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gleb-konovalov-uncensoredAnyone who has known me for more than five minutes knows that I hate censorship. I go on about the importance of free speech and free expression the way vegans rattle on about tofu or nut cutlets. Whatever it is that suppresses speech, whether it be governmental interference and sanction, political gatekeeping by de facto tech monopolies or the public/private partnership that is financial censorship.

There is one form of censorship that is more insidious, however, and one with which I have trouble dealing. That’s self-censorship.

“The exercising of control over what one says and does, especially to avoid criticism.”

Believe it or not, I am very tired of fighting with people about things, especially when people seem to have developed somewhat entrenched and peculiar ideas about me. Ideas that I do not recognise as having any basis in reality. When I also defend ‘icky speech’, as Neil Gaiman calls it, not from content but on the foundation of free expression, people seem incapable of separating the principle from the material.

The Voltairian concept of free speech (actually articulated by Evelyn Beatrice-Hall) seems just about dead, and in combination with ‘Death of the Author’ your intent or purpose in creating material matters, not one jot. People will tell you what you meant (invariably giving it the worst possible interpretation to meet their own biases) and your opinion on what you made and why is entirely irrelevant.

But I am tired, so very weary, of this constant fighting and unlike some others I genuinely care what people think of me, and why. I want people to acknowledge the truth, I don’t like to see innocent people slandered and if I can take some heat away from someone else, I will! Profoundly suppressed masochistic tendencies perhaps.

Everything I do, everything I have done, for going on five years, has been subjected to the most intensive scrutiny by some devoted haters. If they can find a way to disrupt what I do, my living, my work, my life, they’ll do it. Any time I produce a game, a T-shirt design, a piece of written work, a Youtube video, a blog post – anything – they’re picking over it for something to damn me with or some spurious manner they can justify a takedown, censorship or other interference.

It’s wearing, it’s exhausting, and so I find myself doing something I hate; censoring myself.

I find myself questioning whether it’s worth another internet slap fight. Whether it’s worth being called a liar, misogynist, incel (that’s a new one), racist (!) and other nonsense, just because I don’t march in absolute lockstep with one group’s ideology in every particular.

Of course, on the other side, I have people screaming that I’m a Communist, Cultural Marxist, immoral, degenerate traitor and speculating about my racial grouping for some reason; again, because I don’t march in lockstep with their peculiar beliefs.

By doing that, even not going forward, I am betraying my principles for the sake of self-care, but it doesn’t sit well. It’s a paradox of esteem and self-actualisation (to put it in Maslow’s terms). You can’t self-actualise without esteem, but you can’t maintain esteem if you self-actualise.

The temptation to surround yourself with people who agree with you is strong, but I see the danger in that of the way other people have gone off the rails. It’s a trap, a maze with no exit and so, every time I make a creative decision it’s gut-wrenching torture of self-doubt, balanced – perhaps in an intimately colonic way – on the horns of a dilemma.

I think I have to uncensor myself in the long run, but it’s a hard thing to do. It’s harder not to be my authentic self though.

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Postmortem Studios

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Genties, Ladymen and children of all genders!

Cast your functioning sensory organs in something approximating this direction and gaze in awe and wonder at the cavalcade of entertainment and dysfunction on show!

Step this way, and for the low, low fee of your attention you will find diversions most deviant, entertainments most exciting and writings most wicked. We practically (but not actually) guarantee your satisfaction and amusement!

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Behold, the hall of Social Media! What distractions and horrors may lie inside these darkened halls?

Perhaps you seek the cheap thrill of voyeurism to be found in the unblinking gaze of Madam Narcissist!

Will you test your mettle and your patience in the Blue Bird Arena?

Perhaps one of our fabulous freaks, Bookface will entertain you with his mind reading tricks, targeted advertising andmostdivertinggroups?

There are new attractions too, wild and untamed creatures from the furthest…

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I have sent this to everyone I can think of to send it to. If anyone knows who Dankula’s MEP and local MP are, I will send it to them too.

Dear Sir,

I am writing to you regarding the recent conviction, in Scotland, of Markus Meechan, also known by the Internet moniker of ‘Count Dankula’.

