Friday, April 20, 2012

Don’t ban it. Get over it!

The banning of silly Christian bus adverts reveals the contempt in which the mayor holds ordinary Londoners

Last week, Boris Johnson, the perennially silly mayor of London, announced that he would ban a planned series of posters on London buses which shouted: ‘NOT GAY!  EX-GAY, POST-GAY AND PROUD. GET OVER IT!’ The message was penned by the Christian campaign group, the Core Issues Trust, which believes that homosexuality is curable through therapy and religious teaching.

It is a little bizarre that London buses have become the preferred forum for society’s culture wars. This spate of religious bus-side bickering kicked off in 2008, when the British Humanist Association (BHA) ran adverts on the side of London’s buses that read: ‘There is probably no god, so stop worrying and enjoy your life.’ This led the lobby group Christian Voice to report the poster to the Advertising Standards Agency on the basis that the BHA had no evidence that there was no god. Unsurprisingly the complaint went nowhere. The Core Issues Trust campaign is an implicit response to another billowing bus-poster campaign which was run by gay-rights campaign group Stonewall earlier this year. This one read: ‘SOME PEOPLE ARE GAY. GET OVER IT!’ The fact that these organisations think they can win arguments with the public simply by shouting shrill, one-line campaign slogans at us betrays their lack of faith in the public’s intelligence. In reality, people take a bit more convincing than being told to ‘stop worrying’ or ‘get over it’.

That said, the Core Issues Trust is undoubtedly a bit nutty. It reminded me of the hilarious anti-homosexual, yet overtly camp ‘True Directions’ programme in Jamie Babbit’s brilliant 1999 movie But I’m A Cheerleader, in which a suspected lesbian is dispatched to undertake 12 steps of therapeutic conversion away from the ‘unhealthy homosexual lifestyle’. Like the anti-gay ‘boot camp’ in the movie, the Core Issues Trust says in its vision statement that it establishes networks with local churches to assist with ‘sexually damaged and wounded adults’ through engagement with ‘professionally trained individuals’ and ‘expertise’ to bring Christians back from the homosexual brink. It hosted a conference in January entitled, ‘The Leper Among Us: Homosexuality and the Life of the Church’. While this was seized on by the Guardian as evidence of the organisation’s overt bigotry, the conference was in fact designed to ‘lift the stigma’ around homosexuality in the church so that ‘homosexuals are no longer treated like lepers’. This was more an example of the group’s guitar-jangling therapeutic outlook than its hateful homophobia.

Yet while the Core Issues Trust is a bit weird, the more offensive and dangerous idea that emerged in the course of the discussion around the posters was the elite’s belief that this act of censorship was justifiable in the name of ‘tolerance’. Following Johnson’s decision, ‘tolerance’ became the virtue of the hour. Johnson himself said that ‘London is one of the most tolerant cities in the world and intolerant of intolerance’. Ken Livingstone said the adverts were ‘damaging for anyone who believes that London is the greatest city in the world because of its tolerance’. A spokesperson for Transport for London said ‘we do not believe that these specific ads are consistent with TfL’s commitment to a tolerant and inclusive London’.

Appealing to tolerance to justify the ban shows how debased the elite’s understanding of this important liberal virtue has become. A truly tolerant society is one in which people are free to make up their own minds about challenging ideas. John Stuart Mill recognised the importance of tolerance in his essay On Liberty. He argued that ‘though the silenced opinion be an error… it is only by the collision of adverse opinions that the remainder of the truth has any chance of being supplied’. In other words, it is only through the free engagement with ideas that people arrive at sure convictions. No matter how often politicians attempt to defer to ‘tolerance’, Livingstone’s suggestion that people may be damaged through their exposure to this ‘collision of adverse opinions’ shows that the elite impulse driving the ban is anything but tolerant. In fact, it appears that Johnson et al have in fact become ‘intolerant of tolerance’ – they would much rather make up our minds for us.

This bastardisation of tolerance is particularly worrying at a time when the law is frequently used to restrict religious expression. The provisions of the Equalities Act 2010 have allowed for Christians to be sued for expressing their religious belief. The most famous example is the case of Peter and Hazelmary Bull, two Christians who were forced to pay £3,600 to two homosexuals for refusing them entry to the bed and breakfast which they ran from their home. In Scotland, performing a religious gesture at, or on the way to, a football match could now land you with a criminal conviction under the Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications Act (Scotland) Act 2012. There are numerous cases of religious preachers being prosecuted for harassment where their views have strayed outside what the police deem to be acceptable. Taken on its own, banning a silly poster may seem trifling. It is more worrying at a time when legal interference with religious belief is becoming routine.

