Free the Political Prismers

Don’t I mean political prisoners? No, though it might be a nice gesture for them, too.  And in some cases it would give them a welcome opportunity to take their turn as the local tyrant and imprison others. A game of musical cells…

What I really want is freedom from the complimentary rainbow that WordPress stuck on my blog page some weeks ago. As pleasant as it might look, and as charming as the cause for which it advocates may be, it is a banner that has little to do with the rest of the writing. It is also a little cloying.

I hope that when the results of the same-sex-Simon-Says plebiscite are announced and the business goes off to the parliament for resolution that the WordPress operators will take it off again. They can bombard their members of parliament with as many rainbows as they like, but I’d appreciate a return to normal* round here. If people want bands of colour, I can make them in Photoshop and string them all over the place.

Here’s one advocating triple-expansion cylinders for French steam locomotives. I think it deserves your support.


*  Normal is not a good thing to define as it tends to make the neighbors nervous.


Whut He Sed

Don’t tell us what he said. Please, don’t. And in particular, please don’t show us by copying and pasting or ” sharing ” something.

Tell us what you say. If it is influenced by what you have read or seen, that is fine. We are all impacted by the world in this way. It helps us to shape our own opinions. And if we explain someone else’s thoughts that have passed through our own minds, they might have picked up more truth or clarity along the way.

The information business is so widespread these days that we really do not need to have someone’s third or fourth-hand pamphlet, meme, or opinion thrust upon us like a dead chicken on a stick*. We can go and get this sort of intellectual carrion for ourselves from Google. If you wish to engage our attention and persuade us to your opinion, give it to us in your own words and show us your own images. We’ll judge them, and you, with far more leniency than some re-hash of fake news or propaganda.

Who knows – as H.L. Mencken used to say ” You may be right…”. Of course H.L. was making a wry face when he said this, but you’ve gotta do something with your eyebrows in any case.

  • That was a vacation, I can tell you…

It’s All The Fault Of…

Of? Of whoever you don’t like. And that is the beauty of modern life; there are so many people that we know about that we can always have a scapegoat. Whenever we need to pin something onto someone, there will be a suitable person available. And there will be people who agree wholeheartedly with us.

A couple of classic examples: Putin and Trump. Ostensibly the leaders of the two most powerful military forces in the world. Possibly a couple of maniacs. Probably two people who are making it up as they go along. Whoever and whatever they really are, they can be the bogeymen for all of us whenever the complexity of the world starts to become evident. It’s all their fault…

The man of the dark ages or of the medieval world had no such easy human excuse. The villager or townsman might only know a couple of dozen other people in the world, and if none of them fitted the bill for a malefactor, then they would have to fall back upon the devil or supernatural spirits. A villain was needed, as will always be the case when people do not want to take responsibility for their own folly, but if your ville was very small you needed to go outside it.

Our media is really a blessing in this matter – every day it brings us stories of how bad it all is, and assures us that it will only get worse. It holds up the hoary head of the pirate/tyrant/media personality and invites us to spit at it. We duly expectorate according to expectation and all are happy. The media is served.

And it is served because of the fine people who sponsor the advertisements. Hate Trump? Buy these sunglasses. Sneer at Putin? Here’s a holiday advertisement.

Here’s a thought. If you hate Americans or Russians or people from Tierra Del Fuego…write down all the times that you have actually been injured by someone from that hated country. Be honest. Only the times of direct contact, eye to eye…

Can I have the other half of that sheet of paper that you’re not using? I wanna draw pictures of angels and devils on it…

The NoProp Sign

nopropI have been clearing my letterbox for years of all the advertising pamphlets, catalogues and flyers. Not a day goes by that doesn’t see a handful of them in there. While I applaud the free-enterprise spirit that has driven the shops, printers, and elderly Chinese men who plod patiently down the street to deliver them, the bulk and waste is getting to me.

Apparently a simple sign saying ” No Junk Mail ” works to some extent, though it seems a little judgemental. One of my correspondents said that she used one of these but took it down when she felt sorry for the delivery person.

Another  friend suggested that I post the unwanted material back to the advertisers who initiated it but leave the postage off the front to the envelope. This has a certain mean appeal. Yet another thought a composting letter box that fed the snails would be a good idea – trouble is it might eat up actual letters that fall through by mistake.

I have yet to make a decision about the paper post. But I have decided to try something to stem the flow on the computer. I don’t mean in emails – I get very few junk emails as it is – I mean in the Facebook social media page. I am going to experiment with the business of stopping propaganda.

The recent American election was bad enough for nine months, but it now appears that there will be an unlimited effort for an unlimited time by people who want to shout electronically. They will shout politics, religion, irreligion, sex, economics, and every other damn topic unbidden. As far as the quality of the propaganda, even the old 1920’s Soviet agitprop was elegant and tasteful compared to the stuff that is YouTubed out there today.

Okay. Today the experiment starts. I have prepared a sticker – you’ll see the form of it on the heading image. The universal traffic symbol for ” prohibited ” overlain on a typewriter ” P “. The feld-grau backdrop for the letter is not symbolic – it was just in the colour chooser at the time. I am going to append this sticker to any blatant propaganda that is fed onto my Facebook page.

