Jerk Seasoning: Who’s Culturally Appropriating Who?

I’ve followed and documented claims of “cultural appropriation” for some time. While some dismiss this idea as no more than a fad, I see it as a segregationist and nationalist ideology, and fundamentally racist, as well as historically illiterate. Accusations of cultural appropriation are also a potent form of censorship: attacking people for their hairstyle or clothing choices may seem trivial, but provide a cover for racist bullies to attack other people on spurious grounds.

If this was simply about a few silly students revelling in their self-appointed “oppression”, we could laugh and ignore it. But this attempt to segregate cultures along racial lines, and to rewrite history, has nasty historical precedents – South African Apartheid being one of the more unpleasant and recent ones.

The latest cultural appropriation nonsense comes from complaints that the chef Jamie Oliver has “appropriated” Jamaican culture via his “jerk rice” product. Of course, we can argue about whether jerk rice is a good idea, and we can argue again about whether Oliver’s jerk rice is any good or not. But the fact that a Labour MP (and shadow Minister) Dawn Butler, decided to use the product as an excuse for race-baiting, is serious.

Identity politics, once the preserve of the fascist-right, has been well and truly appropriated by the left, and by the Labour Party in particular. As the Labour Party has lost touch with its working class roots, it has increasingly lost interest in the problems faced by the poor, and instead focused ever more on the supposed “oppression” of women, LGBTQIA+ (yeah I know), and “BAME” people (BAME being the modern way of saying “coloured” – basically a rebirth of the old racial supremacist belief that humans should be divided into two groups: whites and everybody else).

Butler is race-baiting because it plays well to the mostly white Labour hierarchy. As Labour’s core base becomes whiter, so the Labour leadership pushes non-white people into more senior positions to mask the party’s ongoing lightening process. So Butler’s apparently pointless intervention is actually a good career move on her part.

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But let’s analyse the accusation itself, because like all accusations of cultural appropriation, it falls apart when examined up close. All culture in this global age is appropriated. All of it. First, the word “jerk” itself appears to have native American and Spanish lineage, according to Wikipedia:

“The word jerk is said to come from charqui, a Spanish term of Quechua origin for jerked or dried meat, which eventually became the word jerky in English”

But what of the food itself? I love Jamaican food, and happen to live in an area with an abundant choice of this wonderful stuff. So let’s say I’m feeling hungry, and order some jerk chicken, rice and peas, curry goat, ackee and saltfish, sweetcorn and a chicken patty. Jamaican food, like Jamaican music, is a wonderful example of globalised culture. Take out the “foreign” influences, and there’s not much left.

Key ingredients in jerk seasoning include garlic (origin: Asia), chilli (origin: Mexico) and thyme (origin: Mediterranean), all of which were brought to the Caribbean by globalisation.

Chickens originate in South-East Asia.

Long grain rice originates in Asia.

Kidney beans (the “peas” in rice and peas) originate in South America.

Goats originate in Europe/Asia.

Curry powder? Its key ingredients include cardamom (origin: India) and cumin (origin: Mediterranean).

Ackee originates in West Africa.

Saltfish was probably invented by European seafarers.

Sweetcorn originates in America.

And patty? This is of course the Jamaican version of a European (possibly Portuguese) dish known as a pastel (Portuguese) or pasty (English).

All culture is appropriated from elsewhere. History is full of attempts to prevent racial groups from mixing, most notably in South Africa pre-1994, and in pre-civil rights Deep South. Ten years ago, I would never have believed that racial segregation of culture would be, yet again, on the political menu. But here it is, being pushed by a Labour shadow minister. On one hand, it’s comforting that this pathetic example is the worst example of racism that Butler can find to complain about. On the other, it’s tragic to watch the left become ever more racist.

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A Dating Site with Gifts and Bids?

Those familiar with this blog will be aware that I have for a long time been a campaigner for sexual freedom, and against censorship. As well as political campaigning, I sometimes write about the science of sex – for example, on how the trade of sex is innate in humans as well as many other species. I have recently launched a dating service that allows users to either offer or request a gift when they post. Readers of the Sex & Censorship blog can get 60 free Jems (worth £45) to try it out (see details at the end of this post).