True tolerance demands robust engagement with challenging ideas. It requires us, as thinking people, to be sure enough in our own arguments that we are able to win intellectual battles with our opponents, rather than feeling it necessary to silence them. The Core Issues Trust may be wacky, objectionable and even wrong. But if we want a truly tolerant society, we should ignore the bastardised conception of tolerance emerging from our confused mayoral candidates, and remember the words of Mill: ‘Complete liberty of contradicting and disproving our opinion, is the very condition which justifies us in assuming its truth for purposes of action; and on no other terms can a being with human faculties have any rational assurance of being right.’


U.S. Catholic Group Protests ‘Gay Jesus’ Film & Stage Show: A ‘Blasphemous Homosexual Play’

The new documentary, “Corpus Christi: Playing with Redemption,” follows 108 Productions‘ revival of Terrence McNally’s controversial play “Corpus Christi.” The stage production, which first debuted in New York in in 1998, retells the Christian redemption story, with Jesus Christ being depicted as a gay man living in Texas during the 1950s.

The play’s resurgence is already being met with mass protest, as is the film’s documentation of the revival. The Catholic group America Needs Fatima is spearheading an online petition against both initiatives. As for the stage production, ANF calls it, a “blasphemous homosexual play.” Already, the group has collected more than 13,200 signatures supporting this charge.

The boilerplate protest message that the organization allows interested parties to send out comes with the following subject: “Stop The Blasphemy!” The letter reads:
    I strongly protest against the showing of the blasphemous play Corpus Christi, which includes a Christ-like figure who reportedly has sexual relations with his apostles, and of the movie which promotes it, Corpus Christi: Playing With Redemption.

    The Person of Jesus Christ is Sacred and untouchable. To portray Him as a homosexual, or even to insinuate it, is an unspeakable blasphemy which I reject with all my soul.

    Gay Jesus Depicted in Corpus Christi: Playing with Redemption Causes ControversyI ask you to immediately cancel the showing of this movie and play, and to offer a public apology to Our Lord Jesus Christ and to all God fearing Americans.

While critics are staunch in their opposition, backers — particularly those behind the production — deny that the play and the film supporting it cross any lines. Instead, proponents maintain that the subject matter is timely and will assist in helping to dispel homophobia and bullying.

“Our tour aims to change the story on religious bullying and homophobia in all ages and walks of life, by teaching our audiences to love themselves for who they are,” James Brandon, the co-founder of 108 Productions and an actor in the play, said in a statement. “As the voices of intolerance around the world continue preaching ignorance and hate, we will keep raising our voices from a place of love — and as our tour continues, we will spread that love to places where love for LGBT people is lacking.”

As the controversy heats up, those behind the projects have no intention of backing down. As SF Weekly has noted, the play caused a major uproar years ago as well. So, controversy, it seems, is par for the course for those promoting “Corpus Christi.”


Thinly veiled antisemitism is resurgent in Australia too

As many Western leftists abandoned Israel following its post-1967 occupation of the West Bank, Gaza, East Jerusalem, Sinai and the Golan Heights, instead embracing the then novel Palestinian cause, Grass remained pro-Israel. Some four decades later, few would describe Nobel-prize-winning author Grass, 83, in the same terms.

Grass' controversial recent poem What Must Be Said, published in the German daily Sueddeutsche Zeitung, severed any friendship that existed between himself and the Jewish state. Grass alleged that a nuclear-armed Israel "threatens the already fragile world peace" and railed against the inability of Germans to take Israel to task for fear of being labelled anti-Semitic. Nine stanzas of poetry sparked a global outcry.

It is self-evident that a former Waffen SS (Nazi military unit) member should exercise extreme caution when commenting upon the actions of the nation-state he unwittingly brought into existence. Still, the decision of Israeli Interior Minister Eli Yishai to declare Grass persona non grata scarcely requires condemnation. Censoring writers is the antithesis of liberal democracy, however repugnant their views may be.

Much of the debate over Grass' poem has centred on the equation of democratic Israel with the Iranian theocracy and his trivialisation of the existential threat posed by regime in Tehran (whose leader has threatened to "wipe" Israel from the map). Yet, perhaps the most repugnant element of Grass' poem was his Freudian suggestion that Israel was contemplating an attack in order to "annihilate the Iranian people".

At best, Grass is guilty of attention-seeking opportunism. At worst, his attack constitutes classical anti-Semitism in two respects.

