They’ll have to pry my angry stupidity from my cold, dead hands

“We are in a state of vague American values and anti-intellectual pride” – David Cross (for “vague American values” you can also read “vague British values” or choose the country you think most applicable to your situation)

I was offered a role in a show opposite Katie Hopkins. Sometimes, your brain doesn’t even flirt with the idea of asking what the fee is, it just goes straight into Don Logan mode, “no, no, NO NO NO NO NO NO no, no, NO NO NO NO no no NO!”
Some people suggested I should have said yes and aimed for a carnival of mockery, but it would be pre-recorded, so no control over what makes it to the screen. Also, I believe that by taking part, it is an endorsement of the idea that her “toxic opinions for cash” are a form of entertainment that should be encouraged. The show may end when the credits roll, but it seems an increasing number of people are not sated by the TV fun hate, once the screen is off, they are keen to take this “banter” into the streets, boots and all. I don’t think the jolly coves in the media who delight in twitter trending when they put ignorant,  loud and aggressive provocateurs on our screens know what they are playing with. They may well be dabbling in their own demise.

I am finding it hard to write at the moment. I can write if there is a deadline and specific function, my columns in the Big Issue and Focus magazine or script for a Dr Seuss documentary, but my daily writing for the sake of writing, and finding an idea through typing and thinking, has become problematic. I always believed things were not as they seemed, but humans seem to be even less like I seemed them to be. Is there something even nastier still thriving in the human heart than I imagined. My humanism is brittle.

I had planned to write a new solo show next year and go back into stand up probably after a two year break, but I am not sure how often i should be speaking aloud now when so many others are shouting. Maybe I need another year of pondering in silence.

As I walked back down the hill from the school, the earth shrank below my feet.
It was a moment when the camera zooms back and you think about how small the planet is.
A planet so small that we are easily connected, yet repeatedly divided.
The popular politics of the day trumpets real and metaphorical walls.
Another of those moments when the human experiment seemed utterly pathetic.
The ability to think and use language misused to work out new ways of saying, “Hurrah for the blackshirts”.

During the Brian Cox Live show, Brian has been reading the famous passage from Carl Sagan’s Pale Blue Dot that muses on all the bloodshed so that men could be the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot. In the last couple of weeks, this has been getting applause. This didn’t happen in the first month of the tour.

While an old tribalism belches noisily again, a newer sense of despondency and incomprehension is spreading across faces. There is a dangerous glee in the faces of those cheerleading for an end to inclusion of the “not us”, accompanied by a salty, bitterness even in victory.
The scapegoats have been found, the evidence is not required.

As I walked on the shrinking Earth, I thought how preposterous our journey into space was. A species that can barely communicate with itself imagining a future on other worlds.
While the Search for Extra Terrestrial Intelligence seeks out communication from alien lifeforms, people swear and holler at their radios listening to language they understand.

Is the applause for Pale Blue Dot is getting louder because people are increasingly aware that the sentiments of peace, comradeship and intellectual ambition that Carl Sagan celebrated are increasingly in jeopardy?
Those who read Steven Pinker more than John Gray hoped that humanity may be aiming for a reduction in hate as motivator and prime manipulator.

Men of the people like Jacob Rees Mogg tells us that we don’t understand the people. You’ll always find him sitting in the frozen pea cabinet in a Hartlepool Lidl on alternate Tuesdays.

Is the solution a healthier redistribution of wealth and education and, if it is, will it really be the further right that delivers a better society for those who feel excluded or will they just deliver the scabby balm of blame without improvement?

Late last night, I trod in Twitter. I have been avoiding it reasonably successfully for a couple of weeks. I worry that this form of communication has been playing its part in creating a new world order of zealous trolls. Because stupid and rabid furious screams of hate and mad ad hominem attacks now appear “in print”, all be it the print of the internet, people take their own opinions even more seriously. The words don’t just turn to lost vibrations in the ether, they remain and now they can see their words they must defend them with even greater abuse.
At 1am, someone decided to try and rile two “libtards”, in this case Ricky Gervais and me, with a picture of Donald Trump attached to the promise he’ll be bringing back the phrase “merry Christmas”. I think this particular zealot believed that, because we were atheists, we would be angry about this or care. Now is the time of year for Christmas lies by the more duplicitous wing of Christianity. I was pretty certain that Obama had not banned “Merry Christmas” and within seconds I found a series of official broadcasts with Obama wishing a merry Christmas to everyone. The tweeter did not thank me or express his relief that the president still said Merry Christmas. He seemed quite unJesus-y in his replies, and, having sent a stick man symbol of him “fucking my mom” that he had found on the internet, called me libtard a few times with some comedy quips he had found on the internet and photos of Hillary Clinton. Having failed to offer anything backing up his point, he declared he had won. Feeling so all powerful with his mighty arguments, he then blocked me.

It is odd that many of those most furiously fearful that Christmas has been banned seem to be lacking in even the vaguest hint of the qualities of the biblical Jesus. I get the inkling that if the Biblical Jesus walked into their twitter crosshairs, they’d be trolling at him with fiery and loathsome word drool.

