Social Media Fiefdoms


The other day I was reading a blog by a fat girl & it was weird. I’m fat (ish! ish!) myself so I can relate to the social / romantic misery of it when you’re young – and no one should ever treat you badly because of it – but what I didn’t get was the guff about diets being akin to genocide (you won’t be eradicated – you’ll be thinner) and the strange demands made of ‘allies’.

There was a whole list of things that thin people must do if they want to be an ally of the fat person.

They must say the friend is fat and oppressed,  they must not talk about their own body issues – in fact – they must not have body issues, they must acknowledge the emotional work that the fat girl must do daily to talk about her fat, they must care enough about her to feel ‘unsafe’ in these endless conversations about her being fat, they must not blame her for being fat, they must know that they can do harm even when they’re trying to do good & – finally – when she tells them what she needs, they must supply it.

So I wondered how & why this whinny bore would have any allies?

I’ve seen these kind of demands before – in the form of articles on sites like Salon, Buzzfeed, Jezebel or Everyday Feminism – made by depressed people, or trans people or WOC & it always makes them seem like high-maintenance leeches – but then – they also have concrete things they need to get – mainly help from doctors or justice in the courts – so it made a kind of sense. This fat girl wants nothing but an entourage.

And it occurred to me – all these Identity / Personality Cults – are the internet’s religion.

In a fusion of social causes, self-help, celebrity and Capitalism – there’s evolved a new kind of Feudal Chivalry.

The Oppressed or Famous Person is the King or the Damsel.

The Ally is the Knight who pledges fealty to the King and who fights on behalf of the Damsel.

Some Scandal / Demand / Product is the Joust or the Quest.

Attention / Praise / Virtue / Status / Love / Money is the prize / tribute / tithe / tax

Some groups – like Hackers – will function like a Monastic Order.

It’s not really a surprise considering the most active social media users seem to be immersed in fantasy video games with their medieval value systems and changeable avatars.

The dark side of this – is the dark side of any religion: Liars, con-artists, impostors, thieves, predators –  trolls, flamers, Edgelords – the murky cults (pro-ana, suicide, killing, child abuse, even truly unbelievable things like Erotic Cannibalism) – and the treatment of heretics, atheists, apostates and heathens who get doxed, outed, reported to their employer, stalked, bullied, harassed, slandered, shunned, told to kill themselves, threatened, and murdered.

It also stops a critique of a global economic system that puts the advancement of a few above the security and rights of the many. Worse – like a Ponzi scheme – it encourages the poor to give to the rich in the vain hope of joining them.

There’s also those of us who don’t realise we’ve stumbled upon a cult, try to make a point (apparently logic is oppressive to oppressed persons – even if they’re only oppressed in their own heads) and end up with a heap of Screaming Popes in our notifications.

I’m still bruised from the Torchwood forum.


New Model Media

jl karsh-portrait

Back in the 1960s a journalist found John Lennon writing while lying on a sofa, watching t.v, listening to the radio and reading a newspaper. He seemed to live in a state of information overload. She thought it was lazy and barbaric; Marshall McLuhan would call it a technological extension of man in the electronic age, but would agree it came with an amputation. We can witness anything anywhere on the planet – but not much is happening in that room.


In 1991 the novel Alma Cogan by Gordon Burn was published. It mixed up the life story of the UK singer Alma Cogan with the crimes of UK serial killers Ian Brady and Myra Hindley. It was a comment on celebrity culture and the weird way the media impacts on our lives. Our brains must be packed with things we’ve only seen in print or on a screen. All those things must be mingling away in our subconscious and who knows in what combinations or to what affect they’ll resurface. And how weird must it be if you’re one of the subjects the media covers. What would you think about yourself?


In 2008 Burns published Born Yesterday – the News as a Novel – a collage of things featured on 24 hour rolling news t.v. stations the Summer before. It happened to include the disappearance of Madeleine McCann in Portugal, Tony Blair leaving office and the failed Glasgow Airport bombing. Nowadays we can spend hours watching a hack stand in a field while every possible (and impossible) angle of a story is squalled back to the studio, then dropped and largely forgotten. You can know the minutia of a manhunt, while never being entirely clear what happened before or after he went on the run.


