Notes and Comment Blog


A noxious brew

Jun 17th, 2016 9:52 am | By

Polly Toynbee on the ugly climate in the UK right now:

There are many decent people involved in the campaign to secure Britain’s withdrawal from the EU, many who respect the referendum as the exercise in democracy that it is. But there are others whose recklessness has been open and shocking. I believe they bear responsibility, not for the attack itself, but for the current mood: for the inflammatory language, for the finger-jabbing, the dogwhistling and the overt racism.

It’s been part of a noxious brew, with a dangerous anti-politics and anti-MP stereotypes fomented by leave and their media backers mixed in. Only an hour before this shooting Nigel Farage unveiled a huge poster showing Syrian refugees fleeing to Slovenia last year, nothing to do with EU free movement – and none arriving here. Leave’s poster read: “Breaking Point. We must break free from the EU and take control of our borders.” Nicola Sturgeon, Caroline Lucas and many others condemned it as “disgusting”, and so it is.

Nigel Farage and the leavers there, Donald Trump and his fans here. It’s a bad time.

Rude, crude, Nazi-style extremism is mercifully rare. But the leavers have lifted several stones. How recklessly the decades of careful work and anti-racist laws to make those sentiments unacceptable have been overturned.

This campaign has stirred up anti-migrant sentiment that used to be confined to outbursts from the far fringes of British politics. The justice minister, Michael Gove, and the leader of the house, Chris Grayling – together with former London mayor Boris Johnson – have allied themselves to divisive anti-foreigner sentiment ramped up to a level unprecedented in our lifetime. Ted Heath expelled Enoch Powell from the Tory front ranks for it. Oswald Mosley was ejected from his party for it. Gove and Grayling remain in the cabinet.

When politicians from a mainstream party use immigration as their main weapon in a hotly fought campaign, they unleash something dark and hateful that in all countries always lurks not far beneath the surface.

It’s not Godzilla or T Rex or witches or zombies. It’s just humans, being humans.



The only platform they can safely use

Jun 17th, 2016 8:57 am | By

Ayman El Kaissi reports on Facebook’s censorship of atheist groups and the resistance to same.

In the middle of April, Facebook removed more than six Arabic-speaking atheist pages due to “violations” of Community Standards. This is not the first time that Facebook has censored atheists and freethinkers in the MENA region. In response, the Atheist Alliance – Middle-East and North Africa (AA-MENA) has decided to speak out, demanding that Facebook change the way it addresses violation reports, so as to preserve members’ freedom of speech.

In February 2016, ten of the largest Arabic-speaking atheist groups, with a total of about 100,000 members, have been deactivated for the same reason: heavy reporting campaigns that are organized by “cyber jihadist” fundamentalist Islamic groups, especially for the removal of any anti-Islamic group or page. In such coordinated campaigns, very large numbers of people, and possibly automated scripts, simultaneously file reports falsely claiming that a page, group, or personal account has violated Community Standards.

There’s a petition and a campaign to get Zuckerberg to do better.

AA-MENA has adopted #FacebookVSFreeSpeech as the hashtag of its Facebook event, Atheism: Campaigning to regain the right to free speech within Facebook Pages. The campaign’s goal is to rally atheists and freethinkers of the MENA region and to attract the attention of relevant nongovernmental organizations and irreligious social media activists to their cause.

But this attack on free speech spilled out of Facebook and resulted into a cold-blooded murder. On April 22, 2016, Yemeni activist Omar Bataweel was abducted in front of his home in the city of Aden. Police reports stated that he was shot and left to die on the street; locals discovered his body the next morning. Omar had received death threats prior to his execution for posting criticism of Islamic clergy and heritage on Facebook and was accused of apostasy and atheism. His case remains open and no suspects have been apprehended till now.

(I think by “till now” he means as of now, i.e. so far or yet.)

For irreligious people of the MENA region, social media outlets—especially Facebook—have become the only platform that they can safely use to express their thoughts and opinions, share their stories, and come together without feeling threatened. In most Arab countries, the demographic majority is Muslim; many regimes are actual theocracies while the others are very deeply influenced by Islamic religious authorities at all levels of public life.

