Bartlett's Bizarre Bazaar

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Friday, March 16, 2007



As various commentators at Lenin’s Tomb point out, given that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed has confessed to being responsible for everything, and more, does this mean that the War on Terror is at an end?

If that question is a little adolescent, here is one that is utterly adult; why has our press been reporting Khalid Sheikh Mohemmed’s confessions as anything other than the incredible product of much more credible accounts of rendition and torture?

Thursday, January 25, 2007


There really is no pleasing some people

BUSH: We liberated that country from a tyrant. I think the Iraqi people owe the American people a huge debt of gratitude and I believe most Iraqis express that.

RIMMER: Rejoice! We conquer! Victory on Waxworld! It's VW day!

LISTER: So you took the HQ Wiped them all out.

RIMMER: To a droid.

KRYTEN: It's true, all melted.

LISTER: What about Arnie's army?

CAT: Yeah, how many of them made it back?

RIMMER: There are always casualties in war, gentlemen. Otherwise it wouldn't be war, just be a rather nasty argument with a lot of pushing and shoving.

LISTER: So how many survived?

RIMMER: Well we haven't had time to make a full official estimate, but at a rough guess, and obviously this is subject to alteration pending information updates, roundabout none of them.

LISTER: So you wiped out the entire population of this planet.

RIMMER: You make it sound so negative, Lister. Don't you see, the deranged menace that once threatened this world is vanquished!

LISTER: No it isn't, pal. You're still here.

RIMMER: I brought about peace. Peace, freedom and democracy.

LISTER: Yeah, Rimmer. Right. Absolutely. Now all the corpses that litter that battlefield can just lie there safe under the knowledge that they snuffed it under a flag of peace and can now happily decompose in a land of freedom. Ya smeg head.

RIMMER: There really is no pleasing some people, is there?

From Red Dwarf IV: Meltdown [script via Silicon Hell]

Friday, December 08, 2006


The fantasy of Christmas

After the fantasistic front pages of the Sun [1, 2, 3, 4], the fascistic rants of Melanie Phillips [here are the 2001 and the 2004 rants – I would bet a fiver that she comes up with something similar, though perhaps more extreme, this year] and the plaigiaristic hackery of Janet Street-Porter, the great contemporary myth of Christmas is stripped bare in newsprint. Despite what you might read for the first twenty four days of December in papers from across the political spectrum – at least the spectrum as defined by the mass market newspapers – Christmas is not under attack. It is not being banned. And these things that are not happening are not being done by foreigners, ethnic minorities, migrants, asylum seekers, or any other poxy proxy phrase behind which the tabloids hide their racism.

Thanks to Oliver Burkeman and The Guardian for doing what The Independent should have done. And it might well have done, if it were not for the fact the The Independent was lumbered with an editor-at-large who cannot see dangerous bigoted nonsense for what it is. And it was hardly very well disguised bigoted nonsense. It was on the front page of The Sun. It may as well as come in a box labelled ‘bigoted nonsense’. Mind you, Street-Porter once chose to work with the ‘award-winningKelvin MacKenzie.

In other news, Jack Straw wants to talk to an imaginary person. And he wants to do so on behalf of an imaginary person. I would have had some respect for him if this imaginary person were Santa Claus. At least there is some evidence for Santa’s existence. Children do in fact receive presents, even if the distribution of such gifts is contrary to Santa’s mythic mission statement. The resulting inequalities are just a small part of the persuasive argument for the non-existence of Santa. But at least there is a speck of an empirical case. By contrast, there is no material evidence that anyone is ‘banning’ Christmas. It is not just, as Jack Straw acknowledges, that there are no ‘people of other faiths’ calling for Christmas to be banned on the grounds of offence. But there are no ‘PC’ ‘do-gooders’ who are “second-guess[ing] how they think others will or may react, without even asking them”.

So Straw wants to speak to a fictional character invented by The Sun on behalf of the Archangel Gabriel in order to have a 'big conversation' about something that is not happening. Straw was Home Secretary (responsible for the release of Pinochet - perhaps Straw can petition Gabriel to ease the dictator's entry to Heaven) and Foreign Secretary. No wonder he has some problems dealing with the actually existing world, a world where, in fact, Iraq had no WMDs, and a world where, in fact, the advocates and administrators of the invasion were notorious human-rights violators.

