Wednesday, November 30, 2016
Mother is branded 'sexist and disgusting' after asking for advice on how to discourage her son from learning ballet
The subtext here is that male ballet dancers are frequently homosexual -- and a mother is entitled to discourage her son from such an unhealthy and unhappy lifestyle. Just for starters, there is a very high incidence of spousal abuse among homosexual couples
It may have once been traditional for boys to play football and girls to do ballet but nowadays many children feel free to take up activities regardless of gender.
However, one pushy parent took to Mumsnet to ask for advice on how to discourage her son from taking ballet lessons.
The woman said her son is an aspiring model and explained that she doesn't think the extra-curricular activity 'is going to fit in'.
In her post, Mumsnet user Ironriver said: 'How do I put my son off wanting to do ballet? I'm showing him how cool football, rugby and karate are but he's having none of it. 'He does modelling and I don't think ballet is going to fit in. Lots of the boys do football and other sports so I would like him to do that. Any ideas?'
Many commenters were outraged at the mother's behaviour and suggested she should let her son pursue his own interests.
Concerned commenter OohhThatsMe said: 'Your poor child, having such a sexist mother.'
Shocked reader coolaschmoola added: 'Stop being so bloody sexist and let him do the thing he is interested in and actually wants to do.
'It's 2016! Boys don't just play football. Just like not all girls do ballet.'
Other commenters were surprised that the woman had already decided her should would become a model.
Dodobookends said: 'He's nine and you have already chosen his career for him? Absurd.'
Some even suggested that taking up ballet would be beneficial to any future modelling aspirations.
OlennasWimple said: 'Ballet would give him excellent posture, teach him to move well and have a better idea how to use his body effectively. 'And less chance he'll break his nose or get a cauliflower ear.'
OohhThatsMe added: 'Actually ballet would REALLY help a modelling career. In what way would football do that?
'Look at the girls doing modelling - most will have studied ballet.'
Israeli Bill to Hush Mosque Call to Prayer Stokes Controversy Among Muslims--Others Too
Proposed legislation in Israel’s parliament to prohibit the use of loudspeakers to transmit the five-times daily Muslim call to prayer is causing dismay among adherents of more than one religious group.
A preliminary vote on the so-called muezzin bill (a muezzin is the mosque official who recites the call to prayer) is scheduled for early next week.
It is not clear how the legislation, if adopted, would impact numerous areas of Israel and the West Bank that are under complex jurisdictional ruling and home to a mixture of religions.
In Jerusalem and elsewhere throughout the country, the three monotheistic faiths contribute to the cacophony of sounds at various times and on different days of the week.
The daily Muslim calls to prayer begin at about 4 a.m. and can be heard to differing degrees, depending on where you are. Where mosques are in close proximity to one another, there is a lot of overlap and duplication.
In Jerusalem, the Jewish “shabbat alarm,” which is essentially an air-raid siren, sounds every Friday at sundown to tell residents the sabbath has begun. Church bells ring on Sunday and important holidays.
Yaakov Litzman, Israel’s ultra-Orthodox deputy health minister, initially blocked the bill over concerns that it could be extended to include the shabbat alarm. Last week, Litzman withdrew his opposition after a loophole was added for the alarm, Ha’aretz reported.
In Bethlehem, which is heavily dependent on Christian pilgrims for tourism at several points during the year, the town’s main tourist center is home to a mosque with a loudspeaker set at a very high volume. The mosque towers over Manger Square, and faces the Church of the Nativity, the traditional birthplace of Jesus.
The town’s Christmas tree stands right in front of the church and numerous Christmas holiday traditions take place in or near the square.
Local business owners, many of whom are Arab Christians, don’t seem to mind the blend of sounds, though.
“I’m not against it, for sure,” said Sami Khouri, general manager of the Visit Palestine visitor center and gift shop-cafe a few hundred feet from Manger Square. “Turning down the volume is somewhat okay, but preventing them from doing it isn’t right.”
Khouri, who also runs a tourism company and lives in Jerusalem, says it’s just part of life in the region.
“Even where I live in Jerusalem, there are two mosques [making the call to prayer] nearby, five times a day. I just think this is co-existence,” he said. “The mosque has been there for who knows how long – and we also ring the church bells. For tourists, it’s part of the flavor. For me it’s part of the sounds of Jerusalem, the ambience.”
