple of weeks, two of my blog posts have attracted a bit of attention. One was on my friend Briony's ongoing battles with the O2 phone company and another was on the misguided, ignorance-fuelled outrage over Hilary Mantel's 5,000-word essay on the bodies of royal women, including that of the Duchess of Cambridge (in case you didn't notice, she's having a baby...). Since then, there have been some developments.

Briony received unwanted marketing calls from O2 even though her preferences were set to "email contact only", she was baffled as to why personal details were required by unsolicited callers before she could be told about any special offers and, as a bonus, she discovered this very website was blocked by O2 as part of their nanny state-style filter for adult content, even on the phones of actual adults.

Now that Briony is in email and telephone contact with O2, she has still to hear about the amazing offers and can't seem to get an answer out of anyone as to what these were because it apparently changes on "what she wants to include in the scheme".  

She has received a number of spoken apologies and emails starting "We are really sorry" and "O2 takes these complaints seriously" and "we are speaking with the Social Media team about their lack of response/terminology" and "we are in contact with the customer service teams.."  But nothing really has changed.

Briony is now in contact with with Tracy and Carol from the "Escalation Team" - which makes me visualise women talking on the phone as they go up an escalator - and while both are "really very nice", Briony says neither "clearly can provide me with any answers as to why I was contacted/pestered when clearly I shouldn't have been." It would also appear that not much can be done to trace or find out why Briony received unwanted phonecalls in the first place.

On the upside, when Briony broached the subject of recompense for this two-week debacle, O2 asked her what she felt was a suitable remuneration for the day lost to O2 and Twitter, half a day lost to calls with the O2 Customer Service and half a day lost on emails/phone calls to the O2 Escalation Team.  Her response free upgrade and phone - after all, surely O2 were calling her about her upgrade in the first place, no?

So, she has received a couple of different offers, including O2 paying to end her current contract and not charge her for ending the contract early - but she'll have to pay for a new phone. The other offer includes more download capacity (but she'd better be careful not to try and download anything from any of the websites O2 blocks, even though she is an adult...) and no £6 monthly charge.

But for any recompense, Briony has to go into a shop, discuss the options, and tie herself into another O2 contract, when what she has really asked for is a 100% guarantee that her phone number will not be used in any further O2 marketing drives.  Alas, this could not be given, nor could a 95% guarantee, nor could an 80% or 70% guarantee be given... Briony gave up asking what kind of guarantee she could be assured at this time. What is the point of opting for email contact only if that isn't going to be respected by O2?

In conclusion, all of the deals on the table remain ambiguous and won't make a massive difference to her life. A better offer would surely involve stuff like a free upgrade (including handset) and a cheaper bill, so that Briony stays with O2 long term, thus everyone wins. 

This seems to be a struggle for O2, as even in compensation, they use the guise of giving with one hand, only to take a greater financial and contractual reward with the other.

In the meantime, I have just had the predictable "this is to protect the children" response from O2 when I called them out on their blocking of websites for adult customers. It's somewhat hilarious that my blog was blocked but it is also completely contrary to a free society. O2 offers parental controls so parents can ensure their kids can't access adult content on their phones so why they feel the need to restrict adult internet access is a mystery.

On the upside, Briony can vote with her money if she finds a better deal elsewhere. This is indeed a vast improvement on the government-run duopoly of the United Arab Emirates, where we both used to live. There you get the choice of two equally incompetent telecommunications companies, Etisalat and Du, and that is all.

As for Hilary Mantel, she has thankfully not apologised for her controversial 5,000-word essay, which she gave as a lecture two weeks before any of the newspapers noticed. Her unrepentant response is inspiring to anyone who has dared express an opinion only for it to be misunderstood by the moronic masses.

I will love her forever for this brilliant line: "I do think that the Duchess of Cambridge is an intelligent young woman, who, if she cares to read my essay, will see that I meant nothing but good to her."

If only O2 was as uncensored.

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Friday, 8 March 2013

International Women's Day: The good, the bad and the smug...

