Jumping the gun

I destroy my enemies when I make them my friends.” – Abraham Lincoln.

Though it’s awkward to say, a small part of me is glad that the terrorist attack in Norway wasn’t by Islamic extremists. Of course, I wish it didn’t happen at all, but the unfortunate event emphasised that extremism isn’t limited to one religious subgroup; in fact religion is not even prerequisite. I hope those that died are remembered because of what terrorism by any name did to them and not Christian fundamentalism.

Like many, I was a bit disappointed by what London journalist Charlie Brooker calls “fact-free conjecture” rather than reporting. It’s fine for the average person to have assumed before details emerged that Islamic extremists were behind the attacks given that they are behind most recent terror events and there was a plausible narrative for them to do so, but for the press to jump the gun is to stamp the blame on a community who have enough fingers pointed at them.

Some humorous commentaries have emerged that the Christian community should issue a statement to condemn Anders Behring Breivik, and while funny, it highlights that asking the same of any other community is absurd; to my mind, Little Britain’s statements by Norman Fry/Senator White come to mind. Brevik doesn’t represent all Christians, and even if you could by some means find a definitive representative, even they wouldn’t represent everyone as all people process their beliefs with some variation. Had Breivik identified as atheist the same applies.

Like I once mentioned in a post a long time ago, I don’t think religion is a pretty strong target for blame here. Most people who practice their religion just get on with their lives and use it as some sort of framework for living; whether it is correct doesn’t matter in this scenario as long as it is processed with humanity. Extremism attracts those where there is poverty, lack of education, or perhaps even just mental illness.

It’s a valid argument to claim that Christian terrorism is rarer, but sometimes one raised bump may signify something cancerous, and it has been mooted that there is something deeper brewing in Norway, albeit small. This is highlighted by the fact that people such as the famous late writer Stieg Larsson were motivated to counter the actions of Scandinavian far right groups. In some ways, his findings probably apply to why some people are attracted to Islamic extremism.

Some people blame multiculturalism, but I think part of the problem is lack of integration. You can place one community largely in one area and another somewhere else, and if they don’t mix for one reason or another there will be an unhealthy brewing of stereotypes. Stereotyping does play a part in our basic survival, but in this circumstance it can become amplified and dysfunctional. A good lesson from Hollywood was that in American History X. I’m pretty sure that if a neo-nazi were forced to share a cell with a black inmate he would have to bow down to making friends with him for his own sanity. He would be forced to dismantle his misconceptions because he is forced to reside day in, day out with a man who only has a different colour than him. He is forced to reside with a fellow human being.

If there is indeed a growing problem of religious and racial intolerance, it is multi-factorial. We need to ask ‘what’ are the problems, not ‘who’ are the problems. We know there are economic concerns worldwide and sometimes for some it is unfortunate that in absence of any clear single thing to blame, the outsider becomes an attractive punching bag. We saw this happen with great tragedy in the last century on an immense scale.

I’m impressed, however, that the response of Norway’s government was considered. The country strongly values democracy above the iron fist, and didn’t resort to the unhelpful cowboy language of George Bush Jr. in the previous decade. Acting like the aggressor makes you no better than the culprit. The argument that PM Stoltenberg would’ve cracked down harder had the terrorist been Muslim is baseless too. I’m sure he realises that stigmatising a community, be it ‘indigenous’ or foreign just pits that one against the other and makes things worse. Bush Jr’s ‘good guys and bad guys’ view clearly is out of fashion. I don’t believe that Bush wanted to create enemies, but the administration at the time didn’t do much to avoid it.

Crumbling down

The whole world seems to be intrigued by the real-life soap opera starring Rupert Murdoch and Rebecca Brooks in the lead roles, so I thought I’d throw my own bronze coin into the hat.

For those not in the know here’s a recap of the saga so far: celebrity phone hacking by a newspaper, political and non-celebrity hacking by same newspaper, police corruption, involvement of criminals, termination of said newspaper, ongoing survey of the rot.

While there are a lot of reports that have made people hover a hand over their open mouths, I’m not that surprised by what has been unearthed. What I am surprised about is the decades-long delay for stories to surface.
News media, primarily in rabid print form, has one function: to deliver what their competitors don’t have in hopes that you’ll throw some money their way. Some have blamed the consumer for seeding the problem, but without ever having a taste of the drug – headlines that appeal temptation – you can’t have an army of addicts.

When a company throws away its moral compass only to chase profits, what will happen is what we’ve seen. Unscrupulous practice is just the tip of the iceberg though as another equally severe matter is quality of journalism. There are often just two types of journalists, the extremely liberal and the extremely conservative. When you have these biases you do get passionate, interesting articles, but they simply reach a predetermined audience, those who agree with a piece before reading the first word. In an ideal world there would either be shared column space for opposing views, or articles that are simply embellished by all facts and not slanted. News, in my opinion, should make its audience draw its own conclusions, not spoon-feed. That said, a lot of people want to be spoon-fed and that keeps the beast alive.

What this all boils down to is respect for people either as consumers of news or makers of news, otherwise such organisations just become old news.

I don’t particularly care whether Murdoch gets control of Sky, as most media think with the same head whether they’re grouped under any umbrella. Whatever news I read I tend to often look for an opposing angle to make sure I don’t fall under the spell of propaganda.

Don’t think you can rest on your laurels with the higher quality papers. Johann Hari’s more minor mishap being to not cite sources shows that even the ‘good guys’, under pressure to perform will simply reheat another chef’s dish. Personally, and not just to praise the medium I’m using, I’m more likely to submit to the words of exceptional independent bloggers who are not really doing it for the money.

Read Me: A Novelette-length Collection of Flash Fiction and Musicless Lyrics

While I continue work on a pair of writing projects – one due for next year; the other I won’t make any more promises for yet – I thought I’d share some decade-or-more old stuff; short material I created when I had just seen the back of acne.

I’ll put my hands up and admit that my primary motivation wasn’t to share, rather just to experiment with making an e-book. I wanted to insert something a bit more interesting than lorem ipsum text, so I fished about in a folder containing files long transferred from a deceased computer, and after a bit of light editing and presentation work I made an e-book!

Had it not been for this exercise I probably would have never produced this compilation. I’ve never shared this stuff before and never planned to. That said, I did bother to upload the files as I don’t dislike what I wrote; there’s something about this compilation that is sort of quaint. It reminds me of a freer time when I didn’t care about effort, plot or appearing mentally unstable. So, if that somehow appeals to you (which means that you need to see a doctor yourself), you can download the e-book in a few file popular formats here.
The whole “work” is just less than 10,000 words (hence the title), and is probably best enjoyed by reading one piece per day whenever you have a break of a few minutes. There are no digital locks on the files so you could use Calibre, for example, to convert them to another reading format.

The download page contains a little info about the formats, but if you’re confused you can just download the bland looking PDF. The Mobipocket format file can be transferred or emailed to a Kindle, while the ePub file is the common one to go for as it can be read on a multitude of e-readers (such as the Sony Reader) or computers (via Adobe Digital Editions, for example). If you have a modern smartphone or internet tablet (lucky you) you can even find reading software for that. Do a little app store search, or get eReader. I would avoid the PDF as it doesn’t have the main luxury of the other files, which is easy chapter navigation.

If you decide to read it, feel free to comment after. If you don’t want to read it…Well, I’m not going to push it. It’s not representative of the quality I strive for now, but it can’t be worse than the ghost-written biography of a reality TV celebrity, can it?

And it’s free. I couldn’t sell it and I wouldn’t try.