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Valar Qringaomis

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Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Leaving for Hokkaido this evening, returning next Tuesday, early morning.
The Miss Veet Standout Challenge 2007, held to promote one of the countless products on the market to artificially enhance your body, must be one of the worst beauty (or beauty-esque) competitions I've seen.

Their tagline seems to be: "Do you have smooth legs that go on forever?"

Unfortunately, we will never know, since the only visuals the contestant information pages (2 examples) provide us with are:


A mugshot

and


A full-body picture


Relative proportions: 326px vertical pixels of the finalist are visible, but only 100px of leg and 70px of unobscured leg.

You will also note that the latter has only about 300 vertical pixels (px) of the finalist visible, about 30px of the most important part (the legs) of which are covered with some strange pink gradient, leaving only 70px unobscured. Since we are given a (relatively) large view of their faces, maybe it's a subtle hint that they used Veet to remove their facial hair.

The finalists' pages also have no information about them except their names (3/10 didn't even bother giving us their surnames), ages and occupations, so how we can judge their "sunny disposition" and "X-factor" (source, with more [tiny] pictures) remains a mystery.

Perhaps the final will be more interesting, "as [they] crown the girl with the smoothest legs, gorgeous smile and striking personality". Since degrees of smoothness can only be discerned with a tactile test, there might be some fireworks.

Finally, one of their judges is Dawn Yang. How appropriate.
I told my mother that all of the guidebooks on Japan she got were lousy, and she went to return them all.

Gah.

Le mieux est l'ennemi du bien


I'm bringing my 7.1MP camera along, and my mother's bringing a film camera because we have some spare film that must be developed before 2008, though it'll cost money to develop it (she likes to print her pictures).

Now she's asking me how to operate this very old 2MP camera.

How many cameras does she want to bring?!
Student lawsuit in U.S. hinges on whether 'That's so gay' is an anti-gay putdown

SANTA ROSA, California: When a few classmates teased Rebekah Rice about her Mormon upbringing with questions such as, "Do you have 10 moms?" she shot back: "That's so gay."

Those three words landed the first-year high school student in the principal's office and resulted in a lawsuit that raises this question: When do playground insults used every day all over America cross the line into hate speech that must be stamped out?

After Rice got a warning and a notation in her file, her parents sued, claiming officials at Santa Rosa's Maria Carillo High violated their daughter's free speech rights when they disciplined her for uttering a phrase that "enjoys widespread currency in youth culture," according to court documents.

Testifying last week about the 2002 incident, Rice, now 18, said that when she uttered those words, she was not referring to anyone's sexual orientation. She said the phrase meant: "That's so stupid, that's so silly, that's so dumb."

But school officials say they took a strict stand against the putdown after two boys were paid to beat up a gay student the year before.

"The district has a statutory duty to protect gay students from harassment," the district's lawyers argued in a legal brief. "In furtherance of this goal, prohibition of the phrase 'That's so gay' ... was a reasonable regulation."

Superior Court Judge Elaine Rushing plans to issue a ruling in the non-jury trial after final written arguments are submitted in April. Her gag order prevents the two sides from discussing the case.

Derogatory terms for homosexuality have long been used as insults. But the landscape has become confusing in recent years as minority groups have tried to reclaim terms like "queer" and "ghetto."

In recent years, gay rights advocates and educators have tried teaching students that it is hurtful to use the word "gay" as an all-purpose term for something disagreeable. At Berkeley High School, a gay student club passed out buttons with the words "That's so gay" crossed out to get their classmates to stop using them.

Rick Ayers, a retired teacher who helped compile and publish the "Berkeley High School Slang Dictionary," a compendium of trendy teen talk circa 2001, said educating students about offensive language is preferable to policing their speech.

"I wouldn't be surprised if this girl didn't even know the origin of that term," he said. "The kids who get caught saying it will claim it's been decontextualized, but others will say, 'No, you know what that means.' It's quite talked about."

Rice's parents, Elden and Katherine Rice, also claim the public high school employed a double-standard because, they say, administrators never sought to shield Rebekah from teasing based on Mormon stereotypes that they are polygamists.

In addition, the Rices say their daughter was singled out because of the family's conservative views on sexuality. They are seeking unspecified damages and want the disciplinary notation expunged from Rebekah's school record.

Eliza Byard, deputy executive director of the New York-based Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, said nearly nine out of 10 gay students her organization surveyed in 2005 reported hearing "That's so gay" or "You're so gay" frequently.

"It bothers them a lot," Byard said. "As odd or funny as the phrase sounds, imagine what it feels like to be in a setting where you consistently hear it used to describe something undesirable or stupid, and it also refers to you."

She said it is OK to discipline students for using the phrase after efforts have been made to educate them.

"The job of a school is to deal proactively and consistently with all forms of bullying, name-calling and harassment," she said.

Jordan Lorence, an attorney with the Alliance Defense Fund, a Christian legal organization, agreed "That's so gay" carries a negative meaning and said he would not want his children to say it. But he said formal discipline is not the answer.

"Reasonable people should say, 'Let's put a stop to this kind of search-and-destroy mission by school officials for everything that is politically incorrect,'" he said.


Woe betide anyone who uses the word 'gay' to mean 'happy', or 'queer' to mean 'strange'.

Canada's anti-racism industry never quits

Canada's anti-racism industry never quits, Robert Fulford
National Post, 11 January 2003

No decent human being approves of racism, but if it vanished we might miss it. Many Canadians depend on racism as their main source of righteous anger and would be bereft without it. Denouncing it gives purpose to their lives. For others, it's a living. Where would university harassment officers be without racism? Where would the Canadian Race Relations Foundation be if it couldn't publish Racist Discourse In Canada's English Print Media, which uses "discourse analysis" to prove that "racialized discourse" is routine in Canadian newspapers? What would human rights commissions do, or post-modern literary theorists?

These people don't want to know that racism has been in decline for decades. In 1996, Richard Gwyn remarked in the Toronto Star that Canadians, white or non-white, are probably the world's least racist people. He challenged his readers to name any country in the UN less afflicted by racism, but of course there were no nominations. Even so, some readers considered Gwyn racist just for mentioning that things were going fairly well; there's thought to be something unseemly about celebrating such an accomplishment. Meanwhile, his editors have continued their merciless campaign to prove that racism blights the Canadian (or anyway the Toronto) soul.

Those who report on racism sometimes sound desperate, as if they had trouble uncovering enough of it to make an impression. That's the case with the January-February issue of This Magazine, focused on race relations. A special-interest journal, This Magazine does for the Canadian left what Mortuary Management Monthly does for the death-care industry. This Magazine especially cherishes its young audience and strives to be cool. It tries to bring sophisticated irony to racism. The result makes me think of Joe Clark telling a joke.

In one article, "I Chink Therefore I Am," Kate Rigg, a part-Indonesian and part-white comedian, says: "I say chink a lot. I also say gook, nip, jap." She tries to take the curse off racial slurs by ridiculing them, but doesn't mention that black comedians have been working this vein for many years, with mixed and often discouraging results.

Elsewhere in the issue, Jeremy Gans takes a different approach. He provides a glossary of race-related terms that sensitive readers will strive to avoid. Don't say Gypsy (the word is Roma), don't use gyp, don't call a money-lender a Shylock (refers to that unpleasant chap in Shakespeare), and never call people welshers -- even Bill Clinton had to apologize when he tripped on that one. You can't be too careful. Never say paddy wagon, for instance. It probably refers to police arresting Irishmen more than a century ago. On the other hand, you'll be relieved to know that scot-free is OK, referring not to Scots, but to a tax or fee paid in England several hundred years ago.

In the unrelenting search for bigotry, researchers are digging ever deeper into public consciousness. A press release announcing the current issue of This Magazine says that studies by Mahzarin Banaji indicate that "an astonishing number of people (90-95%!) have racist attitudes -- and don't even know it." Banaji, a Yale psychology professor, deploys something called the Implicit Association Test, which goes beyond what people say and claims to uncover their feelings by measuring the speed with which they associate pleasant or unpleasant items with names and faces. Used on a simpler, non-racial question in the run-up to the 2000 presidential election, IAT showed (or claimed to show) that many who expressed a preference for Bill Bradley or John McCain were unconsciously leaning toward Al Gore or George Bush. It makes more startling claims about race. Banaji told This Magazine that when she herself took the race-related version of the test, it frightened her: Even she showed hidden bigotry! Incidentally, what will she say when she reads her interview in print? This Magazine has misspelled her first name three times in two different ways. Will that "error" look suspiciously like the typical carelessness of unconscious bigots confronting a name from a non-Western culture?

