The New Golden Calves

Just for the record, I’m not saying Katy Perry and Rihanna are ‘cows’ through my title. People who respect women reserve those personal attacks for Katie Hopkins, don’t you know?

calf #2No, the title is a reference to the Golden Calf in the Book of Exodus. Whilst Moses headed up into Mount Sinai to receive the Ten Commandments, the Israelites constructed the golden monument in his absence. Ever since, it’s become synonymous with idolatry – which is a big no-no for God.

In the present day, idolatry is still part of our day-to-day lives in ways we don’t realise. Since a majority of people are irreligious in the UK, we substitute any reverence for God with an admiration of public figures. This goes across the board from political figures (Many a University student has chanted ‘OH, Jeremy Corbynnnnnnn’) to singers to football players to reality TV stars.

Though many people are critical of our celebrity obsessed culture, there’s clearly a market for them. Gossip magazines wouldn’t be propped up in the check-out line if nobody was buying them, morning TV shows wouldn’t have ‘Show Biz’ segments if nobody tuned in.

So who are these people that soak up the celebrity culture?

Admittedly, I’m probably more guilty of this than anybody. I hold my hands up to wasting rainy afternoons watching celebrity interviews for seemingly no reason at all. On those days I find myself binge-watching old Oprah episodes, my cynicism for celebrity culture gets left in the dust.

On some level, the surreal nature of the celebrity world fascinates me. The fact that they literally give themselves over for public consumption is utterly compelling. In a 2014 interview, Taylor Swift admitted “I haven’t been truly alone in the last five years”. (1)

As somebody who values privacy and the freedom to walk to the shop looking like I’ve gone two rounds with Mike Tyson, that’s such a frightening prospect to me. If anything, the celebrity lifestyle is a cautionary tale for me – something to avoid.

But for increasing numbers of people, becoming a celebrity is an aspiration. Recent studies consistently show that young children aspire to be famous above all else, whether that’s as a singer or a Youtube sensation. (2) Many are outraged at this trend but it’s hardly surprising. For some reason, we’ve sought to collectively hold celebrities up as role models. Whenever a footballer is caught in the middle of a controversy involving cheating or racism, commentators often remark, “They’re being such bad role models!”

Why are celebrities role models? They’re nothing exceptional in terms of moral standing. If anything, celebrities seem to be disproportionately involved in criminal behaviour, adultery, racism and a whole host of bad behaviour. But often we’ll hear about how celebrities are figures to look up to – how Kim Kardashian taught women to embrace their naturally curvaceous figures seems to be a recurring suggestion (And I suppose Donald Trump has taught people the value of humility!)

Ultimately, the media are the ones showcasing celebrities and presenting them to the public. It’s a sad reality that more people would be able to recall who Jake Paul is than they would be able to recognise Mamoudou Gassama – the African migrant who recently  saved a small boy from falling to his death in Paris.

We have a choice ultimately. Instead of remarking “Stop making stupid people famous!”, we could stop playing the media’s game. So long as ‘Big Brother’ and ‘Love Island’ remain dominant in television ratings, people are going to aspire for nothing more than fame and fortune.


1) [Taylor Swift Barbra Walters Interview | Barbra Walters Most Fascinating People | ABC News]



A Royal Waste Of Money?

On May 19th 2018, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle tied the knot at Windsor Castle. The new couple were given the titles of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex respectively. 19 million people were said to have watched the wedding on TV in the UK, with that figure rising to 28 million in the USA. Internationally, it’s said that hundreds of millions of people tuned in.

With all of this hype came the inevitable backlash. The Royal Family are one of the most divisive entities in current British society – some practically worship the ground they walk on, whilst others loath their very presence. I’d imagine a majority of the country fall into the ‘Couldn’t care less’ camp, with a smaller percentage of women and gay men falling into the ‘I only watched to see the dress’ camp.

So why is something as joyous as a wedding dividing opinion?

Well, the cost of the extravagant wedding is certainly a thorn in many taxpayers’ sides.

