Is everything you think you know about depression wrong?

In this extract from his new book, Johann Hari, who took antidepressants for 14 years, calls for a new approach

In the 1970s, a truth was accidentally discovered about depression one that was quickly swept aside, because its implications were too inconvenient, and too explosive. American psychiatrists had produced a book that would lay out, in detail, all the symptoms of different mental illnesses, so they could be identified and treated in the same way across the United States. It was called the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual. In the latest edition, they laid out nine symptoms that a patient has to show to be diagnosed with depression like, for example, decreased interest in pleasure or persistent low mood. For a doctor to conclude you were depressed, you had to show five of these symptoms over several weeks.

The manual was sent out to doctors across the US and they began to use it to diagnose people. However, after a while they came back to the authors and pointed out something that was bothering them. If they followed this guide, they had to diagnose every grieving person who came to them as depressed and start giving them medical treatment. If you lose someone, it turns out that these symptoms will come to you automatically. So, the doctors wanted to know, are we supposed to start drugging all the bereaved people in America?

The authors conferred, and they decided that there would be a special clause added to the list of symptoms of depression. None of this applies, they said, if you have lost somebody you love in the past year. In that situation, all these symptoms are natural, and not a disorder. It was called the grief exception, and it seemed to resolve the problem.

Then, as the years and decades passed, doctors on the frontline started to come back with another question. All over the world, they were being encouraged to tell patients that depression is, in fact, just the result of a spontaneous chemical imbalance in your brain it is produced by low serotonin, or a natural lack of some other chemical. Its not caused by your life its caused by your broken brain. Some of the doctors began to ask how this fitted with the grief exception. If you agree that the symptoms of depression are a logical and understandable response to one set of life circumstances losing a loved one might they not be an understandable response to other situations? What about if you lose your job? What if you are stuck in a job that you hate for the next 40 years? What about if you are alone and friendless?

The grief exception seemed to have blasted a hole in the claim that the causes of depression are sealed away in your skull. It suggested that there are causes out here, in the world, and they needed to be investigated and solved there. This was a debate that mainstream psychiatry (with some exceptions) did not want to have. So, they responded in a simple way by whittling away the grief exception. With each new edition of the manual they reduced the period of grief that you were allowed before being labelled mentally ill down to a few months and then, finally, to nothing at all. Now, if your baby dies at 10am, your doctor can diagnose you with a mental illness at 10.01am and start drugging you straight away.

Dr Joanne Cacciatore, of Arizona State University, became a leading expert on the grief exception after her own baby, Cheyenne, died during childbirth. She had seen many grieving people being told that they were mentally ill for showing distress. She told me this debate reveals a key problem with how we talk about depression, anxiety and other forms of suffering: we dont, she said, consider context. We act like human distress can be assessed solely on a checklist that can be separated out from our lives, and labelled as brain diseases. If we started to take peoples actual lives into account when we treat depression and anxiety, Joanne explained, it would require an entire system overhaul. She told me that when you have a person with extreme human distress, [we need to] stop treating the symptoms. The symptoms are a messenger of a deeper problem. Lets get to the deeper problem.

*****

I was a teenager when I swallowed my first antidepressant. I was standing in the weak English sunshine, outside a pharmacy in a shopping centre in London. The tablet was white and small, and as I swallowed, it felt like a chemical kiss. That morning I had gone to see my doctor and I had told him crouched, embarrassed that pain was leaking out of me uncontrollably, like a bad smell, and I had felt this way for several years. In reply, he told me a story. There is a chemical called serotonin that makes people feel good, he said, and some people are naturally lacking it in their brains. You are clearly one of those people. There are now, thankfully, new drugs that will restore your serotonin level to that of a normal person. Take them, and you will be well. At last, I understood what had been happening to me, and why.

However, a few months into my drugging, something odd happened. The pain started to seep through again. Before long, I felt as bad as I had at the start. I went back to my doctor, and he told me that I was clearly on too low a dose. And so, 20 milligrams became 30 milligrams; the white pill became blue. I felt better for several months. And then the pain came back through once more. My dose kept being jacked up, until I was on 80mg, where it stayed for many years, with only a few short breaks. And still the pain broke back through.

I started to research my book, Lost Connections: Uncovering The Real Causes of Depression and the Unexpected Solutions, because I was puzzled by two mysteries. Why was I still depressed when I was doing everything I had been told to do? I had identified the low serotonin in my brain, and I was boosting my serotonin levels yet I still felt awful. But there was a deeper mystery still. Why were so many other people across the western world feeling like me? Around one in five US adults are taking at least one drug for a psychiatric problem. In Britain, antidepressant prescriptions have doubled in a decade, to the point where now one in 11 of us drug ourselves to deal with these feelings. What has been causing depression and its twin, anxiety, to spiral in this way? I began to ask myself: could it really be that in our separate heads, all of us had brain chemistries that were spontaneously malfunctioning at the same time?

To find the answers, I ended up going on a 40,000-mile journey across the world and back. I talked to the leading social scientists investigating these questions, and to people who have been overcoming depression in unexpected ways from an Amish village in Indiana, to a Brazilian city that banned advertising and a laboratory in Baltimore conducting a startling wave of experiments. From these people, I learned the best scientific evidence about what really causes depression and anxiety. They taught me that it is not what we have been told it is up to now. I found there is evidence that seven specific factors in the way we are living today are causing depression and anxiety to rise alongside two real biological factors (such as your genes) that can combine with these forces to make it worse.

Once I learned this, I was able to see that a very different set of solutions to my depression and to our depression had been waiting for me all along.

To understand this different way of thinking, though, I had to first investigate the old story, the one that had given me so much relief at first. Professor Irving Kirsch at Harvard University is the Sherlock Holmes of chemical antidepressants the man who has scrutinised the evidence about giving drugs to depressed and anxious people most closely in the world. In the 1990s, he prescribed chemical antidepressants to his patients with confidence. He knew the published scientific evidence, and it was clear: it showed that 70% of people who took them got significantly better. He began to investigate this further, and put in a freedom of information request to get the data that the drug companies had been privately gathering into these drugs. He was confident that he would find all sorts of other positive effects but then he bumped into something peculiar.

Illustration
Illustration by Michael Driver.

We all know that when you take selfies, you take 30 pictures, throw away the 29 where you look bleary-eyed or double-chinned, and pick out the best one to be your Tinder profile picture. It turned out that the drug companies who fund almost all the research into these drugs were taking this approach to studying chemical antidepressants. They would fund huge numbers of studies, throw away all the ones that suggested the drugs had very limited effects, and then only release the ones that showed success. To give one example: in one trial, the drug was given to 245 patients, but the drug company published the results for only 27 of them. Those 27 patients happened to be the ones the drug seemed to work for. Suddenly, Professor Kirsch realised that the 70% figure couldnt be right.

It turns out that between 65 and 80% of people on antidepressants are depressed again within a year. I had thought that I was freakish for remaining depressed while on these drugs. In fact, Kirsch explained to me in Massachusetts, I was totally typical. These drugs are having a positive effect for some people but they clearly cant be the main solution for the majority of us, because were still depressed even when we take them. At the moment, we offer depressed people a menu with only one option on it. I certainly dont want to take anything off the menu but I realised, as I spent time with him, that we would have to expand the menu.

This led Professor Kirsch to ask a more basic question, one he was surprised to be asking. How do we know depression is even caused by low serotonin at all? When he began to dig, it turned out that the evidence was strikingly shaky. Professor Andrew Scull of Princeton, writing in the Lancet, explained that attributing depression to spontaneously low serotonin is deeply misleading and unscientific. Dr David Healy told me: There was never any basis for it, ever. It was just marketing copy.

I didnt want to hear this. Once you settle into a story about your pain, you are extremely reluctant to challenge it. It was like a leash I had put on my distress to keep it under some control. I feared that if I messed with the story I had lived with for so long, the pain would run wild, like an unchained animal. Yet the scientific evidence was showing me something clear, and I couldnt ignore it.

*****

So, what is really going on? When I interviewed social scientists all over the world from So Paulo to Sydney, from Los Angeles to London I started to see an unexpected picture emerge. We all know that every human being has basic physical needs: for food, for water, for shelter, for clean air. It turns out that, in the same way, all humans have certain basic psychological needs. We need to feel we belong. We need to feel valued. We need to feel were good at something. We need to feel we have a secure future. And there is growing evidence that our culture isnt meeting those psychological needs for many perhaps most people. I kept learning that, in very different ways, we have become disconnected from things we really need, and this deep disconnection is driving this epidemic of depression and anxiety all around us.