However, Khouri and others do suggest that if multiple mosques are situated in a given area they could possibly coordinate their broadcasts. The caveat is popular sentiment, but is not part of the bill before the Israeli parliament.
Some areas in the West Bank technically under full Palestinian Authority control have protested by staging multifaith demonstrations, with hundreds of Muslims, Christians, and Jewish Samaritans singing the call to prayer together.
Nablus is the largest Palestinian city in the West Bank and home to hundreds of mosques, which together produce a wall of uncoordinated sound.
The ultra-Orthodox Jewish community is almost evenly divided on the issue, according to a poll on one of the community’s websites, Kikar HaShabat (Sabbath Corner). The poll found that 42 percent of respondents were against the bill.
There are also individuals working together behind the scenes, with unlikely, discreet alliances between some Arab and ultra-Orthodox lawmakers, according to a report in Al-Monitor.
Disputes over mosque calls to prayer are not uncommon, both in Western and Muslim countries. In 2004, some of the 23,000 residents of the Detroit suburb of Hamtramck, Michigan were at odds over mosque loudspeakers, with some telling local media they were simply “too loud.”
In Dubai in 2011, the volume of a mosque was checked twice for decibel level after residents complained about crying children being woken up at 4 a.m.
An online Indonesian housing forum for expats recommends visiting a potential new home “to make sure you can handle the disruption to the peace and quiet of your home during the call to prayer.”
The left is creating a new kind of apartheid
The student union at King’s College London will field a team in University Challenge that contains at least 50 per cent “self-defining women, trans or non-binary students”. The only bad thing Ken Livingstone could bring himself to say about the brutal dictator Fidel Castro was that “initially he wasn’t very good on lesbian and gay rights”. The first page of Hillary Clinton’s campaign website (still up) has links to “African Americans for Hillary, Latinos for Hillary, Asian Americans and Pacific islanders for Hillary, Women for Hillary, Millennials for Hillary”, but none to “men for Hillary”, let alone “white people for Hillary”.
Since when did the left insist on judging people by — to paraphrase Martin Luther King — the colour of their skin rather than the content of their character? The left once admirably championed the right of black people, women and gays to be treated the same as white, straight men. With only slightly less justification, it then moved on to pushing affirmative action to redress past prejudice. Now it has gone further, insisting everybody is defined by his or her identity and certain victim identities must be favoured.
Given the history of such stereotyping, it is baffling that politicians on the left cannot see where this leads. The prime exponents of identity politics in the past were the advocates of apartheid, of antisemitism, and of treating women as the legal chattels of men. “We are sleepwalking our way to segregation,” Trevor Phillips says.
Identity politics is thus very old-fashioned. Christina Hoff Sommers, author of Who Stole Feminism, says equality feminism — fair treatment, respect and dignity — is being eclipsed in universities by a Victorian “fainting couch feminism”, which views women as “fragile flowers who require safe spaces, trigger warnings and special protection from micro-invalidations”. Sure enough, when she said this at Oberlin College, Ohio, 35 students and a “therapy dog” sought refuge in a safe room.
It is just bad biology to focus on race, sex or sexual orientation as if they mattered most about people. We’ve known for decades — and Marxist biologists such as Dick Lewontin used to insist on this point — that the genetic differences between two human beings of the same race are maybe ten times as great as the average genetic difference between two races. Race really is skin deep. Sex goes deeper, for sure, because of developmental pathways, but still the individual differences between men and men, or women and women, or gays and gays, are far more salient than any similarities.
The Republican sweep in the American election cannot be blamed solely on the culture wars, but they surely played a part. Take the “bathroom wars” that broke out during the early stages of the campaign. North Carolina’s legislature heavy-handedly required citizens to use toilets that corresponded to their birth gender. The Obama administration heavy-handedly reacted by insisting that every school district in the country should do no such thing or lose its federal funding. This was a gift to conservatives: “Should a grown man pretending to be a woman be allowed to use . . . the same restroom used by your daughter? Your wife?,” asked Senator Ted Cruz.
White men played the identity card at the American ballot box
There is little doubt that to some extent white men played the identity card at the ballot box in reaction to the identity politics of the left. In a much-discussed essay for The New York Times after the election, Mark Lilla of Columbia University mused that Hillary Clinton’s tendency to “slip into the rhetoric of diversity, calling out explicitly to African-American, Latino, LGBT and women voters at every stop” was a mistake: “If you are going to mention groups in America, you had better mention all of them.”
