Posts Tagged ‘violence’

Jo

 

At Wellthisiswhatithink we have often bemoaned the brutalisation of politics. The way “anti politics” has become the new norm. A politics which is little more than cynicism, mistrust, name-calling and sloganising. It is seen most clearly and more than ever in the mindless forwarding of memes that brook no discussion, because no discussion is possible.

Those with an agenda to drive will accuse this blog of descending into vitriol on occasion. We reject that accusation. Politics is a serious matter, and you cannot “do” politics without disputation. Indeed, disputation – the contest of ideas – is the very core of freedom. And if we have, and it can be demonstrated, then we will recant and apologise.

But there is a difference – a gulf – between healthy disputation and hatred. And hatred has become the new normal, and relatively recently, too.

Whether it is in America, France, Denmark, Norway, the UK or Australia. Whether it is a discussion of guns, of racism, gay rights, of female emancipation, the European Union, or, most obviously, immigration, refugees and specifically Islam. The attitude that “you are with me, 100%, or you are evil and worthy of whatever abuse I choose to throw your way” has taken deep root. With the ascension of Trumpism, most obviously, we see how the inchoate mass rage generated by mindless sloganeering translates into political power, and then political violence. Democracy is a fragile flower, and it is wilting.

This article discussing Jo Cox’s assassination – for that is what it was – says it better than we can. We strongly recommend you read it. Because hatred is never funny. Hatred is never smart. Hatred is never right. Hatred is never appropriate.

Sure, “politics is a contact sport.” It doesn’t have to be murder.

http://blogs.spectator.co.uk/2016/06/a-day-of-infamy/

In slightly better news, #ThankYourMP is trending in the UK. Many people simply saying thank you to their MP, whether or not they vote for them. Well done, whoever thought that up.

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ISIS execute 250 women and girls for refusing to become sex slaves

Mosul residents mourn the execution of women in 2015

The killings allegedly took place in Mosul, the second biggest city in Iraq, after the victims were hand-picked by militant soldiers.

The women were forced into temporary marriage, or sexual jihad, and those who refused were murdered, sometimes with their families, said Kurdish Democratic Party spokesman Said Mamuzini.

Daesh vehicles drive through Mosul. Photo: AAP

“At least 250 girls have so far been executed by the IS for refusing to accept the practice of sexual jihad, and sometimes the families of the girls were also executed for rejecting to submit to IS’s request,” Mr Mamuzini told AhlulBayt news agency.

Another official, Ghayas Surchi from the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan said women were not allowed to go out alone in the city or choose their own spouse.

IS forcefully gained control of Mosul in June 2014 after the fall of the Iraqi army, but US President Barack Obama said he was positive the city would be reclaimed “eventually”.

 An Islamic State fighter holds an ISIL flag and a weapon in Mosul. Photo: Reuters

An Islamic State fighter holds an ISIL flag and a weapon in Mosul. Photo: Reuters

“My expectation is that by the end of the year, we will have created the conditions whereby Mosul will eventually fall,” Mr Obama said on Monday.

The executions echo similar killings that took place last August, when almost two dozen women from Mosul were slain for refusing sex with Islamic State soldiers.

domestic violence

 

Yesterday was White Ribbon Day, to protest against violence against women, and domestic violence especially. We are not 100% sure if that is what this excellent and thought-provoking poem is about, (it’s a poem, after all, and therefore open to interpretation), but that’s how it speaks to us. Strongly.

We love the way the poem builds in intensity through a repeated motif. This is very skillful writing.

 

CREAKS IN THE FLOORBOARDS

Oh but to shudder at the hands of a lover

Is no fun

No no no

It’s no fun

Mmm and they say she’s oh so clever

Got some charm, keenness about her

It’s alright,

They keep proclaiming

She’s alright,

Yeah he’s alright,

So let them keep on livin’

Don’t intrude on others’ business

She’s alright,

Just keep dancin’ in that darkened corner

She just fine,

Keep on peeling those potatoes

and tossing that great salad

Keep on sending out those letters

Telling everyone about

How bright

How kind,

How wonderful it is

to be around her,

Don’t let them see the secrets

Buried deep beneath the floorboards,

They’re alright

We’re all just fine,

Quit losing sleep over this duo

It’s their battle

We shall not intrude, no

Regardless of what we hear or see, no

She’ll be alright,

Look at her beaming,

Great big grin

look, now they’re kissing,

They’re aright

They’re just fine.

 

From: http://wanderingthroughhersoul.com/

 

We are not the world’s biggest fan of referees. Sure, they have a thankless job, but too often they seem to want to be the story in a football match: not a part of the story, but the story itself. Grrrrr.

Well, years ago there was a documentary on TV about English 1974 World Cup Final referee Jack Taylor – it was called “Don’t Shoot The Ref”. Now, 41 years on, the programme called could be ‘Don’t Shoot The Players”…

Brazilian lower league official Gabriel Murta reacted to being slapped and kicked by Amantes de Bola, so raced to the dressing rooms and returned brandishing a gun.

This got the players’ attention, some of whom fled the pitch in terror, as the man in black contemplated terminating the match in Brumadinho near Belo Horizonte with extreme prejudice.

Murta now faces disciplinary action and is due to undergo a psychological assessment later today and could face suspension or a permanent ban.

Referees’ association boss Giuliano Bozzano said the official felt threatened and went to look for the weapon to defend himself.

Bozzano said: “The Minais Gerais Football Federation has already summonsed the referee and a psychologist to a meeting and I’m going to talk with him today.

“On the basis of that conversation and his account of events and the results of the psychological assessment I’ll decide what if any measures to take.

“What’s happened is obviously not a common occurrence and I don’t want to rush into anything. At the moment it happened he’s opted for getting his gun because in his view it was a question of controlling a situation.”

Diego Costa, Luis Suarez. You have been warned.

Who is the worst referee you have watched, and why? Comment now!

(Yahoo and others)

alison parker

 

There has been a lot of well-meaning commentary in the media that it was too shocking – too visceral, too intrusive, too disrespectful – for many media organisations to show the footage of a young American news reporter and her colleague being shot in America.

We respect those arguments. One of the better ones is here.

We also, respectfully, disagree.

One of the issues with gun violence – indeed, violence of all sorts – is that it is frequently sanitised before being presented to us. Filmed from outside a scene. Or blurred. Bodies are pixelated. Streams of blood are avoided or covered up. Body parts are swept away.

But in our view, only when people confront the truth might they be shocked into actually doing something about the problem.

The exactly similar debate occurs when we consider photo coverage of wars, or for that matter famines. Not for nothing was the Iraq war coverage reduced to mostly nonsense through “embedding” tame journalists. The Governments concerned knew that was the only way they could maintain support for the obviously illegal invasion.

In our view, we must all be made to turn our eyes to the reality of the state of the world. not glimpse it in a stilled frame or hear it in a sound grab. We need to look our world square in the face, and take responsibility for it.

Not because we are voyeurs, or because real life real time violence is manna for our satiated media-swamped pallets. Both those criticisms are fair, but they are not the point. We need to confront shocking truth because as the poet says “if any man dies, his death diminishes me”.

Alison Parker and Adam Ward deserve to be remembered not only for how they lived, but also how a mentally disturbed man with a legally-obtained gun ended their worthwhile lives, and cast their loving families into misery.

Because if we have the willpower, we can do something about mad people with guns – we can improve the connectedness in our society, we can  improve respect for law, we can make guns more difficult to get and keep, we can improve mental health provision, and we can build a world view that says taking another human being’s life should be the hugely horrible exception and not the norm. We can do all this, if we are moved to act together, and with determination.

We will never make our societies perfect. That way lies madness and the simple sloganeering of fools.

This is what war looks like. War is not how we see it on television. Every time someone cries "Drop a bomb!", this is what it means.

This is what war looks like. War is not how we see it on television. Every time someone cries “Drop a bomb!”, this is what it means. It means innocent deaths by the uncountable thousands – 500,000 innocent civilian deaths in Iraq alone, thus far.

But if we are to create coalitions of the willing to oppose the steady and seemingly inexorable slide towards casual violence and disrespect for others, then we need to face up to the truth.

If the innards of Dachau and Auschwitz and the rest had been seen in popular media in America and the United Kingdom in 1942 the Second World War would have been over sooner and fewer lives lost.

If the Gulags of Siberia had been exposed rather than just whispered about, Stalin would have been overthrown.

If the murderous indifference of Mao that led to umpteen dozens of millions being deliberately starved to death as political policy had been exposed in all its shocking brutality then he would never have come to rule one third of the world as a heartless despot.

