Thursday, September 30, 2010 

The truth isn't out there.

Back in the 90s I was a fairly major fan of the X Files. Quite why I fell for the show in such a way I'm still uncertain about - it certainly wasn't down to any sort of belief in aliens or the paranormal, and it wasn't solely down to fancying Gillian Anderson, although the power dressing Agent Scully certainly helped. Having bought the box sets to remind myself, for the most part it couldn't have been the writing either, with some honourable exceptions, even if the show in the main was always tightly paced. Others have since suggested that it was the right show for the right time, taking advantage of the rise in conspiracy theorising that escalated at the end of the cold war, George Bush Snr's "new world order" and all. With the return of a real supposed existential threat, the series rapidly fell out of favour following 9/11 and was cancelled in 2002.

Even by the outlandish standards of the series as it became obvious that the writers had ran out of ideas, with Mulder coming back from the dead in series 8 having been buried not quite alive, nothing quite matches what Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, possibly inspired by the adventures of the two FBI agents, has been claiming happened to him back in 1997, around the time of the series' peak:

In an interview this year with Russian state-run TV, Ilyumzhinov recalled how aliens wearing yellow spacesuits had appeared on his balcony. They invited him aboard their UFO and took him to the stars, he said. This encounter took place in September 1997, he went on, adding that three people, including his personal driver, had witnessed it.

Ilyumzhinov has just been re-elected the president of the World Chess Federation, in highly controversial circumstances, with his rival Anatoly Karpov alleging "blatant corruption". He has some original ideas about how chess became a global game as well, as the Independent found:

You do realise, he asks, that chess is a "cosmic game"? Excavations have shown that chess was played with similar rules, in various continents, centuries ago, he says, adding: "There was no internet before, so how did it get across the world? It means that it was brought from somewhere."

He also insists that there is "some kind of code" in chess, evidence for which he finds in the fact that there are 64 squares on the chessboard and 64 codons in human DNA. He then explains why he believes sweetcorn was brought to Earth by a different civilisation. "I'm not ill. I'm psychologically normal," he says. "I didn't hide it [the contact with aliens] even though I knew that people would laugh at me and say I was crazy. Maybe it was a form of self-sacrifice."


If it was, then it didn't stop others from being worried about what Ilyumzhinov had potentially told his alien friends. The MP Andre Lebedev wrote to President Medvedev pointing out that if the abduction had taken place, it was a historic event and the Kremlin should have been informed. Considering Boris Yeltsin probably saw little green men most days of the week, just how seriously it would have taken the revelation remains to be seen.

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Wednesday, September 29, 2010 

Liam Fox and a truly appalling leak.

It is remarkable, is it not, just how little comment there's been about the calling in of the police, albeit the Ministry of Defence police, to search for the source of the leak of a letter from Liam Fox to David Cameron which sets out in no uncertain terms just how the Strategic Defence and Strategy Review is going to affect his department? The nearest obvious comparison to make is with the arrest of Damian Green a little less than 2 years ago, having received numerous Home Office documents from Chris Galley, a civil servant who had previously applied to work for none other than Damian Green.

Clearly this isn't anywhere near as serious as this hasn't involved anti-terrorist police entering parliament and actually arresting an MP. Nonetheless, it still seems to be an over-the-top reaction to a leak which many would claim to have been in the public interest, regardless of how it involved private correspondence with the prime minister. The letter, while about national security, does not potentially put anyone in actual danger and should definitely not breach the Official Secrets Act. Things do however seem just as murky as they initially were in the Damian Green case: supposedly the MoD doesn't know who ordered the search, or at least wasn't telling the press.

Murkier still is that most initial suspicions as to who leaked the letter fell on Fox himself. Throughout the summer there's been numerous stories about how Fox has been doing battle against the Treasury, most notably over the potential replacement of Trident, with the MoD arguing for it to be paid for out of a separate fund from the defence budget, with George Osborne apparently refusing to budge. The letter however goes even further, Fox directly spelling exactly what might be lost should the SDSR turn into a more comprehensive spending review. It reads, as Mark Urban just said on Newsnight, like it was made to be leaked, with Fox appealing almost desperately and hinting at the consequences politically for the coalition should things continue as they are going, risking have their words on defence being the government's first priority being thrown back at them, the morale of the armed forces potentially damaged. It in fact surely edges into hyperbole; after all, this was a government which also came to power pledging to cut heavily. Liam Fox knew damn well that there were going to be "draconian" cuts; he himself argued for them, and it's not as if the defence budget isn't ripe for savings.

Special pleading similar to that from Fox is doubtless going on across Whitehall as October the 20th looms ever closer. Would however a minister go so far as to leak a letter himself, or if not, get an aide or sympathiser to do so? Without knowing who called in the MoD police, and on what authority, it's difficult to able to ascertain whether Fox would have taken the risk; did Cameron suggest the inquiry so as to be certain that his defence secretary isn't playing him off against the right-wing press, always sensitive to any sort of defence cuts? As ever, the question primarily has to be who benefits, and it's fairly clear that for the moment at least it's Fox, however much he protests about how appalling it is that such private letters have found their way into the hands of the Telegraph. More than anything, it just proves the point that you can change the government, but you can't change how they react when the press gets hold of "sensitive" information. Should something which benefits Labour and not the defence secretary go missing, one has to wonder what the response will then be.

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Tuesday, September 28, 2010 

A new generation for change?

It would be unkind and unfair to categorise Ed Miliband's first speech proper as Labour party leader as being remarkable only in being unremarkable. No speech which challenged so much of what became New Labour orthodoxy, even if without offering any actual alternative in many cases, could possibly be described as such. It was however, in spite of the content, delivered soporifically, nervously and received in a similar fashion by the audience, unsure on many occasions whether they should be applauding or not. Harriet Harman was certainly not the only person in the hall who should have been pulled up for her hypocrisy in applauding the new leader's personal admission that he believed the Iraq war to have been wrong.

The stony faces of the old Labour cabinet on hearing Miliband go the mile which was probably required, cynical as it also undoubtedly was, may go some way in winning back old supporters, delighted at seeing them aghast at their new overlord raking over the past which they themselves refused to revisit. All the same, this was hardly Khrushchev in 1956, and probably not even Theresa May and the "nasty party", not least because Miliband is not in a position of power in which to put his changes into immediate effect, even if we knew what they were going to be in practice. More like Khrushchev, Miliband was also complicit in some of which he denounced. It takes a lot of chutzpah to talk of how his parents arrived in Britain and the opportunities which this country gave them when he voted in the last parliament for a stricter asylum system. It takes even more to lament how Labour got it wrong on civil liberties and how the party should return to being the party of them when he voted for all of the key measures which made this a less free country. For someone who quite rightly said the most important word in politics should be humility, he should have added that he had personally got it wrong, even while being loyal to his party. It would have emphasised his authenticity exactly when he needs to be seen as fundamentally honest.

