Richard Dawkins: Moron or Bigot?

I write this post with a heavy heart: there was once a time when I had a valid claim to be among Richard Dawkins’ greatest fans. There was a time when I would have treasured a tweet from the great man; but when my moment arrived (last Saturday), I was long past getting excited by it.

I had decided I was an atheist around the age of twelve, but on reaching my twenties, I realised I couldn’t fill all the gaps in my detailed understanding of evolution, and decided I needed to remedy that situation. The remedy was Dawkins’ book, The Blind Watchmaker, which I tore through in days, enjoying every page. A little later, I read Dawkins’ first book, and true masterpiece, The Selfish Gene, which blows away the idea that evolution necessarily favours the most violent, selfish individuals, and thus gives a little hope for mankind in a godless universe.

And then, in 2006, came The God Delusion, a highly ambitious project. This time, instead of using biology alone to undermine religious ideas, Dawkins travels across a wide range of philosophical arguments in order to destroy the basis of religious belief. Again, I bought the book almost as soon as it was available (OK, perhaps I waited for the paperback) and read it fast. Again, many of the arguments were fascinating and compelling. In his usual razor-sharp way, the author shredded any possible religious response. The God Delusion is a devastating blow to religious thinking.

But there was something a little different and disturbing about this book. For the first time (at least, the first time I had noticed), the mask of scientific impartiality slipped. Dawkins’ hatred of religion became more pronounced, most blatantly in Chapter 8: “What’s Wrong With Religion? Why be So Hostile?” On its own, this was no problem to me: I’ve never been a fan of religion either. But Dawkins was now attacking the basis of religious freedom, arguing that to teach a child irrational belief was effectively child abuse. The subtext was clear: child abuse cannot be tolerated in a civilised society, and so – if society accepts his argument that religion is indeed abusive – then religion cannot be tolerated either. It’s a position that any fascist would be proud of: “we are too tolerant to tolerate you!”

The intolerance of ideas is a deeply unscientific position, and thus an odd one to be coming from someone who has spent so much of his life promoting science. The Enlightenment – which laid the foundations of modern democracies – was based on the twin ideas of reason and freedom of thought. The fathers of the Enlightenment advocated a free marketplace of ideas as the only model for human advancement. Dawkins himself invented the word meme to model how ideas spread and mutate within such a marketplace. Either Dawkins has no faith that his own ideas could thrive against religious ones in a free marketplace, or his hatred of religion is driven by just that: hatred.

There seems to be a particular type of Twitter atheist that revels in attacking, and trying to upset, religious people. Many of these atheists were raised with religion before becoming atheists, and tend to blame their earlier intolerance on their religion rather than on their own innate wankishness. They seem not to notice that they’re just as intolerant as they used to be: they’ve just converted from being religious wankers into atheist wankers. Dawkins, since taking to Twitter himself, has attracted a large following of such people (and simultaneously lost many of his earlier admirers).

Dawkins’ Twitter rants have become infamous, and he has often been denounced as a bigot. Until recently, I haven’t subscribed to the idea that he is bigoted against any one religion or group; he clearly has a hatred for religion (and religious people) in general. But it has been hard to ignore that he, like so many “enlightened” people, has a special hatred for Muslims (although he would no doubt characterise it as a hatred of Islam rather than the religion’s followers). To my eyes, his crime has been far worse than just irrationally hating people: he has shown himself quite willing to abandon scientific principle in order to demonstrate his dogmatic view that religion is evil. Thus, he will happily tweet about the flogging of a woman for adultery (because the abuse has a religious justification) while ignoring mass slaughter in Congo or Sri Lanka (because he has no interest in rapes or murders that can’t be blamed on religion). This, from a man who was the University of Oxford‘s Professor for Public Understanding of Science for over a decade. Cherry-picking data to suit your dogma is the very crime for which he has correctly castigated purveyors of creationism and Intelligent Design.

Dawkins is also happy to spread anti-Islamic mythology when it serves his purpose. His site purports to be dedicated to removing the influence of religion, and yet carries several articles about female genital mutilation; this is clearly done to perpetuate the myth that FGM is an Islamic practise. But it isn’t: it’s primarily an African cultural one, largely perpetrated by women against their daughters and granddaughters. What do articles about FGM have to do with Dawkins’ war on religion? In reality, nothing, but they help him demonise religion as evil, and stir up intolerance. Clearly, accuracy and truth – things that are at the core of science – matter less than creating hatred against religious people. In trying to destroy religion, Dawkins has adopted the methods of religion.

