Wednesday, December 31, 2014

2014’s mantra: ‘I feel hurt, therefore I censor’

The new censorship is even more insidious than the old

In August this year, the Dominican Republic’s government banned long-tongued twerker Miley Cyrus from performing her latest sausage-related show, ‘Bangerz’, within its territory. It explained its decision as follows: ‘[Miley Cyrus] undertakes acts that go against morals and customs, which are punishable by Dominican law.’

Amid the countless instances of free-speech infringing catalogued by spiked’s Free Speech Now! campaign this year, this one stood out. Not because of its target - after all, Cyrus’s porny aesthetic and subtle-as-crotchless-knickers innuendo frequently prompts outpourings of ‘down with this sort of thing’. No, it stood out because it was so old-fashioned. The Dominican Republic didn’t ban Cyrus on grounds of offence or harm; it banned her on the basis that her act was immoral.

It was a decision redolent of the state censorship of old, of the type of decision-making that used to prevail across the West. It harked back to a time when the state intervened to ‘protect’ its citizens from a form of expression it deemed morally corrupting - decisions made, in short, for people’s own moral good, to preserve their virtue. Such censoring logic recalls, for instance, the classic definition in English law of criminal obscenity - things that ‘tend to deprave and corrupt’, as John Duke Coleridge put it in 1868. Or even more famously, it reminds us of the sentiments of Mervyn Griffith-Jones QC, who, during the Lady Chatterley’s Lover obscenity trial in 1960, tried to justify the continued ban on DH Lawrence’s piece of wheelbarrow erotica by asking the jurors: ‘Would you approve of your young sons, young daughters – because girls can read as well as boys – reading this book? Is it a book that you would have lying around in your own house? Is it a book that you would even wish your wife or your servants to read?’

But by the 1960s, as the result of that obscenity trial showed, the state’s ability to tell citizens, especially the lower orders, what they should or shouldn’t be able to read or see or listen to had been thoroughly eroded. For a combination of profound historical reasons, from the rise of mass democracy and the collapse of Empire to the broader secularisation of everyday life, the moral authority Britain’s rulers once wielded with such draconian confidence appeared increasingly groundless. Censorship no longer solved problems for ruling elites; it asked questions of them. On what grounds was a judge to say that this or that was morally corrupting? Why should they be telling us what will deprave and debase?

Increasingly, the state lacked the moral resources to say what was corrupting and what was not, what ‘goes against morals and customs’, and what adheres to them. Be it divine reason or religion-drenched tradition, the sources of the ruling elite’s moral authority had run dry. Little wonder that, in the UK at least, the old institutions of state censorship withered at this point, too, from the abolition of the 1737 Licensing Act in 1968, which deprived the Lord Chamberlain of his role as theatre’s censor, to the transformation 15 years later of the old British Board of Film Censors into the British Board of Film Classification. State censorship, grounded on a sense that the state knew what was morally best for its citizens, seemed increasingly anachronistic.

But as the past couple of decades have demonstrated, there has been a twist to this tale of liberal progress. Censorship, far from disappearing, has changed form. What was once the prerogative of the state has become the prerogative of the individual. What was once grounded on morality, on what the state decreed to be right or wrong, moral or corrupting, is now grounded on emotions, on what the self decrees is hurtful or hateful.

Speech no longer corrupts, or causes the will to deviate from the path of virtue; speech now upsets feelings, and causes people emotional harm. It is not the old-fashioned rational self that’s deemed at risk here; it’s the new-fangled emotivist self. This is now the source of authority in the public (and increasingly the private) sphere, the new ground from which de facto censorship draws its authority, the new basis upon which individuals, and small groups, can legitimately claim that that public figure should be sacked, that TV show should be de-commissioned, that film should be withdrawn. Hurt feelings, harmed emotions and triggered trauma now provide the fuel for contemporary censorship - not morality.

Incredibly, as Free Speech Now! has reported, this historically new form of individuated, ‘I feel, therefore I am’, citizen censorship has become even more widespread during the course of 2014. Think of the way in which comedian Daniel O’Reilly’s comic persona, Dapper Laughs, was forced into retirement in November because, as one censor-campaigner put it, ‘he indirectly harmed others with sexism, casual misogyny and bullying’. The ‘harm’ here is neither physical nor moral - he was not punching people, or turning people away from the path of virtue. No, the harm is emotional; he is accused of making people feel bad.

Or think of the case of TV presenter Judy Finnigan in October. On lunchtime chat show Loose Women, Finnigan said that the rape for which footballer Ched Evans was imprisoned in 2012 ‘was not violent’ and that, following his release, we should ‘let him do his job’. The instantly tweeted response to Finnigan’s perfectly legitimate argument was neither reasoned, nor moralising. No, the mode of address was hyper-emotional: it was outrage. ‘How dare she?’; ‘Her comments make me feel sick’; ‘How could she say that?’. As women’s rights campaigner Jean Hatchet – who set up a petition calling for Evans to be banned – put it: ‘[Finnigan] is guilty of such internalised misogyny that I don’t think she was even aware of how hurtful and damaging her comments were.’ Finnigan was forced into making a public apology, not because a state censor decreed her comments corrupting, but because a group of fellow citizens claimed her words were ‘hurtful and damaging’. And that was enough to force her into effectively recanting in public.

In the US, we’ve seen numerous similar instances of public figures saying something other individuals claim to find offensive, and then either being pressured into contrition, or, if the apology doesn’t come, hounded into ignominy. Think, for example, of Kiss frontman Gene Simmons, who, having suggested that a lot of people claiming to be depressed today know nothing of real misery - ‘My mother was in a concentration camp in Nazi Germany. I don’t want to hear fuck-all about “the world is a harsh place”’ - was urged to issue a public apology. As one Australian radio-station producer said of his subsequent decision to remove Kiss’s songs from his station’s playlists: ‘I put the challenge out to other stations across Australia and North America to also drop any of this nudnik’s songs until such time as he reconsiders his thoughtless and insensitive position.’ Again, note the language: Simmons’ argument wasn’t deemed immoral - Simmons wasn’t even said to be wrong. No, it was said to be ‘insensitive’; that is, it was said adversely to affect people’s feelings. Simmons, as is usually the way, apologised.

More striking still was the campaign to force Washington’s American football team, the Redskins, to change their name - a name they’ve had for over 80 years. Such was the clamour that in August the Washington Post editorial board announced that it will no longer use the word ‘Redskins’ in its sports coverage. And the basis for such an incredible move, the reasoning behind attempting to overturn decades of sporting tradition against the wishes of the vast majority of the American public: certain individuals and advocacy groups claim the use of Redskins, a name given to Native Americans by the European settlers, exacerbates, to use the words of one Republican Senator, ‘the pain of [the] brutal and shameful history’ of America’s treatment of its native population. As John Warren, chairman of the Pokagon Band of the Potawatomi in Michigan and Indiana, put it: ‘The “R” word is… offensive. Athletes of colour should be very, very offended when they hear that word.’ The basis, then, for trying to force an American football team to change its name, the ground on which the claim is made, is the emotional power of the word, its ability supposedly to pique the feelings of native Americans. So far the Redskins have refused to back down.

On and on this merry-go-round of emotionally grounded censorship goes. The grievances are countless. It could be a comedian claiming Spurs fans’ self-identification as ‘Yids’ makes him feel bad; it could be US comedian-cum-presenter Bill Maher being disinvited from American colleges because a joke he made about Hamas was judged hurtful; it could even be the right-wing crackpots of the BNP claiming to have been emotionally wounded by an Islamist preacher - incredible but true. There is something infernal about this endless harm-crying, this perpetual round of ‘I feel hurt, therefore I censor’. And no wonder: there are as many potential sources of censorship as there are individuals with feelings.

So in 2015, we need to continue defending freedom of speech. But we also need to re-conceive what it means to be a citizen. We need to go beyond the emotionally dominated self, ever ready to publicise his or her hurt in the interests of shutting another up, and reclaim something of the robust, reasoning self of more enlightened times.


The ‘I believers’: a law unto themselves

In 2014, an official willingness to believe complainants damaged key legal principles

I can sum up the legal world of 2014 in two words. Many lawyers would understandably tell you, given all the talk of efficiency and cuts, that those words should be ‘legal aid’ - that is, the provision of legal assistance to those who can’t afford it. The endless consultations, judicial reviews, quashed decisions, court walkouts and furrowed legal brows showed that the impending cuts to legal aid carried out by Chris Grayling, the UK secretary of state for justice, were at the forefront of many legal minds. It was also a year in which the practical impact of these cuts began to be felt, with high-profile cases being stopped – albeit temporarily – because of a lack of any proper representation.

But I would choose two different words, two words that I think capture the ethos behind many of the most significant legal developments this year. These words also dominated the public discussion of crime,  particularly serious and high-profile allegations, and arguably established certain boundaries for the public discussion of the law in general. I think the two words that capture the dangerous direction in which our legal system is heading are: ‘I believe.’

That’s right, 2014 was a year in which more and more prosecutorial reform was geared towards ‘believing’ complainants rather than investigating allegations with objectivity. In the wider world, publicly proclaiming your belief in the veracity of particularly high-profile allegations around rape and sexual violence became a hallmark of progressive thinking. So it became all the rage in the US to declare ‘I believe Jackie’ when a rape complaint was made – by a woman known as ‘Jackie’ – against a group of students at the University of Virginia. Even when it transpired that the allegation was nonsense, the Washington Post said we should still believe ‘victims’, who are ‘hurt by incredulity’.

