Inter|national section writer
Rob Harding is a writer/dishwasher from West Sussex, currently living in Norwich. He graduated from the UEA in 2015 and was immediately struck by a crushing sense of fear and confusion at the prospect of the real world, resolving to save enough money to become a pilot and fly away somewhere.
(17.10.17) – DeepGrey (2)
I do the digital equivalent of slipping off the main street down a back-alley, activating two spongy ‘legal’ VPNs at once to provide the paper-thin security necessary to sneak an actual functional VPN into life without precipitating a time-delayed ISP shit-fit. It’s a sort of rite of passage, at least for British free-internet users, to accidentally break the vestigial mess that is the remains of the Snooper’s Charter and get a whiny message in the actual mail six months later complaining about it. The word ‘terrorism’ was almost entirely inflated to meaninglessness well before Meme War propaganda began labelling the entire world simultaneously with it in white-hot strobe-flashing GIFs, so the strident accusations and threats that are all the government can do about you breaking the rules aren’t particularly punchy any more. It can be another strike towards losing your net neutrality privileges, though. Besides, much nastier things lurk in the same patch of those particular legal waters, and the absolute last thing you want to do is thrash about and make a fuss.
(10.10.17) – DeepGrey (1)
Download the attachment, click the link and whoah hang the fuck on here.
It’s not easy to properly rip a headset off your head. They tend to tangle on your ears, or else there’s a cable somewhere that gets in your hair and insta-knots itself until it might as well be glued there. When I had long hair it was even worse, but even my current slightly-longer-than-a-buzz-cut approach still manages to trap the occasional stray wire in its velcro-like hooks.
Still, I manage it, because when you’re the sort of person that I am, you develop a pretty impressive set of reflexes for certain situations. Part of that is down to the still-can’t-quite-believe-that-happened bullshit that was the Meme Wars leaving its scar on our collective psyche. Some of the shit the Russians worked out how to do with flashing lights and the Mark 1 Eyeball remains impossible to describe, both due to of its design and because of the gag limitations of the human stomach. But it’s also partly down to my own situation which is sadly far from unique but also far from common.
I feel the sort of revulsion you get when you accidentally stick your hand into something dead. In the first few hyperventilating seconds after I rip off the headset, it dawns on me that what I’ve just witnessed indicates that that, metaphorically, is pretty much what’s just happened.
Content warning: mental health, eating disorders, bipolar disorder, depression, anxiety disorder, suicide.
This article is not written in the Radical’s usual style, with all the froth and fury about parts of society that might be ‘broken’ or ‘harmful’ or ‘dog-fucked beyond human comprehension by a swarm of grey-suited sociopaths inexplicably elected by a suicidal electorate’. There will be no solutions, no imprecations, no lights shone into dark places because everything’s fine.
Unfortunately, I can’t provide a full road map to the future from our current Nazi-sodden economically unstable world of earthbound, cishet-dominated capitalism (at least, not in 600 words). If the 20th century taught us anything, it’s that traditional revolutions are messy, violent and frequently impossibly complex things, and, even if their intentions are good, they tend to make things worse rather than better. A violent uprising with the fat cats first against the wall is perhaps a good daydream while you’re stressed and trying to pay your rent on time, but in practice we’d get another Stalin.
As such, this article will be much more hypothetical, looking at the kind of technology necessary for a global, fully automated and luxurious communist society, and then looking at ways we might potentially create and distribute it.
Let’s leave the sordid world of Earth behind for a bit, and explore the potential of a concept that’s kind of easy to dismiss out of hand.
In his venerable Culture series, Iain M Banks describes a future society based around Minds, unimaginably super-intelligent AIs that control vast ships and space-going habitats, on which a massive collection of alternately hedonistic and depressed lesser-biological beings (assumed to be human, although it’s never made explicit) live pampered and comfortable lives. The Culture is semi-utopian, although, if it resembles any society, it resembles the US in its relations with other civilisations, The books frequently focus on both the skulduggery necessary to keep the civilisation running and the injustice of being born outside it. Nonetheless, it is a portrait of a society in which humans (probably) are protected, cared for and treated equally through advanced technology.
