Monday, April 24, 2017

UK: There are worse things than a Kelvin MacKenzie column... allowing Labour and the police to boss about the free press

Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan is not the only elected politician seemingly keen to silence criticism by using state power against press freedom. Liverpool’s Labour mayor Joe Anderson has demanded a journalist be not only sacked by his newspaper but also prosecuted by the authorities for expressing an opinion the mayor finds offensive. Merseyside Police have done as they were told and launched an official investigation into the journalist’s Thought Crime.

But while Erdogan’s harsh repression of journalists has rightly sparked angry protests in Turkey and elsewhere, Anderson’s ‘Little Erdogan’ impression in Liverpool has raised barely a murmur.

That is presumably because the journalist Labour wants locked up is Kelvin MacKenzie, arguably the most hated hack on Merseyside and beyond, who wrote a controversial column about Liverpool last week. And because the newspaper MacKenzie wrote it for is the Sun, tabloid voice of Rupert Murdoch’s News UK, so unpopular on Merseyside that it is reputedly hard to buy a copy to burn there these days.

But there is a principle at stake here that is far more important than anybody’s personal feelings about a columnist or a proprietor. That is the right of a free press to publish and be damned, and be judged by the public rather than found guilty by interfering politicians and policemen. An important part of press freedom is the right of the Sun to decide for itself who and what to publish, without being dictated to by the mayor of Liverpool or the Merseyside Police.

MacKenzie, of course, has history with Liverpool. He was the editor of the Sun responsible for the infamous front page, headlined ‘The Truth’, which endorsed poisonous lies about Liverpool football fans after 96 of them were crushed to death at Hillsborough Stadium in April 1989. The Sun and MacKenzie have long since apologised. A year ago, fresh inquests found that the fans had been ‘unlawfully killed’. This February, Liverpool FC banned Sun reporters from its Anfield stadium, apparently in response to the paper’s Hillsborough coverage 28 years ago.

So it was asking for trouble for MacKenzie to try to write a ‘humorous’ column touching on Liverpool and football last week, on the eve of the Hillsborough anniversary. To judge by the reaction, however, you might imagine that MacKenzie had been dancing on the dead Liverpool fans’ graves rather than cracking a bad joke about an Everton player and the shadier side of the city.

In an item entitled ‘Here’s why they go ape at Ross’, MacKenzie wrote about Everton star Ross Barkley, who had just been attacked in a Liverpool bar. For MacKenzie, Barkley was ‘one of our dimmest footballers’, comparable to ‘a gorilla at the zoo’. ‘The physique is magnificent but it’s the eyes that tell the story’, he wrote. ‘Not only are the lights not on, there is definitely nobody home.’

The columnist then broadened his targets, saying it was no surprise that Barkley had been punched in a nightclub after ‘allegedly eyeing up an attractive young lady who, as they say, was “spoken for”. The reality is that at £60,000-a-week and being both thick and single, he is an attractive catch in the Liverpool area, where the only men with similar pay packets are drug dealers and therefore not at nightclubs, as they are often guests of Her Majesty.’

Cue predictable outrage from Liverpool politicians, media pundits and football folk, broadcast to a national audience by the BBC and other tabloid-despising media. Attention particularly focused on the comparison between Barkley and a gorilla, with critics pointing out that the player had Nigerian antecedents. The Sun soon issued a statement apologising ‘for the offence caused’, and announcing that MacKenzie had been suspended. It said that his expressed views ‘about the people of Liverpool were wrong, unfunny and are not the view of the paper’, and that they were ‘unaware of Ross Barkley’s heritage and there was never any slur intended’. MacKenzie himself also insisted he knew nothing about Barkley’s mixed-race background before writing the (rubbish) gorilla gag.

None of which was ever going to be enough to assuage the Sun-haters. Labour mayor Anderson upped the stakes, announcing (via Twitter of course) that he had ‘reported MacKenzie & the S*n for their racist slur on Ross Barkley and the people of Liverpool to Merseyside Police & press complaints commission’ (which has actually been replaced by the Independent Press Standards Organisation). Merseyside Plod duly announced they were investigating an alleged ‘racial hate crime’.

