15 Fracking Facts and the Truth About Alternative Energy

Activist terrorist

Earlier this month a judge awarded damages to the Parr family in Texas amounting to almost $3million for losses on property value, physical pain, mental anguish and suffering due to the effects of pollution caused by fracking near their home. The jury returned a verdict saying Aruba Petroleum Inc. “intentionally created a private nuisance” resulting in the Parr family suffering from symptoms including chronic nose bleeding, irregular heartbeats, muscle spasms and open sores due to the environmental effects of this controversial gas mining process. Aruba are the first company in the US to be found guilty of charges due to pollution caused of fracking.

Hydraulic fracturing (fracking) involves drilling horizontally deep under the earth and injecting fluid at high pressure to fracture shale rocks and release natural gases. This gas is then used as fuel for energy. It is considered by many to be extremely harmful to the surrounding environment and has divided opinion across the world as to its viability as a safe method of mining for fuel. Ten countries including Spain, France, Germany and South Africa have already banned this controversial mining process over concerns about pollution and the environmental risks. It’s believed by many that fracking can pollute water, release dangerous methane gases that damage the ozone layer and even cause earthquakes. The landmark verdict in Texas indicates that many of these claims are actually true, but what are the fracking facts?

 

  1. Around 600 toxic chemicals are used in the fluid used for fracking, including uranium, radium, hydrochloric acid, mercury, lead, formaldehyde and even bizarre substances like instant coffee and walnut shells.
  2. It takes around 1-8 million gallons of water to complete each fracking job and each gas well needs an average of 400 tanker trucks to carry all the water and supplies to and from the site. This produces about300,000 barrels of natural gas a day.
  3. There are around 500,000 active gas wells in the US that use in total around 72 trillion gallons of water and 360 billion gallons of chemicals in the fracking process and only 30-50% of the fracturing fluid is recovered. The rest of the toxic fluid is left in the ground and is not biodegradable.
  4. Canadian mining companies do not disclose all of the chemicals used for fracking or their quantities. Most oil and gas wells in Canada don’t have to go through an individual environmental assessment process or disclose any information about the chemicals they use on the Canadian National Pollutant Re­lease Inventory (NPRI). This means that the companies themselves decide what information they want to release about what’s in their fracking fluid, despite the fact that tests have shown that many of the chemicals they use are known to cause serious health problems such as cancer or organ damage.
  5. In British Columbia, the B.C. Oil and Gas Commission, who are the organisation responsible for promoting oil and gas development, are also the organisation that regulate fracking. Contamination of fracking fluids from one well to another have been reported in British Columbia and there are well-documented cases of water contamination caused by fracking in several countries around the world.
  6. A 2011 study by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency confirmed a clear link between fracking and water contamination and there have been over 1,000 documented cases of water contamination next to areas where companies have used the fracking process to drill for gas. This contaminated water is usually used for drinking water in nearby cities and towns.
  7. In Pennsylvania, USA, there has been a rapid development of the Marcellus shale site, which it’s estimated could produce 500 trillion cubic feet of gas. It’s believed that’s enough to power all American homes for another 50 years.
  8. In 2010 Pennsylvania officials fined Chesapeake Energy $1 million for contaminating water supplies in Bradford County. Because the company had not properly cemented its drilling boreholes, methane gas escaped from the well and contaminated the water of 16 families.
  9. Between 2009 and 2011 there have been a series of surface spills of toxic fracking fluids and two blowouts at wells operated by Chesapeake Energy and EOG Resources. There was also a spill of 8000 gallons of fracking fluid at a site in Dimock, Pa., which contaminated groundwater in the Marcellus Shale region.
  10. Supporters of fracking claim that it is a proven gas extraction method that has been used for decades. However, according to Dr. Anthony Ingraffea, a hydraulic fracturing expert from Cornell University, mining companies have had less than 10 years experience of using the fracking method on a large scale.
  11. Robert Mair, a Professor of Geotechnical Engineering at the University of Cambridge chaired a committee to analyse the environmental, health and safety risks of fracking in Britain. He concluded that it should only take place at depths of several kilometres. At present the fracking in Britain has been at depths of 1.06 miles (1.7km) and 1.93 miles (3.1km), which would make water contamination “unlikely”. This risk could be increased by poorly constructed and badly regulated wells, an area in which Britain has an excellent record. However, Professor Mair recommends that methane emissions and groundwater composition should be monitored at potential sites before any fracking takes place.
  12. Rex Tillerson is the CEO of ExxonMobil who are the biggest natural gas producer in the US and heavily rely on fracking to extract it. It’s his job to promote fracking and fight regulations preventing mining. However, when a fracking project was proposed near Tillerson’s $5 million Texas home, he joined a lawsuit to block its construction with the damaging consequences of fracking cited as one of the main concerns.
  13. The coalition government in the UK have offered tax breaks to councils who allow fracking projects to go ahead. However, Michael Jones, the leader of Cheshire East council, which is the same constituency of coalition chancellor George Osborne, opposes the use of fracking, stating: “Fracking may well be a useful technology for other areas and good luck to them if it is, however the people of Cheshire East have our assurance that there won’t be any in our borough.” Meanwhile Prime Minister David Cameron is trying to push through legislation to change anti trespass laws so that fracking firms can drill underneath private land without the owners’ permission.
  14. Peaceful protests against fracking at the Barton Moss site in Salford, England have resulted in violent assaults against the protestors by the police. One police officer at the site was caught on camera lying to fabricate the false arrest of a man who was documenting the events taking place. The violence used by the police prompted Bez, the maraca shaking dancer of The Happy Mondays to run for mayor of Salford; stating “I got sent to prison for being accused of doing that sh*t. Three grown men battering a woman on the floor…I’m in shock.”
  15. The Daily Mail reported details of the arrests of 82 protestors at the Barton Moss site in Salford, in England earlier this year, with police accusing protestors of offences ranging from ‘assault, damage, harassment of residents and workers, a flare fired at the police helicopter and threats to kill’. However, what the popular press have not reported on is the fact that no successful convictions have resulted from these arrests, despite policing and court costs costing the UK taxpayer almost £1,000,000 so far. However, the independent newspaper The Salford Star has documented the events surrounding the Barton Moss fracking protests and reported that five of those cases have already been dismissed by judges in courts in Manchester. In summing up one case the judge said that he found the absence in court of key officers involved “astonishing”.

