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.

Missionary activities

Nov 10th, 2014 12:28 pm | By

The Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain has a report on the Islamic Education and Research Authority aka iERA. It’s a group for Islamist missionaries, basically.

iERA are effectively a pro-active organisation that facilitates missionary activities, and also an aggregating organisation that co-ordinates evangelism and preaching by affiliates. Even though iERA does not have a central constitution, the ideas that its core group aggregates, and its affiliates assert, correspond tightly with the ideas propounded by Islamist organisations and hate groups like Hizb ut Tahrir. In addition, the ideas of iERA and its affiliates fit into a wider stream of Wahaabi / Salafi Islamism.

iERA can be classified as a hate group because of its persistent promotion of
Islamists who preach hate against non Muslims, women, gays, progressive
Muslims and ex-Muslims. It is also one of the main organisations behind the call for the imposition of Islamist norms in society, including gender segregation at UK universities and the assertion of preachers who promote Sharia courts.

So, it’s a group that, if it succeeds in its mission, will make life hell for most people.

The practical effect of their speeches is a cumulative one, in which hatred,
cruelty and dehumanisation are normalised and a climate of hostility and
supremacism are deemed to be righteous expressions of belief. Their Islamic
missionary activity is not only about spirituality, but a wider call to make society subordinate to theocratic norms.

Read the whole thing.

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

The godless North

Nov 9th, 2014 5:43 pm | By

There’s a documentary tv series in Scandinavia (I haven’t been able to find out if it’s Swedish or Finnish or etc) that did an episode about a US fundamentalist Christian preacher bumbling around Scandinavia getting shocked about how unlike him they are.

Pastor Marty McLain, who describes his religious belief as deriving from a literal interpretation of the Bible, was given the opportunity to see how secular Scandinavia is by a documentary series called The Norden.

What he found came as a shock, apparently. (He could have just gone to New York or Seattle and been shocked there. I suspect he doesn’t get out of Georgia much.)

McLain, who’s favorite expression is “wow,” is wowed a lot. Almost no one he talks to on the street seems interested in God. One guy puts it bluntly: “If there is no god, why should I believe in him?” Ouch.

A few highlights:

  • While interviewing several members of a church in Copenhagen, McLain makes the mistake of assuming that, given their faith, they must be homophobes like he is. After he laments the fact that the oppressive government made Denmark’s churches perform same-sex marriages, the Reverend had to awkwardly tell him that neither he nor anyone else at the church had a problem with gay people. McLain’s pained expression is priceless.
  • He runs into a man on the street who (finally!) says he believes in God. Excited, McLain asks if he is a Christian. The man tells him, no, a Muslim. McLain: “A Muslim!”
  • An excruciating discussion with a humanist over coffee ends with the humanist telling McLain, “In short, I have no need of a god. To put it bluntly.” McLain stares off into space, his mind melting.

Something else I noticed from the excerpted highlights I watched – the guy seems not to grasp, or at least let himself be at all affected by, the fact that he is in other people’s country speaking a foreign language. He makes no effort whatever to talk clearly out of consideration to these polite hospitable people who are kindly speaking his language in their country. He mumbles and slurs and gabbles just as casually as if he were at home in his suburb of Atlanta talking to the wife & kids. It’s rude. It’s rude and unthinking and provincial. That kind of thing always makes me cringe when I’m in a non-English speaking place, the way Americans expect everyone to adapt to them.

While the show is shot with the Georgian pastor as the focus, if we inverse the perspective things get quite a bit sadder. It’s impossible to tell just what these secular people make of the shellshocked American staggering around their country, unable to cope with the idea that they don’t believe in Adam and Eve. It must look to some like a time traveler from an ancient era, confused by the progress we’ve made. We can only hope that they are generous with their assumptions. It would be embarrassing to think that they consider this guy a representative of all Americans, because between the “homosexuality is a sin!” and “There’s no proof of evolution, you weren’t there!” all I can say is, “Wow.”

I know. He’s embarrassing. So complacent, so confident, so ill-informed.

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

Plants and their pollinators

Nov 9th, 2014 4:47 pm | By

Here’s a scary thing. The temperature rise due to climate change is making bees start flying earlier in the spring, before flowers have bloomed, and that makes pollination less likely. Guess what pollination is necessary for – food production. Hello famine. (There’s also the horror of shrinking snow pack in the Himalayas, which will cut the water flow to the massive rivers in Asia that originate in that snow pack.) This story is just one particular bee and one plant – the miner bee and the early spider orchid – but if the pattern applies elsewhere, well – that’s ominous.