Lets look at one of those causes, and one of the solutions we can begin to see if we understand it differently. There is strong evidence that human beings need to feel their lives are meaningful that they are doing something with purpose that makes a difference. Its a natural psychological need. But between 2011 and 2012, the polling company Gallup conducted the most detailed study ever carried out of how people feel about the thing we spend most of our waking lives doing our paid work. They found that 13% of people say they are engaged in their work they find it meaningful and look forward to it. Some 63% say they are not engaged, which is defined as sleepwalking through their workday. And 24% are actively disengaged: they hate it.

A
Antidepressant prescriptions have doubled over the last decade. Photograph: Anthony Devlin/PA

Most of the depressed and anxious people I know, I realised, are in the 87% who dont like their work. I started to dig around to see if there is any evidence that this might be related to depression. It turned out that a breakthrough had been made in answering this question in the 1970s, by an Australian scientist called Michael Marmot. He wanted to investigate what causes stress in the workplace and believed hed found the perfect lab in which to discover the answer: the British civil service, based in Whitehall. This small army of bureaucrats was divided into 19 different layers, from the permanent secretary at the top, down to the typists. What he wanted to know, at first, was: whos more likely to have a stress-related heart attack the big boss at the top, or somebody below him?

Everybody told him: youre wasting your time. Obviously, the boss is going to be more stressed because hes got more responsibility. But when Marmot published his results, he revealed the truth to be the exact opposite. The lower an employee ranked in the hierarchy, the higher their stress levels and likelihood of having a heart attack. Now he wanted to know: why?

And thats when, after two more years studying civil servants, he discovered the biggest factor. It turns out if you have no control over your work, you are far more likely to become stressed and, crucially, depressed. Humans have an innate need to feel that what we are doing, day-to-day, is meaningful. When you are controlled, you cant create meaning out of your work.

Suddenly, the depression of many of my friends, even those in fancy jobs who spend most of their waking hours feeling controlled and unappreciated started to look not like a problem with their brains, but a problem with their environments. There are, I discovered, many causes of depression like this. However, my journey was not simply about finding the reasons why we feel so bad. The core was about finding out how we can feel better how we can find real and lasting antidepressants that work for most of us, beyond only the packs of pills we have been offered as often the sole item on the menu for the depressed and anxious. I kept thinking about what Dr Cacciatore had taught me we have to deal with the deeper problems that are causing all this distress.

I found the beginnings of an answer to the epidemic of meaningless work in Baltimore. Meredith Mitchell used to wake up every morning with her heart racing with anxiety. She dreaded her office job. So she took a bold step one that lots of people thought was crazy. Her husband, Josh, and their friends had worked for years in a bike store, where they were ordered around and constantly felt insecure, Most of them were depressed. One day, they decided to set up their own bike store, but they wanted to run it differently. Instead of having one guy at the top giving orders, they would run it as a democratic co-operative. This meant they would make decisions collectively, they would share out the best and worst jobs and they would all, together, be the boss. It would be like a busy democratic tribe. When I went to their store Baltimore Bicycle Works the staff explained how, in this different environment, their persistent depression and anxiety had largely lifted.

Its not that their individual tasks had changed much. They fixed bikes before; they fix bikes now. But they had dealt with the unmet psychological needs that were making them feel so bad by giving themselves autonomy and control over their work. Josh had seen for himself that depressions are very often, as he put it, rational reactions to the situation, not some kind of biological break. He told me there is no need to run businesses anywhere in the old humiliating, depressing way we could move together, as a culture, to workers controlling their own workplaces.

*****

With each of the nine causes of depression and anxiety I learned about, I kept being taught startling facts and arguments like this that forced me to think differently. Professor John Cacioppo of Chicago University taught me that being acutely lonely is as stressful as being punched in the face by a stranger and massively increases your risk of depression. Dr Vincent Felitti in San Diego showed me that surviving severe childhood trauma makes you 3,100% more likely to attempt suicide as an adult. Professor Michael Chandler in Vancouver explained to me that if a community feels it has no control over the big decisions affecting it, the suicide rate will shoot up.

This new evidence forces us to seek out a very different kind of solution to our despair crisis. One person in particular helped me to unlock how to think about this. In the early days of the 21st century, a South African psychiatrist named Derek Summerfeld went to Cambodia, at a time when antidepressants were first being introduced there. He began to explain the concept to the doctors he met. They listened patiently and then told him they didnt need these new antidepressants, because they already had anti-depressants that work. He assumed they were talking about some kind of herbal remedy.

He asked them to explain, and they told him about a rice farmer they knew whose left leg was blown off by a landmine. He was fitted with a new limb, but he felt constantly anxious about the future, and was filled with despair. The doctors sat with him, and talked through his troubles. They realised that even with his new artificial limb, his old jobworking in the rice paddieswas leaving him constantly stressed and in physical pain, and that was making him want to just stop living. So they had an idea. They believed that if he became a dairy farmer, he could live differently. So they bought him a cow. In the months and years that followed, his life changed. His depressionwhich had been profoundwent away. You see, doctor, they told him, the cow was an antidepressant.

To them, finding an antidepressant didnt mean finding a way to change your brain chemistry. It meant finding a way to solve the problem that was causing the depression in the first place. We can do the same. Some of these solutions are things we can do as individuals, in our private lives. Some require bigger social shifts, which we can only achieve together, as citizens. But all of them require us to change our understanding of what depression and anxiety really are.

This is radical, but it is not, I discovered, a maverick position. In its official statement for World Health Day in 2017, the United Nations reviewed the best evidence and concluded that the dominant biomedical narrative of depression is based on biased and selective use of research outcomes that must be abandoned. We need to move from focusing on chemical imbalances, they said, to focusing more on power imbalances.

After I learned all this, and what it means for us all, I started to long for the power to go back in time and speak to my teenage self on the day he was told a story about his depression that was going to send him off in the wrong direction for so many years. I wanted to tell him: This pain you are feeling is not a pathology. Its not crazy. It is a signal that your natural psychological needs are not being met. It is a form of grief for yourself, and for the culture you live in going so wrong. I know how much it hurts. I know how deeply it cuts you. But you need to listen to this signal. We all need to listen to the people around us sending out this signal. It is telling you what is going wrong. It is telling you that you need to be connected in so many deep and stirring ways that you arent yet but you can be, one day.

If you are depressed and anxious, you are not a machine with malfunctioning parts. You are a human being with unmet needs. The only real way out of our epidemic of despair is for all of us, together, to begin to meet those human needs for deep connection, to the things that really matter in life.

This is an edited extract from Lost Connections: Uncovering the Real Causes of Depression and the Unexpected Solutions by Johann Hari, published by Bloomsbury on 11 January (16.99). To order a copy for 14.44 go to guardianbookshop.com or call 0330 333 6846. Free UK p&p over 10, online orders only. Phone orders min p&p of 1.99. It will be available in audio at audible.co.uk

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/society/2018/jan/07/is-everything-you-think-you-know-about-depression-wrong-johann-hari-lost-connections

The death of Lil Peep: how the US prescription drug epidemic is changing hip-hop

This week, rapper Lil Peep died of a suspected overdose. Hip-hop has always been open about recreational drug use but how did constant references to depression and prescription painkillers move into the mainstream?

Pop a Perky just to start up / Pop two cups of purple just to warm up Quavos lyrics swim through the slow, narcotised production of Slippery, a track by rap trio Migos that has become one of the genres biggest hits of the year with nearly 150m views on YouTube. For the uninitiated, Perky is Percocet, a painkiller made up of paracetamol and the opioid oxycodone; purple is a drink made from codeine-based cough syrup. Quavos drug use is as improvisatory as it is blithe, and is just one example of a rap scene where substance abuse has become normalised.

This permissiveness has claimed a talented victim in Lil Peep, a New York-born 21-year-old rapper who died this week of a suspected overdose. On his Instagram in the hours leading up to his death, he said he was taking magic mushrooms and honey (a kind of super-concentrated version of marijuana, turned into a wax); another picture sees him with an unidentified substance broken into pieces on his tongue. He is also filmed dropping bars of Xanax, the anxiety medication that has become perhaps the most fashionable drug in 2017s rap scene, into his mouth.

Q&A

Why is there an opioid crisis in America?

Almost 100 people are dying every day across America from opioid overdoses more than car crashes and shootings combined. The majority of these fatalities reveal widespread addiction to powerful prescription painkillers. The crisis unfolded in the mid-90s when the US pharmaceutical industry began marketing legal narcotics, particularly OxyContin, to treat everyday pain. This slow-release opioid was vigorously promoted to doctors and, amid lax regulation and slick sales tactics, people were assured it was safe. But the drug was akin to luxury morphine, doled out like super aspirin, and highly addictive. What resulted was a commercial triumph and a public health tragedy. Belated efforts to rein in distribution fueled a resurgence of heroin and the emergence of a deadly, black market version of the synthetic opioid fentanyl. The crisis is so deep because it affects all races, regions and incomes

Lil Peep also rapped about drug-taking: I hear voices in my head, they tellin me to call it quits / I found some Xanax in my bed, I took that shit, went back to sleep; Sniffin cocaine cause I didnt have no Actavis / Smokin propane with my clique and the bad bitches; Gettin high cause my life dont mean shit to me. His vision of drug-taking was not without pleasure, but certainly a means of escape as well as straightforward hedonism a marked change in rap culture.

