Month: August 2013
Greenbelt: British Christians, Syria And Assad
A yearly Christian festival has come in for criticism to the extent that Greenbelt felt compelled to put out a Statement on Israel/Palestine programming by Greenbelt. Whilst there is the broader question of, whether or not Westerners should be interfering in the Middle East, there should be no circumscription on criticising the human-rights record of any governments. Any.
There is much to criticise in the Middle East and the Israeli government is not immune from it. The continued occupation in the West Bank. The treatment of immigrants to Israel and the rise of right-wing racist ideas. However, we must not forget that it has been Israelis at the very forefront of these issues and opposing their own government. That opposition takes various forms from the human-rights organisations, such as B’Tselem to Rabbis For Human Rights and beyond.
Where is it, Syria?
Except that Israel is not the only country in the Middle East.
Nor is it the only one connected to the Christian faith and therefore of interest to many Westerners or festival-goers at Greenbelt.
I could not help but notice a strange omission from the festival programme, any mention of Syria. Whilst it has slid down the news agenda, the 2½ year conflict involves many millions, with probably over 120,000 dead, millions of refugees flooding into neighbouring countries and it should deserve at least one word of commentary. I thought it was a peculiar oversight, but then, is it?
I wondered, could it be that those fixated with Israeli misdemeanours give the rulers of Syria an easy time? There is one whole article on the Greenbelt site relating to Syria, whereas the search result on “Israel” amount to 7 pages of searches, 63 entries.
The hypothesis, that strident and negative views on Israel would lead to a bias in reporting of the Middle East needed testing, the question was how?
Well, I supposed that choosing the most strident Christian critics of the Israelis I could think of might prove illuminating. Surely, I reasoned, they could not fail to indict Bashar Assad for instigating the conflict in Syria? Or using tank shells and aircraft on unarmed civilians?
All of this did not happen overnight. The conflict started in March 2011 when the Syrian government decided to shoot peaceful demonstrators. The Western media begun to document the abuse by the Assad regime, including disappearances and regular use of torture.
I thought that even the harshest adversary of the Israelis would not be so lopsided as to moderate their acerbic attitudes when it came to the quasi-dictatorship in Syria.
David Miranda, Picking Through The Issue
There is considerable discussion of the detention of David Miranda and the lines are forming up.
On one side, those who seem to hate Glenn Greenwald and would probably justify any action against him or his partner, short of throwing them into Gitmo!
On the other, those concerned with the implications of the detention. I rarely find myself agreeing with Andrew Sullivan but he sums up the wider issue of Snowden’s exposé:
“Readers know I have been grappling for a while with the vexing question of the balance between the surveillance state and the threat of Jihadist terrorism. When the NSA leaks burst onto the scene, I was skeptical of many of the large claims made by civil libertarians and queasily sympathetic to a program that relied on meta-data alone, as long as it was transparent, had Congressional buy-in, did not accidentally expose innocent civilians to grotesque privacy loss, and was watched by a strong FISA court.
Since then, I’ve watched the debate closely and almost all the checks I supported have been proven illusory. The spying is vastly more extensive than anyone fully comprehended before; the FISA court has been revealed as toothless and crippled; and many civilians have had their privacy accidentally violated over 3000 times. The president, in defending the indefensible, has damaged himself and his core reputation for honesty and candor. These cumulative revelations have exposed this program as, at a minimum, dangerous to core liberties and vulnerable to rank abuse. I’ve found myself moving further and further to Glenn’s position.”
Joshua Foust is having none of that, essentially arguing that it was legal and that is what government do. Therefore, there is not much to complain about. I feel that is a rather narrow perspective, particularly for a journalist.
Nevertheless he writes:
“So, this is complicated. The UK authorities were correct to question David Miranda, but they were stupid, wrong, and abusive to have held him for so long — and in doing so, they ruined any possible legitimacy their questions might have held. It was a needless own-goal.
