Friday, January 25, 2008

Britain: Three Little Pigs 'too offensive'

A story based on the Three Little Pigs has been turned down from a government agency's annual awards because the subject matter could offend Muslims. The digital book, re-telling the classic fairy tale, was rejected by judges who warned that "the use of pigs raises cultural issues". Becta, the government's educational technology agency, is a leading partner in the annual schools award. The judges also attacked Three Little Cowboy Builders for offending builders.

The book's creative director, Anne Curtis, said that the idea that including pigs in a story could be interpreted as racism was "like a slap in the face". The CD-Rom digital version of the traditional story of the three little pigs, called Three Little Cowboy Builders, is aimed at primary school children. But judges at this year's Bett Award said that they had "concerns about the Asian community and the use of pigs raises cultural issues". The Three Little Cowboy Builders has already been a prize winner at the recent Education Resource Award - but its Newcastle-based publishers, Shoo-fly were turned down by the Bett Award panel.

The feedback from the judges explaining why they had rejected the CD-Rom highlighted that they "could not recommend this product to the Muslim community". They also warned that the story might "alienate parts of the workforce (building trade)". The judges criticised the stereotyping in the story of the unfortunate pigs: "Is it true that all builders are cowboys, builders get their work blown down, and builders are like pigs?"

Ms Curtis said that rather than preventing the spread of racism, such an attitude was likely to inflame ill-feeling. As another example, she says would that mean that secondary schools could not teach Animal Farm because it features pigs? Her company is committed to an ethical approach to business and its products promote a message of mutual respect, she says - and banning such traditional stories will "close minds rather than open them".

Becta, the government funded agency responsible for technology in schools and colleges, says that it is standing by the judges' verdict. "Becta with its partners is responsible for the judging criteria against which the 70 independent judges, mostly practising teachers, comment. All the partners stick by the judging criteria," said a Becta spokesman. The reason that this product was not shortlisted was because "it failed to reach the required standard across a number of criteria", said the spokesman. Becta runs the awards with the Besa trade association and show organisers, Emap Education.

Merlin John, author of an educational technology website which highlighted the story, warns that such rulings can undermine the credibility of the awards. "When benchmarks are undermined by pedestrian and pedantic tick lists, and by inflexible, unhelpful processes, it can tarnish the achievements of even the most worthy winners. "It's time for a rethink, and for Becta to listen to the criticisms that have been ignored for a number of years," said Mr John.


Black racism

The incident that prompted this week's editorial involves Tiger Woods, a Golf Channel correspondent and, depending on your point of view, either a poor choice of words, a deliberately racist jibe, or just a sentence that shouldn't have any offensive meaning whatsoever. The incident occurred during a Golf Channel telecast of the Mercedes-Benz Championship. Anchors Nick Faldo and Kelly Tilghman were discussing young players who could challenge Tiger Woods' dominance when Faldo suggested that "to take Tiger on, maybe they should just gang up for a while."

"Lynch him in a back alley," Tilghman replied.

And that's all it took. Suddenly, every civil rights activist was coming out of the woodwork, screaming racism. Never mind the fact that Tilghman and Woods are actually close friends. Never mind the fact that Tiger quickly forgave Tilghman for the "poor choice of words." Nope, that doesn't matter. Lynching is obviously purely a black experience, and therefore, any comment regarding lynching is racist.

In the aftermath, Tilghman was suspended for two weeks by the Golf Channel for her comments. That seems reasonable to us considering the lack of malice in the comment-if not a bit harsh. Was it good enough for Rev. Al Sharpton, confident after his crusade to get Don Imus fired for racially insensitive comments (which, by the way, were definitely insensitive)? No, he wanted Tilghman fired. Fired? Is Al Sharpton putting what Tilghman said on the same level as Imus' comments? Apparently.

At some point, you start to wonder, "Who is the person with the racism problem here?" Is it the Golf Channel correspondent who makes an off-handed comment, or is it people like Rev. Al Sharpton who seem to look for reasons to get angry, call people racist and try to get them fired? Is it people who find loaded meanings in every phrase, every representation, every movie, every waking moment in American life? It's tough to think of a bigger hypocrite than Sharpton when it comes to racial tolerance. This is the same man who has referred to Jewish people as "diamond merchants" and has been known to incite anti-Semitic violence. Racism indeed.