Raghu Krishnan, who makes it clear that his credentials are all-purpose lefty (pro-Sandinista, anti-apartheid, pro-Palestinian, anti-free trade, etc.), writes about the good old 1980s and 1990s in "Remembering Anti-racism." He used to wear a T-shirt lettered "No Sandinista ever called me Paki," which, he admits, "resonated more" in those days than now. Krishnan helped start his share of alphabet-soup protest groups, such as the United Coalition Against Racism (UCAR) at the University of Toronto, and the Toronto Coalition Against Racism (TCAR). Like many others, they flowered briefly and died -- and Krishnan, with unusual candor, explains why.

Apparently the mere fact of "marginalization" wasn't enough to draw disparate ethnic forces together. More important, many potential recruits began enjoying too much success to be interested. Krishnan is particularly appalled by one South Asian outfit, grounded in leftist politics, that ended up as a Web site catering to "the middle-class conformism that asserted itself over the organized South Asian community." He doesn't say it, but the meaning comes through. These dynamic, progressive organizations foundered because, sadly, Canada let them down. The country simply couldn't produce enough racism to keep them in business.
"People are, if anything, more touchy about being thought silly than they are about being thought unjust." - E. B. White

***

David Friedrich Strauss - "It was wildly controversial. One reviewer called it "the Iscariotism of our days" and another "the most pestilential book ever vomited out of the jaws of hell.'... What made his book so controversial was his treatment of much of the gospels (especially the miraculous elements) as "mythical" in character. To appreciate his contribution, we must set his argument in the context of the theological and biblical controversies of his day. In the decades prior to Strauss, theologians, scholars, and church people were struggling with the impact of the Enlightenment upon the Bible. Much of the struggle concerned how to understand stories of the miraculous. Two major positions — "rationalist" and "supernaturalist" — warred with each other. "Rationalist" scholars (many of whom were deists) claimed that violations of the laws of nature were impossible, that "miracles" could not happen, and hence sought a natural explanation of the miracle texts. Interestingly, the rationalists accepted a historical basis for the miracle stories in the gospels, but denied that miraculous causation was involved. For example, they affirmed that the disciples really thought they saw Jesus walking on the water, but in fact he was walking on a row of submerged rocks just below the surface of the water... his basic claims—that many of the gospel narratives are mythical in character, and that "myth" is not simply to be equated with "falsehood" — have become part of mainstream scholarship. What was wildly controversial in Strauss's time has now become one of the standard tools of biblical scholars."
ie Before the 20th century fundies, people *did* believe in Bible literalism.

Microsoft to cut WGA 'kill switch' out of Vista - "Product activation, as it's implemented in Windows, is primarily designed to keep families from purchasing one copy of Windows and making a second copy on a kid's PC. For hundreds of years, buyers have enjoyed a legal right to make copies of copyrighted works for personal use only, as I previously described on Mar. 8, 2007. Honoring this principle, various versions of MS Office permit up to three copies to be validated. Windows, which is used by far more people than Office, has never observed a fair-use exemption. The very fact that I need to use the redundant term "mass piracy," when what I mean is "piracy," shows how far lawyers for Microsoft and other large software companies have come in redefining fair use as piracy. By definition, copying isn't piracy unless it's done in quantity and for commercial gain. But this isn't what we hear in the mainstream media about piracy, because Microsoft has a long-running campaign to make personal-use copying of a product that a family has legitimately purchased seem to be piracy. For this reason, I don't consider it accurate to call WGA an "anti-piracy" technology (which is the tagline written into most press accounts). It's certainly an "anti-copying" tool, to use a neutral term, but is arguably more of an "anti-fair-use" scheme. Windows should be seen as improperly restricting age-old consumer rights that have long been explicit in copyright laws."

Perfectionism - "Just about any sports movie, airport paperback or motivational tape delivers a few boilerplate rules for success. Believe in yourself. Don’t take no for an answer. Never quit. Don’t accept second best... several recent studies stand as a warning against taking the platitudes of achievement too seriously. The new research focuses on a familiar type, perfectionists, who panic or blow a fuse when things don’t turn out just so. The findings not only confirm that such purists are often at risk for mental distress... The burden of perfectionist expectations is all too familiar to anyone who has struggled to kick a bad habit. Break down just once — have one smoke, one single drink — and at best it’s a “slip.” At worst it’s a relapse, and more often it’s a fall off the wagon: failure. And if you’ve already fallen, well, may as well pour yourself two or three more... The British have a saying that encourages people to show their skills while mocking the universal fear of failure: Do your worst. If you can’t tolerate your worst, at least once in a while, how true to yourself can you be?"
"No second chances"

Neil Fraser: Software: Image to HTML Converter - "Most web pages are made up of HTML files linked to separate image files. Here's a way to embed an image directly into an HTML file. A table is created which is filled with large numbers of 1x1 cells. Each cell has a background colour of the corresponding pixel in the image. That's all it is; just a massive grid of coloured table cells... So it's big, bloated and slow. What use is this? In its pure form, none. At least none that I can think of."

Get used to this: Umno Youth chief - "The 60-cm-long keris was carried into the hall with much fanfare at the start of the youth assembly and presented to Datuk Seri Hishammuddin on stage. He unsheathed it and kissed it before raising it high to shouts of 'Hidup Umno' (Long Live Umno). It was then sheathed and placed on a stand at the stage... "Selangor delegate Ismail Ahmad was applauded for asking opposition party supporters to leave the country if they were not happy. 'These people, they come to a Malay area and they tell me that our country is not doing well and people are still suffering. Well, I will tell you - you can apply for citizenship in Singapore,' he said."
Malaysia Boleh!

Language Log: The Etiology and Elaboration of a Flagrant Mistranslation - "Here are just two of the countless instances of the GAN1/4 = "fuck" paradigm that have spread throughout in China: Pinyin: GAN1TIAO2 QU1; English: "Fuck to adjust the area"; Correct translation: "Dry Seasonings Section". Note: It is no wonder that machines get confused by this expression (see the less salacious machine translation above, no. 8 of the screen shots, "the stem adjusts area"), since every Chinese to whom I've shown this sign has hesitated in their pronunciation (the second syllable could also be read DIAO4) and in their interpretation of its meaning -- there are many different possibilities."

Annals of Information: Know It All: The New Yorker - "The how-to entries represent territory that the encyclopedia has not claimed since the eighteenth century. You could cure a toothache or make snowshoes using the original Britannica, of 1768-71... It took a devious Frenchman, Pierre Bayle, to conceive of an encyclopedia composed solely of errors. After the idea failed to generate much enthusiasm among potential readers, he instead compiled a “Dictionnaire Historique et Critique,” which consisted almost entirely of footnotes, many highlighting flaws of earlier scholarship... In its seminal Western incarnation, the encyclopedia had been a dangerous book. The Encyclopédie muscled aside religious institutions and orthodoxies to install human reason at the center of the universe—and, for that muscling, briefly earned the book’s publisher a place in the Bastille. As the historian Robert Darnton pointed out, the entry in the Encyclopédie on cannibalism ends with the cross-reference “See Eucharist.”... Who could have guessed that “cheese” would figure among the site’s most contested entries? (The controversy entailed whether in Asia there is a cultural prohibition against eating it.)... Essjay says that he routinely receives death threats. “There are people who take Wikipedia way too seriously,”... What can be said for an encyclopedia that is sometimes right, sometimes wrong, and sometimes illiterate? When I showed the Harvard philosopher Hilary Putnam his entry, he was surprised to find it as good as the one in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. He was flabbergasted when he learned how Wikipedia worked. “Obviously, this was the work of experts,” he said. In the nineteen-sixties, William F. Buckley, Jr., said that he would sooner “live in a society governed by the first two thousand names in the Boston telephone directory than in a society governed by the two thousand faculty members of Harvard University.” On Wikipedia, he might finally have his wish. How was his page? Essentially on target, he said. All the same, Buckley added, he would prefer that those anonymous two thousand souls govern, and leave the encyclopedia writing to the experts."

Man booted from pub by paranoid patrons - "BOUNCERS kicked a man out of a Cairns pub after paranoid patrons complained that he was reading a book called The Unknown Terrorist... The main character of The Unknown Terrorist, a bestseller by Australian novelist Richard Flanagan, is mistaken for a terrorist and subjected to a witch hunt of paranoia and false perceptions."