Barton Moss Police Arrests March 16th 2014 (3)(1)

Barton Moss Anti Fracking Protest Salford 16th March 2014 photo by Steven Speed (3)

Vanda was charged with "assaulting a constable in the execution of his duty, resisting a constable in the execution of his duty and assaulting a detention officer" and "remanded in custody to further appear on 25 March 2014" (GMP quote).

Vanda was charged with “assaulting a constable in the execution of his duty, resisting a constable in the execution of his duty and assaulting a detention officer” and “remanded in custody to further appear on 25 March 2014” (GMP quote).

 

As the fracking debate continues one fact remains certain, our society needs energy and there are alternatives that are scientifically viable. There are a number of renewable energy sources that are in use today. The most familiar ones are solar power, which generates energy from the sun, wind turbines that harvest power from the wind, wave and tidal power that generate energy from the sea, and hydroelectricity that draws energy from the gravitational force of flowing water. Other lesser known alternatives include geothermal energy which is generated from natural heat within the earth itself and cold fusion which generates energy from non-toxic and radiation-free nuclear reactions. Biomass energy uses biodegradable rubbish and burns it as fuel and also uses plant matter to generate electricity. The sunlight captured by plants is transformed into chemical energy and then converted into electricity, heat, or liquid fuels. 

Aside from all these alternative energies we also have the technology to build energy efficient homes and buildings. Buildings that not only save energy, but also produce energy. So with all these alternatives to pursuing environmentally damaging mining processes and burning toxic fossil fuels, any sane man would wonder why more isn’t done to develop these alternative methods of energy production. Well the answer is simple – money. The motivation for investing in the pursuit of these alternatives is anchored to the noose of capitalism.

