The age of banter

The long read: It used to be just a word now it is a way of life. But is it time to get off the banter bus?

Its the most fucking ridiculous story, isnt it? We went to watch fucking dolphins, and we ended up in fucking Syria. Last summer in the Mediterranean party resort of Ayia Napa, Lewis Ellis was working as a club rep. I mean, it was fucking 8am, he told an Australian website soon afterwards, and the last fucking club had closed, and we thought, We can still go dolphin watching. Well blag our way on to a fucking boat and go dolphin watching.

But when the boat sailed so far that Cyprus disappeared from view, Ellis explained, they started to worry. Why are we so far from land? they asked the crew. Were fucking miles away and weve got no fucking wifi. Something, Ellis said, had been lost in translation; his exuberant season as a shepherd for the resorts party pilgrims had gone terribly awry. The crew wasnt taking them to watch dolphins: they were going to a Russian naval base in the city of Tartus, on Syrias Mediterranean coast. Yeah, it is a little ridiculous.

It was, nonetheless, a story that had legs. Hungover lads boat trip boob lands them in Syria, wahey-ed the Mirror; British holidaymakers board party boat in Ayia Napa and end up in war-torn SYRIA, guffawed the Express. If you saw these headlines at the time, you may dimly remember the rest. A stubborn trawler captain, chugging doggedly onwards to Tartus, where he turfed the friends out upon landing; interrogation at the hands of Russian intelligence officers; mutual hilarity as the Russians realised what had happened; and, after a hot meal, a quick tour of the area, and a good nights sleep, spots on the next fishing vessel headed back to Cyprus. It was never made clear why the captain had let them on the boat in the first place, but whatever. Everyone lapped it up.

Reflecting on the whole thing five months later, Ellis, a 26-year-old with a business degree and a marketing masters, couldnt totally wrap his head around it. I think I found 35 stories about us, he told me. I read about myself in the Hawaiian Express, do you know what I mean? (Notwithstanding that there doesnt appear to be any such newspaper, yes, I definitely do.)

What made it really weird to see the media pile in with such unstinting enthusiasm was that the story was total cobblers. I could not believe how gullible they were, Ellis said, a top note of glee still in his voice. We were just having a laugh! It was banter!

Lads: this is the age of banter. Its long been somewhat about the banter, but over the last few years, it has come to seem that its all about the banter an unabashedly bumptious attitude that took up a position on the outskirts of the culture in the early 90s and has been larging its way towards the centre ever since. There are hundreds of banter groups on Facebook, from Banter Britain (no memes insinuating child abuse/dead babies!!!) to Wanker Banter 18+ (Have a laugh and keep it sick) to the Premier League Banter Page (The only rule: keep it banter). You can buy an I banter mug on Amazon for 9, or an Archbishop of Banterbury T-shirt for 9.99.

There are now four branches of a restaurant called Scoff & Banter. When things were going badly at Chelsea FC under Jos Mourinho, it was reported the team had banned all banter in an attempt to focus their minds, and that terminology appeared in the newspapers, as if you would know exactly what it meant. Someone has created a banter map of London using a keyword search on the flatshare website SpareRoom, showing exactly where people are looking for a roommate with good banter (Clapham tends to feature prominently). When a 26-year-old man from Leeds posed for a selfie with a bemused aeroplane hijacker, Vice declared it the high-water mark of banter.

Lewis Ellis (left) and friends in Ayia Napa, pretending to be in Syria. Photograph: Lewis Ellis

If you are younger than about 35, you are likely to hear the term all the time. Either you have banter (if you are funny and can take a joke) or you dont (if you arent and cannot). The mainstream, in summary, is now drunk and asleep on the sofa, and banter is delightedly drawing a penis on its forehead.

As banter has risen, it has expanded. Long a word used to describe submerged expressions of fraternal love, it is now also a word used to excuse uninhibited displays of masculine bravado. Today, it is segregated by class, seized on by brands, picked over by psychologists, and deplored by cultural critics; it is dominant, hotly contested and only hazily understood.

And so, whether he intends it to or not, Ellis use of the term raises some questions. Is he throwing his lot in with the most pervasive branch of the blokeish mainstream, a sanitised and benevolent hilarity that stretches from lad-dad panel shows to your mates zinger about your terrible haircut? Or is he lining up with the misogynist imitators of the Bullingdon club, a sprinkling of racists, and, as we shall see, an actual murderer purveyors of a malicious and insidious masculinity that insists on its indivisible authority and calls you a slut if you object?

Ellis isnt preoccupied by these questions, but for what its worth, he does say that he and his friends never had the slightest intention of going to Syria. We werent really trying to fool anyone, he told me, although Im not sure thats entirely consistent with the facts. We were out for a stroll, and we came across this area that looked really run down, we thought it looked like Syria. So we put it on the club reps [Facebook] page that thats where we were. And everyone started liking it. And then one of the people who contacted us was from LADBible which is like the Bible, but for LADS so we said, well have a mess around here. Well tell a completely ridiculous story, see if the media believes it. See if we can become LADBible famous.

It did, they could. Eventually, the truth came out, not thanks to any especially determined investigative journalism, but because Ellis cheerily admitted on Facebook that his tale of magnificent idiocy was a fiction. Hahaha what a prank, he wrote, with some justification.

The confession only brought another cycle of attention. Publications that had picked up the story in the first place resurfaced it with new headlines to reflect the audacity of the invention; social media users adduced it as evidence for their views of young men, or the media, or both. The Russian embassys Twitter account called it a telling example of how many Syria (and Russia) stories are made up by UK papers, which was great geopolitical banter. The attention entertained Ellis, but he says it wasnt the point. We just thought it was funny, he said. People are too serious. I keep being told to grow up, but I still want to have a good time. Ive had the jobs, Ive got the education. But when Im off work, I want to escape.

Ellis is an enthusiast and an optimist. He is, he told me late last year, desperate to take every opportunity, just to say yes to everything I can. We were on a night out in Manchester with his friends Tyson, John and Chris. In the course of the evening, the following things found their way into my beer: fingers; salt; vinegar; mayonnaise; a chip; saliva; a 10 note; and, I hazily remember being told after the fact, at least two shots of vodka.

Everyones got a thing in the group, Ellis said, as we walked from one bar to the next. One guy, hes not even that ugly, we say he looks like a Peperami. Tysons got this mole on his face, its like a Coco Pop, so youve got a Coco Pop on your face. I looked like Harry Potter when I was a kid, so they call me Potter, thats my nickname. Every single one of us has something. So you youve got Chinese eyes. Youre Chinese.

For the record, I didnt think this was OK, but coming after such a harmless litany, it didnt seem malicious enough to confront. Of course, tacit endorsement is what makes such offensive epithets a commonplace, and so it troubles me that it made me feel mysteriously welcome, just as it had when John punched me lightly in the balls when I arrived. There was no doubting Elliss sincerity: as he spoke, the sheer daft beauty of male friendship seemed to amaze him, almost to the point of physical pain. We just take the piss out of each other, and thats how we show our love, he said. So many group chats on the phone, and you just take the piss until they cry. And its like, when youre really killing them, you go, Ill stop if you want, because you know they cant say yes, so you just keep going. Then we arrived at the next bar, where I was made to drink something called a Zombie.

Early in the evening, before any of this had undermined my ability to take useful notes, Ellis broke off from talking as we walked down the street and sidled into a window display at Next Home, where he Tracey Emined a carefully made bed by climbing into it and rolling around. Everyone cracked up. Give the world a laugh, Ellis tends to think, and the world will smile back at you. Jump on a boat, and youll end up somewhere great; make the boat up, and youll get there faster. Its all about having fun, its all about the banter, he said, after hed rejoined us outside. Banter is about making the world a more exciting place.

If nobody can agree on what banter is, thats hardly a new problem. The first usage of the word recorded in the Oxford English Dictionary comes from noted Restoration lad Thomas dUrfey, also known for his hit song The Fart, in a satirical 1677 play called Madam Fickle. Banter him, banter him, Toby, a character called Zechiel urges, which may be the first time that someone called Toby was so instructed, but certainly wasnt the last.

The OED also notes early attempts at a definition by Jonathan Swift and Samuel Johnson. (Swift mentions a banter upon transubstantiation, in which a cork is turned into a horse, and fair enough, turning a cork into a horse would be classic banter.) Both are a little disgusted by the word, and neither unearths much of an origin story: by their accounts, banter is so coarse that it emerged, fully formed and without antecedent, out of the mouths of oafs.

As it turns out, though, the OED is not at present fully able to handle the banter. According to Eleanor Maier, an associate editor on the dictionary, a search of earlier English texts reveals that a number of previous examples are missing from the dictionarys definition, which was first drafted in 1885 including a quote from a 1657 translation of Don Quixote. (After examining the history, Maier told me that she would be adding banter to the list of entries that are up for review.)

dougie stew (@DougieStew)

Welcome to London #BagelGate

February 26, 2017

In recent years, banter has barged into our lives at a remarkable clip. Googles Ngram Viewer, a tool that assesses (with some limitations) the frequency with which a term appears in a large database of written sources, finds that banter popped up about twice as often in 2008, the most recent year covered, as it did in 1980.

