Yeah, so that’s me grinning like the kid in a sweet shop, except all the sweets are guns – and everybody’s dead. The irony was lost on most of you, but it wasn’t lost on my friends. This might come as a huge shock, but it turns out that holding guns on a holiday to Cambodia is not an endorsement of gun rights in the United Kingdom. In fact, it’s quite the opposite.
I just took the opportunity to experience a country whose political system is so corrupt that it’s population, when left to themselves, have to resort to charging a few dollars to hold a range of automatic weapons from past conflicts – just to put food on the table. It’s an economic necessity, shying away from it makes it no less real.
I became interested in the Green Party not because I agreed with all of their policies, but because they were the only party with an anti-austerity message and a more democratic stance on the UN, through the abolition of permanent seats on the Security Council. I have several years of experience publishing and promoting a – mostly – satirical Liverpool magazine called Good Vibrations, and have worked in various capacities at several local voluntary organisations.
In turn, I thought I might be able to donate that experience to some causes that I believed in, instead of being an armchair activist, shouting my anger out at the world without actually doing anything, I decided to try to get involved.
My role was to work with the external press coordinator on local press issues, to help organise events and help manage the candidate’s website and social media presence. There was no such position when I started and I volunteered to do it for free. It was audacious to believe a normal guy like me, an electrician who went to a local comprehensive school, then returned to higher education as a ‘mature student’, could ever get involved in politics.
It’s a strange feeling making the news, there is a point when you realise you’re at the centre of a twitter ‘storm.’ After the not-at-all-hidden photos were “discovered,” Labour vultures circled around corralling others in to belittle my opinion further – which by anyone’s definition could be considered cyber bullying.
Even in the comments section after the article first went up on the ECHO website, a Green party member commented: “The lad’s obviously an idiot and to be honest I wouldn’t have let him anywhere near the campaign with a grid like that.”
On the same day as my ‘scandal’, page fifteen the paper bemoaned the negative representation of Scouse women that my ‘sexist’ image aimed to parody.
First, there was a sense of shame and embarrassment, after all my grandparents read the ECHO, followed by annoyance, anger and, finally, clarity. My embarrassment was from not being able to respond – rather than my opinion itself.
Fighting a losing battle, I deactivated my account and – listening to the ensuing silence – waited for the inevitable. Two days later, I was denounced and diminished by the party that I had donated my time to help and suspended from a separate paid role, all for making it into the ‘news’. I no longer have any affiliation with the Greens, and considering the separate organisation has links to the council I suspect, also my job.
Besides the gun photo, there was the cartoon image that the internet decried as sexist. Despite being an obvious caricature of a giant Scouse woman destroying a city, in stereotypical Scouse girl attire, the image in question was accused of being an “upskirt” image, the kind that creeps take of real women and post on the internet. Yet when dealing with a cartoon giant Scouse woman wearing a skirt, destroying a city, everyone on the ground has that vantage point, which is – of course – precisely the point of the cartoon. Are they all sexists for looking up in fear?
It would seem that the establishment can use sex whenever it sees fit, while us ‘normals’ are condemned as sexists even for the slightest sex commentary. Katy Perry’s tits can be thrust on billboard after billboard, Calvin Klein can shove thinly veiled vagina after thinly veiled vagina in our faces, and never is a cry of sexism is heard. Yet an ordinary guy like me puts up a cartoon and he’s a sexist. “Clearly an idiot.”
I’m sorry but ‘satirical sexism,’ as the councillor called it, doesn’t mean anything. Sexism is a discriminatory practice, while satire is what holds those practices to account. Satire is often graphic and polarising at its best. To quote co-founder of satirical monthly magazine Spy, Graydon Carter: “Satire works best when it hews the line between the outlandish and the possible.”
Sometimes at GVmag, we may have overstep the line, but does that mean we should stop trying? Further, does being a person who publicly likes irony, a person that enjoys art which flirts with our conceptions of things, mean that I should be disqualified from participation in my community’s political system?
So they vilify an individual and appeal to liberal guilt and Scouse nationalism in one clumsy fell swoop.
The original artist, Hairy Bastard said: “The ‘panty shot’ is a regular feature in anime, however almost always depicts strong, heroic, independent females who don’t give a shit what anyone else thinks. So is the artwork sexist? Is it anti-liverpool? I personally regret that I should have taken it further and made it more shocking but as the cover to a publication I played it safe and consequently this is easily my least offensive piece of work. I could go on about the standard low-angle ‘power pose’ or refer to artists like Yuji Shiozaki, Shoji Sato or Gil Elvgren, but the truth is this is politically fuelled bashing leading up to the election, not about the art.”
While the author of the poetry several of the images accompanied, Miss Foxy Sweet Shop said: “I actually find it incredibly empowering to see my femininity, my dreams and my desires interpreted in such a way.” There was a time when most young people, indeed most people, were allowed to experiment with ideas via imagery and it didn’t make them a freak or a pariah. Is that time really over? You would think that I had drawn an image of Muhammad.
As an International Relations graduate, my curiosity of the world extends beyond the classroom, and beyond the mahogany panelled corridors of Liverpool’s Council Chambers. Perhaps the Green Party should analyse its own actions with a wider thrust as well. Additionally, how can a Labour politician criticise the glamorisation of guns when during their previous government they led the country into two wars? Not to mention how that same Labour administration oversaw the export of £1,225 worth of bombs, grenades, ammunitions and mines to Cambodia in 1999.
A minor figure in comparison to British arms exports for the ten-year period under New Labour, where the UK exported £45 billion worth of arms around the world. Not only that, arms exports are heavily subsidised by taxpayers despite accounting for less than 0.2 percent of UK jobs… And it’s a silly image on my twitter that makes me stupid and naïve?
Councillor Nick Small personally took time out of his busy schedule to use me as a punchbag: “These images are offensive and anti-Liverpool.” As Cabinet Member for Employment & Skills he’s overseen an increase in the use of zero-hour contracts across the city. Liverpool City Council currently employs 442 workers on zero-hours contracts – around 8% of the entire workforce. While estimates for the city, as a whole, range from 3,500 and 6,000; with women making up a bigger proportion of those that are reportedly working on zero-hours contracts, shouldn’t our feminist councillors be focused on this issue instead?
A recent report by the Centre for Cities measuring how well Britain’s cities had adapted to the new world ranked Liverpool 50th out of the 64 cities included. Taken from 1911 to 2013, this non-partisan study showed that our city has seen an overall jobs reduction of 10% in this period. And I’m anti-Liverpool? I’m not elected to reverse these current trends.
It’s an example of local politics at its worst, the hypocrisy is staggering. Labour is still championing the death rattles of a moribund paradigm. The gang up against me proves they must feel vulnerable at the very least. Removing context is the only way that people – who are fundamentally wrong – can ever win an argument. So they vilify an individual and appeal to liberal guilt and Scouse nationalism in one clumsy fell swoop.
As for demanding an apology, that’s in-line with the current trend of shame or offence being some sort of online commodity. Everyone feels like they’re owed an apology for something.
Personally, I revoke my Green membership – I thought the Greens were different, but if an organisation isn’t willing to back its members for comments taken out of context then it’s not an organisation I can get behind. If I don’t look like a typical Green, that because I’m not, but saw them as the only viable option for change in a corrupt political system and unjust economic one.
On seeing my apparent notoriety some friends turned up at my house with a bottle of Cava, a copy of the Echo and an empty picture frame. If this gets published, we may be able to break out the champagne, and go back to self-medicating instead of daring to be involved.