Freethinkers, atheists, and freedom activists in the MENA region live under such oppressive regimes and communities. Most of them cannot express their religious, political, cultural, or social views and thoughts freely. This ever-growing segment of people living in the Arab World is still operating with a “low profile” and with minuscule traditional media coverage. This is the main reason for their enormous investments in social media platforms, such as Facebook, which are viewed by them as the last resort for freedom of thought and expression.

It’s deeply ironic that this thing that started out as Zuckerberg’s tool for ranking female Harvard students according to degree of hotness is now a last resort for freedom of thought and expression in oppressive theocratic countries, but there it is.



What nobler vision can there be?

Jun 16th, 2016 6:04 pm | By

I’ve seen many people praising the Guardian’s editorial on the murder of Jo Cox, and rightly so.

Jo Cox, however, was not just any MP doing her duty. She was also an MP who was driven by an ideal. The former charity worker explained what that ideal was as eloquently as anyone could in her maiden speech last year. “Our communities have been deeply enhanced by immigration,” she insisted, “be it of Irish Catholics across the constituency or of Muslims from Gujarat in India or from Pakistan, principally from Kashmir. While we celebrate our diversity, what surprises me time and time again as I travel around the constituency is that we are far more united and have far more in common with each other than things that divide us.”

What nobler vision can there be than that of a society where people can be comfortable in their difference? And what more fundamental tenet of decency is there than to put first and to cherish all that makes us human, as opposed to what divides one group from another? These are ideals that are often maligned when they are described as multiculturalism, but they are precious nonetheless. They are the ideals which led Ms Cox to campaign tirelessly for the brutalised and displaced people of Syria, and – the most painful thought – ideals for which she may now have died.

That is what makes it so hideously tragic – she was a generous person doing generous work.

We are in the midst of what risks becoming a plebiscite on immigration and immigrants. The tone is divisive and nasty. Nigel Farage on Thursday unveiled a poster of unprecedented repugnance. The backdrop was a long and thronging line of displaced people in flight. The message: “The EU has failed us all.” The headline: “Breaking point.” The time for imagining that the Europhobes can be engaged on the basis of facts – such as the reality that a refugee crisis that started in Syria and north Africa can hardly be blamed on the EU, or the inconvenient detail that obligations under the refugee convention do not depend on EU membership – has passed. One might have still hoped, however, that even merchants of post-truth politics might hold back from the sort of entirely post-moral politics that is involved in taking the great humanitarian crisis of our time, and then whipping up hostility to the victims as a means of chivvying voters into turning their backs on the world.

The idealism of Ms Cox was the very antithesis of such brutal cynicism. Honour her memory. Because the values and the commitment that she embodied are all that we have to keep barbarism at bay.

 The slaughter in Charleston was almost exactly a year ago. The murdered nine were a generous bunch of people too. It breaks my damn heart.


When you shout BREAKING POINT over and over again

Jun 16th, 2016 5:23 pm | By

Alex Massie in the Spectator on a day of infamy. (The actual Roosevelt phrase is “a day that will live in infamy.”)

The poster unveiled by Nigel Farage this morning marked a new low, even for him.

The mask – the pawky, gin o’clock, you know what I mean, mask – didn’t slip because there was no mask at all. BREAKING POINT, it screamed above a queue of dusky-hued refugees waiting to cross a border. The message was not very subtle: Vote Leave, Britain, or be over-run by brown people. Take control. Take back our country. You know what I mean, don’t you: If you want a Turk – or a Syrian – for a neighbour, vote Remain. Simple. Common sense. Innit?

This poster:

The Nazis gave us this one:

Back to Alex Massie:

Nigel Farage isn’t responsible for Jo Cox’s murder. And nor is the Leave campaign. But they are responsible for the manner in which they have pressed their argument. They weren’t to know something like this was going to happen, of course, and they will be just as shocked and horrified by it as anyone else.

But, still. Look. When you encourage rage you cannot then feign surprise when people become enraged. You cannot turn around and say, ‘Mate, you weren’t supposed to take it so seriously. It’s just a game, just a ploy, a strategy for winning votes.’

When you shout BREAKING POINT over and over again, you don’t get to be surprised when someone breaks. When you present politics as a matter of life and death, as a question of national survival, don’t be surprised if someone takes you at your word. You didn’t make them do it, no, but you didn’t do much to stop it either.

