The identity of The Fourth Man

Content warning: This post contains lots and lots and lots of Line of Duty spoilers, and mentions of CSA. Also, I couldn’t always be fucked to look up the spellings of names or even what characters were called, so there’s that.

Let me start by saying this: you’re wrong about the Line of Duty finale. It was good. So there. See, the thing is, we all need to go back to the premise of the investigation: Dot’s dying declaration.

Dot’s dying declaration led the AC-12 team down an incorrect investigative corridor: the identity of H, the mastermind behind all of this. They then pottered off down another corridor when it turned out they were up to their tits in naughty policemen called H, which was that in fact Dot was tapping out “four Dots”, meaning there were four like him.

Both of these conclusions, in my view, are catastrophically wrong, and I sat through several goddamn seasons of the show going “what the fuck what the fuck how can they possibly come to that conclusion what the fuck.”

Four Dots

First, the four Dots. This was, as the team said many times, four embedded police officers, including Dot. Their little list, based on the very very sinful rozzers they’d encountered so far, was Dot, Hilton, ????? and Gill fucking Bigelow.

Gill? Are you actually fucking with me? Gill? The lawyer who just joined the police? Don’t get me wrong, she was bent as a three bob note, but part of the embedded police conspiracy? Come the fuck on. It’s definitely not her.

There are three officers one can definitely think of as “Dots”: lifers with the OCG who have been strategically nudged into the police and embedded themselves, working there for a career rather than just rocking up there as a lawyer. Dot is one, of course. The second is Jo Davidson, who very helpfully didn’t die, so she could tell us all about the Caddy career, from recruitment at a young age through to entry to the police service through to doing things. We also see this arc in Ryan Pilkington, but he’s obviously not someone Dot was referring to, because he was probably failing his SATS around the time Dot gave the world’s most unhelpful evidence – ultimately, what Season 6 gives us is a bit of context for what the life of one of four Dots looks like.

And I am sorry, but a third officer who very much fits the Caddy career and could be considered a Dot, and Dot was almost certainly aware of, having worked closely with him in the past was…

Detective Superintendent Ian Buttons Buckles Buckells. I have no idea how old the hapless lad is, but he’s definitely younger than many, and even if he was only recruited around the Lawrence Christopher cover up, he’d have been young enough to be a Caddy.

So who’s the fourth Dot? It could be anyone. There’s an argument to be made that it was indeed Hilton, but we don’t really know enough about Hilton to draw this conclusion. We don’t, in fact, know enough about the early lives and careers of any characters to draw this conclusion. So I’m going to go ahead and just say it could have been Kate.

Kate is the only person smart enough to have identified that this “Four Dots” line of enquiry wasn’t even barking up the wrong tree; it was so wrong it was meowing at a deckchair. For goodness sake, a man tapping his hand while trying to stay conscious isn’t evidence. Ted is interested in one thing and one thing only, his hard-on for Reg-15s, and Steve is a Jack Russell in a waistcoat, so they’re not going to figure it out, but Kate would have. That she didn’t go “hey, lads, this is silly” reflects poorly on her character.

But, of course, the Four Dots investigation was built on such a flawed premise that Kate couldn’t have been the fourth Dot because there was no fourth Dot.

Who is H?

I feel like at this juncture, we should look at the question Dot was answering when he gave up four dots and the letter H: he was asked about the name of the individual senior police officer from whom he was taking orders.

This is a very direct question.

Now, I’m not currently bleeding my lungs out of my nose, so I’m going to be honest with you, maybe I would have tried to communicate that there were in fact four individuals that I was aware of who were involved in a criminal cabal of naughty policemen by blinking at the letter H and tapping out a wee bit of Morse code. However, I feel like there’s far less oblique ways of passing on this information when unable to speak but able to move eyes and a hand. Like, I don’t know, putting up four fingers and looking wildly at my hand to draw attention to it. Or just coughing out an internal organ to indicate the invalidity of the question.

What I’m saying is, Dot was probably giving a direct answer to a direct question. He was asked about a senior police officer, and he answered. It was Hilton.

He wasn’t asked about co-conspirators at any other levels, or the names of other mischievous bobbies. Kate asked him a specific question. Which he answered.

And yeah, maybe Kate was doing a subtly bad thing by asking such a specific question because she’s bent. But probably not. I just respect her intelligence too much to think she’s like the rest of AC-12, just glomming onto any old bit of information and assuming a criminal mastermind behind everything, based on the answer to a very, very narrow question.

In short, based on the H question, Dot gave up a name. He didn’t give up a mastermind. AC-12 just kind of assumed that one.

Dot’s lying

Let’s really take a moment here and wonder what on earth possessed AC-12 to put such credence in the testimony of a man who, less than an hour ago, had shot his way out of a police interview where they were planning on asking him these exact same questions.

Dot may be a bent copper, a liar, a gangster, a murderer and a bit of a shit, but he’s a loyal guy. Had it never occurred to anyone in AC-12 that this cheeky chappie might not have been telling the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth? Dot had a somewhat fluid attitude towards loyalty with regards to people he didn’t particularly like, such as Steve, but was ride-or-die for those he liked. Despite their disagreements, he never chucked Morton under the bus. And he took a few bullets for Kate, for goodness sake!

Yes, he gave them Fairbank, which was useful information, but I suspect the reason he was so willing to give up some, but not all of Naughty Policemen Club was fuck that mutton-chopped nonce. Personal theory: Fairbank definitely abused Dot, who would have been a child when they met. Hunter, too, probably. And those were ones Dot was willing to burn.

But not mates. Like Morton. Or Kate. Gosh, her name really is coming up a lot, isn’t it?

Maybe the real fourth man was the friends we made along the way

Ultimately, what I have been attempting to articulate throughout is AC-12’s investigation based on Dot’s dying declaration was a house built on the sand; a mire of flawed assumptions. It was never a valid investigation to begin with.

Ted bought into it because he’s a stubborn and old fuck. Steve bought into it because Ted did, and Steve’s a bit of a himbo. Maybe Kate did or didn’t, fuck knows what her deal was.

But, ultimately, they could never find the fourth man, because there never was a fourth man.

