Thursday, February 02, 2006

The other battle of the comics

Anyone looking for tea-leaves to read in battle for hearts and minds in Europe may note that a law which might have prohibited publication of the Danish cartoons was narrowly defeated in the UK. The Brussels Journal reports:

On 31 January 2006 the British House of Commons narrowly defeated – with just 283 votes against 282 – New Labour’s Racial and Religious Hatred Bill, intended to prohibit speech or artistic expressions deemed insulting by religious communities. This was a narrow yet historic victory for freedom of expression, as well as a victory for Parliament against a despotic-minded Government. Liberal-Democratic spokesman Evan Harris commented: “The Government just failed to understand that they can’t take liberties with freedom of expression.”

On the occasion of the House of Commons vote, familiar maxims on liberty were aptly invoked in various debates, e.g. against the British Government’s plea that the bill was “necessary” to make multicultural coexistence possible (an argument invoked by governments across Europe to impose similar censorship laws). William Pitt the Younger was quoted: “Necessity is the plea for every infringement of human freedom; it is the argument of tyrants; it is the creed of slaves.”

Regarding the argument that this curtailment of freedom of speech is only a small concession to an acute societal need, Edmund Burke’s words were repeated: “The true danger is when liberty is nibbled away for expedience and by parts.”

Against the argument that many things people say about other religions are ill-informed or prejudiced, Mahatma Gandhi was quoted: “Freedom isn’t worth having if it does not connote the freedom to err.”

One of the heroes of the hour was apparently Mr. Bean. The Times of London reports:

Rowan Atkinson's supporters in Parliament mounted a sophisticated ambush to defeat the Government over its laws against religious hatred. To borrow a phrase from the comedian’s television series Blackadder, they had “a cunning plan”. They realised that only 25 to 30 Labour MPs might rebel and that in a trial of strength with government whips they would lose. So, instead of seeking publicity to gain momentum for a rebellion, they opted for stealth and targeted lobbying. ...

The campaign prised wavering individuals from disparate groups to eke out the narrow victory.  On the defeated side the search for scapegoats has already begun. Fingers are already being pointed at Labour Whip Hilary Armstrong for having failed to carry the measure despite the party's superiority in the House of Commons. The Independent reports:

Downing Street tried to shrug off the defeat as a "one-off" and a "cock-up". Mr Blair's official spokesman said: "It happened. I'm sure every effort will be made to make sure it doesn't happen again." ... Earlier, the Prime Minister's spokesman denied Ms Armstrong was about to be sacked, saying Mr Blair still had "enormous respect" for her. But among Labour MPs there was a general expectation yesterday that Ms Armstrong would be out in the next cabinet reshuffle.


As the repeated and unceasing submissions of the European Constitution to the electorate illustrate, it's unlikely that Parliament has seen the last of this issue.

The only quote I could find from Mr. Bean appropriate to the occasion is this: “We are in the stickiest situation since sticky the stick insect got stuck on a sticky bun.”


Blogger wretchardthecat said...

There's this Rowan Atkinson gem though, from right after September 11.

I have always believed that there should be no subject about which one cannot make jokes, religion included. Clearly, one is always constricted by contemporary mores and trends because, after all, what one seeks above all is an appreciative audience. However, would a film like 'Monty Python's Life of Brian,' criticized at the time of its release for being anti-Christian, be judged under the proposed law? Or that excellent joke in 'Not the Nine O'Clock news' all those years ago, showing worshippers in a mosque simultaneously bowing to the ground with the voiceover: 'And the search goes on for the Ayatollah Khomeini's contact lens'? Not respectful, but comedy takes no prisoners. However, in period and in context it was extremely funny and I believe that it is the reaction of the audience that should decide the appropriateness of a joke, not the law of the land.

For telling a good and incisive religious joke, you should be praised. For telling a bad one, you should be ridiculed and reviled. The idea that you could be prosecuted for the telling of either is quite fantastic.

2/02/2006 02:48:00 PM  
Blogger Meme chose said...

No longer so fantastic.

Note that the 'much admired in the US' and 'favored successor to Kofi Annan as UN Secretary General' Tony Blair is the one pushing for these restrictions on free speech.

They are his proposals, and he's still determined to push them through Parliament. When it comes to multiculturalism he has always been as soft as a wet sandwich (not to mention his even worse human rights lawyer wife).

2/02/2006 03:08:00 PM  
Blogger Pascal said...

Wow, I love your closing line: "But the words are only memories. The men who said them are gone and their heirs are not yet found."

I would also like to invoke one of your opening lines from only this week in making an "observation" about this:
It's tempting to think the defeat of the censorship bill and the battle lines you've described forming in response to the Danish cartoon is no coincidence. Whether by Hand of God or through pure luck, I really think we're fortunate about the way this particular confrontation has set up.

However clear the view is on its own to me, thanks for cranking up the contrast for everyone else Wretchard.

2/02/2006 03:25:00 PM  
Blogger Arthur Dent said...

Here's how the religion of peace treats 44....

Cos, Forkum , Condi

2/02/2006 04:22:00 PM  
Blogger desert rat said...

Mansoor Ijaz writes at length in the National Review on Line about the status of the Iranian Challenge.
His timeline of events gives evidence to the Worldwide reach of the Mullahs.
It is well worth the time it takes to Terrorists Going Nuclear-
Tehran’s recent efforts add to their history as terror masters

He dosn't discuss Iran's growing ties with Mr Chavez, much.

2/02/2006 04:24:00 PM  
Blogger desert rat said...

Got to wait until get an UN warrant for those pesky Iranians, can't arrest them without one.

And well they know it.

Ralph Peters is right, it is a matter of Will.
A willingness to sacrifice for the Greater Cause.
A willingness to confront the Enemy.
A willingness to admit just who the Enemy is, regardless of the payoffs they make.

Today, in the Battle of Wills, the Enemy has the edge. Tomorrow, well time will tell.

Mr Peters has a piece in the titled:BETRAYING OUR TROOPS.
He is speaking of Mr Rumsfeld actions as Sec Def.
I have to agree with Mr Peters in his take on the subject.

2/02/2006 04:38:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

Make a good movie, 'Rat:

(Bean)Countdown to Disaster

2/02/2006 10:11:00 PM  
Blogger Annoy Mouse said...

A cartoon rumbles through the Muslim rabble

Mohammad’s minions taunt the crass
European gentry class

Ergodan closes Muslim Ranks
EU membership? No thanks!

Death to Denmark! death to France!
Europe caves to Muslim Rants!

A cartoon reveals Islam’s Right
They wont abide a Western Slight

I promise to give more respect
When Muslims learn to genuflect

2/03/2006 07:52:00 AM  

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