Cranmer, the ASA and its gay chairman

Ten days ago I wrote an article on this blog, about the Cranmer blog, and some threats which it had received from the British Advertising Standards Authority (ASA).  The “crime” was that Cranmer had run an innocuous advertisement for the Coalition for Marriage, opposing the current demand by the gay lobby for gay “marriage”.  The ASA demanded that he ‘explain’ himself — a tactic of intimidation familiar from Canada — and they also demanded that he keep their bullying silent.

Well, they picked the wrong blogger.  The mighty and very widely-read Cranmer promptly published their threatening letters on May 11th and demanded an explanation in his turn. He also wondered why his blog was singled out, when the even mightier Guido Fawkes had run the same ad.

Much has happened since.

On May 14th Cranmer published his reply.

His Grace apologises to his readers and communicants for his brief absence from his cyber pulpit: he has been closeted with lawyers and advisers, and has downed one or two vodka-martinis (‘dirty’, two olives) along with sundry bottles of Rioja. It’s interesting how a request to comply with an official investigation and a demand to respond to a formal inquiry becomes distracting and all-consuming: the mere request is a formidable weapon of harassment in itself, sapping energy, time and money (vid. His Grace’s Collection Plate ‘donate’ button on the right: all solidarity contributions welcome).

In particular, apologies are due to those who objected to his use of the word ‘persecution’ in this context: certainly, he, being long-deceased and non-corporeal, is no longer risking life or limb in the proclamation of the gospel. But, with respect, none of those who judge are on the receiving end of the intimidation. In their correspondence, the ASA do not inform one of the limits of their powers: one is simply confronted with specific demands from an organisation styled ‘Authority’. And through all the hours spent consulting, considering and pondering, there is absolutely no clue as to the identity of these 10 complainants, other than that they include the ‘Jewish Gay & Lesbian Group’ (though it is not clear if the complaint was made by individual members of that organisation or corporately on behalf of all members [if the latter, His Grace would dearly like to hear from any affiliated gay or lesbian Jews who place the freedoms of speech and expression above state-imposed moral uniformity]).

The latter paragraph contains a lession for us all.  Note how commenters who support this kind of persecution have developed a standard tactic; they deny that the harassment actually is persecution. 

Of course harassment is persecution.  So what is the purpose of the denial?  Well, it confuses the response.  Instead of asking “why are you beating me?” the victim is sidetracked in a futile debate away from the evildoer onto whether the victim is using “correct language”.  The object is thereby to blunt attempts at self-defence.  It’s worth making a mental note of this, for I have seen the same tactic used in response to other descriptions of harassment of Christians.  Those who adopt this tactic must be considered either fools or enemies, and, I fear, usually the latter.

On May 16th more dirty details emerged.  The ASA, feeling the heat, published a disclaimer on their website.  They did not apologise for their conduct; no indeed: they asserted that their victim had misunderstood!  This cynical ploy to deflect criticism, while continuing their action, was dissected by Cranmer here, although at this point even he did not realise quite what the disclaimer was really about.

But here’s the interesting section:

One of the bloggers on whose blog the ads appeared has raised concerns about us contacting him as part of our investigation. We have long found it useful to ask, in confidence, publishers of ads subject to ‘offence’ complaints for their views, because they can give us a valuable insight into whether or not their readers are likely to be offended. They are not the subject of our investigation, as we have made clear to them in this case, and they are not compelled to respond. 

This sounds so utterly reasonable that His Grace must have been completely mistaken by both the tone and content of their initial communication. Silly him: what a stupid pile of ash to have got so scattered about and worked up over the sweet ASA’s polite request for titbits of information to provide them with important ‘valuable insights’. How unnecessarily histrionic of him to have used the word ‘investigation’ when none has been instigated and he is not even compelled to respond, as they ‘made clear’.

Sadly, this is untrue.

And so it was, as Cranmer proceeds to demonstrate.

On May 17th the ASA replied to Cranmer’s email; or at least, pretended to do so, while actually ignoring all of his questions.  The email was published and fisked.

A reasonable person might wonder what on earth is going on.  He might enquire why on earth a body whose role is to regulate dodgy advertising is writing threatening letters to a blogger?  Why is this body threatening Christian groups who suggest that God might heal?  On May 18th, all became clear

… former Labour MP Chris Smith, now Baron Smith of Finsbury PC, is not only Chairman of the Advertising Standards Authority; he is also Vice President of The Campaign for Homosexual Equality. Mr Smith is widely credited with being Britain’s first openly gay MP, …

But Lord Smith’s courage is not merely historical: he continues to advance his cause. And he does so by exercising an authority which it doesn’t actually possess. He became Chairman of the Advertising Standards Authority in 2006, and Vice President of The Campaign for Homosexual Equality in 2009. He ought to have been wiser and more discerning, for the Campaign for Homosexual Equality is a ‘direct descendant’ of the ‘highly political’ Homosexual Law Reform Society. And they make no secret about it.

