Quotulatiousness

January 14, 2018

QotD: The Cultural Revolution of 1966

Filed under: China, Politics, Quotations — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

The Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution was proclaimed by Chairman Mao Tse-tung (as he was then spelt) on the 16th of May, 1966. […] It continued ten years, until its author’s death. It was one of the greatest continuing massacres of history — a work of incredible destruction through which most of the surviving cultural monuments from China’s civilized past were also wiped out. The Chinese Communist Party, which still rules this immense nation or empire, no longer wishes to talk about it. The anniversary has been suppressed, and even in Hong Kong, where media retain some fraction of the freedom they enjoyed under British colonial rule, Internet links to the anniversary have been frozen.

Led by young, psychopathic Red Guards, it was an unrestrained obliteration of what Mao called “The Four Olds” — old habits, old customs, old ideas, old culture. His satanic dream was of a “perpetual revolution.” His principles were ultimately those of the French Revolution — “improved” by the models of Leninism and Stalinism, the Hsin-hai Revolution of 1911 (in which the Chinese emperor was deposed), and the imagination of a petty bourgeois from a rural backwater in the province of Hunan (Mao himself). At this day, nothing like an adequate historical accounting can yet be attempted of the Cultural Revolution; nor of Mao’s previous iconoclastic essays; nor of the ways in which subsequent economic accomplishments have depended on them. Crucial sources for such a history remain under the control of the Politburo; and travel within their empire is still regulated by their “guides.”

The personality cult Mao launched, for the worship of himself as living god, exceeded that of Hitler or of Stalin. (At one point nothing was allowed in print that was not either by or about him.) I note that his image yet adorns Chinese banknotes.

[…] I had skirted China by then in my own travels, and read other newsy-historical works, and chatted with more than one acknowledged “China expert” in my quasi-vocation as a hack journalist; and thereby been fed almost entirely with lies. I knew that Maoism was evil, but could not begin to compass how radically evil. A growing appreciation of the grandeur of the ancient Chinese civilization accentuated this. For what was destroyed, in addition to the bodies corresponding to tens of millions of human souls, was of tremendous value, not only to China but to the legacy of the planet.

To my mind looking back, the Cultural Revolution may be the most sustained and thorough exercise in the cause of “progress” that men have yet performed.

David Warren, “Creative Destruction”, Essays in Idleness, 2016-05-16.

December 28, 2017

QotD: The 1960s cultural revolution

Filed under: Books, Liberty, Media, Quotations, USA — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

The entire political and cultural trajectory of the decades following World War II in the U.S. was a movement away from the repressions of the Cold War standoff with the Soviet Union, when the House Un-American Activities Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives searched for signs of Communist subversion in every area of American life. A conspicuous target was the Hollywood film industry, where many liberals had indeed been drawn to the Communist Party in the 1930s, before the atrocities of the Stalinist regime were known. To fend off further federal investigation, the major studios blacklisted many actors, screenwriters, and directors, some of whom, like a favorite director of mine, Joseph Losey, fled the country to find work in Europe. Pete Seeger, the leader of the politicized folk music movement whose roots were in the social activism of Appalachian coal-miners in the 1930s, was banned from performing on network TV in the U.S. in the 1950s and ‘60s.

There were sporadic landmark victories for free speech in the literary realm. In 1957, local police raided the City Lights Bookshop in San Francisco and arrested the manager and owner, Beat poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti, for selling an obscene book, Allen Ginsberg’s epic protest poem, Howl. After a long, highly publicized trial, Howl was declared not obscene, and the charges were dropped. The Grove Press publishing house, owned by Barney Rosset, played a heroic role in the battle against censorship in the U.S. In 1953, Grove Press began publishing affordable, accessible paperbacks of the voluminous banned works of the Marquis de Sade, a major thinker about sex and society at the close of the Enlightenment. In 1959, the Grove Press edition of D.H. Lawrence’s 1928 novel, Lady Chatterly’s Lover, then banned in the U.S., was confiscated as obscene by the U.S. Postal Service. Rosset sued and won the case on federal appeal. In 1961, the publication by Grove Press of another banned book, Henry Miller’s 1934 novel, Tropic of Cancer, led to 60 obscenity trials in the U.S. until in 1964 it was declared not obscene and its publication permitted.