In the UK, 2014 was the year in which police officers began publicly declaring their ‘belief’ in allegations before any investigation had even begun. In December, the Metropolitan Police publicly declared that they ‘believed’ the allegation made by a complainant that three young boys had been murdered by a paedophile ring in Westminster. The fact that the police now feel able to declare their ‘belief’ in a complainant making the most serious of allegations, before the complainant’s evidence has been investigated, shows that the mantra of ‘I believe’ is becoming central to the mindset of prosecutors and how they see their own role in the justice system. Why investigate when it is so much easier just to believe?

The mantra of ‘I believe’ also perfectly captures the motivation behind the UK government’s Independent Panel Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse, which was established this summer in response to allegations of a paedophile ring at the heart of the British establishment. Never before has objectivity and judicial rigour been so readily shoved aside in deference to the need to believe child-abuse allegations. By November, two prospective chairs for the inquiry had been ditched because of revelations about their associations with the state. In other words, there was a danger the chairs might not say what the ‘survivors’ wanted them to say. The home secretary Theresa May, who has now disbanded the entire inquiry panel following further criticism from the ‘survivors’, constantly reiterated the need to believe, saying that the ‘confidence’ of these self-proclaimed survivors was ‘paramount’. Public inquiries used to be held to restore the confidence of the public in the workings of the state; in 2014 they became a forum for the state to express publicly its ‘belief’ in those it is accused of failing.

The Court of Appeal even adopted the mantra of ‘I believe’ when it ruled in December that vulnerable complainants should be made aware of cross-examination questions in advance, ostensibly to help remove the stress of giving evidence. It seems that even the second highest court in the land is keen to show its belief in a complainant’s evidence without the need to subject it to analysis and interrogation. Cross-examination exposes a complainant to the most rigorous scepticism that logic and common courtesy permit. It is the antithesis of blind belief,and rightly so.

Sadly, the trend towards believing allegations over investigating them is set to continue into 2015. Alongside the ongoing farce of May’s child-abuse inquiry, ex-director of public prosecutions Keir Starmer is set to make an appearance in parliament, having won a Labour Party candidacy in 2014. This was the same Starmer who, as DPP, said he would do away with the ‘combative, adversarial’ nature of our justice system to make the experience easier for victims. Given his recent departure from the Crown Prosecution Service, he is likely to be influential even in a shadow-cabinet position. In an interview this month, he said he had ‘unfinished business’ in the justice department. Expect further reforms to encourage the ‘belief’ in complainants at the expense of traditional safeguards against wrongful prosecution.

2014 was a bad year for the justice system because it was a bad year for truth. In 2015 we should strike back against the drive simply to ‘believe’ at all costs. We should refuse to accept the nonsensical and patronising deference that the police, prosecutorial authorities and even elected politicians have shown towards some complainants. And we should reaffirm the impartial but compassionate search for the truth as a fundamental value of our justice system.


Great-Grandma Florist Could Lose Livelihood for Saying No to This Wedding

A florist in Washington state is being sued for adhering to her Christian beliefs in declining to make flower arrangements for one couple’s wedding.

Before the lawsuit, Barronelle Stutzman, owner of Arlene’s Flowers in Richland, Wash., had employed workers who identify as homosexual and sold floral arrangements to gay and lesbian customers.

One such customer turned out to be one of the men who would sue her for not being willing to be hired for their same-sex wedding.

Unlike businesses that face similar lawsuits for refusing to provide specific wedding-related services to gay and lesbian couples on religious grounds—among them bakers in Oregon and farmers in New York—Stutzman is being sued in both a professional and personal capacity.  That means she could lose everything she owns.

Here’s the Backstory

Barronelle Stutzman is a great-grandmother who has been in the floral industry for more than 40 years.

When Washington state legalized same-sex marriage in 2012, she decided that as a matter of conscience she could not participate in or further same-sex ceremonies by using her creative skills in connection with them.

So when two men, Robert Ingersoll and Curt Freed, asked her to design flower arrangements for their wedding, Stutzman politely declined and referred them to other vendors in the area. Ingersoll had been a valued customer, she says, so it was difficult.

The state’s attorney general said Stutzman’s decision to stand by her Christian faith was in direct conflict with a state law ensuring freedom from discrimination.

The measure prohibits places of public accommodation–which officials say include Arlene’s Flowers–from discriminating on grounds of race, creed, sexual orientation, physical disability and so forth.

In April 2013, two months after Washington redefined marriage to include same-sex couples, state Attorney General Bob Ferguson filed a lawsuit against Arlene’s Flowers and its owner.

Stutzman is represented by Kristen Waggoner, a lawyer at Alliance Defending Freedom, an organization dedicated to defending religious liberty.

But a few days later, the American Civil Liberties Union of Washington filed a civil suit against Stutzman on behalf of Ingersoll and Freed.

The suits, since consolidated into Arlene’s Flowers v. Ferguson, were filed in Washington’s Benton County Superior Court.

Waggoner says it is unprecedented for the Washington attorney general’s office to sue a family business owner in a personal capacity unless that owner has committed acts of fraud or misrepresentation.

“They’re trying to set an example of her and punish her,” says Waggoner, noting the suit has the potential to cripple Stutzman’s livelihood. “She’s not wealthy, so common sense would tell you that it’s going to hurt pretty bad.”


A Hopelessly Biased Screed Against Alleged Bias

Newsweek has outdone itself in its pre-Christmas issue with a vitriolic assassination of the Bible, under the title "The Bible: So Misunderstood It's a Sin," by Kurt Eichenwald.

This isn't, by any measure, a balanced piece. It doesn't approach fairness. Eichenwald doesn't even attempt to hide his bias, though he seems oblivious to how it compromises his own fairness and objectivity and how hypocritical he is in condemning Bible believers for allegedly allowing their biases to influence them.

It is an unusually long article, by which one might infer that Eichenwald and the magazine consider the subject a matter of major importance that must be addressed.

The piece contains far too many misguided assertions to attempt to refute in a short column. For the opposite viewpoint about the integrity and authority of the Bible, I shamelessly refer you to my book "Jesus on Trial," wherein I cover, in detail, a great percentage of the arguments he makes. My limited purpose here is to illustrate that Eichenwald is woefully guilty of that for which he condemns us Bible thumpers.

The thrust of Eichenwald's screed seems to be that many Christians are an evil and ignorant lot who distort the Bible to justify their alleged hatred and bigotry. He's bothered by Christians cherry-picking Scripture, yet his entire diatribe is a barely disguised clinic in cherry-picking.

Read the article for yourself and see whether you come away with the impression that Eichenwald has much firsthand familiarity with actual Christians -- as opposed to the knuckle-dragging caricature he obviously envisions.

He tells us that Christians "wave their Bibles at passersby, screaming their condemnations of homosexuals."

Let me ask you fellow Christians: How many Christians have you ever seen engaging in such behavior, other than, say, those in a rerun of an old television series, such as "Kojak" or "Starsky & Hutch," shot in New York City?

He says, "They are God's frauds, cafeteria Christians who pick and choose which Bible verses they heed with less care than they exercise in selecting side orders for lunch."

I have attended many church services over the years, and I can attest that the more the church respects the Bible as the word of God the less it chooses passages selectively to support messages. Pastors at my church and countless others often preach on passages that might seem problematic at first glance. They don't cherry-pick Scripture. They tackle it and do their very best to explain it to their engaged congregations.

It seems Eichenwald's real beef is with political conservatives, who he apparently believes put too much stock in certain passages to justify their barbarian beliefs and practices. They are people who "fall on their knees, worshipping at the base of granite monuments to the Ten Commandments while demanding prayer in school. They appeal to God to save America from their political opponents, mostly Democrats. They gather in football stadiums by the thousands to pray for the country's salvation." Horrors! They believe "creationism should be taught in schools."

He insists that Newsweek's purpose is not to advance a certain theology but "to shine a light on a book that has been abused by people who claim to revere it but don't read it, in the process creating misery for others."

What does he mean by this, you ask?

He writes, "When the illiteracy of self-proclaimed Biblical literalists leads parents to banish children from their homes, when it sets neighbor against neighbor, when it engenders hate and condemnation, when it impedes science and undermines intellectual advancement, the topic has become too important for Americans to ignore."

Talk about unsubstantiated smears -- the very kind Eichenwald seems to be indicting. Where do Christians banish children from their homes for any reason, much less based on Bible verses? How does so-called biblical illiteracy turn neighbors against each other? If people are following Scripture, they will behave precisely the opposite of this description, and I know of no serious Christian who will argue otherwise.

Neither the Bible nor any authentic Christians I know use Scripture to engender hate and condemnation. Christians are admonished to hate sins, not sinners -- and we are all sinners. Every last one of us.

And the glib slander that we employ Scripture to impede science and undermine intellectual advancement is as fraudulent as it is outrageous.

Perhaps some Christians advocate that public schools teach biblical creationism. But it is obvious to me that Eichenwald is deliberately conflating them with those of us who believe that public schools should teach information about scientific discoveries that point to intelligent design and that we ought to let the science and facts speak for themselves, not selectively exclude scientific information if it happens to coincide with the biblical worldview.

Eichenwald really ought to get out more if he believes that Christians have a desire to undermine intellectual advancement. The Bible -- the actual Bible, not the mythical one to which Eichenwald alludes -- exhorts us to love the Lord with all of our minds. It emphasizes the importance of our acquiring wisdom. It teaches that we are created in the image of an infinitely intelligent God, whose wisdom we are to endeavor to plumb.