“We have shown that plants and their pollinators show different responses to climate change and that warming will widen the timeline between bees and flowers emerging,” said Dr Karen Robbirt, at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew and the University of East Anglia (UEA). “If replicated in less specific systems, this could have severe implications for crop productivity.”

And if crop productivity goes down, we’re all in deep shit.

Scientists have already identified a few timing mismatches caused by global warming between species and their prey. Oak tree buds are eaten by winter moths, whose caterpillars are in turn fed by great tits to their chicks, but the synchronicity of all these events has been disrupted.

Suspected mismatches have occurred between sea birds and fish, such as puffins and herring and guillemots and sand eels. The red admiral butterfly and the stinging nettle, one of its host plants, are also getting out of sync.

Not good.

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

The witchfinder general

Nov 9th, 2014 1:55 pm | By

The BBC also reported on that proposed independent school in Kent with links to “witch” hunter David Oyedpo.

The church, whose leader Bishop David Oyedpo was filmed accusing a woman of being a witch, declined an interview.

The organisation, which has its headquarters in Nigeria, is known as Living Faith Church Worldwide and also Winners’ Chapel International (WCI).

Bishop Oyedepo, its leader in Nigeria, has been shown on YouTubeslapping a woman and accusing her of being a witch.

His son David Oyedepo Junior is the pastor at WCI’s European headquarters in Dartford, where the church organisation wants to open Kingdom Heritage Model School for children aged four to seven.

That’s what the UK needs more of – churches that go in for witch hunting, and schools founded by those churches. But this is what you get when you let religious institutions run state schools.

Human rights activist and Nigerian Humanist Movement founder Leo Igwe said the church obtained money from its members using what it called a prosperity-in-gospel narrative.

He said: “They make this money using this narrative and then they use it to establish business, universities, schools.”

That’s Leo quoted by the BBC. Good.

The Department for Education (DfE) said it had received an application and was aware of concerns.

A spokeswoman said: “All independent schools must meet stringent standards before they are registered. These include tough rules on welfare and safeguarding.

“Police intelligence and criminal record checks are also carried out on the proprietor of the school, and any links to organisations which suggest the school might not meet the standards are investigated.”

And your call is important to us and the check is in the mail.

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

Naveed could not control his emotions

Nov 9th, 2014 1:38 pm | By

Another one of these. Another murder to defend a long dead “prophet” against another putative insult. There’s a bit of “political correctness” for Sam Harris.

A policeman in Pakistan hacked a man to death for allegedly making derogatory remarks about the companions of the Prophet Muhammad, police said, just two days after a Christian couple was lynched over blasphemy in the same province.

It’s understandable though. The guy wouldn’t stop.

The man, Tufail Haider, 55, was taken into custody late on Wednesday in the city of Gujrat after a group of people allegedly overheard him making the remarks, beat him up and handed over to police.

“Officer Faraz Naveed brought him to the police station and sent him to lock-up. Haider did not stop using nasty words about Sahaba (the companions) despite warnings from various officials,” said police officer Khurram Shehzad.

“At around 5.00 a.m., Naveed could not control his emotions. He went into his cell, brought an axe, entered the lock up and hit Haider’s throat several times.”

And that was the end of Haider.

Blasphemy charges, even when they do go to court, are punishable by death in Muslim-majority Pakistan. They are hard to fight because the law does not define clearly what is blasphemous.

Even presenting the evidence in court can sometimes itself be considered a fresh infringement.

Pakistan’s minorities feel that the state fails to protect them, and even tolerates violence against them.

Because it does, and it does.

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

Then for your new friends

Nov 8th, 2014 4:23 pm | By

There’s SPAM ‘n’ Limas.

No don’t interrupt me, I’m laughing too hard.

Spam 'n' Limas


Boy doesn’t that Spanish sauce sound fabulous? The lard is a nice touch.

I wonder what the white substance you can see around the lima beans is. The recipe doesn’t mention anything like that so is it…some kind of horrid foam we don’t want to think about? Something the lima beans and spam give off as they bake?


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

So if you’re having “company” over for dinner

Nov 8th, 2014 4:13 pm | By

Here’s how to give them and yourself an evening in hell.

Super Salad Loaf

Best Foods / Via

A bologna shell? Wtf? You scoop out a lump of baloney and stick smashed peas mixed with mayonnaise and jello in the hole?

People did this?

Look at those poor sad people in brown uniforms approaching the door, all eager for the treat, not knowing what they’re going to get. Look at those fiends greeting them with cheery waves.

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

Damaging the far-right narrative

Nov 8th, 2014 3:53 pm | By

Iram Ramzan interviewed Nazir Afzal for the Oldham Chronicle a few days ago.

