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February 2009

Assume the Position

One of the irritating things about principles is that due to their reciprocal nature you may find yourself having to argue in favour of people you don’t particularly like. The Dutch politician Geert Wilders, for instance, whose film Fitna was due to be shown tomorrow at a private meeting at the House of Lords, followed by an “open and frank discussion” with peers and MPs. However, the meeting is not to be. The Brussels Journal reports:

This afternoon Mr. Wilders received a letter from the British Embassy in The Hague saying that he is a “persona non grata” in the United Kingdom. The ambassador told Mr. Wilders that he is a threat to public security and public harmony because of the controversy created by Fitna. Mr. Wilders intends to go to London anyway. “Let them arrest me in Heathrow,” he says. If Mr. Wilders is denied entry to the United Kingdom, it will be the first time that Britain refuses entry to an elected politician from another member state of the European Union. The Dutch government has protested to the British government over the unprecedented barring of an EU parliamentarian by another EU country.

Now Wilders isn’t the easiest person to like and his film, discussed here, is glib, crude and insubstantial. (A much more serious exploration of Islamic supremacism and its theological roots can be found in the documentary Islam: What the West Needs to Know, which can be viewed here.) Wilders famously suggested that the Qur’an should be banned for glorifying violence against unbelievers, which doesn't exactly help his case, though this suggestion seems at best quixotic or more likely another bid for attention, and it isn’t difficult to see why one might wish to press Wilders on many of his claims. But to the best of my knowledge, Wilders hasn’t called for the murder or intimidation of anyone; nor does he advocate terrorism or use casual threats of violence to get his own way. He is, in fact, the recipient of death threats and has spent the last few years living under police protection. An honour he shares with several outspoken women, careless academics and elderly cartoonists.

One therefore has to marvel at the suggestion by the Home Secretary’s Office that in and of itself Wilders’ visit would “pose a genuine, present and sufficiently serious threat to one of the fundamental interests of society” and would “threaten community harmony and therefore public security in the UK.” Presumably what is meant - but not being said - is that a significant number of Muslims with anger management issues would take it upon themselves either to threaten violence or do violence to Mr Wilders, and possibly to others too. One wonders, then, where the real “threat to the fundamental interests of society” is coming from.

One might also note the similarities with recent reactions to a much less outlandish figure, Douglas Murray, who was disinvited from chairing a debate on Islam and liberalism at the London School of Economics, ostensibly on grounds of “campus relations” and, wait for it, “security fears”. But fear of what exactly? Did the LSE anticipate the well-mannered Mr Murray making threats, mouthing obscenities and throwing chairs? Did it expect Murray - who can be heard debating Tariq Ramadan here - to suddenly join the fray in a fit of violent passion and emotional incontinence? Or did the LSE anticipate others, mysteriously unnamed, doing something similar? And doesn’t this suggest that The Guardian Position™ is, once again, being dutifully assumed?

Update: Over at Harry’s Place, some contradictions are noted. Update 2: Via Anna, the position illustrated.

And yes, by all means, fund my blasphemy.

Friday Ephemera

Webcam and volcano. // The Yellow Treehouse Restaurant. // How to make giant fruit pastilles. // Matchboxes from the Subcontinent. (h/t, Coudal) // Movie title screengrabs. // Opening titles of The Conversation. (1974) // Everything you should know about speech balloons. // Voice-based drawingMore. // Lovely bunkers. // It’s bacon, man, and the 5000 calorie bacon explosion. (h/t, Franklin) // Baby elephant and ball. // The Rubik’s 360. // Snow and ice. // Transformers! // Zoybar! // Taking pencils seriously. // More anamorphic pavement art. // The future of newspapers, 1981. // And, via The Thin Man, it’s Mr Jimmy Smith & Mr Elmer Bernstein.

Construct Unstuck

I’ve touched on some problems of social construct theory before, more than once, and noted that its implications could appeal to unsavoury motives: 

If a person’s tastes and disposition are primarily socially constructed, that person can also, presumably, be remade to suit society and its representatives. Such high-minded Agents of Society might even become “engineers of the human soul,” to borrow Stalin’s phrase.

With the above in mind, let’s turn our attention to the feminist commentator Amanda Marcotte, whose book cover mishap entertained us so. In a recent outpouring, Ms Marcotte offered this

The theory that women have a natural urge to have babies is one that’s got a long and ignoble sexist history, [...] None of that is to say that the urge to have children that some (but far from all) women experience isn’t real, and that’s my other giant problem with the ongoing preoccupation with [evolutionary psychology] theories to explain things that are cultural constructs… 

Note that Ms Marcotte is quite insistent on this point. The inclination to reproduce simply is a cultural construct, and a dubious one at that. Why humans should apparently be unique in this regard, untouched by biology, isn’t entirely clear. Presumably, human beings - specifically human men - have constructed elaborate patterns of behaviour to mimic almost exactly biological inclinations that are felt as real, by men and women, but which don’t in fact exist.

Continue reading "Construct Unstuck" »

Findings (2)

Some film-related items.

Attack of the remakes. Does the world really want a live-action Akira or another Logan’s Run? Can The Thing be improved upon? Flash Gordon without Brian Blessed? Er, Romancing the Stone?

A gallery of bewildering foreign film posters. Guess which films are being advertised below. And wait ‘til you see Bullitt.

Weekend_at_Bernies Alien Ghostbusters  

And in one of Watchmen’s more disquieting scenes, Dr Manhattan turns his hand to crime-fighting. Disintegrations ensue.