Monday, 13 October 2014

Hate Speech Proponents Hate Free Speech

“I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”
(Evelyn Beatrice Hall, 1906, in Friends of Voltaire; NB: NOT a quote from Voltaire himself.)

But when all people are allowed to express their views and ideas, the principles of democracy and liberty are enhanced. This extends even to that speech which is most hateful and offensive.”
(Oliver Wendall Holmes, Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States of America.)

“Over my dead body!
(David Cameron, Nick Clegg and Alex Salmond jointly, severally and together with leaders of all developed countries as they held hands with “Gay Rights”.)

When debating or discussing Free Speech, invariably the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America is cited. There being no obvious reason to depart from this rhetorical tradition, it reads: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”

(For those unfamiliar with American politics and government, the Congress is the Senate and the House of Representatives together forming the Legislature; and this is akin to the House of Commons and the House of Lords acting together as our Legislature in the UK.)

One of the great defenders of Free Speech in the USA in the 20th century, specifically but not exclusively as the discussion pertains to the Press, was HL Mencken, the legendary “Bad Boy of Baltimore”. One of the guiding principles I like to think I live by is Harry Mencken’s dictum: “To every complex problem there is a solution which is simple, neat and wrong!” So I was pleasantly surprised when I recently came across an example of a slightly altered form of this sage advice employed in a High Holy Day Message of the distinguished Jewish Theological Seminary of America which appeared as an advert in the September 23, 1982, issue of The New York Times. It read:


Two men are crossing a desert. They are three days from the nearest water hole. One of the men is carrying a canteen. The canteen holds three days’ supply of water — for one man. Should they divide it? Then both will die. Then what is the obligation of the owner of the canteen? One opinion says: a man must not stand by and watch his fellow man die. He should share the water with his companion. Another says: preservation of one’s own life takes precedence. The owner of the water must drink it and live.

Not so simple, is it? If you don’t see a simple, obvious solution, you’re in good company, because the discussion is nearly 1900 years old. It is recorded in the Talmud, and here is the interesting thing: both opinions are presented in the Talmud, the prevailing and the dissent.

Why both? Because Judaism recognizes life’s dilemmas and the difficulty of knowing how to handle them. The truth is, for most significant issues there is NO simple solution. Euthanasia? Abortion? Freedom of expression? Pornography? Skokie? In most cases, it just isn’t clear what God wants us to do.

When I read this, my first reaction was that I disagreed with these learned Jewish scholars: I think that more often than not it IS perfectly clear what God wants us to do. However, more or less simultaneously a question also sprung to mind: who, what or where is Skokie? And, why should it matter to these good men? The answer to the former, I found out, is that Skokie is a small suburb of Chicago, Illinois, which came to both national and international notice because, and this is the answer to the latter, of a highly unusual and seriously controversial case brought before the Supreme Court of the United States of America in the late 1970s.

I had recourse, of course, to the internet where I first read a review of a book, “When the Nazis Came to Skokie: Freedom for Speech We Hate”, by Philippa Strum (Landmark Law Cases and American Society: Series Editors Peter Charles Hoffer and N. E. H. Hull; University Press of Kansas). The review outlined the background:

In the Chicago suburb of Skokie, one out of every six Jewish citizens in the late 1970s was a survivor — or was directly related to a survivor — of the Holocaust. These victims of terror had resettled in America expecting to lead peaceful lives free from persecution. But their safe haven was shattered when a neo-Nazi group announced its intention to parade there in 1977. Philippa Strum’s dramatic retelling of the events in Skokie (and in the courts) shows why the case ignited such enormous controversy and challenged our understanding of and commitment to First Amendment values.

It should be noted that the neo-Nazi group in question had intended to hold their parade on April 20, Hitler’s birthday.

Clearly, differing legal rights were engaged here. On the one hand, the desire of the National Socialist Party of America, under its then leader Frank Collin, to parade through the streets of any community, anywhere in the United States, was supported by their First Amendment rights. On the other hand, the people of the town had every right to live in peace, free from any assault on their sensibilities — there was a village ordinance prohibiting the display of Nazi uniforms and the distribution of material deemed offensive — and free from violence, or the threat of violence, on their streets, and to their persons. (A couple of years later, it transpired that Frank Collin had been born Francis Joseph Cohen, the son of Max Simon Cohen, a survivor of Dachau Concentration Camp. Arrested for serious sexual offences against several children, a psychiatric report concluded that he was “consumed with hatred for his father”. This, it seems, was supposed to explain his name change, political activity and sexual abuse of the children.)

