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Monthly Archives: January 2012

It takes a special kind of incompetence for a political party to assemble a field of candidates so devoid of redeemable aspects as to make them all look  like assholes. Yet somehow, the Republican party has managed it. The race for the White House has seen the GOP’s list of candidates whittled down to four, following the long overdue departure of Texas Governor Rick Perry. Whilst it’s a victory for sanity than this buffoon has dropped out, he has in doing so endorsed moral black hole Newt Gingrich.

Gingrich, the former Speaker of the House of Representatives, has a well documented history of morally reprehensible behaviour. The most recent allegations leveled at him come from his second wife, Marianne. She accuses him of proposing the idea of an open marriage whereby he could continue his marriage to her whilst also continuing his affair with his mistress, Callista Bisek. This is what some people call “having your cake and fucking it.”
He then went on to marry his mistress who is now his current wife. She may have cause for concern as he pulled a similar trick with his first wife, Jackie. Not only did he cheat on her with his soon to be second wife, but she claims that he came to her to discuss the terms of their divorce whilst she was recovering from surgery (something that Newt strongly denies). Ironically, Gingrich was one of the politicians that went after Bill Clinton the hardest following his affair with Monica Lewinski. But then I suppose when you’re not a man of your word, being a hypocrite as well isn’t too much of a leap.

What’s worrying if you’re a Republican (and hilarious if you’re anyone else) is that this man is seen as the most likely person to give Mitt Romney a run for his vast sums of money. Romney, the former Governor of Massachusetts, is relatively moderate amongst this field. I say that, though it’s hard to gauge Romney’s true political stance as he’s well known for changing his viewpoints constantly. If he were to flip-flop anymore you could actually sell him at a beach resort. His sole, consistent trait is his inconsistency. What’s most surprising about his campaign for the White House is that despite being favourite for the nomination, he’s deeply unpopular amongst conservative voters. Why, you might ask? Is it because he hasn’t the courage of his convictions? That he can’t connect with blue-collar Americans on account of being obscenely rich? No. It’s because he’s a Mormon. I guess at least this shows there’s something we know he’ll believe in: absolutely anything.

The other two remaining candidates don’t really fare much better. In Rick Santorum, former Pennsylvania Senator and Libertarian Ron Paul you have craziness as varying ends of the spectrum. Santorum is well know for his socially conservative values. He’s pro-life (a term which I personally detest), staunchly religious (something else I detest), a climate change denier (advocating a “drill everywhere” policy, which is beyond stupid) and perhaps most notably as a staunch critic of homosexuality. Infamously, his last name entered parlance as a term for an incident that sometimes is a result of anal sex following a campaign by writer Dan Savage after Santorum equated homosexuality to bestiality. Fortunately, Santorum isn’t predicted to do very well in South Carolina, despite it being a socially conservative state, it emerging he did in fact win the Iowa caucus and Romney’s floundering and Gingrich’s personal issues.

As for Ron Paul, his Libertarian views should engender him to Republican voters who are really into small government and big business. Yet for some reason he’s still seen as a small time runner, particularly by the news networks and even by many social conservatives who dislike his stance on minimal government interference at home and abroad. In fact the audience during a South Carolina debate actually booed him for saying that maybe, just maybe, the US should adopt a policy of “don’t do to others what you wouldn’t want done to you.”
While by far the most tolerable of the nominees, Paul does have some rather considerable flaws. His Libertarian values shows a support for big business and a deregulated free market, which is arguably what caused this economic mess in the first place. Then, there’s the Ron Paul Investment Newsletter, which contained certain statements that do little to portray him in a positive light. Sentences such as: “I think we can safely assume that 95 percent of the black males in that city are semi-criminal or entirely criminal,” or: “Homosexuals, not to speak of the rest of society, were far better off when social pressure forced them to hide their activities.”
To me, these don’t exactly indicate a tolerant mind. Perhaps Mr Ron Paul would enjoy a conversation with Mr Gingrich and Mr Santorum on the joys of intolerance and bigotry. They’ll certainly need some companionship when Mitt Romney gets picked as the least-liked Republican Presidential nominee of all time.

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There are not many things that I think should be seen as an absolute. However, one thing I do make an exception for is freedom of speech. It is a key aspect of our society, one that should not be diluted. No matter how repugnant we may find what is being said, we have a responsibility as a free society to protect the right of an individual to say what they think. To borrow a well known quote: “I disapprove of what you say, but I’ll defend to the death you’re right to say it.”

This is why the University College of London’s Atheist, Secularist and Humanist Society should be applauded for refusing to bow down to pressure to remove an advertisement for a social event depicting Jesus and Muhammad.

The ad, from the ‘Jesus and Mo’ series of cartoons, was the victim of several complaints by members of the student body. It’s for the benefit of the UCL Student Union that the society took a stand. In these instances, it’s important to remember that people do not have a right to remain unoffended. People like to think that they do. That if people are subjected to something they are offended by then the person who provides the offence should be silenced. I disagree.

In the instance of this cartoon, I see absolutely no reason why a secular University society should get into trouble for using a cartoon of the Islamic prophet. I understand that for Muslims, it is against their religious beliefs to create depictions of Muhammad. But then why should people who don’t subscribe to their beliefs be subject to the same rules? It is obvious to my mind that people should be able to draw and say what they want. People that are going to be offended by such a small thing will likely actively seek out things to be offended by.

In many situations such as this, those in opposition and who feel that religion in particular deserves some sort of respect or protection will attempt to find some sort of hypocrisy or flaws in the argument. Commonly, they’ll say: “What about racism?” Well, what about it? Racism is one of those repugnant things I mentioned earlier. I don’t understand it, I don’t condone it, nor do I like anyone who is a racist. However, would I dare say that a racist couldn’t spread their bile, solely because it offends me? Of course not. I’d like to take the moral high ground and attempt to educate this person out of their ignorance and blind hatred. The same applies to homophobes, sexists, anti-Semites etc.

Certainly I don’t object to the title of being a free speech absolutist and I don’t think anyone should. I maintain that it’s the best way of eliminating ignorance through challenging people’s pre-conceptions. Yes it means that occasionally you will come across things that you don’t like and that may well offend you. But if that makes you examine your opinions and beliefs critically? All the better.