Wednesday, December 29, 2010
Let’s make 2011 the year of free speech
We should take to task the film censors, advert-banners and political blacklisters who think they know better than us
Unfortunately, in 2010 the idea that the public needs to be protected from ‘dangerous ideas’ did not get ousted alongside the New Labour government. Instead, in the disparate spheres of politics, culture, education and advertising, words, opinions and images continue to be censured, corrected, silenced and removed from public view in the name of protecting us from harm.
The busybodies who take the liberty to decide what we, the public, are allowed to hear clearly cannot tell the difference between words and deeds, and do not understand that without the right to hear all sides of an argument or to see full versions of movies or plays, we don’t actually have genuine freedom of expression and conscience. Without access to a broad range of views and aesthetic judgements, we can’t truly work out for ourselves what is wrong or right, what is good or bad.
Here in Britain, many civil liberties campaigners were hopeful that the Lib-Con coalition government would help us reclaim the freedoms robbed by New Labour micro-managers. We heard that the database state was being rolled back, the ID cards scheme was getting slashed, and some surveillance cameras would be disassembled. Yet while some of the intrusive and unwieldy symbols of the surveillance society have certainly come to feel out-of-date and so New Labour, our new rulers continue to treat our minds as play dough to be kneaded and moulded into an ‘acceptable’ shape.
The Lib-Cons and their social psychology advisers call it ‘nudging’: it’s about gently pushing us, ‘empowering us’, to make the right choices, to think pleasant thoughts, to do good. And so anyone or anything that can potentially lead us to behave badly must be removed. We’ve gone from ‘the politics of behaviour’ to ‘the politics of the brain’.
The idea that a minority should determine for the rest of us what we are allowed to say, think or listen to now spans the political spectrum. Remember, for instance, when the Conservative home secretary Theresa May used exclusion powers for the first time? It was to disallow Mumbai-based televangelist Dr Zakir Naik from giving a series of lectures in Britain in the summer. May was very much following in the footsteps of the former Labour home secretary, Jacqui Smith, who barred from Britain hundreds of people deemed not ‘conducive to the public good’. Such bogeymen have ranged from Muslim preachers to an American ‘shock jock’, from neo-Nazis to an Israeli politician. May used the same rhetoric as Smith, helping to make Naik’s crackpot views seem somehow mysterious and dangerously persuasive when they are nothing of the sort.
Nowhere is the clampdown on extreme views felt more acutely than in universities. These institutions should ideally be offering young people a unique chance to engage in free-flowing debate, to listen to – and question – everything. Yet in 2010, academia continued its transformation into the frontline of the ‘war against terror’. With universities viewed as hotbeds of ‘radicalisation’, higher education lecturers have been co-opted into keeping students in check. And student bodies, too, have been all too willing to ‘no platform’ ideas deemed too wacky, un-PC, or too potentially harmful for public airing.
Many people have internalised the idea that they have the right to decide on behalf of others what is acceptable or what is not – and that they should be thanked for doing so. So in 2010, eight people complained that an advert showing a pregnant nun with a tub of ice-cream, beneath which it said ‘Immaculate Conception’, was in poor taste. The Advertising Standards Authority duly banned it.
For others, the expression ‘the means justify the ends’ has no bounds. Take the National Health Service smoking cessation group. It recently demanded that children should be banned from watching films like 101 Dalmatians and Lord of the Rings because they show people smoking. In this instance, the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) said banning was inappropriate. Yet in other cases, the BBFC has seen fit to cut and slash movies in the name of protecting adults from supposedly harmful images. Forty-nine scenes were cut out from the political horror flick A Serbian Film, severely compromising, in the view of the filmmakers, the movie’s message. The BBFC also gave a fairly tough 15 certificate to the British film Made in Dagenham simply because it featured swearing factory workers.
All of which begs the question: who the f**k do these prudes think they are? They are little more than jumped-up, self-styled guardians of morality who think they know better than the rest of us.
Whether it’s the government sending a message about what opinions are acceptable, the Advertising Standards Authority upholding the complaints of tiny, easily offended minorities, or the BBFC determining what kind of violent scenes or foul words audiences can stomach – today censorship is repeatedly dressed up as being for our benefit. And that’s one idea we should seriously challenge in 2011.
Being Nice Hasn't Protected Sweden
The Grinch Steals Christmas. Sweden, a country that has prided itself on its good sense, openness, decency, and neutrality has suddenly encountered the unexpected: the terror war coming home to them. Fortunately, the suicide bomber who wanted to blow up Swedes doing their Christmas shopping was incompetent—and he succeeded only in blowing up himself. You can be sure that the Swedes are now revisiting their practices regarding Islamist immigrants, as have all other European countries that have been under attack.
