Category: Religion

Oughterard

[I ripped this audio file from a tweet by one of Ireland’s alt-right anti-immigrant underbelly accounts. I don’t feel obliged to give credit here. Fair usage etc. You can find it yourself.]

Ireland’s increasingly organised hard-right moron brigade have been wetting themselves silly since a meeting in Oughterard went viral yesterday, where one of my local members of parliament went along and opened his racist mouth.

The biggest irony is that the people who whipped up hysteria in Oughterard were themselves, in the Irish parlance, “blow-ins”.

Wednesday’s meeting was organised by known operatives — reactionary alt-right provocateurs — who have been doing this type of thing around the country. They are following a playbook used by fascists in Hungary, Russia, Italy, Turkey, even in the United States, where political speech is taken out of the mainstream and targetted at left-behind, largely non-metropolitan, communities. Fears are stoked, genies are released from bottles, and scapegoats are targetted.

Eamonn VIDF has posted an important thread outlining their activities. Please read it all:

The people of Oughterard have been played. The politician who made the racist speech has been played. He’s a patsy. A pawn. A gullible mouthpiece playing his part. And he sits in our parliament.

Ireland. We have a problem.

oughterard

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Of course, that doesn’t mean that what this guy said should be ignored. His speech was replete with tropes and cliches, and is worth a takedown. We can all do with a playbook.

So here are the bones:

“Our Taoiseach [Prime Minister] three weeks ago said he’d take an extra two hundred, er, what they call ‘migrants’ from Africa…”

The people concerned are, in fact, asylum seekers, not migrants.

Wednesday’s meeting had been called because of an apparent government plan to refurbish a disused hotel in the village of Oughterard in order to provide asylum seeker accommodation. Calling asylum seekers “economic migrants” is, of course, an error of the deliberate kind.

The particular asylum seekers mentioned by the Taoiseach were a group of men, women and children rescued from the Mediterranean in August by the charities Médicins Sans Frontières (MSF) and SOS Méditerranée, including babies as young as one year old.

“These are economic migrants.”

No. To repeat, they are quite clearly asylum seekers, not migrants.

“These are people who are coming over here from Africa to, er, to sponge off the system here in Ireland.”

No. Again. According to MSF, these people were fleeing the war in Libya, where they faced ill treatment, arbitrary detention, and torture. When rescued after getting into difficulties in the Mediterranean, they were suffering from severe dehydration and malnutrition. They don’t want to sponge off any system. They just want to be alive.

“I know people who I’ve brought all over the county of Galway trying to get housing for. They’re [waiting] seven, eight, nine, ten years…”

Ireland’s housing shortage has emerged largely because of prolonged economic policies that have failed to provide livable infrastructures and appropriate social safety nets during the past two decades.

Not least this was because of the inflationary policies pursued by this politician’s very own party during the pre-crash splurge years of the Celtic Tiger, a party whose policies he would surely be personally familiar with, given that he served as its Chairman and, for eight months, its Leader.

Apart from one parliamentary term, his own party was in Government from 1989 to 2011. Does he really think that if our nation’s roads, schools, health services and housing stock are all so poorly resourced, it’s because of asylum seekers?

“…Let the Minister know the fear — and it is the fear factor — that this is going to bring on this village. Because we don’t know. We don’t know these people that’s coming in.”

We do. We know that they are a small group of asylum seekers fleeing war and torture in Libya, most of whom are under the age of 18, some of whom are babies, who — while malnourished and dehydrated — were rescued from certain death at sea by a globally respected NGO. That’s “these people that’s coming in.”

“I can guarantee you. It’s not the persecuted Christians and Syrians coming here.”

Religion. Seriously?

At this point we can note that this politician campaigned (unsuccessfully) against the repeal of Ireland’s restrictive abortion laws last year, positioning himself firmly at the fringes of the country’s social policy culture. He was even one of a rump of Catholic fundamentalist parliamentarians who tried to block the referendum from being held in the first place, implying that he favours democracy except when it seems the majority might vote against him.

(Amusingly, the party he once chaired was called the “Progressive “Democrats“!)

As with many pro-life politicians, it seems this guy is all about protecting life when it is in the womb, but less interested when said life is running around rural Irish villages praying to the wrong god.

“It’s the people, the economic, er, refugees that’s coming in from Africa that’s trying to get across the Mediterranean and ended up in EU, and ended up in Ireland, and ended up in Oughterard, where you don’t have the schools, you don’t have the doctors.”

But if they were Christians fleeing from ISIS, the schools and doctors would then somehow be able to cope?

I’m beginning to think that the guy might not be making any sense.

“A big city, a major city can absorb three hundred refugees, but not a small town like Oughterard. So I’ll say one thing to everybody in this room here tonight: work together, stick together, and we will work with ye, and I want the politicians here to give that same commitment here tonight…”

But, er, he’s a politician.

“…that we will work to ensure that this does not happen, and it’d destroy the fabric of Oughterard.”

TL;DR: Keep the Africans out, at least the non-Christian ones. Because fear. And votes. Don’t forget to vote for me. Don’t you know there’s an election next year?

It is worth bearing in mind that already in Ireland, a number of hotels earmarked as asylum centres have been subject to middle-of-the-night arson attacks.

irishtimesleitrim

Irish Times, Feb 2019

* * *

The irony here should not be lost on the residents of Oughterard.

It is not asylum seekers who have come from outside, imposed themselves on their quiet village, caused disruption, intimidated the locals, and left people scared of their surroundings.

It is the alt-right agitators who have done so, the Facebook fascists, Ireland’s unapologetically racist keyboard warriors, the people for whom Nazi salutes are an appropriate insult to liberal snowflakes.

