New Adventure

So, I’m 21 weeks pregnant.

What has been interesting so far has been the difference in advice that preggos get from British, Danish and American sources of information.

I get the Danish information at my medical appointments, British information online on the NHS website and from forums, and American information from the apps I’ve downloaded to my phone.

One would assume that as this is based on Science and all three countries are reasonably similar, that the advice for those in the family way would be the same.

Not quite.

The best book I read (and one that I recommend to anyone considering starting a family), is “Expecting Better” by Emily Oster. This is a text where an economist goes through the advice given to American pregnant women, examines the evidence for claims and presents the statistics. Some of the stuff we are told is based on practically nothing at all. The injunction against coffee, for example, might be a simple misunderstanding of cause and effect. (Women who cannot stand coffee in the first trimester tend to have better outcomes than women who don’t find its bitterness completely disgusting. So, was it the caffeine that harmed the foetus or was the pregnancy not viable which led to less morning sickness?)

This is how you can have regional variations. A lot of what we are told to Never Ever do is based on cultural standards and prejudices, rather than hard science.

One example: in Britain and the US, we are told to stay away from pâté. This is for two reasons:

  1. Liver pâté has high levels of animal-based vitamin A, an overdose of which is harmful to foetuses
  2. It may contain listeria which is particularly bad if you are pregnant

In Denmark, where liver pâté is a way of life, “Du kan godt spise leverpostej”. They even go as far as to say it has low levels of vitamin A.

What about alcohol? In the US and Denmark, the answer is “hell no, even if you don’t plan on getting pregnant but are having unprotected sex, no no no”, whereas Britain, the advice is “not in the first trimester. Take it real easy in the second. One or two won’t hurt.”

In the UK, they offer whooping cough vaccinations to women at my stage of pregnancy. In the US, they offer it in the third trimester. In Denmark, my midwife had to look up what ‘kighoste’ even was, and looked like I was asking about getting a smallpox vaccine. (Though she did say “it’s not really a thing here but if you’re going back to the UK with the baby before it has the standard vaccines, maybe it’s an idea to talk to the doctor about getting the vaccine here”)

Gestational diabetes in the UK is screened for if:-

  • your body mass index (BMI) is above 30
  • you previously had a baby who weighed 4.5kg (10lbs) or more at birth
  • you had gestational diabetes in a previous pregnancy
  • one of your parents or siblings has diabetes
  • your family origins are south Asian, Chinese, African-Caribbean or Middle Eastern

In the US, if you

  • Had a previous pregnancy with gestational diabetes
  • Had a baby born weighing over 9 pounds.
  • Are overweight or obese.
  • Are more than 25 years old.
  • Have a family history of diabetes.
  • Are African American, Hispanic, American Indian, Alaska Native, Native Hawaiian, or Pacific Islander.
  • Are being treated for HIV

and in Denmark, if you

  • previously had gestational diabetes
  • have a family history of diabetes (type 1 and 2), in grandparents, parents, siblings or own children
  • had a BMI over 27 before pregnancy
  • had previous delivery of a large child (over 4.5 kg)
  • are diagnosed with polycystic ovary syndrome
  • are pregnant with multiples

The advice is similar but not identical. All this reminds me of the saying “The man with one watch always knows what time it is, the man with two watches is never completely sure.”

In some ways, it has helped me get through everything with less stress and guilt. Each government is trying their best to interpret what they know but for all their injunctions and pronouncements, they aren’t completely sure. This means if I inadvertently do something that is considered harmful in one territory, I can take the advice with a pinch of salt, and skip the guilt.

 

 

 

Where do you meet these people?

I have instituted a foreigner-bubble to protect me from the shit going on in the news. Fact is, I have enough on my plate with stuff that I cannot blog about.

Still, in terms of integration, things are going alright. Aarhus is way better than Fredericia in terms of opportunities to socialise and relax. I feel a bit more at home here than I did in Fredericia. At-homeness would peek in at the weekends when I went to the neighbour-baker and got some pastries. That was it though.

Some people have asked me how it was to integrate. What it was like to come here seven years ago and settle down. And I tell them about the high points and the low points. If they are Danish, they will make a comment on the low points. Where do I meet these people? How unlucky I was to meet such unkind people! How I must be focusing on a few outliers because they surely were not the norm.

