Thursday 13 May 2010

Hey, geeks: NO.

Can I just say, for the record, entirely untargeted at anyone I know and with deep love for the concept and praxis of slash fiction in all its forms:

I find the sudden internet squeefulness over Clegg/Cameron slash- and related fic at best banal, and at worst wilfully and dangerously resistant to the actual political analysis that's needed here.

The mainstream press has been going at it too, of course. Yesterday's Evening Standard headline, 'A Very Civil Partnership,' did not make anything about what has just happened to this country at all better, although it did make me giggle on the tube. It's as if the return of the centre-right and all their mad Tory friends to power was just a bit naughty, just a cheeky intra-elitist 'Eton fag' romance, a little bit saucy in a PG Woodhouse sort of way - rather than, say, terrifying and depressing.

I really, really hesitate to say this. But there are some times, some very rare, very sad times when constructing juicy stories about real or imagined homosexual angst between two powerful and/or fictional men IS NOT THE ANSWER. Now is one of those times. Because actually, it's the people, not each other, that these men are quite possibly about to screw.

I also suspect that the implication - at least where it concerns the popular press - is that a coalition is in someway not masculine enough, not Daddy enough for the proper thrustingly heterowonderful British way of doing things. Coalitions are unmanly, and unmanly = OMG gay.


  1. Mike from Notts13 May 2010 at 17:44

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  2. So you have nothing to say about the unbridled homophobic nature of the press describing them as gay and their press conference as a gay civil partnership, just because they are two men who work closely together?

    Oh, they're not Labour, so it's okay to be homophobic towards them.

  3. I'm not sure all of that *is* homophobic, to be honest. I think it's meant to be just a bit cheeky.

    If there are meant to be sinister overtones, I hadn't picked up on that - maybe that's just me, but I don't automatically think of 'gay' as 'suspicious'. I'd venture that a majority of British people don't, actually, which rather bespeaks at least one cultural victory after 13 years of Labour.

  4. Oh sheesh. It's harmless. There'll be plenty of time for the media and serious newspapers to chew over policy and its impact on everyone in the months and years ahead. But what happened yesterday was remarkable, and quite unprecedented in British politics.

    Laurie: do you really see things to get angry about wherever you look? How exactly are these two men going to "screw the people"? By forming a stable government when no other option existed? The shame of it, eh? Oh, and by the way: the centre-right aren't 'terrifying'. They aren't terrifying at all. As I opined yesterday, it appears you want to live in a one party state. How very enlightened...

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  6. Yup, I reckon comment moderation is going back on.

  7. "It also occupies some of the same narrative space as the cheeky, cuddly Conservative coalition line that the Murdoch and Lebvedev presses are trying to peddle."

    I'm not at all convinced by your suggestion that the Murdoch papers and the Lebvedev papers are peddling anything like the same line. I notice you also don't mention the Guardian's actual honest-to-goodness Clameron (Cleggeron?) slash of yesterday. Or the Telegraph's stories likening the rose garden press meeting to a summer wedding, or the front cover of today's Express, etc etc.

    It might be worth distinguishing between internet slash writers doing what they already do, and professional media outlets apparently turning into slash writers overnight. Because those are two very different phenomena.

    Then again, I usually think pr0n *is* the answer to, well, most things. But then, I'm also not sad that Labour lost. So I'm biased on both points.

    I do hope Labour being out of power doesn't mean we're going to return to the days of mud-slinging between various left-wing and progressive groups/individuals. At least for the last 13 years, we were able to rage about a common enemy!

  8. @friend-of-tofu: it's already happening. In all the recriminations and sour grapes, you can actually see just why a split on the centre-left happened in the first place. I know I, and I'm certainly on the centre-left, have always steered well clear of Labour because I cannot stand the tribalism of it all, and loathe the idea that everyone em masse has to think or do the same. But then, in complaining about it, I'm just feeding the recriminations really.

    And the thing is: the Tories haven't done ANYTHING yet. It's the left who seem to be laying the ground for some sort of cultural civil war; not the other way around.

  9. I think for some folks, laughing about the sudden luvvies-style making-up that Clegg and Cameron have performed for the public eye, is a way of insulating against the prospect of what a Tory government will do (even if it is leavened slightly by the Lib Dem presence).


    You don't think it's a sign of things to come that the Home Secretary is anti-abortion, and that there is no longer a separate Minister for Women but the role is a second job for that same anti-abortion Home Secretary? That in itself ought to ring alarm bells about how this government will treat those who do not conform to wealthy white male hegemony. There's plenty of other warning signs in the rest of the Tory cabinet appointments.

