Media Circus: the “to no one will we sell, to no one deny or delay justice” edition

So this week marks a big round number anniversary of the signing of the Magna Carta. I’m expecting our Prime Minister will say something especially cringeworthy to mark the occasion.

What news items have caught your interest lately?

As usual for media circus threads, please share your bouquets and brickbats for particular items in the mass media, or highlight cogent analysis elsewhere, on any current sociopolitical issue (the theme of each edition is merely for discussion-starter purposes – all current news items are on topic!).

Categories: culture wars, ethics & philosophy, history, media, parties and factions, Politics, social justice

Tags: , ,

7 replies

  1. Trigger warning for fat hating.

    The assumptions made about fat people in this article are just staggering. People could lose weight by consuming 1 litre less of soft drink a day. I bet they could, but finding these people who consume that much soft drink could be harder than the author thinks.

    People should just eat more healthful meals – except for those fat people who do, they should just eat less. Except for those fat people who do eat small portions, they should just f’off and stop ruining the argument that fat people just need to stop being greedy.

    Unfortunately this guy is a professor of Pediatrics. Who knows what he is telling unsuspecting parents.

  2. The “let’s just refuse to talk about it” strategy from both the Abbott government and the Shorten opposition re illegal payments to people-smugglers is pretty fucking infuriating.

  3. I don’t know who is in charge of “Magna Carta 800th” website, but they need some history lessons. The headline “800 years of democracy” is ridiculous. Magna Carta had nothing whatever to do with democracy, and the very idea would have horrified both King John and the barons who forced him to sign the Charter, on 15 June 1215. England didn’t have a Parliament of any kind until 1265, and nothing that could reasonably be called a democratic Parliament until the 19th century. This silly headline does a disservice to Magna Carta, which was in fact a great milestone on the way to constitutional government. The principle that Magna Carta established was not democracy but that the King is subject to the law, not above it, and that all free men should have access to justice. “No free man shall be taken or imprisoned or dispossessed or outlawed or exiled or in any way ruined… except by the lawful judgement of his peers and the law of the land.” That was a revolutionary principle in 1215. Certainly it excluded the unfree (the landless peasants) and it was uncertain whether “free men” included “free women” – in most respects in fact it did. But it was a great advance on the lawless despotism of the Norman-Angevin kings, and paved the way for the development of parliamentary government in the next century.

    • If you are referrring to the Guardian link in the OP, that is the topic area heading for all the articles written there that are covering the Magna Carta in any way, shape or form. I agree it’s an overly simplistic heading, but I suspect that is intentional because that’s so often how people hear the politicians talk about it, and the idea is that when they click through to the actual articles they’ll get more information which will in nearly every case point out exactly how what the politicians are saying is flawed in just the way you lay out above.

      I liked Annabel Crabb’s take on it today in The Drum:

      the contortions performed by governments who purport to honour Magna Carta while simultaneously exempting themselves from its purest principle.

      Let us remember that Magna Carta – a deal initially hammered out between some pissed-off barons and the serially unreasonable King John in 1215 – established a lot of principles over its initial and subsequent versions. Like the ideal width of a piece of cloth, protection against mandatory imprisonment, and some seriously radical thinking about scutage, which sounds like something to do with sanitation but that actually means, more or less, taxation. Lots of Magna Carta’s elements have lapsed, but if there is an immortal, surviving principle of the document, it is that the state is not above the law. That the law of the land applies even to those who make it, or who seek to enforce it – even kings. (This may be an unremarkable principle today, but it was pretty wild in 1215).

      I do think that without the establishment of the principle that the state is subject to the law, modern democracy would not be at all possible, so the heading’s also defensible at least in part just on that.

    • P.S. Crabb also noted that indeed our PM did say something cringeworthy while speaking to journalists after his gushing over the Magna Carta:

      The death of satire has been declared a few times, most memorably when Henry Kissinger won the Nobel Prize for Peace. And I’ve felt like checking its pulse this week at a number of points; Bronwyn Bishop encouraging a statutory officer to be impartial, the Indonesians accusing Australia of bribery, and so on.

      But for rhetorical and comic ambition, to begin a doorstop with lavish praise of Magna Carta and then end it by explaining on not one but two fronts how it’s really better for everyone if you ignore its central, shining principle – that’s hard to beat.

      Happy birthday, great charter. Long may you live to embarrass us at key legislative moments.

  4. There’s a long tradition in England of dressing up political reform as a return to a mythical past where everyone was free and equal. At the time of Magna Carta, the so-called “Saxon liberties” were much talked about. The same was said during the 1640s revolution. Even at the time of the 1832 Reform Act many reformers claimed to be re-establishing the “free Parliament” that they said had existed in some earlier time. The use of this rhetoric shouldn’t disguise the fact that genuine reforms were being made. Magna Carta was a reaction against the despotism of Richard and John, particularly their unprecedented taxation to pay for wars, but also abuses such as forced marriages of heiresses and keeping bishoprics and earldoms vacant for years in order to steal the revenues. Both in 1215 and in 1259 there was a genuine attempt to end these abuses and to put relationships within the feudal structure (which everyone accepted as God-given) onto the basis of law rather than of arbitrary royal or baronial will. Although progress was of course uneven, many of these reforms did stick. Although de Montfort was killed, his Parliament endured, and later kings could not raise taxes without it. When Charles I tried, he lost his head.

  5. The more we see of Pope Francis the less impressive he is. He’s got a free ride in the world media so far because he has said a few vaguely liberal things, but he hasn’t actually done anything to fix the gross corruption in the Catholic Church or stop its hugely damaging opposition to abortion, sex education and condom promotion in countries where the Church is still powerful. Now he’s made really ridiculous comments about the Holocaust, repeating various revisionist falsehoods about how the Allies knew all about it and did nothing to stop it, while at the same time ignoring the well-documented complicity of the Catholic Church. It was Pope Pius, not the Allies, who signed a Concordat with Hitler, who refused to speak against the persecution of the Jews, who did not protest when German Catholics of Jewish origin were persecuted, who allowed Catholic priests to hold office in Nazi puppet governments in Slovakia and Croatia, who gave his blessing to Petain’s regime in France, and who sat silent while the Jews of Rome were deported, and it was the Catholic Church which then helped dozens of Nazis including Eichmann and Mengele to escape justice. Yes large numbers of Catholics risked their lives to help the Jews, but the Church as an institution did absolutely nothing. And now the same Pope Pius is being canonised.

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