Sleazy Jet

29 Apr

Are you tired of the same old street corners when it comes to prostitution? Do you fancy a change of scene? And do you want to be rewarded with Air Miles when you pay for sex?

Then the new American website ‘Miss Travel’ could be for you. It’s basically an online list of women for you to choose from. Once you’ve picked one, you get to take said woman on holiday with you for the bargain price of all travel and accommodation costs, plus a small surcharge of your dignity. Sounds too good to be true? Don’t worry, it’s all jaw-droppingly true, as this helpful advert explains beautifully:

Yes, that really is their ad. And to dispel any doubts over whether it’s a spoof or a genuine product, I took one for the team and investigated their website.

The homepage has a cheery feel, emblazoned with the title: “WHO NEEDS MONEY, BEAUTIFUL PEOPLE TRAVEL FREE!”. It even refers to ‘sponsoring’ a traveller, which it seems is their way of making it seem like a charity run, a JustGiving page for globe-trotters with tightened purse-strings. But instead it just conjures up images of vulnerable, fly-ridden African infants à la ‘Sponsor a Child’. Or in this case, sponsor a woman who wants a free holiday.

In an attempt to make it all seem like a perfectly reasonable affair, and to distant it as much as possible from sordid connotations of exchanging cash for sex, the blurb under the title says: “Lets face it, no one likes to travel alone”. Let’s face it, no-one trusts a website that forgets apostrophes.

They’re clearly right, though. In the history of human suffering, no plight has ever been more tortuous and anguish-causing than that of travelling alone. In fact, slaves being transported across the Atlantic were known to remark to one another: “This might be the end of our freedom and the start of life-long captivity, but thank goodness we’re travelling on this ship together.” In World War Two, passengers on trains headed to Auschwitz were heard to breathe sighs of relief that, whatever the concentration camp situation, at least they weren’t travelling alone.

But what those at Miss Travel, those veritable experts into the human psyche, have overlooked is the other companionship options available. If you don’t want to go on holiday alone, you could always go with a friend, family member, neighbour, colleague, distant acquaintance, Zumba instructor, or even a Facebook friend – any of those would be a preferable travel buddy than a total stranger from the internet. Unless Miss Travel wasn’t actually about finding a travel buddy but was really – gasp! – about finding a different sort of buddy altogether. In which case, why didn’t they make their strapline “Let’s face it, everyone deserves sex with no strings attached”, instead of trying to paste on a façade of being about making travelling less hellish?

Another illusion they try to create is that this whole concept treats men and women equally. They carefully point out, “our website is 100% free for attractive men and women”, and it “matches generous travelers with attractive travel girls (or guys)”. But the rhetoric is as unconvincing as the smile of the cartoon girl in their ad. Looking at the profiles of users, it’s blindingly apparent that men and women have very different roles to play in the enterprise.

The homepage has a section for 'Generous Members' and for 'Attractive Members'

The homepage is divided usefully into two sections: ‘Generous Members’ and ‘Attractive Members’ – for the uninitiated browsers who have no idea how the world’s divided (it’s split into those who have money and those who have looks, obviously. No, no, you can’t have both, you silly fool. And if you have neither, this really isn’t the place for you, as unfortunately the site doesn’t feature a section for ‘Ugly, Cash-strapped Members’). Clicking on the sections reveals the fact that in Miss Travel lingo, ‘Generous’ = ‘paying’ = ‘male’, and ‘Attractive’ = ‘putting out’ = ‘female’.

In the Attractive Members section, the users listed were all women, and most of their profile pictures feature nothing but a large, over-tanned pair of boobs. ‘Mandy’, a 24-year-old from London, has the subtle subtitle of “Hot Girl seeks Financially stable man”.

The Generous Members section was all male and, as if in a tacit nod to their failure to make it into the Attractive Members section, some of their profile pictures totally omitted their faces and only showed them dressed in suits from the collar down.

As far as Miss Travel’s concerned, the genders can be neatly boiled down to:

Man = tie = breadwinner; Woman = boobs = sex object.