Is he just naively amplifying far-right propaganda against Muslims, or does he have a far-right agenda of his own? I have long supported the former view, but evidence is increasing for the latter. One of many generic far-right Muslim-baiting Twitter accounts is @JihadistJoe. Although Joe claims to be a running a JIHADIST PARODY, COMEDY & SATIRE account, he seems to have forgotten he’s supposed to be a PARODY. Besides forgetting to tweet in character, Joe also forgets he’s supposed to be tweeting COMEDY. Joe does retweet a lot of bigoted comedy, and yes I admit, some of it is even funny if you can get past the small-minded hatefulness of it all. But Joe’s own material is as funny as you’d expect from someone who’s too stupid to know what “parody” means (i.e. not funny at all).

Dickie’s view differs from mine, however, and on Saturday he tweeted:

As a result of which, Joe acquired several thousand new followers. So Richard Dawkins, man of science, thinks that tweets such as the following are “very funny and DEADLY accurate”?

Laugh-a-minute stuff, and oh! such wonderful parody! At least, Dickie thinks so:

In response to Dawkins’ praise for Joe, I tweeted:

To which he replied:

Being attacked by Dawkins for being shit at biology would be hurtful, but being abused by one of the world’s most humourless men for my lack of humour? I can handle that. Note the “.” to make his tweet public – I was then, of course, bombarded with tweets from moronic Dawkins fans for a while; I make no protest, as I’ve frequently employed the same tactic.

So Dawkins has proven a huge disappointment to me, and many others who admired him as a man of science. Is he really stupid enough to fall for the anti-Muslim propaganda that’s become so prevalent? That seems unlikely; but he seems guilty of the anti-science crime of not questioning data if it backs his own bigoted views. And for that reason, however high his IQ might be, I think it’s fair to say that Richard Dawkins is a moron.

Does the Black Community Have a Problem?

Possibly because it’s Black History Month (US/Canada), I’m seeing a burst of Facebook discussions among my black friends on that old favourite: why do black communities underperform others? Various economic, education and health metrics still demonstrate large gaps between black and other populations, and inevitably people wonder why. The old white supremacist explanation – that black people are simply biologically inferior – has gradually faded from grace in recent decades, although this idea is often still hinted at.

Discussion among black people tends to swing between blaming others (it’s caused by racism/colonialism/the aftermath of slavery/etc.) and blaming themselves (why don’t black people invest in each other like Indians and Jews seem to do?) Meanwhile, many white liberals tend to blame racism and colonialism while simultaneously showing an almost colonial lack of faith in black societies to sort out problems for themselves.

It appears to me though that the truth is better, and the outlook more optimistic than any of these viewpoints might consider. I admit that I long supported the “white guilt” viewpoint. The Caribbean Londoners I grew up with undoubtedly suffered greatly from racism and police brutality. They also lagged far behind white people in educational achievement and economic success. There was an obvious correlation between race and disadvantage; many people (me included) therefore assumed that one was the cause of the other. But of course, assuming causation from correlation is the oldest mistake in the book.

It was my own black friends who helped set me straight on this, pointing out that they had escaped council estates, made careers and raised stable families, despite experiencing persistent racism. From their micro-perspective, the difference was clear: those whose families valued literacy and education succeeded. Those who came from families that placed little value on education did not.

The disparities between different racial groups should cast doubt on the idea that racism causes communities to fail. In the 1930s, Jews faced immense prejudice. They were also mostly economic migrants, and lacked capital. And yet many – including both of my grandfathers – opened businesses and moved out of the East End ghetto into the suburbs.

The Caribbean immigrants who began arriving in the late-1940s did not follow the same pattern of success as the Jews. But the East African Asians who fled Uganda in the 1970s did. The Pakistanis who came later did not do so well. But the West Africans who came in the 1980s and 1990s did better.

What kind of “racism” is so selective? When Indian and Chinese children do better in school than whites, but Pakistanis and Bengalis do worse, how can anti-Asian racism be blamed? And now, West Africans (mostly from Nigeria, Ghana and Sierra Leone) outperform white children but children originating in the Caribbean do not. How can this be explained by anti-black racism? In short, it can’t.

I attended the “blackest” school in the UK, where around 75% of the kids were first or second generation immigrants from the Caribbean. While some of the Caribbean migrants had come from educated, middle class homes, the majority didn’t. Many of my school friends left school with scant literacy and no qualifications. Many of their parents too were semi-literate, having come from rural island communities to take up work as bus conductors. Today, I still have friends in their 40s and 50s who have limited literacy.

