November 2007

Deluded Turks

A week after the the Turkish government announced plans to relax the notorious Article 301 of the countrys penal code, some prosecutor has decided that its never too late to try and make a name for himself by censoring something. The target this time around is Richard Dawkins The God Delusion.

Publisher Erol Karaaslan said today he will be quizzed by authorities in Istanbul on Thursday. A successful prosecution could land him a year in prison, Turkish newspaper Milliyet is reporting.

The book went on sale in June and the investigation was launched after one reader complained that it insulted his sacred values.

Of course, wed all be a lot better off if this lonely indiviudual replaced his sacred values with rational ones.

Great taglines of our time

Taglines - the one line marketing pitches that are plastered on posters and across DVD covers - are often both dull and predictable. But every now and then I see or hear one that raises, not only a smile but a genuine laugh.

For example: From the producers who saw Shrek!

Fear of fiction

The Golden Compass is the film adaptation of the first story in Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy. Since Pullman is an athiest, controversy has inevitably followed, with various Christian groups in the US misleadingly describing the film as a stealth atheism campaign and demanding that their followers boycott the film.

President of the Catholic League, wannabe Irishman, Bill Donohoe has - in a demonstration of paranoia not seen since Elizabeth: The Golden Age was released - has gone so far as to describe the film as bait to lure youths to Pullmans novels where they will be influenced by the authors pernicious atheist agenda.

But Pullman told Newsweek he is a story-teller whose only agenda is to get you to turn the page.

To regard it as this Donohue man has said that Im a militant atheist, and my intention is to convert people how the hell does he know that? Why dont we trust readers? Why dont we trust filmgoers? Pullman said. Oh, it causes me to shake my head with sorrow that such nitwits could be loose in the world.

Or, as PZ Myers puts it:

Its just a book and a movie, and it doesnt compel the reader to like it — and we could say that about any of the overtly atheist books that have been published lately. Maybe Donohue should save the outrage for the day we have tax-exempt Pullman reading rooms, or when Pullman is required reading in science classes, or when politicians are elected on the basis of their attractiveness to Kingmaker Philip Pullman and his lobbying group, Fantasy for the Family.

And it is just a film, one that happens to be based on a book. A piece of fiction based on a piece of fiction that no-one with any sense of reality is going to confuse for anything other than a piece of fiction. So what is it that all these outraged Christians are afraid of?


With Álex de la Iglesia finally starting to gain some well deserved mainstream attention with the upcomming release of The Oxford Murders, Metrodome have realised that some of his earlier films are long overdue for a UK DVD release.

So, on 26th december, Accion Mutante and 800 Bullets will both be hitting the DVD shelves. Both are available for pre-order from Amazon, here and here, so get your credit cards out and see what youve been missing.

(Thanks to Twitch for the heads-up)

Silly Burqas

Way back in January, Channel 4 broadcast a documentary called Undercover Mosque in which a reporter from the Despatches current affairs team attended mosques run by organisations whose public faces are presented as moderate and found preachers condemning integration into British society, condemning democracy and praising the Taliban for killing British soldiers. A complaint was lodged with Ofcom not, as you might expect, by the preachers or mosques featured in the documentary, but by the West Midlands Police.

Private Eye reported on the case at the time and noted that it looked like little more than a silly-season stunt. And now the magazines current issue reports that Ofcom has - completely unsurprisingly - dismissed all of the complaints and wonders whether the spotlight will now turn on the rather confused complainants.

Although the complaint was a stunt, it was quite an effective one and one that was widely reported, and the misleading press release issued by the police and the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) in August suggested - inaccurately - that HardCash Productions, who made the programme, had been deliberately deceptive.

It quoted Bethan David, a CPS lawyer, who said the film completely distorted what the speakers were saying by quoting them out of context. She was backed up by Anil Patani, who rejoices in the title assistant chief constable (security and cohesion) for West Midlands Police.

When challenged by the Eye, both David and Patani refused to provide a shred of evidence to support this serious (and defamatory) allegation. And no wonder: as Ofcom confirmed this week, there was none.

