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Police investigate Rod Liddle for ‘language hate’

Ever hear of “language hate”? Rod Liddle has been accused of committing this new crime. In his Sunday Times column on plans to rename the second Severn crossing the Prince of Wales Bridge, Liddle quipped: “The Welsh, or some of them, are moaning that a motorway bridge linking their rain-sodden valleys with the First World is to be renamed. They would prefer it to be called something indecipherable with no real vowels, such as Ysgythysgymlngwchgwch Bryggy. Let them have their way. So long as it allows people to get out of the place pronto, should we worry about what it is called?”

Liz Saville Roberts MP, of Welsh nationalists Plaid Cymru (PC), asked, “What legal defence we have in situations like this?”  She says Liddle’s words amount to “prejudice”. Given a platform on Radio Cymru’s Post Cyntaf programme, Roberts opined: “The two things in particular which incensed me were his attempts to belittle the Welsh language, and to compare poverty in Wales with England’s wealth as a first world nation as something amusing… We have to ask when we should put up with this and whether or not the Sunday Times cares about readers here in Wales. It is disheartening… it also begs the question what legal defence we have in situations like this. Whether you describe this as racist or not, it is prejudice and is being used against us as Welsh people.”

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted: 17th, April 2018 | In: News | Comment


Judge saves British Jews from Nazi pug

We should all be worried by Mark Meechan’s ordeal. The 30-year-old has been convicted of a hate crime – you know, one of those offences of the mind the Soviets dreamt up to keep people in line. Meechan’s offence was in teaching his girlfriend’s pug, Buddha, to raise its paw in the manner of a very small, squashed-face Nazi whenever he heard the words “gas the Jews” and “Sieg Heil”.

 

nazi pug

 

If this was an Alsatian on the end of a recreational Nazi’s rope in the shopping precinct, it’d be more pitiful that amusing. But the pug is such a soppy creature that to consider the tableaux threatening would be guilty of intellectualising the absurd.

To inure against the mentally negligible seeing the pug as a recruiting tool for a new Final Solution, Meechan told his video watchers: “My girlfriend is always ranting and raving about how cute and adorable her wee dog is so I thought I would turn him into the least cute thing that I could think of, which is a Nazi.”

The footage was uploaded to YouTube, where millions of people saw it. But when the police noticed the video those protectors of sound morals thought it “grossly offensive”.

So what if it is?

Anti-semitism is rife. Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour is a cesspit of Jew hatred. A pug with a raised paw is not threatening. It’s ridiculous. Jews have endured many attempts to exterminate them. Their persistence is the stuff of historical fact. Chances are they’ll laugh off the jerking pug.

But there’s sanity and then there is law. And the law is here to teach us all a lesson. Meechan, of Coatbridge, Lanarkshire, was arrested, charged and put on trial at Airdrie Sheriff Court. He denied any wrong doing. He said he made the April 2016 video to annoy his girlfriend Suzanne Kelly, 29.

But Sheriff Derek O’Carroll found him guilty of a charge under the Communications Act for posting a video that was “anti-semitic and racist in nature”. It was aggravated by religious prejudice. What O’Carroll said should make us more afraid than Buddha’s raised paw:

“In my view it is a reasonable conclusion that the video is grossly offensive The description of the video as humorous is no magic wand. This court has taken the freedom of expression into consideration. But the right to freedom of expression also comes with responsibility… The accused knew that the material was offensive and knew why it was offensive. Despite that the accused made a video containing anti-Semitic content and he would have known it was grossly offensive to many Jewish people.”

Thanks for speaking up on behalf of the Jews, judge. But we can take care of ourselves. Free expression is bigger and more vital than your patronage. Leave Meechan alone. It’s every human’s right to offend. Anyone who’s never caused offence needs to try harder.

Ricky Gervais speaks for many: “A man has been convicted in a UK court of making a joke that was deemed ‘grossly offensive’. If you don’t believe in a person’s right to say things that you might find ‘grossly offensive’, then you don’t believe in Freedom of Speech.”

And you know who didn’t much like Freedom of Speech? Yeah. Nazis.

PS: Mark Meechan sentence will be passed at Airdrie Sheriff Court on 23 April.

Posted: 21st, March 2018 | In: Key Posts, News | Comment


Free expression attacked as protestors invade London University Libertarian event

Students at King College, London, never got to hear American-Israeli writer Yaron Brook, chairman of the Ayn Rand Institute, and YouTuber Carl Benjamin address the school’s Libertarian Society at the Edmond J. Safra lecture theatre. Their talk was disrupted by people dressed in black masks who consider the speakers to be “‘white supremacists” and “fascists”.

The audience rowed with the anti-free activists. Apparently punches were thrown. Students say windows were smashed and smoke bombs let off. A “safe space marshal” (cost per hour: £12*) was injured. And then the whole building was cleared.

 

 

The great irony is that the assault on free expression was reportedly arranged by the authoritarian Antifa – a self-declared anti-fascist group.

This shutting down of debate is  sickness. These censors’ pursuit of a monocular world view is wholly reductive and palpably ignorant of what happens when individuals are intimated and become less free to speak their minds and test their own ideas, however ‘controversial’, in the arena of public discourse.

The Libertarian Soiety has made the following statement:

Last night an event organised by the KCL Libertarian Society invited controversial speakers Carl Benjamin and Yaron Brook. The event had to be cancelled after some people forced their way into Kings College London. The Police attended and we are fully co-operating with their investigation. KCLSU condemns the use of violence in any situation.

Universities create environments in which debate from all sides on issues of political, scientific, moral, ethical and religious significance is possible, and King’s is no exception. Our role is to ensure that all parties feel safe and secure in expressing their views without fear of violence of intimidation. We take our responsibilities to provide a safe environment for free, peaceful and respectful dialogue very seriously. KCLSU and King’s will be reviewing the incident to decide on appropriate action to be taken.

Responding to the incident, Momin Saqib, President of KCLSU said, “I am appalled by the acts that were perpetrated in King’s College London yesterday evening. I strongly respect and encourage the right to freedom of speech, the right to challenge each other and the right to peaceful protest. It is unfortunate that the event was marred by violence by people who took an extreme and an unacceptable approach. My heart goes out to the guards who got physically and mentally hurt and I wish them a speedy recovery.

Universities are places to facilitate intellectually stimulating discussions, environments for constructive debates, places where ideas get tested, which are all done in a bid for the advancement of human knowledge and the betterment of our society. However, any actions which contravene peaceful protest will not be accepted.

Hatred: whether it is based on – race, religious beliefs, sexual orientation, gender identity, trans status, socio-economic status, or ideology or culture is totally unacceptable and I strongly condemn it and I will always QUESTION it.

Everyone has the right to protest peacefully but any forms of aggression and violence are completely unacceptable.”

Amid the argy-bargy, someone managed to film a segment:

 

 

Anyhow. If you fancy policing free speech at King’s apply below.

 

 

Safe Space MArshall King's College

Via – ‘a Safe Space breech” [sic]

 

Work as an Antifa free speech patroller is believed to be unpaid.

 

Posted: 14th, March 2018 | In: News | Comment


Max Mosley and the right to ask offensive questions

Most of us have never met press reform campaigner Max Mosley (and I’m including some members of the spanking community in that) nor his father, the fascist Oswald Mosley who married Diana Mitford in Joseph Goebbels’ drawing room. She was a woman dubbed “Hitler’s Angel”. Max knew her as ‘mum’. My own ancestors living in London’s Stepney and Whitechapel did have a run-in with Mosley Senior a while back, chiefly when in his guise as leader of the Black Shirts, the aristo and former Labour Party government minister wanted to march his gang of booted anti-Semites through Cable Street in East London. The aim was to intimidate the local Jews. Back then lots of people who didn’t much like the Nazi-styled Black Shirts disobeyed the law by turning out in force, blocked the march and won the day. Officialdom did sod all to protect them. “It was a victory for the united people of the East End.”

