"laurie penny"

Eurovision 2013: An American in London

American expat Leigh Alexander has had her first Eurovision party as an embedded foreigner in London. It went well.

Laurie Penny on the misogynist harassment she suffers as a woman journalist

Writing in The Independent, journalist Laurie Penny recounts the kind of awful, grotesque, misogynist threats and insults that she receives on a daily basis for daring to have left-wing opinions while being a woman. I read Penny pretty regularly, and I generally agree with what she has to say. What's more, it's not vastly different from the opinions I put forward here on Boing Boing. But I'm a guy, so the kind of flak I catch is one one-millionth as vicious as the stuff Penny is subjected to.

Many commentators, wondering aloud where all the strong female voices are, close their eyes to how normal this sort of threat has become. Most mornings, when I go to check my email, Twitter and Facebook accounts, I have to sift through threats of violence, public speculations about my sexual preference and the odour and capacity of my genitals, and attempts to write off challenging ideas with the declaration that, since I and my friends are so very unattractive, anything we have to say must be irrelevant.

The implication that a woman must be sexually appealing to be taken seriously as a thinker did not start with the internet: it's a charge that has been used to shame and dismiss women's ideas since long before Mary Wollestonecraft was called "a hyena in petticoats". The internet, however, makes it easier for boys in lonely bedrooms to become bullies. It's not only journalists, bloggers and activists who are targeted. Businesswomen, women who play games online and schoolgirls who post video-diaries on YouTube have all been subject to campaigns of intimidation designed to drive them off the internet, by people who seem to believe that the only use a woman should make of modern technology is to show her breasts to the world for a fee.

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Indifferent cats in amateur porn

"Indifferent cats in amateur porn" a tumblr for people who want to see cats ignoring people who are having sex. NSFW, unless you work at the indifferent cat in a sexual situation factory.

Indifferent cats in amateur porn

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What "Fifty Shades of Grey is badly written" is really code for

Laurie Penny has a spirited defense of Fifty Shades of Grey, a bestselling pornographic novel that started out as Twilight fanfic ("quite good, quite detailed descriptions of fucking written from the point of view of a woman who seemed to be really enjoying herself") and looks at the gender issues and double standards lurking in the widespread condemnation of the book:

Similarly, I can't recall Page Three of the Sun ever getting taken to pieces for its lack of artistic imagination. The point, the only point, is to show three million men some tits in the morning, and they've been happily ogling those pixellated teenage breasts on public transport for thirty years. That's understood. Exactly the same basic principle applies to the Fifty Shades series, which has the added bonus that no actual nubile, desperate postpubescents were harmed in its production – but somehow the idea that women might gobble down a poorly-written book in their tens of millions just because they've heard there might be some fucking in it is uncomfortable for the sort of snobbish commentators who have absolutely never themselves bashed out a cheeky one over FHM magazine.

When you get down to it, the problem most people seem to have with Fifty Shades of Grey is that it's for girls. Even worse - it's "mommy porn", porn for mommies, for older women to read and get excited about, and that dangerous nonsense really needs to be stopped right now. Everyone knows that the only women who are allowed to actually have sexuality are slender, high-breasted twenty-one year old virgins – rather like, it has to be said, the heroine of "Fifty Shades of Grey".

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G4S: the scandal-embroiled "private security" behemoth that will provide 10,000 "security contractors" to London 2012

Laurie Penny takes a look at G4S, the scandal-embroiled "private security firm" (they're not technical mercenaries because the "security" people who work from them are usually born in the same territories in which they operate) that is the world's second-largest private employer, after WalMart. The company is providing 10,000 "security contractors" to the London Olympics, like these people, who think that it's illegal to take pictures from public land. G4S has lots of juicy contracts around the world, like supplying security to private prisons in the West Bank where children are held. They're also the proud inventors of "carpet karaoke," a technique used at private asylum-seeker detention centres, which is a fancy way for "stuffing a deportee's face towards the floor to contain them."

What difference does it make if the men and women in uniform patrolling the world's streets and prison corridors are employed by nation states or private firms? It makes every difference. A for-profit company is not subject to the same processes of accountability and investigation as an army or police force which is meant, at least in theory, to serve the public. Impartial legality is still worth something as an assumed role of the state – and the notion of a private, for-profit police and security force poisons the very idea.

The state still has a legal monopoly on violence, but it is now prepared to auction that monopoly to anyone with a turnover of billions and a jolly branding strategy. The colossal surveillance and security operation turning London into a temporary fortress this summer is chilling enough without the knowledge that state powers are being outsourced to a company whose theme tune features the line: "The enemy prowls, wanting to attack, but we're on to the wall, we've got your back."

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What role for journalists in holding the powerful to account?

Laurie Penny, corporate-crime-fighting superhero journo, has a corker of an essay on Warren Ellis's website, about the uneasy role of muckraking journalism in the late days of crony-capitalism:

I thought I got into journalism to tell truths and right wrongs and occasionally get into parties I wouldn’t normally be cool enough to go to. Right now though, with a few exceptions, professional journalism is rarely seen as an exercise in holding power to account. Justly or unjustly, the media, especially but not exclusively the mainstream, corporate-controlled press, has come to be seen as the enemy of the voiceless rather than their champion. Justly or unjustly, few people believe what they read in the papers or watch on the news anymore, because belief has long ceased to be quite as important as complicity when it comes to the Daily Mail, the Daily Post or News International. On the streets of Athens and Madrid as well as during the London riots of August 2011, journalists have been threatened and attacked by desperate young people making havoc in the streets. Why? Not because these young people don’t want to be seen, but because they don’t want to be seen through the half-closed eyes of privilege.

