Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Another "artistic" attempt to offend decent people

Childish attention-seeking behaviour

London Olympic organisers are at the centre of an extraordinary row after an image of Myra Hindley, the Moors Murderer, was included in a montage of images of British achievements designed to promote the upcoming Games.

The clip, a portrait of Hindley made out of children's hand prints by the artist Marcus Harvey, was screened as the Prime Minister and Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London, welcomed British medal winners at a party to celebrate the capital taking over from Beijing as the official Olympic host city. It was immediately condemned by the Mayor and Gordon Brown.

While the two men each delivered a short speech to around 500 guests, a video screen behind them showed a series of quintessentially British images. Party-goers at the event at London House, a trendy outdoor temporary nightclub in down town Beijing used during the Games by athletes and officials to unwind, were stunned when the portrait of Hindley appeared on the screen.

A spokesman for Mr Johnson said that the montage had been compiled by Visit London, an agency responsible for attracting tourists to the capital which had been commissioned by the Mayor's office to carry out the work, and was meant as a showcase of all things British. He added: "The Mayor knew nothing about this. He is appalled."

Visit London said that the portrait was among a number of images of British art used in the short promotional film, which had been used before and received no complaints. A spokesman added that the inclusion of the controversial work showed that there was no "censorship" in the UK but promised to withdraw it immediately. "This is a general three minute video of London in which an artwork by Marcus Harvey at the Tate very fleetingly appears," said the spokesman. "The video is not for general public use and has been used many times over the last few years to show to the tourism trade. There has never been a complaint made about the video up until this point. However, if any offence has been caused, we will withdraw it from use with immediate effect."

The series of clips ran through the day at London House, and the image is said to have appeared on the screen as Mr Brown was making his speech, to the fury of watching Downing Street aides.

Downing Street said the image was "in extremely poor taste" and should not have been used to promote London. A No 10 source added: "It is a total disgrace that this proud night for Britain has been sullied by this grotesque prank. "Whoever was responsible must be found and fired immediately."

Many officials and athletes' relatives had gathered at London House from late afternoon to watch the closing ceremony on the large screens, but apparently did not notice the image of Hindley in the series of clips, which were allowed to run into the evening as they were joined by those who had participated in the ceremony. As well as gold medal winners including Chris Hoy, the party was attended by previous British Olympic athletes such as Jonathan Edwards, the triple jumper, along with David Beckham, the former England football captain, and the singer Leona Lewis, who had both featured in the Olympic closing ceremony. Guests were treated to a barbecue and free champagne bar, with dancing until late into the night.

Myra Hindley died of cancer in prison in 2002, while Ian Brady, her partner in the deaths of at least four children, remains in jail.

The portrait of Hindley caused uproar when it was first shown to the public at the Sensation exhibition, a showcase of Young British Artists held at the Royal Academy of Art between September and December in 1997. The 11ft by 9ft painting of the Moors Murderer, based on her infamous police mugshot, was particularly chilling because the artist, Marcus Harvey, created it using hundreds of stencil outlines of children's hands.

Winnie Johnson, the mother of one of Hindley's victims, asked for the 1995 portrait to be excluded from the exhibition to protect her feelings. She picketed the first day of the show along with supporters to protest against the work, which was part of a collection owned by Charles Saatchi. Even Hindley sent a letter from jail suggesting her portrait be removed from the exhibition because it had "a sole disregard not only for the emotional pain and trauma that would inevitably be experienced by the families of the Moors victims but also the families of any child victim." But despite the protests the painting remained in place, prompting more drastic action. Windows at Burlington House, the Academy's home, were smashed and two demonstrators hurled ink and eggs at it


British Submission

Foot baths for Muslim students at Michigan universities? Muslim cabbies in the Twin Cities who refuse to carry seeing-eye dogs? The FBI and other government agencies taking sensitivity training from radical Muslim organizations? You think we’ve lost the plot over here? Take a look at British submission to Islamofascist demands and threats, as that once great nation succumbs to creeping dhimmitude.

