Black and white and read’s all over

Happy International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists everyone.

I feel like I intended to do some silly piece about getting to parties late, but I’m taking a hard 90°. I’ve been thinking lately. It’s not a change, but it’s a change in direction. Throughout this past election cycle, I’ve really noticed how neutered journalism has become. I’m not breaking ground here. I don’t even know if it’s a phenomena that’s North America specific. Journalism is failing its fourth estate principles. The journalistic code of ethics is playing second fiddle to cultivating an audience. The news cycle no longer works in the best interests of citizens, and that’s a problem. What am I talking about?

I’m talking about softball questions, failing to speak truth to power, and letting the dominant get away with inexcusable behaviour. Impartiality has been compromised and contorted into something all new. Biases are all too evident, and they’re impacting the strength of reporting. It’s no big secret that most major publications have political leanings. It comes with the territory. It’s part and parcel of having an audience. People tend to follow views that resonate with their own. They’ll more readily agree with things they already agree with, or are a few minor deviations away. We don’t want to be challenged, we want to be reaffirmed that we’re on the right track. With media outlets, this leads to a bunch of pandering. They’re less likely to publish material that would alienate their audience, because this could push that audience away. So they reinforce the status quo, and fail to provoke anything.

Why is this happening? Because traditional media outlets are facing challenges from this new online driven world. It’s becoming too difficult to compete with the news cycle, so they’re adopting online techniques. It’s not entirely their fault, but I’m sure it’s out of their hands. The money that was once abundant has now shifted in new directions. In order to stave off extinction, these outlets are trying their best to retain any semblance of an audience. This means reaffirming their views, publishing un-challenging stories and more or less clickbait. It means following the popular stories and picking up their crumbs. Donald Trump has shat all over whatever political structure America had. He’s been a human wrecking ball, taking without giving and leaving a shambles in his wake. Of course people want to know what he’s going to destroy next. It’s like rubbernecking 24/7. He’s news relevant, and people will click on stories about him. Hell, I do. I’m part of the problem here. News organisations are stuck in a difficult position. If they got rid of Trump, where would their ratings go? Where would the money go? Where would the jobs go? It’s not in their best interests to build a case against him, because they’d go down with him.

Lather, rinse, repeat for other contentious figures.

There are nigh infinite things to press these people on. Calling them out on what would be crimes, if they didn’t have the money and influence to contort the law. Let’s look at this election cycle. Why was Scheer given so much room to spread bullshit disinformation without being challenged? Because that would seem unfair or imbalanced, especially from left wing outlets. There’s been this idea on the left of keeping the moral high ground. The right, however, does not have these scruples. So it’s some Prisoner’s Dilemma shit. The right keep spreading the message they want to spread, while the left holds its punches. The right gains ground. The left tries to retain this notion of impartiality by giving corrupt individuals the benefit of the doubt, when their actions deserve anything but. The truth is not impartial. The truth is not biased. If these people have done immoral things, then calling them on these is not media bias. It’s reporting the truth.

It’s not that easy though. Media has been so thoroughly bifurcated, that people of interest can just ignore the other side. Why open themselves to bad publicity? So if journalists grill them, they can just stop talking to those journalists. If that kept happening, these journalists would lose all of their access. They could no longer report on these news relevant individuals, and their ratings would wither away. No ratings = dwindling staff = closed news outlets. It sucks, because the fourth estate principles are a defining pillar of the profession, but the profession has been hamstrung by the fiscal restrictions of the medium. Journalists need to get paid to do their job, but their job has shifted. Fourth estate plays second fiddle to keeping the lights on, and the lights are run by ratings. Good journalism doesn’t rate anymore, and I’m not sure whether it’s gonna exist for much longer outside of the pages of Teen Vogue.

This next generation though? They’re out for blood, and I’m here for them.

HUMPday is best day

I watched porn in a theatre. It was a blast.