Mandy, 24, from London, says in her profile:

Occupation: Golddigger (sic)

Interested in: Mutually Beneficial Arrangements (Sugar Daddy / Sugar Baby)

I know. I didn’t even know the accurate terminology was ‘Sugar Baby’. She goes on to say:

“…my friend has had alot of success in finding a Sugar Daddy who is fantastic to her, so i guess im jealous and curiosity has got the better of me…Having seen my girlfriend been treated so well from this site, flying first class, going to amazing cities, i too would like that.”

Meanwhile, from the Generous Members section, a ‘Young CEO’ from Michigan, US, says in his profile:

“Occupation: Self-employed

Income: US$200,001 – $300,000

Net Worth: US$500,001 – $1 million

Do you like the sound of a 5-star resort with a world-class spa?  Spectacular food, top-shelf drinks, pools, beaches, shows, clubs, and exquisite massages? Lets talk.


(Maybe the website doesn’t let you put an apostrophe in ‘let’s’.)

You could argue that the enterprise itself isn’t responsible for the fact that women users place themselves in the Attractive (as in, ‘Buy me’) Members section and male users place themselves in the Generous (‘I’ll buy your body’) Members section. After all, the website doesn’t restrict which genders can be in which category. But then, why call it Miss Travel and not have an equivalent Mr Travel? Or why not remove the gender status entirely and just call it something like Sponsor a Traveller (apart from the fact that the word ‘Traveller’ might cause confusion and result in Daily Mail headlines of ‘Travellers’ Charity Scam’ and ‘Gypsies Stealing Gift Aid’)?

Nevertheless, the fact that hundreds of profiles – similar to that of dear old Mandy, 24, from London – exist already on this brand new website is a worrying indictment of how women perceive their position within the context of gender relations. Far from the 1950s housewife image declining into oblivion, the trend towards sexual equality seems to be reversing.

1950s attitudes no longer seem to be a mere distant memory.

Female twenty-somethings today don’t uniformly shun the idea that they can sit back and look pretty because breadwinning’s a guy thing. One of my 25-year-old friends once told me she considered it reasonable that, when dating, the man pays for dinner because she’s bought a new dress and dolled herself up for the occasion. It’s a real-life enactment of Miss Travel’s Generous Member versus Attractive Member system.

And in an economic crisis that has disproportionately affected women – they make up the majority of public sector jobs, which have been so vigorously crunched and slashed, and they make up a higher proportion of the part-time workforce, which has seen major cuts by employers needing to squeeze resources – the notion of a woman needing a rich man to buy her stuff threatens to no longer be just a bad memory. As we slide back into recession, it can only be hoped that twenty-somethings will avoid slipping back into gender roles of generations gone by – and that includes you, Mandy, 24, from London.

Luxmy Gopal


Baby on board? Not any more…

1 Jul

It’s a noise worse than pneumatic drills, Chinese water torture, worse than drum’n’bass, and even worse than Ed Miliband on a particularly nasally day singing a medley of Justin Bieber hits. It’s the sound of a baby crying. Not just a little bit of whining, but full-on infant tantrum screaming. Now, imagine being stuck with that soundtrack from hell for 11 hours on a long-haul flight.

Malaysia Airlines was in the news this week for banning babies from its first-class flights. Children under two years old are already banned from its Boeing 747-400 jets but it has now been confirmed that infants would not be allowed to fly on their fleet of Airbus A380 super jumbos either. Parents with infants can still fly economy or business class, and children over two were still welcome – or at least allowed – on first-class flights.

CEO of Malaysia Airlines

CEO of Malaysia Airlines

CEO of Malaysia Airlines Tengku Azmil defended the decision on Twitter. He managed to explain the motivation behind the policy in less than 140 characters, by saying: “Hv many complaints from 1st class pax dat dey spend money on 1st class & can’t sleep due to crying infants.”

Fair enough, you’d think, but it is apparent that the move has not been welcomed by everyone.

