Guest post by Pink Prosecco
This morning I discovered that the PCC had determined that Julie Burchill’s disgusting transphobic rant in the Observer did not breach their code of practice. Now I have just read about the death of Lucy Meadows, a transsexual woman who was the subject of a hostile article by Richard Littlejohn in the Daily Mail. (This is no longer available on the Mail’s website). He sneered:
“Mr Upton/Miss Meadows may well be comfortable with his/her decision to seek a sex-change and return to work as if nothing has happened. The school might be extremely proud of its ‘commitment to equality and diversity’.
“But has anyone stopped for a moment to think of the devastating effect all this is having on those who really matter? Children as young as seven aren’t equipped to compute this kind of information.
“Pre-pubescent boys and girls haven’t even had the chance to come to terms with the changes in their own bodies.
“Why should they be forced to deal with the news that a male teacher they have always known as Mr Upton will henceforth be a woman called Miss Meadows? Anyway, why not Miss Upton?”
The precise circumstances surrounding Lucy Meadows’ death are still not certain [but would appear to be suicide - JD]. However it is clear that many people, including those whose views are otherwise liberal, have a higher tolerance threshold for transphobia than for just about any other kind of bigotry.
To be fair, the PCC, in giving Burchill’s article a clean bill of health, are only following their own guidelines, according to Pink News:
“The PCC’s Editors’ Code of Practice states in a clause on discrimination that the press ‘must avoid prejudicial or pejorative reference to an individual’s race, colour, religion, gender, sexual orientation or to any physical or mental illness or disability.’
“However, in its ruling of the Burchill article, the PCC acknowledged that it had caused offence but declared the decision to publish was not in breach of the Editors’ Code of Practice…
“It said: ‘the clause does not cover references to groups or categories of people. The language used in the article did not refer to any identifiable individual, but to transgender people generally. While the commission acknowledged the depth of the complainants’ concerns about the terminology used, in the absence of reference to a particular individual, there was no breach of Clause 12.’”
In theory this would seem to imply that it would be ok to propagate ideas straight out of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion – as long as no individuals were named. Of course in practice, despite concerns about (for example) Islamophobia, even the tabloids usually avoid the crudest expressions of bigotry, despite their selective, and often factually incorrect, reporting. This makes the publication of Julie Burchill’s disgusting article by the liberal Observer all the more noteworthy. Here’s a reminder:
“She, the other JB and I are part of the tiny minority of women of working-class origin to make it in what used to be called Fleet Street and I think this partly contributes to the stand-off with the trannies. (I know that’s a wrong word, but having recently discovered that their lot describe born women as ‘Cis’ – sounds like syph, cyst, cistern; all nasty stuff – they’re lucky I’m not calling them shemales. Or shims.) We know that everything we have, we got for ourselves. We have no family money, no safety net. And we are damned if we are going to be accused of being privileged by a bunch of bed-wetters in bad wigs…
“To have your cock cut off and then plead special privileges as women – above natural-born women, who don’t know the meaning of suffering, apparently – is a bit like the old definition of chutzpah: the boy who killed his parents and then asked the jury for clemency on the grounds he was an orphan.”
Finally, as Lizzie c notes on Twitter:
“just a thought: it’s probably harder to explain to your child why their teacher is dead than why they are now a woman. #lucymeadows”
”As the church develops it faces new challenges and new questions but to say you have to change everything – I don’t agree … I prefer the word ‘repentence’ to [the word] ‘reform’” – Cardinal Cormac Murphy O’Connor on Radio 4′s ‘Today’ Programme, 4 Mar 2013 08:25
O’Connor and C of E chum: ecumenical bigotry
Anyone who heard O’Connor’s semi-coherent, stumbling but strangely confident and supremely complacent performance on the ‘Today’ programme (BBC Radio 4) this morning, will realise that the Roman Catholic hierarchy, of which he is Britain’s leading representative, is quite simply incapable of reform when it comes to matters of sexuality. This is only of concern to atheists like myself insofar as it will perpetuate the misery being inflicted by the Church upon people round the world, and dash the hopes of many decent Catholics who are presently in despair. The immediate issue behind the interview was the de facto admission of Cardinal Keith O’Brien, an outspoken opponent of gay relationships, that he had himself engaged in gay sexual conduct.
But the hypocrisy and self-delusion of this sad man is really the least of it. The Catholic Church’s record on paedophilia, AIDS, womens’ rights and (of course) gay rights are the real issue: as interviewer John Humphrys put it to the wretched O’Connor this morning, “If the abuse that went on in the Catholic Church had gone on in a lay organisation, it would be shut down.”
The AWL’s Sean Matgamna (as ‘John O’Mahony’) wrote this open letter to O’Connor back in 2007, when O’Connor together with the C of E’s Rowan Williams, was trying to interfere in the implementation of Britiain’s sexual orientation equality legislation in order to exempt religious believers:
Dear Mr Murphy O’Connor,
Courage in “Defence of the Faith” is, I suppose, a requirement of your office. Even so, I find it hard not to admire your courage — or bare-faced cheek — in attempting to “lay down the law” to the British government and the people it governs on what legal rights gay people in the UK should have and what legal rights granted to others should be denied them.
You are joined in this by your “brothers in Christ” Rowan Williams and John Sentamu, Archbishops of Canterbury and York respectively.
What you and your Anglican brethren demand here is that in the way it treats gay people, Britain should be ruled by the laws and prejudices of your churches and by men like yourself, who are, to put things plainly, either lifelong celibates or thoroughgoing hypocrites.
