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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The UK press’s timid reaction to Brexit is in marked contrast to the satire unleashed on Trump

For the BBC, it seems, to question leaving the EU is to be unpatriotic.

Faced with arguably their biggest political-cum-constitutional ­crisis in half a century, the press on either side of the pond has reacted very differently. Confronting a president who, unlike many predecessors, does not merely covertly dislike the press but rages against its supposed mendacity as a purveyor of “fake news”, the fourth estate in the US has had a pretty successful first 150-odd days of the Trump era. The Washington Post has recovered its Watergate mojo – the bloodhound tenacity that brought down Richard Nixon. The Post’s investigations into links between the Kremlin and Donald Trump’s associates and appointees have yielded the scalp of the former security adviser Michael Flynn and led to Attorney General Jeff Sessions recusing himself from all inquiries into Trump-Russia contacts. Few imagine the story will end there.

Meanwhile, the New York Times has cast off its image as “the grey lady” and come out in sharper colours. Commenting on the James Comey memo in an editorial, the Times raised the possibility that Trump was trying to “obstruct justice”, and called on Washington lawmakers to “uphold the constitution”. Trump’s denunciations of the Times as “failing” have acted as commercial “rocket fuel” for the paper, according to its CEO, Mark Thompson: it gained an “astonishing” 308,000 net digital news subscriptions in the first quarter of 2017.

US-based broadcast organisations such as CNN and ABC, once considered slick or bland, have reacted to Trump’s bullying in forthright style. Political satire is thriving, led by Saturday Night Live, with its devastating impersonations of the president by Alec Baldwin and of his press secretary Sean Spicer by the brilliant Melissa McCarthy.

British press reaction to Brexit – an epic constitutional, political and economic mess-up that probably includes a mind-bogglingly destructive self-ejection from a single market and customs union that took decades to construct, a move pushed through by a far-right faction of the Tory party – has been much more muted. The situation is complicated by the cheerleading for Brexit by most of the British tabloids and the Daily Telegraph. There are stirrings of resistance, but even after an election in which Theresa May spectacularly failed to secure a mandate for her hard Brexit, there is a sense, though the criticism of her has been intense, of the media pussy-footing around a government in disarray – not properly interrogating those who still seem to promise that, in relation to Europe, we can have our cake and eat it.

This is especially the case with the BBC, a state broadcaster that proudly proclaims its independence from the government of the day, protected by the famous “arm’s-length” principle. In the case of Brexit, the BBC invoked its concept of “balance” to give equal airtime and weight to Leavers and Remainers. Fair enough, you might say, but according to the economist Simon Wren-Lewis, it ignored a “near-unanimous view among economists that Brexit would hurt the UK economy in the longer term”.

A similar view of “balance” in the past led the BBC to equate views of ­non-scientific climate contrarians, often linked to the fossil-fuel lobby, with those of leading climate scientists. Many BBC Remainer insiders still feel incensed by what they regard as BBC betrayal over Brexit. Although the referendum of 23 June 2016 said nothing about leaving the single market or the customs union, the Today presenter Justin Webb, in a recent interview with Stuart Rose, put it like this: “Staying in the single market, staying in the customs union – [Leave voters would say] you might as well not be leaving. That fundamental position is a matter of democracy.” For the BBC, it seems, to question Brexit is somehow to be unpatriotic.

You might think that an independent, pro-democratic press would question the attempted use of the arcane and archaic “royal prerogative” to enable the ­bypassing of parliament when it came to triggering Article 50, signalling the UK’s departure from the EU. But when the campaigner Gina Miller’s challenge to the government was upheld by the high court, the three ruling judges were attacked on the front page of the Daily Mail as “enemies of the people”. Thomas Jefferson wrote that he would rather have “newspapers without a government” than “a government without newspapers”. It’s a fair guess he wasn’t thinking of newspapers that would brand the judiciary as “enemies of the people”.

It does seem significant that the United States has a written constitution, encapsulating the separation and balance of powers, and explicitly designed by the Founding Fathers to protect the young republic against tyranny. When James Madison drafted the First Amendment he was clear that freedom of the press should be guaranteed to a much higher degree in the republic than it had been in the colonising power, where for centuries, after all, British monarchs and prime ministers have had no qualms about censoring an unruly media.

By contrast, the United Kingdom remains a hybrid of monarchy and democracy, with no explicit protection of press freedom other than the one provided by the common law. The national impulse to bend the knee before the sovereign, to obey and not question authority, remains strangely powerful in Britain, the land of Henry VIII as well as of George Orwell. That the United Kingdom has slipped 11 places in the World Press Freedom Index in the past four years, down to 40th, has rightly occasioned outrage. Yet, even more awkwardly, the United States is three places lower still, at 43rd. Freedom of the press may not be doing quite as well as we imagine in either country.

Harry Eyres is the author of Horace and Me: Life Lessons from an Ancient Poet (2013)

This article first appeared in the 20 July 2017 issue of the New Statesman, The new world disorder