Notes and Comment Blog

Trump to citizens: none of your business

Jul 27th, 2016 11:49 am | By

Trump won’t be releasing his tax records, because he’s better than you.

A top aide to Donald Trump said Wednesday that the Republican presidential nominee “will not be releasing” his taxes.
“Mr. Trump has said that his taxes are under audit and he will not be releasing them,” Trump campaign chief Paul Manafort told “CBS This Morning.”

That “auditing” nonsense has nothing to do with it; it’s just code for he doesn’t want to plus fuck you.

Trump has pushed back in recent months on calls from Democrats and some Republicans, namely former GOP nominee Mitt Romney, to release his tax returns.

Conservative columnist George Will this week argued Trump doesn’t want to release his taxes because they show “he is deeply involved in dealing with Russia oligarchs.”

“So to be clear, Mr. Trump has no financial relationships with any Russian oligarchs?” CBS’s Norah O’Donnell asked Manafort.

“That’s what he said, that’s what I said,” Manafort responded. “That’s obviously what our position is.”

And why would we not take his word for it and what possible reason could he have to lie about it?

Which is the true sham marriage?

Jul 27th, 2016 11:18 am | By

West Yorkshire police are looking into the suspicious death of Samia Shahid in Pakistan.

Samia Shahid had previously been harassed by a family member in Bradford last September, the West Yorkshire force has confirmed.

Bradford West MP Naz Shah is also investigating Ms Shahid’s death.

“I’m not going to rest until I’m satisfied I know the cause of her death – we need to investigate it fully,” said Ms Shah, who has written to the prime minister of Pakistan, Nawaz Sharif, calling for Ms Shahid’s body to be exhumed.

“It’s very suspicious circumstances,” she added.

The fact that she was young and healthy. The fact that her family disapproved of her divorce and re-marriage. The fact that her family have said she died of a heart attack, asthma, and whatever else occurred to them when asked. All suspicious.

Husband Syed Mukhtar Kazam, said that before she went to Pakistan, his wife’s family had threatened her life.

“They were threatening us because she got married out of the family with her own will and they didn’t like it”, he told the BBC.

He said his wife had gone to Pakistan because she thought her father was ill.

Joke’s on her, it turns out she’s the one who was “ill”; so “ill” that she died.

[Her father] Muhammad Shahid, who denies the murder claim, has also said he does not know who Syed Mukhtar Kazam is.

Tabraz Akhtar, an uncle of Samia Shahid, said the family was going through “a hard time”.

“This person pretending to be her husband – that is wrong,” he said.

“That looks like a sham marriage, she’s married from Pakistan to her cousin.”

However, the BBC in Islamabad has seen a UK marriage certificate for the couple.

Yes but that doesn’t count, because it’s only her father who gets to decide who her real husband is.


Her harder edges

Jul 27th, 2016 10:22 am | By

It’s time to “soften” Hillary Clinton’s image. Gotta soften that baby right up. Can’t have any hardness around.

At a time when many voters say they don’t trust Hillary Clinton, her husband sought to soften her harder edges.

I have an idea. How about she just transitions, instead? Wouldn’t that be a lot easier?


Russia, if you’re listening

Jul 27th, 2016 9:53 am | By

The New York Times reports, aghast –

DORAL, Fla. — Donald J. Trump said Wednesday that he hoped Russia had hacked Hillary Clinton’s email, essentially encouraging a foreign power’s cyberspying of a secretary of state’s correspondence.

“Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing,” Mr. Trump said, staring directly into the cameras. “I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press.”

Mr. Trump’s call was an extraordinary moment at a time when Russia is being accused of meddling in the U.S. presidential election. His comments came amid questions about the hacking of the Democratic National Committee’s computer servers, which researchers have concluded was likely the work of two Russian intelligence agencies.

Trump seems to think he and Clinton are business rivals, or perhaps contestants on a reality tv show – Top Campaigner maybe? He seems to have forgotten that the object of their rivalry is the presidency, and that presidents (and thus aspirants to the presidency) shouldn’t be encouraging foreign autocrats to spy on our own secretaries of state.

Or, to put it more bluntly, he seems to be flirting with treason, which isn’t a good look on a major party candidate.

John Nimmo

Jul 27th, 2016 9:34 am | By

An internet threat-maker faces jail for making threats. Again.

John Nimmo, 28, from South Shields, sent two emails to [Labour MP] Luciana Berger where he told her to “watch your back Jewish scum”. The second message to the 35-year-old MP for Wavertree, who is running to become mayor of Liverpool, also included a picture of a large knife.