It's International Women's Day. Should we celebrate? Be really angry about stuff? Argue about shit that doesn't actually matter? Ignore the whole damn thing and take a nap?

Every year, someone always asks why there isn't an International Men's Day. There is one on November 19. You can read about it here. But what about today? What are we meant to do about it?

Today, there has been an outbreak of women arguing over whether we should take our husbands' surnames if we get married. This was largely in response to this Jill Filopovic column in the Guardian - the insane thing is that I kept my name when I got married but I still think Filopovic wrote a smug and sneering piece that ends on an asinine note about Facebook.

Seriously, this nonsense has to stop - it is a debate for the privileged. Ironically, in many Middle Eastern countries, the kind of places often flagged up by western women as beacons of oppression, it is common for married women to not take their husbands' name. If you get married, take his name, don't take his name, go double-barrelled, blend the surnames, it's entirely your choice. And feminism is about respecting all women's choices, even ones you wouldn't make for yourself.

Moving swiftly along...

If International Women's Day makes people think about their attitude towards women, about how they treat women and how they can do better from this day forward, that is a good thing.

If International Women's Day raises awareness of serious issues and is the catalyst for people to actually do something about them rather than getting outraged for a day and then forgetting about it, that is a good thing.

If International Women's Day raises money for causes that help women, such as education and healthcare programmes in developing countries, that is a good thing.

If International Women's Day helps people realise that feminism is not about being perpetual victims and that feminists come in all shapes and sizes, that is a good thing.

But if the day is spent arguing over minutiae, when there are women who are truly suffering, and possibly even dying, because of truly oppressive conditions and because their rights have been eroded or never existed in the first place, we have a problem. When feminism is seen as smug women sniping at each other, trying to outdo each other and win some imaginary feminism trophy, we have a problem. That is when feminism starts to look stupid. That is when real issues fall by the wayside.

No matter what you do or don't do to mark International Women's Day, we will not wake up tomorrow to a world of gender equality, a world free of rape, a world where girls and boys have equal access to school education, a world where female genital mutilation has been consigned to the dustbin of history, a world where women are not trafficked into sexual slavery, a world where women everywhere have freedom of movement, a world where both sexes are treated equally before the law, a world of equal employment opportunities, a world where women and men will always earn equal pay for equal work, a world of reproductive freedom, a world where female politicians will be judged on merit rather than appearance, a world where girls and women are not forced into marriages against their will and so on and so forth...

Celebrate women's achievements today and reflect on how much progress has been made for many women in many places, by all means, but don't kid yourself that one day a year will make everything OK.   

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Does anyone actually get all their sex tips from Cosmo?

Ah, Cosmopolitan. I thought you were such a cool magazine when I was about 15 but these days, I am astounded that the staff of Cosmo are grown women. Maybe I am a jaded almost-37-year-old or maybe these seduction tips from their website really are ridiculous. If you think I'm being a little harsh, here is the link so you can see for yourself. And here is an excellent imagining of what might happen in the Cosmo office.

Meanwhile, below is my analysis of them (and God forbid anyone be a lesbian - they are mysteriously absent from the world of Cosmo...):

1. The right outfit. Yes, because men care so deeply about fashion. This tip starts off by saying less isn't always more ("Keep your cleavage inside your clothes, you slut!") and ends with Victoria Beckham drearily opining that "the best way to seduce a man is to wear high heels, tight-fitting jeans and a figure-hugging T-shirt." True, she is married to David Beckham and apparently it is against the law to not fancy him, but that union is hardly a meeting of great minds of the modern era. How about some advice on how to seduce a man with a brain, Cosmo? Let's check out point number two, shall we?

2. FY eye. Oh, that is just such a cute pun, Cosmo! Except it's not. It's lame. "Making eye contact with your target is good, but limit it to a few encouraging glances and a smile." So look at him, ladies. But not too much. A glance that lingers a nanosecond too long means he will never be yours. And that would be the worst thing ever. Ever.

