Mybroadband.co.za – one of the largest online South African communities – seem to be following the terrible precedent set by some of the responses to Sax Appeal, and will henceforth not allow religious discussion on their forums. The decision to do so is reported to follow “getting many complaints of intolerance, blasphemy and the like”. This serves as another example of hypersensitivity winning the day, and of special treatment being afforded to the complaints of the religious. There is cause to doubt that this censoring move is premised on a desire to simply eliminate controversy on the forums in question, as that would require limiting discussion of topics that offend people like me: intelligent design, moral argument based on metaphysical premises, or philosophically illiterate discussion of materialism, to mention but a few threads that can also be found on those forums. We’ll wait to see whether topics such as those are moderated or banned. If so, I have no complaints – there are more than enough places that do allow robust debate on matters metaphysical.
Apologies to anyone who may have suffered through a few minutes of Idols in the expectation of the Sax Appeal story being featured on Carte Blanche. Plus, of course, the suffering involved in watching the (mostly) silly stories they did feature. I spoke with the director of the show on Friday, and everything seemed on track and ready for broadcast. I’ll call him tomorrow, and provide any updates in comments to this post.
So what happened? They could simply have thought that the story wasn’t interesting enough for a national audience, which would be unfortunate – and probably wrong – but at least not sinister. The possibilities that worry one, of course, are producers pulling the show for fear of offending some part of the market, and even worse, pressure being applied by an interested party (UCT, for example) in order to not fan the flames any further.
Either way, it’s a pity that this story may need to be kept alive, rather than staying alive simply because a broader range of people care to discuss it.
In today’s Cape Times, Errol Naidoo uses the Sax Appeal story to have a thinly-disguised rant about homosexuals, who he clearly has some sort of “thing” about. Anyway: let’s take him at his word. He suggests that the “liberal media elite” (where “liberal” is clearly meant to be some kind of swear-word, although Naidoo’s grasp of argumentation is too weak for him to realise that many of us might see the media being “Liberal” as a positive) would not be nearly as tolerant if homosexuality, rather than his faith, were the object of the sorts of offences he imagines were perpetrated against his faith in the recent edition of Sax Appeal. He says:
The sanctimonious drivel published in our nation’s newspapers over the past two weeks ostensibly in defence of civil liberties is nothing but a sad reflection of the liberal media’s hypocrisy and double standards when it comes to Christianity.
What he doesn’t seem to get is that nobody sane has any incentive to mock or ridicule homosexuals. Homosexuality is neither a belief system nor an ideology – in fact, the only thing that homosexuals have in common is a sexual preference, which is hardly mock-worthy. Nor, in my experience, are “homosexuals” particularly funny as a group of people – in fact, they’re just like Mr. Naidoo (well, perhaps slightly less funny). In fact, the only ridicule directed at homosexuals that I can recall reading usually emerges from organisations such as his.
It’s indeed a problem if one set of people who make no sense get singled out for ridicule, and others get a free pass. This is perhaps why the “liberal media” sometimes publish articles criticising astrology, homeopathy, crystal-rubbing, etc. They don’t do this enough, to be sure – but they let Mr. Naidoo off most of the time, contrary to his paranoid suggestions.
On a side-note, I’ve noticed that he always ends his missives with:
Does he think that “standing” is some kind of an accomplishment? Is he perhaps making some subtle comment about evolution?
Tuesday’s edition of Varsity, the UCT student newspaper, carried some responses to the saga outlined in previous posts here. One of them is from Taryn Hodgson, and is reproduced below:
There is nothing remotely persuasive about her response, yet she (sadly) seems to take what she says very seriously. Early on, Taryn says that she “has evidence that demands a verdict”. Nice strong claim, which should surely be backed up by something? Let’s see:
Continue reading “Student response to Sax Appeal blasphemy”
Dr. Max Price responded as follows to the controversy described in my previous post. My response to his is offered below:
Dear Colleagues and Students
This year’s edition of Sax Appeal, the annual UCT Rag publication produced by students, has elicited widespread reaction and debate. I feel it most important that our community discuss issues like these freely and I therefore share my views with you. I welcome your views.
This year’s edition elicited an outcry from many people – including many Christians – objecting strongly to a feature on pages 84 and 85 offering possible retorts for an atheist to certain imagined questions from Christian fundamentalists contained in 10 picture comic frames. Some also objected to a Zapiro cartoon, and to other statements in the magazine. Continue reading “UCT and Sax Appeal: the Vice-Chancellor’s response”
The most recent issue of the University of Cape Town student publication, Sax Appeal, has caused quite some consternation among god-botherers. I’ve sent off a letter to the Cape Times, reprinted below in case of edits or non-publication
The most recent edition of Sax Appeal was certainly an embarrassment, in that it was both poorly written and edited, and also not very funny. What has caused most concern, however, is the alleged blasphemy the magazine contained.
As an atheist member of the UCT community, the material that has offended believers offends me too – simply because it was purely abusive rather than critical, and in being abusive has served only to further entrench dogmatism and intolerance on the part of religious folk, and hence to impede the progress of those who seek to promote a naturalistic worldview, free of superstition, at UCT and beyond.
A further consequence of this episode is that it has led senior members of the University’s administration to feel the need to offer grovelling apologies, where none should be necessary. Sax Appeal does not speak for the University, and the University’s administration should not be considered responsible for the actions or speech-acts of those who produced Sax Appeal.
Being offended is something we have to at some stage learn to simply live with, except (arguably) in the case of hate-speech, which this did not amount to. Instead of running to the Human Rights Commission, may I suggest that the offended parties first try to learn some lessons in tolerance from those of us who constantly have to drown out the metaphysical noise generated by the faithful?