Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Adventures In The Stream Trade. Part 1.

Hello. Our TV broke down last night. By coincidence here’s the first in a four part series of posts where I review things that can be found online. If that doesn’t sound appealing then, well, I don’t know what to say. Sucks to be you I guess.

A couple of weeks ago I posted an article on this ‘ere internet-ma-doodle about conspiracy theories. The premise was a simple one. I was going to attempt to make my fortune by positioning myself as a spiritual guru, enabling crazy people to send me tons of cash and allowing me to fulfil my life long goals of owning a top hat made of gold and training a Tapir to make me sandwiches. Using David Icke as my template I made up uncovered a startling truth about the rulers of the Earth being birds instead of humans and how they were hell bent on keeping us oppressed by feeding virgins to werewolves and manipulating world events to meet their feathery needs.

Anyway I did what I always do when putting together stuff for this blog. I drank a cup of tea, bashed it out on a keyboard, agonised over it for about twenty minutes, drank another cup of tea, thought “f*** it, that will do”, and clicked “submit”, before heading off to bounce my daughter on my knee and silently curse the makers of pre-school television (Gee Note: Like the bastards behind “Something Special” for example, which if you aren’t aware of it involves a clown called Mr. Tumble who has the IQ of a dead marmoset. No really. Yesterday he spent twenty minutes trying to work out if a book should sit on a shelf or go in the fridge. TWENTY MINUTES. By the end I was ready to attack the TV with a knife). And after that I didn’t think all that much about it.

Until about three days after it was posted that is. I was catching up with my email, trawling through my inbox and deleting several items with titles such as “Gr0w Y0ur Pen1s 5ize” (Gee Note: You know what bothers me about those? How do they know I… er… I mean why do they assume I have a small penis. I could be hung like a horse over here and have absolutely no need for their product. I mean I’m not obviously, but I could be. Really, I would write them a stern reply pointing out their presumptuous behaviour if they weren’t offering me 20% off), when I stumbled across something completely unexpected. An email addressed to me sent from someone I didn’t know with the words “David Icke – I Saw Elvis In The Woods” in the subject line.

“Wow”, I thought to myself. “Fan mail. Actual legitimate fan mail. Normally I have to beg my friends to read this thing. Not even The Future Ex-Mrs. Davies will do it unless I promise to take the bins out. And yet this person here has not only read it, but taken the time and effort to compose their thoughts about how much they enjoyed it and sent me a lovely message to let me know. Awesome. I should send them something as a thank you. A cupcake perhaps? Yes, that’s it. I’ll get their address and send them a cupcake”. I’ll admit as I double-clicked on the envelope I felt a bit giddy.

Here’s what the email said:

Dear Dickhead.

How DARE you call David Icke a snakeoil salesmen! Icke is a truth seeker and a hero. Something you obviusly ARE NOT! I bet you’ve never even read one of his books or been to a lecture. While you sit there in your smug glass palace throwing stones Icke is telling the REAL TRUTH! You are so wrong that I would say that you are part of the Illuminati itself. An attempt to put us off the scent and TRICK us. But I don’t think the illuminati would waste there time with an idiot like YOU!

Shit. And I spent ten minutes looking up cupcake recipes for nothing.

The tirade didn’t end there dear reader. Oh my word no. On and on it went. And on. And on. And on again. In the end I was called an “idiot” seven times – three times in CAPS - Icke was labelled a genius three times, a hero twice, and the grand finale was a long winded rant that questioned my parentage using the words “backwads” and “gulible”.

After recovering from the shock of discovering that David Icke not only has passionate followers but also that they have no idea how to use a spell check, I was in two minds about whether to reply or not. After humming and haaaing about if for a while I decided against it. Partly because I tend to avoid confrontation like Wesley Snipes avoids the IRS. And partly because deep down I know they’re right. I am an idiot (Gee Note: No joke, earlier on today I nearly destroyed my kitchen by accidentally putting a Pringles tube in to the blender). Not just that but I’ve also never been to one of David Icke’s lectures. Sure I’ve read a couple of his books. And I watched the documentary “David Icke: Was he right?” that aired on Channel 5 a couple of years ago. But when it comes to stumping up my hard earned cash to see Davey strut his stuff live on stage, I must admit I’ve been sorely lacking.

Oh. If only there was a way I could see one of David Icke’s shows without having to pay £139 for the privilege (Gee Note: Which is how much the remaining tickets for his performance at Wembley Arena will set you back. £139. Now, unless he has live dinosaurs juggling fire, it’s pretty hard to justify spending that amount of money to watch a middle aged man howling at the moon for three hours straight).

