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A Berlin-based trainer manufacturer named Atheist Shoes has discovered that packages sent to the US with the word ATHEIST on the box have a way of going missing inside the postal service; packages sealed with printed tape reading ATHEIST were ten times as likely to disappear as unlabelled packages, and when they didn't disappear, took on average three days longer to reach their destinations.
Which could mean that a significant proportion of postal workers regard atheism as a hostile ideology to be stopped, even if they are technically committing a federal crime in doing so (even if they were caught and jailed, I imagine that FOX News and/or talk radio would talk them up as martyrs defending America from Satan); or perhaps, mindful of the prevalence of militant atheist terrorism around the world, they prudently detain the packages for extra screening. Of course, there's also the possibility that the tape confuses automated scanning machinery of some sort; perhaps one should repeat this experiment with a third cohort labelled JESUS SAVES; and perhaps a few other religious, political and neutral messages as well?
(I also wonder what the geographic distribution of the effect was. Does mail from Germany to the US usually pass through any fixed points? And would packages to, say, the deep South be significantly more likely to disappear than those to the Pacific Northwest?)
A similar experiment was conducted in the 1960s by the psychologist Stanley Milgram (best known for his infamous obedience experiment with the fake electric shock machine): volunteers would drop sealed, stamped envelopes with the name of an ostensible organisation and the address of a PO box on them, and by counting how many were helped to a mail box, would determine how much sympathy there was for the views encoded in the organisation name; i.e., the Society for the Protection of Cute Kittens would get more help than Friends of the Nazi Party. Only in that case, voicing one's disapproval was a passive act, and not a federal crime.
An investigation by the BBC's Panorama programme has revealed that children in Britain's Islamic schools are being taught from the Saudi national curriculum, which includes lessons such as the "reprehensible" qualities of Jews and the proper ways in chopping off the hands and feet of thieves.
It claims to have found 5,000 Muslim schoolchildren being taught that some Jews are transformed into pigs and apes and that the penalty for gay sex is execution. Some textbooks are said to teach the correct way to chop off the hands and feet of thieves. A spokesman for the programme said the pupils, aged six to 18, attend a network of more than 40 weekend schools across the country which teach the Saudi national curriculum to Muslim children.Another illustration of why "faith schools" are a bad idea.
The Daily Mail specialises in pandering to the unspoken prejudices of Middle Britain; more so than other populist-Right tabloids, it maintains a veneer of middle-class respectability, tutting and curtain-twitching at the decline in public morality and property values, and, whilst officially deploring the BNP and its ilk, putting in the right plausibly-deniable dog whistles that appeal to the proto-fascist tendency. (The fascist tilt isn't just a figure of speech, the Mail notably praised Hitler and his strong leadership of Germany in the 1930s.)
Now, the Mail has outdone itself, publishing an article blaming the death of Stephen Gately, an openly gay boy band member (who, coroners determined, suffered from an undiagnosed heart condition) on his "unnatural lifestyle". The article's author, Jan Moir, almost managed to get away with not being overtly homophobic, by suggesting that the "dark appetites" and "private vice" were some kind of hypothetical celebrity drug culture, though blows any plausible deniability out of the water by saying that Gately's death "strikes another blow to the happy-ever-after myth of civil partnerships.". (What's that you say, Jan? Perhaps had he been socially coerced into a loveless sham marriage to a woman he could never love he'd still be alive?) Anyway, advertisers including Marks & Spencer have pulled their advertising from the Daily Mail.
And here is Charlie Brooker's masterful response to the article.
Several Italian cities with right-wing governments are banning foreign restaurants. The initiatives are supported by the xenophobic right-wing Northern League, though undoubtedly got considerable moral support from Silvio Berlusconi's brand of culture-war tabloid conservatism:
Luca Zaia, the Minister of Agriculture and a member of the Northern League from the Veneto region, applauded the authorities in Lucca and Milan for cracking down on nonItalian food. “We stand for tradition and the safeguarding of our culture,” he said.
Asked if he had ever eaten a kebab, Mr Zaia said: “No – and I defy anyone to prove the contrary. I prefer the dishes of my native Veneto. I even refuse to eat pineapple.”The scary thing is that such wilful ignorance, rather than being regarded with pity or scorn, is lauded by many as a virtue.
Of course, the ban on foreign cuisine is not as cut-and-dry as it might seem; it's not all foreigners that are targeted, only those sinister dark-skinned ones from the east.
There is confusion, however, over what is meant by ethnic. Mr Di Grazia said that French restaurants would be allowed. He was unsure, though, about Sicilian cuisine. It is influenced by Arab cooking.
A gay Iranian teenager who fled to Britain after his boyfriend was hanged for sodomy is facing deportation to Iran, and almost certain death. Britain's Home Office has already denied Mehdi Kazemi, 19, asylum, and now the Netherlands is extraditing him to Britain:
"There is no doubt that Mehdi will be arrested and probably executed if he is sent back there," said his 51-year-old uncle, a salesman from Hampshire. "The police have issued a warrant for his arrest. He will be in terrible danger if he goes back."
