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Tory Trots

All conservatives are commies, this week.
As late as last year, most tories would have wearily patronised anyone attacking obscene banking bonuses as being completely out of touch with the realities of the business world. These sums were essential to keep the best talent, and maintain the highest standard of practice in the banking industry, we were parentally reassured.
Today, with the masonry still collapsing, the tories are now the most vocal in their outrage at the very idea of rewarding failure in this way. Today's Daily Express would have front-paged a picture of Sir Fred Goodwin dangling from a gibbet if it could have. And George Osbourne, the Bullingdon Blagger, is frothing that
“Whichever way one looks at it, this obscene pension is unacceptable"
'Obscene'? Six months ago it was a healthy sign of a vibrant, dynamic progressive industry, facing the challenges of the future with confidence and resolve.
And other bollox.
So is this complete about turn evidence of innate conservative malleability - the ability to hold contradictory opinions - and all the political implications of that failing? Or is it evidence that the conservative mentality always tries to solve problems by finding a victim it can punish? It could even be both. But it certainly isn't evidence that tories are any good at realising that you can't cure smallpox by lancing the spots.



On The Halls

I've just read two biographies of George Robey back to back and both authors say that all comedy since has been shite. I've noticed this with some Music Hall freaks. They even despise Variety.
But none of them were writing after seeing the effects of The Comedy Store and All That. What is known as Alternative Comedy. What they seem to admire in the Halls, and bemoan the death of since, is exactly what the current generation of standups is delivering. It seems to me.
And certainly none of them saw Bill Bailey's Amazing Guide to the Orchestra last week, with the hilarious performance of The Swan on tuned alpine cow bells. What did it remind me of? And then the fuzzy black and white memory came to me of a row of suit-tailed harmonica players, one a demi-dwarf with the enourmous bass harmonica, playing musical chairs to the William Tell Overture on Sunday Night at The London Palladium.
So what I really want to know is, has there ever been a funnier time on the British stage? And whether funnier or not, isn't much of what happens on the comic stage (and TV) now very similar to the bizarre world of the music halls?
'Alternative comedy' and the punk rock movement were cultural twins. The same general gamete of anti-glitz created them both. And John Lydon maintained that he was not a rock singer but a music hall performer in the British style. An angry, latter day Billy Bennett, possibly. The surrealism of Bennet is certainly there in Eddie Izzard and Ross Noble and John Cooper-Clarke. And Lor-luv-a-duck, Marie Lloyd's real name was Victoria Wood, who could have easily penned the gloriously ironic 'A Nice Quiet Day' or 'Don't Have Any More Missus Moore'.
Now I works just like a good'un
And I isn't over strong
And I'm mostly on me trotters all the time
So I'm glad when Easter Sunday or a Whitsun comes along
'Cos a day of perfect rest is really prime.
So I lately took it easy 'cos I had a day to spare
With the wife and kiddies in their sunday clothes.
Twas a treat to make me mind up for a bit of country air
And the pleasures of a quiet day's repose...


Pornography does Dehumanise, and It's On Your Street Corner

old kent road clearchannel babe
Research at Princeton University in New Jersey claims that changes in brain activity suggest that images of women in typically sexualised poses and costumes can shift the way men perceive women, turning them from people to interact with, to objects to act upon. The part of the brain which deals with technology is turned on, and the part which enables empathy is turned off - which is not the same as 'attraction' - a conclusion which the tabloid twerps have been typically quick to jump to. The American Association for the Advancement of Science's annual conference was told that the experiments showed that sexy images lead men to think of women as 'less than human'. In other words, that sexual 'objectification' is a reality, and not the PC Gone Mad of media paranoia.
Even more confirmation, if it were needed, of what every feminist since Mary Woolestonecraft has been saying and the producers of 'Weird Science' knew already. Namely, that the use of sex for political and commercial purposes is always going to be a tactic to dehumanise women, and that it will take a constant process of education and radical cultural reformation to overcome it. And that ther is a vast amount of money to be made from exploiting that primal reflex in men.
"The mind will ever be unstable that has only prejudices to rest on, and the current will run with destructive fury when there are no barriers to break its force. Women are told from their infancy, and taught by the example of their mothers, that a little knowledge of human weakness, justly termed cunning, softness of temper, outward obedience, and a scrupulous attention to a puerile kind of propriety, will obtain for them the protection of man; and should they be beautiful, every thing else is needless, for, at least, twenty years of their lives."
'A Vindication of the Rights of Woman'

An interesting feminist response comes from Feministing.
Simply taking naked women out of the picture (figuratively and literally) is not going to resolve the problem, and implying that "men can't help it" will just be used to contribute to the same sexist customs and rape culture that we're fighting against.
But it missses the point. Mere nakedness does not create the kind of objectifying, stereotyping, dehumanising effects which the research is talking about. It is as different as objectification is from genuine attraction. Nudist camps? I rest my case.
Commercialised sex, driven by commercial pornography, is a rape culture, and rape is not sex, but the exercise of power, as every feminist also knows.

Fiske explained that the areas, the premotor cortex and posterior middle temporal gyrus, typically light up when one anticipates using tools, like a screwdriver. "I’m not saying that they literally think these photographs of women are photographs of tools per se, or photographs of non-humans, but what the brain imaging data allow us to do is to look at it as scientific metaphor. That is, they are reacting to these photographs as people react to objects."

Fisk also tested the men for levels of sexism and found a surprising effect those who scored high on this test, "...the hostile sexists were likely to deactivate the part of the brain that thinks about other people's intentions. The lack of activation of this social cognition area is really odd, because it hardly ever happens. It’s a very reliable effect, that the medial prefrontal cortex comes online when people think about other people, see pictures of them, imagine other people."

Scientific American

The debate this report provokes will at least air some home truths about the mind-bending pornography we routinely plaster all over our field of view, and enable more people to see it for what it is, and be able to overcome it.