This was first and foremost, somewhat like Nick Clegg's effort last week, a speech directed at his party rather than the country. It was also incredibly formulaic, even as introductory speeches go. It ticked all the modern political speech boxes: the moving life story, the love for parents and family, the quoting of the possibly imaginary "ordinary" voter he encountered, concerned about the effect immigration was having on his friend's wages; the only thing he didn't thankfully do was emulate Cameron and walk around the stage in the deeply insincere manner which he has so perfected, operating without notes. If this was truly the result of work since late Saturday afternoon, then it shouldn't be judged too harshly. He attempted to master the difficult balance of putting the conference at their ease and flattering them while also having to address their failings, even if they weren't personal ones. He told them they had lost 5 million votes; how do we get them back?

No one should have expected him to provide immediate answers and he didn't. Rather, it at times seemed instead like an uncomfortable, overly confrontational attempt to get everything that went wrong with New Labour out in the open and done with in one massive purge, echoes again of Krushchev, however deceptive. As such it didn't really work, not least because he seemed to get things the wrong way round at least once, or at least the transcript has him as doing so, strangely during his espousal of what New Labour got right: surely they were right to emphasise that being tough on the causes of crime was as important as being tough on crime itself, not the other way round? Or was that a Freudian slip, based on guilt at how New Labour had in fact been tough on crime but forgot about the causes in its perpetual triangulation strategy? (Update: neither, see comments)

That which he did get right was well put across, rising above the general tenor: he promised not to oppose every cut, he recognised that migration from within the EU had not been handled properly, was emollient on welfare reform, refusing to give in to stigmatisation, and was strongest of all on admitting the party had become naive about markets, recognising that work is not all that matters, correctly identifying the paradox of being the biggest consumers in history whilst yearning more than ever for that which business cannot provide. If he was to develop thinking on that in particular then he will move the party beyond just policy and into a strategy for changing the way the country feels and thinks about itself, vital to providing a vision of an alternative, optimistic Britain.


The real problems with both the speech and him personally were unfortunately manifest. On paper, it reads well, or at least as well as any recent speech by any main political leader in this country; spoken, he just couldn't seem to find the right delivery. It had echoes at times of Iain Duncan Smith making his ill-fated quiet man conference address; it really was that bad. Certainly, he's got more than enough time to alter that, but first impressions do have an impact. For someone who's just spent the last four months speaking day after day to audiences it was especially lacking. Moreover, that the rhetoric was all but identical in places to that of either Clegg or Cameron also stands against it; perhaps we shouldn't expect anything drastically different when he is superficially so similar to both men and that style is deemed to be successful, yet that doesn't alter how empty it felt.

Worst of all was the idea that he somehow represents a new generation, a new generation for change as the slogan abysmally has it (and surely we can also now consign Kings of Leon to the dustbin of musical history now that they're the soundtrack to the Labour party conference). We really can't seem to get away from change as a motif, as vacuous as it currently is, and Miliband's variety is the most dubious yet. The fact is that even if he himself is leading this new generation, the vote for the shadow cabinet overwhelmingly shows that it's the same old faces that will be making it up. Can they really expect us to swallow that they will be the agents of change, sweeping away New Labour's mistakes when so many sat in angry silence as Iraq was dealt with? It simply isn't credible, and as a result, the entire speech wasn't. As argued yesterday, just as Miliband needs to be determined to make this a one-term government, and he did an efficient job of attempting to woo disaffected Liberal Democrats in the main, especially by not even mentioning them, he also needs to be prepared to fail, and anoint a real new generation that can beat the Tories in 2020 if he doesn't manage it in 5 years' time.

If it's odd to be disappointed and pessimistic after a speech which did so much which those of us on the left urged to be done for so long to reinvent Labour, part of it is the same nervousness that Miliband himself must have felt. How will the voters react? How will the media react to this obvious repudiation of New Labour, even when it should be apparent to everyone just how the party needs to move on from that era? Some will undoubtedly continue to persist in the delusion that it was the tiny movement from ultra-Blairism under Brown which resulted in the party losing, even when it was obvious he would have led the party to a defeat potentially even worse than Brown did. Most of all though it's the feeling that Ed simply cannot lead the party to victory, regardless of what he does. It's true, as Jenni Russell writes, that David Miliband could not have given the speech which his brother did today. It also remains apparent that Ed is still the best possible leader of the five contenders. It's simply that he, like the other four, is simply not the clean break with the past which the party desperately needed. It's difficult to be the optimists when there is still so much to be disillusioned, concerned and worried about.

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Monday, September 27, 2010 

Ed Miliband and the doomers.

For my sins, I support Arsenal. When I can't get a stream going I also, for my sins, tend to go to Arseblog and watch the arses (comments) go by (and even occasionally contribute, although not under this name, potential stalkers). Whenever we either aren't winning, or, rare as it is, are losing, the "doomers" turn up. The players are useless, Wenger's a moron who needs to be sacked, our season's over because we're losing our first game of the season, Fabregas is really going to leave this time because the rest of the team are hopeless lazy wasters, and so it goes. Should we then come back on terms, or win, the opposite is the case. If we actually end up losing, the amount of doomers multiplies exponentially. Such is football.

Such also is politics. For the Blairites and some David Miliband supporters, his brother's victory leaves the party doomed to defeat at the next election. MPs and the party members themselves rejected Ed, even if only by slight margins and due to the vagaries of the incredibly odd system of AV which Labour's electoral college uses. Instead it was the unions, who overwhelmingly supported Ed, who swung it for him. Already those most disgruntled at the result have been murmuring of changing the system for next time, or, as the intention must be, for in roughly 5 years time. The tabloids will moniker him "Red Ed" and bring up his union "bully boy" backers constantly, each week David Cameron will remind him of how his own colleagues on the green benches behind him didn't vote for him as they squirm uncomfortably, and the public, even as they suffer the cuts being inflicted by the coalition, will fear how the leader will be in the pocket of the far worse strikers and wreckers.

