Blog directory

Passing Nightmare

View Blog

Most Recent Blog Posts

Back to the Future with Michael Gove

Following the riots of August 2011, the Economist writer Bagehot produced a fabulous article demonstrating that the crisis over wayward youth was one which had reoccurred in almost every generation in recorded memory. The piece, which tapped into Stanley Cohen’s theories of moral panic, demolished the knee-jerk view that this sort of public disorder was in any way a recent phenomenon. Bagehot produced some enlightening quotations from throughout history, for example: the Daily Express of 1981 wrote how “over the past twenty years or so, there has been a revulsion from authority and discipline”, a court in 1951 concluded that “parents at this time, unfortunately, do not take sufficient care in bringing up their children, they expect someone else to be responsible” and the Times of 1892 warned that “our streets are actually not as safe as they were in the days of our grandfathers. We have slipped back to a state of affairs that would be intolerable even in Naples”. I was reminded of Bagehot’s work whilst reading of Michael Gove’s proposals to reintroduce the O-level exams which were scrapped by the Thatcher government in the mid-80s. This policy leak (which – by the way – is the latest [...]

Free Software: Socialism for Computing

[This article originally appeared on the New Left Project website.] As I’ve delved deeper into politics I’ve been struck by just how many activists on the left who might otherwise self-identify as anti-capitalist, socialist or defenders of personal freedom, are quite willing to accept corporate control over the technology they rely on. Having been involved in the free software movement for the past six years, I have noticed a strange cognitive dissonance with regards to this issue; one I feel needs to be tackled with education on the alternatives. You may have heard of ‘open source’ or ‘free software’ before. In fact you’re most likely already making use of it, whether you realise it or not. Free software powers internet giants such as Wikipedia, Google, Facebook, Twitter and Amazon. The Firefox browser is used by around 30% of web users around the world. Free software is also becoming more widely used in consumer devices, like mobile phones running Android. So what is free software? And why should something which might be more at home in the basement of The IT Crowd concern those of us on the left? Without wishing to become entangled in boring technical jargon, for software to [...]

Free Software: Socialism for Computing

[This article originally appeared on the New Left Project website.] As I’ve delved deeper into politics I’ve been struck by just how many activists on the left who might otherwise self-identify as anti-capitalist, socialist or defenders of personal freedom, are quite willing to accept corporate control over the technology they rely on. Having been involved in the free software movement for the past six years, I have noticed a strange cognitive dissonance with regards to this issue; one I feel needs to be tackled with education on the alternatives. You may have heard of ‘open source’ or ‘free software’ before. In fact you’re most likely already making use of it, whether you realise it or not. Free software powers internet giants such as Wikipedia, Google, Facebook, Twitter and Amazon. The Firefox browser is used by around 30% of web users around the world. Free software is also becoming more widely used in consumer devices, like mobile phones running Android. So what is free software? And why should something which might be more at home in the basement of The IT Crowd concern those of us on the left? Without wishing to become entangled in boring technical jargon, for software to [...]

Watch: Spin

I recently re-discovered this little gem of a documentary whilst rooting through some old films on my hard-disc. Released in 1995 by director Brian Springer, and billed as a surreal expose of media-constructed reality, it consists of unauthorised footage sourced from unencrypted satellite broadcasts across the United States during the early 1990′s. These satellite streams – the raw video feed used in the production of live television broadcasts – were recorded by Stringer using a series of home satellite dishes and reveal some fascinating unseen political moments, recorded mostly prior to broadcast and during commercial breaks. Taking the 1992 US election campaigns as a starting point, Springer combed through hundred of hours of footage to present us with some astonishing clips which doubtless the participants assumed would never appear to the general public. We witness George Bush and Larry King discussing various prescription medications, we see the evangelical preacher Pat Robertson discussing the ‘homos’ who call in to question him on air and we catch Al Gore being coached how to avoid questions on abortion by his media advisers. The film also documents the struggles of aspiring Democratic candidate Larry Agran, who found himself almost entirely ignored during the nomination [...]

Free Software: Socialism for Computing

[This article originally appeared on the New Left Project website.] As I’ve delved deeper into politics I’ve been struck by just how many activists on the left who might otherwise self-identify as anti-capitalist, socialist or defenders of personal freedom, are quite willing to accept corporate control over the technology they rely on. Having been involved in the free software movement for the past six years, I have noticed a strange cognitive dissonance with regards to this issue; one I feel needs to be tackled with education on the alternatives. You may have heard of ‘open source’ or ‘free software’ before. In fact you’re most likely already making use of it, whether you realise it or not. Free software powers internet giants such as Wikipedia, Google, Facebook, Twitter and Amazon. The Firefox browser is used by around 30% of web users around the world. Free software is also becoming more widely used in consumer devices, like mobile phones running Android. So what is free software? And why should something which might be more at home in the basement of The IT Crowd concern those of us on the left? Without wishing to become entangled in boring technical jargon, for software to [...]