Well thanks to the Netflix, there is. Having launched their UK service back in January, the on-demand internet streaming company has initially struggled with content. Britain it turns out is a mine field when it comes to who has the rights to show what and where. And so while on the American version of Netflix you can watch all 3 seasons of the awesome British supernatural drama Being Human, here in Blighty itself you have to make do with The Little House. Now I have no idea what The Little House is about but I highly doubt it features ghouls and ghosts kicking several bells of shit out of each other. In that respect Netflix UK is a bit of a lame duck.

But it does have one hidden treasure. Yes siree folks. Lock up your children and put your pets to bed. Because dagnammit if Netflix isn’t home to a little ditty known as David Icke: Live at the Oxford Union Debating Society.

It all kicks off reasonably enough. Diamond Dave introduces the show with a brief history of Oxford University, which he claims is “a major Illuminati centre” where students are groomed in to becoming mini-overlords of the Earth so that those currently in charge can kick back and spend more time in the Alps. He then launches in to a story about former President of the Oxford Union Debating Society Sir Ted Heath, of which Icke says “The last time I looked in to Ted Heath’s eyes, as I talk about in my books, they turned jet black and I had a very very strange experience with him” (Gee Note: By “strange experience” do you just mean the eye stuff? Or did you end up back at his place with a hose pipe and a bearded lady with three fingers on her right hand?).

Sadly in those initial five minutes, we encounter problems that dog the rest of the broadcast. Firstly despite claiming at one point during his talk that his theories are “Not something I’m trying to sell you”, Icke is constantly plugging his books. In fact in a two hour period David uses a variant of the phrase “I cover this in more detail in my books” at least eight times (Gee Note: I’m told that’s once every 15 minutes. The reason I’m told this is because I’m a grown man and I still have to use my fingers if I want add or subtract something without the aid of a calculator. Still who needs maths when you’re as pretty as I am?). Secondly, and more importantly, what we have here is a theme that dominates the whole proceeding - all style and no substance. Take the mini-overlord grooming, for example. Having made such a grand statement, one would think that it would be natural to follow it up with an example or two of how such a thing would be accomplished. Do these evil forces tie these na├»ve clever clogs to chairs and brainwash them using mind bending videos? Do they slip reality altering drugs in to their organic couscous? Do they take them in to a dark room somewhere and say “Listen Daddio. World’s, like, all ruled by us and shit. You want in?”? Alas Icke never elaborates on this, or anything else for that matter.

Instead what follows is a two hour snooze fest only occasionally brightened by David Icke unintentionally channelling the spirit of David Brent. During his speech he constantly quotes honest-to-God great thinkers like Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jnr, Oscar Wilde, and even comedy legend Bill Hicks. Hell he even closes his statement with Hicks’ amazing “It’s just a ride” routine. The difference of course being that while Hicks was appealing for unity and love the world over, Icke has twisted it in to a call to arms against those “oppressing” us. And then there’s George Orwell. Orwell gets the biggest props of the night, as the term “Orwellian State” is used over and over. Speed cameras – That’s the Orwellian State that is. CCTV – Another example of the Orwellian State we live in. Having to provide a proof of address in order to rent a DVD – Big ass Orwellian State up in here.

But it’s not just quotes from famous folks taken out of context. There are also funny pictures with captions to be had. We have one of a sheep watching Fox News. Geddit?!?! (Gee Note: Not really. Do sheep vote Republican?). Then there’s the one of an elephant sitting on a sofa between two people that signifies… wait for it… the elephant in the room. And then there’s the one with a picture of Hitler and George W. Bush with the text “Same Shit. Different Asshole”. Which is pretty edgy stuff I think you’ll agree. Thankfully the good folk of Oxford seem to be well aware of Godwin’s Law and aren’t swayed by the idea that the 43rd US President is responsible for the death of six million Jews.

By the time that sexy beast rolls around we’re about 45 minutes in, and the wheels have completely fallen off Icke’s wagon. It’s not that David isn’t a good orator you understand. He’s passionate, articulate, and has obviously honed his craft over the years. But his content is as weak as Happy Shopper lemon squash. He’s forever talking about taking a step back and “seeing the bigger picture” but he never explains what that picture is. It has something to do with the Illuminati, I know that much. And that the planet is being manipulated by an “unbelievably few” people so that they can form a one world government and rule us all with an iron fist. But as to who these people are and what motivates them to go to all that trouble in the first place, I haven’t the foggiest. Are they doing it for kicks? Because they like playing God? Or is it just a global prank by tricksters looking to sell the footage to an intergalactic version of MTV? I don’t know. And the sad thing is, I’m not sure Icke does either. At one point Davey even exclaims “The Illuminati… and often they don’t give themselves a name. You try researching an organisation without a name. It’s not easy. But Illuminati is one they do use” (Gee Note: I just Googled “Illuminati” and there’s over 42 million results for it. For a secret society who want to stay under the radar that’s got to be disappointing. They should have gone with something else. Like The Larussos. Or The Zeperrinos. Goggle those and you either get results for the Karate Kid or the mugshot of some guy who got busted for drunk driving. Either way, no one would suspect a thing).