Anderson told BBC Sport that ‘Not only is it racist in a sense that [Barkley] is of mixed-race descent, equally it’s a racial stereotype of Liverpool. It is racist and prehistoric.’

This might seem like blatant nonsense even by the standards of the Labour Party. Can an insult be racist if the writer did not know his target is mixed race? And what is this about ‘a racial stereotype of Liverpool’? The people of that fine city might sometimes seem to speak a different language from the rest of us. But are Scousers really to be considered a separate race now?

In fact, under the nonsense that is modern UK law, the answer to both those questions might be ‘yes’. The changes introduced after the MacPherson Report into the murder of Stephen Lawrence define a racial or hate crime as ‘any incident which is perceived to be racist by the victim or any other person’. So if the mayor of Liverpool or Stan Collymore says the column was racist, it is. Anderson’s reinvention of Scousers as victims of racism simply extends this subjective legal definition to its (il)logical conclusion.

The meaning of racism is thus diminished, turned into an empty all-purpose insult that can be used to delegitimise any opinion you find offensive. And by applying the killer label ‘racist’ to a Sun column, tabloid-bashers can turn an unfunny and insensitive joke into a major public issue, to the point where MacKenzie’s alleged crime against humanity displaced the panic about nuclear war in some of the weekend’s news headlines.

What should us non-racist champions of free speech say about all this? There is no need to defend MacKenzie’s reactionary opinions in order to stand for his right to express them. Free speech does not, of course, grant anybody the inalienable right to express their views in the national media. That is a decision for the Sun – an independent editorial judgement that it alone should make, and for which it will be judged by its reading public.

Most importantly, anybody with an ounce of feeling for freedom of speech and of the press must stand against attempts to get the law and the regulators to interfere in such editorial judgements. It should not be the business of the Labour Party or the Merseyside Police to start laying down the law about what can and cannot be said in a free press.

No doubt the column about Ross Barkley, like much else that MacKenzie writes, was offensive to some. So what? If you don’t like it, don’t read it. The irony in this case is that none of those publicly expressing their outrage would ever read the Sun anyway, and had to make a special point of publishing the remarks online in order to be offended by them and demand the writer be repressed and punished.

In sum, there are worse things to worry about than a Kelvin MacKenzie column. Those who would burn or ban the Sun and have the state tell the press what to publish pose a far greater threat to freedom than anything said by a ‘prehistoric’ hack.

The future of MacKenzie and his ‘unfunny’ column is the business of the journalist and the Sun. The future of press freedom in the UK, and the right to read and hear what we choose and judge for ourselves, is the business of us all.

It remains an iron law of history that, whatever anybody thinks of a free press, there is always one thing worse – an unfree press. Ask the Turks.


'Don't be scared of being called Islamophobic'

Christian minister calls for a BAN on extremist Muslims coming to Australia - and only those who reject sharia law should be accepted

A Baptist reverend born in Egypt says Australia needs to deport radical Islamists and stop taking in so many fundamentalist Muslims.

While outspoken church leaders are saying conciliatory things about migrants, Sydney minister George Capsis said the large-scale migration of hardline Islamists from the Middle East was a threat to Australian democracy.

He made a clear distinction between Islamist extremists, from places like Iran, Saudi Arabia and Syria, and secular Muslims from Turkey who reject sharia law and fundamentalism.

'We can't have open slather like we used to. We've got to be more discerning,' he told Daily Mail Australia on Wednesday.

'We mustn't be afraid to be called Islamophobic. We've got to be more careful in our immigration policy.

'If we do not protect the freedoms we have in this country, they'll be eroded.'

Mr Capsis, a minister at Croydon in Sydney's inner west, said Islamist migrant preachers were radicalising the children of migrants and needed to be deported, echoing a call from Adelaide imam Sheikh Mohammad Tawhidi.