Thursday, December 07, 2006



Perhaps not. But Janet Street-Porter is, at best, a lazy columnist.

The column bearing her by-line that was printed today in The Independent is, for a large part, a faithful copy of the ‘Foreigners Are Stealing Christmas’ story printed in The Sun on Wednesday. The JS-P article is not a simple restatement of independently gathered facts, but bears the rhetorical imprinteur of the article in The Sun. JS-P repeats the dishonest trick that has been developed by The Sun to aid the fabrication of xenophobic propaganda. The Sun and JS-P both open their articles by describing how ‘Christmas is being banned to avoid offending ethnic minorities’. They both then support this statement of how the world is by citing examples of something Christamassy being altered for reasons that are categorically unrelated to ‘avoiding offending ethnic minorities’.

Why would JS-P attempt to forge an image of the world in which ethnic minorities are a cause of events that are rolled into one laughable title; ‘the banning of Christmas’?

Five Chinese Crackers is providing a public service by digesting the tide of hate-filled bullshit that is rising in the British press. FCC has, as usual, a superb takedown of relevant article in The Sun. The comprehensive shredding of the fabricated image of the world presented by The Sun would equally apply to the JS-P column, printed in a supposedly quality paper. I write ‘would’ because the JS-P column is a second-hand impressionistic reproduction of the tabloid story and as such has an even looser association with ‘evidence’. The Sun article, in comparison, is rigorous, balanced journalism. In fact The Sun article is bullshit. And that leaves the JS-P article as a diarrheic stain on a page.

Of course, JS-P might not have copied her column from The Sun. She might be an independent bigot.

Monday, November 20, 2006



Too slow for the interweb?
To keep up in the world of blogging you have to move fast. A day or so of deliberation and you are left trailing in the wake of writers who operate a little closer to the edge of current affairs.

Two stories that it now seems redundant to spend too long commenting on are ‘the chicken time bomb scenario’ – I have, quite brazenly, stolen this title from Chicken Yoghurt, on the basis that it was too good not to – and ‘electrifying student profiling’.

The Chicken Time Bomb Scenario
The best coverage of the controversy revolving around Halal chicken being served at a school Christmas dinner are offered at Chicken Yogurt, Five Chinese Crackers and Not Saussure.

As far as my own thoughts go, I will say, without equivocation, that the objection is nothing more than racism. Show me another explanation. If the parents are objecting on the basis of animal cruelty, then I hope that they are rejecting the vast majority of meat. But they are not, are they? The industrial farming and butchery practices that deliver non-Halal chickens to our plate are uncontroversial. If the parents are objecting on the basis that, as ‘Christians’*, they have a theological objection, then I challenge them to make this case. But they have not, and they will be unable to without stepping well beyond the boundaries of the modern, mainstream Christian churches. And if the parents step so far outside the mainstream, then how does their claim to be defending ‘our’ heritage hold water? And if the parents are serious about preserving ‘our’ cultural heritage, then I ask them; what on Earth are you talking about? Is it the eating of chicken that is contrary to our cultural heritage? If so, why not concentrate on the choice of fowl rather than the method of butchery? If butchery is the issue, are these parents really saying that industrially managed farms and slaughterhouses are a key component of ‘our’ heritage?

The answer is none of these. The most generous answer is that there is a BNP provocateur at work, whipping unreflective xenophobia into a racist response. The least generous answer is that in our current climate, produced by the Express, the Mail, the Sun, New Labour, the Conservative Party and the rest, Muslims are inherently threatening, and that the parents of Oakwood are a racist reflection of this. Denis MacShane ought to be ashamed of himself for pandering to the bigoted politics at work here.

I challenge anyone to give me one good reason why serving Halal chicken should be in any way controversial for a ‘Christian’ happy to eat industrially produced meat.

Electrifying Student Profiling
The story of the Iranian-American student being singled out for an ID check at a UCLA library and, when he objects, being repeatedly tasered by campus security is offered at Lenin’s Tomb. All I can add is an edited round-up of the comments I left at Europhobia.