This might go some way to explaining why he’s so fuzzy on the details. After all if you can’t research something then discovering hard facts about the subject must be a pretty tough task. (Gee Note: You know, like driving blindfolded. Or spending ten minutes with Chris Brown without giving in to the urge to set yourself on fire as a form of sweet relief). Possibly because of the alarming lack of solid evidence, the former Captain Turquoise seems desperate to hammer home the few things he can prove. At one point he wails almost in delight about Prescott Bush, father of George H. W. Bush and grandfather of George W. Bush, funding Hitler. Icke claims people had called him mad when he said that Bush the Elder had secretly given financial aid to the Nazi Party, only for Government documents to rock up in the early 2000’s and prove him right. “See?” he says “It’s all connected. Same shit. Different asshole”. Except that the truth is a little less explosive. Prescott Bush was one of seven directors of the Union Banking Corporation, which was controlled by the Thyssen family, a set of wealthy German nationals. The leader of the pack was Fritz Thyssen who certainly did give money to the Nazi party before 1938. After 1938 however Fritz began to think that Hitler might actually be an unstable lunatic rather than a sound politician and started to speak out against the Nazis. Until he got arrested and locked up that is. Now whether Prescott Bush was aware of any of this is, at best, debatable. What he certainly didn’t do was send blank cheques to Germany PO BOX 1 made out to Mr. A. Hitler as Icke would have you believe. Really the worst Bush can be accused of is doing business with someone who might have been a casual racist. And considering you could probably say the same for anyone who has bought fruit and veg from a white man in East London in the last fifty years, it’s not exactly a damning indictment.

Yet even with “facts” on his side, the big fish just seem to keep on escaping David’s net. When he announces rather grandly that he’s “going to start talking about 9/11 now” an uncomfortable tension seeps across the Oxford Union. But it turns out they need not have worried. You see while there’s no question in David’s mind that 9/11 was an “inside job”, the problem is he obviously has absolutely no idea how to prove it. And so he goes with a picture of a scarf found in the wreckage alleged to have come from one of the passengers that day. “Look at that! The scarf! How could that have fallen 1500ft? It’s not even dirty”. Which is a good point. An even better point however is WHAT ABOUT THE TWO PLANES SLAMMING IN TO THE F***ING SIDE OF A SKY SCRAPER??? And even when Icke gets it right he gets it wrong, such as the part where he discusses the possibility of Osama Bin Laden being CIA trained. David treats this as if it’s a big secret that he and he alone has unearthed, which seeing as it was being reported by the BBC all the way back in 2001 makes him look just a little bit silly.

And that, I guess, is the overall story of David Icke: Live At The Oxford Union Debating Society. Despite his best efforts, all Icke brings to the dance are half-truths and controversial opinions presented as if they are facts. By the time he gets to the real wacky stuff, such as the CIA stapling a colostomy bag filled with highly addictive drugs to one of their operatives chests to keep them loyal, or that the universe is a giant hologram and the only thing that really exists is the human mind, it all seems rather pitiful. Largely because the audience, having been thoroughly bored to tears, honestly could not care a jot. (Gee Note: No really. You can clearly see several of them yawning and stretching their arms out. There are even some of them who leave halfway through for a “loo” break and never return. Not to mention the guy sitting at the back who, I swear to the various Greek Gods, seems to be entertaining himself by drawing cartoon versions of male genitalia). You could have told them you keep the head of Walt Disney in your freezer and only bring it out to use as a sex toy and they wouldn’t have given a monkey’s uncle at that point. For the ones who turned up to mock him, David Icke the loon simply wasn’t bonkers enough. For the ones who came to support him, David Icke the profit wasn’t profound enough. Instead he was just kind of there for two hours.

