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Monday, July 12, 2010 

5 years of Obsolete/septicisle.

(In case you couldn't guess, this is going to be one of those self-indulgent, personal posts which I'm sure you all love.)

Blitz spirit. Even by the standards of this blog, the very first post I wrote was about as inauspicious a start as you can imagine. 5 years later, it's frankly embarrassing. Some of the points made it in are defensible, such as the contempt expressed for a hastily cobbled together Panorama following the walking wounded from the attacks of the previous Thursday, as was the assault made on Labour MPs for attacking George Galloway when he stated the bleeding obvious. Linking the attacks directly to the bombings going on in Iraq itself was more tenuous, while my description of a bereaved parent expressing her anguish, even in front of the cameras, as "the wailing and gnashing of teeth", "nauseating", "stomach-churning" and finally, just to really labour the point, "crazy" was disgraceful. The references to capitalism were hackneyed, while the final paragraph is beyond idiotic: according to my 20-year-old self, this was an attack without ideology behind it, without reason. The point I was trying to make, or at least I assume I was, was that these weren't holy warriors but criminals, except it instead comes across as attempting to excuse any religious influence they may have had, however out of step, extreme or misguided their political interpretation of Islam may have been. I was trying to defend Muslims, I suspect, from guilt by association. Laudable maybe, yet not expressed anywhere near adequately.

The themes which were going to develop into whole streams (even torrents) of posts are also there, for better and worse. On the plus side, the suspicion of the pushing of any media narrative, of trying to frame a reaction based on how they think we should respond, rather than how we ought to respond, the positive cynicism of how out of place any sort of "blitz" style defiance really was. On the negative, the trap I've often fallen into of deciding to emphasise only one group of "victims", while occasionally treating those with views different to mine as poisonous or irrational, as shown by the recent spectacularly ill-judged and badly explained post on Linda Bowman which was more than deserving of all the criticism it received. And then there's the casual espousal of one of the dumbest conspiracy theories of the time, something which it took a while for me to reject entirely, even if I didn't wholly embrace it either, keeping it as a possibility, however remote.

Why I suddenly chose on the 12th of July 2005 to start letting the wider world into my thought process is difficult to explain. Even I'm not entirely sure why I did, let alone why five years on I'm still spending endless amounts of time filling a very tiny corner of the internet with often impenetrable, convoluted, badly argued left-wing warbling. There was anger there directly about 7/7, undoubtedly, but not really at the mass murder itself; more at those who then immediately afterwards decided that such an attack had been inevitable, even while refusing to accept that it was as a direct result of our foreign policy post 9/11 that the threat had increased so massively, alienating and radicalising in equal measure. That might even be my slant in 2010 on why I began blogging, such has my view changed in the five intervening years. 7/7 was the catalyst, certainly, yet not the underlying cause.

At the beginning of 2003 I was almost certainly what would be termed clinically depressed, and I deteriorated further as the months passed until I was severely depressed, or in my case, suicidal, as they don't always go hand in hand. I've written about this somewhat before. I struggled through my A-levels, but decided I couldn't, regardless of my results, possibly deal with going on to university in September as I'd planned. I felt I could probably manage it the following year, giving me more than 12 months to recover fully, and as I got somewhat better by the time it was to fill in the forms again, reapplied, albeit deciding I didn't want to do a BA in journalism after all, plumping instead for English. I thought I was ready, even if I was by no means the same person in any shape or form that I was prior to 2003. As it turned out, I wasn't, and wasn't even capable of getting out of bed on the day of going to confirm I would be starting the course.

Anger, despair, isolation, loneliness, alienation, depression, fury, contempt, self-righteousness, self-pity, shyness, timidity. I was all of them, and they were all of me, however contradictory. I felt a failure, and I still do, or rather, I am. Another 9 months on and I still wasn't doing anything. I needed something to try and distract myself, something to take my mind off other things, something to at least give the impression, even if just to myself, that I was putting my mind to some use other than just ruminating and vegetating. My rage against the Iraq war, the illiberalism of New Labour, the lies and deceptions of the tabloid press, especially the Murdoch media which backed the government to the hilt on both were all rumbling underneath, as they had been for some time. I'd already been reading some blogs, although nowhere near the breadth which I was shortly going to have to. Then 7/7 happened, despite my adherence to the thesis Adam Curtis had put forward in the Power of Nightmares. No wonder I was willing to entertain conspiracy theories.

Here comes the part I'm unsure about admitting, or revealing. As addictive as blogging is, would I have kept going if I hadn't approached it from the way I always have? That I wasn't writing really for myself, or to achieve anything in particular, as much as I have always maintained that I have, but instead doing it for someone, however obliquely? That whenever I put something down, it's been as if they were the one it was personally intended for, even if there was next to no chance they were actually reading it, and indeed, they wouldn't have for more than the first year as they were completely unaware of it? Writing from the perspective of almost talking to someone and including the necessary background and backup from outside sources is what I've always intended to do; does the person I was almost addressing it to then matter?

Probably not. I've never been a good judge of my own work, as I tend to be far too self-critical. Self-critical is being too kind; self-hatred, utter visceral loathing of myself is more like it. It's only rarely that I think anything I've done has been worthwhile, let alone worthy of actual praise, which I also don't take well. There have been wholesale disasters along the way, which I'm much better at identifying, such as this "hilarious" post after the death of Bernard Manning, which I cringed at when I came across again the other day. The aforementioned post on Linda Bowman also falls into the same category, as does my being taken in, along with a myriad of others at least, by Karen Matthews, attacking those tut-tutting at her in the tabloids, not to mention also the recent precious post on joining the Labour party, which was dreadful. There definitely are some posts I'm more proud of than others, such as this one which I regularly link to, on the rendition report by the Intelligence and Security Committee, which got almost no coverage elsewhere despite moving the goalposts to ensure that the security services were innocent of being involved directly in extraordinary rendition, and also, perhaps to counter-balance the Bernard Manning debacle, this take on how the search for Madeleine McCann might still be going on in 16 years, aimed squarely at the media's complete loss of anything approaching journalistic values as reports and new angles were demanded despite there being no developments.

