Archive for April, 2005

Incitement to religious disdain

For too long Mediawatchwatch has been neglecting the issue of the proposed law against Incitement to Religious Hatred. This law was intended to be part of the Serious Organised Crime and Police Bill, but was dropped owing to opposition from the Lords, so that the bulk of the bill could be passed within the term of the present parliament.

The Lords were lobbied by various groups, both secular and religious. Indeed the issue divided Christians, with the moderates and liberals thinking it would be nice to offer other faiths legal protection from criticism (the current blasphemy law only applies to Christianity), and the fundamentalists of the Christian Institute, the Barnabus Fund, the Evangelical Alliance, and the CCTV (among others) worried that they would no longer be able to call religionists of other varieties hell-bound heathens. This second group differed from the secularists, most notably the National Secular Society and English PEN, in that they wanted to keep the blasphemy laws – freedom of speech must have its limits, after all.

The Labour government has promised in its manifesto to pass this law in the next term, if it gets re-elected. It is widely agreed that the motivation for this is to court the Muslim vote, and indeed it is Muslims who seem to want this law more than anyone else. Iqbal Sacranie, Secretary General of the Muslim Council of Britain was the first to express deep disappointment when the the Incitement to Religious Hatred section was dropped. Sacranie has stated that if the law had been in effect at the time the Satanic Verses was published, there would have been no need of a fatwa against Salman Rushdie because the government could have prosecuted him itself.

One of the most eloquent objectors to the law is Rowan Atkinson, who made a speech to the Lords.

To criticise people for their race is manifestly irrational but to criticise their religion, that is a right. That is a freedom. The freedom to criticise ideas – any ideas – even if they are sincerely held beliefs – is one of the fundamental freedoms of society and a law which attempts to say you can criticise or ridicule ideas as long as they are not religious ideas is a very peculiar law indeed. It promotes the idea that there should be a right not to be offended, when in my view, the right to offend is far more important than any right not to be offended, simply because one represents openness, the other represents oppression.

That is why English PEN now have a banner under the calendar, and The Muslim Council of Britain has been added to the MWW watchlist. Ladies and gentlemen, please put your hands together for the Muslim Council of Britain. Woot!

UPDATE: Let’s hear it for the Muslim Association of Britain too!
UPDATE: As The Pub Philosopher points out, Fiona McTaggart made a promise in the Muslim News that Labour would invoke the parliament act to force the law through next term.

Dr Who crucifixion really spoons Beyer off

Today’s Express (no link to article, but copy is available here) reports that episode six of the BBC’s hit series Dr Who contains some foul language and offensive imagery, despite its pre-watershed scheduling.

According to The Express, “Media watchdogs” – ie John Beyer of Mediawatch UK – have condemned the show, which depicts an evil character telling one of his henchmen to “canoodle and spoon” with the Doctor’s assistant, Rose. Van Stratten also tortures the Doctor by binding him to a crucifix with metal shackles.

Beyer has branded the BBC “irresponsible” for including such inappropriate imagery and language:

This is not a programme designed for children […] I am surprised the BBC have gone with this, they should have been more attentive to youngsters.  It seems that the broadcasters are taking the view that if youngsters are offended or disturbed by the show, then h*rd ch**se.

Apparently a certain religious group believe they have a patent on that particular form of torture, and regard anything resembling it as a breach of copyright. This grants them the opportunity to take public offence.

Meanwhile, media watchdog watchdogs have blasted Beyer’s objection to the language as “ridiculous”: he should canoodle off and spoon himself.

Stephen Green Flashbacks Pt 4 – Death and resurrection

My it’s been quiet round here recently! Here’s another Stephen Green flashback to keep you going.

The Guardian diary of February 16th 1994 talks of Green’s inexorable decline from grace as chairman of the Conservative Family Campaign. Sponsors of the campaign were withdrawing their support as it became increasingly apparent that Stevie-boy was several books short of a full King James.

The final straw came with a letter to Stonewall regarding a proposed change in the law to lower the legal age of homosexual consent. In it he makes the now-familiar claim,

I believe I have been called by God to provide leadership for Christians to oppose these moves.

And how does he know he’s doing the right thing? By the strength of the opposition – how else?

Of course this is not the only matter to concern Christians today, but it is identifiable, its importance can be gauged by the effort Satan’s forces are putting in, and it is a battle which Christians can win in the Name of the Authority of Christ.

The fact that several Conservatives, including Edwina Currie, supported the equalisation of the age of consent was another reason why the president of the CFC, Bill Walker MP, was happy to “accept” Green’s “resignation”.

