September 2006

Blogging for Backlash on the 9th October

From The Melon Farmers:

On the 9th October parliament returns from the summer recess. Backlash is asking that anyone who opposes the violent porn proposals writes a blog about this on that date and has it listed on a master list -

Blogs can and do influence opinions. The Blogging for Backlash day would enable us all to be heard in one concentrated effort. And we could repeat this after the Queens Speech in November.

If you would like to take part, please go to the Blogging for Backlash blog and add a comment.

A Legal Way To Censor Movies?

Back in July, a Colorado judge ruled that editing other peoples’ films and then selling them on is illegal. This ruling brought an end to DVD censorship company CleanFlicks.

Now San Francisco-based Cuts Inc. thinks that they have found a way around the ruling with a software product - currently being offered free - which uses an online database to censor the film on the fly without leaving a copy of the censored film. The database is built from cuts which can be uploaded by users of the system.

Whether this approach is as legal as the company claims remins to be seen but the idea of choosing to have your viewing experience manipulated by the most easily offended srikes me as bizarre, to say the least.

(via Cinematical)

Headless Chickens

The Deutsche Oper in west Berlin announced on Monday it was cancelling four performances of Idomeneo over concerns they could enrage Muslims and pose a security risk.

We know the consequences of the conflict over the (Muhammad) caricatures, the opera company said in a statement.

We believe that needs to be taken very seriously and hope for your support.

The opera was staged in Berlin in 2003 and drew criticism over a scene where the king presents the heads of Greek sea god Poseidon, Muhammad, Jesus and Buddha.

According to the director, Kirsten Harms, security officials had now warned of possible problems if the production went ahead, and that it was in the best interests of performers and opera-goers to cancel it.

This has led to widespread condemnation from German politicians with Berlins mayor, Klaus Wowereit, saying the director had made the wrong decision to scrap the production.

Our ideas about openness, tolerance and freedom must be lived out on the offensive, he told the Associated Press.

Voluntary self-limitation gives those who fight against our values a confirmation in advance that we will not stand behind them.

Deputy parliamentary speaker Wolfgang Thierse said the decision a new threat to free artistic expression in Germany.

Has it come so far that we must limit artistic expression? he told Reuters. What will be next?

And German chancellor, Angela Merkel, urged Germans not to bow to fears of Islamic violence

I think the cancellation was a mistake. I think self-censorship does not help us against people who want to practise violence in the name of Islam, she told reporters. It makes no sense to retreat.

The decision to cancel was taken before any protests had materialised and a number of analysts are now pointing out that a climate is developing n which people are afraid to speak out publicly.

In a speech to the annual conference of think-tank Oxford Analytica last week, its head, David Young, said political correctness posed a threat to free expression for journalists, politicians and academics alike.

Nirjay Mahindru, an Asian playwright who runs a theatre company in Britain, told Reuters: British Asian writers are without a shadow of a doubt not writing what they want to write about or what they feel is reflective of what is out there. They are writing what is now expected of them.

This has been going on for at least two or three years and its almost like a coalition of fundamentalist forces, whether they are Christian or Muslim or Hindu or whoever. I just wish more members of the artistic community would be brave.

(Thanks to Klaus for the heads up)

Barroso speaks out on papal bull

European Commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso has expressed disappointment that EU leaders did not do more to support the Pope after his controversial remarks on Islam.

Talking to German paper Die Welt over the weekend, the commission president accused European leaders of letting the Pope Benedict XVI down, after his remarks on the prophet Mohamed in a 12 September speech led to strong outrage in the Muslim world.

To attack the Pope because he referred to a historical document in a speech is fully unacceptable, said Mr Barroso.

I was disappointed that there werent more European leaders who said: of course the Pope has the right to express his views. The problem is not his remarks, but the reactions of the extremists.

Obviously, the doctrine of papal infallability is bull and it is perfectly reasonable to criticise the Pope. Its also reasonable to question his motives in when he picked his quotes and its more than reasonable to suggest that hes a hypocritical bigot spouting medieval nonsense.

But to suggest that he shouldnt be allowed to quote from a document - any document - is unacceptable. To threaten or carry out violence against Christians on the basis of the Popes meanderings is beyond unreasonable.

Asked why European politicians had been so reluctant to support the Pope, Mr Barroso said Perhaps because there is concern about a possible confrontation. And sometimes [there is] a sort of political correctness: that one is only being tolerant when placing the opinion of others above ones own. I am very in favour of tolerance, but we should stand up for our values.

On the subject of Islamic extremists, Barroso went on to say that some of them are very educated people who have studied at our universities. And still, they hate our open societies, our free economies. If they are prepared to kill themselves for that, dont you believe they are also prepared to kill us?

