Kicking Against The Pricks – The Reprobate Manifesto For Cultural And Individual Freedom

With thanks and appreciation to Frank Zappa

In our several years of existence, The Reprobate has offered a dizzying – some might say chaotic – selection of cultural delights, from outsider art to social commentary, from incredibly strange movies to incredibly strange lifestyles, from the defiantly weird to the populism of yesteryear. But one thing, perhaps, has united everything we’ve ever done, to a greater or lesser degree, and that’s the overwhelming belief in individual freedom – free speech, free expression and free sex (actually sexual freedom, but that doesn’t quite fit with the sloganeering).

These used to be a given for liberals and libertarians alike – the forces devoted to shutting down expression and censoring thought were traditionally the establishment and the regressive. Things have changed somewhat in recent years, and it seems that self-professed liberals are now competing with the moralistic Right to be the cheerleaders for policing what we say, what we see and what we do – and both sides are policing it with the zeal and the inflexibility of a dictatorship. That might sound like exaggeration and hyperbole, but it really isn’t. Let’s not forget that social media accounts are increasingly being closed due to wrongthink, and in the UK, people are being prosecuted, convicted and jailed for expressing the wrong ideas, losing their jobs over what are clearly jokes and are hounded by the online mob until they grovellingly apologise for “causing offence” – a greater crime than actual assault. Thoughtcrime is no longer a dystopian myth, it’s a reality across the social divide. The belief that certain ideas are heretical and dangerous has spread everywhere.

It’s easy to see this as the domain of small but vocal groups, but the fact is that this small group have disproportionate influence and power – the activists have the ears and the hearts of the broadcasters, the journalists, and the politicians, even those who you might think were instinctively against such things. Either through ideology or fear, people fall in line.

While some on the Right initially responded to Left-wing authoritarianism with a sudden, unexpected and – as it quickly turned out – entirely insincere zeal for free speech, they have increasingly reverted to type, becoming increasingly moralistic and fanatical, with religious fervour and a new sense of Nationalism and moral purity. These are the hardline conservatives of old – anti-abortion, anti-sex and anti-anyone that looks or thinks slightly differently to them. The twitching paranoids who are driven by hate and fear. For these people too, free speech is anathema – they are the mirror image of their Leftist counterparts, wanting to shut down any ideas that they find distasteful or threatening, and it’s interesting to see how many of the self-proclaimed free speech conservatives have shown their true colours in recent times, demanding censorship, calling for the cancellation of those they dislike, spreading bullshit as fact and generally reverting to type.

So where does this fit into The Reprobate and our philosophy? How do the political conflicts of today relate to articles about awkward 1970s TV celebrities, sexy LP covers or vintage toys? Well, besides the fact that our ability to publish such stuff depends on us having the freedom to do so, it perhaps speaks to where we are in attitude and where we’re heading in content. Our ability to sustain this site through advertising is restricted – if not entirely prevented – because of the moralising fanatics of both sides – but, let’s be fair, one side rather more than the other – that sees the naked body as shameful and dangerous, and persuades advertisers and others to boycott anyone who might feature such images. A bit of a problem when you are often covering vintage art and advertising material from a lost era of sexual liberation. We are unwilling to gut the site to appease these prudes – and why should we? But we hope you appreciate our sacrifice. Our Patreon and Buy Me a Coffee links are at the end of this piece and if you wish to help us out with the cost of living via a small donation, that is much appreciated.

It’s always been in the Reprobate team’s instincts to kick against the pricks and take a sceptical, contrarian view of the status quo. We’re no more impressed by the new progressive saviour than we were by their regressive predecessors – in fact, it’s hard to really tell them apart once you get beyond the sloganeering. We always tend to think “what’s in this for you?” when we see them, and it’s often all too obvious what that is – money, attention, ego, control-freakery, bullying and power are the connecting points amongst our political leaders (and wannabes), campaigners and activists on all sides.


I can’t emphasise this point enough (and I fear it’ll be ignored widely), but here goes: The Reprobate is worldly enough to realise that no one has a monopoly of being right or wrong, no side is entirely with the angels and no side the devil incarnate. We believe in individual liberty, personal – not collective – responsibility and the right to offend and be offended. We refuse to accept the idea of good or bad art and culture and the dismissive wave of the person who thinks that they are better than you because they toe the line of taste and decency. We reject the idea that you can make blanket statements about art you haven’t seen or people you haven’t met. We are wildly – some have said hilariously – opinionated, but that’s all we are doing – sharing opinions. You can share yours too – we encourage writers. Maybe you’ll change our minds on things we thought we believed. Maybe you’ll just offer a different point of view. Maybe you won’t. Either way, your opinions matter.

The Reprobate stands for free expression, a plurality of opinion and an instinctive suspicion of those who want to tell us how to think, and if we can use our little corner of the internet to promote that, all the better. Whether it be furious socio-political tracts or discussions of weird and marginalised culture, we want to provoke thought and share ideas. And we’ll pretty much share any ideas outside of the more lunatic end of conspiracy theory and virulent hate speech – obviously, there is a considerable difference between criticism and incitement, and we’ll absolutely not support any calls for violence or discrimination against any individual or group based on their opinions; but neither will we accept any writing that calls for other voices to be shut down and silenced simply for offering a contrary opinion or a criticism of ideas. If you believe an argument to be ignorant, offensive, disgusting or in some other way wrong – fair enough. Counter that argument with your own. Allow people to read both opinions and make their own decisions. Disagree with something you read on this site? Fine. Write a rebuttal. As long as it reaches our standards for readability, we’ll publish it. We absolutely believe in a plurality of voices and ideas. Except for censors – we have limits and will not be publishing calls for censorship. There are plenty of places that will happily embrace those ideas, sadly.

Think of us as a refuge of freedom in the post-cultural apocalyptic wasteland of the modern world. We’re the outcasts, and dammit if we don’t like that. Maybe you are an outcast too? If you are open to new directions in art and culture, to debating ideas and opening your mind, and that nothing is sacred, you’ll find a home here, as a writer, an artist or a reader. If both the excesses and the minutiae of the culture wars leave you shaking your head and wondering just how the world ended up like this, then you’ll find a family here. Like most families, it might be a touch dysfunctional, sometimes argumentative and occasionally embarrassing, but it’ll never cast you out for saying the right thing with the wrong words, for liking the wrong sort of entertainment or for being the crazy grandparent in the corner who says the unsayable on a regular basis. In the words of Tod Browning’s Freaks (a brilliant, transgressive, very problematic film that might just be our celluloid avatar) Gobble, Gobble, we accept you. One of us… one of us…one of us…

And remember:
Never Apologise
Never Explain


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