But in Fredericia, it was about 50/50. Half of the time, the people I met were friendly and helpful and the other half, they would not have pissed on me were I on fire.

Of course, friendly kind people cannot imagine someone being so rude or so unwelcoming. It’s like when women talk about street harassment and regular men are incredulous and think she is exaggerating or making it up entirely.

What would be easy, now that things are fine, would be to gloss over the details and just focus on how good things are now. This would make my conversations less awkward. It would mean I wouldn’t have to defend myself against the implication that I did something to deserve it. But I don’t. I talk about it because this is a missing piece of the integration puzzle.

Every time the news or the politicians talk about the dirty foreigners who do not even speak Danish properly, they never talk to one of them to find out why. Why is easy: I tried to practice and people were hostile and so I limited my interactions to things I knew I could do. Having a conversation with me in Danish is possible but unpleasant because I had a difficult decision

Through Door One: I could have tried to socialise with Danish people I liked with my shitty Danish. But I liked them. I didn’t want to put them through it and I wanted them to enjoy my company.

Through Door Two: I could have tried to make more small talk with strangers to level up. But I was flipping a coin every time to see if they were total shits about my accent. I’m resilient but I’m not that resilient.

So I didn’t go through either door. Which meant that when I went to my union rep training last year all but about two people were total fucking pricks about my accent for the first three days. Let’s focus on the two, on the outliers: one was a foreigner and therefore easy going. The other was actually famous for some talent show and was just effortlessly cool and awesome. He talked to me like a human being. A few of them warmed up over the next few sessions but only because I had decided ‘fuck em’ and if they gave me any shit, I blocked them out. I brought a book for the coffee sessions in case they were ignoring me and I read chapters and chapters. I tried though, in the first 3 days. I broke down in tears after trying so hard.

Though, it’s not the ignoring that gets me. I am so used to it. Honestly, I have learned that the types of people who ignore people at their table who are nodding, giving eye contact and smiling because they assume that they don’t understand Danish because they heard a foreign accent usually have nothing of consequence to say. These people lack the critical thinking needed to realise I understand more than I can say and thusly lack the critical thinking necessary to contribute anything of note to the dialogue.

What gets me, is the vinegar face when they hear my accent. And the repeating back what I said with a singy-songy accent. And the discounting of ANYTHING I have to say unless a Dane repeats it.

So, why do so many foreigners like me have such bad accents? Well, it’s simple. A clear majority of people I have ever spoken more than transactional Danish with (as in “Can I have a sandwich?” “Where is the post office?”), are not able to listen without making me feel uncomfortable.

You want accentless-foreigners? You have to start talking to the ones with the thick accents in such a way that makes them want to keep talking.

Snak- a review

Last night, I went and saw Sanne Søndergaard perform her new show Snak at the comedy festival in Aarhus.

I really enjoyed myself. It was the first time I have seen stand-up in Danish and by the end of it, I don’t mind admitting I was exhausted!

She is really good. She has a good mix of silly jokes, toilet humour and biting political satire. There’s not much more you can ask for.

I find it really exciting to hear Danish voices talk about the state of feminism and anti-racism here. I feel a lot less of an outsider when insiders have come to the same conclusions.

If you like fun, and I am sure you do, you should try to get tickets to see her or download her show Mandehader.

We need humour to get through the next few years of this joker in charge again:

Pretty much…

Transcript for non-Danish speakers

“What happened Danes? What’s wrong? We thought you liked us or something. And then that happened in the election. It was bloody weird. The second biggest party… and how can it be the third biggest party is the one that gets to be prime minister? It’s bloody weird. It ought to have been the first biggest party… Oh bro, I just had a thought! Listen, bro. It’s going to be alright for Denmark. Stay calm, it’s going to be alright! Where we come from if some [..](didn’t get that word) comes into power, the Americans come and get rid of him. They say ‘you’re a [..] and get rid of him. So, soon the Americans are definitely coming to remove him. It’s going to be good. It’s okay, we can walk on the streets, whatever. I’m going out, bye!”

Danish Election ’15

Here are the results of the election of 2015 in Denmark.