Still they did manage to find one person who enjoyed the show, a young chap who attended the event and was given a talking head segment after the dust had settled. Said he “He’s preaching quite a positive message especially espousing the infinite consciousness and the fulfilment of potential before it’s constricted by societal constructs. You can juxtapose that with the quite negative images portrayed in mass market media and choose your own way, as he says.” (Gee Note: Ooooh somebody got a dictionary for Christmas. Me? I got a DVD boxset of Count Duckula. Maybe that’s why I never went to Oxford?). Mind, the guy saying this is also wearing a t-shirt with Icke’s face on it, so he’s clearly a goofball. A well-spoken goofball sure. But a goofball none the less. Outside of him, the interviews with audience members are mixed at best, with such statements as “I think people were open to hearing what he said. I don’t in any sense think they took on board and followed what he said literally” and “People shouldn’t necessarily come to the conclusions he has, I certainly haven’t.”. And these, bear in mind, were probably the least critical voices the production crew could find.

Still it’s only fair that we give the last word to David Icke himself. Early on in the proceedings while explaining the public backlash against him in the early 90’s, Icke muses that “If I am seen as sane by a world this crazy, I’m disappointed”. Which is fine I suppose.

The problem is though David, on this evidence the world doesn’t see you as crazy. Just boring.

David Icke: Live At The Oxford Union Debating Society can be found on Netflix. Also on there is The Princess Bride. If you have two hours spare, choose the latter option. You’ll thank me for it later.

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Here endeth the lesson.

No matter how hard I try I simply cannot muster a single ounce of sympathy for The Sun newspaper.

Last week, in what associate editor Trevor Kavanagh described as a "Witch Hunt", five of The Sun's journalists were arrested in connection with alleged corrupt payments to police officers (Gee Note: In order to get "scoopz" I guess. I highly doubt they were offering coppers cash for a neck massage or something). Coming off the back of the recent phone hacking scandal that saw the demise of their sister paper the News Of The Screws World, with fresh revelations arriving daily from the on-going Leveson inquiry in to media ethics (Gee Note: Which has seen witness statements for celebs such as Charlotte Church and Steve Coogan, all of whom have agreed that News International is home to a bunch of sociopathic scumbags), these arrests couldn't come at a worse time. True to form however, rather than hold their hands up and admit that they probably shouldn't have been doing something illegal in the first place, an article penned by the aforementioned Mr. Kavanagh instead criticised the police for… er… doing their jobs rather than receiving large unmarked brown envelopes and keeping quiet about it.

But then The Sun has always had a borderline personality disorder when it comes to those who cross them. Take the case of Chris Bryant MP. In 2003 Bryant was tasked with questioning then Sun editor and Rupert Murdoch acolyte Rebekah Brooks as part of the Culture, Media, and Sport Select Committee. During the interview he asked her if while under her stewardship either the Sun or the News Of The World had been involved in various improper acts. Brooks replied that "We have paid for police for information in the past" and had to have her bacon saved by colleague Andy Coulson who maintained that these payments were made lawfully. The Sun's response to the embarrassing faux pas? Fire Rebekah Brooks perhaps? Issue a memo banning all employees from saying stupid things in public? Call up some lawyers on the off chance that someone might take the idea of illegally paying police officers for information seriously? Well it was none of those things. Instead a series of articles were published mocking Chris Bryant, including one where the openly gay politician was shown posing in his underwear on a dating website. In that respect The Sun is a bit like the mafia. You don't mess with them, and should you be foolish enough to do so then they will come back at you tenfold. (Gee Note: It's just like Sean Connery said in The Untouchables. "They pull a knife, you pull a multi-national media empire". As true today as it was then).

Another issue with The Sun is that often the stories printed in it are about as far from the truth as Mel Gibson is from winning "Tolerant Gentleman Of The Year". Whether it be an article claiming that Liverpool football fans involved in the Hillsborough Disaster urinated on people's lifeless bodies, or one claiming Elton John hired rent boys and was such a diva that he had his dog's voice boxes removed so that their barks wouldn't keep him awake at night (Gee Note: No really. They actually printed these things. The Elton one they had to retract after he sued them for a £1million. And it took 20 years for them to print an apology for the Hillsborough piece. By which point circulation for The Sun had dropped to just 12000 in Liverpool. Which means that you could sell brown linen rags soaked in the Ebola virus for £20 a go out of the back of a camper van and it would still be more popular in Merseyside than The Sun) The Sun has always had a reckless attitude towards printing actual facts. Such is the case with the Siberian Woolly Mammoth.

On the 8th February this year The Sun reported that a live woolly mammoth had been captured on video. This video in fact.

