Posts Tagged ‘Newsnight’

Andrew Brown posts another clanger on Comment is free

13/03/2010

manicstreetpreacher wonders whether this hack can stoop any lower.

US evolutionary biologist and author of Why Evolution Is True, Jerry Coyne, recently described British science and religion journalist Andrew Brown as “The Guardian’s resident moron”.

I have been less than impressed by Brown after his pathetic attack on Sam Harrisobjection to Francis Collins’ appointment as head of the National Institute of Health, culminating in Brown quote-mining Harris’ The End of Faith something rotten to make it look like Harris endorses torture and rendition.  I can only assume that this was a dummy-spitting exercise by Brown to recoup ground from the commenters who lambasted his first piece and rallied in support for Harris.

Now, Brown has not simply scraped the bottom of the barrel, he has removed the base of said wooden container entirely and is tunnelling fast for Australia.  On 11 March 2010, Brown posted this appalling piece on The Guardian: Comment is free arguing that perhaps we are being a tad harsh on all those child sodomising Catholic priests, since the rate of child abuse among the clergy is apparently much lower than other professions.

Pinch yourself to make sure that you’re not having a bad dream:

[T]here is no doubt that a lot of children were damaged for life by priests, and that this was mostly covered up by the hierarchy until recently.  But was the Catholic church unfairly singled out?  Aren’t all children vulnerable to exploitation, especially when they are poor and unwanted?…

The most detailed statistics on child abuse for the Catholic clergy that I can find come from the John Jay Institute’s report drawn up for the American Catholic bishops’ conference.  From this it emerges that the frequency of child abuse among Catholic priests is not remarkable but its pattern is.  Although there are no figures for the number of abusers in the wider population, there are figure for the number of victims.  These vary wildly: the most pessimistic survey finds that 27% of American women and 16% of men had “a history of childhood sexual abuse”; while the the [sic] most optimistic had 12.8% of women and 4.3% of men. Obviously a great deal depends here on the definition of abuse; also on the definition of “childhood”. In some of these surveys it runs up to 18, which is a couple of years above the age of consent in Britain.

Well, if a report has been prepared for the American Catholic Bishops Conference, who are we to argue with it?

The Catholic figures show that between about 4% of priests and deacons serving in the US between 1950 and 2002 had been accused of sexual abuse of someone under 18. In this country, the figure was a 10th of that: 0.4%.  But whereas the victims in the general population are overwhelmingly female, the pattern among American Catholic priests was quite different.  Four out of five of their victims were male.  Most were adolescents: two out of five were 14 or over; 15% were under 10.

This is vile, but whether it is more vile than the record of any other profession is not obvious.  The concentration on boys makes the Catholic pattern of abuse stand out; what makes it so shocking is that parents trusted their children with priests.  They stood in for the parents.  But this isn’t all that different from the pattern in the wider world, either, where the vast majority of abuse comes from within families.  The other point that makes the Catholic abuse is that it is nowadays very widely reported.  It may be the best reported crime in the world: that, too tends to skew perceptions.

I’ll agree with Brown there.  Yes, it is extremely vile.  But there my support ends.  His post is an exercise in “Yeah, but what about…”.  Road traffic deaths kill far more people every year than deliberate homicide, so let’s get the police to withdraw all personnel and resources from investigating murders and get them to devote all their time and effort ensuring that motorists wear their seat beats and drive under the speed limits, shall we?

So why the concentration on Catholic priests and brothers?  Perhaps I am unduly cynical, but I believe that all institutions attempt to cover up institutional wrongdoing although the Roman Catholic church has had a higher opinion of itself than most, and thus a greater tendency to lie about these things.  Because it is an extremely authoritarian institution at least within the hierarchy, it is also one where there were few checks and balances on the misbehaviour of the powerful.  The scandal has been loudest and most damaging in Ireland, because it came along just at the moment when the church was losing its power over society at large, and where it was no longer able to cover up what had happened, but still willing to try.  Much the same is true in the diocese of Boston which was bankrupted by the scandal.

Perhaps I am being unduly cynical, but I think we are entitled to demand a higher standard of moral behaviour from institutions and individuals whose alleged purpose is to uphold and enforce those of us mere mortals who do not have a one-to-one with The Big Surveillance Camera In The Sky.

