Tuesday, February 07, 2006


Sometimes I get the eerie feeling that Britain is being governed according to the Paris Hilton school of political science. When asked if any articles about her had appeared in the UK, Hilton replied no, but there had been some in London. When told that London is in the UK, she answered, "Whatever. UK. Right." Tony Blair couldn't have put it any better himself.

Unlike his long line of predecessors, Blair is curiously uninterested in the history and traditions of the countries which make up the United Kingdom and the historical development of laws, including the freedom of speech and thought that the British have enjoyed -- in sharp contrast to citizens of European countries -- for 800 years. Sometimes he seems to be barely aware of the nature of the people he is governing and anyway, the past is another country. Enjoying far greater power than the President of the United States, Blair has, in the words of conservative columnist Melanie Phillips, "ripped the heart out of the . British constitution" and "has behaved like a constitutional vandal, fragmenting the United Kingdom and destroying the independence of the second chamber."

Most alarming is the New Labour focus on controlling not only speech, but thought. Political correctness is thought-control under a less threatening name, and The Times of London's Europe correspondent Anthony Browne has described the descent into a Kafkaesque world in his new pamphlet, The Retreat of Reason, published by conservative think tank Civitas. He demonstrates that the new ideology has effectively stifled public debate on topics the government doesn't want discussed. He adds that throughout all levels of government now, "there is an intellectually dishonest response by people who preferred political correctness over factual correctness".

He cites, among other examples, the explosion of HIV infection in Britain. The politically correct response is, "too many teenagers are indulging in unprotected sex", which, as we know, won't stand up to scientific scrutiny, but never mind. The factual response is, "immigration from Africa". With regard to the rise in anti-Semitic attacks, Brown cites the politically correct response of "gangs of white skinheads". The factually correct response is "Muslim youths".

Perhaps most disturbing is: this school of political correctness and to the devil with the facts has seeped through Britain's police departments where it has been adopted with enthusiasm. A woman by the name of Lynette Burrows, who is a kind of family values campaigner, took part in a BBC radio discussion panel about Britain's new civil partnerships Act that allows gays to enjoy the same legal rights as married people. Burrows does not appear to be opposed to the Act, but the mother of six doesn't think gay men should be allowed to adopt boys. She said that placing a boy with two homosexual men would offer the same risk as placing a little girl with two straight men who shared a house. Her comments were mild and not hostile to homosexuals.

A keen member of the public called the police and the police contacted Burrows saying "a homophobic incident" had been reported against her. As recently as five or six years ago, the response of the police to such a caller would have been, "Well, it's a free country. The lady can hold any views she likes and can say them to whoever she likes." Not any more. According to The Daily Telegraph, a spokesman for the Fulham police said, "It is standard practice for all parties to be spoken to, even if the incident is not strictly seen as a crime. It is all about reassuring the community. We can confirm that a member of the public brought to our attention an incident, which he believed to be homophobic. "All parties have been spoken to by the police. No allegation of crime has been made. A report has been taken but is now closed."

A report has been taken? He said it was policy for "community safety units" (isn't an entire police department a community safety unit?) to investigate "homophobic, domestic and racist incidents" because these were "priority crimes". I have no doubt that with the burgeoning violence on the streets, daylight muggings, burglaries with violence, drive-by shootings and a soaring murder rate, the British would prefer real crimes be given "priority" status. Meanwhile, Burrows has commented, "They were leaning on me, letting me know that the police had an interest in my views. I think it is sinister." Indeed.

Next, we come to public enemies: 73-year-old Joe Roberts and his wife Helen, 68, who complained when they saw a table in their local council office displaying homosexual literature. Mr. and Mrs. Roberts were of the opinion that taxpayer-funded premises and employees should not be used for promoting lifestyle issues and called to complain, as is their right. The council reacted negatively, whereupon the pair asked whether they could at least display some Christian literature on the same table. Permission was refused on the grounds that it might give offence to the gay community. Mr. Roberts hit back with along the lines of "Well, what if I'm offended by homosexuality?" The phone call ended and that should have been the end of the angry exchange. Mr. Roberts had issued no threats and had simply expressed an opinion that might not be uncommon among his age group. He wasn't advocating violence or discrimination against gays. It was a harmless complaint to his local town hall. But in today's Britain, the holding of unfashionable, or outdated, views is not only not tolerated, but is subject to police scrutiny.

