Posts Tagged ‘homosexuality’

#marriageequality #loveislove

Dear Reader, if you have spent any time at all reading our blog, you will be aware of two things. One, I have opinions. (Hence the name of the blog.) Two, I am a Christian.

So when the pro-same sex marriage rally was announced in Melbourne over the weekend, there was never any doubt we would attend.

Firstly, for me, equality for homosexuals has been a lifelong campaign.

My proudest “Button” in my collection of political ephemera is one that reads “Gay Liberation is Our Liberation”. (It is an ample example of how old we are now that no-one today would refer to “Gay Liberation”.)

Whenever I wore the badge, forty plus years ago, sooner or later someone would challenge me on it. I was stronger and fitter then, and ready to “look after myself” if I got a hammering. Typically some liquored-up idiot would prod me in the chest with an accusative finger and breathe “So, you’re a poofter, eh?”

This gave me the opportunity to say “Actually, no I am not. But Gay Liberation is about the heterosexual community freeing itself from our own bigotry.” This would usually result in the knuckle-scraper backing off with a confused look on his face (it was always men) and – now and again – a useful conversation. It was my small contribution to the struggle, because, of course, if a gay person had worn the badge the exchange would often have ended up with a punch in the face.

We also used to run discos when I was at University with the poster headline “Come and Meet a Real Live Queer” a decade or more before the LGBTI+ generally community worked out that they could “own” the word, and thus challenge and even change the negative connotations associated with it. Even if those days, communications was my passion.

Secondly, I have studied Christianity all my life – I have a degree in Theology – and I simply detest the way that the Church is often portrayed (and often behaves) as the home of wowsers and conservatives.

My Christianity is progressive, activist, small-l liberal and dedicated to over-turning shibboleths. I simply cannot abide the way that literal interpretations of Scripture (which are not even based on scholarship, but usually on bias and/or inaccurate translations) are used to support essentially anti-Christian behaviour – of which opposing “same sex” marriage is simply the most recent example.

Fundamentalist Christianity has been used to excuse burning “heretics”, drowning witches, slavery, banning contraception, destroying womens’ health provision, idiotic anti-scientific nonsense like Creationism, and much more. Little wonder the Church in the developed world is rapidly losing adherents.

In its blind opposition to same-sex attracted people having the same rights as everyone else it has caused huge suffering to many, including people who I know and love. The tactics used by the ugly confluence of the far-right and the fundamentalist Churches (epitomised by the often appalling Roman Catholic Church, the conservative Anglican diocese of the Sydney, and the utterly bigoted and so-called Australian Christian Lobby) seeks to portray all Christians as anti-gay.

Well we ain’t. At all. “Not in my name” comes to mind. So when the rally was announced, my attendance was inevitable.

But having decided to attend, what then? I have no standing in the Equal Love movement, so they weren’t going to ask me to speak. No public position to leverage. Was there anything I could do to help, over and above simply wearing out some shoe leather and getting some much-needed exercise?

Because I am in the comms business, I decided my brain should be given a bit of a workout as well as the legs.

I decided to actively take on the nonsense that is written about me and millions of people like me by those who should know better, or who should stop behaving so shamefully as trying to present their opinions as mine.

I decided to say, deliberately, “Hey – I am bulk-standard, standard-issue Middle Australian, and I am voting “Yes”.” With the obvious implied corollary, “You should too.”

I simply wanted to make it clear to everyone else attending the rally that the support for equal rights spreads right across the political and social spectrum. Because that’s one way to ensure that people outside of the core campaign group will be encouraged to stand up too: to come out and vote, and to campaign.

And because – above all – I think the LGBTI+ community deserves to know that the rest of us support them. They’ve been fighting this battle too long and too hard for us to miss this chance to help them get a “Yes” vote across the line. As one placard read at the rally, “I can’t believe we’re still fighting this shit”.

Quite.

Hence the placard.

Agit-Prop? Hell, yes it was.

Was I looking for publicity? Yes, I was. Not in the sense that I wanted ME to become famous. (At all. I’m too old for all that rubbish.) No, I wanted the principle embodied by the placard to become famous. Or at least, to spread out beyond my head.

Maybe a TV camera might snap it, and it could get seen? Or maybe a journo or two? Yes, I was aware of that possibility. Most of all, of course, I simply wanted to stand in solidarity with the other campaigners, and against the nonsense. But I’d be lying if I pretended I didn’t hope the placard might make some difference beyond that. Don’t ask, don’t get, eh? It’s worth trying anything to overcome naked wrongs.

As so often in life, though, what really happened was way beyond my expectations.

The moment Mrs Wellthisiswhatithink and I arrived, and plonked ourselves strategically down on a well-positioned bench, we were deluged with smiling people wanting to photograph the sign. I completely lost track of how many people did. Hundreds, certainly. We had so many ‘thank yous’, so many thumbs up, not a few kisses planted on our cheeks and plenty of “high fives”. It was really quite overwhelming, and beautiful.