3. Hairplay. Wow, that's original. Are we really still trotting out the "play with your hair and he will bulge out of his pants with lust for you" seduction tip. Hello, 1978!

4. USP. This time, they're quoting Russell Brand who tells us we all need to promote our USP, our unique selling point. Because what woman doesn't love to be spoken of in marketing terms.

Now, I love Russell's work on sane drug law reform but I wouldn't go to him for advice on how to seduce a man. Seducing Russell Brand doesn't strike me as a challenge. He says his USP is "gauche, philandering adventurer." Which makes him sound like a total twat when he's really only a bit of a twat sometimes.

5.  Sweet seduction. This sounds like it might involve buying a man chocolates but it's actually advice to go out on the pull in the middle of your menstrual cycle because this is when you're releasing the sweet smell of ovulation. This is also when you are most likely to fall pregnant. Cosmo handily reminds us to use protection so you don't start a family with your one-night stand. Cosmo doesn't advise on what to do if one of your friends selfishly arranges a night on the tiles that fails to coincide with your ovulation.


7. Mirror, mirror. This tip involves copying his body language, which seems a bit creepy and stalkerish. It is also advice that Cosmo has been dishing out for decades like the coy play-with-your-hair tip. Also, Cosmo fails to advise on what to do if he scratches his balls.

8. Fish fingers. A euphemism surely? What Cosmo means is you should guzzle vast quantities of aphrodisiac seafood without the aid of cutlery. Apparently, this is sexy. Except when you have an attack of the ragefits when you can't crack open a particularly tricky crab. Yelling "FUCKING CRABS!" at this juncture would probably also lower your chances of a shag.

9. Extreme dating. This could work. I've been on dates where I wished I had a bungee rope so I could escape out a high window. Cosmo suggests "adrenalin dates" such as going to an "adventure park" together. This is "hot foreplay". Unless you puke on a rollercoaster. That has got to be a boner killer.

10. Tantric seduction. Hello, 1992! I can hear Sting crapping on about he and Trudie have sex for epochs at a time by going tantric. Do non-famous people actually do this? Anyway, what Cosmo advises is sucking a bloke's lips. They say this sends energy to his "sex chakra" at the base of the spine. This might be a dangerous one to try if you are on an extreme date.

"I don't know how it all went so horribly wrong," sobbed Cassandra, 25, of Croydon. "I sucked his lip as we rode the rollercoaster at Thorpe Park, he threw up in my mouth and I bit his nose off."

11. The first kiss... down there. When you're kissing your hapless bloke, Cosmo suggests you huskily whisper: ""That's exactly how I want you to kiss my... [insert the term for clitoris that you're most comfortable using]." 

Or you could just grow the hell up and use the term "clitoris". If he says: "Your what?", run, run for the hills.

12. Feet first. A foot rub just won't do these days, ladies. You also need to wash his feet, just like Jesus did to his disciples, and then suck his toes. I cannot confirm or deny if Jesus also sucked his disciples' toes. "Think fellatio demo rather than gentle suck," Cosmo says. And bad luck if fellatio isn't something you're comfortable with.

13. Lazy seduction. Pop some woman-friendly porn on the DVD! Because clearly nobody has the internet these days...

14. Burlesque babe. Stick on some nipple tassles and get your Dita Von Teese on! And, hey, if you've got the skills, go for it. If you have all the coordination and grace of a club-footed walrus, this will also go really well.

15. Dinner's on me. This is one you don't want to try with that random bloke you met down the pub as Cosmo seriously advises you to give him a key to your place so he can let himself in and find you all laid out with takeaway sashimi strategically placed about your person. You just have to hope and pray he's not your friendly local serial killer.

Image courtesy of


Tuesday, 5 March 2013

It's about time for another World of Stupid...

