Tag Archives: freedom

By Pulling “The Interview” We Have Told The Wolves We Are Sheep

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Fear is what kills freedom, as companies and even nation states do the bidding of tyrants and fundamentalists. Under President Obama the U.S. is no longer feared nor respected, as the wolves of Putin, ISIS and Kim Jong Un come to chase the sheep we have become. They are ready to feast on what remains of the Liberty we abandon in our stampede for peace and security.

The Art of Cyberwar – first demoralise and sow confusion against your opponent with hacks to emails – has delivered by relying on a cheap threat of bloodshed to any cinema goer or neighbourhood that might host a showing of “The Interview.” One by one, movie theatres refused to show the film in the US.

Without a shot being fired, without any physical harm to anyone, Sony pulled the film from general release. Victory was accomplished by “the Guardians of Peace” without having to leave their keyboards.

Backbones are absent when you compare this situation to “The Satanic Verses” where people were killed and personally threatened. If North Korea and their cyber Bureau 121 unit are behind this, we have just given Kim Jong Un the assurance that his unpredictability and willingness to talk up war truly does get results. Stamping his feet, demanding concessions during negotiations, knowing he can use fear to strike at the heart of American life. Without using a long range missile.

Threaten violence, by calling to mind 9/11, and free enterprise that made the US the economic superpower will fold to the whims of a dictator. The hope that the antics of the Guardians of Peace might increase box office attendance as a big all American fuck you to tyranny, has instead been replaced by a whimper of please do not hurt us. We will do as you want.

Benjamin Franklin would have understood the dangerous situation:

But our great security lies, I think, in our growing strength, both in numbers and wealth; that creates an increasing ability of assisting this nation in its wars, which will make us more respectable, our friendship more valued, and our enmity feared; thence it will soon be thought proper to treat us not with justice only, but with kindness, and thence we may expect in a few years a total change of measures with regard to us; unless, by a neglect of military discipline, we should lose all martial spirit, and our western people become as tame as those in the eastern dominions of Britain, when we may expect the same oppressions; for there is much truth in the Italian saying, Make yourselves sheep, and the wolves will eat you.

Thus we lose our freedom, first to make our own choice whether to watch a movie. Next we lose our freedom to make the movies we want because of potential threats. Then we lose our ability to articulate our opinions in case we become victims for expressing ourselves.

Finally those expressing their opinions become the enemies of the state they live in, for daring to incite threats by rogue states and fundamentalists. Do not rock the boat less we all drown. Far better to throw you overboard. You cannot stop the threats, but you can stop people being controversial.

This is the situation we are approaching in Britain, which Nick Cohen writes in Standpoint:

True liberals always held that people should be free to speak their minds as long as they did not incite violence. Now the Home Office wants laws that will force us to be nice citizens, who never say anything the thin-skinned might consider “hateful” or “inappropriate”. Secularists fear that atheists will be locked up for being beastly about religion. Christians fear that evangelicals will be jailed for being beastly about gays. We will live in a country where we cannot utter a controversial opinion.

We have to stand for our freedoms against those that would rob us of them. The problem is the enemies of freedom are foreign and domestic. Even our own governments.

Those liberal freedoms we hold dear need us to be lions even if we are led by lambs. Those wolves will not go away by themselves, as they savour the meal to come.

More on the story of “The Interview” being pulled can be read here.

Update 23 December:

Some cinemas will now show as part of a limited release, and rumours are it will be on demand. Pity more cinemas not prepared to stand up to the threats [see more from BBC]

Update 24 December:

You can indeed watch the film on the internet via this link here.

Some reports if the story tried to claim this was capitalism covering their backs (and profits) rather than caving in to terror. However appealing it might be to show business has no values other than monetary for some, this ignored the threats meant a denial of our liberties for supposed security.

I am reminded therefore of another quote by Franklin.

Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.

As to Sony manipulating events to gain maximum publicity for their film. No, the fall out and stress from the hacking and impact of terror on business makes that too cynical as this story spun itself without Sony having any control beyond deciding to stream film or not. Which would have taken sometime to organise and get approval within the organisation.

Article written by John Sargeant on Homo economicus’ Weblog

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Video: Oxford Union Debate “Islam Is A Peaceful Religion”

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The motion “Islam Is A Peaceful Religion” was moved at the Oxford Union Society the day after Lee Rigby was brutally murdered in Woolwich. It has only this month been uploaded to Youtube.