Nimmo was previously jailed in 2014 for eight weeks for sending abusive messages on Twitter to feminist campaigner Caroline Criado-Perez and MP Stella Creasy.

Just banter. Just his opinion. Free speech. If women don’t like it they should shut up get offline.

Along with Isabella Sorley, Nimmo previously pleaded guilty at Westminster magistrates court in 2014 to abusing Criado-Perez and Creasy. The abuse came after Criado-Perez led a campaign using social media for a female figure to appear on a Bank of England note. It included Nimmo telling Criado-Perez to “shut up” and made references to rape, followed by: “I will find you (smiley face)”.

Paul Kennedy, for the defence, had argued for a suspended sentence, saying “he says these things for attention”.

“He does not desire to carry out these threats,” he said.

Women should either laugh merrily at the threats or stay out of public life and off the internet.

People shocked, shocked to learn there was slavery in DC

Jul 26th, 2016 6:45 pm | By

Some people saw fit to get huffy about Michelle Obama’s saying that slaves built the White House. Jeezus, folks, where have you been? You do realize Washington was in the South, right? You know there were slave markets in DC? You know the White House wasn’t built from a kit? Why wouldn’t slaves have built it?

There is little dispute among historians that slaves had a role in the building of the White House. According to the White House Historical Association’s website, planners had initially intended to import workers from Europe but had trouble recruiting any, so they “turned to African-American — enslaved and free — to provide the bulk of labor that built the White House, the United States Capitol, and other early government buildings.”

And guess what, that’s why slavery was a thing at all – the colonists desperately needed labor, a lot more labor than they had, so – they stole it. They didn’t have enough so they stole other people’s.

Jesse Holland, a Washington-based journalist who wrote “The Invisibles: The Untold Story of African American Slaves in the White House,” said that most people never thought about how the president’s house and other important government buildings had been constructed, but that historians had long acknowledged the role of slaves.

“If you think about it, it would be pretty obvious: The White House is a neo-Classical mansion that was built in the South during slavery, and a majority of the mansions that were built in the South during slavery used slaves,” Mr. Holland said in an interview.

“We as Americans build up a myth of our country, and a lot of times, we don’t want to look behind that myth,” he added. “For me, finding out the truth and acknowledging the participation of everyone in the construction of this country just makes our country richer.”

Mrs. Obama was reaching for a similar point on Monday, emphasizing as President Obama often does that the strengths of the United States spring in part from its ugly, painful past.

It was a hell of a powerful moment in her speech, too.

She said America’s story was “the story that has brought me to this stage tonight, the story of generations of people who felt the lash of bondage, the shame of servitude, the sting of segregation, but who kept on striving and hoping and doing what needed to be done so that today, I wake up every morning in a house that was built by slaves, and I watch my daughters — two beautiful, intelligent, black young women — playing with their dogs on the White House lawn.”

Well, yes. It’s not as if that’s not part of the story.

Guest post: The influence of Revenge of the Nerds

Jul 26th, 2016 6:25 pm | By

Originally a comment by Freemage on Where it gets complicated.

In addition to Cressida’s point, there’s also the difference, highlighted in Ophelia’s original post, even, between ‘having a fantasy’, ‘acting out a fantasy’ and ‘depicting that fantasy for others to consume’ (and then, on that last one, depicting a fantasy for money, which usually means it’s probably not your fantasy to begin with). Each step in that chain is a different beast, entirely, and conflating it all as one big happy ball of sex positivity is a deliberate attempt by porn producers to add legitimacy to their activities.

Having a fantasy is fine. Acting out that fantasy, in a safe fashion with a trusted and consenting partner, is fine.

Depicting it for others, however, creates the impression that this is what sex ~should~ be like. That has a massive implication that needs to be examined, addressed and challenged.

For a non-pornographic version of how much consuming media can influence a culture, go back and watch 1984’s Revenge of the Nerds. This ‘comedy’ is commonly cited as a cornerstone of modern nerd culture, coming as it did during the formative years of the current 35- to 50-year-old set. I see it come up in conversations in forums for comics, computer games or tabletop role-playing all the time.

In it, the protagonists commit virtually every form of misogynistic behavior we’ve seen take a rise in the internet age: Stalking, voyeurism, revenge porn and hey, even rape (which is totally forgiven because the ‘hero’ is so good at sex). (We also get a hefty side-order of the ‘struggles’ of white male nerds being compared to that of African-Americans, because why not?)


