True North Humanist Perspective - November 2014

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Rape myths emerge in wake of Jian Ghomeshi scandal

The story of former CBC radio host Jian Ghomeshi digs up five potent myths about rape that run deep in our culture

By  Catherine Porter

Jian Ghomeshi has allowed us to dig up many of our putrid presumptions around sexual assault and let them fester publicly in the sunlight this week.

Most of us know they aren’t true, the way we know that little boys aren’t more rambunctious than girls, and black men aren’t more sporty than Latinos. But we still believe them. They are part of a bunch of stereotypes that we learn by cultural rote and carry like prayer beads.

They are the reason nine out of 10 women don’t report their attacker to the cops. We think our stories are wrong because they don’t match the cultural soundtrack around sexual assault. We think our horrid stories are individual peculiarities, not systemic crimes.

Feminists call those presumptions “rape myths.”

A handful of gender studies and criminology professors described them to me this week. I found what they said illuminating — not only for examining the case of the CBC radio host and his accusers, but for sifting through the public debate it sparked.

Here they are.

Rape Myth No. 1: Women lie about sexual assault. Ghomeshi said this off the bat in his eye-popping Facebook post. His unidentified accusers were a jilted ex-lover with an axe to grind and an aspiring freelance writer. Many fans still believe this, despite the stack of incriminating stories that have since risen up. This is the age-old defence of sexual assaulters, which heaves the onus of proof onto the victim. They are embarrassed sluts, vengeful ex-lovers, conniving social climbers. “What would you say if your car was broken into, and everyone accused you of lying?” says Dusty Johnstone, a women studies professor at the University of Windsor. “With sexual violence, we interrogate victims, not perpetrators. We treat them with suspicion in a way we don’t with other crimes.”

Studies show that only 2 per cent to 8 per cent of rape victims lie. That means 92 per cent to 98 per cent are telling the truth. And think about it — why would you lie? There are a million easier, prettier, less embarrassing ways to gain friends and glory. (More)


Understanding Harper's Evangelical Mission

Signs mount that Canada's government is beholden

to a religious agenda averse to science and rational debate

(We published this story before but publish it again for those who missed it and as reminder of Harper's danger)

26 March 2012 Any Canadian listening to the news these days might well conclude that the Republican extremists or some associated evangelical group has occupied Ottawa.

And they'd be righter than Job, I believe.

Almost daily, more evidence surfaces that Canada's government is guided by tribalists averse to scientific reason in favour of Biblical fundamentalism -- or what some call "evangelical religious skepticism."

First came Canada's pull-out of the Kyoto agreement without any rational or achievable national plan to battle carbon pollution.

Next came the hysterical and unprecedented letter by Natural Resource Minister Joe Oliver, an investment banker. It branded local environmentalists and First Nations as foreign radicals because they dared to question the economic and environmental impacts of a Chinese-funded pipeline.

At the same time federal security types declared Greenpeace, a civil organization originally started by Canadian journalists, to be a "multi-issue extremist group." (More)

Israeli officials fear that proposed negotiations are prelude to further European sanctions.
By Barak Ravid 
22 October 2014 — The European Union is interested in opening negotiations with Israel with the aim of preventing a series of Israeli moves in the West Bank deemed “red lines” which may jeopardize the possibility of a future Palestinian state alongside Israel, an internal EU document obtained by Haaretz reveals. Officials in the Israeli Foreign Ministry are concerned the negotiations are a prelude to further European sanctions against Israel.

In recent weeks, since the Israeli appropriation of 4,000 dunams in Gush Etzion in the West Bank and even more since the push forward in planning for additional construction in Givat Hamatos, a neighborhood beyond the Green Line, a series of discussions have been taking place in the EU’s headquarters in Brussels between the ambassadors of the 28 members states over the European response.

During these discussions, which ended last weekend, it was decided to relay a sharp message to Israel in the name of all EU members, focusing on the Israeli moves which create a “focused and increasing threat to the possibility of the two-state solution.” (More)


Google Is Not What It Seems

When Juilian Assange met Google chairman Eric Schmidt he thought he was talking with an engineer, not a representative of Washington's foreign policy objectives

By Julian Assange
24 October 2014 — In June 2011, Julian Assange received an unusual visitor: the chairman of Google, Eric Schmidt, arrived from America at Ellingham Hall, the country house in Norfolk, England where Assange was living under house arrest.

For several hours the besieged leader of the world’s most famous insurgent publishing organization and the billionaire head of the world’s largest information empire locked horns. The two men debated the political problems faced by society, and the technological solutions engendered by the global network—from the Arab Spring to Bitcoin.

They outlined radically opposing perspectives: for Assange, the liberating power of the Internet is based on its freedom and statelessness. For Schmidt, emancipation is at one with U.S. foreign policy objectives and is driven by connecting non-Western countries to Western companies and markets. These differences embodied a tug-of-war over the Internet’s future that has only gathered force subsequently.

In this extract from When Google Met WikiLeaks Assange describes his encounter with Schmidt and how he came to conclude that it was far from an innocent exchange of views. (More)


Alabama pastor who now admits he has AIDS

was sleeping with innocent female church members


15 October 2014 — An Alabama pastor is being sued after admitting that he had sex with multiple female members of his congregation. Worse, however, is that he declined to inform them he had AIDS. (More.)



