So, initially, I asked ChatGPT AI to write me a 250 word political manifesto on the benefits of cannibalism. Why not?
It came up with this answer:
I feel there is a missed opportunity there but, unfazed, I asked it to just come up with a more generic 250 word political manifesto to win a UK general election. This was the AI’s suggestion
I think this template must be the one used by all UK political parties (with some minor spelling changes) and look forward to hearing it being spouted (again) by both Conservative and Labour Parties (and possibly the Scottish National Party, Plaid Cymru and minor parties like the Liberal Democrats) at the next Local, the next General and all subsequent elections.
The B vocabulary. The B vocabulary consisted of words which had been deliberately constructed for political purposes: words, that is to say, which not only had in every case a political implication, but were intended to impose a desirable mental attitude upon the person using them.
Without a full understanding of the principles of Ingsoc it was difficult to use these words correctly. In some cases they could be translated into Oldspeak, or even into words taken from the A vocabulary, but this usually demanded a long paraphrase and always involved the loss of certain overtones. The B words were a sort of verbal shorthand, often packing whole ranges of ideas into a few syllables, and at the same time more accurate and forcible than ordinary language.
The B words were in all cases compound words. They consisted of two or more words, or portions of words, welded together in an easily pronounceable form. The resulting amalgam was always a noun-verb, and inflected according to the ordinary rules. To take a single example: the word goodthink, meaning, very roughly, ‘orthodoxy’, or, if one chose to regard it as a verb, ‘to think in an orthodox manner’. This inflected as follows: noun-verb, goodthink; past tense and past participle, goodthinked; present participle, goodthinking; adjective, goodthinkful; adverb, goodthinkwise; verbal noun, goodthinker.
The B words were not constructed on any etymological plan. The words of which they were made up could be any parts of speech, and could be placed in any order and mutilated in any way which made them easy to pronounce while indicating their derivation. In the word crimethink (thoughtcrime), for instance, the think came second, whereas in thinkpol (Thought Police) it came first, and in the latter word police had lost its second syllable.
Because of the great difficulty in securing euphony, irregular formations were commoner in the B vocabulary than in the A vocabulary. For example, the adjective forms of Minitrue, Minipax, and Miniluv were, respectively, Minitruthful, Minipeaceful, and Minilovely, simply because –trueful, –paxful, and –loveful were sliightly awkward to pronounce. In principle, however, all B words could inflect, and all inflected in exactly the same way.
Some of the B words had highly subtilized meanings, barely intelligible to anyone who had not mastered the language as a whole. Consider, for example, such a typical sentence from a Times leading article as Oldthinkers unbellyfeel Ingsoc. The shortest rendering that one could make of this in Oldspeak would be: ‘Those whose ideas were formed before the Revolution cannot have a full emotional understanding of the principles of English Socialism.’ But this is not an adequate translation.
To begin with, in order to grasp the full meaning of the Newspeak sentence quoted above, one would have to have a clear idea of what is meant by Ingsoc. And in addition, only a person thoroughly grounded in Ingsoc could appreciate the full force of the word bellyfeel, which implied a blind, enthusiastic acceptance difficult to imagine today; or of the word oldthink, which was inextricably mixed up with the idea of wickedness and decadence. But the special function of certain Newspeak words, of which oldthink was one, was not so much to express meanings as to destroy them.
These words, necessarily few in number, had had their meanings extended until they contained within themselves whole batteries of words which, as they were sufficiently covered by a single comprehensive term, could now be scrapped and forgotten. The greatest difficulty facing the compilers of the Newspeak Dictionary was not to invent new words, but, having invented them, to make sure what they meant: to make sure, that is to say, what ranges of words they cancelled by their existence.
As we have already seen in the case of the word free, words which had once borne a heretical meaning were sometimes retained for the sake of convenience, but only with the undesirable meanings purged out of them. Countless other words such as honour,justice, morality, internationalism, democracy, science, and religion had simply ceased to exist. A few blanket words covered them, and, in covering them, abolished them.
All words grouping themselves round the concepts of liberty and equality, for instance, were contained in the single word crimethink, while all words grouping themselves round the concepts of objectivity and rationalism were contained in the single word oldthink. Greater precision would have been dangerous. What was required in a Party member was an outlook similar to that of the ancient Hebrew who knew, without knowing much else, that all nations other than his own worshipped ‘false gods’. He did not need to know that these gods were called Baal, Osiris, Moloch, Ashtaroth, and the like: probably the less he knew about them the better for his orthodoxy. He knew Jehovah and the commandments of Jehovah: he knew, therefore, that all gods with other names or other attributes were false gods.
In somewhat the same way, the party member knew what constituted right conduct, and in exceedingly vague, generalized terms he knew what kinds of departure from it were possible. His sexual life, for example, was entirely regulated by the two Newspeak words sexcrime (sexual immorality) and goodsex (chastity). Sexcrime covered all sexual misdeeds whatever. It covered fornication, adultery, homosexuality, and other perversions, and, in addition, normal intercourse practised for its own sake. There was no need to enumerate them separately, since they were all equally culpable, and, in principle, all punishable by death.
In the C vocabulary, which consisted of scientific and technical words, it might be necessary to give specialized names to certain sexual aberrations, but the ordinary citizen had no need of them. He knew what was meant by goodsex — that is to say, normal intercourse between man and wife, for the sole purpose of begetting children, and without physical pleasure on the part of the woman: all else was sexcrime.
In Newspeak it was seldom possible to follow a heretical thought further than the perception that it was heretical: beyond that point the necessary words were nonexistent.