How did Pol Pot do what he did? Why did the West stand by and support him – step forward Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan – because he was a bulwark against Vietnam? Because that disgusting realpolitik judgement was never balanced by pictures of two million Cambodians slaughtered with pick-axes, machetes, sticks and pistols. No lens ever captured their suffering until it was too late.

Do you know why Kim-Jong Un is still in power in North Korea? Because saying “mothers are made to drown their babies in prison camps” does not have the same effect, even though it should, as showing those mothers’ hysterical, tear stained faces and the floating corpses of their children.

Too harsh? Too horrible?

Maybe. But it’s the truth. And the truth is also that the look on Alison’s terrified, innocent face as she confronted her insane, hate-fuelled murderer needs to be seen.

She deserves us looking into her eyes, no matter how uncomfortable it makes us.

Because only then will people demand that she is the last – or if not the last, sadly, then a very rare event indeed – of all those innocents slaughtered for no good reason by sociopaths who hold their life to be unimportant – or at least, not as important as what their own sick views or desires.

Our thoughts and prayers are with the families, and all those traumatised by this horrible event.

noose

In yet another brutal so-called “honour killing” in Pakistan, a young woman was hanged to death by her two brothers for marrying the man of her choice in Punjab province.

Aslam and Waqas kidnapped their sister Ayla last week from her home at Bhowana in Chiniot district, 250 kilometres from Lahore, and hanged her to death at a deserted place before dumping the body in a canal, according to a statement filed by Ayla’s husband Ejaz Ahmad.

How many more times?

How many more times?

The body of the woman was found in a canal nearChak-144-JB. Ayla wanted to marry Ejaz but the family was against her choice. However, she had contracted court marriage after eloping with him some time ago, said Investigation Officer Faisal Majid.

“Her family then swore to kill her for preserving its honour,” Majid said, adding that the couple had left their locality after marriage and remained in hiding. Last week Ayla’s family got information of her whereabouts and her brothers kidnapped her. They also wanted to kill Ejaz but he was not present in the house when they arrived there, he said.

The women of the world need us all - and perhaps especially men - to stand up for them. When will the Government of Pakistan act to stamp out this scourge?

The women of the world need us all – and perhaps especially men – to stand up for them.

Police have arrested both the brothers and registered a murder case against them.

The accused told the police that they had taken their sister to a deserted place and hanged her from a tree until she died, before dumping the body in the canal.They said they had no regret for killing their sister as she ‘dishonoured’ her family.

Some 760 women were killed in Pakistan last year in so-called honour killings – the most dishonourable murders imaginable.

We cannot imagine the courage of Ayla and Ejaz. We cannot but wonder at the utter despair Ejaz must feel now. And we cannot fathom the depth of depravity of Ayla’s family.

You may care to urge the Government of Pakistan to act more decisively in these matters to protect the women of that country. If so, please address a courteous email to the Legal advisor to the President, Mamnoon Hussain. His name is Mr Muhammed Faisal Kamal Alam, Consultant (Legal Affairs) to his Excellency the President of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, and his email address is  consultant_law@president.gov.pk.

Populists, extreme right wing commentators and neo-conservatives continually seek to paint terrorism as a largely or exclusively Islamic phenomenon.

Their message of Islamophobia has been repeated many times since the George W. Bush era: their point is often simply that Islam is inherently violent, Christianity is inherently peaceful, and there is no such thing as a Christian terrorist or a white male terrorist.

But the facts simply don’t bear that out.

Far-right white male and extreme “Christians” are every bit as capable of acts of terrorism as radical Islamists, and to pretend that such terrorists don’t exist does the public a huge disservice, not to mention the hundreds of millions of Muslims who would never consider committing a terrorist act, all over the world.

When white males of the far right carry out violent attacks, media hacks, neocons and Republicans typically describe them as lone-wolf extremists rather than people who are part of terrorist networks or well-organised terrorist movements.

Lone wolf terrorists, radicalised by contact with extreme points of view, often on the internet, and attendance at training camps in remote locations – or in other words, just like the “Islamist” terrorists in France last week, in other words. Many of the terrorist attacks in the United States have been carried out by people who had long histories of networking with other terrorists. In fact, most of the terrorist activity occurring in the United States in recent years has not come from Muslims, but from a combination of radical Christianists, white supremacists and far-right militia groups.

Here are ten examples from America’s recent past:

1. Wisconsin Sikh Temple massacre, Aug. 5, 2012.

Virulent Islamophobia that has plagued post-9/11 America has not only posed a threat to Muslims, it has had deadly consequences for people of other faiths, including Sikhs.

Sikhs are not Muslims; the traditional Sikh attire, including their turbans, is different from traditional Sunni, Shiite or Sufi attire.

Sentenced to death on October 9, 2003. Re-sentenced to life in prison in 2006

Sentenced to death on October 9, 2003. Re-sentenced to life in prison in 2006

But to a moronic racist, a bearded Sikh looks like a Muslim. Only four days after 9/11, Balbir Singh Sodhi, a Sikh immigrant from India who owned a gas station in Mesa, Arizona, was murdered by Frank Silva Roque, a racist who obviously mistook him for a Muslim.

But Sodhi’s murder was not the last example of anti-Sikh violence in post-9/11 America.

On Aug. 5, 2012, white supremacist Wade Michael Page used a semi-automatic weapon to murder six people during an attack on a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin.

Wade Michael Page

Wade Michael Page – Page took his life by shooting himself in the head after he was shot in the stomach by a responding police officer.

Page’s connection to the white supremacist movement was well-documented: he had been a member of the neo-Nazi rock bands End Empathy and Definite Hate.

Attorney General Eric Holder – America’s “top cop” – described the attack as “an act of terrorism, an act of hatred.”

Again, it is likely Page was simply too stupid to know the difference between a Sikh and a Muslim, not that such a distinction matters.

2. The murder of Dr. George Tiller, May 31, 2009.

Imagine that a physician had been the victim of an attempted assassination by an Islamic jihadist in 1993, and received numerous death threats from al-Qaeda after that, before being murdered by an al-Qaeda member. Neocons, Fox News and the Christian Right would have had a field day, blaming everyone in sight from the President downwards.

A physician was the victim of a terrorist killing that day, but neither the terrorist nor the people who inflamed the terrorist were Muslims.

Scott Roeder - jailed for life.

Scott Roeder – jailed for life with a minimum of 50 years.

Dr. George Tiller, who was shot and killed by anti-abortion terrorist Scott Roeder on May 31, 2009, was a victim of Christian Right terrorism, not al-Qaeda.

Tiller had a long history of being targeted for violence by Christian Right terrorists.

In 1986, his clinic was firebombed. Then, in 1993, Tiller was shot five times by female Christian Right terrorist Shelly Shannon (now serving time in a federal prison) but survived that attack.

Given that Tiller had been the victim of an attempted murder and received countless death threats after that, Fox News would have done well to avoid fanning the flames of unrest. Instead, Bill O’Reilly repeatedly referred to him as “Tiller the baby killer.” When Roeder murdered Tiller, O’Reilly condemned the attack but did so in a way that was considered lukewarm at best.

Keith Olbermann called O’Reilly out and denounced him as a “facilitator for domestic terrorism” and a “blindly irresponsible man.” And Crazy for God author Frank Schaffer, who was formerly a figure on the Christian Right but has since become critical of that movement, asserted that the Christian Right’s extreme anti-abortion rhetoric “helped create the climate that made this murder likely to happen.”

Neocon Ann Coulter, meanwhile, viewed Tiller’s murder as a source of comic relief, telling O’Reilly, “I don’t really like to think of it as a murder. It was terminating Tiller in the 203rd trimester.”

Wiley Drake, vice-presidential candidate for the America’s Independent Party ticket in 2008 and the second vice president of the Southern Baptist Convention in 2006–2007, asked on his radio show, “Would you have rejoiced when Adolf Hitler died during the war? … I would have said, ‘Amen! Praise the Lord! Hallelujah! I’m glad he’s dead.’ This man, George Tiller, was far greater in his atrocities than Adolf Hitler, so I am happy; I am glad that he is dead.”

The right wing double standard when it comes to terrorism is obvious. At Fox News and AM neo-con talk radio, Islamic terrorism is a source of nonstop fear-mongering, while Christian Right terrorism gets excuses made for it.

3. Knoxville Unitarian Universalist Church shooting, July 27, 2008.

Jim David Adkisson - sentenced to life in jail without parole.

Jim David Adkisson – sentenced to life in jail without parole.

On July 27, 2008, Christian Right sympathizer Jim David Adkisson walked into the Knoxville Unitarian Universalist Church in Knoxville, Tennessee during a children’s play and began shooting people at random.