Nobody could doubt that the good people of Skokie had every reason to fearfully apprehend that, in what would inevitably be a volatile climate, either the neo-Nazi marchers, or the counter-demonstrators — Sol Goldstein, a Holocaust survivor and local community leader, on hearing of the proposed parade had immediately announced his plans for a counter-demonstration — or both, would resort to violence. And so Albert Smith, Mayor of Skokie, a devout Catholic and graduate of Notre Dame University, sought and obtained an injunction prohibiting the parade.

Incredibly, the American Civil Liberties Union then took up the case in behalf of the Nazis and for their First Amendment rights to freedom of speech and assembly. Their case was fought by attorney David Goldberger: a Jew defended before the Supreme Court the rights of neo-Nazis against the rights of fellow Jews. And won! No wonder this mattered to the faculty of the Jewish Theological Seminary of America.

One can hardly say ironically, but the ACLU both won AND lost — 30,000 of its members left the organization as a direct consequence of their taking up the neo-Nazis’ case. Doubtless, the ACLU decision-makers later rued the fact that subsequently the march never did in fact take place, but that is another story. The main story here is that in her book the point that Philippa Strum makes, and forcefully makes, is that freedom of speech MUST be defended — even when the beneficiaries of that defence are far from admirable individuals!

So what if those who some would silence are not far from admirable individuals, but are, on the contrary, perfectly ordinary, sane and sensible people? People just like you and me, for instance, the normally silent majority? Surely, no-one would ever dream of denying us our rights to Free Speech?
After all did not Oliver Wendall Holmes (1841-1935), that great American jurist (Associate Justice USA Supreme Court 1902-32; Acting Chief Justice January/February 1930), if we set aside Buck-v-Bell, not once say: “The First Amendment protects free thought, not free thought for those who agree with us, but freedom for the thought we hate. If the past two centuries of struggle to preserve freedom of expression have taught us anything, it is that the first target of government suppression is never the last. Whenever government gains the power to decide who can speak and what they can say, the First Amendment rights of all of us are in danger of violation. But when all people are allowed to express their views and ideas, the principles of democracy and liberty are enhanced. This extends even to that speech which is most hateful and offensive.”

But, of course, this is not the USA and their Supreme Court’s writ does not run here. However, the legal and moral issues are just the same and the legal frameworks in which they must be dealt with are strictly analogous. In Rome, on November 4, 1950, the High Contracting Parties, the Governments of those countries who were then full members of the European Council, signed the European Convention on Human Rights. Section 1, Article 10 states:

(1) Everyone has the right to freedom of expression. This right shall include freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority and regardless of frontiers. This article shall not prevent States from requiring the licensing of broadcasting, television or cinema enterprises.

(2) The exercise of these freedoms, since it carries with it duties and responsibilities, may be subject to such formalities, conditions, restrictions or penalties as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society, in the interests of national security, territorial integrity or public safety, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, for the protection of the reputation or the rights of others, for preventing the disclosure of information received in confidence, or for maintaining the authority and impartiality of the judiciary.

But both in the USA and in the UK, Free Speech is no longer respected as a Civil Right IF you happen to disagree with a tiny fraction of one of the smallest minorities in either land: the professional proselytes, many, if not most, paid through the public purse in one way or another, within the less than 1½% of the population who are homosexuals of one sort or another (which statistic seemingly holds good more or less else- and every-where in the developed world).

This miniscule minority has decided that mainstream Christians and their beliefs about marriage, the family and society, and; their Bible and patristic writings, and; their ethics, morals, philosophy, theology, tradition and history (which history IN Europe is consubstantial with the history OF Europe), each and all are “most hateful and offensive” to them and, therefore, according to them, to each and every other homosexual, of whatever sort, evidence to the contrary notwithstanding for the good and simple reason that evidence to the contrary is not admitted and nor will it ever be if these people get their evil, anti-democratic way. Indeed, evidence, any evidence, in the matter from within the homosexual community has never been sought by them. So in that respect at least the overwhelming majority of the homosexual community are most definitely just like the overwhelming majority that is the rest of us.

For this miniscule minority, there can be no question of respecting the civil right to Freedom of Speech for we Christians, we perfectly ordinary, sane and sensible people. Nor for those, including many homosexuals, who though not sharing our religious perspective and background nevertheless concur with our views on marriage, the family and society. And they ARE getting their evil, anti-democratic way. And, just like Oliver, they want more. But unlike Oliver, they are likely to get it. But how can this be so?

