Wednesday, 19 November 2014

BLACKLISTED BOOK PUT ON HOLD!

Phil Chamberlain and Dave Smith issued the following statement:

'We regret to announce that our contract with Pluto Press to publish the book: Blacklisted: The secret war between big business and union activists, has been terminated by mutual agreement with no ongoing liabilities remaining on either side.

Six years of investigative journalism has produced a finished manuscript that names and shames those who orchestrated and colluded with the blacklisting human rights scandal. 

We are currently looking at a number publishing options and are 100% confident that Blacklisted will be published before next year's general election.'

The co-authors also sent the following tweet via the Twitter account @blacklistedbook:
'Regretfully, contract with Pluto for "Blacklisted" ended by mutual consent.  Options being considered to ensure publication before Gen Election.'

Newcastle Rank & File Conference

LAST Saturday, the rank and file construction workers held their conference in Newcastle.  It was attended by some 80 workers in the British building trade from Scotland, Yorkshire, Liverpool, Manchester and London, as well as Newcastle.  Topics under discussion included 'Umbrella Companies'; the JIB; the blacklist; and the by-election for the position on Unite's National Executive Council, a position left vacant by the surprise resignation of John Sheridan.  Media representatives from Channel Four's Dispatches program were present and conducted interviews after the conference.   

Tameside TUC's book 'Boys on the Blacklist' was promoted and supported by many of the electricians and building workers present.  Concern was expressed by the delegate from Tameside TUC about revelations that Pluto Press, the intended publishers of the forthcoming book about blacklist by the journalist, Phil Chamberlain and the activist Dave Smith, had indicated that they were no longer willing to publish it.  This came as the Tameside TUC delegate to the conference told of a secret e-mail from a senior Unite official to the Unite legal department, in which it was stated that 'Boys on the Blacklist' had 'material in it that had not been approved (by Unite)' and effectively dismissing the book as an 'amatuer effort'.   

We were told well over a month ago by sources close to the Blacklist Support Group that at least one solicitor's letter had been sent to threaten the forthcoming book on blacklisting.   If it turns out that both the employers and some trade senior union officers are trying to hinder publication and distribution of literature about the history of blacklisting in the British building trade it is a sad day for democracy in this country.   

Meanwhile, the Rank & File conference agreed to support the forthcoming strike action in November; to promote a campaign against Laing O'Rourke; and to back Frank Morris for the vacant position on the National Executive Council.

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

In search of dental treatment in Tameside!

I’ve recently become aware of how difficult it is to obtain dental treatment if you’re not already registered with a dentist. My dentist struck me off his books some years ago, when I failed to attend a six-monthly appointment.

In Tameside, Greater Manchester, I have found that it can be almost impossible to obtain adequate dental treatment if you’re a NHS patient, but easy enough, if you’re prepared to pay up front.

Take as an example, my own recent experience. Last week, I started to get severe pain in my mouth and face because a tooth cavity needed a filling. For people who are registered with a dentist, getting a filling would be no problem. However, if you’re not registered with a dentist, it is necessary to ring what is called the ‘Emergency Dental Helpline’, a call-centre that tries to fix you up with an appointment with a local dentist.

On Monday, I got through to the Helpline but was told in spite of my pain, that nothing was available. I was then advised to ring the following morning at 8.00 am.  The next day, I managed to get through after a 15 minutes wait and was given an appointment at a dentist in Hyde. On arriving at the Clarendon Dental Practice, I registered and was asked for £18.50. For this I was given a temporary filling by a surly young Irishman who told me that I needed to register with a dentist to get urgent dental treatment as the filling he’d given me, wouldn’t last long. How right he was!

After being fleeced of £18.50 for very little effective treatment that still left me in pain, I made some inquiries about how to register with a dentist in Tameside. Tameside Hospital told me to contact the ‘Dental Department’ at the Ashton Primary Care Centre. When I phoned them, the young lady who took my call, told me quite emphatically, that the hospital shouldn’t have referred me to them as they only dealt with patients by referral. When I asked how one went about registering with a dentist in Tameside, I was told to ask friends and relatives or contact a dentist direct.

Having been compelled to pound the streets of Tameside in search of urgent dental treatment, I called in at two dental practices in Dukinfield, both of which, claimed to offer NHS dentistry. The first told me that they were not taking on NHS patients but they’d take me as a private patient and I was given a leaflet – “Welcome to access, a new approach to affordable dental care.” The leaflet claims: “Once you are registered as an access patient, you and every family member won’t have the hassle of searching for a dentist again.”

I encountered a similar response from the second dentist that I visited. A pleasant and attractive young woman on reception politely told me that they’d take me on as a private patient but not as an NHS patient, because “the government won’t pay us for treating NHS patients.”

What I have experienced over these past few days makes it perfectly clear to me that the state of dental services in Tameside is an utter shambles. What kind of dental service have we got when you’re compelled to knock on a dentist’s door to see if he will take you on, or you’re advised by a NHS Primary Care Centre, to ask friends and relatives if they know of a dentist who is taking people on as NHS patients? When I later  called at the NHS Ashton Primary Care Centre,  in Old Street, to inquire which dentists in Tameside were taking on NHS patients, the staff on reception abruptly told me: “We don’t do dental”, even though they have a dental department.  What is even more curious is that I was told this by people working for an organisation, that claims: “The NHS is committed to providing NHS dentistry for anyone who seeks help in accessing services.”

