Bernie, Jeremy and the Social-Democratic comeback.

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If, like me, you are some combination of English, American and left-wing you may be noticing a strange phenomenon.  It manifests itself in think pieces from trendy blogs and news websites alike expressing a bemused interest in an aging white dude, first elected to office in the middle of neoliberalism’s rise to power from a constituency renowned for its population of gay communist radical marxist etc, surging forward into the polls ahead of his nearest rival:the clearly more competent half of a married couple that spent the 1990s pushing the idea that the only way for the political left to go was the middle. Whilst yes the British side of this equation is in the latter stages with leadership voting for the Labour party starting tomorrow, I do think the fact that these two ostensibly fringe candidates are in the running to lead their parties speaks to something broader; to wit, the breakdown of ‘the third way.’

A Quick aside: The phrase, ‘The Third Way’, was coined in the mid 1990s to describe the political re-orientation of the Democratic and Labour parties’ leadership to the political right at the end of the 1980s in response to being politically broken by forces of Reaganomics and Thatcherism. It’s generally characterized by viewing a deregulated, hedge-fund dominated, financially lopsided market as the natural state of industrialized societies; the two-generation-long post-war consensus in the western world about tripartite social democracy being an aberration brought on by feelings of comradery during the 1940s and amphetamines in the 1960s.

Because Social-Darwinism is the apparent natural state of society the best thing lefties can do is make sure as many poor people  as possible get to be predatory with the hopes that they will rise. To this end, rather than improving workplaces or giving workers more power, social democrats should push to make this unfair world at least meritocratic. To achieve this New Labourites/Democrats have pushed for  better education so more kinds of people can get into the economic and social elite, (this is why Tony Blair’s priorities where famously “education, education, education“) all this whilst subsidizing the inevitable underclass this creates until they adjust…. somehow.

BELFAST, -: (FILES) US President Bill Clinton (L) is introduced by British Prime Minister Tony Blair during a ground-breaking ceremony for Springvale Educational Village in Belfast, Northern Ireland. Blair was showered with praise and also a few brickbats 10 May 2007 as he announced his 10 years in power would end June 27, but even his opponents conceded he is a "formidable" politician. Blair was praised for his role in bringing peace to Northern Ireland but condemned for taking Britain into a divisive war in Iraq, while his domestic policies drew mixed feelings from both inside and outside his Labour Party. AFP PHOTO Joyce NALTCHAYAN (Photo credit should read JOYCE NALTCHAYAN/AFP/Getty Images)

Don’t blame me, I was never eligible to vote for either of them

I was born in 1989, meaning my generation grew up in a world where this was the norm: neoliberalism was not just ascendant, it was the only possible option. Unions, we were told, are historical entities, any left over will die with their members. So Called “left-wing” leaders like Tony Blair, Bill Clinton, Gordon Brown and Barack Obama told us again and again, that they would love to create government work programs and widen social security nets or improve access to healthcare if only the semi-mythical super-majority of conservative voters would let them. Throughout the last 30 years the wisdom of left-wing politics has been that to win, Social democrats must trick Conservatives (who definitely outnumber everyone else and always will) into voting for left-wing parties by pretending to be them, bending to the rich and powerful whilst slipping social reforms into the package.

This is why the rise of Sanders and Corbyn is seen as a confusing aberration. As societies, the UK and US have drifted so far to the political right that Bernie and Jez managed to get to the positions they’re in because a series of political operators viewed their politics as simply impossible. Jeremy Corbyn made it into the leadership race, in part, by Blairites nominating him to be a left-wing foil for Yvette Cooper and Andy Burnham to prove how sensible and electable they are. Bernie Sanders has never been seen as a political threat by anyone in D.C. so there is no serious anti-Sanders narrative; if he is talked of in a negative light, that light focuses on the fact that he’s an irrelevant curmudgeon. The liberal left along with the conservative right have spent so much time thinking of ‘Socialism’ as something aging miners sing about whilst actual, sensible political actors warn the rest of us about with poorly thought out signs.


This is mainstream…. apparently

 The crowds and genuine excitement surrounding both these old white dudes has to be the result of a nearly 3 decade long deprivation of an actual left-wing candidate being seen as even sort of viable in the English-speaking world. The fact that they’re both old WASP-y men speaks to the level of attrition women and people of colour face in the political arena, particularly when they’re left of center. Consider Barack Obama’s swing to the right on the military and healthcare policy all the while pretending he didn’t support gay marriage until 2012. Social democracy has been in the wilderness for so long that the only proponents of it left are the most milk-toast, white bread variety of social democrat. It’s hard to imagine Hillary Clinton have an event shut down by civil rights activists and, after consulting with those activists, hiring someone from the activists’ campaign and not have that reflected negatively on her gender. So far the only person to call Sanders out for doing this is Donald Trump, meaning “Bernie Sanders is weak” is on the same level as ‘all Mexicans are rapists’ and ‘putting your name on everything is something that well adjusted adults do.’