No word in the B vocabulary was ideologically neutral. A great many were euphemisms. Such words, for instance, as joycamp (forced-labour camp) or Minipax (Ministry of Peace, i.e. Ministry of War) meant almost the exact opposite of what they appeared to mean. Some words, on the other hand, displayed a frank and contemptuous understanding of the real nature of Oceanic society.
An example was prolefeed, meaning the rubbishy entertainment and spurious news which the Party handed out to the masses. Other words, again, were ambivalent, having the connotation ‘good’ when applied to the Party and ‘bad’ when applied to its enemies. But in addition there were great numbers of words which at first sight appeared to be mere abbreviations and which derived their ideological colour not from their meaning, but from their structure.
So far as it could be contrived, everything that had or might have political significance of any kind was fitted into the B vocabulary. The name of every organization, or body of people, or doctrine, or country, or institution, or public building, was invariably cut down into the familiar shape; that is, a single easily pronounced word with the smallest number of syllables that would preserve the original derivation.
In the Ministry of Truth, for example, the Records Department, in which Winston Smith worked, was called Recdep, the Fiction Department was called Ficdep, the Teleprogrammes Department was called Teledep, and so on. This was not done solely with the object of saving time. Even in the early decades of the twentieth century, telescoped words and phrases had been one of the characteristic features of political language; and it had been noticed that the tendency to use abbreviations of this kind was most marked in totalitarian countries and totalitarian organizations.
Examples were such words as Nazi, Gestapo, Comintern, Inprecorr, Agitprop. In the beginning the practice had been adopted as it were instinctively, but in Newspeak it was used with a conscious purpose. It was perceived that in thus abbreviating a name one narrowed and subtly altered its meaning, by cutting out most of the associations that would otherwise cling to it. The words Communist International, for instance, call up a composite picture of universal human brotherhood, red flags, barricades, Karl Marx, and the Paris Commune.
The word Comintern, on the other hand, suggests merely a tightly-knit organization and a well-defined body of doctrine. It refers to something almost as easily recognized, and as limited in purpose, as a chair or a table. Comintern is a word that can be uttered almost without taking thought, whereas Communist International is a phrase over which one is obliged to linger at least momentarily.
In the same way, the associations called up by a word like Minitrue are fewer and more controllable than those called up by Ministry of Truth. This accounted not only for the habit of abbreviating whenever possible, but also for the almost exaggerated care that was taken to make every word easily pronounceable.
In Newspeak, euphony outweighed every consideration other than exactitude of meaning. Regularity of grammar was always sacrificed to it when it seemed necessary. And rightly so, since what was required, above all for political purposes, was short clipped words of unmistakable meaning which could be uttered rapidly and which roused the minimum of echoes in the speaker’s mind. The words of the B vocabulary even gained in force from the fact that nearly all of them were very much alike. Almost invariably these words — goodthink, Minipax, prolefeed, sexcrime, joycamp, Ingsoc, bellyfeel, thinkpol, and countless others — were words of two or three syllables, with the stress distributed equally between the first syllable and the last.
The use of them encouraged a gabbling style of speech, at once staccato and monotonous. And this was exactly what was aimed at. The intention was to make speech, and especially speech on any subject not ideologically neutral, as nearly as possible independent of consciousness. For the purposes of everyday life it was no doubt necessary, or sometimes necessary, to reflect before speaking, but a Party member called upon to make a political or ethical judgement should be able to spray forth the correct opinions as automatically as a machine gun spraying forth bullets. His training fitted him to do this, the language gave him an almost foolproof instrument, and the texture of the words, with their harsh sound and a certain wilful ugliness which was in accord with the spirit of Ingsoc, assisted the process still further.
So did the fact of having very few words to choose from. Relative to our own, the Newspeak vocabulary was tiny, and new ways of reducing it were constantly being devised. Newspeak, indeed, differed from most all other languages in that its vocabulary grew smaller instead of larger every year. Each reduction was a gain, since the smaller the area of choice, the smaller the temptation to take thought.
Ultimately it was hoped to make articulate speech issue from the larynx without involving the higher brain centres at all. This aim was frankly admitted in the Newspeak word duckspeak, meaning ‘to quack like a duck’. Like various other words in the B vocabulary, duckspeak was ambivalent in meaning. Provided that the opinions which were quacked out were orthodox ones, it implied nothing but praise, and when the Times referred to one of the orators of the Party as a doubleplusgood duckspeaker it was paying a warm and valued compliment.
Two things had a big impact on me when I was young.
One was seeing film footage of the Nazi’s Belsen concentration camp when I was around 11 or 12.
The other big impact was reading George Orwell’s novel Nineteen Eighty-Four when I was around 14 or 15.
George Orwell died in London, on 21st January 1950 at the early age of 46.
So his works came out of copyright in the UK on 1st January 2021.
The Appendix to Nineteen Eighty-Four fascinated me almost as much the novel itself.
Here it is…
Newspeak was the official language of Oceania and had been devised to meet the ideological needs of Ingsoc, or English Socialism. In the year 1984 there was not as yet anyone who used Newspeak as his sole means of communication, either in speech or writing. The leading articles in the Times were written in it, but this was a tour de force which could only be carried out by a specialist. It was expected that Newspeak would have finally superseded Oldspeak (or Standard English, as we should call it) by about the year 2050.
