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.

Residual respect for an enduring institution

Nov 29th, 2011 1:05 pm | By

I did an interview with Geoff Whelan of QED which is now posted.

One of the questions was

Are you dismayed when those who you would think naturally would support a strong atheist position turn their criticism against those who directly challenge religion? Is there something about free thinkers that encourages dissent? Or are we talking about Dennett’s belief in belief, in the sense that someone may realise on an intellectual level that religious belief is false but that they still have residual respect for an enduring institution?

Funny, PZ has a post about yet another example of that kind of thing, just today. The yet another example is yet another by Joseph Hoffmann, yet again in the same style – loose generalities about atheists, with no specifics to dispute. I saw it a few days ago and was going to retort but then deflated out of sheer boredom. It’s just the same old dreck. Hate-mongering, basically, stirred up against a category that is already thoroughly hated, and without any pesky particulars or evidence. It’s not an impressive or responsible thing to do.

But never mind. Speaking of impressive and responsible – who do you think is going to be at QED too, along with his father? Rhys Morgan! Booya.


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

Why Burzynski matters

Nov 29th, 2011 12:16 pm | By

Craig Malisow doesn’t mince words in his blog post for Houston Press about his neighbors at the Burzynski Clinic. Maybe he’s hoping Marc Stephens will offer to threaten him too.

Here’s a warning for anyone out there considering blogging or tweeting anything questioning the greatness of cancer-curing Houston doc Stanislaw Burzynski: You will probably be threatened by the head of marketing for the Burzynski Patient Support Group.

We first heard about loose cannon Marc Stephens’s weird diatribes Monday, when a guy in England informed us that Stephens had earlier this month threatened 17-year-old Welsh blogger Rhys Morgan with a libel suit if Morgan didn’t remove any of his comments questioning the validity of Burzynski’s claims. Morgan is one of several bloggers around the world that Stephens has been threatening.

Giving the false impression he was an attorney representing the Burzynski Clinic, Stephens demanded Morgan “immediately cease and desist in your actions defaming and libeling my clients. Please allow this correspondence to serve as notice to you that published libelous and defamatory information.” Showing off his legal chops, Stephens busted out the all-caps to admonish Morgan that he best “GOVERN YOURSELF ACCORDINGLY.”

No words minced there. Loose cannon, weird diatribes, giving the false impression he was an attorney, and the sarcasm about his legal chops – those words are whole and entire.

We’ve left several messages for Burzynski Clinic spokeswoman Renee Trimble, trying to find out if they knew about — or approve of — Stephens’s actions, but we haven’t heard back. That’s what we call primo PR, Renee! Keep it up! We also e-mailed Stephens and have yet to hear back from him, either. But maybe we will as soon as he finds out that “third parties” read this blog. (Usually, we write for just first parties, and in some cases even second parties, but we figured this was deserving enough to reach out to that coveted third-party market.)

But then the joking stops. The Burzynski Clinic is not, fundamentally, a joke. It is deadly serious.

If you ever want to tinker with your notions of the existence of God, or of justice, then we suggest you talk to a father of a six-year-old girl dying of brain cancer.  That’s what we did a while back. He explained that, not being a rich man, and being warned of the severity and time-sensitive nature of his daughter’s condition, he was under the impression that he had one shot to save her life. One chance to liquidate every asset and every ounce of his life savings and put it all on one treatment, and hope it was the right one. Burzynski’s treatment would wipe him out financially, so if it didn’t work, he was afraid he wouldn’t be able to afford any other treatment.

And that’s basically what we’ve been wondering about this whole time. Burzynski fanatics like Stephens operate under this rubric whereby it’s some vast Big Pharma-doctor conspiracy to keep kids sick and prevent Burzynski from helping people. But we think it’s the exact opposite. In the past, when Burzynski had the opportunity to work with government-sponsored researchers and get on the path to get his treatment FDA-approved and covered by insurance, he aborted the study.