Our bloodlines, however, have not crossed since. I know what I know of Mosley and his family by reading and hearing about them. Eventually, I might even form an opinion on Max from looking at the press, TV and books. “The questions raised by the desire to know are in principle all answerable by common-sense experience and common-sense reasoning,” wrote Hannah Arendt. We read a lot of things. We think about them, debate them and, through reason, try to reach the truth.

And today we get to know a bit more about Max Mosley. He’s back in the news. The Times says Mosley “is facing questions about whether he lied to the High Court after the discovery of a racist political leaflet published in his name”.

The 1961 document links leprosy, venereal disease and tuberculosis to “coloured immigration” and argues that Jamaicans should be sent back home. Mr Mosley, the former Formula One boss turned press reform campaigner, was questioned about the leaflets during his 2008 High Court privacy case against the News of the World.

Under oath, he said that he did not recall putting out election literature urging voters to send black people home. He also explicitly denied that any leaflets from the 1961 campaign accused immigrants of bringing leprosy, syphilis and TB, saying: “That is absolute nonsense.”

Confronted with a copy of one of the leaflets last night, he rejected the “offensive suggestion” that he lied under oath and appeared to question if it was genuine. “If it is genuine, it doesn’t reflect my views today,” he said during a combative live appearance on Channel 4 News. “This was in 1961. I ceased to have any involvement in my father’s movement in 1963.”

Here he is on Channel 4 news:

 

 

The part about Tom Watson is of interest.  The Deputy leader says a Labour Government would set up Leveson II and enforce state-backed press regulation. So much for a free press. The State will decide what is and what is not fit and proper for you to read. No need for reason when the State does the thinking for you. You’ll be free to think about other stuff, like ‘How the hell did this happen?’, ‘Isn’t it great that we all agree on everything’ and “Why is fake news now the only news?’

Spotting error is essential to solving problems and progress. Stymie expression – the right to make mistakes – and we are all isolated from one another and diminished. As the philosopher Karl Popper noted:

In spite of everything, and although we have had so many failures, we, the citizens of the western democracies, live in a social order which is better (because more favourably disposed to reform) and more just than any other in recorded history. Further improvements are of the greatest urgency. (Yet improvements that increase the power of the state often bring about the opposite of what we are seeking.)

 

Max Mosley racism

 

The story is on the cover of the Mail. It begins with a question. And for what it’s worth, I’d cede to Betteridge’s Law of headlines: “Any headline that ends in a question mark can be answered by the word ‘no’.”

The Mail focuses on Mosley’s relationship with the media:

He has bankrolled Labour deputy leader Tom Watson and Impress — the State-approved media watchdog which critics say opens the door to statutory control of the Press…

Mr Mosley has also pledged £3.8 million via a family trust to fund Impress, the controversial Press regulator which is underwritten by statute and supported by Mr Watson and the pressure group Hacked Off, but shunned by the newspaper industry which views it as a threat to freedom of expression.

The Guardian notes the response:

“It appears that the historical investigation pursued by the Daily Mail is yet another misconceived attempt to intimidate and deter me. I will continue to campaign for the vital reforms needed to protect ordinary people against the bullying of newspapers like the Daily Mail.”

In response to the leaflet, Watson told the Mail: “My views on press regulation are well known and have not changed. The views expressed by Max as a young man are not the views he holds now, just as the Rothermere family no longer uses its newspapers to support fascism.”

 

Max Mosley racism

 

And so there it is. A free Press is the right to report things people of power and influence don’t want you to know. It’s the right to cause offence. More power to it. And more power to anyone who can prove it wrong by establishing their facts as authentic and true. After all, our desire is to know the truth and therein become better.

PS:

 

If we are now all citizen journalists – something Jeremy Corbyn is keen to foster as he invites “non-journalists” from outside the hated mainstream media (see Trump. D) to ask him questions – will each of us with a social media account need to sign up to State regulation for our right to publish tweets and Facebook posts? A vibrant field of open debate will end when the State is the only one holding the mic.

Posted: 28th, February 2018 | In: Key Posts, News | Comment


Anti-free speech bigots attack Jacob Rees-Mogg (video)

When Conservative MP Jacob Rees-Mogg arrived to speak at the University of the West of England (UWE) event organised by the university’s Politics and International Relations Society, a group of protestors burst in and started bellowing. Some of the fearless hecklers wore darks glasses and scarves over their faces. The Express calls them “masked men”.

Chloe Kaye, who posted a video of the ruckus on Twitter, wrote: “A huge amount of (physical) violence at a Jacob Rees-Mogg speech in UWE Bristol.” She tells the Express: “I went into the talk to hear about Jacob Rees-Mogg and suddenly as soon as he comes in about six masked individuals run in screaming, ‘bigot, racist, sexist’. They’re screaming, absolutely no university security to be seen. Jacob Rees-Mogg screams, ‘I believe in free speech,’ so he runs up to them and actually wants to start talking to them.”

They also called him a Nazi, which says much about their thin grasp on history and what actual Nazis are.

 

 

Only the Guardian offers some reason why the uninvited guests went for Rees-Mogg:

The Conservative MP for North East Somerset, tipped by some as his party’s next leader, is seen as a divisive figure because of his rightwing views, including hardline Euroscepticism, opposition to abortion even in cases of rape, and his belief that climate change is not worth fighting.

He’s a committed Catholic. Raus! No Catholics here. He has strong views. And he understands that holding them will attract fierce reactions. But to be slated for being a Catholic is abhorrent. And you know who else didn’t much like Catholics?

 

The Guardian branded Rees-Mogg a bigot on its front page, but not the Pope, nor any number of people from other religions that don’t support abortion and gay marriage, such as leaders in Iran, where homosexuals are executed – Iran’s a bigoted regime that used to hire Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn through Press TV.

 

The Pope – the right kind of ‘bigot’

 

There was a scuffle. Rees-Mogg was jostled. Although sources say he was trying to break up a fight between the “anti-fascists” who, er, don’t like free speech and those who’d got a ticket to hear him speak.

“Some people who don’t agree with me wanted to make their point, and I don’t object to this,” said the MP. “I think we live in a free society and freedom of speech is very important. And people like me, who advocate freedom of speech, support it when it’s not exactly what we want, as well as when it is what we want.”

 

 

“They shouted at me, but they weren’t going to hit me,” he adds. “They didn’t want to talk about politics, they just wanted to stop the event. I’m of the sticks-and-stones school of thought,” he said. “I wanted to stop anyone being hit because the whole thing would have degenerated. I didn’t think anyone was going to hit me so I felt quite safe intervening. I spoke afterwards; I was there for ages.”

He was speaking his mind – something we must all be free to do.

Posted: 3rd, February 2018 | In: Key Posts, News, Politicians | Comment


Cathy Newman repeatedly tells Jordan Peterson what he’s saying in horrendous interview

If you cannot understand what your interviewee is saying, you can always couch it in terms you do understand. When Channel 4 journalist Cathy Newman interviewed University of Toronto psychology professor Jordan Peterson, she did just that, opting to bypass Peterson’s actual words and debate points Peterson didn’t say. Her preferred method was to tell Peterson over and over “What you’re saying is…”

The upshot is that anyone tuning in will fancy reading Peterson’s book 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos. Camille Paglia calls him “the most important Canadian thinker since Marshall McLuhan”. You might not agree with him, but it helps to listen:

 

 

Peterson debates the interview: “She fabricated on the fly the villain she hoped I’d be”. And on his right to offend, he nails it: “All you have as a journalist is the right to offend people and hurt their feelings.”

 

 

His video the psychological significance of biblical stories  is worth watching.

Posted: 23rd, January 2018 | In: News, TV & Radio | Comments (2)


Lily Madigan: Labour, women and a terf war

Lily Madigan was once Liam Madigan. Lily is now the women’s officer for the Labour Party branch in Rochester and Strood in Kent. She’s been in the news before. In October 2016, “Brave Lily” (Kent Online)  received an apology from St Simon Stock Catholic School, Maidstone, for sending her home for “wearing the wrong uniform” and “preventing her from using the girls’ toilets and changing rooms”.

Said Lily, who threatened to sue the school: “I decided to come in dressed in the girls’ dress code, which basically meant I was wearing a top instead of a shirt. It made me feel so happy, until I was sent home.”

