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Category Archives: Advertising
From Private Eye Oct 28 2011
“THE BEST THING you can do with environmentalists is shoot them”, Ryanair’s Michael O’Leary said in 2005. He also called them “lying wankers” and dismissed global warming as “horseshit”.
Recently, however his spin doctors have been trying to restyle the rough-hewn tycoon as a cuddly tree-hugger. Three months ago Ryanair’s head of comms, Stephen McNamara, briefed hacks that the airline would soon launch a “green” marketing campaign to boast about its low emissions. “Ryanair signals brand U-turn with eco claims” a marketing newspaper splashed.
The hack who wrote that story interviewed O’Leary two weeks ago at the launch of the Ryanair credit card and took the chance to ask when the eco campaign would start. “Never” came the reply. But, the startled hack persisted, your very own Stephen McNamara explained to me your intention to promote your green credentials. “Stephen’s just a PR” said O’Leary. “He’ll lie to you. I’ll tell you the truth”.
The Risks that Adverts Must Run and an Authoress’s
Fear of Freedom
By David McDonagh
The jennyass, Felicity Lawrence, feels that it is a big mistake of the CONDEMS’ new Health Secretary, Andrew Lansley, to dismiss the recent campaign of Jamie Oliver against obesity. Writing in the totalitarian propaganda sheet, that is so aptly named The Guardian, Thursday 8 July 2010, she protests that Lansley is overlooking the fact that it was only the nanny state could have recently saved the UK population from smoking. The Jamie Oliver campaign, backed by the state, has also worked in getting children to eat better at school, she says. Lansley was wrong to think it was all down to individual choice. Has he never heard of the power of marketing? Advertising can be used to get people to consume junk food. Andrew Lansley is not only facile, she says, but he is also clearly wrong headed in thinking that all social ills are down to individual responsibility rather than to the actions of powerful firms and their advertising campaigns.
This authoress wants to say, “Nanny does know best, Andrew Lansley.” She begins: “The health secretary’s belief that children should be responsible for their own diet choices would be risible were it not so scary” showing, thereby, a naked fear of freedom and responsibility, and a longing for totalitarian security and all round state
She indicates that Lansley is naïve to hold that “the captains of the food industry are decent chaps” who will choose not to sell junk food if only the state stops regulating them. “Lansley’s analysis of public health is so facile that it would be risible even in a prep-school debating society”, says this exceedingly stupid woman. It is unrealistic, she thinks, to expect schoolchildren to be responsible about their food.
She feels that Lansley has not even bothered to master his brief here “Figures out yesterday show that, far from putting large numbers off school meals as Lansley had claimed, Jamie Oliver’s campaign to improve school meals, and all the government work on nutritional standards that followed, has increased uptake of healthy hot meals at lunchtime. It turns out those in loco parentis, or to use that pernicious rhetoric of the privileged right, ‘nanny’, should decide what’s best for children. It works” she triumphantly exclaims.
Like so many Romantics, this is a tribal thing for the authoress. She does not seem to know that the pristine right of the French Assembly in 1789 was protectionist, as she is, and that the left was for the free trade, that she is so ardently opposed to. The Fabian Society called some old Tory ideas “socialist” in the 1890s, which was perfectly true, but they also said they were left wing. They did not fit in well with free trade, but this was widely accepted as being apt nevertheless. The dichotomy has been somewhat confused in common sense ever since.
Nor is Lansley even aware of the literature that shows that choice is a myth, she continues, as we are all ruled by the unconscious mind. He might begin his homework, she says, by reading up on Sigmund Freud’s nephew, Edward Bernays, he who wrote an essay on The Engineering of Consent. Advertising is more than just free speech; it is also a way of controlling those it broadcasts to, as the people all have an unconscious mind that any broadcast can enter to manipulate any one amongst the masses listening by using their modern techniques. Bernays was the first to realise that the public could be manipulated “into buying products they did not want or need by targeting their unconscious desires.” In the 1920s, he aided the large scale selling to the public of cigarettes and junk food. The state was needed to break the habit of smoking that such advertising had long built up, and it will similarly be needed to break the habit of consuming junk food too, says the authoress. With smoking, the adverts needed to be stopped first. Then the state was needed to put up taxes on the cigarettes and only later to ban smoking in public places. This long strategy alone could “quell the desires that had been so skilfully awakened” by the giant tobacco firms, she says. She writes as if there would be no smoking or eating of junk food at all if it was not for this tremendous manipulation ability of advertisements.
“Why does Lansley think the food industry has fought tooth and nail to avoid restrictions on its marketing to children? It has to catch them young, to form their palates and create their desires” she says.
This woman thinks that the founder of the Jesuits, Ignatius Loyola, was quite right to think that what we learn young enough; we can never quite analyse, or reasonably check out for truth in any way. It is worth mentioning that Voltaire was the product of such a Jesuit college.
We may hothouse the brain by early education to enlarge the brain by dendritic growth, but we cannot realistically hope to build in a special protection for any particular doctrine by any advantage in early education. And, as the pristine Romantic propagandist, J.J. Rousseau, rightly said, any material will aid brain development such that we will be able to think all the better as a result. Any ideas at all will educate us but none will stop further consideration as to whether they are true or not; quite the contrary, any will aid us to think clearly. Having learned about things – any particular things or things in general – we will be better able to think about fresh ideas than we would had we not been educated. A developed brain will better be able to think critically rather than being merely made loyal to whatever doctrines was used during its development.
Thus, the taxi driver’s knowledge of London will be as good as an intensive course of philosophy to that end. Both develop dendrites in the brain that basically boost the learner’s general ability. In the 1930s the best schools in the world were those run by the Jesuits, but they all, very oddly, confined themselves to Aristotle on physics, owing to their Thomist dogma. But their pupils soon caught up with modern physics as adults. Learning any subject will aid us to learn other subjects. Even if we could all be taught actually true doctrines, anyone might rethink them and fall into adult error, despite the fact that the external world, presumably, gives the truth a lift. Our brains simply do rethink all things. That is why this brainwashing idea is false. It assumes that we can be loyal to ideas indoctrinated but there is no way that we can prevent automatically revising all that we behold.
Richard Dawkins on memes is partly right. One aspect of the meme idea is that we believe, or catch, ideas like we do a virus, much as we catch a cold. But his idea that it is no use reasoning about the ideas that we thus catch, or pick up, any more than it would be to reason about a cold is clearly false, for all ideas are subject to reason not prior to adoption but at any time after they have been adopted. Thus, it is no advantage to get an idea adopted if it can be shed with ease, and false looking ideas can be shed with ease. Our minds automatically search for error and the rejection of anything that looks like error to us is automatic. We can never deliberately err, as Plato rightly said.
Earlier the authoress, Felicity Lawrence, wrote “Free choice isn’t healthy for the food industry’s menu” The Guardian, Wednesday 23 June 2010. She fears the market, loves the state yet also fears that the state has no chance unless it is very careful. I rather think that she is right that the state is not up to much, but she seems to merely imagine her supposed dangers of the market. “Traffic-light labelling was voted down in Europe only last week, scuppered by food industry lobbying of breathtaking determination and expense“. European consumer watchdogs have said that up to a billion pounds was spent by giant multinationals to get the members of the European parliament by use of emails and meetings to sway their vote, she tells us. The result is that an industry-sponsored scheme of nutrition labelling that serves only to confuse the customers emerged instead of her hoped for version of state regulation. The authoresses beloved Food Standards Agency [FSA], that had upset the giant firms in the food industry by successfully naming and shaming manufacturers for use of excess salt in their products, but it may now be abolished in the CONDEMS cuts even before it can fully sort out the big firms. There is simply too much fat in the foods that the big food companies sell today, says Felicity Lawrence, but the FSA might have put them in their place had the new government not been recently elected. “Plans are well advanced to emasculate it by returning its role in improving public nutrition to the Department of Health, whose past performance on food has been lacklustre” she says. “Another success, then, for the food industry and its lobbyists, who were hard at work in the run up to the election.”
The giant firms that produce all this dreadful junk-food for profit will not worry much over the plans that the state is making to control the advertising to children before the 9 pm TV watershed, as it can now use the internet to bypass any such regulations. It can use its adverts to get the children to pester their parents to buy junk food regardless of the planned restrictions. “This is not a world in which individuals make free, fully informed choices about food” she tells us. Rather “it is a world in which children are targeted by junk-food manufacturers from the youngest age. We live in a culture in which adult appetites are shaped by marketing that preys on our insecurities and emotional needs. It is an environment in which understanding the labels on our food practically requires a Ph.D. in food chemistry.” So she feels that the state is badly needed to protect the public from being victimised by the big firms that exploit them for profit.
But indoctrination is not as powerful as she thinks, even if we grant the idea that the adverts can indoctrinate; which there seems reason to think is false, as there is not even the time in most cases. The old adage “use it or lose it” seems to be the rule for all ideas, for if we do not use any set of ideas then they will tend to be forgotten. The general development of the brain, the growth of dendrites, will have been achieved by the use of any ideas used in education in the past. Not so the belief that the ideas in question are true, as that will depend on what the beholder thinks is the case at any one time only; even if, in revising what he thinks, he does not amend the content. The fact is that at any time, he might amend the content if it seems apt to do so. To think is to revise, even if we do not change our minds. And to be alive and in normal health is to think. We think automatically.
However, Felicity Lawrence has the daft idea that there is something called the “unconscious mind” that is the irrational enemy within us all. It will ensure that we are unhappy. That seems to be its main aim. So it urges us to do things that are bad for us. So we all need the guardianship of the state, which is, presumably, manned by politicians that lack this unconscious mind. How otherwise could they know what is best? But the idea that politicians are special in this way seems to be rather far-fetched. More realistic is the idea that there is no such unconscious mind, or any other means of manipulation through adverts.
Moreover, almost any history of psycho-analysis will show a falling off of this idea of the unconscious mind within the very movement that gave rise to it: within psychoanalysis. Any history of the movement will tell the reader about how the unconscious was abandoned by many, if not most, of the followers of Freud. . J.A.C. Brown, in Freud and the Post-Freudians (1964), for example, tells his readers that first Alfred Adler, and then many others, the majority, indeed, of the therapist followers of Freud, after a time, dumped this ‘unconscious’ meme as irrelevant to anything they thought was real. I think they were right to do so.
Similarly, the Jesuit colleges have exactly no chance of making a Catholic for life, given the first seven years. If ever such a successful former pupil is later willing to debate at any time, then all the Catholic doctrines learnt earlier will thereby run the risk of being discredited. This would be so even if the doctrines were true. If any opponents of the fondly indoctrinated Catholic ideas can get the pupil to debate then they do have a chance of wiping out any beliefs in the Jesuit creed that he was indoctrinated in. The Jesuits have no chance at all with Christianity in open debate, as Catholicism is, objectively, such a silly creed. But even if it were true it would still risk being abandoned on being criticised. Brainwashing is a mere myth, like mental illness, or irrationality, or socialism [as an alternative economy to the price system for the mass urban society] or the idea of God.
Even though all those bogus ideas – mental illness, irrationality and socialism – do give fools lots of pleasure, no one can actually believe as they wish, so anyone who discusses those bogus ideas thereby risks either being disillusioned, or even understanding an actual refutation in some cases. Bias cannot crowd out criticism, even though many fools feel utterly certain that it can. We are free to say what we like, but never to believe as we like. The one thing that Freud got right was “the reality principle”. We may not want to re-think, but we do re-think all the time; indeed we rethink any time that we do think, even if this is usually only superficially done. Any attempt to manipulate people will need to stand up to the normal test of reason or normal thinking that we all automatically do. It is not foolproof but it is a test.
In any case, the giant firms would need to compete with all the others in their adverts, even if we granted the bogus manipulation theory via the unconscious mind; but that theory looks lame so there is no need to grant it. Yet if we did, it would not be easy manipulation. Competition would ensure that.
Peter Watson in Ideas (2005) writes that the German historian of science, Theodor Gomperz said, “Nearly our entire intellectual education originates from the Greeks. A thorough knowledge of their origin is the indisputable prerequisite for freeing ourselves from their overwhelming influence” (p148) . But this is mere hyperbole, in both sentences, but complete folly in the second cited sentence, as ideas cannot gaol us in any way at all. Influence tends to push us out rather than to suck us in, thus the wider educated mind is usually the more independent mind and a man with a degree in Greek is not likely to be limited to ancient Greece in his outlook.
