1st Global Conference
The Changing Facets of Evil & Free Speech
Saturday 17th March 2018 – Sunday 18th March 2018
Conference Abstracts and Papers
Using History in Free Speech Consultation with Governments, Politicians and Pressure Groups: A Guide for Practitioners.
Oxford Brookes University, United Kingdom
This seminar will be led by a history academic who is an acknowledged international expert on the History of Blasphemy. His academic work has involved two monographs, several articles and compendiums of primary source documents. However, contact with NGOs and governments has also involved preparing policy documents for third sector organisations that address governments as well as speaking as an expert at public forums (the European Commission, Constitutional Conventions, European Security Organisations, Justice Ministry and Parliamentary Upper Chamber [Republic of Ireland], the House of Lords [UK] and the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion). He will outline how insights into the history of blasphemy (both as a principle and a sequence of laws) has enabled the construction of arguments against extension of the law..
This history has provided vitally important precedent and argument for the contemporary context. It will be demonstrated how these aspects can be used to empower Free Speech practitioners and advocates. Through worked examples around the history of blasphemy (in this case advising the House of Lords Select Committee on Religious Offences 2003 and the Irish Parliament and Justice Ministry since 2009) the seminar will pinpoint precise forms of argument and lobbying that use history as the ‘caselaw’ of what to do right and how to illuminate poor thinking, procedure and a failure to follow past lessons. The seminar intends to show practitioners the skills and aptitudes needed to quarry the history of their own free speech concern and how to use and ask for the help of academics wanting to maximise themselves in real world research impact . Attendees should come away with a blueprint and checklist on how to interrogate their own history but also on how to think of history in a transnational way that pulls ideas across from other countries and contexts.
Harmless Monsters? Queer Subcultural Opposition to “Humanity”
Auckland University of Technology, New Zealand
queer, monsters, games, new media, intersectionality, becoming, gender, performance
Fictional monsters have often been given hypersexual and queer traits to cement their inhumanity and titillate straight audiences, from the polymorphous perversity of the vampire to the trope of “tentacle monsters” that inevitably commit “tentacle rape.” More recently, queer creators working in new media have embraced monstrosity as a metaphor for their own identities and place in society, in contrast with the cishet normativity that projects its fears onto them and marks them up destruction. Queer monstrosity is used as a metaphor for diversity in Tab Kimpton’s Minority Monsters comics, and in conjunction with the stigmatization of kink in Alexandra Erin’s Tales of MU serial web fiction. Audiences are implicated in queer monstrosity in queer video- and tabletop games like Monsterhearts, Rainbow Tinted, Lesbian Spider-Queens of Mars, and How to Speak Atlantean.
Unlike some previous queer subcultural art which presumed homogenous gay or lesbian audiences, queer monstrosity is characterized by its inclusion of transgender issues and nonbinary understandings of sexuality and gender alike. The tension between gender performance and identity, becoming’s triumph and being, and an intersectional understanding of power are foregrounded in works of queer monstrosity and their opposition to the “humanity” that passively empowers the paladins and vampire-hunters that seek to “purify” the world by purging it of queers and other “impurities.”
In addition to the presentation, a live role-playing workshop session of Avery Alder’s Monsterhearts, a tabletop RPG about teen angst and queer self-discovery, could easily be put together. Participants would not need to have any previous gaming experience, six participants plus MC (presenter) maximum.
The Lecherous Witch: Evil, Witchcraft and Female Sexuality in Early Modern Sweden
Umea University, Sweden
In Sweden, about 400 people were executed for witchcraft during the period 1492-1704. Most were executed during the most intense period, 1768-1676, “The Big Noise”, when almost 100 percent were women. An important aspect of the allegations concerned sexuality, for example copulation with the Devil and carnal orgies at the Witches’ Sabbath. The sources are fascinating. Naked bodies in evil orgiastic ceremonies, hairy devils wildly copulating with women, and faces distorted of pain in flaming fire. Detailed descriptions of what the witches devoted themselves to, as well as the torture and humiliation that took place in the dungeons, often with obvious sexual element.