This generation of black Londoners faced savage racism in the 1970s and 1980s, especially from the police; they also were excluded, by their lack of qualifications, from universities and well paid jobs. It was easy to combine the two things in folklore: to say that Babylon (the Rastafarian word for the white power structure) would never offer opportunities to black people. This was easy to believe. I believed this. To add to the confusion, black British people compared their position to that of black Americans and South Africans. This was deeply inaccurate; Britain never had racial segregation laws or traditions to overturn. The racism may have been superficially similar, but the political reality was incomparable.

But when, starting in the 1990s, many West African immigrants breezed into universities and professional jobs, it became clear that this racial model of British society was wrong. I had to question my own beliefs, forged among the afro-centric viewpoints I absorbed in my teens. When a Nigerian friend graduated as an accountant and invited me to her awards ceremony, I saw a new British reality. Expecting to see a line-up dominated by Jews and Indians, I instead saw Chinese, Nigerian and Ghanaian graduates collecting their certificates.

So does the black British community have a problem? The question is meaningless. There is no coherent black community. Grouping people together based on their skin colour is nonsensical, and indicates a racist world view. The key deciding factor in a person’s economic success in the UK is their level of literacy and education. It turns out that working class black people originating from the Caribbean have far more in common, economically, with white British people than they do with those of West African origin. The same applies to those immigrants from rural Pakistan versus those from urban India.

This doesn’t mean there isn’t a problem with racism – this is still alive and well, and the rise of UKIP reveals a strong xenophobic streak in British society. For black parents wondering how to give their children the greatest chance of success, the answer is the same as for any other parent: teach them to read and write young, to behave at school, and to develop a thirst for lifelong learning. And most of all, tell them that the colour of their skin is no excuse for failure.

Mandela and Morons

Growing up in the political hotbed of 1980s Cold War London, I found myself among interesting people. The African National Congress, after being banned in the 1950s, had set up a leadership-in-exile, based in London and Amsterdam. One of my teenage friends was the son of senior ANC exiles, a couple who had fled South Africa when the clampdown on the ANC began – including the jailing of the activist lawyer Nelson Mandela.

My friend, and other children of the ANC leadership, tried to be normal teenagers, but that must have been hard. I was warned to keep phone conversations with him minimal and to the point: their phone was almost certainly bugged by British intelligence which, despite our nation’s professed love of “freedom”, was working to monitor and help the South African government suppress the ANC. These children of the ANC had been raised in London, but groomed for political leadership when they one day returned to a country they had never visited. They also had to endure their parents leaving on long, secret trips to southern African countries, from which they might never return.

When Mandela walked free, my friend’s parents returned to South Africa, his father becoming a government minister in the first ANC government. My friend moved to Johannesburg shortly afterwards, was offered a diplomatic career, but decided to follow other paths.

Mandela, like many leaders of oppressed people, showed immense bravery and self-sacrifice. He famously spent 27 years in prison for his “seditious” activities, and refused to leave until a transition to democracy was assured. But Mandela differed from other revolutionary heroes: he tamed his people’s justifiable thirst for revenge, and instead crafted a new, multiracial South Africa; he taught a love of democracy and racial tolerance; he stood down from power rather than try to cling on to the bitter end, like so many other African revolutionary heroes had done. He refused to repeat the mistakes of earlier African independence movements which had angrily expelled the white and Asian elites, only to lose their most educated people and wealthiest investors.

Racists and white supremacists hate Mandela more than any other black leader because he didn’t just outperform other black leaders: he has a valid claim to be named as the greatest national leader of the 20th century. Neither of the great Western “heroes” of the 1980s, Reagan and Thatcher can remotely compare.

Yes, the ANC’s acts of resistance included acts of terrorism. But ANC atrocities are tiny compared to the real terrorism of that era. South African forces repeatedly gunned down civilians, including school children. The South African, US and UK governments supported far greater acts of terrorism in Mozambique and Angola, as they tried to stamp out the ANC’s fighters. How ironic that Mandela, a creator of democracy, was labelled a terrorist by the terrorists – Thatcher and Reagan – who crushed democracy and free speech in the name of freedom.

Mandela rose above all the world leaders of his generation. It is testament to his greatness that the people and newspapers that labelled him a menace in the 1980s are today lining up to praise him.

“But Mandela wasn’t a saint”, people are saying. So what? Both right and left revel in the simplistic idea that the world divides easily into good and bad people. His early activism, his time in prison, his ascent to the Presidency, his founding of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, his creation of a stable nation where most others would have created war and misery; all these things mark him out as far greater than his peers. He wasn’t a superman. He was a human being. But he was a remarkable human being.