Somewhat over two years ago now, Mr Meechan played a prank on his girlfriend by training her pet pug to respond to Nazi phrases and to raise its paw in a Roman salute. He recorded this in a short comedy skit and uploaded it to YouTube (an online video sharing site). He prefaced with an explanation and description of what he was doing, to whit, turning his girlfriend’s pug (which she was also talking about and cooing over) into the least cute thing he could think of, a Nazi.

It is plain to anyone watching the video that this is a joke and that the butt of the joke (besides Meechan’s girlfriend) are the Nazis. They are being portrayed as terrible, as ‘the least cute thing’ possible and not in any way being glorified. Nor is genocide being normalised, nor any other such absurd claim.

Here is the video in question: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ro2aKSUIezY

Nonetheless, Meechan has been convicted of being ‘grossly offensive’.

Humour is subjective and a matter of taste, not a matter for the courts. Britain may not have a singular constitution, but it has a long tradition of edgy comedy and satire and a history of understanding and tolerance of jokes – dark and otherwise. While we remain part of Europe, we do have a codified right to free expression under Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights (within reasonable bounds). Humour appears, to me, to be within, reasonable bounds.

Whether Mr Meechan goes to jail or not, this issue has made Scotland, and the United Kingdom by extension, a laughing stock and has threatened the necessary freedom of expression required for the famous British sense of humour. The Pythons could have been charged under this precedent, Mitchell and Webb could have been, perhaps most perversely Mel Brooks could have been. The Producers would have been impossible under this threat. This is a legal precedent that cannot be allowed to be set if we are to retain any credibility in continuing to call ourselves a liberal, free and democratic country.

The ruling itself is far from the only problem with this trial or this arrest. There were no complaints about the video; rather the police solicited a complaint from one of their advisors. The media were informed before Meechan was, and were present to see him get arrested – a matter of some suspicion. The trial itself, over such a meaningless thing, has been dragged out over the course of years with numerous unnecessary delays and even courtroom filibustering and attempts to change the charge to an even more serious one – over a joke.

I implore you, as a historian, as a creator, as a citizen of the United Kingdom to do what you can to restore some dignity to our country and judiciary and to investigate this grievous miscarriage of justice. Free speech, free expression, has rarely been under so much attack as it is at present in the UK. There are increasing restrictions on the internet, the banning of certain kinds of expression, the barring of people from even entering the country for the wrong politics and – now – the overextension of ‘hate crime’ laws.

This decline needs to stop.

Sincerely,

James Desborough
Postmortem Studios

1353061_142275_largeBlack Panther is a strange concept. A high-tech, ethnostate. Isolationist, racially pure, founded on the idea that that is a path to greatness (albeit not a new idea, high-tech lost cities being a trope in old pulp fiction). Somehow we accept this uncritically, despite it being essentially what white supremacists are arguing for. Yes, there are contextual differences, but it is still a highly racialised and even dangerous concept. One need only look at the racism, triumphalism and exclusionary practice around the release of the film, not to mention Black Supremacists acting as though Wakanda is – or was – real, to see the dangers in indulging this kind of racial ideology, for anyone.

Would we tolerate it the other way around? It’s a stereotypical question to ask, but still, one worth exploring. As well as asking why we would not.

Thule is a nation appearing in American comic books, published by Wonder Comics. It is the most prominent of several fictional European nations in the Wonder Universe and home to the superhero White Wolf. Thule first appeared in Fabulous Five #52 (July 1966) and was created by Enitan Adebowale and Onyekachukwu Kirabo.

Location

Thule is located north of the Faroe Islands, between Iceland and Norway. It is an actively volcanic island, which artificially warms its climate and prevents most air travel to and from the island.

History

Thule’s royal line began with Fenrir Badger-Beard, an ancient Viking who discovered this oasis of warmth in the frozen north and founded a settlement, gathering the proudest and most renown warriors to colonise his new kingdom.

In the distant past, a massive meteorite made up of the Asgardian metal uru crashed into Thule, creating the volcano and disturbing the seabed, throwing up the further extent of the island and bringing a great deal of mineral wealth to the surface. Fenrir and his descendants jealously guarded this wealth and the kingdom’s mystics and soothsayers soon uncovered the magical mysteries of the uru deposits, working the metal in the heat of volcanic forges.