The courts, as well as the clergy relied on the demonological knowledge and theories at the time. The most influential texts were Heinrich Instistoris Kramer’s Malleus Maleficarum (1486-87) and Jean Bodin’s On the Demon-Mania of Witches (1580), but also in Sweden, theological and legal thesis were written about sorcery, superstition and witchcraft. Of particular importance was the Magia Incantatrix (1632) and Ethica Christiana (1633), both written by theologians and strongly influenced by European demonology. The similarities to ideas in Malleus Maleficarum are apparent. The weakness, uncleanness and evil of woman make her an easy target for the Devil. Women entice men to evil; the sexual act is central to witchcraft and devil-worship; as incubus and succubus, the devil can copulate with humans; women who get pregnant with the Devil give birth to freaks. These beliefs about women, sexuality, evil and witchcraft were expressed in Swedish trials during the Witch Craze in the 17th century. In my presentation I will focus on this particular aspect of the witchcraft concept.
Decency and Indecency: A Theoretical Continuum of Good and Evil
Bexley, Ohio, USA
Bexley, Ohio, USA
Frankl Evil Social Madness Decency Indecency, US Presidential Administration
Evil can be understood as different qualities—environmental (or natural) evil, spiritual (or religious) evil, human evil and social evil. Some evils have no apparent cause or intention, and therefore have no place to lay blame or responsibility once the evil has occurred (like an unexpected earthquake or tsunami). Others however, are premeditated by intentioned perpetrators with a sole purpose of inflicting harm. History is replete with such evil. This paper focuses on the latter, and to guide its discussion, I develop a theoretical continuum with goodness at one end and evilness at its opposite. Additionally, evilness, like goodness, is experienced by intensity and is charted on the continuum accordingly. Quintessentially, human evil lacks goodness and decency One of its greatest dangers arises from its insidious claim on a culture’s social fabric, turning what was once a decent society toward moral corruption and social madness. Viktor Frankl, the late Viennese psychiatrist and survivor of the Nazi holocaust, once made a controversial statement about two kinds of human races. He said there were only decent and indecent people, and further suggested decent people were the minority and would always be the minority. His provocative statement ignites debate when considering human agency and intention within the context of evilness and goodness and provides specific content for my continuum. If Frankl was correct, what does it mean to live in a world made of mostly indecent people? What roles (if any) do values, beliefs, conscience or behaviour play? How should decent people live and make choices? Finally, in order to provide concrete contemporary examples, the current US Presidential administration and policies will be explored as part of my continuum.
What Price Pitchforks? Is Gabriel Gale’s Critique of Little Godism Compelling?
Regan Lance Reitsma
Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, USA
Solipsism, playing God, satanism, G.K. Chesterton, Gabriel Gale, ancient Greek skepticism, Rene Descartes, epistemology, religious experience.
Sometimes thinking hard about a strange idea is surprisingly fruitful and enlightening—even if this peculiar idea doesn’t, and shouldn’t, compel our all-things-considered assent.
Consider the following bizarre complex of ideas, which we might call “solipsistic little god syndrome.” A solipsist is a person who believes—out of philosophical principle—in two, and only two, “things”: in her own existence and in the existence of the ideas, the “appearances,” that enter into her own consciousness. A solipsist doesn’t believe, it follows, in the existence of other “real” people or in the existence of an “external world,” a world independent of her own mind. Believing in solipsism might prompt a person to feel in several ways like a god: if, as the solipsist believes, the whole of “objective reality” is, similar to a dream, nothing but figments in her own mind, then she will seem to herself to be the sovereign creator of the totality of things, a trait traditionally ascribed to God.
