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.
(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.