He argues that “the fixation on diversity in our schools and the press has produced a generation of liberals and progressives narcissistically unaware of conditions outside their self-defined groups, and indifferent to the task of reaching out to Americans in every walk of life . . . By the time they reach college many assume that diversity discourse exhausts political discourse, and have shockingly little to say about such perennial questions as class, war, the economy and the common good.” As many students woke up to discover on November 9, identity politics is “expressive, not persuasive”.
Last week, in an unbearably symbolic move, Hampshire College in Massachusetts removed the American flag — a symbol of unity if ever there was one — from campus in order to make students feel safer. The university president said the removal would “enable us to instead focus our efforts on racist, misogynistic, Islamophobic, anti-immigrant, antisemitic and anti-LGBTQ rhetoric and behaviours”. There are such attitudes in America, for sure, but I am willing to bet they are not at their worst at Hampshire College, Massachusetts.
The one group that is increasingly excluded from campuses, with never a peep of complaint from activists, is conservatives. Data from the Higher Education Research Institute show the ratio of left-wing professors to right-wing professors went from 2:1 in 1995 to 6:1 today. The “1” is usually in something such as engineering and keeps his or her head down. Fashionable joke: what’s the opposite of diversity? University.
This is not a smug, anti-American argument. British universities are hurtling down the same divisive path. Feminists including Germaine Greer, Julie Bindel and Kate Smurthwaite have been “no-platformed” at British universities, along with speakers for Ukip and Israel, but not Islamic State. Universities are becoming like Victorian aunts, brooking no criticism of religion, treating women as delicate flowers and turning up their noses at Jews.
The government is conducting an “independent” review into Britain’s sharia courts, which effectively allow women to be treated differently if they are Muslim. The review is chaired by a Muslim and advised by two imams. And far too many government forms still insist on knowing whether the applicant is (I have taken the list from the Office for National Statistics guidance): “Gypsy or Irish Traveller, White and Black Caribbean, White and Black African, White and Asian, Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi, Chinese, African, Caribbean, Arab, or any other ethnic group”. So bleeding what?
The left has vacated the moral high ground on which it won so many fine battles to treat human beings equally. The right must occupy that ground and stand for universal human values and equal treatment for all.
Fake news and post‑truth: the handmaidens of Western relativism
It isn’t Macedonian teens who killed truth and objectivity
Internet-savvy 16-year-old boys in Macedonia are undermining Western journalism and democracy. Have you ever encountered a faker news story than that? This is the great irony of the fake-news panic that has swept the Western media in recent days, with observers now claiming that the promotion of made-up news on Facebook may have swung the election for Donald Trump and done GBH to the Western ideals of objectivity and reason: it is underpinned by illusions of its own; by a refusal to grapple with hard truths about the West’s own jettisoning of those values; and by an urge to invent bogeymen that is every bit as dislocated from reality as are those myth-peddling kids in the East.
Still reeling from the failure of their idol Hillary Clinton to get to the White House, mainstream observers and politicians this week came up with another thing to blame: BS news. They claim the spread of stories like ‘The pope loves Trump’ and ‘Hillary is a paedophile’, many of which originate on phoney-news websites in Eastern Europe and get loads of likes among Westerners on Facebook, is a threat to truth and to the very practice of democracy. Angela Merkel bemoaned the ‘fake sites, bots, trolls’ which ‘manipulate’ public opinion and make politics and democracy harder. President Obama slammed this ‘active misinformation’, arguing that ‘if everything seems to be the same and no distinctions are made’, then we ‘lose so much of what we’ve gained in terms of democratic freedoms’.
Liberal columnists, wounded that so much of the public ignored their overtures first on Brexit and then on Trump, claim good, decent, supposedly ‘elitist’ journalism must now assert itself. Our role in ‘seeking the truth’ must be ‘harnessed with steely determination’, says one. CNN’s Christiane Amanpour says the ‘tsunami of fake-news sites’ is an affront to journalism and the thing that journalism helps to facilitate: democracy. We must now fight ‘hard for the truth’ in this world where ‘the Oxford English Dictionary just announced that its word of 2016 [is] “post-truth”’, she says. Numerous hacks have been despatched to Macedonia and Russia to confront the fresh-faced youths who run these fake-news sites for cash. ‘How teens in the Balkans are duping Trump supporters’, says one headline. ‘Russian propaganda effort helped spread “fake news” during election’, says another. The image we’re left with is of dastardly Easterners suckering stupid Westerners and undermining the democratic tradition, and now pain-faced, well-minded columnists must stand up to this foreign threat to reason.