What is a seemingly straightforward matter has proved a surprisingly divisive one and has drawn a torrent of rage among online commentators, and not just from Mumsnet either. Joe Public virtually queued up to post hundreds and hundreds of comments on news websites that published the story. What was most bewildering was how it seemed to turn people from both camps a little bit crazy and highly-strung, almost as if they’d been, say, kept awake for hours on end by a screaming child.

People who supported the ban on on-board infants decided to strengthen their argument by proposing all sorts of common sense alternatives to allowing babies onto first-class flights.

The airline CEO has already dismissed sound-blocking headphones as being a solution, as he says they already offer them to first-class passengers but they don’t successfully block out the sound of a baby crying. So a suggestion offered by online posters was a soundproof space at the back of the plane to accommodate all underage children. So, we chalk out a few feet of space, wall in all babies and toddlers, and allow whatever potential annihilation to ensue – regardless of the possibility that this will lead to suffocation for some, and for others lifelong claustrophobia.

Crying babyOne suggestion was spending the money that would have been used to buy the first-class infant ticket on employing a nanny to travel with the baby in economy class separately. (Thanks to the Daily Mail comment pages for that one.)

Another potential compromise was for the staff to administer a powerful sedative to babies, at the right dose to last the duration of the flight, or perhaps a few hours more in case of delays. 

People opposed to the baby ban came up with slightly more ridiculous responses. They seemed to suggest that excluding infants from flights was a slippery slope to banning all ‘undesirables’. 

It was interesting to discover who counted as an ‘undesirable’. Many were the usual suspects when it comes to unpleasant flying experiences, such as people who had loud conversations, people with BO, people with smelly breath, people who listened to their iPods with the volume up too high, and people who were so fat that they took up some of the next seat.

However, some people implied that equally relevant to this list of are people from minority groups.

Comments posted on the news story on the CNN website included: “What if they banned women on their planes?  What if they banned blacks?  Aren’t babies a protected class?”. I’m not entirely sure what a ‘protected class’ is, but presumably it is something akin to an ‘endangered species’.

The news report in Christian Science Monitor attracted some interesting comments. One of many similar examples was by a poster called Deedee, who said: “I have an even better idea. No babies, kids, teenagers, old ppl, fat ppl, gays, minorities or unattractive ppl allowed on first class… Wouldnt want anyone to feel uncomfortable in anyway”.

Even allowing for it to be laced with irony, it can’t be denied that Deedee is listing whom she – or he – believes could be defined as uncomfortable company on a plane. So that includes babies, for being too disruptive with their uncontrollable crying, minorities for being too ethnic, and gays for being too, er, gay. Or perhaps what Deedee is saying is that this is the beginning of a worrying trend. First we restrict how babies can fly, and next thing you know we’re conducting social and ethnic cleansing in the skies. 

An article written by Pamela Gifford and published on the Yahoo News page (that haven of hard-hitting journalism) also focused on the discriminatory aspect of the airline’s policy. Gifford said: “A long time ago, blacks were banned from restaurants, some schools, etc., because some people didn’t understand them and were uncomfortable around them. This is a similar situation where a select few individuals don’t understand infants and are uncomfortable around them.”

Except it isn’t a similar situation, is it? I don’t think what we’ve got here are a “select few individuals” who just “don’t understand infants”. They understand infants perfectly. They understand that infants will cry and there’s nothing anyone can do to prevent it, short of action that would alarm the NSPCC.

She finishes her article with: “How can we expect children to be decent, nondiscriminatory people when so many others send messages such as this?”

 How can we expect children to be decent, nondiscriminatory people when writers like her can in all seriousness equate airline policy regarding babies flying first-class with decades of racial oppression and segregation in the mid-twentieth century? It reveals either an utter lack of understanding or trivialising of the historical context of Jim Crow laws. My guess is that it’s the former.