There’s also a bit of historical literacy we should perhaps add to the discussion. Histrionics aside, most governments, and many more unsavory groups, treat secrecy very seriously — sometimes with deadly seriousness. Regardless of the rightness or wrongness of his decision to help pilfer and distribute the treasured secrets of several governments, to do so openly, with such braggadocio, is not only arrogant it is misguided. This is not a game, especially to the governments being exposed, and casually involving a spouse to take a hit when he won’t risk it is a bizarre and troubling decision.”
Norman Tebbit, Making Excuses for The EDL
Norman Tebbit’s claim to fame is a stupid comment concerning a bicycle. That was over 30 years ago and time has not improved Tebbit’s judgement.
Whilst most professional political commentators and academics would fairly and squarely place the English Defence League in the Far Right slot, Tebbit disagrees.
Normally, I would not even trouble to argue with a Tory, a waste of time.
Still, Tebbit might want to view this clip and explain away the convergence of neo-Nazis and the English Defence League.
Tell MAMA puts a solid case, Are the EDL a Far Right Group asks Lord Tebbit – on Many Occasions.
Update 1: EDL Review is a very useful resource. It is a site which exposes the thugs and criminals in the English Defence League.
News International And The Police
There is a very revealing article in the Independent concerning Rupert Murdoch and News International.
It seems that, for once, the Police will investigate them with some vigour and potentially prosecute them as a corporation. This very notion has sent shivers down News International spines and they have reduced co-operation with the police accordingly.
But do read the article in full, as there is a lot more to this:
“Lawyers for the media behemoth have pleaded with the Met and the Crown Prosecution Service not to prosecute the company as it would not be in the “public interest” to put thousands of jobs at risk. Gerson Zweifach, the group general counsel of News Corp, flew in to London for emergency talks with the Met last year. According to Scotland Yard, he told police: “Crappy governance is not a crime. The downstream effects of a prosecution would be apocalyptic. The US authorities’ reaction would put the whole business at risk, as licences would be at risk.”
The Independent can reveal that Scotland Yard warned News Corp that its UK subsidiary, which publishes The Sun and used to publish the now-defunct News of the World, was under formal investigation on 18 May last year.
A month later, Rupert Murdoch announced he was splitting the global empire he spent six decades building up into one of the most powerful companies in the world. The 82-year-old hived off the highly profitable television and film assets, including 21st Century Fox and Fox News, into a separate entity from the troubled newspaper group in what was widely perceived as an attempt to isolate any contagion from the phone-hacking scandal.” [My emphasis]
A Poor Excuse For Rationalists
As an atheist, secularist and rationalist I should be within the ideal catchment area for the Rationalist Association.
I should be, but I am not.
Having read their recent contributions to the discussion over Richard Dawkins’s conflating Islam with Muslims as a bloc, and studiously avoiding the issue of why he retweeted material from an EDL sympathiser I am less than impressed at their rationality.
I don’t mind a polemic. But to be oblivious of racism in Britain, not to understand the nature of the English Defence League and to reflectively defend Richard Dawkins is not rational, even for the Rationalist Association.
Daniel Trilling’s moderate piece on how we need to get beyond Richard Dawkins has set the cat among the pigeons and brought out some rather irrational rationalists.
Update 1: A reminder of what a self-confess Dawkins fan said:
“Because Dawkins has gone from criticising the religion itself to criticising Muslims, as a vast bloc. They’re not individuals with names, they’re “these Muslims” or “some Muslim or other”, undifferentiated, without personhood. They haven’t managed to get very many Nobel prizes, presumably because they’re stupid, or brainwashed into zombiehood by their religion.
Yes, it’s only a “fact”, but in different contexts, the same fact can have different meanings. For instance, would Dawkins have tweeted another fact, which is that Trinity also has twice as many Nobel prizes as all black people put together? It’s just as true, but presumably he doesn’t believe that it’s because black people aren’t as clever. Yet he is willing to make the equivalent inference about Muslims, without further evidence.“[My emphasis.]
Update 2: I was probably a bit harsh, not all at the Rationalist Association are purblind to racism.
Paul Sims wrote a good piece in 2011, Demonising Muslims: When does criticism of religion cross the line into racism?
