Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Who's Blogging Now?

The header of my being the first, or only, prison blogger was always a stretch. I believe that Jonathan King was the first blogger - though on a website rather than a blog as such - and there have been other prisoners who have popped up in a sporadic fashion for brief periods. Perhaps a more precise description would have been that I was the only regular prison blogger who examined the broader experience of imprisonment and not just ran a personal campaign or diary.

In those terms, I stood alone. As to the quality of these various insertions to the blogosphere, I leave that to others to judge. What concerns me now is that there is no longer a prison blogger. I am now a blogger about prison, not from it, and our polity demands that the debate is enlivened and enriched by a prisoner-blogger.

This isn't to say that it is easy, there are personal and environmental barriers to overcome. Some of these are ones that all bloggers face, such as being able to both write and then write interesting material. Still, I seem to have got away with it!


  1. There are two extremes of society: the neurotic and impressionable, verses the stolid and none impressionable. The State, in its pursuit of universal power, has to deceive both types contemporaneously.

    The Law is the States instrument of ethical power; it threatens the stolid into obedience, whilst reassuring the neurotic that it is for their own safety. In order to perpetuate this dissonance, the State must keep its mechanics secret from the grey mass that populate between the extreme psyche of the stolid and neurotic.

    Hence the State will oppose prisoner blogging, much in the same way States oppose Wikileaks; as the grand deception of power, especially 'democratic' power, has to hide behind the nacht und nebel thrown up by its Nomenklatura. After all, it's bad for national morale to show the accused as similar to regular folk; people might arrogantly rise above themselves, and assume independent thought processes, which as we all know, inevitably leads to: rape, paedophilia, terrorism, and questioning the orthodoxy of the State.

    P.S.: Did anybody vote for making squatting illegal; or gay marriage an imperative; or Ritalin an acceptable form of boy-child abuse?

    1. Squatting was already illegal, its just that the police wouldn't bother to do anything about it. The number of people that the new law will push into criminality is likely to be marginal. The only thing that would make a difference would be an increased police effort to remove squatters. And that may well depend on who is your new Police Commissioner is November.

      Not that I support the anti-squatting law changes. Its like treating the headache with painkillers rather than removing the tumor that is causing it.

    2. As I understand it, the change was from a civil wrong to a criminal wrong.

    3. No, it was always illegal to refuse to leave a property that was intended as a dwelling place.

    4. Please cite the law making gay marriage an imperative.

    5. Why should I; the question was whether anybody voted for it, and hence, why it should be regarded as a political imperative?

    6. You have to prove your premise before you can argue from it. In order to discuss *why* gay marriage is an imperative, you first have to demonstrate that it *is* an imperative. Otherwise you're just discussing your fantasies.

    7. Brendan O'Neill writes:


      "The transformation of gay marriage into a barometer of moral decency explains why the debate about it is so shot through with censoriousness and condemnation. That is another striking difference between the old genuinely democratic reformers and today’s gay-marriage supporters - where the proper reformers were in favour of openness and debate, the gay-marriage lobby seems far more keen to stifle dissent. As a writer for the Guardian put it, ‘There are some subjects that should be discussed in shades of grey, with acknowledgement of subtleties and cultural differences. Same-sex marriage is not one of those. There is a right answer.’ This is clearly not a political issue as we would once have understood it, where different views clash and compete for support; rather it is more akin to a new religious stricture, where the aim is to distinguish between those who are Good (the elite enthusiasts for gay marriage) and those who Bad (the people who oppose or can’t get excited about it)."

    8. Ahh, you meant *political* imperative, not, as I first thought, that everyone is being impelled to marry someone of the same gender, which would have been a slightly odd claim.

      Things don't become political imperatives because they are voted for, they get voted for because they are political imperatives. If gay marriage has become a political imperative then a significant number of people must be demanding the opportunity to vote for it. You may not agree with them, but the fact of its presence in politics means other people care about it.

      Your quote misses the point. It isn't gay marriage that is the barometer of moral decency: it's how willing a society is to fight for equality for its minorities. Equal marriage rights in the eyes of the law is just one of many examples of ways in which we can make our society fairer. If we agree that a fair society is a better society (and few would disagree on that point) then being against gay marriage is simply and inarguably wrong. To be for fairness in general but against gay marriage is logically inconsistent.

      If you are against gay marriage, you are for unfairness in society and so that is the drum you should own up to beating.

