While working-class left-wing political activism was always about fighting the powerful, treating people how you would wish to be treated and believing that we’re all basically the same, modern, non-working-class left-wing politics is about… other stuff. Class guilt, sexual kinks, personal prejudice and repressed lust for power. The trade union movement gave us brother Bill Morris and Mrs Desai; the diversity movement has given us a rainbow coalition of cranks and charlatans. Which has, in turn, has given us intersectionality.
Intersectionality may well sound like some unfortunate bowel complaint resulting in copious use of a colostomy bag, and indeed it does contain a large amount of ordure. Wikipedia defines it as ‘the study of intersections between different disenfranchised groups or groups of minorities; specifically, the study of the interactions of multiple systems of oppression or discrimination’, which seems rather mature and dignified. In reality, it seeks to make a manifesto out of the nastiest bits of Mean Girls, wherein non-white feminists especially are encouraged to bypass the obvious task of tackling the patriarchy’s power in favour of bitching about white women’s perceived privilege in terms of hair texture and body shape. Think of all those episodes of Jerry Springer where two women who look like Victoria’s Secret models — one black, one white — bitch-fight over a man who resembles a Jerusalem artichoke, sitting smugly in the middle, and you have the end result of intersectionality made all too foul flesh. It may have been intended as a way for disabled women of colour to address such allegedly white-ableist-feminist-specific issues as equal pay, but it’s ended up as a screaming, squawking, grievance-hawking shambles.
The supreme irony of intersectionality is that it both barracks ‘traditional’ feminists for ignoring the issues of differently abled and differently ethnic women while at the same time telling them they have no right to discuss them because they don’t understand them — a veritable Pushmi-Pullyu of a political movement. Entering the crazy world of intersectionality is quite like being locked in a hall of mirrors with a borderline personality disorder coach party. ‘Stop looking at me funny! Why are you ignoring me? Go away, I hate you! Come back, how dare you reject me!’ It’s politics, Jim, but certainly not as my dear old dad knew it.
February 24, 2014
September 22, 2013
July 9, 2013
Victor Davis Hanson talks about earlier experiments with tribunals:
In ancient Athens, popular courts of paid jurors helped institutionalize fairness. If a troublemaker like Socrates was thought to be a danger to the popular will, then he was put on trial for inane charges like “corrupting the youth” or “introducing new gods.”
Convicting gadflies would remind all Athenians of the dangers of questioning democratic majority sentiment. If Athenian families were angry that their sons had supposedly died unnecessarily in battle, then they might charge the generals with capital negligence — a warning to all commanders to watch their backs. As in the case of Socrates, a majority vote often led to conviction, and conviction to a death sentence, or at least ostracism or exile. The popular courts freelanced to ensure that “the people” would hold sway over the perceived powerful and elite.
For a couple of years in revolutionary France, a Tribunal Révolutionnaire tried royalists, clergy, the wealthy, and supposed counter-revolutionaries on trumped-up charges of crimes against the people. Their purpose was a more violent version of the Athenian idea that the courts should serve the public by targeting the prominent, influential, or wealthy.
We in the United States are in jeopardy of turning our own criminal-justice system into revolutionary tribunals — fanned by the popular media and public opinion and directed against so-called enemies of the people.
[. . .]
The American court system is insidiously focusing on social transformation rather than individual justice. If Neanderthal reactionaries in California twice voted to reiterate that marriage is between a man and a woman, then leave it to judges and courts to find them bigoted and politically incorrect. In the present revolutionary environment, the degree of the Obama administration’s enforcement of federal laws concerning gay marriage, or illegal immigration, or the new health-care law has hinged on politics and perceptions about social justice — and the courts increasingly predicate their own decision-making on these same considerations. The street can brand a court either an esteemed ally or a reactionary enemy of the people, and so the courts make the necessary adjustments.
Update: The New York Times editorial board expresses its concern about “the laws you can’t see”.