But banter plugged away for a long time before it became an overnight success. In the 19th century, it often denoted a kind of formal sparring. Even as the term evolved over the 20th, it continued to seem a little prim. In the House of Commons in 1936, Ramsay MacDonald, the former Labour prime minister who had returned in a new seat after losing his old one, was subjected to a good deal of banter Dear old Granny MacDonald!, among other witticisms.In 1981, a Guardian report that chess champion Anatoly Karpov and his handlers had successfully protested at his challenger Viktor Korchnois constant cross-board talk ran under the unlikely headline: Chess banter banned.

Such stories do little to prepare us for what banter has become. Consider the viral video that became known as #bagelgate earlier this year. In the recording, a minor scuffle broke out on the 00.54 train from Kings Cross to Huntingdon, and then for no obviously related reason a woman who had a large bag of bagels decided to put one on the head of the guy sitting in front of her, and then another after he took it off and threw it out of the window, and another and another, and then everyone in the carriage started chanting hes got a bagel on his head, and eventually the slightly spoddy victim who is me when I was 13 and someone filled my pencil case with Mr Kipling apple pies (squashed, oozing) because I was fat lost it and screamed Get the fuck out of my face!, and then another fight broke out on the platform, and then the police got on to the train, and every single person fell into not-me-guv silence: this is not Granny MacDonalds banter any more.

If it is hard to understand how these activities can fall under the same umbrella, it should be noted that a phenomenon may predate our choice of term to describe it its just that the act of definition makes it more visible, and perhaps more likely to be imitated. At some point, though, banter became the name for what British men already regarded as their natural tone of voice. There is a very deeply embedded folk culture in the UK of public ribaldry, extreme sarcasm, facetiousness in other words, of laddishness, says Tony Thorne, a linguist and cultural historian. What you might think of as banter now is rooted in that tradition.

That tradition first lashed itself to banters mast in the early 1990s, and controversy soon followed. In June 1992, a Guardian story headlined Police fire sex banter officer, about the dismissal of a sergeant for sexual harassment, recorded an early skirmish in the modern banter wars, and an important new layer to its meaning in the wild: The move is seen as part of the Metropolitan polices desire to reassure women officers that what has previously been tolerated as banter is no longer acceptable. Two years later, the lads mags arrived.

The first edition of Loaded magazine appeared in May 1994, with a picture of Gary Oldman on the front smoking a dog-end, under a banner that declared him a super lad. What fresh lunacy is this? the editors note read. Loaded is a new magazine dedicated to life, liberty and the pursuit of sex, drink, football and less serious matters Loaded is for the man who believes he can do anything, if only he wasnt hungover.

If banter dismays you, James Brown, the magazines first editor, is quite an easy bogeyman. As he acknowledges himself, he created a title that defined a genre. Loaded was swiftly recognised as a foundational text for a resurgent and ebullient masculinity that had been searching for public expression. While it was always overtly horny, the magazine was initially more interested in a forlorn, slackjawed and self-ironising appreciation of A-listers (one reversible poster had Cindy Crawford on one side and a steam train on the other) than the grot-plus-football formula that successors and imitators like Maxim, Zoo and Nuts milked to destruction. But it also flirted with something murkier.

To its critics, Loaded and its imitators aimed to sanitise a certain hooliganistic worldview with a strategic disclaimer. Banter emerges as this relentless gloss of irony over everything, said Bethan Benwell, senior lecturer in language and linguistics at the University of Stirling and the author of several papers on mens magazines. The constant excusing of sexist or homophobic sentiments with this wink that says you dont really mean it. Benwell pointed to Loadeds emblematic strapline: For men who should know better.

Brown denies that his magazine invented banter. Instead, he says, it captured a zeitgeist that the media had previously failed to acknowledge; the folk culture that Tony Thorne refers to, brought out into the open. Before Browns intervention, GQ had run John Major and Michael Heseltine as cover stars, for Gods sake. I took the interests and the outlook of the young men that I knew, and I put them in a magazine, Brown said. Im not responsible for the tone of the later entrants to the market. We were criticised because we fancied women, not because we belittled them.

The thing about Loaded was that the way we wrote reflected the way we were with our mates, he went on. Theres definitely a thing that exists in the male outlook: you take the piss out of the people you like, and you ignore the people you dont.

Accept this as your starting point, and objections become exhausting to sustain: what youre objecting to is an act of affection. Of course, this is what makes it insidious. Because Browns account rests on the intention behind the magazine, and Benwells on the effect it had, they are impossible to reconcile. Its a very difficult thing to resist or challenge without looking like the stereotypical humourless feminist, said Benwell. But by laughing, you become complicit.

Loaded gave this new kind of banter escape velocity, and it began to colonise other worlds. On BBC2, for example, David Baddiel and Frank Skinner were staking out their own territory with Fantasy Football League, a mixture of sketches and celebrity chat that managed to be enthusiastic and satirical at the same time, and reached its peak when the pair became national icons, thanks to their Euro 96 anthem, Three Lions. While a long-running joke about the Nottingham Forest striker Jason Lees pineapple haircut seems flatly racist in retrospect Baddiel did an impression of him in blackface by and large, the tone was milder and more conventional than the magazines were: this was the sensibility of the university graduate slumming it before embarking on grown-up life.

Baddiel implied that laddism could easily occupy a spectrum from ogling to literature, drawing a line to Nick Hornbys memoir of life as an Arsenal fan, Fever Pitch. Hornby once said to me that all this stuff you know, fantasy football and his book is men talking about things that they like and for a while in the mid-80s they werent allowed to, he said in 1995. Ive always liked football and Ive always liked naked women, and its easier to talk about that now than it was eight years ago. Those comments reflect a kind of sneer at its critics that you could often detect in Fantasy Football League, even as its hosts protested that they were just having a laugh though Baddiel himself denies that view. Twenty years on, he, like Brown, is at pains to draw a line between the approach that he and Skinner popularised, and the forms that came later. I guess me and Frank did specialise in banter, he said in an email. In a time before it was known as bantz.

Over the next 10 years, two things happened that ushered in the age of banter. (You might call it mature banter, except that its also the opposite.) First, instead of just being a thing that happened, it became a thing that people talked about. Then, as it became a more tangible cultural product, everyone started trying to make money out of it. The watershed moment, the forms equivalent to Dylan going electric, was the invention of Dave.

Like most good ideas, it looks simple enough in retrospect. Before Dave was Dave, it was UKTV Gold 2. The predecessor channels audience share was 0.761%, and no one could tell who on earth it was supposed to be for. But we had the content, says Steve North, the channels brand manager in 2007 and content of a particular kind that the existing name did very little to communicate: Have I Got News for You, They Think Its All Over, Top Gear. Viewers said they loved the repartee, the humour. It reminded them of spending time with their funniest friends.

The first issue of Loaded magazine, from May 1994

The target audience was highly specific. It was men married or in relationships, maybe with young children, not going to the pub as much as they used to, says Andy Bryant, managing director of Red Bee, the agency brought in to work on the rebrand. And they missed that camaraderie.

Their purpose thus fixed, North started to run brainstorming sessions at which people would shout out suggestions for the name. One of the ones we collected was Dave, he says. We thought, great, but we cant call it that. But then we thought, Its a surrogate friend. If the audience really sees it as that, if they see it as genuinely providing the banter, maybe we can really give it a name.

They put their hunch through its paces. The market research company YouGov was commissioned to test Dave alongside a bunch of other names (Matthew and Kevin were also on the shortlist), but nothing else had the same everyman resonance. For us, Dave is a sensibility, a place, an emotion, a feeling, said North, his tone thoughtful, almost gnomic. Everyone has their own sense of who Dave is, thats the important thing. Its hard to find anyone who doesnt know someone called Dave.

Now the channel had a brand, it needed a slogan. Lots of people claim they played a part in the naming, says Bryant. But it was just as important to encapsulate what the channel was all about. And at some point someone, I dont know who, wrote it on a board: The home of witty banter. The rebrand added 8m new viewers in six months; Dave saw a 71% increase in its target audience of affluent young men.

Conceived by the first generation of senior professionals to have grown up with banter as an unremarkable part of their demographics cultural mix, the channel crystallised a change, and accelerated it. In 2006, The Ricky Gervais Show, in which Gervais and Stephen Merchant relentlessly poked fun at their in-house idiot savant Karl Pilkington, became the most popular podcast of all time. In 2007, the year of Daves rebrand, Top Gears ratings shot from below 5m to a record high of 8m. The following year, QI moved from BBC4 to BBC2. (A tie-in book published the same year, QI: Advanced Banter, sold more than 125,000 copies.)

North saw the kind of fraternal teasing that was being monetised by his channel, and the panel shows that were its lifeblood, as fundamentally benign. The key thing is that its two-way, he said. Its about two people riffing off each other.

But like his 20th-century forebears, he can see that something ugly has evolved, and he wants to keep his brand well away from it. Bants, he said with distaste. That thing of cover for dubious behaviour we hate and despise it massively. When we launched, it was about fun, being light-hearted, maybe pushing each other without being disrespectful. When people talk about Ive had a go at that person, great banter no, thats just nasty.