Some of this is, admittedly, my own immediate analysis. Winning thanks to the union section of the electoral college was hardly ideal, and it will cast a pall for a while over his leadership, but it's hardly going to lose Labour the next election on its own. The right-wing press, not just the tabloids, have already set out to make the "Red Ed" shortening a permanent one. That it is already tedious and tiresome, as well as ridiculous, will mean it will soon disappear. After all, if there's one thing the public hates, it's being told how they're supposed to view someone when they haven't even had a chance to begin to make their own mind up. Sure, the media influences how they make up their mind, and it will have an impact, but this isn't even beginning to approach the level of sniping and demonisation that went on in the 80s right up until the 92 election. If anything, it's simply pathetic: really Daily Mail, Ed hasn't condemned the "strike threat"? The fiend! He backs "higher taxes and wants to curb top pay"? Well, haven't they blown long and hard about the second part, except of course when it comes to Mr Dacre's yearly pay cheque? They actually seem far more concerned about how his son's a bastard and the father's name isn't on the birth certificate, which as usual tells you everything about the immoral Daily Mail's priorities.

At the same time, it's also difficult to see anyone who's really optimistic at this turn of events, despite what Dave and Laurie might think. Instead they're just accepting of it, and are waiting to see what comes next. All these claims that Ed ran the best, most inspiring and hopeful campaign are hogwash. He probably wasn't even the most competent. The choice essentially was between the unelectable in any form (Abbott), the Brown continuity candidate, even if he has a good line in oppositionism (Balls), the unrecognisable with no chance (Burnham), Blair without the charm (D Miliband) and the best of a bad lot and that's about it (E Miliband). Labour has spent the time after the election leading up to this, mostly doing nothing constructive, and the hope was that this result would leave it energised to take on the Tories, providing the kind of opposition which the coalition marriage of convenience desperately needs. If anything, the life seems to have been sucked out of it even more than after the election.

This was always going to be the problem when two personalities had so dominated the party over the last sixteen years, leaving it without anyone who could unite the two factions, and bereft also of anyone without allegiance who could move the party on from the New Labour era. All that's effectively happened, sadly, is that the soap opera has moved on from the TB-GBs which at times descended almost into a British equivalent of Kremlinology to now the sibling rivalry, with the shock twist of the upstart younger brother triumphing against the favourite. What's D Miliband going to do now? Is he going to petulantly throw in the towel and go off into the wilderness of academia and wait for Ed to fail? Or is he going to compliment his brother by becoming shadow chancellor, taking the battle to the wicked persecutor Osborne?

The best possible thing that could happen would be David deciding to leave politics entirely. That would frame it as a family tragedy, but would mean that Ed could get at least get on with the job, without having to put up with every slight detail of their relationship as ministers being scrutinised. It would also allow the new talent to rise to the top, if it can be described as that, and it's always worth remembering the advice of the sage Jarvis Cocker, who observed that shit floats. Labour desperately needs new blood, new ideas, a whole new generation.

For even while the "doomers" are almost always wrong, they do occasionally get things right in spite of themselves. Much of Labour's thinking (as well as that of bloggers and commentators) has been predicated on the public overwhelmingly rejecting the spending cuts and the damage that they inflict, or even if they don't, they will object to the economic impact they will undeniably have. What though if they don't? What if they decide that they rather like the coalition's reforms and if everything goes as the IMF predicts, they end up with some pleasing tax cuts come the end of the parliament? Labour is depending on everything going wrong, rather than anything going right, and there are no signs of them beginning to offer anything approaching an alternative. The Conservatives prior to the credit crunch were at least looking in different areas, and it emboldened them further, even if they hadn't and still haven't fully fleshed out the "Big Society" and other ideas.

Labour shouldn't be just planning on winning in 2015; it should be in contingency thinking about what should happen should it not win until 2020. When asked by an American I chat to (don't ask) about Ed Miliband, I rather patronisingly (for the American, not Ed) compared him potentially with John Kerry in 04; the Democrats believed that they could put up anyone and they would beat Bush. Kerry was a fine congressman and deserved to win, but didn't win over the American public. Labour isn't in quite such a deluded situation, but it isn't that far off. Ed Miliband could more than conceivably win in 5 years time, if he doesn't just move on from New Labour as he has rightly signalled but actively creates something which is more than just the sum of its parts. It has to be a party which is once again in tune with both the working and middle classes, a party which offers a genuinely bright future and a vision of a Britain which isn't just treading water but actively progressing. New Labour indulged and endorsed neo-liberalism until it became a conservative party in all but name, while at the same time having the worst tendencies of the authoritarian left. Ed Miliband seems to have understood that, but as yet has not articulated properly how he intends to change things. At the same time he needs to recognise that things might not go his way, and that the next generation needs to be groomed should he fail. If he does so he will have prepared his party far better for the future than the competing egos of Blair and Brown ever did.

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Saturday, September 25, 2010 

Worst possible way to win.

Having already been branded "Red Ed" by the tabloids and the Blairites (however laughably), for the younger Miliband to win the Labour leadership on essentially the votes of the unions is not exactly the most auspicious of starts. Least worst option as he was and still is, he's going to be reminded of his debt to the unions, both by his opponents and by the likes of Unite until he wins the support of the public themselves.

(Incidentally, the number of spoilt union ballots was huge, as the breakdown shows. More in Unite spoilt their votes than plumped for Ed Balls and Andy Burnham combined. Whether those are protests or not understanding the voting system is open to question.)

Hardly any better is his winning statement as being distributed by the party:

"Today a new generation has stepped forward to change our party. We are united in our mission to transform Labour so that, once again, we stand up for the hardworking majority who play by the rules and want a less divided and more prosperous Britain. I know we have a lot of work to do. The journey starts today.

It really doesn't get much more Blairite than that. Those of us seeking someone who is prepared to put the case for the indolent minority who sometimes err on the wrong side of the law must go on searching.

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End credits.

On a completely different note...



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Friday, September 24, 2010 

Scum-watch: How a Sun investigation works.

The Sun has, predictably, followed up yesterday's dubious article on the suicide pact between Steve Lumb and Joanne Lee with if anything an even more sensational story, claiming that Lee was "goaded" and "preyed" upon by a sinister Dr. Death figure. As yesterday, through using exactly the same sources as the Sun has relied upon for its story, it can be shown that this is also at best a massive exaggeration of his role and at worst an outright fabrication. It also shows exactly how a couple of details can be seized upon and sexed up, as well as how dangerous and lazy the Sun's journalism in the aftermath of this case has been.

