Even though I’m a journalist myself, I don’t want any part in this Je Suis Charlie shit. Because while journalists shouldn’t have to live in fear of violence because of this week’s attack, Muslim people across Europe shouldn’t have to live in fear of violence because of the racist attitudes that Charlie Hebdo and other media outlets have been cultivating for years.
Not all violence is carried out in a hail of bullets – although there’s been plenty of that kind directed at Muslim communities too: arsons and stabbings and nail bombs and all the rest of it from white supremacists. But there’s also the silent, secret violence that makes race and ethnicity the tipping point in a hundred million decisions every day to deny someone housing, or financial aid, or the legal protections of an improved immigration status, or a job, or to follow someone around a shop, or put them up against a wall and frisk them. Little by little, that destroys lives and outright kills people too, but in a way that doesn’t warrant lurid headlines and front-page graphics. That’s the violence that Charlie Hebdo revels in: cartoons that depict Boko Haram’s hostages demanding child benefits. Because they’re Muslim, you see, so ____.
A dozen people are dead who didn’t deserve to die. Leave the mourning to their families and friends, or mourn their deaths as ordinary people. But fuck Charlie Hebdo.
It’s been three months now since my exit from the Morning Star*, and the pageviews have slowed again to their customary trickle. So if this relaunch-slash-mini-manifesto comes across as self-important, it’s because it really is more for myself than anything else. I’ve had some time away from journalism as a job, and I’m feeling the better for it. But journalism has never been just a job, any more than sex is just exercise. Like sex, it invites tittering and scandal in polite society that quickly turns to unbridled fear and revulsion when taken to its proper conclusion. And, like sex, most of the time the only way to gauge whether someone’s motivated by intense desires or rampant narcissism is to watch how they do it. Here’s how I want to do it from now on: with the hate in my heart roiling right here on the surface, the heat of my anger honing my edge. Scrupulous research, for sure. Caveats where warranted, as ever. But with the naked anger that’s a natural reaction to talking about the woman and her baby who starved to death in a Westminster flat two years ago because our seething obsession with borders and numbers and checkpoints and stamps and barbarians at the gates got in the way of making sure someone’s child got fed while they lay ravaged by fucking HIV – a thing that you and I would do in a heartbeat for anyone we knew, but which doesn’t happen because the people who run this and every other country under capitalism simply do not think that the lives and deaths and agonies of people like her, or her baby, or you or I are as important as Them winning, whether it’s polls or profits. It’s as simple as that. So that’s the position I want to start from with my work from now on. I’m writing about this stuff not because it pays the rent (although by Christ I hope it does); I’m writing about these things because it matters, because we can’t let them keep winning. We can’t let them keep winning because it’s not a fucking game.
But if it’s not a fucking game, then there’s also no room for the kind of blind-eye bullshit that accompanies a jolly-hockey-sticks point-scoring mentality. It means no room for hypocrisy and apologia within the left on issues of race, of sexual orientation and gender, of ableism, of discrimination and violence against women.
I care enough to hate. My hate is right there for all the world to see, and my hate is pure.
The last time I saw Eddie he was an intern at the Nation in the late 1980s or early 1990s. Round the corner from the Nation when it was on Fifth and 13th st in Manhattan was Zinno’s restaurant and amid a pleasant lunch with JoAnWypijewski, my own intern Richie McKerrow and Eddie, I asked the future leader what I asked all interns as a matter of form, ‘Eddie, is your hate pure?’ … It was a good way of assaying interns. The feisty ones would respond excitedly, ‘Yes, my hate is pure.’ I put the question to Eddie Miliband. He gaped at me in shock like Gussie Fink-Nottle watching one of his newts vanish down the plug hole in his bath. ‘I…I… don’t hate anyone, Alex,’ he stammered. It’s all you need to know. English capitalism will be safe in his hands, assuming he ever grasps the levers of what passes for power in 10 Downing Street. It is very hard to imagine him as prime minister. He’s forever Fink-Nottle to me.
*During which they’ve failed to substantiate any of the claims about a pending further investigation of my conduct. So either it was your classic case of smear tactics to distract from their revealed role in suppressing abuse allegations, or they’re chairing the goddamned Chilcot Inquiry. Text your answers to [REDACTED].
TRIGGER WARNING: GORE
It’s Remembrance Day, and David Cameron , Ed Miliband and all the rest of Respectable Society are in the midst of some fifty million quid worth of festivities “like the Diamond Jubilee celebrations” (Cameron’s words).
