Announcing Discordia

Laura Watts at the Chicago #noNATO protests, May 2012, by Molly Crabapple.

Discordia is coming!

We’ve been waiting to announce this for a while. On the 4th of July, the splendid Ms Molly Crabapple and I are going to Greece to do some reporting, meeting up with activists and community organisers on the ground in Athens and elsewhere. Molly is an artist who lives in a loft full of birdcages opposite Zucotti Park; I’m a journalist who lives out of a large red backpack on Molly’s floor. We met during Occupy Wall Street and have spent the past several months experimenting with making things happen together – when I went to cover the protests in Chicago and Montreal this summer, I took pictures on my phone and sent them to Molly, who created art from them. Discordia, however, is the first trip where both of us will be there on the ground. She will make pictures, I will make words, we will try very hard not to get arrested or deported, and all shall be marvellous. Discordia is an experimental art-and-journalism project, taking the Hunter Thompson-Ralph Steadman macho model and twisting it to our own ends, and it’ll be published as an ebook in the Autumn.

Putting this project together has been interesting from the start, as I assumed we’d be staying on the floor of a squat and Molly assumed we’d be in some sort of bougie hotel with taps that actually work, and the process of gradual compromise began there, as did my exhortations that Ms Crabapple wear shoes that are at least vaguely sensible. Right now we’re learning rudimentary Greek, pestering contacts and reading a great deal, and whatever happens while we’re there, we hope to produce something really innovative and worthwhile. Stay tuned!

This is what happens when you stay up all night on quick-turnaround double deadline and find yourself in a cafe at 10am glomming the free wireless, unable to nap. I promised the internet I’d upload this video if it donated $100 to Abortion Support UK, which it did. They’re an amazing organisation doing vital work and you can donate more here.

Auctioning off state violence: G4S and the global security industry.

G4S, the colossal British private security firm with half a million muscular hands for hire around the globe and this seemingly entirely unironic theme-tune, are to provide over 10,000 security guards for the London Olympics. I wrote a little bit about the company and the implications of what they do for this week’s column at The Independent:

“What difference does it make if the men and women in uniform patrolling the world’s streets and prison corridors are employed by nation states or private firms? It makes every difference. A for-profit company is not subject to the same processes of accountability and investigation as an army or police force which is meant, at least in theory, to serve the public. Impartial legality is still worth something as an assumed role of the state – and the notion of a private, for-profit police and security force poisons the very idea.

The state still has a legal monopoly on violence, but it is now prepared to auction that monopoly to anyone with a turnover of billions and a jolly branding strategy. The colossal surveillance and security operation turning London into a temporary fortress this summer is chilling enough without the knowledge that state powers are being outsourced to a company whose theme tune features the line: “The enemy prowls, wanting to attack, but we’re on to the wall, we’ve got your back.”….”  More at The Independent 

A note on praxis: this piece was commissioned after an original research-backed pitch at what, in New York City, was 1.30am, for a 5am hand-in, following a full day’s work. I leapt at the chance to cover this topic even though I was godawfully tired. There’s a lot more to look at as far as G4S is concerned – I hope this offers a useful jumping-off point for some more digging…

Lie back and think of England

The Jubilee is upon us. All hail the Hypnoqueen, who has certainly been alive for a very long time now. I don’t usually do links posts, but here’s a little topical no-not-that-sort-of-republican reading and viewing for you all before you head off to spend the double bank-holiday dressing your children as tiny proto-monarchist drone-puppets and eating undercooked sausages in the name of the Union. 

A great deal of very clever people have dedicated whole careers to explaining why the British Monarchy is a ghastly anachronism in any nation with the smallest bit of pretention towards democracy, which, last time I checked, we were still claiming to be. Entire books have been written on the subject of the need for an elected and accountable head of state. All of those arguments are mere footnotes, however, to this video, from 2minutes. In which Prince Charles. Is breakdancing.

Right. When you’ve wiped the blood out of your eyes and resigned yourself to never having sex ever again, read The Royal Rorschach Blot, by Glen Newey at the London Review of Books, is a short, sharp, glorious confection of bombast and bile – pretentious republicanism done precisely right:

“Memories of Christmas days past are shaded by the regina monologues, the queen’s mogadonnish 3 p.m. telly broadcasts, like a séance at which the medium herself had passed to the other side. One yearned for her to crack a joke or cuss or come out as lesbian, but nothing interesting ever happened, and after years the realisation dawned that the boringness was the point… it’s the very bugger-allness of the queen, her Rorschach-blot quality, that has proven her great strength… as Nietzsche put it, when you stare into the abyss, the abyss stares back into you.”

Yay Woo Yay the Queen Woo Yay, at the Mash

” WOO, the Queen yay woo, according to lots of people.” When the Daily Mash is good, it’s really good.

Nationalism is Sexy, by Zoe Stavri 

A collection of patriotic, jubilee-themed sex toys. Milady Stavvers has done it again. I love her because she shows me dirty, disturbing things on the internet and then makes me think about them. Remember, Capitalism did this, so it’s not our fault.

“Perhaps the guiltiest party in this is Ann Summers, who are still falling over themselves to be the worst sex shop in the observable universe. In their flagship Soho store, posters proudly proclaim they are celebrating “60 YEARS OF GIRLS ON TOP”–a tragic misunderstanding of the difference between The Queen and queening…. Their limited edition Jubilee vibrator, incidentally, looks like this. I’m glad we’ve cleared up the matter of what the Queen carries in that mysterious clutch of hers, then.”

AND FINALLY, Here’s something I wrote last year for the New Statesman about Buns, Bunting and retro-imperialism. Most of it holds as true for the Jubilee as it did for That Fucking Wedding:

“Street parties in the capital will be distributing T-shirts printed with the omnipresent “Keep Calm and Carry On” design, the “ironic” wartime propaganda poster that now infests the chinaware of the middle classes, reminding us that fortitude in the face of government-imposed austerity is just like fortitude in the face of Nazi invasion. 

Twee aesthetic nostalgia for a fantasy of “lost Britishness” has reached fever pitch. A part of the Daily Mail offices is wallpapered with images of bulldogs, telephone boxes and, yes, spitfires, done out in patriotic red, white and blue. Consumers are exhorted to buy dairy products on which, according to the advertisers, “Empires were Built”…

That’s it. Now go and enjoy the sunshine.