A Quick Question About Getting Too Social Justice-y

Darlings,

Wifi where I am at the moment is definitely iffy, so although I can’t download Blood of Olympus to my generation one Kindle, I also can’t stumble upon any spoilers. Schrodinger’s novel I suppose.

Anyway I have an indifferent ignorance question. I’ve been chatting about the whole Tory ‘we’ll get rid of the Human Rights Act’ conference claim. I personally am not convinced that scrapping rights-based documents are a good idea – call me a hippie, but I appreciate legal equality – and I’m not convinced that the government, whoever it ends up being, will make a British bill that’s as watertight. I can just see the rich white dudes making loopholes to make deportation easier, or cheap labour more accessible, or reducing gay rights – partly because they don’t understand what it is not to have those rights and partly because they want to appease Daily Mail voters.

The people I was chatting to reckon that I’m taking the other side of the argument too seriously; believing the leftie Mail-esque rhetoric. I had never thought of that. I mean, Tumblr has a lot of those other-way-extremist viewpoints (I think they’re called ‘social justice’ bloggers?) like that ‘white people are inherently racist’ post the other week. I thought I was pretty middle of the road in terms of understanding political arguments, but have I been hoodwinked a bit? Am I just as indifferently ignorant in my own way?

My phone battery’s going and I want to sunbathe so I’m going to shut up now. It might take a while to reply to comments, but please do leave them so I’ve got some nice emails to look forward to when I’m clicking the wifi buttons and wondering if I should just use a typewriter!

A Quick Question About Racism

This time in a week, my office won’t be my bedroom but will be my balcony, or a local restaurant, or… my bedroom (I’m staying in a studio flat and would put money on having exactly the same set-up as I do now, except with a closer bathroom). I was going to write a post just gloating about that, but then I went on Tumblr…

I’ve been treating the site gingerly since Uncle Rick posted about Blood of Olympus spoilers, so I glanced down the page as edgy as Hermione when she realised the Basilisk was in the pipes and saw this:

Racism on Tumblr

It might have been just me and a couple of inspirational billboard writers who thought this, but I was aware from a pretty young age that racism is learnt. One is not born as racist any more than one is born believing in God or born thinking Saturday night TV is occasionally contrived. When we first spill out into the world, we have no concept of anything. Then we are taught things that the people raising us think. We learn theism or racism or TV opinions as we grow, either by believing other people or thinking about things then coming to our own conclusions. Then we say what we think to our sprogs or students or blog readers.

That’s probably how most ideals have survived. You know, Mr Caveman Sr. realised that fire is useful but hurts if touched, and he taught Mr Caveman Jr., who taught Miss Cavewoman. Over the street, Mr and Mrs Cave were learning the same thing and told Baby Cave Kid as well.

Haha, baby cavepeople. (Alternatively, as Jacki pointed out, Ms or Mrs or even Miss Cavewoman may have discovered fire. I bet it was Village Idiot Caveperson who twigged that it hurt. Unfortunately – or luckily for this analogy – we may never know.)

My point is, lots of us are taught racism. I was. Most of us are taught sexism as well (hey, I wrote about this last week!). My parents were raised disliking Germans because their parents sat through the Blitz. Back when slavery and colonialism was a thing, most white people were raised to consider all non-white people to be inferior. Most non-white people were then raised to think that all white people were racists, and back then they were almost definitely right.

But it’s 2014, snowflakes. We’ve all been raised in part by racist, sexist, homophobic people – and we’ve also been taught by intelligent people that racism, sexism and homophobia (plus all the other -isms) is fucking stupid. Some of us have weighed up the evidence and concluded, independently, that racism, sexism and homophobia (plus all the other -isms) is fucking stupid.

So is the above Tumblr post actually just as racist, narrow-minded and indifferently ignorant towards white people as some white people are towards non-white people? Does anyone else get really upset by any mention of new book spoilers? Should I just stop using social media completely if it continues to find new ways to piss me off?

Well, I know the answer to one of those questions at least!

Five-ish Ways to Celebrate Five Years of Blogging: MCR Poster & Magazine Giveaway

Despite the plethora of wonderful ideas you all had for how I could celebrate Indifferent Ignorance turning five, I have come up with my own celebration. It’s called Five-ish Ways to Celebrate Five Years of Blogging and is coming to an Internet-connected device near you between now and November!

I say five-ish things because I’m not completely sure if a couple of them will come to fruition or when, so check back regularly to see which number we’re on.

The first thing is on Tumblr now, because I thought it would be funny if my first blog celebration was held on my scrubbly little non-blog (I don’t get out much). Plus I need to post it before I go to Greece. It hurts my heart to part with MCR possessions, but it turns out that a couple of the magazines were spares anyway, and those posters deserve to be put up somewhere, hence the giveaway.