It has reached the point that in mid-April, the British Foreign Office instructed the Royal Navy not to return pirates to jurisdictions sporting sharia law (such as Somalia) for fear that their human rights will be violated. They have even been discouraged from capturing pirates, because the freebooters might ask to be granted asylum in Britain, a request with which the UK might have to comply under international and European Union human rights law.

This for a Navy that almost singlehandedly defeated piracy in the early 19th century, and a nation that retained the death penalty for this scourge of the high seas until the late 20th century. Welcome to Britain today.

Another recent outrage involves special handling of a traffic violation. Seems that a Muslim driver was stopped by police while speeding between two homes in the north of England. When he appeared in court, he explained his high speed – over twice the speed limit – was necessary to accommodate his two wives. His explanation was accepted, and he was allowed to keep his license.

That comes fast – very fast – on the heels of a decision by the British government to grant full spousal benefits to multiple wives. It won’t affect more than an estimated 1,000 individuals. And it mercifully won’t affect the indigenous Christian, Hindu or Jewish population, as traditional bigamy laws apply. Britons may rest easy, as it will only cover multiple wives married in a jurisdiction that practices Sharia law, such as Pakistan or Saudi Arabia.

These are not isolated instances; there are a myriad more: Swimming periods at pools restricted to Muslims only; the establishment of a BBC Arabic language station staffed by Arab broadcasters and managers with track records of being anti-American, anti-Israel and anti-Western; the refusal of female Muslim medical students to wash their arms as that practice might reveal the forbidden flesh between wrist and elbow; an attempt by a national union of university lecturers to call for a boycott of Israeli academics; and, a local Council ban on pig-themed toys, porcelain figures and calendars on workers’ desks because it might offend Muslims.

No comment from the Home Office or No. 10 Downing Street. No comment from the government, because it has been their policy to appease Britain’s large Muslim population in response to menacing behavior up to and including the bomb outrages of July 7, 2005.

It’s no coincidence that Muslims constitute a substantial portion of the Labour Party’s electoral support in London and in much of its heartland in northern England. In the expected close election for Parliament that will be held by mid-2010, an increasing Muslim population may be the difference between victory and defeat for the Labourites.

But Labour’s bien pensant hardly needs convincing. Like most on the left today, they fancy themselves champions of the underdog and the oppressed, and sympathy for Islam, and Arab and Muslim causes fits neatly into their intellectual program. Along with America and Israel-bashing, it goes to the very heart of how liberals view themselves and, more important, how they wish to be viewed by others. It supplies them with the appearance of a self-abnegation that is supposed to relieve their Western, middle-class guilt with a cleansing humility but is nothing but moral exhibitionism; and, as always, involves other people’s money, other people’s freedom, and other people’s comfort – never or very rarely their own.

A classic of political correctness run amok, wonderful as a burlesque if it weren’t slowly undermining Britain’s way of life and its will to oppose extreme Islamism.

Worse is that acceding to this nonsense gives Islamofascists confidence that they are on the winning side of history. That if they just shout a little louder and push a little harder, they may expect more of the same that becomes increasingly normative until it convinces the longer-settled among the UK’s population that they have no power to stop, let alone reverse, the process.

One might have become inured to the gutless behavior of France or Italy, but many in the U.S. are still under the impression that, like other countries in the Anglosphere, the British remain clear-eyed, realistic and most importantly resolute about the threats with which the West is confronted. But they aren’t; and while these cultural changes are in the realm of the comical right now, they are beginning to affect British public policy, domestic as well as foreign.

Why is this important to us? Because the ZaNuLabour Party’s tendency to pacifism and appeasement, and its devotion to political correctness, victim ideology, cultural relativism and liberal guilt is shared by our own Democrats. Look for more of it in Britain, and don’t be surprised when it arrives full force here in America.


Blaming affluence for crime? That's a bit rich

David Lammy's `explanation' for the teenage stabbings in London is a pointed attack on aspiration and prosperity.

The stabbing of Nilanthan Murddi in Croydon last weekend brought the number of teenagers who have met a violent death in London this year to 23. This spate of attacks seems to bring out the pop sociologist in MPs and newspaper columnists. Rather than interpreting such grim incidents as rare, isolated crimes, there's a tendency to imagine an all-encompassing social influence on which to hang a catch-all explanation.