Jul 26th, 2016 4:33 pm | By

You cannot be serious.

The British Council has said it will investigate comments allegedly made by one of its senior employees on Facebook that criticise Prince George for living “on public money”.

Angela Gibbins, head of global estates at the charity, was reported to have commented on a picture of the young prince, which someone had captioned: “I know he’s only two years old, but Prince George already looks like a f****** d***head.”

A spokeswoman said: “This comment was made on a private social media account. It has absolutely no connection to the British Council and does not represent the views of the British Council.

“That said, we expect the highest standards of our staff and we will be investigating the matter further.”

How can they “investigate” what an employee says on a private account? And even if they can why would they?

Gibbins’s apparent comments, which were reported in the Sun, were on a photograph of the duke and duchess of Cambridge’s firstborn taken for a set of stamps to celebrate the Queen’s 90th birthday when he was two years old.

She allegedly said: “White privilege. That cheeky grin is the innate knowledge he’s royal, rich, advantaged and will never know *any* difficulties or hardships in life.

“Let’s find photos of 3yo Syrian refugee children and see if they look alike, eh?”


People are allowed to take a critical view of the “royal family” in the UK aren’t they? Even on Facebook?

Simply an administrative matter

Jul 26th, 2016 4:26 pm | By

You can just never hate women enough, can you. The dosage always has to be increased. El Salvador’s law banning all abortions without exception no matter what has been found to be not harsh enough.

Abortion has been illegal under all circumstances in El Salvador since 1997, with a penalty of two to eight years in prison. Now, the right-wing ARENA Party has introduced a bill that would increase that penalty to a prison sentence of 30 to 50 years—the same as aggravated homicide.

That’s some heavy-duty hatred of women there.

The bill’s major sponsor, Rep. Ricardo Andrés Velásquez Parker, explained in a television interview on July 11 that this was simply an administrative matter and “shouldn’t need any further discussion.”

Since the Salvadoran Constitution recognizes “the human being from the moment of conception,” he said, it “is necessary to align the Criminal Code with this principle, and substitute the current penalty for abortion, which is two to eight years in prison, with that of aggravated homicide.”

It’s too bad the Salvadoran Constitution does not recognize women as human beings.

How would it be possible to libel Andrew Wakefield?

Jul 26th, 2016 12:26 pm | By

The Irish Examiner:

A US film studio has threatened to sue an Irish autism-rights advocate if she continues to speak out against its controversial anti-vaccine documentary, Vaxxed: From Cover-Up to Catastrophe.

West Cork-based mother, Fiona O’Leary, who wants to block the film’s release in Ireland and Britain, said she was outraged to receive a legal letter from California-based Cinema Libre Studios over the weekend.

The letter claimed that her public comments about the 90-minute film were defamatory and that her comments about the filmmaker were libellous.

They demand that she immediately shut up, or else.

“In the event that you do not comply with this demand, we intend to file an action against you. We will ask for punitive damages and financial compensation for all losses to our business directly resulting from your actions.”

The documentary alleges that the US government agency charged with protecting the health of US citizens destroyed data from a 2004 study that showed a link between the MMR vaccine and autism.

It is directed by discredited anti-vaccine activist, Andrew Wakefield, whose controversial 1998 study first suggested a link between autism and vaccines.

Why is he discredited? Because his “study” was fraudulent. Wikipedia:

Andrew Jeremy Wakefield (born c. 1957) is a British former gastroenterologist and medical researcher, known for his fraudulent 1998 research paper in support of the now-discredited claim that there was a link between the administration of the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine, and the appearance of autism and bowel disease.

His fraudulent 1998 research paper. The “discredited” above is polite, given the facts. More Wikipedia:

On 28 January 2010, a five-member statutory tribunal of the GMC found three dozen charges proved, including four counts of dishonesty and 12 counts involving the abuse of developmentally challenged children.[12] The panel ruled that Wakefield had “failed in his duties as a responsible consultant”, acted both against the interests of his patients, and “dishonestly and irresponsibly” in his published research.[13][14][15]The Lancet fully retracted the 1998 publication on the basis of the GMC’s findings, noting that elements of the manuscript had been falsified.[16]The Lancet’s editor-in-chief Richard Hortonsaid the paper was “utterly false” and that the journal had been “deceived”.[17] Three months followingThe Lancet’s retraction, Wakefield was struck off the UK medical register, with a statement identifying deliberate falsification in the research published in The Lancet,[18] and was barred from practising medicine in the UK.[19]

He directed this dangerous film, and the film company has the gall to threaten a critic and tell her to shut up.

