Wednesday, September 07, 2016

Israeli filmmaker uninvited to campus conference over 'political correctness and BDS'

The film was referred to by 'The New York Times' as "one of the first close-up view of the motives and personalities in a group that rarely opens up to outsiders."

Syracuse University has passed over formally inviting Israeli film director Shimon Dotan to their international film conference "The Place of Religion in Film."  Dotan had previously been informally invited by one of the events organizers, William L. Blizek, according to The Atlantic.

The film Dotan was due to show at the March 2017 conference was his feature-length documentary 'The Settlers'  which chronicles the history of the settlements, the people who live there and the movement as a whole.

The film itself was referred to by The New York Times as "one of the first close-up views of the motives and personalities in a group that rarely opens up to outsiders."

It was shown at the Sundance Film Festival (and was made with financial support from the Israeli network YES and from the European network ARTE, among others) and opened throughout Israel recently.

However, despite an invitation, and interest on the part of the filmmaker Dotan, he was uninvited to the event due to the "BDS faction on campus."

The Syracuse University BDS faction made no known statements or threats to Dotan's possible participation and were perhaps unaware of it all together.

A rejection email Dotan received from Professor Hamner of the Religion Department of Syracuse University stated that the group would make things unpleasant for the Israeli filmmaker and possibly damage the reputation and credibility of the organizers and the event.

The email added that they regretted not having the opportunity to see the film and as such they could not vouch for it.

The film has been highly rated among critics. It mainly focuses on the radical fringe settlers and, according to reviews, is perceived as showing settlers in a negative light.

Dotan said he wants people to understand the reality, in all its complexity. “I don’t think Israel faces a military threat, but I think it does face the threat of disintegration from within...  I think there is a threat to democracy and to the moral fabric of the country... I want the film to present a dialogue with the settlers in a way that will enlighten people.”


PR Nightmares: When Political Correctness Goes Too Far

The very organizations attempting to achieve good PR by being ultra sensitive to political correctness risk terrible PR when they take their PC efforts too far

This weekend the annual JavaScript conference Nodevember became the most recent participant in the political correctness (PC) wars when it un-invited keynote speaker Douglas Crockford, renowned for his involvement in advances to the modern web and the JavaScript programming language, from its upcoming November event. What it means for PR: The very organizations attempting to achieve good PR by being ultra sensitive to political correctness risk terrible PR when they take their PC efforts too far.

For example, a 2015 debate about campus sexual assault at Brown University led some women on campus to fear the dialogue would trigger civil rights warnings to a degree that at the University’s guidance, attendees “who might find the debate upsetting” were provided with “a safe space room” equipped with “cookies, coloring books, bubbles, Play-Doh, calming music, pillows, blankets and a video of frolicking puppies,” as reported by the New York Times.

A report by ListVerse noted that the National Union of Students Women’s Campaign, a feminist college student group in Britain announced in March 2015 they would ban clapping at their future conferences held at UK colleges, claiming that the act of clapping could “trigger some people’s anxiety,” and therefore should be banned from all conferences. Instead, feminist students instructed those who attend conferences to use “jazz hands”—silently waving their hands in the air—when they wished to display their approval.

Good intentions aside, these moves are extreme enough to open the risk of horrific PR. From appearances, Nodevember is experiencing this PR backlash today. By its policy and definition, Nodevember purports to be highly committed to “providing a harassment-free conference experience for everyone, regardless of gender, sexual orientation, disability, physical appearance, body size, race or religion.” The “short version” of the event’s code of ethics advises participants to “be kind to each other. Do not insult or put down other attendees. Behave professionally. Remember that harassment and sexist, racist or exclusionary jokes are not appropriate for Nodevember.”

This sentiment was fine and good until organizers decided this weekend, just eight hours after announcing the event’s four keynotes on Sept. 1, to publically uninvite the first keynote listed in an unceremonious Tweet: “We will also be removing Douglas Crockford from our keynote speakers list to help make the conference a comfortable environment for all.”

The very organizations attempting to achieve good PR by being ultra sensitive to political correctness risk terrible PR when they take their PC efforts too far.
What happened? The organization has not disclosed details beyond the statement, which noted vaguely that “almost none” of the many things said about the decision “reflected the many facets” but acknowledged the un-invite Tweet “lacked nuance and could have been posed in a much better way.” In an attempt to trace the steps, blogger and programmer Paul Straw researched the chain of events, which appeared to have begun with a Tweet from @jsdnxx: “nice list of dude programmers, notice any omissions?” After a bit of back and forth about the issue of diversity among speakers and how to amend it, user Emily Rose piped in with “@nodevember, one way you could show you actually care about community safety & diversity is by uninviting Douglas Crockford. @nodevember he has repeatedly shown himself to be actively hostile to inclusivity and many will decline to speak if he is invited.”

No examples were named. Research of Crockford’s prior speeches, however, produced video of a 2013 presentation at Google GOOGL +0.68% titled “Monads and Gonads.” The presentation makes its points with the inclusion of what we could fairly refer to as “programmer humor.” It was a strained metaphor that was admittedly not very funny. In the course of the 39 minutes presentation it made humorous reference to the metaphor of testicles at least two and possibly three times (if you include the use of the term “gonads,” which in actuality could refer to male or female organs, but is decidedly not PC either way). In another presentation, findable through posts such as this Medium article on “Why I won’t present with Doug Crockford,” the author says Crockford “slut shamed” an audience by describing the “Old Web” that was beautiful because of its promiscuity, and then noting that some cases, such as financial transactions, are better served “by a committed relationship.”

