Tuesday, March 22, 2011

BBC Promotes foul language

It is usually regarded as one of the last bastions of taste and decency at the BBC. But now Radio 3 is to air an adaptation of Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights complete with foul language.

Romantic figures Heathcliff and Cathy will be heard using strong swear words in the station’s adaptation of one of literature’s most famous and tempestuous love stories.

It is understood the expletives are used in the heat of the moment as the two characters argue. But eyebrows have been raised at the decision to air the scenes at 8pm on Sunday night.

While radio does not have a 9pm watershed in the way that television does, stations are not supposed to broadcast unsuitable material when youngsters are likely to be listening.

Radio 3 has a low audience among young people, but there are concerns students who are studying the book could tune in to the adaptation without realising it has been given a more adult makeover.

The station was unable to provide a transcript showing the three occasions when swear words are used in the story, but said it did not affect any of the famous lines from the book.

Playwright and theatre director Jonathan Holloway defended the decision to use expletives in his reworking of the 1847 novel for the BBC. He told Radiotimes.com that the story would have shocked its readers when it was originally published.

Mr Holloway added: ‘For me Wuthering Heights is a story of violent obsession, and a tortuous unfulfilled relationship. This is not a Vaseline-lensed experience. ‘That’s what I wanted to elbow out, this idea that it’s the cosy greatest love story ever told. It’s not. ‘The f-words are part of my attempt to shift the production to left field, and to help capture the shock that was associated with the original book when it was published.’

A Radio 3 spokesman said: ‘The use of strong language by some characters in this production was not undertaken lightly. ‘Language warnings will be broadcast at the beginning of the drama.’


Disabled British man, 64, who died confronting yobs was a victim of 'systematic' police failure to protect him

The useless but politically correct plods again

A man with learning difficulties who collapsed and died after years of torment by children as young as five failed to receive proper support from police despite the abuse having been reported to them 88 times, a report found yesterday.

David Askew, 64, had been mercilessly picked on by generations of youths on the estate where he lived with his elderly mother, and last year a neighbour warned the local council one of them would die if the harassment didn’t stop.

Tragically, just three weeks later, Mr Askew suffered a fatal heart attack after going outside to chase away a gang who were throwing a wheelie bin around the garden and tampering with his mother’s mobility scooter.

Yesterday a report condemned police for their ‘total failure’ to link together the catalogue of calls made by the family and treat the abuse as a hate crime prompted by Mr Askew’s disability.

It also found CCTV cameras installed to catch the culprits were next-to-useless because the picture quality was too poor to recognise their faces – and even concluded Mr Askew had been treated as ‘part of the problem’ for giving the youths cigarettes to make them go away.

The appalling case followed the tragic case of Fiona Pilkington who killed herself and her disabled daughter Francecca, 18, in 2007 by setting fire to their car. She had made 33 calls over seven years to police reporting abuse by local yobs which had driven her to despair but was instead accused of ‘over-reacting’.

Mr Askew, nicknamed ‘Dopey Dave’ by neighbours for his mental age of about eight, had suffered abuse for more than a decade. Youths would call him names, throw stones, smash windows and kick the front door of the home in Hattersley, Greater Manchester he shared with his wheelchair-bound mother Rose, 89, and brother Bryan, now 63, who also has learning difficulties.

Yesterday’s report by the Independent Police Complaints Commission revealed the family had called police 88 times to report abuse between 2004 and Mr Askew's death last March. But while neighbourhood police teams worked tirelessly with the family to try to help, senior officers failed to link the incidents and treat the constant torment they were enduring as a high priority, it said.

The report also highlighted how none of the calls were logged as a possible ‘hate crime’, and officers took the ‘easier route’ of trying to change Mr Askew’ s behaviour instead of tackling his abusers.

‘The poor quality of footage produced by the CCTV system installed at the Askew family home and the lack of an intelligence record regarding the incidents also hampered attempts to detect and prosecute crime.

‘Antisocial behaviour is the type of low level crime that can pass beneath the radar of police,’ said IPCC Commissioner Naseem Malik. ‘However for the families experiencing such crime it can be a horrific experience.’

She said Greater Manchester Police’s failure to prioritise the family in line with their vulnerability and to work with health teams and social workers ‘all led to incidents being dealt with locally and in isolation over a number of years’. ‘They were left with a sticking-plaster solution when the matter needed extensive surgery.’

Despite the hate campaign, only one person – 18-year-old Kial Cottingham – has ever been prosecuted over the harassment, although another youth was issued with an Asbo. Last September Cottingham was given 16 weeks’ detention, although he was not charged over Mr Askew’s death.

Also yesterday a serious case review by the local council highlighted how some of the children who tormented the family had been as young as five.

And it revealed the chilling warning made by a neighbour just three weeks before Mr Askew’s death. At a meeting to discuss the abuse, the resident predicted ‘if something wasn’t done there would be a death in the family’.

However it concluded that while agencies could have done more together to tackle the abuse, the tragedy might still not have been prevented.