Scandal will trump science as his legacy - "Before last week, if you Googled the name of UMass researcher Peter Rice, you’d see all sorts of dry medical news about immunology and infectious disease... after his arrest in a prostitution sting... when contacted by a reporter, he claimed he was only “gathering information” when he allegedly offered to pay an undercover police officer $40 for “everything,” which is street slang for intercourse and oral sex, according to police reports... As for his lawyer’s claim that Dr. Rice doesn’t match the profile for a man seeking anonymous sex, the sergeant said, “I found that explanation interesting. We’ve arrested all sorts of people from all walks of life, from blue-collar to white-collar to truck drivers and CEOs. There’s no set criteria for a john.”"

Runaway Wrecking Ball Lands in Trunk - "A 1,500-pound wrecking ball broke loose from a crane cable and raced downhill, smashing into several cars and injuring three people before coming to rest in the trunk of a car at an intersection Monday."
I thought this only happens on TV

The Remarkable Death Of Gary Michael Aldridge - "Gary Michael Aldridge was “51-year-old pastor of Montgomery’s Thorington Road Baptist Church”. He was also a “graduate of Liberty University, and friend of Jerry Falwell“. He died in June, “while apparently in the midst of some autoerotic undertaking”... The deceased was clothed in a diving wet suit, a face mask which has a single vent for breathing, a rubberized head mask having an opening for the mouth and eyes, a second rubberized suit with suspenders, rubberized male underwear, hands and feet have diving gloves and slippers. There were numerous straps and cords restraining the decedent. There is a leather belt around the midriff. There is a series of ligatures extending from the hands to the feet. The hands are bound behind the back. The feet are tied to the hands. There are nylon ligatures holding these in place with leather straps about the wrists and ankles. There are plastic cords also tied about the hands and feet with a single plastic cord extending up to the head and surrounding the lower neck. There is a dildo in the anus covered with a condom."

Erotic Corndog Contest May Be Banished - "“We stress technique,” Pilchen said. “There’s a lot of simulation.” Condiments are available if the women want to get creative, he said. “We had ketchup and mustard, but the big hit was mayonnaise.”"

Sunday, December 09, 2007

"Everything is funny as long as it is happening to Somebody Else." - Will Rogers

***

"The Illicit Trade—Fact or Fiction?

PRESS AND PUBLIC STATEMENTS about the antiquities market often cite estimates of a billion or more dollars per year for the illicit trade in “cultural property,” a term equated with recently looted or stolen antiquities and associated dramatically with the looting of the Iraq National Museum, in Baghdad... this billion-dollar value is a myth...

One source for widespread misapprehensions about the value of the illicit trade may come from the fact that when police agencies, including Interpol, use the phrase “cultural property,” the term refers to paintings and sculptures from all periods, including contemporary works of art, silver and jewelry, antique furniture, carpets, and other non- manufactured items of value.

Collected data on stolen art indicates that the value of antiquities is a tiny fraction of the “cultural property” total. According to information published by the Art Loss Register, 54 percent of reported thefts of art and antiques are from private dwellings. Thefts of antiquities represent only 3 percent of total art thefts as compared to 51 percent for thefts of pictures, a category including paintings and drawings. The “cultural property theft” cited so often in the press as pertaining to looting of antiquities actually refers primarily to losses from household burglaries and commercial theft...

Comparisons to illicittrade in drugs or armaments, also common, are even more tenuous. Armaments become obsolete. Drugs are consumed and must be replaced with fresh supplies. Art neither is consumed nor wears out, and has circulated in a worldwide market for centuries. The absurdity of these comparisons becomes obvious when one asks how many people take drugs and how many collect antiquities. A more realis tic appraisal ofthe traffic in recently looted antiquities would represent a small percentage of the total worldwide trade in antiquities as a whole, a few millions, not a few billion dollars a year. Certainly, this number itself pales in comparison to the “value” of antiquities lost each year due to war, vandalism, development of archaeological sites, dam construction, and poor conservation of sites or archaeological collections...

Archaeologists and others are right to be angry: the looting of archaeological sites is a tragedy, and represents a real loss of knowledge of the history of humankind. Finding working solutions to the problem of art theft, however, requires knowing the facts, not repeating a myth."


"It’s very difficult to explain the mainland Chinese government’s atti tude toward the trade in ancient objects currently being excavated in China. They have a horribly bad record in terms of preserving cultural property within China in the years following the Revolution. Starting in 1949 there was more wholesale destruction of cultural property over the next twenty-five years than there had been in any other time. State- directed destruction of ancient temples, architecture, and works of art was followed by the Cultural Revolution, when there was persecution of anyone who showed any interest in works of art or preservation of ancient material. Art became of interest to the Chinese only in the sev enties, when the use of cultural property for political ends became clear to them. They could bask in the glow of China’s ancient glorious history, and earn hard cash, too."


"WHERE TO PLACE ART is one of the art world’s most problematic issues. The UNESCO policy is that cultural patrimony should stay in its country of origin, and that such material, if already exported, should be returned to the land in which it was produced—sometimes decades or even cen turies after its removal... In an era of multiculturalism, the notion that any cultural group owns all of its production has a faddish appeal, and repatriation has taken on the trap pings of political correctness. The nationalist supporters of this view say that all Egyptian material should be in Egypt, all British art in Britain, all Benin masks in Benin.

Museums, prejudiced toward display of portable material away from sites of excavation, and collectors have found themselves in conflict with these policies. Internationalists believe that works should be distributed around the world, so that people everywhere can see the material culture of other countries. There are excesses associated with this idea; restraints must be placed on an open market that encourages the rape of historic sites, where sculptural elements are chiseled off great buildings so that they can be transferred to private hands. The idea of art without frontiers is dangerous. But the idea of repatriation is even more dangerous. The rage to return artworks to source countries is considered enlightened by many American intellectuals, but it is in fact provincial. The history of culture is catholic and international, and our policies on collecting should reflect that.

The policy that important art should never be removed from its country of origin has been upheld with ludicrous literalism in recent years, to sometimes disastrous effect. The most dramatic recent example is Afghanistan. The art treasures in the National Museum in Kabul were destroyed not by irresponsible American bombing but by irresponsible Western noninterventionism. In early 2001, the museum’s director, Omara Khan Masoodi, contacted UNESCO and warned that the Taliban was likely to destroy the collections. He asked UNESCO to take the work out of the country and find a safe repository for it. UNESCO replied that it was against its policy to remove from any country art that might be described as part of that country’s cultural heritage. Masoodi protested that the work was going to be destroyed, but u stood by its position, declining to help. Indeed, all of the pre-Islamic art remaining in the museum and its storerooms was destroyed six months later—including fragile ceramic and stucco finds from Fondukistan and a monumental Kushan stone sculpture that ranked among the most important artworks of Central Asia. Provincial repositories of art and site museums were opened and the artifacts smashed by Taliban wield ing sledgehammers, while the great Buddhas carved from the cliffs of the Bamiyan Valley were shattered by explosives—the most spectacular if not the most artistically significant loss...

Those losses could and should have been avoided. “I wept when I ran up against this policy,” Masoodi said, weeping again when we met in Kabul. “I saw my collection smashed to pieces by brutal thugs with angry hammers because policy dictated that what had lasted a thousand years not be saved for the next thousand.” Visiting the National Museum is a heartbreaking experience. In an unheated back room, archaeologists sort the rubble that the Taliban left behind. Large trays are heaped with pebble-sized fragments of the life-size statue of Kanishka, a second century king, that once stood inside the museum’s entrance, and of the long Buddhist panels that were among the collection’s highlights. “I saw them do this,” says Masoodi. "It was like watching the slaughter of my children."... It is a tragedy of indescribable proportions.


"THE WORLD WEPT over the wanton destruction of the treasures of the ill-guarded National Museum of Iraq and the burning of Baghdad’s unique Islamic library. It is an irreplaceable loss for all humanity. Despite the recovery of many of the major pieces carried off by vandals and the discovery of many more hidden by museum staff prior to the invasion by coalition forces, the loss can never be replaced.

Worldwide, the media devoted much time and space to this tragedy and brought it into our living rooms in all its horrifying details. However, there is one aspect whose mention seems to be taboo: the implied warn ing of the grave danger of having too large a part of a culture’s heritage gathered in a single place on earth...

