Thursday, March 21, 2013
Backlash grows over proposed British press curbs: Cracks start to show after just one day as newspapers refuse to sign up
Newspapers were on collision course with the three party leaders last night as industry backing for their royal charter for new rules governing the 300-year-old free Press crumbled.
Fraser Nelson, editor of the Spectator, the oldest continuously published magazine in the English language, would not recognise the proposed regulator, irrespective of the consequences.
He published a dramatic front page with the single word ‘No’.
Lionel Barber, editor of the Financial Times, a newspaper that had been supportive of the charter, expressed concerns it would lead to ‘vexatious complaints’ and ‘tie us in knots’.
Spectator editor Fraser Nelson reveals he will be formally rejecting the regulatory scheme
The Newspaper Society warned the plans could place ‘a crippling burden on the UK’s 1,100 local newspapers, inhibiting freedom of speech and the freedom to publish’.
Its president Adrian Jeakings said: ‘A free Press cannot be free if it is dependent on and accountable to a regulatory body recognised by the state.’
The cross-party agreement struck in late night three-party talks was also attacked yesterday by the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe, the international body that polices human rights.
And, in a particularly humiliating blow, the Kremlin-funded broadcaster Russia Today described the guidelines as a ‘threat to Press freedom’.
Ian Hislop, editor of Private Eye, which is not part of the existing watchdog system, suggested he had no intention of joining the new regulator: ‘You can’t really say this is a considered and thoughtful process when, in the middle of the night, bits are added to two different bills.’
Rupert Murdoch, whose companies own The Times, the Sunday Times and The Sun, suggested even the Queen would not approve the royal charter. ‘UK royal charter requires Queen’s signature. Unlikely without full all party support. Queen doesn’t do politics,’ he wrote on Twitter.
Mr Barber told the BBC the FT had not yet determined whether to join the regulatory body. But he added: ‘This has not been a satisfactory process. 'We will be looking at the practical implications and, above all, what has been completely lost in this process, the cost.
‘I am worried about the practical costs of, for example, allowing free access to arbitration, I am worried about claims-farming, vexatious complaints from readers and others who will tie us up in knots. This is a real problem.’
But Max Mosley, one of the leading campaigners for new controls insisted yesterday that if newspapers refused to sign up then Parliament should ‘intervene’ – raising the prospect of a full-blown Press law.
The former Formula 1 boss, who became a privacy campaigner after winning a court case against the News of the World for publishing pictures of him at an orgy with prostitutes, told MPs he believed all publishers would eventually submit to the new regulator.
He told MPs on the Commons culture, media and sport select committee, newspaper proprietors will put aside ‘emotional’ concerns about statutory regulation and be persuaded by financial incentives.
Newspapers that decline to participate in the regulator, which will have the power to dictate the nature and prominence of corrections and issue £1million fines, are being threatened with ‘exemplary’ damages in libel or privacy cases.
Mr Mosley sparked anger when he went on to suggest that websites based overseas that ignore the instructions of the new regulator could be shut down.
But Tory backbencher Mark Reckless said that he hoped that the press would not co-operate with the regulator.
He referred to the way the unions in the 1970s refused to recognise the Heath Government's industrial relations court.
Kirsty Hughes, spokesman for Campaign group Index on Censorship, said: ‘Closing down websites is the kind of behaviour expected of totalitarian regimes like Iran and China, not the UK.’
Alan Rusbridger, editor-in-chief of Guardian News & Media, said: ‘We welcome the fact there has been cross-party agreement. The regulatory settlement is by and large a fair one, with compromises on all sides.’
But he said he retained ‘grave reservations’ about the proposed legislation on exemplary damages.
Amid confusion about which websites would be covered by the new system, a spokesman for the Department for Culture, Media and Sport said: ‘Bloggers are covered by the self-regulatory model if they are the relevant publisher with multiple authors writing in the course of their business.’
The Association of Online Publishers issued a statement to say it had ‘major concerns’, particularly over the threat of punitive awards in the libel courts for those who do not join the regulatory system.
Camilla Wright, who founded the entertainment website Popbitch, said she would move it to America to avoid being subject to a regulator with power over websites that produce celebrity gossip.
Communities Secretary Eric Pickles illustrated the low opinion of the celebrity wing of the Hacked Off pressure group among cabinet circles when he described Hugh Grant as 'the leader of the opposition Lord Grant of Rodeo Drive.' [An allusion to Grant's past involvement with a black Los Angeles street prostitute]
Why British councils ask if you're transgender when you call about the wheelie bins
No doubt the bigwigs at Birmingham City Council thought they should be seen to be doing something about its shambolic waste-collection service, which last December saw the streets disappear beneath 10ft-high piles of rubbish.
But quite how the ‘Attitudes To Recycling And Rewards’ survey it has just sent out to residents is supposed to help it empty the bins is anyone’s guess.
After a few mundane questions on wheelie bins, it suddenly demands to know: ‘Which of the following most accurately describes your sexual orientation? Bisexual? Gay man? Gay woman/lesbian? Heterosexual/straight? Other?’
For anyone who dares to keep such information to themselves in this day and age, there is at least the opportunity to tick: ‘Prefer not to say?’