As Eric Lichtblau reported in The Times on Sunday, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court has for years been developing what is effectively a secret and unchallenged body of law on core Fourth Amendment issues, producing lengthy classified rulings based on the arguments of the federal government — the only party allowed in the courtroom. In recent years, the court, originally established by Congress to approve wiretap orders, has extended its reach to consider requests related to nuclear proliferation, espionage and cyberattacks. Its rulings, some of which approach 100 pages, have established the court as a final arbiter in these matters.
But the court is as opaque as it is powerful. Every attempt to understand the court’s rulings devolves into a fog of hypothesis and speculation.
[. . .]
As outrageous as the blanket secrecy of the surveillance court is, we are equally troubled by the complete absence of any adversarial process, the heart of our legal system. The government in 2012 made 1,789 requests to conduct electronic surveillance; the court approved 1,788 (the government withdrew the other). It is possible that not a single one of these 1,788 requests violated established law, but the public will never know because no one was allowed to make a counterargument.
When judicial secrecy is coupled with a one-sided presentation of the issues, the result is a court whose reach is expanding far beyond its original mandate and without any substantive check. This is a perversion of the American justice system, and it is not necessary.
July 4, 2013
Richard Anderson on the most recent language flap in Quebec:
One of PET’s few redeeming characteristics was his understanding of Quebec nationalism’s intense parochialism. This was not simply a minority wishing to preserve its culture, the Quebecois of 1960 were among the most successful and secure ethnic minorities in the world. The tribalists who sought the province’s independence were driven by a fear and hatred of the Other. That Other was mostly the English in the 1960s. But Canada, even Quebec, is now a more diverse place. If this was just a matter of holding a grudge against the Anglos it would stop and end with the English. But the die-hards don’t seem be fond of anyone but their own kind.
Ethnic nationalists are like that.
Now let us imagine a scenario. Indeed a great deal of imagination is required to keep the kabuki theatre of Quebec nationalism going. Let us think of a retail manager in Toronto who, for the sake of preventing ghetto formation in the world place, decided to insist on employees speaking only English. How long do you guess before the cops show up? Minutes? The camera crews would probably be there faster. The Toronto Police Service is renowned [both] for their zeal in traffic enforcement and their obsequiousness toward politically correct nostrums. Chief Blair would be hailing the arrest as a victory for diversity by late afternoon.
[. . .]
In the wake of this story the Quebec government was clear that it was not illegal to speak English in Quebec. Not yet anyway. A pure laine nationalist can dream, can’t he? This story has resonance because it captures the status of Anglophones as second class citizens in their own province. It’s linguistic bigotry that would be tolerated nowhere else in Canada. The last acceptable bigotry in modern Canada.
All Canadians are equal. Those who speak French are just more equal than others.
January 25, 2013
The not-so-hidden libertarian streak in South Park:
The genius of Parker and Stone was to see that in our day a new frontier of comic transgression has opened up because of the phenomenon known as political correctness. Our age may have tried to dispense with the conventional pieties of earlier generations, but it has developed new pieties of its own. They may not look like the traditional pieties, but they are enforced in the same old way, with social pressure and sometimes even legal sanctions punishing people who dare to violate the new taboos. Many of our colleges and universities today have speech codes, which seek to define what can and cannot be said on campus and in particular to prohibit anything that might be interpreted as demeaning someone because of his or her race, religion, gender, disability, and a whole series of other protected categories. Sex may no longer be taboo in our society, but sexism now is. Seinfeld (1989–1998) was perhaps the first mainstream television comedy that systematically violated the new taboos of political correctness. The show repeatedly made fun of contemporary sensitivities about such issues as sexual orientation, ethnic identity, feminism, and disabled people. Seinfeld proved that being politically incorrect can be hilariously funny in today’s moral and intellectual climate, and South Park followed its lead.
[. . .]
