“If you watch the chart of gold every day, at around 8.00am UK time, gold drops by about 3% or 4% – almost every single day at the exact same time.
“You do this repeatedly for a number of weeks. You bank your $100 million in profit. You pay back the loan to JP Morgan or Goldman Sachs. And you walk away. There’s nothing hard about it.”
“Unless,” I suggested, “it moves in the other direction.”
Today’s gold prices. The graph has the same drop at the same time each day
“Well,” said Max, “since they’re all colluding together and they do it together and there’s no law against it – or, if there is any law against it they don’t enforce the law – the risk is almost zero. Every day traders working together – colluding – slam the price of gold for a quick profit using money they borrow at 0% interest – all gains are 100% cost free – and since the government bails out any losing positions, these gains are also risk free.
“This is a well-documented occurrence in the gold and silver markets that many have tried to get regulators to stop – but it’s too profitable for the insiders who have control of the regulators.”
Price of gold drops on another day
“What’s that name you have for bankers?” I asked. “It’s not wankers, it’s…”
“Terrorists?” suggested Max.
“Banksters,” I remembered. “Banksters – a combination of bankers and gangsters.”
“I mean, a lot of people don’t think Hezbollah is a terrorist organisation but according to Israel, according to the EU, according to the British administration, Hezbollah are terrorists and (a major British bank) just said Yeah, we do launder money for them. We will pay a little fine. That makes (a major British bank) financial terrorists. There’s no equivocation here. There’s no hyperbole. They are financial terrorists and they have no way to counter-argue what I just stated. If there was, they would.”
“Well, they would probably sue me for libel,” I said.
“But I get an American exception,” Max told me. “Under the Speech Act of 2010, no British person can sue me for libel. Any libel suit against me where you’re seeking damages would have to go through and comply with American free speech law. You’d have to persuade an American court I was violating free speech according to American law.”
“You can say I fuck sheep and I can’t sue you?” I asked.
“I can say you fuck sheep all day long,” said Max. “You can sue me in the UK, but you’d have to go to America and prove the libel to get at my American assets.”
As I write this, comedian Frankie Boyle is still in the High Court. He is suing the Daily Mirror for libel after they called him a “racist”. His barrister says it is perfectly OK to call him “vile” but not a racist.
His barrister told the jury that, during his Channel 4 Tramadol Nights show, Frankie had told a joke which contained the word ‘nigger’. The thrust of his argument was that racist words do not necessarily mean racist thoughts. Frankie Boyle, his barrister said, was attacking racists in the joke. Context is everything.
Almost a fortnight ago, I wrote a blog headed InDefence of rape jokesthough, in fact, it said that I do not like rape jokes, as I have known and worked with three women who were raped as children and, by and large, the people who tell rape jokes are bad comedians going for a cheap (shock) laugh.
I wrote: “Trying to ban rape jokes is like trying to put sticking plaster over a symptom to hide an unsightly abscess, not cure the problem. It is the wrong target. The aim, surely, should be trying to stop audiences laughing at rape jokes.”
My So It Goes blog was picked up and reprinted a week later by the Huffington Post (though dated by them as 4th October).
In response to that Huffington Post piece, I got this e-mail from the people at ‘Rape Is No Joke’ (whom I had not named):
Dear John Flemming, (sic)
I am writing to correct a number of inaccuracies in your article ‘In Defence of Rape Jokes’ regarding our campaign ‘Rape Is No Joke’.
We are not advocating a ban on rape jokes and we do not believe a ban on something will fundamentally tackle an issue.
We are not calling for the subject of rape to become a taboo that is never mentioned in comedy. We are against jokes that trivialise the issue and the victim (which the vast majority of jokes about rape do).
Our pledge is asking comedians and venues to voluntarily sign up to say they won’t tell rape jokes or have them told in their venues as part of our campaign.
Our aim is to educate and tackle the, increasingly common, attitude that rape is something to be laughed at.
Obviously comedy isn’t the biggest offence facing women. However, comedy doesn’t exist in a bubble, it often reflects and has an effect on attitudes in wider society. Rape jokes add to the culture of dismissal and trivialising of rape that exists all too often in wider society. Whilst 80,000 women in the UK are raped every year, only 15% of them report it. Many of the other 85% are scared they won’t be believed or taken seriously. We want to start to tackle that culture. And we want to be able to enjoy comedy without misogyny.