I don’t seriously think that Jeremy or Bernie will win their upcoming battles for leadership of the party. Even if Corbyn was to win this month, I doubt the popular power of the social democratic left would be enough to have red flags flying over both the White house and Downing Street by 2020. I do however think that the fact that these two figures are drawing huge crowds at the same time in similar political cultures does suggest if not a seismic change then the turning of a corner. My generation have spent our entire adult lives being beaten over the head with the negative consequences of neoliberalism and lopsided economics. My hope is not that President Sanders or Prime minister Corbyn will change the tax code a little bit to bring forth full communism. Rather, by fighting these elections and denting the twenty-first century consensus about the end of history and the natural state of unfettered capitalism these two survivors of the post-war consensus could remind us that one doesn’t necessarily have to be cynical to be successful.

For real though, they're slightly more right wing than these guys

They’re about as left wing as these guys, calm down


The Sound and the Fury: What Americans need to take from British politics

The Campaign League were nice enough to let me write all over their nice clean blog. If the idea of a funny, dickish, micro-tabloid that treats British politics like we all know it should (with a running scoreboard) appeals to you. follow this blog!

The Campaign League

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The Sound and the Fury: What Americans need to take from British politics
The post today is not a normal Campaign League post. I asked a friend of mine to write something and here it is. Matthew is British born and now lives in America*. I write a lot about how campaigns in this country is shit, but I guess it could be worse.
Tonight at 9pm Eastern standard time (2am proper time) the president of the United states will walk into the House of Representatives and spend about an hour explaining why he, America and the way he runs America is awesome in every way. Despite the fact that various talking heads will continuously assure each other that this and everything else about America makes the United states a special democratic snowflake, the state of the union is not unique or even particularly democratic.

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Dulce et decorum est pro Americae mori. Being British on Veterans day


Today is Veterans day. Something that almost everyone outside of the United States assumes is just what Americans call Remembrance day, or Armistice Day. Whilst this is technically true, It is the same day and is also about remembering the experience of soldiers, specifically (though not limited too) those of the first world war.

Growing up in the U.K. meant that every November 11th is a day of mourning and reflection on the horrors of war. My memory of school around late October was filled with history lessons were teachers attempted to hammer home the absolute terror, misery and pointlessness of sitting in a damp hole whilst all your friends die of random machine gun fire. The entire day is colored in terms of remembering a human global disaster. Respect for those who have died is generally shown by donning poppies (Usually red but white is also fine) as a reference to the Belgian and French fields covered in those particular flowers.

This is why Veterans day has a strange feel to me. Whilst it’s not exactly a celebration the notion that the day is commemorating the deaths of around 40 million is not in evident. This is probably because by definition; The men and women Veterans day celebrates came back. This is probably why there isn’t a national outcry at November 11th themed Ice cream or sales events to clear inventories for the Christmas shopping season. Everywhere else that commemorates November 11th views the day as a funeral. There are processions to the Cenotaph as opposed too parades, moments of silence as opposed to musical acts, those processing are holding wreaths, not flags and the order of the day is remembering those who suffered not Honoring those who served. There is no sense of anything other than an oppressive sense of global disaster the wars of the 20th century were and continue to be.

Veterans Day & Remembrance Day 2014

Veterans Day & Remembrance Day 2014

I don’t begrudge Americans for acting like this. The Civil war was the last time Americans experienced war with more than soldiers leaving home. The attitude American culture seems to have built up is best summed up by Jack Nicholson in ‘A Few Good Men’; Living in America requires not asking too many questions of those who guards the walls of the state. The other edge to this however seems to be to regard soldiers with a kind of inhuman awe, in which suffering on behalf of the state and the subsequent gratitude expressed by citizens at parades is its own reward; therefore celebrating ‘America’s Parade‘  for the freedoms the soldiers died for, rather than a funeral march for the fallen themselves. This is probably the result of the United State’s perception of itself as nation solidly based in an Ideology and guarded by eager citizen soldiers. There is also a difference in perspective about the costs and locations of wars. War does not happen to America, there is no popular memory of anything like the Blitz or even the Somme, nor is there an American equivalent to the wreckage of Coventry Cathedral. My grandmother used to tell me about her evacuation during the second world war as a twelve-year-old, during which she watched bombs rain down on Plymouth from across the bay. The last Americans who could tell that sort of story about an American city died sometime before the Truman administration.

