Anthony McIntyre describes his apprehensions about reading the best book he has ever encountered.

I took the plunge. After years of advising others to read a “great” book, Hillsborough The Truth, I finally found the cojones to do so myself. It was easy to recommend on the grounds of it being "widely accepted as the definitive account of the disaster. The biographies of Liverpool stalwarts populate the bookshelves of my home and workplace. After reading Alan Hansen’s A Matter Of Opinion, which included his account of that horrendous day in April 1989, I read no more apart from an autobiography of Bill Shankly. He had died in 1981 so I knew it was comfortable to tread there.

Throughout my imprisonment I promised myself that I would one day stand in the Kop. I eventually did but I have been at the monument to the 96 dead outside Anfield more often than I have attended games inside. Invariably, I found my equanimity jostled by the push and pull of complementary emotions. They were similar to those undergone when at the graves of those dead republican hunger strikers I had journeyed with during the H Block blanket protest, when we did not walk alone but with each other. Anger, hostility, sadness, empathy, loss, all rotated as they displaced each other at the uppermost branch of the Injustice Tree conjured up in my mind.

I had followed the progress of the campaign for Justice for the 96 but at a safe distance, declining to become immersed in the detail or ever watching live footage of the disaster. Shortly after the unlawful killings I wrote a piece for a local South Belfast Sinn Fein paper. It's title was Albert The Imbecile. Albert had ventured on BBC Radio Ulster's Talkback the beleful opinion that God had visited the disaster on Hillsborough as divine retribution for the Anglo Irish Agreement having been signed in a town by the same name just outside Belfast. No hatred like religious hatred.

Still, there was always some reason, that never convinced me but which I thrust out in front of me like a shield, for not going too close. Like a crash watched from a distance, the blood and the wails, could be dealt with by the first responders. The words of Kenny Dalglish’s daughter, Kelly, might offer a window of understanding:

It brought home to me that what I’d witnessed was more than names and a number in a death toll. These were people with families who’d loved them.

Best, perhaps not to test the Jungian notion that “there's no coming to consciousness without pain." Easier to maintain a safe distance and a calm mood that would easily shatter upon descent down among the dead men, women and children of Hillsborough.

There is something visceral that rages into life upon contact with the April ‘89 horror that Hillsborough has become a byword for. I no longer try to reason with it because any explanation defies me. Reaching for it results in the accomplishment of Tantalus. Some things in life hook us and others not so much. Enough to say that out of all the tragic events in living memory it is the one I find to be the most unnerving, the most emotionally disruptive, the one that fractures and fragments the sense of control and detachment we like to assume when approaching these matters.

Even more so than the hunger strikes eight years earlier, caused by the same Thatcherite mindsight that stripped context from complex social and political issues so that they might be reframed as a law and order problem, best dealt with by a baton rather than investment and justice. The hunger strikes are easier to deal with because we were combatants with a knowledge of the risk. The Liverpool fans were civilians, many of them children, with absolutely no awareness of the consequences of their wholly innocent actions.

On the evening of the thirtieth anniversary of the event I began the journey into the 9th circle of hell. Just over a month later, it is 0418 on Saturday morning. I cannot sleep. Why Me? Surviving the Hillsborough Disaster 1989 by Robert Lynch, a short account which I almost completed on a bus from Dublin yesterday, unsettled my nocturnal rhythm. Put the sleeplessness to good use and get my thoughts out on Hillsborough The Truth, the first amongst equals, the most powerful book I have ever read.

Already the review is writing itself in front of me.

Primus Inter Pares

Lishka Klein viewed a movie set in a Mormon community and found it horrifying. 

Image credit:
Warning: this movie will simultaneously boil your blood and break your heart. Don’t watch this without having a box of tissues and a punching bag on hand. Skip the popcorn as it’s a choking hazard. You’ll thank me later for that.

I’m not going to focus so much on the movie as you just need to watch it yourself and have your own head explode. I honestly have no words for this atrocity. Rather I’m going to focus on how religion played a huge part in this epic failure of humanity.

Mormonland USA

This horror show took place in an unexciting town in southeastern Idaho called Pocatello. Despite being home to a state university, the population is about 90% Mormon. Mormonism is inescapable. It infiltrates schools, the courthouse, local businesses, and at just about every public function there is some reference to Mormon teachings, or at least religious invocations using Mormon verbiage. At least you can still buy beer on Sundays, unlike other towns in the area.

Despite the obvious theocratic tendencies, there are nice people who live in Pocatello, just as there are at least some nice people everywhere so don’t get too giddy. The Broberg family was known and respected in the community as kind and honest business people. In other words, they were the perfect target for a psychotic child rapist.