Many people maintain aJaunt: the UK's dating market belief that “sex trade” refers to prostitution only. But prostitution is merely one, particularly straightforward, example of sex being traded. From marriage to sugar daddies, from gifts of flowers to diamond rings, the sex trade is vast; quite possibly, it’s collectively the world’s biggest industry.

The price of dating and mating underlies pretty much everything else in the economic and social sphere. When supply rises (as it did for example after the invention of the pill), the price falls. When supply is constrained (by, for example, laws against adultery or prostitution), the price rises.

Similarly, the price of romance is constrained by how much men can pay. Once, when travelling in a West African city, I asked a young men if he had a girlfriend. “No,” he replied mournfully, “I don’t have a moped”. Moped ownership was, in Bamako at least, the entry level for any woman to take you seriously.

The fact that romance is a tradeable commodity is widely understood, but also can be difficult to talk about. And yet, it’s a fact that poorer men are far more likely to be single than wealthier ones. You cannot change human nature, but you can make dating more honest.

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This is why we developed Jaunt. Jaunt is a site for singles to find fulfilling dates, not an escorting site. But yes, it does allow a gift to be suggested on each jaunt (our word for a date). So a club night might come with an offer of free tickets, or an evening in a restaurant with a request for dinner and drinks. In fact, you can offer or request pretty much anything you like, except for cash.

The idea isn’t to “encourage” people to pay for dates, but simply to make visible what has always been there. Men spend far more on dating, courtship, romance and mating than women do. This isn’t “wrong”, it’s a fact of human nature. But honesty is important, especially when starting out on a relationship.

Sex & Censorship readers are offered 60 free Jems (that’s plenty!) to try out the site. First, sign up (you’ll get 10 free Jems to start with) and create your first jaunt. Then mail support@jaunt.singles to get another 50 free Jems.

Jerry Barnett Quoted in Time Magazine Article on Censorship

It’s taken years, but the mainstream media is finally waking up to a horrifying fact: within a few months, the UK will have a state-approved Internet censor with sweeping powers and little democratic oversight.

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I’m quoted in a Time magazine article titled “The U.K. Is About To Regulate Online Porn, and Free Speech Advocates Are Terrified”:

“This is the first example in a western country of an official state Internet censor being introduced,” Jerry Barnett, a campaigner for free speech and sexual freedom, tells TIME. “The fact that their first power relates to porn sites is less relevant.”

Barnett worked in the adult film industry until 2012, and is the author of Porn Panic! Sex and Censorship in the U.K. “From the very start,” he says, “I didn’t see this as about porn. I saw this as a strategy that had been formulated to censor the Internet, and porn had been picked as the excuse to do it.”

The Rise of the Nationalist Labour Party (or UKLIP as I call it)

The recent UK protests against the visit of Donald Trump, certainly the most nationalist US President in modern history would have been heartening, if it wasn’t for the fact that so many of the protesters have happily voted for Jeremy Corbyn, possibly the most nationalistic leader in the history of the British Labour Party (or UKLIP, as I now like to call it). While Jeremy Corbyn’s political pedigree, as well as his presentation, is a billion miles from Trump’s, the two men are remarkably similar in terms of their nationalism. Trump makes a big deal of his wish to exclude foreign labour, while Corbyn tends to play this down (though he is becoming more blatant as time goes on). A recent Labour Party video on “bringing back jobs from abroad” appears to be lifted directly from Trump’s Make America Great Again messaging.

None of this should be a surprise. I documented the sudden surge of left-wing fascist values in my book Porn Panic!, written in 2014/15. This included the appearance of strong antisemitism on the left where there had been little previously. The decline of the BNP and UKIP in the polls appears to be strongly driven by the drift of nationalists into the Labour Party.

Taken from Porn Panic, Chapter 9:

Take migration for example. On the surface, anti-foreigner sentiment is focused on the right, while the left is nominally less prone to xenophobia. But in fact, the two strands have become intertwined. Left-wingers, for example, often now rail against the evil of foreign corporations and foreign bankers. The Marxist internationalism of my youth would not distinguish between foreign or local corporations; now the left-wing anti-corporate message has morphed subtly into a xenophobic one. The dubious movement against ‘gentrification’ in London has made it acceptable to rail against property purchase by foreign investors. As Colin Wiles pointed out in the Guardian, this narrative was inaccurate, and often masked anti-immigration sentiment:

“Is a French banker who has rented in London for 10 years and now decided to buy a foreigner or a Londoner?”