Whilst the capitalist imperative continues to be the voracious pursuit of wealth for individual, selfish gain, energy will always be coveted as an economic advantage and a source of control for the nation or corporation that has it. Yes it would make much more sense if governments and corporations and all of those greedy corporate psychopaths, oligarchs and megalomaniacs dipped into their Swiss bank accounts and threw all their financial resources at environmentally viable energy solutions with the same enthusiasm shown for funding commercially viable projects like an Olympics or World Cup. It would make more sense than spending billions on military equipment to go and murder hundreds of thousands of people in wars for the control of oil and gas in countries in the Middle East. It would make more sense than exploiting the natural resources and environmental beauty of South East Asia, Africa and South America and brokering deals that circumnavigate all the wealth from those countries into the pockets of a small, undeserving minority, whilst subjecting the poor of those countries to lives of impoverished degradation. It would make more sense, it just wouldn’t be financially viable for that small percentage of people in the world that have all the wealth but none of the ethics. Meanwhile, whilst those people pursue the best way to become even more wealthy from sucking OUR planet dry, we continue to fret about how we are going to pay them for it. If this doesn’t make us mad then we’re already crazy, so could the last person to leave the asylum please turn the lights out.

Barton Moss Police Arrests March 16th 2014 (2)

Bez of the Happy Monday’s joins the anti-fracking campaign at Barton Moss.

An Open Letter To BT Sport – Get Rid of Michael Owen

Michael wonders why everyone has suddenly left the stadium.

Michael wonders why everyone has suddenly left the stadium.

Dear BT Sport;

I know that you’re new to this whole sport broadcasting thing, but if you continue to be a provider of Premier League football coverage there is one thing that you absolutely must do. You have to banish Michael Owen from your team. Do not let him represent you by speaking in any way manner or form in a public broadcast again. He is terrible.

They say some people have a face for radio, well Michael Owen has a voice for mime. Aside from his barely veiled bias toward Liverpool and his hard on for Man United, he sounds like what cardboard would sound like if it could speak. He has a voice  like the Richard Harrow character off Boardwalk Empire, except that character has a voice like that because half his face has been blown off, which is naturally going to effect the way he sounds. That and the fact that he murders people for a living are inclined to make him also sound a bit dull and depressive. Michael Owen does not have this excuse.

Listening to Michael Owen, it… it… it actually hurts. Not in a the way a sharp object hurts when you are stabbed with it, Michael Owen is way to dull for that effect. It’s more like chronic discomfort. It gives you a feeling of anxiety, nausea and mild depression all at once – like the side effects of bad sleeping pills.

Please get rid of him. Please. He was a decent footballer (if not a chronic ‘sick note’), I hear he’s good at golf and a really good horse breeder, but you can’t be good at everything and he truly, truly, sucks at sports punditry. Even when he’s on screen he looks like he’s a prototype of an android, he’s unbelievable awkward looking and dull.

Some things work well together, like strawberry’s and cream, Morecambe and Wise, Lionel Messi and a football. Michael Owen and broadcasting are like Chris Quentin and the American film industry – it’s never going to happen. That is all.

Regards
Beasley Green

PS: I am not alone:

‘Boring’ Michael Owen savaged for BT Sport commentary debut
Five Reasons Why Michael Owen Will Flop as a Football Pundit

Me, My Selfie and I

jessie-j-selfie-twitter

Oh selfie oh selfie
Such self loving ain’t healthy
But by God I can’t help me
How I love me endlessly.
iPhone prepped nice and steady,
Prepared pout and pose ready,
In a club somewhere trendy
With my girls who’re my Besties.
With some guys who just met me,
In a toilet nonchalantly,
Silly face or seriously,
Or just me being me.
In my room getting ready,
Half naked, in flagrante,
Showing off my hot body
And my big bubble booty.
The people will love me
Repost and promote me.
They’ll all look and see me.
They’ll all want to be me.
Everybody will watch me
Nobody can stop me
Oh selfie oh selfie
How I love me endlessly.

Selfies

Media Outrage is a Great Form Of Publicity

This week French footballer Nicolas Anelka of West Bromich Albion was handed a five-match ban by the FA for brandishing a ‘quenelle’ salute after scoring in a Premier League football match last December. According to The Bleacher Report, this whole episode has “rocked football”. This means Anelka’s actions have actually shuddered the whole footballing world to its very core. But what is a quenelle I hear your collective thoughts ask? Is it a new hairstyle? A euphemism for male genitalia or a radical form of ‘twerking’? Well I had no idea what a ‘quenelle’ was either until the sports media spotlighted it so publicly in the wake of Monsieur Anelka’s FA hearing.

For those who haven’t been informed via the recent media public service announcements on Sky Sports News, TalkSport radio and the BBC’s Match Of The Day and Football Focus programmes, a ‘quenelle’ is an inverted salute that is (to use disclaiming media parlance) ‘allegedly’ anti-Semitic.