In her article ‘Bad teeth – the new British disease’, published in the Daily Telegraph in January 2008, Alice Thomson wrote:

“In Britain today, you can stuff yourself on deep-fried mars bars, drink 20 pints a night, inject yourself with heroin, smoke 60 cigarettes a day or decide to change sex, and the NHS has an obligation to treat you. But if you’ve got bad teeth, forget it. You may be rolling on the bathroom floor in agony with an abscess, your gums riddled with disease…but the NHS doesn’t have to help you.”

According to a survey by Mori, conducted on behalf of the Citizen Advice Bureau, seven and a half million Britons have failed to gain access to an NHS dentist in the past two-years.  Despite the NHS claim that it is committed to providing NHS dentistry for anyone seeking it, Thomson says that it is now virtually impossible for many people to find an NHS dentist, and if they do manage to squeeze on to a list, they could be charged 80% of treatment costs unless they are a child, pregnant or on benefits.


In 1990, only 6% of dentist’s income came from private patients. Today, it is around 58%. And yet, while many NHS patients struggle to find a dentist, the NHS trains most dentists at a cost of around £175, 000. A spokesman for NHS England told me that only so much government funding, was being made to available to treat NHS patients for dental treatment, and this had run out in some areas.

Blacklist News:

1. Police collusion with blacklisting
Undercover cops and the secret state workshop
Defend the Right to Protest Conference
Sunday 16th Nov
SOAS
Conference speakers include: John McDonnell MP, Rob Evans (author Undercover), Helen Steel, Merrick Badger, Dave Smith
2. GMB Crocodile Tears tour
Councillor Sandy Palmer a former Tarmac / Carillion / NCS manager implicated in blacklisting of 36 workers was targeted this week (pix attached)
Kenny Newton, Lee Fowler and Joanne Folwer represented (pix attached)
3. Upcoming events
Construction national rank & file meeting
Saturday 15th November
Newcastle Labour Club
Speakers include: Frank Morris, Steve Acheson, Steve Kelly
Construction Safety Campaign AGM
Saturday 13th December 2014.
11.00am to 3.00pm.
Friends Meeting House, 6 Mount Street, Manchester, M2 5NS
Speakers include: Steve Acheson - Blacklist Support Group & Hilda Palmer, Greater Manchester Hazards Campaign

Friday, 14 November 2014

Russell Brand's 'Revolution' Part 2.

12 November 2014


Russell Brand's 'Revolution'