You want the state to back you in forcing those who reject your religion, including gay Catholics who reject your teaching on this point, to live by your religious rules. You claim it as a right of conscience for Catholics to be legally empowered to act punitively against those who reject your rules.
In what way is what you demand anything other than a demand for Catholic religious tyranny over gay people, including gay Catholics?
In what way is it not a demand to be given the right to impose your views on others who reject them?
In what way is your demand anything other than an assertion that the rights of gay citizens are less important than the “conscientious” right of Catholics’ to deny them those rights?
The blunt truth is that here you are demanding the right to inflict on others ethical concerns and rules of behaviour which are not theirs but yours! The rights of your religious consciences must, you insist, be elevated above other people’s civil rights!
You attempt to use blackmail, threatening to close down Catholic orphanages if you don’t get your way. That, Mr. Murphy O’Connor, shows how much you really care about the children you present yourself as being so keen to protect from the contamination of love and care by gay foster parents. Doesn’t it? If you are not allowed to inflict your own narrow mindedness on others, then, as far as you are concerned, the orphan children can, so to speak, go to Hell !
It does take courage – or a well-founded brass neck! – for a leader of a minority church to claim in the name of his religious conscience the right of his own co-religionists to determine how society treats others, here gay people. You want the religious tail to wag the large, de-facto secularist dog, Mr Murphy O’Connor!
Your “courage” here is, however, not the courage I have in mind.
For a couple of decades now, your church has repeatedly been shaken by the revelations that in Catholic care homes and schools all across the Western world, children have been subjected to systematic sexual abuse by clerics.
Such scandals have broken out all across the world, from the USA to our own Pope’s Green Ireland.
In Ireland, behind the façade of a bourgeois democracy, your church ruled for most of the 20th century over what was in effect a theocracy. So much so that Ireland was — as a 1950s writer could truly say in the Maynooth seminary’s magazine — like one great monastery, where people’s lives were in every respect governed by religion. That is by priests and bishops!
There, Mr Murphy O’Connor, where people like you ruled over a country to a degree unequalled, probably, since the Middle Ages, you made life a hell for children in the schools which, with minimal “interference” from governments, you ran, and in the orphanages and reformatories where children were at the mercy of priests and nuns.
Former child victims of such sexual mistreatment by Catholic priests and nuns, in Ireland and in many other countries, have brought a vast number of court cases and won large amounts of compensation from your church for its treatment of them when they were helpless small defenceless children.
These victims of sexual abuse have had serious psychological damage done to them. They have gone and still go through adult life blighted by their mistreatment by your priests and, typically by way of saavage violence, nuns.
By priests and nuns who themselves were victims, most of them from early childhood, of religious indoctrination, which induced them to accept a way of religious living built on the repression and condemnation of some of their own most-powerful, and most volcanic, instincts.
One does not have to think their abuse of children anything other than damnable — in your sense and mine! — to feel some sympathy for such people.
The children in that vast, world-wide archipelago of Catholic orphanages and schools had their childhoods and, many of them, their entire lives, blighted by priests and nuns whose own lives were blighted by trying to live within a rule of life-long celebacy, that was both inhuman and, for large numbers of them, untenable. The children were the victims of that system.
And you Mr Murphy O’Connor, in the name of an international organisation which, in the 20th century, functioned as a sort of International Paedophiles Anonymous — in which priests sought not cure, but licence and abundant supplies of victims – you, instead of questioning in the light of such experience your own beliefs, and the fitness of your church, and of men like yourself, to lay down rules for anyone, you claim the right to penalise gay people for not accepting the rules imposed by the clergy — the rules which so many, so very many, of your clerical brethren honoured in the breach rather than in the compliance!
As Jesus said: First remove the mote from your own eye!
Mr Murphy O’Connor, you cloak your religious prejudices in hypocritical concern for the children. What exactly is it that you fear?
Of course, any properly run adoption or fostering agency will check out the suitability of all potential foster parents, be they hetero or homosexual. It will be on guard, watching for possibilities of abuse, for predatory paedophiles, for potential violence, and so on.
For sure, the record of non-Catholic as well as Catholic foster homes, in Britain and elsewhere, as places where vast number of children were abused in various ways over many decades, does not suggest complacency about such things.
Nor do such terrible incidents as social service workers in deference to “cultural pluralism”, allowing little Victoria Climbie to be murdered by a religious maniac Christian aunt. Decent people can not be satisfied with the state of things in these institutions.
But that is an entirely different issue to the one we are discussing: whether Catholics should be allowed to discriminate against gay would-be foster parents.
Apply your approach to adoption by gay people to other matters of conscience Mr Murphy O’Connor and you will get very strange results.
After all there are still people who think witches with Diabolical power exist, and that they work their malign practices on good Christian people. There are people who believe that Jews, or some Jews, do similar things and that they drink the blood of “Christian children”.
Isn’t it a violation of their religious rights and of their conscience to deny them the right to persecute and kill witches and Jews by burning them alive or by driving stakes into their hearts? The right to act in relation to such obnoxious and sinful people according to their own morals and consciences?
The religion-crazed Christian aunt of the little girl Victoria Climbie did just that with a child her religious beliefs and state of mind led her to brand as a witch possessed by demons. There are, apparently, many small, Africa-rooted Christian churches whose members commonly hold beliefs like this. Why don’t they have the right to act according to their consciences? Why are the consciences of such people less important than the consciences of Catholics like yourself?
