Tools down it's festival time

Brighton werewolves, saying the N-word and rusty nails through your nose

Dear Marina

As a born, bred and proud resident of Portslade, I have always treated you B-right-on people with suspicion. So it came as no surprise when I heard that Brighton police are putting more officers on the beat at a full moon. Is it because everyone there is a werewolf or something more sinister?

Worried, Sussex

More sinister, definitely. It’s a knee jerk response to people engaging with the natural world – have you ever wandered in the darkness on a moonlit night? Magical.

The full moon has always brought people outdoors. Pre-street lighting the big houses in the country held their balls on a full moon to make it easier for people to find their way. Successful trysts, ditto. But poaching’s better on a dark moon, for obvious reasons.

If people are allowed to go about their business of meeting up with friends in public spaces they might start having genuine fun, instead of being stuck at home in front of the telly.

And we all know that genuine fun has a tendency to encourage humanity to actually care about life. Next individuals might talk and together decide to act on their cares and before we know it we’ll have a cultural revolution on our hands and the G8 will have to keep its promises and the power will reside with the people. You can understand the authorities wanting to take precautions.

I feel a full moon protest party coming on. The kids are going to howl with laughter.

Dear Marina

Did you watch Big Brother? Emily “there’s a new music and it’s called indie” Parr has been booted out for saying the N-word. Now I know she’s a Tory voter but it was a bit harsh, don’t you think?
Jade, Essex

Oh Jade. I haven’t got a TV owing to it not liking being switched off properly every time – it was designed to be left on standby – what’s that about?

Anyway, having trained the kids up proper, the telly stopped responding to a positive current. So no, I haven’t watched BB. Or read a newspaper or even listened to the radio (my son sat on the wind-up’s aerial. You can vaguely still get Radio Five, but other than that it’s all French).

To what are you referring when you use the word harsh? Her expulsion or her use of the N-word? How did she use it? If it’s any help, I’m on the road quite a bit these days, preparing for a festival I’m helping to organise in September (www.outoftheordinaryfestival.com).

Among the Traveller community, I meet some of the most creative free spirits on the planet who have much to teach the housed population. When I meet them, they’re hired.

As I travel on with some I’m occasionally afforded a small insight into what it must feel like to be truly offended – hurt – by the use of the N-word.

The word Traveller itself is a dirty word in some mindsets. And yet it is the official term for a disparate band of tribes many of whom have no more in common with their fellow travellers than the fact that they all experience prejudice.

Much like Blacks, Muslims, Asians, Chavs, young people, old people and the rest. I guess we all live with prejudice. I’m a single mother of two, Liberal Democrat revolutionary, so called witch and your mum’s a lesbian. Are we in agreement? But when the opportunity arises to speak out and act against it, speak out and act we must.

Hence BB has refocused its editorial policy on such matters. Fair enough. Although since we’ve all had our sensibilities crushed by your unique take on cultural affairs, in this context the girl's removal might well be construed as harsh by many. Others will say lessons have been learned. While others still will contest that they haven’t been learned at all.

Keep in touch Jade. I’m off to some festival at Herstmonceux Castle this weekend, then on to Glastonbury. Maybe catch you at Secret Garden Party in July. I’m in the Feast of Fools tent. After that Small World and then Out of the Ordinary. Jade you are going to just love my zero waste strategy.

Not only will festival goers be expected to sort their paper/cans/plastics/compost, they must also, should they bring supermarket items on site separate out the non-recyclable packaging.

This will be returned to the relevant supermarket sources – en masse. Well what’s the alternative? Why should Out of the Ordinary pay to dispose of it? We’d rather spend the money on more artists. God, the world needs them. I think a bit of widening of your horizons is in order. Why not come and help? We could call it Community Service. It could be the makings of us all.

Dear Marina

My 18-year-old son, who sports a red Mohican and rusty nail through his nose left for Germany last week telling me he was “going to put the boot in.” Reading my Daily Mail, I realise now he’s been off lobbing rocks at Vladimir Putin and his G8 chums. What I can’t understand is why he’s so angry when all the G8 seem to want to do is give money to Africa and sort out climate change. Am I confused?

Bewildered, Surbiton

If you want peace, prepare for war. You must be so proud of your son getting fired up in his war paint and going off to play his part in making the world a better place.

Without our young guns sorting out the publicity, we’d never notice the G8 met and made promises.

Well done you for bring up such a well rounded young man. Now we just have to work out how to steer the G8 in a more positive direction than its usual round of Talk Global Do Fuck All Local.

Just one word of caution: don’t let your son go out with a rusty nail through his nose. As a Daily Mail reader, you must surely have been warned on the health pages at some point that it can’t be good for him.

