Log in

entries friends calendar profile AT: Gate of Ivory, Gate of Horn Previous Previous Next Next
Principia - Wemyss's Appalling Hobby:
From the Party Guilty of Committing 'Gate of Ivory, Gate of Horn'

Here are a few principles. They are the agreed principles of the partners in Bapton Books. It strikes us – as Borno State, in Nigeria, burns and Islamists hold hostages at (of course) a kosher shop in Paris and in Dammartin (where is Jeanne d’Arc when she’s wanted) – as important to state them anew.

(Yes, we quite realise many of you begin bricking it when principles are mentioned.)

Nothing excuses terrorism, murder, the deadliest form of censorship, and All That. Nothing.

‘“Blasphemy” laws’ are tyrannical.

The right to mock, insult, barrack, jeer, offend, and, yes, ‘blaspheme’ is a universal and – to borrow from some Enlightenment Englishmen-Abroad – inalienable right. It is an absolute right.

Censorship is evil.

Censors are shits, cowards, poltroons, incipient tyrants, bootlickers and creatures to incipient or actual tyrants, or a combination of any or all of the preceding.

Those who defend, support, excuse, or temporise in any way with terrorism are worse.

Those who defend, support, excuse, or temporise in any way with censorship are worse.

The term for them is Orwell’s: they are objective pro-fascists. When, of course, they are not fascists themselves.

There is no ‘right’ to be protected from being offended. NONE. Those who pretend there is such a right are shits, cowards, poltroons, incipient tyrants, bootlickers and creatures to incipient or actual tyrants, objective pro-fascists, actual fascists, or a combination of any or all of the preceding.

The shits, cowards, poltroons, incipient tyrants, bootlickers and creatures to incipient or actual tyrants, objective pro-fascists, actual fascists, or a combination of any or all of the preceding, who are indulging in ‘yes-but’ editorialising and blaming the victims for provoking their own murders are morally inferior (if that were conceivable) even to persons who blame actual rape victims for actually being raped. They are, in short, shits, cowards, poltroons, incipient tyrants, bootlickers and creatures to incipient or actual tyrants, objective pro-fascists, actual fascists, or a combination of any or all of the preceding.

There is no such thing as ‘hate speech’. It is a construct developed in the interest of censorship by shits, cowards, poltroons, incipient tyrants, bootlickers and creatures to incipient or actual tyrants, objective pro-fascists, actual fascists, or a combination of any or all of the preceding.

Specifically, the law, in a country with any pretensions to freedom, must never recognise such a (purported) category as ‘hate speech’. (Yes, we know the Continentals do, in a misguided attempt to rejoin the human race after their XXth C behaviour, and it’s infected the UK and is being pushed – by shits, cowards, poltroons, incipient tyrants, bootlickers and creatures to incipient or actual tyrants, objective pro-fascists, actual fascists, or a combination of any or all of the preceding – in the US; but the Continent is governed by shits, cowards, poltroons, incipient tyrants, bootlickers and creatures to incipient or actual tyrants, objective pro-fascists, actual fascists, or a combination of any or all of the preceding.)

Prior restraint’ of speech – including art, actions, performances, and public assembly – by the State, and prosecution of speech after the fact, it having been uttered, can be justified only when and if the speech poses an immediate and overwhelming threat to public safety and security (‘Oh, look what I have found: the plan to rescue the Dammartin hostages! I’ll Tweet it!’) or is calculated or CLEARLY liable to provoke REASONABLE people actually then present into an IMMEDIATE breach of the peace. Or of course if it’s kiddy-fiddling (for which even prior restraint is justifiable), or a Ponzi scheme or some such fraud (which of course merits subsequent prosecution and might under very special circumstances justify prior restraint).

Civil liability for speech as above defined cannot and must not invoke the power of the State to effect a prior restraint and must be governed by the actual laws of tort and of damages. (Nota bene: you cannot libel the dead. Yes, that includes religious figures.)

You are of course free not only to disagree, but freely to express your disagreement with these principles, and even – were you capable of it – to argue against them. Whereupon we have the absolute right to mock, insult, barrack, jeer at, and offend you, by the simple expedient of noting quite loudly that you have outed yourself as a shit, coward, poltroon, incipient tyrant, bootlicker and creature to incipient or actual tyrants, objective pro-fascist, actual fascist, or a combination of any or all of the preceding. Or Anjem Choudary (but we repeat ourselves).

