A busy week has left little time to blog, but here’s a quick round-up of some of the issues currently weighing on my mind…
First of all, I was pretty sickened to hear Gordon Brown begin the first Prime Minister’s Questions of the new season by solemnly announcing the names of all the British soldiers killed in Afghanistan since the last session of Parliament…only to then pledge to send yet more troops into the region and continue a ninth year of this unjust and unnecessary war.
If we’re going to have somebody announce the names of the dead, let’s not make it be the very same man who sent them to their death! And if it has to be that same man, then don’t let his encore performance be the pledge to send 500 more lambs to the slaughter!
I was, however, heartened to witness the blogosphere and twitterati do wonders for freedom of speech on Monday with the case of Trafigura’s failed attempt at gagging the Guardian newspaper.
After reading a bizarre story in the paper that morning, claiming that it had been legally barred from reporting a certain story (and couldn’t even explain who was involved and why they were not allowed to report it), my Facebook page began to come alive with people forwarding information released across the internet, exposing the details of the case. In short, the MP Paul Farrelly had tabled a question regarding the implications for press freedom following a previous court order obtained by the oil company against the Guardian and other media outlets, regarding a report about the dumping of toxic waste in the Ivory Coast.
The gagging-order had been meant to silence the newspaper, and prevent any public discussion about these allegations of waste-dumping; instead, it served only to highlight the issue, and by lunchtime that day the court order was overturned thanks to an influx of blog posts and tweets making the original ban redundant.
What would have probably only been a small, two or three paragraph story, quickly forgotten, became a much spotlighted scandal instead. Freedom of speech: 1. Trafigura: 0.
One of the myths that continues to harm feminism in the twenty-first century, is that sexism is dead, and the fight for equality has therefore already been won. The argument goes: women are no longer barred from applying for, and getting, top jobs, so sexism in the workplace clearly no longer exists. Research into the area, however, shows that whilst women can apply for these jobs, and technically the prejudices of the past have now been overcome, in reality the mere fact that such jobs are open to women is not the same as giving women equality, because other social expectations forced onto women (childrearing, for example) still conflict with the high time demands of the majority of executive jobs. Although the opportunity remains there to apply, to do so would require impossible sacrifice.
I mention this because I couldn’t help but laugh when I heard that the racist British National Party were finally thinking of changing their constitution and allowing non-white members to join, after the Equality and Human Rights Commission began legal proceedings against them.
Though the BNP may well open up their membership to non-whites now that they have been forced to…do they really think that any self-respecting black or Asian person in this country would want to join this actively racist party?
Speaking of racists and idiotic white people, I am so glad to hear that the Barack Obama Whitehouse have finally come out and publically acknowledged that the FOX News Network should not be treated as a real news network, but as a propaganda-peddling partisan arm of the Republican Party.
That this is true, is, of course, obvious. But as long as Presidents and other Democratic politicians continue to legitimize its delusion by appearing on the network, it remains a dangerous presence. Now that the gloves have come off and the veneer of respectability had been removed, perhaps the rest of the American people might take note and wake up from its hate-spewing stupor?
Of course, Obama is far from perfect. Considering that al-Qaeda basically is Pakistan these days, it’s hard to see how today’s announcement of a $7.5bn aid plan for Pakistan isn’t aiding and abetting terrorism?
And why, exactly, are we supposed to be happy that Goldman Sachs announced a $3bn profit?
Finally…for those following the long history of UK police using anti-terrorism laws to repress political protest, take note. A report in the Guardian today suggests that they are now using conspiracy to commit criminal damage laws that carry ten year jail sentences against climate change protesters. The reason: conspiracy charges means that you can arrest potential protesters before the protest actually happens; stopping an organized protest when it is still only in the planning stage.
What freedom of speech wins with one hand, appears taken away by another…