Quote of the day: Enough

At some point, we need to stand up for the civil liberties and human rights that are fundamental to our values. Those values are not racist; they do not undermine religious freedom and tolerance, and they do not oppress ethnic minorities.

Those values are about every individual holding certain fundamental rights by virtue of them being human. Rights to life, to liberty, to freedom of movement and assembly. Rights to choose who one marries, or whether one even marries at all. Rights to not be tortured or harmed. Rights to express oneself, to determine one’s own religious belief, to freedom of thought and conscience.

Until we remember how central those values are to our society, and how dear we must hold and protect them, these horrific attacks will go on.

Rosa Freedman

Quote of the day: Hanlon’s razor

[T]here is still a sense that Allah’s name was deliberately inserted into the video and then desecrated. Rather than the rather more obvious explanation that an LA costume designer went out looking for vaguely “Egyptian” looking jewellery and picked this pendant up without giving the first thought to what the letters might actually spell.

The petition is a good example of the “conspiracy versus cock up” clash. When something happens you don’t like, it’s easier to think it was a deliberate attempt to upset you: the grim alternative is that the person who has offended, say, a belief held deeply, neither knows nor cares about you or your belief. In the grand scheme of things, you are utterly irrelevant.

Padraig Reidy on the subject of Katy Perry and that video.

On Censorship and Moderation

John Scalzi said it, but it’s worth repeating. So I’m repeating it:

3. If you conflate editorial standards and procedure with issues of freedom of speech and censorship, particularly when you are able to, say, post whatever you like on a web site you control, you may not be taken seriously. You may not like that either.

4. If you conflate the ability to say what you want, how you want, with an immunity from criticism or consequence of the speech, you are likely to be surprised. If you are not aware of, or refuse to seriously consider, that many people who might in times past have not publicly objected to your speech now feel free to do so and in no uncertain terms, you may become unhappy. If you choose not to treat those responses and criticisms seriously, your reputation may ultimately suffer. Your reputation today is highly contingent on what you do now, not what you’ve done in the past.

Oh, and this:

8. “Political Correctness” is a catchphrase which today means one of two things. The first is, “I have done no substantial thinking on this topic in at least twenty years and therefore anything I say past this point cannot be treated with any seriousness.” The second is “It is more important for me to continue my ingrained bigotry than it is for you not to be denigrated or offended by my bigotry, because I am lazy and do not wish to be bothered.” If in fact you do not intend to convey either of these two things, you should not use, nor sign on to a document which uses, the phrase “political correctness.”

I’m just noting this here for ease of reference when the next person uses the front page of a national newspaper to complain about being censored.

Quote of the Day: Full-blown Stalinists

There is nothing more cowardly and corrupt than a lawbreaking political leader who threatens the free press when they call him to account.

Cory Doctorow on David Cameron’s threat to seek a court order against The Guardian if the paper doesn’t stop revealing the extent to which crimes have been carried out with the knowledge and approval of the highest levels of the US and UK government.


According to Techdirt (via), the London 2012 censorship silliness is getting ever worse. They even have a linking policy:

Links to the Site. You may create your own link to the Site, provided that your link is in a text-only format. You may not use any link to the Site as a method of creating an unauthorised association between an organisation, business, goods or services and London 2012, and agree that no such link shall portray us or any other official London 2012 organisations (or our or their activities, products or services) in a false, misleading, derogatory or otherwise objectionable manner. The use of our logo or any other Olympic or London 2012 Mark(s) as a link to the Site is not permitted. View our guidelines on Use of the Games’ Marks.

Let’s see, shall we:

h/t MediaWatchWatch

Religions are fairy stories for adults

As a brief follow-on from yesterday’s post, this is the sort of thing I was talking about:

THE PLODS in Boston, Lincolnshire, aren’t looking too clever today following news that they warned a local pensioner that an anti-religious sign he placed in a window of his home could lead to his arrest if someone took offence at it.

The sign simply reads:

Religions are fairy stories for adults.

And the police have taken it into their heads that, if someone decides to take offence pensioner, John Richards would have to take it down or face prosecution under the 1986 Public Order Act.

In other words, if a religious person claims to be offended at a statement – regardless of how innocuous that statement may be – they can ban all discussion of their religion.

