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toxicreligion   I was going to preface this post with a Captain Stupid character but I found that the outright level of stupid going on here required a (much) higher rank in the Hurr-Durr Legion to properly accommodate the conditions being described.  The leaders of the ulta-orthodox Belz sect in North London eminently qualify for Admiralty in the Legion.  These antediluvian bags of douche recently deployed a fatwah against women who have the audacity to drive cars with the “immodest” goal of… it is almost nigh unspeakable… yet intone it I must… (*screwing courage to the sticking place*) – taking their children to school!!!! (!)

“The Belz, who originated in Ukraine in the early 19th Century, are an ultra-Orthodox sect who follow Haredi Judaism.

Leaders of the ultra-Orthodox Belz sect in north London wrote to parents saying “no child will be allowed to learn in our school” if their mother drives.

Women driving “goes against the laws of modesty within our society”, it said.”


“The letter, which was signed from the “spiritual management” of Belz institutions, said: “There has been an increase in incidences of mothers of our students who have begun driving cars, something that goes against the laws of modesty within our society.”

Well, well, well.  Here we have, once again, patriarchal religious bullshit fucking up women’s lives.  Ostensibly in the pursuit of modesty women, already tasked with rreligionandpatriarchyaising their children and domestic duties because it is their god mandated role, can’t do the car thing because that might give them airs about independence or freedom; certainly anything that detracts from their roles as broodmares and domestic servants must be against God.

I knew this was going to be a pithy article when I saw the Ultra-Orthodox in the title because as soon as the religious attach the word ‘Orthodox’ to their particular school of magic – you know horrendous things are on the way.  On the downside, treating women as chattel is only Level One in their quest to construct a broken religious society.

These regressive dolts embrace ignorance with the mightiest of aplomb.

“An emphasis on studying the Torah has led to concerns that Haredi boys are leaving school with few qualifications.

Men often continue with their prayer studies after marriage, rather than seek work, and those who do have employment have been affected by changes in traditional occupations, like textiles.

As a result, poverty and deprivation tend to hit Haredi households hard, and there’s evidence that Haredi areas in Hackney, for example, receive higher than average rates of means-tested benefits.”

So the focus of their education for dudes is to think-fap on their magic book until they are useless to themselves and the rest of society.  Care to guess who has to work in the real world and make real money aaaaand still be the domestic servant?  And of course, living in a secular society means that the rest of the population has to pay for their religious bridge-to-nowhere-educmacational-bollocks-regime.  Never, not even for one minute, should you consider religion to be a positive force in society, these yahoos exemplify the bulk-stupid that most religions bring to the societal table.

“[…] from the Belz community, a spokesman said it never intended to “stigmatise or discriminate against children or their parents”.

It said: “We are proud of what we stand for and we do not feel the need to excuse ourselves for our deeply held beliefs and staunchly maintained way of life.

“It has withstood the test of time and is not prone to the vagaries of passing fads.”

Counterexample time!

It was not our intent to stigmatize colour children by giving them their own drinking fountain and forbidding them to use the one labelled ‘Whites Only’ – because intent, like their religiously-addled ‘declarations’, are fucking magical.

I cast a cynical eye toward a belief system that is evaluated and venerated on the single condition of being ‘long-lived’.  The Bubonic plague has withstood the test of time as well – checkmarks of goodness to be dispensed for all…

The extra-sad take away from this is that these religious misogynists, by enforcing the ban on women driving their kids to school, has created a what is essentially a nightmare scenario for British legislators.

“This goes to the heart of what is a fantastically difficult problem now facing the government in drafting a counter-extremism bill that protects against extremism, but also safeguards religious freedom.

Earlier this year, Home Secretary Theresa May defined extremism as “the vocal or active opposition to fundamental British values, including democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty and the mutual respect and tolerance of different faiths and beliefs”.

It throws up the question, is a religious ban on women driving active opposition to the British value of individual liberty? And how do you square that with the other British value of mutual respect and tolerance for different faiths and beliefs?”

The above is worth an entire post unto itself just to document the outrageous pretzel-bends secular lawmakers are undertaking in attempting to deal with this religious foolishness.  Invoking the religious tolerance idea for misogynistic practices that are clearly antithetical to a secular society seems misguided to me.  But that, as stated, is another debate.