“Whatever the debates over terminology, it seems clear that there is a serious problem with anti-Muslim prejudice in Britain and, indeed, beyond. “All across Europe we have seen right-wing extremists moving more and more to using attacks on Islam as a way of using fear to win people to their cause,” says Sam Tarry, a campaign organiser at the anti-fascist organisation Hope Not Hate. Of the extremist groups tracked by Tarry and his colleagues the most high-profile in recent years has been the English Defence League, which emerged in the aftermath of a protest in 2009 against homecoming troops in Luton by the extremists of Islam4UK, the now-proscribed group led by Anjem Choudary. Drawing on pre-existing networks of right-wing extremists and football hooligans, the EDL positioned itself specifically in opposition to what it called “militant Islam” and organised street demonstrations in towns with large Muslim populations, drawing attendances of up to 2,000 by the spring of last year.
While EDL leaders maintain that their concern is with Islamic extremism, Tarry says their marches target a far broader section of society. “They’ve actually hardened their position over the last two years,” he explains. “Now they are pretty much saying they are against Islam itself as a religion, that it’s evil, that it’s incompatible with the West, and this feeds into a whole other set of arguments that they make about the general Islamification of Britain.” Hope Not Hate estimate that the demonstrations, which have frequently descended into violence, have cost the taxpayer as much as £25 million in policing and have caused serious damage to community relations. “I was there in Leicester [in October 2010] when they managed to break through police lines,” says Tarry. “Around 500 managed to rampage through the city centre and attack a halal fast food restaurant, smashing windows and storming it. In terms of victimising a particular community in this way, we haven’t really seen this kind of behaviour since the days of the National Front.” “
Quick Round Up on Straight Pride UK
This is just a quick summary for anyone coming late to this issue.
1. Oliver Hotham published a quick question-and-answer on a small grouping which pushes “straight pride”, whatever that would be.
2. Subsequently, they became annoyed and tried to intimidate him to remove the blog post. They even went to the extreme and sent Wordress a DMCA notice.
3. Naturally, as a comparatively poor student, Oliver Hotham, complied. He couldn’t afford the time nor the money to fight that action in a court. But he expressed his annoyance in a further blog post, The sordid tale of how I was censored by Straight Pride UK.
4. Straight Pride UK wanted that removed as well, piling on the pressure. But the Internet came to Oliver’s rescue.
5. I and many other bloggers reposted the material, invalidating any take down notice. Unless, of course, Straight Pride UK wanted to sue half of the Internet!
6. Activists on Twitter took notice of events and pointed out the homophobic sentiment underlying Straight Pride UK (expressing support for Putin’s anti-Gay laws). which led them to protecting their tweets, effectively censoring themselves! Under pressure they swapped Twitter accounts, but made the elementary mistake of leaving their old free.
7. So Straight Pride UK was turned into a parody account with an associated web site, kindly donated by Craig T. Smith.
8. You might think that would be the end of it. Anyone sensible would lay low, lick their wounds and think about their strategy. NB: the individuals behind the original Straight Pride UK are now using the @prideofstraight account on Twitter.
9. Instead they tried to intimidate the owner of the Straightprideuk.co.uk parody site, without success.
10. Now Twitter activists are re-tweeting with the #prideofstupid
11. The issue was picked up by various sections of the media:
The Guardian, WordPress pulls interview with anti-gay group Straight Pride UK.
Pink News, Straight Pride UK uses US copyright law to remove critical article.
Techcrunch, Straight Pride UK, A “Heterosexual Rights” Group, Sics The DMCA On A Journalist.
Gizmodo, The Most Convoluted DMCA Takedown Request of All Time.
Huff Post, Do the Rights of Straight People Need Defending?
Boing Boing, WordPress honours fraudulent copyright complaint from UK “straight rights” group, cooperates in censorship.
[This is a partial summary, may contain errors, typos or omissions so blame the author! I welcome intelligent corrections, but no DMCA notices please, as I ignore them and I am immune to libel proceedings too.]
PS: If you suffer from DNS issues, then please do visit the second parody site stupidprideuk.com
Update 1: Straight Pride seem a bit troubled and anxious, changing their Twitter account, again to @ofclstraightprd
So that is from @StraightPrideUK to @prideofstraight to @ofclstraightprd, what next week? Putin Pride?
