Saturday, October 29, 2011
An army of "offended" people always lurking
David Penberthy writes from Australia:
One of the interesting features of modern public debate is the emergence of a small army of thin-skinned souls on permanent stand-by to be offended by pretty much everything.
And they call that entertainment.And they call that entertainment.
The way we talk, the jokes we crack, the way we describe each other, all these things are subject to such an increasingly prohibitive set of strictures that it is easier to keep your mouth shut for fear of upsetting someone.
While the scourge of mental illness is not to be taken lightly, and is something which has touched us all, it still puzzles me that one of Australia’s leading mental health organisations is spending its time vetting newspaper articles and sending letters to journalists asking that they excise certain figurative expressions from their writing.
My colleague Tory Maguire wrote a piece last year where she used the term “policy schizophrenia” to describe the then Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s inconsistency on border protection. She received a letter saying the term was an insult to schizophrenics everywhere and that she should not use it again.
If we take this approach we will end up with a language where ideas are never stillborn and pauses never pregnant, where movement can be impeded but not retarded, where we rewrite all of Shakespeare’s plays, and receive letters from the haemophiliacs association if we write a column stating the bleeding obvious.
One of the weirder examples of the new squeamishness came from an unusual source this week, those supposedly libertarian sensualists at the Eros Foundation, who issued a press release under the cracking headline “Customs seizes dwarf porn.” The press release was interesting not so much for the news that the films Midget Mania (Volumes 7 and 8) have been refused classification – well, that’s my weekend buggered – but more for the politically correct gymnastics the Eros Foundation used to tip-toe around the word “midget”.
The intro was pure gold: “The Australian Customs Service has set a new benchmark for the importation of adult films into Australia by confiscating two of the latest release US titles featuring vertically challenged people.” Eros CEO Fiona Patton said the ruling was “discriminatory to short-statured people and quite possibly offended the Federal Discrimination Act.” It will be interesting to see if it stands up in court.
It is in the area of racism where the trend is most pronounced. I received a yawn-inducing string of outrage this week after writing the most limp-wristed pro-republican column, which was barely republican at all, more a pathetic form of surrender at the fact that we all seem to like the royals so much and can’t agree on an alternative model that we’re stuck as a constitutional monarchy. In passing I noted that this was all a bit disappointing for republican ultra-minimalists who simply wanted an Australian head of state, and would also be happier if the Pommy flag no longer sullied our national ensign.
The use of the word Pommy sent several readers into apoplexy, no doubt because they were, you know, Poms.
From one reader: “Pommy flag? That’s a racist slur. Lucky it’s a racial attack against the white majority, otherwise, you’d be before the courts like Andrew Bolt was.” From another: “Getting the pommy bit off our flag are downright pathetic comments in fact they border on racist.” And another: “I have no interest in anything you have to say, it’s rude, tactless and uncivil…to talk about the pommy flag is just so rude I can’t believe you actually printed it.”
And so the whinge-fest continued. Another recent column, about the Andrew Bolt vilification case, was highly critical of his writing but said the judgment posed a threat to free expression as it put the onus on anybody to prove they were not racist should somebody take offence at their sentiments. Examples included declaring that the Serbs who disrupted the Australian Open should maybe bugger off to Serbia, the opinion that female circumcision by some African communities is barbaric and inhumane, the belief that Israel is a pariah state whose businesses should be the subject of a formal boycott. Several censorious folks wrote in saying that each of these opinions were potentially racist and should also be the subject of legal action under the Racial Discrimination Act. See you all in court, along with the people of short stature.
The stink over the performance of the Haka by the All Blacks in Sunday’s final was a double treat for those who enjoy being offended. First, there was there were claims that one of the Kiwis had made an apparently offensive throat-slitting gesture while performing the chant. So what if he had? This ain’t the chicken dance or the bus stop. The haka in its origins was a war dance performed by pumped-up Maori warriors shortly before they killed their enemies. The idea that it should be rendered more genteel is absurd.
After this kerfuffle it emerged that the French had not shown due deference to the haka by stepping forwards towards the All Blacks as it was being performed. This was also offensive and the team was fined, in keeping with the view that, out of respect for Maori tradition, opposing teams should stand there and do nothing. This too seems kind of absurd. If a bunch of blokes are sticking their tongues out and threatening to murder you, it seems only fair that opposing teams can respond, perhaps in a manner which is culturally appropriate –some mooning from the Wallabies, Morris dancing from the Poms, the French standing around waiting to be saved by another nation, in keeping with their historical traditions.