These homosexual proselytes, thinly disguised as “equal rights activists”, and their fellow travellers, mainly of the political left but naturally including both trendy liberals and libertine Tories, have assiduously applied the principle enunciated by Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900): “I am afraid we are not rid of God because we still have faith in grammar” (Walter Kaufmann, editor, The Portable Nietzsche, “Twilight of the Idols”, Penguin, 1982, p. 483). They have totally subverted the honest use of language, aided and abetted by those three greatest users, and abusers, of language: the print and broadcast media (aka MSM); the politicians, and; the judiciary.

PS: In his letter to Pinocchio, the then Cardinal Patriarch of Venice Albino Luciani, later Pope John Paul, quoted an anecdote from “Pitigrilli” (Dino Segre, 1893-1975) the noted Italian aphorist (whose novel Cocaine was placed on the Index) in which he recounted that a preacher was addressing the crowd gathered at Hyde Park Corner in London when he was heckled by a dirty and dishevelled individual who shouted out: “The Church has existed for two thousand years and the world is still full of thieves, adulterers and murderers.”

“You are right,” replied the preacher “but for two million centuries water has existed in the world and your neck has still not been washed.” (Illustrissimi: Letters from the Patriarch of Venice, Albino Luciani.)

Among Pitigrilli’s well-known sayings is this: “Grammar: a complicated structure that teaches language but impedes speaking.” 

Carthusian thoughts

The Cross Stands Steady Whilst the World Turns

When His Eminence Franc Cardinal Rodé was appointed Archbishop of Lubljana on March 5, 1997, he chose as his episcopal motto “Stati inu obstati”. This is a phrase in Old Slovene taken from the Catechism of Primož Trubar. It translates as To Exist and Persevere”, or, To Stand and Withstand”. (It is inscribed on the Slovenian 1 euro coin.) Clearly, it is in some way related to the Carthusian motto. And, indeed, His Eminence has written a book with that Carthusian title.


Friday, 10 October 2014

The Herald (Glasgow) again stifles debate

You didn't read this in yesterday's Herald; and I doubt it will be in today's:

Dear Sir
Siobhan Reardon (Letters, October 9) states that the UK government “has numerous obligations to fulfil regarding abortion” and then waffles on attempting to link them to something she calls “gender discrimination”. Under International Law the UK has no obligations in relation to abortion on demand, request if you like. And neither does any other country. Could Ms Reardon point to any of the many and various treaty obligations the UK holds in consequence of its membership of the UN which impose such an obligation? No, because the UN, despite the best (but I regard as worst) efforts of NGOs such as Amnesty does not recognise any right to abortion. Any abortion, for any reason, at any time, under any circumstances. NGOs and compliant UN committees kid on that they do and threaten dire consequences for any — invariably poor, developing — country in Africa, Asia, Oceania, the Caribbean or Latin America who won’t go along with them. And they get off with it because the General Secretary and his immediate underlings let them. I wonder why?
Perhaps there are obligations arising out of the UK being a State Party signatory to the European Convention on Human Rights, then? No, with a limited caveat.
The European Court of Human Rights through its various rulings has explicitly declared that abortion is not a right under the Convention. I am not a lawyer, let alone a legal tutor, but it may be helpful for readers to know that in Silva Monteiro Martins Ribeiro v. Portugal, the Court ruled that here is no right to have an abortion and that therefore the prohibition per se of abortion by a State does not violate the Convention (No 16471/02, Dec., 26 October 2004). Nor is there a right to practice abortion, see Jean Jacques Amy v. Belgium (No 11684/85, Com., Dec. 5 October 1988). However, it must be conceded that in the case of the first two applicants in A., B., and C. v. Ireland (No 25579/05, 16 December 2010) the Court ruled that States signatory can allow abortion taking into account other, competing, rights guaranteed by the Convention, for example if it is held that the life and the health of the pregnant woman are threatened. In other words, the jurisprudence of the Court countenances toleration of abortion in presence of a sufficient, proportionate motivating principle relating to a right protected by the Convention. The Court, it must be said, was not responsible for Enda Kenny’s government’s hysterical overreaction to this ruling. It was NOT required to introduce an abortion free for all.
In short, under International Law there is no such thing as that which Ms Reardon peddles as “reproductive rights”. Gender theory/ideology we will leave for another day.
Yours etc


Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Hello Again: Vatican Diplomacy

I have been locked out of my Blogger account for several weeks now — I gather I'm far from being alone — but a computer literate nephew has got me back in.

But you find me not as I left you. It's Sober in October in memory of my darling niece, Paula, who died from cancer three years ago, on September 23, 2011.

Saturday, October 11: An apology.