Libya, Gaddafi and the TNC

During the non-stop media drama of Hackgate it might be easy to forget that Britain remains engaged in a serious overseas military campaign. The conflict in Libya, which began in March with the approval of UN resolution 1973, has continued unabated since. So far over 5,000 NATO air missions have taken place in the skies above the country. Last week saw an important – though largely unnoticed – development as Hilary Clinton announced the United States would in future recognise the Transitional National Council (TNC) as the legitimate authority governing Libya. As the conflict grinds on, serious questions are now being asked about how we became embroiled in the hostilities, whether the justification and evidence for military action was up to scratch, and whether the TNC really is prepared for the spotlight of leadership to be thrust upon them. In this article I hope to discuss how we ended up involved in this conflict in the first place and perhaps more importantly, where we should go from here. The Case for Intervention Since the beginning of the conflict, 18,000 people have fled from Libya, and the latest estimates (from April) suggested that 30,000 people had been killed in the fighting and air assaults. The [...]

Media Reporting of ESA Claims

This morning, the Express newspaper published the following article: "SICK BENEFITS: 75% ARE FAKING.
Three in four people on sickness benefits are fit for work or drop their claim before facing strict new tests, shock figures revealed yesterday."

On Riots, Politics and Policing

London, Salford, Manchester, Nottingham, Leeds, Bristol, Liverpool and Birmingham are currently experiencing a level of violence which has not been seen for decades. Shops have been looted and buildings have been burnt to the ground. Nobody really knows the true cause of this violence, though as I have repeated many times over the past several days, to discuss and debate is not to condone. We can look for causes and potential solutions, whilst also condemning the terrible acts of violence, looting and property damage taking place against innocent people. The two actions are not mutually exclusive. The media – as expected – has rushed to find a culprit. The Daily Mail, for example said it was immoral and cynical to blame government cuts for the violence, yet then went on to blame Facebook, Twitter and the video game Grand Theft Auto in the absurd tabloid fashion to which we have become accustomed. However, rather than looking at why people commit acts of looting, perhaps you should flip the debate on its head and look at why you yourself are not out there looting your local branch of Currys this evening. In my own case I would surely lose my job, [...]

Watch: Spin

I recently re-discovered this little gem of a documentary whilst rooting through some old films on my hard-disc. Released in 1995 by director Brian Springer, and billed as a surreal expose of media-constructed reality, it consists of unauthorised footage sourced from unencrypted satellite broadcasts across the United States during the early 1990′s. These satellite streams – the raw video feed used in the production of live television broadcasts – were recorded by Stringer using a series of home satellite dishes and reveal some fascinating unseen political moments, recorded mostly prior to broadcast and during commercial breaks. Taking the 1992 US election campaigns as a starting point, Springer combed through hundred of hours of footage to present us with some astonishing clips which doubtless the participants assumed would never appear to the general public. We witness George Bush and Larry King discussing various prescription medications, we see the evangelical preacher Pat Robertson discussing the ‘homos’ who call in to question him on air and we catch Al Gore being coached how to avoid questions on abortion by his media advisers. The film also documents the struggles of aspiring Democratic candidate Larry Agran, who found himself almost entirely ignored during the nomination [...]

Free Software: Socialism for Computing

[This article originally appeared on the New Left Project website.] As I’ve delved deeper into politics I’ve been struck by just how many activists on the left who might otherwise self-identify as anti-capitalist, socialist or defenders of personal freedom, are quite willing to accept corporate control over the technology they rely on. Having been involved in the free software movement for the past six years, I have noticed a strange cognitive dissonance with regards to this issue; one I feel needs to be tackled with education on the alternatives. You may have heard of ‘open source’ or ‘free software’ before. In fact you’re most likely already making use of it, whether you realise it or not. Free software powers internet giants such as Wikipedia, Google, Facebook, Twitter and Amazon. The Firefox browser is used by around 30% of web users around the world. Free software is also becoming more widely used in consumer devices, like mobile phones running Android. So what is free software? And why should something which might be more at home in the basement of The IT Crowd concern those of us on the left? Without wishing to become entangled in boring technical jargon, for software to [...]

More Political Blogs

Blog Hub

Advertise with TotalPolitics