John Terry – the real issue: holiday reblog

Continuing my series of holiday reblogs, here’s a post I wrote in the aftermath of John Terry’s affair coming to light. As it turned out, it was one of the first of the many superinjunctions culminating in Ryan Giggs’s many affairs. The post was looking at some of the deeper issues in the way football as a business treats the players. Enjoy.

John Terry – the real issue John Terry was just dropped as England captain by manager Fabio Capello.  Terry cheated on his wife with the girlfriend of a team-mate, and possibly other women. The tabloids have had a field day, and I suspect they’ll continue for a while to come. Max Clifford has gotten involved, as is usually the case. As soon as news of my sex scandal with prominent female goes public, I’ll be on the phone to him. Not sure how everyone finds him so fast, … Read More

via Rob Carr – A Novocastrian Abroad

Ye Shall Know Them By Their Fruits

One of the many sad things about the aftermath of the atrocities in Norway last week was the way the media and blogosphere leapt on Anders Behring Breivik’s claims of Christianity. Immediately, this became the work of a “Christian Fundamentalist”.

It’s hard as a Christian to hear that. The commentators who called Breivik that must have a limited understanding of what Christianity is.

In the hours before he launched his attack, Anders Breivik released a ‘manifesto’ of his personal ideology and beliefs. In it, he specifically states he does “not necessarily have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and God”. He wrote about Christianity being a “cultural, social identity and moral platform”.

His definition of himself as a ‘Cultural Christian’ is not one that I or many other Christians would recognise as biblical. So it’s particularly galling that some journalists have said that Christianity in general is to blame for the specific actions of this one individual.

People calling themselves Christians, even with a twisted definition, does not make them a Christian. Jesus sets out very clearly in Matthew 7:15-20 how to recognise those people of true faith.

Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. 16Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? 17Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. 18A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. 19Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. 20Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.

Deeds, not words, make a Christian.

Scripture also has some very specific things to say about what happened in Norway:

Exodus 20:13 specifically commands

Thou shalt not kill.

That’s not one of those passages of the Bible that is open to interpretation. It’s as black and white as it gets. Speaking of commandments, we learn in Mark 12 that Jesus said of them

29And Jesus answered him, The first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord: 30And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment. 31And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these.

Now, you could try and debate a definition of neighbour, but once again, there’s very little grey area here. A true Christian must love his neighbour as himself. Let’s assume for a moment that Anders Breivik did indeed debate the definition of neighbour. Perhaps, in his mind, neighbours could be defined as people you get on with. People who you don’t see as enemies. Allies. So, he might have thought, he should love members of the EDL or fascistic groups from across Europe. But he didn’t have to love the next generation of his country’s Labour politicians.

The trouble with that – entirely theoretical – line of his argument is that it falls apart when we see Matthew 5:44 showing Jesus teaching

44But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;

I know what you’re thinking. You’ve seen Christians pull obscure quotes from the Bible in order to justify their point. There are so many lines in the Bible that you can always find some passage to use. Except that these three passages aren’t obscure unread lines from Nahum or Obadiah. These are three passages that are at the very core of Christian teachings. These are passages that every Christian will have heard in sermons, read in studies, and learned in confirmation lessons.

For journalists and commentators with even the scantest knowledge of Christianity and Scripture to believe that a faithful follower of Jesus Christ carried out the cold-blooded killing of over 70 people is, frankly, ridiculous as well as insulting to true Christians.

But some, initially at least, believed exactly that. The live TV reporting on the day of the killings and over last weekend used ‘Christian Fundamentalist’ and ‘Right-wing Christian’ were used to describe the killer. It was worrying for me how easy it was for people to assume that Christianity was the cause of the Norway deaths and that Christianity is in some way ‘evil’. Christianity and other Abrahamic faiths come under attack enough already from Secularists and Atheists who think that belief in God is a sign of a misguided mind.

The logic that allowed the commentariat to say that Breivik was a Fundamentalist Christian who believed in the literal truth of the Bible was flawed by the fact it ignored Breivik’s own statement that “it is essential that science takes an undisputed precedence over biblical teachings.” He preferred, he said in his manifesto, ‘Darwinian logic’.