I had intended to add a dedication to my niece Paula and then write a bit about the recent meeting of the Middle East war zone Nuncios in Rome but, distracted, I accidentally posted the thing after inserting the photograph below and closed the tab and then couldn't get back into the Blog — from which, as I said above, I have been blocked for some weeks. After several hours of intemperate language this evening, I am back. But since it is now past midnight and I am tired and sober, I'm off to bed. Sober? Me? Vice-President of the Scottish Catholic Drouth Society sober on a Friday night?

Well that is what I was going to say about Paula. A couple of weeks ago somebody mentioned this Go Sober in October thingy for Macmillan Nurses and it just so happened that it was just days after the third anniversary of Paula's death. It just occurred to me that the thought of her uncle Hughie trying to stay sober for a whole month would have had her in stitches. So, I thought, why not?

If any passers-by would like to sponsor me they can do so online at:

PS: Did you know that Coca Cola dissolves the cement that is supposed to keep your wallie teeth in place? To my great embarrassment, I found that to be the case on Tuesday afternoon in the Gates Bar, Bellshill (they had run out of Ginger Beer; which had never happened before!).

Paula, right, with her mum, May, who died in 2010 at 10 am Sunday morning Mass in Our Lady of Good Aid Cathedral, Motherwell, on the day before Paula was supposed to go into hospital for extensive surgery.

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

WWI: In Memoriam; Prof Tom Kettle and The Green Fields of France

The War to End Wars didn’t!

To My Daughter Betty, The Gift of God
(Professor Lt Tom Kettle, 1880-1916)

IN wiser days, my darling rosebud, blown
To beauty proud as was your mother’s prime,
In that desired, delayed, incredible time,
You’ll ask why I abandoned you, my own,
And the dear heart that was your baby throne,
To dice with death. And oh! they'll give you rhyme
And reason: some will call the thing sublime,
And some decry it in a knowing tone.
So here, while the mad guns curse overhead,
And tired men sigh with mud for couch and floor,
Know that we fools, now with the foolish dead,
Died not for flag, nor King, nor Emperor,
But for a dream, born in a herdsman’s shed,
And for the secret Scripture of the poor.

Thomas Michael Kettle (1880-1916) Irish nationalist poet, politician and soldier was born in Co. Dublin the son of one of the founders of the Land-League, Andrew J Kettle (1833-1916), and his wife Margaret McCourt. Tom was the seventh of 12 children. Andrew Kettle was a member of the Tenant Right League (founded by Charles Gavan Duffy and Frederick Lucas) in the 1850s and became a constitutional Irish Home Ruler in 1866 following the publication of Isaac Butt’s “Plea for the Celtic Race”. Later as a close associate of Michael Davitt — the “One Armed Fenian” who renounced his Irish Republican Brotherhood oath, took a seat in the House of Commons at Westminster and totally renounced violence as a means of advancing Irish Home Rule —was instrumental in persuading Charles Stewart Parnell to support the land agitation of the late 1870s. Kettle chaired the first meeting of the Land League in October of 1879. He was elected Secretary and Parnell was elected Presdient. Kettle was later imprisoned for his leading the opposition to the Coercion Laws.

Tom attended, as did his brothers, O’Connell School, Richmond Street, Dublin run by the Christian Brothers. A gifted pupil, he then went on to the Jesuit-run Clongowes Wood College, Co Kildare. A prominent debater, with a greatly admired razor sharp wit, he excelled in both sports (especially athletics, cricket and cycling) and studies (especially English and French).

Going up to University College Dublin in 1897 much was expected of him. And he did not disappoint, although disappointingly his studies were interrupted by ill-health. A contemporary of Francis Sheehy- Skeffington, Oliver St John Gogarty and James Joyce, he became “auditor” of the Literary and Historical Society. This is a position essentially equivalent to Convener of Debates at a Scottish university — I held this position at Glasgow University Union in the early 1970s and my friend, Mgr Patrick Burke, held it at Saint Andrews in the 1980s — or President of Oxford, Cambridge or Durham University Unions.

Graduating BA in Mental and Moral Science (don’t ask, I don’t know!) in 1902, he then studied Law and was admitted to the Honorable (sic) Society of King’s Inns in 1903 before being called to the Bar in 1905. Of course, his interest in debating and politics did not falter and in 1904 he founded the Cui Bono Club within UCD as a debating forum for recent graduates and became editor of the College newspaper. In that same year he also co-founded and was elected President of the Young Ireland Branch of the United Irish League. Offered a parliamentary seat by John Redmond, he declined becoming editor of a weekly, “The Nationalist”, instead. However, in 1906 he became a Member of the Imperial Parliament of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland for East Tyrone at a bye-election caused by the death of Patrick Doogan.He remained an MP until the second election in 1910, in December, when he did not defend his seat due to pressure of other work.