This is not an organic resistance to progressive values and a fair and equitable society. It is an organised one.

And it requires an organised response.

* * *

>>Read next: What the alt-right are privately saying about their “important work” in Oughterard

Brexit contingency-planning latest: Don’t ask me, ask God, minister testifies

From The Guardian‘s live blog just now:

In the Brexit committee Michael Gove has just finished answering a series of questions about how Dover would cope with lorry arrivals in the event of a no-deal Brexit. Hilary Benn, the committee chair, did not sound hugely reassured, and he concluded by asking Gove to admit that no one actually knows what will happen in the event of no deal. Gove did not contest this, but replied:

“The future is known only to the Almighty.”

But of course, there is problem with that:

Benn said unfortunately the Almighty would not be appearing as a witness.

I mean, really.

* * *

In other news, here is a quick lesson in how news reporting works in the UK:


https://twitter.com/GreensladeR/status/1169543333103976448

Construct your own reality. It’s what everybody else does…

When contextualizing its report on transphobic death threats received by an Armenian activist, The Guardian somehow forgets to mention religion

Lilit Martirosyan’s speech in the Armenian parliament has gone viral.

Addressing a panel on human rights, Martirosyan described the plight of the trans community in Armenia. She explained how her own experience of threats and violence reflect the challenges that she and other trans people face in the country:

I encompass in myself — tortured, raped, kidnapped, subjected to physical violence, burned, immolated, knifed, subjected to murder attempt, killed, emigrated, robbed, subjected to stigma and discrimination in social, medical, legal, economic areas and in every aspect of a dignified life, unemployed, poor, and morally abandoned — the Armenian Transgender’s image.

While Armenia has passed legislation to decriminalize homosexuality, there are no laws to prohibit discrimination against LGBT persons. The government disqualifies LGBT people from joining the military. Same-sex couples are not allowed to marry, or to adopt.

ILGA, a globally renowned NGO, ranks Armenia 48th out of 49 European countries for LGBT rights. In the ‘Hate Crime & Hate Speech’ category, Armenia finishes (joint) bottom of the pile, with a score of zero percent. The past year has seen a surge in violent anti-LGBT attacks in the country.

Therefore, perhaps it was no surprise when Martirosyan’s truly historic and brave speech sparked an immediate backlash from Armenian conservatives. It started even before she left the podium. Panel chair, Naira Zohrabyan, decried Martirosyan’s speech for having (allegedly) deviated from the official debate schedule and ordered her to leave the chamber, shouting “You have violated the agenda!” at her as she walked away. Some of the MPs applauded this verdict, shouting “Bravo, Ms Zohrabyan!

Pic: YouTube

The Guardian reported on the death threats today:

The speech, two weeks ago, has since sparked a backlash in Armenia, where homosexuality has been decriminalised but discrimination against LGBTI people is rife. There have been anti-LGBTI protests in front of the national assembly and verbal attacks made by some parliamentarians have included calls for her to be burned alive…

Martirosyan said the home addresses of several people who work for Right Side, the transgender rights organisation she created in 2016, have been leaked and that her own home address has been spread across the internet by extremist groups who have threatened to “kill them if we find them”. Nationalists, she said, have gathered outside her house, raising Armenian flags…

And so on, and so on.

Pic: Aysor.am

Strangely, across its 760-word report, The Guardian entirely avoids pointing out why these Armenian protesters want LGBT persons to be “burned alive” so much that there are pickets outside parliament and — more disturbingly — attempted lynchings in rural Armenian villages.

They fail to even refer to the fact that the protests are spearheaded by Armenian church figures and clerics, and that much of the inflammatory language used in the protests is infused with religious diatribes.

The leader of the Prosperous Armenia party, Gagik Tsarukyan, invoked “Armenian traditions and faith” to declare Martirosyan’s address a “vice,” adding that “we must hide the vice as it was before.”

Protesters were led to parliament by religious groups and individual clerics, who called for a “ban on sexual minorities” at the legislative level. The clerics included Ghazar Petrosyan, a priest who once berated the Armenian president for being a “friend” of Elton John, on the basis that “nothing can alleviate the sin of being gay.

One of their schticks was to declare that Martirosyan’s speech had “desecrated” the parliamentary podium, and that the chamber needed now to be cleansed. They brought incense, which they said was needed in order to “sanctify” the podium at which Martirosyan had stood. The protesters were told that this would set off the fire alarm in parliament, so they offered to bless the podium with holy water instead. Some of the religious groups even brought a new podium to replace the one that Martirosyan had tainted.

In Armenia, religious attacks on the LGBT community go right to the top. Last year, the supreme leader of the Armenian Church decried “the phenomenon of homosexuality” as “unacceptable to the way of human nature” and, literally, “a threat to our nation’s survival.”

The fact that The Guardian can report on these protests without even mentioning their religious underpinnings — in a country such as Armenia, where church-led conservatism has long been a source of concern — is, frankly, nothing less than bizarre.

The obvious question to raise is: would The Guardian have mentioned religion had these protests taken place in a Muslim country?

Well, when The Guardian reports on transphobia and homophobia in places like Brunei, Saudi Arabia, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Iran, for example, it seems to me that they are quite quick to refer to sharia law, clerics, and other religious frames of reference by way of context. The fact they avoid doing so when describing Christian protests in Armenia certainly stands out.

I note that the Guardian’s Armenia report is “supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.”

I wonder does this mean that certain terms and conditions apply?

Maybe not, but it’s worth remembering all the same that, even in The Guardian, paid-for content is exactly what it says it is.

Paid for.

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