…it is wrong to describe party activists as working for

Stephen Green set up Christian Voice later that year.

JS:TO TV show goes international

According to the Independent on Sunday, the producers of JS:TO are taking the show to the world’s largest television marketplace, Mip TV in Cannes this week.

Interest has been expressed by several English-speaking countries including Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the USA, as well as a number of European “opera nations”.

John Thoday of Avalon says,

It’s a way of perpetuating the show and generating a bit of revenue for the tour when it happens.

Asbo threat for village Pope-joker

At the end of a quiet week for the bad boys of British censorship, Mediawatchwatch’s attention is drawn to an altogether more provincial example of repression, as reported in The Guardian today.

Andy Humm, a website owner of Lyneham village, and Allison Bucknell, a local Conservative councillor, have been trying to have a local website shut down. The latest in a series of complaints against Mitch Hawkin’s lively guide to the village concerns his irreverent reporting of the Pope’s death (“Pope snuffs it!!!”), and inclusion of several Pope jokes on his site.

Mr Humm said

What Mr Hawkin has said about the Pope is disgusting and outrageous. Mr Hawkin should be charged.

There are currently proceedings to serve Mitch with an Asbo for this crime.

Mr Humm owns the .com version of the lynehamvillage domain. Unlike Messrs Green, Beyer, and Reid, he is not motivated by a genuine and sincere desire to impose his primitive worldview upon the nation, but rather by his need to be the only webmaster in the village. The fact that he is attempting to deploy the forces of religious outrage to achieve this is what caused a blip on the Mediawatchwatch radar.

Mitch Hawkin’s Lyneham site is incorrectly described in the Guardian as a ‘spoof’. It is actually quite informative, and much funnier than Mr Humm’s terribly twee effort. But it still ranks lower in Google results for a “Lyneham” search.

We think Mitch deserves a bit of google juice. So here you go.

Burning issues

Here is the response of Mediawatch-UK director John Beyer to the general election announcement:

We urge you to question the candidates in your constituency who seek your vote on the matter of violence, bad language and pornography on television.

An insight to the Mediawatch-UK obsession can be found in an image on their site which urges you to join them. It is a picture of a television set with the words
Have you got a TV like me?
Do you have to keep switching me off?
Do something positive…
on its screen.

The implications of this are disturbing. Mediawatch-UK supporters not only regard their TV as a living, speaking person, but they never want to have to switch it off. Can it be that these are people who simply watch too much telly? Is turning it off such an unthinkable option?

The impression of helplessness is underlined by other smut-campaigning sources. Remember Colin Hart of the Christian Institute complaining about the JS:TO broadcast?

There may be many shows running in West End theatres that I find offensive, but I am not paying for them to be pumped into my living room.

Why didn’t he just call the emergency plumber?

And then there is Media March’s bizarre but revealing campaign slogan:


There is that helpless passivity again. The option of switching off or turning over is never mentioned.

They should get out more.

Stephen Green flashbacks Pt 3 – Gerbilgate

Back in the days when the now defunct Conservative Family Campaign was chaired by Stephen Green, its annual AGMs were prone to be disrupted by gay rights action group Outrage!. This was largely due to the extreme anti-homosexual agenda of the CFC, as exemplified by Stephen Green’s book The Sexual Dead End, sadly now out of print, in which he claimed that 20% of homosexual men regularly have sex with live gerbils.


This story, courtesy of our diligent Mediawatchwatch researcher, concerns the 1993 AGM of the CFC, as reported by Queer Pride International LGBTF Global Newszine.

Outrage! activists had disrupted the 1992 meeting, so Green kicked off this one by congratulating himself on how clever he had been this time for having “outwitted the gays”.

Little did he know the gays had other plans…

“Bishop” Michael Reid reacts to Springer verdict

You might have got the impression that the folks at the Christian Congress for Traditional Values were ignoring the Programme Complaints Committee’s verdict on JS:TO, but you would be wrong. CCTV leader “Bishop” Michael Reid has spoken about it – it’s just that he was widely ignored by the liberal secular media, who are obviously trying to suppress his highly influential organisation.

The Bish gave views on the subject to the CCTV webmaster, who dutifully put them up on the site. They appear in a news release entitled “Christian pressure group grows” – though why it is called that is anyone’s guess, as the first half is about the CRAC head’s Guardian interview , and the second is given over to the Bish. No further mention nor evidence is given for the claimed growth of the pressure group, which we must assume falls into the same category as the “impact” they brag about in their news release mentioned in the article below, ie completely imaginary.

