Monday, July 10, 2006

Bias! Bigotry! Racism! Color Prejudice!

It seems that "black is beautiful" is no longer politically correct -- if ever it really was. Click this link and you will be taken to the subscription page of an African news service. And you will find there a big picture of an attractive young woman -- the usual sort of thing used to make some product look attractive. And, of course, as one would expect in the circumstances, the young woman is of African descent.

But there's a lot of cream in the coffee. The woman has NO identifiably African features at all. I at first took her for an Italian, she is so light-skinned and European in features. So if even the managers of a black site think that black is not beautiful, may anybody else say likewise? I guess not.

Feminists win, minority loses

Amusing when correctnesses collide

A television commercial using the haka to advertise a new Fiat car has gone to air in Italy, despite New Zealand diplomats telling its producers it is culturally insensitive to Maori people. The ad - created by the Turin office of international advertising agency Leo Burnett - features black-clad women performing Ka Mate, the haka made world-famous by the All Blacks. It is meant to be performed by men.

The women are filmed in a city street beside a black model Fiat Idea, mimicking Ka Mate's words and actions. A crowd noise is played in the background - replicating the atmosphere of a New Zealand Rugby Test. As one of the women drives off in the car, the ad ends with a boy sitting in the back poking out his tongue.

Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade spokesman Brad Tattersfield said diplomats had asked the advertising company to use a Maori group instead or a haka composed for women. "However, the advertising company indicated they were proceeding despite this advice," he said.


The Freedom to Ridicule Religion -- and Deny the Holocaust

By Peter Singer

Freedom of speech is important, and it must include the freedom to say what everyone else believes to be false, and even what many people take to be offensive. Religion remains a major obstacle to basic reforms that reduce unnecessary suffering. Think of issues like contraception, abortion, the status of women in society, the use of embryos for medical research, physician-assisted suicide, attitudes towards homosexuality, and the treatment of animals. In each case, somewhere in the world, religious beliefs have been a barrier to changes that would make the world more sustainable, freer, and more humane.

So, we must preserve our freedom to deny the existence of God and to criticize the teachings of Jesus, Moses, Muhammad, and Buddha, as reported in texts that billions of people regard as sacred. Since it is sometimes necessary to use a little humor to prick the membrane of sanctimonious piety that frequently surrounds religious teachings, freedom of expression must include the freedom to ridicule as well.

Yet, the outcome of the publication of the Danish cartoons ridiculing Muhammad was a tragedy. More than a hundred people died in Syria, Lebanon, Afghanistan, Libya, Nigeria, and other Islamic countries during the ensuing protests and riots. In hindsight, it would have been wiser not to publish the cartoons. The benefits were not worth the costs. But that judgment is, as I say, made with the benefit of hindsight, and it is not intended as a criticism of the actual decisions taken by the editors who published them and could not reasonably be expected to foresee the consequences.

To restrict freedom of expression because we fear such consequences would not be the right response. It would only provide an incentive for those who do not want to see their views criticized to engage in violent protests in future. Instead, we should forcefully defend the right of newspaper editors to publish such cartoons, if they choose to do so, and hope that respect for freedom of expression will eventually spread to countries where it does not yet exist.

Unfortunately, even while the protests about the cartoons were still underway, a new problem about convincing Muslims of the genuineness of our respect for freedom of expression has arisen because of Austria's conviction and imprisonment of David Irving for denying the existence of the Holocaust. We cannot consistently hold that it should be a criminal offense to deny the existence of the Holocaust and that cartoonists have a right to mock religious figures. David Irving should be freed.

Before you accuse me of failing to understand the sensitivities of victims of the Holocaust or the nature of Austrian anti-Semitism, I should tell you that I am the son of Austrian Jews. My parents escaped Austria in time, but my grandparents did not. All four of my grandparents were deported to ghettos in Poland and Czechoslovakia. Two of them were sent to Lodz, in Poland, and then probably murdered with carbon monoxide at the extermination camp at Chelmno. Another one fell ill and died in the overcrowded and underfed ghetto at Theresienstadt. My maternal grandmother was the only survivor.

So, I have no sympathy for David Irving's absurd denial of the Holocaust-which, in his trial, he said was a mistake. I support efforts to prevent any return to Nazism in Austria or anywhere else. But how is the cause of truth served by prohibiting Holocaust denial? If there are still people crazy enough to deny that the Holocaust occurred, will they be persuaded by imprisoning some who express that view? On the contrary, they will be more likely to think that views people are being imprisoned for expressing cannot be refuted by evidence and argument alone.

In the aftermath of World War II, when the Austrian republic was struggling to establish itself as a democracy, it was reasonable, as a temporary emergency measure, for Austrian democrats to suppress Nazi ideas and propaganda. But that danger is long past. Austria is a democracy and a member of the European Union. Despite the occasional resurgence of anti-immigrant and even racist views-an occurrence that is, lamentably, not limited to former Nazi nations-there is no longer a serious threat of any return to Nazism in Austria. Austria should repeal its law against Holocaust denial. Other European nations with similar laws-for example, Germany, France, Italy, and Poland-should do the same, while maintaining or strengthening their efforts to inform their citizens about the reality of the Holocaust and why the racist ideology that led to it should be rejected.

Laws against incitement to racial, religious, or ethnic hatred, in circumstances where that incitement is intended to, or can reasonably be foreseen to, lead to violence or other criminal acts, are different, and are compatible with the freedom to express any views at all. In the current climate in Western nations, the suspicion of a particular hostility towards Islam, rather than other religions, is well justified. Only when David Irving has been freed will it be possible for Europeans to turn to the Islamic protesters and say: "We apply the principle of freedom of expression evenhandedly, whether it offends Muslims, Christians, Jews, or anyone else."