- Part 2,

The Backlash



 From Messiah

To Monty Python

If Julian Assange was initially perceived by many as a
controversial but respected, even heroic, figure challenging
power, the corporate media worked hard to change that
perception in the summer of 2012.  After Assange requested
political asylum in the Ecuadorian Embassy
in London, the faux-feminists and corporate leftists of the
'quality' liberal press waged war on his reputation.
This comment from the Guardian's Deborah Orr summed up
the press zeitgeist: 
'It's hard to believe that, until fairly recently, Julian Assange
was hailed not just as a radical thinker, but as a radical achiever,
too.'
A sentiment echoed by Christina Patterson of the Independent
'Quite a feat to move from Messiah to Monty Python, but good old
Julian Assange seems to have managed it.'
The Guardian's Suzanne Moore expressed what many implied: 
'He really is the most massive turd.'
The attacks did more than just criticise Assange; they presented
him as a ridiculous, shameful figure.  Readers were to understand
that he was now completely and permanently discredited.
We are all, to some extent, herd animals. When we witness an
individual being subjected to relentless mockery of this kind from
just about everyone across the media 'spectrum', it becomes a real
challenge to continue taking that person seriously, let alone to
continue supporting them. We know that doing so risks attracting
the same abuse.
Below, we will see how many of the same corporate journalists
are now directing a comparable campaign of abuse at Russell Brand
in response to the publication of his book, 'Revolution'. The impact
is perhaps indicated by the mild trepidation one of us experienced in
tweeting this very reasonable comment from the book: 
'Today humanity faces a stark choice: save the planet and ditch
capitalism, or save capitalism and ditch the planet.' (p.345)
Sure enough, we immediately received this tweet in response: 
'As a big supporter of your newsletters and books, I'm embarrassed
by your promotion of Brand as some sort of visionary.'
Mark Steel explained in the Independent
'This week, by law, I have to deride Russell Brand as a self-obsessed,
annoying idiot. No article or comment on Twitter can legally be written
now unless it does this...'
Or as Boris Johnson noted, gleefully, in the Telegraph
'Oh dear, what a fusillade of hatred against poor old Brandy Wandy.
I have before me a slew of Sunday papers and in almost all there is a
broadside against Russell Brand...'
Once again, the Guardian gatekeepers have poured scorn. Suzanne
Moore lampooned 'the winklepickered Jesus Clown who preaches
revolution', repeating 'Jesus Clown' four times. Moore mocked: 
'To see him being brought to heel by an ancient Sex Pistol definitely
adds to the gaiety of the nation.'
After all: 'A lot of what he says is sub-Chomskyian [sic] woo.'
An earlier version of Moore's article was even more damning: 'A lot
of what he says is ghostwritten sub-Chomskyian woo.'
This was corrected by the Guardian after Moore received a letter from
Brand's lawyers.
The Guardian's Hadley Freeman imperiously dismissed Brand's highly
rational analysis of corporate psychopathology: 
'I'm not entirely sure where he thinks he's going to go with this revolution
idea because [SPOILER!] revolution is not going to happen. But all credit
to the man for making politics seem sexy to teenagers.  What he lacks,
though - aside from specifics and an ability to listen to people other than              
himself - is  judgment.'
Tanya Gold commented in the Guardian
'His narcissism is not strange: he is a comic by trade, and is used to
drooling rooms of strangers.'
In the Independent, Yasmin Alibhai-Brown's patronising judgement
was clear from the title:  'Russell Brand might seem like a sexy revolutionary
worth getting behind, but he will only fail his fans - Politics needs to be
cleaned up, not thrown into disarray by irresponsible populists'
Alibhai-Brown commented: 
'It is heartening to see him mobbed by teenagers and young people... Brand,
I fear, will only fail them.'
Grace Dent of the Independent perceived little point in throwing yet more
mud: 
'with the lack of a political colossus on the horizon like Tony Benn, we
can make do with that guy from Get Him To The Greek who was once wed
to Katy Perry. I shall resist pillorying Brand any further. He looks exhausted.
I'm not entirely evil'.
Sarah Ditum sneered from the New Statesman
'Russell Brand, clown that he is, is taken seriously by an awful lot of young
men who see any criticism of the cartoon messiah's misogyny as a derail from
"the real issues" (whatever they are).'
Brand fared little better among the male commentators of the liberal press.
The title
of David Runciman's Guardian review read: 
'His manifesto is heavy going, light on politics and, in places, beyond parody.
Has the leader of the rebellion missed his moment?'
Runciman wrote: 
'This book is an uncomfortable mashup of the cosmic and the prosaic.
Brand seems to believe they bolster each other. But really they just get
in each other's way. He borrows ideas from various radical or progressive
thinkers like David Graeber and Thomas Piketty but undercuts them with
talk about yogic meditation.'
As we saw in the first part of this alert, there is a strong case for arguing that
mindfulness – awareness of how we actually feel, as opposed to how corporate
advertising tells us we should feel – can help deliver us from the shiny cage of
 passive consumerism to progressive activism.
Alas, 'too often he sounds like Gwyneth Paltrow without, er, the humour or
the self-awareness. The worst of it is beyond parody... his revolution reads
like soft-soap therapy where what's needed is something with a harder edge'.
Also in the Guardian, Martin Kettle dismissed 'the juvenile culture of Russell
Brand's narcissistic anti-politics'.
Hard-right 'leftist' warmonger Nick Cohen of the 'left-of-centre' hard-right
Observer was appalled. Having accumulated 28,000 followers on Twitter
(we have 18,000) after decades in the national press spotlight, Cohen mocked
the communication skills of a writer with 8 million followers: 
'His writing is atrocious: long-winded, confused and smug; filled with
references to books Brand alas half read and thinkers he has half understood.'
This is completely false, as we saw; Brand has an extremely astute grasp of
many of the key issues of our time.
As ever – think Assange, Greenwald, Snowden – dissidents are exposed as
egoists by corporate media altruists:  'Brand is a religious narcissist, and if the
British left falls for him, it will show itself to be beyond saving.'
Cohen strained so hard to cover Brand in ordure he splashed some on himself,
commenting: 
'Brand says that he is qualified to lead a global transformation...'
Not quite. Brand writes in his book: 
'We don't want to replace Cameron with another leader: the position of
leader elevates a particular set of behaviours.' (p.216)
And: 
'There is no heroic revolutionary figure in whom we can invest hope, except
for ourselves as individuals together.' (p.515)
Similarly, Cohen took the cheap shot of casually lampooning Brand's 'cranky'
focus on meditation: 
'Comrades, I am sure I do not need to tell you that no figure in the history
of the left has seen Buddhism as a force for human emancipation.'
We tweeted in reply
'@NickCohen4 "no figure in the history of the left has seen Buddhism as a force for
human emancipation". Erich Fromm, for one.'
Cohen was so unimpressed by this response that he immediately blocked us
on Twitter.  Writing from that other powerhouse of corporate dissent, the
oligarch-owned Independent, Steve Richards praised Brand's style and decried
the right-wing conformity of journalism, before providing an example of his own.
He lamented Brand's 'vague banalities' and 'witty banalities'
'He is part of a disturbing phenomenon - the worship of unaccountable comedians
who are not especially funny and who are limited in their perceptions... We await
revolutionary who plots what should happen as well as what is wrong.'

In the same newspaper, Howard Jacobson effortlessly won the prize for intellectual
snobbery:  'When Russell Brand uses the word "hegemony" something dies in my
soul.'
Oh dear, does he drop the 'haitch'?  For Jacobson, who studied English at
Cambridge under the renowned literary critic F.R. Leavis, it was 'a matter of
regret' that Brand didn't 'stick to clowning'

Why? Because it detracts from the enjoyment of a comedian's efforts 'to discover
they are fools in earnest'. Brand, alas, has not 'the first idea what serious thought is'.
To
read the book is to know just how utterly self-damning that last comment is. 