If the council was asking residents about the provision of night clubs or dating agencies in the city, it is feasible to see why it might need to know. But what conceivable reason is there for officials to want to pry into our bedrooms over wheelie bins?
At best, it comes across as a bizarre waste of time and taxpayers’ money. At worst, it is downright sinister to think that somewhere on a council computer will sit a database of where all gay and lesbian people live.
It makes you wonder if, like a medieval plague village with yellow crosses on the door, Birmingham is going to issue pink wheelie bins to householders who identify themselves as gay.
It would be reassuring to think this was a lone act by a loony Left council (Birmingham is Labour-controlled). But council tax payers all over the country are being left bewildered by a torrent of questionnaires demanding bizarre, irrelevant and deeply private information.
When Richenda Legge wrote to North Norfolk District Council asking why her bin hadn’t been emptied, she too was asked for her sexuality — and her ethnicity and religion.
Residents who live near a proposed relief road at Manchester Airport were recently left scratching their heads to be asked in a consultation: ‘Is your gender identity the same as the gender you were assigned with at birth?’
Susan Field, a 67-year-old from Harrow, was asked the same question when she contacted her council to complain about a set of traffic lights.
‘We have so little privacy left,’ she said. ‘Why should I give intimate details to a total stranger on such an unrelated matter.’
When my car was broken into one evening, I was at first relieved to be rung up by a police officer the next day. I thought he had news that they had caught the thief who had smashed the driver’s window.
It was only when he wanted to know my ethnic identity that it dawned on me why he had really rung me: he had some kind of victims’ monitoring form to fill in.
When I declined to say what ethnic group I am from, he politely hung up and I never heard any more.
I’ve lost count of the times I’ve been asked for my ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation and gender identity on official forms.
But the question which, funnily enough, I don’t ever remember being asked is: do I want my taxes frittered away on these pointless monitoring exercises — or would I rather the money was spent on doing practical things, such as emptying the bins or finding the man who smashed my car?
I know what the answer would be if a council did put that question to us: it would make last week’s landslide referendum in the Falkland Islands look like an even contest.
There can’t be anyone outside those who work in the ‘equality-monitoring’ industry, as it is known — although admittedly this does employ quite a large number of people now — who would vote for the silly forms.
They certainly don’t impress a lot of the people they are supposed to please.
Actor Sir Ian McKellen, who isn’t slow to complain about homophobia wherever he senses it, roundly condemned the Arts Council for including a question about sexual orientation on a funding application form.
Nosy questions about ethnicity, sexuality and gender are part of a bureaucracy that is spinning out of control.
And the irony is that it doesn’t come from any genuine concern to stamp out inequality, but from pen-pushers building empires and creating jobs for each other.
What we, the public, see is nothing compared with the nonsense that public-sector bodies inflict upon their own staff.
Two years ago, Buckinghamshire County Council staff issued its staff with a questionnaire entitled ‘Respecting Sexuality’. Among the questions they were expected to answer were ‘What do you think caused your heterosexuality?’, and ‘Is it possible your sexuality stems from a neurotic fear of others of the same sex?’
The questionnaire was supposed to make heterosexual employees think about what it is like being gay, but the whole exercise stinks of a crass waste of money.
The purpose of this silly ‘equality monitoring’ exercise is to force public authorities, and in some cases private companies, to collect personal data that can then be analysed — supposedly to detect inadvertent discrimination.
A requirement to collect ethnic data was introduced by the Blair government a decade ago, and the exercise was then extended to gender and sexuality through Harriet Harman’s 2010 Equality Act.
Disgracefully, there was hardly any political opposition to the legislation, with David Cameron — frightened to ruffle the feathers of the equality lobby in the run-up to the 2010 general election — allowing the Equality Bill to be nodded through without even a Commons vote.
Needless to say, it is wasting us a fortune. According to the think-tank Civitas, fulfilling the demands of ‘equality monitoring’ is costing employers £1billion a year — £400million of which is in the private sector.
It has spawned an entire industry of diversity officers and equality officers employed to collate and publicise the data.
If you work in manufacturing or construction at the moment, you may well be struggling to find a job, but there is no shortage of employment in the equality industry.
Yesterday, one employment agency was showing more than 400 jobs available in the category ‘equality officer’, 60 of them paying more than £60,000 a year.
If equality monitoring has ever revealed any enlightening information, I can’t say I can remember it.
Does it really help anyone, for example, to know that precisely 16.1 per cent of staff at the Department for Transport identify themselves as black or another minority ethnicity?
What it has done, on the other hand, is to provide opportunities for campaigners to pick out highly selective data. And those campaigners are not always of the politically correct persuasion.
While the whole business of equality monitoring was dreamed up with the intention that it would allow statisticians to sniff out discrimination against minorities, the data is also available to the likes of the BNP.
In its usual attempt to stir up discontent, it has, for example, accused the BBC of ‘flooding’ itself with ethnic minorities by selecting a statistic which shows that 47 per cent of places on a BBC journalism trainee scheme identified themselves as being from an ethnic minority.