One of the supreme symbols of newly militant free speech was Lenny Bruce, who with Mort Sahl transformed stand-up comedy from its innocuous vaudevillian roots into a medium of biting social and political commentary. Bruce’s flaunting of profanity and scatology in his improvisational onstage act led to his arrest for obscenity in San Francisco in 1961, in Chicago in 1962, and in New York in 1964, where he and Howard Solomon, owner of the Café Au Go Go in Greenwich Village, were found guilty of obscenity and sentenced to jail. Two years later, while his conviction was still under appeal, Bruce died of a drug overdose at age 40.

This steady liberalizing trend was given huge impetus by the sexual revolution, which was launched in 1959 by the marketing of the first birth control pill. In Hollywood, the puritanical studio production code, which had been adopted in the early 1930s under pressure from conservative groups like the Legion of Decency and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, was gradually breaking down and was finally abandoned by the late 1960s. The new standard of sexual expression was defined by European art films, with their sophisticated scripts and frank nudity. Pop music pushed against community norms: in 1956, Elvis Presley’s hip-swiveling gyrations were cut off by the TV camera as too sexual for the Ed Sullivan Show, which was then a national institution. As late as 1967, the Ed Sullivan Show was trying to censor the song lyrics of major bands like the Doors and the Rolling Stones, who were imitating the sexual explicitness of rural and urban African-American blues. (The Stones capitulated to Sullivan, but the Doors fought back — and were never invited on his show again.) Middle-class college students in the 1960s, including women, began freely using four-letter words that had rarely been heard in polite company, except briefly during the flapper fad of the 1920s. In the early 1970s, women for the first time boldly entered theaters showing pornography and helped make huge hits out of X-rated films like Deep Throat, Behind the Green Door, and The Devil in Miss Jones.

In short, free speech and free expression, no matter how offensive or shocking, were at the heart of the 1960s cultural revolution. Free speech was a primary weapon of the Left against the moralism and conformism of the Right.

Camille Paglia, “The Modern Campus Has Declared War on Free Speech”, Heat Street, 2016-05-09.

December 14, 2017

Cognitive dissonance in action – Net Neutrality partisans want TRUMP to control the internet

Filed under: Government, Politics, Technology, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

Jon Gabriel on the weird position Net Neutrality fans find themselves in … demanding that Il Donalduce himself, the most hated politician in Liberal America since Richard Nixon be the one to dictate how the internet is run:

If President Trump is some kind of digital facist, he sure has a funny way of going about it.

His FCC chairman is trying to remove government from the Internet, returning it to those dark, authoritarian days of 30 months ago — you know, when pretty much every website, app and online service we use was created.

Bizarrely, these net neutrality alarmists are demanding that Trump maintain control of the Internet, planting his administration firmly between citizens and whatever content they want to view or create.

Even if Democrats were running the show in Washington, how could federal meddling improve the Internet? Do they want the Web run by the bureaucrats who spent $2 billion to build a health care website that didn’t work? Do they want our privacy assured by those behind the National Security Agency?

Nevertheless, progressives insist that Trump regulate the Internet in the name of free speech. Perhaps he can do this between his tweets bashing the press.

[…]

If the FCC approves this new proposal, the worst of federal meddling online will be retired. Instead, the commission will simply require Internet service providers to be transparent about their service offerings. That way, tech innovators will have the information they need and consumers will know which plan works best for them.

In other words, Web users and creators will be back in control of the Internet instead of lawyers and bureaucrats. Just as they were for all but the past couple of years.

To ensure transparency, Pai made all his proposals public before the FCC vote Thursday. A big departure from the Obama administration’s methods, which kept its net neutrality rules secret until after they were approved.

