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Birmingham play closed by mob

The Shambles 05 Jan 05 - 06:27 PM
Dave the Gnome 05 Jan 05 - 05:59 PM
The Shambles 05 Jan 05 - 02:02 AM
The Shambles 04 Jan 05 - 02:00 AM
GUEST,heric 03 Jan 05 - 01:01 PM
GUEST,heric 03 Jan 05 - 12:26 PM
Dave the Gnome 03 Jan 05 - 10:23 AM
The Shambles 02 Jan 05 - 12:09 PM
Peter K (Fionn) 02 Jan 05 - 07:37 AM
The Shambles 02 Jan 05 - 07:02 AM
Wolfgang 01 Jan 05 - 04:56 PM
dianavan 01 Jan 05 - 04:30 PM
The Shambles 01 Jan 05 - 12:55 PM
Big Al Whittle 01 Jan 05 - 03:55 AM
GUEST,heric 31 Dec 04 - 11:27 PM
GUEST,heric 31 Dec 04 - 11:14 PM
Peter K (Fionn) 31 Dec 04 - 09:17 PM
McGrath of Harlow 31 Dec 04 - 02:20 PM
The Shambles 31 Dec 04 - 06:45 AM
Wolfgang 30 Dec 04 - 09:46 AM
McGrath of Harlow 30 Dec 04 - 08:55 AM
Peter K (Fionn) 30 Dec 04 - 07:20 AM
CarolC 30 Dec 04 - 04:41 AM
The Shambles 29 Dec 04 - 08:06 PM
Ooh-Aah2 29 Dec 04 - 03:43 PM
The Shambles 29 Dec 04 - 12:34 PM
The Shambles 29 Dec 04 - 12:14 PM
CarolC 29 Dec 04 - 11:22 AM
GUEST 29 Dec 04 - 08:35 AM
The Shambles 29 Dec 04 - 06:24 AM
The Shambles 29 Dec 04 - 06:09 AM
Ooh-Aah2 29 Dec 04 - 06:04 AM
McGrath of Harlow 29 Dec 04 - 05:42 AM
CarolC 28 Dec 04 - 08:59 PM
Once Famous 28 Dec 04 - 06:49 PM
McGrath of Harlow 28 Dec 04 - 06:39 PM
Wolfgang 28 Dec 04 - 06:36 PM
Peter K (Fionn) 28 Dec 04 - 05:04 PM
Wolfgang 28 Dec 04 - 04:42 PM
Ooh-Aah2 28 Dec 04 - 04:13 PM
kendall 28 Dec 04 - 01:15 PM
CarolC 28 Dec 04 - 12:56 PM
Peter K (Fionn) 28 Dec 04 - 11:26 AM
kendall 28 Dec 04 - 08:42 AM
The Shambles 28 Dec 04 - 06:41 AM
McGrath of Harlow 28 Dec 04 - 06:15 AM
The Shambles 28 Dec 04 - 06:05 AM
The Shambles 28 Dec 04 - 05:56 AM
GUEST,Terry K 28 Dec 04 - 04:31 AM
McGrath of Harlow 27 Dec 04 - 05:45 PM
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Subject: RE: Birmingham play closed by mob
From: The Shambles
Date: 05 Jan 05 - 06:27 PM

Dave you were referring to the directions the thread was going. I was addressing the reasons for this quibbling and fence sitting here, rather than the prevention of the play.

You could perhaps say that the mob took the action it did - as it was clear that there was going to be any official censor who was going to get rid of the bits they did not like?

The general point is that if you always accept the principle of the right of others to express their view - you never need to worry about the who, what and why of censorship.

If on the other hand, you think that the right of others to express their view should be rightly prevented sometimes - you then have all the resulting arguments and problems that come with this censorship.

I also consider that always sticking to one's principles is less cause for concern than having none at all or being prepared to sacrifice those that you claim to hold - at the first sign of any difficulty being presented.


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Subject: RE: Birmingham play closed by mob
From: Dave the Gnome
Date: 05 Jan 05 - 05:59 PM

This is a good example of the price that is to be paid when always blindly supporting the principle of censorship. By accepting a censor to make the decisions for you, about what is allowed to be said.

Hmmmm - Know what you are getting at Roger but not sure if it is applicable here. The censorship in this case is being applied by a mob while the authorities do nothing about it. Aren't you refering more to the authorities doing the censoring while the mob just complain?

In either case I think we must agree that the 'authorities' have to behave even handedly to everyone or we are completely up the creek:-(

Cheers

DtG


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Subject: RE: Birmingham play closed by mob
From: The Shambles
Date: 05 Jan 05 - 02:02 AM

This has moved on a bit since I last read it - To such an extent that I have no idea what direction it is going in now! Surely all the other arguments are secondary.

Yes they are, but good folk like Wolfgang and Kevin, have in the past strongly supported the limitation of the freedom of expression on this public discussion forum - so are unable to fully support the basic right that is the simple issue at stake here. This is a good example of the price that is to be paid when always blindly supporting the principle of censorship. By accepting a censor to make the decisions for you, about what is allowed to be said.


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Subject: RE: Birmingham play closed by mob
From: The Shambles
Date: 04 Jan 05 - 02:00 AM

Fighting back against the mob on one's own is difficult. Doing it with others is probably more effective but as bad if not worse than the intital violence.

I would suggest that the trick is not to allow a situation where mob rule (or the prevention of artistic freedom by any means) ever comes into play. The main way of encouraging such things is for a Government to sit by and watch such methods succeed (as in this case).

But as with all things - if you as an individual ever agree to its limitation or wish to limit this freedom (in any way) - there is a price to be paid.

If you agree that there are some cases where something should be prevented from being said - you then have to accept a censor to make your decisions for you. To blindly accept their opinion on what is acceptable or not.