Given that the BBC trainee scheme covers foreign reporting and the World Service, it is hardly surprising that it has a high international intake.
But, of course, that is not what jumps out when the BNP picks out a raw statistic.
No matter how much we regard diversity monitoring as a waste of time and money, and counter-productive in its aim of promoting equality, when we are presented with an official form demanding to know personal details such as our gender, race and sexuality, it is easy to be fooled into thinking we have to fill it in. We don’t.
If we want to stop this colossal waste of money, we can undermine it by refusing to answer the questions altogether.
That is what I do. So should you.
Intellectuals and Race
Walter E. Williams
After reading Dr. Thomas Sowell's latest book, "Intellectuals and Race," one cannot emerge with much respect for the reasoning powers of intellectuals, particularly academics, on matters of race. There's so much faulty logic and downright dishonesty.
Many intellectuals attribute the behavior patterns of blacks to "a legacy of slavery" or contemporary racial discrimination. But when one observes similar behavior patterns among Britain's lower-class whites, which can't be attributed to "a legacy of slavery" or discrimination, it calls into question the explanations for black behavior.
It's lamented that blacks are "the last hired" and, during an economic downturn, "the first fired," because blacks are terminated before whites. That's seen as evidence of discrimination by white employers, but white employees are terminated before Asian-American employees. Is that employer discrimination against whites? Intellectuals accept statistical data as showing discrimination when it reinforces existing preconceptions and reject or ignore it when it doesn't.
It's the same story in the housing market. Newspapers, television commentators, civil rights leaders, academics and politicians see racial discrimination as the cause for black mortgage loan applicants being rejected more frequently than white applicants. In 2000, black applicants were turned down for prime mortgage loans twice as often as whites; however, white applicants were turned down nearly twice as often as Asian-Americans.
The racial discrimination explanation requires that we believe that white bankers racially discriminate not only against blacks but against whites, as well. It also requires that we believe that black-owned banks are in cahoots with white-owned banks, because they, too, turn down black mortgage applicants more often than white applicants. The true explanation is not rocket science. Lenders prefer to lend to people who will pay them back. Average credit scores are higher among whites than blacks and higher among Asian-Americans than whites.
During the early 20th century, there were mass migrations of blacks from the South. Both the black-owned Chicago Defender and the Urban League offered published advice to their less tutored brethren, such as: "Don't use vile language in public places." "Don't throw garbage in the backyard or alley or keep dirty front yards." "Do not carry on loud conversations in street cars and public places." Jews, Germans and Irish made similar appeals to acculturate their ill-mannered cousins. These efforts produced positive results over the years.
That has changed with today's multiculturalism vision. Efforts to get minority groups to acculturate to the linguistic, dress and other norms of the larger society are seen negatively by multiculturalists as a form of cultural imperialism. Intellectuals and academics call for celebrating diversity. That means wearing one's trousers low enough to see one's butt, men wearing a head full of pigtails, and using poor language that's sometimes vulgar are part of the liberal's vision of "celebrating diversity." Then there's the "acting white" charge, when black youngsters who conduct themselves according to the norms of the larger society are criticized and often assaulted by their presumably "acting black" peers.
Sowell concludes that our nation is painting itself into a corner when it comes to thinking about racial problems. Whole cities, of which Detroit is a classic example, have been devastated physically, socially and economically by racial problems -- which cannot be discussed honestly by elected officials, people in the media or academics, who do not want to become pariahs or, even worse, lose their jobs.
This moral paralysis is paid in blood -- mostly the blood of black people preyed upon by criminals, though in recent years, there have been violent mob attacks on white people in shopping malls, on beaches, on public transportation vehicles and in other public places. These attacks often go unreported, are minimized or are reported without detail, even though the attackers shouted their hatred for white people. The use of sufficient force to stop these attacks would be called "excessive" in the media and by politicians or "community leaders."
My own conclusion is that black people waged a successful civil rights struggle against gross discrimination. It's white and black liberals, intellectuals, academics and race hustlers who have created our greatest hurdle.
Australian Govt. reportedly drops discrimination bill
THE federal government's decision to put its proposed anti-discrimination laws on hold has been welcomed by the Institute of Public Affairs.
The conservative think tank heralded the move, reported in The Australian on Wednesday, as a victory for free speech.
Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus was reported as saying the government could not proceed with plans introduced by his predecessor Nicola Roxon to draw five existing statutes under a single piece of legislation.
The statutes covering age, disability, race, sex and other forms of discrimination were to be consolidated, with the most controversial change relating to the onus of proof.
The government could not proceed with the draft bill at this time and would be sending it back to the attorney-general's department for more work, Mr Dreyfus told The Australian.
The IPA said it was "outrageous" the government would make it illegal to offend someone because of their political opinion.
The think tank said reversing the onus of proof was another "fundamental problem" and the decision to withdraw the legislation entirely instead of attempting to amend it was the right move.
Under the proposed changes, after the complainant established a prima facie case of discrimination, the respondent would then have to show the action was justified or didn't amount to discrimination.
The IPA has argued the onus of proof should remain on the person making the accusation as it was often very difficult to prove innocence.
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, 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. Email me (John Ray) here.