Before the FCC’s heavy-handed intervention, we saw the creation of Amazon, Google and Twitter. If Washington removes these unnecessary regulations as expected, we’ll see the Internet continue to blossom.

And my daughters will get to watch their favorite YouTube celebrities complain about net neutrality for years to come.

December 1, 2017

Censorship on the web

Filed under: Business, Liberty, Technology, USA — Tags: , , , , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

At City Journal, Aaron Renn explains why some of the concerns about censorship on the Internet are not so much wrong as misdirected:

The basic idea of net neutrality makes sense. When I get a phone, the phone company can’t decide whom I can call, or how good the call quality should be depending on who is on the other end of the line. Similarly, when I pay for my cable modem, I should be able to use the bandwidth I paid for to surf any website, not get a better or worse connection depending on whether my cable company cut some side deal to make Netflix perform better than Hulu.

The problem for net neutrality advocates is that the ISPs aren’t actually doing any of this; they really are providing an open Internet, as promised. The same is not true of the companies pushing net neutrality, however. As Pai suggests, the real threat to an open Internet doesn’t come from your cable company but from Google/YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, and others. All these firms have aggressively censored.

For example, Google recently kicked would-be Twitter competitor Gab out of its app store, not for anything Gab did but for what it refused to do — censor content. Twitter is famous for censoring, as Pai observes. “I love Twitter, and I use it all the time,” he said. “But let’s not kid ourselves; when it comes to an open Internet, Twitter is part of the problem. The company has a viewpoint and uses that viewpoint to discriminate.” (Twitter’s censors have not gotten around to removing the abuse, some of it racist, being hurled at Pai, including messages like “Die faggot die” and “Hey go fuck yourself you Taliban-looking fuck.”)

Google’s YouTube unit also censors, setting the channel for Prager University to restricted mode, which limits access; Prager U. is suing Google and YouTube. YouTube has also “demonetized” videos from independent content creators, making these videos ineligible for advertising, their main source of revenue. Much of the complaining about censorship has come from political conservatives, but they’re not the only victims. The problem is broad-based.

Yet sometimes Silicon Valley giants have adopted a see-no-evil approach to certain kinds of content. Facebook, for instance, has banned legitimate content but failed to stop Russian bots from going wild during last year’s presidential election, planting voluminous fake news stories. Advertisers recently started fleeing YouTube when reports surfaced that large numbers of child-exploitation videos were showing up on supposedly kid-friendly channels. One account, ToyFreaks, had 8 million subscribers — making it the 68th most-viewed YouTube channel — before the company shut it down. It’s not credible that YouTube didn’t know what was happening on a channel with millions of viewers. Other channels and videos featured content from pedophiles. More problems turned up within the last week. A search for “How do I …” on YouTube returned numerous auto-complete suggestions involving sex with children. Others have found a whole genre of “guess her age” videos, with preview images, printed in giant fonts, saying things like, “She’s only 9!” The videos may or may not have involved minors — I didn’t watch them—but at minimum, they trade on pedophilic language to generate views.

November 22, 2017

A damned odd canary in this particular coal mine

Filed under: Government, Media, Technology, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

Megan McArdle on the imminent demise of the FCC’s “Net Neutrality”:

The internet will be filled today with denunciations of this move, threats of a dark future in which our access to content will be controlled by a few powerful companies. And sure, that may happen. But in fact, it may already have happened, led not by ISPs, but by the very companies that were fighting so hard for net neutrality.

Consider what happened to the Daily Stormer, the neo-Nazi publication, after Charlottesville. One by one, hosting companies refused to permit its content on their servers. The group was forced to effectively flee the country, and then other countries, too, shut it down.

Now of course, these are not nice people. Their website espoused vile hate. But the fact remains that what they were publishing was not illegal, merely immoral, and their immoral speech was effectively shut down by a small number of private companies who decided to exercise their considerable control over what we’re allowed to read. And what is to stop them from expanding this decision to other categories, forcing the rest of us to conform to Silicon Valley’s idea of what it is moral and right for us to see?

