Wednesday, January 14, 2015
Football needs to grow a pair and defend Ched Evans
The furore over Evans is quite a witch hunt -- made all the more remarkable by the fact that he was convicted on very flimsy grounds. The sex was consensual but a court in its wisdom decided that the woman was too drunk to give consent. How was Evans to know that? There are no standards for how drunk a woman can be before being unable to consent. If there were, millions of normal conceptions might have to be called products of rape. In our society alcohol often accompanies sex. To Evans the woman seemed no drunker than normal. If so the mens rea (guilty intent) is absent and no crime was committed.
To those who condemn Evans the Bible has a good warning: "Judge not, lest you be judged" (Matthew 7:1). And a learned man once said: "Let him that is without sin cast the first stone" (John 8:7). How will all of Evans' abusers look if the re-examination of his case presently underway decides that he was wrongly convicted?
More details of a very flawed case here
Football is quite literally awash with balls. White balls, orange balls, indoor balls, training balls, and now, in the FA Cup, pink balls. But, ironically, one thing conspicuously absent from modern football is ‘balls’ in the moral-fibre sense. Football is suffering from a deficit of cojones. Whenever football is faced with bad publicity or a baying Twittermob over the latest moral shitstorm, the default reaction these days is to cave in. Whether it’s Nicola Anelka’s ‘quenelle’ goal celebration, Malky Mackay’s inappropriate text messages, Dave Whelan’s clumsy comments about Jewish and Chinese people, or Mario Balotelli’s supposedly racist tweet, nobody in the game appears to have the guts to stand up to the moralists and the language cops.
Nowhere is this lack of balls more evident than in the case of Ched Evans. First Sheffield United backtracked on its offer to allow Evans to train with them. Then Hartlepool issued a statement saying they wouldn’t be signing the player 24 hours after manager Ronnie Moore said he was open to the idea. Now Oldham Athletic have pulled the plug on a deal to sign Evans after coming under ‘unbearable pressure’ from online petitioners, sponsors, police commissioners, journalists and even Labour leader Ed Miliband. The club said that a combination of ‘sponsor pressure’ and threats to staff and families led them to pull out of the deal. In other words: another victory for pitchfork justice.
Why should Ched Evans be allowed to resume his football career? It’s a matter of principle. Having served his time for rape, Evans should be allowed to get on with his life and return to work. The concept of rehabilitation for ex-offenders is a hallmark of a civilised society. When NFL quarterback Michael Vick was released from prison after serving time for organising dog fights, President Obama defended his right to resume his football career, saying he believes ‘in the idea of redemption, that people can get a second chance’.
Another valued principle of a civilised society is the rule of law – not the vengeance of the lynch mob. A court has imposed a punishment on Evans and a parole board has released him from prison. Legally he is free to return to his previous profession. What is abhorrent is that the frothing Twittermob trying to dictate his future by kicking up a stink whenever any football club shows an interest in signing him. He’s been punished by a court, but now the vengeful e-petitioners want Evans punished again – this time an extrajudicial punishment. This is nothing less than medieval mob justice and it should have no place in a modern, democratic society.
Of course, no self-respecting member of this mob of e-vigilantes would openly trash the idea of rehabilitation. Like all bien-pensant, Guardian-reading progressives, they pay lip service to the principle, but, they say, there are exceptions. They argue that Evans has forfeited his right to a second chance. Why? Because he has shown no remorse. Or because professional footballers are role models. Or because his supporters have harassed the victim. That’s the trouble with these illiberal liberals.There are always ‘ifs’ and ‘buts’ when it comes to matters of principle. Whether it’s freedom of speech or the right to a second chance, there’s always a get-out clause.
Let’s examine these objections in turn. Firstly there’s the argument that rehabilitation is not possible due to his lack of remorse. Evans did express regret for his act of infidelity but steadfastly maintained his innocence on the matter of rape. His failure, until this week, to apologise to the victim was, in effect, the wrong kind of remorse. But why should his lack of contrition debar him from a second chance? His release on parole wasn’t conditional on an admission of guilt – and quite rightly so.