In G.K. Chesterton’s short story “The Crime of Gabriel Gale,” Herbert Saunders, a youthful, gauche candidate for the ministry, gets it into his head that he himself is God, “Omnipotence looking in.” On the basis of interesting but not particularly compelling arguments, Saunders comes to suppose he is in control of the weather and “all the elements.” To explain (to himself) how it is he has this god-like power, Saunders adopts the solipsistic idea that the whole world is contained in, and a mere construction of, his own mind. To save Saunders from solipsistic little god syndrome, Gabriel Gale, an eccentric poet and painter who has a habit of “curing lunatics” by “going half way with them,” pitchforks him to a tree—for fourteen hours, in the midst of a bone-chilling storm—to knock these “dangerous” and “satanic” ideas out of his head.
Gale’s “cure” succeeds in the sense that Saunders comes to regard his solipsistic little godist ideas as disproved, and Saunders subsequently goes on to live the life of a hearty, well-liked country vicar. These dramatic events prompt Gale to surmise that our happiness as human beings is grounded in our (recognition of our) own “creatureliness” and our consequent and consequential ability to feel “gratitude” and “surprise,” whereas “solipsistic little godism” is, Gale alludes, not only false, but lonely; a “strain”; a form of invidious, even “satanic,” pride; and a dangerous temptation “closer to the nerve of all thinking” than most of us suspect. Speaking broadly, the “Crime of Gabriel Gale” is a rich literary representation, I think, of Chesterton’s theologically-tinged critique of certain strains of modern philosophy that emphasize human autonomy. And this critique implicitly contains Chesterton’s account of the relationship between God and humanity and how, in his view, everyday thinking can point humanity to the divine.
However vivid and intellectually lively Chesterton’s story is, there are some hard philosophical questions to ask about “The Crime of Gabriel Gale.” First, how compelling is Gale’s Samuel-Johnson-style, “I refute you thus” attempted “disproof” of Saunders’ beliefs? And, second, with how much epistemic force do Chesterton’s theological conclusions follow from the dramatic events within Saunders’ life?
In a previous presentation for ID.Net, “The Solipsist as Satanist: A Philosophical Reading of G.K. Chesterton’s ‘The Crime of Gabriel Gale’,” I carefully sussed out the chain of reasoning that led Saunders (if only briefly) to his unusual cognitive syndrome. In this presentation, “What Price Pitchforks?,” I intend to critique Saunders’ reasoning, Gale’s attempt to disprove solipsistic little godism, and the theological arguments Chesterton seems to be pressing on his readers.
Motherhood Unbound: The Actions and Consequences of (Thick) Love in Toni Morrison’s Beloved
Serban Dan Blidariu
consequences; ethical dilemmas; love; infanticide; motherhood; slavery; trauma
Exceptions aside, motherhood is usually idealized and slavery is demonized. And yet there is more to each, especially when the two come together. One such example is Toni Morrison’s Beloved, a novel that explores motherhood and slavery in an unusual and deeply troubling manner.
What drove Sethe’s actions to great lengths was a feeling that looked excessive to some, Paul D. practically calling it ‘thick love’. However, Sethe’s view of her duty as a mother – to protect her children – knew no bounds. “Love is or it ain’t. Thin love ain’t love at all”. Plainly said, Beloved in a novel about many things, yet at the heart of it all is one central action: infanticide. Once it was committed there was no turning back. Something had to be done and something was done and from that moment on Sethe’s life continued under the shadow of her most controversial act. I use the word ‘controversial’ because the novel does not openly condemn or excuse the event. What Morrison accomplishes, however, is to put everything in a larger perspective, including another infanticide story and many powerful descriptions of mothers losing their children permanently because of slavery. Without paying enough attention, Sethe’s decision might seem like one random act of slaughter. But when looking at it closely, too closely, one may begin to see it the same way the novel presents it: without either accusing or excusing.
We will explore these issues in more detail, but in only a few words we can say that the novel goes all the way in bringing to life not only the speakable and the unspeakable, but even more so, the unspoken.