Two were killed, while seven others were injured but survived. Some 200 people were watching the performance by 25 children when Adkisson  entered the church and opened fire on the audience pulling a sawn off 12-gauge shotgun out of a guitar case and began firing. At first, people thought that the loud bangs of the gunshots were part of the play. One person was killed at the scene: Greg McKendry (60), a longtime church member and usher who deliberately stood in front of the gunman to protect others. Later that night, a 61-year-old woman, Linda Kraeger, died from wounds suffered during the attack. Others injured by the shotgun blasts include TVUUC member Tammy Sommers, and visitors John Worth, Joe Barnhart, Jack Barnhart, and Linda Chavez. Allison Lee was injured while escaping with her young children.

Adkisson said he was motivated by a hatred of liberals, Democrats and gays, and he considered neocon Bernard Goldberg’s book, 100 People Who Are Screwing Up America, his political manifesto. As he couldn’t reach his nation’s leaders he decided to murder those he saw as putting them in power.

Adkisson (who pleaded guilty to two counts of first-degree murder and is now serving life in prison without parole) was vehemently anti-abortion, but apparently committing an act of terrorism during a children’s play was good ol’ family values. While Adkisson’s act of terrorism was reported on Fox News, it didn’t get the round-the-clock coverage an act of Islamic terrorism would have garnered.

4. The murder of Dr. John Britton, July 29, 1994.

Paul Jennings Hill, Christianist terrorist

Paul Jennings Hill, Christianist terrorist

To hear some on the Christianist extreme Right tell it, there is no such thing as Christian terrorism. Tell that to the victims of the Army of God, a loose network of radical Christianists with a long history of terrorist attacks on abortion providers.

One Christian Right terrorist with ties to the Army of God was Paul Jennings Hill, who was executed by lethal injection on Sept. 3, 2003 for the murders of abortion doctor John Britton and his bodyguard James Barrett. Hill shot both of them in cold blood and expressed no remorse whatsoever; he insisted he was doing’s God’s work and has been exalted as a martyr by the Army of God.

5. The Centennial Olympic Park bombing, July 27, 1996.

Paul Jennings Hill is hardly the only Christian terrorist who has been praised by the Army of God; they have also praised Eric Rudolph, who is serving life without parole for a long list of terrorist attacks committed in the name of Christianity.

Eric Rudolph after his capture

Eric Rudolph after his capture

Rudolph is best known for carrying out the Olympic Park bombing in Atlanta during the 1996 Summer Olympics—a blast that killed innocent spectator Alice Hawthorne and wounded 111 others.

But Hawthorne wasn’t the only person Rudolph murdered: his bombing of an abortion clinic in Birmingham, Alabama in 1998 caused the death of Robert Sanderson (a Birmingham police officer and part-time security guard) and caused nurse Emily Lyons to lose an eye.

Rudolph’s other acts of Christianist terrorism include bombing the Otherwise Lounge (a lesbian bar in Atlanta) in 1997, and an abortion clinic in an Atlanta suburb in 1997.

Rudolph was no “lone wolf”: he was part of a terrorist movement that encouraged his violence. The extreme religious right in America continues to exalt Rudolph as a brave Christian who is doing God’s work.

6. The murder of Barnett Slepian by James Charles Kopp, Oct. 23, 1998.

Kopp - 25 years to life.

Kopp – 25 years to life.

Like Paul Jennings Hill, Eric Rudolph and Scott Roeder, Roman Catholic James Charles Kopp is a radical Christian terrorist who has been exalted as a hero by some.

On Oct. 23, 1998 Kopp fired a single shot into the Amherst, NY home of Barnett Slepian (a doctor who performed abortions), mortally wounding him. Slepian died an hour later.

Kopp later claimed he only meant to wound Slepian, not kill him. But Judge Michael D’Amico of Erin County, NY said that the killing was clearly premeditated and sentenced Kopp to 25 years to life.

Kopp is a suspect in other anti-abortion terrorist attacks, including the non-fatal shootings of three doctors in Canada, though it appears unlikely that Kopp will be extradited to Canada to face any charges.

7. Planned Parenthood bombing, Brookline, Massachusetts, 1994.

Salvi

John C Salvi – killed himself in prison.

Seldom has the term “Christian terrorist” been used in connection with John C. Salvi on AM talk radio or at Fox News, but it’s a term that easily applies to him.

In 1994, the radical anti-abortionist and Army of God member attacked a Planned Parenthood clinic in Brookline, Massachusetts, shooting and killing receptionists Shannon Lowney and Lee Ann Nichols and wounding several others.

Salvi was found dead in his prison cell two years later in 1996, and his death was ruled a suicide. Salvi has been exalted by some as a Christian martyr and described Lowney and Nichols not as victims of domestic terrorism, but as infidels who got what they deserved.

8. Suicide attack on IRS building in Austin, Texas, Feb. 18, 2010.

The Echelon complex after the attack

The Echelon complex after the attack

When Joseph Stack flew a plane into the Echelon office complex (where an IRS office was located), Fox News’ coverage of the incident was calm and matter-of-fact.

Republican Rep. Steve King of Iowa even seemed to find the attack amusing and joked that it could have been avoided if the federal government had followed his advice and abolished the IRS.

Joseph Stack, virulent anti-Government protestor and murderer

Joseph Stack, virulent anti-Government protestor and murderer

Nonetheless, there were two fatalities: Stack and IRS employee Vernon Hunter.

Stack left behind a rambling suicide note outlining his reasons for the attack, which included a disdain for the IRS as well as total disgust with health insurance companies and bank bailouts.

Some of the most insightful coverage of the incident came from philosopher and linguist Noam Chomsky, who said that while Stack had some legitimate grievances — millions of Americans shared his outrage over bank bailouts and the practices of health insurance companies — the way he expressed them was absolutely wrong.

9. The murder of Alan Berg, June 18, 1984.

Alan Berg, murdered for speaking his mind in public. Exactly like the journalists of Charlie Hebdo.

Alan Berg, murdered for speaking his mind in public. Exactly like the journalists of Charlie Hebdo.

Liberal Denver-based talk show host Alan Berg was a critic of white supremacists who was killed with an automatic weapon on June 18, 1984.

The killing was linked to members of the Order, a white supremacist group that had marked Berg for death. Order members David Lane (a former Ku Klux Klan member who had also been active in the neo-nazi Aryan Nations) and Bruce Pierce were both convicted in federal court on charges of racketeering, conspiracy and violating Berg’s civil rights and given what amounted to life sentences. Bruce Pierce, who was incarcerated at the Federal Correctional Complex in Union County, Pennsylvania, died of natural causes at age 56 on August 16, 2010. Lane, incarcerated at the Federal Correctional Complex in Terre Haute, Indiana, died of an epileptic seizure aged 68 on May 28, 2007.

Robert Matthews, who founded the Order, got that name from a fictional group in white supremacist William Luther Pierce’s anti-Semitic 1978 novel, The Turner Diaries — a book Timothy McVeigh enjoyed. Believed, although never proven to be, a lookout in the Alan Berg shooting, Matthews was burned to death during a standoff with federal authorities on December 8, 1984, at his home in Coupeville, Washington.

The novel’s fictional account of the destruction of a government building has been described as the inspiration for the Oklahoma City bombing of 1995. (See below.)

10. Timothy McVeigh and the Oklahoma City bombing, April 19, 1995.

Extreme right wingers and their fellow travellers grow angry and uncomfortable whenever Timothy McVeigh is cited as an example of a non-Islamic terrorist. Pointing out that a non-Muslim white male carried out an attack as vicious and deadly as the Oklahoma City bombing doesn’t fit into their narrative that only Muslims and people of colour are capable of carrying out terrorist attacks.

The face of terror. White. Christian.

The face of terror. In this case, white. And Christian.

The often claim that bringing up McVeigh’s name during a discussion of terrorism is a “red herring” that distracts us from fighting radical Islamists, but that, of course, downplays the cruel, destructive nature of the attack.

Prior to the al-Qaeda attacks of 9/11, the Oklahoma City bombing McVeigh orchestrated was the most deadly terrorist attack in U.S. history: 168 people were killed and more than 600 were injured, including nineteen children killed in the day care centre on the second floor.

When McVeigh drove a truck filled with explosives into the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, his goal was quite simply to kill as many people as possible.

Clearly, McVeigh was not motivated by radical Islam; rather, he was motivated by an extreme hatred for the U.S. government and saw the attack as revenge for the Ruby Ridge incident of 1992 and the Waco Siege in 1993. He had white supremacist leanings as well (when he was in the U.S. Army, McVeigh was reprimanded for wearing a “white power” T-shirt he had bought at a KKK demonstration). He was also bang in line with the “low taxes, small government” movement:  indeed, McVeigh wrote letters to local newspapers complaining about taxes:

Taxes are a joke. Regardless of what a political candidate “promises,” they will increase. More taxes are always the answer to government mismanagement. They mess up. We suffer. Taxes are reaching cataclysmic levels, with no slowdown in sight. […] Is a Civil War Imminent? Do we have to shed blood to reform the current system? I hope it doesn’t come to that. But it might.