If that was the case then no prisoner who claimed they were wrongfully convicted would ever be eligible for parole. He wasn’t legally obliged to apologise to the victim. So what gives Ed Miliband, the Twittermob or anyone else the right to stipulate the terms of his rehabilitation? Evans has now issued an apology ‘for the effects that night in Rhyl has had on many people, not least the woman concerned’. But, judging by the reaction on Twitter, it is too little too late for many of his critics. ‘Ched Evans has a great deal more to do before he can find acceptance again as a professional footballer’, says Guardian football writer, David Conn. The goalposts of redemption seem to keep shifting.
What about the claim that Evans is a role model, idolised by thousands of fans, and shouldn’t be allowed to return to such a high-profile profession? This argument, too, is complete bunkum. Firstly, we cannot have legal rights for some but not for others. All citizens should be treated in the same way under the law, irrespective of their profession or public profile.
Secondly, the specious notion that footballers are moral templates deserves booting into row Z. It’s based on a degraded view of football fans, who are considered so susceptible and dim-witted that, if their team’s star striker hero has a rape conviction, they are likely to believe that rape is a good thing.
Footballers, moreover, are not and should not be expected to be role models. Their job is to win football matches. End of. They have no responsibility for the moral education of our children. I’m with former basketball star Charles Barkley here. ‘I am not a role model. I’m not paid to be a role model. I’m paid to wreak havoc on the basketball court. Parents should be role models. Just because I dunk a basketball doesn’t mean I should raise your kids.’
What about the harassment of the female rape victim by some of Evans’ supporters? She has reportedly been forced to change her identity five times and, according to her father, is ‘living her life on the run’. There’s no justification whatsoever for the vilification and naming of the victim on social media. Nor is there any excuse for the tweeting of rape threats to Jessica Ennis-Hill after she publicly opposed Sheffield United’s offer to let Evans train at the club. But two wrongs don’t make a right. Evans shouldn’t be punished for the abhorrent conduct of a minority of his supporters. Although Evans has now publicly condemned the ‘abusive and vindictive’ behaviour of his so-called supporters, it remains to be seen whether this is enough to appease the Twittermob.
Standing up for the right of Ched Evans to return to professional football isn’t an easy gig, as Oldham Athletic have found to their cost. Anyone who sticks their neck out will be accused of condoning rape culture. As I said, it takes balls to defend the principle of giving a second chance to a convicted rapist. But it’s the right and proper thing to do. It’s about time football stopped running scared. It’s time to grow a pair.
Cities Throw in the Towel on Bathroom Bills
The Left calls them “fairness ordinances” – but for whom? Certainly not Christians, many of whom are being hauled before city commissions as casualties of them – or worse, losing their jobs and businesses altogether. No, these aren’t fairness ordinances. They’re a license to discriminate against anyone who holds the mainstream view of marriage or sexuality.
Thanks to a very public clash in Houston that pulled back the curtain on the LGBT’s agenda, Americans are starting to wake up to the nightmare of these ordinances, which slipped through too many cities when voters weren’t paying attention. Now they are – and their pushback is throwing a major wrench in the Left’s plans. In states where these measures might have snuck by, more churches and families are on guard, ready to go to the mat against a movement disguised as “equality” but delivering anything but.
[Last] week in Starkville, Mississippi, members of the city council voted 5-2 to rescind a special rights ordinance. People on the ground knew there was storm brewing when Human Rights Campaign came to Starkville and convinced the Mayor to back it. “I just think he hoodwinked the Board,” said Buddy Smith of American Family Association, whose headquarters are in Mississippi. “They didn’t know what they were passing. You know it’s all dressed up in ‘discrimination language’…” “We all know that the mission of the Human Rights Campaign is to create special rights for those who are choosing the homosexual lifestyle – to kind of force this as something that’s good and natural among those who don’t believe that’s good behavior.”
In Fayetteville, it took a groundswell of voters to undo what the liberal council had done. But ultimately, those voters prevailed, voiding a measure by a 52-48 margin that, among other things, would have allowed men to use the girls' public showers, locker rooms, and bathrooms. The ordinance even made it possible for business owners to face criminal prosecution for failing to follow the government mandates.
