Monday, March 03, 2008

Interesting to read

I don't know if you've heard, but there's a thing called the interwhathaveyou, which can be accessed by a home computer. It's very simple. Ok, it's not very simple, it's rather complicated as a matter of fact, but an awful lot of human knowledge, dictionaries, Shakespeare's plays, the Bible, etc, etc, has ended up being accessible by pretty much anyone.

You may know this already. If so, I suspect you're not a journalist by profession, because they seem to be behind the times on this.

Authoritarians seeking to extend repression have always drawn innocents into manufactured crises. None was more innocent than Jacques Barrot, who, in 2005, helped trigger a wave of death when he entered France's annual pig squealing contest at the Pyrenean village of Trie-sur-Baïse.
Barrot didn't win: that honour went to Yohann and Olivier Roussel for delivering an impressive impersonation of pigs mating. However, history remembers Barrot rather than the Roussels because an Associated Press photographer snapped him wearing a plastic snout standing at the microphone and put it on the news wires.
The next time it appeared, someone had doctored the picture and added the caption: 'Here is the real image of Mohammed.' Two radical imams, whom Denmark had foolishly welcomed as asylum seekers, included it in a dossier they were hawking round the dictatorships of the Middle East, on how Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten had insulted Muslims.

There's so much wrong with this rubbish that I left it a day and hoped someone else would go for it. Also I meant to concentrate on a few things, but, well, really. I think the first sentence is plain wrong. As for the second, if M Barrot had 'helped trigger a wave of death' he wouldn't be innocent, but he didn't. I'm not sure what "it" refers to in the last sentence of the second paragraph and the first sentence of the third. I think it's "the image of M Barrot" but that's not entirely clear. If I were unaware of journalistic licence, I'd understand 'it' to refer to the microphone. But if I were that pedantic, I'd also worry that the news wires have gone the way of the I-speak-your-weight-machine. And the next time the imagine appeared should have been when whichever French papers chose to print the pig-squealing story.

The reader can see the image here. The first thing that strikes me is that it does not look remotely like a cartoon. It looks like a grainy black-and-white photo. Interestingly, according to the Wikipedia article linked above, it fooled the BBC. Since the Beeb epitomizes liberal thought, that's a free dig I can't see our Nick passing up if he'd even read the article.

Anyway, I did a bit of searching. One of the imams Nick talks about was called (he's dead) Ahmad Abu Laban. He was a remarkably unpleasant person. I've done some searching on him too. I found all the charges mentioned on Wikipedia (short version: he was a nut). I have not, and if any reader can set me right on this, I will update this post as soon as possible, found any reference by him to Ayaan Hirsi Ali. I am sure he was a misogynist, a bigot, a shit-stirrer and generally nasty piece of work. The one person I don't believe he attacked (probably through his own ignorance) was Ms Hirsi Ali.

After at least 100 deaths and the storming of Danish embassies in Syria and Iran, journalists pointed out that the newspaper hadn't included a picture of M Barrot among the innocuous cartoons it had run to uphold the right to mock religion. The clerics then said an anonymous poison pen writer had sent the wounding picture to a Danish Muslim. It was, they added, an insult to their faith as great as Ayaan Hirsi Ali's championing of the rights of Muslim women.

The thing is, I believe they said an almighty number of self-serving, implausible, and stupid things, but I don't believe they said that.

If you can shoot me down, please do.

There are areas Nick and I agree - humanism, secularism, the general stupidity of religion is a major one. I recently read Christopher Hitchens' "God is not Great" and enjoyed it too.

The OIC is pushing it to approve a super-blasphemy law that would make it an offence to 'defame' any religion. Keith Porteous Wood of the National Secular Society said attending the discussions was an Orwellian experience, with speakers using the language of liberalism to justify oppression. 'Anyone seeking to draw attention to the capital offence of apostasy in Islamic countries will be lucky to be heard,' he reported. 'Anything deemed the slightest bit critical of Islam is immediately jumped upon.'

That's Nick, not Hitchens. I'd have thought that we - Nick, Hitch, and I - would agree that all religions defame other religions all the time. If the Dalai Lama asserts that he's the reincarnation of previous Lamas, then that's a slap in the face for the whole heaven/purgatory/limbo/hell thing isn't it? Ian Paisley (either of them) waxes rather Anglo-Saxon about the Pontiff in the Vatican. But Nick's point here seems to be that Islam and Islam alone is intolerant. Let me put it this way, if you have multiculturalism (a good thing by me), you can't have blasphemy laws.

This was a column written by a brain in neutral. "But what unites dictatorships is more important than what divides them ..." more important to whom? Iran and Iraq were united by quite a bit (oil-producing enemies of the United States whose names began with 'Ira' for example) but they fought a bloody and pointless and winnerless war over the differences. You may think that China and the old Soviet Union were both communist dictatorships with one-party states who hated the west, etc, etc. But they had massive armies on their joint border and argued about just about everything.

Gripe of the week

Just be glad it's not gripe of the day. I can do that too, you know. Only tangentially related to this blog, but Nick recommends his mate Martin Bright here. I don't mind Martin Bright, as a rule, but this annoyed me.

Martin Bright began his journalistic career writing in very simple English for a magazine aimed at French school children. This experience has informed his style ever since.