Robert Berchtold and his family went to the same ward¹ as the Brobergs and they became friends. Long story short, Berchtold (unfortunately a victim of sexual abuse as a child himself) found them to be an easy target, manipulating the parents into allowing inappropriate long-term contact with daughter Jan and even managed to entice both parents into sexual relationships. Yes. Both parents. And he kidnapped Jan. Twice.

During the first abduction, Berchtold brainwashed Jan into believing that she had to have his baby to save the planet before she turned 16, quoting some crackhead alien conspiracy. During the second abduction, he manipulated her into protecting him, what he was doing and where he was hiding. And abused her the entire time.

You have to watch the movie to see the nightmare this family lived, and how brave they are for banding together and telling their story years later and admitting their mistakes to the world. That takes a lot of courage, especially when the threats of punishment from the church were so real to them, never mind the onslaught of criticism from a planet-sized peanut gallery. You may want to drop your phone or open a tab for Netflix in your browser right now and watch before finishing this article. Please do. Grab tissues and a punching bag and… GO!

Welcome back. Hope you have a push broom to clean up the brain bits splattered all over your house.

Now I’m sure the intent of this documentary was not to expose the Mormon cult for its miserable teachings and failures, but that’s what we here at the Atheist Republic do: we air the dirty laundry that religions likes to keep hidden and claim it doesn’t have in the first place. Just a public service we offer. Happy to oblige.

Let’s break down the Mormon influences in the situation that facilitated the depravity of this monster:
1/ In typical cult/corporation fashion, sex offenders are never reported.
2/ The Mormon Corporation feels it’s above the law.
3/ Cults always teach blind support of cult leaders and even fellow cultists without question. Mind control in the extreme.
4/ Cultists, regardless of rank, feel they are something special, somehow untouchable and privileged. That’s one of the classic traits of narcissistic personality disorder, and it’s taught to everyone in this cult. That’s pretty toxic.
5/ Not allowing questions keeps people naive to the world around them, and makes them easy prey for predators.
6/ Religions prime the brain to believe fantastical bullshit — despite the fact people who know better say: Snakes don’t talk, feeding children to bears is not ok, sending friends off on “missions” and marrying their wives behind their backs is a dirty trick, etc.
7/ The concept of “missionaries.” The grand plans they promote for the good of the world must be spread to the entire world. No exceptions, unless the missionaries die because their “grand plans” aren’t welcome by the natives who have their own grand plans.
8/ The image of perfection is more important than being human. The facades Mormons put on to impress and outdo each other is astounding, and couldn’t be more mentally unhealthy. Some of these families are complete wrecks but as long as fellow churchgoers don’t know, it doesn’t matter to them. Financial ruin? No problem as long as we show up to church in expensive clothes and a nice rig!
9/ Naughty bits belong to the church: no premarital sex, no sex for fun, and above all else don’t be gay. The mormon church hates gays despite their weak attempts to pretend otherwise. Gays can’t breed more Mormons anyway.
10/ Raping children is totally ok though. Joseph Smith “married” underage girls, so in the minds of fundamentalist believers, they can too. The non-fundies just wave the underage issue away as if people who criticized the policy of child rape were delusional.
11/ Mormonism is very much a theocracy, at least it would be if it hadn’t been invented in a secular country that threatens its tax-exempt status unless it steps into line, with changes usually involving a “new revelation” by the prophet at the time.
13/ Families are forever (15:00-16:58). If one person leaves, it ruins the whole possibility for the family to get into heaven, the highest level being reserved for married people only. One person leaving the church threatens the entire family’s “salvation.”
14/ Apostasy nullifies marriage as far as the Cult is concerned (25:00-26:05).
The practice of “bishops” questioning children about sexuality is another setup for children to be exploited. They train children that pornographic conversations with adults is totally ok. They train adults to be pedophiles.
15/ The shameless victim blaming, as if anyone really asks to be abused. Siding with abusers and claiming that it’s the victims’ fault that they LET the abuser abuse them is complete bullshit.
16/ The utter rejection of secular psychological help, educational materials, and resources outside the church (at 13:00). It’s all “of the devil!”
17/ “Truth is anti-mormon” (17:02). Cults actively DENY reality and truth. The fact that they are so open about it is astounding. Even more astounding — the fact that people believe it. It’s so sad.
18/ “Doubt your doubts, or you’re a defective idiot” (19:15).