I’m not saying there aren’t Christians who become extremists or terrorists, but Breivik is very clear that he rejects ‘religious Christians’ in favour of some kind of crusader-type ‘cultural Christian’. Unlike journalists desperate for an angle, Christians around the world are very clear that without faith in Christ, you are not a Christian.

I hope that journalists, commentators, and those with an agenda are more careful in future to learn about an individual’s ideology before attacking Christianity and the 2 billion people who do believe in a personal relationship with Jesus.

Breivik’s actions and the statements about Christianity in his manifesto tell us he plainly was not a Christian.

Deeds, not words, make a Christian.

Behind the mask

How many times in recent weeks have we heard the Tories say that spending cuts aren’t ideological? How many times have they said they’re not enjoying the task? That ‘we’re all in this together’?

Lots right? Yeah, that’s what I thought. I’ve never believed it for a second though, and now I’ve been proven right.

At a press conference in Brussels today, David Cameron tried to repeat the same old message and keep the narrative of necessity going. But he failed.

Following the BBC’s Michael Crick asking Dave how he can justify an EU budget rise of 2.9 per cent when huge cuts are made in the UK, Cameron said the following:

 “I would explain patiently – as I hope you will on Newsnight — that we were facing a 6 per cent increase. We’ve pegged that back to 2.9 percent.

At the same time, I will say, we’re all in it together, including, deliciously, the BBC, who in another negotiation agreed a licence fee freeze for six years. So what is good for the EU is good for the BBC.”

Crick came back with the retort that

“We’re getting a freeze. We’d love 2.9 per cent.”

Cameron then confirmed

“Well, I’m afraid it’s going to be a freeze. I am sure there are some savings available.”

Of course, anyone who has taken an interest in the spending review knows that the BBC didn’t even get a freeze. The BBC is being made to carry the costs of the World Service and Welsh language channel S4C, which were previously paid for by the Government. That means that the BBC is actually receiving a cut of 16 per cent.

That may have been a bit of banter, and I’ve no doubt that Hilton and Coulson will try to spin it as a Prime Ministerial joke. But the Tories have never been fans of expenditure on the BBC and letting the mask slip as he did, Cameron has shown a fleeting glimpse of his disregard for the suffering cuts cause to real people, whether they work for the BBC or claim child benefit. We really aren’t all in this together.  As far as the BBC goes, Team Cameron are apparently in this with Murdoch.

When libel charges might be a price worth paying

It’s hard to find a quality newspaper these days. Ok, granted some have been shocking for a long time. I’m not a massive fan of the red  tops. Not being snobbish about it, but I think most of them have an editorial style that’s too magazine-like. Great in a magazine, not so great in a newspaper. I’ve not even looked at the Sun since Hillsborough, so their recent swing behind the Tories made no difference to me. The only non-red-top tabloids are the Express and the Mail. They’re both too right-wing for this lefty. The Mail is just repugnant let’s face it.

Of the broadsheets, the best seller is the Telegraph. Well it’s always been the Torygraph in my house, and is thus an unreadable right-wing propaganda outlet for the Conservative party. At the other end of the scale, the Independent can sometimes be too wishy-washy and unable to give an opinion for fear of offending someone. I used to like the Times. There I could find the left and right view presented in one paper and form my own conclusions. But in recent years, they’ve become slowly more biased toward the right. Probably inevitable under Murdoch’s ownership really. The Guardian is ok. It suffers from the same fault as the Independent, just to a lesser degree. I’d always found it readable. Then in the last election campaign, they advised Labour voters to vote tactically. I fell out with them.

That left me the good old Financial Times. Business-centred, but readable. Politically of the centre. Economically of a liberal leaning. Able to give information without pushing an agenda. These are all things I like to see in a newspaper. Even when they decided to support the Conservatives in the last election, I liked the paper. At least they took a stance without being rabidly biased.