I looked up at the sky last night and I imagined I lived near another star.

Consideration is not a weakness. Kindness is strength.

Dead Funny Encore, horror stories by comedians and Alan Moore, is available now

My “last ever show” and a few hours of extras, is available as DVD or download HERE

But I will be going to Australia and New Zealand with Josie Long, Matt Parker, Helen Czerski, Lucie Green and some very special guests.

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23 Responses to They’ll have to pry my angry stupidity from my cold, dead hands

  1. “I am not sure how often i should be speaking aloud now when so many others are shouting”
    We need you now more than ever, Robin.
    Also, yes, modern Fundamentalist (accent on the last 3 syllables) Christians would think Jesus a long-haired hippy Communist refugee from the Middle East and have him arrested.

  2. liliannberg says:

    I look up at the sky every night and wish I lived on another planet, especially at Christmas. It’s like fascism, totalitarian and extreme, full of false benevolence and overindulgence, stopping wars for a single day only to resume the carnage the very next day with renewed execration. I’m one of those atheists that refuse to fake yuletide enthusiasm because all I can see is hypocrisy and want. A proper spoilsport, I guess.

  3. Jacqueline Davis says:

    “I always believed things were not as they seemed, but humans seem to be even less like I seemed them to be. Is there something even nastier still thriving in the human heart than I imagined. My humanism is brittle.” Your words resonated with me because this is more or less how I have been feeling for about the last year. I have come to realise that throughout my life I have been more Polyanna-ish than I knew myself. I always have sought for the most part to see good in humanity. I thought that humans had an underlying goodness and empathy and kindness, but more and more I realise now that humans en mass behave according to societal norms and the ‘norm’ has shifted significantly and swiftly in the last couple of years.
    I do blame it in part on social media. People now think it is perfectly okay to say exactly what they like to exactly who they like, because they are hiding behind anonymity. There’s a lot of fear in the world and people are using their social media voice to express it. Maybe it’s just a phase humanity has to go through and learn how to grapple with this new vocal freedom. I think it is important to remember as well that we are fortunate to live in a society that values freedom of speech, a right not afforded to some people. We have to learn how to rise above the hate and how to use social media in a more positive way.
    So while the negative always seems to have more significance I remain overall positive. We are still a far more liberal and tolerant society than we once were.

  4. Robin – your words really touched a nerve with me… The hatred that is spewed out every second of the day on Twitter is terrifying to me. So many ugly people with ugly thoughts – I can’t imagine what it is like to be at the receiving end of so much poison which is why I tend to just trawl through the mire and not comment myself, like some fearful stalker… People have become so hateful amd threatening on mass towards anyone with the slightest difference of opinion it’s seriously depressing…
    Please keep writing – I need you for my sanity… 😊

  5. robinince says:

    the kind are riled and they are ready to be aggressively kind and also fight back against the relentlessly promoted cruel

  6. Bo Gardiner says:

    Love the “libtard” story.
    I think it’s very important not to discourage use of the word libtard. It’s too marvelously convenient that just this one single word, when uttered, can save the listener so much time and energy that could be spent speaking to a rational human being.

    • Good advice. A few other troll / rabid right-wingnut warnings to look out for include ‘EUSSR’, ‘butthurt’ and ‘loser’ (when it means anyone who disagrees with the poster).

  7. elfdjwillow says:

    I hate that you are feeling this way Robin 😦 not cool. I feel this way too. It makes me very sad and often weep at how and what humanity is doing to itself (again).
    Promoting science and reason should never stop however bad it all gets.
    Read the latest “New Scientist” about why facts and seem disregarded. The conclusion you may find is something yourself and Prof. Cox do very well alongside Dr. Richard Dawkins and Dr. Lucy Greene, Neil DeGrass Tyson and many others… there is hope somewhere if people like you guys keep going

  8. robinince says:

    we have a fight on our hands, but I think we can battle against this tide of ignorant bullying

  9. tonyb says:

    thanks for posting, I’m basically on your side but would make the following points –
    First, why do large numbers of people not trust “experts”? On first sight this just seems to be bonkers. Perhaps it is that in the last 10 years or so ( perhaps partly due to the rise of social media ) the role played by experts has changed. Previously science ( for example ) was totally detached from politics, people did their work on climate or polution or energy or whatever but let the results stand alone. Now more than ever before everyone has a political cause to press, when scientists speak publicly they frequently use their scientific knowledge to support a particular political aim. No bad thing, you may say, policy should be based on evidence; however once there is a link between the people supplying that evidence and the actual policies they inevitably overplay their hands, they exagerate the consequences of not following their advice and suppress or ridicule opposing evidence. This works for so long but eventually the electorate will start to feel that they are being manipulated and will just reject all “experts”. 2016?
    Secondly you rightly rail against ad hominem attacks, but have a pop at Rees-Mogg without telling us what he said or why you disagree with it. I can’t think of much he has ever said that I agree with but it seems to me his arguments are carefully thought through and presented calmly and reasonably. He doesn’t deserve the same treatment as the likes of Hopkins who deliberately say outrageous things because that gives them the publicity on which their careers are based.
    Sorry, didn’t mean that to sound all negative, I always enjoy reading your work and mostly agree with you. ( as for twitter, just don’t! )

    • robinince says:

      I think your first point is more based in the way science is reported than in actually how scientists argue for change. The PR campaign against the science behind climate change has been insidious and frequently brutal. We can’t dick about with this. “They inevitably overplay their hand”, really? Why do you think Jacob Rees Mogg’s arguments are carefully thought through? I think you may have fallen for him looking reasonable and sober suited.