David Lammy, described by some as the nearest British equivalent to Barack Obama, and by everyone else as a New Labour hack, has put forward his own theory - and it's a pretty trite one. Writing in the current issue of British political weekly the New Statesman, Lammy, the parliamentary under-secretary for innovation, universities and skills, believes he has identified the root `causes' of teen-on-teen male violence: the influence of consumerism and affluence, and the lack of identifiable `role models' for young men.

Now, whenever I hear the phrase `lack of role models', I'm tempted to reach for an illegal firearm myself. It's one of those banal, daytime TV platitudes that suggests young people are simply passive automatons waiting for the correct `on-message' individual to point them in the right direction. In education circles, this sort of thinking is everywhere. There's a genuine belief that, say, if black boys were taught by black, male teachers (the much-fabled `role models'), they would make better progress at school. Lammy expands on this simplistic and wrong-headed notion to suggest that if only there were more male teachers in primary schools, then boys would grow up to `identify' with more `acceptable' ideas of masculinity. And apparently, this would lead to less anti-social behaviour on the streets of London. Fantastic!

But teenage boys aren't likely to behave or perform better if their teacher wears trousers or has the same skin colour. Teenagers of all stripes will seek to be oppositional to any teacher in order to undermine them and attempt to exert control in the classroom. This is partly because teenagers crave autonomy and independence and will thus instinctively see how far they can push against `the line'. What a teacher looks like isn't remotely a determining factor on pupil behaviour or academic performance.

Of course, it's essential that adults do play a role in socialising teenagers into adulthood. But that process isn't based on ticking gender or ethnic group boxes, but on the ideas and knowledge of adults and how they articulate them. If there's an identifiable problem today, it is that society lacks a confident set of ideas and a recognisable adult framework through which teenagers can be socialised. Lammy is on to something when he says some teens are prone to outbursts of emotionalism and infantilism today, but he is less forthcoming in identifying his own political party's role in contributing to the current culture of blubbering emotionalism as well as infantilising teenagers.

Incredibly, even though she was UK prime minister before many of today's teenagers were born, Lammy insists that Margaret Thatcher is somehow to blame for anti-social behaviour. What he implies is that Thatcher's supposed blueprint for a 'consumer society' has turned today's generation into selfish, amoral monsters. Traditionally, the left always cited grinding poverty as a contributing influence on anti-social behaviour; now the likes of Lammy are insisting that affluence and materialism are leading youngsters astray.

Lammy quotes an allegedly popular saying amongst today's youth - `get rich or die trying' (itself the title of the debut album of American rapper 50 Cent) as proof that they are morally bankrupt. But since when was it advisable to take youthful bravado at face value? And is simply saying such a thing really the same as being an underworld crime lord? It is conveniently forgotten how most young rap fans see through the absurdity of hip-hop's pantomime excesses. At a further education college in Hackney where I once taught, the `rapper' most of the kids were obsessed with wasn't Tupac Shakur, but Fur Q - Chris Morris' spoof gangsta rapper in satirical TV comedy The Day Today.

Rather disgracefully, it seems Lammy is using the bogus cover of bling-bling rap to demonise consumption and the everyday, normal desire for prosperity. In this way, Lammy is following psychologist Oliver James' cranky idea that material aspiration is a pathological problem in need of therapeutic correction. And to this end, Lammy is proposing tighter regulation on the types of advertisements, films and videos that young people might watch and be influenced by. He also implies that the state should be barging its way even further into the family home and supervising how parents raise their children.

To pathologise healthy consumption is one thing, but Lammy wants to go one step further and criminalise it as well. His crass implication is that affluent societies such as Britain, and our attendant `culture of consumerism', lead inexorably to violent attacks and even murder by our young. Thus, endless consumption somehow creates selfish and feckless individuals who don't appreciate the value of human life. This is tantamount to blackmailing poorer sections in society to keep their heads down and `make do' with hardship, lest material aspiration sends their errant offspring on a random killing spree.

