Thursday, November 03, 2016

Politically correct Halloween directive points to an Orwellian future

FOR the first time ever, Halloween tonight will be genuinely scary. Not because of the costumes the kids will be wearing, but because of the costumes that they won’t be wearing.

The University of Florida, a bastion of sanctimonious political correctness worthy of our own quasi-Marxist tertiary institutions, posted on its website a fortnight ago:

“If you choose to participate in Halloween activities, we encourage you to think about your choices of costumes and themes. Some Halloween costumes reinforce stereotypes of particular races, genders, cultures, or religions. Regardless of intent, these costumes can perpetuate negative stereotypes, causing harm and offence to groups of people. Also, keep in mind that social media posts can have a long-term impact on your personal and professional reputation.”

Halloween is traditionally a time for terrifying kids, but this sinister censorship threat takes creepiness to a new level. In fact, it points to a totalitarian future that is scarier than the worst Halloween nightmare.

In the first sentence, “choose to participate” and “think about your choices” are weasel words that actually mean “we have made the decision for you”. This is made clear in the disgusting, unambiguous threat in the final sentence, which is tantamount to an Orwellian promise to keep tabs on you via social media and punish you and your entire career should you deviate from the politically “correct” path.

Wearing a Donald Trump mask might land you in hot water with feminists if there’s any mock groping involved.
But the truly repellent part of this Big Brother directive comes in the claim that costumes can be “offensive” to cultural identity groups, be they “races, genders, cultures or religions”. Sound familiar? This is the old 18C trick.

Here’s how it works.

I’d like to go along to the students’ Halloween fancy dress party as Frank N. Furter, the pansexual, cross-dressing mad scientist from The Rocky Horror Show. That’d be cool! Except it isn’t.

Some killjoy trawling students’ Facebook pages reports me for “mocking” the LGBTQI community.

Perhaps, instead, I’ll go along dressed as a Mad Mullah. Topical costumes are always fun. It’s Halloween after all, and what’s scarier than a bloke with a long black beard in a white robe wandering into your party clutching a copy of the Koran? (It’s actually just an old Bible but I crossed that out and wrote “Koran” on it instead.) Plus, it’s a pretty cheap costume and even better, my girlfriend decides to accompany me dressed in a giant black bin-liner with a slit cut out for her eyes. What a hoot.

Oops. Stupidly we allow ourselves to be photographed getting drunk, someone sticks it on Instagram, and there goes not only the rest of our education but our careers as well, because we have “offended” Muslims. This we did, they tell us, (a) by mocking their “cultural” clothing and religion and (b) by getting pissed while doing so.

OK, I need to be more imaginative. We’ve just been studying 12 Years A Slave in our cultural-political-media course, so why not go as my hero, Solomon Northup, in that scene where he survives getting lynched? That’s classic Halloween stuff! All I need is a rope around my neck, a bloody torn shirt, bare feet and to paint my face black …

Oh damn. There goes my career again.

Then how about I go as Donald Trump and my girlfriend goes as Miss Universe. Then, as we walk together into the party, I turn and grope her! That’d be funny. We’d be bound to win!

Unfortunately, the feminists report me and my girlfriend to the university.

The truly repellent part of the University of Florida’s Big Brother directive to “think about your (costume) choices” comes in the claim that they can be “offensive” to cultural groups.
You may think I’m joking, but this same self-censorship will be going through the minds of many Australians this year for the same insidious reason: political correctness gone creepy.

Remember, it was only recently that our own basketball star Alice Kunek was hounded by Australian Race Commissioner Tim Soutphommasane for wearing “blackface”. Her crime? Posting on Instagram a photo of herself going to a fancy dress party as her favourite singer, Kanye West.

Unless such intolerant commissioners are removed and the insidious 18C repealed, our kids can look forward to a very bleak future.