It’s Trump-level disgusting.

Go high

Jul 26th, 2016 11:42 am | By

Irony stretched to the breaking point – a Facebook rant (sorry, I instantly forgot who posted it so can’t link) about how pathetically unelectable the Dems are, because all the people who spoke last night – Cory Booker, Michelle Obama, Elizabeth Warren among others – never struggled a day in their lives, so how can they possibly lure voters away from Trump?

What universe is this? Trump is the one who inherited millions. Michelle Obama and Elizabeth Warren grew up working class. Cory Booker’s parents were IBM executives, but I don’t think we should be assuming that even comfortably middle class black kids grow up with zero struggle, especially compared to rich white kids.

People seem to confuse Trump’s incredible vulgarity with his being somehow working class and not privileged and representative of the struggling masses, and the striking unvulgarity of Booker and Obama and Warren with silver spoon births. That’s ridiculous. Trump is indeed a boor, and ignorant, and profoundly trashy – but that’s not because he ever had to “struggle” – it’s because that’s what he’s like.


Jul 26th, 2016 7:12 am | By

The BBC reports fallout from its own reporting on the “hyena” in Malawi who cheerfully admitted that he’s HIV-positive.

An HIV-positive Malawian man, who says he is paid to have sex with children as part of initiation rites, has been arrested on the president’s orders.

Eric Aniva, a sex worker known in Malawi as a “hyena”, was the subject of a BBC feature last week.

He told the BBC that did not mention his HIV status to those who hire him.

President Peter Mutharika said the police should investigate and charge him over the cases of defilement he had seemingly confessed to.

“Defilement” is a horrible choice of word. He apparently confessed to potential infection.

“While we must promote positive cultural values and positive socialisation of our children, the president says harmful cultural and traditional practices cannot be accepted in this country,” presidential spokesman Mgeme Kalilani said in a statement

Mr Avena would “further be investigated for exposing the young girls to contracting HIV and further be charged accordingly”, he said.

The president had also ordered all men and parents involved should be investigated, Mr Kalilani said.

“All people involved in this malpractice should be held accountable for subjecting their children and women to this despicable evil,” the statement said.

Well, good. That’s a cultural practice that should come to an immediate end.

Where it gets complicated

Jul 25th, 2016 4:19 pm | By

When choosy-choice libertarian “feminism” meets Porn Culture Today – and the result is hipster bullshit.

Can a feminist have rape fantasies?

According to feminist pornography producer Pandora Blake, who runs the fetish porn site Dreams of Spanking and frequently portrays fantasies of “non-consent”, the answer is a no-brainer. “Absolutely.”

The general consensus in the feminist porn movement is that no fantasy, no matter how anti-feminist the subject matter appears to be, is off limits. To tell a woman what she is and is not allowed to be turned on by is just about as anti-feminist as it gets.

No, it really isn’t. We know the advertisers and marketers and porn producers want you to think that, but if we think really hard we can come up with a reason for that that’s separate from “because it’s true.”

First, “allowed to” isn’t the issue. That’s where the bullshit comes in – it’s dishonest. Saying X isn’t feminist does not equate to saying X isn’t allowed, much less you’re not allowed to X. None of this has anything at all to do with permission or commandment.

Second, it’s possible to be turned on by something that makes you feel uncomfortable to be turned on by. Third, it’s ok to talk about that, in fact it’s good to talk about that. Feminists have been trying to figure out the guilty pleasure of rape fantasies since forever. Trying to figure it out is one thing, and claiming it’s obviously and “absolutely” feminist in itself is another.

Feminists routinely fight for sexual agency – a woman’s right to make decisions about her own sexuality, including when and with whom to have sex, and when, if ever, to get pregnant. Feminists traditionally rebel against the forces that would hem in these rights: the puritanical voices that say that a woman who enjoys sex is a slut, that would restrict access to contraceptives, that claim that dressing provocatively is inviting rape.

Following that logic, feminists argue they shouldn’t invoke shame around the sexual fantasies of others – even if those fantasies include images of kink and domination, or even rape.

But not invoking shame is one thing, and celebrating is another.