McVeigh’s biographers, Lou Michel and Dan Herbeck, quote McVeigh, with whom they spoke for 75 hours, on his attitude to the victims. His lack of remorse was chilling and sociopathic:

To these people in Oklahoma who have lost a loved one, I’m sorry but it happens every day. You’re not the first mother to lose a kid, or the first grandparent to lose a grandson or a granddaughter. It happens every day, somewhere in the world. I’m not going to go into that courtroom, curl into a fetal ball and cry just because the victims want me to do that.

McVeigh exhibited exactly the same warped desire for martyrdom that is seen in suicide bombers the world over. Of his impending execution he said:

I knew I wanted this before it happened. I knew my objective was state-assisted suicide and when it happens, it’s in your face.

Having failed to set off a popular revolution, McVeigh was executed on June 11, 2001. We believe he should have served life without parole instead, as a living reminder of the type of viciousness of which the white, organised “Christian” extreme right is capable. Terry Nichols and Michael Fortier were also convicted as conspirators in the plot. Terry Nichols was sentenced to life in prison without parole.

It should be noted that McVeigh was of above average intelligence with an IQ of 126, and psychiatrist John Smith concluded that McVeigh was “a decent person who had allowed rage to build up inside him to the point that he had lashed out in one terrible, violent act.”

Many other examples are available, even of extremists linked to “Christian” organisations who attack people who they think are Jewish and end up murdering other Christians. They are not limited to America, they occur everywhere.

This is the point. No self-respecting Christian would tolerate being tarred with the same brush as these lunatics, and nor should they. 

Similarly no self-respecting Muslim should be expected to apologise over and over again for the madness of so-called Islamic terrorism, which also, we should remember, is far more likely to be targeted at other Muslims than it is at Christians or the West. Whatever the loathsome ageing owner of Fox News thinks.

Marginalised, ignorant, warped and sociopathic individuals of all religions and none are capable of horrific violence.

As we write this article new emerges of TWO THOUSAND villages slaughtered by Boko Haram in northern Nigeria. An ethnic, anti-Western group hijacked by the proponents of extremist Islam, in fact the group is little more than a warlord-lead regional force dressed in religious clothing.

As we write news has emerged of TWO THOUSAND villages slaughtered by Boko Haram in northern Nigeria. An ethnic, anti-Western group hijacked by the proponents of extremist Islam, in fact the group is little more than a warlord-led regional force dressed in fundamentalist religious clothing. It’s resort to extreme violence has snowballed and continues unabated.

The war against terror is not against Christianity, or Islam, or any other religion for that matter.

It is against those who teach that violence is the solution to political and economic problems, whether that violence is turned inward on a community, or externally, against other communities.

VIOLENCE is the enemy.

Get that clear, and say it again and again.

Just like three million people in Paris did today.

#jesuischarlie #wearenotafraid

(With thanks to Raw Story and others)

This very important article in Vox, based on Russian research, reveals an apparently staggering level of support for ISIS in Europe, and in France in particular, where one in six people report supporting the extreme terrorist Sunni group that has been slaughtering Christians, Shias, Sunnis who don’t agree with them, and anyone else who gets in their way.

And the level of support rises as respondents get younger.

 

Very, very worrying.

Very, very worrying.

 

We somewhat doubt the veracity of the research and wonder if people are confabulating “ISIS”, “Gaza” and “Hamas” in their minds. In any event, it’s a sad and sorry finding even if it’s only partly accurate, and the radicalisation of Islamic youth is one of the most distressing and tragically predictable outcomes of the growth of so-called “identity politics”, which is now playing out throughout the West, and increasingly in a new black-white divide in America, as well.

But despite this survey it would be wrong to see this phenomenon as something unique to young followers of Islam. Indeed, as one of the sources quoted in the article remarked:

The rise of identity politics has helped create a more fragmented, tribal society, and made sectarian hatred more acceptable generally. At the same time, the emergence of “anti-politics,” the growing contempt for mainstream politics and politicians noticeable throughout Europe, has laid the groundwork for a melding of radicalism and bigotry. Many perceive a world out of control and driven by malign forces; conspiracy theories, once confined to the fringes of politics, have become mainstream.

It is so. This isn’t a religious thing. It’s all about contemptuous disenchantment and disempowerment.

That said, the fact that we actually find most interesting in the graph above is the much LOWER figure – virtually negligible, in fact, in polling terms – in Germany.

In our analysis, this can be explained by three simple factors.

Whilst there is racial tension within Germany – particularly where the Turkish immigrant population is concerned, it is less of a problem than elsewhere.

Even with the persistent (if small) growth in Neo-Nazi skinhead violence, the vast majority of Germans utterly reject the balkanisation of politics based on race. Given their recent history, and the efforts the State makes to prevent racial abuse or anything that smacks of it, this is laudable and not at all surprising.

Another differentiator, of course, is that much of the Islamo-fascism currently being exhibited in the world is explicitly anti-Israeli and by extention anti-Jewish, and expressing sentiments that could possibly be interpreted or misinterpreted as anti-Jewish in Germany is still well-nigh impossible, again for very obvious reasons.

The third reason, and this is very significant, is that the German economy is significantly wealthier and more successful than the British, or the French. There is plenty of education and work to be had, and both are the perfect balm for the vast majority of young people, of all racial backgrounds, who might otherwise be led into more extreme conclusions about society.

Recent riots in France were painted as "Islamic" by commentators, in fact, as the placard being carried by one demonstrator, it was more accurately an explosion of frustrated youth violence, like previous riots in the UK and elsewhere.

Recent riots in France were painted as “Islamic” by commentators, but in fact, as the placard being carried by one demonstrator says, it was more accurately an explosion of frustrated youth violence, like previous riots in the UK and elsewhere.

Unemployment – especially youth unemployment – is the perfectly fertilised and endlessly productive seed bed for extremism of all kinds, whether you look at 1789 France or France last year, 1917 Russia, 1933 Germany, 1970s Northern Ireland, the “Arab Spring” of 2011, or America, France and Britain today.

And where that unemployment falls most onerously on any particular racial or religious groupings, particularly a grouping that considers itself as a minority, then you have a recipe for immediate and predictable disaster.

But even when that miserable judgement is made, it is the generalised “anti politics” trend that concerns us most – even more than any passing fad for Islamic extremism that threatens us today.

The simple fact is that when people perceive their leaders as corrupt, when people perceive them as petty, when people perceive them as habitual liars, (with plenty of evidence), when people perceive them as lacking in required levels of intelligence or leadership skills, then they do not blame the individuals as much as they blame the system. And variously, they turn (and they can turn very quickly) to revolutionary creeds – Marxism, Fascism, religious extremism: whatever is around and easily grasped as a panacea, really.

Anti-democrats don't start out carrying a sign saying "crush democracy". They know it frightens the horses. And they can be alluring - Stalin was quite a hunk as a youngster.

Anti-democrats don’t start out carrying a sign saying “crush democracy”. They know it frightens the horses. And they can be superficially attractive – Josef Stalin was quite a hunk as a youngster, for example.

This is precisely why we have frequently labelled America a ‘pre-Fascist” state* – not because we believe there are organised groups of people seeking to subvert the American constitution and replace it with some Hitler-style figure – there are such groups, but they are still largely fringe dwellers, and there are also big money groups that wield far too much malign financial power over the political system, such as the Koch brothers, but their influence is still basically visible and trackable – rather, it is because the fracturing of America into potentially warring tribes is so very palpably obvious when viewed from a distance, matched (equally obviously) by an increasingly careless disregard for civil rights and privacy from the authorities.

A frightening realisation that often comes later in life is that democracy, in all its expressions, contains within it the seeds of its own destruction. The very thing that makes democracy so worth preserving – freedom of opinion and the resulting freedom of speech – is the very weapon that can tear it down.

History teaches us, again and again, that there is a tipping point when a majority of people despair of the system and when they do they are prepared to consider a replacement – any replacement. Or it can be a highly motivated minority, with good organisational skills.

Shorn of the wonderful, soaring rhetoric of its core principles by the behaviour of its key players – our political leaders, and the media – democracy simply seems increasingly and hopelessly out of touch and irrelevant. All it needs is a half-credible populist to repeat the people’s complaints alluringly, and the complaints are worldwide, and they are devastatingly simple and enticing:

“I don’t trust them”, “They’re all just in it for themselves”, “They don’t know what to do”, “They’re just taking the piss out of the rest of us, and we’re paying”, “They don’t care about us.” “What can I do? They won’t listen to me.”