For now, Arkansas’s courage seems to have spread all the way to Arizona, where local officials are rethinking a measure that would unfairly punish businesses and conservatives for their faith. Desperately trying to avoid the clash that stole headlines in other areas, the city of Glendale is putting the brakes on their proposal until they can weigh the fallout. Hopefully, they’ll come to the same conclusion as Starkville and avoid Houston’s mistakes, which led to an intrusive, unprecedented attack on area churches.
Over in Plano, Texas, community leaders are digging in their heels. While the consequences play out in other towns, Mayor Harry LaRosiliere insists, “The Equal Rights Ordinance states that Plano is against discrimination, bullying, and hatemongering.” Maybe, depending on who the targets are. If they’re Christians – like Atlanta fireman Kelvin Cochran – the bullying isn’t just ignored, but encouraged.
That’s why Texas pastors, who are starting to realize the power they have to galvanize their local communities, are leading the charge. Pastor Rafael Cruz, Senator Ted Cruz’s (R-Texas) dad, is seizing the opportunity to call for more people of faith to become involved in the political arena – whether that’s on the local school board, PTA, city council, or legislature.
“We believe the Plano City Council is attempting to silence people of faith in the workplace,” Pastor Mike Buster told reporters at a rally this week. And they aim to stop it. With just 3,822 signatures, the voters of Plano can either force the City Council to repeal the ordinance or put it on the May ballot. Either way, voters will have the final say. Which is exactly how it should be.
Roots of Florist Suit Now Personal
If you’re wondering what the effect of these special rights ordinances actually is, ask Barronnelle Stutzman. The owner of Washington’s Arlene’s Flowers, a fixture in the community for years, is staring down a lawsuit that could take away – not just her business, but her home and all of her personal assets. [Last] week, a Benton County Court ruled that Stutzman could be personally sued because she politely declined to participate in a same-sex “wedding” order from two longtime customers.
In an almost unprecedented move, AG Bob Ferguson made the attack personal, launching a second legal challenge to hold Barronnelle personally and financially responsible. The move, a bold and aggressive one, wasn’t considered all that viable by some experts, who thought Stutzman would be shielded by the Consumer Protection Act.
Not so, ruled Judge Alex Ekstrom. In a 35-page decision, he said the state could move forward with its campaign to financially destroy the Washington grandmother. “The Court concludes that the legislature intended to allow the attorney general independent unfettered authority to bring this action.” In other words, this judge is suggesting that the state should be able to rob you of your home, livelihood, and anything else of value simply because you hold a different political view than the people in power!
That’s a horrifying precedent, one that flies in the face of our basic liberties. But unfortunately, these liberals are echoing what the Houston mayor said: this is personal. And the Left is willing to take down sportscasters, educators, athletes, small businesses, wedding vendors, firefighters, and anyone else to send the message that they will not tolerate disagreement.
As our friends at ADF said, does that sound like freedom to you? Does it sound like fairness? Americans need to wake up and realize that the Left is playing for keeps – and in the case of these special ordinances, those keeps include everything Christians own.
UK: Is it time to bring back BORSTAL? Tough discipline, education and military role models do a better job than prison, claims star of TV trial
Like so many of the troubled teenagers she sees, Jenny Molloy, an education and social care expert, was once in care.
Today, she is the author of two books and is appears in a TV experiment which sees 13 troubled teens volunteer to become guinea pigs for a modern version of borstal.
Ms Molloy, who took on the role of matron during the trial, is convinced of its merits, saying the harsh regime of tough discipline and ex-military staff worked wonders on the boys left in her care.
'So many care leavers are just devoid of any hope,' she explains. 'They end up in prison and you see them just give up.'
Many would have once ended up in Britain's borstal system. The youth detention centres, all intended to reform young delinquents, were once widespread in the UK but were shut down en masse in 1982.
While the famously harsh regime dealt out to the young offenders in their care attracted its fair share of critics, Molloy says routine and rules are essential if troubled teens are to be turned around.
'They need the right discipline,' she explains. 'You have to put boundaries in place immediately but it is about making it a safe place to grow and learn.
'A lot of these lads have never had this. In care, you move around and different people have different rules so they never have the chance to establish a set of boundaries.