That we often deliberately make assumptions obfuscates the fact that we often make many tacit assumptions automatically too. Indeed, the latter assumptions are the norm. To repeat, the biologist, Richard Dawkins with his meme idea has the merit of getting the fact that we adopt ideas automatically, rather like we pick up a virus, correctly but he errs, and he errs very badly, when he says that what we automatically assume is thereby immune from criticism. E contra, we will automatically drop any assumption as soon as we see it as bogus, even if we are not right in it actually being bogus. As Plato rightly said, no one can deliberately err.
Indeed, few will think that this current common sense idea of irrationality, at least in the buying of what they do not want as result of advertising, applies to themselves. It only pertains to others; only to the masses. People may foolishly grant that they are irrational in other ways. But only the gullible masses seem open to being duped by advertising; but the masses are only an abstraction. We all feel we are better than others. It is the sort of value that we need to have, as it is, maybe, basic to survival; or at least it will have been so for our ancestors prior to the rise of civilisation. We realise that most adverts fall on barren ground as far as we are concerned. Few males want to wear the widely advertised female underwear, for example. But adverts must affect the masses, we think; even though we can also see that most people are not affected by adverts for wares that are made for the opposite sex or for products that are otherwise not suitable to most people who see or hear the advert. But why not, if they can manipulate any of us at will? Because we think about them, and in doing so we realise that the broadcast is not even aimed at us, of course. But if we do think in this way, then why should we ever grant the manipulation theory that Felicity Lawrence thinks is so silly of Lansley to ignore?
Even road-sweepers, or men selling newspapers, realise adverts have never persuaded them to buy what they do not want, though they still often feel that the adverts must work this way on the masses. The fact is that adverts persuade none. They do aid distribution by merely calling the attention of the people who already want the wares on offer to wares that they already want. That is enough to boost sales. No persuasion is needed.
Most adult people will admit that they have long forgotten most of whatever they learnt at school. I myself remember learning nothing at school on the normal day. I was very pleased never to be asked what I learnt on getting home for I would have usually had nothing to say. Most pupils seem to learn nothing on most days at school today too. That is why most nominal Catholics, sometimes even enthusiastic ones, know next to nothing about their creed, despite all those years of RI lessons at school. Most people do credit the schools with learning them to read and write, but they would have, most likely, picked these skills up as they grew up in the mass urban society. As Stephen Berry says, schools are mainly providing a child minding service. There has been no real building up of doctrine at school, let alone by the giant firms through adverts for smoking and junk food on the media. Mass indoctrination is greatly exaggerated.
Felicity Lawrence feels Lansley overlooks that the various firms have no social responsibility, beyond doing well for their shareholders. Why should they not want to sell more junk food? Bigger sales means more profits. She here overlooks that the firms have no interest in selling junk food, any more than any other food, and that firms actually sell only what is selected by the individual members of the public whenever such an individual chooses to become a customer. In each case, there is the money that the individual will need to pay whenever one wants to buy what is for sale, and that is a built-in disincentive to buy any particular good. Does the ware match up to whatever else the customer can obtain with money elsewhere? Our alternative uses of money have far more impact than any advert could ever have in ensuring that we only buy what we want, even if there was some sort of manipulation. We all do want money so we need to want any good that we actually do buy a bit more than the money that we pay for it and any manipulation, even if we grant it as real, will need to be strong to counter that. But Felicity Lawrence does not seem to realise that fact.
However, she will have experienced it whenever she has to pay for whatever she buys. By contrast, she will not have experienced the power of manipulation from the adverts, for it is not real at all. But she might think that, as this influence occurs unconsciously, she need never expect to have any experience of it. This does not seem to be a very realistic line of thought; but neither do the main ideas she accuses Lansley of ignoring look one iota realistic either. In any case, if the adverts can get the unconscious mind to buy anything, then why not get them to buy healthy food? Presumably, anything the public buys will yield a profit.
In any case, if the adverts can get the unconscious mind to buy anything, then why not get them to buy healthy food? Presumably, anything the public buys will yield a profit. Or does it all depend on the unconscious desires, as most accounts of it seem to suggest? If so, it does not even claim to get people to do as it wants but instead it simply depends on what is wanted by the unconscious mind already. Things are not looking so good for the big firms after all. They are going to need entrepreneurship with its risk of getting what the customers buy wrong, and thus making losses rather than profits. In this line of argument, it looks as if the firms do not have the alternative of handy manipulation by advertising to dodge the risk of losses after all.
Many amongst the UK public have feared greatly, just lately, that the law on product placement within TV programmes is about to be relaxed and they see this as sinister. Like Felicity Lawrence, they fear that advertisements will manipulate them through their unconscious mind by the use of modern techniques of persuasion. I recall a class in which the teacher put a case against adverts as a sort of running joke to lighten up the lesson [it was a mathematics night school class]. Towards the end of the class, he came near the end of his case against the Guinness adverts.: “Then it is on your mind that you might buy a pint of Guinness!” he exclaimed. He was a Guinness drinker and so was I. About seven of us went for a drink after the class each week. “And then you recall that you do not like Guinness!” I retorted. The class laughed. Just getting the message over will never be enough to sell a good. The good, or service advertised, will need to be wanted beforehand.
The authoress knows, or she thinks she knows, that social class rather than individual responsibility decides those things. Class is still a major determinant of how healthy a person is, says Felicity Lawrence. Inequality is the big factor that causes a lot of bad health by sales of cigarettes and junk food. The fact that the crass ideal of equality is impossible, in any case, is, presumably, not realised by the authoress. She goes on about how salt is bad for our blood pressure. But any reader might think that her silly articles are not the best recommended reading for dodging high blood pressure, nor is a daily reading of that rag, The Guardian. It may help its readers if they take their daily reading of it with a small pinch of salt.
Felicity Lawrence finds the idea of individual responsibility, that she calls a Tory idea, to be “truly frightening”. This idea “which casts everything as personal responsibility – social injustice, like obesity, is indeed a moral failure, but only on the part of those who suffer it” she writes. Felicity Lawrence finds the idea of individual responsibility, that she calls a Tory idea, to be “truly frightening”. This idea “which casts everything as personal responsibility – social injustice, like obesity, is indeed a moral failure, but only on the part of those who suffer it” she writes. But, if we look at it historically, if we go back to what Tory and Whig meant up to the 1840s, or what Tory and Liberal meant in the 1850s and 60s, then she is, basically, a one nation Tory par excellence. What is more, she writes for a pristine Tory warmongering rag that campaigned against Cobden and Bright for opposing the Crimean War, and helped to get both of them thrown out of the House of Commons for opposition to that war. However, she seems to lack the historical knowledge to realise all that.
My guess is that she will be very confused as to what is social injustice. It will be linked to the rather arbitrary ideal of equality in her mind, as in the mind of anyone who writes for The Guardian, but justice bears no relation to that crass ideal in reality. There are many things that we are not responsible for – how the way the moon affects the tides or, less obviously, the earth daily. But it is plainly true that we are responsible for how fat we are at any one time. It is also up to each of us whether we smoke cigarettes, or not. Being a member of the proletariat does not mean that I have to smoke cigarettes and eat beef-burgers. Many such classified people do not follow the norm in that respect, if it is a norm. It will only happen in my case if I want to do those things. My social class has exactly no actual bearing on my choice there; none whatsoever. Ditto for everyone else. But Felicity Lawrence prefers to personify mere social class; for she writes as if she feels that a mere academic abstraction can refute a plain reality, the reality of personal choice. She is hardly alone in that folly. But only actual agents can be responsible [i.e. to be able to respond to blame] and those mere abstractions are clearly not agents. So it is merely futile to blame them. This is, basically, what Mrs Thatcher was saying when they cited her on there being no such thing as society, for when it comes to blame, society is not an agent [and it is not actually a thing either, but mere social interaction]. It does not make sense to blame society, as it cannot do anything at all. Similarly, social class does not decide who smokes or eats junk food. Abstractions simply cannot be responsible in that they cannot respond.
I do not think that there is much of worth in any plea that Lansley has in mind to make to the food industry. It would be better for him to do nothing at all.
The less state regulation there is, the better. Regulation is going to be dysfunctional. This is because the state is bound to victimise some when it taxes and to corrupt others when it favours people with handouts too. It is going to be negative sum on the whole transaction, as there will not only be the funds transferred from OY to McX, but bureaucrats will also need to be paid for the administration costs that will be involved.
Felicity Lawrence tells us that Edward Bernays had his main influence in the 1920s but the essay she recommends Lansley to read dates from 1947. Bernays brought out a book he called Propaganda (1928). It adopts the absurd idea that we have an unconscious mind. The plain reality is that what is unconscious is not of the mind, ipso facto. To be unconscious is exactly to be not of the mind.
“If we understand the mechanism and motives of the group mind, is it not possible to control and regiment the masses according to our will without their knowing about it?” – Edward Bernays
Many people who champion the idea of an unconscious mind credit the fact that things can often become clearer if only we sleep on it. To let the action of the unconscious mind work on the problem for us (for example, on a new bit of mathematics) overnight. This time, contrary to the normal idea that it is the enemy within, the unconscious mind is held to be a friend who helps us with our homework. But what has most likely actually happened is that fresh brain development has taken place overnight, in that new dendrites have emerged in the brain. This will be unconscious, but not really to do with the mind, any more than muscle development that can, similarly, occur overnight. This is not of the mind at all but of the body. Either may be owing to a decision made to exercise the mind, or the body, but the development will be physical in each case rather than being mental.
Bernays had the very widespread idea that people are irrational and he thought that this explained why they bought things that he, when considering them with his advanced theories, thought they did not really need, or even want. As we do not need most things, the former idea of Bernays looks realistic. But with the second idea, that the customer does not even want whatever is purchased, there is the built-in disincentive of parting with some money that, in each case, tends to refute the idea that we never want what we buy. Indeed, that the customer parted with scarce money for whatever was bought suggests that the customer wanted whatever was bought even more than the money that they had to pay for it, even if they did not need what they paid for. Many of Bernays epigones in marketing thought that firms made things and then got the customers to buy them by secret methods involving the unconscious mind. But that looks a little nebulous if we but think about it.
Felicity Lawrence, too, seems to think that the choice was made for people by the firms before the customers buy anything. This is quite true as far as it goes and it is simply the great risk of ordinary entrepreneurship, but Felicity Lawrence and the literature she so admires, usually written by silly psychologists and marketing experts, did not mean that the firms risked a loss in guessing what could sell. Rather that the firms might be able to cut out the risk altogether by simply manipulating what people want towards whatever they found it easiest to produce, that they might cut out the risk of making unwanted losses with the aid of Bernays’ advanced theories. They thought that the whole of the risk of guessing what the customers might buy, what they wanted enough to pay for, could be bypassed by modern techniques of persuasion. It seems clear that they did not do much conscious thinking on this unconscious idea.
Oddly, the followers of Bernays usually also thought that making a study of people was needed, to see how the customers felt. If one understood what those “unconscious desires” were, then one could use this to the firm’s advantage. It could be used to sell products the giant firms had already decided to produce, to greatly increase sales of well-established goods. One example was where they found that many housewives felt a bit guilty, in their unconscious mind, that they were having it way too easy in the home by making a cake from a popular cake mixture, so the firm recommended, on the packet, that adding an egg would be needed. That made the housewife feel that the end result was a bit more of her own work, thereby easing the guilt by quite a bit and greatly increasing sales of the product as a result.
This cake mixture example is given in a few internet accounts of those hidden powers of manipulation that I finally resorted to in an effort to find out whatever it could be that Felicity Lawrence was referring to. Yet this much repeated example is odd in at least two senses:
1) Why did the guilt need to ever be unconscious and, if it was such, how was it ever found out by the researchers? Clearly, the unconscious meme was only included as it was a beloved false idol, or a mere fad. That is its attraction for the likes of Felicity Lawrence, Edward Bernays and all the others who adopt it. It is actually a counter productive idea in the story they tell of the housewives guilt. Their love of the paradox leads them to overlook the absurdity involved.