Fifteen years ago, when I started blogging, it was common to hear that “the internet interprets censorship as damage and routes around it.” You don’t hear that so often anymore, because it’s not true. China has proven very effective at censoring the internet, and as market power has consolidated in the tech industry, so have private firms.

Meanwhile, our experience of the internet is increasingly controlled by a handful of firms, most especially Google and Facebook. The argument for regulating these companies as public utilities is arguably at least as strong as the argument for thus regulating ISPs, and very possibly much stronger; while cable monopolies may have local dominance, none of them has the ability that Google and Facebook have to unilaterally shape what Americans see, hear, and read.

In other words, we already live in the walled garden that activists worry about, and the walls are getting higher every day. Is this a problem? I think it is. But that doesn’t mean that the internet would get better if Google and Facebook and Apple and Amazon were required to make every decision with a regulator hanging over their shoulder to decide whether it was sufficiently “neutral.”

October 2, 2017

John Cleese: Political Correctness and Islam

Democracy In Name Only
Published on 11 Jan 2017

John Cleese speaks frankly about political correctness, the right to offend and Islam.

September 18, 2017

Identity politics

Filed under: Media, Politics — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Brendan O’Neill posted this to Facebook a few days back (but it only showed up on my timeline now):

Here’s the danger in identity politics. The more we mix up the personal and the political, the more we define ourselves and our entire worldview according to what colour or sex or sexuality we are, the more we will experience every criticism of our beliefs as an attack on our very being, our personhood, our right to exist. If your politics are indistinguishable from your self — your biological, racial, sexual self — then every challenge to your politics will naturally look like an assault on your self, on you as an individual. This is why identitarians describe even measured debate about their political beliefs as “erasure” or even “violence”: because having made politics all about them and their mental wellbeing, they naturally see political disagreement as an assault on them and their mental wellbeing. Identity politics directly breeds thin-skinnedness and intolerance. And in green-lighting such fragile narcissism, it green-lights violence too. After all, if political disagreement really does threaten your very existence, if critical speech really is violence, how should you deal with it? By censoring it, or even crushing it, by any means necessary, to protect your precious self.

September 12, 2017

Google doesn’t mind flexing its muscles now and again

Filed under: Business, Liberty, Politics — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Yet another instance of Google proving that someone erased the word “Don’t” from their company motto*:

Dear Editors,

You might be interested to learn, that your websites have been almost blacklisted by Google. “Almost blacklisted” means that Google search artificially downranks results from your websites to such extent that you lose 55% – 75% of possible visitors traffic from Google. This sitution [sic] is probably aggravated by secondary effects, because many users and webmasters see Google ranking as a signal of trust.

This result is reported in my paper published in WUWT. The findings are consistent with multiple prior results, showing Google left/liberal bias, and pro-Hillary skew of Google search in the elections.

I write to all of them to give you opportunity to discuss this matter among yourselves. Even if Google owes nothing to your publications, it certainly owes good faith to the users of its search.

* For all I know, Google’s original motto may already have gone down the memory hole: “Don’t be evil“.

September 8, 2017

Google’s unbridled market power and ability to quash critics and competitors

Filed under: Business, Technology — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

In Wired, Rowland Manthorpe reports on another case of Google roughing up someone for being critical of their current “be evil” business philosophy:

The latest allegation against Google? Jon von Tetzchner, creator of the web browser Opera, says the search giant deliberately undermined his new browser, Vivaldi.

In a blogpost titled, “My friends at Google: it is time to return to not being evil,” von Tetzchner accuses the US firm of blocking Vivaldi’s access to Google AdWords, the advertisements that run alongside search results, without warning or proper explanation.

According to Von Tetzchner, the problem started in late May. Speaking at the Oslo Freedom Forum, the Icelandic programmer criticised big tech companies’ attitude toward personal data, calling for a ban on location tracking on Facebook and Google. Two days later, he suddenly found Vivaldi’s Google AdWords campaigns had been suspended. “Was this just a coincidence?” he writes. “Or was it deliberate, a way of sending us a message?” He concludes: “Timing spoke volumes.”