At one and the same time, powerful cabals in business and the military foolishly consider they can take advantage of such unrest to position themselves to take over as “a strong voice”, to run things (skimming off the top, of course) while the hubbub of dissent dies down, until – inevitably – they realise they have seized a tiger by the tail, and they can’t control it. “Temporary” restrictions on freedom become permanent, and apply to these fellow travellers as much as they do to the rest of us. They imagine themselves isolated from the crackdown by their money, except – as they invariably discover – they are not.

Anti-politics. It is louder in the West than we can remember at any time since we started paying attention in the 1960s.

“They don’t care about little people.” “Just a bunch of snouts in a trough.” “They’re all stupid.”  “There’s no real difference between them, anyway. It’s all a game.” “I just don’t trust ’em. Any of ’em.”

Indeed, as we write these phrases, it is all we can do to stop from nodding in agreement. They are so seductive.

A son of the aristocracy, Churchill never lost his early passion for democracy that was often found in those days in the ranks of the independently wealthy.

A son of the aristocracy, Churchill never lost his early passion for democracy that was often found in those days in the ranks of the independently wealthy.

Except if we are seduced by them, we will hate what comes after. As Winston Churchill supposedly famously remarked:

“Democracy is the worst form of government, it’s just better than all the others.”

Actually, and somewhat ironically, the most famous defender of modern democracy might not have actually generated those words, although in his lifetime he did say a lot about democracy, especially when its survival was threatened with the horrors of German and Austro-Hungarian Nazism, Italian and Spanish Fascism (amongst others), and Soviet-style “marxism”.

Churchill did say something like this in the House of Commons on  11 Novem­ber 1947) but it appears he was quot­ing an unknown pre­de­ces­sor. From Churchill by Him­self, page 574:

Many forms of Gov­ern­ment have been tried, and will be tried in this world of sin and woe. No one pre­tends that democ­racy is per­fect or all-wise. Indeed it has been said that democ­racy is the worst form of Gov­ern­ment except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.

So, although these are Churchill’s words, it is an amusing historical footnote that he clearly did not orig­i­nate the famous remark about democracy. We wonder who did. Anyhow, here are some orig­i­nal things that the great man did say about democracy over 70 years in public life:

If I had to sum up the imme­di­ate future of demo­c­ra­tic pol­i­tics in a sin­gle word I should say “insurance.” That is the future — insurance against dan­gers from abroad, insur­ance against dangers scarcely less grave and much more near and con­stant which threaten us here at home in our own island.
Free Trade Hall, Man­ches­ter, 23 May 1909

At the bot­tom of all the trib­utes paid to democ­racy is the lit­tle man, walk­ing into the lit­tle booth, with a lit­tle pen­cil, mak­ing a lit­tle cross on a lit­tle bit of paper—no amount of rhetoric or volu­mi­nous dis­cus­sion can pos­si­bly dimin­ish the over­whelm­ing impor­tance of that point.
House of Com­mons, 31 Octo­ber 1944

How is that word “democ­racy” to be inter­preted? My idea of it is that the plain, hum­ble, com­mon man, just the ordi­nary man who keeps a wife and fam­ily, who goes off to fight for his coun­try when it is in trou­ble, goes to the poll at the appro­pri­ate time, and puts his cross on the bal­lot paper show­ing the can­di­date he wishes to be elected to Parliament—that he is the foun­da­tion of democ­racy. And it is also essen­tial to this foun­da­tion that this man or woman should do this with­out fear, and with­out any form of intim­i­da­tion or vic­tim­iza­tion. He marks his bal­lot paper in strict secrecy, and then elected rep­re­sen­ta­tives and together decide what gov­ern­ment, or even in times of stress, what form of gov­ern­ment they wish to have in their coun­try. If that is democ­racy, I salute it. I espouse it. I would work for it.”
House of Com­mons, 8 Decem­ber 1944

Stirring stuff. And how unlike any modern politicians that come to mind, except, perhaps, the trio of dead American heroes, JFK, RFK, and MLK. Little wonder that they seized the imagination so thoroughly, and are still revered to this day, even though their feet of clay have been comprehensively documented. They talked about the principles of Government, not just the outcomes.

Democracy is more than a system, it is a concept.

Democracy is more than a system, it is a concept that breeds a system.

In today’s world, once again – and urgently, in our view – we need to make the argument for democracy itself. Not for nothing do the appalling leadership of extremist Islam, epitomised at its most horrible by ISIS, reject the very concept of democracy at the very same time as so-many of their co-religionists seek to acquire and embrace it. ISIS and others of their ilk know they are engaged in a death struggle for their narrow view of the universe against the very principles that democracy uniquely espouses: the principle of protection under the law whoever you are, whatever your creed, sex or colour, true justice that is separated from the government and which can hold the government itself to account, freedom to express oneself fearlessly, genuinely participatory government, the rights of women and minorities to be treated as equals, and much, much more.

For our own internal stability, and in defence of those who dream of democratic freedom everywhere, we need to make our passion for democracy loud and clear, recapturing why we believe it to be superior to the alternatives.

Even if we don’t care about personal freedom, let us carol from the rooftops that it has been shown to be more economically successful – and more sustainably – than any other system.

Even Communist China, containing fully one-third of the world’s
population, enjoying its hugely successful democracy in chinaexperiment in State-directed capitalism, is increasingly recognising that it cannot endlessly stifle the opinions and behaviour of the governed.

They have recognised that they can release a gale of innovation and improvement by asking the opinion of their own people (a truly alien view for the whole of Chinese history thus far) and thus they are taking faltering steps to introduce more freedom into their system without triggering a cataclysm of change.

As just one measurement, the level of openly critical comment in China today is measured in vast multiples compared to even ten years ago, as is the nationwide passion to tackle corruption, which has been endemic in China since time immemorial.

How ironic that the People’s Republic of China – until recently a vile and periodically vicious autocracy – is cautiously embracing a belief set that we seem essentially content to see wither on the vine. Certainly when measured by the public behaviour of our elite.

If nothing else, our leaders and opinion formers should be arguing for the success of liberal democracy as an economic vehicle – not, please note, arguing in favour of unfettered capitalism – as the proven way forward for humankind.

The evidence is that democracy spreads wealth better than any other system, to the widest possible number of people, even while it grapples with the excesses of the runaway freight train of capitalism. Democracy actually restrains the worst features of capital’s behaviour – environmental vandalism, for example. (And if you want to see the results of capitalism that is not fettered by democracy, both in terms of economic failure, cronyism, violence, and environmental vandalism, just have a look at Russia today.)

But more than mere words, more than argument, we need to make democracy work for the governed.

As a beginning, we need to act with utter ruthlessness when evidence of corruption or rorting the system is uncovered.

Sad Statue of LibertyWe need to be deeply suspicious of centralising power, and passionate and enthusiastic about devolving power to the lowest practical level concomitant with effective decision-making.

(For this reason, we are tentatively in favour of Scotland voting for its independence next month, despite acknowledging that it might not appear to be a sound decision economically, at least in the short term. Not that we think it will.)

We must watch our security services and police like hawks, ensuring that the work they do is effective, but that their understanding of the proper limits on their powers is thorough and genuine.

We must defend and encourage media diversity, because a plehtora of opinions expressed openly is the best possible way to generate the ideas we need to successfully navigate our new century and beyond. Anything that compresses media ownership into fewer and fewer hands, blithely covered up with promises of editorial independence that everyone knows are false – is actively dangerous. NewsCorp, and those like unto it, are bad for the health of democracy. “State-owned” news outlets – unless protected by the most rigorous legislation – are a contradiction in terms, wherever they are.

We must encourage bi-partisanship, not because we want our democracy reduced merely to fudge and lazy compromise, but because the public needs to see – to witness – people of good faith working together on their behalf or the social compact with the governed will collapse.

It follows that the role of Opposition is to oppose what it truly believes to be wrong, rather than simply “everything”, and that Government should habitually respect and consider the opinions of those who disagree with it. The impasse between Obama and the Congress in recent years was an economic annoyance, to be sure. But it was a political catastrophe.

Where disagreement is genuine, then the debate should be conducted with civility. Even when one considers another person foolish in the extreme, misguided, or lacking perception, the skill is to make that point in such a manner that they will at least consider you may be wiser or in possesion of a better idea, and also so you may carry public opinion with you. And so that the public can see your good intentions, and not just your muscular antagonism.

We “dumb down” our debates at great cost and at our peril.

