Thursday, July 23, 2009

BBC executive says corporation should foster 'left-of-centre thinking'

A senior BBC executive has claimed that the corporation should foster "left-of-centre thinking", leading to accusations of political bias from the Conservatives. Ben Stephenson, the controller of BBC drama commissioning, said that the corporation should encourage "peculiarity, idiosyncrasy, stubborn-mindedness, left-of-centre thinking."

According to its own royal charter, the BBC must "be independent in all matters concerning the content of its output".

Jeremy Hunt, the shadow culture secretary, said: "What Ben Stephenson said was a clear breach of the BBC's impartiality obligations. "No journalist or editor should be following a political agenda, let alone someone as senior as a controller." Mr Hunt said that he had written to Mark Thompson, the BBC Director General, "asking for an immediate retraction and apology".

Peter Whittle, the director of The New Culture Forum, a right-leaning think tank, said: "The political slant in the non-news output of the BBC is for many harder to detect but is actually far more insidious and damaging in the effect it has on our cultural drift."

Mr Stephenson made the comments in a newspaper article in which he responded to criticism from Tony Garnett, a television producer, who accused the BBC's drama department of changing "in ways which have coarsened both it and wider culture." He wrote: "If we didn't all think differently, have different ideas of what works and what doesn't, wouldn't our lives, and more importantly, our TV screens be less interesting? We need to foster peculiarity, idiosyncrasy, stubborn-mindedness, left-of-centre thinking."

He later denied that he had meant the comment to have a political meaning. "Like 'left-field', it is a phrase that I use with frequency when talking to the creative community to encourage them to develop and approach their ideas from a completely new perspective," he said.

A BBC source said that executives believed that their casting of Boris Johnson, the Conservative Mayor of London, in an episode of EastEnders, proved that they did not have a left-wing bias.

Meanwhile, a report yesterday said that the licence fee should be shared with other broadcasters, because the BBC was failing to fulfil its public service remit. The paper, by Frank Field MP and David Rees, argued that the licence fee should be put in the hands of a new independent commissioning body. Broadcasters, including the BBC, would then pitch ideas for public service programmes to the body and be awarded funding accordingly. BBC One, BBC Three, Radio 1 and Radio 2 should all be put up for sale, it added.


Sonia Sotomayor and the Future of Anti-Islamist Speech

The United States holds a unique advantage in the fight against radical Islam: buttressed by the First Amendment, Americans' freedom to speak and write about the Islamist threat is unmatched anywhere in the Western world. However, such protections can suffer at the hands of judges who seek to mold the Constitution according to their own personal preferences. With Sonia Sotomayor nearing confirmation to the Supreme Court, there is no better time to explore which judicial approaches are most likely to weaken First Amendment rights.

Three qualities in particular should set off alarm bells for those concerned about free speech:

* Advocacy of the "living Constitution" model. When judges are "amending the Constitution and other laws as the judges see fit," a straightforward statement such as "Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press" can become disturbingly pliable. If legal reasoning could be found to restrict political speech (e.g., McCain-Feingold), could not the same fate befall other types of speech?

* Citation of foreign law. This increasingly popular trend on the Supreme Court should put fear in the heart of anyone intent on protecting anti-Islamist speech, as practically every Western country has hate speech laws on the books, many of which have been employed against critics of Islamism. Just ask Ezra Levant, Mark Steyn, Oriana Fallaci, Geert Wilders, and a host of others.

* Fixation on group identity. Those who see the group, not the individual, as the central building block of society are more likely to curtail individual rights for the purpose of mollifying certain racial, ethnic, gender, or religious groups. Such thinking undergirds European-style hate speech laws.

Unfortunately, all three of the above qualities are reflected, to some extent, in Sotomayor's past remarks. A sampling: "Our society would be strait-jacketed were not the courts … constantly overhauling the law," she wrote in 1996, effectively offering a thumbs-up to legislating from the bench — where, as she once put it, "policy is made." Furthermore, she asserted recently that "foreign law will be very important in the discussion of how to think about the unsettled issues in our own legal system"; she also has cited foreign cases in her decisions. Finally, her musings on the virtues of the "wise Latina woman" and the possibility that gender and ethnicity "will make a difference in our judging" do not bode well on the identity politics front.

Radical Islam will never be defeated without the freedom to discuss faith and culture frankly — even if it means offending some Muslims. With hate speech laws and grievance tribunals, much of the West is on the wrong path. America must not follow — not for a single step.


Hooray! Another lying bitch goes to jail

This is one aspect of British law that it pretty good. They do jail women for false rape claims -- though not long enough in my view. The woman should serve the same time that a man would have got

A mother was jailed for two years yesterday for crying rape against a man she met on a dating website. Jennifer Day, 34, who made the false allegation against former boyfriend Andrew Saxby after a row, was told by the judge that she had undermined efforts to treat genuine rape victims fairly and sympathetically.

The court also heard that Mr Saxby was subjected to 'degrading and upsetting' examinations while being held by police for ten hours. Judge Ian Graham said the investigation had wasted £4,000 of taxpayers' money and 270 police man hours.

He added: 'The police have put great stores on providing sympathetic treatments of women who make genuine complaints of rape and you abused that. 'You have undermined and jeopardised the efforts that are being made about the need to treat genuine victims of rape properly, fairly and sympathetically. 'The offence is in itself a serious one, it has terrible consequences potentially and actually for the victim and wider implications for those women who have genuinely been raped.'