By the turn of the decade,as other branding agencies mimicked the success of Dave, banter was everywhere, a folk tradition that had acquired a peculiar sort of respectability. The men who celebrated it werent just lads in the pub any more: they had spending power and establishment allies on their side. But they were, by the same token, more visible to critics. Aggression from an underdog can be overlooked; aggression from the establishment is serious enough to become a matter of public concern.

Take Richard Keys and Andy Gray, Sky Sports brand-defining football presenters, who got themselves up to their necks in some extremely bad banter in 2011. Keys blamed dark forces, but everyone else blamed him and Gray for being misogynists. We knew this because there was footage.

The firestorm, as Keys called it, centred on claims that the two men had said and done heinously sexist things off-air. Most memorable, at least for its phrase-making, was the clip in which Keys eagerly asked his fellow pundit Jamie Redknapp if hed smashed it it being a woman and asserted that he could often be found hanging out the back of it.

Gray went quickly. In the days before he followed, Keys burned hot with injustice in a series of mea-sorta-culpas, particularly focused on the tape in which he expressed his derision at the idea that a woman, Sian Massey-Ellis, could be an assistant referee in the Premier League.

It was just banter, he said. Or, more exactly, just a bit of banter, as he said Massey-Ellis had assured him she understood in a later telephone conversation in which, he added, much banter passed between us. She and I enjoyed some banter, he protested. It was lads-mag banter, he insisted. It was stone-age banter, he admitted. We liked to have banter, he explained. Richard Keys was sorry if you were offended, but also, it wasnt his fault if you didnt get it. It was just banter, for goodness sake!

Up to their necks in some extremely bad banter Andy Gray and Richard Keys in 2011. Photograph: Richard Saker/Rex

Keys insistence that his mistake was simply a failure to move with the times was nothing new: banter has always seemed to carry a longing for the past, for an imagined era before male friendship was so cramped by the tiresome obligations of feminist scrutiny. But while his underlying views were painfully dated, his conception of banter was entirely modern: a sly expansion of the words meaning, and a self-conscious contention that it provided an impregnable defence.

The Keys variation understood banter, first, as a catch-all means of denying responsibility if anyone was hurt; and, second, as a means of reinforcing a bond between two people by being cruel about a third. The comparison wouldnt please a couple of alphas like Keys and Gray, but both strategies brought it closer to a style of communication with classically feminine associations: gossip. Deborah Cameron, the Rupert Murdoch (lol) Professor in Language and Communication at Oxford University, argues that the two modes of interaction follow basically the same structure. People gossip as a trust game, she said. You tell someone your unsayable private secret, and it bonds you closer together. Theyre supposed to reciprocate with a confidence of their own. Well, banter works in the same way now. You say something outrageous, and you see if the other person dares to top your remark.

The trust game in banter was traditionally supposed to be: do you trust me when I say were friends in spite of the mean things Im saying about you? But now theres a second version of the game: do I trust you not to tell anyone the mean things Im saying about other people? I think originally it was a harmless thing, said Cameron, whose analysis is rooted in an archive of male group conversation, mostly recorded by her students, that goes back to the 1980s. But then it started to be used as an excuse when men were caught out engaging in forms of it that werent so harmless.

It comes down to context and intent, says the comedian Bridget Christie. The gentler form of banter is still knocking around, she suggested, but now it exists alongside something darker: I found The Inbetweeners adolescent banter hilarious, because it was equal and unthreatening. But there is obviously a world of difference between a group of teenage boys benignly taking the piss out of each other, and a bigot being racist or misogynist and trying to pass it off as a joke.

Trace the rise of banter, and you will find that it corresponds to the rise of political correctness or, anyway, to the backlash against political correctness gone mad. That phrase and just banter mirror each other perfectly: one denoting a priggish culture that is deemed to have overreached, the other a laid-back culture that is deemed to have been unfairly reined in. Ironically enough, just banter does exactly what it accuses political correctness of, seeking to close down discussion by telling you that meaning is settled by category rather than content. Political correctness asserts that a racist joke is primarily racist, whereas banter asserts that a racist joke is primarily a joke. In the past, the men who used it rarely had to define it, or to explain themselves to anybody else. Today, in contrast, it is named all the time. The biggest change isnt the banter itself, says Bethan Benwell. Its the explicit use of the word as a disclaimer.

By sheer repetition and by its use as an unanswerable defence, banter has turned from an abstraction into a vast and calcified description of actions as well as words: gone from a way of talking to a way of life, a style that accidentally became a worldview. He bantered you, people sometimes say: you always used to banter with your mates, but now it often sounds like something you do to them. Once it was directionless, inconclusive chatter with wit as the engine that drove it, said the comedian Russell Kane. Now, if I trip you up, thats banter.

You might think the humiliation suffered by Keys and Gray would have made banter less appealing as a get-out, but not a bit of it. Banter, increasingly, seems like the first refuge of the inexcusable. In 2014, Malky Mackay, who had been fired as manager of Cardiff City Football Club a year earlier, was caught having sent texts that referred to Chinese people eating dogs, black people being criminals, Jewish people being avaricious, and gay people being snakes all of which were initially optimistically defended by the League Managers Association as letting off steam to a friend during some friendly text message banter. The comedian Dapper Laughs, whose real name is Daniel OReilly, established himself as banters rat king, with his very own ITV2 show, and then lost it after he suggested that an audience member at one of his gigs was gagging for a rape. A man was convicted of murder after he crushed his friend against a wall with a Jeep Cherokee after an argument over badger-baiting, a course of action that he said had been intended as banter. Another slashed the throat of someone he had met in a pub and described the incident as a moment of banter after 14 or 15 pints. Both are now in prison.

By any sane measure,banter was falling into disrepute, as often a disguise for malice as a word for the ribaldry of lads on the lash. Still it did not go away: instead, the worst of it has mutated again, asserting its authority in public and saving its creepiest tendencies for the shadows or, at least, for the company of five, or 10, or 20 of your closest mates.

At the London School of Economics, it started with a leaflet. Each year at the universitys freshers fair, LSE Rugby Football Club distributed a banterous primer on rugby culture. In October 2014, says the then-president of the student union, Nona Buckley-Irvine, a student came to her in tears with a copy in her hand. The leaflet talked about trollops, slags, crumpet, mingers, and the desirability of misogyny; there were passing references to the horrors of homosexual humiliation and outright homosexual debauchery. Anyone charmed by all this was invited to sign up for the club and join the banter list, entitling them to participate in the exchange of chappish email conversation.

To anyone with a passing knowledge of university laddism, it was hard to imagine a more ordinary iteration. Still, after the unreconstructed chappishness of the leaflet came to light, the club knew it had a problem. It issued a collective apology acknowledging that we have a lot to learn about the pernicious effects of banter, and promised to organise a workshop. But there was reason to be sceptical about the depth of that commitment.

When Buckley-Irvine and her colleagues published a report on the incident, they noted a string of others, including an antisemitic assault on a university ski trip to Val dIsere in 2011. And there were other indiscretions it didnt mention. According to two people who were present, one club dinner at an Indian restaurant on Brick Lane ended with a stripper having bottles thrown at her when, already intimidated, she refused to take her clothes off. She hid in the toilet, and had to be escorted out by a member of staff as the team vandalised the restaurant.

Photograph: Alamy

According to five people who were either members of the rugby club or closely associated with it, one notorious senior member was widely thought to be responsible for the leaflet. (He did not respond to requests for comment.) But when they came to defend themselves to the student union, members of the club fell back on one of the most revered pillars of laddism: all for one, one for all. Theyd clearly worked out a line, says Nona Buckley-Irvine. No one individual was responsible. They were sorry. It was just banter. Thats what they all said.

The accountancy firm KPMG, which sponsored the universitys wider Athletics Union, decided that banter was not an especially helpful brand association, and withdrew funding worth 22,000. The students union decided to disband the club for the academic year. The decision moved some observers to disgust. It was a gross overreaction, a former team member told me. We were the best-behaved team when it came to actually playing rugby but they banned that bit and they couldnt ban any of the rest.

Others took a less measured tone. I had old members emailing me and calling me a fascist, says Buckley-Irvine. Asking me if I didnt understand that it was just banter. Rugby players chanted abuse at her on nights out, she told me. They shoulder-barged her, and called her a cunt.

These kinds of interactions would tend to take place on Wednesdays, also known as sports night, at a bar in Leicester Square. Sports night was the apotheosis of the rugby clubs bleak solidarity. In deference to what you might call the wingers-before-mingers code, for instance, members of the club who were expected to dress in suits werent allowed to speak to women before 9pm. So they would just shout abuse instead, one female former student, who Ill call Anna, remembered. One chant, she said, went, Nine nos and a yes is a yes. At the time, Anna thought that it was all a joke. People would say, Its just banter all the time. After everything. Absolutely everything, she said, sitting in a cafe in south London. If you were meeting someone new, saying they had good banter, that was a pretty high compliment. Whereas if you dont go along with that stuff, its seen as, you cant take the chat, you cant take the banter. And its not seen as having a stance against it. Its seen as not being able to keep up.

After the rugby club was disbanded, nothing much changed in sports night social life. Many members of the club still went on the same nights out; they just colonised other teams. They still addressed girls as Sarah 2 or Sarah 8 depending on how attractive they considered them out of 10; they still had shouted conversations about their sex lives in front of the women they had slept with but refused to acknowledge.