1. Social democrats (26.3%)

2. DF: (Danish people’s party) (21.1%)

3. Venstre (Liberals) (19.5%)

Plus 6 other parties getting between 3 and 7% of the vote:- Red/green alliance, liberal alliance, the alternative, radicals, socialist people’s party and conservatives, in order from most popular to least.

Now, in Denmark, no one party is ever in a position to rule alone. They would need something like 50% of the popular vote to do so, as far as I can tell. They must make coalitions.

If you add up all the ‘red team’ parties and all the ‘blue team’ parties, blue team wins.

Now, looking at those results you would think “Fair enough, blue team wins, headed by DF obviously” but you would be wrong.

The DF don’t want to rule. They don’t want to rule because they know their policies actually can’t work and the second they get to try them out, it will become abundantly obvious and then they will never ever be voted for again. They are happy for Venstre, who came third to rule so they can sit at the back and boo.

Why did they come second?

If you want my opinion, and I’m assuming you do if you have read this far. If you want my opinion, it is because of the work all the other parties have done in promoting them.

I am not even joking. The DF’s election adverts had NOTHING of substance in them. Nothing. Their first slogan was ‘trust and peace of mind’, their second was ‘you know what we stand for’.

Meanwhile, almost every other fricking party had something about the immigrants ruining everything. The Social Democrats had something about how they wanted to reduce crime, specifically burglary. Despite this being an overwhelmingly Danish crime, they still managed to blame the immigrants in the 50 or so words on their billboard.

The tactic must have been ‘let’s beat the DF at their own game, xenophobia works, let’s do it!’ but it’s the same thing that happens when I see a Burger King advert: I want to go get a McDonalds. They advertised the joys of xenophobia perfectly and people responded by voting for the market leaders in xenophobia.

Meanwhile, after what the red team did to the teachers during the lockout, there were a lot of red team voters who had to find red team parties that did not screw them over. I assume a lot of the red team vote was split by the decidedly un-red team policies the incumbents had been enacting.

Sidebar: Have you noticed that these parties quite cheerfully expend all their airtime on talking about how to tame Johnny Foreigner but spend all their power on dismantling the welfare state?

What I think should have happened, again, not even joking, is that the Social Democrats should have joined up with the DF and one other party and led a new ‘orange’ coalition.

The DF are socialist, the DF blame foreigners and seek easy answers to difficult questions. I am struggling to see the difference with the current SD.

I am pretty much done with Danish politics now.

Election Season: Godwin’s Law Edition

This is an advert from the centre-right in Denmark.

K-kampagne mod naziislamisme i modvind (- Netavisen Pio) 

So, someone thought this would be a great idea to put on billboards. Let’s look at how they have written this poster. Instead of the long, stupid word “Naziislamisme” which I believe they stupidly coined just now, they have taken a line for each part of the word.

Stop Nazi. Okay so far. Let’s stop those Nazis. Those dicks. Going around being fuckheads to Jews and brown people (not to mention: trade unionists, gays, homeless people, political opponents). Stop them for SURE. How are we going to stop them? By persuading them that racism is bad? By banning their meetings? By keeping them away from certain roles? Wait. What do you mean that it’s legal to be a Nazi in Denmark and have any job you want, including guarding the queen? Oh well, I guess we’ll get around to stopping them any day soon.

Let’s read on. Islam. What. How did we get from there to here? What’s the next bit? Did they just want to put Nazi next to Islam?

Isme. Stop Nazi! Islamisme! Stop! Nazi Islam. Isme?? Stop, Nazi. Islamisme. Stop, Nazi. Islam. Isme?

How will we stop Naziislamism when we cannot even stop Nazism? Nazism! Everyone knows the Nazis were dicks with no redeeming qualities. And yet, plenty of people sign up to it. And they are allowed to do it. It is their right in Denmark. What methods will we use to stop Naziislamism. Besides. What is Naziislamism? I don’t get it.

  • Nazi = a National Socialist ➜ Nazism = National Socialism
  • Nationalism = a feeling of patriotism that extends to feeling superior to other countries
  • Socialism = a political and economic theory of social organization that advocates that the means of production, distribution, and exchange should be owned or regulated by the community as a whole
  • Islam = derived from a word basically meaning ‘peace’. A religion.
  • Islamism = any political application of the Islamic religion

Islam is neither socialist nor conservative politically. Islamism, if anything, is pretty conservative.