Making insulting or indecent gestures during English Premier League (or perhaps I should use the more correct term – Barclay’s Premier League) football matches contravenes FA Rule E3(1). Worse still, as an FA spokesperson told CNN, what Anelka did was “… an aggravated breach, as defined in FA Rule E3(2), in that it included a reference to ethnic origin and/or race and/or religion or belief” [allegedly].

How to do the quenelle - you put your right hand up, your left hand out, you do it after scoring and it gets about.

How to do the quenelle – you put your right hand up, your left hand out, the media is outraged and it gets about.

So now myself along with millions of other people know something that we didn’t know a week ago. We know that there is more than one salute that can be used to insult the Jewish community. The other offensive salute we all know is the Nazi salute, an established anti-Semitic gesture that was brutally hacked into history by the barbaric actions of a delusional and psychopathic dictator called Hitler, who along with his army and the backing of the ruling classes of an entire nation, murdered millions of Jews and almost took over Europe during the Second World War. The quenelle on the other hand is a little know (until now) gesture invented by a little known (until now) French comedian called Dieudonne M’Bala. However, thanks to the media it is now etched into the minds of antagonistic anti-Semites the world over for future reference.

Exclusive: Dieudonne Breaks Silence On Quenelle

Anelka denies the FA charge, claiming that he made the gesture in support of Dieudonne with whom he is friends. But for one writer reporting in ‘Japan Today’ (yes, it has spread that far) Anelka is guilty by association for having “atrocious” taste in friends. Well that isn’t a crime. If it was then entire Western governments would be rounded up and locked away for their politically congenial allegiances to dictators guilty of pillaging public funds, torture, mass murder and any number of crimes against humanity (more later). However, some people in the media are arguing that Anelka is guilty because he deliberately made the gesture during a game that he knew was being televised in France where the quenelle is well known, thus proving that he intended to cause racial insult.

Anelka has been a prodigious goal-scoring talent throughout his illustrious and lucrative career, but he has seen better days – notably at (no offence West Brom) much bigger clubs like Arsenal, Real Madrid, Liverpool and Juventus. To suggest that he chose a specific game to make the gesture is also to suggest that he can score at will. This is pretty ridiculous when you consider that the quenelle salute came after he scored his first goal for West Brom since signing for the club last summer. However, the point here isn’t whether the gesture was intended to be deliberately insulting or inflammatory. Anelka – who is a practicing Muslim and a Black man – may very well have anti-Semitic sentiments. The point is, by highlighting his gesture so publicly, the sports and news media have quite literally given his [allegedly] racist insult a global platform and helped to promote his [allegedly] anti-Semitic message to a whole new audience. If his gesture was intended to insult and incite, he must be sat in his footballer’s mansion beaming with great satisfaction at the global spotlight the media have given to his [alleged] anti-Semitic cause.

I’m not supporting Anelka’s [alleged] racist agenda, nor would I support any racist propaganda. At the same time I’m not agreeing that Anelka had a racist agenda. He denies his gesture is racist but rather “anti establishment”, a claim that is supported by Dieudonne, the very man who invented the gesture. This contradiction in itself makes the whole story a little bemusing. The person who made the gesture says it wasn’t meant to be racist. The person who invented the gesture said it isn’t racist. That means that the media and the small group of people (a group that will undoubtedly be a lot larger since the media have promoted the issue) who have adopted the gesture as a symbolic racist epithet, are the people who have actually radicalised the gesture – this much is clear. So what did the press intend to achieve by giving this story so much publicity? Was it their obligation to ensure that the public’s right to know was satisfied?

Now I have isntructions I can be suitable outraged

Now I have instructions I can be suitably outraged.

First of all let’s get something clear – the media doesn’t really care about whether a footballer or any other sportsperson causes offence to any individual or group unless it impacts on their revenue. The media pays its salaries by the revenue it receives from advertising, so they only care about producing content that will draw attention to their newspapers, magazines, television programmes and websites. That much is a fact. Despite never being involved in any acts of violence or sex scandals in the past, Nicolas Anelka (dubbed by the media as ‘Le Sulk’) has often courted controversy throughout his career and people know who he is. Any story involving Anelka is going to draw attention, and make no mistake, that’s what the media outlets really care about. If their enthusiasm for this story was grounded in ethics then they would have thought about what was going to be achieved by bringing this hitherto unknown gesture to the forefront of the British public’s attention. They would have then come to the conclusion that it would be best to bury the story in the corner of the sports section somewhere and let the FA deal with Anelka quietly. However, the gesture would have no doubt caught the attention of someone somewhere via social media.