No-offence culture of American campuses hurts Australia too

A chap in America, let’s call him the Bernard Salt of Rhode Island, recently wrote a grumpy little letter to his local newspaper about the poor sartorial choices made by women of a certain age who wear yoga pants. Boom. The cult of taking offence reared up, offended women gathered in their yoga pants to protest, social media lit up and the organiser took to radio stations, expressing outrage over “Bernard’s” criticism of her choices. Sure enough, it made news across the globe, from the BBC to the ABC and The Sydney Morning Herald with nary a question asked about the ramifications of the growing predilection to take offence.

To be sure, America is the home of the modern-day propensity to find offence. If this was a cult called Scientology, progressives would be carefully deconstructing its concerning presence in modernity. But the cult of taking offence is a slyer virus because it is largely unchecked. And it’s running rife on university campuses, where it threatens to do the most damage.

As Caitlin Flanagan wrote last year in The Atlantic, campus students who race to find offence are the inheritors of three decades of identity politics. In the lead up to Halloween this week, student fraternity leaders at Tufts University sent an email warning fraternity members not to wear: “inappropriate, offensive, or appropriative costumes”, or “outfits relating to tragedy, controversy or acts of violence”, or costumes that appropriate cultures or “reproduce stereotypes on race, gender, sexuality, immigrant, or socio-economic status”. Why? Because the dean of student affairs at Tufts warned of university and police investigations and the “wide gamut of disciplinary sanctions” if students engage in actions that “make others in our community feel threatened or unsafe, or who direct conduct towards others that is offensive or discriminatory”.

Indiana University’s Affirmative Action Office found a student guilty for reading Notre Dame v The Klan, a book that pays tribute to student opposition to the Ku Klux Klan, because a student was offended by the book’s cover. Oberlin College in Ohio released a list of areas that demand trigger warnings, everything from classism to privilege. Students at other universities have demanded trigger warnings for The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, Mrs Dalloway by Virginia Woolf and Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice. And on it goes.

The cult of taking offence has become a determined game of what Jonathan Rauch has called the “offendedness sweepstakes”, and it keeps lowering the bar on what words, ideas and freethinking analysis are to be mowed down to protect the hold identity politics has over academe. Political correctness, the soul brother of identity politics, may have started out briefly in some quarters as a sweet-sounding search for a very civil utopia imbued with respect for minorities. Now it is the weapon of choice in the pursuit of power and control over ideas, words, books, teaching and much more.

Students seek “safe spaces” to avoid ideas they don’t like and even comedians are not welcome: Chris Rock no longer appears on campus because students are more interested in not offending anyone than sharp humour that may offend. Jerry Seinfeld has said he has been warned to stay off campuses too because they’re too PC.

And the result, best described by Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt, has been the coddling of the American mind where emotional reasoning now determines the limits of university debates. “A claim that someone’s words are ‘offensive’ is not just an expression of one’s own subjective feeling of offendedness,” they write. “It is, rather, a public charge that the speaker has done something objectively wrong” and must apologise or be punished for committing the offence.

This made-in-America phen­om­e­non is no longer an only-in-America one. Students studying archeology at University College London were recently given permission to leave class if they encounter “historical events that may be disturbing, even traumatising” — in other words, if they are freaked out by bones.

The coddling of the Australian student mind is under way too. Last week at the University of NSW a well-meaning lecturer teaching a class on 20th-century European history told his students he felt obliged to issue a trigger warning about material they would cover. At the same university last year, a lecturer teaching a course on terrorism and religion issued a trigger warning too. Isn’t the trigger in the title? Isn’t history replete with traumatic events?

The Australian asked UNSW, the University of Sydney, Melbourne University, Monash University, Queensland University, Queensland University of Technology and the Australian National University in Canberra about their policies, formal or informal, about trigger warnings. Those that responded issued bland comments about having no formal policy, with some offering statements such as this one from Melbourne University: “We encourage academics to be sensitive to student needs and some may choose to give warnings about confronting content.” Or this from Merlin Crossley, UNSW’s deputy vice-chancellor education: “Some of our academics and teaching teams may choose to provide trigger or content warnings depending on course materials and in some cases possible confidential sensitivities of their students.”

In 2017 Monash University will introduce what it calls “a radical and far-reaching reform of our education and pedagogy” involving an “optional inclusion of content warnings where appropriate”.

