SILENCE THE HERETIC

Never heard of Allen J Frantzen? Don’t worry, unless you are into Anglo Saxon literature there is little likelihood of you stumbling across the professor. Yet, within the world of medieval studies he was, until January of this year, a highly respected figure. To most of us books with titles such as Food, Eating and Identity in Early Medieval England don’t make the pulse quicken, but amongst medievalists Frantzen was an important academic. In 2013 he won the Medieval Academy of America’s Teaching Excellence Award.

afrantzen
ALLEN J FRANTZEN

Then he made a mistake. After nearly 40 years in academia Frantzen retired from Loyola University in 2014. Since then he has devoted his time to writing projects, including his blog. His blog postings consist mostly of photographs of Frantzen at home with his partner George, recipes they have made and gardens visited, with a sideline on their cats. One would think that he was a fully paid up member of the progressive intellectual elite. Then he wrote a post How to fight your way out of the feminist fog.

Continue reading “SILENCE THE HERETIC”

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The Tyranny of Niceness

I am not a nice person. I have no wish to be a nice person. The next person who tells me that the world would be a better place if we were all just a little bit nicer to each other is liable to get a punch in the snoot.

If there is one engine which is relentlessly driving Western civilisation to destruction it is the monstrous tyranny of niceness.

There is a move by the ‘Index on Censorship’ which should be supported by all thinking people, especially thinking Christians, which leaves out progressives. The ‘Index’ has called for the removal of the word ‘insulting’ from the Public Order Act on the basis that the word’s inclusion in legislation has “a corrosive effect on free speech” in the UK.

At present Section 5 of the Public Order Act imposes criminal penalties for using threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour causing harassment, alarm or distress.

This should be opposed vigorously and not just because it leaves Christians wide open to charges that we have ‘insulted’ any particular group who take umbrage when we don’t give wholehearted approval to their particular depravity. It should be opposed by all thinking people on the simple grounds that some people, movements and ideas need to be insulted.

If someone believes that Prince Phillip is in reality a giant lizard, as David Ickes does, he needs to be told he is away with the fairies. David may find that insulting, but it’s for his own good.

If someone thinks that wandering around Glastonbury festooned in amulets and occult symbols brings them closer to Gia they need to be told they are several sandwiches short of a picnic. This is not being nasty, it’s compassionate, it’s trying to help the deluded.

Being nice is not the same as being polite. We should be polite, there is a need to show respect and not to cause needless offence. That is not the same as being nice. Being nice is being fearful of causing any offence whatsoever. There are times when it is necessary to cause offence.

The niceness cult has practically finished off the church. Our progressive friends (see I can be polite) tell us we must show compassion and understanding, that we should always walk a mile in the other fellow’s shoes before we criticise him. Balderdash. The only possible reason to walk a mile in another person’s shoes is if the shoes are a comfortable fit; then you will be a mile away, have his shoes and he won’t be able to chase you because he is in his bare feet.

The church must recover from its fear of speaking clearly. Look at the Bible, if the early church had been ‘nice’ it would never have been other than the hippy branch of Judaism, confining itself to sitting in a circle singing Kumbaya and thinking good thoughts about the worshippers of Diana.

When Paul found Peter consorting with the Judiasers did he just say that they were taking differing paths to the same destination? No. He confronted Cephas to his face. Bible speak for a knock-down drag-em-out argument.

When Jesus confronted the Pharisees was He nice? Far from it. He called them “Whited sepulchres,” just about as insulting as you could get. This was Bible speak for Jesus saying “See you, you get right up God’s nose.” Not nice, but accurate.

Christians should not be afraid of speaking plainly. We will be censured for sure. So what? I will be told we should speak the truth in love. Most certainly. But is it loving to pretend that some behaviours are acceptable to God when He pronounces them sinful and deserving of punishment? Sugar coating such behaviour is surely a cruel and unloving deception.

I make no plea for Christians to go around deliberately insulting people. But I do ask that we regain the willingness to speak plainly, to call a spade a spade and a sin a sin.