If one is a direct descendent, one inherits certain characteristics and retains a distinct pattern of DNA. That Lord Smith is Vice President of a ‘highly political’ campaign is in no doubt: the objective remains that of advocating for ‘gay rights’ and agitating aggressively for favourable legislation, regardless of the extent to which each incremental change impinges upon the rights and liberties of others. The more militaristic homosexuals – often termed ‘gayers’ or ‘homosexualists’ – are now responsible for spreading the very sorts of oppression, persecution and alienation historically suffered by their co-sexualists.

And so now we know.  But this is by no means the end of the story.  Later that day there was a further response from the ASA.  With much conciliatory language, but no indication of any intent to withdraw their “investigation” — what you or I would experience as harassment — they stated that they were now going to go after a couple more blogs!  Cranmer’s comment was wry:

But the report in the Church of England Newspaper appears to suggest that the ASA has now indeed decided to seek the opinions of Guido Fawkes and ConservativeHome on this matter. While the former (being an Irish national with a blog hosted on overseas servers) will doubtless tell them where to go, the latter will tread more carefully.

Meanwhile the fellow-travellers and online warriors who live to support these kinds of persecutions were getting into high gear and shrieking at the victim, as is their custom.  On May 20th Cranmer dealt firmly with them too.

Through the past week of His Grace’s ASA saga, he has received dozens of highly critical emails and hundreds of condemnatory tweets impugning his integrity, orthodoxy and motives. Even this morning, one talked of his ‘hate mongering’ and it being ‘better to drown urself than persecute god’s children’. It is, perhaps, simply the price one pays for expressing an opinion or holding a view which is not quite harmonically consonant with the zeitgeist. If one wishes to avoid criticism, one remains silent and inert.

Most interesting was the endorsement of the persecution from a certain pressure group.  It was understandable in a way: there are some groups that can’t possibly fear state action targeted against ordinary people, and wouldn’t understand the need to resist tyranny:

But perhaps no comment has been more hurtful to His Grace than one received from Peggy Sherwood, President of the Jewish Gay and Lesbian Group. His Grace had politely requested their assistance in clarifying whether or not her organisation had complained to the ASA about the Coalition for Marriage advertisement which is now the subject of a formal investigation. Someone on their behalf had commented on this blog that ‘…this has been done in our name and without our knowledge or agreement’.

This, of course, contradicted the documentation received from the ASA, which informed His Grace that they had received 24 complaints, ‘including the Jewish Gay and Lesbian Group’, which, of course, shifted the weight of opposition from an insignificant number of sundry individuals to an organisation which potentially represents thousands. His Grace informed the JGLG that ‘the ASA have used your corporate identity to inform His Grace (and others) that the JGLG did complain (either about the advertisement being factually incorrect or ‘offensive and homophobic’). This would appear to be a false affirmation which the ASA have not bothered to check with you’. And he enquired to know if one of their members had misled the ASA that he/she was speaking on their behalf, and, since the President apparently knows the identity of this person, whether he/she might be prepared to contact His Grace directly. He also sought to discover what action the leadership of the JGLG might take against this person for (apparently) bringing the JGLG into disrepute.

He received a terse response, instructing him to ‘turn the other cheek’ and assuring him of their best wishes at all times, ‘except those occasions when he appears not to recognize the image of God in the image of others’.

Few will feel anything but revulsion at the cynical response.

On May 21st Cranmer responded to the ASA letter, and put it pretty straight.

It appears that the Advertising Standards Authority is no longer solely concerned with sales promotional advertising. …

By choosing to investigate a promotional campaign which sought merely to uphold the traditional view of marriage, it is clear that you have expanded your remit to incorporate the promotion of political causes and ideas, which the CAP Code states specifically is excluded from the scope of your competence, except where they are ‘direct solicitations of donations for fund-raising’. That is manifestly not the case with the Coalition for Marriage advertisement: the only direct solicitation was for people’s signatures upon a petition. That the campaign is political is in no doubt, because HM Government have decreed it so by their decision to investigate those schools which advocate support of the marriage petition, which a minister has referred to as ‘political campaigning’. Your decision to investigate the complaint with threats and menaces, contra your own online remit, constitutes bullying, harassment and intimidation, which amounts to censorship of the cause for the retention of traditional marriage and the idea that marriage is a union of one man and one woman.