Let’s close instead with a statement from the high-admiral shitlords themselves:

“The statement continued: “In an effort to formulate these guidelines the issue of women driving cars became conflated with broader issues which we intended to address. “

They know.

You don’t release baffle-gab press releases like the above without not knowing.

How could they not know that the stupid shit they are imposing on women and children stinks all the way up to their imaginary heaven.  Once their nuclear-grade stupid hit the Press and the rest of secular society, it was rightly called out for being pure Dumbonium, their only recourse is to hide behind the thin mantle of ‘religious tolerance’ and hope the attention of the public wanes from their self-created sewer of misguided religious tomfoolery.

And there we have it folks – religion once again attempting to lead society away from civilization and modernity.

[Source 1, 2]

Many thanks to Intransigentia for bringing this lovely story to my attention.



Religious fundamentalism of any creed, is a threat to peace, secular societies and evidence based decision making.  Lets take a closer look at one strain of the radical fundamentalism – radical Islam with the BBC as our guide.

I’m always amused when I see people commentating on the “liberal bias” in the media.  It is usually followed by a trenchant analysis of at least one instance of how news corporation X has finally gone off the rails and has lost all of its journalistic integrity blah blah blah.

Sitting where I am, in political and social Outlier-ville, I have to smile to myself.  This might be a case of “liberal bias” but when you take a step back and look at what the media does, it is fairly easy to discern that mouldering just under the surface of “a vibrant free-press’ is a well tuned, self-selecting propaganda apparatus that exists only to serve the agenda of the state.

Oh sure we like to make fun of Pravada and point to those poor brain-washed induhviduals.  Ironically we here in the west have even a better system in place, that masquerades as independent and unbiased, yet in the final analysis, is just as credible as the Pravda we like to point at and say “boo”.

Of course, using different sources, as I like to do, such as Counterpoint,, Al-Jazeera, Tom’s Dispatch, et cetera often gets me into trouble as people who are firmly ensconced in the propaganda model get bent out shape fairly quickly when exposed to a non-official point of view.

Explaining the western version of the Propaganda model is what Media Lens does best:

The essential feature of corporate media performance is that elite interests are routinely favoured and protected, while serious public dissent is minimised and marginalised. The BBC, the biggest and arguably the most globally respected news organisation, is far from being an exception. Indeed, on any issue that matters, its consistently biased news coverage – propped up, by a horrible irony, with the financial support of the public whose interests it so often crushes – means that BBC News is surely the most insidious propaganda outlet today.

Consider, for example, the way BBC editors and journalists constantly portray Nato as an organisation that maintains peace and security. During the recent Nato summit in Wales, newsreader Sophie Raworth dutifully told viewers of BBC News at Ten:

‘Nato leaders will have to try to tackle the growing threat of the Islamist extremists in Iraq and Syria, and decide what steps to take next. (September 4, 2014)

As we have since seen, the ‘steps’ that were taken ‘next’ meant a third war waged by the West in Iraq in just 24 years.

The same edition of BBC News at Ten relayed, uncontested, this ideological assertion from Nato Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen:

‘Surrounded by an arc of crisis, our alliance, our transatlantic community, represents an island of security, stability and prosperity.’

In fact, the truth is almost precisely the reverse of Rasmussen’s assertion. Nato is a source of insecurity, instability, war and violence afflicting much of the world. True to form, BBC News kept well clear of that documented truth. Nor did it even remind its audience of the awkward fact that Rasmussen, when he was Danish prime minister, had once said:

‘Iraq has WMDs. It is not something we think, it is something we know.’

That was embarrassing enough. But also off the agenda was any critical awareness that the Nato summit’s opening ceremony was replete with military grandeur and pomposity of the sort that would have elicited ridicule from journalists if it had taken place in North Korea, Iran or some other state-designated ‘enemy’. Media Lens challenges you to watch this charade without dissolving into laughter or switching it off before reaching the end.

