Thursday, July 28, 2011

As promised...

Someone must have been telling lies about the homosexual community, because one fine day, without having done anything wrong, it was subjected to a vitriolic attack in the Daily Mail.

In other words, some more on Mad Mel. How the West was lost (mostly being "I hate everything Pim Fortuyn stood for, apart from hating Muslims"). It's a goldmine for quotes, so weird scenes follow.

Almost half of 18 to 30 year-olds in a Dutch poll said they favoured zero Muslim immigration. Just like Fortuyn, the young understood that their precious free and easy lifestyle was threatened by rising numbers of people who were not prepared to tolerate it. In the capital of social tolerance, the threat of such intolerance was simply intolerable.

Muslims not only despise western secular values as decadent, materialistic, corrupt and immoral. They do not accept the distinction between the spiritual and the temporal, the division which in Christian societies confines religion to the margins of everyday life. Instead, for Muslims the whole of human life must represent a submission to God.

That 'Christian' is rather odd, isn't it?

But the problem is that it does not just oppose libertinism. Having never had a 'reformation' which would have forced it to make an accommodation with modernity, it is fundamentally intolerant and illiberal. As a result, it directly conflicts with western values in areas such as the treatment of women, freedom of speech, the separation of private and public values, and tolerance of homosexuality.

These are all liberal fundamentals and are not negotiable. Tolerance of homosexuality is rightly an article of liberal faith. What people do in their private sex lives should be of no concern to others. So Fortuyn was right to highlight this as a major stumbling block to Muslim integration.

According to Wikipedia, modernity started at about 1500. Luther started the Protestant Reformation in 1517. This is a long time before women became equal to men before the law. How the Reformation affected decidedly non-Protestant countries (Italy, Poland, France, Spain etc) isn't discussed. Switzerland is "divided between the Catholic Church (41.8% of the population) and various Protestant denominations (35.3%)." "Women were granted the right to vote in the first Swiss cantons in 1959, at the federal level in 1971[26][37] and, after resistance, in the last canton Appenzell Innerrhoden in 1990." Women got the vote in Iran in 1963. I don't see any evidence of the Reformation having an effect. The data seems almost random.

So, apart from Islam, Catholicism, Buddhism, Hinduism, and Paganism, you know who else hasn't had a reformation? Coming up, the best use of the word 'and' I've seen this month.

Ultra-Orthodox Jews hurled bags of foul-smelling liquid and threats of hellfire at marchers in Jerusalem's annual gay pride march on Thursday but the event passed without serious violence.

Almost worthy of Wodehouse.

In 2005, an ultra-Orthodox Jew stabbed three participants in the march and was subsequently sentenced to 12 years in prison.

Ultra-Orthodox Jews consider the event to be an abomination and desecration of the Holy City.

Police estimated the number of marchers this year at 3,000 and said that 1,000 police were deployed to keep order.

Although the march was routed away from predominantly ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods, a small number of protesters held placards, including one reading, "Gays, they are waiting for you in hell."

Other opponents brought donkeys, symbolizing their view of homosexuality as "a beastly act".

Thankfully, the Israeli press treat the Ultra-Orthodox as a source of amusement, which in a secular and technocratic country, they are. But there you go, another bunch of religious headbangers who "do not accept the distinction between the spiritual and the temporal" and who don't tolerate other's lifestyles even if those lifestyles don't encroach on them.

Mad Mel again, back to Christianity, although everything 'modern' really goes back to the rediscovery of Greek philosophy.

For the further western society retreats from its core morality, the more it opens the way for Islam to fill the gaps left by Christianity in full flight from its own beliefs.

(To understand her use of 'core morality here, you need to have read her Normblog profile: "Can you name a work of non-fiction which has had a major and lasting influence on how you think about the world? The Torah, which defines my moral outlook." As far as I can tell, she regards morality and religiosity as the same thing.)

But this isn't true. One can name a successful country where most people are atheist: Israel. The further any society retreats from religion, the better it becomes.

