Notes and Comment Blog

Our short and pithy observations on the passing scene as it relates to the mission of Butterflies and Wheels. Woolly-headed or razor-sharp comments in the media, anti-rationalist rhetoric in books or magazines or overheard on the bus, it’s all grist to our mill. And sometimes we will hold forth on the basis of no inspiration at all beyond what happens to occur to us.

The mirror image is just as foul

Apr 25th, 2015 4:26 pm | By

Nick Cohen looks at the way Lutfur Rahman exploited leftwing ideas to protect his own personal power.

[H]e rigged the vote by using “undue spiritual influence”, an accusation unheard of in a British court since the 19th century. Rahman persuaded clerics to go far beyond saying they thought he was the best candidate. Islam is under threat, they said in so many words. It was the duty of all Muslims to vote for Rahman. If Bangladeshi voters did not, they would be siding with their Islamophobic enemies, perhaps even defying god’s will.

We are used to thinking of racism as Nigel Farage or the Tory tabloids egging on their readers to see the Aids-afflicted foreigner as the enemy. Indeed, it often appears that this is the only way we can think about it. The mirror image is just as foul and its foulness reached a nadir in London. The worst of Rahman’s corruption was not the purloined money, but the way he corrupted leftwing values.

Anyone who criticised the mayor was a racist. When councillors said the mayor must answer questions, his supporters accused them of “racism”. When an opponent appeared at a meeting in a black cardigan – the poor woman was in mourning for her dead husband, incidentally – Rahman’s fixer roared that where once the East End had been terrorised by Blackshirts, it was now terrorised by Blackcardigans.

Nick won a big award last weekend. He’ll never let us forget it, either. It was the European Press Prize, Commentator division. Chiz chiz Nick.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)


Apr 25th, 2015 3:51 pm | By

More from Kathmandu.

Siobhan Heanue again:

Still can’t believe what I witnessed in #NepalQuake today. History crumbling, a nation in despair.

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Sachin Jung Karki™ @sachinkarki 10 hours ago
Only Memory #NepalQuake

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AJE News ‏@AJENews 20 minutes ago
#NepalQuake magnitude has been revised to 7.8

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7.8. That’s so massive.

Samantha Power ‏@AmbassadorPower 3 hours ago
US sending immediate humanitarian aid, disaster assistance teams to support response to #NepalQuake. We stand with ppl of region.

Joel Samuel ‏@joel__Samuel 12 hours ago
#NepalQuake @googleindia launches #PeopleFinder to help people find their kin @ibnlive …

The current death toll is at 1,400 and (of course) rising.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Maajid’s take: No idea is above scrutiny. No people are beneath dignity.

Apr 25th, 2015 1:04 pm | By

Well so much for Labour.

From the Indy:

Labour leader Ed Miliband has said his party will make Islamophobia an aggravated crime, toughing existing hate crime legislation.

Mr Miliband also said that his party intended to ensure that instances of Islamophobia were marked on peoples’ records, in an interview with The Muslim Times.

Although Islamophobia already falls under the Racial and Religious Hatred Act of 2006, whereby it is punishable by up to seven years imprisonment, Mr Miliband’s proposal would allow authorities to hand down tougher sentences for similar crimes.

“We are going to make it an aggravated crime. We are going to make sure it is marked on people’s records with the police to make sure they root out Islamophobia as a hate crime,” he said.

Labour wants to make it an aggravated crime to dislike Islam.

Since we know that Islamists like to pin the label of “Islamophobia” on every kind of criticism of and disagreement with Islam, the prisons of Britain will be overflowing if Miliband is elected.

I saw this via Maajid Nawaz, who commented

Ed Miliband favours a ‘ban’ on “Islamophobia”.
My take: No idea is above scrutiny. No people are beneath dignity.

Quite. Discourage anti-Muslim bigotry by all means, but do not forbid us to dispute or criticize Islam.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Guest post: The suicide pilot

Apr 25th, 2015 12:52 pm | By

Guest post by Simon Trepel, MD. He has more essays at Simon’s Creative Behavioural Therapy.

Truthfully, I probably would not have cared so much, about the shitty thing that Lubitz did, but I was literally stranded on a desert island, thousands of miles across the ocean from home, when he crashed the plane. Now, stranded is a relative term, the island was Hawaii, and I could only be less stranded while being on a desert island, if I was in Australia. But that is where I received the parcel of hate that he chose to deliver to my meme mailbox, that elephant part of your brain that never forgets, yet we call it the hippocampus. That would be a crowded university.And knowing that I needed to fly home, with my 2 daughters, ages 3 and 5, in less than a week, meant I was going to binge watch the entire miniseries, ping ponging between a fox, an spf, and a cnn.

And while it was a mystery on TV, for me, I knew early, why he splattered a plane, and 150 living, breathing, loving people, into a Jackson Pollock original, against the wall, of a new gallery of death. He loved to fly, and he hated to be sad. And, he loved what he loved, in his mind, more than you love what you love. He made the calculation that, since he could not complete his bucket list, neither could 150 people that contributed to his sadness in no way. So he exchanged a b for an f, and practiced relaxation exercises, so no one would think he was scared, for about 8 minutes.

There is no such thing as clinical depression. There is the depression your doctor diagnoses you with, and then there are the diagnoses we give ourselves. And it is different from sadness. Depression sucks, its worst feature is not the rewallpapering of your mind into a room you never want to be in, yet you are afraid to leave, because it’s even worse out there. The worst feature is, after a while, you want to die, but your body still thinks it’s its actual age. So then, you get suicidal. And here is where your personality finally gets a say. How do you want to kill yourself?