And as Dave Hill wrote, also in the Guardian, foreign buyers were less significant in property price rises than many were claiming:

“… about 10,000 more people moved in to London from elsewhere (370,000) than moved out (360,000) – not much of a difference. So how come the capital’s population is rising so incredibly fast, and has recently topped 8.3 million? Yes, it’s the birth rate, stupid: 134,037 babies were born here in the year to mid-June 2012, according to the ONS estimate. This is a city that breeds.”

Left-wing commentators have also recently embraced the anti-sex trafficking narrative, which in fact is a thinly veiled alliance between the old anti-prostitution and anti-immigration movements. This movement claims – falsely – that millions of women and girls (yes, always women and girls) are being dragged around the globe by the Patriarchy to be raped for profit. The myth provides police forces a cover to raid brothels, identify women working illegally (or ‘trafficked women’, as they are now called) and rescue them (i.e. hand them to immigration officers for detention and deportation). All of this is applauded by some feminists, and others on the left, including veteran campaigners, journalists and trade unionists. As with the porn panic, a thin veneer of feminist rhetoric covers attitudes and actions more usually associated with the extreme right. (Readers with an interest in this area are advised to read Laura Agustín’s 2007 book, Migration, Labour Markets and the Rescue Industry).

The anti-banker feeling that surfaced after the 2008 crash has happily merged with anti-Semitic sentiment, and when a blogger rails against Zionist bankers, it can be hard to place them on the political spectrum. Nouveau-leftist Russell Brand fell into this trap in October 2014 when he invited anti-bank activist Lawrence Easeman to help launch his book, Revolution, only to learn that Easeman’s online activism appeared to be tinged with anti-Semitic and pro-Nazi outbursts. Brand’s book launch had to be postponed.

And as the left was appropriating right-wing ideas, so the far-right was doing the reverse. The EDL, and similar far-right groups in Europe, abandoned overt racism, homophobia and anti-Semitism, and appropriated progressive language to attack Muslims. Women’s rights, gay rights, sexual freedom, secularism, female genital mutilation, ‘honour killings’ and belief in democracy were used to falsely paint Muslim immigrants as a threat to European values,including the Enlightenment. And many on the left, deliberately or inadvertently, joined the Muslim-bashing. Cruel, bullying attacks on Muslims, such as the 2010 French ban on veils, were often held up as successes for secularism or women’s rights, while in fact they continued an old French tradition of intolerance for minorities.

The Great Sex Work Decriminalisation Swindle (2018 Edition)

The issue of sex work decriminalisation seems straightforward on the surface. But nothing can be understood without understanding the underlying political context, and especially that in these strange times fascism flows under the surface of all political debate. In Britain, sex workers enjoy a relatively liberated status compared to those in many other countries. Both the sale and the purchase of sex are legal activities. The primary obstacle to liberty is the fact that “brothels” are banned; and a brothel constitutes any two or more people working in the same premises. And so, sex workers often work alone (and unprotected), often against their wishes.

These days, faux-liberal language is routinely used to hide conservative attitudes. So two years ago, when a parliamentary committee expressed support for “decriminalising sex workers”, activists celebrated. But as I warned then, the announcement was an empty one. Note the choice of words: not “sex work” but “sex workers”. The announcement left open the option of the “Nordic model”, which criminalises buyers, not sellers. Rather than express solidarity with sex workers, this model applies a feminist lens to the issue, treating prostitutes as victims rather than as free agents. Some of my acquaintances in the sex worker activist community were angry with me pouring cold water on this “victory”. But it was no victory.