Mr Afzal hopes Stockport MP Ann Coffey’s report into child abuse in Greater Manchester won’t deter victims from coming forward. But he doesn’t think the report does enough to highlight the achievements of his service.

Ms Coffey’s report suggested that the perceived attitudes of jurors caused the CPS to fail to charge suspects. She reported that in some cases the CPS highlighted the victim’s clothing, or that members of her own family had been derogatory about her behaviour, and that these facts had persuaded the CPS not to prosecute.

In the last six years 12,879 sexual offences against children were reported to GMP, but only 2,341 defendants were charged and 1,078 found guilty.

One of Mr Afzal’s first acts on becoming a chief crown prosecutor was to start prosecutions against the Rochdale grooming gang, overturning an earlier CPS decision.

He says the CPS record has improved a lot over the last three years.

“We’re in a better place. One of the things the report didn’t highlight was the conviction rate is the highest ever. I wouldn’t want anything to deter victims from coming forward.”

North-West figures show that in 2013-14, 194 of 288 child abuse cases were successfully prosecuted.

That’s a massive improvement.

Mr Afzal stresses the majority of sexual abuse occurs within the home – and by white perpetrators. The second largest incidence is online, the third is institutions — such as in schools — and finally comes street grooming: “It’s a sizeable but small group,” he added.

The judge sentencing the Rochdale gang told the defendants they preyed on girls because they weren’t part of their community or religion. But as Mr Afzal pointed out, Oldham defendant Shabir Ahmed was also convicted of the rape of a Pakistani girl.

Mr Afzal suggested the grooming gang preyed on vulnerability: “The perpetrators weren’t religious, they were men controlling women and girls. We need to stop getting distracted by ethnicity and focus on what this is — women and girls being abused, feeling they can’t talk about their experiences.”

And that’s far from being a monopoly of the religious.

“You don’t provoke rape by your dress, or the choices you make. You don’t provoke rape because you’re drinking. In no way is that an excuse for what that man does. The perpetrators are doing it because they want control. As a prosecutor I will make them face the consequences.”

He does believe women of south Asian and other minority backgrounds find it more difficult to speak out due to issues of honour and shame: “Asian victims don’t come forward — it doesn’t mean they don’t exist. We have to reach out to them.”

Mr Afzal said he has received strong support from Pakistani people since the Rochdale case.

The only offensive comments have been from the far right. “I damage their narrative,” he added.

As do women like Iram Ramzan and Tehmina Kazi. Damage that narrative! Damage it and then bury it.

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

Which ones are the professionals?

Nov 8th, 2014 12:17 pm | By

There’s a long and informative Storify by A Man In Black on YouTube, Patreon, and the Rise of the Professional Victimizer. There are people who make a very nice living out of cranking out videos that harass particular women – Zoe Quinn and Anita Sarkeesian to name two.

AMIB says thunderf00t is the top worst at this.

A Man In Black @a_man_in_black
Phil “thunderf00t” Mason is a scientist and somewhat (in)famous blogger/vlogger from the freethought/atheist community.

thunderf00t makes videos about science and anti-feminism, and has long attacked Anita Sarkeesian.

His videos usually range in the low six digits for views.

He’s cashed in on attacking Anita Sarkeesian, however. He has two videos from last July attacking her, at 500K and 300K views.

As of July, he was also making more than $2000 per Patreon video, which he releases about twice a month. 

A nice little earner. Four grand a month for trying hard to ruin a woman’s life.

Thunderf00t released a video titled “Quinnspiracy and does ‘maybe’ mean no?” on Aug 23, bringing his audience with him.

People like thunderf00t’s audience are a large part of why is about harassment.

A guy’s gotta eat.

This is just a tiny slice; I recommend the whole thing.

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

We’re not allowed to have logical discussions

Nov 8th, 2014 11:29 am | By

Coolio, some people are sending their responses to Sam Harris’s request for examples of Political Correctness run amok publicly, so that we can read them. This fella on Facebook for example.

Sam Harris, remember back when Richard Dawkins “ranked rape”?

Well, he tried to make a point about logic and then everyone said they understood what he meant, but still did the exact opposite of what a person who understood would.

The media wrote about how he ranked rape, even though rape was only a hypothetical example in his argument about logic, not at all the main point of what he said.

We’re not allowed to have logical discussions about anything that’s emotionally sensitive, or even use it as an example to illustrate a point.…/richard-dawkins-says-date-ra…


Totally. Absolutely. Because Richard Dawkins for sure no question felt an urgent need to explain to people that saying X is worse than Y does not equal saying Y is good. Just that. No reference to anything else, just a purely about-logic point. He just happened to use rape as an example, but it could have been anything else, anything at all. It’s only politically correct chumps who miss the purely about-logic point and zero in on the example, which is completely beside the point.