At best, what they had to go on was Dot, one of the many, many bent coppers that went across AC-12’s desk, reckoned there were between one and four others that he knew of. And that could have been anyone. In the course of the show, we saw a lot of cops groomed from birth to be tithead saboteurs. We saw others, previously “good” ones, turned – Maneet, Denton, Gates, to name but a few. And we saw some who were just kind of shitty by incuriosity, such as DSu Sourpuss Carmichael or the elected PCC.

But AC-12 got it into their heads that there was a grand conspiracy involving numerous embedded officers, and there was some sort of mastermind. Which was just, based on all available evidence, plain wrong. And besides, even if there was a grand conspiracy involving numerous embedded officers and a mastermind, this was only pertinent to one specific crime operation. Which is kind of a bad use of resources, to be honest.

Ted was interested in one thing and one thing only: catching one particular naughty policeman associated with one particular criminal group. He was obsessed, as were his subordinates.

But ultimately, the identity of the fourth man didn’t matter, and never mattered because, as the show keeps telling us, over and again, the entire force is corrupt. The problem isn’t and could have never been one, or four individuals. How can one break institutionalised corruption by catching this one guy? What would getting this one man achieve in terms of enacting change or cleaning house? It doesn’t matter. All the cops were all bad, because the police is bad.

Even our pals Ted, Kate and Steve, are shown to be low-key bent. Ted with his envelope of crisp fifties, Steve with his drug problem, and Kate with whatever the heck is going on with her inscrutable deal. And furthermore, they all displayed the same characteristics of the brass with whom they were frustrated: incuriosity, single-mindedness, and bad investigation tactics. We were treated to an unsatisfactory conclusion throwing up more unanswered questions than it addressed because we were shown six seasons of a bad investigation.

All coppers are bent coppers is the moral of the story. And that’s also the moral of real life. There’s no such thing as a good cop.


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This is the image from the mass violence against women that stays with me

A still image from this video. Less than a minute later, this woman was arrested.

Content note: this post discusses sexual harassment, violence against women, and police

Last night, women gathered to remember a sister who was killed. A police officer has been arrested for her murder. The police responded to a series of vigils across the country by trampling flowers, trapping and beating women, and snatching them.

You may have seen an image of the woman in the photo at the top of the post, just minutes later. A small, red-headed woman, pinned to the floor by police. Haunting, yes. But that’s not the one that stays with me. It’s this one.

It is a uniquely banal image, and that is why I find it hits so hard. It is something most of us – all of us, perhaps – as women have experienced. It is a man, standing over a woman, touching her, while she looks visibly uncomfortable. If you watch the video, you will see that there is no reason for him to stand like that, no reason for him to touch her like that. He’s not arresting her.

He is doing it because he can.

And that’s what it comes down to every time a man stands over a woman like this. Every time a man gets in close for no good reason (in the middle of a pandemic, no less!). Every little touch to your body, those touches you’re told you’re overreacting about. It’s no different.

This picture, perhaps, shows clearly the veiled threat in this behaviour. This woman really was snatched away simply for existing in public after the little wholly-not-innocent unwanted touch. It’s not an overreaction to flinch away from the man too close. He really is a threat.

Policemen are just bog-standard men with even less accountability. I don’t doubt that through mouthfuls of boot, men without a tit-shaped hat will defend police behaviour on Clapham Common. At its root, it’s because they all want to be able to continue to assert dominance over women, and they don’t like anything that makes that even slightly more difficult.

There is no innocence to the unwanted touch. It’s sexual harassment, whether the perpetrator is a policeman or not. It’s an assertion of power, an assertion of dominance, an assertion of ownership. And they don’t like it one little bit when women point that out.

And how have police responded to criticisms that maybe enacting mass violence against women – both the banal and the egregious – is a pretty bad thing to do?

Remember, they’re just common-or-garden creeps. So they released a statement with the age-old motto: “look what you made me do”.


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No cops at Pride: remembering Alan Turing and Kitty Genovese

Content note: this post discusses murder, suicide, homophobia and police

38 people witnessed Kitty Genovese being murdered and did nothing, so the story goes. It’s a complete fiction, but that’s how the story goes.

64 years ago today, a genius took his life. Alan Turing was subjected to two years of state-sanctioned torture before he was driven to his death.

On the face of it, there seems to be little connection between Alan Turing and Kitty Genovese, but it’s there, buried in their histories. It’s a thread which still vibrates in queer generational memory, and even though we may not have ever been told the untold stories of Kitty Genovese and Alan Turing, we feel it, because we’ve felt this before so many other times.

It’s entirely possible that if the police weren’t so terrible to LGBT people, Alan Turing and Kitty Genovese would not have died in the ways that they did.

Let’s do Kitty first, because I’m a women-first kind of girl.

Kitty Genovese was a lesbian. At the time of her murder and the trial of her killer, the authorities made the decision to keep that fact out of the media, refer to her girlfriend, Mary Ann Zlelonko, as her “friend”. Just gals being pals. Of course, that’s not what the police thought of Mary Ann, they didn’t think of her as a platonic friend. She was their first suspect. She went to identify Kitty’s body, and they arrested her and subjected her to crass questions about their sex life.

The inspector on the case said, “One of the most common motives for murder is jealousy. It’s also our experience that homosexual romances produce more jealousy by far than ‘straight’ romances. More jealousy means more chance for violence. Women, in fact, can be more possessive towards their lovers than men.”

But let’s rewind to the night of Kitty’s murder. We have already established that 38 people didn’t witness the crime and 38 people didn’t do nothing. In fact, there were only two people who likely knew what was happening to Kitty. One of them, yep, fits that story of the people who didn’t give a flying fart about the murder. Joseph Fink sat at his doorman position and watched for a while, before going to bed.

The other witness is a more interesting case. Karl Ross was a friend of Kitty’s, a gay man and a drunk. He dithered a lot about calling the police, and spent much of the night chatting to a friend about whether he should. He did, in the end, but it was far too late. Could he have called off calling the police because he was gay? We don’t know, but what we do know is that relations between police and the LGBT community weren’t exactly healthy.

One witness to the night says that his father called the police early in the attack, but that the police did not come. And Kitty herself had been a victim of police harassment. That picture of her face at the top of this blog, the picture you have seen countless times? That was a mugshot, from a time she had been arrested.