My first experience with suicide happened about 20 years ago, when my friend told me he came home to find his pilot father hanging in the bathroom, and my mind went blank after that. There are some sentences you hear in your life, cnacer is one of them, if you have read my only other essay since 1990, that act like instantaneous rohypnol is coursing through your brain. Once back online, I processed the story, learning that if you have depression, and you are a pilot, you are likely to lose your career. And if you have depression but it is well controlled on an antidepressant medication, you are likely to lose your career.

That, passengers, is the secret that they struggled with.

You may argue, that there are selfish sides to suicide, like there are selfish sides to suffering. There certainly are more and less selfish ways, in how you go about actually ending your life. I realize to him, the pressurized cockpit of the mask of happiness was becoming overwhelming. I see him that morning, sitting in his kitchen, drinking coffee on self appointed death row, shredding the doctor’s note excusing him from school that day. He has finished his homework, but he is still not good enough.

And, as he’s tearing the plane into little fragments, he’s thinking about the slaughter in its carriage, the meat luggage of strangers he does not care about. He is not enough of a man to be a pilot, as if gender matters, so saddling his daily resolve, he gives himself permission to be weak. The next domino is cowardice, and then tragedy.

It’s not Lubitz, but the mask, that we really have to worry about. The costume that helps us hide from the haunting stigma. We wear it so we are not judged, or perhaps have our very childhood dreams, that began gliding freely as a teenager, marvelling at more powerful engines, end up dashed like salt and pepper going 500km/h, on the side of a hill.

I want Marty McFly to appear, so we can go back, and I can talk to Lubitz, so we can all avoid this feeling of hate that he has projected into us, his last tantrum in a world where he did not get all the toys that he wanted, so he took his plane away. I want to know the shape of the face of the hero woodsman, more than I want to know Lubitz’s, even though the goods were never delivered. I want to meet all the people that he killed, and tell them not to fly that weekend, or to live their life like they are going to die at 35, or soon after 35000ft.

I want to plead with him not to usher down the aisle of his mind this villain, who is to take the final curtain call of his polymorphous perverse existence.

Not him, not now.

But what I really want to tell him, is that I know he was suffering alone. And that I know there are narcissistic aspects to depression, and even suicide. And that he does not have to lock himself in the cockpit of his life, but rather, stand up and say, I am a Pilot, and I have depression. And I don’t like how it steals my very ability to find joy and meaning in my life, so I have chosen to have it treated.

And if my doctor tells me that I need time off, to heal from an episode? Then, just like every other illness, I have that right, without the fear that my job, career or dream is up in the air.

Because I don’t want to be a suicidal Pilot.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

The inclusivity of the Students’ Union had to be “maintained”

Apr 25th, 2015 12:13 pm | By

Another “uh oh no you can’t make jokes about erm you know that one guy” episode, this time at the University of Bath.

[“]According to CWIPS” was the title of the performance that had the cramped, upstairs-corner of the Bath Brew House roaring with laughter. The show combined pop culture, Richard Dawkins, and the bestseller of all time – the Bible – to construct an amusingly witty performance. However, prior to the opening night, the society was met with some rather strong requests to edit the show.

[D]uring the opening week one of the SU officials quietly attended one of the rehearsals. Just four hours prior to opening night the committee of CWIPS was told that a sketch involving the depiction of the Prophet Mohammed titled ‘Cooking with Christ’ should be cut. “The SU couldn’t give more of an explanation,” recalls one of the members of the committee regarding the lack of justification given for the changes being made the show, especially on such short notice.

It became known that the Chaplaincy of the University had become involved in the decision making process of the SU. “We were told that the chaplaincy had read it and pronounced that sketch too graphic”, the committee member said, “we come under the authority of the SU, so whilst we don’t necessarily agree with what they asked us to cut we have to respect them as they are elected to their position, however the chaplaincy is not part of the SU.”

Why would a chaplain be vetting a student show?

Also, I frankly don’t understand the role of the SU in these things. I don’t think US universities have an equivalent – a student body that has the authority to censor student plays and sketches, authority that the students have to obey. I don’t see why being elected to their positions gives them authority to say “you can’t perform that sketch.”

The Chaplaincy claimed that the show would have caused “great offence” as the scenes that were cut were “extreme”, it was also added that “the concept of freedom of speech is important and should be respected”.

Spoken like a true chaplaincy.

During a conversation with the SU official, it was made clear that the decisions communicated to the CWIPS committee had been made so as to avoid complaints. Since the show was taking place in a public domain, the inclusivity of the Students’ Union had to be “maintained”.

“We worked very hard in order to make sure our material was enjoyable and pleasant for people of all faiths and backgrounds,” both members of CWIPS highlighted.

The freedom of expression is an important principle to maintain intact at university, especially regarding the arts. Even though the SU has had little experience with censorship of the arts at the University of Bath, the recognition that artistic expression is essential for students to feel free and creative needs to be maintained.

In other news…Kate Smurthwaite has just remarked on Facebook that she’s at QED to talk on a panel about free speech…

I was invited because of the issues raised by my show being cancelled at Goldsmiths because of my views on the sex trade. And – guess what – someone has complained I shouldn’t have been on the panel because of – wait for it – my views on the sex trade. You could not make this shit up!!

We live in interesting times.


(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Un-silencing Balochistan

Apr 25th, 2015 11:47 am | By

The Guardian explains why Sabeen Mahmud was murdered – it was because Baloch separatism is a touchy issue in Pakistan (and it’s become fashionable there to murder people who mention touchy issues).

A leading member of Pakistan’s small band of liberal social activists has been gunned down outside the pioneering Karachi arts venue she founded, in an apparent bid to silence discussion about the country’s brutal efforts to smother separatism in the restive province of Balochistan.

