Monday, 30 December 2013 13:57


Written by


I’m out of luck again

And out of inspiration,

And Lenin is on his train

To the Finland station.

He knows what he’s doing

He knows what’s to be done,

And here I am still

Standing on the platform.


I feel the lure

Of the suburbs calling,

To be simple to be wise

A bartender - pretender

Living out his life

Without a hope or a prayer,

Season by season,

Here now invincibly

Without rhyme or reason.

But the rhyme and reason

Keep the locomotives  coming.

And the need to arrive somewhere

Goes ahead of everything.

The young poet

Walking out

Into the Finnish lake,

Another in the mental asylum

Too early far too late,

One  I admired counting out

His final days in cigarettes.

And my mentor buried alive each night

Recalling it all in the morning…


And then it  hits me like a train:

If everyone heads nowhere

Why am I so jealous?

What is the hurry to win?

Life is not a race across a field

Or a script being written by God,

There is no rhyme or reason

But the luggage you bring

When the train has already

Pulled out of  the station.


It doesn’t end;

The light-bulbs to be changed. Bed mites

In my pillow. Tides milling the shore.

They never end.

Car hire lease payments.

The fatuousness of fame. Replication of

Cancer cells. The best dying young:

The worst getting their own

Newspaper columns. Summer nights heavy

With the smell of bad barbecues:

Autumn with diesel, spring with cocaine.

It never ends. Idiots in the chancellery. Control freaks

In their driving seats. The plunder of the forests.

The selfishness of plankton. Suspicious border guards.

The questions and evasions.

Insects thriving. Continents colliding.

Mothers screaming at their kids.

Lovers arguing  in the streets….

They will never end.


But this

At least

Is finished.




In Memoriam Tony Judt 2009

Nigel Farage
  Alex Robbins

It was one of the most memorable images of the last election. On the morning the polls opened in 2010, Nigel Farage, a British member of the European Parliament, was photographed in the wreckage of a small aircraft, which had crashed soon after takeoff when a banner for his UK Independence Party tangled with the plane’s tail. Though he suffered cracked ribs, a broken sternum, and a punctured lung, Farage soon bounced back, in the manner of Mr. Toad, a character from The Wind in the Willows who is ever-bumptious, misguided but irrepressible.

Three years on, that energy is paying off. In a recent by-election, caused by the resignation of Liberal Democrat Chris Huhne, the former secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, who had to give up his seat after he admitted to lying about traffic offenses, Farage’s Independence Party increased its vote from 4 percent to 27.8 percent—what Farage immediately declared a “national political earthquake.” And certainly Prime Minister David Cameron and his Conservative Party, which was beaten into third place, have felt the tremors.

That Farage, with his private-school background and Home-Counties golf-club swagger, should become England’s foremost anti-establishment politician is largely a symptom of conservative discontent with the prime minister’s attempt to detoxify and modernize his party. In 2006, the year he won the leadership contest, Cameron tried to marginalize the party Farage helped to found by telling a radio station that “UKIP is sort of a bunch of ... fruitcakes and loonies and closet racists mostly.”

Farage defied that stereotype, and in the 2009 European parliamentary elections steered his party to the second-highest share of the popular vote, his 2 million votes exceeding those won by Labour and the Liberal Democrats. Though Euro elections have famously low turnouts, and mainly animate voters who are avidly anti-EU, UKIP is currently predicted to come first in next year’s elections.

Therein lies the paradox. Farage’s main platform is in the Strasbourg-based Parliament where, a few years ago, he famously described Herman Van Rompuy, the Belgian president of the European Council, as possessing the “charisma of a damp rag and the appearance of low-grade bank clerk.” The colorful personal attack delighted the British tabloids, and Farage’s call for complete withdrawal from the EU continues to appeal especially to older Brits who view the continent with suspicion. (A tell-tale sign of a UKIP supporter is the use of the phrase “EUSSR.”)

UKIP has never won a seat in the British Parliament, however, and still looks unlikely to do so. But while the U.K.’s electoral system tends to default to two main parties, third parties can play a crucial role, as evidenced by the last election, when the Conservative Party needed the Liberal Democrats to govern. However, since they entered the coalition government under the leadership of Nick Clegg, support for the Lib Dems has halved, giving the UKIP a play at the “none of the above” voter—at least in the Tory heartlands.