Baby looking out of an aeroplane windowDespite the slightly misleading title of this article, the ‘no infants on first-class’ policy isn’t actually a new one. It has been in place since 2004. The ban has gone ahead without drawing attention for seven years, which makes this sudden outcry even more inexplicable. Besides, when it comes to the issue of babies and first-class airline tickets, these days most of us can only afford to have one or the other, so, ultimately, it’s a moot point.

Playing Happy Families

23 Jun

"That's it, sweetie. Pin down daddy's wrist so he can never ever leave"

Following David Cameron’s announcement last weekend that people should stigmatise deadbeat dads, I’ve been wondering how I can do my bit to help.

Cameron declared that “runaway dads” should have “the full force of shame” heaped upon them by society. Well, I’m part of society – how can I join in, Dave? Maybe I could sneer at them in supermarkets. Perhaps I should cross the street to avoid them. Or boo at them, panto-style. Or befriend them on Facebook just to ‘Poke’ them incessantly. Well, that would be annoying, but probably not sufficiently stigmatising.

The thing is, even before Cameron’s speech, fathers who abandoned their kids weren’t exactly celebrated members of society anyway; there was no Deadbeat Daddies national day of celebration or dedicated Runaway Dad card section in Clinton’s (though Moonpig does a good range).  So our PM’s words were no step towards enlightenment.

It was a pointless, empty-gesture statement, and one of those statements that you can’t dispute without coming across as evil, nutty or lacking common sense –  in this case, as someone who sides with negligent dads, and against abandoned children and single mothers. Rather like Cameron’s accompanying comment on tax breaks for married people.

In his message on Sunday, the PM reiterated proposals to “recognise marriage in the tax system, so as a country we show we value commitment”. There it is again: the statement you can’t disagree with because doing so would suggest you don’t want us as a country to show we value commitment. If you aren’t 100% on board with what Cameron’s saying, then you are implying that our nation should endorse flakiness. But at the risk of seeming to champion a commitment-phobic Britain, let’s question the PM’s policy of marital tax breaks.

If you’re in your twenties, broken marriages were a reality for many of your classmates back in school. Divorce rates in the UK jumped in the eighties and early nineties. 1994 still holds the record for highest rate of divorces per thousand married couples since records began.

For our generation, divorce was ubiquitous enough for it to be a key childhood truism that it’s probably better for your parents to be happily separated than constantly fighting but together. We grew up with the knowledge that marriage in itself doesn’t guarantee a stable home environment and that there are plenty of successful family frameworks out there that don’t conform to the cookie-cutter template of a married mummy and daddy and 2.4 children (or today’s average of 1.7).

Marriage ban

Twenty-somethings are increasingly opting not to wed

Equally, unmarried cohabiting is the growing norm for couples in their twenties, as the Daily Mail perpetually laments. Marriage rates are falling, and people who do wed are doing so later. The average age for first-time brides and grooms are 29.9 and 32.1 respectively.

A whole swathe of the population has grown up shunning the notion that ‘marriage’ is a synonym for ‘stable relationship’. So, why oh why does Cameron want to switch reality for ideology, and mould family structures into a prescribed format using financial incentives? His policy would mean, in effect, that an unmarried couple in a long-term relationship gets less reward than compulsive divorcees of the Ross-from-Friends kind, who skip from one marriage to the next.

It’s not even much of a bribe for marital commitment: the tax break you’d get once you’ve tied the knot works out at less than £3 a week. It’s the Tories’ attempt at a cost-effective, quick-fix social scheme: happy families for the price of a Happy Meal.  And like a Happy Meal, it sounds less promising on closer inspection of its contents.

Luxmy Gopal

David Cameron: careers adviser

6 Jun

Dave is here for all your career needs

Are you in your twenties? At uni? Approaching the end of your degree course? Already graduated but yet to find full-time work? If you answered to any two of the above, then, like me, you may be feeling apprehensive about the gaping void ahead.

But to those in my situation, sharing my concerns about our collective future – relax: the government has it all worked out.