At one point I turned to Jenie and said “And this is what people are afraid of? All this love? All these terrible revolutionaries seeking to undermine the very basis of society.? These are the nicest people I have ever met!” Everyone was there – families with kids of all ages, masses of young people of all apparent sexualities, gay couples, and all age groups. It was uplifting in the best possible way.

One journo asked me why I was there. I had to stop and think for a moment, because I hadn’t planned an answer. In the end I said “Freedom’s important.” She smiled and said “That’s the best reason I’ve heard today.” She went down on the list of “Positives”.

One fundo Christian with crazy eyes came up to me and assailed me with every ridiculous argument the “No” lobby have been pushing out. I politely but firmly batted back every faux Biblical quotation with another, or with a more accurate translation. Every time I did, she moved the goalposts. In the end, after quite some time, I put her down as “irretrievably No”, and asked her (nicely) to move on. “There!” she said triumphantly, “when you’re losing the debate you just back out!” I looked at her sadly, and wondered, not for the first time, when and how children turn into adults with this level of stupidity. What happens to people? She wouldn’t leave. In the end I had to say firmly, “Please: leave me alone.” She wanted off, eyes blazing with self-induced fire, muttering.

But in general, we were deluged with kindness and positivity. I will never forget it. And at this stage, let me explicitly acknowledge Jenie’s role. My lovely wife, although she has her own strongly held opinions on just about everything,  is not a natural attender at rallies – she doesn’t like crowds, or public attention for that matter – yet she was utterly supportive of my goals in going to the rally, and she engaged with journos, and our neighbours around us, she helped me hold the sign, pointed out people who wanted a photo and – a million thanks – found us a coffee. “Whaddawewant?” “ Hot coffee!” “When do we want it?” “About ten minutes ago, thanks.” Sharing this life-affirming event with her made it all the more meaningful.

Later, we discovered that the placard had been snapped by a photo journo Tara Watson, and then tweeted and posted on FB by Guardian journo and opinion leader Van Badham, and then re-tweeted by Penny Wong, and essentially, that was that.

The picture was suddenly everywhere. Jenie and I were deluged with kind and supportive messages, and when our daughter re-posted the photo and said she was proud of us, then so was she. A more practical example of the essential goodness of folk you couldn’t wish for. It was embarrassing and wonderful in equal measure.

So much, so good. So viral. The world is an interesting place, these days. I am happy so many people got to see the message, and there it is.

But two people we met stand out in my mind, and the real point of this article is to tell you about them.

No names – they didn’t ask for publicity – but their stories deserve to be told.

One guy came up, and told us about his Dad, who had recently died of Alzheimer’s at the age of 90. He had never “had the conversation” with his Dad about his sexuality, and now he never would. But after his Dad’s death, he mentioned this to one of the nurses who used to look after him. “Oh, no,” said the nurse. “He knew.”

She had been walking the old chap in the garden, asking him about his family. He had three sons, he said. One did such and such, one did such and such, and one did such and such. He’s gay, of course.” The old man couldn’t have cared less, and he knew.

As he told us this story, tears started running down his cheeks. “Good thing I’ve got dark glasses on” he said, as he wiped them away. “Thank you so much for the sign. It’s so good to know that people like you understand.”

He made his apologies, and left. It was awhile before I dared to speak again.

A little while later, a middle-aged woman came up, and insisted on shaking hands. Momentarily, after struggling to smile, she started crying too.

“I just want to say thank you. I just want to shake your hand. Our son is gay, and he gets bullied at school. Badly bullied. That’s why I’m here. I’m here with my husband. I’m so excited to see you here, making this point. It makes all the difference to me. Thank you. Thank you. Sorry. Thank you.”

She turned away, too choked to say any more. I just said “You’re welcome.” It seemed totally inadequate, and it was, but what can you do? Here was the ugly side of this debate manifested in a real person’s life, in a real person’s family, raw, and unsanitised and brutal and sad.

I felt – and feel – deeply humbled and grateful for having met these people.

I wish everyone could meet them.

This stupid, unnecessary and divisive government opinion poll would be won by a huge margin, if people could just get past the propaganda of the “No” campaign, and talk to real people who are going to be affected profoundly, for good or ill, by the judgement of their peers.

God bless you, Australia. Please vote “Yes”.

And go to the next rally. With your own sign. It matters.

Advertisements
"I just became the most controversial issue in twenty plus centuries of religion. Really, who knew?"

“I just became the most controversial issue in twenty plus centuries of religion. Really, who knew?”