Lily, 19, was born male but identifies as a woman. The Times explains how her new job works:

Labour Party rules state that “the women’s officer must be a woman”.

Why? Can only women understand and represent women? Do you need to have been a girl to know womanhood?

Ms Madigan said it was “misguided” to suggest she could not fulfil the duties of the role, simply because she was born male.

That part at least sounds right.

Teresa Murray, Medway councillor and vice-chairwoman of the executive committee of Rochester and Strood CLP, says “Lily will have to work very hard to convince other people that her very presence there is not going to undermine them”. Adding: “Someone who is an accountant would probably make a better treasurer initially, but that doesn’t mean we should only give the role to an accountant.”

Accountants are born for the job, of course. It’s not something you can learn. It’s something in you. It defines you. You’re just built that way. Accounting is in the genes. But that’s not to say others don’t think accountancy more representative of their true selves. If they want to dress in grey suits, part their hair to the side and carry a briefcase, then that is their right.

Ella Whelan has more background:

Madigan hit the headlines after arguing that Anne Ruzylo, a Labour Party women’s officer in a different constituency, should be sacked for being ‘transphobic’. Ruzylo, a lesbian, feminist and trade unionist, had criticised the sanctification of the trans movement. For this, she was labelled a ‘terf’ (trans exclusionary radical feminist) and was harassed by transgender activists online. Eventually, the executive committee of Ruzylo’s local Labour branch resigned in protest at her mistreatment.

“I feel quite violated,” Ms Ruzylo told The Times. “I’ve worked as a trade unionist for 30 years and I’ve never been shut down in this way. It’s disgusting… Debate is not hate. If we can’t talk about gender laws and get shut down on that, what’s next? What else are we not allowed to talk about? We’re going back to the days of McCarthyism. It is disgraceful.”

“I don’t care if I get called a transphobe, says Whelan adds, “Lily Madigan is not a woman. At 19, he is barely even a man.”

Ouch.

One thing is certain: if you cannot express yourself, we are all the worse off for it.

PS:  The Times, which is on the Madigan beat, reports

The transgender teenager at the centre of a Labour Party row has applied for the Jo Cox Women in Leadership programme, angering and dismaying party members…

The leadership programme was started last year in memory of the murdered MP Jo Cox, with the specific aim of encouraging more women into politics.

Critics say that it defies the whole point of the scheme, which attracted more than 1,000 applications for 57 places in its first year, to include people who are biologically male or who have lived part of their lives as men.

What price equality?

“Women in the party are fuming,” said one Momentum activist who accused the leadership of quietly redefining the meaning of “woman” without consulting the membership.

Good grief.

Posted: 25th, November 2017 | In: Broadsheets, News, Politicians | Comment


Josh Rivers: Gay Times editor’s only crime was to be unfunny

Josh Rivers Gay Times bigot tweets

 

Today’s hate figure is Josh Rovers, editor of Gay Times magazine, now suspended for tweeting things between 2010 and 2015.  Examples of Rivers’ tweets are many. One mocked women and the fat:

“I’ve just seen a girl in the tightest white tank & lord help me if she’s not pregnant, she should be killed. #gross.”

And, of course, there’s always the nastiness about Jews:

josh-rivers-jews are gross

And:

“I wonder if they cast that guy as ‘The Jew’ because of that fucking ridiculously larger honker of a nose. It must be prosthetic. Must be.”

In the Guardian LGBTQ rights campaigner Peter Tatchell is aghast: “His history of grossly offensive tweets is such a letdown. It undermines whatever good he was planning to achieve in the magazine.” Looks like equality rules: LGBT people can be every bit as nasty as the rest of us. Who knew?

Want some more examples of Rivers’ tweets? Of course you do. Here goes:

 

Josh Rivers Gay Times tweets

 

Josh Rivers Gay Times tweets

 

Josh Rivers Gay Times tweets

 

Josh Rivers Gay Times tweets

 

Josh Rivers Gay Times tweets

 

By way of background, it turns out that Rivers is not a person: he’s a walking box-ticking exercise. The Guardian notes that Rivers “is the first BME editor of a gay men’s magazine, and took on the role with a mandate to promote inclusivity and diversity.” And you thought he was just the best person for the job on account of his editing abilities and cutting-edge wit.

Outed and suspended from the post he only got in October, Rivers has issued an apology, the language of which might be a better reason than the lame tweets to dislike him:

 

 

The apology is terrific, isn’t it. It’s not about you, it’s about him. Josh, an arch narcissist, is now on a therapeutic journey, taking “steps” to self-discover a better him, to be the kind of wonderful person he truly is and knows he is. After guffing about “pivoting” and “empowering”, Rivers – he used to work in marketing, natch. – co-opts us all into his ugliness, hoping that “we” can “grow”, “heal” and move “forward”. It’s a journey. Get on the bus. You too, fatso.

But I’ll pass. I’m okay, Josh. You’re the berk, not me, the dick who thought it clever to make jokes about Jews, women, Asians and pretty much anyone not just like you.

Rivers’ sentiments expressed in his tweets are pathetic, puerile and horribly unfunny. He appears to be aiming at waspish humour, a snarky, offensive, live-it-loud gay laugh-in where anything goes. He fails miserably. Josh Rivers is not like his namesake Joan Rivers, the caustic, tough-talking American who wielded a comic stiletto with gusto and precision. Josh’s attempts at humour are every bit as wet as his name suggests. And he’s a fool. Rather than explaining it all as misplaced banter, stupidity, letting off steam and the result of his over-arching vanity, Rivers tells us that the tweets actually explain him, each presenting an insight into his mind. To wit, he was a racist, sexist, anti-Semitic misogynist. Those tweets weren’t just idiotic. They really meant something.

Let’s not trivialise Rivers’ tweets, but remind ourselves that Rivers has committed no crime. He’s apologised and that should be an end to the matter. He can hold the most abhorrent views on Jews, women, Asians and more but if he keeps them to himself, or else voices them to an audience more sympathetic to his prejudices – just as many of us have down in the privacy of our own homes and amongst friends – I’m fine with it. Shocked? Offended? “Oh, grow up!” as the aforesaid Joan advised.

Josh Rivers’ offence wasn’t to hold childish and nasty views; it was to voice them in the wrong context. Now, back to work. But time for a quick survey: anyone out there actually read Gay Times?

Posted: 16th, November 2017 | In: Key Posts, News | Comment


Everyday censorship: Ta-Nehisi Coates says whites can’t sing the n-word in rap songs

 

Can white music fans sing along with rap music when the lyrics include “nigger”, the so-called ‘n-word’? Surely, they should be able to sing what they want to, as should we all. The word is laden with power. But should it only be said and heard in an educational context? Context and intent matter. If the white fan wants to sing along with the pop star they like, then the word is not being used to attack and demean.

But writer Ta-Nehisi Coates thinks otherwise. He says it’s not ok for whites to say certain things whatever the situation. Whites should self-censor, inserting a ‘bleep’ whenever the ‘n-word’ occurs. They can engage with the black musician but only to a point.

When did censorship become the right thing to do?

 

Posted: 14th, November 2017 | In: Celebrities | Comment


Australian government moves to outlaw satire

Juice Media makes “Honest Government Adverts” that lampoon Australian politicians and policies. It’s all a little dystopian – there are videos on dying koalas; mass pollution killing whales; corporate greed; torture – often following adverts for very expensive watches and consumer goods, like Capri Sun, the sugary drink served in a non-recyclable polyester, aluminium and polyethylene carton.

So much for the satire:

 

 

And despite being a lot better mannered than most Australian politicos, the actual Australian government wants to quieten Juice Media’s voice on pain of law. It’s only satire if the Government says it is.

Juice Media tweets:

The Dept of the Prime Minister has received complaints from members of the public raising concerns that the content on this website may be “mistaken for Australian Government material … It would be appreciated if you would ensure that The Juice Media productions do not use the Australian Government logo to avoid The Juice Media productions being mistaken for Australian Government material”.

