British charity: Pupils risk prosecution for 'gay' slur
Children who call their classmates "gay" risk being arrested for committing a hate crime even if they do not know what the word means, a leading charity warned last night. Under new proposals issued by Justice Secretary Jack Straw, it will be illegal to use threatening words or behaviour on the grounds of sexual orientation. Those convicted would face up to seven years in jail.
But Kidscape, which helps bullied and vulnerable children, said police officers must use "common sense" when called in to investigate whether pupils had broken the proposed law. The charity warned many youngsters who used "gay" as an insult did not even know what it meant. Claude Knights, the charity's training manager, said to many children the word now meant only "the opposite of cool". She insisted the legislation if it reduced true homophobic bullying, but added: "The word is almost at the point where it has become a general insult, the opposite of cool. Children say things like, 'Your trainers are gay.' "It is almost in youth culture now. You get kids in primary school using it and they don't have any idea what the word means. "If we are going to have consequences [to the new law] we have got to have common sense in how it is applied."
The proposed new law would be the first to cover a specific offence of homophobic incitement. To date the 1986 Public Order Act - which makes it an offence to use threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour in a way likely to cause harassment, alarm or distress - has been used to arrest people for "homophobic" comments. The new Criminal Justice Act could be used where public order laws fail.
On Monday Mr Straw told MPs the new "gay hate" law would be drafted in such a way to ensure that only those who intend to pose a threat are prosecuted, and not those who mean to be merely abusive, mocking or insulting. However, there have already been cases where children have been arrested for using the word "gay" in the playground. In April four policemen were sent to deal with 11-year-old George Rawlinson from Widnes, Cheshire, after he called one of his schoolfriends "gay". Two were sent to his primary school and two to his home. Cheshire police only dropped the matter when the boy explained he meant his friend was "stupid" rather than as a homophobic insult. Schools have also been told to clampdown on use of the word as a playground slur amid fears it legitimises homophobia.
Children's Secretary Ed Balls published guidance earlier this month designed to clamp down on homophobic bullying, while a survey by the Association of Teachers and Lecturers showed a huge rise in use of playground insults like "poof" and "lezzie". Mr Balls said: "I reject any notion that addressing homophobic bullying is political correctness for its own sake. "Even casual use of homophobic language in schools can create an atmosphere that isolates young people and can be the forerunner of more serious forms of bullying."
We gays are not so weedy that we can't take insults
Matthew Parris writes from Britain
It's tempting to cheer Jack Straw's promise in the Commons this week that incitement to homophobic hatred is to be made a crime, along with incitement to racial or religious hatred. But I'm not so sure. Seriously threatening language - of any kind - is already a crime; but once the law starts limiting free speech in matters of honest opinion, where does it stop?
The Bible says homosexuality is an abomination; God puts the city of Sodom to the torch; the present Pope calls it a "disorder". Such views, however civilly expressed, are inherently hate-inciting, but should their expression be a crime? Then why should we remain free to sneer, in ways inciting hatred, at a person's being Welsh, or Irish?
"Spastic" or "cripple" are hateful expressions that nobody should use as insults, but if the use of "batty boy" or "queer" is to invite prosecution, what is the argument against making disablist insult a matter for the police too? And how about language that incites hatred of women?
Lines of absolute principle are hard to draw, but some groups may be so weak and fragile as to need the law's protection from hateful speech. I'd like to think we gays are no longer among them.
Hillary Talks About 'It': Would she defend Rush Limbaugh's speech rights against the left?
In an interview in yesterday's Washington Post, Hillary Clinton said she had contributed to the country's mood of bitter partisanship and wants to "put an end to it." The senator hedged her words for future revision by referring to the problem throughout the interview only as "it." Thus, she spoke of "having gone through it, having been on the receiving end of it and in campaigns that were hard fought maybe on the giving end of it . . ." When the reporters pressed her to explain her views on polarization, she said: "I've talked about it a lot, and I think I will continue to talk about it in a lot of different ways."
It's a start. I would like to put a question to the senator: Would you defend Rush Limbaugh's speech rights against the pressure that was brought upon him on the floor of the Senate by your colleagues Harry Reid and Ken Salazar? Colorado's Sen. Salazar went so far last week as to say he'd support a Senate vote to "censure" Mr. Limbaugh. Rhymes with censor.
When Sen. Reid attacked Mr. Limbaugh on the floor of the Senate, some felt that Mr. Limbaugh was a big boy and perfectly capable of defending himself. I'm not so sure. If Mr. Limbaugh and his critics at Media Matters want to have a street fight, that's their business. But Sens. Reid and Salazar aren't just a couple of opinionated guys; they are agents of state authority, and they were leaning hard on Mr. Limbaugh. If you are Media Matters, if you are a man or woman of the Left, does state pressure on someone's political speech discomfort you? Or is it a welcome, even defensible, repression of harmful right-wing speech?
This controversy over talk-show hosts is usually fought around Democratic efforts of late to resurrect the Fairness Doctrine. The purpose of this effort--the reason Sen. Reid has attached himself to it--is to suppress voter turnout on the right and lift it on the left. Political talk-radio since its inception has energized voters on the right. In the 2000 presidential election, the left found its own voter-turnout instrument in Howard Dean's Web-based "netroots," now led by MoveOn.org and other leftwing or "progressive" sites such as Daily Kos and Media Matters.