That culture was not confined to Wednesday nights. Anna remembers a guy who took her picture as she slept, naked, in the bed they were sharing, and circulated it to another non-university sports team via WhatsApp. She wasnt meant to see it on his phone.

Ask anyone well-informed where banter resides now, and theyll give the same answer: WhatsApp groups and email threads, the safe spaces of the lad class. What youd get out of those WhatsApp threads, its another world of drama, one former member of the football club said. The details of girls bodies that youd read, a few funny jibes, that was the limit for me. But when it moved on to, like, really, really bad stuff, always about sex it was too much. Those threads are the source of everything.

If the threads were an outlet, they were by no means the limit. Banter, by common consent, wasnt confined to mocking each other: it was about action. If you dressed up for a night out, one female student remembered, it was just kind of status quo that you could have your arse grabbed. It was just like, Oh, that was kind of weird, but OK, thatll happen. Like everyone else willing to speak about it, her view of that culture was perplexingly nuanced, sometimes contradictory. It sounds scary, she said, but that being said, some of my best nights were there, and like it was fun. But then she said: What was defined as serious just got so pushed. I think for someone to lodge a complaint they would have to be actually hurt.

Anna remembers lots of sketchy incidents. She recalls nights when her choices faded into a blur, and she wondered if she had really been in control. But at the time, I would never call it out, she said. And then, youre all living in halls together, and the next day, its like: What did you do last night? Thats hilarious. Thats banter.

When Anna thinks about the behaviour of some of the men she knew at university, she finds it hard to pin down exactly what she thinks of them. Theres one in particular who sticks in her mind. On a Wednesday night, he was a banter guy, she said. He was a Wednesday animal. But the rest of the time, he was my friend.

Controversial though all this was at the time, no one seems to think that it will have cost the perpetrators much. Ive tried so hard to leave all that behind, said the former member of the football team. But those guys theyre all going on to run banks, or the country, or whatever. The senior rugby man who many held responsible, by the way, has landed on his feet. Today, he has a job at KPMG.

In 2017, every new instance of banter is immediately spotted and put through the journalistic wringer. (Vices Joel Golby, who wrote the definitive text on the bagel thing, has made a career from his exquisite close readings of the form.) But when each new absolute legend emerges, we dont usually have the context to make the essential judgment: do the proponents tend towards the harmless warmth of Ellis and his mates, or the frank hostility of the LSE rugby boys? Is their love of irony straightforward, or a mask for something else?

As Richard Keys and Dapper Laughs and their cohorts have polluted the idea of banter, the commercial entities that endorsed its rise have become uneasy with the label. They wanted it to go viral; they hadnt expected it to go postal. Dave, for example, has dropped the home of witty banter slogan. Its not about classic male humour any more, its a little bit smarter, says UKTVs Steve North. We definitely say it less than we used to.

How to live without plastic bottles…

Our dependence on plastic has to end as we contribute to an estimated 12m tonnes entering our oceans, polluting marine life, every year

Staying hydrated is good for our health. But contributing to the ever growing mound of waste plastic is not only bad for the planet, but for our wellbeing too.

The global demand for plastic bottles, spurred on by the drinks industry, is wreaking havoc on the environment. Every year, about half a trillion new bottles are produced, and many billions end up in landfill, the sea or the environment.

Plastic is now present in every corner of the earth and in the food we eat. As the Guardian considers the extent of this crisis, we look at six simple things you can do to stop contributing to the issue, starting today.

Find the one

The simplest thing you can do to reduce your contribution to the plastic mountain is to find a water bottle that you like enough to use more than once. There are multiple options to suit every taste. From stainless steel, bamboo or glass, to bottles with an option to add fruit to flavour the water, or flasks with filters that promise extra purity. Find the one that works for you.

Orb it

Earlier this year UK scientists unveiled the Ooho, a fully biodegradable water-filled orb made of two layers of seaweed-based packaging. The biodegradable outside layer can be recycled, while the inside is edible and can be eaten as you drink the water (or discarded, as you wish).

Watch the explanational video for Ooho

The orbs are made using a culinary process that shapes and holds liquids in to spheres and are able to hold up to a litre of water. Ooho orbs are not on the market yet but the makers claim they could be cheaper to produce than plastic bottles.

Be anti-fashion

Since the early noughties, staying hydrated has become a status symbol. A commodity that is free from the tap is now shipped from Fiji and sold for up to 5 a bottle. The marketing suggests that those clutching a bottle of water both look and feel healthier.

Public health guidelines recommend drinking eight glasses a day. Some scientists have suggested that drinking to thirst is enough to keep us ticking over, even when we are doing strenuous exercise.

Either way, nowhere does it say that you will be better hydrated if your water is sourced from a tropical rainforest or that constantly hydrating as you travel from A to B is necessary. Perhaps a glass at home and then one when you get to work will suffice?

Get over your embarrassment

Pluck up the courage to ask for the free refill to which you are legally entitled in the UK. In a recent study, 71% of consumers admitted to feeling uncomfortable when asking for free tap water from an establishment if they hadnt purchased anything. And 30% of people said they would still feel awkward asking for a free refill even if they had bought other food or drinks.

RefillBristol (@RefillBristol)

Fantastic to see the #refilldorset drinking taps on #Weymouth beach today.
Healthy hydration in the sunshine!

May 14, 2017

This might be daunting, but there is a whole movement dedicated to helping you. The refill campaign has been handing out water drop stickers to businesses to show people they are happy to offer them water for free. There is even an app that tells you which nearby business are participating in the scheme before you leave the house.

Make your own shampoo

According to Beth Terry, who blogs about being a reformed plastic addict, one route to a plastic-free life is to make the toiletries you would usually buy in plastic containers. Baking soda combined with salt can be used to make toothpaste, she says, or added to apple cider vinegar to make shampoo. Other environmental blogs suggest forgoing shampoo altogether: the theory goes that while the first few weeks will be greasy and horrible your hair and scalp gradually adjust to self-cleaning. If that sounds too extreme a shampoo bar could be a good compromise. At the very least you can buy in bulk to reduce plastic packaging waste.

Indeed, inventive shopping can have an instant impact on your plastic bottle consumption. Paperboard packaging is a better way to buy soups and juices. Soda drinks come in cans as well as bottles.And fizzy water makers are a good alternative to buying bottles of mineral water.

Recycle, recycle, recycle

Even with the best intentions, there will probably be times when you have no choice but to drink from a plastic bottle. If this happens, the key is to make sure you recycle the bottle correctly so that it can be repurposed.

There are some ingenious examples of bottle reuse around the world. In Brazil plastic bottles have been bound together and transformed into solar heaters. In Algeria they have been filled with sand and used to clad walls in houses for refugees; and in India, a local enterprise recently made a bus shelter out of 1,000 old bottles.

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The Miss Sofia Coppola Seminary For Eternal Admirers


I didnt know what I wanted to do next, but I knew I wanted to do something that was really beautiful.

Sofia Coppolas movies reveal her contradictions. She is a director whose Hollywood inauguration was a birthright, thanks to an illustrious family tree and a luckless child-acting stint she never wanted. Fleeting youthfulness lies at the center of her stories: the troubled teens in The Virgin Suicides and The Bling Ring, the aging actors adrift in Lost in Translation and Somewhere, the callow duchess thrust into notoriety in Marie Antoinette, and now the repressed boarding-school denizens in The Beguiled. Her characters seek better horizons, but Coppola is nothing if not resolute, sophisticated, singular.

In the words of Bling Ring star Israel Broussard, Coppola has a motherly essence and gracefulness.According to Virgin Suicides matriarch Kathleen Turner, who also co-starred with Coppola in the 1986 comedy Peggy Sue Got Married, She gives you a lot of freedom, but you feel she knows what she wants. Stephen Dorff, the Somewhere headliner in whom Coppola spotted a vulnerability that no other director saw, waxes about her observant and confident disposition. Bill Murray, who netted his only Oscar nomination to date for Lost in Translation, has been known to call her the Velvet Hammer.

Not many filmmakers can claim palettes or personas as idiosyncratic as Coppolas. She is known for getting the performances she wants from her actors and the sun-splashed aesthetics she wants from her cinematographers. She can take on the gravity of the French Revolution or the Civil War, imbuing a contemporary milieu that might make you forget youre watching a period piece. She has tackled the insularity of suburbia and the disconnectedness of a metropolis, ensuring you relate to both. Every time you think you know Sofia Coppola, she challenges your assumptions, while still maintaining a fixation on adolescences ephemerality and the inhibitions that accompany maturity.

The Beguiled, which opens in limited release June 23, is more contained than her previous features, taking place entirely at the Miss Martha Farnsworth Seminary for Young Ladies. The institutions resources have grown scarce as the Civil War roars on, invoking a malaise that defines the Coppola catalog.

Somewhere was an exercise in how minimal we could make that movie and still have it be a movie, she said during our recent interview in New York. The script was not even a script it was like 30 pages and it was just very, very simple. After Marie Antoinette was so decorative and so many people, I wanted just to strip down how simply you could make a movie. That was the thinking. And then after Bling Ring was such an ugly world, I wanted to do something beautiful. That was the starting point for The Beguiled.