By sending out ‘complaint’ papers which demand responses with such phrases as ‘We require you to respond…’ and ‘we will need to see robust documentary evidence to back the claims and a clear explanation from you of its relevance’; and by doing so with demands to answer your questions by a certain deadline with threats of punitive action for non-compliance, you fraudulently convey an excess of power and claim an authority which you do not, in law, possess. You impress upon the recipient that you are the superior moral agent, and that submission and obeisance are the only appropriate response. …

And Cranmer revealed that the ASA had cheated the public even more than anyone had realised:

Your recent claim (published on 15th May upon your website) that you were seeking His Grace’s voluntary assistance and ‘have made clear’ that he is ‘not compelled to respond’ is not supported by the facts. Not least because this was only ‘made clear’ in your second email to him (which was received at 5.40pm on 15th May). Indeed, it appears that your second email was sent solely to permit you to be able to claim publicly on your website on the same day that you ‘have made clear’ that there is no compulsion to respond. This is not merely mendacious; it is manipulative, which is further harassment.  …

This is not a public body being silly, therefore.  This really is the abuse of power for a political objective:

Your treatment of His Grace is oppressive because you appear to claim the authority of the British Government, the Office of Fair Trading and of the Courts to demand his personal reasons for supporting the English laws regulating marriage. You selected him alone from the blogosphere for this intimidation when larger and more powerful entities had also promoted the same advertisement. And your treatment of His Grace is partisan because, through your decision to escalate to ‘formal investigation’ sundry vexatious and invented complaints, and by your unlawful threats made with reference to the Courts and other available sanctions, you have sought to punish his support of a cause, which has become political, and his commitment to an idea, which is moral. Your Agency is charged with ensuring truth in advertising, not with advancing a political agenda by suppressing the free debate that underpins our democracy. …

It ought to be obvious to any objective, reasonable person, and also to any rational, impartial organisation, that a set of wedding photographs and a quotation from the marriage liturgy cannot possibly be offensive to any reasonable or rational person. They are only deemed to be so by those whose agenda is acutely political. The fact that you subjectively and unreasonably chose to escalate their complaints to the level of ‘formal investigation’ constitutes an intimidating attempt to encroach on the freedom of speech.

Later today, there was another development:

With impeccable (‘interesting’) timing, Lord Smith of Finsbury has come out in favour of the campaign for same-sex marriage.

For all the reasons previously observed, Lord Smith must now resign his position as Chairman of the ASA, who have aggressively and deceptively made demands of His Grace (and others) in relation to a Coalition for Marriage advertisement which merely sought to uphold the traditional view of marriage and English law as it presently stands. Lord Smith now declares that he desires to support the campaign to change that law, and he is apparently using the ASA to achieve his ends.

It is simply not possible for the ASA to assert impartiality and objectivity in adjudicating on matters relating to the promotion of traditional marriage. Lord Smith is simultaneously Chairman of the ASA and Vice President of The Campaign for Homosexual Equality. Now that he has ‘come out’ in support of the agenda of the 10 complainants who reported His Grace for disseminating ‘homophobia’, there can be no expectation that justice can be seen to be done.

Indeed not.  All is explained.

Cranmer is right.  Smith cannot properly remain as Chairman of the ASA.

Advertising Standards Authority threatens the Cranmer blog

The Advertising Standards Authority, a minor government body which exists to stop dodgy businessmen running dishonest adverts, has started to engage in some curious activity lately.  For instance it recently told a Christian group that it couldn’t mention God’s healing powers on its website (why?). Of course there must be some specific person — an atheist, perhaps? — responsible.  I wonder just who the evil-doer is?

Today I learn via the eChurch blog that the ASA has decided to threaten the Cranmer blog, on the grounds that an advert that appeared on his site supporting marriage is “homophobic”. 

Oh, and they demanded that he keep quiet about the threats.  Being a brave man, he rightly told them to go to hell.  Bullies love silence!

I do hope that this is raised in Parliament.  The ASA clearly needs reform, once it starts behaving like the Gestapo.  For there can be no free speech, when this kind of thing is going on.

Read the post in which Cranmer — well done! — blows the gaff on this.  The tone of the communication from the ASA is sickening.

Apparently there have been a number of complaints about one of the advertisements His Grace carried on behalf of the Coalition for Marriage. He has been sent all manner of official papers, formal documentation and threatening notices which demand answers to sundry questions by a certain deadline. He is instructed by the ‘Investigations Executive’ of this inquisition to keep all this confidential.