2) Why was research, such as this on housewife guilt, ever needed when they claimed to have the advanced means that could be used to sell her anything in any case? We have been told and retold, that what is needed, or even wanted, by the mere individual housewife does not matter but that theoretical abstractions, like the unconscious mind or social class, decides whatever she does. So why all this research into what it is that she desires? If sales are to be achieved by manipulating desires on the unconscious level, why not just get on with it then? That the masters of the advanced techniques seemed to think that some research was needed suggests that they did not consciously believe in the power of their own advanced means of manipulation.
Many who dislike the market ironically greatly over-estimate the power of money. They think that state services always would work, if only more money was supplied to them, for example. They also think that adverts simply must have a great effect merely owing to the money that goes into them. If the adverts did not persuade people then lots of money would never be spent on them, it is claimed. But adverts aid distribution even when they do not begin to persuade people of anything. It is enough that they remind people of what they advertise. Most people who reject the market do so on the idea that it is about greed and selfishness, but the market is, ironically, where the workers are all institutionally geared to serving others. This is so clearly the case that it might be far more aptly labelled as institutionalised altruism. Profit is a sign that wide sections of the public have been served by the firm who reaps the profit. By contrast, I fear that the state invariability mucks society up. It is always a negative sum activity, which is intrinsically uneconomic and thus dysfunctional and wasteful. So the CONDEMS seem to be on the right track in their aim of replacing the state sector with private sector jobs.
Some people feel that adverts are propaganda, and that is indeed the case, but they think that propaganda is all lies,ipso facto. The state used what it called propaganda against other states whom it was at war with in 1914 and 1939, but this wartime use of words by the state was indeed a war of words, rather that an attempt to recruit or propagate, so it might have been more aptly called polemics than propaganda. Propaganda sets out to persuade rather than to alienate or to discourage or to demoralise. It is out of place in war. So “wartime propaganda” is something of a misnomer.
In a moment of rare candour Galbraith remarked “You will find that the State is the kind of organization which, though it does big things badly, does small things badly, too.”
However, it is not the case that propaganda has to persuade. There simply is not the time to persuade in most adverts, though there is the occasional lengthy advert in magazines, which may be mistaken for an article, and may be of a similar length. It might have an opportunity to break this advertising norm by successful persuasion. However, most adverts are merely drawing attention to the item advertised. The notice of the Libertarian Alliance [LA] monthly meetings is an example. They draw attention to the meetings in the hope that those who see the advert will already want to come along to such meetings. Adverts rely on people wanting the ware, the good or the service that they set out to promote beforehand. The LA adverts are part of the distribution in the making of those LA meetings. They act merely like the ringing a big bell, but ringing a big bell only works in the wake of the achievement of any needed persuasion. They work only on the idea that what they call attention to is already desired. The persuasion needs to have been, long since, done before any advert can have an effect. Entrepreneurship in general also does not set out to persuade but rather to guess what people will, or might, want. It similarly conforms to what is out there already, or to what might soon emerge out there, rather than attempting to get people to buy what is simply easy for the giant firms to produce.
Entrepreneurship embraces the unavoidable risk of error, but the likes of the late J.K. Galbraith, or nowadays his son James, tend to feel, with Felicity Lawrence and The Guardian readers, that this risk can be taken away by the sheer power of advanced modern advertising techniques. It is merely naïve to think otherwise, we are told.
However, the reality is that if the ware being advertised is not wanted beforehand then the adverts will merely be barren. Thus the adverts for junk food will be lost on those that think it is aptly named, that the food being advertised really is junk. Adverts do not usually have the time to persuade, even if such rejecters of junk food could be persuaded, and entrepreneurship is not about persuasion anyway. Rather it is about guessing correctly the likely desires of potential customers. The adverts merely seek to draw attention to the product they set out to promote. They can only help to distribute what the customers already want.
Adverts are propaganda, but they are usually also post-persuasion phenomena. They only work on the already persuaded. They are wasted on the people that do not already like the ware, or service, advertised. They aid sales greatly, but only by calling attention to wares that people already want. Recent adverts have been less widely broadcast, but rather more like narrow-casts, thus they are better aimed at the target people who are more likely to already want the product promoted. This is simply to cut out the realised barrenness of the older wider broadcasts. Why would firms bother with all this if they had known how to get anyone to buy anything, as the authoress, Felicity Lawrence, and many others seems to hold?
The facts concerning the wares or services on offer do not usually even matter to adverts, apart from occasionally the facts of access, as to where and when they are on offer; i.e. merely the facts saying “it is here!”
The whole aim, then and now, was simply to drawn attention to what was on offer. That is why they so often use women, those masters of drawing attention to themselves, and they will use them in advertising any ware at all. It is the ability to draw attention to themselves, mastered by women, that the advertisers seek to use. It does not matter one whit that the ware being promoted has nothing to do with women. It is not sex, but the arts of attraction that women have mastered, and that makes them so very useful in all sorts of adverts. Adverts really are still, in effect, rather like the pristine adverts in the seventeenth and eighteen century, that did actually ring a big bell to call the attention of people to the goods on sale. The whole aim, then and now, was simply to drawn attention to what was on offer. That is why they so often use women, those masters of drawing attention to themselves, and they will use them in advertising any ware at all. It is the ability to draw attention to themselves, mastered by women, that the advertisers seek to use. It does not matter one whit that the ware being promoted has nothing to do with women. It is not sex, but the arts of attraction that women have mastered, and that makes them so very useful in all sorts of adverts. They draw attention not only from men; for females are even better noticed by other women who, presumably, have no sexual interest in them at all [though the PC crew might object to that; how they still love Freud, who held by dogma that we were all polymorphous perverts.] Adverts are there merely to draw attention: nothing more. But that is enough. It is all that an advert ever seeks to do and it is all it needs to do. It is not about persuasion. Still less is it about any manipulation. It does not even need to be agreeable. It only needs to draw attention to the ware, or service, that it seeks to promote. Maybe to rub people up the wrong way will draw their attention even more successfully than to be agreeable. That is a point for any advertising firm to seriously consider. They will need to think about the risk of failure, for advertising can never remove that risk.
However, we liberal propagandists need to realise that it is best to inform people if we are to persuade them. We do need to win the public over to seeing that the state is a big mistake and that taxation is anti-social rather than a sign of welfare. But adverts do not need to persuade. They do not need to tell the public much about the wares being promoted, but there may well be a need to state the time and the place where access to the wares promoted may be had, though with many, or even most wares, this might be well known already. So most adverts will need only to draw attention to what is being advertised.
This theory of adverts as unconscious manipulation, as advanced techniques of persuasion that can get people to part with needed money to buy anything that the giant firms can easily produce is not very persuasive. But this is what the authoress, Felicity Lawrence, rather stupidly and unrealistically, thinks is so very realistic and she is brazen enough to say that Lansley is facile to ignore it. The very idea of it is absurd, as there can be no unconscious mind, ipso facto. Similarly, there are no means that the giant firms have to get people to pay for things that they do not even want. So the whole line of thought is a mere brutum fulmen. There is no reason at all for this authoress to fear freedom.
David Robert Gibson
I will try to reply to most, or hopefully all of your points under these
headings (as Kevin rightly wrote, I have also written much on this in the
LAF over recent years):
What do I mean by Consumerism?
In this context, I mean a dictionary definition of “Attachment to
materialistic values” – colloquially ‘keeping up with the Joneses’, the
attitude embodied by the Harry Enfield character who proclaimed ‘loads of
money’, by the ‘Yuppies’ with their Champagne and Porsches, and by the “Wall
Street” Gordon Gekko character who said “….Greed is Good”. The cache
attached to acquiring as many materials goods as one can afford (or more
commonly what the mortgage and credit card companies will allow). The cache
attached to owning goods made by Gucci, Chanel, Nike, etc.
Consumerism and Character:
Consumerism is demeaning – its vanguard is advertising, most of which is
trivial, superficial, garish and misleading, altogether tasteless. Its main
body involves travelling through congested roads, parking in narrow spaces,
walking through industrialised aisles picking up goods with a dearth of
discrimination, queuing, then the reverse back home. Its back-end involves
reading bills, paying them, borrowing money, working more than one needs to,
and giving large gratuities to the tax man. IMO in each of these cases,
people would be better off spiritually and psychologically doing other
things – looking at a pleasant country scene and fine art, listening to
Mozart and Beethoven, indulging in some sensual pleasure, watching a good
film (preferably downloaded or purchased from a charity shop so one avoids
tax), prayer, meditation, reading a charming or enlightening book,
exchanging emails with libertarians, etc. We have only so much time in this
Consumerism and Government:
Consumerism increases the wealth and power of government – most goods are
subject to tax, national and local, indirect and direct, and most people
most of the time cannot evade that tax. Governments, again national and
local, derive their major source of power from their income via tax. If you
agree with me that their activities are mostly malign, that malignancy must
be funded so they can employ staff to execute their plans with buildings and
equipment funded also by tax
I am strongly in favour of private enterprise, sellers making a fair return,
buying useful and pleasurable goods discriminatingly, but that is not
David Robert Gibson
One has to wonder who’d want to be an MP these days, after all the moolah-hoo-hah. Certainly Geoff Hoon, whose name has spawned a new pejorative (I always said – from 200 onwards – how could one give a job to someone called Hoon? It, the act of hiring someone called that, defied logic and rationality) and Alastair “Eyebrows” Darling, would want to hang their heads for the rest of their lives at Toynbee Hall.
Perhaps there were fault-lines in the “system”? Or perhaps there were not, and someone clever went along and told all these guys what they could do, and get away with? But either way, the MPs set it up themselves.
I don’t think MPs ought to be paid. Anything. Nothing at all. Then we’ll only get the right type. Prince Philip would do, so long as he agreed to spank Charles every day thereafter, for gassing on mindlessly and hysterically about the rainforest.
Oh, and as I am an upside-down-Gramscian, lefty pop singers and their wives, and anybody at all who supports AGW, need not be selected either. Given the choice, Constituency Associations, who would have to be either shopkeepers, or any other sort of Masterless Men, would probably give them a wide berth naturally.
Er, the vats of boiling sulphuric acid are out there and people are very angey and I don’t know why WordPress deleted the title I had which was wonderful, while I was editing the post. But I just thought all you GramscoFabiaNazis in ZanuLieBorg ought to be made to understand why you are so hated even though you are God’s Gift To ManKind or so you think, even though you are quite sure there is No God (except yourselves) and even though you know that taking our money is part of your job and destiny. There, that was almost as good, but not what I posted first.
(The title is longer, and less good, than my first effort, but it will have to do.)
Hello, all you GramscoFabiaNaZianuLieBorgs. (Follow the _money_ while you still can! It will come for a year, or so, but what shall you do after that? Honourably break stones in China? Or get a UB40?)
Bastards. I bet 11p, at 4-to-11-on, that 46.9% of you Nazianus don’t even know where Tibet is on a map, for f***s sake. Tibet is where you would be stonebreaking, under the carefully-scientific and watchful gaze of the Chinese People’s Army, if I had my way. You might die there, but you’d have an exciting time getting there, and living there, for a bit.
I just thought I ought to bring something to your attention. This is since so very very many of your people read us as I now know from our stats. Specially from Labourlist. You come to us, we know….. Now also we know that some emotional people over at Guido’s place are expressing sentiments about what you Fabians have been doing, are doing now, and want more to do, to this nation.
Here’s a small exerpt:-
Probably because the nulabourites all thought this expenses lark was part of the job. We know how the left hate other people having money because they want it all for themselves ie poltics of envy & hate etc etc. They are just all f***ing idiots and we are bigger idiots for letting them get away it.
If this had happened 30 or 40 years ago it would have brought the govt down. Nulabour (who clearly have very little understanding of anything other than ‘taking’) can’t even apologise. I genuinely think people like Blears still don’t think they’ve done anything wrong. If she had any backbone or integrity, she would have resigned as would that piggy pink faced Margaret Moran with her 4 homes.
So called bloody socialists – their duplicity knows no bounds.