(The same cautions as discussed in yesterday's post apply equally if not more so here.)

Some of the details the Sun provides about this "Dr. Death", or Dr. Kiriyu, as he styles himself, are accurate. His Google Groups profile does record 368 posts made since last April, and he did post on the death of a former US Marine, Sherry Pike, who killed herself at the beginning of the month. Almost everything else in the article about him is either conjecture or ascribing motives to his actions purely for sensational effect, as if they weren't potentially sensational enough on their own.

Also accurate is that he did respond to Lee's second post seeking a pact. Whether he uses the x-no archive: yes tag or not is unclear, but some of his messages have been either removed from the archive or not been mirrored, at least on Google Groups, one of which is the post he made on Lee's pact thread. His post was however quoted, and also shows in his profile. He also posted in another of Lee's threads, one asking for advice on where to carry out her suicide, although this one has also gone missing and was not quoted, making it impossible to know what was said. While it's possible that Lee did respond to his posts, with them also not being mirrored, or could well have responded to him personally via email, there are no posts in the Google archive at least of her doing so. Furthermore, Lee's first post asking about her method of suicide was on the 22nd of August, where she was directed to a different post by Kiriyu by another poster. She went on to make a number of separate threads detailing her plans, none of which were responded to by Kiriyu at least based on the Google archive. As made clear yesterday, a better case could be made that Lee was "egged on" than it could be for Lumb, as she was both responded to by trolls and had a series of conversations with a poster called "ttestimony", which included instructions and advice. The claims however that "Dr. Kiriyu" personally either goaded or preyed upon Joanne Lee are highly dubious and unproven.

In a sign of just how much time was spent by the by-lined hacks on their "investigation", the following quotes the paper used can be incredibly easily found:

His is a glowering presence on forums used by depressed people - who were last night enraged at his vile "hobby". One user branded him "no better than a murderer" - with "zero regard for human life". Another raged: "I'm not the first nor only person to suggest that he gets off on people dying by H2S. Yes, I mean sexually."

Search Google for Dr. Kiriyu and the thread these comments were made in is the very first result. The @ poster in that thread also made similar remarks in a thread on the death of Sherry Pike, which were also lifted by the Sun, not all of which were directly attributed. Play spot the difference:

Yes, that is what a few of us have been trying to say, Carl, about a handful of people here, not just "Dr.Kiriyu". Some people here appear to thrive on the suicide deaths of others. They appear love it. They appear to have a fetish for it. Dr.Kiriyu bombarded Ex US Marine Sherry Pike (trixiepie66) with suicide methods and advice, then he watched the Internet news websites and came back to ASH and ASM and reported her death. In the same report thathe posted of her death, he also included his usual list of H2S and hanging suicide methods. How classy . The dude ("Dr.Kiriyu") appears to be intensely ill.

Gulf War veteran Sherry Pike was said to have been bombarded with "advice" from him.

He gleefully "announced" her death on a web group alongside a series of instructions on how others could use his deadly method. One horrified forum user wrote: "He watched the internet news websites and came back and reported her death.

"In the same report that he posted of her death, he also included his usual list of H2S and hanging suicide methods.

"The dude appears to be intensely ill."


Despite not reporting "Dr Death's" real name, supposedly as not to publicise it, the paper has more or less done everything but, as those on alt.suicide.methods have themselves noted. Just as dangerous, if not more so, is spelling out exactly how Kiriyu has advertised his method, calling it detergent suicide. A quick Google search for that term and within a few clicks you can be at Kiriyu's page, none of which I'm going to link to in this instance. For a newspaper which was demanding censorship yesterday in order to save lives, this seems to be a remarkably careless and hypocritical way to go about keeping the tragic story going.

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Thursday, September 23, 2010 

Scum-watch: Dubious investigations into "suicide chat groups" and lying to the bereaved.

Is there anything more despicable than lying to those recently bereaved? Moreover, is there anything more despicable than telling a bereaved parent that other people were involved in "egging" their loved ones on, when it can be established in a matter of minutes that is simply not the case?

Yesterday the Sun splashed on the suicide pact between Steve Lumb and Joanne Lee, two people who met only a matter of hours before they killed themselves in a car on an industrial estate in Braintree. The case was notable not just because Lumb and Lee had made contact via the internet, but also due to the unusual method which was used, not to mention the warnings which the pair had put on the car's windows, warning of the poisonous gases that would be released should the car be opened without the use of specialist breathing equipment.

Before going any further, it should be noted that this post is going to link directly to the posts made by both Lumb and Lee, some of which contain discussion of the method which they used. It also links directly to the Usenet newsgroup where both Lumb and Lee posted, where the method they used is often freely discussed. While it's perfectly understandable that newspapers censor details which would allow easy access to sites such as those used by Lumb and Lee, and it is indeed required by the Press Complaints Commission's code that any descriptions of suicide be shorn of explicit details lest anyone attempt to copy them, that is no excuse whatsoever for inaccuracy. As someone who has suffered from severe depression in the past and has been suicidal, I admit to being somewhat conflicted over such websites. They can be used by those who simply have not experienced enough of life in order to be able to make a informed decision over ending theirs, yet at the same time I respect deeply the right of individuals who have suffered throughout their lives both from mental and physical illness to choose, if they so wish, to kill themselves. Suicide is not illegal. Assisting suicide is, yet providing information which is eminently available from a number of sources should also not be as long as it is not provided with active encouragement. Usenet groups such as those which Lumb and Lee used toe a very fine line between these two things.

If it wasn't clear enough from the above, the newspapers and media outlets variously describing the group used as either a website or a chat group are plain wrong, although as also stated they could be censoring the detail for good reasons. Alt.suicide.methods is a Usenet group, and so is not centrally hosted by any internet service provider by itself. Lumb and Lee it seems both used Google Groups to access it, although they could have just as easily used a separate newsgroup reader and their own ISP's Usenet stream, if they provide one (most still do).

How and who first established it is unclear, but it was soon discovered that Lumb and Lee had both posted to alt.suicide.methods, Lumb under the username "endthis" and Lee under the username "
*heavens*little*girl*". Whether they posted under different aliases is as yet unclear, and it could be possible. They could also have used the "x-no archive:yes" tag at the beginning of posts which prevents them from being archived, although this doesn't seem to be the case from the posts that have been archived.