The threat to Cameron is palpable. But while the prime minister has tried to outflank Farage by promising a referendum on EU membership, this rightward turn seems to have done little to quell rebellions from Tory backbenchers on other issues such as gay marriage. Farage cleverly foments these divisions. His parliamentary candidates target Tory modernizers, bleeding them of support, and he has recently expanded his policy commitments to zero immigration, flat rate tax, and minimizing the government budget—except for military and prison expenditures.

Railing at wind farms from his perch in his favorite pub in the Kent countryside, Farage tries to articulate the fading voice of the English shires. Tilting at windmills may be a quixotic, outdated quest. But, when it comes to Cameron’s political future, Farage may still do considerable damage.

Tuesday, 22 May 2012 22:23

The Flame-Haired Martyr

Written by
Brooks: Trying out for a role in The Crucible?   Christopher Furlong / Getty Images

The dress she arrived in told it all. When Rebekah Brooks, former CEO of News International, posed on the steps of the Royal Courts of Justice two weeks ago, it was a red-carpet moment. The Leveson Inquiry into press standards taking place in London had already become the best show in town, with a glittering cast including Hugh Grant, Sienna Miller, and James and Rupert Murdoch—but Brooks was bound to take the starring role.

Presumably her lawyers had helped her with her lines. And her outfit would have been discussed with her PR adviser from Pottinger Bell, a company that has represented a host of potentates and their kin, including the first lady of Syria, Asma al-Assad; the deposed president of Yemen, Ali Abdullah Saleh; and the late Chilean dictator, Augusto Pinochet. When the fallen Queen of Fleet Street turned up in a simple $800 black dress with a white Peter Pan collar, it was the carefully crafted image of maligned innocence.

Four days later, in a less polished performance, after she had been charged with three counts of perverting the course of justice, the victimhood strategy was still in place. Standing outside the offices of her lawyer, Brooks looked shaken. “I am baffled by the decision to charge me,” she said. Her husband, horse trainer Charlie Brooks, also arrested on two counts for allegedly hiding evidence from police, gallantly stepped forward. “I feel today is an attempt to use me and others as scapegoats ... to ratchet up the pressure on my wife,” he said, “who I believe is the subject of a witch hunt.” Suddenly that Peter Pan collar took on another dimension. The satirical magazine Private Eye immediately picked it up—it was 17th-century Salem, with Brooks as Goody Proctor in The Crucible. Last week in Cannes, it was announced that she was about to get the film treatment.

For Brooks, out on bail but still being investigated, aggressive victimhood has become the core of her legal case. Brooks’s lawyer, Stephen Parkinson, a specialist in human rights, maintains that because “so much prejudicial material has come into the public domain,” it is impossible for his client to get a fair trial in England. But a fair treatment was rarely afforded those who landed in her pages. Brooks was one of the youngest editors of the world’s best-selling English-language News of the World, and presided over the paper while phone hacking was rife. During her reign, the paper pursued victims aggressively for headlines, particularly for stories involving pedophilia, child murder, and child abduction. The obsession with such stories led one of her employees to hack the cellphone of murdered schoolgirl, Milly Dowler, in 2002. The exposure of this intrusion by The Guardian newspaper last summer shuttered the Sunday tabloid, and Brooks’s reaction to the closure of the 168-year-old paper was telling: as she told a gathering of journalists who had been fired—she was a victim, too.

After editing News of the World, Brooks became the first-ever female editor of the bestselling daily tabloid The Sun, which likewise thrived on celebrity scandals and salacious political exposés. Brooks complained to Lord Justice Leveson that much of the coverage about her was “gender-based” but by then the inquiry had heard plenty of other testimony: from the actress Sienna Miller, who had been pursued down the street by a pack of paparazzi and who thought her family had betrayed her because her phone was hacked; from the singer Charlotte Church, whose teenage boyfriend was offered hundreds of thousands of dollars for a kiss-and-tell, and whose mother was forced to tell Brooks’s tabloids about her suicide attempt, in part prompted by the News of the World’s exposure of her husband’s affair; from Gordon and Sarah Brown, who Brooks had called herself, telling them to go on the record about their 4-year-old son’s cystic fibrosis, because she was running the story on the front page of The Sun. Even Brooks, whose career was premised on privacy invasion, had to admit to the lead counsel of the media ethics inquiry, Robert Jay QC, that it was the “height of hypocrisy” to complain of being under the spotlight.