In fact, what Ofcom said of the allegations from the West Midlands Police was:

Channel 4 said that WMP had made very serious allegations. However, the broadcaster added that, from a detailed consideration of the transcripts provided by the WMP and its own analysis of the making and broadcast of the programme, these allegations were utterly without foundation”.

In Channel 4’s view, Undercover Mosque was an entirely responsible programme made in accordance with both the Code and best practice; and it raised issues very much in the public interest. Channel 4 said that WMP presented no case to answer in
respect of the channel’s obligations under the Code and wholly failed to support its damaging allegations about the making of the programme.

(emphasis mine)

This is a damning verdict for both Bethan David and Anil Patani, both of who have made entirely false allegations against the film-makers and wasted Ofcoms time and money. If they dont resign, these two jokers ought to be sacked.

Jerry Springer and the end of blasphemy

Two years after the BBC screened Jerry Springer: The Opera, nutter activist Stephen Green is still trying to sue the corporation for blasphemy.

Back in January, a court ruled that he should stop being so silly but - being unable to take a hint - Green appealed and today the High Court reserved judgement on whether Christian activist Stephen Green should be allowed to bring a private prosecution.

According to Michael Gledhill QC, appearing for Mr Green, the prosecution should have been allowed to proceed because the show had clearly crossed the blasphemy threshold. But really, all that this goes to show is just how outdated, stupid, pointless and dangerous the blasphemy law is.

Or, as Liberty puts it:

Blasphemous libel claims can be brought against the publication of any matter that insults, offends, or vilifies the Deity or Christ or the Christian religion. Whether the publication intended to be blasphemous is irrelevant in blasphemous libel claims [and] violates Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights which protects free speech.

The blasphemy laws should be scrapped and frivolous suits like Greens show us exactly why.

Strangely beautiful

Check out this gorgeous animation from German film student Christoph Grosse Hovest which I found at the Starwreck blog.

Rutting royals

Last week, two Spanish cartoonists were dragged into court and fined 3,000 Euros each (£2,100) for depicting Crown Prince Felipe and his wife Letizia having sex.

It is a crime in Spain to slander or defame the royal family. Anyone who does so faces a prison sentence of up to two years or a stiff fine. The judge in the cartoon case ruled that Guillermo Torres and Manel Fontdevila – whose illustration of the fornicating prince appeared on the front cover of the satirical magazine El Jueves – had ‘vilified the Crown in the most gratuitous and unnecessary way’.

This represents a disgraceful assault on freedom of speech. Nobody, not even the Crown Prince of Spain or his wife, has a right not to be offended. When some silly Danish cartoons showing the prophet Mohammad in various weird poses were published in 2006, there was an international uproar: Muslim groups kicked up a fuss, while some European newspapers republished the cartoons in solidarity with the Danish cartoonists who drew them. Yet there has been far less controversy over a European royal family’s use of archaic laws to punish and censor satire.

So, in the spirit of allowing everyone to see what the fuss is about, here is the cartoon

The joke is about the Spanish governments attempt to boost the countrys birth rate by offering 2,500 Euros to families for each new child born or adopted. The text reads: Do you realise that if you get pregnant, this will be the closest to real work I’ve ever done?

Quote of the Day: The rules of the game have changed

Of course, things WERE different back then – in those days we had the I.R.A. armed not with sugar and fertiliser but with semtex and aiming to explode large London landmarks backed by the oil billions of Libya (and a lot of dollars from America too). Oh, and they were QUITE GOOD at their EVIL job, and very rarely set themselves on fire instead of their targets.

- Millennium Dome on the UK Governments plans, yet again, to extend the limit that people can be held without charge.

Fox Redacts

Brian De Palmas Redacted goes on general release on Friday and, seemingly unable to understand that nothing sells like a bit of controversy, Fox News Bill OReilly has called on his viewers to boycott the film. He hasnt seen it, of course, because knowing what the film is about might spoil his outrage.

You can see OReilly frothing at the mouth here and here and read producer Mark Cubans response here:

There are people willing to be convinced to blow themselves up to kill as many of us as possible. Anytime, anywhere. I dont think there are any clerics expanding the offer of 70 virgins to include a DVD. Nor do I believe that they are translating the movie and then gathering around a TV or Internet screen to get motivated to strap explosives to themselves or to build IEDs.