Meanwhile it gained ground steadily, all Party members tending to use Newspeak words and grammatical constructions more and more in their everyday speech. The version in use in 1984, and embodied in the Ninth and Tenth Editions of the Newspeak Dictionary, was a provisional one, and contained many superfluous words and archaic formations which were due to be suppressed later. It is with the final, perfected version, as embodied in the Eleventh Edition of the Dictionary, that we are concerned here.
The purpose of Newspeak was not only to provide a medium of expression for the world-view and mental habits proper to the devotees of Ingsoc, but to make all other modes of thought impossible. It was intended that when Newspeak had been adopted once and for all and Oldspeak forgotten, a heretical thought — that is, a thought diverging from the principles of Ingsoc — should be literally unthinkable, at least so far as thought is dependent on words. Its vocabulary was so constructed as to give exact and often very subtle expression to every meaning that a Party member could properly wish to express, while excluding all other meanings and also the possibility of arriving at them by indirect methods.
This was done partly by the invention of new words, but chiefly by eliminating undesirable words and by stripping such words as remained of unorthodox meanings, and so far as possible of all secondary meanings whatever. To give a single example. The word free still existed in Newspeak, but it could only be used in such statements as ‘This dog is free from lice’ or ‘This field is free from weeds’. It could not be used in its old sense of ‘politically free’ or ‘intellectually free’ since political and intellectual freedom no longer existed even as concepts, and were therefore of necessity nameless.
Quite apart from the suppression of definitely heretical words, reduction of vocabulary was regarded as an end in itself, and no word that could be dispensed with was allowed to survive. Newspeak was designed not to extend but to diminish the range of thought, and this purpose was indirectly assisted by cutting the choice of words down to a minimum.
Newspeak was founded on the English language as we now know it, though many Newspeak sentences, even when not containing newly-created words, would be barely intelligible to an English-speaker of our own day. Newspeak words were divided into three distinct classes, known as the A vocabulary, the B vocabulary (also called compound words), and the C vocabulary. It will be simpler to discuss each class separately, but the grammatical peculiarities of the language can be dealt with in the section devoted to the A vocabulary, since the same rules held good for all three categories.
The A vocabulary. The A vocabulary consisted of the words needed for the business of everyday life — for such things as eating, drinking, working, putting on one’s clothes, going up and down stairs, riding in vehicles, gardening, cooking, and the like. It was composed almost entirely of words that we already possess words like hit, run, dog, tree, sugar, house, field — but in comparison with the present-day English vocabulary their number was extremely small, while their meanings were far more rigidly defined. All ambiguities and shades of meaning had been purged out of them.
So far as it could be achieved, a Newspeak word of this class was simply a staccato sound expressing one clearly understood concept. It would have been quite impossible to use the A vocabulary for literary purposes or for political or philosophical discussion. It was intended only to express simple, purposive thoughts, usually involving concrete objects or physical actions.
The grammar of Newspeak had two outstanding peculiarities. The first of these was an almost complete interchangeability between different parts of speech. Any word in the language (in principle this applied even to very abstract words such as if or when) could be used either as verb, noun, adjective, or adverb. Between the verb and the noun form, when they were of the same root, there was never any variation, this rule of itself involving the destruction of many archaic forms.
The word thought, for example, did not exist in Newspeak. Its place was taken by think, which did duty for both noun and verb. No etymological principle was followed here: in some cases it was the original noun that was chosen for retention, in other cases the verb. Even where a noun and verb of kindred meaning were not etymologically connected, one or other of them was frequently suppressed. There was, for example, no such word as cut, its meaning being sufficiently covered by the noun-verb knife.
Adjectives were formed by adding the suffix –ful to the noun-verb, and adverbs by adding –wise. Thus for example, speedful meant ‘rapid’ and speedwise meant ‘quickly’. Certain of our present-day adjectives, such as good, strong, big, black, soft, were retained, but their total number was very small. There was little need for them, since almost any adjectival meaning could be arrived at by adding –ful to a noun-verb. None of the now-existing adverbs was retained, except for a very few already ending in –wise: the –wise termination was invariable. The word well, for example, was replaced by goodwise.
In addition, any word — this again applied in principle to every word in the language — could be negatived by adding the affix un-, or could be strengthened by the affix plus-, or, for still greater emphasis, doubleplus-. Thus, for example, uncold meant ‘warm’, while pluscold and doublepluscold meant, respectively, ‘very cold’ and ‘superlatively cold’. It was also possible, as in present-day English, to modify the meaning of almost any word by prepositional affixes such as ante-, post-, up-, down-, etc.
By such methods it was found possible to bring about an enormous diminution of vocabulary. Given, for instance, the word good, there was no need for such a word as bad, since the required meaning was equally well — indeed, better — expressed by ungood. All that was necessary, in any case where two words formed a natural pair of opposites, was to decide which of them to suppress. Dark, for example, could be replaced by unlight, or light by undark, according to preference.
The second distinguishing mark of Newspeak grammar was its regularity. Subject to a few exceptions which are mentioned below all inflexions followed the same rules. Thus, in all verbs the preterite and the past participle were the same and ended in –ed. The preterite of steal was stealed, the preterite of think was thinked, and so on throughout the language, all such forms as swam, gave, brought, spoke, taken, etc., being abolished. All plurals were made by adding –s or –es as the case might be. The plurals of man, ox, life, were mans, oxes, lifes. Comparison of adjectives was invariably made by adding –er, –est (good, gooder, goodest), irregular forms and the more, most formation being suppressed.
The only classes of words that were still allowed to inflect irregularly were the pronouns, the relatives, the demonstrative adjectives, and the auxiliary verbs. All of these followed their ancient usage, except that whom had been scrapped as unnecessary, and the shall, should tenses had been dropped, all their uses being covered by will and would. There were also certain irregularities in word-formation arising out of the need for rapid and easy speech.