Vital lessons can be learned from the Iraq disasters. The most important of these is the desirability of dispersing widely the art of past civilizations. The preachings of much of the archaeological community notwithstanding, the retentionist program they advocate is a prescrip tion for future disasters. As folk wisdom has it, “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.”

The events in Iraq should remind us that there are practical as well as ethical arguments for the dispersal of art... it is clear that no responsible museum, art dealer, or auction house will touch any Mesopotamian object unless there is positive proof of provenance dating to prior to the Iraqi wars. During my fifty years as an art dealer in archaeological as well as contemporary art, I have yet to encounter a collector who did not want to share the pleasures of ownership with friends and particularly with scholars and experts. The image of the hermitlike individual gloating over illicit treasures in his castle is a fantasy.

Archaeologists continue to advocate prohibition of exports of archae ological art from their countries of origin by means of nationalization and the restriction of imports into this country. They support laws and treaties that will slowly but surely strangle the art market and access to such art for museums and collectors. They effectively support the efforts of foreign countries to reclaim objects and denude the holdings of our museums and private art collectors.

By using such terms as “stolen art,”“smuggled,”“looted,” and so forth, and impugning the motives of collectors and dedicated museum scholars, the retentionists are wrongfully claiming the moral high ground To the contrary, the proper ethical stance is concerned with the widest possible preservation and survival of the art and archaeology of past civilizations.

Within each culture, the objects yielded by excavating tombs often tend to be quite repetitive Even the inventive ancient Greeks developed only thirty-two major forms of ceramic offertory vases and cups. As a result, the storerooms of museums in ancient regions are overflowing with duplicates, many from old collections or found as a result of con struction, not from scientific excavations. Any scholar who has visited the back rooms of museums in major centers such as Rome, Athens, Cairo, Mexico City, or Lima can testify to this. Objects are often poorly cared for and suffer from all the vagaries of benign neglect.

The great contribution that the art market makes to preservation is to endow works of art with value. When objects have no value, they are inevitably at risk of destruction because preserving them is a costly enter prise. Storing, safeguarding, heating and air conditioning, and conserv ing art in public institutions can be done for only a relatively few objects. In practice, there is constant triage, which saves a few treasured objects but consigns the remainder to slow deterioration...

The supporters of import restrictions believe in the desirability of leaving ancient art in the same location where it is found. They endorse the stance of many art-rich nations who, for reasons of nationalism, do not want to share with the world the art of their ancient past and who continue to denounce as “stolen” any work thought to be from their soil that is found abroad. It is ironic that so many archaeologically well- endowed regions are populated today by the descendants of the invaders who destroyed the very cultures whose remnants their modern govern ments claim as exclusively their own. Turkey’s Adriatic coast is rich in ancient Greek art—but in the 1920S, the remnant of its Greek popula tion was expelled in an early instance of ethnic cleansing. Many Latin Americans are descendants of the Spanish conquistadors who destroyed the Aztec and Inca empires. Do these descendants have a more exclusive moral claim to the buried artifacts of earlier civilizations than the rest of humanity?"


[UNESCO says that] "the international circulation of cultural property is still largely dependent on the activities of self-seeking parties and so tends to lead to speculation which causes the price of such property to rise, making it inaccessible to poorer countries and institutions while at the same time encouraging the spread of illicit trading"

This statement combines anti-capitalist and anti-market sentiments, referring, with evident disapproval, to buyers and sellers engaged in mar ket transactions as “self-seeking parties”; engaging in the pejorative use of “speculation” for the normal human tendency to base present action on assumptions about the future; and making the economically naive assumption that speculation causes the prices of works of art and other cultural objects to rise.

Knowledgeable observers would argue instead that constricting the licit supply of cultural objects by prohibiting their export is far more likely to cause prices to rise and to encourage the spread of illicit trading than would “speculation” by museums, collectors, dealers, and auction houses trading in a licit market. As to “poorer countries,” many of which are source nations, the orderly marketing of surplus cultural objects could pro tanto displace the black market, while providing a significant source of income to the source nation and its citizens. That major source nations typically hold stocks of marketable surplus objects is confirmed by another paragraph in the Recommendation’s preamble: “Many cul tural institutions, whatever their financial resources, possess several identical or similar specimens of cultural objects of indisputable quality and origin which are amply documented, and . . . some of these items, which are of only minor or secondary importance for these institutions because of their plurality, would be welcomed as valuable accessions by institutions in other countries.”

Such objects would also be welcomed to the international market by museums, collectors, and the art trade. The Recommendation, however, rejects the market and relies exclusively on interinstitutional (government-to-government and museum-to-museum) exchanges as the medium through which to promote enrichment of cultures and mutual understanding and appreciation among nations. Such exchanges are a commonly used tool of museum collections management. They are, however, a form of barter, with all of barter’s considerable limitations. The market is a much more efficient and productive mechanism for the international circulation of cultural property, and to exclude it seems perverse...

It is true that many antiquities that newly appear on the market are undocumented. It is true that archaeo logical sites are abused, contexts destroyed, and information about the human past irretrievably lost. But it is also true that museums and col lectors would much prefer to acquire, and the antiquities trade would strongly prefer to deal in, legitimately excavated and properly docu mented objects. They are disabled from doing so, however, because excessive source-nation restrictions, which archaeologists strongly support, have shut off the supply.

Archaeologists have intensified the antiquities problem by demand ing that museums, collectors, and the art market acquire only properly documented objects. Elaborate due-diligence procedures are not enough to satisfy them. These Crusaders presume that an antiquity that is notfully and properly documented is illicit: guilty, in other words, until proved innocent. Employing this inversion of the normal burden of proof, collectors who acquire antiquities and museums that show them are acting criminally, even if no source nation claims the antiquities and no one has shown that they were improperly acquired.

As a predictable result, much antiquities traffic is diverted from legiti mate dealers and purchasers to the black market, which risks the mis treatment of objects and sites and the destruction of context (as well as other evils, including the confusion caused by counterfeit antiquities and forged provenances and export documents). If one set out to encourage harm to the archaeological record, it might be difficult to contrive a more effective way of doing so than the present one. As Quentin Byrne-Sutton has observed, the result is “a ridiculous situation in which regulation nourishes what it seeks to eliminate.”...

It is unlikely that the archaeologists’ Crusade against trade in antiqui ties will succeed. The record of other, more highly organized and better- financed attempts to suppress the trade in controlled goods for which there is a strong demand (e.g., arms, strategic materials, technology, narcotics, alcohol) is well known: disappointing progress toward an ever- receding objective, unanticipated expense, and a variety of unforeseen, often seriously damaging secondary effects."

--- Various essays in Who owns the past? : cultural policy, cultural property, and the law / Kate Fitz Gibbon, editor.


"In 1989, the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) in Toronto opened the exhibition, which was scheduled to tour to four other venues in Canada and the United States over the following two years. The exhibition attempted to combine a presentation of African art with an examination of the colonial history of Cana dians in Africa. The publicity leaflet described it as a celebration of ‘the rich cultural heritage of African religious, social and economic life’, and indeed the exhibition did set out to show the beauty, richness and diversity of the artefacts in the ROM’s collections. However, due to the fragmentary nature of the collection and its age, most of which dates from 1875 to 1925, it was impossi ble to provide a detailed study of any particular group or area, or address issues such as urbanisation and industrialisation in contemporary Africa. Jeanne Can nizzo, curator of the exhibition, therefore decided to utilise the nature and peri od of the collections to determine the themes of the exhibition. It was her intention to address the effects of colonialism upon African cultures by provid ing ‘a critical examination of the role played by Canadians in the European colonisation of Africa in the nineteenth century’, and an exhibition which would be ‘a reflexive analysis of the nature of the museum itself and an exam ination of the history of its African collection’ (Cannizzo, 1990b).