If being threatened with legal action is a measure of success, then those two occasions on which I have been are at least something to savour. At one point this site was voted the 18th best left-wing blog in the country, and the "best" of this site intermittently gets mirrored over on Liberal Conspiracy, ranked as the 2nd in the nation's affections by Wikio. Most humbling though has been that my piss-poor ramblings have inspired far better writers than myself, such as Mr Vowl, to start their own blogs and put my efforts to shame.

As for myself, the anger and the depression, without which this would have never started, has somewhat dissipated. I can't pretend it's disappeared and that I'm just going through the motions, yet I can't also say things are the same. That really would be a sad state of affairs five years later. Things haven't changed enough, that's for sure, yet I don't think I'd have it any other way. Well, I would. It's just never going to happen.

Most of all though, this blog would obviously be nothing if no one read it. As much as I joke about being read by all of two people and one of them is me, the readership is at least somewhat wider than that. It means a lot, and thanks to all of you, for humouring and indulging me more than anything. While I can't promise another 5 years, here's to Obsolete/septicisle continuing for some time yet to come. And thanks again.

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Just a short note to wish your blog a happy birthday, and thank you for taking the time to wtite it. I'm an expat, and I've been reading your blog for around the last two years, since I discovered it. I find it a useful corrective for any rosy nostalgia, sure, and as a pointer to stories I might otherwise miss, but mostly I come back because I find the writing smart, witty, & perceptive - as well as politically congenial.

I've never been a good judge of my own work

Judging by your tone, indeed you are not. Keep up the good work, sir!



Happy birthday, and long may you carry on blogging!

You're just a few weeks ahead of my own 5th anniversary

I missed my fifth, back in March. 2005 was a very good year, apparently.

Keep on trucking!

I prefer personal shit, that's just the way I am, so appreciate this post a great deal.

Well done on 5 years of quality work, although it speaks volumes about you that you find it easier to rail on yourself and "embarrassing" old blog posts, than it is to heap praise on your badself.

Without sounding like a terrible old hippy, you've got to love yourself a bit more sir. Self-respect goes a long way.


Congratulations on 5 years. I don't know whether that sounds like a long time, or a short time since you've become a part of my daily ritual I can't imagine a time before you being there. Coffee with honey, shouting at the BBC for dumbing down and appeasing the right wing vultures, check Google Reader, read Septicisle/Anton Vowl/BoingBoing et al. Then off to do something far less interesting for the rest of the day.

Keep up the good work, and it is good work. Here's hoping you'll still be writing after 10/20/30 years.

Congratulations! I don't post often (at all? I forget), but I do tune in to read what you have to say, and I find it always interesting.

Your battle with depression and university sounds very similar to the position my son, who has bipolar disorder, found himself in, which cost him a place at Oxford. Sad, and we're still working on how to get him going in life. It's good to know that you've managed; it gives me hope.

(I don't, by the way, see any conflict between the events of 7/7 and Adam Curtis's thesis.)

Keep up the good work.

Five years? Blimey!

I'd like to say one possibly mawkish thing about the quality of your stuff. I apologise in advance.

I read lots of blogs, and when I'm doing it I'm usually thinking of myself as a fellow blogger. When I'm reading Obsolete, I'm a fan.

Seriously, I learn more about current affairs from this blog than I do from the papers. You kept me going in the early days - I thought no-one read my stuff, but a blogger I enjoyed reading and respected kept saying nice things.

Thanks man.

Congrats on your 5 year blogiversary. I know it doesn't mean much coming from someone you don't know, but you seem to be one of the more erudite individuals on the planet, and I always find your stuff thought-provoking and well-informed. It's good work, way better than my piss-poor aborted blog attempts, and long may it continue!

Happy self-critical personal shit and here's to many more to come.

Thanks to everyone again.

5cc: You've always been more forensic than me when it's come to fisking, especially when it comes to the numbers on immigration etc. Only too glad to have pushed you, however slightly.

After that mildly self-effacing post, I just wanted to say that I really appreciate your writing, yours is a blog I always check each time I'm online. Well done on keeping it up to such a good, interesting. standard for so long. hoorah.

Well done!

As a 5th birthday treat, why not join Twitter? ;-)

You'll see me naked before you'll see me on Twitter ;)

Well, I've enjoyed the stuff I've read on your blog.

Keep on writing please.


I have been meaning to write this all week, and I am sorry it has taken so long. I usually read Obsolete at work (tut tut) and don't feel I should really be interacting on the interwebs using my work persona. Hence the delay. (You should see how rubbish our security system makes it look, it's just words, no pics, and goes right across the screen in a weird way. Very annoying.) Anyway, like these other people, I wanted to thank you for writing, and particularly writing about the stuff you write about, because, let's face it, sometimes it would be easier not to, wouldn't it? I always say that stuff about 'young people' not being 'politically engaged' is no truer now than it was when I were a nipper, and you prove that in a very profound way for me. I am much too lazy (and worn down by the repetitive nature of the crap one has to refute all the time as a non-Daily Mail enthusiast) to write a blog, and I really appreciate the effort you put in. (And that 5CC chap as well while we're talking about it.) So. Know that what you do here has worth. I am sure this is equally true of other aspects of your life. As I say, much appreciated.

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