Oh Aunte-Beebs, say it ain’t so.  Of course, it gets worse –

“Of course, it is ironic that leading politicians constantly strive to foster a media image of themselves as caring, truthful and fearless. In reality, they are all beholden to powerful business and financial interests, and even afraid to step out of line; notably so when it comes to criticism of Israel. Political ‘leaders’ are virtual puppets with little, if any, autonomy; condemned to perform an elite-friendly role that keeps the general population as passive and powerless as possible. The corporate media plays an essential role here, as the British historian and foreign policy analyst Mark Curtis observes:

‘The evidence is overwhelming that BBC and commercial television news report on Britain’s foreign policy in ways that resemble straightforward state propaganda organs. Although by no means directed by the state, their output might as well be; it is not even subtle. BBC, ITV and Channel 5 news simply report nothing seriously critical on British foreign policy; the exception is the odd report on Channel 4 news. Television news – the source of most people’s information – provides the most extreme media distortion of [foreign policy news coverage], playing an even greater ideological function than the press.’ (Mark Curtis, ‘Web of Deceit: Britain’s Real Role in the World’, Vintage, London, 2003, page 379).

Andrew MacGregor Marshall, the former Reuters bureau chief in Baghdad, recently related that:

‘there is tendency for the Western media to claim that it is neutral and unbiased, when in fact it’s clearly propagating a one-sided, quite nationalistic and selfish view of its own interventions in these countries.’

He continued:

‘If you want to accuse the US military of an atrocity, you have to make sure that every last element of your story is absolutely accurate, because if you make one mistake, you will be vilified and your career will be over. And we have seen that happen to some people in recent years. But if you want to say that some group of militants in Yemen or Afghanistan or Iraq have committed an atrocity, your story might be completely wrong, but nobody will vilify you and nobody will ever really check it out.’

The Dutch journalist Karel Van Wolferen recently wrote an insightful piece exposing the state-corporate propaganda that is so crucial to keeping the public in a state of general ignorance and passivity. There ‘could hardly be a better time than now’, he said, to study the effects of this ‘insidious propaganda’ in the so-called ‘free world’. He continued:

‘What makes propaganda effective is the manner in which, through its between-the-lines existence, it inserts itself into the brain as tacit knowledge. Our tacit understanding of things is by definition not focused, it helps us understand other things. The assumptions it entails are settled, no longer subject to discussion.’

Much of this propaganda originates in centres of power, notably Washington and London, and ‘continues to be faithfully followed by institutions like the BBC and the vast majority of the European mainstream media’. Thus, BBC News endlessly trumpets Western ‘values’ and takes as assumed that parliamentary ‘democracy’ represents the range of acceptable public opinion and sensible discourse. Underpinning this elite-supporting news framework is a faith-based ideology which Van Wolferen calls ‘Atlanticism’. This doctrine holds that:

‘the world will not run properly if the United States is not accepted as its primary political conductor, and Europe should not get in America’s way.’

The result?

‘Propaganda reduces everything to comic book simplicity’ of ‘good guys’ and ‘bad guys’.

So, really – tell me more about how about how damn liberally-biased our media is despite the fact that in the bigger picture, the majority of it (news media) is serving the propagandist needs of the state.


Media Lens is an invaluable source to in describing and measuring how far the “respectable media” kowtows to state and corporate interests.  This excerpt from their latest media alert illustrates the mendacity that is common place in what is considered to be “acceptable journalistic practices”.

“The key to what is precisely wrong with corporate journalism is explained in this nutshell by the US commentator Michael Parenti:

‘Bias in favor of the orthodox is frequently mistaken for “objectivity”. Departures from this ideological orthodoxy are themselves dismissed as ideological.’

Examples of bias towards the orthodoxy of Western power are legion every day of the week. On January 30 this year, David Loyn reported for BBC News at Ten from Bagram airbase in Afghanistan as US troops prepared to withdraw from a blood-strewn occupation. Standing beside a large US military plane, he intoned:

‘For all of the lives lost and money spent, it could have been so much better.’