 

 

 

Electronic Frontier Foundation has more:

The proposed legislation does include an exemption for “conduct engaged in solely for genuine satirical, academic or artistic purposes.” But, as critics have noted, this gives the government leeway to attack satire that it does not consider “genuine.” Similarly, the limitation that conduct be “solely” for the purpose of satire could chill speech. Is a video produced for satirical purposes unprotected because it was also created for the purpose of supporting advertising revenue?

Government lawyers failing to understand satire is hardly unique to Australia. In 2005, a lawyer representing President Bush wrote to The Onion claiming that the satirical site was violating the law with its use of the presidential seal. The Onion responded that it was “inconceivable” that anyone would understand its use of the seal to be anything but parody. The White House wisely elected not to pursue the matter further. If it had, it likely would have lost on First Amendment grounds. Australia, however, does not have a First Amendment (or even a written bill of rights) so civil libertarians there are rightly concerned that the proposed law against impersonation could be used to attack political commentary. We hope the Australian government either kills the bill or amends the law to include both a requirement of intent to deceive and a more robust exemption for satire.

Spotter: Juice Media,

 

Posted: 28th, October 2017 | In: News, Politicians | Comment (1)


Jeremy Corbyn on Clive Lewis: context is no excuse in Britain but anything goes in Iran

Jeremy Corbyn tells the BBC about Clive Lewis, the Labour MP recorded telling a man, “On your knees, bitch“:

“Completely wrong, he should never have said it, completely unacceptable comments. He has apologised, I’ve been in touch with him, he’s been in touch with me to apologise personally to me and it’s a message to everybody that this kind of language is not acceptable in any circumstances, any time.”

Here’s the man who used to work for the Iranian government’s Press TV talking about causing offence. (Corbyn earned £20,000 from Iran’s propaganda broadcaster.

In 2011, Britain’s Ofcom media watchdog fined the company £100,000 for airing an interview with jailed Iranian journalist Maziar Bahari, saying the interview had been held under duress and after torture while Bahari — now a British resident — was in prison following his coverage of the 2009 Iranian presidential elections.)

That’s Iran where they execute you for being gay, deny the Holocaust, persecute Kurds and treat women as second-class citizens:

 

 

It’s all about standards, eh, Jezza. And nothing biased in any of it, of course. This is the same Lewis who said of Corbyn’s old paymasters in Iran: “There are far too many in politics today who wish to criticise only countries that fit into a black and white binary world view.”

Clive Lewis told the Commons on October 11, 2017:

“It was quite shocking to listen to the seemingly inexhaustible list of human rights abuses by Iranian authorities. It was quite numbing to hear them all. I think it is right that we focus on human rights, as that issue has been a central thrust of my very short parliamentary career since being elected two years ago, but I would also like to focus on the fate of journalists, both those working inside Iran and those working remotely from the UK. I declare an interest as a former BBC journalist and the chair of the National Union of Journalists parliamentary committee. I do that for the record to state my solidarity with journalists both in Iran and around the world, who strive to do nothing more than ask questions in an attempt to hold power to account.

“As we know, Iran has elections that many other inhabitants of the middle east can only envy. Here I state a truism, but it is essential that we set it down, that elections are only ever one element of a functioning democracy. A democracy where bloggers and reporters must risk their lives and the well-being of their families in order to comment on the political life of their country cannot be seen as a democracy in the true sense. Democracy is not worth the ballot paper it is printed on without freedom of the press. There is a barrier to informing the electorate, as the press provides feedback to the legislature. The often brutal suppression of those speakers also creates a chilling fear that acts as a cancer on all of those forming opinions and the ability to take action in the public arena.

“As my hon. Friend the Member for Torfaen (Nick Thomas-Symonds) mentioned a constituent of his who has been in prison, I would like to mention three journalists who are being held and are on hunger strike. Soheil Arabi has been in prison since 2013 and has been on hunger strike for over a month. Mehdi Khazali was arrested in August and has been on hunger strike since the day of his arrest. Ehsan Mazandarani was arrested in 2015 and has been denied early release despite very poor health. There are many more prisoners I could mention. Their stories make for chilling reading.

“The long arm of control reaches way beyond Iran and stretches as far as those working in our very own BBC, as the hon. Member for Argyll and Bute (Brendan O’Hara) mentioned. Charges have been filed against almost all the Iranian journalists working for the BBC’s Persian-language service in London; 152 journalists have been charged with conspiracy against Iran’s national security and have faced constant harassment and intimidation and an effective freeze on all their Iran-based assets. Those charged cannot defend themselves unless they return to Iran, which they feel unable to do for fear of reprisal. I beg the Minister to raise these names whenever he meets his Iranian counterparts and to push the issues of journalism, freedom of the press and democracy very clearly, as I know he will.

“To end with a general comment, there are far too many in politics today who wish to criticise only the countries that fit into a very black and white binary world view. I am not one of them. I believe it is entirely possible—nay, essential—to criticise and hold to account Iran just as much as Saudi Arabia for human rights abuses and attacks on civil liberties. The two are not mutually incompatible. The same applies to the US and Russia and the questionable choices those Governments continue to make domestically and internationally. In fact, our hand is strengthened and our criticism is more valid when we show neither fear nor favour to any country or regime, wherever they may be, whether they be friend or ally, when defending human rights and civil liberties.”

Anyone see Corbyn’s ears burning?

Posted: 21st, October 2017 | In: Key Posts, News, Politicians | Comment


Labour MP Clive Lewis: ‘Get on your knees bitch’ (and try to find the shattered remains of my career)

“Get on your knees, bitch,” says Norwich South’s Labour MP Clive Lewis at a do hosted by Momentum. Labour’s Harriet Harman heard that line and tweeted: “Inexplicable. Inexcusable. Dismayed.” The Labour Party says Lewis’s language “was completely unacceptable and falls far short of the standard we expect”.

 

clive lewis bitch

The Right Honourable Clive Lewis

 

It is? Surely it depends who he was saying it to and in what context it was being said? Left-wing pundit Aaron Bastani tweeted: “I was there. The video has been up at @novaramedia for a month – Clive was saying this to a man.”

Does that make it better?

Mr Lewis later tweeted: “I apologise unreservedly for the language I used at an event in Brighton last month. It was offensive and unacceptable.”

 

 

The Sun says Clive Lewis remark to a man “was met with nervous laughter” in the room and “fury” beyond. Hosts “jokily” told the MP: “Please may I remind you that this is meant to be a safe space, thank you.”

Outrage ensues:

Sam Swann, a 28-year-old actor, to whom Lewis addressed his command, says: “He says to me ‘on your knees bitch’ and it is clearly jovial. The whole event was so brilliant for seeing MPs letting their hair down and fucking around with people who support them. I think Clive Lewis is an absolute legend.”

Lewis is, of course, toast – another victim of what happens when you try to police speech and seek offence in dust ion your attempt to turn the world into a safe space. Yeah – he’s been hoisted by Labour’s petard.

Posted: 20th, October 2017 | In: News, Politicians | Comment


Words are bad: Australians warned not to offend weak-minded women at work

The Diversity Council of Australia (DCA) wants to warn you about words. The DCA is an “independent not-for-profit peak body leading diversity and inclusion in the workplace”. The DCA are guns for hire. They will deliver a 2 hour talk at your organisation “by experienced DCA staff and consultants”. Does it cost? Yes:

Fees
$2,500 per session for DCA members.
$3,600 per session for non-members.

For small businesses of – get this – as low as one employer (can you offend yourself?) membership is $1,645 a year.

You will be told that using words like “abo”, “retard”, “poofter”, “fag”, “dyke” and “so gay” can be upsetting. Who knew? Also saying “hi, girl’ or “hi guys” is taboo.

“We want to get people thinking about the language they use in the workplace and whether it’s inclusive or excludes people,”says DCA’s CEO Lisa Annese. She offers an example. “A really good test is reversing the gender,” says Annese. “Would you walk into a mixed gender group and say ‘Hello ladies’ or ‘Hello girls’? No, because men would be offended. I used to use the word guys. I have both genders in my team and I out of respect for everyone, I think it’s much better if I say ‘Hi team’ as it includes everyone. It’s a small change.”