“There’s a clear distinction between fantasizing about being coerced, and actually being coerced,” Blake says, explaining that just because she has (and depicts) dark fantasies doesn’t in any way mean that she’s endorsing real-life nonconsensual sex acts.

Wait. They keep sneaking extra claims in here. Having fantasies is one thing, and depicting them (and distributing and profiting from the depictions of them) is another.

The feminism of Trouble and Taormino’s porn isn’t limited to the content – they are also strongly committed to a safe and comfortable work environment, fair pay, and a creative voice for their actors. This behind-the-scenes work is especially important for porn like Blake’s. While Blake doesn’t believe that the content of her work is at odds with her feminism, where it gets complicated, she says, is in portraying and sharing those fantasies without promoting actual violence toward women. In a world where porn is the de facto sex education for any teenager with an internet connection, socially responsible producers have to think not only about what will get people off, but what people will learn.

Well exactly. So why begin the piece with all that dishonest blamey crap then?

Because it’s hotter that way, I suppose.

Walk this way

Jul 25th, 2016 12:43 pm | By

You get off your horse, and you head into the saloon.

Many dozens of journalists have lost their jobs

Jul 25th, 2016 12:24 pm | By

Erdoğan is zeroing in on the journalists now.

One journalist, who was on vacation, had his home raided in the early morning by the police. Others were called in to their bosses’ offices last week and fired, with little explanation. Dozens of reporters have had their press credentials revoked.

A pro-government newspaper, meanwhile, published a list of names and photographs of journalists suspected of treachery.

The witch-hunt environment that has enveloped Turkey in the wake of a failed military coup extended to the media on Monday, as the government issued warrants for the detention of dozens of journalists.

Erdoğan never has liked to see journalists just doing journalism, without any helpful guidance from him.

Many dozens of journalists have lost their jobs during his tenure. Others have been arrested over their coverage of national security issues. Still others have been charged with insulting the president, a crime in Turkey.

Among the journalists on the list to be detained on Monday was Nazli Ilicak, a prominent television commentator who was fired several years ago from Sabah, a pro-government newspaper, after criticizing the government during a corruption scandal.

Oh well, governments are always perfect, so there’s no need to have journalists who criticize them.

As the government has detained journalists, it has also begun censoring the internet, blocking access to more than 20 websites, including the news sites Gazetport, Haberdar and Medyascope.

The Turkish Radio and Television Supreme Council also canceled broadcasting licenses for 24 television and radio stations with suspected ties to Mr. Gulen.

The Turkish government has not spared foreign journalists in its attacks, verbal or otherwise, on the media.

Officials have singled out news outlets such as the BBC and The New York Times for what they called “pro-coup coverage,” saying the outlets’ focus has been more on Mr. Erdogan’s sweeping purge rather than on the assault on Turkey’s democracy from the coup itself.

The coup was over in hours. The purge is going on and on and on…

That boy

Jul 25th, 2016 11:21 am | By

A 28-year-old woman from Bradford dies suddenly while visiting relatives in Pakistan.

Police are investigating the death of a British woman in Pakistan after her husband claimed she was the victim of an “honour” killing for marrying a man from outside the family allegedly against her parents’ wishes.

Samia Shahid, a beauty therapist from Bradford, died on Wednesday while visiting relatives in Pandori village near Mangla Dam in northern Punjab, the Foreign Office confirmed.

Shahid’s local MP, Naz Shah, has demanded that authorities in Pakistan exhume her body and commission an independent autopsy.

Her husband was told she’d had a heart attack. Someone else told the Guardian it was asthma.

Her husband said he feared she had been killed by her family, who he says refused to accept their relationship, partly as he was an “outsider”. Shortly before Shahid and Kazam married at Leeds town hall in September 2014, she had left her first husband, a first cousin from their village in Pakistan.

The family denies it.

“This is a terrible tragedy but she died of natural causes,” said Mohammed Ali, a cousin in Bradford. “The family did a postmortem. There’s no evidence whatsoever of murder.” He disputed Kazam’s claim of marriage, referring to him as “that boy, Samia’s so-called husband”.

That’s not a good sign.

A family friend in Bradford said on Sunday the family were not happy when Shahid married Kazam but had learned to accept their relationship because they loved her.

The Guardian has seen a witness statement submitted to Pakistani police by Shahid’s father, Mohammed Shahid, in which he refers to his daughter’s husband as her cousin Mohammed Shakeel, not Kazam. The Guardian has also seen a copy of Shahid and Kazam’s British marriage certificate, signed on 24 September 2014.