So instead, he just sits on what he claims is a remarkably effective cancer treatment, charging exorbitant amounts that most people have to mortgage their homes and sell everything they own to afford. In other words, he’s the only guy in the world with the cure, but he doesn’t want to give it away for free or share it with anyone else.

Not funny.

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

Don’t Streisand that blog, my friend

Nov 28th, 2011 5:52 pm | By

And more #Burzynski.

Richard Wilson at Don’t Get Fooled Again.

While the UK media has been characteristically slow in picking this up – presumably the Murdoch press are too preoccupied with their own problems and the Guardian Media Group still frozen in the headlights after the Observer got sucked into the  controversybloggers all over the world have been ensuring that this story continues to grow.

Josephine Jones has a list of posts on the subject. There are a lot. More not-going-well for the intimidation thing.

The likelihood of Stephens contacting me now seems to be getting ever smaller. Critical Burzynski posts are popping up all over the internet almost faster than I can read them.

Despite his confident assertion that Quackwatch, Ratbags, and the rest of you Skeptics days are numbered, surely Mr Stephens will not be able to deal with us all individually?

You will find a growing list of new Burzynski posts here), where anarchic teapot points out the perils of unleashing the Streisand Effect.

Spartacus Streisand is all over their ass.


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


Nov 28th, 2011 4:25 pm | By

More on the Burzynski Clinic – yes Google I said THE BURZYNSKI CLINIC – and Marc Stephens and Rhys Morgan.

From Phil Plait.

In Houston, Texas, is a man named Stanislaw Burzynski. He claims he has a method for treating cancer. He calls it antineoplaston therapy. However, according to the National Cancer Institute, “No randomized, controlled trials showing the effectiveness of antineoplastons have been published in peer-reviewed scientific journals.” That’s a bad sign. Furthermore, the FDA has not approved of antineoplaston therapy for use. Also telling is that “… other investigators have not been able to obtain the same results reported by Dr. Burzynski and his team”. Yet, despite this, Burzynski charges hundreds of thousands of dollars for people to get his therapy — though he has to say they’re participating in research trials, since the FDA won’t allow him to use his ideas as an actual treatment.

Those are red flags, to be sure.

However, I am not an expert on cancer, so I rely on the advice and expertise of others. Dr. Steve Novella, who certainly is an expert both in medicine and the misuses thereof, has some choice words about Burzynski and his ideas. So does David Calquhoun, a British pharmacologist. So does — at great length and detail — Dr. David Gorski, and so does the website Quackometer (and again here as well) and so does the Cancer Research UK Science blog.

Oh gee. The whole threatening-trying-to-silence thing doesn’t seem to be working very well, does it.

Most importantly, so does Rhys Morgan. Who’s that? He’s a 17-year-old high school student who has blogged about Burzynski, in a factually stated but highly critical manner. So what did Burzynski’s clinic do?

They threatened to sue.

In general, it’s a little unusual, to say the least, for a team doing medical research to sue someone for criticizing them. That’s because real science thrives on criticism, since it’s only through critiques that the potential errors of a particular method can be assessed — that’s why research is supposed to be published in peer-reviewed journals as well. Suing is the antithesis of that idea.

Which must make it all the more frustrating that it doesn’t seem to be working very well.

From Cory Doctorow at Boing Boing.

Whether or not Mr Stephens is a lawyer, his responses to several skeptics who questioned his “client”‘s science are not, in my opinion, in keeping with good science or good public policy. The world of science has no room for angry threats when a claim is put forward. The scientific method demands that skepticism be rebutted with proof, not threats. On seeing this, I am led to the opinion that these threats are being offered because the proof isn’t there.

