New Internationalist

As Used on the Famous Nelson Mandela: Underground adventures in the arms & torture trade

Issue 395

It works! Stand-up comedian writes book and it’s as fast-paced and riveting as anything he does on stage. What makes this rude, funny, furious offering such a success is that Mark Thomas is no ordinary comic. He’s a fiendishly inspired political activist who gets stuck into the murkiest activities, in this case trading in arms and torture equipment. His purpose is to expose how shockingly easy it is to sell items like electric torture batons to the likes of Robert Mugabe, circumventing official government ‘codes of conduct’. Child’s play, quite literally, as a bunch of Oxfordshire schoolkids, equipped with a mobile phone and a few tips from the author, broker international deals. Thomas is angry – who isn’t when faced with egregious corporate greed and government hypocrisy? – but he is also warm, humane, surprising. He keeps finding himself liking the most unlikely people, even arms dealers. And he can’t help but see the ridiculous side of things, poking fun at all – including fellow activists and himself. A more pompous individual might not have shared with us some details – like his mum’s view of his activities, a perspective that puts him straight back into short pants.

This is, we are told, Mark Thomas’s first book. Now that part is hard to believe!

Vanessa Baird

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