Focus Features


Sometimes I cant just relax and enjoy a book without looking at it as something to adapt, which is annoying because I enjoy just reading books.

Across her six movies seven if you count the hourlong Netflix holiday special A Very Murray Christmas Coppola has adapted novels fixated on young women, told poignant original stories of self-rumination and depicted larger-than-life episodes from history.

Coppola, 46, never wanted to do a remake, but she gravitated towardThe Beguiled after her production designer recommended the vampy 1971 original directed by Don Siegel and starring Clint Eastwood as an injured Union soldier being nursed to health at the Virginia boarding school. The few girls and women who remain there are transfixed by the mystifying mans presence.

Siegels version, derived from a Thomas P. Cullinan novel that Coppola dismisses aspulpy, portrays the headmistress Miss Martha(played by Geraldine Page) and her students as erratic and feral crazy, as Coppola puts it. While watching them plant seeds of flirtation and seduction, Coppola pondered what a less masculine perspective would entail, though she swears shes not the type to consider what she would have done had she directed whatever movie shes experiencing.

I just wanted to connect with each character on a human level, so I just tried to think about what it was like for her, Coppola said, referring to Miss Martha, brought to life in this rendition by Nicole Kidmans commanding subtlety. I wanted her to have dignity and be attractive. Just because shes older doesnt mean she needs to be crazy. And also just because they have desire, that shouldnt be something crazy either that should be something human and natural. In the other one, they had to become perverted. She had an incest story, and theres a lesbian dream montage. Maybe its just the style of that time and that point of view, but I wanted to make her more human and relatable.

These are, after all, women who have been subjected to a sort of finishing academy. Theyve read manuals on how to behave like a proper lady, what men expect from them, where their places in society lie. Played by Coppola veterans Kirsten Dunst and Elle Fanning, along with a handful of lesser-known young actresses, the characters engage in a battle royal, each pining for the affection of the interloping soldier (Colin Farrell, more strapping than ever).

The Beguiled harks back to Coppolas 1999 debut, The Virgin Suicides,in which five 1970s teenage sisters shelter their sexuality inside a suburban Michigan home run by parents who implement similar Victorian confinements. The frilly white frocks adorning The Beguiled resemble the pale floral gowns the Lisbon sisters don on prom night, not long before collectively ending their lives. Josh Hartnetts cool Trip Fontaine, who turns heads as he glides down the schools halls like a true magic man, is to The Virgin Suicides what Farrells Corporal John McBurney is to The Beguiled.

Jeffrey Eugenides, the Pulitzer winner who wrote the novel on which Virgin Suicides is based, emailed Coppola to say he was excitedshe was adapting The Beguiled, a movie he loves. I feel like there must have been something that he had in the back of his mind theres some relation between the two stories, she said.

Despite our conversation about the threads that travel throughout her work, Coppola has no idea what anyone says about her online and in magazines. Her stories, largely centered on privileged white people, have inspired a derby of think pieces and Twitter debates, but Coppola is too sensitive to engage with those who accuse her films of, say, favoring style over substance. In fact, when I mentioned the passionate debates surrounding her work and its relation to her life as the daughter of the Hollywood legend who directed the Godfather trilogy (and the cousin of Jason Schwartzman and Nicolas Cage), she responds with her typical Oh! Your opinions about Coppola, whatever they may be, are likely to take her by surprise. Its almost as if imagine! she is not here to substantiate critics. Her characters are always searching, just as she sought an identity independent of the biography that so many of us scrutinize. (She once started a fashion line and studied painting at the California Institute of the Arts. She has since helmed music videos, commercials and an opera.)

Im flattered that anyones thinking about that, she said, indicating no desire to elaborate.

Paramount Classics


I think about a young audience. I want them to have something. I never understood why movies for teenagers didnt look good or werent good quality.

On and off movie sets, Coppola is known for her gentle hand. She can come across as aloof, but during our time together earlier this week, her eye contact was warm and she seemed game to discuss whatever topic arose, even if she doesnt necessarily enjoy annotating her own work.

She appears almost passive, Kathleen Turner told me. She kind of lets things happen and then says, Hmm, nah, thats not quite how I saw it or Thats not quite what I was thinking. Theres no outright criticism, per se, or its so seldom that its very surprising if there is.

With that temperament, actorswantto give her what shes looking for. Its why Dunst has returned to Coppolas charge time and again, and why the elusive Bill Murray became an unlikely muse for her as a screenwriter, and why the image-conscious Emma Watson went total Valley Girl sleaze in a what felt like a left turn after Harry Potter and The Perks of Being a Wallflower.

Working with her costume designers and art directors, Coppola gives her casts photographs and films to study. For The Bling Ring, a story about real Los Angeles teens who preyed on opulent celebrity homes, she asked Watson and the other actors to watch heist capers like Oceans Eleven.For The Beguiled, Coppola looked to Roman Polanskis Tess and David Hamiltons ethereal photos of girls.

To create a Southern Gothic mood on the New Orleans set, smoke machines cast a fog over the plantations oak trees. Coppola imagined a rich backstory for the manor that houses the Martha Farnsworth Seminary,once the site of antebellum balls. Ithad its grand days, she said. The partys over.

Therein lies a key theme coursing through Coppolas work: The party is over. It was over for Murrays and Dorffs fame-fatigued slouches in Lost in Translation and Somewhere, respectively. It came to a fatal end in Marie Antoinette, and a legally and spiritually fraught stopgap in The Bling Ring. In the case of The Virgin Suicides, the party could never begin. In a bold move thats rare for a mainstream Hollywood debut, teen girls were ascribed a sort of ennui and restraint that regularly haunts adults.

When I was starting with Virgin Suicides, I wanted to make something about young women because I felt they werent always depicted in a way that I could relate to, she said. Besides [John Hughes movies like The Breakfast Club and Sixteen Candles], there were always 35-year-olds playing teenage girls.

Despite numerous childhood and young-adult screen credits including her infamously derided turn as Michael Corleones daughter in The Godfather Part III and an appearance in Madonnas Deeper and Deeper video at age 21 Coppola blanches at the notion that she herself was something of a child starlet. Regardless, she clearly has a kinship with young actors and actresses that feeds into her recurring themes surrounding the power of youth.

Israel Broussard, for example, said shed make the Bling Ring cast run and jump up and down before a scene to get the heart racing. Coppola said she employed the same tactic on The Beguiled, ordering the actresses to dash around in their characters nightgowns to prepare for a scene in which theyre hysterical.

Such anecdotes speak to the essence of a Coppola set. Kidman may be one of the few older actresses with whom Coppola has collaborated, but the idea of her sprinting though a mansionwhich, by the way, belongs to actress Jennifer Coolidge conjures up an image of girlhood, fleetingly recaptured just as Sofia would want it.

Columbia Pictures


I just want my movies to do well enough so I can keep making movies.

In Hollywood, Coppola has been given what some might call a blank check. Few directors can make virtually any movie they want without interference from the studio backing the project. Coppola, who maintains final-cut approval, has said that securing the necessary financing for The Beguiled a reported $10 million wasnt easy. Nonetheless,she has avoided the box-office litmus test that plagues many women, whose misfires are not granted the free pass their male counterparts enjoy.

Coppolas highest-grossing film is easilyLost in Translation, which opened in 2003 and collected $119.7 million worldwide (in addition to Oscar nods for Best Picture and Best Director; she was the first American woman nominated for the latter).Despite 2010s Somewhere petering out at $13.9 million and 2013s The Bling Ring stalling at $19.1 million, shes continued her track record, making a movie every three or four years.

Some of that goodwill was inevitably aided by her fathers legacy, even though Coppolas work stands on its own. But Coppola only cares about ticket revenue insofar as she wants assurance that she can continue to work with the same freedom. (In 2015, she exited Disneys live-action Little Mermaid reboot, which she would have filmed underwater, because the studio wouldnt grant her creative license.) This time, however, shes more invested in the profits.

It would be fun if [The Beguiled] is successful, just because theres such a feeling right now with Wonder Woman being a hit, she said. Ours is not on that scale, but it would just be nice for female-driven stories. The studios dont always think thats a valid audience, which it is. […] So in that way, I hope it does well.

Understanding that the marketing of films is a commercial art unto itself, and that any projects success is dependent on it opening at the right time and reaching the right demographics, Coppola was disappointed that the Beguiled trailer gave away so much of the plot. Its advertised as a standard thriller, featuring an over-the-top score that doesnt appear in the film, a nearly music-free production thats striking for someone associated with eclectic soundtracks. She does, however, love the posters and T-shirts with vengeful bitches scrawled in cursive, a reference to one of Farrells lines of dialogue. In an odd moment of cross-brand synergy, Real Housewives of New York cast members posted Instagram photos wearing the shirts and promoting the films release date.

Setting aside her family name and the strain of being a woman in a male-monopolized industry, Coppolas distinctive visual flair and languid pacing are key to the creative immunity she has attained.

