Keep off the grass

From the BBC:

Political activists opposed to US President George W Bush have been told they will not be allowed to stage a huge rally in New York this weekend.

A judge at New York’s state Supreme Court has ruled that the rally, which was expected to attract a quarter of a million demonstrators, cannot be held in Central Park because of the damage which may be caused to the grass.

It appears that a protest march will be allowed past the convention centre on Sunday, so the cries of foul play from the organisers have been somewhat blunted. Still, I thought the reason provided for the ban was in itself a good enough reason for a post – quite surreal.

Update 2004-08-31

It appears that the park ban had little effect on the anti-Bush protests, as evidenced by (among other reports) the BBC’s photographic record of the events.

Elsewhere on the net, the evidence of nerdy influence at the demo is noted, and more evidence of geekish, techie and arty contributions to antiBushistas are logged at Boing Boing.


I’ll be attending the anti-war demo in London this Saturday. Although I’ve posted the odd war-related piece I’ve been shying away from politics a bit lately, but I thought that the time had come to post some of my thoughts.

One of the reasons that I’ve been avoiding the subject is because I hadn’t quite made up my mind on the issue. That’s not to say that I haven’t been entertaining a healthy dose of cynicism about the whole exercise, just that I wasn’t quite sure what the hell I really felt myself.

I regularly read blogs by people on both sides of this debate. That’s one of the things that attracted me to the blogosphere in the first place – it’s a great place to find the views of regular people – not pols, or campaigners, or journos, though some bloggers either are those things or else have pretensions in those directions. I’ve read things on all sides that have made me nod in approval and things that have made me shout in anger. All this has been contributing to my own internal debate on the matter. (I’m not going to bother posting linkage here, this post is about what I think.)

This is going to be a bit of a rant, not a particularly reasoned argument, but this is my blog and I’ll write what I want to. OK?

On balance, I feel that the case for war has not been made. I cannot see that the west is in any clear danger. Saddam is not about to become a hegemonic power in the Middle East, and nor is a country crippled by over ten years of sanctions ever likely to develop a nuclear capability likely to directly threaten us. If our governments truly have evidence that this is the case then they should put it before us whatever the consequences. We are democracies – how can we choose without the facts? Handwaving is not enough, and I don’t buy the “trust me and I’ll fill you in later” approach, not when hundreds or thousands of lives are at stake.

As for the charge that Saddam and bin Laden are in cahoots, we all know what a pile of stinking excrement that is. Do me a favour, I wasn’t born yesterday and nothing that has been put forward as “proof” of this has convinced. Even if Saddam was foolish enough to support people like bin Laden, he’d soon find himself rising up their hit list too – Ba’th “socialists” weren’t flavour of the month with Islamic fundamentalists last time I looked, and bin Laden will use Saddam like the opportunist he is.

So Saddam flaunts UN resolutions. So do other countries, and where’s the invasion force? What about North Korea? They’ve practically been jumping up and down over the last few weeks waving their half-built nukes in our faces and very little seems to be happening there, so the argument about standing up to those who laugh in the face of the UN doesn’t hold much water really.

Nor do I believe that the plight of the Iraqi people figures particularly highly in the minds of Our Glorious Leaders. They’ve been screwed for years – so why the sudden concern now? Puh-lease.

This war is what bin Laden wants. Surely this is enough in itself to make us stop and think for a minute. He doesn’t care about the people of Iraq, he just wants to unite the Islamic world in some sort of jihad against the west and we’re going to help deliver the silver platter to his door.

I stand up and say this not because I want to see Saddam remain in power, or because I’m anti-American (I’m most definitely not), but because I cannot see a clear case for an invasion, and I can see a whole lot of reasons why we should be being a lot more cautious about this. The whole damn thing stinks, and it’s liable to cause far more unrest and chaos than it cures.

Censoring Adverts

The BBC reports that an advert for a satirical cartoon, 2DTV, has been banned for being insulting to President Bush. To my mind this is utterly ridiculous. I’m sure that President Bush isn’t going to lose a great deal of sleep over what a few satirists in the UK have to say about him – I imagine that he’s got more important things on his mind.

Not to mention the fact that public figures are by their very occupations open to ridicule – This is one of the things which marks a free society. You do not seek to become a high profile politician, a movie star, musician or sportsman without some expectation that someone out there will end up taking the piss out of you. This is fundamentally different to libel or slander.

The Broadcast Advertising Clearance Centre (BACC), the body responsible for clearing ads for broadcast, argue that President Bush hasn’t granted his permission for his appearance in the ad, and so it can be banned. If this is indeed the letter of the law, then I suggest that it’s a bad law, and I’d argue that in essence he has granted this “permission” purely by seeking to occupy the role that he does. It goes with the territory. (Note that ads are apparently subject to stricter regulation than actual TV shows.)

There might be some mileage in having guidelines which discourage the mocking portrayal of people in adverts where the context doesn’t fit, but in this case the show in question is a satire and the context couldn’t be more appropriate.