It’s telling to note that  large number of British artists that shaped the culture the second half of the 20th century were born either during or just after the second world war, meaning they grew up in towns and cities that were wrecked by war and could, unlike their American counterparts; see what war does aside take away young men. This proximity to living memory violence and death at home, that 99% of Americans lack is almost certainly not the only reason for the dirge of remembrance day, versus the pomp and ceremony of Veterans day, it is however the most striking.

What weird militaristic overtone?

What weird militaristic overtone?

Louis Theroux is a bland, Insulting joke of a journalist. “Law and Disorder in Philadelphia” is a terrible documentary.

So for those who are uninitiated, Louis Theroux is one of the many private school, Oxbridge educated white dudes who have dominated British public life forever. In Louis’ case; he has taken it upon himself to wonder around the world pointing at things. I’ve always been annoyed by the popularity of Mr Theroux’s assent to position of BBC staple documentary making, I’ve always really hated that his method of asking inane questions to people with very clearly stated world view; be it asking people hanging out in a swastika draped garage if they consider themselves Nazis (spoiler; they do), Asking White segregationists if they think racism is strange (you will be supprised to find out they don’t) or asking members of the Westrbo Baptist Church if they think homophobia has a place in Christianity (shocker; they do), Louis Theroux has boiled down awkward redundancy to an art form.

The apparent idea is that Louis is showing parts of the world that we don’t really see, this is somewhat true when he visits places like Californian prisons, or even pseudo-hospitals that are in fact prisons. This tends to mean that the style of looking at people who are not white middle class and English whilst they say all manner of non white middle class English stuff is not nearly as grinding because very few documentary makers actually enter these places, this don’t make those documentaries good, just less redundant than they might be, establishing the existence of such places for hopefully more competent people to come a investigate a particular part of the world.

“Law and Disorder in Philadelphia”, arguably the first documentary in which Louis is trying to drop the whole “wacky” bullshit he made his name in during my childhood and teenage years, this makes the whole experience jarring as whilst he seems to have dropped the overt stupidity at the level of playing jaunty music whilst meeting white separatists he hasn’t stopped the general gawping and stupid questions, making the whole endeavor feel like a bad joke at the expense of Philadelphia’s population.


Totally not hardware porn.

It’s pretty annoying that this is the entire documentary is an advert for the Philadelphia police department; the fact that this entire documentary comes, care of the permission of the Police department is abundantly clear from the very clearly set up shots of the drug cops posing with their hardware to to the completely unquestioning acceptance Louis gives to police officer’s views on why the social problems that plague Philadelphia, never asking them if they feel they play a factor in the cycle of poverty, drugs and violence, allowing a relatively complex issue of the world of inner city violence into one of honorable cops fighting to save  the inexplicably violent inner cities of America. This is particularly jarring considering the city’s history of police brutality, and street harassment. Louis’ failure to question the officers featured in the documentary beyond how hard they find tussling with hardened criminals, never wondering why the police might be hated in Philadelphia, beyond the fact that poor black people are just like children. In fact I would like to quickly consider the last clip I’ve just linked; Louis, having watched the police chase down and arrest a young man and having a entire block of people express anger about the fact that as a community have no agency or redress in what is at the end of the day; a highly policed area, Louis begins the questioning thus;

when you’re mopping up the bad guys, how do you make sure you don’t alienate the good guys?

firstly that’s a stupid question, it’s based on the Idea that policing a modern inner-city with many layers of socio-economic factors that have driven poor, mostly people of color into the least well maintained and most brutalized parts of the developed world can have anything so simplistic as “good” and “bad” guys. This boils the question down to LaPierre levels of idiocy. not only to be dragged down further by the frankly telling awnser Louis gets;

The good guys aren’t here. The good guys are the ones who went back into the house when they were told… The ones who want to start trouble are the one’s mouthing off on the corner… They grey area guy ain’t here either. He’s back in his his house too when he was told the second time. These are the people you’ve gotta tell five, six, seven times to get off the corner and they don’t want to do it, so they get locked up