The cost of Harry and Meghan’s wedding comes out at roughly £32 million. (1)  This includes the £1,969,873 wedding dress and  £120,000 honeymoon. However, the bulk of the cost concerns security for the wedding – which ranges between £24 and £30 million.

Obviously the security of the wedding would be a top priority. In a time of heightened fears about terrorism, this was always going to be a tightly monitored event. Faction in the crowds of people who came to see the couple on their big day, and the snipers, security drones and additional security personnel don’t seem so excessive.

But still there is resentment at the idea that the British taxpayer was footing the bill for the lavish ceremony. Particularly in light of all the cuts to education and healthcare.

It must noted that Prince Charles will be covering the costs of the ‘core elements’ of the ceremony, whilst the British public are left with the hefty security bill. (2)

The back-and-forth over the Royal Wedding was far more tiresome than any of the hype surrounding the actual couple themselves. Some people are going to be Royalists until their dying breath and will never be shifted from their positions. Others will remain cynical and tutting, viewing all things Royal Family as an indictment of British society.

I definitely see both sides of the debate but tend to stray to that time honoured argument of tourism. For all their presence may suggest about the structure of our country, the Royals are certainly a successful tourist attraction.

After Prince William and Kate Middleton wed in 2011, the UK’s Association of Leading Visitors Attractions claimed the wedding had ‘saw an additional 600,000 people come to London for the weekend, 60% from UK, 40% from overseas, spending £107m … The value to ‘brand Britain’ due to global media coverage was approximately £1 billion.’ (3)

The Royals, much like a pop-star at the height of their career, have a devoted following. Will and Kate moving to Anglesey helped boost tourism for the little Welsh island. Admirers from around the world are drawn to the Tower of London, Buckingham Palace, Windsor Castle and other spectacles of British history.

VisitBritain gathered data in 2011 that suggested more than 60% of overseas visitors were heading to our shores to see a location associated with the Royal Family.

Undoubtedly, the Royal Family are profitable. Harry and Meghan’s wedding is said to have brought in £500 million, thanks to boosts in tourism and sales of merchandise. (4) I’ll spare you the ghastly sight of the bathing suits with Harry and Meghan’s faces plastered over them.

The morals of a Royal Family is a whole other debate, that I’ll probably touch on another time. I must admit that my opinion fluctuates on the topic.

But for what it’s worth, Harry and Meghan certainly brought in the dough – far more money than the security for their wedding cost the taxpayer. This should be taken into consideration before hastily demanding the abolition of the monarchy.






A Reflection on ‘The Most Admired Briton’

People are complex.

That may seem like the understatement of the year, but it’s something we should always bear in mind. Often we get wrapped up in one idea of what somebody stands for, casting all other perspectives to the side. I’ll give you an example.

To his millions of fans, Michael Jackson was the greatest entertainer of the twentieth century and a tireless ambassador for children. To less enthusiastic members of the public, he was the odd and often disturbed recluse who lived in a giant theme park. Both of these perspectives can be true, though it may seem extremely contradictory.

Often who a person is, particularly somebody in the spotlight, can be obscured by many factors. You can rely on various testimonies, the person’s own public declarations or their inner most thoughts (Should they be unfortunate enough to have them leaked).

But this article isn’t about Michael Jackson – as much as I could write about him – it’s about a figure that many in Britain revere to this day.

Winston Churchill.

Born in 1874, Winston Churchill rose in the ranks of the British government serving many roles. He served as the Home Secretary  under H.H. Asquith (1908 – 1910),  the Secretary of State for the Colonies under David Lloyd George (1921-1922)  and the Chancellor of the Exchequer under Stanley Baldwin (1924 – 1929), just to name a few from his long career. But of course, he’s best remembered by the British public for his tenure as Prime Minister during the Second World War (And on a lesser note, his second tenure from 1951 to 1955).

Churchill is no doubt an admired figure. In a 2002 poll, he topped the list of ‘100 Greatest Britons’, beating out Princess Diana, Charles Darwin and John Lennon. The recently released ‘Darkest Hour’ won Gary Oldman an Academy Award for his portrayal of the spirited Prime Minister.

