Thursday, July 14, 2011
Breast-feeding British mother 'told to leave council headquarters because she would offend Muslim visitors'
A mother was ordered not to breastfeed her baby in public because she was in a ‘multicultural building’. Emma Mitchell, 32, was about to feed 19-week-old son Aaron when a receptionist at a town hall warned her to stop.
Last night Mrs Mitchell condemned council staff, saying it was time people recognised the law which allows nursing mothers to breastfeed in public.
‘It was just awful. I felt humiliated, intimidated and guilty through the whole thing,’ she said. ‘What I was doing was one of the most natural things a mother can do. You hear everywhere that breast is best for your baby, so why wouldn’t I be allowed to do that?’
The incident occurred when Mrs Mitchell, from Oldham, was in the Citizens’ Advice Bureau in Oldham Civic Centre. The mother of two was asking about hiring a babysitter for her two boys when Aaron became hungry and started crying. She then asked the receptionist if she could use a corner of the room to feed him, but she refused, saying it was a ‘multicultural building’.
Mrs Mitchell, who is married to Neil, 43, a lorry driver, said: ‘She then rang the manager who told me that I couldn’t breastfeed here and to go into the shopping centre’s public toilets instead.
‘A member of the complaints department came down and spoke to the receptionist. ‘But she then told me that I had caused an uproar. I just asked to be allowed a place to feed my crying baby.’
Michelle Booth, 38, a friend who was at the civic centre, said: ‘I don’t understand. It’s political correctness gone mad when they’re worried about offending people of other cultures over something so natural.’
Under UK law, mothers can breastfeed in public under the provision of goods, services and facilities section of the Sexual Discrimination Act, whatever the age of the baby, in places such as council buildings, cafes, restaurants, libraries and doctors’ surgeries.
Last night councillor Shoab Akhtar, of Oldham Council, said: ‘We fully support the right of mothers to breastfeed their children and actively encourage it due to the long-term health benefits it provides. ‘Mrs Mitchell’s disappointing experience has highlighted the need to make all our staff fully aware of our policy and our legal requirements.
‘Staff will be trained in the coming days to ensure this never happens again, and we will be contacting Mrs Mitchell to apologise. ‘Staff should make every reasonable effort to assist a mother’s need to breastfeed, whether she requests the use of a private room or otherwise.’
No "women and children first" among Muslims, apparently
As a four-year-old girl desperately paddled towards a life jacket amid the wreckage of SIEV 221, a man bobbing in the monstrous Christmas Island swell grabbed it and then kicked her away, an inquest has heard.
Local Australian Federal Police officer, Special Constable Shane Adams, stood on the cliffs at Rocky Point on December 15, trying to help the 89 asylum seekers and three crew members whose boat had smashed into rocks.
He spotted the girl after the boat broke apart trying to dog paddle towards a life jacket he had flung into the sea.
Constable Adams said he then noticed a man aged about 35 in the water nearby. "He reached out and grabbed the life jacket, pushed out with his right foot and struck the young girl on the shoulder, pushing her back," he told the inquest on Christmas Island.
That was the last time Const Adams saw the girl. Before the boat was torn to pieces amid the backwash at Rocky Point
Outraged cultural elites name and shame the evil tabloid hackers
THE furore that surrounds the demise of the News of the World has little to do with the specific morally corrupt practices at that tabloid.
Rather, as with other highly stylised outbursts of outrage in recent years from the MPs' expenses scandal to bankers' bonuses, this is a media-constructed and media-led furore. The main reason the sordid phone-hacking affair has become the mother of all scandals is because the media assume that anything which affects them is far more important than the troubles facing normal human beings.
Outrage-mongering, an accomplishment of the media, is parasitical on today's depoliticised public life. In the absence of political conviction, strongly held views have been replaced by expressions of outrage. The cultural elite substitutes its agenda for that of the public and an outraged media reality becomes the reality.
In the past week, many journalists have claimed the News of the World's phone-hacking practices have offended the British public. Even a sensible columnist such as Matthew d'Ancona argues that "David Cameron and Rupert Murdoch are swept up in a public fit of morality". In truth, this public fit of morality is confined to a relatively narrow stratum of society. People in the pub are not having animated debates about the News of the World's heinous behaviour. Rather it is the Twitterati and those most influenced by the cultural elite who are drawn to the anti-Murdoch crusade.
Take Justine Roberts. She runs the parenting website Mumsnet and is the partner of Ian Katz, deputy editor of The Guardian. She claims Mumsnet users' outrage about the phone-hacking scandal is the most intense she has ever witnessed on the website. No doubt intense outrage is exactly what she and her mates feel. Yet those who run the competing website Netmums report that, while many of their users were angry about phone hacking, a far larger number were interested in the online discussion about sports. Netmums attributes the difference to the fact that their participants are likely to be less cosmopolitan.