Incidentally, Kitty may never have been murdered had the police done their goddamn jobs in the first place: Kitty’s murderer had previously killed a black woman, and the police never solved that case, probably never even bothered to investigate it.

The myth of Kitty is powerful, and the media, in the pockets of the authority, did a damn fine job of muddying the waters, when in truth what we have as a story demonstrating reified distrust of police.

So what about Alan Turing? We all know the story. Bletchley Park, then got charged for being gay, chemically castrated and eventually took his life. Yada yada. Did you ever ask how he was arrested?

In January 1952, Alan was the victim of a burglary. He did what you’re told you should do and contacted the police. His lover said he may have known who burgled the house, so Alan volunteered that information to the police investigating the crime. Again, exactly like we’re all told we should do.

The police arrested Alan and his lover and they were charged with gross indecency. I can’t find any record of them nicking the burglar.

You know the rest of the story.

These two people were both victims of the police in their ways, and both stories answer the questions as to why LGBT people don’t want to call the police, and why the relationship is strained at best.

When you ask why many of us queers don’t want the police anywhere near Pride, it goes beyond Stonewall. There’s these stories, horrific tragedies, and similar tales of police indifference and interference appear regularly to this day. Take Stephen Port, who was able to murder four gay men due to a lazy police investigation. This was within the last five years.

The police have never been our friends. As much as they are institutionally racist, they are institutionally homophobic and transphobic. It is galling to see demands that they march alongside us, when they have, at best, let so many of us die.

Remember Alan Turing. Remember Kitty Genovese. Remember the stories the authorities didn’t want you to hear. And remember why we prefer to help each other than call for help.

And remember: no police at Pride.


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How to punch a Nazi without actually punching them: some practical self defence tips

Content note: this post mentions fascists, police and physical violence

I will start with a confession: I have never thrown a punch. I know I’m not very good at it. I have a bit of a weakness in my left wrist–my dominant hand–from a break. I can never quite remember whether it’s thumb-in or thumb-out for making a fist. My balance is pisspoor. If it came down to it, I would not be able to literally punch a Nazi.

But that’s all right, because the ethos of punching Nazis does not require us to literally smack them with our fists. Punching a Nazi is an act of radical, physical self-defence. It is protecting oneself and others from those who would have us dead. It is choosing not to run, or not having the option of running, so having to fight physically against someone who wants to kill you. It is hurting them before they can hurt you. It can be a punch–if you do want to punch a Nazi with your fist, here’s how–or it can be other forms of self-defence which will protect you and everyone else from harm.

Now, a disclaimer. I present these tips as self-defence, which is perfectly legal. These tips are for protecting your person when you are under threat, to give yourself an opportunity to escape. If you just waltz up to your neighbourhood Nazi, smack them round the chops and get nicked, I’m not responsible. Okiedoke? Legal duties discharged, let’s look at how you can punch Nazis without literally punching them.

I learned many of these tips in a queer self-defence class a few years back. The class was designed for all abilities, and I found it very helpful. This is why I share these tips, as I hope it will help many of us feel safer in the frightening future.

Feel strong

Think about your own body. What can it do? What are you definitely able to do, and what are you definitely not able to do. Can you twist your shoulders? Can you balance on one foot? Can you raise your arms high? Can you move quickly without joints popping out of place? Not everyone will be able to do all of these suggestions. But there will likely be something in these suggestions that you will be able to do.

How do you feel balanced, and protect the parts of your body that you know might hurt? This awareness of your body makes you strong.

Now think of the parts of your body that are hard and strong. If you want, try gently hitting yourself. Your elbows are hard. Your palms, your fingertips. Your knees. Your feet. What parts of your body feel solid? These will form your fists.

Think about their weaknesses

Above is a handy diagram of neo-Nazi Richard Spencer, modelling some of the weaker points on an opponent’s physique. Eyes are squishy, and there’s an instinct to protect them. Noses are easily broken and fucking hurt. Throats, well, throats hurt rather a lot if hit. The solar plexus is full of nerve endings, and causes maximum pain. Ever knocked your knee or shin in a dyspraxic vs coffee table showdown? Ow, right? And of course, the crotch. If a Nazi has balls, they will go down like a sack of shite if that area is hit, but it also hurts rather a lot getting whacked in the pussy.

These are the areas that you will aim for when punching a Nazi.

The silent duck

The silent duck is a queer fist, which is why I like it so much. If you’ve never got into fisting, what you do is make a naked sock puppet with your hand. Unlike with fisting, if you have long nails, all the better: the silent duck might be a tactic for you.

With your silent duck, the aim is to “peck” at the Nazi’s eyes or solar plexus. A short, sharp move like a striking snake, making contact with your fingertips. Try it on your other hand. For fingertips, it makes surprisingly strong contact. In the eyes, especially if you have nails, you will likely no longer have to defend yourself from the Nazi you silent ducked. It also works very well on the solar plexus. When I was talking about this with my partner once, I demonstrated on them with the gentlest tap–my aim was to show that there’s a lot of power there and a lot of nerve endings in the area. Instead, with my light tap, I brought tears to their eyes. I felt very bad about this, but that’s how effective the old silent duck is.


Your palm is good for slapping. But the heel of it is even better for hitting. Again, you might want to try gently smacking your body with the heel of your own palm. Now think of how much that would fucking hurt a Nazi if you hit them in the throat or solar plexus with that palm. Another option is pushing that heel of your palm upwards into the bottom of their nose. That will give you enough time to get away to safety, while they deal with a nose that is probably bleeding and definitely painful.

The side of your hand also has some uses. Now, I’m not suggesting karate chops, because they’re the sort of thing that requires training. However, if a Nazi turns up behind you, you can swing your arm in an arc and catch them in the nads with the side of your hand.


My old yiayia was a formidable woman. Four feet of sheer fury, she always got herself on the bus first. When she moved through a crowd, she’d kind of mince along, elbows akimbo, making space for herself. It worked, because elbows are perhaps one of the most vicious parts of the body, deployed correctly.

There are three angles at which you can use your elbows. You can defend yourself from a fascist to your side, aiming your elbow for their nose, throat or solar plexus. You can swing your elbow backwards to hit the Nazi in those same spots if he is behind you. If there’s a Nazi in front of you, you can swing that elbow forwards.


