What happens when a good idea degrades into chaos and insanity(Anti-Media stories part 5)


What happens when a good idea degrades into chaos and insanity

Terrorism , paranoia and police state!

I have been quite reticent to write some of the items in the next few stories.
Firstly because I want to protect my old acquaintances and I worry that if MI5 or the FBI or Interpol or someone reads this that they will go berserk and want to find and arrest people.
***So all I will say to all you people who might be from any of those agencies is that all these events happened 23 or so years ago. All the people involved are either now completely law abiding or have had some form of psychiatric treatment. In 2007 we /they are no threat to any government or members of the public or to anyone at all.So calm down!

We are living in strange paranoid times. In the late 60s and 70s the London I grew up in was full of bombs. As a child I used to wake up regularly from some kind of explosion in the middle of the night. There were letter bombs and car bombs and bombs left in plastic bags in London and throughout the country mainly by the IRA but also by the PLO and others.In case the reader is too young to remember , Lord Mountbatten a public figure , famous as a soldier and member of the Royal Family , Prince Charles’ great-uncle and mentor was killed off the Irish coast by a bomb on his boat along with other members of his family and crew. Can you imagine the response if a member of the Royal Family was killed now. They would have to question every Muslim under 30 in the country!
There would be mass panic and 24 hour coverage on the news.
There were countless attacks on Britain by the IRA. The US government were often unsympathetic to these attacks.
Another case in point was the Brighton bombing in 1984 where the government were directly attacked at the Brighton Party conference. Five people died and several permanently disabled as a result, 34 others injured.
Now the daughter of one of the ministers killed in the blast Jo Berry who is an acquaintance of mine campaigns all over the world for peace. She has allied herself with the IRA bomber himself and both now campaign against terrorism and for peace. Whatever your opinion is on this matter , one has to admit it’s quite an achievement and can only inspire other former enemies to find a different way of bringing about change.

However if you watch the news these days you’d think we had never had a terrorist threat before in this country and that somehow we must live with constant surveillance and with extra police powers , and that we must at all times be scared and suspicious.
I understand that possibly the plans of Al-Qaeda are to cause devastation on a much bigger scale than for instance the IRA, and I understand that September the 11th was a terrible crime against humanity. I’m a pacifist and believe that violence just creates retaliation and more violence. I am not on the side of terrorists of any kind however I do think now part of our brainwashing is to leap on and kill anyone subversive in case they could be a terrorist threat. It’s Carte Blanche for the authorities to suppress and destroy any little group of subversives they come across and young people today are therefore not only apathetic about politics but also the ones who do protest put their lives at risk. Maybe that’s always been the case and young people were braver before.
It strikes me that a lot of the protests done by young people I know of is through ” partying” in public places or in ways that are unusual. These are protests but they are not overtly political but it’s certainly better than nothing and less risky to those involved.However the wonderful Circle Line parties , which I was lucky to take part in once, have been stopped because the Spacehijakers were worried about people getting taken for terrorists and harmed by the police. All we were doing was having a drink and a dance on the tube!
(only a few hundred of us on the same train).

My second reservation for telling you the following stories is because I do not want the readers to lose sight of the original message. The Anti-Media message is a vitally important one. It is anti-corporate, anti-advertising, anti-brainwashing to buy products we do not need at a time when the planet can no longer sustain our levels of production and consumption.
The Anti-Media message could almost be equated with Anti-Stupidity and thinking for yourself. However you will read in some of the following stories why I left it all got too extreme for me. However they are still great stories and I love to tell them. We weren’t terrorists , we were only challenging modern culture in our little ways. But still once explosives were involved I had to quit.
Have I mentioned at least three times that I am a pacifist? Good, then I will continue on a lighter note…

Odds and Ends
Some More Anti-media Stories

The Kidnap of Ronald Mac Donald

There was a plan to kidnap Ronald Mac Donald.
At children’s birthday parties at Mac Donald’s they often had a member of staff dressed as Ronald Mac Donald clowning around to entertain the kids. There was an Anti-Media plan to kidnap one and hold him for ransom.
A couple of years ago I bumped into Richard and asked him if this had ever taken place .
He told me there had been an attempt at this. They were a really nice bunch of people and although they often had pretty crazy plans they were too nice to ever do anyone any harm. They had modified their kidnap plan and instead they infiltrated Mac Donald’s and one of them got a job there and volunteered to do the children’s party dressed as Ronald McDonald.
As he was doing the party they pulled up a van outside and bungled him into the back and then sent a letter telling Mac Donald’s of various anti-media demands to be met or they wouldn’t see Ronald again. The plan failed because Mac Donalds ignored the letter and other bunglings. The guy quit but they may have made some kind of film of it somewhere.

