On March 15th last year, the British reggae artist David Emmanuel, aka Smiley Culture, died during a police raid on his home. The death led to the biggest march by the black British community in 30 years, and a build-up of anger in the inner-cities, adding strain to already tense relations between communities and the police. For this podcast, I interviewed Merlin Emmanuel, who is Smiley Culture’s nephew, and is leading the Campaign for Justice for Smiley Culture, to find out what progress has been made towards understanding the events of that day.
One argument made for religion by its proponents is that it instills in its believers a sense of morality that atheists can’t possess. This argument suggests that without religion’s stick-and-carrot approach to morality (heaven if you obey, hell if you don’t), people will naturally revert to selfish, violent, animalistic behaviour.
If true, this raises a dilemma for Atheists: should we raise our children to fear a non-existent God if it makes them “better people”? Is lying to our kids acceptable in exchange for the benefits it may yield? But is religious morality the right morality anyway? After all, Deuteronomy 22:20-21 insists that women who aren’t virgins on their wedding night should be stoned to death. Which seems a little harsh, and in modern Britain wouldn’t leave society with many women suitable for marriage.
In order to prove their thesis that lack of belief leads to lack of morality, statistics are sometime used (or more accurately misused) by advocates for religion – take the following tweet for example, which came from @Eugene037:
Sweden, a country w/ most Atheist, has d most no. of rape cases n Europe accdg to UN Stats
Let’s break this down. First, is Sweden really the “country w/ most Atheist”? On the whole, Europe is less religious than any other continent, and religion is in rapid decline across the region. Wikipedia’s Demographics of atheism page breaks belief into three types: belief in a God, belief in a more general “spirit or life force”, and non-belief (Atheism). While belief in a specific God is low in Sweden, at 23%, there are countries with lower belief still: Estonia and the Czech Republic. However, Atheism in Sweden is only recorded at 23%, which is lower than Estonia, the Czech Republic, the Netherlands, France, Belgium and Germany. In other words, the statement is false: Sweden is not the country with the most Atheists.
Furthermore, Sweden doesn’t deserve its reputation for liberal attitudes: it is a socially conservative country by European standards. In recent years it set the standard for European sexual conservatism, making paying for sex illegal (conversely, here in “uptight” Britain, prostitution is legal, which gives protections and benefits to sex workers that their Swedish counterparts are now lacking. I’ve interviewed sex worker activists on this subject, and will air these discussions in an upcoming podcast).
And finally, Sweden has a far broader definition of rape than most countries, making the quoted statistics suspect – free information activist Julian Assange is accused of rape, and is fighting extradition from Britain to Sweden, because he is alleged to have penetrated a woman without a condom during consensual sex. By the standards of most places, this isn’t rape.
Having dispatched @Eugene037’s claims, let’s find some statistics that might more clearly reveal any correlation between religious belief and rape. Comparing stats between different countries is suspect, as varying laws, enforcement and cultural norms make accurate comparison difficult. Instead, I’ve chosen to compare US states with each other, as the legal and cultural differences between them are smaller than between nation states. For simplicity, I’m using voting behaviour as a proxy for religiosity – Republican “red” states have higher levels of religious belief and observance than Democrat “blue” states. I combined 2008 voting behaviour from 270towin.com and crime statistics from infoplease.com and the results are interesting:
In other words, a woman living in a red state is around 23% more likely to get raped than one living in a blue state. (Murder rates are closer, but slightly higher in red states, while robbery is significantly higher in blue states, probably because they are more urbanised, and most robbery takes place in cities).