Despite what you may be led to believe about social media dictating what the media reports on, this is not true. The popular press and wider media control what the general public see, hear and to a large degree, think. They are more than capable of ‘burying’ a story if they believe it will harm them by offending their political allies or corporate paymasters. For example, prior to Ukraine and Poland hosting Euro 2012, there had been an outbreak of a “plague” in the Ukraine in 2009. I would have thought this detail was newsworthy, but the story got virtually no coverage by the popular Western media. Recently the scandal surrounding allegations that Franck Ribery – a married man and Muslim convert – had sex with an underage prostitute in 2009 only made a little ripple in the British press. Ribery was in the running for the Ballon d’Or and the trial was, somewhat conveniently, adjourned until 20th January 2014 – a week after the awards ceremony (Cristiano Ronaldo won by the way).

I’m a Manchester City fan, but I am under no illusions as to the motivation behind Sheik Mansour’s acquisition of my club. Why would Sheikh Mansour Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, a member of the Abu Dhabi Nahyan Royal Family, want to spend billions on turning a mid-table Mancunian football club with a long history of calamitous failure but a huge fan base, into the biggest club in the world? I don’t think it’s because he loved Subbuteo as a kid. As David Conn of The Guardian points out, it is probably more to do with utilising the club to promote other UAE commercial interests when the oil cash cow of the Middle East finally runs dry, whilst at the same time deflecting from their countries poor human rights record.

Football is a global industry that inspires blind, irrational, passionate support from its supporters. Owners of successful football clubs have a global platform from which they can promote anything. Yet despite the FA’s commitment to ensuring club owners are “fit and proper”, the media has barely rippled the caftan of Sheik Mansour’s political affairs back home. Why would they? Well the Emirates Centre for Human Rights Trial Observation Report concluded that the 69 people convicted and detained without fair trial for petitioning for democratic reforms due to human rights abuses in the UAE ‘had been subjected to torture and denied basic safeguards of a fair trial’? And in the wake of the media support for Thomas Hitzlsperger when he revealed his homosexuality following his retirement from football, aren’t the media concerned that the owners of an English football club have laws in their own country that can lead to a sentence of death for homosexual activity?

The answer of course is, no. The scandal involving Ruport Murdoch’s News Of The World which resulted in The Levenson Enquiry clearly established that there is, and has been for some time, a mutually convenient relationship between press and parliament. Most of us acknowledge that parliament and corporate business also sleep in the same bed. So with the Mansour family plying billions into the British economy in the shape of large developments in Manchester and a £1.5 billion investment being plied into a deep water port development in London, despite David Cameron stating “On human rights, there are no no-go areas in this relationship” during his  delegation to the UAE to sell military hardware to Sheik Khalifa, it is no surprise that the British media aren’t really too keen to press the comparatively minor issue of human rights of people in another country.

When it comes to popular media, the public interest is only important in so much as how much of the public will be interested in the associated advertising. Issues that may impact on profit and the privileges afforded their organisations remain sacrosanct amongst the larger and more popular media outlets. Whilst some prickly issues will be reported on to maintain press credibility, how much they will be reported on will largely depend on how much the powers that be (corporate and political) actually want them to be reported. Therefore the press concentrates on palatable, relativey harmless and vacuously distracting celebrity news that the man in the street can digest without thinking too hard about it. If the readers think too hard about a story they fail to notice the message from the sponsors.

I think therefore I buy

I think therefore I buy

So Anelka and his [allegedly] racist quenelle gesture isn’t really the biggest story in sport and it certainly hasn’t “rocked football”. If anything has rocked football in recent weeks it is the rapid demise this season of the current Premier League Champions, the once mighty Manchester United. The only thing the media have achieved by blowing up the Anelka gesture story is to add something more to the vocabulary of racist offence. Essentially they have helped the very cause they purport to condemn. Now anti-Semites worldwide have another weapon of insult to hurl at people. Whilst Monsieur Anelka may have tossed a little racist dirt into the public arena (allegedly), thanks to the efforts of the media, his insult is now firmly cemented onto the global landscape. Meanwhile, Sheik Mansour and his family continue to preside over an Arab empire that denies many basic human rights. But hey, that doesn’t really matter because Manchester City are one of the biggest and most entertaining football teams in the world – and the media loves entertainment. Entertainment helps to sell advertising.