A Nazi’s knee is a weak point, but your knee can be strong. You can knee them in the crotch, and it will definitely give you a chance to get away. Even if you miss, you’ll get them in the thigh with a pretty bony part of your body. This move does require a bit of balance, but is incredibly effective if you’re able to pull it off.


Your feet are good for kicking, especially at shins. However, kicking can hurt you if you’re not wearing suitably comfortable, sturdy shoes. Personally, I wear Doc Martens most of the time, because they are nigh-on indestructible, and I have callouses in all the places that DMs tend to rub. So I can kick at a shin if I needed to.

Your feet can also be a weapon in other ways. You can stamp on their feet, aiming for the instep. If a Nazi is behind you, you can also scrape your foot down their shin, which is painful for them, and works particularly well if you’re wearing block heels.


A combo is sometimes a useful thing, and think about combos that might work. For example, scraping your foot down a Nazi shin, following up with a stamp on their instep. Feints can prove useful too: for instance, feinting a silent duck towards the eyes, then as their instinct kicks in to protect that, a swift knee to the nads.

Finding what works for you

To find what works for you, you’re going to have to look a bit dorky. Practice into the air, aiming upwards and downwards. See which moves come naturally to you, and which don’t. See if there’s any that you physically can’t do. Which moves make you feel strong and safe, and which make you feel off-balance or unprotected? Not everything will work for you. For example, I can’t swing my elbow forwards very well. For example, when it comes to kneeing, I favour my right knee: I feel better balanced keeping my left foot on the ground than my right. I’m hopeless at elbow strikes when swinging forwards, but it feels very natural going backwards.

If you’re not feeling strong just practicing the moves into the air, then you’re not going to be able to do it making contact with Nazi flesh. So write it off: that’s something that doesn’t work for you.

Develop your own ways of doing things, weaponising the hard parts of your body against the soft parts of a fascist. There is no right or wrong technique, just a way of making contact that hurts them but not you.

Practice, practice, practice

Once you’ve figured out what works for you, it’s time to build some muscle memory. Practice hitting something. A pillow or mattress will do. If you have access to pads and a friend who doesn’t mind pretending to be a Nazi for a bit of time, practice against that. Practice combining the movements that work for you.

And once again, look goofy. Drill yourself. Practice each day, even if it’s into the air. Like an absurd tai chi, I will usually find the time to run myself through my favourite moves. Many of us freeze when confronted with danger, so teach your body some moves that will become instinctive for you.

You got this. If it comes down to it, you can punch a Nazi.

I’ve said, many times before, that fighting fascism is a messy, ugly business. Self-defence techniques are not the absurd “honourable” fighting styles. But they might just save your life, or the life of someone you love.


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Making fists with your toes: Towards a feminist analysis of Die Hard

Content note: This post contains spoilers for the film Die Hard, which you will have probably seen already since it came out in 1988. It discusses death and guns.

It gives me life when a certain sector of thin-skinned Nazis get sad about films I like. From Fury Road to Star Wars, their tears bring me joy. Since, like many other people, my favourite Christmas film is Die Hard, it is my intention to highlight how this film is in fact a celebration of femininity, and perhaps one could even call it feminist, for a rather Eighties value of feminism. Am I trolling? I don’t even know any more.


Our hero John McClane is more of an Ellen Ripley than the Roy Rogers he insists that he is when talking to other men. There are some explicit parallels between Ripley and McClane: both deal with their terror by talking to themselves, and both have formative traumatic experiences in air ducts: arguably, both heroines are born within the air ducts. For the most part, the similarities are more subtle, though–John McClane, like Ellen Ripley, is a somewhat more feminine action hero. And, of course, the badass and the feminine are not mutually exclusive.

John begins the film estranged from his wife due to his stubborn insistence on having things his way. He is resentful, domineering, and basically a bit of a shitlord. Meanwhile, Holly Gennero/McClane, is a smart, successful, adaptable woman who has risen to a high point in her career with her negotiation skills. It is only in adversity that John learns just how valuable Holly’s skills are, and deploys them to great success and saving the day.

Yes. That’s right. Throughout Die Hard, feminine problem-solving tactics are shown to be demonstrably more successful than more masculine approaches. In cinema, and in society, masculine problem-solving is constructed as very direct and action-oriented, sometimes deploying physical aggression. In contrast, the feminine technique involves communication, negotiation, is less direct and typically non-violent.

From the moment a hostage situation begins while John is on the toilet, he embarks on his journey towards femininity. As John realises that something terrible is occurring, he makes a very smart choice: to run the fuck away, observe what is happening and seek help. He even tells himself that this was the right approach, and that to have gone for the (more manly) option of running in and intervening, he would have got himself and others killed. And he’s right.

John’s instinct to seek help from those in a position to help is a sound one. And yet, in an experience familiar to any woman, he is repeatedly not taken seriously. His first attempt with the fire alarm is ignored and his initial attempt to contact the police is completely dismissed. And yet he does not give up, he simply escalates to something which men tend to call “attention-seeking”, which is usually motivated by frustration at not being heard. It is only by acting out of frustration that he finally manages to communicate the seriousness of the situation. John’s own form of attention-seeking is dropping a body on a cop car, but hey, it fucking well works. Better than yelling or crying, so next time men aren’t listening and I’m getting irked, I’ll remember that trick.

Later on, John learns to communicate better, moving from brusque police telegraphing to conversing, rapport-building, and yet still, always, supplying vital, actionable information. Unfortunately, he is still not taken seriously. This is because most of the men in this film are absolute worthless pieces of toxically masculine shit.


Let’s start with the “goodies”. We have a police force who stubbornly predictable and utterly unwilling to deviate from their standard script, believing themselves to know it all. We have the FBI, who are all of what the police are except even worse. The FBI guys whoop and cheer, comparing their helicopter ride to the campaign in Saigon, and we as the audience cannot help to whoop and cheer when they get blown to smithereens for not fucking listening to John McClane.

This stagnant, stubborn, insistent masculinity is also the downfall of many of the villains, most notably, Karl, the baddie with the long hair who has a hateboner for John because John killed his brother. Karl is obsessed with killing John himself, to the point that this allows John to escape and survive the film. Karl’s textbook masculine desire for revenge is what keeps John alive. It is detrimental to the goals of the baddies, and Karl is a massive liability.