'We probably should deport some people who preach hate. You hate to do that but you've got to make a stand,' he said.

His call comes only weeks after Hizb ut-Tahrir spokesman Uthman Badar, who was born in Pakistan, told a forum at Bankstown library, in south-west Sydney, that ex-Muslims deserved capital punishment.

This same Islamist group, which wants a Muslim caliphate based on sharia law, also produced a video last week justifying domestic violence.

Earlier this month, a Christian man claims a group of Muslim teenagers of Middle Eastern appearance ripped off his silver Greek Orthodox necklace during an alleged attack on a Sydney train to Bankstown.

'They ripped the cross off me, threw it to the ground, they said 'f**k Jesus, and then said they said 'Allah' after that,' the man, who chose to remain unnamed, told Daily Mail Australia.

'I thought I was going to die. The next victim might not be so lucky, they might be killed or seriously injured.'

Sydney's west is home to the hardline Sunni Ahlus Sunnah Wal Jamaah Association, whose preachers have described as sinful attending non-Muslim events, having non-Muslim friends and even using a public urinal.

This fundamentalist group runs the Bukhari House Islamic Bookstore at Auburn, which has been linked to Farhad Jabar, the 15-year-old boy who killed accountant Curtis Cheng outside police headquarters at Parramatta in 2015.

Mr Capsis, the 70-year-old son of Greek Orthodox parents who moved to Australia at age four from Egypt, said Islamic fundamentalism had never been a success.

'Unlike Christianity, which has brought prosperity and civilization wherever it is established such as the U.S., the United Kingdom Australia, Islamic fundamentalism takes communities back to the dark ages,' he said.

He added that Islamist fundamentalist migrants, unlike secular Muslims from places like Turkey, had no interest in integrating into Australian society.

'The evidence is pretty clear: the red flag is waving in our faces,' Mr Capsis said. 'None of us want to be vilifying any race of people because every race has its good and its bad but unfortunately as a religion, it's very culturally based. 'Islam is now more culturally political than religious.'

A tipping point with radical Islamism had been reached in Australia, he said, with many people determined not to follow examples set in Europe. 'The tide has turned. We're going to see more Christian leaders come out and make a stand,' he said.

'We've got to protect ourselves. Australian society is not going to tolerate this anymore.'

Mr Capsis has previously spoken out about Muslim attacks on Christians in Sydney.


Sweden Accepted More Migrants Per Capita Than Any Other European Country. Why That’s Changed

Sweden, the latest European country to fall victim to a terrorist attack, has long been known for its generous immigration policies.

In 2015, at the height of the refugee crisis, Sweden took in more migrants per capita than any other European country. That year, more than 162,000 people applied for asylum in Sweden, including 51,000 Syrians seeking protection from terrorism and the country’s civil war.

For comparison, the United Kingdom received 39,000 asylum applications in 2015, while France received 71,000 applications.

“In general terms, Sweden has a reputation as being a safe haven for people in need of protection,” said Bernd Parusel of the Swedish Migration Agency, in an interview with The Daily Signal. “And that has certainly made the country very attractive to people seeking protection. But the situation in 2015 was extraordinary and overwhelming in many ways.”

The government in Sweden, a small Scandinavian country of 10 million people that has been resettling refugees through the United Nations since 1950, reacted swiftly to the crisis, enacting a series of restrictions to its refugee and asylum policies in late 2015 and 2016.

These actions came long before the April 7 terrorist attack, in which an Uzbek man—who was a rejected asylum seeker—is suspected of driving a stolen beer truck into a crowd of shoppers, killing four people and wounding 15 others.

‘Complicated’ Counterterrorism Efforts

Magnus Ranstorp, the head of terrorism research at the Swedish Defense University, says that roughly 12,000 rejected asylum seekers have gone underground, and not returned to their home countries, including 3,000 in the Stockholm region, where this month’s terrorist attack occurred.