Sometimes rhetoric has consequences. If you spend days, weeks, months, years telling people they are under threat, that their country has been stolen from them, that they have been betrayed and sold down the river, that their birthright has been pilfered, that their problem is they’re too slow to realise any of this is happening, that their problem is they’re not sufficiently mad as hell, then at some point, in some place, something or someone is going to snap. And then something terrible is going to happen.

And it does happen, it keeps happening.



Guest post: Lies wrapped in emotional appeal

Jun 16th, 2016 4:32 pm | By

Guest post by Jen Phillips, originally on Facebook and posted here by permission.

The movie ‘Vaxxed’ is showing at the David Minor Theater in Eugene this week. It’s billed as a documentary, but, like many other films claiming that genre, it’s chock full of inaccuracies and spin. For a ‘reality based’ gal like me, most of the time I just find that annoying, but in the case of ‘Vaxxed’, I find it dangerous and infuriating.

Why dangerous? Because lying about vaccine safety scares a significant number of parents into opting out of vaccines for their children. That puts the children and their communities at risk for serious diseases. “Lying” isn’t a term I throw around lightly, but that’s exactly what this is: lies wrapped in emotional appeal. William Thompson, the so-called CDC Whistleblower, was taped without his knowledge, and the filmmakers spliced his words together to fabricate meaning that was not in his original statements. What does Dr. Thompson actually say about vaccines? Here is a direct quote:

I want to be absolutely clear that I believe vaccines have saved and continue to save countless lives. I would never suggest that any parent avoid vaccinating children of any race. Vaccines prevent serious diseases, and the risks associated with their administration are vastly outweighed by their individual and societal benefits.

Vaccines do not cause autism. The MMR vaccine (the focus of this movie) does not cause autism, or make children more susceptible to autism, or have any influence whatsoever on the manifestation of autistic characteristics. Andrew Wakefield is a disgraced and defrocked former physician who has gotten rich by fearmongering to vulnerable parents. He is not a reliable source of information on vaccine safety OR autism.

Why infuriating? So many reasons. It’s infuriating that this misinformation puts the health of so many vulnerable people at risk. It makes me fidget with frustration that this is STILL being debated, when mountains of research and population level studies all over the world have shown that it is a non-issue. Mostly, though, it’s that the filmmakers and many of their associated anti-vaccination activists demonize autism as a fate worse than death. Presenting the possibility of death or serious disability from vaccine preventable disease as preferable to autism is as harmful as it is heartbreaking. Depicting people on the spectrum as ‘damaged’ or ‘ruined’ in some way is a standard tactic with which to scare parents into not vaccinating, and it’s disgusting.

If you choose to see this movie, please, please, go in with your eyes open and be aware that it is so far from factual that Andrew Wakefield might as well be beaming in his commentary from a space station orbiting Sirius.

If you have questions about vaccine safety or autism prevalence, I would be more than happy to provide evidence-based, accessible information if you reach out to me.



Parliament Square

Jun 16th, 2016 11:35 am | By



Proud Yorkshire Lass. Labour MP for Batley & Spen

Jun 16th, 2016 11:32 am | By
Proud Yorkshire Lass. Labour MP for Batley & Spen

If you really want to break your heart you could just check out Jo Cox on Twitter.

Capture

Mum. Proud Yorkshire Lass. Labour MP for Batley & Spen. Boat dweller. Mountain climber. Former aid worker.

Or the reactions.

Photo published for Here's what MP Jo Cox must be remembered for



Jo believed in a better world and she fought for it every day of her life

Jun 16th, 2016 10:59 am | By

The Indy has a statement by Brendan Cox, husband of MP Jo Cox who was just murdered by yet another man with a gun.

jo-cox-8.jpg

In a statement, Brendan Cox said: “Today is the beginning of a new chapter in our lives. More difficult, more painful, less joyful, less full of love. I and Jo’s friends and family are going to work every moment of our lives to love and nurture our kids and to fight against the hate that killed Jo.

“Jo believed in a better world and she fought for it every day of her life with an energy, and a zest for life that would exhaust most people.

“She would have wanted two things above all else to happen now, one that our precious children are bathed in love and two, that we all unite to fight against the hatred that killed her. Hate doesn’t have a creed, race or religion, it is poisonous.

“Jo would have no regrets about her life, she lived every day of it to the full.”



