Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Dangerous ideas, dangerous people...and rude b***s at the Opera House

The "Festival of Dangerous Ideas" seems, predictably, to have attracted some dangerous, nasty people.

Cheering on terrorists

 According to the Sydney Morning Herald, one man related that he cheered when the twin towers were destroyed:

"...That elegant old leftie Tariq Ali ("What we can learn from terrorists") sat aghast as a man on microphone 2 confessed to cheering as the twin towers came down. "At last," said this voice in the dark, "someone was serving it up to them." In a suddenly silent opera theatre one person applauded."

The good news is you won't see Geoffrey Robertson's debate...

The main show though was Geoffrey Robertson debating famous US law professor Alan Dershowitz at the Opera House on Saturday in the "Festival of Dangerous Ideas". 

But it seems we won't get to see it (I'm sure you are devastated about that), because Robertson refused to allow the show to be broadcast.  Apparently he plans a rematch in London and isn't keen for the world to see the out-of-town tryout. Ahh, yes, the colonies...got love these ex-pats.  Not.

Robertson misbehaving as well as misguided

Robertson does seem to have succeeded in annoying all and sundry however with his rudeness.  According to the SMH:

"Let me start," said Geoffrey Robertson about 10 minutes into his pitch at the Festival of Dangerous Ideas, "by saying this … " The London QC of Sydney extraction was having problems with the clock as he called for the Pope to be arraigned for crimes against humanity.

The chairman tried warning gestures, civil glances and banged his glass on an empty Schweppes bottle. Nothing worked. Robertson had things to say and could not be stopped. His adversary, Alan Dershowitz, provoked warm applause with his first words: "What I want to do in the time I've been allotted for my remarks …''

On fair reporting...

That bastion of secularism, the Sydney Morning Herald, naturally gives Professor Dershowitz fairly short shrift in its reportage of his arguments in support of the Pope:

"Dershowitz, the Harvard professor best known internationally for his defence of Israel, counter-attacked: "Do not sacrifice due process and separation of church and state on the altar of the terrible crime of child abuse."

He defended the Pope and defended the church - "It is far safer today than it was in the past" - but concentrated his attack on the notion that heads of state can so easily be brought before the ICC. That's why Dershowitz has a dog in this fight."

Dershowitz's case

Fortunately, you can hear the substance of Professor Dershowitz's defense by watching or reading the transcript of his Lateline appearance from last week (sad when you have to rely on the ABC for balanced reporting of religious matters!).  Here is an extract from the transcript:

"...TONY JONES: Well Geoffrey Robertson QC is certainly a bit of a stirrer, but he's deadly serious about this and the way he sets out his case. In the book - you've read the book.


TONY JONES: The case of the Pope. And I just wonder is there any merit at all - as a lawyer, do you see any merit at all in the case that he's making?

ALAN DERSHOWITZ: No, I don't. I think that there is merit to the concerns about how extensive the abuses were within the Church. By the way, there have been comparable abuses in other religious institutions, in schools, parental abuse of children.

It's a very widespread problem. We're beginning to come to grips with it and understand it. It is one of the most under-reported crimes in history, child abuse. It's also an over-reported crime. There are people who are falsely accused.

And I'm very concerned that Geoffrey Robertson, who's a great lawyer, is a little insensitive to the rights of priests and others falsely accused, and there have been many such cases as well. There has to be a balance struck.

TONY JONES: Let's start with his basic proposition that the widespread or systematic sexual abuse of children is a crime against humanity - that's the way he puts it.

And so, he says covering it up, incidentally, and protecting the perpetrators also amounts to a criminal offence.

This is the basis of it, he says in international law.

ALAN DERSHOWITZ: Well he's wrong. International law deals with war crimes, it deals with systematic efforts by governments to do what happened, for example, in the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda, in Darfur and Cambodia.

This is not in any way related to that. And I think - I'm afraid to call this a war crime or some kind of international crime - it will water down the very important concept of crimes against humanity.

This is not a crime against humanity, this is a series of crimes by individual priests and others throughout the world and failures by institutions to come to grips with it quickly enough.

But it's very different from systematic attempts to use rape or murder as a genocidal - part of a genocidal program.

TONY JONES: What about the cover up part of it? It may not be a crime against humanity, but it's a presumably crime in most countries.

ALAN DERSHOWITZ: It's not. It's a crime in very few countries to fail to report a crime. It's called (inaudible) a felony. It's almost never prosecuted.

The crime occurs when you take explicit steps to try to prevent law enforcement from finding the criminals, and there are some priests who did that, who pushed people from parish to parish.

And they should be prosecuted, but there's no evidence that that came from the very top and that was in any way attributable to the Pope..."

**PS Robertson was on Q&A last night as part of the Festival, verballing the Pope.

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