UCLA is, remember, an elite university. Imagine how American security forces treat the underprivileged – and in court, underrepresented – sections of the United States citizenry. Imagine how they treat foreigners. Imagine how they treat foreigners abroad, out of the sight of camera phones and off the radar of well-motivated and well-rewarded lawyers.

I could not see the porters at any UK university that I have been to behaving in this way. For one thing they do not have tasers.

This is not a facetious point. I have never been happy with the enthusiasm shown by some liberals for ‘non-lethal’ weapons. This unease has nothing to do with the actual lethality of these weapons, and everything to do with the way that non-lethal, but still coercive and forceful options for paramilitary control can change the ‘mind’ of the state. Given ‘non-lethal’ weapons, is it not reasonable to expect our security services to become incautious and immoderate in their use of force?

There is a big difference between making the decision to disperse a crowd by firing into it, and making the decision to disperse a crowd by the deployment of non-lethal weapons. If the non-lethal weapons are as good as their advocates would have us believe, the latter option is just as certain and coercive a means of control. But the decision is far easier to take. And it pleases the technological-fix fetishes of the ‘modernity’ crowd.

A police state that only has guns can kill people, but it loses its legitimacy very quickly. A police state that has non-lethal means of paramilitary control can tell itself, quite convincingly, that it is not a police state after all. Remember the mantra that works a fascistic charm; if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear. At least until you have a close encounter with a policeman. Or any other real, human authority figure.

Ah. It seems that in the world of blogging, coming second appears to be no bar to holding forth.

*I know from personal experience, and we all know from the evidence of evolving rhetoric of the BNP, that the word ‘Christian’ is used as a politically disguised placeholder for ‘white’. At the time of the last census I worked in an office staffed by reasonably educated people. For a lunch break or two, discussion in the office revolved around the question of what religion people would claim. The consensus appeared to be that people in the office were ‘Christian’ because we were white and therefore unlike a variously defined ‘them’. No one claimed to go to church, read the Bible or actually believe in God. It therefore infuriated me when my census response – the census response of thousands of others – to claim to be a ‘Jedi’ was declared invalid. This was a claim that was no more or less fake than the claim made by my colleagues, and was, patently, a response made with a greater degree of reflection and consideration.

Thursday, November 16, 2006


Foreign bodies

The Daily Express is… fascinating. If you want to know the particular brand of xenophobia currently animating the neurones of little, closed minds, scan the front page. If you do not have the time, or the hard headed detachment required, Five Chinese Crackers performs an estimable survey of the Express and her ideological sister rags.

And hard headed detachment is something I am lacking. Faced with page after page, in both newsprint and pixels, of racism and xenophobia, I feel like giving up the battle. So kudos to those who keep on exposing the lies and the half-truths that are finding fertile fields in imaginations that range from the far-right to the decent left.

I can, however, still be shocked by the absurdity of some of the headlines that the Express editors deem to be the most important news items of the day. Normally, these concern the threat that one or another group of foreigners – or sometimes British ‘aliens’ – pose to the Bulldog Nation. Lately the editor of the Express has directed his readers’ ire towards inanimate objects. ‘Foreign’ objects, of course.

On November the 2nd the Express front page was wailing at the disrespect shown to our glorious war dead by a ‘Muslim scarf’. The headline was:

“She [Camilla] IS wearing one [a poppy] but you can’t see it under Muslim scarf”

And today, on November the 16th, the Express front page played the role of doom monger. Foreign bodies were bringing disease into Britain. Yes, we have heard that story before. But this time it was not ‘immigrants’, but eggs. The headline read:

“Danger in millions of eggs from abroad”

The self styled “World’s Greatest Newspaper” is beginning to read like the sort of parody published in Viz.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
I know that this is a spoof of the Daily Mail. The Mail is but a Siamese twin of the Express. And the two are joined at the head, and the gut.

I think it might be a good thing that their anti-foreign rants have become so unhinged. Perhaps their purchase on the British imagination might loosen, if only a little.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006


The Chingford Paradox

Norman Tebbit blames the unemployed for their state, offering the advice that they should get on their bike and look for work. Norman Tebbit despises those who get on their bike and look for work, vehemently opposing immigration to Britain.


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