The pro-Nato perspective of that remark masquerading as impartial journalism is stark. By contrast, Patrick Cockburn summed up the reality:

‘After 12 years, £390bn, and countless dead, we leave poverty, fraud – and the Taliban in Afghanistan…60 per cent of children are malnourished and only 27 per cent of Afghans have access to safe drinking water…Elections are now so fraudulent as to rob the winners of legitimacy.’

The damning conclusion?

‘Faced with these multiple disasters western leaders simply ignore Afghan reality and take refuge in spin that is not far from deliberate lying.’

BBC News has been a major component of this gross deception of the public.”

Hmm. What is troubling is that many outside of the UK look to BBC as a “better” source of news that is more reliable that what is available in North America.

Admittedly, I would take BBC reporting hands down over anything from the propaganda mill known as Fox News, but how many people have the time to really sink their teeth into multiple news sources? How many people even care about the news that much anymore?

I’m shocked that so many people have consciously chosen ignorance as their strategy for dealing with the news and world events.  Denial of the world ‘out there’ can only lead to insular thinking and simplistic interpretations of complex problems.  We need more people, not less, grounded in rationality with a gist of how the world actually works.  How can you effect change in the world if you know nothing of how it works?


Richard Dawkins has a new new book out called the Magic of Reality.  Doing the promotional rounds in the UK and the US must promote a certain amount of cognitive dissonance for Dawkins as the calibre of the questions he faces varies a great deal depending on which side of the Atlantic he’s on.  Compare and contrast, my faithful readership, the two interviews conducted with Dawkins, one by the BBC and the other by Fox News.

As a North American, the second interview makes me ashamed to share the same continent with ‘commentators’ that espouse the merits of bronze age wisdom in the 21st century.

Ever wonder why you need to read at least three papers to even get a basic grasp of an issue?  More papers if the issue is contentious and imperial interests are at stake.  Media Lens does a wonderful job of showing media self-censorship in action.  I reproduce the email alert sent to me in full:





On November 17, we sent out a media alert that highlighted the corporate media’s lack of interest in official documents revealing Israel’s deliberate policy of near-starvation for Gaza.

The documents had been obtained by Gisha, an Israeli human rights group, which won a legal battle in October to compel the Israeli government to release the information. The state policy relates to the transfer of goods into Gaza prior to the May 31, 2010 attack on the peace flotilla in which nine people were killed by Israeli forces. Israel still refuses to release documents on the current blockade policy, now supposedly “eased” following worldwide condemnation of the flotilla attack.

We, and many of our readers, emailed broadcasters and newspapers asking why the release of these documents was not reported in October. Were journalists simply unaware of the documents and their significance? For the BBC in particular, with all its huge resources for monitoring developments in the Middle East, this is surely implausible.

Two readers pointed out to us that the BBC had published one online story about the legal battle over the release of the documents back in May. However, BBC journalist Tim Franks accepted the Israeli assertion that the then secret documents “were not used for policy-making.”

The BBC obviously thought the story was newsworthy at the time, just as it should have last month. Indeed, the news is all the more compelling now that the documents have been released, despite the efforts of the Israeli government to block their publication. It is of major significance that explicit Israeli calculations for the amount of food, animal feed and poultry to be allowed into Gaza can be seen, starkly laid out in black and white. One of the calculated quantities is “breathing space”: the number of days that supplies will last in Gaza. The concept of “breathing space” for Gaza, dictated by the Israelis, is chilling; yet, the media appear happy to look the other way.
Finally, almost two weeks after our alert went out, an article about the Gaza blockade appeared on the BBC website in response to a new report by Amnesty, Oxfam, Save the Children and eighteen other groups. The main spin of the BBC article was that the NGOs had found “little improvement” for the people of Gaza since Israel’s claimed “easing” of the blockade which, said the groups, was “crippling” the Gaza economy. But the web article failed to emphasise the call by the NGOs for “an immediate, unconditional and complete lifting” of the illegal blockade. Tucked away at the bottom of the piece, fleeting reference was finally made to the previously secret Israeli documents:

“Last month, the Israeli government was forced to reveal that the blockade was not only imposed for security reasons.

“After a freedom of information request by the Israeli human rights organisation Gisha, the Israeli government released documents saying the blockade was originally tightened as part of a policy of ‘deliberately reducing’ basic goods for people in Gaza in order to put pressure on Hamas.”