I detest this government with a passion so intense it actually radiates venom and I now have no friends. Small children run screaming in the street, and I feel violently compelled to take all of the fifteen bins I now have and shove them, forcefully up the rear end of the next Labour politician who dares cross my path. I am past apoplectic and into a stage of hatred that is beyond anything that I thought even I could imagine. It has took well over a decade to get to this point.
So what do they do? They know they are hated, they know that everybody with more than two brain cells to rub together wants a chance to kick them into the long grass. But no, the bastards will hang on till the last minute so they can fuck us over one last time. They really do seem to be trying to destroy the country so that the Tories will have a shit time and they can get back in and abuse us again.
Forget piano wire and lamp posts, I want eviscerations and torture. I want to see them burned at the stake using a bucket of Thermite. I want these people tortured slowly.
Hoddles Waddle says:
ditto to goats comment….phew
gollums knob says:
fucks sake Goat, don’t hold back – tell us how you really feel.
Why does this affect libertarians?
It does, because the less of this kind of Enemy Classperson we have to deal with, and take stuff off and repay it to taxpayers, individually, in thousandths of a penny per person, upon our attaining executive power, the fewer acountants (who often vote socialist because they have been Eagletonianized) we will have to employ.
Here’s some more:-
Constantly Furious says:
Yeeeeeha! As I said here: I Bloody Well Told You So
The filthy-rich Tory “Grandees” could easily afford to pay back the money, whereas the Labour “Flat-Flippers”, whose money is tied up in devalued flats and plasma TV’s, could not. A great opportunity to score points, eh?
Expect Cameron to go on the attack now: “We’ve cleaned up: why can’t they do the same?”.
Expect Brown to vanish off the face of the earth for days on end.
Dr Nuts says:
I don’t care if their properties are devalued – that’s their problem. They shouldn’t have misappropriated the monies in the first place.
Thieves aren’t allowed to claim clemency of ‘it’s not worth as much now’ in the court of law. There’s a simple rule – for all… give back what you shouldn’t have claimed, it should’ve come out of your pocket in the first place!
The latest PBS adaptation of Charles Dickens’s classic novel Oliver Twist demonstrates the urgent need for reform of the taxpayer-supported broadcasting service–or an end to taxpayer funding for it.
The temptation to “improve” on classic works of culture seems all but irresistible, especially to the political radicals and social transformers who infest public broadcasting organizations in the United States and Europe. The Corporation for Public Broadcasting has long been known as a very aggressive practitioner of efforts at political and social transformation through its partially taxpayer-funded Public Broadcasting System (PBS) for television and its National Public Radio (NPR) network.
Of course, supporters of public broadcasting dismiss the claims of political bias, despite the abundance of evidence. Certainly the networks produce some good things that don’t seem to have as strong a transformative agenda, but on the whole the bias is strong. And the programming providers continue on their merry way, bolstered by taxpayer dollars.
For example, as the PBS series Masterpiece Classic (formerly Masterpiece Theater, one of the good things the network has done over the years) begins a new presentation this week–an adaptation of Charles Dickens’s classic novel Little Dorrit, viewers may well hope that the producers will be somewhat more faithful to the things that have kept people reading the book over the past century and a half, and not “improve” it as they did with their recent two-part presentation of Dickens’s Oliver Twist.
Unlike the network’s superb 2005 adaptation of Dickens’s Bleak House, the producers of the Oliver Twist adaptation (in concert with the UK-government-controlled British Broadcasting Corporation) have decided to update the classic novel to conform to current political shibboleths.
The visual presentation is quite effective, wisely following the lead of the Bleak House adaptation (and the 2005 theatrical film version of Pride and Prejudice and Roman Polanski’s 2005 film version of Oliver Twist) in employing a gritty, cluttered look that vividly evokes the brilliant liveliness of Dickens’s novels. In the Masterpiece Classics version of Oliver Twist the dirty streets of lower-class London are striking, crime ring leader Fagin’s wretched den of thieves is awful in its squalor, and the home of Oliver’s wealthy would-be benefactors is a refreshing contrast while looking plausibly lived-in.
The story and characterizations, unfortunately, don’t match the faithful and evocative visuals. One of the first and most jarring notes is the appearance of actress Sophie Okonedo as Nancy, Oliver’s protector in Fagin’s den of thieves. Okonedo was born of a Jewish mother and black father and looks very African in descent.
Now, it’s just plausible that Twist’s villain, the violent and vulgar Bill Sykes, would have an African-English girlfriend, but there’s not a hint of that in Dickens’s novel. Clearly the producers are imposing an ideal of a colorblind society on a story where it adds nothing, is unnecessary, and is quite a distraction for those who know the original novel. The character, however, is as complex and benevolent as in the original story, which is all to the good.
Thus, while being somewhat distracting, the transformation of Nancy into a black woman does no major damage to the story. Other changes, however, do, and some are really contemptible, all pushing in the same direction.
Among the less offensive changes are the transformation of wealthy benefactor Rose into a Victorian female version of Sam Spade, aided by her housekeeper, Mrs. Bedwin, in forays into the mean streets of London in search of Oliver. Clearly this is an attempt by the producers to create another heroic female figure in the story, and the presentation of Mr. Brownlow, another benefactor, as impatient and too willing to believe Oliver a thief makes the point that much more obvious: Men bad, women good.
Fagin, brilliantly portrayed by Timothy Spall, is a very obviously bad sort, although the producers seem intent on suggesting that what has driven him to crime is anti-Semitism, more than any choice of his own. They do, however, largely present him in his full, evil selfishness, lest the viewer fail to recognize the immense, consistent horribleness of the male sex.
The worst of the lot, of course, is Bill Sykes, brilliantly portrayed by Tom Hardy (Band of Brothers). His Sykes is a good deal less powerful and formidable than the character embodied by Oliver Reed’s excellent performance in the theatrical musical film version, Oliver!, but he’s a thoroughly rotten villain, as in the original novel.
Even here, though, the producers introduce elements that water down the power of the original story. The characterization of Sykes continually introduces a strong element of anxiety in the character, suggesting a more modern point of view in which, as with Fagin, people are driven to crime by poverty. This reaches a ridiculous peak when Sykes deliberately hangs himself in one of the film’s climactic moments.
In the Dickens original, of course, Sykes is accidentally hanged, not a deliberate suicide. Making his end a suicide destroys the original story’s presentation of a sense of cosmic justice, replacing it with a bathetic stab at evoking a measure of sympathy for a human devil.
Most revolting of all, however, is the producers’ addition of a new element to Fagin’s trial near the end of the story. In the original novel, Fagin is tried for his crimes and sentenced to death. It’s clearly the only sensible resolution to Fagin’s story, and even if we feel some sympathy for him and recognize that the conditions of his life have been far from ideal, it’s clear that his activities have earned him the rope according to the laws of the time.
The producers, however, are intent on blaming society for Fagin’s crimes, and they make this repugnant premise explicit in the trial scene. The judge looks at Fagin and asks him if he would like to obtain mercy. Fagin naturally says yes. The judge then tells Fagin to get down on his knees and ask Jesus Christ for mercy and acknowledge Christ as savior of mankind.
I should hope it needless to say that this is both historically absurd and an entirely false addition to Dickens’s story, and one which thoroughly undermines the author’s intelligent and nuanced view of social conditions and personal responsibility. Dickens was a powerful advocate of social reform while never denying that people should and indeed must be held responsible for their choices.
Thus the producers cap the adaptation with a slam against Christianity and a presentation of the standard leftist line that Christians are eager to impose their religious beliefs by force. This takes the adaptation explicitly away from everything Dickens’s novel was about and transforms it into a dreary purveyor of modern-day political shibboleths.
Unlike commercial television and radio, public broadcasting is notoriously insensitive to the needs of audiences beyond the upper-middle- and upper-class liberals whose political and economic power controls their purse strings. As this recent travesty of Oliver Twist vividly demonstrates, it’s high time the taxpayers rose up and made public television more responsive to the public and less able to indulge in a long-term scheme of political and social transformation.
For newer readers who may not have swum in libertarian, or in Austrian-School-economic waters for very long, you can find out about Friedrich Hayek here, and why he was a key classical liberal/libertarian philosopher.
The global-climate-change-Gramsco-MarxiaNazi-buggers, and their _very_ close friends who are the starvation-driving-mass-people-slaughterers, will not now be faced with the evidence – which is that Man is _not_ causing “global warming”. Thye have cleverly scuppered the satellite – and can simultaneously discredit what ordinary people call “rocket-science”….so that it’s for them a “one-stone-solution to a two-bird problem”.
As regards rocket-science, they will be able to sya how inept we all are, and should stay here and subsistence-farm with chicken manure and stuff.
As regards “global warming”, they will be able to say that “the Science” is “still settled”, for there is still “no” evidence for their hypothesis being proved not to be true.
You just do the insurance-equivalent of setting your car on fire, to claim the dosh and pretend it was all right anyway.
Further to Mr Geert Wilders’ movie-making and travel complications, an elucidation of the last days’ events.
You have to wonder what the mindset is, of persons who link together these three words. “National” + “Dementia” + “Strategy”. It makes me think of dudes who work under the Ministry, in Richard Blake’s new historical novel, “The Terror of Constantinople“, to be published by Hodder & Stoughton on this coming Thursday (5th Feb 2009.)
“I thought that “national dementia” was something invented and posthumously exploited by “Princess” Diana, and then algorithmically-developed and extended by slebs and also by Peter Bazalgette, until I read the DT today.
You have to wonder what a “dementia czar” would look like, or do in his office. As regards what the Libertarian Alliance thinks about czars, we have two things to say:-
(1) We approve of czars IF and only _if_ they are autocratically appointed within and for private organisations, in which environment those who disagree are free to leave, _and_, importantly, the appointing agents are free to dismiss the czar at any time.
For example, I, the editor of this blog, am the LA Blog Czar.
(2) We disapprove of czars as they are commonly employed these days: which is to say, as used by the British State to act as fall guys and take the blame create spinnable headlines for ZanuLieborg by ordering other less powerful robots about so that it looks in the MSM as if something is being done about some intractable problem that the State has compulsively taken on.
There is something profoundly paradoxical about the left’s use of the word “czar”, considering its masturbatory obsession with the theoretical idea of democracy as it imagines what it persists in calling “people power” to be. I’d have thought that the very concept of “czar” – both as derived from the word “Caesar” which came to mean “Emperor”, and from its Imperial Russian connotations, ought to be in the same token profoundly distasteful to the Gramsco-Marxians.
Perhaps we ought to devil up a list of czars. Here’s some:-
the “crime czar” wants us all to stop calling children “yobs”
and here’s sovereignty, which has already spotted thr tyrants of triviality:-
and it looks like the Yanks have got a touch of Czarrhosis of the whatever, as well:-
Here he is in good form on MPs’ expenses thieving. it actually raises the question about how, if at all, MPs and indeed all other “representatives” ought to be remunerated. here’s a poll:-
IF YOU LIKE HISTORICAL NOVELS, AND YOU ARE QUITE CLEVER, AND IF YOU ARE BORED WITH READING ABOUT THE WIVES OF HENRY THE EIGHTH, which is so “done”, and so sad now ‘COZ they are all dead white Christian Women, THEN YOU NEED TO READ THIS INSTEAD:-
UPDATE:- Please also see our review of “Terror of Constantinople”, the first Libertarian Novel of 2009 – out soon at a bookshop or website near you! This will undoubtedly become the Next Book Which You Will Need To Have Read.
“Every page, every sentence, every word in this immortal masterpiece glows with the fire of divine creation, and resonates in the soul with the luminosity of genius. God speaks at sundry times and in divers places. But surely Conspiracies of Rome is the greatest inspirational message delivered to humankind since The Good Book itself.”
(Aaron P. Krellburger, Hardingsville Courier)
“Ever since the dawn of time, man has striven to erect monuments to the human spirit which neither time nor the elements shall deface. But they shall remain as adamantine testaments to that which is imperisihable in the Universe, and that which lies even beyond the Universe. Such, I must affirm, is the case with Richard Blake’s Conspiracies of Rome.”