There are several places to go with that statement, why, for instance, are you equating vocal opposition to the police a sign of criminal behaviour? Do you think that for a public servant you are taking a weirdly controlling attitude to people who ultimately pay your salary? You seem to be talking about them as though they are rowdy children, do you think that effects the way you interact with them? and so on, my reaction would not be to cut away to finding a dead homeless person we can all stare at, minimizing the anger people feel in certain neighborhoods in certain parts of America into just a silly thing that silly people say because they’re not grown ups. It should also be noted that this is the one and only time in the entire hour long documentary that we see people who are not involved in the drug war in any capacity but also living in the  area. Respect for the subject/people involved would surely dictate that Louis follows up with these people, possibly when they’re not having an highly charged altercation with the police? Possibly so as not to depict the citizens of north Philadelphia as incoherent crazy people. Or not, I’m sure that would mess with the narrative we’re trying to construct here.

I just want to put two images side by side for comparison.


To the left is a picture of Louis Theroux standing in between Israeli boarder security and Palestinian protesters, you will note that said Israeli police have automatic rifles. To the right is the same Journalist walking up to a group of unarmed teenagers hanging outside a corner store in north Philadelphia. I don’t want to get too defensive of the Kensington area but I do currently have a day job in the area this documentary is filmed in, and despite the fact that I get offered heroin on a daily basis, north Philadelphia isn’t anywhere close to as violent or dangerous as the West Bank. It is particularly not dangerous for foreign journalists, particularly when they’re being escorted by uniformed police. The entire visual of a posh English guy wondering around the 6th most populous city in America in a bullet proof vest is ridiculous, and only adds to the Idea that Kensington is a war-torn hellscape populated by drug addled maniacs against which all methods are justified, so we better not question the methods of our boys in blue.

My anger around this documentary is something that’s been stewing with me for a while. I think it’s because as much as I try to forget the fact, Louis Theroux is one of the BBC’s primary documentary makers and this documentary is the only one about Philadelphia that I’m aware of to play in the U.K. in recent years. British people don’t generally know anything about the City in which I live beyond Boxing, A.I.D.s and that Will Smith was born and raised here, so for a lot of people in the country of my birth this is their modern reference point for how people in Philadelphia live their lives. This city isn’t perfect, It is rough around the edges and in some places dangerous, but no more than any other city and the people who live here are about as weird/violent/crazy/high as people are generally and they don’t deserve to be displayed as unfathomably violent, drug addled and incoherent.

This is a much better essay on inner-city life in America than anything Louis could come up with


In the land of the plastic paddies; Being English in America on Saint Patrick’s day.

“Plastic Paddy” – a pejorative term for members of the Irish diaspora who appropriate (often stereotypical) Irish customs and identity. The term has also been applied to those with no ancestral connection to Ireland or who claim Irish identity or nationality.

I have always felt ambiguous about St Patrick’s day. Its base ingredient is probably the same sort of feeling I have about most countries my birthplace invaded, conquered and oppressed for a few centuries (Which if you’re not an English lefty is a mixture of collective gilt, abstract outrage and that feeling you have when you’re sure you’ve been rude but have no idea how) and the fact that I am just old enough to remember Ireland and the Irish not being nearly as in vogue with pop culture as it is now, and that my teenage years where laced with reports detailing Ireland and Ulster in particular as terrifying place were violence was just about to break out again as everyone was itching to fall off the not-killing-people wagon.

Living Philadelphia which – like most east coast cities between Baltimore and Boston – has a hell of a lot of Catholics, loves it some Papist holidays, I have spent the last two weekends (yeah that’s right St Paddy’s is as a two weekend event in the city of brotherly love) living in a city full off green clothed drunk people celebrating real or imagined Irish D.N.A. by drinking Bud light dyed green. It’s not that I have a problem with celebrating individual Heritages within the American experience, I actually really enjoy learning about the various fibers that make up the culture of the continent I’ve chosen to call home: St Patrick’s day however dons’t feel like that.

If you came from a part of the world entirely unfamiliar with Ireland or Irish culture and based your knowledge of the place solely on what Americans do on St Patrick’s day, you would first assume that Ireland had disappeared one day and now existed in the global consciousness as a sort of Celtic Atlantis, that the Irish either were, or at least interbreed with Leprechauns, who spent their days playing fiddles and tin whistles  on the way to mass while the English burned the whole agrarian utopia down casting all the leprechaun people out into the Atlantic. Not that some elements of that aren’t true it’s just always presented as an uncomplicated narrative that firstly ended and ended a long time ago. My wife’s reference (American) was under the impression that any trouble in Ireland had been solved long before our parent’s generation was born, and in fact her reference point for the situation of Ireland was a Captain planet episode in which Captain planet solves the troubles with little effort.