Since His Grace does not dwell in Iran, North Korea, Soviet Russia, Communist China or Nazi Germany, but occupies a place in the cyber-ether suspended somewhere between purgatory and paradise, he is minded to ignore that request. Who do these people think they are?

In the US and Canada, it is a recognised form of attack on someone to denounce them for their opinions to some officious “human rights” body, which will then solemnly harass them for months or years for daring to say something inoffensive.  In real courts people are considered innocent until found guilty; in the kangaroo courts like the ASA, they are guilty until they can prove that they are innocent of Wrong Thinking.  And so, we see, Cranmer is required to “justify” what he wrote. 

In this process, it matters not whether the victim is found guilty — because “the process is the punishment”, as Ezra Levant — himself attacked in this way — put it.  Few will dare to volunteer for months or years of harassment, merely for expressing an opinion.

It reminds me of the bad old days in the reign of Charles II, when Samuel Pepys was kept hanging on and hanging on under arrest, by his political enemies, who simply kept deferring the hearing (at which, in the end, he was found not guilty of being inclined to Roman Catholic opinions — the ridiculous charge made against him).

So … who was it that denounced this UK blogger to the authorities?  Well, we’re not told.  Anonymous accusations … the lovely fruit of the hater and the bigot.

The ‘Issue’ here is that 24 anonymous complainants, ‘including the Jewish Gay & Lesbian Group’ (doubtless disclosed to give weight to the allegations), challenged whether the claim ‘70% of people say keep marriage as it is’. However, His Grace is not required to respond to that point, since he did not conduct the research. But it transpires that 10 of these 24 complainants objected that the ads were ‘offensive’ and ‘homophobic’, and he is requested to respond to these allegations ‘under CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 3.1 and 3.3 (Misleading advertising), 3.7 (Substantiation) and 4.1 (Harm and offence)’.

And so the punishment begins. 

eChurch blog threatened with legal action for a post

On January 28th 2012 eChurch blog included this post:

I Tweeted earlier:

“I sincerely believe that it is easier to publicly proclaim your sexuality than it is to declare mental illness and personality disorders.”

This was met with a small chorus of agreement.

This thought derived from an incident on a prominent Christian forum in which a gay atheist activist took exception to the fact that the moderators had requested he change his provocative avatar. The avatar was of two naked men in an implicit homoerotic embrace. Given the history of this particular guy on the forum, which is typified by aggression – bordering on the threatening – vileness, rudeness, bullying, accusatory sentiment, ad hominem, Christian hatred, and so forth, it was plainly obvious to many that the avatar was designed to provoke.

This guy decided not to comply with the request of the moderator and subsequently was forced to do so.  …

The forum in question is the Premier Radio forum.  I read the article, which seems very mild and points out how dreadful these people have become.

Today I learn from Lisa Graas that apparently these mild remarks have led the odious individual in question to threaten legal action!

My friend Stuart James has a reader whose brain has apparently hit the rainbow wall very hard. Apparently, Stuart is getting sued by a commenter on his blog because of something he wrote about “gay rights” and mental illness.

A commenter calling himself Charles Bishop today gave me notice of his intention to pursue me legally for this blog post, under the laws of libel / slander. I await correspondence from his legal advisors.

Stuart, tell him I guess he needs to sue me, too, because I wrote an agreeable post about what you wrote.

I haven’t been able to work out precisely what is supposed to be libellous (!) or I’d post it here. 

In truth I rather doubt the troll in question has any intention of spending a halfpenny himself: the purpose is simply intimidation. 

UPDATE: I’ve now seen the threat, published in the Premier Radio internet forum, and it’s just some troll mouthing off.  What amazes me is that Premier didn’t moderate it instantly.

More on the raid on a blogger

Further to the story earlier about a blogger’s computers being seized by Norfolk police on what seemed very dubious grounds, the victim is a blogger named “TallBloke”, who records events on the day here.

Fortunately his sense of humour was not damaged in the raid…

Visit cartoonsbyjosh.com and buy a t-shirt or mug or something!

Get arrested for what you say on Twitter

In the UK, the crackdown on political dissenters online is getting into high gear.  I don’t know how much is going on, but I see ever more reports, and I certainly don’t go looking for them.  But it seems clear that people are routinely being denounced to the police for what they say online.  The “offences” are various, and the list of possible Wrong Things To Say gets longer every day (although one thought-crime — of disapproving of Jewish people — is showing signs of dropping off the list).  This example came my way today.

On the 15th November it was reported:

Mr Smith, aged 28, said he stood by comments on his personal Twitter account that illegal immigrants should leave the country saying, “It is my right to write what I think – but I didn’t mean any  offence.”

On November 11, he posted: “Respect to all the heroes 11/11/11 now to all the illegal *****, **** off out of are country all call of duty could become a reality – kill um.

