Saturday, April 11, 2015

The Great Confusion

Changing the name of the World War II comedy from "The Great Hike" to "The Great Muddle", a Frenchman has photoshopped a still from a classic scene in La Grande Vadrouille starring Louis de Funès and Bourvil (along with Terry Thomas) and put it online with Barack Obama and François Hollande in the roles of the two French stars (10 seconds of the scene be seen in this excerpt from the film's (1h29m10s) trailer).

Related: In 1971, French Movie Star Criticized the Left for Its Hateful Humor

Friday, April 10, 2015

The intolerant students of the 21st century: Have you met the Stepford students?

… at one of the highest seats of learning on Earth [Christ Church, Oxford], the democratic principle of free and open debate, of allowing differing opinions to slog it out in full view of discerning citizens, has been violated, and students have been rebranded as fragile creatures, overgrown children who need to be guarded against any idea that might prick their souls or challenge their prejudices.
In the Spectator, Brendan O'Neill tells us he is aghast. He asks:
Have you met the Stepford students? They’re everywhere. On campuses across the land. Sitting stony-eyed in lecture halls or surreptitiously policing beer-fuelled banter in the uni bar. They look like students, dress like students, smell like students. But their student brains have been replaced by brains bereft of critical faculties and programmed to conform. To the untrained eye, they seem like your average book-devouring, ideas-discussing, H&M-adorned youth, but anyone who’s spent more than five minutes in their company will know that these students are far more interested in shutting debate down than opening it up.

 … In each case, it wasn’t the fact the students disagreed with me that I found alarming — disagreement is great! — it was that they were so plainly shocked that I could have uttered such things, that I had failed to conform to what they assume to be right, that I had sought to contaminate their campuses and their fragile grey matter with offensive ideas.

 … Barely a week goes by without reports of something ‘offensive’ being banned by students. Robin Thicke’s rude pop ditty ‘Blurred Lines’ has been banned in more than 20 universities. Student officials at Balliol College, Oxford, justified their ban as a means of ‘prioritising the wellbeing of our students’. Apparently a three-minute pop song can harm students’ health. More than 30 student unions have banned the Sun, on the basis that Page Three could turn all those pre-rapists into actual rapists. Radical feminist students once burned their bras — now they insist that models put bras on. The union at UCL banned the Nietzsche Society on the grounds that its existence threatened ‘the safety of the UCL student body’.

Stepford concerns are over-amplified on social media. No sooner is a contentious subject raised than a university ‘campaign’ group appears on Facebook, or a hashtag on Twitter, demanding that the debate is shut down. Technology means that it has never been easier to whip up a false sense of mass outrage — and target that synthetic anger at those in charge. The authorities on the receiving end feel so besieged that they succumb to the demands and threats.

Heaven help any student who doesn’t bow before the Stepford mentality. … They’re being made to take part in equality and diversity training. At British unis in 2014, you don’t just get education — you also get re-education, Soviet style.

 … The censoriousness has reached its nadir in the rise of the ‘safe space’ policy. Loads of student unions have colonised vast swaths of their campuses and declared them ‘safe spaces’ — that is, places where no student should ever be made to feel threatened, unwelcome or belittled, whether by banter, bad thinking or ‘Blurred Lines’. Safety from physical assault is one thing — but safety from words, ideas, Zionists, lads, pop music, Nietzsche? We seem to have nurtured a new generation that believes its self-esteem is more important than everyone else’s liberty.

This is what those censorious Cambridgers meant when they kept saying they have the ‘right to be comfortable’. They weren’t talking about the freedom to lay down on a chaise longue — they meant the right never to be challenged by disturbing ideas or mind-battered by offensiveness. At precisely the time they should be leaping brain-first into the rough and tumble of grown-up, testy discussion, students are cushioning themselves from anything that has the whiff of controversy. We’re witnessing the victory of political correctness by stealth. As the annoying ‘PC gone mad!’ brigade banged on and on about extreme instances of PC — schools banning ‘Baa Baa, Black Sheep’, etc. — nobody seems to have noticed that the key tenets of PC, from the desire to destroy offensive lingo to the urge to re-educate apparently corrupted minds, have been swallowed whole by a new generation. This is a disaster, for it means our universities are becoming breeding grounds of dogmatism. As John Stuart Mill said, if we don’t allow our opinion to be ‘fully, frequently, and fearlessly discussed’, then that opinion will be ‘held as a dead dogma, not a living truth’.