Enough already

Jun 16th, 2016 10:53 am | By

The Independent on Jo Cox:

The Labour MP who campaigned tirelessly for refugees

In a tragically short 15 months as an MP, Jo Cox, who was been killed at the age of 41, made her mark as one of the brightest and best of the MPs elected for the first time at last year’s general election.

Many newcomers struggle to stand out from the Commons crowd, but the former head of humanitarian campaigning at Oxfam made an instant impact. She called repeatedly for Britain to do more to help the victims of Syria’s civil war. She knew what she was talking about: she was still in regular contact with friends and former colleagues in the aid world working to help refugees in the region.

She set up a parliamentary group on Syria and staged Commons debates on the plight of the refugees. She argued forcefully that the UK Government should be doing more both to help the victims and use its influence abroad to bring an end to the Syrian conflict.

So she of all people was shot and stabbed to death.

I’m bleeding from the eyes right now, as well as shaking like a leaf.

Ms Cox spent 10 years in the aid world, dangerous work which often took her to conflict zones. She met her husband Brendan, a former executive at Save the Children, while they worked in the aid industry. He became Gordon Brown’s adviser on international development while he was Prime Minister. Ms Cox worked closely with his wife Sarah Brown as director of the Maternal Mortality Campaign to prevent mothers and babies dying needlessly in pregnancy and childbirth.

We don’t have enough people like that, we can’t afford to lose any!

She joined Oxfam in 2002, as head of their EU Office in Brussels, and became head of policy and advocacy in 2005. A strong campaigner for women’s rights, she chaired the Labour Women’s Network for four years. Ms Cox urged Jeremy Corbyn to take a tougher line against supporters who attack his critics on social media. She received sexist comments and remarks about her appearance after criticising him.

And then she received bullets and stabs.

She had two small children.



Jo Cox

Jun 16th, 2016 9:53 am | By

Hideous news from Birstall, West Yorks – Labour MP Jo Cox has been murdered.

Jo Cox, 41, Labour MP for Batley and Spen, was left bleeding on the ground by her attacker. A 77-year-old man also suffered slight injuries.

A 52-year-old man was arrested near Market Street, Birstall, West Yorkshire Police said. The MP held a weekly advice surgery nearby.

The MP’s death was confirmed at police headquarters in Wakefield.

Ms Cox, who was born in Batley, was elected in 2015.

She was educated at Heckmondwike Grammar School and graduated from Cambridge University in 1995.

A former head of policy for Oxfam, she also worked as an adviser to Sarah Brown and Baroness Kinnock.

I feel sick.



Make Vancouver a john-free zone

Jun 15th, 2016 4:58 pm | By

Meghan Murphy wishes the mayor of Vancouver would uphold the law.

At 5:30 on Tuesday evening, just over 100 people gathered on the front steps of Vancouver City Hall to demand Mayor Gregor Robertson follow through on his commitments to women and girls. The event, organized by Creating John-Free Communities, Asian Women Coalition Ending Prostitution, and REED, was clear in its aims: Make Vancouver a john-free zone.

In 2009, Robertson signed a declaration naming prostitution as violence against women. Just last year, he signed a second declaration, committing to end “abuse, exploitation, trafficking and all forms of modern slavery, which are crimes against humanity, including forced labor and prostitution.” Today, the Mayor has a real opportunity to keep his word, and to follow through on his promises.

In 2014, Bill C-36: The Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act passed, and, under Canada’s new law, paying for sex became illegal. While a number of other cities and provinces have taken action in accordance with the new law, cracking down on pimps and johns, the Vancouver Police Department, under the guidance of the Mayor (who acts as Chair of the Vancouver Police Board, the body that employs and oversees the Vancouver Police Department), have opted to simply ignore the law, stating they will only enforce it as a “last resort.”

Bros before hos, eh?

Since the new law came into effect, women’s groups have urged Robertson to take action. On May 5th, feminist activist Jindi Mehat addressed the Police Board, saying, “Prostituted women are most harmed by the decision to not arrest johns,” but that as a resident of Vancouver, “this decision [to ignore the law] harms all women.” She also pointed out to the Mayor and the Board that holding men accountable means addressing men’s beliefs about entitlement to women’s bodies, exemplified through sexual harassment and assault, as well as through buying sex. In other words, prostitution exists as part of a larger continuum that reinforces rape culture and sends the message that women’s humanity matters less than male pleasure.