How these shortcomings of morality apply to the movie (numbers don’t necessarily correspond to the numbers in the list above):

1/ Berchtold was already known to the church/cult/corporation as a child molester, and no one reported him. Not even average churchgoers would speak up.
2/ Church/cult/corporation policy is to not report its sex offenders, so no help from them.
3/ Berchtold certainly thought laws were for chumps.
4/ Neither the Mormon or Catholic corporations respect secular law and only answer to their imaginary friend. Cowards.
5/ The Brobergs were very trusting and forgiving people, quite naive really. They even begged the court to let Berchtold off easy, astoundingly enough.
6/ The Broberg parents were so obedient to the vile cult that they didn’t even allow themselves to follow their own good judgment.
7/ They went to church. The mind control works.
8/ Jan believed the pervy POS’s claims to “save the world” for a very long time, and wanted to protect him from legal action. Classic Stockholm Syndrome, and clearly a victim of religious brainwashing: encouraged to believe complete nonsense.
9/ The Broberg parents were terrified of the humiliation that would undoubtedly come when Berchtold exposed their affairs with him to the church, much to the detriment of daughter Jan.
10/ See Shortcoming #6, and put extra emphasis on the gay encounter Dad Broberg had with Berchtold.
1l/ See Shortcoming #6 again, this time with extra emphasis on Mom Broberg and the months-long affair she had with Berchtold, After He Raped Her Daughter.
12/ Fear of being salaciously grilled about every dirty detail of the affairs by, not just one bishop, but a snarling pack of 12 perverts (28:00-29:00), only to be shamed for stepping outside of cult-approved vanilla sex.
13/ Christianity and its bastard child Mormonism both support the sexual abuse of at least girls, and Joseph Smith himself was a child rapist. Berchtold was a victim himself (or so he claimed, narcissists love to fabricate stories like this where they are the victims in all situations, even situations they create), and he went on to hurt children himself.
14/ The courts and psychiatric facility let him off easy.
15/ Berchtold’s wife bullied the Brobergs into not pressing charges. Mrs. Berchtold was quite the flying monkey. She was his victim too but she’s an adult and I have an impossible time feeling sorry for her. And she’s a victim of cult mind control, terrified of not going to heaven because she wouldn’t have a husband anymore.
16/ Berchtold’s wife stayed with him even though she had to have known he was out raping children and having affairs with men and other women. “Families are forever” and all…
17/ Perverted adults have no business grilling and shaming young children about sex. Their agenda is a far cry from a clinical and secular sex education class taught to teenagers.
18/ Victims are blamed for how they dress or act, and are always female. See “Porn Shoulders.” Odd how male victims get to be victims, even if they are ignored for several years, male victims are never told they are “whores” or “deserved it because [they] were drunk.”
19/ The overwhelming denialism. Hiding crimes and putting on a shiny happy face for the world is the MO of the cult.

To expound on a few of these points:

Mom and Dad Broberg were too concerned about being exposed for their mutual liaisons with toxic narcissist Berchtold than they were about protecting their kids. The FBI agent pointed this out, and I’m sure by now the parents realize that a little bit of embarrassment would have been worth it to save their daughter.

Threatening the Broberg parents with ratting them out to the church was a pretty big gamble for the child rapist, but narcissists do that. He risked exposing his own church-disapproved activities but as it turned out that outrageous stunt worked well for him. The church is so superficially squeamish when it comes to sex in general that I would have been surprised if this filthy rat would have had the hubris to expose his part in the extramarital affairs, especially the homosexual encounter. The church would have frowned on that, seriously. But then, Berchtold would have put some outrageous spin on it accusing the Brobergs of seducing him or whatever, because narcissists ALWAYS manage to be the victims.

Dad Broberg stated that the most horrendous thing he had ever done was cheat on his wife. Sure he feels horrible about what happened to his daughter but to claim that the worst mistake of his life was giving a guy a hand job? Did he really mean it that way? If so, how could that possibly be worse than letting his child get repeatedly raped and kidnapped?

Oh. Mormon scripture, and “prophet” Ezra Taft Benson trying to equate “sexual sin” with Murder. Did it not occur to him that the degenerate raping his daughter was committing a crime that he equates — because of cult programming — to murder? Or does he not think that rape is a “sexual sin”? Well, considering the LDS cult has taken a page from the Catholic Rapist Guide to Escaping Secular Justice manual, it’s no surprise that the victims are considered the real sinners and shamed into silence and rapists are just poor defenseless little things led astray by nasty sinner women and girls. The Corporation isn’t very good about drawing the critical line between consensual sex and rape, and doesn’t want to understand the motivation of rapists to better protect their children and women.

And why in the world is rape not a crime? Do they not even see rape as a sin by their definition of the word? Or is sexual assault only a crime when the victims are boys?

