Tag Archive | "Free Speech"

Lady Gaga vs. the Bible: An Obscene-Off


Lady Gaga will perform in the Philippines, but not if some bigots can help it. Biblemode Youth Philippines has gone on Bible Mode, calling for the blasphemous concert to be canceled. Their protest leader, former Congressman Benny Abante, threatened to file a lawsuit if she sings “Judas,” a performance protesters consider obscene, and therefore, illegal.

Penal Censorship

Former Manila Mayor Jose Atienza agrees, saying that such obscenity is punishable by six months to six years in prison under the Revised Penal Code. According to Article 201 — which was also used against Mideo Cruz’s Jesus-Penis-Juxtaposition in Polyteismo — obscenity applies to immoral displays that

(1) glorify criminals or condone crimes;

(2) serve no other purpose but to satisfy the market for violence, lust or pornography;

(3) offend any race or religion;

(4) tend to abet traffic in and use of prohibited drugs; and

(5) are contrary to law, public order, morals, good customs, established policies, lawful orders, decrees and edicts.

Judas vs. Jesus

The music video of “Judas” depicts “Jesus and his disciples as a motorcycle gang and tells the story of Jesus’ betrayal, with Lady Gaga playing the role of Jesus’ girlfriend, who is torn between her loyalty to Jesus and her love for Judas.”

Out of the 5 criteria for obscenity, “Judas” is guilty — by my judgment — of just one: (3) offending any race or religion. (1) doesn’t count (unless the motorcycle gang Jesus belonged to was a criminal one). Nor does (2) because beyond the stunts and gimmicks, many people actually like her music. (4) is arguable but unlikely. And (5) refers to laws, public order, and other supposedly non-sectarian rules — not the doctrines and opinions of a single sect or religion.

Fans vs. Fanatics

Lady Gaga is no stranger to such controversy — South Koreans protested to prevent infecting the youth with “homosexuality and pornography,” and in Indonesia, the Islamic Defenders Front said “they were ready to die to stop the concert.”

But should the concert be canceled — like in Indonesia — or censored — like what could happen here — it’s not Lady Gaga who’ll be affected most — it’s the fans. The right to freedom of expression implies the right to freely access artistic expressions in their uncensored form. To defend their right to enjoy an artist they admire — and to protect the ideals of free speech in general — Lady Gaga’s fans should counter-protest, and I’m suggesting this is how they do it.

Gaga vs. Bible

They should file a case against Biblemode Youth Philippines for giving the youth access to the most obscene artistic expression ever made: the Bible. Compared to the Bible, a Lady Gaga concert looks like an episode of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. No one will dispute this, at least not anyone who has read the Bible — cover to cover, not just homily material. The Bible is so obscene that other than criterion (4), it is guilty of violating criteria (1), (3), and (5) many times over, and of (2) as well — unless you consider “being terrified of God” as a valid purpose.

The Bible is full of obscenity, filled with verses and verses not only of sex and violence, but every form of injustice, intolerance, and incitement of hatred against women, LGBTs, and even children.

I know many of you won’t read the Bible — especially if you’re a Bible-thumping Christian like Manny Pacquiao — so I’ll list just one example for each criterion of obscenity (except the fourth) to prove that more than Lady Gaga, the Bible is deserving of censorship, if not banning.

(1) glorify criminals or condone crimes

The Bible has many graphic stories that depict and even condone slavery, murder, genocide, torture, infanticide, and other atrocities that any non-psychopathic person would consider criminal. Here’s one.

To gain Saul’s approval, not to mention his daughter, Michal, David and his men not only killed a hundred Philistines, they also performed postmortem circumcisions, offering the Philistine foreskins — the 100 they individually counted — as bride price.

(2) serve no other purpose but to satisfy the market for violence, lust or pornography

Banging on a door, some wicked men wanted to gang rape a man, who was a guest in the house. The hospitable homeowner offered his own daughter and the guest’s concubine to be gang raped instead.

