Wednesday, December 21, 2016
We must defend free speech, even for anti-Semites
The imprisonment of Joshua Bonehill-Paine should worry us all
‘Offensive blogger imprisoned’ is a news story that typically emanates from authoritarian Middle Eastern regimes. But now, it seems, the UK is getting in on the act.
For writing five anti-Semitic blog posts aimed at Labour MP Luciana Berger between October 2014 and January 2015, Joshua Bonehill-Paine has been sentenced to two years in jail. According to Berger, the blog posts left her feeling ‘sick’ and worried for her safety.
With headlines like ‘the legacy of the filthy Jew bitch’ and ‘racist anti-white Jewish Labour MP Luciana Berger exposed’, it’s not surprising that Berger was left appalled. The fascist troll had already served a sentence for organising a rally in Golders Green against the ‘Jewification’ of the area. He has also superimposed Berger’s face on to rodents and Hebrew symbols.
Calling Bonehill-Paine a scumbag is an insult to scumbags. In a YouTube video, he decried an ‘occupation force of 50,000 Jews occupying what used to be an Anglo-Saxon settlement, Stamford Hill’. Demonstrating a standard of wit surpassed only by nine-year-olds, he promised his proposed march against north London Jews would be ‘an absolute gas’.
But Bonehill-Paine was not on trial for his previous actions. Although the sentencing judge listed his past misdemeanours, the defendant was only on trial for those five blog posts. In his remarks, the judge concluded that Bonehill-Paine’s posts ‘showed, beyond any doubt, the depth of [his] hatred of Jewish people, including Ms Berger’. But is being a repulsive bigot sufficient reason to be sent to jail? Is writing five, albeit downright horrendous, blog posts enough to warrant a jail sentence? Absolutely not.
No matter how deplorable or degenerate his intentions, punishing Bonehill-Paine for his opinions is a direct affront to a tolerant and free society. The prosecutor, Philip Stott, maintained that ‘we have a right to freedom of expression’, but meekly added that ‘it is not, however, an absolute right’. Freedom of expression should be ‘limited to protect the rights of others, including the right not to be harassed with racial abuse’, he said.
Stott is wrong. Free speech is absolute – it crumbles when you qualify it. That’s not to say that we shouldn’t sympathise with Berger. During the past year, she has been subject to a torrent of anti-Semitic abuse. In the space of just three days, she received 2,500 hateful messages. It’s completely understandable that she wants it to stop.
But Bonehill-Paine can’t be held responsible for all the abuse she suffered – which, worryingly, seems to be what happened in this case. The judge’s sentencing remarks didn’t focus solely on Bonehill-Paine’s blogs, but included the actions of Garron Helm, another anti-Semite, who launched a Twitter campaign against Berger in 2014. The judge also defended Bonehill-Paine’s conviction by pointing to the murder of Jo Cox. Following her tragic murder – which Bonehill-Paine didn’t commit – the judge maintained that ‘deterrence must be an important element of the sentence’. Quoting the case of R v Saunders (2000), he stated that ‘racism must not be allowed to flourish. The courts must do all they can… to convey that message clearly, by the sentences they pass in relation to racially aggravated offences.’
The judge condemned Bonehill-Paine in order to discourage other anti-Semitic fascists from airing their views. But allowing vicious bigots like him to air their views, and challenging them in public, is a far better way to fight anti-Semitism. In fact, censorship only gives people like Bonehill-Paine notoriety. Following his conviction, Bonehill-Paine stated: ‘I am really pleased… with the media that [it] will bring.’ And every time someone like him is put in jail, another narcissistic web provocateur is inspired to pick up where they left off.
Bonehill-Paine has little in common with Raif Badawi, the Saudi dissident blogger who was arrested in 2012, imprisoned, and later sentenced to 1,000 lashes. While Badawi bravely dared to question the authoritarian regime in which he lived, Bonehill-Paine expressed anti-Semitic bigotry. But both were convicted for expressing unpopular views, and the fate of both men should send a shiver down the spine of all those who believe in free speech. Some may argue that Bonehill-Paine’s conviction signalled a victory against bigotry. In truth, it was a victory for censorship.
Fighting Back Against Fake News
BY ANDREW KLAVAN
Every liar from Hillary Clinton to Brian Williams is up in arms at what the liars at the New York Times are calling the "Fake News Onslaught." The make-believe outrage, largely aimed at censoring conservative opposition to the media's left-wing agenda, hit fever pitch last week after an armed man walked into the popular D.C. Pizza joint and music venue Comet Ping Pong and fired a rifle, claiming he had come to investigate the online rumors known as Pizzagate.