A word which was difficult to utter, or was liable to be incorrectly heard, was held to be ipso facto a bad word: occasionally therefore, for the sake of euphony, extra letters were inserted into a word or an archaic formation was retained. But this need made itself felt chiefly in connexion with the B vocabulary. Why so great an importance was attached to ease of pronunciation will be made clear later in this essay.
Yesterday was Mother’s Day in the UK and Seymour Platt wrote:
“This Mother’s Day, I am working to get my Mum the best gift I can – apardon.
“Abused as a child, Mum fled her home at 15 and, over the following years, powerful men took advantage of her. From the age of 19, she spent 18 months being stalked and frequently raped by a violent man, who eventually attacked her in the street. When the case went to trial, Mum would be jailed for perjury while her attacker would walk free.
“She lived the rest of her life branded a liar, powerless to challenge the lies that were told about her.
“My Mum is Christine Keeler and I want to set the record straight…”
I was struggling to remember a Mother’s Day with my Mum. Did I get her a card and make her breakfast? I just can’t remember.
I do remember the first cup of tea I ever made her. I was probably about six years old and had seen tea made a hundred times. I felt very grown up when she said yes and I went off to the kitchen. We used a tea strainer to make tea – it was the 1970s – add a teaspoon of tea leaves in the strainer and pour the boiling water over into the cup then add the milk and two sugars. That was how she took her tea. As it was the first cup of tea I had ever made, I wanted to make it special, so I added a pinch of salt for extra flavour.
She took a few sips and asked, “What is that strange taste?”
I told her how I had added a pinch of salt for extra flavour and she just started to laugh.
“Oh god! That’s why it tastes awful!” and she was laughing so hard, tears were rolling down her face.
It’s not a Mother’s Day story, it is a tea story and there was a lot of tea in the 1970s. At about the same time, my mother had some toilet water and, after going to the loo, I would go and find that bottle of toilet water and then pour some into the basin before flushing.
My mother asked me, “Why do I keep finding my perfume in the toilet?”
“That’s your perfume? I thought it was for the toilet.”
“You’ve been putting my perfume down the toilet?”
She was laughing again and I learned that Eau de Toilette is another name for perfume and not, in fact, toilet water.
The perfume wasn’t a Mother’s Day gift from me. In fact I don’t remember ever buying a Mother’s Day gift.
A few years later, when I was about 17, just after the film Scandal hit the screens, my mother was taken to a fancy restaurant, for an interview. When she got back it was late and she was a little bit tipsy but, always thinking of her son, she had brought me back a ‘doggy bag’, some of the food wrapped up in a napkin.
“It was delicious,” she said. “I had to save you a bit.”
At 17, I was always hungry so I was delighted – that is until she opened the napkin.
“It was some of my starter,” she said, “a beautiful steak tartare.”
If you don’t know, steak tartare is raw steak with chopped onions, all covered in a raw egg – one of the worst meals you could put to one side and save for later. After several hours in her handbag, it looked and smelled like dog food.
“Go on, have some, it’s delicious.”
The look and smell of the steak tartare made me never want to eat food again but, because Chris was a little tipsy, not wanting to eat this ‘dog food’ wrapped in a napkin was insulting to her. She had gone to all the trouble to bring me back a little doggy bag. She told me, “I had to get the journalist to distract the waiter while I put the napkin in my bag.”
She told me I was ungrateful for not eating the food: “If you’re not going to eat it, then I will!” and off she went to get a fork.
After one bite, she said, “Don’t eat that, it’s gone off, yuk!” and she ran off to spit it out. We laughed so hard she started coughing that deep smoker’s cough.
The fancy restaurant meal that night wasn’t a Mother’s Day treat from me.
It seems every day more people are stepping forward and offering to help with the campaign to get her pardoned posthumously, which is wonderful; and any help is gratefully accepted.
I am finding myself getting a little nervous now and thinking what would happen if her pardon is rejected or why it could be rejected. I guess these are all understandable fears, but I also realise it’s because the story of getting my mother a pardon is not just my story. In fact it hasn’t been for a while, as more and more people get involved, more people become invested.
I sometimes sense the same nervousness in the people around me, the people who are working on this so hard to get her pardoned. I’m sure that is a good thing because sometimes being nervous reminds us when things are important.
On Mother’s Day, we do something in recognition of the women who brought us into the world and this week I wanted to tell you stories about my mother that could equally have been stories about any mother, stories that show a mother’s love.
If you are lucky enough to be with your mother today, why don’t you tell her that you love her and maybe make her a cup of tea? But don’t put any salt in the tea, it makes it taste yuk.
I met a traveller from an antique land Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand, Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown, And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command, Tell that its sculptor well those passions read Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things, The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed: And on the pedestal these words appear: ‘My name is Ozymandias, king of kings: Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!’ Nothing beside remains. Round the decay Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare. The lone and level sands stretch far away.
In the chat, I mention the Zircon satellite, which is incorrect. I think the satellite I should have mentioned was probably an ECHELON one.
I also mention the Pakistan Ambassador in Pyongyang and I think I mean the Indian Ambassador. It was a long time ago and I have a legendarily shit memory.
Anyway, we got through comedy, North Korea, Donald Trump, politics, dictators, propaganda, the US electoral system, the media and the Edinburgh Fringe, all in 45 minutes of fun, frivolity and totalitarian talk.