If you have trouble believing these numbers, think about this: the Bible doesn’t view rape as a serious crime. While a woman who isn’t a virgin on her wedding night must be stoned to death, a man who rapes a woman must simply pay a fine to her father (women are, after all, the property of their father or husband) and marry her (Deuteronomy 22:28-29) – and in a number of other passages, the book explicitly allows the kidnap of women to take as sex slaves. Take for example, Numbers 31:14-18:
Moses was angry with the officers of the army—the commanders of thousands and commanders of hundreds—who returned from the battle. “Have you allowed all the women to live?” he asked them. “They were the ones who followed Balaam’s advice and enticed the Israelites to be unfaithful to the LORD in the Peor incident, so that a plague struck the LORD’s people. Now kill all the boys. And kill every woman who has slept with a man, but save for yourselves every girl who has never slept with a man.
The women themselves, of course, have no say in the matter. Women have little status in any of the ancient religious texts; which perhaps explains why they are more likely to be raped if they live in a more religious society, even today.
I’ll finish by trying to answer the question posed in the title: does religion cause rape? If I were to use the dishonest reasoning techniques of proponents of religion, I could say yes, based on the above evidence. But correlation doesn’t mean causality; it’s more honest to say that high incidence of rape and high religiosity have the same root causes: poverty, illiteracy, a lack of education, and a lack of trust in authority. Fix these things, and both rape and religion go into decline.
It was pretty clear, except perhaps to morons, that Bush and Blair were building up for their attack on Iraq long before war was declared in March 2003. Most people will still remember the huge global day of protest in February 2003. Most populations, with the notable exceptions of Israel and the US, were strongly against the war, and most people were well aware that the Iraqi “threat” had been concocted. People were also unconvinced that Saddam’s “evilness” constituted a reason for war, especially since he had been armed and supported by the US for years before he was identified as a “bad guy”.
London’s march on 15 February 2003 was the largest protest in British history: over a million people demonstrated against the war. However, that protest was not the first; 400,000 Londoners marched against an attack on Iraq in October 2002 – itself one of the largest marches ever seen in the UK. Already in October, most intelligent observers knew that the decision had been made, despite the Bush/Blair lie machine claiming that our leaders were still “hoping for a peaceful resolution”. Years later, we discovered we’d been right: Blair had already given his backing to the neo-con war plans in March 2002, a full year before the war began.
We weren’t fortune-tellers or mind-readers; we simply knew some history, and could see that the public was being softened up with scare stories about Saddam Hussein. Likewise, we already knew in 2002 that the neo-cons planned to attack Iran. On a successful “liberation” of Baghdad, they would continue on to Tehran. Fortunately, the Iraq war was incompetently handled, and the US became bogged down, preventing a new front from being opened. But the war on Iran wasn’t cancelled, just postponed.
As I’ve observed repeatedly over recent years, the only reason Iran hasn’t been attacked is that, with wars underway in Iraq and Afghanistan, the US doesn’t have enough military capacity. It’s no coincidence that, alongside the recent US troop withdrawal from Iraq, America has also opened dialogue with the Taliban (yes, those same evil-doers that they were going to wipe out in 2001, remember?) The US now has plenty of capacity for a new war – and when in recent history has it ever failed to take advantage of such a position?
The excuses for attacking Iran are as patchy as those for attacking Iraq. They may be developing WMD (in the form of nukes)… but the US has been saying that for years, and there’s still no firm evidence. Even if they are, there is nothing in international law to prevent Iran from owning nukes – Pakistan and Israel both developed the bomb in secret, resulting in relatively little fuss. There are simple lies aimed at the most gullible morons: Iran says it wants to wipe Israel from the map? False. Iran denies the Holocaust? Also false. Then there are truthful claims about Iran’s human rights record; yet Iran is no worse than many US allies: Saudi Arabia, Israel, Jordan, Uzbekistan to name a few. The US never – repeat Never – goes to war in order to defend human rights (in any case, wars can only make the situation worse for the people of Iran, and make it impossible for them to rise up against the regime).
You’d hope that enough Americans would have learned the hard way, from Iraq, or Vietnam before it. But most Americans rely on the US mass media for facts, and (as we saw in Iraq) the US mass media is incapable of holding the military-industrial complex to account. The New York Times famously apologised for its Iraq coverage; most US newspapers and TV channels were even worse, but failed to apologise.