'There needs to be firm boundaries in place and I never once budged from mine during the experiment.
'Teenagers need to learn the world has rules. But if they don't have boundaries, they just think the world is unfair and give up.'
That, says Molloy, leads to petty crime as a result of the children feeling hopeless, unloved and unsure of their place in the world.
Although the problems aren't limited to care leavers, Molloy says she is heartbroken by the numbers that end up in youth offenders institutions or in prison.
'I worked in prisons and young offender institutions and what broke my heart was number of care leavers,' she explains. 'I hope this experiment shows the public that they shouldn't be written off.'
Borstals, a type of youth detention centre run by the prison system, were once widespread in the UK.
They were first mooted by the Gladstone Committee in 1895 and the first one opened at Borstal Prison in the Kent village of the same name in 1902.
The regime was intended to be educational rather than punitive, although the routine was famously tough with a focus on discipline.
Corporal punishment was meted out to miscreants, although it was limited to the birch - in which an offender is beaten on the bottom using a slim wooden rod.
Reoffending rates were low, with just 30 per cent going on to a life of crime compared to an estimated 75 per cent of those to pass through young offenders institutions.
Nevertheless, the borstal system was shut down en masse in 1982 and replaced with the young offenders institutions still in place today.
Moral Panic 2.0: the era of progressive censorship
Moral panics used to afflict those of a conservative disposition. They would typically protest displays of modern art, music and literature deemed offensive to religious feelings and traditional moral values. When James Joyce’s Ulysses was published in 1922, an article in the Quarterly Review stated: ‘From any Christian point of view this book must be proclaimed anathema, simply because it tries to pour ridicule on the most sacred themes and characters in what has been the religion of Europe for nearly two thousand years. And this is the book which ignorant French critics hail as the proof of Ireland’s re-entry into European literature!’
But over the past couple of decades, the nature of moral panics has changed. We are now in the era of Moral Panic 2.0. It’s no longer concerned social conservatives doing the moral panicking — it’s progressive liberals. A prime example of progressive liberal outrage was the anti-racist protest against Exhibit B at the Barbican Centre in London at the end of last year. Moral panic also prompted the authorities in Clacton-on-Sea, Essex, to remove a Banksy mural depicting pigeons waving anti-immigrant placards at a lone swallow. Of course, just as Exhibit B was critical rather than supportive of racism, so the Banksy mural mocked rather than supported anti-immigrant sentiments — not that that stopped the progressive censors.
Unfortunately, outbreaks of Moral Panic 2.0 are not limited to the UK. Last August, Danish performance-art group Global Stories was scheduled to perform Through Different Eyes at the Malmö Festival in Sweden. The central idea of Through Different Eyes is to invite members of the public to change their ethnicity, race or gender using make-up and then to experience the reactions from other people. While the idea behind it was to ‘celebrate diversity’ and ‘combat discrimination’, more than 200 Swedes were so offended by the idea that they successfully petitioned the festival to cancel the performance.
The demand from non-state actors to censor offensive art is the tragicomic enactment of a cartoon by Wiley Miller, entitled ‘The politically correct school for comprehending the arts’. This fictional school is based on three principles: ‘Step one: Misinterpret; step two: Proclaim offence; step three: Get it banned.’ This is precisely the logic that has allowed Moral Panic 2.0 to move from activism into the courtroom. In 2012, for example, a Congolese man asked Belgian courts, albeit unsuccessfully, to ban the cartoon book Tintin in the Congo on account of its racist and stereotypical presentation of the black Congolese population.
While this Belgian activist failed to solicit the law to his cause, Swedish anti-racist activists were more successful. In July 2014, Swedish police raided an art gallery, seized several offensive artworks and arrested the artist — notorious provocateur Dan Park — as well as the gallery owner, and charged them with defamation and violating Sweden’s hate-speech laws. On 19 August, Park was sentenced to six months in prison, while the gallery owner received a suspended prison sentence. Just for good measure, the court also ordered the offending artworks to be destroyed. The court said that Park ‘had an obligation to avoid being gratuitously offensive to others’. Clearly thinking Park’s incarceration was insufficiently punitive, on New Year’s Day a group of masked men, alleged to be ‘anti-fascists’, beat him up. The attack on Park shows that, all too often, today’s insistence on ‘tolerance’ is really a rallying cry for intolerance.