After viewing it, Sandra Smith – comedy industry uber-fan and observer of such details – commented: “Very active head action while speaking to the President.” She listed…
14 ear touches
I wish she hadn’t mentioned all those. I’m a bit touchy…
Posted slightly belatedly, this is the last of these Weekly Diary blogs and proof – if proof were needed – that 42 is not the answer to everything…
SUNDAY 1st NOVEMBER
Since I was hospitalised in May, I normally wake up with a bone dry mouth 8-12 times a night and have to drink water. Last night, although I had hiccups and heartburn shortly after going to bed, I slept through and only woke up once with a dry mouth at around 0600.
Are the Chinese pills I started taking last week having an effect?
MONDAY 2nd NOVEMBER
Something fishy in the US – President Donald Trump
It is the US Presidential Election tomorrow.
In the meantime, Dutch comedy judge and linguist Louisette Stodel sent me a fishy picture of salmon-faced Donald Trump with the message “Lox him up!”
I am much less of a linguist and had to look it up to find out Lox is Yiddish (and North American) for Salmon.
Also today, in the Netherlands, a metro train on raised tracks in Spijkenisse, near Rotterdam, crashed through a barrier at the end of the tracks and did not plummet 32ft onto the water and footpath below but ended up delicately balanced atop a giant polyester sculpture of a whale’s tail.
A ‘fluke’ accident in Holland and one whale of a tale of a tail
Apparently whales’ tails are known as ‘flukes’. Reuters and some excitable UK newspapers reported that, coincidentally, the sculpture’s name was ‘Saved By a Whale’s Tail’. But Dutch sources said it had the rather more mundane title ‘Whales’ Tails’.
What are the odds of a ‘fluke’ accident like this happening? Quite high according to a Fortean Times article I read years ago.
The odds of you being killed by a pig falling on your specific head this year make it massively improbable. The likelihood that someone somewhere in the world this year will be killed by a pig falling on his or her head is quite high.
The most improbable coincidences and unlikely/impossible events happen every every day.
TUESDAY 3rd NOVEMBER
Borat Subsequent Moviefilm: Delivery of Prodigious Bribe to American Regime for Make Benefit Once Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan. A sequel to Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan.
As if to prove this, my eternally un-named friend and I settled down to watch the second Borat movie on Amazon Prime today.
I had seen the first film; she had not. So I helpfully explained that the people in the film were (mostly) ‘real’ people, not actors, as it is not necessarily obvious.
I had been slightly uneasy with the opening scenes of the first film when I saw it. They were set in Kazakhstan and were basically about laughing at people who were poor. I was surprised roughly the same thing happened at the start of the second movie.
But I was able to tell my eternally-un-named friend that, in my opinion, the first movie – which I had seen and she had not – had been better because the scenes were longer and the only bits which really worked in this second one were the sequences with some drunken students and a Christian meeting.
Bizarrely, when we got to the end, the much-reported sequence with Rudy Guliani being put in an allegedly compromising situation with Borat’s (fake) sister – and some separate much-commented-upon sequences with a babysitter – were not in the movie shown on Amazon Prime.
It took a bit of online Googling to see how and why these scenes were missing.
It turned out we had been watching the first movie not the second one and I had remembered not a single second of it.
My memory has never been of the best.
WEDNESDAY 4th NOVEMBER
President Vladimir Putin – a highly successful fisher of men
The US Presidential Election was yesterday. Today, no result.
Well it looks like, whoever gets most votes, Vladimir Putin has won… Either way he wins. Trump re-elected or America divided. All this and a thriving door-handle business. Putin is on a roll.
I got a letter from the NHS saying I am seeing the Calcium Consultant on 27th November.
THURSDAY 5th NOVEMBER
The first day of the second COVID lockdown in England.
The US Election still undecided.
Who knows what the outcome of either will be?
…Agatha Christie kept me guessing beyond the last page…
It reminded me of when, as a teenager, I bought a paperback copy of Agatha Christie’s whodunnit Murder on the Orient Express at the WH Smith bookshop in Ilford.
I got to the end of the book only to discover that someone had torn out the last couple of pages, so I did not know who dunnit.
Smith’s did not have another copy so ordered one for me.
It arrived about two months later, by which time I had forgotten the details of the characters and clues.
I never did know who dunnit until a film was made of it, produced by Lord Brabourne, who was later blown up with Lord Mountbatten by the Provisional IRA, in a boat in Ireland.
Oh what a tangled web life is.
FRIDAY 6th NOVEMBER
Phishing (Photo: Bermix Studio via Unsplash)
In the morning, my landline rang: a rare thing, as most calls are on my mobile phone.
The caller claimed that the insulation in my loft had been found to be dangerous and to cause mould and they would sort it out for free.
He said they were a government advisory group. When I asked twice who financed them, he hung up.
I don’t know what the scam was but, after the pitch, he only got as far as “Can I confirm you are the homeowner…” before it ended.
It makes a change from the normal scam/phishing line: ”I understand you had a car accident in the last six months that wasn’t your fault…”
SATURDAY 7th NOVEMBER
I woke up with a bone dry mouth about ten times last night and had to drink water.
Are the Chinese pills I am taking having an effect?
Clearly not yet.
It’s been that sort of day/year/life, really
The US Election has been called for Joe Biden but Donald Trump has refused to accept the result, claiming with no evidence that there has been voter fraud.
This is perfectly normal in the new world led by social media where, if you say anything, however fanciful, it becomes a fact.