That’s why I’m so disappointed to learn that they pulled out of running an ad for Amnesty in today’s edition. Metro and the Evening Standard both ran it. I don’t think those papers’ lawyers would give any worse advice than the FT’s did. So the excuse that they’re worried about libel seems weak. Could it be that they succumbed to pressure from Shell, the target of the ad? Amnesty wanted to draw attention to the horrendous human rights record of Shell in failing to deal with pollution in the Niger delta. The local population are forced to drink polluted water, eat polluted food and breathe polluted air.

This blog has significantly fewer readers than the Financial Times, but I’d feel ashamed if I didn’t include a copy of the ad for you all to see. Unlike the editorial staff of the FT.

Amnesty Shell Ad


Press knives out for Clegg

Yesterday, I posted a skit Daily Mail story about the inevitable personal attacks on Nick Clegg. And, lo, as it was foretold so it came to pass. In an ‘if you build it, they will come’ moment, the right-wing press have gone to town on Clegg today.

Firstly, the Telegraph had a front-page splash of

Nick Clegg, the Lib Dem donors and payments into his private accounts

which is quite a headline and looks like a scandal in the making. Apparently donations to the Lib Dems have been paid through Clegg’s personal accounts. These payments appear to have been declared and entirely proper as far as donation regulations go, but I’ve no idea why the monies passed through Clegg’s bank.

After publishing this accusation and innuendo as their above-the-fold headline, the Telegraph‘s deputy editor, Benedict Brogan, went on to say

And we have gone back to Mr Clegg’s un-redacted expenses file where we discovered the records of donor payments to his bank account we report today. So far he has been unable to produce an adequate explanation for them, or the paperwork to back up his justification. The likelihood must be that it is evidence of disorganisation, nothing more, but don’t know that yet.

The Express went with ‘Nick Clegg’s Crazy Immigration Policy’. Probably the only of the Clegg stories to go with an actual Lib Dem policy and not something Clegg did/thought/said/looked at funny.

The Sun managed to go one better than that with a weird combination of Donors/Afghanistan/Europe/Political Expenses to paint Clegg as one of the most evil men in Britain establishment.

But the Daily Mail topped the lot. Clearly oblivious to Godwin’s law, they went with a headline which had Clegg and Nazi in the same sentence. A third-rate piece of journalism from the paper most famous for thinking Hitler and Fascism were a good thing.

Truly, with this election, we’ve gone through the looking-glass.

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Lies, damned lies, and statistics

Elections are a dangerous time. Politicians are desperate to win votes. They’ll often make ridiculous statements to win votes. They also have a tendency to try to make huge issues out of small things. David Cameron provides an example of this when he supports the lie that Labour targeted voters suffering cancer with a postcard about Tory cancer care policy. The media joined in by giving this story air time or column inches.

The postcard highlights the fact that a Tory government would scrap Labour’s guarantee of quick access to an oncologist. It was then sent out in a mass delivery. All straight forward so far. The trouble arises when the media report that Labour has deliberately targeted cancer victims. And then the Tory health spokesman, Andrew Lansley, adds

“For Labour’s campaign to deliberately distress or scare sufferers from breast cancer is shameful…. [A] number of serious questions about who authorised the potential misuse of personal data and who was involved in the production of the cards”.

This, of course, makes it seem like Labour got the health records of cancer victims and sent them a postcard. That’s the damned lie. Here come the statistics.

The Labour party sent this postcard to 250,000 women. That much has been confirmed. We know that women have an 11% chance of developing breast cancer at some point in their life. We also know that 0.12% of women will be suffering from breast cancer at any time. Given that 0.12% of 250,000 is just over 300, then this card is bound to have landed on the doorsteps of women suffering breast cancer at the time. They are then going to feel like they have been targeted. That’s understandable.

What isn’t understandable is that the Conservative party ignore these statistics and try to take political advantage of story. And that the press allow them to do it. The press also ignore the fact that Labour’s initial claim is correct.  The Tories have promised to scrap Labour’s maximum waiting time targets. I would think people would be more concerned about that. And I write as someone who lost my father to lung cancer just over a year ago.