It’s the fakest news story of the week. It might not be as utterly invented as the one about Hillary’s people abusing children in a pizza restaurant in Washington, DC. But it involves a profounder avoidance of truth, a deeper unwillingness to face up to facts. In particular the fact that the rise of fake news, ‘alternative news’ and conspiracy theories speaks not to the wicked interventions of myth-spreaders from without, but to the corrosion of reason within, right here in the West. It speaks to the declining moral and cultural authority of our own political and media class. It is the Western world’s own abandonment of objectivity, and loss of legitimacy in the eyes of its populace, that has nurtured something of a free-for-all on the facts and news front. Those Macedonian kids aren’t denting democracy or damaging objectivity – they’re merely milking a Western crisis of objectivity that began long before they were born.
The first striking thing about the fake-news panic is its naked paternalism. The suggestion is that voters, especially those of a ‘low-information’, redneck variety, were hoodwinked into voting Trump by outlandish stories about how evil Hillary is. Fake news whacks people who ‘could not… recognise [or] fact-check’, says Amanpour. It’s a ‘post-truth era’ where you can ‘play [people] like a fiddle’, says a liberal writer in the US. A Guardian columnist says people ‘easily believe’ lies that play to their prejudices and then ‘pass them on thoughtlessly’. We’re given the impression that masses of people are incapable of deciphering fact from fiction. They cast their votes on the basis of a daft pizza-paedo link they saw on Facebook. With a loud sneer, observers write off the general public’s capacity for reason and willingness to engage seriously with democratic decisions. Ironically, this demeaning of the demos, this calling into question of the very idea that underpins modern politics – that the public is reasoned and must be allowed to steer the fate of their nation – does far greater damage to the value and standing of democracy than any spotty Macedonian with a laptop could ever do.
Then came the paternalistic solutions. We need new ‘gatekeepers’, columnists claim: professionals who have the resources and brains to work out what’s true and what’s a lie and ensure that people see more of the former. Obama and others suggest Facebook must get better at curating news, sorting truth from falsehood on behalf of its suggestible users. The suggestion is that the internet, having thrown open the world of reportage and commentary to everyone, having enabled anyone with a computer or phone to say their piece, has disoriented truth and democracy and now must be tamed, or at least better managed.
This echoes the elite fears that greeted the invention of the printing press in the 15th century. Then, the religious authorities – the gatekeepers of their day – worried that all sorts of heresy might now find its way into the public’s minds and hearts, unfiltered by their wise, godly counsel. Today’s aspiring gatekeepers panic that fake news will get into and warp the minds of the little people in this era when knowledge filtering has been stripped back even further, so that increasingly the citizen stands alone before the claims and counter-claims of those who publish. And apparently this fake news often contains heresies of its own. In his interview with the New Yorker, Obama strikingly bemoaned the ‘fake news’ of climate-change scepticism, where ‘an explanation of climate change from a Nobel Prize-winning physicist looks exactly the same on your Facebook page as the denial of climate change by somebody on the Koch brothers’ payroll’. This cuts to the 15th-century-echoing fear that motors the panic over fake news: the belief that it will allow not only outright lies, but new heresies, new blasphemies, different ways of thinking, to make an appeal to people’s beliefs and convictions. The call to filter social media is a paternalistic call to protect the public from bad or mad or dangerous thoughts, in a similar way that early clampdowns on the printing press were designed to keep ‘evil’ from the swarm.
What this censorious, anti-demos view overlooks is the positive side to today’s unprecedented throwing-open of debate and news and politics: the fact that it implicitly calls on the citizen to use his own mental and moral muscles, to confront the numerous different versions of the world offered to him and decide which one sounds most right. Surely the internet’s downside of fake news is more than outweighed by its invitation to us to negotiate the rapids of public debate for ourselves and make up our own minds? ‘Ideally, in a democracy, everybody would agree that climate change is a consequence of man-made behaviour, because that’s what 99 per cent of scientists tell us’, said Obama in his handwringing over fake news. No. The ideal thing in a democracy isn’t that we believe something because scientists, or politicians, or priests, have told us it’s true; it’s that we believe something because we have considered it, thought about it, weighed it up against other things, and then deployed our own judgement. Believing something because others tell you it’s true isn’t democracy – it’s oligarchy.
