“Those French bastards. Will they never learn?”, asks Joan Smith in the Independent. And answers. By the grace of the State and in the Most Holy Name of Equality, yes! Those bastards will learn. They will be taught a lesson.
There is a bunch of well-known “bastards” in France who are keen on having sex with prostituted women. Don’t take my word for it: that’s how they describe themselves in a declaration insisting on their right to buy sex. The “bastards” (salauds in French) are so cross about a proposed law which would impose fines on men who pay for sex that they’ve decided to out themselves in a monthly magazine. The “manifesto of 343 bastards” has been signed by writers, actors, and commentators who say they have used, or are likely to use, “the services of prostitutes” – and aren’t ashamed of it.
The question of whether anyone (although it’s mostly men) should be able to buy sex is shaping up to become one of the great battles of the 21st century. France’s socialist government intends to follow the example of some Scandinavian countries, which have criminalised “punters”.
If you believe in equality, it’s hard to see why men should be allowed to pay to use women’s bodies, especially against a background of alarming levels of domestic and sexual violence.
To my astonishment the most logical riposte from among the Independent comments to Ms Smith’s last quoted non-sequitur comes from a man blogging from the bottom corner of the political diamond, conservative-socialist authoritarian David A.S. Lindsay. Mr Lindsay says,
Alike in Britain and in France, by all means let it be made a criminal offence for anyone above the age of consent, raised to 18, to buy sex. And, with exactly equal sentencing, for anyone above the age of consent, raised to 18, to sell sex. Are women morally and intellectually equal to men, or not?
So far as I can tell this is not sarcasm; he wants both buyers and sellers of sex criminalised. I differ, but one cannot fault his logic on the “both or neither” point.
Edmund from King Lear gave me the title of this post. It is mostly there because I am incapable of passing up a nifty lit ref. However it does occur to me that there is a way it might be made relevant. Many people will particularly want to cheer the way the salauds proudly snap their nicotine-stained fingers in the faces of their would-be oppressors:
Nous aimons la liberté, la littérature et l’intimité. Et quand l’Etat s’occupe de nos fesses, elles sont toutes les trois en danger.
Aujourd’hui la prostitution, demain la pornographie : qu’interdira-t-on après-demain ?
Hell, I cheered that, and I’ll be in church tomorrow and I had to look up “les fesses” in a French dictionary. (By the way, does “quand l’Etat s’occupe de nos fesses” have the double meaning I think it might have?) But it would really be nice, and principled, and a bloody good strategy for those who do not cheer, for those godly folk and their secular equivalents whose skin crawls at the thought of prostitution, to also stand up for the bastards. Because as the bastards say, “Today prostitution, tomorrow pornography: what will they forbid the day after next?”
Michael Eisen is a biologist, who studies the fruit fly drosophila with especial interest as nearly all biologists appear to do for some reason some of our learned readers will, I hope, explain to me. In his own words,
A few weeks ago a postdoc in my lab logged on to Amazon to buy the lab an extra copy of Peter Lawrence’s The Making of a Fly – a classic work in developmental biology that we – and most other Drosophila developmental biologists – consult regularly. The book, published in 1992, is out of print. But Amazon listed 17 copies for sale: 15 used from $35.54, and 2 new from $1,730,045.91 (+$3.99 shipping).
And the price was rising steeply almost as he watched. Why? I had often wondered this myself. Not that the development of the fruit fly has generally been my first choice for a riveting read, but I did once come gulpingly close to pressing the “Buy now with 1-Click” button for Connie Long’s Easy Guide to Sewing Linings before noticing just in time that it was going for more than two hundred pounds. It is now down to a mere £86 new / £44 used. I was kind of hoping for under £10. I am an idle waster who noted the strangeness and passed on; Doctor Eisen is a research scientist. He duly researched and explained all.
Remember, remember the fifth of November
Gunpowder, treason and plot
Today is the Saturday nearest to Guy Fawkes Night. In half an hour I will be off to a fireworks party to commemorate the foiling of a dangerous Catholic plot against the realm. My Catholic family never had the slightest compunction about burning the chief conspirator in effigy. The plot was real, feasible and evil. In the years that followed, many innocent Catholics were suspected and sometimes killed for plots that were imaginary. The cry of “Popish plot” retained its power to whip up the mob for generations afterwards.
The target changes. I do not usually link to articles behind the Times paywall, but this piece by Matthew Parris, “Our need to hate creates another victim”, is so timely and true that I shall break that rule.
On Tuesday an item appeared on page five of this newspaper. Our treatment was typical of most of the national press: only The Independent put it on the front page. Fleet Street does not appear to have judged that readers would see this as a big story.
Our headline was: “ ‘Paedophile’ killed by neighbours was wrongly accused — Disabled man had photographed flower vandals”.
