Archive for October, 2006

Dope

Before his South Park quote brought him international exposure, John Beyer had displayed his incisive intellect by revealing his latest complaint to Ofcom. George Michael, in an interview on the South Bank Show to be aired next Tuesday at 10pm, explained to Melvin Bragg how smoking cannabis has helped him.

Beyer is outraged:

Anything that normalises that sort of drug abuse is wrong.

I have sent in a complaint to Ofcom because George Michael was shown on Sky News today. By showing it, drug abuse was being glamorised.

Ofcom will reject this preposterous complaint, which suggests that positive opinions about drug use must not be expressed by interviewees at any time of the day. Beyer will then take the opportunity to criticise Ofcom as being a toothless, industry-serving organisation which is “out of touch” with public opinion. Just watch.




South Park gives Beyer a boost

irwin
John Beyer, director of anti-smut group Mediawatch-UK, has achieved international coverage for his comments on a recent episode of South Park. Last week’s Comedy Central show featured the late Steve Irwin turning up at Satan’s fancy-dress party with a stingray through his chest.

Some lazy British hack (possibly from Metro) looking for an outraged quote to pad out their story, gave the ever-obliging Beyer a call. And Beyer always delivers the goods:

I think this is in bad taste and the makers of South Park should review their decision to show it.

Steve Irwin’s family are still grieving and I am sure they will be grieving for a long time.

To lampoon somebody’s death like that is unacceptable and so soon after the event is grossly insensitive.

It is not what the family would want to see at what must be a very difficult time.

So far, so mundane. But days later MWW’s mailbox was full of Google alerts, showing the Sage of Ashford’s words have been quoted on blogs all over the world, and even got a mention on CNN.

It’s about time he got the recognition he deserved.

To put the “bad taste” in context, here’s a summary of what happens in that South Park episode. Satan holds a fancy-dress halloween party, and Steve Irwin turns up with a stingray though his chest. Some guests complain to Satan that the costume is in bad taste, so Satan confronts Irwin:

“Dude, you’re going to have to leave. I mean, it’s just too soon, that’s not cool.”

“But Satan, it’s me, Steve Irwin! I am the Crocodile Hunter.”

“Oh. Well, in that case, you have to leave. No costume.”

A pretty decent gag.




Motoons lawsuit thrown out of court

Good news from Denmark, where an attempt to sue the Jyllands-Posten editor and culture editor for publishing cartoons “offensive to Muhammed” was rejected by the City Court in Aarhus.

A group of 27 Muslim organisations brought the action against Carsten Juste and Flemming Rose back in March. The judge ruled that there was no evidence that the cartoons were “intended to be insulting”. The Muslim organisations are set to appeal.

The Times has a quote from Carsten Juste, stating the obvious:

Anything but a pure acquittal would have been a disaster for press freedom and the media’s possibility to fulfil its duties in a democratic society

And the BBC quotes an outraged spokesman for Jamaat-al-Islami, who inadvertently hits the nail on the head:

It is not up to the court to decide if Muslims will have hard feelings or not.

Well, yes. Quite. So why take the newspaper to court in the first place?




Stephen Green in Viz

Stephen Green, the zany homophobic fundamentalist leader of Christian Voice (just google “ignorant bigots”), has made another appearance in the satirical comic Viz.

Jumping on the wallchart bandwagon started by the Guardian a few months back, Viz has produced a double-page illustrated guide to “Arseholes and Twats of the British Isles”. Our Stephen is right in the middle, sandwiched between Bernard Manning and Russell Brand, with John McCririck at his feet.

Unfortunately, Viz does not specify whether Green is an arsehole or a twat, although evidence points towards him being both. His cancer charity blackmailing episode, his rejoicing at the “purity” brought to New Orleans by hurricane Katrina, and his impertinent attempts to prevent the paying public from seeing a wonderfully entertaining musical all qualify him as an arsehole. The fact that he believes wholeheartedly in arrant nonsense, and that he appears to be completely lacking in self-awareness both point to him being a twat.

However, if to qualify for inclusion in Viz’s chart it is necessary to be both an arsehole and a twat, then one could legitimately question a number of their decisions. Nicky Campbell, for example, may be an arsehole, but he’s not really much of a twat; and Germaine Greer is probably a twat, but it would be unfair to call her an arsehole.

