Tag Archives: freedom-of-expression

Taking security seriously

Authorities in Doncaster airport – aka Robin Hood Airport – have been acting in a way that might have given even the Sheriff of Nottingham pause. Or, at least, shown him how wonderfully easy controlling the peasants would have been if he’d just had the sense to wage The War on Outlawry.

An mildly jokey throw-away tweet line by a frustrated traveller has earned him a criminal record and cost him his job and just under a thousand pounds.

The offending tweet said:

Crap! Robin Hood Airport is closed. You’ve got a week and a bit to get your shit together otherwise I’m blowing the airport sky high!

Note that this was just a tweet, presumably meant to be read by people with enough knowledge of the English language to recognise the normal conversational use of figure of speech. It wasn’t a “threat” delivered to the airport. Obviously the tweeter never imagined that anyone connected with Robin Hood Airport would read it. Nor, guessed that EVEN THOUGH everyone involved on the airport side says they knew full well it wasn’t really a threat, that he would still end up destroyed by it.

Or have terrorists now got into the habit of casually tweeting their intentions?

In that case, the ruination of one ordinary man’s life is a small price to pay for winning the War on Terror. Or the War on Twitter.

Or the War on Photography, even. As, it seems the “potential terrorists” are still up to their old dastardly tricks of taking photographs of well known landmarks. So, it’s a great comfort to us all that the police are still on the ball and stopping professional photographers from getting shots of London buildings.

How thoughtful of the City of London police to keep us safe. Carrying on with the good work of Robin Hood airport. (When you find this post through a google search, Mr Hood, you’ll see how impressed we are with your vigilance. And clearly, you won’t detect any irony, as you don’t recognise figures of speech.)

If imaginary figures can turn in their graves, there’s a man wearing a green hoodie rotating at mach 1 somewhere in the residual bit of Sherwood Forest.

Xtreme bingo

Get your playing card for the great new game of “Domestic Extremist Bingo” from the Guardian Online.

Not sure how to claim your prize, sorry, but there seems to be a £9 million jackpot up for grabs.

So get marking those cards.

No prizes for spotting comedian Mark Thomas in there, either. But you can have him as your starter, so you don’t have to actually see him at a protest to cross him off your scorecard.

Breaking news:
Sorry kids, it looks as if the Information Commissioner has finally tried to spoil your fun. By actually spotting the outrageous nature of the information in this Guardian story .

Clothes as magical objects

Oh, ffs. How many spurs to blog ranting can a woman take before noon on a Sunday morning?

The Big Question on BBC is debating the question “Should Britain ban the burqa?” (The basis of the topic is French president Sarkozy’s burqa ban) The answer is so obviously “NO” that you wonder how small a question has to be to qualify as “big.”

There follows a fair bit of debate about the burqa and its religious and social significance. There’s a burqa-clad woman saying it’s a religious issue for her. Another one defending wearing a veil as a personal choice. A male muslim scholar saying that burqa-wearing is not an integral part of Islam, anyway: it’s purely a cultural, rather than religious, garment. Nobody really deals with the implications of a ban.

Fortunately, there are no overt BNP speakers, this week, but the show does bring on Peter Hitchens… (Mail on Sunday columnist. Paleoconservative, scourge of political correctness. Christopher Hitchens’ brother – could be seen as almost his Evil Twin.)

The discussion never focuses much on what the concept of a burqa ban really means.

You have to dismiss instantly the argument that banning burqas will somehow “liberate” muslim women. In Europe, there must be already be many avenues of recourse for women who feel that they are pressured into wearing islamic dress, without having to compel those women who want to wear it – for whatever reasons – to abandon it. (Just like the careworkers who feel their very being is threatened if they can’t wear crosses at work.)

It doesn’t matter if their choices are incomprehensible to the rest of us.
Dress or ornaments are forms of communication. If the things being communicated seem absurd or offensive, surely we can challenge them or – Toutatis forbid, on current showing – just live and let live.

If the state gets engaged in ruling about what communication is acceptable, it comes bang up against the concept of freedom of expression.

And Sarkozy as feminist spokesman, indeed. A man whose only interest to the non-French world is his trophy wife.

(A wife who seems to have blithely overlooked Sarkozy’s lack of physical or mental charms, on the basis that he was the French president, in a way that seems unlikely to have happened if he was a shop assistant. Which makes even his wife seem like an odd feminist, unless you can expand the meaning of “feminist” to imply – “does whatever it takes to get wealth and power for herself”.)

Even a Spectator columnist, Rod Liddle, pointed out that
“Saqrkozy’s burqa ban panders to racism not feminism.”

Spot on. A burqa ban is a symptom of racism, not secularism, nor feminism.

Indeed the whole idea could be designed to polarise French society and provide new recruits for muslim extremism – in the same way that the Xian fundies are using every worker who’s told to remove a cross or promise ring to recruit people to their mad groupings.

As if the world isn’t dangerous enough, without creating more and more intolerance. Ah, there’s finally a convincing explanation on NewsBiscuit

When all else fails, blame the Internet

On this morning’s bus journey, I read in what appears to be yesterday’s Metro, from the date on the Metro website version of this article, (although I can’t believe the Metros has a Sunday version.)

