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Archive for the ‘Aaron Frazer’ Category

Royal weddings… The ultimate antidote to media sanity

In Aaron Frazer on November 21, 2010 at 7:00 am

Aaron Frazer on the wedding on William and Katie: our second post on the subject, further perpetuating the media saturation of the “Wedding of the Decade”. Bored yet? Read this. Read the rest of this entry »

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Tory Welfare Reforms: Tearing the Safety Net

In Aaron Frazer on November 8, 2010 at 12:46 pm

Aaron Frazer attempts to make sense of the welfare reforms that have polarised public opinion. Read the rest of this entry »

Joining The Labour Party is not good for your mental health

In Aaron Frazer on September 15, 2010 at 1:10 pm

Aaron Frazer gives all fellow Labourites a public health warning. Read the rest of this entry »

Strong Democracies Tolerate what they Disapprove of

In Aaron Frazer on August 11, 2010 at 9:33 am

By Aaron Frazer

A strange and dangerous spectre is haunting Europe. It is the tyranny of idiocy. The dominance of the moronic. The rule of the prejudiced and cretinous.  In the three countries incumbent governments have spearheaded high profile campaigns to ban the Burqa. Nicholas Sarkozy claims ‘It is a sign of subservience, a sign of debasement’ whilst his interior minister claims ‘We are an old country anchored in a certain idea of how to live together. A full veil which completely hides the face is an attack on those values, which for us are so fundamental’. Read the rest of this entry »

Be Thankful Diane Abbott Made It

In Aaron Frazer on June 25, 2010 at 4:03 pm

By Aaron Frazer

Is participation without success intrinsically pointless? Such a question struck me when the irreverent and unrepentantly socialist Diane Abbott was given a shot at the Labour leadership. Diane Abbott will not win and no-one including her honestly believes  she will get close. The Labour Party, stripped of its  constrictive  ideological heritage, is a deeply pragmatic party. Because a consensus exists that electability invariably trumps principle, Abbott will, I assume, face the unforgiving and blunt dismissal of the parliamentary party. So assuming that the party members and unions cannot thrust Abbott into the front-running what exactly is the point? Well the benefits of Abbott’s candidacy are multiple and extensive. Read the rest of this entry »

Where and When Progressive Politics Dies

In Aaron Frazer on June 2, 2010 at 8:47 am

By Aaron Frazer

Lets wait and see. This is the cry of the more idealistic and patient progressives amongst us. They see this as a political marriage of convenience between the Tories and the Liberal Democrats, and have essentially concluded that “this wasn’t exactly what I was thinking but, hey, it will allow the Liberal Democrats to exercise some real influence”. The more diplomatic part of my brain understands this.

Much as I appreciate the Vietcong jungle trap which is the realm of political predictions (In Tony Blair’s vain I “never make predictions, I never have, and I never will”), I am, reservedly, going to make a prediction. This coalition will not be a disaster nor will it be hasten the destruction of British society. That is honestly the best part of being removed from the far sides of the political spectrum; it enables one to avoid the language of irrevocable political and moral decline. The only disappointment will be progressive minded people who, like me, showed monumental naivety in voting for the Liberal Democrats. In just three weeks, Lib Dem ambitions have been whittled down to essentially tax reform and a referendum on the most unambitious reformation of the electoral system. The implementation of a progressive agenda is not what the majority of people will associate with this Liberal coalition. It will be a party who actively participated in the biggest spending cut fetishism since Thatcher. The scale of the cuts ahead, told in terrifying detail by the Institute of Fiscal Studies, will be of historic significance. The Liberals will also be remembered as complicit in an amazing piece of political trickery which ensured that the ‘bloated’ public sector and claimants of welfare can and should be bashed because of a private sector meltdown. Some may, it can only be hoped, become increasingly amazed that this government has not attempted to initiate a serious debate about getting irresponsible financial institutions to compensate for bringing the countries economy to its knees. The Liberals will also be widely associated with whatever policies, both good and bad, which are initiated by the Conservatives. This will effectively ensure that the meticulously executed PR effort, which constructed the Lib Dems as the progressive ‘alternative’, will implode. Contrary perhaps to much of the new Cabinet, many people who voted Liberal Democrat were seduced by Clegg’s left of centre, redistributive-sounding populism. Ban arms sales to Israel, get rid of Nuclear weapons and erratic electoral systems; these were some of the many proposals, constructed and presented in a way that would appeal to disillusioned Labour voters. When progressive ideas and policies get subsumed or ignored, me and many of those who voted Lib Dem , will need an almighty sized cloth to get to grips with such an egg covered face.

The Election Debate Scorecard

In Aaron Frazer on April 30, 2010 at 10:30 pm

Gordon Brown

Last Night

Arguably the strongest performer on the night. Very comfortable and assured in the discussion of policy detail. Presented a coherent argument that Labour’s economic policies are (relatively) realistic and coherent. Presented a good idea of how Labour would renew regional investment, boost small businesses  and cut the deficit. Marked down for his off screen facial expressions; a mixture of a madman laughing nihilistically  and the smirk of a deviant.