Viz needs to clarify its criteria if it wants to be taken seriously as a wallchart publisher.




More on GPA appeals

The Guardian reports in more detail on the likely focus of the Gay Police Association’s appeal against that baffling ASA ruling.

Basically, they will be contesting all three complaints upheld decisions:

1. That the ad was likely to cause offence to Christian readers. The people who saw the original ad were readers of The Independent, who are, one presumes, mostly infidels. But the complaints were the result of an orchestrated campaign by fundamentalist Christian groups who would otherwise never have seen the ad.

2. That the image implied that all homophobic incidents were violent. This fails to take into account the entire text of the ad, which makes it clear that the homophobic incidents were “across the board”.

3. That the GPA had not provided substantiating evidence. At the time the GPA was involved in a criminal enquiry. When this enquiry was over, they tried to provide the ASA with the relevant information, but it was not taken into account or the investigation.

GPA spokesman Vic Codling also denied reports in some Christian sources that the GPA have officially apologised for the ad:

The GPA [doesn't] see any reason to apologise for an advertisement that was merely stating the facts

The GPA continue to receive threatening homophobic emails from people purporting to be Christians.

(Thanks to Tom P)




Religion and respect

Let us gather round AC Grayling and anoint his feet with fragrant ointments.

It is time to refuse to tip-toe around people who claim respect, consideration, special treatment, or any other kind of immunity, on the grounds that they have a religious faith, as if having faith were a privilege-endowing virtue, as if it were noble to believe in unsupported claims and ancient superstitions. It is neither. Faith is a commitment to belief contrary to evidence and reason, as between them Kierkegaard and the tale of Doubting Thomas are at pains to show; their example should lay to rest the endeavours of some (from the Pope to the Southern Baptists) who try to argue that faith is other than at least non-rational, given that for Kierkegaard its virtue precisely lies in its irrationality.

On the contrary: to believe something in the face of evidence and against reason – to believe something by faith – is ignoble, irresponsible and ignorant, and merits the opposite of respect. It is time to say so.

And three reasons why MWW exists:

Those who claim to be “hurt” or “offended” by the criticisms or ridicule of people who do not share their views, yet who seek to silence others by law or by threats of violence, are trebly in the wrong: they undermine the central and fundamental value of free speech, without which no other civil liberties are possible; they claim, on no justifiable ground, a right to special status and special treatment on the sole ground that they have chosen to believe a set of propositions; and they demand that people who do not accept their beliefs and practices should treat these latter in ways that implicitly accept their holder’s evaluation of them.

Read it all, learn it by heart, and declaim it from the pulpits and the minarets.




“Daily Fatwa” spoof pulled for fear

The Independent reports that NUJ members of The Daily Star (a UK soft-porn and gossip tabloid) forced editors to drop a Sharia-law spoof version of the paper called “The Daily Fatwa”.

The joke paper promised such delights as a “Page 3 Burkha Babes Special” and competitions to “Burn a Flag and Win a Corsa” and “Win hooks just like Hamza’s”. The leader column was to be headlined “Allah is Great”, but left blanks except for a “Censored” stamp.

Alas, NUJ staff held an emergency meeting and called for the spoof to be cancelled, saying the article was “deliberately offensive” to Muslims. However, a source on the newspaper explained that the real reason behind the decision was fear:

We were worried that the building might be attacked and we thought there would be people outside burning copies of the Daily Star. Many of the newsagents that sell the paper are of Pakistani origin and would have been offended. So we were concerned both for the safety of the staff and the future of the paper.

Ahmed Versi, editor of Muslim News agrees:

This would have been like the cartoons issue. It would have created a huge, huge backlash and outcry. I’m quite sure there would have been huge demonstrations outside the paper by the weekend and internationally outside the British embassies because the paper would be seen as a British institution.

No doubt with flag burnings and calls for censorship…




Man held over philosopher death threats

A 25-year-old call centre worker has been arrested in Orleans, accused of sending “aggravated threats” via email to Robert Redeker.