Read the whole thing. Murphy has a lot of detail about the protest.



Papering Persky

Jun 15th, 2016 12:00 pm | By

Judge Aaron Persky now has to deal with the fact that prosecutors don’t trust him.

Santa Clara County prosecutors on Tuesday blocked Superior Court Judge Aaron Persky from hearing another sex crime case, citing his decision in the Turner case.

“We are disappointed and puzzled at Judge Persky’s unusual decision to unilaterally dismiss a case before the jury could deliberate,” Dist. Atty. Jeff Rosen said. “After this and the recent turn of events, we lack confidence that Judge Persky can fairly participate in this upcoming hearing in which a male nurse sexually assaulted an anesthetized female patient. In the future, we will evaluate each case on its own merits and decide if we should use our legal right to ask for another judge in order to protect public safety and pursue justice.”

They can do that.

California court procedures allow prosecutors or defense lawyers to file a motion to remove a judge from a case and have it reassigned to another jurist.

Legal experts described the move, known as papering, as unusual but hardly unheard of.

Prosecutors sought to have Persky removed after several jurors refused to serve in the judge’s courtroom because of his actions in the Turner case.

Persky could not be reached for comment.

An effort to recall Persky is gaining steam, with several political groups vowing to raise money for the campaign.

One of the jurors who voted to convict Turner of sexual assault wrote a letter to Persky saying he was “absolutely shocked and appalled” at the six-month sentence.

Some legislators are saying the laws on rape need updating.



Highlighting

Jun 15th, 2016 11:27 am | By

National Public Radio thinks Mariella Mosthof’s piece telling white straight “cis” people not to write about Orlando is so good that it needs to be highlighted on NPR.

Really, NPR?

In an essay for Bustle, Mariella Mosthof reflects on how this type of violence can end up affirming straight anxieties over queerness. She says parents can reject their queer children “from a place of their own fear, or their own desire for you to be safe,” and the conviction that “the easiest way for you to be safe is for you to be ‘normal.'”

But she said a lot more than that, and at the beginning of the piece, and what she said there was frankly ugly and vile. Here are the first four paragraphs again:

If you are a cisgender, heterosexual, white person, please do not write aboutthe largest mass shooting in American history, which took place this Sunday at a gay club called Pulse in Orlando during the venue’s Latino night. Of course, share condolences, express how horribly you feel for the victims and their families, tell your queer Latinx friends that you love them, lend support. But please do not take it upon yourself to publicly point out the hypocrisy of Paul Ryan tweeting “thoughts and prayers” when the legislative agenda of his party actively marginalizes queer people all the time.

Please do not wax poetic about the outrage of Trump supporters doing the same, while their presidential hopeful advocates building a wall intended to keep out the very folks Pulse was aiming to create a safe space for. Do not condemn confused conservatives who are blaming this on radical Islam. If you are a straight ally, please do not write about the infuriating injustice of Orlando health centers being in desperate need of blood when the queer community is not permitted to donate it.

Queer people are already saying these things. (Hi.) Latinx people are saying these things. Muslim people are saying these things.

And while we’re at it, do not write an article or a Facebook post patting yourself on the back for not saying any of these things, because even that takes valuable space away from the marginalized people who this story is really about. This is the time for their voices to be heard, and for the rest of us to listen. This is the time for the authenticity of their lived experience and their communities’ history of collective trauma to radiate. This is a time to share their stories.

Surely NPR could have found better pieces to highlight than that one.



Never has she felt it so keenly until today

Jun 15th, 2016 10:07 am | By

Oh gee, a new piece on Orlando that rivals Mariella Mosthof’s for terribleness.

When I read about Orlando, I was surrounded by straight people. Well meaning straight people, yes, allies, yes, but straight people all the same.

I was surrounded by straight people because I was at my house with my husband and my daughter. I spend a lot of time around straight people (thats what I get for marrying a cishet man), but I noticed it more today than I have any other morning. When I heard the news, I started counting down the time until I could be around queer people.

No doubt the apparent distaste for and disapproval of her own husband and daughter are meant partly facetiously, and yet…she’s basically serious.