(David Hunter, East Kent Weekly Post)
UPDATE:- You might like to also read “TERROR OF CONSTANTINOPLE” – the SEQUEL. Available from 5th February 2009 HERE. You may pre-order!
Book Review by Margaret Richardson
Hodder & Stoughton, London, 2009, 356pp, £7.99 (pb)
When released in hardback, this novel was described as “the publishing sensation of 2008”. According to L. Neil Smith, the giant of modern science fiction,
It’s simply the best historical novel I’ve ever read, perhaps short of C.S. Forester. It’s a very great deal better than any of the ancient Roman detective novels I’ve seen.
According to Derek Jacobi, one of the greatest actors of his generation, and star of I Claudius and, with Russell Crowe, of Gladiator,
[It is] fascinating to read, very well written, an intriguing plot and I enjoyed it very much.
The first printing sold out within three days, and the export paperback had to be diverted to the British market to fill the demand. Even so, copies were selling on E-Bay at five times the cover price.
Now available in paperback, the novel is selling faster in W.H. Smith than The Diary of Anne Frank, which has just had an entire week’s outing on the BBC.
What has made this book such a success? Well there is in the first place a very well-constructed plot. Rome in 609 AD. The Empire has fallen. The City itself is rapidly falling into ruins. The streets are blocked with filth and rubble. Killers prowl by night. The Emperor, far off in Constantinople, has other concerns. The Church is the one institution left intact, and is now flexing its own imperial muscle.
But for getting that girl pregnant, and but for King Ethelbert’s “suggestion” that he try his luck elsewhere, Aelric might never have left Kent. Now he is in this post-imperial snake pit—as secretary to Maximin, a priest sent back to gather books for the new English mission.
A chance encounter on the road to Rome sucks them into a mystery. There is fraud. There is pursuit. There is murder after murder. Soon, Aelric is involved in a race against time to find answers. Who is trying to kill him? Where are those letters and what do they contain? Who is the one-eyed man? What significance to all this has the Column of Phocas, the monument just put up in the Forum to celebrate a tyrant’s generosity to Holy Mother Church?
Blundering via lechery, drunkenness, blasphemy, drug abuse, market rigging and pedantry, Aelric at last gets his answer. What he chooses to do with that answer will shape the future history of Europe and the world….
But so much for the plot. If you like historical thrillers, this one is about as good as they get. What I found so striking about the novel is its imaginative reconstruction of a vanished world – but a world that is often disturbingly close to our own.
The sort of Rome we normally read about in historical novels is the Rome of the great days, or at least the Rome of early into its decline. The Empire is still building up, or holding firm, or perhaps in danger of being wrecked by some profligate individual. But this is a Rome after its fall.
Imagine how it must have been to live in Rome during the seventh century. For a thousand years, your city was the centre of the world. For good or ill, everyone looked to your government to see what it would do in any situation. Your ancestors could boast that they were a race of conquerors, of lawgivers, of poets and architects and engineers, that they had imposed their ways and language on a large part of the world. But that is all over.
Your city that was once the capital is now a border town in a continuing Empire that is ruled from elsewhere – an elsewhere run by people who call themselves your heirs or brothers, but who never liked you and who lose no opportunity now to let you know that you are fallen from greatness. All the arts and other ancient virtues are visibly dying. The city is falling, physically as well as morally, into ruins. Your own territory is filled up with often dangerous immigrants who do not share your ways or are actively hostile.
The one flash of brightness is that the city is host to an organisation that exercises a non-military sway over much of the former Empire. Its ideals are different from those of your ancestors. Its personnel are mostly foreign. Such natives as rise high within it do so by suppressing all feeling of patriotism or other local pride. But this remains a great organisation, and it is useful for providing the money that keeps most people alive.
Are there any resonances here? I think there are. But then, if science fiction is often a critique of the present, so too is historical fiction. It allows things to be said openly and bluntly in ways that would not be tolerated in mainstream fiction.
But I come back to my question. What is it like to live in a place from which all its ancient glory has departed? One answer given in Conspiracies of Rome is that life goes on for most people much as before:
Choosing at random, I took one of the exit streets, and walked briskly past arcades of bright, cheerful shops. I’d normally have stopped and looked in these. Rome, you see, wasn’t just a depopulated slum. If much fallen away from its old magnificence, it was still, here and there, by any other standard, a great and wealthy city. There was a continuing demand for goods and services that had to be satisfied somewhere. And I’d wandered by accident into one of the few districts where life went on much as it always had. But I was in no mood for shopping.
I walked, it seemed forever, through the sometimes crowded, sometimes dead streets of Rome, I stopped at last by one of the crumbling embankments of the Tiber. I sat down on a stone bench and looked across to the far side.
You could see that there had once been elegant gardens there—trees and shrubs brought in from the limits of the known world, carefully arranged paths, little grottoes, and so on but nature had long since reclaimed the site, and I looked over at a jumble of local and exotic foliage that seemed to owe nothing to human action. The vividness of the flowers aside—and that glorious Italian light that even I, in my present frame of mind, couldn’t wholly ignore—it reminded me a little of the forests back home in Kent.
Down by the river, slave women and the poor did their washing. Some children ran in and out of the water. Their faint cries of joy floated up to me on the still, warm air. These joined the louder chattering of the birds across the river. Closer by, the respectable classes of Rome went about their business—exchanging gossip, doing business, getting up an appetite for lunch. I sat watching in the bright, hot sunshine of a day late into the Roman spring. Everything was surprisingly normal.
Life goes one. And where there is life, there is hope. Indeed, while this novel is set after the collapse of a great civilisation, and while the Narrator has no love of the present, there is no simple contrast here between ancient glories and modern squalor. The civilisation that has fallen was grounded at all times and in all respects on systematic exploitation of the weak. Even now, slavery remains an omnipresent fact. Those most attached to the past are also those most attached to the view that slaves are brutes in human form.
Rome has fallen. The world is sinking lower by the year. But one day, the Narrator is convinced, there will be a recovery, and this will be better than what has fallen.
Where there is life, there is hope.
To buy Conspiracies of Rome (Released in paperback on the 8th January 2009):
To buy The Terror of Constantinople (the sequel, released 5th February 2009):
We stand aghast, at the possibility of “military intervention by the USA” against – of all places – Mexico. We know that, since “drugs” are grown in Latin America, and since Mexico is in the way of their transfer to “Film Stars” and wannabes in British North America, where these things are officially illegal to have or trade, that therefore mexico will be on the road of transfer.
This is all very well and ought not to matter. Cars and lorries carrying cocaine and other stuff whose names I can’t remember ought to be able to cross Mexico as though it was anywhere. The problem arises because – and only because - it is locally illegal to have, sell or use these substances, in the points of destination.
This has several effects:-
(1) It makes the substances themselves more desirable in the eyes of certain people. They will want it more because “The State” says they shouldn’t have any at all at all at all, for their own good at all at all at all . Nsty useless Hollywood delinquents film stars will leak details of their use of it, and because they are pretty and shaggable (and that’s just the men) you will want to do it too, as you are sheeple because the liberals Stalinists have told you to become so.
(2) It makes it risky and unprofitable and demoralising, for legitimate businesses to supply the stuff. If you wozz an off-licence, would YOU want to supply cocaine to any willing buyer, if you got raided every week by the rozzers for doing it, and had your shop smashed up by them (rozzers) and were put in jug?
(3) It makes the risks of supplying it worthwhile, for shysters and hoods, who don’t mind having to shoulder the boring business of killing people including police and soldiers, in the course of securing their hold on the distribution of of their stuff, to you. The £5-a-day habit, if the stuff was legally sold through chemists even including the impost of State Taxation, becomes the £100-a-day habit if you have to buy it through hoods who have to insure themselves – at your cost - for their own risk against both the State and against other hoods who want to compete, for what is really a rather small niche sector.
(4) it makes jobs for Police rozzers. Rozzers are inherently tormented people, who ought not to have got like that; they need psychiatric help, and quickly. Just as you ought not to want to be a criminal, also you ought not to want to be a policeman in the 21st century: what does that desire say about you, and your morals, and world-view, as a person?
So the way forward is quite clear. ALL drugs have to be legalised, in all jurisdictions, preferably by yesterday. This will have a number of good effects:-
(1A) The “Police”, currently a pantomime collection of gamma-minus droids unfortunately increasingly supplied with real guns as opposed to things that shoot out a flag which says “bang”, and who are “employed” by their “states” not in chasing real muggers, robbers, burglars and killers but in harrassing “drug dealers”, “motorists”, “paedophiles”, “racists”, “terrorists”, “non-payers of council tax”, “TV-license-evaders” and “climate-change-deniers”, will find that their workload is decreased alarmingly. We will “need” fewer of them. Good.
The main solution to civilisation’s ills is
and more and better people.
There may even be “calls for” “FEWER POLICE ON THE STREETS”. I think that in a civilised society, the police ought to be invisible: see poll below.
(2A) The use of “drugs”, which is to say substances currently classified as drugs”, by all people, will fall dramatically. or it may not: I do not know. But I think it will fall.
(3A) The legalisation of “drugs” will mean that Galxo-Smith-Klein, Schering-Plough, Ciba-Geigy, and all the others, will be abot to compete legally for whatever market they think they can get. Adverttisisng will be allowed. Advertising is the best way to garotte bad stuff fast. The purity and quality of products will thus rise, and the price will fall to the point where the “State” will come in.
(4A) The “State” will take a take. Where GSK wants to sell you your Ecstasy for 50p a go, via the chemist down the road in Shaky-street (PR8 . . . ) , the State will take £4 or so, making it about the price of 20 fags. What’s the point of going and doing crime, if it’s only that much? You can get it from your dosh you that get “on the sick”.
OK so the “State” wins, win-win in the short run. But it’s got to justify how it needs to spend so much less on policing, since there’s so much much less less petty crime going on down.
That in itself will be tremendous fun to watch.
Sometimes we here, on whichever of the duty-typwriting squadrons is on “watch”, are tempted to emulate the language of Obnoxio The Clown, or the Devil himself. (He’s uncovered a previously unstudied State-Bogus-Charity in that one…Obnoxio’s latest just refers to some bureucrat or other as a c*** . )
But this is a family blog, so, apart from saying shit and crap which is rather weak playground stuff now, we only go so far as to merely write f*** (sometimes even c*** these days.) And also we only show pictures of Keeley Hazell wearing bras (until we get bored with her and we go and get someone else. Possibly Lucy Pinder – anybody got any preferences? See poll below. If in doubt, go here and select someone else.)
To get back to the point, the government is bust, the main world’s private banks have feverishly bought themselves into virtual bankruptcy by queuing for 15 years to buy each others “securitised” pigs-in-pokes, Gordon Brown is printing money….and then they all go and spend it on what? Food-police. Here’s an exerpt:-
Home cooks will also be told what size portions to prepare, taught to understand “best before” dates and urged to make more use of their freezers.
The door-to-door campaign, which starts tomorrow, will be funded by the Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP), a Government agency charged with reducing household waste.
The officials will be called “food champions”. However, they were dismissed last night as “food police” by critics who called the scheme an example of “excessive government nannying”.
WE MUST ALSO BEAR IN MIND THAT THIS IS ! “ALL ABOUT PROPERTY RIGHTS” ! People who have purchased food are entitled to dispose of it how it pleases them. The bought food DOES NOT become State Property: it belongs to the householder.
No bureaucrats yet come round to tell you not to throw a brick at your Wireless Tele Vision, thus rendering it at least partially if not fully unserviceable, whenever Jonathan Ross come on screen: why should they come and tell you what to do with food whiche displeases you?
It’s all very sad: it’s as if the poor government buggers just can’t kick the gravy-train (sorry) habit, even when there’s really no money, as opposed to just the appearance of no money.
They will. I bet you 3p.
The only thing Libertarians ought to be concerned about here is the property rights of the people – and there will be a number, inevitably – whose homes and land will be taken and who will have to be displaced. This is the only issue of importance.
All that the Greenazis are concerned about is that Britain, a land which they hate and want dead, for showing the up to be the hideous and obscene people-murderers which they are and have always been, should not be able to profit from what the next century’s people will all want to do.
I expect Tony Hollick will oppose me in the comments, on some jurisprudential pretext or other….if you do not, Tony, I take it all back!