Mad Mel's lack of self-knowledge and her willingness to use "they're all homophobic, you know" and "they hate women, you know" against Islam, while missing that similar traits a very common among extremists of all creeds (including Fred Phelps, Anders Breivik).

Help, help, I'm being oppressed! (Damn, I've forgotten who on Twitter noted that she never shuts up.)

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

A post about Melanie Phillips

It's annoying that Google own both YouTube and Blogger, yet the new YouTube format doesn't fit our template. So, instead of embedding, here's a link.

This is Nora, the piano playing cat.

This is Melanie Phillips on Monday.

Breivik may be one unhinged psychopath – but what is now erupting as a result of the Norway atrocity is the frenzy of a western culture that has lost its mind.

My emphasis both times. Only now? How odd. A pedant asks, are psychopaths ever hinged?[1]

This is Melanie Phillips in June on Roger Scruton.

Anyone seeking to understand why the west appears to have lost its mind would do well to read this profound little gem of a book.

So the West had lost its mind in June? Now just now? I are confused.

This is Melanie Phillips in 2006.

The case is a snapshot of a country that has lost its wits -- and, just possibly, the instinct for survival.

This is Melanie Phillips last year.

In the light of the Islamic war of conquest being waged against civilisation, the western embrace of lies and bigotry against Israel can only be seen as the death-rattle of a culture that has lost the will to survive.

This is Melanie Phillips in 2004.

Sated by unprecedented material prosperity, this society has all but lost the concept of overcoming setbacks or hardship. It has lost its capacity for endurance.

So, this is the death of Western culture. The language of Shakespeare, and Milton, and Henry James, reduced to the same metaphor, a dry thought in a dry season. God, she's a terrible writer. Arguments and battles are won or lost hands down. If you don't fight, you're a Chamberlain-like appeaser. She carries on performing the sacrament of extreme unction over phrases which were moribund before Oscar Wilde was born. It doesn't bring them back. This woman read (ooh la la, fancy) English at Oxford yet she types prose dead, as one would say, as a coffin nail.

As you can tell, I searched for 'lost' originally. To my great shock, this came up The MMR controversy: an investigation. Part three.

According to the medical establishment, the whole idea is a nonsense. The suggestion that a new autistic bowel disease is now affecting large numbers of children who were previously normal until they were vaccinated with MMR is simply not borne out by the evidence.

There is, say these experts, nothing new going on. All that's happened is that a few parents are desperate to invent a reason for the appalling disorder of autism that has afflicted their children.

She got that right. This is Phillips trying to be fair.

The Wakefield camp and the parents are not against vaccination -- indeed, most of them agree on its importance -- but say the evidence is stacking up that the MMR carries too great a risk of injury.

The Wakefield camp has not yet proved its case. Its studies need to be replicated.

On the other side, Wakefield's opponents have not proved their case either. The epidemiology is flawed, and the claims made for it by government have often been bogus and misleading.

So one side is innocent until proven guilty, and the other is "flawed" and has made claims which were "bogus and misleading." Very impartial. And totally wrong. Well done the Sunday Times!

Here's a Google search of her site for "Wakefield". Strangely, there's no "I fess up, I was duped" apology. Modern medicine, it's just all part of the conspiracy to bring down Western culture!

No, I'm not even going to go into what that lost instinct for survival might have looked like. Nor am I going to speculate what Phillips thinks we should do about all these immigrants who are swamping the country. I can't help but quote this.

The real reason Blunkett was attacked was that he had uttered an unsayable truth: that upholding a sense of national identity is normal and desirable, and it is legitimate to want to resist the pressures which would destroy it.

How might one do that? But I said I wasn't going to speculate, so I won't.

PS This is Melanie Philllips on god-knows-what.

But the problem is that it [Islam] does not just oppose libertinism. Having never had a 'reformation' which would have forced it to make an accommodation with modernity, it is fundamentally intolerant and illiberal. As a result, it directly conflicts with western values in areas such as the treatment of women, freedom of speech, the separation of private and public values, and tolerance of homosexuality.