We have little use and less respect for those choosing to ignore – as our feed rather suggests many are so choosing – actual macro-aggressions in favour of their pet King Charles’ heads just now.

And of course, whatever the subject, we close by repeating, each of us, in unison: Ceterum censeo Islamismum esse delendam.

Tags: , , , ,

12 comments or Leave a comment
17catherines From: 17catherines Date: January 10th, 2015 01:06 pm (UTC) (Link)
Speaking as a shit, coward, poltroon, etc, and worse, a bleeding-heart lefty, we need free speech, but I'm in favour of hate speech laws, too. I do think you need to frame them very cautiously, I don't think that words should ever be used as an excuse for violent action, but honestly, when we have talkback radio hosts cheerfully suggesting on air that real Australians should just go down to Lakemba and show those Muslims what it's like to be afraid, well, I think that is inciting violence, and I think that is a problem.

Do I think that reasonable people are going to follow these suggestions? Of course not. But there are always unreasonable people around, people who are angry at life in general and just looking for an excuse to make someone else as miserable as they are, or people who aren't very bright and take what they hear literally. And while these people must be held responsible for their own actions, I think the people who incite and encourage this action, who make it sound reasonable and appropriate, are also responsible. As accessories to violence, perhaps. And I think they should be answerable to the law in such a case.

Then there is the other sort of hate speech, the kind that is not designed to start riots this week, but which creates, over time, an idea in people's heads that another group of people - the unemployed, the disabled, refugees - whoever is in fashion to pick on this week - are criminals, sub-human, a drain on the public purse, a danger to those around them. And that's dangerous because it helps buy people's acquiescence to policies that are discriminatory or cruel or downright criminal. My gut feeling is that we should be trying to find a way to penalise that, if we can, but I don't think it's possible.

And then there's the stuff which is just hateful but not dangerous, and which one can't, realistically, legislate against, because sooner or later any legislation designed to stop people being gratuitously nasty for no other cause is going to restrict the kind of free speech that we actually need - the kind that has useful content, that tells us things we might not otherwise know (or want to hear).

So yeah, I'm conflicted. I write a politics blog, and I frequently say rude things about politicians and their policies (I try to make it about the policies more than about the politicians, however). I find it vile beyond belief that journalists and cartoonists are killed for the sake of their work. This should never happen anywhere. "You insulted my God and therefore I'm going to kill you" is not a sentence that should even exist. (And surely a God is capable of defending his/her own honour, if necessary? A lack of lightning strikes ought to be a pretty good indicator that everything is under control and no human intervention is needed. Actually, a surfeit of lightning strikes should also be a good indicator...)

But - words do have power. That's sort of the point of freedom of speech. And given their power, surely there is an obligation to use them responsibly, particularly if one has a wide audience? I don't mean that one should censor oneself for fear of violence - but I have to admit, I honestly don't understand the mindset that creates things with no other apparent purpose than to offend people any better than I understand the mindset that reacts to offense with violence.

Sorry. This isn't very coherent. I'm simultaneously horrified at the attack on Paris, shocked and offended by a number of the cartoons (I'll say this for Charlie Hebdo, they are remarkably equal-opportunity in their offensiveness - there's something there to upset everyone!) and appalled at the 'retaliatory' attacks (verbal and physical) on Muslim women in my own area (and elsewhere, but one feels more responsible for one's own community), who have done nothing to merit such abuse.

I suppose we wouldn't need freedom of speech laws if nobody was ever offensive to anyone else. But I wish more people would try for a little kindness and understanding, rather than using freedom of speech as a reason to be as nasty as possible. Or religion as an excuse for violence.

And maybe using their brains occasionally would help, too.

(I should also try that sometimes)

wemyss From: wemyss Date: January 10th, 2015 03:23 pm (UTC) (Link)

No, no, and no (1 of 2).

And, distinguo.

You do not in fact support, on yr own showing, ‘hate speech’ laws, whatever you may think. (One of the worst effects, in fact, of this dreary fetish and shibboleth is the way in wh it paralyses thought.)