The murder of Sabeen Mahmud on Friday sent shockwaves through Pakistan’s embattled intelligentsia both because she was much loved but also because the killing happened immediately after an event she organised with Mama Abdul Qadeer, an elderly Baloch activist campaigning on behalf of so-called “missing people” abducted by the state security apparatus.

Pakistan’s military establishment is extremely touchy about the issue of Balochistan, where a nationalist movement has developed into a potent insurgency in the last decade.

The separatists are demanding independence from a Pakistani state they claim is oppressive and only interested in extracting the province’s energy and mineral resources.

Authorities are particularly sensitive about Qadeer, the 73-year-old who in 2013-14 walked 1,200 miles from the Baloch capital of Quetta to Islamabad to protest about missing people, including his own son who was found dead and mutilated in 2011 having vanished in 2009.

I can’t imagine why anyone would think the Pakistani state is oppressive, can you?

In March he was banned from travelling to the US to attend a human rights conference in the US.

This month the Lahore University of Management Sciences, one of the country’s most prestigious colleges, was forced to cancel an event to which Qadeer had been invited.

Senior faculty members told Dawn, a leading Pakistani newspaper, they had been forced to scrap the “Un-Silencing Balochistan” talk on the orders of the Inter-Service Intelligence directorate, the military’s powerful spy wing.

So Mahmud put on her own small-scale event. That was brave of her.

Following the cancellation of the LUMS talk Mahmud was all too aware of the risks and asked her circle of friends on Facebook about what “pre-emptive measures” she should take before hosting what she called “Un-silencing Balochistan (Take 2)”.

So they silenced her.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Devastation in patan. Kathmandu earthquake

Apr 25th, 2015 10:49 am | By

More from Siobhan Heanue, because she’s a journalist (for ABC, the Oz one) and she was looking at temples when the earthquake hit, so she’s tweeting these heartrending photos.

12 hours ago there was this

LIVE on #Periscope: Patan Durbar Square Kathmandu Nepal …

Then an hour later

Huge earthquake in Kathmandu. I’m terrified.

Locals dragged her into a cafe, she said, but she was still afraid; aftershocks.

Then the first photo

Devastation in patan. Kathmandu earthquake.

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Then more photos

Kathmandu patan district. Old royal square devastated.

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Looking for survivors:

Kathmandu quake aftermath. Clearing rubble to search for survivors.

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She has lots more. Good luck to her.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)


Apr 25th, 2015 10:26 am | By

Meanwhile in Nepal…

(I must say I was disgusted to go to Google News for earthquake news and find at the top of the page headlines about ten dead on Everest rather than the hundreds dead in Nepal. A little too katiehopkinsesque, that.)

CNN has accounts from people in Kathmandu.

Kashish Das Shrestha in Kathmandu

“Some of the historical sites are completely devastated.

“Most of the people — a lot of the people — are walking through the city. They’re confused and scared. A lot of people are crying.

“They’re out with their pets and their families and a lot of locals are volunteering in rescue operations.

“In several parts of Kathmandu, a lot of people seem trapped under the rubble. Locals are trying to rescue these people because they can still hear them.”

Journalist Kanak Mani Dixit, Kathmandu

“I see many cracked buildings and people are panicked and all running down to the streets.

“The main landmark in Kathmandu is a spire, Dharahara, and it has fallen down, it is about 140 feet high in the center city.

“Another aftershock is hitting now, it is really strong.

“Airplanes are circling now overhead and helicopters are flying and not clear if the airport is open. We hear it is damaged.”

And a pair of startling, tragic before and after photos via Siobhan Heanue on Twitter:

Siobhan Heanue ‏@siobhanheanue
I took these photos an hour apart. Was wandering when quake demolished temples before my eyes. Heartbreaking.

She reports there are crumbled temples all over the central area of Kathmandu.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Gender segregation as identity politics

Apr 25th, 2015 9:45 am | By

I’ve seen the name Eboo Patel often in discussions of “interfaith” activities, but I haven’t (that I recall) read anything of his until now. He has a long piece at Religion Dispatches arguing that we should be more accommodating toward haredi men who refuse to sit next to women on airplanes. That’s where “interfaith” takes you, I guess. It’s where privileging “faith” over more reasonable and careful ways of thinking takes you.

He starts by pointing out that people often do change their seats to be helpful to others – parents traveling with children for instance.

The obvious question: why is exchanging seats on an airplane with a senior citizen, a mother with children or a uniformed veteran considered a noble gesture while doing the same for an Orthodox Jewish man viewed as acquiescing to patriarchal oppression?

Actually no, the question is not obvious at all. It’s obvious in this context only because Patel carefully set it up that way. The two kinds of situation are not comparable. Parents’ wanting to sit with their children is entirely reasonable, and understandable, and universalizable. Parents’ wanting to sit with their children is in no way prejudicial to anyone else – it’s not an expression of hostility or contempt or disgust toward people who are not their children. (There’s also the fact that parents don’t generally demand that other passengers accommodate them.)

Patel’s next move is to try to frame this conflict as identity politics.

I have found it interesting to look at this situation in light of the influential identity politics formulation that ‘the personal is political’. First advanced by women in the feminist movement, it now serves as a pretty good one-line definition of cultural progressivism more broadly. I have heard it referenced in arguments for everything from Ethnic Studies departments to LGBT safe spaces.

That the personal is political centers on two chief ideas: 1) that identities matter (the personal); and 2) that those identities express themselves in public forms (the political).