I hope that readers of this article will see through Eichenwald's bias and agenda and discover for themselves the abundant information that flatly contradicts or strongly refutes most of the assertions he makes and conclusions he draws.

It is most ironic that Eichenwald's own biases irredeemably blur the lens through which he seeks to expose the biases of others.



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 and  DISSECTING LEFTISM.   My Home Pages are here or   here or   here.  Email me (John Ray) here


Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Beware Britain's new relationship police

If ‘controlling behaviour’ is made a criminal offence, no relationship is safe

I have always thought that otherwise sensible people can turn into complete nutcases around their partners. Relatively mellow people can become obsessed with the most insignificant nonsense when it involves their other half. This is because relationships involve the development of a peculiar, often pretty weird dynamic, which often only makes sense to those involved. I thought this was all pretty normal and had been part and parcel of relationships since the dawn of time. Last week, the UK government made it clear that it thinks I am wrong.

UK home secretary Theresa May announced that a new offence of ‘controlling and coercive behaviour’ is to be introduced to combat the threat of ‘extreme psychological and emotional abuse’ within relationships. Examples of this so-called abuse include: ‘preventing the victim from having friendships or hobbies; refusing them access to money; and determining many aspects of their everyday life.’ The new offence follows the government’s expansion of the official definition of domestic violence in 2013 to include emotional and psychological harm (under the new category of ‘domestic abuse’).

The latest move was justified on the basis of a consultation over the summer. The government said that 85 per cent of those consulted were in favour of reforming the law on domestic violence. But reading the consultation paper presents a different story. Firstly, only around 750 people responded. And the headline 85 per cent who responded positively did so to the absurdly broad question, ‘Does the law do enough to protect the victims of domestic violence?’. Responses to this question could just as easily reflect public dissatisfaction with the justice system and the way the law is enacted in general, rather than dissatisfaction with the specific law relating to domestic violence. When asked whether a new offence of ‘controlling or coercive behaviour’ would help protect potential victims, only 55 per cent of respondents said ‘yes’. So this new offence is in fact being introduced because around 330 people thought it would be a good idea.

But those 330 people are in the minority. Reaction to domestic-violence law reform has been almost exclusively negative. Women’s charity Refuge said the new offence would do little to assist victims, and further expanding the definition of domestic violence could detract attention from securing prosecutions on the basis of the law that already exists. Given that the offence would not be a serious one, it would necessarily be a short-term fix, meaning that a court would have limited powers to deal with a genuine perpetrator of domestic violence.

Many also pointed out that the new offence does little to change the law as it exists at the moment. The law can already prosecute individuals where their behaviour causes emotional or psychological harm. The statute books already prohibit ‘harassment’, which requires only that behaviour causes alarm or distress. And the offence of ‘stalking’ can lead to the prosecution of individuals for repeat attempts to monitor and control people. It is not at all clear what new forms of behaviour would be caught under the new law that could not have been prosecuted under the old law.

What the reform does is focus official attention on what are often normal aspects of people’s relationships. A relationship, by its very nature, involves ‘coercive and controlling behaviour’. After all, if your partner said he or she wanted to get involved in bare-knuckle boxing, it may not be objectionable to try to dissuade them against doing so, particularly if you like the shape of his or her face. I often control when and where my partner eats – partly because we sometimes like to eat together. It would be extremely hard to arrange a meal if both of us simply ate whenever we felt like it.

Of course, advocates of the new offence will dismiss the above examples as making light of the seriously controlling dynamics that they say exist within ‘problematic’ relationships. But is the line ever crystal clear? While the government might say that the dividing line between the normal to and fro of a relationship and criminal ‘control’ will be clear, it is likely that the reality will be far more blurred. In fact, it will fall to police officers and the Crown Prosecution Service to decide what is normal relationship behaviour and what is not. Absurdly, it will be prosecutors, no doubt fixated on hitting the numerous conviction targets which govern domestic-violence policing, who will decide what is okay within a particular relationship.

The new offence is part of a dangerous trend. The government thinks it can use the law to legislate domestic violence out of existence. By criminalising more and more aspects of people’s relationships, it shows that it thinks the justice system can magically intervene to prevent even the possibility of violence within relationships. This is fantastical and dangerous. We have to accept that with the free and intimate act of entering into a relationship comes some responsibility for deciding what constitutes the boundaries of mutually acceptable behaviour. The new law does little to protect real victims, but a lot to invite the police to regulate one of the most intimate areas of our private lives.


250,000 people turn out to support Boxing Day hunts

Renewed calls for fox hunting ban to be repealed 

More than a quarter of a million people are believed to have turned out to support the traditional Boxing Day Hunt, amid renewed calls for the fox hunting ban to be lifted.

Hunt members and countryside groups welcomed the Conservative Party’s plans, disclosed by the Telegraph, to include a manifesto pledge promising to offer MPs a free vote on repealing the hunting ban if it wins the general election.

Prince Charles’s favourite hunt, the Duke of Beaufort’s Hunt, reported thousands more supporters than usual attending and in defiant mood, 10 years on since the ban was imposed.

Jo Aldridge, spokesman for the hunt, said: “We normally get a crowd of maybe 5,000 people but this year it’s extraordinary; we reckon somewhere in excess of 7,000 people.”

She said she believed momentum was building to push for a repeal of the Act. “It’s 10 years since the ban, there’s an election coming up and people are being defiant and determined,” she said.

“We have got to get a change of law and a government that can produce a change of law. If it’s a Conservative manifesto pledge that would be a very good thing.”

She claimed the ban was “nothing to do with animal welfare and hasn’t saved the life of a single fox.”

Close to 300 hunts are thought to have taken place around the country on Boxing Day, using trail hunting – where a trail is laid, often using fox urine, to create a scent for the hounds to follow.

Charlotte Cooper, spokesman for the Countryside Alliance, said there would have been about 250,000 people out to support the hunts, boosted by “lovely weather” in parts of the country.

She welcomed the Conservatives’ manifesto plans. “We want to open up a dialogue about how the Hunting Act can be repealed or improved,” she said. “A first step would be a free vote to see whether there is appetite.

“We think the whole law needs to be thrown out. We are happy for hunting to be regulated but we feel the Hunting Act as it’s written has a lot of inconsistencies, is very difficult for even judges to fathom.”

The Hunting Act prevents chasing or killing foxes with packs of hounds. A maximum of two hounds may be used to flush out a fox ahead of shooting it.

“In places like the uplands of Wales where you’ve got a lot of forest and enormous spaces in which you’re trying to track a fox it’s just impossible – there’s no way you can do it with just two hounds,” Ms Cooper said.

The Conservatives pledged in their 2005 and 2010 manifestos to offer a free vote on a repeal. While the Coalition agreement indicated it would do so, no vote has been forthcoming.

Ms Cooper said this was “disappointing but understandable”. “If we had had a Tory government it is likely we would have had a vote but it’s difficult working in a Coalition. We understand we are not the top of the priority list, but we still think we are an important part of the countryside and this a problem.”

In Thornbury, south Glos., hundreds of people turned out to watch the pre-hunt parade by an estimated 50 riders or more from the Berkeley Hunt, the oldest pack of foxhounds in the country.

Sue Ravenhill-Handley, 47, a hunt subscriber from Charfield, said the Tory pledge would “absolutely be a vote winner”. "It has been a let-down, with it not already been done, but you have to negotiate. That is the nature of coalitions," she said.

Haydn Jones, 50, treasurer of the hunt, said: “Hunting is very important, not just to rural people - it's about liberty. There were more important issues before; I understand that hunting had to wait.

"They have got the economy back in shape, so now they can look at other issues."

But Lorraine Fox of the “Blue Fox” group of Conservatives Against Fox Hunting warned that the repeal campaign was “toxic to the perception of the Conservative Party”.

“For too long, the party leadership has appeared to be swayed by the hunting lobby rather than representing the majority of the public’s support for the ban on hunting with dogs,” she said.

The RSPCA said that chasing and killing live animals with dogs was “a barbaric and outdated pastime and has no place in modern Britain”.

A spokesman said: “The fact remains that it is only a tiny minority of people who, seek a return to cruelty.”

Polling carried out by IPSOS Mori for the RSPCA, League Against Cruel Sports and IFAW late in 2013 found that 80 per cent of people in Britain believe fox hunting should remain illegal.


Immigration beats economy as number one worry for UK voters

Pollsters say Britain is more concerned about migrants than money for the first time since 2010

Immigration is now consistently the most important political issue of concern to voters, pollsters have revealed.

Over the past year it has moved ahead of the economy as the British public’s top priority, according to YouGov.

Since May, voters have put it above or tied with the economy in every survey conducted by the organisation.

At one point, in September, it was selected by 58 per cent of voters as one of the three most important issues for the country while only 48 per cent had the economy in their top three.

YouGov chose ‘Immigration becoming the public’s most important issue’ as one of its top five public opinion trends of 2014.

Will Dahlgreen, from YouGov, said: ‘From May to December immigration was seen as the most important issue facing the country, except for on three occasions when it was tied with the economy.

‘Although immigration began to narrow the gap at the end of 2013, 2014 is the first year since 2010 when the economy has not been the top issue.

‘Immigration had an average lead of one point over the whole year, compared to a deficit of 18 in 2013 and 32 in 2012.’

Polling data also showed Europe has increased hugely as an issue of concern over recent years, from just 7 per cent of voters choosing it as an issue in June 2010 to 25 per cent in October this year.