Three drugs are most commonly associated with hip-hop: alcohol, weed and crack. The former is often used merely as a straightforward wealth signifier: Hennessy and Courvoisier cognac, Cristal champagne, Patrn tequila and Grey Goose vodka. Blended with a gin and juice, Snoop Dogg hymned the relaxing properties of marijuana (laaaaaid back…) while Cypress Hill synthesised its paranoia with the creepy malevolence of B-Reals voice.

Crack cocaine was a different prospect: the rappers never got high on their own supply. On Clipses Grindin, Pusha T says that four and half [ounces] will get you in the game and that he is known in the neighbourhood as Mr Sniffles, but his laser-precise flow suggests sobriety and business nous. On the 2014 mega-hit Trap Queen, Fetty Wap introduces his girl to his stove hes not showing off his new Aga, but rather where they will cook crack together. The songs pop beauty conjures a couple revelling not in the drugs high, but the emancipation it gives them as a result of cash from its sale. By shamelessly leveraging the glamour of criminality, these rappers appeal to prurient middle-class audiences (including a sizeable white demographic) and by pointing a route out of poverty, they appeal to working-class ones too.

Around the turn of the century, rappers increasingly started dabbling in designer drugs, too, particularly ecstasy. Eminem recorded two songs from The Slim Shady LP while high on it, while mentor Dr Dre suggested on Bad Intentions, take an X pill, how the sex feel? A little-noted detail is that the civic euphoria of Jay-Zs Empire State of Mind is powered by the drug: MDMA got you feeling like a champion / The city never sleeps, better slip you an Ambien. Kanye West sees a whole party melting like Dali after dropping molly, raps now-favoured name for ecstasy (also namechecked by the likes of Tyga, Rick Ross, Rihanna and, infamously, Miley Cyrus). In their songs at least, there are no comedowns, only the dizzy, meaningless highs.

But at the same time, prescription drug addiction took hold of the US last year, 91 people a day died of opioid overdoses. Thanks to a robust marketing campaign, sales of the opioid painkiller OxyContin grew from $48m (36.5m) in 1996 to $1.1bn in 2000; in 2012, 282m prescriptions were made for it a bottle for every American. Its popularity has tailed off slightly, but other prescription drugs often used recreationally have joined it, arguably in part thanks to the inadvertent marketing by rappers, who have swapped uppers for downers.

Lil
Lil Pump with a drug-shaped cake. Photograph: Jerritt Clark/WireImage

The attention-deficit medicine Adderall has been rapped about by Danny Brown and sung about by Justin Bieber; as well as Migoss championing of the aforementioned Percocet, Futures Mask Off, another huge rap hit this year, has a chorus that runs Percocet, molly, Percocet.

But its Xanax the drug Lil Peep boasted about taking six of in a video hours before his death that has become the most prevalent. Each pill is an oblong divided into five chunks, with X A N A X imprinted on each; as a design it has real visual impact that enhances its appeal. A$AP Mob-affiliated DJ crew Cozy Boys were formerly known as Blackout Boys, and used Xanax bars as their logo; current hot property Lil Pump celebrated getting a million Instagram followers with a Xanax-shaped cake. Etsy is weirdly full of Xanax jewellery. Guesting on iLoveMakonnens track Tuesday, even the clean-cut Drake admits to having Xans in an Advil bottle before swiftly reassuring us theyre just for that nights boo: I dont take them shits but you do.

Xanax now underpins an entire subgenre of rap: sometimes dubbed SoundCloud rap, as many of its progenitors upload it to that music streaming service, it is characterised by a fug-headed mumbling flow; raw, lo-fi production full of clouds of noise; and constant references to depression and prescription painkillers. Along with rappers such as Yung Lean, $uicideboy$ and Lil Xan, Lil Peep was at the heart of this scene; it has moved into the mainstream, too, with Lil Uzi Vert, whose track XO Tour Life features a couple discussing suicide. Spotify caught on, dedicating a playlist to the style called Tear Drop its top 10 is now full of Lil Peep, with a tribute reading: Gone too soon We will always remember you.

This style is also called emo, but where that word has previously been used to describe punks who analysed their own emotions with a forensic level of detail, here the emotion is underanalysed: these rappers feel bad, but theyre not sure why.

The fact that some of them are unable to verbalise what theyre feeling, leads them to fall back on rap cliches around bitches and clips, and simply compounds the overall feeling of desperation. This is an inevitable cultural byproduct of the US, where the marketplace has been allowed to triumph, and silence moral concerns about the availability of these drugs. Because theyre profitable, people are allowed to just get on with self-medicating, without trying to understand the reasons for their sadness.

But perhaps these rappers ennui goes wider than mere Xanax, and into a numbing effect of our wider culture. One of the most chilling aspects to Lil Peeps death is that his cries for help were so public, and yet went so unanswered perhaps as a result of the paradoxically distancing effect of social media. He wrote on Instagram hours before he died: I need help but not when I have my pills but thats temporary one day maybe I wont die young and Ill be happy? But were inured to see Instagram as performative, not real, and its inherently aspirational vibe along with the sheer visual noise of its scrolling feed drowns out individual torment. That Spotify named its playlist Tear Drop, selling back these artists real pain, doesnt help.

Rap has always told its drug stories in more than just its lyrics. Snoop conjured the sensuality of his own buzz through his very vocal cadence and languorous G-funk backing, as well as his words. In Houstons chopped and screwed scene, rap tracks are radically slowed down, designed to match and enhance the corporeal sluggishness that comes from drinking codeine cough syrup. And its the same with this new breed of rapper: their deadened flow and sad, anxious production replicates the anti-high of Xanax in sound. It can be hard to tell which of them are genuinely troubled and which are like the fake gangstas of the crack era trading off the glamour of drugs and pain. But the tens of millions of streams theyre getting mean it doesnt matter: their popularity shows that people are hearing their own pain, fellow participants in a culture that has been left to manage its own wellbeing.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/music/2017/nov/16/death-lil-peep-us-prescription-drugs-epidemic-hip-hop-rapper

Harvey Weinstein had secret hitlist of names to quash sex scandal

Producer hired team to investigate 91 film industry figures in attempt to stop harassment claims going public

The Observer has gained access to a secret hitlist of almost 100 prominent individuals targeted by Harvey Weinstein in an extraordinary attempt to discover what they knew about sexual misconduct claims against him and whether they were intending to go public.

The previously undisclosed list contains a total of 91 actors, publicists, producers, financiers and others working in the film industry, all of whom Weinstein allegedly identified as part of a strategy to prevent accusers from going public with sexual misconduct claims against him.

The names, apparently drawn up by Weinstein himself, were distributed to a team hired by the film producer to suppress claims that he had sexually harassed or assaulted numerous women.

An
An extract from Harvey Weinsteins hitlist.

The document was compiled in early 2017, around nine months before the storm that blew up on 5 October when the New York Times published a series of sexual harassment allegations against Weinstein.

Individuals named on the list were to be targeted by investigators who would covertly extract and accumulate information from those who might know of claims or who might come forward with allegations against the film producer. Feedback was then to be relayed to Weinstein and his lawyers.

The size of the list 85 names appear on one document, with an addendum identifying another six individuals appears to corroborate claims that sexual misconduct allegations against the 65-year-old were an open secret throughout Hollywood.

Prominent stars were among the first tranche of individuals on the list to testify publicly against Weinstein. Among those named were the actress Rose McGowan, who days after speaking out accused the producer of raping her. Another was Laura Madden, who told how Weinstein pestered her for massages at hotels in Dublin and London, beginning in 1991. McGowan and Madden were among the first to speak out against Weinstein last month.

Rose
Rose McGowan
Photograph: Richard Shotwell/AP

A typed note on the document appears to suggest that by February 2016, Madden had already been targeted by one of Weinsteins hired investigators. Her view of the producer is, says the note, very bitter.

Another name is Zelda Perkins, a London-based production assistant for Weinsteins Miramax film company, who left the firms London offices on Brewer Street in Soho in 1998 after, she says, enduring years of sexual harassment by her boss. Last month Perkins revealed that she had broken a confidentiality agreement to describe alleged sexual harassment by the Hollywood producer.

Also on the list is the English actress Sophie Dix, who has described how her career trajectory was massively cut down after an alleged sexual assault by Weinstein in a London hotel and who was among the first to come forward.

