Join Twitter and Facebook, they said. It’ll help you find an audience, they said. Help you sell books. Ha ha. Never mind.
Facebook has become even more shit than it already was in 2014, a malodorous mire of spam advertisements, insidious censorship and data farming. And then of course there’s always that one racist uncle/grandfather/in-law that no family seems to escape, agitating for Holy War and Jacob Rees Mogg.
Twitter also has its faults – notably the same creeping censorship as Facebook – but has two cardinal virtues. Unlike Zuckerberg’s aging and increasingly ad-drenched monstrosity, it takes you out of your own social circle. And the difficulty of policing such a jungle throws up, amid the trolls and lunatics and the inevitable rubbish, all kinds of stuff you’re just not supposed to know. Some of it might, at a stretch, be called life-changing (even a life that already included a supposedly good education and the reading of 5000-10000 quality books.) As an on-off user for weeks or months here and there, I’ve apparently racked up 999 tweets. It seems to be a tradition to mark milestones with something special, so here for the 1000th, in alphabetical order, are ten things I might never have known without Twitter.
Austerity (the extent of). Food banks and worsening poverty are vaguely acknowledged, but no nine o’clock news headline will ever cry out the British Medical Journal’s estimate of 120,000 avoidable deaths (since upgraded to 130,000 by the Institute for Public Policy Research), predominantly among the sick and disabled, or that over four million British children (around 30%) are growing up in poverty, more than 120,000 of them homeless in the 5th/6th richest country in the world. UN talk of a ‘human rights catastrophe’? Histrionics. Meddlesome interference. Almost never is austerity with its ‘difficult decisions’ acknowledged to have made rich people richer. Non-partisan future historians, if any exist, might well call it a mini-holocaust or a eugenics program.
Blue Ticks. The blue-tick symbol by an account name marks it as verified: yes!, it proclaims, this is not a fan or parody account but *the* Tom Cobley or Rupert Pupkin or whoever. Fair enough if it’s the Pope or Mo Salah, but most you’ve never heard of, legends in their own living rooms. Views my own, say the bios, as though anyone else would want them. (And many of these are clearly bought and paid for, as shown by every Murdoch employee and every bad faith anti-semitism smear merchant.) As I recently saw a perceptive member of the public muse, “Every British celebrity is an imbecile. Every. Single. One.” And it’s not just the dreaded TV ‘personalities’, famous for being famous: Oxbridge alumni and lettered professors too, on venturing out of their own fields and into social commentary, have vindicated the good Dr. Johnson that ‘Nothing has so much exposed men of learning to contempt and ridicule as their ignorance of things which are known to all but themselves’. (If you watched 9 p.m. comedy on BBC2 in the 1990s, you probably saw more than one of those I have in mind here.) But what does it matter? Why should anyone care? Well, it’s an affirmation of just how alive and well and deadly the class divide is. The darlings of TV and media are, when shorn of the cover of scripting and PR, overwhelmingly of mediocre intellect, blinkering privilege and arrogant unpleasantness. A small number of fringe exceptions shine: Neville Southall for instance – never did this Liverpool fan expect to be cheering him on – turns out to be a tireless campaigner on mental health issues and safety for sex workers; children’s author Michael Rosen, a constant defender of universal education and children’s living standards, puts to shame the Corbyn-bashing Blairism of a certain more famous colleague; and then there’s the intelligence and integrity of the superb Pamela Anderson (who knew?) being right on everything, decrying poverty as institutional violence and going personally into Belmarsh prison in friendship and support for Julian Assange.