I also stand with the scientists and skeptics who find themselves facing aggressive, hyperbolic legal threats for doing what we should all do: carefully research and debate matters relating to life-or-death health issues. No doctor should respond to critics in this way. No lawyer should address potential litigants this way. In my opinion, these are serious ethical breaches, and in my opinion, “antineoplaston therapy” is almost certainly without merit. I urge anyone considering spending their money at the Burzynski Clinic to carefully read the notes attributed to the clinic’s representative and ask yourself why a clinic with a sound scientific footing would respond to critics with threats, not proof.

Yes, not going well at all. Not helping Dr Burzynski’s reputation. Not causing people to pipe down. Dear oh dear.



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

Streisand that clinic

Nov 28th, 2011 11:55 am | By

A 17-year-old schoolboy has been in receipt of blustering threats from Marc Stephens, who “represents” (as he says) the Burzynski Clinic. That’s a funny word, “represents.” In this context it suggests “as a lawyer” – but in fact Marc Stephens doesn’t actually say he’s a lawyer, even when urgently invited to do so (instead he says “you should stop asking me if I’m a lawyer,” which is no help). It’s hard not to think he would say he’s a lawyer if in fact he were a lawyer, so his consistent failure to do so seems to point to the likelihood that he isn’t one.

But lawyer or PR hack, whichever, Marc Stephens has been sending blustering threats to Rhys Morgan, including a screenshot of his house.


This is my THIRD AND FINAL WARNING to you.

Please convey this message to your entire Skeptic Network, which includes but not limited to,, thetwentyfirstfloor, quackwatch, etc. I represent Dr. Burzynski, the Burzynski Clinic, and the Burzynski Research Institute. I’ve attached Azad Rastegar, and Renee Trimble from the Burzynski Clinic for your confirmation.

In the following weeks I will be giving authorization to local attorneys in multiple countries to pursue every defamation libel case online, including your online libelous statements. I suggest you shut down your entire online defamation campaign about Dr. Burzynski, and remove ALL recent or previous comments off the internet IMMEDIATELY. The minute you post any libelous comments online about my client I will pursue you and your parents/guardians To the Full Extent of the Law. I have no obligation to train you, or teach you, the meaning of defamation. Google it, or go to the library and research it.

This is a very serious matter. Please confirm your mailing address, which I have on record as (my address). If you do not cooperate an official legal complaint requesting punitive damages will be mailed to that address. I will be contacting your school as well to inform them of your illegal acts.

Now Rhys wants our help getting the word out.

Since the initial email, I have discovered others have received similar legal threats from Marc Stephens including Peter Bowditch of, who blogged about Burzynski eleven years ago, but is only now receiving this legal threat. Another blog threatened includes from Andy Lewis, A.K.A Le Canard Noir. You can find a blog about his ordeal with Marc Stephens here:

I posted the blog so that patients, their friends and families would be aware of the whole story about Burzynski and his unproven therapy. I want them to be aware that the treatment seems to be in a constant cycle of trials generating unpublished results. As Dr Howard Ozer, director of the Allegheny Cancer Center in Philadelphia, said – it is scientific nonsense.

So in order to spread the word, I need your help. I would really appreciate it if you could do
the following two things:

Tweet about the Burzynski clinic. You could either write your own tweet or you could retweet my suggested tweet: RT @rhysmorgan Patients need to know the whole truth about Burzynski’s cancer treatment claims:

OR you could retweet this: RT @rhysmorgan Dr Burzynski does not want you to know the whole truth about his cancer treatments, which is why he tried to sue me

Add a link to this blog from your website so that it will increase the PageRank for this blog so that when patients search for Burzynski, they discover this blog as well as Dr Burzynski’s propaganda. This way, they can discover the whole truth and determine for themselves whether it’s worth investing in his treatment.

You know what to do.

Steven Novella has. PZ has. Kylie Sturgess has - to name only a few.

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

The archbish live and in person

Nov 28th, 2011 10:49 am | By

I say I say – you can watch and listen to the archbishop of Canterbury telling the House of Lords why bishops should go on being there, live, right now. Andrew Copson of the BHA is also there and I think either going to talk or finished talking – or maybe both.