Sex worker as victim

The treatment of sex workers as unwilling actors is not just a game played by anti-sex work feminists and the “rescue industry”, but by some sex worker advocates too. Left-wing activist groups see prostitution not as a choice, but as something forced on women by the ethereal “Patriarchy” and “capitalism”. These activists are adamant that nobody could ever really enjoy sex work, and that sex work is a necessary stop-gap until the eventual overthrow of patriarchal-neoliberal-capitalism (insert your own neo-leftist word spaghetti here). Inevitably, sex worker activist groups have become infected with identitarian attitudes, and so announcements tend to be riddled with lip-service being paid to trans people, “women of colour” and other groups deemed to have been forced into sex work by their “systemic oppressions”.

These sex worker activist groups tend to be dominated by privileged, middle-class women, and their attitudes infuriate many sex workers. Privately, sex worker friends confide their dislike of being portrayed as victims, and I sometimes receive messages from sex workers who are outraged that they are not allowed to claim they ever enjoy their work, for fear of being branded traitors or patriarchal shills.

Corbynite conservatives

Given the worldview of the far-left – that all “workers” are victims of capitalism – it is unsurprising that Jeremy Corbyn (a typical conservative of the middle-class left) has announced support for the Nordic model:

“I don’t think people that are, mainly women, working in sex industry should be criminalised from working in it… Those benefitting should be the ones we go after.”

This was all so inevitable. As the working class has turned its back on the left, so the left has become an increasingly privileged clique seeking to impose its twisted vision of “social justice” on those they deem to be victims.

From the Nordic model to the censorship model

The Nordic model represented a subtle shift as feminists took over the morality movement from Christians. Instead of treating prostitutes as criminals, they chose to treat them as victims, and turned their attacks on clients instead. But now, the Nordic model may also be outdated and unnecessary, because censorship is a far more effective way to attack sexual liberty.

The Digital Economy Act (2017) introduced a state Internet censor to the UK, and that changed everything. The authorities no longer need to outlaw anything. They simply need to find an excuse to block content. The Act was ostensibly about pornography, but I’ve warned repeatedly that this was a smokescreen. Porn is simply the first category of content that will be blocked. Having implemented the blocking system, the state can add as many new categories as it chooses. The recent US laws FOSTA and SESTA point the way forward. Moralists no longer need to attack either sex workers or their clients. Instead the state can criminalise (using the excuse of “sex trafficking”) the platforms that they use to communicate. The Labour MP Sarah Champion recently introduced a debate into the House of Commons last week on this subject.

The UK’s two leading sex worker platforms, Adultwork and Viva Street, were singled out to be named and shamed, just as those of us who tried to run UK-legal porn platforms were attacked in 2012. It’s perhaps ironic that individuals at both companies have been broadly supportive of the blocking system, mistakenly believing that they could stay on the right side of the law. They were wrong: the British state, having watched from the sidelines for decades as the Internet took away its censorship powers, is now getting its claws stuck back in.

This isn’t about sex work, any more than it was about pornography or “hate speech”. We are watching the erosion of Internet free speech. Free speech is not just another issue: it is the issue of our age. Unless we resist now, future generations will marvel at the golden era of free expression that we enjoy from about 1990 until… well, around now.

How do you help? Sex work decriminalisation is a worthy goal, but the free speech issue cuts far deeper.  You can help the English Collective of Prostitutes respond to the government survey (deadline 16th July), and you might consider supporting my Patreon campaign. The issue of free speech has been recently hijacked by the far-right and my goal is to bring it back into mainstream politics.

Audio: Courtney Hamilton on Race, Racism and Cultural Appropriation

This is the 18th episode of the Sex & Censorship podcast. You can listen or subscribe on this page (see below) or via the YouTube Channel.

Courtney Hamilton is a black Londoner, an activist and writer with a deep interest in race and racism. Like me, has has reservations about the transformation of the anti-racism movement. Once, a genuinely progressive force against bigotry, but now something new and less progressive. Courtney is opposed to the new “call-out culture” where accusations of racism fly like confetti. While the anti-racism movement once sought to unite people across race lines, now it is guilty of segregationist attitudes: separating people into racial categories and redefining “privilege” and “oppression” based on skin colour rather than economic status.

He also attacks the dubious concept of “cultural appropriation”, under which “people of colour” claim the right to tell others what they can wear, and even how they can wear their hair.