The Mess-Age Magnet

Hogan and Howard had asked me if I wanted to contribute something to their Anti-Media magazine ( a contradiction in terms) called the Mess-age Magnet. When I asked them what kind of things they wanted me to write they told me to write anything. I like anarchic organisations of all sorts where you are given trust, freedom and responsibility. It brings out the best in me.
I didn’t know what to write. This must have been in 1985 while we were still doing Anti-Media events.
Every summer myself, Michael and our son would go off to free festivals. That year was particularly interesting as the free festival scene and the country was changing.
The scene had changed because it was growing and Magaret Thatcher was calling us all
” medieval brigands”
although I think the most illegal thing we did on our travels was to sell excellent tea, real coffee and pancakes at a very cheap price from our makeshift cafe without a license . We were even parked on land where it was legal to do so, but the government changed the laws so that The Stonehenge Festival became illegal, and other festivals on sites where there had been traditional fairs, and squatting rights, common land laws etc..were all changed so that our little peaceful free festivals became illegal. As they became illegal the people who went to them changed too. But that’s another story.
In 1985 on our travels from festival to festival we landed at The Cantlin Stone festival. It was one of the happiest times of my life. We were travelling with other groups of hippies in little tribes to deserted places and living off common land, collecting wood, the children who were not wild as they were at some festivals were playing together exploring the hills and countryside around from sunrise to sunset. Every single person I met at Cantlin Stone had interesting tales to tell. Many had come from Hull and other northern towns. Some told us they had been unemployed for several years due to the closing down of different industries and had decided that instead of being on the dole and living in a city full of desolation and junkies that they had chosen to take to the open road, living on buses and in teepees. It was an idyllic lifestyle. I was never lonely, I always felt supported, so happy and so rich in the company of so many benevolent and highly intelligent and colourful interesting people. We were living without TV or newpapers or news and we were very happy.
Therefore it was while I was at Cantlin Stone, perched up on a hill of heather and woods which the forester had shown me was damaged by acid rain, that I wrote about my time there and how our whole sense of selves changed from being away from TV and all sources of news. In fact we probably were in the news if not at that festival then at others we travelled to that summer without our knowledge.
My contribution to the magazine was only 2 pages long. The rest were collages of newspaper and magazine clippings and cartoons with scrawled comments on various issues such as” Is Modern Life Rubbish?“, ” Dress like the pig you are“, “If you think home-taping is killing music you know nothing in either ear.“, ” Love me less, respect me more”.
There were articles about many issues:

” ANTImedia seeks GURLS to contribute to magazine and performances. a GURL regards her environment with contempt and distrust..she is fed up of seeing her contemporaries hanging around with men who are fashion conscious cool and hedonistic….GURLS don’t like the media one bit.”

Another page had a ten step programme ( with 13 steps of course) .They are a bit dated as now it would be computers and computer games and social networking sites and cds and dvds they would avoid as well as TV. Also men with pony tails were quite slimy and trendy at the time and Walkmans were the latest thing…but anyway.

TEN STEPS

1. Turn down the volume on your television during advertisements

2. Turn off altogether

3. Sell television ( and/or all modern conveniences such as expensive hi-fi , or extensive record collection).

4.Cancel standing subscriptions to any daily/weekly/monthly magazines

5.Avoid high neon low life restaurants and take away diners.

6. Avoid high streets and shops bigger than the size of a living room.

7. Allow not your gaze to wander onto street adverts, thus immediately disarming the use of said items.

8. Make a stencil and disfigure the above adverts and invent other creative ideas to occupy yourself positively during your newly found creative life.

9. Tell your friends and discuss anti media ideas with them.

10. Lose them

11. Avoid all modern so called culture.

12. de centralize anti-media by forming your own groups

13. With your new capital from abstaining from bad goods, finance anti-media housing, transport, publications, etc..like buying a pair of garden shears to clear obstacles from underground trains, such as ponytails and walkman leads .
Take the ten steps and your life can only be Improving.”

A flat in Bloomsbury and the Telecom Conspiracy

Hogan had a flat in Bloomsbury and I was invited to come to an anti-media meeting there to discuss various plans.
Hogan used to live there in a media free zone. I remember him telling me he’d met this homeless guy , who I think was an alcoholic and allowed him to move in for a while for free.
Hogan, Richard and Andy were there plus myself and my son.
During the meeting I needed to make a phone call. By the phone there was a window and what I thought was a telescope next to it . However you didn’t need a telescope to see the BT tower. It had been the Post Office Tower but we were living in an era where the Thatcherite government was privatising public companies. The GPO( General Post Office) had split and now we had British Telecom sold off in shares along with British Gas, British Rail etc.. It is hardly surprising that anti-corporate anti-media would have resented the newly renamed Telecom Tower and all the publicity in launching the British Telecom brand.
I saw a jar by the phone which was full of coins and I assumed it was to go towards the phone bill. So I offered to pay for my call and put some money in the jar.
However as I offered to put in ten pence for the bill they told me that each time someone made a call the money was not going to pay British Telecom but to buy explosives to blow up the Telecom Tower. I then looked at the telescope again and I think they were going to use it as some kind of rocket launcher and it was pointed straight up at the Telecom Tower a couple of streets away.