In major news breaking now that will shake up both the Jewish and Christian religions – assuming their adherents are interested in facts rather than merely having a fundamentalist obsession with literal truth – evidence has emerged that the early chapters of the Old Testament were written long after they have sometimes been suggested to have been written. And they are historically inaccurate.

In short, the chapters were not eye-witness accounts, and even if they were brought down by oral tradition, they were later embellished by the actual writers, which contradicts long-held dogma that they were transmitted without a word being changed or added from the earliest story tellers.

Biblical scholars have long been aware many of the stories and accounts in the sacred book were not written by eyewitnesses, and according to new research, further evidence of that historical distance has appeared in the form of a hump-backed camel.

New research using radioactive-carbon dating techniques shows the animals weren’t domesticated until hundreds of years after the events documented in the Book of Genesis.

The research was published by Erez Ben-Yosef and Lidar Sapir-Hen, archaeologists from Tel Aviv University in Israel. They believe camels were not domesticated in the eastern Mediterranean until the 10th century B.C.

And yet, the hump-backed creatures are mentioned repeatedly alongside Abraham, Jacob and Isaac, indicating the Bible’s writers and editors were portraying what they saw in their present as how things looked in the past. These camel stories “do not encapsulate memories from the second millennium,” said Noam Mizrahi, an Israeli biblical scholar, “but should be viewed as back-projections from a much later period.”

While there are conflicting theories about when the Bible was composed, the recent research suggests it was written much later than the events it describes. This supports earlier studies that have challenged the Bible’s veracity as a historic document, for example, by pointing out that the destruction and plundering of Jericho actually occurred some centuries distant from the life of the long-asserted Hebrew general and leader Joshua.

The new biblical questioning wasn’t the focus of the recent research, though, just an after-the-fact observation.

The question over “phantom camels” is not new one, according to TIME magazine. Biblical scholar William Foxwell Albright “argued in the mid-1900s that camels were an anachronism.”

In an opinion piece for CNN, Joel Baden writes that there was no deliberate deception intended on the part of the Bible’s authors.

“Biblical authors,” Baden writes, “simply transplanted the nomadic standards of their time into the distant past. There is nothing deceptive about this. They weren’t trying to trick anyone. They imagined, quite reasonably, that the past was, fundamentally, like their present.”

A similar conclusion was reached by Smithsonian.com author Colin Schultz, who wrote, “these findings don’t necessarily disprove all the stories of the Bible. Rather, knowing that there are camels where there definitely shouldn’t be shows that the Bible’s authors, working thousands of years after the events they were describing were supposed to take place, took a modern lens to these ancient tales.”

At long last, can we focus on the eternal truths in the book that affect how we treat our fellow humans, rather than worrying about every dotted 'i' and crossed 't'?

At long last, can we focus on the eternal truths in the book that affect how we treat our fellow humans, rather than worrying about every dotted ‘i’ and crossed ‘t’?

Nevertheless, the findings confirm again that the Bible is not LITERALLY true.

This should not really come as a surprise to Jews and Christians. Authoritative figures in the Roman Catholic Church have already said it, in plain language. Like their acknowledgement that Adam and Eve never existed.

With this latest finding, it is simply scientifically impossible for us to see the Old Testament as entirely, immovably factual.

And we now also have categorical evidence that the Old Testament authors were operating based on their current world view, which would undoubtedly reflect predominant cultural mores, too.

Here’s the key point: if we can unarguably subtract one fact from the Bible, then it is logically consistent that we can subtract others, too.

For example: the few lines that are (incorrectly in my opinion) supposed to be about homosexuality, which have caused misery, persecution and death for millions of good people down through the centuries.

Or, most dramatically: creationism. Specifically “young Earth” creationism.

Today is a day for celebration. The moment we acknowledge that the Bible need not be literally true to be true, we free humankind from mindless, meaningless intellectual navel gazing, and set free our own critical faculties, to lead us closer to the Divine.

Now, to coin a phrase, that’s Good News for Modern Man.

"I was taken out of context." Yeah, right.

“I was taken out of context.” Yeah, right.

From the Rachel Maddow blog:

Radical TV preacher Pat Robertson has made a career out of making ridiculous comments, but yesterday, the televangelist broke new ground on his own Christian Broadcasting Network.

For those who can’t watch clips online (or if this clip is removed from YouTube before I can find a replacement), Right Wing Watch spotted a doozy: Robertson told his viewers that that gay men in cities like San Francisco attempt to spread HIV/AIDS to others by cutting them with a special ring when shaking hands.

Co-host Terry Meeuwsen seemed to want to move the conversation along, but Robertson stuck to his crazy guns. “You know what they do in San Francisco, some in the gay community there they want to get people so if they got the stuff they’ll have a ring, you shake hands, and the ring’s got a little thing where you cut your finger,” the TV preacher said.

“Really?” Meeuwsen asked, incredulously. “Yes, really,” Robertson replied.