We would be grateful if you could edit your article accordingly and remove the claims we want to ‘ban’ rape jokes.
Now, far be it from me to criticise well-intentioned people, but this e-mail says: “We are not advocating a ban on rape jokes… Our pledge is asking comedians and venues to voluntarily sign up to say they won’t tell rape jokes or have them told in their venues”
If that ain’t advocating a ban on rape jokes, then daffodils are fish.
Good intentions. Bad idea.
The problem with banning any joke about anything is that who defines what the subject or the object of a joke is? No rape jokes would, presumably mean no jokes – or sarcastic comments – about some of the late Jimmy Savile’s appalling activities. And, as I said in my original blog, where does it end? If rape jokes are banned then, surely, you must also ban jokes about murder. And, if you ban jokes about certain subjects told live on stage then, logically, you have to ban those same jokes on television and ban them in books, magazines and newspapers. Pretty soon, you will be trying to avoid people reading unacceptable comments previously expressed by burning books.
Today, comedian Rowan Atkinson is in the papers attacking the Public Order Act and “the creeping culture of censoriousness” and the “new intolerance”.
Rowan Atkinson attacks – in the Daily Mail today
According to today’s Daily Mail – not a publication known for criticising the police – a 16-year-old boy was recently arrested under the Public Order Act for peacefully holding up a placard reading ‘Scientology is a dangerous cult’, on the grounds that it might insult Scientologists.
In 2005, the Daily Mail points out, an Oxford University student was arrested for saying to a policeman: “Excuse me, do you realise your horse is gay?” Thames Valley police said he had made “homophobic comments that were deemed offensive to people passing by”. And a 16-year-old from Newcastle who growled and said “Woof!” to a labrador within earshot of police was prosecuted and fined £200 (later over-turned on appeal).
If the policing of public morality is happening at this unimportant level to this ludicrousness, then how much more oppressive would be the policing of any ban on more serious things – like jokes about rape?
Frankie Boyle’s barrister has been saying in court that the comedian has been called “racist” for telling jokes which were actively aimed against racists.
“In none of the examples I have seen is Boyle using the words in a context other than to highlight other’s racism. If he is racist for just using the word, then anyone saying, ‘saying the word Paki is racist‘ is racist. So presumably everyone involved in the court case can now be called racist.”
Rowan Atkinson said yesterday: ‘The clear problem of the outlawing of insult is that too many things can be interpreted as such. Criticism, ridicule, sarcasm… can be interpreted as insult.”
The same can be said of jokes about rape. In my original blog, I linked to a superb piece of comedy by Janey Godley in which she referred to the fact that she herself was repeatedly raped as a child. This could, very clearly, be labelled a ‘rape joke’ though, in fact, it is not in any way making a joke of rape.
Banning any jokes about anything is a bad idea. Trying to get comedy club owners to ban comedians who (they believe) tell or have told or may tell ‘rape jokes’ is not just a bad idea, it is actively dangerous. Where does the censorship end?
Freedom of speech includes the right to be offensive.
The road to totalitarianism – to a police state – is partially paved with the good intentions of well-meaning people.
Nik Coppin did not let Australia go to his head except in hats
Back in March, I blogged about a bizarre happening in Adelaide.
British comedian Nik Coppin was a guest on Peter Goers’ radio show on state broadcaster ABC. He was in the studio with Peter Goers.
Nik (who is half English and half West Indian) said he had chosen to support the EssendonAustralian rules football team because the team (who play in black and red) were once nicknamed ‘the Blood-Stained Niggers’ and now have more aboriginal players and fans than any other AFL team.
Goers told him he was a racist and to “Get the fuck out of my studio!”
A few days later, in a list of things to see and things to avoid printed in Rupert Murdoch’s Sunday Mail newspaper in Australia, Peter Goers gave Nik Coppin “Minus Four Stars” as a “racist Fringe comedian”.
Nik took legal advice.