David Greenglass, Rosenberg spy case witness, dies
Indicted as co-conspirator, lying under oath, he testified against Jewish couple executed in 1953 for giving nuclear secrets to Soviets

By Verena Dobnik
The Times of Israel
16 October 2014, NEW YORK — In 1953, at the height of the Cold War, Julius and Ethel Rosenberg died in the electric chair after being convicted of conspiring to pass secrets about the atomic bomb to the Soviets. The government’s star witness at their trial: Ethel’s own brother, David Greenglass.
On Tuesday, family members disclosed that Greenglass had died on July 1 in New York City at age 92.
He had served 10 years in prison for espionage followed by years of living in the New York City borough of Queens under an assumed name. (More)


Rogue member Washington fails to block election

of Venezuela to seat on the UN Security Council

By Greg Grandin
21 October 2014 —Last week, 181 member states of the United Nations voted yea in Venezuela’s favor, allowing Caracas to take one of the two non-permanent seats on the Security Council reserved for Latin America.

Tongues clucked and fingers wagged. In the run-up to the vote, editorial boards, columnists and members of congress urged Washington to whip together the sixty-five nations needed to block Venezuela’s two-year term. But in the end, Samantha Power, the US ambassador to the UN, could secure only eleven opposing votes. Venezuela was Latin America’s unanimous choice to replace outgoing Argentina, joining Chile, which has one more year left. Kenneth Roth, the executive director of Human Rights Watch, tweeted his concern: “Shameful that Latin America 1) proposes abusive #Venezuela for UN Security Council, and 2) no one else, so no choice.”

Power reacted to the vote by collectively scolding the Latin American caucus: (More)


The Terrible Truth About Bill Cosby

He asked us to invest in the lie of his own life, and the lie of "respectability." We can't laugh with him anymore

By Brittney Cooper
29 October 2014 Since the resurgence of conversation about the rape allegations against Bill Cosby, I have been thinking about what it means to honestly hold men in our society accountable for the varied forms of violence they do to women. On the heels of comedian Hannibal Burress’ skewering of Cosby over the allegations of 13 women who accuse him of drugging and raping them, we learned that Stephen Collins, who played the lovable dad Rev. Camden  to seven children on the show “Seventh Heaven,” allegedly molested and exposed himself to several young girls many years ago.

At the Crunk Feminist Collective, where I blog, last week I wrote  a piece in which I argued that perhaps in light of these allegations about Bill Cosby, it might be time to slay not only Cliff Huxtable, but also Clair Huxtable, as exemplars of a (black) American family ideal to which we should all aspire. That suggestion, of course, was not received well. The Huxtables are a beloved family to most Americans who watched the show in the 1980s and 1990s, and even to a newer generation of children born in the 22 years since it has been off the air. (More)


A visit to the Slavery Museum

How legacy of slavery links to white racism today

We don’t have a chance of benefiting from history if we neither know nor acknowledge it

'But control of, by and for whites remains in place. Today’s struggles over voting rights, gerrymandering, mass incarceration, school segregation, destruction of unions and the killing of young black men symbolize the dynamic of relentlessly pushing back against each and every gain for African-Americans.'

By Frank Joyce

29 October 2014Over many years of doing anti-racist work among whites I have learned that the role of slavery in the formation of the economics, politics and culture of the United States is not well taught or well understood. That’s unfortunate, because when it comes to the connection between slavery then and white racism now, William Faulkner’s famous line “The past isn’t dead. It isn’t even past.” could not be more appropriate.

Visiting the Old Slave Mart in Charleston, South Carolina

There is a rack outside the lobby of the Hilton Garden Inn in Charleston, South Carolina. It contains the typical assortment of flyers for local attractions from museums to golf courses to tours of various kinds including plantations and Fort Sumter. It does not contain brochures for the Old Slave Mart Museum.

Still, whether widely promoted or not, the museum does exist. And to Charleston’s credit, it acknowledges its slave-laden history more than most US cities. Various maps and plaques identify sites associated with Charleston’s history as the major entry point for slaves from Africa. And it was the city itself that purchased the old slave mart and now operates it as a museum. You can learn more about it on the City’s website. (More)


A Nazi soldier’s snapshot of an execution

haunted me, and taught me to distrust my memory

"The expression on the victim’s face was not one of terror, but rather of disgust."

By Glenn Patterson
The Guardian UK
26 October 2014 — I have been working off and on for a couple of years with an architect friend, Declan Hill, on an attempt to map the wall or rampart that in the 17th century surrounded the town of Belfast – or, at least, may have surrounded it. There is some debate about whether maps of the time show an existing structure or sketches for work never carried out. Declan and I meet occasionally to look at places where we think the old town plan intersects with, and occasionally contradicts, the modern city grid. One day a column in Argos on Corn Market, the next, a staircase in the Linen Hall Library. 

Our thesis is that, even when all physical trace is gone, walls persist. Not altogether original, you might say, but in Belfast, where peace walls remain an all too visible fact, it is pertinent to Declan’s mind and mine. Our hope is that we can collaborate with an architectural institute in Berlin. Not altogether surprising, you might also say, but Berlin is a city to which we both feel bound by something more than bricks and mortar.

On my own first trip to Berlin, in the spring of 1990, I paid a visit to the Reichstag, whose rear wall was just feet from the other wall – the Berliner Mauer – and whose sole purpose seemed to be the housing of a “permanent” exhibition, Fragen an die Deutsche Geschichte (Questions on German History). The sixth of its seven rooms covered the period of the Third Reich, and there I encountered a photograph that showed a man kneeling, a soldier behind him with a pistol, and a crowd of onlookers. It was clear what was about to happen, yet the expression on the victim’s face was not one of terror, but rather of disgust that this thing was being done to him, that these people were capable not just of doing it, but of watching it being done. (More)