Because utopias aren’t easy or fun to write, few societies like the Culture have appeared in fiction before or since. There is one notable version, however, in the form of an oddly idealistic leftie meme: Fully Automated Luxury Gay Space Communism.
Content warning – STIs
A quick reminder/PSA to the sex-having and potential-future-sex-having community: use protection, folks. The World Health Organisation released a factsheet last week describing the rapid emergence of multi-drug resistant Neisseria gonorrhoeae worldwide, with resistance to third-generation drugs reported in multiple countries including Japan and Norway.
(27.06.17) – The Case for a Second Referendum.
I know you’re sick of elections. I know you’re sick of polling. I know you’re deeply, deeply sick of campaigns, and I’m sorry about that.
But in my opinion? We need a second referendum, as a minimum. Brexit is looking more and more like a disaster with every passing minute, and someone, somewhere needs to find the political will to halt it. If the British people have to vote again so be it, because nothing I’ve seen in the past 12 months has done anything to demonstrate Brexit as anything other than a heaping pile of bollocks with a Union Jack in it, especially now Theresa May’s government has hobbled itself with a poorly-planned election.
(14.06.17) – Who Are the DUP?
Content warning: article mentions terrorism, (anti) abortion, homophobia, racism
So, the election was fun, right? Even if you didn’t vote Labour (and fair enough if you didn’t), watching Theresa May fall from an unassailable lead in the polls all the way to a humiliatingly hung Parliament, in a blizzard of vague soundbites, invasive and inadequate policies and flailing attempts to smear the opposition, was still rather viscerally satisfying in its own way. Early Friday morning saw a weird sense of relief from many who expected a Tory landslide.
Unfortunately, early Friday morning turned to mid-Friday morning, and then suddenly dove back into the bad old days, with the announcement that a desperate May government had decided to form a ‘confidence and supply’ agreement with the Northern Irish Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) in order to form a government.
Content warning: article contains strong language and mentions transphobia, rape, death threats, online harassment, homophobia, biphobia and bi erasure.
So this week a friend of mine said something on Twitter about accepting transgender people as people, regardless of genitalia. One of those reasonable discussions that occasionally ensue on the internet ensued, and ended with her getting dog-piled with sufficient angry, hateful messages to nearly crash her ageing iPhone and accusations ranging from homophobia to gaslighting and advocacy of corrective rape. While the barrage of tweets from a dozen accounts was polite by online discourse standards (for ‘polite’, read ‘no swearing but massively condescending, dismissive, pompous and worryingly intense’) the death threats and abuse that followed in private messages was significantly less so.
Once more, my friend had attracted the ire of the TERFs.
(09.05.17) – Travel Dairy: Ukraine, Part II
Yeah, it’s another one of these. Might as well. These days the local news is moving so fast, and so depressingly, that I’d rather talk about Eastern Europe’s most recent frozen conflict and a three-decade-old nuclear disaster zone.
The first part of this article can be found published here.
(02.05.17) – Travel Diary: Ukraine, Part I
Yeah, it’s another one of these. Might as well. These days the local news is moving so fast, and so depressingly, that I’d rather talk about Eastern Europe’s most recent frozen conflict and a three-decade-old nuclear disaster zone.
(04.04.17) – Don’t Panic
First up, before we get into the piece, my condolences to the friends and family of those who were killed in Westminster and St Petersburg, and I wish a speedy recovery to the injured. If you personally know anyone hurt or killed in the incident, you might want to leave this article for a few days.
With that in mind, everyone else: what the fuck?
(23.03.17) – The Rock Collection Closing
Another week, another independent local store closing its doors for the last time.
This week it’s the Rock Collection, Norwich’s finest purveyor of black clothing, technicolour dresses and elaborate piercings (and a rather fine The Who Onesie, complete with furry collar). After 8 years in their shop on Lower Goat Lane and more than 30 years selling alternative clothing in Norwich, owner Murray Walker announced on Facebook that his store would be closing its doors on the 31st of March, and moving entirely online to their already successful website.
(06.03.17) – What is Censorship? Bookhivegate, For Fuck’s Sake
Content warning: Foul language, sexual assault, Nazi imagery, hazardous levels of idiocy. The following is the author’s opinion.