That both is and isn’t reductive. One of my partners’ mutual friends (y’all, I spent at least 30 seconds deciding where to put the apostrophe. THIS IS WORK) bought them tickets to HUMP – Dan Savage’s amateur porn festival, a series of 5 minute curated films of a provocative nature. She suggested I should come too. Failing anything, it’s always great to see said mutual friend (who happened to matchmake this partner and I). He and I go way back. I figured it’d be a fun and sassy night out, watching ridiculous amateur films with a creative twist. I was sold after hearing a highlight from last year’s fest: Dildrone, a copter (cockter?) based superhero who travelled around solving sexual frustration. Silly, right? I expected a Dildrone or two, and oh HUMP delivered.

I thought two things notable arriving at the screening. 1) Looking around, I realised I was totally surrounded by perverts. Wall to wall weirdos. My tribe. 2) I had a ton of friends who organically happened to be going. I don’t think that’s mere coincidence. We were all giggling, feeling slightly naughty. Then the screening started and everyone went silent. Paint Party. A blacklight flurry of naked, painted bodies gyrating. Bodies of all types flowing together in an orgy of colour. It. Got. Sexy. Quickly. The silence spoke volumes, I cast my eyes around and everyone was engaged. Holding my partner’s hand, I could feel her heartbeat rising. I know mine was. The short film finished with a splash of paint faux cumshots. My friends and I turned to one another wide eyed, breathing heavily. Someone piped up “oh, once we find some body safe paint, We Are Doing This.” Ever the engineer. We were all very, very turned on. I straight up expected the festival would be a dorky and/or sweet time, I did not expect to get actively titillated.

The films were excellently curated. Some were funny and inventive (like the music video with googly eyes adorning butts, boobs, peens, pubes etc. You don’t quite realise what a googly eyed covered butt looks like being spanked until you see it), others were sweet and endearing. I fell in love with this short documentary that intercut queer folx talking about their experiences discovering porn through archaic pre-internet methods. It was so endearing and relatable. A selfie stick hiking trip with a couple became a frenzied mash of bodies and sweat, slow motion frond spanking and DUBSTEP. An animated tale, My Cathartic Scene was gorgeous and touching. Beautiful animation set to a voiceover from a woman narrating her experience with extreme bottoming. How she used physical release as a way to let go of trauma was utterly lovely. It’s never been my thing, but it was so wonderful hearing someone relate why a certain sexual activity activated something within them.

Not My Thing But Wow was a running theme. An extreme bottom slut video had a master command his slave to go food shopping, then one by one slather himself with the ingredients by a river. It was physically nauseating, such a mishmash of flavours. A true textural nightmare. Raw eggs, chocolate sauce, coffee grounds, alfredo and pasta sauce, all slathered across this little porn piggie’s body. I mean, he took to it with wild abandon, which was awesome to see. I noticed my body’s tension release as he stepped into the river to wash off. Another featured rosebudding, there was extreme anal gaping and some impressive fisting. I’m not here to kinkshame anyone, it was fucking great to see them getting what they loved.

As a big bunch of pervs, I think we all left feeling inspired and uplifted. Also, goddamn if it didn’t give us some ideas…

I’d say these men can “get fucked”, but I don’t wish that horror upon their partners

Oh hey, just your reminder that the world is a festering cesspool and we’re all circling its drain.

This Alabama shit is fucking abhorrent. It’s unfathomable that in 2019, people are still putting their fundamentalist religious bollocks above women’s right to bodily autonomy. It’s fucking crazy that they’re all “every life is sacred”, but they seem not to give a shit about how an unwanted pregnancy could directly impact the lives of adults. Like, yeah, every life is sacred, but we don’t give a shit about the quality of life, or challenges faced by those possessing a uterus. Maybe women seeking abortions sincerely did want to raise a child, but the circumstances of timing would mean that their chance to accomplish certain apirations or career goals were hindered by the responsiblity of raising a child. Maybe they don’t have the financial stability to give the child the quality of life they desired, or it would impact their own quality of life. Maybe they were young and out of their depth, and thought it was what they wanted at the time, but they’ve realised that’s no longer the case. Maybe they were coerced into it by some dude who just wanted to get his tip wet, but had no wish to be a father. Maybe pregnancy could have severe health impacts to the mother, and the risks would override her desire to give birth. I don’t know. I don’t have a uterus, and I wouldn’t presume to know what was best for those who do. It’s really fucking terrifying that the bastards putting these draconian laws into place are almost uniformly men. I don’t know how your logical threads connect, but surely anyone could see how absurd that is?