Shouldn’t you campaign for Marie Therese Kouao (Victoria’s aunt) to be released from jail?
Why is it right to treat sinful gay people as you want and not right to treat witches in the good old witch-burning time-honoured way? Who decides where the line is drawn?
Vast numbers of women were burned as witches in Europe some hundreds of years ago. Witch-burning was, as I understand it, much more a phenomenon in early Reformation Protestant states than of Catholic Europe. (After all, episcopal urbanity has to be of some use!) But it did happen in Catholic countries too.
And, of course, notoriously, the Catholic Church burned heretics, whenever and wherever it was strong enough to do it. The Catholic church backed or helped initiate the systematic coercion by Louis XIV, after 1685, of French Protestants that almost wiped out Protestantism in France.
Rowan Williams’ and John Sentamu’s church inspired, backed and administered the savage coercion of Irish Catholics, under which your ancestors and mine were condemned to social and legal outlawry for over two hundred years.
For a certainty there are individual lunatics lurking in your Church and in that of Rowan Williams whose consciences would dictate to them that they should now do things like that. Quite apart from the fact that Rowan Williams and yourself would not agree on exactly who should be persecuted, you would not, would you, advocate as a matter of conscientious right, that Catholic (or Protestant) lunatics should be allowed to burn those they thought were witches, kill obnoxious Jews, persecute Protestant, Catholic or Jew or Muslim? Why not? Because you know better?
Because you live in more enlightened times — times in which the desire to continue behaving as your’s and Rowan William’s churches behaved in the past would brand such “traditionalists” as out and out lunatics?
Because you accept that the law that forbids, and would punish severely, such behaviour towards “witches”, Jews, “heretics”, Papists, etc, is a more enlightened law than the laws under which such things were done in the past?
The point, Mr Murphy O’Connor, is that so, too, is the law that now — since very recently, and very belatedly — forbids and would punish violence and discrimination again gay people.
It is a law to regulate citizens’ behaviour according to standards that are, I submit, greatly superior to your own prejudiced, Dark-Ages-rooted, mind and conscience on the rights of gay people.
Nor is your own Catholic morality immutable, as the things of the past which I have mentioned demonstrate.
Older Catholics and ex-Catholics will know very well that articles of faith in which they were educated, and trained to obey, on pain of the threat of damnation, ceased in the 60s and 70s to be Catholic law. Your attitude to gays is part of a complex of teachings on sexuality and procreation of which your attitude to contraception is also part. Such things as your churchs prohibition of contraception will, almost certainly, eventually be jettisoned, like so much in the past.
There are, perhaps, signs of that already.
You make the point, Mr Murphy O’Connor, obviously with Ruth Kelly in mind:
“It would be deeply regrettable if in seeking, quite properly, better to defend the rights of a particular group not to be discriminated against, a climate were to be created in which, for example, some feel free that members of the government are not free to hold public office on the grounds of their faith affiliation.”
The point here, though, is that no one has the right to be a minister, and impose their own faith-derived beliefs on those who reject them.
Let us, indeed, take the case of Ruth Kelly.
One could make a strong case in favour of Ruth Kelly. In contrast to most of the Blair Government’s ministers, Kelly, Minister for Women and Equality, and former Education Secretary, comes across as a proper and possibly likeable human being, a bright young woman who has managed to combine having a sizeable brood of kids, still young, with a high flying political career.
On one level, even Kelly’s Catholicism might be taken to recommend her. In contrast with most ministers and most MPs, her affiliations suggest that she believes in something other than her career and getting on in the world. She is a fervent, old-fashioned, practicising Catholic.
Though she approaches things differently, she probably believes, more than most Labour ministers, in some of the values socialists believe in. Catholic Popes have sometimes criticised capitalism for its predatory, cancerous cultural commercialism and its idolatry of the market.
Here too Ruth Kelly stands in favourable contrast with most of her government colleagues and New Labour MPs, whose capacity for belief and care is exhausted by their over-fervent belief in and care for their own careers.
But Ruth Kelly is a member of the militant Catholic cult, Opus Dei (the Work of God) — or as near to membership as a miserable, weak, sinful, inferior woman can get with this organisation. A member of an ultra-Catholic, semi-secret cult that originated in fascist Spain (and the dictatorship of Generalissimo Franco was very much a Catholic dictatorship, just as the civil war through which that dictatorship was established, was on that side very much a Catholic crusade).
Therefore, despite all the things one might say for Ruth Kelly, it is nothing less than an outrage that Kelly should have been Minister for Education, and is now, Minister for Women and Equality, in charge of deciding how the rights accorded to gay people by the British Parliament will be implemented in particular cases such as adoption policy.
Her support for the proposal that Catholic orphanages arranging adoptions and fosterings should be exempt from the legal obligation to treat gay the same as heterosexual couples, is evidence that Kelly is unfitted by her faith to hold such positions.
And of course it isn’t just a question of Kelly’s views. The Prime Minister is a crypto-Catholic, who, like Charles the Second, will formally convert to Catholicism at the end of his career. He, most likely, shares Kelly’s doctrinal guidelines on matters like this. He, after all, appointed her.
Kelly’s successor as Secretary of State for Education, Alan Johnson, is not a member of Opus Dei or even a Catholic. Yet Johnson bowed to Catholic objections to imposing on Catholic and other religious schools an obligation to take in a percentage of non-believers as pupils.