Pizzagate is the notion that Hillary Clinton and her minions are running a satanic child sex ring in the restaurant's basement. I've taken the time to look into the theory and it's ridiculous, wholly unfounded, its "proofs" absurd.
But when I mentioned that the theory was bunk on my podcast the other day, a few listeners became angry with me. One was so incensed she says she cancelled her subscription to The Daily Wire, the website that hosts my cast. This certainly testifies to how attached people become to these false ideas, and how dangerous they can be.
So as a public service — and braving the anger of my readership — I'd like to expose a few other absurd fake news stories.
Police Target Blacks
After a white police officer shot and killed a large black thug who was attacking him in Ferguson, Missouri, in 2014, witnesses falsely claimed that the thug had surrendered before being shot, putting up his hands and saying, "Don't shoot." This fed into the mainstream media thesis that police were unfairly targeting black youths for violence. Both the "hands up, don't shoot" scenario and the overall notion of widespread police bigotry have been thoroughly debunked and yet fake news sites such as CNN and the New York Times continue to keep up their onslaught of lies. Unlike the Pizzagate conspiracy theory, these lies have contributed to multiple deaths and repeated riots. Should fake news sites like CNN and the Times be shut down before more people die?
2. The Obama Economy is Strong
Once again, we find the pernicious fake news site the New York Times at the center of this absurd story. Desperate to obscure the near-total failure of the Obama presidency, the Times has been using fake news sites like nytimes.com to spread the absurd notion that "Donald J. Trump can expect to inherit an economy that has added private sector jobs for 80 months, put another 178,000 people on payrolls last month and pushed the unemployment rate down to 4.6 percent today from 4.9 percent the previous month. Wage growth, though slower, is still running ahead of inflation, and consumers are expressing the highest levels of confidence in nearly a decade." In fact, while energy-rich states like Texas and Kentucky have thrived, the National Association of Counties reports that 93% of the nation's counties have not recovered from the 2008 crash. Median incomes are down. And the drop in the unemployment number disguises the fact that labor participation is at its lowest rate since the horrible Carter years. When you add people who would like to work or work more, the real unemployment rate is very close to ten percent. Oh, and by the way, those rising levels of confidence may have something to do with the fact Obama is leaving office.
3. The Climate is in Crisis
This nonsensical story, promulgated by various fake left-wing news sites like NBC, CBS, ABC, CNN, the New York Times, the Washington Post and others, was designed to arouse the sort of panic that causes people to foolishly give more power to the government. In fact, reports of disastrous climate change have been dialed back even by those most committed to spreading the panic. Just as important, the proposed "solutions" to the climate catastrophe have been shown to be ineffective and overpriced.
These and other fake news stories have endangered lives, cost money and threatened, our liberties. It is time to take action against the fake news sites that spread these lies. Out of respect to the First Amendment, I believe our best approach is simply to ignore them entirely.
Oh wait. We already do.
Post-truth, and other such falsehoods
By Piers Akerman, writing from Australia
In the weeks that followed first Brexit and then Donald Trump’s election to the US Presidency it seemed that many in the West thought the world had passed the point of peak civilisation.
In fact, those rending their clothes and crashing on the sidewalk in screaming tantrums were merely reflecting the embrace of post-truth behaviour which, according to the Oxford Dictionary (which gave the term its Word of the Year award) describes circumstances where emotions and personal beliefs are more influential than facts.
Facts and truth are so last century, which is when, again according to the Oxford Dictionary observers, post-truth was first used in an essay by playwright Steve Tesich in the Nation.
Casper Grathwohl, president of Oxford Dictionaries, told an interviewer: ‘It’s not surprising that our choice reflects a year dominated by highly-charged political and social discourse. Fuelled by the rise of social media as a news source and a growing distrust of facts offered up by the establishment, “post-truth” as a concept has been finding its linguistic footing for some time.’
Not so fast, Casper. Those most addicted to post-truth are, in my experience, not from the Establishment but from the ranks of NGOs, and other subsidised protest movements; particularly any engaged in pushing the anti-fossil fuel climate change alarmist line, the great open border fallacy and Islam is a religion of peace mantra with its sub-clause (fill in the Islamist terrorist attack de jour) ‘had nothing to do with Islam’.