While Monash rejects any dilution of learning outcomes and multimedia introduces a new perspective, this is how the censoring of intellectual debate and the cosseting of student minds started in the US. Trigger warnings and safe spaces run counter to why universities exist: they are places where students should be encouraged to engage in open and robust debate, exercise free speech and test and challenge orthodoxies in the greater pursuit of knowledge and progress.

The anti-intellectual consequences of trigger warnings led the dean of students at the University of Chicago in August to send a welcome letter to each new student advising them that the university “does not support so-called trigger warnings”, it won’t cancel controversial speakers and “it does not condone the creation of intellectual ‘safe spaces’ where individuals can retreat from ideas and perspectives at odds with their own”.

The lack of intellectual diversity on American campuses has led scholars from the west coast to the east to form the Heterodox Academy, an advocacy group that seeks greater intellectual diversity on campus in the face of rigid ideological orthodoxies that discourage both academics and students from speaking freely.

Co-founded by Haidt, a social psychologist at New York University and author of The Righteous Mind — Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion, the push for greater intellectual diversity has earned praise from New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof. Under the headline “A confession of liberal intolerance”, Kristof wrote: “We progressives … we’re fine with people who don’t look like us, as long as they think like us.” That could be the motto for our national broadcaster, sections of Fairfax media and much of academe here in Australia.

After all, try finding the Australian equivalent of Chicago University’s letter for new students entering Australian universities. Go looking for an Australian version of the Heterodox Academy or even a refreshingly honest progressive such as Kristof. You would have a better chance of finding a Tasmanian tiger.

The Australian asked each of the above-mentioned Australian universities whether they support the letter from University of Chicago to its freshers advising them of the university’s commitment to freedom of expression and opposition to trigger warnings because students are “encouraged to speak, write, listen, challenge and learn without fear of censorship”. Our leading universities responded with thunderous silence about that apparently thorny question.

Indeed, there are few signs of Australian academics trying to ward off the American-born disease taking hold on our campuses. Quite the contrary. QUT vice-chancellor Peter Coaldrake told this newspaper last month that the university did not choose to be associated with the current public debate about section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act. That’s unfortunate because section 18C, which makes it unlawful for someone to act in a manner that is reasonably likely to “offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate” someone because of their race or ethnicity, is the legislative extension of trigger warnings that stifle open debate and infantilise students.

Praise then for psychology professor Joe Forgas from UNSW who wants to see all universities, not just those in Australia, follow the example of the University of Chicago and strongly and explicitly reaffirm their commitment to freedom of expression and the diversity of views. “We have always taken this freedom for granted, but in the current climate of rampant identity politics and political correctness, it is important to give these values added and explicit emphasis,” Forgas tells The Australian.

The psychology professor is also opposed to trigger warnings because any “device that is designed to impose ideological self-censorship on academics can be hugely costly in terms of imposing limits on free speech and making lecturers hesitant to cover important but controversial topics”.

Forgas is a rare breed of scholar in Australia. One of very few Australian members of the Heterodox Academy, Forgas says he joined because defending the completely free exchange of ideas “is absolutely essential not only for the proper functioning of universities, but also for the long-term health of liberal societies”.

That some groups or individuals might find the discussion of controversial topics unpleasant cannot be a justification for limiting free speech on campuses, he says: “Quite the contrary, it is especially those issues that are controversial that need to be openly discussed and argued about if they are ever to be resolved.”

The alternative is the closing of the student mind, those same minds entrusted to universities to become our next generation of intellectually curious and emotionally resilient thinkers. As Flanagan asked, perhaps rhetorically: “O Utopia. Why must your sweet governance always turn so quickly from the Edenic to the Stalinist?”

But back to the bloke from Rhode Island. He would have been safer staying away from yoga pants and challenging the practice of yoga as a case of cultural appropriation. For seven years, yoga teacher Jen Scharf taught a free yoga class for students with disabilities at Canada’s University of Ottawa.

Until last year, when she was effectively shamed into shutting down her classes because Ottawa University’s student union was concerned over the cultural appropriation behind practising yoga.