Yeeeeahhhh – if the father is still calling the first cousin she left her husband, that kind of undercuts the claim that the family had learned to accept the second marriage, doesn’t it.

Kazam, a Pakistani national, claims Shahid’s family did not approve of their “love marriage”. He says she moved to live with him in Dubai in May 2015, but had been back to Bradford twice in the past year to persuade her parents to accept the relationship.

Kazam claimed that at the start of July, Shahid was encouraged to travel to Pakistan because one of her aunts had died, but she chose not to travel to the country.

Kazam claimed Shahid was told that a relative was gravely ill in Pakistan and she flew to Islamabad on 14 July.

Shahid was due to return last Thursday but Kazam said he received a call on Wednesday from one of Shahid’s cousins saying she had had a heart attack and died. He told the Guardian he did not believe his otherwise healthy wife would have died suddenly, and he flew to Pakistan to force the police to investigate.

If I were Kazam I wouldn’t believe it either.

Intersectionality simply means calling a woman a bigot

Jul 24th, 2016 5:09 pm | By

Glosswitch ponders the way purity politics on the left ends up meaning misogyny just doesn’t matter enough to do anything.

Misogyny may be deplored in theory, but when you look at actual women, they are never good enough to merit protection. Men are. Men always are. There’s not a man on earth who doesn’t benefit from the unpaid labour of women, but that is only natural. As Andrea Dworkin put it, “God is the right, nature is the left.” There’s always a moral reason for hating women. Ruth Smeeth worked for an evil corporation, as have I. Screw us. While men’s humanity is not in question, women only get one humanity token and we blew it.

Today’s left wing men have their own bastardised version of intersectionality to use as an excuse for continuing to dismiss women’s issues and needs. I don’t think for a minute any of them have read any Crenshaw, yet they consider themselves experts when it comes to lecturing their female peers on privilege. Crenshaw had an important point to make about the way in which intersecting oppressions require specific analyses and practical responses as opposed to one-size-fits-all solutions. As far as your average lefty male is concerned, intersectionality simply means calling a woman a bigot whenever she seeks to articulate the material nature of female oppression.

It’s so thrilling for them when they get to do that.

Only a whorephobic bully objects to the sex trade. Only a transphobe considers abortion and surrogacy to be women’s issues. Only a middle-class bitch shirks the housework and pays another woman to do it. It’s funny, isn’t it, how the left-wing intersectional ideal ends up being not the liberation of all women, but ensuring all woman remain barefoot and pregnant, serving men.

And I’m pissed off with this. I’m pissed off with the fact not only that purity costs money (very few of us can afford to quit a job in moral pique) but that it imposes a specific, unacknowledged tax on women. We’re meant to shut up about rape threats for the sake of party unity. We’re meant to carry on cooking, cleaning, caring, serving, because it would be “exploitative” to expect anyone else to do it. We’re meant to pretend that Hillary Clinton is the same as Donald Trump even though Trump clearly thinks all women are scum. We’re meant to perform the exact same role capitalist patriarchy has always expected us to perform only don’t worry, girls! Come the revolution you’ll be scrubbing floors and sucking cock in a socialist utopia!

And nobody will ever utter the word “misogyny” again.

It won’t work, Brendan

Jul 24th, 2016 12:26 pm | By

For a minute there Brendan O’Neill almost deviates into sense.

The alt-right, those anti-PC, bedroom-bound fans of Trump and strangers to sexual intercourse, have finally lost the plot. Consider their hounding of Leslie Jones. Jones is a very funny African-American comedian and the only good thing in the otherwise flat, weird and mirth-free Ghostbusters reboot. Yet for the past 48 hours she has been subjected to vile racist abuse by alt-right tweeters and gamers and other assorted saddos for her part in what they view as the feministic crime of remaking Ghostbusters with a female cast. She has left Twitter. This might mark the moment when the alt-right went full racist, full berserk, full unhinged.

Ordinarily O’Neill doesn’t acknowledge that there is such a thing as vile racist abuse. He acknowledges speech, and dissent, and disagreement, but not vile racist abuse. His rhetoric is usually framed around the assumption that speech cannot be abuse, because it’s speech, and it’s free. It’s surprising to see him admitting so much here.

The alt-right angries, convinced the world is one big lefty, feminist plot to ruin your average white dude’s life, have been fuming about the new Ghostbusters for months…They reserved most of their venom for Ms Jones because… well, because she’s black, and it’s hilarious and super un-PC to abuse a black woman, right?