There was no reference to the explicit Israeli calculations on supplies of food, poultry and animal feed, or the uncomfortable truth that the Israelis had previously denied the existence of the documents; or, putting the grisly facts in context, that the documents confirmed the infamous Israeli threat that: “The idea is to put the Palestinians on a diet, but not to make them die of hunger.” (‘Hamas readies for government, Israel prepares sanctions’, Agence France Presse, February 16, 2006)

However, even a tiny mention is something, and it may well have been the result of public pressure. The fact that nobody from the BBC responded directly to the many people submitting articulate and polite challenges, and in some cases emailing follow-up queries about the corporation’s failure to reply, may in itself be significant. Perhaps BBC editors and managers realised they had been caught red-handed neglecting to report awkward facts about the Middle East.

C4 News And The Guardian: The Best Of The Rest?

The public also challenged the Guardian, the Telegraph, The Times, the Independent, ITV, Channel 4 News and Sky. Again, an amazing near-uniform silence persists (we present the two sole exceptions below).

First, Jon Snow of Channel 4 News had told one of our readers (who had emailed Snow in response to our alert) that he would be interviewing Professor Richard Falk on Monday, November 22. Falk is an expert in international affairs at Princeton University and is the UN Special Rapporteur on Palestinian human rights. The interview was confirmed in advance that day in Jon Snow’s ‘Snowmail’ bulletin which is emailed to subscribers. After Falk did not, in fact, appear on C4 News that evening, we emailed Snow and asked what had happened. In a friendly exchange, he admitted that he had “cocked up”: the interview was due to take place the following Monday, i.e. November 29. We thanked Snow and encouraged him to discuss the Israeli documents with Falk and, at some stage, to confront an Israeli government spokesperson about the policy revelations:

“… if you’re able to do anything to shed light on these documents, and to ask the Israeli spokesman some tough questions whenever you get the chance, you could be doing the public audience a huge service – and maybe, just maybe, making a real difference to reduce human suffering.” (Email from Media Lens to Jon Snow, November 23, 2010)

As it happened, C4 News of Monday, November 29 again had no interview with Richard Falk. Jon Snow did not respond to our email asking about it.

As well as the BBC contacts mentioned in our earlier alert, we also emailed Harriet Sherwood, the Guardian’s Jerusalem correspondent; Jonathan Freedland, a prominent Guardian commentator; Donald Macintyre, the Independent’s Jerusalem correspondent; and Matthew Bayley, the Daily Telegraph’s news editor.

Only the Guardian’s Harriet Sherwood responded to our email:

“I’m planning to go to Gaza in early December so I may have a look at this then. I have to say that from previous trips there is no evidence of a shortage of food in Gaza although there is clearly an issue about affordability for some sections of the population.” (Email, November 18, 2010)

We invited the independent journalist Jonathan Cook to comment on Sherwood’s response. Cook is a former Guardian and Observer journalist, now based in Nazareth, and he writes regularly on Israel-Palestine. He kindly sent us the following astute observations:

“I can no longer access Gaza myself because I have Israeli residency through marriage. But I do rely on what colleagues living in, rather than briefly visiting, Gaza tell me, and then try to use some common sense. My colleagues too say there is not an obvious shortage of food. But the problem is more complicated than simply assessing the ‘weight’ of visible food in Gaza.

“First, it is important to remember that Gaza’s most pressing problems are to be found in other areas: in freedom of movement, particularly for students and the ill, in and out of Gaza; in the ability of businesses to export goods and revive the economy; in severe fuel and electricity shortages; and in shortages of raw materials needed for construction, especially given the rampant destruction caused by Operation Cast Lead in December 2008 – January 2009.

“Regarding food, much of the population, given their status as refugees, are entitled to subsistence foods from UNRWA [the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East]. But they can only receive proper nutrition by buying in extra foods and diversifying their diet. Israel’s control of the flow of food means that the restrictions have pushed up prices, making most food on the open market very expensive for families living on $2 a day. This long-term, poor diet is the reason for the high levels of malnutrition diseases among children being recorded. This is a man-made slow starvation, the very thing the Gisha documents highlight.

