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Archive for December, 2011

He really is. He’s the guy whose main schtick is the Illuminati reptilian alien trans-dimensional Freemason conspiracy, of which just about everybody rich or famous is suspected to be a part.

Yeah. That guy. He’s been on this train for years, and sufficiently large crowds of people are… entertained? intrigued? also crazy? …that he regularly lectures to packed-out crowds in large theatres, and sells an impressive number of books.

I saw part of one of his lectures yesterday on an obscure Sky TV channel. He was astounded at how true-to-life the film Monsters, Inc. was. If he were right about even a quarter of the stuff he was saying, he’d basically be a harbinger of the apocalypse in a Clive Barker novel.

A lot of his conspiracy ideas are, on the face of it, rather horrifying notions, if you forfeit your senses long enough to take them seriously for a moment. We’re all being lied to by the people in control, who sit at the top of the pyramid pulling the strings of the presidents and world leaders below. Of course the idea of evil forces acting behind the scenes to further their own power, with no regard for our well-being, is a disturbing one.

And yet, at the same time, I’m far from the first to note that deranged conspiracy theories are often a way of imposing structure and order onto a scary and chaotic world. The horrifying conspiracy actually provides some sort of reassurance.

For instance, Icke believes that the 9/11 attacks were obviously orchestrated by whoever’s really running the show, for their own nefarious ends. But the idea that George Bush – a man who “can’t even tie his own shoelaces” – might have been responsible is something he finds comical. The brilliant minds really behind it all were playing Bush for a fool, just like the rest of us.

As scary as that idea is, here’s another frightening scenario: George Bush, a man no better equipped to command the world’s largest superpower than he appears, actually persuaded people to give him millions of dollars, with which he also persuaded half the population of said superpower that he was the best man to take charge of the country.

Jesus. If I think about that too long, I might start needing a cuddle and some reassurance that the space lizards have got it all under control.

Another point Icke made – which I think was intended as some kind of rarely seen supporting evidence for his overall theory – was about the amount of human suffering in the world that’s caused by people. Or rather, not people people, but secret reptilian people. Because, when you look at the number of children starving to death around the world, or dying of preventable diseases, or being shot and blown up in unnecessary wars, or suffering in any number of ways because of other human activity, it seems clear that these aren’t the actions of real human beings. We have empathy, we care for people, we could never do such dreadful, damaging things. The reptilians lack such compassion, and only they must be responsible for such atrocities.

Except the truth is scarier than that, too. The human mind has evolved an astounding capacity for compartmentalisation, rationalisation, self-deception, and just about everything else necessary for subjugating, dehumanising, and destroying each other, given the right circumstances. All the ghoulish, evil things in which Icke sees the work of malevolent aliens? That’s all human behaviour. And human behaviour is all that we’re capable of.

If David Icke thinks his world of hidden dimension-crossing aliens vying for global domination is a scary place, he needs to open his eyes and take a look at the world he’s really living in.

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– I’m going to be way better at being married than this Christian couple who’ve written a whole book about it.

– Anyone remember Christmas With A Capital C, that godawful-looking movie which was being trailed about this time last year, and seemed to be just another outlet for fantasist Christian whining about anti-Christmas oppression? Apparently both the writer and director had a much more thoughtful approach, and it really shows in the finished film. Huh.

– Don’t throw the cat in the furnace… Don’t throw the cat in the furnace… Oh god is he going to throw the cat in the furnace? Oh thank fuck. That was creepily tense.

– And that’s it. I’ll be off for at least a day. Happy Christmas. Or, as we atheists say: Happy Christmas. (Thanks to Robin Ince for that line.) See you soon.

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– What’s worse than playing cruel jokes on your young children and filming the resulting distress for public entertainment? Getting them girls’ toys when they’re a boy. Or vice versa.

– These drug courts sound like an excellent idea. And hey, Matthew Perry likes them. So they must be good.

– “Sorry for ruining marriage, straight people. It’s totally the gays’ fault.”

– PZ Myers comes up with a good line on why those atheists who seem dead set against any criticism of theism are often so annoying to the rest of us: they “happily sacrifice reality on the altar of let’s-just-get-along“.

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Jesus fuckballs.

A 62-year-old man suffering from depression was arrested for “disorderly intoxication”. His wife asked that he be allowed to take his medications and given medical treatment. Instead, he was tied naked to a chair, gagged, and repeatedly pepper sprayed. He later died in hospital from heart failure brought on by shock from the pepper spray, and his death was ruled a homicide.

That was over two years ago. Nobody’s been charged with a crime, and the sheriff’s office has been cleared of wrongdoing.

Explain to me how any circumstances can possibly exist in which any human being has the right to render another human being immobile, then deliberately blind them with capsaicin while they are utterly defenseless. Someone. Anyone. Any circumstances at all.

Of course, the people who did this were acting as agents of a law enforcement agency. It’s only when people who aren’t enforcing the law commit homicide that we can expect there to be consequences.

Fuck’s sake, humanity.

(via Reason)

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– A translation of the faux-controversial phrase “Merry Christmas”: “I am offering you good will in a way I know how“.

This is a very unsettling article about the not-too-distant future, and I profoundly hope it proves to be accurate.

– Good to see Obama’s not slacking off at all after winning that Nobel Peace Prize.