The Bish’s main beef is with the make-up of the Programme Complaints Committee:

Its own internal watchdog, the Programme Complaints Committee which is made up of five members of the Board of Governors, is clearly in the grip of the pervading anti-Christian attitude which stamps the arrogant management elite.

Only 18% of the population are practising members of an organised religion, so the fact that 20% of the Committee is made up of Angela Sarkis would suggest that it is fairly representative of the population as a whole. On the other hand, if, as Mediawatchwatch suspects (and correction is welcome), Sarkis is a literal-Bible-believing fundamentalist who thinks the story of Noah’s Ark is historical fact, and the theory of evolution is a Satanic deception, then that sector of the population is disproportionately represented on the Committee, and she should consider resigning.

So just four Governors of the BBC tell us their views are superior to the sincerely-held views of 63,000 licence-payers who felt the programme was a literal depiction of a gay, sexually-perverted and weak Jesus and as a consequence there was no justification for its broadcast

However “sincerely-held” those views were, the fact remains that it was not a literal depiction of Jesus: it was a dream. So even if Reid is correct in divining that 63,000 people “felt” it to be so (though how he knows that is a mystery, especially since at least 55,000 of them hadn’t seen the show before they complained), they were wrong. Therefore the Governors views, being based on fact rather than speculation, are indeed superior.

The CCTV is not going to take this lying down.


CCTV very influential, says CCTV

In the wake of the BBC’s rejection of the JS:TO complaints, The Christian Congress for Traditional Values has published a hilariously upbeat news release on its website.

It concerns Mark Thompson’s robust defence of the BBC in a speech he gave three weeks ago – a speech which enraged John Beyer and Stephen Green because of Thompson’s unapologetic stance on the JS:TO broadcast and determination “not to be swayed by short-run moral panics”. CCTV ignore the thrust of the message to focus on the mention Thompson made of the fact that “we live in a country where more that 70% of the population describe themselves as Christian.” This apparently justifies the story title: “CCTV forces BBC bosses to acknowledge Christian majority”.

THE IMPACT of The CCTV campaign to raise awareness that the vast majority of British citizens regard themselves as Christian is succeeding.

They seem to think that Thompson would not have been aware of the high proportion of “Christian” box-tickers in the National Census had it not been for the “sheer persistency” of CCTV in “getting across the perceptive [sic] that Christians are in the majority and cannot be ignored”.

They truly are a force to be reckoned with, aren’t they?

Stephen Green admits he was wrong

In an exclusive interview with Mediawatchwatch this morning charity-blackmailing director of Christian Voice, Stephen Green, revealed that he intended to drop his private prosecution against the BBC and admitted that his grounds for complaint were “not founded in reality”.

I’ve had a lot of mail from people opposing my stance. I thought I must be doing something right because I was “rattling Satan’s cage”. But I now realise that was self-deluding nonsense. True, a lot of the letters I received were a bit rude – but many were from intelligent, caring people who were just trying to help me to see sense. I’m happy to say that they have finally succeeded.

Speaking from his smallholding in Carmarthen, Green outlined the thought processes that led to his change of heart.

It finally dawned on me that there was absolutely no rational justification for believing those stories in the Bible. Adam and Eve, Noah’s Ark, the Virgin Birth, all those miracles – they are all so obviously made-up. I used to tell myself that it must be true because it was all “God’s Word”, but my reasoning was totally circular. When I thought about it properly, it made my head spin!

Pressed as to how he came to believe such things in the first place, Stephen replied,

I suppose I was looking for certainty in an uncertain world. When you accept Jesus as your saviour, and the Bible as the infallible Word of God, you get that – the certainty. All your questions are answered, and you know they are the right answers. Reason takes second place to faith. It’s a bit pathetic I admit – but I’ve grown up a lot in the past few days.

Green went on to express his remorse about blackmailing Maggie’s Centres cancer charity (“What was I thinking?”), and pledged to run the London Marathon next year in an effort to raise some cash to make amends.

When we asked him about his attitude to homosexuality, Stephen actually blushed.

Ah.. yes, well. That’s all a bit embarrassing. I really did believe that the Creator of the Universe was as obsessed as I was with what consenting adults do with their genitalia in the privacy of their own homes. I suppose you could say I was “projecting”.

But he stopped short of completely coming out of the closet:

I’m not gay… Well, maybe I am a bit gay.