Further reading:

The Hidden Story of Sheik Mansour

*If you tire of the inane and politically biased ‘news’ you see in the usual newspapers and media channels such as Sky, Fox, CNN, BBC, ITV etc. There are several independent sources of news that regularly give a more balanced account of what is going on in your world, because it is your world. It doesn’t belong to a small group of wealthy men, despite what you are led to believe.
Try the links below for an alternative view on things:
www.upworthy.com
www.avaaz.org
www.thinkprogress.org
and for a little bit of satirical light relief…
www.thedailymash.co.uk
www.thepoke.co.uk

In Thine Own Image.

Research commissioned by Channel 4 and conducted by the Cumberbatch Research Group showed that during a sample of 368 hours of peak-time viewing in 2009, Ethnic Minority representation (those appearing on BBC1, BBC2, ITV, Channel 4, Channel 5 and Sky One) accounted for just 10.2% of the overall output during this 368 hour period. This data also includes the possibility that some of the individuals counted as an ethnic minority were also counted on several occasions (Trevor McDonald on the news for example). Quite a sobering statistic until you consider that ethnic minority (dark skinned – this detail needs to be pointed out) groups only make up about 13% of the UK population – which may seem an unrealistic statistic if you live in the multicultural centres of one of the major cities in the UK – or Bradford. However, step outside of those areas and sightings of ethnic minorities are as rare as UFO’s. However, it’s the percentage of executives, producers, directors and the people who are at the creative and financial decision making level in the media that is most important. These figures would not even make a whole number.

At a seminar on the subject of increasing the number of ethnic minorities working in the media industry, a chief production executive at Red Productions (one of the UK’s most successful production companies in the 90’s) candidly explained that people instinctively “hire in their own image”. It might be a little unfair, but it made sense to me. However, it doesn’t matter what initiative is put in place to redress the disparity of ethnic minority representation in the arts and media, because what you look like has less to do with how you represent as what you think like. Racial representation is much more than colour, it’s about a shared experience by a minorities’ majority.

One thing statistics of Channel 4’s superficial type won’t reveal is that the few coloured faces representing within the media will not have been raised or educated in Hackney, Brixton, Moss Side, Toxteth or any lower class ethnic part of the country. They will have gone to the same schools, colleges and universities as their white middle class counterparts and identify more with them than they do with their wider ethnic groups. The UK isn’t as backward as the US on race. British society by and large accepts a little bit of colour. We fell in love with Trevor Mcdonald and Lenny Henry in the 80’s, embraced the superb collaboration of culture as reflected in music like ska, jungle, drum n bass and garage, and generally accepted that mixing is ok because it creates beautiful babies and stronger DNA. But that acceptance hasn’t quite permeated the corridors of power or the executive offices of the media where they still have a knee tremble at the idea of social and racial agitation. Now and historically Britain has always been much more apprehensive about cultural interference within its class system and that is where the real prejudice lies in British media.

Whilst the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s may have symbolically vilified ethnic minorities by colour representation, the culture of the lower classes has become more of a target in contemporary media since the 90’s. Fiction like Shameless and The Royle Family, and offensive reality TV like My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding and Benefits Street that explore the lives of fringe sub-cultures, do not divide by racial lines, they divide by social class.

Representation is primarily about intention; what is the intention in the representation. That intention then depends on the viewpoint of the representative. QED – if the representatives have no empathy or legitimate understanding of the subject matter or audience they’re representing, then their message will reflect that. Politicians and their policies have proven that for eons. Objective reasoning is a rare quality, but when an appointed representative who is also intelligent and sufficiently clued up about the subject matter they’re representing has that quality, then irrespective of race, colour or creed, they can still do a good job. But objective reasoning is a rare quality in the arts and media where egos reign supreme.

Related:

White singers deserve the same scrutiny for sexism as Snoop Dogg

Jude and Sadie’s daughter in Ecstasy scare

The One Thing White Writers Get Away With, But Authors of Color Don’t

A Year in Review: The Top 10 Most Racist/Privileged Things White Feminists Did in 2013

A Loss of Faith.

