On the ethical implications of punching Richard Spencer.

Opinion, Uncategorized

You’ve probably seen the footage by now – circulated around the world. Richard Spencer, creator of the “alt-right” term and a key figure of this movement, is being interviewed on a street. From the left suddenly comes a sucker-punch that hits him right on the side of his head. Both the attacker and Spencer run in opposite directions.

There’s been plenty of debate on social media on the ethics of punching Richard Spencer. Though Spencer claims that he isn’t a Nazi, he has often espoused views closely linked not only with the Nazis but other white supremacist groups. One only need to look at the article, “Is Black Genocide Right?”, written by Colin Liddell and published on a website formerly run by Spencer.

It strikes me that one of the main things about having a good debate is how it is framed. Get that right and the chances are something good will be the outcome. However, for too long now, when we consider questions of race, especially questions concerning the Black race, we have been framing things in completely the wrong way. Instead of asking how we can make reparations for slavery, colonialism, and Apartheid or how we can equalize academic scores and incomes, we should instead be asking questions like, “Does human civilization actually need the Black race?” “Is Black genocide right?” and, if it is, “What would be the best and easiest way to dispose of them?” With starting points like this, wisdom is sure to flourish, enlightenment to dawn.

Some of the arguments against the ethics of physical violence against white supremacists such as Spencer is that violence is never an answer; we must engage with debate, we must argue and give counter-point, we must educate those who could fall victim to the vicious and disturbing rhetoric that Spencer and so many of his cronies espouse. Others, on the other side, not only find the video entertaining but approve of the violence; after all, nothing is more American than punching a Nazi, right?

However, I personally find both of these arguments not only false, but startlingly simplistic in the face of increasingly complex times.

We live in an era where the populist far-right is gaining more and more political control than ever before. In Britain, we have the Brexit era looming over us all as the Tories continue to eviscerate not only the NHS but public housing and grants for the disabled, with a divided left that is struggling to pose a realistic alternative. In the United States, we of course have the rise of Donald Trump. And Marine Le Pen is only so far over the horizon in France.

We live in an era where “the truth” means less and less every day. Where a politician can openly mock a disabled reporter who criticises him, who is recording advocating the sexual assault of women, and not only is there no repercussions to his actions but his devotees love him all the more for “saying it as it is.”

We live in an era where someone like Kellyanne Conway can call a lie an “alternative fact.” The implications of such a statement are terrifying. Now that the far-right are in power, and already savaging the media that dare critiques them, they now are starting to change the meaning of the truth. Such a change might seem whimsical or even silly, but it’s arguably one of the most important things that’s come out of Trump’s election. By changing the nature of truth, Trump can dictate who is telling the truth. Once he is able to construct his own narrative, Trump can do whatever he wants. He can erase the LGBT community, demonise ethnic minorities, and claim that climate change is a hoax, all of which seem to be on his radar. Within a couple of hours web-pages referencing these disappeared from the official White House website.

Of course, we’re not so far gone that Trump has authoritarian power. Just two days ago, women led marches around the globe in protest at Trump. Whilst we might be divided, at the same time never have those opposed to people like Trump been so united. Trump’s rhetoric is inspiring action. With this inspiration, violence is going to become an issue.

Whilst I personally can’t condone wide-spread violence, I can’t help but feel amused at the video of Spencer’s attack. It’s a manifestation of what many people are thinking. Spencer was shut-down and his interview was ended. His rhetoric, however briefly, was finished. That’s a good result.

When debate is no longer possible, violence occurs. We’ve seen this before. Anyone who is saying that there should be no violence against people who advocate genocide against any race are frankly being ridiculous. The Nazi analogy, however complicated, is an apt one. And whilst I would be one of the first to disparage anyone equating Trump to Hitler, you can’t fail to see the similarities in modus operandi.

