Lyndon Hood, Otago-ean, Wellington

Monday, February 27, 2006

Why did we never think of this before?

Navy to seek proposals for disposal of Canterbury

Lyndon Hood - Go-Passer, Lower Hutt

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Of course, some of the other rehabilitation programmes actually have bloody good results. Check out the sex offenders programme Kia Marama, for example - its relative effect on the relapse rate is in the same league as Herceptin (more cheerleading here).

In fact, the biggest problem with the intensive, in-prison rehabilitation programmes is that there aren't enough of them. Much like employment or vocational programmes. Or re-integration ones.

You can't say rehabilitation is a failed experiment if it hasn't been tried.

Even professional corrections-apocalypse-trumpeter Simon Power - despite the tendency of his rhetoric and his attempt to link it with an exaggerated version of a release plan Damien O'Connor says he doesn't have - is careful to consistently refer to some programmes (about two, isn't it?) being the Spawn of Satan.

So Tariana Turia can, in this instance, sod off. Not that she doesn't have a point about re-integration, but "a peculiar feature of our prison system is the dominance of psychologists in treatment programmes"? Who does she expect to do the psychological treatment? Boilermakers? Maori Party Co-Leaders?

Perhaps, at any rate, someone who knows what they're talking about. Not only does Turia clearly not understand the jargon she's making fun of, but the things she's complaining about are the ones run by the psychological amateurs.

If a problem that has (apparently) already been recognised and is (apparently) being fixed becomes an excuse to abandon stuff that actually works, well, I guess we'll just have to hope that lifetime criminals locked up with lifetime criminals somehow spontaneous develop not just the will but the empathy and skills needed to go straight.

Or, as the only other thing we could do for the reoffending rate, keep the minor criminals the hell away from prison.

On the other hand, if you want to mock justice system bureaucrats, you can try this...

On restorative justice conferences' positive impact on reoffending: "While the difference was not statistically significant, the decrease appeared to be real."

In other words, we can't say it wasn't blind luck, but we'll put out a press release just for the headline.

Victims seem to like it though:

"The majority of victims, 87%, who participated in a restorative justice conference reported a positive experience and 68% said they would attend one again."

Not, I'm guessing, if it meant being re-victimised. They probably didn't mean that.

Disclosure: There is a personal connection here. Does it show?

Newer-than-any-other Hood: Rage Over Round-Ended Egg Opening Escalates

How-could-bloggage-be-any-lighter-news: I'm currently runningScoop's coverage of the arts festivals. Busy.

Lyndon Hood - Pontificating Moralist, Lower Hutt

Monday, February 06, 2006

Periodically I draft out a post about some issue of the moment then go off and have a life or whatever for a while - by the time I come back it's too late. Looks like this cartoon thing isn't going away though.

I wanted to concentrate on the New Zealand side, because I may have some kind of handle on it. The rest of the world is clearly insane, and the post is too long anyway. It's not as if Russell is not there for you.

Much of my opinion could be summarised as 'go the Herald', but I do have something to add, unless it's come up in the blogs I haven't been reading over the weekend. That right! I didn't read your blog! Anyway, skip to the end if that's all you're interested in.

[For the record, the note about Hard News was added shortly after posting. SO I hadn't read your blog either, Brown. It also transpires I don't really have anything to add. The post, however, remains.]

It is about freedom of speech. Of course it is. People have a right to say, and newspapers to publish, whatever they want, without fear of state censure, international sanctions, rioting or death threats. Citizens of some states are even lucky enough to have this right enshrined to some extent in law, which is highly beneficial for the state concerned.

This of course includes the right to be offensive, even in the highest degree - otherwise there is no protection at all. Offensive speech is the only kind anyone tries to ban.

We may not be able to do anything about the way other states treat their citizens but we cannot, indeed, back down on this on our own homeboy turf.

Okay? Good.

It's also about editorial ethics.

Just because people should be allowed to publish highly offensive images does not oblige you to republish them.