No police officer is to face disciplinary action over the case, but Garry Shewan, Assistant Chief Constable of GMP, admitted the family had been failed. ‘We acknowledge we did not identify what happened to David as a disability hate crime, and that more should have been done at strategic and inter-agency level,’ he said.

However he pledged that new guidelines on how to treat vulnerable victims meant better support would be provided in future cases and said reports of antisocial behaviour across the force had dropped by a quarter over the last 12 months.

Coalition ministers have pledged to replace Labour’s discredited Asbo system with new measures including a ‘community trigger’ whereby police would have to act if at least five households raised a particular problem.

A Home Office spokesman said the failings highlighted by the reports into Mr Askew’s death showed ‘why we’re shaking up the whole system for dealing with anti-social behaviour, moving on from the Asbo culture and replacing it with powers that are easier to use, more effective and backed up by meaningful punishments’.


The Limits of Common Sense

Why toleration of outrageous speech is necessary for political freedom


Our Monday column on union thuggery prompts this response from reader John Benjamin:
Rarely do I write to comment on commentary, but that was simply too much. That you, unlike Ann Althouse, view Brian Leiter's "political violence" comments with "amusement" indicates a bit of callousness towards the sentiment expressed.

Frankly, Leiter borders on incitement. Not to see that comments such as his enhance the possibility of actual violence in the future is unacceptable. There is a profound degree of antipathy in political circles today and one would be denying reality if one expressed surprise at an act of political violence today. Shock and horror, yes, but surprise, no and it's due precisely to the allowing of intellectual lunatics such as Leiter the light of day on campus or anywhere inside civilization.

Tolerance in this instance simply encourages more of the same until, one day, riot. I find tolerance of ideological malfeasance to be akin to the broken windows theory of policing--when we allow foolish, crazy or hostile ideas to survive, they do nothing but cause ruin and further ruin. There is a limit to the First Amendment and it's called common sense.

Let's begin by rehearsing the Leiter statement in question. Referring to government policies of which he disapproves--specifically, curtailments of public-sector "collective bargaining" privileges and funding for public universities--Leiter, a scholar of philosophy and law at the University of Chicago, wrote on his blog: "At some point these acts of brazen viciousness are going to lead to a renewed philosophical interest in the question of when acts of political violence are morally justified."

This comes nowhere near meeting the legal definition of incitement, which the Supreme Court set out in Brandenburg v. Ohio (1969):
Freedoms of speech and press do not permit a State to forbid advocacy of the use of force or of law violation except where such advocacy is directed to inciting or producing imminent lawless action and is likely to incite or produce such action.

The key word here is "imminent." Leiter's statement not only is unlikely to incite or produce imminent lawless action but is carefully worded to refute any claim that that is its intent. As a legal scholar, he presumably knows the legal limits.

In fact, he could have been much more direct without risk of legal action. As we noted in January, the hard-left sociologist Frances Fox Piven has expressly advocated political violence and is at no legal risk for it. Leiter doesn't even advocate violence; he merely says that "at some point" (not imminently!) there will be "renewed philosophical interest in the question."

We find this amusing rather than menacing because it is so pathetically weak. Again, contrast Piven with Leiter. She came right out and called for "something like the strikes and riots that have spread across Greece"--a despicable sentiment, but one that at least has the virtue of clarity, in contrast with Leiter's coy insinuation that there may be challenging academic papers in the offing if his political foes aren't careful. Piven, a woman who will be 80 next year, is acting manlier than Leiter, decades younger and male.

Althouse does not profess to find Leiter's statement menacing either but "disgusting." (Nor does she urge that he be silenced.) If we read her correctly, her disgust is largely the product of what she, as an academic with integrity, sees as his abuse of his scholarly authority: "He's inclined to approve of the impulse toward violence on the left and willing to mobilize the discipline of philosophy to generate rhetoric to support its political goals. It's quite disgusting."

The reason we find Leiter's comments amusing rather than disgusting is that we, unlike Althouse, are not part of academia and thus have no personal investment in the ideal of disinterested and honest scholarship. Rather than offend our ideals, Leiter reinforces our stereotype of academia as being filled with fools and knaves. You can see why this would bother Althouse, a scholar who does not fit the disparaging stereotype.

Althouse's emotional reaction to Leiter's comments is similar to ours when the New York Times publishes blatantly slanted stories on its news pages or outright lies on its opinion pages. Those are our professional standards the Times is transgressing. Some of our readers thought our outrage at the Times naive; we would say that, like Althouse's disgust with Leiter, it was merely idealistic. It is possible to be knowing without being cynical.

To return to John Benjamin's letter, we certainly agree that it is better if "foolish, crazy or hostile ideas" do not survive, or at least do not thrive. A good deal of our work is devoted to combating them with the weapons of logic and mockery. As the disgusted Althouse demonstrates, shaming can also be an effective tactic.

Look at Leiter's defensive updates to his initial blog post. He accuses Althouse of an "inflammatory hatchet job" and us of a "drive-by smear." He answers by asserting that "I did not, and do not, call for political violence"--technically an accurate statement, as explained above, but a curious claim for him to deny since neither Althouse nor this column ever made it. Leiter wouldn't be acting like such a crybaby if he weren't losing this argument.