I’ve definitely taken shits bigger than a 6 week foetus. I know that without looking it up. And while I still think of them from time to time (really, I do), I’m very happy that they’re no longer in my body.

After looking it up, a 6 week foetus is about .25 inches, or roughly the size of a sweet pea. Which is not to say that I have anything against parenting. I think it’s wonderful, and I have unending support for those who want to be parents to have the right to do so. I equally support those who don’t want to be parents to have the right to not do so. I don’t think that’s a controversial opinion?

I have no illusions that this clusterfuck was started by anti-abortion lobbyists, and seeks to overturn Roe v. Wade. The fundamentally conservative right have been pushing very hard over the past few years to influence elections and grease the wheels of lawmaking through back pocket deals. I know the idea that “money talks” is not new, nor is the notion of corporations buying the rights of citizens. I mean, it’s here in Canada, lest anyone feel comfortable that we’re safe here. This is a movement, and it’s pretty apparent that blind conviction and fury are winning out over nuanced understanding. Yeah, sure, we’re on the verge of a mass extinction and we’re all going to die faster than we’d expected. That doesn’t mean we need to work so hard to drag humanity back down into the mud.

Every life is sacred, but some are more sacred than others, apparently.

I don’t have to like all of it

When French Jews are about to eat fruit, are they all “Beret Pri Ha’etz”?

Have merci.

I can’t remember the last time I was thoroughly without internet. I’m not talking “I didn’t check Facebook for an entire five hours” without internet (but seriously, that was probably January 2017). I mean no connection, or attempt to log in on any device. No googling, google mapsing or gmailing. No reddit, AV Club or Vox. Zero Magic the Gathering strategy websites, or games of Magic Arena. No checking reviews, ordering online or finding Instant Pot recipes. Nada Netflix, Hulu or Seeso (R.I.P.). I don’t doubt that it’s been years. Switching/logging off is a thing of the past, and that’s weird.

I’m crazily connected at most times. If I’m at work, I have two screens and my second is virtually devoted to Chrome. It’d be no exaggeration to say I’d churn through 50 tabs an hour (including reloading any of the aforementioned sites that’d failed to upload new content to my very real frustration). Whenever I have a stray thought or recollection, I look it up. If I don’t know how to pronounce a word, or what its true meaning is, that’s information I’d rather know than not. No matter that I forget it almost instantly (safe in the knowledge that if I found it once, I could probably do it again). In the moment it feels important to jog my memory. I need to Have Opinions on pop-cultural phenomena. I probably read upwards of 20-30 thinkpieces a day, and a bunch of them are about media I don’t even watch/listen to. I just like to feel that I’m informed (though as I said, sieve brain means it’s likely getting dumped straight away). Yes, I know what diminishing returns means. If I didn’t, I’d look it up.

When I’m on transit, my phone is normally glued to my hand. Because my network signal is at best spotty, I’m dipping in and out of internet connectivity. Nevertheless, I’ll continue to cycle between Facebook, Reddit and Twitter (while nothing loads). I do try to put the phone away while I’m hanging out with people. I’d never pull it out on a date or friend time unless deliberately prompted. I cherish any face to face time I can get my hands on, and without an iPhone that doesn’t involve Facetime itself. Still, I feel like even that discipline is sliding away as societal norms shift. Mostly if my girlfriend and I are eating dinner together, I’ll have the phone face down (and always on silent). But maybe one of us will look something up, and once that seal is broken it’s awful difficult to close it up again.

This isn’t an AA meeting. I know that I’m addicted to online connectivity, and I’m sure I’m far from the only exception. For most of us, this is life now. The boundaries between The Internet and IRL have blurred, and I’m not 100% on board. I’m also not a total curmudgeon, and I think for all the humanity we’ve lost face to face, there are also myriad examples we’ve found in cyberspace. It’s not doom and gloom that most communication happens through a system of ones and zeroes. The Internet has afforded me countless opportunities and wonderful connections. It’s fundamentally changed my life, but I think an important aspect to note in that is that my life has changed. We’re all evolving in ways both hindering and helpful.

I checked Facebook at least 17 times while writing this. I had no new notifications.

More like Suds Patrick’s Day

I remember when I used to celebrate St Patrick’s Day.