So this is happening. Now, like most people, I’m obviously not in favour of censorship. Or state-sanctioned drone strikes firing missiles entirely filled with out-of-date shrimp, for that matter. I believe everyone has the right to say whatever the hell they like, and everyone else has the right to punch them in the face if that speech advocates fucking genocide. Hello again, assorted term-searching wank sandwiches.
But sometimes, sometimes, I find myself out back filling a hollowed-out Hellfire with 2014’s prawns, becausesometimes the story is a respected author picking a fight with a bookshop she’s apparently never been tobecause they don’t stock books by some random orange fascist cunt in a different country, and that, somehow, is ‘censorship.’
(21.02.17) – The State of the Nation Isn’t Great
Article contains strong language.
Okay, I’m not writing another article to bait angry American conservative shitheads. That was funny, don’t get me wrong. I could have got a whole article called: ‘101 talking points for miserable dickheads’ out of it. (For more details, see my Nazi-Punching guide to kicking the Alt-Right in the teeth and my general reasoning for violence against people who advocate genocide, and its gloriously rage-filled comment section.)
But enough baiting easily-baited term-searching nationalist wankers. Let’s be more international and talk about another democratic nation with severe racial tensions, corruption problems and an unpopular leader accused of incompetence: South Africa. On February 9th, Zuma gave the traditional State of the Nation Address of the President of South Africa (SONA, for short) to the parliament.
(07.02.17) – Punch Nazis
Content warning: violence, neo-Nazism, the Holocaust, and anti-semitism. Article contains strong language.
I’d like to begin by showing you a video. It’s quite possibly a video you’ve already seen.
That man is Richard Spencer, professional neo-Nazi dickhead. The identity of the puncher is not yet known (and will hopefully remain unknown), but they’re believed to be one of the Antifa protesters from the day of the Trump Inauguration.
(24.01.17) – Review – Transgender Kids: Who Knows Best?
On the same night Transgender Kids: Who Knows Best? aired (Thursday 12th), an apparently rather excellent documentary named Hospital exposed the difficult conditions under which the modern NHS works, bringing it to the attention of the nation that if you get sick and go to an NHS hospital, you’ll be treated by a doctor who’s working shifts more commonly seen in 19th-century coal mines while the Prime Minister calls them lazy. It was quite good. The subjects of Hospital (doctors) seem to have loved it. No such luck for the subjects of BBC2’s other documentary that night, however.
(06.01.17) – The Power of the Farce: Three Things about Rogue One
I know it came out last year, I was on holiday damn it.
The first I properly heard about Rogue One was that some Trump supporters wanted to boycott it because it was rumoured to contain anti-Trump themes. Seemed like a good reason to go and see it. Incidentally, the finished product contains no giant smug orange aliens inexplicably allowed out without supervision groping women – perhaps people were getting confused by Star Wars’ underlying anti-Nazi overtones. I can’t imagine how anti-fascism would seem anti-Trumpist at all. Those ‘Alt right’ (read: Nazi) dickheads really don’t like it, of course. Tough. They can fuck off back to Ender’s Game.
With that decent start in mind, I went to go and see it just before New Year. You know what? It’s pretty decent.
(27.12.16) – For a Moment There Was Hope: The Gambia
2016 continues to provide a torrent of horrible, depressing news. On the first of December, the opposition coalition candidate Adama Barrow beat the incumbent president, Yahya Jammeh, by 43-39%, ending Jammeh’s 22 year control of the country. On the eve of the election peaceful celebrations went on throughout the Gambia, while Mr Jammeh conceded in a phone call to Mr Barrow with as much grace as one might expect from a democratic leader to his successor. Unfortunately, he didn’t stay graceful for long.
(13.12.16) – The Left’s Image Problem
We have an image problem, you and I – yeah, you and I. Us. Lefties. Radicals. The chances are – if you’re reading this site – that you’re fairly left-wing. You’re a general believer in the doctrine of ‘don’t be a dick to other people’ with the sub-clause of avoiding ‘fuck you, got mine’, even if our specific approaches to doing so differ. I’ll be speaking in very general terms in this article, because I have 1000 words to work with.