Bijan Ebrahimi, who lived alone and had learning difficulties, loved tending to hanging baskets of flowers outside his Bristol flat. When youths vandalised them he photographed the incident, to complain. A neighbour decided he was a paedophile, the rumours spread, and an angry crowd gathered outside his home, chanting “paedo, paedo”.
Every reader will be familiar with the very great difficulty we face when the burden of our advice to an anxious friend is not that a problem is imaginary but that he or she has got it out of all proportion. You are not claiming his worry is groundless; you are not even trying to make light of it. You are really just trying to get the worry into some kind of perspective. How does one strike the balance between scaling an anxiety down to size and appearing to dismiss it?
I find myself in that difficulty now, when what I want to suggest is most emphatically not that the problem of paedophilia does not exist, but that as a society we have become unhealthily obsessed by it. A kind of madness is gripping our age: I felt that as I pictured the terrified Bijan Ebrahimi, the crowd chanting “paedo, paedo” outside his flat, and nobody daring to try to protect him. And this in my own country.
I suppose the obvious comparisons are with the 17th and other centuries’ waves of hysteria about witchcraft, and my fellow columnist David Aaronovitch once made those comparisons bravely and powerfully on this page. But (as David acknowledged) there’s a difference: the case is easier to make when the object of the public’s fears simply doesn’t exist and never did. Paedophilia does exist, and this generation’s better understanding of how widespread it can be and what harm it can do acknowledges truths that our grandparents’ generation overlooked or ignored. If we must go back centuries for our parallels in the English imagination, maybe French spies or Popish plots are better comparisons, for these were by no means always imagined. . . but those days seem so distant.
For a public panic that some who are alive today can remember, I’d suggest we cross the Atlantic and return to the 1950s. So poisoned has Senator Joe McCarthy’s reputation become that we tend to forget that the threat to the security of the West from the USSR was probably real. There really were Communist plots, there really was an extensive network of Soviet espionage, there really were unAmerican activities, and Moscow really did hope to foment revolutionary unrest in Western nations. It’s just that McCarthy whipped the American public into a state of disproportionate fear about it all and ruined many innocent lives.
The bloke who posted this describes it as,’The same scene everyone knows, except it is from a film called “Hitler: The Last Ten Days” starring Alec Guinness.’ Presumably both this film and Der Untergang followed Traudl Junge’s diaries quite closely for this scene.
Thus laments commenter James Primavesi to this Times story (paywalled, but the title tells you all you need to know):
Do you know who she is? Hillary Clinton gets a ticket despite protests of her security detail.
The Daily Mail reports:
Lord Sugar faced police racism probe after joking on Twitter that crying Chinese boy was upset ‘because he was told off for leaving the production line of the iPhone 5′
How far we have fallen.
In speaking of our fall, I do not refer the belief of the complainant, Nichola Szeto, that Lord Sugar’s joke was racist: stupid people have always been with us. The joke was not remotely racist. Apple might have cause to whine, at the implication that the company employs child labour, but Apple Inc. probably has enough sense to refrain from going to law at a joke and getting a tidal wave of bad publicity. Poor Ms Szeto herself nearly had the sense to refrain from going to law at a joke and getting a tidal wave of bad publicity. It did take Merseyside’s Hate Crime Investigation Unit two tries before they could get her to ruin her business and reputation:
She was contacted by police on Wednesday but declined to give a statement.
At 8am the next day, she was again contacted by officers who said they wanted to visit her home.
Instead, she agreed to attend a police station in Central Liverpool later that day, where she spent an hour giving a statement to two officers.
I do not refer to the mistaken belief of Ms Szeto that racism is both illegal and a proper noun. State schools are often not very good, and in all fairness how far can we blame someone for thinking that an opinion might be illegal, when the police evidently thought so too? Or perhaps Merseyside Hate Crime Investigation Unit thought no such thing but was just anxious to drum up trade in a slow market. You know times are hard in the hate biz when you get sales calls at eight in the morning. Funny, though, when I have once or twice called to report the old sort of crime it took Plod ages to answer the phone. Why Merseyside police seem keener on home visits to well-toned ladies upset at what someone said on Twitter than on home visits to Toxteth amphetamine addicts beating their women is just one of those unfathomable mysteries.
How far we have fallen when this can be part of the normal operation of the care of a state for its citizen, in a country that once had something like freedom:
However, the remark was in the end classed as a ‘hate incident’ – which means no further action will be taken, although details will be kept on file.
Got that? Not even the zealous young commissars that they send to work in the Hate Crime Investigation Unit could find a enough of a crime to give the boys in the CPS something to work with. What a scalp that would have been: a Labour peer and a TV celebrity. All would have trembled at the power and reach of the law if such a man were brought down. Alas for the Hate Crime Investigation Unit, this time it was not to be. But it is still a “hate incident”. Not an alleged hate incident, or a complaint of a hate incident, an official hate incident. On file, for use if need be.