Browder, Bill. If you don’t know this name, you should. He did more than anyone else to start and stoke this second Cold War. And he did it with a massive, stupendous lie. One of a number of vulture capitalists who looted Russia to the tune of billions in the wild years post-collapse, he gave up US citizenship to avoid taxes and retained local favour into the 2000’s partly by functioning as a Putin propagandist. Chechnya, Dagestan, the takeover of the press, you name it – Vladimir Vladimirovich could do no wrong. Then suddenly in 2005 Bill lost his place at the trough, at which point he underwent a Damascus road conversion and reinvented himself as an anti-corruption activist (a similar career path to that of another darling of the western media, A. Navalny). In 2008, his accountant and tax adviser was arrested in connection with large-scale fraud. This accountant languished almost a year in prison with his fragile health deteriorating and Bill showing no urgency to get him out. (Russia may not be quite as corrupt as depicted abroad, but Bill was a billionaire and the man after all hadn’t killed anybody. One suspects that an arrangement could have been made, especially if all or part of the missing money had happened to show up.) He finally died in prison from medical neglect and/or assault, and at this point the world learned from Bill Browder, to great fanfare, the name of Sergei Magnitsky. He too was reinvented, as a crusading human rights lawyer bravely unmasking corrupt policemen and dying as a martyr for the truth. The Obama administration jumped aboard and named after the ‘martyr’ a 2012 Act barring from the US any Russian officials they might decide were connected. Instead of standing trial in America for fraud and tax evasion – summonses were already outstanding – Bill is to this day fawned upon as ‘the man who stood up to Putin’, ‘Putin’s #1 enemy’ and so forth. His lawyers have a permanent mission to stomp out the film ‘The Magnitsky Act – Behind The Scenes’ on bogus GDPR charges wherever it crops up. It features him caught on camera in lie after lie after lie. If you can find it, watch it and decide for yourself.
Douma. Remember the supposed chemical attack by Assad on those innocent children and ‘moderate rebels’ that was recently used by the US & co. as a justification for launching yet more missiles at a country that never attacked anyone? Respected journalist Robert Fisk went there soon after and was told by the doctors and ‘victims’ that there had been no gas. Then the boy from the video said the same, and was duly brought by Russia (who, several weeks before the incident, had claimed to have intelligence of a planned false flag gas attack) to testify at the Hague, at which every western representative fled the room as though he himself were a chemical weapon. After analysis of the site, an OPCW report talked vaguely of ‘chlorine compounds’, which even I with my sub-GCSE chemistry know to include any number of household products and even table salt. Then, a few weeks ago, one of those involved leaked their real conclusion, cut by their superiors from the final draft: the gas attack had been staged. (The OPCW themselves, rather clumsily, confirmed that the leak was genuine by launching an investigation into the who and how of it.)
Gilets Jaunes. After briefly covering the Gilets Jaunes protests for the last month or so of 2018, the BBC and the rest of the mainstream media sent the whole thing down the memory hole as though it had all been smoothed away by the smart and statesmanlike Macron. The protests in fact continue every weekend, often met by a level of police brutality that, if occurring in Russia/China/Africa/Venezuela, would be shown on heavy rotation for breakfast lunch and dinner. The attempted march on the European Parliament in Strasbourg is especially worth a search.
Lobby, The. A potential future UK PM who has promised to recognise the state of Palestine has been traduced all across western media as an anti-semite, in total absence of evidence and total contradiction to his decades of anti-racist activism. The current UK PM spoke of ‘believing the state of Israel is somehow a racist endeavour’ as though such were the height of lunacy rather than an objectively provable fact. It’s now supposedly anti-semitic to talk of Israel attempting to influence politics in other countries such as the UK. (A Labour party member has just been suspended for doing so.) An undercover investigation by Al Jazeera, however, found and recorded exactly this. The chair of Labour Friends of Israel, the abhorrent Joan Ryan, is caught not only making a false allegation of anti-semitic abuse against a conference attendee who challenged her on the impossibility of a ‘two-state’ solution when Israel continues expanding its illegal settlements, but discussing with an Israeli diplomat wishing to ‘take down’ certain MPs not espousing Israeli interests a bounty of a million pounds. When a Sky News interviewer recently challenged her on the episode, Ryan claimed the video doesn’t exist. She wasn’t challenged, though it’s discoverable online in seconds.