On the first head, you support prosecuting and punishing direct incitement to violence and the breach of the Queen’s peace. There have always been quite unexceptionable laws against that, and, properly framed, these are not ‘hate speech’ laws. (If they are ‘hate speech’ laws after the models of the Continent, they are not properly framed and are indeed improperly framed.)

On the second, you have an emotional distaste for what you characterise as speech which ‘is not designed to start riots this week, but which creates, over time, an idea in people’s heads that another group of people … are criminals, sub-human, a drain on the public purse, a danger to those around them’; but you acknowledge, quite rightly, that it were impossible to frame a law against this without doing violence to the rights of free speech.

On the third, there is speech you consider ‘just hateful but not dangerous’ and which you have the admirable good sense to recognise cannot be ‘realistically … legislate[d] against’.

So far, so unexceptionable. The muddle comes where and when yr reason, which is sound, is overborne by, or you are at the least tempted to abandon it in favour of, emotional appeals into which you have not been argued but have rather been incited and encouraged by demagogues who make it sound reasonable and appropriate.

It is for example quite true that part of the reason we must recognise – not create: it is pre-existent and inalienable, to use Mr Jefferson’s word – the right of free speech is that limiting it to any but the narrowest degree deprives us in the end of ‘the kind of free speech that we actually need’. But there is a danger in resting the recognition of the right on such utilitarian grounds: it tempts one to begin making exceptions and judging utterances on whether, say, these have ‘useful content’, and leads inevitably to content-based restrictions and restraints that go beyond the minimal acceptable exceptions to the universal right.

The point of the right to speak and publish freely, which is as near to absolute as damn it, is not in fact that ‘words have power’: it is that there is a right pertaining to all free persons to speak and publish their words, however weak, however powerful. Which thus, as a happy added consequence, promotes the sort of free market in ideas in which error is overcome by truth and the incitements of the wicked fail before the uttered wisdom of the just. To say there is an ‘obligation’, beyond the very narrowest obligation not to call for an immediate and present riot against a specific target at 27 Cheyne Walk just after tea this very afternoon, to ‘use [speech] responsibly’, is a fatal invitation to have it restricted. It simply shan’t do.
wemyss From: wemyss Date: January 10th, 2015 03:25 pm (UTC) (Link)

No, no, and no (2 of 2).

I will assume for a moment, without prejudice to such facts as may emerge, that there are in fact ‘“retaliatory” attacks (verbal and physical) on Muslim women in [your] own area’. That I assume that for the purpose of argument, in light of the ‘I’ll ride with you’ fraud (wh I shd have thought an obvious fraud from the beginning) and all the other recent – and by no means solely recent – instances in which The Narrative has as commonly been reduced to subsisting on Noble Lies: I believe it was Mr Pyle’s fellow W&L man Mr Wolfe who noted that ‘the dark night of fascism is always descending in the United States and yet lands only in Europe’, and just this week we have learnt anew that when French Islamists attack French secularists it always seems to be the Jews who are killed in the greatest numbers: that I shall assume the reports you pass on to be true as stated, then, does not in any way change the analysis. For the common law, without dangerous and foreign additions imported from nations with very different traditions and much less honourable political histories, is, was, and remains already competent to address every concern raised in yr comment from first to last.

Finally, a point w/r/t yr concern as regards ‘the mindset that creates things with no other apparent purpose than to offend people’. A right, however universal, however inalienable, is like a right of way across the squire’s park. It must be exercised, noisily and pointedly, if it is not to be – not lost: universal, inalienable rights cannot be lost – but made unenforceable without being restored and enforced by too forcible measures. When mobs and savage murderers attempt to exert a heckler’s veto at the point of a Kalashnikov, it becomes a moral duty to offend the baying barbaric bastards, in the name of the rights of all.
17catherines From: 17catherines Date: January 11th, 2015 01:55 pm (UTC) (Link)

Maybe, Maybe, and Yes...