For Brooks the personal and political have long been indistinguishable, as she implicitly acknowledged when she observed that her relations to Rupert Murdoch and senior British politicians were “gossipy” and “personal.” During the late ’90s, she came to know the family through Matthew Freud, the PR scion, and his wife, Elisabeth Murdoch, Rupert’s daughter. Rapidly promoted by Les Hinton, one of Rupert Murdoch’s longest-serving lieutenants, Brooks became almost a family member of the media dynasty, working in tandem with James Murdoch when he launched the ill-fated $12 billion takeover of the lucrative satellite broadcaster BSkyB—his project to cement his status as heir.

A former senior member of News International told Newsweek how Brooks was “brilliant at the networking thing,” with a tremendous ability to charm and captivate. A Labour Party adviser who observed her working a conference party when Gordon Brown was still leader of the party says, “She goes towards the next whiff of power.” When Brown’s potential successor, David Miliband, turned up at the party, “suddenly Rebekah was at his side, leading him around the room. It was like ‘Gordon Who?’”

However, it’s Brooks’s relationship with the current prime minister in which the personal and the political collide fatally. What the inquiry has revealed is the depth of that relationship, with more meetings between the two than previously acknowledged. During just four days over Christmas in 2010, when News Corp.’s BSkyB bid should have been impartially adjudicated, the prime minister met with Brooks twice and talked about the bid. Her revelation that Cameron regularly sent her text messages signing them ‘LOL’ (which he thought meant ‘lots of love’ until she corrected him) caused much public mirth. But, like the disclosure that the prime minister used to ride a retired police horse loaned to Brooks by the metropolitan police, it was another damaging anecdote that painted the picture of a magic circle of power. According to a senior Labour Party source, “the court of Murdoch and the court of Cameron had become totally enmeshed.”

confidenceThe victim strategy might still work. For all her ruthlessness toward others, Brooks nevertheless displays a redoubtable ability to charm even would-be foes. Gordon Brown still turned up when she married Charlie Brooks, though her paper had painfully exposed his son’s medical condition. Even Rupert Murdoch, on the weekend he shuttered his first big foothold in the U.K. newspaper market, the News of the World, was more worried about his protégé’s confidence than the 200 journalists he had just sacked.

These days, though, Brooks can’t dictate the headline—and neither investigators nor courts are moved by self-pity. Though Brooks gave birth to a baby girl via a surrogate early this year, she is scheduled to appear in court on June 13, alongside her husband, her former assistant, her former chauffeur, and her former head of security. She faces a lengthy trial and possible jail time, and that’s just for the offenses she’s been charged with so far. Three major police investigations have been launched to look into alleged criminality at the two tabloids she used to edit. Though Britain has no explicit plea-bargain system, cooperation can be taken into account during sentencing by the presiding judge. But with a reported $3 million severance package from News International, plus the use of a chauffeur-driven car and a Mayfair office, the urge to stay loyal to her employer must be high. As a source close to the family told Newsweek, “When you’re facing charges, your loyalty is tested.” Her loyalty will indeed be tested, but Brooks is a wild card, capable of immense compassion, particularly for herself. Which leaves the question: how long will she play the martyr?

June 18th 201310:46 am
Charles Saatchi built up the world’s largest advertising firm and became the face of the swinging ’80s in London—only to be ousted from his own company. Peter Jukes on the reclusive man who now has been accused of choking his wife in public.

It makes Mad Men’s depiction of admen look tame. The backstory of Charles Saatchi, who was cautioned by police Monday night for allegedly repeatedly grabbing the throat of his wife, celebrity TV chef Nigella Lawson, during dinner at an exclusive London restaurant, is far more extraordinary than Don Draper’s—and he remains even more enigmatic and elusive.

Born in Baghdad to Iraqi Jews who fled to London in 1947, Charles and his brother Maurice built up the world’s largest advertising company, with over 600 offices, before they were 40 years old. Having turned modern advertising into an art form, the self-confessed “artoholic” Charles went on to establish himself as the most influential art collector of the last 25 years, creating the Young British Artist phenomenon—and launching the careers of Tracey Emin and Damien Hirst. For someone who has radically altered the visual perceptions of the public, Charles studiously avoids the limelight and has given only a couple of newspaper interviews. Compared with him, Svengali is an attention seeker.