And while the televangelist’s over-the-top rhetoric is painfully common, this one was especially interesting because of what happened next.

After Robertson’s comments were aired, the Christian Broadcasting Network posted the episode online — but edited out this portion of the program.

In other words, Robertson’s anti-gay hysteria was so ridiculous, even his own network was reluctant to allow people to see it. Indeed, CBN even forced YouTube to take down the clip posted by Right Wing Watch. (It was re-posted by many others, including the version included above.)

Robertson really shouldn’t say things on national television if he doesn’t want people to see them.

When The Atlantic asked for comment, Robertson said he “regret[s] that my remarks had been misunderstood, but this often happens because people do not listen to the context of remarks which are being said.” He added, “In no wise [sic] were my remarks meant as an indictment of the homosexual community or, for that fact, to those infected with this dreadful disease.”

There is no context in which it makes sense to accuse gay people in San Francisco of deliberately cutting others in the hopes of deliberately spreading the AIDS virus.

Robertson’s remarkably active imagination notwithstanding, there is no evidence to bolster his assertions.

Ends …

Senile? Barmy? Waste of useful oxygen? You tell us, Dear Reader. What is MOST worrying is people listen to this nonsense every day, and repeat it as if it is fact. In a week when a transgender woman was beaten to death outside a police station merely for wanting to be who she is, provoking the usual wail of ‘why are people like this?’ the answer is ‘people are like this because they are constantly fed rubbish from those who should know better’.

Rubbish? Spend a moment and consider some of Robertson’s other equally cautiously considered statements:

He wishes, for example, that Facebook had a ‘vomit’ button, so that he could click on it every time he came across a photograph of a gay couple kissing. (Why is he looking? Ed.) Anyhow, a viewer wanted to know how to address images of same-sex couples on social media sites, such as Facebook.

Robertson commented “You’ve got a couple of same-sex guys kissing, do you like that? Well that makes me want to throw up,” he said.

“To me I would punch ‘Vomit;’ not ‘Like,'” he added “But they don’t give you that option on Facebook.”

That was not the first time Robertson, 83, has used vomit to express his sentiments on homosexuality.

Robertson has also said the land would “vomit out” those who disobeyed the commandments of the Old Testament.

Here are some more controversial and colorful comments the “evangelist” has made that have gone viral:

To a man whose wife does not respect him as ‘head of the household”

Robertson  answered a question from a viewer named Michael about how to repair his marriage.

Robertson’s response: “Well, you could become a Muslim and you could beat her.”

Think I’m kidding?

Loathsome.

In case you cant see the video, bizarrely, this comment elicits laughter from Robertson’s co-host, Terry Meeuwsen.

Unfortunately, Robertson didn’t stop there.

“I don’t think we condone wife-beating these days but something has got to be done to make her.”

He also called the woman a “rebellious child” who doesn’t want to “submit to any authority.” However, since the Scripture doesn’t allow for divorce, Robertson urged the husband to “move to Saudi Arabia,” where, ostensibly, presumably, beating the woman would be permissible.

To a woman whose husband committed adultery

“Males have a tendency to wander a little bit. And what you want to do is make a home so wonderful he doesn’t want to wander.”

(Hang on, no stoning? Ed.)

On a man with an Alzheimer’s-stricken wife

“I know it sounds cruel, but if he’s going to do something, he should divorce her and start all over again, but to make sure she has custodial care and somebody (is) looking after her.”

Asked what about the “Till death do us part” part of the marriage vow, he said Alzheimer’s is “a kind of death.”

On Walt Disney World’s “Gay Days”

“I would warn Orlando that you’re right in the way of some serious hurricanes, and I don’t think I’d be waving those flags in God’s face if I were you. It’ll bring about terrorist bombs; it’ll bring earthquakes, tornadoes, and possibly a meteor.”

On the role of a man and a woman

“I know this is painful for the ladies to hear, but if you get married, you have accepted the headship of a man, your husband. Christ is the head of the household, and the husband is the head of the wife, and that’s the way it is, period.”

On feminism

“The feminist agenda is not about equal rights for women. It is about a socialist, anti-family political movement that encourages women to leave their husbands, kill their children, practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism and become lesbians.”

On why Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon had a stroke

“God considers this land to be his. You read the Bible and he says ‘This is my land,’ and for any prime minister of Israel who decides he is going to carve it up and give it away, God says, ‘No, this is mine.’ He was dividing God’s land. And I would say, ‘Woe unto any prime minister of Israel who takes a similar course to appease the E.U., the United Nations, or the United States of America.’ God says, ‘This land belongs to me. You better leave it alone.'”

(Not because he was a fat old guy under considerable stress, of course. Ed.)