Mr Kazemi's father has also told him that if the state doesn't kill him, he will. "His father is very angry but his mother still loves him. She is extremely worried for him but she is in a very difficult position. In Iran, mothers don't stop loving their children because they are gay."
A Home Office spokeswoman confirmed Mr Kazemi had exhausted all his domestic avenues of appeal and could expect to be detained pending his deportation. But she added: "Any further representations will be considered on their merits taking into account all the circumstances."Meanwhile, in Lancashire, a court has heard that a gang of teenagers beat a 20-year-old woman to death because she was dressed as a Goth. The woman's boyfriend was severely bashed and left with brain damage. It is not clear what the assailants' dispute with the victims' subcultural orientation was, or indeed what their own views were, though it'd probably be a safe bet that they were of the hoody-wearing persuasion.
And the ultra-conservative former prime minister of Poland, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, has spoken out against allowing internet voting because the internet is for pornography:
"I am not an enthusiast of a young person sitting in front of a computer, watching video clips and pornography while sipping a bottle of beer and voting when he feels like it," he was quoted as saying on his party's revamped Web site.
He added that Internet users are "the easiest group to manipulate, to suggest who to vote for."He's right, if one defines being manipulated as being persuaded to put aside cherished prejudices and entertain new, potentially controversial, ideas.
MySpace's legendary contempt for its users has now extended to deleting the Atheists & Agnostics group with 35,000 members, apparently because its existence offended some religious hardliners.
“It is an outrage if Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation and the world’s largest social networking site tolerate discrimination against atheists and agnostics-- and if this situation goes unresolved I’ll have little choice but to believe they do,” said Greg Epstein, humanist chaplain of Harvard University. News Corporation, Murdoch’s global media corporation which also includes Fox News, purchased MySpace in 2005.The group has now been undeleted; here is more on the incident from the group's moderator, Bryan Pesta:
We were deleted two years ago due to complaints from a group called the "Christian Crusaders." They would search Myspace for profiles they found offensive, and then mass complain to customer service. Their strategy was to send so many emails to customer service that someone, somewhere at Myspace would delete the profile or group.
(via Charlie's Diary)
As overt expressions of racism become unacceptable, good ol' boys in the US South have adapted by referring to black people as "Canadians":
Last August, a blogger in Cincinnati going by the name CincyBlurg reported that a black friend from the southeastern U.S. had recently discovered that she was being called a Canadian. "She told me a story of when she was working in a shop in the South and she overheard some of her customers complaining that they were always waited on by a Canadian at that place. She didn't understand what they were talking about and assumed they must be talking about someone else," the blogger wrote.
A University of Kansas linguist said that a waitress friend reported that "fellow workers used to use a name for inner-city families that were known to not leave a tip: Canadians. ‘Hey, we have a table of Canadians.... They're all yours.' "
Stefan Dollinger, a postdoctoral fellow in linguistics at University of British Columbia and director of the university's Canadian English lab, speculated that the slur reflects a sense of Canadians as the other. "This ‘code' word, is the replacement of a no-longer tolerated label for one outsider group, with, from the U.S. view, another outsider group: Canadians. It could have been terms for Mexicans, Latinos etc. but this would have been too obvious," he said. "What's left? Right, the guys to the north."The comments to the Boing Boing post which mentioned this are enlightening as well:
I work with an American who recently emigrated to Canada from one of the "suh-then" states. He tells me our early stance against the "war" on Iraq left a bad taste toward Canada in the rural south. Raw hate and "we should invade those b*stards and kick them out on an ice flow" rage was quite common in his semi-rural area. Using "Canadian" in this fashion would be a logical progression. They're not being ironic at all.
My friend has parents that used to use the word frequently until she married an actual Canadian. When she told them that he was Canadian they went totally ape-shit. She informed them that they were not invited to the wedding. When they found out he wasn't black (oh the relief... you should've seen it), they apologized. They're still bigots, but possibly one degree less so now.
I live in Pennsylvania, where I've heard a similar practice; many of my father's friends use the term "Democrat" instead of "Canadian" for the exact same purpose. Most of these guys are old, white Republicans, and many of them are also Freemasons.
Actually, the term "Canadian" in reference to black people has been around and in prevalent use for years, like seven or eight of them. It can't have taken that long for the mainstream to have figured that out. The new term is "German" because it was feared that black folks were catching on to the "Canadian" thing a couple of years ago.It is not clear whether "Canadian" started off as restaurant slang for "cheapskate" (presumably due to Canada not having a tipping culture as in the US due to higher minimum wages?) or was a racist euphemism all along.
(via Boing Boing)
I have so far mostly refrained from commenting on the Australian election campaign. In short, it has looked like the Opposition would win by a landslide—much as it has in the previous two elections, in which they got caned. However, now it's looking like the real thing; the much vaunted "Narrowing" of the polls has failed to materialise (the opinion polls, both public and private, have hovered within a margin of error of the 55-45 mark for some months). Even the ABC is biting the hands of its despised master, seemingly confident that the punishment will not be forthcoming.