Back in university it was a Big Fucking Deal. The city came alive in a way I’d rarely seen. Queen Street, the Auckland CBD’s iconic centrepiece, was thrumming with bustle. Less on the hustle side, and more blatant revelry. Businesses seemed to knock off early, and pen pushers flooded the footpaths. It was a mass of humanity walking from bar to bar. Cheesy green beer flowed freely, and everyone was Irish for the day. A bunch of us had early classes, so by midday we were free to run wild. Weirdly, for a day filled with so much liquor, it’s all still pretty vivid. I had a characteristically oversized bag, and it became a conversational lodestone. Of course we were all looking to meet women, and we’d take anything we could get. One of our friends happened to be pretty fucking “studly”, and a ton of women talked to us almost exclusively because of it. We hardly complained. Frankly, it was just nice to meet people who were in a good mood.

I remember this bar that’d paid a little person to dress as a leprechaun and descend from the roof. It was a spectacle, to be sure, but we all felt a little uneasy about it. We talked to the dude to see what he thought. He was over the moon. Got paid around $300 to do it once or twice over the course of the day. Otherwise he was free to mill about and hang with others. He was a pretty sociable bloke, so we bought him a couple of beers and spent time learning more about him. He was a student just like us, was going to veterinary school. Sarcastic guy, a real charmer. He also gave me shit about my gratuitously sized bag. We left the bar buzzing, and joined the throngs of wandering souls looking for adventure down Queen St. We eventually made our way down to the Viaduct looking for hookups, but ended up chatting with a bunch of businessmen who bought us pints of Kilkenny and told us stories of their glory days. It was better than it sounded. St Patrick’s Day became one of my favourite holidays. Why not? To us it was just an excuse to drink. A lot.

This was over ten years ago. Still teenagers. The day has become less and less noticeable/desirable each year. There’s something about it that just seems hollow. I don’t have Irish culture. I don’t really even know Irish people. Why would I mindlessly jump into a day headfirst that has no real resonance for me? I know it’s not a big deal, but I do feel like a killjoy. I feel that with subsequent years, I lose something of myself. Whether naivety or a willingness to go with the flow. It used to be so easy to let loose, my hackles weren’t up about everything. I was still learning about the world, and it seemed rife with opportunity.

I don’t know that it’s all changed as substantively as it seems. Much as we’re on a 24 hour doom and gloom news cycle, the world probably has as much suffering as it ever did. As much joy and meaning as it did too. I don’t know when I stopped believing that the future was something to look forward to, that utopia was within the grasp of our lifetime. I did though. I thought that as the world grew, we’d grow together. United by purpose, to elevate humanity because we all saw a brighter tomorrow. I was raised as an idealist. To look for the good, the potential in everything. I still want to believe, to look past what we are, and think of what we could be. Because we could, and deep down I know it. We have more than we ever did, and we’re doing a lot less with it. But we don’t have to.

I’d raise a glass to that.

Better starts somewhere

It’s 2019, and it still feels like the world doesn’t really know much about New Zealand. We’re seen as a three-way cross between Lord of the Rings, Flight of the Conchords and Lorde. So basically, Lorde of the Conchords.

What the international community doesn’t know, is that secretly, deep down every New Zealand male thinks he’s MacGyver. I’ll explain.

There’s a phrase in Aotearoa, “No. 8 Fencing Wire Mentality” (or as its otherwise known, “Good Ol’ Kiwi Ingenuity”). It Is Known that there’s nothing a Kiwi bloke can’t accomplish with a spool of versatile No. 8 fencing wire, and a little bit of outside the box thinking. The adage has informed an adventurous spirit as part of our national consciousness that pushes New Zealanders to enthusiastically try new things, push boundaries and create solutions we didn’t know existed. It’s truly a wonderful part of our culture.

Put together a big rubber band and a ravine et voila (that’s French for “Good on ya mate”): You’ve just discovered bungee jumping. Or combine some nitrogen and alpha particles you had hanging around to split the atom, as Ernest Rutherford did. It may have taken a while for advanced technology to make it down to Enzed, but we’ve always been lifehackers through and through.