One gem from the ABC so far -

Nobody is looking for theocracy, nobody wants to turn the UK into Iran – but – the role of faith in asking questions is a very significant one.

And the difference is…?

Ah – and now he’s admitting that women aren’t in the picture much.


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

A scientist would not threaten critics and try to silence them

Nov 27th, 2011 5:12 pm | By

Andy Lewis of Quackometer wrote about his concerns about the Burzynski clinic, where Dr Burzynski charges people hundreds of thousands of dollars for an unproven urine-based cancer therapy. Within 24 hours he was in receipt of a threatening message from said clinic.

You have a right to freedom of speech, and you have a right to voice your opinion, but you do not have the right to post libelous statements regardless if you think its your opinion or not.  You are highly aware of defamation laws. You actually wrote an article about defamation on your site.  In addition, I have information linking you to a network of individuals that disseminate false information.  So the courts will apparently see the context of your article, and your act as Malicious.  You have multiple third parties that viewed and commented on your article, which clearly makes this matter defamation libel. Once I obtain a subpoena for your personal information, I will not settle this case with you.  Shut the article down IMMEDIATELY.


Hm. I bet law schools teach prospective lawyers never to write ALL IN CAPS on the first day. I bet that message IS NOT FROM A LAWYER.

Andy Lewis replied civilly asking for specifics of what he got wrong. The reply sounded much less lawyerly.


I am not here to grade your article, or play games with you.  You fully understand what you’re doing, which is why you are trying to hide behind your so-called “opinion”.  You have a history of lying in your articles since 2008. All articles and videos posted from your little network are being forwarded to local authorities, as well as local counsel.  It is your responsibility to understand when you brake[sic] the law.  I am only obligated to show you in court.  I am giving you final warning to shut the article down.  The days of no one pursuing you is over.  Quackwatch, Ratbags, and the rest of you Skeptics days are numbered.

So, when I present to the juror that my client and his cancer treatment has went up against 5 Grand Juries which involved the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the National Cancer Institute (NCI), Aetna Life Insurance, Emprise, Inc., Texas State Medical Board, and the United States Government, and was found not guilty in all 5 cases, you will wish you never wrote your article.  In addition, my client has treated multiple cancer patients around the world, which is fully documented by the FDA, NCI, and Kurume University School of Medicine in Japan, and has finished Phase II clinical trials with FDA approval to move forward with Phase III.  I suggest you spend more time with your new child then posting lies and false information on the internet that will eventually get you sued, which will hurt you financially.  I am going to pursue you at the highest extent of the law.

Oooh ya that doesn’t look lawyerly at all. That “has went” is fatal, as is “you will wish you never wrote.” Dr Burzynski should get his assistant some help with the grammar parts.

Andy Lewis had a similar thought.

This foam-flecked angry rant did not look like the work of a lawyer to me. And indeed it is not. Marc Stephens appears to work for Burzynski in the form of PR, marketing and sponsorship.

Lewis made further attempts to get specifics, Stephens sent more threats, and Lewis said what all this looks like.

I believe my article was raising serious issues concern on matters of public health and the ethical issues of charging hundreds of thousands from the desperate parents of terminally ill children. It is an important set of issues that the Observer failed to pick up on in an uncritical piece that may well send more parents down a path that has the potential to do serious harm.

In science, the truth emerges after ideas have been subjected to thorough experimental testing, and the results critically appraised by peers. This process can be harsh – and it needs to be. In medicine, despite the best of intentions, it is possible to do great harm when you believe you are doing good. Ideas only emerge as bad because of intense critical appraisal.

Dr Burzynski presents himself as a man of science. But, I would say to him and his associates, a man of science would welcome critical appraisal, would publish all the data he has, and allow the world to come to conclusions based on how good that evidence is. A man of science would not threaten critics and try to silence them. That is a sure and certain way that you will end up harming patients.