Also, Twitter is the best possible medium for making points about logic, including while using rape as an example. The very best possible. Nothing could ever possibly go wrong; it is always perfectly easy to make your points clear, and engage with questions and criticism, and say everything that needs to be said. Nothing ever goes haywire on Twitter, and it’s just amok political correctness to suggest that Twitter isn’t the place for discussions of comparative rape.

If Sam Harris is writing a book on Political Correctness run amok, there is every sign that it will be a humdinger of a good book, probably his best since The Moral Landscape.

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

You get up with fleas

Nov 8th, 2014 10:55 am | By

Sam Harris is getting help, or at least psychological support, in his quest for political correctness run amok. Bill Dembski Denyse O’Leary at Uncommon Descent is all sympathy.

Guy made the mistake of actually challenging something serious now.

Like, he could have been a pop sci celeb, with articles like “Ten reasons you go to church that you wish you never knew,” or “Ten reasons you give to charity that have nothing to do with caring,” or “Why the government really does know what is best for you.”

Legacy media editors can’t get enough of that stuff, even if readers are dropping away like fleas off a dead moose.

Instead, unaccountably, the guy decided to take on the current pussyfoot between progressive politics and Islamic terror. Hope he has insurance against being brained with a picket sign or just plain blown up.

Meanwhile, do let’s help. (I sent him Rotherham. – O’Leary for News)

Aw, that’s sweet. Dembski thinks Harris is just thinking of the segment of the left that confuses criticism of Islam or Islamism with persecution of Muslims. Apparently Harris’s contempt for feminism has escaped his notice…or possibly he prefers not to mention it because he shares it.

Another ally comments:

There is no need to look very far, IMO. Darwinism, materialism, machine consciousness and parallel universes are all examples of political correctness gone crazy.

Have fun with that, Sam!

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

“Insolence” in Malaysia

Nov 7th, 2014 5:59 pm | By

Last July in Malaysia a fatwa was issued on Sisters in Islam; the New York Times gives some facts:

In July, the official religious council in wealthy and populous Selangor State issued a fatwa, or religious decree, against Sisters in Islam, a Malaysian group that advocates women’s rights.

The fatwa declared Sisters in Islam “deviant” and also denounced “any individual, organization or institution that upholds the belief of liberalism or pluralism in religion.”

The fatwa did not define liberalism or pluralism, but called on the authorities to ban and seize books that promote the ideas and to “censor and block any social website contrary to Islamic teachings.”

Rosli Dahlan, a Malaysian lawyer who has represented clients challenging the power of the religious authorities, said the scope of the fatwa was unprecedented.

“This is an attempt by religious authorities to extend their tentacles into areas where they don’t belong,” Mr. Rosli said. “This seems to be a return to the Spanish Inquisition.”

The Rakyat Post reports on a press conference held by Sisters in Islam on October 31:

It was just 10 days ago that Sisters in Islam (SIS) found out the organisation had been declared as subscribing to “religious liberalism and pluralism” in a gazetted fatwa in Selangor.

The fatwa, gazetted on July 31 this year, also singled out “any individuals, organisations or institutions”.

Shocked at the fatwa, it compelled SIS to file a judicial review against it at the Kuala Lumpur High Court this morning.

This isn’t one of those meaningless internet fatwas that any random schmuck can issue, this is an official fatwa. (So why didn’t the council inform Sisters in Islam? I have no idea.)

SIS is challenging the fatwa by the Selangor Islamic Religious Council (Mais) on several constitutional grounds, including the violation of their right to freedom of expression, association and religion, as guaranteed by the federal constitution.

They will also question Mais for allegedly having trespassed federal powers that only the Parliament could make laws restricting fundamental liberties and the fact that the religious authority could not direct federal institutions like the Malaysian Communications And Multimedia Commission (MCMC) to block social media sites.

According to the fatwa, it deemed any publications with elements of liberalism and religious pluralism as “haram” and also urged the MCMC to block websites that opposed Islamic teachings and laws.

What a nightmare.

Also present at the press conference, Zaid said he supported the judicial review and questioned whether the religious authorities themselves understood the meaning of “liberalism and pluralism” in the matter.

“I know they (SIS) have done a lot of good work. As Muslims it’s our obligation to help those in need.

“How can you ‘haramkan’ an organisation that helps people, Muslims in fact,” he said.