Meanwhile the Adelaide Zoo has cancelled its Free Rangas Day after complaints from redheads. Turn it up. Even Julia Gillard could crack a quality gag about her state of ranga-ness when she spoke to fellow blood nut Cameron Ling at the AFL Grand Final breakfast. Someone was probably offended by that too. Still what would you expect from a Prime Minister who wouldn’t curtsy before the Queen. Even though protocol says she didn’t have to, and did nothing wrong.
The whole thing is just offensive.
Workshy Black British cop says it was racist not to give him special treatment
Readers of literary classics may be remninded by the story below of "The N*gger of the 'Narcissus' " by Joseph Conrad
A senior Metropolitan Police officer forced to resign in the wake of the phone hacking scandal was racist and homophobic, an employment tribunal heard today. Assistant Commissioner John Yates, due to formally step down in November, was allegedly 'extremely brief' when dealing with the case of a black, gay officer who was off sick with depression.
Detective Constable Kevin Maxwell, who is suing the force based on claims he was bullied due to his race and sexuality, wanted discretion to keep his £40,000-a-year salary longer than the normal six month period.
However, Mr Yates refused to grant him the special treatment, usually reserved for hero officers injured in the line of duty, traumatised child abuse investigators and the terminally ill.
Kweku Aggrey-Orleans, representing Detective Constable Maxwell, told Mr Yates: 'I suggest that you dealt with Mr Maxwell's application for an extension of pay extremely briefly and without properly considering it because you knew that he had raised allegations of racism and homophobia.'
Mr Yates replied: 'No that's complete nonsense. I gave very careful consideration to this. 'I was very concerned about Kevin, very concerned about his well being.'
Mr Aggery continued: 'And also that you dealt with the appeal extremely briefly because Kevin was black and gay.' Mr Yates replied: 'That doesn't merit an answer but it's absolute nonsense.'
Detective Constable Maxwell claims he was bullied by colleagues at Heathrow Airport and witnessed racism while on duty. He claims a colleague refused to eat a curry on a trip to a mosque aimed at building community relations because 'they would have spat in it', and said fellow officers did not like being lectured to by imams.
However, Mr Yates said it was not his responsibility to deal with issues related to Detective Constable Maxwell's claims he was off sick because he was discriminated against at work.
Mr Yates said in written evidence to the tribunal: 'I did not reject Detective Constable Maxwell's appeal on the ground of his race or his sexual orientation. 'I rejected his appeal because his case did not meet the criteria. 'I have declined to extend the full pay of other officers who did not meet the criteria.'
The tribunal heard how Detective Constable Maxwell was offered any job he liked as senior Metropolitan Police officers were left 'bending over backwards' trying to get him back to work. He was told he could move to a different part of London where he would never see the officers who he worked with at Heathrow Airport again.
However, he turned down the offer and the tribunal heard how he wanted the Met. to address his concerns about racism and homophobia, rather than simply moving him elsewhere.
Detective Inspector Ajoy Gosain, his welfare officer, said: 'When I met Det. Chief Insp. D'Orsi we discussed the issue of identifying a suitable post for Detective Constable Maxwell to return to. 'I thought that Detective Chief Inspector D'Orsi was taking a genuine and generous approach towards Kevin Maxwell in that regard. I felt he was bending over backwards to try to assist Detective Constable Maxwell in getting back to work.
'In that he had such an open ended offer, Detective Constable Maxwell was in a favourable position.'
Detective Inspector Gosain, a former president of the Kent Black Police Association, described how he met the officer in June 2010 to try and convince him to return to work. 'The following day Detective Constable Maxwell emailed me to say that he didn't feel he could return and to ask me not to raise the issue of returning again. 'I was deeply disappointed with Detective Constable Maxwell's reaction.
'I had genuinely tried to help get him back to work in any way possible and I was disappointed that he seemed to totally dismiss what I had been saying.'
Detective Constable Maxwell, of Wilmington Square, London, is facing dismissal from the force under the Unsatisfactory Performance Procedure after being off sick since July 2009.