– Hairy comedy music god Tim Minchin wrote and performed a new song about Jesus for the Jonathan Ross show recently. It wasn’t included when the show aired. Whether or not the reason for this, as is widely suspected, was due to some ITV exec’s utterly pifflesome and bollocksful fears about offending religious people is not entirely clear. But it’s a cracking song. And you can watch it here.

 

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Charlie Brooker’s newspaper columns and often bleakly satirical TV spots are among the most valuable and entertaining cultural commentaries to be found in the UK.

But recently he’s had another stab at writing proper drama. After watching two episodes of his dystopian-allegory-warning-thing Black Mirror, I’m guiltily hoping he goes back to what he’s really very good at.

His prose and sarcastic voiceover narratives demonstrate an enviably wry and nimble turn of phrase (“Come, friendly asteroids, and fall on Earth” was one I particularly enjoyed). But as much as he’s mastered the extraction of witty and withering one-liners from the darkness and depravity of the world, when he tries to stretch a point over an hour and a half it starts to seem rather thin.

In the second episode of Black Mirror, our protagonist is one of countless drably-clothed victims of some sort of authoritarian regime, and spends most of his time on a bicycle machine, providing the electricity that powers the world. The only other regular locations of his daily life seem to be a crowded elevator taking him to and from the cycle room, and an only slightly less cramped personal room, containing nothing more than a bed a few square feet of floor, and with television monitors making up every inch of wall and ceiling space.

Cycling earns him merits, which he spends on things like food, toothpaste, and brief reprieves from the string of loud and flashy advertisements that blare almost constantly from every screen. The only products we ever see him being encouraged to consume are a reality show clearly serving as a stand-in for The X-Factor, and pornography.

The message, such as it is, is not unfamiliar. What will happen if we get too enrapt by all this lowest-common-denominator passive consumption, and forget to think? The society of this episode (titled Fifteen Million Merits) has been entirely restructured around keeping the masses dumb and compliant, and providing them with ample mindless distractions to quell any thoughts of questioning the status quo. It’s so on-the-nose it’ll punch you in the sinuses, and Kirsty rattled off half a dozen books and films of which it was very clearly derivative without pausing to draw breath. But at least it does conjure the sense of abject turpitude it seeks to inspire, and if its ideas have been repeated often, it’s because they’re not unworthy of continued examination.

The problem lies in the shallowness of the show’s analysis of our inevitable moral and intellectual decline. The connection between society’s sexual obsessions and misogyny, our fixation with carefully manipulated and manipulative reality TV, and a decline in our capacity for (and interest in) complex thought, is made abundantly clear. But countless other important and intriguing social factors are glossed over or ignored. Surely there must be more going on, for us to have reached such a nightmarish scenario beyond the fever dreams of Huxley, than that we became too emotionally invested in some wannabe singers with tear-jerking personal histories. It starts to feel like the level of critique is dumbed down almost as far as the society we’re supposed to be thinking about.

One aspect of the world that was given less blatant emphasis was the avatars, or “doppels”, which people use to represent themselves when appearing on-screen or in a virtual world – a fairly minor extrapolation of an idea popular with a number of computer game systems today. The doppels are also customisable, and the drones are encouraged by their invisible overlords to spend merits upgrading their virtual characters with virtual accessories. Here, too, the parallel with current trends is not exactly opaque.

But the show’s examination of this phenomenon goes no further than to hurl contempt at the very notion of these unreal goods being a worthwhile form of consumption – and, dangerously, it does nothing to abnegate the spreading of that contempt to the consumers themselves. It doesn’t go any further than pointing at these forms of behaviour and labelling them as stupid, deplorable, reprehensible, and dehumanising. The people who act this way are either equally reprehensible and inhuman themselves, or (the more charitable alternative that we’re offered) they’re unthinking sheep who’ve been manipulated into ignorance of their own pointlessness. Which isn’t just an appropriately grim view of humanity’s possible future; it’s a dehumanisingly ungenerous assessment of humanity itself.

We’ve learned some fascinating things about ourselves and our brains, which relate to what we find entertaining, and the types of rewards we find enticing. What some games or advertising companies choose to do with these facts about human psychology may seem sinister, but they can also be used to improve ourselves. Will we, in the end, opt for self-improvement over low-brow gimmicks that push our pleasure buttons with all the casual ease of an addiction?

I don’t know. It’s a question worth asking, and an answer worth worrying about. But in the world of Black Mirror, there’s not much to suggest that the general mass of humanity are complex bundles of conflicting motivations and interests. It looks more like we’re a homogeneous crowd, doomed to irrelevance by our own flaws and our lack of interest in counteracting them. And it feels cynical in exactly the way Charlie Brooker is usually so good at destroying.

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– My half-baked, quarter-drafted post on the Occupy movement may never see the light of day (and you’re not missing much), but here’s one way in which they’re different from the Tea Party: nobody connected with the Occupy movement has yet publicly called for the assassination of the President and his children.

– Police in the UK are apparently not above calling a 15-year-old “gay” if he annoys them by trying to take their picture in public. Not a great advert for anything when someone legally recognised as a child is the mature one in a conversation with a man whose job is upholding the nation’s laws.

– That Bill Donohue’s a smart guy with a firm head on his shoulders. I’ve always liked him.

– Remember Marc Stephens? The creepy not-a-lawyer who sorta kinda maybe somehow represented the quacktastic Burzynski Clinic in some unspecified manner? He’s still up to his old tricks. And say what you like about him, but he knows how to put on a hell of a show.

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