If something is “dumb”, the people know they can do without it. When politicans dumb down their discourse, when they are relentlessly trite or scathingly negative, encouraged, aided and abetted by a media that has an increasingly – vanishingly – small attention span, they are not playing some clever stratagem.

In risking a backlash against democracy itself, they are lining themselves up to be thrown in a prison, or worse, by the tidal wave that replaces what they blindly thought was inexorable and irreplaceable. They are beating ploughshares into pikes, and putting them into the hands of those who – when they aren’t even offered complex, thoughtful or educated opinion to consider – can see no reason why they shouldn’t adopt simpler ideas expressed in slogans.

working mensAs democracy swept across Europe in the mid-late 19th century and into the 20th century, it was buttressed by wise souls who ensured that every village, every town, had facilities for the dis-semination of ideas and knowledge, for the edification of the working poor, (such as with the Working Men’s Institutes of Britain), so that they would become participatory members of a new compact.

The privileged who led these conscious efforts to uprate the skills and learnings of the poor were driven by belief, not by an empirical calculation that they were providing a safety valve for the expectations of the people. They believed that a government of all cannot exist if the all is disenfranchised through ignorance or lack of opportunity. So they set about creating the knowledge that would let people fully participate.

Yet today the efforts of those great communicators have been hijacked. Today they are largely directed into providing an endless diet of sport, or reality TV, or mind-numbing time-consuming soap opera and unedifying “popular” drama. Modern media resembles nothing more than an electronically-delivered diet of “bread and circuses” – a tactic for mind control, remember, employed by the Roman dictatorship very successfully for 400 years. “Don’t worry about how we are governing, or who for – here’s a load of bread and a free ticket to watch the gladiators. Come back tomorrow for more of the same.”

And today, devoid of any understanding of why democracy matters, the governed have essentially lost interest, and satiate themselves instead on a diet of moronic “entertainment”.

Ask yourself: where are the civics classes in our schools and universities? Where are our unions, who taught people not just how but why they should defend their rights? Where are the rhetoricians, stirring our minds with ideas and concepts? (Answer, making a “Ted Talk” to their fellow intellectual and financial elite.) Why have our political parties shrunk to be miniscule mockeries of their former selves, with memberships so ludicrously small as to make them nothing more than stripped-down bureaucracies, homes for duelling apparatchicks?

Un-engaged and uncomprehending, the people are ripe to be captured by that simplest and most terrifying of ideas.

“It’s all their fault. Let’s go get ’em.”

Who “they” are varies from theatre to theatre, of course. Alarmist? Look at that graph at the top of the page again.

Democracy is not the natural form of government for humanity. Violence is. Democracy has been hard won with the stout arms and often the lives of millions, for over 2,000 years.

Democracy will not persist if it is dysfunctional. Democracy will not persist if it is not protected. Democracy will not persist if we lose the argument.

Think about it. Discuss.

 

*For history buffs, there is a famous quotation, “When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross.”

  • Many variants of this exist, but the earliest known incident of such a comment appears to be a partial quote from James Waterman Wise, Jr., reported in a 1936 issue of The Christian Century that in a recent address here before the liberal John Reed club said that Hearst and Coughlin were the two chief exponents of fascism in America. If fascism comes, he added, it will not be identified with any “shirt” movement, nor with an “insignia,” but it will probably be wrapped up in the American flag and heralded as a plea for liberty and preservation of the constitution.
  • Another early quote is that of Halford E. Luccock, in Keeping Life Out of Confusion (1938): When and if fascism comes to America it will not be labeled “made in Germany”; it will not be marked with a swastika; it will not even be called fascism; it will be called, of course, “Americanism.”
  • Harrison Evans Salisbury in 1971 remarked: “Sinclair Lewis aptly predicted in It Can’t Happen Here that if fascism came to America it would come wrapped in the flag and whistling ‘The Star Spangled Banner.'”

fistAs you can see by clicking the link below, a Sydney Premier Division AFL player has risked spending 20 years in jail for sucker punching an opponent during a game.

Risked 20 years in jail?

Absolutely: that’s the new available sentence for a one punch “sucker punch” – also known as “coward’s punch” – that results in the death of the victim, whether that death results from the punch itself or from a head hitting the ground.

Watch the shocking vision here:

https://au.sports.yahoo.com/afl/news/article/-/24751903/afl-player-throws-sickening-sucker-punch/

As reported, the incident occurred during the UNSW/ES Bulldogs v Western Suburbs Magpies game on Saturday afternoon.

A Magpies player can be seen chasing his opponent before throwing a left hook that instantly knocks the Bulldogs player out.

The only way you can see the very obvious and incredibly stupid assault is by clicking the link above because vision was originally posted on YouTube as part of AFL Sydney’s ‘Match of the Week’ video before it was taken down.

The disgraceful act is gaining worldwide attention, with US website The Bleacher Report posting: “Australian Rules Football is a physical game, but there is no room in the sport for a cheap shot like this.”

The incident has also been condemned on social media:

It is not clear who the players involved are, but the victim is reportedly okay. We find it simply astonishing that any young man would engage in this behaviour after all the recent publicity over the dangers of this kind of behaviour.

One thing’s for sure, he should be kicked out of his club, and banned by the AFL for a very, very long time.

 

One punch can killA 21-year-old Caloundra man has been charged with murder after the death of a Brisbane man on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast.

Bruce Steenson, 53, died after he was allegedly punched in the head as he walked with a friend along the Mooloolaba Esplanade late on Friday night. He was taken to Nambour Hospital in a critical condition but his life support was turned off last night.

It is understood the attack happened when Steenson told a man arguing with a taxi driver to “give it a rest”.

Steenson was the former state president of the AFL Masters Football Queensland and a member of the National Hall of Fame.

His long-time friend Gary Mitchell says he was a great man and a mentor to many.

“For this to happen is just ridiculous. It should not happen,” he said. “I don’t know what we’re going to do about it but something needs to be done.”

boulevardDetective Inspector Daren Edwards says police are reviewing CCTV footage from nearby venues.

“This is an unfortunate one, it certainly didn’t occur in a licensed premises,” he said. “It happened down on the Esplanade on the street there. It’s a well-patronised area. Certainly it comes down to people’s own individual behaviour and actions.”

At Wellthisiswhatithink we are close to despair that the message that one punch can kill is simply not getting through to, and not getting through to young males, especially.

We need a cultural shift – and a cultural shift starts not with penalties and punishments but with public advocacy campaigns. And not just small, token campaigns – being seen to do the right thing – but massive ones, costing millions of dollars. This is a political issue, and it needs a political response.

We desperately need, as a society, to make “one punch” socially unacceptable. Government needs to do more than increase prison terms. We need to change the minds and souls of the young, for whom casual violence has become acceptable, for whatever reason.

This will not be done with half-hearted campaigns to quiet the critics. This will require a “whole of society effort”, led by the authorities. And the campaign needs to start NOW if we are to start to turn the tide. Before more people die, or are permanently incapacitated with brain injuries.

And before more 21 year olds throw away their life. And destroy their own families, too.

The bottom line? We should be able to take a stroll along the beach front – and we should be able to say “give it a rest” to someone being obnoxious – without risking death.

If you know of examples of anti-violence campaigns that have worked, please email them to us at steveyolland@yahoo.com.

(From AAP)

Sydney teenager Daniel Christie has died in hospital after being punched on New Year s Eve. 

Sydney teenager Daniel Christie has died less than two weeks after being punched to the ground on New Year’s Eve.

Describing Mr Christie as a “beacon of morality”, his family say he died on Saturday morning at Sydney’s St Vincent’s hospital.

“While no words can describe how crushed we are, Daniel fought courageously over the past 11 days which allowed everyone to say their farewells,” his family said in a statement issued by NSW police.

“His death has left us feeling completely destroyed and has torn a hole in the wider community in which he was involved.

“We have been overwhelmed by support and have felt the whole country experience our grief.”

The 18-year-old was taken to St Vincent’s Hospital in a critical condition after being punched in Kings Cross on New Year’s Eve.

Police say they expect further charges to be laid against his alleged attacker, Shaun McNeil, when he next appears in court in March. McNeil has already been charged with causing grievous bodily harm, assault occasioning actual bodily harm and three counts of common assault.

Police allege McNeil, 25, hit three young men before targeting Mr Christie and his brother, Peter, when the other young men tried to hide behind them.

McNeil, a labourer, allegedly boasted he was a mixed martial arts fighter before punching Mr Christie in the face as he shielded the other men.

Through his lawyer, McNeil has previously told a court that the first group of young men was trying to sell him drugs and he acted to protect his girlfriend who was with him at the time. He was unable to explain his actions towards the Christies, police facts previously tendered in court said.