You don't have to worry about what is censored, who is qualified to do this or where all this censorship may eventually end - if you first simply accept and fight for the the right of others to be able have the freedom of expression that you - hopefully and depending on where you live, may be lucky enough - take as a right.

I feel that if you are fortunate to have this hard-fought freedom - it is criminal and dangerous to treat it so lightly and be prepared to throw it away so easily, as so many people seem to be prepared to do.


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Subject: RE: Birmingham play closed by mob
From: GUEST,heric
Date: 03 Jan 05 - 01:01 PM

All right I just re-read it and Shambles does advocate fighting back against the mob. It was the last sentence he wrote that made me think otherwise. I guess you could get wide disagreement on that point. I'd say fight back against the mob only in extreme circumstances after clear failure of government. Not in this case.


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Subject: RE: Birmingham play closed by mob
From: GUEST,heric
Date: 03 Jan 05 - 12:26 PM

DtG I don't think we strayed off of the path, it's just that it gets complicated when you try to decide who is responsible for protecting various interests: (1) the playwright and theatre's rights of expression; (2) the Sikhs' rights not to be subjected to offensive disparagement, or even hate speech, and (3) the theater's and theatregoers' rights not to be assaulted.

It appears to be unanimous agreement on (3), and this was a failure of government. We have mild dissent on (1). I was unclear in addressing (2). I was there addressing the Sikh's rights to redress of their grievance. (In my opinion, after someone hears them out, they need to understand that there are certain advantages to living in a theocracy but they ain't got one.) (I also think I am in agreement with Peter K on Wilde - I was just pointing out that it is a proper function of government to look at what he said, for its risks, even if it didn't rise to a sufficient level for action.)

Shambles is also talking about the problem where the government is actively part of the problem, rather than passively negligent. THAT'S when you've got the obligation to fight.


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Subject: RE: Birmingham play closed by mob
From: Dave the Gnome
Date: 03 Jan 05 - 10:23 AM

This has moved on a bit since I last read it - To such an extent that I have no idea what direction it is going in now! Surely all the other arguments are secondary. Whether the playright, the theatre or the crowd were right or wrong is all subjective. The only objective, and objectionable, action must be from the 'authorities'. Any state which allows a portion of its populous to blatantly break the law while hitting hard at any other section of the community performing the same illegal acts is discrinatory. Simple as that. To not apply the law purely because the lawbreakers belong to one particular section of the community is a despicable act. Not only have the police and their controling authorities in Birmingham shown themselves to be corruptable by mob rule but they have given ammunition to all the right wing racists who will now be rubbing their hands in glee!

There are many things I object to. In fact most people think me very objectionable;-) But I don't go around threatening violence and destrying the property of the people performing the acts I don't like. Keep a handle on this guys and galls. Don't get so hung up about whether plays are free speach or what constitutes an insult. We will probably never agree. When a real, basic and quantifiable freedom, like the right to not have bricks thrown through your window or to have your very life threatened is not upheld though we can all start to worry:-(

Cheers

DtG


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Subject: RE: Birmingham play closed by mob
From: The Shambles
Date: 02 Jan 05 - 12:09 PM

The problem as I see it is that folk here are confused between what they may not like to see expressed or may not agree with and the method by which they don't have to see it - is achieved. As if the end justifies the means.

They also seem confused that folk who point out that the freedom to express a view how one wishes to - is a freedom worth fighting for - are in some way insisting that others should be forced into being exposed to what is being expressed.

I am not asking anyone to like it or agree with it. You can judge its worth and chose to ignore it, have nothing to do with it or to argue with it. It is simply to accept that what I (and Wolfgang) accept as our right to express our personal judgement - is never denied to others. It might not be to your taste - so you don't have to eat it.

The problems in 1930s Germany where less to do with some promoting and inciting hatred as it was this same group, by the use of force, by controlling the media and using any other method - of preventing any alternative view from being expressed. That is the big danger and why the principle of defending someone's right to say what may not be to your taste, will always be so vital.


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Subject: RE: Birmingham play closed by mob
From: Peter K (Fionn)
Date: 02 Jan 05 - 07:37 AM

Heric, I agree entirely with your response to my earlier post. The playwright's intent had nothing to do with her right to the freedom of artistic expression. I mentioned her intent merely as a fact, and only in response to something Kendall had said. I had made my position on the broad principle abundantly clear earlier in the thread. I don't agree with your poimt about Wilde, because who is to judge when a line has been crossed? Jerry Lee Lewis, who married his 13-year-old cousin? People in far Eastern countries where marriage at that age has been a commonplace? In a democracy we should obey the prevailing laws of the day, but be free to say what we like about them.

Wolfgang, here's the Shambles argument put another way: the Birmingham Rep theatre decided to produce Behzti, judging it on its artistic merit. Who should have taken the decision, and against what criteria? Are you, for instance, with Kendall who would have nothing produced that might offend a single soul? Or would you allow productions unless they were likely to effend a subtantial, if unrepresentative group of people? Or would you allow even these productions, until or unless they could muster a crowd determined enough to end it by main force?

In any but the last case, which you seem to consider unacceptable, the decision would have to be taken in advance. That is, any proposed work would have to be submitted to a censor. This is Stalinism. Is it really what you want?


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Subject: RE: Birmingham play closed by mob
From: The Shambles
Date: 02 Jan 05 - 07:02 AM

I very rarely have any control over things outside of my personal life. But I can have and express an opinion. That's how I can (or cannot) influence things a bit.

I accept the practical difficulties of where this play was staged, but in cases like this - but you can do more than simply allow others to decide your principles for you.

You can support the play - by paying to go to see it. Then even if you find that you do not agree with its view (the only way the find out for sure) - you would have at least supported the right of the playwright to express that view.

You can't do this if you allow the play to be prevented by mob rule and allow the principle to be trampled (by later expressing a view that there are occasions when it can be trampled). You are passing the whole thing for someone else to decide for you. Probably THE most foolish thing that history tells us that anyone can ever do.