If you weren’t calmed by Ed Miliband’s appearance on BBC Breakfast News on May 25, when he talked about tackling youth employment, don’t worry – his appearance unsettles everyone. If you feared that Ed’s proposal to solve youth unemployment with a banker’s tax was as plausible as Eric Pickles becoming the face of Weight Watchers, then let the coalition reassure you.

Think back to the heady post-election months when Prime Minister David ‘Call me Dave’ Cameron had a plan. And he called it ‘Big Society’. Those two little words may make your stomach lurch, but they were our man Dave’s solution to every problem Britain ever had.

Dave’s Big Plan

In Autumn 2010, Dave used the Big Society concept to suggest a great alternative to actual jobs – graduates could just work for free. Young people jobless after education could busy themselves with volunteering, work placements and internships. The latest addition to Cameron’s strategy was his £60million initiative to combat rising youth unemployment by creating work placements in private firms, launched on May 11 this year.

Brilliant. Employers get a free workforce of invaluable skilled graduates – a godsend, given that everyone’s feeling the pinch and that some services’ budgets are so squeezed they’re practically asphyxiated. University-leavers gain valuable experience to put on their CV and develop new skills. A win-win situation.

Which way to Cameron's careers advisory office?

Except that it isn’t. Here we are, an academic year later, and many of us – due to finish our course with no job lined up – have spotted a tiny flaw: you can’t live off your CV. A plumped up CV on its own can’t pay your bills or cover your rent or finance your commute. Solving unemployment by giving people unpaid work is like solving illiteracy by giving people picture books. It keeps us busily distracted without addressing the root of the problem

All in this together?

So what consolation is there for those of us graduating with uncertain work prospects and a mountain of debt? Well, I suggest that before we dismiss Dave as a careers adviser from hell, we utilise his Big Society plan more imaginatively. I propose that we nominate people to join in the working-for-free spirit advocated by the government.

For example, I would nominate Sir Fred Goodwin, former boss of Royal Bank of Scotland who walked away with a £500,000 annual pension and £3million lump sum, while the bank was bailed out by taxpayers. Recently revealed to have had an affair with a former colleague, I would put him forward for a work experience stint at a marriage counselling agency.

My second vote goes to Sir Philip Green, the retail mogul who allegedly avoided tax on a £1.2billion dividend last year. I would recommend him for an unpaid internship in Topshop.

Rupert prepares for his paper round

Next up, MP David Laws who claimed over £40,000 in accommodation expenses while actually renting his boyfriend’s flat for free. He should do a work placement at an estate agent.

Rupert Murdoch, who was reported to be responsible for tax evasion of millions of pounds in the late 1990s, should volunteer as a paperboy.

It might not solve the problem of youth unemployment, but it would certainly make me feel better, knowing that they were doing their part to prop up the Big Society.

After all, aren’t we all in this together?

By Luxmy Gopal

Bliss is Ignorance

19 Apr

Tom Cruise showing his ignorance

Results of a study released last week claimed that Americans are happier than the British. Wrong: Americans are just more ignorant. If they had any awareness of reality, they would wipe that smile off their collective face immediately.

The study, conducted over the past three months, measured ‘wellbeing’, based on factors such as emotional and physical health, work environment, and access to food and shelter. People in the US scored a higher contentment rating within these categories than those in the UK. But if they considered the facts, they would realise how foolish they are to feel so blissful.

For example, believe it or not, Britons are healthier than Americans. You may drop your KFC bucket in shock at this, but we Brits actually have lower rates of diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol than our friends across the pond. The British have better basic access to healthcare, and are healthier eaters, consuming more fruits and vegetables than the Yanks.

Now, this information shouldn’t give us too much cause for British pride: we aren’t exactly the finest specimens of our species. With one in four Brits being obese, we are a nation stagnating in our office chairs and living-room sofas, eating ourselves to our necessarily oversized graves. What it does show is that, however apocalyptic the state of British health, the Americans are in a far worse shape.