Von Tetzchner got in touch with Google to try and resolve the issue. The result? What he calls “a clarification masqueraded in the form of vague terms and conditions.” The particular issue was the end-user license agreement (EULA), the legal contract between a software manufacturer and a user. Google wanted Vivaldi to add one to its website. So it did. But Google had further complaints.

According to emails shown to WIRED, Google wanted Vivaldi to add an EULA “within the frame of every download button”. The addition was small – a link below the button directing people to “terms” – but on the web, where every pixel matters, this was a potential competitive disadvantage. Most gallingly, Chrome, Google’s own web browser, didn’t display a EULA on its landing pages. Google also asked Vivaldi to add detailed information to help people uninstall it, with another link, also under the button.

The links Vivaldi says it was forced to add to comply with Google’s demands (image via Wired)

September 2, 2017

“Nice little business you’ve got here, Mr. Forbes. It’d be a shame if something happened to its Google search results…”

Filed under: Business, Liberty, Technology — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

At Gizmodo, Kashmir Hill recounts the tale of what happens when Google decides to suppress media coverage it doesn’t like:

Six years ago, I was pressured to unpublish a critical piece about Google’s monopolistic practices after the company got upset about it. In my case, the post stayed unpublished.

I was working for Forbes at the time, and was new to my job. In addition to writing and reporting, I helped run social media there, so I got pulled into a meeting with Google salespeople about Google’s then-new social network, Plus.

The Google salespeople were encouraging Forbes to add Plus’s “+1″ social buttons to articles on the site, alongside the Facebook Like button and the Reddit share button. They said it was important to do because the Plus recommendations would be a factor in search results — a crucial source of traffic to publishers.

This sounded like a news story to me. Google’s dominance in search and news give it tremendous power over publishers. By tying search results to the use of Plus, Google was using that muscle to force people to promote its social network.

I asked the Google people if I understood correctly: If a publisher didn’t put a +1 button on the page, its search results would suffer? The answer was yes.

After the meeting, I approached Google’s public relations team as a reporter, told them I’d been in the meeting, and asked if I understood correctly. The press office confirmed it, though they preferred to say the Plus button “influences the ranking.” They didn’t deny what their sales people told me: If you don’t feature the +1 button, your stories will be harder to find with Google.

With that, I published a story headlined, “Stick Google Plus Buttons On Your Pages, Or Your Search Traffic Suffers,” that included bits of conversation from the meeting.

    The Google guys explained how the new recommendation system will be a factor in search. “Universally, or just among Google Plus friends?” I asked. ‘Universal’ was the answer. “So if Forbes doesn’t put +1 buttons on its pages, it will suffer in search rankings?” I asked. Google guy says he wouldn’t phrase it that way, but basically yes.

(An internet marketing group scraped the story after it was published and a version can still be found here.)

This article reminded me that I was still showing a “Google+” share button on my postings … it’s still available for all three of you that still use that service, but it’s now in the “More” group instead.

August 31, 2017

Words and Numbers: Do Americans still have freedom of speech?

Filed under: Economics, Politics, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

Apparently, James and Antony have given up the YouTube version of Words and Numbers and reverted to an audio-only version (at least I can still embed the player version):

These days, everybody is nervous about what you can say in public without getting slammed by retribution. But is that a free-speech problem, or does it only become one when the police start showing up? Do we live in a truly tolerant society if voicing an opinion, even if it doesn’t land you in jail, ends up ending your career? Antony and James explore these intricate issues.