I suspect there are some deep-seated issues at play there.
If they were not bigots I might feel sympathy for their neurotic behaviour, but as it is they need to be exposed for the closet homophobes they are.
Update 2: The plot thickens their new account @ofclstraightprd comes up with “Account suspended” on Twitter.
I can only assume that they have decided to give up social media, realising that they cannot impose their totalitarian and homophobic agenda on the rest of the Internet.
Or possibly they have retreated back to their cave, knuckles scraping on ground? Who knows?
Censored Post: It’s Great When You’re Straight… Yeah
[Editor’s note: This is the censored post. It is available on Google cache.
I can not see Straight Pride UK trying to coerce Google, but they tried it on with a young blogger, Oliver Hotham. I suggest other bloggers re-post.
It is a polite interview with Straight Pride UK given every opportunity to make their case. A good example of freedom of speech.
But why I am reminded of attitudes found recently in Russia? Hmm. Soupy]
“It’s Great When You’re Straight… Yeah
There has never been a better time to be gay in this country. LGBTI people will soon enjoy full marriage equality, public acceptance of homosexuality is at an all time high, and generally a consensus has developed that it’s really not that big of a deal what consenting adults do in the privacy of their bedrooms. The debate on Gay Marriage in the House of Commons was marred by a few old reactionaries, true, but generally it’s become accepted that full rights for LGBTI people is inevitable and desirable. Thank God.
But some are deeply troubled by this unfaltering march toward common decency, and they call themselves the Straight Pride movement.
Determined to raise awareness of the “heterosexual part of our society”, Straight Pride believe that a militant gay lobby has hijacked the debate on sexuality in this country, and encourage their members, among other things, to “come out” as straight, posting on their Facebook page that:
“Coming out as Straight or heterosexual in todays politically correct world is an extremely challenging experience. It is often distressing and evokes emotions of fear, relief, pride and embarrassment.”
I asked them some questions.
First of all, what prompted you to set up Straight Pride UK?
Straight Pride is a small group of heterosexual individuals who joined together after seeing the rights of people who have opposing views to homosexuality trampled over and, quite frankly, oppressed.
With the current political situation in the United Kingdom with Gay Marriage passing, everyone is being forced to accept homosexuals, and other chosen lifestyles and behaviours, no matter their opposing views. Straight Pride has seen people sued, and businesses affected, all because the homosexual community do not like people having a view or opinion that differs from theirs.
Are your beliefs linked to religion? How many of you derive your views from scripture?
Straight Pride aims are neutral and we do not follow religion, but we do support people who are oppressed for being religious. Only today, Straight Pride see that two homosexual parents are planning to sue the Church because they ‘cannot get what they want’. This is aggressive behaviour and this is the reason why people have strong objections to homosexuals.
You say that one of your goals is “to raise awareness of the heterosexual part of society”. Why do you feel this is necessary?
The Straight Pride mission is to make sure that the default setting for humanity is not forgotten and that heterosexuals are allowed to have a voice and speak out against being oppressed because of the politically correct Government.
Straight Pride feel need to raise awareness of heterosexuality, family values, morals, and traditional lifestyles and relationships.
Your website states that “Homosexuals have more rights than others”. What rights specifically do LGBTI people have that straight people are denied?
Homosexuals do currently have more rights than heterosexuals, their rights can trump those of others, religious or not. Heterosexuals cannot speak out against homosexuals, but homosexuals are free to call people bigots who don’t agree with homosexuality, heterosexuals, religious or not, cannot refuse to serve or accommodate homosexuals, if they do, they face being sued, this has already happened.
Straight Pride believe anyone should be able to refuse service and speak out against something they do not like or support.
There is a hotel in the south of England, called Hamilton Hall, this only accepts homosexuals, now if this is allowed, then hotels should have the choice and right to who they accommodate.
What has been the response to your campaign?
The response to Straight Pride’s formation has been as expected; hostile, threatening, and aggressive. Homosexuals do not like anyone challenging them or their behaviour.