Being a bi woman means occupying a lot of weird liminal space. In that way we are very queer….we don’t fit well into boxes. Too gay to be straight, too straight to be gay, we are often locked out of the resources and support meant for the queer community due to biphobia and erasure while being pornified and objectified by the patriarchal male gaze of heteronormative culture. It’s no wonder that bi women are suffering from such a serious mental health crisis.

Blah blah blah, me me me, aren’t I fascinating. Ima get to Orlando any minute now but first, note how fascinating I am.

Being bi comes with the double edged sword of “passing.” Because I’m married to a man, and because of my high femme gender presentation, most people will assume I am straight.

Oh no, she struggles under the crippling burden of…Assumed Straight. That must be awful.

But the horrible thing about “passing privilege” is the closeting, the erasure. And never have I felt that so keenly as I feel it today while I mourn Orlando.

Ah. Never has she felt the horror of “erasure” so keenly as now, because of the slaughter of 49 people in Orlando. Never has her sense of narcissistic injury bitten so deep as it has today when she makes Orlando somehow about her.

“Passing privilege combined” with bi erasure and femme invisibility means that unless I tell someone “I’m queer” they will probably assume I’m straight. It means that when I come out to people, they don’t get it, I don’t fit the narrative they are used to hearing. It means straight people make jokes about “Spring Break” or “Katie Perry”. It means straight men ask if they can watch. It means that people, both gay and straight, DON’T BELIEVE ME when I say I’m gay. It means coming out over and over and over and over again…sometimes to the same person. It means I get dragged back into the closet every damn day. It hurts every time, but today in light of this already bleeding wound, biphobia and erasure is excruciating.

It’s all.about.her.



Peak inclusivity

Jun 15th, 2016 9:26 am | By

Oxford Pro-Choice on Twitter:

Oxford Pro-Choice ‏@OxProChoice
What message does this send to Oxford’s female students, @OUSUCouncil?

The Oxford Student Union has not re-affiliated to Abortion Rights because “it has made no effort to become inclusive to trans people” – meaning, presumably, that it continues to talk about women in connection with abortion rights, when any fule kno the correct thing to do now is talk about people who need abortion rights rather than women who need abortion rights. Women are just cis-privileged bitches and everyone should stop talking about them.



The Islamist ideology must be intellectually terminated

Jun 14th, 2016 5:38 pm | By

Maajid Nawaz takes the opposite view from Mariella Mosthof:

The atrocious attack in Orlando, Florida, was an act of ISIS-inspired jihadist terrorism that targeted gays. It must concern us all.

Before any of our assumed multiple identities, we are human beings first and foremost. You don’t have to be black to condemn racism, nor Jewish to condemn anti-Semitism, nor Muslim to condemn anti-Muslim bigotry, and you certainly don’t have to be gay to condemn the evil that just descended upon Orlando.

Exactly that. The attack was targeted, but it does not follow and it is not the case that we can’t all respond to it, even if we’re not part of the group that Omar Mateen wanted to harm.

Just as we Muslims expect solidarity from wider society against anti-Muslim bigotry and racism, likewise we must reciprocate solidarity toward victims of Islamist extremism. Just as we encourage others to actively denounce racism wherever they see it, so too must we actively denounce Islamist theocratic views wherever we find them.

It’s about solidarity, you see? Muslims expect solidarity from the rest of us, as they should, and we expect solidarity from Muslims. That’s how solidarity works. If there’s an earthquake or a tornado, people run to help, even at risk to themselves. That’s solidarity. We should never ever spit on it and reject it.

The killer of Orlando was a homophobic Muslim extremist, inspired by an ideological take on my own religion, Islam. In just the first seven days of this holy month of Ramadan, various jihadists have carried out attacks in Tel Aviv, Baghdad, Damascus, Idlib, Beirut, Orlando, and now Paris.

Islamists withhold solidarity from non-Muslims, because they consider the ummah the only proper locus of solidarity. That’s a mistake. It’s a moral mistake, a mistake of humanity.

Drones aren’t going to end Islamism, Maajid goes on. The only way to do that is to challenge it intellectually.

In the long run, only reducing the local appeal of this ideology will solve the problem. Whereas Islam today requires reform, the Islamist ideology must be intellectually terminated. To do so requires first acknowledging it exists, isolating it from Muslims, devising a strategy to challenge it, and then backing the voices that do.

