Joe Hartney

Had by the Ad?

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Noel Douglas says of the Cesky Sen hoax (September SR) that, "like much of the best art, Cesky Sen... provokes a response which raises more questions than it answers."

Yet the response of those drawn to the fake advertising campaign was not one of people questioning the role of advertising in society. Instead they felt duped, conned and angry.

What are the ideas behind this well resourced hoax? That advertisers tell lies? That people respond to an advertising campaign that might be promising them something new? Surely these are rather obvious points to be making.

Cultural Heritage

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Review of 'The English Novel', Terry Eagleton, Blackwell £50

When I first went to college to study English I thought that if I could only convince my fellow students to read Terry Eagleton's introductions to literary theory and Marxist literary criticism, they would all become Marxists overnight. 'Forget your lectures,' I would say. 'Read Eagleton instead!'

He Didn't Start the Fire

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Stephen Philips' review of Tony Scott's new movie Man on Fire was misleading, especially in his comparison with Rambo (October SR).

One of the defining characteristics of the Rambo series was its adoption of a right wing nationalistic agenda, which maintained that the US lost in Vietnam because it 'fought with one hand tied behind its back'. If only there'd been more gung-ho, no holds barred, patriotic psychos like Rambo fighting the war, then war veterans wouldn't feel so bad about themselves, and those who opposed the war would be shown up to be wimps.

The Masses Against the Classes

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It is often claimed by well off, liberal-minded parents who make the same choice as Diane Abbott that they agree with comprehensive education 'in theory', but in practice the local school has too many 'social problems'.

What they are really saying is that they agree with a comprehensive system on the condition that schools are attended by children who have the same perspective and aspirations they have for their own kids. In other words, it isn't comprehensive at all, but a state school for the middle classes, a grammar school without the 11-plus entrance exam.

Lies and Statistics

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How is it possible to reduce inflation overnight? Simple - switch to a new method of measuring it that consistently records a lower figure.

This is the statistical sleight of hand which Gordon Brown performed in his recent pre-budget report.

As the graph shows, the new official measure of inflation, the CPI (Consumer Price Index), is almost always lower than the previous measure used (the RPIX, or the Retail Price Index excluding mortgage interest payments).

The Revolution Will Not be Digitised

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Review of 'Matrix Revolutions', directors Larry and Andy Wachowski

After watching the final instalment of the Matrix franchise (called Revolutions) it is difficult not to conclude that the writers and directors, the Wachowski brothers, should never have succumbed to the commercial pressures to produce two sequels. Compared to most of the expensive rubbish that Hollywood churns out, this is still a superior science fiction movie. However, the problem for both of the sequels is that startling action sequences and dazzling special effects are not enough to make a good film.

...and Disconnections

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The most striking thing about the Scottish Nationalist Pary (SNP) conference was how disconnected it seemed from what is going on in the world.

Just a few days after the Brent East by-election, and with fresh opinion polls indicating Blair's deep unpopularity over the war, Iraq never made it onto the pre-conference agenda - it was squeezed out by issues such as securing the future of Scottish greyhound racing!

The conference was dominated by a leadership challenge that focused on the same debate that the SNP has been having for decades, characterised in the press as fundamentalists versus gradualists or moderates.

Electing to Fight

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Carlo Morelli, Joe Hartney and Mike Gonzalez examine the success of the Scottish socialists, while Michael Lavalette explains how he won in Preston.

The political landscape of Scotland was transformed on 1 May, with the election of six Scottish Socialist Party (SSP) MSPs to the Scottish Parliament. In the face of Blair and New Labour across Britain, we cannot overestimate how important it is that a party that openly talks about socialism and is consistently anti-war has won mass support. Even the most reticent bourgeois commentators agree on that.

Media Madness and the Rationale of the Francophobes

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Chris Harman's analysis of the strategy of the US ruling class can help explain the recent vitriol directed at the French (April SR).

It was noticeable that the likes of Richard Perle led the charge in attacking France, opening the gates to a flood of abuse in the US media, but also drawing in the British press (not too difficult a task), who were soon slavishly followed by the Blairites.

Double-Edged Bard

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Paul Foot says that Shakespeare's sympathies were probably with Mark Antony, and against the conspirators, in Julius Caesar (March SR). This is usually the view that is taken, but it is also one that can be questioned.

There are good reasons to believe, when we look at the context in which Shakespeare wrote the play, that perhaps his attitude towards the conspirators was more complex. In a classic essay the Marxist historian Christopher Hill has examined the role of censorship in 17th century drama. He points out that Shakespeare switched to writing Roman plays from history in 1599, at a time when English history plays were being more and more heavily censored. This increased censorship was the response of the absolutist state at a time of growing political and economic crisis.

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