No. That’s a misunderstanding of the phrase – which I’m not convinced really is still all that influential. It’s more a second wave catchphrase, as far as I know. What it meant was that issues that affected women were not trivial merely because they were domestic or “personal” – that who washes the dishes is in fact political. I don’t recognize Patel’s version at all.

It was certainly the way many of those who commented on the Times story framed their views. As a woman (the personal), I interpret your request as patriarchal and will not move to accommodate it (the political). 

No. That’s just all wrong. Being a woman isn’t “personal” in that sense. Nobody ever talked about the Montgomery bus boycott or the sit-downs at lunch counters as “the personal is political.” He’s confused.

Women have long been marginalized by men. A man asking a woman to move on a flight may reasonably be interpreted as another chapter in a seemingly never-ending story.

I am sympathetic to such a view. But haven’t Orthodox Jews experienced a long history of oppression? As far as who feels marginalized in the specific context of a typical commercial flight, consider that separation of sexes is far more common in traditional religious environments. Does the Orthodox Jewish man have a case that secular modernity is marginalizing his identity, and that all those comfortable with the current system are complicit in his marginalization?

No, and neither do racists who “feel marginalized” in the specific context of a typical bus or plane trip in which they do not get to demand segregated seating. We’ve been over this. Plessy v Ferguson. Brown v Board of Education. Separate but equal turns out to be not equal. We’ve been over this, decades ago. Try to keep up. We don’t need to re-litigate this every time a haredi man gets on an airplane. We need to not do that.

Perhaps the central difference is that religion is a choice. One cannot help being a woman but one can choose not to be the kind of Jew who refuses to sit next to women. But cultural progressivism has long defined identity based not on straightforward physical features such as skin color or genitalia but on assigned meaning. A core value of the cultural progressive worldview is that people get to select the identities that matter to them and assign the meaning they choose.

Oh no it isn’t. Oh hell no. Not in the sense that people get to do that and then deploy those “identities” as the foundations for rights to push other people around. Nope nope nope.

For example, cultural progressives frequently advocate for minority ethnic groups to speak their native languages or dialects if they wish, and dress and wear their hair in ways that are meaningful and comfortable for them. It seems to me the Orthodox Jewish man on the plane can make the same argument. Just like the African American who chooses to wear an afro and the woman who does not shave her legs—both common expressions of the personal as political—he is assigning a particular meaning to his identity as a Jew. It just so happens that the expression of the meaning he assigns to his religious identity is in conflict with the meaning that the woman sitting in the airline seat assigns to her gender.

Give me strength. No it doesn’t “just so happen” – the difference is crucial. The haredi man’s demand for segregated seating is not comparable to choices about hair (what bizarre examples!), because it’s a demand for other people to do something for him. The haredi man gets to wear whatever he wants to (within reason – clothes with sharp spikes won’t do on sardine-can airplanes), just as Afro guy and hairy-legs woman do. None of them gets to control who sits where.

Then he goes on to an extended and annoying bleat about the putative marginalization of religion from all this identity-mongering, and how unfair it is. It’s not persuasive.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Guest post: Media outlets call her office for a rent-a-bigot quote

Apr 25th, 2015 8:57 am | By

Originally a comment by latsot on Actual dehumanization.

As awful as Hopkins is, the UK media are at least equally to blame (I’d argue they more to blame than Hopkins herself) for all her hateful nonsense. I don’t just mean outlets like The Sun. If anything, the more liberal outlets are even more complicit.

Hopkins has set herself up as a professional troll: professional with a capital P. According to an article I now can’t find, she has a team of people scouring news stories and (it’s presumed) coming up with the objectionable responses they can think of, which are then announced by Hopkins. Media outlets call her office for a rent-a-bigot quote. I wouldn’t be surprised if they called several times a day, regardless of whether they’re working on an article then building an article about whatever fresh horrible opinion she has on something.

One article about her is by a reporter who followed her about for a day. She was due to appear on the wishy-washy mid-morning show This Morning to say blithering things about some issue of the day. She and her staff met with the producers and presenters (and presumably lawyers) of that show and they discussed what she’d be saying. The presenters then feigned outrage on screen at what they’d earlier agreed she would say.

This is the very archetype of manufactured outrage. Her statements are cheap and guaranteed to sell so Hopkins caters to lazy journalists. They get to say awful things that they know will hurt people and blame someone else. It’s a great deal for them.

I don’t know (or much care) whether Hopkins really holds the views she announces. It doesn’t make her any less horrible if she doesn’t. But the press ought to be even more ashamed than she.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Pure In Heart UK

Apr 24th, 2015 5:11 pm | By

A Catholic girls’ school in Croydon is telling students a bunch of bullshit about what secks will do to them.

Students at a Catholic girls’ school have been warned that sex outside marriage can “destroy their soul” and “make their bodies sick”.

The “warnings” were handed out to 17 and 18-year-olds during a Sixth Form talk at Coloma Convent Girls’ School, in Shirley, Croydon.

Leaflets handed out during a personal, social and health education session (PSHE) warned that condoms and the morning-after pill put people “at risk” and make them “isolated”.

Well it’s like this. Some very puritanical Catholics hate secks and hate girls who do secks and especially hate girls who do secks with pills or condoms. So girls who do secks will be “isolated” from Catholics like that. They will be “at risk” of not having Catholic friends of that type. Oh the horror.

The leaflet, called The Single Catholic’s Guide, was handed out by international Catholic movement Pure In Heart UK who carried out the talk at the school.

Well they don’t mean In Heart, do they. They mean In Cunt. Girls who do secks have dirty filthy impure cunts, which are the impurest things in the universe. An oily swamp full of decomposing frogs and fish is like attar of roses in comparison.