The layout of the exhibition was designed to take visitors on a journey through time, beginning with Victorian Ontario, and leading through the Military Hall, the Missionary Room, and into the Africa Room (Cannizzo, 1989; 1991). It was Cannizzo’s intention that the exhibition should examine the attitudes of the Canadian missionaries and military personnel who were involved in British endeavours to colonise and convert the African nations, ‘a seldom-remembered aspect of Canadian history’, and so illustrate the ignorance and ‘cultural arro gance’ of the white missionaries who failed to recognise the complexity and sophistication of the African peoples whom they encountered. Cannizzo used period photographs and quotations to convey ‘the European view of the conti nent at that time’ (Cannizzo, 1991: 152). In the text, inverted commas were used to identify phrases such as ‘barbarous’ and ‘savage customs’ as quotations from nineteenth-century sources. It was a sophisticated message which was not, apparently, successfully communicated to many of the visitors. Despite the punc tuation, it soon became clear that many of those who criticised the exhibition appeared to be unable to distinguish between the views of the museum itself, and the views of the nineteenth-century colonialists being conveyed in the photo graphs and texts. Indeed, the use of inverted commas in this context is highly ambiguous: the incorporation of a quotation does not exclusively indicate oppo sition to the quoted views, but can indicate entirely the opposite. It should, perhaps, not be surprising then that this subtle message was not understood by those whose experiences of twentieth-century racism may have led them to expect little more than nineteenth-century views from a predominantly white institution with little or no record of liaison with the black community.

The second half of the exhibition examined African artistry and the complexities of world views, utilising more conventional museological methods to display the fine artefacts from the museum’s African collection. Initially, the exhibition attracted praise from critics and the media, with descriptions such as ‘fascinating African exhibit’ and ‘a revealing journey through space and time’. However, four months after it had opened, a group of black protesters began to organise weekly demonstrations outside the museum. They complained that artefacts, seen as the souvenirs of missionaries and soldiers, were to them ‘the spoils of war’ (cited in Todd, 1990), ‘art objects that have been stolen from the African people’ (Asante, 1990); that the exhibition did not tell their story, a concept that it was in no way intended to address; neither was it intended to provide a defin itive interpretation of nineteenth-century African art and culture. The exhibition was primarily an examination of the attitudes, values and motives of white Canadians in Africa between 1875 and 1925.

The black Canadian protesters established the Coalition for the Truth about Africa, an umbrella group for a number of local black organisations. They pro duced a leaflet criticising the exhibition, stating that it ‘glorifies and rationalizes Canada’s Racist, Colonialist past of PLUNDER, RAPE AND RACIST ECON OMIC AND CULTURAL EXPLOITATION OF AFRICAN NATIONS’ (sic) (CTA, nd). Weekend visitors to the exhibition had to face the banners and chanting of pickets outside the museum. The ROM took out an injunction to restrict the demonstrators from entering the immediate vicinity of the museum. Demonstrations outside the museum became violent as demonstrators and police clashed. Extensive and detailed press coverage gave the impression that the demonstrations were larger and more frequent than they were. The Toron to Board of Education School Programs Committee deemed the exhibition unsuitable for pupils at primary and junior secondary levels. The venues to which it was due to tour in other parts of Canada and in the United States cancelled their bookings. Whereas Cannizzo had set out to expose the racist attitudes prevalent amongst nineteenth-century colonialists, Into the Heart of Africa was, as Robert Fulford wrote in Rotunda, ‘accused of the crime it depicted’ (Fulford 1991: 21).

Sometimes such adverse reactions to an exhibition may be caused by under lying political intentions on the part of the protesters. It is strongly felt by many who were close observers of the incidents, or actively involved with Into the Heart of Africa, that the exhibition was used as a political platform by black activists, just as three years earlier, The Spirit Sings was unashamedly used by the Lubicon Lake Cree to attract international attention to their grievances."

--- Making representations : museums in the post-colonial era / Moira G. Simpson.
In Defense of Prejudice: Why Incendiary Speech Must Be Protected
Jonathan Rauch, Harper's Magazine
1 May 1995

A broad coalition of well-meaning individuals support restrictions on hate speech, but such restrictions are misguided and run counter to important notions about liberty. A more pluralistic approach, in which people are allowed to express and debate hateful notions, leads to better results.

The war on prejudice is now, in all likelihood, the most uncontroversial social movement in America. Opposition to "hate speech," formerly identified with the liberal left, has become a bipartisan piety. In the past year, groups and factions that agree on nothing else have agreed that the public expression of any and all prejudices must be forbidden. On the left, protesters and editorialists have insisted that Francis Lawrence resign as president of Rutgers University for describing blacks as "a disadvantaged population that doesn't have that genetic, hereditary background to have a higher average." On the other side of the ideological divide, Ralph Reed, the executive director of the Christian Coalition, responded to criticism of the religious right by calling a press conference to denounce a supposed outbreak of "name-calling, scapegoating, and religious bigotry." Craig Rogers, an evangelical Christian student at California State University, recently filed a $2.5 million sexual-harassment suit against a lesbian professor of psychology, claiming that anti-male bias in one of her lectures violated campus rules and left him feeling "raped and trapped."

In universities and on Capitol Hill, in workplaces and newsrooms, authorities are declaring that there is no place for racism, sexism, homophobia, Christian-bashing, and other forms of prejudice in public debate or even in private thought. "Only when racism and other forms of prejudice are expunged," say the crusaders for sweetness and light, "can minorities be safe and society be fair." So sweet, this dream of a world without prejudice. But the very last thing society should do is seek to utterly eradicate racism and other forms of prejudice.

I suppose I should say, in the customary I-hope-I-don't-sound-too-defensive tone, that I am not a racist and that this is not an article favoring racism or any other particular prejudice. It is an article favoring intellectual pluralism, which permits the expression of various forms of bigotry and always will. Although we like to hope that a time will come when no one will believe that people come in types and that each type belongs with its own kind, I doubt such a day will ever arrive. By all indications, Homo sapiens is a tribal species for whom "us versus them" comes naturally and must be continually pushed back. Where there is genuine freedom of expression, there will be racist expression. There will also be people who believe that homosexuals are sick or threaten children or--especially among teenagers--are rightful targets of manly savagery. Homosexuality will always be incomprehensible to most people, and what is incomprehensible is feared. As for anti-Semitism, it appears to be a hardier virus than influenza. If you want pluralism, then you get racism and sexism and homophobia, and communism and fascism and xenophobia and tribalism, and that is just for a start. If you want to believe in intellectual freedom and the progress of knowledge and the advancement of science and all those other good things, then you must swallow hard and accept this: for as thickheaded and wayward an animal as us, the realistic question is how to make the best of prejudice, not how to eradicate it.

Indeed, "eradicating prejudice" is so vague a proposition as to be meaningless. Distinguishing prejudice reliably and nonpolitically from non-prejudice, or even defining it crisply, is quite hopeless. We all feel we know prejudice when we see it. But do we! At the University of Michigan, a student said in a classroom discussion that he considered homosexuality a disease treatable with therapy. He was summoned to a formal disciplinary hearing for violating the school's policy against speech that "victimizes" people based on "sexual orientation." Now, the evidence is abundant that this particular hypothesis is wrong, and any American homosexual can attest to the harm that the student's hypothesis has inflicted on many real people. But was it a statement of prejudice or of misguided belief? Hate speech or hypothesis? Many Americans who do not regard themselves as bigots or haters believe that homosexuality is a treatable disease. They may be wrong, but are they all bigots? I am unwilling to say so, and if you are willing, beware. The line between a prejudiced belief and a merely controversial one is elusive, and the harder you look the more elusive it becomes. "God hates homosexuals" is a statement of fact, not of bias, to those who believe it; "American criminals are disproportionately black" is a statement of bias, not of fact, to those who disbelieve it.

Who is right? You may decide, and so may others, and there is no need to agree. That is the great innovation of intellectual pluralism (which is to say, of post-Enlightenment science, broadly defined). We cannot know in advance or for sure which belief is prejudice and which is truth, but to advance knowledge we don't need to know. The genius of intellectual pluralism lies not in doing away with prejudices and dogmas but in channeling them--making them socially productive by pitting prejudice against prejudice and dogma against dogma, exposing all to withering public criticism. What survives at the end of the day is our base of knowledge.

What they told us in high school about this process is very largely a lie. The Enlightenment tradition taught us that science is orderly, antiseptic, rational, the province of detached experimenters and high-minded logicians. In the popular view, science stands for reason against prejudice, open-mindedness against dogma, calm consideration against passionate attachment--all personified by pop-science icons like the magisterially deductive Sherlock Holmes, the coolly analytic Mr. Spock, the genially authoritative Mr. Science (from our junior-high science films). Yet one of science's dirty secrets is that although science as a whole is as unbiased as anything human can be, scientists are just as biased as anyone else, sometimes more so. "One of the strengths of science," writes the philosopher of science David L. Hull, "is that it does not require that scientists be unbiased, only that different scientists have different biases." Another dirty secret is that, no less than the rest of us, scientists can be dogmatic and pigheaded. "Although this pigheadedness often damages the careers of individual scientists," says Hull, "it is beneficial for the manifest goal of science," which relies on people to invest years in their ideas and defend them passionately. And the dirtiest secret of all, if you believe in the antiseptic popular view of science, is that this most ostensibly rational of enterprises depends on the most irrational of motives--ambition, narcissism, animus, even revenge. "Scientists acknowledge that among their motivations are natural curiosity, the love of truth, and the desire to help humanity, but other inducements exist as well, and one of them is to 'get that son of a bitch,'" says Hull. "Time and again, scientists whom I interviewed described the powerful spur that 'showing that son of a bitch' supplied to their own research."