From Benson’s speech in 1987:

If Dad Broberg’s cheating on his wife weren’t “sin equal to murder” enough, that he cheated on his wife with a man is even more of a no-no-no-no-No. These mental gymnastics excusing away their bigotry by trying to draw lines between attraction and behavior are over the top. But again, how is this worse than letting a predator “commit [repeated] sexual sin” by abusing his own minor child? Why is there no specific and rightful demonization of rape? Oh yeah, the supposedly godly books say it’s ok to rape children...

Jan was at an age where she was likely already being harangued about sex by her bishop. This can be quite the uncomfortable topic for most people, even in secular societies. Considering we have age of consent laws, it means that sexual behavior is not an activity for children, nor should it be up for discussion in a pornographic manner:

Fathers bully their daughters about dressing “modestly” and all over town you’ll see dress shops advertising “modest dresses” for prom. Wear those shoulder hijabs with pride, ladies! Especially horrendous is that girls and women get blamed for drinking alcohol but rapists do not. BYU has a real problem with this. The entirety of Mormonland is all about slut-shaming, even when the girls aren’t sluts. Boys are never shamed for sex or rape, just for masturbation and watching porn. This cult even had the unmitigated gall to try to equate boys struggling not to masturbate or watch porn to men fighting for their lives in an actual war zone. This is absolute batshittery.

No wonder Mormons have such a warped view of sex.

Child “marriage” damages children physically and mentally. Religiots of many brands like to claim that puberty somehow means adulthood, but modern consensus is that humans aren’t fully developed physically until at least reaching maximum height (even later for some) and mentally until about age 25. Children Are Not Spouses Or Baby Factories . Children Cannot Consent. But “holy books” such as the Talmud, the Bible, the Quran, and the Book of Mormon all support the sexual abuse of children and forcing young girls to marry older men. Women and girls are property according to the books, not human beings. Civilized society does not allow women and girls to be traded for two cows and a goat. Or even money. We even have a term for this “livestock for livestock that can cook” exchange: Human Trafficking.

Guess we shouldn’t talk about the child exchanges that take place between fundamentalist Mormon cult colonies. And I’m pretty sure Brigham Young University, named after the second so-called prophet in the cult, doesn’t want us to know how they further victimize already devastated victims of sexual assault. How about that, a major university named after Brigham Young, a notorious child rapist and theocratic psycho. Utah must be oh-so proud...

Rape is a horrendous crime even when adults are victims. Children especially cannot handle it. I once asked a counselor how child victims of sexual abuse could possibly grow up to be rapists themselves, since they of all people should know better, and he said something to the effect of “they think they turned out just fine and assume their victims will too.” I’m still gobsmacked by this excuse. Getting abused as a child then going on to abuse children is somehow “just fine”???

The court system in Mormonland protects the LDS Corporation and rapists. They want to protect their image, which they arrogantly think is pristine, and will throw any and all victims under the bus. If for no other reason, they try desperately to protect their own delusions. It’s quite a racket really, with literally millions of dollars on the line in addition to their colossal yet fragile egos. Money and appearances. Even in minor cases, inappropriate religious bonds are formed between judges and litigants, and the other litigants get railroaded. It’s so bad that the people getting thrown under the bus aren’t even protected by their own lawyers. It’s really appalling.

To the Mormon corporation: your twisted teachings lead to the exploitation of and crimes against women and children; crimes against Humanity. So far the vast majority of perps are men, your “exalted” men. Your “bishops” and “heads of families.” So this is your gold standard? Sex offenders? Is that the best you can do, offering rapists as “moral and spiritual leaders”? I guess that explains why Utah has the highest rate of child sexual abuse in the country. Yes Mormon “church,” I’m calling YOU out. Send out your flying monkeys and rabid apologists. I’m ready.

And you know what? The world is listening, even as far away as New Zealand. The cat is out of the bag. You can’t hide your crimes anymore. It’s only a matter of time before tax evasion charges kick in as well… You may think you’re a shining beacon of morality, but you aren’t. You’re an colossal embarrassment to the human race as a whole.

I still feel horrible for the Broberg family. As if being exploited and set up for failure by a cult weren’t bad enough, to be targeted for such heinous crimes and to have their religion, something they truly believed was good, used to manipulate them into even more traumatic situations is unthinkable. Yes Mom and Dad Broberg are responsible for themselves and their actions, and inactions; but I’m pretty sure that no one is more painfully aware of their own mistakes than they are. I have a hard time condemning them further, though I have no problem eviscerating the cult and the psychotic teachings that helped facilitate this tragedy. I would like to commend the Brobergs for bravely exposing this abomination. I shall also place the ultimate blame on the cult leaders and congregation members who refused to turn Berchtold into the police which would have prevented this catastrophe in the first place.