Sociologists such as Stanley Cohen also made the connections between the cultural influence of `the American dream' and how some people in US society achieved that goal through organised crime. But for Cohen and others, that was not a justification for slamming material aspiration, but rather showed how `conventional' routes to success are closed off to certain sections in society.

Lammy's argument also doesn't add up on closer inspection of the murders involving teenagers in London. On the whole, the incidents reported did not feature street robberies that have gone horrifically wrong. More often than not, they involved petty arguments amongst groups of youths that spilled over into fights and fatal stabbings. As dreadful and shocking as these incidents are, street fights and casual violence amongst young people are hardly a new phenomenon. As Mick Hume has argued, the amplification of street crime into a generalised threat means that more teenagers are more likely to carry knives than before - and with sometimes tragic consequences (see Knife crime panic reaches crisis point).

The logic of Lammy's anti-consumption, anti-prosperity argument doesn't add up in another way, too: if rich societies automatically raise feckless and amoral thugs, then how come the number of murdered teenagers is far higher in poorer countries like Brazil or Mexico? Surely the lack of affluence and consumption in those country's shanty towns should mean they are harmonious and trouble-free places, at least in Lammy's worldview? The fact that the teen murder rate in those areas runs into the thousands, rather than double figures, suggests that it is still miserable poverty that has a destructive impact on young people's lives. This doesn't simply translate as poverty forcing people to rob others; but it shows how poverty fuels listless boredom as well as generating a fatalistic and even nihilistic outlook on life in general.

Far from materialism leading to a breakdown in morals, as Lammy disingenuously argues, material prosperity enables people to develop morally as well as intellectually. It provides the very basis through which individuals can begin to live like humans and not act like animals. Instead, Lammy attempts to turn reality on its head and blackmails the poor into accepting their miserable lot in the process. To put this forward as a proposal for combating random and rare violent crime, well, Lammy's a bit rich for even trying.


Against all booze bans

There have always been different social rules for drinking in public: sometimes it's okay, at other times it is definitely not. In some places, sipping beer in the street is considered acceptable and sociable; in other places, it marks you out as a disrespectful low-life.

Over the past few years, though, cracking open a can in the street became not just rude, but illegal. For the first time in Britain, police gained powers to confiscate your bottle of lager or wine, or to ask you to tip it down the drain, and to arrest you if you refused to comply. The state became the arbiter on a question of social etiquette that had previously been decided by individuals and communities themselves.

The new London mayor Boris Johnson's ban on Tube drinking is an infamous case, but the illiberal regulation of public drinking now stretches the world over. Booze bans have cast a shadow over both the Fourth of July celebrations on San Diego beach and the Christmas celebrations on Australia's Bondi beach - these traditionally jolly festive occasions now continue only under the cloud of prohibition.

The land of Hogmanay has fared no better. Drink was banned from many Scottish town centres and beaches this summer, after the Scottish Executive pressured councils to pass booze-banning bylaws covering particular areas. These draconian laws are now pasted on lampposts throughout Scotland: one bans people from carrying around an empty drinks carton, while another prohibits carrying a drinks container `when it could be reasonably assumed they would want to drink it in a "designated public place"' (1).

Areas of towns and cities in the Czech Republic are designated no-drinking; New Zealand has gone so far as to ban driving through `no-drink zones' if you have booze in the boot of your car (police officers say they have the right to stop and search, though if you are caught red-handed you have the option of tipping it down the drain, which is very generous of them) (2).

It was in opposition to this trend that the Manifesto Club - the organisation I head - launched the Campaign Against the Booze Bans. We set up a campaign Facebook group, where more than a thousand people from all over the world have registered their objection to booze bans. In a week's time, on Bank Holiday Monday, we will launch a report on the rise of booze bans at our Provocation Picnic in Hyde Park, London.

The right to drink in public may not be considered a classic civil liberties issue, such as the right to free speech or the right to protest - but it is just as important now. In many ways, the regulation of public drinking is a litmus test for the state of public freedoms. With the erosion of the right to drink, we see how public space is being organised more around the whims of police officers, and less around the desires and morals of free citizens.