Last weekend, the Sunday Mail printed this in Peter Goers’ column:
Apology appeared in Australia’s Sunday Mail at the weekend
APOLOGY: On Sunday, March 4, in my column’s “What’s Not” section I referred to comedian Nik Coppin as “painfully unfunny racist Fringe comedian at the Austral Hotel: Minus four stars”. I acknowledge that my comments were false and made without foundation. In fact, I had not seen his show at the time I wrote my comments. I have no reason to believe that Nik Coppin is a racist or that his Fringe show contained racist material. I withdraw those comments without reservation and apologise for any hurt or embarrassment caused.
Yesterday, Nik told me what had happened.
This is what he said:
Nik Coppin explains what happened….
The process involved in obtaining an apology and reparation for libellous and harmful comments printed in a newspaper is a very interesting one. In the eyes of the law, that which you feel would be perfectly reasonable to assume isn’t and that which you presume wouldn’t be, is.
The legal eagles certainly have a bewildering way of dealing with things.
A few people that I know and work with questioned whether it was worth it and warned that it could get very stressful, depending on how far I was willing to push it.
There is very little that I take too seriously, if I am honest. I mean, we’re all entertainers after all, right? Let’s just laugh it off and get some good ol’ fashioned PR out of it. But there surely must come a time in everybody’s existence on this here planet when you have to take a more solemn view of things and in some situations say to oneself, “Enough is enough”. You have to stand up and fight for what you believe is right.
In life, the press and certainly the world of comedy, all too often people take offence because they refuse to listen properly or shut off when they hear certain things said. This appears to be a natural reaction to things you might not want to hear, or that which touches a nerve, but it does not excuse what Mr Goers did and the Sunday Mail allowed to happen.
In my opinion, it was a vengeful and spiteful thing to do. Something you really would not expect from one of his years.
But, as laughable and nonsensical as this situation was, I had to take a more serious stance than to merely laugh off the bizarre and farcical comments. A half black man being accused of racism in possibly the most racist westernised country on the planet? My God, how ludicrous!
I should add, however, that I do not believe that Australians are racist. Well, not all of them anyway. I love visiting the place, doing the festivals, seeing the wildlife, having the banter and all the other delightful things that go along with being in such a beautiful country. But I think we all know that there are issues that need to be dealt with over there. The We’re too laid back to be racist or hate Aboriginals defence just isn’t good enough.
The amount of times I have heard white Australians say things like: “We give them money and offer them jobs, but they’re just lazy and want to get pissed all the time”.
Well, that says all you need to know about certain sentiments in a land where the indigenous population were slaughtered by the thousands and had their land, dignity, children and whatever else stolen from them.
I think any race that has suffered that and had their rights and entire way of life stripped away, has earned the right to ‘laze around’ and drink a few bevies if they choose to, don’t you?
I am not suggesting that they should attempt to ‘give back’ the country. Australia is predominately a white country but, in my opinion and many others, is black land. So those in privileged positions in Australia should be a bit more understanding and helpful in the future and support the Aboriginal as much as they can.
I mean, let’s face it, if you look at the table from the London 2012 Olympics and who won many of those medals for the UK and the US of A, maybe you could do a lot worse than support your black population, Australia. Then in a few years time maybe we Brits won’t be laughing at what little precious metal you took back ‘home’.
The thing about such a situation, though, is that – for one who earns his living as a comedian – the possibilities are many. I was considering writing a show about race and maybe religious issues and this story can underpin the whole thing.
So, while it was confusing, angering and frustrating having what I can only consider a foolish, arrogant Adelaidian ‘celebrity’ full of his own self-importance doing a childish, vindictive thing like calling me a “painfully unfunny racist” in a popular newspaper without even seeing my show or listening to me or doing his research properly… Was it worth it going through with the fight and standing up for what you believe in, in the face of a form of oppression?
And, to those who doubted whether it was the right thing to do, I say to you…
As it is again that time of year when performers – especially comics – start thinking about arranging shows at the Edinburgh Fringe, last week I sent the same piece (with figures updated) to the UK edition of the Huffington Post, which occasionally prints pieces by me and which did not exist until summer last year.
Lazy of me, I know, but the advice is still relevant and, I think, helpful and true.
Imagine my bemusement when my piece appeared under the headline:
“Mmmm… That’s interesting,” I thought. “I wonder why they have cut two out?”
It did not matter particularly, but it bemused me.