There is a lovely Muslim woman whom I teach English to in an entry level beginners class who prays [religiously] half way through every lesson. Today the  class had a test and I caught her cheating – not once, not twice, but three times! She denied profusely despite me looking straight at her from less than two yards away.

Earlier this week it was reported that Reverend Paul Flowers – the ex-Chief Executive of the Co-operative Bank (an ethical bank apparently) – was caught buying crystal meth and cocaine from an undercover reporter; today it was revealed that he also swindled £75,000 from the Lifeline charity (but they didn’t tell anybody about it until now).

Also in the news, MP Dennis McShane swindled £13,000 of British taxpayers money in bogus expense claims (who want’s to bet he doesn’t do as much time as the 18 months that a young man from Salford did for his first offence of stealing a bottle of vodka from a shop during the England ‘riots’ in 2011?).

MacShane resigned as an MP last year before he could face punishment for submitting fake receipts amounting to £12,900 of taxpayers’ money.

The Independent

In recent history it has been revealed that many Catholic priests have been fiddling with young boys for centuries and many Imams brutally beat young Muslim boys for misbehaving in the Mosque. For decades Evangelists have been fleecing £millions from desperate and gullible morons (that’s ‘morons’ not ‘Mormons’) in the USA in the name of God; politicians have been robbing the poor via the public purse to feed the industries of corporations so the Executives of those corporations can exploit the even poorer in developing countries and swell their own already swollen tax-free bank accounts; Jimmy Savile (a British Knight of the Realm and tireless charity worker) and a whole host of our favourite childhood icons from the seventies have been sexually abusing children for decades – even our footballing heroes cheat the ref and dive all over the place to win matches. All this and people wonder why I’m cynical!

In a world of abundance in education, technology, wealth and natural resources, you’d be forgiven for thinking that this is the End of Days. Have no respect for faith or status, believe in your eyes, ears and most of all, your gut feeling.

And now, the news…

So there I was, sat in the kitchen at my mum’s house, just passing time. I’d come around to visit the old dear, but she was pottering around the garden talking at nobody in particular and ignoring me as retired mothers are prone to do. Although I know she still likes the company of her visiting brood, I sometimes get a little bored, so on this day I put the kettle on for both of us and as it boiled I decided to skim through the newspaper that was lay on the kitchen table.

The Daily Star is one of the most popular tabloid newspapers in the UK  with a circulation of over half a million, yet by the time the half-full kettle reached boiling point I’d pretty much read everything of interest that was written in there. Being a Man City fan I wasn’t interested in reading about the boring 0-0 draw between Chelsea and United the day before, so I ignored the sport section and skimmed through the whole paper again just in case I had missed something. I hadn’t – there was literally nothing of any real consequence contained within the 56 pages of that newspaper. So what filled those 56 pages and was I bored enough to find out?

With my holidays coming to an end along with the British Summer, my boredom got the better of me and I decided to work out what constituted news in The Daily Star on 27th August 2013. It wasn’t too difficult – simply measure the column centimetres of copy text for each real news item. There weren’t many.

Spread out flat the paper has an area of around 5.75m2 on which to write news. Add the newsworthy copy and you have a diagram that looks like this.

Serious Hard News

The little red bits represent the serious hard news. The kind of thing that people should know about – what our leaders are doing in the world of politics, serious global affairs and crime stories of national interest. According to The Daily Star everything is just peachy with the world around us – “Move on, there’s nothing to see here.”

Next up are those soft news stories, the noteworthy, the strange, the bizarre and the ‘human interest’ stories that you usually get at the “And finally…” section of News at Ten.

Soft News

Not a huge amount there either really. Stories include: a diamond estimated to sell for £12million at auction, Brazilian prostitutes learn English in preparation for next year’s World Cup, police caught ogling celebrities on Twitter, a man who claims to have photographed the Loch Ness monster, a Brazilian footballer called Elvis who was shot dead, a giant gooseberry, a botched wedding proposal, the Royal Mail have done what they have supposed to do and delivered mail on time, and of course, a story about a Panda that may be pregnant – awesome.

There’s half a page dedicated to Hollie, 23, from Eastbourne who has great tits.

Hollie's tits

There are four pages dedicated to what’s on TV.

What's on Telly

There are ten pages dedicated to all sport, apart from horse and dog racing.