The wicked men didn’t agree, so the homeowner pushed the concubine out from the house into the wicked men. Gang rape ensues. The next morning the homeowner, finding the concubine dead, did the sensible thing and chopped up her body, limb from limb, into twelve parts before mailing them to all the areas of Israel.

Does the story have any other purpose “but to satisfy the market for violence, lust or pornography”? And even if this did teach some moral lesson (pray tell, what?), the violence is just too gratuitous for an allegory.

(3) offend any race or religion and (5) are contrary to law, public order, morals, good customs, established policies, lawful orders, decrees and edicts.

God hates the Midianites because they worship Baal of Peor. He told Moses to kill all Midianite leaders, or else, he’ll keep punishing them with a plague. So Moses ordered Israel’s judges to kill Israelites who converted to Baal worship.

One day, an Israelite man brought a Midianite woman into camp. Phinehas, not a judge, followed the couple into their tent. As they were having interracial interreligion sex, Phinehas thrust a sphere through both of their bodies. (Talk about double penetration.) For taking things into his own hands instead of letting the state (judges) enforce the law, God rewarded Phinehas and stopped His plague.

Child Pornography

Any one of these stories depicts something more immoral than any stunt Lady Gaga could pull, and this is but a small sample of similar stories scattered in both the Old and New Testament. What’s worse, the Bible does more than depict immorality — it condones and even justifies it.

Yet with all the pornography and gratuitous violence in the Bible, it’s probably the easiest book for anyone to access — children included. (It’s a good thing children generally think the Bible is boring. That old copy at home won’t be so dusty if the children knew there was enough sex and gore in it to make most video games dull in comparison.)

Some may argue that the stories aren’t so bad when read in context. But imagine what would happen if a fundamentalist studio were to show a movie depicting these scenes. Would it get a PG rating from the MTRCB? Would it be any different if there was narration that put the scenes into context? And what difference does putting it in book form make? Didn’t fundamentalist groups also call for the censorship of Harry Potter, Da Vinci Code, and the novels of Jose Rizal?

I’d be interested to see the outcome of such a case should Lady Gaga fans follow my suggestion. If they don’t, maybe it’s FF that should challenge the Bible’s immunity to censorship. In any case, somebody should do it. Think of the children.

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UN Affirms Blasphemy as a Human Right


A constant in the unfolding controversy regarding Mideo Cruz is the debate on the right to free speech. The Palayain ang Sining movement has insisted that this isn’t just about Cruz’s work but about the right to free expression. And, ultimately, it is. It doesn’t matter whether you do not find the work aesthetically appealing or even worthy of attention. What is at stake is the right of artists, of human beings, to speak out.

Every conservative with one or two inches of column space has jumped on their rallying cry of “free speech is not absolute.” The claim that Cruz’s piece, which involved a penis on the image of a Caucasian Jesus Christ, was offensive to Catholics (they insist on “Christian” just to bump their numbers up) is being used by the personnel of the CBCP, such as Atty. Jo Imbong, in filing a suit against the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP).

What is hard to imagine is that something as essential to human rights as free speech even needs defending. It is as if the Catholics have forgotten that, once upon a time, their religion too was in the minority and was persecuted for heresies. The right to free speech is not absolute, yes, but it is abridged only by the risk of actual harm. Offense does not constitute real harm, according to our current understanding of the word. It is quite easy to pretend to be offended and even easier to organize an entire religion around the notion of offense.

This real harm is brought to bear by provable nonsense such as faith healing Masses that are regularly advertised on street banners. This real harm is caused by ex-gay clinics run by fundamentalist Christians. It seems clear that freedom of speech is only limited in the view of conservatives whenever it is convenient for them to curtail it. I wouldn’t be surprised if religious leaders cry persecution should the FDA start regulating these leaders’ therapeutic claims.