Often, when people speak on behalf of public opinion, what they are expressing are their own views.
Since its discovery in the 18th century, public opinion has tended to be represented in a way that flatters those who claim to represent it.
In one of the first English-language studies of public opinion, William Mackinnon wrote in 1828: "Public opinion may be said to be that sentiment on any given subject which is entertained by the best informed, most intelligent, and most moral persons in the community." Mackinnon's definition was more candid than those who now try to present elite views as the opinion of the masses.
Of course, all of us have a tendency to project our beliefs on to other people and no doubt the vanguard of the anti-Murdoch camp has convinced itself that it is the authentic voice of Britain. So Labour Party leader Ed Miliband can refer to the demise of the News of the World as the result of a heroic display of people power. Well, of course it is, if by "the people" Miliband is referring to the metropolitan cultural oligarchy. Depicting a media insider-led coup as an expression of people power is a self-serving fantasy. Will history characterise a campaign from above that involved a few hundred people and succeeded in shutting down a newspaper read by millions as an expression of people power? I think not.
My argument is not that the views of the media do not matter. They do, and are frequently successful in their attempts to influence people's attitudes. Indeed, the News of the World itself was very effective at transforming its readers' insecurities into a kind of morally disorienting outrage.
The News of the World's name-and-shame campaign against pedophiles in 2000 demonstrated how quickly vigilante journalism can turn people's anxieties into outrage.
Readers' responses to the News of the World's name-and-shame campaign expressed, if not Miliband's people power, then certainly a form of public outrage. But this was the outrage of people living on council estates, who are often dismissed as brainless tabloid readers. There were some very good reasons to be appalled by the somewhat frenzied atmosphere created by the campaign. But the main reason members of the metropolitan elite tended to be hostile to it was because this was an expression of outrage from below, representing the malevolent universe of the tabloid reader.
If Mackinnon had been alive, he would have described the frenzied atmosphere surrounding the name-and-shame campaign as a form of "popular clamour". He made a clear moral contrast between the "clamour" of those who do not reflect on things and the "opinion" of those who do. Today, this has been recast as the outrage of those who matter (outrage from above) against the outrage of those who do not matter (outrage from below).
The News of the World turned the cultivation of outrage from below into an art form. And paradoxically, its demise is largely due to the outrage from above directed against it by its opponents. The group-think, group-speak moralising of the crusade against the Evil Murdoch Empire is the cultural elite's equivalent of the anti-pedophile name-and-shame campaign.
These two campaigns have far more in common than they would ever admit. In the case of the vigilante mob, the hysterical search for perverts became a way of evading the routine problems that face people in difficult circumstances.
And the moral outrage directed at News International is also motivated by the impulse of evasion. It is a displacement activity for those bereft of political imagination, who prefer moral condemnation to the project of coming up with an alternative.
What both these campaigns indicate is that the politicisation of outrage renders public life utterly simplistic. Such outrage offers us scapegoats, but never any solutions.
A powerful mood of cultural dissonance prevails in British society today. Under the surface, there is an increasingly uneasy relationship between conflicting values and lifestyles. Sometimes it appears as if the cultural elite and "the rest" live in entirely different worlds. Such dissonance is particularly striking in relation to how the tabloids are perceived.
For the cosmopolitan elites, the tabloid is a lowlife and degenerate form of media, which could only possibly be considered satisfying or interesting by morally inferior people. For the millions of people who buy these papers, they are merely sources of news and entertainment.
Revenge of the political class -- on journalists who expose them
The travails of the Italian economy threaten Europe’s, and our, prosperity. Our war in Libya is unwinnable, according to a senior French minister. The British economy splutters along with little sign of recovery.
But none of this is of the remotest importance. All that matters is the phone-hacking scandal. I can’t recall a story that has so obsessed politicians and the media. Being a journalist, I am naturally agog, though I wonder whether the wider nation is as convulsed with shock and rage as David Cameron appears to believe.
The general turbulence among the political class is reminiscent of Revolutionary France before Robespierre got it in the neck. Would it be out of place to ask whether all this hysteria is not a touch overdone?
I am as loud as the next man in my condemnations of the behaviour of News International, and ardently hope that senior figures in the company walk the plank. I admit I have enjoyed the spectacle of Rupert Murdoch, the so-called ‘Sun King’, being chopped down to size, though it is ridiculous to pretend he is wholly evil.
And I am glad — though I admit I had not at first thought it important — that he has now withdrawn his bid to acquire the 61 per cent of BSkyB he does not already own. This is a dreadful humiliation. He has lost a newspaper, the News of the World, which he recklessly sacrificed in the hope that it would help his bid, and now the bid itself has collapsed.