I just try to show Shambles how silly his all or none thinking can be in the exteme case. People like him make me afraid. In the extreme case, they even would sacrifice humans for the sake of their principles.

This and the 'fire' argument are far more silly and worry me just as much. The whole point of upholding this (or any) principle and certainly of not allowing others to decide it for you - is to try and avoid these extreme cases and save humans and the world from foolishness such as yours - and not to sacrifice anything (including important principles).

Sadly issues do not come neatly signposted, as ones you can let by and ones you can't. There may be a time when you can address them before they become too big for you to ever address and when no one is going to ask you. That, I would suggest is the best time for you to address them and that there never is a time to allow anyone else to decide for you.


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Subject: RE: Birmingham play closed by mob
From: Wolfgang
Date: 01 Jan 05 - 04:56 PM

For then the contol over what is - or is not restricted is passed to someone else to decide for you. (The Shambles)

I very rarely have any control over things outside of my personal life. But I can have and express an opinion. That's how I can (or cannot) influence things a bit.

People disregarding context in ethical decision always make me uneasy. I think human life should not be taken by anybody, but I agree that police may shoot to kill if there is no other way to save the life of a hostage. And many other examples.

The 'fire' example is relevant here, Peter, for the type of argumentation used by Shambles makes it relevant (otherwise it wouldn't). If the Voltaire rule (have you ever heard, Shambles, that such sentences too are spoken in a context?) holds under all circumstances, then also a work of art (a longer equivalent of shouting 'fire') planned deliberately to create panic among the spectators is covered by the Voltaire rule. I think it shouldn't.

I just try to show Shambles how silly his all or none thinking can be in the exteme case. People like him make me afraid. In the extreme case, they even would sacrifice humans for the sake of their principles.

Wolfgang


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Subject: RE: Birmingham play closed by mob
From: dianavan
Date: 01 Jan 05 - 04:30 PM

Freedom of dramatic expression is what theater is all about. None of our great plays would have been seen if religious or political groups were allowed to control the content.

Peaceful, political or religious demonstrations are also freedoms.

Violent, mob response to a theater performance is unlawful and unacceptable, regardless of content.

The public should be able to decide the artistic merit.

Let the show go on and if police in riot gear need to protect the general public, so be it. The public, in this case, is innocent. The mob inciting violence is guilty.


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Subject: RE: Birmingham play closed by mob
From: The Shambles
Date: 01 Jan 05 - 12:55 PM

In that concrete instance (Birmingham), I see not the slightest reason for any restriction of free speech.

Wolfgang, your opinion on the restriction of free speech (by mob rule) in this case was not first sought. I suggest that it would not be sought when any other restriction of artistic expression was planned. Expressing your opinion that in this case there was no reason for its restriction - does not change the fact that it was wrongly and violently restricted, as were many meetings in 1930s Germany.

The fact that there may be occasions when you may have thought such restriction was needed and may have supported this - only makes it more likely that this restriction will be used (in your name) on other occasions - like this one - when you may not think that there was any need.

Sadly that is why there can be no real opt-out or degree - on supporting the right of others to freely express what may not be acceptable to you. For then the contol over what is - or is not restricted is passed to someone else to decide for you.

If you are not all the way with Voltaire - are you always (with no opt-out or degree) prepared to trust others to make the decision for you - on what artistic freedoms are restricted or not?


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Subject: RE: Birmingham play closed by mob
From: Big Al Whittle
Date: 01 Jan 05 - 03:55 AM

Context is everything. Some of us just aren't equipped to deliver the message - whatever its merits. And sometimes the magic just doesn't work.

I was put in mind by the last few letters of a conversation I had with an artist a about 20 years ago or so. He had just been doing a gig with the late Tony Capstick somewhere south of Watford Gap.

Apparently Tony used the f word onstage. My friend was saying he could see the audience stiffen with revulsion at the language. But he was convinced that it was the word delivered in Tony's northern accent that had upset the crowd. From his tongue the word had seemed brutal and confrontational.

Earlier he had seen another artist with a southern accent actually get a laugh using the same word.

what I'm saying is, that getting up onstage gives us a sort of illusory power. but if an artist is to be successful ,he has to know how how his paricular set of performing tools work and their likely effect. Maybe with playwights its the same.


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Subject: RE: Birmingham play closed by mob
From: GUEST,heric
Date: 31 Dec 04 - 11:27 PM

Langauge recommending sexual relations with minors without the capacity for consent could properly be examined for whether it has the requisite propensity to cause such assaults. Wilde's words above would almost certainly not rise to that level, but it has nothing to do with his eloquence.

Movies in 1930's Germany which arguably incite hatred toward Jews, increasing the risk of harm to an identifiable class, could justly be prohibited, even with artistic merit otherwise present.


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Subject: RE: Birmingham play closed by mob
From: GUEST,heric
Date: 31 Dec 04 - 11:14 PM

Excuse me for interrupting so late in this conversation (especially when I hardly ever sing folk songs), but I think you put your toe over the fence, Peter K., with this line: ". . . that the playwright was not in any sense setting out to cause offence." That point should be irrelevant to a freedom of speech analysis. (Artistic expression is the same thing.) I may deeply desire to offend the ones I love in order to rattle their cage and bring them around to seeing something I feel they need to see. The ones I love may be of my culture or another. So it is also irrelvant whether the playwright was a member of the offended culture.

If the offended culture is of an identifiably oppressed minority (a matter of degree, certainly), then in an inspection the judiciary should maintain a heightened awareness that what is presented as art or satire may be illegal and immoral hate speech. Hate speech has the potential to incite inappropriate discrimination and even violence (even if directed at a powerful majority cutlure), and should by properly banned by due legal process.