I’m not sure that calling for the immigrants to be killed is not incitement to violence, but for some reason none of the stories make that point.  For the press it’s all about being “raaaacist”.  We could pronounce it “Jewish”, with a comic German accent, if we wanted to labour the point.  It’s about opinion, it seems, rather than violence.

By the 18th, the BBC reported:

Worcester City Football Club has suspended one of its players after he posted an alleged racist remark on Twitter.  A tweet, from striker Lee Smith’s account, prompted other users to accuse him of “spreading hatred”.

On the 23rd November:

Officers from Gloucestershire police yesterday arrested Lee Smith, the 28-year-old Worcester City Football Club right winger on suspicion of a public order offence, but he was released after being  given “strong words of advice”, said officers.

Notice how none of this reporting suggests that he was in trouble for inciting violence, which I would have thought might have been an option.  Instead it was his opinion that was on trial.

In the end he was let off with a warning not to do it again.  Evidently the establishment didn’t want to prosecute him for some reason — we’re not told why.

There’s some nasty precedents being set here, even if you are leftist in your politics.  At the moment it is people on the political right who are being attacked in this way, and the silence of the political left has been deafening, since the authors of the thought-crime process are mainly on the left.

But this is very unwise politics.  You have to hate people pretty badly to want to lock them up for their opinions.  In this country we have refrained from this for centuries.  You can only get away with it, while you have a predominance of power.

But any such political imbalance of power is unlikely to persist, for times change.  Indeed they have changed suddenly in my time.  I remember when Margaret Thatcher came to power in 1979.  Suddenly the left-ish certainties, which had controlled all political discourse during the 70’s, vanished as if they had never been, and the market become king.  When the Blair/Cameron era vanishes, as in time it will, will a newly elected hard right party — and hard times will produce these — use “anti-hate” laws to lock up everyone on the left who objects?

You bet they will.  And no-one will murmur a word against it.

Once it becomes acceptable to lock people up for what they say, it becomes acceptable to lock people up for what they say.  It just becomes a question of power, and of who decides what is on the list.  Anyone like to imagine how some “seditious language” laws might be used?  Or some “disloyalty to this country” laws?  If such were enacted, how many members of the parliamentary Labour party would evade prosecution?  And hard times produce such attitudes.

Mind how you go.

Suffolk libraries and political thuggery

Thuggery online is a problem for the ordinary blogger.  Many of us have had to close our comments, or else ignore whatever is in them, or both.  Too often our peace of mind is at the mercy of the online equivalent of a lynching, and the ordinary victim may not even be that sure as to what on earth has happened to him.

For this reason, it’s worth detailing a politically motivated attack on myself, undertaken yesterday and today.  If you blog, it’s worth familiarising yourself with the tactics employed here.  Once you realise it’s a cold-blooded process of inflicting pain in order to silence, you will feel less compunction in defending yourself.

Yesterday I wrote what I believed to be an innocuous piece about poor service at Suffolk libraries, based on personal experience.  After writing it, I emailed the URL to Suffolk County Council, suggesting that it be passed to their media team for comment.

I received no response from the council.  But this afternoon, when I came back, I found a series of abusive “comments” by first-time commenters on the article.  These I traced back to a blog, http://rosehillreaders.wordpress.com/, and a twitter feed:

I can only presume that one of the council officials, rather than addressing my post, decided to slip the word to his political allies that someone needed a thumping.  For how else would my specialised blog come to the attention of these people?

Of itself the blog looks like a harmless political blog, campaigning against the closure for cost-saving reasons of some small local libraries.  It’s a campaign that, on the face of it, any of us might support.

But there’s no name on the blog — never a good sign.  Who is this blog?  And the people who arrived … well, here are some extracts from the “comments”:

“I couldn’t disagree with you more (and that’s ignoring your puerile sexism). … Besides, why don’t you head upstairs if you want to read in silence?”

“You just seem to want it to be for those who would want the same high brow books as yourself. You would be the first to complain if it closed. If the Tories get their way there will be no libraries left in this County- that should please you!”

“If you want there to be any libraries left, in Suffolk, you would be better served by using your blog to champion their place in the community, rather than making patronising and uninformed attacks on them and their staff.”

“‘Mummy, Mummy, what’s a misogynist? she asked…(blah, blah, blah, oh dear, my small female brain seems to have short circuited.)”

“You are correct in your assertion that women make mistakes. Your mother giving birth to you is a prime example of such poor judgement.”