Ah, tolerance of homosexuality. Like this? Tabloid Watch handles that one well. (Short version, all the 'facts' are wrong.) Update 17:35 I went back on Twitter, and I saw this tweet from Lizz Winstead (producer of the 'Today' show; the Jon Stewart one):

I didnt need "Brainwashing" to befriend gay kids in high school. We bonded thru our mutual disgust for idiots.


[1] They may be, if you accept the thesis that many successful people in business or politics are in fact sociopaths.

Do as we say; no hold on, DON'T do as we say - Open Thread

Because we need one. And I don't have anything to say right now.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Fair and Balanced

In the comments to the last post, Flying Rodent tells us that Dave appeared on Sky News with Adam Boulton in one of those studio talking heads things. All present agreed "that this is all getting a bit out of hand and a bit silly, and we all need to calm down." (FR's paraphrase, using, I assume, the Deborah Orr/Will Self 'we'.)

Sky News reporting on this has been very good. Its commentary less so. (Have you noticed that all the reporters wear trench coats? In July. That's rather sweet.)

I couldn't find the Adam Boulton chat video, but here's a fairly impartial piece. Until you get to the second video, which is Andy Hayman bitching about his treatment by the House of Commons Select Committee.

Here on the Sky site is a video of that treatment. It's the third video of the 'accused'; I can't link to it directly. There's much the same video on the Guardian site.

He talked to camera about "courtesy they should be showing people." They did laugh at him.

The Tory Michael Ellis, his voice swooping up and down with astonishment, said: "You made a judgment call to accept hospitality from the people you were investigating?"

Hayman: "Yeah." (Mocking laughter) He added: "Not having the dinner would have been potentially more suspicious than to have it." (Louder laughter.)

"I dunno why you're laughing … we would never, ever have a dinner that would compromise the investigation."

Simon Hoggart's sketch.

Mr Vaz asked about the fact that he had taken a job as a columnist with News International, the very firm he had been investigating. "That is a private matter for me and the Times," said Hayman primly, to startled surprise.

There's more. Tabloid Hack Attack on Royals, and Beyond, New York Times.

Andy Hayman, who ran the case for Scotland Yard, has since retired. He declined to comment for this article. He is currently a columnist for The Times of London, where he has written in defense of the police investigation and maintained there were “perhaps a handful” of hacking victims. The paper is owned by News International.

But, as we all know, the Times and Sunday Times, despite sharing premises in Wapping, are only connected to the Sun and now defunct News of the World, by sharing an owner.

All times writers smell of roses. You heard it from a policeman. OK, he may have got some simple words mixed up. I assume he meant there were more than a "handful" rather than "perhaps." But that's a simple typo, police officers don't do touch typing. Nor can we expect him to count to "more than a handful".

It really is a lot of fuss over nothing, isn't it?

Update 9:40 pm Timothy Garton Ash really is very good here. I expect to see attacks on him and Bianca Jagger from the usual quarters over the next few days.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Did you ever wonder what happened to Alan Johnson? No, not that one, the other Alan Johnson

Ok then, you didn't. But I did. Don't judge me, it's a hobby.

In 2008-10 I have been engaged in consultancy work for the Research, Information and Communications Unit (RICU), which is based in the Office of Security and Counter-Terrorism (OSCT), using social movement theory and in-depth interviewing to examine the dynamics of 'radicalisation' and 'deradicalisation' and effective communications to encourage desistence and disengagement.

Chhhhrist. I am resisting the urge to say "your tax dollars at work", just as I did with respect to Pollard's now-nearly-totally-defunct EISCA. At the end of the day, government departments need to buy research, and they need to buy it from the producers, just as they need to buy bread rolls from bakers. I am highly sceptical as to whether this will produce a deliverable of sufficient usefulness to justify the cost, but the system works as a whole and needs to be assessed as a whole.