Rock throwers and intimidators (using implied or overt threats of violence), should be prosecuted, of course. We do not need to understand their religious or cultural sensitivities in this instance.


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Subject: RE: Birmingham play closed by mob
From: Peter K (Fionn)
Date: 31 Dec 04 - 09:17 PM

Wolfgang and McG, as I said much earlier, the "fire" analogy has no place in this argument. (I've always been amazed that it cut any ice even in the context in which it was first drawn.) "Free speech" is well understood in English and welsh law to be about freedom of expression. Deliberately confusing this with a malicious intent to create panic serves no purpose. (I suppose it is for this simple, common-sense reason that no-one ever claimed "free speech" to be a complete and absolute defence in any action for slander.)

In a free world we are entitled to our thoughts. And we are entitled to express our thoughts. Start qualifying that and you're impinging on basic freedoms. Living up to the sentiment attributed to Voltaire may be hard work for individuals, but that's no excuse for a state or government to equivocate.)


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Subject: RE: Birmingham play closed by mob
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 31 Dec 04 - 02:20 PM

It is a principle and a very good one, if a difficult one to follow.

The point is not that it's difficult to follow, but that in some circumstances it would be wrong to follow it, as the "Fire" case exemplifies - circumstances where an utterance that might just be a word in some situations takes on the qualities of an action, and an action that is potentially very dangerous.

Perhaps it is best seen as a guiding principle rather than a ruling principle.

Incidentally it pretty definitely wasn't Voltaire who said it, though that doesn't make any differrnce. Quotes like this atr always getting fathered on people who are famnous enough to help them stand up.


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Subject: RE: Birmingham play closed by mob
From: The Shambles
Date: 31 Dec 04 - 06:45 AM

Sorry, but to take that sentence by Voltaire verbatim under all circumstances is silly in my eyes, for we all agree that for instance in that 'fire' situation free speech can be restricted by the law. So we only disagree about from where on restrictions should be put on free speech and not whether at all.

It is a principle and a very good one, if a difficult one to follow. That it may be difficult to follow does not make it any less good as a principle.

So where should restrictions be placed on the freedom of artistic expression?

Simply in all cases where someone risks being upset by it? Or only when you don't like what is being said?


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Subject: RE: Birmingham play closed by mob
From: Wolfgang
Date: 30 Dec 04 - 09:46 AM

Yes, I'm speaking about our present system of law/culture which has a foundation in our (historically) recent experiences.

We have seen how language filled with hate can lead to actions filled with hate. Though the road from thoughts and language to action is not a road with one inevitable outcome, in our judicial system the person who has instigated someone else to commit a crime will be punished as well (though perhaps not with a lesser sentence).

Sorry, but to take that sentence by Voltaire verbatim under all circumstances is silly in my eyes, for we all agree that for instance in that 'fire' situation free speech can be restricted by the law. So we only disagree about from where on restrictions should be put on free speech and not whether at all.

In that concrete instance (Birmingham), I see not the slightest reason for any restriction of free speech.

Wolfgang


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Subject: RE: Birmingham play closed by mob
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 30 Dec 04 - 08:55 AM

Artistic merit isn't the only issue involved, and it rarely is. Even if Oscar Wilde might have thought it was, Birmingham Rep didn't in fact think it was, and it does appear to have made serious efforts over the years to recognise some of the other issues.

Here is an interesting letter from today's Guardian, by someone wh has actually seen the play, which fills out some of that stuff: Violence that threatens cultural exchange - "...as the historian of Birmingham Rep, I'm aware of the theatre's record in using public funds to "earn" rather than "assume" the right to stage works of intercultural significance...."

The point I've been making throughout is that a knee-jerk response to something like this is not appropriate, and that more information is needed before it is possible to form a judgement about what went wrong here. I was thinking in terms of the kind of information contained in that letter.


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Subject: RE: Birmingham play closed by mob
From: Peter K (Fionn)
Date: 30 Dec 04 - 07:20 AM

Wolfgang, I don't see Nazism as anything specifically German. We've all got blood on our hands. Jews funded Hitler's war machine (most significantly from the US), and the anti-semitism exploited by Hitler existed across most of Europe. (Not so much in the UK, but only because the UK had got rid of most of its Jews many centuries earlier.)

Language can't make anyone do anything, and to blame one's own crimes on someone else's language is a feeble excuse. Hitlerism prevailed not so much because of Hitler's language but because of economic crisis and the humiliation to which Germany was subjected by the post-WW1 treaty.

To shift the focus off Germany, I have noticed in the past that Nazi memorabilia is openly bought and sold in the UK, whereas such trade was (maybe still is?) prohibited in France. This French constraint is healing the symptoms rather than the illness. But again I put this down to needless sensitivities in France about French collaboration with the Nazis. Needless because any body of people caught up in the same cirucmstances would probably have behaved the same way.

To deal one last time with McGrath's argument, Birmingham Rep judged Behzti on its artistic merit, as it was its job to do. Unless one supports censorship and Stalinist-like control of creative work, that should have been the end of the matter. As our laws are framed now, and even if they were amended as the Mercer bill seeks to do, the responsibility for upholding the peace in such a situation is on the police and not on the theatre management. There is simply no basis for mealy-mouthed pussy-footing around this basic fact. And no-one whose job it is judge work on its artistic merit should ever allow that judgment to be compromised.


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Subject: RE: Birmingham play closed by mob
From: CarolC
Date: 30 Dec 04 - 04:41 AM

However the basic point of this thread is concerned with
the reaction of religious people to criticisms of their religions, from inside or out. In these circumstances the secular values (free speech being no. 1) imperfectly attained by the West during the enlightenment after years of struggle and many deaths, stand as an anchor and a base standard, and are justly admired by progressive people all over the world. They have nothing to do with Jesus - when his religion was completely unchallenged in the Middle Ages we all know the complete tyranny of faith over reason and free speech that resulted.