Here are some images from Verdun that Cameron and his ilk will be trying very hard not to remember.
A hellscape where for a kilometre and a half in every direction the shells and mustard gas have shattered every tree to splinters, seared away every seed of grass and churned the earth to mud. No colours remain but brown slurry and black smoke and red streaks of blood and gore where a pack horse has been hit by the blast and its innards smeared over the area. Much of the trench network has been obliterated by shells, leaving craters thirty feet wide which are then blasted with still more shells over and over again until they are no longer bowls but weird, disorienting gouges in the earth. The rain mingles with the mustard gas residue and pools in the bottom of these craters, poisoning the earth and anyone desperate enough to drink from them. Many drink anyway: it has been so long since water arrived from the supply lines. You cower, soaked and shivering, in this fetid ooze because raising yourself up would mean death or injury by bullets or flying shrapnel – perhaps even skewered by a jagged shard of bone hurtling through the air from another blast. The mutilated corpses of soldiers – often partial or pulverised beyond recognition, perhaps your own childhood friends who customarily serve in the same unit – have rolled down the slopes of each crater and come to rest in the water, becoming bloated and rotten and giving the water a greasy texture along with the stench of death. Abandoning this crater for the next would be suicide and the next holds just as many corpses. So many corpses. In many places the living squat or lay atop a carpet of their forebears: their boots sinking into the putrefied bodies, a freezing slush of filth welling up around them. There is nowhere for you to go. All you can do is lay here among the dead and wait to see if you will join them. Your clothes have been clogged with shit and piss for more than a week, but you cannot see it under the mud and the smell is masked at all times by the stink of rotting corpses. And all the while the lice feed on you as you watch the maggots feed on your friends.
You and a million more will strew your guts across this ground because the generals involved explicitly seek to kill as many people as possible in order to demoralise and destabilise each others’ homelands until their enemies’ entire society -ultimately, Germany’s – fell apart: a tactic they called “bleeding” or “attrition”, but known more commonly to us today as “terrorism”. The primary objective was never to seize control of Verdun, or the Somme, or Ypres, or anywhere else. Death and suffering and fear and grief and loss were objectives in themselves.
The class that dreamed up Verdun, and its mouthpieces like Cameron today, will always see the ordinary people of any nation as tools to be used – even when that use is merely to be butchered for political ends. Remember that.
The Morning Star have launched a disciplinary procedure, even though I don’t work for them. Not a smear at all, mind you.Posted: August 11, 2014
I’ve just received a breathtaking letter signed by the head of the Morning Star’s management committee, Bob Oram. I don’t have a scan to hand but it’s some pretty spectacular stuff, all under the scary heading of “Investigation into Matters under our Disciplinary Procedure”.
Apparently on Friday – just hours after Zoe Stavri published my account of how the Morning Star’s senior staff threatened to sack me for covering domestic violence allegations involving a senior union official – the Morning Star decided to stage a further disciplinary procedure against me while acknowledging that I no longer actually work for them:
Gross breach of trust and confidence
Bringing the Morning Star into disrepute
I recognise that you are in your final day of employment and will not be available for interview but I wanted to give you this opportunity to offer explanation or comment on the allegations.”
As the documents I published last week show, the disciplinary procedure over my attempts to cover the Hedley allegations ended with my being given a final written warning with any further perceived breaches resulting in an immediate summary dismissal. So even if you go by the screwball logic Mr Oram’s employing here, their disciplinary procedure demands that they should have sacked me on the spot on Friday rather than drafting this tawdry little threat. There’s no reason – even a stupid reason – for them to carry out this little jig unless the intent is to then publish whatever their kangaroo court comes up with as the clumsiest smear tactic imaginable.
Incidentally, who is Bob Oram? Well, this is how he describes himself on Twitter:
Chair Morning Star Management Committee. Member Cuba Solidarity Executive. Works for, and proud member of campaigning and organising transport union RMT
No conflict of interest there, then!
And no, I have no intention of legitimising this nonsense with a response. I only wish they’d turn their attention instead to the paper’s longstanding policy of suppressing favoured figures’ “personal controversy” even where there are allegations of violence against women.
“Disappointed” is probably the most tired thing you can trot out in a press release, but that’s genuinely how I feel about the Morning Star management’s response yesterday. I’ll reproduce it here for posterity:
In response to recent claims made by Rory MacKinnon — who finishes his employment at the Morning Star on Friday August 8 — the Morning Star completely and utterly rejects the allegations that Mr MacKinnon was disciplined for attempting to raise allegations of domestic abuse.