These were not comments on my post — this was heckling, this was personal abuse intended to hurt.  I’ve seen this kind of thing before, when “comments” are used to try and give a blogger a slapping, to intimidate, to harass, anything to stop him writing on the subject.

Most bloggers tend to be taken by surprise by this kind of comment.  Being decent folk themselves, they presume the comment writers are sincere.  They foolishly try to respond, to defend themselves, to explain.  All they are doing, of course, is allowing their assailants to change the subject from “Why Suffolk libraries are not very good” to “Why Roger Pearse is a bad person”.

It’s classic troll territory.  No normal person likes being on the receiving end of this kind of thing.  Everyone finds it unpleasant.  Everyone would like to avoid this.  And so, in order to avoid it, people avoid talking about things which are liable to get them a cyber-lynching like this.

However, I’ve played before.  I didn’t even pause, but the hit the delete key on each of them, without even bothering to read past the first stock jeer.  They’re writing to upset and manipulate me; so why should I bother to allow their words past my eyeballs?  And I don’t.

But of course I knew what would come next.  Usually these creeps split into two groups.  One lot shriek crude abuse; the other lot pretend to be polite.  The idea is that the first lot may get canned, but most people, in order to show that they are reasonable, will be disposed to be seen to be friendly towards the second lot, who can then try to manipulate this.  Usually the latter lot will try to suggest the *victim* is being rude, or is in the wrong.  Once again, they want to change the subject to “Is Roger Pearse a bad person”.

The normal approach to try, is to claim that I was being a “censor”, that I was attacking free speech, and again try to get me to explain, to justify myself, to put myself on the defensive, and so forth, to get me on the defensive.  Same aim, different game.

Nor was I disappointed:

“None of those comments were abusive in any way.  They simply put forward an alternative viewpoint.  Freedom of speech cannot be cast aside on a whim.”

“I have read your comments policy, can you just clarify what this means … just trying to be clear on why you delete certain comments.”

“I’m sorry to say this (wait, no I’m not!) but this post reeks of misogyny. Please stop.”

“Perhaps we can add cowardice to that, too? If you are offended by being accused of misogyny then please defend your comments.”

“I see you have removed my comment.  I screengrabbed it in case you had done so. Can you please explain why my comment was removed?  I will simply have to reproduce it elsewhere in reference to this post otherwise.”

“The problem is, Roger, all the polite comments (and the majority were polite) ARE relevant as this blog references freedom of speech. I am bemused as to why some of these comments (including mine) have been deleted and I will be posting them elsewhere to underline the point.”

The sincerity of the last comment may be judged from the fact that, after I banned this commenter, he kept trying to post under other user names, determined to “get at me” somehow.  And what kind of commenter first screen-grabs his comments?  Only one who is out to cause trouble.  And needless to say, when I posted a comment on the originating blog, complaining about their action, it was silently deleted.

Much of this is like the sort of things that happened in the playground at bad schools.  Yes, we even had the bully’s old favourite, “You’re not being bullied / harassed / whatever, it’s not our fault, what is happening to you is your fault!”  The thug always denies responsibility, and blames the victim:

“I must say that I don’t think any of them were abusive: they challenged some of your premisses and your own offensive statements towards women but to describe the comments as ‘abusive’ seems something of a stretch.”

“I’m interested, also, that you suggest that you consider people disagreeing with you to be in some way flaming when I might also point out that your post (as demonstrated by the many comments!) is, by your definition then, more than a bit troll-y.”

It’s all rather amusing, if you know what to look for and can maintain a certain detachment.   You can even tick off the standard attempts at manipulation!  “Personal insult”? — check.  “Attempt to change the subject to me personally”? — check.   “Claim of rudeness”?  — check.  “Claim of political incorrectness”? — check.  “Attempt to blame the lynch-mob victim”? — check.  “Attempt to claim that politeness demands I do this or that”? — check.  “Attempt to claim that preventing this game is ‘censorship'”? — check.  And so on.

But it is not innocent.  Someone less experienced in the ways of thuggery online could be badly hurt and upset by this.  This is deliberate violence, intended to give pain just as  much as a physical beating would be.

In this case, it’s actually rent-a-mob violence, orchestrated for political ends under the misapprehension that I was One Of The Enemy.  Unbeknownst to me, the library service is currently a political hot-potato.  The council wants to close some of the libraries.  Some  honest people are opposed; and some of the usual left-wing thugs are along for the ride.  In this case one of the thugs was tipped off about my post, and invited other thugs to put the boot in, without even realising that I hadn’t commented on The Cause at all!

Watch for the signs, people.  That delete key on the comments box is there for a reason.  Use it mercilessly, if you get even the faintest feeling of discomfort.  You’re contributing to the web; such commenters are there only to beat you up and damage what you’re doing for their own selfish ends.

