If you visit one of the plentiful Adult Entertainment websites around the Internet, you may find yourself looking at dozens of small screens providing a preview of the delights on the other side of the link beneath them. Now I understand that people don’t visit Adult Entertainment websites all the time, so to provide a clue to their layout, here’s some clips.

Oh sorry, that appears to be the Daily Mail. Whoops. Slap my *innocent face*, how could I make that mistake?

There’s been an ongoing Puritan streak through 2013 in the UK, something I’ve blogged about before in similar circumstances to where we are this week. The Independent newspaper has slumped around the “dark web” to pour yet more ‘evidence’ against the safety of the Internet in general and David Cameron maintains that the battle between Google and the Government can only go in one way.

The oh-so-moral Daily Mail has preached about its “success” in pushing David Cameron to stick an pornography opt-in for each and every ISP in the land. And we all say, “Oh for the love of the 21st Century….”

Right at the core of this argument is misunderstanding, a confusion of what is meant by “porn”. Feminists arguing against Page 3, child protection campaigners and tabloid hacks have all been squeezed and squashed and thrust together to make a single clusterfruitcake of chaos. It’s not a coherent argument to say “ALL PORN IS BAD”, nor “WON’T SOMEBODY THINK OF THE CHILDREN”. Neither is it a moral victory to block porn in the UK at the same time as championing the breasts, legs, buttocks and stomachs of every A- B- C- D- E- F- G- H- I- J- K- L- M- N- O- P- Q- R- S- T- U- V- W- X- Y and Z- list celebrity woman who dares walk out  of home, work or nursery with(out) make-up. The very last breaths of a dying mainstream media stinks of puritanical hysteria, and such a combination of contradictory stances can only come from a source confused about the target of its protests.

I’m not here to demand freedom for everyone to access anything they want. It’s sensible for companies to restrict what can be accessed through free wi-fi such as The Cloud or through public libraries, etc. Parents of young children are completely within their rights to restrict or reduce Internet access on their own terms. Of course material which goes beyond the definition of extreme into criminal harm or abuse or violence must be stopped; but that’s what existing computer misuse laws exist to catch.

Crowing about blocking access to porn is the most backwards of all regressive steps, and Lord above knows how many strides into antiquity this country takes with each passing year. It’s bad enough living in a 19th century state with regards to drug law, attitudes to sexuality/gender politics and electoral administration/democracy, without having to add private use of personal computers to the list. I remember that crass and ignorant maxim – “If we change our way of life, the terrorists have won” – and now wonder whether every Cabinet Minister chose to run with it as a general daily slogan. This isn’t just “Yes Minister” levels of administrative hell, this is “The Day Today” gone feral.

What exactly is the “porn” which scares the Daily Mail so much? Do they appreciate the small percentage of extreme material which exists amongst the thousands of fuzzy, out-of-focus, barely entertaining amateur material uploaded to XTube every day? Have they checked out PornHub to audit an accurate ratio of 30-second wanking clips to subscription site previews? Is this the end of Cam4 as we know it?

As with drink, drug and sexuality policy, this country needs a grown up discussion on pornography. It’s beyond pathetic to live in a 21st Century democracy on the eve of the Prime Minister announcing the curtailing of personal freedom and choice on the back of a blind, quasi-religious freakout. The entire issue has been conflated and confused into a breathless crusade against sex, ignoring genuine problems (female body issues, much ignored male body issues, sex worker health and safety) for the sake of a quick thrill at the dispatch box. It’s bad enough living in a state where the ‘great sins’ are considered fair game in the race to the panic button, I’m not sure exactly how we can show our faces if the right to watch sex on a screen is robbed by here today gone tomorrow politicians.

I don’t care about “Won’t somebody think of the children?” I’m bothered by  “Won’t somebody think of the adults?!”

Stand Up and be Silenced

I have great difficulty in accepting the need to continue with “Gay Pride” marches, the “equality lobby” equivalent of the English Defence League wanting to keep England sealed in a 1945 or 1966 bubble. If the homosexual rights “community” want to maintain the stereotype of all gay men being Kenny Everett lookalikes listening to high-NRG pop, fine, go ahead. Because “gay rights” and “Gay Pride” don’t tally. One drags down the other. It’s little wonder homophobia exists in every field from politics to sport: I don’t see the Notting Hill Carnival asking black people to only dress as previous generations would have done in the 1950s, why do Pride marches perpetuate outdated images of homosexuality?

Clare Balding, the BBC sports reporter who complained to the Press Complaints Commission over being called ‘a fat dyke on a bike’ and Conservative blogger Iain Dale, prove that the gay equalities agenda has done its work without resorting to outdated or overboard screaming from rooftops. Balding does not feel the need to introduce a report with the words, “Before today’s Challenge Cup Final, remember everyone that I’m a massive lesbian”. Iain Dale did not ask for his recent appearance on Any Questions to be preceded with a Kylie Minogue medley just to ensure everyone realised his homosexuality. They just get on with things, happening to be good in their fields whilst being gay.