Could it be possible that Sharpton and some of the other "civil rights" leaders are actually racist themselves? Would they have been as upset if it had been an African-American anchor who had made the comment? Was Sharpton just assuming that since Tilghman is white, the comment had to be racist?

David Feherty of CBS may have summed it up best when he said, "Reverend Al needs to take a lesson and be more like Tiger, because every slip of the tongue is not a racist slur. To even imply that Kelly Tilghman is in any way a racist, you are judging her by the color of her skin and not the content of her character, which seems a bit hypocritical to me." We couldn't agree more. It's time to stop looking for problems and start finding solutions.


Women's libbers for law'n'order

Why are once radical feminists joining the chorus of disapproval about young women in mini-skirts going out, getting hammered and having sex?

`Horrifying!' roared the UK Daily Mail after an 18-year-old woman, Cheryl Tunney, admitted on the BBC3 programme Sex. with Mum and Dad that her `hobby' is having sex with men she meets on the internet (1). As a result, Cheryl apparently has 50 notches on her bedpost.

Despair and handwringing over what young women get up to was all over the place at the start of the New Year, too. Some British broadsheet newspapers printed a rogues' gallery of skimpily dressed young women out on the lash and the pull. Such is the steady glug, glug of anti-drink whingeing these days that even the age-old ritual of `seeing in the New Year' (preferably through beer goggles) is now taken as proof that the masses are festering in a sea of their own vomit. Clearly these complaining writers have been living in convents all their lives; haven't we always drunk to excess on New Year's Eve?

The big difference between the boozing of yesterday and today is that more young women go out socialising these days. It is called equality, grandad, and it seems many a newspaper columnist finds the notion of women `behaving badly' to be dangerously intoxicating stuff. Nevertheless, it's not just the colonel-minded blimps and cranks on the Daily Mail and Daily Express who don't like to see women drunk; a surprising number of `modern women' and ex-feminists are complaining about young women's `loose morals', too.

In a recent article, spiked contributor Emily Hill asked `whatever happened to solidarity?', and noted that some American feminists, such as Carol Liebau and Ariel Levy, now argue that women are in the grip of a `raunch culture' more obsessed with being sexy than clever and thus leading to a female generation that `compete to look like slags and sluts'. In Britain, the reaction is wearily similar. As Hill noted, `pioneering feminists like Rosie Boycott and Fay Weldon are pouncing on Liebau's book to trash the current generation as irresponsible slags and binge drinkers, only interested in a "grope" and "vomit"' (2).

Indeed, nothing seems to symbolise all that's wrong with Western societies these days more than what young women are supposedly getting up to. And when commentators who once championed women's equality are at the forefront of such shrill disapproval, there's clearly more going on here than an outburst of traditional misogyny.

Any salacious and prurient tittle-tattle on `binge-drinking Britain' will always be accompanied by pictures of young women in a state of disrepair. Photos of Amy Winehouse with her tats out, cigs in hand and seriously half-cut in Camden have become the signifier for a female generation gone to seed (3). The unsubtle implication is that it's one thing to expect rowdy lads to get hammered and lairy on a weekend; it's another thing entirely when young women do the same. Indeed, young women's `loose' behaviour is increasingly used as an example of how morally malign and tawdry Britain has become. Sunday Times columnist India Knight recently bemoaned the young women who went to Manchester United's Christmas party in the hope of pulling a footballer or five. `What is wrong with these women?', she wailed (4).

For all the advancements that women have made in society, it's surprising that a `drown-the-witch' mentality still exists regarding women's sexual behaviour. A few years back, Sex Pistols frontman John Lydon chose to express his sneering disapproval of reality TV show I'm A Celebrity Get Me Out of Here, on which he was a contestant, by venting his rage against the presence of `slapper' glamour model Jordan. Elsewhere, the website Chavscum is more likely to lay into `sluttish' young women than `thuggish' young men from council estates. The imagined sexual behaviour of working-class women seems to outrage the website's contributors more than, say, the supposed criminality of tattooed blokes in tracksuits.