He said he developed depression after being bullied at work due to his race and sexual orientation. He had worked his way up to Detective Constable after first joining the Greater Manchester Police in 2001. He transferred to the Met Police in October 2008.
Your call will be answered in 37 HOURS: Retired headteacher faces day-and-a-half on hold after phoning council to complain about bin collection
All he wanted was for his rubbish to be taken away so when the binmen were four days late John Regan decided to find out why. The retired headteacher picked up the phone and called Winchester City Council helpline hoping for a swift answer to his query. But the taped message the 60-year-old father of two received stunned him. He was 'in a 37-hour queue'.
Exasperated and, unsurprisingly, not prepared to wait a day and a half for an answer he then called the council's main number, only to be diverted to Hampshire County Council switchboard. Today his rubbish bins had still not been collected, seven days after they were meant to be emptied.
Mr Regan, from Winchester, said: 'I just want my rubbish collected. What is so difficult about emptying my bin? He added: 'I rang Winchester council after four days and I was told I was in a 37-hour queue. 'I thought this was ridiculous so I rang their main number but I was then diverted to the county council where the operator said the city council number was overloaded.
'I am increasingly exasperated. We are in the country so there is a potential vermin. It is also unsightly. I just want my rubbish collected. 'In any sort of business you would not be tolerate being treated like this.'
Winchester Council today admitted it had received a staggering 4,000 queries about the new waste collection service it had introduced with East Hampshire Council using the contractor BIFFA. Of that number 558 were about bins not being emptied.
A Winchester City Council spokesman said: 'We had an issue with our telephone system which was telling people there was a 37-hour wait but nobody waited more than 30 minutes. 'We have his case as a missed bin. BIFFA is now going around doing additional collections.'
WW2 play cancelled over 'censorship' claims
A playwright has cancelled a play set during the Second World War after claiming he was asked to remove references to Nazis, Jews and the invasion of Poland over fears of "offending" the audience.
Rod Tinson, whose Halloween play was due to be staged at Pendennis Castle in Falmouth, has accused English Heritage of trying to create a "Disneyfied" version of history by insisting on changes to his script.
The play featured scenes from different periods in the Tudor castle's history, including its role during the Second World War as a key coastal defence against German invasion of Britain.
Mr Tinson says the quango asked him to tone down parts of the script, including a young Jewish character expressing fears about his family in occupied Poland, over concerns that visitors would be "offended" by the material.
The playwright cancelled the play after refusing to make the requested changes. He said he could not understand why his script would be deemed offensive.
"They said it was inappropriate for an English Heritage audience. What version of history are they trying to illustrate at this place?" Mr Tinson added.
"It was intended for adults, many of whom remember the War or know people who were involved in it. I cannot understand it. I refused to change it because it would have changed the whole storyline.
"The reason the buildings are there was to fight off any attempts by the Germans to invade."
The play was due to be performed as part of the castle's adults-only 'ghost tours' programme, which runs for four nights over the weekend.
Mr Tinson's script made frequent reference to the venue's historic World War Two gun batteries.
Charlie Fear, events manager at Pendennis Castle, said the programme would go ahead with a script from a different writer.
"It's unfortunate that we've had to pull Mr Tinson's play and we will reimburse him for his time and effort," she said. "This was our first time working with Mr Tinson and we were unable to agree on the right approach for our event."
In an email said to be from Ms Fear, she wrote: "I need to be very clear here, and in order to make this work, we have to remove any references to sex (including buggary (sic)) and any swear words, including 'bloody' I'm afraid. I would also like the references to Poland, Jews and Nazis removed too please.
"Our English Heritage visitors would be offended by the content as it still stands and it is essential that I ensure that this does not happen.
"I understand that you want to bring your characters to life, but we have to tone down the language. I hope you understand this and the responsibility I have to ensure that I meet our visitors' expectations."
Pendennis Castle was built between 1540 and 1545 to protect the Fal river estuary from attack by France and Spain. It is the Cornish end of a chain of coastal artillery fortresses built by Henry VIII.
It was later updated during the reign of Elizabeth I and again before the Civil War, when it was subjected to a five-month siege by Parliamentarian forces.
The castle is also home to a collection of wartime cartoons of Hitler and Mussolini by illustrator George Butterworth.
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.