• Crime,  Freedom of Expression

    Cut & Paste Crime

    The BBC reports that a (white, since it pertains to the case) teenager who posted some lyrics on her Instagram page by the (black, since it pertains to the case) rap musician Snap Dogg has been found guilty of a racially-aggravated hate crime because the inclusion of a racial epithet common in rap lyrics amounted to a criminal offence. Presumably the teenager was expected to censor the Snap Dogg lyrics before posting them instead of cutting-and-pasting them from any popular song lyrics website. However, if it’s unsuitable to be written in a public forum, then it’s definitely unsuitable for public broadcast. So why is the playing of Snap Dogg songs –…

  • Freedom of Expression

    Lindsay Shepherd and the Jordan Peterson controversy

    Lindsay Shepherd is a teaching assistant at Wilfred Laurier University in Canada.  She hit the headlines after showing a clip (taken from this programme) in one of her classes featuring controversial Canadian Professor Jordan Peterson discussing gender pronoun choices. Shepherd was then hauled in for an interview with three senior colleagues which she recorded.   Based on what I’ve seen and read of Jordan Peterson his main beef seems to be with certain gender neutral pronouns such as ‘zhe’. I infer that he would not, for example, insist on calling a transgender woman ‘he’, and (although accused of abuse by a fellow panellist) does not use abusive language. There are all…

  • Freedom of Expression

    Denmark revives its blasphemy laws

    In a worrying move, a Danish man has been charged with blasphemy after burning a copy of the Qur’an and posting a video on Facebook. The last conviction for blasphemy was in 1946, the last charge in 1971.  Here it is suggested that the decision to bring the charge might have been motivated by a wish to fend off terrorist attacks.  Another (unintended) consequence will probably be to strengthen voices further to the right.  The accused’s lawyer makes a telling point: Mr. Paludan also noted that in 1997, a Danish artist burned a copy of the Bible on a news show by a state broadcaster but was not charged. “Considering…

  • Freedom of Expression

    Ben White’s talk at UCLAN cancelled

    It was recently revealed that the University of Central Lancashire (UCLAN) had cancelled a panel discussion featuring Ben White which had been scheduled to take place as part of ‘Israel Apartheid Week’.  Here’s is the explanation: But a spokesperson for the university said “Debunking Misconceptions on Palestine” contravened the definition of antisemitism adopted by the government and was “unlawful”. In a statement on behalf of the university in Preston, Lancashire, the spokesperson said: “The UK government has formally adopted the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s new definition of what constitutes antisemitism. “We believe the proposed talk contravenes the new definition and furthermore breaches university protocols for such events, where we require assurances…

  • Freedom of Expression,  Stateside

    Trump, Yiannopoulos and Berkeley

    President Trump – whose latest exploits include using a prayer breakfast to discuss Celebrity Apprentice ratings, cutting white supremacism from a counter-extremism programme and lashing out at that well known enemy of the free world, Malcom Turnbull – has now moved his sights to U. C. Berkeley. Even by Trumpian standards it’s hard to see how the University can be blamed for its conduct over the cancelled speech by alt-right leaning provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos. Yiannopoulos was invited to speak by Berkeley College Republicans.  The University’s response seemed perfectly reasonable, particularly in a US context: “While we realize that the presence of certain speakers is likely to upset some members of…

  • Freedom of Expression

    Georges Bensoussan faces prosecution for anti-Muslim hate speech

    The French historian has been targeted by the Collective Against Islamophobia in France for incitement to racial hatred. Here you can read a full account of the statements about antisemitism in Muslim communities which prompted this action.  It would be useful to have some more context for the first quote flagged as hateful: “Today, we are witnessing a different people in the midst of the French nation, who are effecting a return on a certain number of democratic values to which we adhere” The other offending passage was a criticism of ‘ancestral antisemitism’. “This visceral anti-Semitism proven by the Fondapol survey by Dominique Reynié last year cannot remain under a…

  • Britain Today,  Freedom of Expression,  Hate Preachers

    Imams Jekyll and Hyde

    Oh happy days! I am elated. A libel claim brought against the BBC by Chief Imam, Shakeel Begg, has been dismissed today. Mr Begg, the Chief Imam at Lewisham Islamic Centre, sought damages against the BBC for libel in respect of a broadcast of Sunday Politics presented by Andrew Neil on BBC One, 3 November 2013. He denied being an extremist speaker who had recently promoted and encouraged religious violence by telling Muslims that it would constitute a man’s greatest deeds. Today in a written judgment The Honourable Mr Justice Haddon-Cave dismissed the claim stating that Shakeel Begg was “something of a Jekyll and Hyde character” whose “speeches and postings,…

  • Books,  Freedom of Expression

    The Unread Guards

    So there’s Lionel Shriver mischievously addressing the Brisbane Writers Festival about cultural appropriation through the sillier examples of sombreros and sushi and, more seriously, making the old cry for artistic freedom and the play of the imagination. Although what she said was not startling it did inspire performance art. One was from Yassmin Abdel-Magied who staged a walk out and whose article on why she did so the Guardian cruelly published. She was duly minced in the comments. What did Shriver say in her keynote that could drive a woman who has heard every slur under the sun to discard social convention and make such an obviously political exit? Her…

  • Britain Today,  Democracy,  Freedom of Expression,  Turkey

    How Erdogan targets British Turks via the Turkish Consulate in London

    This is a cross-post from As Turkey Sleeps. Erdogan’s anti-democratic actions have caused much negative publicity in recent years – so much so that any positive work he did in the early part of his rule has now been totally wiped out by his autocratic behaviour.  Now when his name is mentioned only one word comes to mind- that is ‘Dictator’. It is worrying to then learn that the Turkish Consulate in London has been busy targeting British Turks with Erdogan’s propaganda.  It has come to our attention that mailshots are sent to Turks in the UK encouraging them to vote for the AK Party.  This has created a climate of fear…