The next day, two police officers came to call on the elderly couple and spent over an hour grilling them about the 10-minute phone call. The officers told the pair that they were "walking on eggshells". The Robertses were left with the impression that repeating their request to the council could lead to their being charged with a crime.

National British columnist Peter Hitchens, writing in the conservative Daily Mail, argues that British police officers now "have been carefully and systematically trained in the [Orwellian] Newspeak of the New Left." He writes that he has been shown a document that is used to train officers in "community awareness" and that "it smacks of the re-education camp and the thought police."

"Land of hope and glory, mother of the free"? I think not.



Critics of the Government's Racial and Religious Hatred Bill have hailed the amendments passed by rebel MPs as a "triumph" for freedom of expression. That is a strange way to describe the passage of yet another law limiting free speech. There are already, one study claims, almost 50 statutes curbing the freedom to say what you believe. Now we have one more. The amendments reduced the scope of the Bill, for example limiting the offence to "threatening" rather than including "abusive or insulting" words. But even if no case is ever brought under this mess of a law, it reinforces the idea that there is too much freedom to speak.

So what's to celebrate? Many of those who wanted the Bill amended seemed not to champion free speech, so much as "Me! Me! Me! speech". What they were demanding was less the right to free expression than protection for their own privileged self-expression.

Why were the Rev Ian Paisley and evangelical Christian groups - not always thought of as champions of civil liberties - such prominent opponents? They sought to defend their freedom to insist that there is one true God and to call Muhammad's marriage to a child immoral. Fair enough. But it is hard to imagine them fighting for the freedom of their critics. Indeed, their complaint was that that proposed law would not have banned the "blasphemous" Jerry Springer - the Opera.

Artists and writers were understandably in the forefront of the opposition. Yet many seemed concerned to protect their own freedom to produce offensive books or plays, not the right of others to offend their sensibilities. One author, while hailing offensive art as "exhilarating", also worried about the impact on "less rational people" of offensive ideas from the political platform or the pulpit. Those who asked that we look at the law from the comedian's point of view presumably did not have in mind Bernard Manning or even Jimmy Carr, the TV comic condemned for cracking gags about gypsies. Nor have many of these champions of artistic freedom defended Jamaican reggae artists censored for anti-gay lyrics.

The Muslim leaders who wrote to The Times demanding their freedom to hate homosexuality while supporting the proposed ban on religious hatred revealed a similarly one-eyed attitude towards free speech. The competing proponents of "me speech" all tend to portray themselves as potential victims, in need of special protection from the law or their opponents. Thus humanists got the new laws extended to protect "religious belief or lack of religious belief". Many on both sides also seem to share a deep fear of the allegedly irrational mob, whom they imagine as a pogrom waiting to happen.

Call me a free-speech fundamentalist, but I agree with George Orwell that the only ideas that really need defending against informal or formal censorship are those seen as outlandish, extreme or offensive. It is by defending free speech for "them" that we uphold our right to free thinking - the freedom to hear and judge every idea for ourselves, and to revile, ridicule or ignore it as we see fit, rather than being denied that opportunity by our not-in-front-of-the-children culture. As Orwell pointed out, quoting Rosa Luxemburg, the German revolutionary, freedom must mean "freedom for the other fellow", not just free speech for me, me, me.



The only people arrested during the demonstrations appear to have been non-Muslims! As far as the hate-filled Muslims are concerned, only vague promises of later investigations could be extracted from the police

The Conservatives last night called on the police to arrest militant Muslims who threatened Westerners with violence during protests in London over newspaper cartoons that mocked the Prophet Mohammed. As fanatics - some dressed as suicide bombers - staged more protests yesterday, David Davis, the shadow home secretary, said the police should take action against what were clearly offences of incitement to murder. At the height of the protests on Friday demonstrators chanted slogans threatening more London bombings, praising the "magnificent" 9/11 hijackers and waving placards saying "Massacre those who insult Islam", "Europe you will pay" and "Europe you'll come crawling when Mujahideen come roaring".

Mr Davis said last night: "Clearly some of these placards are incitement to violence and, indeed, incitement to murder - an extremely serious offence which the police must deal with and deal with quickly. "Whatever your views on these cartoons, we have a tradition of freedom of speech in this country which has to be protected. Certainly there can be no tolerance of incitement to murder."