Under pressure, Johnson buckled and settled for vague assurances from yourself, Mr Murphy O’Connor, and others who run the big network of Catholic schools in England.
Believing Muslims do not, as far as I know, dominate the present British government. Yet this wretched government has legislated to outlaw “incitement to religious hatred” — the freedom to criticise, denounce and mock religion — in a desire to placate Muslim leaders, for whom any sharp criticism of Islam is an insult and an outrage. (You, of course, also wanted such legislation. )
Blair and his colleagues thereby showed themselves to be as far from serious liberal thought in their approach to these matters as you yourself are.
Ruth Kelly is important not only because she is a member of Opus Dei in charge of ministries in which her own strong religious beliefs come into conflict with the liberal norms of the society presided over by the New Labour government, but because she dramatises the conflict between liberal social arrangements and serious, believing, Christians, Muslims and others.
She demonstrates how preposterous it is to have Ruth Kelly, or Tony Blair the crypto-Catholic, in government positions where conflict arises between the personal beliefs of the minister and the norms and expectations (and, here, laws!) of an advanced liberal bourgeois democracy such as that in which you and I, Mr Murphy O’Conno, live.
Yet the root problem is not the religious beliefs of individual ministers, or even the Prime Minister. The root problem is the framework of institutions, laws, norms and expectations within which British governments work.
You, Mr Murphy O’Connor, and Ruth Kelly and Tony Blair, can only play the role you are playing in this discussion because British institutions so far lag behind those of France and, even, the USA, in putting organised religion in its proper, subordinate, place — in constitutionally ruling out attempts by the religious to decree how non-believers will live in a common society with them.
Both France and the USA have experienced radical bourgeois-democratic revolutions. Britain, whose bourgeois revolution was made much earlier, in the 17th century, when social and class interests were cloaked in religious garb and expressed in terms of religious dogmas and disputations, is here, simply backward.
Ignorant, bigoted, backwards religion — which is often very anti-Catholic, to be sure — is a great force in the USA. It has given to the world the Magi gift of President George W Bush. They are busily attacking the secularist political traditions of US public life. Even so, the separation of church and state, established in America at the end of the 18th century, remains a great force for public good, despite such antics as Donald Rumsfeld, when he was secretary for defence, holding daily prayer meetings in his office.
By contrast, Britain has a State Church, the Anglican Church, whose titular head is the monarch, the British head of state.
Arguably the worst thing which the Blair government has done in its decade in office has been to encourage the growth of “faith schools”. A later generation, and maybe the present one, will be faced with the consequences of the religious segregation of children — religious segregation which in some cases coincides heavily with ethnic segregation. A terrible price may have to be paid for that.
Even so, put the case against Blair at its strongest, and it is still true that Blair has only built on and expanded existing traditions. Blair has sowed his poisoning crop in a garden that was laid out long before his time.
It is now almost forgotten — you won’t have forgotten it! — what an uproar greeted the proposal at the beginning of the 20th century for the British state to endow Catholic schools. Catholic schools which mainly catered for the children of immigrant (Irish) workers, much as Muslim schools do now.
Paradoxically, then as now, the argument for faith schools, for an intrinsically-divisive, religious-run system of education, for extending support to Catholic, and now to Muslim, schools, rested on the high ground of egalitarianism: the right of Catholics, as now of Muslims, to equal treatment.
Anglican schools were then already endowed, as now, when we discuss Muslim faith schools, thousands of Anglican, Catholic and Jewish state-funded schools already exist. For you, Mr Murphy O’Connor, that is how it should be.
It is a terrible judgement on the backwardness of Britain in such matters – a backwardness which your own involvement in this discussion loudly proclaims – that the separation of church and state was realised in the USA over two hundred years ago and is still unrealised in the UK!
For those of us who reject the idea that the obscurantist doctrines of archaic religions should have any influence in shaping the social laws through which we regulate our lives, a different conclusion follows.
The whole framework needs to be changed!
• The very possibility of any sort of privileging of the viewpoint or the representatives of any religion, the privilege you are now demanding for Catholics when you demand that they should have the right to discriminate against gay people — that possibility should, as far as possible, be eliminated.
• Religion must be made into a private matter in relation to society.
• Religious men and women like yourself must be, in your capacity of religious leaders, excluded from any role in the state system of education greater than that to which you are entitled as an individual citizen having a citizen’s rights.
• Catholic and other religious-run orphanages must become the property of society, rather than what they are now, receptacles in which young and vulnerable children are held at the mercy of religious indoctrinatiors.
• In every area of society, I repeat, the church should be separated from the state.
• The Anglican church should be disestablished, and disendowed, its property must be made public property.
• As part of the separation of church and state, all faith schools should be taken over and turned into secular state schools — schools in which no religion is taught and religion is studied only as comparative religion.
Paradoxically, this would have as one of its effects the strengthening of freedom of religion, which is and must be an inalienable right of the citizen.
Right now, the sniping and speculation about Ruth Kelly’s religion and its possible relationship to her judgements as a minister, is inevitably intrusive. It probes and prods at her and her religion. That is because, under the existing system, her private believes are a legitimate concern of people who know that Kelly’s religion – and yours, and Tony Blair’s — will play a part in the resolution of the current crisis.
Kelly does not have to have a placard around her neck proclaiming that homosexuals are evil and deservedly damned, etc, for people to know very plainly that she has such views and that her views cannot but influence her attitudes.