“If there is no evil within, the evil on the outside can do you no harm:” Questions of Alterity and Notions of Evil in Contemporary West African Fiction
Abioseh Michael Porter
Philadelphia, PA, USA
It is axiomatic these days to acknowledge that the late 20th and early 21st centuries have seen a resurgence of very fine writing by West African authors writing in English and French. Exploiting experimental and liberating language, symbolism, and patterns of thought to address issues dealing with the much-needed transformation of West African societies, authors such as Forna, Pede Hollist, Eustace Palmer, Gloria Allen, Beah, Jarrett Macauley, Teju Cole, Cheney Coker, Adichie, Unigwe, Marie Ndiaye, and Dioume have used the age-old act of defining and exploring evil to examine some very problematic subjects in West Africa. One tool the authors have used is the vexed topic of alterity.
I hope to highlight how these authors, exploring quite adroitly the implications of alterity, especially the roles of class, racism, misogyny, colourism, etc. in the creation and sustenance of evil, now seem intent on manipulating language to create and locate spaces, landscapes, and characters in ways that point to the real nature of evil. With linguistic styles that evoke painting and spatial geography, the artistry and poignancy of these writers are often so powerful that they seem to use their respective worlds as visual and poetic canvasses to achieve important goals such as “who is the ‘other?” among us and what role does a central motif such as alterity play in the presence of evil. The authors have also managed not only to show evil in various ways but also to wander from one part of the world exposing how the treatment of evil is a fecund and potent source for the pain and realities that have become their fiction as well as a major source of hope for their peoples.
From Post-race to Post-truth: Free Speech in the New Era of Overt Racism
California State University East Bay, USA
The narrative of post-race tells us that structural inequality based on race is in the past. In the U.S. context, racial discrimination was supposedly healed by the struggles of the Civil Rights Era and racial injustice is no longer a barrier to social, political and economic attainment. In this American story, failure to succeed is a matter of individual inadequacy, rather than of an uneven playing field. The narrative of post-truth is an emotional appeal that frequently trades on animus and fear of the Other. Post-truth ‘facts’ can be altered and discarded to accommodate personal beliefs. In this American story advanced by white supremacists, America is befouled by immigration and racial diversity; people of colour are a barrier to social, political and economic attainment for white people.
In this paper, I argue that both post-race and post-truth in the United States are the product of ideological investments in racial dominance that do work to silence the voices of minoritized people. While post-race falls under the guise of colour-blindness and is characterized by inferential racism, post-truth falls under the guise of free speech and is characterized by overt racism. Post-racial America was the realm of Barack Obama, whose rise shored up myths of racial equality that made it difficult to talk about racism. Post-truth America is the realm of
Donald Trump, whose rise gives voice to overt racism as ‘free speech,’ and is a purposeful assault on dialogue about racism. The two—post-race and post-truth—represent different, but interconnected moments, both fuelled by news media publicity that clings to the founding myth of the American Dream.
So How Do We Talk About Sex?
Sheffield Hallam University, United Kingdom
sex, consent, young people, law, UK, sexting, crime
I am a criminal barrister and human rights lecturer in the UK. I helped to establish a charity in 2015 that provides workshops on sexual consent to young people (aged 11-18), exploring the ways in which the law regulates their conduct when it comes to sex (we cover offences such as sexting, sexual harassment, sexual assault and rape). It’s important to make clear to young people that there is a legal limit to what they can say and the images they can send to others. However, one of the questions I am frequently asked (by both young people and adults who hear the workshops) is: “so how do we talk about sex?” Young people say they are embarrassed, confused by the images and language used on social media, worried that they might say something that might cross the legal line. They also cannot understand why it is illegal in the UK for young people under 18 to send naked images of themselves (when the sending is consensual).
I propose to hold an interactive workshop that will explore different ways to talk to young people about sex and how to encourage them to talk about sex in a way that is healthy and lawful. I would also like to explore the areas of law in the UK that restrict the ways in which young people can sexually express themselves. It will be a highly interactive session, encouraging debate, role-play and critical analysis of the law. I hope to hear from conference attendees about the laws and approaches in other countries. My aim is to improve the workshops we provide to young people and to gather information that will also feed into my work as a university human rights lecturer (my job involves both talking to students about sexual consent and also teaching about freedom of speech).