The problem of London is that it’s in the probably least-bad place it could be. Imagine if it was in Birmingham, or Liverpool. Geography, mountains and landforms would be against it. Then imagine a slightly less police-statist Britain emerging from the recession.
The next problem is where do you put the seven or eight or ten airports that, Al Gore’s demise willing, it will need. If not that many, then which ones do you expand?
The only issue we should worry about is property rights. And that does NOT include “film” “stars” and “pop” “singers” who abuse the notion of personal property on purpse, because the MSM will let them get away with it, and they can afford expensive (lefty) lawyers. (Why are most lawyers socialists? Discuss.)
…and ensure the right kind of permanent majority. (UPDATE:- It will also save a very very large sum, many millions, in “MPs’ expenses”… HAH !! )
HOW TO build a minimal-statist Britain from the bottom up: part 3,142A/5 :-
The first thing you have to do is abolish the concept of “safe” Labour seats in “inner cities” and the “Celtic Fringe”. I expect the Scotsnats can be relied on to demolish Labour in Scotland eventually, and then we can cut the place adrift unless it wants also to leave the EU with us - but we can help by amalgamating small slum seats with few voters and lots of “constituency activists” who forge ballot papers and rig postal votes, into large slum seats with the same original number of activists, some of whom will get demoralised and piss off onto the dole (which we may stop) and so whose remainder will have less proportional effect. The voters will be less proportionally-well-represented, but for the time being most of them will not give a f***. They will still have their Foot Ball, and their flat screen wireless tele visions.
In line of course with “progressive” policies, while doing the above, you could get your Tory activists to “encourage” individual voters to “engage with the defining issues of Modern Britain today“, thus “individually aiding their ability to focus on the delivery of appropriate franchise policy“.
In the Bedford Conservative Association - many, many years ago, we just called this “collecting old ladies and driving them to and from the Polling Station“, but the policy could be extended creatively.
You could also vote for the LPUK, wherever it stands in forthcoming elections. It is making a pretty good stab at formulating a minimal-statist manifesto that makes sense. It is also the nearest thing we will get, being practical and realistic, to a limited-statist government in the next couple of hundred years.
…..and Simon Heffer on Victorians. (Just incidentally so right, that one.)
But I quite accidentally chanced on this stuff today. We all know that most GreeNazis have been articulating their beliefs with quite disarming frankness for decades. So it’s good to find more people (b)logging their progress for the rest of us, sadly too busy to do much about it.
As Auberon Waugh would have said, “I’m not suggesting that we should arrest, tie to MacDonald’s restaurants and then publicly tar-and-feather all lovable sandal-wearing-greens; but more does need to be done to combat the Green Terror”.
It won’t let me paste any links, not get rid of the bloody italics, so here they are:-
Book Review by Marian Halcombe
The Terror of Constantinople
Hodder & Stoughton, London, 2009, 421pp, £19.99 (hb)
For anyone who enjoyed Richard Blake’s first novel, Conspiracies of Rome, this is that very rare treat – a sequel that is better. Though the plot is considerably more elaborate, the narrative flow is smoother. There is a larger cast of characters, and a greater variety of places. The novel is also considerably longer.
The Novel Plot
The action of this novel takes place in Rome during the late spring of 610AD and in Constantinople during the summer and autumn of the same year. Aelric, an Englishman of somewhat dubious character, is in Rome to enrich and enjoy himself, and to continue his self-chosen project of transmitting as much ancient learning as he can rescue from the crumbling centre of ancient civilisation to what he considers the safer haven of the English monasteries and schools. He is tricked into a mission to Constantinople by the Dispensator, who is effective head of the Roman Catholic Church, the purpose of which is to obtain a formal grant from the Emperor to the Pope of the title of Universal Bishop. This is needed if the Church is to enforce its claim to actual leadership of the other churches in the post-imperial West.
Once in Constantinople, he finds himself privileged but also trapped – trapped in a diplomatic game played far above his head. Why has the Pope’s official representative in the City withdrawn himself in protest at his arrival? Why are the heads of the Imperial Government so keen to give him what he wants and send him on his way? Why are the supporters of the rebel Heraclius trying to murder him? Or are they trying to protect him? Why are the Church authorities in Rome using every means at their command to keep him in Constantinople?
As said, the plot is elaborate, but every one of these questions – plus many others – is answered before a most satisfactory end. And on our way to that end, we proceed through drug abuse, flagellation, depilation, disputes over the nature of Christ, a barbarian raid, chariot races, public executions, and a civil war fought out in the streets of Constantinople.
The Singularity of Period
One of the singularities of Mr Blake’s historical fiction is his choice of period. I cannot think of anyone else presently writing who deals with the early seventh century. Yet while this makes him almost unique, it can also present difficulties to any reader who has not read Gibbon or studied Byzantine history. Set a novel in Greece between the death of Pisistratus and the death of Alexander, or in Rome between the dictatorship of Sulla and the death of Nero, and most readers will already know the background of events and actors and their general significance. There are popular histories and films and television serials. There is an immense body of pre-existing fictional literature – Mary Renault, Robert Graves, Mika Waltari, Lindsey Davis, Steven Saylor, and many, many others.
Mr Blake’s choice of period deprives him of these benefits. In the early seventh century, Rome had fallen and was become a crumbling, depopulated slum. But, its capital transferred to Constantinople, the Roman Empire continued unbroken. The men of this Empire could look back on over a thousand years of cultural continuity. There had been few losses of ancient literature. Ancient learning was kept up almost as well as in earlier periods. Political forms and general assumptions of life had developed as naturally from those of classical antiquity as England in 1910 was a natural development from the England of 1710.
Yet all this had been joined by Christianity. This was not by then a new or revolutionary faith. It had been established nearly three centuries earlier. It was fully integrated into the life of the Empire.
What we have, then, is a world in which there is an Emperor, but also a Pope; in which there are Senators, but also Bishops; where men memorise Homer and struggle to write like Thucydides, but also confess their sins and are ready to kill over matters of Church doctrine and religious authority. Looking back, we can see that the world of antiquity was coming to an end, and that another, from which our own takes its intellectual and institutional origin, was beginning. But for the men of the time, there was no perceived distinction between classical and mediaeval elements in their civilisation. They were elements in what had for many centuries appeared to be a stable equilibrium.
The Imperial Politics of 610
These are the generalities of the world in which Mr Blake sets his novels. Let us now proceed to the specifics that underlie this novel.
610 may be taken as the single most important year in the transition of the Eastern Empire from a continuation of the Roman State to the Byzantine State. In 602, there had been the first unconstitutional seizure of power since before the establishment of Christianity as the official faith of the Empire. When he executed Maurice and his family, Phocas was breaking chains of continuity that reached back to Diocletian in 284.
He was enabled to do this by a set of problems that had strained and broken the old methods of government and diplomacy. The source of these problems was the collapse of population that had been caused by the great epidemics of the 540s. This had reduced the number of taxpayers and potential soldiers. It had also destabilised the Egyptian and Syrian provinces by destroying the Greek-speaking ruling classes in the cities that had kept a Greek and then Roman domination here for a thousand years. The Monophysite heresy was important in itself. It was also an emblem of national differences and of a growing rejection by the subject peoples of the old order.
Phocas had proved unable to deal with these problems, and had made them significantly worse. He had given the Persians – the other great power of the age – an excuse to invade the Empire as guarantors of the old order. This placed an additional strain on Imperial resources, which were already fully committed to defending the Danubian provinces from barbarian attack. Even had Phocas been more competent, these problems would have resulted in crisis. As it was, Phocas found himself on the losing side in two wars on different fronts. His response was to impose a terror on the Empire – to maintain his rule and to extract more taxes.
In 609, the Governor (Exarch) of Africa had revolted and sent his son, Heraclius, to replace Phocas.
This is the historical background. The novel makes use of this by pretending what is likely – that Phocas had not formally and irrevocably sold the title of Universal Bishop to the Pope, and that this was practically necessary for the diplomacy of the Church. Given that the Roman Church was the richest single institution in the Empire, and the most independent of effective control by the State, and given that it could have damaged Phocas in the West by excommunicating him, this sets up a struggle between Church and State. The former wants its Patent of Universality, the latter an excommunication and a large gift of cash.
The novel makes further pretences that I cannot describe without giving away its conclusion. But a cynical – and not wholly improbable – deal has been made that drives the plot smoothly forward.
The Techniques of the Novel
In his first novel, Mr Blake caused much scandal by his use of language and references to things that, common enough in everyday life, are usually avoided in what is intended to be popular fiction. In this sequel, his desire to cause scandal, though not suppressed, is brought under firm control. This allows us more clearly to see how the novel is constructed.
It works by taking a group of characters with certain interests and certain assumptions about the world, and to see how they behave to each other in specific circumstances. As one might expect, these circumstances are as logically connected as a geometric sequence. Mr Blake clearly believes that, regardless of time and place, people are driven by the desire for security or esteem or power. All that can ever vary is the form in which these things are conceived and the degree of restraint with which they are pursued. People in the early seventh century were not fundamentally different from anyone else. Therefore, they should never appear as quaint. Their motivations should never seem unreasonable. On the other hand, they lacked many assumptions and beliefs that moderns take for granted.
I am not sure if these are criticisms, but there are two points that I find striking about this novel. The first is that every character is more or less a rogue. They sometimes act kindly – and once or twice with astonishing generosity. But there is no one who could really be described as the sort of man you would wish your daughter to bring home for dinner. The second is that the narrator, Aelric, is not the most interesting of these characters. The eunuch Theophanes is the obvious star. He is followed by the half-sinister, half-incompetent Priscus. Then, while he seldom makes a direct appearance, there is the Emperor – who is a mix of Gilbert’s Mikado and Josef Stalin.
What makes the narrator unusual is that he is essentially a liberal of the 18th century Enlightenment. He cannot escape many of the most basic assumptions of his age, but is an atheist and an individualist. He is naturally sceptical of an order that is systematically corrupt and oppressive. At the same time, he is committed to ensuring his own position within that order. This makes him keen to cover his origins as an outsider and liable to resent any attention to his origins. Though aware that something is wrong, he shares in the corruption and casual brutality of the age.
There is, of course, much of the 18th century in the background as portrayed in the novel. Constantinople is very like ancien régime Paris, and there are echoes of the 17th and 18th century in the manners of address adopted by the main characters. This is a necessary anachronism. We do not know very much about everyday life in ancient and early mediaeval times. But what little we know is sufficiently like our own early modern period to make it legitimate to project back assumptions and speech patterns of which we do know a lot.
Matters of Style
There is no doubt that Richard Blake is an accomplished writer. There is something memorable on every page. The tone moves back and forth between black humour, parody, high camp, and driving narrative. I could fill up a very long review by quoting sentences and whole paragraphs that made me sit up or just burst out laughing. But let me give two extended instances of the Blake style. The first is an abusive epigram – and parody of Catullus – chanted by the crowd at a chariot race. The second is a passage from very close to the end of the novel.
Ye Nymphs lament, Ye Cupids too,
And every man of feelings true
And decent. For, such her meanness,
Fate has robbed Paul of his penis—
His penis that he loved so well;
His penis that could often swell
From one to maybe two or more
Full inches, if not quite to four.
It never felt the warm embrace
Of any vulva, nor in place
The firm grasp—by law denied us—
Of a playful young cinaedus.
But his left hand as well it knew
As a foot its favourite shoe.
And limp now, nor more to present,
There will it rest, all passion spent.
Ah Savage Fate—cruel to devour
His solace of a silent hour—
Behold the product of thy power:
Tucked in bed, lies Paul unsleeping,
Ever red his eyes from weeping.
Though still hardly into the eastern sky, the sun had risen with almost summer heat as we set out upon the Golden Horn.
“That one, over there” I said to the boatmen, pointing at the largest of the ships that rode at anchor in the narrow bay.
I emptied a whole vial of perfume onto a sleeve and raised it to my nose as the oars began turning over the filth that lurked just beneath the sparkling water. It was a small boat, and common sense told me I should sit. But dignity was more important than common sense. I steadied myself against each gentle pitch of the boat and remained standing.