(30.11.16) – Home Office Statement
Dear Concerned Citizen
The Investigatory Powers Act dramatically increases transparency around the use of investigatory powers by making it so we can see everything. It protects both privacy and security for MPs only and underwent an unprecedentedly low level of scrutiny before becoming law because everyone was distracted with Brexit.
(29.11.16) – The Government Knows You’re Reading This
Just a heads-up: The government knows you’re reading this.
Literally. Amidst the endless torrents of nonsense spewing from the ongoing Brexit negotiations (update: Theresa May throws up hands, announces ‘Fuck it all, God will sort it out’) and the dawn of a new chapter in the great story of democracy, the government the British people did not elect and didn’t really ask for passed some of the most intrusive legislation a British government has ever passed. The Investigatory Powers Bill, also known as the ‘Snooper’s Charter’, is due to be signed into law in a couple of weeks, and it manages what can only be called a very British Government feat in being both poorly-worded and terrifying.
(15.11.16) – Well, What Now?
Content warning: As you’d expect, this article contains Donald Trump and all the associated bullshit that comes with him. It gets better at the end, but it’s still pretty grim. For a TL:DR, try Warren Ellis’ excellent Transmetropolitan comics, or this. Also contains strong language.It’s not been a great year for fans of basic human decency towards people who aren’t white, straight, cis men. I’d list the crappy things that have happened on that front alone but I’ve got 800ish words and 2016 is going to get history books all of its own. Now, the self-proclaimed Land of the Free has elected a President who dog-whistled his way into power on a wave of fear, hate, intolerance and general bastardry. Well, great. All we need is a major natural disaster in December and then we’re on track for a nuclear war in January. Shitty things are already happening. Here’s a running list. (Note: The election is still recent. I hope these turn out to be sensationalist clickbait. I
In my last piece, while blithering about the US Presidential Race, I mentioned that one of the reasons for my interest in the politics of another country was the continued presence of their nuclear-capable aircraft in the skies over my head. This week I think I should clarify that, and take a look at what the world’s largest and most ludicrously overfunded military is up to in our neck of the woods.
(01.10.16) – Please Don’t Let Godzilla Bomb My City
Can anything stop Donald Trump? The recent presidential debate between the Man with the Golden Skin and Madame Nixon has been heralded as another in a series of candidate-ending screw-ups, Trump appearing rambling and incoherent while Clinton seemed uncharacteristically cheerful and unscripted. Trump was called out repeatedly for lying, and his awkwardly unreleased tax returns were dragged ever closer to the cold light of day. Even his post-debate spin was desperate, with Trump claiming imaginary poll victories and showing a surprising measure of the political correctness his supporters are rabidly opposed to. He even blamed his microphone for his weak performance, giving Clinton a chance to drop one more zingy soundbite.
But here’s the thing: this isn’t going to slow Trump down. This won’t turn his supporters off him. To drop into a metaphor I’ve seen employed elsewhere, Trump is Godzilla.
(22.09.16) – David Cameron ‘Responsible for the Rise of ISIS?’
Is anyone else starting to feel a little bit sorry for David Cameron? At this point it’s starting to look like the only redeeming feature of his 2016 so far has been that the accusation of pig fellatio is no longer the worst thing that’s happened to him in office. On the 12th of September he quit as a Conservative MP, claiming that he ‘didn’t want to be a distraction’ for Theresa May, and on the 14th we found out why.
(03.09.16) – Sarajevo Roses, The Stari Most: A Trip to Bosnia
Nearly every building in east Mostar bears war wounds. Tumbledown ruins stud the streets like broken teeth. The imposing concrete hulk of an abandoned bank juts into the sky over midtown, surrounded by parks and covered in graffiti. The famous Old Bridge over the river Neretva is notable both for its beauty and the fact that these marks are absent. Destroyed in 1993 by Croat tanks, the Old Bridge is one of the few things in this wounded city that has been properly rebuilt.
(22.08.16) – (Part 2) The Other Side: A Look At Europe
Well folks, these last few weeks yr. humble correspondent has been travelling around Eastern Europe on a hastily-booked last chance tour. I’m four cities in and thought I’d share a little of the mood on the street from Warsaw, Vienna, Prague and Budapest. Part two of this article looks at Vienna and Budapest.