Unfortunately, there’s no quick fix for the tragedy we suffered yesterday. MacGyver was great, but even if he were armed with No. 8, he couldn’t fix this. The Christchurch mosque shootings were a devastating attack that have irrevocably rocked the country’s foundations. We’re all wounded, angry and confused. In the wake of the shootings, amongst the sincere goodwill and love for our fallen brethren, has been resounding shock. There are a couple of refrains I’ve heard. “How did this happen?” “This is not who we are.” I’ve heard the prominent shooter referred to as an Australian first, almost underlined as if to say, this was not our fault. We didn’t do this. To distance ourselves from it. Because that makes things easier.

There is nothing easy about this. Much as we want to distance ourselves from this horrific loss of life, we’re all at some level culpable. Because while we may not have done this, we have not done enough. But we need to. I know we’re all hurt, and it doesn’t seem like the time to have a hard conversation, but we have no choice. We need to do more.

We need to talk.

It feels like the resounding logline of our fair country has always been “we’re not as bad as other places”. Sure, with settlers came conflict, disease and war, but we moved on. We signed the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840 to move forward as one nation together. Whenever accusations of racism have come our way, we’ve pointed elsewhere to redirect the sentiment. Look at the United States, at Australia. Now THEY need to sort themselves out. We have to look back at ourselves, and the nation we need to be.

People have been saying “this is not who we are” ad infinitum. It’s the most understandable thing in the world, but it’s also a lie. Every time, I hear this is not who we want to be. By recusing ourselves, we’re continuing to live in the illusion that this is not our problem. It is. Now is the time to listen to the voices that these terrorists tried to silence. Instead of being defensive, we need to open our ears and hearts to those who have had so much taken by this harrowing assault. Following the actions of March 15th, their words will be amplified. When minority voices detail their experiences, we have no choice but to listen. Because we’ve ignored them for far too long.

Did you know that incidents of hate crime are not recorded by the police? We’re all too quick as a nation to decry the actions of Neo Nazis, to preach our nation’s history of racial harmony. Yet when a co-worker makes a sly racist comment, we’re all too quick to ignore it or look past it. Yeah, but he’s not actually racist goes the sentiment. Dave says some dumb stuff sometimes, but his heart is in the right place. Maybe it’s not. I’m not saying it can’t be, but clearly there’s something behind the comments. We need to listen. We need to talk with Dave and Bruce to figure out where these views come from, and we need to help them understand that what they’re voicing is not okay. That we’re all human beings deserving of love and respect, irrespective of our culture. That racial superiority is a myth perpetuated by narrow minded bigots. That thinking less of another does not raise you above them. It just makes you small. Because this is all part of who we are. This Ethnocentric rhetoric didn’t sprout from nowhere. It’s been feeding for generations, since the first European settlers arrived in our country. Thinking it doesn’t exist because it’s not prevalent is naive, and we’re too clever for that.

Gun laws will change. Online white supremacist dialogue needs to be closely monitored and acted upon. Otherwise why the hell did we hand over our privacy to the Five Eyes Network? We need to call out systemic inequality, and the organisations who benefit from it. We need to call in those who show signs of alarm, and help them towards a more inclusive path. We need to lead by example. Rather than pointing out how we’re not as bad as other countries, we need to become how we see ourselves.

This should not be who we are, but for many of us, it is. Many of us don’t understand how the smallest spark of intolerance can catch alight, stoking the flames of hatred. We need to come together as a nation and stomp it out. From the ashes of a terrible disaster, we need to rise anew. We need to have difficult conversations, and work to make our country the great land we believe it can be.

It won’t be easy or quick. No. 8 wire can’t fix this, but we can. We have to.

Hate is waste in any form

We’ve lost sight of our humanity.

I don’t know what words I have right now that make sense, but I do have a lot of feelings. First here are some facts:

  • At least 49 people were killed in Christchurch earlier today.
  • They were Muslims attending ritual prayer. People of all ages and genders. Children too.
  • 49 people are dead.
  • This was a planned, coordinated, terrorist attack.
  • 49 people were slaughtered.
  • One of the central terrorists was galvanised by far-right rhetoric that’s been stewing for years. Internet literate, he was a denizen of 8chan and the like. He released a manifesto littered with memes and references, in-jokes for the ‘chan crowd. He announced his intentions in advance and posted the information on 8chan’s “pol” board.
  • 49 people routinely living their lives no longer have them.
  • This white supremacist live streamed his attack on Facebook for the world to see.
  • 49 individuals no longer exist, after white supremacists marched into two mosques and murdered them while they prayed.