In 2005 YouTube went live and brief moments could be filmed, uploaded, manipulated and commented on in an endless loop until the public was bored or the footage was removed. Ordinary people went ‘viral’ because of their cute pet, or a Star Wars dance, or lip-syncing a song or a funny remark their kid made. Famous people became embroiled in scandals because of racist rants, or couch jumping, or wardrobe malfunctions.


In 2006 came Twitter and with it – arrests, sackings, reputation Armageddons and social media stars who judge all that comes before them in 140 characters including a link to their other platform. It matters intensely while you’re scrolling and – except for a few unlucky sods, the ones who get to play IT – not a jot when you’re out In Real Life. We lose perspective in the digital world. We over-share, lie, troll, flame, stalk, block, create epic dramas out of minor disagreements, plot revenge, post ‘cute’ selfies, and deactivate hurt and scared before coming back to do it all again. It’s like the Fame French Revolution except the young revolutionaries never take over from the heads they’ve rolled.  They stay in their rooms and wait for the next victim from the dwindling talent pool.

It’s a massive change and no change at all. You can fall in love, get therapy, find a new identity, shop, bank, game, crusade, feud, play detective, raise money… any amount of huge, life-changing activities – or you could never log on and pay no attention to it whatsoever.

This Happened: Robby Benson


One of the movies I remember most from my childhood is ‘Ode To Billy Joe’ the tale of a country boy who dates a country girl, gets drunk at a Jamboree, ends up in bed with his boss & chucks himself off the Tallahatchie Bridge. I liked the lazy indifference of it. All that melodrama but life goes on.

And it turns out the star – Robby Benson – was in quite a few 1970s movies that all share a kind of earnest, drippy Catcher In The Rye via Fiddler On The Roof vibe. His films are glossy, schmaltzy, angsty, coming of agey – proto-Brat Pack without the high concept. He’s the missing link between the swinging teens of the 60s & the cynical teens of the 80s & beyond.

He retired from acting because of a heart condition and became a composer and teacher, which explains his unjust pop culture obscurity.

Here’s some of his 70s highlights.

Jeremy (1973)

A shy 15 yr old New York cello student has his heart broken by a 16 yr old ballet dancer who has to move back to Detroit. A slightly dodgy film beloved by middle-aged men for reasons we’ll ignore.


One on One (1977)

A basketball player wins a scholarship to a college and has to overcome bullying and reading issues to get the girl and defy the coach. (similar to All The Right Moves – an early Tom Cruise vehicle).


Ice Castles (1978)

A figure skater dates a hockey player and has to overcome cheating and blindness to win a championship… I can’t tell you how much I loved this film when I was a nipper – love and winning a competition – what more can a girl dream of (apart from ponies – obviously)?


I love Dorothy Eden

Dorothy Eden is a writer of Gothic and Historical romances who was born in New Zealand in 1912, worked as a legal secretary, moved to England in 1954, wrote short stories and novels and died of cancer in 1982.

Her Gothics follow roughly the same pattern – a nice girl goes somewhere new and is menaced by two men, one of which will turn out to be the villain, one of which will turn out to be the hero. Dot died a genteel spinster – so I like to think she was working out the basic security dilemma lovers have – if you trust them and they do you wrong, you would be better off being alone, but the heart wants what it wants. There’s real danger in the books, she’s not afraid to kill off innocent characters or leave her heroine angry or yearning. There’s an underlying truth to it which is unusual for the genre – the books would make great 3-part t.v. thrillers and she deserves a revival.

A Traveler In A Dish Of Pain

I’m miserable about being OLD… I’m not actually old – I’ve just reached that age where I realise death is inevitable and not a remote melodramatic thing that might happen if no one likes my selfie on facebook.

I mean we’re for it. We’re doomed. We’re on a conveyor belt of relentless decay.

You will not escape.

So in a shallow and perverse way – this very sorrowful poem – by a young man whose unfair era murdered him before his time – cheered me up.