I admit that there’s certainly a charm around our admiration for Churchill. Certainly we owe him a great debt for his dedication to resistance against Hitler, at a time when many in his government were pushing for negotiations with the German dictator. Though we’ll never know for certain, this act of docile passivity could have easily backfired on us – ask the Soviets, Hitler wasn’t known for keeping his promises.

I would indeed argue that Churchill deserves his position as ‘The Greatest Briton’, in that he saw us through the darkest hour in our modern history. That may sound  cliched and corny, but I do believe he deserves his place in our collective history.

That being said…

It is both true that Churchill saved our necks and also held abhorrent views.

If you were watching ‘Good Morning Britain’ this week, you may have been led to believe that such a statement is heresy. Afua Hirsch, despite being clear that she admired Churchill for his achievements in World War Two, pointed to Churchill’s history of racism and was treated like she’d spat on the Baby Jesus at a Nativity play. Her message, the whole way through her segment, was consistent – Churchill was a complex figure and can’t be simplified to a mere figurehead.

Churchill obviously grew up in a very different time from us, so far be it for me to chastise his ignorance. Perhaps a future generation would look back in horror at how we have justified eating meat, circumcising children or watching ‘Keeping Up With The Kardashians’.

But we can not shy away from the fact that Churchill’s behaviour should make us very uneasy:

  • Saying that Mahatma Gandhi should be “lain bound hand and foot at the gates of Delhi, and then trampled on by an enormous elephant with the new Viceroy seated on its back.”
  • Referring to Indians as “a beastly people with a beastly religion.”
  • Remarking that a famine which killed 3 million Indians in 1943 was deserved because they were “breeding like rabbits.”
  • Having 150,000 Kenyans forced into detention camps, where electric shock, cigarette burnings and whippings were frequently used on prisoners.

Churchill’s policies did a great deal of damage to many people across the world. Most historians agree that the 1943 Indian famine occurred as a result of British colonial policies, and was made worse by Churchill’s refusal to export food to India (Whilst shiploads of wheat would pass India from Australia, heading to Europe).

What does this say about us as a nation? Why did  we vote Churchill to be the most admired Briton? Are we endorsing these actions?

I answer this with a resounding no.

Most people aren’t aware of Churchill’s views on Indians or his actions in Kenya. They only know the “We’ll fight them on the Beaches” Churchill that Gary Oldman brought to the screen, or Churchill’s various pearls of wisdom that have appeared on many a Facebook page – ‘If you’re going through Hell, keep going’ is a personal favourite of mine.

But if you do happen upon Churchill’s less glamorous aspects, don’t be so dismissive. 3 million dead Indians may seem like a figure from a distant past, but that figure represents 3 million lives wiped out. Just because they lived seventy years before us, in a foreign continent and spoke a different tongue, doesn’t make them a insignificant footnote of our history.

Ultimately, Churchill’s legacy is a vastly complicated one. We owe him a debt of gratitude for what he did in the war. But if somebody should raise the issue of his activities elsewhere in the world, we shouldn’t be so quick to silence them as if they were the Heretics of Medieval Europe.

A person can be both heroic  and villainous. It is discomforting to think, but sometimes the line between the two is  more blurred than we’d like to acknowledge.

Your Right To Read


Whenever one mentions ‘book burnings’, most people think back to Nazi Germany. Under Hitler’s oppressive regime, any books that were deemed communist, anarchist, Jewish or pacifist were destroyed. The most infamous incident took place on May 6th 1933 when the German Student Union ransacked Magnus Hirschfield’s Institute of Sex Research and destroyed 20,000 books and journals. Obviously, all book burning activities  in Nazi Germany were done with the approval of the government – these works were seen as damaging to the German people.

Book burning is still seen as a way of protesting in the modern day. Anti-Islamic figures such as Fred Phelps of the Westboro Baptist Church made a point of burning the Quran.

Thankfully, our governments aren’t actively supporting campaigns to burn books. But perhaps they just found another way to stop people from reading.

Banning books.