We have had support from many people saying that if homosexuals can have a Pride March, and then equality should allow Heterosexuals to have one too. After all, the homosexual movement want everyone to have equality.
Why would you say that heterosexuality the “natural orientation”?
Heterosexuality is the default setting for the human race, this is what creates life, if everyone made the decision to be homosexual, life would stop. People are radicalised to become homosexual, it is promoted to be ‘okay’ and right by the many groups that have sprung up.
Marriage is a man and a woman, homosexuals had Civil Partnerships, which were identical to Marriage with all the same rights, they wanted to destroy Marriage and have successfully done so.
If you could pick one historical figure to be the symbol of straight pride (just as figures like Alan Turing, Judith Butler or Peter Tatchell would be for Gay Pride) which would you choose?
Straight Pride would praise Margaret Thatcher for her stance on Section 28, which meant that children were not taught about homosexuality, as this should not on the curriculum.
More recently, Straight Pride admire President Vladimir Putin of Russia for his stance and support of his country’s traditional values.
How do you react to anti-gay attacks and movements in Russia and parts of Africa?
Straight Pride support what Russia and Africa is doing, these country have morals and are listening to their majorities. These countries are not ‘anti-gay’ – that is a term always used by the Homosexual Agenda to play the victim and suppress opinions and views of those against it.
These countries have passed laws, these laws are to be respected and no other country should interfere with another country’s laws or legislation.
We have country wide events which our members attend, and ask people their opinions and views, on such event at Glastonbury this year was very positive with the majority of people we asked, replied they were happily heterosexual.
For the record, Straight Pride did not respond to these questions:
“Pride” movements such as Gay Pride and Black Pride were making the argument that the stigma against them meant that proclaiming their “pride” was an act of liberation from oppression. Can being heterosexually really compare?
A problem that Gay rights activists cite is the issue of bullying, and the effect this can have on young LGBT people. Do you think a similar problem exists with straight children being bullied by gay children?
I will obviously add to this if they do respond.
You can follow Straight Pride on Twitter here and see their Facebook page here.“
Oliver Hotham: The sordid tale of how I was censored by Straight Pride UK
[Reprinted from Oliver Hotham’s blog after threats from the Straight Pride UK group. I would suggest that other bloggers do the same, as a direct counter to this attempt at censorship and intimidation. Soupy]
“A few weeks ago, when thinking of interesting things I could write for this blog, I remembered a weird organisation that gathered some attention on the internet a month or two ago.
The organisation is called Straight Pride UK. It’s a strange group which believes that the tide of Gay rights has gone too far, and that now heterosexuals have become the oppressed minority. Essentially their philosophy is spun from the same reactionary cloth as “Men’s Rights activists” – the notion that, having essentially run Western society for most its existence, progressive demands that Christian white straight males share some of their total grasp on power is somehow a removal of their rights.
Anyway, I wrote to Straight Pride asking that they answer some questions. Stipulating that I was “a freelance journalist”, I sent them some questions, about what they do and what they believe.
About a week later they responded with an attached document with the title “press release”. I went through the questions, corrected the horrendous grammar, and organised it so it coherently answered the questions I’d posed. I also noted that two rather pointed questions I’d asked, regarding the problem of the bullying of LGBTI youth and the nature of other “pride” movements, had not been answered. I sent them an email about this, saying that I’d give them the opportunity to respond but, if they didn’t, I’d “make it clear in the article” that they avoided the questions. They didn’t get back to me for 2 days, which I thought ample time to write two sentences.
Fully satisfied that my journalism had made them look like the arses they are, I hit the publish button, and sat back, feeling all together really pleased with myself. I called the article “It’s great to be straight… yeah”, too, which I thought acutely summed up their philosophy and referenced a mid-90s dance album I rather like.
The article gained a lot of traction, too. A friend and I put it on Reddit, and I got thousands of hits. In my short career of attempting to become a respectable journalist, it was one of the most successful things I’d done.
Then came the email from Straight Pride UK’s press officer, Nick Steiner:
“It has been brought to my attention that you have published the email that I sent you to, you did not state this in your email request, nor you did have consent to do this.