Overall

Left himself far much to do after an exhausted and limp performance. Looked beleaguered and disorientated and on the wrong side of history.

David Cameron

Last Night

An assured, much more persuasive performance. Encapsulated  the frustration, incandescence and confusion many feel about ‘Brown’s Britain’. In that respect he hit many of the right notes needed to galvanise the base . Hardened and refined his tone effectively. Probably should of prepared more carefully for the inevitable inheritance tax attack. Predictable, one dimensional and hypocritical  attacks are easy to refute. Or at least they should be.

Overall

Hasn’t exactly found the balance between Britain’s moral,financial and social degeneration and a coherent positive vision. Rhetoric (ie The Big Society) has  been criticised by senior aids/backbenchers as ambiguous and thus uninspiring. Achieved a degree of redemption last night. Overall, an unfortunate tendency to shoehorn in a scripted soundbite every 10-20 seconds. Must improve off screen face; turgid and despondent. However this usually acted as the precursor to an angry refutation of a Brown allegation which makes it marginally more acceptable.

Nick Clegg

Last Night

A comparatively weaker performance. As many have mentioned Clegg massively over egged the distancing tactic of “the  bickering old parties”. Does anti-elitism  very unconvincingly. Also regurgitated much of the same rhetoric and examples. Seemed alarmingly short of economic policies at times.

Overall

An invigorating and  dynamic performance. Has transformed this election with an infectious  positivity and conviction. Created ‘Cleggmania’ which if you think retrospectively, as in before these debates, would have sounded farcical.

Aaron Frazer

First Election Debate – An Alternative View

In Aaron Frazer on April 18, 2010 at 10:53 pm

Ok. This was always going to be transformational and unprecedented. But did it deliver? Well, contrary to most, I think the election debate had some severe weaknesses.

This was a strange, strange evening. As it started, the camera panned across the frightened faces of the respective leaders standing awkwardly on a stage reminiscent of a low budget 1980’s gameshow. My apprehension, already a frankly critical levels, became consuming. This wasn’t right. Brown was insane to agree to it and the both Clegg and Cameron unconvincingly pretended this was something which they sought with genuine excitement and confidence. The way all of the leaders spoke during the evening reinforced my fear that this election debate would herald the domination of style  over substance. Many of the points made, peppered with constant references to people they had met on tour (including a non racist black navy officer, a disillusioned headteacher and most bizarrely a wayward Chef etc) and made me feel like I was down the pub with my Uncle. I have never in my entire life seen three intelligent politicians resort so readily to the unverifiable quagmire of simple anecdotes. It was almost as if as an apology for the dreadful economy and the expenses saga they would reward us by exclusively using the  accessible language of the Daily Star and Talksport. At the closing statements both Clegg and Brown thanked the audience for “staying with us” over the hour and a half, with the awful implication that we are either quickly bored or easily confused (or both). In the scheme of  things, pandering to the stereotype that politics is boring and stuffy may seem rather innocuous, but it is hardly conducive to an elevated political discourse. There were however some decent points on this weird night. Policy, when it wasn’t shrouded in vague language, was, intermittently, well presented and lucid. Some ideas were even new; Cleggs proposal for The Education Freedom Act (which would ban government micro-managing the exam system and school policy) caught the eye despite a lack of detail in terms of how it would be implemented or enforced. Cameron suffered from a chronic nervous disposition and an inability to forward anything I hadn’t heard from Oliver Letwin and Iain Duncan Smith in 2003 at an event for A Level students. Some ideas like the free schools have been fleshed out, and the deficit policy, intuitively, makes sense to many. However Cameron, in the throes of an extraordinarily vigorous PR campaign with Andy Coulson and Steve Hilton ,lacked conviction. This led to him shoehorning in a worrying amount of catchphrases and soundbites.

Overall, despite a strong performance from Clegg, who balanced incsivness and aggression effectively, all the leaders understandably reacted strangely to this essentially alien process. Clarity of language,  and the smooth presentation of policy were omnipresent on that evening. However, conviction of purpose, the detailed elucidation of policy and vigorous debate were undoubtedly submerged by the slick a PR operation and the dominance of personality politics.

Aaron Frazer

Challenge these dangerous calls for retribution

In Aaron Frazer on March 21, 2010 at 10:00 am

I’m not one for sweeping castigations of cultural norms. Invariably I find the incendiary populism of many common sense crusaders deeply annoying, especially when there arguments are delivered despite a paucity of factual evidence. Therefore I am dedicating this article to what I see as the most troubling constant in our society; the foghorn volume of the righteous lynch mob. This has recently been reinvigorated by the case of Jon Venables, who in the last few weeks has been the centre of a enraged campaign to reveal his recent crimes and undermine his anonymity. When considering the depths of public anger over this issue, and the vicious abuse meted out to someone who was thought to be Venables, it seems obvious that his anonymity is the only thing which protects his safety. However, saturated with stories of miscarries of justice and the leniency of sentencing, much of the British public have resented the words of “support”, “rehabilitation” and anonymity when associated with Venables. Much more preferable is the reassuring language of brutal retribution. When individuals argue that anonymity is unjustified, or laughably that it is too expensive, they are basically saying the rule of law is an ineffective dispenser of justice and that if someone attacks or kills Venables then that’s an acceptable response to the horrors of his crimes.