In the afternoon, I received an email headed: demur we had around kinda placement for emergency pecuniary resource 8767178744116284
The message, in a reality beyond the fictional world of Borat, read:
Don’t expend all along you acquire, save and put at least, 10%-20%. This too bad is one after another of the commonsensible principles of personal finance. It is canonic wisdom non compos mentis to pass altogether your wage but to bring through approximately of it for the rainy twenty-four hour period. Unitary of the things you would discover if you scan the record book, “Rich Dad, Poor Dad”, is that rich people spare/place maiden and then pass the left while skint mass pass firstly and then write the odd fellow (if on that point is anything left). I am likewise really shamefaced of this. I sometimes incur myself doing fronting the compensate thing to do, and boast away my every week income on a weekend.
That is one hell of a piece of translation software the scammers are using.
The scammers have been scammed.
Fiction, fantasy and reality have merged.
The world has been spiralling increasingly out of control.
She is named after Titania, queen of the fairies in Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Andrew has said “it’s quite appropriate that she is named after the queen of the fairies” because “the people who promote this hyper inclusive culture are fantasists… all of this ‘woke culture’ is an utter fantasy world”.
Andrew Doyle and Titania McGrath – No Left or Right.
JOHN: So Titania McGrath is “an intersectional warrior queen”. I am a simple soul who can’t keep up. What does “intersectional” mean?
ANDREW: Intersectionality is a branch of Feminism that originated last century with a woman called Kimberlé Crenshaw who is a legal scholar.
There was a dispute in court between General Motors and some black female employees… General Motors’ defence in court was “We are not racist, because we can point to our black male employees. And, look, we’re not sexist because we’ve got all these white women employees.”
But, of course, black women fell through the gap.
So Kimberlé Crenshaw created this analogy of being in the middle of an intersection – a crossroads – where you can be hit by the traffic from more than one direction – in terms of race AND in terms of gender. So a black woman can be subject to racism AND sexism whereas a white woman is only subject to sexism not racism.
As a visual image and an analogy, it is very helpful. But it has now morphed into this kind of religion – a theoretical religion that effectively ends up pitting minority groups against each other – and formulating a kind of hierarchy of grievance.
And that’s not helpful for anyone.
When I talk about intersectionality, I’m talking about the current manifestation of it, not how it was originally intended.
JOHN: Is it another word for ‘woke’?
Andrew/TitaniaMcGrath’s 2019 book
ANDREW: The evolution of Woke is really interesting. In the various Black Civil Rights struggles of the 20th century, it had a very positive meaning which was simply to be alert to injustice, especially racialism. Then it was hijacked around 2010/2011 by certain types of very intolerant, illiberal, totalitarian type of Social Justice activists and it started to mean ALL of their causes: LGBT, women, trans, everything… and opposition to freedom of speech.
So to be ‘Woke’ became something completely different.
Then, what happened was that people like me started taking the piss out of the word Woke and I (as Titania McGrath) wrote a book Woke: A Guide to Social Justice and, through Jonathan Pie, we did a live tour where there was a whole section on Woke. So you had people ridiculing Woke.
And then the next evolution was when Guardian columnists and people on the Left who had always used the word to describe themselves started pretending they never had. They did this weird revisionist thing. They started saying “Woke is just a Right Wing fantasy. It’s a word that Right Wing people and conservatives have invented to mock Social Justice and to mock Equality.”
Afua Hirsch wrote a Guardian piece saying the word Woke is only used by Right Wing people. I remember replying on Twitter with some screenshots of lots of Guardian articles where they used Woke to describe themselves.
But because Woke has been ridiculed so much, they have moved away from the word and now what you are left with is just people on the Right and conservatives who use the word as a slur.
In a sense, that’s why the new Titania book doesn’t mention Woke in the title – It’s about ‘Intersectional Activism’.
JOHN: The Contents page of the book is very interesting. It’s very rare to see Torquemada and Nelson Mandela next to Hillary Clinton and Joseph Stalin.
ANDREW: The whole point of the book is that Titania is going through the Woke icons of history: all the people she respects. Not just the obvious Woke people – like Sam Smith, Brie Larson, Greta Thunberg – alongside historical figures like Emeline Pankhurst and Joseph Stalin.
I find it incredible when Leftists do these very contorted leaps of logic in order to try to justify Stalinism.
She also has Mary Whitehouse in there because I believe the Woke movement is the obvious intellectual heir to Mary Whitehouse in terms of their belief that popular culture needs to be censored otherwise the masses will be corrupted. It’s an identical view.
Torquemada, right-on trail-blazer of Cancel Culture?
Torquemada also makes sense, because he would burn heretics at the stake if they had the wrong ideas about the world. That is Cancel Culture. He is the pre-cursor to Cancel Culture. In particular, the Inquisition targeted scientists and people who were trying to make points that didn’t ally with their world view. Nowadays, of course, activists are trying to ‘de-colonise’ science because they believe science is a Western patriarchal, heterosexist construction and the phrase they use is “New ways of knowing”.
We talk about this ‘Post Truth’ Society. If you think about the way Donald Trump will deny something he said last week, when anyone can just go to YouTube and SEE and HEAR that he said it… It’s incredible. And that is exactly what is happening among the Leftist Identitarians.
A few weeks ago, CNN did a report from Kenosha, Wisconsin, saying “These are largely peaceful protests” and, in the background were burning buildings and burning cars.
JOHN: You identify as Left Wing…
ANDREW: I don’t identify as anything, really. Objectively speaking, a lot of my views particularly when it comes to the economy and the Welfare State are on the Left. I suppose I have more culturally conservative ideas about education and the Arts, but then so did George Orwell and no-one accused him of being a rabid Right Winger.