Our discussion touches on these points and more.

To support the creation of content like this, please consider giving £1 a month via patreon.com/jerrybarnett

Teenager Convicted of Hate Crime for Posting Snap Dogg Lyrics

Every now and then, I need to take a step back and check I’m not exaggerating the looming threat to free speech. And then, along comes a story like this, which confirms: nope, things are bad for free speech, and they’re getting worse. This week, things took another little turn for the dystopian when a teenage girl was convicted of racism for posting rap lyrics on Instagram.

Yes, you read that correctly. A British teenager has been convicted for posting the lyrics from a rap song (I’m Trippin’ by Snap Dogg) on a social media site. As if to illustrate a fundamental problem with censorship, we don’t know exactly which lyrics she posted, because news sites didn’t specify. Thus, not only is the girl being censored, but so is coverage of the “crime”.

To give a feel for the Orwellian atmosphere, here’s the BBC trying to report the trial, without itself offending anyone:

“The words Russell used on her account contained a racial label which some people find extremely offensive… PC Dominique Walker… told the court the term was “grossly offensive” to her… Russell’s defence had argued the usage of the word had changed over time and it had been used by superstar rapper Jay-Z [at Glastonbury]…”

Being somewhat braver/stupider than the BBC (and having listened to the track), I’m going to hazard a guess that the word was Nigga, a term that is liberally used in hip-hop (and, of course, has its roots in the racism of the old US Deep South).

This court case is worrying at multiple levels, and should deeply concern anybody that is worried about the future of the Internet as a free medium. It provides yet more evidence that the Establishment has now seized on “hate crime” as a tool of authoritarianism. PC is no longer the realm of well-meaning (if misguided) students, but of the police state. As I’ve blogged previously, Theresa May – hardly a well-known leftie – previously banned Tyler the Creator, a rapper, from touring the UK because his lyrics were deemed to be misogynist and homophobic. Did May genuinely care about the feelings of people who never listened to Tyler’s music anyway? Or did she simply enjoy finding a new excuse to ban a black man from entering the country?

Context should be important, and yet has been apparently ignored by the court. The fact that the girl (it seems) meant no offence is deemed to be of no importance. The fact that the word formed part of a song was of no importance. The fact that the word was not being used to abuse somebody was of no importance.

The ruling, bizarrely, appears to have been strongly influenced by the view of an individual police officer, who claimed the word was “grossly offensive” to her as a black woman (one presumes that she isn’t a fan of the work of Snap Dogg and other rappers). In doing so, the court has made a deeply racist judgement that the view of one black woman is representative of all black people. No white person would be deemed capable of speaking for white people – so why does the legal system patronise black people in this way?

Not all black people agree with PC Walker. The rap artist Greydon Square makes this clear in his hard-hitting tune, N-Word. In 2007, the black American (but London resident) comedian Reginald D Hunter named one of his stand-up tours “Pride, Prejudice and Niggas”, and was promptly banned from advertising it on London transport. If anything illustrates the madness of censorship, it’s the irony that a black man from the Deep South was censored by a British bureaucracy in order to protect the feelings of black people.

The teenager – whose name I won’t repeat here, but who has been named in the mass media – is now branded a racist: something she probably is not. This, in the current era, is akin to being labelled a “communist” in 1950s America.

Most of all, the ruling raises a serious question about impending censorship of the Internet. Snap Dogg’s videos and lyrics can be found on YouTube and in many other places. Should his work now be taken down, to avoid offending people like PC Walker? Of course, this would apply broadly to hip-hop, as well as to literature and cinema.

People that think the state might censor non-black people, but not black people, for use of the offending word, is doubly naive. Firstly, that would be illegal under equality law. And second: Really? Which part of “the lessons of history” did you miss?

The word also appears in the great anti-racist novel To Kill a Mockingbird. Would the state be misguided enough to censor this  work too? I think they just might.

SESTA, FOSTA, the End of Craigslist Personals, and the War on Sex

I have long predicted that the porn panic – the war on sexual expression – would engulf content far beyond pornography. The takeover of the British anti-censorship movement by members of the fetish-porn scene has thus been frustrating, as it has suggested that the threat to free speech is about the needs of people with unusual sexual tastes. I have predicted, in particular, that dating sites like Craigslist would be hit hard, as they allow people to post adult images on their ads. Last week, Craigslist did indeed close its dating section, but in response to legal changes in the US, rather than the UK.