James Bloodworth of the hard-right Left Foot Forward blog, commented in the
Independent
'Russell Brand is one of those people who talks a lot without ever really saying
much.'
Bloodworth clumsily sought to mock Brand's clumsiness: 
'Well-intentioned, he can often come across like the precocious student we
all know who talks in the way they think an educated person ought to talk -
all clever-sounding adjectives and look-at-me vocabulary.'
Words like 'hegemony', perhaps. Or as Nick Cohen wrote in 2013: 'He writes
as if he is a precocious prepubescent rather than an adolescent...'
Bloodworth's damning conclusion: 
'Millions of people may be fed up of the racket that is free market capitalism,
but this really is Revolution as play, and in indulging it the left risks becoming
a parody of itself.'

The Tory Press – 'A Snort Of Derisive Laughter'

If we dare turn to the more overtly right-wing press, in the Sunday Times, Camilla
Long lamented
'Brand's mincing tintinnabulations, his squawking convulsions, his constant garbling
of  words such as "autodidact" and "hegemony".'
That word again! Could the real problem be that a working class author has
appropriated words reserved for his classically-educated betters? Wikipedia records
of Long: 
'Descended from the aristocratic Clinton family (Henry Pelham-Clinton, 4th Duke of
Newcastle... is an ancestor through her paternal grandmother), she was educated at              
Oxford High School and Corpus Christi College, Oxford.'
Again, any thought of discussion had to make way for mockery:  'And what a
mediocre, hypocritical, dancing, prancing and arrogant perm on a stick he is...
I would be more comfortable with the former Spice Girl Geri Halliwell as a public
intellectual.'
From the moral summit of Murdoch's media Mount Doom, Perpetual Warmonger
David Aaronovitch of The Times of course declared Brand's book 'uniquely worthless
both as an exercise in writing and as a manifesto for social change - I feel able to            
dismiss Brand's new self-ascriptions, both as self-taught man and revolutionary'.
(Aaronovitch, 'A unique Brand of dozy drivel,' The Times, November 1, 2014) 

Again, as we saw in Part 1, this is just false. There may be much to debate, but in
identifying the fundamental disaster of a corporate system subordinating people and
planet to profit, Brand is exactly right.
Aaronovitch heard only 'a wall of sound and words designed to drown out the
possibility of thought'

But the wall of sound was coming from Aaronovitch's own head, from the
psychological investments that prevent him perceiving words that would make
it impossible for him to continue the role he is playing.
For Aaronovitch, like Cohen, it was all 'sub-Yoko mysticana that [has] been the
"it's really all about me" staple of pop stars, actors and princesses since the days
of the Maharishi'.
So Brand just produces 'sub-Yoko mysticana', 'sub-Chomskyian woo' and, as
Robert Colvile noted in his review for the Daily Telegraph, 'sub-undergraduate
dross'

Reviewing the book in the Sunday Times, Christopher Hart wrote
'There's no doubt that Brand can sometimes articulate what a lot of people
are feeling...'
As if panicked by the possibility that this might be thought to signify approval,
Hart erupted: 
'But when the cry comes from someone who seems the epitome of a vapid,
ill-informed, coke-frazzled, self-adoring and grossly hypocritical celeb,
preaching to us from the back of his chauffeur-driven Merc, then the only
response it deserves is a snort of derisive laughter.'
Parklife! The bottom line:
'Some of this stuff does indeed need saying, but Russell Brand is not the man
to say it.'
Again, less a review, more a Soviet-style 'personality disorder' smear.
The Daily Mail really loathes Brand. For the journalist who for some odd
reason describes himself as 'The Hated Peter Hitchens', Brand is a 'Pied
piper who peddles poison'. It seems clear that some of the hatred directed
at Brand by both male and female critics is rooted in something other than
politics.  In a telling passage that reads like an outtake from a Carry On film,
Hitchens observed:  'But there's also no doubt he has a potent effect on
women - I watched him, in less than a minute, charm two pretty young Olympic
medal winners into taking off their medals and draping them over his scrawny,
naked chest.  The sad thing was that they acted as if they were the ones being
honoured by the encounter.'
We can imagine that Hitchens would have been only too 'honoured' to meet
the 'two pretty young' women and to admire the medals on their chests where
they belonged.  In the same paper, Stephen Glover also snorted derisively: 
'Why does anyone take this clown of a poseur seriously?... Russell Brand is a
ludicrous charlatan.' 

Glover, who had either not read, or not understood a word of the book,
commented: 
'Revolution is one of the worst books I have ever read. It is repetitive,
structureless, poorly argued (if it can be said to be argued at all) and
boring... [from] our narcissistic hero... Why should we listen to this            
clown?'
Another Daily Mail altruist, Max Hastings, also perceived gross egotism
at play: 
'Mr Brand is a strutting narcissist, who, despite having no idea what he
is talking about...'
For the now thoroughly corporatised Piers Morgan in the Mail, Brand was
a 'bogus revolutionary... this whole "revolution" he's trying to wage is a load
of old sanctimonious hog-wash'. Morgan was happy to sign-off with a lazy
dismissal:  'Like most great revolutionaries, he's quite happy wallowing in
his own hypocrisy.'
The Mail quoted James Cleverly, Conservative London Assembly Member
for Bexley and Bromley: 
'Why do the BBC give so much airtime to the vacuous, narcissistic drivel
of Russell Brand?'
We tweeted Cleverly: 'Exactly how often do you see a Brand-style,
anti-corporate perspective on the BBC? Every day?'
Cleverly did not respond.