Encouraging crime by discouraging real policing are priorities in Labour-run Britain

When John Fox saw a long, dark object hurtling towards his windscreen, he took immediate evasive action, closing his eyes, ducking below the steering wheel and swerving his car fiercely to the right to avoid being struck. What the missile was, he had no idea, but he knew it had been flung by one of a group of three hooded youths he had spotted lurking on the pavement as he drove sedately past. What he did know was that, as a senior policeman, even an off-duty one, he was determined to take a stand against such yobbish behaviour. "I thought it was a bottle and was going to shatter the windscreen," he said.

"It hit the car and made a loud bang." When I regained control of the car, I was shaken but not angry. And I resolved to go back and give the youths a sound telling-off and point out how dangerous they had been." I reversed back, got out of the car and one of the youths came towards me with flailing arms and swearing. At first I thought all three were boys. But I grabbed the hooded top and then saw it was a girl. I just said, 'You stupid, stupid little girl. Do you realise how dangerous that was?' Then I climbed back into my car and drove home." John's drive through the quiet Southampton suburb of Woolston at 9.30 that night in May last year had otherwise been unexceptional.

But his decision to remonstrate with the teenagers - two girls, aged 14 and 15, and one boy - on an evening when he was off duty led to two charges of assault, months of torment and humiliation and drove him to abandon his police career.

John had risen to the rank of Detective Superintendent who headed a specialist investigations unit of 150 officers for Hampshire Police, with a remit that included child abuse. In his impeccable 30-year career, he built up a respected expertise in child protection that earned him a seat on the inquiry that investigated the murder of eight-year-old Victoria Climbie at the hands of her abusive carers and he had been a member of various Home Office committees. But the girls he challenged that night claimed he had throttled them - and even though their complaint was last week revealed in court as a pack of lies, it led to Hampshire police losing a dedicated and hardworking officer.

Magistrates at Chichester took only 25 minutes to decide he was not guilty of assault. They found "glaring inconsistencies" in the girls' reports and ruled that because of the teenagers' history of disruptive and aggressive behaviour, and contradictions in their stories, they were "not credible witnesses". But the fact that such a flawed case was brought highlights growing concerns among police officers that the Crown Prosecution Service wants all allegations against police officers, no matter how flimsy, settled by a court.

John was told that a letter from the Sussex CPS, which brought the prosecution, to Hampshire police suggested the complaint should go to court because he held a senior position of responsibility. But Sarah Jane Gallagher, chief crown prosecutor for Sussex, has denied this motive, saying: "I absolutely refute any suggestion that we carried out this prosecution because Mr Fox was a senior police officer." Nevertheless, the law has made it easier than ever to complain about the police.

No longer must a complaint be filed to a police station by the person involved. Instead any family member, or witness, can table a complaint via a solicitor or other services, such as Citizens Advice Bureaux. It was the mothers of the girls involved in the incident with John Fox who complained to Hampshire Police. Why the girls, who cannot be named for legal reasons, ever told their parents remains unknown, though John believes they were frightened he would report their actions -especially as his car suffered a puncture during the incident.....

Stephen Price, chairman of the Hampshire Police Federation, said: "You can't fault the idea of having an investigation when there is a complaint about a police officer. But there is a feeling that the CPS wants to have the facts put before a court when a complaint involves a police officer as opposed to an ordinary member of the public. "The effect on everyday policing can be that where officers would once have been robust they may be more tentative and even end up being assaulted or injured themselves because they fear more vigorous action would prompt a complaint."

One of John Fox's former colleagues, who did not want to be named, said: "John was trying to stop anti-social behaviour on the streets, which is the scourge of modern society. What sort of message does this give to the public and more importantly, off-duty police officers who want to try to protect the public?" Another added: "John's fantastic career has been ruined by this crazy decision."

In court, the girls and the prosecution lawyer told a very different story from what really happened. One of the girls said John had throttled her and claimed she could not breathe for about 30 seconds. Their lawyer said they had thrown "a twig" into the road - when, in fact, it was a hefty stick. "The girls stuck rigidly to their stories," John said. "But then they contradicted themselves. Their testimonies did not match, and under cross-examination they were forced to admit their previous evidence that they had never been in trouble at school was untrue."

After two days John was cleared, with the chairman of the bench Dennis Leonard saying: "We find the evidence of the teenage prosecution witnesses to be contradictory and not credible. And there are glaring inconsistencies in their accounts." But despite being cleared, the court case destroyed John's life. He said: "The past 14 months have been the worst of my life. I stayed awake mulling over events, losing sleep. I kept thinking that if I'd been driving past five minutes earlier or five minutes later, it would never have happened. "I tried to stay positive. I didn't just sit there with my head in my hands. When I learned they were prosecuting I went to America and lectured for a couple of months on child protection. I wrote a chapter for a book on infant death investigations that is coming out next year. "But throughout everything, this was like a cloud hanging over me....

"And while everyone knows my name and the charges made against me, these girls remain cloaked in anonymity." John has now made a formal complaint to the Director of Public Prosecutions about Sussex CPS's decision to go to court. He said: "I have no problem with the CPS and have worked well with them in the past. And police officers should not be immune from prosecution. But neither should the Crown Prosecution Service be above any examination of their decisions....

"I used to feel proud and confident doing my job, and you see police in New York feeling like that today. But in Britain there is an atmosphere of fear now among the police, as if they don't feel they are being supported within the system. I haven't lost my faith in the British justice system - it came good in the end. But it has destroyed my faith in the CPS."

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