In recent months, as both immigration and Europe have soared as issues of concern, Ukip has moved up in the polls. In May it triumphed in the European elections, winning 4.3million votes and beating Labour into second place and the Tories into third.

Ukip has also won two House of Commons by-elections in Rochester and Clacton after MPs Mark Reckless and Douglas Carswell defected from the Conservatives.

David Cameron has responded to the rise of Ukip by promising to stop EU migrants from claiming a raft of in-work benefits, including tax credits, until they have paid into the system for four years.

Both David Cameron and Ed Miliband have responded to the rise of Ukip by strengthening their positions on immigration
David Cameron takes tough stance on immigration

Ed Miliband has also attempted to toughen Labour’s line. But the party was embarrassed recently when an internal party document emerged which told activists to ‘move the conversation on’ when voters ask them about immigration.

Crossbench peer Lord Green of Deddington, chairman of the MigrationWatch think tank, said: ‘These are remarkable findings. It’s simply not possible for the political class to remain in denial any longer.

‘Suggestions that those who are canvassing should simply change the subject are now clearly absurd. The public want effective answers on immigration and will see through attempts to dodge the issue.’

Labour MP for Rochdale Simon Danczuk said politicians have been too slow to recognise immigration as an issue. He said he would like to see a stronger line from Labour on border controls and lowering migrant numbers.

He said: ‘People have been mentioning immigration to me a lot on the doorstep, people from all different backgrounds including ethnic minorities, working class and middle class people. People feel strongly about it.’

The polling data shows how other issues have risen up the polls in the past four years. Welfare did not feature as a significant issue in 2010, but by October this year was chosen by 25 per cent of voters.

Health has increased significantly as a concern to voters, while crime has declined sharply. Other trends highlighted by the pollster were the rising support for the Greens who finished the year tied with the Lib Dems on 7 per cent.

It also pointed to Ed Miliband’s falling support, with one poll at the end of October registering him as less popular than Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg.

YouGov also found that voters’ perceptions of how well the economy is doing peaked in August.


Is science showing there really is a God?

IN 1966 Time magazine ran a cover story asking: Is God Dead? Many have accepted the cultural narrative that he’s obsolete — that as science progresses, there is less need for a “God” to explain the universe. Yet it turns out that the rumours of God’s death were premature. More amazing is that the relatively recent case for his existence comes from a surprising place — science itself.

Here’s the story: The same year Time featured the now-famous headline, the astronomer Carl Sagan announced that there were two important criteria for a planet to support life: The right kind of star, and a planet the right distance from that star. Given the roughly octillion — 1 followed by 24 zeros — planets in the universe, there should have been about septillion — 1 followed by 21 zeros — planets capable of supporting life.

With such spectacular odds, the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, a large, expensive collection of private and publicly funded projects launched in the 1960s, was sure to turn up something soon. Scientists listened with a vast radio telescopic network for signals that resembled coded intelligence and were not merely random. But as years passed, the silence from the rest of the universe was deafening. Congress defunded SETI in 1993, but the search continues with private funds. As of 2014, researches have discovered precisely bubkis — 0 followed by nothing.

What happened? As our knowledge of the universe increased, it became clear that there were far more factors necessary for life than Sagan supposed. His two parameters grew to 10 and then 20 and then 50, and so the number of potentially life-supporting planets decreased accordingly. The number dropped to a few thousand planets and kept on plummeting.

Even SETI proponents acknowledged the problem. Peter Schenkel wrote in a 2006 piece for Skeptical Inquirer magazine: “In light of new findings and insights, it seems appropriate to put excessive euphoria to rest ... We should quietly admit that the early estimates ... may no longer be tenable.”

As factors continued to be discovered, the number of possible planets hit zero, and kept going. In other words, the odds turned against any planet in the universe supporting life, including this one. Probability said that even we shouldn’t be here.

Today there are more than 200 known parameters necessary for a planet to support life — every single one of which must be perfectly met, or the whole thing falls apart. Without a massive planet like Jupiter nearby, whose gravity will draw away asteroids, a thousand times as many would hit Earth’s surface. The odds against life in the universe are simply astonishing.

Yet here we are, not only existing, but talking about existing. What can account for it? Can every one of those many parameters have been perfect by accident? At what point is it fair to admit that science suggests that we cannot be the result of random forces? Doesn’t assuming that an intelligence created these perfect conditions require far less faith than believing that a life-sustaining Earth just happened to beat the inconceivable odds to come into being?

There’s more. The finetuning necessary for life to exist on a planet is nothing compared with the finetuning required for the universe to exist at all. For example, astrophysicists now know that the values of the four fundamental forces — gravity, the electromagnetic force, and the “strong” and “weak” nuclear forces — were determined less than one millionth of a second after the big bang. Alter any one value and the universe could not exist. For instance, if the ratio between the nuclear strong force and the electromagnetic force had been off by the tiniest fraction of the tiniest fraction — by even one part in 100,000,000,000,000,000 — then no stars could have ever formed at all. Feel free to gulp.

Multiply that single parameter by all the other necessary conditions, and the odds against the universe existing are so heart-stoppingly astronomical that the notion that it all “just happened” defies common sense. It would be like tossing a coin and having it come up heads 10 quintillion times in a row. Really?

Fred Hoyle, the astronomer who coined the term “big bang,” said that his atheism was “greatly shaken” at these developments. He later wrote that “a commonsense interpretation of the facts suggests that a super-intellect has monkeyed with the physics, as well as with chemistry and biology ... The numbers one calculates from the facts seem to me so overwhelming as to put this conclusion almost beyond question.”

Theoretical physicist Paul Davies has said that “the appearance of design is overwhelming” and Oxford professor Dr. John Lennox has said “the more we get to know about our universe, the more the hypothesis that there is a Creator ... gains in credibility as the best explanation of why we are here.”

The greatest miracle of all time, without any close seconds, is the universe. It is the miracle of all miracles, one that ineluctably points with the combined brightness of every star to something — or Someone — beyond itself



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 and  DISSECTING LEFTISM.   My Home Pages are here or   here or   here.  Email me (John Ray) here


Monday, December 29, 2014

Black fabulist ‘Trolls Christians’ On Christmas Day — But He Got His Facts Wrong  -- again

In the second article below, Tracinski summarizes Tyson: "The shallow guru of fake geek culture who has a habit of playing fast and loose with the facts".  See also here

De Grassy Knoll Tyson is more showman than scientist, and pretty shallow as either.  He has some minor erudition but because he is black, that makes him a great scientist, according to liberals. His popularity depends on his Leftist and Warmist lean, however.  If he leant Right, he'd be an "Uncle Tom".

Leave it to famed astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson to gleefully troll Christians, via Twitter, on Christmas. But for once, one of the smartest men alive actually got his facts wrong.

On Christmas morning, Neil deGrasse Tyson, who is the director of New York’s Hayden Planetarium and the host of Cosmos, tweeted something intended to rile up believers who were celebrating the holiday.

“On this day long ago, a child was born who, by age 30, would transform the world. Happy Birthday Isaac Newton b. Dec 25, 1642.”

Predictably, Tyson’s tweet set off an internet firestorm, as some of his more controversial tweets are apt to do. It was retweeted close to 15,000 times in less than an hour, and has been retweeted a total of nearly 60,000 times. His original tweet, however, elicited plenty of negative reaction.

“Hi @neiltyson, trolling Christians on Dec 25 is so EDGY. Please let me know when you troll Muslims on Ramadan. Merry Christmas!” wrote one Twitter user.

Another wrote, “Looking fwd to witty jabs during the spiritual days of Islam, Buddhism, Judaism etc. Or is it reserved for the easiest target?”

Neil deGrasse Tyson’s tweet was intended to play on the fact that famed physicist Newton is believed to have been born on December 25, while Jesus Christ, whose birth is celebrated worldwide by Christians on December 25, was almost certainly not born on that particular date. In fact, most early theologians believe that Jesus was actually born in the spring, but that the December 25 date may have been adopted by early Christians to coincide with the existing pagan festivals such as the Winter Solstice in order to convert people.

And although Tyson probably cares very little that he upset many Christians — as that was probably his actual intent — the truth is, his own tweet was factually incorrect.

It turns out that Newton was born during a period in which England used a different calendar from the rest of Europe. For around 150 years, England used the Julian calendar, a less accurate calendar version that lagged behind the much more accurate (and still used today) Gregorian calendar. The Julian calendar lags ten days behind the Gregorian calendar, because unlike its more accurate counterpart, the Julian calendar used a faulty method for accounting for leap years.

What this means is that, while in England, Newton was said to be born on December 25, 1642, in the rest of the world, using the accurate dating method, he was actually born on January 4, 1643.


Ironically, although Neil deGrasse Tyson has long been open about his attitude towards organized religion, Isaac Newton devoted a great deal of his later life to theology and the interpretation of biblical prophecies. So it seems as though Tyson cannot possibly think that all Christians are clueless.


Confessions Of A Reluctant Culture Warrior

By Robert Tracinski

I’ve recently been working on a review of the top stories of 2014, which gives me a chance to look back at everything I’ve written and get a sense of what was really important this year, and also of how good a job I did of responding to those big stories.

What surprised me this year was seeing what took one of the top spots—right in there between the ugly return of racial politics and the rise of the Islamic State (amidst the collapse of President Obama’s foreign policy). It was: the “culture wars,” the running battles over issues like abortion, religious freedom, and radical feminism.