The Mail also noted that Conservative MP Philip Davies, a member of
the Culture, Media and Sport select committee, had demanded that the
corporation look again at its public service remit: 'Why on earth are BBC
giving so much air time to such an idiot is beyond me. Especially on such              
supposedly serious programmes.  I just don't think that's what the BBC is
there for. It is not there to give idiots like Russell Brand time to promote
his book.'
Boris Johnson wrote in the Daily Telegraph
'Of course his manifesto is nonsense - as I am sure he would be only too
happy, in private, to admit... Yes, it is bilge; but that is not the point.
Who cares what he really means or what he really thinks?'
For this was 'semi-religious pseudoeconomic mumbo-jumbo'.
Again, another busy individual who had surely not troubled to seriously
read the book.  As with Assange, the intent and effect of all this is to portray
Brand as so ridiculous, so pitiable, that the public will feel ashamed to be
associated with him and his cause. 

The corporate media system, with its fraudulent 'spectrum' of opinion, is a
hammer that falls with a unified, resounding crash on anyone who dares to
challenge elite interests. It works relentlessly to beat down human imagination,
creativity and hope, to smash the awareness, love and compassion that might
otherwise terminate the 'nightmare of history'. Is resistance futile? Will they
always win?
Well, for once, we will give the corporate press the last word. On November 7,
the Daily Mail reported that Brand's new book 'has enjoyed monumental sales
- earning the star and his publishers a staggering £230,000 in just 11 days'.
The Mail, no doubt reluctantly, cited a publishing expert:  'It's an awful lot
of money to turnaround in such a short period.'
Unmentioned by the Mail, Brand has said that profits from the book will
go towards a non-hierarchical, not-for-profit café and production company
managed by the workforce 'where recovering addicts like me can run a
business based on the ideas in this book'. (p.593)
DE 
Contact Us:
editor@medialens.org 

Sent to Northern Voices by Trevor Hoyle. 

 

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Media Lens: 'Russell Brand's Revolution'

11 November 2014

Russell Brand's 'Revolution' - Part 1, 'The Fun Bus'

On October 23, 2013, Russell Brand appeared to crash through the filter system protecting the public from dissident opinion. 
His 10-minute interview with Jeremy Paxman on the BBC's Newsnight programme not only attracted millions of viewers - the YouTube hit-counter stands at 10.6 million - it won considerable praise and support from corporate journalists on Twitter. Brand was arguing for 'revolution' and yet was flavour of the month, cool to like. Something didn't add up. 
The hook for the interview was Brand's guest-editing of New Statesman magazine, promoted by him in a video that featured editor Jason Cowley giggling excitedly in the background among besuited corporate journalists. Again, this seemed curious: why would a drab, 'left of centre' (i.e., corporate party political) magazine support someone calling for a 'Revolution of consciousness'
The answer is perhaps easier to fathom now than it was then, for time has not been kind either to the Newsnight interview or the New Statesman guest issue. 
It is clear that an unprepared Brand was largely winging it with Paxman. In response to the predictable question of what political alternative he was proposing, Brand replied:  'Well, I've not invented it yet, Jeremy. I had to do a magazine last week. I had a lot on my plate. But here's the thing it shouldn't do. Shouldn't destroy the planet. Shouldn't create massive economic disparity.
Shouldn't ignore the needs of the people. The burden of proof is on the people with the power, not people doing a magazine.' 
In his new book, 'Revolution,' Brand recognises that the first part of this response 'ain't gonna butter no spuds on Newsnight or Fox News' (Brand, 'Revolution', Century, 2014, ebook, p.415) and he is clearly keen to move on from 'the policy-bare days of the Paxman interview' (p.417). On the other hand, the second part of Brand's answer helps explain the huge impact of the interview – he was speaking out with a level of passionate sincerity and conviction that are just not seen in today's manufactured, conformist, marketing-led media. Brand looked real, human. He was telling the truth! 
Similarly, the New Statesman guest edition was a curious hodgepodge, with good articles by Brand, Naomi Klein and Noam Chomsky alongside offerings from BBC sports presenter Gary Lineker, rock squib Noel Gallagher, actors Alec Baldwin and Rupert Everett, multi-millionaire entrepreneur Martha Lane-Fox, and even Russian media oligarch, Evgeny Lebedev. This was revolution as some kind of unscripted celebrity panto mime. 
Brand's Newsnight performance, then, was an inspiring cri de coeur. But a 10-minute, impassioned, ill-formed demand for 'Change!' from a lone comedian is not a problem for the media's gatekeepers. It makes for great television, enhances the illusion that the media is open and inclusive, and can be quickly forgotten – no harm done. 
Killing Corporate Power – Humanity's Stark Choice
Brand's new book, 'Revolution,' is different – the focus is clear, specific and fiercely anti-corporate. As we will see in Part 2 of this alert, the media reaction is also different. 
Brand begins by describing the grotesque levels of modern inequality: 
'Oxfam say a bus with the eighty-five richest people in the world on it would contain more wealth than the collective assets of half the earth's population – that's three-and-a-half billion people.' (p.34) 
And: 
'The richest 1 per cent of British people have as much as the poorest 55 per cent.' (p.34) 
But even these facts do not begin to describe the full scale of the current crisis: 
'The same interests that benefit from this... need, in order to maintain it, to deplete the earth's resources so rapidly, violently and irresponsibly that our planet's ability to support human life is being threatened.' (p.36) 
For example: 
'Global warming is totally real, it has been empirically proven, and the only people who tell you it's not real are, yes, people who make money from creating the conditions that cause it. (pp.539-540)
We are therefore at a crossroads: 
'Today humanity faces a stark choice: save the planet and ditch capitalism, or save capitalism and ditch the planet.' 
'The reason the occupants of the [elite] fun bus are so draconian in their defence of the economy is that they have decided to ditch the planet.' (p.345)
And so 'we require radical action fast, and that radical action will not come from the very interests that created and benefit from things being the way they are. The one place we cannot look for change is to the occupants of the bejewelled bus.' (p.42) 
The problem, then, is that 'we live under a tyranny'. (p.550) The US, in particular, 'acts like an army that enforces the business interests of the corporations it is allied to'. (p.493) 
But this is more than just a crude, Big Brother totalitarian state: 
'A small minority cannot control an uncooperative majority, so they must be distracted, divided, tyrannised or anaesthetised into compliance...' which means 'the colonisation of consciousness by corporations'. (p.165) 
Brand notes that 70 per cent of the UK press is controlled by three companies, 90 per cent of the US press by six: 
'The people that own the means for conveying information, who decide what knowledge enters our minds, are on the fun bus.' (p.592) 
He even manages a swipe at the 'quality' liberal press: 
'Remember, the people who tell you this can't work, in government, on Fox News or MSNBC, or in op-eds in the Guardian or the Spectator, or wherever, are people with a vested interest in things staying the same.' (p.514) 
Thus, the 'political process' is a nonsense: 'voting is pointless, democracy a façade' (p.45): 'a bloke with a nice smile and an angle is swept into power after a more obviously despicable regime and then behaves more or less exactly like his predecessors'. (p.431) 
The highly debatable merit of voting aside, anyone with an ounce of awareness will accept pretty much everything Brand has to say above. Put simply, he's right – this is the current state of people, planet and politics. A catastrophic environmental collapse is very rapidly approaching with nothing substantive being done to make it better and everything being done to make it worse. 
Even if we disagree with everything else he has to say, every sane person has an interest in supporting Brand's call to action to stop this corporate genocide and biocide. A thought we might bear in mind when we subsequently turn to the corporate media reaction. 