Despite the claims from the Sun in particular that Lumb was egged on, the archive on Google simply doesn't support this version of events. The first post made by Lumb, who made relatively few, was back in November of 2008, asking for help, to which he received a sarcastic reply. Lumb responded by calling the poster a "funny cunt". He made a further 12 posts in July of this year, again asking for help, to which the replies were more cooperative. He responded to a request from someone else asking for help, telling them to search, and posted a thread asking about getting
"deliveries" sent somewhere other than home, to which again there were helpful replies. Finally, he posted the "goodbye" thread last Sunday, as reproduced by the Sun. 9 separate individuals responded, all wishing him luck and best wishes. None tried to dissuade him, but equally none did anything which admittedly in my subjective view could be construed as "egging him on", much less act like "perverted creatures [who] get their kicks encouraging others to end it all" as the Sun's leader column* has it.

Despite the Sun not focusing on Lee, perhaps because of the many separate posts which she made, it would have far more of a case for claiming that she was "egged on". A number of threads which she both started and contributed to were responded to by a troll going by the name of Colonel Edmund J. Burke, who the Google archive has as posting to a variety of groups, not just the ones dealing with suicide. She only however responded to him once, in a thread started by "him", in which he urged those in the group to get on with it. She replied saying that she wished that she could.

The Sun doesn't however seem satisfied with just potentially misleading the relatives of those who have just lost loved ones. It also launched an "investigation" into the group:

SINISTER internet chat forums that offer detailed advice on ways of committing suicide are alarmingly easy to find. Two of the most used are hosted by Google.

Posing as a 19-year-old girl called Jen, within 40 minutes we got detailed instructions on how to create the poison gas used by Joanne Lee and Steve Lumb.

And using a nickname that suggested an age of just 25, we were quickly asked to form a death pact with one member who said they were from the US.


The thread started by "Jen" is easy to find. Despite claiming to have posed as a 19-year-old girl, neither the username used, "Journey Jen" or her posts even begin to make clear that she was meant to be 19. Reading the thread it also becomes apparent that she wasn't given detailed instructions on how to create it; she was given advice on how to use it, which is what the journalist asked, and she in fact provided the names of the ingredients needed to make it herself, which were then confirmed and clarified by posters on the thread. For reasons known only to the Sun, the journo also posted in the RIP
*heavens*little*girl* thread. Another poster going by the name "John Done" has the exact same IP as Journey Jen, 143.252.80.100, which resolves to dormy.newsint.co.uk. The Google archive has him as making 4 posts, only one of which seems to be currently available, a contribution to the thread "Why prevent suicide?", a thread in which Lee had also posted. I can't at the moment find the posts supposedly made by the Sun under the nickname that suggested an age of just 25. As noted above, while Google provides access to these groups, it does not solely host them. Even if it was to stop hosting them, or disable access to them, they would still be easily available through Usenet services, or by using a proxy server.

Fundamentally, the whole issue comes down to personal responsibility. Both Lumb and Lee were adults in their mid-30s, not impressionable teenagers. No one forced them to do what they did; they chose to take their own lives, even if they needed the moral support of each other in order to do so. The Sun claims in its leader that they arranged "their deaths online, egged on by sickos". As hopefully shown above, the latter assertion is dubious at best and downright misleading at worst. It also claims that "online suicide pacts are increasing", something which it provides no evidence to back up. As also alluded to above, it states:

These sites are the virtual playgrounds of perverted creatures who get their kicks encouraging others to end it all.

It is harder to think of anything more callous or wantonly cruel.


How about telling the parent of a man who has just committed suicide easily disprovable lies? And how about this: in its previous article on Lee, it carried the plea from her family:

"We would ask the media to protect our privacy and let us grieve in peace."

In spite of this, the Sun contacted a poster who had been in contact with Lee and asked for them to share what they talked about, under this dubious justification:

Hi there,

I see from the records in Google chat that you asked Heavens Little Girl for her email address on Saturday September 18. To which she replied she had sent her email address to you.
As I'm sure you know, just over 24 hours later, Heavens Little Girl, whose real name is Joanne Lee, started on the road to committing suicide with a stranger she had met online.
Her death has caused a huge amount of agony and anguish to her distraught family who cared deeply about her.

I was wondering if you could be so kind as to reveal the nature of the conversation you had with Joanne in the short final hours before her death.

It would be of great consolation to her family if you were able to impart such information.

Many thanks

Alex West
The Sun
News Reporter
020 7782 4104

"Please consider the environment before printing this e-mail"

The Newspaper Marketing Agency: Opening Up Newspapers:

http://www.nmauk.co.uk/

This e-mail and any attachments are confidential, may be legally privileged and are the property of News International Limited (which is the holding company for the News International group, is registeredin England under number 81701 and whose registered office is 1 Virginia St, London E98 1XY), on whose systems they were generated. If you have received this e-mail in error, please notify the sender immediately and do not use, distribute, store or copy it in any way.

Statements or opinions in this e-mail or any attachment are those of the author and are not necessarily agreed or authorised by News International Limited or any member of its group. News International Limited may monitor outgoing or incoming emails as permitted by law.
It accepts no liability for viruses introduced by this e-mail or attachments.

Alex West was doubtless only going to use anything he was told to console or inform Lee's family of her actions in the last hours of her life. The Sun certainly wouldn't have published such information without her family's permission. Would they?

*The Sun's leaders disappear down the memory hole without being archived and easily searchable, so on this occasion I've reproduced in it full below.

SUICIDE by internet takes the world wide web into chilling new territory.

Joanne Lee and Steve Lumb had never met. But they arranged their deaths online, egged on by sickos.

They were even able to download technical advice on how to kill themselves using chemicals.

Online suicide pacts are increasing. So today The Sun calls on the Government to stop this becoming a horrifying new craze for the vulnerable and impressionable.

Our investigation uncovered scores of websites dedicated to suicide, from forums discussing detailed methods to chatrooms urging on those considering killing themselves.

These sites are the virtual playgrounds of perverted creatures who get their kicks encouraging others to end it all.

It is harder to think of anything more callous or wantonly cruel.

Grooming someone online for sex is illegal. Technically, so is grooming someone to kill themselves. But no prosecutions have been brought.

Action is needed, and we welcome Home Secretary Theresa May's pledge to review internet law on encouraging suicide.

It is out of date and urgently needs tightening.