August 24, 2017

Andrew Scheer’s latest missed opportunity to defend freedom of speech

Filed under: Cancon, Liberty — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

Chris Selley is disappointed in federal Conservative leader Andrew Scheer’s dropping the ball on defending the right to free speech in Canada:

Last week, headlines proclaimed that the University of Toronto had “barred” from campus a right-wing “group” calling itself the Canadian Nationalist Party, which was planning to hold a rally there despite objections from activists. Asked if this violated the hypothetical Conservative policy, Team Scheer said no. “I respect the right for universities to determine which outside groups they give a platform to,” he told the National Post.

Quite right. In fact, according to U of T, the “party” — which may or may not be one fellow with a website — hadn’t even contacted the university about it. If some random Facebook user announces “Rager at Selley’s Saturday Night,” I have no obligation to stock the bar.

But in the aftermath of the violence in Charlottesville, a Scheer spokesperson went further. Scheer would work with universities “to prevent loopholes for events that risk violating Canadian law,” CBC reported. “(Scheer) is committed to working with the universities to ensure that any policy he brings forward does not become a platform for hate speech,” said the spokesperson.

Sorry, no. That’s hopeless. Any event can be “a platform for hate speech,” if an organizer or attendee decides to make it one. The key, within reason, is that they be given the chance. Team Scheer is all but explicitly endorsing prior restraint: Person X or Group Y might be too dangerous, too likely to utter “hate speech,” for a university to vouchsafe.

As soon as you endorse that idea over a universal defence of free speech up to some reasonable definable threshold — the Criminal Code, say — you’re emboldening precisely the censors Scheer claims to want to take on. Are BDS and Israeli Apartheid Week prima facie hate speech? Is the idea of a superior white race or male gender prima facie hate speech? People disagree; universities are supposed to be free venues for those disagreements.

Meanwhile, Scheer seems to have missed an opportunity to weigh in on a whopper of a free speech dereliction at Ryerson University last week. Citing an inability “to provide the necessary level of public safety for the event to go forward, particularly given the recent events in Charlottesville,” the Toronto university cancelled a discussion concerning … er … “The Stifling of Free Speech on University Campuses.” Activists had vowed to shut down the event; they managed it without even having to close their laptops. Ryerson hasn’t formally been a university for long. A politician who (for better or worse) thinks campus free speech is his business might reasonably propose it shouldn’t be going forward.

August 13, 2017

No one Everyone (now) expects the Google Inquisition

The decision by Google to fire dissident engineer James Damore over his “Google’s Ideological Echo Chamber” memo will likely have several divergent effects. One, of course, will be to encourage tech workers who may sympathize with some or all of Damore’s views to be more circumspect about expressing them (or even to be suspected of harbouring them). It will probably also encourage a more prosecutorial attitude among those most offended by Damore’s memo. We’re probably not far from the establishment of an inquisition-like body to sniff out the heretics:

What Damore’s termination tells you is that many in your field consider people with your beliefs to be unfit to work with. They hold opinions of you similar to those of former senior Google employee Yonatan Zunger, who wrote about Damore, saying:

    “Do you understand that at this point, I could not in good conscience assign anyone to work with you? I certainly couldn’t assign any women to deal with this, a good number of the people you might have to work with may simply punch you in the face, and even if there were a group of like-minded individuals I could put you with, nobody would be able to collaborate with them.” (Emphasis mine.)

If you are on the right, you probably find it hard to imagine that any reasonably person could read Damore’s memo and think that it reveals the author to be sexist, punchable, or a danger to women’s careers. It appears to you that Damore was excommunicated for questioning the progressive diversity narrative in a most respectful manner.

[…]

Many on the right fear SJWs. The website Breitbart, highly influential among conservatives and the Trump administration, interviewed an anonymous Googler who said in part:

    “Several managers have openly admitted to keeping blacklists of the employees in question, and preventing them from seeking work at other companies. There have been numerous cases in which social justice activists coordinated attempts to sabotage other employees’ performance reviews for expressing a different opinion. These have been raised to the Senior VP level, with no action taken whatsoever…There have been a number of massive witch hunts where hundreds of SJWs mobilize across the corporate intranet to punish somebody who defied the Narrative…I always fear for my job and operate with the expectation that I will be purged unless something changes…”

Many Business Insider readers won’t trust an anonymous Breitbart interview, but for what’s relevant to this article, please do trust that this Googler’s views accurately reflects how many on the right think about SJWs.