'Wow, I'd Like To Be Him'

Even more astutely – and this is where he leaves most head-trapped leftists behind – Brand understands that progressive change is stifled by the shiny, silvery lures of corporate consumerism that hook into our desires and egos. He understands that focused awareness on the truth of our own personal experience is a key aspect of liberation from these iChains: 
'Get money. I got money, I got the stuff on the other side of the glass and it didn't work.' (p.56) 
And: 
'I have seen what fame and fortune have to offer and I know it's not the answer. That doesn't diminish these arguments, it enhances them.' (p.202) 
And: 
'We have been told that freedom is the ability to pursue petty, trivial desires when true freedom is freedom from these petty, trivial desires.' (p.66) 
In a wonderfully candid passage – unthinkable from most leftists, who write as though they were brains in jars rather than flesh-and-blood sexual beings – Brand describes seeing a paparazzi photo of himself emerging from an exclusive London nightclub at 2 a.m with a beautiful woman on each arm:  'I can still be deceived into thinking, 'Wow, I'd like to be him,' then I remember that I was him.' (p.314) 
Brand tells his millions of admirers and wannabe, girl-guzzling emulators: 
'That night with those two immaculate girls... did not feel like it looked.' (p.315) 
So how did it feel? 
'Kisses are exchanged and lips get derivatively bitten, and I am unsmitten and unforgiven, and when they leave I sit broken and longing on the chaise.' (p.316) 
The point, again: 
'This looks how it's supposed to look but it doesn't feel how it's supposed to feel.' (p.186) 
Exactly reversing the usual role of the 'celebrity' ('how I loathe the word' (p.191)) - Brand sets a demolition charge under one of the great delusions of our time: 'Fame after a while seems ordinary.' (p.189) 
Everything, after a while, seems ordinary – external, material pleasures do not deliver on their promises. 
So why are we destroying humanity and the planet for a vampiric corporate dream that enriches a tiny elite and brings alienation and dissatisfaction to all? The answer? Thought control: 
'We are living in a zoo, or more accurately a farm, our collective consciousness, our individual consciousness, has been hijacked by a power structure that needs us to remain atomised and disconnected.' (p.66) 
And:
'Incrementally indoctrinated, we have forgotten how to dream, we have forgotten who we are. We have abandoned our connection to wonder and placed our destiny in unclean hands.' (p.600)
Again leaving most 'mainstream' and leftist thought far behind, Brand urges us to liberate ourselves from the marketised dreams of future happiness 'out there' – the fame, the indulgence, the wealth – to focus on a bliss that is available here, now, inside ourselves. What is he talking about? Is this just 'mumbo-jumbo', as critics claim? Far from it, this is a truth that is subtle, elusive, but real:  'You never know when you will encounter magic. Some solitary moment in a park can suddenly burst open with a spray of pre-school children in high-vis vests, hand in hand; maybe the teacher will ask you for directions and the children will look at you curious and open, and you'll see that they are perfect.' (p.105)
Bliss is there in that tiny, fleeting instant when the mind, for once – for a moment! – stops its ceaseless chatter to make space for 'another awareness. A distinct awareness. An awareness beyond, behind and around these thoughts'. (p.82)
This is brave and truthful; in fact, it is the central message of all the world's spiritual traditions freed from their political, theistic and superstitious baggage. 
Yes, the hard-headed Chomskys and Pilgers are of course right, the world is shackled by economic and political chains. But these hook into our most personal dreams and desires. Activism often does, and perhaps more often should, arise from the ultimate inactivism of sitting silently, doing nothing, thinking nothing, realising deeply that the bliss we seek 'out there' is an imposed illusion that obstructs an authentic bliss only available, in fact, 'in here'. 
This is the crucial, perennially-ignored link between spirituality and politics, between meditation and the ability to relinquish our dependence on corporate trinkets and 'service', and it has been made by far too few people in the history of Western thought. 