The Tories, it goes without saying, are panicking. All the rocks they've thrown at the Rudd juggernaut have failed to derail it. It seems that they have been unable to manufacture a "children overboard" or pull any rabbits out of a hat. So now they are resorting to desperate tactics, such as printing pamphlets from a fake, if ominous-sounding, "Islamic Australia Federation" urging people to vote Labor, because of "its support for Muslim causes", such as, say, the Bali bombings:
"We gratefully acknowledge Labor's support to forgive our Muslim brothers who have been unjustly sentenced to death for the Bali bombings," the pamphlet says.
"Labor is the only political party to support the entry to this country of our Grand Mufti Reverend Sheik al-Hilaly and we thank Honourable Paul Keating for overturning the objections of ASIO to allow our Grand Mufti to enter this country."Did you see what they did there? It's not even a dog whistle. They could have hardly been more gormless if they threw in a mention to Labor's multiculturally-correct support for the practices of gang rape and honour killing or somesuch.
The trail for the pamphlets appears to lead straight back to various Liberal Party volunteers, who have been sacked. If anything, it's a sign of their desperation that they couldn't wait to get one of their once-removed black-bag outfits like the Exclusive Brethren to do it.
On the other hand, the election is not over. There is still the possibility that Howard will get back in (or that the Tories will get back in while he'll lose his seat). Granted, it's a lot less of a possibility than before, though if anyone can pull off a dirty victory from behind, it's Howard, the Voldemort of Australian politics. I won't be celebrating his demise until I read his concession speech.
Pauline Hanson, fish and chip shop owner and founder of the xenophobic nativist One Nation party, is going back into politics on a policy of keeping Muslims out of Australia, because, you know, they're all rapists and terrorists at heart:
"I want a moratorium put on the number of Muslims coming into Australia," Ms Hanson told the Nine network. "People have a right to be very concerned about this because of the terrorist attacks that have happened throughout the world.Hanson (who would undoubtedly swear up and down on a stack of bibles that she's not a racist) insists that Muslim women would support her, if they knew how they were being oppressed:
"Maybe we should look at the female genital mutilation that happens to young girls in this country ... if people want to live by these ways then go back to the Muslim countries."Meanwhile, whilst we're on the subject of famous Australian
A family in the Northern English city of Newcastle claim that they have been forced to move home twice afrer being violently persecuted for their red hair. WTF? That's insane.
Attendees at the Sydney Big Day Out have rejected the organisers' call to leave flags at home; the festival was a nationalistic show of strength, with flags everywhere, and an underlying atmosphere of jingoism.
However, political leaders rejected his appeal, and today many fans on their way to the event appeared to be ignoring his request as well.
Rather than the flag being a victim, as it was portrayed in arguments about its use at the Big Day Out, academic Roger Bell believes it was used as a heavy hitting weapon by over-nationalistic aggressors at Cronulla, and that this mood carried through in the weeks leading up to BDO.Could this be more evidence for the hypothesis that today's youth have rejected the left-wing values of the 1970s and 1980s and shifted dramatically to the right (see also: Vice Magazine, Hillsong) and line up on the Howard government's side of the culture war, or even that Howard's Australia is developing a US-style culture of flag-waving jingoism, coupled with the intolerant, aggressive majoritarianism that has been on the rise?
"People I know were in the audience last year and witnessed people basically being made to kiss the Australian flag and if they didn't they would get their head beaten in," Ms Ashworth said.I wonder whether one could be beaten up for wearing one of those Dangerfield "Worst Prime Minister" T-shirts to Big Day Out.
Conservative Catholic youth flock to Glastonbury to "cleanse" it of its pagan influences.
Maya Pinder, the owner of the shop, said: "We've had to hear comments such as 'burn the witches', we've had salt thrown in our faces and at our shop, people were openly saying they were 'cleansing Glastonbury of paganism'.
"It was as if we had returned to the dark ages. This is hugely damaging to Glastonbury ... it is hard enough to trade in Glastonbury as it is, if you were to take away the pagan element it would be a dead town." The Somerset town is known for having a large population of resident and visiting pagans.The Youth 2000 group, a conservative Catholic youth group which organised the pilgrimage, has publicly distanced itself from the incidents.
Gay and lesbian Americans with non-American partners are being forced to leave the United States to be with their partners; a lot are resettling in Britain, where immigration rules give them the same rights as heterosexuals. In contrast, US law does not recognise same-sex relationships for immigration purposes, as that would be Sending The Wrong Message and/or Contrary To God's Law.
Not everyone's happy about the liberal tone of Britain's laws: apparently hundreds of "committed Christians" who run bed-and-breakfasts are up in arms about being legally obliged to extend their hospitality to gays, unmarried couples and followers of the wrong religions:
"We've had a lot of correspondence from Christian B&B operators who don't want to be forced to accept Satanists, Muslims, gays and even unmarried couples as guests,' said a Home Office official. 'Protestants have been writing in saying they shouldn't have to admit Catholics because they have an issue with their religion, Catholics saying they didn't want Jews under their roof and objections from followers of other types of faith."