We can’t afford to take the moral high ground if it means that all we do is say that this is wrong and leave it at that. Hope is a fool’s dream. It’s dangerous to hope right now, because hope can lead to inactivity and passivity to the events around us. The new challenge is to actively start calling out and challenging those who speak like this. It’s no longer acceptable to just let it pass you by in a haze of non-confrontation. Call it out. Speak out. When lies are becoming more and more acceptable every day, that’s the only thing to do. We have to start looking at these issues more carefully, and not with such a black-and-white view of morality and the world. We can’t end the conversation on “this isn’t right” or “this isn’t right.” We have to start looking at the consequences of what this judgement means. We have to think, and we have to speak. We can’t afford not to anymore.

Whatever the ethics of physical violence against white supremacists, we can’t afford to continue giving them a platform. I’m disgusted at Simon & Schuster for publishing Milo Yiannopoulos’s new book. Free speech isn’t a get-out-of-jail-free card for spewing racist and misogynist views. Free speech isn’t about the equal pushing of all ideas. It’s about the freedom to combat any and all ideas. If enough of us start now, Trump’s rhetoric, Marine Le Pen’s rhetoric, none of it will be able to latch. Don’t normalise it. Fight it.

Thank you, David.

Uncategorized

And these children that you spit on,
As they try to change their worlds,
Are immune to your consultations,
They’re quite aware of what they’re going through.

When I woke up on Monday morning, started scrolling through my Facebook feed, and saw a post about David Bowie’s death, I wasn’t sad. Instead, I had a moment of utter disbelief. David Bowie couldn’t have passed away. When I then promptly saw a confirmation from filmmaker Duncan Jones, David Bowie’s son, there was a sinking feeling in my chest, and a deep, guttural sadness.

For so many of us David Bowie wasn’t just a rock’n’roll star, nor just a poet, but a truly compassionate being who took care of many of us at our lowest points. For me this period came when I was around fourteen. I was being bullied at school and seriously questioned the point of life. I had never felt so unbearably lonely before, and I didn’t really see a solution to any of these problems. Part of my anger and frustration was at my own social awkwardness. I couldn’t carry conversations well with guys who were markedly confident or popular, let alone chat to a girl. I did retreat into myself a bit, and my only real social interactions were with other “misfits” or “weirdos” in school. I so desperately wanted to be normal, to be confident, and to be able to stand up for myself.

In my lowest moments I would listen to music to try and block out these black feelings, often not very successfully. Even if I was listening to the most upbeat, celebratory music, to try and psyche myself up, I couldn’t block out this darkness. There was only really one exception during this time, which was David Bowie.

Bowie made it cool to be uncool, to be alternative, to be weird, to not fit into any of society’s conventions. His beautiful compassion and love reached me in his music, and it genuinely helped me fight back these bleak emotions. It’s something I can never be able to thank him for. When my family and few friends couldn’t help, David Bowie did.

He’s now joined the pantheon of artists who have left this world. I say left, because whilst Bowie may have passed from this mortal plane, he lives on in his music. He had one of those electric voices that only really come once in a generation. Even though I am coming to terms with his death, I listen to his music and I don’t hear the voice of a dead man. I feel him in my room with me, remembering that time he was able to put his hand on my shoulder and tell me that everything was going to be okay, if I could keep my strength up just a little bit longer.

Thank you, David, for everything you’ve done for me. A light may have gone out in the night sky, but somewhere else in this huge universe there is a new star lighting the way in the cosmos.

The Nights He Came Home – A Halloween Retrospective, Part V: Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers (1989)

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Welcome to the fifth part of The Nights He Came Home – A Halloween Retrospective! Over the course of October this new special column, in which I revisit all of the original Halloween films in anticipation of that most spooky season, will be running every Monday and Thursday. Then, beginning on the 26th of October, daily posts with the unifying theme of the horror genre will be posted, leading up to an article on my choice of the 10 greatest horror films ever made. Today we examine Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers (1989), which saw Michael Myers return to terrorise his niece Jamie Lloyd. For previous entries in this series, click here.


Halloween 5 Logo

Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers (1988) had been soapy, trashy fun. Unfortunately, the idiot plot of Halloween 5 prevents any such enjoyment as the series abandons all logic in plotting and characterisation in favour of Myers stalking a series of highly unlikeable teenage characters. So unlikeable, in fact, that it was a genuine pleasure to see some of them meet their grisly end.