Islam is definitely not nationalistic. Islamism is probably not nationalistic. Maybe if you count all the countries run along Islamic lines as one ‘nation’. Maybe.

The slogan does not work on these levels. You could maybe get it to work by saying some Islamists are fascists. Nazism is strongly associated with this authoritarian/nationalistic form of government. While no Islamists are Nazis, some Islamists are reminiscent of fascists. So, then why doesn’t the poster say:-

STOP FASC ISLAM ISME

? Well because… Nazis are worse than Fascists? Nazi looks better on the poster? Nazis are well known shitheads but no one’s sure what the fascists did apart from bossing people around? Fasc doesn’t mean anything on its own? The word is ‘Islamofascists’, it already exists and it has been criticised as being simplistic, historically inaccurate and “a familiar juxtaposition that eliminates exotic complexity and confusion”? Who knows.

Islamists are a big group. They’re not a united bloc by any means.

  • You have your countries run on Islamic and democratic lines like Tunisia and Pakistan etc.
  • You have your Islamist terror groups like Hezbollah and Hamas who use both force and democracy.
  • Then you have your Islamists who use force and no democracy, like our sworn enemies IS and our dear allies the Saudi regime.

Big range. But that’s not what the poster is commenting on. It’s just a way of playing on the latent Islamophobia in the Danish population. It’s just a way of cashing in on how a lot of ignorant people think that Islam is the next Nazism. And it will have three knock on effects:-

  1. Islamophobic people will get at least 20% more Islamophobic (by my estimation)
  2. Muslim people who identify as Islamists will feel pissed off to be conflated with Nazis
  3. Muslim people who do not even identify as Islamists may feel similarly put out

I took a look at the Conservative People’s Party’s manifesto promise on this made-up word they are going to stop. “We see today an outbreak of totalitarian antisemitism in the Arabic world and in extreme Islamist groups in the west. An antisemitism with clear links to previous Nazism and fascism. Both in Paris and Copenhagen, the Jewish community was an independent target for Islamic terrorism. Naziislamism exists too in Denmark, where extreme preachers directly encourage or incite young people, often from gang areas or poor housing estates, to violence, murder and participation in weaponed conflict. Is this fair? No, right? So stop it. With us.”

“Clear links” is over-selling it a bit. Just because two groups of fuckheads kill Jewish people, doesn’t mean they are aligned in any other way. ‘The semites’ are a group that includes Arabs as well as Jews, after all. These governments and terror cells the Conservatives reference aren’t anti-semitic, they are anti-zionist.

Nazis were pretty zionist, when it suited them. There is no clear link between any Islamism and Nazism, except for the use of violence against one particular group.

And while we are at drawing links, young people from gang areas and poor housing estates are incited into violence, murder and participation in armed conflict by more than extreme preachers. The Hell’s Angels do it. The Neo-nazis do it. Hell, the Danish military does it. We don’t get our undies in a bunch about any of these groups.

Notice, no actual solutions to the problem of Naziislamism. Just general disapproval that it is going on. Whatever it is. In conclusion, this is a shit poster and I hope they read the many, varied criticisms coming their way over the next few weeks. It is lazy, it is jingoistic and it is empty propaganda. I expected better from this party. I had got used to Venstre being as  lazy as the Danish People’s Party. I did not expect the Conservatives to follow suit.

Election Season

For some reason both the UK and Denmark are having their elections at around about the same time. This means that whether I read the news in Danish or English, I have to read about immigration.

What else are mainstream politicians going to talk about during an election? They cannot talk about making large multinationals pay their way, they can’t talk about reversing the trend of reducing public services so state debt is effectively transferred into the credit card balances of citizens, they can’t talk about changing the structure of major institutions because ‘the markets’ will stop them. They cannot talk about anything substantive. They have to pick on special groups to get people nice and distracted.

So what’s left? Education, crime, immigration.

Education is an easy target because no one is 100% satisfied with either their school days or what their kid is learning in class. It is ridiculously easy to mobilise a population to resent teachers.