Well, yes, and ordinarily O’Neill borders on agreeing with them, or at least he avoids condemning them by pretending abuse is just dissent.

The comments made about Ms Jones have been genuinely nauseating. She has been called the N-word. She has been sent photographs of apes. It’s like something from the 19th century. No one who believes in racial equality and basic human decency could fail to be moved by her pained tweet following two days of relentless racial slurs: ‘I feel like I’m in personal hell. I didn’t do anything to deserve this. It’s just too much. It shouldn’t be like this. So hurt right now.’ For any black person to be subjected to racist abuse is horrific; for it to happen to a woman whose only ‘crime’ was to land a breakthrough role in a female-oriented summer blockbuster is particularly despicable. Ms Jones hits the big time and is instantly bombarded with racist smears — awful.

Quite so. It’s too bad it’s taken him so very long to admit that. It’s too bad he refused to admit it when it was aimed at women without the racist component. It’s too bad it’s taken something as extreme as the abuse aimed at Jones to get him to stop saying it’s just dissent.

After that he gets incoherent.

These attacks on Ms Jones speak to something more than the raucousness of Twitter, which can often be a good thing, certainly to the extent that it allows unheard, eccentric and potty voices to be heard. It speaks, more importantly, to the derailment of the important task of challenging PC. Tragically, for those of us who want to prick PC from a genuinely liberal and pro-autonomy perspective, the anti-PC mantle has in recent months been co-opted by the new right, or the alt-right, as some call them. These lovers of Trump (they call him ‘daddy’) and conspiracy theorists about feminism (whose wicked influence they spy everywhere) have turned being anti-PC from a decent, progressive position into an infantile, pathological, Tourette’s-style desire to scream offensive words out loud, like the seven-year-old who’s just discovered the thrill that comes with saying ‘f**k’.

Except that that’s what it’s always been. This isn’t something that has changed “in recent months”; Twitter has been like this for years. Maybe there were a few months at the beginning of Twitter’s existence when it wasn’t like that, I don’t know, but it’s certainly been like that since at least 2011, and probably longer.

And that business about “pricking PC” from a decent, progressive position is bullshit. That ship sailed not years but decades ago.

Their response to new and mad PC rules on how to talk about race and gender is not to criticise them dispassionately, or point out that it’s ironically pretty racist and sexist to suggest black people and women need protection from offensive words; no, it’s to say the offensive words, to say the N-word, as loudly as possible, and ideally to a black person.

Talk about wanting to have it both ways. Look, Brendan, either saying “the N-word” and “the C-word” to black people and women is a bad thing to do, or it isn’t. Either people shouldn’t abuse black people and women by calling them racist and sexist names, or they should. It’s no good saying they shouldn’t but at the same time “it’s ironically pretty racist and sexist to suggest black people and women need protection from offensive words.” No, it really is not “pretty racist and sexist” to say that people should not abuse black people and women by calling them racist and sexist names. That’s not “suggesting they need protection from offensive words” – it’s saying racist and sexist abuse is racist and sexist abuse.

At this point it would probably kill Brendan to drop that stupid, tired, smug line – but if he thinks he can combine it with outrage at the way “the alt-right” abused Leslie Jones, he’s delusional.

Theresa Kachindamoto

Jul 24th, 2016 11:45 am | By

That’s not all Theresa Kachindamoto is working on. She’s also working on making it possible for girls to stay in school instead of getting married.

Theresa Kachindamoto, the senior chief in the Dedza District of Central Malawi, wields power over close to 900,000 people… and she’s not afraid to use her authority to help the women and girlsin her district. In the past three years, she has annulled more than 850 child marriages, sent hundreds of young women back to school to continue their education, and made strides to abolish cleansing rituals that require girls as young as seven to go to sexual initiation camps. With more than half of Malawi’s girls married before the age of 18, according to a 2012 United Nations survey — and a consistently low ranking on the human development index, Kachindamoto’s no-nonsense attitude and effective measures have made her a vital ally in the fight for women’s and children’s rights.

education, child marriage laws, Malawi, Theresa Kachindamoto

Kachindamoto, who was born in Dedza District, had been working as a secretary for twenty-seven years in another district when she was called to come home and serve as a chief. Upon her return, she was dismayed at the sight of 12 year-old girls with babies and young husbands and quickly began to take action. Last year, Malawi raised the legal age to marry to 18, yet parental consent continues to serve as a loophole to allow younger girls to marry. Kachindamoto ordered 50 of her sub-chiefs to sign an agreement ending child marriage in Dedza District. When a few male chiefs continued to approve the marriages, Kachindamoto suspended them until they annulled the unions. In addition to annulling the marriages (330 in June of 2015 alone!), this fierce chief sent the children back to school, often paying their school fees with her own money. She has also asked parliament to raise the minimum age of marriage again to 21.