Many people, I think, are bewildered by this unvarnished and all too human view of science. They believe that for a system to be unprejudiced, the people in it must also be unprejudiced. In fact, the opposite is true. Far from eradicating ugly or stupid ideas and coarse or unpleasant motives, intellectual pluralism relies upon them to excite intellectual passion and redouble scientific effort. I know of no modern idea more ugly and stupid than that the Holocaust never happened, nor any idea more viciously motivated. Yet the deniers' claims that the Auschwitz gas chambers could not have worked led to closer study and, in 1993, research showing, at last, how they actually did work. Thanks to prejudice and stupidity, another opening for doubt has been shut.

An enlightened and efficient intellectual regime lets a million prejudices bloom, including many that you or I may regard as hateful or grotesque. It avoids any attempt to stamp out prejudice, because stamping out prejudice really means forcing everyone to share the same prejudice, namely that of whoever is in authority. The great American philosopher Charles Sanders Peirce; wrote in 1877: "When complete agreement could not otherwise be reached, a general massacre of all who have not thought in a certain way has proved a very effective means of settling opinion in a country." In speaking of "settling opinion," Peirce was writing about one of the two or three most fundamental problems that any human society must confront and solve. For most societies down through the centuries, this problem was dealt with in the manner he described: errors were identified by the authorities--priests, politburos, dictators--or by mass opinion, and then the error-makers were eliminated along with their putative mistakes. "Let all men who reject the established belief be terrified into silence," wrote Peirce, describing this system. "This method has, from the earliest times, been one of the chief means of upholding correct theological and political doctrines."

Intellectual pluralism substitutes a radically different doctrine: we kill our mistakes rather than each other. Here I draw on another great philosopher, the late Karl Popper, who pointed out that the critical method of science "consists in letting our hypotheses die in our stead." Those who are in error are not (or are not supposed to be) banished or excommunicated or forced to sign a renunciation or required to submit to "rehabilitation" or sent for psychological counseling. It is the error we punish, not the errant. By letting people make errors--even mischievous, spiteful errors (as, for instance, Galileo's insistence on Copernicanism was taken to be in 1633)--pluralism creates room to challenge orthodoxy, think imaginatively, experiment boldly. Brilliance and bigotry are empowered in the same stroke.

Pluralism is the principle that protects and makes a place in human company for that loneliest and most vulnerable of all minorities, the minority who is hounded and despised among blacks and whites, gays and straights, who is suspect or criminal among every tribe and in every nation of the world, and yet on whom progress depends: the dissident. I am not saying that dissent is always or even usually enlightened. Most of the time it is foolish and self-serving. No dissident has the right to be taken seriously, and the fact that Aryan Nation racists or Nation of Islam anti-Semites are unorthodox does not entitle them to respect. But what goes around comes around. As a supporter of gay marriage, for example, I reject the majority's view of family, and as a Jew I reject its view of God. I try to be civil, but the fact is that most Americans regard my views on marriage as a reckless assault on the most fundamental of all institutions, and many people are more than a little discomfited by the statement "Jesus Christ was no more divine than anybody else" (which is why so few people ever say it). Trap the racists and anti-Semites, and you lay a trap for me too. Hunt for them with eradication in your mind, and you have brought dissent itself within your sights.

The new crusade against prejudice waves aside such warnings. Like earlier crusades against antisocial ideas, the mission is fueled by good (if cocksure) intentions and a genuine sense of urgency. Some kinds of error are held to be intolerable, like pollutants that: even in small traces poison the water for a whole town. Some errors are so pernicious as to damage real people's lives, so wrongheaded that no person of right mind or goodwill could support them. Like their forebears of other stripe--the Church in its campaigns against heretics, the McCarthyites in their campaigns against Communists--the modern anti-racist and anti-sexist and anti-homophobic campaigners are totalists, demanding not that misguided ideas and ugly expressions be corrected or criticized but that they be eradicated. They make war not on errors but on error, and like other totalists they act in the name of public safety--the safety, especially, of minorities.

The sweeping implications of this challenge to pluralism are not, I think, well enough understood by the public at large. Indeed, the new brand of totalism has yet even to be properly named. "Multiculturalism," for instance, is much too broad. "Political correctness" comes closer but is too trendy and snide. For lack of anything else, I will call the new antipluralism "purism," since its major tenet is that society cannot be just until the last traces of invidious prejudice have been scrubbed away. Whatever you call it, the purists' way of seeing things has spread through American intellectual life with remarkable speed, so much so that many people will blink at you uncomprehendingly or even call you a racist (or sexist or homophobe, etc.) if you suggest that expressions of racism should be tolerated or that prejudice has its part to play.

The new purism sets out, to begin with, on a campaign against words, for words are the currency of prejudice, and if prejudice is hurtful then so must be prejudiced words. "We are not safe when these violent words are among us," wrote Mari Matsuda, then a UCLA law professor. Here one imagines gangs of racist words swinging chains and smashing heads in back alleys. To suppress bigoted language seems, at first blush, reasonable, but it quickly leads to a curious result. A peculiar kind of verbal shamanism takes root, as though certain expressions, like curses or magical incantations, carry in themselves the power to hurt or heal--as though words were bigoted rather than people. "Context is everything," people have always said.

The use of the word "nigger" in Huckleberry Finn does not make the book an "act" of hate speech--or does it? In the new view, this is no longer so clear. The very utterance of the word "nigger" (at least by a non-black) is a racist act. When a Sacramento Bee cartoonist put the word "nigger" mockingly in the mouth of a white supremacist, there were howls of protest and 1,400 canceled subscriptions and an editorial apology, even though the word was plainly being invoked against racists, not against blacks.

Faced with escalating demands of verbal absolutism, newspapers issue lists of forbidden words. The expressions "gyp" (derived from "Gypsy") and "Dutch treat" were among the dozens of terms stricken as "offensive" in a much-ridiculed (and later withdrawn) Los Angeles Times speech code. The University of Missouri journalism school issued a Dictionary of Cautionary Words and Phrases, which included "Buxom: Offensive reference to a woman's chest. Do not use. See 'Woman.' Codger: Offensive reference to a senior citizen."

As was bound to happen, purists soon discovered that chasing around after words like "gyp" or "buxom" hardly goes to the roots of the problem. As long as they remain bigoted, bigots will simply find other words. If they can't call you a kike then they will say Jewboy, Judas, or Hebe, and when all those are banned they will press words like "oven" and "lampshade" into their service. The vocabulary of hate is potentially as rich as your dictionary, and all you do by banning language used by cretins is to let them decide what the rest of us may say. The problem, some purists have concluded, must therefore go much deeper than laws: it must go to the deeper level of ideas. Racism, sexism, homophobia, and the rest must be built into the very structure of American society and American patterns of thought, so pervasive yet so insidious that, like water to a fish, they are both omnipresent and unseen. The mere existence of prejudice constructs a society whose very nature is prejudiced.

This line of thinking was pioneered by feminists, who argued that pornography, more than just being expressive, is an act by which men construct an oppressive society. Racial activists quickly picked up the argument. Racist expressions are themselves acts of oppression, they said. "All racist speech constructs the social reality that constrains the liberty of nonwhites because of their race," wrote Charles R. Lawrence III, then a law professor at Stanford. From the purist point of view, a society with even one racist is a racist society, because the idea itself threatens and demeans its targets. They cannot feel wholly safe or wholly welcome as long as racism is present. Pluralism says: There will always be some racists. Marginalize them, ignore them, exploit them, ridicule them, take pains to make their policies illegal, but otherwise leave them alone. Purists say: That's not enough. Society cannot be just until these pervasive and oppressive ideas are searched out and eradicated.

And so what is now under way is a growing drive to eliminate prejudice from every corner of society. I doubt that many people have noticed how far-reaching this anti-pluralist movement is becoming.