Nakba. I can’t begin to calculate the number of hours of Anglophone news coverage and discussion of ‘the Middle East situation’ that I must have consciously or unconsciously absorbed for thirty-something years without hearing a single mention of this. When the forced displacement of 700,000 people occurred on mainland Europe (Bosnia & Kosovo), international military intervention followed and suspects and charges were eventually brought before the Hague. But Serbs = pro-Russian = bad, whereas Israel = anti-Arab = ‘the only democracy in the Middle East’ = good. Three short years after World War II and the Shoah, Zionist Israel had already begun ethnic cleansing against the Palestinians. A defining moment of modern history and perhaps responsible for more instability than any other single factor, and in my never so much as hearing the word till I was pushing forty years old there is no element whatsoever of chance.
9/11 & Operation Northwoods. No one needs to venture far from the beaten track to find scepticism about the September 11th story. Dismissal of the ‘conspiracy theories’ usually runs something like “There’s no way the government would commit a terrorist atrocity like that against its own people just to make someone else look bad”. But – and here’s what I wouldn’t have heard without Twitter – a US Department of Defence suggested precisely this in 1962 to drum up support for an invasion of Cuba. Kennedy declined, presumably realising they were psychopaths, and for such squeamishness his career subsequently took what might be called a downward turn. And there’s so much else: BBC news announcing the destruction of a building still standing, which then fell; the strong evidence of controlled demolition so that the buildings fell into their own footprints; the immediate clearing and export abroad of the rubble, in defiance of multiple federal laws regarding crime scenes; the prescience of the buildings’ owner who over-insured them right before the attacks; the suspension of various laws of physics as one solid object disappears into another (in the famous video clip the plane penetrates the building whole, crashing through concrete and steel without even the wings or rudder breaking off, but is somehow swallowed up inside and never seen again, disappearing as completely as the one that supposedly hit the Pentagon); and much, much more. As with the Skripals, we’ll probably never find out. But also as with the Skripals, there’s no conspiracy theory, however wacky and wild, that’s more obviously ridiculous than the official version. As others have said, perhaps the most shameful thing of all is that most people don’t even want the truth.
Overton Window, The. A fellow called Overton gave his name to the very narrow spectrum of publicly acceptable opinion. There’s a powerful reason why most political discussion programmes are so deathly dull: all the people on them fundamentally agree with each other on very nearly everything. If they didn’t, they wouldn’t be allowed on. (The brilliant Noam Chomsky patiently descending to the vocabulary of a ten-year-old to get this into the skull of the BBC’s Andrew Marr is unforgettable.) It took me an embarrassingly long time – and a nudge from some unknown soldier on Twitter – to realise this obvious truth. Imagined on a left-right political scale of 0 to 10 (10 being, let’s say, Hitler/Mussolini, and 0 being, let’s say, Jesus/Buddha), the window of acceptance currently ranges from about 7.5 (Blair/Obama/Clintons) to 8.5 (Farage, most Tories). Trump might be 8.75, the Daily Mail and other white supremacists 9 to 9.5, Corbyn/Sanders and other ‘Marxist’ types about 6. (Even a soft definition of ‘hard left’ would have to include no private property, no nations no borders, and the labour force owning/controlling the means of production. When did you last hear any of today’s ‘loony left’ call for any of that?)
Pan-Africanism. Not long ago, I drew upon myself the wrath and scorn of an outraged liberal for suggesting that Gaddafi had been killed chiefly because of his suggestion to set up an African central bank that would have demasculated the IMF and changed the economic balance of the world. (The last I saw of him – the liberal, not Gaddafi – he was telling some stranger or other that only citizens with a university degree should be allowed to vote.) I forget who dropped me the hint, but it turns out that Pan-Africanism or any sort of ‘third world’ solidarity shortens your life span worse than heroin. Patrice Lumumba and Thomas Sankara, founding fathers of modern DR Congo and Burkina Faso respectively and names I never heard for at least half of my allotted threescore years and ten, were murdered in coups backed by the old colonial powers for doing extremist things like refusing foreign ‘aid’ and redistributing wealth downwards. Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana at least escaped a CIA-backed coup with his life, albeit in exile. Amilcar Cabral and many others were less fortunate.
So there it is. Thanks Twitter, even if wasn’t what you had in mind.
I have what passes for an education in this day and time, but I am not deceived by it.