She couldn’t imagine being in the audience when they have a standing ovation for Charlie Hebdo

The Guardian on Rushdie on the Soft-headed Six.

[Francine] Prose told the Associated Press that while she was in favour of “freedom of speech without limitations” and “deplored” the shootings at Charlie Hebdo, the award signified “admiration and respect” for its work and “I couldn’t imagine being in the audience when they have a standing ovation for Charlie Hebdo”.

She doesn’t know what she’s talking about.

Andrew Solomon, president of PEN, told the Guardian that aside from brief exchanges with Carey and writer Deborah Eisenberg, no one had indicated they would not attend the gala over the award before the six letters.

Solomon said that PEN distinguished between the right of free speech and much of what Charlie Hebdo actually published. “The award does not agree with the content of what they expressed,” he said, “it expressed admiration for that commitment of free speech.” [Read more…]

No running for girls

A heart-rending item in the Sydney Morning Herald a few days ago, about girls at an Islamic school being banned from running.

Girls at Al-Taqwa College have been banned from running at sporting events because the principal believes it may cause them to lose their virginity, former teachers claim.

The schools regulator, the Victorian Registration and Qualifications Authority, is investigating the allegations, which have been referred to the state and federal education ministers.
[Read more…]

Spin in the Dawkins Circle

What was that about Dawkins’s never having “proclaimed himself as any kind of atheist ‘leader'”?

What about this then – what about Join the Dawkins Circle?

Reason Circle: $1,000 to $2,499 annually (or $85/month)

  • Invitation to Dawkins Circle member-only event with RDFRS personalities
  • Member-only discount for all purchases in the store

Science Circle: $2,500 to $4,999 annually (or $210/month)

All the benefits listed above, plus:

  • One ticket to an invitation-only Dawkins Circle event with Richard

[Read more…]

Francine Prose again compares Charlie Hebdo to neo-Nazis

Francine Prose expanded on her thoughts in the CBC interview, in a piece for Comment is Free. Her expanded thoughts make my skin crawl.

When I learned that PEN had decided to award the Freedom of Expression Courage Award to Charlie Hebdo, I was dismayed. I had agreed to serve as a literary table host and I wondered what I would do when the crowd around me rose to its feet to applaud an award being given – in my name – to what I felt was an inappropriate recipient.

She still doesn’t understand what Charlie is. She thinks it’s a right-wing racist rag. [Read more…]

Never say never

Speaking of thought leaders…I was looking for something and happened on this article by Jerry Coyne in The New Republic last October. It’s a riposte to an article by John Gray, also in TNR, trashing Richard Dawkins. I can easily believe Gray’s is a crap article, because John Gray seems to specialize in crap articles. But I read the first paragraph of Coyne’s article, and found a claim that I think is absurd.

It’s not a good time to be Richard Dawkins, for he alone, like the scapegoat of Leviticus, must bear the brunt of everyone’s hatred of atheism. (Sam Harris sometimes serves as a backup goat.) Even though Dawkins has never proclaimed himself as any kind of atheist “leader”—his eminence among nonbelievers is purely a byproduct of his books and talks—he is the poster child for atheism, and everyone who hates atheists, including some other atheists, comes down on him.

The claim I think is absurd is that

Dawkins has never proclaimed himself as any kind of atheist “leader”

[Read more…]

The Cosmic Institute of Disruption

Geoff Nunberg told us yesterday on Fresh Air about the fad for the word “disruption,” which I didn’t know was a fad. It reminds me of the fad-word in literary “theory” some years ago, “transgressive.” Same basic idea, innit – we’re new, we’re happenin’, we’re Rebels.

HBO’s Silicon Valley is back, with its pitch-perfect renderings of the culture and language of the tech world — like at the opening of the “Disrupt” startup competition run by the Tech Crunch website at the end of last season. “We’re making the world a better place through scalable fault-tolerant distributed databases” — the show’s writers didn’t have to exercise their imagination much to come up with those little arias of geeky self-puffery, or with the name Disrupt, which, as it happens, is what the Tech Crunch conferences are actually called. As is most everything else these days. “Disrupt” and “disruptive” are ubiquitous in the names of conferences, websites, business school degree programs and business book best-sellers.

[Read more…]

Sabeen was always a woman made of different stuff

Kamila Shamsie writes about her lifelong friend Sabeen Mahmud.

“Be careful,” I said to my childhood friend Sabeen Mahmud when I saw her in London in 2013, soon after she’d received a death threat – neither the first nor last. “Someone has to fight them,” she replied.

Sabeen was always a woman made of different stuff, thanks in large measure to the two great influences of her life: her mother, Mahnaz (shot twice during the attack), from whom she inherited her socialist tendencies, and her friend and mentor Zaheer Kidvai (Zak) who introduced her to the idea of counterculture, via everything from Abbie Hoffman to revolutionary Urdu poets. While most of us at our elite school in Karachi lived in a fairly apolitical bubble, Sabeen was developing class-consciousness and identifying political heroes. Post-university, when most of her schoolfriends were choosing not to return to an increasingly embattled city, she decided to take another approach. [Read more…]

Guest post: We have a long way to go to raze the house that slavery built

Originally a comment by freedmenspatrol on Very much a part of many white Southerners’ identity.

For quite some time, white Southerners actually refused to observe the national Memorial Day. In various places they also didn’t celebrate the Fourth of July. Not so many wave the flag or the other totems as have done in past generations, but plenty of white Americans still do. It’s worked deep into how the culture operates, inside and outside the South. The Second Klan controlled Indiana and Oregon for a while. White Northerners could be absolutely vicious even when they had slavery around for contrast, passing laws excluding black Americans from even living in entire states and demanding those present leave. [Read more…]

“The narrative of white Europeans being killed by Muslim extremists”

The CBC talked to Francine Prose about her hostility to Charlie Hebdo today.

Prose tells As It Happens host Carol Off that despite her objections, she supports the magazine’s right to free speech.

“Free speech is indivisible. If you believe in free speech you believe in any sort of free speech — that you can say anything you want. And that’s absolutely what I believe in and I would include in that everything Charlie Hebdo has done.”

But she says that doesn’t mean Charlie Hebdo deserves the award.

No, it doesn’t; she’s right about that much. They are two separate things.

“We defend the right of neo-nazis to march through Skokie, Illinois but that doesn’t mean we give them an award.”

I’m not even sure I do defend the right of neo-Nazis to march through Skokie, because that’s direct intimidation. I’ve always had reservations about that. [Read more…]