In what could be a homage to Halloween II (1981), the beginning of Halloween 5 recaps the end of the fourth film; this time showing that Michael actually escaped the mine and has been living in the care of a hermit for a full year. On Halloween eve of 1989, Michael awakes, kills the hermit, and begins to stalk Jamie Lloyd (Danielle Harris) once more with whom he has some sort of mystical connection that allows them to see each other at all times. Jamie, who has been in a children’s psychiatric ward since the ending of Halloween 4, is beseeched by Dr. Loomis (Donald Pleasence) to help him find Myers. Jamie’s sister Rachel (Ellie Cornell) and her friends get mixed up as fodder for Michael’s kitchen knife and all hell breaks loose.

In many ways, Michael Myers kill these unlikeable teenagers is akin to a public service if you think about it.

In many ways, Michael Myers killing these unlikeable teenagers is akin to a public service if you think about it.

By far the biggest problem with Halloween 5 is the screenplay, written by Michael Jacobs, Shem Bitterman, and director Dominique Othenin-Girard. All the characters are completely idiotic. The only way the plot makes any sense at all is if all characters worked against their best self interests and had zero intelligence. There are numerous questions I had during the film – why is Halloween still a celebration in Haddonfield after two Halloween nights of relentless death? How does Dr. Loomis seem to know about Jamie’s mystical connection to Michael? Why does Michael spend over two-thirds of the film stalking teenagers and not Jamie when his goal has always been to kill his family members? The screenplay is unintelligible and does very little to answer any of these questions. I don’t expect much intelligence from a slasher sequel, but even here I feel it’s coming apart at the seams.

The film still has hilariously brutal violence going for it though.

The film still has hilariously brutal violence going for it though.

The other really big problem is the new characterisation the filmmakers have decided to impart on Michael. When he hunts teenagers in this film it’s not so that he can find Jamie; for much of the film he’s just hunting teenagers. Whilst this was an aspect I really really liked about the first film, it doesn’t work at all here because of the story of the past four films. Michael hunts family members and will hunt others only if doing so helps him achieve his goal. Here he just wanders round a bit stabbing or impaling people. Also, this new angle of him having to kill Jamie to get rid of his “rage”, and thus trying to make him a sympathetic figure in relation to his niece is just not who Michael Myers is. He’s a psychopathic killer, not a tortured soul! The mask is also even more ridiculous here, with the neck flaring out completely. Not a good look for Mr. Myers.

Jamie's visions of Myers cause her to have epileptic fits in many moments in the film.

Jamie’s visions of Myers cause her to have epileptic fits in many moments in the film.

Killing off Rachel Carruthers, played by Ellie Cornell also was an unwise choice. Rachel and Jamie were the likeable heroes of Halloween 4. By getting rid of Rachel I felt that dynamic was lost, and the film felt very empty after her character was killed off.

I think Halloween 5, like Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982) is a missed opportunity; rather than capitalising on the fantastic ending of the fourth film the filmmakers go for a safer option of making Michael Myers the only villain. Having Jamie as a young proto-Michael, or as his sidekick, would have been much more interesting for a sequel. But alas.

Oh yeah, and who was that cowboy that kept showing up and broke out Michael at the end of the film? Completely weird subplot that never comes to fruition and is frankly pointless!

Halloween 5 Poster

Halloween 5 grossed $11.6 million on a budget of $3 million, making it the poorest performing Halloween film to date. The film went straight to video outside of the USA, and hasn’t had that great reception then or now.

Ultimately Halloween 5 is just a complete mess, and not an endearing mess like Halloween 4. Rather it is stilted, incomprehensible, and at points just plain unlikeable. Whilst it is never the bore-out that Halloween III was, it’s certainly the worst Myers film I’ve seen yet.

4/10


Next time on The Nights He Came Home, we jump forward to 1995’s Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers as Michael Myers does battle once more with Donald Pleasence and… Ant Man?! See you next Monday!