Wednesday, July 30, 2008

The Prolefeed Menace

Here were produced rubbishy newspapers containing almost nothing except sport, crime and astrology, sensational five-cent novelettes, films oozing with sex, and sentimental songs which were composed entirely by mechanical means...

- GEORGE ORWELL, Nineteen Eighty-Four, about the Ministry of Truth

Alright, let's get this over with. The inevitable blog post about the Mosley case - or "spankgate", as some newspapers called it. A witty bunch, these journalists, aren't they? Actually, "spankgate" is appropriate enough, given that the tabloid which started the whole mess has something of a history with illegal phone tapping. Along with the usual list of libel actions brought against them.

As pretty much everyone in our scene knows by now, their latest invasion of privacy involved one Max Mosley, president of the International Automobile Federation (FIA), a secretly filmed "sadomasochistic orgy" with five "hookers" and, the icing on the cake, trumped-up charges of Nazi role-play. Naturally, there was nothing remotely Nazi in the accompanying "evidence video". As someone who has studied German history in considerable detail, I can tell you that Himmler's henchmen didn't wear nylon stockings. But since when does the gutter press let truth get in the way of a good salacious story?

What the hacks probably didn't expect was that Mosley would refuse to follow the precedent set by other influential men caught in sex scandals - you know, do a mea culpa, resign from office, issue a tearful public apology, blame his woes on the evils of pornography, that sort of thing. Instead, he stood his ground, rubbished the laughable Nazi allegations and calmly insisted that he had done nothing wrong. His sexual fetishes, Mosley argued, are unorthodox but perfectly harmless, and what consenting adults get up to in their private lives is nobody else's business. Imagine that! Next thing you know, he launches and wins a lawsuit against the tabloid, with more on the way (read Justice Eady's judgment here, and a good summary from The Spanking Writers). It goes to show that a rich, kinky, Oxford-educated lawyer is not to be trifled with. Way to go, Max.

I'm not a Formula 1 fan, so until four months ago, I had never heard of Max Mosley. But I was following the story from the beginning, because some of the involved "hookers" (that's Prolefeed slang for spanking professionals) happened to be penpals of mine. At the time, I and a handful of other bloggers made a silent agreement not to write about the case - in the hope that, the less it spread on the giant rumour mill that is the internet, the safer our friends would be from harassmant by the press. Of course, it turned out to be a vain endeavour. For me, the most tragic moment was when the media witchhunt eventually engulfed Paul and Lucy of Northern Spanking - who had nothing whatsoever to do with Mosley!

While the bloggers' agreement of silence quickly became moot, I still resisted writing about the sordid affair. The reason is fairly simple: to be perfectly honest, I think it is an utter waste of time. That's right. My writing about it here is, for the most part at least, pretty damn useless.

Now, don't get me wrong. I don't want to make light of what has happened or of the very real harm suffered by those who were caught in the tornado. On the contrary, I was often among the first to hear the news, and it left me deeply saddened and seething with anger. It is one thing to study history and understand that, generally speaking, people are scum and society is doomed - two semesters will turn even the staunchest idealist into a cynic. However, it's another thing entirely to see your own friends suffer from terrible injustice and defamation, while you're powerless to do anything about it.

I figured that, rather than artfully but impotently venting my outrage on the blog, I could do more good with my time by just being a friend, writing emails to cheer things up a bit, and offering whatever humble support I could without making a big fuss over it. Many others did the same, and even I, German pessimist extraordinaire, couldn't help but be touched by how the community pulled together in these difficult times. It was a privilege to see that.

To name but two prominent examples: Niki Flynn's piece I'm a Prostitute!, a call for support for Paul and Lucy (she also lent her blog to the two of them to write in their own words). I can only join in: if you haven't done so already, let me persuade you to join Northern Spanking for a month or two. It won't break your bank account, it's a fabulous site created by genuine enthusiasts, and they can really use your help right now. Moreover, I recommend you read Pandora Blake's article Fighting for Freedom. Not only does it sum up her own views on the Mosley case (which largely mirror mine) very clearly, it also contains a series of interesting links, to other kinky bloggers and the mainstream press.

There is really nothing I can add to what has already been said. I think all of us here agree that kinky play is healthy, fun, morally unobjectionable and nothing to be ashamed of. We all agree that what consenting adults do in private is their own business, not that of junk food journalists or self-appointed moral guardians. We all agree that, on the "most worthless" scale, tabloid hacks rank somewhere between con artists and religiously motivated terrorists.

Which is why I said that me blogging about this is basically a waste of time - I'm preaching to the choir. It's all very well to solemnly nod our heads and back-slap each other here in the spanko community. But if we leave the wider public discussion to the tabloid-reading simpletons and the Philistine hypocrites who exploit them, what's the use? So I should really add my voice out there in the trenches, not in the safety of the ghetto.

I've done more than my usual share of that in recent months, as I'm sure have many of you. Those of you who haven't added their opinion yet: I hope you will join the ranks. I'm not asking you to become a full-time freedom fighter. But if you have time to surf spanking blogs, you can spare a few minutes to write to a journalist, comment on an article online, get involved in the debate. Whether you do so under your real name, your scene name or another alter ego created specifically for "civil rights commentary" is unimportant. What matters is what you say, and that you stand up to be counted.

One more thing, try to be polite and patient with the zealots. I know it's hard, but even I manage reasonably well, despite having a very low tolerance level for stupid bullshit. Remember, it's not about convincing the anti-BDSM fanatics - it's about winning over the majority with common sense and calm, reasoned argument.

