Free Speech for Everyone (Except Environmental Groups)

Tony Abbot is determined to reform the Australia’s Human Rights Commission and amend the Racial Discrimination Act, which currently outlaws comments that may be seen as offensive on grounds of race or ethnicity. In the Australian of September 5:

Mr Abbott said: “Any suggestion you can have free speech as long as it doesn’t hurt people’s feelings is ridiculous. If we are going to be a robust democracy, if we are going to be a strong civil society, if we are going to maintain that great spirit of inquiry, which is the spark that has made our civilisation so strong, then we’ve got to allow people to say things that are unsayable in polite company.

“We’ve got to allow people to think things that are unthinkable in polite company and take their chances in open debate.”

– See more here.

Of course, this doesn’t extend to campaigns that may be offensive to the interests of mega-corporations and the timber industry:

CONSERVATION groups seeking boycotts of products linked to alleged poor environmental practices may soon be liable for prosecution under consumer law.

The move, which could severely hamper market-based campaigns by groups such as Markets for Change and GetUp!, is to be pursued by the Abbott government.

Parliamentary secretary for agriculture Richard Colbeck told The Australian the move would prevent green groups from holding companies to ransom in their markets.

– From today’s Australian. See more here.

Gee, I hope this ideologically coherent policy-making is what we have to look forward to from here on out.

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En Twitter, CFK defiende su uso de la cadena nacional, ataca a los medios no oficialistas

Los tweets de @CFKArgentina:

Alrededor de las 10:30 de la noche de hoy, 7 de setiembre, @CFKArgentina emitió los siguientes tweets:

Algunas reacciones:

Que hay de malo en las entrevistas?

Como si el discurso de una sola persona no manipulara nada según su punto de vista personal; como si el interés de un pueblo entero pudiera expresarse en una sola persona.

Y las dos grandes preguntas de la noche:

What They Said: Sunday 2 September, 2012

On Twitter:

“They abandoned the peace of security and are searching for the peace of
[Hugo] Chávez, [Daniel] Ortega [of Nicaragua] and [Fidel] Castro”.

Uribe, Colombian President during the Plan Colombia years (although the Plan was launched under President Pastrana), has his knickers in a bit of a twist after his successor, Juan Manual Santos, announced the beginning of peace talks with FARC guerrillas in Havana.

Santos was Uribe’s Defense Minister, and was hand-picked by Uribe as his successor on the expectation that he would continue Uribe’s mano dura (“iron fist”) policies – policies that did, it must be admitted, result in a considerably improved security situation in the country and reduced production of coca [sp].

Still, Uribe received criticism for being too tough and possibly breaching human rights and/or democratic values, and Santos has taken a different path, culminating in the third set of peace talks to take place since the FARC initiated armed struggle in 1964 (the two previous attempts were unsuccessful).

The government has promised there will be no pardons or amnesties for terrorists, and that the initiation of talks will not mean the abandonment of internal defense. I’m thinking almost forty years of guerrilla warfare warrant another go at peace. Cuba and Venezuela’s involvement in the process don’t mean an unquestioning acceptance of their internal politics (Norway and Chile are involved as well) – they are neighbours, after all, with a stake in the region’s security.

Uribe is very fond of Twitter-bashing the successor who clearly disappointed him greatly; I’m not sure it’s terribly productive.

A few links:

Edited, Monday 3 September, to add this gem:

“#TerrorismContinues: yesterday two soldiers killed in San Andrés de Cuerquia. To negotiate with terrorists, do the lives of soldiers not matter?

Karamelo Santo, Mauricio Macri, and political debate in Argentina

Karamelo Santo in concert
Karamelo Santo live at Reeds Festival. Image: 803 via flickr

“¡Macri, compadre, la concha de tu madre!”

Karamelo Santo were at the Niceto on Friday night, playing in Buenos Aires for the first time in two years. A friend took me to see them; we stood at the back, passing a plastic pint glass of cold beer back and forth, nodding heads and swaying hips to the beat.

Until the band, mid-set, began to drum up a little casual call-and-response Macri-bashing. The rough translation is “Macri, comrade, your mother’s naughty bits!”

Mauricio Macri, for those who are blissfully unaware of the tortured intricacies of Argentine politics (#jealous), is the Mayor of Buenos Aires, aspirant to the presidency in 2015 – yes, we’re already talking about this instead of, you know, governing the country – and President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner’s current enemy #1. The two recently allowed a spat over the city’s subway system to deteriorate into a ten-day strike, causing chaos city-wide. Do click on that link: it’s an excellent run-down of what was a stellar example of the total lack of dialogue endemic in Argentine politics.

I was on holiday in Peru and missed it all, thank heavens.

“¡Macri, compadre, la concha de tu madre!”

This came after a brief appeal for funds, for what is no doubt a commendable social project, in one of the city’s many villas (the bonaerense equivalent to Rio’s favelas and Lima’s pueblos jóvenes). A collection box started doing the rounds, and I shifted uncomfortably as the band launched into another song. I stared straight ahead, wondering if I should say something to Juan or not. Until he looked at me, flabbergasted, and we both launched into the same diatribe at the same time.

The night ruined, the buzz gone, we spent hours dissecting the line between art and politics. I love a good protest song as much as the next person, and strongly believe that artists and musicians have as much right to voice and act on their political opinions as the next person.

Still, this gives them a much bigger soapbox than your average citizen, and I think this privilege, like all privilege, comes with a hefty dose of responsibility. The deeply depressing thing about Argentine politics, for me, is that it is mostly just a competition to see who can shout the loudest. Local politics – Macri’s domain – should be about convivencia, living together, and every citizen’s voice should be heard and respected, even if not agreed with. Karamelo Santo have every right to voice their disapproval of his policies in a reasoned and reasonable manner, but not to cheapen an already corrupted, aggressive and intolerant discourse.

As musicians, I think it incredibly disrespectful to their fans to immediately exclude those who think differently than they do, and not on the grand themes of peace, social justice, environmentalism (dear, no doubt, to the entire audience), but on the complex, nitty gritty of attempting to manage an enormous, diverse city. The grey shades don’t lend themselves to catchy slogans.

Juan, proud Argentine that he is, was even more horrified than I and used the word “fascism” more than once. I’m disinclined to jump on that bandwagon, mostly because it’s such a pejorative, conflictive term that I think it can only contribute to the further polarization of Argentine society. No need to throw any more gasoline on that bonfire. Still, as the crowd chanted back in unison, I felt distinctly uncomfortable, and very depressed for the near future of this lovely country.

What They Said: Sunday, 16 June 2012

In politics, truth is the first victim…

Pablo Moyano, son of CGT chief Hugo Mayano, on the reasons behind the recent truck drivers’ strike:  “I think [Argentina] must be the only country in the world where the worker pays to work. The more overtime hours you work, the more you pay. The State keeps part of the salary, it’s an embarrassment”. Yup, uh huh. Argentina, the only country in the world where income tax is collected. Marvel at the injustice. Clarín (spanish link)