Zaid said it goes back to the prime minister himself, who has lauded moderation in the country and Malaysia’s involvement in the UNHCR, but let the likes of Isma, PAS and Perkasa run free.

“I go back to the prime minister. He needs to make the system practical so that it doesn’t breach the rights of others.

“We want the prime minister to tell us where we are going. The country is in a serious situation and we have to distinguish where we draw the line,” he added.

Sisters in Islam issued a press release on their challenge October 31.

Sisters in Islam (SIS) has filed a judicial review on a gazetted fatwa in Selangor declaring SIS as subscribing to “religious liberalism and pluralism”, and therefore deviating from the teachings of Islam. The fatwa allows for any publications deemed “liberal and plural” to be banned and seized. In addition, it calls for any form of social media that go against the “ajaran Islam dan hukum Syarak” to be blocked by the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commissions (MCMC).

We view with grave concern the allegations made against us and question the basis for this fatwa.  Since 2003, SIS has served close to 10,000 Muslim women who turned to us for legal help to seek redress to their marital problems.  We have trained over 4,000 women on their legal rights through our popular legal literacy workshops. More than 90% of them stated that the knowledge provided by SIS has empowered them to know their rights in Islam. We teach women how to access the justice system for themselves and for their children, accompany them to court, and recommend lawyers to represent them. These thousands of women we have helped and trained have gone on to help others in their families and communities.

They explain the legal situation, which is quite startling:

Malaysia is the only Muslim country that enables a fatwa to have the force of law through a mere gazetting process and then criminalises any violations of the fatwa. According to section 13 of the Syariah Criminal Offences (Selangor) Enactment 1995, any person who gives, propagates or disseminates any opinion concerning any issue, Islamic teachings or Islamic Law contrary to any fatwa for the time being in force can be fined up to RM3,000, or jailed for up to 2 years, or both. Any document or other medium [sic] may be seized and destroyed even without any conviction.

So there you go. This council can issue a fatwa, not inform the people who are subject to the fatwa, and then get them fined or thrown in jail or both for continuing to do what they’ve been doing for years. What a grotesque set up.

These excessive powers exercised by the religious authorities of Malaysia, with the complicity of the executive and legislative bodies are dragging the country down the road to theocratic dictatorship.The criminalisation of non-compliance to a fatwa deviates from Islamic legal theory and practice. A fatwa is merely an advisory opinion to guide Muslims to lead a life according to the teachings of Islam. It is not legally binding and it is optional for the individual to follow it, or seek another fatwa.

It’s gruesome. Now the theocrats are bullying SIS for challenging the fatwa.

PAS Youth castigated Sisters in Islam (SIS) today for plans to challenge in the courts a fatwa, or religious edict, against liberalism and religious pluralism, labelling the Muslim women’s group as “insolent” and “extremist”.

Defending Selangor’s Fatwa Council, the Islamist party’s wing also accused SIS of challenging the monarchy and the Federal Constitution, which it said puts Islam as the religion of the federation.

“SIS’ insolence in challenging the National Fatwa Council’s prohibition against it for professing liberalism and religious pluralism is proof that the group is driving a deviating agenda against Islamic teachings in this country,” said a statement by the wing’s deputy chief Muhammad Khalil Abdul Hadi.

“Insolence” is it – people daring to think they have rights is “insolence.”

We need to keep a beady eye on this.

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

Please send links/stories to Sam Harris

Nov 7th, 2014 5:04 pm | By

Sam Harris is looking to set a trend again.


Sam Harris @SamHarrisOrg · 6 hours ago
Looking for examples of political correctness run amok. Please send links/stories here:

That trend has been set already, back around 1985 or so, but Sam was probably too busy studying the biology of gender differences to notice.

So, yay. The atheist movement can throw a big ol’ party with Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins as the hosts and everybody else dressed up as various kinds of political correctness run amok. Hilarity will ensue. And the atheist movement will continue to watch bemusedly as sensible people head for the exits.

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

Malleable community standards

Nov 7th, 2014 12:10 pm | By

Remember that excellent, well-argued, informative comment by the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain on a post by Andrew Brown at CiF yesterday? That I re-published here for your convenience and edification? It’s all the more convenient now, because the wises ones at CiF have deleted it, claiming – absurdly – that it doesn’t meet their community standards. CEMB tweeted the news a few hours ago.

Ex-Muslims Forum @CEMB_forum · 5 hours ago
We wrote this at Guardian about how Exmuslims are silenced … … its now been silenced & deleted

Maajid Nawaz asked the wise ones why.