Former pupils at the school have been up in arms as a result of the literature, condemning the school’s “backwards” sex education practices.

The leaflet states: “In fact, many who slept around or had sex outside of marriage have discovered that it was destroying their soul and making their bodies sick. They learnt the hard way that society’s got it wrong.”

Emily Boris, 21, went to Coloma for seven years from 2005 and now studies physics at university.

She can remember being “scared” at school during talks about chastity and sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and was told if someone wanted to, they could “regain” their virginity.

It’s nice to see that Emily Boris has escaped. On the other hand, why should she have had a nasty time at school being pressured to hate sex and everything related to it?

The school’s head teacher, Maureen Martin, said she would have the group back and – although she did not agree with some of the more extreme messages – refused to condemn the literature.

She said: “We believe that God loves us all and is merciful. We are on a journey of ups and downs and if we make mistakes along the way then God does not punish us, he forgives us. And we forgive each other.

“We need to meet the needs of the pupils and we have many talks in the Sixth Form that discuss various issues and ideas.”

Thaaaaaaaat makes absolutely no sense. What she is quoted as saying bears no relation to the complaints about the group. What the group says is not about forgiving mistakes – if anything it says god does punish filthy sluts who have sex. And what does meeting the needs of the pupils have to do with letting outside groups telling them inaccurate horror stories about sex?

Martin said the Year 13 girls who took part in the session were old enough to make up their own minds as to the contents of the literature.

So it’s ok to invite outsiders in to tell them a bunch of crap, because they’re old enough to see that it’s crap? But why not just skip the outsiders telling them crap altogether? Faster and cheaper and less gruesome, I would have thought.


(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Forced penetration

Apr 24th, 2015 4:10 pm | By

One way to make a point about vaccinations…

The controversial Facebook post.

That was posted on Facebook by an Australian anti-vax group. The SMH reports

It is not the first time the group has made the same comparison. In a tweet in January 2011, the group compared a court ordering a five-year-old girl to be vaccinated to “court orders rape of a child”.

Almost immediately, supporters of the group expressed their disgust, with one commentator, Rachelle Taylor, posting: “This is disgusting. Are you saying you believe your child being immunised is as bad as your child being raped? This could also be very triggering for victims of sexual assault.”

The group responded to one comment on its page, defending its decision to liken vaccines to sexual assault.

“This post isn’t tasteless – it is honest. What truly IS tasteless is our elected government trying to tell us that we have to vaccinate our children even if we don’t believe it is best for their health,” the group said.

Right. What if you believed rape was best for your children’s health? How tasteless would it be if the government told you you couldn’t do that.

In January, a nation-wide lecture tour from American anti-vaccine doctor Sherri Tenpenny was cancelled after pressure from doctors and medical groups forced most venues to cancel their bookings for the lectures. The AVKN has strongly supported her aborted tour.

The group was forced to change its name from the ‘Australian Vaccination Network’ over repeated claims the name was misleading.

The New South Wales Fair Trading Department received complaints about its name, with the Australian Medical Association stating it sounded like it could be a government agency.

Despite challenging a direction to change its name, the Administrative Decisions Tribunal forced the group to find a new title.

Oh yes? The Facebook group is still called that.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

It is no joke when people start talking like this

Apr 24th, 2015 3:38 pm | By

Zoe Williams wrote a good piece about Katie Hopkins on Sunday (which no doubt Brendan O’Neill would call a bad piece, because what she says is so literal and unparadoxical). Hopkins’s piece was two days before that, then came the capsized ship on Sunday, then Williams’s piece.

The controversialist Katie Hopkins, writing in the Sun 48 hours before the latest mass drowning, suggested using gun boats on migrants; her idea proved unnecessary, of course. Why waste the money when you can let people die by doing nothing, for free? But Hopkins’ phrasing was interesting: “These migrants are like cockroaches. They might look a bit ‘Bob Geldof’s Ethiopia circa 1984’, but they are built to survive a nuclear bomb.” The following morning, as an LBC shock jock, she rolled back her position slightly, suggesting the best way to solve the refugee crisis was not to shoot them once they were in the water, but to “burn all the boats in North Africa”.

A rather niche debate is underway about whether “Katie Hopkins” is a construct of its owner – like Mrs Merton, an entertainment turn spun out for money – or whether Katie Hopkins is a real person with an antisocial personality disorder. With more urgent questions and so many people dead, this distinction shouldn’t detain us. The fault is with those who broadcast her: this is serious stuff.

Exactly; she could be a program for all I care; the point is not Hopkins, it’s this kind of propaganda. It’s UKIP and the Front National, it’s Pegida and Golden Dawn.

This characterisation of people as less than human, as vermin, as a “virus” (as she did elsewhere in the article) irresistibly recalls the darkest events in history. It is eerily reminiscent of the Rwandan media of 1994, when the radio went from statements such as “You have to kill the Tutsis, they’re cockroaches” to, shortly afterwards, instructions on how to do so, and what knives to use.

It is no joke when people start talking like this. We are not “giving her what she wants” when we make manifest our disgust. It is not a free speech issue. I’m not saying gag her: I’m saying fight her. Articulate the fellowship, the human empathy, that makes these deaths important. Stop talking about how many children were among the dead, as though only children matter. Start talking about everybody’s life as cherishable, irrespective of anything they might produce.

She goes on to anticipate frivolous shits like Brendan O’Neill (and some soul-brothers of his I know personally), and the feelings of shame and inadequacy attendant on expressing solidarity and compassion.

