Monday, November 16, 2015

The First Amendment Is Dying

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;”

Unless we’re talking about a white chocolate-paneled cake for a gay wedding or perpetual funding for “women’s health” clinics because it’s the “right thing to do.”

“or abridging the freedom of speech;”

Unless that speech is used by boorish climate change denialists to peddle dirty fossil fuels and run capitalist death machines that wreck the Earth, by anyone engaging in upsetting hate speech or other forms of “aggression,” by a wealthy person supporting candidates who undermine “progress,” by a pro-life protester who makes people feel uncomfortable about their life decisions, by a cisnormative white male who displays insufficient appreciation for the “systematic oppression” that minorities experience in places of higher learning or by anyone who has a desire to undermine the state-protected union monopolies that help fund political parties.

“or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble,”

Unless the press invades safe spaces designated by mobs or writes about incorrect topics at incorrect times.

“and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

Unless someone is a member of a predesignated special interest group, he should report to the IRS before doing so.

That’s pretty much the state of the First Amendment today. Climate change, abortion, gay marriage, race, taxes, what have you — even in mainstream political debate, these interests outweigh your piddling concerns about the First Amendment. So the notion that a bunch of students and leftist professors would agitate to shut down free expression in a public space in Missouri because they feel their special issue trumps your antiquated list of rules is not particularly surprising.

Now, we shouldn’t overstate the problem. Most of us are able to freely engage in arguments and express ourselves without worrying about the state’s interfering. This will not end tomorrow. But it is difficult to ignore how creeping illiberalism has infected our discourse and how not many people seem to care.

The thousands of other University of Missouri students, for example, could have held a counter-protest against dimwitted fascists cloistered in safe spaces. Where are those student groups? Why was there no pushback from those kids — and really, there was none as far as I can tell, at either Missouri or Yale — against the bullies who want administrators fired for thought crimes? It can mean that students are too intimidated, too uninterested or not very idealistic about these freedoms. None of those things bodes well for the future.

And where is the faculty, those brave souls who value the freedom to debate and champion sometimes-controversial ideas when mobs of students are making wild accusations against their school without any real evidence? Where are they when students shut down conservative, libertarian or not-progressive-enough Democrats from speaking at their schools?

In fact, the campus police — not the hissy-fitting communications professor or the would-be authoritarian student — asked students to call authorities and report “incidents of hateful and/or hurtful speech” in detail. A school, the place where young people supposedly ponder challenging ideas, now has students reporting any instances of unsavory speech. What does “hurtful speech” entail anyway? Is it enough for someone to challenge your priggish worldview? Is it enough for someone to hurt your brittle feelings? And what is the consequence?

You may also remember when Chris Cuomo of CNN, a lawyer, tweeted (since deleted) that “hate speech is excluded from protection” under the First Amendment. He wasn’t alone.

Not long ago, 51 percent of Democrats in a YouGov poll claimed to support criminalizing “hate speech.” (A third of Republicans did so, as well.) Another study, by the First Amendment Center a few years back, found that nearly 40 percent of Americans said the First Amendment “goes too far” guaranteeing rights — a record high.

People are scared. They’re scared to be accused of bigotry or racism, an ugly accusation that is easy to level but impossible to disprove. It’s a lazy but effective method of intimidation.

So we can laugh at the confused millennial J-school major, but he is not alone. When the mayors of Chicago and Boston used their positions of power to keep Chick-fil-A out of their cities because of the CEO’s thoughts on same-sex marriage, they were working under the same notion as kids who want to be in safe spaces where their worldviews remain unchallenged. (Using the state to punish a person or company for its beliefs is even worse.) When Bill Nye argues that climate change skeptics are nuts who hate science and should be ignored by any right-thinking person, he is attempting to convince you of something. When Nye contends that America needs to drum climate change skeptics completely “out of our discourse,” he’s no longer a liberal.

Because what’s happening on college campuses hasn’t happened in a vacuum.


UK: ‘But you’re a white man!’: how identity politics crushes debate

George Lawlor on the racialised response to his criticism of consent classes

Apparently, I have become a bit of an internet sensation over the past few weeks. ‘Why?’, I hear you ask. Well, I posted an article online explaining why I was so offended to have been invited to a class about sexual consent at my university. To my surprise, the whole thing exploded and my face was all over the web. My inbox was flooded with interview requests and my newsfeed was filled with argument. As an aspiring writer, I was happy I had sparked discussion. But what really interests me is that my article also exposed the poisonous, reductive nature of the worldview that plagues the modern world: identity politics.