Dr Don Horrocks of the Evangelical Alliance, which represents about one million Christians in the Anglican, Baptist and other faiths, said : 'The Equality Act is being called "the bed-and-breakfast law". One B&B worker in the north has told me that he would rather cease operating than have gays staying in his house.
If they feel that strongly about judging others' lifestyles and beliefs and denying hospitality to those found wanting, then perhaps they're either in the wrong business, the wrong country or the wrong era.
Australian treasurer Peter Costello to gay marriage activists (paraphrased): "Shut up and just be grateful we don't criminalise gay sex":
Mr Costello said: "I think we do recognise the rights of gay and lesbian people in Australia." "We do not criminalise conduct or behaviour."
"I thought that was appalling. It was offensive. I found it suggesting that we were lucky that we weren't being thrown in jail," Ms Stricker said outside the Sydney Institute meeting. Prof Phelps, also offended by the comment, said it would be like saying to Mr Costello at the Sydney mardi gras: "You are really lucky that we don't lock you up because you are heterosexual." "That's as offensive as his comment to people who are in a committed same sex relationship," she said.I wonder whether not criminalising homosexuality is a policy issue which will become negotiable as those outer-suburban evangelical megachurches grow in political influence, and the government starts looking for minorities to bully to retain their favour.
A judge in the United States has denied a woman custody of her child after seeing photographs of her participating in Church of the SubGenius events; or so she says, anyway:
On February 3, 2006, Judge Punch heard testimony in the case. Jeff entered into evidence 16 exhibits taken from the Internet, 12 of which are photographs of the SubGenius event, X-Day. Kohl has never attended X-Day and is not in any of the pictures. Rachel is depicted in many of these photos, often wearing skimpy costumes or completely nude, while participating in X-Day and Detroit Devival events.
The judge, allegedly a very strict Catholic, became outraged at the photos of the X-Day parody of Mel Gibson's movie The Passion of the Christ — especially the photo where Jesus [Steve Bevilacqua] is wearing clown makeup and carrying a crucifix with a pool-noodle dollar sign on it while being beaten by a crowd of SubGenii, including a topless woman with a "dildo".
His Honor also strongly disapproved of the photos of Mary Magdalen [Rachel Bevilacqua] in a bondage dress and papier maché goat's head. The judge repeatedly asked, "Why a goat? What's so significant about a goat's head?" When Rachel replied, "I just thought the word 'goat' was funny," Judge Punch lost his temper completely, and began to shout abuse at Rachel, calling her a "pervert," "mentally ill," "lying," and a participant in "sex orgies." The judge ordered that Rachel is to have absolutely no contact with her son, not even in writing, because he felt the pictures of X-Day performance art were evidence enough to suspect "severe mental illness". Rachel has had no contact with Kohl since that day, February 3, 2006.Various SubGenii, Discordians, pagans and miscellaneous freakonauts are getting involved in mounting an appeal, a process which is expected to cost US$50,000. Some are concerned that, should this judgment be allowed to stand, it may set a precedent denying practitioners of non-traditional lifestyles equality before the law when it comes to child custody.
There is a discussion of this case on Metafilter, with some comments casting doubt on the SubGeniis' account of the case.
(via Boing Boing)
Whilst various European states stubbornly refuse to rein in their freedom of expression to appease religious sensibilities, the Russians have no time for such liberal panderings. Moscow's city government has banned the city's first gay rights parade, on the grounds that the very idea has "caused outrage in society":
Gay and lesbian activists have been campaigning for permission to stage the country's first gay pride event on Saturday 27 May. The date marks the 13th anniversary of the decriminalisation of homosexuality in Russia in 1993. But the plans have drawn a furious reaction from religious leaders and been condemned as "suicidal" by other gay activists .
Earlier this week Chief Mufti Talgat Tadzhuddin warned that Russia's Muslims would stage violent protests if the march went ahead. "If they come out on to the streets anyway they should be flogged. Any normal person would do that - Muslims and Orthodox Christians alike ... [The protests] might be even more intense than protests abroad against those controversial cartoons."
The cleric said the Koran taught that homosexuals should be killed because their lifestyle spells the extinction of the human race and said that gays had no human rights.
In the Communist era Russian homosexuals were jailed for five years and their "condition" was classed as a mental disorder. In post-Soviet Russia public acceptance of homosexuality has been glacial. An opinion poll last year showed 43 per cent of Russians believed gay men should be incarcerated.The organisers of the parade are planning to sue the Moscow government in the European Court of Human Rights.
Still in Russia, survivors of Stalinist gulags are outraged by the imminent opening of a Stalin museum in Volgograd (formerly Stalingrad). The museum is funded by local businessmen, though will enjoy pride of place in an official facility; its opening is only one manifestation in the recent rise of the popularity of the Soviet dictator.