Stay tuned.



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

Sigh ents 4 gur ulls

Nov 27th, 2011 11:46 am | By

Oh look, science for girls – how kind of the boys to make some science for girls so that the stupid weak fluffy pink little things won’t feel left out. You’ve come a long way baby!

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

Jesus and Mo chat about modesty

Nov 27th, 2011 11:38 am | By

And the relativity of distance.


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

Tacit consent

Nov 27th, 2011 11:14 am | By

Nick Cohen ponders the absence of news coverage of the murder of Rafiq Tagi.

Emin Milli, a liberal Azerbaijani writer, told me that Tagi appeared to be recovering from his injuries in a state hospital and then took a turn for the worse. He wondered how that could be. He was as suspicious about the failure of westerners to take an interest in the murder of a writer, whose “crime” had been to speak his mind. He’d tried the BBC, newspapers… everyone he could think of and no one apart from Index on Censorship was interested. “Why don’t they care?”

Milli has a touchingly simple belief in the power of free speech, but his question was not as naive as it sounded. He knew from experience how effective democratic opinion can be when mobilised. He was one of the Azerbaijani “donkey bloggers,” whose persecution became a cause celebre in 2009.

The world did not stand by and say that Azerbaijan was none of its business. Barack Obama, the EU, the media and human rights groups took up the donkey bloggers’ cause and persuaded the regime to free them.

Milli is now studying in London and cannot understand why those who shouted with such passion about his conviction ignored Tagi’s murder. I tried to explain that Europe was not the brave continent that Tagi imagined. It would defend the victims of political oppression but not of religious oppression. Ever since the persecution of Salman Rushdie, many have been frightened of denouncing Islamism for fear of reprisals. Others were frightened of being accused of orientalism, neoconservatism or some other sinful religious or racial phobia.

To put it another way: there are no “communities” of corrupt officials living in neglected corners of Bradford or Birmingham, so it doesn’t feel like bullying to give support to their critics. The same cannot be said of “communities” of Muslims. It’s a mistake to think that resisting political Islam is a way of bullying Muslims, but it’s a mistake that a lot of people make. It would be nice if those people could learn to make the necessary distinctions.

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

Welcome to Kalispell

Nov 27th, 2011 10:13 am | By

I guess Kalispell, Montana is off the list of places I want to live in. (Was it on the list in the first place? No, but now it’s on the Do Not Add list.) It seems it’s being colonized by white supremacists and anti-government right-wing lunatics.

The Pioneer Little Europe movement has brought dozens of white supremacists to the Flathead Valley. They are increasingly making their presence known by staging public events, openly recruiting and distributing racist literature, stocking up on firearms at area gun shows while dressed in neo-Nazi clothing, working for local anti-gun control and anti-abortion campaigns (according to Gaede), and issuing violent threats to perceived enemies, including Media Matters, which is now under “indictment” for treason to the white race.

The growing numbers of PLE white supremacists in the Flathead Valley parallels a recent influx to the area of ultra right-wing “Patriot” movement leaders and their followers. Their combined forces are rapidly transforming the region into the hottest flash point of right-wing extremism in the country.

In addition to calling on fellow right-wing extremists to move to the Flathead Valley, leaders of both the PLE and the Patriot movements in the region are urging followers to exploit Montana’s weak firearms regulations by stocking up on guns, including .50 caliber sniper rifles and assault weapons, says Travis McAdam, executive director of the Montana Human Rights Network, which closely follows PLE and Patriot activity, including online communications.

Oh goody, sounds like another Ruby Ridge or Waco in our future.

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

Take a deep breath before reading

Nov 26th, 2011 4:52 pm | By

I don’t know how some people live with themselves. People who claim to be able to cure HIV through God, for example, and thus tell patients to stop taking their medication.