So, it's perhaps not a great surprise that, in 2005, wannabe jihadists believed female revellers would be publicly acceptable murder targets because `nobody would believe these slags are innocent' (5); and last year, there was an alleged attempt to blow up a popular London nightclub on ladies' night. Rather alarmingly, Channel 4 appears to be in nodding agreement with such stupid and Jurassic ideas. Last month, the deeply risible show Make Me a Muslim drafted in a stern imam to try to mend the deviant and debauched ways of the secular volunteers. Top of the list was a homosexual man and, of course, a `sluttish' glamour model. Haven't these women got any - yawn - shame?

The idea that British women only act like Jodie Marsh in a pole-dancing club is barely a fiftieth of the real story. If girls are outstripping anything, it's the academic achievement of boys at schools and colleges. More women are in work with better-paid career prospects than ever before. As a consequence, they have far more choices over how they live, who they marry, if they want a divorce and, yes, how many men they have sex with. Women's equality has become so pervasive that it's barely even worth commenting on - except when clod-hopping old feminists believe that alcopop swiggin', boob-tubed young women have `gone too far'. It begs the question, though, how come women's equality is now a cause for concern rather than a cause for celebration?

Leaving aside residual misogynistic sentiments, it's clear that drunken women out on the pull have become oddly `symbolic' of moral decline. Such reactions are rooted in the fear and loathing that Western societies now have towards personal freedom in general. Until recently, women's primary role as domestic skivvies meant they were less free than men. Given Western society's uneasiness with individual freedom, women's greater freedom is seen as problematic, too - even by avowed feminists. Hence, this freedom has been reduced in the eyes of many commentators to the drunken antics of a pop star or the desire to shag a footballer.

In this context, sneering at fun-seeking women has become code for saying that society is out-of-control and the instillation of order and constraint is required forthwith. In The Fear of Freedom, social psychologist Erick Fromm argued that when modern societies go through periods of social insecurity, `a fear of freedom' accelerates amongst individuals, leading to a `fleeing from freedom' and a quest to find `security in an all-powerful leader' (clearly he wasn't thinking of Gordon Brown) (6). Demands for order and security, and the eagerness of governments and state authorities to provide these things, have certainly shaped political life in Britain for over a decade.

Recently, though, such security-seeking yearnings have gone a bit further. Sections of the liberal media even fantasise how an Islamic state might provide that `security in submission' that Fromm identified (appropriate as the literal translation of Islam is `submission'). When a demand to control personal behaviour becomes the defining cultural script, it's no surprise that women's greater individual freedom is denounced rather than celebrated. The fact that many feminists have been at the forefront of such moralising should be no surprise, either. After all, back in the early Eighties, it was feminists who first put the politics of individual behaviour on the political map. Prioritising the issues of domestic violence, rape and sexual harassment, as well as demands for `sexist' language to be curbed, feminists promoted the idea that individual men's behaviour was problematic and thus needed to be corrected by the state - an invitation that both Conservative and New Labour governments accepted.

Now, many of the radical feminists from the Eighties have simply reacted to changes in British society in exactly the same way as other members of the middle classes. By the early Nineties, the collapse of the postwar consensus, and the consequent weakening of the legitimacy of Britain's central institutions, contributed to a climate of uncertainty and insecurity in society. As social democratic welfarism appeared ineffectual in tackling social problems and disorder, the professional middle classes - including many feminists - felt particularly vulnerable because their professions seemed devalued. This sense of impotence, combined with a clear lack of consensus in society, led many middle-class radicals to become the most vociferous advocates of establishing order and stability.

The feminist Beatrix Campbell, for instance, argued in her 1993 book Goliath that the nuclear family - long identified by feminists as a bulwark of patriarchal oppression - should be promoted in order to restrain the atavistic behaviour of working-class men on council estates. More recently, the UK communities secretary Hazel Blears has looked to Muslim women and their `unique moral authority at the heart of the family' to turn Muslim men away from Islamic extremism (7). Once the quest for security became the defining motif of the middle classes, previous progressive touchstones such as equality, freedom and liberty were quickly jettisoned. Whereas apologists for capitalism once looked to working-class women in the family to lead men away from trade union action, now former radicals and Blairites look to women to make men `behave' more responsibly.

This is why the idea of young women getting drunk and getting laid has become so troubling for political commentators. First, such debauchery confirms their worst prejudices, namely that `too much freedom' leads inexorably to public order problems. Second, if the traditional pacifiers of `brute' men are also throwing up in city centres and f*cking for England, what hope do we have for regaining order and control throughout society?