Then why start a piece with a sentence without a transitive verb?

Interesting to read the full text of the "Unite for Ken" letter that appeared in the Guardian earlier this week with 100 prominent signatories giving their support to the mayor.

Yes, I know "Interesting" is short for "[It is] interesting", but isn't it more honest to drop the fake objectivity and write "I was interested"? And then to think "show, don't tell" and drop the perspective thing? If it's interesting, really interesting, we'll work it out for ourselves. Just start 'in media res' [in the middle of things, eg the action]. I think Martin is making two points: first he doesn't like the letter itself, and secondly, that a lot of people he doesn't like signed it.

It strikes me as somewhat defeatist of Livingstone's supporters to suggest that the work of left-wing opponents of Livingstone like me "will" lead to Johnson's victory.

From what I've read of the polls, there are two possible outcomes: Ken will win, or Boris will. That's it. There's no provision for a draw and it's unlikely the Lib Dems or the Greens will win. If Ken loses (which I believe Martin Bright wants) then Boris has to win. Martin Bright is (to use a hackneyed phrase) 'objectively pro-Johnson'.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thought experiment: Boris Johnson is scraping around for support on London's tiny and divided far right scene; opinion polls say that Ken is running neck and neck with Lindsey German. Martin Bright, man of the left, says...

3/03/2008 11:01:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Martin Bright who has definite Decent leanings, certainly produced some fairly dodgy journalism, in that rather controversial period for the Observer, in the run up to the Iraq War.

This one was particularly apocalyptic .

Will all this kind of material you never know what's misinformation and what's genuine. But it sure looks suspicious, to me and I remember that around that time there appeared a new more lurid terror warning every week.

Glad to see the great and the good coming out in favour of Ken!

3/03/2008 11:05:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As shown yesterday, when it ran with one of his policy initiatives (er... hire more policemen!) as a cover story, the Standard which Nick writes for is now essentially a Vote Boris propaganda outlet.

A friend pointed out to me a small letter from Nick to the NS a while back - but only about a month ago - in which Nick said that he wants people to put pressure onto Labour to choose another candidate.

notwithstanding the fact that every problem Nick has with Ken was known to him last year, and indeed in 2000 when he campaigned FOR Ken, it's really odd to see people in Labour circles only NOW trying to get the nomination changed, after about half a year of campaigning. Strikes me that anyone committed to the Decent cause would have been trying to get Ken's candidacy turned down a lot longer ago than, um, 4 months before the election. But of course thei journalism has in no way been affected by Boris' PR team, oh no, they've ALWAYS thought x and y about ken , even when they were campaigning for him, they've just never stated it until now.

The election as you rightly state is a two horse race. And the idea that somehow it's 'defeatist' of the Ken camp to want anti-Tory union on the left would make a lot more sense if Bight et al were praising Paddick, instead of slinging suspiciously Gilligan-flavoured mud at Ken.

3/04/2008 10:16:00 AM  
Blogger Alex said...

Bright is wired into the effort to bash the Government's various outreach/astroturf efforts with regard to Muslims, where he lines up with folk like "Decent" Dean Godson and his spooky dad.

However, most of that article is true, at least in so far as it makes factual assertions. Each of the Army's regional brigades has indeed formed a Civil Contingencies Reaction Force, and the TA's 2 Signals Brigade was reorganised and re-equipped to support them; I think some specialist units were also given a role in support of the CCRFs. The RAF has indeed re-created a second, southern QRA flight and restored facilities at several southern airfields.

3/04/2008 11:27:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

However, most of that article is true

Maybe it is Alex. But there appears to be a fair bit of spin in there as well.

What about

an attack by al-Qaeda is imminent...plans have been drawn up to evacuate major cities and deal with large numbers of contaminated corpses...massive amount of casualties expected.

One thing that 7/7 taught us is that the Security Services don't appear to have a very firm grip on the activities of radicals, certainly not enough to be able to forecast imminent attacks with any degree of certainty.

Much of the tone of the article looks suspicious and by not maintaing any degree of critical distance Bright arguably acted as a willing conduit for Government spin, like so many other Observer journalists during that period.

3/04/2008 12:05:00 PM  
Blogger Alex said...

Well, that's obviously crap; especially the MOUNTAINS OF TEH RADIOACTIVE CORPSES!!! bit.

3/04/2008 12:14:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Given that Boris's latest publicity stunt, sorry policy proposal, is to deny public transport workers in london the right to strike, will Nick be showing his solidarity with bus drivers, and removing his support?

3/04/2008 02:05:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"will Nick be showing his solidarity with bus drivers, and removing his support?"

It reminds me of the early 1980s, when Trade Unions were Good if they were Polish, and Bad if they were British.

3/04/2008 04:34:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

OT, but there's a new Decentiya to watch...

3/04/2008 10:16:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Become a founder member of the Democratiya £100 / $200 Club and secure the future of hard-headed democratic internationalism"

It's the gift that keeps on giving.

3/04/2008 10:19:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

" which Nick said that he wants people to put pressure onto Labour to choose another candidate"

Yeah, that worked out really well for Frank Dobson in 2000, didn't it?

3/05/2008 08:52:00 AM  

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