There is also that dickhead Ellis, who embodies that gross Eighties business masculinity. Unlike Holly, who has been shown throughout the film to be a talented negotiator, Ellis is shit at his job. Yet, like many men, Ellis is convinced he’s a lot better suited for the job than the woman who is manifestly good at it. He absolutely blows the deal, to the point of getting himself killed. Ellis, too, is a massive liability.

Hans Gruber, Eddie and Theo are by far the most useful of the bad guys. Eddie successfully manipulates and deceives law enforcement, delaying intervention. Theo is a gifted multitasker, cracking locks, playing lookout and making sure everyone has the information they need, coordinating the escape. We never see Theo acting through direct violence, and yet almost every action Theo takes is completely successful, right up until the end, when he is taken out by Argyle. Even then, arguably Theo has done better than any of the other baddies as he is only knocked out, not gruesomely killed, and the guy is probably capable of negotiating a plea bargain. Hans Gruber himself is also not afraid to deploy his “feminine wiles”: he attempts to (metaphorically) seduce John by pretending to be a hostage, and deploys a feminine style of management. It is clear that he has listened to and processed Theo’s assessment of what is necessary to open the vault, and he has factored this into his plan. Perhaps if the team of bad guys had comprised of more baddies like Hans, Eddie and Theo and fewer like Karl, they would have pulled off the heist.

Is the title Die Hard a warning? Does it mean that hardness could get you killed, while softness leads to success and survival? That interpretation certainly makes more sense, since none of the characters are particularly “die-hard” about any of their beliefs. The “terrorists” are charlatans, and even John has a pretty hard time explaining why he wants the one thing he keeps putting his foot down over (staying in New York), as though he isn’t highly committed to the idea. We are not shown many die-hard commitments, yet we are shown many men dying hard.


When one tries to imagine a still from Die Hard, it is often perhaps John McClane, brandishing a massive fucking gun–the ultimate symbol of masculinity. John McClane is lauded for his direct, “just shoot them” approach. And yet, in John’s hands, the primary function of the gun is not as a weapon. There are more instances within the film of John using the gun as some sort of tool than as something to kill or hurt people with. Of the kills directly attributable to John (eight, by my count), only four are from his firing a gun (the others are: one broken neck, two from an exploding lift shaft, and one by defenestration). And in most of the instances of shooting, John doesn’t “just shoot them”, he offers them an out first. We could perhaps attribute a ninth death to John, by his wielding Al as a weapon. It is only from John’s (feminine) emotional support and nurturing of Al that Al regains the confidence to shoot. We will not count other deaths for which John could be indirectly responsible, those of men who died from not listening to him (some cops, the FBI guys, Ellis), because that was their own fault for not believing a survivor.

For the rest of the time, John is far more creative in his use of firearms. In his hands, a gun becomes a multitude of useful objects as he displays the kind of creative thinking that neurosexists like to term feminine as opposed to the logical, analytical male approach. The gun, wielded by John, is a device for allowing escapes as a rig and a thing to get back into the building, as well as jamming a fan. It is also repeatedly used as a last-resort communication device, shooting to make noise and draw attention, shooting to direct a crowd away from explosive death.

Hans Gruber, too, understands the power of the gun as more than a simple weapon, as he traps bare-footed John by instructing his bad guys shoot to break glass. Both of these men, in traversing the traditionally masculine relationship with the gun as a weapon, are far more successful than when they use guns for their intended purposes.

Even John’s costume may go beyond its face value of showing of his masculine physique. He begins the film fully dressed, is stripped down to his vest when the hostage situation begins, and bare-chested for almost all of the final act. We see one other bare chest in the film: a woman’s chest on a porn poster right at the beginning of John’s heroine’s journey. Again, we can most readily compare him to Ellen Ripley, who ends Alien in her vest and knickers. Perhaps John is sloughing away his masculine conditioning with his masculine clothing. [EDIT: It has been pointed out to me that I missed another bare chest in Die Hard. It’s another woman’s chest, though…]


The still above shows what is one of my favourite scenes in the film, and it is (in my opinion) the emotional climax of Die Hard. John has realised that he is unlikely to personally survive his predicament, his only desire now is that Holly survives. Bare chested, with bleeding feet, he talks to Al through his walkie talkie. And it is here that he finally showcases what he has learned throughout this experience. From the inception of the hostage situation, we are witness to John’s emotional side. We see his terror: far from being a gung-ho action man, John McClane is a man who is scared shitless. We also see that he cares about others. After throwing a bunch of TNT down a lift shaft, successfully removing some explosives from circulation and killing some baddies, his first question on reestablishing communications with outside is a concerned “Is the building on fire?” And yet, up until this moment in the bathroom, he does not explicitly communicate his emotions, nor demonstrate much understanding of others’ emotional needs.

It finally clicks for him. He says to Al, ‘She’s heard me say “I love you” a thousand times. She never heard me say “I’m sorry.”‘ In this moment, John gets it. He gets what is wrong with his wife, why she’s pissed off at him. He gets that love isn’t enough. And he also opens up and shows his vulnerability to his new friend, being metaphorically as well as literally mostly naked in this scene.

Maybe John’s newfound understanding came from spending a few hours acting like Holly, problem-solving with communication and trying to understand what other parties want, rather than acting like his hero Roy Rogers. While Holly is not in the film as much as I’d like, when she is, she is nothing but competent with her feminine skillset. I get the feeling that if Holly had been in the toilet at the beginning of the hostage situation rather than John, the film probably would have been about ten minutes long because she has far more experience in using these techniques than John. John’s direct acts of aggression do little to contribute to his ultimate success–when he attacks, it is in immediate self-defence. The day is saved, instead, through John’s developing communication skills, his asking for help, and relationship-building.

The end of the film, in light of all of this character development, is therefore somewhat jarring. It kind of ends with Holly publicly announcing she is taking back John’s surname, and that’s all. One would expect, given what was foreshadowed, that John would apologise, as he learned he needed to, and perhaps move to join LAPD and partner up with Al. This does not happen. Maybe the crew realised they had just made a chick flick and felt that they needed to masc it up. Or maybe they suddenly realised they wanted sequels and couldn’t possibly do that if John didn’t repeatedly estrange himself from his family to end up in predicaments where he needed to reunite with them. Sadly, John didn’t learn the lessons he had just learned, and ultimately lost Holly and became a deadbeat to his children. It is a warning to us all.