Although at least 10 individuals are based in London, the majority live in New York, with others from Los Angeles. They include individuals working in acquisitions, marketing and distribution, along with producers, publicists and human resources staff, as well as actors. Forty-three men are named and 48 women.

Weinstein, the list confirms, was aware that the New York Times was gathering testimony from his victims long before it first ran the story. A public relations professional is named alongside a note stating that HW [Harvey Weinstein] in contact w/him. Friends w/Jodi Kantor. Kantor is the New York Times journalist who broke the story that immediately engulfed the producer and the film production company he co-founded with his brother.

Sophie
Sophie Dix Photograph: Graeme Robertson for the Guardian

More than 50 of the names have been coloured red to highlight those who should be prioritised by investigators individuals Weinstein most keenly wanted to target. The names of the actresses McGowan, Dix and Madden are all coloured red.

Following an initial list of 85 names, another six individuals were identified during August 2017, including the actress Annabella Sciorra, who two months later publicly alleged she was raped by Weinstein after he barged into her apartment in the 1990s.

Also named on the later list is the US actress Katherine Kendall. Weeks later she revealed how a naked Weinstein literally chased her around his New York apartment in 1993.

Another is a former Weinstein employee, Lauren OConnor, who documented several allegations against the producer in a 2015 memo in which she described a toxic environment for women at Miramax.

Interestingly, the document includes the filmmaker Brett Ratner, who has been accused of sexual harassment or misconduct by six women in the wake of the Weinstein allegations.

Annabella
Annabella Sciorra Photograph: Bruce Glikas/FilmMagic

It is unclear whether Weinstein intended subsequently to approach any of the individuals on the list with a non-disclosure agreement. Evidence has emerged which shows that over the past three decades Weinstein reached at least eight settlements with women, according to two company officials speaking on condition of anonymity, after he was confronted with allegations including sexual harassment and unwanted physical contact.

Not surprisingly, considering the psychological abuse and bullying allegations emerging from his former film studio Miramax, more of the film studio employees are also named. Among them is Kathy DeClesis, former assistant to Weinsteins brother Bob, who has revealed that she told him about Harvey sexually harassing women over a period of 25 years.

So far, more than 50 women have come forward with allegations of rape, harassment and inappropriate behaviour, prompting police investigations in the US and UK.

Weinstein unequivocally denies all claims of non-consensual sex, a spokesman for the producer has said. The spokesman dismissed reports that the producer hired spies to stop claims, saying: It is a fiction to suggest that any individuals were targeted or suppressed at any time.

The producers alleged targets were often young, aspiring actresses. Among the high-profile names who have spoken out against Weinstein are Angelina Jolie, Cara Delevingne and Kate Beckinsale.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/film/2017/nov/18/harvey-weinstein-secret-hitlist-sex-scandal

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
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 pic.twitter.com/KcJoz0ycZU

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
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!

Andy
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.

banter
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.

Very merry seventeenth century punch recipe found in Yorkshire

The recipe, written by Benedictine monks in exile and found at Ampleforth Abbey, starts with ten pints of brandy

A recipe for a very merry Christmas drink for 17th century monks, beginning with ten pints of brandy, has been rediscovered by a Durham university academic, in the archives of Ampleforth Abbey in north Yorkshire.

The recipes there were two similar versions, one for a punch, one for a drink known as shrub were written down for English Benedictine monks who were in exile in France after the dissolution of the monasteries. Both were flavoured with orange and lemon peel, with added sugar and water, and involved days of steeping and mixing the ingredients.

Although monastic communities commonly drank alcohol because the quality of drinking water was so unreliable, these recipes were clearly not an everyday tipple. Dr James Kelly, from the department of theology and religion at Durham University, said the volume of the ingredients and the care that went into them were significant.

The quantity, and the time taken to make the drink, suggests that this was something to be enjoyed on special occasions by the whole monastic community not a quick drink for cocktail hour.

He discovered the recipes as part of his Monks in Motion project, which looked into the travels and influence of the English Benedictine Monks after they were forced into exile.

Ampleforth was founded when the monks had to move again after the French Revolution, and returned to England as the anti-Catholic laws were gradually relaxed in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. As the archives prove, they brought their favourite recipes back with them.

The name of the monastic order is still associated with the sweet herbal liqueur Benedictine, which was claimed to have been created by them at the great abbey in Fcamp in France . But it was in fact a brilliant marketing wheeze by the 19th century entrepreneur who invented it.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2016/dec/19/very-merry-seventeenth-century-punch-recipe-found-in-yorkshire

Gendered toys could deter girls from career in engineering, report says

Insitution for Engineering and Technology found toys with a technology focus were three times as likely to be targeted at boys

One of the worlds largest engineering institutions is warning against gender stereotyping of toys in the run-up to Christmas amid concern it could be discouraging girls from pursuing a career in engineering and technology.

Research by the Institution for Engineering and Technology (IET) found that toys with a science, technology, engineering and maths (Stem) focus were three times as likely to be targeted at boys than girls. And despite high-profile recent campaigns that have had some success, toys for girls are still overwhelmingly pink.

The IETs mission is to encourage more girls to pursue careers in engineering, science and technology. Latest figures show women account for just 9% of engineers in the UK, despite enthusiasm among girls at primary school for information and communications technology (ICT) and computing (according to recent IET research, 39% say they enjoy it), maths (38%) and science (36%).

Societal stereotypes driving these gendered listings could be having a knock-on effect for the next generation of engineers, especially girls, impacting their future career choices, the IET warned.

Whilst the onus is on the parents to think outside the pink and blue boxes when shopping for their children, toy retailers and search engines also have a responsibility not to perpetuate gender stereotypes. Search engines in particular could look at introducing ways of detecting patterns of gender bias.

IET analysis of leading search engines and toy retailers websites found that of the Stem toys on offer, 31% were listed for boys compared with just 11% for girls. A search using the terms boys toys and girls toys found nine out of ten (89%) toys listed for girls were pink, compared with 1% for boys.

Mamta Singhal, a toy engineer and IET spokeswoman, said she had traditional girls toys as a child but also loved playing with cars, building blocks and creative kits. The research shows girls clearly do have an interest in science, technology and engineering subjects at school so we need to find ways to help this to translate into a higher number of women entering the industry.

The marketing of toys for girls is a great place to start to change perceptions of the opportunities within engineering. The toy options for girls should go beyond dolls and dress-up so we can cultivate their enthusiasm and inspire them to grow up to become engineers.

A
Toys can influence what a child does in later years, experts believe. Photograph: Alamy Stock Photo

The toy industry is changing slowly and over the years more gender-neutral toys such as science kits have started appearing. Toys can really influence what a child does in later years, therefore Stem toys are a natural move for the industry.

Jess Day from Let Toys Be Toys, which campaigns to encourage retailers to stop categorising toys by gender, said toy marketing too often promoted the idea of separate toys for boys and girls.

Many retailers have made real progress over the last few years, dropping gender labels in stores and online our new research shows a 70% decrease in the use of online gender navigation options since 2012 but theres still work to do to challenge the stereotyped ways that toys are often packaged and promoted.

We previously asked women engineers and scientists about the toys they played with as children and the most interesting finding was, not that they all played with construction or science toys, but they didnt recall being aware of a distinction between girls and boys toys at all.

Its not just the toys which are the issue, but the whole idea that some things are just for boys or girls. If children learn that early, its hardly surprising that they go on to apply this logic to their career choices, too.

Simon Ragoonanan, who has a daughter and writes a blog, Man vs Pink, documenting his ongoing struggle against pinkification, recently published an alternative Christmas gift guide for girls which includes a build-your-own computer kit, a Lego ultimate Spiderman bridge battle, and female Star Wars character Reys lightsaber.

People often opt for what they think is a safe option which is how gender stereotypes come into play, he said.

As a father to a four-year-old daughter who loves sci-fi and superheroes, I feel strongly that little girls should aspire to be more than just princesses and that all toys are gender neutral.

Top gender-neutral Stem toys for Christmas, as suggested by the IES

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2016/dec/08/gendered-toys-deter-girls-from-career-engineering-technology

Sea Hero Quest: the mobile phone game helping fight dementia

Game played by 2.4 million people has become largest dementia study in history, generating equivalent of 9,400 years of lab-based research

A mobile phone game that tests spatial navigation skills and has been played by 2.4 million people, has become the largest dementia study in history and raised hopes of a breakthrough in diagnosing the disease.

Sea Hero Quest, a collaboration between Alzheimers Research UK, Deutsche Telekom, game designers Glitchers and scientists, has generated the equivalent of 9,400 years of lab-based research since its launch in May.

Experts hope to use the data to create the worlds first global benchmark for spatial navigation, one of the first abilities affected by dementia, and to develop the game into an early diagnostic test for the disease, which is the leading cause of death in England and Wales.