“But look at South Africa now”. It’s easy to cherry-pick bad things in the country today. Mandela’s successor, Thabo Mbeki, was easily convinced that AIDS was not caused by the HIV virus, and effectively killed hundreds of thousands of people by suspending treatment programmes. Corruption is rife. The ANC leadership now stuffs its pockets, gorging itself on countless millions of dollars. President Zuma lives in enormous luxury, and boasts an impressive collection of wives. South Africa is a violent country – but then that’s nothing new. Only generational change, coupled with free speech, housing, education and healthcare, can address the violence. South Africa is a deeply racist place too, as attacks on immigrants (mostly other Africans) demonstrate.

Mandela understood his country and his continent. He must have realised much of this was inevitable. Just as in the rest of Africa, the liberation struggle was just the first of a series of struggles. Colonialism and Apartheid put a racial mask on inequality, but now in South Africa, as in the rest of Africa, inequality, corruption and brutality can no longer be conveniently blamed on a foreign devil: it is home grown. Mandela and his ANC comrades, sowed the seed of democracy, human rights and free speech, allowing future generations to renew the struggle – this time a class struggle, not a racial or tribal one.

Nelson Mandela died in a very different world to the one he was born in. His death prompted an inevitable barrage of abuse from morons, but this just served to highlight how much organised racism has declined worldwide. The racist American right settled for complaining that America’s black President was attending Mandela’s funeral but hadn’t attended Thatcher’s (ignoring the facts that Thatcher was not a head of state, and that her greatly-contested achievements were tiny compared to Mandela’s).

I finally visited my old friend in Johannesburg last year. A local celebrity, he mixes in a wide multiracial circle. His black friends are internationally educated and well travelled, unlike their parents’ generation. They are part of a confident and rising Africa that is just starting to be noticed internationally. This Africa is the creation of generations of leaders who shook their people awake and harnessed their resentment; but one man stood head and shoulders above the others.

RIP Madiba.

OMG! Miley Cyrus is Racist!!

I should start by stating that Miley Cyrus is not racist. This is just the latest moron meme in a series of increasingly moronic attacks on Cyrus from the Guardianista ex-liberal tendency. Cyrus isn’t the real target, but she has become a convenient scapegoat. The real target is black music and dance.

I blogged a couple of months ago on the Guardian’s opening shot in this story, in which Hadley “I Have Black Friends” Freeman launched an attack on Cyrus for her “racist” twerking episode at the VMAs. The claim was that Cyrus was racist. Because – wait for it – she’s white and had black backing dancers.

Since then, the Guardian, in true bullying tabloid fashion, has wheeled out one has-been after another to condemn Miley, or to patronise her. Yesterday, they outdid themselves, producing 73 year-old Christian singer Cliff Richard to express the hope that Cyrus “grows out of it”. If you’re starting to wonder where the line is between the “quality, liberal” Guardian and the “gutter, right-wing” Daily Mail, you’re not alone.

Perhaps realising that a parade of white faces screaming RACIST! at Cyrus was looking a little strange, the Guardian recently found a black person to do the same thing. Ikamara Larasi helpfully pointed out that she is a black woman, and she doesn’t twerk, but complains (in straw-man style) that she thinks people expect her to twerk, because she’s the same colour as Rihanna.

Don’t worry Ikamara, I don’t expect you to twerk. You see, Rihanna is a stunningly talented international music artist. And you’re not. Nor do I expect you to play tennis like Serena Williams, or be the First Lady like Michelle Obama. I don’t expect you to read the news like Moira Stuart, nor do I expect you to write incredible, moving novels like Toni Morrison. You see, while that kind of stereotyping does still exist, it’s fading fast, and it mostly exists among people like your Oxbridge-educated, Home Counties-raised, Guardian journalist chums. Most of us are perfectly aware that not all black women are amazing singers and dancers like Rihanna, and we’re happy to accept that situation. In fact, the only people I can see stereotyping anybody are you and your ignorant “lynch Miley” mates, who think that the average person is too stupid to tell the difference between you and Alexandra Burke.

Of course, this has absolutely nothing to do with race. It is a continuation of the “ban all sex, help, we’re all being sexualised!” campaign which some individuals at the Guardian have been nurturing for years, and now appears to have reached fever pitch. Those who have been paying attention will know that much of the noise comes from a small group of individuals: Kat Banyard of UK Feminista, Julia Long of Object (who, together, are competing to be today’s Mary Whitehouse) and a small group of Guardian journalists who have somehow managed to turn a quality newspaper into the Object house journal. Ikamara Larasi, who stuck the latest knife in Miley’s back, comes from a “black feminist” group called Imkaan, which appears to be (like Lose The Lads’ Mags) another group linked to Object, and thus can claim Object privileges, including Guardian column inches.