When women's independence and greater equality is disgracefully condemned or becomes code for moral decline, it reveals, not how awful young women are becoming, but just how deeply entrenched the `fear of freedom' and `the flight from freedom' has become. Now that's what I call `horrifying'.


Bishop Adds His Own to the Voices Crying out Against Canada's Human Rights Tribunals

Canadian human rights laws that were intended to shield the public, "are now being used as a sword," says Calgary Catholic bishop, Fred Henry. Bishop Henry has added his voice to the chorus of voices, nationally and internationally, that are pointing to the deteriorating political and social situation in Canada as government-funded attacks on freedom of speech continue.

Bishop Henry wrote his comments in an e-mail to the Western Catholic Reporter, responding to the Human Rights Commission complaints against conservative columnist Mark Steyn and Maclean's Magazine and Catholic Insight magazine.

Maclean's, one of Canada's longest running and most respected news magazines, ran an excerpt of Mark Steyn's bestselling book America Alone, that outlined what Steyn calls the growing "Islamification" of Europe.

Bishop Henry's comments describe the "bizarre turn of events" that has ended with the Human Rights Commission being used by special interest groups such as the homosexual lobby, to stifle opposition and criticism. "The issue," Henry wrote, "is rarely true discrimination but rather censorship and enshrinement of a particular ideology through threats, sanctions and punitive measures."

In 2005, two complaints to the Alberta Human Rights Commission (AHRC) against Henry for what was called "discriminatory" comments in a pastoral letter, were eventually dropped by the complainant. Henry had written about the Catholic doctrines on marriage and the nature of the family. "I challenged one by one the standard arguments used to support same sex unions as the equivalent of traditional marriage," Henry said. He described the Human Rights Commission process as "fundamentally flawed," and closely resembling "kangaroo courts."

Bishop Henry listed the HRC's legal flaws: "presumption of guilt until you can prove your innocence; the open-ended time lines for dealing with a complaint; and unjust incurring of financial expenditures for the defendant in the simple event of a complaint being lodged." In the HRC procedure, the complainant's expenses are absorbed by the tax payers but the defendant must pay his own costs.

The Steyn case is receiving increasing attention both within Canada and the US, where many are not aware of the existence of these extra-judicial courts. David Warren, a conservative columnist for the Ottawa Citizen, writing in December, described the procedure as heavily weighted in favour of the complainant: "After long delays that are costly only to the defendant and the taxpayer (and justice delayed is justice denied), you will have the satisfaction of making your enemy squirm, in a kangaroo court where he is stripped of the right to due process, in which there are no fixed rules of evidence, in which the ridiculously biased 'judges' make up the law as they go along, and impose penalties restricted only by their grimly limited imaginations -- such as ruinous fines, and lifetime `cease and desist' orders, such that, if you ever open your mouth again on a given topic, you stand to go to prison."

John Martin, a criminologist at the University College of the Fraser Valley, wrote yesterday in The Province newspaper, calling on the government to abolish the BC Human Rights Tribunals. He wrote that BC's Commission "had become an expensive farce dedicated to promoting political correctness and demonizing independent thinkers who didn't bow to liberal orthodoxy."

"And now the tribunal has entered its most shameful phase by agreeing to hear a complaint brought forward against Maclean's magazine...By agreeing to hear the case, the tribunal has positioned itself as the arbiter in charge of deciding what the Canadian media may publish and what the rest of us are permitted to read." "With our guard down, somehow we allowed them to assume the role of state censor and thought police. It is an abomination that a star chamber is allowed to function in this day and age."

So great are the threats from government against freedom of speech in Canada, that the website Free Dominion, a conservative news site and forum, announced that it had taken steps to protect the site from further attacks by "individuals and government organizations determined to attack freedom of speech." The site's owner, Mark Fournier, wrote this month, "Back in 2002 Connie and I made some decisions designed to protect Free Dominion and its members if the political climate worsened in Canada." The Fourniers transferred ownership of the website to a US corporation that sold Free Dominion to Liberty News Service Inc. of Panama City, Panama.

"Liberty News Service's corporate mission is to buy websites from individuals and corporations living in countries where free speech is under attack, and protect those websites from being shut down or seized by oppressive governments." In July 2007 a Human Rights complaint was launched against Free Dominion for posting material that was claimed to be discriminatory against Muslims.



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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