Interestingly, this is similar to how the original Inquisition came about:

The Inquisition was not born out of desire to crush diversity or oppress people; it was rather an attempt to stop unjust executions. Yes, you read that correctly. Heresy was a crime against the state. Roman law in the Code of Justinian made it a capital offense. Rulers, whose authority was believed to come from God, had no patience for heretics. Neither did common people, who saw them as dangerous outsiders who would bring down divine wrath. When someone was accused of heresy in the early Middle Ages, they were brought to the local lord for judgment, just as if they had stolen a pig or damaged shrubbery (really, it was a serious crime in England). Yet in contrast to those crimes, it was not so easy to discern whether the accused was really a heretic. For starters, one needed some basic theological training — something most medieval lords sorely lacked. The result is that uncounted thousands across Europe were executed by secular authorities without fair trials or a competent assessment of the validity of the charge.

The Catholic Church’s response to this problem was the Inquisition, first instituted by Pope Lucius III in 1184. It was born out of a need to provide fair trials for accused heretics using laws of evidence and presided over by knowledgeable judges. From the perspective of secular authorities, heretics were traitors to God and the king and therefore deserved death. From the perspective of the Church, however, heretics were lost sheep who had strayed from the flock. As shepherds, the pope and bishops had a duty to bring them back into the fold, just as the Good Shepherd had commanded them. So, while medieval secular leaders were trying to safeguard their kingdoms, the Church was trying to save souls. The Inquisition provided a means for heretics to escape death and return to the community.

As Karl Marx wrote in The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Napoleon:

Hegel remarks somewhere that all the events and personalities of great importance in world history occur, as it were, twice. He forgot to add: the first time as tragedy, the second as farce.

June 25, 2017

South Africa’s new hate speech laws may carry Apartheid-era legacies

Filed under: Africa, Law, Liberty — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

Martin van Staden reports on post-Apartheid South Africa’s drift back toward repressive rules, veiled by political correctness:

After the end of Apartheid in 1994, nobody would have guessed that South Africa would be making many of the same mistakes as the Apartheid regime only two decades later, from censoring speech to violating agricultural property rights.

In our process of transformation, we were supposed to move away from the Apartheid mentality. Instead, we have doubled down on many of the same policies: the so-called Prevention and Combating of Hate Crimes and Hate Speech Bill of 2016 is perhaps the gravest threat to freedom of expression which South Africans have ever faced; at least since the Suppression of Communism Act was repealed.

The Hate Speech Bill of 2016

The bill, which is still being debated in Parliament, provides that someone guilty of hate speech can be imprisoned for up to three years, and, if they are convicted of it again, up to 10 years. Given the serious punitive nature of this sanction, you would imagine the bill has a strict definition of “hate speech.” But you would be wrong.

Hate speech is defined as any communication which is insulting toward any person or group, and which demonstrates a clear intention to bring contempt or ridicule based on 17 protected grounds. Such grounds include race, gender, sex, belief, culture, language, gender identity, and occupation or trade. But insult is an extremely low threshold of offense, especially if it is considered with protected characteristics like belief and occupation. In other words, someone can theoretically be imprisoned for saying, “Politicians are thieving liars!”

Recently, the former leader of the opposition tweeted that “not all” of the legacies of colonialism have had detrimental results in South Africa. The ruling party subsequently called on Parliament to fast-track the Hate Speech Bill so instances like that can be dealt with. This signifies that political persecution is not off the table, and that the ruling party has shown its interest in using the proposed law against opponents.

[…]

Apartheid was fundamentally an anti-property rights system masquerading as a Western democracy fighting against Soviet communism. American economist Walter Williams wrote in 1990 that “South Africa’s history has been a centuries-long war on capitalism, private property, and individual rights.”