Where does it end? That depends on where we start when it comes to freedom of expression, and currently too many self-indulgent Westerners are starting in entirely the wrong place.


Flood of outrage over 'sexist' plan for men-only office space - but the founders claim it will 'stop men hitting their wives'

But "safe spaces" for women are fine, of course   

A pair of entrepreneurs planning to launch Australia's first male-only co-working space have been blasted on social media and branded 'sexist.'

Nomadic Thinkers is a Brisbane membership club set to open doors in January with a gym, café, barber for physio for men.

The founders, Samuel Monaghan and Matthew Mercer, claim the space will help tackle the issue of domestic violence as well as depression among men.

But social media users have taken the business model to task and accused the creators of perpetuating damaging sexist values.
Samuel Monaghan and Matthew Mercer believe their men-only Nomadic Thinkers space will help tackle the issue of domestic violence

Samuel Monaghan and Matthew Mercer believe their men-only Nomadic Thinkers space will help tackle the issue of domestic violence

When asked his inspiration for the plan, co-founder Samuel Monaghan told Junkee they both had a friend in a violent relationship.

'We both had a mate who ended up in a violent situation with his wife. He pushed his wife over.'

He said Nomadic Thinkers would help curb the problem by giving men suffering from depression a place to let off steam.

'Depression and suicide result from a lack of social support and community. Having a space where they [men] can be men is more of a preventative measure. Healthy, happy men don't hit their wives.'

Women could access the café and meeting room, but would be banished from the working space and knocked back if they applied for membership.

The startup reportedly has the backing of six investors, and they are listing a number of membership packages online including 'The Bear Grylls' and the 'The Musk Have'. 

Mr Monaghan said men have been robbed of their identity in present society, where women have 'tea parties' to embrace their gender.

'In other cultures you go out and hunt in a forest for three days. We just hit 15 and start drinking. There's a real loss of identity for men. We used to go to war together. Girls do it better naturally, they have tea parties and stuff.'

Brisbane startup network, Little Tokyo Two, were said to be backing the idea, however a spokesperson denied any involvement to Daily Mail Australia. 'Little Tokyo Two has no alignment with any single sex or single industry spaces.' 

A spokesperson from Nomadic Thinkers told Daily Mail Australia they apologised their message has been misunderstood.

'We believe that our space that combines mental, physical and social stimulation will be a catalyst for impact amongst the men of our community. Impact that is not reactive but also preventative.' 'We simply want to play a part in fixing a serious issue.'


$1.2bn economic cost of environmental ‘lawfare’

Environmental groups’ legal challenges to development projects ranging from dams and roads to coalmines are estimated to have cost the economy up to $1.2 billion — an amount that is rising as more “vexatious and frivolous” claims are made.

The 32 legal challenges under the environment laws that went to court meant developers spent a cumulative 7500 days — or 20 years — in court even though 28 of the environmental cases were defeated and three required only minor technical changes to go ahead.

The Institute of Public Affairs estimates that the delays to the projects “cost the Australian economy as much as $1.2bn”.

The conservative think tank’s investigation into challenges to projects under section 487 of the Environment Act, which allows anyone with a “special interest in the environment” the right to challenge, found that environmental groups carried out “an ideological anti-coal, anti-economic development agenda” aimed at holding up projects to reduce profitability and investment.

“Given the high failure rate and frivolous nature of many of the legal challenges, it is clear it hasn’t been applied in the way ­initially intended and rather has been persistently abused by green groups whose primary motivation is an anti-coal agenda,” the IPA report says.

Drawing on Productivity Commission calculations, the IPA finds the use of section 487, which was introduced by the Howard government in 2000, “is estim­ated to have cost the economy ­between $534 million and $1.2bn”.

“This estimate is likely to underestimate the total cost to Australia, as it doesn’t capture all flow-on effects to employment, investment and higher capital costs,” the report says.

“Some projects never go ahead due to heightened risk of legal challenges and consequent higher capital costs.”