The case against an Iran war is even simpler than the one against Iraq. Unlike Iraq, Iran has never attacked its people or neighbours with WMD. Indeed, it was Iraq that attacked Iran with chemical weapons in the 1980s; weapons that were supplied by the Reagan administration. Yet morons seem to never learn; and the moron media in the United States seems no more willing to tell the truth about this coming war than they were in 2002/03. Iran’s huge reserves of high quality oil hardly need mentioning.
The UK government is making supportive noises of the coming American war; Cameron will undoubtedly follow, but without the support of the population, just as Blair did. This time, much of the EU is also on board. The Obama administration may be no less warlike than the Bush regime, but it’s clearly more skilled at diplomacy.
When Blair took us to war, MI5 told him we would likely experience terror as a result. on 7 July 2005, 52 Londoners were killed on public transport, and hundreds injured. If we attack Iran, we expose ourselves to new terror – which in turn will create new justifications to continue this eternal American war. The next war is coming soon; our leaders are terrorists, and are inviting terrorism upon us; mass-murder will, yet again, be done in our name. And we have no choice but to resist.
My recent blog post, Feminists Or Fascists?, generated a lot of interest, sharing, blog comments, and discussion elsewhere. The blog looked at British anti-sex groups that refer to themselves as feminist, specifically mentioning the groups Object and UK Feminista.
Like most political bloggers, I obviously have my own opinions, and make no attempt to hide them. Impartiality in reporting is for news organisations, not individuals; I make no claim to be impartial. However, I do my best to honest and fair. If I had to lie to make my point, my point wouldn’t be worth making. So in my criticism of these groups, I did research, and in particular looked at their own web sites. I also carried out extensive interviews with women under attack by these groups, the first two of which were included in my podcast Strippers Are People Too.
As well as a lot of useful feedback and discussion, including from people with direct knowledge of the Hackney and Tower Hamlets campaigns against closing strip venues, I’ve had feedback from two people who strongly disagree with the points I’ve made. In the interest of fairness and balance, here are the relevant conversations in full.
[I post a link to the blog post, “Feminists Or Fascists?”]
Jackie M: What a load of ill-informed bullshit.
MoronWatch: Jackie, are there specific inaccuracies? Can you provide 1-2 glaring examples?
[End of conversation]
Conversation 2, on the original blog post:
Anna: I am personally offended by this article. What a joke.
MoronWatch: Exactly how did this article offend you?
[End of conversation]
I’m pretty sure that these people are activists, but I should make clear that I can’t prove that. However, the nature of their argument matches the quality of what I’ve read elsewhere, including on the Object web site. These people have the ear of the mass media, who are incredibly accepting of their claims; they feel little need to state their views in an arena where they may be analysed.
This a call to supporters of Object and UK Feminista to articulate your views here and join the debate. Surely, given the vehemence of your positions, and your insistence that free sexuality is harmful to women, you must be capable of intelligently explaining your position. So please, be my guest.
Also a request to those on the other side of the debate: please refrain from personal attacks and insults. If Object have a position to put, listen to it and respond politely and intelligently. If the above comments are the best they can offer, they’ve clearly lost the debate (although not necessarily the battle to close London strip clubs – politics and reason are two different things).
Following on from my recent post, Feminists Or Fascists?, this episode features in-depth interviews with two London strippers who have become political activists in order to protect their workplaces, jobs and incomes. In the boroughs of Hackney and Tower Hamlets, “feminist” anti-sex campaigners have teamed up with conservative Muslims to drive legal striptease venues (serving both gay and straight audiences) out of the area. Gentrification and property prices also play a part, as newly-arrived middle-class residents move in to these formerly working class areas.
Many people have asked me: MoronWatch, what is Santorum? There are two types of Santorum, which explains the confusion.