I therefore request that you take down the article that you have placed on your blog.
You have 7 days in which to do this, failing this I shall submit a DMCA to WordPress to have it removed.”
I laughed this off, and responded to the email arguing their case was absurd:
1) There was no indication on the “press release” they sent me that it was copyrighted material. (I’m no expert on copyright law, but I do know you have to make clear on the material that it is protected). Nor did they make any mention of the fact that anything they gave me was copyrighted.
2) I wrote “I’m a journalist and I’d like to ask you some questions” in my first email. If you’re a press officer and you don’t know what this means, then you really aren’t qualified to have your job.
3) In my email about the questions they didn’t answer, I made reference to “the article”. If that isn’t an indication that I’m going to publish something then I really don’t what is.
I thought this was a good enough defence, and I assumed this would all be swept under the carpet, and that their rather sad attempts to remove my article because it made them look stupid were all for naught.
I was wrong – within a few days WordPress caved to them without question, removing my article and telling me if I tried to publish it again I’d be suspended, but that I could challenge the takedown of my article. I responded that yes, I very much would like to, and was emailed a form I’d have to fill in. One of the requirements was that I “consent to local federal court jurisdiction, or if overseas, to an appropriate judicial body”.
I’m a student. I don’t have the money, time, or patience to go through with potentially having to go to court over this. All in all, I just could not be bothered to challenge the decision.
So I accepted the takedown, feeling thoroughly shit about myself.
Then I get another email from Straight Pride UK, which pissed me off even more. They demanded I take down the material (which I had) but also that I:
“…remove all references to Straight Pride UK, The Straight Forward Project, along with images, and links, from your Blog.”
So not content with forcing me to eat a shit sandwich on dubious grounds and making me take down my work, they now demand that I never write anything about them again. Are these people kidding? Who the hell do they think they are that they can simply demand that I not write about them again, in an email with the pointedly sinister name of their solicitors at the bottom?
This, for me, was the final straw, and why I decided to write this article.
Because I find it absurd that this silly little group can simply demand that remove all my references to them because it makes them look bad. What are they afraid of? Their views make them look stupid enough, why the need to so aggressively bully and harass me? Why do they care so much?
And are they so cowardly that an article criticising them is enough to attempt to pursue a tenuous legal case against the author?
It really boggles the mind.”
Storify, Richard Dawkins Problem With Muslims
Just started using Storify as a quick and easy platform for relaying exchanges on Twitter. It is not too bad, when it works. Storify seems to have an issue on Chromium with “This webpage has a redirect loop”. Hope it is a teething problem. Nevertheless, these particular stories may enlighten readers:
Richard Dawkins, Insensitivity And the English Defence League
A few observations, as I found a great similarity in these variations of racism:
The highlighted Anonymous accounts and their allies would probably claim that they are merely “anti-Zionists”, which could be true but they also have a strong line in disseminating antisemitism.
Whilst I do not believe that anti-Zionism is antisemitism, it is not coincidental that rantings involving antisemitic themes are found in proximity to anti-Zionism. Nor is it mere chance that many strident “anti-Islamists” around the periphery of English Defence League are found to have a connection to the British Far Right or worse.
Equally, when looking at the background to Richard Dawkins’ foolish mistake of re-tweeting from one EDL sympathiser, there were parallels between fanatical “anti-Zionists” and maniac “anti-Islamists”.
Both of these creeds as exercised by these extremists are, almost, inoculated against spotting racism.
Whereas “anti-Islamists” of this order rarely perceive any racism towards Muslims, their compatriots within the sphere of anti-Zionism find it incredibly hard, next to impossible, to spot modern antisemitism.
My research found that “anti-Islamists” had a catalogue of standard arguments which bore a striking similarity to those found on the Far Right. Naturally, few of these themes stood up to any serious scrutiny and had the stench of refried racism from the 1970s.
Studying the crossover on Twitter (an imperfect but readily available sampling) not all obsessive “anti-Islamists” were from the Right of the political spectrum. However, it became very apparent that those not imbued with Hard or Far Right thinking could not spot an EDL sympathiser amongst them, if their life depended on it.