The World of Sport

There are four pages dedicated to horse and dog racing times and results.

The Racing News

There are some regular features, including puzzles and games, the daily horoscope, letters to Jane the agony aunt, photo casebook and consumer advice.

The rest of the news

Still, with all those sections covered, there’s still a hell of lot of space left.

news in brief

Now bear in mind that apart from the hard and soft news copy, the vast majority of the content of the other pages highlighted are made up of headlines, advertisements (there are several ‘Daily Star reader’s offers’) and photographs.  So what makes up the rest of the space? Well, the rest of that space is made up of advertisements and photographs of celebrities with various bits of facile and inane celebrity related gossip. I could illustrate how much of The Daily Star’s pages are made up of advertisements and pictures, but life is too short so I’ll make a rough estimate. My rough estimate is that only about 5% of the remaining space contains words that aren’t headlines – and I’m being generous. Sure there are those broadsheets that have ‘proper’ news, but surely even a tabloid should offer something more informative and stimulating than semi-naked, celebrity titillation.

The Daily Star is a pretty poor example of a newspaper, but it is indicative of what you see online, in magazines, on the television and in every media outlet. Marketers and broadcasters will defend themselves by saying that they are supplying a demand – essentially, you get the media you deserve – and they wouldn’t be wrong. But the obsession with celebrity trivia seems to have become a social addiction. The side effect of this addiction is inertia and complacency and a section of society whose lives revolve around an illusion that is sustained purely by their attention. If they stop watching, it doesn’t exist.

Right now England, America and their allies are considering going to war with Syria over the alleged use of chemical weapons. Detainees in Guantanamo Bay are still starving themselves for justice. The Great Barrier Reef is under threat from corporate industrialists. Honeybees are threatened with extinction. Women in India are fighting for humanity, justice and protection from getting raped, beaten and brutalised. There is a global recession that show’s little sign of abating. Bankers and corporate giants are still pocketing offensive amounts of money whilst people all over the world are facing unemployment, bankruptcy, homelessness, increasing food and oil prices. Crime is rising and so are suicide rates… etc, etc, etc. A little bit of light relief is all fine and well, but there’s a lot more important things worthy of a double page spread than what’s going on in the Celebrity Big Brother house and the “controversial” performance of a young Disney star who still looks like a child, sexually gyrating on stage in latex underwear with a bunch of teddy bears.

For most of us there isn’t a great deal that we can do to effect change in what is going on around us. For many of us, the simple pleasures of our day-to-day is the best we can look forward to without worrying about things that we have no control over. TV, movies, magazines, video games, drink, drugs – all these social sedatives make a life less ordinary – or at least palatable. However, when you look around at the media distractions, you can’t help but notice the sheer amount of trivial, celebrity, nonsense that’s staring right back at you.

The irony of this celebrity overkill is that it mainly serves to highlight the shortcomings in your own life. You look on and find yourself worshipping a lifestyle that is unattainable – Photoshop dreams and fake images of ‘bling’. This can either motivate your aspirations or make you feel miserable. Either way, every time you watch and buy into the celebrity bubble, it inflates. The celebrities bay for your attention, you feed their ego and the advertisers fill their bank accounts whilst you go back home to your dissatisfaction and debt and forget that all is not well with the world around you.

If they stop watching, it doesn’t exist.

Toward the end of the Zeitgeist documentary the narrator talks about the media being a deliberate distraction from the real issues that affect people’s lives. The Roman’s used gladiatorial battles to deflect their public away from the affairs of state. Today it’s gadgets, games, sport and popular ‘culture’. Every hour spent on some trivial nonsense is an hour not spent making yourself aware of what is happening around you. It’s an hour not spent educating and improving yourself. It’s an hour not spent supporting a cause. It’s an hour not spent lobbying your local MP for improvements in your local area. It’s an hour not spent soliciting your government to change its policy on something that is worthwhile; something that will improve your life, your children’s lives, your grandchildren’s lives, or just the life of someone less fortunate than you.

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with indulging in a little escapism, but too much of anything tends to be bad. The serenity prayer tells us to have the serenity to accept the things we cannot change, the courage to change the things we can and the wisdom to know the difference. There’s nothing in there about burying your head in the sand and pleading ignorance. Ignoring what is happening on your doorstep and in the world around you doesn’t make it go away, it just helps it continue to remain the same.