The first kind is Rick Santorum, the ultra-right wing Christian homophobe who is running for the Republican presidential nomination, and came within a moron’s brain-width of winning in the Iowa caucuses.
The second is defined as “The frothy mixture of lube and fecal matter that is sometimes the by-product of anal sex”.
Although this might seem to be an unfortunate coincidence, in fact the latter was invented in honour of the former by gay rights activist Dan Savage.
Now, it’s come to my attention that a large number of very naughty people on the Internet have been linking the word Santorum to a page featuring the latter definition. This has had a strange effect on Google: when the word Santorum is entered, the first result returned is the Spreading Santorum web site, with the official campaign site of bigoted moron Rick Santorum falling to a poor third. Which is a shame, or hilarious, depending on your point of view.
Owing to our high-quality approach to journalism here at MoronWatch, we wouldn’t dream of engaging in such childish activity. We just thought you should know. We advise against clicking the share buttons below, or adding an article on this subject to your own blog, as it will only make the problem worse. The next thing we know, Rich Santorum’s gay-hating fan base may accidentally be visiting a pro-gay, anti-Santorum web site, and thus be turned gay, which would be very bad indeed.
I’ve neglected my Moron Alphabet series of blog posts for a little while, but today’s news gives me an opportunity to continue. So here we are at the letter P.
In 1987, Diane Abbott achieved the distinction of being the first black woman to be elected to the House of Commons, representing a poor, racially mixed area of east London. She still serves as a Labour MP, and is generally on the left of the party. Originally a hero of the left, she burnished her radical credentials by deciding to send her son to a private school, rather than to a local comprehensive as her Labour principles would dictate.
In recent years, I’ve found myself in the strange position of supporting much of what Abbott says, but wincing at her apparent inability to argue her views convincingly. She says the right things to sound radical, but doesn’t sound convinced that she believes (or understands) everything she says. I guess I’d class myself a reluctant supporter; it would have been good to see someone with Abbott’s views win the Labour leadership contest; but not necessarily Abbott herself.
So anyway, yesterday Abbott tweeted someone as follows:
White people love playing ‘divide & rule’
And of course, the standard debate ensued: was this racist? Was it justified? Should she resign? Is this discussion a symptom of “political correctness gone mad”? And so on…
My favourite white racist Twitter morons all exploded with (faux) outrage: “why is it OK to say such a thing about white people and not black people?” These people are a lot of fun to mock usually, but the problem is: this time they have a point. I doubt that Abbott is a racist, but it’s true that if a white MP had said “Black people love…” followed by something negative, they would be publicly shredded as racists.
More nonsensical were the justifications I saw from her supporters. Apparently, it’s OK to say bad things about all white people, because back in history, some white people did terrible things. Presumably it’s also a historical fact that black people love… nah, I think I’ll leave that one there.
This, to me, is the worst of “liberal” thinking. An argument in a blog post I saw went roughly like this: “The Belgian Empire treated Tutsis better than Hutus, resulting in the Rwandan genocide. Therefore Diane is right”. Let’s break this down:
It’s very sadly true that the Belgians, or more accurately, King Leopold II of Belgium, ran commercial ventures in Africa involving genocidal behaviour that was responsible for millions of deaths.
King Leopold and his people in Africa all had white-ish skin (not true, black people were involved too, but let’s not get bogged down in detail).
Rule in the Belgian Empire (in the area now occupied by Rwanda, Burundi and DRC) was partly maintained by raising some tribes above others in status – also known as “divide and rule” or “divide and conquer”.
I have white-ish skin too (not an identical colour to King Leopold’s, no doubt, but close enough to call us both “white”).
Therefore, Diane Abbott can link me to genocidal behaviour carried out a century ago by King Leopold II.