Crime is even easier because criminals are outlaws by definition. They broke the rules. Who cares what happens next?

Immigration is a favourite because making people suspicious of outsiders is like shooting fish in a barrel.

All the parties say slight variations of the same thing. (This is partly because this what the electorate ‘wants’ and partly because they have not got the authority to suggest bigger changes because the IMF and WTO have ways of shutting that shit down.)

Let’s look at the current left wing party adverts in Denmark.

“40 000 new jobs in 4 years and we need to continue” “Historically short waiting lists and we need to continue” “Strict asylum rules and more demands on immigrants” “If you come to Denmark, you have to work”

I think what gets to me the most is the way the target audience is not going figure out they are being manipulated.

There is no possible justification for strict asylum rules outside of ‘vindictiveness’. You just need ‘rules’. And the rule should be ‘people who need asylum should get it’ and that is because Denmark signed treaties saying they would offer asylum to people who need it. Making the rules ‘strict’ implies that people who did not need asylum were getting it. I don’t think that’s the case at all. If there are more refugees it is because there are more conflicts and similar disasters. Making rules ‘strict’ fails the people who need somewhere to live because otherwise they will die.

Similarly, there is something about the word ‘krav’ that winds me up. Demands. As in a point system. As in an arbitrary set of hoops to jump through. Why would ‘more’ be an election promise? Surely the demands currently in operation are sufficient. What extra ones could they bring in at this stage? And how could ‘more demands’ be anything else than punitive?

How DARE immigrants come here, work a certain number of hours, get to a certain prescribed level in Danish, spend a prescribed number of hours volunteering, live in a certain sized home, for a certain length of rental contract, give a large security deposit to the state and prevent their Danish partner from receiving state assistance. Who do they think they are? We need more demands on them to show them what is what.

“If you come to Denmark, you have to work” is another empty election promise. Obviously. That has been true for a long time. The fine print on their website claims that it’s not just the ‘being able to support yourself’ part that is important, but how you get to learn Danish through having a job in Denmark.

Unless, of course, you are a spouse of a luksus immigrant. Then, whatever, who cares. Start a food blog.

Unless, of course, you are the spouse of a Dane who can support you or you work internationally. Then keep on keeping on, Stephen Kinnock.

All this poster does is make Danish people think that immigrants are NOT working.  And what sort of monster wants to create that impression? And why? Looking at the statistics, which are a matter of public record, the biggest group of officially unemployed foreigners (as in, not students or stay at home spouses or retired), are Asians and the next biggest group is Europeans.

Unemployment of working age Asians in Denmark is around 5 to 6%. (I do wonder how much of the Asian unemployment rate is due to the Green Card shit show.) Non-Danish European unemployment in Denmark is less than 2% of the population of Europeans. Danish unemployment in Denmark is just over 3% of Danes of working age.

If you slice it a different way and just look at how the numbers of unemployed people compare:-

79% of unemployed people in Denmark come from Denmark and around 6% come from elsewhere in Europe and 7% from Asia.

So, the biggest group by number of unemployed… are Danish people.

Which brings me neatly to the other two adverts. 40 000 new jobs in Denmark. Shorter waiting times. Both of these things are intimately related to why immigration is a good thing. You got shorter waiting times because of all those foreign doctors and nurses (not depicted in the election poster). You got some of those new jobs because of foreign firms starting up, investing or expanding.

They want it both ways. We are free loading jerks who need to be punished on one hand but our contribution to the success of the country is waved away.

They could have been brave. They could have smacked down the right’s rhetoric about immigrants easily, a hundred times over. Denmark is a better place to be because of the immigrants who live here. Immigration has improved Denmark. There is proof. Instead they stole the right’s ideas and ran with them.

Easier to sow distrust and righteous indignation.

Let’s look at some crowdsourced adverts in the UK to raise the tone of the ‘debate’ (though how it can be called a debate when all the parties agree with the centre-right, I don’t know) around immigration over there. While the last thing we need is a campaign to remind voters that good immigrants exist, I think the idea that immigrants do give back and immigrants do contribute is critical.

Not that mainstream parties have any interest in spreading that particular message. Why make like complicated for yourself? Why not play the shell game, so while voters are distracted by the Other, they don’t see what is really going on.