Rabbi David Wolpe raised this objection in a debate against Christopher Hitchens: the public is more shocked and the criticism more vitriolic when a clergyman falls into error.  Hitch’s reply was that he is not shocked at all.  The Catholic Church preaches that women are vessels of temptation, insists on celibacy, makes sex a matter of guilt and shame and comprises an all male priesthood that is based on sexual repression.  What is going to happen to the children under the care of those people?   No need to act surprised.  The Church wasn’t surprised at all.  They knew it was going on all the time which is why they covered up for it.

Hitchens’ comments are at the beginning of this tape.

And regardless of whether the abuse itself has been exaggerated or blown out of proportion in the media, there is no playing down the deliberate covering-up of the scandal by the Vatican, of which the present pope, Benedict XVI, Joseph Ratzinger, played a pivotal role by issuing a Vatican edict in 2001 while  a cardinal ordering Catholic bishops and priests were not to cooperate with the police on pain of excommunication.  Only last Tuesday (9 March 2010) the BBC’s Newsnight reported on the case of Bill Carney was named as one of the worst cases in Dublin’s Catholic diocese in the Murphy Report into clerical abuse in Ireland.  However, for the last 10 years Carney has been free to live quietly in Britain and is now hiding out in the Canary Islands.

Brown’s insulting apologia concludes thus:

Certainly the safeguards against paedophilia in the priesthood are now among the tightest in the world.  That won’t stop a steady trickle of scandals; but I think that objectively your child is less likely to be abused by a Catholic or Anglican priest in the west today than by the members of almost any other profession.

Well, that’s a relief.  I’m sure that all those children and families whose lives have been ruined by the abuse and subsequent covering up by the Vatican will be consoled no end by the knowledge that it could have been worse if they were looked after by doctors and lawyers.

Brown’s vile wipe was ripped to shreds by its own commenters, and justly so.  Why does this appalling man continue to be published in the national dailies?

UPDATE 14 MARCH 2010

As I expected, Jerry Coyne has commented on Brown’s piece on his blog with typical rhetorical fire:

It’s a disgusting and self-serving piece of faitheistic tripe, and its underlying message is this: those people who attack the Catholic church for systematic child abuse are really anti-Catholic bigots.  After all, claims Brown, the Church was no worse than other abusers…

I beg to differ with Brown’s implicit conclusion.  The concentration on Catholic priests and brothers comes from the shocking institutionalization of that abuse: the consistent efforts of Church officials, who knew full well about the abuse, to cover it up and, sometimes, simply transfer abusers to new places.  Yes, other professions sometimes cover up child abuse, but not, I think, on such a massive scale.  I am not aware of this kind of cover-up being endemic to American public schools, for example.

And what Brown fails to grasp is that the abuse is doubly shocking because it was committed by those priests to whom parents not only entrusted their children, but entrusted them to inculcate in those children a sense of morality.  The outrage comes from seeing that those who were supposed to serve as role models – as paragons of morality – systematically abused that trust in the most heinous ways.  And perhaps the Church’s ridiculous policy of celibacy contributed to this abuse.

Fortunately, Brown’s commenters – as usual – take him apart.  It must be disheartening for the Resident Moron to watch, week after week, as his readers chew his tuchus to pieces.  Maybe the Guardian keeps him on because his continuing idiocy promotes traffic on their website.  But really, how can a reputable paper tolerate such witless garbage?  Do the editors have any notion of what should pass for decent commentary?

Nice one, Jerry.  The words “asshole”, “new” and “rip” spring to mind.

Charlie Brooker’s Newswipe on pointless UK terror alert

08/02/2010

manicstreetpreacher is RAOTFL at Charlie Brooker’s latest successful aim at the nail’s head.

The UK government’s recent pointless upgrading of its terror threat monitor status to “severe” was an inexplicable and bizarre episode to put it mildly.  I am wondering what they were trying to spin out of the headlines.  Fortunately, Charlie Brooker’s inspired Newswipe gave it the treatment it deserved in a segment aptly titled “The Week in Bullshit”.

Brooker’s superb takedown of prime time news and comment shows has also produced this inspired dissection of pro-forma news reports.

Why is this show relegated to BBC Four?

Anjem Choudary on Newsnight: 12 January 2010

14/01/2010

manicstreetpreacher comments on what will hopefully (yeah, right!) be the last time we will have to put up with this clown.