But those who worked with Charles in advertising say that his avoidance of contact was not shyness, but a deliberate campaign. There are dozens of stories—some of them no doubt apocryphal—about his legendary dislike of his corporate clients in advertising, including that he had a special room to hide when in whenever they turned up and reportedly deliberately placed his office near some back stairs to make emergency escapes. After the brothers were ousted from their own company Saatchi & Saatchi and created a new agency, M&C Saatchi, in 1995, taking many of the previous clients, Charles didn’t even come into the office for five years, but would have campaigns and artwork biked over to his house. Some attribute this reclusiveness as his collector’s eye: Charles likes to see but not to be seen. Others put it down to a deep-seated dislike of social contact, somewhere between Molière’s Miser and his Misanthrope.

“He was the best adman of his generation,” is the general view, offered again and again by those who worked with him. From early iconic campaigns such as the pregnant-man ad for the Health Education Council, to the “Labour Isn’t Working” photomontage that helped Margaret Thatcher win the 1979 election (and was chosen as the best billboard ad of the 20th century), Charles created a new visual grammar in commercial art. Many of the campaigns drew on 20th-century surrealism, minimalism, and conceptual art: a famous campaign for Silk Cut cigarettes featured oblique images of slashed silk in the brand’s color scheme. But it was his younger brother Maurice who did the important work of wooing and schmoozing the clients. “Maurice could never have created the ads without Charles,” is how one industry insider explained it, “but Charles could have never created the agency without Maurice.”

During the ’80s, well connected through their work for the Conservative Party election campaigns and turbocharged by junk bonds and heavy leverage, the brothers began gobbling up other advertising companies and consultancies at a phenomenal pace. For Brits, and anyone working in the cultural industries, the name Saatchi became synonymous with high-octane acquisitive ’80s culture, our equivalent of the fictional character Gordon Gekko, played by Michael Douglas in Oliver Stone’s 1987 movie Wall Street. The company employed the best creative talents of the era and, during Conservative Party conferences of the time, threw the wildest and most enviable parties, where cabinet ministers rubbed shoulders with celebrities—rock and roll meets politics. However, the agency began to overstretch its finances and suffered heavy losses in the 1987 crash. Its prestige (if not its income) waxed and waned as Thatcherism died and the Blair era arrived.

It was then that Charles began to focus on his art collection and reinventing the image of British art. He’d begun collecting in the late ’60s under the influence of his first American-born wife, Doris Lockhart, and much of the profits of his burgeoning business went into purchasing American minimalism. According to employees at the time, much of the art on the office walls was actually marked on the back with “Bought by Doris Saatchi.” When he divorced Doris in 1990, Charles abjured the New York art market, sold most of his existing collection, and began to speculate on up-and-coming British artists. He launched the career of Damien Hirst in 1991 by funding his first big artwork: a shark in a glass tank of formaldehyde, The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living, a combination of caption and image worthy of any creative and copy writer.

Video screenshot
The name Saatchi became synonymous with high-octane acquisitive ’80s culture, our equivalent of the fictional character Gordon Gekko, played by Michael Douglas in Oliver Stone’s 1987 movie Wall Street.

But the cross-fertilization of advertising and art also worked the other way. While Hirst still reveres Saatchi for giving him the opportunity, other critics complain that Saatchi’s sharp eye created speculative bubbles rather than real artistic achievement. Careers rose and fell like ramped-up stock prices, and 20 years on, many of the works of the Brit art era look overpriced and overrated. Key works from the Saatchi collection, including Emin's “tent,” Everyone I Have Ever Slept With 1963–1995, were destroyed in a warehouse fire in 2004. In 2010 Charles donated his collection to the British nation.

To the non-art-buying public, Saatchi was best known for his wife, the celebrity cook and writer Nigella Lawson. Lawson, daughter of Margaret Thatcher’s chancellor of the Exchequer, Nigel Lawson, was known for her flirtatious manner, which won her the title “Queen of Food Porn.” But that fun, sensuous persona concealed a history of tragedy. Both Lawson’s mother and sister had died of cancer in her youth, and the father of her two children, the popular columnist and journalist John Diamond, died in 2001 after she had nursed him through four years of a very public—but also very poignant—attempt to recover from throat cancer.