Thanks for replying, and particularly for not implying that I'm saying offensive cartoons are a justification for violence, which is an argument I keep finding myself in this week (mostly with my mother). I hope you don't mind me coming in and arguing with you - I find that the news I see online tends to be a bit of an echo chamber of my own political leanings, and it's good to engage with other ideas. (Though not with my mother, because that never ends well)

I'm going to leave the first half of your reply alone, because I think there's a fair bit of agreement in thought, if not in terminology, and I also think we both know that where there's disagreement, it's basically because I'm always going to be less libertarian than you!

The second part of your statement, though, I'd like to argue with a bit. First, and just in passing, the woman who wrote the first tweet that started the 'I'll ride with you' meme is actually a friend of my husband's, so I'm pretty sure that one is for real. She didn't expect it to get bigger than Ben Hur, however.

As for attacks in my area, I've mostly been aware of the ones in the Northern suburbs of Melbourne - it's not that I don't care about or pay attention to what is going on elsewhere, but my local community is the one I can potentially affect, and thus the one I keep the closest eye on - via police reports in local papers, as well as conversation with Muslim women I know. Right after ISIS started doing their thing, it got very nasty in my suburb (which has a fairly high Muslim population), and even Lebanese Christian friends of mine were copping abuse, though not physical violence, fortunately. So yes, it did seem to be open season on headscarves, or anyone who just looked a bit middle eastern, though it has improved recently. I expect it will go backwards a bit after this.

Anyway. The part I wanted to engage with was your comment that "When mobs and savage murderers attempt to exert a heckler’s veto at the point of a Kalashnikov, it becomes a moral duty to offend the baying barbaric bastards, in the name of the rights of all".

I disagree. Not with the right to publish offensive things (though I wish people wouldn't), but with the idea that it's a duty, or in any way a good idea, really. I actually think that however well-deserved such offensiveness may be, it's also counter-productive. It escalates an already bad situation, and vindicates extremists who think - rightly - that they are being mocked.

I'm afraid I tend preference pragmatism over principle, and I just don't think exercising the right to publish obnoxious things is important enough to outweigh the need to draw people away from extremism. I worry that situations like the one in France are deliberately orchestrated to encourage an anti-Muslim backlash, and thus further divide Muslims from their non-Muslim neighbours, and drive them into the arms of Al Qaeda.

Is this a slippery slope to letting our media be controlled by what Muslims find offensive? I don't think so. The media - at least in Australia - publishes plenty of other rude things about Muslims, but none of them seem to get anywhere near the reaction that cartoons of the Prophet do. It seems to be a single taboo item.

We've been fairly lucky around here after the first round of attacks, the police made a very public show of letting the Muslim community know that they want to hear about attacks that are motivated by Islamophobia, and a number of women in my area started wearing headscarves in solidarity (which was kind of fascinating, actually - apparently I look quite Middle Eastern in a headscarf, judging by some of the reactions I got).

The Muslim community in turn have made a very public show of both co-operating with the police and taking steps to address Islamism within their communities, speaking out against it at Mosques, and taking out advertising space in newspapers to publish denunciations of attacks. They've also been holding Mosque Open Days and participating in community events. There's a definite effort being made to build friendships across the communities, and I think that is incredibly important. Isolating people is never a good idea.
wemyss From: wemyss Date: January 11th, 2015 04:23 pm (UTC) (Link)

It’s a bit tricky … if and only if one allows it to be.

I don’t mind offending people, as a rule – largely because nowadays absolutely anyone can (and often does) profess to be offended by absolutely anything, including a How-d’-y’do – but I prefer not to offend friends, much as I enjoy arguing with them (wh they – you – are always more than welcome to do). But if we are speaking of the same person, Rachael Jacobs, in the context of the ‘I’ll ride with you’ business, I advert you to her own article, here: http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/queensland/how-illridewithyou-began-with-rachael-jacobs-experience-on-a-brisbane-train-20141216-128205.html. ‘Confession time. In my Facebook status, I editorialised. She wasn’t sitting next to me. *** I spent the rest of the journey staring – rudely – at the back of her uncovered head. I wanted to talk to her, but had no idea what to say. Anything that came to mind seemed tokenistic and patronising. She might not even be Muslim or she could have just been warm! By sheer fluke, we got off at the same station, and some part of me decided saying something would be a good thing. Rather than quiz her about her choice of clothing, I thought if I simply offered to walk her to her destination, it might help. *** But none of those words came out, and our near silent encounter was over in a moment.’