      • robinince says:

        If I am honest, I just liked the idea of him eavesdropping on “the people”, by sitting in a pea cabinet.

      • Dave Lea says:

        I wont be able to pass by a frozen pea cabinet without smiling now. Reading this Robin, and the comments from other readers sharing similar sentiment has me thinking how all this is playing into the hands of the popular press. No matter what the political climate RM and his minions seek to undermine, discredit or simply ignore the evidence and science that is so obvious to us all that as Douglas Adams wrote it ‘will all end in tears”. Touse another Adams device i would love to place these small minded haters into the ‘Total Perspective Vortex’ just for a second.

      • Bo Gardiner says:

        I’m American. What the frack is a pea cabinet??? Do you have special furniture over peas over there?

      • tonyb says:

        A pea cabinet is a piece of Georgian kitchen furniture consisting of a set of shallow, slatted shelves which hold rows of individual peas allowing air to circulate and keep them fresh. The were usually made of pine, being “below-stairs” furniture but in grander, aristocratic houses they were sometimes of mahogany ( beware, though, most of the mahogany examples for sale in antique shops are later reproductions ). Jacob Rees-Mogg is a rather posh member of the English ruling class. His father was editor of The Times and, in a move that predated the vox-pop, to discover the opinions of ordinary people Jacob was made to hide in the pea cabinet and listen to them talking. Unfortnately they rarely spoke in Latin and this exposure had such a traumatic effect on the young Rees-Mogg that he grew up to be a conservative politician

        Modern versions, found in traditioal grocers such as Lidl, are made from powder-coated metal and often contain a refrigeration unit. Traditionalist such as Prince Charles rail against these “carbuncles” complaining that they lack the elegant proportions of the Georgian originals. In a recent interview he also noted that you can’t have a decent conversation with aluminium cabinets the way you can with a living, thinking material like wood, giving an example of a recent chat he had with a wise old oak in the grounds of Highgrove that explained to him, at some length, the value of writing on vellum. Although I fear poor old Charles didn’t realise that the tree was hollow and Jacob Rees-Mogg had hidden inside.

        for mor info see : https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/pea-cabinet-controversy

  10. Leila Hodgkins says:

    What I find disturbing is how language is being twisted and mis-used: everything we thought was good is bad and everything we were brought up to regard as bad turns out to be perfectly OK.

    I have never really understood why ‘liberal’ is bandied around as a general term of abuse, it’s nice to be liberal isn’t it? But now we have a Liberal Elite. What’s that supposed to mean? How can you be liberal and elitist?

    Frequently in comments sections, on FB and Twitter you see people who have expressed typically (maybe ‘old-fashioned’) left-wing or liberal views eg. anti-racist, EU remaining, anti-warfare views, labelled as fascists or being like Hitler. It’s the intellectual equivalent of going ‘yeah, you are!’.

    Your point about J R-M is well-founded. He looks like a nice man, smart and educated but when you actually, really listen to the words they are just donkey-headed, immovable nonsense. There is no evidence, data or common-sense argument will ever shake that certainty. He’s not alone, of course…

    These are confusing times for anyone who likes to think about things for more than five minutes!

  11. Twitter’s not all bad. It’s how I found this blog, thanks to Brian Cox’s Tweet. Your views have more support than you know, Robin.

  12. “Yes” as the famous story of when John Lennon met Yoko Ono Goes.

  13. “Yes” as the Semi-famous story of when John Lennon met Yoko Ono Goes.

  14. Starla O'Connor says:

    Be kind

  15. Stoic Bob says:

    Reject collectivism. Church, state, football club…reject it all. I am equally bullied by the moral righteousness of the superstitious as I am by the “scientific community”, both thinking they are the right and the good and leveraging the government to fund themselves with the fruits of my labors, by gun point. Good is not good unless I am allowed to choose that. It doesn’t matter that it is right or not, if you legislate it, if you force it on me, what’s the point! If all of your myriad godheads are real, let them reveal themselves to me so I can choose and not guess, and not be forced. If your scientific endeavors are true and just, let me choose to fund them, or not. Choice is freedom, and freedom is what is right. The only thing that ruins freedom is the initiation of force, by individual or group, including democratically elected governments who are leveraged by one group against another. Just force by proxy is still force.

    Remember George Ellery Hale? Stop being so physically lazy and go and convince the money men to fund your projects, the ones who can dodge it when you leverage the government against the hoi polloi who have no way to refuse your advances. As for the religious, the intellectually lazy, stop stealing my oxygen!

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