If all of this wasn't enough to earn Brand support and applause, he even challenges the taboo that associates seriousness with virtue: 'people mistake solemnity for seriousness, [assuming] that by being all stern and joyless their ideas are somehow levitated'. (p.399)
And indeed leftist writers are almost universally angry, solemn and stern – seriousness is worn like a badge of sincerity by people who are supposed to abhor conformity and uniformity. Brand has the self-belief to joke and jape with childish abandon when discussing even the most serious subjects. Again, he is asserting the right to be whoever he chooses to be - an authentic, juicy human being, rather than a hard-boiled 'intellectual'. 
In the effort to escape from illusions, both political and personal, Brand throws all kinds of ideas for action at his readers. He argues for the rewriting of trade agreements to support the needs of people and planet through localised farming. He wants to cancel personal debt, for communities to use modern high tech communications to take control of politics. He wants to 'kill' particular corporations like General Motors, 'sell them off and use the money to compensate victims and former workers, or we could collectivise it and run it as a worker-based cooperative'. (p.409) He wants genuinely participatory democracy along the lines of Porto Alegre in Brazil. Energy companies need to be stopped from wrecking the climate through oil refining and fracking, and so on.
All of this is courageous for another reason. Brand writes:  'I know too with each word I type that I am building a bridge of words that leads me back to the poverty I've come from, that by decrying this inequality, I will have to relinquish the benefits that this system has given me. I'd be lying if I said that didn't frighten me.' (p.62)
If by this he means that, in writing of the need for revolution, he will lose the support of the corporate media that lifted him to a place of prominence, he certainly has a point, as we will see.

Part 2 will follow shortly...

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Royal Exchange: Little Shop of Horrows


LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS
Book and lyrics by Howard Ashman
Music by Alan Menken
Based on the film by Roger Corman with a screenplay by Charles Griffith 
Directed by Derek Bond
Designed by James Perkins 
Royal Exchange Theatre
St Ann’s Square, Manchester
Friday 5 December 2014 – Saturday 31 January 2015   

An extra two weeks of performances have been confirmed for the Royal Exchange Theatre’s Christmas production of hit musical comedy LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS. 

Huge demand for tickets at the box office now means the production will run from Friday 5 December 2014 to Saturday 31 January 2015. 

This follows the recent record breaking success of HAMLET – the company’s fastest selling show in a decade – which saw an extra week of shows added to its run.  

Fuelled by Faust and fertiliser, LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS is a charming, kooky and hilarious 1950s musical sci-fi spoof. With a book and lyrics by Howard Ashman, music by Alan Menken and based on the film by Roger Corman with a screenplay by Charles Griffith, it is one of the longest running off-Broadway shows of all time. 

The action centres on down and out florist’s assistant Seymour who becomes an overnight sensation when he discovers an exotic plant with a macabre craving. He is secretly in love with his colleague, Audrey and names the plant Audrey Two in her honour.

Audrey Two has plans that are far greater than Seymour can imagine as it grows into a bad-tempered, foul-mouthed carnivore who offers fame and fortune in exchange for feeding its growing appetite.  

The production is directed by rising star Derek Bond, whose recent credits include MICROCOSM (Soho Theatre 2014), LOST IN YONKERS (Watford Palace Theatre, 2012) and the award winning FLOYD COLLINS (Southwark Playhouse, 2012 - Time Out Critics’ Choice and Best Musical Production at the Off West End Awards in 2013).   

He said:
'Our Little Shop of Horrors will be a gory, scary, glitter and sequins treat for all the family. The Royal Exchange’s in the round theatre will be sure to provide a brilliant arena for a musical spectacular this Christmas.' 

