Wednesday, May 02, 2018

Socially unacceptable Christians

The HBO series “Silicon Valley,” a trenchant satire of the rich and digital, devoted a recent episode to Christianity. The story took a strange turn.

An entrepreneur named DD was pitching his gay dating website, and fretted to Richard Hendricks, the show’s protagonist, that it might be perceived as exclusionary. That won’t be a problem, Hendricks replied: “Exclude all the straight people you want.”

But a larger concern heaved into view. The entrepreneur was inconveniently “outed” as a . . . Christian. In the Valley, a colleague explained, that is a problem: “Here, you can be openly polyamorous and people will call you brave. You can put microdoses of LSD in your cereal and people will call you a pioneer. But the one thing you cannot be is a Christian.”

DD grew up in Palo Alto, and explains: “My dad says my lifestyle makes him sick. He just wants his gay son back.”

The creators of “Silicon Valley” are TV comedy veterans, in effect tipping their hats to the famous 1993 “Seinfeld” episode, “The Outing.” In that program, close friends Jerry Seinfeld and George Costanza volubly asserted that they weren’t gay, insisting all the while — “not that there is anything wrong with that.”

Remember when gay people were outsiders? The “Silicon Valley” writers are asking. That’s the way cultural sophisticates treat Christians now.

In places like New York City, for instance. Last month, The New Yorker published an article headlined, “Chick-fil-A’s Creepy Infiltration of New York.” The writer noted that his fellow city dwellers seem to like the food, in fact they were lining up to eat it. “Yet the brand’s arrival here feels like an infiltration,” he wrote, “in no small part because of its pervasive Christian traditionalism.”

Chick-fil-A’s owners are conservative Christians who have voiced opposition to same-sex marriage, but The New Yorker doesn’t mention any crosses or gay conversion therapies being foisted on unsuspecting chicken-eaters.

I had a meal at a Chick-fil-A last week and you will never guess what happened: They served me food, and I paid for it. There was no Jesus-mongering, no hidden baptismal pools awaiting unwary customers who might be christened against their will. Unlike my favorite fast-food chain, In-N-Out Burger, they don’t print tiny Bible citations on the bottoms of their soft drink cups.

The super-secular Cambridge Public Library, which still displays the Ten Commandments in its original, 1899 building at the request of a 19th-century benefactor, has more religion going on than any Chick-fil-A I’ve ever been in.

Nonetheless, The New Yorker informs us, “[Chick-fil-A’s] arrival in the city augurs worse than a load of manure on the F train.” The writer notes that, like many restaurant chains, Chick-fil-A donates thousands of pounds of food to New York Common Pantry. “Still,” he writes, “there’s something especially distasteful about Chick-fil-A. . . .”

Yeah, OK, we get the point.

If only the great poet, writer, playwright, and aphorist Oscar Wilde were alive to savor our unexpected cultural inversion. Prosecutors of the nominally Christian Queen Victoria tossed Wilde in jail for two years in 1895 for the crime of being gay. Prison broke him, and he died three years later.

A century or so later, Gay is OK, as the famous T-shirt proclaims. Now Christianity, to paraphrase the Victorians’ euphemism for homosexuality, is The Religion That Dares Not Speak Its Name.


War on Guns: Microsoft Joins Google, Facebook, Twitter in Changing Pistol Emojis Into Water Guns

The great Leftist War on Firearms of 2018 continues apace. News broke this week that Google, Facebook, Twitter, and Samsung would scrap their old pistol emojis and replace them with bright fluorescent images of water guns. Microsoft, the last holdout, announced its decision to follow this trend on Wednesday.

This move represents a reversal of Google's decision in 2016 not to mimic Apple's bright water gun design. "We’re always evaluating our emoji designs to ensure that messages are displayed consistently across platforms," a Google spokesperson told PJ Media on Thursday.

Emojipedia reported the change Tuesday, and posted a graph showing the historic emojis from previous years.

"The decision to make the change is to minimize issues with cross-platform communication, avoiding a scenario where a user may pick a toy gun from their native emoji keyboard on Apple, Google or Samsung devices, and have it show as a weapon on Facebook," Emojipedia reported.

At the time, Microsoft declined to comment. Even so, Emojipedia predicted Microsoft's eventual change. "It's worth noting that Microsoft were first to use a toy ray gun in place of a real gun for this emoji. Having brought it into line with other vendors once, it seems likely that they might opt to do the same again."

While Emojipedia suggested the change represented no more than a cosmetic alteration to enable cross-platform translation, current events suggest another explanation.