If you take a look at the list of books banned by world governments, you’ll notice fairly quickly that the reasons given are often laughable. Here’s a few highlights of the more absurd forays into censorship:

  • ‘Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland’ is banned in the Hunan province in China for its portrayal of anthropomorphic animals. Government officials were worried it would teach children to regard themselves on the same level as animals.
  • ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ was banned in Malaysia for ‘threats to morality’.
  • ‘The Satanic Bible’ was banned in South Africa during the apartheid years, as it was deemed  immoral (The irony of this is so rich that Anna Nicole Smith tried to marry it).


But it’s not only in the supposedly dark corners of the world where reading is a selective privilege. Here in the UK, and throughout Europe and the US, books have faced the wrath of  censorship.

book #2‘Persepolis’ was banned from Chicago classrooms in 2013, with the district claiming they were doing so because of the graphic novel’s scenes of violence. There’s a sad irony in that ‘Persepolis’ is based upon a young girl’s experience growing up in Iran during the Islamic Revolution. By removing the book, this story is withheld from the students and they may lack an understanding of the relations between Iran and the United States (Increasingly relevant, as the Iran Deal has shown us).

The argument that the book was banned for reasons of violence is all well and good, but it’s hardly worse than anything young people can watch on television or access through the internet.

The American Psychological Association says the average child watches 8,000 televised murders and 100,000 acts of violence before finishing elementary school. That number more than doubles by the time he or she reaches age eighteen (1). If anything, there’d be more benefit being exposed to the dark themes of ‘Persepolis’ for educational purposes, rather than the mindless blood-baths on television.

Regardless, I am against the banning of books in virtually any shape or form. Obviously there’s some books that children shouldn’t be reading, but for government bodies to step in and effectively take that choice away is wrong in my opinion. Reading opens people up to new ideas, new concepts and expands the mind.

I won’t lecture you on the benefits of reading, but I can testify that they are many. One of the greatest things about reading is ingesting new information, and weighing up whether you agree with arguments that are presented. It’s an experience you’re participating in, unlike television which largely requires you to zone out.

Whether there are concerns of racism within books (The use of the N word in ‘Of Mice and Men’ for example) or unsavoury aspects (‘Fifty Shades of Grey’), the choice to pick the book and read it should be the individual’s entirely. Banning books is effectively the state’s way of barring your path to new information.

There may not be a book burning down in the town square, but censorship is always present. Resist it at every turn. Pick up a book that promotes a view contrary to your own. See if it changes your mind. If it changes you.



1) John Johnston, “Kids: Growing Up Scared,” Cincinnati Enquirer, March 20, 1994, p. E01.


The Land Of The Free… Speech Restrictions

In the United Kingdom, hate speech is defined as expressions of hatred towards a person based on their nationality, religion, sexual orientation, colour, race or disability.

The 1986 Public Order Act defined hate speech as a public offence:

A person who uses threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour, or displays any written material which is threatening, abusive or insulting, is guilty of an offence if—

(a) he intends thereby to stir up racial hatred, or

(b) having regard to all the circumstances racial hatred is likely to be stirred up thereby.

(Part 3, Section 18)

For this offence, a maximum sentence of seven years or a fine is attached.

Polls seem to suggest that the British public support such laws. A YouGov poll found that 65% of those polled agreed that it is should be illegal to use language that stirs up hatred against a group of people, on the grounds of disability (1). Another poll found that 46% of British people support such laws if they’re protecting religious groups (2).

I certainly don’t doubt the good intentions of people supporting hate speech laws. Racism, homophobia, misogyny and all forms of bigotry are stains on our collective humanity. I completely abhor them.

And I acknowledge that toxic speech can be hard to bear witness to.

However, hate speech laws have effectively destroyed any concept of free speech we ever enjoyed in the United Kingdom (And admittedly there wasn’t a great deal of freedom beforehand).

One only needs to look on Twitter to find outrageous examples of hate speech laws being exploited.

A Youtuber taken to court for teaching his dog to do a Nazi salute (3).

A woman arrested for tweeting rap lyrics with racially explicit words (4).

Are these people really criminals in the eyes of our government?

Perhaps what the people I mentioned above did angers  or offends you. That’s fair enough, you’re entitled to feel like that. But surely you can concede these aren’t actions that justify £800 fines and potential prison time? At a time when our prisons are overcrowded, police forces are struggling and violent crime is surging? A reassessment of priorities is desperately needed.