Those driven to consider suicide are often despairing young people for whom life has gone wrong - perhaps because of a broken relationship, or, as in Joanne Lee's case, bullying.

But most suicide attempts are a cry for help.

Many suicide chatrooms are available not through shady online outfits but mighty Google.

If Google can video every street in Britain and map the surface of Mars, it is not beyond its wit to remove or block suicide sites available by a simple Google search.

The same goes for other search engines. And internet service providers must refuse to carry suicide sites.

It's no good these firms saying they are only gateways to someone else's site. They share responsibility.

The price of a free internet is eternal vigilance.

Not in the name of censorship. But in the name of saving lives.

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Wednesday, September 22, 2010 

New Labour's dead cat bounce.

At long last, the seemingly unending Labour leadership contest has gasped its last, with only the ballots left to count. Congratulations must go to all five candidates: it must take a truly superhuman effort to keep repeating yourself over and over again daily for such an extended period of time and not find yourself going slowly but surely insane (Whoops, I seem to have just inadvertently insulted myself and all bloggers). Expectations at the outset were low, both for the standard of debate and for the potential for full, painstaking examination of why the party lost, and those expectations were more than exceeded. The party has essentially just spent the last three months travelling the country conducting a navel-gazing exercise that hasn't even begun to scratch the surface of how and why it lost, and in Ed Balls has someone who is just as myopic to the changing of the political tide as any of the deeply deluded Blairites. When it's Andy Burnham dropping truth bombs, trying desperately to make Balls realise that some cuts are going to have to be necessary and would have been made by Labour had it remained in power, even if not this year, you know the party's in a bad way.

In fact, Burnham has been the surprise candidate in that he's at least tried to think differently even if still within the Blairite prism: his "aspirational socialism" might be risible intellectually and in practice, yet using the "s" word in the current climate when Vince Cable gets derided for daring to make even the slightest critique of capitalism takes a certain amount of bottle. Embarrassing by contrast has been Diane Abbott, who's ran an invisible campaign and seemingly treated the entire thing as a joke. We have to make an allowance for how it takes money to do anything political these days and she's had almost none pledged in her direction, but that's no excuse for not even seeming to put an ounce of her heart in it. It has to be remembered that John McDonnell stood down in favour of her, who just might have managed to drag the debate leftwards and make the party's apparatus think about those who have been systematically abandoned and marginalised by New Labour. Instead Abbott's acted as the party's false conscience, sitting in yet contributing nothing. When Abbott is the face of the Labour left, that section of the party shouldn't be surprised when it finds itself derided and ridiculed.

The fear from the beginning was that it would be personalities rather than policies which would be the main topic of debate and so it has proved. Admittedly, when the two main candidates are brothers it's always likely that the media, already about as interested in the leadership contest as it has been with the floods in Pakistan, was going to focus on that to the detriment of everything else; the problem has been that it's been their camps which have been playing it up more than anyone else. Their relationship might well have turned poisonous if we're to believe Neil Kinnock, and the interventions by Blair and Mandelson have hardly helped, yet still the entire fixation on it has been dispiriting.

What then, if despite all the speculation surrounding his brother and second preference votes, it does turn out to be David Miliband who becomes Labour leader on Saturday? Having been anointed as the only apparent successor to Blair and Brown, it would be a vote for a continuation of the New Labour project, even in its current decrepit state. Moreover, it would be an endorsement of all that Miliband stood for while he was a cabinet minister, and especially his record as foreign secretary. While much has been made during the campaign of how the elder Miliband continues to support the Iraq war in the obfuscatory Blairite fashion of having made the right decision at the time while Ed apparently opposed it, that ought to be the least of concerns. Far more significant is how he didn't just frustrate the attempts by Binyam Mohamed to find out the contents of the "seven paragraphs", which detailed that MI5 were fully aware of how he was being mistreated by the Americans and their proxies, he authorised Jonathan Sumption to criticise the legal opinion of Lord Neuberger for getting far too close to the truth.

Some of Miliband's actions in blocking the Binyam Mohamed case may have been down to protecting our relationship with the US, supposedly in danger due to our breaching of the "control" principle, whereby another country does not reveal intelligence shared with it without authorisation. The same cannot be said for Miliband's apparent authorisation of intelligence-gathering operations in countries with atrocious human rights records, as revealed by the Guardian today. For Miliband to have apparently returned to the Foreign Office to revisit his decisions is an indication of how serious he himself considers the allegations. It's one thing to defend the actions of your predecessors and the intelligence services they were responsible for at the time; it's something else to potentially give the OK for MI6 to seek access to information obtained via torture.

At the outset of the leadership contest it was clear that Ed Miliband was the best realistic option for leader, as in the potential to actually win, and absolutely nothing has changed since then. None of the candidates has shown a real willingness to take the few things that New Labour achieved and build upon them by revitalising the party's relationship both with its members and the public at large, and none has yet demonstrated anything even resembling a real alternative to the cuts agenda as articulated by the coalition. Ed has done the bare minimum required to deserve to lead the party, as Labour itself so often did when it was in power. Whichever brother triumphs, 2015 remains a year which the party and indeed the country should fear rather than look forward to.

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The Sun does irony?

At the very least, it seems to be having a go. How else to explain today's editorial pinpointing the best Britain has to offer:

IF Britain is so awful, why does the world flock here?

A survey claims we are the worst place in Europe to live.

The Sun thinks the exact opposite.

From the Premier League to the X Factor, and from tandoori chicken to Newcastle Brown, we have Europe beat.

We have the finest scenery, the bravest Forces and the most talented workers. We even have Churchill the nodding dog.

We're not called GREAT Britain for nothing!


In fact, in a typical example of the Sun's penchant for accuracy, the survey finds that Ireland is the worst place in Europe to live while we come second from bottom. Nonetheless, it's clear why the Sun thinks the X Factor is what makes Britain great: it means they can expose contestants who have a sideline in selling sex, in another fabulous victory for press freedom.

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Tuesday, September 21, 2010 

The true meaning of Blairism.

For those still wavering over who to support for Labour leader, you could do worse than take a second to listen to the poison Peter Mandelson has been spitting about Ed Miliband:

In his most direct attack on the younger Miliband brother, the former business secretary mocked him for distancing himself from a work he produced.

"Nobody else authored the manifesto," Mandelson told Radio 4. "It was done by Gordon and Ed."