You see, alongside my article, I attached an image of myself holding a sign that read, ‘This is not what a rapist looks like’. The social-media reaction to that picture was revealing. In fact, many people chose to not even read my article and instead focused entirely on that image of me with the sign, scoffing, cursing and abusing me for my ignorance. I was called classist, racist and all the other debate-ending names. And, of course, I was portrayed as a pantomime-like villain for all the internet to shame, from Twitter to Tumblr.

The tragedy of all of this isn’t necessarily that I was shamed in an almost medieval fashion for having the audacity to defend myself as someone who already understands the meaning of consent – that’s a different discussion to be had. No, it’s that people so wildly missed the point of the picture.

When they looked at that picture, they didn’t see George Lawlor. They didn’t see the human being who is scared of spiders, who enjoys the work of BB King, and who only recently discovered that he can’t sing. Instead, they saw a white, middle-class, university-educated male just emanating privilege – the face of centuries of tyranny. Yes, I may fall into some of those categories, but the problem was that I wasn’t seen as an individual. I was labelled and put into a box, and that repulsive reductivism lies at the root of many of our world’s problems.

Yes, I do look like a rapist insofar as I share superficial characteristics with white rapists. This was kindly pointed out by many on the internet who compared me to the notoriously charming and ‘ordinary-looking’ killer and rapist, Ted Bundy. Though what these commenters demonstrated wasn’t empathy, intelligence or, even as many of them seemed to believe, wit. Instead, they showed themselves to be shallow, all too willing to judge individuals not by the content of their character, but by the colour of their skin, the depth of their pockets, the leaning of their sexuality. I’m sure I’m not the only one who finds this worldview repulsive, but it just so happens that it is widely held today.

Many of those who joined the ranks against me would describe themselves as egalitarians, feminists, progressives and all the rest of it. But what they don’t realise is that by looking at the world through the tired old lenses of identity, they in fact perpetuate the problems created by racism, sexism, homophobia and other crimes. As Brendan O’Neill has observed, quotas and other solutions to racism or sexism not only penalise those who played no role in historical oppression: they also patronise and coddle those they are intended to benefit.

The politics of identity is a very poisonous way of looking at things, and it really isn’t very new or progressive at all. In fact, it is very close to the racism, homophobia and sexism that its proponents claim to oppose. The reductive collectivism of identity politics rests on the same principles as the colonialist idea of the ‘white man’s burden’ – namely, that white people are fundamentally different, biologically and morally, to black people. And, likewise, it’s disgustingly similar to the ideology that fuelled the racism of the American South well into the twentieth century. We all need to move forward together, not as men and women, not as white and non-white, not as gay and straight, but as individuals, dropping those labels that only serve to hold us back. Nobody is the same, no matter what boxes they tick. I may be a white male, but I refuse to take any responsibility for the crimes of other white males, or claim credit for the success of people who looked vaguely like me.

There’s no doubt that certain demographic categories of people were abused and oppressed throughout history, but the best way to deal with those injustices now is to put an end to the malicious practice of seeing people superficially, in terms of their sex or skin colour. Rather, we need to treat people as individuals with unique talents, fears, beliefs and values. I don’t want my children to grow up in a world where they will be wrongly seen as symbols of oppression or victimhood. I want them to grow up in a world where my son can look up to Aung San Suu Kyi, and my daughter can look up to Frederick Douglass, and both can become inspirational individuals, freed of the chains of identity.


In This Mississippi Town, Residents Are Fighting Atheist Organization Calling for Removal of Christmas Display

In one Mississippi town, residents are fighting back after an an atheist organization requested that that a Christmas display in their city be removed, organizing a show of support for the display.

“I just feel like Christians lose a lot nowadays because we’re too polite,” says Andrea Kirkley, a resident of Collins and a stay-at-home mom. “I’m tired of seeing Christians get pushed down. We’re not pushing our faith on anybody.”

Kirkley, one of the event organizers, told The Daily Signal in an interview that individuals, businesses, and the chamber of commerce “created something for the community to enjoy.”

“I was very proud of my hometown for standing up for what we believe in, and in a positive way,” she says.