Canada to repeal thought-crime law?

Regular readers will be aware that I post, from time to time, on threats to freedom of speech online.  Over the last few years there has been a definite trend towards censorship in the west.  While incitement to violence has always been an offence, and quite properly too, a new series of offences have been created, usually under the guise of banning “hate speech”.

The term is Orwellian — who can forget the Ministry of Love from 1984?  A moment of critical thought tells us that the use of the term “hate” is merely designed to disarm opposition.  For in truth, what business is it of the government to regulate emotion?  And surely you have to hate people pretty badly to lock them up because you disagree with them?

The practical effect of these laws has been to permit and encourage denunciations of “wrong thinking”.  The laws are vaguely drafted.  What is, or is not allowed, depends on the climate of opinion in the establishment at the time.  Curse one group, and you are a freedom fighter; curse another, and the police will be at your door.

All this has allowed favoured groups to drag those who disagree with them through the courts, and so place themselves and their actions above criticism — a desirable place to be, if you have an agenda to change society for your own purposes.  It has created inquisitorial bodies — calling themselves “Equalities Commisions” or “Commissions for Human Rights” — and it has created professional informers, making money out of denunciations.

Worse still, just being denounced is a punishment.  Indeed “the process is the punishment”, as one victim found.  The threat of “investigation”, conducted at a leisurely pace over years, at state expense on behalf of the informer and the inquisitor, while the victim must pay lawyer’s bills, is enough to intimidate most people from risking it.

Little of this has made its way into the mainstream media, but it has nevertheless become a serious problem in Canada, and in the United Kingdom, and in other countries also.  There are people in prison in Britain today, for no greater offence than posting on Facebook something critical of another group of people.

So it is very good news to read on the blog written by Canadian publisher and broadcaster Ezra Levant that in Canada the evil is being rolled back.

No more witch hunts – Persecuted sure to win reprieve from ridiculous, costly hate laws

The entire law is a corruption of justice — it creates a kangaroo court, run by non-judges, that does not follow the same rules and procedures of real courts, but has massive powers to punish and fine people who aren’t politically correct.

But the worst part of the law is Section 13, the censorship provision. Section 13 creates a word crime — the crime of publishing or broadcasting anything that can cause hurt feelings.

So it even covers things like whatever you post to your Facebook page. Section 13 says “it is a discriminatory practice … to cause to be … communicated … any matter that is likely to expose a person … to hatred or contempt.”

So if you publish anything on Facebook, or on your cellphone voice message, that might make one person feel bad about another, you’ve just broken the law.

Truth is not a defence to being charged with “hate” under Section 13. Fair comment is not a defence. Religious belief is not a defence. Telling a joke is not a defence. The law has nothing to do with truth or the right to have an opinion. It’s about whether or not you’ve offended someone or hurt their feelings.

It’s no surprise that this law had a 100% conviction rate in Canada for the first three decades of its existence.

I found out about this the hard way. In February of 2006, I published a magazine called the Western Standard. We reported on the major news story that month — riots around the Muslim world purportedly in response to some pretty banal Danish newspaper cartoons of Mohammed. Those riots killed more than 200 people, and we wanted to show our readers what all the fuss was about. But a radical Muslim imam in Calgary named Syed Soharwardy complained to the Alberta Human Rights Commission.

He said I violated his human right not to be offended. He wanted to ban the cartoons, and his hand-scrawled complaint even bitched about the fact that I dared to publicly defend my right to do so.

I laughed off that little nut-bar. I mean, get a life — you’re in Canada now, not Saudi Arabia. But to my surprise, the Alberta Human Rights Commission took his complaint and ran with it.

The Alberta government, using its provincial version of Section 13, prosecuted me for 900 days, with no fewer than 15 government bureaucrats and lawyers. It spent $500,000 prosecuting me, before dropping the case — and leaving me with my $100,000 legal bill. But sometimes freedom wins a round.

Last week, the federal justice minister, Rob Nicholson, stood up in the House of Commons and answered a question about Section 13.

The question was about a private member’s bill, put by Brian Storseth, an MP from northern Alberta. Storseth has introduced a private member’s bill, C-304, to repeal Section 13. But private member’s bills have little chance of passing without the endorsement of the government.

But Nicholson did endorse it. He called on all MPs to support it, too. Bill C-304, Storseth’s bill, is now effectively a government bill. And with a Tory majority in both the House and Senate, this bill is as good as done.

No more witch hunts by the Canadian Human Rights Commission. No more persecuting their political and religious enemies.

This is the best thing the Harper government has done in five years. Freedom is on the march.

