Monthly Archives: August 2014

The Media Should Continue To Promote ISIS Propaganda

As is so obviously apparent, the Islamic State (a.k.a. ISIS) is, just like many fairly young start-ups, only just beginning to experiment with PR, marketing and social media recruitment. Their first attempts to recruit Westerners have so far involved poorly shot amateur videos of such bad quality that they’re useless even when analysed. Their clumsy efforts to reach out to potential recruits in the US have been a laughing stock. The Islamic State targeted a Minnesota high school’s alumni for recruitment and yet with their best efforts, only managed to interest three of them! Another US recruit was caught by the FBI before she even made it out of the country. And when it comes to us Brits, ISIS has failed to even get as many as 600 of us to join them in their killing spree. Clearly, they’re not as dangerous as they pretend to be and shouldn’t be taken seriously as a threat.

So it’s great to see that the mainstream media is helping the Islamic State’s PR campaign. The media didn’t stop at merely assisting ISIS in their rebranding as the Islamic State by publicising their new brand name and logo (the Islamic State flag)- a gesture that was perhaps made out of necessity rather than altruism. After all, reporters have to report rebrands. The media went further.

As we all know, ISIS’ PR campaign contains more truth and facts than even the Wonga ads. We all accept, as do 100% of Muslims, that ISIS embodies the Muslim ideal and is bringing back a true-to-history caliphate to herald a new Islamic golden age for the Middle East (and eventually the world). ISIS embraces all forms of Islam and is dedicated to creating a Muslim brotherhood to destroy the west. All Muslims welcome this– but you probably knew that from reading the Daily Mail. ISIS fighters are warriors for the faith against the evil governments, minorities, anyone who opposes ISIS, and children in their street whose parents aren’t their branch of Islam.

The Western media has very kindly helped spread the Islamic State’s image of daring warriors doing heroic deeds against the odds. In articles about westerners joining ISIS, the recruits’ motivation of becoming “warriors” is rarely questioned. Al Jazeera even calls Al Qaeda “Syrian rebels”. The article goes six paragraphs before one sentence mentions that the “rebels” were an Al Qaeda Syrian chapter, almost at the end. The use of language like “warriors” (in many articles) and “rebels” evokes a romanticised image of plucky underdogs battling the oppressor.

It is of course an accurate description: warriors were tribal soldiers whose job was sacred; often initiation rites were required before taking up the responsibility of safeguarding the tribe. In non-nomadic tribes, warriors had the additional task of protecting the land and food sources which fed the community. In a time without trade, sanctions, pressure from organisations like the UN or NATO, without the ICC or even developed forms of diplomacy, weaponry, warning systems or intelligence, being a warrior was a huge responsibility. It was also a very emotionally stressful one, as you would be fighting for the lives of people you knew and were related to. The fighting was hand to hand, not from a safe distance with minimisation of risk and trauma. Warriors often received spiritual guidance and engaged in ritualised forms of warfare. As anyone can see, this all neatly parralels ISIS murdering children.

Even if we take the modern version of a warrior- a soldier- we can see how right the media is to call ISIS such. Modern soldiers have to abide by rules. If they don’t, they are tried by military courts. Hence the soldiers who beat Iraqi hotel worker Baha Mousa to death were jailed and their names publicised. Soldiers use a lot of things when they kill people. Skill- with guns/helicopters/jets/unarmed combat. They also have to have courage. Though not all soldiers are involved in these last two, military strategy and intel still shape what they do. And of course soldiers risk their lives fighting combatants who are roughly equally well trained and equipped, and who have consented to being on the front line.