Former Australian ambassador to the United Nations Richard Woolcott claims that Australia's reputation around the world is being diminished thanks to government policies of uncritically supporting the Bush government, restricting civil liberties and pandering to bigoted tendencies where expedient:
Australia today is not the country I represented with pride for some 40 years. This country of such great potential risks becoming a land of fading promise.
We have seen Australian democracy diminished by government hubris and arrogance, opposition weakness and a curious public detachment and apathy. Our national self-respect has also been eroded by our excessively deferential attitude to the Bush Administration's foreign and security policy, especially in Iraq. The revelations about the Australian Wheat Board's dealings with Iraq under Saddam and the Government's links with the Board, make its proper opposition to corruption and its demands for good governance, especially in the South Pacific, look hollow. Moreover, truth in Government has yet to be restored.
With our participation in the Iraq war, the Howard Government has also reinforced the image of an Australia moving back to the so-called Anglosphere, rather than focusing more on its future in its own neighbourhood.IMHO, it is not Australia's definition of itself in the "Anglosphere" that is the problem, but its position at the reactionary end of the Anglosphere. The United States, for example, has its famous constitution and Bill of Rights, not to mention an elaborate system of checks and balances which have done much to rein in the powers of radical governments. Britain has a diverse and independent media, which, at its best, is possibly the best in the world. Canada has extensive guarantees of human rights as well. Meanwhile, in Australia, there are no legal rights of freedom of speech, association or conscience (the only constitutionally guaranteed right is not to have a state religion imposed on oneself), the press is owned by a handful of media proprietors (who all supported the Liberal/National Coalition in the last election; even the liberal Age was coerced into running editorials telling voters to vote Tory). In a lot of areas, from treatment of refugees to sedition laws, Australia trails behind other "Anglosphere" countries. Australia could do a lot worse than look towards the other "Anglosphere" countries as models of good governance.
The treatment of Vivian Alvarez Solon, the injured Australian citizen deported to the Philippines, has also undermined the Government's credibility in protecting its citizens' rights. Again, a detached wider community does not seem to care too much about the principles involved in such cases.And public apathy is part of the problem. The famously laconic Australian "no-worries-she'll-be-right-mate" attitude, when extended into politics, does turn into apathy, and, sometimes, a belief that those who aren't apathetic and are "whinging" about these things are "ratbags" and thus suspicious. It's probably no coincidence that this attitude is something John Howard has lauded with his talk of a "relaxed and comfortable" Australia.
Interracial violence erupts on a Sydney beach, as a standoff between Lebanese "gangstas" and Anglo-Australian surfers escalates, with the Anglos joined by Waltzing Matilda-singing neo-Nazis, who in turn end up beating up anybody non-Anglo-looking. Apparently the trouble had been brewing for a long time, and escalated when some Lebanese gang members went on a rampage at Cronulla, the surfer gang called for "patriots" to reinforce them, by when the bampots took charge. It turns out that far-right racial-nationalist groups modelled on the British National Party took an active role in organising the riots, and while the Prime Minister has condemned the violence, one of his media allies, right-wing talk radio host Alan Jones boasts of having led the charge, by reading out text messages calling "Aussies" to "support the Leb and wog bashing day". And, of course, Australia's answer to Little Green Footballs is providing another rallying point for the "Aussie" nationalists.
And yes, that did say text messages. Apparently both sides called in the cavalry through a tree of text messages. Sydney's ultra-violent Lebanese gangs (who, it must be said, are not representative of the mainstream of the Lebanese community) are said to mobilise quickly through mobile phones (actually, weren't some of the notorious Sydney gang rapes from a few years ago, also said to be committed by the gang members, organised spontaneously by mobile phone?).
And it would be folly to airbrush away the reality that what started the Cronulla tensions was yet another provocation by the aggressive, repugnant Lebanese gangsta culture - itself an alien subculture within the Lebanese community - which has given Sydney dozens of shootings and murders, a spate of gang rapes, hundreds of sexual assaults, and thousands of deliberate racist provocations at Darling Harbour, the eastern and southern beaches and some of the big clubs in western Sydney, along with Canterbury Bulldogs rugby league matches.
At its worst, this culture had overtones of civil war, as the Kanaan gang sprayed the Lakemba police station with gunfire. One of those who took part in this attack was Saleh Jamal, now in jail in Lebanon on weapons charges. He has turned to Islamic fundamentalism and wanted to explode a terrorist bomb in Sydney before he fled the country.Now, the surfers and right-wing bovver boys seem to have also adopted this tactic, and used it as an excuse to beat up anyone they see as "un-Australian". So now we are seeing an age of flash mob rule. We live in interesting times.
There are more reports of the violence here:
I saw a group of three well-dressed 40-ish women drinking Breezers standing atop a retaining wall chanting at the police. I saw a group of four teenage girls (typical tanned 'Northies' Shire-girls -- long hair, short skirts and massive sunglasses) being interviewed by ABC radio with 'Multiculturalism Doesn't Work' stickers on their backs. I saw a fifty-year-old man wearing an 'Osama Don't Surf' t-shirt. I've never seen that many people in Cronulla before.