“Also, I think there’s a dangerous journalistic practice exemplified in Harriet’s comments that we are all guilty of. As reporters, we regard it as our job to walk along local streets, soaking up the atmosphere. We assume that in this way we witness and understand the problems. When we see grocery shops stuffed with tomatoes and apples, we assume things aren’t too bad. But there are flaws to this approach:

“First, we may only be seeing the few shops that sell now-luxury items but not noticing that there were once many more shops. If there are shortages, many shops close either because of the lack of goods entering Gaza or because the demand has fallen as these goods have become too expensive for most Gazans. Remember that in Palestinian areas, people turn their front rooms into shops or sell from stands in the street – so there’s no obvious evidence when they close their business.

“Second, the very fact, for example, that there are lots of fruit and veg in the shops that remain may in itself be evidence of the shortages. Shortages create price rises, which means fewer people can afford the goods, which in turn means they sell more slowly and ‘stay on the shelf’ longer.

“So rather than relying on our ‘sense’ as journalists of what is happening, we should rely on the best scientific evidence we have available:

“a) We know from Israel’s own figures that imports into Gaza during the period to which these documents relate was about a quarter of what they were in 2007 (although this includes all goods, not just food). We also know that, after the changes, imports currently stand at only 40% of the earlier figure. This means that Gazans have been and are living off much less than they were at a time when there were already restrictions.

“b) We know from medical studies that there has been a gradual and steady rise in malnutrition rates.

“c) We also know from these documents that the Israeli government had a policy during this period to impose a minimum diet on Gazans, and is now refusing to divulge its new policy.

“Taken together, that is very good evidence that Israel wanted to slowly starve Gaza and in fact did so. In those circumstances, the impressions of Harriet and other journalists are largely irrelevant.” (Email from Jonathan Cook, November 18, 2010)

We put these points to Harriet Sherwood of the Guardian. We also referred back to her email in which she said:

“I’m planning to go to Gaza in early December so I may have a look at this then.”

We suggested to Sherwood that her casual wording implies that she does not find the release of these important Israeli state documents newsworthy. We reminded her that the existence of these documents had been previously denied by Israel; not surprising, given that they document a deliberate and systematic policy of collective punishment of the entire population of Gaza. (Email to Harriet Sherwood, November 18, 2010)

We have not heard back from the Guardian’s Jerusalem correspondent.

Note again Sherwood’s sanguine observation:

“I have to say that from previous trips there is no evidence of a shortage of food in Gaza although there is clearly an issue about affordability for some sections of the population.”

Jonathan Cook pointed out to us in a second email:

“Actually her response simply sets out the conundrum rather than answers it.

“If there is no shortage of food, why has it become unaffordable for some sections of the population? True, some Gazans are probably poorer, but, even taking this factor into account, we also know prices have risen substantially. How do we explain these rises when the population is actually poorer? How do we make sense of it?

“It worries me that as journalists we make these kinds of statements without thinking through the logic of our own assumptions.” (Email from Jonathan Cook, November 18, 2010)

Concluding Remarks

In almost ten years of observing the media and writing alerts for Media Lens, we still sometimes find ourselves amazed by the efficiency of the corporate blanking of uncomfortable truths. There is no need for organised obstructionism here; no requirement for orders from above, or ruthless spiking of news stories.

As George Orwell noted in an unpublished preface to Animal Farm:

“The sinister fact about literary censorship […] is that it is largely voluntary. Unpopular ideas can be silenced, and inconvenient facts kept dark, without any need for any official ban”.

In drawing our attention to Orwell’s remarks, Noam Chomsky describes the mechanism of achieving this dark silence as “the internalisation of the values of subordination and conformity” (Noam Chomsky, ‘Powers and Prospects’, Pluto Press, 1996, p. 68).

“A good education and immersion in the dominant intellectual culture”, adds Chomsky, instils in policy-makers, commentators and academics a “general tacit agreement that ‘it wouldn’t do’ to mention that particular fact.”

But the public has the power to ensure that “particular facts” do get mentioned. And, crucially, we have the power to make Western governments end the oppression of people in Gaza, and around the world.

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