The missing questions and answers were:
4. DOES MY VENUE’S STAFF KNOW WHAT THEY ARE DOING?
No. Trust me. No.
Most only arrived a week ago, some are Australian and the ones who are not have little experience of anything outside their friends’ kitchens. They probably had no sleep last night and are certainly only at the Fringe to drink, take drugs and, with luck, get laid by well-proportioned members of the opposite sex. Or, in some cases, the same sex.
Trust me. With help and advice, they could organise a piss-up at the Fringe but not in a brewery.
7. IT’S MY FIRST EDINBURGH. WILL I GET FINANCIALLY SCREWED BY UNSCRUPULOUS PEOPLE?
I have not asked the Huffington Post why they chopped these two questions and answers out. It would seem churlish. And I suspect it may prove counter-productive to even mention it here. But I reckon it’s worth a blog.
I suspect it might have been an attempt to avoid a potential libel problem misunderstood by a Huffington Post sub-editor who thought that there is a single venue-organising company which, I claimed, is incompetent.
I did not because there is not.
There is a common misunderstanding by people who have never performed there that the Edinburgh Fringe is actually organised. It is not.
It is an open festival. You, I or Fred Bloggs and his performing caterpillars can perform there under the banner of the “Edinburgh Fringe” if we feel like it. There is no quality or quantity control.
“The Edinburgh Fringe” is what people call it and there an Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society which plays a central role. But, basically, they print the Programme for the event and publicise the event in general. They do not organise the shows or the venues in any way.
If you pay to have your show listed with 40 words in the Fringe’s printed Programme and 100 words online, then (provided there is nothing illegal in the wording) details of the show and its performances will appear and you are performing “in the Fringe”. And there is a central box office system, although many venues also run their own box offices.
The Fringe Office will advise and help to an extent, but you are on your own as a performer. You have to find a venue, probably pay for the venue, arrange posters, flyers, publicity and all the rest yourself.
That is one of the joys of the Edinburgh Fringe.
No central body actually ‘organises’ it in any way.
Last year, the Fringe had 21,192 performers appearing in 2,542 shows (41,689 performances) at 258 venues with 855 registered journalists reviewing/reporting on them, 974 ‘arts industry professionals’ (TV scouts, agents, producers, bookers etc) and an estimated 1,877,119 people attended Fringe shows during the three-and-a-bit weeks of the festival. The non-profit-taking Fringe Society itself had an income of £3,161,601 last year to organise the generalities. Someone somehow calculated that, in 2010, the Fringe event pumped £142 million into Edinburgh’s economy.
But it is anarchy.
In the best sense of the word.
The Edinburgh Fringe is full of opportunities, dreams, nightmares, testosterone, adrenaline, drink, drugs, out-of-control egos, showbiz shysters and con men (and women). It is full of people out to make their reputations, to make a buck out of performers and to shaft each other in all meanings of the phrase. To repeat one of my answers which the Huffington Post cut out… and it ain’t libel, it’s life… it’s a fact, indeed a racing certainty…
7. IT’S MY FIRST EDINBURGH. WILL I GET FINANCIALLY SCREWED BY UNSCRUPULOUS PEOPLE?
And to repeat one of my answers which they did run:
A scriptwriter for a very well-known comedian told me this week that one of his jokes was recently rejected for inclusion in an ITV programme not because it was not good enough, not because the producer did not like it, but because it was a joke about a celebrity (a rock star, as it happens) who is on an ITV list of people who are considered too litigious to make jokes about.
Whether this is true or not, I cannot guarantee. But the producer showed the list to the scriptwriter.
“I am not even supposed to tell you it exists, let alone show it to you,” the producer said.
I’m sadly old enough (just) to remember the satirical magazine Private Eye starting up. At the time, I was not a vast fan. It seemed to me a bit too much like privileged public schoolboys biting the Establishment hand that paid their fees. But it has been admirably bitey over the years, publishing what other publications would not dare to print.
If it was not always part of the Establishment, it is now.
According to Ingrams, Private Eye struck lucky early on because, just one year after it started publication, the Profumo Scandal broke: ideal fodder for the new satirical magazine.
The people at Private Eye knew absolutely nothing at all about the details of the scandal or what had happened but, again, they struck lucky by encountering Claud Cockburn, a writer who did know all about it, had copious contacts in very high places and who edited a special Profumo edition of Private Eye for them.