Even the extent to which fake news is a bad thing – and of course it can be – its rise is not a result of wicked foreign poking into Western politics and debate. Rather, it speaks to the hollowing-out of the whole idea of truth in the West, to the march of the relativistic notion that objectivity is not only difficult but undesirable. The image of the old gatekeepers of knowledge, or just news, being elbowed aside either by new technologies or by interfering Easterners is wrong; it is more accurate to say that these gatekeepers gave up, and abandoned their posts, on the basis that it is arrogant to assume that any one way of seeing or reporting the world is better than another.
For the past two decades, Western news reporting has openly called into question its own definitiveness. It has thrown open news items to ceaseless commenting below the line, on the basis that ‘news coverage is a partnership’, as the BBC’s Richard Sandbrook said in 2005. It celebrated ‘citizen journalism’ as a realer, less top-down form of newsgathering. And it has jettisoned the very thing that distinguished it from other, more opinionated views on world events: its objectivity. From the rise of the ‘journalism of attachment’ in the 1990s, in which journalists eschewed the apparently cold, forensic habit of objectivity and took sides with the most victimised groups in certain conflicts and situations, to the media’s embrace of ‘data journalism’ in the 2000s, where churning through thousands of leaked documents took the place of discovering stories and faithfully reporting them, Western journalism has redefined its mission from one of objectively discovering truth to simply offering its increasingly technical or emotional take on what might, or might not, have happened.
Journalists have explicitly disavowed objectivity, and with it their ‘gatekeeping’ role. It is time to ‘toss out objectivity as a goal’, said Harvard journalism expert Dan Gilmor in 2005. By 2010, even Time magazine, self-styled epitome of the Western journalistic style, was celebrating ‘The End of “Objectivity”’. The ‘new-media openness [has] upended the old media’s poker-faced stoicism – and it’s about time’, it said. The Western media started to replace the ideal of objectivity with values such as fairness, transparency and balance. And as one European observer pointed out, these are very different to objectivity: where objectivity points to ‘the active quest for truth’, these newer, more technical values reduce the news media to just another voice ‘among the many voices in a pluralistic world’. When someone like Amanpour says Western journalism and democracy are in ‘mortal peril’, largely thanks to ‘foreign powers like Russia paying to churn out… false news’, she overlooks journalism’s weakening of its own ideals and authority, including by her and others in the 1990s when they ditched objectivity in preference for taking sides in conflicts like the one in Bosnia. She conspiratorially displaces on to Russia a crisis of objectivity that has its origins in the newsrooms and academies and political chambers of the West.
The abandonment of objectivity in journalism did not happen in a vacuum. It sprung from, and in turn intensified, a rejection of reason in the West, a disavowal of the idea of truth, and its replacement either by the far more technical ambition of being ‘evidence-based’ or by highly emotional responses to world events. Indeed, the greatest irony in the fake-news panic, and in the whole post-Brexit, post-Trump talk of a new ‘post-truth’ era, is that it was the very guardians of Western culture and knowledge, the very establishment now horrified by how the little people think and vote, who made us ‘post-truth’; who oversaw the turn against Enlightenment in the academy, the calling into question of ‘male’ science, the throttling of the idea of any one, clear morality to which people might subscribe, and the rubbishing of the entire project of objectivity, even of ‘news’ as we understood it. When Obama says we live in an era where ‘everything seems to be the same and no distinctions are made’, he isn’t wrong. Only that refusal to distinguish, to judge, to elevate truer things over questionable things, is not down to Facebook or Macedonians or allegedly dumb Trump voters – it is an accomplishment of the very post-Enlightenment, self-doubting, technocratic elites Obama is part of.
And what happens when you give up your conviction that truth can be discovered, and instead promote the idea that all ways of looking at the world, and interpreting the world, and feeling the world, have validity? You disorientate public discussion. You slay your own cultural authority. You create a situation where people doubt you, often with good reason, and go looking for other sources of information. You create the space for other claims of truth, some of them good and exciting, some of them mad and fake. Don’t blame Russia, or us, for the crisis of journalism and democracy or for our so-called ‘post-truth’ times. You did this. You, the gatekeepers. We’ll be our own gatekeepers now, thanks.
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.