The Turnbull government is trying to amend the laws to prevent the delaying tactics of “green lawfare” in the courts, after it was revealed a highly orchestrated, ­secretly foreign-funded organisation of environment groups was trying to stop coalmining in Australia using the courts to undermine investor confidence.

The government is also looking at the tax-exempt status of ­environmental groups that are funded from overseas. Leaked emails, passed on to Hillary Clinton’s election campaign chairman, John Podesta, revealed that the groups wanted to hide its foreign funding.

The emails confirmed the co-ordinated campaign to stop the vast Adani coal project at Carmichael in northern Queensland and coalmining in Australia.

Resources Minister Matt Canavan said last night the object of environmental court cases was “not to win, but to delay” and so undermine investor confidence and halt development.

“These activists aren’t playing to win, they are happy to lose as long as it wastes an investor’s time and adds to their costs,” Senator Canavan said.

“They seek to subvert our legal system for political ends … If these disruption tactics aren’t stopped they will cause economic damage to our country through lost ­investment and jobs.”

Labor environment spokesman Tony Burke said yesterday the laws should not restrict who can launch a challenge because “for the matters that hit national environmental law it’s accepted that every Australian has an ­interest in them”.

“Every Australian does have an interest in a World Heritage Area, in the Great Barrier Reef, in a National Heritage Area or whether or not a species is going to be wiped out,” Mr Burke said.

He told ABC Radio National in relation to the Adani coal project that, subject to environmental approvals, federal Labor had supported it.

Mr Burke said complaints about foreign-funding of opposition to the Adani project went a bit far when the project was ­Indian and the Liberal Party wouldn’t oppose foreign funding of political parties.

On Sunday Queensland Labor Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk joined the condemnation of US funding of the campaign to block Adani’s project.

The IPA said total projects in the Galilee Basin in central Queensland were expected to ­attract more than $28bn in investment and create more than 15,000 jobs during construction and 13,000 jobs once operational.


The race that stops a nation may not be our classiest moment

From what I have seen of it, Britain's Aintree meet is the most disgusting -- acres of drunken fat

Every year there is video and photo evidence of drunken debauchery, often engaged in by well-dressed Aussies in fascinators and smart suits.

Australians are accustomed to the aftermath shots, have a little bit of a giggle at the photo of the woman in smart racewear and net fascinator riding a bin.

But this year the US, the land of Trump, has discovered our annual day of anything goes, and an opinion piece which labels the event as “decadent and depraved” may well have served as a tourism ad for Australia.

The article which compares the US’s Kentucky Derby with the Melbourne Cup, believes Aussies come out on top when it comes to total debauchery.

“There is a lot of booze. There is a lot of littering. There is a lot of smiling. There is, for whatever reason, a whole lot of falling/lying on the ground,” writes article author Billy Haisley, tagging his story “white people are getting out of hand”.

He goes on: “It’s not until you see these photos of the Melbourne Cup, Australia’s most drunken and depraved horse racing event, that you can really understand just how out of hand the whites can get.”

The article has attracted a whole lot of attention with many Kentucky Derby goers a bit offended that Melbourne Cup could even be considered more depraved than them.

“Anyone who thinks this is MORE debaucherous than the Derby hasn’t done the Derby correctly. Or been invited to the right before and after-parties. Or done Oaks AND Derby both in one weekend. Tourists.”

Another proud Derby goer posted a video of herself mud wrestling at the race in a bikini.

Other commenters talked about booking flights and tickets for next year’s events. And many seemed suitably impressed and entertained by the photos.

He ended his article with a whole lot of other proud Australian moments with headlines like “Rugby Team Cuts Player For Photo Of Him Pissing Into His Own Mouth” and “Rioting Costumed Fans Halt Australian Darts Competition”.

What do you think of Australia getting that kind of publicity overseas - all publicity is good publicity or something that should cause us deep shame?


Posted by John J. Ray (M.A.; Ph.D.).    For a daily critique of Leftist activities,  see DISSECTING LEFTISM.  To keep up with attacks on free speech see Tongue Tied. Also, don't forget your daily roundup  of pro-environment but anti-Greenie  news and commentary at GREENIE WATCH .  Email me  here

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