Saturday, July 02, 2011
La rue to serfdom
Celebrity fashion designer John Galliano’s trial for a drunken anti-Semitic tirade is yet another blow to freedoms in France, where it’s illegal to publicly make offensive remarks ‘based on origin, religious affiliation, race or ethnicity.'
Being racist and offensive is obnoxious, mean-spirited, ignorant and anti-social. It should not, however, be defined as a criminal act. A free society needs to have a sufficiently thick skin to withstand the rants of a racist drunk, and insulted individuals the courage to respond peacefully.
The insulted individual in this instance, Geraldine Bloch, is seeking just €1 in damages on moral grounds. ‘What we are after is an expression of regret and an excuse for what has happened,’ her lawyer stated. Her motive may be laudable, but it should not be the role of the courts to extract apology for hurt feelings. (Her boyfriend, apparently, is not quite so commendable – he is allegedly suing for an undisclosed but substantial sum.)
The controversy has led to Galliano’s dismissal as creative director at the house of Dior, and he has been strongly and publicly rebuked by actress Natalie Portman (and many others) for his anti-Semitic remarks. A spokesmodel for the Dior brand, Portman has refused to have any further association with Galliano, and is boycotting his designs, thus encouraging others to do the same.
This is civil society – albeit high society – in action, responding to unacceptable behavior. State interference in this case is unwarranted, superfluous and detrimental to freedom of speech and individual responsibility.
Galliano’s defence – addiction, depression and drink – obscures the real issue of the right to speak freely. This cornerstone of liberty is often ignored in attempts to be inclusive and politically correct.
Friedrich Hayek wrote his seminal work, The Road to Serfdom, in response to government reactions against the privations and economic hardships that resulted from World War II. State control and socialism were being rapidly accepted as a way of safeguarding economic, national and individual security. Hayek warned against this, writing, ‘from the saintly and single-minded idealist to the fanatic is often but a step.'
We must indeed be vigilant against any repetition of the anti-Semitic atrocities committed by the Nazi regime, which Galliano referenced in his insults. But we must also be vigilant against a slow and unwitting creep towards oppression. France has even outlawed insulting one’s spouse. Where will it end? Suppressing free speech, however unpleasant, is a move towards authoritarianism and away from freedom. When the state steps in with its massive boots – be they Dior or hobnail – liberties get trampled.
John Galliano deserves the public’s condemnation, not a criminal sentence.
The above is a press release from the Centre for Independent Studies, dated 1 July. Enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org. Snail mail: PO Box 92, St Leonards, NSW, Australia 1590.
Lesbians-only housing in the Australian State of Victoria. Is this legal?
What about Victoria's strict anti-discrimination laws? I guess they can be "bent" for favoured groups. Under the same laws a Christian pastor was persecuted for LAUGHING at verses from the Koran
AS an older lesbian, Thelma Tapp was becoming anxious about ageing. She had heard stories of discrimination and homophobia inside nursing homes. But thanks to a new social housing project in Brunswick it is likely she will not have to face it.
The housing, for lesbians aged over 65 experiencing housing stress, is believed to be the first of its type in Australia. It was developed by the Matrix Guild of Victoria and the Victorian Women’s Housing Association.
The three, two-bedroom units in a complex in Albert St are wheelchair accessible, making them suitable for ageing tenants.
Thelma (not her real name) and two other women will be able to rent the units for one quarter of their income for as long as they wish. On the open market, the units would fetch about $350 a week - the equivalent of Thelma’s entire income.
A workplace injury has left her unlikely to work again and she had been homeless for 18 months, so the prospect of affordable long-term accommodation was a huge relief. “I’ve been given this wonderful opportunity and for the first time in 18 months I can finally call somewhere home,” she said.
Matrix will also put her in touch with other lesbians living in the inner-north. “I’m not going to be lonely,” she said. “It’s just been life changing.”
Matrix Guild housing convener Anneke Deutsch said its mission to provide affordable housing to older lesbians began years ago in response to reports of discrimination in aged-care facilities.