Trump’s election may well have marked the turning point for these frauds and charlatans given the volume of their protests. Certainly, the Archbishop of Canterbury’s belated revelation that claims that the atrocities of Islamic State ‘have nothing to do with Islam’ were actually harming efforts to confront and combat extremism was a welcome and refreshing indication that post-truth was being shown the door at Lambeth Palace.
The Most Rev Justin Welby put the mullahs (and leaders of other religions) on notice that that they had to ‘stand up and take responsibility’ for the actions of extremists who profess to follow their faith. He didn’t elaborate in his speech, in Paris in late November, on which other religions are known to incite their followers to murder and self-destruct, possibly because the church remains firmly in the mystery business, but his argument that unless people recognise and attempt to understand the motivation of terrorists they will never be able to combat their ideology effectively was more direct than most of the platitudinous murmurings we’ve heard from those who have addressed multicultural, multi-faith happy-clapping gatherings over the past 20 years.
Global figures ranging from the dead duck US President Barack Obama to former UK Prime Minister David Cameron historically waved the ‘Islam is a religion of peace’ flag but Mr Cameron at least reversed himself after the massacre at the Paris Bataclan nightclub and associated attacks which left 130 dead.
The Grand Mufti of Australia, Dr Ibrahim Abu Mohamed, blamed ‘causative factors’ such as ‘racism, Islamophobia, curtailing freedoms through securitisation, duplicitous foreign policies and military intervention’ for the acts but not the ideology.
Rather at odds with Archbishop Welby’s view that it’s essential to recognise extremists’ religious motivation in order to get to grips with the problem.
Which makes me wonder whether our Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull actually engaged in constructive conversation with his Muslim guests at the dinner he publicly hosted last year at Kirribilli House, among them Waleed Aly, the award-winning media figure who has described terrorism as just an ‘irritant’.
Mr Turnbull, who appears to be Christian-fluid, shifting between branches and discarding elements of social teachings as they suit, has publicly hardened up significantly since he took office after years of ridiculing his predecessor, Tony Abbott’s, hard-line on extremism.
It may take another Lindt Café or Sari Club attack to shift his soft inner-urban compassionista approach further toward reality.
Archbishop Welby believes it’s time for countries across Europe to recognise and rediscover the ‘Judeo Christian’ roots of their culture to find solutions to the mass disenchantment which led to the Brexit vote in the UK and the rise of anti-establishment leaders in the Continent and beyond. This would be an anathema to Mr Turnbull who regularly delivers encomiums to multiculturalism.
Archbishop Welby on the other hand not only lashed out at the ‘centralisation, corruption and bureaucracy’ rooted in Brussels, but also said Europe appeared to have lost its original vision of how economics could improve people’s lives rather than ‘economic structures enslaving human beings’. But it was his remarks on terrorism which particularly caught my eye, delivered to an audience which had experienced multiple attacks since Bataclan.
‘If we treat religiously-motivated violence solely as a security issue, or a political issue, then it will be incredibly difficult – probably impossible – to overcome it. A theological voice needs to be part of the response, and we should not be bashful in offering that. This requires a move away from the argument that has become increasingly popular, which is to say that Isis is “nothing to do with Islam”, or that Christian militia in the Central African Republic are nothing to do with Christianity, or Hindu nationalist persecution of Christians in South India is nothing to do with Hinduism. Until religious leaders stand up and take responsibility for the actions of those who do things in the name of their religion, we will see no resolution.’
Quite a turnaround for the Rev. Justin Welby – one which had me reaching again for the Oxford Dictionary which provided the new term ‘adulting’ which it defined as the practice of behaving in a way characteristic of a responsible adult, especially the accomplishment of mundane but necessary tasks.
What we used to call acting maturely, a concept alien to the social media enthusiasts of the post-truth generation.
Trump-style political disaffection taking hold in Australia, review says
Australia is starting to see the beginnings of popular disaffection with the political class which has led to the election of Donald Trump and the Brexit vote, according to the authors of a major academic review of the 2016 federal election.
Key measures, including satisfaction with democracy, trust in government and loyalty to major parties, are at record lows among Australian voters while party leaders are suffering sustained falls in popularity unlike any other period in recent history.
The Australian National University has been tracking post-election voter sentiment since 1987, and its lead researcher Ian McAllister warned Australian politicians they should address the dissatisfaction because it was a clear trend.
