I find this fascinating, in lots of ways. It is what appears to be a woman, on a mobile phone, in a 1928 Charlie Chaplin film. When you look at it, you can only see it that way. Anyway, see for yourselves.
It's incredible, isn't it? Now, I have no explanation of my own. I can make guesses. I can try and work out what's going on. But the one thing I'm pretty sure about - and I'm afraid I have to disagree with the chap who first pointed this out - is that it isn't a time traveller. (Why would the woman be on a mobile phone anyway? She couldn't be talking to anyone, since there weren't phone base stations in 1928 to carry a signal - unless somehow the signal was travelling through time as well, but I find that a little far-fetched for my tastes. Would she be trying to plant proof of time travel into the past, by sticking it in a Charlie Chaplin film? Why, in an era of time travel apparently not yet discovered, would someone have what seems to be a clunky old brick-style phone rather than a microchip inserted in their brain, or something? And so on, and so on.)
What I find most fascinating of all, though, is the way in which the brain - my brain, your brain, most people's brains looking at that footage - processes what the eyes are seeing. Would we do so if we hadn't been prompted to do so by being told it was someone on a mobile phone? Probably even still. Because it just looks like something we're familiar with - the woman appears to be talking, and holding a phone up to her ear. We see this kind of thing all the time in the streets around us, so it doesn't seem that she's doing anything else. So that's what we decide she's doing, even if it's preposterous to imagine she really is.
So when you're faced with something confusing, you look for an explanation. You look for what to expect, and what seems natural - particularly if you're prompted to see it there in the first place. I think this is similar to the way in which news information can work, and the way in which organisations like the EDL, the BNP and the other fearmongerers can spread their hatred.
So if you're feeling angry, disappointed, upset, impotent, whatever, if you feel like you have no career prospects, if you feel isolated and cast adrift from society, you might look around for reasons why. Why is it all so unfair, and why are you - part of the white majority, apparently, with all the advantages that should be available to the group with the hegemony - seemingly a loser, a failure, incapable of achieving what you want? That seems somehow ridiculous, and it jars with what you've been taught about working hard and paying your taxes and everything falling into your lap. So what's gone wrong? Well, what if someone tells you that Islamists are trying to take over the country, and that everyone's looking the other way because they're too scared about offending them? What if someone tells you immigrants are taking your homes and your job prospects, and no-one does anything to stop them, because of this invisible barrier called political correctness? Suddenly that anger doesn't seem so impotent - it makes sense. No wonder you haven't got what you wanted in life; it was those pesky terrorists and their traitor/helpers who have pulled out the rug from underneath you!
Articles like the Daily Star one I wrote about yesterday in which Christmas was apparently being 'banned' for the millionth time, which received such a delighted response from some EDL members, are part of the picture. Today and tomorrow we will see articles about first names of children, which will bring up the old chestnut about Mohammeds/Muhammads apparently taking over the country and drowning everyone in a sea of Islam - articles which are so sadly predictable that you can look back at this post by me from last year to see where the agenda is coming from and where the problems lie with the cherrypicking, the failure to put things into context, and so on.
It's much more complicated than someone pointing you at what appears to be a woman on a phone in an old Charlie Chaplin film and saying "Look, it's a woman on a phone!" because this kind of pressure is coming from all angles, in all places, at all times. But how to counter it? Well, one way is to point out that the EDL is wrong to talk about Christmas being banned, as some brave souls have already done on EDL Facebook groups. Another way is to take the media to task for the inaccurate and skewed reporting, as this and other media blogs will try to do. And there are other important avenues to explore as well - not the counterproductive 'getting the white folk angry' of Phil Woolas, who is still, I remind you, a shadow minister, but a genuine attempt to try and reach out to the kind of people who are suffering from the injustices and perceived unfairness that the EDL, BNP and other groups prey on.
That last task is one for politicians, community groups and all kinds of miscellaneous others, but it's important. I know that not all possible EDL folk can be engaged with - some are out-and-out racists, wilfully ignorant, and don't care what they're told - but I think people need to try. It's one thing to just say that the myth-making about immigrants and Muslims is wrong (and it is), but that's not the whole picture; if you don't try to offer some alternative explanations for what's going on, offer some hope, offer some way of dealing with stuff other than taking to the streets under a ruddy great banner and inflaming racial tensions, then things are going to get pretty nasty pretty quickly. But who's going to step in and do that?
If no-one does, though, things are going to get worse. One national newspaper is now happy to report unquestioningly on groups like the EDL; will it stay at one, or will others follow, for easy angry newspaper-buying poll-texting readers, a whole revenue stream of racists just waiting to be tapped?
As for the woman in the Charlie Chaplin film, I really can't offer any explanation. I thought maybe she was holding on a wig, or a hat, or something like that, but the more I look at it, the more it looks like a phone. All I do know, though, is that it isn't. All I know is that much.