Particularly when there's more of a sense that you're republishing not for informational purposes (like the unfortunate editor who lost his job in Lebanon) but because you can - in fact, publishing something simply because its publication made people really, really, mad - this is not, to my mind, good citizenship.

The London Times Diplomatic editor (from memory): "Publishing something that causes a huge row is unfortunate. Publishing something after it's caused a huge row is like poking someone in the eye with a stick ..."

Because of fundamental freedoms alluded to above, newspapers only have to - should only have to - answer only to their consciences and any voluntary organisations they belong to. And to their readers, who can often provide more of an immediate incentive for good behaviour.

And possibly the God of choice. But as far as I've noticed the burning death that rained down from the sky on various media organisations in the last decade or so did not come direct from any deity.

Anyway, when various Government representatives coem out against the republishing of the cartoons - and we do, for example, have hostage issues where the respect New Zealand might have for Islam is relevant - than can only express annoyance in the same way that anyone else can. Of course, when the talk about the damage in dollar terms they don't exactly sound like they're arguing a moral point.

I do have sympathy with running the cartoons as a way of indicating in the clearest terms that you will not be bullied. Or just a gesture of solidarity. But publishing something that you would not otherwise have touched with a barge poll seems an odd way to defend freedom of speech. And it's not helping.

Certain bloggers' reaction to the problem has been to keep on poking. In some cases with a sharper stick. David Farrar managed to add insult to two different kinds of blasphemy and religious libel by saying that the 'bomb' cartoon isn't all that offensive - a claim that does rather fly in the face of the empirical evidence.

But blogs individual things. They are not typically taken to reflect the zeitgeist or be the journal of record in the way newspapers are.

There have been calls (UN, RSF, IFJ) for dialogue. Which is, where both sides listen. What we have had is two contradictory - actaully antagonisitc - positions. I am of course ignoring how they got that way. And I do believe one should be able to safely mock religion. But, looking back, would you rather say you sat there and trumpeted how right you were, or that you helped clean up the mess?

The Christian world got as tolentant as it is, I suppose, through a long history of being poked in the eye with a sharp stick. Few supporters of free speech will deny that being poked is a good thing. But the poking, if I might strain this metaphor beyond breaking point, was done from the inside.

Insensitive pontification from New Zealand newspapers may well be conterproductive in the struggle to liberalise the Muslim world. Not that there is a coherent entity called the Muslim world.

The End Bit

Anyway, what started me off was the urge to supply people trumpting our own tolerance of religious dissent with a talking point. Either for or against, I'm not sure which.

Aside, that is, from the point that No Right Turn makes (with a kind of well-meaning and highly valid inevitablity): in terms of legislation and case law, one could be prosecuted for religious libel if you said the same thing about Christianity. And given that someone is being prosecuted for sedition it could happen.

Not that I don't remember the Virgin in a Condom. And apparently, not having a tele, I missed Popetown.

I also recall that slightly before my time at Otago University there was a capping show cartoon poster combining imagery from all the popular stage musicals. It included a picture of a cat nailed to a cross. Caused a bit of a stir, but that's not what I wanted to talk about either.

I actually wanted to remind everyone about Malcom Evans.

In 2003, Evans was sacked as editorial cartoonist at the Herald (the same Herald that so pointedly not publishing the Prophet series, also the same Herald that weathered the storm over publishing Thomas Fudge's defense of Joel Hayward's thesis). Depending on who you talk to he was fired either for some quite powerful cartoons about Israel that some (some Jewish groups, for example) saw as anti-Jewish, or for some procedural weirdness which was part of the same saga. Evans said the Herald tried to stop him drawing cartoons about Israel. The Herald denied this (One News Report,Mediawatch interview). Apparently Eating Media Lunch showed there was no Zionist conspiracy at work (end of this Listener article). What they found, Google has yet to tell me.

Of particular note (leading to an apology), a response to some particular legal segregation of Palestinians had a ruined wall with "APARTHEID" written on it with a Star of David for the second "A".