The cast includes Kelly Price, as Audrey, whose previous Royal Exchange credits include THAT DAY WE SANG (for which she was nominated for a MTA Award) and whose other recent theatre credits include ONE MAN TWO GUVNORS (National Theatre, Theatre Royal Haymarket); COMPANY (Sheffield Crucible) and STEPPING OUT (Sailsbury Playhouse) and PERCHANCE TO DREAM (Finborough Theatre); and Gunnar Cauthery, as Seymour, who makes his first Royal Exchange appearance in this production and whose other recent theatre work includes WONDERLAND, THE EMPTY QUARTER (Hampstead Theatre); PRIVACY (Donmar Warehouse) and THIS HOUSE, THE WHITE GUARD (National Theatre). 

The cast also includes James Charlton, Ibinabo Jack, CJ Johnson, Ako Michell, Joelle Moses, Sévan Stephan, Nuno Silva and Ellena Vincent.   

The production is designed by James Perkins and the creative team is completed by Richard Howell (lighting design), Richard Brooker (sound design), Toby Olie (puppetry design and direction) and Tim Jackson (musical direction and choreography).   

LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS was originally produced by the WPA Theatre (Kyle Renick, Producing Director); originally produced at the Orpheum Theatre, New York City by the WPA Theatre, David Geffen, Cameron Mackintosh and the Shubert Organization and presented by arrangement with JOSEF WEINBERGER LMITED on behalf of MUSIC THEATRE INTERNATIONAL of New York. 

PRESS NIGHT for LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS is on Tuesday 9 December. For further information, images, or for interview / press review ticket requests, please contact JOHN GOODFELLOW (Press & Communications Manager) on 0161 615 6783 / john.goodfellow@royalexchange.co.uk   

Production photos will be available to download from Monday 8 December at www.royalexchange.co.uk/press 

Further information also available online at www.royalexchange.co.uk/littleshop   

LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS - Listings Information 

The Royal Exchange Theatre presents

LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS

Book and lyrics by Howard Ashman

Music by Alan Menken

Based on the film by Roger Corman with a screenplay by Charles Griffith

Directed by Derek Bond

Designed by James Perkins

The Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester

Friday 5 December – Saturday 31 January

Evening Performance Times:

Monday – Friday, 7.30pm; Saturday, 8pm (Friday 26 December, 8pm)

Matinee Performance Times:

Wednesdays, 2.30pm; Saturday 3.30pm (no matinee Saturday 6 December)

Extra matinees: Tuesday 23 December, 2.30pm, Friday 26 December, 3.30pm

Half Price Preview: Friday 5 December

Press Night: Tuesday 9 December, 7.30pm

Ticket Prices: Standard tickets from £15 (Concessions Available), Banquette tickets £10, Half price previews from £7.50

Audio-described Performance: Saturday 10 January, 3.30pm

BSL Interpreted Performance: Tuesday 13 January, 7.30pm

Captioned Performance: Tuesday 6 January, 7.30pm

After-show Discussion: Thursday 8 January (after 7.30pm performance)

Backstage Tour: Wednesday 10 December, 11am

Box Office: 0161 833 9833.

Monday, 10 November 2014

MP names police officer linked to secret blacklisting organisation. Police deny involvement in blacklisting workers!


John McDonnell MP has named Detective Chief Inspector Gordon Mills from the police spying unit NETCU as the senior officer who attended the illegal and secret Consulting Association blacklist meetings in 2008. The Observer newspaper are running a major story with several articles tomorrow (Sunday 9th Nov).

Blacklist Support Group have put in a complaint to the IPCC about police collusion with blacklisting of union activists via Imran Khan & Partners solicitors. The police have repeatedly denied any involvement. This is finally absolute proof and a major breakthrough for the campaign.  

BSG demand a full public inquiry - stop the cover-up 

http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2014/nov/08/police-colluded-blacklist-construction-workers-consulting-association-union-activists

--

'Scuttler's play at the Royal Exchange

The book about the Manchester Scuttlers
entitled 'The Gangs of Manchester' by
Andrew Davis, was reviewed extensively in
Northern Voices 10 by Derek Pattison.

THROUGHOUT the 1870s and beyond the streets of Openshaw, Gorton, Ancoats and Salford were terrotised by rival groups of young mill workers fighting for control.  With their belt-bottoms and floppy caps they fought with blades, fists, feet and the heavy ends of their leather belts.

Rona Munro’s tough and tender story begins one hot evening in August; the mills are constantly at work and the neighbourhood gangs are circling each other, vying for territory. Tension builds and a fight erupts that changes lives forever.

This is the thrilling story of young people navigating a life without respect; parents have let them down, homelessness is inevitable, and a sense of place and purpose can only be found on the streets. Based on real court reports, it’s timeless and timely with themes that resonate with remarkable clarity 150 years on.

Wils Wilson is an award winning Director and site-specific theatre maker. Her recent work includes Praxis Makes Perfect (National Theatre Wales); Gastronauts (Royal Court); ANON, (WNO); The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart (National Theatre of Scotland) which has been touring nationally and internationally since 2010.

Rona Munro has written extensively for stage, radio, film and television including the trilogy THE JAMES PLAYS for the National Theatre of Scotland, The National Theatre and the Edinburgh International Festival.

The play will be on at the Theatre from 5 February 2015 - 7 March 2015.

'I love the Royal Exchange because the relationship between the audience and the performers is so immediate. There’s a shared sense of making the theatre happen together - a kind of deal between the audience and the performers.'  Wils Wilson, Director