Racist or not, the idea that it’s “historically truthful” that white people are good at divide and rule is a wonderful piece of nonsense. Divide and rule is a classic political strategy used by successful leaders in every part of the world at some point. Furthermore, divide and rule is rife in modern-day African politics, probably more than anywhere else. African politics are intensely tribal; most African leaders can fairly be accused of favouring their own tribe above others, and sowing division between tribes when it suits them, as so often happens.
So it turns out that black poeple are good at divide and rule too!
Let’s see if we can deal with this mathematically:
White people are good at divide and rule. Black people are good at divide and rule.
Since this doesn’t apply to all white or all black people, we can improve this as follows:
Some white people are good at divide and rule. Some black people are good at divide and rule.
Now we can simplify:
Some (black/white people) are good at divide and rule.
And (assuming this also applies to other races too) we can reduce this to:
Some people are good at divide and rule!
We’ve discovered a new fact about mankind, to be filed along with “some people are prone to violence” and “some people like apples”.
Somehow, the moronic self-censorship we call political correctness has led liberal-minded anti-racists to accept some forms of racism as OK – or at least, less bad than other forms. If it’s OK for black people to link white people with the evils of Empire, can I link all native Americans to the human sacrifice carried out by Mayan society? And black people sure have a lot of explaining to do over the behaviour of Idi Amin and countless other black mass-murderering leaders.
By defending Abbott’s little racial slip as somehow “more valid” than if a white person said it (based on false “historical accuracy”), all racists win. I’ve always fought against racist morons like the National Front and the British National Party who attack Jewish, black and Asian people. Why would I then accept racism from black people as OK? Racism is either acceptable or it’s not – it’s really that simple.
For decades, every major battle in the area of sexuality has been won by progressives. The pill and the condom have long allowed women to enjoy their sexuality, and increasing numbers of women are unashamed of fulfilling their sexual desires. Alternative sexualities have become increasingly accepted, with gay marriage now accepted in many countries, and the Internet has allowed people to find those of similar sexual tastes and needs far more easily than ever before.
By the year 2000, it seemed that sexual conservatives were in irreversible retreat – at least on this side of the Atlantic. But society’s conservative/progressive pendulum has been swinging rightward for a while now, and it’s therefore not so surprising that sexual freedom is under attack, yet again. The usual suspects are there, of course: Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Hindu and other religious groups who are always keen to trumpet the evils of free sexuality, in whatever form it may rear its head. The religious believers can’t be swayed by fact or logic: if their book says something is bad, then so it must be.
But attacks on sexual freedom here in the UK often come from more unexpected sources. Religious moralists are in a small minority, but secular moralists have become increasingly loud. In particular, some small, active hate groups using the Feminist label have appeared on the scene.
If you’re expecting an attack on Feminism here, you’ll be disappointed. In fact, the feminist movement came under heavy attack from within in the 1980s. The original feminist movement (of the 1960s and early-70s) was a libertarian one that focused on the individual rights of women: most of all, it fought for the right of women to do with their own bodies as they saw fit. In modern-day feminist parlance, the early feminists were “sex-positive”. In the 1980s, an anti-sex faction appeared, led by Catharine MacKinnon, a lawyer. These new “feminists” directly opposed the sexual libertarianism of earlier feminists. They effectively became the secular wing of religious pro-morality campaigners, and the two, apparently quite different, groups have fought for the same causes ever since.
Sex-positive feminism is still going strong, as demonstrated by the Slutwalk movement of last summer, which aimed to make Slut a word of pride instead of shame. Notably, the “feminist” anti-sexuality groups failed to support Slutwalk. But the mass media, and many conservative-leaning feminists, have embraced the puritanical feminist movement and rewritten history. Rather than a conservative offshoot of sex-positive feminism, the puritans are now presented as the only valid form of feminism: an anti-sexuality coup has twisted and subverted a once libertarian movement.