A infamous case from 2001 involves a Christian evangelist, Harry Hammond. Hammond was arrested for holding a sign that read ‘Jesus Gives Peace, Jesus is Alive, Stop Immorality, Stop Homosexuality, Stop Lesbianism, Jesus is Lord’.

A Christian who believe lesbianism and homosexuality are wrong?! Fetch me my fainting couch!

For this basic act of religious expression, Hammond was ordered by a magistrate to pay £395. Under Section 5 of the Public Order Act, Hammond was deemed guilty of causing ‘harassment, alarm or distress’.

Very vague terms you’ll notice. In this country, alarm can be sparked from anything from a weather reporter with a low cut top to a woman wearing a hijab. We’re an readily hysterical nation.

Interestingly, none of the people who threw soil or attacked Hammond that day in 2001 were charged with a crime.

Not to pull out ‘The Gay Card’, but as a gay man, Hammond did nothing wrong in my eyes. He was only expressing what he believed as a born against Christian – that people can be saved by Jesus’ sacrifice on the Cross. It just so happens that his sign was pinpointing homosexuality, among the plethora of activities that Christians consider sinful.

Was his sign calling for gays to be murdered, to be shut out of society, to be denied healthcare or housing? No.

It was expressing an opinion. That homosexuality is wrong.

If you support hate speech laws, you have to accept that one day it may backfire on you. For who is to decide what is hate speech?

Labour supporters who jokingly tweet about how they wish ‘Tories would die’  could easily be accused of a hate crime. Maybe in branding all Conservative voters as old white people, they could be accused of ageism or racism? And I’m sure they’d see that a ridiculous scenario.

But up until recently, I never would have thought a man could be arrested for teaching a pug to do a Nazi salute. And yet, here we are.






The Transparent Closet

When somebody reaches an age where they feel comfortable being gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender, they will ‘come out’ to those who know them. It’s often called ‘coming out of the closet’, and can happen for people at various points in their life. I personally came out when I was fifteen years old, but there’s cases of people coming out extremely young or later in life.

Regardless, it’s a person’s prerogative on when they want to tell people. To talk about somebody else’s sexuality without their permission is often considered ‘outing’, widely considered to be disrespectful.

Recently, Shahmir Sanni was outed by the British government. The whistle-blower, who published tell-all articles on the Brexit campaign, is a man of Pakistani origin, with family living back in Pakistan. For the government to have outed Sanni as gay in a public statement, they showed recklessness in placing his family in danger, and showed blatant disregard for Sanni’s privacy. As of the time of this article, no apology has been offered.

LGBT magazines were all united in condemning this action- there was no uncertainty on whether the government was in the wrong. But seemingly, there’s a murkier area of morality when it comes to other closeted individuals.

Take politicians from America as an example. There’s almost a sense of glee from LGBT bloggers or journalists when news breaks of an anti-LGBT politician caught performing sexual acts on another man.

So seemingly outing somebody is justified if it serves to take a homophobic figure down a peg or two. Perhaps one could argue that it’s justified if it means pushing said politician out of office. But not taken into account is the politician’s own feelings (Regardless of whether they had such empathy for others) and their family.

But one form of outing is particularly unnerving to me, and that pertains to the outing of deceased individuals. People who are no longer here, and can neither confirm or deny what is being said about them.

Last year, reports surfaced claiming that Whitney Houston was bisexual and had a long-term affair with her personal assistant, Robyn Crawford. PinkNews reported on this extensively, and fellow lesbian Rosie O’Donnell outright confirmed it – even going so far as to claim Whitney was part of a ‘secret group of famous lesbians’ (1).

This bothers me for a couple of reasons.

Firstly, what purpose does this serve? Whitney Houston has been dead for six years now, and it’s my belief that a public figure’s life should remain largely untouched in death – unless criminal behaviour is brought to light. But beyond the curiousity of the public, there’s no reason for this private information to be revealed.