    The policy plan for the new regime has been described as "the best of the Liberal Democrats' combined with the bulk of the Tories'". Again, do you not think that it's reasonable to be extremely suspicious of what that means for the marginalised members of society? That in fact the Tories are still who they always were?

  10. Are the Lib Dems keeping a full shadow cabinet as they send members to join the Tories'?

  11. Hi Penny

    I think of the inappropriate public sexualisation of people as being something done (usually to women) as a mechanism to undermine them and their credibility, and what they are actually trying to achieve.

    Make of that what you will, but I think I can see what Anonymous #1 was kind of getting at. As a mechanism or tactic, it does imply an underlying homophobia, in the same way as it implies an underlying misogyny when it is done to women. And of course there is another layer, in that, culturally, treating men in ways that are mostly reserved for women is not generally intended or understood as a compliment.

    (I would make a distinction however between fiction and supposed political commentary in newspapers - the former being a totally different kettle of fish, and not unacceptable per se, as it creates its own space, rather than violating that inhabited by the persons concerned).

  12. @Anonymous: good question! I would assume not, but we'll have to see.

    @SnowdropExplodes: no, not really. Do I agree with Theresa May on abortion? Hell no. Do I think she'll do anything about it? Of course she won't. A point being missed in all this is the coalition is hugely in Cameron's interests, in order to show that his party has changed - and that means accepting and embracing all the social changes in this country. Cameron didn't win a majority because too many people still think, as you do, it's the same old Tories: coalition enables him to do all sorts of things the Tory right would otherwise have prevented.

    Your quote was from William Hague, who played politics in order to reassure his base. Politicians do that all the time. But the Lib Dems will have nothing to do with anything which is socially reactionary in any way, and in order to govern, the Tories will have to accept that.

    There is in all this far, far too much panic and fear of some Tory-led apocalypse. Let me take you back to November 2004, when the ghastly Bush won a second term as President. "He'll overturn Roe v Wade!", everyone cried; but did he? I went around reassuring friends of mine that no, of course he wouldn't; because actually, abortion is such a totem for the (not) Christian (not) right that it suits the Republicans now and forever never to overturn it, in order to blame the "liberal elite" for anything and everything. And incidentally: did you know that most US states have more liberal abortion laws than we do, and in Canada, there is no limit in terms of weeks at all? Most of the debate revolves around "partial birth abortion": not abortion as we understand it here.

    Finally, on marginalised members of society: why was it only the Lib Dems proposing a raise in income tax threshold to £10,000? What was Labour's proposal? Why did Labour abolish the 10p income tax rate? Why is our tax system so regressive and unfair after 13 years of Labour government? Why did both Blair and Brown more or less legislate by Daily Mail? Why were Labour already clamping down on incapacity benefit claimants, and coming up with "tests" leading to those with horrendous long term conditions being denied it? Why was the language of Gordon Brown, never mind David Cameron, so pejorative on anything to do with immigration? And why, under a Labour government, were CHILD IMMIGRANTS IMPRISONED? Can anyone on here even get their heads around that?

    Four legs good, two legs bad? More like two legs good, four legs better when it came to New Labour. We haven't just lived through 13 years of socialist, liberal utopia; we're not about to live through some postmodern nightmare. Life just isn't that simple.

  13. Sorry about my post at 22.10, my 14 year old brother hopped onto my PC. He hates long words and likes offending people. Someday he'll actually achieve something himself and stop being mindlessly resentful of his intellectual betters.

  14. Sounds to me like less of a mandate and more of a man-date!
    *cue laugh track*

  15. The mistake we made with Thatcher was to highlight how much of a torn-faced witch she was - which was precisely her appeal to many people! The same mistake was made with Dubya - people actually liked the fact that he was gaffe prone and not the sharpest tool in the box.

    The question is: will the weird, cylon-like appearance of these two men standing next to each other become a part of their appeal to voters? I'm not sure, but it's possible. And if it is, then you're right - it would be madness to try and play on it the way we did with Thatcher and Bush.

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  18. Oh no my toy has gone. Shit i'll have to make some semi-intellectual comment about some silly thing that has happened in the world to earn it back. Oh woe is me. Go on give us a smile.

  19. That last paragraph does pretty much perfectly sum up the situation. Well put.

  20. Why is our tax system so regressive and unfair after 13 years of Labour government?

    Because New Labour adopted Tory taxation and spending policies in order to be elected, and it turned out, because they actually believed in them.



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