A court has previously heard that doctors believed Mr Christie would probably have suffered a serious brain injury if he had survived the attack.

People have the right to go out without experiencing violence, the Christie family said.

“No family should be forced to deal with this situation, however we are not the first and we fear that we won’t be the last.

“We do not want Daniel’s death to be in vain and are committed to rallying for change. Daniel lived by the mantra: ‘If change can be, it’s up to me’ – and this is something we will always embrace.

Mr Christie’s organs will be donated, the family said.

Since Mr Christie was taken to hospital, there has been increased pressure on the NSW government to tackle alcohol-related violence on the late-night strip and introduce tougher sentencing for perpetrators.

In November, Thomas Kelly’s parents Ralph and Kathy started a petition calling for drunkenness to be a mandatory aggravating factor that must be taken into account in sentencing. 18-year-old Thomas Kelly died after being hit with a single punch in Kings Cross in July 2012.

The petition had about 25,000 signatures before New Year’s Eve.

But following the alleged assault on Mr Christie, that surged to more than 124,000.

Wellthisiswhatithink says:

We have urged Government before to take seriously the urgent need for community education on the issue of “king hits” and other assaults using fists.

The death rate from such events would now have to be categorised as “regular”. (See below.)

And each death is not only a life lost, but a family destroyed, and another life – that of the perpetrator – ruined forever.

Yes, one potential answer is to legislate for higher penalties. But frankly we doubt any stronger statutes need to be on the books. We need to be more imaginative than simply throwing away the key for longer. The Christie family have suggested that everyone should stop calling a “king hit” by that aggressive moniker and instead call it a “coward’s punch”. And that change in terminology may, indeed, help.

But Dr Paul Gruba, a senior lecturer in linguistics at Melbourne University, says changing a popular phrase such as “king hit” is not so simple.

“The crowd that is going to have to change are the ones pulling the king hits,” he told Crikey. “It’s going to have take government advertising and media support. And whether young males are going to change their discourse to shame one of their mates is a far-flung proposition.”

King hit victim Matt Pridham in Canberra Hospital, now trying to recover from brain injury. This photo was volunteered by his family in early December 2013 (Canberra Times)

King hit victim Matt Pridham in Canberra Hospital, now trying to recover from brain injury. This photo was volunteered by his family in early December 2013 (Canberra Times)

Gruba says the term would first have to find its way into the style guides of the mainstream press, but that would not be enough by itself to change the cultural argot. He points to the example of the term “sex worker” instead of “prostitute”, along with the way the media shapes its coverage of people with mental illness and those living with disabilities.

Gruba says the media is using “sex work” over “prostitution” in order to “make the individual more comfortable”. But he says even if the media began using “coward’s punch”, the general public would not necessarily do the same.

“I don’t know how powerful the media is any more,” he said. “It took years to change with feminism. The most successful cultural change was when George Bush decided not to call it global warming but climate change and he had the power to do it.”

Gruba says any change in the language of violence would have to come from the street. And he is right, in our estimation. But the first step is to get out on the streets, and learn how young people would phrase the campaign, and no one is doing that currently.

Whatever we do, there’s no doubt we need to address the topic of grog. Dr Jennifer Pilgrim, from the Victorian Institute of Forensic Medicine, agrees the community needs to change the way it views violence. But for her, changing society’s attitude towards alcohol and its misuse is more pressing than changing a two-word phrase.

“To curb alcohol-fuelled violence, we need to alter the drinking culture in Australia — particularly among young people,” she said. “Education campaigns, limitations on sponsorship and advertising of alcohol, and more research to support and guide prevention campaigns are key to a healthier future for Australia.” Pilgrim is the lead author of a report published in December that found alcohol was to blame in the majority of single-punch fatalities.

Whatever we need to tackle first, there is no doubt the scale of the problem. According to Pilgrim’s research, single-punch assaults have resulted in 90 deaths since 2000. That’s:

  • 3,450+ brain injuries from assaults, all people with families, all people with futures, every year. $24,760,000 in costs treating those people every year.
  • 394 faces repaired every year.
  • $1.4 Billion dollars is the cost to the Australian economy of assaults. Every year.

So where do we start? Well, the war against excessive drinking is going to be a long one, and will require a revolution in social organisation, especially in a country with a “nod and a wink” attitude to drunken-ness, and a climate which encourages both being outdoors while drinking refreshing beverages.

First step? In our opinion, quite simply, we need to make punching someone – anyone – as socially unacceptable as other anti-social behaviour has become over the years.

  • “Real men don’t hit women.”
  • “If you drink, then drive, you’re a bloody idiot.”
  • “Knives scar lives.”
  • “Real heroes walk away.” #heroeswalkaway

We will never eradicate all “king hit” tragedies, of course. But some we will. Which is why, as a communications professional, I plead with our State Governments to take the lead in implementing age-appropriate messages to the target market. I know the advertising agency in which I work would jump at the chance to suggest a campaign.

We know that public advocacy campaigns work, especially against the younger age demographics that consume so much media. So for the sake of the young men who will die if we don’t take action to turn this tide, please, ACT NOW. Back a no-holds-barred, hard-hitting campaign with serious dollars, in main media. Make the campaign at least as impactful as the crime they seek to avert. All puns intended.

Really. Enough is enough.

Enough is enough.

Enough is enough.

Related reading/viewing:

ABC Radio

Call it a sucker punch? HeraldSun

News again – in Australia, today – of a father of two severely injured by a single blow to the head.

It seems that every few weeks someone gets “king hit” somewhere or other, and ends up hitting their head on a kerb stone or the ground and either killed or severely injured.

I have written before about the dangerously casual acceptance of violent behaviour that now seems pervasive in society, and the fact that people everywhere, young men especially, need to understand that a single blow thrown in anger can ruin lives, including their own.

I blame both the acceptance of violence fostered by living in a society where violence is normalised through endless coverage of armed conflicts, (not to mention the ready use of armed conflict to resolve disputes), and also where scenes of violence are commonplace (but sanitised) in innumerable movies and TV shows. And also where what I call societal violence – allowing entire families to fall through any concept of a social safety net – is accepted with little comment across the political spectrum – where concern for those less able or less well off than ourselves has somehow become daggy and unfashionable. Where breast beating ferocity meets any attempt to devise a society which is fairer or more caring.

Violent behaviour of any sort should never be acceptable. Not everything about the “good old days” has been airbrushed in retrospect. There is little doubt in my mind – no, make that no doubt – that society is more violent in many ways than it was in my youth, in terms of casual violence against the person, rather than formal violent crime.

Yes, of course there was violence back then too – I just missed the “mods and rockers” era but remember full well what it was like to attend a football match with 20,000 skinheads. But those social movements were transient, and have largely been left behind us. Sadly, though, what has replaced them is a world where no one seems surprised to see someone – anyone – throw a punch, or react with fury, sometimes to the mildest of stimuli, in a vast range of environments. The prevalence of “road rage”, for example is just one example, where one is frightened to remonstrate no matter how politely with another’s poor driving for fear of inviting a tyre lever through the windscreen or worse.

The answer? Well, it’s a cultural issue, of course. It’s not about enforcement or interdiction. Young people simply need to be brought up to respect the values of a peaceable passage through this world, and to instinctively reject violence as a means of navigating their way through life, instead of instinctively resorting to it. And older people need to be reminded that the mores of their youth had real value.

Jordan+ClarkI balance that miserable little diatribe, however, with this great story from the UK, that a young cricketer has just become one of a remarkably elite group of players – only four previously, in the whole history of the game – to hit six sixes in an over in a competitive (professional grade) cricket match. Step forward, Lancashire’s Jordan Clark .

The English county club said in a statement on Wednesday that the 22-year-old had achieved the astonishing feat in a Championship Second XI game against Yorkshire to join an illustrious list of names.

For Americans reading this blog – or anyone else who doesn’t have a clue about cricket – a “six” is the highest scoring shot a player can achieve on any one ball: banging the ball right out of the playing area without it bouncing on the ground, for a score of six points (called “runs” in cricket). A bit like a home run in baseball, if that helps.

There are six balls bowled in each “end” or “over”, a subdivision of the game after which play moves to the other end of the pitch for six balls, then back again, and so on.

(And so on ad infinitum, some would say, especially those who don’t enjoy the fine nuances of the game.)

So for someone to score six sixes in an over is unbelievably difficult, a freak occurrence. Like one player hitting six home runs in a row. Most players would be glad for just the occasional six in their entire batting performance, no matter how many hours that may last, let alone six sixes in one over.