In the same way, the Islamic State fighters have to be very brave and skilled indeed. Kidnapping journalists is very risky even for a trained militant, as journalists carry pens and have been known to stab kidnappers with them. Journalists also tend to use words- such as “please let me go” against ISIS fighters, and as we all know, guns and military-style training are no match for these dirty tactics. Accurately spotting signs of the existence of a house, such as a door (often the first clue) and four walls requires not just time-consuming intelligence gathering, but also rigorous analysis of the information. This analysis takes place in the Islamic State fighter’s brain while he is approximately twenty feet from the target he is investigating for signs of being a house. The next step- going into the house and killing everyone inside- is very risky for ISIS fighters. Some children make a fuss when you behead them, so a lot of courage is needed for this. At moments like these, ISIS training is invaluable.

After this gruelling use of physical strength and careful aim of the tool of choice, further fighting is often required, as other family members will often violently persist in running away. Other children may be ferociously using large pieces of furniture as shields by hiding under them. (Beds are often turned against ISIS forces in this way, sometimes with surprising speed and efficiency, allowing the child to evade the Islamic State for periods of up to as much as ten minutes). No wonder ISIS fighters take such pride in winning these victories, as they require not just the things we tend to associate with soldiers such as courage, martial arts skill and great aim, but also tactical planning.

The media should continue to promote ISIS’ image and assist in their PR strategy. If it leads to a few more recruits, there’s no harm done. The threat posed by the Islamic State is basically exaggerated by everyone from Iraqis to journalists and politicians.

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The REAL Scandal of Germany’s Corporate Sex Parties

First published 29/7/14 on Cliterati as ‘Corporate Sex Parties: The Untold Scandal Behind The Headlines’.

cliterati2

 

Germany might be more open about nudity (nude parks), gender (third gender on birth certs) and sex work (it’s legalised) than Britain, but a company hiring escorts and throwing its top salesmen a sex party is still a scandal over there. In fact, the event is now being investigated – I kid you not – by the company’s present owners. Two sex workers told the press that corporate sex parties aren’t that rare, and no doubt that revelation will send shockwaves through those sectors of society which weren’t already in the know. But the media are missing the real scandal here.

 

According to reports the party was a reward for top salesmen. Think about it. Why were only male employees present at the party? That’s a little odd, right? Either female staff don’t get promoted, female staff don’t often get hired, female staffs’ achievements are not rewarded, or office parties are segregated along gender lines. And going by the sex workers’ descriptions, most or all corporate parties are men-only, and the sex workers hired are always female. This suggests that not only are female employees excluded, but also that no provision is made for gay or bisexual male staff. Sure, most sex workers are female (at least in most countries). But male, transgender and non-binary sex workers exist. They could’ve been hired for the gay and bisexual men and for the heterosexual women who worked for the companies. Even if there was not a single male escort to be found when all of these companies held their parties, female employees who liked women could have been rewarded too. Even if all their female staff were straight, why couldn’t they be allowed to enjoy the party along with their male colleagues, some of whom chose not to buy any sexual services?

 

The media has sensationalised the story purely because the sex was paid. If these men had simply gone off to have a bit of fun with female colleagues or even hostesses, it wouldn’t be a story. The fact that corporate “sex parties” (i.e. parties at which escorts are present) exist is no scandal, as there’s no indication that the company coerced its employees into doing things they didn’t want to. Nor is there any suggestion that the escorts coerced the company staff, or that they were sexually assaulted by the staff. Sure, the companies have ulterior motives for doing this. Getting people who work for you to share experiences and secrets as a group is very beneficial if you want them to bond and stay with your firm. (There is the risk of blurring hierarchies, but that’s probably what the Designated Escort Scheme was meant to counteract.) But the employees weren’t coerced or manipulated into doing anything. They weren’t shoved into a bedroom with a sex worker; the sex workers were simply there offering services and it was up to the employees to agree and go into another room.

 

The real scandals- that the escorts were distinguished by coloured bands and the more desirable ones designated for bosses, that female employees are not rewarded, and that company parties are segregated- have been ignored. It was sex workers who raised some of these questions when they were interviewed. These are the real issues, the real scandals, the real questions that the German public need answers to.