Which is very troubling.
Elsewhere, mainstream anti-Zionists have yet to address with any intellectual competency the question of periodic outburst of antisemitism amongst supposed “anti-Zionists”. Greta Berlin’s eruption of racism was hardly coincidental and only one example.
In short, neither of these political trends can adequately explain the presence and persistence of hardened racism in their midst.
Bringing us back neatly to Professor Richard Dawkins. Predictably he went from general antagonistic statements against Islam to swift digs at Muslims in general. A past supporter of Dawkins, Tom Chivers at the Torygraph takes him to task:
“Treating all Muslims as featureless representatives of their religion (as Dawkins does when saying things like “Who the hell do these Muslims think they are? How has UCL come to this: cowardly capitulation to Muslims? Tried to segregate sexes in debate between @LKrauss1 and some Muslim or other”) is – well, it may not be directly racist, but it’s certainly not the sort of thing Martin Luther King would admire. The content of their character, and all that.
Because Dawkins has gone from criticising the religion itself to criticising Muslims, as a vast bloc. ” [My emphasis.]
The Guardian provides two reflective articles on Professor Dawkins’ unhealthy discharges:
Richard Dawkins criticised for Twitter comment about Muslims.
Richard Dawkins’ tweets on Islam are as rational as the rants of an extremist Muslim cleric.
Martin Robbins at the News Statesman argues:
” “Islam isn’t a race,” is the “I’m not racist, but. . .” of the Atheist movement, a tedious excuse for lazy thinking that is true enough to be banal while simultaneously wrong in any meaningful, real-world sense.
Yes, congratulations, you can read a dictionary. Well done.
But it’s possible for a statement to be both true and wrong. “Homeopathy worked for me” is one example (as is its inverse): it may genuinely make people feel better, emotionally or through the placebo effect; but it doesn’t work in any medical sense.”[My emphasis.]
Final thoughts, people need to decide seriously if they are against certain particular forms of racism and rather lazy or ambivalent on the rest?
Do you oppose racism towards Muslims? Do you apply the same standards when Jews are the target of racism? Etc
Are you universally opposed to racism or just selectively?
If the latter, then you are not really an antiracist/nonracist. Whatever else, that is not the company to keep.
Update 1: The Indy covers it too, Richard Dawkins Muslim jibe sparks Twitter backlash.
Nelson Jones makes some sharp points and I imagine this last one will fly over Professor Dawkins’ head:
“A final point. The United States may boast almost as many Nobel Prize winners as the rest of the world put together, but it is also home to millions of diehard creationists. What has Richard Dawkins to say about that?”
Update 2: Professor Dawkins has replied without the restrictions of Twitter and 140 characters. Yet predictably, Professor Dawkins’ arguments do not engage with any intelligent criticism of his previous stupidity:
Twitter’s 140 character limit always presents a tough challenge, but I tried to rise to it. Nobel Prizes are a pretty widely quoted, if not ideal, barometer of excellence in science.
I thought about comparing the numbers of Nobel Prizes won by Jews (more than 120) and Muslims (ten if you count Peace Prizes, half that if you don’t). This astonishing discrepancy is rendered the more dramatic when you consider the small size of the world’s Jewish population. However, I decided against tweeting that comparison because it might seem unduly provocative (many Muslim “community leaders” are quite outspoken in their hatred of Jews) and I sought a more neutral comparison as more suitable to the potentially inflammable medium of Twitter.
It is a remarkable fact that one Cambridge college, Trinity, has 32 Nobel Prizes to its credit. That’s three times as many as the entire Muslim world even if you count Peace Prizes, six times as many if you don’t. I dramatised the poverty of Muslim scientific achievement, and the contrast with their achievements in earlier centuries, in the following brief tweet: “All the world’s Muslims have fewer Nobel Prizes than Trinity College, Cambridge. They did great things in the Middle Ages, though.” [My emphasis.]