There will always be some areas in which the practices associated with or forbidden by some religion will, in the interests of others, place some limitations on the practitioner’s role in society.
The idea that a woman with her face veiled should teach was absurd, and the woman concerned was rightly sacked. Even though she had the right as a citizen to wear the veil, she had no right to teach while veiled.
You too, Mr Murphy O’Connor. You have and should retain the right to believe any absurdity you like. And the right to lay down any absurd rules you like for people who voluntarily accept what you, or your Pope, decree, as rules for themselves. You have no right to inflict your own opinions, to cramp and curtail the lives of others by the bigoted imposition on them of rules of living which they reject.
The absurdity of a compulsorily celibate man, part of a large world wide caste of compulsorily celibate men and women, championing the “traditional family”, and demanding sanctions against those who take a different view, is not only a crying, but also a vicious, absurdity!
So too is the whole British system of relationships between the state and the churches.
To adapt a slogan from the women’s movement:
Keep your hands off our bodies, Mr Murphy O’Connor! And our minds!
And it’s all the fault of them homos.
Well, you might as well go down smiling…
…let us know what you’ll be doing at 5.55 pm today: what music you’ll listen to, what you’ll be eating and/or drinking, what film you’ll be watching, what you’ll be reading, what sort of sex you’ll be having…or would like to have…
Congratulations to the people and the government of Argentina – especially as their enlightened decision is one in the eye for the child-molesting hypocrites of the Catholic Church.
The country’s Chamber of Deputies had already approved the legislation.
The vote in the Senate, which backed the bill by just six votes, came after 14 hours of at times heated debate.
The law, which also allows same-sex couples to adopt, had met with fierce opposition from the Catholic Church and other religious groups.
Read the rest here.
John Rentoul and Oliver Kamm run a feature called ‘Great Historical Questions to Which the Answer is No’. This responds to articles called things like: ‘Are we living in a PC tyranny?’ ‘Was David Kelly killed by Mossad?’ ‘Did the Earl of Oxford write Shakespeare’s plays?’
Andy Newman has made a strong submission to the feature with his post ‘Did Peter Tatchell Use the Libel Laws to Delegitimise Criticism?’
The story is this. In March 2009 Scott Long of Human Rights Watch published an article criticising Tatchell along very familiar lines. Peter Tatchell is a longtime human rights activist who campaigns against all homophobic killings, including those carried out by theocratic states, and that puts him on a collision course with the pro-faith left which will always defend religion before sexuality.
Long’s article, and an earlier unrelated piece, played a simple tune. By protesting against the Islamic Republic’s killing of gays Tatchell is seeking to impose his vision of Western enlightenment imperialism upon the earthy and spiritual natives. (If you think I exaggerate the thesis, note that the earlier article is called ‘Gay Imperialism: Gender and Sexuality Discourse in the ‘War on Terror’‘.)
Tatchell complained against the ‘Gay Imperialism’ piece, probably because it accused him without evidence of working with racists and fascists, a point that even Newman concedes. His complaint against Long’s article is more complex.
On the basis of this article, it’s slightly worrying that Long occupies the prestigious position that he does. Scott Long writes paragraphs like this:
This eagerness to be recruited, too, seems an underside of ‘recognition’. The vision of claiming positive acknowledgement solely in the symbolic realm cheerfully subliminates the originary violence of the Hegelian version, which began with a combat to the edge of death. Pulsing under the talk of cultural confrontation is the memory of recognition wrested by an armed Other by force. And if pursuing recognition in the diffuse and sign-saturated public sphere of modern West has led gay and lesbian movements into a mirror-realm of becoming similar, this quest for visibility requires at heart a more visible opponent, against whom the self can be antagonistically defined. Islam serves that function for many activists in the USA and Europe. Indeed, identifying with the dominant culture increasingly requires becoming the hypertrophied ultra-opponents of its enemies.
Long attacks Tatchell because he campaigned against the execution of an Iranian, Makwan Moloudzadeh. According to Long, Tatchell portrayed Moloudzadeh as a gay man killed for his sexuality, when in fact he was convicted of rape (his accusers had redacted their accusations). There is still some confusion on this point.
Long criticises Tatchell for his aggressive style of campaigning. According to Long, if Tatchell had not attacked the Islamic Republic, the Islamic Republic would in its wisdom and compassion have let Moloudzadeh go. It is for you to judge what relationship this argument bears to reality.
The point is, Long has essentially said to Tatchell: You have blood on your hands.
In his position, you’d demand an apology. That appears to be what has happened, because Tatchell has got a full apology and retraction from Human Rights Watch and Long personally, which he has accepted with customary good grace.
For Newman there has to be more to it than that. It can’t be that a writer has changed his mind, or seen that s/he has said the wrong thing and tried to make amends. So Newman spends the entire thread arguing that Tatchell threatened legal action against Long and HRW, on the basis of no evidence whatsoever. It is the curious incident of the lawyer that didn’t bark.
John Meredith, who comments at Shiraz sometimes, sums it up:
So, let me get this straight. No-one involved claims that lawyers have been brought into it, Peter Tatchell has denied it explicitly and stated that he will not, on principle, sue, the company that published the article have denied that they were approached by lawyers and issued a statement saying that they withdrew it simply because the lies it contained were brought to their attention. Long has gone on record admitting the falsehoods in the piece and HRW have issued n apology for being associated through Long with distortions and unfair allegations against Tatchell, and yet you STILL think the most likely explanation is that there is a secret legal proceeding taking place? It can’t possibly be, as Long has gone public to admit, that the article was simply defamatory? Have you ever heard of Occam? Google him.