One day, these Stepford students, with their lust to ban, their war on offensive lingo, and their terrifying talk of pre-crime, will be running the country. And then it won’t only be those of us who occasionally have cause to visit a campus who have to suffer their dead dogmas.

Thursday, April 09, 2015

The French have finally lost their patience for, and love of, socialism

Over the past few years the gripe of many expats living in France has been the nation’s dogged attachment to socialism, and all the misery that comes with it.
Thus spaketh Mark Johnson.
We tend to blame everything on this national obsession with socialist values – the appalling poor levels of customer service, the huge taxes that double the cost of everything and the anti-business culture that means pretty much everyone has to work for the government instead.

Well, the entire nation’s been voting in the local and regional elections and Francois Hollande’s ruling Parti Socialiste has been well and truly trumped by the opposition conservative UMP party, led by a certain Msr Sarkozy.

 … Nicolas Sarkozy may have a long way to go before the presidential vote in 2017, but the current local elections have shown that the French have finally lost their patience for, and love of, socialism. Bravo.

Under Hollande’s socialist rule, the economy has not recovered despite promises to the contrary. Instead it has sputtered and lunged its way towards being the sick man of Europe.

In fact, it’s now one of the worst performing economies of the developed world. Change has to come and it must be now if this fantastic country is not to lose its way in the world forever. The time for Gallic stubbornness is over.

Wednesday, April 08, 2015

A Concert Poster Is Censored When Paris Metro Hears It Is for the Benefit of "Christians of the Middle East"

A poster for the famous Singing Priests trio was censored by the Paris métro authorities,
writes Mehdi Pfeiffer in Le Parisien, because the concert's earnings was to go the the benefit of the Christians in Middle East.

The concert's organizers do not seem to have been aware of the censorship until they saw their "Prêtres Chanteurs" poster in a métro station under the streets of Paris with that phrase deleted. Since then, webuseres have pointed out the RATP's double standards, since posters linked to Islam, such as best ramadam wishes, have appeared in the metro as intended…
Le spectacle en question, organisé au bénéfice des chrétiens d'Orient, est prévu le 14 juin à l'Olympia. Mais au grand étonnement de Jean-Michel di Falco, la fameuse mention concernant les chrétiens d'Orient a tout bonnement disparu. « J'avais demandé à ce que ce message figure sur l'affiche. Mais au nom, soi-disant, de la laïcité, il a été supprimé. Le président de la RATP m'a appelé pour m'expliquer ce choix, mais je ne le comprends pas. Il ne faut pas confondre la laïcité avec l'intégrisme laïc », estime l'évêque. C'est en effet en partie au nom de la neutralité religieuse que la RATP justifie cette censure. « La convention en vertu de laquelle Metrobus assure l'exploitation publicitaire des réseaux de la RATP prohibe toute publicité présentant un caractère politique ou confessionnel », explique la Régie. Un argument imparable si la règle valait en toutes circonstances.

Sauf que, depuis le début de la semaine, les internautes prennent un malin plaisir à ressortir des publicités affichées dans le métro et faisant référence à l'islam. Message culinaire souhaitant « Bon ramadan », offre de téléphonie mobile avec une femme portant le voile, ou encore affiche du film d'Abd al Malik intitulé « Qu'Allah bénisse la France »... Sur ces publicités, la régie publicitaire de la RATP, contactée hier soir, n'était pas en mesure de fournir de véritable explication.

L'incroyable triomphe des Prêtres chanteurs se... par lefigaro

Tuesday, April 07, 2015

Plus Ça Change… 2,000 Years Ago, Rome's Christians Were Accused of "Hatred"

The Annals of Tacitus were mentioned again in the National Geographic, this time in a special issue chronicling The Rise & Fall of the Roman Empire.
First those were arrested who confessed they were Christians; next on their information, a vast multitude were convicted, not so much on the charge of burning the city, as of "hating the human race"
Much more (along with a slightly different translation) at this link: Plus Ça Change: Christians Accused of Being Hateful by… Nero (!) …Two Thousand Years Ago (!)

Sunday, April 05, 2015

A Conversation with the Man Who Was Outraged at All the Racism Present in America

I was discussing taxes with an elderly man in France who, needless to say, was complaining that they were too high.
Everyday Meetings with Common Europeans
Then I decided to bring up a Republican, who had novel ideas on the subject:
Well, have you heard about Ted Cruz, who wants to do away with the IRS?

I was expecting some sort of (reluctant) sympathy for the GOP candidate from this invariable Barack Obama fan, but what I got instead froze the blood in my veins, as the reaction amounted to a primal scream, like the one in the painting by Norway's Edvard Munch.