Take an example from the Magnificent Seven: Max, Women A, B, C and D, Lucy and Paul. If they can stand up for what they believe in, in the face of so much holier-than-thou hostility and despite great personal risk, then the least the rest of us can do is give them our support in word and deed.


Indy said...

Nicely said, Ludwig. I'm not sure I agree about that such posts are useless, though. Talking about these issues among ourselves is helpful for honing our arguments for use in the trenches, as you suggest. It's also useful for those affected, directly or indirectly, to deal with their grief, and for everyone trying to come to terms with public attitudes towards our community.

Besides, no post a great line like "we all agree that, on the "most worthless" scale, tabloid hacks rank somewhere between con artists and religiously motivated terrorists" can be considered useless!

Anonymous said...

Right on, Indy. It's not worthless at all to present the facts. In the early days of the scandal you could find any number of speculative, misguided and spurious accounts. Even the simplest error can have disastrous consequences: witness Paul and Lucy. It was simple confusion over names that led the pond scum journalists to their front door.

One thing that really offends me is the automatic assumption that German = Nazism. Woman B emphasised that in court. And in the informant's tearful Sky News interview, the interviewer is baffled by the very concept of an S&M prison scenario where German is spoken and yet there is no Nazi theme. Yes, imagine that - they actually have prisons in Germany that have nothing to do with WW2.

Medical inspections, shaving and checking for lice are common features of just about any prison roleplay, as well as Victorian reformatory or workhouse ones. Possibly even in Germany before the 1940s.

But, as you say, facts don't sell papers.

Anonymous said...

I think this is a great post Ludwig, and very considered. Thank you.

Whilst I think Indiana and Niki's points are valid and it does help to hone arguments amongst ourselves, I agree with you that we should be out there making our considered and calm opinions known to the papers, the journalists et al that we disagree with. Otherwise it IS left to the talking heads who read the rags in the first place.

Ludwig said...

Admittedly, my remark about this post being "an utter waste of time" was made with the tongue-in-cheek exaggeration I often use. It sometimes helps to do that, just to emphasize a particular point, even though what I'm saying there is not to be taken 100% literally.

Further on I wrote that it's "for the most part" a waste of time, which I think is closer to the truth. And mind you, I'm strictly talking about my own post here, not the writing of others. I mentioned Niki's and Pandora's posts as being very good and valuable ones on the subject.

As for me, though, while I can make another call to support Northern Spanking, I can't really add anything new - the relevant things have already been said, and while we are among ourselves, we are all preaching to the choir, anyway.

That is the main point I wanted to make, and the one I emphasized with my admittedly exaggerated "utter waste of time" remark: the real battle (or "contest of opinions", if you prefer a less jingoistic term) is not here, it's elsewhere.

Indiana is right - posts like these, on spanking blogs, help us to hone arguments, give each other moral support, build confidence by letting others in our community know that "you are not alone". But all of that is mere practice before the big game. If we don't show up for the actual game, in sufficient numbers, we're still going to lose - and we can't blame anyone but ourselves.

Anonymous said...

I love cars with every fiber of my being... and I've basically come out as a spanko to my sister because of what happened. She made a joke about Mosley and I just went on and on and on.

Words haven't come quite as easily to me as they have you these past few months, but I've tried to do exactly the same thing, Ludwig. It's hard to keep calm in this situation, especially after learning of the appalling things that have happened to complete bystandards. I had guessed there had been an impact on NSI, but I never suspected it had been of this caliber.

Pandora Blake said...

Well said, Ludwig. Now if only there was a way of fighting for our freedom without having to engage with the exhausting flamewars at the Daily Mail and the Guardian Comment is Free! I've never been sure how much good engaging with bigots in online debate actually does - it's not like any of them ever listen. You are, however, absolutely right that we should try anyway.

Other options for fighting the good fight include writing to your MP or newspaper (which you mentioned already), writing articles for non-spanking websites or papers, talking to people who write for non-spanking websites or papers, living your life without shame and trying in small ways to make that visible to the people who share your life. Shouting is good for gaining attention and changing legislation. Living by your principles and persuading individuals one by one that you're right is the much slower job, but both parts are necessary for social change.

Karl Friedrich Gauss said...

Yesterday I noticed a glitch in the matrix in the vicinity of your blog, Ludwig.

Ludwig said...

Pandora: Of course, the zealots won't listen and we won't ever convince a single one of them. But that is not my goal, anyway. Actually, I'm happy to keep a minority of hardcore anti-kink fundamentalists, just to remind ourselves that what we do is twisted, perverted and evil to the repressed and simple-minded, and that it is definitely not mainstream. I quite like it that way.

But there is one good thing about debating the zealots, and that is demonstrating to the average, reasonably intelligent vanilla reader that we are normal people and that it is actually the zealots who are aggressive, irrational and dangerous, not us. I have found that this works pretty well - winning over the silent majority.

There will always be zealots, but all we really need to do is expose them and their fallacies, and cut off their support in the larger population.

Karl: Yes, there was a glitch in the matrix, and you can read all about it in the post of that name. Thanks for giving me the idea for that title.

Anonymous said...

Did you notice this blog piece linked to from IC a few days ago?

It's interesting because it's written by someone who isn't even involved in the scene, yet makes almost exactly the same points as you, and others, do. Clearly some people out there are paying attention.

Ludwig said...

No, Adrian, I know his site because he has blogged about the case before, but hadn't seen this latest piece yet. Thank you.

I left several long comments there in case anyone is interested, they deal primarily with thoughts on blogger ethics and the protection of privacy. And with my futile wish that the whole sordid Mosley affair would just end, so that the people whose lives have been put in turmoil by it can get some peace.