At one point Newman describes the case as ‘being reminiscent of the Moscow Trials, obvioulsy without the tragic consequences’.
Andy Newman – the Alan Partridge of the far left.
Pope Benedict’s outrageous attack on the UK’s equality bill and sexual orientation regulations requires a vigorous, uncompromising counter-attack from the serious left, the forces of secularism and all those who support equality and enlightenment. We must certainly support the National Secular Society’s call for protests against the Pope’s planned visit to the UK in September (subsidised by UK taxpayers to the tune of £20 million, by the way).
Sadly, however, much of the British “left” shies away from fighting religion, or defending enlightenment values like the separation of church and state, or proclaiming secularism and atheism (yes, I know: they’re not the same thing, but Marxists should be both). The SWP, to its eternal shame, has in recent years promoted the idea that opposition to religion is an optional extra for Marxists and that Marx himself wasn’t all that militant about atheism in the first place.
Against the background of much of the UK “left”‘s present softness on religion, and in the light of the Pope’s attempt to interfere in UK legislation, I thought it would be a good idea to republish the great American Trotskyist James P. Cannon’s 1951 article (from the US Militant), entitled Church and State.
The occasion for Cannon’s empassioned but reasoned article was The Truman government’s breach of the First Amendment (of the US Constitution) by proposing to send an ambassador to the Vatican. This wasn’t a passing whim on Cannon’s part: he wrote no less than three articles in the The Militant in 1951 denouncing Truman’s proposal as (for instance) a “concession to reactionary clericalism.” Noticeably, he even proposed making common cause with the Protestant clergy on this issue: “the Protestant leaders don’t go all the way, but as far as they go it is in the right direction and their fight on this issue is the people’s fight too.” No such alliance is possible in the UK these days, of course, as the craven C of E cowers before the Pope, even when he tries to poach their clergymen.
Anyway, here’s Cannon’s article Church and State:
IT’S A FAIRLY safe bet that President Truman didn’t know exactly what he was doing when he announced his decision to send a U.S. ambassador to the Vatican, nominating General Mark W. Clark to the post. Inhibited by training and constitutional disposition from seeing anything more important or farther in the future than the next election, he probably thought he was just firing off a cap pistol to attract the Catholic vote in 1952. He didn’t know it was loaded.
But the recoil of the gun and the noise of the explosion leave no doubt about it. The shot heard ’round the country has had results undreamt of in the philosophy of the Pendergastian politico in the White House. A bitter controversy, long smoldering, has burst into a flame that brings both heat and light into American politics. Sides are being chosen for a fight. In my opinion, it’s a good fight worth joining in.
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” So reads the first clause of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, adopted under the pressure of the people to protect their rights and freedoms. The meaning of this constitutional provision is quite claer to all who have no interest in muddling it. It is the doctrine of “the separation of church and state”.
It means that all religions must operate on their own; that no church is entitled to a privileged position so far as the state is concerned, and has no right to financial support from public funds. Congress is specifically enjoined from “making any law” which infringes this principle. That is how the people of this country have understood the first article of the Bill of Rights; and that is how the highest courts have interpreted it up to now.
All religions claim to operate under the sanction of the Almighty; and with this unlimited power on their side they should have no need of material reinforcement from human institutions, such as the state, in their business of saving souls. The authors of the First Amendment, however, claerly indicated that the people could not trust any church to limit itself to spiritual pursuits and rely entirely on supernatural favor. They all had to be restrained by constitutional fiat from seeking mundane advantages at the expense of rival claimants to the devine certificate of authority. Hence the amendment requiring the separation of church and state.
This doctrine has been subject to persistant encroachment in recent years by one institution in this country which doesn’t believe a word of it. The Roman Catholic Church, here and now, as everywhere and always, wants temporal as well as spiritual power. They claim the exclusive reservation of all places in heaven, but they want the real estate and money of this world too. By various devices and subterfuges they have been trying, with unwavering persistence and increasing boldness, to get into a preferred position to regulate public morals by police methods and to dip into public funds to support their religious schools.
Their campaign for special privileges has recieved a tremendous impetus from the President’s decision. The constitutional doctrine of the separation of church and state is directly under attack in this proposal. Some protest by the Protestant clergy was no doubt expected by Truman and his advisors. But the unanimity, the fervor, and even the fury of this Protestant counter-attack has upset the apple cart. Frozen with fear over the political implications of the Catholic aggression and the Protesatnt uproar, Congress adjourned without acting on the appointment of General Clark as America’s ambassador to the Pope. The issue remains in doubt as the controversy rages from one end of the country to the other.
In some respects the conflict has the aspects of a religious war which can have profound consequences for good and evil. But it is more than that. All the people of this country who cherish the freedoms they have inherited have a stake in the controversy. The leadership of this fight belongs by right to the labor movement, for the trade unions cannot live and breathe without freedom from the control of both church and state. They will not escape eventual involvement, although the entire leadership is trying to evade the issue in craven silence. The simple truth is that the labor skates are afraid of the Catholic Church, whose cardinals and bishops are already reaching out for control of the unions. Woe to the American labor movement if they succeed!