Dr Hugo Spiers, of University College London, who presented the preliminary findings at the Neuroscience 2016 conference in San Diego, said: This is the only study of its kind, on this scale, to date. Its accuracy greatly exceeds that of all previous research in this area. The findings the game is yielding have enormous potential to support vital developments in dementia research. The ability to diagnose dementia at early stages, well before patients exhibit any signs of general memory loss, would be a milestone.

This study is thus now giving us the opportunity to make a real difference to the lives of millions of people living with dementia and those at risk of developing the disease in the future.

Sea Hero Quest requires players to navigate a boat through waters in differently themed areas over 75 levels, collecting items along the way. It was designed to appeal to all gamers, rather than just people wanting to contribute to a good cause, and its popularity has seen the number of players soar past the original target of 100,000 by the end of the year.

Players provide their age and sex, allowing the scientists to chart their performance against other users.

Spiers said they could now create the equivalent of a height chart whereby if someone was particularly short or in this case if their spatial navigation ability was particularly low for their age and sex it would raise a red flag.

By testing a persons spatial navigation abilities, the game could allow for diagnosis and treatment of patients far earlier.

Spiers said Sea Hero Quest, which will now be adapted for use in a clinical setting, could also be used to track decline and in drug trials to test the impact of the medication.

Alzheimers Research UKs chief executive, Hilary Evans, praised the role of Deutsche Telekom, which has spent more than 1m (860,000)on the project, including marketing.

The early data that has very quickly been generated by Sea Hero Quest should inspire other corporations to consider what assets they might bring to research into dementia or any of our most seemingly intractable medical conditions, she said.

The experts found differences in spatial navigation strategies employed by men and women, and also that spatial navigation abilities began to decline from early adulthood. For example, players aged 19 (the youngest in the study) had a 74% chance of accurately hitting a target during the game, compared with 46% among 75-year-olds (the oldest in the study). This decline over time contradicted previous studies typically based on less than 100 people which suggested cognitive abilities do not decline until later in life.

They also found that players in Nordic countries showed notable spatial navigation capabilities.

The scientists will carry out further analysis of the data over the next two years. In the meantime, the game continues to be available for free download and the data generated will contribute to the ongoing research.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/society/2016/nov/16/sea-hero-quest-the-mobile-phone-game-helping-fight-dementia

I was so embarrassed I cried: do parents share too much online?

From first smiles to teenage experiments, a generation of children has had their every move posted by their parents. What can they do about it?

Picture a child entering the world, around the time that a new social networking venture known as thefacebook.comis making its own entrance to the world. It is 2004, and the child is easy to picture. Her parents have photographed their daughters first breath, first smile, first spoonfuls and first steps. When she reaches school age, she is snapped in uniform, probably outside the front door, and one parent, probably her mother, shares the image with friends. The child learns to read, write her name. She wins certificates, excels at sport. When Twitter, Instagram and later Vine arrive, her public identities multiply. She starts secondary school.

In a few months, this child and her classmates will begin to turn 13 and, perhaps, create their own Facebook accounts. When they do, they will come face to face with their digital shadow. They may step into it easily, or try to sever themselves from it, but it wont let go, this pre-existent media identity, because it has logged their lives from the moment they left the womb. Some will recognise their digital shadow, but what of those whose online identity bears little relation to their sense of self, or to the public identity they want to share? For years, parents have fretted about their childrens posting activities, while continuing to post as they wish about their offspring. Is it time they stopped or at least asked for permission first?

Today these questions are on the minds of the children at Kingsford community school in Beckton, east London, where the 13-, 14- and 15-year-old members of the Debate Mate after-school club are filing into a classroom on the first floor, slinging down school bags and glancing at the motion on the whiteboard. This house would ban parents from posting about their children on social media, the debate leader writes.

Its kind of weird your parents are still posting pictures of you on social media, someone says. One boy, Malachi, bows his head and writes a single word on his notepad: reputation. This is really about consent, his friend says. Do I want to be seen by a larger, broader range of people? There is a loud hum of agreement and one girl raises her voice: Parents! We dont want them invading our privacy. Because some of us, the only privacy we get is through social media.

These pupils often discuss social networking sites, their attractions and perils, but this is the first time they have turned their scrutiny on their own parents. And yet parents are the object of an increasingly aggressive interrogation. This spring a mother from Shropshire called out her sons bullying on Facebook, only for the post to go viral; the criticism of her became so intense she removed it and changed her Facebook page and phone number. Next came the 20-year-old mother from Balloch, Scotland, whose photographs of her 11-month-old daughter in tiny high fashion outfits attracted an Instagram following that included Khlo Kardashian until critics claimed the woman was sexualising her baby. She has since locked the account and gone to ground. After her came the Arizona father who nakedly cradled his naked, feverish baby in the shower, an image his wife snapped and shared, before Facebook removed it as offensive.

Excessive sharing about your children has long incited disapproval, but recently the disapproval has begun to acquire a proto-legal tinge. In March, French police warned parents against posting photos of their children on social media; according to social media analyst Eric Delcroix, the children could soon be able to sue them for posting inappropriate pictures, under the countrys privacy laws. The treasurer of the UKs Human Rights Lawyers Association, Leanne Targett-Parker, echoes the idea that it is only a matter of time before children mount legal challenges against oversharing parents. You cant imagine it not being something that starts to develop within the next five to 10 years, she says. I cant see how there cant be attempts at suing people for putting up posts that theyre unhappy with.

Some parents may shrug off the shaming stories and the professionalised sharing of family vloggers such as the Shaytards, the Brataleys, the Ballingers as beyond the range of their own moderate social media activity. But listen to the children in the Kingsford classroom and it becomes clear how many degrees there are of shame. To these teenagers, even small instances of sharing can be divisive. When I ask if anyone has experienced being overshared themselves, hands shoot up, but the answers are a long way from the public shaming that normally grabs headlines. They are exactly the sort of infringements that many parents will commit without a second thought.

I was eating a Subway. Chicken teriyaki. Eating that and my mum just took the picture and posted it on Facebook, one pupil says.

When I was little my parents took a picture of me being potty-trained. Three weeks ago they posted it on Facebook. Me on the toilet. It was really embarrassing, another adds.

I was with my aunt in the park. I was wearing my scarf but I didnt have a pin. It flew off and my hair was all raggedy, sticking up all over the place. My auntie put it on Facebook. I was so embarrassed I was crying. I asked her to take it down but she said, No, it looks cute.

My uncle posted when his daughter had diarrhoea: Pray for her.

One girl, 14, raises her hand. Parents love to post things about you, personal information that you might not like, she says. Which kind of affects your relationship with them. Now, when you want to speak to them about certain things, youre worried they might post it.

Her classmate Erin stands up. Her team supports the motion on the whiteboard that parents should be banned from posting and they have an idea. We want to pass a law that requires open forms of social media to put a consent button on their pages, so a child can report whether their parents have posted about them without consent, she declares. If parents refuse to cooperate, they will be fined the amount of 1,000.

These suggestions may sound excessive and unfeasible; in fact they lie squarely within the recommendations made by a number of adults campaigning in this field. Erins idea of a penalty, for instance, echoes the attempts by a Democratic state representative in Illinois, La Shawn K Ford, to make the shaming of children on social networking sites an offence. Offending parents should face a penalty, he has argued, which, just like Erins, would be a fine paid directly to the child. As for the apparently far-fetched idea of a consent button, this sounds uncannily similar to the delete button proposed by 5Rights, the campaign steered by the peer and film-maker Beeban Kidron to protect and empower children online.

More generally, the debaters irritation chimes with research published in March by a team at the University of Michigan. After interviewing 249 parent-children pairings across 40 US states, the researchers found that children were more than twice as likely as parents to say that adults should not post information online about them without permission. Would the Kingsford children concur? Class E11 rings with shouts of, Yes!

It aint going to happen, their teacher, Miss Alimi, says.

Miss! one of her students cries. Theres a thing called wishful thinking.

***

Miss Alimi is right: children are unlikely to gain control over their parents posting habits. But there is still scope for a conversation about what constitutes fair sharing, and each family will draw its lines differently. Consider the case of Heather Whitten, the Arizona-based photographer and teaching assistant who took the photograph of her husband and son in the shower that Facebook didnt like. Whitten saw the moment, and the image, as the height of parental care. Their toddler, Fox, had had a temperature for hours. Her husband, Thomas, was trying to cool the childs fever. For two years, Whitten kept the image private, finally posting it in May after Facebook removed other pictures she had shared of her children. She wanted to take a stand, to show that its just innocent pictures that people are twisting and getting offended by.