Marina Pepper is a former glamour model turned journalist, author, eco-campaigner and Lib Dem politician. A councillor and former Parliamentary candidate, she lives near Brighton with her two children.
Why not e-mail your problems to askmarina@newstatesman.co.uk?
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What it’s like to fall victim to the Mail Online’s aggregation machine

I recently travelled to Iraq at my own expense to write a piece about war graves. Within five hours of the story's publication by the Times, huge chunks of it appeared on Mail Online – under someone else's byline.

I recently returned from a trip to Iraq, and wrote an article for the Times on the desecration of Commonwealth war cemeteries in the southern cities of Amara and Basra. It appeared in Monday’s paper, and began:

“‘Their name liveth for evermore’, the engraving reads, but the words ring hollow. The stone on which they appear lies shattered in a foreign field that should forever be England, but patently is anything but.”

By 6am, less than five hours after the Times put it online, a remarkably similar story had appeared on Mail Online, the world’s biggest and most successful English-language website with 200 million unique visitors a month.

It began: “Despite being etched with the immortal line: ‘Their name liveth for evermore’, the truth could not be further from the sentiment for the memorials in the Commonwealth War Cemetery in Amara.”

The article ran under the byline of someone called Euan McLelland, who describes himself on his personal website as a “driven, proactive and reliable multi-media reporter”. Alas, he was not driven or proactive enough to visit Iraq himself. His story was lifted straight from mine – every fact, every quote, every observation, the only significant difference being the introduction of a few errors and some lyrical flights of fancy. McLelland’s journalistic research extended to discovering the name of a Victoria Cross winner buried in one of the cemeteries – then getting it wrong.

Within the trade, lifting quotes and other material without proper acknowledgement is called plagiarism. In the wider world it is called theft. As a freelance, I had financed my trip to Iraq (though I should eventually recoup my expenses of nearly £1,000). I had arranged a guide and transport. I had expended considerable time and energy on the travel and research, and had taken the risk of visiting a notoriously unstable country. Yet McLelland had seen fit not only to filch my work but put his name on it. In doing so, he also precluded the possibility of me selling the story to any other publication.

I’m being unfair, of course. McLelland is merely a lackey. His job is to repackage and regurgitate. He has no time to do what proper journalists do – investigate, find things out, speak to real people, check facts. As the astute media blog SubScribe pointed out, on the same day that he “exposed” the state of Iraq’s cemeteries McLelland also wrote stories about the junior doctors’ strike, British special forces fighting Isis in Iraq, a policeman’s killer enjoying supervised outings from prison, methods of teaching children to read, the development of odourless garlic, a book by Lee Rigby’s mother serialised in the rival Mirror, and Michael Gove’s warning of an immigration free-for-all if Britain brexits. That’s some workload.

Last year James King published a damning insider’s account of working at Mail Online for the website Gawker. “I saw basic journalism standards and ethics casually and routinely ignored. I saw other publications’ work lifted wholesale. I watched editors...publish information they knew to be inaccurate,” he wrote. “The Mail’s editorial model depends on little more than dishonesty, theft of copyrighted material, and sensationalism so absurd that it crosses into fabrication.”

Mail Online strenuously denied the charges, but there is plenty of evidence to support them. In 2014, for example, it was famously forced to apologise to George Clooney for publishing what the actor described as a bogus, baseless and “premeditated lie” about his future mother-in-law opposing his marriage to Amal Alamuddin.

That same year it had to pay a “sizeable amount” to a freelance journalist named Jonathan Krohn for stealing his exclusive account in the Sunday Telegraph of being besieged with the Yazidis on northern Iraq’s Mount Sinjar by Islamic State fighters. It had to compensate another freelance, Ali Kefford, for ripping off her exclusive interview for the Mirror with Sarah West, the first female commander of a Navy warship.

Incensed by the theft of my own story, I emailed Martin Clarke, publisher of Mail Online, attaching an invoice for several hundred pounds. I heard nothing, so emailed McLelland to ask if he intended to pay me for using my work. Again I heard nothing, so I posted both emails on Facebook and Twitter.

I was astonished by the support I received, especially from my fellow journalists, some of them household names, including several victims of Mail Online themselves. They clearly loathed the website and the way it tarnishes and debases their profession. “Keep pestering and shaming them till you get a response,” one urged me. Take legal action, others exhorted me. “Could a groundswell from working journalists develop into a concerted effort to stop the theft?” SubScribe asked hopefully.

Then, as pressure from social media grew, Mail Online capitulated. Scott Langham, its deputy managing editor, emailed to say it would pay my invoice – but “with no admission of liability”. He even asked if it could keep the offending article up online, only with my byline instead of McLelland’s. I declined that generous offer and demanded its removal.

When I announced my little victory on Facebook some journalistic colleagues expressed disappointment, not satisfaction. They had hoped this would be a test case, they said. They wanted Mail Online’s brand of “journalism” exposed for what it is. “I was spoiling for a long war of attrition,” one well-known television correspondent lamented. Instead, they complained, a website widely seen as the model for future online journalism had simply bought off yet another of its victims.