Seems to me Jesus was killed for practicing free speech. I'm not a Christian myself, but it doesn't make much sense to me to be blaming Jesus and his teachings for whatever distortions and perversions of his teachings the Christian church has been responsible for in the years since his death. And the "Western" churches have been responsible for quite a lot of suppression of free speech. Even since "the enlightenment". The main difference is that rather than threaten a person with physical death for saying things they don't like, what the Western curches do is threaten people with eternal damnation.


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Subject: RE: Birmingham play closed by mob
From: The Shambles
Date: 29 Dec 04 - 08:06 PM

For some reason I am reminded of this (profound) quote - that must have been lodged in a dark corner of my poor old brain since about 1969......

"We are into God - or it could be Satan"

Bill Ward (then the drummer with Black Sabbath)


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Subject: RE: Birmingham play closed by mob
From: Ooh-Aah2
Date: 29 Dec 04 - 03:43 PM

I agree with just about all of your last post CarolC (hooray!) There are infinite shades of grey between the extreme lberal/secular and pure religious viewpints, in induviduals as well as in the broader picture, and Gandhi IS an good example (not many purely religious leaders have invented an effective composting toilet as he did!)
   However the basic point of this thread is concerned with
the reaction of religious people to criticisms of their religions, from inside or out. In these circumstances the secular values (free speech being no. 1) imperfectly attained by the West during the enlightenment after years of struggle and many deaths, stand as an anchor and a base standard, and are justly admired by progressive people all over the world. They have nothing to do with Jesus - when his religion was completely unchallenged in the Middle Ages we all know the complete tyranny of faith over reason and free speech that resulted.


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Subject: RE: Birmingham play closed by mob
From: The Shambles
Date: 29 Dec 04 - 12:34 PM

Peter, I'm with Voltaire, but only most of the time...

This is the crunch. It is nice to think that we are fortunate enough to live in a world where there was the luxury of such a choice - I fear that when it comes to this question - it is a case of all all nothing.

"I disapprove of what you say but will defend to the death your right to say it."

Are you going to defend someone only to the extent of being slightly bruised or at the first sight of blood?

Or are you going to ask them to whisper very softly?


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Subject: RE: Birmingham play closed by mob
From: The Shambles
Date: 29 Dec 04 - 12:14 PM

This obviously polarises the "sides" involved because nobody gets to hear how the other half feels. Surely the way people can best get on with each other (and I'm sure we all want that) is to try to understand what it is about us that might be pissing people off - perhaps then taking the points on board and doing something about it. Art is able to express this by de-personalising the issue.

It is important to remember that those who would incite others to hatred do not create the hatred - they simply turn the existing xenophobia, mistrust and fear that is in all of us - and focus this into hatred, in order to use it and us.

If a State is seen to be protecting certain sections of the population (even if this is being done for the very best of reasons) and coming down heavily on others - this does risk providing the very ammunition that can (and will) be used to incite hatred, against those the State may be trying to protect.

Artistic freedom of expression is what we are talking about. It should always be born in mind that in order to express views in this form - there are many hurdles that have to be first overcome. In the case of of a play for example - the first thing you have to do is convince the theatre that the play can be a sucess and then to try and ensure that folk will pay to come and see it. So for the play to reach the stage that this one got to - it is likely that many compromises will have already been made to the author's original concept (the process is similar for all other forms of artistic expression).

Folk who seriously consider that this play should have been further ammended at this point and who blame the author for not doing so - to enable the mob to be called-off - should remember this.

I suggest that our best protection from the sort of artistic production that Wolfgang fears is our taste. Shit does not taste very nice (not that I am speaking as an expert on eating this) and most of us would not chose to eat shit - no matter how attractivly it may be packaged.


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Subject: RE: Birmingham play closed by mob
From: CarolC
Date: 29 Dec 04 - 11:22 AM

I think this attempt to separate secular and religious/spiritual liberal thought is an artificial construct. Much of what we think of as some of the most secular liberal thought has its roots in religious/spiritual thought. Much of what the "West" holds as its liberal secular values have their roots in the teachings of Jesus, who was not a "Westerner", but a Middle Easterner.

And Gandhi may have had a spiritual foundation to the philosophy that motivated him and that shaped some of his tactics, but it was humanism that he was promoting when he worked to elevate the living standards of the poor in India, and to gain political independence for his country. It was tools found in the secular world that he was using to help lift people out of poverty, such as this simple, portable, charkha spinning wheel, and the promotion of spinning and weaving as ways of improving the material circumstances of the poor, as well as using economic leverage through the use of the charkha spinning wheel as a way of accomplishing a political goal... the independence of his country from colonialism.

I think it is not really possible to say "this is entirely secular liberalism" and "this is entirely religious/spiritual liberalism". That is a false dichotomy.

One other non-Western engine of liberal thought that I mentioned earlier in this post is the teachings of Jesus, who, as I mentioned was a Middle Easterner, and not a "Westerner". I can find others, but I don't have time right now. Maybe later today.


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Subject: RE: Birmingham play closed by mob
From: GUEST
Date: 29 Dec 04 - 08:35 AM

Some really interesting points have been made here, one of which bothers me not a little. If we censor, or even try to dilute the messages that art puts across, we simply drive it underground. In other words, the same "works" will be produced, but will only be available to the limited audience who are already supporters of such stuff (take Wolgang's example).

This obviously polarises the "sides" involved because nobody gets to hear how the other half feels. Surely the way people can best get on with each other (and I'm sure we all want that) is to try to understand what it is about us that might be pissing people off - perhaps then taking the points on board and doing something about it. Art is able to express this by de-personalising the issue.