But also chhhhrist. "Effective communications" from the author of "Unite Against Terror"? Social movements from the leading light of the Euston Manifesto? Understanding radicalism from Phyllis Chesler's dinner party guest? In-depth interviewing from the guy who did those excruciating Democratiya pieces? Sheesh.

I suspect that RICU have had the job assigned to them, but no budget for anything more substantial than a couple of government-sponsored Decent blogs, and thus have looked around to commission research from a guy who is pretty famous for taking the approach "the answer is more Decent blog projects - what was the question?"

On a brighter note, we can now retire that joke, because we now have Professor Alan Johnson (congratulations! somewhat belatedly as he got it in 2007!), so until and unless the former Minister is given a professorship somewhere, there should be no major issues distinguishing between the two.

Coming next week "Did you ever wonder what happened to Aaronovitch Watch?"

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

The surveillance society and Aaro ...

A commenter who I can't thank because they're anonymous writes ...

To drag this topic onto the blog's raison d'etre, does anyone else think this strikes the death knell for Aaro's Birtist and intrusive approach to personal information? It seems that the people we would trust the most with our info,the police, come out looking corrupted and somewhat incompetent. And of course there's the journalism that goes under the rubric of News International, who are no longer the gatekeepers to Truth so much as the fallen angels making up Murdoch particular domain of hell. As someone said before, Aaro got attacked by Monbiot on Twitter over the responsibility held by the company he works for all these scandals, and Aaro was highly disingenuous in his replies, more or less saying that because he wasn't under any sort of "editorial control" (because he's a free spirit, you see, not bound to any of the old ideological lines) there was nothing to be worried about concerning his employer's ethical behavior. It's the sort of thing that should receive a proper posting on here.

It is a very good point. Back in the day, Aaro was a big fan of the surveillance state (doing quite a bit of work to establish the dodgy credentials of the "Every day you are recorded 300 times by CCTV" factoid). I wonder if his views might be subject to revision now that we have learned, or at least been vividly demonstrated that a) any information which is accessible to the state, is accessible to anyone who can bribe an officer of the state, and that b) even people who believe themselves to be "too boring" to be the subject of official surveillance, can become interesting if they have a close relative who is murdered.

I lack the skills to do that linking-to-twitter conversations thing (perhaps another editor can help: Update: Thanks CousCous Kid!) but the Aaro/Monbiot exchange was a peach. Aaro's side of it was perhaps influenced in its tone by the fact that he was preparing for an uncomfortable and worrying medical procedure (best wishes big fella), but the underlying point is clear to anyone - having laid down with dogs, our man is trying to pretend that he only has small, easily managed fleas which don't really stick to him anyway.

Monday, July 04, 2011

Nick Davies strikes again!

A bit off-topic for this blog, but IMO excusably so.

Some readers may remember that Nick Cohen once apologised to Observer colleague Nick Davies thus.

As Mr Davies is undoubtedly a serious journalist, I apologise for any suggestion that he is less than honest and regret any hurt I have inflicted on his feelings. But I should say for the record that although his Flat Earth News website announces that Davies "takes the lid off newspapers and broadcasters, exposing the mechanics of falsehood, distortion and propaganda," my experience of serious print journalists and broadcasters is that they do not engage in falsehood, distortion and propaganda.

Ah, serious journalists. Perhaps this will become known as the Preston defence. Johann Hari was a professional journalist and therefore serious and in possession of certified integrity.[1]

Nick Davies is alleging again that some journalists are neither nice nor honest. I've got to the stage where I don't even trust Nick's judgement of his own profession.

Everyone else is talking about this, so we might as well join in.

[1] There was a good throwaway Hari joke on Twitter to the effect that the writer hadn't known that Hari was a journalist and had assumed he was a blogger who had strayed into the press by mistake. I forget who wrote that one. There was another which suggested that Hari wasn't a journalist at all; merely a paid undergrad essay writer.