On December 15, the Security Police in Stockholm presented a report on “violence-prone networks” in Sweden. They conclude there are perhaps 200 Jihadis in the country, about 30 of them trained in Somalia. These networks live in three of Sweden’s major cities: Stockholm, Gothenburg, and Malmo. Malmo has long been identified as having a social democratic City Council that is so pro-Muslim that a large part of the Jewish population has left the city.
An audio file in Swedish and Arabic was sent to the Swedish news agency ten minutes before the jihadist suicide bomber killed himself in one of two explosions in central Stockholm. The audio said: “Now the Islamic state has been created. We now exist here in Europe and in Sweden. We are a reality. Now your children, your daughters and your sisters will die as our brothers, our sisters and our children are dying.”
While we in the west protect freedom of speech, the Islamists fight it. “Insulting Islam” in print or cartoon is enough motive for murder. Will we start censoring ourselves as a result of this?
The bomber was Abdulwahab Al-Abdaly, a 29-year old citizen of Sweden whose Iraqi parents were given sanctuary from the horrors of Iraq. He was a typical young Swede—wearing bluejeans, spiked hair, and was once a disc jockey until he married a fanatical Muslim woman in Luton, England who, according to her grandmother, “turned her husband into an extremist.” She is in hiding with her three beautiful children, including the youngest, who is named Osama (to honor 9/11, it seems). Wife Mona Thwany, a Romanian, was converted to radical Islam on a trip to North Africa.
Sweden is also in the news because of its arrest warrant against anarchist publisher of other people’s mail, Julien Assange. Assange is accused of rape—and his defenders are sure that this is a frameup—showing how Sweden is the lap dog of the United States, whose diplomatic cables were stolen by an American soldier and broadcast on line to the world by WikiLeaks. Assange’s techno-terrorist organization.
WikiLeaks’ Tarnished Underbelly. Reason.com has done a little investigating of WikiLeaks and has found that one of its most trusted operatives is a Swede with the pseudonym “Israel Shamir” (a.k.a. Adam Ermash or Joran Jermas). Shamir’s job is to select and distribute the stolen cables to Russian news organizations. Echo Moskvy radio in Russia has identified Shamir as the fabricator of a cable that claimed that there was collusion among those who walked out on Iran’s president Ahmadinejad’s nasty speech to the United Nations in October. Shamir calls Amhadinejad the “brave and charismatic leader” of Iran.
He refers to the Auschwitz death camp as “an internment facility attended by the Red Cross, not a place of extermination. He told a Swedish journalist that “it’s every Muslim and Christian’s duty to deny the Holocaust.”
More Suicide Attacks Planned. Iraqi authorities have obtained confessions from captured insurgents who claim al Qaeda is planning suicide attacks in the United States and Europe during the Christmas season. The Iraqis have notified Interpol about this, and note that the Swedish attack was probably part of this plot. American security officials consider these threats credible.
Even Iran is Under Attack. Suicide bombers killed at least 39 people and wounded dozens more December 15. Sunni Baluchi terrorists had targeted a procession of Shiite Muslims in a town in south-east Iran. The Iranian government accused the US of complicity—although the US has blacklisted this group, Jundallah, as terrorists. This thing is indeed global.
The attempted marginalization of Christians in the USA
It is, for many of us, the most powerful line in the most powerful carol of the Christmas season: “Long lay the world in sin and error pining ‘Til He appear’d … and the soul felt its worth.”
So reads John Sullivan Dwight’s English translation of Adolphe Adam’s beautiful French carol, O Holy Night. Singing and listening to that song this year, though, I’ve been sadly reminded what an unholy year it has been for many Americans – particularly Christians – in the courtrooms of our nation. So many crucial judgments this year seemed calculated to convince believers that they have no worth at all, in our country’s “halls of justice.”
In California, for instance – with one sweeping and breathtakingly arbitrary ruling by a federal trial court – Christians were effectively told that they have no place in the political process of the state, and that marriage as we’ve always known it, the union of one man and one woman, is now unconstitutional and irrelevant to the needs and concerns of children.
In 2009, another federal court determined that Christian law students cannot block the participation of non-Christian law students in the election of officers for a club designed for … Christian law students. Incredibly, to outlaw that kind of “prejudice” against those who don’t believe, the courts encouraged universities to institutionalize prejudice against those who do. This year, the U.S. Supreme Court concurred in that judgment. So much for the worth of souls who care about the souls of others.