Chidiock Tichborne was a 24 year old Catholic who became involved in the Babington Plot to free Mary Queen of Scots, then imprisoned in England. Along with seven of his fellow conspirators he was eviscerated, hanged, drawn and quartered.  Their fate aroused so much sympathy that the seven remaining conspirators were hanged. Which is rather more gruesome and depressing than it seemed in one of my favourite childhood books Alison Uttley’s ‘A Traveler in Time’.

My Prime of Youth Is But A Frost of Cares

by Chidiock Tichborne

Written in the Tower of London on the Eve of his Execution. 

My prime of youth is but a frost of cares,
My feast of joy is but a dish of pain,
My crop of corn is but a field of tares,
And all my good is but vain hope of gain.
The day is gone and yet I saw no sun,
And now I live, and now my life is done.

The spring is past, and yet it hath not sprung,
The fruit is dead, and yet the leaves are green,
My youth is gone, and yet I am but young,
I saw the world, and yet I was not seen,
My thread is cut, and yet it was not spun,
And now I live, and now my life is done.

I sought my death and found it in my womb,
I lookt for life and saw it was a shade,
I trode the earth and knew it was my tomb,
And now I die, and now I am but made.
The glass is full, and now the glass is run,
And now I live, and now my life is done.

Azealia Banks


To save sending a million tweets – I thought I’d blog my thoughts on the Azealia Banks Banning From Twitter Storm.

For a start – I think she’s adorable. I think she’s smart, funny & beautiful (not that it matters). I love 212 where she says the most disgusting things while wearing a cute Mickey Mouse jumper. It’s not what you expect – it’s shocking, but non-threatening – so it’s a guilty transgression everyone can giggle at.

Her twitter diatribes – she’s known for throwing out racial and sexual slurs – can be the same or more tiresome. I occasionally agree with a point, but I wouldn’t follow because it’s relentless and it doesn’t discriminate between those who can take it, and those who are having a nervous breakdown because their mentions are full of aggro.

In short – she comes across as unbalanced – and I think she probably is unbalanced. And I entirely understand why – she’s an artist – she’s got ambitions – but she’s internalized  every social message that says she can’t do it – and she can’t get rid of the feeling – and worse – her talent is kooky. It doesn’t cleanly fit into a mainstream box – and I can count the black American hipsters on one hand – Solange Knowles, Jaden Smith and The Weeknd. Two with family to back them up and one who is actually Canadian so my thinking was wrong.

She’s sort of drifting around on a retro 90s vibe, dabbling in rave and surf music (!?!), not getting any chart success and sort of getting a cult audience but not quite because she keeps melting down on twitter and fandoms are very unforgiving of female weirdness. It’s not as bad as it used to be when the ‘scary crazy lady’ could only sing at lesbian festivals or be Kate Bush – I’m exaggerating for comedic affect here – but it’s still not great.  If she broke down less she could drift into Erykah Badu or Lauren Hill territory. If she married well she could be Courtney Love or Yoko Ono.

And that makes me feel sad… All artists who face failure or ridicule or uncertainty or doom have my sympathy. It reminds me of my own list of rejections. And my own crippling doubts. And – more universally – that everything ends and it doesn’t much matter.

So – although I know we have to stop her harassing people – I will give her a break. And I present in evidence – that she’s suffering from acute status anxiety – her own mess of an explanation for slagging off Zyan Malik, formally of One Direction, a boyband with the credibility of ASDA own brand instant coffee (Walmart if you’re in the USA).

(I often feel like this – although the people and things that make me feel lesser are different – and I’m more aware that other people are not really my problem – and while the social structure isn’t amazing for a woman on the last train to Hagsville it could be worse – my problem is sloth and preferring horses. But still – I empathize).

Calling him racial slurs was my way of trying to angrily remind him that he is in fact not one of them, he is one of US. The white privileges he’s so eager to take part in do not apply to him. He’s colored, like me. His people suffer at the helm of white supremacy just like mine do. He has NO RIGHT to treat me as if I’m not “worthy” of anything, because the white privilege he’s reaching for does not apply to him. In the racial-social construct of the pop world he is STILL beneath Justin Beiber [sic]. There are countless other white male pop stars who will be pushed to the front of the line while he has to work TWICE AS HARD to even be noticed. He needs a reality check and needs to respect that I am one of those people WHO HAS TO WORK TWICE AS HARD maybe 3x to make this happen for myself. Respect that we are both in the same boat and stop letting all that white p—- go to ur head.