On the devastating 2010 Haiti earthquake

“They were under the heel of the French, you know, Napoleon the third and whatever. And they got together and swore a pact to the devil. They said, ‘We will serve you if you will get us free from the prince.’ True story.

And so the devil said, ‘OK, it’s a deal.’ And they kicked the French out. The Haitians revolted and got themselves free. But ever since they have been cursed by one thing after another.”

On homosexuality

“Many of those people involved in Adolf Hitler were Satanists. Many were homosexuals. The two things seem to go together.”

On assassinating Hugo Chavez

“You know, I don’t know about this doctrine of assassination, but if he thinks we’re trying to assassinate him, I think that we really ought to go ahead and do it.”

On the tornadoes that ravaged the Midwest in 2012

“If enough people were praying, (God) would’ve intervened. You could pray. Jesus stilled the storm. You can still storms.”

playtimeIn my opinion this man is about as Christian as a housebrick, and as soon as he is gathered unto his Maker, which really can’t be all that far way now now, thank goodness, he will be going straight to his eternal reward, which, incidentally, will be to a loud and persistent soundtrack of wailing and gnashing of teeth.

Robertson is in mo way a minor person, so far on the fringe that he can be idly ignored. In September 1986, Robertson announced his intention to seek the Republican nomination for President of the United States.

He said he would pursue the nomination only if three million people signed up to volunteer for his campaign by September 1987. Somewhat astoundingly 9and worryingly) three million responded, and by the time Robertson announced he would be running in September 1987, he also had raised millions of dollars for his campaign fund. He surrendered his ministerial credentials and turned leadership of CBN over to his son, Tim.

Robertson ran on a oft-adopted radical right platform. Among his policies, he wanted to ban pornography, reform the education system, and eliminate departments such as the Department of Education and the Department of Energy. He also supported a constitutional amendment requiring a balanced federal budget.

His campaign got off to a strong second-place finish in the Iowa caucus, ahead of George Bush Snr. He did poorly in the subsequent New Hampshire primary, however, and was unable to be competitive once the multiple-state primaries began. Subjected to the oxygen of publicity, Robertson ended his campaign before the primaries were finished. His best finish was in Washington, winning the majority of caucus delegates. He later spoke at the 1988 Republican National Convention in New Orleans and told his remaining supporters to cast their votes for Bush, who ended up winning the nomination and the election. He then returned to CBN and has remained there.

He appears to be – on many levels – a thoroughly horrible individual.

Of the time he spent at Washington and Lee University, where he received a B.A. in History, graduating magna cum laude. Robertson has said, “Although I worked hard at my studies, my real major centered around lovely young ladies who attended the nearby girls schools.” Ah yes, the gals. Nice.

In 1948, the draft was reinstated and Robertson was given the option of joining the Marine Corps or being drafted into the army; he opted for the first.

In his words, “We did long, gruelling marches to toughen the men, plus refresher training in firearms and bayonet combat.” In the same year, he transferred to Korea.

“I ended up at the headquarters command of the First Marine Division,” said Robertson. “The Division was in combat in the hot and dusty, then bitterly cold portion of North Korea just above the 38th Parallel later identified as the ‘Punchbowl’ and ‘Heartbreak Ridge.’ For that service in the Korean War, the Marine Corps awarded me three battle stars for ‘action against the enemy.'”

However, former Republican Congressman Paul “Pete” McCloskey, Jr., who served with Robertson in Korea, wrote a public letter which said that Robertson was actually spared combat duty when his powerful father, a conservative Democrat U.S. Senator, intervened on his behalf, and that Robertson spent most of his time in an office in Japan.

According to McCloskey, his time in the service was not in combat but as the “liquor officer” responsible for keeping the officers’ clubs supplied with liquor. Robertson filed a $35 million libel suit against McCloskey in 1986.* He dropped the case in 1988, before it came to trial and paid McCloskey’s court costs.

*”Evangelist sues over combat story”. The Globe and Mail. (Toronto, Ont.). October 23, 1986. p. A.16.

**”Rpbertson’s libel suit by judge ex congressman ruled the legal victor” Philadelphia Daily News. March 7, 1988. p. 14.

Pete McCloskey

Pete McCloskey

By the way, McClosky is himself an interesting man, warranting more than a footnote in American political history. One of McCloskey’s enduring legacies is his co-authorship of the 1973 Endangered Species Act. A highly decorated war veteran and one-time moderate Republican turned Democrat, he was the first member of Congress to publicly call for the impeachment of President Nixon after the Watergate scandal and the Saturday Night Massacre. He was also the first lawmaker to call for a repeal of the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution that allowed for the War in Vietnam.