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Modern Conservatives and gay rights

I’ve blogged before on David Cameron’s urge to roll his sleeves up, trying to look like Barack Obama. It really is an urge he should control. I’ve also blogged on Conservative party views on gay rights. Here, I present for your delight and delectation a cartoon from the Times newspaper which succinctly combines the two. 

Modern Conservatives

Politicians are people too

The media often shouts about how Members of Parliament just don’t get it. They didn’t get it on 10p tax, they don’t get it on expenses, they don’t get it on voting reform. In short, they don’t live in the real world. They’re isolated in their little bubble around Whitehall. They don’t understand how we live in the real world and television shows like the completely cringe-worthy Tower Block of Commons do absolutely bugger all to dispel these ideas. Not that I’m going to waste a blogpost on a bad television program, though I don’t doubt the media will produce a fair few column inches on Tim Loughton’s dancing. The point is that the professional commentariat often complain about how out of touch are our politicians. How they lack an understanding of real life and fail to show a human side. 
 I cried only last night. Admittedly, it was tears of laughter at Michael Gove’s performance on Newsnight, but they were real tears nonetheless. Previously to that, I’ve shed tears at a few different times in recent years. In times of stress or high emotion. Funerals, Newcastle United being relegated from the Premiership, when I burned some fish I’d been really looking forward to. I’m a child of the 80s and 90s. The modern metrosexual awake to my emotions and not afraid to show them, or so Cosmo-reading friends tell me. But, then again, I’m not in professional politics.
The hypocrisy of the press in complaining first that politicians are insensitive automatons and then that they use emotion to spin a point, is very impressive. When Alastair Campbell had a moment of frustration on Andrew Marr’s show, I didn’t blame him. The questioning was trite and disinterested. It was still pretty compulsive viewing, waiting with baited breath for a venting of anger in some sort of fury the like of which Whitehall myths and legends were built on in the late 1990s, and that lead to the creation of the caricature Malcolm Tucker.  Alastair did well to bring it all under control and carry on in a dignified way.
As soon as it was trailed that Gordon Brown shed a tear when asked about the death of his daughter by Piers Morgan, the blogosphere lit up with pronouncements that he’d faked it for sympathy. Mark Twain said “any emotion, if it is sincere, is involuntary”. The idea that a man can pretend to cry and convince a former newspaper editor, a studio audience, and the zoom lenses of the TV cameras – not to mention the several million who will watch –  of sincerity is pretty far-fetched. Especially when everyone knows the Prime Minister’s presentation skills. He’s no actor. He has an intellect the size of a small moon, an ability to focus on minutiae, and the skills to make an argument. But he can’t act. Nor should we want him to! Politician’s are people too, and should be allowed to show it.

John Terry – the real issue

John Terry was just dropped as England captain by manager Fabio Capello.  Terry cheated on his wife with the girlfriend of a team-mate, and possibly other women. The tabloids have had a field day, and I suspect they’ll continue for a while to come. Max Clifford has gotten involved, as is usually the case. As soon as news of my sex scandal with prominent female goes public, I’ll be on the phone to him. Not sure how everyone finds him so fast, but it must be fairly easy to do. There is a case on both sides of the should he go or stay argument and they’re both valid. I think it’s probably right that he went. Whether players like it or not, they are role models for the young and, in the case of players who make it to the very top of the game, idolized by millions. As such, they have to be above reproach or as loveable as Paul Gascoigne. John Terry, it turns out, is neither of these things. But, he’s not the first and he won’t be the last.
At this point, I feel I have to declare a bit of an interest. My cousin is a professional footballer for a team in the northwest of England and has played for his country. He’s living the dream. But as far as I know he’s happily married and his wife would kick the shit out of him if his eye wandered too far. He gets asked for autographs, his face is on coffee mugs and pencil tins, but he’s just an ordinary kid from an ordinary estate, and was crap at conkers. And this is part of the problem. Most footballers come from working class backgrounds, with average incomes, a nice semi in the suburbs. Some have had hard upbringings in poor areas, the children of single parents, or (like Nile Ranger at Newcastle United) been involved in gangs, or with other troubled pasts.
Then at 16 or 17 they’re suddenly thrust into the limelight and payed £50,000 a week and people latching onto them for whatever they can get. Of course this leads to problems. Temptation is thrown at them from all angles and some people will succumb. It’s inevitable. We all know players who’ve had problems with alcohol, drugs, gambling, women, and fame in general. Most of them are not given advice on how to deal with sudden wealth and fame, they just have to sink or swim.  That’s one of the things that the FA and the clubs should be addressing. Young guys thrown to the wolves and left to get on with it. John Terry was wrong to do what he did, but we shouldn’t be surprised that it did happen.

