SOPA and PIPA are stupid, Oatmeal nails why

I’m very much in support of sites like Wikipedia, which are blacking out in protest of SOPA and PIPA. If you don’t know what they are, there’s this (the only Wikipedia page NOT blacked out) and this handy infographic. This is something that affects all of us, and it’s very important. Don’t think it’s only those crazy Americans and it doesn’t affect us – this affects everyone and is the start of a slippery slope.

My books are pirated all the time. I see them on fileshare sites and there’s nothing I can do about it. And yes, it pisses me off. But it’s a part of the modern world. As the old saying goes, the only thing worse than piracy is obscurity. Sure, I’d like to see stricter controls in place to protect film and music piracy, and, of course, ebook piracy. It’s in my interests – it affects my ability to make a living. But I do not agree with SOPA or PIPA as anything like valid ways to deal with the problem. It needs to be crushed for the fucking idiocy it is.

Of course, my little corner of the web here won’t make much of a dent if I black out. Ironically, the only thing likely to happen is that I might lose a couple of books sales. But I will speak out against the bills. And I can’t think of a better way to do it than with this animated gif from The Oatmeal. It’s simply perfect:

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Christians upset about Muslim billboard

I know, those crazy Christians are always upset about something. For that matter, so are the Muslims. Let’s be honest, the religious of any persuasion have always got something to moan about. But it’s been a while since I lampooned a bit of religious idoicy here on The Word and when I saw this article in the Sydney Morning Herald, I knew I had to comment.

In a nutshell, an awareness campaign by Islamic group MyPeace has resulted in some billboards going up to try to point out that Muslims really aren’t so different to Christians, or anyone else for that matter. Of course, they’re just people like all of us. The religious, regardless of persuasion, are all far more alike than many of them will ever be comfortable admitting. If nothing else, they share a large portion of willfull ignorance. And, that one foible aside, they’re no different to anyone else. But I digress.

One of these awareness billboards says: JESUS: A PROPHET OF ISLAM. And there’s a number and a website.

Some Christians are upset because it demotes Jesus from the son of god to a mere prophet and thereby injures their delicate religious sensibilities. And here’s where the relevance to this blog comes in – I can turn anything I find interesting into a debate on words, language and storytelling after all. The Muslims in question are trying to point out that they revere Jesus too, just not in the same way. Meanwhile, the Christians are upset that the status of Jesus is not being recognised. What we have here are two fantasy epics warring about who has the better angle on truth, when, in fact, neither of them have anything even vaguely resembling proof. Ah, religious tolerance – what’s that then? Some of the quotes really made me laugh.

One complainant said that Jesus “must not be associated with such [an] aggressive religion”. Oh, the irony! She burns!

Here’s my favourite:

“What [my child] knows of Islam she has learnt from watching mainstream news broadcasts and to have her saviour identified as being part of this malicious cult was very traumatic!”

Your child told you that, did she? After a considered exploration of available religions and a decision to be Christian? Or did you just tell your kid that’s what she thought?

Anyway, a complaint was lodged with the Advertising Standards Bureau and, thankfully, common sense prevailed:

”such a statement does not, of itself, discriminate against or vilify people who hold different beliefs… The board acknowledged that the Islam faith does consider that Jesus is a prophet of Mohammed… and that it is not unreasonable for children to be exposed to a variety of information in their daily lives, some of which may conflict with the views with which they are raised”.

No shit, Sherlock. We can be thankful for that decision, at least.

MyPeace founder Diaa Mohamed said, ”[The advertisement] conveys the message that, like Christians, we the Muslims also regard Jesus with extreme reverence. The idea being that the people will see beyond the words in the advertisements and recognise that Islam and Muslims are not much different from any other ordinary Australian.”

Which you’d think was quite fair enough. I wonder if he would be equally magnaminous if the Christians put up billboards all over town saying, “Mohammad is not a prophet of god and the only way to heaven is through Jesus.” The Muslims would be fine with that, right?

These kind of things give me so much fuel for characterisation and plot in fiction. People really are fascinating creatures. Or, to put it another way, as my old Grandad used to say, “There’s nought so strange as folk.”

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Well, fuck me with a Koran while I read Harry Potter

Did I get your attention? I hope so. It’s International Blasphemy Day today and it’s also currently Banned Books Week.

International Blasphemy Day was the concept of the Centre For Inquiry in response to the outrage over the Mohammed cartoons controversy. The Day is designed to commemorate the controversy and to celebrate free expression and everyone’s right to mock, ridicule and blaspheme religions. It’s also important in the face of increasing censorship of free speech, with things like blasphemy laws being passed in Ireland last year, among other places. The problem with this kind of ridiculous law-making is that it makes opinions illegal. Anyone is free to believe what they want, therefore anyone is free to believe that someone else’s beliefs are complete and utter bollocks. This is not a place for law.

The argument is that religious ridicule leads to the incitement of violence. Which is rubbish. Religious belief leads to the incitement of violence in many clearly recorded cases. Ridiculing said religions usually only leads to members of that religion calling for violence against the intolerant. Oh, the crushing irony.

It’s perfectly reasonable to hold any opinion you like. If you go online and tell people to attack any religious group then you are certainly inciting violence and should be brought to justice for that. Just like when the religious call for the heads of the infidels. In the same way that you should be dealt with harshly by the law if you actually do violence against anyone, for any reason. But if you go online and say that you think any given belief is a load of rubbish and that its adherents are a bunch of willfully ignorant losers, then that’s actually fine. You’re perfectly entitled to that opinion. Just like the religious are entitled to their opinion that the Earth is only 6,000 years old, or that a fella that liked nine year old girls was the conduit for god, or whatever.

Would you expect to be jailed for saying that anyone who voted for Tony Abbott in the recent general election is an idiot and should be ridiculed?

Of course not. What makes religion so special that it has to be treated differently?

This crosses well with Banned Books Week, because it’s usually religious wowsers that crap on about banning books. I mentioned Harry Potter in the title to this post as so many Christians in the US called for the book to be banned because it celebrated witchcraft. That still astounds me. It’s okay for them to tell children that a Jewish zombie that was his own father is the saviour of the world AND MEAN IT while it’s not okay for a work of fiction to celebrate a young man rising above adversity and defeating a powerful evil.

Have a look at that Banned Books page (linked above) and prepare to be astounded at some of the books that people have called out. According to the site, “People challenge books that they say are too sexual or too violent. They object to profanity and slang, and they protest against offensive portrayals of racial or religious groups–or positive portrayals of homosexuals.”

Oh no! Don’t let on that the gays are actually, you know, human or something.

The most confronting things in human nature need to be discussed. Taboos are things that cause division and ignorance. Fictional representations of real human issues are often the best way to generate debate of this kind of thing. Unless a book is a direct work of hate, deliberately targeting a given person or group, then there is no reasonable excuse to ban it. Some things might be considered too intense for kids but that’s a whole different debate. You might remember my post about the Taboo panel at Worldcon where classification of books was mentioned. And soundly shouted down. When it comes to kids being exposed to questionable material, that’s a matter of parenting. Know should what your kids are reading and vet anything that might disturb them. (Incidentally, if you’re an especially religious person, I would suggest that your indoctrination of your kids is doing way more harm than any book they’re likely to read.)

Reading and triggering thought and debate is essential. Banning books is just endorsing ignorance. I should declare a certain bias – my own books would certainly be considered blaphemous by pretty much every religious group. But I held this opinion long before I wrote those books. In fact, I’d love a religious group to call for my books to be banned – you can’t buy publicity like that. Come on, you fuckers – come and have a go!

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