Sofia also has an uncanny ability to communicate her vision in a few incredibly evocative and well-chosen words, Sarah Flack, who has edited Coppolas movies since Lost in Translation, wrote in an email. I often tell directors that I can get them from A to Z (from the dailies to a cut scene, or from one version of a scene to another version, or a new version of the film) if they just tell me what Z is. They dont have to figure out how to get to Z with the footage we have thats my job as long as they know what Z is. Sofia not only knows what Z is at all times, but she can describe Z in the most perfect way.

Coppola is the rare woman who invites few, if any, comparisons to her male predecessors and equivalents.Having long ignored her fathers advice to say action louder so they know youre in charge (and survived just fine, thank you very much), Coppola doesnt need a penetrating presence in Hollywoods macho auteur club or dazzling box-office returns to make the movies of her choosing. She simply needs her own biography, displaced and refracted upon each endeavor.

We faithful peasants will continue to eat her cake.

The Beguiled opens in limited release June 23 and expands nationwide June 30.

Focus Features

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Four Million People Can Sue for Mike Huckabee’s Christmas Movie Robocall

This week, potential litigants from Nebraska to Oklahoma received mailers offering the opportunity to join a class action lawsuit if former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee robocalled their houses with advertisements for a straight-to-DVD movie about the War on Christmas.

If you received one or more telephone calls that used the recorded voice of Mike Huckabee to deliver a message as part of a campaign for the movie Last Ounce of Courage, you may be a class member in a class action lawsuit, the mailer reads.

Lawyers for plaintiffs Dorit and Ron Golan, who first filed the suit in 2014, allege that more than 4 million calls were made in the marketing campaign for Last Ounce of Courage. The case was first dismissed in May of 2014, then allowed to proceed by the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals in June of 2015. The class action was certified by a U.S. district court judge in St. Louis in January of this year.

Huckabee himself was originally listed as a defendant but was later removed from the case, according to a memorandum from United States District Judge E. Richard Webber, the person who initially determined that the Golans did not have a case. The suit hinges on the plaintiffs alleging that the calls are in potential violation of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, which stipulates that unsolicited messages with commercial content via telephone is unlawful.

Huckabee did not respond to a request for comment from The Daily Beast.

According to, notice was sent out to possible class members this past Monday. Ron Golan referred The Daily Beast to his lawyers, Ron Eisenberg and Robert Schultz, but they did not respond to calls and emails at press time.

Diane Levesque of Enid, Okla. came into contact with one of the mailers for the class action this week. It was addressed to her deceased neighbor, whose mail she says she now takes care of.

She quickly took pictures of the mailer and posted it on Twitter, asking for more information. Anybody know anything about this #Huckabee #ClassAction lawsuit? she asked.

Last Ounce of Courage is a 2012 movie about a small-town mayor named Bob Revere whose Christmas-themed celebration is put into legal jeopardy by a big-city lawyer named Warren Hammerschmidt.

The film is directed by Darrel Campbell, who previously worked as a comedy writer for Home Improvement and wrote the premiere episode of The Lion Kings Timon and Pumbaa, which initially aired on CBS followed by ABC Saturday mornings.

Campbell did not respond to an emailed request for comment about this story.

According to the complaint filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri, lawyers for the Golans, residents of St. Louis County, contend that the entertainment company responsible for producing Last Ounce of Courage was involved with Huckabee in an elaborate advertising campaign.

The complaint alleges that James R. Leininger, the manager of the San Antonio-based Mission City Management and Stephen Wayne Griffin, the President/CEO of Veritas Marketing and Veritas Entertainment invested money in the film.

According to the complaint, they subsequently went to a man named Gabe Joseph of ccAdvertising, a Virginia marketing and polling firm that had previously been used to spam-text against President Barack Obama, to figure out how to promote the film.

Griffin and Joseph then engaged in a series of discussions about a telemarketing campaign to promote Last Ounce of Courage, with Griffin acting on behalf of both Veritas Entertainment and Veritas Marketing, the complaint, written by Ronald Eisenberg continues.

Leininger, who also goes by Dr. Jim, then introduced Griffin to radio talk show host and former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, according to the complaint. The movie was later screened at Huckabees home in Florida.

The advertising campaign for Last Ounce of Courage included approximately 4 million telephone calls to residential telephone numbers through many states in the United States and Email to Text (ETT) Messages to 30 million cell phones, the complaint alleges.

Whats more is that the complaint contends the calls were meant to appear as if they were a survey to see whether call recipients had traditional American values. And if the recipients believed in freedom and liberty, they would enjoy Last Ounce of Courage.

Joseph allegedly referred to the calls as an Artificial Intelligence Call.

The technology functioned like a decision tree or, in the words of Joseph, a logic tree, in that the recipients yes or no responses to questions would dictate the next prerecorded question, the complaint alleges.

Here are some of the segments the complaint alleges were featured in the call:

Hello, this is Governor Mike Huckabee with a 45-second survey. Do you believe in American Freedom and Liberty?

Would you, like me, Mike Huckabee, like to see Hollywood respect and promote traditional American values?

I am an enthusiastic supporter of a new movie called Last Ounce of Courage. It is a film about faith, freedom, and taking a stand for American values.

Some of the calls also allegedly included plugs for Huckabees radio show, which the the Golans lawyers point to in the complaint.

Huckabee composed, reviewed, and modified the script, made the recording, inserted material into the script and recording advertising his radio show, inserted material into the recording personally benefitting him, all with the knowledge and expectation that his recording be played on 4 million illegal calls, the complaint alleges.

The complaint claims that ccAdvertising was paid $248,500 by Veritas for 4 million AIC calls to residential telephone numbers and $30,000 for 30 million Emails to Text Messages to cell phones.

John, who lives in Omaha, Nebraska and did not give his last name to The Daily Beast, also received the notice pertaining to the suit and posted it to Twitter this week, along with the acronym Lmao.

I am stunned that such a proceeding is still going. I'm actually working on a serious class action matter involving securities and such so seeing this little thing was doubly hilarious to me, John said.

My family and I simply received this notice. We don't plan on acting on it in any way. Just found it funny.

And while Levesque isnt a potential class member, she was still intrigued by the case itself.

The card stated that there were court rulings already decided on the matter, so I'd also like to know what went on in prior court proceedings, she told The Daily Beast. I've got more questions than I've got answers, I'm afraid.

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The new dirtbag left is now destroying relationships

As Bernie Sanders challenged Hillary Clinton for the 2016Democratic presidential nomination, a new political force arose online. Not quite Bernie Bros but definitely male and progressive, the so-called “dirtbag left” is a group of media figures who bring a new irreverent and ironic tone to the discussion on the left. Dismayed at the right and the institutional left alike, they look at politics through the obscene and absurd in the simultaneously intellectual and disaffected tone Twitter absolutely adores.

The leader of the pack is the podcast Chapo Trap House, helmed by Weird Twitter power users who have cultivated a devoted following on the internet: 30,000-plus Twitter followers and roughly 11,500 podcast subscribers who contribute more than $65,000 a month for their podcast.And though they’ve been considered offensive by some and insensitive by othersattempting to push the base of the Democratic party as far left as possiblethey’ve never been known to cause public distress among couples. Until now.

A tale on Reddit of how Chapo Trap House is destroying a relationship is going around Twitter. And it is truly something else.

Get ready for a wild ride of love, disillusionment, flummoxinggender roles, and using quotes from podcasts to solve communication problems with your significant other.

From the now deleted post(beware, it’s a bit involved):

My boyfriend and I have been dating for about 5 years. We get along very well and he is very kind, caring, sweet, our sex life is great, we rarely ever have serious fights, etc.

When we met just after graduating, we were both underemployed creative types with somewhat useless art-school degrees; since then some combination of luck and hard work on my behalf has meant that I started to have a decent career (marketing for a tech company) and now make a decent salary (~$65k.) I am a photographer on the side which is what I (stupidly) went to school for, but I dont mind my day work, and I think I am lucky to have a good work/life balance. I dont know if I will ever make good money on my creative pursuits but I am happy I still get to do that on the side and I generally like my day job well enough.

My boyfriend, however, has just been temping since he graduated 5 years ago, but very rarely gets more than a few days here or there. He works on some creative projects (painting & sometimes writing), but never seems to finish anything and does not make any money off it. He also recently got taken off his parents health insurance, so he has none, which worries me as much of his family is diabetic and he has had some health issues in the past. His parents are pretty wealthy and will help him out in a pinch with things like rent and health expenses. (I do not have this luxury, my parents do not have money. His family isnt, like, crazy loaded but they have a nice house and go on loads of vacations and his parents drive BMWs and give him any money he asks for, etc.)

For a while this didnt really bother meagain, we were both recent art school grads when we started dating, being broke is kind of par for the coursebut since weve moved in together 2yrs ago, it has started to bother me. We were happy when we were both young and broke, but I am getting to a point where I would like to do things like go on a vacation or buy kitchen chairs instead of sitting on apple crates. It would make me feel great if he was able to contribute to things like this as well. But I feel very bad because he doesnt seem to care about these things and always says I am being very bourgeoise.

So far, just your standard couples’ stuff. One person is carrying water, one is complacent, and they’re both sort of disaffected. But this relationship has one twist you didn’t predict. The original poster’s man is a podcast addict. But not just any podcast addict. He’s a dirtbag left podcast addict. With one more added twist. For all the progressive values of Chapo Trap House (CTH), this bro embodies none of them. At all.