In 1908 he had been appointed Professor of National Economics at his alma mater, UCD, now part of the new University of Ireland. He quickly became one of the most popular members of the faculty and was in geat demand as both lecturer and public speaker. In the year following, 1909, he married Mary Sheehy. Mary was a sister of the suffragette and member of the Irish Women Workers’ Union, Hanna (christened Johanna Mary) Sheehy who after marriage became Sheehy-Skeffington. Another sister, Kathleen, married Joseph O’Brien and became mother of the apostate nationalist Conor Cruise O’Brien (known hereabouts as Conor Full o’B*****it).

In the 1913 lockout he supported the strikers and helped form the peace committee to negotiate a just settlement. Having supported the Home Rule Bill of 1912 and seen the Unionists' successful attempts to wreck it, in 1913 he also joined the Irish Volunteers. In Europe in 1914 to try to raise arms (he spoke fluent French and German) he witnessed the outbreak of war and, because of the atrocities he had witnessed committed by the Germans against civilians in France and Belgium, abandoning his original mission became war correspondent for London’s Daily News.

In “The Ways of War: Why Ireland Fought”, he wrote (@p72): “The outbreak of war caught me in Belgium, where I was running arms for the Irish Volunteers, and on the 6th of August 1914, I wrote from Brussels in the Daily News that it was a war of ‘civilisation against barbarians’. I assisted for many weeks in the agony of the valiant Belgian nation.”

Returning to Dublin, he joined Redmond’s National Volunteers. Repeatedly refused a commission into any Irish regiment because of his health status, at last he was commissioned into the 9th battalion of the Royal Dublin Fusiliers, part of the 16th (Irish) Division. Conditions in the trenches seriously affected his health and he was returned to Dublin for recuperation. Before leaving once more for the front on July 16, 1916, almost in despair at the brutal, merciless treatment of the leaders of the Easter Uprising, he said that they would be remembered as heroes while men like himself would be despised as traitors. And so it came to pass.

On September 9, 1916, at Guinchy, during the Battle of the Somme, leading his company of men, Lientenant Professor Tom Kettle died, victim of a sniper’s bullet to the upper chest “above a protective steel waistcoat”. Following behind,18 years old Lt Emmet Dalton, the “boy hero of Guinchy”, “was horrified to see him fall… (and) paused to press a crucifix into his hand… Kettle was obviously dying.”  Fr Felix Burke, Catholic Chaplain to the Royal Dublin Fusiliers, wrote: “We all looked up to him as a towering genius and as a storehouse of information.”

Kettle had written to his brother: “I am calm and happy… but desperately anxious to live.” He was planning a book on the 16th (Irish) Division and looked forward after the war to dedicating himself to work in the interests of “perpetual peace.” The writer Tim Cross said that Kettle had a vision of “Ireland at parity with Britain as a free European nation” and quotes him as saying: “My only counsel to Ireland is that in order to become deeply Irish, she must become European.”

This deeply thinking, deeply religious Irish Catholic intellectual had got there long before that group of young intellectual Italians who, as students, had gathered around Don Battista Montini (the future Pope Paul VI) when he was Chaplain to the student section of Italian Catholic Action in the late 1920s and early 1930s (his formal title was Chaplain to the Federation of Italian Catholic University Students, FUCI), and even after he had been forced out, and were instrumental in creating the European Christian Democracy movement along with their German and French co-religionists. These were men such as Alcide De Gasperi and Aldo Moro (President of FUCI in the late 193os) whose vision was the European Union, but not as we know it, as a bureaucratic nightmare.

What a loss to Ireland. What a loss to Europe. What a loss to the Church.

Although it only appeared belatedly and begrudgingly and has never been formally unveiled by the Irish government, a memorial to Kettle by Francis W. Doyle-Jones stands in St. Stephen’s Green in  Dublin. It quotes the last four lines from the sonnet he penned to his daughter shortly before his death (To My Daughter Betty, see above):

“Know that we fools, now with the foolish dead,
Died not for flag, nor King, nor Emperor,
But for a dream, born in a herdsman’s shed,
And for the secret Scripture of the poor.”

Session in the Forge Bar Dromore

This is a typical weekend evening in my friend Oliver West's local pub in Dromore, Co Tyrone. I must get over to see him soon!,