Surely also, by making sure, by whatever means (e.g. violent protest), that our perceived faults do not get aired, we simply perpetuate a less than satisfactory situation by keeping the head stuck firmly in the ground.

cheers, Terry


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Subject: RE: Birmingham play closed by mob
From: The Shambles
Date: 29 Dec 04 - 06:24 AM

Look, I was raised in an era when people had some concern for the feelings of others.

I was raised in that same era. Taking a slightly wider view - it was also an era of the rise of facisim and of totalitarian states - that were not much concerned with the feelings of others.

Many in this era who did have concern for the feelings of others - or who were simply caught up in the struggle - gave up their lives for what they would hope to be the freedom of others in the future, to express their concerns.

I think that we owe it to those people to ensure that we always treasure that hard-won freedom, everywhere and all of the time.


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Subject: RE: Birmingham play closed by mob
From: The Shambles
Date: 29 Dec 04 - 06:09 AM

We have had our very special experience with language inciting hatred and promoting actions in gross violation of human rights.

The simple incitment of hatred is not the issue, unpleasant and unwelcome as it is. This incitement can be dealt with in all society - but only by having the freedom of expression to enable other opinions and (more importantly) facts to be aired. The special experience you refer to is a terrible lesson in how any dissenting voice is effectively silenced and what happens when it is.

In our culture/system, such language wouldn't have the law on its side even if this language was rhymed, sung or processed/refined in some other way to make it 'art'.

You must be referring here to your present system. This system may be understandable, given the circumstances, but perhaps not really desirable. If incitement or other plain, deliberate offensive and insulting intention is otherwise dressed-up or presented as art - it is usually quite easy to see through this and to deal with it (perhaps best as bad art) without risking the freedom of expression that is so vital.


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Subject: RE: Birmingham play closed by mob
From: Ooh-Aah2
Date: 29 Dec 04 - 06:04 AM

McGrath is completely right. Gandhi had a passionately religious viewpoint, albeit an enlightened one - alas he himself was killed by a bigoted co-religionist. His success in India can be largely ascribed to his brilliant tactic of pointing out, non-violently, the difference between the liberal values the British professed to hold and the reality of their actions on the ground in India.

Which other large engines of liberal secular values can you point to Carol, excluding those rooted in western ideas of course?


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Subject: RE: Birmingham play closed by mob
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 29 Dec 04 - 05:42 AM

I think Gandhi would never have described his thinking as "secular" - and I think that would also have been true of many other crucial figures in promoting and developing "liberal" values.

Just as it is common for highly illiberal attitudes to be founded on secularism, liberal values are very commonly rooted in and sustained by a religious view of the world.


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Subject: RE: Birmingham play closed by mob
From: CarolC
Date: 28 Dec 04 - 08:59 PM

the engine of liberal secular values is in the west

I guess I definitely have to disagree with this generalization. Although he was educated in the "Western" mode, Gandhi was quite "Eastern" in his approach to solving the problem of British colonialism in India, and promoting "liberal secular values" there. Such a suggestion, that the West is tbe only engine for the promotion of liberal secular values is a pretty enormous (and erroneous) assumpion.


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Subject: RE: Birmingham play closed by mob
From: Once Famous
Date: 28 Dec 04 - 06:49 PM

Peter K. truly an isolated incident. Subject to the air you breathe in England.


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Subject: RE: Birmingham play closed by mob
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 28 Dec 04 - 06:39 PM

I don't think anybody here has been suggestingbthta violence and threats by people protesting against this production were right.

And I don't think anybody has suggested that people objecting to the production did not have the right to protest peacefully.

That leaves two questions - "Were the people in charge of the production correct in their decision to put it on in the form they did put it on?" and "Was it wrong to cancel it in the circumstances?" Clearly the important principle of freedom of expression is involved.

However, there are, it is generally agreed, circumstances where the right of freedom of expression can come into conflict with other rights. One is the case exemplified by the case of crying "Fire" in a crowded theatre, where there is no fire. Another is the kind of example given by Wolfgang in his last post.

I just do not know enough about the precise circumstances of this episode to have any firm view as to whether it was one which fell into an analogous category with those cases.


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Subject: RE: Birmingham play closed by mob
From: Wolfgang
Date: 28 Dec 04 - 06:36 PM

Peter, I'm with Voltaire, but only most of the time and I do not follow your either/or argumentation. You are consistent in your position but I do not agree with you here.

We have had our very special experience with language inciting hatred and promoting actions in gross violation of human rights. In our culture/system, such language wouldn't have the law on its side even if this language was rhymed, sung or processed/refined in some other way to make it 'art'.

Our law would in such (thankfully very rare) instances see an equivalence to the crying 'fire' situation for in both situation the language is used to make other people do something which is dangerous to themselves (or others).

Wolfgang


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Subject: RE: Birmingham play closed by mob
From: Peter K (Fionn)
Date: 28 Dec 04 - 05:04 PM

Wolfgang, in another thread I regretted the arrest of a UK neo-Nazi for making speeches likely to incite racial hatred. Voltaire is supposed to have said "I disapprove of what you say but will defend to the death your right to say it." One either thinks this is a commendable sentiment or one doesn't.

I think Kendall and I may not be that far apart. I assume when he refers to a bygone era that he did not mean the one in which Shostakovitch was obliged to create what Stalin deemed to be art; and if he reads the Birmingham play I think he will find - as I have done from reading the substantial extracts published in the press and linked to above - that the playwright was not in any sense setting out to cause offence. Indeed, as I have already remarked, the play's powerful themes seem to have resonated with many young Sikhs.


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Subject: RE: Birmingham play closed by mob
From: Wolfgang
Date: 28 Dec 04 - 04:42 PM

In this particular instance, I'm with those demanding that the play should be played and that the violent protesters are wrong.

However, those arguing for near complete artistic freedom should look at the extreme examples to see whether they would argue for artistic freedom even then.