 

Are female employees not rewarded because they’re ignored by their employers? Or is it because they are passed over for promotion or never hired in the first place? Or are female employees rewarded some other way, because women buying sex makes employers uncomfortable- or perhaps because women are just assumed not to want sex? Maybe female staff get a party too, but it’s escort-less. Or maybe they get vacuum cleaners or pretty embroidered aprons instead. Or maybe they get nothing.

 

This story is indeed a scandal. But it should be recognised for what it really is: the scandal of how queer and female staff are still overlooked or treated differently by employers.

The DWP Works For YOU- Jobcentres must be run in accordance with benefits claimants’ wishes

DWP shaming

The DWP thrives on shame. Its tool for repressing benefit claimants is total humiliation and control, and its security for its controversial policies are lies and vilifying of the unemployed. If it operated otherwise, its punishments for poverty – six month workfares, daily sign-ins, mandatory meetings- wouldn’t be tolerated by either its victims or the rest of society.

DWP shaming, then, is perpetrated by two methods: demonising the unemployed in the media as lazy ‘something for nothing’ scroungers and benefits cheats, and directly towards Jobcentre ‘customers’ in the Jobcentres themselves.

 

The DWP line

I was repeatedly told that I had to sign in and be subjected not only to this forced attendance, but also to them checking my job searches (which gives them more powers than the police, who cannot just order you into a police station or conduct online surveillance because they feel like it) because they paid me £57 a week. Job searching was my “job”, I was informed, an obligation that I performed in exchange for the less than minimum wage of £57 a week. The Job Centre persistently and deliberately refused to allow- yes, “allow”, because they have all the power over our movements and our bodies, and I won’t pretend otherwise- me to sign in at my usual time which was more convenient for me as I had insomnia. They always said “We give you money so it’s your job to come in. You have to get up early for a job. This is the same.” But it’s not. It’s not the same at all. A job pays you, instead of giving you a pittance that’s not enough to live on. A job treats you with respect (or should).

That’s their line. Six month workfare? Your duty in exchange for £57 a week, barely enough to survive on, and not enough to eat well or pay the bills. Daily sign ons after you leave the Work Programme? Your job. Work Programme Provider or Jobcentre meetings, and sessions? Your obligation.

The line might seem harmless. Unimportant. But what’s behind it? The assertion that authority belongs to the Jobcentre to check your movements, not to the jobseeker to ensure she receives good service from the Jobcentre to help her find work. Another underlying assumption is that welfare is not a right. It is a privelege- and priveleges can be taken away or require reciprocity. (Hence unreasonable sanctions). When welfare is not a right, workfare, unreasonable sanctions, unfair Atos assessments, benefits which aren’t enough to live on, food banks and bullying all make sense. It’s all a part of DWP philosophy. 

And it’s lies. All of it.

 

If welfare didn’t exist…

Think about it for a second. If the government didn’t give people benefits, what would happen? Mass starvation.

  • The economy would be affected because people wouldn’t have money to even buy basic necessities.
  • There would be an increase in crime, rioting and black market dealing (we’ve already seen a rise in food theft). Because of the demand for cheap food, people might steal it and sell it, and possibly cut it with other substances. Hunger, and their children’s hunger, would drive many to working for gangs in exchange for money or food.
  • Mass deaths within about a week of The Great Benefit Stoppage.
  • Parents dying would mean orphaned children and therefore an increased burden on social services.

In fact, the cost of removing all the corpses, dealing with diseases and traffic obstructions caused by the piles of dead people everywhere, dealing with the crime, dealing with orphaned children and the costs of the economic losses would far outweigh that of giving the insufficient benefits that the government grudgingly hands over.

It’s possible that if benefits were stopped permanently, Britain would lose its world power status in a few years.

So jobseekers shouldn’t feel ashamed of receiving benefits- the government’s only giving benefits to achieve its own ends. And they’re giving the least that they can get away with. Welfare is our right. We need to be vocal about our right and the fact that we’re not being given enough, as the use of food banks proves.