(20.08.16) – (Part 1) The Other Side: A Look At Europe
Well folks, these last few weeks yr. humble correspondent has been travelling around Eastern Europe on a hastily-booked last chance tour. I’m four cities in and thought I’d share a little of the mood on the street from Warsaw, Vienna, Prague and Budapest. Part one of this article looks at Warsaw and Prague.
(09.07.16) – Some Worries, Mate: The Ongoing Australian Election
Who’s the Australian prime minister?
Don’t worry if you don’t know. In addition to Australia being very far away, it’s rarely covered by either the British or American media unless someone’s found an entertaining new way of being killed by the wildlife. Even in the digital age, Australia is culturally and politically isolated from the Anglophone western world, marginalised by the sensationalised nightmare of American politics and Anglo-American cultural dominance.
(26.06.16) – Meanwhile, Some Good News: Peace in Colombia
You know what? Everyone’s writing about how my racist Gran and 17,000,000 of her mates have screwed the UK over. Instead, let’s talk about something positive.
On June 23rd 2016, while the eyes of the world were decisively elsewhere, the Colombian President, Juan Manuel Santos emerged from negotiations in Havana with the left-wing FARC rebel group and announced a ceasefire. This ceasefire is the first major break in a fifty-year conflict which has claimed 200,000 lives and left Colombia a mess of drug trafficking and insurgencies. While the deal is nothing more than a ceasefire, it has been hailed by many Colombians as the first step in a peace process that’s been a long time coming.
(14.06.16) – ThePewPewLife and Why I’m Hopelessly Angry
Content warning: mentions mass shooting, homophobia, Islamophobia.
As you know, on Sunday a homophobic mass-murderer killed 49 people and seriously wounded 53 others in the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida. He used a handgun and a semi-automatic rifle, took hostages and was only finally killed when the Orlando police rammed the wall of the club with an armoured vehicle and forced him to come out, before gunning him down.
News media and political statements have been full of Islamophobic vitriol and scaremongering. Owen Jones walked off Sky News after deciding he was sick of listening to Mark Longhurst and Julia Hartley-Brewer trying to downplay the homophobic aspects of shooting up a gay club in favour of a more anti-Daesh approach — despite the attack not yet being confirmed either way if in any way connected to Daesh. As Julian Canlas commented for The Norwich Radical, ‘It is not just an ‘Orlando nightclub massacre’. It is an Orlando lgbtQ+ Latinx nightclub massacre.’ Florida governor Rick Scott suggested that the best thing one could do to aid victims of the shooting was pray, and dodged questions about what could be done to stop further shootings— the NRA logo practically glistening behind his eyes.
(11.06.16) – The Gender Slider – LGBT+ Representation in Gaming
On June 2nd, the latest in the life-simulating retail behemoth Sims franchise, The Sims 4, was patched to allow players to create non-binary and transgender characters. As IBTimes reported, the free update ‘unlocks over 700 items of clothing’ for either of the game’s binary genders, allowing ‘Female sims [to] wear suits like Ellen [DeGeneres], and male Sims [to] wear heels like Prince.’ This update has apparently been a year in the making in conjunction with GLAAD, but it was launched with little fanfare (most major gaming sites haven’t picked up the story, and there’s been comparatively little buzz online) and provided completely free of charge.
That last part was the most surprising for those versed in the gaming zeitgeist. EA, which owns The Sims’ publisher Maxis, is famous for its brutally exploitative commercial tactics and complete lack of corporate ethics, but they do have a surprisingly positive reputation for LGBT equality, at least amongst their workers. While it’s depressing that it took four massive games, sixteen years, 114 (and counting) editions and expansions and billions of gamer-hours of deleting the ladders leading into swimming pools to finally realise the dream of letting people put boy clothes on their girl Sims, it is encouraging that even a product like The Sims is finally starting to include people who aren’t just cisgender and straight.