If you haven’t already done so please read my note above ***.

Anyway I rejoined the meeting not sure if this was a joke but my head was swimming and I knew I needed to rethink my involvement with them. Later they gave me and my son a lift home. I have never been so scared in the back of a car. Richard had just learned to drive and had a full license but Andy was driving with a provisional license. The drive was very scary and I seem to remember us going the wrong way up one-way streets and through red lights etc..My son was oblivious and I rediscovered a long-lost belief in God as I prayed we would make it home. After a while Richard said to Andy casually ” So when’s your first driving lesson?”.
After this I reflected and I knew that although my friends were lovely and I agreed with their challenging the media and mass consumerism that somewhere along the line there was a screw loose and marbles gone a-missing.
I still didn’t know if they were joking about the explosives but I knew I would not be part of it anymore. Pooing shit on the TV is one thing( see previous post about crap on the tv), saving up for explosives and my son’s safety were another. It had got too extreme for me.

Exploding Jimmy Tarbuck

About a week or so after that in the rush hour along one of London’s busiest roads they exploded something. There was a huge billboard of Jimmy Tarbuck’s face grinning next to a giant 3 D microwave. In the microwave oven there was a 3D rotating turkey. It was a whole 3D installation, trying to persuade people to roast their turkeys at Christmas in a newly available microwave oven.
They put an incendiary device behind the turkey and it exploded to the amazement of people caught in rush hour traffic. They immediately then called the fire brigade as the billboard was catching fire. No one was hurt, Jimmy Tarbuck’s huge grinning face remained intact.Please see note *** above!

Russell and his explosions

Russell poor lad was one of the anti-media crew I knew less well than the others. I had been out for a drink with him and others once in Hampstead . I barely knew Russell and a couple of others I have not mentioned as they did not perform at the Anti-media Pentameters events or come to Dead Dog promotions /Treatment gigs..( see previous entries in blog for Pentameters events).

When I met him , Russell was shy and quiet, he looked a bit like a young Bob Dylan but wearing some kind of chunky hand-knitted jumper with pictures on it. I thought he looked like the kind of repressed kid who might have been bullied as a child. Russell got a kick from exploding things. Hogan and Richard had told me a few tales about Russell’s behaviour before he finally got psychiatric treatment.
Hogan had left the flat in Bloomsbury and shared a house with Russell for a while. In order to entertain themselves they started to paint furniture and objects in the house, then the carpet was painted. I think Hogan was trying to find something therapeutic for Russell to do as his mental state was clearly worrying. Then Russell took it a stage further and started to set fire to things around the house, he even put lighter fuel on the lawn and set fire to that.
By then Hogan started to realise this was no longer “anti-media art” but simply lunacy and couldn’t live with him anymore. Richard had also told me a story where they were visiting Russell’s parents and he suddenly let off an incendiary device in their living room. He told the others to run and drive off but their car wouldn’t start and eventually being in the middle of a remote part of Scotland and without mobile phones, they had to go back into the parent’s house. They helped them with the damage and then called the AA waiting for them in the family home Russell had just tried to destroy.
Please read note ****

Epilogue

So that is the story of Anti-Media or what I can remember of it.
It went from idealism into anarchy and insanity but the idealism without the insanity is what we need now. We need to counteract the power and morals of the media, advertising and corporate thinking if this planet is ever to have any hope of a future. But not with bombs, explosives or violence but with words and thoughts and hopefully communities collaborating away from media and advertising intervention.

So where are they now?
I bumped into Richard at The Notting Hill Arts Centre where he was DJing. As well as being a DJ and he also set up his own record label and worked for a couple of other independent labels and a music project involving a member of Blur. I asked him if he had talked to anyone from Blur about them using our slogan “Modern Life is Rubbish”. He told me that a few years back they had written to Sony records to complain that they were using our slogan without our permission but didn’t get a reply. He said he might mention it again in the future.

I bumped into Hogan a few years ago in an Oxfam shop in Drury Lane where I was working . He still buys his clothes in Oxfam shops. He had a couple of adoring women in tow. He looked exactly the same and hadn’t changed in 20 years, neither has Richard. Hogan told me he was now working as a documentary maker and had just made a series for the BBC.

I last saw Leonie and Om together as a happy couple at a blues gig at the George Robey opposite The Rainbow in Finsbury Park before Club Dog moved there. He was playing harmonica on stage with a blues/garage band with other friends of mine including Clive and Adam from Treatment. Leonie was expecting a baby.

The other Anti-Media people I have never seen again.
As for me I live in Notting Hill and I write and teach music and recently started writing blogs in response to my son’s request and a guy from Wigan who wanted some stories about completely different things but which involved some of the same community. Next Monday more ranting and a new chapter “The Chainsaw Party” .

Astragone Arglegargle (that’s me that is!)

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