Freedom Of Speech

In the first prosecution under a ‘hate crime’ law passed in March 2010 five Muslims from Derby have gone on trial for the composition and distribution of leaflets. The leaflet describes homosexuality as a sin leading to hell, calls for the death penalty for homosexuals and contains a picture of a mannequin hanging from a noose. Other leaflets were entitled “Turn or Burn” and “God Abhors You.” The men are reported to have said the pamphlets were distributed to “raise awareness” not incite hate.

Awareness Raising in Derby

This is the first prosecution under a law which took effect in March 2010 which makes it illegal to “stir up hatred on the grounds of sexual orientation.” The maximum penalty for the crime is seven years in jail. Prosecution lawyer Bobbie Cheema, Senior Treasury Counsel at the Central Criminal Court, told the jury they were “threatening, offensive, frightening and nasty.” She was right.

Bobbi Cheema

So? Offensive and nasty they undoubtedly are but there is an important difference between written material or speech that is repulsive and distressing, and acts such as armed robbery that are physically harmful. One requires a subjective judgement, the other can be judged with legal objectivity

Laws governing thought and speech rather than actual deeds are not just difficult to enforce they are incredibly hard to confine. Much as it goes against the grain I must agree with Stephen Fry who argues that such laws lead to a culture of censoriousness. Worse they stunt free expression and lead to fearful conformity. Legal censorship leads to the even more pernicious and effective self-censorship. When people are afraid to speak freedom dies.

There is huge moral difference between the anti-Christian jokes of Rowan Atkinson and the repellent leaflets published by the accused. But who decides just where the line is drawn? Who do you trust to decide for you what you can say or write? The government? The lawyers? Editorial writers from the Guardian or from the Daily Mail?

AA Gill, is no stranger to controversy and the need to defend freedom of speech. He wrote of the Welsh that they are, “loquacious, dissemblers, immoral liars, stunted, bigoted, dark, ugly, pugnacious little trolls.” Whilst in his opinion the English are “embarrassing” and an “ugly race” as well as a “lumpen and louty, coarse, unsubtle, beady-eyed, beefy-bummed herd”.

It is possible to dispute some of these remarks, I have met tall Welshmen and not every Englishmen is beady eyed. However, it is also possible to agree wholeheartedly with his argument that free speech is like being pregnant: “You either are, or you are not.” Freedom of speech means freedom of speech, no matter whom it offends.

Freedom of speech cannot be other than non-selective. If I support those newspapers brave enough to publish the infamous Danish Muhammad cartoons I must support Muriel Gray’s right to call me an idiot because I believe in God. As soon as we say “I believe in freedom of speech, but…” we have demonstrated that we do not believe in freedom of speech.

The religion of the five accused is irrelevant, their moral stature is irrelevant, whether they are brilliant scholars or never got out of the remedial class is irrelevant, whether their views are widely accepted by the majority of the population or are confined to a tiny minority of knuckle dragging adherents of Salafist theology is irrelevant. Above all whether we agree with them or not is irrelevant. Freedom of speech is indivisible.

If someone hands you an offensive leaflet calling for the death penalty for homosexuals and you find it repellent do what grown ups do with election material from the Lib Dems, put it in the bin.

We should be big boys and girls and stand on our own feet and not look for the government to preserve our fragile egos by shielding us from nasty people who might possibly offend us.

Being rude, offensive or bigoted may be crude, vulgar, boorish and discourteous, it should not be illegal. If it were John Prescott would be in prison and not the House of Lords. A nation which refuses to silence the rude or bigoted is not a nation which approves of or endorses their prejudices, rather it is a mature nation which values rational debate over state coercion and defends freedom, even when it has unpleasant outcomes. To uphold the freedom of the objectionable is to uphold the freedom of us all.

Censorship

So, they got their way, Dr Hans-Christian Raabe has been removed from the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs before he was able to attend a meeting.

The ostensible reason was that he had “failed to disclose” something which might cause embarrassment to the government or the committee. Dr Raabe failed to disclose that he had written a summary for a freely available 2005 study concerning homosexuality.