Duncan Reekie of the University of the Witwatersrand agreed that “Protestations from Pretoria notwithstanding, the South African regime has been one of national socialism.” Indeed, wage boards, price control boards, and spatial planning boards were commonplace in the effort to suppress black South Africans’ desire to engage in the economy on the same terms as whites.

The Suppression of Communism Act was used exclusively for political persecution by the previous regime. Anyone of significance who opposed racist policies in public could be branded as “communists” who wanted to overthrow the government. The Hate Speech Bill will have the same effect, but it will be shielded by the veneer of political correctness. With the new Bill, the government claims to give effect to a democratic mandate – a privilege the Apartheid regime did not enjoy – but the consequences will be substantially the same: a chilling effect throughout the country for anyone who dares to oppose the political class.

June 5, 2017

“Islam now enjoys the same kind of moral protection from blasphemy and ridicule that Christianity once (wrongly) enjoyed”

Filed under: Britain, Government, Media, Religion — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

Brendan O’Neill on Facebook:

One of the major problems we face is not that our society is too mean about Islam, but that it flatters Islam too much. Islam now enjoys the same kind of moral protection from blasphemy and ridicule that Christianity once (wrongly) enjoyed. All last week I received furious emails and messages in response to two articles I wrote about the Manchester attack, telling me that using the word Islamist is Islamophobic, because it demeans Islam and its adherents by suggesting they have something to do with terrorism. This is why our political leaders so rarely use the terms Islamism, radical Islam and Islamic terrorism: because they want to avoid offending Islam and also because they don’t want to stir up what they view as the public’s bovine, hateful prejudices. This censorious privilege is not extended to any other religion. We do not avoid saying “Catholic paedophiles” about the priests who molested children for fear of tarring all Catholics with the same brush. We happily say “Christian fundamentalist”about people who are Christian and fundamentalist. We use “Buddhist extremists” to describe violent Buddhist groups in Myanmar. Only Islam is ringfenced from tough discussion; only terms that at some level include the word “Islam” are tightly policed; only criticism of Islam is deemed a mental illness — Islamophobia.

This is incredibly dangerous. This censorious flattery of Islam is, in my view, a key contributor to the violence we have seen in recent years. Because when you constantly tell people that any mockery of their religion is tantamount to a crime, is vile and racist and unacceptable, you actively invite them, encourage them in fact, to become intolerant. You license their intolerance; you inflame their violent contempt for anyone who questions their dogmas; you provide a moral justification for their desire to punish those who insult their religion. From the 7/7 bombers to the Charlie Hebdo murderers to Salman Abedi in Manchester, all these terrorists — *Islamist terrorists* — expressed an extreme victim mentality and openly said they were punishing us for our disrespect of Islam, mistreatment of Muslims, ridiculing of Muhammad, etc. The Islamophobia industry and politicians who constantly say “Islam is great, leave Islam alone!” green-light this violence; they furnish it with a moral case and moral zeal.

There are no quick fixes to the terror problem, but here is a good start: oppose all censorship and all clampdowns on offence and blasphemy and so-called “Islamophobia”. Every single one of them, whether they’re legal, in the form of hate-speech laws, or informal, in the guise of self-censoring politicians being literally struck dumb on TV because they cannot muster up the word “Is…is…is…islamist”. This will at least start the process of unravelling the Islamist victimhood narrative and its bizarre, violent and officially sanctioned sensitivity to criticism. And if anyone says this is “punching down” — another intellectual weapon in the armoury of Islam-protecting censorship — tell them that it is in fact punching up: up against a political class and legal system that has foolishly and outrageously sought to police criticism of a religion. This means that the supposedly correct response to terror attacks — “don’t criticise Islam” — is absolutely the worst response. Making criticism of Islam as commonplace and acceptable as criticism of any other religion or ideology is the first step to denuding Islamist terrorism of its warped moral programme, and it will also demonstrate that our society prizes freedom of speech over everything else — including your religion, your God, your prophets, your holy book and your feelings.

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