It’s not very easy being of liberal mind while also being realistic about the world outside. I struggled to balance similar concerns around the time of Raoul Moat’s rampage. Prejudice based on skin colour or religion is ignorance to the nth degree, moreover the continued existence of such hatred reflects far more on those who spout such rubbish. That’s not to say that a “victim disorder” exists to a degree, nor do local authorities come across very right-on by banning the word “Christmas” ‘just in case’ of offence. Such silliness is in itself ignorant, pushing a racist agenda rather than defeating it.

I don’t find homophobia particularly appealing either, but how easily offended the gay rights lobby seem to become over the slightest hint of prejudice. The word “gay” is changing its meaning again, used to describe incidents or people without a hint of malice (“iPlayer is being well gay” “Lost out on that CD on Ebay, that’s well gay”). I have seen the commetariat rally against this use of the word as though, context or ney, what really is being said is “iPlayer is being well gay, by which I mean, iPlayer is raping goats and urinating in the eyes of toddlers”. Until the gay rights lobby calms down, they’ll never get the equality they crave. Is this illiberal of me? Or realistic? What good comes from continuing whinging about outdated attitudes and language while acting like a petulant teenager?

I understand that homophobia in schools and workplaces needs to be tackled. What causes this prejudice in the first place? A deeply held genetic mistrust? The idea that all gay men are leather-chap wearing permatanned drama queens? Where could people possibly get the idea for this image, I wonder?

The fact of “gay” entering everyday discourse to become as meaningless a word as “damn” should be celebrated. But no, the Pride lobby now feel offended by it, getting what they wished for being somehow not acceptable.

Maybe that’s the point. Pride needs to keep up the pretence that the 1960s legalisation never happened, because the desire to play the victim means attention and spotlights and funding from on high. It’s patronising to the highest order, forever highlighting the differences between gay and straight while simultaneously demanding equality. The two don’t balance. Until enough people realise this, prejudice will flourish. That doesn’t sound like ‘pride’ to me. It sounds like attention seeking. Councils who fund gay equality events may want to look into their budgets to decide if such defeatist self-promotion is really worth council tax payers money.

Right-wing America is bankrupt

Reforming healthcare is not a black-or-white issue, much as commentators in the US would have us believe. Indeed both sides of the debate in America have been making basic footfall errors, the liberal/left not quite as often as the conservative right.

“Racist” claims from both sides do not help, of course. The left-wing need to be careful of their own form of racism, not helped by appearing to project onto America’s black population what they should feel now their nation’s President looks and talks like they do. In her column for the Guardian, Bonnie Greer says;

We on the left need to change. Change our tired, ideologically driven responses to events. Change our moth-eaten rhetoric. Change our demands on what people of colour, women, disabled people, gays and lesbians ought to be when they attain positions of power

Left-wing commentators have to concede that Obama has yet to present a single Health Reform Bill. Additionally he did not persuade many doubters – if any – to his cause following his joint-house speech. However what Obama does have is time, and clear objectives, and the will among his many supporters to push over the stubborn wall of “for the sake of it” opposition. And there’s the clear, stark fact of so many millions without access to affordable healthcare in the “land of the free”.

Over amongst the conservatives, there is a shallow puddle of argument and a bankrupt account of alternative options. Painting a picture of Obama pushing a socialist square peg into a capitalist round hole is to create a work of scaremongering fiction. Sarah Palin, the failed Republican vice-presidential candidate, was roundly ridiculed for suggesting healthcare reform would mean “death panels” for the elderly. She remains one of the most often suggested lead candidates for President in 2012. When this list for the GOP includes Rick Santorum and Rudy Giuliani – discredited names from the past both – the sheer uphill struggle of the right is made all the more clear.

Obama needs to deliver on his promises, some things he has done already, but there’s a lot to do. Expectation is massive, not all of it fair. Some of it comes from the over-eager support from the left attempting to turn him into some symbol for “overnight success”. Those on the right trying to paint the White House as a life-threatening cult are not succeeding – how few people know of the Twitter craze of ending messages with “impeachobama” could be counted on one hand? – with only one thing seemingly going in their favour. As long as populist media networks speak with a unified cynicism against Obama doubts will remain.

Like the British Conservatives post-1997 the American right cannot quite understand why they are out of power or why the man at the top is getting an “easy ride”. It has taken the UK right years to get to grips with the changing country. Clearly the American right have a similar journey of their own before coming up with an opposition with clarity and credibility.