In universities: Dozens of universities have adopted codes proscribing speech or other expression that (this is from Stanford's policy, which is more or less representative) "is intended to insult or stigmatize an individual or a small number of individuals on the basis of their sex, race, color, handicap, religion, sexual orientation or national and ethnic origin." Some codes punish only persistent harassment of a targeted individual, but many, following the purist doctrine that even one racist is too many, go much further. At Penn, an administrator declared: "We at the University of Pennsylvania have guaranteed students and the community that they can live in a community free of sexism, racism, and homophobia." Here is the purism that gives "political correctness" its distinctive combination of puffy high-mindedness and authoritarian zeal.

In school curricula: "More fundamental than eliminating racial segregation has to be the removal of racist thinking, assumptions, symbols, and materials in the curriculum," writes theorist Molefi Kete Asante. In practice, the effort to "remove racist thinking" goes well beyond striking egregious references from textbooks. In many cases it becomes a kind of mental engineering in which students are encouraged to see prejudice everywhere; it includes teaching identity politics as an antidote to internalized racism; it rejects mainstream science as "white male" thinking; and it tampers with history, installing such dubious notions as that the ancient Greeks stole their culture from Africa or that an ancient carving of a bird is an example of "African experimental aeronautics."

In criminal law: Consider two crimes. In each, I am beaten brutally; in each, my jaw is smashed and my skull is split in just the same way. However, in the first crime my assailant calls me an "asshole"; in the second he calls me a "queer." In most states, in many localities, and, as of September 1994, in federal cases, these two crimes are treated differently: the crime motivated by bias--or deemed to be so motivated by prosecutors and juries--gets a stiffer punishment. "Longer prison terms for bigots," shrilled Brooklyn Democratic Congressman Charles Schumer, who introduced the federal hate-crimes legislation, and those are what the law now provides. Evidence that the assailant holds prejudiced beliefs, even if he doesn't actually express them while committing an offense, can serve to elevate the crime. Defendants in hate-crimes cases may be grilled on how many black friends they have and whether they have told racist jokes. To increase a prison sentence only because of the defendant's "prejudice" (as gauged by prosecutor and jury) is, of course, to try minds and punish beliefs. Purists say, Well, they are dangerous minds and poisonous beliefs.

In the workplace: Though government cannot constitutionally suppress bigotry directly, it is now busy doing so indirectly by requiring employers to eliminate prejudice. Since the early 1980s, courts and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission have moved to bar workplace speech deemed to create a hostile or abusive working environment for minorities. The law, held a federal court in 1988, "does require that an employer take prompt action to prevent...bigots from expressing their opinions in a way that abuses or offends their co-workers," so as to achieve "the goal of eliminating prejudices and biases from our society." So it was, as UCLA law professor Eugene Volokh notes, that the EEOC charged that a manufacturer's ads using admittedly accurate depictions of samurai, kabuki, and sumo were "racist" and "offensive to people of Japanese origin"; that a Pennsylvania court found that an employer's printing Bible verses on paychecks was religious harassment of Jewish employees; that an employer had to desist using gender-based job titles like "foreman" and "draftsman" after a female employee sued.

On and on the campaign goes, darting from one outbreak of prejudice to another like a cat chasing flies. In the American Bar Association, activists demand that lawyers who express "bias or prejudice" be penalized. In the Education Department, the civil-rights office presses for a ban on computer bulletin board comments that "show hostility toward a person or group based on sex, race or color, including slurs, negative stereotypes, jokes or pranks." In its security checks for government jobs, the FBI takes to asking whether applicants are "free of biases against any class of citizens," whether, for instance, they have told racist jokes or indicated other "prejudices." Joke police! George Orwell, grasping the close relationship of jokes to dissent, said that every joke is a tiny revolution. The purists will have no such rebellions.

The purist campaign reaches, in the end, into the mind itself. In a lecture at the University of New Hampshire, a professor compared writing to sex ("You and the subject become one"); he was suspended and required to apologize, but what was most insidious was the order to undergo university-approved counseling to have his mind straightened out. At the University of Pennsylvania, a law lecturer said, "We have ex-slaves here who should know about the Thirteenth Amendment"; he was banished from campus for a year and required to make a public apology, and he, too, was compelled to attend a "sensitivity and racial awareness" session. Mandatory re-education of alleged bigots is the natural consequence of intellectual purism. Prejudice must be eliminated!

Ah, but the task of scouring minds clean is Augean. "Nobody escapes," said a Rutgers University report on campus prejudice. Bias and prejudice, it found, cross every conceivable line, from sex to race to politics: "No matter who you are, no matter what the color of your skin, no matter what your gender or sexual orientation, no matter what you believe, no matter how you behave, there is somebody out there who doesn't like people of your kind." Charles Lawrence writes: "Racism is ubiquitous. We are all racists." If he means that most of us think racist thoughts of some sort at one time or another, he is right. If we are going to "eliminate prejudices and biases from our society," then the work of the prejudice police is unending. They are doomed to hunt and hunt and hunt, scour and scour and scour.

What is especially dismaying is that the jurists pursue prejudice in the name of protecting minorities. In order to protect people like me (homosexual), they must pursue people like me (dissident). In order to bolster minority self-esteem, they suppress minority opinion. There are, of course, all kinds of practical and legal problems with the purists' campaign: the incursions against the First Amendment; the inevitable abuses by prosecutors and activists who define as "hateful" or "violent" whatever speech they dislike or can score paints off of; the lack of any evidence that repressing prejudice eliminates rather than inflames it. But minorities, of all people, ought to remember that by definition we cannot prevail by numbers, and we generally cannot prevail by force. Against the power of ignorant mass opinion and group prejudice and superstition, we have only our voices. If you doubt that minorities' voices are powerful weapons, think of the lengths to which Southern officials went to silence the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. (recall that the city commissioner of Montgomery, Alabama, won a $500,000 libel suit, later overturned in New York Times v. Sullivan [1964], regarding an advertisement in the Times placed by civil-rights leaders who denounced the Montgomery police). Think of how much gay people have improved their lot over twenty-five years simply by refusing to remain silent. Recall the Michigan student who was prosecuted for saying that homosexuality is a treatable disease, and notice that he was black. Under that Michigan speech code, more than twenty blacks were charged with racist speech, while no instance of racist speech by whites was punished. In Florida, the hate-speech law was invoked against a black man who called a policeman a "white cracker"; not so surprisingly, in the first hate-crimes case to reach the Supreme Court, the victim was white and the defendant black.

In the escalating war against "prejudice," the right is already learning to play by the rules that were pioneered by the purist activists of the left. Last year leading Democrats, including the President, criticized the Republican Party for being increasingly in the thrall of the Christian right. Some of the rhetoric was harsh ("fire-breathing Christian radical right"), but it wasn't vicious or even clearly wrong. Never mind: when Democratic Representative Vic Fazio said Republicans were "being forced to the fringes by the aggressive political tactics of the religious right," the chairman of the Republican National Committee, Haley Barbour, said, "Christian-bashing" was "the left's preferred form of religious bigotry." Bigotry! Prejudice! "Christians active in politics are now on the receiving end of an extraordinary campaign of bias and prejudice," said the conservative leader William J. Bennett. One discerns, here, where the new purism leads. Eventually, any criticism of any group will be "prejudice."

Here is the ultimate irony of the new purism: words, which pluralists hope can be substituted for violence, are redefined by purists as violence.

"The experience of being called 'nigger,' 'spic,' 'Jap,' or 'kike' is like receiving a slap in the face," Charles Lawrence wrote in 1990. "Psychic injury is no less an injury than being struck in the face, and it often is far more severe." This kind of talk is commonplace today. Epithets, insults, often even polite expressions of what's taken to be prejudice are called by purists "assaultive speech," "words that wound," "verbal violence." "To me, racial epithets are not speech," one University of Michigan law professor said. "They are bullets." In her speech accepting the 1993 Nobel Prize for Literature in Stockholm, Sweden, the author Toni Morrison said this: "Oppressive language does more than represent violence; it is violence."

It is not violence. I am thinking back to a moment on the subway in Washington, a little thing. I was riding home late one night and a squad of noisy kids, maybe seventeen or eighteen years old, noisily piled into the car. They yelled across the car and a girl said, "Where do we get off?"

A boy said, "Farragut North."

The girl: "Faggot North!"

