To James O’Brien

There are lots of thing to be said about Brexit and I’ll probably write some more eventually when the cud have been properly chewed – until then I would like to offer an answer to this man to a particular question he pondered on radio a couple of weeks ago. In the excerpt he is discussing the rise in reported racially motivated hate crimes following the referendum:

Transcript (abridged):

I’m referring particularly to the Sun newspaper today, in which a double page spread is dedicated to the amount of public incidents of apparent racial hatred that have been reported since this result came in. And it has prompted the Sun to publish a leader in which it says: The Sun today calls on Brits of all creeds, colors and race, Leavers and Remainers, to come together for the good of the country. (…) We are appalled at reports of racist abuse in the wake of last week’s EU vote and utterly condemn attempts to provoke division in our society. Anyone caught inciting racial hatred must feel the full force of the law. That is the best selling newspaper of the land this morning. Here it is yesterday morning: Where the BREX was won: streets full of Polish shops, kids not speaking English, but Union Jacks now flying high again. (…) How can that be the same paper? (…) Can you explain it to me?

Longer video here.

The good man is understandably befuddled (and nearly works himself into a rage, bless him). The answer to the question is pretty obvious though;  he does not get it because he is emphasizing the wrong word. Instead of:

Anyone caught inciting racial hatred must feel the full force of the law.

it was meant to be read as:

Anyone caught inciting racial hatred must feel the full force of the law.

Now it is entirely possible he did not miss it, just knows full well that vocalizing it while on live radio would have ended with him taken to court on a short notice. Or maybe he genuinely did not spot it, which indicates either a curious blind spot in his judgement or an almost endearing lack of cynicism for someone involved in politics on a daily basis. Either way, the Sun printed what it did, out of which come some quite chilling conclusions.

First of all, the Sun realized that the paper is partly to blame and felt the need of giving lip service to common human decency. Only as a preventative measure, of course: if anyone called them out on their responsibility in the whole campaign’s unprecedented nasty tone they could point to these two flimsy pages and say ‘We told them not to, see? Not our fault.’

Second, the Sun‘s recognition and the bare fact of their readership’s, let’s say, moral and intellectual frailty? Ah, fuck it. They are stupid and mean, that’s what they are. They are so stupid they thought ‘Leave’ was the answer to ‘What should those smelly foreigners do?’; they are so mean that they celebrate winning by harming others and they are, again, so stupid they don’t realize that doing so will get them into trouble. They need a warning that they should not commit crimes. Grown-ups. People with driving licence. People with kids. People handling your food and your tax. In 2016. Unbelievable.

I am not going to go down the ‘not all of them’ path because it is pointless. There is clearly, undeniably, a certain segment of their readers who is receptive to the suggestion that Polish shops are what’s wrong with this country; moreover, this same segment needs to be told that no, firebombing is not what we meant. There is no one that summarized it better than Alex Massie:

When you shout BREAKING POINT over and over again, you don’t get to be surprised when someone breaks.

To be fair the Sun was not surprised, just a little bit… taken aback by people’s enthusiasm? And this is how they handled it, by printing a spread about how you should avoid being caught. Which is pretty meta now that I think about it.

None of what I just wrote is really new of course, I was just surprised that people did not pick up on that misplaced emphasis. Maybe I sucked up a bit more cynicism while growing up? My East European is showing; I better go.

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Mass Effect as an epic and what’s wrong with the ending

I finished the Mass Effect series quite recently, playing through ME2 and ME3 within a week. Pretty sure what I went through the following days closely correlates to the five stages of grief. (Writing about it is probably my way of Bargaining.)

I adore the series. Decent storytelling is still relatively rare in the gaming world, god knows why, but there it is: if you want something above the complexity of a hack’n’slash gamebook and with a decent effort at world building, you have to look hard. Mass Effect provided both, plus humour, plus enjoyable game mechanics and level design. All three of them were a blast to play.

I originally thought I was okay with the ending. Sure, it was not very happy, but there are a lot of very good stories with sad endings. Then I realized what I feel is not sadness but frustration. Besides the general end-of-story blues I was also angry at something, and it took me a while to figure out what. 

Here is my explanation of why the ending objectively sucks. (And of course: spoilers ahead.)

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