The next four or so things will be revealed in good time, ie when I’ve put them together. Right, I’m off to drink some coffee and celebrate entering my last year of teenage-dom. I’m kind of bummed that I’ve only got a year to change the lyrics of Teenagers to “we” instead of “they”, and only a year to use “I’m a teenager” as an excuse for being rude to people, but so far 19 is looking peaceful and productive.

Probably because I’ve done little but write copy for zoos and look at MCR merch.

Explaining the Internet Slowdown (and protesting so you might not be able to read it)

It’s not that often that a lot of the people who use the Internet agree on something, but it looks like the US government has given us all a common enemy (again. Didn’t this happen with SOPA and Prop 8?!). I don’t have a huge understanding of the technical aspects of it, but essentially the US Federal Communications Commission has proposed laws that mean Internet providers can charge money for websites to access their subscribers. Those who couldn’t or wouldn’t pay would get slower Internet connections than those who could. It’s kind of like private healthcare versus the NHS; companies who can afford to pay for top healthcare plans (or Internet) would get seen to quickly and in top-notch conditions (quick page loading), and the rest of us would be put into an 18-month waiting list and spend a week in A&E (the buffer symbol for minutes or hours at a time).

A&E is slow at the moment, but imagine if NHS hospitals were purposely given rubbish equipment compared to private ones? People on the NHS would stay ill or get worse while private patients would be sorted in a jiffy. Now I think about it, that analogy is quite similar to the debacle of non-free-at-point-of-use-healthcare countries… like America. Now’s not the time.

To show what these new conditions would be like, lots of sites – including Tumblr, Etsy, Twitter and Automattic, which powers WP and therefore here – have enforced a slow Internet day, today. Pages, videos and music streams are loading at the speed at which they would load everyday if telecoms companies started charging for access. Many sites affected probably could pay for the quick connection, especially if they increased adverts – but users are likely to be put off by the ads and anyway, what about little online businesses who pay for their own connection? What about people who want to stream videos from sites who haven’t paid for quick access?

The buffer symbol. All the goddamn time.

What can we do to prevent this shit happening at all: head to this website, which is petitioning Congress to stop the proposal from becoming law. If you’re using a site that’s campaigning for ‘net neutrality’, as they call it, you can have a look to see that they’re doing in protest.

Most big Internet companies are a bit corrupt. Most people on the Internet are tossers. But none of us wants to put up with slow service, regardless of the sites we use or the people we abuse while on them.

PS (sort of) Since Etsy is protesting too, I’ve put a discount on my Etsy shop. I was going to anyway to celebrate Blood of Olympus coming out in October, and today seemed a good time to start it. Enter UNCLERICK2014 at the checkout for 30% off, although maybe wait until the protest’s over for a good long browse.

The Six O’Clock News: Keeping Up With Current Events

With the ever-changing nature of ‘current events’ and the complications of understanding it anyway, I thought the Israel-Palestine conflict (war? See, defining this shit is tough) would be a good topic to use to discuss ways to keep up with the news. All the cool kids are doing it, so listen up!

The Traditional Way: Newspapers and Magazines

Aw, print media. A declining medium and usually so full of editorially-biased bullshit that often it’s not worth going near anyway. We all know that tabloids aren’t worth even opening (I discovered a Daily Mail parody on Twitter the other day. It’s beautiful) but what about the broadsheets?

Well darlings, there are some good choices. The Guardian and Telegraph, traditionally a bit leftie and rightie respectively, have pretty decent articles which give a detailed explanation of a story, usually with some photos or maybe an infographic. I don’t usually get the Financial Times but I’ve heard it’s good too, as is The Times, if buying something owned by Rupert Murdoch doesn’t give you the heebie-jeebies. Then there’s the Independent and its sister publication the i, which I loved to read at school because it’s really short and has super-duper-easy-to-digest articles. It’s also only 30p and available from Starbucks, so you can look smart while sipping a skinny mocha polkadot frappe. All the papers have websites too so you can read an article as many times as it takes for your blood pressure to return to normal!

That’s pretty much the extent of my paper knowledge and I encourage you to utilise your local library and have a read of whatever you can get your hands on – you’ll find your favourite style of writing pretty soon. One word of warning: even the news articles will contain bias. Not as much as a column – not as obviously much as a column, anyway – but differentiating between reported fact, the writer’s opinion and a senior management-based reference (like a journalist highly rating a film released on a company owned by the newspaper’s owner) is a fun and useful skill. One that Daily Mail readers are lacking above all others.