“When older women are vulnerable and reliant on people who might be homophobic doing personal care, often women prefer to stay closeted than be out,” she said. “We started off wanting to have an aged-care facility, but that’s a huge amount of work and we found most older lesbians wanted to live in their own homes.”
There are no statistics on the number of number of gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and intersex people over 65 in Australia. But given they make up about 10 per cent [Bollocks! More like 2%] of the population, there would be about 240,000, based on 2002 figures from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.
Ms Deutsch said housing stress was common among older lesbians because many had acquired little wealth. Ms Deutsch hoped the Brunswick project, dedicated to former member Heather Chapple whose $300,000 bequest helped fund the project, was the first of many.
Make this monster-in-law a minister!
By Amanda Platell (A prominent Conservative journalist in her mid-50s)
Carolyn Bourne has been branded as a snooty, toxic mother-in-law from hell after the venomous email she sent her future daughter-in-law, castigating her for a catalogue of social misdemeanours during a recent visit, was circulated on the internet.
Mrs Bourne’s supporters claim she has been unfairly vilified and that Heidi Withers, the object of her derision, is a spoilt, ill-mannered ladette who thoroughly deserved the opprobrium.
That didn’t stop Miss Withers’s father blasting back, calling Mrs Bourne a ‘snotty Miss Fancy Pants’.
In truth, neither side emerges from the unedifying spectacle with much dignity, but one thing is clear: no matter whose side you take, this very public spat is indicative of the gradual erosion of good manners and respect for others right across society.
Carolyn Bourne highlighted the fact that Heidi Withers didn’t know how to conduct herself as a guest in someone’s home. That’s just the tip if the iceberg. Today people also don’t know how to conduct themselves on the street, in supermarkets, restaurants or on public transport.
You don’t have to search hard for the evidence. Each morning, my day begins collecting the coffee cups, cigarette packs and food wrappings thrown into my garden by passers-by too lazy and ill-mannered to put their detritus in a bin.
After the weekend, the heath near my home resembles a landfill site, strewn with the empty beer cans, plastic cups and even used nappies left by visitors for someone else to clear up.
That’s just one small symptom of a wider malaise: the total lack of care or consideration for others that is endemic right across Britain.
When I arrived in this country from Australia, 26 years ago, one of the most striking things was the courtesy of all those I encountered.
The ‘pleases’ and the ‘thank yous’; the way people quietly queued for their turn; the thoughtfulness towards the elderly, even if they were total strangers.
Back then, no pregnant woman would ever be found standing on a crowded train, just as no house guest would ever dream of failing to write a thank-you note.
Look at Britain now.
However insensitive her email to her daughter-in-law may have been, you’ve got to admit Mrs Bourne had a point. And she wasn’t afraid to make a stand for the values she believed in. We could do with people like her in government.
Britain has censorship by elites
Recent coverage of celebrities’ sexual antics has been puerile, but it should not be judges who decide what we read -- but there is a certain inevitability about the son of a Fascist leader (Mosley) arguing for censorship
Speaking last night at a packed-to-the-rafters Index on Censorship event, ‘Injunctions are a necessary evil - privacy, free speech and a feral press’, Max Mosley, former head of Formula 1 motor racing, clearly did not think that his sex life, picturesque though it might be, was something the public needed to know about. Sat next to Mosley, Hugh Tomlinson QC was only too keen to agree. And well he might: Tomlinson’s most famous recent case involved the forlorn attempts of Manchester United footballer Ryan Giggs to keep his lusty liaisons out of public view. ‘Private infidelities’, Tomlinson concurred, ‘should only be disclosed when there is some justification for the disclosure’.
And for Mosley and Tomlinson, that is the problem. Too frequently there is too little justification for the privacy-flaunting revelations that constitute – to use one of last night’s laziest tropes – ‘tabloid’ news. It is a familiar argument. Stories of steamy bedroom romps, usually involving more than two people and complete with ghost-written ‘in their own words’ blow-by-blow accounts, do not enlighten us or expose some incredibly important wrongdoing. Such tales are merely titillation for the rest of us. That is why, as Mosley put it, both he and Tomlinson have ‘no problem with injunctions’. They are simply ‘necessary evils’ to stop the press from turning the private, perfectly legal behaviour of individuals into public entertainment. Mosley even violated polite liberal etiquette and defended the right to privacy of evil-banker-in-chief, Sir Fred Goodwin, whose adultery was outed in parliament earlier this year: ‘[A disclosure that was] no more in the public interest than if Fred Goodwin played a round of golf’, said Mosley.