As I argued in a TV debate with Fareed Zakaria, the danger of not doing so is twofold. Within the Muslim context, it is a betrayal of those liberal reforming Muslims who risk everything daily. These are feminist Muslims, gay Muslims, ex-Muslims, dissenting liberal and secular Muslim voices, persecuted minority sects among Muslims, the Ismailis, the Ahmedis and the Shia—all these different minorities within the minority of the Muslim community—they are immediately betrayed by our silence.

The answer is not to shut up if you’re not one of them, it’s to join them in talking, along with amplifying their voices, sharing their articles, advertising their speeches. It’s solidarity, again.

What happens if we don’t name the Islamist ideology and distinguish it from Islam? We leave a void for the vast majority of Americans—who are unaware of the nuances in this debate—to be filled by Donald Trump and the Populist Right. They will go on to blame all versions of Islam and every Muslim, and their frustration at not being able to talk about the problem will give in to rage, as it has done. By refusing to discuss it, we only increase the hysteria. Like “he who must not be named”—the Voldemort Effect, I call it—we increase the fear.

And then you get Trump gloating over Orlando. Nobody wants that.



Try harder

Jun 14th, 2016 4:49 pm | By

Another turn of the screw.

The Orlando gunman’s wife has told federal agents she tried to talk her husband out of carrying out the attack, NBC News has learned.

Omar Mateen’s wife, Noor Zahi Salman, told the FBI she was with him when he bought ammunition and a holster, several officials familiar with the case said. She told the FBI that she once drove him to the gay nightclub, Pulse, because he wanted to scope it out.

Oh. Oh really. So she knew he was planning it but she didn’t tell anyone who could have stopped him. Well thanks a lot.

I’m seeing people say maybe she was abused, maybe she was too afraid to tell anyone. Maybe so but that’s a lot of people dead or injured because she kept his secret. I think she should have taken the chance.



Guest post: I am a socialist and I will write about all this and much more

Jun 14th, 2016 12:21 pm | By

Originally a comment by Maureen Brian on If you are a cisgender, heterosexual, white person, please do not write about Orlando.

I was nearly a social scientist so I will write about anomie and alienation. I was a pupil, a parent and a school governor and I will write about a very rich country with so poor an education system that it equips many of its citizens only to live in fear. I am a feminist and I will write about the damage which rigid definitions of gender and gender roles do to us all. I am an internationalist and I will write about the horrors of imperialism, including American imperialism, and how the damage of that imperialism goes on harming people for generations. I was the chair of a political think tank and I will write about politics – the politics of social justice and the politics of segregation by religion, by skin colour and by sexual orientation. I am a socialist and I will write about all this and much more. I am human and I will weep when I hear the soundtrack of the Gay Men’s Choir singing in Old Compton Street last evening, where not everyone present was gay but all were united in grief and in solidarity. I am free both legally and mentally and I will speak and write what I please.

Once I have written it, only when I have written it, I will trust my friends and my political sparring partners to tell me whether what I have said or written is bollocks. This is not a judgement which can be made before the event.

As for you, Mariella Mosthof, go take a running jump!



Are you beach body ready?

Jun 14th, 2016 11:51 am | By

Sadiq Khan has an interesting plan.

Adverts promoting negative body images will be banned across the Transport for London (TfL) network from next month.

As part of his mayoral election manifesto Sadiq Khan pledged to ban adverts promoting “unhealthy or unrealistic” body images.

The advertising watchdog received 378 complaints in 2015 about a weight-loss advert that asked customers if they were “beach body ready?”

Mr Khan has now asked TfL to set up its own advertising steering group.

The ASA rejected the complaints.

The Protein World “beach body ready” promotional posters were defaced in Tube stations and a petition was started calling for the adverts to be banned, however the Advertising Standards Agency (ASA) watchdog later ruled the advert depicting a bikini-clad female model was neither offensive nor irresponsible.

Being a Yank, I feel unease about setting up official bodies to manage advertising…but being a woman, I also feel unease about the drip drip drip effect of the way women are displayed in advertising, including the Protein World posters.

Protein World's advert, asking "Are you beach body ready?"

Mr Khan said: “As the father of two teenage girls, I am extremely concerned about this kind of advertising which can demean people, particularly women, and make them ashamed of their bodies. It is high time it came to an end.”

