I’ve managed to distil all the worst things of 2016 into a short few-hundred words. Let’s take it for granted that Farage, Mensch, Trump and all those other cunts are already burning in AdTurds’ vision of Hell.
Saying Die Hard is a Christmas Film
Look, even if you think Die Hard qualifies as a Christmas film, the harsh reality of the situation is that no-one apart from you and 127,000 other 34-year-old men give a flying fuck. If you want to watch Die Hard, go and watch Die Hard. The rest of the world gives not one shit about whether you watch it or not, or whether people they’ve never met consider it a Christmas film.
I find the persistence of this meme across social media a vaguely passive-aggressive attempt for white middle-aged men (of which I am am one, yes) to reclaim some meagre crumb of control over their cultural life. In a world where we men are oppressed by X Factors, Gilmore Girls and soaps operas, insisting that Die Hard Is A Christmas Film and typing Ho-Ho-Ho Now I Have A Machine Gun into Facebook is the modern man’s cultural Brexit vote: a tragedy that is simultaneously meagre and colossal.
Avocados can’t be mentioned these days without recourse to them being ‘smashed’ – or being part of some hairbrained new diet proscribed by a man rejoicing in the name of David Avocado Wolfe. These health gurus, with their qualifications from the University of Instagram, are among the most maddening and idiotic trends of the modern world. They tend to fit into two categories: liars or wankers, though obviously the two are not mutually exclusive.
I’m prepared to accept the latter simply don’t know that they’re idiots. A couple of decades ago these people were confined to their own kitchen and self-publishing. Nowadays they’re have more authority among people aged 15-30 than Jesus or David Guetta. The liars are simply using the same methods deployed by the Trumps of this world. Whether they believe what they’re saying or not doesn’t really matter. And their prescription for modern happiness is a simple one: eat avocados. A one-size-fits-all solution for people too dim to ponder the instructions of their new selfie Gods.
I should qualify this: I mean people who undertake on motorways, not people who bury the dead. Undertaking is such a bugbear for me because it’s a touchstone for uncivil society. Our world only works if people observe a thousand minute rules every time they leave the house: holding a door open for the next person that comes through, putting litter in bins, returning your glasses to the bar when you leave the pub, finishing off your latest Tindr hook-up before you sheepishly leave.
There are hundreds, thousands, perhaps more of these micro-virtues and if everyone does them the world works a little better and everyone goes home a little happier. Reverse the situation – because you can’t be arsed, want to gain some incremental advantage over your fellow human or, more prosaically, you’re a cunt and our world simply cannot function.
Where this is most obvious is on the road, somewhere I spent a lot of time as I earn my crust. If you don’t observe the rules – both formal and informal – here then there’s a chance that other people will die. Driving through red lights, tailgating, cutting up and undertaking are both more prevalent on the roads than they ever have been before. They’re all tiny little expressions of someone’s belief that they are more important than you and they should be able to do whatever they want in prosecuting that belief. It’s an infinitesimal microcosm of a world that seemed suddenly darker, more dangerous and fundamentally more cuntish than it had been before.
I immediately feel a little guilty here because Adam Hills is probably a very nice man. But he’s the person I associate most with the concept of ‘hot takes’ – an instinctive, vituperative reaction to news or events that distinguishes itself by generally being wholly uninformed and written by a football team’s worth of jobbing comics in time for Channel 4s latest bash at a topical talk show.
But hot takes are for morons. It’s shorthand for the way that we now value emotional responses over facts, logic and reason. Hot takes are designed for Instagram, Vine, Snapchat… a social network invention for the terminally short-of-imagination who would prefer to receive rhetorical expressions of approval, disgust or anger instead of something as boring as knowledge, information or analysis. In a world where we make a virtue out of ignorance perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised. If ignorance is bliss, a hot take is a cheap and unfulfilling orgasm.
I need to qualify this immediately by distancing myself from the silly petitions against the BBC Political Editor than sprung up throughout the year, carrying a nasty whiff of misogyny. What made the petitions and the misogyny worse is that there are clearly valid criticisms of Kuenssberg, who has taken the Westminster-gossip-as-politics model to a new level, even within the rarified atmospheres of the London media.
I’m not sure whether she recognises it or not, but the kind of tittle-tattle that journalists like Kuenssberg thrive on (I’m an addict, I admit it) has been weaponised by politicians and right-wing media to degrade political opponents. As such they’ve become pawns in a larger game, doing the bidding of David Cameron, Rupert Murdoch and Paul Dacre. They’ve played a vital role in perpetuating the corrosive idea that ‘they’re all the same’ – it’s paved the way for a total collapse in public faith in politics. And that’s horribly dangerous. This utter failure of the BBC as a medium for informing and educating was exposed badly by the EU referendum, when even George Osborne reported that he understood the debate only ‘slightly or not at all’ in a poll on the cluelessness of the British public on Europe.
There’s a smirk on the faces of people like Kuenssberg – David Dimbleby, John Humphrys and Jeremy Paxman are also guilty – that betrays how much of a game it is to them. 2016 delivered a message that journalists should heed: politics is not a game for most.