The ex-business secretary said the manifesto was designed to appeal to readers of the Guardian and "offered nothing to people worried about immigration, housing and welfare scroungers".

He described the document as "a lowest common denominator manifesto, a crowd-pleasing Guardianista manifesto that completely passed by that vast swath of the population who weren't natural Labour voters".


Mandelson at the time described the manifesto as "Blairplus", which presumably was a compliment, even though Ed Miliband quite reasonably said he didn't understand exactly what Mandelson meant. It does however say something about just how deranged the Blairites have become that they could possibly portray the dour, timid and pessimistic document produced by Ed and Gordon as anything even close to "Guardianista pleasing". While it might not have said much to those worried about immigration, housing and welfare scroungers, it did imply that crime and immigration were all but the same subject, marrying them into one section, not the most liberal-leftie pleasing of decisions, as well as not using the word liberty once, and only mentioning civil liberties to hilariously claim to be proud of their record in maintaining them (surely destroying them?).

All this time I think we've been underestimating exactly what Blairism is. While it certainly isn't as encompassing and defining a political orthodoxy as Thatcherism has become, we can't really continue to deride it as being either meaningless or not an ideology at all. Blair's recent diagnosis of why Labour lost, along with Mandelson's continued interventions to fight back against even the slightest deviation from the New Labour line show that even when it ought to be in terminal decline as it's clearly failed to change with the times it remains a distinct if small school of thought within not just Labour, but also within the Conservatives, with whom Blair and Mandelson's real support ought to be based on their views. Blairism, in short, puts the creation of wealth, or the possibility of creating it before everything else. As long as the potential was there to get incredibly rich, and this potential was open to the middle classes, everything else followed. Hence Blair's derision for how Brown introduced the 50p tax on those earning over £150,000, and also for his "identifying banks as the malfeasants" of the economic crisis, as if they somehow weren't. That's the other aspect of Blairism: ignoring what is staring you in the face. For the incredible political vision Blair is meant to have shown, he and Mandelson could also be complete dunderheads, and it's only now that just how incredibly ignorant and stupid they are is becoming clear. Should Ed Miliband or someone other than his brother become leader, we'll soon get to experience just how petulant the Blairites can be.

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Monday, September 20, 2010 

The Liberal Democrats and the anxiety of power.

It's become traditional when the party conferences come round yet again to take a look back and see what nonsense I wrote about them twelve months ago. This time last year the Liberal Democrats seemed to be, as usual, treading water. Nick Clegg, that eternal hopeless optimist, thought that this might be the long-awaited liberal moment even while everyone around him yawned. And I, in full Mystic Mogg mode, said that the Liberal Democrats deserved a chance even as the spectre of a hung parliament faded. In fairness to myself, the Conservatives were 17 points ahead of Labour at the time in the opinion polls.

Nevertheless, ahem. True, Clegg was wrong: it wasn't a liberal moment. Nor however was it a truly Conservative moment, as the election results attested. Far more controversial is whether we can still agree if the Liberal Democrats deserved that chance, now knowing just what sort of agreement would be reached with the Conservatives for the two parties to go into coalition. The problem is that so many, having voted for a party which promised not to cut until the recovery was secured, now find themselves have helped into power a party which turned that policy on its head as soon as it was offered the slightest trappings of government.

The party is more than just aware of that bargain as it gathers together in power for the first time in over 65 years; it actively pervades it. While the Conservative party conference will probably not be quite as triumphant as it would have been had Cameron won power outright, you expect that it'll be far more pleased with itself than the Liberals are in Liverpool. You'd also imagine that the atmosphere would be completely different if the result had been slightly different and Labour had still held the upper hand, presuming that Labour in power would have stayed with its previously articulated deficit reduction plan. As it is, there's both a sense of anti-climax and trepidation, with the delegates fearing the future, leaving the new government ministers having to face the tricky task of both recognising the anxiety many feel at having to take responsibility for the coming cuts, while also urging them to celebrate, or if not, at least be thankful for having gained office under first past the post, achieving so much in the process.

If the discomfort of sharing power with the Conservatives is already apparent amongst the rank and file, it doesn't show in the top ranks, or at least not amongst those most associated with the Orange Book. While Vince Cable mutters out loud about the effect the immigration cap is already having, Nick Clegg is going so far in his speech as to accentuate the positive effects working together is having and go to have: when he says "we have become more than the sum of our parts" you imagine a slightly over-the-top couple describing their close relationship, not two parties which away from civil liberties had many policies which were almost complete polar opposites. As unconvincing as his line is that "two parties acting together can be braver, fairer and bolder than one party acting alone", alluding to how two heads are usually better than one, which doesn't really work when parties almost always contain a multitude of differing views, he's right that it would have been seen as a rejection of the pluralistic politics the party has always identified with if they had let the Conservatives attempt to govern as a minority.

This was though fundamentally a speech directed at the party's supporters, not at those who voted Liberal Democrat and already regret it, nor really at a country which is equally worried about how savage the cuts are going to be, as Clegg himself suggested last year, even with the much increased media attention upon the event. Try as he did to play down just how sharp the slashes in spending would be as he appealed to public sector workers, claiming that the cuts would only reduce spending back to a 2006 level, it was mostly an exercise in semantics: the cuts might not take us back either to the 80s or the 30s, but such massive cuts in spending are the biggest since those eras, if not even larger in practice. He may have promised those in the north and in Scotland that the cuts will not have the same effect as they did then, and that the cuts are not ideological, yet there's nothing to suggest the private sector can currently pick up the slack from the public economy in those areas, while certain Conservatives, including those in senior government roles, actively do consider the cuts to be part of a political program aimed at shrinking the state rather than just eradicating the deficit.

Perhaps, as so often when it comes to conference speeches, what's just as instructive is deemed either unmentionable or forgotten about. Hence there's no mention of how the Institute for Fiscal Studies declared the first joint Conservative-Liberal Democrat budget to be regressive despite it being lauded otherwise by both parties, with Vince Cable deeming it one they could be proud of, nor was there any defence of its progressive intentions. Trident was left well alone, as was the previously toxic issue of abolishing or reforming tuition fees, left for Lord Browne's review to sort out.

It would certainly be churlish to describe the speech overall as anything other than well-constructed, in areas cogently argued and making the best of a difficult case to an unconvinced and concerned party. The best praise it can possibly be given is that it kept the devices so often used by politicians to a minimum: he only falls down completely when he bothers to inform us that he "believes in work". It may well be however his vision of a strong, fair, free and hopeful nation come 2015 which comes back to haunt him: if the cuts tip the economy into a double-dip recession then the imagined achievements the activists will be able to boast about come that year will be more than just overshadowed; they could well condemn his party to another 65 years in the wilderness.