Islamist hate-preacher, Anjem Choudary, made a complete fool of himself on Tuesday night’s edition of Newsnight (11 January 2010) when he debated Maajid Nawaz of the Quilliam Foundation on the UK government’s decision to ban his crackpot fundamentalist organisation, Al-Muhajiroun, also known as Islam4UK.

The full interview can be viewed over at BBC iPlayer.  The report begins at c. 20 minutes and it will be available until 11:19pm on Tuesday, 19 January 2010.  I will update this piece to include the YouTube videos as soon as some kind person edits and uploads them.  😮

UPDATE 29 January 2010

The YouTube clip is below.

Choudary comes across incredibly badly and will not make any friends from this appearance.  He relies on shouting and talking over people as a tactic in debating and by being evasive and deceptive.  Harry’s Place has listed all the lies and evasions that Choudary spouted during the interview:

Lie 1

  • “Al Muhajiroun is not a HT offshoot” – ALM was set up by Omar Bakri who used to be the leader of HT in the UK and set up ALM after he had been expelled from HT.

Lie 2

  • “I was never with HT” – Anjem was an activist with HT for a number of years and met Bakri through HT lectures.  I personally met him when he was with HT, as did many others including Maajid.

Lie 3

  • “I have never met Maajid Nawaz” – Anjem represented Maajid in a legal case at Newham College in 1993 and they met again on The Big Questions last year.

Lie 4

  • “I have not received any money from the government” – Anjem and his family of 4 have been living off state benefits for over 10 years.

Lie 5

  • “We don’t believe in appealing against man made law” – Yet Abu Izzadeen (ALM member) lodged an appeal at the court of appeals in 2008.

Lie 6

  • “Islam4UK got banned because it was exposing the Government foreign policy” –  Islam4UK is working to bring convert Britain into a Caliphate under Shariah law and they support the Taliban and Al Qaeda in places like Afghanistan.  They also approve of terror tactics and praise terrorist attacks. It is not a lobby group that exists to highlight bad policy – there are many such lobby groups that have not been banned.

Lie 7

  • “Britain is an apartheid system” – Anjem clearly does not know the meaning of this word.  He lives freely in the UK, has the same legal rights as everyone else, is free to express his anti-western views, speak out against British Foreign policy and claim generous state benefits.  As Maajid pointed out, he has not spent any time in jail and is regularly invited on various TV shows to express his views.  Clearly, his organisation has abused these privileges to incite violence, support terrorism and spread fear and hate. As such they deserve to be banned.

Questions avoided

  • “Are you on the dole?”
  • “Will I (Maajid) be executed in Anjem’s version of the Khalifate?”
  • “Is non-Muslim blood halal for you”

Choudary’s and Nawaz’s previous clash on BBC One’s The Big Questions from March 2009 can be viewed below:

Part 1/2

Part 2/2

I was left rather cold by Nawaz after seeing him against Choudary on this occasion.  He attempted to portray the mad mullah as a fringe radical who was a perverting “true Islam” and his use of the “serious scholarship” card (known to atheists as “The Courtier’s Reply”) made my eyes roll.  I have recently given my thoughts on this brand of religious moderation, but in a nutshell, Choudary may well be a nasty piece of work who risks giving demagogy a bad name, but he is no psychopath.

A layman listening to Nawaz would not think that the core texts of Islam were to blame, when I know that they are most definitely are.  I have to disagree with the writer of the above Harry’s Place post on a few points.   While Choudary is a “charlatan” with “neither principles nor basic manners” and “how anyone can look up to the guy or regard him as a leader” is indeed beyond me, he is still a man guided by his faith.  He does really believe this stuff.

Nevertheless, Nawaz redeemed himself on Newsnight by playing a blinder in asking Choudary the same three questions over and over again without getting a straight answer.  Even the usually stone-faced Paxman was practically in stitches as Choudary avoided Nawaz’s questions about whether he would be executed as an apostate under Choudary’s caliphate and how much in state benefits he was claiming.  It was all rather reminiscent of Paxman’s notorious interview of former Conservative Home Secretary Michael Howard where he asked his subject 12 times about his alleged overruling of the head of the Prison Service, Derek Lewis without success.

However, what is utterly tragic about Choudary is that a few years ago, he was a hard-drinking, hard-smoking, soft-core porn reading student who had a sense of humour like the rest of us.

I only hope that now his pathetic jihadist organisation has now finally been criminalised, mainstream television can stop giving him airtime, even if it is to wheel out the court jester.