Why pick on Muslims? You could arbitrarily pick on plenty of categories of people that have achieved far less than Trinity College, Cambridge
Again, fair point. Somebody mentioned redheads (neither he nor I have figures on redheaded scientific achievement but we get the point). I myself tweeted that Trinity Cambridge has more Nobel Prizes than any single country in the world except the USA, Britain (tautologically), Germany and France. You could well think there was something gratuitous in my picking on Muslims, were it not for the ubiquity of the two positive boasts with which I began. Redheads (and the other hypothetical categories we might mention) don’t boast of their large populations and don’t boast of their prowess in science.”
Update 3: Glad I am not the only atheist cheesed off, Richard Dawkins’ Anti-Muslim Tweets Spark Furor, Even Among Atheist Supporters:
“Even some of his admirers were disgusted, as Tom Chivers published a blog on the Telegraph titled, “Please be quiet, Richard Dawkins, I’m begging as a fan.” He makes the point that Dawkins has strayed from providing critiques of religious beliefs and practices grounded in logic to blindly attacking faiths as monolithic groups, manipulating facts to further an agenda.
The Atlantic published “A Short History of Richard Dawkins vs. The Internet” that thoroughly chronicles Dawkins’ long history of anti-Islamic speaking and writing, as well as his admiration for Geert Wilders, the notoriously far-right and anti-Muslim Dutch politician.”
This is worth reading on its own, A Short History of Richard Dawkins vs. The Internet.
Antisemitism, Anonymous And Twitter
Finding antisemitism on Twitter is easy, but it’s surprising how few attempt to stop it, as witnessed by the 170,000 plus followers of the Anonymous Operations account.
Remembering that wherever you find racism, sexism and the degradation of women is often not far behind.
My first storify looks briefly at the issues, Holocaust Denial at Anonymous.
Elsewhere, there is a nice tumblr account which tries to track this form of racism.
Also, the new humourously entitled Zionist Entity blog aims to tackle antisemitism and supports Kestrels.
Finally, Oliver Hotham is blogging and always worth a read.
Iain Duncan Smith Caught Lying By The Economist
Politicians do not like being told that they lie.
The English language hides the necessary directness beneath such wording as disingenuous, economical with the truth or actualité. But even the Economist, frequently feriously supportitive of the Tories, has conceded that Iain Duncan Smith is a liar, in a roundabout fashion:
”And this is the only the latest in a series of questionable press releases. Earlier this month, Mr Duncan Smith claimed that the benefits cap had encouraged 8,000 people to get jobs. Yet as Jonathan Portes, the director of the National Institute for Economics and Social Research pointed out, the Department for Work and Pensions has never made an estimate of the behavioural effects of the benefit cap. At best, Mr Duncan Smith’s figures simply showed that 8,000 people who were to be affected had got jobs. Perhaps some did because of the benefits cap—but we have no idea.
Even before that, there was the matter of 878,000 people who apparently dropped their claims for disability benefits when faced with a doctors test over the past four years, as the old Incapacity Benefit system was replaced with the new Employment and Support Allowance. Again, this figure was absurd. It took no account of the churn—the number of people who come off benefits each month anyway. The most glaring error was that the figures completely ignored the fact that a lot of Incapacity Benefit and ESA claims are short-term—and so a lot of claimants simply got better before facing the test.
All of these are technical, even wonkish objections. “Yes, we twisted the statistics a little”, I can hear a hypothetical Conservative MP saying, “but so does Labour, and the fundamental truth is that the benefits system costs too much and is need of reform.”
Well, quite. The welfare system does indeed need reform. But the whole point about government statistics is that they are meant to be at least sort of objective. Ministers can quote the ones which support their case—but they shouldn’t manipulate them and distort them to tell stories that aren’t actually true. There is plenty of evidence to support welfare reform without resorting to such disgraceful abuse of numbers.
But the problem is, they get away with it—they have done for a long time. Even before the election, Chris Grayling, then the shadow home secretary, was alleging that gun crime was soaring, using distorted data to prove his point. In fact, gun crime began its precipitous decline under Labour. Similarly, much of David Cameron’s “Broken Britain” rhetoric ignored—or denied—dramatic and unexpected improvements in social indicators. “[My emphasis.]
The Economist is too polite. I blame lying Tories, myself.