More worries that dodgy social media likes can prove to be misplaced as the Labour candidate who wants to replace the equally dodgy Onasanya cannot resist aimlessly liking anything she sees on twitter in an effort to grab as many votes as she possibly can. There is no time, now, for her resignation and replacement so she will have to plough on despite loud condemnations of her stupidity.
Denials and assurances have followed this morning and may well be eclipsed by the Trump cavalcade and by Sadiq Khan’s attempts to pull focus with an article saying that Trump is a neo-Nazi.
What does all this mean? – well, just as Russia tightens its grip on what can and cannot be published, the UK reveals rather well that we are absurdly liberal in what we say and allow to be said here both publicly and privately. What needs to change is not the limits of censorship, castigation and monitoring but a better way of thinking that is more inclusive and kinder. Incidentally, it’s what needs to change in Russia too.
More on Russian Censorship
I got called to task yesterday for barking on about Russia’s censorship of gay issues when I drew a picture of Elton John. A well-meaning pundit wrote to me and complained that my concerns about russian state homophobia were ill-judged when there are still states like Saudi Arabia that execute people for being gay.
My concern however, is about censorship and dubbing. The Elton John issue is just an example.More than that, it demonstrates as does all the HTB rubbish, that I personally witnessed, that Russian censorship is effectively privatised. As Putin’s regime loses power, individuals and their companies vie with one another to do what they think the state would like to see- they are all currying favour and their common tool is to manipulate the media.
What Russia is doing today goes back really to the time of Suleiman the Magnificent who simply stopped the developing media in its tracks. The Western-style free press was forbidden, and this vigorous censorship persisted until the 19th Century. It was, in fact, a very successful attempt to foster nationalism. So, when we see this happening in our own time, in whatever country, we need to look beyond the censor to see what is actually going on. It is not just about what we are trying to stop, and how it is stopped but also what is being encouraged.
Modern Russia plans to set up a form of confessional religious studies across secondary schools. This alone I find worrying.
The parallel laws against Homosexuality- section 28, Federal law no. 436-FZ of 2010-12-23 (July 2012) and Article 6.21 (30 June 2013). There are similar laws in China.
The much more dangerous issue is about how to present “truth” than simply about suppressing a minority group. And remember that the current law in Russia is no different in intent from the law (section 28) put out under Margaret Thatcher – to protect children from “teaching of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship”. Anne Widdicombe’s comments yesterday suggest that she continues to honour the underlying and homophobic principle behind that law btw, in so far as she implies that homosexuality is something that can, should or might be cured by medicine… ie: it is a disease and, as the russian law puts it, is “not “traditional”. These two laws are simply representations of forms of prejudice that go back to the mediaeval period and probably early Christianity where a great deal of effort was given to establishing what was natural and “against nature”. David Attenborough and others demonstrate very nicely that homosexuality is present in many animal societies – it is therefore fundamentally “natural”, so that argument is demonstrably stupid. The British law was a response to the threat of AIDS and the 2013 Russian law, I suggest, is a response of growing nationalism and a desire to toady to the nastier (sic Trump) realities of Orthodoxy.
Like Catholicism, Orthodoxy has an aggressively homophobic side and, as we are seeing now, many of the more vocal clerics promoting anti-gay legislation were themselves living double lives and so knew exactly where to look…(think pope Paul VI to start with, the notorious Cardinal Alfonso López Trujillo of Colombia, and Metropolitan Serafim/Leonid Mikhailovich Chichagin- but it is all to be found in Frédéric Martel’s book “in the Closet of the Vatican“)…. as for the saudi issue, it is relevant but the history of Islam is more complex- not only did it take a puritanical turn in the 9th century but until the Napoleonic conquests at the end of the 18th century/ 19th Century the Muslim world had a reputation for being a bit louche- the anglican/ scottish churches, for instance, criticised the “East” for its liberal standards- think Henry Mondral’s comments about “voluptuousness” when he visited Syria in 1695, and Thomas Rowe, for example, not its intolerance, and the Ottoman empire as well as nomadic Arabia, Egypt and Morocco attracted western writers- Byron (“I can’t empty my head of the east”), Gide, Genet, Wilde, Forster as well as probably Lawrence of arabia…it is only the advent of the austere and feared religious police, the mutawwa’in and the pincer-grip of Wahabi’ism that we see today in Saudi. (check out another book: Saudi Arabia Exposed: Inside a Kingdom in Crisis) remember that until very recently homosexuality (a very modern word too) described what people did and only recently has become about who they are (identity). Remember that Oscar Wilde was married…in muslim culture, esp in Iran where there is a written Persian record (think of the hedonism in the 9th Century arabian nights, the Mughal figurative art in Islam, the rise of music in islam – despite modern islamic injunctions against music) gay sex was an incidental activity not something that defined a person. And, as in Greece, it was both tolerated and a manifestation of the love of beauty, celebrated in poetry. The love object, incidentally, in alot of arabic poetry (Rumi, Hafiz, esp Bulleh Shah who loves Inayat Shah) is often, maybe because of the fierce protection of women, a boy and not a girl.
I must write something about “Kismet”, the amazing Minnelli film from the 1950’s. It prefigures Disney’s Aladdin and is such a mix of the Arabic, Turkish, Indian and Chinese. Multiculturalism long before Guy Ritchie!