***Update – I wrote this in a rush before finishing work today, and have obviously not been as clear as I wanted to be. Thank you Mat for commenting. I totally agree with your observation that working class+money does not equal disaster. And if anyone wants to give me a hundred grand, I will do my best to prove this. I guess I’m wrong to write with a focus on working classes and should say young guys from any background will struggle when they’re suddenly in the situation of a high profile football player. Even the child of two surgeons will only have known their parents to earn a couple of hundred grand a year. To suddenly find yourself earning that each month must mess with your head. The point I was trying to make was that the public and the media can’t be too surprised when it goes bad. The FA and the clubs need to look at how much support is offered to players and what it does to the likes of Terry, Gascoigne, Merson, Adams, Best, Greaves, McGrath, Collymore, and a host of others. Hope that clears up my thoughts a bit.

Chilcot, Twitter, and journalistic bias

A busy day in our office yesterday meant that I was tied to my desk with a pile of admin. (Well, not literally tied, that would be a bit too kinky, probably against some sort of HR policy, and would be a bit strange). But I was definitely sat at my desk. Not a great way to spend a Friday really, but it was actually pretty interesting. Not because I suddenly had really thrilling stuff to send off to Finance, but because it allowed me to have the Iraq Inquiry playing on my PC via the BBC website. Of course, listening to it live was good, but being the media junky that I am, I also watched the news reports from outside the QEII (the hall, not the ship. That would be a bit strange). So the news reports filled in the bits I missed when the phone rang or I had to wander off to find staples. I really had my finger on Chilcot’s pulse (the inquiry in a metaphorical sense, not the man in a real sense. That would be a bit strange).
I’m not going to say too much about Tony Blair (well, I’m going to say a little bit about him. It’s a blog about his inquiry day. If I didn’t mention him, well, that would be a bit strange). Today, I will mostly be writing about tweets. Because, as well as having the live feed on my PC and watching the news broadcasts, I was following several journalists’ analyses on Twitter. I was fully informed on the step by step of the day’s proceedings. Why queue for a ticket to be in the room when I can have so much reportage at my fingertips? I had that Friday feeling about the whole thing. It’s not often I get to follow more than one report of the same event at the same time. I mean I can read the papers and compare the Guardian and Mail (except I don’t read the Mail, that would be a bit strange), but that’s usually after the event. So getting tweets from various journalists on an event that I was watching live was pretty interesting.
The empirical scientist in me (who hadn’t seen the light of day since Johnny Ball went off the air) saw this as a demonstration of comparative reporting, to see how easy it could be for the media to misrepresent a politician, policy, or party. Krishnan Guru-Murphy was a bit lacking in analysis and, frankly, grammar; Kevin McGuire was fairly quiet (which is a bit strange); But Laura Kuenssberg, well, almost every tweet she sent was written from an anti-Blair and anti-government angle.
Now Tony Blair is a divisive character, both loved and loathed, and we all know the BBC has given Team Cameron an easy ride, and that Nick Robinson is somewhere to the right of Norman Tebbit. Still I was struck (not literally or anything, though someone did throw a Rich Tea at me at one point which was a bit strange) by the very apparent bias of our national broadcaster. Glen Oglaza was the most even handed, accurate, and sensible commentator.
Surprising, really, that Sky News – owned by Rupert Murdoch – should prove to be the most accurate and unbiased tweeter, at least on this occasion.
Now, that really is just a bit strange.