These conversations have been exacerbated in recent months due to politics. He and I are both left-leaning people, but he recently has become very obsessed with a series of popular far-left podcasts, and while I dont disagree with much of their politics I find them very abrasive, and I find him constantly parroting them back at me. It feels like every conversation now begins with Well today on CTH so-and-so said, and every serious conversation about money or healthcare or rent or work ends in The spineless Democrats couldnt commit to actual socialist change and Obamacare didnt do enough to make healthcare accessible, I cant possibly get health insurance or Neoliberalism has just totally fucked the job market, what do you want from me? Until the state actually makes an investment in the people, its basically impossible, or whatever. These dont devolve into crazy screaming matches or anything, but it just is starting to bum me out that any conversation I try to have that involves any sort of financial/family/health planning just always gets shut down with a snide remark about how the system is fucked and theres nothing he can do.

I also find it annoying that he had little-to-no interest in politics before this and was not at all politically active; hes honestly not even registered to vote. Regardless of your political leaning left or right, I find it a little upsetting to be lectured by anyone who refuses to participate in the system because its so broken. (I am not an especially outspoken person but I do vote in local and national elections, volunteer in my community, and regularly give money to causes and charities I care about.)I feel shitty because he thinks Im being very bourgeoise and making too much of a big deal over money, which is the last thing I want to do. But its starting to make me feel crazy.

I also sometimes get the feeling that he resents me for selling out or something like thatthat Im part of the problem because I have a corporate day job. On top of that, I think I sometimes feel resentful since as a white dude who comes from a lot of money, I feel that life has given him more opportunities than me (child of immigrants & female) and it frustrates meI know thats not always just how the system works, but it really does feel that I have had to work much harder for many things.

Left Twitter jumped all over this sordid tale of a woman having a decent job and a shitty boyfriend addicted to Chapo Trap House.

To people, this tale had everything. Predominate among it, though, was irony.

For her part, the original poster was surprised it took left Twitter by storm. She said she’s not a Chapo fan herself. “I find it sort of abrasive and mean-spirited, to be honest,” she told the Daily Dot over a series of DMs from her Reddit account, anotherthr0waway2222, which has only been in use 27 days. “I mean, they’re definitely smart guys, but I feel like I’m just not snarky enough to truly appreciate it. They’d probably make fun of me for being too earnest or something.”

It’s certainly true. And she’s sort of blown away by how much fans of the show jumped on this one tale, retweeting it left and right.

“I think people really blew it out of proportion,” she wrote. “It’s not as if he just sits on the couch with his dick in his hand and his podcasts blaring, gaming and yelling at me 24/7 or whatever people are picturing. But that seems a lot juicier than “I’m kind of frustrated and my unemployed boyfriend shuts down serious conversations with podcast quotes once or twice a month and thinks its a shallow waste of money to make the house look nice, does anyone have advice?” I understand the irony they’re seeing there, and obviously, I was frustrated by the situation, but everyone has something contradictory in their personality.”

That’s why people wanted to get the unidentified male to go on Chapo Trap House and tell his side of the tale.

The post has since been deleted because, as noted on Twitter, the way this went around fans of Trap House, there’s almost no doubt he’ll seeit. In fact, the poster told the Daily Dot she was worried by all the attention, which is why she got rid of it. That was probably the right move, as the man became a meme in his own right.

(Marine Todd is an infamous fake taleabout a marine punching a professor in the face to prove the existence of God.)But for as popular as Chapo is, it is also very divisive, and there were many opinions that no woman should ever have to date the sort of myopic Bernie Bro who listens to a new left podcast.

There were twists everywhere in this tale. Like maybe the issue was really the woman? How, indeed, could a Chapo fan (they call themselves Grey Wolves), be dating someone in the evil field of tech?

Or maybe he’s the only real enlightened one?

But some people thought the matter really got at the ethos of the new leftthat for all their posturing as progressives, they really are just the same shitty dudes as always. It’s something even the Chapo dudes themselves might admit. (The hosts contacted for this article did not respond to our request for comment.) They wouldn’t be the dirtbag left otherwise.

The poster disagreed with that characterization when speaking with the Daily Dot. “I think it’s kind of dangerous to be, like, ‘all hashtag berniebro brocialists chapo grey wolf dirtbags are entitled lazy misogynists’ because that’s obviously not true. I do think its probably telling that a lot of the fans happen to be young white dudes, but I dont think its useful to draw any grotesque caricatures or sweeping conclusions.”

In the end, all that really matters was this good pun.

Nailed it.

And as to whether she is still with her boyfriend, despite all the advice to dump him, she said she is. “A few people suggested that I nudge him towards volunteering or getting a union job, which I thought seemed like good advice,” she wrote. “The Internet loves to be all ‘DTMFA’ but it’s really not that simple.”

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Tories deny using Neath call centre to breach election law – BBC News

The Conservative Party has denied claims it broke electoral law by using a Neath call centre to canvass voters during the general election campaign.

An investigation by Channel 4 claimed the UK Tories contracted Blue Telecoms to conduct marketing campaigns ahead of the vote on 8 June.

The Information Commissioners Officer confirmed it would be asking the Tories about the calls.

A Conservative spokesman said all the calls were compliant with the law.

Blue Telecoms has been contacted for a comment.

An undercover investigation by C4 News, broadcast on Thursday, claimed the workers may have been carrying out paid canvassing, banned under electoral law, as they promoted key Conservative messages to undecided voters in the weeks before the election.

The investigation claimed that calls were made to voters in key marginal seats, including Bridgend, Gower, Clwyd South and Wrexham.

At the start of the election campaign, the information commissioner, Elizabeth Denham, contacted all parties to remind them of the law around direct marketing.

A Conservative party spokesman denied the allegations, saying: “Political parties of all colours pay for market research and direct marketing calls.

“All the scripts supplied by the party for these calls are compliant with data protection and information law”.

A spokesman for the Information Commissioner’s Office said it would take action against any party which had not “followed the law”.

“We will be asking the Conservative Party about the marketing campaigns conducted from this call centre,” he said.

Related Topics

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Rehousing of Grenfell Tower families in luxury block receives mixed response

While some residents welcome the families to Kensington Row others are less positive with concerns over future property prices

Two miles south of the charred skeleton of Grenfell Tower is a large complex of sleek new apartments that some of those displaced by last weeks inferno will soon be able to call home.

Kensington Rows manicured lawns, clipped trees and burbling fountains are a haven from the rumbling traffic of two busy London thoroughfares, and its spacious, air-conditioned foyers a relief from Junes oppressive heatwave.

Four unfinished blocks house the 68 flats purchased by the Corporation of London for families who lost their homes in Grenfell Tower. Workmen had been instructed not to talk to the media, but one said there was now a rush to complete the building work. Its a brilliant idea, he said of the resettlement plan.

Among those exercising dogs and small children, the views were more mixed. Its so unfair, said Maria, who was reading the news in the Evening Standard with two neighbours.

She bought her flat two years ago for a sum she was unwilling to disclose. We paid a lot of money to live here, and we worked hard for it. Now these people are going to come along, and they wont even be paying the service charge.

Nick, who pays 2,500 a month rent for a one-bedroom flat in the complex, also expressed doubts about the plan. Who are the real tenants of Grenfell Tower? he asked. It seems as though a lot of flats there were sublet. Now the people whose names are on the tenancies will get rehoused here, and then theyll rent the flats out on the private market. And the people who were actually living unofficially in the tower at the time of the fire wont get rehoused.

Im very sad that people have lost their homes, but there are a lot of people here who have bought flats and will now see the values drop. It will degrade things. And it opens up a can of worms in the housing market.

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This Is Who You Are, According To Your Favorite App

Priscilla Du Preez


You’re a control freak. When your boyfriend wants to just on your vacation, it’s really stressful. You get your hair done every 6 weeks like clockwork. You never miss a yoga class.


You live in an apartment with exposed brick and succulents. You wear makeup every day. You dye your hair a different color every season. Your favorite drink is a lychee martini.


You’re impatient. Your planner is filled out months ahead of time, with every hour of the day scheduled. You own at least three monogrammed items.


You had a blog, like, before it was cool. You make your friends wait to eat until you take a picture of your latest brunch. You’re in at least seven different group texts.


You have generalized anxiety disorder. You wish self-driving cars would become a thing, like, now. You’re still dating your high school sweetheart. When you like a shirt, you buy it in three different colors.


You throw way too many parties. You’re really proud of knowing musicians before they become ~mainstream~. On your birthday, you had golden balloons spelling out your new age.


You don’t really care what you look like. You’re down to go on a road trip on a moment’s notice. All of your clothes are from secondhand stores.


You use emojis in every text you send. You don’t understand dating as a concept. You eat the same thing for breakfast every day.


You are always impeccably dressed. You got into med school on your first try. You broke up with your boyfriend for a sensible reason and there are no hard feelings.


You have some vague major like international affairs. You always know what’s happening before your friends do. You’re already bored of this week’s meme.


You didn’t think you’d be a SoulCycle person, but you totally are. You go to protests weekly. You give thoughtful presents.