Sadly, Larasi’s intervention seems to have confused people who might have been more skeptical had a white woman penned such obvious nonsense. On Twitter, I was told (by a white woman) that I, as a white man, should pay attention when a black woman writes about race. Because, of course, ALL black people believe the same thing and Larasi is black, so is therefore a spokesperson for black people (or “people of colour” as she tweeted… I kid you not). I wonder what would happen when such a person encounters two black women with opposing views. Would her head explode? A (black) friend of mine commented, “Miley isn’t the first. Might as well burn Madonna at the stake for having black and gay dancers then…”

Another tweeter posted a link to a page showcasing The 9 Most Racist Miley Cyrus Moments, which I still can’t tell is a parody or not. Gems from this page include she wants her new album to have a “black sound” (OMG Amy Winehouse, Joe Cocker and Elvis were RACISTS!) and she pretended to perform analingus on a black backing dancer (only pretended? Damn… I’d pay good money to see that).

Miley is playing the morality brigade perfectly (this week, she allegedly smoked weed on stage in Amsterdam, and was met with fake shock from the coke-snorting journalistic fraternity), and I applaud her. When society becomes as pathetically (small-c) conservative as it has become again today, the best response is to shock the fuck out of it. That’s why the Sex Pistols topped the charts in 1977 with God Save The Queen (despite it being banned), and the Prodigy’s wonderful Smack My Bitch Up (watch it!) video won awards 20 years later (despite it also being banned).

Rather than scream at racism-that-isn’t-racism and sexism-that-isn’t-sexism we should take aim at bullying-that-is-truly-bullying. The moronic British media loves to destroy people, especially young women. Doubtless Guardian and Mail journos alike are salivating in anticipation at the moment Miley appears drunk in public, has a messy break-up, or is rumoured to have a drug problem. I’ve cancelled my Guardian app subscription, and will be investing the savings in Miley’s latest album. Why don’t you do the same?

Guardian Linked To Racist Journalism

The phrase “linked to” is a favourite among the architects of moral panics. Marijuana was linked (back in the day) to black men raping white women. In more recent times, Ecstasy and various other safe drugs have been linked to (mostly invented) deaths. It is a favourite tool of tabloid journalism – claim ice cream is linked to gang violence and – Lo And Behold – it is! Because you just linked it.

In its endless descent into the journalistic gutter, the Guardian has adopted such tools too, such as its recent article Online trolling of women is linked to domestic violence, say campaigners. The Graun is, at least, smart enough to add “say campaigners” to the headline, so that when one points out that the claim is utterly baseless, the editor can respond: “we were just reporting what they said”.

This isn’t just sloppy journalism. The Guardian has long been militating for increased censorship of the Internet, and since it still maintains the pretence of supporting free speech, it must find online harm at every turn.

The Guardian itself appears to be becoming increasingly censored, especially on anything related to sex. What had originally seemed like the work of a few puritan journalists now seems to be official editorial policy. A series of good journalists have published ludicrously flimsy anti-sex articles. Not being privy to the internal workings of the organisation, I wonder what has been going on at Graun HQ. Does Julie Bindel stand over every journalist’s desk with a gun until she or he has produced yet another denunciation of “sexualisation” or “pornification”?

This feeling of a pro-censorship conspiracy is not just speculation: in her book The Sex Myth the sex worker/blogger/author/researcher Brooke Magnanti reveals that, after she won the Guardian’s 2003 blogger of the year award, a group of female Guardian journalists jointly threatened to resign if she was offered a column in the newspaper. Her crime was to present her sex work as a choice, and to refuse to label herself a victim, in strict contravention of Guardian editorial policy on sex work.

The Guardian’s hatred of any sexual expression is becoming so strong that the normally-PC paper is prepared to stray into the realm of racism where necessary. I’ve blogged previously about the jaw-dropping 2009 “white man’s porn is making black men into rapists” article by Tim Samuels.

Not to be outdone, Hadley Freeman (another once-sane journo who appears to have succumbed to the Curse of Guardian Towers) was enraged by Miley Cyrus’s recent twerking episode at the MTV Video Music Awards.

Her rage (of course) is primarily about open displays of sexuality: “she copied the dance moves of strippers” (but I know strippers who dance very well – what’s the problem?) and “female celebrities will one day feel that they don’t need to imitate porn actors” (all sexual expression is porn, and porn is bad, m’kay?)