For most of my career as a writer, I have been reluctant to join in the “culture wars,” mostly because I don’t fit into either of the two opposing camps. As an atheist, I’m not longing for a return to traditional religious morality, but as an individualist, I’ve never supported the weird victim-group crusades of the left.

I have mostly dedicated myself to making the case for smaller government, pointing out the failure of the welfare state, and keeping the environmentalists from shutting down industrial civilization—little things like that. Oh, and also war—not the “culture war,” but war war, the kind where people are actually trying to kill us.

So for the most part, my position on an issue like gay marriage could be summed up as: “Can we please talk about something else now?”

Partly, this comes from my small-government outlook, which holds that some things—indeed, most things, and virtually all of the really important things—should be outside the realm of politics. That definitely includes other people’s sex lives, about which I would like to know a good deal less than is fashionable at the moment.

But this year, I discovered that while I might not be interested in the culture war, the culture war is interested in me. It’s interested in all of us.

This is the year when we were served noticed that we won’t be allowed to stand on the sidelines, because we will not be allowed to think differently from the left.

How did we find this out? First, they came for the Christians, in legal cases meant to force conservative believers to provide funding for abortifacient contraceptives and to participate in gay marriage ceremonies.

I laid out the argument for why an atheist would fight to the death for the religious freedom of Christians.

History shows that the only way to fight for freedom of thought is to defend it early, when it comes under threat for others—even people you strongly disagree with, even people you despise. So I’m willing to fight for it for people who are much worse, by my standards, than your average Christian.

It’s like the old poem from Pastor Niemoller, except this time it’s: “First they came for the Christians.” I don’t see the threat of coercion as something being done to those backward Christians over there. I see it as something that could just as easily be done to me.

And it will be, judging from the principles that have been laid down in the campaign against Arizona’s religious liberty law and in the Supreme Court hearings in the Hobby Lobby case.
In the one real comment I had been prevailed upon to make about gay marriage in the past—so long ago that I can’t even give you a Web link for it—I explained my ambivalence by citing my concern that the left was using the issue to secure the imprimatur of the state for homosexual relationships so they could then use anti-discrimination laws as a bludgeon against religious holdouts.

That is exactly what has happened this year with the launch of a new secular inquisition that would even require conservative Christian ministers to officiate gay weddings.

It may be hard to remember now, but not very long ago there were compromise proposals for same-sex “civil unions” that were legally equivalent to marriage but under a different name. Gay rights activists consciously rejected these unions in order to specifically demand the use of the term “marriage,” insisting that the state legally recognize and enforce the equality of these marriages with old-fashioned, outmoded heterosexual ones….

The theory behind gay marriage, in short, was the theory behind the entire secular left: society and the state are the all-powerful forces on which the life of the individual depends, and the most important political task—indeed, the most important task in life—is getting this irresistible power on your side. Once you gain social and political power, you hold on to it by making your preferred views mandatory, a catechism everyone must affirm, while suppressing all heretical views. In this case, to gain social acceptance of homosexuality, you make the affirmation of gay marriages mandatory while officially suppressing any dissenting religious views.

The basic problem with the left’s conception of freedom is that it doesn’t really have one.

The left’s operational concept of freedom is that you are allowed to do and say what you like—so long as you stay within a certain proscribed window of socially acceptable deviation. The purpose of the gay marriage campaign is simply to change the parameters of that window, extending it to include the gay, the queer, the transgendered—and to exclude anyone who thinks that homosexuality is a sin or who wants to preserve the traditional concept of marriage. Those people are declared outside the protection of the law and in fact will have the full weight of the law bear down upon them until they recant their socially unacceptable views.

The point is not whether you agree about which views are or should be socially acceptable. The point is that this is not a concept of freedom. It’s a regime of state-controlled ideas, softened by an amorphous zone of official tolerance.

That’s the only reason I’m interested in this controversy. My own stance on gay marriage can be summed as: “whatever.” I would feel no need to say anything about it, if not for the insistence on the part of gay marriage advocates that any dissenters must be forced to submit.

It turns out we were right to be concerned. This year saw the launch of a whole new wave of “political correctness,” heralded by a bizarre little incident known as “ShirtStorm.” This was the brief controversy over a British scientist who was harangued for his “misogyny” because he supervised the landing of a space probe on a comet—a huge scientific achievement—while wearing a shirt that was considered offensive to feminists.

I drew a few important lessons from this case, including the fact that “They’re not just going after the frat boys.”

To be targeted by accusations of misogyny, you don’t have to be a beer-chugging “bro” who spends his Spring break judging wet T-shirt contests. Now they’re coming after the geeks and yes, even the hipsters.

So first they came for the Christians, then they came for the geeks, then for the hipsters. Moreover, “The new orthodoxy is total.”

This is “political correctness” in its purest, original form: “the personal is the political.” There is no area of life where proper behavior and even esthetic taste cannot be dictated by political concerns. You need to be told what you can wear, what songs you can listen to, what video games you can play (which, so far as I can tell, is one of the issues in GamerGate), what you are allowed to say to a woman as she walks down the street (if you are allowed to say anything at all), and so on.

GamerGate, by the way, is one story I have not commented on this year, since I am not a “gamer” and haven’t been since the days when you downloaded “Doom” from a 3.5-inch floppy disc, so I’ve been looking in as an outsider, trying to get a handle on what’s going on in the subculture of video games. From what I’ve been able to piece together, GamerGate is a consumer revolt against game journalists and reviewers who keep trying to foist the agenda of “social justice warriors” onto their readers.

I suppose I had better familiarize myself with the finer points, because next up we have “MetalGate“—an attempt to domesticate Heavy Metal music under the politically correct yoke.

And they’re going after your kids, too, complaining about “gendered toys.” Which brings us to the crazy new frontier of modern feminism, including a prudish new code of sexual conduct for University of California campuses which seems “as if it were drafted by celibate monks,” as I wrote.

It all smacks of a prudish neo-Victorianism, in which sexual desire is viewed as suspect and dangerous—but with a modern feminist twist: male sexual desire is suspect and dangerous.

The Sexual Revolution has turned out to be a weird reverse image of Puritanism. The counterculture retained all the same basic premises—that sex is dirty, disgusting, a purely materialistic act with no psychological or spiritual meaning—except that they were for it. So they swept away the old-fashioned codes of chivalry, eliminated the role of the university as a chaperone in loco parentis, and created a campus culture of drunken one-night stands. Now they have discovered that this culture has a dangerous dark side, particularly for young women, and they’re scrambling to create a new, modernized system of prudery.

It’s not just me who has noticed the trend this year. Feminists are hailing this as “the year women got even,” which gives you a sense for the kind of power-play going on here.

If this was also the year that journalism was completely overtaken by the mania to preserve a “narrative” at the expense of the facts—most notoriously, in the University of Virginia rape hoax—feminism often provided the narrative they were trying to preserve.

So this was the year when we learned that we can’t sit out the “culture war,” because they’re bringing it to us, and every niggling little aspect of our lives will now be redesigned to make us more tractable.

But it’s also the year that I realized there is a good reason to jump into the culture war with both feet. The very thing that makes many of us reluctant to join the battle—the fact that we don’t fit in neatly with either side—is the reason we’re desperately needed.

In laying out the ideas that I would most like readers on the right to learn from Ayn Rand, I realized one of the most important items was “a third alternative in the culture wars.”

The biggest thing that prevents people from giving a fair reading to Ayn Rand’s books is the fact that she doesn’t cooperate with a lot of the standard categories we’re usually offered… Probably the most important category she defied is captured in the expression, “If God is dead, all things are permitted.” Which means: if there is no religious basis for morality, then everything is subjective.

The cultural left basically accepts this alternative and sides with subjectivism (when they’re not overcompensating by careening back toward their own neo-Puritan code of political correctness). Then the religious right responds by saying that the only way to stem the tide of “anything goes” is to return to that old time religion.

This leaves a lot of people looking for a third alternative. As an advocate of a secular morality, that’s precisely what Ayn Rand offered.

This is why I have focused a lot of effort specifically on trying to reclaim the cultural high ground of science, which has been thoroughly and undeservedly claimed by the left. Hence my contributions to The Federalist‘s campaign to expose Neil deGrasse Tyson, the shallow guru of fake geek culture who has a habit of playing fast and loose with the facts.

To talk loudly about fidelity to facts, while borrowing the journalists’ mantra of “fake but accurate,” sends the message that facts don’t really matter. What matters is the theater of being pro-evidence and pro-science and of looking down on your opponents as ignorant, anti-science dolts.

If Tyson seems bemused about criticism of his fabrications and doesn’t take it seriously, he’s telling us that he sees himself as a showman. We’re not supposed to ask whether the events he talks about are real, fictional, or embellished, we’re just supposed to enjoy the show.

It’s that crucial scientific principle of suspension of disbelief.
The goal here is to reclaim science and the code of rationality on behalf of freedom and individualism, which is the only true creed of the “geeks.”

Geeks—the real ones, not the hipster wannabes—have spent a lot of their lives marginalized and ignored. They don’t fit in. They like different things, they think and talk in different ways, they look at the world differently. And precisely because of this, they come up with new ideas that nobody else comes up with.

The eccentric inventor and offbeat thinker is one of the archetypes of American individualism. We’re outsiders, we don’t follow the usual rules, and we aim to misbehave. So why shouldn’t we be skeptical of a paternalistic state?

Many of us are, of course. Given my own interests, at least half of my friends with solid geek credentials are also Objectivists. After all, Atlas Shrugged is another book that appeals to intelligent young nonconformists. But we’re hoping for the day when the rest of our friends finally realize where they really belong.