Women are so weak and easily offended that they need protecting from hearing the word “guys”. What an understanding view of women that is. These delicate types need safer spaces to work in. And who hasn’t met a modern Aussie male intimated by being called a ‘lady’? Well done DCA!

And “mum” is out, too. You should also avoid “drudge”, “slave” or “Filipino”, if you work in one of the smarter areas:

 

Posted: 1st, October 2017 | In: Money, News | Comment


If you can pay the fee Facebook will hook you up with ‘Jew haters’

Thanks to ProPublicawe know that you can book adverts on Facebook that target anti-Semites. Most Facebook user of would ignore these ads, of course. Active Nazis are thin on the ground. And as the Jewish joke goes, “If anyone was going to hate us, thank God it’s the Arabs.” But Jew hating is increasingly popular. I am amazed and disappointed that here isn’t more outrage about rising anti-Semitism.

Propublica, whose stated mission is “to expose abuses of power and betrayals of the public trust by government, business, and other institutions, using the moral force of investigative journalism to spur reform through the sustained spotlighting of wrongdoing” has Facebook in its crosshairs.

ProPublica says:

Want to market Nazi memorabilia, or recruit marchers for a far-right rally? Facebook’s self-service ad-buying platform had the right audience for you. Until this week, when we asked Facebook about it, the world’s largest social network enabled advertisers to direct their pitches to the news feeds of almost 2,300 people who expressed interest in the topics of “Jew hater,” “How to burn jews,” or, “History of ‘why jews ruin the world.’”

All this stuff exists offline. And thanks to the internet, readers and collectors of such racist nonsense can be monitored – all 2,300 of them in the gigantic Facebook ecosystem. I’d argue that if Facebook – owned by a Jew – can take their money, then good for them. Free speech and free thought are cornerstones of democracy. If people want to talk about hating Jews and conspiracy theories, let them.

So ProPublica paid £30 for “promoted posts” targeted at those Jew-hating Facebookers.

In all likelihood, the ad categories that we spotted were automatically generated… Facebook’s algorithm automatically transforms people’s declared interests into advertising categories.

Which begs the question: who programmed the computer?

Rob Leathern, product management director at Facebook, has issued the following statement:

We don’t allow hate speech on Facebook. Our community standards strictly prohibit attacking people based on their protected characteristics, including religion, and we prohibit advertisers from discriminating against people based on religion and other attributes. However, there are times where content is surfaced on our platform that violates our standards. In this case, we’ve removed the associated targeting fields in question. We know we have more work to do, so we’re also building new guardrails in our product and review processes to prevent other issues like this from happening in the future.”

Of course, hate speech is free speech. That doesn’t mean you should set out to assault and intimidate people. It means you are free to say what you want and for it to be freely debated in public. Calling something hateful is too-often used to shut down free expression. So what did Facebook do wrong?

Ira Glasser, a former executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union, now president of the board of directors of the Drug Policy Alliance, nails it:

How is ‘hate speech’ defined, and who decides which speech comes within the definition? Mostly, it’s not us. In the 1990s in America, black students favoured ‘hate speech’ bans because they thought it would ban racists from speaking on campuses. But the deciders were white. If the codes the black students wanted had been in force in the 1960s, their most frequent victim would have been Malcolm X. In England, Jewish students supported a ban on racist speech. Later, Zionist speakers were banned on the grounds that Zionism is a form of racism. Speech bans are like poison gas: seems like a good idea when you have your target in sight — but the wind shifts, and blows it back on us.

You want to have official endoresment of what can be said? Surely not.

As for Facebook, well, it’s not a public service. It’s a profit-making company not a moralising force for spiritual salvation.

Posted: 15th, September 2017 | In: Key Posts, News, Technology | Comment


Free speech: Robbie Travers, Esme Allman and the great Macaroon War

We’re all suspects now. What we say is written down on Twitter and Facebook can be used to ridicule and incarcerate us at any time. News reaches us of Robbie Travers, a 21-year-old law student at the Edinburgh university. Travers has 1980s hair and, reportedly, an ongoing investigation for having committed a hate crime.

 

Robbie Travers

Not Carol Decker

 

The 21-year-old third-year student wrote on Facebook post after the US Air Force bombed an ISIS stronghold in Afghanistan in April: “I’m glad we could bring these barbarians a step closer to collecting their 72 virgins.”

The Mail says his fellow student Esme Allman, a second-year history student and the former black and ethnic minority convenor of the university’s students’ association, accused Travers of Islamophobia. Her complaint goes:

“Not only do I believe this behaviour to be in breach of the student code of conduct, but his decision to target the BME Liberation Group at the University of Edinburgh, and how he has chosen to do so, puts minority students at risk and in a state of panic and fear while attending the University of Edinburgh.”

The Sun says her accusation has triggered “outrage”.

Travers adds an update on Facebook:

“Afraid I’ve been a little more quiet as I have been accused of Islamophobia because I mocked ISIS, and I’m being investigated on such a ground by my University. Mocking ISIS allegedly made Islamic and minority students feel ‘threatened’ and ‘unsafe,’ so goes the complainant’s ramblings. Have engaged legal advice to dismiss this nonsense. Wish me luck.”

The Times hears from Travers:

He said: “I am deeply worried that I am being investigated for comments which are expressions of opinion in a jovial way . . . I do not incite the harassment or racist treatment, nor attack anyone with an illegal suggestion or suggest, indeed, that they be deprived of their human rights.”

Allman is quoted further – and for those of you not versed in student speak, this is pretty much what now passes for the norm:

“I value inclusivity as well as building and preserving safe spaces for us. Creating a truly intersectional campaign is incredibly important to me and my first job will be to work alongside the other liberation groups to ensure EUSA are fully representative of our views. Here at Edinburgh I want BME Students to engage in conversations about the issues that affect us.”

The big news is that Robbie Travers is in the news. And he might well like it that way.

 

 

In 2015, he told The Tab:

“I can also talk about football and rugby, if you like. And, sometimes, I just like to go and have a little dance at a party”, he said. “But being a public figure means that people engage with you as a ‘brand’ rather than as a real person”.

Meanwhile…on Twitter Ido Bock – “Writer for the New Statesman, Haaretz, Prospect, CapX” – has some claims regarding Travers’ postings:

 

 

Exciting times on campus, where everyone’s a victim.

Posted: 5th, September 2017 | In: Key Posts, News | Comment


Reclaim the Internet and protecting the dead from online abuse

Twitter can be nasty place, full of angry prudes, prigs, bigots and berks. And then you’ve got the nastier types. The Fawcett Society says Twitter is “failing women” threatened online. The Fawcett Society is, as it says it is, the “UK’s leading charity campaigning for gender equality and women’s rights”. Created in 1866 to campaign for women’s suffrage – from championing equality the group now wants special rules to protect women (facepalm) –  the charity is now looking at free speech and law in partnership with a group called Reclaim the Internet. Which is? Well, it’s mission statement begins: “The internet must be a forum for freedom of speech. But…”

If there’s a ‘but’ there’s no free speech, is there. Yvette Cooper, the Labour MP who set up the organisation that seeks to control what can and cannot be said, might not be able to see the irony of her position, but anyone who values free speech should.

free speech fawcett

This comes after last week’s news that the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) has vowed to “treat online crime as seriously as offline offences”. The CPS will “prosecute complaints of hate crime online with the same robust and proactive approach used with offline offending”.

The Telegraph has more:

The two groups identified 14 cases of threats and abuse against women including the MPs Luciana Berger, Diane Abbott and the late Jo Cox, as well as the campaigner Gina Miller, and reported them to Twitter earlier this month.

Tweets reported by the two groups also included threats of rape as well as images and video of apparently non-consensual sexual acts alongside abusive comments aimed at groups of women including migrants and Muslims.

On Monday night five of the 14 accounts remained active with the tweets in question still on the site, while Twitter had taken up to nine days to suspend the other accounts reported to it…

The offending tweets included a vile slur on the late MP Jo Cox, who was murdered by a constituent in 2016, and racist and misogynistic abuse directed at the shadow home secretary Diane Abbott. Other tweets included a description of raping migrants as “ethnic cleansing”.