And in fact it’s the employers who are the benefits scroungers. If a billionaire’s company uses workfare instead of having paid employees, or only pays employees minimum wage (leaving the government to supplement their wages with housing benefit and work tax credit), who is really on benefits?

And lots of people are on benefits, not just the unemployed; for all you know, your Jobcentre’s staff might be on housing benefit or child tax credit, too.

 

If your Jobcentre doesn’t help you find a job, YOU should shame THEM

Once, I found a Jobcentre-sponsored internship and asked the Jobcentre to refer me. They said they couldn’t- because they hadn’t known it existed and so hadn’t told me about it, and by then I was on the Work Programme and not eligible. I was told “We used to look for jobs for people. Now the government wants you to get off your arse and look for jobs yourself”. As if it was my fault I hadn’t known about it, not their negligence for being unaware of their own program.

They also refused to give me travel funds to an interview because I was on the Work Programme, and the Work Programme provider also refused because over a year before they’d given me around £30 to go volunteering. I suggested that I could just not go into my Work Programme Provider’s office a few times so they wouldn’t have to reimburse my bus fares. With the saving they’d make they could give me £100 towards travel costs and I’d pay the rest. They said they couldn’t because I have to come in…despite the fact that sitting around in their office in no way helps me get a job, while an interview will definitely pay off: it’ll either get me a job or valuable interview experience. A child could work out that if you’ve got £100 to throw around, spending it on travelling to an interview is a much more efficient use of taxpayer money than paying me to lounge around an office doing absolutely nothing. But as usual the DWP prefers to throw public money down the drain while vilifying their “customers” for wasting taxpayer money. (Despite the “customers” being taxpayers themselves).

This begs the question: I pay these people’s salary through taxes. If they’re not doing their job (by not telling me about internships I’m eligible for) and not giving me travel expenses, what on earth am I paying my taxes for?

The DWP calls jobseekers “customers” in mockery of the fact that their citizens are forced to trek into jobcentres so they can have food to eat. But as they call us customers, why not make them treat us as such? Jobcentres should be customer-centred. They should be run by and for jobseekers. We should get a say in their policies and have the right to meet with advisors and voice concerns if they fail to find us a job. After all, we pay their taxes; taxes are taken off benefits before we receive them, and we pay VAT. Instead of advisors asking why you haven’t found a job, you should be asking why they haven’t found you a job- what are you paying your taxes for if they’re not helping you?

The issue of responsiblity and authority has been completely turned around. It’s YOU who should be keeping tabs on your advisor’s performance, you asking them what they’ve done to find you a job, you pointing out their harassing behaviour, pointless “sessions” and failures to actually give you courses or volunteering that would help you.

 

Reminding Jobcentre staff of their duty and ensuring Jobcentres provide good customer service

The next time they try to shame you, remember that you are paying your advisor’s salary and they are the Civil Service- an organisation that works for the public. Jobcentre staff need to understand that they are working for the unemployed and being paid by their taxes. They need to be sensitive to customers’ needs and listen to their views, be accommodating about the times and days of sign ons. No other government agency forces people to come in at set times. Your GP doesn’t tell you they can only see you at 4pm on Tuesday and they’ll cut off your benefits for three months to a year if you show up five minutes late. Neither do local councils, hospitals, even the police. Even my Work Programme Provider lets people attend at a time that’s convenient for them.  But not the Jobcentre. No, that would be treating the unemployed as practically human, and acknowledging that jobseekers are busy instead of sitting around doing nothing. (The DWP assumes that if you’re not working or not working enough hours to not be on JSA, you’re free to come in any time).  Jobcentres must support the wishes of customers for DWP opportunities or to avoid intervention. Unless you’re being seriously harassed and might be sanctioned for doing so, I’d encourage anyone forced to attend the Jobcentre to communicate this to the staff on a regular basis, to facilitate their understanding.

Benefits are your right and the DWP’s duty. Providing great service to you is the Jobcentre’s duty. 

Never forget that.

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