Those are facts.

There are a ton of feelings going around the internet right now. Outrage, disbelief, sorrow and pain. Why does this keep happening? Why here? This is not who we are. I’m not sure what to make of it all. I know that this is the largest terrorist act committed in New Zealand history since the Aramoana massacre of 1990 took 14 lives. New Zealand is not a country known for radicalism, hatred or faith based violence. That doesn’t mean that they don’t exist. Like any colony, there have always been undercurrents of ethnocentrism and race based hatred. Racism is alive and well by any name, whether or not it’s getting airtime. Of course we’re shocked at the gravity of this situation, at the meaningless loss of life, the violence and suffering. The sad, sad truth is that this has always been there, bubbling under the surface.

We’ve lost sight of our humanity because we’ve all been complicit in letting hate live. I’ve heard the words “bloody Maoris” uttered without irony. I’ve seen conservative pundits like Duncan Garner espouse notions that non-white ethnicities are getting free rides, taking advantage of the system. I’ve seen commenters on local news sites bemoaning “diversity hires”, promoting a meritocracy without an understanding of how systemic racism undermines true equal opportunity. Unchecked privilege running rampant. I’m by no means saying any of these people wished anything like today’s tragedy to come into being. I am saying that we have no right to wash our hands clean of the consequences, when we’ve allowed racist sentiment to go unchallenged.

We’ve lost sight of our humanity because of money and power. Because we know that there’s a link between publicising white supremacist terrorists, giving them airtime, and encouraging copycats. Yet we still show their photos, print their names in block letters, publish their manifestos. We give them the attention they so crave, and other would-be terrorists see them. It emboldens them to know that if they acted in kind, they’d become a martyr for scores of others like them. Yet the media still gives in depth information on who exactly it was that perpetrated these terrible tragedies. Because it drives clicks, and more engagement means higher advertising dollars. YouTube, Twitter and Facebook still allow the relentless hateful rhetoric of the alt right to be broadcast unimpeded. Make no mistake. Anti-Islamic sentiment is hate speech, just as Anti-Semitic, Anti-Black, Anti-LGBTQ+++ and any other speech that denigrates people because of their ethnicity, religion, gender or sexuality is. But all of this speech, furthered by demagogues such as Alex Jones, Jordan Peterson and Donald Trump, is hate speech that emboldens hateful people to reaffirm their beliefs. YouTube, Twitter and Facebook allow this speech, because they know it’s immensely popular and it makes them a lot of money. Sure, they’ll develop algorithms that seek out and delete comments about white men, but comments by white men are all open season.

We’ve lost sight of our humanity because this hateful rhetoric is being used by politicians to appeal to their constituency. Sure, party leaders like Doug Ford and Andrew Scheer won’t directly spread this hateful rhetoric by name, but they’re all too happy to consort with the far right in an effort to garner their votes. Conservative leaders will not openly condemn the actions of Neo Nazis, because they know that these Nazis are part of their voter base. Yet they’ll share the stage with hatemongers like Faith Goldy and refuse to denounce them as the extremists they are. It’s clearly more important to get into a position of power whereby you can manipulate laws to serve your business interests, than to oppose hatred and spread acceptance.

The truth is that today’s terrorism will be widely condemned back home in New Zealand. Most New Zealanders are not racist Islamophobes. Our country is one of immigrants, whether it was the Maori migration from Polynesia, British colonial settlement, Chinese immigrants ushered in to clean the last remnants of the gold rush, that random Frenchman who arrived and proclaimed himself king, or any number of people just seeking a better life for themselves and their families. We’re a wonderful ethnic melting pot, and our strength as a nation is only emboldened by encouraging newcomers to share with us their culture. We’re a country that is overwhelmingly filled with loving, caring people. We’re also part of the global community that the internet has created, and this means we have to be vigilant in condemning hatred in all its forms, no matter where it is.

We lost 49 of our own today, and that’s fucking devastating.