GPA ad: Case dropped

Some good news for a change. MediaWatchWatch are reporting that the Christian Institute have been told that the Crown Prosecution Service are not going to be going ahead with the case against the Gay Police Association (GPA) for publishing an advert in the run-up to Julys Europride gay and lesbian parade in London.

This, presumbly, is because no crime was actually comitted.

Hopefully the Advertising Standards Authority, and the Police Complaints Commission will come to similarly sensible conclusions.

Christians try to crucify programme makers. Again

Channel 4 is planning to broadcast a documentary in which Anatomist Gunther von Hagens will use a real body to explore the mechanics of crucifixion.

The programme, imaginatively titled Crucifixion and due to be shown on More4, has sparked a predictable outcry from Christian groups who dont seem to be aware that crucifixion was once a widely used method of execution.

According to Church of England spokesman, Simon Jenkins:

This will upset and offend a lot of Christians as it seems he is using the Crucifixion simply to grab attention.

Not so says Dr. von Hagens.

And holy hypocrite, Stephen Green who earlier this month decided that he was in favour of free speech has changed his mind. Again.

This sounds gratuitously offensive and blasphemous. It could well be we would want to take some action against it.

MediaWatchWatch, who found this story before me, wonders whether Greens threatened legal action will take place before or after the blasphemy prosecution of the BBC which hes been threatening since March of last year.

Shut up or die

The West (via) reports that Perth academic, Samina Yasmeen has resorted to weasel threats to call on religious and community leaders to stop speaking about Islamic icons to avoid causing offence.

She said the Pope and other religious leaders had the same responsibility as Islamic clerics to avoid encouraging violence by followers.

She goes on to claim that previous emotive reactions, such as the violence following the publication of the Muhammed cartoons and Salman Rushdie’s 1988 novel The Satanic Verses, should have warned people not to criticise Islam.

“I am not supportive of people killing and blowing things up, but people need to start looking at selfcensorship,” she said.

Self-censorship is still censorship and suggesting that people should curb their opinions because of other violent people is still a threat.

A turning point for Article 301?

A court in Istanbul has acquitted the best-selling Turkish novelist, Elif Shafak, who had been accused of insulting Turkish national identity. The charge related to her novel The Bastard of Istanbul which centres on two families - one Turkish, one Armenian - and includes discussion of the mass killing of Armenians in the dying days of the Ottoman Empire.

Turkey and Armenia disagree over whether or not these killings constituted genocide.

Elif Safak is the latest in a long line of writers and publishers to face prosecution under Article 301, which makes insulting Turkishness a crime, but this is the first time an author has been accused of insult in a work of fiction.

If Article 301 will be interpreted in this way nobody can write novels in Turkey anymore, no-one can make movies any more, Elif Safak warned, shortly before her case came to court.

Then the words of a character could be used as evidence against the author or the film director. So I think it is extremely important to defend the autonomy of art and of literature.

EU observers who were at the trial welcomed the acquittal as the right decision - but called on the government to go further, and abolish Article 301 altogether. And its possible that this case may prove to be a turning point.

Perhaps prompted by the apparent absurdity of a trial for a work of fiction, Turkeys prime minister gave his first ever hint on Thursday that some kind of change to the law might be possible.

Pressure for change is steadily mounting in Turkey, as well as in Brussels.

Charlie Hebdo 1, Morons 0

Cover from Charlie Hebdo Cartoon Special Charlie Hebdo, the French satirical weekly that published the full set of Muhammed cartoons way back in February has seen off a charge of inciting racial hatred brought by the Federation des Associations Islamiques DAfrique, Des Comore et Des Antilles (FFAIACA). The judge ruled the case inadmissable - presumably because Islam is a religion and not a race.

Although this sets an encouraging precident, the magazine is not in the clear yet as they are still facing a legal action filed by the Mosque of Paris in July.

France is the only European country in which Motoons publishers have been subjected to court cases.

(via MediaWatchWatch)

Chinese cartoonist breaks a taboo

The Times (via) reports that Kuang Biao, a newspaper cartoonist working for the News Express in China has dared to defy a taboo on depictions of China’s leaders - and has received a slapped wrist.

Mr Kuang is allowed to continue to draw — but only under a pseudonym. He told The Times that he always worked under pseudonyms and said he would continue to work at the newspaper as editor of the cartoon page. “I will spend a month in self-reflection. I will pay more attention in future,” he said. His newspaper seemed to have taken the decision in a move aimed at protecting him from punishment by the powerful propaganda authorities in Beijing. Even though his cartoon was tame by Western standards and made no attempt to caricature the President, who is also the leader of the Communist Party, such depictions are unheard of in China.

Although the drawing is a far cry from the sort of satire that is commonplace in Western newspapers, it marks an astonishing precedent in China, where cartoons of leaders do not exist.