My wife isn’t especially ignorant as far as Americans go; the general impression one gets of Ireland from America is that the Republic has been won just like the North American one was in 1787, and that it was done so – again like the U.S. – with no negative consequences or lasting problems that have continued to reverberate into the present. Instead, while she was growing up the ‘Leprechauns’ came to her daycare on St Patrick’s day and turned her milk green as well as having always celebrated March 17th with a McDonald’s Shamrock Shake. Take this all for the unwitting royalist hate speech this might be but having grown up one country over from Ireland, and coming into contact with actual Irish people, this weird codification of Irish history, culture and not to mention the suffering of large numbers of people, so large groups of white people can pretend to be more interesting through drinking a lot doesn’t sit well with me.

See, even this statue seems to imply that the problems of the Irish ended in New York Harbour 

I suppose the issue I also have is those who take St Patrick’s day seriously is the whole overt Catholicism of it. This Isn’t just me associating the Tricolor with papists, the Second Street Irish Society’s St Patrick’s day parade is fronted with a Vatican Flag alongside the Irish, American and Philadelphian ones. That sort of solid association of Irish republicanism and the Vatican has always been something I dislike as it stems from what protestants and royalists said about groups like the United Irishmen and the Irish Republican Brotherhood, pushing those secular organisations into the hands of probably on of the most reactionary chapters of the Catholic Church and allowing said chapter to run rampant when the Republic was finally declared. This is without even mentioning the fact that the linking of the Catholic Church and Irish Identity lead to some of the worst cases of Child rape being covered up for so long. The overt papist leanings of St Patrick’s day also kind of fails to acknowledge the non-Catholic Irish (Yes they are Irish, sit down) and people of Irish decent who live in America.

It is of course entirely acceptable to dismiss this post as an Ignorant English person judging Irish people for celebrating their heritage. As an English person celebrating a national day was always something other people did and I’m new to the idea of White people celebrating their ethnicity in a way that doesn’t involve trying to burn down a local Mosque. I’m not sure I can commit to a definate opinion on St Patrick’s day, I did by a case of Guinness over the weekend and I did wear my London Irish Jersey on Monday but the whole event is still going to give a squeamish feeling of missing the point somehow.

The glory of minor tyrannies: The B.B.C. & N.P.R.


I don’t care that the BBC haven’t used this for 40 years, it’s a lot cooler than the current Logo

I miss a lot of things about the country of my birth; Chip shop chips, Irn Bru, free healthcare, the acceptability of lunchtime beer, etc. the list is long and really only of interest to myself, the prominence of items on the list constantly shift depending on my mood or who i’m talking too, the one thing that sticks in the top three is, and will most likely always be, the British Broadcasting Corporation.

My feelings toward the Beeb have been heightened just now by the fact that my Local N.P.R. affiliate is currently in the middle of it’s winter pledge drive. For the uninitiated public radio in America is based on a convoluted system of funding from various trusts and charities, a small amount from the federal government, individual donations to local affiliate stations as well as local companies underwriting individual programs. In theory this is a pretty good system, it certainly makes for a much better and interesting news outlet than literally any other American media outlet, and is generally the broadcaster of record for people who don’t sincerely believe the American dream was taken out back and shot on January 20th 2009. Unfortunately I’ve been spoiled by the B.B.C. being a ubiquitous presence in my life from birth.

Before I continue I should probably explain my feelings regarding the B.B.C.; as an organisation it shares the space in my heart I assume other people have patriotism with the N.H.S., Stilton and the Digger movement, It is one of the few things I really really love about the UK. For the uninitiated the B.B.C. is funded via a very unconvoluted system were by owning a a color television that receives outside transmissions requires paying for a licence which is the corporation’s main source of revenue along with selling merchandise and leasing out T.V. to other countries etc. This system, enforced by law and a weird level of intimidation does come off to the casual foreign observer as a little over the top and specifically to an American observer as down right Stalinist as it involves being required to pay for a shared enterprise that doesn’t involve killing anyone. However the B.B.C.’s system of essentially taxing people for the right to use one of it’s services is superior, not just in the resulting product but the attitude it breeds around it.

I get that they need the money but this is sinister

Okay, this shit is sinister.