50 Shades of Film Censorship: Gender Bias from the Hays Code to MPAA Ratings
University of Pennsylvania, USA
Using historical censorship records, industry publications, and interviews with film raters, this article reveals the evolution of gender bias in film regulation. This essay asserts that film ratings in the current era repress images of agentive sexuality and pleasure-seeking for women. First, this article examines cinematic treatment of gender and sexuality during the Hays Code. Next, the transition to film ratings is analyzed with respect to its governing ideology and economic effects. Blue Valentine (2010), Charlie Countryman (2013), and Blue is the Warmest Color (2013) are used as case studies to illustrate film ratings’ regressive management of gender dynamics in the current era. Lastly, suggestions for maintaining freedom of expression while ensuring a more equitable portrayal of women are proposed.
Blowing the Whistle: Will a New Shield Law Protect Journalists’ Confidential Sources in Canada?
University of King’s College, Halifax, Canada
Many countries and most American states have laws to protect a journalist’s confidential sources. Legal protection for anonymous sources and whistleblowers, who may risk their careers and even their lives if their identities are revealed, is seen as a cornerstone of free speech and freedom of the press. Today, these protections are more important than ever as some politicians and governments seek to contain leaks, expose anonymous sources or discredit critics and media reports. Until 2017, Canadian journalists operated without clear legal protection for sources who provide information in confidence. Courts assessed the news media’s efforts to protect sources on a case-by-case basis, creating uncertainty for journalists and their informants. The issue took on new urgency when it was revealed that investigators had sought the phone records of journalists as part of an investigation into leaks of information from within police forces in the province of Quebec. In response, Canada’s federal government took the rare step of endorsing a private members’ bill to create a “shield law.” The Journalistic Sources Protection Act provides a framework for the courts to assess whether sources should be protected while curbing the power of the police to seize records that could reveal the identity of a source.
This paper will explore the genesis of this source-protection law and the lessons other jurisdictions can draw from Canada’s efforts to strike a balance between the investigative powers of the state and the media’s constitutional right to inform the public.
The Denigration of Writers in Communist Romania
University of Pitesti, Romania
denigration, Communism, discourse, Romania, biography
Denigration, calumny, slander: all these are cognate social practices which are usually regarded as negative aspects of the social/public life but are in reality very rarely condemned. The history of denigration goes back to the beginnings of society, to give just an example, Socrates was sentenced to death as a result of continuous denigration from his peers and other members of society. Nowadays, denigration is omnipresent on TV shows and in the written press, on the internet and in the private life. In spite of its widespread presence, denigration has been rarely if at all studied from a linguistic, literary, historical, psychological or sociological perspective. However, denigration has a status of its own, presents particular features which distinguish it from other similar social acts and possesses a phenomenology, a discourse, a history which are highly specific.
There were times in history when denigration led to the disappearance of entire social structures, to the alteration of the psychology of a people, to the transformation of the public and personal discourses, to terror and mistrust in one’s neighbour. In Communist times, denigration acted as the trigger for the ruin of whole careers and social personae, in some cases the downfall of whole social layers – intellectuals, the clergy, the bourgeois – who were discredited in the files of the National Security Service (Securitate) on endless pages which denigrated their work, their morality, their relations and their families. Denigration was one of the most harmful practices of Communist Romania (1945-1989).
This paper will discuss the denigration of several authors writing under the Communist regime and the means by which they were discredited. It will look at the “informative notes” from the National Security Service of the time in order to decipher the strategies of the evil practice of denigration. What were some of the discursive means of denigrating? How were those authors’ lives changed in the aftermath of denigration? are some of the questions we will address.