Your boyfriend is your best friend and you’re not even ashamed of it. You were the first person to have kids out of your friend group. You’re involved in a mid-level-marketing “opportunity”.


You’re going to have fifteen bridesmaids when you get married. You’re inordinately proud of where you went to college. You’re tan year-round.


You go to a music festival every summer and tell everyone you know that it’sYou donate to a group dedicated to saving some obscure animal from extinction. You hope no one from your real life follows your blog.


You went to art school but dropped out halfway through. You have an awful memory. You regularly cut your own hair with scissors meant for paper.


Your parents still pay your rent. You went to a state school. You’re still making up and breaking up with your college boyfriend, five years later.


You were a feminist before Beyonce was. You un-ironically quote Ernest Hemingway.

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Advertisers Are Actually Teaming Up To Fight Sexism. For Real.

Yes, sex sells. But sexism, increasingly, seems less and less marketable.

The latest sign: On Thursday, some of the worlds largest companies and advertising agencies will announce a new initiative to banish gender stereotypes from advertising.

The Unstereotype Alliance, which will be launched at Cannes Lions, an industry conference in France, is a partnership between U.N. Women and several major global companies, including Johnson & Johnson, Procter & Gamble, Mattel and Diageo. Facebook, Google and Twitter have also signed on, as well as major ad agencies WPP and IPG.

Every day, hundreds of millions of people around the world are exposed to the communications our industry creates, said Martin Sorrell, chief executive of WPP. That influence can either be used to reinforce negative stereotypes or to set new standards of empowerment and equality.

The new initiative is the brainchild of Unilever, which committed itself to ridding its own advertising of sexist stereotypes last year, most notably by revamping marketing of Axe body spray.

Axe ads, reviled by most feminists for their blatant sexism and objectification of women, launched a new campaign urging men to find their magic a 180-degree shift from commercials that had featured hyper-sexualized women drooling over men who smelled nice.

Unilever produces millions of ads, but it is now analyzing them for the way they portray women. The company will change its ads that communicate old-fashioned stereotypes, says Keith Weed, Unilevers chief marketing and communications officer.

The hope is that the companies in the alliance will commit to similar types of analysis and action, but for now this influential group is only at the talking stage.

There has been a lot of progress made in the industry on this issue but not enough, Weed says.

The campaign comes as more companies strive to portray themselves as feminist champions. You may have noticed this during the Super Bowl in February, when automaker Audis ad highlighted the gender pay gap.

The Audi spot brings up a separate issue for many of these companies. Audis leadership team, and that of many companies, is still dominated by men.

A few years ago, Always Like a Girl ad was celebrated for its fresh, empowering portrayal of little girls, shaking up the staid world of sanitary napkin ads (blue water, dancing ladies clad in white, etc.).

Recently even Carls Jr., known for creating burger commercials targeting teenage boys that featured women in bikinis, announced it was walking away from its sexist marketing strategy.

Still, advertising remains a cesspool of outmoded conceptions of women. Just 3 percent of ads feature women in leadership or managerial roles, according to an industry-wide analysis conducted by Unilever in 2015. And 1 in 2 women are shown as sexualized in magazine advertising, the study found.

Women are also disproportionately the ones to appear in domestic settings in commercials were always cleaning and rarely seen heading into the office.

A decade ago it wouldve been hard to find any commercials celebrating female empowerment or suggesting anyone but a woman bought food, did laundry or cleaned a house, but things are shifting.

Youre seeing a change in societys values. As society shifts, [sexist ads] become less tolerable, said Derek Rucker, a marketing professor who teaches advertising strategy at Northwestern Universitys Kellogg School of Management.

Social media is also fueling the change as consumers increasingly become sensitive to offensive advertising remember Kendall Jenners Pepsi ad and can quickly voice their displeasure on social media.

Unilevers Dove brand is considered a pioneer in the feminist advertising space. It launched body-positive ads more than a decade ago:

And its internal revamp caught the attention of U.N. Women.

The Unilever initiative raised the issue of [stereotypes in advertising] significantly, says Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, under-secretary-general and U.N. Women executive director. U.N. Women works on very pressing and serious issues for women around the world, including sexual violence. Teaming up with a bunch of corporate behemoths to improve their advertising might seem frivolous by comparison.

However, changing the way women and men are portrayed in media is a critical piece in the fight for gender equality, says Mlambo-Ngcuka.

Many developed countries have fairly strong laws meant to prohibit gender discrimination, but laws arent enough, Mlambo-Ngcuka says. When stereotypes persist, they hold back progress.

You can see how this plays out in the United States, where rules and regulations around discrimination and sexual assault are undercut with stereotypes about the way men and women are supposed to behave.

Exhibit A sits in the Oval Office. A dozen women accused President Donald Trump of sexual misconduct and he even admitted to grabbing women in a leaked audio tape, but millions of voters either didnt believe those women or dismissed his behavior as locker room talk.

Stereotypes matter.

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Forget the Stereotype of Lazy FathersDads Are Heroes

When I began interviewing fathers all over the country, I discovered that the same thing kept happening. They gave me some permutation of this line: Im not like most dadsIm really involved in my kids lives.

In each case, I asked them to think about the other dads they know. Do you know any who arent like you? Any who ignore their children? Theyd think about it, and say no, adding, But theyre like metheyre the exceptions.

No, theyre not. Theres a huge gap between what dads are actually like these days and what stereotypes and inaccurate reports suggest. Sadly, the stereotypes in TV shows like The Simpsons and Family Guy and all sorts of ads have permeated the American psyche. Its not just a problem for the U.S. In a survey, British women slammed negative depictions of dads in ads, saying that in reality their partner is equally involved in parenting.

This Fathers Day, lets take a moment to see whats really going on with modern dads.

For starters, theyre not lazy, and dont sit around the house doing nothing. Overall, fathers and mothers work equally hard on behalf of their families. The American Time Use Survey collects data on activities in tens of thousands of homes. Dads put in an average of 54 hours a week, and moms put in 53. (Factor in room for standard errors and youve got basically a tie.)

A lot of the confusion surrounding this is that theres a big difference in how that work is distributed. Work includes paid work, unpaid work (such as household chores) and childcare. Dads on average put in more hours at the office, and moms put in more hours at home. Some reports ignore paid work hours and focus only on household work and childcare, assailing dads for doing less. They leave the impression that men are relaxing, when theyre actually working to provide.

The same study, the ATUS, also looks at leisure and personal care, which includes sleep. On this front, dads and moms are also equal. Dads spend a bit more time on leisure and sports, while moms spend a bit more time on personal care. The combined figures are just about as close to equal as you can get. (12.96 hours a day for dads, 12.99 for momsa statistical tie.) Again, some reports have misrepresented dads by focusing only on leisure time while ignoring personal care.

And this isnt just the case in the United States. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development says time devoted to leisure is roughly the same for men and women across the 20 OECD countries studied.

Also unlike the stereotypes, dads arent shirking their children. The average working father spends three hours each workday caring for his children, the Families and Work Institute has found. A CDC study found that virtually all dads who live with their children care for them in every major category at least several days a week if not every day. Those categories include feeding, bathing, doing homework with them, and more. (Among these men, black fathers are actually the most involved. In an interview for my book All In, the lead researcher told me it marks the debunking of the black-fathers-being-absent myth.)

The big difference is that dads and moms are spending their working hours differently. Thats because of sexism in how the workplace was designed. Our modern work structureslaws, policies, and stigmaswere created in the Mad Men era. The presumption was that women will always stay home with babies, while men will always make the money.

This explains why the United States remains alone in the developed world for having no paid maternity leave. The thinking behind it was, Shes a woman, so she doesnt need to make money. The man should make all the money.

To this day, the workplace acts as gender police, pushing women to stay home and pushing men to stay at work. Less than one-in-five companies offer any paternity leave. When men try to take that leave or seek flexible schedules, theyre often punished, a series of studies by the Center for WorkLife Law found. All In contains stories of men who were fired, demoted, or lost job opportunities for straying from an outdated, macho norm.

The Boston College Center for Work and Family makes this same point in a new report. While taking time for caregiving can be career limiting for women, it may be even more problematic for men who do not fit the image of the hegemonic male, it says. The report finds that the vast majority of working fathers and mothers want more time at home with their families, even as they want to advance at work. And EY found that U.S. men are even more likely than women to change jobs or give up a promotion for work-life management.

Much of my work these days is with womens organizations around the country, including those inside many companies. When I present all this information, many participants tell me it comes as a paradigm shift, leading them to recalibrate their understandings of the balance of responsibilities at home — and to realize how much strain their husbands may be under as well.

Dads are under enormous pressure, and feeling the stress. The American Psychological Association found that overall, stress levels are close between men and women. The University of Michigan found that mens stress is more likely to lead to depression, partly because men are less likely to talk about their problems and get help.

But as long as people believe dads are living relatively care-free, relaxing lives, we as a society wont be attuned to these struggles. Theyll remain in the shadows.

This Fathers Day, lets shine a light on just how well dads are doing. Lets resolve to work together, men and women, to eradicate the backward structures holding us back. And lets do what it takes to build a future in which our children have the chance to experience real equalityboth at work and at home.

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