Some might call that editorialising, and applaud what turns out to have been a wholesale fiction on the ground that it had a noble, consciousness-raising purpose. So far as I am concerned, the original tale: Muslim woman removes hijab for own safety until righteous woman offers to ride with her: is simply a lie, whatever its motives.

I mention this incident, trivial in itself, because it does have bearing, I think, upon the greater issue.

It is in fact, I submit, the bottom of the ‘slippery slope’ that begins with ‘preferenc[ing] pragmatism over principle’ and concerns with what is or is not ‘counter-productive’. Not that I can see you ever retailing a taradiddle and then defending it because it served a purpose; but the fact is, the pragmatist does ask, Is this useful?, whilst the person of principle is asking, Is this true?.

Simply put, I do not recognise a want to coax people away from evil intentions by burking everyone’s rights and telling comforting falsehoods to the wicked. A universal right is much more important than such a perceived want, and wants exercising all the more when the temptation is to abandon it in hopes of sating the crocodile before it eats one’s own sweet self. Extremists have the right, in common with the rest of us, to make their case by speech and its publication. We then must exercise our right to wallop them in free argument. If they then proceed to crime – and the thing about extremists is that they’ll proceed to criminal action whether they are confronted and demolished in debate, or not – the full force of the State may and must be used to crush the little sods. I cannot concur in the proposition that a free people, for any reason – pragmatism, politesse, ‘escalat[ing] an already bad situation’, or any other – ought or can possibly say that they shall leave undisturbed one taboo insisted on by one small segment of one part of the population, simply because that minority of a minority are murderous. That does in fact precisely allow the ‘media [to] be controlled by what [a set of extremist loons professing to be] Muslims find offensive’, I’m afraid.

And it’s not even pragmatic. Extremists, by definition, shall and will and burn to always find something to be offended by, and to then use it as an excuse for crimes against the rest of us, beginning with their own communities. So one may as well leave off worrying about offending the bogan bastards, and speak truth to those lusting for armed power and the cowing of others.
17catherines From: 17catherines Date: January 12th, 2015 09:01 am (UTC) (Link)

OK, well that's a bit mortifying...

And in case it isn't evident, I do not believe in using fiction to raise consciousness - both as a matter of principle and a matter of pragmatism, as it happens.

Sorry about that - the day the twitter thing went nuts, Andrew looked over my shoulder and went "Oh! That's Rachael!", and a day or two later he remarked that he got the impression she wasn't comfortable with the way the story had escalated. And no wonder, if she'd made it up. But he didn't mention anything further after that (they don't interact all that often), and it didn't occur to me to go and check that she might have been making it up. (While I research movements I'm going to get actively involved in, I wasn't part of that one, so it only got a cursory glance.)

(And I have to say, that makes her timing of it in particularly poor taste.)

"Is it true?" is the important question, but for me, nearly as important is the question "Is it kind?". I do try to be principled, but - well, I'm pretty sure I met you via the Bujold list, so you don't need the whole 'people before principles' spiel from me! But that's where I'm coming from.

I agree that there are people who are utterly unreasonable and will never be convinced to behave like civilised members of society. And there are people who are full of integrity, who will never be convinced to behave in a barbaric way. But my concern is always with the people in the middle, the bystanders, who may not have strong views or convictions in any particular direction, and whose loyalties are to the people around them, rather than any higher (or lower) principle. And I think it's important to extend friendship to these people - both because it is kind and because it is pragmatic.

I was struck quite strongly in a conversation I had recently with a couple of Muslim girls I met at a picnic, in which it transpired that they had very few, if any, non-Muslim friends or colleagues. They had gone to a local Muslim school, they worked in a family business, and when they were out and about it was just easier to meet strangers who were Muslim because you see the scarf and you know both that you have something in common and that they aren't going to be telling you to get back where you came from. And this was something they had decided to change, because they saw themselves very much as Australian, and not Lebanese. But it did make me wonder how hard it would be, for someone in that situation, whose experience of people outside that community ranges from neutral to actively unfriendly, to go to the authorities if one heard a friend plotting to do something awful. One might not want the awful thing to happen - but one might also worry that the courts or the police system wouldn't treat one's friend fairly, or that one wouldn't be believed, or that the police would take one look at the surname and jump to conclusions before weighing the evidence.