This is where libertarianism enters the picture in South Park. The show criticizes political correctness in the name of freedom. That is why Parker and Stone can proclaim themselves equal opportunity satirists: they make fun of the old pieties as well as the new, ridiculing both the right and the left insofar as both seek to restrict freedom. “Cripple Fight” is an excellent example of the balance and evenhandedness of South Park and the way it can offend both ends of the political spectrum. The episode deals in typical South Park fashion with a contemporary controversy, one that has even made it into the courts: whether homosexuals should be allowed to lead Boy Scout troops. The episode makes fun of the old-fashioned types in the town who insist on denying a troop leadership to Big Gay Al (a recurrent character whose name says it all). As it frequently does with the groups it satirizes, South Park, even as it stereotypes homosexuals, displays sympathy for them and their right to live their lives as they see fit. But just as the episode seems to be simply taking the side of those who condemn the Boy Scouts for homophobia, it swerves in an unexpected direction. Standing up for the principle of freedom of association, Big Gay Al himself defends the right of the Boy Scouts to exclude homosexuals. An organization should be able to set up its own rules, and the law should not impose society’s notions of political correctness on a private group. This episode represents South Park at its best — looking at a complicated issue from both sides and coming up with a judicious resolution of the issue. And the principle on which the issue is resolved is freedom. As the episode shows, Big Gay Al should be free to be homosexual, but the Boy Scouts should also be free as an organization to make their own rules and exclude him from a leadership post if they so desire.
This libertarianism makes South Park offensive to the politically correct, for, if applied consistently, it would dismantle the whole apparatus of speech control and thought manipulation that do-gooders have tried to construct to protect their favored minorities. With its support for freedom in all areas of life, libertarianism defies categorization in terms of the standard one-dimensional political spectrum of right and left. In opposition to the collectivist and anticapitalist vision of the left, libertarians reject central planning and want people to be free to pursue their self-interest as they see fit. But in contrast to conservatives, libertarians also oppose social legislation; they generally favor the legalization of drugs and the abolition of all censorship and antipornography laws. Because of the tendency in American political discourse to lump libertarians with conservatives, many commentators on South Park fail to see that it does not criticize all political positions indiscriminately, but actually stakes out a consistent alternative to both liberalism and conservatism with its libertarian philosophy.
November 13, 2012
It’s almost as if Britain is in some sort of demented race to get rid of freedom of expression altogether:
At 9pm last night, with a knock on the door of a 19-year-old man, Kent police hammered another nail into the coffin of free expression in the UK.
Earlier in the day the unnamed man from Aylesham had allegedly posted a photo of a poppy being burned, with a crudely worded (and crudely spelled) caption. He was arrested under the Malicious Communications Act and held in the cells overnight to await questioning.
It is of course just the latest in a succession of police actions against individuals deemed to have caused offence: mocking a footballer as he fights for his life on Twitter; hoping British service personnel would “die and go to hell”; wearing a T-shirt that celebrated the death of two police officers; making sick jokes on Facebook about a missing child, the list goes on. A few months ago, these could have been dismissed as isolated over-reactions or moments of madness by police and judiciary. Not any longer. It is now clear that a new criminal code has been imposed upon us without announcement or debate. It is now a crime to be offensive. We are not sleepwalking into a new totalitarianism — we have woken up to find ourselves tangled in its sheets.
News of the arrest was first announced on Kent police’s Twitter feed, and it didn’t take long for users to spot the painful irony of their official avatar, which simply says Kent police 101. The number is taken from the non-essential police phone number, but as we all know, Room 101 was where Winston Smith was taken in George Orwell’s 1984 to be tortured and eventually persuaded to recant his individual beliefs and fall into line with officially sanctioned viewpoints.
May 12, 2012
In the National Post, Rex Murphy outlines the ridiculous situation Elizabeth Warren has created for herself:
When is a politician toast — done-on-both-sides, pass-the-butter-and-jam toast? Well, one hint might be when you show up on blogs and in newspapers photoshopped as the Lone Ranger’s great Indian sidekick Tonto. Another might be when thousands of people spend hours making up sarcastic names for you, such as “Fauxcohontas,” or more brutally, “Dances with Lies.”