Following the tragic mass shooting on February 14 in Parkland, Fla., gun control activists have launched a new movement against Americans' access to firearms. Students launched multiple school walkouts. Children's television networks even suspended their programming for the walkout. Mainstream media outlets provided a huge platform for Parkland survivors who urged gun control. Even Ohio's Republican governor, John Kasich, seemed to evolve on the issue.

Meanwhile, Americans seem to have overlooked the fact that guns were in schools thirty years ago, and few tragedies happened. A new study found that gun deaths have actually dropped by almost a third since 1990. Many non-gun control options would also result in fewer school shootings, and President Trump has presented a large reform package on the issue.

The decision of Facebook, Google, Twitter, and even Microsoft to reject pistol emojis, in this context, seems a politically charged cave toward the anti-gun Left. This seems even more likely given a recent survey showing that employees at Silicon Valley tech firms identify their companies as liberal, and conservative employees are afraid to reveal their political beliefs for fear of reprisal.

Eventually, however, these efforts against guns are likely to peter out. As these companies decided to make this move, the second season of HBO's "Westworld" launched, in all its gun-infused violent glory. Gun control activists might demand the removal of firearms from media, but movies featuring guns, firearm television shows, and violent video games (which do not lead to real-life violence) aren't going away any time soon.


How did Britain end up at No40 on the world press-freedom rankings?

The 2018 World Press Freedom Index shows we have a fight on our hands

Britain prides itself on being an historic home of freedom and the free press. So how come we are languishing in 40th place in the international press-freedom table?

Imagine the crowds singing an updated version of Rule Britannia at the Last Night of the Proms, about how Britain ‘shall flourish great and free / The dread and envy of them all / Except for the 39 freer nations, obvs’.

According to the 2018 World Press Freedom Index, published on Wednesday by Reporters Without Borders (RSF), the UK is now ‘one of the worst-ranked countries in Western Europe in terms of respect for press freedom’.

Its 40th place puts the UK one ahead of Burkina Faso and two clear of Taiwan, and suggests that journalists working in Britain have less freedom to hold the powerful to account than those in such liberal states as South Africa, Chile or Lithuania.

British observers are far more likely to bemoan how far we have fallen down the world rankings in football, another field we claim to have invented. Unlike the glorious irrelevance of football, however, freedom of the press really is a matter of life and death for a democratic society.

The UK’s 40th place is unchanged from 2017. But that is 18 lower than its ranking in the first Index, published in 2002 – and 12 places down on six years ago, before the publication of the Leveson report.

That should give a clue as to the new threats press freedom faces in the UK. Unlike in some other illiberal parts of the world, we are not confronted by old-fashioned government repression and state control of the press. Instead, and especially since the Leveson Inquiry, press freedom in the UK has been threatened by a more underhand assault from allegedly liberal political and cultural elites – backed, to their shame, by the Labour Party leadership and the Corbynite left.

Few in UK public life will openly admit that they detest press freedom these days. Instead they pursue their crusade to tame the troublemaking press behind ethical-looking banners. Hence Lord Justice Leveson’s inquiry, ostensibly into phone hacking at the News of the World, became a showtrial of the entire ‘culture, practices and ethics’ of the tabloid press.

Similarly, today’s attempts further to hobble UK press freedom might claim to be pursuing such innocent-sounding goals as data protection or defending privacy. But the underlying message is always the same: that the press in Britain, in print and online, is somehow ‘too free’ to reveal truths that some want kept secret.

The RSF’s annual report notes some of the dangerous UK trends of the past year. There is the continuing struggle over the dreaded Section 40 of the Crime and Courts Act 2013, which would make publishers who are sued liable to pay the punitive court costs of both sides, even if they won the case. Theresa May’s Tory government has now said it will not enforce Section 40. Yet it remains on the statute book, with members of the House of Lords and Labour MPs chomping at the bit to see it imposed.

Meanwhile, the House of Lords passed amendments to the Data Protection Bill that would reduce the protection for journalists even if their stories are in the public interest. Of course, investigative journalism is impossible without trying to access hidden data. Which is why the Lords are keen on measures to keep the scandalous secrets of their unelected, unaccountable house hidden beneath their ermine robes.

The threats of Section 40 and the data-protection amendments are intended to force the press to sign up to the official state regulator, Impress, set up after Leveson by royal charter in a late-night deal between the leaders of Britain’s political parties and the celebrity-led press-hating Hacked Off lobby.

This is the first system of state-backed press regulation in Britain since Crown licensing of the printed word ended in 1695. Since national newspaper publishers understandably refused to submit to being policed by Impress, they have been threatened with parliamentary blackmail and coercion. It is a sad sign of the times that opposing state-backed regulation by royal command remains a priority in the 21st century.