So I'm not saying one should respect a taboo because a minority of a minority are murderous. I'm saying one should respect it because the majority of that minority are not murderous, and just want to go about their lives peacefully without having it shoved in their face that they are not One Of Us. A simple matter of kindness.

Sadly, I'm pretty sure there is no way to legislate kindness...

But for myself, I do think it's worth modifying my language in order not to offend people. I don't like hurting people, and I think offending people impedes communication - nobody listens very well when they are hurt or angry or offended.

I am not arguing that criminal action shouldn't be punished by the State - that's one of the things the State is there for. But there is a difference between the State punishing criminals, and random individuals going out of their way to insult people who they think resemble criminals. This is neither useful nor kind, and that being the case, I honestly can't see how it becomes a matter of principle in any reasonable way.
wemyss From: wemyss Date: January 12th, 2015 05:19 pm (UTC) (Link)

Quaecumque Sunt Vera.... (1/2)

I note that ‘whatsoever things are true’ come first.

Here are, as I see them, the problems with mere kindness. Firstly, a policy of tempering the wind to shorn lambs is, whatever it means to be, in fact really rather patronising, don’t you think? I expect precisely the same standards of everyone possessed of moral agency (that is to say, not mad or infirm or of infant years), don or dustman, archdeacon or ayatollah, merchant or mechanic or mohel, Sikh or secularist. It is I think ultimately unkind not to do, and specially so in the name of kindness.

Secondly, mere kindness doesn’t actually work. I hasten to acquit you of suggesting that we ought to respect a minority tapu because a minority of that minority are murderous: it is clearly your position that we ought, in charity, to respect it because the majority of that minority are not. But what does that actually work out to? Well, it works out to the erection of a tapu, and to censorship or self-censorship.

All right. What’s wrong with that? Well: everything. I am by no means hostile or ungenerous towards Britons with ancestral roots in the subcontinent: to the contrary. My generosity is celebrated by every British Asian bowler, of whatever faith, who is in want of a quick, cheap wicket and sees with relief that Mr Wemyss is batting. To be less facetious, I like and respect British Asians in mass and in the main, very much so. But I cannot agree, for example, the (re-)institution of what amount to the old blasphemy laws, even in the name of courtesy and community relations, and least of all when those should effectually apply to one religion only. Yet the problem were worse still were they to be applied across the board: it is effectively a blasphemy, in many Muslim eyes, to elevate to godhead or indeed to superiority over Mohammed him to whom they refer as ‘the prophet Isa’; whereas it is a blasphemy to any orthodox Christian to degrade Jesus Christ, the Second Person of the Trinity, to the rank of a secondary prophet. And it is equally a blasphemy to observant Jews to claim that Jesus was Moshiach, or to assert that Mohammed was a prophet. The shema and the shahada and the Creed are all of them mutually contradictory; the muezzin’s adhan is blasphemous to Jews and Christians. And those are not the only three faiths knocking about. Take the crisis which erupted over unlabelled halal meat. It was argued – out of kindness – that there was no harm in it, as it couldn’t possibly matter to the average Anglican or RC or Plymouth Brother, and the Jews were buying kosher anyway, so why not serve it without warning in state schools, say? Well, that was misplaced kindness with a vengeance, when one notes that Hindus and especially also Sikhs are expressly prohibited from eating ‘Kutha’ meat: meaning any halal or kosher meat. I can’t speak to the urban demographics of Oz, but from Wolvo to Leeds there are a hell of a lot of public institutions with canteens in which pupils and what not include Muslims, Sikhs, Hindus, nominal Christians, and God knows who else. And that’s the sort of thing one runs into at every turn in trying to accommodate this sort of tapu.