Graeme Craig, TfL commercial development director, said: “Advertising on our network is unlike TV, online and print media.

“Our customers cannot simply switch off or turn a page if an advertisement offends or upsets them and we have a duty to ensure the copy we carry reflects that unique environment.”

Getting someone at Transport for London to take the issue seriously is better than having outsiders do it, I think – although I also hate it that London transport went private under Thatcher.

On the BBC London Facebook page many people were quick to praise the mayor’s initiative. Magdalena Michalik who lives in Greenwich said: “Please ban it. I don’t want my children to look at it!” but others warned it was the start of the “Islamification” of London and said the mayor was adopting this policy because of his religious values.

That’s the other tricky bit. I’ve seen reporting saying this is just Khan telling women to cover up.



If you are a cisgender, heterosexual, white person, please do not write about Orlando

Jun 14th, 2016 10:13 am | By

Peak something – peak doing social justice wrong is perhaps the best description of it. Mariella Mosthof at Bustle says nearly everyone should say nothing at all about Orlando.

The title alone is terrible:

Dear White, Hetero, Cis People: Please Don’t Co-Opt This Tragedy

Excuse me? Co-opt?? It’s not co-opting to express grief and outrage, and it’s not some ideal opposite of co-opting to ignore terrible things that happen to other people. If only people who are neither white nor straight nor “cis” can talk about Orlando, few people would even know it had happened.

Then the first sentence is even worse:

If you are a cisgender, heterosexual, white person, please do not write about the largest mass shooting in American history, which took place this Sunday at a gay club called Pulse in Orlando during the venue’s Latino night.

Please do not write about it. Just like that. Shut up. Say nothing. Look away. Ignore it. Talk about baseball instead.

The hell I will. Don’t you dare tell me to ignore horrors inflicted on people for belonging to a despised group. Don’t tell me to ignore the children slaughtered in Peshawar or the college students slaughtered in Garissa or the churchgoers in Charleston or the cartoonists in Paris or the atheists in Bangladesh or the clubbers in Orlando. Don’t tell anyone to do that. Stop that shit right now.

Of course, share condolences, express how horribly you feel for the victims and their families, tell your queer Latinx friends that you love them, lend support. But please do not take it upon yourself to publicly point out the hypocrisy of Paul Ryan tweeting “thoughts and prayers” when the legislative agenda of his party actively marginalizes queer people all the time.

Why the fuck not?? Why wouldn’t I, why shouldn’t I? What’s this “do not take it upon yourself” shit? It’s not presumptuous to point out the hypocrisy of Paul Ryan; we all get to do that.

Please do not wax poetic about the outrage of Trump supporters doing the same, while their presidential hopeful advocates building a wall intended to keep out the very folks Pulse was aiming to create a safe space for. Do not condemn confused conservatives who are blaming this on radical Islam. If you are a straight ally, please do not write about the infuriating injustice of Orlando health centers being in desperate need of blood when the queer community is not permitted to donate it.

Queer people are already saying these things. (Hi.) Latinx people are saying these things. Muslim people are saying these things.

“Muslim people”? So Muslims get to talk about Orlando and atheists don’t? Non-Muslims don’t? Seriously?

And while we’re at it, do not write an article or a Facebook post patting yourself on the back for not saying any of these things, because even that takes valuable space away from the marginalized people who this story is really about. This is the time for their voices to be heard, and for the rest of us to listen. This is the time for the authenticity of their lived experience and their communities’ history of collective trauma to radiate. This is a time to share their stories.

Says Mariella Mosthof, in the act of doing exactly that – patting herself on the back for telling 99.99% of people to say nothing about Orlando.

That the largest mass shooting in American history was perpetrated in a queer space is not a designation that any of us wanted. Queer history is already so painful, so traumatic, so violent, and so unjust. We didn’t need this to make our point. But now that we have it, the least allies can do is let us make our point.

Chances are, queer voices, Latinx voices, and Muslim voices are already saying what you wish to express, and you will likely find that they are expressing it in a more articulate way than you are able to. Make the choice to share those voices instead of centering yours.

Except a lot of those voices are bound to be white or straight or “cis” or all three and you told all of them to shut up, remember?

Peak awful. Peak the worst.