There is no indication given that his rejection has anything to do with his position on drug misuse or any doubt concerning his abilities as a medical professional to contribute to the work of the ACMD. The reason give is that his views with regard to homosexuality are held to have caused “embarrassment.”

If Dr Raabe had been rejected because he was incompetent or did not have sufficient expertise in drugs misuse we would all have supported the decision. Instead he was rejected because of the high embarrassment quotient of his views on homosexuality.

There are many questions to be asked. Embarrassment to whom, does a freely available document have to be “disclosed”, who decides what is controversial and how controversial does something have to be before it becomes a sacking offence, and who took the decision?

Amongst all these there is however a much more significant issue, freedom of speech.

The revealed intolerance of any view or person who deviates from the progressive norm is breathtaking. Dr Raabe’s sin has nothing to do with the position he was appointed to, it is that he failed to pronounce “Shibboleth” correctly. In the eyes of the progressives he wasn’t “one of us.”

There is a narrow-mindedness in progressive thought which is repressive and dangerous to the freedom of the individual and the wellbeing of the community. In a therapeutic age truth has become less important than the possibility that someone somewhere may decide that they have been offended.

The liberal believes in a broadness of mind and a robust approach to public discussion in which he trusts the truth will eventually triumph. The progressive believes in a censorship which would allow only accepted views to be uttered and would continually restrict the limits of free expression.

Allied to this there is an increasing opposition from some towards any who openly state an orthodox Christian view. In effect this amounts to a bigotry which would seek to debar traditional Christians from public service.

It is possible to see why. The Christian believes in grace and the redemptive freedom it brings to fallen human beings to explore and live our lives fully before God. The progressive believes in redemption by law and that only by ever increasing legislation can fallen human beings be brought to live their lives acceptably within the prescribed limits of the state.

This is not an issue about drugs or about homosexuality. At its core this concerns a clash of cultures.

Dangers Of Laughing Differently

My apologies for being so long off line. Five days is too long for addicts. Indulge me for the hiatus and let me catch up. Bravely I jump in to that most dangerous of subjects, humour.

Humour truly is a dangerous subject. Never mind eggs it is all too easy to end up with a custard pie in face.

Many years ago, as a student under the supervision of the Presbytery of Edinburgh, I had to attend a lecture given by a member of Presbytery. This minister, who later became a Moderator of the General Assembly, gave a lecture on “Humour in German Theology.” To my surprise it was rather long.

As usual, being a good Presbyterian, I sat in the back. Alone, as the lecture proceeded  I chortled away. Today I still maintain that, despite the ‘shussing’ and dirty looks I genuinely thought it funny.

I chortled away thinking this ex SRM in the Black Watch (now you know who the ex-Moderator was) was doing a take-off of German humour al-la Fawlty Towers. I didn’t notice that everyone else had a straight face, stiff spine and exuded moral rectitude like the force field on the Enterprise under Captain Kirk. This guy was deadly serious. In fact he was Deutschland serious.

There I sat entirely oblivious, loving every minute. Until afterwards.

“Quod ali cibus est aliis fuat acre venenum.” The point is that, as the English language, not as impenetrable as Latin but still has long said “One man’s meat is another man’s poison.”

Recently we have been getting our nether garments in a tangle because of the off the mike comment of some football commentators which were caught on mike.

Personally I think the commentators in question are clichéd, banal and boring. However, the ‘right on’ take this event with deadliness and there was a tsunami of outrage.

This exemplifies the basic truth that the more you take yourself seriously the less your sense of humour will flourish. Just look at Ben Elton and Billy Connelly. I actually admit to being old enough to remember those long distant days when Billy Connelly was funny.

But some are ­solemn, and as that ploughman genius said they tend to the “uco guid and righteous”.

Those with a sense of humour realise that life is earnest, life is real. And in the midst of it all God laughs. (Go on look it up, I’m not going to do your work for you.) God is not a legalist, He gives guidelines to behaviour for our own good, so we can live full lives before Him. He gives us a framework so that we can enjoy the life He has given us. After all that is why Jesus came John 10:10.