President Obama showing his wisdom

They suffer slightly worse levels of obesity, don’t exercise nearly enough, and have much worse access to healthcare. Still waiting for that operation on the NHS? Your American counterpart doesn’t even have a place in the queue, and has probably resorted to crudely hacking at his own body à la 127 Hours, or having a stab at his own triple heart bypass. In fact, beloved childhood board game ‘Operation’ was invented in Illinois  – presumably to prepare American citizens for the necessity of performing their own surgery.

If Americans only knew better, they would see that there is very little cause for joy, whichever side of the Atlantic you’re from. As well as our health levels deteriorating faster than Colonel Gaddafi’s face, both our nations are also facing bleak economic prospects. Jobs are being cut, public services decimated, and prices are spiralling out of control.

Those of us who haven’t already retired will have to work until we’re 103, by which time we’ll be too old and decrepit to travel further afield than our local library – which by then won’t exist and will have been replaced by a Tesco Express – and we’ll have to live off a pension that’s barely enough to cover the cost of a Pot Noodle each week.

Wise beyond his years

In the meantime, we’re waging war with every oil-containing nation we can find, while half the world’s countries are being ravished by tornadoes, earthquakes or floods. Our carbon footprints are ballooning even more than our waistlines, fossil fuels will run out in our lifetime, and, whatever your attitude towards climate change, the polar icecaps are melting so fast that, before long, humanity will be a distant, drowned memory.


So there’s nothing to be happy about – but, unlike us Brits, the Americans don’t seem to have noticed.

Luxmy Gopal

The Apprentice: the reality behind reality TV

28 Jan

Shibby in the aftermath of his three weeks of reality TV fame.

As a fan of The Apprentice, I wanted to test my interviewing skills on Sir Alan – sorry, Lord Sugar (why does that sound like the name of a porn magnate?). However, apparently my journo credentials aren’t up there yet, so I ended up with Shibby Robati.

“Who?” I hear you ask. You know the guy – the one who got fired in Week 3 for turning up to a client with only 16 bread rolls instead of the 1,000 ordered. The one whose level-headed response to this crisis was: “Tell them to go on the Atkins diet”. The one whose soundbite – “My first word wasn’t ‘mummy’, it was ‘money’” – was replayed endlessly, perhaps as a warning to other budding reality show stars that, if it sounds witty in your head, it will probably come across as moronic on TV.

When I actually meet Shibby in the lobby of the Guildford Spectrum leisure centre (it’s a glamorous job), I encounter a down-to-earth guy who doesn’t fit his mildly ludicrous on-screen persona. Turning up in football kit in preparation for a kick-about with his old school chums, the 27-year-old former surgeon is keen to emphasise that he and fellow Apprentice candidates were “credible business people from a credible business background”.

“No-one goes in there thinking they’re just going to be on TV”, he says. “I approached the whole thing as a job opportunity. There’s a thorough criteria and selection process that can fish out the bad apples pretty quickly”.

Shibby is vehemently defensive of the show’s integrity: “Obviously you’re under extreme pressure and you’re quite vulnerable in the house. But the camera never lies. No-one was coerced into saying anything.”

He does admit, however, that while it is “fundamentally a business programme”, The Apprentice does have “TV obligations”:

“The balance was to find credible business people who also fit the role on TV.”

Of the controversial episode where a strong-but-dull candidate, Liz Locke, was fired, allowing a more ratings-winning character, Stuart ‘The Brand’ Baggs, to stay in, Shibby says: “You could argue it was a TV decision rather than a business decision”.

The manipulation for television was also evident in how the BBC played up Shibby’s northern roots. Despite having moved at age three to Guildford where he still lives and works today, he was described on the show as being from Leeds because the programme-makers didn’t want the candidates to seem like a collection of Southerners.

Each series of The Apprentice films two versions of the final results show, so that no-one knows who the actual winner is until the finalé is aired. The winners also tend to leave the job after six months or so, in spite of gushing in the boardroom about how they want to work for Sir-alun/Lord Sugar of Battersea until their dying day.