 

Anyhow, as you can see in this wonderful piece of classic TV, former West Indies all-rounder Garfield Sobers was the first man to do it, against Glamorgan in 1968, and Indian Ravi Shastri followed suit in 1985.

South Africa opener Herschelle Gibbs smashed six sixes in an over at the 2007 World Cup and Indian Yuvraj Singh did the same at the inaugural Twenty20 World Cup the same year.

If young Mr Clark does as well as those names, he will have a hell of a career.

Just a moment after the sinking of the teeth. Photo: AFP

Just a moment after the sinking of the teeth. Photo: AFP

I had thought to spend some time today yammering about – in the context of my mental meanderings on societal violence – Luis Suarez’s just announced ten match ban from the Premier League for biting Chelsea’s Branislav Ivanovic in last weekend’s English Premier League match at Anfield.

Liverpool were quick to react, with managing director Ian Ayre declaring: “Both the club and player are shocked and disappointed at the severity of today’s Independent Regulatory Commission decision.”

And then I decided, bugger it, I really can’t be bothered to talk at length about the obnoxious Suarez, or even my distress that Liverpool’s reaction wasn’t “Yup, he deserved it, and we’ve sacked the little twat.”

Especially since this is just the latest in a series of incidents from this astoundingly gifted but serially idiotic young man. Last year, remember, the FA banned him for eight matches and imposed a £40,000 ban for racially abusing Manchester United’s Patrice Evra. And in 2010 let us not forget he was previously suspended for seven matches in the Netherlands when he sank his teeth into PSV Eindhoven’s Otman Bakkal, leading to him being dubbed the “Cannibal of Ajax”. Should punishments escalate for repeated behaviour? Yes, they should, Mr Ayre.

So. Well done Jordan Clark, enjoy your moment. And Luis Suarez? Read the start of this article, and ponder. Long and hard. Do you want to be remembered as the finest attacking player of your generation, or just as an out-of-control infant? Hmmm?

74% of all pyschiatric illness occurs before the age of 24, and 50% before the age of 14, and between 20-25% of people will suffer depression requiring treatment at some point in their life. How come a quarter of the population isn't out blasting away at anything that moves?

74% of all pyschiatric illness occurs before the age of 24, and 50% before the age of 14, and between 20-25% of people will suffer depression requiring treatment at some point in their life. How come a quarter of the population isn’t out blasting away at anything that moves?

In America, (in particular, but in chardonnay-sipping middle-class households everywhere), it has become very faddish to spout the nonsense “guns don’t kill people, people kill people”. And to tortuously link that to a reassuring argument that if only we could keep guns out of the hands of the homicidally insane or depressed, then all would magically be well and our children can skip down the street in the sunshine, free from fear.

I’m sorry to be so blunt, but I call “Bullshit”.

The fact is, 99.99 (recurring) % of mentally ill people (including many, many people you know personally) never pick up a gun and kill anyone. If a gun is available nearby they are very likely to pick it up and kill themselves, sometimes on a tragic whim, but that’s not what is being debated here.

Indeed, mentally ill people are much more likely to be the victims of gun violence than the perpetrators.

Discuss. Please. Before this meme becomes generally accepted, and a soothing (but mythological) salve for our communal consciences.

The fact that murderers are often found to have committed their crimes while the balance of their mind was disturbed is irrelevant. The vast – vast – majority of homicides enacted using guns (or any other weapon) are enacted by people the courts subsequently judge to be perfectly sane. Or imperfectly sane, but not quite insane, either.

In the opinion of this writer, the availability of guns is, of course, the primary cause of gun violence.

No guns, no gun violence.

Fewer guns, fewer violent gun episodes.

Lots and lots of guns, married to a gung-ho macho culture where people are de-sensitised almost from birth to violence, and gun violence specifically, and where police and armed forces frequently use guns in a manner that at best is careless, and at worst is culpable homicide, and you have you entirely predictable result: lots and lots of gun violence.

If you’re going to do something about tackling gun control, in America or anywhere else, do it nationally, do it with wide popular support, do it married to a massive public education campaign, and know that you will probably have to do it consistently for decades before you see any measurable result.

Anything else is just playing with the memories of the dead, and the understanding of the living, in the most monstrous and despicable manner.

If you agree with me that mental illness is more serious than a convenient excuse to cover up the need for action, and/or if you agree that the mentally ill are being unreasonably pilloried in this debate, I urge you to share this blog, either by re-blogging it, or mention it and link to it on Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, Stumble Upon etc. Thank you.

Fist

This is a deadly weapon. We need to get the message out to our youth. And you know what? “One Punch Can Kill” sounds like a good starting point to me. As does, “Walk Away, Chill Out.

From AP

How many times have we all said “You know, I could kill that bloody referee!”

Tragically, now, a Dutch linesman has actually died after being beaten by players in the aftermath of a youth match the day before.

Richard Niewenhuizen

RIchard Nieuwenhuizen set out to run the line at a kids soccer game. Now he’s dead.

Richard Nieuwenhuizen collapsed and was rushed to the hospital hours after players from Amsterdam club Nieuw Sloten punched and kicked him.

Nieuwenhuizen’s club, Buitenboys, said the 41-year-old linesman died Monday evening but did not announce the exact cause of death.

Three players, whose ages range from 15 to 16, were arrested earlier Monday for alleged involvement in the beating in the town of Almere.

It remains unclear why the players beat Nieuwenhuizen, but they certainly weren’t justified. The police haven’t ruled out making more arrests as their investigation is ongoing. Meanwhile, Nieuw Sloten have already announced that they banned the players arrested from the club and pulled their team out of the league.

Apart from this terrifying loss of control by the boys concerned, this story highlights something that we are always concerned about at Wellthisiswhatithink, namely, that as little as a single blow can kill someone. Tragic cases happen all the time, they are in the news regularly.

Typically, one teenage boy hits another, usually fuelled by alcohol, and the next thing we know one boy is dead and another is on trial for murder or manslaughter, their life ruined. Two families destroyed.

We see campaigns, constantly, persuading youth not to carry guns or knives. Well, we think we are long overdue a broad public education campaign reminding boys – whatever they see in popular media, and surely the casual violence of continual fist fights in Hollywood movies must have de-sensitised us to the use of punching – that fist fights kill, and a single blow can be all it takes.

Zero tolerance for violence. Nothing else is acceptable.

I found this site, One Punch Can Kill, from Queensland, which is a start. Well done them. But we need a wider campaign reaching youth around the world. The yield will be hundreds if not thousands of young lives saved, and a similar number saved from having their lives ruined by a moment of insanity. Surely social media – YouTube, Facebook, would be perfect to get the message out to the right audience. And it should be reinforced at the places that matter – clubs, pubs, public transport, on the streets.

You may also care to checkout the Matthew Stanley Foundation. Matthew was just 15 when he died attending a party in Queensland. 1,000 people attended his funeral.

Great advice. Simple, memorable.

Great advice. Simple, memorable.

The Matthew Stanley Foundation are responsible for the “Walk Away, Chill Out”  campaign.

Walk Away, Chill Out.

If only we could get that simple message out there so EVERY young person hears it.

Ideas, comments, help, all welcome.

I warmly applaud this article by Emily, which I consider to be both timely and wise. The prospect of another war with Israel in the south for tragic little Lebanon, already so pressed by the situation in Syria on their border, is simply too horrible.

We must learn Emily’s core understanding – violence begets violence. When will the leaders in the Mid East remember Churchill’s famous adage “Jaw-jaw is always better than war-war”? We are talking about violence, which could, if it embroils Israel, Iran, Syria and Lebanon – a true regional conflict – cause not just hundreds or thousands of casualties, but cost hundreds of thousands and possibly millions of innocent lives. And as Emily so presciently points out, we seem to be sleep-walking into it.

War will continue until men refuse to fight

I know some will accuse me of being naive, but it’s what I believe. http://www.cafepress.com/yolly.431431252

Emily L. Hauser - In My Head

We learned on Friday that America and Israel have concluded that the bomber in last week’s bloody attack in the Bulgarian city of Burgas was an operative working with the Lebanon-based Hezbollah, under orders from Iran “to avenge assassinations targeting its nuclear scientists” (such as Mostafa Ahmadi-Roshan, killed in January when an assassin bombed his car in Tehran).

In the meantime, we’ve also learned that the New York police have found evidence linking Iran or its proxies to nine other plots against Israeli or Jewish targets around the world. According to former Israeli National Security Adviser Uzi Arad, this should not surprise us – and Israel is “to a large extent, the initiators.”

We hit [senior Hezbollah leader] Imad Mughniye [in 2008], and, mainly, we’re leading a struggle against Iran. We’re not a passive side. And the other side is the defending, deterring, and attacking one.

…If Israel will…

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