Ultimately, the Nakatomi Plaza was not the cocoon in which John McClane entered a cuck and emerged Feminine, but had its lessons truly stuck, it could have been.


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We must be able to talk openly about our rapes without an unsolicited police investigation

Content note: this post discusses rape, child sexual abuse, the police, and rape apologism

MP Michelle Thomson did something very brave and highly unprecedented recently: she spoke about her rape in the House of Commons.

Sadly, however, I’m concerned that this courage might have negative consequences–for Thomson, and ultimately for other survivors. Police Scotland have announced they are now investigating Thomson’s rape, with no evidence whatsoever that Thomson requested, needs or wants a police investigation.

I’ve written before about how a lot of survivors do not report their rapes, and this is a perfectly sensible option that is best for them. As hard as it might be for people steeped in rape culture but with no experience of being on the wrong end of it to believe, many survivors do not want a police investigation. 

I keep thinking of the experience of the survivor in the Ched Evans rape case. This young woman never reported a rape to the police. She simply called because she was concerned her drink had been spiked. Yet from the moment she called the police, matters were taken out of her hands, and it spiralled into a rape investigation which ultimately became a rallying point for rape-enabling misogynists. The survivor has had to change her identity several times due to the harassment she has received.

I wonder what would have become of her if the police had allowed her to have a choice in how the case proceeded, to follow her lead and her wishes rather than just treating her as a witness. Would she have chosen a court case? We shall never know.

I think about how the mental health of those who report historic sexual abuse is scrutinised, evaluated and discredited by a media deeply invested in protecting old white men (and likely to include more than a few nonces itself; it’s unlikely the problem was confined to the BBC).

There is no mention that Thomson wanted the police to investigate her rape. She didn’t tell them 37 years ago when it happened, and let’s face it, it’s astronomically unlikely that a conviction would be possible now. So did Thomson consent to a police investigation? I don’t know, and therefore I cannot cheer that the police are finally pulling their hammy fingers out and doing something: because the something that they’re doing could make things worse for the survivor, and they may well be acting without her consent.

The idea of police acting without survivors’ consent is something which doesn’t just necessarily dissuade survivors from contacting the police. It also shuts us down from talking openly about our experiences. It’s pretty fucking terrifying that we could be dragged into all of the scrutiny that survivors must undergo if taking the police-court route, without choosing it. It’s frightening that the police might force this upon us simply to look like they’re doing something, in a lazy PR move.

As survivors, we must be able to talk openly about our rapes without the threat that the police may disempower us. It is vital that every step of dealing with a rape is done with the consent of the survivor.


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At best, treating misogyny as a hate crime won’t make any difference

Content note: this post discusses misogyny, sexual violence and police

Earlier this week, it was excitedly trumpeted that Nottinghamshire Police will now be recognising and treating misogyny as a hate crime. As Chief Parade Pisser, it is my sad duty to inform you that this probably won’t make much difference, and if it does, it’ll be to the worse.

What falls under the umbrella of misogyny as a hate crime includes:

  • unwanted or uninvited sexual advances
  • physical or verbal assault
  • unwanted or uninvited physical or verbal contact or engagement
  • use of mobile phones to send unwanted or uninvited messages
  • or take photographs without consent.

You may recognise most of these things as being illegal anyway, albeit being incredibly difficult to get the police to give a crap about in the first place, with many of the crimes being forms of sexual violence or harassment. The police could already intervene in any of these incidents, but they usually don’t.

Unfortunately, treating these instances as hate crimes is likely to just kick matters further into the long grass. The police are not exactly well-known for handling hate crimes very well, and hate crime laws add an additional barrier to prosecuting them: when police investigate a hate crime, they have to find evidence of prejudice or hostility. Do you really trust the police to see prejudice and hostility? I know I don’t. What scant statistics are available suggests that many reported hate crimes (>40,000 in 2013) do not result in prosecution (just over 6000 prosecutions in that same year).

At best, the police treating misogyny as a hate crime isn’t going to help the women reporting it. At worst, things could get a lot worse for a lot of people.

Carceral solutions to structural problems have a tendency to have the most negative consequences for more marginalised people. They also tend to help marginalised people the least. This is why Black people are overrepresented in prisons, for example, and on the flip side young Black men are far less likely to report crimes they’ve experienced and far less happy with their experiences with the police.

What we are very likely to see with treating misogyny as a hate crime is that there could well be more arrests and prosecutions, but only under particular circumstances: when a Nice White Lady™ is victimised by a Nasty Black Or Brown Man™. As things stand, it’s vanishingly unlikely that the police would care any more to investigate, say, a university rowing team groping a cleaner, or an elderly white man spitting on a woman in hijab, or the politician sending escalatingly creepy texts.

It’s a repeated pattern in carceral solutions, and means that help will not go to the women who need it most because the police would rather come down hard on people that they already despise.

At the end of the day, the solution to misogyny is the same boring old thing that is the solution to everything else: societal change, starting with ourselves. Challenge it where you find it and nurture and embody alternatives, and support and believe survivors. The police are not, and have never been, the magic bullet for solving problems that they cannot even begin to solve.

Misogyny is misogyny, and the police have never been our salvation.

An open letter to the Belfast abortion snitches

Content warning: this post discusses abortion and police, and mentions domestic violence and suicide.

Dear snitches,

I read your piece of remarkable self-justification for the unforgivable in the Belfast Telegraph and I am shaking with fury. Your housemate was just 19 years old, so young and in a difficult situation. She was forced to buy pills from the internet to induce an abortion, because she couldn’t afford to hop on a boat or plane across to the rest of the country, where she could have accessed the medical care she needed. Because of your actions, she is a convicted criminal who could be sent to prison on a whim of any old judge with an axe to grind.

You know this, of course, and you chose to do this to punish her, because you are horrible people.

There, I said it.