Follow Atheist Republic on Twitter @AtheistRepublic

Abducted In Plain Sight

A Morning Thought @ 361

DEE FENNELL reflects on the double standard applied by Sinn Fein when it asserts that young people are being targeted for "radicalisation."

In recent weeks there has been an emphasis within State-complicit media outlets regarding the supposed "radicalisation" of young people. This has invariably been propagated by those with a background in British Crown Forces, members of Sinn Féin, unionist elected representatives or from the ranks of the ever increasing "commentator" clique that is made up of those who would have previously been one of the aforementioned.

This "radicalisation" is only described as such when it references contemporary Republicans generally (and more often than not Saoradh specifically) attempting to engage with, recruit and empower young people. The "radicalisation" description conveniently ignores that all other political parties in Ireland also have youth wings that encourage young people to get involved in activism.

They also fail to mention the recruiting sergeants armed with promises of worldwide travel that attend schools careers events and further education colleges' Fresher Days on behalf of "Her Majesty's Armed Forces." These well polished mercenaries are paid to seek out 16 year olds willing to put on jackboots that can replace worn trainers as home to their confidence and self-esteem.

My own experience of becoming involved in politics could be used as a case in point when analysing the hypocrisy of some, but not all, of those using the "radicalisation" description. I joined Sinn Féin Youth in late 1996 at the age of 14. Locally, our SFY cumann was established simply by changing the name of a local republican youth organisation made up of children that was established in the summer of 1996 by the Republican Movement in Ardoyne. The sole purpose of this youth organisation that was now being complemented, rather than replaced, by a SFY cumann: simply to engage in rioting during the Drumcree dispute. Was this "radicalisation"?

Throughout my involvement in Sinn Féin Youth there were regular updates, briefings and educational talks. These were mainly facilitated and/or delivered by those who the Belfast leadership of Sinn Féin thought would have the most impact on impressionable and idealistic young people. And they were right to assume that those with most influence would be those with a history of involvement in armed struggle.

These Republicans included several ex-prisoners that had admitted and/or been previously convicted in Diplock Courts for the deaths of civilians. These civilian casualties occurred accidentally or intentionally in neighbouring loyalist areas. Was this "radicalisation"?

Sinn Féin Youth at this time was a manifestation of militant or radical Republicanism. It took part in direct action against the British Army in the Six Counties, confronted the RUC and opposed their introduction to communities via the SDLP, NIO and Catholic Church. SFY took part in protests as part of the Saoirse campaign that called for the release of Republican POWs. These included occupying UTV studios and rooftop protests at City Hall. We were involved in opposing sectarian marches in North Belfast, Derry, Orneau Road, Garvaghy Road and elsewhere. We built links with other revolutionary youth movements across the planet. And we did all this while facing the informed risk of imprisonment by the State and death or attack by her loyalist proxies.

All this was authorised by the overall Sinn Féin leadership, and at a local level by the Comhairle Ceantair. Even our official logo was an Easter Lily in the shape of a flame coming from a petrol bomb. Was this "radicalisation"?

Sinn Féin Youth, as a bloc, voted against the Good Friday Agreement in 1998. Some of us actively campaigned for a no vote. And how did the leadership mainly ensure these young people didn't go elsewhere, at least at that time? They brought the big guns in (pardon the pun), the men and women who had done "the business" to assure us that "this GFA was a tool to be used", that they were going to "wreck Stormont from within" and prove the state was "unworkable". Was this "radicalisation"?

My honest answer would be that if it was "radicalisation" then it failed. Sure, many joined the wider Republican Movement at the earliest opportunity when reaching the age of 17. For a lot of us we reached that age after the signing of the oft-implied cut-off point for everything that was bad, the Good Friday Agreement. And while others, including our then Belfast organiser, are now members of Saoradh or remain opposed to British occupation in other ways, for others of that time they now reside politically in the ranks of the pro-austerity, pro-Crown Forces, pro-Stormont and constitutional nationalist entity that Sinn Féin has become. Our then National Organiser is an elected member of Leinster House. One SFY activist of the late 90s was even, until recently, an unelected and co-opted SDLP councillor after serving for a while as a 26-County Labour Senator.

Rather than "radicalisation" I would argue that what SFY activists back then had was an introduction to radical politics and an informal political education that was grounded in revolutionary ideology. An ideology centred around secularism, equality, socialism and a overarching desire to achieve Irish Freedom. And some of us have attempted to remain true to that.