As the world began to change around them with the rise of the Christian god and the power of the other European nations increasing, another king of Thule, Hrafen Long-Beard, made a change. He began to turn his nation into a trading nation, releasing small amounts of their wealth to educate their best, to develop their island and to form good relations with these other powers – while staying neutral. Staves of enchanted uru were planted to hide the island from navigators and to prevent the proselytisers of the Christian god from bringing their beliefs to their shores.

As the age of science dawned the educated class of Thule began to work to combine the wonders of the new technology with the powers of their ancient magic, to great success. Cannons and guns of uru were stockpiled and jealously guarded, further to defend Thule from an increasingly alien and dangerous outside world, knowing they must keep their true wealth and power secret.

Myths and legends of Thule had long spread around the world, especially given Thule’s punishment of exile (if not execution) for most criminals. Most did not take these legends of caverns of gold or ‘magic metal’ seriously but during WWII an exiled traitor returned with a U-Boat full of Nazi commandos, first attempting to cut a deal and then attempting to steal uru to feed the Nazi war machine. The fight was savage and showed that the outside world’s technology had almost caught up with the uru-enhanced innovations of Thule’s people. The king and many warriors were killed, the traitor and a small cadre of officers got away, forcing the people of Thule to enter the wall in a small way, though the uru jump-started the Nazi wonder-weapon and rocketry programs and caused a ‘Spear of Destiny’ to be forged.

With the advent of nuclear weapons by the end of the war, Thule doubled down on its paranoia and protectionism. So far as the outside world was concerned it was a small oil and mineral producing nation in an inaccessible and frozen sea. Hardly anyone knew about it and that was the way they liked it. Post-War investment in technology and weaponry, training in an already prevalent martial tradition went through the roof with commensurate advances and innovations as characterised by other insular, marginalised nations from Israel and South Africa to Professor Calamity’s Verlatia.

Thule has an unusually high rate of mutation due to the magical properties of uru. The more severely mutated work with Erik Drepnor, a Thulian subversive who wishes to return the land to pure magic and ancient ways of human sacrifice and total isolationism.

In more recent times Thule has been forced to emerge a little more from the shadows. The rise of their new king and his alter-ego the White Wolf to the ranks of heroes has forced this to be the case. The revelation of the existence of Earth-bound uru has also piqued interest, though White Wolf is thought to be a single hero, not representative of a whole land of magi-tech hidden in the north.

To this day Thule remains an isolated nation, hostile to foreign visitors, however diplomatic, secretive and traditionalistic with a strong native, pagan religion, strict gender roles and a total ban on immigration. While friendly to outsiders, when abroad, they have a ‘nobility’ and arrogance that comes from believing themselves better than those they are fooling.

Technology base

Due to its intentional isolationism, Thulian technology has, until recently, developed entirely independently of that of the rest of the world. As such the design philosophies and methodologies are different and often incompatible with conventional equipment. Thule is one of the world’s most technologically advanced countries. For example, Thulian computer technology is more powerful than that of the rest of the world, forming a magical bond with its user and having a limited sense of self-awareness. This renders it completely immune to outside hacking, while simultaneously being able to hack outside systems easily.

Uru has been used extensively in Thulian weapons technologies, armour and vehicles. The physics-defying nature of the metal and its magical sympathies have allowed for the development of all manner of technologies that would normally be impossible, as well as allowing the user to form a supernatural bond with their equipment. This unique magi-tech would allow Thule to punch well above its weight in any conflict.

The White Wolf

The current king of Thule, Hvitr Scar-Hand is the public face of the country, an affable, friendly, white-blond man who also dons the armoured uru suit and persona of the White Wolf. He has been trained in the warrior tradition of his people, as well as being infused with colloidal uru, something that makes him naturally magical, preternaturally self-aware, resilient and better able to magically bond with uru.

Hvitr has had the best, international, education that money can buy in addition to training in the unique aspects of Thulian science and mysticism. He carries a pocket Thulian supercomputer and wears a suit of high-tech ballistic armour, woven with uru thread. It is armed with a pair of ‘fangs’ (uru blades that spring from the forearms). The White Wolf also carries a huge uru revolver and the masked suit can deploy a pair of magi-tech ornithopter drones to give it even greater situational awareness and combat readiness.