Dying to Be: Terror and the Search for Identity
Reading Law School, United Kingdom
Terrorism, Identity, Performance, Memory, Exclusion
The desire to preserve what cannot be preserved and to remember what must ultimately be forgotten seems an unavoidable facet of higher consciousness. Evidence suggests that even Neanderthals memorialised their dead in simple fashion. Furthermore, the desire to be remembered has been as significant as remembering others. Elites have often appropriated significant proportions of social resources not to build granaries, forts or even palaces but to construct monuments to attest to the fact that they have been. This futile desire to write oneself in time has always been a driver of human culture and has often been accomplished by great, if amoral, deeds. The Greco-Roman world admired the horrors perpetrated by Homeric heroes whilst ignoring the nameless shades of the underworld.
The majority poor, those nameless shades, have always struggled for recognition in either life or death marking their presence as best they can. The graffito is one of the oldest written forms and sadly declares ‘this was me I was here!’ Perhaps the greatest attraction of the monotheisms that in the West eventually displaced other religious forms was their declaration that lowly individuals also had a biography, interiority and that their lives were of interest to God. Monotheism in one sense democratised life granting all the hope of a successful futurity.
The relative decline of religiosity however, has now led to the prioritisation of public performance at the expense of the interior life. One exists only if known, seen and currently broadcasting. The paper will examine the recent phenomenon of domestic terrorism and argue that its perpetrators are symptomatic of the difficulties of grounding identity in a society that assigns value merely on the basis of social performance. The manifestations of this difficulty are, to a degree, novel but the perpetrators in question replicate the same dilemma faced by ourselves and all our forefathers, they seek to find some value in an existence in which they feel marginalised and excluded; they are literarily ‘dying to be.’
Los Halcones: The Evolving Role of Children in Mexico’s Organized Crime
University of Bradford, United Kingdom
Mexico, Organized crime, Children, Violence, Evil, Narcoculture, Child soldiers
Children are playing an increasingly relevant role in the fight against organised crime and the associated violence in Mexico. Children are often initiated into drug trafficking organisations primarily as lookouts (Halcones) as provide the eyes and ears for drug gangs. More often than not, this initial role steadily progresses until the stage that children as young as thirteen become assassins for cartels. The academic interest in the role children are playing is almost non-existent which is exacerbated by a statistical failure of the Mexican institutions to record child involvement in organised crime. However this does not reflect a genuine concern as estimates from human rights groups claim that up to 30,000 children are currently involved in on-going violence in Mexico. This article aims to move beyond mere recognition of the issue and outline the recruitment, involvement, and future of this demographic and offer and comprehensive overview of children involved in criminal violence. The article will also look at the roles of the criminal organisations, narco-culture, and the judiciary system to examine the environment which is warranting the rising recruitment of children into the Drug War.
“I Don’t Condone Murder and I Despise Murderers:” Perversity and Amorality in the “Saw” Movies
Federal University of Health Sciences in Porto Alegre, Brazil
horror cinema; Saw; torture porn; representations of evil; perversion.
The torture porn (Edelstein, 2006; Jones, 2013) is a contemporary horror movie genre whose main appeal relies on the abundant and seemingly gratuitous scenes of body dismemberment over a well-constructed plot. Franchises such as Saw, Hostel, The Human Centipede and I Spit on Your Grave, and movies such as Martyrs and A Serbian Film are exemplary of the genre, whose roots may be traced back to the slasher. Although mutilation and physical torture have been recurrent in horror movies for some decades, as evidenced by the slasher and the body horror, for instance, the torture porn has taken the violent destruction of the body to a more blatant level, inasmuch as brutality seems to be associated to sheer evil. This paper discusses the presence evil in the Saw franchise, contending that while perverse aggressions against the human body are necessary to make the notion of evil concrete before the viewers’ eyes, the complexity of certain plot situations invites to a discussion about whether Jigsaw, the idealizer of the games, is a villain indeed – a thesis Jigsaw himself refutes. Based on the notion of amorality (Moeller, 2009), the paper problematizes Jigsaw’s status as a murderer and his belief that submitting people to extreme experiences is a way of helping them appreciate life. The brutal – and perhaps evil – destruction of the human body in the Saw movies is discussed here in the light of psychoanalytical studies, particularly the Freudian notion of life and death drives, and Élisabeth Roudinesco’s discussion on perversion and perversity (2010).