But for argument's sake let's say it was "radicalisation". Let's say that Republicans, activists like me who are now in their mid 30s to early 40s, actually were "radicalised". That we who had our first political experiences and education as members of Sinn Féin were "radicalised" by older activists. That the accusation now being made by members of that party, and others, with regards to Saoradh also applies to Sinn Féin when we were the youth.

If we are now the monsters that some of those most vocal in their recent criticism of us have stated, then they must take responsibility and adopt their role as Dr Frankenstein. They moulded us, educated us and led us. They taught us how to empower communities, how to oppose the State, how to mobilise, how to engage the media, how to debate and analyse. They taught my generation of Republican activists everything we know.

The salient point in this analysis is that Sinn Féin changed and we didn't. That doesn't make us monsters. However they became robots. The very law-abiding robots that Bobby Sands wrote about. We were not radicalised, they were normalised. And if they are honest they will admit that it is the guilt of this that fuels their hatred of those, including Saoradh, that challenge their continuing role as an establishment party.

Nothing else.

Dee Fennell is North Belfast republican

Radicalisation Rubbish

A Morning Thought @ 360

Frazer Myers on the teenager, who has Asperger’s, and was convicted for quoting rap lyrics online.

In 2017, Chelsea Russell, a Liverpool teenager with Asperger’s syndrome, paid tribute on her Instagram profile to a 13-year-old friend who died when he was hit by a car. She quoted the lyrics of a rap song, ‘I’m Trippin’’ by Snap Dogg, alongside the phrase ‘RIP Frankie Murphy’. Many other teenagers used the lyrics to pay tribute to Murphy.

A year later, Russell’s profile came to the attention of the police, who decided to arrest her and have her charged. The lyrics she quoted – ‘Kill a snitch nigga, rob a rich nigga’ – were found in court to be ‘grossly offensive’ and Russell was convicted of a hate crime. For nothing more than quoting rap lyrics, she was placed on an eight-week, 8am-to-8pm curfew, fitted with an ankle tag, ordered to pay £500 costs and an £85 ‘victim surcharge’.

Last week, the conviction was overturned on appeal. Russell’s defence lawyer slammed the initial verdict as ‘ridiculous’, akin to the actions of a ‘totalitarian state’. 

Continue reading @ Spiked Online.

Chelsea Russell And The Depravity Of PC

CHRISTOPHER OWENS reviews an updated comic work. 

Anniversary editions can piss the shit out of me.

While I understand that it's nice for fans to see a particular book/record/comic celebrated, do we really need extras (like 40 odd pages of drawings and alternative script ideas) to add to an already perfect piece of work? Does it really deepen our understanding of the work?

I say no. But I get the appeal (both from a commercial and collector's perspective).

So when I saw that The Crow had been given such treatment, I wondered what the point was. It's one of (possibly The most) perfectly realised comic books ever, so what could be added to it?

But before we look at that, let's consider how brilliant the original comic is.

First published in 1989, The Crow quickly became one of the most successful independent comic ever published, before a 1994 film based on the material found a whole new audience for James O'Barr's character (although one suspects that the on set death of star Brandon Lee played a much bigger part in its box office success).

For O'Barr, it seemed like history was repeating itself, as he had written The Crow as a form of therapy after his fiancée was killed by a drunk driver in the 1970's. So his tale of an ordinary person (Eric Draven) being brought back from the dead by a crow to avenge both his and his fiancée's (Shelly) murders from a gang of nihilistic thugs. Throughout, we get flashbacks to his life with Shelly, depicted as idyllic and devotional, which leads to a conflict between himself and the crow.

It's a simple tale of love, death and vengeance. But because it's a tale filled with iconic imagery and packing a visceral, emotional charge, it transcends it's humble roots and becomes something much more. O'Barr himself states that there " pure anger on each page" and he's right. Not just in the writing, but in the artwork.

In O'Barr's hands, Detroit is drawn as a crumbling metropolis overrun with sadistic thugs hell bent on destruction without any thought as to why they want it. We see an old woman shot in the back of the head for no other reason than she was the nearest target. We see a young, badly treated child sitting on a step waiting for her junkie mother to have sex with her dealer before getting her fix. The attention to detail in each scene makes the scenario all the more squalid.

The use of poetry, song lyrics and quotes in-between chapters adds a more gothic, romantic and tragic veneer to this gritty tale. Arthur Rimbaud's 'Ordinary Nocturne' is used to brilliant effect, acting as a eulogy for Eric and Detroit itself, while the lyrics to 'The Hanging Garden' by The Cure reflect the desolation that Eric feels wandering through the city exacting his revenge.