Day, a former nurse, from Corringham, Essex, split up with the father of her four-year-old daughter in 2007 after he had an affair with their lodger, Basildon Crown Court heard. She began drinking heavily to cope with the rejection and using dating websites. In September 2007 she met Mr Saxby, who worked for the Ford car company, through the Dating Direct website.

They began a relationship, but the court heard that she was also seeing another man. In January last year, the couple rowed after Mr Saxby accused her of having another man at her home. Afterwards, Day dialled 999 and accused Mr Saxby of rape. He was arrested in front of his colleagues and taken to the police station.

Judge Graham said: 'It was an extraordinary performance which involved deliberate untruths as the jury found.' The court heard that Mr Saxby was released without charge after Day dropped the allegation, although she still maintained it was true. She was found guilty of one count of perverting the course of justice last month.

During the trial, the court heard how Day had a history of making up stories. The jury was told that while working at Royal London Hospital in East London as a nurse, she suffered stress-related hair loss and led her colleagues to believe it was cancer.

Rebecca Lee, mitigating, said Day had been under a lot of strain following the break-up of her relationship with the father of her daughter. She said: 'She got involved with dating websites and going out when her daughter was staying with her former partner, going out to pubs and engaging in what she would call risky behaviour and behaving totally out of character.' Day apologised unreservedly for the allegation, the court heard.

But the judge rejected calls to suspend the sentence. 'Mr Saxby is a completely respectable man who had formed a relationship with you and had shown considerable affection and kindness of the kind you said you craved,' he said. 'His reward was to be the subject of this completely false complaint.'

Day burst into tears as she was taken down to the cells.



By Ezra Levant

How would censorship work in the Internet age? Australia gives us a sneak preview of the gong show that ensues when medieval thinking is applied to a wired world.

Australia’s government nannies have officially banned 1,370 web sites. They’ve drawn up a blacklist, just like the medieval index of banned books. Right now it’s a voluntary pilot project to which Internet service providers can submit. But if the trial run is deemed a success and made law, anyone who links to a blacklisted site can be fined $11,000 a day. That means it will be a crime not just to provide the contents of a web site, but to merely reproduce its address.

That’s not just like banning books. It’s like banning books, and banning saying the banned book’s title. It’s a lot of banning.

But here’s the tricky part: the government won’t even say what those 1,370 banned web sites are. It’s secret. So there are 1,370 web sites out there that could result in your criminal prosecution in Australia. But you won’t find out what they are — until you link to one of them. That’s right out of Alice in Wonderland. The pretzelian logic goes like this: if the Australian government were to list those 1,370 banned web sites, then not only would they be breaking the rules themselves, but that list would serve as an advertisement. Out of the billions of web pages on the Internet, 1,370 would be given special attention, inviting anyone curious to check them out.

Of course, people who compile the secret blacklist know what’s on it. But apparently they can be trusted not to succumb to the temptation to look at the sites. And the list was sent to selected Australian Internet companies for a trial run. That didn’t work out quite as well. The list was leaked to Wikileaks, the web site that specializes in publishing confidential documents, especially embarrassing internal government memoranda.

And that’s when things got even weirder. Wikileaks published the entire blacklist on one of its pages. So now that Wikileaks page, too, has been added to the blacklist. It’s number 1,371.

Needless to say, I was tempted to skim the names of the banned sites. Most of them are porn sites, and some have names that suggest child pornography, which is a crime. But that’s what we have courts for. The Australian blacklist wasn’t written by a court; there was no hearing where evidence was brought that these sites were criminal sites. A group of busybody human rights activists simply wrote the blacklist. Sounds Canadian, actually.

Many banned sites are merely offensive, but not illegal. And some sites are perfectly innocuous. For some secret reason, the web site is on the blacklist. If you’re not in Australia, feel free to give that one a click. It’s not a pornographic site. My Dutch is rusty, but it appears to be a web site for a forklift rental company in Holland.

How did Van Bokhorst get on the blacklist in Australia? Nobody knows because the process was kept secret, even from Van Bokhorst. It’s unlikely that Van Bokhorst had any Australian customers. But that’s not the point. Someone is making these clandestine decisions about what Australians can or can’t see.

We’ve seen this sort of censorship in other countries — and not just from the likes of communist China. Thailand brought in a similar blacklist in the name of protecting its citizens from child pornography. But — surprise! — within months, the blacklist had other web sites on it, including 1,200 banned for criticizing the Thai royal family. A secret list, in the hands of a government, practically guarantees that sort of political abuse.

Australia’s trial-run blacklist has plenty of questionable items on it, and not just Dutch forklift companies. Hundreds of Internet poker sites are banned. Poker, unlike child pornography, is not a crime. It may be a vice, but how to handle that is a political debate. Australia’s blacklist ends that discussion with force.

And now a web site about abortion politics is on the blacklist. You can probably guess which side of the debate is being censored, but either way, it’s abominable censorship.

That blacklist was sold as a way to stop child porn. But that’s the thing about slippery slopes, isn’t it; you don’t really see the dangers until you’ve started sliding into them.

The Canadian Human Rights Commission wants an Internet blacklist, too. It wants to expand Canada’s to cover political sites, not just child porn sites it targets now.

We associate book burnings with witch trials and the Nazis, not with mild-mannered bureaucrats. But book burnings in the 21st century require no matches — just self-righteous censors and a somnolent public.


These proposals were put up by the previous conservative government as an anti-pornography measure but the recently-elected Leftist government has embraced them as a way of barring ANY site that they regard as "undesirable". Because of widespread opposition and ridicule from both sides of politics, however, they are unlikely to become law


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 readers in China or for times when is playing up, there is a mirror of this site here.


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