Lawson’s relationship with Saatchi drew some public comment, partly because she moved in with him only nine months after Diamond’s death (and they married shortly thereafter, in 2003), but also because she was a liberal leftish icon and he represented the Thatcherite ’80s. No doubt there was also some jealousy, because Lawson was (and remains) one of the most attractive and friendly figures in media and literary circles. During the decade they’ve been together, she remains the socialite, whereas his “reclusiveness” has only increased.

Sometimes opposites attract; sometimes they repel. Sometimes they do both. Rumors of angry rifts in the marriage have surfaced only in recent years. Last year at the London restaurant Scott’s, Saatchi was pictured pressing his hand over his wife's mouth. But the graphic images revealed by the Sunday People over the weekend (actually taken at the same restaurant) show Saatchi forcibly gripping his wife’s throat several times and have been accompanied by reports of her distress and the shock of fellow diners. In the Evening Standard, Saatchi claimed the incident was a “playful tiff” and that his wife’s “tears were because we both hate arguing, not because she had been hurt." The police clearly didn’t agree and interviewed Saatchi for several hours Monday afternoon, issuing him an official caution.

Though Saatchi is reported to be worth over $150 million, Lawson is independently wealthy in her own right, with around $20 million in assets accrued mainly through her bestselling books and successful TV cooking series. She was recently seen leaving the family home with her teenage children, though Saatchi claims he “told Nigella to take the kids off till the dust settled.” She has made no comment since. Unlike a work of art or an ad campaign, the image of a happy couple—the outgoing wife and the quiet husband—will not be so easy to reassemble.

Tuesday, 18 December 2012 10:51

Stop Blaming Newtown Tragedy On Mental Illness

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From the Daily Beast


If mental illness were the key factor in multiple gun homicides, other countries would regularly experience similar acts of carnage. But they don’t.


In the wake of the terrible events of last Friday in Newtown, which left 27 dead—20 of them young schoolchildren—social media such as Twitter and Facebook played a key role in communicating the shocking news and expressing an international sense of outrage and grief. But they also spread misinformation and misapprehensions just as quickly. The gunman was initially misidentified, and his murdered mother was erroneously connected to Sandy Hook Elementary School. But while these errors of fact were soon corrected, a deeper misunderstanding took hold over the following few days as a shattered nation tried to understand an inexplicable tragedy.





Home in Newtown Connecticut

Writing is seen on a home in Newtown, Connecticut on Dec. 17, 2012. The two funerals on Monday ushered in what will be a week of memorial services and burials for the 20 children and six adults massacred when gunman opened fire at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown last Friday. (Eric Thayer/Reuters, via Landov)






An uncorroborated rumor about the gunman, Adam Lanza, suggested that he suffered from Asperger’s syndrome—a now out-of-use term for a higher-functioning form of autism. By Saturday, a blog post by Lisa Long—“I Am Adam Lanza’s Mother: A Mom’s Perspective On The Mental Illness Conversation In America”—had gone viral, been retweeted hundreds of thousands of times, and republished on Gawker, Britain’s Daily Mail, and on the Huffington Post. Long, the mother of a 13-year-old with behavioral problems, argued, “It’s easy to talk about guns. But it’s time to talk about mental illness.”

There are various problems with Long’s impassioned piece when it comes to “talking” about mental illness, partly due to the fact it contained a slew of questionable diagnoses—Autism spectrum, ADHD, Oppositional Defiant, or Intermittent Explosive Disorder—which aren’t recognized as mental illnesses and better described as learning disabilities or disorders. Police Inspector Michael Brown, who runs the highly respected Mental HealthCop blog, called it “potentially the worst article I have ever read about mental health and violence following an atrocity.” Other critics took issue with the way Long had publically demonized her son as a potential mass murderer.  While some complained that Long herself was being demonized as a bad mother, the author from Boise, Idaho, issued a joint statement with one of her erstwhile critics about the need for accessible and affordable mental health care in the U.S.

