“Britain is open for business,” and other ineffective, lazy rhetorical tricks the shape-shifting lizards think sound really clever


The phrase, “Britain is open for business” is invoked incessantly by UK politicians these days –  as they swoop off their private jets and pull serious faces and puff out their chests for the waiting media – and it’s beyond tiresome. It sounds utterly stupid, and makes their horizons (and, by extension, ours as a nation) seem completely diminished.

All three main parties are guilty of this, but none moreso than the Conservatives, particularly Cameron, Osborne, and now Prime Minister May.

To continue the metaphor, when did the shop shut? Where’s the fire? When you hear that phrase in the real world, it’s normally invoked after a renovation or protracted closure, or a terrible event like a stabbing or a flood. Every time it’s used, I can almost see the owner of a cornershop pacing about outside his store, desperation etched in his face, the day after a gang fight on his doorstep: ‘Don’t mind the blood and broken glass, we’re still open for business! Please buy my red-tops and flapjacks.’

It’s not the confident assertion this increasingly weird, disconnected class of people think it should be. It bristles with obvious doubt and blind, dumb hope. And is that all we are now, a business? Is that the sum total of their aspiration for our nation? Fretting about the AAA credit rating as it falls by the wayside, instead of a AAA morality rating, or AAA ratings for scientific and artistic endeavours.

David Cameron was full of these lines, and used them whenever he could, as he pretended to be a man of the people (despite, y’know, forgetting what football team he was supposed to support, and all those times his prole mask slipped). Like his dismal, overused “hard-working people” line, which was supposed to subliminally sink into our minds, as a cozy concession to tuck us in at night: ‘You gave it your best shot today. Keep up the toil, pleb, it’s really valued. And, oh, don’t mind us – we’ll keep cutting your public services in return.’

Another one was “important work,” usually delivered with pursed lips and rolled up shirt sleeves. Cameron sounded like a guilty public schoolboy when he dropped this one, forever covering his arse after his chillaxing with Fruit Ninja on his iPad.

Or all that forgotten talk about “pulling up the drawbridge” with Europe, but failing to make anything resembling a convincing, positive case for remaining in the union.

These are lazy rhetorical tricks, unworthy of even a remedial English Language class. And yet, I suppose, for the distracted, bovine masses of this green and pleasant land, they work quite well.

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Jeremy Corbyn stars in GAME OF DEATH

jeremy corbyn game of death tb


Synopsis: after winning the Labour Party leadership campaign in September 2015, rank outsider Jeremy Corbyn enjoyed a tidal wave of popular support. The Islington North MP looked set to provide a much needed return to socialist values for the party, until he was confronted by shadowy forces bent on destroying his chances, and the hopes of all those who voted for him.

It soon emerges that the Parliamentary Labour Party is behind a series of desperate attacks against him, and are in favour of a return to a Tory-lite Blairite agenda, which previously saw destruction and death inflicted on the Middle East, growing inequality in the UK, and a dramatic upswell in food bank usage.

After seeing off a challenge by saggy-eyed tedium-monger Angela Eagle, Corbyn is soon confronted by Pfizer PR man Owen Smith, whose principles and fighting style seem as malleable and unknowable as his sinister, playdoh face. But despite the challenges, Corbyn continues fighting for what he believes in, with grace and good humour.

What lies ahead in the upper echelons of the Pagoda of Power for our understated, bearded scruff ((c) The Daily Mash)? And will Corbyn still be standing by the next General Election, currently scheduled for May 2020? Find out in GAME OF DEATH.

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PR jobs: EU project – head of policy sought


It’s just seven days to go until the UK holds its referendum into EU membership, and I fear that the leave camp will win.

A lot of EU leave voters hold the mindset that in the UK and Europe, we’re all from different tribes, and as a result the union was doomed to fail from the outset. A British soldier would never take orders from a French general, so extrapolate that example across relations in the continent as a whole and you get the picture. “Beleave in Britain [we don’t want no Frogs nor Krauts tellin’ us what to do],” and so on.

So I think it’s admirable that we’ve got this far without a simple, compelling, unifying narrative for the European project. Let’s, for a moment, consider ISIL – how is it that a brown-skinned man from Pakistan could fight alongside a white, ginger man from England? How can they be so ready to take up arms and even die alongside each other on the battlefield? Because they share a common cause, obviously, that was literally designed to be passed on through the generations, spur people into action, be adhered to through routines and rituals, and never be forgotten, yet is malleable enough to have been warped into the radical Islamism of a brutal minority today. And for all the United States’ faults, you can’t fault the patriotism of a large bulk of the populace. Their belief in a shared destiny, pledging allegiance to the flag every day at school, the Bellamy Salute.