It wasn't too long before a rumour started spreading that a train full of Lebs was on its way to Cronulla (it was like an insane game of Chinese Whispers, there were stories going through the crowd that Tom Ugly's and Captain Cook Bridge had been closed, that the Bra Boys had arrived and that the kiosk at North Cronulla was under siege because it was owned by Wogs), so everyone was off to the station, via Cronulla Mall.
But many locals were involved, and for the most part loving every minute of it. There were plenty of units and apartments decked out in Aussie flags with parties overflowing into the streets, proud to be a part of what was just a disgusting day. How so many people could be getting pleasure from this was just impossible to comprehend. It was part machismo bullsh*t and part mob-mentality but it was mainly just ugly racism. It no longer had anything at all to do with two lifeguards getting beaten up last weekend, it was all just hatred towards a group of people who weren't even there.A family-friendly festival of nationalism and hatred. Perhaps next time they can book Prussian Blue to play on a stage?
The Australian federal government adds another ally to its culture-war Coalition of Willing, with the Special Minister of State addressing a dinner by a militantly anti-gay Christian group known as Salt Shakers:
The Salt Shakers website says it is time to stop pandering to the gay minority group, especially as homosexual sex is still the main cause of HIV/AIDS in Australia.
"By lending his credibility to a hate group like Salt Shakers, Senator Abetz is undermining the Howard Government's commitment to tolerance of homosexuals and religious minorities," Mr Croome said.("Commitment to tolerance"?)
And so, the courtship dance between the Australian conservative government and a rising US-style religious right continues. Which suggests that, far from being in decline, Australian wowserism is remaking itself in the image of the tremendously politically sophisticated US religious right and attempting to make the (increasingly misnamed) Liberal Party its own (much as happened with the Republican Party in the US).
A Cornell University study has demonstrated that men who feel their masculinity threatened overcompensate by adopting hypermasculine stances such as homophobia, support for the Iraq war, and a desire to buy a SUV:
Willer administered a gender identity survey to a sample of male and female Cornell undergraduates in the fall of 2004. Participants were randomly assigned to receive feedback that their responses indicated either a masculine or a feminine identity. While women's responses were unchanged regardless of the feedback they received, men's reactions "were strongly affected by this feedback," Willer said.
He questioned subjects about their political attitudes, including how they felt about a same-sex marriage ban and their support for President Bush's handling of the Iraq War. "I created composites from subjects' answers to these and other questions," he said. "I also gave subjects a car-buying vignette, presented as part of a study of purchasing a new car."With this in mind, perhaps SUV manufacturers will start running ads, with no brand names on them, impugning their audience's masculinity. I can see them now: "Hey you," a crew-cut, neckless drill-sergeant type shouts from the TV, "you call yourself a man? You ain't a man, you're a big girl's blouse!" Two ads later, a spot for the Hummer or the latest ultra-macho urban assault vehicle appears. Within the next week, sales go through the roof as office drones compensate for their perceived emasculation.
Meanwhile the researchers in question next intend to measure respondents' testosterone levels and also test their attitudes to violence against women.
Sydney's Anglican Dean, Philip Jensen, has said that the tsunami was a warning from God that judgment is coming, and that society has become too sinful and Godless. Perhaps if we banned pornography and Satanic rock music and indecent language on TV and kissing in movies and unmarried couples going about unchaperoned and started stoning homosexuals, witches and wearers of mixed fabrics to death as the Book of Leviticus commands, God would make all the earthquakes and tsunamis and tornadoes and suicide bombers and email spam and antibiotic-resistant superbugs and killer bees and killer sharks stop. Maybe if we were super-obedient, He would even see fit to bring down petrol prices or something.
Another religious leader, Rev. Fred Phelps of the Westboro Baptist Church, claims that God sent the earthquake to kill 2,000 Swedish tourists because their country prosecuted a fundamentalist preacher for preaching against homosexuality. That would be a lot of collateral damage for a kind, loving God; though I suppose for Rev. Phelps' God, it makes perfect sense.
On a different note, the Ayn Rand Institute says that the US should not help tsunami victims, because (a) taxation is theft, and (b) altruism is evil.
Controversy has erupted after a Christian school in North Carolina introduced into its classes a booklet defending slavery in the South. The booklet, titled Southern Slavery, As It Was, attempts to provide a Biblical justification for the institution of slavery, asserting that the Confederate South was the last true Christian civilisation, and claims that the life of slaves was one of plenty and simple pleasures, with nearly every slave enjoying a higher standard of living than the poor whites:
"Because of its dominantly patriarchal character, it was a relationship based upon mutual affection and confidence." (page 24)
"There has never been a multi-racial society which has existed with such mutual intimacy and harmony in the history of the world." (page 24)
The school insists that the booklet merely provides a balanced view of the institution of slavery; critics argue that it goes beyond that, and provides a theological justification for the neo-Confederate movement. (via bOING bOING)
US Citizenship and Immigration Services has denied a Filipino man residency because his wife had had a sex change 24 years earlier, and thus was legally a man, making their marriage unlawful. The funny thing, though, is that the wife had been legally living as a woman in the United States for the past 24 years, and had been recognised as such on her US citizenship certificate.