Compassion is such a rich part of the human experience and yet such a shaming thing to express, because you will always fall short of what your own words demand from you. You will never do enough. It makes you wonder how the concept of human rights was ever born. How did anybody ever overcome the knowledge of their own failings for long enough to establish universal principles that they knew they would probably never do enough to propagate?

Because, fresh from the memory of “barbarous acts which have outraged the conscience of mankind”, people knew what the world looked like when nobody stood up to defend “the innate dignity of all the members of the human family”. People knew that insufficient was better than nothing. People knew that you don’t respect the dead by staying silent about what killed them.

The Brendan O’Neills of the world are wrong; ignore them; fight back.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

On the other hand

Apr 24th, 2015 2:59 pm | By

In contrast, there’s the predictably and reliably flippant opinion (or pretend-opinion) of the always flippant and callous Brendan O’Neill.

I know we’re all supposed to be spitting blood over Katie Hopkins’ Sun column about African migrants. In fact, anyone who isn’t currently testing the durability of their computer keyboard by bashing out Hopkins-mauling tweets risks having their moral decency called into question.

There you go – predictable and callous. The important thing is to register disdain for people who object to a high-circulation newspaper’s publication of a piece calling African migrants cockroaches. Nicely done, Brendan; your priorities are an inspiration to us all.

And yet, I find myself far more infuriated by the Hopkins haters, especially those who want her sacked, than by Hopkins herself.

Well then your thinking is fucked. However annoying self-righteous people can be, it’s fucked thinking to get more infuriated by them than by unabashed racism crossed with xenophobia.

But the ideas she expressed, and the language she used, are rare — that’s why we found them so shocking. In contrast, the response of her detractors, their demand that Something Must Be Done — the ‘something’ ideally being Hopkins’ sacking — are all too common in this censorious century. Hopkins gave vent to a thankfully now rare form of intolerance. Her haters are expressing a more mainstream, and thus more dangerous, form of intolerance: intolerance of offensiveness, of extreme views, of anything that isn’t in tune with the political hymn sheet all good people are expected to warble from these days.

That’s all I can stand to read. If you want more, it’s here.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Actual dehumanization

Apr 24th, 2015 2:49 pm | By

I didn’t know who Katie Hopkins was until just now. I’m catching up. She was once on The Apprentice, therefore she’s a “media personality.” She wrote a column for the Sun in which she called migrants such as the ones who drowned in the Mediterranean on Sunday “cockroaches.”

Now the UN High Commission for Human Rights has compared that to propaganda for genocide.

Well, yes. It is comparable. That’s what genocide propaganda sounds like. That’s how it works. It persuades people that certain kinds of humans are not human.

A column in which media personality Katie Hopkins described migrants as “cockroaches” and “feral humans” resembled pro-genocide propaganda, the United Nations has said.

In a strongly worded statement issued on Friday, the UN High Commission for Human Rights said tabloid “misinformation” about immigration was fed into a “nasty underbelly of racism” lurking beneath the migration issue.

“Under the guise of freedom of expression, [negative coverage is] being allowed to feed a vicious cycle of vilification, intolerance and politicization of migrants,” High Commissioner Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein said in a statement.

Ok, I thought. Has High Commissioner Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein said anything about Raif Badawi? So I looked.

Yes, he has.

The strongest criticism came Thursday from the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, a former permanent representative of Jordan to the United Nations, who said: “Flogging is, in my view, at the very least, a form of cruel and inhuman punishment.

“Such punishment,” he said, “is prohibited under international human rights law, in particular the Convention against Torture, which Saudi Arabia has ratified.”

Ok then; back to Katie Hopkins.

In its statement the Commission argued that Ms Hopkins’s column, published in The Sun newspaper, used “language very similar to that employed by Rwanda’s Kangura newspaper and Radio Mille Collines during the run up to the 1994 genocide”.

Radio Mille Collines is one of the major reasons I’m not a free speech absolutist, or even the kind of near-absolutist who makes an exception for incitement to [immediate] violence. I make an exception for inspiration to likely violence. That’s not to say I think Katie Hopkins should be prosecuted, but I think she should fucking stop.

The Commissioner noted that both Rwandan media organizations were later convicted by an international tribunal of public incitement to commit genocide.

He noted that the media in Nazi Germany “described people their masters wanted to eliminate as rats and cockroaches” , adding: “The Sun’s editors took an editorial decision to publish this article, and – if it is found in breach of the law – should be held responsible along with the author.”

Do I think the Sun should be punished? By the state? No, probably not, but I think public opprobrium should come down on them so heavily that they gasp for breath.

The High Commissioner criticised “almost all” of the UK’s tabloid newspaper for fabricating stories about immigrants.

He called it demonization, which sounds right.

He added that migration was a valid topic for debate but that it should be discussed “on the basis of fact — not fiction, exaggeration or blatant xenophobia”.

“History has shown us time and again the dangers of demonizing foreigners and minorities, and it is extraordinary and deeply shameful to see these types of tactics being used in a variety of countries, simply because racism and xenophobia are so easy to arouse in order to win votes or sell newspapers.”

On Monday the Society of Black Lawyers reported The Sun newspaper to the Metropolitan Police over the column and called for it to be investigated under the 1986 Public Order Act’s incident [incitement?] of racial hatred provision.

Better to use the opprobrium, I think.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Like balloons and ice-cream

Apr 24th, 2015 12:16 pm | By

More on Sabeen Mahmood.

Her last tweet must have been moments before she was murdered. It’s only 3 hours old now; it was 2 hours old when I first saw it.