In terms of magazines, there is only one I read, though I read it more thoroughly than I do all papers: Private Eye. Edited by the dude who sits on the left in Have I Got News for You, it’s predominately satire but also has some serious reporting and its Street of Shame section calls out other newspapers’ crap. If I remember correctly, it was one of the few publications that picked up on Cyril Smith being a paedophile about 20 years before the Jimmy Savile scandal – I think they got sued over the allegations. They get sued a lot. The Economist is also useful if you want to get really intellectual – and the ads in the back are brilliant if you want to pretend you have a PhD.

The Family Debate Way: Television

Ah, the real Six O’Clock News. I love it. If you’re anything like me, couch-surfing wise, you start your channel-flicking marathons around the entertainment channels (Virgin Media 121) and go up to music (Kerrang! TV is 342) and maybe into films (avoid the porn channels just past them).

This is stupid.

Go straight to the good stuff: the plethora of news channels. BBC News 24 HD is 604 for me and it’s on all the time. So if you’re out at ten o’clock or eating at six you can keep in the loop! I’m assuming your family bought a huge massive mega TV broadband phone package deal, in which case you probably have access to CNN, Al Jazeera English, Euro News, BBC Parliament and if you’re unlucky FOX.

The good thing about TV news is that because they’re broadcasting to everybody, they have to explain everything. Hence why reporters go to whacky places or walk through green screened graphics – the information needs to be understandable to the average viewer. You’re not the average viewer because you’re a) reading this and b) you know that you can access CNN.

A downside to the TV is that because most non-24-hour slots are short, detail can be missed from a story, and some stories aren’t told at all. Syria is big news when there’s been a huge bombing or war crime, for example, but gets overtaken by the next big thing. The same thing happened in all areas of the mainstream media to #BringBackOurGirls and Flight MH370. Both are still missing, by the way.

 The Hands-Free Way: Radio

You know, the way they kept up with business in World War II. Radio is cool because you aren’t rendered immobile and you can listen while you’re in the car or doing boring stuff, like chores. BBC Radio 4 has a good broadcast in the morning, which I discovered completely accidentally when I was searching for a radio station without jingles or adverts for my morning alarm. I’ve also heard good things about the BBC World Service, which apparently has a worldwide following because it’s an alternative to propaganda-ridden state media.

The Hipster Way: Websites and Social Media

I should probably point out that I’m not entirely sure what a hipster is, although many of the people I’ve known who have declared themselves to be one have actually been twats. I’m not sure if that’s the point. Anyway, social media basically sparked the Arab Spring, because for the first time people had ways to communicate meet-ups and ideas quickly. So instead of using Twitter to hashtag how great your favourite band is to promote a crappy MTV contest, use it to keep up with a conflict or political situation as-it-happens. There was a Russian soldier who posted a picture of himself with Russian weapons inside Ukranian borders on Instagram, and Osama bin Laden’s house’s siege was posted about on Twitter as it occurred, which says it all. The people inside war zones are exactly the same as everyone else so you can see the actual stuff that’s going on. You don’t have to follow accounts if it bums you out, but searching a tag here and there makes you like well intelligent.

Word of warning: social media is the least moderated of all broadcasting platforms and there are just as many idiots posting political things as there are idiots posting pictures of themselves in their underwear or bitching about their boss. Take with a bucketful of salt and always use two sources to corroborate information, especially if it’s for a school thing. I once stumbled upon a Hammas-supporting website which bitched a lot about Israel and the stats I collected were totally the opposite to the ones we learnt in school. For quick info, use the BBC News app and for research, the CIA World Factbook has great profiles on each country – well, they would – and lists states numerically by how great their literacy rate or GDP is, amongst other things. The BBC also has great country profiles for getting a simple explanation and timeline of a country. This explains Kosovo perfectly, for example.

The Fun Way: Entertainment

Not going to lie, Tim Minchin taught me the background to the Israel-Palestine conflict.

Then there’s Have I Got News for You, Russell Howard’s Good News, The Daily Show… the list  of programmes is endless. If you’re prepared to put up with some Hollywood gloss, films and books are useful. Some, like Shooting Dogs or books by Khaled Hosseini, don’t have gloss. They may make you cry noisy tears and expand your cynicism. But they’re actually really important because you’re more likely to empathise and understand the nuances of a situation through fiction than you are just by watching the news.

Documentaries are also excellent because it’s their job to make sense, tell the truth (again: apply salt) but keep hold of your attention. Plus your teachers will support the concept of watching them instead of doing a timed essay. Probably. Possibly.

Okay, I’m off to watch the diving at the Commonwealth Games and keep a tally of my parents’ homophobic comments regarding Tom Daley. Let me know if I’ve forgotten a supercool way to follow the news!