It is interesting to note that he never formally raised such an allegation until he resigned, while facing further investigations into allegations of misconduct.
For the record, in April 2014 Mr MacKinnon was properly disciplined on charges of breaking the trust and confidence expected of him as a Morning Star reporter and of bringing the paper into disrepute.
The Morning Star wholly rejects Mr MacKinnon’s offensive claims that “the paper’s senior staff have an explicit policy of suppressing such allegations.”
The Morning Star always has and always will condemn violence against women in all its forms, in the strongest possible terms.
I’ll keep this brief, but the main takeaway is that there’s nothing in this statement of theirs to dispute the comprehensive papertrail I’ve linked to throughout the original post. Nor have they disputed the direct quotes that I have attributed to the Morning Star’s former editor Richard Bagley or former company secretary Tony Briscoe (again with documentation). They can take offense all they like, but they haven’t produced a shred of evidence to contradict me.
As far as formally raising an allegation, I’ve already produced documents showing that my union rep and I vehemently challenged the charges of gross misconduct and took it as far as an appeal hearing. If people are especially eager I’d be happy to jog down to the library and scan the paper’s disciplinary procedure in full, which only grants appeals on narrow technical grounds in any case. Meanwhile I’m at a loss about these “further investigations”, because that statement is the first and only time I’ve heard a single word from management about them. In fact the only contact I’ve had with senior management since giving my notice on 24 July was a phone call from acting editor Ben Chacko earlier this week asking whether I knew anything about a rumour circulating that a reporter had been fired in relation to the Steve Hedley allegations.
I don’t think there’s much more that needs saying here, other than to compare and contrast the Morning Star management’s latest statement with my former employer’s carefully considered judgment.
The Morning Star wholly rejects Mr MacKinnon’s offensive claims that “the paper’s senior staff have an explicit policy of suppressing such allegations.” - Morning Star management, 08 August 2014
“After three years at the paper you should reasonably be expected to be familiar with the paper’s news priorities, which do not include reporting internal union rows or personal controversy.” - Morning Star editor Richard Bagley, 07 April 2014
“The public has no right to know”: how the Morning Star threatened to sack me for reporting domestic violence allegationsPosted: August 8, 2014
[First published in a guest post at Another Angry Woman. TRIGGER WARNING – DOMESTIC VIOLENCE]
My name’s Rory MacKinnon, and I’ve been a reporter for the Morning Star for three years now. It’s given me a lot of pride to see how readers and supporters believe so strongly in the paper, from donating what cash they can to hawking it in the streets on miserable Saturday afternoons. I was proud to represent a “broad paper of the left”, as my editor Richard Bagley always put it: a paper that saw feminism, LGBTQ issues, racial politics and the like as integral to its coverage of class struggle.
It’s for this reason that I thought I would have my editor’s support in following up domestic violence allegations against the Rail, Maritime and Transport union’s assistant general secretary Steve Hedley. Instead the Morning Star’s management threatened me with the sack, hauled me through a disciplinary hearing and placed me on a final written warning.
If you want to see my reasons for writing this, skip to the bottom. But I’m a reporter, and in my mind the most important thing is that you all know exactly what’s happened behind closed doors. So let’s get on with it.
Kudos to Edinburgh Eye for a diligent wee investigation. Interesting reading: as they say, either
(a) UKIP parachuted Mr Coburn into Scotland without any real links to the area (which reinforces the popular perception that UKIP has no significant base north of the border) or
(b) Mr Coburn could be getting some unpleasant letters about irregularities in his registration from the Electoral Commission very shortly.
Originally posted on Edinburgh Eye:
Edinburgh is a lovely place to live. (Second on the quality-of-living index for the whole of the UK.) Edinburgh is one of a few cities around the world that are genuinely beautiful.
David Coburn is the list-topper candidate for UKIP in Scotland in the EuroElections on Thursday – Nigel Farage feels “bullish” that Coburn will become one of UKIP’s MEPs after the elections on 22nd May. And, Coburn says, he lives in Edinburgh.
David Coburn was born in Glasgow, and moved to London over twenty years ago: he was working in Kensington in 1993, where he ran the Lexicon School of English, which was dissolved in 1993 by the Companies Registrar after failing to file accounts.
He’s lived in Kensington, W11 at least since 14th August 2006 (from Companies House – he’s been the director of several companies) and he was still living there on 24th April 2014…
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