She was unprepared for the response for the way in which Facebook removed images from her page every time it received sufficient complaints, for the level of disapproval the image provoked, including claims that it was sexual or inappropriate. But Whittens stand had one other unexpected consequence. As the interested and the outraged followed the link to her blog, some began to question the legality, as well as the sense, of showing children naked. I just thought you were free to post what you wanted on the internet, Whitten says now. But then she discovered that in the state of Arizona, you cant show any naked images of childrens pelvic area or butt, and I realised I was technically breaking a law.

She removed the blog took everything down but in the bigger, moral sense, I dont feel Ive done anything wrong. Im not exploiting my children. Im not abusing my children. Im just sharing our lives exactly how they are.

Whittens experience shows just how nebulous and fraught the territory of sharing can be. Sure, her experience would never befall those for whom posting naked images of children is strictly out of bounds. But the case of Whitten is complicated. She and her partner are raising their children to not be ashamed or embarrassed of their bodies. They are living online within the offline boundaries they have set for themselves. People dont show nudity a lot of times because they think it will have a negative impact on their child. Your footprint is for ever on the internet, Whitten says. For me, its absurd. I just hope to combat that a little. Who knows how it will actually turn out, but I hope that my children wont ever look back and see pictures of themselves as children and feel embarrassed by other people seeing them as well. Because there is nothing to be embarrassed about.

Fox, the toddler in the shower, is still too young to veto or cherish the photograph that caused such controversy, but his older sister Lily, nine, loves it, according to her mother. She couldnt really wrap her head around why people would think there was anything wrong with it.

And yet, while Lily was comfortable with the image of her baby brother, she was deeply unhappy with other photographs her mother had uploaded the apparently harmless kind that many parents post. One day at around the age of six, Lily began to scroll through her mothers Instagram. She saw how many pictures there were of her and she didnt like it, Whitten says. For months, whenever Lily saw Whitten with the camera, she hid. That really opened up a conversation about why I take pictures, why I share pictures, who I share pictures with. Now, Whitten says, any time you see Lily, it is with her permission.

Alicia Blum-Ross, a researcher at the London School of Economics, believes we are entering a crucial moment. We are starting to see kids who have grown up, whose parents have shared images, and who are beginning to say: Wait a minute. Im not sure Im comfortable with that. What families need, she thinks, is a coming-of-age conversation. After all, it was Lily Whitten herself, at six, who instigated the dialogue with her mother that earned her the right to veto content. Does Lily have advice for other children? They should say, Please dont take any pictures of me it makes me uncomfortable, she says. And I might change my mind one day, but today I dont want to have to hide from your camera. Soon this digital rulebook chat might become as standard as the one about the birds and the bees. Blum-Ross sees nothing to fear. Both parties, she points out, are united by being the first generation of parents and children to negotiate this path. It can be a really shared experience, she says enthusiastically. The dilemmas are shared dilemmas, the pleasures are shared pleasures. Its a moment of overlap.

Blum-Ross, who has three-year-old twins, says she is not a person who advises total protection. I certainly wouldnt say, Dont share things about your children online. Its important that parents are able to claim their own space about that. Its OK to say, I need this community. Whitten, too, has always seen her sharing in those terms: I feel I share everything as my story this is my perspective on my life as a mother with these children. Im not trying to put words in their mouth, or tell the story from their perspective.

It is one of the oldest questions of storytelling: who does the story belong to? Blum-Ross, Whitten and countless others believe they are telling their own stories, and sharing posts about their children where they fit that perspective. But its complicated. I never had a filter before, says Whitten, sounding forlorn. I love the idea of having connections with other mothers and people. But I cant share the way I used to. After the Facebook furore, she is still fathoming whether to photograph differently or simply stop sharing.

Child
Photograph: Getty Images

For other parents, such as the author Amy Webb, who has written about her commitment to post nothing about her daughter online, the same process of consideration deters them from sharing altogether. They have the big conversation with themselves, each other, sometimes their children and decide the best answer is silence.

When the Guardian asked readers about their experiences, Apricot, who is 30 and lives in the north of England, wrote: When I started to Facebook my own childs pictures, I began to feel intensely uncomfortable. How could I instil in her a principle of privacy when I had essentially devalued hers from the beginning? She stopped posting. What we post is facets of ourselves, said Tamasine Preece, a teacher in Bridgend, whose PhD includes a chapter on oversharing. I think there is a morality to using children to explore parts of ourselves. My children are not me. They are separate.

Kidron, who says she has never interacted with her children on social networking sites (they are now 19 and 21), thinks that her behaviour reflects the idea that oversharing is inappropriate when the whole point of the journey to adulthood is to self-define to work out who you are, what your values are, how youre going to fit in. I think we have not thought hard enough about what that process might be like, if so much is shared and so much is public.

There are three issues here, she says. One is the right to a certain sort of privacy. The second is the need of young people to transgress and bump into their edges, and for that to be somewhat safe. The third is the need to break away from the model of your parents.

My own Facebook posts dried up as I researched this article. Of course, I can ask my children for consent, but I am not sure they are ready for a responsibility with permanent consequences. If an eight-year-old consents to a post, is it fair to act upon that consent, or should a parent second-guess how those feelings might evolve? After all, posts are eternal and a child cannot speak for his or her future self.

In any case, a childs consent can be capricious, even within one given day. My daughter, at eight, would prefer her photo not to appear on Facebook, but would be more than happy to see a video of herself playing Swingball on YouTube. My six-year-old, meanwhile, says he is sad that Google doesnt know me. Even the teenagers at Kingsford are conflicted. In the end, they vote against Erins suggestion of a fine for parents who share without their childrens consent, but they squirm in their seats, clawing the air for a turn to speak when I ask what rules they would lay down for their parents:

Dont say embarrassing jokes cos thats too much.

As far as the world is concerned, were not related.

Post pictures of me when I look amazing.

Dont post baby pictures unless Im happy and fully clothed.

Dont ever comment on my pictures.

Dont stalk my profile waiting for me to load pictures.

Dont follow.

Dont add me. Or my friends.

Dont tell dad jokes.

Dont take pictures of me eating food, cos my friends take it out of context.

Dont try and use internet slang on our wall. On your friends profiles you can embarrass yourselves all you want, but when its on our profiles it looks like weve taught you to say that. And it makes us look really bad.

Stay behind the times.

***

Of course, every family is different. In a quiet cul-de-sac in Newton Abbot, Devon, with sunlight pouring into the lounge, Molly Povey and her 11-year-old son Roman are sitting on the sofa discussing their experience of going viral.

In April 2015, with Roman desperately unhappy at school, Molly posted a plea on her Facebook page for his classmates parents to send her beautiful son birthday cards. Roman doesnt have any friends and often cries himself to sleep, the post began. It was shared around the world. Maybe 40,000 times, Molly says. (Interestingly, her post breaks only the second of the Kingsford rules, by disclosing that Molly and Roman are related.)

Neither Molly nor Roman, nor his two brothers, nor his dad Ian, who says he hates social media, were prepared for what happened next. Thousands of people left birthday greetings online. At the office of a friend whose address was hastily borrowed to protect Romans privacy cards and gifts began to arrive. Molly formalised the chaos into a Cards For Roman Facebook page.

Friendships were made, and some of them have lasted to the extent that in April, a year after his mothers plea for help, Roman celebrated his 12th birthday with 150 friends, strangers and Facebook friends at a Nandos in Exeter and at a second party in London. They have even met up with well-wishers in Germany.

Molly
Molly Povey, whose post about her sons loneliness went viral, with some of the birthday cards he was sent by strangers all over the world. Photograph: Rebecca Rees for the Guardian

While Molly tells this story, talking quickly because there is a lot to fit in, Roman scurries to and fro with his gifts: a Star Wars chess set from someone in the Netherlands, pictures from Brazilian schoolchildren (Molly says he is very big in Brazil), wicker baskets of cards.

But sometimes Molly worries. A bit. I think, what happens in years to come if he Googles himself and finds Lonely boy with no friends? Last year the local paper ran a front-page headline saying just that. I thought, oh my God, what have I done? Roman was with her, and comforted her. But it is true, he said. I am really lonely.

For the Povey family, the benefits of Mollys post are visible each day. His tearfulness has declined. The whole household is happier. Molly herself has found, in the Facebook page, a community that makes her feel supported and which, in turn, needs her. And now youve got a responsibility, Ian says. Its a strange thing. He himself has never read the initial post, usually declines to appear in photographs, and thinks that when it comes to sharing, Its best to err on the side of caution. Occasionally, Molly tells her community that Roman is having a bad day, or that she is: she doesnt want to pretend to people who know loneliness that loneliness doesnt happen. And yet, as Ian says, Its difficult to know sometimes what Roman really thinks about it.

Molly leads the way up to Romans bedroom, to show more of the gifts people sent. There is James Bond notepaper from the actor Andrew Scott, who played the baddie in Spectre, and a crew T-shirt from Star Wars: Episode III.