God’s reaction is so often unalloyed delight. For the progressive Guardinista Puritan however the reaction to anything untoward, however slight, is to frown and demand censure. All too often it is to demand some new law to improve behaviour. Who knows, someone who does not subscribe to their PC parameters might actually be enjoying themselves.

Under all this there is a serious point. Most of us believe that the purpose of law is to give us a framework within which we can live and enjoy our lives without harm to others. Unfortunately others have the godless conception that people not only can be made good by law but that they must be made good by law. There is an entire conceptual world of difference.

If you belong to a safe and encouraging socio-economic bloc there can be occasions when it is easy to be amusing, especially if it comes to traducing political opponents. Propaganda is most easily defended when it is cloaked with ‘humour’. If we are given carte blanche and the unhesitating support of the media establishment it is easy to be ‘cutting edge’ and find ourselves lauded.

But what if you see things differently? What if you are just a footballer from a deprived area of Scotland who, thanks to progressive educational policies has little actual education, never been to a good university, never signed on to the whole North London dinner party agenda? In effect, what about you and the rest of us?

The recent dumping of Grey and Keys, boring as they are, reveals underlying stresses within society. It’s not about football . It’s not about political correctness. It is about an effort to make the whole of society conform.

Making Things Worse

Baroness Warsi has claimed that Islamophobia has ‘passed the dinner-table test’ and is seen by many as normal and uncontroversial. What is interesting in the speech was how she defined Islamophobia. What she called prejudice is simply mentioning Muslim extremism or terrorism.

Baroness Warsi

Baroness Warsi claimed “The notion that all followers of Islam can be described either as ‘moderate’ or ‘extremist’ can fuel misunderstanding and intolerance.”

This is well past strange and moving into weird. Previously we were told that failure to differentiate between the peaceful majority of moderate Muslims and the extremist fringe of radical Muslims was Islamophobic. Now the baroness says that differentiating between the groups is Islamophobic.

What she appears to mean is that any mention of Muslim extremism at all is Islamophobic. This is an intimidatory tactic commonly used by every ‘spokesman’ from the Muslim community after a terrorist outrage.

It is unarguable that Muslim extremists are waging war against the west and doing so in the name of Islam. Baroness Warsi rightly urges the Muslim community to more clearly repudiate the violent jihadi’s and their actions. But pretending that these acts have no connection with the fact that they are committed by Muslims in the name of Islam makes her call to repudiate such actions meaningless.

She also rightly said that atrocities committed by a small number of Muslims should not be used to condemn all Muslims. Yet the only people who do so are those who support the English Defence League or the BNP, hardly Baroness Warsi’s usual dining companions.

Those who write about the dangers of an ideology determined to destroy our way of life usually make clear efforts to acknowledge that the majority of Muslims just want to get on with their lives. Is there any mainstream media outlet which, in the name of good community relations, does not acknowledge the distinction between majority peaceful Muslims and the violent jihadis? Yet that is the distinction which Warsi says is prejudice.

There is an undeniable difference between Muslims. There are those who are willing to live as British citizens under the same law as everyone else, who subscribe to traditional British values, often to a greater extent than native Brits, and who pose no threat to anyone. Then there are those who want sharia imposed by any means possible and who wish to destroy the democratic values and human rights we do have and replace them with an Islamic theocracy as a step to re-establishing the caliphate. The latter incontrovertibly exist, some polls placing the proportion of Muslims who want to live under sharia law in Britain or to Islamise the nation constitute a significant minority.

Given this the surprising thing is that there is so little prejudice against Muslims. Remember that Warsi made her speech last night at a time when there is an ongoing inquiry into the London bus and tube atrocities where Islamic terrorists murdered 52 people. Can anyone imagine there being such a clear lack of prejudice in a Muslim country if the situation was reversed?

What really causes anger and aids the BNP and their demented ilk is the denial that there is a problem within Islam. The refusal to confront the process of the Islamisation of Britain and efforts to stifle reasonable comment only makes the situation worse.