There are some good ideas on the Left, some good ideas on the Right. As long as you’re not enslaved to an ideology, you’ll be able to recognise them. If you ARE enslaved to an ideology, then you are not thinking for yourself. You’re taking your cues from an existing set of rules and I don’t trust that.
JOHN: I blame the French for Left and Right and making it seem like it’s about opposites. I always think of it as a circle.
ANDREW: A lot of my friends on the Left see the Woke movement as a bourgeois luxury. It’s no longer about Left and Right. That argument is obsolete. But people are stuck in this mindset of what Left and Right used to mean about 40 or 50 years ago.
Titania’s latest book… Coming next year will be Andrew’s own Culture War book
JOHN: Why did you stop co-writing Jonathan Pie? An argument?
ANDREW: No. I did it for three years. I don’t believe in doing things for too long. I don’t anticipate Titania McGrath going on for much longer. If it does, it’ll have to develop into something else.
JOHN: So what next that will be intellectually stimulating for you?
ANDREW: Well, at the moment, I’m writing a book about the Culture War. It will be out in Spring 2021. That’s a non-fiction book and it’s my big focus at the moment. Trying to encapsulate what I’ve been writing about for the last five years, really. But where we are now and where we go from here.
Andrew Doyle is an interesting and controversial writer/performer.
He’s a stand-up comic in his own right. He co-wrote the Jonathan Pie character for three years. He currently writes political columns for Spiked internet magazine et al. And he writes and Tweets as the character Titania McGrath.
Until the coronavirus struck down live comedy, he also co-ran monthly Comedy Unleashed shows in London’s East End. They were billed as “The Home of Free-Thinking Comedy”.
For the last three nights, Comedy Unleashed has returned to the Backyard Comedy Club in Bethnal Green. They were restricted under COVID rules to only having one-third of the venue’s capacity audience, so they ran a show on two consecutive nights. Both shows sold out well in advance – within a day of tickets being on sale – and they added a third night.
I had seen the non-existent Titania McGrath (played by actress Alice Marshall) perform at Comedy Unleashed last year. A live tour was planned for March this year but, because of COVID, it has now been postponed until next March. Coronavirus allowing.
This is the first of a two-part blog…
JOHN: So My First Little Book of Intersectional Activism says its target audience is six month old to six-year-old females… They are going to have trouble reading it.
ANDREW: It points out in the opening chapter that Titania doesn’t believe in talking down to children. So she will use words like “intersectional” because she thinks here is an innate wisdom in childhood, which is why she’s such a great fan of Greta Thunberg. She says that, when she was a baby, her first words were: “Seize the means of production”. She believes babies have this innate politicised wisdom.
Of course, what it means is that kids can’t read the book. Although a copy was sent to a friend of mine recently and her husband assumed, from the design of the book, that it was for their 4-year-old daughter and gave it to her. She was delighted.
But then her mother had to explain to her that it wasn’t for her and, of course, it’s full of swearing, so… It’s marketed to look like a children’s book. It has all the accoutrements of children’s literature. But I hope in a way kids don’t get hold of it.
JOHN: Might bookshops put it on the wrong shelves?
“I thought they were in on the joke…”
ANDREW: A couple of weeks ago, an American bookstore posted a display of all their favourite books about diversity and inclusion and Titania McGrath’s first book Woke: A Guide to Social Justice was there, next to Ibram X. Kendi and Robin DiAngelo and all the rest of them. At first, I thought they were in on the joke. But no. When they found out it was a satirical book, they took the Tweet down and presumably the display down and also took the book off their website so you can’t even buy it from that bookstore any more. They were obviously very angry about it
JOHN: One of the drawbacks of very sophisticated satire is that people may actually take it for real.
ANDREW: Even today, some people think Titania is real. There are all sorts of people out there who haven’t heard of her, which is great: the joke can keep going. I like getting into arguments as her with people who don’t know.
JOHN: You like getting into arguments generally?
ANDREW: Actually, I don’t, because I’m a very non-confrontational person. It’s something I avoid as much as possible in my life. But, through Titania, I’m not getting into an argument. I’m enacting a character. So that’s fine.
JOHN: Does that mean Jonathan Pie and Titania McGrath are ways to be aggressive and argumentative without putting yourself personally under pressure?
ANDREW: I suppose you’re really asking does that explain my attraction to the satirical genre? But I don’t think it does. I don’t think I’m looking for an outlet to be confrontational. It’s just a corollary of satire; you can’t avoid it.
When you’re writing satire you are exposing what you perceive to be the follies of Society and, by doing so, you’re bound to make enemies – particularly because you tend to be having a go at people with some sort of cultural or political power.
I don’t think satire can exist without offending people. Unfortunately, it’s a by-product of what I do, but that does not equate to having a confrontational personality. I go out of my way to avoid conflict in real life.
JOHN: Your work isn’t a way of getting something out of your system?
ANDREW: Probably my stand-up does that more. Because you get to embody a version of yourself that doesn’t exist. Often I can exaggerate my worst features. My onstage persona is a lot more waspish and – yes – more confrontational. Maybe – possibly – that’s me enacting the type of person I wish I could be.
JOHN: How does Alice Marshall cope with this? She must get hassle for saying things as Titania McGrath that she didn’t write and maybe doesn’t believe.
ANDREW: I spoke to Alice about this a couple of days ago and what was interesting was that she told me she did NOT get any hassle. I get a lot of abuse online but I think she doesn’t because people recognise she’s an actor.