The boy: "Yeah! Faggot North!"

General hilarity.

First, before the intellect resumes control, there is a moment of fear, an animal moment. Who are they? How many of them? How dangerous? Where is the way out? All of these things are noted preverbally and assessed by the gut. Then the brain begins an assessment: they are sober, this is probably too public a place for them to do it, there are more girls than boys, they were just talking, it is probably nothing.

They didn't notice me and there was no incident. The teenage babble flowed on, leaving me to think. I became interested in my own reaction: the jump of fear out of nowhere like an alert animal, the sense for a brief time that one is naked and alone and should hide or run away. For a time, one ceases to be a human being and becomes instead a faggot.

The fear engendered by these words is real. The remedy is as clear and as imperfect as ever: protect citizens against violence. This, I grant, is something that American society has never done very well and now does quite poorly. It is no solution to define words as violence or prejudice as oppression, and then by cracking down on words or thoughts pretend that we are doing something about violence and oppression. No doubt it is easier to pass a speech code or hate-crimes law and proclaim the streets safer than actually to make the streets safer, but the one must never be confused with the other. Every cop or prosecutor chasing words is one fewer chasing criminals. In a world rife with real violence and oppression, full of Rwandas and Bosnias and eleven-year-olds spraying bullets at children in Chicago and in turn being executed by gang lords, it is odious of Toni Morrison to say that words are violence.

Indeed, equating "verbal violence" with physical violence is a treacherous, mischievous business. Not long ago a writer was charged with viciously and gratuitously wounding the feelings and dignity of millions of people. He was charged, in effect, with exhibiting flagrant prejudice against Muslims and outrageously slandering their beliefs. "What is freedom of expression?" mused Salman Rushdie a year after the ayatollahs sentenced him to death and put a price on his head. "Without the freedom to offend, it ceases to exist." I can think of nothing sadder than that minority activists, in their haste to make the world better, should be the ones to forget the lesson of Rushdie's plight: for minorities, pluralism, not purism, is the answer. The campaigns to eradicate prejudice--all of them, the speech codes and workplace restrictions and mandatory therapy for accused bigots and all the rest--should stop, now. The whole objective of eradicating prejudice, as opposed to correcting and criticizing it, should be repudiated as a fool's errand. Salman Rushdie is right, Toni Morrison wrong, and minorities belong at his side, not hers.

Although abolishing racial and social prejudice has become a major goal of the US in recent years, eradicating racism and other forms of prejudice is the very last thing that a society should do. Prejudice is a natural by-product of intellectual pluralism, the freedom to think any way one chooses.
random conversation snippet

Me: aiyah it's hard to explain one day i'll give you the lecture about my family and its influences on my psyche. as in extended family.

i have written long diary rants about it.

Gabriel: you very free
and people say that to me
hah

Me: long diary rants FROM WHEN I WAS IN UNI.

The reason why i don't post diary entries .... so much these days is because 99.9% of the writing is along the lines of :"work sucks. i'm lonely. i'm horny. i want to kill myself"

at least when i was uni it was only about 90%
so there was about 9.9% of fairly interesting, non angsty stuff. and the (majority) 90% diddn't have "work sucks" prefacing it.

okay it had "exams suck" once in a while:). but exams weren't a constant fact of life the way work is.
(While planning a spring holiday to either Eastern Europe or Belgium/Champagne-Ardennes with Gabriel and watching him dither as to where to go)

"actually if you're coming i'd prefer the baltic states. so that you won't have to meet my uncle/aunt (with whom I was planning to crash with in Belgium) - i just got an sms from my mom

"i heard from uncle that you want to visit? are you going alone? when? how long? who are you going with? mummy and daddy are waiting for when you can introduce a nice girl to us."

that was five minutes ago

while my uncle and aunt are extrmeely liberal european types (who would be completely tolerant of homosexual jaunts) i'd rather not drive my parents closer to the grave if they find out we're taking romantic romps in the french countryside.

i'll ask the Cock to come along so we don't look like a gay romp. or i can tell my aunt you and jk are the gay couple"
On feminism:

Female friend: uhh...ask them to go to other countries where women are truly oppressed to go rant and rave lah

Gay friend: [feminists]'re all screwed in the head, rather than their CB

if you ignore the annoyance it causes it's really about trying not to give cliches their due
but they just don't have the grace to stop being annoying

it's really a matter of graciousness, rather than a right-or-wrong thing

Someone: most of them are just ugly hypocrites

look at andrea dworkin

can anyone really put their hand on their heart and say that they think dworkin would be such a hardcore feminist if she looked like paris hilton?

Someone else: Meh the problem with most modern feminist is that they strive for empowerment instead of equality

equality reaches a balance which must then be maintained
empowerment merely seeks more power

Until they themselves yearn to become the oppressors, demanding it in the name of equality

Someone: feminist... what kind?

the equality kind?
or the bra-burning RGS girl kind?

***

MFS: the weirdest class i've taken in my life
combining law, public policy, philosophy,
economic analysis and some history all into one

its called "Environemntal PolicY'
the professor has a Ph.D in Economics from MIT
fucking scary

he specializes in Ecological Economics
and Environmental Economics

basically the whole class has taught me that everything I learnt in the last few semesters is wrong wrong wrong

and i'm in this other econ class with regards to asymetric infomation in economics
and basically its telling me everything i've learnt so far is also wrong

Me: haha naturally

MFS: the other professor has the Ph.D in Economics from harvard... and he says

"everything in your textbook is BS"
"your textbook has not been revised in 150 years, frankly its all BS"

it was hilarious

Me: you didn't know meh

no it has been revised
to add maths

MFS: mathematics

the new era in political science
with be the formalization of it using mathematics

that's the so called very hot area now
using mathematics to predict politics

you know
as much as i'd like to say it isn't
everyday i seem to get compellingly more disillusioned with
the whole foundation of economic theory

my friend's dad teaches econ at NTU
and he proclaimed to me like in 2001
that everything we are learning in econ is bullshit

the folk in SMU are having a damn good time man!
just party party party only

Me: haha they claim not

MFS: all their fb pictures is taken at parties

i'm adding all the jokers
i knew from singapore onto facebook now
and pretty much all the I LUV SMOO kids
are zouk's biggest bottom line contributers

...

in my civil rights class - i learnt that the first migrants to america in the 1860s.. these chinese would often marry black women

and they'd also end up being doubly discriminated against

pretty interesting

Me: oh good
no one likes chinese men
no one likes black women

tada

...

MFS: american girls are more forgiving

i've had more luck with american girls
thn singaporean girls who are not even half as hot

singaporean girls want money
security
a good life
but give little in return


Someone: *sends me the Nodame Cantabile version of the first movement of Beethoven's 7th*
a friend who has piano grade 8 claimed not to have heard e song b4

Me: singaporeans are very... task oriented
they only do what they need to do
like they only read textbooks

Someone: more of result oriented

i guess
tt's y life is a bore here

i wondered how on earth my friend managed to get piano grade 8

Me: same way how people can get A1 in AO level chinese
but be unable to speak it


MFTTW: extremely intelligent men go completely irrational when faced with a target of choice.

especiaelly the testosterone-bearing kinds

see if nothing else at least women you can COUNT on them to be irrational
for men... geez, only when the penis comes into play
and how do you know WHEN that is

hahahahahahahaha


Someone: it sorta reminds me of this christian junior of mine... we went to some soka concert... she was quite disturbed with all the prayer/chanting prior to beginning of the concert

Me: wow
so now she knows what it feels like on the other side of the fence
A gem I received in my comments box:


Hi fatty,

why SO sedated now when bashing God? Timid cowardly little, oops I mean big scardy cat you sound like now- a very far cry from your former self.

Oh yeah! You managed to find a spare computer to use? Or do you go to cybercafes to write your poison essays now? Hahaha!!!!!!!!

Oh btw work has already been carried out to ensure the psychological safety of our innocent school children, that your accomplice Voctir's deeds catch up with him. His day of reckoning has arrived. Deletion of evidence is an exercise of futility- sigh i can't stress that further without guffawing.

All of us WILL NOT CEASE to ensure that you and your friends receive the sentences that commensurate with your crimes.

Meanwhile, we also invite your other friends, the ones who fervently defended you by setting up hate-blog posts for me to loyally show their support to you two now by writing more of such. This sudden sedation from the lot of you- including scardy cat voctir is SO SO SO SO hard to get used to.

Love you always!

Cheryl
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