He had sought the 1972 Republican Presidential nomination on a pro-peace/anti-Vietnam War platform, and obtained 11% of the vote against incumbent President Richard M. Nixon in the New Hampshire primary. At the Republican National Convention in Miami Beach, Florida, Rep. McCloskey received one vote (out of 1324) from a New Mexico delegate. All other votes cast went to President Nixon, thus McCloskey technically finished in second place in the race for the Presidential nomination that year.

Anyway. Never did two more more vividly demonstrate the ‘broad church’ that is the American Republican Party. Or as I prefer to categorise it, the divide between those worth listening to, and those who should be flung into the outer darkness by some avenging angel.

UPDATED Jeremy Thorpe, long a sufferer with Parkinson’s Disease, died overnight in the UK. He was 85.

I am warmly indebted to my old friend and political compadre Simon Titley for reminding me that it was thirty four years tomorrow that the leader of the then Liberal Party in the UK, (now the Lib Dems), Jeremy Thorpe, was acquitted of the attempted murder of his alleged homosexual lover, Norman Scott, in a sensational trial that effectively ended his career and transfixed the nation for weeks.

20130622-223524.jpgAs a politician Jeremy Thorpe was a one-off. Not many political leaders of the day would have consorted with Jimi Hendrix. He also acquired the risible nickname “Bomber” Thorpe, for arguing the the British should meet the Rhodesian Unilateral Declaration of Independence by bombing the white farmers who led it.

Despite often being lampooned, he proved a successful leader with a knack of winning key by-elections, and in 1974 achieved a credible 19% of the popular vote for the Liberals and came within a whisker of joining a coalition Government with Ted Heath’s Tories, but judged that the resulting minority Government could not survive a confidence motion in the house, nor would it be popular with his party, and he declined.

Persistent rumours about Thorpe’s sexuality dogged his political career. Norman Scott, a former male model, met Thorpe in 1961 while working as a stable lad. He later claimed that he and Thorpe had had a homosexual relationship between 1961 and 1963, when homosexual acts were illegal in Britain.

Scott’s airing of these claims led to an inquiry within the Liberal Party in 1971, which exonerated Thorpe. Scott, however, continued to make the allegations. These allegations were published in great detail in a book called Rinkagate—The Rise and Fall of Jeremy Thorpe by Simon Freeman and Barrie Penrose (Bloomsbury 1996).

In October 1975, Andrew ‘Gino’ Newton, a former airline pilot, collected Norman Scott from where he was living in Combe Martin, North Devon, and drove him to Exmoor; Newton drove Scott onto Porlock Hill, where they stopped and got out of the car.

Newton then shot Scott’s dog Rinka, a Great Dane, (the scandal was also called “Rinkagate” in the public consciousness) before turning the gun on Scott.

When the case came before Exeter Crown court, in March 1976, Scott said that the gun jammed and that Newton then drove off, leaving him alone beside the dead dog.

But Newton always maintained that his intention was only to frighten Scott, who, he alleged, possessed incriminating photographs of Newton. In any event, Newton was convicted for the illegal possession of a firearm and an intent to endanger life.

Norman Scott in 1976

Norman Scott in 1976

During his court appearance, Scott repeated his claims of a relationship with Thorpe, and alleged that Thorpe had threatened to kill him if he spoke about their affair. Scott also sold letters to the press which he claimed to be love letters from Thorpe.

One of these included the memorable line “Bunnies can and will go to France”, which supposedly showed Thorpe using his ‘pet-name’ for Scott in connection with a promise to find Scott a well-paid job in France.

Contemporaneously, the phrase “Bunnies can and will got to France” was used to sniggeringly imply that something illegal, or at least immoral, could always be arranged for someone.

The scandal forced Thorpe to resign as Liberal Party leader on 9 May 1976.

He was replaced temporarily by his predecessor Jo Grimond and then permanently by David Steel.

Andrew Newton was released from prison in April 1977, and then revived the scandal by claiming that he had, in fact, been hired to kill Norman Scott.

On 4 August 1978, Thorpe was accused along with David Holmes (deputy Treasurer of the Liberal Party), George Deakin (a night club owner) and businessman John Le Mesurier (neither the actor nor the athletics coach) of conspiracy to murder. Thorpe was also separately accused of inciting Holmes to murder Scott.

The trial was scheduled to take place a week before the general election of 1979, but Thorpe obtained a fortnight’s delay to fight the election. However, Thorpe was narrowly defeated.

Thorpe and the three other accused were put on trial at Number One Court at the Old Bailey on 8 May 1979, a week after Thorpe had lost his seat.

Thorpe was charged with attempted murder and, along with the other three defendants, conspiracy to murder.

One of the chief prosecution witnesses was former Liberal MP and failed businessman Peter Bessell, who claimed to have been present while the murder plot was discussed within the Liberal Party. According to Bessell, poison had been rejected as a method of killing Scott because “it would raise too many questions if he fell dead off a barstool”. One alleged plan had been to shoot Scott in Cornwall and dispose of the body down a disused tin mine shaft.