Black folk are the first to discard their own especially when white media/society hangs one of us out for public crucifixion. From the minute I appeared on the scene I was told by black men in black media that I was ugly, skinny, had bad hair, was weird, made music for white people etc… And those messages penetrated the social consciousness of black America very quickly.

I’ve been belittled, berated, stolen from, called crazy when making clear and true observations about the world we live in only to then have all of those things reveal themselves to be truths. I’m not blaming anyone or anything for any of my actions but I think it’s really important to for people outside of us (black folk) to understand the detrimental effects of whiteness and white supremacy/white cultural pervasiveness on black peoples’ MENTAL HEALTH as a whole and the MENTAL HEALTH of black individual herself.

Zayn feeling as though he’s too good to acknowledge me, yet not too good to STEAL and copy my art is f—ing HURTFUL. And it happens everywhere. People steal and copy my art ALL THE TIME and try to pretend as if they are somehow above me when they are the ones without their own creative ideas to begin with. Music industry politics which completely mimic racial social constructs allow people like Zayn to hide behind his popularity amongst white folk when he himself is aiding in the work of white supremacy. Cultural Erasure. Another instance of a ‘white’ artist taking credit for the black artists hard work and passion. And truthfully, it’s pushing me over the f—ing edge. White society grinds down the self esteem of black artists to the point where we are expected to be silent about such obvious transgressions.

Twisted Sister


When I was little – I loved Hair Metal bands. All of us Primary schools kids did – our older siblings had mixed reactions. The uncool ones that like us – loved noise & stars who dressed exactly as little kids dress – everything bunged on, nothing fitting, Mum’s make-up smeared on anyhow – enjoyed hair metal – the more grown-up, status-aware teenagers loathed it – preferred New Wave and Alternative, and maybe a few ‘curated’ soul tracks.

The draw back of being loved by tiny people is that they think nothing of you. Hair Metal was on the telly & I never wondered Who They Were or How or Why it was on the telly – so I never wondered where it went to when suddenly it wasn’t… I moved on to pretending to like New Kids on The Block to fit in with the other girls who seemed to fancy them & didn’t care that they were naff & ridiculous – before toffee-nosing it to Indie & Grunge.

But you never stop loving childhood heroes – so it was fascinating to come across a documentary – Twisted F**king Sister – and learn the history of a band I knew from one video played over and over on kids t.v. in 1984.

They started off as a Bowie inspired Glitter Band – with material based on having a good time in the New York suburbs rather than Anthony Newley, Jacques Brel, William Burroughs or Whatever. Their image was wildly at odds with their lifestyle – but in the suburbs – that’s the attraction. It’s a wee bit of sartorial showing-off when really all you need is your work clothes, something smart for an occasion and your pajamas. It was Halloween, Panto, Christmas, A Fancy Dress Party, A Holiday Camp… mindless fun… it wasn’t out for anything but a reaction.

And that was their biggest bar to success.

They started the Disco Sucks Movement… the thing I think of as sinister, racist, sexist, homophobic and violent… they were just bonding their crowd with a bit of chanting and some visual shtick… they claim they didn’t think it had worse connotations until they were hanging an effigy of Barry White (!) on stage and someone approved while using the n-word… So they moved on to putting an effigy of Andrea True (!) in an electric chair. They were so deep in their own world they had no wider perspective.

Those who did – thought they were trashy & awful. Their inexplicable devotion to make-up and blasted spandex in an era when even Bowie was all about short hair and a nice suit looked like a bad joke. But they meant it – they believed in it – and they were willing to stick with it past cancelled gigs, bankrupt record companies and line-up changes until one great record reached out to the lunchbox set and said – you too – can defy your parents and teachers with nothing but an electric guitar and a giant poodle perm.

Still heroes to me.