The fact is, you cannot actually put people first save by putting principles first. Even the assertion that One Ought to Be Kind Before All Else, Even at the Price of a Little Loss of Liberty and A Certain Amount of Humbug, is the assertion of a principle: and a principle with which I do not and can never agree. Creating by stealth in the name of kindness and as an indult to, frankly, The Other, a sort of surreptitious establishment of religion to replace the C of E is neither just nor honest nor kind, surely. Yet that is what in effect, not in motive, this sort of Let’s Don’t Be Beastly thinking leads to. I am not in favour of gratuitous rudeness. But I insist upon honesty in place of candy-floss verbiage. And I insist absolutely, for the reasons Mill gives – http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/On_Liberty/Chapter_2 – on the universal exercise of the universal right to speak and publish freely.
wemyss From: wemyss Date: January 12th, 2015 05:19 pm (UTC) (Link)

Quaecumque Sunt Vera.... (2/2)

Let us speak honestly, and without fear or favour. Either we mean, in the name of a patronising and paternalistic kindness, to ‘respect a taboo’ – for one and only one group in common society which happens to hold that tapu – so as to avoid our, the majority’s, ‘shov[ing] in their face that they are not One Of Us’; or we do not. If we do, we are erecting under whatever name a new censorship regime and a new establishment of religion, and damned well want to say so, openly and honestly. After all, it were kindest to let the rest of us know that that is what is proposed. If we are NOT going to do that, we ought also to say so. And if we are going to try to square the circle by willing, as an end, that every community shall have its tapus and no other community shall be allowed to deny those tapus, it is kinder to say so, and particularly as warning the secularists and atheists and agnostics so they can pack and go to a free country. Because the result of trying to square the circle is that every Anglican congregation saying the Creed at Mattins or Evensong or (especially) at Mass can be prosecuted by any Muslim who cares to complain, for committing shirk and offending against tawhid; and every pious Jew who recites the shema is criminally liable for offending the Church by denying, by implication, the doctrine of the Trinity; and every Muslim is guilty of blaspheming against Christian doctrine; and everyone else has offended in some fashion against these various tapus....

I admire tremendously your motives and your obvious care for others. I cannot reach your conclusions, and I cannot accept them, and I consider that they are in their effects an attack (however unintended) upon and a danger to universal rights and liberties.
17catherines From: 17catherines Date: January 11th, 2015 01:56 pm (UTC) (Link)


I just wanted to add, I haven't mentioned the business in Sydney, because, unlike what happened in Paris, I really don't think our siege was about Islamism at all. The perpetrator was about to go to jail for a number of crimes including accessory to the murder of his wife, and appears to have decided not to be taken alive and to take as many others down with him as he could. A nasty piece of work, but I don't think this has much to do with his religious convictions.

Anyway. I shall stop clogging up your journal with my emotional left-wing argumentation! Hope you're having a good day. Feel free to delete or ignore this if it's just irritating to no purpose.

Best wishes,

wemyss From: wemyss Date: January 11th, 2015 04:27 pm (UTC) (Link)

... sprach Zarathustra?

My dear, you cd never irritate me.

I quite agree the bugger was nasty bit of work, and had personal motives for what he did. I cannot agree wholly that he, in exercising (wrongfully) his moral agency, and choosing to drape himself however tendentiously in the black flag, was altogether free of all that that draping implies. But I doubt we shall resolve that issue here, and it is not of any acute importance to the argument.
17catherines From: 17catherines Date: January 12th, 2015 09:18 am (UTC) (Link)

Continuing the meta-conversation

Though I did like your title, by the way!

Thanks for that. I suspect I'm going to be bowing out of this conversation at some point soon - not because it isn't interesting, not because I'm insulted, and not because I don't want to continue - but I'm back at work as of today, and it's going to be taking up a lot of my intellectual and physical energy for the foreseeable future. So if I disappear, that's why.

As for our Sydney chappie, I'm not denying that he was an Islamist as well as everything else - his charming letters to families of veterans make this quite clear - but I really don't think that this was his chief motivation for the siege. His religion clearly didn't help, but the general history of misogyny and violence against women suggests to me that he was simply a deeply unpleasant individual who wanted to control the people around him. My suspicion is that he chose to drape himself in the flag simply to inspire more fear (which certainly seems to have been effective). I also suspect that if he'd been born somewhere slightly different he'd probably have been picketing funerals with the Westboro Baptists, or shooting up abortion clinics. That's just the sort of charmer he was...
wemyss From: wemyss Date: January 12th, 2015 04:27 pm (UTC) (Link)

I quite understand.

And good luck with the work.
12 comments or Leave a comment