“Dissatisfaction with democracy, lack of trust in politicians, these are reaching historic lows,” McAllister said.
“What it looks to me like is you are seeing the stirrings among the public of what has happened in the United States of the likes of Trump, Brexit in Britain, in Italy and a variety of other European countries.
“Now it’s not a crisis of democracy but what you are seeing is the start of something which has happened overseas. It’s coming here and I would have thought this is a wake up call for the political class that they need to start addressing this or it will continue.”
The latest survey was based on 2,818 people over three months beginning on the Monday after the 2 July election. It has been conducted on a similar basis for 30 years and some of the measures have been tracked back to 1969.
The most recent study found:
only 26% of people think the government can be trusted, the lowest level since it was first measured in 1969
40% of Australians were not satisfied with democracy in Australia, the lowest level since the period following the dismissal of Gough Whitlam in the 1970s
a record low level of interest (30%) in the 2016 election
a record low number (34%) who followed how to vote cards, a drop of 10% since 2013
74% think the government makes little difference to household finances
69% think government policies make little difference to the country’s finances.
On a leadership evaluation out of 10, the three most recent prime ministers – Julia Gillard, Tony Abbott and Malcolm Turnbull – measured lower than five in the review.
Previous prime ministers, including Bob Hawke, John Howard and Kevin Rudd scored above five, but not Paul Keating, who scored below five. Of prime ministers since the 1980s, Hawke and Rudd enjoyed most popularity, scoring over six.
As leader of the Nationals in 2016, Barnaby Joyce scored lower (4.13) than his predecessor Warren Truss (4.34) in the 2013 election while Greens leader Richard Di Natale (4.13) scored higher than his predecessor Christine Milne (3.81).
Bill Shorten was evaluated more poorly than any other major party leader since the study started asking the question in 1993. The study rates leaders on nine characteristics; compassionate, trustworthy, inspiring, honest, strong leadership, sensible, competent, knowledgable and intelligent.
When compared with Malcolm Turnbull, Shorten only rated better than the prime minister for compassion. In seven of the nine characteristics, Shorten rated more negatively than any previous major party leader throughout the 1990s and 2000s, since the question was asked.
But Turnbull scored lower than any previous election-winning prime minister covered by the survey on characteristics of compassionate, sensible, strong leadership and honest. He scored second to lowest for election winners on trustworthiness (Gillard was lowest) and competence (Abbott was lowest).
McAllister said voters were clearly frustrated at the lack of connection with politicians and broken promises. He named Labor’s broken promise on the introduction of a carbon tax and the Coalition’s broken promise not to change superannuation policy.
He said the practice of government ministers leaving parliament to take plum postings or related jobs had fostered distrust among citizens. “Voters tend to disapprove of this sort of activity and there’s actually quite a lot of it in Australia compared to other countries,” McAllister said.
“We don’t have rampant corruption in the political system in Australia … but we have a lot of this grey area where politicians are perceived to be getting a lot of perks. And in a situation where economic performance is not doing very well, where people are under economic pressure, this is something that grates with a lot of people.”
The study also found attitudes becoming more liberal on various social and economic policies in the past 30 years. For example, there has been a steady decline since 1987 in the percentage of Australians who would prefer to pay less tax while there has been a relative increase in the percentage who favour more government spending on social services.
There is majority support for constitutional recognition of Indigenous Australians, marriage equality and legalised abortion. There has been a long-term decline in support for the reintroduction of the death penalty for murder and the continued criminalisation of smoking marijuana.
Immigration and asylum seeker policies were more important to voters at the 2016 election than any other election since the so-called Tampa election in 2001, when John Howard ordered commandos to to steer MV Tampa out of Australian waters.
While immigration and asylum seeker policy were in the top 10 issues, Australians have maintained a positive attitude towards the immigration program with a majority agreeing immigrants make Australia more open and cultured and are good for the economy. Only 30% believe immigrants take jobs from local-born workers and 37% believe they increase the crime rate.
One of the study’s authors, Jill Sheppard, said as the major parties moved closer on economic policies, voters looked increasingly to social issues to determine their vote.
“As voters are increasingly not finding economic differences between the parties – they are increasingly not believing parties can make a difference to the household finances or to the country’s finances in this recent election – that social issues will increasingly play a role in the next few Australian elections,” Sheppard said.
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.