Invented in 2009, banter is now everywhere. What’s very noticeable about it is that it’s gained a formal currency. Look at any business aimed at young men – soft porn, sport, betting et al – and they reek of banter. It’s a stench of Rustlers burgers, Carling and casual sexism. “Just banter” is the new “I was only following orders” – a catch-all term used to disguise a multitude of sins. Including a rich white man grabbing women ‘by the pussy’ and forcing himself on them. Banter, apparently. That’s hypernormalisation for you I guess.
Look. I like banter. I actually invented the idea of ‘banter credit’ – that indefinable phenomenon whereby some people can get away banter and some can’t. Think of some people you know: consider the person who can say anything with a smile on their face and get away with it; consider another who draws only frowns of opprobrium with the weakest dig. Banter credit.
But banter has been the delivery method for new forms of bigotry to take root – and I don’t like it. If you tell racist jokes, make fun of peoples’ sexuality or do gags about rape it’s not banter. It’s being a cunt.
The Daily Mail
The word ‘Nazi’ has lost its currency these days but there was a time, not so long ago, when to be thought of as espousing the same sort of views as old One-Ball himself would have been greeted with some typically British stiff-upper-lips and a straight right to the chin of Fritz. It’s become clear that we Brits can no longer claim that moral high ground. The best example of this? The Daily Mail, a newspaper so horrible in its views that Adolf Hitler would put out a statement disavowing its support (for all we know he might have – it did support him after all).
It’s very easy to write off the Mail as parodic or even beyond parody. And it’s too easy to laugh at it. Lots of people who are reading it are not laughing. Lots of people who read newspapers like the Mail, Sun, Express and even the Telegraph – going as bonkers as one of the foaming old loons who typically reads it in its dotage – believe there’s nothing wrong with refugees drowning in the sea or brown people being spat on in the streets, or women who were born in Rochdale being told to ‘go home’.
Almost exclusively they’re owned and written by rich white people. Elites, you could say. They’re steadily tearing down everything that is still ‘Great’ about Britain for their own perverted ends and it’s a fucking tragedy. These newspapers are growing bolder every day and seeping pure poison into the minds of the people who read them. Vicious, horrible poison vented against people of different race, sexuality and gender. It’s time to stop to laughing at The Daily Mail and call it what it is.
The right doesn’t have a monopoly on insane, fact-free clickbait. At first I saw The Canary as a useful attack dog to counter the insane propaganda of the Tory press and its many outriders in the blogosphere. But it quickly became apparent that fact and truth are subordinate to the need to generate clicks for The Canary.
Only so many times can you see a headline about Jeremy Corbyn ‘destroying’ May or Cameron at the despatch box before you realise anyone involved in writing it is either utterly dishonest or barking mad. You might think its heart is in the right place – I take the view that websites like The Canary share the blame for the legions of self-satisfied Corbyn clicktivists who are desperate to ensure the useless Conservative government never has an effective opposition ever again.
Coffee is perhaps the best example of the normalisation of insanity in our modern life. The other day I went into one of these post-modern gas chambers to get a cup of coffee and blurted out – for reasons I can’t explain – that I wanted a ‘medium’-sized cup of coffee. A carton made of stuff that won’t biodegrade for forty billion years containing five quarts of boiling hot water that tasted very slightly of coffee was duly handed over to me. In exchange I forked out something like four pounds. Four pounds. You can buy a human being for that amount of money in certain parts of Kent.
Spend about four pounds on a jar of coffee from any supermarket and you can probably enjoy something like 100 cups of coffee. What’s the actual cost of a spoonful of coffee and some hot water? Five pence? If a sandwich shop opened up and start charging the best part of 100 times the cost of the raw ingredients of an egg-and-cress sandwich would we buy it? The usual rhetorical answer is no, of course we wouldn’t. But ten years ago we’d say the same thing about coffee, tea, a pint of beer…
Coffee is a metaphor in 2016 for how we’re complicit in making the extraordinary normal. One day we’d recoil at the idea of paying the equivalent of half-an-hour’s work for some bad coffee, or seven pounds for a pint of overly sweet lager; nowadays we won’t. Once upon a time we wouldn’t allow ourselves to be hoodwinked by charlatans, liars, racists and pussy-grabbers…
Blossoms, Jake Bugg, Mumford & Sons, Kodaline, Ed Sheeran, Catfish and the Bottlemen, Coldplay – music for people who would shit themselves if they heard an Iggy Pop album.
These TV programmes and films
Game Of Thrones, The Walking Dead, Star Wars, Deadpool, Suicide Squad, X-Factor. Go and read a fucking book.
Nando’s, Burger King, McDonalds, Wagamama, Prezzo, La Tasca, Turtle Bay, Domino’s, Starbucks, Subway, Costa, Cafe Rouge, KFC, Byron, Jamie’s Italian, Yo Sushi, Las Iguanitas. Burgers; fries; slaw; anything pulled. Like going through life thinking your first fuck is as good as it gets.