TW: Sexual assault
On the 22nd of May, the Oasis-class cruise ship Harmony of the Seas set sail from Southampton docks on its first commercial voyage. The world’s largest cruise ship, the Harmony is owned by Royal Caribbean and can carry up to 5,400 passengers as well as 2,100 crew. The ship will be sailing on various European cruise routes until October, when it moves to the Caribbean for the winter. The vessel resembles a block of brutalist flats with a pointy bit at the front, and rooms can cost up to £3,000 for a seven-day cruise. The industry boomed in the early 2010s and is still going, with over around 22.5 million passengers carried worldwide in 2015 at a profit of somewhere around $39.6 billion.
(18.05.16) – UN Peacekeeping’s Sexual Abuse Problem, Part 2
TW: Sexual assault, rape, genocide.
Last week, we looked at the UN’s recent history of sexual assault and corruption on peacekeeping operations around the world. Despite the best efforts of two secretary-generals and nearly 20 years of reported crimes, the UN has yet to eliminate the persistent problems of ‘transactional sex’ and straight-up assault from among its peacekeeper forces. The crimes are committed both by members of various national militaries contributed to UN forces and by civilian employees, all of whom are currently essentially immune to prosecution. But what is the United Nations doing about it? What other action could be taken?
(14.05.16) – UN Peacekeeping’s Sexual Abuse Problem, Part I
TW: Sexual assault, rape, genocide.
Founded in 1948, the United Nations Department of Peacekeeping Operations is intended to ‘help countries torn by conflict to create the conditions for lasting peace.’ Their role is not as direct military intervention during conflicts; instead, they observe ongoing peace processes and stop ceasefires and peace treaties from collapsing back into armed conflict, while also working to help refugees and the displaced. Peacekeepers aren’t just soldiers- they also employ aid workers, diplomats, medics, engineers and negotiators. They’re the ‘world’s army’, with their distinctive blue helmets and white-painted vehicles, and in their prime they’ve stood up to global superpowers and stabilised seemingly irredeemable trouble spots.
Despite very public failures like the disastrous Somalia mission and the failed attempts to prevent genocides in Bosnia and Rwanda, the United Nations continues to operate peacekeeping missions around the world. They work to protect and improve the lives of some of the most vulnerable people in the world – those living in some of the world’s worst war zones.
Unfortunately, that’s the problem.
Trigger Warnings: Islamaphobia, casual Ableism
Last week, an infamous mass-murdering terrorist was granted repayment of his legal costs and a court-enforced relaxing of the conditions under which he is imprisoned for the killing of 77 people. In her ruling, Judge Helen Andenaes Sekulic agreed with his claims of inhuman treatment and reminded us that the European Convention on Human Rights states that the right to not be treated inhumanely applies to all people, therefore including ‘terrorists and killers’ under its protection.
(16.04.2016) – Transgender Rights: The Boss and Bathrooms
You wonder where the hell they find these people sometimes.
Two weeks ago, one of the Tennessee state lawmakers pushing an anti-trasngender rights ‘Bathroom Bill’ through their state legislature was exiled from his offices and denied access to several other areas of the legislative building on the grounds that he posed ‘a continuing risk to unsuspecting women who are employed by or interact with the legislature.’ Last year, former presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee told the 2015 National Religious Broadcasters that he wished he’d been able to pretend to be transgender in high school in order to shower with the girls. (Additional trigger warning: What.) Oh, the sexual assaults he could have committed if there was a legal loophole to allow it.
And these are the people pushing laws supposedly aimed at protecting American women and children from sexual assault. Americans are rallying behind real sex offenders to try to stop imaginary transgender sex offenders.
(02.04.2016) – Sesame Credit and the Future of the Internet
The latest attempt to bring China’s restless netizens under control is a new credit-rating system being developed by the Chinese government, China’s Amazon-rivalling e-commerce giant Alibaba, and the media/internet/gaming/ISP company Tencent. Now, credit-rating systems are pretty much ubiquitous in the western world, and while they undoubtedly cause a fair amount of misery, it’s no more by design than the rest of the economy, right? In most countries, a credit-rating system is designed to rate an individual based on how able they are to fulfil financial commitments based on previous dealings. Just another economic widget, albeit one that can, and does screw people over on a regular basis. Sesame Credit and its ilk are something else. Sesame Credit is a social engineering tool specifically designed to control and quantify social behaviour on a massive scale.