We Marxists are by definition alien and hostile to each and every form of religious superstition. We believe with Marx that religion is the opium of the people; and we are not Marxists, not genuine socialists, if we do not say so openly, regardless of whether our opinion is popular or not. Our business is not to save souls for another world, but to tell the truth about this one. What, then, have revolutionary socialists to do with this controversy between the churches? Plenty.
The U.S. Constitution in some of its sections sanctifies private property in the means of production. This must be abolished for the good and welfare of the people, and the future Workers’ Government will make the necessary constitutional changes. But in my opinion, one part of the present Constitution will stand: that is, the first ten amendments (the Bill of Rights) in general, and the First Amendment in particular. The revolutionary people will have no reason to strike or alter that. On the contrary, believing in and needing democracy and freedom, they will treasure it and guard it.
The First Amedment of the Constitution is our amendment: and we must defend it tooth and nail against all aggressions, whether secular or religious. It seems to me not accidental that all the authors of the Amendment linked freedom of worship with free speech and free press in the same sentence. Thereby they clearly indicated that religion is to be considered a matter of opinion, in which each individual is free to choose, and by no means a revelation binding upon everybody. Moreover, “freedom of worship” implies also freedom of non-worship. That’s the freedom I am exercising and I would surely hate to lose it.
Under this interpretation of the First Amendment, free thinkers and atheists, heathens and public sinners, who are very numerous in this country, have a chance to breathe and spread enlightenment without fear of the dungeon and the rack. The First Amendment has been a protecting shield for the Childen of Light and has enabled them to make their great contributions to literature, art and science. A breach in this provision of the Constitution, leading to its eventual repeal, would be an unspeakable calamity aiding and strrengthening the forces of reaction and obscurantism here and all over the world.
The Protestant clergymen are “on the side of the angels” in this dispute, and all friends of enlightement and progress owe them unstinting support.
Image found at CRAIG’S POP LIFE.
In other words, it [her book] is no longer listed in the sales ranks with other books of its subject or genre, no matter how good my sales are, or if my sales are above others who are currently listed. As well, my book, as is the case with many others, is not currently listed anymore in the subject heading appropriate to it. That deranking can massively impact us as authors, and also can impact consumers, particularly those who are trying to seek out material on a subject broadly without knowing what books are available by title or author. And with books that serve any sort of marginalized population or subject matter, finding them offline is often tough. Deranking books like mine further marginalizes the already marginalized.
Here’s a list of some of the books from Meta Writer and another list from Jezebel affected by this. Up there at the top, I see Brokeback Mountain, Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit and The Well of Loneliness have had the treatment. Jesus. This is scary – what is happening here is actually incredibly disturbing. To be honest, I’m still absolutely stunned.
So what can we do? Craig Seymour, who has been on this from the start, has a round up. Smart Bitches proposes Google Bombing – “As always, fuckwittery should not go unrewarded”:
All you have to do is link to the page using these words: Amazon Rank. The more you do it, the higher up in rank the page will go, and the more successful it will be. One would hope.
The goal: that “Amazon Rank” points to the definition that underscores Amazon.com’s shortminded censorship and inconsistent policing of what ought to be accessible to the book buying public.
Also, there is an online petition you can sign, a call to boycott Amazon, fill out their customer complaint form, ring them or you could email them – here’s an example of what someone wrote to them. Finally, keep an eye on what’s being said on Twitter by searching for #amazonfail.
This is very reminiscent of Google’s indexing, which makes it all the more disturbing. It’s like the internet’s being “cleaned up” by the damn Christian Right.
Edited to add: Don’t you just love how Mein Kampf keeps its rank? Hell, Adolf fucking Hitler’s books fine, that Winterson woman though? She dangerous.
Also, via a commenter at Jezebel‘s:
Wanna hear something that will really make your day? Now because of this who sales rank thing when you search for Homosexuality in the Amazon search engine guess what is the first book that pops up? A Parent’s Guide to Preventing Homosexuality!
It’s true, for both US and UK Amazon (click to enlarge).
Is here. I don’t know what my fellow bloggers think (well, I could take a wild guess as to Caroline’s opinion) but I think we should join its list of backers!
It seems to me that this is a vibrant yet often beseiged movement of people seeking a genuinely liberatory feminist politics. In doing so they seek to ensure that the most vulnerable victims of the oppression of women cease to be “victims” at all, via the means of their own self-emancipation. For what it’s worth, I can’t see what more reason the left would (or should) need to give them its full and utterly heartfelt support.
The hypocrisy of the enlightened, of the hip, of those who – externally at least – hold admirable, humanitarian values, but behind closed doors, when push comes to shove, prove to be far darker beings. Nick Cohen examined the increasing darkness among this number in his brilliant book What’s Left? Having written for the Guardian and the Big Issue respectively, we too have come to realise that it often those who shout loudest about what lovely people they are who have the worst secrets.
Cohen’s book was about the political left but also about human nature: ‘children afraid of the night/Who have never been happy or good.’ Hypocrisy is part of being human. We all indulge in it to some extent. But it’s instructive to focus on those who preach moral purity while snapping their moral compass in half.
There’s the hypocrisy of the liberal-creative male who professes sensitivity and intellectualism, but who is predatory and misogynist in his attitudes to women. The hypocrisy of the gap-year traveller who comes back from the Chinese dictatorship raving about the spirituality of the natives and like human rights is just a Western idea, you know? These are two types you will encounter often, particularly in your student years and your twenties.