Collins, Miss., has the annual “Christmas in the Park” event at its Bettie D. Robertson Memorial Park.

The Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation, a member organization of Atheist Alliance International, sent a letter of complaint to the city of Collins, saying they were “contacted by a concerned local resident,” and requested that the display be removed.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation argued that the faith-based display is “unconstitutional” on public property.

“All of the above religious displays are unconstitutional,” Elizabeth Cavell, a staff attorney for the Freedom From Religion Foundation, wrote in a letter to the city dated Oct. 19. “The Establishment Clause prohibits government sponsorship of religious messages.”

“In its current state, Bettie C. Robertson Memorial Park is tremendously unwelcoming to non-Christian citizens,” Cavell continued. “Citizens of all faiths and no faith have an equal right to use city parks without being surrounded by symbols promoting any one religion. A city cannot have a ‘Christian’ park.”

Cavell requested that the city remove the Christian displays in order to “eliminate the appearance of government endorsement of religion.”

Kirkley said that if someone of another faith wanted symbols of his own faith displayed in the park, he is free to do so.

“By all means,” Kirkley said. “Go for it. I would never want someone to hate my savior because he’s on display in the park.”

She said that the display is meant to be “a happy time.”

The displays used in the annual event—which include crosses, angels, and a statue of Jesus—have been in the park for 12 years, Collins Mayor V.O. Smith told WDAM. Some are displayed year-round. The displays are lit in the evenings from Thanksgiving until the day after Christmas.

“They had an unnamed local person complain about the religious displays in our city park,” Smith said. “But there’s more than just Christian material over there.”

The city of Collins does not own or maintain the displays.

In an interview with The Daily Signal, Marie Shoemake, the executive director of the Covington County Chamber of Commerce, confirmed that the organization, not Collins, owns the displays.

Shoemake said that in addition to Christmas and family-friendly displays, there are displays honoring the military and fallen service members.

“There really is something for everyone,” Shoemake said. “I just pray whoever is against it will go through the park.”

Shoemake said that the displays are intended to “bring joy to the community” and have a positive economic impact on the town, with visitors to the park often stopping “in our beautiful town” for gas, food, and shopping.

She said that the displays are maintained by volunteers and church groups, and there is no charge to see them.


U.S. Holocaust Museum Report: Islamic State Targeting of Yezidis is ‘Genocide’

 A new report released by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum finds that the Islamic State terror group “has been and is perpetrating genocide” against the Yezidi religious minority in Northern Iraq.

The report, “Our Generation Is Gone: The Islamic State's Targeting of Iraqi Minorities in Ninewa,”  also finds that the terror group “perpetrated crimes against humanity, ethnic cleansing, and war crimes against Christian, Yezidi, Turkmen, Shabak, Sabaean-Mandaen, and Kaka’I in Ninewa province from June-August 2014.”

The report, released on Wednesday, was primarily written by Naomi Kikoler, deputy director of the museum’s Simon-Skjodt Center for the Prevention of Genocide. Kikoler traveled to northern Iraq in September 2015, where she spoke with dozens of members of Iraq’s ethnic and religious minorities who were displaced during the summer of 2014 as the Islamic State seized their cities and towns.

“Today is in many ways a sad and solemn day -- thankfully genocide and the commission of mass atrocities and crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing is rare. This is not something that we want to have to say on many occasions,” Kikoler said of the report’s findings at a press conference on Thursday.

“In the summer of 2014, the self-proclaimed Islamic State carried out a violent campaign against civilians in Ninewa province in northern Iraq, home to many of Iraq’s ethnic and religious minorities,” the report says, “they forced more than 800,000 people from their homes and deliberately destroyed shrines, temples, and churches.”

“They also kidnapped thousands and killed hundreds, likely thousands, of people,” states the report. “In less than three months, IS decimated millennia-old communities and irrevocably tore the social fabric of the once-diverse region. Now almost no members of the minority groups IS attacked live in Ninewa province.”

"Men, women, and children who were kidnapped and are still being held by Islamic State continue to be the victims of atrocity crimes,” reads the report.  “Their release must be a priority.”

Kikoler emphasized that “this is a moment where we need to ensure that the voices of those who’ve experienced these crimes are heard, that this report helps to compel action to assist those at risk and those who remain in need to also ensure that the American public and the world public understands what happened to the people in Northern Iraq.”

