Archive for March, 2007

Davis Talks a Load of Guff

There’s a piece in the Guardian today about how drugs experts think the current UK drugs classification system is total nonsense. No doubt they’ll be ignored just like numberless others have been ignored before them. It’s good to see it in the media anyway even if it is, by now, a case study in “the bleeding obvious”. But then there’s blustering Tory David Davis with some of his mindless but perhaps entirely predictable comments:

[T]he shadow home secretary, David Davis, rejected any changes that would confuse the public. “Drugs wreck lives, destroy communities and fuel other sorts of crime – especially gun and knife crime. Thanks to the government’s chaotic and confused approach to drugs policy, young people increasingly think it is OK to take drugs,” he said, adding that he was against downgrading of ecstasy. “It is vital nothing else leads young people to believe drugs are OK.”

Yes, drugs, currently, cause crime – because they’re illegal. And they’re illegal because they’ve been arbitrarily and unscientifically classified. Seemingly, Davis thinks it’s “vital nothing else leads young people to believe drugs are OK” even if the “thing” that might lead them to believe drugs are OK is the truth or drugs policy actually based on facts and evidence instead of conservative prejudice and dogma or, as a result, their legality. Confused approach to drugs policy indeed.

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Chomsky’s Razor

Noam Chomsky’s in the Guardian today. He employs his trademark political and epistemological principle: “Anything that in the realms of possibility could be attributable to the insidious and omnipresent forces of Western imperialism is attributable to the insidious and omnipresent forces of Western imperialism.” For example:

Meanwhile Washington may be seeking to destabilise Iran from within. The ethnic mix in Iran is complex; much of the population isn’t Persian. There are secessionist tendencies and it is likely that Washington is trying to stir them up – in Khuzestan on the Gulf, for example, where Iran’s oil is concentrated, a region that is largely Arab, not Persian.

But flippancy aside, he could have a point with this:

In the west, any wild statement by President Ahmadinejad is circulated in headlines, dubiously translated. But Ahmadinejad has no control over foreign policy, which is in the hands of his superior, the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. The US media tend to ignore Khamenei’s statements, especially if they are conciliatory. It’s widely reported when Ahmadinejad says Israel shouldn’t exist – but there is silence when Khamenei says that Iran supports the Arab League position on Israel-Palestine, calling for normalisation of relations with Israel if it accepts the international consensus of a two-state settlement.

More to the point, Ahmadinejad has said that Israel “must be wiped off the map.” A statement that might include the sentiment that it “shouldn’t exist,” but means something manifestly different. And Al-Jazeera are hardly an arm of the Western propaganda machine. But either way, the western media could indeed be overlooking Khamenei’s more moderate (if you can call them that – he still firmly supports Hezbollah) views in favour of Ahmadinejad’s apocalyptic nonsense.

International Women’s Day 2007

Well, it’s International Women’s Day 2007 today, so here’s human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell with a piece on “Tehran’s Heroic Women” and how they’re being largely ignored by the media.

The liberal western media – including The Guardian – has mostly failed to report these women’s protests and their bloody suppression. The left, too, ignores the heroic struggle of the women of Iran. Misogyny and police brutality are not okay in Britain, but apparently acceptable in Tehran. Why the double standards?

Seal-Hunt Dishonesty

Here’s a short article about a forthcoming seal-hunt documentary and how it apparently creates a dishonest impression of members of The Humane Society. The piece contains a reasonably flagrant attempt at distraction from the seemingly pro-hunt film-maker.

Animal-rights activists are considering legal action to block a controversial documentary on Canada’s commercial seal hunt on RDI, the CBC’s French-language news network.

Phoques, le film, (Seals, the movie), produced by Quebec filmmaker Raoul Jomphe, has ruffled feathers at the Humane Society of the United States, because of a scene showing members of the group watching a dying seal for more than an hour as they filmed a promotional video of the hunt on ice floes in Atlantic Canada.

But Rebecca Aldworth, the director of Canadian wildlife issues for the Humane Society, said the scene was edited in a way that distorts what happened, and their lawyer has sent a letter to CBC asking it to take a look at the complete footage to ensure the documentary is balanced before it is scheduled to be broadcast on March 29.

Although Jomphe criticized the animal-rights group for not euthanizing the seal, Aldworth said that would have meant breaking the law.

“What he (Jomphe) doesn’t tell you is that it would have been illegal for us to do so,” she said Monday.

“Under the marine mammal regulations, only people with sealing licences can kill seals. But more importantly, we didn’t have the means or the equipment or the expertise to do that in a way that would not simply increase that animal’s suffering.”

Aldworth said she initially decided not to rescue the seal, because she believed it wouldn’t survive a helicopter ride to a veterinary hospital. More than an hour later, she said she realized it could be treated.

“Just as we were making arrangements to fly this seal back, the sealers came back and clubbed a lot of live seals in the area, including this one, and stabbed it through the skull with a metal spike,” she said. “We go up there to protect these animals and to try and stop this hunt, because this is something that happens so frequently in the course of this slaughter … and to have somebody edit a sequence of events to suggest that we would ever prolong the suffering of an animal to get video footage is obscene.”

But, it’s OK, apparently:

Jomphe said he doesn’t think anything needs to be changed in the movie, which was presented at a special screening for employees of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans last week in Ottawa.

“The images speak for themselves,” he said, pointing out that he included Aldworth’s explanation about wanting to transport the seal to a hospital.

But not that euthanizing it would have been illegal?

“When they take images of hunters, they do editing, and that’s what we see … and suddenly she’s all offended that she’s being filmed in that way.”

It’s not editing itself that anyone is taking issue with. It’s dishonest editing. Editing that intentionally creates a false impression of events and seeks to indict people for intentionally and needlessly prolonging suffering they are, in reality, powerless to stop. Of course, Jomphe already knows that, but needs to cause this sort of false tu quoque distraction to avoid addressing the dishonesty itself.