JOHN: Is what Titania says going to change anybody’s opinions?
ANDREW: It depends what you mean. I had one woman who claimed I had effectively de-radicalised her. That kind of thing is very gratifying.
Satire does believe it can make a difference, otherwise you wouldn’t do it. But does it make a difference or just annoy people more? That has always been a conflict in my head.
When I get emails from people thanking me for standing up to this current creeping authoritarianism, that’s really gratifying and a good way to offset the anger that Titania generates.
JOHN: If you can’t change people’s minds, would you be just as happy simply annoying people?
ANDREW: No. I DO try to change people’s minds. That’s why I write political articles and articles about culture. I’m not doing that just to get it off my chest. More than anything, I’m interested in discussion and persuading people of my view – and also refining my own view.
By putting my argument out there in the most persuasive way I can, people will come back at me with counter-arguments that either refine what I believe or make me realise where I’ve gone wrong. And that is a really positive thing.
The late Michael Dickinson, circa 2014, as he appeared in the Camden New Journal this week…
Yesterday, I picked up a copy of the Camden New Journaland was sad to read about the death of Michael Dickinson.
You’ve never heard of him? Neither had I until May last year, when I was in Camden Town and saw a man walking backwards. Not just for a couple of seconds or a minute. He walked backwards the whole time.
I posted two videos of him on YouTube. This was the first:
Obviously, I looked him up online and found out he had been doing this for years and was former actor Michael Dickinson.
He had been born in either Durham or Yorkshire, depending on which legend you believe, and he studied at the Manchester School of Theatre from 1969 alongside future actors Julie Walters and Richard Griffiths.
Michael Dickinson (right) with Simon Callow in Passing By – Gay Sweatshop production at the Almost Free Theatre, 1975.
In the 1970s, he became an actor himself. In 1975, he kissed Simon Callow in Passing By, a ‘groundbreaking’ two-man show about a gay romance.
Rather miscast as Jesus in another play, he eventually mostly gave up acting and took up collage art.
In 1982, he held an exhibition in Primrose Hill and a review in esteemed local paper the Hampstead & Highgate Express (the Ham & High), said he was “wickedly adept at exposing the two-faced tendencies and follies of our leaders”.
In an interview in the Camden New Journalon 25th May 2017,he claimed that he could no longer walk forwards and had self-diagnosed his condition as ‘retropulsion’.
He said: “It could be psychological, or I heard somebody say it could be a disease, but I don’t feel unwell apart from that. If I didn’t feel this retropulsion I would much prefer to be walking forwards. When it first started happening it was bewildering, to say the least.
“Occasionally people in cars blow horns at me, which is dangerous because I turn to look at them rather than where I’m going.
“I don’t really want to see a doctor, I feel they’ll just put me on some sort of medication and I would rather not be. I can deal with it and there is no law against it. I’m careful that I had never hurt anybody, although I did hurt myself the other day when I tripped over a branch as I walked through the woods.”
From the mid-1980s for almost three decades – before he started walking backwards – he had lived in Turkey, working as a teacher and artist, sometimes telling fortunes to pay his rent.
…with one of his less insulting Turkish collages in 2014… (Photograph by Polly Hancock for the Ham & High)
He somewhat annoyed the Turkish authorities in 2006 by creating a collage which depicted leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan as a dog receiving a rosette from American President George W. Bush in a pet show. The resultant court case stretched over four years.
In 2008, he was prosecuted for insulting Erdogan by creating the collage. He was initially cleared, but the verdict was overturned in 2010 and then, after shouting a political slogan at police in a separate incident in 2013, he was deported.
Back in London between the two incidents, in 2011, he was arrested in Parliament Square (where he was living in a tent) after shouting “No more war!” during a Remembrance Day silence. He was charged with a public order offence, but the case was eventually dropped.
Permanently in London after his deportation from Turkey, he slept in the streets around Camden Town. While living in a cardboard box next to the Sainsbury’s supermarket there, some people who were squatting in the former police station in Hampstead met him at a soup kitchen and invited him to join their squat.
While there, he ate food discarded by shops and cafés and chucked-away in recycling bins. He made some money by telling fortunes on the street.
It was possibly not too rough an existence as it was a Grade II listed building and they had a wide-screen television set.
He was very grateful to the squatters.
He told the Ham & High: “I would still be in that box were it not for them.”
Squatters are evicted from the former Hampstead police station in 2014 with their belongings, including wide screen TV
Eventually, on the afternoon of 2nd May 2014, the police evicted the squatters in the former Hampstead police station and he took to sleeping in a tent in a Hampstead cementery, though he eventually ended up in a legitimate Highgate flat by 2017.
When and why exactly did he start to walk backwards?
Leonie Scott-Matthews of Pentameters Theatre in Hampstead told the Camden New Journal this week: “I remember when he started walking backwards. He was in a play here; he got off the stage and just started walking backwards. It was just after he had got back from Turkey.”
His friend Charles Thomson says: “It was clearly symbolic I felt. He enjoyed being in Turkey and he couldn’t go back. He was walking backwards when I last saw him.”
His friend Kay Bayliss added: “He emailed me around Christmas saying he was having phlegm problems that persisted. He was still suffering this when he emailed me on April 11 and now had serious-sounding gut problems… Michael had a very interesting life. At school all the girls loved him. He was so good looking and very complimentary even in more recent times.”
Michael Dickinson died “from peritonitis resulting from a gut obstruction”, in his Highgate bedsit, aged 70, on 2nd July 2020.