Can you sue someone for saying something nasty about a dead person? Seems pretty incredible. Especially given that the prop is that online threats carry the same weight as threats carried out in the real world, where real sticks and stones can break your bones.

It all creates more questions. What’s abusive? Who gets to decide when words are illegal? Is it up to the police and then the CPS to decide? The law is sure to be very busy looking into every tweet someone found beyond the pale and reported? Are there enough resources? And do you want to live in a nation of narks getting off on setting the full weight of law on a fool who made a moronic, challenging or rude comment online?

Might be best to debate all this and more face to face, say in the pub, where notes are not taken and used in evidence against you. Problem is that since our protectors brought in the smoking ban and pubs started to become gastro-led family creches or flats, that option’s not all that attractive. Pub’s are out. Graffiti’s illegal and any conversation could take years. And no-one reads the papers, so letters to the editor are useless. So shouting at pigeons in the precinct it is, then. How’s that for progress?

Posted: 22nd, August 2017 | In: Key Posts, News, Technology | Comment


The greatest free speech sign this century

As seen in Boston, the greatest free speech sign in the age of narcissism, priggishness and intolerance:

 

free speech boston

Posted: 21st, August 2017 | In: Politicians, Reviews | Comment


America’s anti-free speech rally is wholly stupid

To Boston, then, where thousands of well-meaning fools are marching to shut down free speech.

Thousands of counter-protesters crammed Boston Common and marched through city streets on Saturday morning in efforts to drown out the planned “free speech” rally.

The aim was to precent white supremacists from talking.

Blessedly, some people understand how things work:

 

free speech

 

Free speech for Nazis is free speech for anti-Nazis. You cannot have one without the other.

Spotter: Washington Post

 

Posted: 20th, August 2017 | In: News | Comment


Charlottesville: white supremacist rally brings out liberals’ inner Nazi

Peter Cvjetanovic

 

Do you agree that pin-brained loons on the furthest reaches of the far right deserve free speech? Should Nazis get the same freedom of expression as the extreme far Left, the softest liberals, jihadis, Christians and the rest of us? If you answer ‘no’, you’re wrong. They should do.

You don’t earn the right to have an opinion; you have it by hard-won right.

If you ban one group from free thought and free expression you badly damage democracy. Bans on what can and cannot be said stymie progressive thought. Bans on free speech hand sovereign power to the authorities, who can then judge what it is the rest of us get to hear. You want Donald Trump to be charge of what can and cannot be said?

And hands up who wants to read the banned stuff, those words deemed taboo and too potent for your feeble mind to scrutinise with reason and ridicule? Banning it fetishises the thoughts you want destroyed. There are already enough berks jacking off to Nazi memorabilia. No need to encourage them.

On the shrill and wholly intolerant Change.org site, people are being invited to add their name to the petition “Fire & Expel Peter Cvjetanovic”. He’s the gurning loon goon filmed chanting white nationalist slogans during the neo-Nazi rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, where one woman allegedly was murdered. The petition calls for the University of Nevada, where Cvjetanovic studies, to boot him out. The petitioner writes:

We heard your statement about how it is challenging to expel him on legal grounds, but we are asking you to do it for moral reasons based on your school’s code of conduct. And we are asking you to do it because it is the right thing to do. 

Says who? Says you.

What a sad time we’re living in where we have to convince an institution of higher learning to expel a student for marching with the KKK and neo-Nazis.

No. A sad time was when you had to be in the Nazi party to go to college. One cretin giving full throat to his putrid thoughts is not sad for anything but him.

We know Cvjetanovic. Buy who else have the armchair detectives found? The New York Times reports:

After a day of work at the Engineering Research Center at the University of Arkansas, Kyle Quinn had a pleasant Friday night in Bentonville with his wife and a colleague. They explored an art exhibition at the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art and dined at an upscale restaurant.

Then on Saturday, he discovered that social media sleuths had incorrectly identified him as a participant in a white nationalist rally some 1,100 miles away in Charlottesville, Va. Overnight, thousands of strangers across the country had been working together to share photographs of the men bearing Tiki torches on the University of Virginia campus. They wanted to name and shame them to their employers, friends and neighbors. In a few cases, they succeeded.

Mr. Quinn, who runs a laboratory dedicated to wound-healing research, was quickly flooded with vulgar messages on Twitter and Instagram, he said in an interview on Monday. Countless people he had never met demanded he lose his job, accused him of racism and posted his home address on social networks…

“You have celebrities and hundreds of people doing no research online, not checking facts,” he said. 

Celebs like Jennifer Lawrence, who told her Facbeook followers:

“These are the faces of hate. Look closely and post anyone you find. You can’t hide with the internet you pathetic cowards!”As Twitchy notes, 

Say the wrong thing and the enlightened with pick up their torches, track down people and threaten’ them. Nice. As Reason states: “‘No Free Speech for Fascists’ Is a Truly Terrible Idea: The ACLU is right: Do you really want Donald Trump deciding who gets free speech?”

Greenwald gets it:

Last week, the ACLU sparked controversy when it announced that it was defending the free speech rights of alt-right activist Milo Yiannopoulos after the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority refused to allow ads for his book to be displayed on public transit. Lost in the debate was that other groups the ACLU was defending along with Yiannopoulos were also censored under the same rule: Carafem, which helps women access birth control and medication abortion; the animal rights group PETA; and the ACLU itself.

For representing Yiannopoulos, the civil liberties group was widely accused of defending and enabling fascism. But the ACLU wasn’t “defending Yiannopoulos” as much as it was opposing a rule that allows state censorship of any controversial political messages the state wishes to suppress: a rule that is often applied to groups which are supported by many who attacked the ACLU here.

The same formula was applied yesterday when people learned that the ACLU of Virginia had represented the white supremacist protesters in Charlottesville after city officials tried to ban the group from gathering in Emancipation Park where a statue of Robert E. Lee was to be removed.

Free speech for all, then. No buts. Karl R. Popper explains further in The Open Society and Its Enemies:

The so-called paradox of freedom is the argument that freedom in the sense of absence of any constraining control must lead to very great restraint, since it makes the bully free to enslave the meek. The idea is, in a slightly different form, and with very different tendency, clearly expressed in Plato.

Freedom from; or freedom to?

Less well known is the paradox of tolerance: Unlimited tolerance must lead to the disappearance of tolerance. If we extend unlimited tolerance even to those who are intolerant, if we are not prepared to defend a tolerant society against the onslaught of the intolerant, then the tolerant will be destroyed, and tolerance with them. — In this formulation, I do not imply, for instance, that we should always suppress the utterance of intolerant philosophies; as long as we can counter them by rational argument and keep them in check by public opinion, suppression would certainly be unwise. But we should claim the right to suppress them if necessary even by force; for it may easily turn out that they are not prepared to meet us on the level of rational argument, but begin by denouncing all argument; they may forbid their followers to listen to rational argument, because it is deceptive, and teach them to answer arguments by the use of their fists or pistols. We should therefore claim, in the name of tolerance, the right not to tolerate the intolerant. We should claim that any movement preaching intolerance places itself outside the law, and we should consider incitement to intolerance and persecution as criminal, in the same way as we should consider incitement to murder, or to kidnapping, or to the revival of the slave trade, as criminal.”

In short: don’t be a Nazi.

Posted: 16th, August 2017 | In: Key Posts, News | Comment


Lena Dunham and the Twitter narks are coming for you

Anyone hankering for Ostalgie (nostalgia for East German life behind the Berlin Wall) should know that elements of American society are sympathetic to your mood. Ersatz liberals are operating a sinister and tentacular network of volunteer narks who will grass you up for failing to adhere to ‘right’ thinking. Their preferred medium is twitter, over which wrong thinkers will be publicly shamed. If all goes well, the enemy will be interrogated by their employee before dismissal, shunned by their friends and ostracised by decent, tolerant society.

Last week, actress Lena Dunham was on surveillance at a US airport. She picked up two flight attendants engaging in what she termed “transphobic talk”. Swiftly she hopped on Twitter’s spite hotline and grassed: “Not gonna call out the airline who delayed cuz shit happens BUT I did just overhear 2 @AmericanAir attendants having a transphobic talk.”