The man who hated Britain: Red Ed’s pledge to bring back socialism is a homage to his Marxist father. So what did Miliband Snr really believe in? The answer should disturb everyone who loves this country.
– Geoffrey Levy, in a hit piece in the Daily Mail aimed at Ed Miliband.
I am at no loss for information about you and your family; but I am at a loss where to begin. Shall I relate how your father Tromes was a slave in the house of Elpias, who kept an elementary school near the Temple of Theseus, and how he wore shackles on his legs and a timber collar round his neck? Or how your mother practised daylight nuptials in an outhouse next door to Heros the bone-setter, and so brought you up to act in tableaux vivants and to excel in minor parts on the stage?
– Demosthenes, in a hit piece aimed at Aeschines.
Circumcision ruling: European bureaucrats are effectively banning Jewish boys, argues Brendan O’Neill, quoting the Jerusalem Post and unintentionally supported in his argument by the creepy quote from the Council of Europe in which it calls for “debate” and in the same breath announces what the result of said debate is to be. And this was put forward by a German rapporteur. I am not usually one for endless digs at modern Germans for evil done before most of them were born, but, Frau Rupperecht, do you have any idea of what that must look like to some of the Jerusalem Post’s older readers?
And yet – irreversible modification of a child’s body without the child’s consent. Gulp.
And yet again – parents irreversibly modify their children’s bodies by surgery all the time.
We have discussed this several times before, acrimoniously. Any new thoughts? Any constructive reformulations of old thoughts?
I have a question for medically knowledgeable readers. I gather that a far higher proportion – 79% in 2002 – of men in the US are circumcised than in the UK, yet the number uncircumcised is also huge. There must therefore be scope for large scale comparisons of outcomes. Have these been done? Does male circumcision make much difference?
We are the ones, we militants without a strategy of emancipation, who are (and who have been for some time now) the real aphasics! And it is not the sympathetic and unavoidable language of movementist democracy that will save us.
- Professor Alain Badiou, in an article arguing that “We need to rediscover the language of Communism.”
US government begins shutdown after Congress debates end in stalemate
Far-called our navies melt away—
On dune and headland sinks the fire—
Lo, all our pomp of yesterday
Is one with Nineveh and Tyre!
Judge of the Nations, spare us yet,
Lest we forget—lest we forget!
With the watchmen gone from their posts, there can be very little chance that any of our American readers can have survived the plagues, the zombies, the rampaging NRA members and lack of a panda-cam. Theirs has been the fate of Belgium.
Mourn. Survive. But can our doom be far behind, now that they have said they will scrap the Human Rights Act?
Venezuela food shortages: ‘No one can explain why a rich country has no food’
I know you all want to jump in and offer your suggestions. Do not, however, be too scathing. Seriously, the clue train shows signs of having made an unscheduled stop at the Guardian station. The article mentions, albeit in a hurried way and sandwiched between irrelevancies, price controls as a possible explanation for the mystery. And this is downright subversive:
For Oliveros, an additional cause for the shortage of basic food staples is the decrease in agricultural production resulting from seized companies and land expropriations.
From the way that is phrased one could almost think that a decrease in agricultural production was a result of seized companies and land expropriation. I am beginning to wonder if the “No one can explain it” title was selected by either the writer or the mole among the Guardian‘s sub editors in order to call forth the responses it did get.
Lisa Longstaff is a spokesperson for a group called Women Against Rape. She and and Lisa Avalos, assistant professor of law at the University of Kansas, wrote this article for the Guardian: Michael Le Vell’s acquittal is no reason to give rape defendants anonymity.
If you want to read my views on the anonymity issue, see here. The discussion of that was not what shocked me. This was:
But the prosecution of women for alleged false reports strengthens the myth that women frequently lie about being raped and discourages victims from coming forward. It diverts law enforcement away from thoroughly investigating rape and lets rapists loose on the public. It is not in the public interest, and must be stopped.
The writers literally believe that no woman ever should be prosecuted for making a false report of rape. Not that the decision to prosecute should be weighed carefully, that it should never be made. Effectively that it should be legal to knowingly and maliciously make a false report of rape. This cannot be put down to careless phrasing; as pointed out by commenter snoozeofreason, Ms Longstaff has made the same demand at greater length here.
I was relieved to see the response from Guardian commenters, particularly StVitusGerulaitis and EllisWyatt, but that relief could not overcome my disgust that a law professor could be so utterly indifferent to any notion of justice, or that a representative of a group that claims to want to help real rape victims could lobby in favour of those who are parasitical upon them.