Fortunately for him, Ezra Levant is a lawyer and a well-connected man.  The Canadian bureaucrats were accustomed to bullying poor, isolated pastors and the like.  So when the bureaucrats called him in and demanded to know what he was thinking when he published the “offending” article, he took them apart in an interview which was videoed and published online.  Their revenge — foolishly — was to subject him to three years of “investigation”.  His response was to expose them and lobby for their abolition.

Let us hope that this is indeed the beginning of the end of this evil.  Let us hope that the thought police are put out to grass.

Political imprisonment in Britain today

A horrible story on the BBC today, written in a manner that indicates the BBC is on the side of the nasty people.

A man who posted sectarian comments on a Facebook page called “Neil Lennon Should be Banned” has been jailed for eight months.

Stephen Birrell, 28, from Glasgow, admitted posting the religiously prejudiced abuse earlier this year.

Sheriff Bill Totten said what Birrell had done was a hate crime which would not be tolerated by “the right thinking people of Glasgow and Scotland”.

He said he wanted to send out “a clear message to deter others”.

There is no suggestion that Mr Birrell — whom the BBC labels a “bigot” in its headline — did anything except express a strong dislike for a group of people holding views different from himself.  He did not incite violence. 

He was, in other words, imprisoned for expressing his opinions.

Heaven alone knows what punishment he would have received had he called for those he disliked to be imprisoned for disagreeing with him.

There is much talk in the article about “hate” — that is, about feelings.  But when did feeling become a crime?  And if we’re talking about hate, you have to hate someone pretty badly to throw them in prison for disagreeing with you.

This judgement abolishes freedom of speech online.  I don’t care about Mr Birrell’s views, either for or against.  I support neither Celtic or Rangers.  But he becomes the first political prisoner in Britain of modern times.

I learn from the BBC article that there is a group, Take a Liberty, who are opposing this hatred and bigotry.  Please link to them.

Another UK attack on free speech

This report on a “bigot” who is to expect a jail sentence for expressing dislike online of those whom he saw as his enemies should make us all shiver.  There is no pretence that the man did anything except say how much he hated Catholics. 

Apparently that is justification enough for “a substantial jail sentence”.

Who knew?

Christianity — the only belief you can censor?

My attention was drawn by eChurch blog to a rather worrying report, on the threat of anti-Christian censorship on new media platforms.  The report on Internet censorship is by the  National Religious Broadcasters (NRB) and the American Center for Law and Justice and is entitled: An Examination of the Threat of Anti-Christian Censorship and Other Viewpoint Discrimination on New Media Platforms.  The report is a sober, and rather worrying document.

The report is US-based, but a major example happened in the UK.  I excerpt some key findings:

Apple has twice removed applications that contained Christian content from its iTunes App Store. In both instances, Apple admitted that these apps were denied access because it considered the orthodox Christian viewpoints expressed in those applications to be “offensive.” One app had expressed the traditional, heterosexual view of marriage as set forth in the Bible; the other had stated the view that homosexuality is inappropriate conduct that can be changed through a Christ-centered spiritual transformation. Of the 425,000 apps available on Apple’s iPhone, the only ones censored by Apple for expressing otherwise lawful viewpoints have been apps with Christian content.

The search engine giant Google has committed past practices of anti-religious censorship. For content reasons, it refused to accept a pro-life advertisement from a Christian organization, an issue that prompted litigation in England. Google is also alleged to have blocked a website in America that had conservative Christian content. It had blacklisted certain religious terminology on its China-based Internet service, and in the United States it bowed to questionable copyright infringement threats from one religious sect, which had complained when a blog site criticizing it had quoted from the sect’s materials. Google blocked that blog site on alleged copyright violation grounds, disregarding the obvious “fair use” provisions of copyright law. Such a practice could block the ability of Christian “apologetics” ministries to quote from primary source materials when using Google platforms to educate the public on the teachings of certain religious groups. Also, in March of 2011, Google established new guidelines for its “Google for Non-Profits,” a special web tool program, but specifically excluded churches and other faith groups, including organizations that take into consideration religion or sexual orientation in hiring practices.

Facebook has partnered with gay rights advocates to halt content on its social networking site deemed to be “anti-homosexual,” and it is participating in gay-awareness programs, all of which suggest that Christian content critical of homosexuality, same-sex marriage, or similar practices will be at risk of censorship.

The underlying attitude of those in power in our days is mildly but profoundly hostile to Christianity.  It has been made socially acceptable to say almost anything about Christians, however negative or unfair; and socially unacceptable and risky to object to it.   The general urge towards censorship in our days will impact Christians badly, therefore.