What separates us from the other hyper-evolved monkeys that went by the wayside, like neanderthals, homo erectus, and so on, is that we as homo sapiens have the ability to gossip, and construct and then submit to sophisticated, mental fictions like religion, culture, and art as a whole.

In their quest for ‘Ever Closer Union’ – a not unreasonable ambition – the enablers of this project have singularly failed on this fundamental issue to create a simple, compelling narrative to unite all European Union nations, which should have been their primary action item, back in ’51. This failure to do so literally misunderstands, even denies, our humanity. And – worse – their actions in the last few years have utterly undermined the idea of a cohesive, unified EU. Look at the way the Greeks were shat on, from a great height. Look how our Ukrainian brothers and sisters bled in the streets during the Euromaidan, desperately waving the European flag for the EU Superman to come and save them. But neither Angela Merkel, nor Francois Hollande, nor David Cameron are Clark Kent, waiting to spin into action.

No, the pathetic, uninspired extent of our leaders’ ambitions since 9/11 have led to pointless wars in the Middle East, leading to more destabilisation – indeed, the outright destruction of entire nations – and two million dead. Four-and-a-half Olympic-sized swimming pools filled with blood. It’d take a crap swimmer about five minutes to wade through all of it, not even counting for its viscosity versus chlorinated water. A third of the Holocaust. Not to mention GCHQ’s five football fields’ worth of underground servers, dedicated to cataloguing the internet, and spying on us on a population-wide scale. And are we safer, for pursuing this revenge against the primitives? What has been achieved at the end of it all?

Whether we leave or remain, the EU needs a unifying narrative in order to survive. It needs to be about more than just tying up Germany and France to prevent another world war starting in Europe. It needs to be about more than revenge against the primitives.

This is a public relations problem, as much as it is a political one. And it goes to show that, as well as being an absolutely awful Prime Minister, the former public relations man David Cameron is also terrible at PR – at this time when he’s needed it the most.

So how do we save the European project using PR? We need to be grand and proud, like the Americans. We need a project that shows the best ambitions of humanity.

It always comes back to this with me, but I think it’s more logical than spending trillions on killing brown people, or hundreds of millions on a garish new headquarters, or an obscene amount trotting over to Strasbourg for its monthly farcical circus:

We need a manned European mission to Mars. European scientists working with European space pioneers, working together to penetrate Martian soil with a European flag.

And we needed it yesterday. On that day, there would be no ambiguity. I would wave that European flag, and I would be a proud European.

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In Praise of Tim Cook: a new Gandhi for the digital serfdom?


An incredible act of corporate defiance was announced by Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, yesterday.


“The United States government has demanded that Apple take an unprecedented step which threatens the security of our customers. We oppose this order, which has implications far beyond the legal case at hand…

“We are challenging the FBI’s demands with the deepest respect for American democracy and a love of our country. We believe it would be in the best interest of everyone to step back and consider the implications.

“It would be wrong for the government to force us to build a backdoor into our products. And ultimately, we fear that this demand would undermine the very freedoms and liberty our government is meant to protect.”

– Tim Cook, A Message to Our Customers, February 16th 2016, www.apple.com/customer-letter


The US government is seeking a backdoor to access Apple’s mobile operating system, iOS, which would enable law enforcement to brute-force their way into iPhones, and access the personal data within.

The request centres around an iPhone 5C which previously belonged to deceased terrorists Syed Farook and Tashfeen Malik – who murdered 14 people and seriously injured 22 others at a party in San Bernardino, California, in December last year.

In refusing to comply, the company has seemingly launched a head-on charge against the incessant march of anti-digital privacy measures, through which governments and the intelligence services wish to obtain Total Information Awareness.

San Francisco-based digital rights group the Electronic Frontier Foundation has voiced its support for the decision. Wired said Cook had “laid out the pro-encryption case in a way that’s accessible, tangible, and immediate.”

But the letter raises more questions than it answers.