    Matthew Handley opens case for the motion:
    Anne-Marie Waters opens case for opposition:
    Adam Deen responds for the motion:
    Daniel Johnston counters the motion:
    Mehdi Hasan for the motion:
    Peter Atkins concludes debate against the motion:

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    My posts that are relevant to the above debate:

Dehumanising by Islam and cherry picking of verses by extreme Islamists

A theological alternative view to change attitudes to apostasy where it is illegal can be read here, based on my discussions with Sam Harris and Quilliam Foundation.

The motion passed 286/168.

UPDATE: Write up of the debate and video of Hitchens V Ramadan on same motion can be found here.

Article written by John Sargeant on Homo economicus’ Weblog

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Egypt June 30: Revolution and the Army may step in

    They never fail who die
    In a great cause: the block may soak their gore:
    Their heads may sodden in the sun; their limbs
    Be strung to city gates and castle walls—
    But still their Spirit walks abroad. Though years
    Elapse, and others share as dark a doom,
    They but augment the deep and sweeping thoughts
    Which overpower all others, and conduct
    The world at last to Freedom.

    Lord Byron, Marino Faliero

Yesterday an estimated 17 million citizens protested against the absolutist ruler that the President of the Arab Republic of Egypt Morsi, by his own decree has become.

The head quarters of his party is a burnt out shell, looted, a symbol of frustrations that Morsi served not the people but the Muslim Brotherhood:

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Morsi claims constitutional legitimacy during this crisis, having granted himself absolute powers being unaccountable to either the judiciary or elected assemblies. All institutions of the state existed to serve his designs, that of islamofacism over the will of the people to live in freedom. It is a far cry from what he told those in Tahrir Square on the eve of his inauguration:

    “You are the source of power and legitimacy. There is no person, party, institution or authority over or above the will of the people.”

The scale of the opposition is something to behold after a year of failed delivery of the promise of the revolution.

… a coalition of opposition groups — dubbed Tamarod, or “rebel” — says it has collected more than 22 million signatures from Egyptian voters who want to see Morsi gone. If verified, the petitioners would far exceed the 13 million that voted Morsi into office. [The Atlantic]

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Freedom of religion

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As members of the US Commission on Religious Freedom (USCIRF) observed recently:

During this visit, USCIRF confirmed that Egypt is failing to meet international religious-freedom standards. In our 2013 annual report, released on April 30, we elaborated on our findings.
Among our concerns are Egypt’s new constitution, a code forbidding blasphemy, an impunity problem, restrictions on building places of worship and problems regarding religious identification and conversion.

While Cairo’s constitution affirms “freedom of belief,” it mentions only the right to practice religious “rites” and establish places of worship. It appears to limit even this narrow freedom to Egypt’s three “divine” religions of Islam, Christianity and Judaism, excluding Baha’is, atheists and agnostics, among others. [Al Monitor]

The New Promise of the Revolution

“He betrayed the revolution, betrayed Egyptians, and arrested everyone who opposed him,” said Amal Sharaf, one of the founders of the April 6 Youth Movement, one of the earliest revolutionary groups in Egypt. In last year’s elections, it supported Morsi, but it’s now one of his most vocal critics.

“He thinks only he can write the constitution, only he can safeguard the Parliament, and he appoints governors from his party only…everything is his,” Sharaf said. [The Atlantic]

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Whilst we can hope the demands of the people are finally listened too, and that it will be effective civil protests that work, I do not relish the thoughts of Byron above, or those of Jefferson below which sadly are true through the ages:

    The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is its natural manure.

Tonight the world watches to see what happens next, as the army threatens to intervene in 48 hours if Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood do not reach an accommodation with the protestors. [Source BBC news]

Update 5:15PM:

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UPDATE 8:10PM: with double digit resignations from his Cabinet pressure mounts on Morsi.

Army statement has been reported as:

“The Egyptian Armed Forces will not become involved in politics or administration; it is satisfied with its role as is spelt out in line with democratic norms,” read the statement, stressing that Egyptian national security was in “great danger” and referring to the armed forces’ “responsibility” to step in if national security was threatened.

“The Egyptian Armed Forces have set a deadline, which ended yesterday [Sunday], for all political powers to reconcile and end the current crisis, but no progress has been made. Consequently, the Egyptian people have taken to the streets,” the statement read. “Wasting more time will mean more division and conflict, which is what the armed forces warned of and of which it continues to warn,” the statement added.