What a setback! Photographs of Murdoch reveal him as a shell-shocked old man who cannot quite understand what is happening. Even his stewardship of the media empire he has built up is now in question. As for his son, James, ever succeeding him — forget it. Murdoch’s critics have achieved far more than they could have dreamt of only a week ago.
And yet, though the once invincible media mogul has been worsted, and although the now properly diligent police investigation is certain to lead to more arrests and some prosecutions, there is a sense that this story is only beginning.
The two inquiries under Lord Justice Leveson unveiled yesterday by Mr Cameron will spawn huge debate over the coming months. I can’t help wondering whether the inquiry on media ethics is justifiable.
A newspaper group behaved appallingly, and many leading politicians, including Tony Blair, Gordon Brown and David Cameron, became far too close to Rupert Murdoch, who has duly been wrung, trussed and roasted. Why should all other newspapers, many of which are losing money, now be led into the dock, where — unlike in other recent inquiries — witnesses will be cross-examined under oath?
Compare what happened after Tony Blair led us into what I believe was an illegal war in Iraq. Very reluctantly he set up the Hutton inquiry, while his successor, Gordon Brown, asked Sir John Chilcot to conduct a second investigation, which has yet to report.
Even though they were not conducted under oath, at least we’ve had two inquiries into the Iraq War. But there has been no official examination of the scandal of MPs’ expenses, though there have been a handful of court cases.
Equally, the bankers who brought this country to within an inch of financial ruin have not been required to give a public account of themselves.
In all these instances enormous mistakes were made, and there were countless identifiable victims. There are, it is true, some unfortunate victims of the News of the World phone hacking, though no one has died or lost any money. Other newspapers, not owned by Murdoch, are being dragged into this process without having been accused of having done anybody any harm.
Politicians, in other words, are giving the Press a harder time than they have ever given themselves, or the bankers.
True, part of the remit given to the inquiry by Mr Cameron seems absurdly vague (how can you usefully investigate ‘the contacts made and discussions between national newspapers and politicians’?) and the purpose of the ethics tribunal may simply be to kick these issues into the long grass.
But it is more likely that the intention is to shackle the Press with new regulations, and bring it partly under the control of politicians.
If only there were a single leading politician who had displayed statesmanship and a sense of balance over recent days I would be more optimistic.
Mr Cameron has turned on his good friend Rebekah Brooks, chief executive of News International; virtually disowned his former spin doctor, Andy Coulson, whom he recruited against much good advice; and even told Rupert Murdoch, whose support he moved heaven and earth to obtain, to get his act together.
Whatever the truth of Gordon Brown’s new allegations of dirty tricks on the part of The Sun and its then editor, Mrs Brooks, no one can dispute that between the time he took over as Prime Minister in June 2007 and his dumping by the Murdoch papers in September 2009 he was on friendly terms with Mr Murdoch, saw much of Mrs Brooks socially, and did not betray any of the contempt for News International he now expresses.
There is much score-settling going on. Another example was the savage treatment of Metropolitan Police Assistant Commissioner John Yates by the Commons Home Affairs select committee on Tuesday. Mr Yates was at fault in dismissing calls to re-open the phone hacking inquiry in 2009, but he is a honest and hard-working policeman who should not have been treated like a common criminal.
Some of the Labour members on the committee, including its chairman Keith Vaz, appeared to be punishing Mr Yates for causing their party embarrassment by leading the ‘cash-for-honours’ investigation, which culminated in Tony Blair being interviewed by the police. Mr Vaz’s career has been dogged by allegations of sleaze. Between him and Mr Yates, I know which man I would rather have by my side in a trench.
This rampant score-settling has spread much wider than News International and the police to encompass the whole of the Press. It is hard not to think that some MPs, stung by media coverage of the expenses scandal, are trying to get their own back. David Davis, the Tory former leadership candidate, has nobly spoken up on behalf of a free Press, but such voices are worryingly scarce.
I long for someone on either front bench with a sense of proportionality, someone who is not intent on covering his tracks or getting even, someone who can rise above the hysteria and does not fuel the spookily unifying feeding frenzy that has seemingly possessed the House of Commons. Ed Miliband, who has been riding at the head of the posse shooting his rifle into the air, is not my man.
Can’t we get this scandal in perspective? Rupert Murdoch is on the way out, and on the whole I’m pleased about that. Others working for News International will follow, some of them in handcuffs.
The Metropolitan Police have some explaining to do. An inquiry into all that seems a good idea.
But, believe it or not, there are actually some more important issues in the world than phone hacking. Moreover, this country does still have pretty good newspapers, and a wide variety of them, too, which our political class must not be allowed to destroy in its Robespierrean fervour.
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.