  • Has the Internet Dragnet failed, not only to prevent yet another terrorist attack, but even in the follow-up investigations after the event?
  • Does this incident mean that the capabilities of the NSA and CIA are not available to the FBI in an investigation following a terrorist attack on American soil?
  • Is this particular investigation seeking locally-stored information (such as through a note-taking app) that could not be gleaned through the Internet Dragnet?

It is the FBI, we are told, who are being denied access to the iPhone.

Cook does not mention the NSA or GCHQ, nor any of their myriad surveillance programs, which target Apple directly. The monitoring of undersea fibre optic cables persists. PRISM (the collection of data directly from servers belonging to Apple, Microsoft, Yahoo, Facebook, Paypal, and others by the intelligence services in the US, UK and its ally spy agencies), and all other tendrils of the Five Eyes surveillance state apparatus, persists.

Mr Cook has previously criticised both the widely-derided UK surveillance bill and slammed Obama administration officials over privacy, insisting that no backdoors should be built in to tech products.

And yet for Apple’s customers and people around the country, to whom this latest message is addressed, who may even have a decent awareness of the dizzyingly complex issues at hand, it would appear that the iPhone as a product is impenetrable.

But that’s not true, according to some tech security experts; the nature of the iPhone 5C hardware in question makes it easier to crack, thanks to the absence of a Secure Enclave chip.

Like any good CEO, Cook’s foremost agenda is winning the public relations battle.

But if we cast our minds back to 2013, when Edward Snowden plundered the massive dossier of NSA intelligence information and went on the run, leading to revelations about the organisation’s massive Internet Dragnet spying operation in leaked Powerpoint slides, it was shown that Apple even has its own ‘PRISM provider’ case designation – “PA”. Microsoft and Yahoo services are “P1” and “P2”, respectively.




The content available to spooks is listed as “stored comms (search), instant messaging, RTN-EDC (real-time notification of an email event such as a login on sent message), RTN-IM (real-time notification of a chat login or logout event), email, VoIP, Full (WebForum), OSN Messaging (photos, wallposts, activity, etc.), OSN Basic Subscriber Info, and videos.”

Clearly, if these slides are to be believed, the iPhones of all Apple customers, regardless of this investigation by the FBI, do not exist in an off-limits oasis, above and beyond the reach of the state or law enforcement.

Regardless, this latest letter shows us a CEO in Tim Cook who is actively engaged in civil rights issues. As well as his passion for privacy issues, in hiring new employees, the company is increasingly committed to diversity. In terms of supplier responsibility, Apple is carrying out more audits of suppliers than ever.

One might view Mr Cook as a sort of white, multi-millionaire, American Gandhi, acting, for however long, as a focal point for peaceful resistance by the digital serfdom.

Consider the parallels:

– Mahatma Gandhi, born in Porbandar, British India, 1869

After a career as a barrister and civil rights activist, led British-ruled India to independence through peaceful protest and pursued spiritual enlightenment

– Tim Cook, born in Mobile, Alabama, United States, 1960

After stints at IBM and Compaq, rose at Apple from SVP for worldwide operations, to COO, and finally, CEO, in 2011. Set to lead internet users to freedom from surveillance tyranny?

Actually, nah, let’s not go there.

But we shouldn’t diminish what has been the most extreme possible test of Apple’s position on privacy – even actual, dead terrorists, who murdered 14 people and injured 22 others, are being respected.

We live in a world in which our entire digital footprint – every Google search, every Amazon purchase, every Facebook status, every Oyster card usage, every loyalty card scanning, and so on – can be acquired and stored, pinned to our real life selves, and ripped open to offer a rich tapestry of personal data.

Perhaps there should be a terrorism equivalent to Godwin’s Law – let’s call it ‘TechBash’s Law’ – that surveillance state apparatus will always, eventually, invoke the threat of terrorism to get deeper and broader access to the personal data of populations.

Whether they get what they want is down to men like Mr Cook.

“I heartily accept the motto, “That government is best which governs least”; and I should like to see it acted up to more rapidly and systematically. Carried out, it finally amounts to this, which also I believe- “That government is best which governs not at all”; and when men are prepared for it, that will be the kind of government which they will have”

– Henry David Thoreau, Civil Disobedience, 1849

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The Internet Dragnet and You (Part 1)


In newsrooms around the world, every single day, battles are pitched over content. Lowest common denominator sub-editors rage against verbose scribes, and vice versa, as complexity and nuance give way to ease of comprehension and space or time constraints.