Reporters Without Borders list other dangerous developments in the UK over the past year, from the Law Commission proposal to replace the Official Secrets Act with an ‘Espionage Act’ that could have seen journalists using leaked information jailed for up to 14 years as ‘spies’, to offshore law firm Appleby suing the BBC and the Guardian over their reports of the Paradise Papers – ‘the only two media outlets out of 96 in 67 countries that analysed the Paradise Papers to be taken to court’.

All in all, it might seem a wonder that the UK remains as high as 40th in the press-freedom index. The other wonder is that the liberal elite’s insidious assault on press freedom has been fulsomely supported by Labour and the left.

Freedom of the press has for centuries been a cause of radicals and the left, as the lifeblood of democracy. Yet the British left long since abandoned any notion of liberty in favour of greater state control. Labour figures such as deputy leader Tom Watson and (anti-)Brexit spokesman Keir Starmer could rival the most reactionary lords in their disdain for press freedom.

Outside parliament, meanwhile, the Corbynite left has adopted the role of stage army for the elites’ press-taming campaign. ‘There must be a reckoning between the people and the media’, one pro-Corbyn columnist ranted recently: ‘We are being let down and lied to by a press that serves elite interests….We’ve got to do something about it.’ Thus is an elite plot to curb the popular press perversely recast as a people’s crusade.

The radical British heroes who fought for press freedom down the centuries, from the Levellers through John Wilkes to Thomas Paine and the Chartists, might have something to say about that. People like them went to jail and even the gallows in the fight to free the press from state interference. Their ambitions were slightly higher than making Britain the 40th freest nation on Earth.

It might not be quite so bad to be ranked mid-table in a world where real press freedom was the norm. But the truth is that nowhere in the world is the press ‘too free’. And in Britain, in 2018, it is nowhere near free enough.


Who Controls Your Kids' Lives?

Ben Shapiro
Former Republican Sen. Phil Gramm of Texas was fond of telling a story about his time stumping for educational change. “My educational policies are based on the fact that I care more about my children than you do,” Gramm once said to a woman. “No, you don’t,” she replied. “OK,” said Gramm. “What are their names?”

Gramm’s fundamental premise is inalterably correct: Parents care more about their children than do the members of the bureaucracy. But parents are being gradually curbed in their authority by precisely those bureaucrats across the West.

On Tuesday, a British court condemned a not-yet-two-year-old child to die. Now, make no mistake: The child, Alfie Evans, is expected to die in the near future anyway; he suffers from an undiagnosed brain condition that has robbed him of much of his function. But his parents simply wanted to be able to transfer him from a British hospital to an Italian hospital to seek experimental care.

And the British court system refused.

Citing the expertise of Evans’ doctors, the courts declared that Evans’ best interests are not served by his parents’ attempts to save his life. Instead, the little boy would be deprived of life support, left to die without oxygen or water. The ruling, the judge said, “represents the final chapter in the life of this extraordinary little boy.” But that chapter was written by the British bureaucracy, not by his parents — the ones who will have to engrave his epitaph and visit his grave.

This appalling result isn’t the first of its kind; just last year, a little boy named Charlie Gard was taken off life support thanks to the British court system, which prevented his parents from sending him to the United States for further treatment. Again, the courts made the argument that the best interest of the child lay in his death.

All of this is the final result of a system of thought that places parental control of children below the expertise of bureaucrats on the scale of priorities. It’s one thing for the government to step in when parents are preventing children from receiving life-saving care. It’s another when the government steps in to prevent parents from pursuing potentially life-saving care. And yet that’s just what has happened repeatedly in the United Kingdom.

Why? Why would British society place parents’ wishes below the wishes of the state? Because a bureaucratic society of experts generally sees parents as an obstacle to proper development. Parents, in this view, treat their children as chattel to be owned and trained — but the state can treat children with the dignity they are due. This means placing parental wishes to the side in every case in which those wishes come into conflict with the priorities of the state.

The bureaucrats of Britain don’t merely usurp parental rights in the realm of life and death; they do so in the realm of upbringing as well. They have threatened religious Jewish schools for failing to inculcate children with LGBT propaganda; meanwhile, they have ignored the targeting of young women in Rotherham, Rochdale, Oxford and Newcastle because the perpetrators are disproportionately Muslim.

All of this is untenable, both morally and practically. Parents will not continue to give the power to control their children away to bureaucrats who do not know their children’s names.



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.  Email me (John Ray) here


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