I wonder if Roman minds thousands of strangers knowing hes sad. Do you mind? Molly asks him. Do you mind that people know you get really lonely?

Maybe, Roman replies. I dont know. Ill go yes: I dont like it.

You dont like it? Molly repeats, incredulous.

No.

What, that people around the world know you are lonely?

Yeah.

You dont like it now? she asks again.

No.

Oh, Molly says. She sounds deflated.

It just feels weird, it does, Roman tells her.

Although Molly has publicly revealed aspects of her sons emotional life that other parents might hesitate to share, she is not incautious. For months she withheld Romans full name and has only recently felt comfortable disclosing that he is autistic. Before her heartfelt post, she deleted baby pictures of Romans older brother because he was about to start secondary school; surely the Kingsford debaters would approve.

Like Alicia Blum-Ross and Heather Whitten, Molly has rules. Think about whether its appropriate if in a year or five years your child would be embarrassed by anything youve done. And just why are you actually doing it? Is it a positive thing, or is it to give you a social boost as opposed to the children? Molly might appear to be at the opposite end of the spectrum from Tamasine Preece, who never posts, but the morals that underpin their behaviour are remarkably alike. And while Molly thinks you shouldnt be posting pictures of kids in the bath, in some ways her posts are as exposing as Whittens.

Later that evening Molly emails to say that the conversation with Roman had troubled her. After Id left the house, she offered to take down the page, she says, but Roman said not to. Turns out he was confused in his room and was talking about not liking being lonely, and not his page.

Or maybe Roman, in that moment, wished no one knew he was lonely. Then, later, when his mother checked, he minded less. Or maybe he understands that the community his mother has created has benefited him and his family. But these are only guesses. It is impossible to know. He is young, and the world changes many times a day. His parents have his best interests at heart, but like any who share news of their children, every time they post, they cross a line between privacy and publicity. Where each parent sees the line is an unsteady, unsettleable question. For Roman, and others like him, the truth may be something they are still working out, or simply prefer not to share.

Ive gone online after a few glasses of wine and said things I shouldnt have: parents and children talk social media

Elaine
Her posts can be really personal: Sadie Star with her mum, Elaine. Photograph: Jonathan Browning for the Guardian

Elaine Star, 47, a PA and poet, and her youngest daughter Sadie, 17, a student, live in Brighton

Elaine Ive had a Facebook account for about 10 years, so Sadie was probably seven when I first joined. I use it to keep in touch with different groups of people old friends, my poetry group, the puppet show I work with. Im also friends with a lot of my kids friends, because its often the best way of locating where mine are. I dont think it bothers them. All their friends are happy to come to the house and sit around my kitchen table and chat, so I dont think its odd. I dont post on their friends pages maybe just a Happy birthday message. But Im really impressed by the sorts of things they share about science, politics theyre very funny and insightful.

I have definitely made mistakes online. Ive gone on after a few glasses of wine and said things I shouldnt have. There have been some angry messages about the state my kids and their friends have left the house in. And they have all asked me to take down various photos. I get it: Im sensitive to the fact that theyre trying to be cool or whatever.

I think Im past the stage of worrying too much about embarrassing my kids. I write poems that are very personal, and I share them on Facebook. But thats how I express myself. The kids have occasionally said, Stop living your life on Facebook but Im an open person.

Theyre all fairly streetwise. We have a very open dialogue in our house. They have occasionally posted things that I think are a bit questionable showing off a bit about drinking with their friends, that sort of thing. I might have said, Hmm, you might want to think about that but Ive never said, Take that down. Im glad Facebook wasnt around to record my teenage years, though. Id hate it.

Sadie My siblings and I all use Facebook in different ways. Stevie posts a lot of pictures; Maisie likes to talk about stuff. Me and Joe post a lot of news stories, and I like posting videos or songs. I dont like to put up personal pictures, or get too emotional on Facebook. My mums posts can be really personal.

At the beginning, I didnt really want to be friends with her on Facebook. I didnt really want her seeing pictures of me that my friends had posted. They werent anything bad; they just felt like a bit of my life that was separate from her. Now I dont mind as much Im more open. Shes also friends with a lot of my friends on there. Thats not a problem, except that shes quite free with what she writes. Something would happen between us, and shed put it in a poem, and post it to Facebook, and I wondered whether my friends would see her in a different way. I think maybe I felt protective of her. But no one has ever said anything.

She has a lot of photos of us when we were little. When I was a bit younger, I hated seeing some of them online. I remember there was one where I was holding my pet hamster and I just thought I looked greasy and rough. And once my room was really messy and my mum said, Ill take pictures and put it on Facebook. I would have hated it if shed actually done it. Now Im a bit older, Ive learned to let go of it all a bit more. I think Im OK with whats out there about me.

Nell
I dont feel like the same person I was when I was little: Nell Redelsperger-Talbot with her mother, Juliet. Photograph: Lewis Khan for the Guardian

Juliet Redelsperger-Talbot, 43, a marketing and events manager, and Nell, 13, live in Eye, Suffolk, with Nells father and her brother Lawrence, 10

Nell Ive been cyberbullied before. One of my followers on Instagram, someone I knew, turned on me, then a couple of others who Id thought were friendly were making comments on my posts. It wasnt nice, and I wasnt sure how to handle it. In school they give you lessons about what to do if it happens to you, but when it comes to it, the reality is very different. But the school did deal with it.

After that, I became a lot more careful about who I accept as friends, and what people can see. Now I have one account for my photography and a separate one for my closest friends.

I have looked briefly at Mums Facebook account, but I dont have a clue about how Facebook works. I dont think I mind that there are photos of me. If you know the people that can see those photos, then thats OK. If its not private, Im not so sure about that. But I dont find it embarrassing. Maybe its because I dont feel like the same person I was when I was little. It doesnt feel as if those pictures are of me.

Juliet The cyberbullying was a harrowing time for Nell, but what was good was that some of her friends were supportive and took screenshots of the comments as proof of what was happening. Nell was worried I would be angry, so she didnt come to me until after it was over. It was awful, but in a way, I think it helped her understand what youre exposed to online.

Nell is a great photographer, and she sends me pictures, but Icheck that she is happy before I post anything on Facebook. Your children have every right to veto what you put online, although they have to be a certain age before they understand what it means. Neither of mine have ever had an issue with something Ive posted, but then theyre the generation that are used to having photos of themselves everywhere. I think it meant something different for my generation. It took so long to get photos developed that seeing yourself was so much more important.

The children were very little when I first signed up. I dont remember thinking much about privacy then. It wasnt until I read in the paper how posts about your children might be seen by complete strangers that I changed my settings.

As time went by, I began to feel uncomfortable about posting. It felt like everything online was becoming more about Look how wonderful I am and it made me feel quite down. So I left for a while. Eventually I rejoined because it was hard to keep up with everything. So now Ive started again but in a very different way.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2016/nov/05/parents-posting-about-kids-share-too-much-online-facebook-paula-cocozza

Women now drink as much alcohol as men, global study finds

Researchers believe the change is because drinks are cheaper, created for and marketed at women

Women have caught up with men in the amount of alcohol they drink and are doing increasing amounts of damage to their health as a result, according to a global study that looked at the consumption habits of four million people over a period of over a century.

The change is partly the result of successful marketing campaigns and the creation of sweeter products aimed at young women or girls, as well as cuts in price, say health campaigners. Some studies have even suggested that younger women may be out-drinking men, according to the studys authors.

The researchers from the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre of the University of New South Wales, Australia, say the conclusion is that public health efforts need to focus more on women.

These results have implications for the framing and targeting of alcohol use prevention and intervention programmes. Alcohol use and alcohol-use disorders have historically been viewed as a male phenomenon. The present study calls this assumption into question and suggests that young women in particular should be the target of concerted efforts to reduce the impact of substance use and related harms, they say.

Their analysis, published in the journal BMJ Open, looks at the convergence of drinking habits between men and women over time, from 1891 to 2014. It pools the results of 68 international studies, published since 1980, to look at the changing ratio of male to female drinking over the years.

Historically, far more men drank alcohol than women. Men born between 1891 and 1910 were twice as likely as their female peers to drink alcohol and more than three times as likely to be involved in problematic use or use leading to harms. But in all three respects, this had almost reached parity among those born between 1991 and 2000.

Womens drinking has increased for a number of reasons. Those who have succeeded in obtaining jobs that were once the preserve of men have joined or found it necessary to become part of the after-work drinking culture. Office for National Statistics figures from 2011 show that women in management and professional jobs drink more than the average woman and drink more on weekdays.

But drops in the price, which have led to wine and beer becoming regular items in the supermarket shopping trolley and part of everyday life at home, have also been a factor, alongside deliberate marketing targeted at women.