Freeman tries to dress up her anti-sex rage as concern about racism, and digs herself a deep hole in the process. She casually drops in the fact that she has lived in the Notting Hill Carnival area for 12 years, which is kind-of like saying “I have black friends, you know”. I grew up a couple of miles north of Notting Hill, and while it was once a heavily Caribbean area, it had gentrified long before Freeman moved in.

She appears to be outraged that Cyrus had black backing singers: “a young wealthy woman from the south doing a garish imitation of black music and reducing black dancers to background fodder”. They are “fodder” in Freeman’s eyes anyway: to me, they are dancing beautifully, as only women of African origin can, and helping distract from the fact that Cyrus can’t dance. She refers to the event as a “minstrel show”. Other than banning black backing dancers from shows with white lead performers, it’s unclear what remedy Freeman would like to see.

She has fallen into the trap awaiting “progressive” middle-class puritans: dance and music originating in sub-Saharan Africa have always been far more overtly sexual than those originating in Europe. The overtness of African sexual expression offends the sensibility of European prudes, just as it offended (and titillated) European colonialists in Africa, who insisted that shameful African nudity was covered up.

Black music now dominates Western popular music forms. Not because (as Freeman suggests) whites are guilty of “cultural appropriation”, but simply because it is better, and it has come to dominate the meme-pool. It is hard to imagine what Western music and dance would be like today without African influences.

Freeman, of middle-class Jewish-American roots, educated in English boarding school and then Oxford, did not grow up around black culture. Like many privileged whites who grew up surrounded by privileged whites, she is discomfited by it, and all the Oxford education in the world cannot help her formulate linguistic tricks that adequately hide that fact.

The icing on the cake is that Freeman wraps up her bizarre articulation of dislike for black sexual expression in Martin Luther King’s “I Have A Dream” speech. King dreamed of a racially mixed world, but Freeman dreams of a world without strippers, porn and black backing dancers. What a sad, decaf, Euro-centric, Guardian-approved world that would be.

A Guide to the Morons of the Australian Election (Part 1)

Australia’s election is approaching, and the campaign is even more moronic than one might expect. We asked our Australian correspondent Georgia Lewis (who actually lives in London, and also blogs here) to stop drinking Fosters for a moment, and explain what is going on; she told us that one blog post would not be enough to summarise the stupidity; so here is the first half of Georgia’s Aussie election report.

At the time of writing, I am reflecting on the very real possibility that this time next week, opposition leader, Tony Abbott will be the new Prime Minister of Australia. This is the man who rose to global fame after former Prime Minister Julia Gillard tore him a new one over his ongoing, tiresome misogyny and the video went viral. He has also amused people around the world this year by saying “suppository of wisdom”. Abbott is leader of the Australian equivalent of the Tories, the mis-named Liberal Party.

The current Prime Minister is Kevin Rudd. He is also the former Prime Minister. He defeated John Howard in 2007. Then Julia Gillard ousted him as leader. Then he ousted her this year in a bid to not lose the election quite so badly. Rudd represents the Labor Party. Yes, that’s how we spell the party name in Australia. I think it’s to detract attention away from the party’s union connections but it’s not very effective. Maybe Ed Milliband could try that here?

But here’s the thing about the Australian election this year – the two leaders are not actually morons. Not in the academic sense anyway. Abbott was a Rhodes scholar and the equally well-educated Rudd speaks Mandarin-Chinese. And it is pretty obvious what they are both doing when it comes to trying to win the September 7 election. They are appealing to morons.

When it comes to policy on asylum seekers – “boat people” – there is no real difference between the two parties. Both have lurched so far to the right on this one, it won’t matter who you vote for. Either way, if people arrive in leaky boats seeking asylum in Australia, there will be no change to mandatory detention, there will be further reliance on under-resourced neighbouring countries for “processing” and nobody is willing to allow asylum seekers currently in detention to be allowed to work while they wait for a decision on refugee status. Abbot’s “Stop the boats!” rhetoric is proving effective. He knows it is simplistic and populist just as Rudd knows that as more progressive approach isn’t necessarily a vote winner either.

I do not know of any Australians who have been personally inconvenienced by asylum seekers in any way, shape or form, but this does not stop the border control fear-mongering from being successful for both leaders.

Abbott has also achieved bonus fear about the Australian economy. That’d be the one that survived the global financial crisis probably better than any other nation on the planet. But apparently it will all be so much better under an Abbott government. This is when his moron behaviour starts to creep in. Among his fine examples of promised economic management is a very generous maternity leave scheme – except that it will be paid for with a 1.5% levy for all companies with a turnover of $5 million or more. These same companies have been given a tax cut. Of 1.5%. Genius!