First, it rehashes allegations of mendacious Jewish behaviour and conspiratorial, censorious control of governments and the media.

Second, Grass's casting of Israel as the likely next perpetrator of genocide implies that Jews are collectively possessed of evil intentions.

The Grass scandal is hardly some isolated phenomenon. Rather it points to a far deeper intellectual and moral malaise on the political left, although as British journalist Nick Cohen pointed out in a penetrating recent essay for Standpoint magazine, what has been described as the new anti-Semitism from the far left and militant Islamic groups was in fact "extraordinarily consistent" during the previous century.

Anti-Semitism masquerading as anti-Zionism has stolen a march in the early 21st century, albeit shorn of overt racism. Instead, the world's oldest hate manifests itself politically via the bizarre demand that Israel, alone among the world's nations, must cease to exist in favour of a bi-national Palestine. For academic Philip Mendes, such fundamentalist discourse demonises "all Israeli Jews and all Jewish supporters of Israel as the political enemy".

Most depressing of all for this committed two-state supporter is the thundering silence of the Western left. As Ari Shavit, a columnist for the left-wing Israeli daily Haaretz, writes: Grass's poem "doesn't contain Goebbels-like propaganda" yet the "words said by Grass and the words not said against Grass prove that the gangrene of delegitimisation is gradually spreading and devouring us".

Australia, too, has not been immune to such developments. Witness the ugly Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions rallies staged outside the Israeli-owned chocolate shop Max Brenner throughout last year, where protesters literally chanted blood-libels ("There's blood in your hot chocolate"). Yet the response of leading left intellectuals, who ought to know better, was to uncritically defend the protesters.

Those protests were the handiwork of Students for Palestine, a front group of the far-left Socialist Alternative group, itself routinely accused of anti-Semitism. It was no coincidence that the same folks recently planned to protest outside the Adass Israel Synagogue on Sabbath. Amazingly, the demonstration was cancelled not out of any concern about anti-Semitism but because "anti-Zionist Jews" were allegedly among the congregants.

This is a new twist on an old far-left strategy whereby the views of a tiny minority of radical anti-Zionist Jews are ostentatiously paraded. Not only is Israel routinely libelled, but anti-Semitism is written off as a disingenuous tactic of Zionist polemicists. Thus, Michael Brull, writing on ABC online's The Drum, described self-confessed jihadist Mohammed Merah, who last month murdered four French Jews, as not anti-Semitic but a "secular" killer.

Israel is hardly a perfect nation but the interventions of Grass et al are passing strange. Over the past 15 months, an estimated 13,000 Syrians have perished as a result of President Bashar Al-Assad's brutal crackdown. This is roughly the same number of casualties produced by the Israeli/Palestinian conflict since the onset of the 1948 war. Yet Grass's poetic stylings avoid altogether the continuing Syrian bloodbath. What must be said indeed.


Leading Australian conservative politician blasts attitude of 'entitlement'

SHADOW treasurer Joe Hockey has condemned systems of "universal entitlement" in Western democracies, contrasting this attitude with the concept of "filial piety" thriving across Asia where people get what they work for and families look after their own.

Speaking in London, Mr Hockey said that by Western standards the highly constrained public safety net in Hong Kong and other Asian places might seem brutal "but it works and it is financially sustainable".

"Contrast this with what we find in Europe, the United Kingdom and the United States. All of them have enormous entitlement systems spanning education, health, income support, retirement benefits, unemployment benefits."

Government revenues fell far short of meeting the cost and the difference had to be made up by borrowing.

While he was less critical of Australia, saying that over the years there had been some key decisions to reduce spending, Mr Hockey said it still had "a lot of spending by government which many voters see as their entitlement".

Pressed on the ABC’s Lateline about whether the Coalition would look at the whole range of entitlements, Mr Hockey said: "Yes.’"

Australia needed to be "ever vigilant" and to compare itself with its neighbours. Australia had moved a long way but this "doesn’t mean we shouldn’t move further’".

In his speech, he said countries with a lower level of entitlement were free to allow business and individuals to be successful. "It reduces taxation, meaning individuals spend less of their time working for the state, and more of their time working for themselves and their family."

Both sides of the Western political spectrum were to blame for the entitlement mentality. "Perhaps the  real problem is the exuberant excesses of politicians."

But now, he said, "the age of unlimited and unfunded entitlement to government services and income support is over ... We are now in an era where leaders are much more wary about credit risk."



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 WATCHAUSTRALIAN POLITICSDISSECTING 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.  Email me (John Ray) here.  For readers in China or for times when is playing up, there is a mirror of this site  here.


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