The Huffington Post published a corrective article, “No Link Between Asperger’s Syndrome And Violence, Experts Say.” But to date, the corrective article has only received 2,500 Facebook “likes” compared to the more than a million received by Long’s original piece. The misinformation had circled the virtual world before the truth had even begun to get its cyber-boots on.

By Sunday, the line had grown into a swelling chorus. Erik Erickson, the founder and editor of the popular Republican website Redstate, was averring: “Discussions of gun control are easier to have than discussions about mental health.” The owner of one of the many gun ranges in the rural rolling hills around Newtown, Conn., was telling The New York Times: “A gun didn’t kill all those children, a disturbed man killed all those children.” David Rivkin, a constitutional lawyer who served in both the Reagan and Bush Sr. administrations, appeared on the BBC World Service to tell millions of listeners overseas: “It’s not about gun ownership, it is about mental illness.” “If there’s one unifying feature of all these atrocities,” Rivkin stated in an interview for the popular Newshour program on Monday night, “it’s that they were all committed by mentally unbalanced people who need to be confined for the protection of those around them and other people.”

Despite the promise of a conversation about mental health, misinformation and ignorance became the norm in the aftermath of the Newtown tragedy.

The only problem with this argument is that it has no basis in fact. If mental illness was the key factor in multiple gun homicides like Newtown, then other countries would regularly experience the kind of carnage visited on towns and cities in the U.S. on almost on a monthly basis. But they don’t. In Britain, an advanced study by Manchester University into “Suicide and Homicide by People with Mental Illness” has found most people who kill more than one person are neither mentally ill, nor mental health patients, As Dr. David H. Barlow, a senior expert in comparative mental health-care systems and Emeritus Professor at Boston University, told The Daily Beast, “the incidence of mental illness is quite consistent across Europe and America.” Yet the statistics for the homicide and suicide rates are much higher in the U.S. than most of the rest of Europe, with Americans 100 times more likely to die to a gun-related death than in the U.K.

Despite the promise of a conversation about mental health, misinformation and ignorance became the norm in the aftermath of the Newtown tragedy.  British CNN host Piers Morgan suggested that anyone with a history of mental illness should be banned from owning a gun in the U.S., but that would include almost 50 per cent of Americans who are expected to suffer from some condition in their lifetime.  The Center for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that about 25 percent of U.S. adults currently suffer from some kind of mental ilnness—though this would include phobias and obsessive disorders. In 2011, government data calculated that around 5 percent of the U.S. population suffered from severe mental illness, while Professor Barlow estimates that somewhere around 1 percent  of the U.S. population will be suffering from psychosis—including delusions and hallucinations—at any one time. “But even they show an only slightly elevated risk of violence,” Barlow told The Daily Beast, “with a small increased risk of around 5 or 10 percent above normal.” Meanwhile, those who suffer from psychosis are much more likely to be the victims of homicide or kill themselves.

For Dr. Nadine Kaslow, professor and chief psychologist at Emory University School of Medicine—who was recently elected to the presidency of the American Psychological Association—the recent spate of generalized and pejorative statements made about mental illness are “extremely unfortunate” as they “stigmatize a whole group.”

“When I talk to my patients after an incident like Newtown,” Kaslow told The Daily Beast, “my patients differentiate themselves from these killers, because they say these people lack empathy.” Though Kaslow acknowledges that those with learning disabilities or mood disorders can be aggressive and display challenging behaviors, this doesn’t translate into calculated acts of violence. “We really do not see any correlation between Asperger’s syndrome and gun violence,” Kaslow reiterated.

Those millions of Americans who suffer from mental illnesses and learning disabilities have therefore become collateral damage in the soul-searching since the Newtown massacre. What conditions Lanza suffered from, or didn’t, will take a long investigation, but like other multiple-gun homicides, his atrocity required almost military-style planning and execution, which is unlikely given the cognitive and emotional deficits of acute psychiatric illness. It was this element of forethought and calculation which led to Anders Behring Breivik, the Norwegian right-wing extremist who killed eight with a bomb in Oslo then shot dead 69, mainly teenagers, holidaying on UtøyaIsland in 2011, being considered sane enough to face trial and a prison term in Norway. Though Breivik’s Islamophobic ideology could be described as crazy, the means Breivik chose to pursue his apocalyptic race war were rational and deliberative given those precepts, and he showed no sign of clinical psychosis.