Meanwhile, the CBS and NBC are refusing to air a church's television advertisement as it's "too controversial". The controversy has to do with the advertisement implying acceptance of gay and lesbian couples.
And in Alabama, a lawmaker has proposed a bill to ban novels with gay protagonists from public libraries, to protect children from the "homosexual agenda". The bill will also prohibit books which suggest that homosexuality, or any lifestyle prohibited by Alabama's sodomy laws, is natural.
Meanwhile, a recent report claims that abstinence-only sex-education programmes, as promoted by the Bush Whitehouse, are riddled with inaccuracies, including claims that touching a person's genitals can lead to pregnancy, AIDS can be transmitted in sweat or tears, half of gay male teenagers in the US are HIV-positive, condoms don't work, and a 43-day-old fetus is a "thinking person".
"I've never seen a man in my life I wanted to marry. And I'm going to be blunt and plain: If one ever looks at me like that, I'm going to kill him and tell God he died."
-- Jimmy Swaggart.
You know, "I'm gonna kill him and tell God he died" sounds like a country song lyric.
According to findings in last month's issue of Psychological Science, happy people tend to be nasty. The happier your mood is, researchers claim, the more likely you are to make bigoted judgments, like deciding that someone is guilty of a crime simply because they're a member of a minority:
One interesting hypothesis, though, is that happy people have an ''everything is fine'' attitude that reduces the motivation for analytical thought. So they fall back on stereotypes -- including malicious ones.
Elsewhere, there are other arguments against the idea of happiness as an absolute good:
There is one bit of the world that happy people do see in an irrationally rosy light: themselves. As the British psychologist Richard P. Bentall has observed, ''There is consistent evidence that happy people overestimate their control over environmental events (often to the point of perceiving completely random events as subject to their will), give unrealistically positive evaluations of their own achievements, believe that others share their unrealistic opinions about themselves and show a general lack of evenhandedness when comparing themselves to others.'' Indeed, Bentall has proposed that happiness be classified as a psychiatric disorder.
Over the last few decades, it is precisely the groups that have made the most social progress in the United States -- women and educated African-Americans -- that have reported declines in their level of happiness. On reflection, this is not surprising. As education and freedom increase, desires -- and unmet desires -- inevitably multiply; our well-feeling may decrease, even as life becomes fuller and more meaningful. In Eastern nations like China, where happiness as a goal is less highly rated, people report lower levels of life satisfaction, but they also have lower suicide rates.
A look behind the scene of Aryanfest, a neo-Nazi/white-supremacist love-in held recently in Arizona, and attended by 300 people, from skinheads to family groups, from the former Saddam Hussein supporter who wants to nuke Washington to the mixed-up Mexican neo-Nazi who got unceremoniously kicked out:
The atmosphere inside Aryanfest was that of a Renaissance Fair gone over to the dark side, with "Heils" in place of "Huzzahs." Costumed attendees wore Iron Cross medallions and black bomber jackets emblazoned with swastika patches instead of studded leather armor and princess dresses. A Nazi memorabilia dealer hawked SS patches and framed photographs of Hitler, Joseph Goebbels and Rudolph Hess in the parking lot. Next to the stage was a picnic pagoda, serving as the Aryanfest day-care center, where little white children in skinhead clothes colored in white power coloring books. Directly next door to the pagoda was a tattoo booth, where the incessant high-pitched buzz of a tattoo gun sounded from behind a blue tarp curtain. Beside the Panzerfaust merchandise stand was the Women for Aryan Unity booth, which sold child-rearing guides and White Nationalist Baby magazines, including one containing a simplified biography of Hitler suitable for bedtime stories: "He was a lifelong lover of animals and children . . . He is invincible and victory shall one day be his."
The police were happy that white-separatist group Volksfront's prediction of 1,000 people attending did not come true. But Browning said with a wry smile, "That's still a good-sized crowd. Come on, 300-plus racists in one place without a fight?"
In related news, a 36-year-old Oregon woman was arrested after having painted swastikas on an abandoned gas station. Her rationale: "I just wanted to show my heritage". She was also found in possession of methamphetamines. (via rotten.com)
California's governor Arnold Schwarzenegger moves against gay marriages, which have been taking place in San Francisco. Make your own Terminator reference here.
In London, two Conservative Party aides, both of whom worked for front-bench Tory spokesmen, have been arrested for beating up a gay policy adviser, in what has been described as a "homophobic meditated attack". Expect the usual platitudes about how this was an isolated incident by two bad apples, and is in no way indicative of deep veins of intolerance and hatred within the Tory Party's culture or a logical conclusion of the "family values" the Tories spout off about every so often.