Of course, this defence of injunctions, this defence of the judiciary’s right to stop certain stories from being published, always goes hand in hand with a nominal defence of the freedom of the press. It’s just that the ‘press must not abuse their power’ as Mosley puts it. Or, as Tomlinson argues, it is about ‘boundaries’, about knowing where the freedom to speak about an individual’s behaviour ends and the freedom to have a private life begins. This is not an easy thing to judge when it comes to specific cases, they argue, which is why we need the judiciary to do the judging for us.
And here we come to the legal thicket that only the most perspicacious among us, ie, judges, can cut through. It’s an onerous task and no mistake. You see, our bewigged betters have to balance what are two contradictory principles, two principles that, since the incorporation of the European Convention on Human Rights into British law in 1998, are seemingly equally compelling: freedom of speech and the right to privacy.
Weighing up the merits of both sides, the press on one, the privacy-shielding individual on the other, is no doubt difficult, especially when the law protects both. It might even vex those who are apparently the wisest members of society: judges.
But looked at in a different way, this public-vaulting, comprehension-defying contradiction is easily resolved. For the difficulty only exists from the perspective of the state and its judicial institutions. That is, one needs to stop seeing freedom in terms of the state. One needs to stop seeing freedom, reified in the form of human right - be it freedom of speech or a right to privacy - as things that the state provides and withdraws as it sees fit. Instead one needs to adopt the perspective of our freedom versus the state – our freedom to speak our minds, our freedom to speak truth to power. And we also need to have a bit more faith in our own powers of judgement, our ability, for example, to decide among ourselves whether so-and-so’s sex life is any of our business.
But that faith in our ability to exercise our freedom was in such short supply last night, with one exception: David Price QC, a lawyer whose most high-profile client is Imogen Thomas, the former beauty queen and Big Brother contestant who alleges she had an affair with Giggs. As he put it, the problem is that ‘Judges decide what you can and what you cannot read – that is censorship’. It is absurd, he continued, to have judges who ‘are unlikely to read the Daily Mail determining what the masses can and cannot read’. The people that should be making the judgments rather ‘are those buying the papers’.
The problem for Price was that so pervasive was the gentle contempt for the so-called masses at last night’s event, that many of his sorties against the power of the judiciary over our freedom were met by sniggers and guffaws. This contempt was rarely explicitly articulated; it operated by stealth and association. So when Mosley said that ‘if we don’t have the courts [making the decisions]’ then such judgements will be left to ‘tabloid enterprises’ - organisations that have carried out ‘systematic criminality’ - there was massive applause. Yet when people attack the tabloids, or, to use another favourite refrain from last night, ‘The Murdoch Empire’, what they are really attacking are tabloid readers and the willing dupes of The Murdoch Empire. Every round of applause for a dig at the tabloids and Murdoch was implicitly a self-congratulatory dig at the tabloid-consuming, Murdoch-seduced masses.
So popular was masses-bashing, that Mosley - a man far removed from the people - was coming across as an incredibly entertaining raconteur by the end of the night. ‘People that buy the News of the World do so because they have an inadequate sex life. I can’t think of any other reason for it’, he harrumphed to gales of laughter. But in that laughter, in the enjoyment of Mosley, there was a depressing dismissal of the freedom and judgment of those who don’t read the Guardian. That is, the people that read tabloids. The people don’t see The Murdoch Empire For The Evil That It Is. The people whose lives are so mundane, whose sex lives are so bland, that they can’t get enough of others’ peccadilloes on a Sunday morning.
If you don’t have faith in the powers of judgement of the wider population – the People - and trust only judges, you will never make a cogent case for freedom of speech.
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.