Scotland Yard said a decision not to arrest protesters was taken because of public order fears. It confirmed that police had received more than 100 complaints from the public about the protesters' behaviour.

On Friday 500 demonstrators marched from Regent's Park Mosque to the Danish embassy in Knightsbridge to protest at the publication of "blasphemous" cartoons in a Danish newspaper, and subsequently in other countries and on the BBC. Yesterday, more than 1,000 demonstrators staged a second protest outside the embassy. The only arrests made were of two men found carrying cartoons of Mohammed. Police said they had been detained "to prevent a breach of the peace". On Friday police provided a motorcycle and helicopter escort for the protesters. Video cameras recorded the events.

The Tory call for action is in stark contrast to the response from Jack Straw, the Foreign Secretary, who blamed foreign newspapers for stirring up the row by publishing the cartoons. He said: "Re-publication of the cartoons has been unnecessary, it has been insensitive, it has been disrespectful and it has been wrong." But the Tories defended the right of editors to publish them. Dominic Grieve, the shadow attorney general, said: "From what we know about the cartoons it is understandable that they have caused offence. "However, the decision as to whether to publish or not is one of taste and decency that should rightly be taken by newspaper editors, broadcasters and their owners and is not one for government....

As the clamour for action grew, police sources said there were no arrests on Friday because of fears of a riot. A senior Scotland Yard officer said: "We have to take the overall nature of the protesters into account. If they are overheated and emotional we don't go in.....

More here


But you can laugh at anything "Rednecks" or Christians or conservatives do of course. Post lifted from Byron Crawford. Note that the post includes a link to the pictures concerned

The true story behind Ghetto Promgate '06
I can't bring myself to watch any of the cable channels that feature sports programming, but I would imagine that this story has been making the rounds. As mentioned in the previous post, there was a story about it in the Sports section of the New York Times. I first noticed it last night via a link to my site from the infamous Free Republic.

In case you haven't heard, Eric Govan, a public relations manager for the Golden State Warriors was fired yesterday for sending out a racially insensitive email titled "Ghetto Prom."

The Sports Section of Record sayeth:
Eric Govan, the No. 3 person on the Warriors' media relations staff, sent the e-mail featuring 17 photos, many depicting scantily clad black people in formal attire and commentary on the outfits. The e-mail went to dozens of newspaper reporters, columnists and sports editors, as well as television and radio stations.
Supposedly, he only meant to send the email - a forwarded message - to his wife, but somehow he pressed the wrong button or some shit. He quickly fired off an apology email.

Again, the LJR media:
''You just received a previous forwarded e-mail titled 'Ghetto Prom' that was sent accidentally,'' Govan wrote. ''I assure you that this is totally out of character for myself and want to apologize to anyone who might be offended. My sincere apologies. This won't happen again and shouldn't have happened this time.''
But alas the damage had been done; the story was out, homeboy was fired, and my site began to receive a torrent of visitors looking for said ghetto prom pictures. Because I guess no real media organizations saw fit to run them along with the story.

Here's the thing: I haven't seen the actual email myself, but I'm assuming - though there are a few different sets of ghetto prom pictures floating around the 'Nets - that these are the same pictures I ran on this site going on a year ago.

How do I know this? The email I got the pictures from, which was sent to me by my mother, had 17 pictures in it, just like the email in question. My post featured 16 of the 17 pictures - I didn't post the very last one, titled "ghettoes," here because it was a picture of a woman with really long toenails, and it made me gag to look at it.

So fine, you're saying, you once got the same email this jagoff got. As some unfortunate black youth in the comments of the previous post wisely pointed out, that email obviously circulated quite a bit in the past year. Indeed, I'll admit that I didn't personally travel to Appalachia with a .... digital camera and take these pictures.

There, I said it. The cat's out the bag. Also, not to further ruin the effect for those of you at home reading this, but I'm not actually inside your computer. I know, I know... that's the magic of the Internet, or - as it was called in '96 - "the information superhighway."

But then the Times story mentioned something about commentary on the outfits.

I didn't seem to recall there being any commentary attached to the pictures when I received them. After all, anyone who's taken a stroll through the blogosphere lately would know that any mouthbreather with a functioning PC can post pictures of things, sans any useful context.

So I went and dug up the original email. Lo and behold, there was no commentary along with these pictures. I'm assuming, then, that it was my comments (as featured at some point or another on roughly every third site on the Internets) that were included in this email.

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