I’d thrown off my dark cloak, and was showing to the whole world the dazzling white and purple-fringed robe of a Senator. That, plus my golden hair, and the general dignity and assurance of my pose, must have fixed every eye on those anchored ships.
I couldn’t tell. If the sun shone full on me, it was also in my eyes, and I could see damn all of what might be happening ahead of me.
“Who goes there?” a voice cried from the flagship as we came within hailing distance.
I waited until we were close enough for me not to have to strain my voice with shouting.
“I am” I called back at the second hailing, “the Senator Alaric, formerly Acting Permanent Legate of His Holiness the Roman Patriarch, and lately Count of the Palace Guard.”
There was a long silence. We came alongside the flagship, and skirted round the banks of oars to the wide stern. I remained standing, my head held proudly up for anyone to see who was inclined to look.
A face peered over the stern of the flagship.
“What do you want?” it asked uncertainly.
“I have come to pay my respects to the Emperor” I said mildly.
The face retreated. There was a subdued conversation about seven foot above me. Then, instead of the rope ladder I’d expected, there was a clumsy squeaking, and a whole wooden staircase swung over, its lowest step just above the waterline.
I stepped across onto the staircase.
“Wait here” I muttered to Baruch. “Do exactly as I say.” He looked at me, suddenly doubtful. His free hand tightened on the leather satchel that contained the promissory notes made out to bearer.
As I came on deck, it was like stepping into one of the grander mosaics you see in the Great Church. In full dress, all in proper place before me, stood what looked like the whole of the new Imperial Court. Here were the generals, the priests and Bishops, the scholars, the Ministers, and all the other leading men of the New Order of Things. They stood, grave and silent, glorious in their robes of many colours. I had no idea what they had been about before I showed up, but they were as fine a reception as anyone short of an Emperor himself might have wanted.
As said, this is a long novel. But I would not wish it a dozen words shorter. It puts you as surely into the streets and council chambers of Constantinople as if you had yourself been there. Like the best science fiction, it creates a world both different from yet oddly similar to our own.
Again as said, this will not at all disappoint those readers who already know Mr Blake from his Conspiracies of Rome. And those who have enjoyed both novels will surely be cheered to know that a third is already near completion. This, I am reliably informed, will be set in Alexandria a few years after the end of The Terror of Constantinople, and involves crocodiles and pyramids and very odd goings on under the burning sands of Egypt.
Note to Readers:
To buy The Terror of Constantinople (released 5th February 2009):
To buy Conspiracies of Rome (Released in paperback on the 8th January 2009):
Within the last hour of this post, the value of the Pound Slerling has gone below the value of the EURO!!
this is a terrifying prospect, but as of 23:11 GMT, £1 is worth 0.72 Euro cents (my keyboard cannot do euro signs, funny though, because it can do everything else though, even these: Ψ Φ ♦ ♣ ← ↑ → ↓↔ θ Ξ ¿)
Special Christmas Day Post coming: “ANNOY A BUREAUCRAT FOR THE CHILDREN AT CHRISTMAS” – Please could all readers contribute ways…?
Please…..? Either on this comment thread, or else on the post just below.
And here’s Mike Oldfield, at Montreux 27 years ago:-
Liberty and tyranny: what non-violent and legal things could everyone do, every day, to upset and rile bureaucrats and “big-States”?
I confess: the idea is not mine. Sean Gabb and I were discussing, in our inimitably pessimistic way, earlier this year, what kinds of things ordinary Subjects of the Crown could do, in their daily lives, to either annoy or make more difficult the lives of our political masters and their more lowly appointees.
The provisos were that:-
(1) We should try not to cause criminal damage. So 30,000 builders in 10,000 White Vans with 20,000 Stihl-Saws at 02.00 am GMT, all cutting down the posts of the speed cameras at one moment in time, will NOT do.
(2) We should not physically harm or otherwise assault bureaucrats, Ministers, MPs, their families, and the like. I recall that we could not decide what to do about “Traffic Wardens” or “Artificial Policemen“.
Please could ALL readers suggest something in the comments. Some things I can think of:-
(1) ALWAYS be seen to be filming the officers of the State, or else pretend to photograph them, while they are going about their “business” – even if you are not so doing. We all now carry little peanut-sized-thingies that not only film stuff but phone people, make tea, tell you whree you are etc. It is not (yet) a crime to make privaye movies in public places. this will increase their “workplace stress”, and with a bit of luck some of them will clock off “sick”. We will not be any the worse thereby, even though they still cost us.
(2) Place “Britain is leaving the EU: it is inevitable” stickers on State notices of all kinds. Also on the rear number plates of “official cars” and the like. Or, over the bar-code on their tax discs. This will cause inconvenience when the vehilces pass through ANPR camerae (now believed to be live) and does not cause any damage as they wash off.
(3) Place small but ostensibly accidental amounts of the wrong recyclable material (such as a large rusty steel automotive pressing like a flywheel or a Brake Disk, into a plastic box for beer cans) into any State Receptacle designed for another sort. If what they say is true, this renders the entire bulk amout later, useless.
(4) ALWAYS ( or affect to ) smoke in the presence of a State Employee, ideally inside a building or a car (it becomes a “workplace” if there are 2 or more of you in it!) or if not, then in your house or on the street.
I would welcome lots more suggestions. I want 100 good ones by Christmas, to cheer you all up with on a special “ANNOY A BUREAUCRAT FOR THE CHILDREN AT CHRISTMAS” post………………..
I came across this today via a tip off Guido‘s “seen elsewhere list”. Jonathan Miller provides a spectatularly comprehensive roundup of (a) the sheer iniquity of the telly-tax-scheme, and (b) what to do about it at indiviual level. Worth a read, and worth also spreading virally.
I personally have had my doubts about “detector vans” for some time. The Landed Underclass will like this one that’s coming…..and he’s got his own pennyworth of useful stuff here….
In fact, in the mid 1970s, I performed this experiment as follows:- (WARNING! DO NOT PERFORM it yourself without supervision by a qualified electrician or a Radio Ham – the voltages present inside the case of an old tube-type colour TV can be LETHAL – up to 35,000V, which is rather a lot !!! (and you won’t know where they are unless you already know.) TOUCH the EHT from the line-output transformer, while it is working, and you are DEAD !!! ) (UPDATE – as far as I am aware, the insides of modern flat-screen tellies are safe, except for the presence of mains (230V AC) voltage. Don’t monkey with these either or you will invalidate your warranty…)
I completely lined the inside of 405/625-line “dual-standard” colour Tele Vision Set fully (these were still available new, and also widely used) with a double layer of aluminium foil, electrically attaching it to MAINS EARTH (NOT the chassis whcih is almost always live to the mains) and screening as far as possible all round, up to the edge of the tube front.
I then made a RF “sniffer”, using a coil/capacitor netwrok approx tuned to the 45 MHz “intermediate frequency” which was used inside the receiver module in the set I was playing with. This was in efect a small radio RX whose output registered on a milliammeter instead of a loudspeaker. I was able to tune the incoming frequency through a range of about 8MHz either side of the 45 band centre, so I could also check if the sniffer was picking up any other oscillator signals or sums/differences coming from inside the set as a result of its decoding the vision signals and line/frame sync pulses.
In the room, which was about 9ft x 12 ft, there was a detectable 45 MHz RF flux, but it was rather weak. I also found small peaks at 49.33 MHz and 40.57 MHz roughly, probably from heterodyning witht he 4.43 MHz crystal which did something or other in the receiver. There was a weak 45 MHz signal outside the window but nothing else.
I could not detect the 45MHz signal out on the road. Nor incidentally any other ones from nearby houses.
I did not think of trying to detect the harmonics of the line-output frequency, which was 15.625 KHz. I expect they owuld have been weak, at any frequency above about 10 MHz.
Since the uniform characteristic of machines then was a 45 MHz IF, I expect that this would have been what “detector vans” would major on, for the lifetime of cathode-ray Tellies – none of which would have been built with full electromagnetic screening of their innards – what would be the point? (Radio-Hams suffer from interference from consumer electronics far, far more than consumers do from interference by hams!)
I was therefore unconvinced, and have remianed so ever since, of the claims of the BBC about “detection”.
And so does the pig Castro, who will continue to remain dead for the rest of this year:-
Not sure how the Dear Leader got his copy…pirates probably:-
And he can….
No idea what it’s all about though.
I wonder what music it’d be set to? Anybody got any ideas?
Eurovision “song” “contest”: there will be no reason to be forced to watch it at all (at-all-at-all-at-all) now that Sir Terry Wogan is not performing.
I have always wondered what the point of the Eurovision “Song” “Contest” was.
In the 1970s and 1980s, there were some fairly good Beat Groups, such as ABBA, and even some soloists, such as Cliff Richard, who sang fairly musical stuff, which was kind of about something or other that people cared about. (I count ABBA as honourary British since they could (a) sing, (b) write music, (c) they were Swedish, kind of, and (d) they sounded quite good most of the time.) The times were pre-the-rise-of-the-EUSSR-supersoviet, and so people tended to vote for the best song, and never mind whow their awful neighbours were whom they had to be seen to publicly-placate-on-EUSSR_wide-TV, so that they would not get into trouble with the authorities Gestapo afterwards and have their benefits EU handouts withdrawn.
Then, we were dragged more firmly into the EUSSR EU, and we started to stop winning. This in itself didn’t totally matter, as we had Sir Terry Wogan to compère it and be suitably cynical about everybody on there, in his charming way, the good Englishman that he is, so he is, to be sure, to be sure.
Now, there is no point in being on. Not only do we not win, or even come next-to-bottom as opposed to absolutely totally and utterly bottom, but we absolutely tank. This is because nobody feels they have to pretend to like us any more, as we are Maritime-liberals with no land borders and they are Euro-authoritarians with very very long borders with other scratchy neighbours.
But the worst thing culturally speaking, about it, is that nobody even pretends to vote for the best music any more. They vote for whoever is the most powerful neighbour, or the one with most “clout of the day” in the corridors of Eurofascism power.
Furthermore, dear old cynical, funny Sir Terry is going. What’s the point of the thing? Why don’t we just read some books instead, while the blasted thing is on?
I don’t think that Libertarians would object in any way if the European subject-peoples of the EUSSR want to self-flagellate publicly to “music”, on the Wireless Tele Vision once a year, while pretending to sing songs which they think will be “for” “Europe”. But I guess that most liberals, being somewhat puritanical (unlike socialists) about time and resources wasted on pointless acts such as flag-waving, parading and collectively performing – especially acts which are only designed to get the “act-or” into the Public Prints, will think twice about this fascist smugfest in future.
Goobye and good riddance (I hope!) Let’s hope against hope that we get “invited” to “not participate”.
A couple of weeks ago you got this progress report. Here’s where we are now. Transformers are bolted down, most holes are drilled, and all the heaters light up.
Click on either to get a larger image. Owner is coming later tonight to view progress. Better get on with building the driver-stage electronics, and digging out those 33K and 22K ceramic Erie carbon resistors I promised him. All original NOS carbon resistors (non-inductive), hard to find now in new condition.
As I said before, I will make you an identical one of these (different meters, as these are the last two ex-WW2 vintage RAF ones) for about £5,000-£6,000, depending (on this and that.)
Or you can have it with Chinese or Russian 6L6 output valves and a less elaborate chassis (almost the same power as with KT88 sets, but slightly more “edgy” sound, for modern tracks and guitar riffs) for about £2,500 all-in. You’d have to come and collect as these are too heavy to post or courier.
Although the world is sinking into the New Socialist Dark Age: although Gordon Brown seems somehow to have recovered his popularity: although the pig Putin is loved and adorated in Russia the USSR: although Huggy-the-Chav is ruining Venezuela*** (why is not anyone assassinating him?) and although the naive stalinist Obama seems set to head up destroy the planet’s most important collection of (300 million, astonished) individuals, there is still fun to be had.
***I can be as rude about him as I like, since Dread-Ken is no longer Mayor of London.
Light blogging today as I have to take the wife to do the week’s shopping at ASDA, kind of right now, and owing to Global Warming, we are having a month’s rain in 24 hours in Lancashire, and it’s of course our own fault.