This little kerfuffle is a good illustration of the First Amendment piety that the answer to offensive speech is more speech, not censorship. Indeed, for generations the U.S. Supreme Court has protected speech far more offensive to common sense than anything Leiter has likely ever said:

Brandenburg overturned the conviction of a Ku Klux Klansman who had advocated (but not incited) violence against blacks and Jews. Hustler v. Falwell (1988) overturned a civil award against a pornographic magazine for what the court described as "an ad parody offensive to [the plaintiff], and doubtless gross and repugnant in the eyes of most." And most recently, Snyder v. Phleps (2011) overturned a judgment against the Westboro Baptist so-called Church, the "God hates fags" creeps, for protesting near the funeral of a fallen Marine.

All these decisions were unanimous save for Snyder, which drew a lone dissent by Justice Samuel Alito. We found Alito's opinion to be a compelling and eloquent defense of common sense, and we're glad he wrote it--although we're also glad no other justice joined it. Political freedom is much better served by a regime of near-absolute free speech than one that attempts to impose common-sense limits on speech.

This is for two reasons. First, exhortations to respect common sense--defined by Merriam-Webster as "sound and prudent judgment based on a simple perception of the situation or facts"--presuppose that one has discretion over one's actions: "If you post that on your blog, you'll look foolish, Prof. Leiter. That's just common sense." It's too vague a basis for making legal rules, which require the drawing of clear lines. The First Amendment, in fact, is such a rule, designed to limit government's discretion in policing speech.

Second, common sense is too easily swamped by senseless intellectualism. The experience of generally free countries that do limit speech--including Canada, England and many Continental European lands--is that the limits are dictated by political correctness rather than common sense. The same is true of American institutions of higher education.

We might accept common-sense limits on free speech if Justice Alito were making all the decisions. But we don't for a second trust the political and legal elite to ensure that future justices are men like Alito, whose nomination was fiercely opposed by the party that now controls the White House and the Senate majority. Yielding to the temptation to censor the speech of guys like Leiter--or even Fred Phelps of Westboro infamy--would only make it more likely that guys like Leiter would eventually gain the power to censor the speech of the rest of us.


Australia: Victoria's welfare binge

More than one in four Victorians now rely on welfare, prompting renewed calls for an overhaul of the system of handouts. A Herald Sun investigation has found at least 1.3 million men, women and children received federal payments in the past year. And about half of those were handed more than one benefit.

The payments are part of the nation's $84.2 billion annual welfare bill, administered by Centrelink at a further cost of $3 billion a year.

For the first time the Herald Sun can reveal the full extent of welfare after being given access to Centrelink data for every postcode in the state. More than 2.6 million "clients" are recorded in Victoria receiving some of 27 benefits administered by Centrelink.

Broadly they fall into three groups: 1.2 million who receive working-age income support, 830,000 who receive family benefits, and 540,000 aged pensioners. In addition, 1.4 million Victorians have health care and concession cards.

In two-thirds of communities, more than half the population received some form of federal help in the past year. In one in 14 communities, welfare payments outnumbered residents.

The findings have spurred fresh debate about Australia's welfare system. "The sheer number of payments being made, and the number of Victorians receiving them, is astonishing," Jessica Brown, a policy analyst from the Centre for Independent Studies, said. "We need to ask ourselves what more we can do to get people off welfare and into work."

Ms Brown said the system had become too complex and it needed to be simplified to ensure payments were going to those most in need of them.

Victorian Council of Social Service chief executive Cath Smith said the geographic distribution of payments was stark. "This data presents decision-makers with an opportunity to focus economic development and investment in new services in the areas that are seriously disadvantaged - where people currently have less access to education, jobs and services than (those in) more affluent locations," she said.

"The fact that so many Victorians can rely on our social safety net is reassuring, yet (we) see the human faces behind these numbers every day. And we know that life is tough when you are poor or chronically ill."

Eight in 10 families nationally receive Family Tax Benefit payments, despite their being designed to focus on lower income groups. These payments alone will cost taxpayers nearly $18 billion this year. Nearly $2 billion more will go to pay for parental leave and the baby bonus.

Treasury secretary Ken Henry last year recommended a major welfare shake-up. Among the Henry Review's suggestions was a reduction in the number of welfare payments to fewer than a dozen, better means-testing of people's true wealth, and more encouragement of single parents to go back to work.

Since then, the Federal Government has extended the welfare system, introducing 18 weeks' paid parental leave on January 1, extending Family Tax Benefits to cover children aged 16-18 at school or in training with payments of up to $4000, and providing up to $6000 for unemployed people to move for work.

The Federal Government has also promised tougher penalties for job-seekers who miss Centrelink appointments.

And middle-class welfare is expected to come under the microscope in the coming federal Budget.



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, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN (Note that EYE ON BRITAIN has regular posts on the reality of socialized medicine). My Home Pages are here or here or here or Email me (John Ray) here. For readers in China or for times when blogger.com is playing up, there is a mirror of this site here.


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