Bessell agreed to appear as a witness in exchange for immunity from prosecution.

His credibility was damaged, however, because he had sold his story to The Sunday Telegraph for a fee that would double from £25,000 to £50,000 if the prosecution was successful.

Thorpe did not testify in the case, but his counsel, led by George Carman QC, argued that, although he and Scott had been friends, there had been no sexual relationship. Carman claimed that Scott had sought to blackmail Thorpe and that, although Thorpe and his friends had discussed “frightening” Scott into silence, they had never conspired to kill him.

It is a matter of record that Thorpe, who is still alive, was acquitted, but Judge Mr Justice Cantley’s summing-up was widely criticised for showing a nakedly pro-establishment bias, and it made headlines when he described Scott as “a crook, an accomplished liar … a fraud”.

In spite of the judge’s direction, the jury was at first split 6–6, but, after 15 hours of deliberation, it finally reached a verdict of Not Guilty. The four defendants were all acquitted on 22 June 1979.

This left merely the leading satirist Peter Cook to memorably provide a spoof of Cantley’s summing up, which thankfully is preserved by YouTube amongst others, as it is perhaps the finest ever modern example of skewering, savage wit being used to make an important social or political point. If you think Stephen Colbert or John Stewart are good – and they are, really really good – then give yourself the time to watch Cook’s bravura performance. Click the screen below.

Not only is it gut-churningly laugh-out-loud funny, but it remains one of the most culturally significant uses of satire in the second half of the 20th century, and is an example, should an example be needed, of the vital role that free-speaking and free-thinking comedians play in pressing our culture and democracy.

If you have any difficulty playing the spot, (as YouTube is acting up a touch for me) then just click here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6xi-agPf95M or paste it into your browser.

Oh, and pillow biter? During the trail Scott mentioned, indicating his reluctant participation in receptive homosexual sex, “I just bit the pillow, I tried not to scream because I was frightened of waking Mrs Thorpe.” Pillow biter immediately became, and has remained, a pejorative term for a homosexual man.

The rest, as they say, is history. So now you know …

Funny thing to do because you are perfectly capable, Dear Reader, in looking round the blog yourself. But with 270 new blogs in a year that’s a lot of searching, so all the “Blogging Basics” sites say I must give you a guide that you can go look through, so here it is.

Er, nope. Never happened. Nice painting though.

Er, nope. Never happened. Nice painting though.

By far the most popular blog of the year on any one day was https://wellthisiswhatithink.wordpress.com/2012/10/01/its-official-adam-and-eve-er-werent/ which garnered nearly 5,000 hits in one day (out of an annual total of more than 77,000 in 2012) when a very senior Archbishop in the Roman Catholic Church revealed what the rest of us with brains have known forever and a day anyway, which is that Genesis is true only in the sense that is is a moral fable, and not in the sense that the world was created in 7 days, or that Eve came from Adam’s rib, or that all the horrors of the world arose from munching a forbidden apple.

The really interesting thing about this story, of course, is that theologically speaking when we allow any part of the Bible text to be considered mythological then we have no argument that any other part of the Bible might not also be mythological.

Hence, just to pick a few major ones – bye bye Noah and capturing two of every living creature on the earth (including all bacteria, all 8000 species of ants, etc.), cya later Lot offering his virgin daughters to the crowd, not to mention the fact that Joshua collapsing the walls of Jericho couldn’t have happened because archaeology reveals the place was deserted when Joshua was around. Great story – good song – historical nonsense.

It seems we will just have to do what the 19th and 20th century “modernist” or “critical” theologians wanted us to do, which is read the Bible with the benefit of modern textual analysis, studying the original languages not the translations, (which, for example, can be used to argue that the Bible actually says nothing at all about gays) and taking full advantage of archaeology when we can.

The article on Adam and Eve was also the second most popular article overall of the whole year.

I think we have more to worry about than whether a Secret Serviceman did or did not employ a prostitute. Like: HIV, violence, drug addiction, social dislocation.

I think we have more to worry about than whether a Secret Serviceman did or did not employ a prostitute. Like: HIV, violence, drug addiction, social dislocation. And more.

The most popular article for the whole year was https://wellthisiswhatithink.wordpress.com/2012/04/22/the-secret-serviceman-and-the-prostitute-whats-the-real-scandal/.

I’d like to think this was all about my thoughtful analysis of hypocrisy in American moral values, the role of prostitution in modern society, the role of the media in drumming up salacious gossip, and the relationship between poverty and the sex trade.

However checking out my stats closely I suspect it’s just because the word prostitute is often typed into search engines, and the story duly pops up.

Similar big scores have been gathered with articles about tits, and even bum.

One would despair, were it not for the fact that I know that some people read the article seriously.