So, who ever wins this election, the immigrants are definitely going to lose.

Who is leaving all the dog crap on the street?

I have been a dog owner for about six months now and I have managed to collect all her poop on walks. I have been able to do this because I take bags out with me, I watch what she’s doing when she pulls over and I just deal with it when it comes out.

Collecting poop in a little bag and throwing it away: not rocket science.

And yet, so many people in Denmark can’t figure it out.

There is one group of dog owner that just lets their dog shit on grass verges. It’s ‘natural’, you see. There is poop in nature. Grass is nature. Combine the two: extra nature. What is irrelevant is that people might want to walk on grass verges, maybe even have their children walk around there. If they wanted to walk in a poo free environment, they should have stuck to the pavements.

Another group of dog owner lets their dog shit wherever it pleases. I have left the house to find poop on my doorstep. This has happened in more than one house here. I am not taking it personally, I have seen it on other doorsteps too. Some dogs get to poop in other people’s gardens. In playgrounds. Pavements.

And yet another group of dog owner actually stoop over, pick up the poo in a bag, tie the bag and then.. throw the bag into a hedge. This last step is baffling. If you wanted the poop to continue to pollute the environment, why go to all the trouble to pick it up? Just leave it, guys. Just leave it.

I have always wondered. Who are these people leaving this crap lying around? Are they all people who just forgot to bring bags because their dog never poops on walks and then it does? Are they people with severe arthritis who lack the physical ability to collect the leavings? Are they daydreaming and just don’t notice their dog has answered the call of nature? Do they mistake it for a wee? Are they all foreigners who simply do not understand that THIS IS DENMARK and IN DENMARK we clean up after our dogs? I have my suspicions of who these people are and what they are about.

Today, I was walking with my students back from the Queen’s birthday parade and I saw a dog crapping on a bit of grass next to a playing field. I watched the owner watch her dog shit. I watched the owner walk away.

I caught up to her and pressed a brand new poop bag into her hand. She took it and then threw it to the ground without a word.

Having met one of these elusive misanthropes, I can confirm she is everything I expected. She was white, Danish, older, looked reasonably well off and had no answer for me about why she was not going to take responsibility for her dog.

In a way, it reminds me of a video of a French person demonstrating that Danish people do not hold doors open for the person after them. He confronts a couple of them “Why did you let the door slam on me?”

“I didn’t see you,” they lie unconvincingly.

They did see him. They just did not give a fuck about him. I’ve heard it explained as “Danes see each other as family and holding a door open is just a little too courtly” except when I checked with a couple of Danish people “would you hold a door open for a family member?” they all said “obviously”. It is the opposite, they don’t see the need because the person is not family. As in, nothing to them, so who cares what happens to them?

These dog owners let their dog shit without cleaning it up because they do not see the need to do anything for anyone else.  Who cares what happens to the poop? Who cares who steps in it or which kid swallows it? Those people are not important.

Denmark isn’t a community, it’s a collection of solipsists.

International Women’s Day

Everyone thinks Scandinavia has equality taped. Everyone thinks that because women are not excluded from the job market in Denmark, then feminism must have achieved all its aims and everyone can stand down.

We could talk about pay and violence, and the progress still to be made in Denmark. There is plenty of mileage in those topics, believe.

But I’d like to concentrate on this news story:- Parents looking to shrink their ‘tall’ daughters.

When healthy human beings need to be operated on or medicated in childhood to keep them from displaying traits from the ‘wrong’ set of humans there is something badly wrong and equality has not been achieved.

Healthy boys who are made to be taller and healthy girls who are made to be shorter, in order to fit in with society’s ideals around masculinity and femininity, are being betrayed by their community.

Sensationalisation

Before the shootings in Paris, I had commented that the Danish media was spending a lot of bandwidth talking about Islam creating an us-and-them mentality. After the shootings, the story was simple enough for the media to have on repeat, so the message could be properly disseminated. Vice.com reported on concerns that political forces were hijacking the event for their own devices, at the expense of community cohesion.

Every time a politician tries to make political capital on anything, there is always an equal and opposite reaction. For every voter they recruit with talk of their economic or social policy, they turn off others. They accept that risk. That risk is acceptable: it’s how free speech works.