Assessments are made about the level of understanding of viewers and readers. Fat is trimmed. Simultaneously, the encroachment of sport and entertainment ‘news’ onto ‘actual’ news seems to increase every day.

Turn on Sky News in the UK, and often a significant proportion of time following the main bulletin will be devoted to sport. And not just sport – cage-fighting, table tennis and so-called e-Sports rarely get a look-in – but, specifically, football. Time that should be reserved for news, and the crucial role it plays in fostering an understanding of the world and reality itself among its viewers, is lost to the UK’s favourite sport. It is faux news (not to be confused with Fox News), functioning as advertising for the organisation’s premium sports channels.

But turn on the dedicated Sky Sports News channel, and you won’t see reports, in-depth or otherwise, from Afghanistan or Ukraine. Similarly, to watch BBC News today is to witness the world through a sport- and entertainment-centric prism, where government lines are taken as gospel, bullshit is not called out and very little makes sense.

There are those who will dispute this. “But football is news to some people,” one fan of the sport told me. “News is an update of the goings on, no? People are emotionally involved in football whether you like it or not – it provokes a reaction in others. Isn’t news meant to be for the people? Otherwise no-one would watch it.”

And this is the problem. As a society, I don’t think we’re properly educated on what the news is and can be and what its value is to us.

That same football fan acknowledged that he tended to find out about the football results from other sources, rendering the infiltration of ‘actual’ news pointless – to him at least, but I’m sure to many others as well. There is dedicated football programming on numerous channels, terrestrial and otherwise, such as ‘Match Of The Day’. Results can be gleaned from Twitter, BBC Sport online, or the FourFourTwo magazine. Just as with most hobbyist activities, there are countless avenues for the footballing fan to explore news and analysis of their sport to their heart’s content, just as there are for viewers of ‘Ultimate Fighting Championship’ or the latest competitive ‘Halo’ tournament. And yet we tolerate the erosion of ‘actual’ news time for a peek into the self-contained, meaningless goldfish bowl of the UK’s chosen sport. In the case of BBC South Today’s local news bulletin, sometimes more than half of the programme can be football-focussed, to the detriment of ‘actual’ news.

The freedom of the press and its dissemination of news is one of the hardest fought freedoms of the western world, and yet it is utterly taken for granted at best, and at worst is reviled and being actively attacked from all sides, including by news editors themselves.


“The standards I set have been rubbished in favour of pandering to what the people – the people, forsooth! – want”

– John Reith, the BBC’s first Director General, an admirer of Hitler who despised jazz


It’s not just viewer demand (perceived or otherwise) that is shaping an increasingly toothless media. Print and TV are suffering dwindling reader- and viewer-ships and increasingly fragmented audiences.

Every day, trade magazines reflect on the state of newspapers and magazines, and endlessly rehash ‘print is dead’ features, or advice on how to bring content to ubiquitous mobile devices.

The ongoing transition still isn’t fully understood by most people, even those who have given their whole lives to the newspaper industry. Today it was announced that The Independent and Independent on Sunday newspapers, which started in 1986, will cease to be printed in March – and exist only online.


“I think it will be the first of many papers which stop their print editions and have another existence online.”

– Stephen Glover, Independent co-founder


What are newspapers? They are tools for disseminating information. The printing press revolutionised the world when it took isolated ideas and isolated communities and enabled the spread of knowledge. Human voices were no longer bound by their maximum volume – shouted across the street or in the pub – or by the tired hands of writers. They could be commited to paper and mass produced and sent further afield.

What is the internet? It’s a far more sophisticated tool for disseminating information. With it, human voices are no longer bound by print-runs and circulation areas. They can be commited to 1s and 0s and sent further afield – globally.


“Sooner rather than later they will all go. No one can say in what order it will happen, but it will happen to the most venerable titles, even to the top-selling Sun and Mail.”

– Brian Cathcart, professor of journalism at Kingston University London


It seems to me that in the Post-9/11 Clusterfuck, post-Hutton, post-Snowden media landscape that the majority of the so-called mainstream media has singularly failed to provide an accurate summary of world events, and that news consumers’ understanding is suffering as a result. There are days when it is possible to turn on the television and not even realise there’s a war on, let alone several, and that US President Barack Obama bombed seven countries in his first six years in office – Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, Yemen, Libya and Syria – despite running on a platform of opposition to the Iraq war before 2009.