At least six people have died in Britain after being told that they had been healed of HIV, and could stop taking their medication.

There is evidence that evangelical churches in London, Manchester, Birmingham and Glasgow are claiming to cure HIV through God.

The healing process involves the pastor shouting, over the person being healed, for the devil to come out of their body, and spraying water in their face.

One of the pastors, Rachel Holmes, told our reporter, Shatila, who is a genuine HIV sufferer, they had a 100% success rate.

“We’ve had people come back before saying ‘Oh I’m not healed. The diarrhoea I had when I had HIV, I’ve got it again.’ I have to stop them and say ‘no, please, you are free.’”

That makes me very very angry. It makes me want to have a very stern conversation with Rachel Holmes.

The Synagogue Church of All Nations is wealthy. It has branches across the globe and its own TV channel.

On its website it promotes its anointing water, which is used during the healing, and it also makes money from merchandise, such as DVDs, CDs and books.

Sky News asked them to respond to the investigation.

We are not the Healer; God is the Healer. Never a sickness God cannot heal. Never a disease God cannot cure. Never a burden God cannot bear. Never a problem God cannot solve.

Nothing to do with them, you see, it’s all God. That’s why it’s all right for them to tell people to stop taking medication.

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

Mona Eltahawy on her beating and arrest 2

Nov 26th, 2011 3:41 pm | By

“What happened to me is the tip of the iceberg.”

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

Mona Eltahawy on her arrest in Tahrir Square

Nov 26th, 2011 3:28 pm | By

They beat her, they sexually assaulted her, they called her a whore - whore whore whore, over and over.

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

Jehane Noujaim on her arrest in Tahrir Square

Nov 26th, 2011 3:18 pm | By

“All it takes is one military guy, one police person, who decides he’s going to mess with you…”

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

To make the world a better place

Nov 26th, 2011 11:54 am | By

The New Humanist has a fascinating piece by Paul Sims about Robert Lambert, the retired Special Branch officer who was head of the Muslim Contact Unit.

I’ve had some critical things to say about Lambert and his colleague Jonathan Githens-Mazer in the past – in June 2010 and April 2009. They talked evasive deceptive nonsense about the wonderfulness of Islamism and the badness of “Islamophobia.” They completely ignored the issues of women’s rights and homophobia. The stuff they wrote was extremely misleading – like this, for instance:

While British Islamists are as diverse as British socialists, the interviews do reveal important unifying characteristics, most notably a devotion to social justice and a concern for community needs over individual or corporate ambitions. British Islamists are typified by a sense of moral obligation to confront injustice, and they strive, in their own ways, to try to make the world a better place. These are messages which have more power than ever in modern Britain.

“Social justice” according to whom? “Community needs” and “individual ambitions” according to whom? Ditto injustice, ditto a better place. (Notice that careful “in their own ways” – yes, patriarchal misogynist punitive theocratic ways.) It’s sneaky, illiberal, irresponsible stuff, and it makes me angry (me and a good many other people).

Sims is doing journalism, so he does a better job than I would have of seeing the point of what Lambert was trying to do.

…where the MCU diverged from the mainstream was in the view that the most suitable groups for standing up to Hamza and his ilk were those which themselves adhered to strict Islamic principles or held strong political views on the “War on Terror”. In Finsbury Park, the MCU entered into a partnership with the Muslim Association of Britain and the Muslim Welfare House, local groups with links to the international Islamist Muslim Brotherhood, while in Brixton they worked with adherents to a literalist Salafi interpretation of Islam. Both partnerships, in Lambert’s view, succeeded in reducing the influence of extremists, and he takes particular pride in the way the MCU and the Finsbury Park Islamists were able to engineer the removal of Hamza’s supporters from Finsbury Park Mosque in 2005 through the installation of a new board of trustees.