There are some basically superficial reasons I Think the B.B.C. is just better. I hate pledge drives; my experience of major broadcasters asking me for financial aid was – until moving to America – exclusively the preserve of comic relief and those times Blue peter asked for milk bottle tops (It’s sometimes very hard to make my childhood not sound like it happened in the 1950s), it’s therefore really jarring to hear someone on the radio ask you for money for themselves as opposed to an impoverished third party. It doesn’t help that the manner in which at least my local affiliate asks for money is an unpleasant tonal pendulum, swinging from begging and desperate to passive-aggressive guilt tripping, this is usually carried out by two people discussing pledging in these two styles, the gist of which is;

Person 1: Well we need money so we can continue broadcasting news and such every day

Person 2: Indeed, if you don’t call this second we will literally stop existing and you won’t ever hear from us again

Person 1: I mean it’s weird, because we know a lot of people listen to us but so few people send us money

Person 2: Oh that’s hard to believe, do you mean there are people who don’t care enough to give us as little as $10.00 a month? 

Person 1: It’s sad but it’s true, I think there are in fact heartless people who listen to us but don’t think they need to pay for such quality broadcasting

Person 2: Wha? but people are innately good! who would even think of behaving in such a manner?

Person 1: I don’t know, but they must really hate us…. whoever they are…. Maybe you should give us a call. 

To be fair pledge drivers do acknowledge that they’re annoying  whilst they’re doing this weird arm twisting, this however doesn’t make it better despite the weird American cultural trope that being aware something is wrong is the same as nullifying it. To be much more fair I was raised in a middle class English household were to acknowledge that you are anything but financially comfortable is incredibly vulgar and as a result a direct appeal for cash, particularly from a middle class bastion such as N.P.R. crawls under my skin on a visceral level, so you can put my objection to pledge driving neatly under petty snobbery with short sleeved shirts and Iced white wine.

However this system of funding and the way it manifests itself is still infinitely inferior to the British model as shown by this commercial for the B.B.C. made about 17 years ago;

If you weren’t around in Britain in 1997, and this is the first time you’ve ever watched that video you did in fact just see David Bowie, Bono, Elton John, Shane McGowan and a symphony orchestra cover a Lou Reed song about heroine use with Lou Reed for the sole purpose of demonstrating how worthwhile enforced public funding of broadcasters is. The thing I love about that advert is that it’s point is the B.B.C. is for everyone and as many types of broadcasting as it’s possible to have. The B.B.C. manages to be the antithesis to the argument that free market capitalism = quality; Because the Beeb is a centrally organised, publicly owned by the whole country, it has to create things like BBC Radio nan Gàidheal, which is broadcast in a language that is spoken exclusively by people who also understand English fluently, there is no profit motive for such an enterprise, no one would underwrite such an economically pointless station, it only exists because the nature of the Corporation requires that it speak to everyone.

The BBC is probably the only thing that I have no control over and still some sense of ownership, and I don’t think that’s particularly weird, The BBC isn’t just a series of T.V. and Radio stations it’s a public service. A great example of this is that after facts came to light about a pedophile ring operating at the B.B.C., one of the B.B.C.’s flagship investigative journalist outlet investigated another flagship investigative journalist program for allegedly killing the story. This is in contrast to Sky News covering the Phone hacking scandal, whose coverage of the subject is minimal.

I don’t want to come off as dismissing N.P.R., or pretend the B.B.C. is a god-given example of perfection. N.P.R. is currently my main source of news and really is better than any alternatives in America, I should also mention that my local affiliate broadcasts the World service for about a quarter of the time. I’ve just been spoiled by the B.B.C. home service which is wonderfully unapologetic about the licence fee whilst N.P.R.’s tin-rattling always sounds like it comes through an embarrassed smile which is always going to hobble the station because constant worrying about were the next underlining check is coming from doesn’t make for the most diverse or interesting programs possible. I hope everyone in the U.K. reading this feels lucky that they live in a country with such a well funded public broadcaster because I can tell you that life without one isn’t better. My life is not richer because I don’t get to hear Britain’s most senior Rabbi clumsily try to make current events relevant to Judaism at ten too eight in the morning any more. I also don’t know what about having to listen to companies fit commercials in between news items adds to the whole experience. If thinking these things makes me a servile lack of the state, I suppose I’ll have to live with that but until we dispense with hierarchy in all forms of life and create collectivized mass media I’m still going to think the B.B.C. has the best model for a broadcaster in the world. 

Yeah you should probably donate if you can afford too.
Still though, you should probably donate if you can afford too. no worries if you can’t; I can’t.

I know what I sound like, thank you; 10 Terrible things Americans say to British ex-pats.