This is the unfortunate lot of Harvard Law professor Elizabeth Warren, a Massachusetts Democrat running for a senate seat in Ted Kennedy’s old district. During the course of the campaign it was revealed that Ms. Warren had listed her minority status in law school faculty directories, and that no less than the Harvard Crimson in 1998 declared in print that: “Harvard Law School currently has only one tenured minority woman, Gottlieb Professor of Law Elizabeth Warren, who is Native American.”
[. . .]
This bizarre comedy highlights the ugly absurdity that arises when people, or institutions, become so absorbed with the question of race that it eclipses their common sense. But what’s perhaps most telling is how all involved — the candidate herself, the faculties and administrations of various law schools, everyone — step back in pure shock, nay, horror, from the very notion that Elizabeth Warren may have been hired for any other reason than her professional qualifications. Race? Nothing to do with it. Minority hire? Never!
Everybody acting like affirmative action hires are something to be ashamed of and denied, something rudely pushed aside as unthinkable, is baffling. In every other context, affirmative action and its attendant policies and protocols are looked upon as the secular world’s highest forms of public virtue. Companies and institutions boast about their so-called equity policies and minority placements. Does not every university, in every hire, on every bulletin board, and in every online notice — spell out every so proudly that applications from minorities and special groups will be given “special” attention, or are specifically urged to hire. Does this not right historical wrongs? Is this not part of enriching the educational experience?
And yet, any suggestion that a particular individual may have benefitted from these wonders of our modern age is treated as a slap in the face to said individual. How can a policy be a triumph in enactment but an insult in execution?
Update: Even the 1/32 claim appears to be failing, as the claimed documentation does not seem to exist:
I reached out to Christopher Child, the well-known genealogist who was the source of the claim, and his employer, the prestigious New England Historic Genealogical Society (NEHGS), but they have gone silent, refusing to comment on, defend or correct their claim that Warren was 1/32 Cherokee. The e-mail exchange appears at the bottom of this post.
The fallout from Elizabeth Warren’s claim to Native American status threatens to drag down not only her campaign, but also the credibility one of the premier genealogical societies.
You know the background, as I have posted extensively about the Warren Cherokee saga. The media and various pundits have continued to assert that Warren was 1/32 Cherokee based on her great-great-great grandmother, O.C. Sarah Smith.
I understand that the US has a law on the books to allow the prosecution of people who falsely claim to have won military medals — I think it’s something like the “stolen honour law” — is there anything similar for those who falsely claim minority status in order to benefit from legislation intended to aid members of minority groups? (Not that I think there should be such a law, but I’m just curious about whether such a thing is on the law books already.)
April 11, 2012
Brendan O’Neill castigates Liverpool FC and their refusal to play a game on the anniversary of the Hillsborough disaster, but says that all of Britain is suffering from an advanced case of Mourning sickness:
In many ways, the reaction to Hillsborough was the prototype for later outbursts of emotional correctness, from the weird weepy reaction to Princess Diana’s death in 1997 to the media hysteria that greeted the disappearance of Madeleine McCann in 2007. In all those instances of public mourning, in all the Shared National Experiences of ostentatious grieving, the rules and rituals set in motion after Hillsborough have come into play. Thou must make a public performance of sorrow. Thou must never deviate from the emotional script. Thou must not question why we weep, year in and year out, and just get on with weeping. Thou must wallow in one-off tragedies forever and severely chastise anyone who says “Life moves on”. Those are the stifling, speech-restricting, thought-policing, miserable, mawkish rules of emotionally correct modern Britain, and they were written and made gospel on the back of the Hillsborough disaster 22 years ago. God help anyone who deviates from them, as Davies has discovered: he has received hate mail and death threats for daring to question the grief gospel.