Jordan's parliament overwhelmingly rejects ban on "honour killings", claiming that the ban would "encourage vice and destroy social values". Which is almost exactly the same words as used by Christian conservatives in America opposing anti-bullying laws for schools. Funny how religious reactionaries of all stripes will rally in the defense of thuggishness, because, in their world view, the alternative is far worse.
The Free Pauline Hanson campaign rolls on with vigils outside her prison, and her son releasing a song proclaiming her innocence. It makes one wonder what's next: a commemorative plate edition perhaps?
Disgraced right-wing politician and larrikin-wowser hybrid Pauline Hanson will need protection in prison, as the large Aboriginal populations behind bars hadn't forgotten her anti-Aboriginal rhetoric, a Democrat senator has said.
Straight Pride Wear; where you can express your intolerance for alternative lifestyles in eXtreme skate-mook style that wouldn't look amiss at a skate ramp or the mosh pit at Big Day Out/a Limp Bizkit concert. The only thing they're missing is big yellow shorts with "Exit Only" written on the back. And it's not just about shaming the sodomites back into their closet, it's also about being a good all-American patriot, as the stars and stripes will attest. And the links to religious-right groups and the "pro-life-punk" movement pretty much confirm one's suspicions. (via MeFi)
I wonder when the Ku Klux Klan will follow the lead and bring out a line of "White Pride" streetwear for Aryan mooks.
Who says different people can't live in harmony? In a heartwarming display of what is possible, Neo-Nazis and Jewish extremists have put their differences aside, teaming up to produce anti-Arab hate sites. Perhaps that's the secret to reconciliation and peaceful coexistence: finding someone both parties despise even more. (via The Fix)
A Canadian court has ruled that parts of the bible are hate literature; specifically, the parts of Leviticus that mandate the putting to death of homosexuals and adulterers. The court upheld a ruling by a human rights tribunal which fined a man for putting an ad in a newspaper quoting Bible verses denouncing homosexuality. It's refreshing to see authorities who aren't blinded from such things by a belief that religion is the basis of all morality, civilisation and common human decency, and a spot of xenophobic hatred here and there is a small price to pay for fending off the chaos, nihilism and lawlessness that would follow mass godlessness. (via rotten.com)
Gay activist groups in the UK are calling for the government to prosecute reggae artists inciting anti-gay violence in their lyrics. Apparently a lot of contemporary reggae songs aren't just about smoking ganja and finding Jah love, but contain lyrics like "bun the chi-chi" ("burn the homosexual"); this includes songs by popular artists such as Beenie Man. Which all raises the question: is gay-bashing more culturally diverse if it's in a reggae song?
People love a bigot (an ongoing saga): France's far-right demagogue Jean-Marie Le Pen has survived the first round of the Presidential election, beating the Socialist prime minister Lionel Jospin, once considered a favourite. While it is very unlikely that Le Pen will become President, this result has sent shockwaves through France and triggered spontaneous protests.
How quickly they change their tune. The Government has confirmed that allegations of pederasty made by Senator Bill Heffernan against Justice Michael Kirby are completely false, and based on fraudulent documents, and called on Heffernan to apologise and resign from being cabinet secretary. This is not long after Howard himself lent credence to the allegations, suggesting that the government have the power to sack judges whose sex lives it didn't approve of (other than the usual puritanism, a breach of separation of powers), and insinuating that there is a connection between homosexuality and paedophilia; undoubtedly hoping to leverage the prejudices of Hanson-voting Middle Australia, so useful for winning the last election, to help purge a cumbersomely progressive judge.
Those guardians of morality in the One Nation party have called on the new givernor-general designate, Anglican Archbishop Hollingworth, to publicly condemn homosexuality, and move towards "strong moral values" (such as, presumably, hate).
Mooks. No, not the retro-fratboy fashion label, but a youth subculture inspired by rap, metal, burlesque images of black culture, professional wrestling, porn and the 'white-trash' identity. (via Follow Me Here)
what white artists have taken from hip-hop is a towering sense of resentment. Rap today has a well of aggrievement, and when a black artist is sloppy about his rage, race relations have a way of focusing the issues for him. It doesn't take much thinking to imagine what a black rapper might be mad about. But when white kids start talking that talk, the rage often comes out inchoate; it appears and vanishes like a half-formed thought. And it doesn't take much to release it... And the easiest targets get flayed the worst: women, of course, and gays.
Half of the 98 percent-Caucasian crowd is dressed for a tractor pull, the other half for a Puffy video. There are longhairs with John Deere caps and denim jackets drinking beer alongside pals wearing Fubu shirts and Avirex footwear. Rednecks dress like roughnecks, and people who in their daily lives keep a distance from black culture have given themselves a ghetto makeover. I ask one fan who loves Kid Rock, Limp Bizkit and even the Marxist, multiracial Rage Against the Machine if he has many black friends. He smirks and removes his baseball cap... He is a skinhead, and he knows he has answered my question without saying a word.
Rap ... makes life on the streets seem as thrilling as a Playstation game. Pimping and gangbanging equal rebellion, especially for white kids who aren't going to get pulled over for driving while black, let alone die in a hail of bullets
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