Christopher Pyne, the likely education minister in an Abbott government, told Lateline, the Aussie equivalent of Newsnight, that Australia had become “obsessed” with class size and that Australia should look towards countries where schools with class sizes of 40 were not unusual as an example.

So the man who will probably be the next Education Minister has no issue with a policy that will create more idiocy in Australia. Brilliant! Still, more morons is probably a good way to ensure these buffoons stay in power. Keep ‘em dumb!

And speaking of dumb, Tony Abbott can’t help but let his religious views creep into policy either. When he was Health Minister, he was no fan of Gardasil, the HPV vaccine. Despite being a prolife Roman Catholic, he wasn’t sure Australia needed a vaccine that would save the lives of women. Of course, this did not stop him crowing about it being finally included on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme even though this happened because of pressure from the likes of then-Prime Minister John Howard.

Abbott’s views on Gardasil and, in turn, women, are more accurately reflected in this comment he made on the vaccine: “I won’t be rushing out to get my daughters vaccinated, maybe that’s because I’m a cruel, callow, heartless bastard but, look, I won’t be.”

Just in case he looked like he was appealing a bit too much to the anti-science, off-the-wall, Jenny McCarthy-endorsed anti-vaccine lobby, he quickly qualified that statement with a hurried addendum: “If there is a national immunisation programme, I certainly will be making sure that they get vaccinated [with Gardasil] under the programme.”

But, let’s face it, he already opened his damn fool mouth to reveal he thinks that it’s a slut shot – just one jab and your daughters will be instant harlots!

In contrast, apart from an embarrassing incident in which Rudd was caught on camera picking wax out of his ear, he is not quite as gaffe-prone as Abbott. Then again, he does not wear his religion on his sleeve and, unlike Abbott, he did not tell the media that one of the party’s candidates for the election has sex appeal. But that has been regarded as a storm in a C-cup and, hell, it’ll probably make him appear more like a knockabout Aussie bloke to the electorate.

Instead, Rudd has a reputation for being ruthless and difficult to work with – personally, that still sounds better than sexist and a bit creepy, but the Australian voters will probably disagree with me next weekend. And it seems Rudd is now weary – resigned to electoral defeat, unsure what his future holds. That will depend on how badly Labor loses the election. Absurd asylum seeker policy aside, Rudd has not run a particularly moronic campaign. It has had predictable flashes of populism designed to appeal to morons but in a head-to-head battle for supreme idiocy, Abbott keeps coming up trumps.

In the last week of campaigning, Abbott got in one last blast to appeal to the redneck voters. He spoke out about how he finds the burqa “confronting” and “not the sort of attire I would like to see widespread in our streets”. This was in defence of one of his candidates, Ray King, saying it was a “sign of oppression.”

Now, technically, a burqa is actually a mask worn across the nose, made of either stiffened cloth or metal, that does not cover the entire face. King actually mean “niqab” but, hey, all that Muslamic clothing looks the same! It is not compulsory for Australian women, Muslim or otherwise, to cover their whole faces, it is not a common sight in Australia, and neither party has a policy on Islamic attire but I guess it’s good to know where two men stand on this issue apropos of nothing.

King also gets a few more bonus moron points for the time he proposed a policing system whereby suspects would be injected with satellite-trackable microchips that would be fired from a “high-powered sniper rifle.”

Abbott’s nuanced take on the situation in Syria is that is “baddies versus baddies.” With insights like that, he will have so much to offer on the world stage in the coming months if he wins the election. Which I am pretty sure he will. Moron watchers of the world should be on red alert – things can only get dumber Down Under.

Online Free Speech: Sticks And Stones…

Barely a week goes by in which the British “left” doesn’t display its increasing disdain for free speech, but this past week has been especially troublesome. The idea that only free speech and rational thinking can allow civilisation to advance isn’t exactly new; it descends from the Enlightenment. And yet, however many times mankind has to relearn this lesson, it gets forgotten again.

The thing that much of the left can’t grasp is that free speech (in practise, encompassing free expression in any form) really means Free Speech. Including – brace yourself – speech that you might find offensive, disgusting or just plain unnecessary. As the Enlightenment thinkers explained, only in a truly free market of ideas can the good ideas be separated from the bad. Any attempt to coerce speech in any direction, by any means, even for the best of reasons, can only distort and suppress, and will crush good ideas along with the bad ones.

What’s even more annoying (to me, as an ex-tribal leftie) is that parts of the right grasp this concept better than the left. The Telegraph (which I’ve spent most of my life loathing) today defends free speech far more stridently than The Guardian (which I’ve spent most of my life reading). Free speech is a progressive idea – how dare those righties take it from us?! But then, the left doesn’t seem to want it any more.