    9. "Things don't become political imperatives because they are voted for..."

      They do in a democracy.

      "...they get voted for because they are political imperatives."

      That would make voting redundant, as in totalitarianism.

      "If gay marriage has become a political imperative then a significant number of people must be demanding the opportunity to vote for it."

      My point in the original comment was that there was no apparent call for this, other than it was added to the Tory manifesto as a "possibility" so as to steal the thunder of Zanu Labour, and out-radical the radicals.

      "Equal marriage rights in the eyes of the law is just one of many examples of ways in which we can make our society fairer."

      There will be a minority of people that given a choice would like to marry their siblings. Would it be morally decent to allow them to? I say it would not be morally decent; but it would, nevertheless, be fair to those who are into incestuous relationships. Hence morality and 'fairness' are two different vectors. Similarly with gay-marriage, the more 'fair' you try to be, the more 'moral' compromises maybe called for. And how much moral compromise can you make before your 'decent' society becomes morally bankrupt?

    10. In a democracy, LAWS are decided by vote. Popular political issues and goals, being a matter of public opinion, are not subject to formal vote, though one could argue that participation in such is itself a form of informal voting. Since gay marriage is not mandated BY LAW, there was no need for any vote. The quote you gave demonstrates only that it is a popular issue in the public consciousness, which is, as Wigarse pointed out, a common cause of laws being changed. Far from totalitarianism, laws being changed according to the influence of the public will is the defining characteristic of a democracy.

      I don't want to comment specifically on whether or not there was any interest in this prior to whatever you're annoyed about, since not being in the UK, I really wouldn't know. However, I will say that if you naturally assume a political party made changes to their platform without first verifying that those changes would get them more votes, not less, you have a more optimistic view of political parties than I do.

    11. Incest is socially unacceptable because it results in genetic disorders for any offspring. Gay marriage harms no one. The two are not comparable.

    12. Incest was socially unacceptable way before the 'genetic' rational. And I believe that homosexuality has a problem with HIV and AIDS, which do harm people.

      So for the sake of argument, lets assume that the incestuous and homosexuals, both use condoms; now would you see that they are morally equivalent in those circumstances? If not, what is your explanation to separate them, on moral terms that could relate to the ethics of 'fairness' in the law?

    13. Incest was socially unacceptable way before genes were discovered because people noticed that the children of such unions tended to be more likely to have diseases. You don't need to know about genes to make that connection.

      HIV is a disease that is far from limited to the gay population and is not spread by being gay, but by not practicing safe sex. Spreading HIV is not a direct result of being gay. Again, your choices are incomparable in morality terms.

      Genetic sexual attraction is usually a result of siblings separated at birth meeting as adults (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Genetic_sexual_attraction), it's a complex and upsetting situation for all involved and the law says they are free to co-habit, but not to have sex. The sex rule is because no prophylactic device is 100% effective and pregnancy is always a risk. All of us would agree that, whether it is acted upon or not, the expectation of a sexual relationship is implicit in marriage. Given that a sexual relationship is outlawed for siblings, allowing incestual marriage would not fit with the law as it stands. Fairness and morality doesn't need to come into it. As far as they are able, without the risk of doing harm by conceiving a baby, incestual couples are already free to co-habit and behave together however they please and that, to me, seems perfectly fair.

      Homosexual sex is not ilegal, it is not more likely to cause harm through STDs of any kind that any other form of unprotected sex and pregnancy is impossible. Preventing such couples from geting married is an act of pure bigotry, however much you try to dress it up with moral outrage and bad arguments that exhibit ignorance and poor logic.

    14. I beg to differ.

      Love and kisses... sister.

    15. Just out of interest, you put "genetic" in quotes above. Does that imply you don't really believe in genes?

    16. You wrote the word "genetic", I used the word 'genetic'; maybe its all genetic.

      Double quotes for reporting the use of a word.

      Single quotes for highlighting the use of a word, sometimes in exchange for italics.

      I believe in genes; and I believe the general emotion of 'disgust' toward the act of incest, maybe an evolved outcome. Hence Mum and Dad don't have to sit Janet and John down, and give them a lecture on not 'doing each other'. Similarly with homosexuality.

    17. Quote mark use noted.

      Disgust at incest is without doubt an evolved outcome and we know a lot about it. It's caused by sibling imprinting rather than recognition of the other person as genetically similar, that is, it's learned and not innate, but the instinctive pre verbal nature of the learning makes it a specifically evolved trait. Which is why unrelated children raised together probably won't become lovers and siblings separated at birth and that meet later sometimes are.