According to the statement, the absence of national consensus is what led the people to take to the streets in full determination, “which has been praised on the internal, regional and global level.” The statement went on to warn that more time would only lead to greater polarisation, urging all parties to put the public interest first. “The armed forces reiterates its call that the demands of the people be met,” the statement read, giving political factions a 48-hour period “as a last chance to bear the historical burden that the nation is currently facing.” [Ahram Online]

Live feed of events in Egypt

Article written by John Sargeant on Homo economicus’ Weblog

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Richard Dawkins Website access barred in Turkey

Harun Yahya - villian of the piece this time?

Harun Yahya - villian of the piece this time?

Some people in Turkey found that over the weekend their server did not allow them to access the official Dawkins website. This is one example of attempted censorship restricting people’s access to the web. WordPress itself is restricted in Turkey. However, with a proxy people have been able to get around the prohibitions.

Right now it is unclear whether this was by mandate of court order, or a decision by the server. Speculation is that this post on the front site resulted in the ban or that it is the product of Islamic creationist efforts like those of Harun Yahya who wrote such classics as Darwinism Refuted and Atlas of Creation – which are given to schools free – who tried to have The God Delusion banned. The thread on the forum part of the site discussing the issue is here.

While the usual official banning notice came up, there was no link to the court order and reference number (as would be expected). Into this void we are left with speculation as to why this happened, or whether this was simply an accident or someone jumping the gun.

Richard Dawkins has talked about the freedom that computers and the internet give (see earlier blog here). That freedom will be challenged, under the guise of security, protection of vulnerable citizens or even as a promotion of freedom by denying others liberty to express dissenting opinions. We should be concerned, because we have a right to listen to what other people would say to us if they could.

OTHER BLOGS:

Richard Dawkins on the Atlas of Creation

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Richard Dawkins on Freedom

With the Universal Declaration of Human Rights approaching it’s 60th anniversary, intelligent life (Autumn 2008) asked 11 eminent people to discuss what freedoms gained or lost meant the most to them. On a note when he talks about travelers terrified about joking with immigration officials my advise is that when they ask you if you are going to marry anyone do not say that you were not planning on spending that much …

THE SCIENTIST: RICHARD DAWKINS

Aged 67, Charles Simonyi Professor of the Public Understanding of Science at Oxford University and author of nine books, including the bestsellers “The Selfish Gene” and “The God Delusion”

FREEDOM GAINED:

Your computer mouse gives you the freedom of the world, from library to art gallery, from museum to learned journal, from online bookshop to travel timetable. Admittedly, the internet also spreads rubbish, from the trivial to the sinister. But we are free to ignore it. The net educational worth of instant worldwide information must be positive. The internet has no truck with national boundaries, and can thumb its nose at dictators and tyrannies, at priests and mullahs and all who would restrict knowledge and critical thinking.

Computer power doubles every 18 months, and its cost is declining at a similarly dramatic rate. This gives hope for worldwide enlightenment, even in those parts of the world that are still in thrall to nationalism, to tribalism, and to the vile superstitions of misogynistic desert tribesmen whose preachings arbitrarily became fossilised in influential “holy” books. Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the English physicist who, almost single-handed, invented the world wide web, has justly been awarded the Fellowship of the Royal Society and the Order of Merit. I hope for a time when he will be seen to deserve the Nobel peace prize too.

FREEDOM LOST:

We are beset by rulebooks toted by lawyers and petty bureaucrats, who worship the letter of the law and have lost the spirit of compassionate discretion. Most familiar in the infamous and despised “Health and Safety”, it goes further and deeper. Time after time, we encounter horror stories of petty–and not so petty–injustices, which could so easily have been sorted out if only officials were granted the discretion to take decisions based on the spirit of goodwill and fairness, rather than on books of rules drawn up by lawyers trained to an exaggerated degree of suspicion. We hand responsibility over to the rulebook instead of shouldering it ourselves.

Doctors and nurses, teachers and professors, policemen and social workers spend their days filling in forms, which take them away from their valuable jobs. They are cowed, intimidated, lawyer-driven to cover their backs. Employers are terrified of being sued for “constructive dismissal”. Teachers are terrified of showing affection or even compassion for their pupils. Travellers are terrified of making jokes to immigration officials. Rulebooks rule, and human kindness, discretion and fair play are running scared.

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