Once people think you know everything, then they will tell you almost anything: a great bonus if you are in the market for printing secrets or, at least unknown facts.
The Profumo Scandal eventually brought down Harold Macmillan’s Conservative Party government… although, yesterday, Richard Ingrams claimed Macmillan had actually resigned “by mistake” because he thought he had terminal cancer and, when it turned out he did not, he was more than a little angry.
Private Eye was also the first publication to name notorious London gangsters the Kray Brothers after the Sunday Mirror had published an article linking the Krays with showbiz peer Lord Bob Boothby; the Sunday Mirror had not named Boothby (who had also been having a long-term affair with Prime Minister Harold Macmillan’s wife).
But, while Richard Ingrams was away on holiday, comedian and Private Eye owner Peter Cook edited the magazine and he named the Krays, then perhaps wisely left the country. With Ingrams still on holiday, the next issue’s guest editor had to take all the flak – pundit Malcolm Muggeridge.
Also involved with the Krays was Labour MP (and rumoured Soviet spy) Tom Driberg who liked a ‘bit of rough’ and one of whose criminal boyfriends stole from Driberg’s flat a newly-written draft of The Times’ obituary of Harold Wilson, the then very-much-alive British Prime Minister. He sold it to Private Eye for £10.
Shortly afterwards, Richard Ingrams was at No 10 Downing Street and asked Wilson: “Would you like to see what your obituary in The Times will say?”
Wilson apparently responded: “They never liked me.”
Private Eye, established by public schoolboys, was now part of the Establishment to such an extent that the Queen’s sister Princess Margaret would phone up their Grovel columnist Nigel Dempster with unflattering tales of Princess Diana, knowing they would be published.
People thought the Eye had gone too far when they printed items about Jeremy Thorpe, leader of the Liberal Party, trying to have ex-lover Norman Scott killed… until Thorpe was arrested and tried for attempted murder and conspiracy to murder. (He was controversially found not guilty.)
And then, of course, there were the legendary and seemingly endless writs for libel.
Corrupt newspaper publisher Robert Maxwell’s last writ, just two weeks before he ‘fell off his boat’, was about an ‘outrageous’ libel the Eye had printed about him dipping his fingers into his companies’ pension funds. Which proved to be true.
And the most famous series of writs, of course, was the James Goldsmith case which backfired. The day after Lord Lucan accidentally murdered his nanny thinking that it was his wife, his influential chums at the Claremont Club in Mayfair got together to talk about how they could best help the missing peer, who had done the proverbial runner. Private Eye published a story that millionaire financier, publisher and political wannabe James Goldsmith was at this meeting although it later turned out he had, in fact, not been present – he took part by telephone.
Goldsmith was supposedly outraged that the Eye printed he had been present at this meeting and had therefore attempted to pervert the course of justice and he went ahead with a two-pronged attack – suing Private Eye for the very obscure charge of criminal libel which could have seen Ingrams imprisoned and the Eye financially ruined… and threatening criminal libel cases against the magazine’s distributors and retail shops which sold it (like WH Smith) in a successful attempt to damage Private Eye’s circulation and sales.
As I understand it (not something mentioned by Richard Ingrams yesterday) this strategy backfired on Goldsmith because his Establishment chums held rather unsavoury grudges against him: he was felt to be ‘not one of us’ firstly because he was French-born and secondly because he was Jewish. It was felt he was an outsider who “did not understand” British culture because, although suing Private Eye for simple civil libel was acceptable and part of a game the Establishment and the Eye played, trying to destroy the magazine was ‘not on’.
And that is still the case.
Private Eye is a valuable self-regulatory asset within the Establishment to keep members of the Establishment from straying too far from generally accepted behaviour. People can stray into corruption within reason but not within plain sight. If they do, they are fair game for the well-connected Eye.
Yesterday, Richard Ingrams told a story about Stephen Ward, the osteopath who was at the very heart of the Profumo Scandal, coming round to, in effect, ask Private Eye how much they knew.
Stephen Ward was, said Ingrams, trying to keep things under control and still believed at this point that the Establishment would stand by him and protect him.
Instead, of course, he was thrown to the lions at the Old Bailey and committed suicide on the last day of his trial on the highly dubious charges of procuring prostitutes and living off immoral earnings.