This is why I’ve written far more about the culture war this year than I ever expected (and the excerpts above are just a sampling). It has become an urgent necessity to push back against the resurgence of totalizing political correctness, to carve out room for the freedom to disagree—and to lay down the outlines of what a third alternative in the culture war looks like.

Because after 2014, nobody gets to sit this one out.


The year of the cultural colonialist

In 2014, forcing artists to be politically obedient was all the rage

Videogames are too violent! Pop music is degrading to women! Filmmakers are pushing ‘the wrong kind of message’! Over the past 12 months these have been the rallying cries of the cultural elite. And it’s shocking how seriously this spew has been taken. Hadn’t we settled all this? People aren’t stupid. Art isn’t ‘corrupting’. We can handle it, thanks. But now it seems the cultural sphere has been flux-capacitored back to the 1980s. Sex-and-violence panics about film, TV, pop music and videogames – dolled up in modern ‘progressive’ moralism – were all the rage in 2014.

We saw this when Gone Girl, a star-studded crime-thriller movie, was spat on by the great and good for having the temerity to feature a female character who framed another character for rape. This pulpy (and actually pretty decent) thriller was ‘recycling…rape myths’, said one commentator. More recently, it was the turn of that master of corridor dialogue, Aaron Sorkin. Sorkin’s TV show, The Newsroom, was pilloried for featuring a scene in which one character admitted that he believed the male defendant in a rape case. This, too, was slammed as a step too far - ‘the Hollywood screenwriter appears to be telling victims not to pursue their allegations’, claimed one writer, in something of an Olympian logical jump. And, at the greasier end of the cultural spectrum, there was #GamerGate, a still-rumbling gamer rebellion against accusations that the games industry is misogynistic, sparked by some blogposts about foul play in games journalism.

There’s nothing more annoying than having the same argument over and over again. Just when you thought artistic freedom had won out over the kneejerk blue-rinse brigade, we’ve been plunged back into discussions about age classifications for pop music and tighter classification of films.

If the Parents’ Music Resource Center (PMRC), the 1980s think-of-the-children outfit for whom we have to thank for ‘Parental Advisory’ stickers, was about today it would be a trendy, feminist-hued political organisation chaired by Jessica Valenti. The patronising and angst-ridden logic of old conservatives has become mainstream, leftish and ‘radical’.

But there is something about 2014’s cultural moralists that sets them apart. Because while the Mary Whitehouses of the past shouted ‘ban this filth’, the Mary Whitehouses of today want to take culture and shape it for their own purposes. They don’t bother with outright censorship – that’s still, just about, a dirty word. They want to straighten culture’s act up. They want to nag it and finger-wag it into a nice, socially acceptable form. They want to stake their flag in the savage world of culture and give the natives a lesson in piety. This was not the year of the cultural censor. This was the year of the cultural colonialist.

This trend was best summed up by Brianna Wu, a games developer and one of the leading anti-#GamerGate missionaries. When asked by the BBC what ‘something’ she was insisting must be done, she said: ‘It’s not like I’m advocating that we ban Call of Duty or anything silly like that. [What] I’m asking is for companies to… make sure they portray women in their games in a socially responsible way.’ It’s a seemingly well-meaning but actually quite chilling sentiment. And it feeds into an unedifying process by which artists are being elevated and trashed purely on the basis of how ‘responsible’ their work is.

This year’s turning on Eminem, the loveable psychopath of the rap world, has been a case in point. Once cherished by left-leaning commentators for his shock-tactic irreverence, rapping about killing his wife and stashing her body in the trunk and, in the process, sticking a much-needed two fingers up at buttoned-up ‘white America’, he’s now become a pariah. Recent battle raps, in which he’s talked about punching purry popster Lana Del Rey in the face and forcing himself on Australian rapper Iggy Azalea, have been slammed as misogynistic and dangerous. The license he was once given to say the unsayable and dramatise the darkest, most disturbing sides of his psyche has been revoked.

Then there’s the lame celebration of BeyoncĂ©. After years of dodging the tag ‘feminist’, she recently grabbed it with both hands, sampling an excerpt from a TED talk given by Nigerian feminist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie on a new track and performing the song at the VMAs with the word ‘FEMINIST’ lit up behind her. After years of brow-furrowing about whether Bey’s ‘jelly’ was helping or hindering the feminist cause, feminist observers now lionised her. Well, for a bit, at least…

This new trend stems from a wider culture of philistinism. The logic of arts funding applications seems to have permeated cultural life. Art is no longer judged on its own terms. Instead it is an artist’s social responsibility, the pertinence of their work to the political and cultural concerns of the day, that matters. It’s what the novelist Howard Jacobson warned of in 2005, when, in the wake of 9/11, he was perturbed by the shallow art that was celebrated for, in some way, ‘dealing with’ the ‘war on terror’. ‘We are in a new dark age of the imagination’, he wrote. ‘Either we refuse the idea of art altogether… or we confer integrity on it from outside, allowing it to be art only by virtue of the pre-determined importance of the subject matter, or the acceptability of its attitudes. This is a species of censorship to which we have all acceded.’

In 2014, the philistinism Jacobson warned of has gone a step further. Not only is socially irresponsible work ‘bad’ - apparently it’s dangerous. Fuelled by a growing contempt for the audience – a refusal to believe in their ability to grapple with nuanced, subversive or even exploitative subject matter – these cultural colonialists have decided to weaponise culture. If all people are blank slates, if we are so easily programmed by the ‘messages’ we receive, then someone should at least make sure we are getting the right kind of messages, or so the logic goes.

While the cultural colonialists may insist that what they are calling for is simply better art – for art that is free from tired, easy stereotypes and sexist myths – the opposite is true. Art needs freedom to flourish. It’s a space in which mindless fantasies can be indulged, or moral ambiguities prodded and explored, sometimes for no clear reason. Art, as Oscar Wilde famously said, is ‘quite useless’. The moment you try to make it useful, to hector it, straitjacket it and put it to work, its potency withers.

This is something great artists have always recognised. For the 1979 edition of his dystopian, anti-censorship classic, Fahrenheit 451, the late, great Ray Bradbury offered an instructive anecdote:

‘About two years ago, a letter arrived from a solemn young lady telling me how much she enjoyed reading my experiment in space mythology, The Martian Chronicles. But, she added, wouldn’t it be a good idea, this late in time, to rewrite the book inserting more women’s characters and roles… The point is obvious. There is more than one way to burn a book. And the world is full of people running about with lit matches. Every minority, be it Baptist / Unitarian / Irish / Italian / Octogenarian / Zen Buddhist / Zionist / Seventh-day Adventist / Women’s Lib / Republican / Mattachine / Four Square Gospel, feels it has the will, the right, the duty to douse the kerosene, light the fuse… The real world is the playing ground for each and every group, to make or unmake laws. But the tip of the nose of my book or stories or poems is where their rights end and my territorial imperatives begin, run and rule.’

In 2015, let’s drive out the cultural colonialists. The world of art is the artist’s tyranny. Long may they reign.


When Child Protective Services becomes Child Abductive Services

It’s generally agreed that playing outside is good for kids. Fresh air, sunlight, exercise, social interaction are all vital for proper childhood development. However, a growing herd of nanny-statists within the government, specifically state Child Protective Services agencies, have decided that playing outside without direct supervision is so dangerous that it would be better if children weren’t raised by their own parents. They risk turning our children into a generation of physically stunted, psychologically addled wards of the state. But for their own good!

The latest example of this trend is a case out of Maryland. The only report of it is a first-hand email from the parents, so the usual caveats apply, but given the many, many other examples of similar government threats, we’ll assume it to be true for now. In November a neighborhood busybody called authorities ahbout two kids, ages 10 and 6, at a park (which happened to be two blocks from their home) alone. The local Child Welfare Services office cited the parents for leaving them unattended outside, using a statute that actually prohibits the opposite, leaving a child “locked or confined” inside unattended.

After the mother smartly researched the statute and protested the absurd interpretation, CWS dropped the case. However, someone again reported the horrifying scenario of children walking outside, and a police officer picked up the kids on their way home from a different park about a mile away. After threatening to shoot him in front of his children if he didn’t produce identification, the officer left. CWS agents arrived two hours later and threatened to take the children immediately if he didn’t sign a document agreeing not to leave them unsupervised until the next week when another CWS agent would return.

To be clear, the government says they will take your children from you so that you don’t put them in a situation where there is a remote possibility that someone might…take your children from you. Cunning plan!

And make no mistake, that possibility is indeed extremely remote. From the most recent data, out of the 797,500 children reported missing in 2002, only 115 were taken by strangers. The vast majority of abductions are by parents, other relatives, or acquaintances. You know, the people government agents mandate be watching them to keep them safe.

Crime in general has decreased even since then, so even though we have no specific data, it’s almost certain that stranger kidnapping has too. Child abduction is a horrific crime and should be punished severely. However, we should not take children away from their actual loving parents because they might be at risk for something that is quite literally a statistical anomaly.

Child Protective Service agencies perform valiant work across the country every day, protecting children from abuse, neglect, and crime, but they have no business protecting children from loving parents who let them play outside. A government who can take your kids for this can take them for anything they want and has no real limits on its power. Laws must be changed, judicial opinions clarified, and departments staffed with people who value liberty and family over the smothering paternal hand of government.


Sorry history of tolerating the intolerant

Comment from Australia by Janet Albrechtson

AT first glance the connection between Sony last week pulling the comedy The Interview from our screens and the murders in Martin Place is not obvious. Yet both are explained by tolerating the intolerant, a deadly virus that has long infected the West.

