Monday, May 11, 2015

News Briefs 5.11.15

Pamela Geller, notable for calling Brooklyn College "Brooklyn Zoo" after a speaking engagement, pledged she would hold another "free speech" event like the cartoon-drawing contest of the prophet Muhammad that was attacked by two gunmen who were killed.

I can only imagine Pamela Geller is some sort of alien creature that was sent here to destroy this planet because everything she says and everything she stands for is so wholly appalling I can hardly wrap my brain around it. 

Geller says she's crusading for free speech. Am I crazy, or does the vitriol she spouts not count as free speech? Freedom of speech does not include the right to incite action that will harm others. No, she hasn't told anyone to go commit violence against Muslims, but what else can come from likening Muslim students to animals and calling people savages? 

Geller tried to say that her event was like the attack on the headquarters of Charlie Hebdo magazine in Paris. I think the words from its editor-in-chief Gérard Biard sum up why that's ridiculous: 

"The difference between us and these people is that these people are organizing contests, anti-Islamist contests. It's an obsession ... We are not obsessed. We are just obsessed by the news, and by how the world is going on. The difference with Pamela Geller, she is obsessed by Islam. She waits every morning and thinks, What can I do today to defy these people?"

That brings me to the point in my rambling, what really baffles me about Geller's intolerance and all people like her. Why go out of your way to hate and despise people, when you can do literally anything else with your time? It reminds me of a quote by the genius Charlie Chaplin: "Only the unloved hate - the unloved and the unnatural."

That's how I see Pamela Geller: unnatural, mean and pathetic. I'm sorry I ever heard of her, and I hope the world forgets her quickly.



PEN International and Charlie Hebdo

Last Tuesday PEN International hosted their annual Literary Gala and Free Expressions awards. PEN International is composed of a conglomeration of writers from around the world dedicated to preserving free speech. This year they awarded the satirical French newspaper Charlie Hebdo and victims of the violent terrorist attack earlier this year the "freedom of expression courage award." However, PEN's decision to offer this award has been met with considerable controversy. Well known authors Rachel Kushner, Teju Cole, and Peter Carey declined to participate in the gala claiming that Charlie Hebdo's cartoon are Islamaphobic and hateful.

So, are the cartoonists working at Charlie Hedbo intellectual freedom fighters or are they simply stoking the flames of hatred? This is a vital question that we should all be asking ourselves as the answer may help provide a path through the ideological quagmire we find ourselves in today. Terrorism from the Middle East has spilled out into many Western countries in the wake of 9/11, which has bred fear and misunderstanding of people of the Islamic faith. "Hey, Christians don't act like that," people will argue while disregarding the last two thousand years of history in which Christian very much acted like "that."

I think, the answer to the question posed up above lies somewhere in between. The Charlie Hebdo cartoons of Mohamed are purposefully inflammatory, but, the newspaper has also depicted other religious icons with the same irreverence. If anything, the caricatures Hebdo produces are so broad and on the nose that any humor is blunted by sub-Mad magazine juvenilia (I finally get the French's fascination with Jerry Lewis!).

However, after being repeatedly targeted by terrorist organizations for their cartoon, including a 2012 attack on their offices, Charlie Hebdo has continued to produce work in accordance with their vision. If nothing else, the staff of Hebdo has certainly shown great courage, which is what the award is meant to honor.

To be honest I don't know how to feel about all of this. I don't believe in the message that Hebdo produces, but I do believe in their right to produce it. However, as a creeping tide of anti-Islamic sentiment gains traction in America and the world, I fear that PEN's decision to give Charlie Hebdo  this award somehow legitimizes not the work of Hebdo, but the Islamaphobics who rally around them. I think admitting that we don't know what is right is the key to navigating the future peacefully. It is the people who have the answers that worry me.
-Justin Gray

Tartan Triumph
I admit, I am late on this post because I, too, was going to write about depictions of Mohamed. Alas, I waited until late last night to move my post from Scrivener to Blogger--and yeah, you can see the above two posts. 

So I started brainstorming. It's early Monday morning, I've had only the requisite forty cups of coffee and 2 inside-out Oreos with my Special K for inspiration, and I finally determined what is newsworthy. 

Surprisingly, it has very little to do with what Kanye got Kim for Mother's Day. (*hint: it's probably bigger than a breadbox.)

Last Thursday was election day in a petite island country known for its historical sites and really famous babies.

If you follow even a minute amount of foreign politics, you know that last year, the people of Scotland narrowly missed becoming an independent nation. During that heated time in British politics, a LOT of promises were made. Prime Minister David Cameron promised more funds for the children of Scotland, which were (according to the Scottish nationalists) being sorely neglected in comparison to their London/Southern UK counterparts. Ten Downing also made huge allowances and promises regarding a nuclear/army/warhead debacle known as "Trident" during this time. There were even talks about how the MPs (similar to our congress) in Scotland would be granted more autonomy in their dealings in the North.

Basically, pre-referendum, David Cameron was like Oprah with his promises. 
Not two weeks after the referendum failed. Cameron actually enacted legislation which DIMINISHED the Scottish MPs power. Cameron became evil Oprah. 
The Scottish people were apparently really fed up, because, on Thursday, the people of Scotland ousted pretty much every MP in the region in favor of members running on the anti-austerity platform in the Scottish National Party. This turnover included the eviction of a multi-term MP being shoved out by a twenty-year-old student with a bag of Scottish gumption. 

So what does this mean? Imagine if say, Giuliani was trying to keep Staten Island from defecting and leaving the city. In order to do that, he says stuff like "I'll make the bridge free for Islanders and work with the city council reps from the island to bring more tourism to the borough, and more money to the schools. Then, he proceeds to charge $40 each way on the bridge for everyone ($38.50 if you have EZPASS) shuts the council members out of meetings, and pees on the walls of Staten Island Tech. 

Staten Islanders, formerly known as plucky Republicans who hate politics as much as they hate interlopers, REBEL. They vote in all democratic council members, stop using the Verrazano Bridge at.all. and they don't offer a single venue for Giuliani to speak when he decides to give a presidential run a go. 

In the long run it may end up meaning very little. The Conservative Party won a ton of seats in the remainder of the UK, and that pretty much negates the SNP's effect in parliament. However, if, if, they can effect any change in the whole of Scotland, another independence referendum--and win--isn't out of the cards. 


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