Veit Harlan's film Jud Süß (1940) and the later film Der ewige Jude (famous for the, on the purely artistic level, impressive juxtaposition of Jews walking around on the streets of a town and of rats running in the sewage below the town) were films with a message (hardly necessary to state I don't agree with it at all) and a craftful artistry (in music, speed, cuts, lighting, acting). Nevertheless, Harlan has twice after the war been defendent in trials for crimes against humanity. He came away without a sentence each time for his line of defense that the final cut and version was not his work but someone else's could not be broken.

You are surely not surprised when I say that copies of these films have cult status among German Neonazis and also among some groups in the Arab states.

Wolfgang


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Subject: RE: Birmingham play closed by mob
From: Ooh-Aah2
Date: 28 Dec 04 - 04:13 PM

I think CarolC is partly correct when she identifies this problem as a clash within cultures rather than a clash between cultures - ie, in this case, liberal, progressive Sikhs such as the young woman playwright v. conservative, 'sweep our problems under the carpet' Sikhs. The battle of secular v religious values is a universal tale.

However when one considers that the engine of liberal secular values is in the west, thanks to the struggles of courageous people such as this young woman Sikh, this does become a genuine clash between cultures - as is shown clearly by the simple fact that this play was produced in Britain and not in the Punjab. Some westerners are stuck in the past - as we see from the disgraceful actions of some churches supporting the protesters - many Sikhs like the playwright and her supporters are looking to the future. However there is a clash of cultures here. The ideal situation will be when Sikhs reconcile their religious identity with complete freedom of expression, a solution that will piss off racists and religious bigots alike. Sat Sri Akal!


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Subject: RE: Birmingham play closed by mob
From: kendall
Date: 28 Dec 04 - 01:15 PM

Look, I was raised in an era when people had some concern for the feelings of others.The very definition of manners is simple making others feel at ease. Lately, it seems that no one gives a rats ass about anyone but themselves and what they themselves want. That sucks. If thAT make me a dinosaur, fine, throw me a chicken.
I will not go around intentionally trying to make others mad at me. (Unless I don't like them)


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Subject: RE: Birmingham play closed by mob
From: CarolC
Date: 28 Dec 04 - 12:56 PM

Your point was well taken. But my point it that all this reference to different cultures - is an attempt to complicate what remains a very simple issue of the right of freedom of expression.

I actually don't have a position on your point at this time, The Shambles. My only reason for posting at all was to head that old "clash of cultures" red herring at off at the pass. People in the West tend to throw it around an awful lot without really understanding what they are saying. Remember that I was not the one who brought the "different cultures" subject up. I was responding to someone else who did.


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Subject: RE: Birmingham play closed by mob
From: Peter K (Fionn)
Date: 28 Dec 04 - 11:26 AM

Martin Gibson, there was the mother of fights a few years ago between progressive and orthodox Jews about whether a piece or wire should be strung around a huge swathe of north London. This piece of wire was deemed to enclose an eruv - an area contained within a man-made boundary, and within which orthodox Jews were free to perpetrate crimes against G-d (*G*) such as the pushing of prams, the carrying of house keys and the using of phones to report the presence of intruders - on the sabbath!!!

McG may have got himself into a muddle, but that's no excuse for lashing out at the media with all that "we can't trust what we read in the papers" stuff, and claiming we have gaively rushed to judgment without knowing the facts. I'm not sure what bit he's reluctant to take on trust. That the play was written by a Sikh woman? That the production was cancelled? That there was mob violence? And I can't see what "context" he thinks he's put it in, to help us understand.

Kendall, I'm sorry to see you refusing, or unable, to raise your game an intellectual notch of two in this thread. Brilliantly subtle as you must think your sarcasm was, I am quite sure - as I expect everyone else was - that Terry'sresponse was not to the silly comment but the even sillier message behind it. Just read the rest of his post to see where he's coming from.

In fact just as some posters were drfting towards "both sides have rights" positions, as though the Birmingham spat is about the rules of debate, Terry K's cracking post was a timely reminder that it is about artistic expression, pure and simple. It seems self-evident to me that in a free world such expression should not be compromised.

I've just been reading again Oscar Wilde's extraordinary, and obviously unrehearsed responses under cross-examination when he prosecuted an eccentric bully for criminal libel. Some if it was uncannily relevant. For instance Wilde was invited to condemn a short story, "The Priest and the Acolyte," which seems to have been an 1894 equivalent of "Behzti".

Edward Carson: You are of the opinion that there is no such thing as an immoral book? — Wilde: Yes.

You think "The Priest and the Acolyte" was not immoral? — It was worse: it was badly written.

Was not the story that of a priest who fell in love with an altar boy [...] and was discovered in the priest's room, and a scandal arose? — [...] I didn't care for it. It doesn't interest me.

Do you think the story blasphemous? — I think it violated every artistic canon of beauty.

That is not an answer? — It is the only one I can give.

I wish to know whether you thought the story blasphemous? — I thought it disgusting.

You know that when the priest poisons the boy he uses the words of the sacrament of the Church of England? — That I entirely forgot.

Do you consider that blasphemous? I think it is horrible. "Blasphemous" is not a word of mine.

Do you approve of those words? — I think them disgusting, perfect twaddle. [...] But I do not believe that any book or work of art ever had any effect whatever on morality.


Later Wilde was questioned about a book to which allusion was made in his novel, "The Picture of Dorian Gray":

Was the book to which you refer a moral book? — Not well written, but it gave me an idea.

Was not the book of a certain tendency? — I decline to be cross-examined upon the work of another artist. It is an impertinence and a vulgarity.


When later put on trial for gross indecency etc, Wilde was asked about poems by Alfred Douglas:

Charles Gill: The tone of the poems met with your critical approval? — It was not for me to approve or disapprove. [...] It is not for me to explain the work of anyone else. [...] It appears to be a question of taste, temperament and individuality. I should say that one man's poetry is another man's poison. (Laughter.)