Our progressive elites exhibit their totalitarian tendencies in this area when they attempt to censor open discussion of Islamic terrorism. In this they differ only in degree from those Muslim extremists who say “Stop saying Islam is violent or I’ll kill you.”

Silence only clears the playing field for the unbalanced on both sides. Yet Baroness Warsi wants to censor debate. The more I encounter progressives in politics and the media the more I admire George Orwell.

I’m sure that Baroness Warsi genuinely wants to improve community relations, but calling ordinary concerned people prejudiced is hardly the best way of going about it. She could have used her position to speak some home truths to the Muslim community in Britain. Instead she has strengthened its sense of its own victimisation and made matters worse.

You Censor, I Protect

I have been asked what I meant by saying I was allergic to the EU. It is simple, mention of the EU brings me out in a rash of cynicism which is bad for the soul, so I avoid the EU where possible. Unfortunately it is not always possible.

January 1st saw Hungary assume the rotating presidency of the EU. On the same day Hungary introduced laws designed to extend state control of the media. The coincidence led to an eruption of indignation on the part of EU politicians.

Jose Manuel Barroso, president of the EC, boldly proclaimed “freedom of the press is a sacred principle.” The Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe said the law “endangers editorial independence and media pluralism.”

Although economically fragile and in hoc to the EU the Hungarian government did not roll over at the intensity of foreign criticism. Viktor Orban, Hungarian Prime Minister, accused his Western critics of having double standards. “I defy anyone to find anything in our law that is not in other EU member states’ media laws.” He said he would be prepared to accept the EU’s ruling on the illegality or otherwise of the law, but he also said that if Hungary’s legislation had to be changed then so too would similar laws in France, Germany and the Netherlands.

Have no doubt Hungary’s new laws are harsh, authoritarian and dangerous. They establishes a highly centralised media authority with oversight and regulation of all public media and news outlets. This can fine journalists for violating “public interest, public morals or order.” The new authority is composed entirely of bureaucrats linked to Orban’s ruling party, Fidesz. The dangers are obvious.

Of particular concern is that this new body is explicitly charged with moral policing. Yet, in recent years freedom speech has been compromised throughout Europe by morality based laws seeking to censor “hate speech”, Holocaust denial and incitement to violence. Pointing to these Western precedents, a Hungarian government statement asks: “Who would dispute that human dignity, the protection of privacy, the prohibition of hate speech or the protection of children are primary issues of public interest, based on which even the press can and should be restricted to a certain extent?”

The argument runs that given restrictions on free speech throughout the EU why shouldn’t Hungary have its own laws? The Netherlands, Britain, France, Germany etc have their own morally based censorship, why shouldn’t Hungary?

Also, in many EU nations such as Austria, Sweden, the Netherlands, Ireland and Denmark, the people who make up media-supervisory authorities are government appointees, too.

The fact is that there is little about Hungary’s censorship laws which is specifically Hungarian. Apart from one thing. There is something quite old-fashioned and traditionalist in this project of policing moral evils. The first target of Hungary’s new media authority were “bad words” sung by the rapper Ice T. Hungary’s moral censors launched proceedings against a small, local radio station for playing two Ice T songs filled with his usual obscenities. The new media authority claimed that the lyrics of Ice T’s songs could adversely affect the moral development of listeners under the age of 16.

This concern with offensive words indicates the ascendancy of a new form of political correctness. And that is precisely what is so enraging our progressive political elites.

It is not censorship itself which enrages them, they do so much themselves. It is Orban’s determination to introduce an alternative form of moral policing that has provoked the wrath of Hungary’s EU partners. Brussels can live with censorship and encroachment on the freedom of speech – just so long as it is driven by its favoured progressive and multiculturalist ethos. It regards traditional forms of moralising as a direct threat to its own institutions.

Inadvertently, Hungary has reminded the EU that there is more than one side to the Culture Wars, and that political correctness takes many shapes and forms. In this confused dispute, those of a Christian based and traditionally liberal disposition must reject the moralising censorship of both sides.