      Homosexuality occurs at the rate of about 10% in every complex animal that has been studied (there are a lot, including my personal favourite, octopuses). There is no evidence that any of those species find it disgusting (google 'bonobo sex') and there are plenty of human (non Abrahamic) cultures who are unfazed by it. Given the enormous impact being homosexual has on reproduction, there's some suggestion (admittedly controversial) that it might actually be favoured evolutionarily otherwise it would have disappeared long ago. Research continues, but we can say with some certainty that disgust towards homosexuality is cultural and not evolved.

      If you maintain a logically consistent position, you cannot use science to back up your anti-gay standpoint. Again, incest and homosexuality are not comparable.

      So, what do you do? Do you follow the science and change your opinion of teh gays, or do you stick with being a homophobe and admit there's no evidence to back you up?

      If you're going to be anti-gay, at least have the courage of your convictions and admit that it's purely a personal belief. Or does it upset you to accept that there is no evidence to back you up? Which hints that you do at least care a little bit what people think about you and you don't want to be seen to be a bigot...

      Go on, give the lefty liberal free love side a go, we're all really friendly and we have way more fun ;p

      Of course, I know you won't. You've shown you're misogynistic/bigoted colours enough times in these comments to convince me that's impossible, but a girl can dream.

    18. There's scientific evidence for the evolution of disgust towards homosexuality and none to back up the same claims for incest.

      If you're going to be an incestaphobe, admit to yourself that's what you are and stop trying to prop up your views with fake science.

      Go on.... start reading the Telegraph... you know you want to.

      U r a bigot

    19. Calling you a bigot wasn't an insult, it was a statement of fact. You're proud enough to make bigoted statements that don't have any evidential basis, why don't you own the label? It's who you are.

      Your cute riposte is meaningless. It says everything that you completely ignore the full length version I wrote above the summary and fall back on silly word games. I would recommend anyone fact check what I say if they not sure, can you say the same?

      That's the nice thing about facts: they're true whether you believe in them or not.

    20. Btw, I do read the telegraph: it often carries very interesting articles and I find it useful to challenge my views with ideas that are opposite to my own.

      I have noticed the comments under web articles are usually worse than YouTube, though. It amuses me that the dregs of the internet gather at its feet.

  2. Interesting. My opinion is, that you have benefited from a unique situation, of which, the authority's will be loathe to see a repeat off.

    Personally, I don't believe any "paid up member of the awkward squad" will *ever* again be granted parole. And the only reason that you were, is because you managed to get your story on to the cyber-stage (First!).

    It was a fascinating read/watch....

    1. ....repeat 'of', Obvs!

    2. I'm hoping that the new Justice Secretary, Mr Grayling, will be sufficiently overwhelmed by his new legal responsibilities (not being a lawyer or having held a significant legal brief before) that he is easily controllable by his civil servants. They may be more inclined to release non-dangerous awkward prisoners to save money and protect their pet budgets.

    3. Hmmm, I wish I could share your optimism Tallguy. The fact that our Mr Grayling is, I believe, anti ECHR, doesn't, I fear, bode well....

    4. Don't be too pessimistic. Clarke's sentencing bill is already an act now - it is law. The tough bit has been done - getting a more liberal sentencing system (including the abolition of the loathesome indefinite sentences) through the house. Unless Grayling is going to start repealing stuff his own government has just put in place, there is little damage he can do. Indeed, it appears he hasn't even been given control of the only other justice bill - Clarke retains that.

      My guess is Grayling has been put there to talk tough and do nothing.

  3. I can't think of anyone who has written about the transition from a long term of incarceration to 'feeling' free. Not in a considered and possibly academic way at any rate. After all, you've already had the lack of NI number/opening a bank account to get a job paradox after only a few weeks of release.

    Might be a thread to continue with.


  4. Just a thought, but how about you act as a conduit for other still in the system? You could host guest blogs the way Shaun Attwood does.

  5. You'll be pleased to know that there is one life-sentenced blogger, going under the pseudonym of Danny Cash, who is still blogging from the inside. In his notes from the other side of the wall: http://urbantimes.co/category/feature/notes-from-prison-feature/ he gives an insight into prison life as a microcosm of society. Ben, he looks up to you a lot and said he reads many of your blogs which he gets printed out for him...


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