Her self-description on her Twitter profile:

Post Modern Flower Child. Unabashed Mac Snob. Pink Floyd & Bruce Springsteen Devotee. Tetris Addict. West Wing & House MD Fanatic. Will Die for Hugh Laurie

From Dawn in 2013:

T2F Director Sabeen Mahmud never wanted to walk the off-beaten path; she simply walked, or actually ran full speed in the direction she wanted to. Never mind that everyone else seemed to be going in the opposite direction. She barely noticed. She was too busy running.

A rebel’s daughter who gave up a life of Tetris, Mac doodling and professional cricket (after three knee injuries) to start a NGO that promotes the arts, culture, science, technology, activism and advocacy… and she did it all just to make some new friends, and maybe start some interesting conversations. Six years and nearly 600 events later, T2F has to its credit national and international press coverage, countless donations and the kind of cult following typically reserved for rock bands. Mahmud doesn’t see that though.

“I didn’t think this is a big deal, this is just a small little community space.”

But that word ‘community’ still hits home.

“When people say… we really feel at home here… that has been like balloons and ice-cream, I have been living on that for the past six years.”

Now she’s gone. Murdered. Gone.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Sabeen Mahmud

Apr 24th, 2015 11:06 am | By

Terrible news out of Pakistan – another valuable person murdered. Sabeen Mahmud was shot dead by unidentified gunmen in Karachi today.

The Mary Sue did a write-up about her two years ago.

Sabeen Mahmud (above, in blue), who says she fell in love with technology the first time she ever saw a Mac, just organized Pakistan’s first ever Hackathon last month, aimed specifically at finding ways to use technology to fix or at least alleviate Pakistan’s political problems. According to a piece by Wired, the gathering was pretty amazing for everyone involved.

Mahmud runs a small technology firm, but hosted the gathering of forty (whittled down from 120 applications) in her café The Second Floor, which she founded because she felt Karachi, the most populous city in Pakistan, needed “a space where people could gather around shared interests, an interdisciplinary space for collaboration and brainstorming.” And even though she’d done no research and was living with family at the time, Mahmud felt that she was the woman for the job.

So, naturally, they killed her. God damn it.

From Dawn:

Sabeen, accompanied by her mother, left T2F after 9pm on Friday evening and was on her way home when she was shot by unidentified gunmen, sources confirmed. She died on her way to the hospital. Doctors said they retrieved five bullets from her body.

Her mother also sustained bullet wounds and is currently being treated at a hospital; she is said to be in critical condition.

T2F had on Friday organised a talk on Balochistan: ‘Unsilencing Balochistan Take 2: In Conversation with Mama Qadeer, Farzana Baloch & Mir Mohammad Ali Talpur.’

A talk. Talks are not allowed, I guess.

T2F, described as a community space for open dialogue, was Sabeen’s brainchild. In an interview with Aurora, she referred to it as “an inclusive space where different kinds of people can be comfortable.”

Conceived as a bookstore and café patterned after the old coffeehouse culture of Lahore and Karachi, The Second Floor — or T2F, as everyone calls it — says on its website that it was born out of a desire to enact transformational change in urban Pakistani society.

And now she’s dead.

Embedded image permalink

Wasay Jalil on Twitter

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Movies probably are not for you

Apr 24th, 2015 10:29 am | By

Surprise surprise, comedy that aims at the frat boy crowd turns out to be so obnoxious (aka racist and sexist) that actors actually walk off the set. Surprise surprise, it’s an Adam Sandler movie.

Nearly a dozen Native American actors and a cultural adviser walked off the set of an Adam Sandler movie that’s currently filming because of depictions they found insulting, according to a report by Indian Country Today Media Network.

Actor Loren Anthony said the script, penned by Sandler and his longtime screenwriting partner Tim Herlihy, was insulting to Native women and elders and inaccurately portrayed Apache culture. He said the actors, who were supposed to be playing Apache men and women, were made up to resemble Comanches. Anthony and David Hill were among the actors who walked off the set Wednesday.

Hey it was a joke. Can’t you take a joke? Can’t anybody take a joke?

The film, part of Sandler’s four-picture deal with Netflix, is supposed to be a send-up of “The Magnificent Seven.” It reportedly included characters named “Beaver’s Breath” and “No Bra” and included a scene with an Apache woman “squatting and urinating while smoking a peace pipe.”

“There were about a dozen of us who walked off the set,” Anthony, who is Navajo, told ICMTN. “I was asked a long time ago to do some work on this and I wasn’t down for it. Then they told me it was going to be a comedy, but it would not be racist. So I agreed to it but on Monday things started getting weird on the set.”

How is that possible when they said it would not be racist? Surely they didn’t lie about it. Surely they’re not clueless about what’s racist. Surely they’re not marinated in a culture that thinks it’s funny to shit on people who aren’t like them. Surely.

Multiple people, including hair and makeup artist Goldie Tom, told reporter Vincent Shilling that they implored the film’s producers and director to make changes. But those requests seemed to fall on deaf ears.

“We talked to the producers about our concerns,” said Allison Young, a Navajo filmmaker and actress. “They just told us, ‘If you guys are so sensitive, you should leave.’

Quite right too. Movies probably are not for you. #MPANFY

This is hardly the first time Sandler has faced criticism for inaccurate and stereotypical depictions of racial minorities in his movies.

Writing for the New Yorker, critic Richard Brody called “Blended,” Sandler’s 2014 comedic effort co-starring Drew Barrymore, “grotesquely offensive”:

No sooner do the families arrive at the resort than the obliviously trivializing depictions of black people, based on long-superseded stereotypes, begin. The Friedmans get out of their limo and are greeted by the hotel’s staff, all black, starting with a singing group, called Thathoo (pronounced “Tattoo”). The group leader’s eye-rolling and glad-handing, his lubriciously insinuating and exaggeratedly jiving, all seem to be taken straight from a minstrel show. And, throughout the movie, the group pops up like a Greek chorus to underline the action. There’s also an obsequious greeter whose exaggerated ingratiations would shame the hospitality business. Though his malapropisms are ultimately seen to be a canny joke, his manner is never anything but grinningly servile. And there’s an elderly slacker, sleeping on the job and avoiding responsibility, whose lazy ways are a monstrous and venerable cliché.