Similarly, promising to ignore injunctions and show people Princess Catherine of Wales (aka Kate Middleton) topless and then bottomless worked well to drum up passing trade, though I doubt many of the people who clicked on the links got the point of my tongue in cheek effort.

The third most popular post of the year was this “Gratuitously Offensive Politically Incorrect Joke”, which I still think is very funny, (it’s also a paraprosdokian by the way, and there are some more of them here, which is probably why I like it so much), and scores very highly with anyone searching for Angela Merkel in Google and so on, so the Bundesnachrichtendienst have probably given me the once-over, but decided I am harmless.

Snookie, Chelsea the Borgias and Big Tits was the fourth most popular article of the year, and has been in the Top Ten most popular almost every day of the year. I a eagerly awaiting the next series of the Borgias, not to mention the next series of Downton Abbey and Throne of Kings. I don’t mind crap TV, so long as it’s good quality crap. A lot of you seemed to agree with me that Jeremy Irons and the Crew give good crap. Snookie and the Crew? Not so much. I wish, actually, I had been a TV reviewer, which is, of course, one of the most sought after positions in journalism. Do we think it is too late, Dear Reader? Hell, no!

Last but by no means least – in fifth place – was what I have decided was the WINNER of Advertising F*** Up of the Year, in fact the very first of the series which proved incredibly popular with readers. To save you clicking back to last January, here it is:

The first poster is for a road safety campaign where Daddy has crashed his car and died. The one right next to it is for a notorious lap dancing club. I mean, really?

The first poster is for a road safety campaign where Daddy has crashed his car and died. The one right next to it is for a notorious lap dancing club. I mean, really? Really?

The Advertising F*** Up series were undoubtedly the most popular series of articles in the year. To access them, just type “F***” into the search box and they’ll all be listed for you. (Saves me doing it.)

I am enormously grateful for all the supporters of the Blog, all those who have commented, who have argued, who have provided elucidation, and who have laughed and loved. It is most popular in the USA, in the UK, and in my home country of Australia, and I guess that is inevitable. But in all, people in 172 countries read the blog, which I personally find quite humbling and astonishing, and the free spread of ideas and opinions must surely be the greatest boon the Internet has given the world.

I am especially proud, in the year just gone, for the work we were able to do on awareness to do with bullying, and Alzheimer’s, on clean water for the poor of the world, and on women’s rights. I am also very glad my feverish campaigning for Obama came out on the right side of history, and I hope his second term is more impressive than his first, which is often the case. Let us hope and pray for wisdom for all our political leaders, as the world is a long way from being out of the woods yet – economically, and politically.

I bitterly regret that my warnings on Syria, which predated most commentators in the world, were ignored, but I only have a very small lectern and it is a big world. And anyway, the world only listens when it wants to. Yesterday the United Nations estimated that 60,000 have died in this completely avoidable conflict thus far, and unless Assad’s Alawite regime can be persuaded to decamp to the safe haven of Iran pretty damn quickly that figure could still rise exponentially.  It was – and is – all so unnecessary, and so awfully, inexorably predictable.

I am also grateful for the opportunity to showcase my poetry and creative writing. Thank you for all the kind comments.

I am Bradley Manning. Are you?

I am Bradley Manning. Are you?

As the blog tipped over from 2011 into 2012, I was still deeply distressed by the murderous execution of Troy Davis, campaigning against which had occupied – unsuccessfully – so much of the start of the blog. This year, I have watched with increasing horror as the might of the modern American state has born down relentlessly on Bradley Manning, the well-meaning and honourable serviceman who set off the Wikileaks scandal by releasing for public gaze tens of thousands of classified snippets of information. Expect to hear a lot more about his case in the coming weeks, not least why I believe the man is a modern hero who should be feted, not crucified.

I am still Troy Davis. I am now Bradley Manning.

Happy New Year, Dear Reader.

 

This is what a bigot looks like.

A North Carolina pastor has launched a shocking homophobic rant, calling on gays and lesbians to be put in an electrified pen and left to die.

The pastor has been identified as Charles L. Worley of the Providence Road Baptist Church in Maiden, North Carolina, with the sermon believed to have been filmed on May 13.

http://au.news.yahoo.com/world/a/-/world/13750950/pastor/

A disgrace. How is this not hate crime?

You are an idiot, Mr Worley. You don’t even know your theology.As I explain clearly here: https://wellthisiswhatithink.wordpress.com/2012/05/01/why-is-the-church-anti-gay-if-the-bible-isnt/

In my humble opinion, this man is going straight to Hell, and good riddance, assuming it exists.

These views are evil, evil, evil. This man does not speak for me, or any Christian I know. On behalf of Jesus Christ, I apologise to every gay, lesbian and transgendered person on the planet. And yes, I have that right. Read your Bible …