In retrospect, the recent rise of Islamic fundamentalism was a godsend to these men. No more paying lip service to liberal ideals to get laid. No more pretence. Here was a chance to support racist, gynophobic, anti-gay fanatical maniacs, to cheer on murder and oppression, to feel the vicarious thrill of ’contextualising’ woman-hatred and genocide and the rhetoric of the apocalypse, and still keep your moral superiority. What amazing luck! What delicious liberation! We are all Hezbollah now!
Yes, there has always been a creepy servility to power inside the hearts of darkness of the status-quo left. Take the Middle East. A huge amount of intellectual energy goes into the defence of Iran’s President Ahmadinejad, whose regime executes trade unionists and for whom holocaust denial is official policy. I’ll never understand why so much time and effort goes into playing this lunatic down. Oh, when he says Israel ‘must be wiped from the page of time’ he’s talking about the occupation, or he’s criticising Israel’s tax system. Or something. Never mind that stuff about ‘filthy Zionist microbes’. It’s a mistranslation. And the nukes? Nothing to see there. All that plutonium is just to power the Revolutionary Guards’ digital TVs. Not that we’re in favour of civil nuclear programmes. Erm…
On the other side of the coin, we have the most liberal, tolerant and multicultural society in the Middle East – the state of Israel. Its paramedics risk their lives to treat Palestinian children; it welcomes immigrants from Yemen to Latin America; its Supreme Court gives relentless scrutiny to decisions made by the government and action taken by the military. Yet this Amsterdam-style paradise is a pariah state on the pseudo-left map. It is compared routinely to apartheid South Africa and its soldiers to jackbooted Nazis. Its enemies are deified, its journalists are subject to discriminatory boycotts and its very right to exist is challenged daily.
These are issues which are debated constantly in the blogosphere but in their book Not in My Name: A Compendium of Modern Hypocrisy, Julie Burchill and Chas Newkey-Burden bring a fresh perspective to the contortions of contemporary thought. Rational politics only explains so much and the arguments of the age have been crying out for Burchill’s more visceral analysis. She has the talent to reduce an apparently intellectual stance down to its base drives. Is it really beyond belief that the inadequate, frustrated, callow misogynists of the Western intelligensia looked upon the sexual apartheids of the Muslim world and thought: ‘At last! A society where the bitches know their place!’
It isn’t all good – articles such as ‘Fat Girl Feminists’ are very time-specific and are only going to chime with people who follow fashion as obsessively as Julie Burchill. The authors also misunderstand the old saw that hypocrisy is the compliment vice pays to virtue: it means that hypocrisy is an admission that we would like to be moral but can’t; it’s the Libertine’s Prayer: ‘Lord, make me chaste… but not yet.’
Yet the book is worth reading for its political essays. You may not agree with Newkey-Burden’s take on the Grand March: that ‘millions of people took advantage of Britain’s freedom and democracy, marching through the streets to ask that the government deprive Iraqi people of those very values’. Loads of people marched because they were afraid civilians would die. The doctrinaire pacifist may be a moron but is not a hypocrite. However, as Newkey-Burden says:
I’ve never met a single pro-war person who failed to accept the consequences of their argument. Similarly, I’ve never met a single antiwar person who did accept the consequences of theirs.
Here are some examples of modern hypocrisy that the authors somehow left out.
1) Prolier than thou anti-smoking activists who claimed that the smoking ban was necessary to protect bar staff, when available evidence suggested that smokers were overwhelmingly represented among bar staff, that they were more concerned about pay and union recognition and that bar staff did not want this ‘protection’, such as it was
2) Northern sentimentalist comedians like Peter/Vernon Kay/Jason Manford who get rich with tired and cliched routines about wedding discos and Bolton families that bear no relation to the reality of what growing up in the North is like; and then fuck off to London and a C4 panel show as soon as the opportunity presents itself
3) Celebrity-haters – people with mortgages and dull nine-to-five jobs who moan about the excesses of hedonistic celebrities. These people are like prisoners on life sentence complaining about the immorality of those who escape from jail. Give them a million pounds and a record deal and they’d be falling out of a limo in Camden too.
Feel free to add more in the comments.
After an at times heated discussion on the Left Women’s Network list, the majority of sisters and comrades decided to go ahead with the proposal put forward as amended slightly by one of the members. The result is that the following was printed on the LWN website this afternoon:
Statement on The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill
*The Left Women’s Network understands that 3 of 9 LRC affiliated MPs did not vote in favour of maintaining the 24 week time limit to ensure safe and legal abortions for women
* The Left Women’s Network understands that 1 LRC affiliated MP voted in support of a reduction to 12 weeks – something that would in effect make abortion illegal for many women
*The Left Women’s Network understands that, in addition, the 3 aforementioned MPs also voted against the right of lesbian and single women to have IVF treatment by supporting the amendment calling for “a father” to substitute “supportive parenting”
* LeftWN believes women’s rights and LGBT rights are not secondary to other political positions such as racism or war
* LeftWN believes that as the women’s affiliate to the LRC we must address that this has occurred
* LeftWN resolves to post our disappointment in the 3 LRC MPs on the LWN website
* LeftWN resolves to submit this to the LRC NC for immediate discussion at its next meeting for the LRC NC to agree to;
* LeftWN resolves to write to the 3 MPs concerned expressing our disappointment in the way they voted and clearly setting out our opposition to lowering the time limits
* LeftWN resolves to write to request that there is link put on the LRC website to the LWN statement on the positions of these LRC MPs