Tolerating Sectarianism

The March issue of Index on Censorship is celebrating 40 years of exposing censorship and giving voiced to the censored. This takes the form of a series of articles attempting to analyse, and provide some context, to the changing censorship landscape.

Inevitably, one of these articles takes a long – and interesting – look at the Muhammed Cartoons Controversy. In it, Kenan Malik summarises some of the views of Fleming Rose – the editor of Jyllands-Posten at the time – thusly:

Tolerance, Rose told me, should be ‘about the ability to be exposed, and to accept things you don’t like’, the ability ‘to live with what you find distasteful. What you don’t like, what you abhor’. But the concept has, in recent years, been ‘turned on its head’. Tolerance, he explains, ‘is no longer about the ability to tolerate things for which we do not care, but more about the ability to keep quiet and refrain from saying things that others may not care to hear. Jyllands-Posten was criticised for being intolerant. That suggests tolerance is something demanded of th one who speaks, or the one who draws the cartoon, or writes the novel, rather than something demanded of the one who listens, or looks at the cartoon or reads the novel. That’s why I say that tolerance has been turned on its head’.

Tolerance, in other words, used to mean the acceptance of diversity and difference. Today it has come to mean the very opposite: the refusal to accept diversity and difference, the insistence that others abide my views of what is acceptable and unacceptable. Once every group insists that other groups have to respect its boundaries then every social conversation has to take place across a barbed wire fence of ‘tolerance’.

This is not something I’d previously considered but, anecdotally, it did strike me as being very true.

Traditionally, the concept of tolerance has embodied a strong element of tit for tat – I accept that you might say something I find offensive and in return you accept that I might say something you find offensive. We don’t have to agree with each other, we don’t even need to pretend to respect each other. We simply have to recognise that it is in both our interests to not start imposing endless restrictions on each other.

There has probably always been a minority that has been unable or unwilling to understand this reciprocity. These are the people who noisily demand special privileges while seeking to deny rights to others. I don’t think that these people are in any way representative of the communities which they claim to represent and, traditionally, most of us have simply ignored them.

What has changed is that the media have become more willing to pander to this aggressively reactionary minority, and politicians have become more willing to respond to them. This works to the detriment of us all and leads towards the situation in which these self-appointed spokesmen engage in an endless cycle of seeking to suppress any opinions that don’t suit their agendas.

A truly tolerant society is one in which we recognise that we don’t all agree and that fundamental disagreements are inevitable. Trying to wish away these disagreements does not lead to greater tolerance – it leads to rampant sectarianism – and that, ultimately, will benefit no-one.

Quote of the Day: On censorship by offendedness

But even if some people are offended, offence is not a sufficient reason for certain artistic and satirical forms of expression to be prohibited. A university should hold no idea sacred and be open to the critiquing of all ideas and ideologies.

– The London School of Economics Atheist, Secularist and Humanist Society, as quoted by New Humanist, responding to demands by the LSE student union that they remove a Jesus & Mo cartoon from their Facebook page.

I was going to post some expanded thoughts on this, but it turns out that the National Secular Society has said it so much better: LSE Students Union “being manipulated by determined activists” over Mohammed cartoon

Now is probably a good time to mention that a demonstration in defence of free expression, prompted by the student controversies and organised One Law For All, is set to take place in London on 11 February.

Just a kind request… Or we’ll make your life hell

Rhys Morgan is an intelligent and articulate teenager and someone who impressed many with his work in publicising Stanislaw Burzynski‘s fradulent alternative medicine practices. Last week the University College London Atheist, Secularist and Humanist Society were told that they should remove an image, taken from the cover of a Jesus and Mo book, from their Facebook page for their weekly pub meet.

Rhys, along with many others, used the same image on his Facebook page in a show of solidarity for their cause. He left the picture up for about a week, then changed it back and went on with his life.

Until today. Someone who is a Muslim discovered the picture and found it offensive. He politely requested I remove the image –

“… just a kind request to either hide it or completely delete the picture…”

– a request I declined because I do not follow Islamic scripture or rules.

At this point, all hell broke loose and he found himself on the receiving end of a stream of threats and abuse. Then his school stepped in… and threatened to expel him.

So here’s the picture in question:

And I think the head at Rhys’s sixth form college should sit down and think long and hard about why he is so keen to side with a bunch of bullies.