Good luck to her.

H/t Stewart

Ritual cleansing

Jul 24th, 2016 10:55 am | By

An “interesting” custom in Malawi:

In some remote southern regions of Malawi, it’s traditional for girls to be made to have sex with a paid sex worker known as a “hyena” once they reach puberty. The act is not seen by village elders as rape, but as a form of ritual “cleansing”. However, as Ed Butler reports, it has the potential to be the opposite of cleansing – a way of spreading disease.

Well, you know, how it’s seen by “the village elders” isn’t really the issue, since it’s not the village elders who are being fucked against their will. Note that the girls are made to “have sex with” this guy – in other words they’re raped. The fact that it’s potentially unhealthy isn’t the only problem.

Aniva is by all accounts the pre-eminent “hyena” in this village. It’s a traditional title given to a man hired by communities in several remote parts of southern Malawi to provide what’s called sexual “cleansing”. If a man dies, for example, his wife is required by tradition to sleep with Aniva before she can bury him. If a woman has an abortion, again sexual cleansing is required.

Required, required, required – the women are required to be raped for various stupid reasons. “Cleansing”=punishing a woman, just to be on the safe side.

And most shockingly, here in Nsanje, teenage girls, after their first menstruation, are made to have sex over a three-day period, to mark their passage from childhood to womanhood. If the girls refuse, it’s believed, disease or some fatal misfortune could befall their families or the village as a whole.

They’re raped over a three day period. They’re not “made to have sex” because being raped isn’t having sex. The rapist is having sex, but the rape victim isn’t.

“Some girls are just 12 or 13 years old, but I prefer them older. All these girls find pleasure in having me as their hyena. They actually are proud and tell other people that this man is a real man, he knows how to please a woman.”

Despite his boasts, several girls I meet in a nearby village express aversion to the ordeal they’ve had to go through.

“There was nothing else I could have done. I had to do it for the sake of my parents,” one girl, Maria, tells me. “If I’d refused, my family members could be attacked with diseases – even death – so I was scared.”

They tell me that all their female friends were made to have sex with a hyena.

Just to make sure, condoms are not permitted.

It’s clear, given the hyena’s duties, that HIV is a huge risk to the community. The UN estimates that one in 10 of all Malawians carry the virus, so I ask Aniva if he is HIV-positive. He astounds me by saying that he is – and that he doesn’t mention this to a girl’s parents when they hire him.

Ah. Brilliant.

Parents who have had more education than others may already choose not to hire a hyena, I am told. But the female elders I spoke to remain defiant.

“There’s nothing wrong with our culture,” Chrissie tells me. “If you look at today’s society, you can see that girls are not responsible, so we have to train our girls in a good manner in the village, so that they don’t go astray, are good wives so that the husband is satisfied, and so that nothing bad happens to their families.”

Definitely. You have to have the girls thoroughly raped (and infected with HIV) so that the husband is happy.

In Malawi’s central Dedza district, hyenas are only ever used to initiate widows or infertile women, but the Paramount Chief Theresa Kachindamoto – a rare female figurehead in Malawi – has made the fight against the tradition a personal priority.

She is trying to galvanise other regional chiefs to make similar efforts. In some other districts, like Mangochi in the east of the country, ceremonies are being adapted to replace sex with a more benign anointing of the girl.

But not in Nsanje.

In a remote village, I meet one of Aniva’s two wives, Fanny, along with his youngest baby daughter. Fanny was herself widowed before being “cleansed” by Aniva with sex. They married soon after.

Their relationship looks strained. Sitting next to him, she admits shyly that she hates what he does, but that it brings necessary income. I ask her if she expects her two-year-old to be undergoing initiation too in perhaps 10 years from now.

“I don’t want that to happen,” she says. “I want this tradition to end. We are forced to sleep with the hyenas. It’s not out of our choice and that I think is so sad for us as women.”

“You hated it when it happened to you?” I ask.

“I still hate it right up until now.”

Then Aniva says he doesn’t want it for his daughter either.