Chief among these neo-puritan groups in the UK is one called Object. It paints itself as a feminist organisation, and has received plenty of mainstream media coverage, but it campaigns exclusively against sexuality and sexual imagery. Bizarrely for a group that adopts the label “feminist”, much of its vitriol is used against women who dare show naked flesh in public. In Object‘s campaigning – against nudity in the media, strip clubs and prostitution – it supports and shares platforms with right-wing and religious fundamentalist groups. Yet newspapers like the Guardian and TV outlets like Channel 4 take Object seriously, and give them a platform that they wouldn’t give to religious hate groups.
Object‘s propaganda is laughable – I suggest you look at their site for yourself to see that. In particular, the page entitled “The Facts” is a masterpiece in obfuscation. [Update: since I wrote this post, Object removed all the “facts” from their “The Facts” page]. For sure, the page lists some facts. But it provides no information about how these facts are in any way linked to Object‘s claims that sexual freedom creates dangers for women. For example:
Over half (54%) of all women around the world say they first became aware of the need to be physically attractive between 6 and 17 years of age
Yes… and? I’d have expected the number to be higher, if anything. Given that evolution drives us to make the best possible choice of sexual partner, both women and men (not to mention many species other than humans) have a built-in need to make ourselves physically attractive. What point is being made here?
Eating disorders are as common amongst women as autism
OK… and is that a lot? And if so, what does it say about the causes of eating disorders? Or of autism, for that matter?
66% of teenage girls would consider plastic surgery and 20% would do it right now
Again, what are the causes of this? Is this proven to be a bad thing? Object don’t say. Can it be linked to scantily clad women (and men) in lads mags and music videos, as Object seem to imply? Or perhaps newsreaders should wear brown paper bags over their heads as well? Maybe we should ban any video or photo featuring a potentially attractive woman, just in case? Maybe Wahhabi Muslims have the right idea. If everyone is veiled, nobody can aspire to look like anyone else.
Polls suggest that 63% of young women aspire to be glamour models or lap dancers
And plenty of young men want to be footballers. What does this mean? Object doesn’t provide any interpretation. These “facts” alone are supposed to show that society is “too sexualised”, women are “objectified”, and somehow these meaningless words conjure up a world in which women are less safe. So let’s hide naked flesh! That will solve everything! [Note added: @DrPetra informs me that this number seems to have been made up. See her blog for details.]
And the nonsense continues. Yet some journalists and politicians take these people seriously.
As I began planning interviews for my recently launched podcast, I decided to talk to women who have come under attack, both from neo-puritanical groups like Object (and others, such as UK Feminista), and old-style religious puritans. I’ve met and interviewed strippers, prostitutes, female pornographers, female sex writers and female academics who research sexuality, and discovered some shocking things: that Object have never approached and talked to the women who they claim to be “saving from exploitation”; that Object have ignored the weight of research and evidence that exists showing that abuse is powered by secrecy and censorship, not by sexual freedom.
In east London, Object are working alongside religious fundamentalists to have strip clubs closed down. They link the existence of strip clubs with increases in rape, although evidence doesn’t back that claim. They lie about links to “trafficking”, ignoring that licensed venues are forced by EU regulation to check workers’ passports. They picket the venues and harass the workers, and their campaign will ensure gay clubs close as well as straight ones (a fact they’re remarkably quiet about).
Quite simply, Object is a hate group. Its methods are those of lies and intimidation. It deliberately avoids facts that may undermine its fundamentalist belief that free sexuality is bad for women. Yet it receives donations and media time from sources that other hate groups (far-right racists, for example) could not.
If Object and UK Feminista won’t talk to women involved in the sex industries, I can. In my upcoming podcast episode, I interview strippers who have become political activists and trade unionists in order to defend their chosen way of making a living, and their right (once fought for and won by feminists) to do as they choose with their own bodies. Object, without ever meeting these women (they refuse to), or setting foot in a strip club (their minds are made up), have labelled the women simultaneously victims, and a root cause of rape and domestic violence, without a shred of evidence to back any of these claims.