Sorry, there’s nothing about this situation that doesn’t make you horrible people. In trying to explain why you did it, you’ve just made it even more obvious that you are horrible people, outright admitting that you did it because she didn’t show adequate remorse, and you have feelings about abortion which basically translate to you don’t think access medical care is something which should always be available to someone with a uterus.

You go on in sensationalist detail about how very traumatic you found your housemate’s abortion. Maybe that’s true. Abortion is not always a tidy business. However, I suspect your account is at least part fictitious: your description of the foetus does not match with what the physical evidence found was a 10-12 week foetus. Unless you have frankly microscopic eyesight you’re not going to be seeing it in the detail you describe. And furthermore, in another statement, one of you said that it was about four inches long: more than twice the length of a foetus at that point of gestation.

I’m not saying you’re lying maliciously (although you’re such horrible people, maybe you are). Human memory is a funny thing. It can be very easily modified without you ever knowing it’s happened. If you’re the sort of person who hates other people having control over their own uteruses, you’re probably quite a fan of anti-choice propaganda, where they like to show pictures of foetuses far later in gestation. Those little pieces of misdirection probably wormed their way into your subconscious and you thought that was what you’d seen on the night your housemate was driven to take drastic action and end her own pregnancy due to archaic laws in your part of the country. And I don’t know, maybe your boyfriend is a small-dicked liar which is why you said four inches when in reality it should be no more than two.

Anyway, because of the excesses in your descriptions of what you saw, I don’t believe a word you say about what happened that night.

Maybe you really were traumatised. It can be traumatic when someone you’re close to has a health emergency. I have epilepsy and I am achingly aware of how much worse my seizures are for other people who witness them than they are for me, because at least I have the luxury of being unconscious at the time. Thing is, your situation is different. You have absolutely no empathy for your housemate. None whatsoever. You didn’t help her in her time of need, because you felt she was to blame for what was happening. However traumatised you are about what you think you saw, it would have been much more traumatic for her: desperate and unable to seek medical help for something which needs to be done under medical supervision. If you’re traumatised by what you think you saw, imagine how much more traumatic it must be when that is happening to your own body. Oh wait, you can’t. Because you have no empathy. Because you’re horrible people.

What you did next is beyond cruel. You called the police on your housemate, because you didn’t like something you saw in the bin. Once, a (thankfully former) housemate of mine put some gone-off taramasalata in the bin. When I took the bag out, it split and pungent off-pink fish goo went all over my bare feet. It was gross and upsetting, and I cursed her name and that of all of her ancestors. I was absolutely furious. I didn’t call the fucking cops over it though.

No matter how pissed off you are at something someone else has done, no matter how much you disagree with it, you do not call the police on people. (There may be exceptions to this rule, e.g. in a domestic violence situation or if someone is about to kill themselves. Many people find police intervention even in these situations to be somewhere between useless to actively harmful, and a lot of the time an ambulance is a better bet)

Calling the police shows exactly what you are: horrible people with a desire to punish.

Your housemate made a terrible mistake. Not in self-inducing her abortion, but in trusting you enough to tell you what she was doing. Perhaps she was reaching out, and she didn’t want to suffer alone. Perhaps you had a good relationship before it. I don’t know why she would have trusted you enough to let you know, but I know if she hadn’t, she would not be considered a convicted criminal. Her options were essentially to go through the whole thing alone, or to trust others enough to talk to them. You betrayed her trust, her confidence. You threw it back in her face.

You know that in your part of the country, abortion is illegal and those who need it can face imprisonment. You know that your part of the country has laws which contravene basic human rights–and indeed, basic human decency. You know that Northern Ireland abortion laws are not designed to help, but rather to punish. Rather than feeling disgusted by that, you decided to take advantage of that fact and use this state of affairs to get revenge on a young woman who who made a dire decision.

There are no other words for it. You’re horrible people.

Seeing the anger within and outside your part of the country at what you set in motion gives me hope that perhaps soon these laws will not exist. And perhaps, up and down Northern Ireland, people realise just how important it is to not betray their friends. If someone has an abortion, they’ll show basic solidarity and keep their fucking gobs shut, no matter how much they disagree with a pal’s decision. Maybe they’ll go beyond that and offer help, support and empathy until your horrific abortion laws disintegrate. I hope you are the only people who are as nasty as to dob someone in to the police over something that in no way concerns them.

I wrote a much longer letter to you than I thought I would, but I am furious. I am angry at you, I am angry at your part of the country’s laws and I am absolutely livid that you would choose to throw someone at the mercy of those laws.

You, dear Belfast abortion snitches, are horrible people.

Fuck you,


P.S. Anyone reading this may want to donate to Abortion Support Network’s Cover Her Costs campaign, giving people who need abortions in Northern Ireland the financial means to travel to where it’s legal for their care.


Note, added approximately an hour after publication: A friend has pointed out that a lack of empathy doesn’t always equal horrible person. I’d just like to echo and elevate this point, and apologise to neurodiverse people for the implication in my phrasing. What I used “empathy” to mean here was “compassion” or “kindness” or “caring about another human being’s welfare”–“empathy” is a loaded term and not necessarily the appropriate one. However, these Belfast abortion snitches are horrible people.

Bernard Hogan-Howe probably would have let Rolf Harris get away with it

Content warning: this post discusses child sexual abuse, sexual violence and police

It was reported today that Rolf Harris will be charged with seven counts of indecent assault, with one of the seven complainants being just 12 years old at the time the offence occurred. This follows his conviction in 2014 for twelve counts of indecent assault, with one of the survivors being just eight at the time it happened. Rolf Harris is a predator. A convicted paedophile. So, why is it that one of this country’s top police officers would have let him get away with it?

A few days ago, Bernard Hogan Howe, head of the Metropolitan Police, wrote an article outlining what he reckons should be done about sexual abuse investigations (warning: if you click this link it contains discussion of CSA and sexual violence and is absolutely viciously infuriating). Hogan-Howe advocates a two-stranded approach which will have a devastating effect on encouraging survivors–particularly survivors of historic sexual abuse–to come forward:

  1. Making it clear to survivors that they will not be automatically believed if they report to the police.
  2. Offering anonymity to those accused.

Both of these affect reporting sexual violence to the police. A lot of survivors don’t report because they’re scared of not being believed anyway. The man in charge of the capital’s police force making it explicit that the police might not believe you isn’t exactly going to alleviate these concerns.