Yes but if you’re in the frat boy crowd, that stuff is hilarious. If you can’t handle that, #MPANFY

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Stripping these protections in the name of religious liberty

Apr 24th, 2015 10:10 am | By

Wow – evil in America. The ACLU blog has the details:

A committee of the US House of Representatives decided that employees in the District of Columbia could be fired for using in vitro fertilization to start a family or for becoming pregnant while unmarried.

That’s right, people of D.C.: members of Congress just voted to let your boss fire you for personal decisions you make at the doctor’s office — because your boss believes those decisions aren’t consistent with his religious beliefs. Now, the whole House may take a vote on this discriminatory measure.

What’s next? Will this committee vote to let employers fire people for being atheist, for reading Dan Savage, for not reading the bible, for not going to church, for going to mosque, for dancing, for cheering the wrong football team, for eating falafel? Will this committee vote to let employers imprison employees, or beat them, or withhold their pay, or confiscate their property, or pour boiling water on them?

At the same time, a separate measure introduced in the House would block the Human Rights Amendment Act, another D.C. bill that would ensure that LGBT student groups at religiously affiliated schools and universities have access to the same facilities and resources as their peers. And similar measures on both bills are still pending in the Senate.

In both of these cases, proponents of these congressional actions are stripping these protections in the name of religious liberty.

Of course they are; it’s the hot new thing. Religions are full of ugly rules and laws and taboos that treat sets of people like dirt, so they make a great alibi for being evil. Not that I’m saying that’s why people are religious, but people who demand the right to treat people like dirt because religious liberty – those people have bad priorities.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

“Dan Savage recently made a lewd smear against Pope John Paul II”

Apr 24th, 2015 9:17 am | By

Catholic thought leaders are upset and angry about a proposed new sitcom that they say is based on the life of Dan Savage. Well they say it’s based on the life of anti-religious bigot Dan Savage, to be exact.

April 21, 2015 ( – Catholic leaders joined the Media Research Center (MRC), the Family Research Council (FRC), and the American Family Association (AFA) in a national campaign to educate the public about a Disney ABC sitcom pilot based on the life of anti-religious bigot Dan Savage. MRC and FRC sent a letter to Ben Sherwood, president of Disney/ABC Television Group, nearly four weeks ago urging him to pull the plug on the new show but have still not received a response.

Still no response! Sounds like anti-Catholic bigotry, for sure. Normally entertainment executives are eager to get into discussions with people who tell them to pull the plug on shows that aren’t Catholic enough.

Dan Savage’s vulgarity and violent rhetoric is well-documented. Savage is unapologetic in his promotion of filth masquerading as humor. His new show, ironically titled “The Real O’Neals,” is a platform he does not deserve. Even so, Disney ABC continues to remain silent as pro-family and pro-faith organizations call for it to reconsider its decision to promote this bigoted, hate-filled man.

What is Disney doing giving this terrible man a platform? No one like that should have a platform. All his platforms should be taken away, until none but Catholic platforms remain.

“Disney ABC continues to circle the wagon and ignore the anti-religious bigot in their midst,” said MRC President Brent Bozell. “We will not relent in exposing Dan Savage for the vile hate he spews at conservatives, Catholics, and evangelicals. Disney ABC’s silence is shameful.”

Hmm. That reminds me of something. I wonder what it could be…

Then LifeSiteNews provides a string of statements from various outraged thought leaders.

“Dan Savage recently made a lewd smear against Pope John Paul II on Twitter in which he accused him of being a child molester. This is sadly typical of Dan Savage, who has a history of making X-rated personal attacks. Why would Disney hire this man for one of their TV shows? And why would advertisers want to be associated with such vile attacks on Catholics?”
– Brian Burch, President,

Huh, that too sounds oddly familiar…

“The idea that the vulgar, insulting, outrageous Dan Savage would rate consideration for a sitcom on ABC Disney only confirms the obvious fact that, culturally, our nation is in a moral free fall.  What other reason could there be for partnering with a man who has spent much of his adult life insulting God, His followers, and His Church? How low will society go before courageous Americans stand up and say enough? The time is now to raise our voices. Join us in opposing this most recent embrace of media bigotry that has no place in a civilized nation.”
– Judie Brown, President, American Life League Inc.

Hahahaha Dan Savage gets people as riled up as PZ does.

Then LifeSiteNews provides a Little List:

Dan Savage has made numerous comments about conservatives, evangelicals, and Catholics that offend basic standards of decency. They include:

  • Proclaiming that he sometimes thinks about “f***ing the shit out of” Senator Rick Santorum
  • Calling for Christians at a high school conference to “ignore the bulls*** in the Bible”
  • Saying that “the only thing that stands between my d*** and Brad Pitt’s mouth is a piece of paper” when expressing his feelings on Pope Benedict’s opposition to gay “marriage”
  • Promoting marital infidelity
  • Saying “Carl Romanelli should be dragged behind a pickup truck until there’s nothing left but the rope.”
  • Telling Bill Maher that he wished Republicans “were all f***ing dead”
  • Telling Dr. Ben Carson to “suck my d***. Name the time and place and I’ll bring my d*** and a camera crew and you can s*** me off and win the argument.”

I hope we are all suitably chastened.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)