Maajid Nawaz @MaajidNawaz · 18 hours ago
.@Guardian publish … then @CEMB_forum comment … Enforcing a blasphemy code, Guardian delete comment

What is the Guardian doing enforcing a blasphemy code?

To further ironize the irony, yesterday that comment was an Editors’ Favourite.

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

Dapper whats?

Nov 7th, 2014 11:18 am | By

So here’s another cultural artifact I wasn’t aware of – this “comedian” who goes by Dapper Laughs, who sounds about as funny as a poke in the eye.

It all kicked off when the website UsVsTh3m tweeted a link to a not-so positive review of the 14 track record.

The album includes songs called A Walk To The Pub…With A Tramp, Cracking On To A Sweetheart and Leaving The Pub…With A Tramp.

Sounds hilarious…

He’s new to Eleanor Margolis at the New Statesman, too.

I’ve also been told that he’s a comedian, although I’m struggling to find any evidence to support this. His brand of, not comedy exactly – more like yelling lists of words – consists almost entirely of harassing and degrading women. This is what’s known as “banter” – ie: being obnoxious, but louder and faster. And there is nothing Dapper Laughs won’t mock in the name of banter. Rape, domestic violence, sexual assault: you name it, this guy will demote it from a serious issue to a dad joke. A kind of horny dad joke, but a dad joke nonetheless. Laughs – real name, Daniel O’Reilly – rose to fame via his Vine channel, by posting short clips of himself making some pretty retro sexist jokes, claiming he has a massive dick, and using the word “moist” a lot. In one Vine, he pretends to threaten his girlfriend with a gun for wearing a short skirt. LOL?

O’Reilly/Laughs has just been given his own show by ITV2, who have taken it upon themselves to promote this hyperactive throwback from some wanker on the internet to TV star. The clear message here is that misogyny is just as marketable as ever. It’s been pointed out that feminism’s fourth wave has become a bit of an industry. If so, Girl Power is a burger stand and sexism is McDonalds. The fact that social movements are just as tied up in the free market as everything else is often overlooked.

I’m new to Dapper Laughs, but I’ve been horribly aware of the lad culture industry that spawned him for a long while. A “lad”, for those fortunate enough to think it’s just old fashioned slang for “boy”, is someone who is part of a competition to see who can degrade women the most, in the name of banter. Grabbing a woman’s arse? Banter! Rating a woman’s tits, out of ten? Banter! Shooting a woman? Top notch banter!

When and why and how did this become so fashionable? Where was I at the time? Why wasn’t I consulted?!

Outside of the internet and the media though, one of lad culture’s favourite haunts is our universities. In a recent article about the phenomenon, the Guardian reported that 68 per cent of women at UK universities have been sexually harassed. The Americans, who have a solid history of university sexism deployed by fraternities, are probably wondering why us Brits have only just recognised this as A Thing. What seems to have happened is that aggressively macho frat culture has somehow hitched a ride over the Atlantic.

Really? Oh god. I’m sorry. I apologize for my country. I’m so sorry. Mind you, I was never consulted on that either, and I’ve never liked it or found it amusing or had anything to do with it. But still, I live here, and I apologize.

A driving force behind this movement is the idea that those opposed to it are simply humourless. The sour-faced feminist trope is an old one, and it’s still being used to silence women. The banter brigade have convinced themselves that they own comedy, meaning that anti-banter is fundamentally anti-humour.

And anti-sex, and anti-free speech. All of those. Misogynist rapey banter is all the good things and its critics are all the bad ones. #banter!

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

Witchy disobedience

Nov 7th, 2014 10:46 am | By

The Freethinker reports that Yemi Adedeji of the Evangelical Alliance supports the opening of a faith school in Kent by a witchcraft-besotted Nigerian church, and that human rights campaigner Leo Igwe strongly opposes it.

According to this report, Winners’ Chapel International – currently under investigation by the Charity Commission – wants to open the school at its Dartford site, but human rights campaigners such as Igwe, as well as the National Secular Society, are urging the government to turn down the school bid.

The proposed Kingdom Heritage Model School is intended for children aged four to seven.

The church links child “disobedience” to witchcraft.


No, UK, you should not have a state school that links disobedience to witchcraft. You shouldn’t have any school that does that, but especially not a state school.

Stephen Evans, from the NSS, said the Metropolitan Police had investigated 27 cases of child abuse related to witchcraft this year. He said:

There’s a need to be vigilant and there’s a need to tackle this. You don’t do this by allowing organisations that believe in witchcraft and are associated with witch-hunting to open in the UK.