It is therefore encouraging that more enlightened bodies such as the Human Rights Council of the United Nations has released General Comment No. 34, which affirms the superiority of the right to free speech over the so-called right against blasphemy. Sorry, Atty. Imbong. General Comment No. 34 was put out by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), of which the Philippines is a member. As a signatory and ratifier, the Philippines is legally bound by international law to follow GC34. In the comment, it says that, “Prohibitions of displays of lack of respect for a religion or other belief system, including blasphemy laws, are incompatible with the Covenant….”

Members of the ICCPR are required “to guarantee the right to freedom of expression… This right includes… political discourse, commentary on one’s own and on public affairs, canvassing, discussion of human rights, journalism, cultural and artistic expression, teaching, and religious discourse. It may also include commercial advertising.” The comment instructs members to embrace “even expression that may be regarded as deeply offensive….” However, GC34 allows for laws against speech that could incite violence, discrimination, or hostility against a race, nation, or religion.

Certainly, there was no incitement of violence in Cruz’s piece against any person. If only the conservative Catholics offended by his work would extend the same courtesy. With death threats against Cruz and members of the CCP board, and threats against the security of the CCP, fundamentalists are keen on using their Constitutionally guaranteed right to free speech to the point of breaking. The fierceness with which they try to defend their sensibilities betrays insecurity, I think. It reveals a sliver of unsureness, that their beliefs aren’t capable of surviving criticism or a bit of reassessment.

With General Comment No. 34, the Philippine government may be compelled to repeal all the repressive and retrograde blasphemy laws we have in our books that the clerico-fascists keep dusting off and pulling out whenever society dares to go against their medieval aspirations.

The right to free speech protects not the pleasing ideas that we can all agree on, but the ones that we find most outrageous and unappealing. GC34 affirms that “Freedom of opinion and freedom of expression are indispensable conditions for the full development of the person. They are essential for any society. They constitute the foundation stone for every free and democratic society.” But the conservative extremists in the Philippines seem hellbent on eschewing democracy and liberty in favor of their own mangled notion of freedom.

It is not just the rights of Cruz and the CCP that the Church aims to restrict. It is the right of each and every one of us to hear what Cruz and what every other artist, every other person, has to say. And if what we hear is offensive, then we get to decide that, not the Church and certainly not someone who needs to preface every statement with “I’m a Thomasian.”

Image from new.exchristian.net

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In Support of Free Speech – A Mass Blog for Libel Reform


Simon Singh writes:

This week is the first anniversary of the report Free Speech is Not for Sale, which highlighted the oppressive nature of English libel law. In short, the law is extremely hostile to writers, while being unreasonably friendly towards powerful corporations and individuals who want to silence critics.

The English libel law is particularly dangerous for bloggers, who are generally not backed by publishers, and who can end up being sued in London regardless of where the blog was posted. The internet allows bloggers to reach a global audience, but it also allows the High Court in London to have a global reach.

You can read more about the peculiar and grossly unfair nature of English libel law at the website of the Libel Reform Campaign. You will see that the campaign is not calling for the removal of libel law, but for a libel law that is fair and which would allow writers a reasonable opportunity to express their opinion and then defend it.

The good news is that the British Government has made a commitment to draft a bill that will reform libel, but it is essential that bloggers and their readers send a strong signal to politicians so that they follow through on this promise. You can do this by joining me and over 50,000 others who have signed the libel reform petition at
www.libelreform.org/sign

Remember, you can sign the petition whatever your nationality and wherever you live. Indeed, signatories from overseas remind British politicians that the English libel law is out of step with the rest of the free world.

If you have already signed the petition, then please encourage friends, family and colleagues to sign up. Moreover, if you have your own blog, you can join hundreds of other bloggers by posting this blog on your own site. There is a real chance that bloggers could help change the most censorious libel law in the democratic world.

We must speak out to defend free speech. Please sign the petition for libel reform at www.libelreform.org/sign

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