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Monday, November 20, 2006



Too slow for the interweb?
To keep up in the world of blogging you have to move fast. A day or so of deliberation and you are left trailing in the wake of writers who operate a little closer to the edge of current affairs.

Two stories that it now seems redundant to spend too long commenting on are ‘the chicken time bomb scenario’ – I have, quite brazenly, stolen this title from Chicken Yoghurt, on the basis that it was too good not to – and ‘electrifying student profiling’.

The Chicken Time Bomb Scenario
The best coverage of the controversy revolving around Halal chicken being served at a school Christmas dinner are offered at Chicken Yogurt, Five Chinese Crackers and Not Saussure.

As far as my own thoughts go, I will say, without equivocation, that the objection is nothing more than racism. Show me another explanation. If the parents are objecting on the basis of animal cruelty, then I hope that they are rejecting the vast majority of meat. But they are not, are they? The industrial farming and butchery practices that deliver non-Halal chickens to our plate are uncontroversial. If the parents are objecting on the basis that, as ‘Christians’*, they have a theological objection, then I challenge them to make this case. But they have not, and they will be unable to without stepping well beyond the boundaries of the modern, mainstream Christian churches. And if the parents step so far outside the mainstream, then how does their claim to be defending ‘our’ heritage hold water? And if the parents are serious about preserving ‘our’ cultural heritage, then I ask them; what on Earth are you talking about? Is it the eating of chicken that is contrary to our cultural heritage? If so, why not concentrate on the choice of fowl rather than the method of butchery? If butchery is the issue, are these parents really saying that industrially managed farms and slaughterhouses are a key component of ‘our’ heritage?

The answer is none of these. The most generous answer is that there is a BNP provocateur at work, whipping unreflective xenophobia into a racist response. The least generous answer is that in our current climate, produced by the Express, the Mail, the Sun, New Labour, the Conservative Party and the rest, Muslims are inherently threatening, and that the parents of Oakwood are a racist reflection of this. Denis MacShane ought to be ashamed of himself for pandering to the bigoted politics at work here.

I challenge anyone to give me one good reason why serving Halal chicken should be in any way controversial for a ‘Christian’ happy to eat industrially produced meat.

Electrifying Student Profiling
The story of the Iranian-American student being singled out for an ID check at a UCLA library and, when he objects, being repeatedly tasered by campus security is offered at Lenin’s Tomb. All I can add is an edited round-up of the comments I left at Europhobia.

UCLA is, remember, an elite university. Imagine how American security forces treat the underprivileged – and in court, underrepresented – sections of the United States citizenry. Imagine how they treat foreigners. Imagine how they treat foreigners abroad, out of the sight of camera phones and off the radar of well-motivated and well-rewarded lawyers.

I could not see the porters at any UK university that I have been to behaving in this way. For one thing they do not have tasers.

This is not a facetious point. I have never been happy with the enthusiasm shown by some liberals for ‘non-lethal’ weapons. This unease has nothing to do with the actual lethality of these weapons, and everything to do with the way that non-lethal, but still coercive and forceful options for paramilitary control can change the ‘mind’ of the state. Given ‘non-lethal’ weapons, is it not reasonable to expect our security services to become incautious and immoderate in their use of force?

There is a big difference between making the decision to disperse a crowd by firing into it, and making the decision to disperse a crowd by the deployment of non-lethal weapons. If the non-lethal weapons are as good as their advocates would have us believe, the latter option is just as certain and coercive a means of control. But the decision is far easier to take. And it pleases the technological-fix fetishes of the ‘modernity’ crowd.

A police state that only has guns can kill people, but it loses its legitimacy very quickly. A police state that has non-lethal means of paramilitary control can tell itself, quite convincingly, that it is not a police state after all. Remember the mantra that works a fascistic charm; if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear. At least until you have a close encounter with a policeman. Or any other real, human authority figure.

Ah. It seems that in the world of blogging, coming second appears to be no bar to holding forth.

*I know from personal experience, and we all know from the evidence of evolving rhetoric of the BNP, that the word ‘Christian’ is used as a politically disguised placeholder for ‘white’. At the time of the last census I worked in an office staffed by reasonably educated people. For a lunch break or two, discussion in the office revolved around the question of what religion people would claim. The consensus appeared to be that people in the office were ‘Christian’ because we were white and therefore unlike a variously defined ‘them’. No one claimed to go to church, read the Bible or actually believe in God. It therefore infuriated me when my census response – the census response of thousands of others – to claim to be a ‘Jedi’ was declared invalid. This was a claim that was no more or less fake than the claim made by my colleagues, and was, patently, a response made with a greater degree of reflection and consideration.