Web vengeance on Baby P couple
The identities of the mother and stepfather of Baby P have been posted on the internet – along with messages urging convicts to attack them.

The baby P story is a truly mind-numbing story, involving the torture and murder of a baby, at the hands of his mother, stepfather and the lodger. The child was listed by social services as being at risk, The police had already been involved and had sought a prosecution. No one seemed able to save the lad’s life. It’s one of those stories that push the boundaries of your capacity for rage.

The visual presentation of this story has been disturbing, even for those who can’t bring themselves to read the court statements. The police released a 3-d rendering of a baby’s head with a catalogue of injuries. The next day, the papers followed this up the image with pre-injury pictures of an angelic-looking little blonde boy.

Every one involved – which now means most of the UK population – has been looking to find someone or something to blame. The almost inconceivable stupidity of the social services staff seems a fair target. The government has set up an enquiry. A BBC Panorama programme tonight will investigate claims by police and a senior social worker that they recommended that the child be taken into care. (Hindsight is 20/20, as teh saying goes.)

But, the actual culprits have already been found guilty. The visceral response is to want to execute them. Of course, faced with these backward and depressed people, no doubt themselves abused as children, the quality of mercy would get the better of this instinct, for most people. After all, that’s why most of us are not murdering simpletons.

Understandably, many people expressed their natural fury on the Internet. Intemperately, yes. Still, it seems quite bizarre to see that now this means that the Internet has got to take the blame. As usual.

There was already a half-hearted attempt to blame the Internet in the trial reports when it was reported of the mother that

When she was awake, she spent much of her time on the internet, gossiping in chatrooms and playing online poker.

I am no fan of either moronic chatrooms or online gambling. But, I find it hard to draw any connections between either of these activities and child murder.

Similarly, I can’t see that venting rage on the Intenet is much of a crime either. The argument seems to be that internet rage is bad because it will find its expression in attacks on the guilty three.

Late last week Facebook shut down pages carrying threats and abusive comments about the mother, including one entitled: ‘Death is too good for [the mother's name], torture the bitch that killed Baby P.’
Another was added yesterday and had been viewed by at least 6,000 people last night.
The mother’s profile page on Bebo was removed after abusive messages were added.
The postings demonstrate the ease with which the law can be breached online.

How odd that writing (richly deserved) insulting comments on a website can be a crime. Indeed, unless, the web access in x prison is much more generous than in my (non-custodial, though it sometimes feels otherwise) workplace, I don’t even see how the mother will get to read the comments.

I am most baffled by the idea that identifying these people and saying vicious things about them is somehow equivalent to instructing fellow prisoners to injure them. And that such orders – from people unknown – will be followed to the letter.

Are there people in jail who assume that behavioural instructions on the internet have the force of law? Well, more than the force of law, apparently, because they may not be too responsive to the force of law, given that they are in jail.

Would a random cheque-fraudster who finds him or herself sharing a cell with one of these disgraces to humanity think “Oh, we’ll get on really well” but then read the undisobeyable internet instructions and be obliged to torture and kill the said disgrace to humanity?

For entertainment purposes only

Matthew Parris is much saner than a former Tory MP has any right to be. He proved this again with a good piece in the Times. He was arguing against thought crimes.

I am driven to my wits’ end by my fellow humans’ feeble grasp of principled reasoning. .

I feel your pain, brother!

He discussed the new proposal that “anyone found with drawings (or computer-generated images) of child sexual abuse will face up to three years in prison.” Parris pointed out that making images of abusing real children is genuinely different from making imaginary representations, however repellent such imaginary images are.

Maria Eagle, the Justice Minister, said that the move was not intended to curb creativity or freedom of expression but to tackle images that had “no place in society”. Crikey – the intellectual sloppiness!….. The logical extension of Ms Eagle’s principle is almost boundless.

That is, there are an endless number of things that “have no place in society.” But, as soon as we start restricting expression to things we like, we start down a dangerous road. Surely, almost every TV show or Hollywood movie shows things that we don’t want to be true. And not just the endless shootings and stabbings in crime shows and action movies. What about the bickering morons portrayed in soaps? These definitely should have “no place in society”.

In fact, if it was left to me, there is no end to the things I don’t think have a place in society. Luckily, it’s not left to me. Thank your personal deity for that, all you women carrying miniature dogs in your handbag and masquerading as Paris Hilton, for example.

In fact, on the topic of deities – personal or otherwise – Parris extended the point about attempts to outlaw people’s chosen means of expression, however repugnant, to the issue of the new law

requiring fortune-tellers, clairvoyants, astrologers and mediums to stipulate explicitly that their services are for “entertainment only”

He pointed out that this principle should surely apply equally to faith-healing and, indeed, to all churches.

Is Parliament aware of any harder evidence for the efficacy of faith-healing than for the reliability of clairvoyance? I’d like to hear it. Otherwise, let the collecting boxes in church display a sign “for entertainment purposes only” and let Catholics buy candles to light “for entertainment purposes only”; and let trips to Lourdes be sold “for entertainment purposes only”. And let the raiment of the priest administering the Sacrament be embroidered likewise.
Imagine the churchyard billboard: the Power of Prayer (for entertainment purposes only).

Well, we can but dream… All the same, if laws to save people from their own gullibility are going to be passed, why should more mainstream official churches be exempt?