Finally, quoting Voltaire's famous line about how "one owes respect to the living. To the dead one only owes truth" in the coda is a beautiful way to sum up the whole experience.

This edition adds 60 pages to the tale which, apparently, had to be cut out for space. Most of them take the form of flashbacks to Eric and Shelly's life. On their own, they're quite beautiful and reinforce the love between them. Truthfully, however, they tell us nothing that we don't already know and add nothing new to the tale except a slower pace.

However, the ending has been extended and while we probably could have lived without it, it does a good job of bringing Eric's character arc to a more satisfying close (and therefore adding an extra poignancy to the use of Voltaire).

A bog standard copy of The Crow will set you back around £5, so curious readers are advised to start there, rather then this somewhat bloated edition, which is more appropriate for older fans.

James O'Barr, 2011, The Crow: Special Edition. Gallery Books ISBN-13: 978-1451627251

⏩  Christopher Owens was a reviewer for Metal Ireland and finds time to study the history and inherent contradictions of Ireland.

The Crow: Special Edition

A Morning Thought @ 359

ANTHONY MCINTYRE reflects on recent developments in the Ballymurphy Massacre inquest.

"To the living we owe respect, but to the dead we own only the truth." - Voltaire

Last week, the former IRA leader Gerry Adams appeared in the witness box at the Ballymurphy massacre inquest. He claimed to have witnessed nothing other than a couple of armed IRA volunteers running past him as they made their way through Springhill Crescent, in his view,  possibly to fire into Springmartin estate or provide "covering fire." True or not, we might never know, but part of his remaining testimony  – hard to call it evidence when he offered none  was less than honest. His enduring resistance to truth recovery was underscored by an insistence on never having been a member of the IRA.

He was not subpoenaed, leaving observers to wonder why he even appeared given that he brought nothing of substance. In line with past performances he ensured the proceedings were focused on him and not the victims. He knew he was going to be asked the obligatory IRA question, for which he has no convincing rebuttal and his answer was always going to pose a risk to the integrity of the relatives' quest for truth, by giving their critics leverage they had no right to.

The Sligo blogger, Alfie Gallagher, observed of the Adams contribution:

“I was not a member of the IRA, I have never disassociated myself from the IRA and I never will until the day I die." 
The most remarkable thing about this statement is that it is a compound lie consisting of a logically interlocking chain of three individuals lies in which the fraudulence of each successive lie is demonstrated by the preceding lie!

Few would expect Adams to front up and admit his role in the IRA. The PSNI he promised to put manners on would prosecute him. Yet there is no reason why the need to avoid self incrimination should extend to lying. The option of saying "no comment” has always been one he has obstinately refused to utilise.

Again made to look ridiculous with the dog ate my homework type deflections – he was only getting a lift from others on IRA active service - he was spared some blushes by relatives of the dead who rightly applauded him from the public gallery when he queried the line of questioning from a Ministry of Defence barrister, insisting that the focus should have been on the killers from the Parachute Regiment, which it would have been had he not turned up. The relatives did not applaud him for his lying. Critics of their quest for truth should be robustly challenged if they imply that the applause was for lying in the midst of a truth recovery setting.

The message sent out on that day was that it was fine to lie at the inquest.

Fortunately, a former Para chose not to tread in the footsteps of Adams by denying he was ever a member of the Parachute Regiment, who had only ended up in Ballymurphy in August 1971 courtesy of a lift from some rifle wielding blokes in maroon berets and khakis who just happened to be passing as they headed to some duck hunting event in Springfield Dam. Earlier this week the former Para told the devastating truth of what was inflicted on the civilian population of Ballymurphy by trigger happy psychopaths who "were out of control, killing people on the street and knowing that they would be protected," thugs who had avoided jail by enlisting in the Paras.

The Parachute Regiment rampaged through Ballymurphy like ISIS in Paris. The people of the estate were subject to mass murder methodically carried out over the course of three days in 1971. It is crucial for both them and wider society that truth is accessed and that they are given the respect, and their slain loved ones the truth, they each deserve.

The truth forum the relatives struggled so hard to secure should never have been polluted with lies. Adams, who has weaponised truth only to find himself impaled on his own aversion to it, showed the living no respect and the dead no truth. He has bequeathed a moral inversion that stains the narrative of republicanism: a former member of the Parachute regiment told a massacre inquest the truth while a former member of the Provisional IRA told it lies.

Truth & Lies

CONOR LYNAM with a poetic take on republican volunteers.