Journalists are losing any case we ever had for special pleading. For the younger generation of digital natives, there is no particular reason to be deferential towards anyone who happens to be at a protest with a phone that can get the internet and an audience of thousands: it’ll be you and a hundred others, and unless the police have given you special privileges to write precisely what they want and nothing else, your press pass is less and less likely to keep you safe from arrest.

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Million Hoodie March for Trayvon Martin under way in NYC

A large crowd of protesters, between 2,000 and 5,000 by various estimates, are marching through the streets of New York right now to draw attention to the killing of Trayvon Martin. The Florida teen was shot to death last month, in a case that has generated widespread outrage online.

Tim Pool has been running a live video stream of the march.

Here's a quick link to the relevant Twitter hashtag (#millionhoodiemarch), to follow tweets from people who are there. Seems like a lot of youth are present at this one, perhaps more so than at recent Occupy marches in New York. People are wearing hoodies, carrying bottles of iced tea and throwing Skittles in the air: Trayvon was wearing one, and holding that candy and beverage when he was shot. So far, police presence is high, but interactions are peaceful, and the crowd is doing its thing without much NYPD aggression. That could change before the night is through.

The parents of the slain teen are present, and addressed the crowd earlier.

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Laurie Penny talks #OWS with a Goldman-Sachs mouthpiece, totally crushes it

In this clip from BBC Newsnight, Boing Boing pal Laurie Penny (who's in NYC covering the Occupy demonstrations) takes on a former Goldman-Sachs partner who tries to concern-troll the #OWS movement, saying that they're flacid, decentralized, and have the wrong target, because the problem isn't banks, it's those damned liberal governments who incurred huge debts with their deuced social spending. Laurie wipes up the floor with the bloated plutocrat, without breaking a sweat.

Goldman Sachs view on crooked banker protests (17Nov11)

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Lies in London

Up to half a million people marched peacefully on London last week to protest cuts to public services, but local media coverage dwelled almost entirely on stories of mindless violence and criminality. In a follow-up to an earlier article published at the New Statesman, Laurie Penny wonders why the press is so eager to echo official accounts—and so eager to attack critics of the police.

Front-line report from Trafalgar Square paints a radically different picture

Forget what you've seen on the BBC and Sky about yesterday's protest/"riot" in Trafalgar Square; the New Statesman's Laurie Penny was on the barricades (and apparently, there was a moment when the barricades were on her), and she's seen something altogether different from what the mainstream coverage depicts. If you read only one account of the protests, make it this one (and you should really read more than one!).

Minutes after the fights begin in Trafalgar square, so does the backlash. Radio broadcasters imply that anyone who left the pre-ordained march route is a hooligan, and police chiefs rush to assure the public that this "mindless violence" has "nothing to do with protest."

The young people being battered in Trafalgar square, however, are neither mindless nor violent. In front of the lines, a teenage girl is crying and shaking after being shoved to the ground. "I'm not moving, I'm not moving," she mutters, her face smeared with tears and makeup. "I've been on every protest, I won't let this government destroy our future without a fight. I won't stand back, I'm not moving." A police officer charges, smacking her with his baton as she flings up her hands.

The cops cram us further back into the square, pushing people off the plinths where they have tried to scramble for safety. By now there are about 150 young people left in the square, and only one trained medic, who has just been batoned in the face; his friends hold him up as he blacks out, and carry him to the police lines, but they won't let him leave.

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Inside Saif Gadaffi's squatted London mansion, reclaimed by Libyan exiles

The New Statesman's Laurie Penny has gotten into Saif Gadaffi's multi-million-pound mansion in London's tony Mayfair Hampstead, which has been squatted by Libyan exiles. She reports on life inside the reclaimed house:

We drink stewed tea from Saif's best china and eat cheese sandwiches using his silver cutlery, while the young man, Abdulla, tells me about how his uncle was "disappeared" by Saif's father. "In Libya, people disappear all the time. There was a prison massacre where 1,200 people died. They poured cement over the bodies." Abdulla nervously adjusts his glasses. "It's important that people know we're not creating a civil war for no reason.

Nearly every room of this enormous house boasts a large, flat-screen television. The occupiers have tuned each one to al-Jazeera, for rolling coverage of the people's revolutions that are sweeping the Arab world. Televised gunfire echoes in the marble hallway as Jay, 25, explains how activists from the London squatting movement took over the Gaddafi family mansion, moving in secretly and putting up notices declaring their intention to hold the empty house under English common law. "We wanted to show our solidarity the best way we know how," he says.

"It's a symbolic and practical reclamation of private property that belongs to the Libyan people. It's about their struggle, which is why the place has been handed over to the Libyans as a place to organise and a safe space for refugees," he says. "People have been arriving in support from all over the UK..."

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London police brutally kettle children marching for education

Writing in the New Statesman, Laurie Penny documents the brutal, savage treatment dealt to the London demonstrators who marched against cuts to education and found themselves "kettled" (detained without arrest, toilet, shelter, or charge) for eight hours in freezing weather; many of those kettled were children and young teens, as well as pregnant women.

The chant goes up: "what do we want? The right to protest!" At first, the cops give curt answers to the kids demanding to know why they can't get through. Then they all seem to get some sort of signal, because suddenly the polite copper in front of me is screaming in my face, shoving me hard in the back of the head, raising his baton, and the protesters around me are yelling and running back. Some of them have started to shake down a set of iron railings to get out, and the cops storm forward, pushing us right through those railings, leaving twenty of us sprawling in the rubble of road works with cracked knees. When they realised that they are trapped, the young protesters panic. The crush of bodies is suddenly painful - my scarf is ripped away from me and I can hear my friend Clare calling for her son - and as I watch the second line of police advance, with horses following behind them, as I watch a surge of teenagers carrying a rack of iron railings towards the riot guard and howling to be released, I realise they're not going to stop, and the monkey instinct kicks in.

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