Point taken, but even if Lambert’s right that his work “succeeded in reducing the influence of [some] extremists,” Hamza and his ilk aren’t the only extremists there are, and Lambert’s work may also have increased the influence of the MAB and other Islamist groups. Lambert, to be blunt, doesn’t seem to pay any attention at all to the people who are subordinated (if not punished or killed) by Islamist men.

Hanging over the whole debate is the lack of clarity over the term “Islamism”. When I ask Lambert to tell me what he means when he uses it, he explains that Islamists tend to have “a stronger sense that Islam encourages them to be politically active”. But for others, “Islamism” clearly means much more than this, and has become a demon term that describes those Muslims who reject secular democracy and aspire to live in an Islamic state ruled by Sharia law, with all the detrimental effects to women’s and minority rights that would entail. Lambert tells me that the MCU “would not have partnered with anyone if they exhibited any hostility or hatred toward any other community, whether it be the Jewish community, gay community or women”, but it is still legitimate to ask whether groups which take inspiration from the Muslim Brotherhood, which has a controversial history on all of those counts, make suitable partners for the British state.

What Lambert says is either absurdly naïve or disingenuous. Apparently the criterion was people going purple in the face and shouting about women (a Kyle Sandilands type of thing) or gays; he didn’t see that so that was good enough. Pu-leeze.

Props to Paul Sims for drawing him out.


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

An atmosphere where a slide towards violence against women is enabled

Nov 25th, 2011 4:37 pm | By

Kyle Sandilands says it’s free speech and also that it’s quite all right and reasonable and why not? He explains carefully.

I’ll attack any journalist that attacks me that I think’s unfair.

Well what he means is, if a journalist says something about his show that he doesn’t like, he will not respond with an explanation of why she is wrong or a criticism of her reasoning, but rather, he will call her a fat slag, a fat bitter thing with a nothing job, and a piece of shit, and then he will tell her to watch her mouth or he’ll hunt her down. In other words he’ll say the most degrading things he can think of and then he’ll threaten her.

That’s not what free speech is for. That’s not what’s meant by “free speech.” A large man shouting insults and threats at a woman over the radio is not “free speech” except in the barest minimal sense that it is not quite against the law (although the threat quite possibly is). Some kinds of bullying are not illegal but they are or should be socially shunned.

John Birmingham of the SMH gets this.

…if blame lies anywhere for the faint, continuing stench on the airwaves wherever  this man opens his opens his mouth, it is not with him, but with the corporations that continue to support and employ him. Sandilands is not a  political orator, whose freedom to put forth odious opinions we must tolerate for the greater good. He is merely a bully employed in the service of profit by Austereo and occasionally by the TV networks. That is why it was so pleasing to see Holden pull their support for his show yesterday.

That’s exactly it: he’s a bully employed in the service of profit, because somehow it has been decided that bullying is edgy and hip and funny.

By seeking an audience for Sandilands, Austereo and the TV networks who very  occasionally call on his … er … talents, endorse the deeper message and dangerous stupidity of his public performances. What are these underlying attitudes?

Well, they seem to be based on a Hobbesian belief that the natural human condition is short, nasty and brutish, and that success comes not from being led  by the better angels of our nature, but from embracing as fully as possible a crude ugliness appealing to as large and degraded a mass audience as possible.

Part of this routine is an apparently shameless misogyny where any women who do not fawn and flutter at Sandilands’ approach, who dare to question or cross  him, are belittled and subject to thinly-veiled coercion – whether credible or  not. It would be interesting to ask him exactly what he meant when he threated to “hunt down” News Limited’s entertainment reporter Alison Stephenson.

More interesting, though, would be to seek from Austereo a figure for the income Sandilands generates for them with his noxious productions and what responsibility, if any, the radio network feels it should accept for the poisoning of the public mind it enables by giving him such an amplified voice. Because while Sandilands himself is a blowhard whose sins are entirely rhetorical, the continued exposure and promotion of those sins in the name of entertainment, and the service of profit, is a much greater wrongdoing. It creates an atmosphere where a slide towards violence against women, at least by some, is enabled.