Straw attempted to reach Crockford to obtain more detail about what had happened, from his point of view. Crockford’s cryptic response: “It is a mystery to me too.” It appears in this situation that everyone loses, on all fronts. Could PC and policy concerns have been better handled by speaking to the the party in question in advance to ensure crowd and event-appropriate sensitivity? I believe the answer is an obvious “yes”.

Before enacting ultra PC policies, organizations, companies and groups should ask themselves these hard questions: Do these actions reflect our honorable intentions? Or have our reactions swung so far we are risking the very things we want to avoid? (Offended participants and horrific PR.) In my opinion it is vital that organizers and organizations make a greater effort to think these issues through in advance, before public shamings or the creation of knee-jerk policy change.


Has political correctness gone too far?

Canadian columnist Gordon Clark discusses the pros and cons of being politically correct, referencing new Angus Reid poll results

My mother called me last month for advice about an assignment she was struggling with for her writers’ group about stereotypes. I suggested an idea that has clattered about in my head for years: Why is it OK to point out positive stereotypes about groups of people but not negative ones?

Why, for instance, is it OK to say that the Chinese tend to be family oriented, pro-education and hardworking but it’s wrong to suggest, as many do, that some Chinese immigrants don’t make enough effort to integrate into Canadian society? It’s just one example — you can come up with examples for any group.

Whether you are stating a positive or negative claim about a group, you are making a generalization, even if there is truth to your observations. Why is one OK but not the other?

My only answer to why it’s inoffensive to make positive generalizations but you may come across as a jerk or worse, a bigot, if you point out negative traits is that it comes down to what others perceive to be in your heart. If you say nice things, you’re a friend. Say something bad, you might be an enemy, even if you’re making a reasonable point or trying to have a civil discussion about a difficult subject.

It also explains why if you call Scottish people “cheap,” most Scots don’t take offence — they might even agree, as they see being frugal as a positive thing. Say it about Jews, there is a good chance you’re anti-Semitic. It’s also why it’s OK for groups to crack jokes about negative aspects of their own cultures but less acceptable for outsiders to do it, or why blacks can use the N-word but not others.

It’s the motive behind stating a stereotype that’s key — whether there is oppression in your comments. For the most part, Canadians don’t wish to give offence.

So I wasn’t surprised by the findings of a new Angus Reid poll on political correctness that found that nearly nine in 10 Canadians “say they’re being polite, rather than trying to avoid judgment” when they self-censor when dealing with sensitive topics.

That doesn’t mean they don’t hold what some would consider “politically incorrect” thoughts. Seventy-eight per cent of respondents said there are certain things you “just shouldn’t express in front or people you don’t know” while 80 per cent said it “seems like you can’t say anything” without offending someone these days, according to the poll released Monday.

The data suggest many Canadians hold views they believe would get them in trouble if they said them out loud even if they “are sympathetic to the value of following certain PC values,” as the pollsters found.

Sixty-seven per cent of Canadians said “too many people are easily offended over the language of others, including 71 per cent of men and 62 per cent of women. Remarkably, given that Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump is running an anti-PC campaign, that’s higher than the 59 per cent of Americans who agree with the statement.

It should surprise no one that just 21 per cent of Conservatives “say people need to be more careful with their choice of words” compared to Liberals (40 per cent) and New Democrats (38 per cent).

Oddly, young people aged 18 to 34 were most likely to agree that “too many people are too easily offended these days over the language others use” while being least likely to agree that “political correctness has gone too far.” Sixty-seven per cent of them agreed to the second statement compared to 82 per cent of Canadians 55 and older. That strikes me as a contradiction. Perhaps it means that young people have been better indoctrinated by educators to hold PC views but aren’t as polite as older Canadians.

Personally, I’m encouraged that people are being more mindful about using inclusive language when discussing others — I’m Canadian, after all, and don’t see any point in giving unnecessary offence. But we can’t allow the PC thought police to dictate how we express ourselves or to casually level unfounded charges of racism, sexism or other “isms” as a strategy to control the discussion of difficult subjects. Nothing good is gained in limiting debate. Besides, despite what too many people claim these days, no one has the right not to be offended some times. It’s one of the prices of free speech.


Senate Holds the Line on SCOTUS

In the wake of the surprising death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia this past February, there was much concern among conservatives as to the possibility and even probability that the balance of the court would swing to the Left, since Barack Obama was in position to appoint his replacement — he nominated Merrick Garland, a reliable leftist. The GOP Senate for once quickly rejected the notion that a lame duck president would be allowed to so impact the High Court’s balance mere months before his presidency was to end. But would the GOP that had so often promised to stand up to Obama only to wilt under the heat of the critical Leftmedia do so again this time?

So far the answer is an encouraging “no.” With most of the media’s attention focused on presidential polls, it might be easy to miss the fact that the Senate GOP has stuck to its commitment. The Senate broke for summer recess in July, but the GOP has maintained a pro forma session. Twice a week a single law maker gavels the Senate into session, reads a brief announcement and sets the next meeting time. It takes all of 30 seconds.

In other words, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Co. have been practicing a bit of political gamesmanship. As McConnell’s spokesman Don Stewart said, “This will ensure there’s no recess appointment of the president’s nominee. The Supreme Court has our back on that one.” Conservatives have a rather unusual source to thank for the tactic currently being employed by the GOP. After all, it was then-Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid who crafted and implemented this same strategy against George W. Bush. In any case, the future of the Supreme Court is far too critical to entrust to either Obama or his chosen successor, Hillary Clinton.



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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