But to amuse you all, Al Gore, and his mottley crue of Gramsco-MarxiaNazi jesters, are, allegedly, “suspected of killing people“.
…..But I doubt it. HOWEVER…the guvmint is currently being trounced, even more heartily than predicted, in the “polls” (I nearly said “proles”.) It might yet back down, especially in the face of Ireland and the forthcoming referendum over the water there, which Our Brothers have been allowed.
The Irish ought to be our brothers and friends – I have always said this, here, on Eurorealist and on other places in the long past. They saved the world, after all.
For the benefit of our overseas readers, who may not be familiar with governments that promise one thing aboslutely, and then brazenly refuse in public to do it, all three major parties here promised explicitly a referendum on our acceptance of the EU Constitution and its adoption officially by Treaty at Lisbon. (Our acceptance as a nation; that is to say, whether we the British wish to abolish ourselves and cause the UK to cease to exist…)
Here’s some stuff just come in:-
From: Christina Speight
Sent: Friday, May 02, 2008 11:27 AM
Subject: SOMETHING REALLY IMPORTANT ! – JUDICIAL REVIEW OF REFERENDUM REFUSAL WON
First round to Stuart Wheeler – bless him!
This is just about the first time that anyone has succeeded in any court in making any dent at all in the megalith that is the EU’s domination of all it surveys.
This is merely the first step and it should encourage every one of us to back Stuart Wheeler to the hilt – in words and deeds. He, unlike some more hotheaded bretherrn did his homework and found a legal loophole in the government’s case.
Don’t let it be drowned by all the churning examination of the election results.
STUART WHEELER’S WEBSITE 2.5.08
LISBON TREATY LITIGATION
“Why I am suing the Prime Minister” by Stuart Wheeler
On 22 April there was a hearing in the High Court of my action against the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary, in which I seek a judicial review of their refusal to hold a referendum on whether the Lisbon Treaty should be ratified.
Judgement was reserved. This meant that the judge needed time to consider the arguments and would give his decision later.
2 May 10:00 a.m. – I am delighted to say that in his judgement delivered at the High Court this morning Mr Justice Owen decided that permission to apply for judicial review would be granted to me. In other words the result of the hearing last week is that we won. I expect to put more information on this website shortly.
Although I am the person bringing the action it is, in effect, on behalf of all those of us – well over half the population – who want our say in a referendum. There are, I believe, two reasons why there should be a referendum:
1. The Labour Party, as well as the other two main parties, made an unambiguous promise that they would call one. They should keep that promise.
1. The Treaty is immensely important and so, irrespective of whether you think it should be ratified or not, you should be allowed a vote on it.
The legal case is enormously expensive and I need help to pursue it. I am very grateful indeed for those who have already given me financial support. If you would like to help please make cheques payable to Stuart Wheeler Lisbon Litigation Account and send them to me with this contribution form.
If you need to know anything else which is not covered by this website please e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org
A picture will appear as soon as I can work the editor. Here?
As you know, I plug local businesses on here from time to time, such as Tesco, and little electrical shoppies on Shaky-Street***. I think it’s only right and good.
He’s called Graham Eve, and he sells really rather good meat in Churchtown (near Southport) Lancashire. Most of it’s “locally-reared”, so all you green lefties (trying to kick the socialist habit of a lifetime by reading our blog) can go to him with a clear conscience.
***It’s local slang for “Shakespeare Street”, near here.
Tomorrow is St George’s Day. In the twilight of nations, it’s good to think on what we’ve done and could do.
I would like “England” to be an idea. Really. It is so good and so right, so inevitable if you take to its logical conclusion the philosophy of Natural Rights together with ordinary conservatism, which is to say “liberalism” (our definition, not the Democrats’) which is what humans do when left alone to get on with stuff that needs to get done.
We ought to be so deeply proud of what we (really) are and what we have done, and can still do, that the entire world of all human beings ought to be given the chance to be part of it.
We nearly did it, so very nearly. This was the closest that Man got to “take-off”, ever. (Read Paul Johnson’s “Enemies of Society“.) The British Empires (the Second one, ended 1776, and the Third one, possibly still alive?), the latter originally meant to be run by a man and a couple of boys just out of Oxbridge, did more good, to more people, for less loss of life per billion people per unit time, than any other human institution – and it wasn’t even planned.
The great truth that England – the UK, whatever’s your bacon here – is an idea, is behind the last 60 years’ institutionalised destruction, by Marxo-Gramscians including tragically many, many native ones, of whatever can be dubbed an “English” (or even British?) icon, custom, saying, object, word, or place (such as Southern Rhodesia) or even a joke.
Never, never underestimate your enemy. If he is this thing, then he has probably realised that you are so right that he has to Invoke the Devil in order to destroy you. All the evidence points to the fact that this civilisation to which we belong, and to which we gave birth, engenders hate in pre-barbarian-blood-ridden competitors that is out of all proportion to our size, population, and age.
Long Live St George, whoever he might have been.
There is some point to the second one, for the gentleman concerned is a “Hair dresser”. But the poor woman who owns the first will go about with the handicap that everyone will know who she is. it just does not seem very British, to my way of thinking, to do this. Does the Queen go about with a plate that says QUEEN1 on it?
EDUCATION BLOGS … I am interested in these, as education is the best defence against socialism. More added to loo-roll.
It is impossible for a Man to be classically-educated, to have got something worthwhile out of that, and also a socialist at the same moment. (Discuss.)
I have found that WordPress writes in Roman Type after all, thank Christ for that. Nothing looks quite as authoritative in sans-serif typefaces, I think, don’t you agree?
Frank Chalk’s post about the Army-hating NUT is very fine stuff, on Tuesday 25th March 2008.
WordPress seems to have changed the typeface from our usual Roman. I don’t like it and I can’t find a font button. So you’ll have to put up with it for now, as I’m too old to do this html stuff….someone will tell me in due course.
Harriet Harman has introduced amendments to a EU “equal treatment at word directive”, it seems. And, the poor benighted publicans, who now face being sued because a customer chats up a barmaid (what are barmaids for?) are saying it’s “Political correctness gone mad”.
YOU MUST NEVER, NEVER SAY THAT. No, I mean, seriously, YOU MUST NOT. “Political Correctness” is not mad – never has been. It is entirely deliberate, and means “political correction”, to force everyone to view all the world and all relationships through the prism of Gramscian Marxism. I said the following on eurorealist:
This will be good. Landlords will make doubly sure to hire only sexy young barmaids with nice breasts, since these will
(a) know exactly what to do with chatty customers ( = either shag them or slag them off nicely in front of the others) This will be good
(b) not look at all like Horrid Hardbint.
Other Hardbint clones will of course be lefties by definition, who will “use the law” and get the pub closed, which will benefit nobody except dead white socialist males like Marx and Lenin.
As parents signal willingness to run schools themselves, think tank launches DVD calling for school vouchers FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 02/04/08 In the wake of increasing numbers of parents taking matters into their own hands and setting up independent, no frills schools (The Daily Telegraph, ‘Parents set up their own primary’, page 10, 02/04/08), the Stockholm Network offered its vision for British education in 2020. Launching a new film on the internet, Stockholm Network CEO, Helen Disney said: “The State should continue to fund most primary and secondary education, but such money ought to follow pupils in the form of a voucher and be spent in a much more competitive and open market of independent providers. Learning from the Swedish policy agenda which has greatly encouraged school choice, parents and teachers must be allowed to set up their own schools where there is a critical mass of local support.” Launching the DVD: Back to School: How Choice and Competition could make Britain’s future brighter, which explores market reforms in education, the Stockholm Network recommends three key policy changes that it believes will greatly improve school standards and outcomes: 1) Money to follow pupils via a voucher which can be spent in any school;2) All schools to be set free from Whitehall control and therefore to be in the independent for-profit and not-for-profit sector by 2015;3) All schools to initially work to a national curriculum with the possibility of later deregulation and flexible opt-outs. To view the documentary please visit:http://www.dailymotion.com/relevance/search/gregoryjude/video/x4b7ax_back-to-school_politics Following the example of the New Model School Company, set up to make independent education available to a wider range of families by keeping fees below £5,000 per annum, the Stockholm Network wants to see traditionally over-priced public schools competitively challenged by an influx of new market entrants: “It is vital that the supply of independent schools increases in response to the growing demand, in order to stimulate competition. The independent schools sector should be able to cater for the children of low- and middle-income parents, as well as the rich. The reason that many of the leading independent schools have been able to increase their fees by nearly 100% in the last ten years in that they reside in an essentially ossified market, without genuine competition,” explains Robert Whelan, Managing Director of the New Model School Company, which runs Maple Walk School in Kensal Town. Commenting on the debate that will be sparked by the new film, Helen Disney concludes: “This DVD fires the starting pistol on the education debate for the next general election. I have no doubt that the idea of state money following the pupil will be attractive to a vast majority of voters. I also believe that once set free from Whitehall, state schools will thrive in a new and universal market of independent provision. The time is now right for politicians to allow competition to drive up school standards and to do so not just for the well-off but for everyone.” - ENDS -
For quotes and commentary on the above, please call Cara Walker, Head of Media and Communications on 00 44 20 7354 8888 or email@example.com
Notes to Editors: The Stockholm Network is the leading pan-European think tank. It offers a unique network of 130 + market-oriented think tanks across Europe providing access to the best European policy thinking. Tel: 020 7354 8888, Fax: 020 7359 8888 www.stockholm-network.org
Updated … Guido quote of the day … IF he says nothing else in his life, ever, this makes him worth it.
The important part of this post is about how to disseminate widely the instructions, for easily copying the fingerprints of Stalinist dictocrats, thus condemning them to wear rubber gloves for ever.
AND … I don’t even care a stuff if it’s not original and readers snigger coz’ Guido got it somewhere else. For Christ’s sake, I’m not a blogercenary, I don’t have time to geekdrink coffee all night in front of the screen, and have not time to comb the archives of the web all day, I have a family, children and work to do. So more power to Guido for enlightening-me-lite.
People should not be afraid of their government, governments should be afraid of their people.
Please could everyone in the commentariat go there, to him, and get a copies of (a) the instructions, and (b) the video about how to do it in German.
But that quote was priceless, it cannot be bought. it was the real thing. And no, I don’t know why I can’t switch off italics in wordpress right now. Sod it, publish and be damned.
Marevllous stuff, stirring and purgative. Pass the bottle round chaps, let’s all drink to that.
I don’t really know what to say about it really. But the imagery and the actual product don’t really bear any relation to each other. I think it is bread rolls, or some such, I am not sure. It may have come originally from Newmania (see blogroll) a blog which is (sadly) temporarily closed for the owner to get on with other stuff, he was interested in this kind of thing.
POOR SAD OLD Dr Rowan Williams … it gets worse … not only am I a Christian but he is wrong again and is scragged …
I think Rowan Williams has missed the salient point…“What’s our oil doing under their sand?”
Posted by Cliff on March 24, 2008 4:46 PMThis is taken out of the comment thread from the Telegraph, on his “sermon” yesterday. How is it that the religious chappies who claim to be on our side, always shoot US in the foot, and not the enemy?Apologies, I have no blinking clue why it’s formatted itself like that. Not the usual small stuff. It’s not even that important that it needs to be so ultra-typoe’d in 196-point.
Wish i could learn how to blog.
By Tim Evans
The Committee of the Libertarian Alliance is delighted to invite you to the first
Annual Chris R. Tame Memorial Lecture and Drinks Reception
to be held on Tuesday 18th March 2008 between 6.30pm and 8.30pm
at the National Liberal Club, One Whitehall Place,
London SW1 (nearest tube Embankment).
On this occasion the speaker will be Professor David Myddelton on
‘How to Cure Government Obesity’.
The dress code for this event is lounge suit or smart casual.
To confirm your attendance please RSVP to Dr Tim Evans at firstname.lastname@example.org
Professor David Myddelton is Emeritus Professor of Finance and Accounting at Cranfield University. Chairman of Board of Trustees of the Institute of Economic Affairs and Chairman of the National Council of the Society for Individual Freedom, in the late 1960s he was involved in the Young Libertarians along with the LA’s founder Dr. Chris R. Tame.