Sunday, September 02, 2007

Another BBC sneer at patriotism

A BBC series on British cinema which has been criticised for its “sneery” and “witless” commentary is accused of reaching a new low tonight with an insult to the memory of Douglas Bader.

Group Captain Bader performed heroics as a fighter pilot in the Battle of Britain, despite having both his legs amputated after a 1931 flying crash. An instalment of British Film Forever dedicated to war movies discusses Reach for the Sky, the 1956 Bader biopic starring Kenneth More. The voiceover, read by the comedy actress Jessica Hynes, says: “Viewers of this film might’ve thought they were having their legs pulled.”

Alison Graham, TV editor of Radio Times, said: “It purports to be a serious look at British war films, yet only British Film Forever would come up with that throwaway remark. I wonder who exactly this witless commentary is aimed at?”

The critics hope that the BBC will reedit tonight’s episode to remove the Bader remark, which appears designed to offend the audience most likely to tune in for a 95-minute special on British war films.


Multiculturalism trumps feminism

Academia's fixation on cultural sensitivity is changing the debate around female genital mutilation, with a growing number of professors and women's rights activists becoming hesitant to condemn the practice. Where feminists rallied against the operation from the pages of Ms. magazine in the 1970s, today's critics are infinitely more cautious, with most suggesting that the Western world butt out until Muslim African communities are ready to reconsider what they are doing to their daughters.

The shift in attitudes about the practice-- which in the worst of cases involves the carving out of a woman's clitoris and inner labia and can cause lifelong urinary tract infections, sterility and even death -- comes at a time when high-profile victims of the operation such as writer Ayaan Hirsi Ali and model Waris Dirie, both Somalis, have launched very public campaigns against the practice.

The issue is so explosive, it has two names -- female genital mutilation, or FGM, to those most vociferously opposed to the practice; and female genital cutting, or FGC, to those in the less-condemning camp. The latter includes the chair of anthropology at the University of Toronto, who has written a new book on the subject. Although not prepared to defend what she calls FGC, Janice Boddy defends women who undergo the operation and want the practice to continue in future generations. "There are good reasons within the society for the operation to continue, but these are cultural reasons. They are not scientific ones," says Prof. Boddy, author of Civilizing Women: British Crusades in Colonial Sudan.

Working through British and Sudanese archives, she looks at the history of FGC in that country, particularly European colonial interactions with the practice, from British nurses attempting to re-educate Sudanese midwives in the 1920s, to the country's outlawing of the practice in 1946 amid Western pressure. "It isn't a happy situation by any means. I wouldn't want it to continue. But I think that up until this point, the West has not been particularly helpful in the way that it's gone about trying to assist in the eradication," Prof. Boddy says. [Look in the mirror, Prof. Boddy]


A Strange Way to Woo Religious Voters

The Democratic Party has undertaken an ostentatious outreach to religious voters, creating a Faith Advisory Council and cultivating clergy around the country. But these efforts might be more credible if Democrats were not simultaneously trying to incite conflict between Roman Catholics and Protestants in Louisiana -- and managing to offend both groups in the process. According to a recent television ad run by the Louisiana Democratic Party, the leading Republican candidate for governor, Bobby Jindal, has "insulted thousands of Louisiana Protestants" by describing their beliefs as "scandalous, depraved, selfish and heretical." Jindal, the attack goes on, "doubts the morals and questions the beliefs of Baptists, Methodists, Episcopalians, Pentecostals and other Protestant religions."

The ad is theologically ignorant -- Methodism and the others are not "religions," they are denominations. The main problem, however, is that the ad stretches the truth so phyllo-thin it can only be called a smear. Jindal -- a convert to Christianity from a Hindu background -- has none of the politician's typical reticence on religion. "I'm proud of my faith," he told me in a phone interview. "I believe in God, that Jesus died and rose. I can't divide my public and private conscience. I can't stop being a Christian, and wouldn't want to for a moment of the day."

And Jindal's chosen tradition is a muscular Roman Catholicism. In an article published in the 1990s, he argued, "The same Catholic Church which infallibly determined the canon of the Bible must be trusted to interpret her handiwork; the alternative is to trust individual Christians, burdened with, as Calvin termed it, their 'utterly depraved' minds, to overcome their tendency to rationalize, their selfish desires, and other effects of original sin." And elsewhere: "The choice is between Catholicism's authoritative Magisterium and subjective interpretation which leads to anarchy and heresy."

This is the whole basis for the Democratic attack -- that Jindal holds an orthodox view of his own faith and rejects the Protestant Reformation. He has asserted, in short, that Roman Catholicism is correct -- and that other religious traditions, by implication, are prone to error. This is presumably the main reason to convert to Catholicism: because it most closely approximates the truth. And speaking for a moment as a Protestant: How does it insult us that Roman Catholics believe in . . . Roman Catholicism? We had gathered that much.

This Democratic ad is not merely a tin-eared political blunder; it reveals a secular, liberal attitude: that strong religious beliefs are themselves a kind of scandal; that a vigorous defense of Roman Catholicism is somehow a gaffe. This is a strange, distorted view of pluralism, which once meant civility, respect and common enterprise among people with strongly held and differing convictions. In the liberal view, pluralism means a public square purged of intolerance -- defined as the belief in exclusive truth-claims and absolute right and wrong. And this view of pluralism can easily become oppressive, as the "intolerant" are expected to be silent.

On the receiving end of those expectations, Jindal has given these issues considerable thought. "This would be a poorer society," he told me, "if pluralism meant the least common denominator, if we couldn't hold a passionate, well-articulated belief system. If you enforce a liberalism devoid of content, you end up with the very violations of freedom you were trying to prevent in the first place."

On the evidence of the Louisiana ad, Democrats have learned little about the religious and political trends of the last few decades. For all its faults, the religious right built strong ties between conservative Catholics and conservative Protestants on issues such as abortion and family values, after centuries of mutual suspicion. Evangelicals gained a deep affection for Pope John Paul II and respect for Catholic conservatives such as Justice Antonin Scalia. And conservative Protestants recognize that secularist attacks on Catholic convictions are really attacks on all religious convictions and could easily be turned their way.

"The most passionate defenders of my beliefs," says Jindal, "have come from people who don't share my beliefs." In one account in the Times-Picayune, the senior pastor of the First Baptist Church of New Orleans, David E. Crosby, gave this reaction to Jindal's writings: "Anybody who reads this whole article and ends up angry just needs to grow up." That is a good definition of genuine pluralism -- an adult respect for the strong convictions of others.

"Bigotry," said Catholic writer G.K. Chesterton, "may be roughly defined as the anger of men who have no opinions . . . the appalling frenzy of the indifferent." And religious bigotry is offensive everywhere, including on the bayou.



Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.

American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For times when is playing up, there are mirrors of this site here and here.


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