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

The edification of both sides

Nov 25th, 2011 12:35 pm | By

The chief rabbi and Charles Taylor got together recently to say stuff about “The Future of Religion in a Secular Age.” Both are big fans of religion, so the stuff they said was in that vein.

For Taylor and Rabbi Sacks, religion should act as a counterpoint and antidote to the rampant solipsism and breakdown of sociality that characterize the secular world. Religion, unlike the market, science, or politics, exists in its own realm beyond materiality and simple solutions, and even beyond the self. According to Taylor, religious practice entails a transcendence of the self that is desperately needed in a culture as self-obsessed as our own. Rabbi Sacks added that on one hand, religion must stand at the vanguard of the “redemption of solitude” and on the other, strive to establish real community beyond the alone-togetherness of this virtual age.

But religion isn’t the only counterpoint and antidote to self-obsession, and it also isn’t necessarily a very good one. All too often it’s just a thinly-disguised way of arranging things to benefit some people by subordinating others; I’m thinking here (you’ll have figured out) of men and women respectively. Patriarchy doesn’t look to me like a good counterpoint and antidote to self-obsession, and a lot of religion is basically a justification of patriarchy and not much else.

As for Sacks’s on one hand and on the other, how is that not just having it both ways? Religion is good for solitude and real community while secularism is bad for both – really?

Much of the evening’s conversation was dedicated to addressing the ideas and popularity of writers like Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, and Sam Harris. Rabbi Sacks argued that these men over-simplify religion, producing critiques that are, in Oxford terms, superficially profound and profoundly superficial. He distinguished these tone-deaf atheists from “atheists with a soul,” those intellectuals who see the failings of religion and want something better for humanity. (A false dichotomy, in this writer’s opinion, because it implies that the rejection of religion necessarily results in the adoption of nihilism.) Conversation with these humanist atheists, Sacks argued, results in the edification of both sides, and Taylor added, “We people of faith need atheists.” If that is indeed the case, one cannot help but wonder why an atheist was not invited to participate in this panel.

Well when he says “need” he means…well he means we need atheists off in the background somewhere, but we certainly don’t need them on panels with us or selling more than twenty copies of their books, thank you very much.


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

“Just so you know, you’re a piece of shit.”

Nov 24th, 2011 4:44 pm | By

And then there’s Kyle Sandilands. He’s a shock jock in Australia. A journalist called Alison Stephenson wrote an unfavorable review of his shock jock radio show. He replied to her on the air.

Some fat slag on has already branded it a disaster. You can tell by reading the article that she just hates us and has always hated us.

What a fat bitter thing you are. You’re deputy editor of an online thing. You’ve got a nothing job anyway. Just so you know, you’re a piece of shit.

This low thing, Alison Stephenson, deputy editor of online. Alison, you’re supposed to be impartial, you little troll.

You’re a bullshit artist, girl. You should be fired from your job. Your hair’s very 90s. And your blouse. You haven’t got that much titty to be having that low cut a blouse. Change your image, girl. Watch your mouth or I’ll hunt you down.

No offers to kick her in the cunt? Huh; I thought that was part of the package deal.

White Ribbon makes pleasanter reading…except that it shouldn’t be necessary.




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

Mona Eltahawy

Nov 24th, 2011 4:14 pm | By

Oh, Jesus – I can’t keep up with it today! I saw a brief tweet from Mona Eltahawy yesterday saying ”arrested and beaten” – it wasn’t even clear if she was the one arrested and beaten. I replied and retweeted but then got distracted…But she was the one arrested and beaten all right: her arm and leg hand are broken. And she was sexually assaulted – “Besides beating me, the dogs of CSF subjected me to the worst sexual assault ever.” Fuuuuuuuuuuuck.

Mona Mona Mona. God you’re brave.

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