Every time a politician tries to drive a wedge between ‘our values’ and the ‘other’, their aim is to recruit  voters but they are putting others off. This sort of politicking makes the marginalised feel more so. Usually, the marginalised stay passive and so politicians have got into the habit of doing it. You see it in the UK, when the Conservative Party propose stopping national unemployment insurance pay outs to the obese. And of course, we saw a lot of it after the shootings in Paris. “Why don’t moderate Muslims decry these attacks?” “Muslims are solely responsible for stopping this”. For every Dane that nodded their ignorant little head about the sentiment; many were irritated, infuriated, provoked.

And it’s just free speech. It’s just how free speech works. Those who work in politics are free to make disenfranchised people feel like shit, if it gains them a vote down the line. You won’t find any argument on that point here.

But.

Shouldn’t they be a bit more nuanced? Shouldn’t they make the effort to tell the long story? Shouldn’t they look at the wider picture a bit more? And make it a bit more thoughtful?

They do it because it works and they do it because we are lazy. The voters cannot be bothered to sit down and absorb a complex argument, so politicians are careful to craft the best soundbite to save everyone the effort. Instead of politicians having an actual debate on the nature of power, the role of conflict in the modern world, the causes of violence across the globe; we just get regurgitated pap. “Free speech should never be threatened!” “Their values are not our values!”

“For every subtle and complicated question, there is a perfectly simple and straightforward answer, which is wrong.”
H.L. Mencken

In fact, the message was simple enough that politicians and others who work in politics (for example, dictators), who have no respect for free speech could show up and pretend that they did for a day. It was easy for them because no one was having a discussion, they were just pronouncing shibboleths.

And, honestly, if someone unstable does become so incensed about any given poltician’s message that they become violent, this is not a reason to make the discussion more nuanced. For one, you cannot change your behaviour just because violent people do not like it. For another, their crimes are great for electioneering.

The reason to use free speech to make intelligent, moderate, well-informed pronouncements is for its own sake. Which is why it is not happening.

And thence to the role of the media.

Here is a video is from 2009 about a school shooting in Germany and its wall-to-wall coverage in the international media.

Forensic psychologists have pin-pointed things that can make copy cat mass murder more likely. These things include blanket coverage, sensationalised reports, making the shooter appear to be an anti-hero, focusing on the body count.

The media has responsible standards for reporting on suicide. The media mostly follows this, though not in the case of high profile suicides like Robin Williams. This is because using these guidelines saves lives.

By reporting on “Charlie Hebdo” (and the siege in the Jewish supermarket) in a sensational, blanket way, they made copy-cat killings more likely. They did not emphasise the troubled, disturbed lives of the murderers but made them out to be some breed of freedom fighter, allied to a terrorist cell. Compare/contrast with the reports on Breivik’s mental state and less than flattering comments on his character.

Though, it is not like the media cannot report on mass killings in a responsible way. The Chapel Hill suspect was dismissed as a mentally ill anomaly almost immediately and the crimes he is accused of were reported much less sensationally and were buried under the news cycle very quickly.

But what incentive does the media have to tone down the coverage of mass murder when it is clearly what the public want to consume? Nothing much happened between the Copenhagen shootings suspect being killed by police and his name being released but there was wall-to-wall coverage anyway. In this time online, many new stories were written because each click means revenue and the public are ready and willing to click. It is what the public want and so it is what they get.

His name has been released and the only detail about him that has come out is that he was active in illegal gangs. Straight off the bat, he is an anti-hero. The police have not confirmed this was a terrorist attack, just that they are investigating if it was. The Danish media are calling it terrorism anyway. This rolling coverage cements the same old us-and-them attitude. But who is ‘us’ and who is ‘them’?

Responsible reporting of this mass murder could save lives. But it is an election year, people don’t want to buy newspapers anymore and the public are simply not interested. They want pictures of bullet holes, they want to feel a frisson, they want a simple bedtime story. They don’t give a shit about the dead or their families, they just like to rubber neck and shudder.

And for all the Mr and Mrs Denmarks who are polarised against The Muslim Threat by this coverage; young troubled men are also being polarised against The West.