Since the 1950s weve seen womens drinking continue to rise, said Emily Robinson, director of campaigns at Alcohol Concern. Drinking at home has continued to increase and because alcohol is so cheap and easily available its become an everyday grocery item. Weve also seen a concerted effort from the alcohol industry to market products and brands specifically to women.

Some
Some studies have even suggested that younger women may be out-drinking men, according to the studys authors. Photograph: OJO Images / Rex Features

We know from our annual Dry January campaign that people often dont realise that alcohol has become a habit rather than a pleasure, with women having wine oclock most nights of the week.

Drinking too much, too often, can store up future health problems, both mental and physical, with people not realising just how easy it is to go over recommended limits, Robinson added.

This is why we need mandatory health warnings on alcohol products and a mass media campaign to make sure the chief medical officers guidelines are widely known and understood.

Sally Davies, the chief medical officer (CMO), changed the alcohol guidance earlier this year, advising both men and women they risked harm if they drank more than 14 units a week previously the upper limit for men was 21 units. But she warned that there was no safe limit for anybody.

Katherine Brown, director of the Institute of Alcohol Studies, said: Historically women did not drink that much. There has definitely been a proactive effort to entice women to drink more.

Some of the drinks now available have been targeted at young women who pre-load while getting together to dress and do their make-up before a night out. Three large glasses of wine can be the equivalent of nine units, she added.

Babycham was the first drink specifically designed with women in mind in post-war Britain. Today there are many others including Lambrini, which is aimed entirely at young women. Sweet or fruity? Lively, smooth or are you a classic kind of girl? With a Lambrini tailored to complement your own personal style and taste, youre going to love our new collection! says the advertising on its website.

Alcohol advertising and sponsorship is also noticeable in TV programmes aimed at women. For example, Baileys backed Desperate Housewives.

Womens bodies do not tolerate alcohol as well as mens, however, because they have a higher fat to water ratio. Because they have less water, the alcohol in their system remains more concentrated. They also have smaller livers than men, which makes it harder to process alcohol safely.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/society/2016/oct/24/women-drink-alcohol-men-global-study

Inside big pharma’s fight to block recreational marijuana

Pharma and alcohol companies have been quietly bankrolling the opposition to legal marijuana, raising questions about threats to market share

Marijuana legalization will unleash misery on Arizona, according to a wave of television ads that started rolling out across the state last month. Replete with ominous music, the advertisements feature lawmakers and teachers who paint a bleak future for Arizonas children if voters approve Proposition 205, a measure that would allow people aged 21 and over to possess an ounce of pot and grow up to six plants for recreational use.

Colorado schools were promised millions in new revenues when the state approved recreational pot use, says the voiceover in one ad. Instead, schoolchildren were plagued by marijuana edibles that look like candy.

As Election Day approaches, the ads will continue, but the surprise lies in who is backing them. In August, the pharmaceutical company Insys Therapeutics also cited concerns for child safety when, with a $500,000 contribution, it became the largest donor to Arizonas anti-legalization drive. But their stated concerns have raised a few eyebrows across the state. Insys manufactures Subsys, a prescription painkiller derived from fentanyl, the synthetic opioid that is up to 100 times more powerful than morphine.

And although child safety is a legitimate concern as states legalize cannabis in Colorado, child emergency room visits for marijuana intoxication have increased to 2.3 per 100,000 kids aged 10 and under since legalization in 2014, up from from 1.2 per 100,000 kids before that accidental ingestion of pharmaceuticals sends about 318 per 100,000 kids aged five years and under to the emergency room, according to government figures. The frequency of hospital visits from kids accidentally taking narcotic painkillers have increased 225% between 2004 and 2011, the US Department of Health and Human Services said.

Instead, critics say, the Insys contribution in Arizona is a ploy to protect market share. And it mirrors other large donations to anti-marijuana campaigns by pharmaceutical and alcohol companies that fear the growing clout of legal marijuana. In November, five states Arizona, Massachusetts, Maine, Nevada and California could join four others that have already legalized recreational cannabis. Currently, 25 states permit the plants medicinal use. They represent a national marijuana market that will top $6.7bn in sales this year, according to the research firm ArcView Group, and $20bn annually by 2020.

Weve definitely seen a more active opposition from the pharma industry, said Amanda Reiman, manager of marijuana law and policy at the Drug Policy Alliance, an advocacy group that promotes drug reform. Research conducted by myself and others shows that medical cannabis patients are substituting cannabis for pharmaceuticals at a very high rate, and for alcohol at a pretty high rate as well.

Indeed, alcohol and pharma groups have been quietly backing anti-marijuana efforts across the country. Besides Insys, the Arizona Wine and Spirits Wholesale Association gave one of the largest donations to the states anti-legalization campaign when it paid $10,000 to Arizonans for Responsible Drug Policy. And the Beer Distributors PAC recently donated $25,000 to the Campaign for a Safe and Healthy Massachusetts, making it the states third-largest backer of the opposition to recreational cannabis.

Purdue Pharma and Abbott Laboratories, makers of the painkiller OxyContin and Vicodin, respectively, are among the largest contributors to the Anti-Drug Coalition of America, according to a report in the Nation. And the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, considered one of marijuanas biggest opponents, spent nearly $19m on lobbying in 2015.

The plants threat to the alcohol industry is difficult to chart. Some researchers claim consumers substitute alcohol with marijuana when the plant is legalized. But in Colorado, which legalized recreational marijuana in 2014, that scenario has not played out. Alcohol sales there have increased since cannabis legalization, according to state tax data. And despite the alcohol industrys opposition to cannabis in Massachusetts and Arizona, in neighboring Nevada the alcohol industry is among the biggest donors to the pro-legalization drive. It has given nearly $88,000 to the pro-legalization campaign, according to the Center for Public Integrity. Thats because approval of Nevadas initiative would hand alcohol distributors the sole right to sell cannabis for the first 18 months.

For big pharma, however, an expanding amount of data explains their fears. Opiate overdoses dropped by roughly 25% in states that have legalized medical marijuana compared to states that have prohibited sales of the plant, according to a 2014 study from the Journal of the American Medical Association. The study implies that people could be using medical marijuana to treat their pain rather than opioid painkillers, or theyre taking lower doses. And research published this year by the University of Georgia shows that Medicare prescriptions for drugs used to treat chronic pain and anxiety dropped in states that have legalized medical marijuana. Medicare saved roughly $165m in 2013, according to the study, which estimated that expenditures for Medicare Part D, the portion of the government-funded health insurance program that subsidizes prescription drug costs, would drop by $470m annually if medical marijuana were legalized nationally.

Combine this data with the growing cost of prescription drugs brand-name drug prices have increased 127% since 2008, according to the pharmacy benefit management company Express Scripts and an opioid epidemic that is the leading cause of accidental deaths in the US, and its easy to understand why pharmaceutical companies are closely monitoring cannabis legalization.

But they might be fighting a losing battle. In Colorado alone, marijuana sales reached $996m in 2015 and raked in $135m in tax revenue. Towns have earmarked the money for road improvements, recreation centers and scholarships for low-income students. With that much money in play, investors and special interest groups have begun to flex their muscles. Pro-pot lobbyists in Denver now battle on equal footing with their counterparts in the pharmaceutical and alcohol industries.

Their [marijuana] lobby has grown quite a bit, and they have become increasingly sophisticated, said Colorado state senator Pat Steadman, who was heavily involved in the implementation of Amendment 64, the measure that legalized recreational marijuana in 2014. Theyre investing more money in government relations, elections, marketing and public relations.

And pro-pot political action committees such as the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) PAC and the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP) PAC are putting these resources into action by supporting state and federal candidates who are committed to legalizing medical marijuana and regulating recreational cannabis like they do alcohol. That includes California, where the lobbying arm of the Drug Policy Alliance, a group that works to change drug laws, has backed Novembers recreational legalization measure with $4.47m, according to government records.

Legalization proponents in California have raised nearly $18m, compared to the oppositions $250,000 in fundraising. In a sign of broad approval and likely passage, according to polls Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom, the California Democratic Party and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of California all back the measure. If approved, Proposition 64 would result in $1.4bn in annual revenues within the first year alone, according to legislative analysts, which is expected to balloon to $6.5bn by 2020. In other words, legalization in the Golden State with its 39 million residents and the worlds sixth largest economy would triple the size of the countrys legal cannabis market.

Given Californias size, given its history as the source of legal and illegal marijuana for California and much of the nation, the fact that its coming online changes the equation significantly, said Sam Kamin, a professor of marijuana law and policy at the University of Denver.

It makes it harder for federal prohibition to continue, and I think it accelerates a push for legislative change at the federal level.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/sustainable-business/2016/oct/22/recreational-marijuana-legalization-big-business