• Oh, that man, that Republican, he will do away with the taxes, and then it will destroy the blacks and all the minorities!!


• The Republicans are racists, who want to destroy the minorities!!

Not again, I thought, and said as much. (The idea that Cruz is a member of a minority himself never seemed to cross the man's mind (then, again, that's part of the new narrative).) Don't you think that this racism thing is exaggerated?

• Oh yeah?! he said, getting emotional and starting to shake of anger. I have some clippings from newspapers!
…See here! See here!! Southern kids chanting racist chants!! Making death threats!!

(Does Oklahoma fit the description of a Southern state? No matter; let it pass; Because…)
Sure they chanted those songs, but isn't is true that there is a particular black man in the Senate, and that he was voted in by an overwhelming majority of the inhabitants of the Southern state?

Then I added, and Tim Scott's skin is darker than Barack Obama's!

• Hah! cut in my interlocutor, racism! you are a racist too!!


• You brought up skin color!!

I did not bring up skin color, for the love of Christ! You [you liberals] brought it up! Indeed, you bring it up all the time! We're not the ones who obsess about skin color! You are the ones who do so — incessantly!

You called Americans — or at least, Southerners — racists, so of course I point out that Tim Scott won with the backing of 760,000 South Carolinians, i.e., 61% of the state vote. In the context of the subject of the conversation (which you brought up), surely I am allowed to add that the color of his skin is even darker than Barack Obama's! And then there is South Carolina's governor, who is a woman of Indian extrac—

• I know it, I know it! he kept repeating, quickly and defensively, of Scott's status (I had previously pointed out Scott's status to him) — with an air of "So What?!"

So, basically, we have two "Yes, buts" here, dear reader:

The first "Yes, but" is mine; it goes like this:
T'is true that two dozen or so drunken frat boys were recently heard to sing racist songs in a bus…
But (!) on the other hand, don't forget:
A black man from the South is in the U.S. Senate, because hundreds upon hundreds of thousands of Southerners followed the campaign and voted for the black candidate

(Related: Tea Party-Backed Black Republican Wins Senate Landslide in Southern State)

The second "Yes, but" is the European's.
T'is true that hundreds upon hundreds of thousands of Southerners voted for a black candidate…
But (!) on the other hand, don't forget (losing temper, at this point, almost tearing hair out):
two dozen or so drunken frat boys were recently heard to sing racist songs in a bus!!!


Tell me, dear reader, between the two "Yes buts" above, which one seems to be the most illustrative of, I don't know, say the Southern mentality?

Related: Witness the Unbelievable Amount of Racism That Exists Among Conservatives and in the Tea Party

Note 1: this Obama fan is also a Palestinian supporter, meaning he finds little to criticize among Arabs or Muslims. That the singing fraternity brothers, and that their song, didn't actually harm anybody doesn't faze him; contrariwise, the only people he criticizes after terrorists attacks in the West are the "provokers" like the Danish artists and the Charlie Hebdo satirists (and, of course, Bush indirectly created the terrorists); likewise, he isn't bothered much (like Barack Obama and John Kerry) when, no not Iranian fraternity brothers (or university students) but Tehran's leaders shout "Death to America!"

Note 2: But I hear it again and again — complaints in France, in Denmark, all over, about high local taxes and money spent on indolent people and on corruption and on graft and on wasting money or throwing it out the window.

Often, I respond with what is only half a joke, saying teasingly, with a wink, you know that you sound like a Tea Partier.

Much of the time, I then get a scream of protest; I am then told (in all seriousness) that no no no, in (that nightmarish hellhole of) America they do need more taxes and they do need more rules and they do need more government support!

The Cold War a Position Against Communist Slavery and to Prevent Another World War?! It Can't Be!

On December 16, 1952 (reported the International Herald Tribune), Harry Truman declared that
his Administration's leadership in the struggle against Communism has saved hundreds of people from slavery. [The President] warned the incoming Republican Administration by implication against any reduction in the defense program he initiated. Saying any suggestion of a cutback "is very dangerous talk," Mr. Truman asserted Americans are wise enough to know "we can afford to pay the cost of whatever is necessary to prevent a new world war." 
Now, I hate to say this, but this is incredible!

Could it really be that the Cold War was to prevent people from falling into communist slavery and to prevent (a new world) war?

(Not to mention, can it really be, that there is, there was, a Democrat in the White House who realizes the enemy consists of foreign dictators, not fellow Americans in the opposition party?)

No, it can't be.

Surely it was all due to clueless, reactionary Americans' racism and paranoia!