I thought the whole issue with this taser incident was that (a) tasers are ment to used by the campus police for self defence, not forcing people to comply with what they're asking them to do. And (b) they used the taser on him when he was handcuffed and on the floor.
The main problem with 'non-lethal' weapons such as the taser is the fact that people view them differently from other 'non-lethal' weapons such as 'cricket-bats' and 'iron bars'. If this story was that he was beaten with a bat after failing to produce ID then the reaction in the media would be somewhat different.
Finally, i believe these 'cops' were actually campus security which tends to be students. Andy, I agree with your comments on UK porters but I would hate to see what would happen if some of the 'door-safe' student/thugs I came across at University were armed with a taser....
You really don't get it, do you? And, no doubt you will continue in your unimaginative ignorance until the eruption. In the meantime, you will sneer, with the skill of a sophisticated, 18th c., French 'aristo', at the *real fears* of ordinary people - but then, of course, you are only interested in 'The People'. So this particular and evocative cry of anguish will pass you by: "Mrs Johnson feels ‘my culture is being stolen away from me’." Stupid woman! Doesn't she realise how broadening it is be encroached by Islam?
Our culture has already gone. We used to rear chickens in fields, not factories. Where were Duff and his ilk when that change was allowed to happen?

Too busy checking their Bernard Matthews PLC shares, no doubt, to worry about the real fears of ordinary people who were watching helplessly as their traditions and culture were dismantled and replaced by a series of roundabouts and metal sheds.

Hence the cry: "Don't look at me... Look at the Muslim over there, causing a problem! Vote Duff! I speak for the ordinary man!"
Anonymous has better eyesight than me for I cannot, squint though I may, see any threat from chickens. Militant Muslims, on the other hand, have a tendency to blow me up.
Duff, don't dodge the point. The story has nothing to do with terrorism. It is about Halal chicken and the bigoted objections of a number of parents, objections that are being accomodated by a 'Labour' politician.

I asked for a reasonable objection to the serving of Halal chicken. You haven't given me one.

Even a generic appeal to culture doesn't work, except as cover for a dislike of brown people. If we were that bothered about maintaining our gastronomic cultural integrity we would be campaigning for laws against Pizza Hut and Burger King. We are not, and I would gamble that the children of Oakwood are not fed exclusively on 'traditional British fare' at home. So what is the objection to what, when we get down to it, is chicken?

There is no objection to the chicken. There is an objection to a people. This is part of a mainstream rhetoric that is determined to cast a British minority as un-British.
Shorter Duff: "Yes but, look over there, a Militant Muslim!"

Thank you so much for proving my point.
The relevant Biblical passage is I Corinthians 10, verses 24-25:

Eat anything that is sold in butchers' shops; there is no need to ask questions for conscience's sake, since To the Lord belong the earth and all it contains. If an unbeliever invites you a meal, go if you want to, and eat whatever is put before you; you need not ask questions of conscience first.

The only conceivable problem, he goes on to explain, is if the meat's been sacrificed to idols; then eating it may be a problem, not because there's anything wrong with the food itself but because someone who doesn't understand Christian doctrine might see you eating it, misunderstand your example, and think that it's OK to participate in pagan sacrifices, which it ain't.

Since neither of those considerations apply here, I can't see what the problem is. I can, however, see a great many objections in traditional Christian teaching, not to mention simple good manners, in inviting people to participate in a meal celebrating a Christian feast and then serving them food you know they cannot, or are unwilling to, eat.

Similarly, I can see a great many objections to making a fuss about the menu and insisting on there being a choice of menus available so you can demonstrate your separateness be eating things others are forbidden; St Paul goes on to say (verses 31-32)

Whatever you eat, then, or drink, and whatever else you do, do it all for the glory of God. Never be a cause of offence, either to Jews or to Greeks or to the Church of God,

and I'm pretty sure he'd have added Muslims to the list if they'd been around at the time.
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Re: “the word ‘Christian’ is used as a politically disguised placeholder for ‘white’” – I heard today that the BNP in Barking & Dagenham have submitted a series of motions for a council meeting next week attacking multiculturalism and calling on the council to promote ‘Christian’ values.
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