Secondly, Whitney is being outed without her permission – a redundant statement given that she’s no longer with us. Clearly she never felt the need to come out in her life, so it’s a little disrespectful of the media to assume they’re in the position to do that for her.

Thirdly, nothing is worse than being outed to a family who are not accepting. Thankfully, I don’t know this from personal experience. But a huge part of why being outed is such a feared prospect is the backlash from family members.

Whitney’s own mother, Cissy Houston stated she would not accept her daughter being a lesbian (2). Given her family’s strong religious roots, I wouldn’t be surprised if other family members felt the same way. It’s so undignified to out a dead woman, and risk having her family essentially disown her memory.

For so long, LGBT people have had their narratives dictated for them. The western coming out process seems like a relatively privileged concept, compared to Uganda where photographs of gay men and lesbians are splashed over the front pages of newspapers in a shaming campaign.

Hopefully one day, coming out won’t be such an elaborate and delicate process. But until that day, it is entirely down to each person as to when they ‘want the world to know’ (As the Diana Ross song goes) and nobody else’s.

Regardless of whether you’re Whitney Houston, a staunchly anti-gay marriage politician or just the closeted kid in a high school, you deserve that dignity.




The Decline of Decency

I’m certainly under no illusions that humans have refrained from crude and despicable behaviour up until the last few years. But like most vices in society, the internet and the ever expanding media have placed a magnifying glass over unapologetic and vulgar people.

Now…I won’t even touch on President Trump’s policies. That’s not what this is even about.

But think back to when he was running for office. This was a guy who remarked “I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose any voters” (1), threw around words such as “Pussy” to describe political opponents (2) and commented that pro-gun Americans should “take care” of Hillary Clinton (3).

Even if you voted for him, you have to admit that this isn’t behaviour that you would have thought to see of a politician. Usually unfiltered and ‘politically incorrect’ comments were left for private conversation – look to Richard Nixon’s tapes for a prime example of that.

It’s not only President Trump who is being provided with a platform for views that would have otherwise been deemed indecent.

Kevin Williamson was recently fired from his writing job at The Atlantic, for his hard-line views on abortion – namely that women for go through with the procedures should be executed by hanging (4).

I would have thought that something so reprehensible and vile would unite people in disgust. I certainly respect the pro-life movement, but it’s absolutely inexcusable to advocate murdering women.

But in the age of social media, people can now be martyred for such things. Williamson’s termination is held up as an example of free speech being threatened, and he is made into a victim of persecution.

What does it say that a man could be so openly obscene and still garner support?

Elsewhere, vulgarity runs supreme on various news sites.

The Huffington Post gave a platform to a man who had sex with animals, in a gruesome article entitled ‘A Review Of ‘The Shape Of Water,’ From A Guy Who Had Sex With A Dolphin’ (5). Why the site chose to broadcast the viewpoint of Malcolm J. Brenner is beyond me. Especially when he compares anti-bestiality laws to laws that prohibited inter-racial sex.

decency #2

Todd Nickerson

Even worse is Salon giving a self-admitted ‘Virtuous Paedophile’ the opportunity to talk of his desires for young girls and how ‘mean’ society is to paedophiles (6). Though the message of the articles was supposedly to ‘refrain from abusing children’, the undertones of the articles are very disturbing – a accompanying video has Todd Nickerson reminiscing over a young girl that he lusted for. Tackling this topic could have been done a thousand different ways, without giving a disturbed man a platform to play the victim.

Okay, very extreme examples for sure. Kevin Williamson, Todd Nickerson and Malcolm J. Brenner are all extremists and absolutely not representative of society at large. So what’s the issue?

It’s that we’re not taking a tougher stance against this. Moral wretchedness like this should be a massive cause for concern.

Yes, I believe in free speech – even for paedophiles, dolphin-molesters and other  degenerates. I certainly don’t think they should go to prison for expressing their ‘preferences’ (Shudder), but I do question the wisdom in platforming them.

There’s so many remarkable stories worth highlighting, and perhaps the online press is failing in that regard. It may drum up some publicity to host a man who is hopefully not hosted at Sea-World, but all it does is leave an unpleasant taste in my mouth.