Meanwhile, across the country, in New York, a federal court ruled that a Christian medical professional has no right to sue, should her hospital employers violate federal law and compel her to take part in an abortion, whatever the pretext. Even if the Christian has affirmation in writing that she will not be forced to participate in abortions. Even if helping with an abortion is a mortal sin. In other words, in a nation whose founders regarded the protection of religious freedom as the holiest duty of the law … religious freedom is now expendable, if it interferes with the business of medicine.
Is this the spirit and letter of the law now, in America?
That marriage means nothing …
… that the need to separate faith from citizenship is now so critical that Christians are to be denied any meaningful participation in the electoral process …
… that the freedom to gather with people who share one’s beliefs is forfeit to the political correctness of those beliefs in the eyes of the state …
… that the voice of one’s conscience is no longer valid for the making of life-and-death decisions …
… that religious liberty isn’t worth the paper our Constitution was written on?
That’s the way the legal winds are blowing, in our nation today. So it’s not just the winter cold sending chills along the spines and into the hearts of so many citizens and voters.
In our courtrooms, our law schools, our legal journals and our judges’ chambers – as in that little town of Bethlehem two thousand long years ago – “the hopes and fears of all the years” are met, in the increasingly dark night of America’s soul.
Federal Regulators Wage War on Christmas
It's worth noting not only that the War on Christmas has continued, but now federal regulators have joined the wrong side. Christians should get far more aggressive in fighting back, because the Constitution is on their side.
Various outlets have reported throughout December that regulators from the Federal Reserve told privately-owned banks that they can’t have Christmas displays. It’s illegal for government agents to do that.
The Federal Reserve is a public-private hybrid. In one sense, it’s a private bank with money reserves, and also serves as a clearing house for checks and wire transfers from other banks.
In another sense, it’s a government agency. It was created by Congress and its board members are appointed by the president of the United States. It determines the money supply in the economy and sets interest rates. The Fed has regulatory authority over every bank in the United States. And its regulations and orders carry the force of law.
One such order violates the U.S. Constitution. One Fed regulation, called Regulation B, disallows “words, symbols … and other forms of communication” that “suggest a discriminatory preference or policy of exclusion.” That regulation is okay in many circumstances, but not all.
A bank in Oklahoma City displayed Bible verses and had a cross on the tellers’ counter. Some bank workers also wore “Merry Christmas” buttons. Fed regulators visiting the bank said that these displays violated Regulation B, and ordered them removed. A similar situation is unfolding in Nebraska. The American Exchange Bank of Lincoln has also been told to discontinue religious displays.
This is outrageous. Government actors—as that’s what Fed regulators are whenever they give an order to a privately-owned bank—cannot order a private person (and a corporation is a “person”) or the individuals working there not to engage in religious expression. To the extent that Regulation B suggests anything to the contrary, that regulation (and any order based on it) is unconstitutional.
The Constitution is firmly on the side of these banks and private citizens. Joe Infranco is an attorney with the Alliance Defense Fund (ADF), one of the foremost religious-liberty organizations in America, which litigates countless cases nationwide defending religious expressions. About this bank situation involving the Fed, Infranco says, “It’s ridiculous that people have to think twice about whether it’s okay to publicly celebrate Christmas. An overwhelming majority of Americans celebrate Christmas and are opposed to any kind of censorship of it.”
It’s unfortunate that the War on Christmas hasn’t gotten much attention this year. With the understandable focus on massive deficit spending and other economic issues, such as the tax-extension deal (loaded with hundreds of billions of dollars in new deficit spending) and the defeated $1.2 trillion omnibus, there hasn’t been a big media appetite for the ongoing secularization of American society.
Yet that’s exactly what we’ve seen. Christmas parades where renamed “holiday parades” this year, despite the fact that Christmas remains a federal holiday officially recognized by this nation. And in the midst of this increasingly anti-Christian bias, we see the inexcusable action of federal regulators telling private banks and citizens that they cannot freely celebrate Christmas.
No federal order or regulation can trump the U.S. Constitution. It’s time for Christians to reengage in this fight for religious liberty. Stop playing defense. Go on offense. Make a New Year’s resolution that next Christmas will see people unapologetically celebrating the birth of Christ, and an uncompromising legal fight against any government officer who tries to stop it.
SOURCE (See the original for links)
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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