Now you'd only really need to watch it a couple of times to come to the conclusion that it is not on the level. For a start there's something ever so slightly off about the creature, such as the way the head stays rigidly still, or the way it creeps forward despite only using one of its front legs, or - from the mammoth's perspective - the alarming lack of a dome on top of its noggin. Also I’m no expert in elephant behaviour, but I would guess that a pachyderm crossing a river would probably raise its trunk up a little bit in order to, you know, breath (Gee Note: Unless our furry friend is tired of living that is. In which case, DON’T DO IT MAMMOTH. YOU HAVE SO MUCH TO LIVE FOR. I mean sure, all your friends probably died in the ice age. And it can’t be easy getting a regular job being a giant wild beast with no fixed abode. And you can’t exactly pick up the phone and call the Samaritans, what with no opposable thumb or fingers to dial the number with. But it’s not like you're Bobby Brown or something. I mean that dude is a complete mess. Although it is understandable considering Whitney’s dead and that he’s spent the last several years taking drugs like he was a one man pharmacy. What I’m saying is Mammoth, things could be worse you know?).

But even without all that the alarm signs are aplenty. The fact that the video is inexplicably only 10 seconds long (Gee Note: “Hmm. This large previously thought to be extinct creature sure is interesting, but I’ve got to save the battery for Mika’s surprise birthday party. I wouldn’t want to miss catching his face when the stripper arrives. Oh it’s going to be priceless!”). Or that it’s blurry and out of focus despite this being 2012 and I can record a crystal clear film of a dog taking a dump across the street using just my phone if I wanted to (Gee Note: Not saying I would want to do that mind. I bet you would though wouldn’t you? Weirdo). Or that there’s a copyright stamp on the video, which means someone somewhere is trying to make some dollar dollar by promoting this footage. It all adds up.

They copyright is the biggest give away of all actually. For this is apparently the property of one Michael Cohen. If that name sounds familiar it is because (Gee Note: Like me, you are a fat nerd who spends way too much time watching pointless videos) about a year or so ago a news story about an alien being filmed in the Brazilian jungle broke, complete with a video which was also owned by Mr. Cohen. Like the mammoth one, it was obviously fake but garnered a lot of media interest none the less.

Which is probably why Mikey tried his hand at it again. And this time he shopped it exclusively to The Sun, who did no background checks whatsoever and ran with it anyway. Reads the article.

The jaw-dropping footage was caught by a government-employed engineer last summer in the Chukotka Autonomous Okrug region of Siberia, it is claimed.

Alas we never find out the name of the government-employed engineer, largely because he never existed (Gee Note: Although you’d think that making up names would be the best part about writing this piece. You could use anything. Chesty McHercules. Ivan Funtackle. Horty L. Wingjuzzler III. See? Pretty awesome right? It’s not even that hard. Honestly it took me three seconds to come up with those. It’s like these tabloid journalists aren’t even trying). In fact the video was never Michael Cohen’s to begin with. It was shot by a documentary film maker named Lou Petho (Gee Note: Hey that’s a pretty good one. Wait. What? Lou Petho is a real name? Well I’ll be damned), who was so annoyed by his footage being used against his consent that he made a video of his own.

Damn son. Shit just got REAL.

So Michael Cohen did something stupid and now may be sued for it. That something being, of course, taking someone else’s video and pasting a computer generated Mr. Snuffleupagus on top of it. But that’s not the point of this tale. Oh no dear reader. For that we have to go back to the article in The Sun.

You see it is more than likely that the folks at The Sun knew this was all bobbins to begin with. And while as a group they may be morally reprehensible, as individuals themselves they are highly intelligent human beings. But they still decided to publish it anyway. One can only guess that it's because they put stock in the notion that a good yarn is more important than the actual truth.

Now while some may argue that the extra publicity generated by The Sun can only benefit things like Cryptozoology in the long run, inspiring regular readers to take an interest in woovy bezerk animals, in this case it has hurt a hell of a lot more than it has helped. Because even though The Sun may have exclusively printed the initial story every news organisation under the… er… glowing orange thing in the sky, from Fox News to the Huffington Post, have reported that the video is a hoax. And because of its high profile, it tarnishes those who do work within the field of undiscovered creatures by association. It doesn’t matter that most serious minded cryptozoologists like Loren Coleman and Karl Shuker thought it was at best a misidentified bear chomping on a fish. It doesn’t matter that most online forums and comment sections were filled with sensible people who, having been burned by stuff like this time and time again, were pessimistic about its chances of being legit. Because public perception is now “Hur hur hur look at those geeks who thought it was a real woolly mammoth”. And while it’s true that cryptozoology will never be respected by either the mainstream media or the scientific community, it’s a bit harsh that it should be dragged down just because Michael Cohen was looking to make a quick buck and because The Sun doesn’t care what it publishes as long as it gets people buying their paper.

So here’s the thing. Next time you pick up a copy of The Sun and see a startling exclusive headline about a dinosaur being caught on camera in Dorset or something, do yourself a favour. Put it down and buy another paper instead. It’s the only language The Sun really understands.