The Department for Education (DfE) said it had received an application and was aware of concerns. A spokeswoman said:

All independent schools must meet stringent standards before they are registered. These include tough rules on welfare and safeguarding. Police intelligence and criminal record checks are also carried out on the proprietor of the school, and any links to organisations which suggest the school might not meet the standards are investigated.

Well…sometimes it takes years before those investigations happen. Let’s hope the DfE does better than that with the proposed Kingdom Heritage Model School.

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

Freedom freedom freedom

Nov 7th, 2014 9:45 am | By

Julien Blanc has been forced to leave Australia after his visa was withdrawn. His visa was withdrawn because the government took heed of protests pointing out that Blanc gives lectures on how to assault women.

Controversial US “pick-up artist” Julien Blanc has cut short his Australian tour after having his visa cancelled in the wake of protests against his seminars, which promote dangerous and abusive behaviour towards women.

“We can confirm Julien Blanc left Australia overnight,” Victorian police said on Twitter. “His assistant is also due to leave shortly.” The pair had planned to stay until December.

The immigration minister, Scott Morrison, said Blanc’s visa was cancelled Thursday night.

There are cries of free speech and anti-sex. No really, there are.

Helen Razer @HelenRazer ·10 hours ago
Call me old-fashioned. But anything that Scott Morrison and the anti-sex league of Collective Shout endorse make me less than utilitarian.

That’s feminism for you, she adds.

Not the first time feminist interests have coincided with those of the moral right, though.

So Helen Razer considers it “sex” – as in, mutual consensual pleasurable sex between two or more people – to grab strangers in the street or a bar and shove their heads into one’s crotch? That’s “sex”? I say that’s not sex, it’s assault. I say it’s weirdly anti-sexual to call assault “sex”.

The Guardian continues:

Australians were outraged after discovering Blanc, a so-called “date coach”, was holding seminars to teach men how to “pick up” women using physical force and emotional abuse.

Venues in Melbourne refused to host his events after protesters highlighted his videos, Twitter feeds and photos promoting violence against women and abuse as a means of attracting them.

Of “attracting” them? No. As a means of having “sex” with them – as a means of penetrating them genitally or orally.

Blanc’s assistant then attempted to hold a seminar on a boat on Melbourne’s Yarra river on Thursday night, which a handful of men paid to attend.

Protesters rallied along the river and also trailed the pair by boat, and Melbourne River Cruises cancelled the event as soon as they were told what was happening. In the end police escorted the men off the vessel.

But free speech!

Yes, free speech, but not free instructions in how to commit violent crimes against people.

Neither Blanc nor his company [has] responded to requests for comment. According to his tour schedule, he is due to appear next in Japan.

He has a history in Japan, as we know. It will be interesting to see how that goes.

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

Guest post: The enslavement of those who are most in need of freedom

Nov 7th, 2014 6:46 am | By

Originally a comment by Eric MacDonald on A bishop always knows better.

There are several things wrong with the bishop’s objection to Brittany Maynard’s choosing to die. First of all, the term ‘dignity’ is a highly contested one, but Ignacio plays on two completely separate and unrelated meanings of the word. In Roman Catholic theology (and I think this is a new use of the word, though I have not been able to establish this), ‘dignity’ refers simply to the “God-givenness” of life. It does not refer to dignity in the strict sense, which consists in a person’s feeling of respect for herself (given present circumstances), and the respect paid to her by others (as opposed to pity, for example).

Dignity, in the sense relevant to Brittany’s decision, is acting according to one’s own will and in accordance with one’s own sense of value as a person.

Catholics will say that human life itself has dignity, but this is a far cry from the individual’s sense of her own dignity. What Catholics mean, I take it, is value, and they think of the value of life as infinite. However, someone in Brittany’s situation cannot feel that what the future holds (especially in the case of a brain tumour, than which there is perhaps no more excruciatingly painful way to die) will be characterised by dignity in the personal sense, however much Ignacio might hold a life characterised by unbearable pain to have infinite value.

Besides, how he supposes that Brittany would have been able to carry out the church’s mission at the point of direst pain is simply beyond me. I have sat and watched helplessly a patient with brain cancer die. Her last hour was one long, uninterrupted scream, the doctor standing by meanwhile saying defensively that there was nothing he could do. How someone in that situation is supposed to carry out a mission to others in that condition is simply beyond me, and Ignacio does not explain, because he can’t. These are rote proclamations based on the church’s dogma, and do not reflect the actual situation of people in such conditions.