American Airlines got in touch with Dunham. No, not to condemn her as an insidious voyeur for spying on two working stiffs having a private conversation, but to seek help in fingering the miscreants. Dunham provided details of the conversation and directions as to how the Untermensch could be found.

“I heard two female attendants walking talking about how trans kids are a trend, they’d never accept a trans child and transness is gross,” said Dunham to American Airlines. “I think it reflects badly on uniformed employees of your company to have that kind of dialogue going on. What if a trans teen was walking behind them? Awareness starts at home but jobs can set standards of practice. Thanks for your consideration!”

 

 

lena dunham trans nark A

 

 

Ella Whelan notes:

Dunham’s latest attempt to call out prejudice reveals her own prejudice. She felt comfortable ratting out workers to their boss because left-liberals like her no longer have any interest in expressing solidarity with working people. They also have no interest in free speech. The idea that your employer should punish you for what you say and believe is apparently fine. As a result of the impact of Dunham’s tweet, it wouldn’t be surprising if the two American Airlines attendants soon found themselves out of work.

This is how low the PC brigade will stoop to pose as good and decent. All Dunham’s tweet achieved was to prove that she was a self-righteous eavesdropper. She even tweeted a warning to other employees who might dare to have a political opinion different to hers: ‘Headed back to the airport and I guess my biggest hope is that people will keep it cute. But if they don’t YOU WILL KNOW.’ Beware the PC police – they will try to get you fired if they disagree with you.

Thankfully, no “uniformed” worker was doxxed or sacked. “We always look into complaints from customers, but at this time, we are unable to substantiate these allegations,” American Airlines told Fox News“From the team members we hire to the customers we serve, inclusion and diversity is a way of life at American Airlines. Every day, our team members work to make American a place where people of all generations, races, ethnicities, genders, sexual orientations, religious affiliations and backgrounds feel welcome and valued.”

Win-win, then. The airline got to showcase its sound moral credentials. The minted celebrity got to look good and teach the lesser beings a lesson. And the somewhere in East Germany a man ran his hand over his pliers and dared to dream of a return to the good old days when everyone agreed on everything.

Posted: 11th, August 2017 | In: Celebrities, Key Posts, News | Comment


Norwegian news site blocks readers who don’t understand the story before commenting

NRK comments vetting

 

Anyone visiting the website of Norway’s NRK website is asked to take a quiz if they want to comment on a story. The idea is to ensure that everyone about to comment understands the story, which is, of course, factually accurate and not in the least bit biased.

Readers are faced with three questions. Get them all right and you can post a comment. Get just one wrong, and you are banned.

“We thought we should do our part to try and make sure that people are on the same page before they comment,” journalist Ståle Grut tells Nieman Lab. “If everyone can agree that this is what the article says, then they have a much better basis for commenting on it.”

“If you spend 15 seconds on it, those are maybe 15 seconds that take the edge off the rant mode when people are commenting,” said Marius Arnesen, editor of NKRbeta.

While many outlets have gotten rid of comments and outsourced reader conversations to platforms such as Facebook, others like NRKbeta are working to improve on-site conversations.

Last week, Google parent company Alphabet announced that it was working with The New York Times, The Economist, The Guardian, and Wikipedia to test a new tool called Perspective that uses machine learning to identify “toxic” comments, which it defines as “rude, disrespectful, or unreasonable comment that is likely to make you leave a discussion.”

Machine learning v human speech and interaction. Only one winner there. Can we agree to just let the bots and SEO wonks take over the Internet and the rest of us go down the pub?

 

Posted: 2nd, August 2017 | In: News, Technology | Comment


Reject new trolling laws: free speech means being free to lampoon and abuse MPs

British politicians have been subjected to a wave “of racism, sexism and homophobia” on social media, spiking during the General Election. Not all of it is satirical lampooning of our elected and unelected representatives. A fair amount of it is cruel and vindictive. But – yep, there’s the ‘but’ – so what? If you trammel what can and cannot be said to an MP, you have lost an essential part of democracy.

Tory MP Simon Hart said things have taken a turn for the worse. The “robust banter followed by a shake of the hand and a pint in the pub” of past campaigns has mutated into ‘”death threats, criminal damage, sexism, racism, homophobia, anti-Semitism and general thuggishness”. Was none of that there before? And can the downturn in pubic discourse be linked to the death of pubs, hastened by the smoking ban and tax on booze? The problem is not one of less pubs, of course, but more internet, which has given voice not only to the oppressed and isolated but also to the bigots, prudes, nutters, mentally negligible and mouth breathers.

So Theresa May PM has ordered the Committee on Standards in Public Life to investigate whether existing laws governing threats against MPs are enough. The mood is that new laws are required to keep MPs protected and the less attractive elements of the demos at bay. The Independent says the MPs are looking at “online trolling laws”.

Diane Abbott, the shadow home secretary, had a word on her own experiences. “We are talking about mindless abuse and in my case the mindless abuse has been characteristically racist and sexist,” she said. “And just to outline I’ve had death threats, I’ve had people tweeting that I should be hung if ‘they could find a tree big enough to take the fat bitch’s weight’. There was an EDL-affiliated Twitter account BurnDianeAbbott, I’ve had rape threats, described as a pathetic, useless, fat, black, piece of shit, ugly, fat, black bitch.”

Nasty. But is being “pathetic” the same as being threatened with rape? Can mindlessness be banned? What about the figures?

Research undertaken by Buzzfeed News and the University of Sheffield looked at 840,000 tweets sent during the month before June 8.

It found that male Conservative MP candidates received the highest percentage of abuse on Twitter while male Ukip candidates were second with just over four per cent of their mentions deemed to be abusive.

Male Labour candidates were next with just under four per cent while female Conservative candidates were also on about four per cent.

Meanwhile, just over two per cent of female Labour candidate mentions were abusive.

What’s considered abusive?

 

Moron. Twat. Coward. Should such words be banned? Of course not. A new law that protects politicians from being hailed by such words – a law that criminalises us from using them when addressing one of our elected reps – is abhorrent.

In 1964, the US Supreme Court ruled that “debate on public issues should be uninhibited, robust, and wide-open, and that it may well include vehement, caustic, and sometimes unpleasantly sharp attacks on government and public officials.”

Well said.

Freedom of speech is, as AA Gill noted, “what all other human rights and freedoms balance on.” Don’t let them or anyone own it.

 

Posted: 27th, July 2017 | In: Key Posts, News, Politicians | Comment


After Finsbury Park the police attack free speech

The tally of people arrested after a man drove a van into a group of Muslim worshippers outside Finsbury Park Mosque is two. Darren Osborne has been arrested on suspicion of the commission, preparation and instigation of terrorism, attempted murder and murder. The second man is Richard Evans, aka the self-styled ‘Richard Gear Evans’, who when not making bad puns is allegedly posting vile messages on Facebook. Evans, reportedly the owner’s son of the hire firm whose vehicle was used in the attack, has been pinched for writing things.

“Glad I’m not running the van hire,” he allegedly wrote on Facebook. “The police wouldn’t like what my answer would be. It’s my dad’s company I don’t get involved it’s a shame they don’t hire out steam rollers or tanks could have done a tidy job then.”

Idiotic? Yes. Horrible? Yes. Illegal? Surely not. But it might well be because Evans has been arrested on suspicion of displaying threatening, abusive, insulting written material with intent that is likely to stir up racial hatred”. Did you read that and think: “I never thought about it before but now it makes perfect sense. Evans writes so persuasively and with such rare eloquence. I’m in. I’m going to hire a tank and murder innocent people. I think I’ll go and do it.”

The police think you might have read it and become radicalised. They’re not taking any chances.

Trouble is that the kind of person who doesn’t like Muslims will feel that their views have been martyred. They are unlikely to reconsider their monocular view when it’s outlawed. They will most likely feel repressed, right and aggrieved. Which makes us wonder what the point of nicking him is?