So, as with the Deloitte graduate scheme, you pretend that your life-long dream is to get the job, but once you’re hired, you whack it onto your CV and scamper off to do something better.

Shibby is in no doubt that the experience boosted his CV. “Since The Apprentice, I’ve had three promising job prospects from big organisations.”

Maybe this is just as well. His hopes that the show would raise his profile enough to land a more prominent role within his community – such as speaking in schools or business seminars – have not been realised. The faded reality TV ‘star’ who confesses to a “short shelf-life” is already past his sell-by date: even the Guildford local press consider him “old news”. Still, he made it onto this blog, which must count for something, right?…

By Luxmy Gopal

New year’s resolution for 2011? Avoid WMDs

20 Dec

What do Fifa corruption, tuition fees and Wikileaks have in common? They were all clouded, distorted, and overshadowed by Weapons of Mass Distraction.  You are as much a victim of these WMDs as I am.

The original WMDs – the Weapons of Mass Destruction – were themselves also Weapons of Mass Distraction back in 2002.  In an attempt to strengthen grounds for the illegal invasion of Iraq, Blair’s government claimed that Saddam had developed weapons that could wipe out everything we hold dear – and the population of Staines – in less than the time it takes to get to the front of a Post Office queue.

Instead of questioning whether that would justify the winless death-fest that was the Iraq War, attention centred on how the BBC could dare accuse the government of ‘sexing up’ the report. This diversion was partly thanks to spin doctor Alastair Campbell, proud owner of a vast weaponry of mass distraction.

Weapons of Mass Distraction (WMDs) are as prevalent today as they were then.  When Panorama exposed bribery by Fifa bosses, WMDs helped to divert people from condemning the institutional corruption to instead just whinging about how the media scuppered our chances.

The bigger picture hidden by those WMDs?  Two votes cost us £15million.  Compare this sporting spending spree with the cuts to school sports funding, which will leave us with yet more generations of blobby kids becoming fatter than the sofas that encase them (and no world cup hosting in sight).

Reporting of the student protests showed an even greater use of WMDs. British youths finally peeled themselves away from watching Deal or No Deal to become politically active in the cold and snow, protesting against education cuts and tuition fee increases.  What did WMDs do? Turned us into tutting disapprovers, shaking our heads at footage which obsessively focused on the violent minority.

This violent minority included people who broke some windows, people who splodged paint onto the royal car, people who actually prodded Camilla with a stick (surely that should be a national sport?), and a disabled bloke in a wheelchair. In an interview with him, BBC newsreader Ben Brown actually asked Jody McIntyre whether he had provoked the police into dragging him onto the ground, by “wheeling himself towards them”.  You can imagine the fear in the interviewer’s eyes, probably brought on by nightmares involving the Paralympic basketball team rolling their wheelchairs en masse in his direction.

The focal talking point was how unruly those yobs were, rather than questioning why the generation will have to pay more for less (up to triple the tuition fees for an education system lacerated with brutal funding cuts). It is the equivalent of making someone pay Fortnum & Mason prices for a trolley of Iceland shopping.

Finally, the worst use of WMDs is in the focus on Julian Assange’s sexual assault allegations to divert from the content of the Wikileak cables. Papers were plastered with news of his alleged assault (which wouldn’t classify as rape in this country), instead of investigating the cables’ claims that the U.S. ignored torture in Iraq and that drug company Pfizer tried to blackmail their way out of dodgy clinical trials. Rather than holding our leaders to account, we’re been tasered by these WMDs – shooting the messenger, whose biggest crimes seem to be omitting to use protection and being so bad in bed that the woman actually stayed asleep through his efforts. Unforgiveable.

These WMDs have attacked our better judgment and diverted us from the bigger picture. It’s like hearing someone shout, “There’s a man-eating lion behind you!” and responding with outrage at the tone of his voice, rather than dealing with your impending carnivorous annihilation.

So, make your 2011 new year’s resolution to evade the power of WMDs, which currently pose a far greater threat to our society than any of Saddam’s weapons ever did.

Luxmy Gopal