As it happens, he was attacking the actions of Israel using a symbol of Judaism (and of Israel - see the flag). If he had been just accusing Judaism of being a racist religion - had been entirely clear that that was what he was doing - then that would be more like the 'bomb' cartoon in the current controversy. Except a somewhat less criminal pan-religious accusation and not so very blasphemous.

One imagines, in a case like that, the consequences for the cartoonist and possibly editor that let it pass might have been more severe.

So, without actually endorsing Evan's side of the story - interesting, eh?

Lyndon Hood - Peeved, Lower Hutt

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

A Few Thoughts

Gah! Aggh! Grr!

And so on.

I didn't actually expect, and I do not like.

Funny, I can't seem to find my copy. No, seriously.

Which is why I can't tell you if Hasting's description of this profiled porn merchant (Where did that come from anyway?) in the next article, whoever he is, is a bit extreme. 'Unicritical'? Not according to someone I know who actually remembers. 'Sarcastic', possibly? Note to self: readers cannot be trusted to work out when someone is a seedy bastard merely by description. Always include sentence along lines of "Remember kids, masterminding the flying of full jet airliners into the side of office buildings is wrong".

I actually found the whole press release kind of weird. I'd have expect something more like the Commerce Commission's work - saying what the ruling is, summarising reasons, etc. Here's Chief Censor Bill Hastings providing quotes. Makes him look keen, but. Also seems more like an endictment than a judgment.

Which goes to show how subjective the interpretation of the tone of piece of writing is.

In his favour, it's quite possible that the Society for the Promotion of Community Standards is more annoyed with Bill Hastings than I am.

Me, I'm cautiously for banning anything solely there to feed inhuman sexual fantasies. Anything else I'll have to think about.

Vouching for the intentions of those involved - that it was meant to raise awareness. And critically, it did. Because it was provocative. I worked at Critic when we published I think more than one straight article about drug rape to absolutely stuff all response.

Also, that it was not meant to be funny.

Not that it doesn't do people good just purely to be offended every once in a while. Keeps the intellect from stagnation. Note that offensiveness it not, per se, censorable.

From a note on Farrar - just because someone was getting confused:
Offensiveness is not a criteria in the law for banning stuff and it hasn't been cited here. The question is whether it's "injurious to the public good". It does get more specific than that. See http://www.censorship.govt.nz/censorship_law.html

A lot of people consider the high court ruling about those anti-gay videos to have specifically made the point that being offensive is in no way ground for being objectionable (and to have smacked down the censor acting different). Protection of offensive speech is in fact what protection of free speech is all about.

That said, the regime as it is does still fall prey to the slippery slope thing (it is expanding is some shifty-looking ways)and the question of how much good it does in the first place.

Here's the Stuff article, complete with the effusive praise recieved by Critic on winning last years ASPA awards.

It's only just occured to me how elusive the critical question of fact - whether a particular publication actually is "injurious to the public good" - can be. Given that its effect arises from the nexus of the actual content, its surface meaning, its percieved attitude, its audience and its social and historical context... I don't actually know what they use for a standard of proof, but it's a wonder the Censor's Office makes any decisions at all. And this - it's not like this is one of those non-murky cases. Give a magazine a break!*

I probably know enough to write some notes on legal issues for NZ bloggers. Now would probably be an apposite time. Plus we can talk more about the whole censorship project. Y'know, as if we can't think for ourselves. And how much longer your mum'll be allowed those naked toddler photos in your family album. Something to look forward to.

*Update (8:00am, 2/2) - On Nat Rad (no doubt up on the website soon) I discover that the submitters included Greg Newbold - like, an actual criminologist. As in, someone who might know. Submitting in favour of Critic. Though he did accept the Censors had some 'strong arguments'.

Another One: Remember what I said about the Society For Promotion Of Community Standards?
SPCS Critical of Censor's double standards over Rape Publications

Lyndon Hood - Criminal, Wellington