In this light, Long’s imprecation to “start talking about mental illness rather than guns” looks like a distraction from the more probable factor to explain America’s elevated homicide and suicide rates: the U.S. is a complete outlier compared to other industrialized nations in its startling, almost 90 out of 100, number of guns per capita. Apart from the extreme youth and number of his victims, the other hallmark of Lanza’s massacre was the use of a semi-automatic Bushmaster AR-15 assault rifle (which has horrifically doubled in price since the Newtown attack). Assault weapons were banned until 2004, when the Federal Assault Weapons Ban was not renewed—largely thanks to the lobbying power of the National Rifle Association.

In what must count as one of the most successful campaigns in U.S. history, the NRA has managed to reduce support for gun control in the U.S. by 50 per cent in the last 20 years. One of its key lines of argument throughout that time has been that, “It’s not guns that kill people, but people who kill people.” On Friday the NRA’s Facebook page was taken down, and its Twitter feed went silent, and the organization seemed to have no response to the mounting calls for gun control in the wake of the most recent tragedy.

According to Mark Borkowski, a British PR titan with extensive knowledge of crisis-management campaigns, “anybody in this territory is equipped to deal with extreme events like this, and defend against or capitalize on them depending on what happens.” “The key thing is to sow doubt,” Borkowski told The Daily Beast. “Doubt is a product, and you have sleepers and advocates who are well briefed to construct a counter-narrative in times of crisis.”

There is no evidence that the NRA or any of its lobbying arms has been involved in any kind of crisis management in the last few days. However, opponents of gun control are now using a variant of the old NRA adage, “It’s not guns who kill people, but mentally disturbed people who killed people.” In doing so they are perpetuating what is effectively a slur against millions of Americans who suffer from mental illness, and stigmatizing a group who already suffer enough.

Sunday, 22 September 2013 10:30

Mrs Gucci - the Concert

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Come to the concert on October 13th


We're proud to announce the West End World Premier Concert Performance of Mrs Gucci at the Arts Theatre London on October 13th 2013.

After many years of development, the show is ready to go into production next year, and the one-off concert performance, lasting only an hour, will give you both a flavour of the music and the impetus of the narrative.

Julie Atherton will be singing the role of Patrizia Reggiani Martinelli (formerly Gucci) currently serving a 26 year prison sentence in San Vittore in Milan for murder. Her dead husband, former director of the famous fashion house, Maurizio Gucci, will be sung by Bart Edwards. His cousin, Paolo Gucci, will be sung by Graham MacDuff. The part of Patrizia's counsellor and psychic guru, Pina Auriemma, also serving a life sentence for murder, will be performed by Sophie-Louise Dunn.

The performance will commence at 6 O'Clock on Sunday 13th October, and last approximately an hour.

Click here to book tickets.

For more details how to get to London's famous Arts Theatre, click here.

English version of the article that first appeared in the Polish Magazine Krytyka Polityczna

Though it claims to be one of the world’s fasting growing religions, and now holds over $1 billion in liquid assets, last year wasn’t great for the Church of Scientology. The news that its most famous public adherent and advocate, Tom Cruise, was divorcing fellow actor Katie Holmes brought with it a rash of renewed criticisms of the futuristic religion, including a tweet from the media mogul Rupert Murdoch that it was “creepy - maybe evil’. This year started out even worse with the publication of a major expose into the practices of the religion. Lawrence Wright, who won the Pulitzer prize in 2007 for his analysis of Al Qaeda, The Looming Towers, has just released his next big opus: Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief. The book isn’t available in the UK thanks to our draconian libel laws, but Wright’s damaging allegations about bullying, mismanagement and intimidation have been widely reviewed and publicised. Rarely, in its 60 year history, has Scientology’s reputation in its American heartland and homeland been at such a low.

Nonetheless, a greater threat to the new age church may not lie in US free speech but in European legislation. A month ago, after five years of investigation, Belgian prosecutors announced they were charging the church as a ‘criminal organisation’ on the basis it practiced extortion, "pseudo-medicine" and the keeping of records that contravene privacy laws. Though there are only a five hundred Scientologists in Belgium, Brussels houses the church’s European HQ, and the legal case could be crippling to the group in Europe.