The case has echoes of the treatment dished out to Samina Malik, from Southall, west London. She was found guilty at the Old Bailey of owning terrorist manuals – or reading, as we like to call it (The Mujaheddin Poisoner’s Handbook, Encyclopaedia Jihad, How To Win In Hand To Hand Combat, and How To Make Bombsand Sniper Manual) . She called herself the Lyrical Terrorist “because it sounded cool”. In her work The Living Martyrs she wrote: “Let us make Jihad/ Move to the front line/ To chop chop head of kuffar swine“. A second poem was called How to Behead. “It’s not as messy or as hard as some may think/ It’s all about the flow of the wrist,” she rapped. For that Malik was sentenced to nine months in prison, suspended for 18 months. She appealed and won.

And it all leads to a key point about what it is to be human and be able to speak your mind, which vitally includes saying what you hate. Hate is active, angry and makes you do things. Most often it makes things better. If you hate Nazis, you fight them. If you hate the sound of nails down a blackboard, you invent projectors and marker pens. If you hate living in a poor country infested by corruption, you work hard to live in a better one and expose the rotten core.

Am I hateful for sticking up for hate? You hate that that I am, don’t you. You don’t? Oh, I see, you just want a quiet life of conformity and agreeing with whatever the latest law decrees. You don’t want to cause offence. Well, that’s fine so long as you never want to prove anything, challenge the status quo and win.

Richard Evans allegedly says hideous things. But what’s much worse that hate is to cut out tongues and let the nastiness fester unchallenged by reason.

 

Posted: 24th, June 2017 | In: News | Comment


After London Bridge and Manchester: Douglas Adams was right about the internet

After London Bridge, the news is that there will be crackdown on the internet. Freedom of speech must be curtailed. Encryption must be done away with.

Author Douglas Adams go it. In 1999 he wrote:

 

Douglas Adam London terror

 

“I don’t think anybody would argue now that the Internet isn’t becoming a major factor in our lives. However, it’s very new to us. Newsreaders still feel it is worth a special and rather worrying mention if, for instance, a crime was planned by people ‘over the Internet’. They don’t bother to mention when criminals use the telephone or the M4, or discuss their dastardly plans ‘over a cup of tea’, though each of these was new and controversial in their day.”

Agreed.

 

Posted: 4th, June 2017 | In: Celebrities, Key Posts, Reviews, Technology | Comment


Manchester, Morrissey and an emotionless suicide

Manchester native Morrissey has shared his view on the slaughter in his home city. Twenty-two people went to a pop concert and didn’t come home. Many more are very badly injured. All around us we are told not to hate, to watch our words and police our thoughts. But if we can’t rage when our children are murdered, when can we get angry? If we can’t howl and surge with anger’s raw energy, we might as well give up. Are you outraged that innocent children excitedly leaving a fun concert were slaughtered? You are. I can tell. You’re breathing.

 

 

Morrissey speaks for many when he writes on Facebook:

Celebrating my birthday in Manchester as news of the Manchester Arena bomb broke. The anger is monumental.

For what reason will this ever stop?

Theresa May says such attacks “will not break us”, but her own life is lived in a bullet-proof bubble, and she evidently does not need to identify any young people today in Manchester morgues. Also, “will not break us” means that the tragedy will not break her, or her policies on immigration. The young people of Manchester are already broken – thanks all the same, Theresa. Sadiq Khan says “London is united with Manchester”, but he does not condemn Islamic State – who have claimed responsibility for the bomb. The Queen receives absurd praise for her ‘strong words’ against the attack, yet she does not cancel today’s garden party at Buckingham Palace – for which no criticism is allowed in the Britain of free press. Manchester mayor Andy Burnham says the attack is the work of an “extremist”. An extreme what? An extreme rabbit?

In modern Britain everyone seems petrified to officially say what we all say in private. Politicians tell us they are unafraid, but they are never the victims. How easy to be unafraid when one is protected from the line of fire. The people have no such protections.
Morrissey
23 May 2017.

Agree. Agree?

The Guardian does not agree. It calls Morrissey “controversial”. The best poetry and music from Manchester often is. The Guardian has previously praised Morrissey for his “barbed repartee” that made watching his shows one of the paper’s top things to do over Christmas. Bring the family. Morrissey is right-on.

But today Morrissey is on the wrong side. Calling him controversial is not meant as a compliment. His words have offended. The paper unpacks his open letter to prove it false. The Guardian says MPs are not safe. Morrissey is wrong. We read: “The MP Jo Cox was murdered by a rightwing extremist last June.” The murder of Jo Cox, a respected and committed MP engaging with the people she represented, was abhorrent. But is it right to use her death to stymie debate and free speech?

 

jo cox brexit mirror

 

Jo Cox was murdered by a depraved killer, whose motives were swiftly co-opted to further the Remain side of the Brexit debate (Jo Cox was for staying in the EU; her killer was against everything she stood for). The message was clear: a vote for Brexit was to align yourself with a maniac. A vote for Brexit was to show a cruel disrespect to the memory of Jo Cox.

Writing in the Remain-campaigning Guardian, Polly Tonybee laid it on thick. Beneath the headline “The mood is ugly”, she wrote:

This attack on a public official cannot be viewed in isolation…

It’s been part of a noxious brew, with a dangerous anti-politics and anti-MP stereotypes fomented by leave and their media backers mixed in…

Rude, crude, Nazi-style extremism is mercifully rare. But the leavers have lifted several stones.

So much for debate. Leave voters were insects.

Moving on from Jo Cox – and letting her rest in peace until they need her to endorse another cause – the Guardian continues to study Morrissey:

Morrissey cited government immigration policy among his complaints saying the prime minister would never change her immigration policy in the light of the attacks. It is believed that the bomber named by police, Salman Abedi, was British-born and from Manchester.

The coward’s parents – it is to be believed – are from Libya. Is that relevant? Surely it’s worth mentioning. Or is the conversation now – and I’ll borrow from Tonybee’s lexicon of enlightenment – so “noxious” that to talk of immigration, to even mention the word, cloaks the speaker’s argument in a black shirt? That question is to everyone –  not just sub-human pests who creep and crawl.

The paper also says:

He also appeared to suggest that a desire to adhere to “political correctness” was behind politicians’ unwillingness to specify that the attack was the work of an Islamist extremist, rather than simply an extremist. The same claim is often made by people on the far-right.

Talk of immigration and you’re a neo-Nazi. You’re a race riot in waiting. So shut up. Go on Twitter and state how the perverted actions of people who destroy children at a pop concert will not bow us and change our liberal, diverse and raucous way of life. But hold your tongue. Free speech is only worth championing if you agree on what is right and proper conversation. Get an official T-shirt. Light a torch. Be in agreement. Keep in step. Stick to the party line. Don’t be a Nazi. The irony is sharp.

One music site manages to go a step further and link everything “stupid” Morrissey said to – yep – Brexit:

Morrissey has had a long history of saying more-than-questionable things about immigration in Britain, and last year called the Brexit decision “magnificent.”

It was. Brexit was a triumph of democracy. It wasn’t a victory for Nigel Farage’s narrow views, monoculture and racism. The collapsing UKIP vote tells us that. Brexit was when the ignored, abused, patronised, without, forgotten and belittled took their chance to vote for change. And if you don’t like it, you can vote for the LibDems in June’s General Election and ensure that the party now operating as a focus group gets into power and holds another referendum. In a free country, you get a free vote. (If you vote LibDem you can keep voting until you give them the ‘right’ answer.)

You can question. You can debate. And just as you can challenge the orthodoxy on the EU, pick the clothes you wear, who you fancy, what music you listen to and sing along to Ariana Grande as she makes your heart throb – and there she is live on stage before your very eyes, the singer you’ve duetted with in the car on the way to school – you are also free to look at the dead children’s faces on the telly and in the newspapers, feel your eyes moisten and your throat tighten as you consider their stories, the horror of their deaths and the hollowed out lives of their loved ones robbed of the most precious of all things; you can consider the people raped of so much joy, light and life; and wonder why it happened and what can be done to end it. And if you value freedom, and consider humanity robust and truth-seeking, you can wonder aloud. To do anything less is to live in fear.

 

Posted: 24th, May 2017 | In: Key Posts, News, Reviews | Comment