In the UK over the past few years, there has been a creeping growth of drinking-control legislation. Where communities once set the rules on when and where one could crack open a can, police officers and councillors now write those rules from scratch.

Booze bans first started in the late 1980s, when some councils - such as Coventry - passed bylaws against public drinking. But these laws were sporadically enforced, and police officers had no powers of arrest. In 1997, the Confiscation of Alcohol (Young Persons) Act gave police powers to confiscate alcohol and containers from under-18s. This law was extended from minors to adults in 2001: the Criminal Justice and Police Act introduced Designated Public Place Orders (DPPOs), which allowed officers to confiscate drink from adults, and gave powers of arrest if the person refused to surrender their can or bottle.

At first, DPPOs grew only gradually, but from 2004 they started to take off rapidly with a rush of applications from councils and police forces for the right to confiscate booze from local residents. There are now 613 Designated Public Place Orders in England and Wales, covering parks, stations and beaches the length and breadth of the country (3). Every new drinking control zone seems to create more, as councils emulate each other's regulations, and zones are extended bit by bit throughout towns and cities.

Meanwhile, government legislation has tightened. The 2003 Licensing Act allowed `sealed' as well as open alcohol containers to be confiscated; it also allowed for an emergency blanket ban on alcohol (police recently showed off this power when they threatened to shut down all pubs and off licenses in Torbay in July 2008, after the idea of a beach party was floated on Facebook) (4).

These new regulations don't reflect a switch in public morals, but a switch in the ideology of the state. The control of public drinking is really the result of officials' concerns about social order, their fear of uninhibited groups of people. They look at unregulated groups relaxing and drinking in public and imagine a threat to law, civilisation, and much else besides.

We start to see the return of a very nineteenth-century idea: that crime is the result of unruly and uninhibited crowds. Police have implicated public boozing in crimes ranging from murder to domestic violence to robbery. Inspector Colin Mowat from Aberdeenshire said that bans on public drinking could help stop `under-age drinking, drink-driving, domestic abuse and street disorder' (5); after the 2007 murder of Cheshire man Gary Newlove by a gang of drunk youths, the leading police officer called for a blanket ban on public drinking (6). The role of the police is exposed for all to see: not just to identify and prosecute for criminal offences, but also to control and manage groups of people.

Booze control laws are produced entirely from above, and as such they are erratically enforced. There are few guidelines for how the police should use their drinking-confiscation powers, so they tend to use them as they please. During the Merseyside Police's Operation Beach Safe, officers decided to confiscate booze at the beach entrance in June 2008. Richard Clarke, acting sergeant of Operation Beach Safe, welcomed visitors with the words `If you're coming to the beach to drink don't bother, go and drink in your gardens or somewhere else', and his officers posed for trophy photos with their confiscated cans of Fosters (7).

Police also take alcohol away from people they think of as troublesome types - younger people, football supporters, or alcoholics - and, unlike with an arrest for a crime, they have no obligation to justify their actions. If you contest an officer's request to tip your Carling down a drain, you are committing an offence and could be arrested and fined up to $1,000. There is no luxury of a defence lawyer.

One post on our Facebook wall discusses the uneven-handed way in which drinking controls are applied in Brighton: `Here. the booze ban, extends to basically the homeless. Community Support Officers [CSOs] do not take drink off you on the beach and ignore you basically if you look well-to-do. One homeless man I met the other day says he had his unopened can of cider in his pocket taken from him by CSOs because they "thought" he was "about to" or had "reason to believe" he would drink it in a public place. He was on his way to drink it at his hostel!' (8)

This shows how the police are playing fast and loose with these powers. At the Manifesto Club, we call for these drinking laws to be challenged and rolled back, and for police powers to be kept on a very tight leash. This is not so much a campaign for public drinking, as a campaign for the public to set the rules for acceptable and unacceptable behaviour. Basically, for Community Support Officers to butt out of communities.

If you are free on Bank Holiday in London, join us for a drink and picnic in the park. It may not always be the done thing to crack open a can in public, but it should never be illegal.



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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