So, for example, here is how I started last Sunday:

A little explanation: last week, idiots in the UK government and Home Office decided to send vans to immigrant areas carrying a pleasant message to illegal immigrants: “Go Home or Face Arrest”. How lovely. The vans were designed to appeal to the racist vote that might be shifting from the Conservatives to the even-more-racist UKIP. The word “wog” is pretty much extinct now, but was a favourite of racists in the 1970s, referring either to black people or all non-whites, depending on preference.

I had sent the tweet on Sunday because I was planning to spend the day at Jamaican independence parties, including one in Brixton, south London.

My tweet had two replies of any substance: a black follower kindly pointed out that Jamaican independence day was actually on Tuesday 6th, not Sunday; and a PC follower objected that the tweet was offensive. Yes, because it included the word “wog”.

Sigh. Let me just point out, again, that offence is taken, not given. Words are not offensive, or harmful, though they have the power to cause offence in some, especially in the more delicate souls among us, the poor fragile dears. And, as we all learned in school, “sticks and stones can break our bones, but words can never hurt me”.

Easily offended Guardianistas are on the rampage against any form of expression that they consider to be offensive. “Free speech doesn’t mean you can cause offence”, they lecture. But yes, morons, it does! The legalisation of homosexuality required speech that offended many people. The abolition of slavery could not have been achieved without “offensive” speech. If you accept that offensive speech can be policed, then all speech is policed. And if you think minorities will actually benefit from such a system you truly are a moron. Censorship only benefits the powerful.

Of all the social media platforms, Twitter is the most tolerant of free speech. While my “wog” tweet remains on Twitter, Facebook not only removed it from my page, but banned me for 12 hours. Yes, a post satirising racism was considered racist because it contained a word considered (by the unthinking) to be offensive. What clearer illustration is needed that censorship is not the solution to racism, or any other nasty attitude?

Given Twitter’s defence of speech, it is no surprise therefore, that well-orchestrated outbursts of rage against Twitter are becoming frequent. The latest anti-Twitter panic also came last week, when some very nasty tweets, including rape threats, were sent to a number of high-profile women. Although I was raised with the feminist idea that women are just as capable as men of looking after themselves, modern-day feminists apparently agree with 1950s women’s magazines that women, like children, need special protection from their benevolent menfolk. Threats against men? No problem. Threats against women? SOMETHING MUST BE DONE!

Threats of violence are as old as mankind, and I can testify that I’ve seen them online for over two decades, and indeed have received many myself. The beauty of free speech is that, left to itself, it allows the good to overcome the bad. High-profile female journalists with many Twitter followers have the perfect solution to abusive tweets: no, not the block button, but the retweet button. Transmit an idiotic comment about rape to 50,000 adoring fans, and the abusive tweeter will soon wish he had kept his mouth shut.

No black person was ever kicked in the balls by the word “wog”, although many black people have been kicked in the balls by police officers, who now (according to some morons) should be preventing people from being offended online. No Jew was ever gassed by a swastika, and no woman was ever raped by a tweet. The most dangerous enemies of free speech are those who argue persuasively that the world will be a better place if just these few words, these few symbols, these communication platforms were just a little more policed.

Of course, censorship advocates are a little more sophisticated, and try to prove that some speech is actually harmful. Rape tweets feed into “rape culture” (they tell us) which leads to actual rapes. Do they provide evidence of this process actually happening? Of course not. They ignore the fact that rape tweets can generate anti-rape tweets in far greater numbers. They forget the lesson, provided to us by Jimmy Savile, the Catholic Church and their supportive police forces, that the greatest victory for rapists is to suppress speech. Only the powerful benefit when some subjects are deemed unworthy of public discussion.

I find it a little annoying when I’m referred to as a “fucking Jew”, as has happened recently, and not for the first time; but I’ll get much more worried when the authorities ban the term in order to “protect” me from being offended. Minorities know better than to trust somebody else with our protection. So long as “offensive” words are allowed, I can defend myself. The moment they are banned, supposedly in order to protect my feelings, is the moment Jews and other minorities can really start to worry.

Under David Cameron’s new Internet filter (aka Internet censorship), this blog will probably find itself blocked to households that have chosen not to see “hate speech”, because it contains terms that the authorities consider hateful. Discussion of hate speech is being crushed under the banner of stopping hate speech. We need to go back and learn again the lessons of the Enlightenment, before we all live in a benign dictatorship that protects everybody’s feelings. Because there’s no such such thing as a benign dictatorship. Surrendering one’s right to free speech by attacking somebody else’s is about the dumbest thing any person can do.