In 2010 I entered the United States without all the visas required of me. This wasn’t premeditated act of illegal migration: I was just an idiot and forgot half of the temporary work visa I needed to satisfy the insane levels of bureaucracy one has to tear through to prove you aren’t a terrorist/cartel boss/Former member of the SS/Sex Trafficker/Mexican/etc. The consequence of this very stupid lack of papers was being taken to a side room where anyone possibly fitting into the above list of undesirables sat and waited whilst an annoyed looking border agent sifted through paperwork and called out names. Long story short: I left Newark Airport inside half an hour due to a combination of the relative unimportance of a student leaving some paperwork behind, and my  constant over articulation of the words “Terribly” and “Awfully” do describe the  level of mortification I felt at having inconvenienced the lovely man from Homeland Security.

Though this wasn’t the first time I’ve used the fact that I don’t use hard “R”s in my day-to-day speech manipulate Americans, (the first was getting served alcohol aged 20 by telling the bartender I’d been mugged for my passport), it was the first time I consciously used my powers of accent for my own ends. At the time this felt like a minor superpower as by virtue of opening my mouth people automatically assumed that what I was saying was important, clever, funny or all three at once. If you’re an English (specifically South East) this makes visiting America really fun as your relative attractiveness at least doubles – quadrupling if there are Hipsters nearby. However when you live here it’s somewhat of a different story. Now don’t get me wrong, I love living on the East coast of the United states; as a relatively healthy white person in my early 20s, this place is awesome. You can smoke in bars till 2am whilst drinking insanely cheap liquor chased with super cheap beer (the combination of which is a drink here).

This is exactly what America is like

This is exactly what America is like

The only thing that irks me is that around one in five people I come into contact with seem to think that my accent entitles them to enjoy me as a novelty. This 20% almost exclusively consists of complete strangers and friends of friends because people I actually like are clearly welcome to ask me any question about my life they can think of. The reason this constant interest in the fact that I was born on a different side of the Atlantic grinds on me so much I’ve decided to come up with a list in case you a) see or hear and English person in a public place b) want to know something that might interest you c) you want to make sure you don’t come off as an inane shithead.

1) “I love your accent.” 

This is by far the most common which is why it’s the most irritating. On the surface this statement is incredibly benign, even polite, which it might be if I had anything to do with the way I say “aluminium.” Compliments are for things people have achieved: their hairstyle, their dress sense, how their apartment looks, a really cool drawing, anything really. You know how it’s weird to congratulate someone’s height? That’s why it’s weird to tell someone how much you love their accent. I’m not going to pretend that this is equivalent to someone saying this to someone from a South Asian or Middle Eastern country because the fetishism over my accent doesn’t’ come with the same level of Colonialist Orientalism that lead up to westerners deciding those accents where cool; it’s just fucking irritating. Common variants on this is “Everything you’re saying sounds so important” or “You just sound more intelligent than everyone else,” which is irritating because it means I’ve suddenly become an avatar through which someone is re-enforcing tired racist, classist and Imperialist stereotypes themselves by making me feel weird.

2) “I went to (Insert stupid town I’ve never heard of/region i have no interest in) last year/when I studied abroad”

Okay The UK is 96,060 square miles and is about as interesting as everywhere else in the world. It’s not that the UK is terrible, it’s just that I haven’t been to every part of it and have a desire to go to about a quarter of the whole country. I don’t care that you were temporally in Birmingham, I’ve never been to Birmingham, the closest I’ve been to Birmingham is Warwick Castle and that’s as far as I intend to go. I have nothing against Birmingham per say, I just have nothing for it either, and I don’t care about this one pub you went to and got to drink even though you were only nineteen. I don’t care that you stayed at a really nice hotel in the Cotswold and I very much don’t know every single bar and restaurant the country in the same way living in the Delaware Valley doesn’t qualify you to recommend me a night spot in Sharon.

3) “I know an English guy, I should Introduce you.”

The fact that I was raised to be polite to everyone for as long as humanly possible has prevented my mouth from answering they way my heart does which is “Shit really? There are more of us? I thought I was the only one left! Take me to them so we might breed and continue our noble race!” There are about 70 Million British people and we live in an English-speaking country, chances are you’ve met a British person before me, and the fact this other person and myself were born on the same set of islands will tell you precisely nothing about whether we will get along. There are millions of pricks in the U.K.; the collective personalities of the country of my birth was clearly not enough to keep me there. So why would you assume I’m desperate to hear some rando drop all the T’s out of “Water Bottle” or that I will go out of my way to meet a friend of an acquaintance who has already annoyed me by assuming my personality is determined by me nationality?