Kikoler shared the stories of several survivors of the onslaught of the Islamic State in Iraq, including Elias, a survivor of the August 2014 massacre of Yazidis in the Iraq village of Kojo.

 “He shared with me that he did not know where his sons were save for one, he did not know where his mother was, he did not know where his wife was, he did not know where his sisters were,” Kikoler said, “They were all missing, they’ve all either been killed or kidnapped by the Islamic State.”

Kikoler said that listening to Elias’s story, “I thought of my own family’s experiences and I thought of seventy years ago when my grandfather lost his entire family in the Holocaust.”       

Margit Meissner, an Austrian Holocaust survivor in her nineties and long-time Museum volunteer, shared her thoughts on the targeting of minorities in Iraq.

“I am appalled to hear that in 2014 genocide was perpetrated against the Yezidi people in Iraq and that Christians and other minority communities were the victims of ethnic and religious cleansing,” Meissner said, “Over seventy years ago the world vowed never again, yet today the world is again faced with a group, the self-proclaimed Islamic State, that is intent on destroying people based on their religion or their ethnicity.”

“I am proud that the museum is speaking out on behalf of Iraqi minorities. In doing so we are doing what was not done on behalf of the Jews during the Holocaust, serving as a voice, calling for action, urging us all to transcend politics and to nurture compassion,” Meissner concluded.  

 “As this report vividly documents there is an alignment between the mass atrocities and the acts of terrorism committed by those who are adherents to the radical ideology of the Islamic State,” Michael Chertoff, former Homeland Security Secretary and chairman of the Museum’s Committee on Conscience said at the press conference.

“Last August, a U.S. military operation to protect Yezidi civilians targeted by the Islamic State reminded us that preventing genocide and mass atrocities is a core security interest for the United States Government,” Chertoff emphasized.

The release of the report coincides with a new, U.S.-coalition backed, Kurdish offensive, against the Islamic State in Sinjar, a town that fell to Islamic State militants in August 2014, causing thousands of Yezidis to flee to Mount Sinjar, where they became trapped.


Starbucks' Christmas Roast

On Nov. 5, self-described “evangelist” and “social media personality” Joshua Feuerstein posted a rant on Facebook complaining about Starbucks taking “Christ and Christmas off of their brand new cups.” Believing that employees weren’t allowed to say “Merry Christmas,” he pranked Starbucks by ordering a coffee and when they asked for his name, he said it was “Merry Christmas,” which the barista dutifully wrote on his plain red cup. “So guess what, Starbucks, I tricked you into putting Merry Christmas on your cup,” he boasted.

Hoping to start a “movement,” he challenged everyone to take their “own coffee selfie” at Starbucks and share it using the hashtag #MerryChristmasStarbucks. To further “offend” the coffee chain, he wore his Jesus Christ T-shirt into the store “because they hate Jesus” and carried his gun because they “hate the 2nd amendment.” Ho ho ho!

Unfortunately, Feuerstein’s fauxrage obfuscates a real assault on Christmas, as crèches are removed from the public square and religious songs banned from school concerts. Perhaps the greatest assault, however, is the commercialization of Christ’s birth — the Advent calendar is replaced by shopping sales. Consumers are shuffled from Halloween jack-o-lanterns directly to Christmas trees bedecked with ornaments and holiday sales with a slight nod to Thanksgiving as the day before Black Friday.

There is a real war on Christians, too. Barack Obama’s government battles The Little Sisters of the Poor in court and removes “So help me God” from military oaths. Meanwhile, the government funnels millions of taxpayer dollars to Planned Parenthood, the largest provider of abortion.

Around the world, the Islamic State persecutes and beheads Christians, Syrian refugees flood Europe, and Christianity in the Middle East could be purged within a decade — all while Obama frets about “terrible deeds” done by Crusaders a thousand years ago in their quest to regain the Holy Land (after it was invaded by Muslims).

Feuerstein isn’t giving Starbucks a bad name; by battling colored cups, he’s making Christians look unfocused and whiny. With all this free publicity, the coffee emporium is well on its way to a very merry and profitable Christmas.

Don’t let a Grinch steal your Holly Jolly Christmas. Enjoy your coffee and your cups. And most of all, appreciate your freedom, family and faith.



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


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