Some people attribute the enforced emotional sensitivity over Hillsborough to the peculiar touchiness of Liverpudlians. Liverpool is “self-pity city”, we are told, where they love nothing more than to play the victim card. Perhaps. But if that is true, then we are all Scousers now. Mourning sickness and emotionally correct hysteria are widespread in twenty-first-century Britain, stretching from Liverpudlian housing estates to the London eateries of the Guardian-reading set. It can be glimpsed in everything from the hunting down and imprisonment of an offensive drunken tweeter who refused to go along with the “Pray for Fabrice Muamba” trend to the broadsheets’ haranguing of Jan Moir for not being sufficiently mournful following the death of Stephen Gately. The post-Hillsborough era is one of extraordinarily restrictive emotionalism and censoriousness.
Davies has now repented for his sins, making a public apology for his comments and offering to make a donation to the Hillsborough Justice Campaign — the modern equivalent of doing penance. He shouldn’t have apologised. We need more upfront, unapologetic criticism of the backward modern idea that there is a correct way to feel, a correct way to grieve, and even a correct way to think.
February 25, 2012
Brendan O’Neill on the current wave of outrage in Afghanistan over the “Koran burning” incident:
Yet the present bizarre Koran-burning controversy in Afghanistan has shot down in flames this comforting but misleading idea that “they” are dramatically different from “us”.
Because what the furore over some holy books accidentally burned by NATO confirms is that, in truth, these alleged “weird beards” are in thrall to the same PC culture of complaint that has Western society in its grip.
[. . .]
But the great uniter of the East and West today, the thing that binds Muslim extremist and Western liberal, is a profound belief that to be offended is the worst thing, and that whoever dares to cause offence must be made to pay.
[. . .]
Ironically, these pretty craven apologies from NATO and the Obama administration for an innocent mistake made by two NATO personnel are likely only to have inflamed the protests.
Because, as is the case over here, in our ever more touchy and sensitive societies, when you tiptoe around a certain group of people, when you buy into the idea that offending cultural sensibilities is the greatest sin of our age, you actually give people a licence to feel offended.
When you apologise for causing offence and promise never, ever to do it again, you give succour to the idea that offensiveness is a unique and terrible evil, and you flatter the ostentatious offence-taking of groups who wish to be protected by a moral force-field from public debate or ridicule.
In effectively reorienting its Afghan mission around improving the PC credentials and Islamic empathy of its troops, NATO is unwittingly giving a green light to easily offended agitators, boosting their belief that offensiveness is evil and must be quashed. NATO has made itself a hostage to fortune, giving Afghan radicals a licence to go mental at the next whiff of any slight, whether intentional or accidental, against Islam.
January 5, 2012
Brendan O’Neill on the terrible precedent of a recent British government decision and it’s most recent mis-use:
On Nick Ferrari’s breakfast show on London’s LBC radio this morning, I argued that all the people describing this case as a victory for justice are overlooking the fact that it is a victory built upon the wreckage of some pretty important legal principles. One longstanding legal protection in particular — the double jeopardy rule, the idea that no one should be tried twice for the same crime — had to be dismantled in order to get Dobson back in the dock. Having been acquitted of the murder of Lawrence in 1996, Dobson was what we used to call ‘autrefois acquit‘, previously acquitted, which in the past would have meant that he could not have been tried for the murder a second time. That all changed in 2003, when New Labour ditched the double-jeopardy rule.
[. . .]
Double jeopardy is the elephant in the room of the Dobson and Norris conviction. Sure, journalists are mentioning it, usually in fluffy factboxes titled ‘How this case came to court’, but no one wants to discuss it in detail. No one wants to discuss the extraordinary amount of history and progressive tradition that had to be consigned to the dustbin of ‘bad ideas’ in order to secure one conviction against two nasty blokes.
The double-jeopardy rule had existed in some form or other for centuries. There was a Roman maxim which said ‘nemo bis in idem debet vexari‘ — no man shall be punished twice for the same. It’s there in early Christianity, too, in St Jerome’s insistence in the fourth century that ‘there shall not rise up a double affliction’. It’s also in the sixth-century Digest of Justinian, the seed of much of modern jurisprudence, which insisted that, ‘The governor should not permit the same person to be accused of a crime of which he has been acquitted’. An academic study of the double jeopardy rule in history points out that it is one of the ‘few legal rights recognised by the Christian fathers throughout the Dark and Middle Ages’.