While the UK’s attacks on Internet freedom have focused on the “need to protect children from pornography”, US attacks have focused on prostitution (labelled as “sex trafficking”). Using the latter excuse, the United States just approved a pair of laws, known as SESTA and FOSTA, which criminalise online services that enable “sex trafficking”. While this might seem a worthy effort, when one scratches the surface, we find the hand of anti-sex feminism at work, as usual, and the story is not as it seems.

The trafficking panic has been rising for a decade, and has long ago been exposed as largely mythical by tireless campaigners such as Brooke Magnanti and Laura Agustin. Magnanti’s book The Sex Myth outlines how the panic rose in the UK, leading to Parliament approving funds to tackle sex trafficking; but although anti-trafficking campaigners had claimed thousands of victims, the police could find hardly any. Agustin, in her book Sex in the Margins, outlines how illegal immigrant women enter the sex industry voluntarily as an alternative to lower paid (illegal) hotel work, but are dismissed as “victims” by campaigners.

Illegal immigrants who sell sex are thus labelled “trafficked women”, and then rescued. Agustin refers to the anti-trafficking movement as the Rescue Industry. The Rescue industry is, in reality, a merger between the anti-prostitution movement and the anti-immigration movement. Now, when brothels are raided to “rescue” trafficked women, the women are often sent to asylum camps before being deported – hardly the rescue of helpless victims that people tend to imagine.

Despite the fact that genuine victims of sex-trafficking are more rare than one would assume from reading the headlines, politicians have been persuaded otherwise. The first American victim of the panic was Backpage.com, which last year was forced to drop its famous escort listings. SESTA / FOSTA is the latest example of this. American sex workers have strongly opposed the new law, arguing that without places to advertise, they will be forced underground, and inevitably face more dangers as a result. The police too say that street prostitution has increased since Backpage was closed. But the Rescue Industry is now a well-funded juggernaut with the power to shout far louder than sex workers.

Once escort ads were banned, US sex workers moved to classified ad platforms like Craigslist, which have never allowed blatant escort advertising. When SESTA / FESTA was approved last week, Craigslist had little choice but to close its dating section – a little corner of Internet freedom that has thrived for years.

Although SESTA / FOSTA doesn’t apply in the UK (where anyway, prostitution is legal), Craigslist is a US business – so the UK has lost one of its most vibrant dating and adult contact services.

What is the future for UK escort listing sites like Adultwork.com and Viva Street? On paper, there is no reason for them not to continue. But I predict that the Digital Economy Act, which already enables porn censorship, will inevitably be extended to block new categories of content, and that “trafficking” will feature in the next list of targets.

Podcast: Count Dankula, Comedy and Free Speech

Last week, a YouTuber known as Count Dankula was found guilty, in a Scottish court, of being “grossly offensive”. He had published a video of his girlfriend’s pet pug doing Nazi salutes in response to anti-semitic remarks. I argue that attack on comedy are a sign that free speech is under grave threat, and that this trial has done nothing to make Jews, or other minorities, safer.

You can also listen to this podcast on YouTube.

BBC 5 Live debate – “Is Pornography a Public Health Issue?”

Yesterday, BBC Radio 5 Live dedicated an hour to discussing the alleged threat posed to public health by pornography. The programme made little attempt to ask balanced questions, or examine any evidence beyond the anecdotal. Instead, it was premised on the assumption that porn poses a threat to society, and that “something must be done”.

I was invited on to the programme to discuss the issue. Before I joined the discussion, I listened with incredulity as a BBC-approved, evidence-free anti-sex moral panic was broadcast to the nation. I was eventually added to the discussion, and did my best to counter the misinformation, though no real time was allowed for discussion of solid evidence.

You can listen to the debate on iPlayer. The discussion starts at 8:00, and I join around 43:30. To support my work against censorship, please consider a small contribution to my Patreon campaign.

Defending Liberal Values in Authoritarian Times

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