They left nothing behind, answered every question.
Starved in cells and endured the best of British brutality.
The men in suits used them, promised them, and pushed them off a cliff.
The struggle never lies upon a man, a woman.
Like a clock, it keeps moving.
The appetite for freedom will never relent,
There are some that still fight.
A pointless endeavour, a folly, a fools game?
Maybe so,
Or maybe when the British think we are beaten they remind them that we cannot be conquered.
Remind them of streets where Irish were murdered,
Collusion with psychopaths.
Armed, license to kill and given medals.
There are things volunteers never forget.
To the screws that beat them, your hands might be red but your outcome is BLACK.
They fear the volunteers, it makes them spill their coffee, check under their car and wonder why they are here.
And when they sleep and darkness falls, the brave shine brightly.
May your dreams be nightmares, may you sleep with open eyes.
Some sold stories for suits, ties and bank balances that multiply like cancer.
Some never did, never will and remain unbroken.
Screws, steel, barbed wire and brutality will never stop the inevitable.
British boots will never be safe on Irish streets. 

⏩ Conor Lynam is a campaigner with the IRPWA


In the wake of the theocratic fascist attack in Sri Lanka MARYAM NAMAZIE and several secular and atheist bodies expressed their outrage.

We are outraged at the Islamist attacks on churches and hotels in Sri Lanka. Our hearts go out to the survivors and victims – 359 killed, including at least 45 children, and more than 500 wounded. We mourn them with the people of Sri Lanka and the world.

The terrorists claim to have killed innocent Christians and others in order to “avenge” innocent Muslims killed in Christchurch; the Christchurch terrorist also feigned to kill innocent Muslim worshippers as an act of “vengeance”. What should by now be very clear to everyone is that these terrorist attacks have nothing to do with addressing grievances – real or imagined – and everything to do with using terror, hate, supremacy and violence as a tool to impose the ideology and dominance of the religious-Right.

Whether Islamist or white nationalist, whether in Sri Lanka or Christchurch, these far-Right movements have no respect for human life and rights: Christian, Muslim, ex-Muslim, believer or non, white, black or brown, young or old; no amount of murder or mayhem is too heinous for their hateful cause. Always anti- those deemed “other”; always relying on hate, religion, violence, misogyny, homophobia, tribalism, xenophobia, anti-Semitism and terrorism to sow fear and division.

For too long and still far too many continue to excuse one side over the other depending on where they stand. Some will defend the Islamists, others will defend the Christian-Right, both sides saying there are “legitimate grievances” even if they claim to abhor terrorism. Many will even go so far as to blame the victims, especially in the case of apostates and blasphemers like Charlie Hebdo or the Bangladeshi bloggers. What these apologists fail to see is that there is no legitimisation for murder.

Those killed in Sri Lanka could be any of us. We could be next. We must all take an unequivocal stand against all forms of fascism and hate. We must not allow the conflation of the religious-Right with ordinary believers, victim blaming, and the dehumanisation of the “other” to legitimate a politics of terror and hate.

Sooner than later, we must recognise that we are all in this together against the far-Right and in defence of our common humanity. Our lives and our rights are interlinked irrespective of our backgrounds and beliefs.

It is a matter of urgency that governments stop appeasing theocracies and the religious-Right, including via faith schools and child indoctrination, religious courts and faith-based policies. This only strengthens divisions and the religious-Right.

Defending secularism, citizenship and universal rights is the only way forward.


#ChristchurchMosqueAttack #SriLankaAttack


Atheist Republic
Bread and Roses TV
Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain
Council of Ex-Muslims of France
Council of Ex-Muslims of Sri Lanka
Ex-Muslims of Norway
Faithless Hijabi
Freethought Lebanon
M.A.L.I. Alternative movement for individual liberties
One Law for All
Tunisian Freethinkers


A Morning Thought @ 358

From the New York Times, a piece on the impact of Brexit.

Two weeks ago I was on the outskirts of Derry, a town in Northern Ireland, just a few yards away from the border where Britain ends and the Republic of Ireland begins. Behind a garden wall, a wiry, older man was eager to vent.

“This is Ireland! The English have no business here,” he exclaimed. He pointed down the road toward a small stone bridge. The checkpoint there vanished two decades ago, he said. Should the British try to erect a new guard house, he went on, “we will burn it down.”

Come on, I cajoled him, incredulously. What will really happen if, after Britain leaves the European Union, customs officers or the police might be stationed at what will then be a new border?

“We will stone them,” the man replied, more calmly. He shrugged, warming to his idea. “Yeah. We’ll stone them.”

There is no end to the problems surrounding Brexit, but especially for the rest of us Europeans, the dilemma at the Irish-British land border is the most perplexing, and perhaps the most concerning, at least in a symbolic sense.

Continue reading @the New York Times,

Brexit, Ireland And The Failure Of The European Idea