The suspect in the attack, Rakhmat Akilov, 39, had applied for permanent residency in 2014, and the Swedish Migration Agency denied his application in June 2016.

In December, he was given four weeks to leave the country, but eluded the grasp of authorities, despite being on their radar as a potential security risk. He provided an inaccurate address for himself.

“We had problems with our counterterrorism efforts before the asylum issue, but this has complicated it,” Ranstorp told The Daily Signal in an interview. “Because you have a lot of people who come in who will not be allowed to stay, and that in itself creates a pool of people who will try to elude themselves from the authorities. They become a shadow population with no rights. And that fuels extremism in all different directions.”

Ranstorp says that about 150 Swedes have returned from Syria or Iraq after fighting with the Islamic State, the terrorist group also known as ISIS. He said there’s no mechanism to connect those individuals with prevention and deradicalization services, and it’s difficult to punish them because of weak sentencing laws.

“Extremists meet little resistance in Sweden,” Ranstorp said. “It’s not that security services and police are not doing their work. The reason is our counterterrorism laws are difficult to apply. You actually have to prove a violent crime was committed or about to be committed [to be convicted of a crime]. It’s not enough that you joined ISIS.”

‘Generous Policies’

Ranstorp is wary about making a direct connection between the terrorist threat and Sweden’s asylum policies.

But the Stockholm attack has renewed attention on the policies of European countries such as Sweden and Germany that took open-door approaches to the refugee crisis, and are now dealing with aftershocks, even after imposing restrictions later on.

As immigrants fleeing war and poverty in the Middle East and Africa took dangerous journeys to Europe with increasing frequency over the last few years, Sweden quickly became a preferred destination.

Until recent policy changes, all asylum seekers in Sweden who were granted full refugee status received a permanent residence permit—meaning they are indefinitely allowed to stay in the country. Syrians, facing the most desperate of circumstances, got even better treatment, earning permanent residence no matter the form of protected status they sought.

In Sweden, asylum seekers are provided lodging if they need it, although, at the height of the crisis, migrants were housed in locations such as schools due to shortages of shelter.

Asylum seekers also have access to free health care, and receive cash stipends for food and necessities.

If their claims are recognized, refugees and migrants provided other forms of protection can participate in a two-year integration program that offers language classes, help finding a job, and a monthly stipend.

“There was concern in Sweden that their generous asylum policies were a pull factor for people to try to come to Sweden, especially as opposed to other countries in Europe,” said Susan Fratzke, an analyst at Migration Policy Institute who studies European Union asylum policy, in an interview with The Daily Signal.

Fratzke noted that Sweden’s generous policies cannot totally explain the strong demand from prospective refugees and asylum seekers. Sweden has an established diaspora population of certain populations, such as Afghanis, which encourages family members to try to reunite with them.

Indeed, she said, unaccompanied children from Afghanistan have ranked as one of the largest groups of migrants to seek protected status in Sweden over the last few years. More than 41,000 migrants from Afghanistan applied for asylum in 2015, making it the second-largest country of origin.

‘Reacted Quickly and Drastically’

Still, in response to the increasing demand, Sweden introduced border security measures and made its asylum offerings less generous.

In November 2015, Sweden introduced border checks with its neighbors for the first time in 20 years, requiring police to monitor trains and ferries and turn back those who don’t have valid travel documents. Under the previous system, asylum seekers could enter the country unobstructed, regardless of whether they had travel documents, like a passport.

Later, in June 2016, Sweden toughened the rules for migrants seeking asylum, limiting who can receive permanent residency, and making it more difficult for parents to reunite with their children.

Under the new policy, most refugees and migrants granted other forms of protected status receive three-year temporary residence instead of permanent residence.

“There was a feeling the situation was about to get out of hand, which is why the government and opposition worked together and reacted quite quickly and drastically to reduce the numbers coming in and to make Sweden less attractive as a destination,” Parusel said.