Redeker, a philosopher and school teacher, had written an article in Le Figaro in which he described Islam as “a religion which … exalts violence and hate”. A few bright sparks of the Islamist persuasion thought it would be a good idea to prove his point for him, so Redeker is now in hiding.

Anti-terrorism investigators found no evidence that the accused threatener had any links to terrorist organisations. He acted alone out of “hatred” for the author.




Defiant GPA to appeal ASA ruling

It appears we were a bit hasty in condemning the Gay Police association for failing to supply evidence to the ASA for their 74% increase in homophobic attacks claim.

Kevin Boyle of the GPA told Pink News:

The GPA never refused to supply any material, we made it clear to the ASA that as there was a criminal investigation underway so we could not supply the material.

So what did the ASA think they were doing passing judgement before they had received all the evidence? The one judgement that seemed unequivocally correct turns out to have been totally unjustified in the circumstances.

The GPA are also openly defying the ASA instruction “to ensure future campaigns were not presented in a way that could cause undue offence and also [...] that they should ensure the use of imagery did not send misleading messages to consumers”.

Mr Boyle’s response to that:

We are certainly not going to abide by the ruling that we should make sure our adverts do not offend people, one persons idea of offence is another’s idea of freedom of expression.

Give that officer a medal!




ASA rules on bloody Bible ad

gpa ad
The ASA has finally published its adjudication on the Gay Police Association’s, almost three months since the complaints started flooding in. “It’s our most complained about advert of the year so far,” said an ASA spokesman. Thanks to a concerted campaign by Christian groups, that is.

553 complaints came from individuals and groups such as Christian Watch (concerned with “the rapid inroads being made by satanic forces to undermine our biblically based constitution”), The Trinitarian Bible Society (“To uphold the Bible as the inspired, inerrant Word of God”), The Fellowship of Independent Evangelical Churches (more inerrantists), Christian Doctrine from Bible Theology Ministries (“Many employers are now nothing but gay puppets!”), and The Evangelical Alliance.

All of the above groups, who are complaining about how the GPA ad discriminates against Christians, are actively campaigning for exemptions to be included in the Sexual Orientation Regulations which will allow them to continue to discriminate against homosexuals.

There were five points of complaint, three of which were upheld:

1. The ad implied that Christians (rather than any other religious group) were responsible for the reported incidents, and therefore caused offence to Christian readers.
Upheld
An utterly baffling judgement. Christians should be offended by the fact that some Christians are guilty of homophobic incidents. Does the ASA think they should be protected from the facts?

2. The ad implied that the Bible condoned homophobic incidents.
Not upheld
An equally baffling judgement. Here’s a quick reminder of what the Bible has to say about homosexuality:

If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death. Their blood shall be upon them. [Lev 20.13]

The Bible does condone homophobic incidents. The complaint that the ad “implies” this does not make any sense, and should have been dismissed as invalid from the outset.

3. The ad incited violence towards “people of faith”, especially Christians.
Not upheld
The Evangelical Alliance was the group responsible for this one, and they were rightly rejected. They are gratifyingly unhappy about it.

4. The image implied that all the incidents reported were of a violent nature, involving physical injury.
Upheld
This apparently breaches clause 7.1 (Truthfulness) of the CAP code. Huh? A pool of blood suggests that all the incidents were violent? No, it doesn’t. It merely suggests that violent incidents have occurred – and surely it is the violent ones which deserve the most attention? An illogical adjudication on an oddly legalistic complaint.

5. The claim that “In the last 12 months, the Gay Police Association has recorded a 74% increase in homophobic incidents, where the sole or primary motivating factor was the religious belief of the perpetrator” was not substantiated.
Upheld
The only unequivocally correct judgement of the five. The GPA claimed that they “held documentary evidence”, but failed to show it to the ASA. That, frankly, is pretty stupid. If you are going to quote statistics you have to back them up.
UPDATE: (2 hours later) As explained in the article above, the GPA were unable to provide the data because the case was still under investigation. Sorry for calling you stupid, GPA.

All in all, are rather feeble display of fence-sitting by the ASA. They appear to be trying to keep everyone happy, rather than deliver a clearly-thought-out, impartial adjudication. They usually do better.