Last Tuesday, when Australians woke to news that a gunman had murdered two innocent Australians in the name of Islam during a 16-hour hostage siege, we also woke to the lethal, horrifying cost of tolerating the intolerant. As much as we would prefer to put this behind us and get on with Christmas and a brand-new year, it pays to remember just how tolerant we are.

We allowed Iranian Man Haron Monis into our country on a business visa and then welcomed him as a political refugee. Charged with fraud at home, the Iranian government asked for him back. But we said no to the Iranians. When Monis wrote inexcusable letters to the families of soldiers who died in Afghanistan, describing them as pigs and Nazis, we excused that — delivering only a slap on the wrist of 300 hours of community service. Some called for his Australian citizenship to be revoked. We said no to that, too. We allowed Monis to remain an Australian citizen, a gift sought out by millions of refugees who are keen to embrace and respect Australia as an open, generous and free country.

When Monis asked his local MP and ex-NSW Labor leader John Robertson for a letter asking the state government to consider granting Monis access to his children — despite an appre­hended violence order that prevented such meetings — the former opposition leader agreed.

When Monis was charged with being an accessory before and after the fact to the vicious murder of his former wife — she was stabbed multiple times and then set alight — we allowed him bail. When Monis was charged with 50 acts of sexual assault, again we gave the man bail. When Monis sought to overturn a criminal conviction about the letters sent to the families of soldiers last week in the High Court, we provided taxpayer-funded legal aid for him to engage one of the nation’s most expensive barristers.

This man was known for his anti-West hatred. He told us about it. He was on our radar. He was known to our security ser­vices, federal police and NSW police. On November 17, less than a month before he took 17 innocent people hostage, he posted online his hatred of the West, he wrote about his allegiance to ­Islamic State. Still, we allowed Monis to roam free among us.

Tony Abbott is right to call Islamic State a death cult, but the question must be asked: is the West’s tolerance of the intolerant a death wish? And when many on the Left blindly refuse to identify terrorism, isn’t that furthering the death wish?

When a killer slaughters ­people in the name of Islam, we should take him at his word. Monis is the newest form of terrorist. There is no Islamic State membership card, no initiation ceremony, no formal welcoming morning tea.

Moreover, terrorism is not a numbers game. It’s not about the number of perpetrators who org­anise an attack. It’s about the motivation of the attacker. It’s done to instil fear, to attack our values, to undermine our confidence in our own culture.

The Interview, starring James Franco and Seth Rogen, is a spoof about the assassination of North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un. When North Korean-backed hackers recently threatened harm — “remember the 11th of September”, they said — if Sony released the movie this month, Sony capitulated. Giving the anti-free speech terrorists what they wanted, Sony pulled the movie from theatres.

We shouldn’t be surprised. The West has a sorry history of tolerating the intolerant here too. Think of the Danish cartoons. Too few media outlets decided to defend our right to free speech in 2005. Instead they caved in to the demands of Islamofascists by not publishing the silly cartoons of Mohammed.

Remember too when Random House, in 2008, pulled the publication of The Jewel of Medina, a book by Sherry Jones that told the tale of Aisha, the child bride of Mohammed. The publisher had received no threats, just “cautionary advice” that publishing the book “might cause offence to some in the community (and) incite acts of violence by a small, radical segment”. Random House chose anticipatory surrender.

Following the Danish cartoons controversy, a South Park episode featured Mohammed behind a black “CENSORED” box. It was a pointed joke by South Park creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker. Carrying on with the joke, the 200th episode of South Park reintroduced Mohammed in a bear suit. Soon enough, a Muslim website warned Stone and Parker would end up like filmmaker Theo van Gogh — the Dutchman slain by a Muslim extremist in 2004 for his film Submission, which explored Islam’s treatment of women. And in another case of depressing anticipatory surrender, the bosses at Comedy Central inserted audio beeps and “CENSORED” block outs into the episode. That wasn’t a joke.

Neither is it a joke that many vocal Muslims claim special treatment. They don’t want an equal playing field. Those who want Mohammed fenced off have no qualms about attacking Christianity or other religions. Our reaction? We tolerate that too. A few years ago, Mark Thompson, director-general of the BBC, announced that Islam deserved different coverage in the media compared to other religions because Muslims were an ethnic minority.

Human rights commissions in Canada have been used to stifle free speech about Islam. Muslim-born Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a convert to rationalism, a believer in Enlightenment values and a critic of Islam, has been forced to live with 24-hour protection — in countries such as The Netherlands, the US and Australia. As Hirsi Ali said a few years ago, when more of us defend Western values, “there will be too many people to threaten and at that time I won’t need protection”.

Last week the ABC’s Chris Uhlmann staked a claim, too, for Western values when he said during an interview with the PM, “in a truly tolerant Western society … we would hope for a day when Islam is so integrated that it can be criticised in the way that Catholicism is criticised”. That kind of tolerance is also my hope for 2015.



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 and  DISSECTING LEFTISM.   My Home Pages are here or   here or   here.  Email me (John Ray) here


Sunday, December 28, 2014

The Race Card Can Ruin Us All

The cold-blooded murder of two New York City policemen as they sat in their car is not only an outrage but also a wake-up call. It shows, in the most painful way, the high cost of having demagogues, politicians, mobs and the media constantly taking cheap shots at the police.

Those cheap shots are in fact very expensive shots, not only to the police themselves but to the whole society. Someone once said that civilization is a thin crust over a volcano. The police are part of that thin crust. We have seen before our own eyes, first in Ferguson, Missouri and then in other communities, what happens when there is just a small crack in that crust, and barbarism and arson burst out.

That can happen anywhere. So can what happened in New York. “Send not to know for whom the bell tolls. It tolls for thee.”

It is a painful irony that, on the eve of the murders of these two police officers in New York, some of the city’s police were already saying that, in the event of their deaths, they did not want Mayor Bill de Blasio to attend their funerals.

We can only hope that Mayor de Blasio has some residual decency, so that he will not defile these two officers' memorial services with his presence. No politician in the country has done more to play the race card against the police and spread the notion that cops are the big problem in minority communities.

It so happens that the police officers killed were both members of minority groups – Officer Rafael Ramos, Hispanic, and Officer Wenjian Liu, Asian. It so happens that a substantial part of the New York City police force are members of minority groups.

But you might never know that from the story told by demagogues who depict the black community as a “colonial” society being “occupied” by white policemen who target young blacks. Mayor de Blasio joined the chorus of those saying that they have to warn their black sons how to cope with this situation.

“What can we say to our sons?” some demagogues ask. They can say, “Don’t go around punching strangers, because it is only a matter of time before you punch the wrong stranger.”

Mayor de Blasio has made anti-police comments with Al Sharpton seated at his side. This is the same Al Sharpton with a trail of slime going back more than a quarter of a century, during which he has whipped up mobs and fomented race hatred from the days of the Tawana Brawley “rape” hoax of 1987 to the Duke University “rape” hoax of 2006 and the Ferguson riots of 2014.

Make no mistake about it. There is political mileage to be made siding with demagogues like Al Sharpton who, as demagogue-in-chief, has been invited to the White House dozens of times by its commander-in-chief.

Many in the media and among the intelligentsia cherish the romantic tale of an “us” against “them” struggle of beleaguered ghetto blacks defending themselves against the aggression of white policemen. The gullible include both whites who don’t know what they are talking about and blacks who don’t know what they are talking about either, because they never grew up in a ghetto. Among the latter are the President of the United States and his Attorney General.

Such people readily buy the story that ghetto social problems today – from children being raised without a father to runaway rates of murder – are “a legacy of slavery,” even though such social problems were nowhere near as severe in the first half of the 20th century as they became in the second half.

You would be hard pressed to name just five examples from the first half of the 20th century of the kinds of ghetto riots that have raged in more than a hundred cities during the second half. Such riots are a legacy of the social degeneracy of our times.

Calling this social degeneracy “a legacy of slavery” is not just an excuse for those who engage in it, it is an excuse for the ideology of the intelligentsia behind the social policies that promoted this degeneracy.

Let those who have laid a guilt trip on people in our times, for evils done by other people in past centuries, at least face their own responsibility for the evil consequences of their own notions and policies. If they won’t do it, then the rest of us need to stop listening gullibly to what they are saying.

The race card is nothing to play with. It can ruin us all.


Religious people much happier and have more 'life satisfaction' than others, according to a new study

Does religious affiliation contribute to happiness?  A recent study by the Austin Institute for the Study of Family and Culture found that a strong correlation exists between religious affiliation and personal happiness.

The institute surveyed a sample of 15,738 Americans between the ages of 18 and 60, according to the Breitbart News Network.

Of the more than 15,000 sampled, 45 percent of those who attend a religious service on a weekly basis described themselves as 'very happy,' while only 28 percent of those who said they 'never' attend said the same.

Those who said they never attend religious services are twice as likely to say they are 'very unhappy' as those who attend services weekly.

According to the study, this connection between religion and happiness stems from social support within the religious communities.  Being surrounded by friends and a congregation who share common beliefs and motivations is reportedly a key way in which faith and happiness connect.

Though many other factors play a role, the study found that the sense of community among those who attend and engage in religious services is the most plausible theory to explain the connection.

The link between faith and happiness is nothing new.

Past studies -- both in America and overseas-- have found that, generally, those with a faith have higher levels of 'life satisfaction' than those without, BBC News reports.