The BBC has had it particularly bad, in terms of a news organisation being attacked. Perhaps one of the strongest blows came in 2003, following the Corporation’s chastening by the then-Labour government after former Radio 4 ‘Today’ show reporter Andrew Gilligan daringly stated that the government’s case for war in Iraq had been”sexed up” (and he and the then-Director General, Greg Dyke, were subsequently forced to resign).

Mr Gilligan’s source, Dr David Kelly, was found dead, having apparently overdosed on a cocktail of drugs and having slit one of his wrists. According to Mr Gilligan, Dr Kelly had stated he had concerns about the 45-minute claim, which related to the speed with which Saddam Hussein could deploy weapons of mass destruction, and attributed its inclusion into the ‘dodgy dossier’ to then-Prime Minister Tony Blair’s director of communications and strategy, Alastair Campbell.


“This report casts a chill over all journalism, not just the BBC’s. It seeks to hold reporters, with all the difficulties they face, to a standard that it does not appear to demand of, for instance, government dossiers.”

– Andrew Gilligan, after the publication of the Hutton Report, which sought to investigate the cause of Dr Kelly’s death, but which had an apparently far wider remit and was branded a ‘whitewash’ in many sections of the media – for finding so heavily in favour of the government


And things haven’t improved since then. The BBC is facing the very real prospect of losing its licence fee. Much has been made of the statistic that current Tory chancellor, George Osborne, has presided over the biggest privatisation of UK public assets of any chancellor in history.

In the same week that 40,000 junior doctors have gone on strike to protest proposed changes to their contracts, it has also been revealed that Conservative health secretary Jeremy Hunt MP, who is in charge of the health service, co-wrote a book on privatising the NHS. Regarded by many as one of the UK’s greatest public institutions, which was created after the Second World War, many fear its days are numbered, and that any moves to make changes to the service are part of a malign objective to undermine the NHS until it is sold off.

Secretary of state for culture, media and sport, John Whittingdale MP, who in time might come to be regarded as a fellow pro-privatisation footsoldier alongside Mr Hunt, despite, as far as I know, not having co-authored a book on privatising the BBC, said last year: “In the short term, there appears to be no realistic alternative to the licence fee, but that model is becoming harder and harder to justify and sustain.”

The statement was made in light of changing technology and audience habits, which it seems are existential threats to the future of both state-funded media institutions and commercial newspapers alike.

In one such newsroom, I lost count of the number of times I heard the stunning phrase, “Our readers wouldn’t understand that.”


“[The audience] is best visualized as a vicious, lazy, profoundly ignorant, perpetually hungry organism craving the warm god-flesh of the anointed. Personally I like to imagine something the size of a baby hippo, the color of a week-old boiled potato, that lives by itself, in the dark, in a double-wide on the outskirts of Topeka. It’s covered with eyes and it sweats constantly. The sweat runs into those eyes and makes them sting. It has no mouth, Laney, no genitals, and can only express its mute extremes of murderous rage and infantile desire by changing the channels on a universal remote. Or by voting in presidential elections.”

– William Gibson – Idoru


‘Our readers’ – a homogenous entity, who simply wouldn’t understand, and whose understanding is lesser than any given journalist’s.

Journalists love to simplify things for the lowest common denominator, and put things in terms the average dimwit can understand. As a result, measurements in a story are given in size relative to football pitches. For example, the new circular Apple campus in Cupertino, we are told, can fit three football pitches inside its central courtyard. As noted previously, IBM Hursley’s army guy said GCHQ had servers spanning five football pitches. Likewise, new buildings are measured in relation to double decker buses or well-known landmarks. The Burj Khalifa is more than two-and-a-half Eiffel Towers in height.

But what they don’t tell you – certainly not during the lengthy interludes when we are forced to observe overpaid men kicking balls into nets, and then, after the match, offering their glistening insights into why they didn’t kick the ball into their opponents’ goal enough times, or how happy they were to have kicked the ball into the opponents’ goal more times, thus securing a win – is how many swimming pools’ worth of blood has been spilled during the War On Terror.

If we take the estimate (that many would say is conservative) that two million people have died in the myriad War On Terror conflicts, and multiply that number by the amount of blood in the ‘average’ human (5.5 litres in a 70kg person), and divide that by the number of litres’ capacity of an Olympic swimming pool (2,500,000 litres), then we arrive at the following figure:

Four-and-a-half Olympic swimming pools filled with blood.

I don’t think our readers will understand that.

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