4) “So I’m really into Doctor Who” 

This also applies to Misfits, Skins, Sherlock, Downton Abbey, really any British T.V. show made in Britain and now popular with Americans. The use of Doctor Who is useful because it’s both the most extreme  and common example. The problem with this is that the previously mentioned TV shows are very popular with a small percentage of the American population who are really quite into them, whilst the same TV show In the UK is just a TV show; I’m almost certain the term Whovian didn’t exist until Americans started getting in on the action. I hate this because I sort of know stuff about Dr Who in the way most Americans sort of know about Sex in the City; I don’t love it, I don’t hate it, I’ve maybe watched a few episodes of a few seasons and I couldn’t pass a test about it. However, because most Whovians live in a world where to know stuff about The Doctor is to love the Doctor, I end up having conversations with people who not only assume all British people love Doctor Who, but also that we appreciate Americans who appreciate Doctor who. Stop asking me for approval; I think David Tennant was kind of annoying. Sorry, not sorry.

6) “You sound like that guy in that movie. Which one is that?”

This is an actual quote from an actual person who yelled this at me from across a bar. No, “Hello my name is rude-ignorant-fuckhead, nice too meet you. Did you know you remind me of someone,” no calling out to me to tell me this. The above statement was her opening line to me, interrupting my friend telling me something I actually give a shit about. After about 3 minutes of bothering me during a night out, it turned out the Actor I reminded them of was Gerard Butler in “P.S. I love you.” I don’t care how unfamiliar you are with the British Isles, I don’t sound like an Scottish dude pretending to be Irish, and if you think I do, you can’t hear.

7) “Something something something Royal Family something something.”

People fought and died so we could live in a country that didn’t have to give a shit or acknowledge the faded husk of a family that is the house of Saxe Coburg Gotha’s rule over my homeland. By asking me about them, you’re essentially pissing on Tom Paine’s Grave

My feelings on the princess Kate and her fairy-tale marriage

Left here without further comment

8) Any statement that uses the term “Europe” like it’s a country and not a series of diverse states with a wide variety of cultural practices. 

Okay, so I have nothing against Europe. In a way, I’m down with the probably necessary integration of certain governmental functions  that the European Union is making happen. That being said: Europe is not a country, it’s a continent with over 40 nation-states and 200 hundred different languages and dialects almost all of which have nothing to do with the way I lived my life up until moving to the United States. This was something that pissed me off a lot during the 2012  Election when every single republican candidate kept saying that America was going to become like Europe if Obama got another term. I don’t know what this paranoid assertion might mean as  European countries are very much different to each other in cultural practices, economic development, foodstuffs, language. Indeed, some are much more like America than others, some less so, some are similar in different ways. We’re all different and we don’t spend a lot of time thinking about each other, particularly not the British who try to forget the fact that it’s a small amount of brine between Dover and Calais.

9) Saying anything whilst attempting to imitate my accent.  

If you’re an American and read that statement and think even a little bit that this doesn’t apply to you because your English accent is flawless: I hate you. I hate you firstly because it’s incredibly frustrating to have whatever I’m saying flow through a filter of patronizing enjoyment enter separate from the content of my sentences (See No 1 on this list). Secondly, I hate you because you are wrong: you cannot convincingly imitate an English person, almost no American can flawlessly pull of an English accent. Actors like Johnny Depp can because he’s a talented character actor with a lot of training while watching Monty Python reruns though a haze of Marijuana smoke simply isn’t equal to.

10) “What are you doing here?” 

This is almost always the first or second thing strangers ask me and I usually get asked it around twice a week. If I was travelling or an exchange student I would be less annoyed, but I’m neither of these things , I’m a tax paying resident of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania trying to enjoy a drink with my friend, hang out at a party with my wife, or get through a shift at work, which are activities idiots continually interrupt by demanding my life story. Fuck off.

I would Like to make it clear that if you’re actually friends with a person originally from the British Isles, all these questions are probably fine as they know and like you. All except number nine, number nine is always a dick move. Also remember that we’re raised to be polite well past the point people deserve it so if you tell someone inflicting themselves on us with anything on this list, tell that person to shut the fuck up and we will love you forever.

I'm not saying do punch people who wear this in the throat as that would be advocating violence, but I'm not saying don't punch them in the throat either.

I’m not saying do punch people who wear this in the throat, but I’m not saying don’t punch them in the throat either.