I was delighted to be described by one of my favourite tweeters, @MoronWatch, as a "freelance moron watcher". I do wish I was paid my usual freelance rate for watching morons - there are so many of them out there that it could be a fulltime job. But I digress... Here is the latest swag of morons from around the globe:

1. A US company, Solid Gold Bomb, came under fire this week for selling some rather awful T-shirts. In possibly the worst variation on the tiresome "Keep calm and carry on" genre, the T-shirts were printed with the slogans "Keep calm and rape a lot", "Keep calm and hit her", "Keep calm and grope a lot" and "Keep calm and knife her." Just as terrible as the T-shirts was Solid Gold Bomb's attempt at an apology:

The company claimed it had been "informed of the fact that we were selling an offensive T-shirt primarily in the UK" and said: "This has been immediately deleted as it was and had been automatically generated using a scripted computer process running against hundreds of thousands of dictionary words."

Really? A computer error just so happened to generate four moronic slogans and nobody noticed. Did the computer also post the T-shirts as being for sale on Amazon with no human noticing this at any stage of the process? What about when orders started coming in? Did anyone say: "Hang on, why are we selling rape T-shirts?" Here is some interesting stuff on blaming rape-apologist algorithms for all this. It is indeed a convenient way to not take any responsibility.

Or maybe someone at Solid Gold Bomb accidentally hit the "Create T-shirts for douchebags" button.

2. Hilary Mantel was again proven right this week. Her claim that society and the media are obsessed with royal women's bodies was strengthened by the vulture-like reporters hovering around London's King Edward VII Hospital where the Queen was recovering from a bout of gastroenteritis. Everyone seems to have forgotten how badly that all ended last time a royal woman was at King Edward VII  - the obsession with the Duchess of Cambridge's severe morning sickness took a dark turn with a prank call and a nurse committing suicide.

But royal gastrointestinal systems are clearly as newsworthy as royal wombs and the reporters gathered outside the hospital in case of, er, I dunno... In case the Queen's doctor was going to emerge with full details of Her Majesty's bowels? It was boring, stupid television and to waste hours of time hovering around an expensive hospital when the NHS is being undermined at every opportunity is rather obscene.

3. Speaking of which, the Huffington Post's UK outpost has developed a creepy obsession with the pregnant Duchess of Cambridge and other knocked-up celebs. "Baby bump" has become their equivalent of the Daily Mail's "all grown up". As well as Kate Middleton, Kim Kardashian, Imogen Thomas, Fergie from the Blackeyed Peas, Rochelle Humes from The Saturdays and a Chinese woman known only as "Zhang" all come up on a "baby bump" search of the website.

It's gross and what was extra-stupid was the headline: "Kate Middleton Pregnant: Duchess and 'Bump' Visit National Portrait Gallery." As if she could simply take it off! I know there are madder elements of the prolife movement who'd disagree with me, but I'm pretty sure the foetus isn't going to remember this trip to the art gallery.

Whoever managed their Twitter account thought "Kate Middleton takes her baby bump to a wedding" was a sane thing to say and that moronic sentence leads the article that was linked to the tweet. Again, it's not as if she really has a choice in that matter. But I am sure the bump had a tremendous time at the nuptials.

4. Just in case anyone out there is labouring under the misapprehension that human rights laws are a bad thing, we have sickening news from Saudi Arabia that transcends mere stupidity and drives straight into completely vile territory. Seven men convicted of armed robbery face execution by crucifixion and firing squad. Yes, crucifixion. Six have been sentenced to death by firing squad and the main defendant is scheduled to be executed by crucifixion. For three days.

The condemned men claim they have had no access to lawyers, confessions were extracted under torture and most of them were juveniles at the time of the offences. If you are OK with any of this, you are seriously not well.

5. The Merriam-Webster dictionary continues its murder of the English language by letting the moronic use of "literally" creep into its pages. Every day, people claim they are literally on fire, that they literally have work coming out of their arses and that they would literally die if something non-lethal happened. These people do not need to be encouraged by dictionaries. It literally has to stop.

6. I've spotted some insane sex advice from Cosmopolitan's UK website but I may save that for later...

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