Some of the left-wing sites, however, also do fund raising and political organizing, as in the netroots campaigns against Democratic politicians who didn't hear that dissent is dead. Talk radio does neither. Its hosts mainly excite people. Reimposing the Fairness Doctrine, essentially a toxic cocktail of boredom, would cause a narcotized right-wing base to sit on its hands, handing an advantage in the turnout wars to the (properly) unregulated political organizers of the left-wing Web.
While Mr. Limbaugh fought off the Democratic Senate in one corner, the commentator Juan Williams also found his speech and job status under pressure from Media Matters. In the same week that Mr. Williams, a Fox commentator, appeared on Bill O'Reilly's show to speak critically of black culture, his bosses at NPR rejected a White House request to have Mr. Williams interview President Bush on race.
In a Media Matters posting on all this, Eric Boehlert wrote that "real damage is being done to NPR by having its name, via Williams, associated with Fox News' most opinionated talker." Noting that Mr. Williams supported Clarence Thomas's nomination, Mr. Boehlert said there are "better advocates for genuinely liberal positions," and suggested "now is the time for [NPR] to address the growing problem."
In a now-famous remark this summer at the Kos convention of progressive bloggers, Sen. Clinton described "a real imbalance in the political world" and praised the growth of "progressive infrastructure--institutions that I helped to start and support like Media Matters."
Who threw the first stone in these media-driven bloodlettings? Good question. But to my knowledge the right has no equivalent to "repressive tolerance," the aggressive theory of scorched-earth political argument laid out in the hothouse years of the 1960s by the late left-wing political philosopher Herbert Marcuse. Just last November, in an admiring essay for the Chronicle of Higher Education, the left polemicist Stanley Fish aptly summed up Marcuse's assertion that "liberal" notions of tolerance for political speech should be overturned. The rationale for this notion is that standard tolerance is rigged against the left. In practice, tolerance extends only to the ideas and beliefs of the powerful, while it shuts out ideas on behalf of the weak or "marginalized"--the poor, minorities, women and the rest. Mr. Fish says liberals fail to see "the dark side of their favorite virtue."
Prof. Fish has an alternative to traditions of tolerance, and to anyone awash in American politics today it will sound familiar: "That is to say, and Marcuse says it, anything the right does is bad and should not be tolerated; anything the left does is good and should be welcomed." This would explain the emotional intensity and animosity in politics now: The other side no longer deserves minimal respect. It's not enough to disagree with conservative viewpoints; one has to undermine and delegitimize them. Mock them. Put them beyond the pale. Incidentally, Marcuse, Fish and others on the left who want to "withdraw" tolerance from the speech and ideas of their opponents count centrist Democrats among them. That is what happened to Joe Lieberman.
Digital technology now fixes someone's random remark forever in the ozone amber of the Web or YouTube. It's easy to make anything anyone may say, such as "macaca," a weeks-long campaign to diminish or even destroy the sayer. Wherever the nonbeliever Marcuse is now, this tool would have put him in heaven. I find it putting us closer than I'd like to be to an American "Lives of Others," media monitors always listening for the vulnerable spoken word.
Sen. Clinton this week told the Post, "I intend to build a centrist coalition." That may depend on how one defines centrist. For her progressive bloggers at Media Matters the center on tolerating speech likely falls closer to Prof. Marcuse than John Locke. So which is it? This summer Sen. Clinton said she was a founder of Media Matters, and this week she said she was a centrist. That doesn't compute. Perhaps in a year we'll know which side she's on.
Australia: Leftist approach to black history rejected by both major parties
Some Australian Leftists claim that white Australians should "apologize" to the descendants of Australia's original black inhabitants -- even though nobody now alive had any hand in the white colonization of Australia. So the demand is pure Leftist racism: Whites are targeted not because of anything they personally did but just because they are white. The push is an Australian counterpart to the "reparations" demand in the USA
MILLIONS of Australians will never entertain saying sorry to Aborigines because they think there is nothing to apologise for, John Howard said today. The Prime Minister has promised to hold a referendum within 18 months, if re-elected, on formally recognising indigenous Australians in the constitution.
Indigenous groups view the promise as a step in the right direction but say reconciliation will not be achieved unless Mr Howard apologises on behalf of non-indigenous Australians for past treatment.
But the Prime Minister today ruled out an apology, saying millions of non-indigenous people would never entertain such a thing. "I have always supported reconciliation but not of the apologetic, shame-laden, guilt-ridden type," Mr Howard said on Southern Cross radio. "I think in the past we have become obsessed with things like apologies and there are millions of Australians who will never entertain an apology because they don't believe that there is anything to apologise for. "They are sorry for past mistreatment but that is different from assuming responsibility for it." ....
In a joint statement last night, Labor leader Kevin Rudd and indigenous affairs spokeswoman Jenny Macklin said that while they would like to see details of Mr Howard's plan, the ALP would offer bipartisan support to the concept "in the spirit of the 1967 referendum".
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.
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