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Saturday, September 18, 2010 

And the...




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Friday, September 17, 2010 

How the Press Complaints Commission works.

The Press Complaints Commission is nothing if not consistent. It upheld the complaint made by Clare Balding precisely because AA Gill referred to her as a "dyke", a "pejorative synonym relating to the complainant’s sexuality" as the adjudication described it, despite the Times making the case that in some instances "dyke" had been reclaimed as an empowering term. Arguably Gill's remarks were made in jest and without real malice, yet Balding more than understandably was within her rights to find them as insulting.

When however the homophobia is even more blatant, yet hidden behind weasel words, the PCC is powerless as its code only covers those "pejorative synonyms". Hence the complaints about Jan Moir's heartless piece of grief intrusion were rejected as she didn't make the mistake of referring to him as a "faggot" or "queer", while Iain Dale's objection to the Daily Mail's Ephraim Hardcastle column describing him as "overtly gay" as well as commenting that it was "charming how homosexuals rally like-minded chaps to their cause' was not upheld on the same grounds. The lesson is clear: don't be obvious when you want to reveal your distaste about homosexuals, just hide it behind a thin veil of obfuscatory language and they won't be able to touch you.

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Thursday, September 16, 2010 

Slow start to the death of the BBC.

Just last month the Director-General of the BBC, Mark Thompson, finally did what he and the corporation should have done a long time ago: they came out fighting. During his MacTaggart lecture at the Edinburgh festival, Thompson defended the BBC's unique funding model, mocked James Murdoch and attacked Sky's increasing media dominance and failure to fund original British programming outside of sports and news, with the killer fact that despite now being the largest UK broadcaster by revenue, it spends the equivalent of ITV's entire programming budget on marketing while putting only £100m into new home-grown features, or about the same as Channel Five does despite Sky having fifteen times the turnover.

Less than three weeks later, what happens? The BBC Trust meekly submits to a zero-percent rise in the licence fee over the next two years, which even the hawkish culture secretary Jeremy Hunt finds to be thinking too far ahead, agreeing only to the first year, with a decision to be made about 2012/3 at a later date. Not that the BBC should suspect that this will change anything come the licence fee settlement to be secured in 2013: most predict that if anything, the licence fee faces being cut. The freeze is despite the last fee settlement, agreed and signed by Tessa Jowell for the last government, which pencilled in a 2% rise next year and between a 0% and 2% rise the year after.

Well, why not, some might ask. Every other publicly funded body is being asked to identify savings, ready for the cuts which are just around the corner. What's more, isn't it about time that the BBC spent the licence fee more wisely, cutting back on the highly paid executives and star talent, trimming the fat and getting into line with the current economic climate? That, it seems, is exactly the sort of argument which the BBC was anticipating and so has reacted to, avoiding any possibility of the government falling out with the corporation by not embracing the new spirit of the age. And it's true that some executives, especially on the radio side of things, have been receiving more than they probably would in the private sector, mainly thanks to how successful the BBC has long been and continues to be in that sector.

The problem is, as Mark Thompson outlined in his lecture, that the BBC has already been responding both to outside pressure and to an internal realisation that it's been spreading itself too thinly. Thousands of jobs have gone over the last six years, it's made many of its top stars take pay cuts or refused their exorbitant demands in order to stay (for which see Adrian Chiles and Christine Bleakley crossing over to ITV, although describing them as stars is perhaps pushing it), it's tackling its pensions deficit, triggering the planned strikes and it wants to go even further, as its own Putting Quality First document set out. Those cuts and changes already proposed a radically different BBC, one where it effectively emasculated itself in some areas, and also went against its very supposed principles of providing different unique content which the private sector either wouldn't or couldn't. While the BBC Trust saved 6 Music, at least for now, the Asian Network will be closed at the end of next year. Now the freeze in the licence fee effectively means the taking of a further £144m out of the corporation's current budgets. True, if the BBC was to close or privatise a couple of more worthy targets, such as either BBC3 or Radio 1, neither of which even come close to providing a unique service unavailable elsewhere, then that entire £144m could be reallocated. Sadly, those seem to be cuts which the corporation is too stubborn to even begin to consider.

If this sacrifice is intended to endear the corporation to the coalition come the next fee settlement, then it seems to be an incredibly short-sighted gesture. Mark Thompson made an argument against a cut in the fee which applies just as well to the freeze during his MacTaggart speech:

But do not believe anyone who claims that cutting the licence fee is a way of growing the creative economy or that the loss in programme investment which would follow a substantial reduction in the BBC's funding could be magically made up from somewhere else.

It just wouldn't happen. A pound out of the commissioning budget of the BBC is a pound out of UK creative economy. Once gone, it will be gone for ever.


It also reckons without the influence which Murdoch is going to wield in two years time, let alone the deal already done which led to him switching support from Labour to Cameron's Conservatives. All signs point by then to News International having swallowed Sky whole, with Vince Cable apparently unlikely to intervene. Claire Enders, the respected independent media commentator has said that this will represent a "Berlusconi moment", referring to the control which the Italian prime minister has over his country's media through his ownership of vast swathes of it. This would be even more drastic if Ofcom had been abolished or had its powers slashed, as Cameron suggested should happen prior to the election, picking on it directly as one of the quangos which should be cut down to size. While little has been said since the election, it could well be one of the targets in the general spending review. If politicians were scared of taking on News International when it owned only 39% of Sky, as they claim to have been as an explanation as for why they did next to nothing about allegations of phone-hacking at the News of the World, then the potential full spectrum dominance it will have in just a couple of years' time makes it even less likely that such abuses of power would be followed up and investigated to the fullest.

The enraging thing about the BBC is that from a position of power, with mass public support as multiple polls attest, it almost always plays the weakest hand possible. For 39p a day (approximately what £145.50 breaks down to) it represents incredible value for money, regardless of whether it's television, radio or their online content which you prefer to use, and almost everyone in the country uses on or the other and would miss it incredibly were it to slowly fade away. That's what the management essentially seems to be agreeing to, the slow death of a public service broadcaster which is too weak and pathetic to fight its own corner effectively. Perhaps in that respect it almost deserves what's coming.

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