In twelfth-century England, a form of double jeopardy was codified in the Constitutions of Clarendon, which, in an attempt to rein in the authoritarian instincts of Henry II, stipulated that no man could be tried for the same offence in both the ecclesiastical courts and the king’s courts. It had to be one or the other. From England it spread to the US, where the eighteenth-century revolutionaries and their successors made a bar against double jeopardy a key plank of their new republic’s constitutional guarantee of liberty against state power. In each historic period, the purpose of the rule against ‘double afflictions’ was strikingly similar: to protect individuals from potentially being hounded and interminably retried by governors, crown forces or cops determined to stick them in jail. That’s because being permanently at risk of prosecution is itself a kind of life sentence.
December 22, 2011
January 20, 2011
It used to be there actually had to be a violent protest before public institutions caved in and cancelled controversial events. That was unjustifiable, too. Police and officials should always seek to protect law-abiding speakers and organizers from the angry mob. Those who seek to disrupt events just because they disagree with the speakers should be the ones inconvenienced, not those exercising their constitutional rights.
Now, though, it seems the mere whiff of protest is enough for officialdom to bow to would-be protestors’ demands. Get together a group of unhinged radicals or zealots in someone’s rumpus room, make a couple of angry phone calls and — poof! — you can get your way and silence free speech and free assembly. Organizers, especially those connected with public institutions such as universities, museums and galleries, apparently care not a whit about free expression or individual choice. Their first instinct is to crater to protestors; let the forces of oppression and extremism have their way. Forget about preserving democracy and open debate, officials will act as the forces of censorship want.
Some of this has to do with the increased anger and vehemence of protestors, no doubt. In recent years, young lefties in particular have convinced themselves that only their positions are fact-based and only their positions can save the world. All other opinions are lies, as well as being threats to mankind and the planet. Therefore they are justified in any action they take to stymie opposing views, which they also believe are unworthy of free speech protection. They truly believe they are doing a public service when they shout down speakers or force the cancellation of events by smashing windows or jostling attendees outside the doors.
Lorne Gunter, “We’ve become a wimpy state, as well as a nanny state”, National Post, 2011-01-20
January 17, 2011
Cartoon from this week’s edition of Libertarian Enterprise.
January 13, 2011
Banned on the radio in Canada, but still (for the moment) legal on the internet:
Update, 14 January: I’ve been informed that this video isn’t playing for some, and it’s not working for me now either. I guess it’s another one of those content licensing issues. So I guess I’ll have to make this change:
Banned on the radio in Canada, but still (for the moment) legal on the internet. Banned on the radio in Canada, AND on the internet.
January 10, 2011
Facebook apparently has something against breasts — specifically those used to feed babies:
Facebook had one of its nipple-related related brainstorms last week, banning, unbanning, then re-banning breastfeeding support group, The Leaky Boob.
The Leaky Boob group allows almost 11,000 mothers to share their experiences on breastfeeding — as well as providing casual visitors with a treasure trove of advice and tips. Well, it would do, if Facebook didn’t keep deleting it — as they did the previous weekend.
This provoked an angry reaction from the tens of thousands of women who use the page for information and support.
Breastfeeding supporters responded swiftly, creating two pages on Facebook, Bring Back the Leaky Boob and TLB Support, which gained the best part of 10,000 fans in just two days.
On Tuesday, according to group founder Jessica Martin-Weber, the page was back up.
On Wednesday it was gone again.
Then, later in the day, it returned and is still up today.
It’s easy to see how the content of TLB might be offensive to closed-minded people, and if the banning mechanism Facebook uses is mostly automated, it’d explain the way in which the group was originally banned. If all it takes is a complaint, and the (I assume automated) follow-up to the complaint only checks for certain things, the first shutdown is explained. The fact that the group has been through this process before shows a weakness in Facebook’s administrative tracking policies.