It has never become clearer then when a horrific crime strikes a chord with popular consciousness, the dispassionate and (relatively) equitable application of justice and law is frequently argued to be ineffective. It is a despicable and contemptuous argument which erodes the central, underlining principles of our society. This will be reinvigorated by a two prong process. First there needs to be a realisation that important, well known cases of sentencing have been widely considered to be overwhelming lenient. There needs to be a prolonged, detailed, and preferably dispassionate debate about the efficacy of our sentencing procedure. However at the other end there needs to be a clear and unequivocal denunciation from politicians and those of the criminal justice system at this vigilante justice. Apart for the Bulger family, whose right to know Jon Venables identity/what he did is still contentious, no-one has the “right” to know; especially since those calling for it most loudly have not been overwhelmingly convincing in showing that they would use such information responsibly. Instead of appeasing and “understanding” public anger, politicians should ignore the temptation to cave in to this populist bullying and stand firm. Public knowledge about Venables crimes is widely perceived to be detrimental to a fair trial. Anonymity in this case is to prevent vigilantism and the denigration of the rule of law. Fundamentally,sentencing and punishment is the role of courts, not the “court of public opinion”.

Aaron Frazer

Grime Doesn’t Pay

In Aaron Frazer on March 3, 2010 at 9:00 am

There’s a well known term in the US called the cultural wars. This is defined by right wingers condemning pervasive cultural norms and also those on the periphery. Some of the most incendiary attacks are reserved for what are in my opinion, gargantuan red herrings. However when accurately aimed, appropriate and well judged, it should be asked; why should right wingers have all the fun? Especially when the left can provide an authoritative and pertinent critique of a modern social trend. One that I hope is resumed is that of grime music. Despite its ability to adopt mainstream lyrical and stylistic norms, Grime music is still the self appointed music of the “streets” (yes I hate this phrase too). I work on the streets; mostly in the capacity of Brent youth services who send me and other youth workers on to troubled council estates to do outreach and engagement work. The young men in such areas listen disproportionately and sometimes exclusively to grime music. When Brent Council asks youngsters to choose the activity for investment it is primarily to hire music producers to teach them how to make grime.  High tempo, incredibly claustrophobic and frantic, grime’s structure and form provides a strong basis for  a subtext  of agitation, confrontation and aggression. The artists, nowhere near as diverse as UK or US hip Hop, have primarily become well known through no lyrics barred “battles” where the objective is to intimidate, humiliate and emasculate an opponent. This has become so normalised in mainstream grime music where artists remain preoccupied by rivals both real and imagined. At the risk of sounding unforgivably snobby and arrogant many of the young people I work with who listen to grime neither have diverse music tastes nor do they participate in  particularly varied social activities. In sum they are not exposed to cultural “forces” which challenge the values disseminated by grime or simply provide an alternative perspective on issues relevant to them. Despite the noble exceptions grime reiterates the absurd and misplaced importance of “respect”. More than most other music forms it provides an opportunity to create an unchallenged self-construct which is very empowering and self-affirming for young people who can vicariously live through the fantasies of promiscuity and decadent wealth. The saturation of images in grime of status derived wealth has created rigid parameters for what is deemed acceptable and undermines a regular defence that grime is a conducive to individual expression and creativity.

If you may be unconvinced that a format which encourages often insecure violent people to humiliate and criticise other insecure and violent people then just look at Grime’s history. This is little to do with urban deprivation but a music form in which artists have to constantly compete with and refute gratuitous presentations of status, wealth and aggression. Like US hip hop artists in grime are seldom nice to each other but develop a defensive herd mentality when criticised by wider society. These criticisms are not always accurate or helpful yet none of them get a coherent response from grime artists. Though the people who forward such attacks may be misplaced in their preconceptions or prejudicial to the culture generally they are often coherent; not least because in Grime despite the ubiquity of (ever changing) slang the messages are invariably explicit, unambiguous and one dimensional (not in itself a bad thing). Therefore when David Cameron criticised Lethal Bizzle and Westwood for glamorising and promoting violence his tone and posturing may have been ill considered but the basic content of his argument was broadly right. That old defence of simply reporting social trends is vacuous; virtually every Grime song about violence, apart from mawkish ones lamenting its prevalence, either identify or rationalise such behaviour or more commonly promote it indiscriminately. With Grime whether its the conspiratorial and pessimistic conceptions of “the system” or the defensive and incoherent way Grime artists respond to media hostility one glaring constant is how weakness and incoherence flourishes when  people do not acknowledge or accommodate a solid counter argument.

Aaron Frazer