Park’s artworks could be considered offensive to just about all groups, including Catholics, Roma, Muslims, Jews and blacks. One of his art posters included the words ‘Hang on Afrofobians’ and a picture of a number of prominent Swedish anti-racist activists with ropes around their necks, as well as a placard with the words ‘Gypsy crime is a good thing’. But while each of the posters can be seen as racist, bigoted and offensive, they also function as a sarcastic commentary on current events and a criticism of what Park believes to be the culture of excessive political correctness based on hypocrisy and double standards.
For instance, one of the people depicted with a rope around his neck is a prominent member of the Afro-Swedish National Association (ASNA). ASNA has a long history of progressive censorship. It recently launched an online petition demanding the sacking of the opinion editor of Swedish newspaper Expressen because he published a column arguing that colonialism had positive results; it filed a complaint against the Stockholm Pride Festival for incitement to hatred because a white participant dressed up as a Somali pirate; and it filed a complaint of incitement to hatred against a black Swedish woman touring with a popular stand-up show called A Negro’s Swedish Upbringing.
Park insists the actions of groups like ASNA are the real targets of his sarcastic commentary, not minority groups. Yet the Swedish court, and his masked assailants, insisted on ascribing the worst motives to Park, misrepresenting his works, proclaiming offence, and ultimately seeking to ban his art.
By targeting offensive art with criminal sanctions, Moral Panic 2.0 activists have also succeeded in blurring the lines between liberalism and authoritarianism. Liberal democracies have a long tradition of celebrating diversity in art, whereas authoritarian states view non-conformist art as subversive and dangerous. Elvis Presley’s music and suggestive dance moves were considered too daring by East Germany’s Communist rulers. As an alternative to subversive rock’n’roll, East German bureaucrats created the ‘Lipsi’, a more orderly and less sexual dance, which was greeted with ridicule and disdain by East Germans craving the real deal available on the other side of the Berlin Wall.
Or take Russian female punk band Pussy Riot: its members were imprisoned after staging a protest against President Vladimir Putin in an Orthodox cathedral. Pussy Riot members were convicted of ‘hooliganism’ motivated by ‘religious hatred’. The Russian Orthodox Church, instrumental in the case against Pussy Riot, found the band’s actions offensive and ‘blasphemous’. The prosecutor echoed these sentiments by arguing that Pussy Riot had attempted to ‘incite religious hatred’ against the Church.
An even more worrying example is the ill-fated exhibition Caution, Religion at the Sakharov Museum in Moscow in January 2003. This featured religious symbols and messages turned into Pop Art, including: a Christ figure with a road sign instead of a face; an icon of Christ with openings in the face and hands, so visitors could put themselves in the icon and take photos; and a crucified woman with an icon of the Virgin Mary between her legs. After much publicity and vocal protests, several Russian Orthodox hooligans entered the museum and vandalised the exhibition. The hooligans were initially arrested, but thanks to the intervention of the Orthodox Church and several members of the Duma, they were then let go. After a petition signed by thousands, museum director Youri Samadourov was charged with inciting ‘religious hatred’.
Both Pussy Riot and Youri Samadourov quite rightly received support from progressives in the West, who were appalled that an unholy alliance of Russian politicians and reactionary religious groups had been able to censor political speech and artistic expression. But there is no reason to believe that the Russian Orthodox Christians protesting these ‘blasphemous’ and ‘hateful’ artists were less offended than the anti-racists who protested Exhibit B, Banksy, Dan Park or Through Different Eyes. This highlights another striking feature of Moral Panic 2.0: selective outrage.
From Mozart to hip hop, from Gauguin to Piss Christ, from Ulysses to Harry Potter, artistic expression has always offended the sensibilities of particular groups. But once particular groups are allowed to dictate the limits of artistic expression, we will soon discover that the list of offendable groups is endless. Accommodating them all will lead to a cultural life about as vibrant as the Lipsi.
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.