Along with generally higher levels of happiness, BBC reports that studies find that religious people are better able to cope with difficult situations, such as losing a job or a divorce.

The Austin Institute study included controlled variables such as self-reported physical health, marital status, age, educational attainment, race/ethnicity, gender, and marital happiness.

But the end results proved that the statistics tying religious affiliation to happiness have held and are continuing to hold true. 


US may lift lifetime ban on homosexual blood donations

US Federal health officials are recommending an end to the nation’s lifetime ban on blood donations from gay and bisexual men, a 31-year-old policy that many medical groups and gay activists say is no longer justified.

The US Food and Drug Administration said today it favours replacing the blanket ban with a new policy barring donations from men who have had gay sex in the previous year.

FDA officials said that policy is supported by research and would put the US in-line with other countries including Australia, Japan and the UK.

The lifetime ban dates from the early years of the AIDS crisis and was intended to protect the blood supply from what was a then little-understood disease.

But many medical groups, including the American Medical Association, say the policy is no longer supported by science, given advances in HIV testing.

Gay activists say the lifetime ban is discriminatory and perpetuates negative stereotypes of homosexual men.

The agency will recommend the switch in draft guidelines early next year and move to finalise them after taking comments from the public, FDA officials.

FDA Deputy Director Dr. Peter Parks declined to give a time frame for completing the process but said, “we commit to working as quickly as possible on this issue.”

All blood donations are screened for HIV, however, the test only detects the virus after it’s been in the bloodstream about 10 days. That allows a brief window when the virus that causes AIDS can go undetected.

According to government figures, men who have had sex with other men represent about 2 per cent of the U.S. population, yet account for at least 62 per cent of all new HIV infections in the US.

Tuesday’s announcement is the culmination of years of government discussions re-examining the ban.

Last month a panel of blood safety experts convened by Department of Health and Human Services voted 16-2 in favour of doing away with the lifetime ban.

The panel recommended moving to a one-year ban, which bars donors who have had male-on-male sex during the previous 12 months.

Some gay activists said Tuesday that policy remains unrealistic and will still stigmatise gay and bisexual men.

“Some may believe this is a step forward, but in reality, requiring celibacy for a year is a de facto lifetime ban,” the organisation Gay Men’s Health Crisis, a New York-based non-profit that supports AIDS prevention and care, said after the announcement.

The FDA implemented the ban in 1983, when health officials were first recognising the risk of contracting AIDS via blood transfusions.

Under the policy, blood donations are barred from any man who has had sex with another man at any time since 1977 — the start of the AIDS epidemic in the US.

The push for a new policy gained momentum in 2006, when the Red Cross, the American Association of Blood Banks, and America’s Blood Centers called the ban “medically and scientifically unwarranted.”

Last year the American Medical Association voted to oppose the policy.

Patient groups that rely on a safe blood supply, including the National Hemophilia Foundation, have also voiced support for dropping the ban.


The year the Culture Wars went global

Turning geopolitics into a battlefield over values is a really bad idea

A century after the outbreak of the First World War, it seems humanity is confronted with new cultural disputes that have the potential to mutate into violent conflicts.

The experience of the past century has demonstrated that the politicisation of culture always ends badly. And little wonder: cultural crusaders create a climate of intolerance towards the norms and values of their cultural targets. They are often censorious and seek to devalue their opponents. In its more extreme forms, cultural politics leads to the mutual dehumanisation of the antagonists.

Such dehumanising sentiments were far too evident a century ago. The Armenian genocide of 1915 represented the most extreme and destructive manifestation of this lethal synthesis of culture and militarism. Tragically, almost a century later, the spectre of culturally motivated violence haunts that region once more. Until recently, the great Armenian church in Deir el-Zour in Syria served as a memorial to the mass killings that occurred during the Great War. Earlier this year, however, in a savage act of vandalism, a group of Islamists blew the church up. They destroyed its archives, and the bones of hundreds of victims of the 1915 massacre were left strewn in the streets.

Today, the most extreme exponents of the politicisation of culture are the jihadist zealots who regard the lives of those who do not share their faith as unworthy of moral value. But the depravity and barbarism of a movement such as the Islamic State can obscure the disturbing reality: namely, that the politicisation of culture, and its intolerant consequences, is gaining strength across the world. It has certainly contributed to the hardening of the rivalry between the West and Russia. And it is this, the emergence of a caricature of the Cold War, that is arguably the most significant international development of 2014.

It seems that disputes about lifestyle, family life, sexual orientation and the nature of community life are no longer confined to the domestic sphere. The Culture Wars have gone global. Muslim jihadists are not just fighting with bombs; they are directly assaulting Western liberal values and denouncing them as immoral. For his part, Russian president Vladimir Putin has sought to present himself as fighting for traditionalism and the Christian way of life. In turn, Western diplomats have criticised Russia for its patriarchal and sexist culture.
Global crusaders

There is little doubt that the Russian government is a willing participant in what it regards as a war over moral values and beliefs. In September 2012, Putin stated that ‘cultural self-awareness, spiritual and moral values [and] codes of values are an area of intense competition’. He said that to ‘influence the worldviews of entire ethnic groups, the desire to subject them to one’s will, to force one’s system of values and beliefs upon them, is an absolute reality, just like the fight for mineral resources that many nations, ours included, experience’.

In recent years, the Putin regime has claimed that the Russian way of life and its values have been the target of hostile foreign interests. The Russian government has expressed concern about the influence of the Western media over its national life. It regards Western NGOs operating in Russia as agents of alien interests, which is why in June 2012 it passed a law that requires any Russian NGO funded from abroad to register itself as a ‘foreign agent’.

Putin self-consciously cultivates the image of Russia as a moral crusader fighting for the survival of human civilisation. Last December, in his annual state-of-the-nation speech, he responded to Western criticisms of Russia’s attitude to homosexuality by lamenting the decline of morality in the West. He drew attention to what he perceived as the morally disorienting consequences of Western social engineering: ‘This destruction of traditional values from above not only entails negative consequences for society, but is also inherently anti-democratic because it is based on an abstract notion and runs counter to the will of the majority of people.’ He claimed that traditional family values were the only effective defence against ‘genderless and infertile… so-called tolerance’.

Although ostensibly directed at the Russian public, Putin’s denunciation of the ‘genderless and infertile’ lifestyles of Westerners was also directed at a global audience. Just a few days before the delivery of this speech, an influential Kremlin-linked think-tank published a report titled Putin: World Conservatism’s New Leader. The report sought to present Putin as the global saviour of traditional values. The report claimed that ordinary people throughout the world yearn for the stability and security offered by traditional values. It argued that people believe in the traditional family and regard multiculturalism with suspicion. Dmitry Abzalov, a spokesman for the think-tank, told the press that ‘it is important for most people to preserve their way of life, their lifestyle, their traditions’, and, because of that, they ‘tend toward conservatism’.

Western commentators frequently claim that Russia is waging a cultural conflict against tolerant, liberal and democratic values. It is certainly the case that of all the protagonists, Russia is the most self-conscious exponent of a values-based public narrative. But Moscow’s use of a moralistic discourse of tradition and Russian nationalism should be seen as a variant of the values-driven ideology of Western governments themselves.

Western institutions and governments are hardly shy when it comes to demanding that their values and lifestyles be adhered to by all societies. In fact, societies and cultures that do not adhere to Western values face pressure to fall into line. Take the case of Japan. During the summer, the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination exhorted the Japanese government to pass an American-style law that would criminalise certain forms of speech as hate speech. What is remarkable about this intervention is that it was not confined to calling on the Japanese to deal with racial discrimination; it actually prescribed an Anglo-American legal innovation for the policing of free speech in Japan. It is entirely legitimate to criticise a nation’s government for failing to deal with racial discrimination. However, the demand that a sovereign nation regulate public speech in accordance with the values and methods of Western societies is a form of cultural colonialism.

The problem with international cultural crusades is not the actual values – many of the sentiments promoted by Western institutions are worthy and enlightened ones. No, the problem is that such crusades assume that Western states possess the moral authority to question, undermine and change the laws and values of communities throughout the world. When diplomacy and geopolitics become entwined with the attempt to affirm the moral superiority of a way of life, the outcome is always unpredictable.

The real danger with the globalisation of the Culture Wars is that it threatens to confuse diplomatic problems with existential questions that touch on a people’s way of life. Take the case of US president Barack Obama’s high-profile address to European youth. In this speech, he linked his criticism of Russia’s behaviour in the Crimea with criticism of those who oppose his political agenda in the US. He celebrated the politics of identity and permissiveness, and denounced the ‘older, more traditional view of power’. He added that ‘instead of targeting our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters, we can use our laws to protect their rights’. In all but name, Russia served as a proxy for Obama’s desire to attack his traditionalist foes back in the US.

When domestic cultural conflicts in the US are recast on the global stage, diplomacy may become hostage to them. Diplomacy could become, in short, an extension of a domestic moralistic crusade. Such international values conflicts may appear relatively benign compared to those that led to the outbreak of the First World War. But do not be fooled. Cultural rivalries, and disputes over lifestyles and values, are extremely difficult to resolve because they are intimately linked to basic moral questions, even to the meaning of good and evil. As a result, these disputes are rarely susceptible to pragmatic solutions and can easily escalate into dangerous rivalries. Let 1914 be a warning to all those who presume to lecture other nations’ inhabitants about how to live their lives.



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 and  DISSECTING LEFTISM.   My Home Pages are here or   here or   here.  Email me (John Ray) here