The measures have had an impact, at least to some degree.

According to the Swedish Migration Agency, 5,677 people applied for asylum in Sweden during the first quarter of 2017, compared to 9,145 in the first quarter of 2016 and 13,053 for the same period in 2015.

At the peak of the crisis in 2015, more than 39,000 individuals applied for asylum in Sweden in just one month (October).

“It’s hard to say what caused the decline in asylum claims in 2016, and this year, in Sweden,” said Fratzke, who also credited action by other European countries with the falling numbers, and a broader European Union agreement that returned asylum seekers to Turkey. “The decrease in the number of arrivals came pretty closely after Sweden introduced the border check measures, but other European countries also imposed their own border security policies.”

Challenges Remain

Despite these changes, Sweden faces ongoing challenges.

Parusel and Fratzke say that it’s difficult to address the problem of rejected asylum seekers staying in the country, as the suspected assailant in this month’s terrorist attack did.

That’s because many countries refuse to take their nationals back. The U.S. also faces this problem.

In addition, just like in the U.S., immigration authorities challenged by limited resources prioritize the types of people they seek to deport, and use their discretion to leave others alone.

With general elections set for Sweden next year, and the far-right, anti-immigrant Sweden Democrats party on the rise, immigration and counterterrorism policy promises to dominate the conversation.

“After the terrorist attack, many people are saying we must not change the way we live in Sweden, and keep our open attitude to the world, including towards immigrants,” Parusel said. “On the other hand, I see no way for Sweden to go back to its previous generous immigration policy.”


Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull doubles down on 'Australia first' message

Echoes of Mr Trump

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has taken to social media to promote his citizenship push and migrant worker crackdown, as the government works on selling its "Australia first" agenda.

It was all rolled out after the Easter long weekend.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has posted this video on Facebook saying his government is standing up for Australian jobs and values.

On Tuesday, Mr Turnbull announced the government would axe the 457 foreign worker visa program, and replace it with two new temporary visas, which would impose tougher qualification tests, while cutting down on the number of occupations open to international workers last week.

He followed that announcement up on Thursday with changes to the citizenship rules, which will see would-be Australians subjected to tougher language and "values-based" tests, and much longer waiting times before becoming eligible to apply for citizenship.

Now comes the sell, with Mr Turnbull releasing a short video on his Facebook page espousing the benefits of Australian values – and the policy changes – intersected with images of him meeting people on the street, being mobbed by school children, wearing an Akubra and talking to first and new Australians.

Mr Turnbull released the video shortly after his media conference with US Vice-President Mike Pence, who was elected, along with Donald Trump, on an "America First" platform.

"Australia is the most successful multicultural society in the world," he said.

"We do not define our national identity by race or religion, but by a commitment to shared Australian values. "Those Australian values define us. Australian values unite us.

"Freedom. Parliamentary democracy. The rule of law. Mutual respect. The equality of men and women and a fair go. The opportunity to get ahead, but lend a hand to those who fall behind.

"Our reforms will put these values at the heart of our citizenship requirements. Membership of our Australian family is a privilege and it should be afforded to those who support our values, respect our laws and want to integrate and contribute to an even better Australia."

Using the same language he used during the week, Mr Turnbull said the migration law changes would ensure "temporary worker visas do not become passports to jobs that should or could be done by Australians".

"Yes, businesses require access to the skills they need to grow, but Australian workers should always have priority for Australian jobs," he said, against a backdrop of native trees.

"My government is standing up for Australian jobs and Australian values."

When announcing his changes to the citizenship rules earlier in the week, Mr Turnbull appeared to struggle to name the Australian values he said were at the core of the reforms, saying there would be public consultation.

Facing pressure in the polls and within his own government, Mr Turnbull has sought to re-set his government's message in recent months, as it attempts to appeal to voters it lost at the last election to parties such as One Nation.



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, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS and  DISSECTING LEFTISM.   My Home Pages are here or   here or   here.  Email me (John Ray) here


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