I expect it – and I –  will be removed by some of the posters as being critical of them. If they look carefully they may find that this is not quite the case – if a person takes the time to write their own essay about their own opinions, and then can cite actual evidence to support these, I am ready to read and discuss it all. I am not prepared to take at face value evidence, attitudes, or assaults that would not stand in a magistrate’s court.

The NoProp sticker comes out when someone just “shares” some meme, placard, or pre-packaged pressure group drama – wherever it comes from. Won’t stop the haters from hating, nor from waving their electronic placards, but it will tell them that I am calling the stuff for what it is – propaganda.


Reading Mein Kampf

mkOr…not reading it. At least not yet…

I have owned a hardbound copy of this book for the last 50 years. I tried to read it 5 times in that period. I failed to get past the first chapter 5 times.

In the interim I have read through many other books – some of them foolish, some stupid, some grim. But none of them have had the cachet of this book. None of them have carried as much disreputable baggage.

Am I a wuss? Am I a fool? Am I an intellectual coward? Very likely I am. But I have read Marx in the meantime…and Chairman Mao…and biographies of Stalin, Mussolini, and Hirohito. I’ve read potted histories of the Soviet Union. I’ve read flying saucer conspiracy/Third Reich astrology/ Henry Ford propaganda crap since. I’ve even read political pamphlets from Fremantle, for Heaven’s sake…and have consigned some of them to the trash without a second thought.

But that damned book still sits there on the shelf and defies me. I dare not burn it – lest I be a book burner. I regard it as I would regard a fused bomb…a very old fused bomb, with unstable filler and detonator. I am loath to touch it.

Perhaps I should just dust it off and send it to someone with best wishes. Who shall it be? I have 204 Facebook friends and some of them are readers…


Bang, Zoom, To The Moon


I never really knew how to react at work over the last few years when young colleagues went into a frenzy of conspiracy theories and damned everything that was presented in the news. I’m as skeptical a being as you would wish to encounter on lots of things…but I am pretty much prepared to believe the evidence of my eyes.

I will admit to the fact that television presentation does pass through the hands of networks, censors, and directors. And some of it is remarkably bad  – poor scripting, poor acting, and poor photography. And the worst examples of this are often the most convincing scenes we see.

I’ve seen the first moon landing on television – crowded round a portable television in the student dentures lab at the Dental School with all our false teeth patients in there with us – they were still wearing the bibs and aprons straight from the morning clinic. Several of them were slobbering over impressions that were still setting, but we were all glued to that screen.

I saw the attacks on the Twin Towers in New York. Of course the first was hit before there were any cameras rolling, but I definitely saw a jet hit the second tower as the television journalists were speaking directly to the camera. Construct as complex a series of hints and assumptions as you like to be kewl and klever but I know what I saw.

There were no end of other conspiracies that the young chaps latched onto. They nearly all revolved around some malfeasance or miscreancies by the US government – and even the ones that were a local Australian scandal of some sort could be tenuously linked back to Washington. If the dear old New Era communist book store had still been open in Bulwer Street I could have gone I there and picked up a few Trotsky pamphlets to help them along – change a few words and recycle them. I can’t help feeling that the source of their conspiracy theories was much the same in 2013 as it was in 1933…

I dread to think what nonsense is currently being traded behind the counter of my old workplace*. The American election would have tied them in knots and the outcome can only be wormwood and gall. But at least they will have a fresh batch of conspiracies to snuffle through once the booksellers and YouTube get busy.

* The danger of this sort of thing arises when the customers also indulge in it and raise some political issue. Convention says that you do not pooh-pooh them for fear of losing a sale. But you could sometimes see the loud mouth of one client causing other customers to leave the shop incensed. It was a tricky situation to deal with.

The New Propaganda And The Old Audience


Or is it the other way round?

I have books of propaganda in my library that are absolutely scurrilous. Murderous tomes that I have difficulty approaching, but which I keep for the insight that they give into the minds of their authors, and by extension, to the minds of their readers. I must admit I have not been able to read more than a single chapter of one of them, but will steel myself to do more when I can. Not in cold or depressing weather, however…

Several of the books are picture books – compilations of Asiatic propaganda put out by communist nations to indoctrinate their people. They are crass, lurid, and, in many cases, crude. But they do have a visual appeal derived from a simplistic attitude of right/wrong and Asian racism overlain with Marxist and Maoist messages. Chairman Mao looks happy.

Now that my Australian friends on Facebook have taken to pushing their “share” button so freely in the run-up to the American elections I have also started a series of daily postings of images taken from these picture books with anti-Clinton captions. This will irk some of the most passionate of Facebookers, but probably delight at least one Trump supporter.

The important thing to realise is that I am not an American citizen and my opinion on the suitability of either of the candidates in their election is invalid. I have no right to say one way or the other. Neither do the vast majority of my Facebook friends here in Australia. The sad thing is I know it and they don’t…or at least don’t care.

So I will gleefully post what are no more than cheap insincere jokes plastered onto stolen artwork. Those who wish to be outraged will have a daily opportunity – as will those who wish to be delighted. None of us here in the antipodes will make the slightest difference to the outcome.

To be fair, I would also post scurrilous memes about the Canadian, British, French, and Peruvian elections if anyone cared. So far my supplies of these have never been touched.