Lastly, Wilde's celebrated response when asked about a specific line by Alfred Douglas, well worth an airing on any pretext:

What is the "Love that dare not speak it's name"? — "The Love that dare not speak its name" in this century is such a great affection of an elder for a younger man as there was between David and Jonathan, such as Plato made the very basis of his philosophy, and such as you find in the sonnets of Michelangelo and Shakespeare. It is that deep, spiritual affection that is as pure as it is perfect. It dictates and pervades great works of art like those of Shakespeare and Michelangelo and those two letters of mine [to rent boys] such as they are. It is in this century misunderstood, so much misunderstood that it may be described as the "Love that dare not speak its name", and on account of it I am placed where I am now. It is beautiful, it is fine, it is the noblest form of affection. There is nothing unnatural about it. It is intellectual, and it repeatedly exists between and elder and a younger man, when the elder man has intellect, and the younger man has all the joy, hope and glamour of life before him. That it should be so, the world does not understand. The world mocks at it and sometimes puts one in the pillory for it. (Loud applause, mingled with some hisses.)

I suppose if it had been down to Kendall, we'd still be where they were in 1895. And McG would be carefully balancing the degrees to which Wilde and Queensbury were respectively in the wrong.


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Subject: RE: Birmingham play closed by mob
From: kendall
Date: 28 Dec 04 - 08:42 AM

Don't tell me my sarcasm is lost on this lot...


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Subject: RE: Birmingham play closed by mob
From: The Shambles
Date: 28 Dec 04 - 06:41 AM

Not necessarily in all circumstances, in my view. (And I am not sure what "lose ALL credibility" really means when referring to something as non-specific as "a side" made up of a lot of people who have a wide range of opinions and ways of expressing those opinions.)

Did the 1930s Nazi Party retain any credibility, whilst imprisoning (or worse) their opponents?

These measures were seen at the time, as credible by many (who were not victims of it). Perhaps you would agree that this side did not lose all credibilty? Perhaps you can also explain (or excuse) what you do consider what remained credible - despite the methods used by this side to supress any altenative view?


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Subject: RE: Birmingham play closed by mob
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 28 Dec 04 - 06:15 AM

"...does not one side lose ALL credibility if - for what ever reason - they do not allow the others to have their say?" Not necessarily in all circumstances, in my view. (And I am not sure what "lose ALL credibility" really means when referring to something as non-specific as "a side" made up of a lot of people who have a wide range of opinions and ways of expressing those opinions.)

"Sitting on the fence" sounds very uncomfortable. But it seems to me that to decline to arrive at a fixed judgement about something about which we have relatively limited information is sometimes quite a sensible thing to do.


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Subject: RE: Birmingham play closed by mob
From: The Shambles
Date: 28 Dec 04 - 06:05 AM

The Shambles, my point was not in any way about the Sikh culture. It was only that this situation can't be used to bolster the "clash of civilization" red herring that many people are using these days as a way of trying to oversimplify what are really very complicated issues, as well as a way of trying to scapegoat people who are different from them.

Your point was well taken. But my point it that all this reference to different cultures - is an attempt to complicate what remains a very simple issue of the right of freedom of expression.


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Subject: RE: Birmingham play closed by mob
From: The Shambles
Date: 28 Dec 04 - 05:56 AM

Of course, it would in fact be quite possible to think that both sides in a conflict are wrong in some ways, and still have a bias in one direction or the other, just as it would be possible to come to an unbiassed conclusion that one side is on balance more or less right or wrong than the other.

It may be quite possible if you are determined (on this issue) to continue the attempt to balance on the fence. All sides can be wrong but does not one side lose ALL credibility if - for what ever reason - they do not allow the others to have their say?

What my the intention was was trying to put this into a context, rather than coming out with some kind of verdict.

On other similar issues - I have not noticed much reluctance on your part to arrive at a verdict or to pass judgement.

Kendall says.

Why don't we all dump all pretense at trying to get along, and just go ahead and openly disrespect and piss everyone else off? Might decrease the excess population. Having concern for others is a drag anyway.

Having concern for others to enable us all to get along and the 'balls' to express it - is exactly why the arts are used to make statements that may risk pissing some people off. Or may even be intentionally designed to to do this. Do not those that take these risks to express themselves in the arts, deserve your support more than those who would use violent and other means to prevent it?

Or is your support only there for the expressing of views that you may agree with?


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Subject: RE: Birmingham play closed by mob
From: GUEST,Terry K
Date: 28 Dec 04 - 04:31 AM

I would seriously worry if judgement of whether an artist is in the right or the wrong was vested in anyone except the artist him/herself. So long as the output is within the law and is staged appropriately (like the watershed on TV) then surely all is well.

And yes, we do have the right to piss people off, and we accept the consequences of doing so. But the consequences have got to be within boundaries of decent society too.....rioting ain't.

And the fault in this case lies not with the artist, but with those charged with seeing that the people she pissed off behave decently.

And kendall, your views are usually welcomed as meaningful, but your consistent take on this one is shite.

cheers, Terry


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Subject: RE: Birmingham play closed by mob
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 27 Dec 04 - 05:45 PM

"In any conflict situation a bias in favour of one side has to mean a bias against the other side."
"Just because one side is in the wrong doesn't mean the other side is in the right."


I may well be inconsistent sometimes, but I can't see any contradiction whatsoever between those two sentences of mine, Wolfgang.

"Bias" in relation to some conflict means having a predisposition towards one side and against the other. Thinking that both sides are wrong, in some ways (and perhaps right in some other ways) does not imply any such predisposition.

Of course, it would in fact be quite possible to think that both sides in a conflict are wrong in some ways, and still have a bias in one direction or the other, just as it would be possible to come to an unbiassed conclusion that one side is on balance more or less right or wrong than the other.


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