Anonymity for the accused sounds nice and fair in theory, but it, too, has an impact on reporting, particularly for serial rapists and abusers. We see the pattern again and again: one or two survivors stick their head above the parapet and speak out about what happened to them, and it encourages more and more survivors to follow, knowing that they’re not alone. It happened with Savile (although, unfortunately, after he died, so he was never brought to justice). It happened with Bill Cosby. It happened with Greville Janner (although, again, he died before being brought to justice). And yes, it happened with Rolf Harris, which is presumably why further charges are being brought 18 months after he was convicted.

In his nasty article, Bernard Hogan-Howe describes what happened after Savile as “a dam burst[ing]”, as though it’s a bad thing that more survivors come forward. He acts as though a senior police officer telling historic abuse survivors, “Come forward, we will believe you,” is a bad thing. It isn’t and it wasn’t.

So why has Bernard Hogan-Howe laid out a roadmap for helping serial rapists and abusers like Rolf Harris get away with it? Again, Hogan-Howe is kind of clear about this in his article: it’s been more than a little inconvenient for some powerful men who have been accused, but there isn’t enough evidence to bring charges.

The right-wing media have been all over Hogan-Howe, baying for his blood. Not because Hogan-Howe is proposing measures that will help serial child abusers like Rolf Harris get away with it, but rather the opposite: a high-up army man and a Tory peer got accused and weren’t charged because of insufficient evidence. Lord Bramall’s case is getting ugly, with him calling for an investigation into his accuser, and today’s Sun front page headline outright calling the accuser “a serial liar“. Meanwhile, Lord Brittan was implicated in dossiers on the Westminster paedophile ring  being ignored, allowing child sexual abuse to go on.

I have no opinion as to whether Brittan or Bramall committed the crimes they were accused of or not. It’s worth noting at this juncture that a lot of historic abuse cases are dismissed because there’s not enough evidence. Even in recent cases of sexual violence, there’s often not much of the sort of evidence which will likely secure a conviction through the courts. With historic abuse, the case may be investigated over 40 years after the incident took place. In a way, it surprises me that there have been any convictions of historic sexual abuse at all, especially ones for abuse which happened decades ago. Again, I am not saying that Bramall or Brittan raped anyone. Rather, the point I would like to make here is that what helps these convictions take place is more victims coming forward. Indeed, one of the things which contributed to the lack of evidence against Bramall–and indeed the media frenzy over how unfair it was to investigate him–was it was based on only one complainant’s testimony.

So, the way things are set up, for historic abuse claims to stand a chance of seeing the inside of a courtroom, plenty of survivors need to come forward. It’s probable that if just one person had come forward to accuse Rolf Harris, he would have got away with it. It’s probable that if other survivors didn’t know an investigation was taking place, they wouldn’t have come forward. It’s probable that nobody would have come forward to accuse Rolf Harris if they’d felt they might not be believed.

Bernard Hogan-Howe would have let Rolf Harris get away with sexual abuse of children and adults alike if he’d decided to say what he said a couple of years ago. In pandering to right-wing media outcry over the poor powerful old white men, Hogan-Howe has achieved only one thing: making it easier for rapists and paedophiles to never be brought to justice.

The media are of course complicit in this, and I am sure they know exactly who they’re helping and who they’re hurting.

I’m sure it’s incredibly inconvenient for the police to be investigating powerful old white men, but this doesn’t mean they should try to discourage reports that they have to investigate. I don’t know, maybe if they stopped harassing BME people using stop and search powers, they’d free up some resources to investigate complaints.

The fact is, under Bernard Hogan-Howe’s ideas, Rolf Harris would have got off scot-free. Think about what when talking about how historic abuse investigations are handled, rather than Bramall and Brittan.

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Disclosing women’s details to the police won’t keep them safe

Content warning: this post discusses rape and police?

A man in York who a court didn’t find guilty of rape has a “sexual risk order” on him, requiring him to notify police 24 hours before he has sex with any women. He must provide police with their full names, addresses and dates of birth. Somehow, this is supposed to keep women safe.

Except it won’t. It can’t and it won’t.

At best, this will do fuck all. At worst, it exposes women to far more risk than they were at before.

Everything is the wrong way round. The court have clearly acknowledged that this man is a danger to women in imposing the order, and yet rather than take measures that would actually keep women safe, they’ve chosen to hand him the tools to rape with impunity. If this man chooses a victim, all he needs to do is log her details at the cop shop 24 hours in advance, and then what he does may well be taken as consent. This is perhaps a doomsday scenario, but it is not impossible: after all, it looks as though it’s acknowledged that this man is a danger to women.

So why are they telling him he has to gather a vast amount of personal data from women to pass along to the cops, if he’s such a danger to women? Without the order, he wouldn’t necessarily have access to that much information: on a one-night stand, even a last name might not be exchanged, let alone full address and date of birth. Why are they so sure that this man can be trusted with this information?

And furthermore, can the police really be trusted with such information about women who have done literally nothing wrong? What exactly are they going to do with such information? I can’t think of many women who would willingly consent to the police holding their personal data.

It’s like anti-VAW policy from a parallel universe where up is down, left is right, cats are dogs, and keeping women safe means endangering them further.

Keeping women safe is absolutely not about filing a request to fuck involving full personal details. It’s about awareness, knowledge. What women need is to know who this man is, to be able to make decisions. Under rape culture, this cannot happen, because it is about protecting and enabling rapists above all else. We cannot be told who the man is, only be on our guard if a man says, “not tonight, but I’ll get in touch tomorrow. Can I have your number, full address, full name… oh, and date of birth?” (if, of course, he doesn’t just nick your passport to get those details).

I shouldn’t be surprised that there are feminists backing this policy–you can get someone who self-identifies as a feminist to give any quote supporting anything awful that you like–but I am disappointed to see End Violence Against Women’s Sarah Green providing a supportive quote in the Indy. I hope she just didn’t know the full extent of it. I’d hate to think that the head of an organisation dedicated to ending violence against women is backing something which could abet violence against women.

Solutions involving the police don’t work, which has been shown time and time and time again. This case unequivocally shows just how godawful they can be.