Private Eye occasionally tries its best to shine a light on a naughty world but one torch is of limited use in infinity.
In yesterday’s blog, I mentioned actor Rutger Hauer’s famous death speech in Blade Runner and someone complained on my Facebook page that, in fact, I should have credited the film’s writers – the screenplay was written by Hampton Fancher and David Peoples, based on Philip K. Dick’s novel Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep?
In fact, it’s almost inconceivable but true that Rutger Hauer actually made up the speech off the top of his head. I saw a TV interview with the film’s director, Ridley Scott, where he said Rutger just went over in a corner and came back with the speech in its entirety:
“I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I’ve watched c-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhäuser Gate. All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain. Time to die.”
It wasn’t in the script; it wasn’t in the book; the director didn’t write it; the actor made it up.
But the guy who complained about my crediting the actor not the writer is quite right in general. People tend to overlook who actually creates movies: the writers. Without them, zilch. A director may be brilliant – for example, David Fincher with Fight Club and The Social Network – but the 1950s French-spawned cult of the director is just as stupid as any other piece of intellectualising about movie-making.
It never fails to amaze me what pseudo-intellectual bullshit some so-called critics spout about the movies. When you create an academic subject, it seems that reality goes out the window and, rather than look at the movies, some people just look up their own arses
Last night, I went to a special screening of Lindsay Anderson’s 1968 movie If…. introduced by Sir Alan Parker. He had chosen If…. as the movie which had most influenced him, despite the fact that its director Lindsay Anderson didn’t much like him and had once (with John Schlesinger) sued him in the courts for defamation of character over a cartoon he had drawn.
In fact, it seemed, Alan Parker had mostly chosen If…. because he greatly admired its director of photography Miroslav Ondricek, not its director.
A lot of film criticism is utter twaddle written from the bizarre ivory towers of academia. I can never get over the stupidity of film courses which claim that the ideal movie is Casablanca and therefore, by extension, people should follow the example of Casablanca when writing a film script.
Casablanca was a terrible mess of movie production. The truth is that the actors – along with everyone else on the movie – had no idea what was going to happen at the end and had no idea if the Ingrid Bergman character was going to go off with Humphrey Bogart or Paul Henreid in the final scene, so could not tailor their performances accordingly.
Virtually each night, after completing a hard day’s shooting, they were given new script pages and script rewrites for the next day’s shooting. Neither the director not the producer and especially not the writers (credited as Julius J. Epstein, Philip G. Epstein and Howard Koch with an uncredited Casey Robinson, based on the play Everybody Comes to Rick’s by Murray Burnett and Joan Alison) – nobody – had any idea what was going on.
So the ideal way to shoot a movie would be (in this ludicrous theory) to start shooting with no finished script and actors who have no idea what their characters think or feel.
Much has been written about the fact that If…. has some sequences in colour and some in black & white. I had heard this was because they had run out of money and (surprisingly in 1968) it was cheaper to shoot in black & white.
Alan Parker said last night that he had heard the interiors of the church were shot in black & white because shooting in colour would have required much more lighting and, as a relatively low-budget film, they could not afford that, so Miroslav Ondricek shot with faster black & white film. The rest of the black & white sequences appeared to be simply random and done on a whim.
As for the auteur theory that the director creates and controls everything, at the summit of this must be Stanley Kubrick, who was a legendary control freak. There are stories of him going to suburban cinemas with a light meter and taking readings off the screen so he would know the intensity of light with which his films had to be screened for optimum viewing by ordinary audiences.
He insisted on take after take after take of scenes – sometimes 50 times for one shot – so that the lighting, framing, acting et al were perfect.
But, last night, Alan Parker said the star of A Clockwork Orange, Malcolm McDowell, had told him that, when cast in the lead role of Alex, he wasn’t sure how to play the part and had asked Lindsay Anderson for advice. Anderson told McDowell to remember the slight smile he had put on his face as the character Mick Travis when entering the gym for the beating sequence in If…. and to play the character of Alex like that throughout A Clockwork Orange. McDowell said it was the best piece of direction he had ever received.
The auteur theory?
Academic film critics?
They might as well get a colonoscopy and stick the camera up their arse.