I think the term ‘dignity in dying’ is an appropriate one, for most people’s deaths are not dignified. In my life as a priest I saw only one person die with what I could describe as dignity. The rest simply crumbled away into pain and a final struggle for air, or continuous vomiting. How aware they were I did not know, but their lack of dignity was the most striking thing about their deaths. Many relatives and loved ones stay away because they “didn’t want to remember [their loved one] in such distress.” They wanted to remember them as the people they really were, people with dignity, acting from their own centre, and in accordance with their own desires and values. It is a scandal that the church cannot see beyond the repetition of its dogma, rather than consider with compassion what might be the best way for a person to die, given their own choice in the matter. Forcing someone to die in a manner not of their own choosing is slavery (as Montaigne aptly said). It is interesting to see that the church still maintains this residual commitment to the enslavement of those who are most in need of freedom.

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

A bishop always knows better

Nov 6th, 2014 5:25 pm | By

Now that I’ve given you something elevating to contemplate in the ALMA picture of planet formation, we have to bump back down to squalid theocratic bullying again. This time it’s the Vatican’s reaction to Brittany Maynard’s decision to die before reaching the last horrible stages of death by brain tumor. Catholic News Agency reports what an official had to say.

Spanish Bishop Ignacio Carrasco de Paula, president of the Pontifical Academy for Life at the Vatican, explained to ANSA news agency, “We don’t judge people, but the gesture in itself is to be condemned. What happened in her conscience we don’t know.”

Bishop Carrasco de Paula said Maynard decided to take her life “thinking she would die with dignity, but that is the error.”

No it isn’t. I’m not a fan of the phrase “death with dignity” but even so, I think there are a lot of kinds of helplessness and malfunction that are hell on anyone’s sense of privacy, self-respect, dignity, enjoyment of not being a helpless excreting blob in a bed. It’s not an error to prefer to die before losing the ability to hold a spoon or walk to the toilet or brush one’s own teeth. It’s a preference, and different people will have different preferences, and it’s not up to the bishop to say Maynard’s was an error.

He called this view “an absurdity” because “dignity is something incompatible with putting an end to your own life.”

“Committing suicide is not a good thing; it is bad because it’s saying ‘no’ to one’s own life and to everything that it means regarding our mission towards the people around us in this world.”

Not when you have a terrible terminal illness it isn’t. But the Vatican doesn’t seem to accept that it has any obligation to take particulars into account when delivering these dogmatic generalized announcements.

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

Planet formation

Nov 6th, 2014 4:35 pm | By


Have a snapshot from the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA), courtesy of a press release from the National Radio Astronomy Observatory.

Astronomers have captured the best image ever of planet formation around an infant star as part of the testing and verification process for the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array’s (ALMA) new high-resolution capabilities.

This revolutionary new image reveals in astonishing detail the planet-forming disk surrounding HL Tau, a Sun-like star located approximately 450 light-years from Earth in the constellation Taurus.

ALMA uncovered never-before-seen features in this system, including multiple concentric rings separated by clearly defined gaps. These structures suggest that planet formation is already well underway around this remarkably young star.

A snapshot of planet formation! How cool is that?


ALMA image of the young star HL Tau and its protoplanetary disk. This best image ever of planet formation reveals multiple rings and gaps that herald the presence of emerging planets as they sweep their orbits clear of dust and gas. Credit: ALMA (NRAO/ESO/NAOJ); C. Brogan, B. Saxton (NRAO/AUI/NSF)

All stars are believed to form within clouds of gas and dust that collapse under gravity. Over time, the surrounding dust particles stick together, growing into sand, pebbles, and larger-size rocks, which eventually settle into a thin protoplanetary disk where asteroids, comets, and planets form.

Once these planetary bodies acquire enough mass, they dramatically reshape the structure of their natal disk, fashioning rings and gaps as the planets sweep their orbits clear of debris and shepherd dust and gas into tighter and more confined zones.

The new ALMA image reveals these striking features in exquisite detail, providing the clearest picture to date of planet formation. Images with this level of detail were previously only seen in computer models and artist concepts. ALMA, living up to its promise, has now provided direct proof that nature and theory are very much in agreement.

That’s exciting.

ALMA’s new high-resolution capabilities were achieved by spacing the antennas up to 15 kilometers apart. This baseline at millimeter wavelengths enabled a resolution of 35 milliarcseconds, which is equivalent to a penny as seen from more than 110 kilometers away.

“Such a resolution can only be achieved with the long baseline capabilities of ALMA and provides astronomers with new information that is impossible to collect with any other facility, including the best optical observatories,” noted ALMA Director Pierre Cox.

These long baselines fulfill one of ALMA’s major objectives and mark an impressive technological and engineering milestone. Future observations at ALMA’s longest possible baseline of 16 kilometers will produce even clearer images and continue to expand our understanding of the cosmos.

We live in interesting times.

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